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with the historic city of Cluj-Napoca. has been at the centre of theology in the 20th century. Romania. I am grateful to your University for offering me this privilege. As members of the European Union. with its unique combination of Byzantine and Latin spiritual heritage can be of immense value to the future of Europe. society and nature. mainly because of the emergence of the Ecumenical Movement in which the Orthodox participated actively from the beginning. through it. the fact that this honour has come to me at the suggestion and the proposal of an Orthodox Theological Faculty which is deeply respected in the ecclesiastical and the scientific community internationally makes me feel that my modest contribution to theology has had some impact on the Orthodox of this country. modern society. The theological debate between the various Churches and confessions in the context of this Movement made it necessary to clarify the meaning of the Church. namely God. The Church is a Eucharistic community. conservatism. to the rest of human beings and to creation. Romania and Greece. and the Eucharist has. I am very pleased that through this academic distinction the ties between my country. LIV. In the Church. are now called not only to live together under the same European roof. Secondly. the human being is placed in a specific relation with all these three factors that make up human existence. as we call the study of the mystery and the reality of the Church. the Church has to listen to the existential problems of modern man and to be less conservative. as already the Fathers have shown. but also to contribute to the spiritual progress of this great continent for the benefit of all humanity. she is above all a way of being. It is a great privilege to be associated with this great centre of learning and. there is a way of relating the human being to God. Greece. What is the Church? What are her characteristics. and Romania are becoming even stronger. Eucharist. I should like to express my profound gratitude and appreciation for the decision of this University to confer on me an honorary doctorate. . Ecclesiology. THEOLOGIA ORTHODOXA. As a member and former president of the Academy of Athens I am happy to be associated with this city which hosts an extension of the Romanian Academy along with other important academic and cultural institutions. and this naturally gives me great satisfaction. This is the essence of the Church. Keywords: orthodox ecclesiology. which has kindly placed me among well-known personalities who have received the same honour. As a Greek and an Orthodox I feel happy to be associated with the spiritual and intellectual life of Romania at this critical time in history.STUDIA UNIVERSITATIS BABEŞ-BOLYAI. I regard this distinction as one of the greatest honours I have received in my life and this for the following reasons: In the first place. our two countries. a social and a cosmic (and therefore ecologic) dimension. I feel proud that this great honour has been given to me by a renowned academic institution such as this University. But in order to respond properly to the most recent challenges. 1. her essence and her boundaries? The Church is not simply an institution. Finally. communion. the capital of Transylvania with its great contribution to civilization and culture. 2009 THE EXISTENTIAL SIGNIFICANCE OF ORTHODOX ECCLESIOLOGY By Metropolitan IOANNIS (ZIZIOULAS) of Pergamon ABSTRACT.
she is above all a way of being. It is a mistake to regard the human being as a “soul” that has a body. Irenaeus. Dumitru Staniloae of blessed memory.IOANNIS ZIZIOULAS * On this solemn occasion I have chosen to offer to this distinguished audience a few thoughts on a subject which has preoccupied me during my whole life: the subject of the Church. What is the Church? What are her characteristics. Man does not “have” a body. This is the essence of the Church. Orthodox theologians of all nationalities have contributed to the ecclesiological discussions with important studies. There is no human being that can be conceived in isolation from other human beings. as I address an audience which probably includes persons from disciplines other than theology itself. did little to show how the Church relates to the human condition in general. to be free from what is given to it as a necessity . b) The other human beings. not a reality. what in religious language is named as “God”. Before we answer these questions. that is to liberate itself. insists on this: “the soul and the spirit may be parts of the human 44 . Through this tendency the human being affirms its search for what is not strictly speaking human. The Church is not simply an institution. to show. One person is no person. The “Thou” makes me an “I”. mainly because of the emergence of the Ecumenical Movement in which the Orthodox participated actively from the beginning. among them theologians from Romania. society and nature. Is the Church necessary for the existence of the world. has been at the centre of theology in the 20th century. Relationship is constitutive of the human identity. the human being is placed in a specific relation with all these three factors that make up human existence. The individual is a myth. we have to emphasize something which is usually forgotten by the theologians themselves. such as Fr. For the human being cannot be defined without reference to these three dimensions: a) God. rich and important as they have been in describing the Church as an institution. St. because the human being by definition tends to transcend its limitations. what makes him or her a person is its relation with other human beings.above all from mortality and death. to the rest of human beings and to creation. in other words. There is no “I” without a “Thou”. there is a way of relating the human being to God. for culture and human life as a whole? To questions like these I shall try to give an answer. All these ecclesiological studies. What gives a human being its identity. This tendency lies behind Art or even Science. he is a body. the 2nd century Greek Father. c) Nature or the material world. Ecclesiology. In the Church. as we call the study of the mystery and the reality of the Church. or is she simply a matter that concerns the Christians exclusively? What is the significance of the Church for society in general. the significance of the Church for human existence. as distinctly human characteristics. whose theological thought has exercised a great influence world-wide. namely God. her essence and her boundaries? Questions of this kind became part of the agenda of the Ecumenical Movement in the previous century and many volumes were produced to address them. The theological debate between the various Churches and confessions in the context of this Movement made it necessary to clarify the meaning of the Church.
