1. After our meeting in Munich in 1982 and
in accord with the Plan adopted by our commission during its first
meeting at Rhodes in 1980, this fourth session of the commission
has undertaken to consider the question of the relation between
faith and sacramental communion.
2. As was stated in the Plan of our dialogue,
which was approved at Rhodes, unity in faith is a presupposition
for unity in the sacraments, and especially in the Holy Eucharist.
But this commonly accepted principle raises some fundamental issues
which require consideration. Does faith amount to adhering to
formulas or is it also something else? Faith, which is a divine
gift, should be understood as a commitment of the Christian, a
commitment of mind, heart, and will. In its profound reality it
is also an ecclesial event which is realized and accomplished
in and through the communion of the Church, in its liturgical
and especially in its eucharistic expression. This ecclesial and
liturgical character of the faith must be taken seriously into
3. Given this fundamental character of faith,
it is necessary to affirm that faith must be taken as a preliminary
condition, already complete in itself, Which precedes sacramental
communion; and also that it is increased by sacramental communion,
which is the expression of the very life of the Church and the
means of the spiritual growth of each of its members. This question
has to be raised in order to avoid a deficient approach to the
problem of faith as a condition for unity. It should not, however,
serve to obscure the fact that faith is such a condition, and
that there cannot be sacramental communion without communion in
faith both in the broader sense and in the sense of dogmatic formulation.
4. In addition to the question of faith as
a presupposition of sacramental communion and in close connection
with it, following the Plan of the dialogue, we have also considered
in our meetings the relation of what are called sacraments of
initiation, i.e. baptism, confirmation or chrismation and
eucharist, to each other and to the unity of the Church.
At this point it is necessary to examine if our two Churches are
confronted simply with a difference in liturgical practice or
also in doctrine, since liturgical practice and doctrine are linked
to one another. Should we consider these three sacraments as belonging
to one sacramental reality or as three autonomous sacramental
acts? It should also be asked if for the sacraments of initiation
a difference in liturgical practice between the two traditions
raises a problem of doctrinal divergence, which could be considered
as a serious obstacle to unity.
AND COMMUNION IN THE SACRAMENTS
5. Faith is inseparably both the gift of God
who reveals himself and the response of the human person who receives
this gift. This is the synergy of the grace of God and human freedom.
The locus of this communion is the Church. In the Church, revealed
truth is transmitted according to the tradition of the Apostles
based on the Scriptures, by means of the ecumenical councils,
liturgical life, and the Fathers of the Church; and is put into
practice by the members of the Body of Christ. The faith of the
Church constitutes the norm and the criterion of the personal
act of faith. Faith is not the product of an elaboration or of
a logical necessity, but of the influence of the grace of the
Holy Spirit. The Apostle Paul received grace "in the obedience
of faith" (Rom. 1:5). Saint Basil says on this subject: "Faith
precedes discourse about God; faith and not demonstration. Faith
which is above logical methods leads to consent. Faith is born
not of geometric necessities, but of the energies of the Spirit"
(In Ps: 115, 1).
6. Every sacrament presupposes and expresses
the faith of the Church which celebrates it. Indeed, in a sacrament
the Church does more than profess and express its faith: it makes
present the mystery it is celebrating. The Holy Spirit reveals
the Church as the Body of Christ which he constitutes and makes
grow. Thus the Church nourishes and develops the communion of
the faith of its members through the sacraments.
True faith is a divine gift and free response of the human
7. Faith is a gift of the Holy Spirit. Through
faith God grants salvation. Through it, humanity has access to
the mystery of Christ who constitutes the Church and whom the
Church communicates through the Holy Spirit who dwells in it.
The Church can only transmit what causes it to exist. Now, there
is only one mystery of Christ and God's gift is unique, whole
and irrevocable (Rom. 11:29). As for its content, faith embraces
the totality of doctrine and church practice relating to salvation.
Dogma, conduct and liturgical life overlap each other to form
a single whole and together constitute the treasure of faith.
Linking in a remarkable fashion the theoretical and practical
character of faith, Saint John Damascene says: "This [faith]
is made perfect by all that Christ decreed, faith through works,
respect for and practice of the commandments of the One who has
renewed us. Indeed, the one who does not believe according to
the tradition of the catholic Church or who by un seemly works
is in communion with the devil, is an infidel" (De fide orthodoxa
IV, 10, 83).
