Skip to content. Skip to navigation
Personal tools
Sections

THE UNIVERSAL CLAIMS OF ORTHODOXY AND THE PARTICULARITY OF ITS WITNESS IN A PLURALISTIC WORLD

Document Actions

Holy Cross Greek Orthodox School of Theology
Boston, 5 October 2002

Petros Vassiliadis



Orthodoxy as an eccelsial category, and its eschatological dimension

Orthodoxy is normally defined in confessional or denominational tenns, i.e. as the Eastern branch of Christianity, which was separated from the West around the beginning of the second millennium CE. This is at least how the Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church describes the Orthodox Church, i.e. as "a family of Churches, situated mainly in Eastern Europe: each member Church is independent in its internal administration, but all share the same faith and are in communion with one another, acknowledging the honorary primacy of the Patriarch of Constantinople." This definition no longer holds true. According to its most serious interpreters Orthodoxy refers to the wholeness of the people of God who share the right conviction (orqodoxa=right opinion) concerning the event of God's salvation in Christ and his Church, and the right expression (orthopraxia) of this faith. Orthodoxia leads to the maximum possible application in Orthopraxia of charismatic life in the freedom of the Holy Spirit, in all aspects of daily public life, social and cosmic alike. Everybody is invited by Orthodoxy to transcend confessions and inflexible institutions without necessarily denying them. The late N. Nissiotis has reminded us that Orthodoxy is not to be identified only with us Orthodox in the historical sense and with all our limitations and shortcomings. 1 "We should never forget that this term is given to the One, (Holy, Catholic and) Apostolic Church as a whole over against the heretics who, of their own choice, split from the main body of the Church. The term (Orthodoxy) is exclusive for all those, who willingly fall away from the historical stream of life of the One Church but it is inclusive for those who profess their spiritual belonging to that stream".2 The term Orthodoxy, therefore, has more or less ecclesial rather that confessional connotations.3

This ecclesial understanding of Orthodoxy, has been first put forward by the late George Florovsky, who speaking at an ecumenical meeting in the name of the One Church has declared: "the Church is first of all a worshipping community. Worship comes first, doctrine and discipline second. The lex orandi has a privileged priority in the life of the Christian Church. The lex credendi depends on the devotional experience and vision of the Church".4

Elsewhere,5 I have argued that out of the three main characteristics that generally constitute the Orthodo'x theology, namely its "eucharistic", "trinitarian", and "hesyhastic" dimension, only the first one can bear a universal and ecumenical significance. If the last dimension and important feature marks a decisive development in eastern Christian theology and spirituality after the final Schism between East and West, a development that has determined, together with other factors, the mission of the Orthodox Church in recent history; and if the trinitarian dimension constitutes the supreme expression of Christian theology, ever produced by human thought in its attempt to grasp the mystery of God, after Christianity's dynamic encounter with the Greek culture; it was, nevertheless, only because of the eucharistic experience, the matrix of all theology and spirituality of Christianity, that all theological and spiritual climaxes in our Church have been actually achieved.

And The Eucharist, heart and center of Christian Liturgy, is always understood in its authentic perception as a proleptic manifestation of the Kingdom of God, as symbol and image of an alternative reality, which was conceived before all creation by God the Father in his mystical plan (the mysterion in the biblical sense), was inaugurated by our Lord, and is permanently sustained by the Holy Spirit. What is, nevertheless of paramount and undisputed importance, is that this Kingdom is expected to culminate at the eschata. This, in fact, brings us to the eschatological dimension of the Church. 6 Eschatology constitutes the central and primary aspect of ecclesiology, the beginning of the Church, that which gives her identity, sustains and inspires her in her existence. Hence the priority of the Kingdom of God in all ecclesiological considerations. Everything belongs to the Kingdom. The Church in her institutional expression does not administer all reality; she only prepares the way to the Kingdom, in the sense that she is an image if it. That is why, although to the eyes of the historian and the sociologist is yet another human institution, to the theologian it is primarily a mystery, and we very often call her an icon of the Kingdom to come.

Eschatology, however, constitutes also the starting point of the Church's witness to the world. It is to the merits of modem Orthodox theologians,7 who reaffirmed the paramount importance of eschatology for Christian theology, although very little has been written about the relationship between the Church' s (eschatological) identity and her (historical) mission.8 The mission of the Church is but a struggle to witness and to apply this eschatological vision of the Church to the historical realities and to the world at large. Christian theology, on the other hand, is about the right balance between history and eschatology. We should never forget that theology and the Church exist not for themselves, but for the world. The tension, therefore, between eschatology and history, or to put it more sharply the relationship between the ecclesial community and our pluralistic society, is one of the most important chapters in the Church's witness today.9

However, if for Christian theology it is quite simple to establish the Church's ecumenicity and her universal claims,10 it is not at all an easy to determine her witness in today's pluralistic context, especially in view of her eschatological particularity. In the remaining time I will focus on three areas, in an effort to shed light to the issue we discuss: (a) The Church's attitude toward modernism, I' and the whole range of the achievements of the Enlightenment, especially within the framework of post-modernity; (b) the understanding of universalism in Christian mission theology-, and (c) the present understanding and application of eschatology and the importance of the rediscovery of the Church's authentic eschatological identity.



