in I.V.Leb [ed.], Tolerentia si Convietuire in Transilvania Secolelor
Cluj 2001, pp. 207-218, and in Roumanian under the title "
Reconciliere si Tolerantia dintr-o Perspectiva Ortodoxa", pp.15-26)
among people from different religions is both a delicate task and an extremely
difficult enterprise. On the Christian side, despite isolated cases, for more
than 50 years now - since the 1938 meeting of the World Council of Churches (WCC) at
Tambaram, India - all
Christians have affirmed that respectful dialogue with people of other faiths is
not only a necessity, but an imperative; all the more so because of religious
intolerance and fanaticism in all religions. This conviction is also high in the
theological agenda of the Roman Catholic Church, and was reaffirmed in the 1989
World Mission Conference of the WCC in San Antonio, Texas, the principle reason
being the humanitarian dimension, or to put it in more theological terms the
issue of Christian anthropology. "The needs of humanity", it was
not divided among religions, but human needs for life, for meaning, and for hope
is surely one". We
live in a period of nationalistic outburst, which inevitably causes religious
fanaticism and intolerance, eventually undermining the peaceful coexistence of,
and the imperative of reconciliation among, peoples.
one comes to deal with the issue of reconciliation and tolerance, the
tension that historically existed among different religions, but also among
segments of the same religion, unavoidably comes to one’s mind. Reconciliation
and tolerance as a burning issue occupied the agenda and the philosophical and
theological reflections for the most part of modernity, especially in Europe
with the rise of Reformation (16th century CE). It is, therefore, a religious
rather than a social issue, although these two dimensions epistemologically are
inter-related and cannot (and should not) be dissociated.
has become a real issue ever since the various world religions have come to
understand their mission in terms of universalism, and because of their
legitimate conviction to remain faithful to their fundamental truths, one of
which certainly is their view of salvation, i.e. soteriology.
my presentation: (a) I will briefly
review this basic problem of universalism, common more or less to all world
religions, from the point of view of the Orthodox understanding of mission; (b)
I will present with the help of
cultural anthropology - and also of (c) Orthodox theology - the importance of
ritual for developing new criteria for reconciliation and tolerance among world
religions; and finally (d) I will draw some conclusions.
order to properly understand the importance of universalism in dealing with "reconciliation and tolerance", one needs to examine a variety of terms and
notions involved in current discussions, expressed by such words as mission, conversion, evangelism
or evangelization, Christianization,
Martin Goodman’s classification, I argued elswhere,
that in the early Church the Christian mission was understood in a broad variety
of ways: following the steps of Judaism Christianity developed informative,
educational, apologetic and proseltyrizing mission to propagate its
However, this pluralistic understanding has gradually given its place more or
less to auniversalistic understanding, a universal proselytizing mission, which
during the Constantinian period became dominant through its theological
validation by the great Church historian Eusebius. However, it never became
entirely dormant in the undivided Church,
with very few exceptions of course.
proselytizing mission had
a significant effect in the future of our western world, and to a
considerable degree also determined the shaping in later times of the western
theology of mission, Catholic and Protestant alike. In
fact, it 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 African and Asian missions during the last century.
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, walked hand by hand with
in his book Ecumenism in Transition. A
Paradigm Shift in the Ecumenical Movement, has rightly argued that because
Christians at the "old ecumenical paradigm" felt that they were called
Orthodox theology of mission, starting from the fundamental assumption "that God
is in God’s own self 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", no longer insists on making primarily new converts, but on
witnessing to their faith in an authentic way; in other words Orthodoxy no
longer insists—or rather to be honest should no longer insist—on a universal
proselytizing mission that aims "at the propagation or transmission of
intellectual convictions, doctrines, moral commands, etc.", but on a witness
that in fact aims "at the transmission of the life of communion, that exists in
one now takes this understanding of mission a litle further, one can argue that
the problem of overcoming the evil in the world is not basically a moral or even
a social issue. Strictly speaking, it cannot be measured in conventional missiological terms. It is rather, and
for some primarily and even exclusively, an ecclesial issue. To put in simple terms, it
depends on our Orthodox Church’s identity. This of course by no means excludes
the moral and social responsibility of the Church (both as an institution and
also of its individual members), but this comes as the logical consequence of
their ecclesial self-consciousness.
