Two Short Essays
by Alexandru Nemoianu, MI
1. ABOUT ‘CONCEPTS’
AND UNITY IN DIVERSITY
Societies and “people” in general interact by the means of “concepts”. Most of the time these “concepts” are taken for granted . We use them automatically, without scrutinizing them. “Concepts” are basic ideas, of a thing or a situation, concentrated in one or a few words, formed by mentally combining all respective characteristics and particularities. Those “concepts”, being formed and accepted, are used to explain situations and to advance progress. From a historical perspective concepts are formulated and come into use a little bit after the events,”post festum”. Human beings first have to experience phenomena - and only after that can characterize or define it. As such it is very dangerous to wrongly use “concepts” and especially to use the wrong concepts or, even worse, a false concept, in difficult situation. This is especially true in regard to historical circumstances and situations in progress.
In regard to the Romanian-American community and its institutions there are persons who still consider them (that is, the community and its institutions) to be “in exile”. Nothing can be further from the truth. In good part this conception is due to a lack of understanding of the “concept” of “exile”.
The sages of the Jewish People, without doubt the best experts in problems of exile, defined this phenomenon as “galut”.”Galut”, exile, expressed the condition and feelings of a people or a group of persons uprooted from their homeland and subject to alien rule. The Romanian-Americans in no way can be characterized under the mentioned definition. Romanians came to the New World willingly - being accepted was a privilege. In their new homeland the early immigrants, by choice, and their descendants by birth, were and are part of the mainstream of the society. Consequently, so are their institutions and even more so their religious bodies. Another example of bad understanding, misunderstanding, or lack of understanding is offered by the misuse of the concepts of “Church-Nation” (a rather doubtful, if not downright dubious “concept) and “Mother Church” .
Nations, or Peoples, are not political, or not mainly political, entities but spiritual ones. The association between Nation, as a political and socio-historical reality and the Church is oxymoronic, it is antithetical. It is also totally misleading as ,maybe involuntarily, it confuses the “concept” of “Church-Nation” with that of “Church-State”. (“Church-State” is a political reality that came into existence lately, probably in the XIXth century, and, in my opinion, a reality that was almost exclusively negative.)The misuse (it could be said
“abuse”) of such concepts about Romanian-Americans and their religious bodies is wrong.
Romanian-Americans are the result of the historical process of “Americanization”, the process of becoming part of the mainstream of the country. To call them “in exile”, again in my opinion, it is an insult uncalled for.
Equally absurd is to call their religious bodies, “in exile”, or, even more outrageously, to call for their canonical subordination to foreign bodies. In the case of the Romanian-Americans who belong to the Orthodox faith a few things have to be remembered:
Orthodox unity is given by the communion in Sacraments and common faith. But beyond that, the Orthodox Church made a virtue of conducting missionary work in the language of the people and by promoting local ecclesiastical bodies. It suffices to mention that the Orthodox Faith was promoted among the people of Eastern Europe in the language of the people.
Is it really so hard to remember SS.Cyril and Methodius? Is it really so hard to remember that in first half of the XIX-th century Saint Innocent (Veniaminov) of Alaska translated Saint Matthew’s Gospel into Aleutian? Is it really so hard to remember that the Church is about unity in diversity?
Let me quote from Saint Paul, the "Apostle of the Gentiles": "There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of us all, who is above all and through all and in all. But grace was given to each of us according to the measures of Christ’s gift. ”(Ephesians 4).
Consequently, the Church is one, but it is a living body with many parts, each of use and worthy of glory, a unity in diversity. Saying that one particular member, one particular Orthodox entity is not worthy of the dignity of canonical independence (i.e. American Orthodoxy, or for that matter the Romanian Orthodox Episcopate of America) is to put oneself in contradiction with the Church teachings.
The Romanian Orthodox Episcopate of America, with its long and established tradition should develop as part of an independent American Orthodox Church, free of foreign interference. The Holy Synod of the autocephalous Orthodox Church of America should “hold the line” and should not cave under the threats of old world canonical bodies.
2. THE POINT OF DEFINITION
North American Orthodoxy has reached a point of definition - the point when quantity changes into a new quality. The point when North American Orthodox jurisdictions change from appendices of Old World Orthodoxy to an autocephalous American Orthodox body. The presence of this point of historical definition is proved by the turmoil existing in all Orthodox bodies. in America. Details may differ but the common problem is obvious:
open conflict between the Orthodox bodies of the Old World (the so called “Mother Churches” that, time and again, prove to be Stepmothers) and their American Orthodox jurisdictions. History proves that in the entire world local Orthodox jurisdictions eventually prevailed and so, Autocephalous orthodox bodies came into existence: in Bulgaria, Russia, Serbia, Romania, etc. To say that North America should be the exception from this rule would amount to gross nonsense, to say the least.
The “arguments” used by the Orthodox bodies of the Old World, and by their underlings here, are pathetic. Those “arguments” can be reduced to a primitive tribal chauvinism; an “ethnocentrism” that, in fact, borders on simple racism. The People of God are above racism!
In fact the entire political scheming toward subordination (“unity”) under the Romanian Patriarchate is s a reactionary movement which is essentially imitative in character. That scheming lacks imagination, originality and resorts exclusively to “models” of the past, models that have proved to be catastrophic. Those that promote it seem so obsessed with their “Mother Churches” that one may suspect that their favorite position is the fetal position!
The history of North America and its Orthodoxy was and is revolutionary. No one will be able to stop its majestic march forward.