II. Pluralism as a "modern" phenomenon and "postmodernity"

Pluralism is definitely related to, and for most scholars is the result of, "modernism", the most tangible outcome of Enlightenment that prevailed in Europe and dominated in all aspects of public life of our western civilization after the disastrous religious wars in the 17 th century CE, that ended with the famous peace of Westphalia in 1648 CE. In my view, modernism has given rise from a certain perspective to the so-called external mission of Christianity. Having been deprived the privileged status and dominant and exclusive presence in the public domain, Christianity set out to conquer the world. In this way, the modernist revolution had a lasting and catalytic, though indirect, effect in the religious life of the Christian world on both sides of the Atlantic. The real consequences of modernism in Christian mission has not been given yet the attention it deserves, although pluralism has been focused upon and correctly assessed in the ecumenical reflections of the missionary movement. 12

In order to properly define the present context of the Church's witness it is necessary to briefly locate pluralism within the framework of modernism and dialectics between modernism and postmodernism. For this reason, I have chosen to tackle the issue we discuss through a reference to the contrast between pre-modernity, modernity and post-modernity. 13

In the pre-modern world, the sacred cosmic stories of all religions provided, each for its own culture, the most public and certain knowledge human beings believed they had about reality. After the "Enlightenment", i.e. in modernity, the secular science replaced religion as the most public and certain knowledge that human beings believed they had of their world, whereas the religious stories were reduced to matters of personal belief and opinion. The ideal of modernism was the separation of the church from the state (or religion from society), the relegation of religion to the private or personal realm, and the declaration of the public realm as secular, in other words free from all religious influence. Pluralism was, theref6re','established a's the necessary context for the Welfare of a civilized society. During almost the entire period of modernity Christianity was reserved, if not hostile, to both pluralism and the principles of modernism. This is more evident in Eastern Christianity, whereas in the West the opposite path was followed, that of an almost complete surrender, especially in Protestantism.

Post-modernity is an ambiguous term used to name an ambiguous time of transition in history. The post-modem period has its beginnings in the emergence of the social sciences, which at its earlier stages undermined the authority of religion and their public presence, and contributed to the secularization of society. When, however, the same techniques of sociological and historical criticism were finally applied to science itself, including the social sciences, it was discovered that the scientific knowledge was also an imaginative interpretation of the world. For some, this discovery was more shocking than the discovery that the earth was not the center of the universe.14 Suddenly, all our worldviews, including the so-called scientific ones, were relativized. This made people aware that their respective (modem) views of the world could not automatically be assumed to be objective descriptions. As a result, pluralism has been highlighted more in post-modemity than in modernity itself.15 All these developments have brought again religion, and the Church in particular, back into the public domain. This made theology adopt a new approach and articulate what is generally called "public theology". 16

Having said all these, it is important to reaffirm what sociologists of knowledge very often point out, i.e. that modernism, counter (alternative) modernism, post-modemism, and even demodernism, are always simultaneous processes. 17 Otherwise post-modernism can easily end up and evaporate to a neo-traditionalism, and at the end a neglect or even negation of the great achievements of the Enlightenment and the ensuing scholarly critical "paradigm". The rationalistic sterility of modem life, has turned to the quest for something new, something radical, which nevertheless is not always new, but very often old recycled: neo-romanticism, neo-mysticism, naturalism, etc. 18

I firmly believe that the Church cannot exercise her mission in today's pluralistic world in a meaningful and effective way without a reassessment of the present context, without a certain encounter with modemism.19 By and large, there still exist a aloofness between Christianity and modernity, which is caused not only by the former' rejection of the latter, and the negative attitude toward the whole range of the achievements of the Enlightenment; but also by the obstinate persistence of the adherents of modernism - and of course the democratic institutions that come out of it - to allow historic and diachronic institutions, like the Church, to play a significant role in the public life, without being either absorbed or alienated by it, with the simple argument that derive their origin in the pre-modem era. If today this encounter is possible, and even desirable despite the tragic events of Sept 11, this is because of the undisputed transition of our culture to a new era, the post-modern era that brought with it the resurgence of religion.

Earlier we pointed out that post-modemity is inconceivable without some reference to modernism as such. In the past, P. Berger tried to describe the attitude of the Church toward the modernist revolution, and the pluralistic condition that entailed, in terms of two opposite positions: accomodation and resistance.20 In my view both these positions from a theological point of view (more precisely from an Orthodox theological point of view) are inadequate.

Resistance is no longer suggested as a practical solution, because of the progress made in the theology of mission, as we will see later.21 As to accomodation, the impossibility of its application derives from a theological and ecclesiological ground.22 For the Church and her theology are incompatible with at least three comerstomes of modernism: (a) secularism, (b) individualism, and (c) privatization.

