The Orthodox Mind

“…the Christians’ unified knowledge of the truth, that it is the simplest and most divine of all, or rather it is the only true and single and simple knowledge of God.” St Dionysius the Areopagite, On the Divine Names 7:4; P.G. 3:873A

“By the same divine laws the ends of the earth are welded and joined together in one Orthodoxy.”

“Again, in the Orthodox faith there is no room for one jot of anything alien, belonging to a different understanding or of a different quality.” Archimandrite Vasileios in Hymn of Entry pg 22, 30.

“Now I beseech you, brothers, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you, but you be made complete in the same mind and in the same opinion.” 1 Cor 1:10

These quotes come rather out of the context of the work of Archimandrite Vasileios, whose work is difficult to extract quotes from because of the unity of the context in which each statement rests and is supported. Nevertheless, these snippets provide testimony for the thoughts below.

There is some talk of having an Orthodox mind, especially among those who come into the Church as adults. This mind is also important regarding relationships between various Christian assemblies. This Orthodox (more generally, Christian) mind is really the mind of Christ; it is the acquisition of the Holy Spirit; it is the transcendence of human wisdom to the very mind of God. Its thoughts become inexpressible and theology becomes silent. Nevertheless, it grants a sure knowledge of the Truth, which is Christ. This truth is manifest not only in words but in every aspect of those in Christ. Theology shines through the words, deeds and silence of the Saints. This mind knows no falsehood, it knows no human opinions, it is all Christ and Truth.

Now in our weaknesses as humans very few manifest this reality fully and our own impoverished opinions remain. Theologoumenon are permissible due to our weakness but in truth we must accept the full truth of Christ and submit and die to all of ourselves. There is no minimal level of truth to believe but there are certain beliefs where there is no permissibility for our weakness. These are those dogmas sealed by the Fathers, in the Spirit, in the Councils. To refuse these is to refuse Christ. We must take care to avoid setting our opinions for ourselves in concrete lest they be proved false and neither should we judge another absolutely wrong for such opinions lest they be found right. In Christ the fullness of the Truth can be known but as we travel on our paths into Christ we will inevitably have such opinions but in humility.

Regarding the relationships with Roman Catholics, the Orthodox see the theologies, developed doctrines and their incarnation in music, art and the way of life through the history of Roman Catholics, as they diverged from Orthodoxy, as something alien and different. “By contrast, scholastic theology and intellectual constructions do not resemble the Body of the Lord, the true food, nor His Blood, the true drink. This is how indigestible and inhumanly hard the mass of scholasticism seems to the taste and the mouth of one accustomed to the liturgy of the Church, and it is rejected as something foreign and unacceptable.” Archimandrite Vasileios in Hymn of Entry pg 22, 36.

If it be objected that scholasticism is not the De Fide teaching of the Roman Catholics, it was nevertheless considered an acceptable understanding and quality in the Western churches for some time and it is this fairly general acceptance that shows to the Eastern Churches that the Orthodox mind was not in those churches, otherwise they would not have accepted such a different and alien way of thinking. Scholastic thinking did approach the East and some accepted it but they were considered as beginning to think outside the mind of the Church and such ways of thought did not become generally established. It is good to see those in the West moving away from Scholasticism but there would need to be a rejection of Scholasticism as an acceptable understanding before the Orthodox mind can take root in the West. There cannot be different understandings or theologies in the Church as Christ is one and Truth is one. Theology is not about the opinions of men but the Truth of Christ manifest in the Saints.

Theology is indivisible from the whole life of the Church and centred on her Liturgy. It is grounded in Christ and in the Church’s obedience to Christ. Not only changes in thought but changes in Liturgy and ways of life also signal a different understanding and something foreign to Christ and the mind of Christ, so all these aspects of western development show, in the Orthodox mind, that the West have lost the mind of Christ, and hence the Spirit. Thus, placing the Western churches outside the Church and Christ.

Among those in Orthodoxy with all its faults and lack of central unity, there is a very strong sense of a common voice, a common mind and a common opinion among those who have submitted all their lives to Christ in obedience, especially the Saints from across the Orthodox lands. There may be many opinions among Orthodox today but among the Saints and among those living in obedience to Christ, there is a strong unity and oneness of mind and this in not from having common teachers except the Lord Himself and the Spirit, who guides us into all truth.

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