Bishop Basil of Amphipolis, Exarchate of Parishes of Russian Tradition in Western Europe

St. Vladimir’s Seminary Summer Conference 2009

From June 18th through the 20th, 2009, St. Vladimir’s Orthodox Seminary hosted this conference for clergy and laity that had as its theme “The Council and the Tomos: Twentieth-Century Landmarks Towards a Twenty-First-Century Church.”

Conference speakers focused on two watersheds that have shaped the Orthodox Church in America (OCA): the All-Russian Council (Sobor) of 1917–18 and the Tomos of Autocephaly granted in 1970 by the Russian Orthodox Church to its daughter church, the OCA, then known as the “North American Diocese.”

Conference participants likewise addressed the significance of the OCA’s presence in North America, and future paths and possibilities open to it, including its interface with the multi-jurisdictional Orthodox Christian communities in the United States and Canada.

June 2009

Bishop Basil of Amphipolis, Exarchate of Parishes of Russian Tradition in Western Europe

Introduction by Fr. John Erickson

The Vision of Chalcedon Canon 28

June 20, 2009 Length: 1:07:14





Rev. Fr. John Erickson: I believe we’ve, for the most part, taken our places. It’s for me a great pleasure to introduce Bishop Basil (Osborne), our first speaker this morning. His life could serve as a case study. The issues in Orthodoxy in the 20th century – early 21st century. There are some surprises. I had not realized until doing a little homework that you were born in Alexandria, Egypt. But he grew up in the United States, was introduced to Orthodoxy in his late teens by Fr. Michael Gelsinger [who] was a professor of classics, but many of us would remember Fr. Michael [and] his wife, Mary, who were so instrumental in those days at developing church school curricula and English translations of liturgical texts into English and adaptations from Byzantine chant for a sort of American style. Wonderful transitional generation for Orthodoxy.

Father—or, then, just simply Basil Osborne—married his wife, Rachel, in 1962, after a period of service in the U.S. Army, received his doctorate at the University of Cincinnati, Ohio, but already by then you were living in Great Britain, in Oxford. He was ordained to the diaconate there by Metropolitan Anthony (Bloom) of the Sourozh Diocese of the Moscow Patriarchate. This in 1969, and priest in 1973, and it’s especially from those years in Oxford that I think so many people know you and remember you and Rachel so fondly. After Rachel’s death in 1991, he was consecrated bishop of Sergievo in the Moscow Patriarchal Church to assist Metr. Anthony and for a time—2003 to May of 2006—was temporary administrator of the Diocese of Sourozh.

It would be inappropriate and also very time-consuming for me to go over even a short survey of the circumstances of his transition from the Diocese of Sourozh to his present role as Bishop of Amphipolis. I must say I don’t really know where Sergievo is and I know even less where Amphipolis is. You can see why this in some ways illustrates the problems of Orthodoxy in regions outside its historic spread. The circumstances of this separation also I think suggests some of the changes that have been occurring in Orthodoxy from the 1990s to the present.

The days of, as I said earlier, émigrés and immigrants and of convert Orthodoxy, the vintage of Fr. Gelsinger and Mary Gelsinger, this in some ways in the 1990s, whether in America or western Europe, other parts of the world, being changed by what I describe as the “newest immigration”—from eastern Europe, the near East—and simultaneously with this in eastern Europe the fall of Communism. This has changed the shape of Orthodoxy, the demographics of Orthodoxy, in areas outside of its historic roots. This also has resulted in new waves of inter-Orthodox dispute.

Bp. Basil, now of Amphipolis, is a titular bishop under the Ecumenical Patriarch. He is auxiliary within the Patriarchal Exarchate for parishes of Russian Tradition in Western Europe. More specifically, he is the episcopal vicar in Great Britain and Ireland. I hope I have all these more or less correct; you can correct me later. Simply the enumeration of titles of this sort suggests the complexity of Orthodoxy in these early years of the 21st century.

Bp. Basil will be speaking to us on the vision of Chalcedon Canon 28. I also have a certain interest in Chalcedon Canon 28, so I look forward very much to hearing what you have to say. [Applause]

His Grace Bishop Basil of Amphipolis: Thank you very much, Fr. John. Your Eminences, reverend fathers, brothers and sisters, Your Grace, it is indeed both an honor and a pleasure to be able to speak here in St. Vladimir’s and to share in this Summer Conference, but I must say that it’s not without a certain trepidation on the meaning or the vision of Canon 28 of the Council of Chalcedon, before an audience that has almost certainly studied this canon, and some of whom have certainly written on it. I’m thinking in particular of Fr. Prof. John Erickson, whom we celebrated so splendidly last night.

