Differences between the Christian East and West

Two scholars dealing with different issues suggest differences in the ways in which the Eastern and Western Christian traditions operate.

Discussing the ways in which the Orthodox and Roman Catholic traditions approach the problem of divorce, Cl. Gallagher quotes the words of another author: ‘The crucial difference between the two disciplines lies not in the fact that one accepts divorce and the other does not, but that the…Orthodox approaches the reality of human failure in this area from a biblical, personalist, human point of view, while the [other] approaches it from a biblical, legalist point of view, trying to apply the perceived law of God.’

The Jesuit scholar Robert Taft concludes a study of the Liturgy of St John Chrysostom by anticipating a question: ‘”We have been observing the evolution of the most complex ritual in Christendom. Who legislated it all?” The answer, of course, is no-one. The Eastern solution to the Western dilemma of rubricism or anarchy is not canon law, not the liturgical commission, not the Congregation of Rites, but the supple continuity of a living tradition. There may be a message here for us all.’


Word has come from the United States of the death of a significant Orthodox figure, Archpriest Peter Gillquist. May his memory be eternal!


  • Meryl McLeod

    I wonder if a fragment I heard on a recent ABC theology or philosophy programme has some relevance to your mention of the importance of the role of older members of a family. The speaker asserted the different understanding of the concept of ‘virtue’ in past centuries, when it seems to have resided in the actual practice of devotion rather than in living one’s life on a moral basis. I am hesitant about offering this contribution and am ready to admit error. However it caught my attention, if briefly, at the time. I will try to find the source of the discussion.

  • John

    Thank you for your comment, Meryl.

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