On The Relation Between Emperor and Church

ST JUSTINIAN THE EMPEROR – An Imperial View (Novella VI)

“The greatest gifts which God in His heavenly clemency bestows upon men are the priesthood and the Imperial authority. The former ministers to Divine things, the later presides and watches over human affairs; both proceed from one and the same source and together they are the ornaments of human life. Therefore nothing is so close to the hearts of Emperors as the moral well being of the priesthood since priests have the task of perpetual prayer to God on behalf of Emperors themselves. For if the priesthood is in all matters free from vice and filled with faith in God, and if the Imperial authority with justice and efficiency sets in order the commonwealth committed to its charge, there shall be an ideal harmony to provide whatever is useful for the human race. We therefore have the greatest anxiety for the true doctrines of God and for the moral well being of the priesthood by which, if it is preserved, we believe that the greatest gifts will be given to us by God and we shall preserve undisturbed those things which we have and in addition acquire benefits which are at present lacking to us. But all things are done rightly and efficiently if a beginning is made which is fitting and agreeable to God. We believe that this will come about if there is due care for the observance of the holy canons, which the justly praised Apostles and venerated eyewitnesses and servants of the word of God handed down and which the holy Fathers preserved and interpreted.”

St Maximovitch on Emperor Saint Nicholas II

St. John Maximovitch 1896-1966

Why was Tsar Nicholas II persecuted, slandered, and killed? Because he was Tsar, Tsar by the Grace of God. He was the bearer and incarnation of the Orthodox world-view that the Tsar is the servant of God, the Anointed of God, and that to Him he must give an account for the people entrusted to him by destiny, for all his deeds and actions, not only those done personally, but also as Tsar.
(continues on inside back cover): … he was the bearer of the consciousness that the Supreme authority should be obedient to God, should receive sanctification and strength from Him to follow God’s commandments. He was a living incarnation of faith in the Divine Providence that works in the destinies of nations and peoples and directs Rulers faithful to God into good and useful actions. Therefore he was intolerable for the enemies of faith and for those who strive to place human reason and human faculties above everything …

Tsar Nicholas II was a servant of God by his inner world-outlook, by conviction, by his actions; and he was thus in the eyes of the whole Orthodox Russian people. The battle against him was closely bound up with the battle against God and faith. In a word, he became a Martyr, having remained faithful to the Ruler of those who rule, and accepted death in the same way as the martyrs accepted it.

“Tsar-Martyr Nicholas II,” Orthodox Word vol. 4, no. 4 (21), July-Aug. 1968, p. 137

The Ministry of the Emperor

“The Tsar was and is anointed by God. This mystery is performed by the Church during the coronation, and the Anointed of God enters the Royal Doors into the altar, goes to the altar table and receives the Holy Mysteries as does the priest, with the Body and Blood taken separately. Thus the Holy Church emphasises the great spiritual significance of the podvig (struggle) of ruling as a monarch, equalling this to the holy sacrament of the priesthood… He (the Tsar) is the sacramental image, the carrier of the special power of the Grace of the Holy Spirit.” – Bishop Nektary (Koch) of Seattle (+1983)

Saint Chrysostom and Infant Baptism


St. John Chrysostom ca. 349-407

You see how many are the benefits of baptism, and some think its heavenly grace consists only in the remission of sins, but we have enumerated ten honors [it bestows]! For this reason we baptize even infants, though they are not defiled by [personal] sins, so that there may be given to them holiness, righteousness, adoption, inheritance, brotherhood with Christ, and that they may be his [Christ’s] members. (Baptismal Catecheses)

Older Women to Disciple Younger for Godliness

The older women likewise, that they be reverent in behavior, not slanderers, not given to much wine, teachers of good things— that they admonish the young women to love their husbands, to love their children, to be discreet, chaste, homemakers, good, obedient to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be blasphemed. –  Saint Paul, Titus 2:3-5

Being Poor Has a Spiritual Advantage

Saint James, Brother of Christ – d. ca. 62

Let the lowly brother glory in his exaltation, but the rich in his humiliation, because as a flower of the field he will pass away. For no sooner has the sun risen with a burning heat than it withers the grass; its flower falls, and its beautiful appearance perishes. So the rich man also will fade away in his pursuits.” Saint James 1:9-11

The Orthodox Path of Salvation

Saint James, The Brother of Christ – d. ca. 62

“Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.” James 1:2-4

Saint Chrysostom on “Judaism”

Saint John Chrysostom 349-407

Many, I know, respect the Jews and think that their present way of life is a venerable one. This is why I hasten to uproot and tear out this deadly opinion. I said that the synagogue is no better than a theater and I bring forward a prophet as my witness. Surely the Jews are not more deserving of belief than their prophets. “You had a harlot’s brow; you became shameless before all”. Where a harlot has set herself up, that place is a brothel. But the synagogue is not only a brothel and a theater; it also is a den of robbers and a lodging for wild beasts. Jeremiah said: “Your house has become for me the den of a hyena”. He does not simply say “of wild beast”, but “of a filthy wild beast”, and again: “I have abandoned my house, I have cast off my inheritance”. But when God forsakes a people, what hope of salvation is left? When God forsakes a place, that place becomes the dwelling of demons.

(2) But at any rate the Jews say that they, too, adore God. God forbid that I say that. No Jew adores God! Who say so? The Son of God say so. For he said: “If you were to know my Father, you would also know me. But you neither know me nor do you know my Father”. Could I produce a witness more trustworthy than the Son of God?

(3) If, then, the Jews fail to know the Father, if they crucified the Son, if they thrust off the help of the Spirit, who should not make bold to declare plainly that the synagogue is a dwelling of demons? God is not worshipped there. Heaven forbid! From now on it remains a place of idolatry. But still some people pay it honor as a holy place.

St John Chrysostom, Eight Homilies against the Jews, Homily III

 

Even if there is no idol there, still demons do inhabit the place. And I say this not only about the synagogue here in town but about the one in Daphne as well; for at Daphne you have a more wicked place of perdition which they call Matrona’s. I have heard that many of the faithful go up there and sleep beside the place.

(3) But heaven forbid that I call these people faithful. For to me the shrine of Matrona and the temple of Apollo are equally profane. If anyone charges me with boldness, I will in turn charge him with the utmost madness. For, tell me, is not the dwelling place of demons a place of impiety even if no god’s statue stands there? Here the slayers of Christ gather together, here the cross is driven out, here God is blasphemed, here the Father is ignored, here the Son is outraged, here the grace of the Spirit is rejected. Does not greater harm come from this place since the Jews themselves are demons? In the pagan temple the impiety is naked and obvious; it would not be ease to deceive a man of sound and prudent mind or entice him to go there. But in the synagogue there are men who say they worship God and abhor idols, men who say they have prophets and pay them honor. But by their words they make ready an abundance of bait to catch in their nets the simpler souls who are so foolish as to be caught of guard.

(4) So the godlessness of the Jews and the pagans is on a par. But the Jews practice a deceit which is more dangerous. In their synagogue stands an invisible altar of deceit on which they sacrifice not sheep and calves but the souls of men.

(5) Finally, if the ceremonies of the Jews move you to admiration, what do you have in common with us? If the Jewish ceremonies are venerable and great, our are lies. But if ours are true, as they are true, theirs are filled with deceit. I am not speaking of the Scriptures. Heaven forbid! It was the Scriptures which took me by the hand and led me to Christ. But I am talking about the ungodliness and present madness of the Jews.

St John Chrysostom, Eight Homilies against the Jews, Homily VI

St. Macarius on “Judaism”

In the same way, as we said above, the people of Israel corrupted themselves by many crimes and sins…They laid their hands on the dignity of the Lord. For this reason they were completely deserted and rejected. They lost prophecy, priesthood , and the cult of God. These were given to believing Gentiles as the Lord says: “The Kingdom shall be taken from you and will be given to a nation that will bring forth its fruits” (Mt. 21:43) (The Fifty Spiritual Homilies 4.23)

Also, Peter succeeded Moses, entrusted with the new Church of Christ and the authentic priesthood. (The Fifty Spiritual Homilies 26.23)

St Cyprian on “Judaism”

That the Jews should lose Jerusalem, and should leave the land which they had received.

In Isaiah: “Your country is desolate, your cities are burned with fire: your land, strangers shall devour it in your sight; and the daughter of Zion shall be left deserted, and overthrown by foreign peoples, as a cottage in a vineyard, and as a keeper’s lodge in a garden of cucumbers, as a city which is besieged. And unless the Lord of Sabaoth had left us a seed, we should have been as Sodoma, and we should have been like unto Gomorrah.”Isa. i. 7–9 Also in the Gospel the Lord says: “Jerusalem, Jerusalem, that killest the prophets, and stonest them that are sent unto thee, how often would I have gathered thy children as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and thou wouldst not! Behold, your house shall be left unto you desolate.” Matt. xxiii. 37, 38

Also that they should lose the Light of the Lord.

In Isaiah: “Come ye, and let us walk in the light of the Lord. For He hath sent away His people, the house of Israel.” Isa. ii. 5, 6  In His Gospel also, according to John: “That was the true light which lighteth every man that cometh into this world. He was in this world, and the world was made by Him, and the world knew Him not.”John i. 9, 10 Moreover, in the same place: “He that believeth not is judged already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.  And this is the judgment, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light.” John iii. 18, 19 

That the first circumcision of the flesh is made void, and the second circumcision of the spirit is promised instead.

In Jeremiah: “Thus saith the Lord to the men of Judah, and to them who inhabit Jerusalem, Renew newness among you, and do not sow among thorns: circumcise yourselves to your God, and circumcise the foreskin of your heart; lest my anger go forth like fire, and burn you up, and there be none to extinguish it.”Jer. iv. 3, 4 Also Moses says: “In the last days God will circumcise thy heart, and the heart of thy seed, to love the Lord thy God.” Deut. xxx. 6 Also in Jesus the son of Nave: “And the Lord said unto Jesus, Make thee small knives of stone, very sharp, and set about to circumcise the children of Israel for the second time.” Josh. v. 2 Paul also, to the Colossians: “Ye are circumcised with the circumcision not made with hands in the putting off of the flesh, but with the circumcision of Christ.” Col. ii. 11 Also, because Adam was first made by God uncircumcised, and righteous Abel, and Enoch, who pleased God and was translated; and Noah, who, when the world and men were perishing on account of transgressions, was chosen alone, that in him the human race might be preserved; and Melchizedek, the priest according to whose order Christ was promised. Then, because that sign did not avail women, but all are sealed by the sign of the Lord.

That the old pastors should cease and new ones begin.

In Ezekiel: “Wherefore thus saith the Lord, Behold, I am above the shepherds; and I will require my sheep from their hands, and I will turn them away from feeding my sheep; and they shall feed them no more, and I will deliver my sheep from their mouth, and I will feed them with judgment.” Ezek. xxxiv. 10–16In Jeremiah the Lord says: “And I will give you shepherds according to my own heart, and they shall feed you with the food of discipline.” Jer. iii. 15In Jeremiah, moreover:  “Hear the word of the Lord, ye nations, and tell it to the islands which are afar off. Say, He that scattereth Israel will gather him, and will keep him as a shepherd his flock: for the Lord hath redeemed Jacob, and taken him out from the hand of him that was stronger than he.” Jer. xxxi. 10, 11

That Christ should be the house and temple of God, and that the old temple should cease, and the new one should begin.

In the second book of Kings: “And the word of the Lord came to Nathan, saying, Go and tell my servant David, Thus saith the Lord, Thou shalt not build me an house to dwell in; but it shall be, when thy days shall be fulfilled, and thou shalt sleep with thy fathers, I will raise up thy seed after thee, which shall come from thy bowels, and I will make ready his kingdom. He shall build me an house in my name, and I will raise up his throne for ever; and I will be to him for a father, and he shall be to me for a son: and his house shall obtain confidence, and his kingdom for evermore in my sight.”2 Sam. vii. 4, 5, 12–16 Also in the Gospel the Lord says: “There shall not be left in the temple one stone upon another that shall not be thrown down.”Matt. xxiv. 2 And “After three days another shall be raised up without hands.” John ii. 19; Mark xiv. 58

Ante-Nicene Fathers/Volume V Vol. V, Cyprian, The Treatises of Cyprian, Three Books of Testimonies Against the Jews, Book I, Part 6,7,8,14,15

On Arrogance

St. John of Kronstadt 1829-1908 

“A proud man, at the time when other people are speaking of any other person’s virtues, is wickedly afraid lest this person should be superior to him in virtues, and should eclipse him, for the proud man considers himself above all, and does not think it possible to find similar or higher virtues in others. The rivalry of others is a great misfortune to him.” My Life in Christ p.138 

St. John of Kronstadt on Body and Soul

St. John of Kronstadt 1829-1908

“One cannot eat and drink and smoke continually. One cannot turn human life into constant eating, drinking, and smoking (although there are men who do eat, drink, and smoke almost uninterruptedly); and thus the spirit of evil has turned life into smoking, and made the mouth, which ought to be employed in thanking and praising the Lord, into a smoking furnace. The less and lighter the food and drink you take, the lighter and more refined your spirit will become.” My Life in Christ, p.139

Headcoverings Symbolic to Godly Marriage

CANON XVII

If any woman for the sake of supposedly ascetic exercise cuts off her hair, which God gave her to remind her of the fact that she is subject to the will of her husband, let her be anathema, on the ground that she has disobeyed the injunction to be obedient.

Interpretation

In writing to the Corinthians St. Paul says: “The head of the wife is the husband,” (1 Cor. 1 1 3) and because Eve was taken out of Adam, and he became the cause of her becoming a woman). And further below he goes on to say that if a woman does not cover her head, let her cut off her hair. But if it is shameful for a woman to cut off her hair or to shave herself, why, then let her cover her head. (ihd. 116) And again: “But if a woman have long hair, it is a glory and an honor to her” (paraphrasing ibid. 11:1 5). But Eustathius and his disciples used to teach women to cut off their hair on the alleged ground that they would thus be doing something godly and virtuous; the dolts failing to understand that this doctrine of theirs is opposed even to nature herself; seeing that she has never produced a woman that was bald-headed and without hair, as she has some men. For this reason the present Canon anathematizes any woman who cuts off her hair for the sake of appearing and feigning to be engaged in ascetic exercise; which hair God gave her to remind her of the fact that she is under the rulership and subject to the will of her husband, since by so doing she is disregarding and transgressing the commandment, or injunction, to be submissive.’ And the Fathers took this from St. Paul, who says that a wife must have an authority upon her head, or, more explicitly speaking, a sign of her husband’s authority, and of her subjection to her husband, which is the natural cover of hair, and the external cover of headkerchiefs.

 The Twenty-five canons of the Holy Regional Council held in Ancrya  (The Rudder, p. 529) 

On Happiness and Worldliness

St. Nektarios of Aegina 1846-1920

How mistaken are those people who seek happiness outside of themselves, in foreign lands and journeys, in riches and glory, in great possessions and pleasures, in diversions and vain things, which have a bitter end! In the same thing to construct the tower of happiness outside of ourselves as it is to build a house in a place that is consistently shaken by earthquakes. Happiness is found within ourselves, and blessed is the man who has understood this. Happiness is a pure heart, for such a heart becomes the throne of God. Thus says Christ of those who have pure hearts: “I will visit them, and will walk in them, and I will be a God to them, and they will be my people.” (II Cor. 6:16) What can be lacking to them? Nothing, nothing at all! For they have the greatest good in their hearts: God Himself! (St. Nektarios of Aegina, Path to Happiness, 1)

St. Chrysostom on Inner Strength

St. John Chrysostom 349-407

Sin makes man a coward; but a life in the Truth of Christ makes Him bold.
(On the Statues, VIII.2)

Orthodoxy and the Ten Commandments

From the Catechism of St. Philaret (Drozdov) of Moscow 1821 – 1867

On the Law of God and the Commandments.

485. What means have we to know good works from bad?

The inward law of God, or the witness of our conscience, and the outward law of God, or God’s commandments.

486. Does holy Scripture speak of the inward law of God?

The Apostle Paul says of the heathen: Which show the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience also bearing witness, and their thoughts the mean while accusing or else excusing one another. Rom. ii. 15.

487. If there is in man’s heart an inward law, why was the outward given?

It was given because men obeyed not the inward law, but led carnal and sinful lives, and stifled within themselves the voice of the spiritual law, so that it was necessary to put them in mind of it outwardly through the Commandments. Wherefore then serveth the law? It was added because of transgressions.Gal. iii. 19.

488. When and how was God’s outward law given to men?

When the Hebrew people, descended from Abraham, had been miraculously delivered from bondage in Egypt, on their way to the promised land, in the desert, on Mount Sinai, God manifested his presence in fire and clouds, and gave them the law, by the hand of Moses, their leader.

489. Which are the chief and general commandments of this law?

The following ten, which were written on two tables of stone:

1. I am the Lord thy God: thou shalt have none other gods beside me.

2. Thou shalt not make unto thyself any graven image, nor the likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the waters under the earth: thou shalt not bow down to them, nor serve them.

3. Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain.

4. Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy: six days shalt thou labor, and do all thy work; but the seventh day is the Sabbath to the Lord thy God.

5. Honor thy father and thy mother, that it may be well with thee, and that thy days may be long upon the earth.

6. Thou shalt not kill.

7. Thou shalt not commit adultery.

8. Thou shalt not steal.

9. Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor.

10. Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s wife, thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s house, nor his land, nor his man-servant, nor his maid-servant, nor his ox, nor his ass, nor any of his cattle, nor any thing that is thy neighbor’s. Exod. xx. 1-17Deut. v. 6-21.

490. You said that these Commandments were given to the people of Israel: must we, then, also walk by them?

We must: for they are in substance the same law which, in the words of St. Paul, has been written in the hearts of all men, that all should walk by it.

491. Did Jesus Christ teach men to walk by the Ten Commandments?

He bade men, if they would attain to everlasting life, to keep the Commandments and taught us to understand and fulfill them more perfectly than had been done before he came. Matt xix. 17, and v.

On the Division of the Commandments into Two Tables.

492. What means the division of the Ten Commandments into two tables?

This: that they contain two kinds of love–love to God, and love to our neighbor; and prescribe two corresponding kinds of duties.

493. Has not Jesus Christ said something of this?

When asked, Which is the great commandment in the law? he replied: Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it: Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets. Matt. xxii. 36-40.

494. Are all men our neighbors?

Yes, all; because all are the creation of one God, and have come from one man: but our neighbors in faith are doubly neighbors to us, as being children of one heavenly Father by faith in Jesus Christ.

495. But why is there no commandment of love to ourselves?

Because we love ourselves naturally, and without any commandment. No man ever yet hated his own flesh, but nourisheth and cherisheth it. Eph. v. 29.

496. What relative order should there be in our love to God, our neighbor, and ourselves?

We should love ourselves not for our own, but for God’s sake, and partly also for the sake of our neighbors; we should love our neighbor for the sake of God; but we should love God for himself, and above all. Love of self should be sacrificed to the love of our neighbor; but both should be sacrificed to the love of God.

Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends. John xv. 13.

He that loveth father or mother more than me, saith Jesus Christ, is not worthy of me; and he that loveth son or daughter more than me, is not worthy of me. Matt. x. 37.

497. If the whole law is contained in two commandments, why are they divided into ten?

In order the more clearly to set forth our duties towards God, and towards our neighbor.

498. In which of the Ten Commandments are we taught our duties towards God?

In the first four.

499. What are these duties?

In the first commandment we are taught to know and worship the true God.

In the second, to abstain from false worship.

In the third, not to sin against God’s worship even by word.

In the fourth, to keep a certain order in the time and acts of God’s worship.

500. In which of the Ten Commandments are we taught our duties towards our neighbor?

In the last six.

501. What are these duties?

In the fifth commandment we are taught to love and honor those of our neighbors who are nearest to us, beginning with our parents. In the sixth, not to hurt the life of our neighbor. In the seventh, not to hurt the purity of his morals. In the eighth, not to hurt his property. In the ninth, not to hurt him by word. In the tenth, not to wish to hurt him.

502. Do not the Ten Commandments include also our duties towards ourselves?

Yes; these duties are implied in the commandments of the second table relating to our neighbors; for our duty is to love our neighbor as ourselves.

On the First Commandment.

503. What mean these words, I am the Lord thy God?

By these words God, as it were, points himself out to man, and so commands him to know the Lord his God.

504. What particular duties may we deduce from the commandment to know God?

1. We must seek to learn the knowledge of God, as being the most essential of all knowledge.

2. We must listen attentively to instructions on God and on his works in church, and to religious conversations on the same at home.

3. We must read or hear read books of instruction in the knowledge of God; and in the first place,holy Scripture; secondly, the writings of the holy Fathers.

505. What are we taught in the words, Thou shalt have none other gods but me?

We are taught to turn and cleave to the one true God, or, in other words, devoutly to worshiphim.

506. What duties are there which refer to the inward worship of God?

1. To believe in God.

2. To walk before God; that is, to be ever mindful of him, and in all things to walk circumspectly, because he seeth not only our actions, but even our most secret thoughts.

3. To fear God, or stand in awe of him; that is, to think the anger of our heavenly Father the greatest ill that can befall us, and therefore strive not to offend him.

4. To trust in God.

5. To love God.

6. To obey God; that is, to be ever ready to do what he commands, and not to murmur when he deals with us otherwise than we could desire.

7. To adore God, as the Supreme Being.

8. To glorify God, as being all-perfect.

9. To give thanks to God, as our Creator, Provident Sustainer, and Saviour.

10. To call upon God, as our all-good and almighty helper, in every good work which we undertake.

507. What duties are there which refer to the outward worship of God?

1. To confess God; that is, to acknowledge that he is our God, and not deny him, although for confessing him we may have to suffer, or even die.

2. To take part in the public divine service enjoined by God and appointed by the Orthodox Church.

508. In order the more exactly to understand and keep the first commandment, we must know farther what sins there may be against it.

1. Atheism; when men, whom the Psalmist justly calls fools, wishing to rid themselves of the fear of God’s judgment, say in their heart, There is no God. Psalm xiv. 1.

2. Polytheism; when, instead of the one true God, men acknowledge a number of false deities.

3. Infidelity; when men, who admit the existence of God, disbelieve his providence and his revelation.

4. Heresy; when people mix with the doctrine of the faith opinions contrary to divine truth.

5. Schism; that is, willful departure from the unity of divine worship, and from the Orthodox Catholic Church of God.

6. Apostasy; when any deny the true faith from fear of man, or for worldly advantage.

7. Despair; when men give up all hope of obtaining from God grace and salvation.

8. Sorcery; when men, leaving faith in the power of God, put their trust in secret and, for the most part, evil powers of creatures, especially of evil spirits, and seek to work by their means.

9. Superstition; when men put faith in any common thing as if it had divine power, and trust in it instead of trusting in God, or fear it instead of fearing God; as, for instance, when they put faith in an old book, and think they can be saved by none other, and must not use a new one, though the new book contain the very same doctrine, and the very same form of divine service.

10. Sloth, in respect of learning religion, or in respect of prayer, and the public service of God.

11. Love of the creature more than of God.

12. Men-pleasing; when they seek to please men, so as for this to be careless of pleasing God.

13. Trusting in man; when any one trusts in his own means and strength, or in the means and strength of others, and not in the mercy and help of God,

509. Why must we think that men-pleasing and trusting in man are against the first commandment?

Because the man, whom we please, or in whom we trust, so as to forget God, is in some sort to us another god, in place of the true God.

510. How does holy Scripture speak of men-pleasing?

The Apostle Paul says: For if I yet pleased men, I should not be the servant of Christ. Gal. i. 10.

511. How does holy Scripture speak of trusting in man?

Thus saith the Lord: Cursed be the man that trusteth in man, and maketh flesh his arm, and whose heart departeth from the Lord. Jer. xvii. 5.

512. In order to succeed the better in fulfilling his duties to God, how must a man act by himself?

He must deny himself.

Whosoever will come after me, says Jesus Christ, let him deny himself. Mark viii. 34.

513. What is it to deny one’s self?

Basil the Great explains it thus: He denies himself who puts off the old man with his deeds, which is corrupt, according to the deceitful lusts; who renounces also all worldly affections, which can hinder his intention of godliness. Perfect self-denial consists in this, that he cease to have any affection even for life itself, and bear the judgment of death in himself, that he may not trust in himself. (Can. Long. Resp. 8.)

514. What consolation is there for him who, by denying himself, loses many natural gratifications?

The consolation of grace: a divine consolation, which even sufferings themselves can not impair.

For as the sufferings of Christ abound in us, so our consolation also aboundeth by Christ. 2 Cor. i. 5.

515. If the first commandment teaches us to worship religiously God alone, how does it agree with this commandment to honor angels and holy men?

To pay them due and rightful honor is altogether agreeable to this commandment; because in them we honor the grace of God, which dwells and works in them, and through them seek help from God.

On the Second Commandment.

516. What is a graven image, as spoken of in the second commandment?

The commandment itself explains that a graven image, or idol, is the likeness of some creature in heaven, or earth, or in the waters, which men bow down to and serve instead of God their Maker.

517. What is forbidden, then, by the second commandment?

We are forbidden to bow down to graven images or idols, as to supposed deities, or as to likenesses of false gods.

518. Are we not hereby forbidden to have any sacred representations whatever?

By no means. This very plainly appears from hence, that the same Moses through whom God gave the commandment against graven images, received at the same time from God an order to place in the tabernacle, or movable temple of the Israelites, sacred representations of Cherubim in gold, and to place them, too, in that inner part of the temple to which the people turned for the worship of God.

519. Why is this example worthy of remark for the Orthodox Christian Church?

Because it illustrates her use of holy icons.

520. What is an icon?

The word is Greek, and means, an image or representation. In the Orthodox Church this name designates sacred representations of our Lord Jesus Christ, God incarnate, his immaculate Mother, and his saints.

521. Is the use of holy icons agreeable to the second commandment?

It would then, and then only, be otherwise, if any one were to make gods of them; but it is not in the least contrary to this commandment to honor icons as sacred representations, and to use them for the religious remembrance of God’s works and of his saints; for when thus used icons are books, written with the forms of persons and things instead of letters. (See Greg. Magn. lib. ix. Ep. 9, ad Seren. Episc.)

522. What disposition of mind should we have when we reverence the icons?

While we look on them with our eyes, we should mentally look to God and to the saints, who are represented on them.

523. What general name is there for sin against the second commandment?

Idolatry.

524. Are there not also other sins against this commandment? Besides gross idolatry there is yet another sort more subtle, to which belong–

1. Covetousness.

2. Belly-service or sensuality, gluttony, and drunkenness.

3. Pride, to which belongs likewise vanity.

525. Why is covetousness referred to idolatry?

The Apostle Paul expressly says that covetousness is idolatry (Col. iii. 5); because the covetous man serves riches rather than God.

526. If the second commandment forbid the love of gain, what contrary duties does it thereby necessarily enjoin?

Those of contentedness and liberality.

527. Why is belly-service referred to idolatry?

Because belly-servers set sensual gratification above every thing, and therefore the Apostle Paul says that their god is their belly; or, in other words, that the belly is their idol. Phil. iii. 19.

528. If the second commandment forbid belly-service, what contrary duties does it thereby enjoin?

Those of temperance and fasting.

529. Why are pride and vanity referred to idolatry?

Because the proud man values above every thing his own abilities and excellences, and so they are his idol; the vain man wishes further that others also should worship the same idol. These proud and vain dispositions were exemplified even sensibly in Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon, who first set up for himself a golden idol, and then ordered all to worship it. Dan. iii.

530. Is there not still another vice which is near to idolatry?

Such a vice is hypocrisy; when a man uses the outward acts of religion, as fasting, and the strict observance of ceremonies, in order to obtain respect from the people, without thinking of the inward amendment of his heart. Matt. vi. 5, 6, 7.

531. If the second commandment forbid pride, vanity, and hypocrisy, what contrary duties does it thereby enjoin?

Those of humility, and doing good in secret.

On the Third Commandment.

532. When is God’s name taken in vain?

It is taken or uttered in vain when it is uttered in vain and unprofitable talk, and still more so when it is uttered lyingly or irreverently.

533. What sins are forbidden by the third commandment?

1. Blasphemy, or daring words against God.

2. Murmuring, or complaining against God’s providence.

3. Profaneness; when holy things are jested on, or insulted.

4. Inattention in prayer.

5. Perjury; when men affirm with an oath what is false.

6. Oath-breaking; when men keep not just and lawful oaths.

7. Breach of vows made to God.

8. Common swearing, or thoughtless oaths in common talk.

534. Are not such oaths specially forbidden in holy Scripture?

The Saviour says: I say unto you, Swear not at all, but let your communication be, Yea, yea; Nay, nay: for whatsoever is more than these cometh of evil. Matt. v. 34, 37.

535. Does not this go to forbid all oaths in civil matters?

The Apostle Paul says: Men swear by the greater; and an oath for confirmation is to them an end of all strife. Wherein God, willing more abundantly to show unto the heirs of promise the immutability of his counsel, confirmed it by an oath. Heb. vi. 16, 17. Hence we must conclude, that if God himself for an immutable assurance used an oath, much more may we on grave and necessary occasions, when required by lawful authority, take an oath or vow religiously, with the firm intention of not breaking it.

On the Fourth Commandment.

536. Why is it commanded to keep the seventh, rather than any other day, holy to God?

Because God in six days made the world, and on the seventh day rested from the work of creation.

537. Is the Sabbath kept in the Christian Church?

It is not kept, strictly speaking, as a holy day; but still in memory of the creation of the world, and in continuation of its original observance, it is distinguished from the other days of the week by a relaxation of the rule for fasting.

538. How, then, does the Christian Church obey the fourth commandment?

She still to every six days keeps a seventh, only not the last of the seven days, which is the Sabbath, but the first day in every week, which is the Day of the Resurrection, or lord’s Day.

539. Since when do we keep the Day of the Resurrection?

From the very time of Christ’s resurrection.

540. Is there any mention in holy Scripture of keeping the day of the Resurrection?

In the book of the Acts of the Apostles it is mentioned that the disciples–that is, the Christians–came together on the first day after the Sabbath, which was the first day of the week, or Day of the Resurrection, for the breaking of bread, that is to say, for the celebration of the Sacrament of the Communion. Acts xx. 7. The Apostle and Evangelist John also in the Apocalypse mentions theLord’s Day, or the Day of the Resurrection.

541. Is there not yet something more to be understood under the name of the seventh day, or Sabbath?

As in the Church of the Old Testament the name Sabbath was understood to include divers other days appointed like the Sabbath for festivals or fasts, as the festival of the Passover, and the day of Atonement, so likewise are we now in the Christian Church bound to keep, besides the Lord’s Day, certain others also, which have been appointed as festivals to the glory of God and the honor of the Blessed Virgin and other saints, or as days of fasting. (See Orthod. Confess. Pt. III. Q. 60; Pt. I. Q. 88.)

542. Which are the chief festivals?

Those appointed in memory of the chief events relating to the Incarnation of the Son of God for our salvation, and to the Manifestation of the Godhead; after these, those appointed in honor of the Most Holy Mother of God, as the instrument of the mystery of the Incarnation. Such, in the order of the events, are the following:

1. The day of the birth of the Most Holy Mother of God.

2. The day of her being brought to the Temple to be dedicated to God.

3. The day of the Annunciation; that is, when the angel announced to the Most Holy Virgin the Incarnation of the Son of God.

4. The day of the birth of Jesus Christ.

5. The day of the baptism of our Lord, and the Epiphany, or Manifestation of the Most Holy Trinity.

6. The day of our Lord’s being met in the Temple by Simeon.

7. The day of our Lord’s Transfiguration.

8. The day of our Lord’s entry into Jerusalem.

9. Pasch, or Easter: the feast of feasts, the anticipation of the everlasting feast of everlasting blessedness.

10. The day of our Lord’s Ascension into heaven.

11. The feast of Pentecost; in memory of the Descent of the Holy Ghost, and in honor of the Most Holy Trinity.

12. The day of the Elevation of the Cross of our Lord, discovered by the Empress Helena.

13. The day of the Rest2 of the Most Holy Mother of God.

543. What is the chief fast?

The great fast; that is, Lent, or Quadragesima.

544. Why is it called Quadragesima?

Because it continues forty days, besides the week of Christ’s Passion.

545. Why has it been appointed that the great fast should continue forty days?

After the example of Jesus Christ himself, who fasted forty days. Matt. iv. 2.

546. Why has it been appointed to fast on the Wednesday and the Friday?

On Wednesday, in memory of the betrayal of our Lord Jesus Christ to suffer; and on Friday, in memory of his actual suffering and death.

547. For what cause are the fasts before the Nativity, the Rest of the Blessed Virgin and the Day of the Holy Apostles?

The first two as preparatory exercises of abstinence, the better to honor the ensuing feasts of the Nativity, and of the Rest of the Mother of God; the last not only for like reason, but also in imitation of the Apostles, who fasted to prepare themselves for the work of preaching the Gospel.Acts xiii. 3.

548. How should we spend our time on Sundays, and the other greater holy days, in order to keep the fourth commandment?

First, on these days we should not labor, or do worldly and temporal business; secondly, we should keep them holy, that is, use them for holy and spiritual works, to the glory of God.

549. Why are we forbidden to work on holy days?

That we may with the less hindrance employ them in holy and godly works.

550. What particular things is it fit to do on holy days?

First, to go to church, for the public worship, and for instruction in the Word of God; secondly, when at home, to give ourselves to prayer and reading, or edifying conversation; thirdly, to dedicate to God a portion of our means, expending it on the necessities of the Church and her ministers, and in alms to the poor, to visit the sick and prisoners, and to do other works of Christian charity.

551. But should we not do such things on work-days also?

It is well, if any can; but he whom business prevents should at any rate devote holy days to such works. But as regards prayer, it is certainly our bounden duty to use it every day, morning and evening, before and after both dinner and supper, and, as far as possible, at the beginning and ending of every work.

552. What are we to think of those who on holy days allow themselves to indulge in indecent plays and shows, vulgar songs, and intemperance in meat and drink?

Such people greatly desecrate holy days For if even works innocent and useful for this present life are unfit for holy days, much more such as these, which are unprofitable, carnal, and vicious.

553. When the fourth commandment speaks of working six days, does it not thereby condemn those who do nothing?

Without doubt it condemns all who on common days do not give themselves to works befitting their calling, but spend their time in idleness and dissipation.

On the Fifth Commandment.

554. What special duties are prescribed by the fifth commandment in regard to parents, under the general phrase of honoring them?

1. To behave respectfully to them.

2. To obey them.

3. To support and comfort them in sickness and age.

4. After their death, as well as during their lives, to pray for the salvation of their souls; and faithfully to fulfill their last wills, so far as they are not contrary to law, divine or civil. See 2 Macc. xii. 43, 44Jer. xxxv. 18, 19. (J. Damasc. Serm. de Mort.)

555. What degree of sin is there in undutifulness to parents?

In proportion as it is easy and natural to love and honor parents, to whom we owe our being, the more grievous is the sin of undutifulness towards them: for this cause in the law of Moses he that cursed father or mother was to be put to death. Exod. xxi. 17.

556. Why has this particular commandment to honor parents a promise added to it of prosperity and long life?

That men by a visible reward might be the more moved to fulfill a commandment on which the good order first of families and afterwards of all social life depends.

557. How is this promise fulfilled?

The examples of the old Patriarchs or Fathers show that God gives special force to the blessing of parents. Gen. xxviiThe blessing of the father establisheth the houses of the children. Ecclus. iii. 9. God of his wise and just providence specially protects the life and promotes the prosperity of such as honor their parents upon earth; but for the perfect reward of the perfect virtue he gives everlasting life and blessedness in the heavenly country.

558. Why in those commandments which teach love to our neighbors is mention made first of all of parents?

Because parents are naturally nearer to us than all others.

559. Are there not others also to be understood in the fifth commandment under the name of parents?

Yes; all who in different relations stand to us in the place of parents.

560. Who stand to us in the place of parents?

1. Our sovereign and our country; for an empire is a great family, in which the sovereign is father, and the subjects children of the sovereign and their country.

2. Our spiritual pastors and teachers; for they by their doctrine and by the Sacraments beget us to spiritual life, and nurture us up in it.

3. Our elders in age.

4. Our benefactors.

5. Our governors, or superiors, in different relations.

561. How does holy Scripture speak of the honor due to the sovereign?

Let every soul be subject to the higher powers. For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God. Whosoever therefore resisteth the power, resisteth the ordinance of God.Rom. xiii. 1, 2.

Wherefore ye must needs be subject, not only for wrath, but also for conscience’ sake. Rom. xiii. 5.

My son, fear God and the king, and oppose neither of them. Prov xxiv. 21.

Render therefore unto Cæsar the things which are Cæsar’s; and unto God the things that are God’s. Matt. xxii. 21.

Fear God; honor the king. 1 Pet. ii. 17.

562. How far should love to our sovereign and country go?

So far as to make us ready to lay down our life for them. John xv. 13.

563. How does holy Scripture speak of the duty of honoring spiritual pastors and teachers?

Obey them that have the rule over you, and submit yourselves: for they watch for your souls, as they that must give account, that they may do it with joy, and not with grief: for that is unprofitable for you. Heb. xiii. 17.

564. Is there in holy Scripture any particular injunction to honor elders in age as parents?

The Apostle Paul writes to Timothy thus: Rebuke not an elder, but entreat him as a father; younger men as brethren; elder women as mothers. 1 Tim. v. 1,2.

Thou shalt rise up before the hoary head, and honor the face of the old man, and fear the Lord thy God. Lev. xix. 32.

565. How may we be assured that we ought to honor benefactors as parents?

By the example of Jesus Christ himself, who was subject to Joseph; although Joseph was not his father, but only his guardian. Luke ii. 51.

566. Besides these, who are our superiors, whom we must honor after parents, and like them?

They who in place of parents take care of our education, as governors in schools, and masters;they who preserve us from irregularities and disorders in society, as civil magistrates; they who protect us from wrong by the power of the law, as judges; they to whom the sovereign intrusts the guardianship and defense of the public safety against enemies, as military commanders; and, lastly, masters, so far as relates to those who serve them, or belong to them.

567. What does holy Scripture prescribe as to our duty with respect to authorities generally?

Render therefore to all their dues: tribute to whom tribute is due; custom to whom custom; fear to whom fear; honor to whom honor. Rom. xiii. 7.

568. How does holy Scripture speak of the obedience due from servants and serfs to their masters?

Servants, be obedient to them that are your masters according to the flesh, with fear and trembling, in singleness of your heart, as unto Christ; not with eye-service as men-pleasers, but as the servants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart. Eph. vi. 5, 6.

Servants, be subject to your masters with all fear, not only to the good and gentle, out also to the froward. 1 Peter ii. 18.

569. If holy Scripture prescribe duties towards parents, does it not likewise prescribe duties towards children?

It does.

Fathers, provoke not your children to wrath, but bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. Eph. vi. 4.

570. How does holy Scripture speak of the duty of pastors towards their spiritual flock?

Feed the flock of God which is among you, taking the oversight thereof not by constraint, but willingly, and according to God; not for filthy lucre, but of a ready mind; neither as being lords over God’s heritage, but being ensamples to the flock.1 Pet. v. 2, 3.

571. How does holy Scripture speak of the duty of them that are in authority, and of masters?

Masters, give unto your servants that which is just and equal, knowing that ye also have a Master in heaven. Coloss. iv. 1.

572. How ought we to act, if it fall out that our parents or governors require of ns any thing contrary to the faith or to the law of God?

In that case we should say to them, as the Apostles said to the rulers of the Jews: Whether it be right in the sight of God to hearken unto you more than unto God, judge ye; and we should be ready, for the sake of the faith and the law of God, to endure the consequences, whatever they may be. Acts iv. 19.

573. What is the general name for that quality or virtue which is required by the fifth commandment?

Obedience.

On the Sixth Commandment.

574. What is forbidden by the sixth commandment?

Murder; that is, taking away the life of our neighbor in any manner whatever.

575. Is it in all cases murder, and against this commandment, to kill?

No. It is not murder, nor against this commandment, when life is taken in the execution of duty; as, when a criminal is punished with death, by just judgment; nor, again, when an enemy is killedin war, in defense of our sovereign and country.

576. What is to be thought of involuntary homicide, when a man is killed accidentally and unintentionally?

The man who is guilty of involuntary homicide can not be reckoned blameless, unless he took all proper precautions against the accident; at any rate, he needs to have his conscience cleansed according to the Canons of the Church.

577. What cases must be reckoned as murder, and as breaches of this commandment?

Besides direct murder, by whatever means, the same sin may be committed in the following, and in similar cases:

1. When a judge condemns a prisoner whom he knows to be innocent.

2. When any one conceals or sets free a murderer, and so gives him opportunity for fresh crime.

3. When any one can save his neighbor from death, but does not save him; as, when a rich man suffers a poor man to die of hunger.

4. When any one by excessive burdens and cruel punishments wears out those under him, and so hastens their death.

5. When any one, through intemperance or other vices, shortens his own life.

578. What are we to think of suicide?

That it is the most criminal of all murders. For if it be contrary to nature to kill another man like unto ourselves, much more is it, contrary to nature to kill our own selves. Our life is not our own, but God’s who gave it.

579. What are we to think of duels, to decide private quarrels?

Since the decision of private quarrels belongs to government, while the duelist, instead of having recourse to law, willfully determines on an act which involves manifest danger of death both to himself and his opponent, it is evident that a duel implies three dreadful crimes– rebellion, murder, and suicide.

580. Besides murder of the body, is there not such a thing as spiritual murder?

A kind of spiritual murder is the causing of offense: when any one causes his neighbor to fall into infidelity or into sin, and so subjects his soul to spiritual death.

The Saviour says: Whoso shall offend one of these little ones which believe in me, it were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and that he were drowned in the depth of the sea. Matt. xviii. 6.

581. Are there not still some more subtle forms of murder?

To this sin are more or less referable all acts and words against charity; all which unjustly affect the peace and security of our neighbor; and, lastly, all inward malice against him, even though it be not shown openly.

Whosoever hateth his brother is a murderer. 1 John iii. 15.

582. When we are forbidden to hurt the life of our neighbor, what positive duty is thereby enjoined?

That of doing all we can to secure his life and well-being.

583. What duties follow from hence?

Those of 1. Helping the poor; 2. Ministering to the sick; 3. Comforting the afflicted; 4. Alleviating the distress of the unfortunate; 5. Behaving in a gentle, affectionate, and edifying manner to all; 6. Reconciling ourselves with those that are angry; 7. Forgiving injuries, and doing good to our enemies.

 

 

On the Seventh Commandment.

584. What is forbidden by the seventh commandment? Adultery.

585. What forms of sin are forbidden under the name of adultery?

The Apostle Paul would have Christians not even to speak of such impurities. Eph. v. 3. It is only of necessity, to forewarn people against such sins, that we shall here name some of them. Such are–

1. Fornication; or irregular carnal love between unmarried persons. 2. Adultery; when married persons unlawfully give that love which they owe each other to strangers. 3. Incest; when near relations enter into a union like that of matrimony.

586. What does our Saviour teach us to think of adultery?

He has said that Whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart. Matt. v. 28.

587. What should we do in order to guard against falling into this subtle inward adultery?

We should avoid every thing that may excite impure feelings in the heart; as wanton songs and dances, lewd conversation, immodest games and jokes, immodest sights, and the reading of books which contain descriptions of impure love. We should strive, according to the Gospel, not even to look on that which may cause us to fall.

If thy right eye offend thee, pluck it out, and cast it from thee; for it is profitable for thee that one of thy members should perish, and not that thy whole body should he cast into hell. Matt. v. 29.

588. Must we, then, literally pluck out the offending eye?

We must pluck it out, not with the hand, but with the will. He who has firmly resolved not even to look upon that which causes him to offend hath already plucked out the offending eye.

589. When the sin of adultery is forbidden, what contrary virtues are thereby enjoined?

Those of conjugal love and fidelity; and, for such as can receive it, perfect purity and chastity.

590. How does holy Scripture speak of the duties of man and wife?

Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the Church, and gave himself for it. Eph. v. 25Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord; for the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the Church; and he is the Saviour of the body. Eph. v. 22, 23.

591. What motives does holy Scripture set before us to make us flee fornication and live chastely?

It bids us keep our bodies in purity, because they are the members of Christ, and temples of the Holy Ghost; while, on the other hand, he who committeth fornication sinneth against his own body; that is, corrupts it, infects it with diseases, and, further, hurts his mental faculties, such as imagination and memory. See 1 Cor. vi. 15, 18, 19.

 

 

On the Eighth Commandment.

592. What is forbidden by the eighth commandment?

To steal, or in any way appropriate to ourselves that which belongs to another.

593. What particular sins are forbidden thereby?

The chief are–

1. Robbery, or the taking of any thing that belongs to another openly, by force.

2. Theft, or taking what belongs to another privily.

3. Fraud, or appropriating to ourselves any thing that is another’s by artifice; as when men pass off counterfeit money for true, or bad wares for good; or use false weights and measures, to give less than they have sold; or conceal their effects to avoid paying their debts; or do not honestly fulfill contracts, or execute wills; when they screen others guilty of dishonesty, and so defraud the injured of justice.

4. Sacrilege, or appropriating to ourselves what has been dedicated to God, or belongs to the Church.

5. Spiritual sacrilege;3 when one sinfully gives and another fraudulently obtains any sacred office, not of desert, but for gain.

6. Bribery; when men receive a bribe from those under them in office or jurisdiction, and for gain promote the unworthy, acquit the guilty, or oppress the innocent.

7. Eating the bread of idleness; when men receive salary for duty, or pay for work, which they neglect, and so in fact steal both their pay and that profit which society, or he whom they served, should have had of their labor; in like manner when they who are able to support themselves by work, instead of so doing live upon alms.

8. Extortion; when, under the show of some right, but really against equity and humanity, men make their own advantage of the property, the labors, or even the misfortunes of others; as when creditors oppress their debtors by usury; when masters wear out their dependents by excessive imposts or tasks; when in time of famine men sell bread at an exorbitant price.

594. When these sins are forbidden, what contrary virtues are thereby enjoined?

Those of–1. Disinterestedness; 2. Good faith in performing engagements; 3. Justice; 4. Mercy to the poor.

595. Does he, then, who is not merciful to the poor sin against the eighth commandment?

Certainly he does, if he have the means of assisting them; for all that we have belongs properly to God, and our abundance is given us by his Providence for the assistance of the poor; wherefore, if we do not impart to them of our abundance, we do in fact thereby rob and defraud them of their right, and the gift of God.

596. Is there not yet a higher virtue contrary to sins against the eighth commandment?

Such a virtue is absolute poverty, or the renunciation of all property; which is proposed by the Gospel not as a duty for all, but as a counsel for them that would be perfect.

If thou wilt be perfect, go and sell that thou hast, and give to the poor; and thou shalt hare treasure in heaven. Matt. xix. 21.

 

 

On the Ninth Commandment.

597. What is forbidden by the ninth commandment?

False witness against our neighbor, and all lying.

598. What is forbidden under the words false witness?

1. False witness in a court of justice; when men bear witness, inform, or complain falsely against any one.

2. False witness out of court, when men slander any one behind his back, or blame him to his face unjustly.

599. But is it allowable to censure others when they are really to blame?

No; the Gospel does not allow us to judge even of the real vices or faults of our neighbors, unless we are called by any special office to do so, for their punishment or amendment.

Judge not, that ye be not judged. Matt. vii. 1.

600. Are not such lies allowable as involve no purpose of hurting our neighbor?

No; for they are inconsistent with love and respect for our neighbor, and unworthy of a man, much more of a Christian, who has been created for truth and love.

Wherefore putting away lying, speak every man truth with his neighbor; for we are members one of another. Eph. iv. 25.

601. If we would avoid sins against the ninth commandment, what rule must we follow?

We must bridle our tongue. He that will love life, and see good days, let him refrain his tongue from evil, and his lips that they speak, no guile. 1 Pet. iii. 10If any man among you seem to be religious, and bridleth not his tongue, but deceiveth his own heart, this man’s religion is vain.James i. 26.

 

 

On the Tenth Commandment.

602. What is forbidden by the tenth commandment?

All wishes inconsistent with charity to our neighbor, and thoughts which are inseparable from such wishes.

603. Why are we forbidden not only evil deeds, but also evil wishes and thoughts?

First, because when the soul entertains any evil wishes or thoughts, it is already impure in God’s sight, and unworthy of him; as Solomon says: The unjust thought is an abomination to the Lord.Prov. xv. 26. And therefore we must needs cleanse ourselves also from these inward impurities also, as the Apostle teaches: Let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of the Lord. 2 Cor. vii. 1.

Secondly, because, to prevent sinful acts, it is necessary to crush sinful wishes and thoughts, from which, as from seeds, such actions spring; as it is said: For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies. Matt. xv. 19Every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed. Then, when lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin; and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death. James i. 14, 15.

604. When we are forbidden to desire any thing of our neighbor’s, what passion is thereby

Envy.

605. What is forbidden by the words, Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s wife?

All lustful thoughts and wishes, or inward adultery.

606. What is forbidden by the words, Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s house, nor his land, nor his man-servant, nor his maid-servant, nor his ox, nor his ass, nor any of his cattle, nor any thing that is his?

All thoughts of avarice and ambition.

607. What positive duties, corresponding to these prohibitions, are prescribed by the tenth commandment?

First, to keep purity of heart; and, secondly, to be content with our lot.

608. What is indispensable for the cleansing of the heart?

The frequent and earnest invocation of the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.

 

St. John of Kronstadt on Icons

Saint John of Kronstadt 1829-1904 

Icons are a requirement of our nature. Can our nature do without an image? Can we recall to mind an absent person without representing or imagining him to ourselves] Has not God Himself given us the capacity of representation and imagination] Icons are the Church’s answer to a crying necessity of our nature. My Life in Christ, p. 430, Jordanville 2000

Canon On The Monarchy

CANON LXXXlV
If anyone insults an emperor or king, or any other ruler, contrary to what is right und just, let him pay the penalty. Accordingly: if he is a clergyman, let him be deposed; but if he is a layman, let him be excommunicated.

St. John of Kronstadt on Worldliness/Consumerism

Saint John of Kronstadt 1829-1908

People say that it is not a matter of importance if you eat meat during Lent, for Lent does not consist in food; that it is not a matter of importance if you wear costly, fine clothes, frequent theatres, evening parties, masquerades; if you provide yourself with expensive plate, china, furniture, costly equipages, spirited horses; if you amass and hoard money, etc. But what is it that turns away our heart from God, the Source of life; through what do we lose eternal life? Is it not through gluttony, through expensive dress, like the rich man in the Gospel! Is it not through theatres and masquerades? What is it that makes us hard-hearted to the poor, and even to our own relatives? Is it not our attachment to carnal pleasures in general, to our belly, to dress, plate, furniture, carriages, money, etc.? Can a man serve God and mammon; (Matthew 6:24) be a friend of God and a friend of the world, work for Christ and for the Devil? It is impossible. Through what did Adam and Eve lose Paradise, through what did they fall into sin and death? Was it not through food alone? Let us consider well what makes us careless about the salvation of our soul, which cost the Son of God so dear; what makes us add one sin to another; what makes us fall continually into opposition against God, into a life of vanity. Is it not attachment to earthly things, and especially to earthly delights? What makes our heart gross ? What makes us become flesh, and not spirit, perverting our moral nature? Is it not attachment to food and drink and other earthly goods ? How after this can it be said that to eat meat during Lent is unimportant? To say so is nothing but pride, sophism, disobedience, want of submission to God, and estrangement from Him. My Life in Christ, p. 290, Jordanville 2000

Saint John of Kronstadt on Theosis/Deification

Saint John of Kronstadt 1829-1908

As the sun, though it is itself always in the heavens, but by its rays, as if by innumerable hands, reaches the earth and its entire surface, and communicates itself to all organic bodies, entering into them (the sun enters into bodies by its rays), warming them, giving them life and growth through its warmth, passing through transparent ones, or reflecting in them by its whole circle (there are as many images of the sun as there are transparent bodies), and warming the opaque, solid, and inorganic bodies–so the spiritual Sun, God, although Himself pre-eminently in the heavens, but by His Life-giving Spirit, as though by His rays, communicates Himself to all reasonable creatures, angels and men, penetrating into their spiritual being, sanctifying them, giving them life, strength, and growth, in the same manner as the rays of the sun penetrate into organic and vegetable bodies, giving them life and growth. As the sun, though it is itself in the heavens, lights the whole earth, communicating life to every creature and thing, however insignificant, so likewise the Lord, by the Light of the Trinity, enlightens all men, for He is the true Light, “which lighteth every man that cometh into the world.” St. John i. 9.

My Life In Christ, p. 85m, Jordanville 2000 

St. John of Kronstadt on Unity…and Luther

Saint John of Kronstadt 1829-1908

You see, therefore, that our unity through the Spirit, through life, loudly proves also the Divinity of the Founder of our faith, the Lord Jesus Christ. He, who wishes to unite all, to make all as one soul, and does so, came forth from the One God, Who created all things, Who has united all things under Him, and Who wishes to raise even those who have separated themselves from union by disobedience, to union with Him through faith and obedience. The teachers who have not come from God, who were not called of Him, not sent by Him (“I have not sent these prophets, yet they ran,””No man taketh this honour unto himself, but he that is called of God, as was Aaron,” usually bring into the company of men disunion, diversity of opinion, and thus clearly prove that they are not of God. Such was Luther, such are other teachers of dissent, such are all heretics. They have divided the one Church of God, have cut into parts the indivisible, the united plurality, united under the one Head of the Church–Christ, animated by the one Spirit of God, and have thus proved that they were instruments of the Devil, who strives in every way to divide, scatter, and disperse the Lord’s sheep. “The wolf catcheth them and scattereth the sheep.” My Life In Christ, p. 81,81

Chrysostom on the Priesthood

Saint John Chrysostom 347-407 A.D.

‘When one is required to preside over the Church, and to be entrusted with the care of so many souls, the whole female sex must retire before the magnitude of the task, and the majority of men also; and we must bring forward those who to a large extent surpass all others, and soar as much above them in excellence of spirit as Saul overtopped the whole Hebrew nation in bodily stature: or rather far more. For in this case let me not take the height of shoulders as the standard of inquiry; but let the distinction between the pastor and his charge be as great as that between rational man and irrational creatures, not to say even greater, in as much as the risk is concerned with things of far greater importance.’ (Priesthood, Book 2:2)(6)

St. Gregory on Luxury

St. Gregory of Nyssa A.D. 335-395

“Those, then, whose reasoning powers have never been exercised and who have never had a glimpse of the better way soon use up on gluttony in this fleshly life the dividend of good which their constitution can claim, and they reserve none of it for the after life; but those who by a discreet and sober-minded calculation economize the powers of living are afflicted by things painful to sense here, but they reserve their good for the succeeding life, and so their happier lot is lengthened out to last as long as that eternal life. This, in my opinion, is the gulf; which is not made by the parting of the earth, but by those decisions in this life which result in a separation into opposite characters. The man who has once chosen pleasure in this life, and has not cured his inconsiderateness by repentance, places the land of the good beyond his own reach; for he has dug against himself the yawning impassable abyss of a necessity that nothing can break through.” (On the Soul and Resurrection)

Communion With God

Saint Symeon the New Theologian 949 -1022 A.D

I know that the Immovable comes down; I know that the Invisible appears to me; I know that He who is outside the whole creation takes me within Himself and hides me in His arms, and then I find myself outside the whole world.

I, a frail, small mortal in the world, behold the Creator of the world, all of Him, within myself; and I know that I shall not die, for I am within the Life, I have the whole of Life springing up as a fountain within me.

He is in my heart, He is in heaven: both there and here He shows himself to me with equal glory.

Hymn 13, ed. Johannes Koder, vol 1

Sanctification Continues Into Eternity

Saint John of Kronstadt

The present state of our souls foreshadows the future. The future will  be a continuation of the present inward condition, only in a modified  form as to its degree. My Life in Christ, p .51, Holy Trinity Monastery 2000

On Affliction and Preparing the Soul

Saint John of Kronstadt

Sometimes in affliction of your soul you wish to die. It is easy to die, and does not take long;  but are you prepared for death? Remember that after death the judgement of your whole life will follow. You are not prepared for death, and if it were to come to you, you would shudder all over. Therefore do not waste words in vain. Do not say,  “It is better to die,” but say, How can I prepare for death in a Christian manner?” By means of faith, by means of good works, and by bravely bearing the miseries and sorrows that happen to you, so as to be able to meet death fearlessly, peacefully and without shame, not as a rigorous law of nature, but as a fatherly call of the eternal, heavenly, holy, and blessed Father unto all the everlasting Kingdom. My Life in Christ, p. 18 

What the Devil Uses

Saint John of Kronstadt

It is the evil  spirit  more than anything that stands between our hearts and God; he estranges God  from us by various passions, or  by the desires of  the flesh, by the desires of the eyes, and by worldly pride.  My Life In Christ, p. 13 

Prophetic Quote on Modesty

We are quoting a heterodox teacher of the 16th century Reformation because this particular quote is  prophetic to our society. Yes,  heterodox can be prophetic. Christ goes as far as saying that actually anyone can obtain spiritual giftedness (Matthew 7:22-23).

“So if women are thus permitted to have their heads uncovered and to show their hair, they will eventually be allowed to expose their entire breasts, and they will come to make their exhibitions as if it were a tavern show; they will become so brazen that modesty and shame will be no more; in short they will forget the duty of nature…Further, we know that the world takes everything to its own advantage. So, if one has liberty in lesser things, why not do the same with this the same way as with that? And in making such comparisons they will make such a mess that there will be utter chaos. So, when it is permissible for the women to uncover their heads, one will say, ‘Well, what harm in uncovering the stomach also?’ And then after that one will plead [for] something else; ‘Now if the women go bareheaded, why not also [bare] this and [bare] that?’ Then the men, for their part, will break loose too. In short, there will be no decency left, unless people contain themselves and respect what is proper and fitting, so as not to go headlong overboard.” (John Calvin, Sermon on 1 Cor 11:2-3 , trans Seth Skolnitsky, Presbyterian Heritage Publications, pp. 12-13).

Apostolic Constitution on Female Modesty

Section 3 of the Apostolic Constitutions 4th Century

“If thou desirest to be one of the faithful, and to please the Lord, O wife, do not superadd ornaments to thy beauty, in order to please other men; neither affect to wear fine broidering, garments, or shoes, to entice those who are allured by such things. For although thou dost not these wicked things with design of sinning thyself, but only for the sake of ornament and beauty, yet wilt thou not so escape future punishment, as having compelled another to look so hard at thee as to lust after thee, and as not having taken care both to avoid sin thyself, and the affording scandal to others. But if thou yield thyself up, and commit the crime, thou art both guilty of thy own sin, and the cause of the ruin of the other’s soul also. Besides, when thou hast committed lewdness with one man, and beginnest to despair, thou wilt again turn away from thy duty, and follow others, and grow past feeling; as says the divine word: “When a wicked man comes into the depth of evil, he becomes a scorner, and then disgrace and reproach come upon him.” Prov. xviii. 3. For such a woman afterward being wounded, ensnares without restraint the souls of the foolish. Let us learn, therefore, how the divine word triumphs over such women, saying: “I hated a woman who is a snare and net to the heart of men worse than death; her hands are fetters.” Eccles. vii. 26. And in another passage: “As a jewel of gold in a swine’s snout, so is beauty in a wicked woman.” Prov. xi. 22. And again: “As a worm in wood, so does a wicked woman destroy her husband.” Prov. xii. 4 in LXX. And again: “It is better to dwell in the corner of the house-top, than with a contentious and an angry woman.” Prov. xxi. 9, 19 You, therefore, who are Christian women, do not imitate such as these. But thou who designest to be faithful to thine own husband, take care to please him alone. And when thou art in the streets, cover thy head; for by such a covering thou wilt avoid being viewed of idle persons. Do not paint thy face, which is God’s workmanship; for there is no part of thee which wants ornament, inasmuch as all things which God has made are very good. But the lascivious additional adorning of what is already good is an affront to the bounty of the Creator. Look downward when thou walkest abroad, veiling thyself as becomes women.”

An Orthodox Perspective of the Last Days

The following is a sample chapter from the book Ultimate Things: An Orthodox Christian Perspective on the End Times, by D.E. Englemen. Although Orthodoxy does not have an official and dogmatic position on the later times, this book provides very useful information from the Holy Fathers and Scripture.

Chapter 6

The Beginning of the Last Days

“Who places earthly kings on their thrones? He who alone sits on the throne of fire from eternity, and alone, in the true sense, rules over all creation. Authority, power, courage, and wisdom is given the Czar from the Lord to govern his subjects.”

—Saint John of Kronstadt

The prospect of Satan’s thousand-year bondage eventually ending, even though for a short while, has worried people since before it began. It has been an ominous cloud on the horizon which has loomed larger and blacker with each passing century. Though the event was distant for them, the Bible’s Prophets and Apostles described it in the direst terms: “That day is a day of wrath . . . a day of darkness and gloominess” (Zephaniah 1:15); “a time of trouble, such as never was since there was a nation, even to that time” (Daniel 12:1); “in the last days perilous times will come” (2 Timothy 3:1).

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On Orthodox Monarchy and Saint Nicholas II

The battle against Tsar Nicholas II was clearly bound up with the battle against God and faith . . . He became a Martyr, having remained faithful to the Ruler of those who rule, and accepted death in the same way as the martyrs accepted it. Archbishop John Maximovitch.

Very soon after Russia accepted the seed of the Gospel (in the year 988) her soil was sanctified by the blood of martyrs. The pure young sons of Grand Duke Vladimir, Boris and Gleb, accepted death at the hands of a political assassin in order to save their people from civil war and terrible upheaval. They became sufferers for righteousness (I Peter 3:14); being conformed to the innocent suffering of Christ, they became true “Passion-Bearers.

As in the beginning of Holy Russia, so at the end: it pleased God to reveal Himself to the Russian people through the innocent suffering of Saints Boris and Gleb; now, in these latter times, He has again unveiled Himself through the purifying suffering of a Tsar, the Anointed of God and supreme Protector of Christ’s Church in Russia, Nicholas II.

Western writers do not understand Orthodox monarchy. And because America rebelled against the King of England; Americans in particular have no sympathy for the idea of Monarchy. Indeed, it is almost a sacred tradition to applaud any nation that “comes to its senses” and overthrows its king! The Tsars of Russia are viewed in this same man- centered rather than God-centered light.

But; in Orthodox Russia there once existed a society composed not of “church and state” (such as existed in medieval Europe) but of “government and priesthood”-a holy commonwealth. The Tsar was never placed outside the Church or “above the law,” but always within the Church and subject to the law of Christ. He was very much the “servant of the Gospel”: he was required to live by it and rule by it in order to be worthy of the blessings of God upon himself, his family, and his nation. Such a righteous Father to his people was the last Tsar, Nicholas II. And now, in this year of grace, 1981, in spite of more than 60 years of Marxist deception, it pleases God to reveal Nicholas and those that suffered with him, to the Church and to the whole world (if only the world will hear it!).

