Questions & Answers
I think you would agree, we do not know who will be saved
and who will not. Therefore is it not possible to take out particles from
prosphora for Non-Orthodox at the Preparation for the Liturgy?
Fr X., (identity withheld)
I do agree that salvation is a mystery and that only God
knows who will and who will not be saved. It is not ours to judge or pre-judge.
We do however have faith that those who are faithful members of the Church
will be saved by the Mercy of God. That is what the Church after all is
for. She is the Ark of Salvation. As regards the salvation of others outside
the Church, we keep a pious silence, condemning no man.
On the other hand, we do owe obedience to God and His (not our!) Church.
As Orthodox we hold that the bread and wine in the chalice become the
Body and Blood of Christ. Therefore, particles taken from prosphora in
memory of the living and departed and then put into the chalice at the
end of the Divine Liturgy enter into direct contact with Christ. If particles
have been taken out of prosphora in memory of Non-Orthodox, then by placing
them with the Body and Blood of Christ, we usurp the judgement of God.
Knowing that those particles are not in memory of members of the Church,
it makes no theological sense to place those particles in the chalice.
If we do so, we deliberately assert that Non-Orthodox are members of the
Orthodox Church, when they are not. This is theologically absurd and perhaps
spiritually harmful (think about it).
This does not mean condemning Non-Orthodox, neither does it mean refusing
to pray for Non-Orthodox. It is simply that we do not pre-judge. If God
wishes to save Non-Orthodox, mysteriously through His mercy counting them
as members of His Ark of Salvation, the Church, and granting them salvation,
it is not for us to judge one way or the other. It is God's Church, not
ours. We do not help the Church - the Church helps us.
As a parish priest, I encourage members of the Church who have Non-Orthodox
families or friends not only to pray for them, but also to write down
their names in separate and clearly labelled sections of their memorial
booklets. When I receive their names at the Preparation of the Liturgy,
I pray for them all, but take out particles only for the Orthodox. In
this way, mercy and prayer are shown to all, but the canons of the Holy
Fathers are also observed and Mother-Church dutifully obeyed.
Why do you as English people use the Old Calendar? In
Romania virtually everyone has the New Calendar.
F. G., Brandon
In the last century only three local Orthodox Churches (and
three of the ancient Greek Patriarchates) accepted the imposition of the
New Calendar for the fixed feasts: the Greek Church, your own Romanian
and the Bulgarian. All three accepted it under State pressure and even
persecution. To this day there are minorities in each of those countries
who still resist the imposition of this Catholic calendar for the fixed
feasts. The Greek Church accepted under Capitalist, Masonic pressure,
the Romanians under Fascist pressure, the Bulgarians under Communist pressure.
Here, in England, the Orthodox Church is not a State Church and, though
poor, we are at least free. We have no State breathing down our necks,
exerting financial or other pressure on us. I believe that we should use
our freedom to witness to the Orthodox Faith and the Orthodox calendar
in their integrity. To my mind, to do otherwise is to reject the God-given
gift of freedom which we still enjoy in this country, especially when
others have suffered and suffer so much for freedom of religion, especially
in the Balkans.
As perhaps you will know, until the eighteenth century even in England
we still used the Orthodox calendar. I had a friend who in the 1920s met
one old English lady, who lived not far from you, in Norfolk, who had
two calendars in her room. One was kept on the Old style the other on
the New. She used to call the first one 'God's date', the other 'the Government
date'. I respect that. I think we all should, because it is an example
of faithfulness to the Church - even outside the Church!