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Universal Mission and Orthodoxy

Mission, Proselytism and the Ecumenical Movement

Beyond Christian Universalism: The Church's Witness in a Multicultural Society

Reconciliation and Tolerance from an Orthodox Perspective

Eschatology and the Mission of the Church: An Homage to
Dumitru Staniloae

The Eucharistic Perspective of the Church's Mission
Today and Tomorrow

Towards a Eucharistic Understanding of Mission. Russia
Facing Evangelicals

The mission of the Church during postmodernity


(published in EEΘΣΘ n.s. 6 (1996), pp.111-30)I.

It is indeed a great honour and a privilege for me to be invited to address this major Inter-Orthodox theological gathering on the very significant and at the same time very challenging topic: "The mission of the Church today and tomorrow". Significant, because it concentrates on the most important (and yet somehow neglected in our tradition) aspect of the Church's life: its mission;  but also challenging, because - contrary to our recent practice - the focus is not on the past, on our invaluable and most precious tradition, but on the future.

Nevertheless, this knew and very promising development in the theological deliberations of our Orthodox academic institutions, the first in modern history which takes place outside the realm of Greek Orthodoxy, cannot but somehow take into consideration some of the previous achievements in the series of Conferences of the modern Orthodox Theological Schools. Thus,  one cannot ignore that: (a) the 1st Congress, held in Athens in 1936, was marked by the historic appeal for a return to the Fathers,[1] not as a move towards the past, but as a liberating reaction to the scholastic inclination of our previous theological endeavours; (b) in the final communiqué of the 2nd Congress, also held in Athens in 1976, "evident to all members... were the importance of...fellowship, the need to understand one another... a deep interest in ecclesiology, particularly in ecumenical research and activity."[2] Finally, (c) in the last 3rd Congress, which was held in Boston at the premises of the Greek-Orthodox Theological School of the Holy Cross in 1987, a very bold but undoubtedly pragmatic view was openly expressed at the keynote address, when it was stated with bitterness that our modern Orthodox theology has in fact failed "to open any real dialogue with current theological thinking and with world ideologies at the level of a commonly accepted vocabulary."[3]

If one can sum up the major developments of the past three conferences, this is a missionary concern how to adjust our legacy with the present reality, the main focus being ecclesiology and its consequences, i.e. the new ecumenical reality. Indeed, this present Congress finds our Church - and our theology as the prophetic conscience of the Church - at the threshold of a new, unprecedented and very challenging situation, amidst a fast moving world, a world which is marked by divisions, growing social inequality, serious ecological crisis, and above all by the still persisting scandalous disunity among christians who confess, and believe in, the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church, the one  body of Christ, our only hope (1 Ti 1:1), the communion of the Holy Spirit, who "constitutes the whole institution of the Church" and  "has called all in unity";[4] in other words, a world that desperately needs our authentic Orthodox μαρτυρία (witness).  


D.J.Bosch in his book Transforming Mission. Paradigm Shifts in Theology of Mission,  concludes his chapter on the mission paradigm of our Eastern Orthodox Church with the following statement:

"The church adapted to the existing world order, resulting in Church and Society penetrating and permeating each other. The role of religion - any religion - in society is that of both stabilizer and emancipator; it is both mythical and messianic. In the Eastern tradition the church tended to express the former of each of these pairs rather than the latter. The emphasis was on conservation  and restoration, rather than on embarking on a journey into the unknown. The key words were 'tradition', 'orthodoxy', and the 'Fathers' (Küng), and the church became the bulwark of right doctrine. Orthodox churches tended to become ingrown, excessively nationalistic, and without a concern for those outside (Anastasios Yannoulatos).

In particular, Platonic categories of thought all but destroyed primitive Christian eschatology (Beker). The church established itself in the world as an institute of almost exclusively other-worldly salvation".[5]

This assessment of the Orthodox Church was actually reinforced by the first Orthodox, mostly immigrants from the pre-revolution Russia, who came in contact after a long period of separation with the West, and in their desperate attempt to preserve their Orthodox identity in a quite alien to them world and present it to their fellow christians in the West, underlined the mystical   aspect of the Orthodox theology. This is notably the case with V. Lossky, who in his monumental work under the title The Mystical Theology of the Eastern Church has almost determined the character of the Orthodox understanding of mission in the ecumenical scene[6]. Today this one-sided (i.e. mystical) presentation is been questioned by various quarters, the latest being by Ion Bria, who rejoices the existence of a variety of trends - sometimes even contradictory -  within modern orthodox theology.[7] With regard to the orthodox understanding of mission Bria himself underlined the trinitarian dimension of mission:

"Trinitarian theology points to the fact 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. The implications of this assertion for understanding mission are very important: mission does not aim primarily 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".[8]

This trinitarian approach seems to be the prevailing among almost all Orthodox in recent time.[9] One of the most serious contributions of modern Orthodox theology to the world theology was the reintroduction into current theological thinking of the importance for all aspects theology of the trinitarian dogma of the undivided Church. The Preparatory Committee's suggestion, therefore, that the main papers should have as a starting point the trinitarian theology is absolutely legitimate. Without undermining this suggestion, and despite the fact that the trinitarian approach is widely recognized, and more and more applied even by non Orthodox[10] in dealing with current theological issues, I decided to approach the main theme of the conference from the eucharistic perspective. I came to this decision not so much in order to avoid a strictly contextual approach;[11]  It is purely for methodological  reasons that I consider it not only as much more appropriate for us orthodox, but also as more logical.

It is time, I think,  to distance ourselves as much as possible from the dominant to modern scholarship syndrome of the priority of the texts over the experience, of theology over ecclesiology. There are many scholars who cling to the dogma, imposed by the post-Enlightenment and post-Reformation hegemony over all scholarly theological outlook (and not only in the field of biblical scholarship or of western and in particular Protestant theology), which can be summarized as follows: what constitutes the core of our christian faith, of our Orthodox Tradition if you like, cannot be extracted but from the expressed theological views, from a certain depositum fidei,  be it the Bible, the writings of the Fathers, the canons and certain decisions of the Councils; very rarely is there any serious reference to the eucharistic communion event that has been responsible and produced these views.