8. Given by God, the faith announced by the
Church is proclaimed, lived and transmitted in a local, visible
church in communion with all the local churches spread over the
world, that is, the catholic Church of all times and everywhere.
The human person is integrated into the Body of Christ by his
or her "koinonia" (communion) with this visible Church
which nourishes this faith by means of the sacramental life and
the word of God, and in which the Holy Spirit works in the human
9. One can say that, in this way, the gift
of faith exists in the single Church in its concrete historical
situation, determined by the environment and the times, and therefore
in each and all of the believers under the guidance of their pastors.
In human language and in a variety of cultural and historical
expressions, the human person must always remain faithful to this
gift of faith. Certainly, one cannot claim that the expression
of the true faith, transmitted and lived in the celebration of
the sacraments, exhausts the totality of the richness of the mystery
revealed in Jesus Christ. Nevertheless, within the limits of its
formulation and of the persons who receive it, it gives access
to the whole truth of the revealed faith, that is, to the fullness
of salvation and life in the Holy Spirit.
10. According to the Letter to the Hebrews,
this faith is "the substance of things to be hoped for, the
vision of unseen realities" (11:1). It grants a share in
divine goods. It is also understood in terms of an existential
confidence in the power and love of God, in acceptance of the
eschatological promises as fulfilled in the person of Jesus Christ.
Yet, as this Letter to the Hebrews further indicates, faith also
requires an attitude towards the milieu of existence and the world.
This attitude is marked by readiness to sacrifice one's own will
and to offer one's life to God and to others as Christ did on
the cross. Faith brings one into association with the witness
of Christ and with "a cloud of witnesses" (12:1) which
envelop the Church.
11. Faith therefore involves a conscious and
free response from the human person and a continual change of
heart and spirit. Consequently, faith is an interior change and
a transformation, causing one to live in the grace of the Holy
Spirit who renews the human person. It seeks a reorientation
towards the realities of the future kingdom which, even now, is
beginning to transform the realities of this world.
12. Faith is a presupposition of baptism and
the entire sacramental life which follows it. Indeed, one participates
through baptism in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ
(Rom. 6). Thus begins a process which continues all through Christian
The liturgical expression of the faith.
13. In the Church, the sacraments are the
privileged place where the faith is lived, transmitted and professed.
In the Byzantine liturgical tradition the first prayer for entrance
into the catechumenate asks the Lord for the candidate: "Fill
him/her with faith, hope and love for you that he/she may understand
that you are the one true God, with your only Son our Lord Jesus
Christ and your Holy Spirit." Similarly the first question
the Church puts to the candidate for baptism in the Latin liturgical
tradition is: "What do you ask of the Church?" and the
candidate answers: "Faith."" What does faith
give you?""Eternal life."
14. Our two churches express their conviction
in this matter by the axiom: "Lex orandi lex credendi."
For them the liturgical tradition is an authentic interpreter
of revelation and hence the criterion for the expression of the
true faith. Indeed, it is in the liturgical expression of the
faith of our churches that the witness of the Fathers and of the
ecumenical councils celebrated together continues to be for believers
the sure guide of faith. Independently of diversity in theological
expression, this witness, which itself renders explicit the "kerygma"
of the holy Scriptures, is made present in the liturgical celebration.
In its turn, the proclamation of the faith nourishes the liturgical
prayer of the people of God.
The Holy Spirit and the sacraments
15. The sacraments of the Church are "sacraments
of faith" where God the Father hears the "epiclesis"
(invocation) in which the Church expresses its faith by this prayer
for the coming of the Spirit. In them, the Father gives his Holy
Spirit who leads us into the fullness of salvation in Christ.
Christ himself constitutes the Church as his Body. The Holy Spirit
edifies the Church. There is no gift in the Church which cannot
be attributed to the Spirit. (Basil the Great, PG 30, 289). The
sacraments are both gift and grace of the Holy Spirit, in Jesus
Christ in the Church. This is expressed very concisely in an Orthodox
hymn of Pentecost: "The Holy Spirit is the author of every
gift. He makes prophecies spring forth. He renders priests perfect.
He teaches wisdom to the ignorant. He makes fishermen into theologians
and consolidates the institution of the Church."
16. Every sacrament of the Church confers
the grace of the Holy Spirit because it is inseparably a sign
recalling what God has accomplished in the past, a sign manifesting
what he is effecting in the believer and in the Church, and a
sign announcing and anticipating the eschatological fulfillment.
