The Self-understanding of the Orthodox and their Participation in the Ecumenical Movement - Metropolitan John (Zizioulas)
IntroductionThe subject on which I have been asked to speak is a complex and vast one. I have no ambition to deal with it exhaustively, or even properly. I shall limit myself to certain reflections of a theological nature, hoping that these might help the present meeting to reach a clearer view of the role of the Orthodox Church in the Ecumenical Movement, and the WCC in particular, as well as of what this role entails both for the WCC and the Orthodox themselves.
The term is derived from the (Greek) verb "dokein" (= seeming, believing) and originally, its literal meaning was "that which seems good or proper to someone"; it also pertains to belief, ideology, principle, opinion, faith, and other related meanings. (Plato's Soph.256C: «by making use of the many dogmas and words...»).
In our evil age which "demythologises" every institution and every notion of established authority under the pretext of course of democratic equality and "enlightenment" which from the outset claims that rational thought has absolute power over all that can be known - the notions of "dogma" and ''authority" are now considered by many to be not only inappropriate to our time and place, but also extremely provocative and even demeaning of the dignity of the human being emancipated long ago. Thus to speak today of dogma as a common and indeed regulatory point of reference for the entire people of God - especially in the strict sense of a certain supernatural authority - constitutes no doubt a great scandal, or at any rate a bold demand which continuously needs new justification before all who "ask for a reason for the hope that is in you"(( Peter 3:15).
The end of the second millennium of Christian history seems to coincide with decisive steps towards a new form of European unity. The final political form of that unity is not yet clear, but it is already evident that the European nations are approaching a degree of economic integration that needs some political framework beyond a mere alliance of sovereign states. This situation raises understandable anxieties. Few people would like to see a monolithic bureaucratic and political structure established at the expense of the various national cultures. But European unity in the form of some kind of confederation should not entail such a thing as its consequence. On the contrary, a confederate organization may allow for an even higher degree of regional independence than the traditional form of the nation state provided. On the other hand, a new sense of cultural identity is required, an awareness of how all those national and regional cultures belong together within the encompassing unity of one cultural tradition, however diversified. Economic integration is not enough to bring forth and nourish the continuous feeling of belonging together. Nor can any political framework by itself achieve that purpose. In fact, the process towards European integration could hardly have developed to its present stage, if there was not already throughout the nations of Europe an awareness of sharing the same cultural world - notwithstanding the particularities of the national cultures that contribute to the abundance of our cultural consciousness as Europeans.