Blessed Archbishop John Maximovitch has written: “Why was Tsar Nicholas II persecuted, slandered and killed? Because he was Tsar, Tsar by the Grace of God. He was the bearer and incarnation of the Orthodox world view that the Tsar is the servant of God, the Anointed of God, and that to Him he must give an account for the people entrusted to him by destiny…”

In Orthodox teaching, Tsar Nicholas was the last representative of lawful Christian authority in the world, the last one to restrain the mystery of iniquity (2 Thess. 2:27). (And, indeed, from the time of his martyrdom can be dated the unprecedented lawlessness, godlessness, and apostasy of this final age: the complete unleashing of the forces of darkness, which now threaten to completely engulf the world as a preparation for the reign of Antichrist.).

An Orthodox monarch receives his authority from God, but by what means and in what manner does it come to him? Authority to govern in the Name of God and perform the highest earthly ministry descends upon a Tsar in the Sacrament of Anointing, at the time of his coronation. After the crowning he is told that “this visible and material adornment of thy head is to thee a manifest sign that the King of Glory, Christ, invisibly crowneth thee.” The Anointing takes place after the reading of the Gospel in Divine Liturgy. The chief hierarch anoints the Tsar with Holy Chrism on the brow, eyes, nostrils, lips, ears, breast, and hands, saying each time: “The Seal of the Gift of the Holy Spirit.”

Thus, Nicholas II received his authority through a Sacrament. The Holy Spirit was upon him! “By rejecting the Tsar, the people blasphemed the Sacrament and trampled upon the grace of God” (Illustratted History of the Russian Peop1e).

In 1917 Metropolitan Macarius of Moscow saw in a vision the Saviour speaking to Tsar Nicholas: “You see,” said the Lord, “two cups in my hands: one is bitter for your people, and the other is sweet for you.” In the vision the Tsar begged for the bitter cup. The Saviour then took a large glowing coal from the cup and put it in the Tsar’s hands. The Tsar’s whole body then began to grow light, until he was shining like a radiant spirit. Then the vision changed to a field of flowers, in the middle of which Nicholas was distributing manna to a multitude of people. A voice spoke: “The Tsar has taken the guilt of the Russian people upon himself and the Russian people are forgiven.” Nicholas himself once said: “Perhaps an expiatory sacrifice is needed for Russia’s salvation. I will be that sacrifice. May God’s will be done!

He had a very strong sense of his destiny as an Orthodox ruler. Although he had an opportunity to flee the country with his family and seek refuge outside Russia, he and his Empress deliberately chose to stay and accept whatever awaited them. He had been born on the feast of the Prophet Job and because of this he often remarked to his advisors: “I have a secret conviction that I am destined for a terrible trial, that I shall not receive my reward on this earth.” No wonder that our Russian Bishops Abroad wrote (in 1968): “Job the Much-Suffering, on the day of whose commemoration the Tsar was born, said in his grievous suffering, concerning the day of his conception: ‘As for that night, let darkness seize upon it; let it not be joined unto the days of the year” (Job 3:6). Terrible was the night of the murder of the Tsar”!

On that unspeakable night, “the prisoners were all in a deep sleep when they were awakened and ordered to dress in order to leave the city… The Imperial Family descended to the basement where the Sovereign sat down, with his ill son, on a chair in the middle of the room. The Duchesses, the doctor, and three dedicated servants were seated around him. Everyone was waiting for the signal to depart. At the executioner’s announcement (which stunned all the prisoners) of the impending execution, the Empress succeeded in crossing herself. She was killed instantly, together with the Sovereign. God spared them from hearing the groans of the Tsarevitch and the cries of the wounded Grand Duchess Anastasia. The first bullets did not bring death to the youngest ones and they were savagely killed with blows of bayonets and gun-butts and with shots at point-blank range. The most innocent and holy had suffered the greatest torture”? (Illustrated Russian History).

In the words of Fr. Dimitry Dudko, one of the first of that wave of modern confessors to speak out against the betrayal of the Church in Russia: “The Tsar is a saint and, moreover, one of the greatest saints. O great saint of Russia, Great-Martyr Nicholas, pray to God for us!”

From the website of the Eastern Diocese or ROCOR 

St. Peter of Damaskos on Sanctification

St. Peter of Damaskos 12th Century

There are four forms of wisdom: first, moral judgment, or the knowledge of what should and should not be done, combined with watchfulness of the intellect; second, self-restraint, whereby our moral purpose is safeguarded and kept free from all acts, thoughts and words that do not accord with God; third, courage, or strength and endurance in sufferings, trials and temptations encountered on the spiritual path; and fourth, justice, which consists in maintaining a proper balance between the first three. These four general virtues arise from the three powers of the soul in the following manner: from the intelligence, or intellect, comes moral judgment and justice, or discrimination; from the desiring power comes self-restraint; and from the soul’s heart comes courage. Book 1, A Treasury of Divine Knowledge, The Four Virtues of the Soul 

St. Maximus on Wealth

St.  Maximus the Confessor 580-662

There are three things which produce love of material wealth: self-indulgence, self-esteem and lack of faith. Lack of faith is more dangerous than the other two. The self-indulgent person loves wealth because it enables him to live comfortably; the person full of self- esteem loves it because through it he can gain the esteem of others; the person who lacks faith loves it because, fearful of starvation, old age, disease, or exile, he can save it and hoard it. He puts his trust in wealth rather than in God, the Creator who provides for all creation, down to the least of living things There are four kinds of men who hoard wealth: the three already mentioned and the treasurer or bursar. Clearly, it is only the last who conserves it for a good purpose – namely, so as always to have the means of supplying each person’s basic needs.

Phillokalia, Volume III

Building The New City: St. Basil’s Social Vision

By Paul Schroeder

In St. Gregory the Theologian’s funeral oration for St. Basil the Great, St. Gregory describes the legacy of St. Basil’s philanthropic endeavors in this way: “Go forth a little way from the city, and behold the New City, the storehouse of piety, the common treasury of the wealthy … where disease is regarded in a religious light, and disaster is thought a blessing, and sympathy is put to the test.”

St. Gregory is referring to the Basiliad, the great philanthropic foundation established by St. Basil where the poor, the diseased, orphans and the aged could receive food, shelter, and medical care free of charge from monks and nuns who lived out their monastic vocation through a life of service, working with physicians and other lay people. The New City was in many ways the culmination of St. Basil’s social vision, the fruit of a lifetime of effort to develop a more just and humane social order within the region of Caesarea, where he grew up and later served as a priest and a bishop.

The story of Basil’s life centers around two profound shifts. The first, a spiritual awakening so decisive as to be called a conversion, occurred shortly after he completed his studies at the great university at Athens. As a result of this experience, Basil chose to be baptized, a decision that in his day was often postponed until late in life. He then sold his inheritance, distributed the funds to the poor, and embarked upon a journey to see the monastic communities that were flourishing throughout Palestine, Syria, and Egypt.

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St. Niphon Prophesy

St. Niphon of Constantia, 4th Century 

“But in the last times those who truly will serve God will succeed in hiding themselves from men and will not perform in their midst signs and wonders as at the present time, but they will travel by a path of activity intermixed with humility, and in the Kingdom of Heaven they will be greater than the Fathers who have been glorified by signs. For at that time no one will perform before the eyes of men miracles which would inflame men and inspire them to strive with zeal for ascetic labors.” St. Niphon of Constantia, Cyprus, writing of St. Baranuphius the Great and John, Moscow,  1855, pp.654-55

On Despair

St. Seraphim of Sarov 1759-1833

Just as the Lord is solicitous about our salvation, so too the murderer of men, the devil, strives to lead a man into despair.
A lofty and sound soul does not despair over misfortunes, of whatever sort they may be. Our life is as it were a house of temptations and trails; but we will not renounce the Lord for as long as He allows the tempter to remain with us and for as long as we must wait to be revived through patience and secure passionlessness!

Judas the betrayer was fainthearted and unskilled in battle, and so the enemy, seeing his despair, attacked him and persuaded him to hang himself; but Peter, a firm rock, when he fell into great sin, like one skilled in battle did not despair nor lose heart, but shed bitter tears from a burning heart, and the enemy, seeing these tears, his eyes scorched as by fire, fled from him wailing in pain. And so, brothers, St Antioch teaches, when despair attacks us let us not yield to it, but being strengthened and protected by the light of faith, with great courage let us say to the evil spirit: “What are you to us, estranged from God, a fugitive from Heaven and evil servant? You dare do nothing to us. Christ, the Son of God, has authority both over us and over everything. It is against Him that we have sinned, and before Him that we will be justified. And you, destroyer, leave us. Strengthened by His venerable Cross, we trample under foot your serpent’s head.(St. Antioch, Discourse 27).

St. Seraphim of Sarov (Spiritual Instructions no. 14, Little Russian Philokalia Vol. 1

St. Paisy Velichkovsky on Demonic Activity

There is a crucial aspect of Orthodox theology that we, as “modern folk” need to concern ourselves with: the study and nature of demonic influence. All throughout the Scripture we see how Christ and the Apostles speak of us battling demons. We see Christ cast them out of people. We see Saint Paul insist, in Ephesians 6:12, that our battle is not against earthly things but against rulers of darkness (demons). He also warns us to avoid the “fiery darts” of the wicked one. Saint James warns us in James 3:14-16 that even bitterness is from demonic forces.

Our baptismal rite speaks of casting out demons through the baptism. The fathers spoke often of demonic activity. Saint Chrysostom mentions them in many of his sermons, and Saint Paisy Velichkovsky gives us a wonderful breakdown of demonic forces, as we have posted below.

We battle against demonic activity. As we will see from Saint Paisy Velichkovsky, the demons are standing by, waiting for an opportunity to pull the right puppet string, the string that we first raised up to them through our partaking with secularism and other demonic avenues. America is full of these avenues! Just turn on the TV or the radio and you will certainly be able to begin “shooting strings” up for the demons to grab hold of.

Demons need to be fed! They thrive on a symbolic life of paganism and other anti-Christ philosophies such as secularism, but they also fall by the symbolic. The fathers tell us that the simple sign of the cross wards them off. But certainly we cannot live an “unequally yoked” (as St. Paul says) anti-Christ life and expect our symbols to work on their own. That, I think, is a problem that we have in this modern society! Church on Sunday, and then secularism throughout every other day. Our rich symbolic Traditions are not just for Sunday worship, they should encompass our entire lives: How we decorate our houses, what we listen to and watch, and what we wear on our bodies.

Our iconic and festive avenues give us much to grasp on to! Other ways to conquer demonic force is to be closely connected to a spiritual father, confessing to him on a frequent basis, at least once a month. Confessing, fasting, prayer, worship, alms-giving, and giving your ear to a spiritual father scare the demons away due to the strong dose of humility it takes to accomplish this.

We will be posting more on demonic influence on the site in the future, under the Demonic Activity tab, under Early Fathers. We think you will be somewhat jolted (in a good way, of course) on how much the fathers support this reality and also how relative it is to our lives.

 

St. Paisy Velichkovsky  1722–1794

Pay heed to yourself, O monk, sensibly and diligently, with a vigilant mind, as to when the demons come, by what means they catch one, and by what means they themselves are vanquished. Guard yourself with great caution, because every hour you walk in the midst of passions and nets. Everywhere the passions surround one. Everywhere are set out their traps. Pay heed lest you be attracted by the enemy into his will through passions and traps. There is a great need for us, even essential for us men of flesh, to fight with the fleshless ones—one man with ten thousand enemies. Many tears, much patience, much suffering and caution, and a thousand eyes everywhere are required, for the evil spirits rise up maliciously against us like a lion. They would destroy us if we did not have the Lord with us. They have been very skilled in the art of catching men for more than seven thousand years. Without sleep, food, and rest, constantly, every hour, and by all means, they seek our perdition with every trick and with great effort. Having turned out to be powerless in one way, they think up something else. They start one thing, and contemplate yet another. And they roar about everywhere looking where they might find doors to enter and from where they might begin the battle, and, as it were, trick us into doing evil. Do you not know with whom you battle? How legions of invisible enemies surround you, and every one of them wages his own battle? They sound numberless voices, and desire to swallow up your soul. Should you not be cautious? Is it possible that having drunk your fill and given yourself over to sleep, lying down and constantly consoling yourself, that you can with all this receive salvation? If you will not be attentive to this, you will not escape their traps. We have come to struggle, as it were, stepping into the fire. If we desire to be true warriors of the King of Heaven and not false participants, then let us put far away from us every passion or other. And according to our desire and fervor they tighten their traps, for the occasion to sin belongs to us ourselves, our attachment, weakness; and let us put away from ourselves every negligence and faintheartedness and effeminate weakness, and thus we shall stand against the cunningness of the demons. Let us labor in prayers and other virtues with all fervor and power, with soul, heart, and mind, just as someone might run swiftly on a road without looking around, or as a stingy man might fast, for such is the cunningness of the evil demons. They are constantly occupied with us. Like watchmen they notice our inclinations and our desires, what we are thinking about and what we love, what we are occupied with besides these. Whatever passion they notice in us, they arouse this in us, and thus they place their nets for us. In this way, we ourselves, first of all, arouse against ourselves every passion, being ourselves the cause of it. Therefore the demons seek in us occasion that through our own inclination and desire we might the sooner be caught. They do not compel us to do what we do not desire, to do that from which our mind inclines away and our will does not agree, knowing that we will not obey them. Rather, they test us some, whether we will accept some passion or other, And according to our desire and fervor they tighten their traps, for the occasion to sin belongs to us ourselves, our attachment, weakness, and negligence. We do not cut off the beginning of every passion, but the final cause of every evil is the demons. Through the demons we fall into every sin, and no kind of evil comes to us apart from them.

Thus the demons cast us into every passion. They compel us to fall to every sin, and we are tangled in every net. By nets I mean the first thought of desires and various foul thoughts through which we bind ourselves with every passion, and fall into every sin. This is the door of demons and passions, by which they enter into us and rob our spiritual treasury. Immoderate sleep, laziness, eating not at the proper time are a cause of the entrance of demons. And having come, they first of all knock on the doors of the heart secretly, like thieves. They introduce a thought, and they notice whether there is a watchman or not, that is, they see if the thought will be received or not. If it will be received, then they begin to cause passion and arouse us to it, and they steal our spiritual treasure. If they find a watchman at the doors of the heart who is accustomed to belittle and banish their suggestions, if one turns away in mind from the first mental impulse and has one’s mind deaf and dumb to their barking and directed towards the depths of the heart and so does not at all agree with them, then to such a one they cannot do any evil, since his mind is sober. Then they begin to scheme and place various nets to catch us in passion, for example: forgetfulness, anger, foolishness, self-love, pride, love of glory, love of pleasure, overeating, gluttony, fornication, unmercifulness, anger, remembrance of wrongs, blasphemy, sorrow, brazenness, vainglory, much speaking, despondency, fearfulness, sleep, laziness, heaviness, fright, jealousy, envy, hatred, hypocrisy, deception, murmuring, unbelief, disobedience, covetousness, love of things, egotism, faintheartedness, duplicity, bitterness, ambition, and laughter. then they arouse a great storm of thoughts of fornication and blasphemy so that the ascetic might become frightened and despondent, or so that he might leave off his struggle and prayer. But if the enemies after raising all this cannot hold and take away from his struggle a firm soul and an unwavering soldier of Christ who, like a passion-bearer, has placed his foundation on the rock of faith, so that the rivers of sorrows do not cause him to waver, then they try to rob him by some seeming good, considering it more convenient under the appearance of good to introduce something of their own and in this way to deprive one of perfect virtue and struggle. Thus they try to compel us to make spiritual conversations for the sake of love, to teach men, or to sweeten the food a little for the sake of a friend or for the Feast, for they know, the deceptive ones, that Adam fell for the love of sweet things. First they begin to darken the purity of the mind and heedfulness to oneself, and by this path they suddenly throw us into the pit of sexual sins or into some other passion. If even by this way they do not cause one to waver who is sober in mind, then they arm themselves with false visions and offend and disturb him by various afflictions. A most skillful warrior lets all this go by him and regards it as nothing, as if it has no relation to him, for he knows that all this is the device of the devil.

If even thus they do not conquer, then they battle by means of highmindedness. They introduce they thought that the man is holy, saying to him secretly, “How many afflictions you have endured!” The demons, like a clever hunter, when their first means turns out to be powerless, abandon it, go away, hide themselves, and pretend to be conquered. But beware, O man, pay heed, do not be lax, for they will not depart from you until the grave. But they will prepare a great sedge and will look attentively by what means they can again begin to rise up against you, for they do not rest. When the warmth of fervor grows cold in a struggler, they then secretly, having prepared some net, come again and lay them out and try to catch him. In all the paths of virtue, the devils establish their nets and hindrances when we fulfill heedfully every deed for our salvation and not out of pleasing men, or from some other idea. But if in virtue there is hidden some kind of impurity, pride, vainglory, and highmindedness, then in such a matter the devils do not hinder us, but they even inspire us, so that we might labor without benefit. The demons strive for nothing so much as by every crafty means to steal time and make it idle. In everything that the demons do, they strive to dig three pits for us. First of all, they act against us and hinder us so that there will be no good in all our acts of virtue. In the second place, they strive so that the good will not be for the sake of God. That is, having no opportunity to bring us away from good, they make efforts through vainglory to destroy all our labors. In the third place, they praise us as if we turn out in everything to be God-pleasing. That is, being unable to confuse us by vainglory, they strive by highmindedness to destroy our labors and deprive us of rewards. Every demonic battle against us is in three forms. First, the devils darken our mind and a man becomes forgetful and dispersed in all his works. Then they introduce an idle thought, so that through it we might lose time. Finally, they bring various temptations and afflictions. Therefore, of us it is demanded that at all times we should be very sober of mind, for the enemies ceaselessly are making tricks and acting against us. If one struggles for many years, the enemy seeks a convenient time, so as in a single hour to destroy his labors. Not many men see the numberless traps, devices, and tricks of the demons. As a fleshless spirit the demon does not require rest, and through a long life he has learned to catch men. Therefore, no one can escape the tricks, the ruinous nets, and pitfalls of them, except one who remains in bodily infirmity from constant struggle, and who lives in spiritual poverty, that is, with a contrite heart and in humble thoughts. Such a one will conquer them.

Most of all, the Divine Help cooperates with us. However, in us, as we have said previously, is the beginning of all passions, attachment, weakness, and negligence, because we do not renounce in soul and thought and do not cut off the first impulse of every passion that comes. And the demons add yet more. Seek within yourself the reason for every passion, and finding it, arm yourself and dig out its root with the sword of suffering. And if you do not uproot it, again it will push out sprouts and grow. Without this means you cannot conquer passions, come to purity, and be saved. Therefore, if we desire to be saved, we must cut off the first impulse of the thought and desire of every passion. Conquer small things so as not to fall into big ones. It is evident that God allows one to be overthrown in battle by the demons or some stubborn passion because of our pride and highmindedness, when one considers himself to be holy, or strong, and trusts in himself, and exalts himself above those who are weak. Let such a one acknowledge his own infirmity, acknowledge the Help of God, and be enlightened. Let him understand that without God’s Help he can do nothing, and thus he will humble his thought. Or again, this is allowed as a chastisement for sins, so that we might repent and be more experienced in struggle. Or it is allowed for the sake of crowns of victory. However, in that in which you are conquered and from which you suffer, before all other passions you must arm yourself against it and for this use all your fervor. Every passion and suffering is conquered by undoubting faith, by labor of heart and tears, by warm fervor and quick striving to oppose the present passion. This is a high and praiseworthy struggle, as taught by the Holy Fathers. Every warfare of the demons against us comes from and is reinforced by four causes: from negligence and laziness, from self-love, from love of pleasure, and from the envy of the demons. May the Lord preserve us by His Grace from all nets of the enemy and passionate works, unto the ages of ages. Amen.

Ch. XXXV from Field Flowers.

Understanding Orthodox Worship

Many who either do not understand or who despise the traditional/liturgical worship service of the Orthodox Church do so because, for one reason, they do not understand the very nature of worship. Christ says in Matthew 16 that nothing will prevail against the Church. This is how the Church worships: without being prevailed against by the non-Orthodox’ unbelief.

Many Evangelicals say that liturgical worship is “canned” and “dry.” Liturgical celebration is only canned and dry to those that do not involve themselves in it. The Orthodox Church worships regardless of who is and is not worshiping. It does not take a break, slow down or change its form because of one man or many men’s unbelief.

A problem with our society today is that many men have begun to fabricate their own worship service based on their lack of belief. They believe that the worship of the Church should spontaneously interact with where they are currently in their level of spirituality. There happens to be hundreds of thousands of these types of Christians in our society, today. They are completely unaware of the historical reality of the Church and how we are to worship, so they attend whichever church they feel comfortable at – usually the one that connects with their secular culture.

Most non-Christians and modern Christians are not comfortable worshiping  liturgically. The entire service seems canned to them! But it is not the service that is canned, it is the unbeliever that is canned. They are canned because they were taught not to grow and become one with the entirety of the kingdom of Christ. They are canned because someone has limited their capacity to know and give to God. A modern teacher has infiltrated their soul with doctrine and polemics that create a top-stop in their minds and hearts. 

The Orthodox Church worships regardless of how you worship; regardless of whether you worship or not! The Orthodox Church assumes a worship service for the Christian who desires to grow in Christ, to come into full communion with Him. Non-Orthodox and immature Christians should first learn about worship before they jump to conclusions about its nature. If they do jump to conclusions without being discipled they risk being lost to the spirit of contemporary “Christianity.” Contemporary Christianity’s worship is geared for the non-Christian (in the name of evangelism), therefore any non-Christian or new Christian will inherit the feeling of being whole within their service. They can indeed be filled, but in their very limited capacity. 

Orthodox worship is not what Protestants refer to as “discipleship,” or even, in many ways, “evangelism;” although both certainly do happen within the service. In discipleship the Church comes down to the new believer’s level, giving certain amounts of attention and information as the person grows: a one-on-one relationship. But worship does not involve the Church fragmenting DOWN to the catechumen’s spiritual level, it involves raising the Church UP to God. This is why the calling of the priest is so important! He is bringing us up to God, to worship and serve God – to give Him our hearts, hence the Anaphora within the Liturgy: “Priest: Lift up your hearts. People: We lift them up unto the Lord. Priest: Let us give thanks to the Lord our God. It is meet and right so to do.”

St. John Chrysostom on Abortion and Birth Control

“[I]n truth, all men know that they who are under the power of this disease [the sin of covetousness] are wearied even of their father’s old age [wishing him to die so they can inherit]; and that which is sweet, and universally desirable, the having of children, they esteem grievous and unwelcome. Many at least with this view have even paid money to be childless, and have mutilated nature, not only killing the newborn, but even acting to prevent their beginning to live” (Homilies on Matthew 28:5 [A.D. 391]). – John Chrysostom

The so-called “birth control” pill – shown above – is indeed an abortifacient. It actually performs an embryonic abortion. This has been proven by medical doctors across the world. Randy Alcorn has a short article on it here.

There is what some in the west call Natural Family Planing, which is perfectly ethical and godly. It has to do with identifying the signs of a woman’s fertility. Here is information on that.

Regarding how Chrysostom ties receiving inheritances to abortion, I would say that the same thing is happening in our day but from a different angle. Many couples now would rather NOT have children so that they can enjoy the inheritance of their culture – hobbies and luxury. There are legitimate reasons for not having children but I think that the “we cannot afford them” clause is grossly abused today. What I think many people mean to say when they refer to not affording children is that they cannot afford the lifestyle of their choice if they have children.

 

Marriage and Monasticism

Metropolitan of Nafpakos, Hierotheos

“Indeed we know very well that the Church praises both ways of life, both the monastic life and the married life. But this does not mean that one is praised at the expense of the other. And at this point we must say that the interpretation of the Parable of the Talents applies, which we mentioned before.

It can be maintained that in the Church the people are not divided simply into unmarried and married, but into people who live in Christ and people who do not live in Christ. Thus on the one hand we have people who have the Holy Spirit and on the other hand people who do not have the Holy Spirit. Moreover, in the early Church, as it seems in the Epistles of the Apostle Paul, all the Christians, unmarried and married, lived like monks, because even marriage has its asceticism. Therefore, if some monk criticises marriage in Christ, he shows that he has a problem with the monastic life, and if a married person criticises and looks askance at the monastic life, it means that he has a problem with the way in which he is living his life. A good monk never criticises what God praises and a good married person never criticises anything that God praises, such as the monastic life.”

The Mind of the Orthodox Church, p.157

On Confessing

St. John of Kronstadt 1829-1908

“The longer we remain without confessing, the worse it is for us, the more entangled we become in the bonds of sin, and therefore the more difficult it is to give an account.”

“He who is accustomed to give account of his life at confession here will not fear to give an answer at the terrible judgment-seat of Christ. It is for this purpose that the mild tribunal of penitence was here initiated, in order that we, being cleansed and amended through penitence here below, may give an answer without shame at the terrible judgment-seat of Christ.”

My Life in Christ: Part II, Holy Trinity Monastery pg.280

 

St. John Cassian 360-435 

“All the corners of our heart must… be examined thoroughly and the marks of all that rise up into them must be investigated with the utmost wisdom. And all this must be done in case some beast of mind, some lion or serpent, has passed through and has left its dangerous hidden marks there, marks by which, as a result of the way we neglect our thoughts, a way into the sanctuary of our heart may be made available to others. Every hour and every moment working over the earth of our heart with the plough of Scripture, that is, with the memory of the Lord’s cross, we shall manage to destroy the lairs of the wild beasts within us and the hiding places of the venomous serpents.” Conferences, Conf. One sect. 22; Paulist Press pg. 57

Orthodox Calendar on the Sidebar!

Take a look on the right side of the page!

St. Mark the Ascetic on Living

St. Mark the Ascetic 5th Century

“Think nothing and do nothing without a purpose directed to God. For to journey without direction is wasted effort.”

“He who chooses maltreatment and dishonor for the sake of truth is walking on the apostolic path; he has taken up the cross and is bound in chains (cf. Mt. 16:24; Acts 28:20). But when he tries to concentrate his attention on the heart without accepting these two, his intellect wanders from the path and he falls into the temptations and snares of the devil.”

The Philokalia Vol. 1

Saint Dorotheos on Self-Indulgence

Saint Dorotheos of Gaza 505-565 

“Self-indulgence takes many forms. A man may be self-indulgent in speech, in touch, in sight. From self-indulgence a man comes to idle speech and worldly talk, to buffoonery and cracking indecent jokes. There is self-indulgence in touching without necessity, making mocking signs with the hands, pushing for a place, snatching up something for oneself, approaching someone else shamelessly. All these things come from not having the fear of God in the soul and from these a man comes little by little to perfect contempt.” Discourses and Sayings; Cistercian Publications pg.114

Fr. Seraphim Rose on Eternal Perspective

Blessed Fr. Seraphim Rose (1934 – 1982)

Our Christianity is a religion which tells us about what we are going to be doing in eternal life, that is, to prepare us for something eternal, not of this world. If we think only about this world, our horizon is very limited, and we don’t know what’s after death, where we came from, where w’re going, what’s the purpose of life. When we talk about the beginning of things, or the end of things, we find out what our whole life is about. Not of This World, p.823

“When I am Weak, then I am Strong”

Saint John Chrysostom (347-407)

Afflications,  illnesses, ill health and the pains that our bodies experience…are counted for the remission of our trespasses…[They are the] furnace in which we are purified.”

Homily on the Paralytic 2.

 

Saint Cyprian (200-258)

What makes us different from those who do not know God is that they grumble and complain about their misfortunes,  whereas for us tribulation, far from turning us from true courage and authentic faith, fortifies us through suffering. Thus whether we are exhausted from the tearing of our innards, or a violent interior burning consumes us from the stomach to the throat, or our strength is constantly sapped because of vomiting, or our eyses are shot through with blood, or we are eaten by gangrene and forced to amputate a member of our body,  or some infirmity suddenly deprives us of the use of our legs, our sight or our hearing: all of these afflictions are just so many opportunities to deepen our faith.

On Death 13-14

 

Saint Diadochus of Photike (400-486?)

AS long as the athlete in the realm of piety is at the mid-stage of spiritual experience, it is the infirmities of the body that lead him to develop humility.

One Hundred Chapters 95; cf. St. Nicetas Stehatos, Centuries I.87

 

Saint Nicetas Stethatos (1000-1090)

Illnesses are useful to those who are taking their first steps in the virtuous life. They help them exhaust and humble the burning desires of the flesh. For they weaken the vigor of the flesh and lessen the earthly temptations of the soul.

Centuries I.87

St. Justinian on Divine Monarchy

St. Justinian the Great

“The two greatest gifts which God in His infinite goodness has granted men are the Priesthood and the Empire. The priesthood takes care of divine interests and the empire of human interests of which is has supervision. Both powers emanate from the same principle and bring human life to its perfection. It is for this reason that emperors have nothing closer to their hearts than the honor of priests because they pray continually to God for the emperors. When the clergy shows a proper spirit and devotes itself entirely to God, and the emperor governs the state which is entrusted to him, then a harmony results which is most profitable to the human race. So it is then that the true divine teachings and the honor of the clergy are the first among our preoccupations.” Saint Justinian, Novella Six

On Healing and Illness

Saint Isaac the Syrian (d. 700)  

[When you are] afflicted by illness and agonies of the body, be vigilant over yourself and consider the multitude of remedies that the true Physician sends to you for the health of your inner man. God brings illness for the health of the soul. Ascetic Discourse 8

Saint John Chrysostom (347–407)

The physician is not only a physician when he orders baths, adequate nourishment, and when he orders the patient to walk through flower gardens, but also when he burns and cuts…Thus knowing that God loves us more than all the physicians combined, we need not worry nor have any need to ask him to justify the means he employs. Rather, whether he wants to be indulgent or severe, let us abandon ourselves to him. For by either of these means, his desire is always to save us and to unite us to himself. Homily on the Paralytic

Saint John Climacus (6th Century)

Properly speaking, afflictions are not evils; but they appear to be such in the eyes of those who are struck by them for their own good…In fact, however salutary iron and fire may be for treating a gangrenous wound, and however charitable the hand of the doctor may be who uses them, in the eyes of the patient their use in an evil. Every teaching seems bitter at the time to those it is intended to form, just as the apostle declares: “For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant; later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it” (Hebrews 12:11). Conferences VI.3.

Saint Gregory of Nazianzus (329-390)

Let us respect the illness that accompanies sanctity and offer homage to those whose sufferings have led to victory; for it may be that among these ill persons there is hidden another Job.

Oration XXIV.34.

Saint Macarius on Heart and Mind

 Saint Macarius the Great

When those who are rich in the Holy Spirit, really having the heavenly wealth and the fellowship of the Spirit in themselves, speak to any the word of truth…it is out of their own wealth and their own treasure, which they posess within themselves when they speak, and out of this that they gladden the souls of the hearers of the spiritual discourse…But one who is poor, and does not posses the wealth of Christ in his soul…even if he wishes to speak a word of truth and to gladden some of his hearers, yet not possessing within himself the Word of God in power and reality but only repeating from memory and borrowing words from various parts of the book of Scripture, or what he has heard from spiritual men, and relating and teaching this -see, he seems to gladden others…but after he has gone through it, each word goes back to the source from which it was taken, and he himself remains once more naked and poor…For this reason we should seek first from God with pain of heart and in faith, that he would grant us to find this wealth, the true treasure of Christ in our hearts, in the power and effectual working of the Spirit. In this way, first finding in ourselves the Lord to be our profit and salvation and eternal life, we may then profit others also, according to our strength and opportunity, drawing upon Christ, the treasure within.” (Spiritual Homilies of Saint Marcius the Great – Translated by Fr. Seraphim Rose)

Monasticism a Living Standard

‎”Angels are a light to monks, and monks are a light to all men.” – Saint John Climacus – Ladder of Divine Ascent

Saint John of San Francisco on Icons

Saint John of San Francisco

“Iconography began on the day our Lord Jesus Christ pressed a cloth to His face and imprinted His divine-human image thereon. According to tradition, Luke the Evangelist painted the image of the Mother of God; and, also according to tradition, there still exist today many icons which were painted by him. An artist, he painted not only the first icons of the Mother of God, but also those of the Holy Apostles Peter and Paul and, possibly, others which have not come down to us.

Icons are precisely the union between painting and those symbols and works of art which replaced icons during the time of persecution. The icon is not simply a representation, a portrait. In later times only has the bodily been represented, but an icon is still supposed to remind people of the spiritual aspect of the person depicted. An icon is an image which leads us to a Holy, God-pleasing person, or raises us up to Heaven, or evokes a feeling of repentance, of compunction, of prayer, a feeling that one must bow down before this image. The value of an icon lies in the fact that, when we approach it, we want to pray before it with reverence. If the image elicits this feeling, it is an icon.

In calling to mind the saints and their struggles, an icon does not simply represent the saint as he appeared upon the earth. No, the icon depicts his inner spiritual struggle; it portrays how he attained to that state where he is now considered an angel on earth, a heavenly man. This is precisely the manner in which the Mother of God and Jesus Christ are portrayed. Icons should depict that transcendent sanctity which permeated the saints.”

Excerpt From Orthodox Life, Vol. 30, No. 1 (Jan-Feb 1980)

On Storing Up Faith In Our Age!

” [In this apocalyptic age] Here in the West we’re living in a fool’s paradise which can and prob­ably will soon be lost. Let’s start to prepare—not by storing food or such outward things that some are already doing in America, but with the inward preparation of Orthodox Christians.” ~ Blessed Fr. Seraphim Rose, Not Of This World, P. 877.

I don’t think Fr. Seraphim Rose was opposed to  “storing food,” but I do think he was trying to make a point to his readers at the time; and that is, if we do not guard our faith from the heresies and secular philosophies of our time and begin to experience the ascetic nature of Orthodoxy, as it was lived in previous times, we will lose much more than any amount of financial preparation can handle. God will always provide for our needs, but it will always be through the nature of faith! Anything else will  fail us.

On Monasticism

‎”Christ gave the whole world to the Church, and she has no right to renounce its spiritual edification and transfiguration. And for that she needs a strong army. That army is monasticism.”

~ St. Mother Maria of Paris

A Snapshot Of Our Declining Western Culture

A World Split Apart — Commencement Address Delivered At Harvard University, June 8, 1978

Alexander I. Solzhenitsyn

Solzhenitsyn’s warning of Western decline is as relevant today as it was twenty-five years ago. [In some ways  it is even more relevant today!]

Iam sincerely happy to be here with you on the occasion of the 327th commencement of this old and illustrious university. My congratulations and best wishes to all of today’s graduates.

Harvard’s motto is “VERITAS.” Many of you have already found out and others will find out in the course of their lives that truth eludes us as soon as our concentration begins to flag, all the while leaving the illusion that we are continuing to pursue it. This is the source of much discord. Also, truth seldom is sweet; it is almost invariably bitter. A measure of truth is included in my speech today, but I offer it as a friend, not as an adversary.

Three years ago in the United States I said certain things that were rejected and appeared unacceptable. Today, however, many people agree with what I said . . .

[Read more…]

Fr. Seraphim Rose’s Orthodox World-View

The Orthodox World-View

by Father Seraphim Rose of Platina

Before beginning my talk, a word or two on why it is important to have an Orthodox world-view, and why it is more difficult to build one today than in past centuries.

 

In past centuries—for example, in 19th century Russia—the Orthodox world-view was an important part of Orthodox life and was supported by the life around it. There was no need even to speak of it as a separate thing—you lived Orthodoxy in harmony with the Orthodox society around you, and you had an Orthodox world-view provided by the Church and society. In many countries the government itself confessed Orthodoxy; it was the center of public functions and the king or ruler himself was historically the first Orthodox layman with a responsibility to give a Christian example to all his subjects. Every city had Orthodox churches, and many of them had services every day, morning and evening. There were monasteries in all the great cities, in many cities, outside the cities, and in the countryside, in deserts and wildernesses. In Russia there were more than 1000 officially organized monasteries, in addition to other more unofficial groups. Monasticism was an accepted part of life. Most families, in fact, had somewhere in them a sister or brother, uncle, grandfather, cousin or someone who was a monk or a nun, in addition to all the other examples of Orthodox life: people who wandered from monastery to monastery, and fools for Christ. The whole way of life was permeated with Orthodox kinds of people, of which, of course, monasticism is the center. Orthodox customs were a part of daily life. Most books that were commonly read were Orthodox. Daily life itself was difficult for most people: they had to work hard to survive, life expectancy was not great, death was a frequent reality—all of which reinforced the Church’s teaching on the reality and nearness of the other world. Living an Orthodox life in such circumstances was really the same thing as having an Orthodox world-view, and there was little need to talk of such a thing.

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Different Theologies Involve Different Paradigms

Many times there is confusion within Orthodox and western conversation that seems to be somewhat of bandit; that is, there is a problem that swiftly and frequently snatches an important state of solitude from the minds of those discussing and even considering Orthodoxy. What seems to happen is that the western Christian presupposes paradigms that use various words found in the Bible as if they were originally written as dogma words with exclusive meanings. Many times we begin to take on these presuppositions of the western Christian without even knowing we are doing such a thing. If not caught right away within conversations, this adoption of presuppositions creates this confusion.

Within western theology certain words are capitalized on to become dominant words, thus creating particular western paradigms, whereas other paradigms such as that of Eastern Orthodoxy use less of a “capitalistic” framework and rely more on layering information – more prerequisites to reach final points of dogma, which enables Orthodoxy to cover much more ground with much deeper concentration. But it does not fit in the pocket very well! This is the harsh reality of Orthodoxy. It is not your processed and packaged Christianity that so many western people adore. Many times, with Orthodoxy, you have to literally build a relationship with people to help layer the amounts of information for them to digest. There really is no condensed Bible paradigm that offers a quick  systematic theology. Our paradigms are wide and cease from placing too much weight on language itself, presupposing the concept and very doctrine of faith. The words we use within our theology do not carry the authority as many western Christians suppose they do.

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Heresy as Intellectual Temptation

Heresy involves many temptations. But one that I wish to discuss is the temptation of intellectual simplicity! Simplicity is a double-edged sword. We need simplicity when referring to the Gospel and its theology but we need this simplicity to be orthodox. This is not “simple.” Really, the simplicity that we need is not so much simple as it is concise. There is a huge difference. When one is simple in theology one overlooks many suppositions in order to arrive at the simplistic plain. This is what heresy does! It paints a picture without prepping the canvas. The paint will not hold up under time or examination and thus peel right off. But being concise means prepping the canvas while painting the picture, a skill reserved for those with experience and calling in a particular spiritual field.

Heresy many times speaks to the undereducated and lower classes – or, simply put, people without proper resources (many times even the “educated” do not have proper resource). Heresy makes a theologian out of just about anyone, giving them quick access to “theology” through a minimal amount of study. An exception to this rule would be heresies that demand extensive linguistic studies, which seem to be primarily designed to replace the Church itself.

Heresy usually involves denying much of the Church’s teachings throughout history in order to show how some type of modern – even in the medieval sense – prophet or teacher has suddenly found the truth. They tend to imply that the Church was hiding for the past thousand or so years and this person or group has suddenly found it in the form of new doctrine and practice.

Heresy spreads very fast due to the despondent crowd that is targeted by the master heretic. These hopeless and uninformed people will eat the heresy straight from the palm of their new master’s hand, desperately panting for intellectual status. When the desperate soul is found by the heretic and proselytized to, they usually feel very enlightened and enriched, at first, believing that they have finally discovered what God has intended for them. The propositions begin to hit them very fast and hard, leading them to feel overwhelmed yet also joyful, due to the nature of what is being pitched. It is overwhelming because of many reasons but it is joyful because it has just the right amount of historical revelation – usually in the form of Bible verses – sprinkled throughout the recipe. It’s laced with truth.

These sprinkles of truth that the heresy is laced with is usually very easy to understand and speaks to the flesh in many ways. Instant supposed sanctification through knowledge is many times the culprit. The ancient heresy of Gnosticism was like this. It appealed to people because it immediately stimulated their intellect. It appeased their need for knowledge.

The Gospel does not sanctify like Gnosticism or its contemporary counterparts. The Gospel works through humility, submission, pain, and even turmoil. One must become “childlike” to receive the Gospel. After one receives it one can or may begin to exhaustively study its implications, but for the most part Gospel sanctification involves just a lot of hard work and dying to one’s self! One submits to the Church and then bathes in grace.

God said in Matthew that nothing would EVER penetrate His Church. We all know by looking at history who the Church is, but some insist that there “is more” than what the Church can immediately offer them and thus begin to revert to some sort of reformed model where the Church is being reinvented every couple years – ultimately excommunicating itself – sometimes unknowingly – from the historical Church. The Church is the safe-house for God’s elect. It is the “pillar of truth,” as St. Paul says in 1 Timothy 3:15. The Church will indeed let you down at times but it will never kill your soul. Only your arrogant desire for “truth” will do that.

Chrysostom on Economics

SAINT JOHN CHRYSOSTOM

“Should we look to kings and princes to put right the inequalities between rich and poor? Should we require soldiers to come and seize the rich person’s gold and distribute it among his destitute neighbors? Should we beg the emperor to impose a tax on the rich so great that it reduces them to the level of the poor and then to share the proceeds of that tax among everyone? Equality im­posed by force would achieve nothing, and do much harm. Those who combined both cruel hearts and sharp minds would soon find ways of making themselves rich again. Worse still, the rich whose gold was taken away would feel bitter and resentful; while the poor who received the gold from the hands of soldiers would feel no gratitude, because no generosity would have prompted the gift. Far from bringing moral benefit to society, it would actually do moral harm. Material justice cannot be accomplished by compulsion, a change of heart will not follow. The only way to achieve true justice is to change people’s hearts first—and then they will joyfully share their wealth.”

~ On Living Simply

On Obeying God Rather Than Man

SAINT JOHN CHRYSOSTOM

“Is every ruler elected by God to the throne he occupies? Is every emperor, king, and prince chosen by
rule? If so, is every law and decree promulgated by a ruler to be regarded as good, and thus to be obeyed without question? The answer to all these questions is, no. God has ordained that every society should have rulers, whose task it is to maintain order, so that people may live in peace. God allows rulers to employ soldiers, whose task it is to capture and imprison those who violate social order. Thus
God will bless and guide any ruler and any soldier who acts according to these principles. But many rulers abuse their authority by amassing huge wealth for themselves at the expense of their people, by unjustly punishing those who dare to speak against their evil, and by making unjust wars against neighbors. Such rulers have not been elected by God, but rather have usurped the position which a
righteous ruler should occupy. And if their laws are wrong, we should not obey them. The supreme authority in all matters is not the law of the land, but the law of God; and if one conflicts with the other, we must obey God’s law.”

~ On Living Simply

Come and Experience the Majesty of Christ!

It is often said within Orthodoxy that modern heresy is simply ancient heresy repackaged. Those who refuse to unite with the One Holy and Apostolic Church in our day are most frequently engaging in the same heresies that separated groups from the Church in the ancient world: The hierarchy, the oral (relational) authority of revelation, the sacraments, icons, the mother of God; These are all real and genuine subjects that are crucial to our relationship with God as Orthodox Christians. Any attempt to publish doctrines against these teachings or attempt to establish a separated church in the spirit of condemning these things, is what we call heterodoxy (false teaching).

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St. Diadochos on Spiritual Knowledge

SAINT DIADOCHOS

71. Spiritual knowledge teaches us that, at the outset, the soul in pursuit of theology is troubled by many passions, above all by anger and hatred. This happens to it not so much because the demons are arousing these passions, as because it is making progress. So long as the soul is worldly-minded, it remains unmoved and untroubled however much it sees people trampling justice under foot. Preoccupied with its own desires, it pays no attention to the justice of God. When, however, because of its disdain for this world and its love for God, it begins to rise above its passions, it cannot bear, even in its dreams, to see justice set at naught. It becomes infuriated with evil-doers and remains angry until it sees the violators of justice forced to make amends. This, then, is why it hates the unjust and loves the just. The eye of the soul cannot be led astray when its veil, by which I mean the body, is refined to near transparency through self-control. Nevertheless, it is much better to lament the insensitivity of the unjust than to hate them; for even should they deserve our hatred, it is senseless for a soul which loves God to be disturbed by hatred, since when hatred is present in the soul spiritual knowledge is paralyzed.

72. The theologian whose soul is gladdened and kindled by the oracles of God comes, when the time is ripe, to the realm of dispassion; for it is written: ‘The oracles of the Lord are pure, as silver when tried in fire, and purged of earth’ (Ps. 12:6. LXX). The Gnostic, for his part, rooted in his direct experience of spiritual knowledge, is established above the passions. The theologian, if he humbles himself, may also savor the experience of spiritual knowledge, while the Gnostic, if he acquires faultless discrimination, may by degrees attain the virtue of theological contemplation. These two gifts, theology and gnosis, never occur in all their fullness in the same person; but theologian and Gnostic each marvel at what the other enjoys to a greater degree, so that humility and desire for holiness increase in both of them. That is why the Apostle says: ‘For to one is given by the Spirit the principle of wisdom; to another the principle of spiritual knowledge by the same Spirit’ (1 Cor. 12:8).

73. When a person is in a state of natural well-being, he sings the psalms with a full voice and prefers to pray out loud. But when he is energized by the Holy Spirit, with gladness and completely at peace he sings and prays in the heart alone. The first condition is accompanied by a delusory joy, the second by spiritual tears and, thereafter, by a delight that loves stillness. For the remembrance of God, keeping its fervor because the voice is restrained, enables the heart to have thoughts that bring tears and are peaceful. In this way, with tears we sow seeds of prayer in the earth of the heart, hoping to reap the harvest in joy (cf. Ps. 126:5). But when we are weighed down by deep despondency, we should for a while sing psalms out loud, raising our voice with joyful expectation until the thick mist is dissolved by the warmth of song.

74. When the soul has reached self-understanding, it produces from within a certain feeling of warmth for God. When this warmth is not disturbed by worldly cares, it gives birth to a desire for peace which, so far as its strength allows, searches out the God of peace. But it is quickly robbed of this peace, either because our attention is distracted by the senses or because nature, on account of its basic insufficiency, soon exhausts itself. This was why the wise men of Greece could not possess as they should what they hoped to acquire through their self-control, for the eternal wisdom which is the fullness of truth was not at work within their intellect. On the other hand, the feeling of warmth which the Holy Spirit engenders in the heart is completely peaceful and enduring. It awakes in all parts of the soul a longing for God; its heat does not need to be fanned by anything outside the heart, but through the heart it makes the whole man rejoice with a boundless love. Thus, while recognizing the first kind of warmth, we should strive to attain the second; for although natural love is evidence that our nature is in a healthy state through self control, nevertheless such love lacks the power, which spiritual love possesses, to bring the intellect to the state of dispassion.

75. When the north wind blows over creation, the air around us remains pure because of this wind’s subtle and clarifying nature; but when the south wind blows, the air becomes hazy because it is this wind’s nature to produce mist and,, by virtue of its affinity with clouds, to bring them from its own regions to cover the earth. Likewise, when the soul is energized by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, it is freed completely from the demonic mist; but when the wind of error blows fiercely upon it, it is completely filled with the clouds of sin. With all our strength, therefore, we should, try always to face towards the life-creating and purifying wind of the Holy Spirit – the wind which the prophet Ezekiel, in the light of spiritual knowledge, saw coming from the north (cf. Ezek. 1:4). Then the contemplative faculty of the soul will always remain clear, so that we devote ourselves unerringly to the contemplation of the divine, beholding the world of light in an air filled with light. For this is the light of true knowledge.

76. Some have imagined that both grace and sin – that is, the spirit of truth and the spirit of error – are hidden at the same time in the intellect of the baptized. As a result, they say, one of these two spirits urges the intellect to good, the other to evil. But from Holy Scripture and through the intellect’s own insight I have come to understand things differently. Before holy baptism, grace encourages the soul towards good from the outside, while Satan lurks in its depths, trying to block all the intellect’s ways of approach to the divine. But from the moment that we are reborn through baptism, the demon is outside, grace is within. Thus, whereas before baptism error ruled the soul, after baptism truth rules it. Nevertheless, even after baptism Satan still acts on the soul, often, indeed, to a greater degree than before. This is not because he is present in the soul together with grace; on the contrary, it is because he uses the body’s humors to befog the intellect with the delight of mindless pleasures. God allows him to do this, so that a man, after passing through a trial of storm and fire, may come in the end to the full enjoyment of divine blessings. For it is written: ‘We went through fire and water, and Thou hast brought us out into a place where the soul is refreshed’ (Ps. 66.12. LXX).

77. As we have said, from the instant we are baptized, grace is hidden in the depths of the intellect, concealing its presence even from the perception of the intellect itself. When someone begins, however, to love God with full resolve, then in a mysterious way, by means of intellectual perception, grace communicates something of its riches to his soul.-Then, if he really wants to hold fast to this discovery, he joyfully starts longing to be rid of all his temporal goods, so as to acquire the field in which he has found the hidden treasure of life (cf. Matt. 13:44). This is because, when someone rids himself of all worldly riches, he discovers the place where the grace of God is hidden. For as the soul advances, divine grace more and more reveals itself to the intellect. During this process, however, the Lord allows the soul to be pestered increasingly by demons. This is to teach it to discriminate correctly between good and evil, and to make it more humble through the deep shame it feels during its purification because of the way in which it is defiled by demonic thoughts.

On Spiritual  Knowledge and Discrimination

Orthodox Church and State

THE ORTHODOX CHURCH AND SOCIETY. PART I: HISTORIC ROOTS OF CHURCH-STATE RELATIONS

Igumen Phillip Ryabykh, the Moscow Patriarchate representative at the European Union, offers a fascinating look at the Orthodox Church and society in this interview with the editor of Road to Emmaus Orthodox magazine. The first of this two-part series traces historical Orthodox Byzantine and Russian interactions with the state, while the second will focus on Church-State relations in contemporary Russia. Fr. Phillip is a graduate of Moscow State University of International Relations and the Moscow Theological Academy of St. Sergius Lavra.

Загрузить увеличенное изображение. 500 x 333 px. Размер файла 48579 b.

—Today, our topic is how the Church and society have interacted historically, and the contemporary relationship between the Russian state and the Russian Orthodox Church.To begin, can you tell us what percentage of the Russian population is baptized Orthodox, and of that number, how many are regular church- goers?

—We don’t have exact figures of the number of baptized people in Russia, but we do have several reliable surveys and polls that estimate from 60 to 80% identify themselves as Orthodox. The differences in these percentages are the result of answers to several questions. If the first ques­tion is simply, “Do you believe in God?,” over 90% of those asked will answer affirmatively. When they are then asked, “Are you Orthodox Christian, Muslim, Jewish, Buddhist, or something else?” usually about 80% of those who believe say that they are Orthodox. If they are asked, “How often do you go to church?” answers vary from “I never go to church” to “I go to church once a week or more,” which could be about 70% of those who call themselves Orthodox. The number of people who regularly try to fulfill the prescriptions of the Orthodox Church for a healthy spiritual life is about 10%.

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St. Diadochos on Baptism

SAINT DIADOCHOS

“We share in the image of God by virtue of the intellectual activity of our soul; for the body is, as it were, the soul’s dwelling-place. Now as a result of Adam’s fall, not only were the lineaments of the form imprinted on the soul befouled, but our body also became subject to corruption. It was because of this that the holy Logos of God took flesh and, being God, He bestowed on us through His own baptism the water of salvation, so that we might be reborn. We are reborn through water by the action of the holy and life-creating Spirit, so that if we commit ourselves totally to God, we are immediately purified in soul and body by the Holy Spirit who now dwells in us and drives out sin. Since the form imprinted on the soul is single and simple, it is not possible, as some have thought, for two contrary powers to be present in the soul simultaneously. For when through holy baptism divine grace in its infinite love permeates the lineaments of God’s image – thereby renewing in the soul the capacity for attaining the divine likeness – what place is there for the devil? For light has nothing in common with darkness (cf. 2 Cor. 6:14). We who are pursuing the spiritual way believe that the protean serpent is expelled from the shrine of the intellect through the waters of baptism; but we must not be surprised if after baptism we still have wicked as well as good thoughts. For although baptism removes from us the stain resulting from sin, it does not thereby heal the duality of our will immediately, neither does it prevent the demons from attacking us or speaking deceitful words to us. In this way we are led to take up the weapons of righteousness, and to preserve through the power of God what we could not keep safe through the efforts of our soul alone. (AD 451) On Spiritual Knowledge and Discrimination

St. Diadochos on Communion with God


SAINT DIADOCHOS OF PHOTIKI

“When God recedes in order to educate us, this brings great sadness, humility and even some measure of despair to the soul. The purpose of this is to humble the soul’s tendency to vanity and self-glory, for the heart at once is filled with fear of God, tears of thankfulness, and great longing for the beauty of silence. But the receding due to God’s complete withdrawl fills the soul with despair, unbelief, anger and pride. We who have experienced both kinds of receding should approach God in each case in the appropriate way. In the first case we should offer Him thanks as we plead in our own defence, understanding that He is disciplining our unruly character by concealing His presence, so as to teach us, like a good father, the difference between virtue and vice. In the second case, we should offer Him ceaseless confession of our sins and incessant tears, and practise a greater seclusion from the world, so that by adding to our labours we may eventually induce Him to reveal His presence in our hearts as before. Yet we must realize that when there is a direct struggle between Satan and the soul- and I am speaking here of the struggle that takes place when God recedes in order to educate us- then grace conceals itself a little, as I have said, but nevertheless supports the soul in a hidden way, so that in the eyes of its enemies the victory appears to be due to the soul alone.” On Spiritual Knowledge and Discernment (AD 451)

Orthodox Marriage as Ascetic Calling

“Fill their houses with wheat, wine and oil and with every good thing, so that they may give in turn to those in need…”

The above quote is taken from the Orthodox marriage service. The calling of marriage within Orthodoxy does not contrast the ascetic calling of monasticism, rather it is a compliment to monasticism. There is no dichotomy between marriage and monasticism. We are all called to adhere to the words of Christ regarding the ascetic life, to sacrifice what God has given us in order to serve those in need. This will look different in most every household, but we can each know how to accomplish this through our spiritual convictions, after listening to the words of Christ in the Gospel accounts, as well as his witness throughout the Bible. We are called to serve the poor and the needy, whether it be within our own family or both our family and people throughout the community. Marriage is not a call to hedonism, rather, it is a call to serve the Kingdom!

 

Orthodoxy…Holistic Christianity!

SAINT NIKOLAO VELIMIROVIC

“Our religion is founded on spiritual experience, seen and heard surely as any physical fact in this world. Not theory, not philosophy, not human emotions, but experience.”

Saint Dionysius On Knowing God

ST. DIONYSIUS

We cannot know God in His nature, since this is unknowable and beyond the reach of mind or of reason. But we know Him from the arrangement of everything, because everything is, in a sense, projected out from Him, and this order possesses certain images and semblances of His divine paradigms. We therefore approach that which is beyond all as far as our capacities allow us and we pass by way of the denial and the transcendence of all things and by way of the cause of all things. God is therefore known in all things and as distinct from all things. He is known through knowledge and through unknowing. Of Him there is conception, reason, understanding, touch, perception, opinion, imagination, name, and many other things. On the other hand He cannot be understood, words cannot contain Him, and no name can lay hold of Him. He is not one of the things that are and He is no thing among things. He is known to all from all things and He is known to no one from anything… the most divine knowledge of God, that which comes through unknowing, is achieved in a union far beyond mind, when mind turns away from all things, even from itself, and when it is made one with the dazzling rays, being then and there enlightened by the inscrutable depth of Wisdom.

St. Dionysius (The Divine Names, Chapter Seven sect. 3, Pseudo-Dionysius: The Complete Works; Paulist Press pgs. 108-109).

Saint Ambrose on the Theotokos

SAINT AMBROSE OF MILAN

“Mary’s life should be for you a pictorial image of virginity. Her life is like a mirror reflecting the face of chastity and the form of virtue. Therein you may find a model for your own life, . . . showing what to improve, what to imitate, what to hold fast to.”  De virginibus ad Marcellinam sororem suam libri tres (A. D. 377);

Saint John Cassian on Temptation

SAINT JOHN CASSIAN

“No one doubts that unclean spirits can influence the character of our thoughts, but this is by affecting them from without by sensible influences, that is, either from our dispositions or from our words and from those pursuits to which they see we are inclined with a greater propensity. But they cannot approach at all to that which has not yet come forth from the inner recesses of our soul.”  ~ CONFERENCES [inter A. D. 420-428]

As Saint James says in James 1:13-15, we cannot blame God for our temptations/circumstances. We are tempted by our own thoughts! Some how,  some way, what we conjure up inside our hearts leads us to sinful circumstances. But this does not mean that any time there is sinful circumstance in our midst, it is due to our hearts. Some sinful circumstances will not even penetrate our hearts. For instance, if there is a greedy situation at hand, before your eyes, and you have no desire to partake, then your heart has not lead you there, you are simply passing through someone else’s problem and you may be called as a witness to them! But if there is an immediate pull on your passions when the sinful circumstance arrives, you can be sure that your heart lead you there…not necessarily to that particular geography, but possibly! But more likely and certainly, your heart caused you to notice that sinful circumstance in a way that either causes you to judge/condemn the person or join with them in their sinful and provocative state.

Chrysostom on Healing of the Soul

SAINT JOHN CHRYSOSTOM

“When you are sick, you feel weak and feeble, and your face is pale; you are incapable of per­forming your normal tasks, and people remark how ill you appear. So you go to the doctor. What do you want from him? You say you want some medicine to cure your sickness. But if the cause of your sickness was cured, and you remained feeble and pale, would you be satisfied? Of course not. The truth is, a person goes to the doctor for relief of the symptoms of disease, not disease itself. The doctor, on the other hand, knows that the symptoms can­not be relieved unless their cause is overcome. Similarly, when we declare ourselves to be disciples of Christ, we claim that we want him to cure our spiritual and moral disease. Yet in truth we want him to relieve the symptoms, such as misery, discontent, despair, and so on. Jesus, by contrast, knows that he cannot relieve these symptoms unless he overcomes their deep, inner cause. And this is where the problems arise. While we would like to be rid of the symptoms, we stubbornly resist the efforts of Jesus to penetrate our souls. We do not want our deep-set feel­ings and attitudes to be changed. But only when we truly open our souls to the transforming grace of God will the symptoms of spiritual disease begin to disappear.”

~ On Living Simply

Waiting on God

SAINT AMBROSE OF OPTINA
The Will of God

“Do not allow yourself to be overly concerned with the judgements of fate. Just have an unwavering desire for salvation and, standing before God, await His assistance until the time comes.”

[Living without Hypocrisy, p. 19]

H/T to The Ascending the  Ladder

Chrysostom on Personal Evangelism

SAINT JOHN CHRYSOSTOM

“Nothing is more frigid than a Christian who is in­different to the salvation of others. Indeed I won­der if such a person can be a true Christian. To become a disciple of Christ is to obey his law of love; and obedience to the law brings joy beyond measure and description. Love means to want the best for others, sharing with them the joy of love. So the Christian feels compelled to speak to others about the law of love, and the joy of obeying this law. Of course, many people are shy about speaking to others; in their case actions motivated by love will be a most eloquent testimony. But those who are not shy will surely want to express their joy at every opportunity. There is no need to use fine words or elegant phrases; even the most uneducated people can convey joyful love by the spirit which accompanies their words. Even slaves have been known to convert their masters and mistresses by the sincerity of their speech.” – On Living Simply

Nature as Sacramental

SAINT CLEMENT

“Let us consider, beloved, how the Master is continually proving to us that there will be a future resurrection, of which He has made the Lord Jesus Christ the firstling, by raising Him from the dead. Let us look, beloved, at the resurrection which is taking place seasonally. Day and night make known the resurrection to us. The night sleeps, the day arises. Consider the plants that grow. How and in what manner does the sowing take place? The sower went forth and cast each of the seeds onto the ground; and they fall to the ground, parched and bare, where they decay. Then from their decay the greatness of the Master’s providence raises them up, and from the one grain more grow, and bring forth fruit.”

LETTER TO THE CORINTHIANS [ca. A. D. 80 (96/98?)]

The True Cross

“According to pious tradition, the size of the Cross of Christ was fifteen feet in height and eight feet in length. St. Cyril of Jerusalem (444 AD) writes: “The whole world has now been filled with pieces of the wood of the Cross” (Catachesis 4:10). He makes this statement no less than three times in his lectures to the catechumens of Jerusalem. St. John Chrysostom in the same century tells us that fragments of the True Cross were kept in golden reliquaries, which men reverently wore upon their persons. In 1889 two French archaeologists, Letaille and Audollent, discovered in the district of Sétif an inscription of the year 359 in which, among other relics, is mentioned the sacred wood of the Cross. Another inscription, from Rasgunia (Cape Matifu), somewhat earlier in date than the preceding, mentions another relic of the Cross.
St. Paulinus of Nola, some years later, sent to Sulpicius Severus a fragment of the True Cross with these words: “Receive a great gift in a little [compass]; and take, in [this] almost atomic segment of a short dart, an armament [against the perils] of the present and a pledge of everlasting safety” (Epistle 31). About 455 Juvenal, Patriarch of Jerusalem, sent to Pope St. Leo a fragment of the Precious Wood (Epistle 139). Later, under St. Hilary (468 AD) and under Symmachus (514 AD) we are again told that fragments of the True Cross are enclosed in altars. About the year 500 Avitus, Bishop of Vienne, asks for a portion of the Cross from the Patriarch of Jerusalem (P.L., LIX, 236, 239).”

In the Catholic Encyclopedia, the following is written to refute the Protestant and Rationalist argument that the amount of distributed relics of the Holy Cross throughout the world could be compared to the size of a battleship:

The work of Rohault de Fleury, “Mémoire sur les instruments de la Passion” (Paris, 1870), deserves more prolonged attention; its author has sought out with great care and learning all the relics of the True Cross, drawn up a catalogue of them, and, thanks to this labour, he has succeeded in showing that, in spite of what various Protestant or Rationalistic authors have pretended, the fragments of the Cross brought together again would not only not ‘be comparable in bulk to a battleship’, but would not reach one-third that of a Cross which has been supposed to have been three or four metres in height, with transverse branch of two metres, proportions not at all abnormal (op. cit., 97-179). Here is the calculation of this savant: Supposing the Cross to have been of pine-wood, as is believed by the savants who have made a special study of the subject, and giving it a weight of about seventy-five kilograms, we find that the volume of this Cross was 178,000,000 cubic millimetres. Now the total known volume of the True Cross, according to the finding of M. Rohault de Fleury, amounts to above 4,000,000 cubic millimetres, allowing the missing part to be as big as we will, the lost parts or the parts the existence of which has been overlooked, we still find ourselves far short of 178,000,000 cubic millimetres, which should make up the True Cross.

Today the largest portion of the True Cross can be found on Mount Athos (870,760 cubic millimeters; pictured above), followed by Rome (537,587), Brussels (516,090), Venice (445,582), Ghent (436,456) and Paris (237,731)

Source: Mystagogy

A Response to Reformed Christianity

This is my response to a Reformed group of people, including a Reformed teacher and blogger who engaged in a conversation regarding why he does not want to covert to the Orthodox Church. I believe he is a member of the Confederation of Reformed Evangelicals, a Reformed group that  grew from other Reformed groups by embracing Orthodox theologians such as Fr. Alexander Schmemann.