If the Church accomodates to modernism and accepts secularism, then automatically her role, her nature and mission are all exhusted to her institutional expression. The Church will become yet another institution of this world, which can of course be welcomed, and even become a desirable player, by the dominant modem paradigm in the public domain, but she will loose her prophetic, and above all her eschatological, character. The Church, drawing her esse and identity neither from what she is at the present, nor from what it was given to her in the past, but from what she will become in the eschaton, she must not only avoid acting as an institution of this world, she must also critically respond and prophetically challenge all institutional and unjust structures.

With regard to individualism, it is quite obvious that the Church as a communion of faith, a koinonia of free people (and not as a oppressing communitarian system that ignores the individual human rights),23 is incompatible with any system that places as a basic principle the individual being and not his or her relations with the "other", any other, and of course God, the "Ultimate Other".

Fianlly, the relegation and extrusion of the Church exclusively to the private domain contradicts her identity, and above nullifies her responsibility and imperative duty to evangelize the good news to the end of the world. This mission, of course, should not have an expansional character with imperialistic attitude and behavior, as it happened in the past,24 nor should it aim "at the propagation or transmission of intellectual convictions, doctrines, moral commands etc., but at the transmission of the life of communion, that exists in God". 25

If, nevertheless, neither resistance nor accommodation of the Church to the modem critical paradigm is legitimate on theological grounds, there is a third solution that has been applied by the Church on grounds of her missionary responsibility during the golden era of the 4 1h century c.e., that of the social integration, the famous Byzantine synthesis, when the Church took the risk to embrace the "empire" and'Practically reject the "desert".26 At that critical moment in her history the Church has not only integrated to the contemporary society of the Roman empire - one could mutatis mutandis call it "modem"; she has not only shown respect to what was earlier called "Whore Babylon" (Apoc 17:5); but she has even included the empire - certainly a "secular" institution - into her liturgical tablets. The only thing she preserved intact was her identity (and this not without difficulties and risks) and her prophetical voice over the historical process. She followed, in other words, in this respect the example of St. Paul and not the radical stance of the seer/prophet of the Apocalypse. 27



III. The understanding of universalism in the theology of Christian mission

The essence of what has been briefly presented, has been on the ecumenical agenda of the world mission, the turning point of which was the 1963 World Mission Conference in Mexico. It was there that ecumenical theology of mission replaced the negative assessment to modernism by a more positive one. Since then most of the earlier models of evangelization of the whole world, as well as of mission as proclamation and conversion in their literal sense, were enriched by a new understanding of mission mostly represented by a variety of terms like witness or martyria, public presence, dialogue, liberation, etc. 28

This is not to say that churches no longer organize evangelical campaigns or revival meetings; in fact, many Christians are still asked to take up conversion as their top priority mission. What I mean is that all churches on the institutional level are coping in one way or the other with the questions of many contexts, many religions, many cultures and systems of values - what we call pluralism or the effects of globalization. Rather than proclamation alone, all churches are exploring in their own ways a different understanding of "Christian witness." In addition to the earlier models of evangelization of the whole world, as well as of mission as proclamation and conversion in their literal sense, i.e. besides preaching Jesus as the "the way, the truth, and the life" (Jn 14:6), as the sole saviour of human sin, the Church began to address human sin in the structural complexities of our world, and started ministering the socially poor and marginalized of our societies in their contexts, and above all entering into a constructive dialogue with pluralism, and at the end of the road with modernity or post-modemity, thus making her presence visible in the society.

Of crucial importance at this stage was the reassessment of the concept of universalism, according to some analysts the primary cause all religious, social and even ethic conflicts. It was then that we rediscovered the early Church understood her mission in a broad variety of ways: 29

Following Martin Goodman's analysis, 30 I argued elsewhere, that following the steps of Judaism, Christianity, in fact, developed informative, educational, apologetic and proselytizing missio n* to propagate its faith.31 However, this pluralistic understanding has gradually given its place more or less to a universalistic understanding, a universal proselytizing mission, which during the Constantinian period became dominant through its theological validation by the great ancient Christian historian Eusebius. However, it never became entirely dormant in the undivided Church,32 with very few exceptions of course.

Universal proselytizing mission was actually promoted in a systematic way only in the second millennium, during which the concept of universalism was developed. With the theological articulation of Christocentric universalism the old idea of "Christendom" has determined to a considerable degree the shaping of "old paradigm" of the Christian theology of mission.33 Universal proselytizing mission was given fresh life by the discovery of the New World, and by the prospect of christianizing the entire inhabited earth. It reached its peak with the so-called African and Asian Christian missions during the last century.34 This concept of "Christendom", however, carried with it other non Christian elements to such an extent that eventually industrialized development in Europe and America of the bourgeois society, as well as colonialism and expansionism of any sort, walked hand by hand with Christian mission.

