Sunday, July 6, 2014

The Church – Organism or Organisation?

East and West have a different perception of what the Church is, how it functions, what is the true meaning of its existence. Also, they use different definitions in order to better understand the Church and the faith in general. The West uses a legalistic language, whilst the East prefers the use of a more medical terminology.

The Orthodox “say that the Church is not an organisation, but the Divine-human Organism. The organism is a living body, which means that it has life primarily. It can also be characterised by definite laws, but in the end it is life itself that comes first. The composition of an organisation becomes a basis for a legal process. That is to say, the legal composition comes first. We can see this difference between Orthodoxy and Papism”[1].
“For the westerners, God’s relationship   with man and the world could only be ethical and not one of grace and life. The sacraments, and especially the Divine Eucharist, Baptism and ordination become juridical means for salvation. The Church is reduced to a legal institution supplying salvation and created grace. In the establishment of the Church the legal institution comes before the sacramental composition. In Orthodoxy, on the contrary, the sacramental composition of the Church precedes, and the Church is protected and expressed through the Canonical institutions”[2].

[1] Hierotheos, Metropolitan of Nafpaktos, The Mind of the Orthodox Church, (Levadia, Birth of the Theotokos Monastery, 1998), p. 168
[2] Kapsanis, George, Orthodox Tradition and Papism, (Holy Mountain, 1979), p. 12

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