keep-calm-and-catholic-on“Excuse me, can you tell me where the catholic church is?”

In his catechetical lectures, St. Cyril of Jerusalem (386 AD) warned the newly baptized that:

“If you ever are visiting in cities, do not inquire simply where the house of the Lord is – for the others, sects of the impious, attempt to call their dens ‘houses of the Lord’ – nor ask merely where the Church is, but where is the catholic Church.  For this is the name peculiar to this holy Church, the mother of us all, which is the spouse of the Lord Jesus Christ, the only-begotten Son of God.

Likewise St. Augustine:

“When a stranger inquires where the catholic church meets, none of the heretics would dare to point out his own basilica or house.”

In his essential book The Broken Body: Understanding the Schism Between the Roman Catholic and Easter Orthodox Churches... Fr. Laurent Cleenewerck writes:  “If Eastern Orthodoxy has retained, at least in its consciousness and foundations, a deep sense of authentic ecclesiology, why is the name ‘catholic’ so dear to the Fathers – virtually abandoned when it comes to the self-definition of Orthodox communities?  Upon entering a town, would St. Cyril of Jerusalem first visit a church called “St. Cyril Catholic Church” or St. Cyril Russian Orthodox Church?”  The answer seems quite obvious.” Perhaps there is a need to remind the Orthodox. as St. Raphael of Brooklyn wrote in 1914 that:

“The official name of our Church is ‘The Holy Orthodox Catholic Apostolic Church’.  The Church of the East has never from the first been known by any other name than Catholic, nor has she set aside this title in any official document.”

One of the great tragedies of modern Orthodoxy is when she abandoned the apostolic and creedal birth name of ‘catholic’ and traded it in for national identities:  Russian, Bulgarian, Serbian, Greek Orthodox Churches… The results?  Phyletism, nationalism, xenophobia, and slavish cultural entrenchments that paralyze parishes who are trying (or should be trying) to evangelize Americans who are not Russian or Greek… and don’t want to be.   When we align the spiritual pursuit of holiness with our cultural, political and national monikers of power, place and politics the Kingdom of Heaven is horribly hamstrung by this association with the kingdom of men.

Simply put: The church is Catholic.  Our faith is Orthodox  Cleenewerck says, “It would be very helpful if all Eastern Orthodox Churches would be called “Holy Cross Orthodox Catholic Church” (or Parish) in close correspondence with “St. Anne Roman Catholic Parish”.  The deep awareness that both share the name ‘catholic’ would do much to recreate a sense of relationship and unity.  It would do much to reduce the hindering hurtful ethnic identifications of many Orthodox parishes and help them embrace their vocation of universality as ‘catholic churches’ that are commanded to make disciples of all nations... and not Greeks….or Russians, or Serbians….etc

+ anaphora – laetare


2 thoughts on “Cathodox.

  1. Good post. Yes, Met. St. Philaret of Moscow’s catechism was called _The Longer Catechism of the Holy Orthodox Catholic Church_, or something like that, in the nineteenth century. And, of course, there is the creed. We should not so easily give up the name “Catholic.” For this reason, I always try to use the modifier “Roman” if I am speaking of Roman Catholicism, just to prevent the easy jump that the term “Catholic” has been yielded. Those are the Roman Catholics, but they are not the only ones.

    • Yes… catholic is a good word. a very good one… ‘wholeness, fullness, lacking nothing…” according to the whole. We confess it in the creed without shame. We should embrace the Fathers like Ignatius who remind us that where the Bishop and the people are – there is Christ and the fullness of the catholic church. This catholicity is a place that can unite all Christians. Or at least my idealism hopes so. With God all things are possible.

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