It has been rightly argued35 that during that "old ecumenical paradigm" Christians felt that they were called "to convey to the rest of humanity the blessings of Western (i.e. bourgeois) Christian civilization ... The slogan 'the evangelization of the world in this generation' emphasizes the missionary consciousness of this early movement, in which genuine missionary and evangelistic motives were inextricably combined with cultural and social motives".

It was for these reasons that Christian theology on the world mission scene adopted a more holistic view, and with the contribution - among others - of the Orthodox theology, suggested a radical shift to a "new paradigm," away from the "Christocentric universalism", towards a "trinitarian" understanding of the divine reality and towards an Oekoumene as the one household of life.36 For mission theology, these meant abandoning the primary importance of proselytism, not only among Christians of other denominations, but even among peoples of other religions. Dialogue was suggested as new term parallel to, and in some cases in place of, the old missiological terminology.37 Nowadays, the problem of reconciliation in the religious field has become not simply a social necessity but a legitimate theological imperative.38 In the Guidelines on Dialogue with People of Living Faiths and Ideologies, published some 25 years ago by WCC, the people of the other faiths are for Christians "no longer the objects of (their) discussions but partners in (their mission)".39

Thus, the Christian theology of mission no longer insists on the universal proselytizing mission, but on the authentic witness of the Church's eschatological experience. This was, in fact, made possible by the fundamental assumption of the trinitarian theology, "that God in God's own self is a life of communion and that God's involvement in history aims at drawing humanity and creation in general into this communion With God's very life".40 Taken a little further, this understanding of Christian witness suggests that the problem of ethics, i.e. the problem of overcoming the evil in the world - at least for Christianity - is not only a moral and social issue; it is also - and for some even exclusively - an ecclesial one, in the sense that the moral and social responsibility of Christians, i.e. their mission in today's pluralistic world, is the logical--c-onsequence of their ecclesial (i.e. eschatological) self-consciousness.

Today in the field of world mission we speak for the "oekoumene which is to come" (<<thn oikoumenhn thn mellousan>> ), according to the terminology of Hebrews (v. 2,5 cf. 13,14M), as it is described in the book of Revelation (ch. 21 and 22), as an open society, where an honest dialogue between the existing living cultures can take place. The world pluralistic society can and must become a household (oikoV ), where everyone is open to the "other" (as they are open to the Ultimate Other, i.e. God), and where all can share a common life, despite the plurality and difference of-their) identity. In modem missiology the term oikoumenh and its derivatives (ecumenism etc.) no longer escribe a iven situation. When we talk about the oikoumenh we no longer exclusively refer to an abstract universality, such as the entire inhabited world, or the whole human race, or even a united universal Church. What we actually mean is substantial - and at the same time threatened - relations between Churches, between cultures, between people and human societies, and at the same time between humanity and the rest of God's creation.

IV. The importance of the rediscovery of the authentic prophetic eschatological vision of the Church

This eschatological perspective in the understanding of the Church's witness, and in view of the Orthodox eschatological identity, makes a reassessment of the prophetic eschatological vision of the Church an absolute imperative. For the ineffectiveness of the Christian witness in today's pluralist world is partly due to the distortion of the eschatological vision of the Church. And it is not only Western Christianity, but Eastern Orthodoxy as well, that gradually lost the proper and authentic understanding of eschatology.41 Throughout the medieval and post medieval periods the strong eschatological vision of the early Church was almost completely lost.42 It was only in the liturgy, and more particularly the eucharistic tradition of Christianity, and especially and much more clearly in Eastern Orthodoxy, where it never disappeared completely.

Of course, even the liturgy was not preserved intact, as it was shown by the social and cultural anthropological analysis. As we indicated earlier, it was through the social sciences, and especially by cultural anthropology,43 that the importance of liturgy for the identity of all religious systems and societies was actually reinforced in the academic discussions. I have argued elsewhere,44 that there are two major understandings of Liturgy. According to the first one, the Liturgy is understood as a private act, functioning as a means to meet some particular religious needs: i.e. both the need of the community to exercise its power and super-vision on its members, and the need of the individual for personal "sanctification". I will call this understanding of the liturgical actjuridical. According to a second understanding, however, the Liturgy functions as a means for the up building of the religious community, which is no longer viewed in institutional terms or as a cultic organization, but as a communion and as a way of living. And this is what I call Communal understanding of Liturgy.

The juridical understanding of Liturgy encourages and in effect promotes a sharp distinction between the various segments of the religious society (clergy and laity, etc.), thus underlining the dimensions of super- and sub-ordination within the ritual, and contributing to the maintenance of the social structure not only within the religious community itself, but also by extension within the wider social life. This juridical understanding of Liturgy, in addition, develops separation and certain barriers, sometimes even hostility, between members of different religious systems, thus intensifying phenomena of intolerance and fanaticism. With such an understanding of Liturgy there is no real concern for history, social life and public presence of the Church, nor any acceptance of pluralism.