“Robin [and Brad],

You said that you do not want to take one authority or one period of the Church, and you apply Orthodoxy to this, but this assumes Orthodoxy is to be as Roman Catholicism. We do not have a Pope and we have not turned Ecumenical Councils into dogma parties. The Councils are here to protect and NOT to necessarily establish doctrine. The Orthodox faith moves doctrinally in a very collective manner, but with the guidance of the bishopric. And if the Church collectively gets off track, a council is formed and heretics are excommunicated.

You also say that you do not want to stick with one period of the Church but Orthodoxy does not do that either. You might be confusing the fact that  for the first one thousand years, the church was unified (not without trouble, of course) but both east and west met for council then and the monarch was alive, well, and protecting the Church as it is supposed to be. This was not just “one” period. And now that there has been a massive schism, the east continues to expand on doctrine and teaching, albeit not as much as it used to, but nonetheless enough to grow and prosper to be larger than any Protestant ‘denomination.’

Could it be that you are narrowing yourself to one period far more than the Orthodox? The Reformation was quite short and whatever lasted turned into liberalism. Most every Reformed church that succeeded from the Reformation has become completely liberal (European Reformed and most all of American). The 20th century schismatics from the Presbyterian and Anglican groups did not gain any dominion whatsoever from the “splits.” Their numbers of people retained were very small, they lost most all of the properties, and they could not even hold themselves together doctrinally. The Reformed period was very short and ended in what is now liberalism and shopping-mall evangelicalism.

I like the way you want to strive for unity of the gospel but why not do this within the “laying on of hands?” Why not strive within the apostolic Church? It does not make any sense to remain separate in order to begin unity. We already have unity, the same that you long to have. We wrestle with the Scripture, we debate, and honor theological education. You, again, mistake the Orthodox faith for the Roman. We have doctrinal latitude within our Church, more than Reformed, I would say. But we have little latitude within worship, as the Church did for over one thousand years. We do not allow renaissance and other modern philosophies to enter our worship. And we hold to the doctrine of  lex orandi, lex credenda, the Latin phrase for ‘as we worship so we will live.’

There is much to be said about God working through unity! Saint Paul, Jesus, Saint Ignatius, and many others proclaim that without unity there is blindness! After the schism of the Church, there was much blindness spread, and when the schism of the schism happened (the Reformation) there was even more spread. We are living in perilous times, times where one cannot afford to be reinventing the Church on their own!”

On the “American Dream”

“Some people see the houses in which they live as their kingdom; and although in their minds they know that death will one day force them to leave, in their hearts they feel they will stay forever. They take pride in the size of their houses and the fine materials with which they are built. They take pleasure in decorating their houses with bright colors, and in obtaining the best and most solid furniture to fill the rooms. They imagine that they can find peace and security by owning a house whose walls and roof will last for many generations. We, by con­trast, know that we are only temporary guests on earth. We recognize that the houses in which we live serve only as hostels on the road to eternal life. We do not seek peace or security from the material walls around us or the roof above our heads. Rather, we want to surround ourselves with a wall of divine grace; and we look upward to heaven as our roof. And the furniture of our lives should be good works, performed in a spirit of love.”

~ Saint John Chrysostom, On Living Simply

“Orthodoxy is foreign to rationalism and juridicism, as well as to all kinds of normatism. The Orthodox Church cannot be defined in rational concepts: it is understandable only for those who live in her, for those who partake of her spiritual experience.”

~ Nicholas Berdyaev

http://classicalchristianity.com/2011/09/06/5016/

Patriarch Krill Consecrates New Cathedral

“Magadan, September 2 (Interfax) – Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia consecrated the biggest in the Far East Orthodox church – Trinity Cathedral in Magadan.

“Kolyma is the Russian Calvary and perhaps those who tormented people on this earth, pronounced terrible words during transporting convicts “step to the right, step to the left – shooting without warning,” couldn’t imagine that a grand cathedral will be erected here,” the Patriarch said after the prayer.

He called the cathedral “a great sign showing that God’s truth is alive and none even most powerful human forces can destroy this truth” and called it a symbol of victory over evil, “faith in Christ, as for confessing Him many people were exiled here to Kolyma to become martyrs.”

Patriarch Kirill said that his father on the eve of his wedding was arrested only for chanting in amateur choir in one of St. Petersburg churches though he worked in secular job and was getting higher education.

The Primate reminded “how many human lives, means, resources were spent in vain” in atheistic years.

“And now we are terrified to see that we lack the most necessary things – good roads, high quality cars, durable houses. Where are those innumerable goods and resources? They vanished. Why? Because we built the life of our nation, our society and state without God and opposing God,” he stressed. This reminds me of… “Except the Lord build the house, they labour in vain that build it: except the Lord keep the city, the watchman waketh but in vain.” – Psalm 126:1

According to him, today there appear people, including those coming to politics, who say that “we need to return to that past – life without God.”

“We answer to all these people: come to Kolyma and you’ll see what means to build life without God and, moreover, on bones of those who confessed their faith in God,” the Patriarch said.

Kolyma is the land of Stalin’s notorious prison camps.

The service lasted several hours, followed by the presentation of Russian Orthodox Church orders to regional officials and to the cathedral’s architects.

Reports had said that the cathedral’s construction started about ten years ago. Close to 900 million rubles (around 31 million dollars) have been spent on its construction since then. This money has been provided by the regional government and private donors.”

H/T to Byzantine Texas

Why, Perhaps, So Many Are Depressed!

“All of us are liable to complain of our work. We grumble at the hardness of our work, at its monotony and dullness, at the lack of time to rest and relax. We moan about how weary we feel. And we wish that we were wealthy enough to be free of work. But just imagine what perpetual leisure actually means. In your mind let me give you a large house in which to live, filled with comfortable furniture. In this house you only need to nod at a servant, and you will be brought dish upon dish of the most delicious food. Outside there is a garden filled with trees and shrubs, which bear sweet-smelling flowers. For a few hours, for a few days perhaps, you would enjoy being in such a place. But soon you would feel bored and restless. Your bones would become still for lack of exercise. Your stomach would swell with all that food. Your head would ache for lack of anything to stimulate the mind. Your mansion in which work was impossible would seem like a prison. God has designed us to labor for our bread; only in toil can our minds and bodies find contentment.”

~Saint John Chrysostom, From On Living Simply

More Than One Way To Be Greedy!

“The sins of the rich, such as greed and selfishness, are obvious for all to see. The sins of the poor are less conspicuous, yet equally corrosive of the soul. Some poor people are tempted to envy the rich; indeed this is a form of vicarious greed, because the poor person wanting great wealth is in spirit no different from the rich person amassing great wealth. Many poor people are gripped by fear: their hearts are caught in a chain of anxiety, worrying whether they will have food on their plates tomorrow or clothes on their backs. Some poor people are constantly formulating in their minds devious plans to cheat the rich to obtain their wealth; this is no different in spirit from the rich making plans to exploit the poor by paying low wages. The art of being poor is to trust in God for every­thing, to demand nothing—and to be grateful for all that is given.”

~ Saint John Chrysostom

From, On Living Simply

Classical Marriage Roles Produce Interdependency and Love

Classical Marriage Roles Produce Interdependency and Love

“In a family the husband needs the wife to prepare his food; to make, mend, and wash his clothes; to fetch water; and to keep the rooms and furniture in the house clean. The wife needs the husband to till the soil, to build and repair the house, and to earn money to buy the goods they need. God has put into a man’s heart the capacity to love his wife, and into a woman’s heart the capacity to love her husband. But their mutual dependence makes them love each other out of necessity also. At times love within the heart may not be sufficient to maintain the bond of marriage. But love which comes from material necessity will give that bond the strength it needs to endure times of difficulty. The same is true for society as a whole. God has put into every person’s heart the capacity to love his neighbors. But that love is immeasurably strengthened by their dependence on one another’s skills.”

~ Saint John Chrysostom

From, On Living Simply

Chrysostom on Rich and Poor

 

Two Forms of Robbery

The rich usually imagine that, if they do not physi­cally rob the poor, they are committing no sin. But the sin of the rich consists in not sharing their wealth with the poor. In fact, the rich person who keeps all his wealth for himself is committing a form of robbery. The reason is that in truth all wealth comes from God, and so belongs to everyone equally. The proof of this is all around us. Look at the succulent fruits which the trees and bushes produce. Look at the fertile soil which yields each year such an abundant harvest. Look at the sweet grapes on the vines, which give us wine to drink. The rich may claim that they own many fields in which fruits and grain grow; but it is God who causes seeds to sprout and mature. The duty of the rich is to share the harvest of their fields with all who work in them and with all in need. – Saint John Chrysostom

~ From, On Living Simply

Diagram of the Orthodox Divine Liturgy

Diagram of the Divine Liturgy:

  • Beginning: The Liturgy starts with a blessing of the Kingdom of God, which includes the Sacred Body of Christ on earth, His Church.
  • Petitions: They are small prayers which the priest offers especially for the peace of the world, with the people responding, Kyrie eleison (Lord, have mercy).
  • Antiphons: These are readings from the Old Testament, especially from Psalms 102 and 145, with refrains of Christian meanings and specifically references to the Resurrection of Jesus Christ.
  • Entry with the Gospel: This entry represents the ancient practice when the priest took the Gospel by the light of torches from the crypt, an underground safeguard to protect the Gospel from destruction by the pagans, bringing it up to the Church. The priest lifts up the Gospel and exclaims: “Wisdom,” which means Christ, and calls the people to worship and bow down to Christ.
  • Trisagion: A short prayer praising the Holiness of God.
  • Readings from the New Testament: (1) A part of the Book of Acts or the Epistles of the Apostles read by the reader. (2) Another section from the Gospels read by the priest. (The specific sections read are determined by the Church and are the same every year.)
  • Sermon: It is incorporated as an exhortation from the priest to the people on the Good News of salvation. (The part of the service for the Catechumens is now omitted).
  • Cherubic Hymn and Entry with the Holy Gifts: This is a procession with the yet unsanctified Species taken from the table of Preparation and brought to the Altar during which the Cherubic hymn is sung: “Let us put away all worldly care so that we may receive the King of all.” (An addition made in the 9th century)
  • Ectenia of the Oblation: They are small prayers completing “our supplications to the Lord.” To these supplications the people respond, “Grant this, O Lord.” The Prayer of Oblation is now inaudibly read by the Priest saying: “Enable us to offer to Thee gifts and spiritual sacrifices for our sins.”
  • A Short Creed: This is a proclamation of the Holy Trinity in connection with brotherhood. It is chanted now before the Nicaean Creed.
  • Nicene Creed: This is the concise and accurate confession of the Christian faith in 12 articles formulated by the 1st Ecumenical Synod at Nicaea in 325 A.D. (The Nicaean Creed is recited during every Liturgy, an addition made in the 9th century; prior to that time it was recited only during the Liturgy at Easter).
  • Prayer of Sanctification: It includes dialogues of excerpts from the long prayer of sanctification which is now read inaudibly by the priest and which, in fact, is the very heart of the significance of the Divine Liturgy. The dialogues start with the offering of the Oblation (the Species, Bread and Wine), continues with blessings and the actual words of the Lord, “this is my body … this is my blood,” and climax in the sanctification of the Species. Now the Bread and Wine are lifted by the priest, who exclaims, “Thine own of Thine own we offer to Thee, O Lord.” At this time, generally the people kneel, and the choir sings: “We praise thee… we give thanks to thee, O Lord.” In continuation, the priest commemorates the Saints and especially the Virgin Mary, as well as the faithful ones.
  • Petitions: These are small prayers referring to the spiritual welfare of the city, the nation, the Church and the individual.
  • Lord’s Prayer: It is recited by the people; the priest follows with the exaltation.
  • Breaking the Lamb: At this point the priest elevates the Lamb (the consecrated Bread) saying: “The Holy things for those who are holy,” and breaks it in commemoration of the actual Eucharist. Also at this time the priest pours warm water, zeon, into the Chalice, a reminiscence of the very primitive Church (see, Justin the Martyr).
  • Prayers before Holy Communion and Partaking of the Holy Gifts by the Priest: Now the doors of the Altar are generally closed and the priest partakes of the Holy Gifts separately and then combines both Elements into the Chalice; a later practice of the Church.
  • Holy Communion: Both the Holy Body and Precious Blood of Christ, combined in the Chalice, are given to the prepared faithful when the priest calls them to “draw near with reverence.” In ancient times the Holy Gifts were given to the faithful separately, first the Body and then the Cup, from which the faithful drank in turn, as is the continued practice for the clergymen today.
  • Thanksgiving Prayers: These are prayers of gratitude to Almighty God for the privilege which is given to the faithful to commune with Him.
  • Dismissal Hymn: The priest calls the people to depart with a prayer by which he asks the Lord to “save Thy people and bless Thine inheritance.” In conclusion he blesses the people, saying, “May the blessing of the Lord come upon you.” The people seal the Liturgy by responding, “Amen.” Blessed bread, antithoron, which means “instead of the Gift,” is given to all at the conclusion of the Divine Liturgy.                                                                       From the Greek Orthodox Church

An Orthodox Perspective on Christ’s Death and Resurrection

There are two primary ways to properly display the Christian cross. The first is with Christ on the cross, with the skull of Adam underneath His feet. In this we see both His willingness to submit as man, being the victim of sinful humanity, as well as His victory over death, that of which He died for: to conquer death’s hold on us.

The second way to properly display the Christian cross is with no Christ on it at all, implying His resurrection (victory over death).  Although, if the cross is without Christ portrays a rather dull and rather confusing theology, in my opinion, and this is why I prefer that the ‘Christless crosses’ have additional symbolic/iconic theology with them.

This leaves us with the popular Roman and Lutheran crosses that have only the crucified Christ on them, with no Theotokos, no angels, no skull, usually nothing else at all. This presents us with a very legal and juridical theology; that Christ died for the sake of the Law (sacrifice is all we see in this one).

Most all Western Christianity teaches that Christ died for the Law; that He died to take the punishment that the Law demands from us. But this is not what Christ died for. The Law, as Saint Paul says, was a tutor to show the Jews Christ, and that salvation is not from the Law.

The penal aspect of God’s Law is not the means or springboard of salvation. The Bible does not teach through the Church that the penal aspect of the Law works salvation, but only teaches this through the doctrines of man.

Saint Paul says in Philippians 2:8 that Christ obediently became man to the point of death. This is referring to his obedience to human nature and not to the Law. Christ had to experience all that we would or could experience in order to be the “ransom” and beat death’s hold on our eternal glory and communion with God.

There has never been a “covenant of works,” as some teach, and salvation was never through works, even in the Old Covenant era. Saint Paul attests to this in Romans 4, where he says that Abraham was a part of God’s Covenant not through works but through faith.

A legal transaction, as Western theology supposes, did not need to take place. In fact, it goes completely against the gospel to say that the cross was a part of a legal transaction; that God was reckoning Christ to earn salvation through works!  God was not punishing Christ on the cross to end this supposed legal transaction. Christ was fully man and fully God and living this dual nature here on earth found Jesus on the cross! Christ becomes both the victim as well as the victor through the cross, being killed yet conquering death and its stronghold.

On Holy Relics

In the God-Man, the Lord Christ, and His Body, all matter has been set on a path toward Christ —the path of deification, transfiguration, sanctification, resurrection, and ascent to an eternal glory surpassing that of the Cherubim. And all of this takes place and will continue to take place through the Divine and human Body of the Church, which is truly the God-Man Christ in the total fullness of His Divine and Human Person, the fullness “that fills all in all” (Eph. 1:23). Through its Divine and human existence in the Church, the human body, as matter, as substance, is sanctified by the Holy Spirit and in this way participates in the life of the Trinity. Matter thus attains its transcendent, divine meaning and goal, its eternal blessedness and its immortal joy in the God-Man.


The holiness of the Saints—both the holiness of their souls and of their bodies—derives from their zealous grace- and virtue-bestowing lives in the Body of the Church of Christ, of the God-Man. In this sense, holiness completely envelopes the human person—the entire soul and body and all that enters into the mystical composition of the human body. The holiness of the Saints does not hold forth only in their souls, but it necessarily extends to their bodies; so it is that both the body and the soul of a saint are sanctified. Thus we, in piously venerating the Saints, also venerate the entire person, in this manner not separating the holy soul from the holy body. Our pious veneration of the Saints’ relics is a natural part of our pious respect for and prayerful entreaty to the Saints. All of this constitutes one indivisible ascetic act, just as the soul and body constitute the single, indivisible person of the Saint. Clearly, during his life on the earth, the Saint, by a continuous and singular grace- and virtue-bestowing synergy of soul and body, attains to the sanctification of his person, filling both the soul and body with the grace of the Holy Spirit and so transforming them into vessels of the holy mysteries and holy virtues. It is completely natural, again, to show pious reverence both to the former and to the latter, both to soul and body, both of them holy vessels of God’s grace. When the charismatic power of Christ issues forth, it makes Grace-filled all the constituent parts of the human person and the person in his entirety. By unceasing enactment of the ascetic efforts set forth in the Gospels, Saints gradually fill themselves with the Holy Spirit, so that their sacred bodies, according to the word of the holy Apostle, become temples of the Holy Spirit (I Cor. 6:19; 3:17), Christ dwelling by faith in their hearts (Eph. 3:17) and by fruitful love also fulfilling the commandments of God the Father. Establishing themselves in the Holy Spirit through grace-bestowing ascetic labors, the Saints participate in the life of the Trinity, becoming sons of the Holy Trinity, temples of the Living God (II Cor. 6:16); their whole lives thus flow from the Father, through the Son, in the Holy Spirit. By piously venerating the holy relics of the Saints, the Church reveres them as temples of the Holy Spirit, temples of the Living God, in which God dwells by Grace even after the earthly death of the Saints. And by His most wise and good Will, God creates miracles in and through these relics. Moreover, the miracles which derive from the holy relics witness also to the fact that their pious veneration by the people is pleasing to God.
All in all, the mystery of holy relics is at the heart of the universal mystery of the New Testament: the incarnation of God. The full mystery of the human body is explained by the incarnation, the embodiment of God in the God-Man, the Lord Jesus Christ. For this reason, then, the Gospel message concerning the body: “The body for the Lord, and the Lord for the body” (I Corinthians 6:13). And through a human body also the entire creation, all of matter, received its divine significance, the universal meaning of the God-Man. By man, who is sanctified in the Church by the holy mysteries and the holy virtues, the creation and even matter are sanctified, united to Christ. (The Place of Holy Relics in the Orthodox Church, St. Justin Popovich. From Orthodox Tradition, Vol. VII, No. 1, p. 9. Translated from the Serbian by the Reverend Gregory Telepneff)

2Ki 2:13-14

And he took up the cloak of Elijah that had fallen from him and went back and stood on the bank of the Jordan. Then he took the cloak of Elijah that had fallen from him and struck the water, saying, “Where is the LORD, the God of Elijah?” And when he had struck the water, the water was parted to the one side and to the other, and Elisha went over.

2Ki 13:21 And as a man was being buried, behold, a marauding band was seen and the man was thrown into the grave of Elisha, and as soon as the man touched the bones of Elisha, he revived and stood on his feet.
Sir. 48:13-15 Elias was indeed covered with the whirlwind, and his spirit was filled up in Eliseus: in his days he feared not the prince, and no man was more powerful than he. No word could overcome him, and after death his body prophesied. In his life he did great wonders, and in death he wrought miracles.
Eze 44:19 And when they (the priests) go out into the outer court to the people, they shall put off the garments in which they have been ministering and lay them in the holy chambers. And they shall put on other garments, lest they transmit holiness to the people with their garments.
Mat 14:35-36 And when the men of that place recognized Him, they sent around to all that region and brought to him all who were sick and implored Him that they might only touch the fringe of his garment. And as many as touched it were made well.
Act 19:11-12 And God was doing extraordinary miracles by the hands of Paul, so that even handkerchiefs or aprons that had touched his skin were carried away to the sick, and their diseases left them and the evil spirits came out of them.
St. Ignatius of Antioch ca. 45-115
Then, being immediately thrown in, according to the command of Caesar given some time ago, the public spectacles being just about to close (for it was then a solemn day, as they deemed it, being that which is called the thirteenth in the Roman tongue, on which the people were wont to assemble in more than ordinary numbers), he was thus cast to the wild beasts close, beside the temple,
that so by them the desire of the holy martyr Ignatius should be fulfilled, according to that which is written, “The desire of the righteous is acceptable Prov. 10:24 [to God],” to the effect that he might not be troublesome to any of the brethren by the gathering of his remains, even as he had in his Epistle expressed a wish beforehand that so his end might be. For only the harder portions of his holy remains were left, which were conveyed to Antioch and wrapped in linen, as an inestimable treasure left to the holy Church by the grace which was in the martyr. (Martyrdom of Ignatius 6)
St. Polycarp of Smyrna ca. 69-155
These things then happened with so great speed, quicker than it takes to tell, and the crowd came together immediately, and prepared wood and faggots from the work-shops and baths and the Jews were extremely zealous, as is their custom, in assisting at this. Now when the fire was ready he put off all his clothes, and loosened his girdle and tried also to take off his shoes, though he did not do this before, because each of the faithful was always zealous, which of them might the more quickly touch his flesh. For he had been treated with all respect because of his noble life, even before his martyrdom. (Martyrdom of Polycarp 13)
But the evil one, who is the opponent and envier, who is the enemy to the race of men, beholding both the greatness of his testimony and his conversation blameless from the beginning, how he was crowned with a crown of immortality, and how he carried off a prize that could not be spoken against, contrived that not even a relic of him should be taken by us, though many desired to do this, and to communicate with his holy flesh. He suborned, therefore, Nicetes, the father of Herodes, and the brother of Alce, to make interest with the governor so as not to give his body to the tomb, Lest, said he, they abandon the crucified and begin to worship this man. And these things they said at the suggestion and instance of the Jews, who also kept watch when we were about to take the body from the fire, not knowing that we shall never be able to abandon Christ, who suffered for the salvation of the whole world of those who are saved, the blameless on behalf of sinners, nor to worship any one else. Him we adore as the Son of God; but the martyrs, as the disciples and imitators of the Lord, we love according to their deserts, on account of their incomparable love for their King and Teacher, with whom may it be our lot to be partners and fellow-disciples.
Therefore, the centurion, seeing the strife that had risen among the Jews, placed the body in the midst of the fire and burned it. Thus we, having afterwards taken up his bones, more valuable than precious stones, laid them where it was suitable. There, so far as is allowed us, when we are gathered together in exultation and joy, the Lord will enable us to celebrate the birthday of the martyrs, both for the memory of those who have contended, and for the exercise and preparation of those to come. (ibid.,17,18)

Eusebius of Caesarea ca. 263-339
In this way then was he the first to be heralded as above all a fighter against God, and he was raised up to slaughter against the Apostles. It is related that in his time Paul was beheaded in Rome itself, and that Peter likewise was crucified, and the title of Peter and Paul, which is still given to the cemeteries there, confirms the story, no less than does a writer of the church named Gaius, who lived when Zephyrinus was bishop of Rome, and who in a written discussion with Proclus, the leader of the opinion among the Phrygians, speaks as follows of the places where the sacred relics of the apostles in question are deposited: But I can point out the trophies of the apostles, for if you will go to the Vatican or to the Ostian Way you will find the trophies of those who founded this church. (Ecclesiastical History 2.25.5-7)
St. Athanasius the Great ca. 293-373
Of Anthony’s Death
Having said this, when they had kissed him, he lifted up his feet, and as though he saw friends coming to him and was glad because of them— for as he lay his countenance appeared joyful— he died and was gathered to the fathers. And they afterward, according to his commandment, wrapped him up and buried him, hiding his body underground. And no one knows to this day where it was buried, save those two only. But each of those who received the sheepskin of the blessed Antony and the garment worn by him guards it as a precious treasure. For even to look on them is as it were to behold Antony; and he who is clothed in them seems with joy to bear his admonitions. (Life of Anthony, 92)
St. Cyril of Jerusalem ca. 313-386
I speak but in passing of Elias, and the widow’s son whom he raised; of Elisseus also, who raised the dead twice; once in his lifetime, and once after his death. For when alive he wrought the resurrection by means of his own soul 2 Kings 4:34; but that not the souls only of the just might be honoured, but that it might be believed that in the bodies also of the just there lies a power, the corpse which was cast into the sepulchre of Elisseus, when it touched the dead body of the prophet, was quickened, and the dead body of the prophetdid the work of the soul, and that which was dead and buried gave life to the dead, and though it gave life, yet continued itself among the dead. Wherefore? Lest if Elisseus should rise again, the work should be ascribed to his soul alone; and to show, that even though the soul is not present, a virtue resides in the body of the saints, because of the righteous soul which has for so many years dwelt in it, and used it as its minister. And let us not foolishly disbelieve, as though this thing had not happened: for if handkerchiefs and aprons, which are from without, touching the bodies of the diseased, raised up the sick, how much more should the very body of the Prophet raise the dead? (Catechetical Lectures 18.16)
St. Basil the Great ca. 330-379
To Arcadius the Bishop.
I thanked the Holy God when I read your letter, most pious brother. I pray that I may not be unworthy of the expectations you have formed of me, and that you will enjoy a full reward for the honour which you pay me in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. I was exceedingly pleased to hear that you have been occupied in a matter eminently becoming a Christian, have raised a house to the glory of God, and have in practical earnest loved, as it is written, the beauty of the house of the Lord, and have so provided for yourself that heavenly mansion which is prepared in His rest for them that love the Lord. If I am able to find any relics of martyrs, I pray that I may take part in your earnest endeavour. If the righteous shall be had in everlasting remembrance, I shall without doubt have a share in the good fame which the Holy One will give you. (Letter 49)
St. Gregory of Nyssa ca. 335-394
Should a person come to a place similar to our assemble today where the memory of the just and the rest of the saints is present, first consider this house’s great dignity to which souls are lead. God’s temple is brightly adorned with magnificence and is embellished with decorations, pictures of animals which masons have fashioned with delicate silver figures. It exhibits images of flowers made in the likeness of the martyr’s virtues, his struggles, sufferings, the various savage actions of tyrants, assaults, that fiery furnace, the athlete’s blessed consummation and the human form of Christ presiding over all these events. They are like a book skillfully interpreting by means of colors which express the martyr’s struggles and glorify the temple with resplendent beauty. The pictures located on the walls are eloquent by their silence and offer significant testimony; the pavement on which people tread is combined with small stones and is significant to mention in itself.
These spectacles strike the senses and delight the eye by drawing us near to [the martyr’s] tomb which we believe to be both a sanctification and blessing. If anyone takes dust from the martyr’s resting place, it is a gift and a deserving treasure. Should a person have both the good fortune and permission to touch the relics, this experience is a highly valued prize and seems like a dream both to those who were cured and whose wish was fulfilled. The body appears as if it were alive and healthy: the eyes, mouth, ears as well as the other senses are a cause for pouring out tears of reverence and emotion. In this way one implores the martyr who intercedes on our behalf and is an attendant of God for imparting those favors and blessings which people seek. (In Praise of the Great-Martyr Theodore)
St. Ambrose of Milan ca. 338-397
For not without reason do many call this the resurrection of the martyrs. I do not say whether they have risen for themselves, for us certainly the martyrs have risen. You know— nay, you have yourselves seen— that many are cleansed from evil spirits, that very many also, having touched with their hands the robe of the saints, are freed from those ailments which oppressed them; you see that the miracles of old time are renewed, when through the coming of the Lord Jesus grace was more largely shed forth upon the earth, and that many bodies are healed as it were by the shadow of the holy bodies. How many napkins are passed about! How many garments, laid upon the holy relics and endowed with healing power, are claimed! All are glad to touch even the outside thread, and whosoever touches will be made whole.
Thanks be to You, Lord Jesus, that at this time You have stirred up for us the spirits of the holy martyrs, when Your Church needs greater protection. (Letter 22. 9-10)
Blessed Jerome ca. 347-420
Still we honour the relics of the martyrs, that we may adore Him whose martyrs they are. We honour the servants that their honour may be reflected upon their Lord who Himself says: ..he that receiveth you receiveth me… , I ask Vigilantius, “Are the relics of Peter and of Paul unclean? Was the body of Moses unclean, of which we are told (according to the correct Hebrew text, [Deut. xxxiv. 6]) that it was buried by the Lord Himself? And do we, every time that we enter the basilicas of apostles and prophets and martyrs, pay homage to the shrines of idols? Are the tapers which burn before their tombs only the tokens of idolatry?”
I will go farther still and ask a question which will make this theory recoil upon the head of its inventor and which will either kill or cure that frenzied brain of his, so that simple souls shall be no more subverted by his sacrilegious reasonings. Let him answer me this: Was the Lord’s body unclean when it was placed in the sepulchre? And did the angels clothed in white raiment merely watch over a corpse dead and defiled, that ages afterwards this sleepy fellow might indulge in dreams and vomit forth his filthy surfeit, so as, like the persecutor Julian, either to destroy the basilicas of the saints or to convert them into heathen temples?
…If the relics of the martyrs are not worthy of honour, how comes it that we read Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his saints, [Ps. cxvi. 15]?
If dead men’s bones defile those that touch them, how came it that the dead Elisha raised another man also dead, and that life came to this latter from the body of the prophet which according to Vigilantius must have been unclean? In that case every encampment of the host of Israel and the people of God was unclean; for they carried the bodies of Joseph and of the patriarchs with them in the wilderness, and carried their unclean ashes even into the holy land. In that case Joseph, who was a type of our Lord and Saviour, was a wicked man; for he carried up Jacob’s bones with great pomp to Hebron merely to put his unclean father beside his unclean grandfather and great-grandfather, that is, one dead body along with others.
…Once more I ask: Are the relics of the martyrs unclean? If so, why did the Apostles allow themselves to walk in that funeral procession before the body — the unclean body — of Stephen, [Acts viii. 2]? Why did they make great lamentation over him, that their grief might be turned into our joy? (Epistle 109)
St. John Chrysostom ca. 349-407
When, therefore, he made an end of life there, yea rather, when he ascended to heaven, he departed henceforward crowned. For this also happened through the dispensation of God, that he restored him again to us, and distributed the martyr to the cities. For that city received his blood as it dropped, but you were honoured with his remains, you enjoyed his episcopate, they enjoyed his martyrdom.
Not only today, therefore, but every day let us go forth to him, plucking spiritual fruits from him. For it is, it is possible for him who comes hither with faith to gather the fruit of many good things. For not the bodies only, but the very sepulchres of the saints have been filled with spiritual grace. For if in the case of Elisha this happened, and a corpse when it touched the sepulchre, burst the bands of death and returned to life again, 2 Kgs 13:21 much rather now, when grace is more abundant, when the energy of the spirit is greater, is it possible that one touching a sepulchre, with faith, should win great power; thence on this account God allowed us the remains of the saints, wishing to lead by them us to the same emulation, and to afford us a kind of haven, and a secure consolation for the evils which are ever overtaking us. Wherefore I beseech you all, if any is in despondency, if in disease, if under insult, if in any other circumstance of this life, if in the depth of sins, let him come hither with faith, and he will lay aside all those things, and will return with much joy, having procured a lighter conscience from the sight alone. (Homily on St. Ignatius)
Blessed Augustine of Hippo ca. 354-430
The miracle which was wrought at Milan when I was there, and by which a blind man was restored to sight, could come to the knowledge of many; for not only is the city a large one, but also the emperor was there at the time, and the occurrence was witnessed by an immense concourse of people that had gathered to the bodies of the martyrs Protasius and Gervasius, which had long lain concealed and unknown, but were now made known to the bishop Ambrose in a dream, and discovered by him. By virtue of these remains the darkness of that blind man was scattered, and he saw the light of day. (City of God Bk. 22.8)
St. John Cassian ca. 360-435
In the district of Palestine near the village of Tekoa which had the honour of producing the prophet Amos, Amos 1:1 there is a vast desert which stretches far and wide as far as Arabia and the dead sea, into which the streams of Jordan enter and are lost, and where are the ashes of Sodom. In this district there lived for a long while monks of the most perfect life and holiness, who were suddenly destroyed by an incursion of Saracen robbers: whose bodies we knew were seized upon with the greatest veneration both by the Bishops of the neighbourhood and by the whole populace of Arabia, and deposited among the relics of the martyrs… (Conferences 6.1)
Apostolic Constitutions compiled ca. 375
Do not therefore keep any such observances about legal and natural purgations, as thinking you are defiled by them. Neither do you seek after Jewish separations, or perpetual washings, or purifications upon the touch of a dead body.

But without such observations assemble in the dormitories, reading the holy books, and singing for the martyrs which are fallen asleep, and for all the saints from the beginning of the world, and for your brethren that are asleep in the Lord, and offer the acceptable Eucharist, the representation of the royal body of Christ, both in your churches and in the dormitories; and in the funerals of the departed, accompany them with singing, if they were faithful in Christ. For “precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of His saints.”
And again: “O my soul, return unto thy rest, for the Lord hath done thee good.”
And elsewhere: “The memory of the just is with encomiums.” And, “The souls of the righteous are in the hands of God.”  For those that have believed in God, although they are asleep, are not dead. For our Saviour says to the Sadducees: “But concerning the resurrection of the dead, have ye not read that which is written, I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob? God, therefore, is not the God of the dead, but of the living; for all live to Him.” Wherefore, of those that live with God, even their very relics are not without honour. For even Elisha the prophet, after he was fallen asleep, raised up a dead man who was slain by the pirates of Syria. For his body touched the bones of Elisha, and he arose and revived. Now this would not have happened unless the body of Elisha were holy. And chaste Joseph embraced Jacob after he was dead upon his bed; and Moses and Joshua the son of Nun carried away the relics of Joseph, and did not esteem it a defilement. Whence you also, O bishops, and the rest, who without such observances touch the departed, ought not to think yourselves defiled. Nor abhor the relics of such persons, but avoid such observances, for they are foolish. And adorn yourselves with holiness and chastity, that ye may become partakers of immortality, and partners of the kingdom of God, and may receive the promise of God, and may rest for ever, through Jesus Christ our Saviour. (Book VI, Chap. 30)

Blessed Theodoret of Cyr ca. 393-457

The noble souls of the triumphant are sauntering around heaven, dancing in the choruses of the bodiless; and not one tomb for
each conceals their bodies, but cities and villages divide them up and call them healers and preservers of souls and bodies, and
venerate them a guardians and protectors of cities; and when they intervene as ambassadors before the Master of the universe the
divine gifts are obtained through them; and though the body has been divided, its grace has continued undivided. And that little particle and smallest relic has the same power as the absolutely and utterly undivided martyr. (

The Cure of Pagan Maladies 8.54)

St. Columba of Iona ca. 521-597
After reading these three books, let the diligent reader observe of what and how great merit, of what and how high honour in the sight of God our holy and venerable abbot (Columba) must have been deemed worthy, how great and many were the bright visits of the angels made to him, how full of the prophetic spirit, how great his power of miracles wrought in God, how often and to what great extent, while yet he was abiding in this mortal flesh, he was surrounded by a halo of heavenly light; and how, even after the departure of his most kindly soul from the tabernacle of the body, until the present day the place where his sacred bones repose, as has been clearly shown to certain chosen persons, doth not cease to be frequently visited by the holy angels, and illumined by the same heavenly brightness. And this unusual favour hath been conferred by God on this same man of blessed memory; that though he lived in this small and remote island of the British sea, his name hath not only become illustrious throughout the whole of our own Scotia (Ireland), and Britain, the largest island of the whole world, but hath reached even unto triangular Spain, and into Gaul, and to Italy, which lieth beyond the Penine Alps; and also to the city of Rome itself, the head of all cities. This great and honourable celebrity, amongst other marks of divine favour, is known to have been conferred on this same saint by God, Who loveth those that love Him, and raiseth them to immense honour by glorifying more and more those that magnify and truly praise Him, Who is blessed for evermore. Amen. (St. Adamnan, Life of St. Columba Bk. 3.24)
Pope St. Gregory the Dialogist ca. 540-604

[W]e have handed over, according to your Excellency’s request, with the reverence due to them, certain relics of the blessed apostles Peter and Paul. But, that laudable and religious devotion may be more and more conspicuous among you, you must see that these benefits of the saints be deposited with reverence and due honour, and that those who serve in attendance on them be vexed with no burdens or molestations, lest perchance, under the pressure of outward necessity, they be rendered unprofitable and slow in the service of God, and (which God forbid) the benefits of the saints that have been bestowed sustain injury and neglect. (Epistle L: To Queen Brunichild, Queen of the Franks)

Bede the Venerable ca. 673-735
After  this, a certain man, who had the quality of a tribune, came forward with his wife, and presented his blind daughter, ten years of age, for the priests to cure. They ordered her to be set before their adversaries, who, being convinced by guilt of conscience, joined their entreaties to those of the child’s parents, and besought the priests that she might be cured. The priests, therefore, perceiving their adversaries to yield, made a short prayer, and then Germanus, full of the Holy Ghost, invoked the Trinity, and taking into his hands a casket with relics of saints, which hung about his neck, applied it to the girl’s eyes, which were immediately delivered from darkness and filled with the light of truth. The parents rejoiced, and the people were astonished at the miracle; after which, the wicked opinions were so fully obliterated from the minds of all, that they ardently embraced the doctrine of the priests. This damnable heresy being thus suppressed, and the authors thereof confuted, and all the people’s hearts settled in the purity of the faith, the priests repaired to the tomb the martyr, St. Alban, to give thanks to God through him. There Germanus, having with him relics of all the Apostles, and of several martyrs, after offering up his prayers, commanded the tomb to be opened, that he might lay up therein some precious gifts; judging it convenient, that the limbs of saints brought together from several countries, as their equal merits had procured them admission into heaven, should he preserved in one tomb. These being honourably deposited, and laid together, he took up a parcel of dust from the place where the martyr’s blood had been shed, to carry away with him, which dust having retained the blood, it appeared that the slaughter of the martyrs had communicated a redness to it, whilst the persecutor was struck pale. In consequence of these things, an innumerable multitude of people was that day converted to the Lord. (Ecclesiastical History of the English Chap. 18)
St. John Damascene ca. 676-749
These are made treasuries and pure habitations of God: For I will dwell in them, said God, and walk in them, and I will be their God. The divine Scripture likewise saith that the souls of the just are in God’s hand and death cannot lay hold of them. For death is rather the sleep of the saints than their death. For they travailed in this life and shall to the end, and Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of His saints. What then, is more precious than to be in the hand of God? For God is Life and Light, and those who are in God’s hand are in life and light.

Further, that God dwelt even in their bodies in spiritual wise, the Apostle tells us, saying, Know ye not that your bodies are the temples of the Holy Spirit dwelling in you?, and The Lord is that Spirit, and If any one destroy the temple of God, him will God destroy. Surely, then, we must ascribe honour to the living temples of God, the living tabernacles of God. These while they lived stood with confidence before God.

The Master Christ made the remains of the saints to be fountains of salvation to us, pouring forth manifold blessings and abounding in oil of sweet fragrance: and let no one disbelieve this. For if water burst in the desert from the steep and solid rock at God’s will and from the jaw-bone of an ass to quench Samson’s thirst, is it incredible that fragrant oil should burst forth from the martyrs’ remains? By no means, at least to those who know the power of God and the honour which He accords His saints.

In the law every one who toucheth a dead body was considered impure, but these are not dead. For from the time when He that is Himself life and the Author of life was reckoned among the dead, we do not call those dead who have fallen asleep in the hope of the resurrection and in faith on Him. For how could a dead body work miracles? How, therefore, are demons driven off by them, diseases dispelled, sick persons made well, the blind restored to sight, lepers purified, temptations and troubles overcome, and how does every good gift from the Father of lights come down through them to those who pray with sure faith? How much labour would you not undergo to find a patron to introduce you to a mortal king and speak to him on your behalf? Are not those, then, worthy of honour who are the patrons of the whole race, and make intercession to God for us? Yea, verily, we ought to give honour to them by raising temples to God in their name, bringing them fruit-offerings, honouring their memories and taking spiritual delight in them, in order that the joy of those who call on us may be ours, that in our attempts at worship we may not on the contrary cause them offence. (Bk. 4, Chap. 15)
7th Ecumenical Council 787 a.d.
Paul the divine Apostle says:  “The sins of some are open beforehand, and some they follow after.”  These are their primary sins, and other sins follow these.  Accordingly upon the heels of the heresy of the traducers of the Christians, there followed close other ungodliness.  For as they took out of the churches the presence of the venerable images, so likewise they cast aside other customs which we must now revive and maintain in accordance with the written and unwritten law.  We decree therefore that relics shall be placed with the accustomed service in as many of the sacred temples as have been consecrated without the relics of the Martyrs.  And if any bishop from this time forward is found consecrating a temple without holy relics, he shall be deposed, as a transgressor of the ecclesiastical traditions. (Canon 7)
Patriarch Jeremias II (Tranos) of Constantinople 1530-1595
You reckon the invocation of the saints, their icons, and their sacred relics as futile. You reject their veneration, taking as a pretext the Hebrew source. Moreover, you also reject confession to one another. In addition, you reject the angelic, monastic life. And about these matters we say that the Holy [Scripture] passages concerning them have not been interpreted by such theologians as you are, for neither Saint Chrysostom nor any other of the blessed and true theologians interpreted as if they were dragged along by a torrent. But, indeed, he [Chrysostom] and the holy man after him, being full of the Holy Spirit who performed supernatural miracles while they were living and after they died, interpreted [the Holy Scriptures] as they did; and they received such traditions, and they handed them down successively and gave them to us as indispensable and pious [sacraments]. Some of these even Old Rome also keeps and acquiesces with us. From whence have you reckoned better than Old and New Rome? Indeed, have you forsaken the interpretations of the true theologians and considered your own as more preferable? From the source of the Hebrew tradition we learn from history that contempt for the holy icons and sacred relics had its origin from the Hebrews. (Third Answer to the Lutherans, Issued in the year 1581, June 6. Protonotarios Theodosios)

Saint John Climacus On Nature and Sin

One first and basic mistake that one can make when studying theology, or the Bible in general, is to assume that the Fall of man in the Garden has left us without any inclination at all to live for God, and that we are born with a completely depraved heart. There are many problems with this type of language, the first being that it does not give glory to God and His creative order. We know that after the Fall man lost a very special communion with God, but Chapter Four of Genesis shows that after the Fall, Adam’s children, Cain and Abel, gave offerings to the Lord! As we proclaim in the Creeds and Councils,  Christ is begotten and not made. He has been there from the beginning of creation and has not left us because we were somehow unworthy of Him. As the 13th century icon of Christ with Adam and Eve shows, He has always loved us!

We are created in the very image of God and it is important to note that our natural way of living is to live within the oneness of Christ. The Fall does not make our natural state depraved to where we have no desire for God. We are not destined to sin and the sin that we do acquire is literally able to be diminished through Christ.

It is a modern notion to understand that sin is only forgiven in a legal manner (so-called “justification”) and that we must simply prevent it from manifesting outwardly. It is the heart that God changes through our sanctification, which means that our souls actually become freed from these sinful properties. Sin is acquired by our senses, which is why we embrace the ascetic life of fasting, meditation, prayer, and service. Our “passions” are brought on by our own foolishness, so let us plead to God for Wisdom!

“Passion was not planted by God in nature,  for he is not the Creator of passions…God is not the cause of evil. Those who teach that passions are natural to the soul are wrong, not realizing that it is we who have turned natural things into passions. For example, by nature we have within us the seed necessary for child-bearing – but we have perverted this into fornication. Nature gave us the feeling of anger, which we are supposed to use against the Evil One – instead we use it against our neighbor…We have been given a longing for pleasure – but we use it for dissipation.” (St. John Climacus, The Ladder of Divine Ascent).

Ancient Liturgy as Psychotherapy

In this article, Metropalitan Hierotheos S. Vlachos speaks of how Christianity is a type of psychotherapy; how certain liturgical aspects of the faith heal the soul and conform us into the image of Christ!

The Greek word for soul is psyche, so do not let the word psychotherapy or even psychology scare you. My intentions of using this  paradigm is not for modern reasons – to delve into the modern industry and academia of psychology, but in order to properly embrace the study and formation of the soul we must actually refer to it and the very need for a categorical study of its usage (Christianity has actually shied away from this arena, when we should be dominating it).

The psyche is the inner, non-material part of humankind. It demands cultivation and renewal through liturgical actions. When we give to God in our worship, we should anticipate the cultivation and renewal of our soul. Orthodox worship is designed to put our souls at rest, not to excite our souls and pump us up.

Orthodox worship puts us in contact with the living God and the history of this God. God’s plan pans throughout all time and we should include ourselves into this eschaton. Remember, the New Covenant did not stop at the Church of Acts, it continued throughout the First Century on, and we need to have succession from this time, not separation!

Ancient liturgy places us in ancient communion. Modern liturgy places us in modern communion. Christ’s power is in the ancient. You can be assured of this by simply opening the Bible. It is an ancient work, and liturgy is inseparable from this work. Modern liturgy (pop music and historically standardless utterance) is grown from a modern culture that is not at all theocratic or even prophetic. It is fueled by Hollywood and other secular avenues. Why would one want to offer praise through secularism? And why would one want to be cultivated through secularism?

The cultivation of our souls demands the sacred, the Holy, and the oneness of God! The Church has worked very hard over the centuries to make certain that the icons, the altar, the hymns, etc., are all palatable to the soul, able to conform us to the image of Christ. As we give to God in our worship, God gives back to us a renewed heart, ready for battle, ready for what the enemy attempts to destroy us with. If you want to do great things for Christ, you must be willing to delve into great things theologically, and the worship of the Orthodox Church is all things theological!

Orthodox Liturgy is “Bondservant” Liturgy

I love the way St. Paul describes Christians as “bondservants.” Other translations besides the NKJ use the word slave, but bondservant seems much more appropriate since it is not associated with modern slavery. To be a bondservant of Christ means that we are indeed bound to our servant-hood. We are not slaves in the modern sense of not having freedom, but we are slaves in the spiritual sense of having freedom yet under the certain care and tutelage of Christ.

When we worship God on the Lord’s Day we become bondservants to Christ through the ordained liturgy of the Church. There is indeed a difference between ordained liturgy and just good liturgy. Good liturgy is good because it looks good on paper, like a thesis. But ordained liturgy, which we shall refer to as bondservant liturgy is good because one really and truly becomes bound to it – covenantaly speaking. Bondservant liturgy is done under the succession and law of Christ’s Church-historical under the care and authority of a bishop. Some may be a little leery on the use of the bishopric here, so please allow me to explain.

[Read more…]

Salvation is a Journey, Not an Event

A huge problem with modern teachings of salvation is the notion that one can be saved apart from the visible reality of God’s Church. Over the last century or so a sort of you-can-get-saved-on-your-own theology has manifested its ugly head. It is really a cultish teaching when you begin to study its premise. Granted, God uses this type of teaching to further His kingdom, but remember, God will use a Donkey if he needs to…and has done so!

The Gospel, as described by Christ, begins as a small seed and grows into the largest plant in the garden. This means that the Gospel is an organic reality of heaven on earth that is actually growing from something to something. We, as people, begin to become grafted into this organic reality as St. Paul explains in Romans 11.

[Read more…]

One Protestant’s View of Orthodoxy

“We could take a cue from Orthodoxy, whose priests stand with their backs to their congregation, leading a liturgy that is neither clever nor impassioned, but simply beautiful, like stone smoothed by centuries of rhythmic tides. It’s an austere ritual, in the sense of – there’s nothing new here; it’s sublime, in the sense of – creating a clearer view into Heaven. The priest can be any priest. Who he is, what he looks like, how he speaks, and what he thinks matter little. He hasn’t written the service that he officiates. It isn’t about him or his prowess. He’s an interchangeable functionary draped in brocaded robes, obscured by incense, and, as such, never points to himself, a flawed human, pointing ever and only to the Perfection of the Mysterious Divine. That is the role of every priest or preacher – invisibility, while making God seen.”

Thanks to Fr. John Peck for this

Does Carpet Belong in a Church?

I love this article on carpet and church. If we are the ancient Church, then we need to look, feel, and sound like it…literally.

Rip up those carpets!

by Jeffrey Tucker

 
 


 

Every parish struggles with acoustical problems, some because of the large space, but some because of the wholly unnecessary existence of carpet in the nave and sanctuary. Many parishes have made the huge mistake of carpeting their church space because someone on someone on some know-nothing committee thought that the carpet made the place feel warmer and friendly—like a living room—and perhaps too, someone found the echoes of children crying or hymnbooks dropping to be annoying.

Sadly, carpet is a killer of good liturgical acoustics. It wrecks the music, as singers struggle to overcome it. The readers end up sounding more didactic than profound. And even the greatest organ in the world can’t fight the sound buffer that carpet creates. All the time you spend rehearsing, and all the money paying a good organist or buying an organ, ends up as money down the carpet drain.

Elementary errors are involved in the decision. When the church is being constructed and tested for sound, it is during a time when it is empty of bodies. The decision makers stand around and note that a new carpet won’t make that much difference. Once installed, it only appears to muffle the sound of steps and things dropped. But once the place is packed with people, something new is discovered. The sound is completely dead—dead in the sense that it doesn’t move. This is not the sound of liturgy.

This is when the acoustic engineers are brought in, usually from some local firm that specializes in studio recordings or some such. What they will not tell you is that you can save the expense of massively pricey sound systems and mixing tricks simply by pulling up the carpet. They don’t tell you this because they are not in the carpet removal business. Their job is to make the existing space sound better. Sadly, this means sometimes tens and hundreds of thousands of dollars in equipment, the effect of which is to make it impossible for anyone to be heard unless surrounded by microphones.

Again, this is no solution at all. Chant will never sound right. The organ becomes a complete waste. The instruments and vocal styles that work in a space like this belong more to the American Idol genre of music than sacred music. This is a true tragedy for any parish seeking to reform its liturgical program. I’m very sorry to say this, but it pretty well dooms the reform. You can chant and play Bach all you want but you will never be able to overcome the acoustic limitations.

What to do? The decision makers need to gather the courage to take action. Pull up the carpets immediately. It might leave concrete or wood or something else. It might be unsightly until the time when tile or new concrete or wood can be installed, but the mere appearance alone will call forth a donation perhaps. What’s important is that immediately the sound will be fixed, and the parish will have save untold amounts in paying the acoustic firm. Not only that: funds will be saved from future carpet cleanings, repairs, and replacements.

Much of this information I learned from Reidel and Associates, a firm that does consulting on worship spaces. I ordered their pamphlet about sound called “Acoustics in the Worship Space” by Scott R. Riedel (St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1986). It is quite technical and very informative. Here is what he says about floors on page 17.

The floor is typically the building surface that is largest and nearest to worshipers and musicians. It is important that the floor be reflective of sound, particularly near musicians, since it provides the first opportunity for much sound energy to be reinforced. Carpet is an inappropriate floor covering in the worship space; it is acoustically counterproductive to the needs of the worshipers.

The mood of warmth and elegance that carpeting sometimes provides can also be provided with acoustically reflective flooring such as quarry tile or wood that is of warm color and high quality. The notion that the worshiper covers the floor surface, making its material composition acoustically unimportant is false. The large floor area of the worship space bas great acoustical influence. Appropriate floor materials include slate, quarry tile, sealed wood, brick, stone, ceramic tile, terrazzo, and marble.

Walk and Ceiling. Durable, hard-surfaced walls and ceiling are also essential for good acoustical reflections. The ceiling is potentially the largest uninterrupted surface and therefore should be used to reinforce tone. Large expanses of absorptive acoustical ceiling tile are to be strictly avoided. Appropriate wall or ceiling materials include hard plaster, drywall of substantial thickness, sealed woods, glazed brick, stone, med and painted concrete block, marble, and rigidly mounted wood paneling.

The construction of walls, floors, and doors should retard the transmission of noise into the space from adjoining rooms, from the outdoors, or via structure-borne paths. Sound attenuators or absorptive material may be fitted to heat and air ducts to reduce mechanical noise also.

Some may consider using absorbing materials such as carpeting or acoustical tile to suppress noise from the congregation. Noise from shuffled feet or small children is usually not as pervasive as might be feared. It is unwise to destroy the proper reverberant acoustical setting for worship in deference to highly infrequent noisy behavior.

Let me now address the issue of noise. A building in which you can hear your footsteps signals something in our imaginations. It is a special place, a place in which we are encouraged to walk carefully and stay as quiet as possible. Pops, cracks, thumbs, and sounds of all sorts coming from no particular direction is part of the ambiance of church, and its contributes to the feeling of awe.

It was some years ago that I attended a concert of organum—three voices singing early medieval liturgical music—at the National Cathedral in Washington, a vast space. There were only three small voices near the altar, and I was at the back and the people singing looked like tiny specs. Moving my foot a few inches created a noise that could be heard for 20 feet in all directions, loud enough to drown out the music. As a result, everyone sat in frozen silence, fearing even to move a muscle. This went on for more than a full hour. It was a gripping experience.

The closer we can come to creating this environment in our parishes, the holier the space will sound and feel. I’ve personally never heard an echo that is too extended for worship. It is possible I suppose but I’ve never experienced it.

One final point about Church acoustics that needs to be added here. The Introit of the Mass is not: “Please turn off your cellphones.” This line is increasingly common at the start of Mass. This really must end. Yes, it is a good thing for people to turn off cell phones but instructions to that effect are not what should be the first words one hears at the start of Mass.

And please consider that people are not dumb as sticks. Cell phones are a normal part of life now, and we are all learning to keep them off in any public lecture or event such as a worship service. These things take care of themselves over time. For someone’s cell phone to ring ends up being a warning to everyone else for the future.

The History of Iconography

Because one of the intellectual defaults of our longstanding culture seems to be that of following hard and fast rules and keeping things as simple as possible, the more theological matters of the Bible, for instance, can encounter fierce opposition as they begin to take dominion over society; especially if they involve both heaven as well as earth. The intellectual default seems to be that of creating division between heaven and earth, completely separating the visible from the invisible. But this is not what Christ taught us.

All the earth is God’s and when a priest prays over a certain part of God’s matter to be set apart for veneration, God takes dominion of that matter. God’s blessing sets apart His matter for His specified purpose. Matter matters, as we can see with Christ as well as the Apostles – remember when people were being healed from Saint Peter’s garments, for instance? God desires that the kingdom be “ON EARTH AS IT IS IN HEAVEN!” Sound familiar? It should, because those are the words of Christ!

Iconography, which means “image writing,” is one of these more theological matters of the Christian life that requires more than just what the eye can see. And not only the creating of the icons, but the knowing how to use them also requires more than what the biological eye has to offer. To embrace icons we need to understand and believe how God has commanded us to actually take dominion over matter and make it God’s! When an icon is blessed it is blessed within this sphere of time and space, thus taking on the full thrust of “on earth as it is in heaven.”  

It has been supposed by many that iconography is a result of the Byzantine Empire and the so-called heretical and apostate culture of the Church from that point into the rest of Orthodox history. But iconography has been a practice that the Church has embraced since its earliest times. Although iconography escalated in the 4th century, after the Nicene Council and Constantine established the Byzantine Empire, we have evidence of pre-Nicaea icons within the catacombs, showing that iconography is not simply a result of the period of Constantine.

Saint Irenaeus (A.D. 130–202) mentions icons in his Against Heresies, condemning the improper use of icons by the Gnostics. From the earliest times of the Church images of the saints were painted by and for the Church. Icons were primarily a tool of evangelism and doctrinal proclamation, but it seems that as they began to do their job those that recognized the revelation behind the icons began to teach others that this recognition was much more than a mental discovery, but more of a spiritual awakening to the wonders that are happening within the realm of heaven itself.

St. John of Damascus wrote: “We are led by perceptible Icons to the contemplation of the divine and spiritual”  (PG 94:1261a).

This proclamation that the icons were more than what the novice eye sees began to stir much controversy. There were many western Christians that opposed such views of the icons, believing that such recognition of matter giving off such holiness was idolatrous. Western Christianity was certainly the instigator of iconoclasm (anti-icon). A western council, the Synod of Elvira (c.305) was one of the earliest movements to prohibit icons: “lest that which is worshiped and venerated be depicted on the walls.” One of the earliest iconoclastic quotes in existence would likely be the third century teaching of Tertullian, who was known to have many heretical viewpoints: “Likewise, when forbidding the similitude to be made of all things which are in heaven, and in earth, and in the waters, He declared also the reasons, as being prohibitory of all material exhibition of a latent idolatry.” (Against Marcion Bk. 2. 22) Tertullian was at one point an orthodox clergyman and gained a powerful influence in the west, so it is likely that this teaching carried much weight for future iconoclasm.   

Although some in the west had launched their attacks against iconography, the majority of the east seemed to be flourishing with icons, despite the few bishops that opposed them. The emperor Justin II (A.D. 565-578) went as far as revolutionizing Byzantine by placing the image of Christ for the first time on the coins with the inscription, “King of kings.” 

With the approval of the use of images by the Trullan Synod (A.D. 692) of the Third Council of Constantinople, the debate was joined again. In this council it was decreed that Christ was not to be depicted merely as a lamb but in human form, “so that we may perceive through it the depth of the humiliation of God the Word and be led to the remembrance of His life in the flesh, His passion and His death, and of the redemption which it brought to the world.” The use of icons began to gain more ground and within a short period, in 726 Emperor Leo III, the Syrian (717-741) initiated the fight to overthrow the sacred images of the Byzantine Empire. This is what the Church had to deal with as a monarchial ministry; the relationship with the state was primed by the Apostles and Martyrs, given flight by Constantine and the Bishops of the Nicaean Council, but not to encounter a number of violent storms such as this controversy between the iconoclasts (those opposing icons) and iconodules (those advocating icons). The effects of iconoclasm were so devastating that they can be seen as comparable to the Arian controversy and the Monophysite conflict.

At the beginning of Leo’s initiative – which is said to have been a personal vendetta of Leo, perhaps due to his Monophysite background – Leo decided to prompt a very radical act by ordering the destruction  of the icon of Christ over the bronze doors if the imperial palace. There were some women that overturned the ladder of the workers that were engaged in the desecration, which then provoked a riot with several deaths. The women were arrested and condemned to lashing, mutilation and exile.

Amidst the emperors initiatives, the patriarch of Constantinople, Germanus, began to defend iconography and stated: “In eternal memory of the life in the flesh or our Lord Jesus Christ, of His passion, of His saving death and the redemption of the world, which result from them, we have received the tradition of representing Him in His human form, that is, His visible theophany, understanding that in this way we exalt the humiliation of God the Word.” Leo eventually stopped recognizing Germanus as the patriarch and assigned the emperors chaplain as patriarch. Bishops in the west, including Gregory II of Rome, refused to recognize the new patriarch. Gregory II died and was succeeded by Gregory III who formed a synod at Rome to excommunicate the iconoclasts, anyone who refused to honor the ancient custom of the Church. This infuriated Leo, who then sent a fleet to Italy, only to be destroyed by storms.

Between 726 and 730, Saint John of Damascus, a officer of the court, who gave up his position to serve as a priest, said this in regards to the defense of iconography: “If we made an image of the invisible God, we would certainly be in error, but we do nothing of the sort, for we are not in error if we make the image of the incarnate God, who appeared on earth in the flesh, an who, in his ineffable goodness, lived with human beings and assumed the nature, quantity, shape and color of flesh.”  

After Leo died, his son, Constantine V, proceeded to the throne and called a council in 754 at Hiereia. The council was not ecumenical nor was it even attended by the Oriental bishops or the bishop of Rome. The council proclaimed that the creating and venerating of icons is to be condemned.  By summoning this council iconoclasm became the official dogma of the entire Eastern Church. Many monks, laymen and clergy railed against this and were tortured and publically beheaded, including the Patriarch Constantine in 776.

After the death of the emperor Constantine V, Leo IV ascended to the thrown. Leo married Irene, a very influential woman who at the command of Patriarch Paul began to communicate with the Roman bishop to form a council. In September 24 of 787 the council of Nicaea II was formed, meeting at the Basilica of the holy Apostles in Constantinople. Nicea II declared icon veneration to be the orthodox and iconoclasm to be condemned as a heresy, and the destruction of all iconoclastic writings is ordered. 

The second phase of the iconoclastic controversy is dated 815-843 which began with the rise of Leo V as emperor, who reverted to iconoclasm. At a council in Hagia Sophia in Constantinople, in 815, Nicaea was repudiated and the decrees of the Iconolasts of 754 were declared to be the faith of the empire. But only five years later Leo V was assassinated in front of the altar of Hagia Sophia.

Leo V was replaced by Michael II who refused to allow the return of iconography or even it very discussion. A number of prominent bishops and monks joined the Patriarch and vowed to fight iconoclasm even to death itself.  Michael ordered that prominent, low-hanging icons in the Temple used for veneration be removed.  Patriarch Nicephorus refused and was deported to Asia Minor where he eventually resigned his office.

Michael’s son, Theophilus, assumed the throne in 829, and severely persecuted iconodules. He died in 842 and his power passed to his mother – due to the successor being only three years old – Theodora, who then elected an iconodule as Patriarch: Methodius. Patriarch Methodius declared sacred images to be lawful and condemned iconoclasm. Icons are lawful to this day within the Orthodox Church thanks to the struggle of these many saints. We honor their accomplishments on the first Sunday in Great Lent, Orthodox Sunday, with a procession of icons!

* All information in this article can be found in Orthodox Christianity, by Metropolitan Hilarion Alfeyev; The First Seven Ecumenical Councils, by Leo Donald Davis; and The Orthodox Christian Church, by J.M. Hussey

Do You Really Want To Go To Heaven?

It comes as no surprise that the majority of Christians in America, according to this recent study, believe that there are multiple ways to eternal life. I agree! There are many ways to “eternal life,” but only elect Christians will be spending it with Christ. The others will be spending it in torment.

Heaven is a Christian doctrine. According to the book of Revelation, heaven is an eternal state of worship. If you do not worship the God of Abraham in this life, why in the world would you want to worship him for eternity? You wouldn’t! That is why those that do not worship on this earth will not be going to the place where all of God’s people will be worshiping for eternity. Why people think that, for instance, non-Christians, would want to worship Christ for all eternity is just plain silly.

The question we should ponder is this: What is heaven? What does it consist of? From this we can determine whether or not we will end up there.

I remember watching a Twilight Zone episode once, where a thief was shot by the police and ended up in a place where he was handed riches all day long. He began to hate the situation very quickly. In fact, it was driving him mad. He later found that he was in Hell.

I’m not suggesting that Hell is what the Twilight Zone portrays it to be, but I am suggesting that heaven is not what most people think it is, and that most people really DO NOT WANT TO GO TO HEAVEN.

If you do not want to  worship on Sunday (because this is the worship that we are referring to – not the Gnostic worship that most sectarian people think of), what makes you think that you want to go to an eternity of this sort? The worship of the Church is a glimpse of heaven. It will not be organized like it is here on earth. In heaven there will be no need for the many disciplines and organizational efforts of the Church. Worship will be a natural thing that is intertwined throughout eternity. But if you do not desire its basic element now, on Sunday, then what makes you think you will want an eternity of this sort?

