This is another essay that I wrote a few years ago, shortly before I became Orthodox, and never got to publishing. I thought that it may be worth publishing it here as it relates to things that I also keep coming across here and so have expanded and updated it slightly in the hope that it may be helpful.  Of course, there is more that can be said on related matters if I ever get to it…

A few years ago, while I was still in the Netherlands, I became aware of a certain media interest in monasticism. Despite their declining numbers and the secularization of society, monasteries continued to fascinate people and had even become rather fashionable destinations for those in search of some sort of inner peace.

What struck me then about this phenomenon was that it was fundamentally redefining monasticism. I read an article that managed to explain the meaning of monasticism for a broad public without once mentioning God or Christ. Instead, it told us that monastics withdraw from society in order to search for silence, for the heart of their life is concerned with what happens in this silence.

That silence is important for the monastic life is indisputable. But for a concept such as “silence” to come to define monasticism, even to the point of replacing any reference to God, is at the very least rather problematic. For Saint Benedict, the necessary condition for becoming a monk was that one truly sought God. Silence can be an important means by which we seek God, but we also need to ask ourselves what silence means. Is silence something neutral? How and with what is silence filled? What is the relationship between word and silence? Is the silence of a Christian monastery different to that of a Buddhist monastery? And what is it that actually happens in the silence?

Since coming back to South Africa, I have become aware that there is a similar dynamic at work among many people who are seeking after “spirituality” – something that I keep hoping to write more about. All too often I have seen references to retreats, courses, groups, and “inspirational” quotes (I could name names but I won’t) that originate in a Christian context but would seem to replace any specifically Christian content with a reference to silence, or solitude, or the absolute. An experience of this silence is what we are told that we need to seek, often by contrasting it to dogma which is invariably viewed in negative terms. But, once more, what is this silence? What is its relationship to Christian tradition and to dogma? (more…)

Having visited literally hundreds of monasteries in my research, I have collected a great number of momentos bearing the insignias of particular monasteries. I have calendars with pictures of abbots with various people; I have glossy books filled with pictures of religious treasures and the monastic way of life; and I have CDs of their choirs chanting. I can show friends publicity newsletters and web sites of monasteries I have visited. Many contemporary monasteries seem to excel at self-promotion.

The monastery in Preveza is very different. It has no newsletter, no colorful calendar, no picture books, and no web site. It does not sell a single item in its store bearing its name. It barely has a sign indicating its presence in Famboura. This anonymity is not due to a lack of organization but rather to a conscious emphasis by Bishop Meletios that one of the primary virtues of the monk should be afania (anonymity). As one monk told me:

He doesn’t want to make publicity because he says it is a great shame for a pastor to say that I helped the poor or I built this thing or went and preached in the churches – this is my job; it is not something to be proud of. It is the least I can do. So, you don’t write in the paper that I celebrated the liturgy in this or that region. It is much more serious than that and you have to do much more.

Stephen R. Lloyd-Moffett, Beauty for Ashes: The Spiritual Transformation of a Modern Greek Community (St Vladimir’s Seminary Press, 2009) 173.

I can’t remember where I first heard about this book, but the account that it chronicles did grab my attention when I first heard about it, and so when I discovered that a friend had it I asked to borrow it. She dropped it off yesterday and I immediately started dipping into it. I do, admittedly, have a pile of books that I really do want to read and am not getting to, but this is a more accessible book for reading over lunch at work than, say, tomes on patristic theology. As the subtitle says, it is about the spiritual transformation of a modern Greek community, a town that had been left in a mess by episcopal scandals, and the difference that the new bishop made. What strikes me so far is the credibility of the tale told. The author comes across as a serious but believing scholar and the people that he portrays have the mark of authenticity about them.

And, although I still have to read the chapter on monasticism properly, I was particularly struck by the words quoted here. If there is one thing that has made me uncomfortable about Orthodox monasticism, it is the romanticism associated with it, and the cult-like figures that seem to be associated with at least parts of this – although, to be fair, the marketing aspect is something that also affects Roman Catholic communities. The words quoted here remind me of all sorts of things, from some thoughts on Saint Basil to some recent words of my own bishop. In short, they are somehow about authenticity. But then I still have to read the book properly and may say more again…

Father Schmemann begins this fifth chapter of The Eucharist Sacrament of the Kingdom: Sacrament of the Kingdom by looking at the antinomy between the universal and the particular that underlines the contrast between the Great Litany (at the beginning of the Liturgy) and the Augmented Litany which completes the first part of the Liturgy but which has lost its proper meaning and has consequently been omitted in the Greek practice. While the Great Litany calls us to focus on the whole, the personal and concrete find their place in the Augmented Litany.