In the sacramental celebration the Church thus manifests, illustrates,
and confesses its faith in the unity of God's design.
17. It will be noted that all sacraments have
an essential relationship to the eucharist. The eucharist is the
proclamation of faith par excellence from which is derived and
to which every confession is ordered. Indeed, it alone proclaims
fully, in the presence of the Lord which the power of the Spirit
brings about, the marvel of the divine work. For the Lord sacramentally
makes his work pass into the Church's celebration. The sacraments
of the Church transmit grace, expressing and strengthening faith
in Jesus Christ, and are thus witnesses of faith.
The faith formulated and celebrated in the sacraments: the
symbols of faith
18. In the eucharistic assembly the Church
celebrates the event of the mystery of salvation in the eucharistic
prayer (anaphora) for the glory of God. The mystery it celebrates
is the very one which it confesses, while receiving the saving
19. Although the content and finality of this
eucharistic celebration have remained the same in the local churches,
they have however used varied formulas and different languages
which, according to the genius of different cultures, bring into
relief particular aspects and implications of the unique salvation
event. At the heart of ecclesial life, in the eucharistic "synaxis"
(assembly), our two traditions, eastern and western, thus experience
a certain diversity in the formulation of the content of the faith
20. From earliest times there has been joined
to the administration of baptism a formulation of faith by means
of which the local church transmits to the catechumen the essential
content of the doctrine of the Apostles. This "symbol"
of the faith enunciates in compact form the essentials of the
apostolic tradition, articulated chiefly in the confession of
faith in the Holy Trinity and in the Church. When all the local
churches confess the true faith, they transmit, in the rite of
baptism, this one faith in the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Nevertheless,
at different times and in different places, the formulation has
been expressed differently as circumstances required, using terms
and propositions which were not identical from one formulary to
another. All, however, respected the content of faith. The eastern
church in its baptismal rite uses the Niceo-Constantinopolitan
creed. Faithful to its own tradition, the western church conveys
to the catechumen the text called "The Apostles Creed."
This diversity of formulas from one church to another does not
in itself indicate any divergence about the content of the faith
transmitted and lived.
Conditions for communion of faith
21. The first condition for a true communion
between the churches is that each church makes reference to the
Niceo-Constantinopolitan creed as the necessary norm of this communion
of the one Church spread throughout the whole world and across
the ages. In this sense the true faith is presupposed for a communion
in the sacraments. Communion is possible only between those Churches
which have faith, priesthood and the sacraments in common. It
is because of this reciprocal recognition that the faith handed
down in each local church is one and the same (as are the priesthood
and the sacrament as well), that they recognize each other as
genuine churches of God and that each of the faithful is welcomed
by the churches as a brother or sister in the faith. At the same
time, however, faith is deepened and clarified by the ecclesial
communion lived in the sacraments in each community. This ecclesial
designation of faith as the fruit of sacramental life is verified
at various levels of church life.
22. In the first place, by the celebration
of the sacraments, the assembly proclaims, transmits, and assimilates
23. Furthermore, in the celebration of the
sacraments, each local church expresses its profound nature. It
is in continuity with the Church of the Apostles and in communion
with all the churches which share one and the same faith and celebrate
the same sacraments. In the sacramental celebration of a local
church, the other local churches recognize the identity of their
faith with that Church's and by that fact are strengthened in
their own life of faith. Thus the celebration of the sacraments
confirms the communion of faith between the churches and expresses
it. This is why a member of one local church, baptized in that
church, can receive the sacraments in another local church. This
communion in the sacraments expresses the identity and unicity
of the true faith which the churches share.
24. In the eucharistic concelebration between
representatives of different local churches identity of faith
is particularly manifested and reinforced by the sacramental act
itself. This is why councils, in which bishops led by the Holy
Spirit express the truth of the Church's faith, are always associated
with the eucharistic celebration. By proclamation of the one mystery
of Christ and sharing of the one sacramental communion, the bishops,
the clergy and the whole Christian people united with them are
able to witness to the faith of the Church.
True faith and communion in the sacraments
25. Identity of faith, then, is an essential
element of ecclesial communion in the celebration of the sacraments.
However, a certain diversity in its formulation does not compromise
the "koinônia" between the local churches when
each church can recognize, in the variety of formulations, the
one authentic faith received from the Apostles.
26. During the centuries of the undivided
Church, diversity in the theological expression of a doctrine
did not endanger sacramental communion. After the schism occurred,
East and West continued to develop, but they did this separately
from each other. Thus it was no longer possible for them to take
unanimous decisions that were valid for both of them.