The title of the conference which I gave to the organizers was, well, the title of the conference which was given to everybody, was: “The Council and the Tomos: The 20th-century Landmarks towards a 21st-century Church.” The title of my own talk that I gave in in the end was: “The Vision of Chalcedon’s Canon 28,” but it could be rephrased: “The Council and the Tomos: A Fifth-century Landmark towards a 21st-century Church,” because it certainly is the case that that canon and that Council have not sort of died out of some consciousness. I do hope that I shall not be touching too many raw nerves, to use a phrase that was used by Fr. Kirill Hovorun this morning or yesterday. Also, I will try to avoid tailoring my talk to suit an agenda, to use a phrase that Peter Bouteneff used.

My background, as was said, is basically in classical literature and ancient history, although I’ve never taught. I moved, having finished my doctorate and having done some work in theology in Oxford, immediately into parish work and have done pastoral work ever since. The truth of the matter is, I never really looked into this area until I was forced to do so by circumstance. What I would like to do is to look at Canon 28 of Chalcedon in terms of the geographical understanding of the time and to follow in outline its implementation, that is, the implementation not of simply Canon 28 but what Canon 28 implies down to the present day. And for that, I will look first at the geography and particularly the geography of the Church. Secondly, I’d like to look just briefly anyway at the whole issue of taxis, and its canonical but also its spiritual significance.

The geography of the Church has its roots in the New Testament, and there are some quite extraordinary passages from the very end of the gospels. I am thinking about the end of Matthew 27:18-20, where Christ comes and says to them:

All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.

“Make disciples of all nations.” And the shorter version in Mark is interesting in this respect, because, as the women go and return from finding that Christ is, indeed, risen from the dead, all that they had been commanded they told briefly to those around Peter, and afterwards Jesus himself sent out through them from East to West the sacred and imperishable proclamation of eternal salvation. From East to West. And at the end, the normal ending of Mark, Christ says, “Go into all the world and proclaim the Good News to the whole creation.”

To pick it up in Luke, Christ after the resurrection tells the disciples:

Thus it is written: The Messiah is to suffer and to rise from the dead on the third day. And the repentance and forgiveness of sins is to be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem.

In other words, Jerusalem, as far as the Christian is concerned, is the starting point from which the Church takes its origin and from which it radiates throughout the world. Jerusalem is and always should be the center of any Christian topography.

But if there’s a sending-out, there’s also a gathering-in. To go back to the Gospel of John, in the scene at the trial, Caiaphas did not say this on his own, but, being high priest that year, he prophesied that Jesus was about “to die for the nation, and not for the nation (that is, the Jewish nation) alone, but to gather into one the dispersed children of God.” And in Mark, similar in Matthew: “Then the Son of Man (and Christ is talking about himself, Mark 13:27) will send out his angels and gather his elect from the four winds, from the ends of the earth to the ends of the earth,” which in the Authorized Version is “from the uttermost part of the earth to the uttermost part of heaven.”

This, of course, goes straight back to Isaiah. Isaiah 11:11-12: “On that day, the day of the Lord, the Lord will extend his hand yet a second time to recover the remnant that is left of his people: from Assyria, from Egypt, from Pathros, from Ethiopia, from Edom, from Shinar, from Hamath, and from the coastlands.” The Hebrew and the Authorized Versions say—and this is the New Revised Standard Version that I’m reading from—and the Lucianic text used by the Church say not “from the coastlands” but “from the islands of the sea.” Bear that in mind. “It will raise a signal for the nations and will assemble the outcasts of Israel and gather the dispersed of Judah from the four corners of the earth.”

That gathering-in from the four corners of the earth is taken up in the Liturgy, the first example of the Liturgy in the Didache.

As this broken bread was scattered upon the mountains, but was brought together and became one, so let thy Church be gathered together from the ends of the earth into thy kingdom. For thine is the glory and the power through Jesus Christ forever.

And it’s toned down and given a liturgical and sacramental context in the Liturgy of Basil the Great: “Make one with each other, all of us who partake of this one bread and cup for communion in the one Holy Spirit.” In other words, everybody at any point taking part in the communion is gathered together into a single body. St. Basil also has a very interesting expression in the prayer which is sung during the hymn to the Mother of God:

Again, we beseech thee: Remember, O Lord, thy holy, catholic, and apostolic Church, which is from the end of the inhabited earth, from end to end of the inhabited earth, tes apo peraton eos peraton tes oikoumenes.