the antinomy of Christianity consists in the fact that it is simultaneously directed to the whole – to the entire creation, the whole world, all mankind – and to each unique and unrepeatable human person. … The Christian faith can say that the world was created for each individual, and it can say that each person was created for the world, to surrender himself “for the life of the world.” (82-83)

However, when the proper balance between the common and the private is lost in the liturgy, we find a profusion of “services of needs.” While these are indeed a contradiction in terms, as Archimandrite Kyprian Kern pointed out, “this essentially correct accusation remains fruitless as long as the balance between the common and the private is not within the liturgy itself…” (84)

Next follows the litany for the catechumens, which is another anomaly in contemporary practice, given the lack of catechumens who depart at this point. Here Father Schmemann takes issue with those who omit, or recommend omitting this part of the service. While agreeing that “nominalism can have no place in church life,” he goes on to ask “how nominal these petitions are and what is the proper meaning of the ‘relevance of the service to real needs’?” (85) He warns of the danger of taming the tradition according to our own perceptions and asks: “what must we see in the prayers for the catechumens – only a dried and withered limb … or an essential part of the very order of Christian worship?” (86-87) He sees them as the latter and argues that


Just as unus christianus nulla christianus, to remember the old Latin saying, in the same way a eucharistic community which deliberately lives in isolation from the rest of the communities is not an ecclesial community. This is what renders the Church “catholic” not only on the level of “here and now” but also on that of “everywhere and always.” The ministry of the Church must reflect this catholicity by being a unifying ministry both in time and space. The eucharistic nature of the ecclesial community points inevitably in this direction by opening up a particular community so that it relates to all other communities in spite of divisions caused by space and time. Thus the eucharist is offered not just on earth but before the very throne of God and with the company of all the saints, living and departed, as well as in the name of “the catholic Church in the world.”

John D. Zizioulas. Being as Communion. Studies in Personhood and the Church. London, DLT, 1985 (2004). 236-237.

In this fourth subsection of chapter six, the Metropolitan of Pergamon turns his attention to the ministry of unity in the Church and especially the importance of the bishop in this regard. While the local Church must necessarily be open to the universal, the unity of the universal Church cannot come from the unity of its individual members, for these members are not individuals but members of a local eucharistic community. The local Church must therefore have priority over the universal, and this leads to the importance of the role of the bishop as the visible centre of unity. His role has been expressed through both the understandings of apostolic succession and of conciliarity. Here Zizioulas returns to themes that he dealt with in the previous chapter, highlighting the importance of a proper understanding of these concepts.

With regard to apostolic succession, he states:

Apostolic succession has again become a problem in theology because of an approach to the ministry in terms of causality and objectified ontology. The bishop having acquired the status of an office, regardless of his position in the community, became in the theology of apostolic succession an individual who is linked with the apostles through a chain of individual ordinations, and who is thus transmitting to the other ministers below him grace and authority out of what he has received and possesses. This view was found by the Reformation tradition to involve a formalization of the ministry which was incompatible with the freedom of the Spirit. Thus either the “baby was thrown away with the bath-water” and the issue became one of “having” or “not having” apostolic succession, or else it was given meaning by making apostolic succession a matter of faithfulness to the truth. (238)

In contrast to such a view, Zizioulas sees apostolic succession as a succession of communities of which the bishops are the head. As evidence he cites the importance of naming this community in the very prayer of ordination so that this assignment is inherent in the ordination itself. This explains, also, the East’s refusal to distinguish between jurisdiction and ordination itself. Moreover, the fact that apostolic succession involved episcopal lists, whereas it was originally the presbyters who were considered as teachers, suggests that it was the bishop’s role as head of the community that was important.

In the same way, the development of the notion of conciliarity was rooted in the local community and in the relations between the different local communities which was orientated towards communion.

