The Church and State

As Americans we live by the standard of separation of church and state. This uniquely American ideal has its benefits for sure. Historically, though, the Orthodox Church has not been free of civil interventions, and today is only the most recent example.

Today the Church commemorates Saint Photios the Great, Patriarch of Constantinople. His life and teachings continue to be a source of pride and strength for the Church. Having stood boldly against heresy, he also was the catalyst of serious conflict within the Church and Empire.

We prefer to read the story of Saint Photios merely as the defender of the faith. We have much to be thankful for in this regard. We can also benefit from understanding the historical context in which he lived. Today’s regional conflicts within the Church are complicated by overlying political rivalries. Not much has changed since the 9th century.

I wonder sometimes if the “Photian Schism” (as it is known) between Rome and Constantinople would have been much ado about nothing if the emperors had not been involved. It is like reading today’s Orthodox News feeds. The Church just cannot break free from political influence. That is because we are sinful human beings living in a sinful world.

My point in sharing this today, in memory of Saint Photios the Great, is to comfort you. Our hearts may cringe when we read various Orthodox news feeds, but we can also seek peace knowing this is the not the first time the Church has been a pawn in the political battle for power.

I’m not choosing sides. I merely invite you to ‘slow down’ with your condemnation of various bishops. The Holy Spirit is still protecting the Church and this too will pass. It always has and always will. We honor Saint Photios the Great to remember the Church will survive.

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