The geography of the Church includes everywhere that man lives. The question I would now like to ask it: What does this world look like in the fifth century? What we have here is, as you see, two printed maps of the world. 1503, 1492: this is just, what? eleven years after the discovery of America? These two maps are the only pictures of the world which survive from antiquity. There are no other visions of the world. You’ll see that one is looking at the world from a distance as if the world were a sphere, and you come in and you look at it and you see the equator in the middle, the Tropic of Cancer above, the Tropic of Capricorn [below], the Arctic Circle above, and the Antarctic Circle below. That is because, by the first century, it had been demonstrated that the world was a sphere. That knowledge goes right back to the second century B.C. That means it was demonstrated by Greek geometers who knew how to do this kind of thing. That gives you a vision of the world, looking at it from space, flat.

The next gives you a vision of the world, looking at it again from space, from above, and gives you the three land masses that were identified at the time, and they are: Europe, Asia, and Africa. In the middle, you have the Mediterranean Sea. This is obviously very schematic, and I’d like to look at these maps in a bit more detailed form. This is the Macrobian map, the one that looks from a distance at the equator in the center. It’s based on the description of the world that is found in Macrobius, writing around 500, in which he’s commenting on Cicero’s “Dream of Scipio.” He describes in words—there are no illustrations necessarily in the text—what the world looks like.

In the middle you see an ocean. Just above it, you see the perusta, that is, the really burnt-out areas. Then, above that, you get the temperate areas in which Northern Africa, Europe, and Asia, and India, even, are found. This is 1483, before the discovery of America. Above, you get the frigid arctic areas, and they deduced—no one had ever been below that sea—that the other end of the world looked just like that, but it was reversed: first you came to the really burned out areas, then the temperate areas belonging to the antipodes—“unknown to us, nobis incognita”—and then the frigida down at the bottom. They were completely right. No one had ever been to that half of the world; they knew basically what it was like.

This is the other point of view, and you can see on the left-hand side, very schematically, it’s called a T-in-O map. Again, Europe, Asia, Africa. The T-in-O map here—again, this is before the discovery of America—this time you’ve got the Mediterranean in the center, Europe, Africa, Asia, and it’s very convenient, because the Nile River divides Asia and Africa, and the Tanais on the left, which is actually the Dawn River, which runs into the North Sea, the Sea of Azov, divides Europe and Asia. As things do work out sometimes, Asia was taken over by Shem, Africa by Ham, and Europe by Japheth. Works very nicely: three parts of the world.

This map may seem to be really quite primitive, but in fact it is quite accurate. I’d like to look at another version, this time a bit later. This is based on a reading of a geographical text from around 700, the Ravenna Geographer. Again, you see that the world, looked at from a distance, from above, is basically circular, and you can understand why that has to be true: because the earth is a sphere. If you cut through a sphere with a plane, what you see when you look is a circle. So somebody’s standing, or placing themselves mentally far from the earth, looking down, and what they see is, in the center, the Mediterranean, the Black Sea, the Sea of Azov, the Persian Gulf, the Red Sea, and, of course, Europe, Asia, and Africa, these three great land masses. What you’ll also see is that this map is more like a Y in an O. Those lines go like that; they don’t go straight through, but they go at an angle. That map—it may look very primitive, but it is actually surprisingly accurate, if you imagine.

I’d like to go on that this is, again, the view of the world which survives from antiquity. If we go to this—I don’t know whether you’ve come across this before—this is the Hereford Mappa Mundi, the map of the world. That map is actually painted on a single animal skin—I don’t know what kind of animal it is—it’s about this high. I’ve never seen it myself, but it’s a big piece of skin, and it’s painted like that. You can see that this, too, is either a T-in-O or a Y-in-O, depending on how you want to do it. We’ve got Europe, Africa, Asia, the Mediterranean in the middle, very poorly drawn if you wish, Black Sea up here, the Nile—perhaps I can even do one of these little machines to indicate that—the Nile here, the Red Sea, the Persian Gulf. Over here somewhere is Ceylon, I don’t know, perhaps there. The surrounding ocean, which is filled, literally filled, all the way around, with islands. And of course the Mediterranean has islands.

Now of course you have to bear in mind that at that time land surveying is pretty ineffective. All you’ve got, really, is the permanent features of geography, that is, the oceans, the seas, the rivers, the mountains. They are used to describe and to work on this world.

