“Roman Catholicism and Eastern Orthodoxy have each become comfortable (may God forgive them!) with the schism, but we, Eastern Catholics, can never truly become accustomed to the schism; there is always a tension within us because in spite of everything, we love both Orthodoxy and Catholicism and we cannot accept separation from either of them. Often that tension is invisible for even long periods of time, but it is always there, and always reappears.”
-Bishop Basil Losten
In case you’ve somehow managed to miss it, the Church is in Schism, and has been for nearly a thousand years. This is probably not news to anyone, but what might be news is that this is not okay. It seems like it should be okay… doesn’t it? Anything that stands firm for a thousand years is a good thing… right?
NO! It’s not.
The schism, old though it may be, is most certainly not okay. To explain this, there are some things that need to be understood.
Why should the Church be one?
Saint Paul makes the famous statement that the Church is the Body of Christ. I think this performs best to explain why the Church needs to be one. If the Church is, in any real sense, the Body of Christ, then it has to be one. A body which is not one is not a living body, it’s a terrible accident. And this is precisely what Christ is, the Living God. Therefore, the Body of Christ must also be living, and for that it must be One, with Christ as It’s head.
This is probably the more difficult question. Understanding why the Church must be one is simple enough, but what does it mean when it’s not… but it is… but its not…?
A common misconception is that the Orthodox are somehow “outside of the Church.” Thus separation from them is not like splitting a body in half, but more like trimming dead branches from a tree. However, this is not what Schism means. Schism instead means that there is a separation between two things that ought to be one. The Great Schism is not like the condemnation of a heresy, which ends with the death of the heresy, but instead it ends with the reunification of the two.
I ask for something rather simple, an end to the Schism. This is not done frivolously, (“hey, just stop it guys!”) but with a full understanding of just how difficult the process of ending the Schism is and will continue to be. So, with all of this in mind, I ask for the patience, humility, and prayer that will be the only true end to the thousand year split in the Body of Christ. This will mean a great deal of rethinking, and explaining, and almost certainly an end to the dominance of Scholastic thought within the Church. We will all need to get used to eachother. But for the sake of us Eastern Catholics, who are torn day after day by the reality of the Schism, have patience, be humble, and love our Orthodox brothers.