An Orthodox Vs. Reformed Perspective of The Church

This article – originally a paper, presented to the 1996 session of the Orthodox-Reformed dialogue – deals with the relation between the Churches today and the ‘Church of the Creed’.

More than the Roman Catholic tradition, the Orthodox tradition emphasizes the spiritual, mystical character of the Church. Its desire is not so much the “return” of other Christians to “the Orthodox Church” (as an institution) as their return to the undivided Tradition of the first centuries (as lived within the Orthodox Church). Reformed may feel at home with this position, insofar as they too plead in favour of return to the origin of Christianity. Only, to them (like to the Lutherans) this origin is to be found in the testimony of Scripture, to be distinguished from the Early Church Tradition. While Orthodox (and Roman Catholic) ecclesiology is ‘from above’, Reformed ecclesiology is ‘from below’: here, the Church is basically defined as “the congregation of the believers”. In its later development, the Reformed tradition shows a strong tendency of spiritualism (ecclesial docetism), drawing a sharp dividing-line between the “visible church” and the “invisible Church” (the “congregation of the elect”) and identifying the Church of the Creed with the latter, not with the former. The original Reformation, however, was different, aiming at renewal of the Church in its visibility…

Good thoughts!

Bishop Jonah on Consumerism and Orthodoxy

His Beatitude’s remarks were delivered at the Acton University plenary session on Thursday, June 16, in Grand Rapids, Mich. AU is a “four-day exploration of the intellectual foundations of a free society” with the aim of deepening students’ knowledge of philosophy, Christian theology and “sound economics.” This year’s event attracted more than 600 people from 70 countries across a broadly ecumenical spectrum that included Catholic, Protestant, Orthodox, Jewish and Muslim lecturers, students, clergy and business people.

by Metropolitan Jonah

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Orthodoxy and Fasting

The Prophets Fasted:

Moses:  “When I went up into the mountain to receive the tablets of stone…I was in the mountain forty days and forty nights, I ate no bread and drank no water.” Deuteronomy 9:9

Prophet Jonah: “It was by fasting and other things that the people of Nineveh were saved from his prediction of peril.” Jonah 3:7

Prophet Joel: “Now, says the Lord your God, turn to Me, with all your heart, with fasting and with wailing, and with mourning.” Joel 2:12

Prophet Daniel: “And I set my face toward the Lord god, to seek him diligently by prayer and supplication, with fastings and sackcloth. And I prayed to the Lord my God, and confessed…” Daniel 9:34

Jesus Fasted:

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I Can Just “Pray at Home”

St. John Chrysostom:

They say: ‘We can pray at home.’ Thou art deceiving thyself, O man! Of course, one can pray at home. But it is impossible to pray there as in church, where such a multitude of hearts are uplifted to God, merging into one unanimous cry. Thou wilt not be so quickly heard while praying to the Master by thyself, as when praying together with thy brethren, for here in church there is something greater than in thy room: Agreement, unanimity, the bond of love, and finally here are the prayers of the priests. The priests stand before us, then, so that the prayers of the people, being weak, would be united to their more powerful prayers and together with them ascend to heaven. The Apostle Peter was freed from prison, thanks to the common prayers offered for him…. If the Church’s prayer was so beneficial for the Apostle Peter and delivered such a pillar of the faith from prison, why, tell me, dost thou disdain its power and what kind of justification canst thou have for this. Hearken unto God Himself, Who says that the multitude of people who pray to him with fervor moves Him to have mercy. He says to the Prophet Jonah: ‘Shall I not spare Nineveh, that great city, in which dwell more than 120 thousand people.’ He did not simply mention the multitude of people but that thou mightest know that prayer together has great power.

St. John of Kronstadt adds:

Here in church is the one thing needful; here is a refuge from vanity and the storms of life; here is the calm harbor for souls seeking salvation; here is incorrupt food and drink for souls; here is the light, which enlightens every man who comes into the world; here is pure spiritual air; here is the well of living water springing up into everlasting life (John 4:14); here the gifts of the Holy Spirit are distributed; here is the cleansing of souls. The reading and singing in church are performed in a sacred language; all Orthodox Christians must learn it, in order to comprehend the sweet sayings of their mother, who is preparing her children for heaven, for eternal life…. Here in church, a man will come to know the true nobility of his soul, the value of life and its aim or his assigned path; here he dispels the fascination of worldly vanity and worldly passions by acquiring sobriety in his soul; here he comes to know his destiny, both temporal and eternal; here he comes to know his bitter, profound fall and seduction by sin; here the Savior is to be found, ;particularly in His holy and life, creating Mysteries, and His salvation; here a man comes to know his true relationship with God and his neighbor or with his family and the society in which he lives. The church is an earthly heaven, the place where the closest union with the Divinity occurs; it is a heavenly school which prepares Christians for heavenly citizenship, teaching them about the ways of heaven, about the dwellings of heaven; it is the threshold of heaven; it is the place for common prayer, for thanksgiving, for glorifying the Triune God, Who created and preserves everything; it is unity with the angels. What is more precious and more honorable that the church? Nothing. During the divine service, as on a chart, the whole destiny of the human race is depicted, from beginning to end. The divine service is the alpha and omega of the destiny of the world and of men.

Taken from http://www.johnsanidopoulos.com/

Notice the New Print Button…

We are pleased to announce the addition of a new print option at the bottom of each post. This will allow you to print to your printer or to a PDF.

To Be Creedal is to Be Unified!

Many Protestant churches such as the Anglican, Reformed and Lutheran, recite the Creeds within their liturgy. But are they casting judgment on themselves for doing such a thing? Perhaps the reason why every one of these ‘unions’ of sort have fallen into the hands of liberalism is because they are indeed casting themselves into the hands of the living God…Which is grace for them, since God seems to be trying to get their attention by not allowing such movements to survive.  

What is meant by the term “Catholic” and “Universal” church within the Creed? To some in our day the term is used for describing any church that is a true church according to basic Christian standards, regardless of authority and the posture they have to the rest of the Church and her history. These groups attempt to take lingusitic authority of the words but not patristic authority. If we look at the history of the Church we find that these terms are used exclusively to describe non-schismatic churches.

The Christian faith is founded in the Creeds in that the Creeds protect the very nature of Christ and His Church. Formed out of the early Church and Councils, the Creeds were created to help ward off various heresies that were common in that day. 

The heresies that the Creeds (Nicene, Apostle’s and Athanasius) were created to protect us from are still prevalent in our day! The Creeds set forth vital dogmas of the faith that if compromised by any people, determines them to be a sect or all together heretical. The Creeds include the dogma of God as our Creator, The Trinity, the Virgin birth, the Crucifixion and Resurrection of Christ, the resurrection of believers and the return of Christ for his Church. Each of these dogmatic pronouncements within the Creeds have protected us from the modern heresies such as liberalism and cults such as the Jehovah’s Witnesses.

But there is a section in the Nicene Creed that distinguishes modern heterodox movements of today that is very important to point out:

“And I believe in one Catholic and Apostolic Church”

What was the understanding of the “Catholic and Apostolic Church” at the time the Creeds were constructed?  You will find below a number of bishops from the early church (pre and post Nicene) describing what is meant by the term catholic. There is more than what, say, Augustine wraps up in the term, that can be found in the Athanasius Creed, as well as other patristic writings. This does not mean that each bishop is giving their personal definition of the term, but rather it means that there is much to be said about the term. It is a term that is very complex.

Augustine of Hippo

“We believe in the holy Church, that is, the Catholic Church; for heretics and schismatics call their own congregations churches. But heretics violate the faith itself by a false opinion about God; schismatics, however, withdraw from fraternal love by hostile separations, although they believe the same things we do. Consequently, neither heretics nor schismatics belong to the Catholic Church; not heretics, because the Church loves God, and not schismatics, because the Church loves neighbor” (Faith and Creed 10:21 [A.D. 393]).

Cyprian of Carthage

“You ought to know, then, that the bishop is in the Church and the Church in the bishops; and if someone is not with the bishop, he is not in the Church. They vainly flatter themselves who creep up, not having peace with the priest of God, believing that they are secretly in communion with certain individuals. For the Church, which is one and catholic, is not split or divided, but is indeed united and joined by the cement of priests who adhere to one another” (Letters 66[67]:8 [A.D. 253]).

Ignatius of Antioch

“See that you all follow the bishop, even as Jesus Christ does the Father, and the presbytery as you would the apostles; and reverence the deacons, as being the institution of God. Let no man do anything connected with the Church without the bishop.” (Epistle to the Smyrnaeans, Chap 8 [A.D. 110]) 

St. Irenaeus

“It is possible, then, for everyone in every church, who may wish to know the truth, to contemplate the tradition of the apostles which has been made known to us throughout the whole world. And we are in a position to enumerate those who were instituted bishops by the apostles and their successors down to our own times, men who neither knew nor taught anything like what these heretics rave about” (Against Heresies 3:3:1 [A.D. 189]).

A church does not adhere to the Creeds if they are not under apostolic succession, which is clearly proven in just how the term “catholic and apostolic” Church is patristically defined. “Apostolic” never meant to refer to those that have similar doctrines as the Apostles, even the doctrine of the Trinity; rather, the term Apostolic was used in patristic times when referring to proper apostolic succession of the episcopate. No Protestant Church has apostolic succession! They are not in communion with the Orthodox Church or even the Roman Church, for that matter. Orthodoxy teaches that once a bishop breaks from the unified Church he no longer has succession and is not in communion with the Body of Christ! Christ commanded that we be unified (John 17) and that we be under the authority of the apostolic lineage (Matthew 16). Splinter groups off of Rome (who is already splintered from the Orthodox Church) are not even being considered for future disucssions of union with the Church. The reason for this, is, again, they are not connected to the authority of the apostles in any way. They may have some similar doctrines, but the Church is a living organism that only operates properly if they are unified under the same spiritual authority. Doctrines here and there are not a spiritual authority. There must be relationship! The Trinity represents God as communal. The Church is to be communal and relational. The Holy Spirit Himself works through this communal effort. As Saint Paul said in 1 Corinthians 1:13, Christ is not divided and so we cannot be divided. Division over doctrine that is not Creedal is schismatic and sinful, and the only way that we will ever get back to the miracles that the first millennium Church experienced is if we become united again. Schismatics distract our unity and withhold their gifts from the Church. We need those people in the Church both for our sake as well as theirs!

Orthodoxy and Culture

“State, society, culture, nature itself, are real objects of mission and not a neutral milieu in which the only task of the Church is to preserve its own inner freedom, to maintain its religious life.”

~ Fr. Alexander Schmemann, The Missionary Imperative in the Orthodox Tradition

There are some very serious disconnects between the Church and the culture in our modern times. In fact, there seems to be mass confusion just as to what the Gospel does to us as ‘mere mortals’ and how these mortal bodies become victorious bodies while on earth. How do we know that we are living out a life of worship, that our ceremony is affecting our lives and that our lives are affecting others to further the Kingdom? What does this look like when it begins to happen?

From the early Church’s conviction of sharing their property and “having all things in common,” as we see in Acts Chapter Two, to our modern struggles of regaining this sense of unity in a very confused society, the goal of this article will be to attempt to sort out the rubble and bring light to this subject of Christian purpose.

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Sola Scriptura…The Biggest Deception of All Time!

This was taken from the Our Life in Christ Program. It is a must read. I would like to challenge any Reformed or Evangelical out there to read this. It will likely change your perspective of what the revelation of God is all about!

From Hank Hanegraaff’s CRI Series What Think Ye of Rome (Part 3)

On the Sign of the Cross

The venerable Sign of the Cross is an ancient practice utilized by all apostolic churches. It is the “prayer of the hand”, a liturgical action that mystically participates in the reality of the Life-Giving Cross of the Savior. By making use of the sign ancient Christians declared their fidelity to Christ, worked miracles, healed diseases and cast out demons. The Sign proclaims the Orthodox Christian faith and it demonstrates a piety with Christ and His Cross at its center. It is a Tradition of the one Church of Christ and is not to be dismissed or taken as a matter of indifference.
 
Eze 9:4 And the Lord said to him: Go through the midst of the city, through the midst of Jerusalem: and mark Tau upon the foreheads of the men that sigh, and mourn for all the abominations that are committed in the midst thereof.
 
Gal 6:14
But God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ: by whom the world is crucified to me, and I to the world.
 
Rev 9:2-4
And he opened the bottomless pit: and the smoke of the pit arose, as the smoke of a great furnace. And the sun and the air were darkened with the smoke of the pit. And from the smoke of the pit there came out locusts upon the earth. And power was given to them, as the scorpions of the earth have power. And it was commanded them that they should not hurt the grass of the earth nor any green thing nor any tree: but only the men who have not the sign of God on their foreheads.
 
Tertullian ca. 160-220
 
Premising, therefore, and likewise subjoining the fact that Christ suffered, He foretold that His just ones should suffer equally with Him— both the apostles and all the faithful in succession; and He signed them with that very seal of which Ezekiel spoke: The Lord said unto me, Go through the gate, through the midst of Jerusalem, and set the mark Tau upon the foreheads of the men. Now the Greek letter Tau and our own letter T is the very form of the cross, which He predicted would be the sign on our foreheads in the true Catholic Jerusalem, in which, according to the twenty-first Psalm, the brethren of Christ or children of God would ascribe glory to God the Father, in the person of Christ Himself addressing His Father; I will declare Your name unto my brethren; in the midst of the congregation will I sing praise unto You…Now, inasmuch as all these things are also found among you, and the sign upon the forehead, and the sacraments of the church, and the offerings of the pure sacrifice, you ought now to burst forth, and declare that the Spirit of the Creator prophesied of your Christ. (Against Marcion, Book III: Chap. 22)
 
At every forward step and movement, at every going in and out, when we put on our clothes and shoes, when we bathe, when we sit at table, when we light the lamps, on couch, on seat, in all the ordinary actions of daily life, we trace upon the forehead the sign. (De Corona 3)
 
St. Hippolytus ca. 170-236
 
But imitate him always, by signing thy forehead sincerely; for this is the sign of his Passion, manifest and approved against the devil if so thou makest it from faith; not that thou mayest appear to men, but knowingly offering it as a shield. For the adversary, seeing a its power coming from the heart, that a man displays the publicly formed image of baptism, is put to flight; not because thou spittest, but because the Spirit in thee breathes him away. When Moses formed it by putting the blood of the Paschal lamb that was slain on the lintel and anointing the side-posts, he signified the faith which now we have in the perfect Lamb. (The Apostolic Tradition 37)
 
Origen ca. 185-254
 
This (the letter Tau) bears a resemblance to the figure of the cross; and this prophecy (Ezek. 9:4) is said to regard the sign made by Christians on the forehead, which all believers make whatsoever work they begin upon, and especially at the beginning of prayers, or of holy readings. ( Select. in Ezek. c. ix)
 
St. Cyprian of Carthage died ca. 258
 
The Lord prophesies that the aliens shall be burnt up and consumed; that is, aliens from the divine race, and the profane, those who are not spiritually new-born, nor made children of God. For that those only can escape who have been new-born and signed with the sign of Christ, God says in another place, when, sending forth His angels to the destruction of the world and the death of the human race, He threatens more terribly in the last time, saying, Go and smite, and let not your eye spare. Have no pity upon old or young, and slay the virgins and the little ones and the women, that they may be utterly destroyed. But touch not any man upon whom is written the mark. Ezekiel 9:5 Moreover, what this mark is, and in what part of the body it is placed, God sets forth in another place, saying, Go through the midst of Jerusalem, and set a mark upon the foreheads of the men that sigh and that cry for all the abominations that be done in the midst thereof. Ezekiel 9:4 And that the sign pertains to the passion and blood of Christ, and that whoever is found in this sign is kept safe and unharmed, is also proved by God’s testimony, saying, And the blood shall be to you for a token upon the houses in which you shall be; and I will see the blood, and will protect you, and the plague of diminution shall not be upon you when I smite the land of Egypt. Exodus 12:13 What previously preceded by a figure in the slain lamb is fulfilled in Christ, the truth which followed afterwards. As, then, when Egypt was smitten, the Jewish people could not escape except by the blood and the sign of the lamb; so also, when the world shall begin to be desolated and smitten, whoever is found in the blood and the sign of Christ alone shall escape. (Treatises V.22)
 
St. Anthony the Great ca. 251-356
 
We Christians therefore hold the mystery not in the wisdom of Greek arguments, but in the power of faith richly supplied to us by God through Jesus Christ. And to show that this statement is true, behold now, without having learned letters, we believe in God, knowing through His works His providence over all things. And to show that our faith is effective, so now we are supported by faith in Christ, but you by professional logomachies. The portents of the idols among you are being done away, but our faith is extending everywhere. You by your arguments and quibbles have converted none from Christianity to Paganism. We, teaching the faith on Christ, expose your superstition, since all recognise that Christ is God and the Son of God. You by your eloquence do not hinder the teaching of Christ. But we by the mention of Christ crucified put all demons to flight, whom you fear as if they were gods. Where the sign of the Cross is , magic is weak and witchcraft has no strength. (St. Athanasius, The Life of St. Anthony, Chap. 78)
 
St. Athanasius of Alexandria ca. 297-373
 
This, then, after what we have so far said, it is right for you to realize, and to take as the sum of what we have already stated, and to marvel at exceedingly; namely, that since the Saviour has come among us, idolatry not only has no longer increased, but what there was is diminishing and gradually coming to an end: and not only does the wisdom of the Greeks no longer advance, but what there is is now fading away: and demons, so far from cheating any more by illusions and prophecies and magic arts, if they so much as dare to make the attempt, are put to shame by the sign of the Cross. (On the Incarnation of the Word, Chap. 55)
 
St. Ephrem of Syria ca. 306-373
 
“And mark a sign upon the foreheads of the men that sigh”,
(Ezek. 9:4) he says, for the circumcision of the flesh sufficed not unto salvation, and therefore has it been set aside, and the sign of the cross is substituted in its place. (Syr. Comm. in Ezek).

St. Cyril of Jerusalem ca. 313-386
 
Let us, therefore, not be ashamed of the Cross of Christ; but though another hide it, do thou openly seal it upon your forehead, that the devils may behold the royal sign and flee trembling far away. Make then this sign at eating and drinking, at sitting, at lying down, at rising up, at speaking, at walking: in a word, at every act. (Catechetical Lectures 4:14)
 
Let us not then be ashamed to confess the Crucified. Be the Cross our seal made with boldness by our fingers on our brow, and on everything; over the bread we eat, and the cups we drink; in our comings in, and goings out; before our sleep, when we lie down and when we rise up; when we are in the way, and when we are still. Great is that preservative; it is without price, for the sake of the poor; without toil, for the sick; since also its grace is from God. It is the Sign of the faithful, and the dread of devils: for He triumphed over them in it, having made a show of them openly Colossians 2:15; for when they see the Cross they are reminded of the Crucified; they are afraid of Him, who bruised the heads of the dragon. Despise not the Seal, because of the freeness of the gift; out for this the rather honour your Benefactor. (ibid., 13:36)
 
St. Martin of Tours ca. 316-397
 
Now, it came to pass some time after the above, that while Martin was going a journey, he met the body of a certain heathen, which was being carried to the tomb with superstitious funeral rites. Perceiving from a distance the crowd that was approaching, and being ignorant as to what was going on, he stood still for a little while. For there was a distance of nearly half a mile between him and the crowd, so that it was difficult to discover what the spectacle he beheld really was. Nevertheless, because he saw it was a rustic gathering, and when the linen clothes spread over the body were blown about by the action of the wind, he believed that some profane rites of sacrifice were being performed. This thought occurred to him, because it was the custom of the Gallic rustics in their wretched folly to carry about through the fields the images of demons veiled with a white covering. Lifting up, therefore, the sign of the cross opposite to them, he commanded the crowd not to move from the place in which they were, and to set down the burden. Upon this, the miserable creatures might have been seen at first to become stiff like rocks. Next, as they endeavored, with every possible effort, to move forward, but were not able to take a step farther, they began to whirl themselves about in the most ridiculous fashion, until, not able any longer to sustain the weight, they set down the dead body. Thunderstruck, and gazing in bewilderment at each other as not knowing what had happened to them, they remained sunk in silent thought. But when the saintly man discovered that they were simply a band of peasants celebrating funeral rites, and not sacrifices to the gods, again raising his hand, he gave them the power of going away, and of lifting up the body. Thus he both compelled them to stand when he pleased, and permitted them to depart when he thought good. (Sulpitius Severus: Life of St. Martin, Chap. XII)
 
St. Gregory the Theologian ca. 329-389
 
She, (his mother, St. Nonna) who had always been strong and vigorous and free from disease all her life, was herself attacked by sickness. In consequence of much distress, not to prolong my story, caused above all by inability to eat, her life was for many days in danger, and no remedy for the disease could be found. How did God sustain her? Not by raining down manna, as for Israel of old or opening the rock, in order to give drink to His thirsting people, or feasting her by means of ravens, as Elijah or feeding her by a prophet carried through the air, as He did to Daniel when a-hungered in the den. But how? She thought she saw me, who was her favourite, for not even in her dreams did she prefer any other of us, coming up to her suddenly at night, with a basket of pure white loaves, which I blessed and crossed as I was wont to do, and then fed and strengthened her, and she became stronger. The nocturnal vision was a real action. For, in consequence, she became more herself and of better hope, as is manifest by a clear and evident token. Next morning, when I paid her an early visit, I saw at once that she was brighter, and when I asked, as usual, what kind of a night she had passed, and if she wished for anything, she replied, “My child, you most readily and kindly fed me, and then you ask how I am. I am very well and at ease.” Her maids too made signs to me to offer no resistance, and to accept her answer at once, lest she should be thrown back into despondency, if the truth were laid bare. (Oration 18: On the Death of His Father, 30)
 
St. Basil of Caesarea ca. 330-379
 
Of the beliefs and practices whether generally accepted or publicly enjoined which are preserved in the Church some we possess derived from written teaching; others we have received delivered to us in a mystery by the tradition of the apostles; and both of these in relation to true religion have the same force. And these no one will gainsay—no one, at all events, who is even moderately versed in the institutions of the Church. For were we to attempt to reject such customs as have no written authority, on the ground that the importance they possess is small, we should unintentionally injure the Gospel in its very vitals; or, rather, should make our public definition a mere phrase and nothing more. For instance, to take the first and most general example, who is thence who has taught us in writing to sign with the sign of the cross those who have trusted in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ? What writing has taught us to turn to the East at the prayer? Which of the saints has left us in writing the words of the invocation at the displaying of the bread of the Eucharist and the cup of blessing? For we are not, as is well known, content with what the apostle or the Gospel has recorded, but both in preface and conclusion we add other words as being of great importance to the validity of the ministry, and these we derive from unwritten teaching. (On the Holy Spirit 27:66)
 
St. Gregory of Nyssa ca. 335-394
 
O Thou Who hast power on earth to forgive sins, forgive me, that I may be refreshed and may be found before Thee when I put off my body, without defilement on my soul. But may my soul be received into Thy hands spotless and undefiled, as an offering before Thee.”
As she said these words she sealed her eyes and mouth and heart with the cross. And gradually her tongue dried up with the fever, she could articulate her words no longer, and her voice died away, and only by the trembling of her lips and the motion of her hands did we recognise that she was praying. (The Life of St. Macrina)
 
St. Ambrose of Milan ca. 338-397
 
Therefore read that the three witnesses in baptism, the water, the blood, and the Spirit, are one, for if you take away one of these, the Sacrament of Baptism does not exist. For what is water without the cross of Christ? A common element, without any sacramental effect. Nor, again, is there the Sacrament of Regeneration without water: “For except a man be born again of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.” Now, even the catechumen believes in the cross of the Lord Jesus, wherewith he too is signed; but unless he be baptized in the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, he cannot receive remission of sins nor gain the gift of spiritual grace. (On the Mysteries Chap. 4.20)
Each individual commander designates such ensigns and gives orders that they be followed… But one who is a loyal soldier follows his own ensigns and does not recognize those of a stranger. Let us consider with some care and attention what thèse strange ensigns are. Christ has set His sign on the forehead of each one; the Antichrist sets his sign there also, that he may recognize his own…The devil and his servants set up their ensigns, but I did not know them because I was not a party to their deceits and I did not agree to their dominion. (The Prayer of Job and David 7.26-7.27. Ambrose: Seven Exegetical Works, trans. Michael P. McHugh, Fathers of the Church séries, vol. 65 {Washington, DC: Catholic University of America Press, 1975}, 409-410)
 
Blessed Jerome ca. 347-420
 
I cull these few flowers in passing from the fair field of the Holy Scriptures. They will suffice to warn you that you must shut the door of your breast and fortify your brow by often making the sign of the cross. Thus alone will the destroyer of Egypt find no place to attack you; thus alone will the first-born of your soul escape the fate of the first-born of the Egyptians; thus alone will you be able with the prophet to say: my heart is fixed, O God, my heart is fixed; I will sing and give praise. Awake up, my glory; awake, psaltery and harp. For, sin stricken as she is, even Tyre is bidden to take up her harp Isaiah 23:15-16 and to do penance; like Peter she is told to wash away the stains of her former foulness with bitter tears. (Letter 130.9)
 
St. John Chrysostom ca. 349-407
 
Let no man therefore be ashamed of the honored symbols of our salvation, and of the chiefest of all good things, whereby we even live, and whereby we are; but as a crown, so let us bear about the cross of Christ. Yea, for by it all things are wrought, that are wrought among us. Whether one is to be new-born, the cross is there; or to be nourished with that mystical food, or to be ordained, or to do anything else, everywhere our symbol of victory is present. Therefore both on house, and walls, and windows, and upon our forehead, and upon our mind, we inscribe it with much care.
For of the salvation wrought for us, and of our common freedom, and of the goodness of our Lord, this is the sign. For as a sheep was He led to the slaughter. Isaiah 53:7 When therefore you sign yourself, think of the purpose of the cross, and quench anger, and all the other passions. When you sign yourself, fill your forehead with all courage, make your soul free. And ye know assuredly what are the things that give freedom. Wherefore also Paul leading us there, I mean unto the freedom that beseems us, did on this wise lead us unto it, having reminded us of the cross and blood of our Lord. For you are bought, says he, with a price; be not ye the servants of men. Consider, says he, the price that has been paid for you, and you will be a slave to no man; by the price meaning the cross.
Since not merely by the fingers ought one to engrave it, but before this by the purpose of the heart with much faith. And if in this way you have marked it on your face, none of the unclean spirits will be able to stand near you, seeing the blade whereby he received his wound, seeing the sword which gave him his mortal stroke. For if we, on seeing the places in which the criminals are beheaded, shudder; think what the devil must endure, seeing the weapon, whereby Christ put an end to all his power, and cut off the head of the dragon.
Be not ashamed then of so great a blessing, lest Christ be ashamed of you, when He comes with His glory, and the sign appears before Him, shining beyond the very sunbeam. For indeed the cross comes then, uttering a voice by its appearance, and pleading with the whole world for our Lord, and signifying that no part has failed of what pertained to Him.
This sign, both in the days of our forefathers and now, has opened doors that were shut up; this has quenched poisonous drugs; this has taken away the power of hemlock; this has healed bites of venomous beasts. For if it opened the gates of hell, and threw wide the archways of Heaven, and made a new entrance into Paradise, and cut away the nerves of the devil; what marvel, if it prevailed over poisonous drugs, and venomous beasts, and all other such things. (On Matthew, Homily 54.7)
 
Are you one of the faithful? Sign the Cross; say, ‘This I have for my only weapon; this for my remedy; and other I know none’. (Homilies on Colossians 8)
 
Blessed Augustine of Hippo ca. 354-430
 
Why do sign yourself with the cross? If you don’t act the cross, you don’t in fact sign yourself with it. Recognize Christ crucified, recognize Him suffering, recognize Him praying for His enemies, recognize Him loving those at whose hands He endured such things and longed to cure them. If you do not recognize Him repent, and if ever you entertained bad wishes see to it that you have good ones from now on. (Sermons: Newly Discovered Sermons. John E. Rotelle, Edmund Hill)
 
St. John Cassian ca. 360-435
 
Why also need I mention the acts of Abbot Abraham the simple, from the simplicity of his life and his innocence. This man when he had gone from the desert to Egypt for the harvest in the season of Quinquagesima was pestered with tears and prayers by a woman who brought her little child, already pining away and half dead from lack of milk; he gave her a cup of water to drink signed with the sign of the cross; and when she had drunk it at once most marvellously her breasts that had been till then utterly dry flowed with a copious abundance of milk. (Conference 15.4)
 
St. Cyril of Alexandria ca. 376-444
 
Isa 19:19
In that day there shall be an altar to the Lord in the land of the Egyptians, and a pillar to the Lord by its border.
 
He, in this place, calls the sign of the holy cross, with which it is the custom of believers to be fenced round, a pillar. For this we have ever used ; overthrowing every assault of the devil, and repelling the attacks of evil spirits. For an impregnable wall is the cross unto us, and our glorying in it is truly salutary. God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of Christ. (Gal. 6:14)(Comm. in. Isa. Bk. 2)
 
Pope St. Leo ca. 400-461
 
To deny the true flesh of Christ, to subject the very essence of the Word to suffering and death, to make our nature different from His who repaired it, and to reckon all that the cross uplifted, that the spear pierced, that the stone on the tomb received and gave back, to be only the work of Divine power, and not also of human humility? It is in reference to this humility that the Apostle says, For I do not blush for the Gospel Romans 1:16, inasmuch as he knew what a slur was cast upon Christians by their enemies. And, therefore, the Lord also made proclamation, saying: he that shall confess Me before men him will I also confess before My Father Matthew 10:32 . For these will not be worthy of the Son and the Father’s acknowledgment in whom the flesh of Christ awakens no respect: and they will prove themselves to have gained no virtue from the sign of the cross who blush to avow with their lips what they have consented to bear upon their brows. (Letter 124.9)
 
St. Dionysius the Aeropagite ca. 5th cent.
 
The sign of the cross indicates the renunciation of all the desires of the flesh. It points to a life given over to the imitation of God unswervingly directed toward the divine life of the incarnate Jesus, Who was divinely sinless and yet lowered Himself to the cross and to death and who, with the sign of the cross, that image of His own sinlessness, marks all those imitating Him. (The Ecclesiastical Hierarchy 5.III.4)
 
St. Benedict of Nursia ca. 480-543
 
Having now taken upon him the charge of the Abbey, he took order that regular life should be observed, so that none of them could, as before they used, through unlawful acts decline from the path of holy conversation, either on the one side or on the other: which the monks perceiving, they fell into a great rage, accusing themselves that ever they desired him to be their Abbot, seeing their crooked conditions could not endure his virtuous kind of government: and therefore when they saw that under him they could not live in unlawful sort, and were loath to leave their former conversation, and found it hard to be enforced with old minds to meditate and think upon new things: and because the life of virtuous men is always grievous to those that be of wicked conditions, some of them began to devise, how they might rid him out of the way: and therefore, taking counsel together, they agreed to poison his wine: which being done, and the glass wherein that wine was, according to the custom, offered to the Abbot to bless, he, putting forth his hand, made the sign of the cross, and straightway the glass, that was holden far off, brake in pieces, as though the sign of the cross had been a stone thrown against it: upon which accident the man of God by and by perceived that the glass had in it the drink of death, which could not endure the sign of life: and therefore rising up, with a mild countenance and quiet mind, he called the monks together, and spake thus unto them: “Almighty God have mercy upon you, and forgive you: why have you used me in this manner? Did not I tell you before hand, that our manner of living could never agree together? Go your ways, and seek ye out some other father suitable to your own conditions, for I intend not now to stay any longer amongst you.” When he had thus discharged himself, he returned back to the wilderness which so much he loved, and dwelt alone with himself, in the sight of his Creator, who beholdeth the hearts of all men. (Pope St. Gregory Dialogos, Second Dialogue: Chap. 3)
 
St. Brendan (the Navigator) of Clonfert ca. 484-557
 
As these sounds reached his ears, the venerable father (St. Brendan) made the sign of the victory of the Lord in all four directions and said: “Lord Jesus Christ, deliver us from this island.” (The Voyage of Brendan)
 
St. Andrew of Caesarea ca. 6th cent.
 
Just as it had been revealed to Ezekiel long ago about the one dressed in fine linen who sealed the foreheads of those who groan so that the righteous would not be destroyed together with the unrighteous — because the hidden virtue of the saints is unknown even to angels — this (is) also shown hère to the blessed one (John), the superior holy power urging the punishing holy angels to do nothing to those who committed offenses before the knowledge of those distinguished by the sealing who serve the truth. If this has partially taken place a long time ago, to the ones who had believed in Christ who had escaped the sack of Jerusalem by the Romans reckoned as many tens of thousands, according to James the Great who had shown the blessed Paul their great number. (Acts 21:20) But accordingly it is said, this will definitely happen during the time of Antichrist, the seal of the life-giving Cross separating the faithful from the unfaithful, (the faithful) without shame and having been emboldened bearing the sign of Christ before the impious. Wherefore the angel says, “Do not harm the earth or the sea or the trees, until we have sealed the servants of our God on their foreheads.” (Rev. 7:3) (Commentary on the Apocalypse)
 
St. Columba of Iona ca. 521-597
 
On another occasion also, when the blessed man was living for some days in the province of the Picts, he was obliged to cross the river Nesa (Loch Ness); and when he reached the bank of the river, he saw some of the inhabitants burying an unfortunate man, who, according to the account of those who were burying him, was a short time before seized, as he was swimming, and bitten most severely by a monster that lived in the water; his wretched body was, though too late, taken out with a hook, by those who came to his assistance in a boat. The blessed man, on hearing this, was so far from being dismayed, that he directed one of his companions to swim over and row across the coble that was moored at the farther bank. And Lugne Mocumin hearing the command of the excellent man, obeyed without the least delay, taking off all his clothes, except his tunic, and leaping into the water. But the monster, which, so far from being satiated, was only roused for more prey, was lying at the bottom of the stream, and when it felt the water disturbed above by the man swimming, suddenly rushed out, and, giving an awful roar, darted after him, with its mouth wide open, as the man swam in the middle of the stream. Then the blessed man observing this, raised his holy hand, while all the rest, brethren as well as strangers, were stupefied with terror, and, invoking the name of God, formed the saving sign of the cross in the air, and commanded the ferocious monster, saying, “Thou shalt go no further, nor touch the man; go back with all speed.” Then at the voice of the saint, the monster was terrified, and fled more quickly than if it had been pulled back with ropes, though it had just got so near to Lugne, as he swam, that there was not more than the length of a spear-staff between the man and the beast. Then the brethren seeing that the monster had gone back, and that their comrade Lugne returned to them in the boat safe and sound, were struck with admiration, and gave glory to God in the blessed man. And even the barbarous heathens, who were present, were forced by the greatness of this miracle, which they themselves had seen, to magnify the God of the Christians. (St. Adamnan, The Life of St. Columba: Chap. XXVIII)
 
Pope St. Gregory Dialogos ca. 540-604
 
Floridus, Bishop of Tivoli, a man (as yourself knoweth very well) of holy life, and worthy to be credited, told me that he had dwelling with him a certain Priest called Amantius, of marvellous simplicity: who, like unto the Apostles, had such a grace given him of God, that, laying his hand upon them that were sick, he restored them to their former health; and although the disease were very great and dangerous, yet upon his touching did it forthwith depart. Moreover he said that he had also this miraculous gift, that wheresoever he found any serpents or snakes, though never so cruel, yet did he with the sign of the cross dispatch and kill them: for by virtue of the cross, which the man of God made with his hand, their bowels did break, and they suddenly die: and if by chance the snake gat into any hole, then did he with the sign of the cross bless the mouth thereof, and it wrought the same effect; for any might straightways find it there dead. (The Dialogues Bk. 3.35)
 
St. Maximus the Confessor ca. 580-662
 
The distinctive sign of the power of our Lord Jesus Christ is the Cross that he carried on his shoulders. (Ambiguum 32, PG 91, 1284 C)
 
St. Isaac of Syria died ca. 700
 
When you desire to take your stand in the liturgy of your (night) vigil, with God as your helper do as I tell you. Bend your knees, as is custom, and rise up again, but do not immediately begin your liturgy. After you have made a prayer and completed it, and signed your heart and your limbs with the life-creating sign of the Cross, stand silently for a moment until your senses have been set at rest and your thoughts have become tranquil. Then raise up your inner vision to the Lord and beseech Him with an afflicted soul to fortify your weakness and to grant that the psalmody of your tongue and the reflections of your heart be pleasing to His will… (The Ascetical Homilies, Homily 75)
 
Bede the Venerable ca. 673-735
 
But those also, who still live abroad in the world, demand a portion of your most anxious care, as we forewarned you in the beginning of this epistle; you should furnish them with competent teachers of the word of everlasting life, and among other things instruct them by what works they may render themselves most pleasing to God; from what sins those, who wish to please God, ought to abstain; with what sincerity of heart they ought to believe in God; with what devotion to supplicate the Divine mercy; with what frequent diligence to use the sign of the Lord’s cross, and so to fortify themselves and all they have against the continual snares of unclean spirits; and how salutary it is for all classes of Christians to participate daily in the Body and Blood of our Lord, as you well know is done by Christ’s Church throughout Italy, Gaul, Africa, Greece, and all the countries of the East. (Epistle to Egbert, Bishop of York 15)
 
St. John Damascene ca. 676-749
 
Every action, therefore, and performance of miracles by Christ are most great and divine and marvelous: but the most marvelous of all is His precious Cross. For no other thing has subdued death, expiated the sin of the first parent, despoiled Hades, bestowed the resurrection, granted the power to us of contemning the present and even death itself, prepared the return to our former blessedness, opened the gates of Paradise, given our nature a seat at the right hand of God, and made us the children and heirs of God, save the Cross of our Lord Jesus Christ. For by the Cross s all things have been made right. So many of us, the apostle says, as were baptized into Christ, were baptized into His death, and as many of you as have been baptized into Christ, have put on Christ. Further Christ is the power of God and the wisdom of God. Lo! the death of Christ, that is, the Cross, clothed us with the enhypostatic wisdom and power of God. And the power of God is the Word of the Cross, either because God’s might, that is, the victory over death, has been revealed to us by it, or because, just as the four extremities of the Cross are held fast and bound together by the bolt in the middle, so also by God’s power the height and the depth, the length and the breadth, that is, every creature visible and invisible, is maintained. This was given to us as a sign on our forehead, just as the circumcision was given to Israel: for by it we believers are separated and distinguished from unbelievers. This is the shield and weapon against, and trophy over, the devil. This is the seal that the destroyer may not touch you, as saith the Scripture. This is the resurrection of those lying in death, the support of the standing, the staff of the weak, the rod of the flock, the safe conduct of the earnest, the perfection of those that press forwards, the salvation of soul and body, the aversion of all things evil, the patron of all things good, the taking away of sin, the plant of resurrection, the tree of eternal life. (Exact Exposition of the Orthodox Faith, On Faith and Baptism: Book IV, Ch. 9)
 
St. Symeon the New Theologian 949-1022
 
For Christians the Cross is magnification, glory and power: for all our power is in the power of Christ Who was crucified; all our sinfulness is mortified by the death of Christ on the Cross; and all our exaltation and all our glory are in the humiliation of God. Who humbled Himself to such an extent that He was pleased to die even between evil-doers and thieves. For this very reason Christians who believe in Christ sign themselves with the sign of the Cross not simply, not just as it happens, not carelessly, but with all heedfulness, with fear and with trembling and with extreme reverence. (The First-Created Man, Homily One: 4)

The Fathers on Schism

1 Cor. 1:10-13 Now I beseech you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you all speak the same thing and that there be no schisms among you: but that you be perfect in the same mind and in the same judgment. For it has been signified unto me, my brethren, of you, by them that are of the house of Chloe, that there are contentions among you. Now this I say, that every one of you says: I indeed am of Paul; and I am of Apollo; and I of Cephas; and I of Christ. Is Christ divided? Was Paul then crucified for you? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul?

1 Cor. 12:24-25 God has tempered the body together, giving to that which wanted the more abundant honour. That there might be no schism in the body: but the members might be mutually careful one for another.

Jud 1:17-19

But you must remember, beloved, the predictions of the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ. They said to you, “In the last time there will be scoffers, following their own ungodly passions.”It is these who cause divisions, worldly people, devoid of the Spirit.

Barnabas ca. 70

You shall judge righteously. You shall not make a schism, but you shall pacify those that contend by bringing them together. You shall confess your sins. You shall not go to prayer with an evil conscience. This is the way of light (Letter of Barnabas 19)

The Didache ca. 80

Thou shalt not make a schism, but thou shalt pacify them that contend; thou shalt judge righteously, thou shalt not make a difference in a person to reprove him for transgressions. (Didache 4:3)

Pope St. Clement of Rome fl. 96

Why are there strifes, and tumults, and divisions, and schisms, and wars among you? Have we not [all] one God and one Christ? Is there not one Spirit of grace poured out upon us? And have we not one calling in Christ? Why do we divide and tear to pieces the members of Christ, and raise up strife against our own body, and have reached such a height of madness as to forget that “we are members one of another?” Remember the words of our Lord Jesus Christ, how He said, “Woe to that man [by whom offences come]! It were better for him that he had never been born, than that he should cast a stumbling-block before one of my elect. Yea, it were better for him that a millstone should be hung about [his neck], and he should be sunk in the depths of the sea, than that he should cast a stumbling-block before one of my little ones. Your schism has subverted [the faith of] many, has discouraged many, has given rise to doubt in many, and has caused grief to us all. And still your sedition continues.

Love unites us to God. Love covers a multitude of sins. Love bears all things, is long-suffering in all things. There is nothing base, nothing arrogant in love. Love admits of no schisms: love gives rise to no seditions: love does all things in harmony. By love have all the elect of God been made perfect; without love nothing is well-pleasing to God. (Corinthians 46, 49)

Hermas ca. 150

Lay aside, therefore, the recollection of your offenses and bitternesses, and you will be formed in one spirit. And heal and take away from you those wicked schisms, that if the Lord of the flocks come, He may rejoice concerning you. And He will rejoice, if He find all things sound, and none of you shall perish. But if He find any one of these sheep strayed, woe to the shepherds! And if the shepherds themselves have strayed, what answer will they give Him for their flocks? Will they perchance say that they were harassed by their flocks? They will not be believed, for the thing is incredible that a shepherd could suffer from his flock; rather will he be punished on account of his falsehood. And I myself am a shepherd, and I am under a most stringent necessity of rendering an account of you.

Heal yourselves, therefore, while the tower is still building. The Lord dwells in men that love peace, because He loved peace; but from the contentious and the utterly wicked He is far distant. Restore to Him, therefore, a spirit sound as you received it. For when you have given to a fuller a new garment, and desire to receive it back entire at the end, if, then, the fuller return you a torn garment, will you take it from him, and not rather be angry, and abuse him, saying, ‘I gave you a garment that was entire: why have you rent it, and made it useless, so that it can be of no use on account of the rent which you have made in it?’ Would you not say all this to the fuller about the rent which you found in your garment? (The Shepherd of Hermas Bk. III Similitude 9: Chap. 31-32)

St. Ignatius of Antioch ca. 45-107

Keep yourselves from those evil plants which Jesus Christ does not tend, because they are not the planting of the Father. Not that I have found any division among you, but exceeding purity. For as many as are of God and of Jesus Christ are also with the bishop. And as many as shall, in the exercise of repentance, return into the unity of the Church, these, too, shall belong to God, that they may live according to Jesus Christ. Do not err, my brethren. If any man follows him that makes a schism in the Church, he shall not inherit the kingdom of God. If any one walks according to a strange opinion, he agrees not with the passion [of Christ.]. Take ye heed, then, to have but one Eucharist. For there is one flesh of our Lord Jesus Christ, and one cup to [show forth the unity of His blood; one altar; as there is one bishop, along with the presbytery and deacons, my fellow-servants: that so, whatsoever ye do, ye may do it according to [the will of] God.

For though some would nave deceived me according to the flesh, yet the Spirit, as being from God, is not deceived. For it knows both whence it comes and whither it goes, and detects the secrets [of the heart]. For, when I was among you, I cried, I spoke with a loud voice: Give heed to the bishop, and to the presbytery and deacons. Now, some suspected me of having spoken thus, as knowing beforehand the division caused by some among you. But He is my witness, for whose sake I am in bonds, that I got no intelligence from any man. But the Spirit proclaimed these words: Do nothing without the bishop; keep your bodies as the temples of God; love unity; avoid divisions; be the followers of Jesus Christ, even as He is of His Father. I therefore did what belonged to me, as a man devoted to unity. For where there is division and wrath, God doth not dwell. (Philadelphians 3-4, 7-8)

Let nothing exist among you that may divide you ; but be ye united with your bishop, and those that preside over you, as a type and evidence of your immortality. As therefore the Lord did nothing without the Father, being united to Him, neither by Himself nor by the apostles, so neither do ye anything without the bishop and presbyters. Neither endeavour that anything appear reasonable and proper to yourselves apart; but being come together into the same place, let there be one prayer, one supplication, one mind, one hope, in love and in joy undefiled. There is one Jesus Christ, than whom nothing is more excellent. Do ye therefore all run together as into one temple of God, as to one altar, as to one Jesus Christ, who came forth from one Father, and is with and has gone to one. (Magnesians 6-7)

For if I in this brief space of time, have enjoyed such fellowship with your bishop–I mean not of a mere human, but of a spiritual nature–how much more do I reckon you happy who are so joined to him as the Church is to Jesus Christ, and as Jesus Christ is to the Father, that so all things may agree in unity! Let no man deceive himself: if any one be not within the altar, he is deprived of the bread of God. For if the prayer of one or two possesses such power, how much more that of the bishop and the whole Church ! He, therefore, that does not assemble with the Church, has even by this manifested his pride, and condemned himself. For it is written, “God resisteth the proud.” Let us be careful, then, not to set ourselves in opposition to the bishop, in order that we may be subject to God.

Take heed, then, often to come together to give thanks to God, and show forth His praise. For when ye assemble frequently in the same place, the powers of Satan are destroyed, and the destruction at which he aims is prevented by the unity of your faith. Nothing is more precious than peace, by which all war, both in heaven and earth, is brought to an end. (Ephesians 5, 13)

St. Irenaeus of Lyons died ca. 202

He (the spiritual man) shall also judge those who give rise to schisms, who are destitute of the love of God, and who look to their own special advantage rather than to the unity of the Church; and who for trifling reasons, or any kind of reason which occurs to them, cut in pieces and divide the great and glorious body of Christ, and so far as in them lies, [positively] destroy it—men who prate of peace while they give rise to war, and do in truth strain out a gnat, but swallow a camel. Matt. 23:24 For no reformation of so great importance can be effected by them, as will compensate for the mischief arising from their schism. He shall also judge all those who are beyond the pale of the truth, that is, who are outside the Church; but he himself shall be judged by no one. For to him all things are consistent: he has a full faith in one God Almighty, of whom are all things; and in the Son of God, Jesus Christ our Lord, by whom are all things, and in the dispensations connected with Him, by means of which the Son of God became man; and a firm belief in the Spirit of God, who furnishes us with a knowledge of the truth, and has set forth the dispensations of the Father and the Son, in virtue of which He dwells with every generation of men, according to the will of the Father.

True knowledge is [that which consists in] the doctrine of the apostles, and the ancient constitution of the Church throughout all the world, and the distinctive manifestation of the body of Christ according to the successions of the bishops, by which they have handed down that Church which exists in every place, and has come even unto us, being guarded and preserved without any forging of Scriptures, by a very complete system of doctrine, and neither receiving addition nor [suffering] curtailment [in the truths which she believes]; and [it consists in] reading [the word of God] without falsification, and a lawful and diligent exposition in harmony with the Scriptures, both without danger and without blasphemy; and [above all, it consists in] the pre-eminent gift of love, 2 Corinthians 8:1; 1 Corinthians 13 which is more precious than knowledge, more glorious than prophecy, and which excels all the other gifts [of God]. (Against Heresies 4:33:7-8)

Tertullian ca. 160-220

The consequence is, that they more easily accomplish the ruin of standing houses than the erection of fallen ruins. It is only when they have such objects in view that they show themselves humble and bland and respectful. Otherwise they know no respect even for their own leaders. Hence it is [supposed] that schisms seldom happen among heretics, because, even when they exist, they are not obvious. Their very unity, however, is schism. I am greatly in error if they do not among themselves swerve even from their own regulations, forasmuch as every man, just as it suits his own temper, modifies the traditions he has received after the same fashion as the man who handed them down did, when he moulded them according to his own will. (Prescription Against Heretics 42)

Origen ca. 185-254

If someone from this people wants to be saved, let him come into this house so that he may be able to attain his salvation… Let no one, then, be persuaded otherwise, nor let anyone deceive himself: Outside of this house, that is, outside of the Church, no one is saved; for, if anyone should go out of it, he is guilty of his own death. (Homilies on Joshua 3:5)

St. Cyprian of Carthage died ca. 258

The spouse of Christ cannot be adulterous; she is uncorrupted and pure. She knows one home; she guards with chaste modesty the sanctity of one couch. She keeps us for God. She appoints the sons whom she has born for the kingdom. Whoever is separated from the Church and is joined to an adulteress, is separated from the promises of the Church; nor can he who forsakes the Church of Christ attain to the rewards of Christ. He is a stranger; he is profane; he is an enemy. He can no longer have God for his Father, who has not the Church for his mother. If any one could escape who was outside the ark of Noah, then he also may escape who shall be outside of the Church. The Lord warns, saying, He who is not with me is against me, and he who gathers not with me scatters. Matthew 12:30 He who breaks the peace and the concord of Christ, does so in opposition to Christ; he who gathers elsewhere than in the Church, scatters the Church of Christ. The Lord says, I and the Father are one; John 10:30 and again it is written of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, And these three are one. 1 John 5:7 And does any one believe that this unity which thus comes from the divine strength and coheres in celestial sacraments, can be divided in the Church, and can be separated by the parting asunder of opposing wills? He who does not hold this unity does not hold God’s law, does not hold the faith of the Father and the Son, does not hold life and salvation.

This sacrament of unity, this bond of a concord inseparably cohering, is set forth where in the Gospel the coat of the Lord Jesus Christ is not at all divided nor cut, but is received as an entire garment, and is possessed as an uninjured and undivided robe by those who cast lots concerning Christ’s garment, who should rather put on Christ. Holy Scripture speaks, saying, But of the coat, because it was not sewed, but woven from the top throughout, they said one to another, Let us not rend it, but cast lots whose it shall be. John 19:23-24 That coat bore with it an unity that came down from the top, that is, that came from heaven and the Father, which was not to be at all rent by the receiver and the possessor, but without separation we obtain a whole and substantial entireness. He cannot possess the garment of Christ who parts and divides the Church of Christ. On the other hand, again, when at Solomon’s death his kingdom and people were divided, Abijah the prophet, meeting Jeroboam the king in the field, divided his garment into twelve sections, saying, Take you ten pieces; for thus says the Lord, Behold, I will rend the kingdom out of the hand of Solomon, and I will give ten sceptres unto you; and two sceptres shall be unto him for my servant David’s sake, and for Jerusalem, the city which I have chosen to place my name there. 1 Kings 11:31 As the twelve tribes of Israel were divided, the prophet Abijah rent his garment. But because Christ’s people cannot be rent, His robe, woven and united throughout, is not divided by those who possess it; undivided, united, connected, it shows the coherent concord of our people who put on Christ. By the sacrament and sign of His garment, He has declared the unity of the Church. Who, then, is so wicked and faithless, who is so insane with the madness of discord, that either he should believe that the unity of God can be divided, or should dare to rend it— the garment of the Lord— the Church of Christ? (Treatise 1 On the Unity of the Church 6-8)

St. Athanasius of Alexandria ca. 293-373

And let us offer to the Lord every virtue, and that true holiness which is in Him, and in piety let us keep the feast to Him with those things which He has hallowed for us. Let us thus engage in the holy fasts, as having been prescribed by Him, and by means of which we find the way to God. But let us not be like the heathen, or the ignorant Jews, or as the heretics and schismatics of the present time. For the heathen think the accomplishment of the feast is in the abundance of food; the Jews, erring in the type and shadow, think it still such; the schismatics keep it in separate places, and with vain imaginations. But let us, my brethren, be superior to the heathen, in keeping the feast with sincerity of soul, and purity of body; to the Jews, in no longer receiving the type and the shadow, but as having been gloriously illumined with the light of truth, and as looking upon the Sun of Righteousness (Mal. 4:2); to the schismatics, in not rending the coat of Christ, but in one house, even in the Catholic Church, let us eat the Passover of the Lord, Who, by ordaining His holy laws, guided us towards virtue, and counselled the abstinence of this feast. (Letter 5)

Optatus of Milevis died 4th cent.

Catholicism is constituted by a simple and true understanding in the law, by an unique and most true mystery, and by unity of minds. But schism, after the bond of peace has been broken, is brought into existence through passion, is nourished by hatred, is strengthened by envy and dissensions, so that the Catholic Mother is abandoned, whilst her unfilial children go forth outside and separate themselves (as you have done) from the root of Mother Church—-cut off by the shears of their hatred—-and wickedly depart in rebellion. They are not able, however, to do anything new, or different from that which long ago they learned from their Mother. (Against the Donatists Book 1:XI)

Now, by the Commandments of God, three things are, amongst others, forbidden by Him. Thou shalt not kill; thou shalt not go after strange gods, and summing up the commands, thou shalt not commit schism.

Murder of kith is the chief sin. Nevertheless, God did not strike Cain dead in his guilt, but declared that He would punish any man who might be his murderer. In the city of Nineve one hundred and twenty thousand inhabitants sacrilegiously followed after strange gods, but when, by the preaching of Jonah the prophet, God had declared His anger, a short period of fasting, together with prayer, obtained their pardon. Let us see whether any such forgiveness was granted to those who first of all ventured to divide the people of God.

God had placed over so many thousands of children of Israel, from whose necks His Divine Providence had cast away the yoke of servitude, one Priest, holy Aaron. But his ministers, coveting and lawlessly usurping a priesthood to which they had no right, and leading astray a part of the people, imitated the sacred rites, and placed more than two hundred of their followers (who were to perish with them)—-censers in their hands—-before the people whom they had led astray. God, to whom schism is displeasing, could not see this and let it pass; they had, after a certain fashion, declared war against God, as if there were a second God, who would accept a second sacrifice. Therefore God was wrathful with a mighty wrath, on account of the schism which had been made, and what He had not done in punishment of the sacrilegious and the fratricide, that He did do in punishment of schismatics. The army of ministers stood in array, and the sacrilegious host that (together with its forbidden sacrifices) was to perish in an instant. The opportunity for penance was denied them and withdrawn, for this was not the kind of sin that should deserve pardon. The earth was commanded to hunger after its food. Forthwith it opened its jaws for those who had divided the people, and with eager mouth swallowed them up that had despised the commandments of God. Within the space of one moment the earth opened to devour them, seized her victims, was shut once again, and, so that they might not appear to reap any benefit from the suddenness of their death, it was not allowed these men who were unworthy to live even to die. Of a sudden they were shut in the prison of Hell, and were buried there before they died.

And yet you wonder that something of similar severity has been done against you—-you who either cause or approve schism, although you see here what they, who compassed the first schism, deserved to suffer! Or is it because punishment of this kind has now ceased, that on this account you claim innocence for yourself and for your party? In each of these occurrences, God has set forth a model by examples of the punishment that will come to their imitators. The first sins He has put an end to with punishment, as an example for all time. The sins that come after He will reserve for His Judgement. What have you to say to this, you, who having usurped the name of the Church, both secretly foster and without shame defend the schism? (ibid., Bk. 1:XXI)

St. Cyril of Jerusalem ca. 313-386

Guard thyself then, O man; thou hast the signs of Antichrist; and remember them not only thyself, but impart them also freely to all. If thou hast a child according to the flesh, admonish him of this now; if thou hast begotten one through catechizing, put him also on his guard, lest he receive the false one as the True. For the mystery of iniquity doth already work. I fear these wars of the nations; I fear the schisms of the Churches; I fear the mutual hatred of the brethren. But enough on this subject; only God forbid that it should be fulfilled in our days; nevertheless, let us be on our guard. And thus much concerning Antichrist.  (Catechetical Lecture XV.18)

St. Basil of Caesarea ca. 330-379

The old authorities decided to accept that baptism which in nowise errs from the faith. Thus they used the names of heresies, of schisms, and of unlawful congregations. By heresies they meant men who were altogether broken off and alienated in matters relating to the actual faith; by schisms men who had separated for some ecclesiastical reasons and questions capable of mutual solution; by unlawful congregations gatherings held by disorderly presbyters or bishops or by uninstructed laymen. As, for instance, if a man be convicted of crime, and prohibited from discharging ministerial functions, and then refuses to submit to the canons, but arrogates to himself episcopal and ministerial rights, and persons leave the Catholic Church and join him, this is unlawful assembly. To disagree with members of the Church about repentance, is schism. Instances of heresy are those of the Manichæans, of the Valentinians, of the Marcionites, and of these Pepuzenes; for with them there comes in at once their disagreement concerning the actual faith in God. So it seemed good to the ancient authorities to reject the baptism of heretics altogether, but to admit that of schismatics, on the ground that they still belonged to the Church.

The Cathari are schismatics; but it seemed good to the ancient authorities, I mean Cyprian and our own Firmilianus, to reject all these, Cathari, Encratites, and Hydroparastatæ;, by one common condemnation, because the origin of separation arose through schism, and those who had apostatized from the Church had no longer on them the grace of the Holy Spirit, for it ceased to be imparted when the continuity was broken. The first separatists had received their ordination from the Fathers, and possessed the spiritual gift by the laying on of their hands. But they who were broken off had become laymen, and, because they are no longer able to confer on others that grace of the Holy Spirit from which they themselves are fallen away, they had no authority either to baptize or to ordain. And therefore those who were from time to time baptized by them, were ordered, as though baptized by laymen, to come to the church to be purified by the Church’s true baptism. Nevertheless, since it has seemed to some of those of Asia that, for the sake of management of the majority, their baptism should be accepted, let it be accepted. (Letter 188 1st Canonical Epistle, Canon 1)

St. John Chrysostom ca. 349-407

If therefore we desire to have the benefit of that Spirit which is from the Head, let us cleave one to another. For there are two kinds of separation from the body of the Church; the one, when we wax cold in love, the other, when we dare commit things unworthy of our belonging to that body; for in either way we cut ourselves off from the fullness of Christ. But if we are appointed to build up others also, what shall not be done to them who are first to make division? Nothing will so avail to divide the Church as love of power. Nothing so provokes God’s anger as the division of the Church. Yea, though we have achieved ten thousand glorious acts, yet shall we, if we cut to pieces the fullness of the Church, suffer punishment no less sore than they who mangled His body. For that indeed was brought to pass for the benefit of the world, even though it was done with no such intention; whereas this produces no advantage in any case, but the injury is excessive. These remarks I am addressing not to the governors only, but also to the governed. Now a certain holy man said what might seem to be a bold thing; yet, nevertheless, he spoke it out. What then is this? He said, that not even the blood of martyrdom can wash out this sin. For tell me for what do you suffer as a martyr? Is it not for the glory of Christ? Thou then that yieldest up your life for Christ’s sake, how do you lay waste the Church, for whose sake Christ yielded up His life? Hear what Paul says, I am not meet to be called an Apostle 1 Corinthians 15:9, because I persecuted the Church of God and made havoc of it. Galatians 1:13 This injury is not less than that received at the hands of enemies, nay, it is far greater. For that indeed renders her even more glorious, whereas this, when she is warred upon by her own children, disgraces her even before her enemies. Because it seems to them a great mark of hypocrisy, that those who have been born in her, and nurtured in her bosom, and have learned perfectly her secrets, that these should of a sudden change, and do her enemies’ work. (Homily 11 on Ephesians)

Blessed Augustine ca. 354-430

…He shall redeem in peace my soul Psalm 54:18. Against them that love not peace: in peace He shall redeem my soul. Because with those that hated peace I was peace-making. He shall redeem in peace my soul, from those that draw near to me. For from those that are afar from me, it is an easy case: not so soon does he deceive me that says, Come, pray to an idol: he is very far from me. Are you a Christian? A Christian, he says. Out of a neighbouring place he is my adversary, he is at hand. He shall redeem in peace my soul, from those that draw near to me: for in many things they were with me. Wherefore have I said, draw near to me? Because in many things they were with me. In this verse two propositions occur. In many things they were with me. Baptism we had both of us, in that they were with me: the Gospel we both read, they were in that with me: the festivals of martyrs we celebrated, they were there with me: Easter’s solemnity we attended, they were there with me. But not entirely with me: in schism not with me, in heresy not with me. In many things with me, in few things not with me. But in these few things wherein not with me, there is no profit to them of the many things wherein they were with me. For see, brethren, how many things has recounted the Apostle Paul: one thing, he has said, if it shall have been wanting, in vain are those things. If with the tongues of men and of angels I shall speak, he says, if I have all prophecy, and all faith, and all knowledge; if mountains I shall remove, if I shall bestow all my goods upon the poor, if I shall deliver my body even so that it be burned. 1 Cor. 13:1-3 How many things he has enumerated! To all these many things let there be wanting one thing, charity; the former in number are more, the latter in weight is greater. Therefore in all Sacraments they are with me, in one charity not with me: In many things they were with me. Again, by a different expression: For in many things they were with me. They that themselves have separated from me, with me they were, not in few things, but in many things. For throughout the whole world few are the grains, many are the chaffs. Therefore he says what? In chaff with me they were, in wheat with me they were not. And the chaff is nearly related to the wheat, from one seed it goes forth, in one field is rooted, with one rain is nourished, the same reaper it suffers, the same threshing sustains, the same winnowing awaits, but not into one barn enters. (Exposition on Psalm 55 Chap. 18)

St. Cyril of Alexandria ca. 376-444

The Church is One, and the mystery of Christ is One, and there is no sacrifice that is lawful, worthy not to be rejected and well-pleasing to God, unless it is offered in the One Tabernacle, which is the Church. (De Adoratione, quoted from St. Cyril of Alexandria’s Teaching on the Priesthood pg. 77 by Protopresbyter George Dion Dragas)

He says, they may be one; even as Thou, Father, art in Me, and I in Thee, that they also may be one in Us. He asks, then, for a bond of love, and concord, and peace, to bring into spiritual unity those who believe; so that their unitedness, through perfect sympathy and inseparable harmony of soul, might resemble the features of the natural and essential unity that exists between the Father and the Son.