So what you have here is an attempt to understand the world by placing yourself outside of it at a really great distance and looking down. What tells you that this is a Christian map, or, you might say, a Jewish map, is: this is Jerusalem. Jerusalem is absolutely in the center of the circle. North America doesn’t appear on this map. Britain, Ireland, and Scotland do; they’re right here. They’re a bit bigger than they would be, but the map was done in Britain, so perhaps you’re entitled to make that a bit bigger. [Laughter]

The crucial thing here is that this world—and this is the inhabited world; no one had been outside this—is surrounded by water, and it is delimited by water: by seas and rivers. I’ve come across this myself, just thinking about this kind of thing: we tend to think about the world in terms of land masses. Forget it! The world is 75% water. In other words, we are living on islands in the middle of the sea. And that’s just what this map tells you. It gives that very, very clearly. And it corresponds to the biblical account. If you look at Genesis 1:9: “Let the waters under the sky be gathered together in one place that is all integrated, and let the dry land appear.” In other words, the water is primary; the dry land appears out of the water.

Let’s go on, bearing in mind what we’ve got here. The world as seen from space, with Jerusalem at the center—and go on to a modern map. I’m afraid this is not terribly clear, but, using digital means, you can actually create a map which uses modern cartography and reproduces the T-in-O or the Y-in-O position, because in the middle of that map is Jerusalem. Again, you see that these are islands in the middle of the sea. We might call them continents, but they are islands. What you have here, of course, is Madagascar; here is Ceylon, Sri Lanka; the Mediterranean running north and south. There is Britain, Ireland, Scotland. You see the Black Sea and the River Dawn going up. Well, you might it if were clearer. And of course you see the Caspian there, which is really off the map as far—well, it’s not off the map, actually, in the Hereford Map, but it’s placed up here somewhere. The ancients thought it actually opened out into the Northern Sea.

But what you also see is also another group of islands over here: Greenland, northern Canada, Newfoundland—at the very edge of this map, unknown to the Ravenna geographer at that time, 700. So what we have here is something which looks surprisingly like a mappa mundi—they were not all that far off.

This gives you a second modern equivalent of a mappa mundi. We’ve had to change it. The problem is that what you’ve got here is this is not oriented properly. The Hebrew and Christian way of thinking about directions is: East is always in front of you. So when you’re looking at the rising sun, you’re looking in front of you; south is to the right, north to the left, and west is behind you. For a proper Christian map, you had to be standing there, looking east, in that direction, and the mappa mundi, of course, does that.

What you have here is a circle around Jerusalem—it’s probably just slightly off; should be a bit more to the south and west—and a kind of circle inside that larger map, which gives you an idea of what the people who did the mappa mundi had some idea about. They had no idea what happened to the bottom of Africa; they didn’t really know how large Asia was. Greenland was out of sight as was Canada and Newfoundland.

What I would like to do now is just place on this the ancient patriarchates. We go back to 325. We’re dealing with the creation of Rome, which is in Europe; Alexandria given second place; Antioch in Asia. In other words, those three great cities occupy the three major parts of the world known at that time. And, in the middle of them is Jerusalem, which is given fourth place—not because it’s a great city, but because it’s the center of the Christian world.

In 381, Constantinople is introduced, which is right here. This obviously disturbs the pattern, and it takes a while for the pattern to be reassembled. In 431, Cyprus, which is right here, is given its autocephaly, freed, basically from the influence of the great city of Antioch, and is consecrated as what is, in effect, an independent autocephalous metropolia. In Constantinople in 451, you find that the empire, which has been divided in two from the end of the third century… Constantinople is increased in its authority in that area, confirmed the right of appeal in Constantinople, presumably only in the East, and Constantinople is given the same prerogatives, as it says, as the Church of Rome, but remains second in the taxis.

Taxis remains still: Rome, Constantinople, Alexandria, Antioch, and Jerusalem. They in effect divide up the Roman Empire. But what’s interesting is that the Canon 28 speaks of the exalting [of] the city of Constantinople like the city of Rome in her ecclesiastical affairs, being second after her, with the consequence that the metropolitans alone of the Pontic, Asian, and Thracian dioceses, and also the bishops from the aforesaid dioceses in barbarian lands, are to be consecrated by the aforesaid most-holy see.

Now let’s look at what happens here, bearing in mind this fact that Constantinople’s been introduced at that point. This gives you a better picture of what’s going on in that part of the world. You can find the Constantinople, Antioch, Alexandria, Jerusalem here. At that time, on the basis of the political organization of the Roman Empire of that day, three dioceses are assigned to Constantinople. One is taken from Rome, in other words, Thrace, and the other two, Asia and Pontus, are taken from the Asia. So Constantinople is sandwiched in there.