Most of the early councils, if not all or them, were concerned with eucharistic communion, mainly in the form of the problem of admitting persons excommunicated by one Church to communion in another, or with the restoration of broken eucharistic fellowship. All this shows that no local Church could be a Church unless it was open to communion with the rest of the Churches. Schism between two or more Churches was as intolerable as divisions within one community, and conciliarity was concerned with that more than anything else. (240-241)

Moreover, as he points out in a footnote,

All doctrinal decisions of the ancient Church ended with anathemas, i.e. excommunication from the eucharist. Eucharistic communion was the ultimate aim of doctrine, and not doctrine itself. (241, fn 102)

This involvement of the local community in the understanding of conciliarity is illustrated by the fact that only diocesan bishops, precisely because they are heads of communities, are allowed to vote synods, a practice that has been retained in the Orthodox Churches. It is also seen in the notion of reception by which a council only comes to be seen as authoritative when it is received by the communities. This is

not a juridical thing but a matter of charismatic recognition. It is for this reason that a true council becomes such only a posteriori; it is not an institution but an event in which the entire community participates and which shows whether or not its bishop has acted according to the charisma veritatis. (242)

c) It is in the light of the idea of a community of structure that we should view the bishop’s role as the sole ordainer, for

…the bishop is the one through whom all charismatic manifestations of the Church must pass, so that they be manifestations not of individualism but of the koinonia of the Spirit and of the community created by it. (199)

While extraordinary ministries have their place and must be encouraged,

if they go through the bishop, in whom the entire structure converges and the “many” become “one” in a particular existential milieu. (199)

d) Zizioulas then turns to the implications of the apostolic foundation and origins of particular Churches, suggesting that the argument for the special authority of particular sees only makes sense within the historical approach in which the apostles are understood as individuals.

Moreover, with Saint Cyprian we see the Ignatian and Hippolytan synthesis being altered so that the bishop comes to represent not Christ but Saint Peter.

… for him each episcopal throne is not, as it is for Ignatius, the “place of God” or Christ, but the cathedra Petri. The significance of this alteration is that we can now talk of unus episcopatus dispersed over the earth with Peter as its head. This leads to the concept of episcopal collegiality, as it has been expounded today in Roman Catholic theology. (200)

While it is wrong to read universalistic ideas into Cyprian’s ecclesiology,

There are, however, two basic elements in this view which decisively affect the synthesis we are concerned with here. In the first place this view leads to the disappearance of the Christological image of episcopacy. Thus it leads away from both Ignatius and Hippolytus. The bishop becomes alter apostolus (Peter) but not alter Christus. In the second place, and as a consequence of this, the structure of the local Church ceases to reflect the Kingdom of God with Christ surrounded by his apostles. The eschatological perspective, therefore, is in danger of disappearing from ecclesiology. (201)

In fairness to Saint Cyprian, however, understanding the bishop as alter Petrus does not mean dissolving the apostolic college. Instead, we should

take seriously his application of the image of the apostolic college in its entirety to each episcopal Church. This would preserve an essential part of the eschatological image of apostolicity in the Church structure. In speaking, therefore, of unus episcopatus we should not speak of a structure outside or above or independent of the concrete community to which each bishop is attached through ordination. (201)

In the ordination of the bishop we see a double conditioning in which the bishop is linked simultaneously with the apostolic college as it is expressed in both his own Church and in other Churches. The Petrine role is not irrelevant but its integration into a synthesis requires an appreciation of the proper relation between the local and the universal manifestations of the apostolic college.

Such a relation can only be one of identity, so that neither of these manifestations may have priority over the other. (202)

Moreover, while certain sees have been honoured and given positions of primacy,

when we place the universal dimensions of apostolic continuity in the light of the synthesis I am expounding here … we cannot argue from the standpoint of special apostolic sees without destroying the synthesis. Special apostolic character can and must be recognized in all those Churches which happen to have historical links with one or more of the great apostles. But this is not to be confused with the deeper and fundamental notion of apostolic continuity which passes through the very nature and structure of each Church and relates not just to the historical but also to the eschatological perspective of apostolic continuity. (203)

Zizioulas continues the third subsection of the fifth chapter of  Being as Communion by noting that the idea of continuity through apostolic ministry has suffered from a lack of synthesis between the historical and eschatological aspects. We see this today in the disjunction between the “institutional” and the “charismatic”. Zizioulas makes the following points:

a) Ordination into the ministry, far from being non- or even anti-charismatic, is the most charismatic of all acts.

It is not enough to think of ordination as an historical transmission of apostolicity. Ordination must also be a movement coming from the side of the eschatological finality, from the convoked and not just from the dispersed people of God. Hence all ordinations would have to take place in an epicletic context and, more than that, in the context of the community of the Church gathered e0pi\ to\ au)to, with the apostles not as individual originators of ministry but as a presiding college. (192-193)

Thus the “institutional” does not constitute a self-defined norm but is dependent on the epiclesis of the Spirit.