27. The Church as "pillar and bulwark
of truth" (I Tim. 3:15) keeps the deposit of faith pure and
unaltered while transmitting it faithfully to its members. When
the authentic teaching or unity of the Church was threatened by
heresy or schism, the Church, basing itself on the Bible, the
living tradition and the decisions of preceding councils, declared
the correct faith authentically and infallibly in an ecumenical
28. When it is established that these differences
represent a rejection of earlier dogmas of the Church and are
not simple differences of theological expression, then clearly
one is faced with a true division about faith. It is no longer
possible to have sacramental communion. For faith must be confessed
in words which express the truth itself. However, the life of
the Church may occasion new verbal expressions of "the faith
once and for all delivered to the saints" (Jude 3), if new
historical and cultural needs call for them, as long as there
is explicit desire not to change the content of the doctrine itself.
In such cases, the verbal expression can become normative for
unanimity in the faith. This requires criteria for judgement which
allow a distinction between legitimate developments, under the
inspiration of the Holy Spirit, and other ones.
29. The continuity of the tradition: the Church
ought to give suitable answers to new problems, answers based
on the Scriptures and in accord and essential continuity with
the previous expressions of dogmas.
30. The doxological meaning of the faith:
every liturgical development in one local Church should be able
to be seen by the others as in conformity with the mystery of
salvation as it has received that mystery and celebrates it.
31. The soteriological meaning of the faith:
every expression of the faith should envision the human being's
final destiny, as a child of God by grace, in his or her deification
(theosis) through victory over death and in the transfiguration
32. If a formulation of the faith contradicts
one or other of these criteria, it becomes an obstacle to communion.
If, on the other hand, such a particular formulation of the faith
contradicts none of these criteria, then this formulation can
be considered as a legitimate expression of faith, and does not
make sacramental communion impossible.
33. This requires that the theology of "theologoumena"
be seriously considered. It is also necessary to clarify what
concrete development occurring in one part of Christianity can
be considered by the other as a legitimate development. Furthermore,
it should be recognized that often the meaning of terms has changed
in the course of time. For this reason, an effort should be made
to understand every formula according to the intention of its
authors so as not to introduce into it foreign elements or eliminate
elements which, in the mind of the authors, were obvious.
The unity of the Church in faith and sacraments
34. In the Church the function of ministers
is above all to maintain, guarantee and promote the growth of
communion in faith and sacraments. As ministers of the sacraments
and doctors of the faith, the bishops, assisted by other ministers,
proclaim the faith of the Church, explain its content and its
demands for Christian life and defend it against wrong interpretations
which would falsify or compromise the truth of the mystery of
35. Charitable works of ministers, or their
taking positions on the problems of a given time or place, are
inseparable from the two functions of the proclamation and teaching
of the faith, on the one hand, and the celebration of worship
and sacraments, on the other.
36. Thus, unity of faith within a local church
and between local churches is guaranteed and judged by the bishop,
who is witness to the tradition, and in communion with his people.
It is inseparable from unite of sacramental life. Communion in
faith and communion in the sacraments are not two distinct realities.
They are two aspects of a single reality which the Holy Spirit
fosters, increases and safeguards among the faithful.
SACRAMENTS OF CHRISTIAN INITIATION:
THEIR RELATION TO THE UNITY OF THE CHURCH
37. Christian initiation is a whole in which
chrismation is the perfection of baptism and the eucharist is
the completion of the other two.
The unity of baptism, chrismation and the eucharist in a single
sacramental reality does not deny, however, their specific character.
Thus, baptism with water and the Spirit is participation in the
death and resurrection of Christ and new birth by grace. Chrismation
is the gift of the Spirit to the baptized as a personal gift.
Received under the proper conditions, the eucharist, through communion
in the Body and Blood of the Lord, grants participation in the
Kingdom of God, including forgiveness of sins, communion in divine
life itself and membership in the eschatological community.
38. The history of the baptismal rites in
East and West, as well as the way in which our common Fathers
interpreted the doctrinal significance of the rites, shows clearly
that the three sacraments of initiation form a unity. That unity
is strongly affirmed by the Orthodox Church. For its part, the
Catholic Church also preserves it. Thus, the new Roman Ritual
of initiation declares that "the three sacraments of Christian
initiation are so closely united that they bring the faithful
to full capability for carrying out, through the Spirit, the mission
which in the world, belongs to the entire assembly of the Christian
people" (Prenotanda Generalia, n. 2).