It is my firm conviction that out of the three main characteristics of what is generally known as Orthodox 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 (i.e. our hesychastic tradition[12]) marks a decisive development in eastern christian theology and spirituality after the eventual Schism between East and West, a development that has determined, together with other factors, the mission of our 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;[13] it was, nevertheless, only because of the eucharistic experience, the matrix of all theology and spirituality of our Church, that all theological and spiritual climaxes in our Church have been actually achieved.

It is almost an assured result of modern theological scholarship (biblical and liturgical) that the Eucharist was "lived" in the early Christian community not as a Mystery 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). This was, after all,  the real meaning of the johannine term «αŒρξιοχ ϊφάΘ (eternal life), and St. Ignatius' expression «φάρμακον ˆυαξασέαχΘ (medicine of immortality). 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 trinity, 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.[14]

In sum, if one wants to approach any specific issue, like the theme of the present conference, which is the Church and its mission today and tomorrow,  one should avoid the temptation to ignore the primary experience, i.e. the ecclesia and its eucharistic eschatological experience, the matrix of all theology, or to use a socio-(cultural-) anthropological description the wider "social space" that produced all theological interpretations of this experience; but on the other hand, it would be a methodological fallacy to project later theological interpretations into this primary  eschatological experience.


The christian understanding of mission has undoubtedly to be determined by the teaching, life and work of Christ. His teaching, however, and especially his life and work, cannot be properly understood without reference to the eschatological expectations of 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 days" 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 Jn 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." (RSV)[15]

Throughout the 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.

It was on this radical eschatological teaching of the Historical Jesus about the Kingdom of God (which as modern biblical research has shown moves dialectically between the "already" and the "not yet"; in other words, begins already in the present but will be completed in its final authentic form in the eschaton) that the early Church has developed its ecclesiology, on which its missionary practice was based. From the writings of Paul, John, and Luke, in addition to other works, we see this teaching 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.

The main contribution, which the primitive christian theology has made to the development of this messianic eschatology, was the common belief of almost all theologians of the early Church,  emphasized and underlined most sharply by St. Luke, that with Christ's Resurrection and especially with Pentecost, the Eschaton had already entered history, and that the messianic eschatological community becomes a reality each time the Church, the new Israel, the dispersed people of God, gathers "επί το αυτό" (in one place), especially when it gathers to celebrate the Holy Eucharist. This development is undoubtedly the starting point of christian mission, the springboard of the Church's witnessing Exodus to the world, which in fact interpreted the imminent expectation of the Parousia in a dynamic and radical way.

The missiological imperatives of the early Church stem exactly from this awareness of the Church as an eschatological, dynamic, radical, and corporate reality,  commissioned to witness the Kingdom of God "on earth as it is in heaven" (Mt 6:10 par).[16] The apostles were commissioned to proclaim not a set of given religious convictions, doctrines, moral commands etc., but the coming Kingdom, the Good news of a new eschatological reality, which had as its center the crucified and resurrected Christ, the incarnation of God the Logos and His dwelling among us human beings, and His continuous presence through the Holy Spirit, in a life of communion, experienced  in their "eucharistic" (in the wider sense) life. That is why they are called ±ηιοι (holy);  because they belonged to that chosen race of the people of God. That is why they were considered  βασέμειοξ "εςΐτεωνα (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[17]. That is why they were called to walk towards unity ("so that they may become perfectly one",  Jn 17:23), to abandon all deeds of darkness; because the one who called them out of darkness into light, "from non existence into being", who took them as non-members of the people of God and made them into genuine  members of the new eschatological community[18]  is holy  and perfect.[19] The writings of John are particularly replete with evidence of the understanding that with the entrance of the eschaton into history all of the characteristic elements of the end - judgment, resurrection, kingdom, and consequently sinlessness, purity - begin to act mystically in the world.[20]


No doubt, this initial horizontal historical eschatology, - which identifies the Church not by what it is in the present, but by what it will become in the Eschaton, and at the same time suggests that the Church's mission is the dynamic journey of the people of God as a whole towards the Eschaton, with the Eucharist as the point of departure - became interwoven from the very first days of the Church's life with a vertical  one, which put the emphasis on a more personal understanding of salvation. From the time of the St. Paul the apostle e.g. this personalization is quite evident in his justification by faith theology, but this "paradigm shift" has also affected the understanding of the Eucharist, the primary act of self-consciousness of community as a koinonia of the eschata and as a proleptic manifestation of the coming kingdom of God. No matter for what reasons,[21] from the time of St. Paul there has been a shift of the center of gravity from the (eucharistic) experience  to the (christian) message,  from eschatology  to christology  (and further and consequently to soteriology),  from the event  (the Kingdom of God), to the bearer and center of this event ((Christ,  and more precisely his sacrifice on the cross).[22] However, the Eucharist (the theia koinonia) always remained the sole expression of the Church's identity. 

Although some theologians consider this second concept, which was mingled with the original biblical/semitic thought, as stemming from Greek philosophers (Stoics and others), nevertheless it is more than clear that the horizontal-eschatological view was the predominant one in New Testament and in other early Christian writings. The vertical-soteriological view was always understood within the context of the horizontal-eschatological perspective as supplemental and complementary. This is why the liturgical experience of the early Church is incomprehensible without its social dimension (see Acts 2:42ff., 1 Cor 11:1ff., Heb 13: 10-16; Justin, 1 Apology  67;  Irenaeus, Adver. Her. 18:1, etc.).

This missiological perspective and experience in the early Church is also clearly reflected within its liturgical order, which from the time of St. Ignatius of Antioch onwards considers the eschatological people of God, gathered in one place around Christ, as reflected in the offices of the Church: the bishop is "in the place and as image of Christ", while the presbyters around him re-present the apostles. Above all it is the eucharistic gathering which authentically expresses the mystery of the Church. Here, in the gathering of the community around the bishop, the community does not propagate its faith on the basis of a sacramental redemption from worldly suffering, nor does it proclaim personal perfection and individual salvation; rather it witnesses its entity as the proleptic manifestation of the eschatological Kingdom of God.[23]

 This eucharistic/liturgical understanding of the Church, considered as an icon of the Eschaton, also resulted in an understanding of its mission as an imperative duty to witness its identity as an authentic expression in a particular time and place of the eschatological glory of the Kingdom of God, with all that this could imply for social  life. It is to be noted, that a conviction began to grow among Church writers, beginning with the author of Hebrews (10:1) and more fully developed in the writings of Maximus the Confessor, that the events of the Old Testament were  «σκιά» (shadow) of future riches, and that present Church reality is only an «εικών» (image) of the  «αλήθεια»(truth), which is only to be revealed in the Eschaton.


