The illusory power of the Constantinople Patriarchate
The Patriarchate of Constantinople, intoxicated by postmodernist power to create a parallel history, destroys itself. Therefore, it is so important not to trust it.
The news that the Athenian Archdiocese (the Hellenic Orthodox Church) decided to recognize, i.e. to take into communion the Orthodox Church of Ukraine is interesting and tragic not only because it plays an important role in the current drama of the collapse of the Orthodox Church.
To some extent, this decision was expected and did not surprise those who are aware of the situation in Orthodoxy, where relations between Constantinople and Moscow are brought to the level of confrontation between nations, Hellenes and barbarians, and a conflict of power.
What should really surprise us is a kind of tact and diplomacy, which is still preserved. However, it is gradually becoming apparent that this is not so much a breakdown of communication between the Hellenistic and Slavic Local Churches and not so much a geopolitical division of the Orthodox world as a consistent division in the language, concepts, meanings, and interpretations.
It’s hard to say whether this division will be overcome since Athens does not recognize that because of their own ethnocentric phobias of the “Russian adversity” they agreed to participate in the project of the collapse of the narrative of Russian identity, in which Kiev is an integral part of the polycentrism of the Great, Small and White Rus’ (regardless of whether we identify this narrative with the ideology of the "Russian world" or not).
They did not even mention their own vassalage to the geostrategic centres of power, the vassalage that would give them at least some justification. In fact, they mentioned only one fundamental and essential fact, a hermeneutic key, which helps us understand the real course of events – they referred to the "right of the Ecumenical Patriarchate to grant autocephaly", on the basis of which Athens decided to recognize "autocephaly of the Orthodox Church of the Independent Republic of Ukraine ".
The postmodern nature of the Constantinople Patriarchate’s claims to primacy
Of course, in Greece and in the entire Orthodox world, voices will begin to raise countless questions, one of which will most likely be the question of apostolic succession in the OCU itself.
But what distinguishes the current church crisis from all the previous ones is not the geostrategic depth of division or the weakness of the internal unity of the Orthodox Church, which in no way determines the way of survival in such unity (if we are a conciliar Church, where are then the regular councils of all Local Churches?). Today it is obvious that Constantinople and the Local Churches, which agreed or will agree with its vision of the existence of the Orthodox Church, have adopted their particular point of view on reality, in fact, representing a postmodern vision of the Church, namely, the realization of the idea of primacy in the sense and context of postmodernity.
However, an impatient reader who is unwilling to believe in reasonings using slang cliches of humanity disciplines (including “postmodernism” and “postmodernist”), will not see any frills or just another theological text here. I am not writing this text for the sake of being “postmodern”, but I want to point out that without understanding at least elementary conceptual postmodern statements it is impossible to understand the actions of the Patriarchate of Constantinople.
What is the manifestation of the postmodernism of the church drama, which began after the Phanar’s decision to first grant the OCU “autocephaly” and then perform actions that would result in other Local Churches voluntarily or involuntarily (jointly or under threat) to agree with this decision?
When reality is replaced by an interpretation of reality
One of the distinguishing features of postmodernism is the belief in the futility of conceptuality as such. A picture of a shattered world in which there is no stability implies that it is the strength that dictates to us not only how to interpret facts but also how to interpret concepts. Good and evil, truth and falsehood are all components of reality, which is relative like any other reality. Thus, concepts that are meaningless can be completely insignificant. Deconstructed, they can be reconstructed as their own opposite: the truth of one may turn out to be a lie of the other.
What does this have to do with the theology of the Patriarchate of Constantinople? The most direct. Let's analyze the Tomos of autocephaly granted to OCU:
“Based on the foregoing, we declare that the Autocephalous Church in Ukraine recognizes the Holy Apostolic and Patriarchal Throne, as well as other patriarchs and primates, and fulfills, along with other canonical duties and obligations, its most important mission – to preserve the purity of our Orthodox faith, as well as canonical unity and communion with the Ecumenical Patriarchate and other Local Orthodox Churches ... In case of serious questions of the church, dogmatic or canonical nature, His Beatitude Metropolitan of Kiev, on behalf of the Holy Synod of his Church is obliged to turn to our Holy Patriarchal and Ecumenical Throne, seeking its authoritative opinion and fair interpretation, while the rights of the Ecumenical Throne against the Exarchate and sacred stauropegion must not be violated."
Though it is clear to Patriarch Bartholomew that the other “patriarchs and primates” do not recognize the throne he sits on as their “head”, he believes that he can establish a lie as truth by completely reversing the value system.