is exactly for this reason that so much emphasis was placed in the Orthodox
Church, both in the past and in the present, on ritual and Liturgy. In dealing
with Liturgy Orthodox Christianity deals with the very being and the identity of the Church. Of course,
having said that I cannot deny the real fact, that throughout the history there
have been numerous cases, where the liturgy, the primary expression of the Church,
and the Eucharist as its center and climax, became in some cases a useless
typolatry, and in other worse cases a sacramentalistic (for some even demonic)
ritual, which instead of directing the community towards the vision of the
coming Kingdom, it lead it to individualistic paths, with hostile and intolerant
behaviour, with no sense of the moral imperative of reconciliation. All these
eventually distanced the members of the community from the "other", any "other"
(Jew, Muslim, Buddist, or believer of any other religion, even atheist), and
therefore from God, the real "Other", leading them to death, to hell.
In the remaining time I will try to reassess the understanding of mission with
its consequence to reconciliation and tolerance by reference to the liturgy and
ritual. And I will do this by using both the insights of cultural anthropology
and the results of theology.
this, however, just as an illustration, allow me to make a quick reference to
the Bible, the most revered book of Christianity. In particular to the famous
passage of the Gospel of Matthew concerning "The Last Judgment" (25:31-46). The
scene of the story is an imaginative royal court in which God will judge the
world at the end of history. One can paraphrase the story by saying that human
beings are judged entirely on their behavior towards their fellow human beings.
What is significant here is that there is neither mention of faith as a
presupposition of salvation, nor of religious duties toward God (in fact there
is nothing about what we normally consider duties: we are judged on those things
that we are accustomed not to consider duties, any kind of duties, religious or
otherwise; not to mention of course that in this passage all religious or
confessional boundaries are dramatically brought down. We come face to face with
the importance of humanity in all theological considerations in that God
identifies himself not with any religious establishment, but with those to whom
service is given or refused:
was hungry and you fed me, thirsty and you gave me a drink; I was stranger and
you received me in your homes, naked and you clothed me; I was sick and you took
care of me, in prison and you visited me", (vv. 25:35f. and the opposite vv.
25:42f;) and to their astonishment the reply was: "whenever you did this for one
of the least important of these brothers and sisters of mine you did it for me" (v. 25:40, and the opposite v. 25:45).
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".
ecumenical and missionary circles it is a common view that with the contribution
of the Orthodox theology modern ecumenism has taken radical steps towards a
fresh understanding of mission. It was this development that made K. Raiser
suggest for the future of ecumenism and of Christian mission a radical shift to
a "new paradigm," away from the "christocentric universalism" and towards a
"trinitarian" understanding of the divine reality, and also towards an
"Oikoumene" as the one household of life. For
the understanding of mission, this important development means a total
abandonment of any effort of proselytizing, not only among Christians of other
denominations, but even among peoples of other religions. Dialogue is the new term which now runs parallel
to, and in some cases in place of, the old missiological terminology. Nowadays, the problem of reconciliation and tolerance in the religious field,
has become not simply a social necessity but a legitimate theological
imperative. The peoples of other faiths are "no longer the objects of our
discussions but partners in our conversation".
Christianity, especially in the Eastern Orthodox tradition which I represent, it
is believed that the revelation of God took place in a certain time in the
person of Christ. This once-and-for-all revelation, nevertheless was not a
finished process but continues to the end of time through the presence of the
Spirit of God, the Holy Spirit. This continuous revelation, however, takes place neither in a vacuum nor in
an abstract ideological level, but in the
liturgical life of the community. The importance of liturgy and ritual for
the identity of the religious systems was actually reinforced by the social
sciences, and especially by cultural anthropology.
of the most imaginative insights of modern 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. 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
Even the texts, as A. Destro and M. Pesce have pointed out, "are not just
writing, literature, or communication, but above and beyond all this, especially
in the religious field, part and instrument of a performance". 
conclusion is in fact in accord with the affirmation of modern Orthodox
theologians, like George Florovsky, who rightly declare that "Christianity is a
liturgical tradition. 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, more precisely on the authentic (i.e.
liturgical) identity of the Church."