 This fundamental biblical and early christian understanding of mission, based on the eucharistic/ liturgical and eschatological understanding of the Church, by the third century AD began (under the intense ideological pressure of christian Gnosticism and especially Platonism) to gradually fall out of favour, or at best to coexist with concepts promulgated by the Catechetical School of Alexandria. This type of spirituality and christian witness did not have as its point of reference the Eschaton, the Ω (omega), but the Creation, the A (alpha), the «αρχή» (beginnings) of human beings, humanity's primal state of blessedness in paradise before the Fall. The main representatives of this school, Clement of Alexandria and Origen, gave christian ecclesiology, and by extension missiology, a new direction which, as Metropolitan John Zizioulas emphatically put, was "not merely a change (τροπή), but a complete reversal (ανατροπή)."[24] The Church ceases to be the icon of the Eschaton, and becomes instead the icon of the origin of beings, of Creation.[25]  Christ being primarily considered as the source of man's union with God and as the recapitulation, in some sense, of man's fallen nature. But if "recapitulation" was understood biblically earlier in the Church's life,[26] with the Alexandrians the concept is torn completely from its biblical roots in eschatology. The Eschaton is no longer the focal point and apex of the Divine Economy. The direction of interest has been reversed, and now the focus is on  Creation. Thus we have a cosmological approach to the Church and to its mission, and not a historical one, as in the Holy Scriptures. The Church is now understood, completely apart from the historical community, as a perfect and eternal Idea.

Naturally, therefore, interest in mission and the historical process has diminished, together with interest in the institutional reality of the Church, whose purpose is now characterized, at best, as «θεραπευτήριον των ψυχών» (sanatorium of souls). The Church's mission is now directed not in bringing about synergicly and prolepticly the Kingdom of God, but toward the salvation of the souls of every individual christian. Historically this new development in the Church's missiological attitude is connected with the origins of  monasticism.[27] Without ignoring the communal and eschatological character of the authentic Orthodox monasticism,[28] the fact remains that the central core of Alexandrian theology, with which monasticism was historically connected, was a departure from the initial radical and dynamic horizontal eschatology of the New Testament and of the early post-apostolic christian tradition, in some cases even in direct opposition to it.

The consequences for christian spirituality, and more particularly for mission, of this theology and ecclesiology were immense. The Church's common worship, its offices and institutions lost virtually all meaning as icons of the Eschaton.[29] What now became the priority was the union of human beings with the pre-eternal Logos, the return of the soul to its bliss in Paradise before the Fall. It was not accidental that during the first stage of the development of christian monasticism the monks cut themselves off from common worship to devote themselves to continuous private prayer. Of course the notion of continuous prayer (αδιάλειπτος προσευχή) was not new (cf. 1 Thes 5:17); what was new, was its interpretation. Whereas the early Christians considered that every act or expression could be regarded as prayer, now in some monastic circles private prayer as such has in fact replaced everything else, most notably mission.[30]

This defection from the original spirituality of the early Church resulted in the creation of new forms and concepts of worship, which we see especially in the formation of what later came to be known as the "monastic typikon". Within this important spiritual movement worship no longer takes its meaning from the eschatological perspective of the Eucharist, but is designed instead to be used primarily as a tool to carve deeply within the mind of the monastics the principle of continuous individual prayer.[31]

Under this peculiar mysticism, salvation is no longer connected to the coming Kingdom,  of the anticipation of a new eschatological community with a more authentic structure. Now, salvation is identified with the soul's union with the Logos, and therefore, with the catharsis, the purification from all that prohibits union with the primal Logos, including all that is material, tangible (αισθητά), historical. The «μαραναθα» of the pauline communities and the «έρχου Κύριε» (come Lord) of the seer/prophet of the Apocalypse are replaced by continuous prayer and the struggle against the demons and the flesh.

In contrast, therefore, to the eucharistic/liturgical understanding of the christian witness, this therapeutic/ cathartic one, which focuses on a perception of the Church not as an icon of the Eschaton, but as an icon of the origin of beings and their union with the pre-existing Logos, consists on an effort towards the catharsis  (purification) of the soul from passions, and towards therapy  (healing) of the fallen nature of the human beings (men/women). In other words, the reference point is not the eschatological glory of the Kingdom of God, but the state of blessedness in Paradise before the Fall. Naturally then the Church's mission can hardly be seen in terms of the kingdom-theology, i.e. as the implementation in this world of the prolepticly experienced in the Eucharist and constantly confessed in the Lord's prayer,  but in terms of the individual salvation.


These two basic understandings of ecclesiology, spirituality and mission remained as parallel forces, sometimes meeting together and forming a creative unity, and some other times moving apart creating dilemmas and conflicts. Where should one search for the starting point of the Church's mission to the world and in fact to the entire kosmos? where can one find personal wholeness and salvation? In the eucharistic gathering around the bishop, where one could overcome creatively all schizophrenic dichotomies (spirit/matter, transcendence/immanence, coming together/ going forth etc.) and social polarities? Or in the desert, the hermitage, the monastery, where presumably the effort of catharsis and healing of passions through ascetic discipline of the individual is more effective? This was, and remains, a critical dilemma in the life of the Church, especially in the East.

Without any doubt the center of the Church's mission and spirituality, with few exceptions, has always remained the Eucharist, the sole place where the Church becomes what it actually is: the people of God, the Body of Christ, the communion of the Holy Spirit; a glimpse and a foretaste of the coming Kingdom of God. However, this begs the question: how is one to understand this unique (and not one among many) sacrament and mystery of the Church? [32]

A decisive turning point in the development of Orthodox understanding of the Church's mission came when the high theology spirituality of the corpus areopagiticus has affected liturgy. Pseudo-Dionysius was undoubtedly the catalyst in the development of the Church's liturgy and mission. His theological analyses and reflections made a tremendous impact not only on the shaping of subsequent theology and monastic spirituality; it also affected the very heart of biblical radical eschatology, as expressed in the eucharistic liturgy, with significant consequences for the Church's mission.[33]

Using the anagogic method Ps-Dionysius interpreted the liturgical rites of the Church by raising them from the letter to the spirit, from the visible acts of the sacraments to the one mystery of the invisible God.[34] Even the bishop's movements within the Church are considered as a divine return to the origin of beings. With this method, however, the eschatological view of the Eucharist finally disappears. The sole function of worship is now to assist the soul mystically return to the spiritual realities of the unseen world.[35] According to the late John Meyendorff, those who followed dionysian symbolism approached the Eucharist in the context of a hellenistic hierarchical cosmos, and understood it as the center of salvific action through mystical contemplation.[36] That is why there is no mention here at all of Christ's self-sacrifice, nor of his mediatory and high-priestly role;[37] mediation in the dionysian system is the work of the earthly hierarchy and the rites which it (and not the community as a whole) performs.