Moreover, this means that all the orders of the Church are partakers of the apostolic continuity:

Whereas the historical scheme of continuity can lead to a sacramentalism in ordination by limiting apostolic continuity to the so-called ordained ministry, the eschatological approach leads to the conclusion that, for apostolic continuity to take place, the order of the baptized layman is indispensable. The Church, therefore, relates to the apostles not only through ordination but also through baptism. (193)

b) While the bishop has been singled out in the historical approach as an individual possessing the plenitude of apostolicity which he transmits to others, for the early Church (e.g. Eusebius) it was important to trace the bishop’s lineage not simply to an apostle, but to James, the brother of the Lord.

In spite of the obscurity which surrounds the origins and early development of the episcopal office, it seems possible to discern two different ways of understanding the bishop’s function at that time. On the one hand he was understood as a “co-presbyter,” i.e. as one – presumably the first one – of the college of the presbyterium. On the other hand he was looked upon as the type of James the brother of Christ, i.e. as the image of Christ – an idea found in Ignatius and other documents of that time. This resulted naturally in the double image we encounter for the first time clearly in Hippolytus: the bishop as alter Christus and alter apostolus. (195)

For Hippolytus the bishop is simultaneously the image of Christ and the image of the apostles. Moreover, he is surrounded by the college of the presbyterium this also presupposed the convocation of the entire community as the context for the continuation of apostolic ministry.

Apostolic succession through episcopacy is essentially a succession of Church structure. The concrete implications of this are clear: in adhering to episcopal succession the Church does not isolate episcopacy from the rest of the Church orders (including the laity) but, on the contrary, she makes it absolutely dependent on them, just as they are absolutely dependent on it. It is a false idea to break down the independence of orders, for without the complete structure of the community the eschatological perspective, i.e. the convocation of the dispersed people of God, disappears entirely. (197)

Episcopal succession therefore means essentially a succession of communities and this is the reason why it was the bishop who was chosen as the instrument of apostolic succession.

To be continued…

Being a continuation of points made in the fourth and last subsection of the fourth chapter of Being as Communion.

Fourthly, the question arises as to how we are to reconcile such a view of catholicity with the fact that the eucharistic community is itself divided into orders, i.e. categories and classes of people. In this Zizioulas is addressing problems of clericalism and anti-clericalism which he sees as more of a problem in the West than in the East. The East has traditionally been spared such problems due to its eucharistic ecclesiology, but in some places it is now threatened by them due to the replacement of this vision by later ecclesiological ideas.

Metropolitan Zizioulas argues that it is of fundamental importance that ordination occurs within the eucharistic liturgy, thus identifying all ministry as identical with that of Christ and not simply as parallel to it.

It is not an accident that the early Church applied to Christ all forms of ministries that existed. He was the apostle, the prophet, the priest, the bishop, the deacon, etc. A Christologically understood ministry transcends all categories of priority and separation that may be created by the act of ordination and “setting apart.” (163)

In such a perspective, it is impossible to understand any ministry outside the community. This does not mean that the ordained represent the community for this could still place them outside it. Moreover, it overcomes the dilemma of whether to view ministry in functional or ontological terms, for its terms of reference are basically existential.

There is no charisma that can be possessed individually and yet there is no charisma which can be conceived or operated but by individuals. (164)

However, the distinction between the individual and the community finds its proper solution in the category of personal existence.

… the paradox of the incorporation of the “many” into the “one” on which the eucharistic community, as we have seen, and perhaps the entire mystery of the Church are based can only be understood and explained in the categories of personal existence. The individual represents a category that presupposes separation and division. “Individuality makes its appearance by its differentiation from other individualities.” [Buber] The person represents a category that presupposes unity with other persons. The eucharistic community, and the Church in general, as a communion (koinonia) can only be understood in the categories of personal existence. (164-165)

This means that the “seal of the Holy Spirit” given at ordination can only exist in the context of the receiver’s existential relationship with the community. It is a “bond of love” and outside of the community it is destined to die.

It is in this light, also, that we must see the exclusive right of the bishop to ordain:

His exclusive right to ordain, in fact his whole existence as a bishop, makes no sense apart from his role as the one through whom all divisions, including those of orders, are transcended. His primary function is always to make the catholicity of the Church reveal itself in a certain place. For this he must himself be existentially related to a community. There is no ministry in the catholic Church that can exist in absoluto. (165-166)

Fifthly, this has implications for our understanding of apostolic succession which must necessarily be seen as involving not only a succession of bishops but also of their communities. The early Church not only insisted episcopal ordination occur within the eucharistic context, but also that it should state the place to which the bishop would be attached.