Here we come to the problem of constructing reality: though it is completely clear to Patriarch Bartholomew that the other “patriarchs and primates” do not recognize the throne he sits on as their “head”, he believes that when choosing between actual reality and constructed new reality, which is false by nature, he can establish a lie as truth, completely reversing the value system. This ability to ignore the other is not postmodern. It underlies the idea of the Roman primacy, when the "Peter’s heir" performs his "ministry" even over the Local Churches and people who do not recognize and do not want this.
However, while the First Rome needed to legitimize its own aspirations, at least with the help of a number of historical falsifications (the most famous of which is the sacristy of Constantine), the Second Rome bases its claims in the spirit of postmodernists, relying not so much on documents but on interpretations (according to the Nietzschean principle, which states that there are no facts other than interpretations). Thus, if "actual reality" is established on the basis of its interpretation, then it is obvious that actual reality as such does not mean anything.
The Tomos of OCU, from the point of view of formal logic, is nonsense but non-accidental one
It is obvious to any thoughtful person with basic knowledge of Orthodox theology that the document, on the one hand, speaks of granting “autocephaly” (complete church independence from external influence), and on the other hand, the OCU essentially “is granted” something, even not representing autonomy. The whole Tomos, from the point of view of formal logic, can be regarded as nonsense (The sentence: “In view of the above, we declare that the Autocephalous Church in Ukraine recognizes the Holy Apostolic and Patriarchal Throne” [Προσεπιδηλοῦμεν τοῖς ἀνωτέρωρω ὅτι ἡ ἐνέτΟὐρλρωρω ὅτι ἐ ἐνέτΟὐρλρέρω ὅτι ἐ ἐλ τὸν Ἁγιώτατον Ἀποστολικὸν καὶ Πατριαρχικὸν Οἰκουμενικὸν Θρόνον] represents the culmination of this absurdity and inconsistency).
But this nonsense is not accidental – it is postmodern: autocephaly is not true autocephaly but what Constantinople offers as autocephaly. The meaning of this term is not defined either within itself or within the framework of the previous reception, it is determined by the fact what Constantinople (as well as its geopolitical patrons) wants to use as such a meaning. It may be meaningless, but the meaning does not exist on its own: if necessary, it is re-determined each time, depending on the situation. This is precisely the “non-accidental” nature of it: not only historical facts but also entire institutions can and should be subjected to the dictatorship of new imposed meanings, meanings that exist and make sense (only) at the moment when they are determined by the Almighty power.
The nonsense of the Tomos of the OCU is not accidental – it is postmodern: autocephaly is not a true autocephaly but what Constantinople offers as autocephaly.
This is the reason why the first thing Constantinople took care of is real power. Not just the right to control the distribution of money within the Kiev Metropolis, but the power that gives the right to control the interpretation of facts and institutions: in this way, the OCU will forever remain the hermeneutic client of the “Mother Church”.
The power that Constantinople aspires, is demonic, from a postmodern point of view. This power needs a continuous existence, inside which everything can be, but it does not have to be, and only this power is the only “interpreter”. And despite the fact that Moscow has both military, demographic, church-political, and financial potential, which often has the character of an indelicate and brute force, Moscow, in fact, turns out to be plainly weak against the demands put forward by the Phanar.
It needs her power to be self-evidently perceived as greatness, but it has no desire to create constant “fluctuations” of facts and institutions, within which there remains only the ability of the One to establish and destroy the dignity of others to the extent that suits only the One.
The narcotic toxin of the "new" reality
The ideas that the autocephaly of the Serbian, Bulgarian, Romanian Orthodox Churches and others already granted can undergo changes or be interpreted to one degree or another can only be heard in the Phanar's postmodern speeches.
Although we know that historical facts cannot be changed retroactively depending on today's benefits, this does not apply to our situation.
Just as nobody in Kiev today remembers the times when parades took place on Khreshchatyk on May 9 with the participation of veterans of the Red Army (whose antifascist legacy before the Euromaidan Ukraine also wanted to inherit), and not the OUN-UPA veterans, no one remembers themselves in Constantinople before the autumn of 2018.
The peculiarity of the Constantinople postmodern ideology is that it is able to offer us the idea that the Power of the Interpreter (that is, the Mother Church) has the right to form our collective memories of the events of the past. Today, the Phanar assures us that Ukraine has always been its canonical territory, that the same person, Patriarch Bartholomew, himself did not confirm the anathema of Filaret Denisenko, etc. Again, here we see common ideas with newly formed identity projects.