Where the dionysian system reaches its most extreme, however, is in overturning the eschatological and historical dimensions of the Eucharist. There is not a single reference to the fundamental Pauline interpretation of the Eucharist, according to which at every eucharistic gathering "we proclaim Christ's death until he comes"; 1 Cor 11:26). Even communion, the most important act of the Eucharist, is no more than a symbol of the believer's union with the God.[38] In other words, we have moved from the earlier understanding of the communion of the body of Christ (the incarnate Word) and in the body of Christ (the Church), to a communion simply with  the pre-existing Logos.[39]

From the mid-Byzantine period onward the understanding of Eucharist as a springboard for mission, as the mystery par excellence of the Church, the feast of the eschatological joy,[40] the gathering «επί το αυτό» of the eschatological people of God,[41] the expression of fellowship among people,  the participation in the word and the supper of the Lord,[42] are no longer on the front line. Once a realistic expression of the Body of Christ and  a communion of the Holy Spirit, it now became a place of theophany, a sign and point of meeting with the mystery of the Divine.  Active participation in the Divine Liturgy no longer means participation in the processions, in the singing, in listening and understanding of the readings and the sermons, not even in receiving the communion. Now, the main point of all liturgical life is the uplifting of the individual believers, their transfer through faith from history to theoria, from visible symbols and actions to the transcendent reality which they depict. In this way, little by little, for the great mass of people, but also for the clerical vanguard of the Church, including most theologians, the Eucharist, the Church's lei-tourgia (the people's work), lost its fundamental ecclesial dimension, and with it all its missionary significance and power.

Nevertheless, paradoxically the liturgical (corporate/historical/eschatological) spirituality was preserved to some extent within the consciousness of the Orthodox. But this was predominantly outside the actual life of worship, in the daily life of a largely enslaved Orthodoxy, in the secular communities and guilds. The source of this unexpected and happy ending is that the main core of the Sunday eucharistic liturgy, in spite of all the exaggerated symbolism and some unnecessary additions, remained untouched in its communal dimension (eschatological, but vigorously historical and in many ways anti-pietistic) and continued to reflect the understanding of the Eucharist primarily as a corporate act of mission that  embraces the entire society and the whole created world.

 It is a real wonder how the four main processional sections of our Eastern liturgy survived into the present, even with many deviations along the way.[43] Thus (a) the solemn entrance of the whole worshipping community into the church building was reduced to the Little Entrance with the Gospel, without the people's participation. The laos simply view the performance.  (b) The same thing happens with the Great Entrance: No longer do the people participate directly in offering the gifts of creation in order that the presiding of the community "refers" them back (αναφορά) to the Creator. Instead, the people now "offer" the gifts as "prosphora" (liturgical bread) outside the eucharistic liturgy during the "proskomede", a rite which derives from this period and which was transferred as a preparation of the holy gifts before the eucharistic liturgy proper. (c) The Kiss of peace ("let us love one another"), this dynamic act of community reconciliation, and therefore the sole precondition for participation in true worship (Mt 5:23 ff.) is limited now exclusively to the clergy. Finally, (d) the communion, the culminating and most important act of the eucharistic rite is shifted and completely transformed from a corporate act that anticipates the eschatological Kingdom, into an act of individual piety. What, however, is even more tragic, is that the participation of the entire people in the  Sacrament of the Church (i.e. in receiving communion) was completely abandoned. But without catholic communion the Divine Liturgy becomes at best a symbolic reality for spiritual contemplation, and at worst a sterile ritualism.


Having thus far underlined the significance of the reinforcement of the eucharistic criterion in determining our Church's witness, it became I suppose clear that the basic presuppositions of today's mission of the Church, should necessarily start from the very heart of our (Orthodox) christian identity: the Eucharist, as the only expression of the being  of the Church. All other missiological imperatives are bound to be incomplete and ineffective - not to mention that they beg the question - as long as the very being of the Church in its ontological and massive expression remains far from a living expression of unity, communion, equality, fellowship, sharing and self-sacrifice; as long as our eucharistic gatherings remains exclusively in a status of a sacramentalistic (quasi magic) cultic act, and not a proleptic manifestation of the Kingdom of God, a proleptic transcendence of the corruptibility, disintegration, disunity and mortality of the human historical reality, or in more theological terms as an "icon" of (the expected to be fully manifested at the eschaton) "truth".

Unfortunately, because of lack - for centuries now - of a healthy theological concern (equal to that of the great Fathers of our Church), the present sacramental reality of the Church was considered as almost unequivocal, with a tragic effect to its authentic witness. The late Fr. A. Schmemann has been instrumental during his lifetime to implement in our Orthodox Church a liturgical renewal; but he insisted only on the necessity of a theological interpretation of our liturgical tradition, thus coming short to a radical rediscovery and reinforcement of the authentic liturgical/eucharistic identity of our Church's witness.

