Ancient Anathemas

Today in Havana, the Bishop of Rome –  His Holiness Pope Francis –  Sovereign pope and patriarchof the Vatican City will sit down with the Patriarch of Moscow and all Russia – Primate of the Russian Orthodox Church –  Bishop Kirill.  The last time the Roman Catholic Pope met with the Russian Orthodox Patriarch was 1964 in Jerusalem.

You can read about the 1050 schism between the Eastern and Western Church here.  This article speaks of “ancient ‘anathemas‘” between these two branches of Christianity who have called each other heretics, held each other in contempt, and condemned each other to hell.

We’re talking about cosmic things here.

Many of us carry ancient anathemas around with us too, but they tend to be less weighty than matters of human reason versus human nature or from where the Holy Spirit proceeds.  Is it from the Father and the Son (Roman Catholic) or solely from the Father (Orthodox.)  Of course, “anathema” in the Church is a curse involving excommunication.  An anathema is “devoted to evil.”

Those are fighting words, especially if the differences are about whether or not Mary was herself immaculately conceived.  (Our Orthodox sisters and brothers say no.)  But enough about doctrine and theological truths.

Is there anyone in your life whom you consider to be an anathema? Is there any situation which you consider to be anathema?

[Here’s one.]

Some of us carry bitterness over relatively minor slights.  But others of us carry anger and fear based on the actions of people who have genuinely hurt us or the people we love.  If we have never experienced being personally wounded to the point that we are now haunted and heavy-hearted, we are most fortunate.

And so now we find ourselves in the season of Lent.  This is the season when we turn from our destructive ways to a new way that brings life.  This is the season that we try to forgive because we’ve been forgiven.  This is the season when we walk toward the light and ask to be set free.

It’s not easy.  It might even feel impossible.  But the Pope and the Patriarch are meeting today and so maybe anything is possible in these 40 days.


Images are of the men formerly known as Jorge Mario Bergoglio and Vladimir Mikhailovich Gundyayev who now wear the holy headware of the Vicar of Christ and the Patriarchal Vicar respectively.

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