De unione §§ 1-2
September 27, 2007
It is probably well for me to be a little more conscientious about the sort of things I present on this blog for public consumption. Because Bekkos is not well known, and no English translation of him has hitherto been published, I must assume that many readers will have been confused and frustrated by my last posting, which presented a series of propositions about an author they cannot have read. I apologize; as mentioned earlier, the original purpose of this blog was largely a selfish one: I had hoped it might serve as a cure for the torpor that had settled in upon me in the writing process, as I try to finish a book about him and get on with my own life; inevitably, therefore, much of what is posted to this blog may appear to others as scattered observations in search of connecting threads, bits of a book that has not yet been written. Anyway, I don’t like making large, sweeping assertions while providing no basis upon which to judge them. So it seems to me fitting that, if I am going to write about Bekkos on this blog, I should give readers a certain exposure to his own voice. Here, then, are the opening two paragraphs of his book, On the Union and Peace of the Churches of Old and New Rome, in a translation I hope eventually to publish. I don’t intend to post the entire book to the internet, since I would like to see it published in the old-fashioned way, in the form of a physical book. But a small sampling here and there is not out of order. Here, then, making his first public appearance in many years, is John Bekkos:
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1. The Savior’s complete truthfulness in all things allows even me, giving this prologue, to say: the Lord spoke right to the point when he said in the Gospels, “Search the scriptures” (John 5:39). For, although this divine saying has perhaps been voiced by many others over the years, who applied it to the needs of their own times, never has it been as relevant as it is now. And that this and nothing else is most apt for the present matter (in speaking of which I have been led to borrow my opening song from the storage chest of the Gospels), the matter itself will show, when our discourse has disrobed to wrestle with the arguments that concern it. Now, the matter about which we have been moved to speak is called this, the union of the Churches. Which Churches? That of the older Rome, and that of our new Rome. Although, because of their former division, I was torn apart, I rejoice and delight over their present union. Nevertheless, contemplating this division, I cry, utterly at a loss: Oh where will I find a fountain of tears, so that I may weep, even if inadequately and not in proportion to the magnitude of the sickness, nevertheless that I may weep over the thick darkness that, from this, has overtaken our whole society, this estrangement of our allotted portion which, because of this thing, has overspread the Roman terrain, not only by a cutting off of temporal sovereignty, which has been mutilated by a loss of cities and lands, far-flung islands, and whole peoples; but also, more seriously, by a loss extending to matters of religion — if indeed Mohammed and Mahomet represent a loss of religious faith, while they revel inside our sacred shrines, and there (O God, what defilement!) perform their bacchic frenzies, where formerly the great mystery of the Christian mysteries was celebrated. For that the evil of this schism has brought about our ruin even to this extent, the long duration of our miseries clearly demonstrates, not only to us who suffer these things, but to all nations throughout the world. And if anyone should desire some other way to gauge the force of this incredible evil, let him only consider how much I am afflicted merely by remembering these things. For, although I have another object in this introductory discourse, namely, to speak of ecclesiastical peace, and to argue before both those of the present day and those of future generations how rightly the desolating schism of the Churches was set aside by us and God-beloved unity and peace were admitted in its place, I have nevertheless deferred these matters, since I was reminded of the evils that have taken hold of us from the division, and I began by weaving together misfortunes and lamentation. And if the urgency of the subject did not have prior claims on us, perhaps we would have roused the whole creation to united sorrow by giving a detailed account of the evils that have befallen Christianity from the division of the Churches. But, as the incredible force of this evil will be apparent from the things that remain to be said, let us go on to treat of those things that more directly relate to our subject matter.
2. Now, because of the very urgent need for us to take up these matters which we earlier proposed, we here declare that our principal object in this treatise is to demonstrate that the schism was introduced into the Churches without justification, that it was not for solid ecclesiastical reasons or commendable causes that peoples and clergy, pastors and priests have been sundered, but through a certain petty variance of sound which actually does not impair orthodox belief, but which, all the same, has been taken on both sides to imply a difference of faith. In view of this object of the treatise, I would like now to summarize its whole contents; it has two parts. In the first part are set forth methodically all the written statements in which ancient writers on the doctrine of the Trinity clearly express the view that the Holy Spirit exists from the substance of the Father and the Son, which is what the Church of the Romans acknowledges when it asserts that he proceeds from both; in the second part arguments will be given, God willing, to show that the agenda of the instigators of the schism, and their latter-day followers’ pursuit of similar objectives, lack valid grounds for so great a calamity as this deadly schism of the Churches. For, were we to demonstrate, by citations, that the Church of Rome has not erred in any point of religion, that would suffice to uphold the claim that its detractors are not speaking rightly; and, conversely, by a single demonstration that the partisans of schism have, in support of the schism, argued fallaciously, it would be made known that the Church of Rome has not erred at all in matters of faith. But since we have Truth’s great bounty to rely upon in our zeal to refute falsehood, we shall prepare ourselves for a two-fold wrestling match: after first going through, as God may grant, the former kind of evidence, that is, employing written testimonies in support of the Roman Church’s soundness in matters of faith, we will, in the second part, lay out the rest, namely, a refutation of those things which have been said and written by those who, at various times, have waged argumentative warfare against the Roman Church.