St. Tikhon of Moscow on Heterodox Sacraments

St. Tikhon of Moscow 1865-1925

They have separated themselves from the unity of the Ecumenical Church and are deprived of God’s grace, which abides in Christ’s Church… And all the actions and sacraments performed by the bishops and priests who have fallen away from the Church are without grace; while the faithful who take part with them in prayer and sacraments not only do not receive sanctification, they are subject to condemnation for taking part in sin. (Acts of His Holiness Patriarch Tikhon and the Latest Documents about the Succession of the Highest Church Authority: 1917-1943, editor Archpriest Vladimir Vorobiov et al., compiled by M.E. Gubonin [Moscow, 1994], 291)


  1. So would you take this to mean that sincere Protestants are sinning against God in worshiping Him in the way they think is right? Even ones who never hear of the Orthodox Church?

  2. Greetings Chris,

    Christ is risen!

    I would say that holding an error in sincerity does not completely absolve anyone from sin since most of the major heresiarchs throughout history were pious and sincere. However, the servant that does not know is certainly less culpable, receiving “less stripes” according to the teaching of the Lord. That servant is in the hands of the Master Who died for Him and desires His salvation. With all that said, it still must be stressed that the Father desires worship in Spirit and Truth.

    Here are the words of one of our ever-memorable bishops that may also help to answer your question:

    Met. Philaret of New York – The Holy Orthodox Church is the repository of the divinely revealed Truth in all its fullness and fidelity to apostolic Tradition. Hence, he who leaves the Church, who intentionally and consciously falls away from it, joins the ranks of its opponents and becomes a renegade as regards apostolic Tradition. The Church dreadfully anathematized such renegades, in accordance with the words of the Saviour Himself (Matt. 18:17) and of the Apostle Paul (Gal. 1:8-9), threatening them with eternal damnation and calling them to return to the Orthodox fold. It is self evident, however, that sincere Christians who are Roman Catholics, or Lutherans, or members, of other non-Orthodox confessions, cannot be termed renegades or heretics—i.e. those who knowingly pervert the truth…* They have been born and raised and are living according to the creed which they have inherited, just as do the majority of you who are Orthodox; in their lives there has not been a moment of personal and conscious renunciation of Orthodoxy. The Lord, “Who will have all men to be saved” (I Tim. 2:4) and “Who enlightens every man born into the world” (Jn. 1.43), undoubtedly is leading them also towards salvation In His own way.
    With reference to the above question, it is particularly instructive to recall the answer once given to an inquirer by the Blessed Theophan the Recluse. The blessed one replied more or less thus: “You ask, will the heterodox be saved… Why do you worry about them? They have a Saviour Who desires the salvation of every human being. He will take care of them. You and I should not be burdened with such a concern. Study yourself and your own sins… I will tell you one thing, however: should you, being Orthodox and possessing the Truth in its fullness, betray Orthodoxy, and enter a different faith, you will lose your soul forever.”
    We believe the foregoing answer by the saintly ascetic to be the best that can be given in this matter.

    * The Greek word for “heresy” is derived from the word for “choice” and hence inherently implies conscious, willful rejection or opposition to the Divine Truth manifest in the Orthodox Church.

  3. I agree that that is a very good perspective to take on the issue, and am very thankful for your clarification. I think it is a hard line to walk, but one that we must, which says both that there is one truth alone and that all else is falsehood, and that God wills that all people be saved and come to knowledge of that truth. I pray that they love the God Who Truly Is when they meet Him, and cast aside all misconceptions, just as I hope for myself to cast aside all my own misunderstandings that I am sure to have about the Infinite God.

  4. Amen brother.

  5. I have personally found it helpful to think of grace as being intrinsically connected to meaning–Christ, being the full Meaning (the “Logos”) behind the purpose of all things. By very definition, a church that does not ascribe in its theological definitions and explanations the full Orthodox meaning to the nature of the Church and her Mysteries, cannot deliver the grace of that meaning to its members either.

  6. Amen Karen. That’s why debating with people with a non-sacramental view is kind of “meaningless”. The Sacraments truly do become nothing but a memorial of a past event because they lack the grace which abides in the Church. They believe that there is no grace in the Eucharist and Baptism likely because there really is none.

Speak Your Mind