In order that a renewal in christian witness can take place in our Orthodox Church, it is necessary as a basic presupposition to turn our attention first to its eucharistic expression, the heart and center of its ontological identity. In the remaining time I will very briefly refer to the absolutely necessary re-adjustments (not reforms) of our eucharistic liturgical praxis, in order that our local eucharistic communities regain their authentic "Orthodox" outlook.  Only then can one hope that our Church's witness to a crying world can be both "orthodox" and effective. And these are:

a. The restoration of the catholic participation in the eschatological table of the Kingdom; this means participation of the entire community to the holy communion (not just frequent communion) without either certain preconditions (such as worthiness, or preparation of the individual faithful), or any connection of the sacrament par excellence of the Church (Eucharist) to other sacraments (repentance, priesthood etc., certainly of lesser importance from the point of view of the Orthodox theology), should determine the primary expression of the Church's identity.

b. Return to the early christian status of full and inclusive participation of the entire people of God (special/ordained and general/lay priesthood, men and women) to the actions, processions and singing of the  λει-τουργία (=act of the people), and if possible rehabilitation of the cathedral office.

c. Step by step replacement of the normal choir, (at least of the solitary church singer, the «ιεροψάλτης»), by the entire laos (as the original and authentic orthodox tradition, according to all liturgical rubrics demands), until all these intermediary  and by all means assisting factors of our liturgical life are done away, or better become leading figures rather than substitutes of the participating in the eucharistic drama community.

d. Intensive care that the Eucharist, as well as all other connected to it liturgical services  (both those of the Divine Office, and the sacramental ones, i.e. the Holy Mysteries), are celebrated in a form (symbolic, linguistic, dramatic etc.) profitable to  the grass root faithful and understood by the entire community, the natural co-celebrants of the Holy Mysteries of the Church.

e. Complete abolishment of the all secretly read by the presiding celebrant common prayers, especially those of the anaphora to its entirety, as well as of all other later developed liturgical acts, such as e.g. the restriction only to the higher priestly orders of the kiss of love, (let us love one another), this dynamic act of reconciliation of the community and sole precondition to the true, logical and reasonable (λογική λατρεία) worship (cf. Mt 5:23ff).

f. Return of the Orthodox Church Building technique (ναοδομία) to its original form, by underlining all those elements which characterize the pioneer and revolutionary byzantine Church Building technique of Agia Sophia, such as: (i) the illumination of the space, in contrast to the later dim and dull technical style (a result of later and not always theologically healthy, as we pointed out above, influence), which instead of directing the community toward the light and joy of the Kingdom, unconsciously contributes to a rather individualization of the salvation event; (ii) the abolishment of all later (and certainly of western influence) pews and chairs of all kinds in the nave, that transform the worshipping peoples from active co-celebrants to passive attendants of the liturgical actions.

g. Emphasis on all processional, liturgical and participatory elements of our Orthodox Liturgy, starting with (i) the re-establishment of the ambo,  and transferaround it, i.e. outside the sanctuary, of all related parts of our liturgical praxis, such as the "Sacrament of the Word" at the Divine Liturgy, and the non-eucharistic services (vespers, matins etc.), according to our ancient canonical order (which is fortunately preserved even today, but only during the hierarchical services, in which the bishop  «χοροστατεί» (stands by the choir, i.e. by the community); (ii) the return of the Great Entrance to its original form, i.e. with a symbolic participation of the entire community at the transfer of the gifts of creation (represented by the deacons alone, this intermediate order between the lay people and the ordained ministry), so that the presiding celebrant simply receives and not himself transfers the offerings of  the community (cf. again the traditional order of the eucharistic celebration with a presiding bishop), and of course return of the rite of the proskomide back to its original place, i.e. immediately before the Great Entrance.

h. Abolishment of the later structure of the iconostasis, a development that has had an unfortunate effect and has further intensified the existing barrier between the clergy and the rest of the people of God. In my view, it would be extremely beneficial for both pastoral and missionary purposes to return to the architectural status immediately after the triumph of the icons, with the only dividing elements between the sanctuary and the nave being high columns (στηλοι, hence αναστήλωσις) and short θωράκεια, on top of which small portable icons will be placed, in the place of the gigantic ones. Finally,

i. Underlining of the exclusively eschatological character of the Sunday Eucharist  (as the mystery/sacrament of the Kingdom, and not as one religious rite among others, and of the eucharistic gathering as a glimpse and manifestation of the eight day) by the return to the sabbaitic typikon, i.e. attaching the Sunday matins to the vespers.


The above practical proposals for our eucharistic services, may sound as of secondary importance, or only of pastoral and scarcely of a missionary character, in other words simplistic and naive, or even of not theological importance, as theologia secunda and not theologia prima. But here we are dealing with the being and the identity of the Church, without the authentic expression of which christianity may well slip (because of external factors and of social dynamics) to an authoritarian and oppressive religious system. Without the prophetic voice of theology, the leitourgia, the primary expression of the Church, and the Eucharist as its center and climax, can easily become at best a useless typolatry, and at worst a sacramentalistic (for some even demonic) ritual, which instead of directing the christian community towards the vision of the coming Kingdom, it leads it to individualistic and mystical paths. And this is something which eventually distances the members of the community from the "other" (and therefore from God, the real "Other"), leading them to death, to hell.

The problem of the Church's witness, i.e. the problem of overcoming the evil in the world, is not basically a moral issue. It is primarily and even exclusively ecclesial. The moral and social responsibility of the Church (both as an institution and also of its individual members), as the primary witnessing acts of the body of Christ, is the logical consequence of their ecclesial self-consciousness. It is, therefore, only by a massive reaffirmation of the eucharistic identity of the Church through a radical liturgical renewal that our Orthodox Church can bear witness to its fundamental characteristics of unity and catholicity.  Only then can we hope that today's "exclusivity" will naturally give its place to the priority of the "communion" with the "others". And only then will our Church definitely and once and for all overcome all kinds of nationalistic and phyletistic behaviour, the worse heresy of our time, thus not only promoting Orthodox unity, but also actively contributing to the quest both of the visible unity of the Church and at the same time to the struggle for the unity of humankind.

 In terms of mission this will also mean a common evangelistic witness. Beyond the biblical references (Mt 25:31ff: here what really matters is not so much accepting, and believing in, the abundant  love of our Triune God [confessional, religious exclusiveness], but exemplifying it to the world through witness [ecclesial inclusiveness]), the eucharistic perspective of mission points far beyond denominational boundaries, beyond christian limitations, even beyond the religious sphere in the conventional sense, and towards the manifestation of the Kingdom of God, the restoration of God's "household" (οικος) of God, in its majestic eschatological splendour.

Through a genuine eucharistic revival one can expect much easier to overcome the corrupted hierarchical order both in society and in the priestly ecclesiastical order, which is a reflection  of the fallen earthly  order 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 the ecclesiastical life (i.e. participation of the entire laos to the priestly, royal and prophetic ministry of the Church), and to a genuine community of men and women.