The relationship between Constantinople and those three dioceses, civil dioceses, is such that the patriarch or the archbishop of Constantinople is able to ordain the metropolitan of those areas, but the local bishops are all ordained locally. The effect of that is that, if we compare it, say, with Cyprus, the dioceses are autonomous in the normal way, but not autocephalous, and now even the metropolitan sees are autonomous but not autocephalous: they’re dependent on Constantinople. The idea is that this will imitate, mimic, what goes on here with Antioch, what goes on here with Alexandria, and what goes on over here somewhere with Rome.

The Orthodox Church is actually a flat Church. It’s not pyramidal in structure. It reminds me very much of an ad which I remember from my childhood in Buffalo, New York, where—I don’t know if this company still exists—huge picture of the globe, somebody pouring a can of paint over the globe: “Sherwin Williams paints cover the globe.” That’s precisely the picture you want of the Orthodox Church. It sticks to the surface of the globe. There’s no pyramid there; it’s completely flat.

What we say in the Canon 28 is that the bishops of those three civil dioceses in barbarian lands are ordained by Constantinople. The issue, then, as we know, and you’ve all gone into it: Where are those barbarian lands? Well, you get a very clear clue if you look at the commentary by Zonaras where he says, “Canon 28 gives to the bishop of Constantinople the ordination of bishops in the barbarian peoples,” he says, “en tois barbarikois ethnesin. Those in the aforementioned dioceses, such as the Alans and the Ros, the former are adjacent, symparakeinte, to the diocese of Pontus—these are the Alans. The Alans lived: there’s a nomadic people living in the area between the Black Sea and the Caspian Sea. They are adjacent to Pontus. The Ros are adjacent to the diocese of Thrace up here. Only those peoples impinge upon the empire from without, and Zonaras makes it quite clear that these other dioceses—Macedonia, Dacia, you’ll find over here Epiros, Illyria over here somewhere—have not yet actually been to Constantinople as they would be added later. The same kind of thing is said by Balsamon, and Aristenos is not quite as clear as the other two.

But the point here is that we’re talking only about Constantinople. The history of the Church shows that the patriarchate of Alexandria, or the archbishop of Alexandria, took responsibility for missionary work down the Nile outside the empire. The archbishop of Antioch worked outside the empire here. In Rome, of course we know very well what happened there. The movement of the development of Christendom throughout western Europe, both in and then later outside the empire—all these things have been in place by tradition for… well, from the beginning, in effect. The fact that nothing is said about them suggests very strongly that those traditions remain in place, what they were. The authority of the other great sees is unchanged except to the extent that this is mentioned and dealt with in the 28th Canon.

The fifth of the patriarchates basically does not have a border on the edge of the empire. Only four of the great patriarchates had. It suggests here that Palestine III is added to Jerusalem; that’s at the edge of the empire; neither Palestine I nor Palestine II are part. But in practice, Antioch is concerned with this whole area here. So what you see here is that the world, from a missionary point of view, has been divided into four, and the four missionary patriarchates, who are on the edge of the empire, correspond to the four corners of the world, to the four winds, and to the four points of the compass: west, north, east, south.

In fact, the whole—if we look at… We have to go back one stage. Let’s imagine that the world is an orange and you’re going to peel it. You start cutting from Jerusalem and run around around like that. Run around like that, you see? You find, when you’ve done that, that you’ve covered the whole surface of the globe, even the parts of the orange that you can’t see are part of those segments. That’s just the way a sphere is; it has that character. So by taking four segments, starting in Jerusalem, you have actually divided the whole surface of the earth if you extend those lines.

What I’d like to do now is just look at the missionary activity of these patriarchates in the first millennium. I suppose the easiest to deal with is Egypt, where the Nile, running straight down here—I mean, this is an enormous river!—missionary activity takes place there, down to what’s today Sudan, but in those days was Nubia. Here’s Eritrea, here’s Ethiopia. By 400, Christianity is in Ethiopia, before the Council of Chalcedon, well outside the empire. That is, even today—well, I mean the Coptic Patriarch of Alexandria appoints the Abouna until—when was it, ‘59 or something like that in Ethiopia—until the 20th century. Dependent upon Alexandria. But the Arab invasion—this is Mecca, Medina here—cuts off this whole area, and that is the end of any missionary expansion for the patriarchate of Alexandria. We’re talking about the seventh century.

If we talk about Antioch, which is located right there, you’ll find that Antioch moves outside to Iraq, to Persia, down to India, and is involved in missionary activity in that segment of the globe. Constantinople is never involved, Rome is never involved—there are a few squabbles with Alexandria over just who should be dealing with these areas, but basically they reserve these areas for themselves.

