Andrei Șaguna and ”The Organic Statute” – VI.3 The hierarchical-synodal principle

VI. THE CANONICAL PRINCIPLES OF ANDREI ŞAGUNA’S ECCLESIASTICAL ORGANIZATION

VI.3 The hierarchical-synodal principle

According to the Orthodox doctrine the Church’s form of government is defined by the word “Christocracy”, derived from the name of the founder and Head of the Church, who is Jesus Christ. Because the invisible holder of the entire Church power rules the social organism of the Church through visible organs, its form of government is defined – taking into consideration these organs that hold and exert the power in the visible or militant Church – by the expression “hierarchical-synodal leadership” or “episcopal-synodal leadership”. Thus, in the Church as a social organism the plenitude of the power is held by the episcopacy, which exercises its power individually, each bishop in his eparchy, and synodally by the Ecumenical Councils concerning the entire Church[1] or by the local Synods concerning a larger part (province) of the Church.[2]

The episcopal-synodal character being added to the christocratic one, the form of leadership in the Orthodoxy is christocratic-episcopal-synodal.[3]

On account of this, in his “Project of Regulation” Andrei Şaguna laid as fundamental principles of the church constitution the hierarchical principle and the synodal one: “The bishop is concerned with all those issues related to his eparchy”[4] and “the bishops’ synod is the supreme authority in the Church”[5].

The hierarchical principle is that Orthodox canonical principle according to which “the Church power in its highest stage is exercised by the bishops.”[6] After the Resurrection and before His ascent to heaven, Jesus Christ entrusted the Apostles with the power that he had exercised alone before, showing them how to exercise it. The Apostles exercised that received Church power in the form of three superposed instances: one Apostle, two-three Apostles, and the Apostolic College (cf. Matthew, 18.15-20). The bishops, as Apostles’ followers, did the same: each bishop in turn, two-three or more bishops assembled in local Synods, and all the bishops assembled in Ecumenical Councils.[7] So, the episcopacy is the recipient of complete power and authority in the visible (militant) Church.[8]

In “The Elements of Canon Law” Bishop Andrei Şaguna stated laconically: “The bishop is the ruler of the eparchy. The 38 apostolic canon clarifies this thing completely, saying: ‘Let the Bishop have the care of all ecclesiastical matters and let him manage them, on the understanding that God is overseeing and supervising.’ Everybody would be wrong to consider these words as a despotical or unlimited power of the bishop in the ecclesiastical affairs, because we read: ‘on the understanding that God is overseeing and supervising.’[9] In “Anthorismos” he used the 41 apostolic canon in order to underline the bishop’s authority: “denn es heißt im 41. apostolischen Kanon, daß der Bischof die Macht über die kirchlichen Angelegenheiten hat und über die theuren Seelen der Menschen, die ihm anvertraut sind.[10] The polemics of “Anthorismos” made reference also to the entirety of the Church power each bishop has in his eparchy, which had to be respected by the state too, if we consider the principle of autonomy: “wenn wir als Bischof diesen Modus der äußeren Reorganisation für gut und zweckentsprechend finden, so sind wir dann als Bischof berechtigt, unsere bischöfliche Ueberzeugung zu effektuieren, denn nach dem 34. apostolischen Kanon darf der Bischof in seiner Eparchie alles das thun, was zu seinem Bisthume und den unter demselben stehenden Dörfern gehört. Die Regierung hat nicht das Recht einen Bischof in der Effektuierung seiner streng oberhirtlichen und die Kirche betreffenden Ueberzeugung zu hindern, denn er wirkt kraft seines apostolischen Berufes…[11]

On the hierarchical character of the Orthodox Church wrote Bishop Andrei very expressively in a letter to a man seduced by the Calvinist Church’s constitution: “Our hierarchy does not accept any alteration, because it would mean that the Church cease to be one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church and it become a boat without floor. A reform of the hierarchical character of our Church is without thinking also because our Church has its institutions which its organism is grounded on. These institutions are holy and therefore unchangeable and stabile.”[12]

Practically, the hierarchical principle consists of “the organization, the working, and the leading of the Church according to the order imposed on the entire Church life by the hierarchy of the clergy divinely instituted.”[13] This hierarchy is composed of three levels – different from one another according to their measure of grace – that is deaconate, priesthood and episcopate. The hierarchical principle stems from the teaching on consecrated priesthood as an institutional element of the Church, and is based on it. At the same time, the hierarchical principle is not applied only to the relationships between the consecrated people in the Church or the relationships between consecrated people and the faithful, but also the relationships between all the organs of ecclesiastical rule, the relationships between any types of functions performed in the Church, as well as the relationships between the ecclesiastical units.