There are two
major understandings of the Liturgy. According to the first one, Liturgy can be
treated 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 supervision on the members, and the need of the individual for
personal "sanctification". We could label this aspect of the liturgical act as juridical. According to the second
one, the Liturgy functions as a means for the upbuilding 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. We will call this
second understanding communal.
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. What, however, is even more
significant for our subject, is that the juridical understanding of Liturgy develops
separation and certain barriers, sometimes even hostility, between members of
different religious systems, thus intensifying phenomena of intolerance and
At the other end, the communal understanding of Liturgy discourages
all distinctions between the various segments within the religious communities,
but also by extension within the wider social life. And to come again to our
subject, the communal understanding of Liturgy disolves
barriers between members of different religious systems, thus promoting
religious tolerance and reconciliation.
What has been so far analysed with
reference to cultural anthropology, holds also true on a theological basis. It
is almost an assured result of modern theological scholarship (biblical and
liturgical) that the principle rite of Christianity, the Eucharist, was "lived"
in the early Christian community not as a mere cult, but as a foretaste of the
coming Kingdom of God, a proleptic manifestation within the tragic realities of
history of an authentic life of communion, unity, justice and equality, with no
practical differentiation (soteriological and beyond) between Jews and gentiles,
slaves and freemen, men and women (cf. Gal 3:28). According to some historians,
the Church was able a few generations later, with the important contribution of
the Greek Fathers of the golden age, to come up with the doctrine of a Triune
God (and much later to further develop the important distinction between
substance and energies), only because of the eschatological experience of koinonia in the Eucharist (both vertical
with its head, and horizontal among the people of God, and by extension with the
entire humanity) of the early Christian community, an experience which ever
since continues to constitute the only expression of the Church’s self-consciousness, its Mystery par
excellence. In brief, if one
wants to approach any specific issue, like "Reconciliation and Tolerance", one should start from this primary
liturgical experience, the eucharistic eschatological experience, the matrix of
all theology that produced all theological interpretations of this experience.
However, since it is a common place to relate any
Christian understanding, and especially that of mission, to Christ, I will also
refer to His teaching, life and work. His teaching, however, and especially his
life and work, cannot be properly understood without reference to the
eschatological expectations of the Second Temple Judaism. Without entering the
complexities of Jewish eschatology, we could say very briefly that it was
interwoven with the expectation of the coming of the Messiah. In the "last
of history ("the Eschaton") he would establish his kingdom by calling the
dispersed and afflicted people of God into one place to become one body united
around him. The statement in the Gospel of John (11:51-52) about the Messiah's
role is extremely important. There the writer interprets the words of the
Jewish High priest by affirming
that "he prophesied that Jesus should die...not for the nation only but to gather into one the children of God who
are scattered abroad."
Gospels Christ identifies himself with this Messiah. We see this in the various
Messianic titles he chose for himself, or at least as witnessed by the most
primitive Christian tradition ("Son of man", "Son of God", etc., most of which had a
collective meaning, whence the christology of "corporate personality"). We see
it as well in the parables of the kingdom, which summarize his teaching proclaiming that his coming initiates
the new world of the kingdom of God, in the Lord's
Prayer, but also in his conscious acts (e.g. the selection
of the twelve, etc.). In short, Christ identified himself with the Messiah of the Eschaton who would be
the center of the gathering of the dispersed people of God.
was on this radical eschatological teaching of the Historical Jesus about the
Kingdom of God that the early Church has developed its ecclesiology, on which
its missionary practice was based. This teaching is reflected in images of the
Church as the Body of Christ, as Vine, and especially as unity. The apostle Paul
in particular was absolutely convinced that all who have believed in Christ have
been incorporated into His body through Baptism, completing with the Eucharist
their incorporation into the one people of God. The 4th Gospel develops this
radical eschatological teaching even further in regard to the unity of the
people of God around Christ and their incorporation into Christ's body through
the Eucharist above all.
