Before analyzing the Byzantine understanding of the new Roman primacy, a brief synopsis of the issue as it was understood before 1100 is in order. In the first place, the East had no difficulty in explicitly recognizing Rome’s presidency or primacy within the pentarchy of patriarchs. Its willingness to do so is well documented. It was assumed, however, that the government of the Church was vested jointly in all five patriarchs. No one bishop or patriarchate—including the primary see in Christendom—possessed universal jurisdiction as an exclusive prerogative. Certainly primacy, though in principle never denied, was not understood or confused with doctrinal infallibility or absolute supremacy over all Churches and their hierarchy in toto orbe. As such, the right of any see to intervene directly in the internal affairs of another Church was alien to the Christian East. Indeed, monarchical government was never part of Orthodox ecclesiology, canon law, or tradition. (It is safe to assume that this was also true in the West before the eleventh century; the special papal prerogatives listed in the Dictatus papae [of Gregory VII/Hildebrand] represented, as we have seen, the particular bias of reformist policy; they did not reflect catholic tradition in its historical form.) It was for this reason that the papacy’s claims to jurisdiction over the Byzantine Church during Photius’ patriarchate were resented. The priveleges claimed by pope Nicholas I were indeed deemed uncanonical and, as such, unacceptable. Western attempts to undermine the balance of conciliarity and legitimate primacy in the Church catholic were always passionately rejected as ecclesiologically unsound. As conclusive evidence that Church structure stipulates such an equilibrium, the Byzantines often pointed to the familiar canon 34 of the apostles.
The bishops of every nation must acknowledge him who is first among them and account him as their head, and do nothing of consequence without his consent; but each may do those things which concern his own parish, and the country places which belong to it. But neither let him who is the first do anything without the consent of all. For so there will be oneness of mind, and God will be glorified through the Lord in the Holy Spirit.
Suffice it to say, allusions to the Petrine idea found in Byzantine texts before the eleventh century also should be understood the same way. Churchmen invariably used the idea “rhetorically” without any real recognition of its implications; invoking it was in fact the smart thing to do, especially if the moral support of the Roman bishop was required against a powerful emperor or a heretical teaching.
Invariably, twelfth century Byzantine theologians remained faithful to this earlier ecclesiological vision. Their polemic is in all essential respects in full agreement with the traditional understanding of ecclesiological authority professed by Eastern Christendom since antiquity. Granted their examinaation of ecclesiastical government was to be more exhaustive than the somewhat hesitant summary observations of the first millennium. But then, the “state of reciprocal ignorance,” which in part explains why the issue had not been confronted directly or defined more precisely before the twelfth century, no longer existed. Besides, by 1100 the high-medieval papacy with its armory of new canonical collections had come to its own, and a more detailed refutation was unavoidable. Indeed, western ecclesiology had by then moved inflexibly and unmistakably in the direction of papal monarchy, methodically supporting its claims by a new legalistic interpretation of the so-called Petrine texts of the New Testament.
Aristides Papadakis, The Christian East & the Rise of the Papacy: The Church AD 1071-1453, volume IV of The Church in History (St Vladimir’s Seminary Press, 1994)
Some of you actually visit this site and read it in person, so to speak, rather than through a reader or aggregator of some sort. Cheers to the old-fashioned way of doing things!
You might have noticed a little redecorating going on, particularly a little green icon with an elephant’s head, which only appears when you’re reading individual pages or posts on biblicalia, down at bottom. If one is only the slightest bit adventurous, one might let the cursor drift over to said elephantine icon and pause a nonce. You would be presented with the portentous: “Clip to Evernote”. The more adventurous might simply click it!
That might be the beginning of a new and beautiful, and hopefully long-lasting, relationship. Evernote is, essentially, an application for making, organizing, and sharing notes. But it is a distinctly versatile one, in that your notes can contain anything from writing, to files, to images, and parts of or entire web pages or blog posts. You can organize all these notes in notebooks, and organize those notebooks in stacks of notebooks. And perhaps the niftiest thing of all is that all of this information is synchronized in every place where you have Evernote installed, so that you can access all your notes from any of them. Currently, Evernote is available on a veritable slew of devices (Apple ones, Android ones, Windows ones, and others). So, in my case, I have Evernote on my iPhone, my iPad, my MacBook Pro at home, amd my iMac at the office. And I see all my growing collection of notes on all of them. Brilliant!
So, back to the little elephantine Evernote icon. If you, as I do, have an Evernote account, upon clicking that little icon, a dialogue box will pop up giving you some options by which to save the entire post or page. Now, I would find it very handy if this little guy were available on every site that I read. It’s a very handy shortcut. Another way to do rather the same thing is to install the Evernote webclipper in your browser (all the major browsers are covered). Click that, and you can create a note of either just a link to the page, or the entire page. And you can also access all your stuff on the Evernote website. Very handy!
And lest you think I’m trying to sell you something: perish the thought! The fully functional Evernote is available free. There is also a premium plan to which you may subscribe if you wish. There are certain benefits, the major one being a higher limit to the amount of synching you can do in a month. One that is kind of fun is that the OCRing of images is kicked to the front of the line for premium subscribers.
Anyway, I’m a big fan of Evernote now, as you, gentle reader, might have already perceived. If you have an interest in trying it, and you never have, click the icon, and you’ll be prompted to sign up for an account. If for some unfathomable reason you’re not interested, then certainly don’t click it, as it will do nothing productive for you. It only works if you have an account.
I think I’ll write a few more posts on various useful applications I’ve become fond of. Stay tuned for more!
Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light. (Matthew 11.28)
I’ve always thought that sounds like something else:
Give me your tired, your poor
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free
Take your pick.