the Christian is constantly called to renew and keep alive his or her baptismal vocation. the other human beings or social life. All problems in human existence stem from a disturbance of some kind of this threefold relationship. The overcoming of individualism amounts to no less than death of the old man. the body cannot be conceived without the rest of creation. of the human being that gives priority to the self instead of the Other (this is the essence of original sin). therefore. are almost absent from Orthodox Dogmatics which have been influenced by Western Medieval Scholasticism. In our time. What can the Church. I have myself objected to some of the aspects of this theory but basically we must agree that there is no other moment in the Church’s life when the Church is realized and revealed as fully as it is in the Eucharist. unfortunately. we must emphasize the following aspects of ecclesiology which. Like in the Holy Trinity. love. This view has been criticized by some rightly and by others not.e. c) The Church is a Eucharistic community. Theology has no reason to object to this scientific truth.THE EXISTENTIAL SIGNIFICANCE OF ORTHODOX ECCLESIOLOGY being. while others struggle to achieve this in remaining in the world. If we take seriously the role of the Holy Spirit in ecclesiology. This is not easy. according to the same Apostle. says St. as the Greek Fathers. and nature or ecological balance) constitutes the basis for being human. Biology. In either case the principle is the same: metanoia. but she is also the “temple of the Holy Spirit”. It is also by studying the Eucharist that we can grasp the existential significance of the Church (something that Afanasiev did not consider at all). who taught in Paris in the last century and proposed the principle “wherever the Eucharist is celebrated. has shown that 98% of the human genes are identical with that of the chimpanzee. Paul. Now. The proper relationship of the human being with these three factors (God or freedom to transcend the given reality. i. but a community of persons. This. emptying of one’s self from philautia (self-love) so that the Other may find space to enter and give us our true identity. there is the Church”. He does not create good individual “saints”. as we shall see. In the Church. Only in the Eucharist. On the contrary. offer to the human being in order to maintain this relationship? In order to answer this question. The Church. can we see the reality of the Church. The Church is the “body of Christ” in the words of St. particularly St.e. This goes back to the late Russian theologian Nicolas Afanasiev. death of the self. we immediately realize that the Church is in her essence the most anti-individualistic community in the world.e. b) The Church is a baptismal community. as a way of being. but in no way a human being”. The Holy Spirit is by definition koinonia – communion (II Cor. 13) and wherever He blows. Maximus the Confesssor. or like Christ emptied Himself of His divine glory and became Man. Some Christians undertake to do this by leaving this world and forming monastic communities. What is the existential significance of the Eucharist? 45 . There the Church becomes really and fully the “body of Christ” and the “communion of the Holy Spirit”. Nicolas Cabasilas. a) The Church is a community. i. we must stress the fact that the human being partakes fully of the rest of creation and is the link between the material and the spiritual world. kenosis. in the same way the members of the Church are called to a constant struggle against individualism and towards communion. i. have repeatedly affirmed. has important consequences for the ecological responsibility of the human being. we are all familiar with the expression “Eucharistic ecclesiology”. 13. is not a collection of good individuals but a communion of persons who draw their identity from their relationship with the other members of Christ’s body. since Darwin and the theory of evolution. the three divine Persons exist in one another.
As in the Eucharist so in society. In both cases the human body. particularly in our time. (Gal. And this is extremely important. Indeed. This was the purpose of God in creating Man. male or female” etc. The Eucharist is the place where the human being learns to exist together with all human beings regardless of their natural or social differences. The Church should not be tolerant in the Liturgy and intolerant in ethics. Eucharistic ecclesiology has tremendous implications for social life. On the contrary. i. what we may call a social significance. the “microcosm” who in a sense embodies in himself the “macrocosm”. Maximus the Confessor. a relational being. a being of communion. Paul writes in his letter to the Romans (8. namely to unite the material world with God through the mediation of Man. since in Christ there is “neither Jew nor Greek. But the existential significance of the Eucharist is not exhausted with the relation of the human beings with one another. for men or women. 3. This is already implied in the Incarnation and is revealed ultimately in the Resurrection of Christ. This is often forgotten and yet it is absolutely essential. the Church declares in the most solemn way the sanctity of the material world. for black or white persons. In the Eucharist. according to St.). The Church has been practicing this throughout the centuries in the celebration of the Liturgy. It reaches beyond that to include also the natural environment. the whole of creation. a matter of existential significance. and it is intended by God to survive eternally and share in divine glory. Maximus. The Eucharist is communion not only with God. creation has no possibility to reach God and be deified. 28). the material world is as sacred as the spiritual. There is a great deal of talk about tolerance and acceptance of difference in our time. At the same time. race. There is no Eucharist especially for children or old people. in the Eucharist all these differences are transcended. The first is that in celebrating the Eucharist. It is. the material nature as a whole are unite with God and lifted up to eternal life. for those belonging to a certain social class or nation etc.) 46 . that is no natural or social discrimination of any kind. 19 f. the Church must be ready to accept and transcend all natural and social differences. nation. of our natural environment.IOANNIS ZIZIOULAS There is. The Plato view that matter is inferior to the spirit and the body is the “prison” of the soul has no place in the Eucharist. It is not simply a ritualistic or merely religious matter. too. This is why in all languages the word “Eucharist” is also rendered with the word “communion”. slave or free. this is a deviation from or a betrayal of Eucharistic ecclesiology. above all. sexual characteristics etc. but also with the rest of human beings. If sometimes the Church teaches intolerance with regard to social or moral questions. the Eucharist makes apparent the responsibility of the human being for the survival of creation. The cosmic dimension of the Eucharist – and by extension also of the Church – was recognized by the Greek Fathers already since St. Irenaeus and St. This happens in two ways in particular. physical qualities. Irenaeus teaches that in the Eucharist the elements of bread and wine represent the material creation which is also sanctified and raised up to the life of the Holy Trinity together with the human being who acts in this way as the priest of creation. in the first place. This makes apparent the ecological significance of the Eucharist. except through the human being. the human being ceases to be an individual and becomes a person. Whereas in the everyday life and in the organization of secular societies human beings are “grouped” according to natural or social divisions and differences (age. In every Eucharist the Church declares in the most solemn way the sanctity of the material world and the need to protect it. and through it.e. As St.