Finally, the eucharistic revival will also help the Church to move away from a certain "christocentric universalism" and towards a "trinitarian" understanding of the divine reality and of the Church's mission that embraces the entire  "oikoumene" as the one household of life. Especially for mission, this means the abandonment of any effort of proselytism,[44] not only among christians of other denominations (which is a caricature of true evangelism), but even among peoples of other religions.[45]  Martyria/witness and dialogue  will then replace, or at least run parallel to, the old missiological terminology.[46] This development, of course, will by no means imply abandoning our fundamental christian soteriology (from the slogan "no salvation but through Christ"[47]- overcoming the classical catholic view "extra ecclesiam salus non est", first expressed by Cyprian of Carthage and later misinterpreted to exclusively meaning the "institutional" [Catholic?] Church - to a novel one "no salvation but through God").[48] It is rather a radical reinterpretation of christology through pneumatology,[49] through the rediscovery of the forgotten  trinitarian theology[50] of the undivided Church, and above all through the eucharistic theology.

[1]G.Florovsky, "Patristics and Modern Theology," in A.Alivizatos (ed.), Procès-Verbaux du Premiere Congrès de Théologie Orthodoxe à Athenes,  1939, pp. 238-242.

[2]S.Agouridis (ed.), Procès-Verbaux du Deuxième Congrès de Théologie Orthodoxe, 1978, p. 574 (italics mine).

[3]S.Agouridis, GOTR  83 (1993) pp. 30ff.

[4]From the hymns of Pentecost.

[5]D.J.Bosch, Transforming Mission. Paradigm Shifts in Theology of Mission, 1991, pp.212-213.

[6]V.Lossky,The Mystical Theology of the Eastern Church, 1957.

[7]I.Bria, The Sense of Ecumenical Tradition. The Ecumenical Witness and Vision of the Orthodox, 1991, p. 2.

[8]I.Bria (ed.), Go fourth in Peace, 1986, p. 3.

[9]Cf. e.g. the application of the trinitarian theology to the structureof the Church. By nature the Church cannot reflect the worldly image of secular organizations, which is based on power and domination, but the kenotic image of the Holy Trinity, which is based on love and communion. If one takes a little further this trinitarian approach and takes into consideration the distinction of the hypostases (persons) within the Holy Trinity, one can come to the conclusion that the Church is a Church of "God" (the father) before it becomes a Church of "Christ" and of a certain place. In Orthodox Liturgy all the proper eucharistic prayers are addressed to God. This theology has revealing implications also on a number of issues ranging from the profound meaning of episcopacy (Bishop image of "Christ") to the dialectics between Christ - Church, divine - human, unity of man and woman, etc.

[10]K.Raiser's latest book Ecumenism in Transition. A Paradigm Shift in the Ecumenical Movement, 1991 (translated with modifications from the German original Ökumene im Übergang, 1989, and now also in Greek translation) is a perfect example of a well documented argumentation for the necessity, and to our view also for the right use, of the trinitarian theology in modern scholarship. Cf. also sister Elizabeth A. Johnson's She Who Is: The Mystery of God in Feminist Theological Discourse, 1992, especially  ch. 10 under the title "Triune God: Mystery of Revelation", pp.191ff.

[11]A serious attempt to approach the problem of contextual theology has been undertaken by my faculty (Department of Theology of the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, Greece), which organized in Thessaloniki (2-3 October 1992) jointly with the Ecumenical Institute of Bossey a theological symposium on the theme: "Classical and Contextual Theology. The Task of Orthodox Theology in the Post-Camberra Ecumenical Movement". The papers in Greek translation have been published in the journal Kath' Odon 4 (1993) pp.3ff. My keynote paper in a shortened form appeared also in Ökuminishe Rundschau  41 (1993) 452-460; for its original form ("Oρθοδοξία και θεολογία της συνάφειας") see also in my Lex Orandi. Studies of Liturgical Theology,  1994, pp. 139-156.

[12]Cf. M.Begzos, "Orthodox Theology and the Future of its Past,", Eκκλησιαστικός Kήρυκας 3 (1991) 138-170, pp. 146εξ (in Greek).

[13]On this debated issue cf. S.Agouridis, H Aγία Tριάδα και εμείς στη σύγχρονη θεολογική σκέψη γενικά και στην Oρθοδοξία ειδικά, 1993; idem, «Mπορούν τα πρόσωπα της Tριάδας να δώσουν βάση για περσοναλιστικές απόψεις περί του ανθρώπου; Σχόλια σε κάποιες σύγχρονες Oρθόδοξες θεολογικές προσπάθειες»,  Σύναξη 33  1990, 67-78; Metr. J.Zizioulas, «Tο είναι του Θεού και το είναι του ανθρώπου. Aπόπειρα θεολογικού διαλόγου»,  Σύναξη  37 (1991) 11-35.

[14]For similar reason, and with all due respect to the proposed scheme, i.e. the Preparatory Committee's suggestion to elaborate the theme from the Greek Orthodox perspective - which is absolutely legitimate for practical reasons -  I propose not to contribute (indirectly of course) to the subconsciously existing dividing lines within Orthodoxy, and expound a strictly "regional" (i.e. Greek Orthodox) point of view, but rather a "theological" and "ecumenically Orthodox" (i.e. critical, and sometimes even self-critical) one. After all, in my Greek Orthodox constituency for some decades now the prevailing "theological paradigm" is being determined by the hesyhastic rather than the eucharistic tradition of our Church. In other words, I will try to expound what I consider, out of my ecclesial (i.e. liturgical) experience, the understanding of mission of the "one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church" should be.

[15] Cf. also Is 66:18; Mt 25:32; Rom 12:16; Didache 9:4b; Mart. Polyc. 22:3b; Clemens of Rome, I Cor., 12:6 etc.

[16]Cf. St. Chrysostom's  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 earth".(PG  57 col. 280).

[17]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 "εράτευμα», which has so vigorously discussed since the time of Luther. Cf. R.Brown, Priest and Bishop: Biblical Reflections, 1971.

[18]Cf. I Pe 2:10: "Οnce you were no people, now you are God's people".

[19]Cf. Jn 17:19; also Mt 5:48  par.

