Friday, June 24, 2005

The dust from his feet

One summer afternoon in the year 1054, as a service was about to begin in the Church of the Holy Wisdom' (Hagia Sophia) at Constantinople, Cardinal Humbert and two other legates of the Pope entered the building and made their way up to the sanctuary. They had not come to pray. They placed a Bull of Excommunication upon the altar and marched out once more. As he passed through the western door, the Cardinal shook the dust from his feet with the words: 'Let God look and judge.' A deacon ran out after him in great distress and begged him to take back the Bull. Humbert refused; and it was dropped in the street. It is this incident which has conventionally been taken to mark the beginning of the great schism between the Orthodox east and the Latin west.
So begins an interesting history of the first Christian schism at this site for Orthodox Christians (Orthodox in this case meaning the Eastern Orthodox Church). It's interesting to see this story from another angle. One can understand the upset over the sacking of Constaninople, but that was 1204 and apologies ought to cover that by now. The question of the filoque is tougher. I understand it was an addition to the creed, but I don't see how it is that some see it as heretical. It is helpful in rebutting Arianism, which has been a perennial issue that Christians have had to rebut. Arianism is the idea that Christ was only a man; the latest incarnation of this very old idea is Dan Brown's novel, The DaVinci Code. Poor little me, seeing all the interest and fuss Brown's novel has generated, thinks that retaining the filoque still makes sense. It's like Tolkien said in that letter I posted about yesterday, "my church was not intended by Our Lord to be static or remain in perpetual childhood; but to be a living organism (likened to a plant) which develops and changes in externals by the interaction of its bequeathed divine life and history - the particular circumstances of the world into which it is set." I guess my question is, how do the Orthodox deal with Arianism?

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