For by one Body, that is, His own, blessing through the mystery of the Eucharist those who believe on Him, He makes us of the same Body with Himself and with each other. For who could sunder or divide from their natural union with one another those who are knit together through His holy Body, Which is one in union with Christ? For if we all partake of the one Bread, we are all made one Body; for Christ cannot suffer severance. (Commentary on John Bk. 11, 11)

Pope St. Leo of Rome ca. 400-461

On reading your letter, brother, we recognized the vigour of your faith, which we already were aware of, and congratulate you on the watchful care you bestow as pastor, on the keeping of Christ’s flock: lest the wolves, that enter in under guise of sheep, should tear the simple ones to pieces in their bestial fierceness, and not only themselves run riot without restraint, but also spoil those which are sound. And lest the vipery deceit should effect this, we have thought it meet to warn you, beloved, reminding you that it is at the peril of his soul, for any one of them who has fallen away from us into a sect of heretics and schismatics , and stained himself to whatever extent with the pollution of heretical communion, to be received into Catholic communion on coming to his senses without making legitimate and express satisfaction. For it is most wholesome and full of all the benefits of spiritual healing that presbyters or deacons, or sub-deacons or clerics of any rank, who wish to appear reformed, and entreat to return once more to the Catholic Faith which they had long ago lost, should first confess without ambiguity that their errors and the authors of the errors themselves are condemned by them, that their base opinions may be utterly destroyed, and no hope survive of their recurrence, and that no member may be harmed by contact with them, every point having been met with its proper recantation. (Letter 18)

St. Dionysius the Areopagite ca. 5th cent.

The love of the Deity for humanity having been thus reverently celebrated, the covered divine bread is brought forward, together with the cup of blessing. The divine kiss of peace is exchanged. Then there is the proclamation, mystical and transcendent, of the holy volumes. For it is not possible to be gathered together toward the One and to partake of peaceful union with the One while divided among ourselves. If, however, we are enlightened by the contemplation of and knowledge of the One we are enabled to be unified, to achieve a truly divine oneness and it will never happen that we succumb to that fragmentation of desire which is the source of corporeal amd impassioned hostility between equals. This, it seems to me, is the united and undivided life prescribed for us by the kiss of peace as it joins like to like and turns the fragmented away from the divine and unique visions. (Ecclesiastical Hierarchy Chap. 3. III.8)

St. Cuthbert of Lindisfarne ca. 634-687

I went in to him (St. Cuthbert) about the ninth hour of the day, and found him lying in one corner of his oratory before the altar. I took my seat by his side, but he spoke very little, for the weight of his suffering prevented him from speaking much. But when I earnestly asked him what last discourse and valedictory salutation he would bequeath to the brethren, he began to make a few strong admonitions respecting peace and humility, and told me to beware of those persons who strove against these virtues, and would not practise them. ‘ Have peace,’ said he, ‘ and Divine charity ever amongst you: and when you are called upon to deliberate on your condition, see that you be unanimous in council. Let concord be mutual between you and other servants of Christ; and do not despise others who belong to the faith and come to you for hospitality, but admit them familiarly and kindly; and when you have entertained them, speed them on their journey: by no means esteeming yourselves better than the rest of those who partake of the same faith and mode of life. But have no communion with those who err from the unity of the Catholic faith, either by keeping Easter at an improper time, or by their perverse life. And know and remember, that, if of two evils you are compelled to choose one, I would rather that you should take up my bones, and leave these places, to reside wherever God may send you, than consent in any way to the wickedness of schismatics, and so place a yoke upon your necks. Study diligently, and carefully observe the catholic rules of the Fathers, and practise with zeal those institutes of the monastic life which it has pleased God to deliver to you through my ministry. For I know, that, although during my life some have despised me, yet after my death you will see what sort of man I was, and that my doctrine was by no means worthy of contempt.’ (Bede the Venerable, Life of St. Cuthbert Chap. 39)

Bede the Venerable ca. 673-735

1 Jn. 4:3 And every spirit which rejects Jesus is not of God.

He rejects Jesus who denies either His divinity or His soul or His flesh, which the catholic faith truly teaches that He had. He also rejects Jesus who falsifies the commandments and words of Jesus either by living perversely or by more perversely interpreting them. But he also strives to reject Jesus as hard as he can who upsets the unity of the holy Church which Jesus came to bring together. (Commentary on 1st John)

On Hedonism

he·don·ism/ˈhēdnˌizəm/Noun

1. The pursuit of pleasure.
2. The ethical theory that pleasure is the highest good and proper aim of human life
Hedonism is a Greek term stemming from hedonistic philosophers such as Epicurus (341–270 BC). This philosophy is part of the very antithesis of the Christian life…Although there is what one Protestant pastor calls “Christian Hedonism,” which is really just finding pleasure in a sacrificial life, something quite foreign to Protestantism. Stay tuned for a comprehensive argument for the ascetic life of Orthodoxy and how it compares to hedonism. The article will embrace the meaning of culture and how Orthodox Christians are to pursue the culture but on a completely different level from the Hedonists and other non-believing and self-pursuing peoples. I hope to have the article done sometime this week, Lord willing!

Five Interesting Historical Facts About Islam

 WHILE READING about things totally unrelated to the counterjihad movement, I have occasionally come across some interesting historical facts about Islam. I was surprised to discover that Islam had a hand in many important historical events I already knew about without ever knowing Islam had anything to do with them. Here are a few of the most interesting:

1. The creation of the U.S. Marine Corps was initiated in response to Islamic warriors. The Barbary Coast pirates were following in Mohammad’s footsteps, raiding caravans (in this case, oceangoing ships), taking slaves, capturing people to hold for ransom, and demanding “protection money” from any kafirs who didn’t want to be raided. This had been going on for centuries along the North African Mediterranean coastline.

Any ships that wanted to do business in the Mediterranean were at risk. Many European countries did the easy thing and paid the protection money to the Muslims to avoid being raided, which, of course, helped fund their operations against anyone who wasn’t paying. The U.S. did not have enough military resources to protect its ships, so it paid the protection money too. This bothered Thomas Jefferson. Before he was president, when he was an ambassador to France, Jefferson had a chance to meet with an ambassador from Tripoli, and he asked why Tripoli did this. The Muslim explained it was written in the Koran.

So Thomas Jefferson did something every leader of the free world should do: He bought himself a Koran and read it. Then when he became president, he knew what he needed to do: He formed the United States Navy, created the Marine Corps, and sent them to the shores of Tripoli, where they soundly defeated the Muslim warriors.

This was the first foreign war fought by the United States. America’s victory was the beginning of the end of the “Barbary Coast Pirates.” The military aggressiveness of Islamic countries remained contained and weakened for over a century.

2. The New World was discovered because of Islam. Christopher Columbus was looking for a new trade route to the East. But why was he looking for a trade route?

During the Second Jihad, Islam invaded Central Asia and defeated Constantinople in 1453, cutting off the overland route for Europeans. Islamic armies continued their jihad northward, and conquered much of what is now Eastern Europe, until they were finally stopped at the gates of Vienna in 1683. Read more: The Second Major Wave of Jihad: the Turks, 1071-1683.

Europe had been trading with the Far East for centuries, and their old overland route now went through territory that was hostile and dangerous to anybody but Muslims. The economy of Europe was threatened.

So, in 1492, the year Islam was finally defeated in Spain, ending Islam’s 780-year occupation, Columbus set off to find a passage to the Far East by boldly sailing West into the unknown. Desperate times call for desperate measures.

3. The .45 caliber 1911 semiautomatic pistol was created to stop Islamic warriors. From 1902 until 1913, the United States fought a war with the “Moro Warriors” in the Philippines. These Islamic warriors were named “Moros” by the Spanish. Their unstoppability was legendary. “In one instance,” writes Robert Boatman, “a Moro warrior received 14 bullet wounds in five minutes, three of which penetrated his brain, and yet he fought on.”

At the time the army was using .38 caliber guns, which were unable to stop the Moros, so in 1906, they began testing different guns to find something better. In 1911, they chose the .45 caliber semiautomatic pistol. It had enough stopping power to kill even a Moro warrior with one shot.

4. The Great Pyramid of Giza looks unfinished because of Muslims. The pyramid was once covered by a smooth, beautifully polished layer of white stone. This outer layer was removed by Muslims, who used the white stone for mosques and palaces, leaving the ancient pyramids with their somewhat unfinished appearance.

The physicist, John Zajac, wrote: “This protective covering was made up of…hard, white limestone, similar to marble but superior in hardness and in durability against the elements…The casing stones, 144,000 in all, were so brilliant that they could literally be seen from the mountains of Israel hundreds of miles away…The people of the area had viewed the pyramid and its polished stones with awe for centuries. But when a 13th century earthquake loosened some of these casing stones, the Arabs recognized a great quarry of precut stones that could be used to finish off palaces and mosques. For instance, the casing stones were used to rebuild the new city of El Kaherah plus Cairo mosques and palaces, including the Mosque of Sultan Hasan.”

Historically, this is Islamic standard operating procedure. Wherever Islam established itself throughout the world, it destroyed or defaced monuments that represented the previous (conquered) culture and replaced it with Islamic structures and mosques. Afghanistan used to be Buddhist. Turkey used to be Christian. Pakistan used to be Hindu. The former cultures and any symbols of them were annihilated and replaced by Islam.

5. The Crusades were a limp, late, defensive response to four hundred years of Islamic war against what was then largely Christian lands (the Middle East, Northern Africa, and Europe). Four of the five main centers of Christianity, including the Byzantium and Constantiople, were eventually conquered by the Islamic warriors’ relentless conquests, and the countries were forcibly converted into Islamic states. But before the Crusades, Byzantium was still fighting to defend itself, and repeatedly appealed to Rome for help.

The different nations of Europe were largely competitors with each other. They were not a united force — far from it — but the Pope thought he could unify Europeans if he made it a matter of “defending Christians,” so that’s how he made his appeal. It helped unite Europeans against a common threat, and it may have saved Europe from the forcible Islamization suffered by the nations of the Middle East, part of India, and North Africa. Read more: What About the Crusades?

Here’s another interesting historical tidbit about Islam’s influence: The defense of Europe during the Crusades was devastatingly expensive, and the Church of Rome tried many ways to raise funds. Some of these fundraising efforts were deeply offensive to Martin Luther, so he intitiated the Protestant Reformation.

Islam has had a profound impact on important historical events throughout its history, and it is still being felt today.

Early Fathers on the Eucharist

The Didache ca. 80


Assemble on the Lord’s day, and break bread and offer the Eucharist; but first make confession of your faults, so that your sacrifice may be a pure one. Anyone who has a difference with his fellow is not to take part with you until he has been reconciled, so as to avoid any profanation of your sacrifice (Matt. 5:23–24). For this is the offering of which the Lord has said, ‘Everywhere and always bring me a sacrifice that is undefiled, for I am a great king, says the Lord, and my name is the wonder of nations’ (Mal. 1:11, 14).(Didache 14)
Liturgy of St. James arranged 1st-4th cent. a.d.

Priest: O Sovereign Lord our God, contemn me not, defiled with a multitude of sins: for, behold, I have come to this Your divine and heavenly mystery, not as being worthy; but looking only to Your goodness, I direct my voice to You: God be merciful to me, a sinner; I have sinned against Heaven, and before You, and am unworthy to come into the presence of this Your holy and spiritual table, upon which Your only-begotten Son, and our Lord Jesus Christ, is mystically set forth as a sacrifice for me, a sinner, and stained with every spot. Wherefore I present to You this supplication and thanksgiving, that Your Spirit the Comforter may be sent down upon me, strengthening and fitting me for this service; and count me worthy to make known without condemnation the word, delivered from You by me to the people, in Christ Jesus our Lord, with whom You are blessed, together with Your all-holy, and good, and quickening, and consubstantial Spirit, now and ever, and to all eternity. Amen. (Prayer of the Standing Beside the Altar)

Liturgy of St. Mark arranged 1st-4th cent. a.d.

Priest: We offer this reasonable and bloodless sacrifice, which all nations, from the rising to the setting of the sun, from the north and the south, present to You, O Lord; for great is Your name among all peoples, and in all places are incense, sacrifice, and oblation offered to Your holy name. (The Anaphoral Prayer)

Pope St. Clement of Rome fl. 96

These things therefore being manifest to us, and since we look into the depths of the divine knowledge, it behoves us to do all things in [their proper] order, which the Lord has commanded us to perform at stated times. He has enjoined sacrifices and liturgies (Grk. prosphora kai leitourgia) to be performed [to Him], and that not thoughtlessly or irregularly, but at the appointed times and hours. (Letter to the Corinthians 40)

Our sin will not be small if we eject from the episcopate those who blamelessly and holily have offered its sacrifices. Blessed are those presbyters who have already finished their course, and who have obtained a fruitful and perfect release. (ibid., 44)

St. Ignatius of Antioch ca. 45-107

Make certain, therefore, that you all observe one common Eucharist; for there is but one Body of our Lord Jesus Christ, and but one cup of union with his Blood, and one single altar of sacrifice (Grk. en thysiasterion) —even as there is also but one bishop, with his clergy and my own fellow servitors, the deacons. This will ensure that all your doings are in full accord with the will of God. (Letter to the Philadelphians 4)

The term ‘sacrifice’ is first linked to the Eucharist in Did. 14.1 but the exact meaning is not clear. The same applies to the use of thysiasterion in Ignatius of Antioch, Eph. 5.2-3, Trall. 7.2, Magn. 7.2; Phild. 4. The Encyclopedia of Christianity Vol. 4 By Erwin Fahlbusch, Geoffrey William Bromiley pg. 812

St. Justin the Philosopher ca. 103-165

And the offering of fine flour, sirs, which was prescribed to be presented on behalf of those purified from leprosy, was a type of the bread of the Eucharist, the celebration of which our Lord Jesus Christ prescribed, in remembrance of the suffering which He endured on behalf of those who are purified in soul from all iniquity, in order that we may at the same time thank God for having created the world, with all things therein, for the sake of man, and for delivering us from the evil in which we were, and for utterly overthrowing principalities and powers by Him who suffered according to His will. Hence God speaks by the mouth of Malachi, one of the twelve [prophets], as I said before, about the sacrifices at that time presented by you: ‘I have no pleasure in you, says the Lord; and I will not accept your sacrifices at your hands: for, from the rising of the sun unto the going down of the same, My name has been glorified among the Gentiles, and in every place incense is offered to My name, and a pure offering: for My name is great among the Gentiles, says the Lord: but you profane it.’ Malachi 1:10-12 [So] He then speaks of those Gentiles, namely us, who in every place offer sacrifices to Him, i.e., the bread of the Eucharist, and also the cup of the Eucharist, affirming both that we glorify His name, and that you profane [it]. (Dialogue with Trypho the Jew 41)

Accordingly, God, anticipating all the sacrifices which we offer through this name, and which Jesus the Christ enjoined us to offer, i.e., in the Eucharist of the bread and the cup, and which are presented by Christians in all places throughout the world, bears witness that they are well-pleasing to Him. But He utterly rejects those presented by you and by those priests of yours, saying, ‘And I will not accept your sacrifices at your hands; for from the rising of the sun to its setting my name is glorified among the Gentiles (He says); but you profane it’ Malachi 1:10-12. (ibid., 117)

Athenagoras of Athens ca. 133-190

And what have I to do with holocausts, which God does not stand in need of?—though indeed it does behoove us to offer a bloodless sacrifice and “the service of our reason” (Rom. 12:1). (A Plea for Christians, Chap. XIII: Why Christians do not Offer Sacrifices)

St. Irenaeus of Lyons ca. 2nd cent-202 a.d.

Again, giving directions to His disciples to offer to God the first-fruits of His own, created things— not as if He stood in need of them, but that they might be themselves neither unfruitful nor ungrateful— He took that created thing, bread, and gave thanks, and said, This is My body. (Matt. 26:26) And the cup likewise, which is part of that creation to which we belong, He confessed to be His blood, and taught the new oblation of the new covenant; which the Church receiving from the apostles, offers to God throughout all the world, to Him who gives us as the means of subsistence the first-fruits of His own gifts in the New Testament, concerning which Malachi, among the twelve prophets, thus spoke beforehand: I have no pleasure in you, says the Lord Omnipotent, and I will not accept sacrifice at your hands. For from the rising of the sun, unto the going down [of the same], My name is glorified among the Gentiles, and in every place incense is offered to My name, and a pure sacrifice; for great is My name among the Gentiles, says the Lord Omnipotent; (Mal. 1:10-11) — indicating in the plainest manner, by these words, that the former people [the Jews] shall indeed cease to make offerings to God, but that in every place sacrifice shall be offered to Him, and that a pure one; and His name is glorified among the Gentiles. (Against Heresies Bk. IV, 17:5)

Tertullian ca. 160-220

She who is bound (to another) has not departed (from him). But (will she say), In peace? In that case, she must necessarily persevere in that (peace) with him whom she will no longer have the power to divorce; not that she would, even if she had been able to divorce him, have been marriageable. Indeed, she prays for his soul, and requests refreshment for him meanwhile, and fellowship (with him) in the first resurrection; and she offers (her sacrifice) on the anniversaries of his falling asleep. (On Monogamy 10)

St. Hippolytus of Rome ca. 170-235

The Word prepared His Precious and immaculate Body and His Blood, that daily are set forth as a sacrifice (Grk. epitelountai thyomena) on the mystic and Divine table as a memorial of that ever memorable first table of the mysterious supper of the Lord. (Fragm. in Prov., ix, i, P. G., LXXX, 593)

St. Cyprian of Carthage died ca. 258

For if Jesus Christ, our Lord and God, is Himself the chief priest of God the Father, and has first offered Himself a sacrifice to the Father, and has commanded this to be done in commemoration of Himself, certainly that priest truly discharges the office of Christ, who imitates that which Christ did; and he then offers a true and full sacrifice in the Church to God the Father, when he proceeds to offer it according to what he sees Christ Himself to have offered. (Epistle 62,14)

St. Athanasius of Alexandria ca. 293-373

By these things Israel of old, having first, as in a figure, striven for the victory, came to the feast, for these things were then foreshadowed and typified. But we, my beloved, the shadow having received its fulfilment, and the types being accomplished, should no longer consider the feast typical, neither should we go up to Jerusalem which is here below, to sacrifice the Passover, according to the unseasonable observance of the Jews, lest, while the season passes away, we should be regarded as acting unseasonably ; but, in accordance with the injunction of the Apostles, let us go beyond the types, and sing the new song of praise. For perceiving this, and being assembled together with the Truth , they drew near, and said unto our Saviour, ‘Where will You that we should make ready for You the Passover Matthew 26:17?’ For no longer were these things to be done which belonged to Jerusalem which is beneath; neither there alone was the feast to be celebrated, but wherever God willed it to be. Now He willed it to be in every place, so that ‘in every place incense and a sacrifice might be offered to Him Malachi 1:11.’ For although, as in the historical account, in no other place might the feast of the Passover be kept save only in Jerusalem, yet when the things pertaining to that time were fulfilled, and those which belonged to shadows had passed away, and the preaching of the Gospel was about to extend everywhere; when indeed the disciples were spreading the feast in all places, they asked the Saviour, ‘Where will You that we shall make ready?’ The Saviour also, since He was changing the typical for the spiritual, promised them that they should no longer eat the flesh of a lamb, but His own, saying, ‘Take, eat and drink; this is My body, and My blood. ‘ When we are thus nourished by these things, we also, my beloved, shall truly keep the feast of the Passover. (Letter 4,4)

Fr. Dion Dragas: Particularly interesting to note here is Athanasius’ understanding of the ‘sacrifice’ mentioned in Malachi’s prophecy in Eucharistic terms, which is, of course, in line with the whole patristic tradition. The real import of this is that the celebration of the Eucharist, involving the partaking of or communion in the humanity of Christ – which is called ‘spiritual’ [i.e., true or inner] in contrast to ‘typical’ [i.e., figurative or outer] – is now the only way to celebrate the Passover properly, which is now completely renewed, inasmuch as it is no longer related to the deliverance of the ancient Israelites from a human bondage and an entry into an earthly land, but to the salvation of all humanity from death and the devil, and entry into heaven. As a consequence, Jewish sacrifice and celebration of the Passover is now impossible.
It should be noted here that the fulfullment of the Jewish Passover by the Eucharist does not imply that the eucharistic meal which Jesus ate with his disciples was, for Athanasius, a Passover meal. If that was the case, then the shadow would determine the reality of the truth. For Athanasius, however, as for the unanimous tradition of the Fathers, the Eucharistic meal acquired its meaning from the new and unique event of the sacrifice of Christ which was effected through His acceptance of the Cross. This view is derived from the crucial Pauline statement “Our passover, Christ, is sacrificed” (1 Cor. 5:7), which is central to Athanasius’ teaching concerning the Christian sacrifice in his Festal Letters. (Saint Athanasius: Original Research and New Perpsectives. Chap. 4: Saint Athanasius on Christ’s Sacrifice pp. 108-109)

Council of Nicea 325 (1st Ecumenical)

It has come to the knowledge of the holy and great Synod that, in some districts and cities, the deacons administer the Eucharist to the presbyters, whereas neither the canon nor custom have handed down to us, that those, who have not the power to offer sacrifice (prospherein) may give Christ’s body to those who offer (prospherousi). And this also has been made known, that certain deacons now touch the Eucharist even before the bishops. Let all such practices be utterly done away, and let the deacons remain within their own bounds, knowing that they are the ministers of the bishop and the inferiors of the presbyters. Let them receive the Eucharist according to their order, after the presbyters, and let either the bishop or the presbyter administer to them. Furthermore, let not the deacons sit among the presbyters, for that is contrary to canon and order. And if, after this decree, any one shall refuse to obey, let him be deposed from the diaconate.

Strong’s definition προσφορά prosphora

presentation; concretely an oblation (bloodless) or sacrifice: – offering (up).

Thayer’s definition

1) the act of offering, a bringing to
2) that which is offered, a gift, a present. In the NT a sacrifice, whether bloody or not: offering for sin, expiatory offering.

St. Serapion of Thmuis ca. 339 a.d.

Heaven is full, the earth is also full of thy sublime glory, O Lord of hosts. Extend thy power upon this sacrifice, and grant thy aid to its fulfillment; for it is to thee that we have offered this living victim, the unbloody sacrifice. 12. To thee have we offered this bread, the likeness of the body of thine only Son. This bread is the image of His holy body; for ‘the Lord Jesus on the night in which He was betrayed, took bread, broke it, and gave it to His disciples and said: Take and eat, this is my body, which shall be broken for you,’ for the remission of sins. 13. Therefore have we, by repeating the figure of His death, offered the bread and pray: By this sacrifice reconcile thyself with us all and have mercy upon us, O God of truth. And as this bread was scattered upon the hills and brought together into one, so do thou unite thy holy Church from every people and every land and every city and every village and house, and build up one living Catholic Church. 14. We have also offered the chalice, the symbol of the blood; for the Lord Jesus, ‘after He had supped, took the cup and said to His disciples: Take, drink, this is the new covenant, which is my blood, which shall be shed for the remission of sins.’ Therefore have we also offered the chalice, because we have consummated the symbol of the blood.

Let thy holy Word (Logos), O God of truth, come down upon this bread, so that the bread may become the body of the Word, and on this chalice, so that the chalice may become the blood of Truth. And grant that all who partake of them, may receive the medicine of life, as a cure for all sickness and as an increase and progress in virtue, not, however, as judgment, O God of truth, nor as punishment and disgrace. (The Anaphora of Serapion)
St. Ephrem of Syria ca. 306-373

From the moment when He broke His Body for His disciples, and gave it to them, one begins to count the three days during which He was among the dead. Adam practically, after eating of the fruit of the tree, lived a long time, even though he was counted among the dead for having disobeyed the commandment of God. God had spoken to him thus ‘The day when you eat of it, you will die.’ Thus it was for Our Lord. It was because He had given them His Body to eat in view of the mystery of His death that He entered into their bodies as He entered later on into the earth. (Commentary on the Diatessaron 19, 4[translated from the Armenian version])

St. Cyril of Jerusalem ca. 313-386 a.d.

Then, after the spiritual sacrifice, the bloodless service, is completed, over that sacrifice of propitiation we entreat God for the common peace of the Churches, for the welfare of the world;
for kings; for soldiers and allies; for the sick; for the afflicted; and, in a word, for all who stand in need of succour we all pray and offer this sacrifice. (Catechetical Lecture XXIII, 7-8)

Gregory Nazianzen 329-390 a.d.

Cease not to pray and plead for me when you draw down the Word by your word, when in an unbloody cutting you cut the Body and Blood of the Lord, using your voice for a sword. (Letter to Amphilochius 171)

Liturgy of St. Basil ca. 4th. cent. a.d.

Priest: Lord, our God, You created us and brought us into this life. You have shown us the way to salvation and have bestowed upon us the revelation of heavenly mysteries. You have appointed us to this service by the power of Your Holy Spirit. Grant, therefore, O Lord that we may be accepted as servants of Your new Covenant and ministers of Your holy mysteries. Accept us as we draw near to Your holy altar, according to the multitude of Your mercy, that we may be worthy to offer You this spiritual sacrifice without the shedding of blood, for our sins and for the transgressions of Your people. Grant that, having accepted this sacrifice upon Your holy, heavenly, and spiritual altar as an offering of spiritual fragrance, You may in return send down upon us the grace of Your Holy Spirit. Look upon us, O God, and consider our worship; and accept it as You accepted the gifts of Abel, the sacrifices of Noah, the burnt offerings of Abraham, the priestly offices of Moses and Aaron, and the peace offerings of Samuel. As You accepted this true worship from Your holy apostles, accept also in Your goodness, O Lord, these gifts from the hands of us sinners, that being deemed worthy to serve at Your holy altar without blame., we may obtain the reward of the faithful stewards on the fearful day of Your just judgment. (The Petitions)

St. Gregory of Nyssa ca. 335-394

He offered Himself for us, Victim and Sacrifice, and Priest as well, and “Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world.” When did He do this? When He made His own Body food and His own Blood drink for His diciples; for this much is clear enough to anyone, that a sheep cannot be eaten by a man unles its being eaten be preceded by its being slaughtered. This giving of His own Body to His disciples for eating clearly indicates that the sacrifice of the Lamb has now been completed. (Sermon One on the Resurrection of Christ)

St. Ambrose of Milan ca. 338-397 a.d.

We saw the Prince of Priests coming to us, we saw and heard Him offering His blood for us. We follow, inasmuch as we are able, being priests; and we offer the sacrifice on behalf of the people. And even if we are of but little merit, still, in the sacrifice, we are honorable. For even if Christ is not now seen as the one who offer the sacrifice, nevertheless it is He Himself that is offered in sacrifice here on earth when the Body of Christ is offered. Indeed, to offer Himelf He is made visible in us, He whose word makes holy the sacrifice that is offered. (On Twelve Psalms 38,25)

St. John Chrysostom ca. 349-407 a.d.

When you see the Lord immolated and lying upon the altar, and the priest bent over that sacrifice praying, and all the people empurpled by that precious blood, can you think that you are still among men and on earth? Or are you not lifted up to heaven? (The Priesthood 3:4:177)
What then? Do we not offer daily? Yes, we offer, but making remembrance of his death; and this remembrance is one and not many. How is it one and not many? Because this sacrifice is offered once, like that in the Holy of Holies. This sacrifice is a type of that, and this remembrance a type of that. We offer always the same, not one sheep now and another tomorrow, but the same thing always. Thus there is one sacrifice. By this reasoning, since the sacrifice is offered everywhere, are there, then, a multiplicity of Christs? By no means! Christ is one everywhere. He is complete here, complete there, one body. And just as he is one body and not many though offered everywhere, so too is there one sacrifice. (Homilies on Hebrews 17:3 [6])

Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom ca. 4th cent.

Priest: Lord, God Almighty, You alone are holy. You accept a sacrifice of praise from those who call upon You with their whole heart. Receive also the prayer of us sinners and let it reach Your holy altar. Enable us to bring before You gifts and spiritual sacrifices for our sins and for the transgressions of the people. Make us worthy to find grace in Your presence so that our sacrifice may be pleasing to You and that Your good and gracious Spirit may abide with us, with the gifts here presented, and with all Your people. (Prayer of the Proskomide)

St. Cyril of Alexandria ca. 376-444 a.d.

He states demonstratively: “This is My Body,” and “This is My Blood“(Mt. 26:26-28) “lest you might suppose the things that are seen as a figure. Rather, by some secret of the all-powerful God the things seen are transformed into the Body and Blood of Christ, truly offered in a sacrifice in which we, as participants, receive the life-giving and sanctifying power of Christ. (
Commentary on Matthew [Mt. 26:27]; Jurgens, III, 220)

St. Augustine of Hippo ca. 354-430 a.d.

You know that in ordinary parlance we often say, when Easter is approaching, Tomorrow or the day after is the Lord’s Passion, although He suffered so many years ago, and His passion was endured once for all time. In like manner, on Easter Sunday, we say, This day the Lord rose from the dead, although so many years have passed since His resurrection. But no one is so foolish as to accuse us of falsehood when we use these phrases, for this reason, that we give such names to these days on the ground of a likeness between them and the days on which the events referred to actually transpired, the day being called the day of that event, although it is not the very day on which the event took place, but one corresponding to it by the revolution of the same time of the year, and the event itself being said to take place on that day, because, although it really took place long before, it is on that day sacramentally celebrated. Was not Christ once for all offered up in His own person as a sacrifice? And yet, is He not likewise offered up in the sacrament as a sacrifice, not only in the special solemnities of Easter, but also daily among our congregations; so that the man who, being questioned, answers that He is offered as a sacrifice in that ordinance, declares what is strictly true? For if sacraments had not some points of real resemblance to the things of which they are the sacraments, they would not be sacraments at all. In most cases, moreover, they do in virtue of this likeness bear the names of the realities which they resemble. As, therefore, in a certain manner the sacrament of Christ’s body is Christ’s body, and the sacrament of Christ’s blood is Christ’s blood, in the same manner the sacrament of faith is faith. Now believing is nothing else than having faith; and accordingly, when, on behalf of an infant as yet incapable of exercising faith, the answer is given that he believes, this answer means that he has faith because of the sacrament of faith, and in like manner the answer is made that he turns himself to God because of the sacrament of conversion, since the answer itself belongs to the celebration of the sacrament. Thus the apostle says, in regard to this sacrament of Baptism: We are buried with Christ by baptism into death. Romans 6:4 He does not say, We have signified our being buried with Him, but We have been buried with Him. He has therefore given to the sacrament pertaining to so great a transaction no other name than the word describing the transaction itself.
(Letter 98,9)

Apostolic Constitutions ca. 400

He has in several ways changed baptism, sacrifice, the priesthood, and the divine service, which was confined to one place: for instead of daily baptisms, He has given only one, which is that into His death. Instead of one tribe, He has appointed that out of every nation the best should be ordained for the priesthood; and that not their bodies should be examined for blemishes, but their religion and their lives. Instead of a bloody sacrifice, He has appointed that reasonable and unbloody mystical one of His body and blood, which is performed to represent the death of the Lord by symbols. Instead of the divine service confined to one place, He has commanded and appointed that He should be glorified from sunrising to sunsetting in every place of His dominion. (Bk. VI, XXIII)

St. Columba of Ireland ca. 521-597

At another time, as the saint was staying in that part of Scotia (Ireland), named a little before, he came by chance on the Lord’s day to a neighbouring little monastery, called in the Scotic language Trioit (Trevet, in Meath). The same day a priest celebrated the holy mysteries of the Eucharist, who was selected by the brethren who lived there to perform the solemn offices of the Mass, because they thought him very pious. The saint, on hearing him, suddenly opened his mouth and uttered this fearful sentence: “The clean and unclean are now equally mingled together; that is, the clean mysteries of the holy sacrifice are offered by an unclean person, who just now conceals within his own conscience a grievous crime.” The bystanders, hearing these words, were struck with terror; but he of whom they were said was forced to confess his sin before them all. And the fellow-soldiers of Christ, who stood round the saint in the church, and had heard him making manifest the secrets of the heart, greatly wondered, and glorified the heavenly knowledge that was seen in him. (St. Adamnan, The Life of St. Columba Chap. XXXII)
St. Gregory the Great ca. 540-604 a.d.

And here also we have diligently to consider, that it is far more secure and safe that every man should do that for himself whiles he is yet alive, which he desireth that others should do for him after his death. For far more blessed it is, to depart free out of this world, than being in prison to seek for release: and therefore reason teacheth us, that we should with our whole soul contemn this present world, at least because we see that it is now gone and past: and to offer unto God the daily sacrifice of tears, and the daily sacrifice of his body and blood. For this sacrifice doth especially save our souls from everlasting damnation, which in mystery doth renew unto us the death of the Son of God: who although being risen from death, doth not now die any more, nor death shall not any further prevail against him: yet living in himself immortally, and without all corruption, he is again sacrificed for us in this mystery of the holy oblation: for there his body is received, there his flesh is distributed for the salvation of the people: there his blood is not now shed betwixt the hands of infidels, but poured into the mouths of the faithful. Wherefore let us hereby meditate what manner of sacrifice this is, ordained for us, which for our absolution doth always represent the passion of the only Son of God: for what right believing Christian can doubt, that in the very hour of the sacrifice, at the words of the Priest, the heavens be opened, and the quires of Angels are present in that mystery of Jesus Christ; that high things are accompanied with low, and earthly joined to heavenly, and that one thing is made of visible and invisible? (Dialogues Bk. 4, 58)

St. Isaac the Syrian died ca. 700

For lo, we observe that when we are offering the visible sacrifice everyone has made ready and has taken their stand in prayer, seeking mercy from the Deity, making supplication and and concentrating their intellect upon God, then the Holy Spirit come upon the bread and wine which are set upon the altar table. (The Ascetical Homilies, Homily 23)

Celtic Liturgy: Stowe Missal ca. 650

In the Mass for Living Penitents
O Lord, pardon us Thy penitents, Thy pretentious servants, that with
untroubled mind we may be able to offer this Sacrifice for, that by the
dictates of Faith, they may obtain forgiveness and health, through Thee O
Holy Father. May Thy followers be able to make the offering and attain to
the Salvation of eternal grace by Thine aid. Through our Lord Jesus
Christ Who reigneth with Thee and the Holy Spirit throughout all ages of
ages.

Celebrant:
O Lord we beg Thee to graciously attend these sacrificial offerings
here present that our devotions may be profitable to salvation through our Lord
Jesus Christ Who reigneth with Thee and the Holy Spirit throughout all ages of
ages.

Bede the Venerable 673-735

So devout and zealous was he (St. Cuthbert of Lindisfarne ca. 634-687) in his desire after heavenly things, that, whilst officiating in the solemnity of the Mass, he never could come to the conclusion thereof without a plentiful shedding of tears. But whilst he duly discharged the Mysteries of our Lord’s Passion, he would, in himself, illustrate that in which he was officiating; in contrition of heart he would sacrifice himself to the Lord; and whilst he exhorted the standers-by to lift up their hearts and to give thanks unto the Lord, his own heart was lifted up rather than his voice, and it was the spirit which groaned within him rather than the note of singing. (Life of St. Cuthbert Chap. XVI)

St. John Damascene ca. 676-749

With bread and wine Melchisedek, the priest of the most high God, received Abraham on his return from the slaughter of the Gentiles. (Gen. 14:18) That table pre-imaged this mystical table, just as that priest was a type and image of Christ, the true high-priest. (Lev. 14:19-20) For you are a priest for ever after the order of Melchisedek. Of this bread the show-bread was an image. This surely is that pure and bloodless sacrifice which the Lord through the prophet said is offered to Him from the rising to the setting of the sun (Mal. 1:11). (The Fount of Knowledge 3.4)

St. Symeon the New Theologian ca. 949-1022

Therefore, it is with the deire to satisfy your charity about this matter that I should wih to poe this question, as if I were addressing those who speak in this way: “Tell me, most excellent brethren, why is this impossible?” They say, “It is because some are readily and easily brought to compunction, while others are hard-hearted and have hearts of stone so that even when they are beaten they are without compunction. How are those who are o disposed able to mourn and weep, and how can they always communicate with tears? Even the very priests who celebrate the divine and bloodless liturgy, how are they able to weep?” (The Discourses, Chap. IV On Tears of Penitence)

Synod of Blachernae in Constantinople 1157

Convened regarding Basilakes and Soterichus. Condemned those who say Christ offered His sacrifice to the Father alone, and not to himself and to the Holy Spirit; those who say the sacrifice of the Divine Liturgy is only figuratively the sacrifice of Christ’s body and blood; those who deny that the sacrifice in the Liturgy is one and the same as that of Christ on the cross; those who say men were reconciled to the Son through the incarnation and to the Father through the passion; those who think the deification of Christ’s humanity destroyed his human nature; those who deny that his deified human nature is worthy of worship; those who say that, since the human nature of Christ was swallowed up into Divinity, his passion was an illusion; those who say that characteristics of Christ’s human nature (creaturehood, circumscription, mortality, and blameless passions) exist only hypothetically, when one considers Christ’s human nature in abstraction, and not really and truly.

Saint Ignatius on Schismatics and Social Ministry

“Consider how contrary to the mind of God are the heterodox in regard to the grace of God which has come to us. They have no regard for charity, none for the widow, the orphan, the oppressed, none for the man in prison, the hungry or the thirsty. They abstain from the Eucharist and from prayer, because they do not admit that the Eucharist is the flesh of our Savior Jesus Christ, the flesh which suffered for our sins and which the Father, in His graciousness, raised from the dead.”

Saint Ignatius – “Letter to the Smyrnaeans”, paragraph 6. circa 80-110 A.D.

Reformed Christians and Orthodoxy

Here is a great new blog authored by Robert Arakaki. The blog is aimed at helping Reformed Evangelicals understand the differences of Eastern Orthodoxy.

On Heresy

Gal 5:19-21

Now the works of the flesh are clearly revealed, which are: adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lustfulness, idolatry, sorcery, enmities, fightings, jealousies, angers, rivalries, divisions, heresies, envyings, murders, drunkenness, revelings, and things like these; of which I tell you beforehand, as I also said before, that the ones practicing such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.

The word “heresy” is from the Greek word αἵρεσις (hairesis), a word meaning choice, course of action or in a extended sense, school of thought and hence inherently implies a conscious, deliberate and willful rejection or opposition to the Divine Truth manifest in the Orthodox Church.

St. Ignatius of Antioch ca.45-107

Do not err, my brethren. (Comp. Jam. 1:16) Those that corrupt families shall not inherit the kingdom of God. (1Cor. 6:9-10) If, then, those who do this as respects the flesh have suffered death, how much more shall this be the case with any one who corrupts by wicked doctrine the faith of God, for which Jesus Christ was crucified! Such an one becoming defiled [in this way], shall go away into everlasting fire, and so shall every one that hearkens unto him. (Ephesians 16)

I therefore, yet not I, but the love of Jesus Christ, entreat you that ye use Christian nourishment only, and abstain from herbage of a different kind; I mean heresy. For heretics mix up Jesus Christ with their own poison, speaking things which are unworthy of credit, like those who administer a deadly drug in sweet wine, which he who is ignorant of does greedily take, with a fatal pleasure leading to his own death. (Trallians 6)

St. Irenaeus of Lyons died ca. 202

There are also those who heard from him (St. Polycarp) that John, the disciple of the Lord, going to bathe at Ephesus, and perceiving Cerinthus within, rushed out of the bath-house without bathing, exclaiming, “Let us fly, lest even the bath-house fall down, because Cerinthus, the enemy of the truth, is within.” And Polycarp himself replied to Marcion, who met him on one occasion, and said, “Dost thou know me?” “I do know thee, the first-born of Satan.” Such was the horror which the Apostles and their disciples had against holding even verbal communication with any corrupters of the truth; as Paul also says, “A man that is an heretic, after the first and second admonition, reject; knowing that he that is such is subverted, and sinneth, being condemned of himself.” (Tit. 3:10) (Against Heresies 3.3.4)

Wherefore it is incumbent to obey the presbyters who are in the Church, — those who, as I have shown, possess the succession from the Apostles; those who, together with the succession of the episcopate, have received the certain gift of truth, according to the good pleasure of the Father. But [it is also incumbent] to hold in suspicion others who depart from the primitive succession, and assemble themselves together in any place whatsoever, [looking upon them] either as heretics of perverse minds, or as schismatics puffed up and self-pleasing, or again as hypocrites, acting thus for the sake of lucre and vainglory. For all these have fallen from the truth. And the heretics, indeed, who bring strange fire to the altar of God — namely, strange doctrines — shall be burned up by the fire from heaven, as were Nadab and Abiud. (Lev. 10:1, Lev. 10:2) But such as rise up in opposition to the truth, and exhort others against the Church of God, [shall] remain among those in hades (apud inferos), being swallowed up by an earthquake, even as those who were with Chore, Dathan, and Abiron. (Num. 16:33) But those who cleave asunder, and separate the unity of the Church, [shall] receive from God the same punishment as Jeroboam did. (1Kgs. 14:10) (ibid., 4.26.2)

Now all these [heretics] are of much later date than the bishops to whom the apostles committed the Churches; which fact I have in the third book taken all pains to demonstrate. It follows, then, as a matter of course, that these heretics aforementioned, since they are blind to the truth, and deviate from the [right] way, will walk in various roads; and therefore the footsteps of their doctrine are scattered here and there without agreement or connection. But the path of those belonging to the Church circumscribes the whole world, as possessing the sure tradition from the Apostles, and gives unto us to see that the faith of all is one and the same, since all receive one and the same God the Father, and believe in the same dispensation regarding the incarnation of the Son of God, and are cognizant of the same gift of the Spirit, and are conversant with the same commandments, and preserve the same form of ecclesiastical constitution, and expect the same advent of the Lord, and await the same salvation of the complete man, that is, of the soul and body. (ibid., 5.20.1)

Clement of Alexandria ca. 150-215

Accordingly it is added: “For he hath forsaken the ways of his own vineyard, and wandered in the tracks of his own husbandry.” Such are the sects which deserted the primitive Church. Now he who has fallen into heresy passes through an arid wilderness, abandoning the only true God, destitute of God, seeking waterless water, reaching an uninhabited and thirsty land, collecting sterility with his hands. And those destitute of prudence, that is, those involved in heresies, “I enjoin,” remarks Wisdom, saying, “Touch sweetly stolen bread and the sweet water of theft;” the Scripture manifestly applying the terms bread and water to nothing else but to those heresies, which employ bread and water in the oblation, not according to the canon of the Church. For there are those who celebrate the Eucharist with mere water. “But begone, stay not in her place:” place is the synagogue, not the Church. He calls it by the equivocal name, place. Then He subjoins: “For so shalt thou pass through the water of another;” reckoning heretical baptism not proper and true water. “And thou shalt pass over another’s river,” that rushes along and sweeps down to the sea; into which he is cast who, having diverged from the stability which is according to truth, rushes back into the heathenish and tumultous waves of life. (Stromata Bk. 1 Chap. 19)

Tertullian ca. 160-220

Since this is the case, in order that the truth may be adjudged to belong to us, as many as walk according to the rule, which the church has handed down from the Apostles, the Apostles from Christ, and Christ from God, the reason of our position is clear, when it determines that heretics ought not to be allowed to challenge an appeal to the Scriptures, since we, without the Scriptures, prove that they have nothing to do with the Scriptures. For as they are heretics, they cannot be true Christians, because it is not from Christ that they get that which they pursue of their own mere choice, and from the pursuit incur and admit the name of heretics. Thus, not being Christians, they have acquired no right to the Christian Scriptures; and it may be very fairly said to them, Who are you? When and whence did you come? As you are none of mine, what have you to do with that which is mine?  (Prescription Against Heretics 37)

I must not omit an account of the conduct also of the heretics— how frivolous it is, how worldly, how merely human, without seriousness, without authority, without discipline, as suits their creed. To begin with, it is doubtful who is a catechumen, and who a believer; they have all access alike, they hear alike, they pray alike— even heathens, if any such happen to come among them. That which is holy they will cast to the dogs, and their pearls, although (to be sure) they are not real ones, they will fling to the swine. Simplicity they will have to consist in the overthrow of discipline, attention to which on our part they call brothelry. Peace also they huddle up anyhow with all comers; for it matters not to them, however different be their treatment of subjects, provided only they can conspire together to storm the citadel of the one only Truth. All are puffed up, all offer you knowledge. Their catechumens are perfect before they are full-taught. The very women of these heretics, how wanton they are! For they are bold enough to teach, to dispute, to enact exorcisms, to undertake cures— it may be even to baptize. Their ordinations, are carelessly administered, capricious, changeable. At one time they put novices in office; at another time, men who are bound to some secular employment; at another, persons who have apostatized from us, to bind them by vainglory, since they cannot by the truth. Nowhere is promotion easier than in the camp of rebels, where the mere fact of being there is a foremost service. And so it comes to pass that today one man is their bishop, tomorrow another; today he is a deacon who tomorrow is a reader; today he is a presbyter who tomorrow is a layman. For even on laymen do they impose the functions of priesthood. (ibid., 41)

St. Hippolytus of Rome ca. 170-235

Do not devote your attention to the fallacies of artificial discourses, nor the vain promises of plagiarizing heretics, but to the venerable simplicity of unassuming truth. (Refutation of All Heresies Bk. X Chap. 30)

St. Methodius of Olympus died ca. 311

The dragon, which is great, and red, and cunning, and manifold, and seven-headed, and horned, and draws down the third part of the stars, and stands ready to devour the child of the woman who is travailing, is the devil, who lies in wait to destroy the Christ-accepted mind of the baptized, and the image and clear features of the Word which had been brought forth in them. But he misses and fails of his prey, the regenerate being caught up on high to the throne of God—that is, the mind of those who are renovated is lifted up around the divine seat and the basis of truth against which there is no stumbling, being taught to look upon and regard the things which are there, so that it may not be deceived by the dragon weighing them down. For it is not allowed to him to destroy those whose thoughts and looks are upwards. And the stars, which the dragon touched with the end of his tail, and drew them down to earth, are the bodies of heresies; for we must say that the stars, which are dark, obscure, and falling, are the assemblies of the heterodox; since they, too, wish to be acquainted with the heavenly ones, and to have believed in Christ, and to have the seat of their soul in heaven, and to come near to the stars as children of light. But they are dragged down, being shaken out by the folds of the dragon, because they did not remain within the triangular forms of godliness, falling away from it with respect to an orthodox service. Whence also they are called the third part of the stars, as having gone astray with regard to one of the three Persons of the Trinity. As when they say, like Sabellios, that the Almighty Person of the Father Himself suffered; or as when they say, like Artemas, that the Person of the Son was born and manifested only in appearance; or when they contend, like the Ebionites, that the prophets spoke of the Person of the Spirit, of their own motion. For of Marcion and Valentinus, and those about Elkesaios and others, it is better not even to make mention. (Banquet of the Ten Virgins Discourse 8, Chap. 10)

St. Athanasius of Alexandria ca. 293-373

Yes surely; while all of us are and are called Christians after Christ, Marcion broached a heresy a long time since and was cast out; and those who continued with him who ejected him remained Christians; but those who followed Marcion were called Christians no more, but henceforth Marcionites. Thus Valentinus also, and Basilides, and Manichæus, and Simon Magus, have imparted their own name to their followers; and some are accosted as Valentinians, or as Basilidians, or as Manichees, or as Simonians; and other, Cataphrygians from Phrygia, and from Novatus Novatians. So too Meletius, when ejected by Peter the Bishop and Martyr, called his party no longer Christians, but Meletians , and so in consequence when Alexander of blessed memory had cast out Arius, those who remained with Alexander, remained Christians; but those who went out with Arius, left the Saviour’s Name to us who were with Alexander, and as to them they were hence-forward denominated Arians. Behold then, after Alexander’s death too, those who communicate with his successor Athanasius, and those with whom the said Athanasius communicates, are instances of the same rule; none of them bear his name, nor is he named from them, but all in like manner, and as is usual, are called Christians. For though we have a succession of teachers and become their disciples, yet, because we are taught by them the things of Christ, we both are, and are called, Christians all the same. But those who follow the heretics, though they have innumerable successors in their heresy, yet anyhow bear the name of him who devised it. Thus, though Arius be dead, and many of his party have succeeded him, yet those who think with him, as being known from Arius, are called Arians. And, what is a remarkable evidence of this, those of the Greeks who even at this time come into the Church, on giving up the superstition of idols, take the name, not of their catechists, but of the Saviour, and begin to be called Christians instead of Greeks: while those of them who go off to the heretics, and again all who from the Church change to this heresy, abandon Christ’s name, and henceforth are called Arians, as no longer holding Christ’s faith, but having inherited Arius’s madness. (Discourse 1 Against the Arians, 3)

Then was fulfilled that which was spoken by the prophet; ‘I will take away from them the voice of joy and the voice of gladness, the voice of the bridegroom and the voice of the bride, the scent of myrrh, and the light of a lamp, and the whole land shall be destroyed.’ (Jer. 25:10) For the whole service of the law has been abolished from them, and henceforth and for ever they remain without a feast. And they observe not the Passover; for how can they? They have no abiding place, but they wander everywhere. And they eat unleavened bread contrary to the law, since they are unable first to sacrifice the lamb, as they were commanded to do when eating unleavened bread. But in every place they transgress the law, and as the judgments of God require, they keep days of grief instead of gladness. Now the cause of this to them was the slaying of the Lord, and that they did not reverence the Only-Begotten. At this time the altogether wicked heretics and ignorant schismatics are in the same case; the one in that they slay the Word, the other in that they rend the coat. They too remain expelled from the feast, because they live without godliness and knowledge, and emulate the conduct shewn in the matter of Bar-Abbas the robber, whom the Jews desired instead of the Saviour. (Festal Letter 6.6)

St. Hilary Poitiers ca. 300-368

But I trust that the Church, by the light of her doctrine, will so enlighten the world’s vain wisdom, that, even though it accept not the mystery of the faith, it will recognise that in our conflict with heretics we, and not they, are the true representatives of that mystery. For great is the force of truth; not only is it its own sufficient witness, but the more it is assailed the more evident it becomes; the daily shocks which it receives only increase its inherent stability. It is the peculiar property of the Church that when she is buffeted she is triumphant, when she is assaulted with argument she proves herself in the right, when she is deserted by her supporters she holds the field. It is her wish that all men should remain at her side and in her bosom; if it lay with her, none would become unworthy to abide under the shelter of that august mother, none would be cast out or suffered to depart from her calm retreat. But when heretics desert her or she expels them, the loss she endures, in that she cannot save them, is compensated by an increased assurance that she alone can offer bliss. This is a truth which the passionate zeal of rival heresies brings into the clearest prominence. The Church, ordained by the Lord and established by His Apostles, is one for all; but the frantic folly of discordant sects has severed them from her. And it is obvious that these dissensions concerning the faith result from a distorted mind, which twists the words of Scripture into conformity with its opinion, instead of adjusting that opinion to the words of Scripture. And thus, amid the clash of mutually destructive errors, the Church stands revealed not only by her own teaching, but by that of her rivals. They are ranged, all of them, against her; and the very fact that she stands single and alone is her sufficient answer to their godless delusions. The hosts of heresy assemble themselves against her; each of them can defeat all the others, but not one can win a victory for itself. The only victory is the triumph which the Church celebrates over them all. Each heresy wields against its adversary some weapon already shattered, in another instance, by the Church’s condemnation. There is no point of union between them, and the outcome of their internecine struggles is the confirmation of the faith. (On the Trinity Bk. 7,4)

St. Cyril of Jerusalem ca. 313-386

But since the word Ecclesia is applied to different things (as also it is written of the multitude in the theatre of the Ephesians, And when he had thus spoken, he dismissed the Assembly), and since one might properly and truly say that there is a Church of evil doers, I mean the meetings of the heretics, the Marcionists and Manichees, and the rest, for this cause the Faith has securely delivered to thee now the Article, “And in one Holy Catholic Church;” that thou mayest avoid their wretched meetings, and ever abide with the Holy Church Catholic in which thou wast regenerated. And if ever thou art sojourning in cities, inquire not simply where the Lord’s House is (for the other sects of the profane also attempt to call their own dens houses of the Lord), nor merely where the Church is, but where is the Catholic Church. For this is the peculiar name of this Holy Church, the mother of us all, which is the spouse of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Only-begotten Son of God (for it is written, As Christ also loved the Church and gave Himself for it, and all the rest,) and is a figure and copy of Jerusalem which is above, which is free, and the mother of us all; which before was barren, but now has many children.(Cathechetical Lectures 18.26)

St. Gregory Nazianzus ca. 329-390

Yea! Would that I were one of those who contend and incur hatred for the truth’s sake: or rather, I can boast of being one of them. For better is a laudable war than a peace which severs a man from God: and therefore it is that the Spirit arms the gentle warrior, as one who is able to wage war in a good cause. (Oration 2.82)

St. Basil of Caesarea ca. 330-379

As for all those who pretend to confess sound Orthodox Faith, but are in communion with people who hold a different opinion, if they are forewarned and still remain stubborn, you must not only not be in communion with them, but you must not even call them brothers. (Patrologia Orientalis, Vol. 17, p. 303)

Abba Agathon ca. 4th cent.

Several brothers once visited Abba Agathon, for they had been informed that he was possessed of great spiritual discretion. And wishing to test him, to see if he would become angry, they said: “Are you Agathon? We have heard about you that you are debauched and proud.” He replied, “Yes, it is so.” They said to him once more, “Are you Agathon the loose-tongued lover of slander?” “I am he,” he responded. And the visitors spoke to him a third time, “You are Agathon, the heretic?” To this, he answered, “I am not a heretic.” After this answer, they asked him to explain: “Why, when we called you so many things, did you admit them, while you would not, however, endure the accusation that you were a heretic?” And the Abba said to them: “The first things I accepted since they were beneficial for my soul; but not the accusation that I am a heretic, since heresy is separation from God.” On hearing this reply, the visitors marvelled at the spiritual discretion of the Abba and departed, benefitted in soul. (The Sayings of the Desert Fathers: Agathon 5)

Abba Poemen the Great ca. 4th cent.

Some heretics came to Abba Poemen one day and began to speak evil of the archbishop of Alexandria suggesting that he had received the laying on of hands from priests. The old man, who had remained silent till then, called his brother and said, ‘Set the table, give them something to eat and send them away in peace.’ (ibid., Abba Poemen 78)

Abba Theodore ca. 4th cent.

He also said, ‘If you are friendly with someone who happens to fall into the temptation of fornication, offer him your hand, if you can, and deliver him from it. But if he falls into heresy and you cannot persuade him to turn from it, seperate yourself quickly from him, in case, if you delay, you too may be dragged down with him into the pit. (ibid., Theodore of Pherme 4)

Blessed Jerome ca. 347-420

Heretics bring sentence upon themselves since they by their own choice withdraw from the Church, a withdrawal which, since they are aware of it, constitutes damnation. Between heresy and schism there is this difference: that heresy involves perverse doctrine, while schism separates one from the Church on account of disagreement with the bishop. Nevertheless, there is no schism which does not trump up a heresy to justify its departure from the Church. (Commentary on Titus 3:10–11)

St. John Chrysostom ca. 349-407

They (the Galatians) had, in fact, only introduced one or two commandments, circumcision and the observance of days, but he says that the Gospel was subverted, in order to show that a slight adulteration vitiates the whole. For as he who but partially pares away the image on a royal coin renders the whole spurious, so he who swerves ever so little from the pure faith, soon proceeds from this to graver errors, and becomes entirely corrupted. Where then are those who charge us with being contentious in separating from heretics, and say that there is no real difference between us except what arises from our ambition? Let them hear Paul’s assertion, that those who had but slightly innovated, subverted the Gospel. Not to say that the Son of God is a created Being, is a small matter. Know you not that even under the elder covenant, a man who gathered sticks on the sabbath, and transgressed a single commandment, and that not a great one, was punished with death? Numbers 15:32-36 and that Uzzah, who supported the Ark when on the point of being overturned, was struck suddenly dead, because he had intruded upon an office which did not pertain to him? 2 Samuel 6:6-7 Wherefore if to transgress the sabbath, and to touch the falling Ark, drew down the wrath of God so signally as to deprive the offender of even a momentary respite, shall he who corrupts unutterably awful doctrines find excuse and par don? Assuredly not. A want of zeal in small matters is the cause of all our calamities; and because slight errors escape fitting correction, greater ones creep in. As in the body, a neglect of wounds generates fever, mortification, and death; so in the soul, slight evils overlooked open the door to graver ones. It is accounted a trivial fault that one man should neglect fasting; that another, who is established in the pure faith, dissembling on account of circumstances, should surrender his bold profession of it, neither is this anything great or dreadful; that a third should be irritated, and threaten to depart from the true faith, is excused on the plea of passion and resentment. Thus a thousand similar errors are daily introduced into the Church, and we have become a laughing-stock to Jews and Greeks, seeing that the Church is divided into a thousand parties. But if a proper rebuke had at first been given to those who attempted slight perversions, and a deflection from the divine oracles, such a pestilence would not have been generated, nor such a storm have seized upon the Churches. (Homily 1 on Galatians)

Blessed Augustine of Hippo ca. 354-430

The Apostle Paul has said: A man that is an heretic after the first and second admonition reject, knowing that he that is such is subverted and sins, being condemned of himself. Titus 3:10-11 But though the doctrine which men hold be false and perverse, if they do not maintain it with passionate obstinacy, especially when they have not devised it by the rashness of their own presumption, but have accepted it from parents who had been misguided and had fallen into error, and if they are with anxiety seeking the truth, and are prepared to be set right when they have found it, such men are not to be counted heretics. Were it not that I believe you to be such, perhaps I would not write to you. And yet even in the case of a heretic, however puffed up with odious conceit, and insane through the obstinacy of his wicked resistance to truth, although we warn others to avoid him, so that he may not deceive the weak and inexperienced, we do not refuse to strive by every means in our power for his correction. (Letters 43,1)

We believe also in the holy Church, that is, the Catholic Church. For both heretics and schismatics style their congregations churches. For heretics violate the faith itself by a false opinion about God; schismatics, however, withdraw from fraternal love by hostile separations, although they believe the same things we do. Consequently, neither heretics nor schismatics belong to the Catholic Church; not heretics, because the Church loves God; and not schismatics, because the Church loves neighbor. (Faith and the Creed 10:21)

St. John Cassian ca. 360-435

Tell me, I pray, if any Jew or pagan denied the Creed of the Catholic faith, should you think that we ought to listen to him? Most certainly not. What if a heretic or an apostate does the same? Still less should we listen to him, for it is worse for a man to forsake the truth which he has known, than to deny it without ever having known it. (On the Incarnation Bk. VI Chap. 10)

For the scheme of the mysteries of the Church and the Catholic faith is such that one who denies one portion of the Sacred Mystery cannot confess the other. For all parts of it are so bound up and united together that one cannot stand without the other and if a man denies one point out of the whole number, it is of no use for him to believe all the others. (ibid., Bk. VI Chap. 17)

St. Vincent of Lerins died ca. 445

I have often then inquired earnestly and attentively of very many men eminent for sanctity and learning, how and by what sure and so to speak universal rule I may be able to distinguish the truth of Catholic faith from the falsehood of heretical pravity; and I have always, and in almost every instance, received an answer to this effect: That whether I or any one else should wish to detect the frauds and avoid the snares of heretics as they rise, and to continue sound and complete in the Catholic faith, we must, the Lord helping, fortify our own belief in two ways; first, by the authority of the Divine Law, and then, by the Tradition of the Catholic Church. (The Commonitory, Chap. 2)

Here, possibly, some one may ask, ‘Do heretics also appeal to Scripture?’ They do indeed, and with a vengeance; for you may see them scamper through every single book of Holy Scripture,—through the books of Moses, the books of Kings, the Psalms, the Epistles, the Gospels, the Prophets. Whether among their own people, or among strangers, in private or in public, in speaking or in writing, at convivial meetings, or in the streets, hardly ever do they bring forward anything of their own which they do not endeavour to shelter under words of Scripture. Read the works of Paul of Samosata, of Priscillian, of Eunomius, of Jovinian, and the rest of those pests, and you will see an infinite heap of instances, hardly a single page, which does not bristle with plausible quotations from the New Testament or the Old.

But the more secretly they conceal themselves under shelter of the Divine Law, so much the more are they to be feared and guarded against. For they know that the evil stench of their doctrine will hardly find acceptance with any one if it be exhaled pure and simple. They sprinkle it over, therefore, with the perfume of heavenly language, in order that one who would be ready to despise human error, may hesitate to condemn divine words. They do, in fact, what nurses do when they would prepare some bitter draught for children; they smear the edge of the cup all round with honey, that the unsuspecting child, having first tasted the sweet, may have no fear of the bitter. So too do these act, who disguise poisonous herbs and noxious juices under the names of medicines, so that no one almost, when he reads the label, suspects the poison. (ibid., 25)

St. Maximus the Confessor ca. 580-662

I write these things not wishing to cause distress to the heretics or to rejoice in their ill-treatment — God forbid; but, rather, rejoicing and being gladdened at their return. For what is more pleasing to the faithful than to see the scattered children of God gathered again as one? Neither do I exhort you to place harshness above the love of men. May I not be so mad! I beseech you to do and to carry out good to all men with care and assiduity, becoming all things to all men, as the need of each is shown to you; I want and pray you to be wholly harsh and implacable with the heretics only in regard to cooperating with them or in any way whatever supporting their deranged belief. For I reckon it hatred towards man and a departure from divine love to lend support to error, so that those previously seized by it might be even more greatly corrupted. (Patrologia Graeca, Vol. 91 col. 465c)

St. John Climacus ca. 7th cent.

A transgressor is someone who observes the divine law only in his own depraved fashion and holds heretical belief in opposition to God. (The Ladder of Divine Ascent, Step 1)

A very well-informed man once put this question to me: “Leaving aside murder and the denial of God, what is the most serious of sins?”

“To lapse into heresy,” I replied.

(ibid., Step 15)

Snow cannot burst into flames. It is even less possible for humility to abide in a heretic. This achievement belongs only to the pious and the faithful, and then only when they have been purified. (ibid., Step 25)

In any conflict with unbelievers or heretics, we should stop after we have twice reproved them (cf. Tit. 3:10). But where we are dealing with those eager to learn the truth, we should never grow tired of doing the right thing (cf. Gal. 6:9). And we should use both situations to test our own steadfastness. (ibid., Step 26)

St. Isaac the Syrian died ca. 700

Beware of reading the doctrines of heretics for they, more than anything else, can arm the spirit of blasphemy against you. (The Ascetical Homilies, Homily Four)

Bede the Venerable ca. 673-735

All heretics distort the Scriptures, for there is no book either of the Old or New Testament in which they do not understand many things perversely. But they also often twist the meaning of the Scriptures either by taking something away or adding or changing, whatever their faithlessness has commanded…(Commentary on 2 Pet. 3:16)

You who perceive the true God, in whom you have eternal life, keep yourselves from the teachings of heretics which lead to everlasting death, because like those who fabricate idols in place of God, they by their wicked teachings change the glory of the imperishable God into the likeness of perishable things. (Rom. 1:23) (Commentary on 1 Jn. 5:21)

St. John Damascene ca. 676-749

With all our strength, therefore, let us beware lest we receive communion from or grant it to heretics; Give not that which is holy unto the dogs, saith the Lord, neither cast ye your pearls before swine(Mat. 7:6), lest we become partakers in their dishonour and condemnation. For if trojan is in truth with Christ and with one another, we are assuredly voluntarily united also with all those who partake with us. For this union is effected voluntarily and not against our inclination. For we are all one body because we partake of the one bread, as the divine Apostle says. (1 Cor. 10:17) (Exact Exposition of the Orthodox Faith Bk. 4, 13)

St. Symeon the New Theologian ca. 949-1022

It is heresy when someone turns aside in any way from the dogmas that have been defined concerning the right faith. (Discourses XXXII. 2)

St. Theodosius of the Kiev Caves ca. 1009-1074

My son, it is not meet to praise another’s faith. Whoever praises an alien faith is like a detractor of his own Orthodox Faith. If anyone should praise his own and another’s faith, then he is a man of dual faith and is close to heresy. If anyone should say to you: “your faith and our faith is from God”, you, my son, should reply: “Heretic! do you consider God to be of two faiths? Don’t you hear what the Scriptures say: “One Lord, one Faith, one Baptism.” (Eph. 4,5) (Testament to the Great Prince

Izyaslav of Kiev)

The Book of Revelation and “Prophecy”

Surfing the “end times” websites and even watching the local billboards during this time of worldwide crises will reveal a host of arguments that we are nearing “the mark of the beast,” as well as “the rapture of the Church.” Most of these teachings come straight out of the Evangelical community and work as a fear-based hook for new converts and a message of hope and excitement for both new converts and matured parishioners. This is not to say that no type of global Antichrist or “new world order” will happen, but it is to say that it will not happen like the Evangelical say it will happen. In fact many areas in the Bible (both Christ and St. Paul state) say that in perilous times such as these many will fall from the true Gospel message to be enamored by their surroundings.