If we look at the segment, which is basically this segment here that is reserved for Constantinople, we know very well that the whole border of the Black Sea here, outside the empire, has bishops assigned to it. This is Georgia right here, an interesting area because it falls on the border between the areas of Constantinople and Antioch. But if you take the story further on in the first millennium, then get up to the mission of Cyril and Methodius here in central Europe and eventually into 988 the Baptism of Kiev in the Ukraine, and by the year 1000 you’re up in this area here. Constantinople does not move into western Europe. It leaves itself… These are the Urals, so you’re dealing with the eastern Europe, central Europe here. But it has expanded significantly into that area.

If you look, then, at the patriarchate of the West, based in Rome, where it also has the northern bit of Africa here attached to it, you’ll find that in the fourth century, and probably in the third century, Christianity has reached England. In the sixth, seventh century, it’s outside the area ever occupied by the Roman Empire, in Scotland, in Ireland here. It also actually reaches the Orkneys and the Shetland Islands around 600-700. If you look here, these are the Faroe Islands. The Norsemen get to the Faroe Islands around 1000. They get to Iceland. The oldest church in the New World is here, southern tip of Greenland, before 1000 AD—but the Norsemen get down to Newfoundland as well. Thirty years ago they found a Norse settlement on the northeast corner of Newfoundland. The buildings are there. In other words, the patriarchate of Rome is running along these islands in this direction. No one had ever been there before. So this is a period of, at least in the northern, the west and the northern sectors, considerable missionary success.

If we look at what happens in the second millennium—I will run through here briefly—we now of course have a situation in which Rome assumes worldwide jurisdiction and does significant… well, you’ve got the establishment of the Latin patriarchates in Constantinople, Antioch, Jerusalem in the course of the Crusades. But the real movement begins at the end of the 15th century, with the passage across the sea to the New World. Having touched the New World up here around the year 1000, around the year 500, and from there on you’ve got an expansion into North and South America.

Constantinople, of course, in this same period, is moving east. By the end of the 18th century certainly it is at the Pacific and has crossed into North America by the, say, 1780s. The truth of the matter is—and I can’t show that to you here—is that Roman missionaries from the south got there first; in around 1750, 1760, you’ve got Roman missionaries in the south of Alaska. So they meet at that point. There’s very little activity in Alexandria or in Antioch, and the other two are sort of sector patriarchates [which] continue to operate.

What I would like to say is—and I will run through this a bit more quickly, I hope—is that in all of this the question of taxis is constantly coming up. What’s fascinating is the way in which, having first introduced Constantinople into the second position and therefore displaced Alexandria and Antioch and Jerusalem as senior sees, no more effort is made to change that basic pattern. What we find, actually, and this is I suppose what I would like to say about the significance of taxis is we find in all of this period rivalry between these various patriarchates.

Not only that, you find, for example, that the Bulgarians in this area here, when they manage to get themselves an empire, want a patriarchate, and Constantinople gives them a patriarchate. When the Bulgarian Empire is defeated and overrun by Constantinople, that patriarchate disappears and is reabsorbed. The same thing is true of the Serbian Empire here. What do we have here? The Serbian Church in the second millennium, independent from 1297, a patriarchate from 1346, and then finally suppressed in 1766, and [whose] territory is merged again with Constantinople.

Again, the rivalry and the desire to be an empire and have your own patriarch of course affects the Russian Church and the sort of self-declaration of independence in the 15th century and the ultimate granting of patriarchal status at the end of the 16th. The rivalry also, between European states, national states in central and western Europe, leads to the creation in the 19th century first of Greece, then of Serbia, Bulgaria, Romania, eventually Albania, as independent churches in that area of Constantinople.

What’s fascinating is that Constantinople is the only church, the only one of the ancient patriarchates, which releases land, that is, gives away autocephaly. Rome, you can believe, never did it. There are no autocephalous churches in the patriarchate of Rome. Egypt never did it, that is, the Byzantine Church, the Coptic patriarchate was forced by historical circumstance to grant independence to Ethiopia and eventually to Eritrea here, but that’s only in this last less than a hundred years ago. They kept control for, what, 15, 16 hundred years. Antioch has never freed any of its territory; it remains a patriarchate as far as you can see, in its own sector.

But what is the significance of taxis? And really I don’t want to drop this subject without pointing out something which, again, I came to very late in my days. I’d like to read just the passage from Mark 9:33-34, which I never paid any attention to before.

Then they (Christ and the disciples) came to Capernaum, and when he was in the house, he asked them, “What were you arguing about on the way?” They were silent. (Why?) For on the way they had argued with one another about who was the greatest. (Rivalry.) [...]

