After having a go at the very idea of such a colloquium (see here for the report on the Faith of our Fathers Lutheran Colloquium and downloadable lectures, here for my comments, and here for Fr John Fenton’s apologia), I must admit that I have been enjoying listening to the resulting podcasts.
There is something refreshing for me, as a once-Lutheran Catholic, in listening to the Orthodox describe and defend themselves to a Lutheran audience and hence with Lutheran sensibilities in mind. It gives another angle on these topics–usually only approached in Lutheran Catholic or Catholic Orthodox dialogues/debates.
What strikes me again and again is that the faith of the Orthodox Churches and the faith of the Catholic Church are one and the same. Again and again, during the Orthodox presentations I hear myself saying “Yes, that is my faith, the faith of my Church”.
However, it was then disconcerting for me to hear regular comments disparaging “the West”, or “Western Christianity” or “Rome”. I heard the Orthodox speaking often of “Roman Errors”, sometimes specifically in order to assure the Lutherans present that they were “on the same side” (a bit of “my enemy’s enemy is my friend” stuff).
Seriously, and I really don’t think you, my dear Orthodox friends, get this: we do share the same faith.
Sure, we have extremely different ways of going about the business of that faith. This can only be supposed as natural, given the long isolation of both our traditions from one another. But now that we are once again face to face and in open conversation, surely now we have the opportunities to enrich our poverty (which is mutual and not simply one way) by learning from one another.
What I often heard in the lectures is “In the West” or “In Rome, such and such is said, done taught” or “not said, done, taught”. “Here in the East” or “in Orthodoxy, we say, do teach that”, with the explicit statement that the Eastern Orthodox way of doing things is right, and the Western Roman way wrong.
And you know what? I almost always agree that the perspective brought from Eastern Orthodoxy to our faith is one that, far from being contrary to the Catholic faith, would lead us (if the Orthodox were willing to share it) into a much richer experience of what our faith already is.
And you know what else? I think that sometimes if the Orthodox took the time to actually understand why the Roman Church does this, that and the other differently from the East, they would understand new dimensions of their own faith also.
But no. What I heard again and again is: Rome does X. X is Wrong. We Orthodox do Y. Y is Right.
Frankly, I hear that a little too often from the East. Maybe once it was the constant chorus from Rome too. But Rome was serious in 1965 when she retracted the excommunications. We are serious today in wanting to embrace our sister churches in the East–in a dialogue of love, not a stranglehold of suffocation.
Pope John Paul II once wrote (and I think this is the key to our relationship and dialogue if we are to grow together):
A spirituality of communion implies also the ability to see what is positive in others, to welcome it and prize it as a gift from God: not only as a gift for the brother or sister who has recieved it directly but also as a gift for me.” (NMI, 43)