Remember, the Book of Revelation, even though written and prophesied for many events that have already past, will give us wisdom to handle situations such as the one that we are in right now. But to create a newspaper theology such as is being created is absolute heresy and we should tread very carefully when listening to this hype.

[Read more…]

Chuck Smith of Calvary Chapel also a False Prophet?

Is Chuck Smith of Calvary Chapel a false prophet like Harold Camping? See for yourself!

Early Church on “Justification” and Grace

Pope St. Clement of Rome ca. 1st cent.

Let us cleave, then, to those to whom grace has been given by God. Let us clothe ourselves with concord and humility, ever exercising self-control, standing far off from all whispering and evil-speaking, being justified by our works, and not our words. (Epistle to the Corinthians, XXX)

All, therefore, were glorified and magnified, not through themselves or their own works or the righteous actions which they did, but through his will. And so we, having been called through his will in Christ Jesus, are not justified through ourselves or through our own wisdom or understanding or piety or works which we have done in holiness of heart, but through faith, by which the almighty God has justified all who have existed from the beginning; to whom be the glory for ever and ever. Amen. (ibid., XXXII)

The good worker receives the bread of his labor confidently, but the lazy and careless dares not look his employer in the face. It is, therefore, necessary that we should be zealous to do good, for all

things come from him. For he forewarns us: “Behold, the Lord comes, and his reward is with him, to pay each one according to his work.” He exhorts us, therefore, who believe in him with our whole heart, not to be idle or careless about any good work. (ibid., XXXIV)

2nd Clement

Let us reckon that it is better to hate the things present, since they are trifling, and transient, and corruptible; and to love those [which are to come,] as being good and incorruptible. For if we do the will of Christ, we shall find rest; otherwise, nothing shall deliver us from eternal punishment, if we disobey His commandments. For thus also says the Scripture in Ezekiel, If Noah, Job, and Daniel should rise up, they should not deliver their children in captivity. Now, if men so eminently righteous are not able by their righteousness to deliver their children, how can we hope to enter into the royal residence of God unless we keep our baptism holy and undefiled? Or who shall be our advocate, unless we be found possessed of works of holiness and righteousness? (2nd Clement, Chap. 6)

Hermas ca. 95

They only who fear the Lord and keep His commandments have life with God; but as to those who keep not His commandments, there is no life in them. (The Shepherd of Hermas, 2 Comm 7)

St. Ignatius of Antioch ca. 50-117

None of these things escapes your notice, if you hold fast perfectly your faith and love in Jesus Christ, for these are the beginning and the end of life. The beginning is faith, the end is love. And the two blending in unity are God, and all else follows on these, ending in perfect goodness. No man who professes faith lives in sin, nor if he possesses love, does he live in hatred. The tree is manifest by its fruit. In like manner they who profess to be Christ’s, shall be apparent by their deeds. For at this time the work is no mere matter of profession, but is seen only when a man is found living in the power of faith unto the end. (Letter to the Ephesians, 14:2; Lightfoot/Harmer/Holmes, 91)

Pay attention to the bishop, in order that God may pay attention to you. I am a ransom on behalf of those who are obedient to the bishop, presbyters, and deacons; may it be granted to me to have a place among them in the presence of God! Train together with one another: struggle together, run together, suffer together, rest together, get up together, as God’s managers, assistants, and servants. Please him whom you serve as soldiers, from whom you receive your wages. Let none of you be found a deserter. Let your baptism serve as your shield, faith as a helmet, love as a spear, endurance as armor. Let your deeds be your deposits, in order that you may eventually receive the savings that are due you. (Letter to Polycarp, 6: 1-2; Lightfoot/Harmer/Holmes, 117)

St. Polycarp of Smyrna ca. 69-155

I rejoice also that your firmly rooted faith, which was famous in past years, still flourishes and bears fruit unto our Lord Jesus Christ, who endured for our sins, even to the suffering of death, “whom God raised up, having loosed the pangs of Hades, in whom, though you did not see him, you believed in unspeakable and glorified joy,” — into which joy many desire to come, knowing that “by grace ye are saved, not by works” but by the will of God through Jesus Christ.

…Now “he who raised him” from the dead “will also raise us up” if we do his will, and walk in his commandments and love the things which he loved, refraining from all unrighteousness, covetousness, love of money, evil speaking, false witness, “rendering not evil for evil, or railing for railing,” or blow for blow, or curse for curse, but remembering what the Lord taught when he said, “Judge not that ye be not judged, forgive and it shall be forgiven unto you, be merciful that ye may obtain mercy, with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again,” and, “Blessed are the poor, and they who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the Kingdom of God

…Stand fast therefore in these things and follow the example of the Lord, “firm and unchangeable in faith, loving the brotherhood, affectionate to one another,” joined together in the truth, forestalling one another in the gentleness of the Lord, despising no man. When you can do good defer it not, “for almsgiving sets free from death; be ye all subject one to the other, having your conversation blameless among the Gentiles,” that you may receive praise “for your good works” and that the Lord be not blasphemed in you. “But woe to him through whom the name of the Lord is blasphemed.” Therefore teach sobriety to all and show it forth in your own lives. (Epistle to the Philippians)

St. Justin the Philosopher ca. 103-165

And let those who are not found living as He taught, be understood to be no Christians, even though they profess with the lip the precepts of Christ; for not those who make profession, but those who do the works, shall be saved, according to His word: “Not every one who saith to Me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven, but he that doeth the will of My Father which is in heaven. For whosoever heareth Me, and doeth My sayings, heareth Him that sent Me. And many will say unto Me, Lord, Lord, have we not eaten and drunk in Thy name, and done wonders? And then will I say unto them, Depart from Me, ye workers of iniquity. Then shall there be wailing and gnashing of teeth, when the righteous shall shine as the sun, and the wicked are sent into everlasting fire. For many shall come in My name, clothed outwardly in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly being ravening wolves. By their works ye shall know them. And every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit, is hewn down and cast into the fire.

(First Apology, Chapter XVI)

…all who wish for it can obtain mercy from God: and the Scripture foretells that they shall be blessed, saying, ‘Blessed is the man to whom the Lord imputes not sin;’ that is, having repented of his sins, that he may receive remission of them from God; and not as you deceive yourselves, and some others who resemble you in this, who say, that even though they be sinners, but know God, the Lord will not impute sin to them. We have as proof of this the one fall of David, which happened through his boasting, which was forgiven then when he so mourned and wept, as it is written. But if even to such a man no remission was granted before repentance, and only when this great king, and anointed one, and prophet, mourned and conducted himself so, how can the impure and utterly abandoned, if they weep not, and mourn not, and repent not, entertain the hope that the Lord will not impute to them sin? (Dialogue with Trypho the Jew, 141)

Theophilus of Antioch ca. 2nd cent.

But do you also, if you please, give reverential attention to the prophetic Scriptures, and they will make your way plainer for escaping the eternal punishments, and obtaining the eternal prizes of God. For He who gave the mouth for speech, and formed the ear to hear, and made the eye to see, will examine all things, and will judge righteous judgment, rendering merited awards to each. To those who by patient continuance in well-doing [Romans 2:7] seek immortality, He will give life everlasting, joy, peace, rest, and abundance of good things, which neither has eye seen, nor ear heard, nor has it entered into the heart of man to conceive. [1 Corinthians 2:9] But to the unbelieving and despisers, who obey not the truth, but are obedient to unrighteousness, when they shall have been filled with adulteries and fornications, and filthiness, and covetousness, and unlawful idolatries, there shall be anger and wrath, tribulation and anguish, [Romans 2:8-9] and at the last everlasting fire shall possess such men. Since you said, “Show me your God,” this is my God, and I counsel you to fear Him and to trust Him. (

To Autolycus, 14)

Clement of Alexandria ca. 150-215

And other sheep there are also, says the Lord, which are not of this fold Jn. 10:16 — deemed worthy of another fold and mansion, in proportion to their faith. But My sheep hear My voice, Jn. 10:27 understanding gnostically the commandments. And this is to be taken in a magnanimous and worthy acceptation, along with also the recompense and accompaniment of works. So that when we hear, Your faith has saved you, we do not understand Him to say absolutely that those who have believed in any way whatever shall be saved, unless also works follow. But it was to the Jews alone that He spoke this utterance, who kept the law and lived blamelessly, who wanted only faith in the Lord. No one, then, can be a believer and at the same time be licentious; but though he quit the flesh, he must put off the passions, so as to be capable of reaching his own mansion. (Stromata, Bk. VI, 14)

St. Hippolytus of Rome ca. 170-236

And in like manner, the Gentiles by faith in Christ prepare for themselves eternal life through good works. (Commentary on Proverbs; ANF, Vol. V, 174)

Origen of Alexandria ca. 185-254

Whoever dies in his sins, even if he profess to believe in Christ, does not truly believe in Him, and even if that which exists without works be called faith, such faith is dead in itself, as we read in the Epistle bearing the name of James. (Commentary on John,19:6)

Cyprian of Carthage +258

From which an example is given us to avoid the way of the old man, to stand in the footsteps of a conquering Christ, that we may not again be incautiously turned back into the nets of death, but, foreseeing our danger, may possess the immortality that we have received. But how can we possess immortality, unless we keep those commands of Christ whereby death is driven out and overcome, when He Himself warns us, and says, “If thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments?” And again: “If ye do the things that I command you, henceforth I call you not servants, but friends.” Finally, these persons He calls strong and stedfast; these He declares to be founded in robust security upon the rock, established with immoveable and unshaken firmness, in opposition to all the tempests and hurricanes of the world. “Whosoever,” says He, “heareth my words, and doeth them, I will liken him unto a wise man, that built his house upon a rock: the rain descended, the floods came, the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell not: for it was founded upon a rock.” We ought therefore to stand fast on His words, to learn and do whatever He both taught and did. But how can a man say that he believes in Christ, who does not do what Christ commanded him to do? Or whence shall he attain to the reward of faith, who will not keep the faith of the commandment?  He must of necessity waver and wander, and, caught away by a spirit of error, like dust which is shaken by the wind, be blown about; and he will make no advance in his walk towards salvation, because he does not keep the truth of the way of salvation. (On the Unity of the Church, 2)

St. Aphraates the Persian ca. 270-345

For great is the gift which He that is good has given to us. While not forcing us, and in spite of our sins, He want us to be justified; and while He is in no way aided by our good works, He heals us that we may be pleasing in His sight. When we do not wish to ask of Him, He is angry with us. He calls out to us constantly: “Ask and receive; and when you seek, you shall find.” (Treatises 23,48)

St. Athanasius of Alexandria ca. 293-373

For it is not productive of virtue, nor is it any token of goodness. For none of us is judged for what he knows not, and no one is called blessed because he hath learning and knowledge. But each one will be called to judgment in these points–whether he have kept the faith and truly observed the commandments. (Life of Antony, 33)

St. Cyril of Jerusalem ca. 313-386

For the name of Faith is in the form of speech one, but has two distinct senses. For there is one kind of faith, the dogmatic, involving an assent of the soul on some particular point: and it is profitable to the soul, as the Lord says: He that hears My words, and believes Him that sent Me, has everlasting life, and comes not into judgment Jn. 5:24: and again, He that believes in the Son is not judged, but has passed from death unto life. Oh the great loving-kindness of God! For the righteous were many years in pleasing Him: but what they succeeded in gaining by many years of well-pleasing , this Jesus now bestows on you in a single hour. For if you shall believe that Jesus Christ is Lord, and that God raised Him from the dead, you shall be saved, and shall be transported into Paradise by Him who brought in there the robber. And doubt not whether it is possible; for He who on this sacred Golgotha saved the robber after one single hour of belief, the same shall save you also on your believing.

But there is a second kind of faith, which is bestowed by Christ as a gift of grace. For to one is given through the Spirit the word of wisdom, and to another the word of knowledge according to the same Spirit: to another faith, by the same Spirit, and to another gifts of healing. 1 Cor. 12:8-9 This faith then which is given of grace from the Spirit is not merely doctrinal, but also works things above man’s power. For whosoever has this faith, shall say to this mountain, Remove hence to yonder place, and it shall remove. Mk. 11:23 For whenever any one shall say this in faith, believing that it comes to pass, and shall not doubt in his heart, then receives he the grace. (Catechetical Lectures, 5.10-11)

St. Gregory the Theologian ca. 329-390

Then, in the tenth place, work that which is good upon this foundation of dogma; for faith without works is dead, even as are works apart from faith. This is all that may be divulged of the Sacrament, and that is not forbidden to the ear of the many. The rest yon shall learn within the Church by the grace of the Holy Trinity; and those matters you shall conceal within yourself, sealed and secure. (Oration on Holy Baptism,45)

St. Gregory Nyssa ca. 335-394

Paul, joining righteousness to faith and weaving them together, constructs of them the breastplates for the infantryman, armoring the soldier properly and safely on both sides. A soldier cannot be considered safely armored when either shield is disjoined from the other. For faith without works of justice is not sufficient for salvation; neither, however, is righteous living secure in itself for salvation, if it is disjoined from faith. (Homilies on Ecclesiastes, 8; Jurgens, II, 45-46)

St. Ambrose of Milan ca. 339-397

Finally Scripture teaches us how far from common are these stones, inasmuch as, whilst some brought one kind, and others another, of less precious offerings, these the devout princes brought, wearing them upon their shoulders, and made of them the ‘breastplate of judgment,’ that is, a piece of woven work. Now we have a woven work, when faith and action go together. Let none suppose me to be misguided, in that I made at first a threefold division, each part containing four, and afterwards a fourfold division, each part containing three terms. The beauty of a good thing pleases the more, if it be shown under various aspects. For those are good things, whereof the texture of the priestly robe was the token, that is to say, either the Law, or the Church, which latter hath made two garments for her spouse, as it is written’–the one of action, the other of spirit, weaving together the threads of faith and works…. Faith is profitable, therefore, when her brow is bright with a fair crown of good works. This faith–that I may set the matter forth shortly–is contained in the following principles, which cannot be overthrown.(On the Christian Faith,II:11,13)

Blessed Jerome ca. 347-420

You had a wife, the apostle says, when you believed. Do not fancy your faith in Christ to be a reason for parting from her. For ‘God hath called us in peace.’ ‘Circumcision is nothing and uncircumcision is nothing but the keeping of the commandments of God.’ Neither celibacy nor wedlock is of the slightest use without works, since even faith, the distinguishing mark of Christians, if it have not works, is said to be dead, and on such terms as these the virgins of Vesta or of Juno, who was constant to one husband, might claim to be numbered among the saints. (To Pammachius, Epistle 48)

But since in the Law no one is justified before God, it is evident that the just man lives by faith (Gal. 3:11)…It should be noted that he does not say that a man, a person, lives by faith, lest it be thought that he is contemning good works. Rather, he says the just man live by faith. He implies thereby that whoever would be faithful and would conduct his life according to the faith can in no other way arrive at the faith or live in it except first he be a just man of pure life, coming up to the faith as it were by certain degrees. (Commentaries on Galatians: 2,3,11)

St. John Chrysostom ca. 349-407

Is it then enough,” saith one, “to believe on the Son, that one may have eternal life?” By no means. And hear Christ Himself declaring this, and saying, “Not every one that saith unto Me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven” (Matt. vii. 21); and the blasphemy against the Spirit is enough of itself to cast a man into hell. But why speak I of a portion of doctrine? Though a man believe rightly on the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost, yet if he lead not a right life, his faith will avail nothing towards his salvation. Therefore when He saith, “This is life eternal, that they may know Thee the only true God” (c. xvii. 3), let us not suppose that the (knowledge) spoken of is sufficient for our salvation; we need besides this a most exact life and conversation. Since though he has said here, “He that believeth on the Son hath eternal life,” and in the same place something even stronger, (for he weaves his discourse not of blessings only, but of their contraries also, speaking thus: “He that believeth not the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abideth on him”;) yet not even from this do we assert that faith alone is sufficient to salvation. And the directions for living given in many places of the Gospels show this. Therefore he did not say, “This by itself is eternal life,” nor, “He that doth but believe on the Son hath eternal life,” but by both expressions he declared this, that the thing doth contain life, yet that if a right conversation follow not, there will follow a heavy punishment. And he did not say, “awaiteth him,” but, “abideth on him,” that is, “shall never remove from him.” For that thou mayest not think that the “shall not see life,” is a temporary death, but mayest believe that the punishment is continual, he hath put this expression to show that it rests upon him continually. (Homily 31:1, On John 3:35-36)

Blessed Augustine of Hippo ca. 354-430

Unintelligent persons, however, with regard to the apostle’s statement: “We conclude that a man is justified by faith without the works of the law,” have thought him to mean that faith suffices to a man, even if he lead a bad life, and has no good works. Impossible is it that such a character should be deemed “a vessel of election” by the apostle, who, after declaring that “in Christ Jesus neither circumcision availeth anything, nor uncircumcision,” adds at once, “but faith which worketh by love.” It is such faith which severs God’s faithful from unclean demons,- for even these “believe and tremble,” as the Apostle James says; but they do not do well. Therefore they possess not the faith by

which the just man lives,–the faith which works by love in such wise, that God recompenses it according to its works with eternal life. But inasmuch as we have even our good works from God, from whom likewise comes our faith and our love, therefore the selfsame great teacher of the Gentiles has designated “eternal life” itself as His gracious “gift.”

And hence there arises no small question, which must be solved by the Lord’s gift. If eternal life is rendered to good works, as the Scripture most openly declares: “Then He shall reward every man according to his works:” how can eternal life be a matter of grace, seeing that grace is not rendered to works, but is given gratuitously, as the apostle himself tells us: “To him that worketh is the reward not reckoned of grace, but of debt;” and again: “There is a remnant saved according to the election of grace;” with these words immediately subjoined: “And if of grace, then is it no more of works; otherwise grace is no more grace”? How, then, is eternal life by grace, when it is received from works?

Does the apostle perchance not say that eternal life is a grace? Nay, he has so called it, with a clearness which none can possibly gainsay. It requires no acute intellect, but only an attentive reader, to discover this. For after saying, “The wages of sin is death,” he at once added, “The grace of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.”

This question, then, seems to me to be by no means capable of solution, unless we understand that even those good works of ours, which are recompensed with eternal life, belong to the grace of God, because of what is said by the Lord Jesus: “Without me ye can do nothing.” And the apostle himself, after saying, “By grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God: not of works, lest any man should boast;” saw, of course, the possibility that men would think from this statement that good works are not necessary to those who believe, but that faith alone suffices for them; and again, the possibility of men’s boasting of their good works, as if they were of themselves capable of performing them. To meet, therefore, these opinions on both sides, he immediately added, “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.” What is the purport of his saying, “Not of works, lest any man should boast,” while commending the grace of God? And then why does he afterwards, when giving a reason for using such words, say, “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works”? Why, therefore, does it run, “Not of works, lest any man should boast”? Now, hear and understand. “Not of works” is spoken of the works which you suppose have their origin in yourself alone; but you have to think of works for which God has moulded (that is, has formed and created) you. For of these he says, “We are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works.” Now he does not here speak of that creation which made us human beings, but of that in reference to which one said who was already in full manhood, “Create in me a clean heart, O God;” concerning which also the apostle says, “Therefore, if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new. And all things are of God.” We are framed, therefore, that is, formed and created, “in the good works which” we have not ourselves prepared, but “God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.” It follows, then, dearly beloved, beyond all doubt, that as your good life is nothing else than God’s grace, so also the eternal life which is the recompense of a good life is the grace of God; moreover it is given gratuitously, even as that is given gratuitously to which it is given. But that to which it is given is solely and simply grace; this therefore is also that which is given to it, because it is its reward;–grace is for grace, as if remuneration for righteousness; in order that it may be true, because it is true, that God “shall reward every man according to his works.” (A Treatise on Grace and Free Will; chapters 18-20)

St. Cyril of Alexandria ca. 376-444

This, then, He says, is eternal life, that they should know Thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ Whom Thou hast sent. Then one of those who are never weary of hearkening to the Scripture, and seriously pursue the study of Divine doctrines, will ask: Do we say that knowledge is eternal life; and that to know the one true and living God will suffice to give us complete security of expectation, and nothing else be lacking? Then how is faith apart from works dead? And when we speak of faith, we mean the true knowledge of God, and nothing else; for by faith comes knowledge: and the prophet Isaiah bears us witness, who said to some: If ye do not believe neither shall ye understand. And that the writings of the holy men are referring to the knowledge which consists in barren speculations, a thing wholly profitless, I think you will perceive from what follows. For one of the holy disciples said: Thou believest that God is one; thou doest well: the devils also believe and shudder. What then shall we say to this? How does Christ speak truth, when He says that eternal life is the knowledge of God the Father, the One true God, and (with Him) of the Son? I think, indeed, we must answer that the saying of the Saviour is wholly true. For this knowledge is life, travailing as it were in birth of the whole meaning of the mystery, and vouchsafing unto us participation in the mystery of the Eucharist, whereby we are joined unto the living and life-giving Word. And for this reason, I think, Paul says that the Gentiles are made fellow-members of the body and fellow-partakers of Christ; inasmuch as they partake in His blessed Body and Blood; and our members may in this sense be conceived of, as being members of Christ. This knowledge, then, which also brings to us the Eucharist by the Spirit, is life. For it dwells in our hearts, shaping anew those who receive it into sonship with Him, and moulding them into incorruption and piety towards God, through life according to the Gospel. Our Lord Jesus Christ, then, knowing that the knowledge of the One true God brings unto us, and, so to speak, promotes our union with, the blessings of which we have spoken, says that it is eternal life; insomuch as it is the mother and nurso of eternal life, being in its own power and nature pregnant with those things which cause life, and lead unto it. (Commentary on the Gospel of John, Book XI, Chap. V)

Blessed Theodoret of Cyr ca. 393-457

For all men, even if they are adorned with deeds of virtue, are in need of divine grace. The Apostle too, on this account, cries out: ‘By grace you have been saved through faith; and this is not of yourselves it is the gift of God.’ (Interpretation of the Psalms, On Ps. 31(32):10)

St. Macarius ca. 4th cent.

Take, for example, the five prudent and vigilant virgins (Mt. 25:1ff). They enthusiastically had taken in the vessels of their heart the oil of the supernatural grace of the Spirit – a thing not conformable to their nature. For this reason they were able to enter together with the Bridegroom into the heavenly bridal chamber. The other foolish ones, however, content with their own nature, did not watch nor did they betake themselves to receive “the oil of gladness” (Ps. 45:7) in their vessels. But still in the flesh, they fell into a deep sleep through negligence, inattentiveness, laziness, and ignorance or even through considering themselves justified. Because of this they were excluded from the bridal chamber of the kingdom because they were unable to please the heavenly Bridegroom. Bound by ties of the world and by earthly love, they did not offer all their love and devotion to the heavenly Spouse nor did they carry with them the oil. But the souls who seek sanctification of the Spirit, which is a thing that lies beyond natural power, are completely bound with their whole love to the Lord. There they walk; there they pray; there they focus their thoughts, ignoring all other things. For this reason they are considered worthy to receive the oil of divine grace and without any failure they succeed in passing to life for they have been accepted by and found greatly pleasing to the spiritual Brideroom. But other souls, who remain on the level of their own nature, crawl along the ground with their earthly thoughts. They think only in a human way. Their mind lives only on an eartly level. And still they are convinced in their own thought that they look to the Bridegroom and that they are adorned with the perfections of a carnal justification. But in reality they have not been born of the Spirit from above (Jn. 3:3) and have not accepted the oil of gladness. (The Fifty Spiritual Homilies, Homily 4.6)

This is the sign of Christianity. However much man should do and how many justifying works he should perform, he should feel that he has accomplished nothing. And when he fasts, he should say, “I have not fasted.” When he prays, let him think, “I have not prayed.” Perservering in prayer he should say, “I have not perservered. I have only begun to practice asceticism and to labor.” And even if he is righteous before God, he must say: “I am not righteous. I am not working, but I begin each day.” He ought every day to have hope and joy and confidence in the future kingdom and in redemption and say: “If today I have not been delivered, tomorrow I will be.” (ibid., Homily, 26.11)

Indeed, it is not immediately upon hearing the word of God that a person is ranked among the good. If the mere hearing brought him into the ranks of the good, there would no longer be any struggles or times of war or any race. But without any labor, if one merely heard the word, he would come into complete rest and perfection. But things are not quite like that. For you deprive a man of his free will in saying this and you also deny the opposing power that is struggling against the mind. This is what we say, that one who hears the word comes to repentance, and after this, through God’s providence withdraws for the development of the man. He enters into training and tactics of war. He enters into the struggle and conflict against Satan. And after a long race and struggle, he carries off the victory and becomes a Christian. If anyone, by merely hearing the word, without any work, would be numbered among the good, then also actors and all prostitutes would enter into the kingdom and the life. But no one will give them this without effort and struggle because the road is straight and narrow (Mt. 7:14). Along this bumpy road we must travel and patiently endure afflictions and thus enter into life. For if it were possible to succeed without effort, Christianity would not be “a stumbling stone and a rock of scandal” (Rom. 9:33). There would be no faith or disbelief. You would in fact make man into a bound creature of necessity, unable to turn toward good or evil… (ibid., Homily 27.20-21)

This is the foundation of the road to God, in much patience, in hope, in humility, in poverty of spirit, in gentleness to travel along the road of life. By such means one can possess justification for himself. We mean by justification the Lord Himself. These commandments, which so enjoin us, are like milestones and signposts along the royal highway that leads a journeyer to the heavenly city. For it says: “Blessed are the poor in spirit; blessed are the meek; blessed are the merciful; blessed are the peacemaker” (Mt. 5:3). Call this Christianity. If anyone does not pass along this road, he has wandered off along a roadless way. He used a bad foundation. Glory to the mercies of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit forever. Amen. (ibid., Homily 27.23)

St. Diadochus of Photiki ca. 400-480

Spiritual discourse fully satisfies our intellectual perception, because it comes from God through the energy of love. It is on account of this that the intellect continues undisturbed in its concentration on theology. It does not suffer then from the emptiness which produces a state of anxiety, since in its contemplation it is filled to the degree that the energy of love desires. So it is right always to wait, with a faith energized by love, for the illumination which will enable us to speak. For nothing is so destitute as a mind philosophizing about God when it is without Him. (The Philokalia, Vol. 1. On Spiritual Knowledge and Discrimination: One Hundred Texts, 7)

Faith without works and works without faith will both alike be condemned, for he who has faith must offer to the Lord the faith which shows itself in actions. Our father Abraham would not have been counted righteous because of his faith had he not offered its fruit, his son (cf. Jas. 2:21; Rom. 4:3). (ibid., 20)

St. Mark the Ascetic ca. 5th cent.

He who relies on theoretical knowledge alone is not yet a faithful servant: a faithful servant is one who expresses his faith in Christ through obedience to His commandments. (The Philokalia: Vol. 1. On Those who Think That They are Made Righteous by Works: Two Hundred and Twenty Six Texts, 5)

Even though knowledge is true, it is still not firmly established if unaccompanied by works. For everything is established by being put into practice. (ibid., 12)

Some without fulfilling the commandments think that they possess true faith. Others fulfil the commandments and then expect the kingdom as a reward due to them. Both are mistaken. (ibid., 18)

When Scripture says, ‘He will reward every man according to his works.’ (Mat. 16:27), do not imagine that works n themselves merit either hell or the kingdom. On the contrary, Christ rewards each man according to whether his works are done with faith or without faith in Himself; and He is not a dealer bound by contract, but God our Creator and Redeemer. (ibid., 22)

Philosophize through your works about man’s will and God’s retribution. For your words are only as wise and profitable as your works. (ibid., 53)

One alone is righteous in works, words and thoughts. But many are made righteous in faith, grace and repentance. (ibid., 109)

St. Columbanus of Ireland ca. 540-615

Whatever virtue God sowed in us our primal state, therefore, He has commanded us to return to Him. This is the first, to love the Lord with the whole of the heart (cf. Mt. 22:37), since He first loved us from the beginning (cf. 1 Jn. 4:10). For to love God is to restore His image. But they loved God who follows His commands, for He said: “If you love Me, keep My commandments” (Jn. 14:15). This is His commandment, a mutual love, according to the saying: “This is My commandment, that you love one another, as I also have loved you” (Jn. 15:12). But true love is not in word only but also in action and truth. And so let us restore to God our Father His own image undefiled in holiness since He is holy, according to the words: “Be holy since I am holy” (Lv. 11:44); in love, since He is love, according to the words of St. John, “God is love (1 Jn. 4:8), in righteousness and truth, since He is righteous and true. (Sermons, Sermon 11)

St. Maximus the Confessor ca. 580-662

As the memory of fire does not warm the body, so faith without love does not bring about the illumination of knowledge in the soul. (Four Hundred Chapters on Love, 1st Century: 31)

Do not say, as the divine Jeremiah tells us, that you are the Lord’s temple. And do not say that ‘mere faith in our Lord Jesus Christ can save me.’ For this is impossible unless you acquire love for him through works. For in what concerns mere believing, ‘even the devils believe and tremble.’ (ibid., 1st Century: 39)

Indeed, as the Scripture has it, “faith without works is dead”. Now no reasonable person would ever presume to say that anything dead or without activity should be counted among the finer things. But when by means of faith it arrives at the good which is its term, the reason ends its proper activities because its potency, habit, and act are now concluded. (The Church’s Mystagogy, Chap. 5)

St. Isaac the Syrian ca. 7th cent.

The power of nature attests that it behooves man to believe in Him Who brings forth all thing in His creation, to believe the words of His commandments, and to do them. For from this belief is born the fear of God. When a man joins righteous works to the fear of God and makes a little progress in this activity, the fear of God gives birth to spiritual knowledge, which we said is born of faith. (The Ascetical Homilies, Homily 47)

Bede the Venerable ca. 673-735

Jas 2:24 You see that a person is justified by works and not by faith alone. What he says, from works, means from the works of faith, because no one can have perfect works without faith but many faith without works if they lack the time for works. Of them it has been said, He was taken away lest wickedness change his understanding or craftiness deceive his mind. (Wis. 4:11)

1 Pet. 1:1 Simon Peter, a servant and apostle of Jesus Christ, to those who have obtained a faith of equal standing to ours

…For it is not legal circumcision but gospel faith alone that joins the peoples of the gentiles to the ancient people of God. Yet, because the same faith without works is not able to save, there is properly appended: In the righteousness of our Lord and saviour, Jesus Christ.

I Jn. 1:6 If we say that we have fellowship with him and walk in the darkness, we are lying and not telling the truth. He is calling sins heresies and hatred darkness. Therefore, the confession of faith alone is not all sufficient for salvation when it lacks the witness of good works. But neither is the uprightness of works of any avail without faith and the simplicity of love. (Commentary on the Seven Catholic Epistles)

St. John Damascene ca. 676-749

The remission of sins, therefore, is granted alike to all through baptism: but the grace of the Spirit is proportional to the faith and previous purification. Now, indeed, we receive the firstfruits of the Holy Spirit through baptism, and the second birth is for us the beginning and seal and security and illuminations of another life. It behoves as, then, with all our strength to steadfastly keep ourselves pure from filthy works, that we may not, like the dog returning to his vomit, make ourselves again the slaves of sin. For faith apart from works is dead, and so likewise are works apart from faith. For the true faith is attested by works. (An Exact Exposition of the Orthodox Faith, 9)

St. Symeon the New Theologian ca. 949-1022

These, then, are the divine mysteries of Christians. This is the hidden power of our faith, which unbelievers, or those who believe with difficulty, or rather believe in part, do not see nor are able at all to see (cf. 1 Tim. 6:16). Unbelievers, those who believe with difficulty, or believe in part, are those who do not show their faith through works. Apart from works the demons also believe (Jas. 2:19) and confess Christ to be God and Master. “We know who you are” (Mk. 1:24), they say, “You are the Son of God” (Mat. 8:29), and elsewhere, “These men are the servants of the Most High God” (Acts 16:17). Yet such faith will not benefit the demons, nor even the humans. This faith is of no use, for it is dead, as says the divine Apostle, “Faith apart from works is dead” (Jas. 2:26), just like the works without faith. How is it dead? Because it has not in itself God who gives life (1 Tim. 6:13). It has not laid hold of Him who said, “He who loves Me will keep my commandments, and I and the Father will come and make Our home with him” (Jn. 14:21, 23), so that by His coming He may raise from the dead him who has attained faith and give him life, and grant him to see Him who has risen in him and who has raised him up. For this reason such faith is dead, or, rather, they are dead who have faith apart from works. Faith in God is always alive, and since it is living it gives life to those who come with a good intention to receive it. Even before they have practiced the commandments it has brought many out of death into life and has shown them Christ our God. Had they perservered in his commandments and kept them until death they too would have been preserved by them – that is, in the state to which faith alone had brought them. But since they “turned aside like a bent bow” (Ps. 78:57) and speared themselves on their former actions, they inevitably at once made shipwreck of their faith (1 Tim. 1:19) and miserably deprived themselves of the true riches, who is Christ our God.

So I urge you, let us keep God’s commandments with all our might, so that we may not share in their fate, but enjoy both present and future blessings, that is, the very vision of Christ. To this may we all attain through the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever. Amen. (The Discourses, Chap. XIII Of Christ’s Resurrection: pp. 184-185)

St. Gregory Palamas ca. 1296-1359

…but of the glory of His nature, which the Saviour has bestowed on His diciples, and through them, on all who believe in Him and have manifested their faith through their works. This glory He clearly desired them to see, For He says to the Father, “I will that they contemplate the glory You have given Me, for you have loved Me since the foundation of the world.”

Let us not the, then, turn aside incredulous before the superabundance of these blessings; but let us have faith in Him who has participated in our nature and granted it in return the glory of His own nature, and let us seek how to acquire this glory and see it. How? By keeping the divine commandments. For the Lord has promised to manifest Himself to the man who keeps them, a manifestation He calls His own indwelling and that of the Father, saying, “If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word, and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and will make Our abode with him”, and “I will manifest Myself to him.” And it is clear that in mentioning His “word”, He means His commandments, since earlier He speaks of “commandments” in place of “word”: “He who possessess and keeps My commandments, that is the man who loves Me.” (The Triads D.15,17)

Evangelical/Protestant Hypocrisy

This article is from Eric Hyde, a member of the Eastern Orthodox Facebook forum. The article is quite good, hitting important points concisely and with clarity.

Confessions of a Protestant

Growing up in a Protestant’ish faith (non-denominational, charismatic), and having never been exposed to the Orthodox Church, I am now beginning to see some of the contradictions that I lived so long with. The following is a short list:

1.) We Protestants love to shout from the rooftops, “Return to traditional family values, return to traditional marriages,” etc, yet we’ve been the ones who have said for the last 500 years that tradition is bad, particularly religious tradition.

2.) We smirk at those “legalistic” folk who repeat written prayers during worship, yet we have no problem repeating written songs during worship. Indeed, we have no problem with our entire salvation revolving around a pad “sinner’s prayer” repeated after a minister.

3.) We mock those who have icons in their church believing that they are worshiping dumb idols made of wood, yet we take two sticks, make a cross, and place it at the highest pinnacle of churches and adore it just the same.

4.) We hold the Scripture above the liturgy, as if they are opposed to each other. Yet, the liturgy preceded the canonization of the New Testament. Never mind that one of the tests that the early church imposed on the various books that were to be considered for canonization was whether or not they contradicted the liturgy passed down by the Apostles.

5.) Some Evangelicals love to point out the problems associated with Eastern Orthodoxy and Roman Catholicism’s intermarriage of church and state, yet we are never more proud then when we make the false claim that America is a “Christian nation,” and engage in sometimes radical political activism in the name of Christ (you know, because Christ was a huge political activist).

6.) We mock the priests who walk around in robes, yet we praise pastors who drive BMW’s and flash their glistening, diamond studded, Rolex watches behind the spotlight of the pulpit.

7.) We shun the Church clergy (bishops, priests, etc.) because they claim apostolic authority (and have funny collars), yet would not dare disagree with our ordained pastors, because they…um…well, because they told us not too.

8.) We believe in a myth called “Sola Scriptura”; that Scripture alone, without tradition, is the way to know God. That is, Sola Scriptura according to either the Augustian-Calvin tradition, the Luther-Melanchthon tradition, the Seymour-Roberts-Hagin tradition, etc.

9.) We deny Mary and the Saints any room in our church services, yet we proudly proclaim that we are “surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses”. I guess that so long as the “witnesses” are an abstract bunch, if we’re not being specific as to exactly who they are, all is well.

10.) We look down our noses at the Orthodox for giving the highest priority to the Creeds of the Church in matters of dogma, yet we have untold number of factions within Protestantism over the very issues that the ancient Church debated and settled in the Creeds. The Creeds were formulated to protect the Church from heresy and division. The churches I grew up in could not care less about the Creeds and its no wonder that most of them now are wandering, isolated factions – sheep without a shepherd.

A Short Documentary of Mount Athos

Take a look right here at the recent video of Mt. Athos. I will also be posting the video on the side bar.

Christ’s Descension into Hades to Destroy Death

The teaching of the Orthodox faith regarding atonement of Christ is that Christ was ransomed by Satan. The so called “payment” that was given was not to God but to Satan. This was no compromise on God’s part. He was not giving power and authority to Satan. Satan had no idea what he was getting. God did not reveal to Satan that Jesus was God until he entered Hades. He had no idea that after the death of Jesus, Jesus would enter into Hades and destroy its bond, taking his people with him.  

 

 

St. Chrysostom ca. 347-407

 It took a body and, face to face, met God! It took earth and encountered heaven! It took what it saw but crumbled before what it had not seen! “O death, where is thy sting? O hades, where is thy victory?” (Paschal Homily)

 St. Gregory of Nyssa ca. 335-394

‎”As the ruler of darkness could not approach the presence of the Light unimpeded, had he not seen in Him something of flesh, then, as soon as he saw the God-bearing flesh and saw the miracle performed through it by the Deity, he hoped that… if he came to take hold of the flesh through death, then he would take hold of all the power contained in it. Therefore, having swallowed the bait of the flesh, he was pierced by the hook of the Deity and thus the dragon was transfixed by the hook.” (The Great Catechetical Oration 22-24)

 St. Augustine of Hippo ca. 354-430

The devil was conquered by his own trophy of victory. The devil jumped for joy, when he seduced the first man and cast him down to death. By seducing the first man, he slew him; by slaying the last man, he lost the first from his snare. The victory of our Lord Jesus Christ came when he rose, and ascended into heaven; then was fulfilled what you have heard when the Apocalypse was being read, ‘The Lion of the tribe of Judah has won the day’ [Rev. 5:5]. . . . The devil jumped for joy when Christ died; and by the very death of Christ the devil was overcome: he took, as it were, the bait in the mousetrap. He rejoiced at the death, thinking himself death’s commander. But that which caused his joy dangled the bait before him. The Lord’s cross was the devil’s mousetrap: the bait which caught him was the death of the Lord. (St. Augustine, Sermons, 261; trans. by Henry Bettenson, ed., The Later Christian Fathers: A Selection From the Writings of the Fathers from St. Cyril of Jerusalem to St. Leo the Great (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1970, 1977), p. 222.)

Pope St. Leo the Great ca. 400-461

And in order that He might set the human race free from the bonds of deadly transgression, He hid the power of His majesty from the raging devil, and opposed him with our frail and humble nature. For if the cruel and proud foe could have known the counsel of God’s mercy, he would have aimed at soothing the Jews’ minds into gentleness rather than at firing them with unrighteous hatred, lest he should lose the thraldom of all his captives in assailing the liberty of One Who owed him nought. Thus he was foiled by his malice: he inflicted a punishment on the Son of God, which was turned to the healing of all the sons of men. He shed righteous Blood, which became the ransom and the drink for the world’s atonement. The Lord undertook that which He chose according to the purpose of His own will. He permitted madmen to lay their wicked hands upon Him: hands which, in ministering to their own doom, were of service to the Redeemer’s work. And yet so great was His loving compassion for even His murderers, that He prayed to the Father on the cross, and begged not for His own vengeance but for their forgiveness, saying, Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do Luke 23:34 . And such was the power of that prayer, that the hearts of many of those who had said, His blood be on us and on our sons Matthew 27:25, were turned to penitence by the Apostle Peter’s preaching, and on one day there were baptized about 3,000 Jews: and they all were of one heart and of one soul Acts 4:32, being ready now to die for Him, Whose crucifixion they had demanded. (Sermon 62)

The Venerable Bede ca. 673-735

 A certain person has interpreted this passage as follows, that the saints resting in the lower world longed for that consolation about which the Lord say to His Apostles, Many prophets and righteous persons have longed to see what you see and did not see it and to hear what you hear and did not hear it (Mt. 13:17), about which the psalmist also says, My eyes have failed at your message, saying, ‘When will you comfort me,” (Ps. 119 (118):82) and that this consolation and encouragement was preached by the Lord when He went down into the lower world even to those who were in prison and were once in the days of Noah unbelievers. He may have aid this. But the Catholic faith holds that when the Lord went down into the lower world and brought his own from there, it was the faithful alone and not unbelievers whom He took with Him to the heavenly kingdom… (Commentary on 1st Peter)

The Fools Guide the Church?

Many Protestant Christians who are anxious to escape the dreadfulness of disunity within their churches look forward to latching on to an authority in which they can rely on existentially. They want to know that the doctrinal explosion – if you will – of the Church as it began at Pentecost will be protected from what Protestantism has come to be.

Many of these Christians turn to Rome in order to embrace the Pontiff ‘s anathemas and other dogmatic ascertains. Others turn to Orthodoxy and embrace the Ecumenical councils as the Rome convert embraces the Pontiff. But this is not right of the Orthodox convert says Bishop Hilarion of the Orthodox Church. He says, “Ecumenical councils were never seen as the supreme authority in the Orthodox Church” (Orthodox Christianity, p. 61).

Orthodoxy is not a religious construct where people can place the thrust of their faith in existential values. Yes, the Church does have a corporeal and existential value, but the Church is a mere glimpse of what is really and truly going on in heaven! When one embraces Orthodoxy, they are not embracing what man says or does but what God says and does.

In Roman Catholicism the Pontiff is perceived as the voice of God; granted he as a bishop does represent the voice of God but he is not the entirety of it, in a Trinitarian sense. The Trinity is represented by the entire Church in that we are all a part of the priesthood; Not that we are all able to espouse whatever we want and expect it to manifest as truth but that we are actually able to espouse whatever we want and perhaps make fools of ourselves! The fool actually fuels the Church. That’s right; we are created in such a way that our human nature takes a certain form so as to embrace the Trinity! This is why the early Church arguments within the Councils were so important. They were protecting the way God created man in the very image of the Trinity. So it was important that they got the Trinity right by warding off the heresies surrounding the Trinity!

Since man was created in the image of the Trinity he is expected to become as the Trinity. He is expected to progress in such a way as to leave what he has learned from secular culture and to take up what he has learned from God’s Holy Church. This growth in the people of God after the image of the Trinity is crucial to the sustainability and authority of the Church.

The Orthodox Church, according to basic existential principals should not still exist, but she continues to exist. She has survived some of the most terrible onslaughts in world history and she still continues to grow.

The Orthodox Church is guided by the people as they embrace the Trinity. There is no need for one man or even a council of men to proclaim that we are in a sense still here and have the Christians submit to such a proclamation. Orthodox unity and sustainability happens “naturally” through the Holy Spirit. The unity of the Church is not proclaimed on paper for people to submit to, it is demonstrated through praxis, to be of “one mind and spirit” as Saint Paul says. The Councils of the Church with the bishopric are for correction and encouragement. They are not for replacing the people; they are the voice of the people.

The fool, in many ways, guides the Church. Believe it or not, it is important to have fools in the Church. Christ states in Matthew 13 that the Church is made up of both wheat and tares. And Saint Paul the Apostle says in 1 Cor. 25-30, “the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men. For consider your calling, brethren, that there were not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble; but God has chosen the foolish things of the world to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to shame the things which are strong, and the base things of the world and the despised God has chosen, the things that are not, so that He may nullify the things that are, so that no man may boast before God.”

The fools spur the Church on to glory. The fools enter the Church and they begin to mouth off in embarrassment but they grow and suddenly their foolishness becomes the very light of the Trinity; man “becoming” God. The fools both grow the Church, causing her to study and discuss, and even gather in Councils, and the fools themselves begin to grow and change, showing that God is the author of what is good.

On Baptismal “Regeneration”

Barnabas ca. 70-130

Let us further inquire whether the Lord took any care to foreshadow the water [of baptism] and the cross…Blessed are they who, placing their trust in the cross, have gone down into the water; for, says He, they shall receive their reward in due time: then He declares, I will recompense them. But now He says, Their leaves shall not fade. This means, that every word which proceeds out of your mouth in faith and love shall tend to bring conversion and hope to many. Again, another prophet says, And the land of Jacob shall be extolled above every land. Zep. 3:19 This means the vessel of His Spirit, which He shall glorify. Further, what says He? And there was a river flowing on the right, and from it arose beautiful trees; and whosoever shall eat of them shall live for ever. Eze. 47:12 This means, that we indeed descend into the water full of sins and defilement, but come up, bearing fruit in our heart, having the fear [of God] and trust in Jesus in our spirit. (Epistle of Barnabas Chap. 11)

Hermas ca. 100-150

And I said to him, I should like to continue my questions. Speak on, said he. And I said, I heard, sir, some teachers maintain that there is no other repentance than that which takes place, when we descended into the water and received remission of our former sins. He said to me, That was sound doctrine which you heard; for that is really the case. (Shepher of Hermas Bk. 2, Comm. 4, Chap. 3)

[B]efore a man bears the name of the Son of God he is dead; but when he receives the seal he lays aside his deadness, and obtains life. The seal, then, is the water: they descend into the water dead, and they arise alive. (Similitudes 9 Chap. 16)

St. Justin the Philosopher ca. 103-165

I will also relate the manner in which we dedicated ourselves to God when we had been made new through Christ; lest, if we omit this, we seem to be unfair in the explanation we are making. As many as are persuaded and believe that what we teach and say is true, and undertake to be able to live accordingly, are instructed to pray and to entreat God with fasting, for the remission of their sins that are past, we praying and fasting with them. Then they are brought by us where there is water, and are regenerated in the same manner in which we were ourselves regenerated. For, in the name of God, the Father and Lord of the universe, and of our Saviour Jesus Christ, and of the Holy Spirit, they then receive the washing with water. (First Apology Chap. 61)

Theophilus of Antioch died ca. 185

On the fifth day the living creatures which proceed from the waters were produced, through which also is revealed the manifold wisdom of God in these things; for who could count their multitude and very various kinds? Moreover, the things proceeding from the waters were blessed by God, that this also might be a sign of men’s being destined to receive repentance and remission of sins, through the water and laver of regeneration—as many as come to the truth, and are born again, and receive blessing from God.

St. Irenaeus of Lyons  ca. 2nd cent.-202

And when we come to refute them [i.e. those heretics], we shall show in its fitting-place, that this class of men have been instigated by Satan to a denial of that baptism which is regeneration to God, and thus to a renunciation of the whole [Christian] faith.(Against Heresies Book I.21)

And dipped himself, says [the Scripture], seven times in Jordan. 2 Kgs. 5:14 It was not for nothing that Naaman of old, when suffering from leprosy, was purified upon his being baptized, but [it served] as an indication to us. For as we are lepers in sin, we are made clean, by means of the sacred water and the invocation of the Lord, from our old transgressions; being spiritually regenerated as new-born babes, even as the Lord has declared: Unless a man be born again through water and the Spirit, he shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven. Jn. 3:5 (Fragments from the Lost Writings 34)

Now, this is what faith does for us, as the elders, the disciples of the apostles, have handed down to us. First of all, it admonishes us to remember that we have received baptism for the remission of sins in the name of God the Father, and in the name of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, who became incarnate and died and raised, and in the Holy Spirit of God; and that this baptism is the seal of eternal life and is rebirth unto God, that we be no more children of mortal men…(The Proof of Apostolic Preaching)

Clement of Alexandria ca. 150-215

Being baptized, we are illuminated; illuminated, we become sons; being made sons, we are made perfect; being made perfect, we are made immortal. I, says He, have said that you are gods, and all sons of the Highest. This work is variously called grace, and illumination, and perfection, and washing: washing, by which we cleanse away our sins; grace, by which the penalties accruing to transgressions are remitted; and illumination, by which that holy light of salvation is beheld, that is, by which we see God clearly. (The Instuctor Bk. 1 Chap. 6)

Tertullian of Carthage ca. 160-120

Now such remarks have I wished to advance in defence of the flesh, from a general view of the condition of our human nature. Let us now consider its special relation to Christianity, and see how vast a privilege before God has been conferred on this poor and worthless substance. It would suffice to say, indeed, that there is not a soul that can at all procure salvation, except it believe while it is in the flesh, so true is it that the flesh is the very condition on which salvation hinges. And since the soul is, in consequence of its salvation, chosen to the service of God, it is the flesh which actually renders it capable of such service. The flesh, indeed, is washed, in order that the soul may be cleansed; the flesh is anointed, that the soul may be consecrated; the flesh is signed (with the cross), that the soul too may be fortified; the flesh is shadowed with the imposition of hands, that the soul also maybe illuminated by the Spirit; the flesh feeds on the body and blood of Christ, that the soul likewise may fatten on its God. (On the Resurrection of the Flesh, Chap. 8)

St. Hippolytus of Rome ca. 170-276

When the elder takes hold of each of them who are to receive baptism, he shall tell each of them to renounce, saying, “I renounce you Satan, all your service, and all your works.” After he has said this, he shall anoint each with the Oil of Exorcism, saying, “Let every evil spirit depart from you.” Then, after these things, the bishop passes each of them on nude to the elder who stands at the water. They shall stand in the water naked. A deacon, likewise, will go down with them into the water. When each of them to be baptized has gone down into the water, the one baptizing shall lay hands on each of them, asking, “Do you believe in God the Father Almighty?” And the one being baptized shall answer, “I believe.” He shall then baptize each of them once, laying his hand upon each of their heads. Then he shall ask, “Do you believe in Jesus Christ, the Son of God, who was born of the Holy Spirit and the Virgin Mary, who was crucified under Pontius Pilate, and died, and rose on the third day living from the dead, and ascended into heaven, and sat down at the right hand of the Father, the one coming to judge the living and the dead?” When each has answered, “I believe,” he shall baptize a second time. Then he shall ask, “Do you believe in the Holy Spirit and the Holy Church and the resurrection of the flesh?” Then each being baptized shall answer, “I believe.” And thus let him baptize the third time. Afterward, when they have come up out of the water, they shall be anointed by the elder with the Oil of Thanksgiving, saying, “I anoint you with holy oil in the name of Jesus Christ.” Then, drying themselves, they shall dress and afterwards gather in the church. The bishop will then lay his hand upon them, invoking, saying,”Lord God, you who have made these worthy of the removal of sins through the bath of regeneration, make them worthy to be filled with your Holy Spirit, grant to them your grace, that they might serve you according to your will, for to you is the glory, Father and Son with the Holy Spirit, in the Holy Church, now and throughout the ages of the ages. Amen. (Apostolic Tradition, 21)

Origen ca. 185-254

We next remark in passing that the baptism of John was inferior to the baptism of Jesus which was given through His disciples. Those persons in the Acts (Acts 19:2) who were baptized to John’s baptism and who had not heard if there was any Holy Ghost are baptized over again by the Apostle. Regeneration did not take place with John, but with Jesus through His disciples it does so, and what is called the laver of regeneration takes place with renewal of the Spirit. (Commentary on John, Bk VI.17)

St. Cyprian of Carthage died ca. 258

[W]hen they come to us and to the Church which is one, they ought to be baptized, for the reason that it is a small matter to lay hands on them that they may receive the Holy Ghost, unless they receive also the baptism of the Church. For then finally can they be fully sanctified, and be the sons of God, if they be born of each sacrament; since it is written, Unless a man be born again of water, and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. (Epistle 71:1)

St. Gregory Thaumaturgus ca. 213-270

[S]ee John the Baptist as he baptizes One who needs no baptism, and yet submits to the rite in order that He may bestow freely upon us the grace of baptism. Come, let us view the image of our regeneration, as it is emblematically presented in these waters. (On Christ’s Baptism)

St Aphrahat the Persian ca. 270-345

For from Baptism we receive the Spirit of Christ. At that same moment in which the priests invoke the Spirit, heaven opens, and He descends and rests upon the waters; and those who are baptized are clothed in Him. For the Spirit is absent from all those who are born of the flesh, until they come to the water of re-birth; and then they receive the Holy Spirit….in the second birth, that through Baptism, they receive the Holy Spirit. (Demonstrations 6:14)

St. Athanasius of Alexandria ca. 293-373

For no longer according to our former origin in Adam do we die; but henceforward our origin and all infirmity of flesh being transferred to the Word, we rise from the earth, the curse from sin being removed, because of Him who is in us , and who has become a curse for us. And with reason; for as we are all from earth and die in Adam, so being regenerated from above of water and Spirit, in the Christ we are all quickened; the flesh being no longer earthly, but being henceforth made Word , by reason of God’s Word who for our sake ‘became flesh.’ (Four Discourses Against the Arians 3:26:33)

St. Hilary of Poitiers ca. 300-368

We are circumcised not with a fleshly circumcision but with the circumcision of Christ, that is, we are born again into a new man; for, being buried with Him in His baptism, we must die to the old man, because the regeneration of baptism has the force of resurrection. (On the Trinity, Bk IX)

St. Ephrem the Syrian ca. 306-373

Therefore, because the Spirit was with the Son, He came to John to receive from him baptism, that He might mingle with the visible waters the invisible Spirit; that they whose bodies should feel the moistening of the water, their souls should feel the gift of the Spirit; that even as the bodies outwardly feel the pouring of the water upon them, so the souls inwardly may feel the pouring of the Spirit upon them. (Homily on our Lord)

St. Cyril of Jerusalem ca. 313-386

Great is the Baptism that lies before you: a ransom to captives; a remission of offences; a death of sin; a new-birth of the soul; a garment of light; a holy indissoluble seal; a chariot to heaven; the delight of Paradise, a welcome into the kingdom; the gift of adoption! (Catechetical Lectures Prologue 16)

For since man is of twofold nature, soul and body, the purification also is twofold, the one incorporeal for the incorporeal part, and the other bodily for the body: the water cleanses the body, and the Spirit seals the soul; that we may draw near unto God, having our heart sprinkled by the Spirit, and our body washed with pure water. Heb. 10:22 When going down, therefore, into the water, think not of the bare element, but look for salvation by the power of the Holy Ghost: for without both you can not possibly be made perfect. It is not I that say this, but the Lord Jesus Christ, who has the power in this matter: for He says, Unless a man be born anew (and He adds the words) of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. Jn. 3:3 Neither does he that is baptized with water, but not found worthy of the Spirit, receive the grace in perfection; nor if a man be virtuous in his deeds, but receive not the seal by water, shall he enter into the kingdom of heaven. A bold saying, but not mine, for it is Jesus who has declared it: and here is the proof of the statement from Holy Scripture. Cornelius was a just man, who was honoured with a vision of Angels, and had set up his prayers and almsdeeds as a good memorial before God in heaven. Peter came, and the Spirit was poured out upon them that believed, and they spoke with other tongues, and prophesied: and after the grace of the Spirit the Scripture says that Peter commanded them to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ Acts 10:48; in order that, the soul having been born again by faith, the body also might by the water partake of the grace. (Catechetical Lectures 3:4)

Council of Nicea I (1st Ecumenical Council) 325

Forasmuch as, either from necessity, or through the urgency of individuals, many things have been done contrary to the Ecclesiastical canon, so that men just converted from heathenism to the faith, and who have been instructed but a little while, are straightway brought to the spiritual laver, and as soon as they have been baptized, are advanced to the episcopate or the presbyterate, it has seemed right to us that for the time to come no such thing shall be done. (Canon 2)

St. Ambrose of Milan ca. 337-397

Therefore read that the three witnesses in baptism, the water, the blood, and the Spirit, 1 Jn. 5:7 are one, for if you take away one of these, the Sacrament of Baptism does not exist. For what is water without the cross of Christ? A common element, without any sacramental effect. Nor, again, is there the Sacrament of Regeneration without water: For except a man be born again of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. Jn. 3:5 Now, even the catechumen believes in the cross of the Lord Jesus, wherewith he too is signed; but unless he be baptized in the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, he cannot receive remission of sins nor gain the gift of spiritual grace. (On the Mysteries Chap. 4:20)

St. Gregory Nazianzus ca. 329-389

Such is the grace and power of baptism; not an overwhelming of the world as of old, but a purification of the sins of each individual, and a complete cleansing from all the bruises and stains of sin.
And since we are double-made, I mean of body and soul, and the one part is visible, the other invisible, so the cleansing also is twofold, by water and the spirit; the one received visibly in the body, the other concurring with it invisibly and apart from the body; the one typical, the other real and cleansing the depths. And this which comes to the aid of our first birth, makes us new instead of old, and like God instead of what we now are; recasting us without fire, and creating us anew without breaking us up. For, to say it all in one word, the virtue of Baptism is to be understood as a covenant with God for a second life and a purer conversation. And indeed all need to fear this very much, and to watch our own souls, each one of us, with all care, that we do not become liars in respect of this profession. (Oration 40 On Holy Baptism 7-8)

St. Basil of Caesarea ca. 330-379

This then is what it is to be born again of water and of the Spirit, the being made dead being effected in the water, while our life is wrought in us through the Spirit. In three immersions, then, and with three invocations, the great mystery of baptism is performed, to the end that the type of death may be fully figured, and that by the tradition of the divine knowledge the baptized may have their souls enlightened. It follows that if there is any grace in the water, it is not of the nature of the water, but of the presence of the Spirit. For baptism is not the putting away of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience towards God. 1 Pet. 3:21 (On The Holy Spirit 15:35)

For prisoners, baptism is ransom, forgiveness of debts, the death of sin, regeneration of the soul, a resplendent garment, an unbreakable seal, a chariot to heaven, a royal protector, a gift of adoption. (Eulogies on the Martyrs and Sermons on Moral and Practical Subjects 13:5)

St. Gregory of Nyssa ca. 335-394

Assuredly this is plain, that because we are by birth flesh and blood, as the Scripture says, He Who for our sakes was born among us and was partaker of flesh and blood , purposing to change us from corruption to incorruption by the birth from above, the birth by water and the Spirit, Himself led the way in this birth, drawing down upon the water, by His own baptism, the Holy Spirit; so that in all things He became the first-born of those who are spiritually born again, and gave the name of brethren to those who partook in a birth like to His own by water and the Spirit. (Against Eunomius 2:8)

St. John Chrysostom ca. 349-407

[I]f no one can enter into the kingdom of Heaven except he be regenerate through water and the Spirit, and he who does not eat the flesh of the Lord and drink His blood is excluded from eternal life, and if all these things are accomplished only by means of those holy hands, I mean the hands of the priest, how will any one, without these, be able to escape the fire of hell, or to win those crowns which are reserved for the victorious? These verily are they who are entrusted with the pangs of spiritual travail and the birth which comes through baptism: by their means we put on Christ, and are buried with the Son of God, and become members of that blessed Head. (The Priesthood 3:5-6)

Blessed Jerome ca. 347-420

“Whosoever drinketh of this water shall thirst again: but he that shall drink of the water that I will give him shall not thirst for ever. But the water that I will give him shall become in him a fountain of water, springing up into life everlasting. (Jn. 4:13-14)”; and again: “He that believeth in me, as the scripture saith: Out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water.” For just as one who drinks of His teaching shall have within himself a living fountain, so too, one who believes in Him shall have, according to what is contained in the words of the Scriptures, rivers of living water flowing from his belly. Many refer the living waters to those who thirst, that is, at Easter and Pentecsost, when what is written is fulfilled: “Wash, be clean” (Is. 1:16).

St. John Cassian ca. 360-435

Whereas now, as you were born in a Catholic city, instructed in the Catholic faith, and regenerated with Catholic Baptism, how can I deal with you as with an Arian or Sabellian? … Acknowledge the sacraments of your salvation, by which you were initiated and regenerated. They are of no less use to you now than they were then; for they can now regenerate you by penance, as they then gave you birth through the Font. (On the Incarnation Bk VI, chapter 5, 18)

Council of Constantinople I (2nd Ecumenical Council) 381

[W]e acknowledge one baptism for the remission of sins… (Nicene-Constantinopolitan Creed)

Blessed Augustine ca. 354-430

The Christians of Carthage have an excellent name for the sacraments, when they say that baptism is nothing else than salvation, and the sacrament of the body of Christ nothing else than life. Whence, however, was this derived, but from that primitive, as I suppose, and apostolic tradition, by which the Churches of Christ maintain it to be an inherent principle, that without baptism and partaking of the supper of the Lord it is impossible for any man to attain either to the kingdom of God or to salvation and everlasting life? So much also does Scripture testify, according to the words which we already quoted. For wherein does their opinion, who designate baptism by the term salvation, differ from what is written: He saved us by the washing of regeneration? Tit. 3:5 or from Peter’s statement: The like figure whereunto even baptism does also now save us? 1 Pet. 3:21 (The Merits and the Forgiveness of Sins, and the Baptism of Infants Bk. 1 Chap. 34)

[T]he sacrament of baptism is undoubtedly the sacrament of regeneration. (ibid., Bk. 2 Chap. 43)

St. Cyril of Alexandria ca. 376-444

Except a man be born again of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the Kingdom of God. (Jn. 3:5) For since man is compound, and not simple in his nature, being combined of two, to wit, the sensible body and intellectual soul, he will require two-fold healing for his new birth akin to both the fore-named. For by the Spirit is the spirit of man sanctified, by the sanctified water again, his body. For as the water poured into the kettle, being associated with the vigour of fire, receives in itself the impress of its efficacy, so through the inworking of the Spirit the sensible water is trans-elemented to a Divine and ineffable efficacy, and sanctifieth those on whom it comes. (Commentary on John, Bk. 2 Chap. I)

Pope St. Leo the Great ca. 400-461

Faith cuts off from union with its body, persistently and truthfully proclaiming that men’s souls did not exist until they were breathed into their bodies, and that they were not there implanted by any other than God, who is the creator both of the souls and of the bodies. And because through the transgression of the first man the whole stock of the human race was tainted, no one can be set free from the state of the old Adam save through Christ’s sacrament of baptism, in which there are no distinctions between the re-born, as says the Apostle: For as many of you as were baptized in Christ did put on Christ: there is neither Jew nor Greek: there is neither bond nor free: there is neither male nor female: for you are all one in Christ Jesus. Gal. 3:27-28 (Letters 15:10)

St. Dionysius the Aeropagite ca. 5th cent.