[20]Cf. S.Agouridis, , «Aμαρτία και αναμαρτησία κατά την A΄Eπιστολήν του Aγίου Iωάννου», Xαριστήριον. Tιμητικός τόμος Aμίλκα Σ. Aλιβιζάτου, 1958, 537-569, p. 568;  also his «Xρόνος και Aιωνιότης (εσχατολογία και μυστικοπάθεια) εν τη θεολογική διδασκαλία Iωάννου του θεολόγου»  EEΘΣΘ  3 (1958) 109-156, και 4 (1959), 29-61.

[21]D.Passakos, in his recent doctoral dissertation under my supervision (The Eucharist in the Pauline Mission. Sociological Approach, 1995), tried to analyze this "paradigm shift" at that crucial moment of early christianity and claimed that  "the Eucharist in Paul was understood not only as an icon of the eschata, but also as a missionary event with cosmic and social consequences. The Eucharist for him was not only the sacrament of the Church, but also the sacrament of the world. Within the pauline communities the Eucharist had a double orientation (in contrast to the overall eschatological and otherworldly dimension of it in earlier tradition): towards the world as diastolic  movement, and towards God as a systolic movement"(pp. 187-88). According to Passakos«the Eucharist for Paul is at the same time  an experience of the eschata and a movement toward the eschata"  (p. 189).

[22]Cf. my Cross and Salvation, 1983 (in Greek), an English summary of which can be found in a paper of mine delivered at the 1984 annual Leuven Colloquium ("Σταυρός: Centre of the Pauline Soteriology and Apostolic Ministry", A.Vanhoye [ed.], L'Apôtre Paul. Personnalité, Style et Conception du Ministère, 1986, pp. 246-253).

[23]Cf. Ignatius, Ad Eph.  13:.

[24] J.Zizioulas,  Θέματα εκκλησιολογίας, p. 28.

[25]The Alexandrians, under the influence of the ancient Greek philosophy, particularly Platonism, believed that the original condition of beings represents perfection and that all subsequent history is a decline. The mystery of the incarnation contributes almost nothing to this system of thought. On Origen's soteriology and its minimal salvific significance of the Christ's human nature see A.Grillmeier,  Christ in Christian Tradition, Atlanta 1975²; also R.Taft, «The Liturgy of the Great Church: An Initial Synthesis of Structure and Interpretation on the Eve of Iconoclasm»,  DOP  34-35 (1980-81)  45-75  p. 62, n. 79.

[26]Cf. St. Irenaeus' use of «ανακεφαλαίωσις» (recapitulation) (Adver. Her. 3) based on the pauline theology. One can also cf. how finally St. Athanasius the Great articulated this concept more definitively in his classic statement that «Θεός ενηνθρώπησεν ίνα ημείς θεοποιηθώμεν» (On Incarnation,  54: He [God] became man so that we could become God).

[27]In the eastern, but also the western, monasteries the works of Origen were studied with great reverence, even after his conciliar condemnation (cf. G.Manzaridis, "Spiritual Life in Palamism", J.Raitt-B.McGinn-J.Meyendorff (eds.),Christian Spirituality. II: High Middle Ages and Reformation, 1988 208-222, p. 216).

[28]At this point it is essential to point out that this general trend should not be confused with the authentic understanding of the Christian theology of monasticism. It would be a serious mistake not to refer to the various corrective theological interventions through which the monastic movement was incorporated into the life of the Church (the cenobitic system of Pachomius, The Vita Antoniae, by Athanasius the Great, the communal and ecclesiological orientation of monasticism by Basil the Great, the eschatological meaning given to therapeutic ecclesiology and "the bold synthesis of all previous theological experience" by the monk Maximus the Confessor, etc.). One should not ignore the various theological approaches which stress the eschatological dimension of eastern monasticism, which characterize it as "a sign of the Kingdom", a "life of repentance". The latter is clearly an eschatological concept  based on Christ's words in his very first proclamation: "Repent, for the Kingdom of God is at hand" (Mk 1:15 and par.) The monastic' s life is  considered as an "angelic life" because , at least according to the interpretation of Pachomius, celibacy was connected to the future Kingdom on the basis of the Lord's words: "For in the resurrection they neither marry nor are given in marriage but are like angels in heaven" (Mt 22:30), and "there are eunuchs who have made themselves eunuchs for the sake of the Kingdom of God" (Mt 19:12 and par.)

[29]According to W. Jardine Grisbrooke, «The Formative Period-Cathedral and Monastic Offices», C.Jones-G.Wainwright-E.Yarnold-P.Bradshaw (eds.), The Study of Liturgy, New York (1988¹, 1992²), 403-420, monasticism as a lay movement in its initial stages was not only a detachment from, and rejection of, the world; it also believed that priesthood was incompatible with the monastic order (σελ. 404).

[30]A. Schmemann, Introduction to Liturgical Theology,  p.160 (of the 1991 Greek translation).

[31] As Grisbrooke points out, "it has nothing to do with corporate worship, but is rather a helpful expression of individual private prayer practiced in common." ("The Formative Period-Cathedral and Monastic Offices," p. 405).

[32]In order to have a clear view of the problem one can compare the Eucharistic prayers of the anaphoras  (the earliest ones, and particularly of the Eastern Byzantine rite, all of them composed by bishops with a cosmic and social view of salvation) with the later hymnology  expressing the life-experience, conflicts and struggles of the monastic communities, but also with the various mystagogical interpretations. More on the relationship between liturgy and mystagogy, ritual and its meaning in H.-J.Schultz, The Byzantine Liturgy. Symbolic Structure and Faith Expression,  engl.trans. 1986.

[33]Whereas the allegorical interpretation of the Alexandrians finally did not dominate biblical hermeneutics, their mystagogical (liturgical) interpretation - "anagogic  mystagogy"- does seem to have prevailed in our liturgical and mission praxis. The alleged influence of the neoplatonic philosophy on the Areopagitic writings  is of much lesser importance than its catalytic effect on what we call eucharistic ecclesiology of the Church and consequently on spirituality and mission. V.Lossky insists that the orthodoxy of the writings of the Areopagite cannot be questioned (The Vision of God, 1983, p. 99; cf. also his influential work The Mystical Theology of the Eastern Church. 1976. On the other hand, all Orthodox theologians who are in favor of a liturgical renewal are critical to the theology  of Pseudo-Dionysius  (cf. J.Meyendorff, Byzantine Theology. Historical Trends and Doctrinal Themes, [1974¹] 1987² pp. 28,202ff; G.Florovsky, "Ψευδο-Διονυσίου έργα,"l. XII. col. 473-480; A.Schmemann, Introduction, pp. 150εξ· 232εξ· etc.; P.Meyendorff, Saint Germanus of Constantinople οn the Divine Liturgy , 1984).