At the other end, the communal understanding of Liturgy discourages all distinctions between the various segments not only within the religious communities themselves, but also by extension within the wider social life. This understanding of Liturgy dissolves barriers between members of different religious systems, thus promoting religious tolerance and peace, and accepts pluralism as a God-given context of their mission. In modem Orthodox contexts both these attitudes have been experienced and expressed. And this phenomenon has puzzled Church historians, when they tried to evaluate the public presence Orthodoxy.

However, even outside the liturgy of the Church - which as we pointed out is closely related to, and in fact determines, her eschatological dimension - in the course of history Christianity has reflected upon an "applied eschatology"; but articulated different, sometimes contradicting, in some cases even distorted, types of eschatology. John Meyendorff distinguishes three such types in the Church's life, which cover all aspects of Christian ethics, the application of which in a sense deten-nines the variety of Christian attitudes toward pluralism and modemiSM.45

The first one is the apocalyptic version of eschatology. According to this version the Kingdom of God is coming soon, and therefore there is not anything to expect from history. Christians can do nothing to improve human reality. No real mission or social responsibility or public presence or culture is possible or even desirable. God is seen alone as the Lord of history, acting without any cooperation or synergy (cf. I Cor 3:9). The New Jerusalem is expected to come from heaven all prepared (Rev 21:2), and we have nothing to contribute to it. A view rejected by the ancient Church, allows only repentance, ascetic life to combat the passions.

The second type, which stands in opposition to the first, is the humanistic eschatology. This eschatology has an optimistic understanding of history, and has been dominant in Western society since the time of the Enlightenment. In the Orthodox realm this kind of eschatology has taken the form of a revival of the old paradigm of the Byzantine synthesis, this time in the narrow limits of nationalistic religious entities: Holy Russia, Great Serbia, the chosen Greek Orthodoxy etc. are some expressions, which taken even further envisage a dangerous development of an Orthodox axis, which will conquer the faithless, or even heretic, West!

The third type of eschatology is the prophetic eschatology. It is the only acceptable type of eschatology, and it is based on the biblical concept of prophecy, which in both the Old and the New Testaments does not simply forecast the future or announce the inevitable, but also places humans before an option, a choice between two types of personal or social behavior. The people of God are free to choose, but the prophet has informed them of the consequences; and the consequences today are the realities of the pluralistic (post)modem world.

With the exception of some diaspora (or better "western") and newly established missionary communities - modem Orthodoxy in its historical expression is found herself in a rather strange situation. Our metropolitan "mother" Churches are in fact struggling between two poles, quite opposite or at least unrelated to each other: on the one hand, the ideal of the later hesyhastic movement - of course wrongly interpreted and applied - has given rise to an individualistic understanding of salvation, which only partially takes history and pluralism seriously into account; on the other hand, a completely secularized approach is adopted in dealing with the historical developments. As in the Old Testament, in later and even recent Judaism, the splendor of the Davidic Kingdom usually overshadowed the more authentic desert and prophetic vision of a wandering people of God, so with In contemporary Orthodoxy the famous "Byzantine synthesis" seems to be the only model - again unsuccessfully envisioned and/or applied - which almost all national autocephali Orthodox Churches constantly refer to.

It is not a surprise, therefore, that in contemporary Orthodoxy - and I would also add in the Church Universal - the creative tension between history and the eschaton has almost disappeared. None preaches about the reality of the Kingdom drastically entering into our pluralistic reality. Even our modem Church buildings have ceased to reflect the Kingdom reality, having rather become imitations, and sometimes even caricatures, of the traditional (but meaningful) edifices. Again, only in the eucharistic liturgy is there something to remind us, that when we offer our "reasonable worship" we offer it "for the life of the world", remembering not only past events, but also future realities, in fact the (eschatological) reality par excellence: Christ's "second and glorious Coming".46 Naturally, then, only those Orthodox communities, which have undergone a liturgical and eucharistic renewal, are able to experience or rediscover a proper understanding of eschatology. The rest are struggling to overcome today's real challenges of globalization by a retreat to the glorious past, despite their strong pneumatological and eschatological tradition. But thus they become vulnerable at best to a kind of traditionalism and at worst to an anti-ecumenical, nationalistic, and intolerant fundamentalism, attitudes of course totally alien and unacceptable to the Orthodox ethos.

To sum up: Orthodoxy and/or the Church universal, in order to effectively witness to the Gospel in today's pluralistic context, in addition to an affirmation of her ecclesial and not confessional identity, she desperately needs a new relation with modernity, a new and dynamic understanding of universalism and a rediscovery of the authentic perception of eschatology.





I N. Nissiotis, "Interpreting Orthodoxy", ER 14 (1961) pp. 1-27.

2 Ibid. p. 26. Cf. also the notion of sobornicitatea (open catholicity) advanced by D. Staniloae, Theology and the Church, p. 7. More on this in N. Mosoiu, Taina prezentei lui Dumnezeu în viata umana. Viziunea creatoare a Parintelui Profesor Dumitru Staniloae, Pitesti/Brasov/Cluj-Napoca 2000, pp. 246ff.