And the objective, the prime purpose of each sacrament is to impart the mysteries of the Deity to the one being initiated. Thus hierarchical lore has quite truly forged a name to signify the essential feature of what is being achieved. It is the same with regard to that sacrament of the divine birth. It first introduces the light and is the source of all divine illumination. And because this is so we praise it, giving it the designation of what it acheives, that is, illumination. It is true of course that all the hierarchic operations have this in common, to pass the light of God on to the initiates, but nevertheless it was this one which first gave me the gift of sight. (The Ecclesiastical Hierarchy Chap. 3.1)

Pope Gregory the Great ca. 540-604

Whosoever says, then, that sins are not entirely put away in baptism, let him say that the Egyptians did not really die in the Red Sea. But, if he acknowledges that the Egyptians really died, he must needs acknowledge that sins die entirely in baptism, since surely the truth avails more in our absolution than the shadow of the truth. (Book 11, Epistle 45)

St. John Climacus ca. 7th cent.

The tears that come after baptism are greater than baptism itself, though it may be rash to says so. Baptism washes off those evils that were previously within us, whereas the sins committed after baptism are washed away by tears. The baptism received by us as children we have all defiled, but we cleanse it anew with our tears. (Step 7, On Mourning)

St. Isaac the Syrian ca. 7th cent.

Of everything good wrought within you noetically and in secret, be certain that baptism and faith have been the mediators whereby you received it; through these you were called by our Lord Jesus Christ to His good labours, to Whom with the Father and the Holy Spirit be glory, honour, thanksgiving and worship unto the ages of ages. Amen. (The Ascetical Homilies, Homily 1.43)

Repentance is given us as grace after grace, for repentance is a second regeneration by God. That of which we have received an earnest by baptism, we receive as a gift by means of repentance. Repentance is the door of mercy, opened to those who seek it. By this door we enter into the mercy of God, and apart from this entrance we shall not find mercy. (ibid., Homily 46)

Bede the Venerable ca. 673-735

The fact, therefore, that the water of the flood did not save those outside the ark but slew them without doubt prefigured every heretic who, although having the sacrament of baptism, is to be plunged into the lower world not by other waters but by those very waters by which the ark is raised up to the heavens. The number eight itself of the souls which were saved through water signifies that the holy Church receives the washing of baptism through the mystery of the Lord’s resurrection, that just as he rose from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we also, cleansed from sins through the water of rebirth, may walk in newness of life (Rom. 6:4)…For just as He rose from the dead and ascended into heaven and sits at the right hand of God, o also He signified that through baptism the way to salvation and the entrance to the heavenly kingdom was open to us. (Commentary on 1 Peter)

1Jn 2:9 Whoever says he is in the light and hates his brother is still in darkness.

The Lord admonishes us to love our enemies. Therefore, he who says that he is a Christian and hates his brother is still in sin. And he did well to add, still, because surely all human beings are born in the darkness of vices, they all remain in darkness until they are enlightened by Christ in the grace of baptism. (Commentary on 1 Jn.)

St. Symeon the New Theologian ca. 949-1022

When our Master descended from on high He by His own death destroyed the death taht awaited us. The condemnation that was the consequence of our forefather’s trangression he completely annihilated. By His Holy Baptism He regenerates and refashions us, completely set us free from the condemnation, and places us in this world wholly free instead of being oppressed by the tyranny of the enemy. (The Discourses Chap. V, 9)

St. Gregory Palamas ca. 1296-1359

And if the power of the intelligible animal is situated at the centre of the belly, since there the law of sin exercises its rule and gives it sustenance, why should we not place there “the law of the mind which combats” (cf. Rom. 6:23) this power, duly armed with prayer, so that the evil spirit who has been driven away thanks to the “bath of regeneration” (Tit. 3:5) may not return to install himself there with seven other spirits even more evil, so that “the latter state becomes worse than the first” (Lk. 11:26)? (The Triads C.8)

Orthodoxy and Communion with the Saints

Has a passage from Saint Paul ever leaped out at you like never before? Has Saint David spoken to you in the Psalms in such a way that you will never forget? Have you been comforted by any of the Saints?

We need to be comforted by the Saints! If we do not receive comfort from them then how can we really say that we are completely a part of the Body of Christ? The Body of Christ is not just the visible but it is also the invisible, the invisible reality of the Kingdom of God that Christ speaks of in the Holy Scriptures.

One may say, “I am comforted by the Holy Spirit,” He is my comforter as Christ says! Well, that is very exciting but what is equally exciting is becoming a part of what Christ says in Matthew 16:19; that the kingdom is accessed through the Saints, the “cloud of witnesses” that Hebrews 12:1 proclaims. Access to the Saints and the kingdom is essential to our wellbeing in Christ. The Saints are here for us to fellowship with, through prayer and other forms of “intercession” such as meditation, thoughts of truth, conviction and overall comfort. It is all done through the Holy Spirit of course, but without the Saints, Holy Spirit “activity” easily turns more into a facade of feminine emotionalism and just plain craziness.

The union that we have with the Saints is indeed isolated. There is a one on one relationship happening with them as we embrace them and worship with them. One reason why credit is given to the “Holy Spirit” when one encounters the truth of the Saints is because these Christians are completely unaware of the Canon of Scripture and what it means to embrace the Canon. The Canon of Scripture is a confirmation of certain writings of certain Saints…and also a confirmation of certain writings of unknown Saints. The Canon/Bible is not a unified book dropped out of the sky from the Holy Spirit. The Canon is a collection of saintly communications. If we want to participate in these communications we must be a part of the Saints that actually wrote the letters themselves, as well as the Church that harbors them.

[Read more…]

Saint Theophan the Recluse on Personal Relationship with God

“Communion with the Lord through the sacrament of flesh and blood is possible only at definite times, according to one’s possibilities and zeal, but never more than once a day. But inner communion with the Lord, in the spirit, is possible every hour and every minute; that is, through His grace, it is possible to be in constant intercou…rse with Him, and to be aware, when He so wishes, of this intercourse in one’s heart. According to the Lord’s promise, by partaking of His flesh and blood we receive Him Himself, and He enters and dwells in us with all His blessings, allowing the heart, that is prepared for it, to be aware of this. True communicants are always in a palpably blessed state after communion. Then the heart partakes of the Lord in spirit.

But since we are constrained by our body and surrounded by external activities and relationships, in which duty forces us to take part, so, by the splitting of our attention and feeling day by day, the spiritual partaking of the Lord is weakened and becomes overlaid and hidden. The sense of partaking of the Lord becomes hidden; but intercourse with the Lord is not broken, unless unfortunately some sin enters and destroys the state of grace. Nothing can compare with the delight of partaking of the Lord; therefore the diligent, when they feel it weaken, hasten to restore its full power, and, when they have restored it, they feel themselves again partaking of the Lord. This is spiritual communion with the Lord.

It is in this way that it takes place in the times between making communion with Him through the Holy Mysteries. But it can also be unceasing – in a man who always keeps his heart pure and his attention and feeling constantly directed towards the Lord. All the same, this is a gift of grace, granted to a man struggling on the path of the Lord, if he is diligent and pitiless to himself.

Even if a man partakes of the Lord in spirit only from time to time, this partaking is still a gift of grace. All that we can bring is thirst and hunger for this gift, and diligent striving to obtain it. There are, however, works, which open the way to this communion with the Lord and help to obtain it, although it always seems to come as it were unexpectedly. These works are pure prayer, with child-like crying of the heart, and special acts of self-denial in the practice of virtues. When no sin pollutes the soul, when no sinful thoughts or feelings are tolerated, that is, when the soul is pure and cries to God, what can keep the Lord, Who is present, from letting the soul taste Him, or the soul from awareness of this taste? And so it happens thus, unless the Lord deems it better, for the good of the soul, to prolong its thirst and hunger for Him before satisfying it. Amongst acts of self-denial the most powerful of all for this purpose is humble obedience and casting oneself under the feet of all men, stripping oneself of acquisitiveness and suffering injustice with a good heart, all this in the spirit of complete surrender to the will of God. Such actions liken a man to the Lord more than any others, and the Lord, present in him, allows his soul to taste Him. Also pure and diligent fulfillment of all God’s commandments bears fruit in the abiding of the Lord in the heart, together with the Father and the Holy Spirit (John 14:23).

Spiritual communion with the Lord should not be confused with mental memory of communion with Him in the Mysteries of flesh and blood, even if this memory is accompanied by strong spiritual sensations and an ardent longing for actual communion with Him in the Holy Mysteries. Neither must it be confused with what the worshipers present in the church receive when the Eucharist is celebrated. They receive divine sanctification and benevolence, as participants in the bloodless sacrifice through faith, contrition and readiness to sacrifice themselves to the glory of God; and they receive in the measure of these dispositions. But it is not the same as communion, although communion can also take place here.”

+ St. Theophan the Recluse +

The Orthodox Church on Abortion

The following represent the teaching of the Orthodox Church from the [early] second century through the fifth century…. Note that penalties, when they are given, are neither civil nor criminal, but ecclesiastical and pastoral (excommunication for the purpose of inducing repentance). Also note that the these quotes deal with both surgical and chemically induced abortion, both pre- and post-quickening.

From the Letter to Diognetus:
(speaking of what distinguishes Christians from pagans) “They marry, as do all others; they beget children but they do not destroy their offspring” (literally, “cast away fetuses”).

From the Didache:
“You shall not slay the child by abortions.”

From the Letter of Barnabus:
“You shall not destroy your conceptions before they are brought forth; nor kill them after they are born.”

From St. Clement:
“Those who use abortifacients commit homicide.”

From Tertullian:
“The mold in the womb may not be destroyed.”

From St. Basil the Great:
“The woman who purposely destroys her unborn child is guilty of murder. The hair-splitting difference between formed and unformed makes no difference to us.”

From St. Augustine:
“Sometimes their sadistic licentiousness goes so far that they procure poison to produce infertility, and when this is of no avail, they find one means or another to destroy the unborn and flush it from the mother’s womb. For they desire to see their offspring perish before it is alive or, if it has already been granted life, they seek to kill it within the mother’s body before it is born.”

From St. John Chrysostom:
“Why do you sow where the field is eager to destroy the fruit? Where there are medicines of sterility? Where there is murder before birth? You do not even let a harlot remain only a harlot, but you make her a murderess as well. Indeed, it is something worse than murder and I do not know what to call it; for she does not kill what is formed but prevents its formation. What then? Do you condemn the gifts of God, and fight with His laws? What is a curse you seek as though it were a blessing. Do you make the anteroom of slaughter? Do you teach the women who are given to you for a procreation of offspring to perpetuate killing?”

Canon XCI:
As for women who furnish drugs for the purpose of procuring abortions, and those who take fetus-killing poisons, they are made subject to penalty for murderers.

Canon II:
“A woman who aborts deliberately is liable to trial as a murderess. This is not a precise assertion of some figurative and inexpressible conception that passes current among us. For here there is involved the queston of providing for the infants to be born, but also for the woman who has plotted against her own self. For in most cases the women die in the course of such operations, But besides this there is to be noted the fact that the destruction of the embryo constitutes another murder…. It behooves us, however, not to extend their confessions to the extreme limit of death, but to admit them at the end of the moderate period of ten years, without specifying a definite time, but adjusting the cure to the manner of penitence.”

Canon XXI:
“Regarding women who become prostitutes and kill their babies, and who make it their business to concoct abortives, the former rule barred them for life from communion, and they are left without resource. But having found a more philanthropic alternative, we have fixed the penalty at ten years, in accordance with the fixed degrees. …”

“As for women who destroy embryos professionally, and those (non-prostitutes) who give or take poisons with the object of aborting babies and dropping them prematurely, we prescribe the rule that they, by economy, be treated up to five years at most.”

All quotes are from “The Church Fathers on Social Issues,” Department of Youth Ministry of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of North and South America

Exhausted from Evangelicalism?

I have included a new section for Evangelicals/Modernists to ponder on (Orthodox, send this link to your family and friends who need to know more about you). I am a convert from the Evangelical influence myself so do not hesitate to ask me questions. For me it was not an easy transition due to ties I had to the the Evangelical ministry and having to humble myself to leave all of that. The deeper you get into that stuff the harder it is to leave (Lord Have Mercy). If the Lord is speaking to you about making such a transition, please let us know so that we can pray for you. Aslo, do not hesitate to check out  Journey to Orthodoxy, a website dedicated to past and future converts.

Saint John Chrysostom on The Triumph of the Church

“How does one prove that Christ is God? We should not try to answer this question by using the argument of the creation of heaven and earth, because the unbeliever will not accept it. If we tell him that He raised the dead, healed the blind, expelled demons, he still will not agree. If we tell him that He promised us resurrection from the dead, the kingdom of heaven, and ineffable goods, not only he will not agree, but also he will laugh at us.

How then shall we lead him to the faith, especially when he is not spiritually developed? Surely, we shall do this by resting on truths which are acceptable both to us and to him without any dispute or shadow of doubt.

We shall start from the fact that Christ planted the Church in the world. What is the point then that we absolutely agree upon? It is the fact that Christ planted the Church. It is by this means that we shall reveal the power and prove the divinity of Christ. We shall see that it is impossible to regard the dissemination of Christianity in the whole wide world in such a short period of time as a human work. And indeed, when Christian ethics invites people who have bad habits and are slaves to sin to a higher life. And yet, the Lord managed to liberate from such things not only us, but the entire human species.

Christ’s superbly wondrous achievement is the Church. He achieved this without using arms, without spending money, without mobilizing armies, without causing wars. He achieved it by starting only with twelve disciples, who were insignificant, uneducated, poor, naked, unarmed… It was with such human resource that He succeeded in persuading the nations to think correctly, not only in the present life, but also in the life which is to come. He managed to nullify the ancestral laws, to uproot ancient customs, and to plant new ones. He managed to detach man from an easy way of life and to lead him to a difficult one. He managed all these things, although all fought against Him, and He had to endure a degrading crucifixion and an ignominious death!

This superbly wondrous achievement is not human. Surely, such things do not occur to human beings. What occurs is the exact opposite. In other words, as long as they are alive and prosper their work progresses. When, however, they die, what they created is destroyed along with them. This is endured not only by the rich or the leading ones, but also by the chief governors. This is so, because their laws are abolished, their memory is obliterated, and their names are forgotten, while their intimate associates are pushed aside. These things occur to those who originally governed the nations by a mere nod, and led to war grand armies; to those who condemned to death and recalled the exiled. To the Lord, however, it was the exact opposite that occurred.

It is superbly wondrous because it was achieved by the Crucified Christ. Before the crucifixion the state of his work looked pitiful. Judas betrayed Him. Peter denied Him. The rest of the Disciples fled in order to save their lives, while many believers abandoned Him. He was left alone among enemies. And yet, after the slaughter and the death, so that you may learn that the Crucified Christ was not a mere man, all things became brighter, jollier, and glorious. Peter, the head Apostle, who before the crucifixion did not bear the threat of a maidservant, but after so many heavenly teachings and his participation in the divine mysteries said that he does not know the Lord, the same one after the crucifixion preached Him to the ends of the world. Innumerable martyrs were sacrificed, because they preferred to be put to death than to deny Christ, as the head Apostle had denied Him after being intimidated by a young maiden.

The amazing submission of the world to the Crucified Christ and His Apostles: Now, all the lands, all the cities, the deserted and the inhabited places, confess the Crucified Lord. On Him faith is placed by kings and generals, archons and consuls, slaves and freemen, unlettered and educated, the barbarians and the various nations of humanity. Even that small and insignificant tomb that received the blood stained and tortured body of the Lord is more valued than a thousand royal palaces and more venerable even to kings. What is even a greater paradox is the fact that what happened to the Lord also happened to His disciples. Because, those who were despised and imprisoned, those who were atrociously tortured and underwent innumerable martyrdoms, the very same ones, after their death, were more honored than the kings. Where do we see this? In Rome, the emperors, the consuls and the generals put aside all things and run to venerate the tombs of Peter the fisherman and Paul the tent maker. In Constantinople, those who bear diadems on their heads, wish to be buried next not close to the tombs of the Apostles but at the entrance of their temples. And so the kings become the doormen of the fishermen! Indeed, they are not ashamed for this, but boast about it, not only themselves but also their descendants.

Christ’s prophesy about the Church and its speedy fulfillment. When Christ’s disciples were only twelve and the Church was not in any one’s thought, when the Jewish synagogue was still flourishing and the impious idolatry dominated almost the entire world, the Lord had prophesied:

“On this stone (i.e. on Peter’s confession of faith) I will build my Church, and the powers of Hades will not prevail against it” (Matthew 16:18).

Do you realize the truth of this prophesy? Do you see its fulfillment? Think how important a fact is the spreading of the Church almost to the entire earth in a very brief span of time. Think how the life of so many nations changed and led to the faith so many peoples, how it abolished ancestral customs, how it liberated from age-long habits, how it scattered like dust the domination of pleasure and the power of sin, how it extinguished like smoke the foul smell of the sacrifices, the idolatrous ceremonies, the abominable feasts, the idols, the pagan altars and temples, how it erected sacred altars everywhere, in our land and in the lands of the Persians, the Scythians, the Africans and the Indians. What I say? Even in the British Isles, which are beyond the Mediterranean, in the ocean, the Church was spread and erected altars.

The superbly wondrous liberation and change that the Church induced in the world: The work of liberation of so many peoples from age-long shameful habits, as well as the change in the manner of life from an easier to a more difficult one, is indeed wondrous, or rather superbly wondrous. It is a proof of divine operation (energy), even if no one had opposed it, even if peace had prevailed and many had assisted. Because this spreading of the Church did not only come into collision with ancient habit, but also with pleasure, the happy manner of life. In other words, it had two powerful opponents, which tyrannized humanity: habit and pleasure. Whatsoever people had received, from centuries ago, from their fathers, their grandfathers and their ancient ancestors, even what they had received from the philosophers and the rhetoricians, all these things they agreed to despise, an attitude extremely difficult. Besides, they had to accept a new manner of life, which was indeed much more difficult; because she removed them from luxury and attached them to fasting. She removed them from avarice and led them to lack of property. She removed them from profanity and led them to chastity. She removed them from aggressiveness and led them to gentleness. She removed them from envy and led them to friendship. She removed them from an easygoing and pleasurable life and led them to a life of difficulties, hardships, and full of sorrows. Indeed she led to this life those who had been accustomed to the life of luxuries. Surely, those who became Christians were not people who lived in some other worlds and did not have sinful habits, but were those who had rotted in them and had become more flexible than clay. It was them that she called to follow the hard and ragged road. And it persuaded them to follow it!

The superbly wondrous work of the Twelve Apostles in the spreading of the Church. How many were persuaded? Not two, not ten, not twenty, not a hundred, but an innumerable crowd. And how many did she use to persuade them? She used two men, uneducated, uncultured, unknown, poor, without property, without bodily strength, without glory, without illustrious ancestry, without rhetorical eloquence. She used twelve men who were fishermen, tent makers, whose mother tongue was foreign; because, they did not speak the same tongue with the idolaters.

They spoke Hebrew, which was different from all other languages. It was with them that the Church was built up and spread to the ends of the world. This is not the only wondrous fact, but there is also the fact that these few, these poor, these uneducated and despised men, who set out to change humanity, did not pursue their work without disturbance. They were confronted with innumerable wars from every side.

They were opposed by every nation and in every city. But why do I speak of nations and cities? War was raised against them even on every house. Their teaching separated on many occasions the child from the father, the daughter in law from the mother in law, the brother from the brother, the servant from the master, the citizen from the ruler, the man from the woman, and the woman from the man. In every family not all believed simultaneously,, and so the Christians suffered daily harassments, ceaseless enmities, a myriad of deaths. All fought them as common opponents and enemies.

They were pursued by kings, governors, citizens, freemen, slaves, crowds, cities. They did not pursue only them, but –how terrible– even the neophyte catechumens, i.e. those who just believed

The victory of the Apostles and the Church is due to the power of the Crucified but also Risen Lord. It caused horror and wrath to the idolaters the thought of abandoning their pagan altars, of despising their bloody sacrifices, which all their fathers and ancestors practiced, and of believing in the Lord; of believing in Him who took flesh from the Virgin Mary, and stood trial before Pilate, and suffered numberless tribulations and degradations, underwent a dishonorable death, was buried and rose again. It is indeed a paradox, that, while the sufferings of the Lord were indisputable, -inasmuch as many had seen the lashings, the biting, the spitting, the slapping, the cross, the mocking, the entombment– it was not the same with the resurrection. The Lord, after his resurrection, manifested Himself only to the disciples. In spite of this fact, they spoke about the resurrection and persuaded the peoples and built up the Church. How did they do it? They did it with the power of the Lord, who sent them to preach his Gospel to the nations. It was He who opened to them the way. It was He who facilitated their difficult task. Had they not been assisted by the divine power, the spreading of Christianity would not have even begun.

The persecutions against the Church did not inhibit its expansion. The reason was that while the tyrants were forearmed against the Church, while the soldiers interposed their arms, while the mobs raged like a wild fire, while the bad habit was lined up in opposition, while orators, sophists, the rich people, ordinary citizens and leaders were aroused in enmity, the word of God, being stronger than the flame, turned the thistles into ashes, cleansed the fields and sowed the word of the preaching. Some of the believers were thrown into the prisons, others were exiled, others had their property confiscated, others were assassinated, and others were torn to pieces. In spite of the fact that Christians were treated as common criminals, suffering patiently every kind of punishment, humiliation and persecution, more and more people joined the Church. Indeed, the new believers not only were not discouraged by the tortures which they saw the older believers undergoing, but became more eager!

They run by themselves, without constraint, showing gratitude to their torturers. They became more fervent in the faith, seeing the torrents of the blood of the believers.

The expansion of the Church in spite of the persecutions proves the incomparable and unconquerable power of Christ. Did you see the incomparable power of Him who achieved all these wonders? How is it possible that people who are undergoing such horrid martyrdoms feel no sorrow? And yet, they rejoiced, and were elated! This is what St. Luke the Evangelist adduces as an example, when he says about the Apostles that

“they left from the council rejoicing, because they were proved worthy to be ill-treated for the shake of Christ” (Acts 5:41).

While no one can build even a wall with stones and plaster when is persecuted, the Apostles built up the Church throughout the world while sufferings persecutions, imprisonments, exiles and deaths as martyrs. They did not build her up with stones, but with souls –which is much more difficult; since it is not the same to build a wall as to persuade perverted souls to change their manner of life, to abandon their demonic madness and to follow the life of virtue. They achieved this, because they had with them the unconquerable power of the Lord, who had prophesied;

“I will build up my Church, and the powers of Hell will not prevail against her” (Matthew 16:18).

Consider how many tyrants fought the Church and how many persecutions they raised against it… Augustus, Tiberius, Gaius, Nero, Vespasian, Titus and their successors right down to Constantine, were all idolaters. All of them –some more moderately, and some more harshly– fought the Church. Even if some of them did not raise persecutions, nevertheless, their attachment to idolatry motivated those who wanted to flatter them to oppose the Church. In spite of all this, the evil schemes and attacks of the idolaters were dissolved as cobwebs, scattered like dust, vanished like smoke. Besides, what were planned against the Church became the occasion of great benefits for the Christians. The reason was that such plans created choruses of martyrs, who constitute the treasure, the pillars, and towers of the Church.

The wondrous fulfillment of what Christ prophesied about the Church reveals most clearly his true Godhead. Do you see the wondrous fulfillment of this prophesy? Indeed,

“the powers of Hell cannot prevail against her.”

Looking at what came to pass, believe what is to come. No one in the future will be able to prevail against the Church. If they did not manage to crush her when she numbered but a few members, when her teaching seemed novel and strange, when so many terrible wars and so many persecutions were raised against her from everywhere, much more they will not manage to injure her today, when she has spread in the whole world, and increased her dominion among all nations, abolishing their pagan altars and idols, their festivals and celebrations, the smoke and the smell of their abominable sacrifices. How did the Apostles achieve such a great, such an important task, after so many obstacles? Surely, it was by the divine and unconquerable power of Him, who prophesied about the creation and triumph of His Church.

No one can deny this, unless he is mindless and completely unable to think.”

(This article represents selections from St. John Chrysostom’s treatise To Jews and Greeks, a demonstration, that Christ is God… (PG 48, 813-838)..)

Chrysostom on Immodest Dress

“You carry your snare everywhere and spread your nets in all places. You allege that you never invited others to sin. You did not, indeed, by your words, but you have done so by your dress and your deportment. … When you have made another sin in his heart, how can you be innocent?

Tell me, whom does this world condemn? Whom do judges punish? Those who drink poison or those who prepare it and administer the fatal potion? You have prepared the abominable cup, you have given the death dealing drink, and you are more criminal than are those who poison the body; you murder not the body but the soul. And it is not to enemies you do this, nor are you urged on by any imaginary necessity, nor provoked by injury, but you do so out of foolish vanity and pride.”

John Chrysostom, Homilies on the Gospel of Matthew,
J. H. Parker, 1843, p. 257

THE SYNODICON: THE AFFIRMATION OF THE ORTHODOX FAITH

THE SYNODICON: THE AFFIRMATION OF THE ORTHODOX FAITH

As the Prophets beheld, as the Apostles have taught, as the Church has received, as the Teachers have dogmatized, as the universe has agreed, as Grace has shown forth, as Truth has revealed, as falsehood has been dissolved, as Wisdom has presented, as Christ has awarded: thus we declare, thus we assert, thus we preach Christ our true God, and honor His Saints in words, in writings, in thoughts, in sacrifices, in churches, in Holy Icons; on the one hand worshiping and reverencing Christ as God and Lord; and on the other hand honoring as true servants of the same Lord of all, and accordingly offering them veneration.

This is the Faith of the Apostles; this is the Faith of the Fathers; this is the Faith of the Orthodox; this is the Faith which has established the universe!

St. Gregory of Sinai on Spiritual Direction

“I wish you to be fully informed about delusion, so that you can guard yourself against it and not do great harm to yourself through ignorance and lose your soul. For our free will easily veers towards keeping company with the demons, especially when we are inexperienced and still under their sway. Around beginners and those who rely o…n their own counsel the demons spread the nets of destructive thoughts and images, and open pits into which such people fall; for their city is still in the hands of the workers of iniquity, and in their impetuosity they are easily slain by them. It is not surprising that they are deceived, or lose their wits, or have been and still are deluded, or heed what is contrary to truth, or from inexperience and ignorance say things that should not be said. Often some witless person will speak about truth and will hold forth at length without being aware of what he is saying or in a position to give a correct account of things. In this way he troubles many who hear him and by his inept behavior he brings abuse and ridicule on the heads of hesychasts. It is not in the least strange that beginners should be deceived even after making great efforts, for this has happened to many who have sought God, both now and in the past.

Mindfulness of God, or noetic prayer, is superior to all other activities. Indeed, being love for God, it is the chief virtue. But a person who is brazen and shameless in his approach to God, and who is overzealous in his efforts to converse with Him in purity and to possess Him inwardly, is easily destroyed by the demons if they are given license to attack him; for in rashly and presumptuously striving prematurely to attain what is beyond his present capacity, he becomes a victim of his own arrogance. The Lord in His compassion often prevents us from succumbing to temptation when He sees us aspiring over-confidently to attain what is still beyond our powers, for in this way He gives each of us the opportunity of discovering his own presumption and so of repenting of his own accord before making himself the butt of demons as well as of other people’s ridicule or pity. Especially is this the case when we try to accomplish this task with patience and contrition; for we stand in need of much sorrow and humility, and – most important of all for its marvelous effects – of guidance and obedience, for otherwise we might unknowingly reap thorns instead of wheat, gall instead of sweetness, ruin instead of salvation. Only the strong and the perfect can continuously fight alone with the demons, wielding against them the sword of the Spirit, which is the teaching of God (cf. Eph. 6:17). The weak and beginners escape death by taking refuge in flight, reverently and with fear withdrawing from the battle rather than risking their life prematurely.

For your part, if you are rightly cultivating stillness and aspiring to be with God, and you see something either sensory or noetic, within or without, be it even an image of Christ or of an angel or of some saint, or you imagine you see a light in your intellect and give it a specific form, you should never entertain it. For the intellect itself naturally possesses an imaginative power and in those who do not keep a strict watch over it it can easily produce, to its own hurt, whatever forms and images it wants to. In this way the recollection of things good or evil can suddenly imprint images on the intellect’s perceptive faculty and so induce it to entertain fantasies, thus making whoever this happens to a daydreamer rather than a hesychast.

Be careful, therefore, not to entertain and readily give assent to anything even if it be good, before questioning those with spiritual experience and investigating it thoroughly, so as not to come to any harm. Always be suspicious of it and keep your intellect free from colors, forms, and images. For it has often happened that things sent by God to test our free will, to see which way it inclines and to act as a spur to our efforts, have in fact had bad consequences. For when we see something, whether with mind or senses – even if this thing be from God – and then readily entertain it without consulting those experienced in such matters, we are easily deceived, or will be in the future, because of our gullibility. A novice should pay close attention solely to the activity of his heart, because this is not led astray. Everything else he must reject until the passions are quietened. For God does not censure those who out of fear of being deluded pay strict attention to themselves, even though this means that they refuse to entertain what He sends them until they have questioned others and made careful inquiry. Indeed, He is more likely to praise their prudence, even though in some cases He is grieved.

Yet you should not question everyone. You should go only to one, to someone who has been entrusted with the guidance of others as well, who is radiant alike in his life and in his words, and who although poor makes many rich (cf. 2 Cor. 6:10). For people lacking spiritual experience have often done harm to foolish questioners, and for this they will be judged after death. Not everyone is qualified to guide others: only those can do so who have been granted divine discrimination – what St. Paul calls the “discrimination of spirits” (1 Cor. 12:10) ~ enabling them to distinguish between bad and good with the sword of God’s teaching (cf. Eph. 6:17). Everyone possesses his own private knowledge and discrimination, whether inborn, pragmatic or scientific, but not all possess spiritual knowledge and discrimination. That is why Sirach said, “Be at peace with many, but let your counselors be one in a thousand” (Eccles. 6:6). It is hard to find a guide who in all he does, says or things is free from delusion. You can tell that a person is undeluded when his actions and judgement are founded on the testimony of divine Scripture, and when he is humble in whatever he has to give his mind to. No little effort is needed to attain a clear understanding of the truth and to be cleansed from whatever is contrary to grace, for the devil – especially in the case of beginners – is liable to present his delusions in the forms of truth, thus giving his deceit a spiritual guise.

If then you are striving in stillness to attain a state of pure prayer, you must journey with great trepidation and inward grief, questioning those with spiritual experience, accepting their guidance, always lamenting your sins, and full of distress and fear lest you should be chastised or should fall away from God and be divorced from Him in this life or the next. For when the devil sees someone leading a penitent life, he retreats, frightened of the humility that such inward grief engenders. But if, with a longing that is satanic rather than authentic, you are presumptuous enough to imagine that you have attained a lofty state, the devil will easily trap you in his nets and make you his slave. Thus the surest guard against falling from the joy of prayer into a state of conceit is to persevere in prayer and inward grief, for by embracing a solace filled grief you keep yourself safe from harm. Authentic prayer – the warmth that accompanies the Jesus Prayer, for it is Jesus who enkindles fire on the earth of our hearts (cf. Luke 12:49) – consumes the passions like thorns and fills the soul with delight and joyfulness. Such prayer comes neither from right or left, nor from above, but wells up in the heart like a spring of water from the life-quickening Spirit. It is this prayer alone that you should aspire to realize and possess in your heart, always keeping your intellect free from images, concepts and thoughts. And do not be afraid, for He who says, “Take heart; it is I; be not afraid” (Matt. 14:27), is with us – He whom we seek and who protects us always. When we invoke God we must be neither timid nor hesitant.”

+ St. Gregory of Sinai +

Orthodox Repentance and Confessing to a Priest

It is common amongst modern Christians today to believe that our sins do not affect others within the body of Christ unless we directly interact with them when sinning, as if the change – or lack there of – in our spiritual state does not have a negative consequence on the rest of the Church. As Bishop Kallistos says, “There are no entirely private sins. All sins are sins against my neighbor, as well as against God and against myself. Even my most secret thoughts are, in fact, making it more difficult for those around me to follow Christ (Orthodox Peace Fellowship retreat in Vézelay, April 1999 / third lecture by Bishop Kallistos).”

Because we are living beings amongst the rest of creation; that is, because nearly everything we do has an affect on someone else, we must begin to realize that our sin is not private. Every choice we make, from the stores we choose to shop at to the words we choose to speak, our actions create environments. When we chose to act sinfully we begin to create environments of pain and suffering. And unless we live secluded lives, away from any interaction with people at all, then these painful environments begin to infect people.

Because sin has always been a public matter, the early Church confessed their sins publically, within the assembly of worship. For a variety of practical reasons, the Church stopped confessing amongst the entire congregation, choosing to confess primarily before the pastor of their particular church. The pastor is able to make the matter much more discrete yet still “public” in that the confessor is confessing their sin to someone that represents the Church. Counsel can be given to the confessor and people who are from the “outside” (or even within the church) are not able to spread gossip around the community, as the priest is forbidden to reveal any confessed sins to anyone.

The arrangement of the Orthodox confession is not like that or Roman Catholicism. The Romans have a screen between the priest and the confessor, but in Orthodoxy the priest and the confessor stand or kneel before a representation of God such as an icon or Cross, many times in front of the iconostasis, visible to others but not within distance of actually hearing the confession. This arrangement, with the both of them before the representation of God, demonstrates the fact that in Orthodoxy, confession is to God, but alongside the witness of the priest. This can be best illustrated in the Russian tradition of the Church, where the priest says to the penitent at the beginning:

“Behold, my child, Christ stands here invisibly receiving your confession. Do not be ashamed and do not fear, and do not withhold anything from me; but without doubt tell all you have done and receive forgiveness from the Lord Jesus Christ. Lo, His holy image is before us, and I am only a witness, bearing testimony before Him of all things which you say to me. But if you conceal anything from me, you shall have the greater sin. Take heed, therefore, lest having come to the physician, you depart unhealed.”

Confession is one of the sacraments in the Orthodox Church. A sacrament is a means in which God personally gives grace to the individual Christian. In Confession, grace is given to the Christian in the way of forgiveness. This does not make Christ’s forgiveness on the Cross ineffectual; on the contrary, it actually makes it effectual. The work of forgiveness has indeed already been done on the Cross, but like all Christian traditions teach, there must be repentance for this to become a reality within the Christian’s life. In fact, the word “repentance” is synonymous for “confession” within the Orthodox faith. As we repent of our sin we draw closer to Christ and become more like him and the image that he originally created us in. The Greek word for repentance in the New Testament is metanoia, which translates “change of mind and heart”, or, “change of consciousness”. In order to confess our sins, especially to another Christian, we must embrace humility, and humility is the very key to sanctification in Christ, a changed psyche.

In the Orthodox faith there are various avenues to embrace humility, to conquer the flesh! Admitting that we need each other within this journey of crucifying the flesh and taking up the “divine nature,” as St. Peter calls it, is an important aspect of the faith. When we embrace repentance, we must consider this. God gave us His Church, guided by His ministers so that we can have a life of repentance and help one another on this journey of repentance. Many modern traditions teach that there is no need for a priest to intercede for the confessing Christian. In fact, most go as far as stating that there is no need for any type of public confession and that the confession that we do in our personal prayer to God is sufficient and will absolve us and heal us of our sins. There are multiple problems with this teaching. The first is that we see public confession in the Holy Scriptures:   

 “Confessing their sins, they were baptized by him in the Jordan River.” Matthew 3:6

“And there went out unto him all the land of Judaea, and they of Jerusalem, and were all baptized of him in the river of Jordan, confessing their sins.” Mark 1:5

“Also many of those who were now believers came, confessing and divulging their practices.” Acts 19:18

“Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called when you made your good confession in the presence of many witnesses.” 1 Timothy 6:12

“Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.” James 5:16

We also see that other first century documents of the Church verify that these Scriptures indeed mean what the Orthodox Church says they mean, and that this tradition of confession practiced within the first century was passed down through the centuries to follow:
“Confess your sins in church, and do not go up to your prayer with an evil conscience. This is the way of life. . . On the Lord’s Day gather together, break bread, and give thanks, after confessing your transgressions so that your sacrifice may be pure.” (Didache 4:14,14:1 — A.D.70)

“You shall judge righteously. You shall not make a schism, but you shall pacify those that contend by bringing them together. You shall confess your sins. You shall not go to prayer with an evil conscience. This is the way of light.” (Letter of Barnabas 19 — A.D. 74)

“For as many as are of God and of Jesus Christ are also with the bishop. And as many as shall, in the exercise of penance, return into the unity of the Church, these, too, shall belong to God, that they may live according to Jesus Christ.” (Letter to the Philadelphians 3 — A.D. 110)

“[A filial method of forgiveness], albeit hard and laborious [is] the remission of sins through penance, when the sinner . . . does not shrink from declaring his sin to a priest of the Lord and from seeking medicine, after the manner of him who say, “I said, to the Lord, I will accuse myself of my iniquity.” ” (Homilies in Leviticus 2:4 — A.D. 248)

“It is necessary to confess our sins to those to whom the dispensation of God’s mysteries is entrusted. Those doing penance of old are found to have done it before the saints. It is written in the Gospel that they confessed their sins to John the Baptist [Matt. 3:6], but in Acts [19:18] they confessed to the apostles.” (Rules Briefly Treated 288 — A.D. 374)

“Priests have received a power which God has given neither to angels nor to archangels. It was said to them: “Whatsoever you shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; and whatsoever you shall loose, shall be loosed.” Temporal rulers have indeed the power of binding: but they can only bind the body. Priests, in contrast, can bind with a bond which pertains to the soul itself and transcends the very heavens. Did [God] not give them all the powers of heaven? “Whose sins you shall forgive,” he says, “they are forgiven them; whose sins you shall retain, they are retained.” The Father has given all judgment to the Son. And now I see the Son placing all this power in the hands of men [Matt. 10:40; John 20:21-23]. They are raised to this dignity as if they were already gathered up to heaven.” (The Priesthood 3:5 — A.D. 387)

“For those to whom [the right of binding and loosing] has been given, it is plain that either both are allowed, or it is clear that neither is allowed. Both are allowed to the Church, neither is allowed to heresy. For this right has been granted to priests only.” (Ambrose of Milan, Penance 1:1 — A.D. 388)

The notion that confessing our sin in a public manner is not necessary is quite a harmful teaching; this teaching is in fact heterodox. To withhold confessing our sin to the Church is to harbor our sin within our personal psyche. There is no liberty, as liberty is given to us when we confess our sins to another. There is no easing of the conscience when we harbor those sins amongst ourselves. One of the very reasons why Saint James calls us to “confess our sins to one another” is because we live amongst one another and we are connected to one another in so very many ways.

When we confess to a priest, we ultimately confess that we have sinned against God’s Church. If you were to cause some sort of catastrophe within a company, who would you go to apologize to? The owner or person who represents the owner of the company! In one sense, this is what you are doing when you confess your sins to a priest. You are confessing to him that you have sinned against the “company” of the faithful. You are confessing to the one that represents the owner of the kingdom; that is, God the Almighty! The priest holds this authority to be able to grant a pardon or not to grant a pardon. We can see this in Matthew 16:18,19, that the keys of the kingdom were given to the apostles and that decisions that are made in this Church are made for heaven also (binding and loosing). If a Christian cannot humble themselves to ask the representative of the Church for forgiveness, then how could they possibly be repentive? It is as if every man that refuses to confess to the Church, creates his own church by insisting on only confessing to himself. In fact, with this type of philosophy a man could just start his own church whenever he is wrong and does not want to repent. He could make up his own doctrine and ethical standard as time moves along. This is essentially what is happening within the western Churches. The number of fragmented Bible organizations continues to grow every day because of this.

God’s grace is accessed through the Logos of God, through the very Word of God. The Church has been given the authority to assemble (declare letters to be a part of the Logos or not) and to bind and loose sins according to this Logos, this revelation of Christ. The Holy Scripture contains the basis for all moral law and this is what we confess, our breaking of the moral law of God. How can one confess breaking the law of God if they do not even believe in the Church that sets the standard of this morality to be broken in the first place? It is the Church that set forth ethical standards and it is the Church that one needs to confess to when breaking these standards. Repentance is a family exercise! We repent with the help of the body of Christ. The Holy Spirit operates through each other for the sake of each other.

“Ye are gods” – Theosis!

In the Orthodox faith salvation is likened to a journey which God has set before us to travel. And although it is somewhat of a dangerous journey, with many snares and pitfalls of the enemy, it does not leave us in despair. There is always renewal and rejuvenation through God’s Holy Trinity, via His Church and even creation itself. The loving kindness of God manifests both spiritually as well as existentially, through both the invisible as well as the visible!

In order to truly understand our salvation in Christ we must travel back to the Garden of Eden where Adam and Eve made a choice to separate themselves from God. As Bishop Kallistos Ware says in his book The Orthodox Church(p.222), “Instead of continuing along the path marked out for him by God, he turned aside and disobeyed God. Adam’s fall consisted essentially in his disobedience of the will of God; he set up his own will against the divine will…” Bishop Ware goes on to say that because of this disobedience, a new form of existence manifested on the earth, one of disease and death.

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A Brief History of Monasticism

From pre-Nicene times to our modern times, the monastics of the Church have kept us vigilant and sober, showing us that God does indeed call modern day John the Baptists’ and Paul the Apostles’. God calls these monks to live a life of purity not merely for themselves, but for the greater health of the entire Church – men and women praying for the Church and the world, serving the Church and the world, and sacrificing for the Church and the world.

The movement of monasticism was first inspired by John the Baptist as “the voice of one crying in the wilderness” – John 1:23. His very calling was prophesied by Isaiah as the forerunner to Christ; a spokesman and martyr for Christ, yes, but a monastic one at that. St. John’s life was one that was dedicated to one primary thing: meditating on the revelation of God in the purist form possible: alone, celibate, with little to no material possessions to look after; a slave to Christ! Saint John’s calling, of course, exemplified the calling of Christ, who also lived a “monastic” life; thee monastic life! Jesus’ forty days of fasting and temptation in the wilderness (Mark 1:12), as well as his solitary habits (e.g., Luke 4:42; 5:15-16), would become an important model for later monastic practices.

At times Jesus encouraged the renunciation of commitments to important symbols of established society: marriage (Matthew 19:12 – “Others have renounced marriage because of the kingdom of heaven; the one who can accept this should accept it”), and wealth (Mark 10:21 – “Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor”). He had also promoted a high level of self-denial among his followers (Mark 8:34).This was the beginnings of the New Covenant Church, formed and fashioned amongst the very highest of ethical, moral and spiritual standards ever known to man.

After John and Christ we see many others who follow the monastic calling in order to promote and grow the Kingdom of God. Saint Paul the Apostle could certainly be considered a monastic. We see that in his writings he withheld from not only the companionship of a wife but also of material gain. Saint Paul’s influence on the New Testament Church was extreme, and we can see in Acts 16:5 that from this work the Church began to gain great momentum, “being strengthened in the faith, and were increasing in number daily.”

In Acts 4:32, we can see how the Church shared all things and lived a very communal life. This communal life was a natural progression likely inherited from the simple fact that in order to love one another an attitude of giving and fellowship had to manifest. It was this communal lifestyle that gave way to the later monastic communities.

As Williston Walker states in his book, A History of the Christian Church (p.154), monasticism “arose originally among the peasantry.” This early movement of Christians sought to withdraw from the populations in Egypt and Syria as well as the churches within those areas. The Church witnessed this separation and so began to sponsor the communities and becoming actual products of the monastic movements.

Known as one of the Desert Fathers, St. Anthony (250-356 A.D.) is said to be one of the first official Christian “monks.” When he was about twenty he heard the voice of God saying, “Go and sell that thou hast, and give to the poor.” He did as he was commanded and sold his possessions. Anthony’s sacrifice went far beyond what most monks practice today. When Anthony was 35, he retired into the desert, where he shut himself up in an abandoned fort. Food was thrown to him over the wall and for twenty years he saw no people whatsoever.

After these years of isolation an entire colony of men gathered around his fort to follow their call to monasticism. In 305 A.D. the monks persuaded Anthony to come out to disciple them. He spent five or six years at this task and in 311 A.D., paid a visit to Alexandria to encourage the Church in persecution. He then retired deeper into the desert, where he lived alone for the rest of his life (Bonnell Spencer, Ye Are the Body, p. 62). Through a famous biography written by Athanasius, bishop of Alexandria, Anthony’s monastic life became widely known. Athanasius portrayed Anthony as if he were a wrestler in training and so tapped both the religious fervor and the sports fever that were characteristic of the common men and women of the Eastern Empire and thus Anthony’s influence spread well beyond Egypt.

A number of monastic communities that sprang off of Anthony’s work made the point of it all to live alone, and although still connected with the Church were still very disconnected from people, including other monks. Pachomius (290-346 A.D.) went a step further, however, and arranged that the monks should work to produce their own food and clothing. This way, they were no longer dependent upon the charity that the public could spare for their sustenance, and the number of people who could adopt this cenobitical life (“life in common”) would become unlimited. After the reforms of Pachomius, the number of monasteries and monks began to increase rapidly in the East, including addition of women into the monastic fold.

In Syria, the monastic life grew with the tendency of self-denial. Simeon the Elder (390-459 A.D.) was one of the more popular examples of what was called a “Stylite,” because he spent thirty years of his life living at the top of a pillar, where he prayed and preached to those passing by.

In Cappadocia, and later in Asia Minor cenobitism became the rule. The monastic life in this region owes its progress to the efforts of Esustathis of Sebaste (300-377 A.D.) and Basil the Great of Caesarea (370-379 A.D.). Basil promoted the “philosophical life” and demanded both the love of God and neighbor. Basil also encouraged his monks to situate themselves on the edge of the cities so as to serve the general public with instruction and hospitality.

The Monastic ideal was first taught to the West by Saint Athanasius, who wrote the biography of Saint Anthony called The life of Anthony. The book was quickly translated into Latin (360 A.D.)

The earliest sign of monastic life in the West was that of Bishop Martin Tours (335-397 A.D.). Around the same time, Eusebius of Vercelli (340-371 A.D.) introduced a new monastic community which involved clergy under a special ascetical rule. This same rule was followed by Augustine of Hippo.

The constant growth of monastic communities in the West, particularly in Italy, Gaul, and Spain, led to a fifth century rule called the Rule of Benedict, which is very likely to be contributed to Benedict of Nursia (480-550 A.D.) (Williston Walker, A History of the Christian Church). Benedict’s members were required to renounce personal possessions and to remain in the community for life. The monks conducted a communal praise of God in a sevenfold daily office, they labored in the fields and they participated in what is known as lectio divina – the meditative study of the Scripture. They conducted a school for reading and studying of Scripture, equipped with a library. This gave way to other monasteries beginning the same ministry, eventually, reaching into the Middle Ages, resulting in the monastery as the primary institution of learning. Although the Benedictine Rule spread slowly, it was used very steadily by Pope Gregory the Great, who used its monks as missionaries, bishops and ambassadors.

Monasticism has grown today as a major influence in the Orthodox Church with thousands of monasteries around the world. It serves as an anchor in the Church for ethics and spiritual practices that would otherwise fade with those who are caught up in marital and other social affairs. The monks of the Church can in many ways be considered to be the very conscience of the Church. The daily lives of various parishioners around the world are not lived without the consideration of the monks and how they live. We know that there are many monks living a strict spiritual life for the kingdom of God, and this convicts us and gives us strength! We also reap the prayers of the monks and greatly benefit from the theological/educational resources that they create.

The So-called “Intertestamental” Period

To thoroughly understand the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ we must know the context in which the Gospel was actually formed. Certainly we must consider the fact that the prophets of the Old Testament foretold the coming of Christ and that Christ would “redeem” his people. Certainly we must consider the fact that Christ became the “perfect sacrifice” and the “new Adam,” and also, as the Prophet Isaiah says, the people of God are to experience heaven on earth where the “wolf will live with the lamb.” All of these things are important theological developments, but these and many more developments beg the question of how all this began to happen on a cultural and even existential level at the time of the second Temple (515B.C – 70 AD).

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Joke of the Day

Why can’t an Anglican play Chess? He can’t tell the difference between a bishop and a queen!

Synod of Blachernae, in Constantinople, 1157 A.D.

“Convened regarding Basilakes and Soterichus. Condemned those who say Christ offered His sacrifice to the Father alone, and not to himself and to the Holy Spirit; those who say the sacrifice of the Divine Liturgy is only figuratively the sacrifice of Christ’s body and blood; those who deny that the sacrifice in the Liturgy is one and the same as that of Christ on the cross; those who say men were reconciled to the Son through the incarnation and to the Father through the passion; those who think the deification of Christ’s humanity destroyed his human nature; those who deny that his deified human nature is worthy of worship; those who say that, since the human nature of Christ was swallowed up into Divinity, his passion was an illusion; those who say that characteristics of Christ’s human nature (creaturehood, circumscription, mortality, and blameless passions) exist only hypothetically, when one considers Christ’s human nature in abstraction, and not really and truly.”

H/T to Maximus Scott

About Orthodoxy

Orthodox Doctrine

In the years after Jesus’ Resurrection, apostles and missionaries traveled throughout the known world spreading the gospel. Soon, five major locations were established as centers for the faith: Jerusalem, Antioch, Rome, Alexandra, and Constantinople. In the year 1054 the Roman church broke from this united Church and five hundred years later protestant churches began breaking away from Rome. But the original church has remained united in the apostolic faith since the first century. This is Orthodoxy.

One of the tasks of the early Church was defining, and defending, an orthodox theology against the battering waves of heresies. These heresies often appeared in disputes over the nature of the Trinity, or how Jesus could be both God and Man. Church Councils were called to search the Scriptures and put into words the common faith, forming a bedrock of certainty that could stand for all ages. From this time, the Church has been called “Orthodox,” which means “right belief.” The Nicene Creed originated at the council of Nicea in A.D. 325, and is the central Orthodox statement of faith, a preeminent example of the work of the Councils. Built on the foundation of Christ and His Apostles, nothing has been added to our faith, and nothing can be added. It is complete.

Orthodox Worship

Orthodox churches still use forms of worship that were practiced in the first centuries. Our worship is based to a great extent on passages from Scriptures. We sing most of the service, joining our voices in simple harmony to ancient melodies.

Our worship is focused on God, not on our own enjoyment, fulfillment, or fellowship. We come into the presence of God with awe, aware of our fallenness and His great mercy. We seek forgiveness and rejoice in the great gift of salvation so freely giving. Orthodox worship is filled with repentance, gratitude, and unending praise.

We try, as best as we can, to make our worship beautiful. The example of Scripture shows us that God’s design for tabernacle worship (Exodus 25, 26) included gold, silver, precious stones, blue and purple cloth, embroidery, incense, bells, and anointing oil. Likewise, in Saint John’s version of heavenly worship (Revelation 4) there are precious stones, gold, thrones, crowns, white robes, crystal, and incense. From the beginning to the end of Scripture, worship is offered with as much beauty as possible. While new mission’s finances may call for simple appointments, our hearts come to worship seeking to pour out at the feet of Christ all the precious ointment we posses.

A common misconception is that awe-filled beautiful worship must be rigid, formal, and cold. Orthodox worship shatters that stereotype. The liturgy is not a performance, but an opportunity to come together as a family of faith before our beloved Father. True Orthodox worship is comfortable, warm, and joyful. It could be nothing less in His heavenly presence.

Orthodox Values

Values that are usually termed “Judeo-Christian” have never left Orthodoxy. We believe that sexual expression is a treasured gift one to be exercised only within marriage. Persons with homosexual or other extramarital sexual impulses are welcomed as fellow servants of God, receiving loving support as they make an offering to God of their chastity.

Marriage is a commitment  for life. Divorce is a very grave action, and remarriage after divorce a concession to human weakness, undertaken with repentance.

Orthodoxy has stood against abortion since the earliest days of the church. The Didache (circa A.D. 110) states, “Do not murder a child by abortion or kill a newborn infant.” In the midst of culture which freely practiced abortion, infanticide, and the exposure of infants, early Christians were a constant voice against violence, as the Orthodox Church continues to be today.

Caring for the poor and disadvantaged has always been a concern for the Orthodox. The strong sermons of Saint John Chrysostom, written in the forth century, bear witness to the importance of this Christian responsibility. The Church continues to see its mission in light of the whole person, body and soul.

Orthodox believers are right, left and center on many issues. But where the Scripture and witness of the early Church guide us, there is no controversy. We uphold and obey God’s will.

By Fredrica Mathewes-Green

Orthodoxy and Sovereignty (Creative Order)

In Orthodoxy, salvation is inclusive to the entire creative order. God, being sovereign, grafts us into a plan that involves much more than just concepts and ideals, but a plan that involves nature itself, everything that He intentionally created as good. The eschatological plan of salvation does not merely involve the redemption of “souls alone,” but of souls that are attached to this creation that St. Paul says in Romans is “groaning” for its redemption. The prophet Ezekiel proclaims in Ezekiel 34:25-31 how through Christ all things created will be restored. Matter itself is not irrelevant to the faith or in some way evil. Matter is subjected to Christians to take spiritual dominion over, as stated in Genesis.

When God is working His will in the world, He is causing events to come together for the sake of Christians (Romans 8:11) – ALL THINGS! God is sovereign and includes all of nature to contribute to His work. Through His mercy He even uses the neglected and abused aspects of nature to benefit us. Even those that aim to contribute to our fall can be used by God to aid our salvation.

It is a mystery on just why some submit to this divine nature and some do not. Beginning at our very conception (Psalm 139: 13) God woos us through the creative order. He does not use an invisible truth serum that calls some and not others. No, God allows man to be creative in the creative order, and this is what the Holy Spirit operates through. He uses what God has made (not exclusively, of course)! This is why it is so important to care for children within healthy environments, because a negative environment will produce a negative person; not that God cannot overcome this negativity; He can and does, but the ideal of the Gospel is to glorify God in everything, everywhere, redeeming even time itself against what is negative (Ephesians 5:16).

Each one of us has a “will” that is being formed from our very birth, and each day of our lives, from this very birth, we exercise this will toward or away from God. God surrounds us with His love, His positive energy, and waits daily for us to make conscience decisions to grow within this love, this divine nature. This is true sovereignty! The very fact that God waits on us to make decisions for Him shows us that He is patient and secure. If He were not patient and secure, He would force us to Him through what many modern Christians call (and embrace) “divine election.”

“Through heaven and earth and sea, through wood and stone, through all creation visible and invisible, I offer veneration to the Creator and Master and Maker of all things. For the creation does not venerate the Maker directly and by itself, but it is through me that the heavens declare the glory of God, through me the moon worships God, through me the stars glorify him, through me the waters and showers of rain, the dews and all creation, venerate God and give him glory.” – St. Leontius of Cyprus

Patristic Quote of the Week

Do you notice the difference in their standing? You can also see from this the difference in honour between the Seraphim’s rank and hers, for the Seraphim are “round about” God, but only the Queen of all stands beside Him ~ St. Gregory Palamas (On the Dormition of St. Mary)

The Incarnation and Nature

When St. Paul spoke of the “New Adam” in Romans, he was not merely referring to a new covenant in a legal/juridical sense but was referring to a new covenant through a new nature, a nature that we can inherit through Christ.

St. Ephrim the Syrian wrote:

“All these changes did the Merciful One make,

Stripping off glory and putting on a body (Philippians 2:5-7);

For He had devised a way to reclothe Adam

In that glory which he had stripped off.

He was wrapped in swaddling clothes,

Corresponding to Adam’s leaves,

He put on clothes

In place of Adam’s skins;

He was baptized for Adam’s sin,

He was embalmed for Adam’s death,

He rose and raised Adam up in His glory.

Blessed is He who descended, put on Adam and ascended!”

What was first meant to be through Adam we can now have through Christ! We can now become a part of God’s entire creative order in the natural sense. We can now become natural! This is a huge help with the very basics of theology and growth in Christ for a number of reasons.

Many times when a Christian makes reference to some thing or some action that is not natural many non-patristic Christians immediately put their guard up, assuming that nature is bad due to the fall in the Garden. This thinking is not within the realm of the new covenant, rather it is without the victory of the incarnation itself and the glory that follows it in the crucifixion and resurrection.

In the everyday complications of life it is hard to make black and white ethical distinctions through the specific legality and even general equity of the Law. But a Christian can much more easily say to themselves’ “this is not natural.”

I would refrain from placing this theology within the more common category of what is known as “natural law,” since that is more of a modern thought from the West. It has generally referred to how all people, even non-believers, have the Law written on their hearts to some extent. I take issue with this modern category of thought since it many times misrepresents New Testament thought. Jeremiah and Hebrews says that God writes His Law on the hearts of the believers, not the non-believers, yet so-called natural law theology rarely makes this important distinction: that people who are in Christ have an entirely different (more powerful) sense of the Law of God.

To be natural is to live in Christ! Living naturally means walking by the Spirit, who is one with the creative order in which we live in. ‘Creative Order’ can be said to be everything that God represents, from the air that we breath to the conversations that we embark on, to the choices that we make. We live not in a spirit-only world but in a world that has both Spirit as well as matter; a world that Christ makes whole through His Incarnation.

“He takes on my flesh, to bring salvation to the image, immortality to the flesh. He enters into a second union with us, a union far more wonderful than the first.” – St. Gregory Nazianzen

The Old Testament Canon, Law, and Eastern Orthodoxy

As discussed in the post on Marcion, the place of the Law of God in Christian theology has been a hot point amongst many believers. In the early Church the Law of God was constantly brought up to ward off the ceremonial practices of the Jews, especially regarding the Sabbath day. Many Christians insisted that the Sabbath was still to be regarded as holy. Of course, there are no Christians that believe that today, except for the Seventh Day Adventists, who by their many heretical statements about the Gospel and the Church can hardly be considered Christian.

In the Middle Ages, especially in the West, the place of the Law was so often debated because of the relationship (or lack thereof) of the Church and the State. Many Christians wanted the Church to rule the State, so they often quoted the Law of God to support the theology to do so. And while the Church was gaining momentum in this “ministry” the civil Law of God within the Old Testament was often quoted so as to support penal actions such as the death penalty for heresy and “mortal” sins such as adultery and murder.

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Patristic Quote of the Week

“If you are yearning for purity of heart and peace of mind, root out from your heart the tree of knowledge of good and evil, which God commanded our first ancestor not to eat from, lest he should die.” (St. Isac the Syrian, Homily On the Solidarity Life, in “The Four Books,” 2, Arabic version)

Awesome! As St. Paul said, “knowledge puffs up but love edifies.”  Systematic theology that insists that everything be black and white, neatly organized for our immediate consumption does nothing but puff us up. Knowledge, in and of itself will not lead us into Christ, but humility and willingness will! Humility wards off the tree of knowledge and willingness invites God’s natural plan begin to shape and form you to be one with Him.

Video Killed the Radio Star

Modernity is both an enemy as well as an ally of the Church. I would say that it is first the enemy, though, since Christianity is an ancient faith ruled by an ancient way of life (succession of authority – Scriptures/Church), where as modernity is the very progression of society apart from spirituality.

How is modernity the enemy of the Church? Well, this is a great question and deserves at least an entire 200 page book, but in a nutshell modernity throughout history has not ceased to knock and even ram on the doors of the Church’s ceremony, her liturgy. This is how the Church is captured, first by its liturgy, hence the popular Latin phrase Lex orandi, lex credendi (“the law of prayer is the law of belief”). The way we worship dictates the way we think on theological terms. If the worship changes, so will the overall culture of the Church. The Jews have been aware of breaching of modernity into the Covenant since the very establishment of Israel.

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On Relational Evangelism

“But if you say, “show me thy God,” I would reply, “Show me yourself and I will show you my God.” Show then, that the eyes of your soul are capable of seeing, and the ears of your heart able to hear.” St. Theophilus to Autolycus, 1.2

Proverbs 26:4 warns us not to “answer a fool according to his folly.” This means that we must be careful when responding to unbelievers, that the context must be appropriate. If they are being testy and do not really desire to know God then we should not respond as if they did, otherwise you set your own trap to fall in. They are asking you to “show” God through pure logic, which simply cannot be done. There are elements of faith and belief that must be present, even in the smallest form of a mustard seed, as Christ mentions in the Gospel. You can tell if someone has this small amount of faith merely by the context of the conversation or even posture of their voice.

God is not going to force his way into the soul of the unbeliever. Their must be some pain somewhere within this unbeliever for them to be interested in a relationship with God. When I say pain, I mean that there must be an amount of humility within the soul that allows such a conversation about God. First Peter 5:5 says that God gives grace to the humble but resists the proud. If the unbeliever could simply find just an ounce of pain in their life that they are willing to table, willing to show you, that is when the time is right; not that they will spill their guts to you; The pain itself may remain hidden in their mind but it may manifest to you in the form of listening to what you have to say about the Living God, thus “showing” themselves to you!

St. John of Dalyatha, on Drawing Closer to Christ

Hold him in your arms like Mary his mother. Enter with the Magi and offer your gifts. Proclaim his birth with the shepherds. Proclaim his praise with the angels. Carry him in your arms like Simeon the Elder. Take him with Joseph down to Egypt. When he goes to play with little children steal up to him and kiss him. Inhale the sweet savor of his body, the body that gives life to every body. Follow the early years of his childhood in all its stages, for this infuses his love into your soul. Cleave to him: your mortal body will be scented with the spice of the life in his immortal body. Sit with him in the temple and listen to the words coming from his mouth while the astonished teachers listen. When he asks, when he answers, listen and marvel at his wisdom. Stand there at the Jordan and greet him with John. Wonder at his humility when you see him bow his head to John to be baptized.

Go out with him to the desert and ascend the mount. Sit there at his feet in silence with the wild beasts that sought the company of their Lord. Stand up there with him to learn how to fight the good fight against your enemies.

Stand at the well with the Samaritan woman to learn worship in spirit and truth. Roll the stone from the tomb Lazarus to know the resurrection from the dead. Stand with the multitude, take your share of the five loaves and know the blessings of prayer. Go, wake him up who is asleep at the stern of you boat when the waves beat into it. Weep with Mary, wash his feet with your tears to hear his words of comfort. Lay your head on his breast with John, hear his heart throbbing with love to the world. For yourself a morsel of the bread he blessed during supper to be one with his body and confirmed in him forever.