[34]Cf. E.Boulard, «L' eucharistie d'après le Pseudo-Denys l'Aréopagite», BLE  58 (1957) 193-217 and 59 (1958) 129-69.

[35]The eminent Roman Catholic liturgiologist, R. Taft., to whom eastern liturgical scholarship is heavily indebted (cf. his The Great Entrance. A History of the Transfer of Gifts and Other Pre-anaphoral Rites of the Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom, [1975¹], 1978²; «How Liturgies Grow: The Evolution of the Byzantine Divine Liturgy», OCP  43 [1977] σελ. 357ff; The Liturgy of the Hours in the Christian East,  1988 etc), rightly maintains that in the dionysian system there is little room for the biblical tradition; the anagogic allegory is the one that dominates. Liturgy is nothing but an allegory of the journey of the soul from the separation and division of sin towards divine communion, through the process of catharsis, enlightenment and wholeness, which are prescribed in the rites. There is very little reference to Christ's economy on earth, and nothing about his incarnate mediation, or his death and resurrection. (R.Taft,«The Liturgy..», pp. 61-2. For a thorough critical consideration of the eucharistology of the areopagites see R.Roques, L'univers dionysien. Structure hiérarchique du monde selon le Pseudo-Denys, 1954). Therefore, in this system the need for a mediating "hierarchy" became inevitable. This reminds us, mutatis mutandis, of Paul's opponents at Colossae, and also marks the latent return of a mediatory priesthood (H.Wybrew, The Orthodox Liturgy. The Development of the Eucharisatic Liturgy in the Byzantine Rite, 1989, and the SVS press 1990 edition with a prologue by Bishop K. Ware), p. 115) in christian ecclesiology of East and, especially, West (cf. P.- M.Gy, «Liturgy and Spirituality: II. Sacraments and Liturgy in Latin Christianity», B.McGinn - J.Meyendorff (eds.), Christian Spirituality I. Origins to the Twelfth Century, 1985, 365-381). But this was something which according to the fundamental teaching of Hebrews had been abolished εφάπαξ (once and for all) by Christ's sacrifice on the Cross.

[36]J. Meyendorff,  Byzantine Theology, p. 207.

[37]R.Taft, «The Liturgy of the Great Church», p.. 62.

[38]Eccl. Hier., III 3,13.

[39]One should not, of course, concentrate all criticism only on  the Alexandrian mystagogical school. The Antiochian school, the other great school of liturgical interpretation in the East, has also contributed, though indirectly, to the abandonment of dynamic horizontal biblical eschatology, with all that this eschatology implies for mission. Its attention, certainly, was turned more toward history, but not with any strong eschatological perspective, thus interpreting the Divine Liturgy mainly as a depiction of the Lord's presence on earth.

[40]A. Schmemann, The Eucharist. Sacrament of the Kingdom, 1988; also his The Great Lent. Journey to Pascha,  1974.

[41]Α.Afanassieff, "The Church which Presides in Love".

[42]R.Taft, «Liturgy and Eucharist. I East», J.Raitt-B.McGinn-J.Meyendorff (eds.),Christian Spirituality. II, 415-426, p.  417.

[43]A.Schmemann in one of his latest contributions tried to address the issue of the "Symbols and Symbolism in the Byzantine Liturgy: Liturgical Symbols and their Theological Interpretation" (in D. Constantelos [ed.], Orthodox Theology and Diakonia,  1981, pp. 91-102; also in T.Fisch [ed.], Liturgy and Tradition. Theological Reflections of A.Schmemann, 1990, pp. 115-128), and he rightly pointed out that "the Eucharistic divine liturgy opposed, at least in the essential expressions of its form and spirit, the extremely powerful pressures of the various symbolic interpretations and reductions" (p. 125).

[44]Martin Goodman, in his recent book (Mission and Conversion. Proselytizing in the Religious History of the Roman Empire, 1994) has drawn our attention to four different understandings of what has come to be labeled as "christian mission": (i) The "informative mission", the aim of which was to tell people something, rather than to change their behavior or status. (of this type was the mission of the first evangelist women). (ii) The "educational mission", with the aim to educate rather than to win converts (the first monastics exercised this type of mission). (iii) The "apologetic mission", the aim of which was to request recognition by others without expecting to devote themselves to the new religion (the early christian apologists belonged to this type of mission). 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" (pp. 3f.). No doubt, this last type of mission, for which the terms "conversion" and "christianization" seem to apply better, was the ideal behind the universal proselytizing mission of modern times. The origins of this type of mission can be traced back to St. Paul (though in scholarly circles this is still debated), and to the dominical saying recorded in St. Matthew's Gospel (28:18b-20).

[45]For an early survey by an orthodox missiologist see (Archbishop of Albania) Anastasios Yannoulatos, Various Christian Approaches to the Other  Religions. A  Historical Outline, 1971.

[46]One needs to be reminded of the variety of terms involved in current missiological discussions, such as mission, conversion, evangelism or evangelization, christianization, witness  or martyria.   Of these terms only the last two are appropriate to our Orthodox theology and practice, and have been widely adopted in "ecumenical" circles as the more relevant to 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, 1982; the relevant to our subject document Common Witness and Proselytism;  also I.Bria [ed.], Martyria-Mission, 1980), 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 the christian tradition. Cf. the tension in the recent history of the world christian mission, which resulted in the tragic separation and the eventual formation of the Lausanne Movement for World Evangelization.

[47]This comes from the famous passage in Acts 4:12.

[48]For the relation of mission to dialogue, as well as the repeatedly expressed concern over "syncretism" see K.Raiser, Ecumenism in Transition, pp. 55ff; also the partisan work from the "old paradigm" by W.A.Visser't Hooft, No Other Name: The Choice between Syncretism and Christian Universalism, 1963.

[49]More on this in J.Zizioulas, Being as Communion, pp. 123ff.

[50]Cf. A.I.C.Herton (ed.), The Forgotten Trinity, 1991.

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