The Holy Trinity by Andrei Rublev
Eastern and Western 500-year-long historical eras:
1) Complete union (0-500 A.D.) – from the time of Christ to Emperor Justinian
2) Weakening union (500-1000 A.D.) – from Justinian to the mutual excommunications
3) Deepening separation (1000-1500 A.D.) – from the mutual excommunications to the Council of Florence
4) Complete separation (1500-2000 A.D.) – from the Council of Florence to Vatican II
Now we are (hopefully) in the era of “deepening union,” which, if the past is any indication, could last 500 years before we could return to a “complete union” again. But every 500 years has to start somewhere, and it does appear that we are living at the beginning of a new era in Catholic-Orthodox relations.
Evidence of this deepening union abound. For example, there have been a number of articles recently on the “alliance” between the Catholic Church and the Russian Orthodox Church. Relations between these two churches are vitally important for the overall cause of Christian unity, as they are the two largest and most influential Christian churches in the world.
Historically, the Russian Orthodox Church has had little interest in ecumenical relations, but recently there seems to be a thaw in their attitude towards the outside world. Specifically, they appear to realize that the restoration of a Christian Europe is only possible by working together with the Catholic Church.
Last week, there was a wonderful cultural exchange when a concert was held in Rome featuring both Russian and Italian music. It was attended by Pope Benedict and Metropolitan Hilarion, the chairman of the Department of External Affairs of the Moscow Patriarchate. Both Benedict and Hilarion are accomplished musicians and have worked together in the past – before Benedict became pope.
The destruction of the Christian Faith in Europe has been a terrible thing to behold and has had untold negative consequences. But as usual, God works good out of man’s evil, and one good from the de-Christianization of Europe is the rediscovery of the common beliefs of the Catholic and Orthodox Churches.