39. The pattern of administration of the sacraments
which developed very early in the Church reveals how the Church
understood the various stages of initiation as accomplishing,
theologically and liturgically, incorporation into Christ by entering
into the Church and growing in Him through communion in his Body
and his Blood in this Church. All of this is effected by the same
Holy Spirit who constitutes the believer as a member of the Body
of the Lord.
40. The early pattern included the following
41.1: for adults, a period of spiritual probation
and instruction during which the catechumens were formed for their
definitive incorporation into the Church;
42.2: baptism by the bishop assisted by his
priests and deacons, or administered by priests assisted by deacons,
preceded by a profession of faith and various intercessions and
43.3: confirmation or chrismation in the West
by the bishop, or in the East by the priest when the bishop was
absent, by means of the imposition of hands or by anointing with
holy chrism, or by both.
44.4: the celebration of the holy eucharist
during which the newly baptized and confirmed were admitted to
the full participation in the Body of Christ.
45. These three sacraments were administered
in the course of a single, complex liturgical celebration. There
followed a period of further catechetical and spiritual maturation
through instruction and frequent participation in the eucharist.
46. This pattern remains the ideal for both
churches since it corresponds the most exactly possible to the
appropriation of the scriptural and apostolic tradition accomplished
by the early Christian churches which lived in full communion
with each other.
47. The baptism of infants, which has been
practiced from the beginning, became in the Church the most usual
procedure for introducing new Christians into the full life of
the Church. In addition, certain local changes took place in liturgical
practice in consideration of the pastoral needs of the faithful.
These changes did not concern the theological understanding of
the fundamental unity, in the Holy Spirit, of the whole process
of Christian initiation.
48. In the East, the temporal unity of the
liturgical celebration of the three sacraments was retained, thus
emphasizing the unity of the work of the Holy Spirit and the fullness
of the incorporation of the child into the sacramental life of
In the West, it was often preferred to delay confirmation so as
to retain contact of the baptized person with the bishop. Thus,
priests were not ordinarily authorized to confirm.
49. The essential points of the doctrine of
baptism on which the two Churches are agreed are the following:
1) the necessity of baptism for salvation;
2) the effects of baptism, particularly new life in Christ and
liberation from original sin;
3) incorporation into the Church by baptism;
4) the relation of baptism to the mystery of the Trinity;
5) the essential link between baptism and the death and resurrection
of the Lord;
6) the role of the Holy Spirit in baptism;
7) the necessity of water which manifests baptism's character
as the bath of new birth.
50. On the other hand, differences concerning
baptism exist between the two Churches: (1) the fact that the
Catholic Church, while recognizing the primordial importance of
baptism by immersion, ordinarily practices baptism by infusion;
(2) the fact that in the Catholic Church a deacon can be the ordinary
minister of baptism.
51. Moreover, in certain Latin Churches, for
pastoral reasons, for example in order to better prepare confirmands
at the beginning of adolescence, the practice has become more
and more common of admitting to first communion baptized persons
who have not yet received confirmation, even though the disciplinary
directives which called for the traditional order of the sacraments
of Christian initiation have never been abrogated. This inversion,
which provokes objections or understandable reservations both
by Orthodox and Roman Catholics, calls for deep theological and
pastoral reflection because pastoral practice should never lose
sight of the meaning of the early tradition and its doctrinal
importance. It is also necessary to recall here !hat baptism conferred
after the age of reason in the Latin Church is now always followed
by confirmation and participation in the eucharist.
52. At the same time, both churches are preoccupied
with the necessity of assuring the spiritual formation of the
neophyte in the faith. For that, they wish to emphasize on the
one hand that there is a necessary connection between the sovereign
action of the Spirit, who realizes through the three sacraments
the full incorporation of the person into the life of the Church,
the latter's response and that of his community of faith and,
on the other hand, that the full illumination of the faith is
only possible when the neophyte, of whatever age, has received
the sacraments of Christian initiation.
53. Finally, it is to be recalled that the
Council of Constantinople, jointly celebrated by the two churches
in 879-880, determined that each See would retain the ancient
usages of its tradition, the Church of Rome preserving its own
usages, the Church of Constantinople its own, and the thrones
of the East also doing the same (cf. Mansi XVII, 489 B).
from the original French
Service 64 (1987/II) 82-87.]