Just as nobody in Kiev today remembers the times when parades took place on Khreshchatyk on May 9 with the participation of veterans of the Red Army (whose antifascist legacy before the Euromaidan Ukraine also wanted to inherit), and not the OUN-UPA veterans, no one remembers themselves in Constantinople before the autumn of 2018. This narcotic perception of current reality, in which there is no unity even with oneself, implies a crazy, continuous and illegible choice between (quasi) realism and fiction.
And here we are faced with the post-modern instrumentalization of the "real" and "imaginary", with another paradox. In other words, when, for example, the Phanar points out the political situation in Ukraine as a reason for granting "autocephaly", it establishes the legitimacy of the question of the political situation as a criterion for church organization.
Contrast of political reality and church decisions
If political reality is the only or even decisive criterion, then the project of Ukrainian autocephaly is justified only to the extent that it justifies the judgment that Constantinople is Istanbul, a city in Turkey. That is, the "fictitious" Constantinople takes "church-missionary" steps, guided by the "real" independence of Ukraine.
How can the Patriarchate of Constantinople make us forget about the reality of 1453?
The “New Rome” stands and exists even when it is not there: Ukraine, like everything else, plays only episodic historical roles here. Strength is systematically dishonest, from the point of view of hermeneutics, but it does not care because it feels like strength: it tells us that we can agree on what happened in 1219, 1767 or 1879. We can even agree to a massive hallucination, a parallel reality in which it did not change its position in 2018 compared to the position of previous years, but how can it make us forget about the reality of 1453?
There is a kind of demonic nature in postmodern actions. It knows very well how tragically "fragmented" a person is in the fallen world in which he/she exists, how all relations and institutions are subject to change. But postmodernism made a religion out of the fall, a silent measure and norm – out of the fragmentations of the fallen world, mocking all the norms of the whole. Deconstructing the "narratives of power", it secretly worshiped the strengths of power, violence against man. And that is why its nature is demonic. And that is why its nature leads to self-destruction.
Constantinople destroys itself
The Patriarchate of Constantinople, intoxicated by postmodernist power to create parallel history and concepts, destroys itself. Therefore, it is so important not to trust it. It is important to protect Constantinople from itself, from the postmodern quasi-theology of the Patriarchate of Constantinople. Constantinople is not the Phanar; the Phanar is not Constantinople.
What is the basis for Constantinople to strengthen its power in order to not only manage relations between Orthodox churches being “the first among equals” (all this belongs to it according to the Tradition) but also to be “first without equals” in the absurd fantasies of Metropolitan Elpidophoros, to provide autocephaly without consultation with any other Local Church and establish the facts and their interpretation?
Today’s privileges and prerogatives of Constantinople stem from its position as the New Rome, despite the fact that for a long time there has been no empire or city in which it would be the "Great Church of Christ".
On the basis of one’s own perception of oneself, on the basis of Hellenistic racial solidarity and geostrategic benefits within the framework of a certain actual (today) project. An even greater paradox is that the Church of Constantinople destroys itself with its own postmodern ideology.
We continue to observe how today’s privileges and prerogatives of Constantinople stem from its position as the New Rome, despite the fact that for a long time there has been no empire or city in which it would be the "Great Church of Christ." Constantinople exists in only one collective but equally significant “imagination” of the Orthodox Church as a place of fundamental importance for its conciliar ethnos. This “imagology” (a discipline on interpreting objects foreign for the perceiver – Ed.) is both historical and eschatological: historical by nature and eschatological because we expect – in contrast to the “realism of the current situation” - that Christ will reappear and gather us in His Temple, in His Temple as the Wisdom of God.
If everything is subjected to “contextualization” and the “real world picture” is taken into account, then the first victim of this banal realism will be Constantinople itself, which is not there. Nevertheless, it, Constantinople, exists but differs significantly from what Patriarch Bartholomew now leads.
Constantinople that is not obsessed with Hellenism, Constantinople that sent Constantine the Philosopher and Methodius, Constantinople that ethnically moved to Nicaea and was able to fraternally love others. Such Constantinople is still found everywhere, but only, apparently, not at Phanar.
To some extent, it was this ability of Constantinople to be the "navel of the world" that made it the "chronotope" of such great modern novels as "Baudolino" by Umberto Eco, the "Dictionary of the Khazars" by Milorad Pavić, and the "Navel of the World" by the wonderful Venko Andonovski. Constantinople unites and ignores time and place but only when it is a place of constancy, full of meaning and content. Deprived of them, Constantinople ceases to exist. It did not cease to exist either in 1204 or in 1453. Did it cease to exist in 2019?
Archpriest Darko Jogo – a theologian and publicist, a professor of the Orthodox Theological Faculty of the Serbian Orthodox Church in Bosnia and Herzegovina.