by Protopresbyter Dr Georgios Lekkas, priest of the Orthodox Archdiocese of Belgium
A person is Orthodox if they sincerely work for the unity of Christians and the entire Creation of God, which the Lord Jesus Christ asked of us on behalf of His Father and which is served by the Holy Spirit.
In the history of Christianity, a major Schism has occurred about every five centuries until the present day.
The Eastern Churches split in the 5th century, the Great Schism took place in 1054, and Luther broke away from the Roman Catholic Church in the early 16th century.
Now, in the 21st century, the de facto separation of the leadership of the Russian Church from the body of Orthodox Churches threatens to confirm the rule that a great Christian schism takes place every five centuries.
Schisms are the result of progressive secularisation in the life of the Church. Ecclesiastical entities which consider themselves strong enough to exist autonomously move against the spirit of Divine Humility and separate themselves from the Body of the Church.
The continuing unfraternal incursion of the Russians into Ukraine places before the Russian Church the third temptation of Christ. Since historically it has proved impossible for the Russian Church to achieve its aim of becoming the Third Rome within the framework of the current order of primacy within the Churches, the present leadership of the Russian Church, in blessing the weapons that its flock are using in an aggressive war against a fraternal people of the same communion, seems to be consciously seeking to achieve its goal of becoming the Third Rome by cutting itself off from the Body of Orthodoxy.
Rome succumbed to the third temptation of Christ and separated itself from the Body of the Church in order to be free of Byzantine influence and synodal accountability. Nowadays Moscow, on the occasion of this fratricidal war, seems in turn to wish to disassociate itself from the Body of Orthodox Churches, seeking in this way to bypass the historical pre-eminence and ecclesiastical authority of Constantinople, in the hope of returning at some point in the future as the primary interlocutor with Rome, in the role of – if not the Second – at least the Third Rome.
However Churches which succumb to the third temptation of Christ and cut themselves off from the common Body in pursuit of a greater share of ecclesiastical authority become spiritually weaker and change progressively into ecclesiastical associations which are doomed to lose their believers and to be weakened even in secular terms.
If within two thousand years of God’s coming into the World His Church has already experienced so many Schisms, what kind of Church will Christ find on Earth at the time of His Second Coming, if He does not come again before another couple of millennia have passed? Doubtless only a small leaven will remain, which will continue to pray for the ‘unity of all’.
Sunday of Orthodoxy, 5.3.23.
Fr Georgios Lekkas is a priest of the Orthodox Archdiocese of Belgium. He studied Law, Philosophy, and Theology at the University of Athens. He has a Ph.D. in Greek Studies from the Sorbonne (Paris IV) and was a postdoctoral researcher at the French National Research Agency (2000-2005). He taught Greek philosophy in Greek Higher Education (2005-2017). His latest poetry collection, PROSECHOS ANAGENNISI (IMMINENT REBIRTH) was published by To Koinon ton Oraion Technon (Athens, 2021, 79 pages), while his essay THE SECOND WORLD. ODYSSEAS ELYTIS AND GIORGOS SARANTARIS was published recently by Ekati publications (Athens, 2022, 171 pages).