Moreover, the development of lists of bishops, and exclusively of bishops, in order to trace apostolic succession, together with the emergence of councils as an episcopal phenomenon, suggests

… that the idea behind them was grounded on a reality broader than the concern for proving the survival of orthodoxy, or to put it in other terms, that the concern for the survival of orthodoxy was not isolated from the broader reality of the Church’s life as a community headed by the bishop. The bishops as successors of the apostles were not perpetuators of ideas like the heads of philosophical schools, nor teacher in the same sense that presbyters were, but heads of communities whose entire life and thought they were supposed by their office to express. Their apostolic succession, therefore, should be viewed neither as a chain of individual acts of ordination nor as a transmission of truths but as a sign and an expression of the continuity of the Church’s historical life in its entirety, as was realized in each community. (167-168)

Apostolic succession therefore represents a sign of the historical dimension of the Church’s catholicity in which the charismatic and the historical are combined to transcend the divisions caused by time.

Thus the Church is revealed to be in time what she is eschatologically, namely a catholic Church which stands in history as a transcendence of all divisions into the unity of all in Christ through the Holy Spirit to the glory of God the Father. (169)

The various local Churches had to wrestle – perhaps unconsciously – with the problem of the relationship between the “catholic Church” in the Episcopal community and the catholic Church in the world. The moment they would admit a supra-local structure over the local eucharistic community, be it a synod or another office, the eucharistic community would cease to be in itself and by virtue of its eucharistic nature a “catholic Church.” The moment, on the other hand, that they would allow each eucharistic community to close itself to the other communities either entirely (i.e. by creating a schism) or partially (i.e. by not allowing certain individual faithful from one community to communicate in another or by accepting to communion faithful excluded from it by their own community) they would betray the very eucharistic nature of their catholicity and the catholic character of the eucharist. The council was, therefore, an inevitable answer to this dilemma, and its genesis must be seen in the light of this situation. (156-157)

In this third subsection of chapter four of Being as Communion Zizioulas addresses the relationship between the local and the universal and argues that a eucharistic ecclesiology enabled the early Church to transcend the antithesis between the local and the universal, so that the term “catholic” could apply to both the local and the universal at the same time.

Each eucharistic community revealed the whole Christ and the whole Church in a particular concretisation. It revealed the eschatological unity of all in Christ. However, this necessarily applied to all the eucharistic communities and so “no mutual exclusion between the local and the universal was possible in a eucharistic context, but the one was automatically involved in the other.” (155) This relationship between the different eucharistic communities was expressed through the bishops who represented their own local Churches and who also shared in the episcopacy of their brother bishops.

The fact that in each episcopal ordination at least two or three bishops from the neighbouring churches ought to take part tied the episcopal office and with it the local eucharistic community in which the ordination to it took place with the rest of the eucharistic communities in the world in a fundamental way. This fact not only made it possible for each bishop to allow a visiting fellow-bishop to preside over his eucharistic community but must have been also one of the basic factors in the appearance of episcopal conciliarity. (155)

While the origins of conciliarity are obscure, they are clearly rooted in the search to explicate the implications of eucharistic communion. They represent “the most official negation of the division between local and universal, a negation which must be taken in all its implications.” (157)

The whole Christ, the catholic Church, was present and incarnate in each eucharistic community. Each eucharistic community was, therefore, in full unity with the rest by virtue not of an extended superimposed structure but of the whole Christ represented in each of them. The bishops as heads of these communities coming together in synods only expressed what Ignatius, in spite of – or perhaps because of – his eucharistic ecclesiology wrote once: “the bishops who are in the extremes of the earth are in the mind of Christ.” [Eph. 3,2] Thanks to a eucharistic vision of the “catholic Church” the problem of the relationship between the “one catholic Church in the world” and the “catholic Churches” in the various places was resolved apart from any consideration of the local Church as being incomplete or any scheme of priority of the one over the other, in the sense of a unity of identity. (157)

Certainly there was a basic difference in faith that distinguished Christians from their environment. But there was also a certain distinctiveness in the manner of their gathering together, which should not pass unnoticed. This distinctiveness lay in the composition of these gatherings. Whereas the Jews based the unity of their gatherings on race (or, in the later years, on a broader religious community based on this race) and the pagans with their collegia on profession, the Christians declared that in Christ “there is neither Jew nor Greek,” “male or female,” adult or child, rich or poor, master or slave, etc. To be sure the Christians themselves soon came to believe that they constituted a third race, but this was only to show that in fact it was a “non-racial race,” a people who, while claiming to be the true Israel, declared at the same time that they did not care about the difference between a Greek and a Jew once these were members of the Christian Church. (151)

In this second subsection of chapter four of Being as Communion Zizioulas addresses how the early Church’s understanding of catholicity was reflected in her structures. He notes that coming together in “brotherly love” was not a Christian innovation and was already found among both pagans and Jews. For the Christians, however, the Sunday synaxis would be the only one in a particular place and would thus include the “whole Church,” which transcended not only social but also natural divisions.