3 For this reason one can safely argue that the fundamental principles of Christian spirituality, of the Christian mission, are the same in the East and in the West. What I am going to say, therefore applies to the entire Christian faith, to the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church. In what follows, therefore, I will freely alternate the terms "Orthodoxy" and "Christianity", avoiding as much as possible any reference to the canonical boundaries of the term "Church".

4 G. Florovsky, "The Elements of Liturgy,", in G. Patelos (ed.), The Orthodox Church in the Ecumenical Movement, Geneva 1978, 172-182, p. 172.

5 Cf. my "The Eucharistic Perspective of the Church's Mission," Eucharist and Witness. Orthodox Perspectives on the Unity and Mission of the Church, WCC/Holy Cross Orthodox Press, Geneva/Boston 1998, pp. 49-66, p. 50.

6 The early Christian tradition stresses, in one way or another, the eschatological and not the historical dimension of the Church. Even the episcopocentric structure of the Church, was understood eschatologically. The bishop e.g. as primus inter pares presiding in love over the eucharistic community, was never understood (except very late under the heavy influence of scholasticism) as a vicar, representative, or ambassador of Christ, but as an image of Christ. So with the rest of the ministries of the Church: they are not parallel to, or given by, but identical with those of, Christ. That is also why the whole Orthodox theology and life, especially as this latter is expressed in Sunday's liturgical offices, are centered around the resurrection. The Church exists not because Christ died on the cross, but because he is risen from the dead, thus becoming the aparche of all humanity. J. Zizioulas, Being as Communion. Studies in Personhood and the Church, New York 1985; also idem, "The Mystery of the Church in Orthodox Tradition," One in Christ 24 (1988) 294-303.

7 Almost all prominent Orthodox theologians of the recent past (G. Florovsky, S. Agouridis, J. Meyendorff, A. Schmemann, J. Zizioulas, to name just few) have underlined the eschatological dimension of Orthodoxy. Cf. also E.Clapsis' doctoral dissertation, Eschatology and the Unity of the Church: The Impact of the Eschatology in the Ecumenical Thought (Ann Arbor, MI.: U.M.I., 1988); also his "Eschatology," in the Dictionary of the Ecumenical Movement, pp. 361A - 364a.

8 Cf my Eucharist and Witness, passim; also 'V eschatologie dans la vie de I' tglise: Une perspective chrdtienne orthodoxe et son impact sur la vie de la société," Irénikon 73 (2000), pp. 316-334.

9 Cf Staniloae's strong criticism to the trend in contemporary Orthodoxy to identify the Orthodox spirituality with a disregard to the every day life, a phenomenon described in his own words as "a premature eschatologism." (D. Stdniloae, Ascetica si mistica orthodoxa, Alba Iulia 1993, p. 28, in Romanian).

10 More on this in (Archbishop of Albania) Anastasios Yannoulatos, Universality and Orthodoxy, Athens 2000 (in Greek).

11 In this paper I use the terms "modernism" (and "pre- or post-modemism") as ideological, spiritual, cultural category or paradigm, and "modernity" (and "pre- or post-modernity") as the discrete period in history in which this paradigm circulate.

12 Cf. Visser't Hooft, "Pluralism - Temptation or Opportunity?" The Ecumenical Review 18 1966, pp. 129-149. For an early Orthodox response cf. Metropolitan George Khodre,"Christianity in a Pluralistic World -The Economy of the Holy Spirit," Ecumenical Review 23 (1971), pp. 118-128.

13 From Nancey Murphy's three-fold approach to the subject (philosophy of language, epistemology, philosophy of science) I will concentrate only on the last one (Anglo-American Postmodernity: Philosophical Perspectives on Science, Religion and Ethics, Boulder, Colorado, 1997). Cf also Rodney L. Petersen (ed.), Christianity and Civil Society, BTI, Boston 1995; and Jacob Neusner (ed.), Religion and the Political Order, Scholars Press, Atlanta 1996.

14 Darrell Fasching, "Judaism, Christianity, Islam: Religion, Ethics, and Politics in the (Post)modem World," Jacob Neusner (ed.), Religion and the Political Order, Scholars Press, Atlanta 1996, pp. 291-299. Also idem., The Ethical Challenge of Auschwitz and Hiroshima: Apocalypse or Utopia? Albany 1993.

15 According to Stanley Grenz (A Primer on Postmodernism, Grand Rapids 1996, esp. pp. 161-174) the hallmark of postmodernity is "centerless pluralism".

16 Cf. E. Clapsis, "The Orthodox Church in a Pluralistic World," Orthodoxy in Conversation: Orthodox Ecumenical Engagements, WCC/HC Geneva/Boston 2000, pp. 127-150.