James and John, the sons of Zebedee (this is the next chapter in Mark) came forward to him and said to him, “Teacher, we want you to do for us whatever we ask of you.” And he said to them, “What is it you want me to do for you?” And they said to him, “Grant us to sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your glory.”

Not only are they getting rid of the other apostles, they’re forcing him to decide between the two of them who is going to be on the right side, as though they are brothers within a rivalistic relationship with one another.

Several years ago somebody pointed out to me—one of my parishioners—“You know, Fr. Basil, the issue of rivalry is throughout, found everywhere in the gospels.” I said, “Nonsense!” Then I began to look. It is everywhere. Rivalry is one of the things that really Christ has in mind. What’s marvelous is that this passage from Mark, when it’s taken up in Matthew 20:20, it’s not the disciples who go to Christ and ask the questions, it’s their mother! [Laughter] The author of the gospel feels so bad about this, this rivalry among the two disciples, that he takes it and gives it to the mother. Luke drops it. This whole issue of who is the greatest, who is first, is everywhere, and it follows right through to after the Resurrection.

Imagine this scene: the disciples hear that Christ is risen. Two of them run to the grave, and they’re both running as hard as they can. John gets there first. Peter just pushes straight past him into the sepulcher, sees that it’s empty. Then—and we’re listening to John’s story—John goes in and looks, but he’s the first one who understands. In other words, this is a rivalistic relationship between the two disciples. Again, after the Resurrection, Peter and John are walking along. I suppose Peter was walking with Christ and John is somewhere over here, trying to overhear the conversation. Peter turns to Christ and says, “What about this guy here?” [Laughter] Christ says—what does it say? Anyway, he says, “Don’t worry about it,” in effect. In other words: Don’t place yourself in a rivalistic relationship to your brother.

Where are the non-rivalistic relations in the gospels? That’s the next thing. John, the greatest of the prophets, is in a non-rivalistic relationship with Christ. “He must increase and I must decrease.” He does not set himself up against Christ. But the really interesting one is the relationship between Christ and his Father. Anyone who is interested in Freudian psychology would say: Yes, the relationship between son and father: inevitably rivalistic. You won’t find a bit of it there. He simply refuses to rival his Father. Read the gospels. This is a central Christian teaching.

I don’t know how many of you have come across the work of René Girard, this Frenchman who lived in this country for 40 years; probably not. I think the best-known work is one called Violence and the Sacred. I would recommend reading that, because what he shows is, at the heart of all religion—not at the heart of Christianity, but at the heart of all religion—is violence; that violence is based upon what he calls “mimetic rivalry,” which he first finds in world literature. There’s a lot of it in Shakespeare, marvelous examples in Shakespeare, but he finds it in Cervantes, he finds it in La Rouge et Noir, Stendhal, he finds it in Proust. All the great writers are talking about what he calls mimetic rivalry.

We all of us know instinctively what mimetic rivalry is about. We just have to conduct a thought experiment. You’ve got a room—this is the best scientific tradition: thought experiment—you have a room, you’ve got a carpet and a two-year-old on the carpet, and that two-year-old is surrounded by toys. He takes up one toy, puts it down, picks up another toy, fiddles with it, puts it down, [etc.] Introduce two-year-old number two… [Laughter] What toy does Two want, the second one? He wants the one the first guy has in his hands. What has now become the most important toy in the world? It’s the one the first has grabbed hold of. This is mimetic rivalry. It is found throughout the history of the Church, in spite of what is said in the gospels. The whole history of the relationship between the patriarchates and between the various independent churches can be understood in terms of mimetic rivalry.

Unless we get to the bottom of that—in other words, that mimetic rivalry is in us—we cannot solve the problem. Taxis is designed to dampen down mimetic rivalry.

The marvelous example is, of course, the annual calendar of the Church of Russia, where all the bishops are listed with their photographs, by order of ordination. In other words, every bishop in the church knows exactly where he stands in relationship to every other bishop. You can’t… That is a hierarchical pattern which you cannot fight. In other words, it’s no use being a rival to that guy. Otherwise we’d have chaos at every service. “Thank you, I’m going to sit here or stand here.” “Oh no, you’re not, I’m going to stand here.” [Laughter] The question is answered. Every bishop knows exactly where he stands.

Think of another detail. Why is it that in a diocese the bishop can order or ordain only one priest at a Liturgy? It means that there are no two priests ordained on the same day. In any diocese, every priest knows exactly where he stands, and he takes his place, and it’s the end of mimetic rivalry. It’s no use, my wanting to be there, because I’ve got my place. In other words, the very practice of the Church in dealing with these entirely rivalistic characters called clergy… [Laughter] is to dampen down this very basic and highly destructive aspect of human behavior.