It is very significant that, unlike what the Churches do today in an age marked by a tragic loss of the primitive ecclesiology, there was never a celebration of the eucharist specially for children or for students, etc., nor a eucharist that could take place privately and individually. Such a thing would destroy precisely the catholic character of the eucharist which was leitourgia, i.e. a “public work” for all Christians of the same city… (151-152)

This catholicity was also reflected in the Church’s structure. The ordering of the Church in which the bishop occupies a central place and in which the different orders are given particular places is intended not to create division but rather to enable the “many” to be expressed through the “one”.

A fundamental function of this “one bishop” was to express in himself the “multitude” (poluplhqei/a) of the faithful in that place. He was the one who would offer the eucharist to God in the name of the Church, thus bringing up to the throne of God the whole Body of Christ. He was the one in whom the “many” united would become “one,” being brought back to him who had made them… (153)

However, both the bishop and the various orders in the Church were dependent on and emerged from the Eucharistic gathering and it is this that prevents them from becoming sources of division.

By restricting all such ordinations to the eucharistic community and making it an exclusive right of the bishop, not as an individual but as the head of this eucharistic community, to ordain, the early Church saved the catholic character of its entire structure. The bishop with his exclusive right of ordination and with the indispensable restriction of ordaining only in the eucharistic context took it upon himself to express the catholicity of his Church. But it was the eucharistic community and the place he occupied in its structure that justified this. (154)

Being a continuation of the third section of chapter three of Being as Communion.

The third implication of the synthesis between Christology and Pneumatology for ecclesiology is seen at the local level in the relationship between the Bishop and the community. Here too communion is ontologically constitutive and the correct relationship between the “one” and the “many” must be maintained. It is a fundamental principle of Orthodox ecclesiology that the bishop cannot exist without the community and the community cannot exist without the bishop.

This principle is expressed in various ways. There is no ordination to the episcopate outside the community which makes the community constitutive of the Church. Likewise, there is no episcopacy without a community attached to it.

Here a detail must be stressed because it points to a peculiarity of Orthodoxy compared with Roman Catholic theology: the mention of the name of the community takes place in the prayer of ordination of a bishop. Since in the Orthodox Church there is no missio canonica or a distinction between potestas ordinis and potestas iurisdictionis, the fact that the community is mentioned in the prayer of ordination means that the community forms part of the ontology of episcopacy: there is no bishop, not even for a moment or theoretically, who is not conditioned by some community. The “many” condition ontologically the “one”. (137)

However, the opposite is also true, namely, that the “many” cannot exist without the “one”. This means that there is no baptism or ordination of any kind without the bishop, for “the bishop is the condition for the existence of the community and its charismatic life.” (137)

This mutual independence between the “one” and the “many” are dependent on the Eucharist, and the fourth implication of the synthesis is therefore the “iconic” character of the ecclesial institutions. Here communion is placed within the context of eschatology.

The eucharist, in the Orthodox understanding at least, is an eschatological event. In it, not only the “one” and the “many” co-exist and condition each other, but something more is indicated: the ecclesial institutions are reflections of the Kingdom … all ecclesial institutions must have some justification by reference to something ultimate and not simply to historical expedience. (138)

While there are ministries arising out of concrete historical situations, “History is never a sufficient justification for the existence of a certain ecclesial institution”, for

The Holy Spirit points beyond history – not, of course, against it, though it can and must often point against history as it actually is, through a prophetic function of the ministry. The ecclesial institutions by being eschatologically conditioned become sacramental in the sense of being placed in the dialectic between history and eschatology, between the already and the not yet. They lose therefore their self-sufficiency, their individualistic ontology, and exist epicletically, i.e. they depend for their efficacy constantly on prayer, the prayer of the community. It is not in history that the ecclesial institutions find their certainty (their validity) but in constant dependence on the Holy Spirit. This is what makes them “sacramental,” which in the language of Orthodox theology may be called “iconic.” (138)

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