17 Jürgen Habermas, "Die Modeme-Ein unvollendetes Projekt," W.Welsch (ed.), Wege aus der Moderne. Schlüssetexte der Postmoderne Diskussion, Weihnheim 1988, pp. 177-192; Jean-Frangois Lyotard, "An Interview" Theory, Culture and Society 5 (1989), pp. 277-309, esp. p. 277; idem, The Postmodern Condition Minnesota UP, Minneapolis 1984; Hayden White, Metahistoiy: The Historical Imagination in I Vh c. Europe, J.Hopkins U.P, Baltimore 1973; 1. Petrou, Paradosh kai politismikh prosarmogh sth deuterh newterikothta, Sunaxh 75 (2000), pp. 25-35.

W. Welsch, Unsere postmoderne Moderne, VCH Acta humaniora, Wenheim 1988, sel. 7

18 Postmodernity's responses and reactions to the modem project of the Enlightenment to ground knowledge or "reason" as a timeless, universal construct, immune from the corrosive forces of history, has very seldom gone to the extreme. The enduring dream of modernity, should not be minimized or dismissed out of hand, and the many achievements it has realized, such as a concern for universal human rights, a concern for justice and equality, all deserve commendation and praise from the Church.

19 Cf. my recent book Postmodernity and the Church. The Challenge of Orthodoxy, Akritas Athens 2002.

20 Peter Berger, The Sacred Canopy. Elements of a Sociological Theory of Religion, Doubleday, New York 1967, pp. 15 6ff.; also pp. 106ff.

21 F.J.Verstraelen etc. (eds.), Missiology. An Ecumenical Introduction, Michigan 1995; also K.Raiser, Ecumenism in Transition. A Paradigm Shift in the Ecumenical Movement, WCC Publications Geneva 1991 (translated with modifications from the Germen original Ökumene im Übergang, C.Kaiser Verlag Monchen 1989), pp. 54ff.

22 What follows comes from my book Postmodernity and the Church, pp. 38ff.

23 Cf. Kostas Delikostantis, Human Rights. A Western Ideology or an Ecumenical Ethos?, Thessaloniki, 1995 (in Greek).

24 Cf my article "Beyond Christian Universalism: The Church's Witness in a Multicultural Society," Episthmonikh Epethrida QeologikhV ScolhV. Timhtiko afierwma ston Omotimo Kaqhghth Alexadro Gousidh n.s. Tmhma QewlogiaV. Vol. 9 (1999), pp. 309-320

251.Bria (ed.), Go Forth in Peace, WCC Geneva 1986, p. 3.

26 G. Florovsky, "Antinomies of Christian History: Empire and Desert," Christianity and Culture. Vol. 11 of The Collected Works of Georges Florovsky, Nordland Publishing Company, Belmont 1974, pp. 67- 100.

27 Cf my "Orthodox Christianity," J. Neusner (ed.), God's Rule: The Politics of World Religions, Georgetown University Press, Washington DC 2003 (under publication). Also <<SceseiV EkklhsiaV-PoliteiaV: H Qeologia ths koinwnikhV enswmatwsthV (Scolio sto 13, 1)>>, in Epikaira Agiogragika Qemata. Agia Grafh kai Eucaristia BB 15 Pournars, Thessaloniki 2000, pp. 75-82.

28 Cf Common Witness. A Joint Document of the Working Group of the Roman Catholic Church and the WCC, WCC Mission Series, Geneva 1982; the document Common Witness and Proselytism; also I.Bria (ed.), Martyria-Mission, WCC Geneva, 1980. Even the Mission and Evangelism-An Ecumenical Affirmation, Geneva 1982, WCC Mission Series 2 1985 , is an attempt to correctly interpret the classical missionary terminology. Cf. also the most recent agreed statement of the Dorfweil/Germany Consultation of KEK with the European Baptist Federation and the European Lausanne Committee for World Evangelization (12-13 June 1995) with the title: "Aspects of Mission and Evangelization in Europe Today"). We must confess, however, that the traditional terminology (mission, conversion, evangelism or evangelization, christianization) still have an imperative validity and are retained as the sine qua non of the Christian identity of those Christian communities which belong to the "evangelical" stream of the Christian faith. A comprehensive presentation of the present state of the debate in J.Matthey, "Milestones in Ecumenical Missionary Thinking from the 1970s to the 1990s," IRM 88 (1999), pp. 291-304.

29 D.J.Bosch, Transforming Mission. Paradigm Schifts in Theology of Mission, Orbis Books New York 1991, has discribed through the "Paradigm-Shift-theory" the development of Christian understanding of mission down to the most recent ecumenical era.

30"Mission and Proselytism. An Orthodox Understanding," Eucharist and Witness. Orthodox Perspecrives on the Unity and Mission of the Church, WCC Press-Holy Cross Press, Geneva, Boston, 1998, pp. 29ff.