So. Sorry I’ve been going on; this is terrible. Anyway, it’s fun, I hope. If you look, if we go back to what I would call the Chalcedonian vision, which is in fact Jerusalem at the center of the Christian world, the world divided up completely into four segments assigned to four ancient patriarchates, even when you can’t see around the edge [of] the world there, but the segments exist, you find that there are constant threats to that, and they are of a rivalistic character. I won’t go into the details; it’s probably not worth doing. You all know about it and we’ve all lived through it and are living through it now.

But the one thing [Laughter] which I would suggest is that the Chalcedonian vision says that as far as the Church is concerned, there is no terra nullius; there is no “no man’s land.” Christ has claimed the whole world. Christ is there before you get there. This whole notion of a terra nullius is a typical Western European notion. If you look at the early maps of South America, Brazil, this huge country, and in the middle it’ll have written, “Terra Nullius, No Man’s Land.” Until we get there and take possession of it, of course; then it belongs to us. Anyway, that’s another aspect of world culture.

This notion that there is a terra nullius is what enables this kind of rivalry to exist between us. It will be quite clear to you that the thrust of what I’ve been saying is that the New World is an island in the Atlantic. It is a huge island, but it is an island in the Atlantic, and therefore is the normal province of the patriarchate of Rome.

I ran across this issue, of course, in western Europe by living in Britain, where the patriarchate of Rome has been there, well, since there was ever a patriarchate. It is unreal for an Orthodox to pretend that that patriarchate does not exist. If we pretend it doesn’t exist, we’ve got a terra nullius. What is the relationship between the Orthodox Church, say, Constantinople, or all the other patriarchates, and the Roman patriarchate in Western Europe?

What is fascinating is that, for the Byzantine canonists in the 12th century, they say the patriarchate of Constantinople has inherited, in effect, the “rights,” but it can’t displace the patriarchate of Rome. There is no Orthodox bishop of Rome, and that is a fundamental fact about Orthodox ecclesiology. The Roman Church, with its universal jurisdiction, can put a Latin patriarchate in Jerusalem if it wants; the Orthodox cannot put an Orthodox patriarchate in Rome, because we have maintained the status of Rome. The only relationship we have with Western Europe is a kind of care-taking relationship for Orthodox, a kind of locum tenens relationship.

Who is the locum tenens? Well, if you have a widowed diocese, you have basically two choices. It’s the next bishop, who acts until there’s someone to take over the job; or it’s the senior bishop. That’s just the ordinary way. Well, what happens is, as far as Rome is concerned, the locum tenens ends up, on both counts, being the Patriarch of Constantinople. But it doesn’t make him the patriarch of Rome. He is only there to deal with the Orthodox until this dis-union which has occurred can be put back together again. I would say that probably it seems to me that you could argue along the same lines for the New World.

So just to sum up, then, the vision of Chalcedon is that the whole world belongs to Christ and that missionary activity is extended in four directions by these four missionary patriarchs. It’s marvelous. It’s really worth [reading,] the autobiography of Metropolitan Evlogy. He visits a parish of his in North Africa, a Russian parish, émigrés. The king of Morocco invited Russian émigrés to come and settle. Some of my parishioners in England were among the Russians with their parents who were invited to go and settle there. He goes to visit the parish, and what he says is very interesting. He says, “It’s marvelous to be here in the territory of the patriarch of Alexandria.” What is he saying? He’s saying that the locum tenens—because this is Rome’s area: Carthage, Hippo, all these cities belong to the patriarchate of the West—that Alexandria has inherited that area, as locum tenens for the Orthodox of that area.

But the other fascinating thing is that Alexandria, for example, for years—talking about centuries—was simply assumed into Constantinople, but it broke out at the end of the 19th century, and it was possible for it again to sort of operate independently of Constantinople and appoint its own heads. It gradually expanded to the whole of Africa and assumes a kind of responsibility for the whole of Africa. In other words, the Chalcedonian settlement, the consciousness of it, has not died out. It may be impossible to realize it for historical reasons, but the idea is still there.

These ideas, these ways of looking at things, which have, over time, been overlaid by centuries of history and rivalistic conflict, still are with us. This is why I say it does seem to me that the council, one of the councils on the way to the Church of the 21st century, has to be thought of as the Council of Chalcedon. You need to take it into account, even if you can’t implement it, but it needs to be part of our consciousness. In particular the way the Orthodox continue to respect the patriarchate of Rome. Thank you. [Applause]

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