Phronema

From OrthodoxWiki.org: Phronema is a Greek term that is used in Orthodox theology to refer to mindset or outlook; it is the Orthodox mind. The attaining of phronema is a matter of practicing the correct faith (orthodoxia) in the correct manner (orthopraxia).”

One of the things that Christians in the West have trouble understanding are the differing ways in which the Orthodox Catholic Church (the official name of what is popularly called Eastern Orthodox or Orthodoxy) thinks about, talks about, and lives out its apostolic heritage. Even the most anti-Papal western Christians live ontologically within a worldview that came to them through the Church of Rome and Western European culture. The most virulent anti-ecumenist in the Orthodox world also lives bound by his inheritance. And each one embraces less than the whole.

Take note — I’m not saying here that the West completely misses the mark; nor am I saying that the Eastern Christian Church can in no way benefit from Western insights; nor am I saying is that these differences make Christians of the West and the East into “apples and oranges”.

Christians all acknowledge that Jesus was both perfect God and perfect man, the Word of God who revealed the Mind of God in human terms. The Gospels reveal a divine phronema of openness and fearlessness.

The “wealthiest” Christian seeks to understand the other brothers and sisters in Christ, the universal Christian foundations of the first thousand years, and the unfortunate divergences of the second Christian millennium. On the other hand, the impoverished heart — the “whitewashed sepulcher” — is content to remain willfully ignorant or willfully dismissive.

From time to time, we’ll think about what it might mean to hold the right faith and practice it in the right manner. God grant that I become ever more willing to be made uncomfortable, yet without fear, in opening myself to the fullness of Truth.

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Reflections on the Sunday of Orthodoxy

For most Eastern Christians, this past Sunday was celebrated as the Sunday of Orthodoxy. Parishioners processed through the Church carrying an icon, an act of living history from the First Thousand Years. The Orthodox remembered the day in 843 A.D. when the heretical suppression and bloodshed mounted against the proper veneration of icons and the Christology behind them was finally laid to rest within the Apostolic Churches.

Throughout the century and a half of this persecution, the Roman church of the West had steadfastly rejected the arguments and methods of the iconoclasts (those who rejected icons) within the Eastern church and the Byzantine royal courts. In doing so, the unity with Rome anchored the faith and helped prevent the Eastern church from being consumed by false teaching and blinded by too close an alignment with political power.

However, the episode also sowed seeds of schism as Rome began the development of its own base of political power in the West, crystallizing in the crowning of Charlemagne as Holy Roman Emperor. As the Roman church began to align itself more and more with the royal courts and dynastic families over the next few centuries, the now official break between the Eastern and Western churches meant that the church of the West had lost an anchoring strength from the East. Rome itself fell into dubious practices and troublesome attitudes that eventually crystallized in the Reformation, from which point the splintering of the Christian witness in the West has accelerated through present day.

The faith that we received from the Apostles was preserved through the First Thousand Years precisely because the Church was united. The house was not divided against itself. As we move forward in this age, threatened as we are by secularism, false teachers, and the atomization of faith, we must push the Catholic and Orthodox churches from the bottom up to work earnestly for the recovery of our united strength.

Lord Jesus Christ, physician of our souls and bodies, abide with us and heal us of every stain. Strengten us in every good work and raise in us a spirit of love and forgiveness. Icon of the Sunday of OrthodoxyAmen