31 Martin Goodman in his book Mission and Conversion. Proselytizing in the Religious History of the Roman Empire, Clarendon Press, Oxford 1994, has discerned four different uses of the word "mission" in modem scholarship of the history of religions, and consequently four different understandings of what has come to be labeled as "Christian mission": (i) The informative mission. The missionaries of this type feel "that they had a general message which they wished to impart to others. Such disseminators of information may have had no clear idea of the reaction they desired from their auditors ... (The aim of this attitude) was to tell people something, rather than to change their behavior or status." (p. 3). (ii) The educational mission. "Some missionaries did intent to change recipients of their message by making them more moral or contented...Such a mission to educate is easily distinguished from a desire to win converts." (ibid.). (iii) The apologetic mission. "Some missionaries requested recognition by others of the power of a particular divinity without expecting their audience to devote themselves to his or her worship. Such a mission was essentially apologetic. Its aim was to protect the cult and beliefs of the missionary," (p. 4). Finally, (iv) The proselytizing mission. According to Goodman, "information, education, and apologetic might or might not coexist within any one religious system, but all three can individually be distinguished from what may best be described a proselytizing ... (the aim of which was) to encourage outsiders not only to change their way of life but also to be incorporated within their group." (ibid.).

32 Ibid. , p. 7.

33 Cf. the characteristic wordof W.A.Visser't Hooft, No Other Name: The Choice between Syncretism and Christian Universalism, SCM London, 1963. More in D.J.Bosch, Transforming Mission.

341t was the conviction that the "Decisive hour of Christian Mission" had come that impelled John R. Mott to call the World Mission Conference of 1910, with the primary purpose of pooling resources and developing a common strategy for the "world's conquest" for Christ. The task of "taking the Gospel to all the regions of the world" was seen to be of paramount importance. On the recent history of Christian mission see J.Verkuyl, Contemporary Missiology: An Introduction, engl. transl. Grand Rapids Michigan 1978.

35K.Raiser, Ecumenism in Transition. A Paradigm Shift in the Ecumenical Movement, WCC Publications Geneva 1991 (translated with modifications from the Germen original Öikumene im Übergang, C.Kaiser Verlag MOnchen 1989), p.34.

36 Ibid., pp.79ff.

37This development is a radical reinterpretation of Christology through Pneumatology (cf. John Zizioulas, Being as Communion, SVS Press New York 1985), through the rediscovery of the forgotten trinitarian theology of the undivided Church (cf. A.I.C.Herton ed., The Forgotten Trinity, London, 1991).

38 For an Orthodox contribution to the debate cf (Archbishop of Albania) Anastasios Yannoulatos, Various Christian Approaches to the Other Religions (A Historical Outline), Athens 197 1.

39 Guidelines on Dialogue with People of Living Faiths and Ideologies, WCC, Geneva, 1990 (4th printing). Cf. Stanley J. Samartha, (ed.), Faith in the Midst of Faiths Reflections on Dialogue in Community, WCC, Geneva, 1977.

40 I. Bria (ed.), Go Forth in Peace, p. 3.

41 Cf. my "Eucharistic and Therapeutic Spirituality," GOTR 42 (1997), pp. 1-23.

42 Of course, the process started with the voluntary incorporation of Christianity within the Roman empire in the fourth century c.e. but the eschatological vision survived, though obscured, thanks to the theologival reflection of some great ecclesiastical figures such as Maximus the Confessor e.a.

43 P. L. Berger and Th. Luckmann, The Social Construction ofReality: A Treatise in the Sociology of Knowledge (New York: Doubleday, 1966). C. Geertz, The Interpretation of Cultures. Selected Essays (New York: Basic Books, 1973), pp. 126-141. One of the most imaginative insights of modem cultural anthropologists is their conviction that ritual, and the liturgical life in general, is a form of communication, a "performative" kind of speech, instrumental in creating the essential categories of human thought (E. Durkheim, The Elementary Forms of the Religious Life (trans]. by J. W. Swain, New York: Free Press, 1965, reprint, p. 22). They communicate the fundamental beliefs and values of a community, outlining in this way its "world view" and its "ethos". The rituals do not only transmit culture, but they also "create a reality which would be nothing without them. It is not too much to say that ritual is more to society than words are to thought. For it is very' possible to know something and then find words for it. But it is impossible to have social relations without symbolic acts" (M. Douglas, Purity and Danger. An Analysis of the Concepts ofPollution and Taboo (London: Routledge and Keegan Paul, 1966, p. 62).

44 "Sunctus and the Book of Revelation. Some Anthropological and Theological Insights on the Communal and Historical Dimension of Christian Liturgy," L. Padovese (ed.), Atti del VII Simposio di Efeso su S. Giovani Apostolo, Roma 1999, pp. 143-156.

45 What follows comes from J. Meyendorff, "Does Christian Tradition Have a Future," pp. 140ff.

46 it is quite characteristic that in the Byzantine Liturgies of both St. Basil and St. Chrysostom, just before the epiclesis, the faithful "remember" not only the past events of the divine economy ("those things which have come to pass for us: the Cross, the Tomb, the Resurrection on the third day, the Ascension into heaven, the Sitting at the right hand"), but in addition future eschatological realities (Christ's "second and glorious Coming').