We are practicing the same worship, the same spiritual disciplines, keeping the same calendar, keeping the same fasts. We’re practicing the same faith and we do that voluntarily.
I think the one thing that that people are least likely to understand is, that in the West, we think of unity as being a matter of all being in the same organization. How would you get the the church organized? How would you make it united? We would all belong to one institutional church. It seems obvious to my Catholic friends, this would mean, all the Orthodox, everybody in the world, acknowledges the Pope as the leader. That’s how you make unity. That’s how you make unity. That’s not actually how we see unity in the East though. In the East it has to do with sharing a common faith. Actually believing the same things. Not just writing statements and prayers in a way that you can interpret the words to mean what you think. You sort of stretch the words like a tent to cover whatever the opinions are, but actually from the inside out living and experiencing the same church. I think it’s like the difference between a lobster that has its skeleton on the outside, an exoskeleton, and a flounder that has a skeleton in the middle. It’s in the east, our faith that holds us together. One of the ways that we see this interior skeleton, one of the ways we see this interior faith, is is that we are practicing the same worship, the same spiritual disciplines, keeping the same calendar, keeping the same fasts. We’re practicing the same faith and we do that voluntarily. Why is it that Eastern Christians are agreeable about this? Why don’t they clamor and agitate for new stuff, for revision, for updating? The reason is that in the East we expect the faith to actually do something. It isn’t just a matter of having the right institution or having the right theology. Though I believe the Orthodox Church does have those things. That’s not what does it, really, it’s that we expect that practicing this faith will change people. And you know what, we see that it actually does. We see that over and over again. We see it in contemporary lives. We see people actually transformed into life bearing, light bearing Saints through practicing this way of life, this way of worship, this way of faith. We are glad to keep what this faith recommends because we know it actually transforms us. I think that’s a concept that you don’t always have in the West because of the time of the Reformation in the 1500 and what came after that as Protestant churches continued to split and split and split from each other. In the West we developed a climate of argument where we expect to disagree with each other. We expect to argue about things. We elevated the whole idea of argument and made it seem very important that being able to formulate explicit theological statements that rebuke the person who believed something differently. That just became so important over here. It’s as if the important thing is getting the words right getting the concept right. We don’t have to have that in the East because the important thing is, does it work? Does it actually change lives? We can see that it does, so we’re content to go on practicing the same thing.