Christianity believed that the Eschaton had already entered history, and that
the Church as an eschatological community becomes a reality each time they gather in one place to celebrate the
Holy Eucharist. The mission of the early Church stems exactly from their
awareness that they are the Kingdom of God "on earth as it is in heaven" (Mt
6:10 par). The
apostles were commissioned to proclaim not a set of given religious convictions,
doctrines, moral commands etc., but the coming Kingdom, the new eschatological
reality, which had as its center the crucified and resurrected Christ. They were
called "holy"; because they
belonged to that chosen race of the people of God. They were also considered a
"royal priesthood"; because all of them, without exception (not just some
special cast such as the priests or levites) have priestly and spiritual
authority to practice in the
diaspora the work of the priestly class, reminded at the same time to be worthy
of their election though their exemplary life and works.
And finally, they were called to walk towards unity ("so that they may become perfectly one",
sum, the Church according to the Orthodox theology is identified not by what it is given
to it in the past, nor by
what it is
as an institutional
reality in the present, but by what it is
supposed to become at the end of time, at the Eschaton
. At the same time, the Church’s mission
is to be understood as a dynamic journey of the people of God as a whole towards
the Eschaton, with their main rite, the Eucharist, being their point of
departure. There were, of course, periods in which the center of gravity moved
from the (eucharistic) experience
to the (Christian) message,
(and further and consequently to soteriology),
from the event
(the Kingdom of God),
the bearer and center
of this event
and more precisely his
sacrifice on the cross); and
all these resulted in certain aggressive, unpeaceful and intolerant situations.
Nevertheless, the Eucharist always remained the sole expression of the Church’s
identity and mission.
any conclusion is to be drawn from the above analysis, this is an affirmation
that the "old paradigm" of the Christian "exclusivity" must give its place to a
"new paradigm", the main focus of which will be the priority of "communion" with
the "others". Only then, will Christianity - and this mutatis mutandis holds true for any other religious
system - avoid imperialistic expansionism and confessionalist attitudes. Only
then, all kinds of nationalistic and phyletistic behaviour will definitely and
once and for all overcome, thus contributing to the struggle for the unity of humankind through
reconciliation and tolerance, and for the unity of all creation, through a real
concern for a just and enviromentally sustainable society.
In this way the mission of the Orthodox
Church will have to take the form first and foremost of a common Christian witness. After all, the
real issue in Orthodox Christian
behavor is not so much the act of accepting, and believing in, the abundant love
of God (which leads to a "confessional and religious exclusiveness"), but the
concious act of exemplifying it to the world through a peaceful, conciliatory
and tolerant witness (this can be labeled "ecclesial inclusiveness"). The new
understanding of mission is beyond any caricature of proselytism; the real aim
of evangelism is not to bring the nations and the people of other faiths to our
own religious "enclosure"; its real aim is to "let" the Spirit of God to use
both the faithful and those to whom the faithful bear witness, to bring about
the Kingdom of God. According to this understanding, everything belongs to that
Kingdom, that new world and new reality. The Church in the conventional sense
does not administer all reality, as it was believed for centuries; she only
prepares the way to that reality.
far more importantly, the real mission of the Church will go far beyond
denominational boundaries, beyond Christian limitations, even beyond the
religious sphere in the conventional sense. The real mission of the Christianity has
to do with the manifestation of the Kingdom of God, the restoration of the
"household" of God.
through such an understanding of mission one can expect much easier to overcome
the corrupted hierarchical order both in society and in the priestly
ecclesiastical order; such a hierarchical order is a reflection
of the fallen reality and not of the kenotic divine one. This will
inevitably result in the proper traditional "iconic" understanding of all
priestly ministries, but will also lead to a more authentic "conciliar" status
in all sectors of religious life (i.e. full, unconditional, and inclusive
participation of the entire religious community to the priestly, royal and
prophetic ministries), and to a genuine community of men and women.
