One of the greatest impacts of the current pandemic is the effect it has had on interpersonal relations. The inability to embrace or hold a friend’s hand, the need for “social distancing,” and the knowledge that anyone we meet is potentially the carrier of a deadly disease all contribute to a feeling of suspicion and standoffishness, while masks interfere with clear communication and human connection.
The Orthodox Church has faced a slew of challenges due to the COVID-19 pandemic, not least in regard to the mode of distribution of Holy Communion. In conversation with priests of various churches I’ve learned of alternate methods being used, including “disinfecting” spoons between communicants, intincting the Holy Body with the Blood, the use of tongs, disposable spoons, even toothpicks to transfer the Eucharist from the chalice to the mouth of the communicant. In Canada the most common alternate method seems to be the use of multiple metal communion spoons, one per communicant. The response to this change on the part of a small but vocal element within the Orthodox community has been heated, with accusations of “heresy” or “blasphemy” being levelled against bishops and priests promulgating or following this practice.
“No earthly joy exists unmingled with sorrow” —St. John of Damascus
We are all no doubt aware of the controversy surrounding the recent proclamation of autocephaly for the Orthodox Church of Ukraine by the Patriarchate of Constantinople. As a Ukrainian Orthodox priest, I cannot help but see how St. John’s words are an apt description of the situation of the Orthodox Church in general and myself personally.
I recently traveled to Ukraine, visited friends in previously “non-canonical” churches and monasteries, and was able to serve the Liturgy with them. This brought much joy to us all. For most Orthodox Ukrainians the recognition of the Church in Ukraine as worthy of autocephaly is the correction of an historical injustice, the righting of an ecclesial wrong.
Yet I have friends within various Orthodox churches here in North America who see this proclamation of autocephaly as a source of sorrow. And I have trouble understanding why. Continue reading →
The historical path of the Church in Ukraine is controverted and complex: both Moscow and Constantinople claim Ukraine as their canonical territory. As a result, one of the largest Orthodox Churches in the world has experienced schism for over twenty-five years.
In April 2018 the Government of Ukraine officially requested a Tomos of Autocephaly for the Orthodox Church in Ukraine from the Ecumenical Patriarchate. This news brought joy to some, and caused anxiety for others.
The Appeal refers to a “schism in Ukrainian Orthodoxy,” implicitly recognizing that the Orthodox Church in Ukraine extends beyond the borders of the canonically recognized Moscow Patriarchate jurisdiction, which is useful. Other statements, however, portray the struggle for Church unity somewhat disingenuously. Continue Reading…