i. in existential terms. since the Church is made up not only of saints. Whereas in the past 47 . the poet. This is why the Orthodox Church throughout its long history has been marked by two characteristics which it must strive to keep at all costs: (a) it condemned ethnophyletism and did not allow for any discrimination on the basis of race or social class or political ideology or even morality. these material and natural elements will become the body of Christ. i. the bread and the wine. Being “catholic”. as a result. to bring out of it and to it eternal meaning. When we call the Church “catholic” and confess that we believe in a “holy. but also to cultivate it. As a Eucharistic community.THE EXISTENTIAL SIGNIFICANCE OF ORTHODOX ECCLESIOLOGY “the whole creation suffers with us” and “waits with eager longing for the revelation of the sons of God” so that it may “be set free from its bondage to decay and obtain the glorious liberty of the children of God”. at the most sacred moment of the Liturgy. the writer and scientist and together with them creates culture.. * The Church is not a “ghetto”. but also of sinners. Thus an artist or a scientist who try to give meaning and eternal value to the material world through their creativity. The Eucharist. the Church blesses and encourages all forms of culture which aim at giving to creation eternal value and meaning. which in the Holy Spirit transcends all barriers of division between human beings as well as between humanity and nature. the Orthodox Church is by her nature open and inclusive and this makes it existentially significant for all human beings. the Church reaches out and joins the Artist. But there can never be two truths. we offer unto Thee in all and for all”. This is seen in the growing tendency among the Orthodox to avoid or suspect dialogue with non-Orthodox or even with society and culture. just as the human being needs the rest of creation in order to exist. With the invocation of the Holy Spirit. albeit through different paths and methods. but a catholic community. The human being is responsible for creation as a whole. poetry. “cultivates” nature and gives it the highest meaning in existence. literature. In the times in which we live. scientific truth and religious truth became two different matters. in other words nature will acquire immortality and the utmost significance in and through the hands of the human being.e. exclaims the Eucharistic celebrant as he lifts up the material elements. we imply that she is the “body of Christ”. Through the Eucharist. architecture. the Church itself became in our time more introspective and closed to itself. As a Eucharistic community the Church takes in her hands the whole of creation and declares that the purpose of creation is to be united with God. this catholicity and openness of the Church seems to be undermined both from outside and from inside the Church.e. Man was created not only to keep nature. shows that the task and responsibility of the human being is not limited to the protection and survival of creation. perform a “Eucharistic” function. And (b): it has contributed to the creation of culture in all its forms (painting. According to the book of Genesis. The scientist and the theologian are both searching for Truth. to acquire the highest significance. therefore.e. Creation needs the human being in order to fulfill itself. On the other hand. Even since the European Enlightenment there grew an opposition between Church and Science and. music and even science). catholic and apostolic Church”. even for the natural world. i. “Thine own of Thine own.
This is because the Church is not open and ready to listen to the existential problems of modern man and enter into creative and constructive dialogue with it.IOANNIS ZIZIOULAS the Orthodox Church was leading society in the creation of culture. the greatest danger facing the Orthodox Church today. This conservatism and introspectiveness is. today it simply reproduces forms of the past with no relation whatsoever to secular culture. This is a golden opportunity for the Church to show and apply the existential significance of Orthodoxy. I wholeheartedly wish God’s blessing and every success in this great task! Thank you! 48 . I believe. As I have tried to indicate in this brief address to you. This distinguished high academic institution which has made me the honour to be one of its members. the Church as a way of being bears tremendous existential significance for the world. by including theology among its disciplines has offered the Church the possibility to develop a close relationship between theology and other forms of knowledge and culture. She must be aware of that and try to incarnate it in society and culture through patient and creative dialogue with all other spiritual forces.
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