Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Fr. Dr. V.C. Samuel - Architect of the Oriental Orthodox Churches

Fr. Dr. V.C. Samuel (1912-1998)
Author: Fr. Dr. Parackel K. Mathew, Canada

Architect of the Oriental Orthodox Churches: fellowship and Joint works 

The chief organizing force behind the first ever Conference of Heads of the Oriental Orthodox Churches held in Addis Ababa, 15-21 January 1965 was Dr. Samuel. (See the message send by Father Samuel immediately after the peace unity took place in Malankara in 1958, stressing the importance of a Conference of the representatives of the Five Orthodox Churches. Addis Ababa Conference known as Ethiopian Synod is first in the history of our Churches. Father Samuels message was published in the in one IOIF digest) It was providential that the Head of our Malankara Orthodox Church, H.H. the Late Catholicos, Baselius Augean I, an outstanding Scholar himself 
was assisted by Fr. Samuel, and together they contributed impressively to the Conference's deliberations. This Conference discussed the consequences of the Council of Chalcedon that have so far damaged the growth of Orthodoxy by its failure to give a united witness to the world. From this Conference, Fr. Samuel came emerged 
as the chief spokesperson of Oriental Orthodoxy to the Eastern Orthodox brethren. This Conference also paved the way towards the subsequent Pan-Orthodox Consultations.

Main Force behind the Pan-Orthodox consultations 

The imprint of Dr. Samuel's leadership was evident directly and indirectly at the Pan-Orthodox Consultations. Under the auspices of the Faith and Order Commission of the World Council of Churches, the first Consultation was held in Aarhus, Denmark in August, 1964, which expressed full agreement on the essence of the Christological dogma based on St. Cyril's famous clause. Next Consultation in Bristol in July 1967 agreed that since the 5th century different formulae were used to confess the common faith in the One Lord Jesus 
Christ, agreeing on the union of natures without confusion, change, division or separation. The Third Consultation in Geneva in August, 1970 more or less re-affirmed the agreement in Bristol. The Fourth Consultation in Addis Ababa, January, 1971 discussed the need for removing mutual anathemas and on the criteria for recognizing the 
saints of both factions and on the restoration of communion. These Consultations have become the model for subsequent Consultations between the Oriental Orthodox and Roman Catholic Churches in Vienna, 1971, and the progress since.

A Word of Conclusion

In regard to Christology Dr. Samuel has not only discussed the general Patristics, but made special use of the rich old tradition of the Syrian Orthodox Fathers like Timothy Aelurus, Philoxenos of Mabbog and Severus of Antioch who with their Christological treatises have followed Dioscorus of Alexandria. 

To enter substantially into Dr. Samuel's voluminous contributions is indeed a mammoth task. I have been able to touch only on a fraction of available material. His writings have helped both scholars and others in general. His "The Orthodox Catechism on the Faith and Life of the Church" is an invaluable gift to everyone, especially to the 
youth and Sunday School students.

His personal qualities are fully known only to those who were close to him. I thank God for having given me the chance to be a close associate of his for a time. He is known for never losing spirit even in most trying moments. Criticism and opposition to his views made him more outspoken. He had a unique moral sense which many couldn't fully see. The sense of duty was a strong driving force throughout his life. I praise his greatness and brilliant intellect. He was working to the last, as I learned lately, by his principle: Don't stop until you drop.

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