(ed.), The San Antonio Report. "Your Will
be Done. Mission in Christ's Way, WCC Publications, Geneva 1990, p.125.
these terms the last two have been widely adopted in "ecumenical" circles as the
more appropriate for a genuine and authentic Christian mission (cf. the most
important documents and books on the issue: e.g. Common Witness. A Joint Document of the
Working Group of the Roman Catholic Church and the WCC, WCC Mission Series,
Geneva 1982; the relevant to our subject document Common Witness and Proselytism; also I.Bria (ed.), Martyria-Mission, WCC Publications
Geneva, 1980. Even the Mission and Evangelism-An Ecumenical
Affirmation, Geneva 1982, WCC Mission Series Ç1985 , 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"), whereas the imperative validity of all the
other have been retained as the sine qua
non of the Christian identity
of those belonging to the "evangelical" stream of our Christian tradition (cf.
the tension in the recent history of the world christian mision, which resulted
in the tragic separation and the eventual formation of the Lausanne Movement for
Proselytism. An Orthodox Understanding",Eucharist and Witness. Orthodox Perspecrives
on the Unitty and Mission of the Church, WCC Press-Holy Cross Press, Geneva,
Boston, 1998, pp. 29ff.
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 modern 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.).
Mission and Conversion , p. 7.
mission, perhaps wih the exception of the Russian mission, has been till very
recently latent ......Cf. also D.J.Bosch,
Transforming Mission. Paradigm Schifts in Theology of Mission, Orbis Books
New York, 1991, who discribed through the "Paradigm-Shift-theory" the
development of Christian understanding of mission down to the most recent
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
K.Raiser, Ecumenism in Transition. A Paradigm Shift in
the Ecumenical Movement, WCC Publications Geneva 1991 (translated with
modifications from the German original Ökumene im Übergang, C.Kaiser Verlag
München 1989), p.34.
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,
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 Ôn Dialogue in Community, WCC, Geneva,
Go fourth in Peace, WCC Press Geneva
1986, p. 3.
this passage in the Orthodox liturgical tradition has been placed at the outset
of the most important and holy period of the Church life, the Great Lent. (cf.
A.Schmemann, Great Lent, SVS Press
E.Durkheim, The Elementary Forms of the Religious
Life (transl. by J.W.Swain, New York: Free Press, 1965, reprint), p.
Th.Luckmann, The Social Construction of
Reality: 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.
M.Douglas, Purity and Danger. An Analysis of the
Concepts of Pollution and Taboo (London: Routledge and Keegan Paul, 1966),
M.Pesce, "Anthropological Reading of Early Christian Texts". According to them
"a text is the product of a human activity which is at the same level of all
other cultural manifestations" (from the Engl. transl. of the enlarged edition
of their book Antropologia delle origini
cristiane, Editori Laterza, Bari-Roma, pp.1ff).
G.Florovsky, "The Elements of Liturgy: An Orthodox View," Ecumenism 1, A Doctrinal Approach, vol.
XIII in the Collected Works, p. 86;
also in C.Patelos (ed.), The Orthodox
Church in the Ecumenical Movement, Geneva WCC Press 1978, 172-182,
comment on the relevant petition of the Lord’s Prayer: "(Christ) did not say
‘Your will be done’ in me, or in us, but everywhere on earth, so that error may
be destroyed, and truth implanted, and all wickedness cast out, and virtue
return, and no difference in this respect be henceforth between heaven and
57 col. 280).
J.H.Elliott, The Elect and the Holy, 1966, has
redetermined on the part of the Protestant biblical theology the real meaning of
the term «βασίλειον ιεράτευμα», which has so vigorously discussed since the time
of Luther. Cf. R.Brown, Priest and
Bishop: Biblical Reflections, 1971.
my article "Σταυρός: Centre of the Pauline Soteriology and Apostolic Ministry",
A.Vanhoye [ed.], L’Apôtre Paul.
Personnalité, Style et Conception du Ministère, Leuven 1986, pp.