13 October, 2009
Why the Court? This is an English means of expressing the Greek word transliterated as Bema. It is often translated judgement seat or tribunal. I will use Court, though, because it captures a range of meanings that can be understood in the Greek.
Why mention the Court? The area of Orthodox Temples were the Altar is located is named Bema in Greek. Why is this area called Bema? Because it is the Holy of holies, the symbol of the dwelling of God and the centre of His reign. Thus, the area is also defined by something other than the Altar, even though it is correct to define it by the Altar. A royal court is defined by the throne upon which we identify the sovereign. Thus also the Court of a Christian temple is identified by the throne. The throne is what chiefly identifes this area of the temple, not the Altar, which has is set before the throne, thus fulfilling the mystery of the dispensation of Christ.
So, when we build temples we must place a throne in this area and an altar before it, so it truly becomes the symbol of the dwelling and reign of God. It is not the Cross that is to be located at the eastern end but the Throne.
13 October, 2009
There is one Church. In the Old Testament this was realised with one place of worship. In the New Testament worship is permitted in any place. However, to maintain the mystery of one Church, only one church may worship in each place. The Church is centred on her Bishop, that is on Christ, who is one: one Christ, one Bishop. So, in each place there is only one Bishop.
The “area” of a place can only be defined by territory. This realises that the Church is in the world; it has a definable physical presence and location. This presence cannot be defined by other catagories. All mankind is one in Christ; there is neither Greek nor Jew. To define a church by human categories such as language, culture or ethnicity is to deny the union of all in Christ that transcends all human distinctions. It would be a human organisation defined by the human categories.
So, the present situation with Orthodox churches those Bishops have jurisdictions that are not only defined by exclusive territorial areas is in effect a denial of the Church. It is a situation that can only be justified by an heretical doctrine of the Church.
May we quickly repent of such organisation and order the churches as they should be by territories encompassing all Orthodox believers regardless of their human distinctions and trust that the one Christ is with each Bishop regardless on his language, ethnicity or other such distinction. As regarding liturgcal usages these are the right of the Bishop by better set by a region of Bishops, such as in a particular country, so that there may be consistency of practice.
May we also remember the tradition of order among the Bishops that was established to bring unity among the Bishops not by authority but by consensus. Also, none of the Bishops or Patriarches should act outside his territory with the consent of all.