Besides the hierarchical principle, the principle of the eparchial autonomy[14] plays an important role in the Church; that is why the synodal or collegial principle was introduced through the 34 apostolic canon, according to which the principal matters are settled only by common decisions, by all the bishops gathered in synod or council.[15]

The synodal canonical principle “lies in the rule according to which the superior leading organs of the Church are not the individual ones, represented by one person, but those constituted in the form of synods, as collegial or collective organs.”[16]

All the bishops with apostolic succession have the complete power in the visible or militant Church, the entire episcopacy as college being at the core of the Orthodox Church’s organization.[17]

After the hierarchical principle, the synodal principle is given in the the practice and canons of the undivided Church of the first millennium the largest expression, by norms constantly noticed in the life of the Church: the practice of the Ecumenical Councils and of the other types of synods; 34 apostolic canon[18]; 37 apostolic canon[19]; canons 4, 5, and 6 of the First Ecumenical Council[20]; canon 6 of the Second Ecumenical Council[21], etc.

The synodality is the traditional and constant way in which the ecclesial life was organized and led. Before being seen as the form of Church leadership, it must be considered the organization form of the Church. Despite of all the abuses inevitable in certain circumstances, the synodal form of Church organization and leadership has been regarded as the most authentic and appropriate one, which stands out and is in agreement with the revealed teaching and the basic rules that the Holy Apostles and their followers established for the organization and leadership of the ecclesiastical life. In its essence, the church synodality means getting together on the same way, making common decisions and leading the entire life after common deliberations of those bounded by their faith and organizationally constituted in church communities, smaller or larger, up to the level of the Ecumenical Church.[22]

The Orthodox doctrine on the christocratic-episcopal-synodal leadership of the Church was sustained by Andrei Şaguna in his canonistical writings and materialized in the ecclesiastical organization[23]. On the Church, its mission and leading form, he wrote concisely but comprehensively, in “Anthorismos”: “Die Aufgabe der Kirche Christi ist die Vorbereitung der Gläubigen zur Antretung der Erbschaft des Reiches Gottes […]. Zur Lösung dieser Aufgabe hat der göttliche Erlöser Andeutungen gegeben und Lehren ertheilt, welche die vier Evangelisten aufgezeichnet haben; und zu seinen ersten Organen zur Verbreitung seiner Göttlichen Lehre hat er sich die 12 Apostel und die 72 Jünger gewählt (Math. 10.1; Luk. 10.1,2), indem er den Aposteln die Macht zu lösen und zu binden auf Erden gab (Math. 18.18), und sie beauftragte, seine Lehre überall auf Erden zu verbreiten, alle Völker zu lehren und zu taufen (Math. 28.19) […] und die Getauften zu unterrichten in Beobachtung aller Gebote, die er ihnen gegeben habe, denn er wird immerhin bei ihnen bis ans Ende der Welt sein (Math. 28.20). […] Paulus sagt in seinem Briefe an die Epheser, [im ersten Kapitel] v. 22-23, daß Gott unter den Füßen Jesus Christus alles unterworfen und ihn als das Haupt über die ganze Kirche gesetzt habe, und dann an die Kolosser c.1 v. 18.: Christus ist das Haupt der Kirche; er ist der erste von den Todten auferstanden, damit er in allem den Vorzug habe […]. Es ist noch zu bemerken, daß die Apostel keinen gewichtigeren und allgemeineren Gegenstand ganz allein und einseitig verhandelt hätten, sondern immer in den Sinoden oder besser gesagt, in Versammlungen. Die erste ist im Jahre 33 oder 34 n. Chr. gewesen, wegen der Wahl eines Apostels an die Stelle des Verräthers Judas, worin Joseph und Mathias vorgeschlagen wurden und das Los auf den Mathias fiel.[24]

The plenary church authority and power in the visible Church cannot be concentrated on one hierarch but only on the Ecumenical Council: “The centre of the Church on earth cannot be represented by any bishop, because it is spiritual, but it can be represented only by the Ecumenical Council [consisting] of bishops, priests, and laymen under the spiritual Head who is Christ.”[25]

In his opening speech of the second mixed eparchial synod of October 1860, the bishop specified: “The assemblies [councils or synods] have always been considered to be the soul of the best ecclesiastical order, because it is there that canons were established so as to apply the dogmas of the faith in their entirety, to respect the rules, and to organize the local Churches.[26] He wrote extensively on synodality in several of his canonistical works.[27]

