Several times I've read and even participated in discussions concerning the differences between Orthodox and Catholic theology. Too often I see that these differences are boiled down to "East vs. West." For example, it is simplistically implied that to become Orthodox is to reject Western philosophical categories or Western theological approaches, upon which is blamed every heresy (real or imagined).
I think, however, the differences in
Eastern and Western Christian approaches are too often overdrawn. Differences in approach have
existed since before the schism and, too often, they are
magnified out of proportion. When this is done, acceptable distinctions
become seemingly inseparable differences. A regrettable result is that
these differences are laid at the foot of the West generally or a
Western approach; or vice versa. The problem, in my view and in the view
of some Orthodox and Catholic theologians, is not the West or the East
but these distorted magnifications which overwhelm or skew or (in a few
cases) negate these different but acceptable approaches. The solution is to eschew the simplistic tendency to blame the West, and to embrace the good which both approaches offer.
03 April 2012
The Irish Catholic Bishops have recently published a letter on repentance which, I think, says many good things. Here are a few choice excerpts.
The word ‘repentance’ means seeking forgiveness for our sins, but more than that, it involves transforming our attitudes and our lives. The New Testament word, metanoia, means a profound change of outlook. Repentance or penance is not a question of inflicting pain or hardship on ourselves for its own sake. Penance – fasting, prayer, works of mercy, giving to those who are in need and so on – is done ‘because the kingdom of God has come near’; we repent in order to ‘believe in the good news’. It is a change of outlook that allows us to see more clearly what God is doing in us and for us....
The reason for carrying out acts of penance is that we know we have often failed to appreciate that everything we have and are is a gift from God. We have all pursued our own interests, standing and influence as if these were our goal in life. And so it is good to pray, fast and give alms –activities which express a realisation that the pursuit of such goals cannot be what makes ultimate sense of our lives. That points to the second and more important way of looking at why we do penance – in order to receive the Good News. The words that come from the mouth of God are not just rules or demands. It is in the words of promise and love that come from the mouth of God that we find the meaning of human life....
If we allow lesser realities to occupy the place in our lives which belongs to God who is love (1 Jn 4:8, 16), we inevitably obscure our understanding of the full reality of God’s gift. The lesser things that we pursue can be important and good. Everyone needs goals and hopes in life, but no created reality can fully and eternally satisfy us: Let us say once again, we need the greater and lesser hopes that keep us going day by day. But these are not enough without the great hope, which must surpass everything else. This great hope can only be God, who encompasses the whole of reality and who can bestow upon us what we, by ourselves, cannot attain.3 Penance or repentance is not simply an exercise that we do from time to time. It is, one might say, what our life is about.