Category Archives: OTSA Special Project on the Holy and Great Council

Defending Human Dignity A Response to the Pre-Conciliar Document, “The Mission of the Orthodox Church in Today’s World”

by Fr. Robert M. AridaSusan Ashbrook Harvey, David Dunn, Maria McDowellTeva Regule, and Bryce E. Rich

The authors of ‘The Mission of the Orthodox Church in Today’s World’ are to be commended for framing our shared ecclesial mission as one of making present the eschatological hope of the new creation in which “race, gender, age, social, or any other condition” are no bar to shared eucharistic celebration. The document rightly reminds us that “the purpose of the incarnation … is the deification of the human person” which establishes the dignity of all persons, and demands its protection. As co-workers with God, the church and its members enter into “common service together with all people of good will,” seeking to establish peace, justice (3, 6), and social solidarity (6.4, 6.5, 6.6), gifts of the Holy Spirit which come from God (3.2) but “also depend on human synergy” (3.3). These gifts, and this work, is required for the flourishing of human dignity. Continue Reading…

Reflection on “The Importance of Fasting and Its Observance Today”

by Rev. Dr. Stelyios Muksuris, Rev. Dr. Alkiviadis Calivas, Rev. Dr. Nicholas Denysenko, John Klentos, Paul Meyendorff, Lewis Patsavos, Teva Regule, and Rev. Dr. Philip Zymaris.

In accordance with Orthodox Christian scriptural and patristic tradition, fasting finds its origins in the divine commandment given in paradise (Gen 2.16-17; St. Basil, On Fasting 1.3; PG 31.168A), where man is invited to honor his relationship with God by obedience. One sees God thereby as the benevolent Source of all goodness (Mt 4.4) and humanity as the beneficiary of His benevolence. While typically referenced within the context of partial or complete abstinence from food and drink, its interior principle focuses on a dynamic interface between harnessing instinctive behavior and living the precepts of the Gospel. In other words, fasting seeks to assist us in reprioritizing our allegiances from an addictive dependence upon worldly goods to an intimate relationship with God and neighbor.    Continue Reading…

Fasting, the Church, and the World

Rev. Dr. Michael G. Azar, Elizabeth TheokritoffVery Rev. Dr. Harry Linsinbigler

Reflecting Jesus’s own Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5–7)—a passage which has been and remains the standard of Orthodox Christian ethics—the preconciliar document, “The Importance of Fasting and Its Observance Today”, carefully balances two points: first, the Church’s emphasis on admittedly “lofty” fasting standards (cf. §5) and, second, the practical adoption of these standards among the faithful. With regard to the former, the document thoughtfully resists the temptation to ignore “the value of the fast” (§8) by becoming more lax in fasting rules; with regard to the latter, the document exhorts the Church to treat “instances where the sacred prescriptions of fasting are loosened” with “pastoral care,” with a particular, and much appreciated, freedom given to local Orthodox Churches “to determine how to exercise philanthropic oikonomia and empathy” (§8). As Jesus does not seek to conceal the difficult standards to which God calls us in his commandments, so also he exhorts his people both to avoid prideful and boastful asceticism (Luke 18:10–14) and to be merciful as God himself is (Luke 6:36).

Yet, despite the numerous ways that this document supports and carries forward the Orthodox tradition of, and justification for, fasting, it also bears a surprisingly un-Orthodox feature: Continue Reading…

Fasting Reaffirmed

by Philip Mamalakis, Very Rev. Dr. Nathanael Symeonides, and Gayle E. Woloschak

The draft of the Holy and Great Council’s document, The Importance of Fasting and its Observance Today, affirms the importance of fasting for the spiritual development of the person.  The documents provides a Scriptural and Patristic foundation for the spiritual benefits of fasting, noting that there are times when pastoral discernment is needed particularly with regard to physical infirmity, extreme necessity and difficult times.  Despite these affirming statements, the document provides little concrete information beyond what the Church has prescribed for centuries; it is a short commentary on fasting and not an in-depth discussion about the value and method of fasting in the modern world, a message that is desperately needed for the world and the Church today.  Continue Reading…