Considering the synodality an apostolic institution totally preserved by the Orthodoxy, even in unfavourable social and political conditions, Andrei Şaguna pleaded for its intact perpetuation: “Wir sind also für die strengste Aufrechthaltung der primitiven Satzungen, welche im Laufe von 19 Jahrhunderten unverletzt erhalten und unverkümmert bis auf uns gekommen sind; wir sind nämlich für das Institut der Sinoden, oder besser gesagt, für kirchliche Versammlungen in der Art zusammengesetzt, wie es die Natur des betreffenden Gegenstandes erheischt …[28] Not only the bishops are entitled to exercise the Church power by the synods, bur also the clergy and the laymen, because “the surest warranty to sustain Christ’s Church cannot be found in any physical individuality, be it adorned with all titles, but only in the spiritual individuality, which in our times the great Church of Constantinople calls to be the rudder of the whole Church and is in Pedalion, but it is exercised through the synods, where assemble either just the bishops, or also priests, deacons and the most trustworthy of the Christians, depending on the issues under discussion.”[29]

Image: The three angels – pre-figuring of The Holy Trinity, detail from the mosaic depicting the hospitality of Abraham, Basilica San Vitale, Ravenna, 6th century. Source: Pinterest

[1] The Church power for the entire visible Church is exercised only through the Ecumenical Council, as a successor of the Apostles’ college in the sphere of power. Cf. L. STAN, Har şi jurisdicţie, 16.

[2] Cf. L. STAN, Mirenii în biserică, 31.

[3] Cf. I. IVAN, Câţiva termeni canonici, 98.

“In the [Orthodox] Church it is not the social organism that holds the power in any special way, it does not lend it to its leaders, turning it into authority and investing them with it, as it usually happens in the civil societies; here, in the Church, the authority comes down from the supernatural order, it has its principle in Christ and its investment with power comes from Christ too. It is not the power [the social organism] that creates authority, but the supreme holder of the Church power [Jesus Christ] gives power – through the organs created by him – to the authority based on grace, instituted by sharing the grace. The fundament of authority and power is created in the Church by consecration.” L. STAN, Mirenii în biserică, 32-33.

[4] A. Baronu de SIAGUNA, Proiectu de unu Regulamentu, §99.

[5] Ibid., §211. See also the chapters V.2, V.3.2, and V.3.3 herein.

[6] I. IVAN, Autocefalia Bisericii Ortodoxe Române – un veac de la recunoaşterea ei, 15.

[7] Cf. I. IVAN, Câţiva termeni canonici, 98.

[8] The plenitude of the Church authority in Orthodoxy, the entire power of the Church, of the whole mystical body of Christ (the triumphant Church and the militant Church) is held only by Jesus Christ as the Head and supreme ruler of the Church. Jesus Christ exercises his authority in a visible way too, in the Church as a social institution (the militant Church) through the Holy Apostles and then through the bishops, as their followers to whom is conferred by consecration the entire special (clerical) power, which is necessary to them for the work they are called for. Cf. D. BELU, Autoritatea în Biserică, 555-556; L. STAN, Poziţia laicilor în Biserica Ortodoxă, 198-199.

[9] A. Baronu de ŞAGUNA, Elementele dreptului canonic, 21855, 82-83.

[10] A. Baron de SCHAGUNA, Anthorismos oder berichtigende Erörterung, 54. See the text of the mentioned canons.

[11] A. Baron de SCHAGUNA, Anthorismos oder berichtigende Erörterung, 108.

[12] “Andrei Şaguna către Gheorghe Contici” (“Andrei Şaguna to Gheorghe Contici”), un-dated draft, in: A. ŞAGUNA, Corespondenţa I/2, 221-222 here 222.

[13] L. STAN, Legislaţia Bisericii Ortodoxe Române în timpul arhipăstoririi Prea Fericitului Părinte Patriarh Justinian, 281-282.

[14] In Orthodoxy, according to the principle of eparchial autonomy, of the sovereignty of the eparchial bishop in his eparchy, each bishop exercises the Church power in his eparchy independently of any other bishop, thus the equality of power among all bishops being asserted. Cf. I. IVAN, Autocefalia Bisericii Ortodoxe Române – un veac de la recunoaşterea ei, 15. See also the chapter VI.2.1 herein.

[15] Actually, there is a distinction between the synodality and the episcopal-synodal collegiality in the ecclesiological language of the Orthodox Church and that of the Catholic Church. See N. DURĂ, Le Régime de la Synodalité, 107-265.

About synod, council, and collegiality within Catholic Church see E. CORECCO, Ordinatio Fidei, 380 et seqq.; Julius Folo KAFUTI, Die Bischofssynode. Ein möglicher Ersatz für das Ökumenische Konzil?, in: S. DEMEL, L. MÜLLER (Hrsg.), Krönung oder Entwertung des Konzils?, 127-146.

See an Orthodox approach of the terms “synod” and “council” at N. DURĂ, Le Régime de la Synodalité, 107-118.

[16] L. STAN, Legislaţia Bisericii Ortodoxe Române în timpul arhipăstoririi Prea Fericitului Părinte Patriarh Justinian, 283.

[17] “Regarding the equal power that Christ entrusted all the Apostles and, implicitly, all the bishops, is conclusive the assurance He gave them on the occasion of the Last Supper on Holy Thursday, when the Apostles were fighting for supremacy (Luke 22.24), telling them they will all sit on twelve judgement seats at the world’s final judgement (Luke 22.30; Matthew 19.28), they are each other’s brothers (Matthew 23.6-12), which excludes the superiority of any of them. That the Apostle Peter did not receive any right of supreme rule results also from the fact that he obeyed the Apostles’ College. Thus, he was sent with John to Samaria, to give the Holy Ghost to all those baptised by deacon Philip (Acts 8.14); moreover, after he had preached in Caesarea, Joppa etc., he had to account to the Apostles in Jerusalem for entering the house of the pagan soldier Cornelius (Acts, 11.3-4). When arose the question of compulsory circumcision of those who converted to Christianity and had belonged to gentiles, St. Peter, who hesitated, was even scolded by St. Apostle Paul (Galateans, 2.11-13) and had to subject himself to the Apostles’ College’s decision (Acts, 15.19-22). Actually, St. Peter did not credit himself, on any occasion, with any special rank or power higher than the other Apostles, calling himself ‘syn-presbyteros’, meaning ‘shepherd together with the others’ (I Peter 5.1).” I. IVAN, Câţiva termeni canonici, 98-99.

[18] According to ap. c. 34 the bishops of every nation have to know the one among them who is the premier or chief, and to recognise him as their head. Each bishop enjoys autonomy in his eparchy, being connected to the hierarchical subordination and to the synodality.

[19] According to ap. c. 37 a council of bishops shall be held twice a year.

[20] According to c. 4 of the First Ecumenical Council a new bishop should be ordined /enthroned by all the bishops of his province or at least by three of them.

According to c. 5 of the First Ecumenical Council in each province will be held synods of all the bishops every year twice a year, for common discussions on disciplinary questions

C. 6 of the First Ecumenical Council refers not only to the rule: each province has a head (metropolitan, later patriarch), but also to the common vote (by the synod) of the bishops under the rule of each metropolitan.

[21] C. 6 of the Second Ecumenical Council, treating the problem of the ecclesiastical discipline and the accusations against the bishops, refers to the provincial synod of all the bishops of the province, and to a “greater synod of the bishops of the diocese” as ecclesiastical judicial instances in these cases.

[22] Cf. L. STAN, Despre sinodalitate, 155-158.

By the Second Vatican Council the synodality increased its importance in the ecclesiology and canon law of the Roman Church too. See W. AYMANS, Kirchenrechtliche Beiträge zur Ekklesiologie, 169-218; E. CORECCO, Ordinatio Fidei, 313-401; Libero GEROSA, Sabine DEMEL, Peter KRÄMER, Ludger MÜLLER (Hrsg.), Patriarchale und synodale Strukturen in den katholischen Ostkirchen, Münster 2001; Libero GEROSA, Rechtstheologische Grundlagen der Synodalität in der Kirche, in: Iuri Canonico Promovendo. Festschrift für Heribert Schmitz zum 65. Geburtstag, hrsg. von Winfried Aymans – Karl-Theodor Geringer, Regensburg 1994, 35-55; IDEM, Canon Law 229 et seqq.; K. MÖRSDORF, Schriften zum Kanonischen Recht, 256-283; A. M. ROUCO VARELA, Schriften zur Theologie des Kirchenrechts und zur Kirchenverfassung, 291-309; Norbert WITSCH, Synodalität auf Ebene der Diözese, Paderborn u.a. 2004.

[23] About the “undermining” of the hierarchical-synodal principle stated by Andrei Şaguna in the “Project of Regulation” see the chapters V.3.2 and V.3.3 herein.

[24] A. Baron de SCHAGUNA, Anthorismos oder berichtigende Erörterung, 120-122.

[25] A. Baronu de SIAGUN`A, Compendiu, 95.

[26] Actele Soboarelor…1850 şi 1860, 72.

[27] See A. Baronu de ŞAGUNA, Elementele dreptului canonic, 21855, 11-22; A. Baron de SCHAGUNA, Anthorismos oder berichtigende Erörterung, 122-127; A. Baronu de SIAGUN`A, Compendiu, 313-348.

[28] A. Baron de SCHAGUNA, Anthorismos oder berichtigende Erörterung, 127.

[29] Actele Soboarelor…1850 şi 1860, 86.

 

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