Rise, do not keep your feet away that he may wash them from the impurity of sin. Go out with him to the Mount of Olives. Learn from him how to bend your knees and pray until the sweat pours down. Rise, meet your cursers and crucifiers, surrender your hands to the bonds, do not keep your face away from the slapping and spitting. Strip your back to be lashed. Rise, my friend, do not fall to the ground, bear your cross, for it is time for departure. Stretch your arms with him and do not keep your feet from the nails. Taste with him the bitterness of gall.

Rise early while it is still dark. Go to his tomb to see te glorious resurrection. Sit in the upper room and wait for his coming while the doors are closed. Open your ears to hear the words of peace from his mouth. Make haste and go to lonely place. Bow your head to receive the last blessing before he ascends. (St. John of Dalyatha, Homily on Meditation on the Economy of the Lord, in “Spiritual Elder”)

Thanks to my son Steffen for typing this out!

Orthodox Screensaver

This is a great screensaver for you Orthodox folks…or inspiring Orthodox. Double click and then save.

Patristic Quote of the Week

“Unbelievers, those who believe with difficulty, or believe in part, are those who do not show their faith through works. Apart from works the demons also believe and confess Christ to be God and Master…For this reason such faith is dead, or, rather, they are dead who have faith apart from works. ~ St. Symeon the New Theologian, The Discourses

“Penal Substitution” and the Trinity

Here is a great comment on the last post by Maximus Scott:

“The “penalty for sin” in their view is to be seperated from the presence of God and his manifold graces and then to be tormented (tortured?) eternally in hell. How could the second Person of the Blessed Trinity be seperated, cut off and damned? This would amount to schism in the Trinity, or polytheism (two gods) or nestorianism (two persons in Christ). Some gnostics and Paul of Samasota taught that the Logos departed from Jesus on the Cross…this is grossly heretical. Instead of saving us from the devil, sin and death (Heb. 2:14 & 1 Jn. 3:8), Christ primarily saves us from His own irate Father. The Gnostics also believed that Christ saved them the cruel exacting hands of the Old Testament God of law and judgment.”

Patristic Quote of the Week

So…yeah, St. Ignatius was the disciple of St. John the Apostle. One would probably want to listen to what he has to say! 

“Come together in common, one and all without exception in charity, in one faith and in one Jesus Christ, who is of the race of David according to the flesh, the son of man, and the Son of God, so that with undivided mind you may obey the bishop and the priests, and break one Bread which is the medicine of immortality and the antidote against death, enabling us to live forever in Jesus Christ.” -“Letter to the Ephesians”, paragraph 20, c. 80-110 A.D

Heterodox Quote of the Week

“I confess that I cannot forbid a person to marry several wives, for it does not contradict the Scripture. If a man wishes to marry more than one wife he should be asked whether he is satisfied in his conscience that he may do so in accordance with the word of God. In such a case the civil authority has nothing to do in the matter.” – Martin Luther (De Wette II, 459, ibid., pp. 329-330.)
So much for “Sola Scriptura.” Looks like we may actually need the Church for this one. Poor Martin just could not figure it out!

Bolder than Burning a Qur’an

God said to my Master,  “Sit here at my right hand until I make your enemies your footstool.” Matthew 22:44

Do you see the crescent on the cross? Do you know why it is there? I’ll tell you, it is the crescent of Islam and it is put there in some Orthodox crosses to represent Islam as the footstool of Christ (some are under the footstool). These crosses are on the tops of churches to demonstrate  Christ and His Church’s dominion. If you asked me, I would say that this is bolder than burning a Qur’an.

Patristic Quote of the Week

“Baptism will also make you king, priest and prophet” – St. John Chrysostom ( Homily 3, 5 on Second Corinthians ).

Well, if this is true, and I believe it is,  we should be taking huge steps of faith when it comes to our sanctity; whether it involves a simple decision to befriend and minister to a certain individual or a more complex decision to take on a whole new way of life. There must be power in this! How could there not be?

Patristic Quote of the Week

“I am often criticised for my continual attacks on the rich. Yes, that’s because the rich continually attack the poor.”

– St John Chrysostom

My Conversion to the Orthodox Church Part II

There are a number of things that have really discouraged me over the years within the Christian faith; things that I later found out to be modern in nature; Christians limiting how close one could get to the Church of the early fathers before barring them from leadership or fellowship. I have found that the path of leadership within these modern churches is filled with sinful compromise.

Many leaders in the modern church are the biggest liars I have ever seen! I have witnessed it and in some sense done it myself. It’s bred at ordination exams. These men lie about their beliefs in order to be ordained. It happens in the Evangelical faith as well as the Roman. I know right now that there are many Anglicans that are willing to lie their tails off in order to be ordained in the Roman ordinariate that they are now creating for Anglicans (these guys know that the Vatican II catechism speaks lies all over the place about Mary and about Islam).

As these people grow in the faith they will slam on the brakes if it means having to face rebuke or the loss of their leadership position. They will begin to learn the truths of the Ancient Church but will cease from embracing it fully in order to keep their flock or please their superiors. Of course they will philosophize their position of teaching within their mind, creating an apologetic, a defense for when they meet opposition. It’s really quite easy: they will take a hard turn toward rationalism in order to discredit the ancient faith. This is of course how liberalism manifests, and I would argue that liberalism began at the Reformation when men began to reject the mystical aspects of grace for scholastic constructs of rhetoric, notwithstanding Roman heresy that strayed from the early fathers; but more on that another time.

It’s never healthy to lie to yourself in order to remain “comfortable.” Some people – mainly men, but I have seen a number of women do this as well – would much rather become the popular prophet in their church affiliation than actually grow and arrive at a place of spirituality where they belong. What I mean by this is what I say frequently on this site, that Christianity is fragmented from the whole into a type of linked economy. The Church can be represented by a ladder where each denomination represents a rung in the ladder, from the least sacramental at the bottom to the most sacramental and apostolic on the top. One does not have to climb the entire ladder, of course. One can get to the top right away if they look past the disaster of much of modern history and see the “truth of the ancient.” But as modernity saturates western society through the years, more and more denominations are created…from breaking off of older denominations, thus creating these stepping-stone/rungs.

I have met a number of people that seek to climb this ladder by conversing with Christians that are on the “top rungs” and buying books from the top-rung churches, but they cease to make the move to the top, rather they hoard the information they have received in order to become a type of leader within the lower rung. Is this a noble thing to do? I often ask myself this question as I work out my own salvation. In fact, I have wrestled with that question far too often. Rather than just jumping right up to the Orthodox Church with my family, I chose to wrestle with God as Jacob wrestled, always insisting that God bless me for working so hard for Him but never really sitting back and listening to God as I should have. I kept seeking the theology of the more ancient churches and then relating it back to my family and those who I was leading in the Church. It was exciting in many ways. I could go on these theological journeys and return with a few beautiful jewels to share with my people. But it caught up to me several times.

It seems like each time I moved from one denomination to the next it was because I had feared my camp leaders catching me and saying “Hey, I know where you are getting those doctrines.” Sure, some have actually followed me on my path but the wrestling of this Prodigal Son has been way too harsh. Again, you could say that I have a hip out of joint from wrestling with God over all this. I knew it was happening. I knew I was wrestling with God each time I attempted to mesh theologies, but when you have this kind of prideful momentum it is hard to hear what God is really saying.

Some will say that it is perfectly godly for an Evangelical type to “borrow” from higher, older, denominations and churches. I disagree! You know who you are. I know some of these people personally and I know some that are popular theologians. I know of one extremely popular Anglican theologian who is constantly bringing back jewels from the Eastern Orthodox Church, rarely to give credit to them at all. I know people personally that have learned about the higher moral standards of the older more established churches such as the Eastern Orthodox and refuse to submit to them because they will lose their collar permanently (or may never get the collar they do not have but desire to have). This is sinful! God is not going to bless that kind of stubbornness. Come home! You will be blessed without the collar. Better to gain salvation than gain the whole world and lose your soul, right? Or maybe you will not lose your soul completely. Maybe you will just suffer all your life. Is that truly what you want?

What is really quite interesting about the fragmentation of Christianity is that it is so very western-driven, mainly by the supposed freedom fighters of modern America who insist on freedom to do whatever one pleases, including the capitalization of heresy, which is what modern Protestantism has come to: a big business for clergy. If there is a crack in an existing group, you had better believe that some cleaver weasel will cram him or herself into that crack and push until it opens up to a few other weasels to help begin another denomination, another rung in the already crowded ladder of western schism.

Am I wrong? Do I have my history and my theology wrong? Have I not come home by converting to Orthodoxy? I know that my moving from Anglicanism to Orthodoxy while actually explaining it as a part of growth may actually offend some, but so far I have heard no decent arguments at all. Character assassinations and name calling will always be the norm for this type of dialog. But I think there is one thing that you will notice: Eastern Orthodoxy is growing, and it is growing without your help. Maybe your crafty style of discipleship is being outmoded by the evangelistic momentum of Orthodoxy. Maybe your creative theological journeys to feed your family or church can finally come to an end and you can let your people finally get the medicine they need.

My Conversion to Eastern Orthodoxy

In case you are new here or have not noticed the change in this site, I am converting to Eastern Orthodoxy. It was not the easiest jump but as the first month has passed I can say with confidence that it is awesome!

I first made the decision to be confirmed as an Anglican based on a number of things, but what I was most interested in was the fact that I could become closer to God through the very means that Christ had described in the Holy Scriptures. I felt like I would finally be able to worship within the thrust of reverence and rich theological content, to do what Christ said to the woman at the well in John 4, “to worship in spirit and truth.” But as I grew within the Anglican faith I began to realize that worshiping in spirit and truth involves much more than just reverence and rich theology. I found my soul begging for more of something, but was not sure what it was.

As I continued to worship and study within the church, the Holy Spirit began to show me just what it was that I was lacking – the very nature of the Church and the way that the Holy Spirit Himself operates. I began to see that the Spirit operates through unity and humility of the very body of Christ, the Church. But I have not seen this within the Anglican faith. As much as I have tried, through various Anglican jurisdictions, I cannot see the unity that Christ speaks of.

Christ says in John 17 that He desires that we be unified, and the early fathers say that without unity in the Church the spirit simply cannot operate properly. In the beginning of the Church as we see in the book of Acts and all the way through the first millennium, the Church was one. The churches varied a bit in their culture but they were unified under the bishopric through the Ecumenical Councils.

As I embrace the Orthodox faith I can see and feel how God is blessing me through this act of unity, a unity not only of those in the local church now but a unity of the Church, past, present and future. There is something very powerful about worshiping under the same liturgy that some of the most godly priests and bishops in all history worshiped with; direct successors of the Apostles. It really gives new meaning to be a disciple of Christ! The liturgy itself resonates with the early Christian within you, something that I think we all need to get in touch with while living in a very modernistic and secular society. Learning Orthodox theology and worshiping with them allows one to be enraptured with the great saints of the first millennium; the surrounding icons, the incense, the majestic vestments, the people relaxed within the congregation – but not so relaxed as to become irreverent – and the unaccompanied voices of the people of God chanting praise, brings one into the entire body of Christ – past, present and future. Orthodox worship also gives one a sense of belonging throughout the week…like no other manifestation of Christianity can give. We see that in Revelation the Church triumphant is constantly worshiping. Orthodoxy finds a place in this realm. Not only is there always – due to the parishes as well as the monastics – an Orthodox worship going on somewhere within the world, like the Church triumphant, but the worship itself is “open ended.” It does not have an entrance or closing of a precession. You walk into it as if it has always been going on, because it has been. This helps create a spiritual foundation within your soul that “extends” worship to every day past Sunday. Some Protestant churches teach a concept like this but they do not put it into practice within the worship service, the very manifestation (and cause) of our theology. The Orthodox Church puts wheels on the Western term Lex orandi, lex credendi (Latin for the law of prayer is the law of belief).     

And the fact that the Orthodox can worship so majestically and sacramentally while also under a bishopric that has proven itself up to our day and has not wavered gives much confidence in Christ!

Worshiping under a “blameless” bishopric (1 Timothy 3:2) is important not only for worshipful reasons but for evangelistic reasons. My view of evangelism is to teach about how one needs to be a part of the bishopric, and how the bishopric is the very founder and keeper of the Bible (Canon). But this seems difficult to do while in the Anglican faith because the history of the Anglican bishopric leads to the apostasy of the Episcopal Church and Church of England – quite the embarrassment.

After a considerable amount of study, conversations with a local Orthodox priest, prayer, and the chance to bring my son Steffen with me to see if this unity is at work within a local Orthodox church, I came to the realization that this is it! Steffen (my son) gave me his approval ;) I know that within the Orthodox Church I can receive spiritual support for my teaching. This means that I will no longer be that guy that just doesn’t seem to fit in, the guy that teaches that “Catholic” stuff. I willingly accept being tagged as an Anglo-catholic within the Anglican Church only because I am unable to say that I am Orthodox (there really is no “Anglo-Orthodox” camp within the Anglican Church).

The Eastern Orthodox is the Church that has not wavered since the faith was handed over from the Apostles. Not everyone in the Orthodox Church is perfect but the Orthodox Church is indeed the direct historical successor of what Christ first instituted in Matthew 16, and by the grace of God I have found myself being pulled right in to it.

The Eastern Orthodox Church contains what we believe to be the most beautiful worship known to all Christendom. It is indeed different from western worship. It is much more challenging to learn and it certainly does not set a tone of entertainment (although I must admit that the incense and other liturgical acts are quite mesmerizing). The worship is sacred and holy, set apart from modernity! It is not organized like western liturgy, to have that grand entrance and escalating tone (western worship seems to have a schizophrenic tone with the overwhelming theology of ‘depravity/penitential but accompanied with an overly victorious organ or band) with a certain sense of closer at the end. The Orthodox liturgy, again, is “open ended” to demonstrate that our weekly living is to blend right in to its timeless nature. It also contains more prayers and in general much more theology than western liturgy. It is said to take several Sundays for a soul to completely absorb what it both offers and demands.

There are many other theological positions that also drew me in to the Orthodox faith, one of which is the Orthodox teaching of atonement. I have wrestled with so many different views of Christ’s atonement over the past ten years and now I feel like I have come home to the truth of the matter. The Orthodox Church teaches an atonement of victory and love, an atonement that actually deals with good and evil, the devil included. You can see more about this theology under the Salvation tab on this site.

The Bible! Yes, the Orthodox Church has the complete Bible. That’s right! The Protestant faith has stripped God’s word of many Old Testament books. Take a look at the Sola Scriptura video on the right side of the website, and look at the Bible tab of the site. After I studied the canon in Anglican seminary (funny thing is that I previously studied it in an Evangelical seminary – shows how they hide things from us) I became convinced that the Protestants were lying to me and that a large piece of God’s grace was being withheld from me!

There is one more very important theological reason for converting to Orthodoxy that I must mention, and that is the anchor of monasticism that is given to the Orthodox Church. Neither the Anglican nor the Catholic churches have such a strong influence of monasticism. This is a good thing because it models the very law of Christ and prevents the Church from swaying to a rules-based ethic and culture. Some may think that it does just the opposite but it really does not.

The monastic way is a way of solitude and peace. It is a calling that is not after seeking crowns here on earth or even in heaven, but it is a calling that gives the church substance and vigor. From the time of Constantine to our modern day, the monks of the church have kept people sober, showing Christians that God does indeed call modern day John the Baptists and Paul the Apostles. God calls these monks to live a life of purity, not for themselves, but for the greater health of the entire church – men and women praying for the church and the world, serving the Church and the world, and sacrificing for the Church and the world.  Monasticism is not just a way of life, but it is a very theology – in particular, a theology of humility within the spiritual realm, and a theology of liturgy within the earthly realm. The monastic Christian lives a life of liturgy for the purpose of humility. Upon being cultivated to this humility, the Christian begins to serve his fellow man. When Christ says that in order to enter the Kingdom of heaven, one must become “like a child,” he means that one must be humbled. This, of course, is what the law does, in part; it humbles a man to repentance. But preaching the law in all its worth is simply not enough for the church to embrace. The church must embrace a lifestyle; a calling of humility; a calling that Christ partook of. Christ was not only a “man of sorrows acquainted with grief,” (Isaiah 53:3) but he was also a man that had nowhere to “lay his head” (Luke 9:58). He fellowshipped with the downcast, he owned nothing that we know of and he remained a celibate man all his life. This is a life of utter humility. To model a life after this lifestyle and create a calling/vocation and even a theology after it must certainly be the will of our Lord!

I feel that I have come home! I also feel that I can now “come home” to the Lord; not that I want to die, of course, but I now feel like I have left the ranting and raving for a faith of healing and solitude, a faith that prepares me for heaven. I know now that after I die my five children will be as safe and secure as they can possibly be within the One Holy and Apostolic Church. I now feel confident that they can live a life for Christ without struggling with their “denomination” or group. And they can hand that faith down to their children. There will be challenges for them (and I) within the Orthodox faith, I’m sure (we are all sinners) but the challenges will be worth any pain that may seem to be upon us.

I hope this article was a blessing to you. It was certainly a blessing to write. It has been a long journey for my family and I within the ministry and we are glad to have made it this far so that our children can still benefit from the conversion and worship with us in Spirit and Truth. Please let me know if you have any questions about Orthodoxy, and if I cannot answer them for you I will find someone that can.

With Love,

Mike

Orthodoxy and Baptism

It is paradise, not sin, that reveals the true nature of man; it is to paradise and to his true nature, to his primordial vestment of glory, that man returns in Baptism. – Alexander Schmemann

The true nature of man is not that of darkness but that of light. Man and woman were created in the image of God and were through His nature, good. This state of being is what we begin to grow into after we are baptized and confirmed into the faith. Christ, as St. Paul says in Romans, is the new Adam! We begin to take on Christ, as Paul says, through this sacramental act of baptism. We begin the healing process through this “hospital” – the Church, so that we may become more and more the natural man, thus living a natural life – not natural in the strict biological sense, but natural in the original sense, in the sense of God’s image, the image of what Paul calls the heavenly man (1 Cor. 15:49).

We are now ambassadors for Christ (2 Cor. 5:20, 21). We now live out Christ’s righteousness as Christ himself, the living body of Christ, the temple of the Holy Spirit. Our spiritual journey of salvation becomes intertwined with our brethren – be it one or many of them in our life – so that we may become reconciled with Christ, as St. Paul commands us. We become a community of salvation. We are careful not to become “unevenly yoked” (2 Cor. 6:16) with unbelievers so that our reconciliation with Christ can manifest itself completely and consistently. We are in essence, bringing back the Garden of Eden!

The Gospel involves the unification and drawing of God’s people through the redemptive act of sharing the Covenant blessings of a regained paradise (Ezekiel 36:35). In other words, life itself and the pursuit of the Gospel is not just a personal journey, it is a corporate journey. This is why we worship God in an ecclesiastical context on Sunday mornings; to demonstrate to God that we are His people, united in faith (Ephesians 4:5), and built up as a holy temple (Ephesians 2:21) within a Sacramental context: taking actual matter and redeeming it for Christ; doing as the Lord’s Prayer states, “on earth as it is in heaven.”

Heterodox Quote of the Week

“St. James’ Epistle is really an epistle of straw, for it has nothing of the nature of the Gospel about it.” — Martin Luther

Patristic Quote of the Week

We all look toward the East when we pray; but few know that it is because we are looking for our own former country, Paradise, which God planted in Eden in the East. – ST. BASIL THE GREAT

No Bishop, No Creed. No Creed…

 “Catholic” and “Apostolic”…To some in our day these terms are used for describing any church that is a “true” church based on Bible doctrine, regardless of authority and posture they have toward the rest of the Church and her history. But if we look at the actual history of the Church we find that these terms are used exclusively to describe non-schismatic churches, that is, churches that have not divided themselves from the Church that originated from the Apostles.

A primary source for apostolic continuity through the early Church was the Apostles’ and Nicene Creeds, theological statements developed from the Apostles and then formalized at the Bishops’ council of Niceae in A.D. 325. The Christian faith is founded in the Creeds in that the Creed(s) protect the very nature of Christ and His Church, including the canon of Scripture. The heresies that the Creeds (Nicene, Apostles’) were created to protect us from are still prevalent in our day. The Creeds include the dogma of God as our Creator, The Trinity, the Virgin birth, the Crucifixion and Resurrection of Christ, the resurrection of believers and the return of Christ for His Church. Each of these dogmatic pronouncements within the Creeds have protected us from the modern heresies such as liberalism and cults such as the Jehovah’s Witnesses and Mormons. This of course is all done through the Holy Spirit, which is embodied within Christ’s body, the Church. Therefore, to be identified as one that belongs to the Church is to identify with Christ Himself. In the early Church, this identification became established by the Nicene and Apostles’ Creeds! Let’s take a look at a vital section of the Apostles’ Creed that may help us understand the current crisis in Christianity.

“And we believe in one catholic and apostolic Church: we acknowledge one baptism for the remission of sins…”

The most obvious breach of today’s Protestant (Evangelical, Baptist, Charismatic, Non-denominational, etc.) churches is the fact that the Creed says “one baptism.” Most Protestant churches, including the modern movements such as Calvary Chapel and even the more Reformed such as Sovereign Grace, reject the baptisms of the traditional churches such as the Roman, Lutheran, Anglican, and Presbyterian churches. This rejection puts these Baptistic churches at odds with the Creed.

A more serious breach in the Creeds has to do with what we consider “catholic.” What was the understanding of the “catholic and apostolic Church” at the time the Creeds were constructed?  You will find below a number of bishops from the early Church (pre and post Nicene) describing what is meant by the term catholic. Remember that the doctrine of the Trinity as well as other orthodox doctrines is not even discussed in these passages. The reason for this is that literal separation from the Church is enough to be heretical. To leave the Church is to divide Christ and the very calling one has to eternity.

Cyprian of Carthage

“You ought to know, then, that the bishop is in the Church and the Church in the bishops; and if someone is not with the bishop, he is not in the Church. They vainly flatter themselves who creep up, not having peace with the priest of God, believing that they are secretly in communion with certain individuals. For the Church, which is one and catholic, is not split or divided, but is indeed united and joined by the cement of priests who adhere to one another” (Letters 66[67]:8 [A.D. 253]).

Ignatius of Antioch

“See that you all follow the bishop, even as Jesus Christ does the Father, and the presbytery as you would the Apostles; and reverence the deacons, as being the institution of God. Let no man do anything connected with the Church without the bishop.” (Epistle to the Smyrnaeans, Chap 8 [A.D. 110])

Augustine of Hippo

“We believe in the holy Church, that is, the Catholic Church; for heretics and schismatics call their own congregations churches. But heretics violate the faith itself by a false opinion about God; schismatics, however, withdraw from fraternal love by hostile separations, although they believe the same things we do. Consequently, neither heretics nor schismatics belong to the Catholic Church; not heretics, because the Church loves God, and not schismatics, because the Church loves neighbor” (Faith and Creed 10:21 [A.D. 393]).

Irenaeus

“It is possible, then, for everyone in every church, who may wish to know the truth, to contemplate the tradition of the Apostles which has been made known to us throughout the whole world. And we are in a position to enumerate those who were instituted bishops by the Apostles and their successors down to our own times, men who neither knew nor taught anything like what these heretics rave about” (Against Heresies 3:3:1 [A.D. 189]).

A church does not succeed from the Creeds if they are not under apostolic succession, which is clearly proven in just how the term “catholic and apostolic Church” is patristically defined. “Apostolic” never meant to refer to churches that have similar doctrines as the Apostles, even the doctrine of the Trinity; rather, the term apostolic was used in patristic times when referring to proper apostolic succession of the Episcopate (bishop), since they created and protected the doctrines and since the very calling of the Gospel hinges on the unity of the Church.

We must believe that the very office of bishop was indeed ordained by God to be as St. Ignatius says, “the voice of God” (Philad 7:1-2). Here, St. Ignatius is presupposing an epistemological phenomenon. He is not saying that God actually has an audible voice for the New Testament prophet as He did with Moses. He is saying that the invisible becomes visible through the bishop. The New Testament voice of God must manifest itself somehow to a point of being passed on from generation to generation. This involves nature! The natural man must take his natural abilities and begin to proclaim what God is saying through the canon of Scripture. The bishopric has been doing this for the past 2,000 years.

Regarding the Church being a part of the bishop’s pronouncements, Cyprian declares that the bishop is to do nothing without the advice of his presbyters and the consent of the people. He writes, “as well as a rule of discipline and manner of (church) life, requires that we, the bishops, with the clergy, and in the presence of the steadfast laity, should settle all matters by piously consulting together.”

According to ancient church history, in the very beginnings the Church had already recognized a bishop as the first among equals in order to contain the unity of the Church (1Corinthians 1:12). In St. Jerome’s view, as the Apostles passed away and the heretics began to prevail against the Church, distinguishing the very name and call of the Episcopacy was completely necessary. Not that it had to be invented of sort, but what already had been practiced by the likes of Christ’s disciples and their disciples needed to take on theological meaning. St. Jerome writes, “When every man began to think those whom he had baptized to be his own, and not Christ’s, it was decreed throughout the world that one chosen out of the presbyters should be set above the rest, to whom the care of the whole Church should appertain, that thus the seeds of division might be rooted out.”

It is very important to note that there has been no known dissension about the Episcopal form of government by any of the early fathers. Certainly if the Episcopes was an unbiblical form of polity there would have been a council to meet over such a thing, or at the very least, rebukes made! The early Church grappled over the most detailed of doctrines, and they held to an extremely high level of intelligence. It is simply an unintelligible ascertain to state that the immediate succession of Church government from the Apostles was meant to be anything else.

Modern forms of church leadership have proven themselves not to work and have only caused radical departures from the faith. The Roman Catholics have swung one way with the papacy; to which a small percentage of the Roman Catholic Church actually adhere to, and Protestants have swung to the other extreme by giving complete autonomy to churches, which has given rights to heretics.

To follow the ancient faith of Jesus is to follow what He has ordained through the Apostles and their successors, the early fathers. It’s proven itself for nearly 2,000 years! It’s called the Orthodox Church, a church not without dispute, but certainly a church without a terminal illness. Study her history. Talk with her people. Experience her worship. It is the apostolic Church!

Anglican Church Belongs to Rome…

What is Anglicanism? Some say that it is distinguished by its tradition of ecclesiology and liturgy, that is based on the Bible – succession of the early church [emphasis mine]. This, I believe, is correct, but how shall God prevent this  tradition from being abused and split into thousands of pieces like that of Protestantism? How shall Anglicans guard themselves from becoming completely apostate? In order to answer this question one must dig into the very history of the Anglican Church.

 I once had an Anglican bishop test me on my knowledge of the Anglican Church. This man asked me when I thought the Anglican Church began. I said that it began in the 6thcentury. This man was practically irate about my answer! He said that the Anglican Church started in the second century. I should have been more clear stating that it officially began in the sixth/early seventh century. We were looking at the Anglican Church from two totally different perspectives. To me, the Anglican Church is a tradition. But it is a tradition under an authority. It is not just something great that was discovered and can be used by anyone that finds it interesting. No, this tradition is based on what God began with the early Church and carried on through the bishops to our day – apostolic succession.

There are two authorities that we can choose from when seeking to find the root of the Anglican Church. The first is the Roman Bishop Gregory the Great. He sent Augustine on a missionary journey to England in the year 597, to evangelize the Angles people, hence the name. Augustine and the Benedictine monks were successful in ministering to these people at Canterbury and began instituting a form of Benedictine liturgy. Augustine became the first Archbishop of Canterbury in the year 601.

It would be foolish and outright arrogant to deny the proposition that the missionary work of Augustine sprouted the Anglican Church. The Church at Canterbury, today, is considered the mother church of all Anglicanism. It is the Cathedral of the Anglican Communion and it is considered the leading authority over all Anglican Churches (although this is beginning to change, due to its falling away to liberalism).

The questions arises as to whether Rome still has, or every truly had jurisdiction over the Church of England. But the name itself, “Church of England” is that of Roman decent. It is Roman theology that claimed a Church to its geography. We know that the liturgy, for the most part, is from Rome (it is the Celtic flavor, though, that gives Anglican liturgy its marvelous thrust), and that the doctrine of the Anglican Church was no different from Rome’s prior to the Reformation and the Reign of Henry VIII. Papal authority increased within the Anglican Church up until the Reign of Henry VIII when Henry declared The Act of Royal Supremacy (1534), where all authority was stripped from the Bishop of Roman and given to the King.

Henry the VIII demanded a divorce from his wife with the Church’s approval. The Pope would not grant that request and so Henry departed from the authority of the Pope creating, in essence, the Anglican Church. Henry attempted to justify his divorce by sighting a passage in Leviticus, but it can hardly be supported. The verse speaks of a man not marrying his brother’s wife. Henry did indeed marry his brother’s wife, but only after his brother had already died. The real reason why Henry wanted a divorce is so that he could have a male heir for the throne. He also ended up having a total of six wives after the divorce, which demonstrated his view of marriage in general (as well as his qualifications to be commanding chied over the Church). He ended up killing two of his six wives!

Let’s just say that the Bishop of Rome was wrong in what he did (or did not do), and Henry had to do what he did in order to escape his dilemma and save the people of England from catastrophe. Let’s say that all this has passed and the people of England are now truly free by this Act of Royal Supremacy. Does the authority of the Church return to the Roman Bishop?

Henry the VIII was a defender of Roman theology, once attacking Reformed theology by writing his Defence of the Seven Sacraments. The Bishop of Rome then gave him the title of “Defender of the Faith.” So it is relatively clear that Henry was not after a theological reformation which eventually happened within the Anglican Church.

Some Church records show that there were British bishops present in England as early as the second century. But there is little to no known record that the successors of these bishops were in any opposition to the Roman doctrines or authority that they were submitting under. In fact, the early British bishops initially submitted to Rome when the Bishop of Rome decreed through the Council of Aries that the date of Easter be changed.

Even if it can be shown that there was disagreement about changing the date of Easter and even some of the other doctrines proposed by Rome, one would be hard pressed to completely reject the authority that Rome was given over England; especially considering the work of Augustine and the Benedictine monks.

Now that Canterbury is fallen, which governing authority shall be in charge of the Anglican Church? Should Rome have jurisdiction over the Anglican Church?  Or was the missionary work of Rome simply a stepping stone to something greater?

I really do not see anything greater being done in the Anglican Church. I see more splits as a result of unionizing with semi-conservatives and even full blown liberals, all in the name of “we are against homosexuality.” But homosexuality is only a symptom of the problems within the Anglican Church (England and America). To join, for instance, with Anglicans that prescribe to ordination of women is to travel the same disastrous road again (I can argue this more ways than one)!

Some would say that we need no authority except that of medieval documents and the Canon of Scripture. But this would mean the complete dismantling of the Anglican faith as a Catholic and Creedal faith. This would mean that Anglicanism, because it is founded under apostolic succession, is finished, and that only an Anglican type of liturgy would remain…and eventually dissolve like every other Reformation liturgy has.

The Anglican Church is a Church that was stolen from Rome! That is the honest summary of the above. Rome commissioned Augustine to organize the Church in England and he was successful. How can Thomas Cranmer possibly be considered a legitimate successor when he helped commit schism, as well as radical change of doctrine away from the ancient Church? The Anglican Church was founded on fornication, divorce, murder and heterodoxy. It was bound to become what it is today: a heretical mess that actually promotes mortal sin! Look at the bishops and you will see that very thing.

Breaking succession and claiming that one is a “Continuing” or “ACNA” Anglican will not withstand judgment before God. If one is convinced that they must remain liturgically Anglican rather than Eastern Orthodox – the original successors of the Apostles – then let them return to Rome through the ordinariate that the pope is creating. Other than that, the Anglican Church is just another Protestant Church with no real authority and nothing but divisiveness and fabricated grace, the very thing that they had thought to put to rest in the Reformation. Such a sad case of irony!

Patristic Quote of the Week

“The goal of human freedom is not in freedom itself, not is it in man, but in God. By giving man freedom, God has yielded to man a pice of His divine authority, but with the intention that man himself would voluntarily bring it as a sacrifice to God, a most perfect offering.”

     –Saint Simeon, Bishop of Persia

Roman Catholics Believe Islam Worships the Same God???

ROMAN  CATHOLICISM  HAS  BEEN  CORNERED  BY  ISLAM

I’m going to get right to the point of this article and show you the current catechism of the Roman Catholic Church and how it views Islam. Here it is:

(841) “The plan of salvation also includes those who acknowledge the Creator, in the first place amongst whom are the Muslims; these profess to hold the faith of Abraham, and together with us they adore the one, merciful God, mankind’s judge on the last day.” (Catholic Catechism, pgs. 242, 243)

If this is the first time you have read that, you are probably quite disgusted. Many Catholics, especially those that worship in Pius X congregations and other Latin Mass congregations completely reject this teaching. Many of them reject the entire modern Roman Catholic Catechism for the pre-Vatican II Baltimore Catechism. The Baltimore shows no signs of liberalism like the modern Catechism.

This teaching found in the Catechism is quite grieving and also quite embarrassing. These Catholics literally think that Alah is the same God as our God simply because Islam claims the name of Abraham and other Bible figures within their heterodoxy book, the Koran. Seems pretty easy doesn’t it? A man goes insane in the 7th  century and puts together a book inspired by the devil himself, includes the names of Abraham, Mary and Jesus, but clearly rejects the entire teaching of the Gospel and the Gospel’s interpretation of the Old Testament, and suddenly in the 20th Century he is deemed as worshiping the same God as the Christians? Wow!

Some are saying that Muslims view Jesus and Abraham as “prophets.” But this is deceiving! They do NOT believe that they are prophets, otherwise they would believe in the Messiah as their Savior since that belief is part of the prophecies. What Muslims believe is that Abraham and Jesus are Islamic prophets. There is a huge difference.

How did all of this begin to happen within Catholicism? Well, Catholics began to sympathize with Islam! Many Catholics are saying that they must repair the relationship between the Church and Islam since the Church attacked them in their Crusades. My question is: why not just ask for forgiveness? Don’t make things worse by compromising the Gospel itself.

St. John Damascene: There is also the superstition of the Ishmaelites which to this day prevails and keeps people in error, being a forerunner of the Antichrist. They are descended from Ishmael, [who] was born to Abraham of Agar, and for this reason they are called both Agarenes and Ishmaelites. They are also called Saracens, which is derived from Sarras kenoi, or destitute of Sara, because of what Agar said to the angel: ‘Sara hath sent me away destitute.’ These used to be idolaters and worshiped the morning star and Aphrodite, whom in their own language they called Khabár, which means great. And so down to the time of Heraclius they were very great idolaters. From that time to the present a false prophet named Mohammed has appeared in their midst. This man, after having chanced upon the Old and New Testaments and likewise, it seems, having conversed with an Arian monk, devised his own heresy. Then, having insinuated himself into the good graces of the people by a show of seeming piety, he gave out that a certain book had been sent down to him from heaven. He had set down some ridiculous compositions in this book of his and he gave it to them as an object of veneration.

St. Gregory Palamas: It is true that Muhammad started from the east and came to the west, as the sun travels from east to west. Nevertheless he came with war, knives, pillaging, forced enslavement, murders, and acts that are not from the good God but instigated by the chief manslayer, the devil.

Salvation Through Kingdom, Not System

Many Christians recognize John the Baptist as the prophet that once initiated the systematic call to salvation – where a person must be able to recite a prayer, then be baptized…and behold…the person is saved for eternity. But John was not giving a systematic, magic formula which required a person to jump through certain intellectual hoops to be saved.  Like Christ in much of His preaching, John was giving a rebuke to God’s Covenant people (Matthew 3:5-9). Remember, the Gospel was “to the Jew first.”

We should not be scholasticizing the rebuke that was given to God’s people in order to form a contemporary and phony ceremony (new Sacrament). Take a serious look at the New Testament and see that much of what we think to be God giving us a system to be saved was in fact God’s chosen Covenant people in need of rebuke. Salvation was not a new thing (Romans 4:3), but the New Covenant was and so John preached the New Covenant symbol of baptism to replace circumcision.  He also rebuked the Jews and commanded them to repent because they were not accepting their own Messiah and His New Covenant. He was not giving a new system, but rather, was simply rebuking as a teacher would rebuke today.

As a people (especially Americans) that are very unfamiliar with custom, ritual, ceremony, and even culture, we can easily fall into the error of scholasticizing (systematizing). When Paul and Christ said to believe, they were not giving an intellectual and systematic approach to salvation, they were rebuking and exhorting. They were rebuking the Jews so that they would stay committed to the Covenant of Abraham, and they were exhorting the Gentiles to believe through Christ to enter the Covenant. But entering the Covenant through baptism did not mean that one had to recite a prayer or make a public profession. Those who use Romans 10:10, where Paul says to “confess with the mouth,” forget that Paul was speaking about the Jews who were already Covenant people and simply needed to repent of following false teachings. He was not necessarily giving a prerequisite for baptism. St. Paul was rebuking and stating that all must believe through faith, and that it must actually manifest through their very speech; but not just once, as a new ceremony of reciting a prayer. He was simply stating that a true belief involves a life of manifestation – as the rest of the Scriptures clearly proclaim – into the life of a kingdom.

When we become “born again” (John 3:3), we are born into the Church and her kingdom. Our new birth is not a birth into a mere personal relationship as many Evangelicals say. We are birthed into a relationship with Christ through the covenant community, into the Church, into a community of life and peace with the Saints.

When the author of Hebrews gives examples of true faith (chapter11), he specifically mentions the patriarchs’ commitment to the Covenant. He does not say that Abraham repented from his sins against Sarah and is now a godly husband after his encounter with God. The author says that Abraham took a step of faith to build God’s people in a land with which he was unfamiliar (verse 12), and that he was ready to offer a faithful sacrifice to the Lord (verse 17). The writer then goes on to speak about Moses and how his step of faith was a step into the Covenant people. He does not say that Moses made the step of becoming a better, less angry man but that he made a step of commitment to the Covenant community (verse 25) despite the hardship to which it was destined as well as the tempting, luxurious life of Egypt that Moses could have had. These were examples of a demonstrated faith of Covenant community, not a demonstrated faith of a personal relationship.

The Gospel involves a movement of people here in our time and space known as the Church. The Gospel is both ecclesiastical and eschatological. It involves both the “institution” of the Church as well as the cosmos in which God has created us.

St. John Chrysostom on Economics

john_chrysostom1“It is not for lack of miracles that the church is stagnant; it is because we have forsaken the angelic life of Pentecost, and fallen back on private property. If we lived as they did, with all things common, we should soon convert the whole world without any need of miracles at all.” – St. John Chrysostom

This may not be an easy task for today’s Church but if we could at least take the general philosophy of this proposal and apply it to our lives we could at least move forward with substantial stride. I think that we can preach and teach our brains out and still not reach people today. It will not be until we change the way that we live that true conversion will take place in our nations.

There is a lot to say about what St. Chrysostom says about sharing property, more than what I am willing to write about in this post. What I really feel passionate about, regarding personal property and the Church, is that there are few if any co-ops available for insurance and other financial institutions. My family and I belong to Samaritan Ministries International, a co-op for Christian health care. I think this is a small but good start towards Christian economics. Another good thing to consider would be various educational co-ops and even medical co-ops.

What St. Chysostom is teaching here is not that we should own nothing and throw it all in to a big pot but that we should be interdependent on one another, sharing our gifts, talents and resources with one another so that Christ may be glorified. All throughout the Scripture we can see that God commands us to give to his people and in turn God will give even more to us. This is in and of itself “economical.” As long as the Church maintains its authority with the resources then the kingdom will continue to grow. It was not until the Church began to lose control to the State that cruel and unusual economics and welfare institutes became the norm.

On Hell

The idea that God is an angry figure who sends those He condemns to a place called Hell, where they spend eternity in torment separated from His presence, is missing from the Bible and unknown in the early church. While Heaven and Hell are decidedly real, they are experiential conditions rather than physical places, and both exist in the presence of God. In fact, nothing exists outside the presence of God.

This is not the way traditional Western Christianity, Roman Catholic or Protestant, has envisioned the afterlife. In Western thought Hell is a location, a place where God punishes the wicked, where they are cut off from God and the Kingdom of Heaven. Yet this concept occurs nowhere in the Bible, and does not exist in the original languages of the Bible.

While there is no question that according to the scriptures there is torment and “gnashing of teeth” for the wicked, and glorification for the righteous, and that this judgment comes from God, these destinies are not separate destinations. The Bible indicates that everyone comes before God in the next life, and it is because of being in God’s presence that they either suffer eternally, or experience eternal joy. In other words, both the joy of heaven, and the torment of judgment, is caused by being eternally in the presence of the Almighty, the perfect and unchanging God.

This is not a new interpretation or a secret truth. It has been there all along, held by the Church from the beginning, revealed in the languages of the Scriptures, which were spoken by the Christians of the early church era. This understanding was held by nearly all Christians everywhere for the first 1000 years of the Church’s existence, and, except where influence by western theologies, continued to be held by Christians beyond Western Europe and America even up to this day (including the roughly 350 million Orthodox Christians worldwide).

When you examine in context the source words which are translated as “hell” in English language Bibles the original understanding becomes clear. You will find that “hell” is translated from four different Greek and Hebrew words. These words are not interchangeable in the original language, yet, incredibly, in English-language bibles these words are translated differently in different places to fit the translators’ theology (rather than allow the words of scripture to determine their theology). Not only did English translators dump these four very different words into one meaning, they were not even consistent with it and chose to translate these same words with different meanings in different places. It is no wonder that English readers of the Bible are confused.

If one examines what the early Church Fathers wrote about “hell” and the afterlife, it will be seen that they too understood that there is no place called hell, and that both paradise and torment came from being in God’s presence in the afterlife.

When you examine what the Roman Catholic Church teaches and what most Protestants believe about the afterlife, and compare that with the scriptures and early Church beliefs, you find large disparities. You will also find their innovative doctrines were not drawn from the Bible or historic Church doctrine, but rather from the mythology of the Middle Ages, juridical concepts, and enlightenment rationalizations, all alien to early Christian thought.

The Afterlife According to the Hebrew Scriptures

Sheol is one word sometimes translated as “Hell” in the Old Testament. In Hebrew, this word is a proper noun, that is a name or title, so properly it should not have been translated but simply transliterated, as is done with other names. The literal meaning of this Hebrew word is simply “subterranean retreat”. Sheol was not understood as a physical place since it exists in the spirit world, but it is a spiritual “place” associated with dead people. It was understood that when a person dies, their body is buried, and their soul goes to reside in Sheol. That is the fate for all people who die, both the righteous and the wicked. According to Hebrew scholars, anything more detailed is conjecture and speculation.

Sheol was translated as “hell” in a number of places where it was indicating a place for the wicked, which is consistent with western thought. But it was also translated as “grave” and as “pit” in a number of other places where it was clearly not a place of the wicked. Yet there are other Hebrew words for grave and pit, so why did it not occur to the translators that if the author wanted to mean pit or grave they would have used them? It can been seen that where Sheol fit the translators’ idea of hell as a place of torment, they interpreted it one way, as hell, and simply used the word another way if it did not, confusing those who are trying to understand the Scriptures in translation.

In historic Jewish understanding, it is the perception of the individual in Sheol that makes the difference. This same “place” called Sheol is experienced by the righteous as “gen eiden”, the Garden of Eden or Paradise, i.e. “heaven”. Moreover, Sheol is experienced by the wicked as the “fires of gehennom”, i.e. punishment or “hell”.

What is it that causes this same place to be experienced differently by the righteous and the wicked? According to the Jews (and by inheritance, the Christians as well) it is the very presence of God. Since God fills all things and dwells everywhere in the spirit world, there is nowhere apart from Him. Moreover, evil sinners, the enemies of God, experience His presence, His Shechinah glory, as punishment. Yet the righteous bask in that same glory, and experience it as the love and joy of God, as Paradise.

Consider Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, who refused to worship the idol in Babylon (Daniel 3). They were thrown by King Nebuchadnezzer into the “fiery furnace” which was heated “seven times more”. The significance of “seven” is a number symbolic of the “furnace” of Heaven, the place where God dwells. The three Jews were unharmed by the fire where one “like the Son of God” was among them. However, the same flames of fire killed the king’s “most mighty” soldiers. This is an analogy to how the presence of God is light and warmth to those who love him, and pain and destruction to those who oppose him, yet it is the same “fire.”

It’s also useful to consider the ancient Greco-Roman pagan understanding of the heavens and Hades. Though it was not fundamental to Hebrew theology, the Greek view was still sometimes referenced or borrowed, because these ideas were familiar and prevalent in the culture.

The ancient pagan Greek view, later adopted by the Romans, was that heaven was a physical place up in the sky. The word for heaven is used interchangeably with the location of the objects of the sky, as in “heavenly bodies”, and for the dwelling place of the gods. That is why the Greek word for heaven and sky is the same; there was no distinction made between them in the earliest writings, but eventually they were also understood to be more as a metaphor for the spiritual heaven.

For the ancient pagan Greeks, Hades was a place, but was sometimes also personified in folk mythology. The physical place was where all humans go when they die, a site located at the center of the earth. Like Sheol, it was the final abode of all humans, but unlike Sheol, it was taken to be a geographic site, the literal “underworld” in folk mythology. It was also taken as a metaphor for the place of final rest. Hades was also sometimes taken as the name of the ruler of this place, the pagan god Hades, also known as Pluton by the Romans.

In Greco-Roman mythology Heaven was reserved only for the gods, and after death mere mortals could only hope to find a safe place in Hades to spend eternity. The early Greco-Roman Hades was a very literal and even primitive concept, compared to the Jews’ more spiritual Sheol. If a person was dead, they were in Hades, and there was no other option; only a very rare few heroes challenged the gods of the heavens and were immortalized in the stars.

The pre-Christian Greek language had thus developed in this kind of world view, both heaven and Hades as a physical and literal existence up in the sky, or down under the ground. Although these later became more metaphorical in more developed pagan writings, from this is where the universal concept of “up” for heaven or Paradise, and “down” for the place of the dead came. It is used metaphorically by both the Jews and pagans to describe mankind’s relationship with God, and so became a universal cultural concept. This is why there are so many Biblical references to God being “up” in heaven, and Sheol being “down” in the “under parts of the earth”. However, neither the Jews nor the early Christians took these ideas literally as the ancient Greeks and Romans may have, but understood “up” and “down” as spiritual rather than physical realities.

For the Jews and early Christians, even Sheol was not separated from God. Translating directly from the Greek of the Septuagint Palms 139:7 and 8 “Where can I go away from your spirit? And away from your presence, where can I flee? If I go up into heaven, you are there. If I go down into Hades, there is your presence.”

When Jewish scholars translated their scriptures into Greek in the third century BC, they used the Greek word Hades interchangeably for the Hebrew Sheol in the Septuagint. Strictly speaking, the pagan understanding was very different, but Jewish scholars adapted “Hades” for their use. It is one of many examples of changed, allegorical, or metaphorical non-Hebrew words used in the Bible borrowed from Greek pagan mythology. In the New Testament, Hades is used in a number of places as the Greek equivalent to Sheol as well.

In the Hebrew Scriptures, or Old Testament, Sheol is translated 31 times as Hell in the King James Bible, and similarly in the Revised Standard and NRSV. In a number of other places it is translated as “grave” or “pit” and once even as “dust”. It appears the translators did not have a very consistent understanding as to what Sheol means, translating the same word differently in different places. The idea of “Hell” as a physical place of torment, apart from the presence of God, had already taken root, and the translation fit the preconception rather than the original meaning of the word.

Gehennah is another word translated as “hell”. It was known to the Jews as a physical place, a valley outside to the south of Jerusalem. It literally means in Hebrew “valley of the sons of Hennah”. Here child sacrifices were once made to the pagan god Molech. Gehennah is mentioned in 2 Chronicles 28:3 and 33:6, and Jeremiah 7:31, 19:2-6, and appears in many traditional extra-Biblical Jewish writings. After this area came under Jewish control a memorial fire was kept burning there. Later it became a dumping place for refuse, dead animals, and eventually prisoners’ bodies, or the bodies of the poor that were not claimed by any family. Trash fires were kept continually burning there for sanitary reasons. It was like many landfills: a smoky, foul-smelling place with carrion-eating birds circling overhead.

By the time of Jesus this place became a well known metaphor for the fate of those condemned and judged by God. Expressions like “the fiery pit” or the “fires of Gehennah” were equivalent to the unrighteous’ experience of God’s presence. Gehennah was the place where evil and sinful people ended up. In Jewish mystical writings it was believed that this place is where the final destruction of the wicked would occur at Messiah’s arrival. Because this is when the resurrection would occur, all the evil lawbreakers would be resurrected and standing in Gehennah when God reclaims the earth. In the final battle, God’s enemies, the evil ones, would be burned up, “As wax melts before the fire, so let the wicked perish at the presence of God” as it says in Psalm 68. Jesus affirmed and clarified this teaching and Christians now believe this will occur on Messiah’s return.

This experience of Gehennah was used as an analogy to express what happens to those who oppose the God of the Jews. Yet even it was not a place God “sends” people. The fire itself was understood to be how the wicked experienced the Shechinah glory of God, as a burning judgment fire.

Therefore, usage of this word is interchangeable with “judgment”, and quite different than Sheol. To be forgiven of your offenses was to be rescued from “the fiery pit”, or rescued from judgment. You would still go to Sheol until the resurrection, but in glory rather than in torment.

Notice however that in English, the translators rendered Gehennah as the “valley the sons of Hennah” in some places in the scriptures and in other places as “hell,” rather than just making a direct translation of the words wherever it appears. This confuses the reader, who could get a more consistent understanding of the meaning of the word if it was rendered accurately as “Gehennah” every time, or more properly as “the Valley of the Sons of Hennah”.

There are numerous references to God’s presence being like fire in the Hebrew Scriptures. In addition, before the invention of the electric light, any reference to “light” meant “fire” in one form or another. For example, “The Lord thy God is a consuming fire” (Numbers); God “…appeared to [Moses] in a flame of fire out of the midst of the bush,” (Exodus); “The fire of the Lord burns among them” (Numbers); “the Lord descends upon it in fire” (Exodus); “You have refined us as silver in a fire” (Psalms); and “Who makes His angels spirits, His ministers a flame of fire” (Psalms). These are a few of the many Old Testament references to God being perceived as fire; it was how the Jews understood humans experience God’s Shechinah glory.

No human could bear to look at the blazing holy presence of God: not Moses, who hid his face, not Abraham, not Adam or Eve after they fell from Grace. No human could look at the face of God and live to tell about it.

God is described as fire in the following verses; Gen 19:24, Ex 3:2, 9:23, 13;21-22, 19:18, Num 11:1-3, 4:24, Ne 9:12, Ps 66:10, 104:4, Is 66:15, among others places.

Another interesting word study to examine is the Hebrew words used in the Old Testament when describing how God “punishes” people in the English bibles. Ten different Hebrew words are translated as “punish” in this context, yet none carries our meaning of punishment in English. The most common word “paqad” rendered 31 times as punish, simply means “to visit” or “to remember.” The word “anash” [used 5 times] simply means “to urge” or “compel”, “chasak” [occurs 3 times] means to restrain, “avown” [used 12 times] means sin. This also implies the cost or penalty for being evil or causing offence. One interesting word translated as punish, “yakar” means to chastise, but also means “to add value” as in chastising a child makes him more valuable. There are a few others words rendered as punish, but they occur only once each. As can be seen, none of these words clearly indicates that God does the punishing. Apparently for the translators, every time God visits or remembers His people, he is “punishing” them, but that is not how Jews understand this word. Nor would Jews automatically assume that a visit from God was a bad thing, either.

This kind of translation seems attributable to a presupposition of what these words mean, and intrinsically changes the meanings of these words from the original intent. The translators’ own incorrect ideas have clouded their objectivity, an all-too-frequent occurrence with virtually all western language Bibles.

The Afterlife According to the New Testament

Jesus and the Apostles were all Jews of course, as were nearly all the members of the first Christian Church. The first Christians saw themselves as inheritors of the covenant of Abraham, and the early Church of course had no New Testament, so they naturally understood the afterlife in the terms of the Old Testament. The Gospels and all of the epistles affirm this understanding as well, when read in the original Greek.

In the Gospel story of Lazarus and the Rich Man, Jesus clearly states that they both end up in the same place, in Hades. Hades of course is used to mean the same thing as Hebrew “Sheol,” it simply means the place everyone goes when they die. In Hades they can see each other and talk to each other, although they are far off from each other. “And in Hades, he lifts up his eyes, being in torment, and sees Abraham far off, and Lazarus in his bosom.” [Luke 16:23]. All of them are in Ha rus received bad things, but now he is comforted, and you are in pain”. See how he contrasts “but now” (in death), one is comforted, the other in torment. Neither does it says that God is punishing him, he is simply “in pain” while there. They were separated by a large gulf, but it is clearly spiritual and not physical, since they are not in the physical world, for neither would the Rich Man have a physical tongue to cool with physical water from Lazarus’ physical finger. So it is a gulf that exists in the heart, a spiritual gulf that causes us to experience God’s loving presence as paradise or torment. A gulf that was not placed there by God, but rather created by the choices and actions of the sinner.

Hades is translated as hell ten times in the New Testament, but it is also translated as “grave” in 1 Cor 15:55, another point of inconsistency.

In Revelation Chapter 20, it states that Death and Hades gave up their dead, and Death and Hades are placed in the lake of fire when God reclaims the world. If the ones in Hades were judged and will be in torment for eternity “far from the Lord” as so many think, why would these same ones be released from Hades when God returns? It is because all who have died reside in “Death and Hades” until that moment, when Death and Hades can no longer exist because God is present. The “lake of fire and brimstone” into which Death and Hades is placed, in the Greek would be grammatically correct to translate as the “lake of fire and divinity”, or even “the lake of divine fire”. When Death and Hades is placed in the fiery presence of God, in the “lake of divine fire”, it is destroyed, because it is in the very presence of God, death can not exist when God is present.

It is interesting to examine the Greek word for “divine”, it is from the Greek “theion”, which could also mean “divine being”, but also means “sulfur’, or in Old English “brimstone” [lit. ‘burning stone’]. As strange as that sounds to us, it is because of the ancient understanding of the cosmic order of the nature of all things. All people in all cultures from the Near East to the West understood that there were four ‘elements’, these were: Earth, Air, Fire, and Water. Their nature was that Earth and Water tended to go down toward Hades, and Air and Fire tended to go up toward heaven. This could plainly be seen when the heavenly fire, lighting, would hit a living tree and burn the “life” out of it. Anyone could see that the heat from the tree would go back to heaven in the fire, and the ash that remained would go down into the ground. But there was this mysterious yellowish earth substance that behaved very differently, when placed in a fire it burn so brightly that your eyes could not bear to look at it. As it burned, it would release the heavenly substance that was trapped inside and it would rise back to heaven. Clearly, this “burning stone” was a divine substance, and as such, it was simply called “divinity. It was burned within a new temple to “purify” it before consecration, presumably when this burning stone released it’s divinity, it causes all evil things to flee from the temple, and thus was the temple readied for worship.

Yet the word ‘theion’ is translated as “brimstone” or “sulfur” in Luke 17:29, Rev. 9:17, 14:10, 20:10, 21:8, which is where ‘fire and brimstone’ comes out of heaven, but it is equally interchange with the words “divine fire”. Since this did not fit the translators’ preconceived ideas, it is rendered always as brimstone in this context.

Elsewhere in Revelation it states that the “heat comes out of heaven” and burns the enemies of God, yet does not harm the ones with God’s seal on their foreheads. So the same heat, the heat that is the very life and light that comes from God, burns the sinners, and does not harm the ones that love God.

Again, in many places God’s presence and appearance is described as fire in the New Testament as well as in the Old. Examine for example, Matt 31:10-12, 25:41, Mark 9:49, Luke 12:49, Act 7:30, 1Cor 3:15, Heb 1:7, 12:29, Rev 3:18 and in numerous other places.

Typical is the verse where John the Baptist says “I baptize you with water, but the One that comes after me will baptize you with fire”. The author of Hebrews writes that God is a consuming fire. Paul also writes that God is like the jeweler who burns gold in the fire to purify it. Jesus Himself states the he brings “fire” to the earth. That is, “divine fire”.

Everywhere in the New Testament when humans come face to face with the Transfigured Jesus they cannot look at Him: Peter, James and John on Mt. Tabor, Paul on the road to Damascus– humans hid their face and fell down in fear and trembling when confronted with the revelation of Jesus as Almighty God. Old Testament figures did the same, but now, in the New Testament, it is revealed that this “holy” fire is present when Jesus reveals his nature. This is because Jesus is the incarnate God of the Old Testament.

A couple of these descriptions of the fire of God’s presence are worth examining closely. Paul writes in 1 Cor 3:13 “Every man’s work shall be made manifest…because it shall be revealed by fire, and the fire shall try every man’s work of what sort it is.” In Mark 9:49 Jesus says “For everyone will be salted with fire” (interestingly, in Greek this sentence has the grammatical structure of an obvious statement of fact, similar to “for [everyone knows that] everyone will be salted with fire”). Peter repeats this idea in 2Peter 3:7 “but now, by the same Word [that is Jesus], heaven and earth are saved and kept for fire on the day of judgment, and the destruction of impious men.”

So clearly everyone experiences this fire caused by the presence of God. The Bible tells us there is no place apart from God, that he is everywhere and fills all things, so how can He create a place apart from Him? Moreover, why would He create a place just to punish the ones He says He loves unconditionally? That is not the nature of a loving God.

Since God is everywhere and fills all things, in the spirit world there is nowhere to escape from God even if you wanted to [Ps 139:7-8].

Translating 2 Thess 1:7-8 from the Greek literally, St. Paul tells the persecuted Thessalonians that they will “get relief at the revelation of the Lord Jesus coming out from heaven with His powerful angels in flames of fire”. Yet this same presence of Jesus causes the ones persecuting them to “…be punished with everlasting destruction BECAUSE OF [Gr. “apo”] the presence of the Lord, and BECAUSE OF his mighty glory” (2 Thess 1:9). Further on Paul writes in 2Thess 2:8 that “the lawless one, whom the Lord Jesus will destroy by the breath [or “spirit”] of his mouth and make ineffective by the fantastic appearance of his presence”. So the mere presence of Jesus makes the “lawless one” ineffective, yet gives relief and comfort to the Thessalonians.

Unfortunately many English translations insert a word that is not there in the Greek in verse 1:9, adding the idea that the wicked will be “separated” or “cut off” from the Lord’s presence. This is a totally different meaning, and if Paul had wanted to say this he would have used the word “schizo,” which is where we get the word for “scissors” and “schizophrenia” [lit. divided-mind]. The Greek word “apo” that Paul uses here is a preposition that indicates cause or direction: “because of,” “out of,” “caused by,” “from,” etc. The word “apo” appears 442 times in the New Testament, and it is NEVER used to indicate separation, location or position. For example “Apostles” in Greek “apo-stolon” literally means “those sent out from the fleet.” The word “Apocalypse” literally means “out from cover,” i.e. to reveal, hence the Book of Revelation. Also interesting is the word “apostate” which in Greek literally means “out from standing”. If you where once in a condition to stand in God’s presence, then “fell” away, you would not be able to stand any longer; you would be “out from standing,” cowering and trying to hide from His presence.

The history of the English word “hell” is also revealing. The Old English word from which hell is derived is “helan”, which means to hide or cover, and is a verb. So at one time the English church understood that to be judged a sinner meant one would cower and want to hide in fear when in God’s presence. Unfortunately, because of the political expedience of controlling an often rebellious population, corrupt rules in the West, in collusion with corrupt clergy, and adopting ideas from non-Biblical yet popular fantasy novels such as Dante’s Inferno, corrupted the use of this word during the middle ages. Eventually turning a verb into a noun by popular usage, even if theologically insupportable from the Bible.

It is tragic that modern translators would insert the word “far from” or “cut off from” into 2 Thess 1:9, apparently because they had a preconception about what Paul was trying to say so they altered the text to fit. They added this little “clarifying” word that is not in the Greek text at all, changing the meaning and inserting their own ideas. If your preconceived idea is that Hell is a “place” that an angry God sends people away from his presence, in order to punish and hurt them, you would expect and look for ways that Scripture would support your idea.

Clearly, when you read the Bible in the original languages you learn that there is no place apart from God, and there is no place that God put you to punish you. What scripture reveals is that all eventually will be in the fiery presence of the Lord, and this presence will be either “eternal torment” or “comfort and glory”. Judgment and paradise both come from being in God’s presence.

Another word translated incorrectly as Hell appears in 2 Peter 2:4. Saint Peter is warning about the swift destruction of false prophets and false teachers. In the Greek grammar he uses an obvious statement of fact by stating “For if God did not spare the sinning angels, but rather places them down in Tartarus, reserved for [a future] judgment…..the Lord knows how to deliver the godly out of trials, and to reserve the unjust until the day of judgment.” [2:9].

The word Tartarus is also a proper noun, that is a name of a place, and accordingly should not be changed into a different word, and certainly not the same word that used for Hades and Gehennah.

Tartarus originally came from Greek mythology and popular folk tales. It is the name of a prison in Hades that Zeus, after triumphing over the Titans, placed them, bound in chains to hold them for future punishment for crimes against humans. It was metaphorically seen as the place where justice was metered out in the spirit world, and this metaphor often found it’s way into Jewish apocryphal writings about the end times. Saint Peter borrows this term and uses it in exactly the same way as it was used in popular contemporary writings by both Greeks and Jews; it is a place where “sinning angels” are bound and imprisoned, awaiting a future punishment. They are bound by God to prevent them from doing further harm, and they are judged for crimes against humanity. This image is seen in the ancient icon of the Resurrection, metaphorically depicted are “dark” angels, or demons, being bound in chains under the feet of the resurrected Christ, who broke the bonds of death and rendered powerless the “sinning angels”. Remember from 2 Thessalonians, where Saint Paul writes that the power of the presence of Christ made the “lawless One” powerless, and gave comfort to the Christians, which is exactly the same idea that Saint Peter is writing about in 2 Peter 2:4 through 9.

Again the translators made an improper interpretation of this passage because of preconceived ideas about the afterlife, changing the meaning and only adding to the confusion for English speaking Christians.

Also totally absent from the scriptures is any hint that demons are tormenting sinners. This again comes from Dante’s Inferno and other pagan concepts, not from the Bible. Because any “sinning angels” in the presence of God, are also in torment, and their power is made ineffective.

The Afterlife According to the Church Fathers

After the Gospels and Epistles were composed, in the centuries before Christians decided exactly which books would be in the New Testament, many gifted believers wrote books of commentary, sermons, apologetics, and stories of martyrdom. These eloquent early Christian writers confirm the Biblical view of the afterlife and add some clarifying details.

St. Ignatious of Antioch, in the late first and early second century, describe God as the furnace that a craftsman uses to temper a sword. When a properly prepared sword is placed within the fire, it makes it stronger and the sword takes on the properties of the fire, it gives off heat and light. However, this same fire will melt and destroy a sword that was not properly prepared.

St. Isaac the Syrian in the sixth century writes “Paradise is the love of God” and he also writes “…those who are punished in Gehannah, are scourged by the scourge of love”. So the “fire” is the love of God, and we experience His love as either divine love, or as painful “scourge”.

St. Basil the Great (fourth century) points out that the Three Children thrown into the fiery furnace were unharmed by the fire, yet the same fire burned and killed the servants at the entrance to the furnace.

According to St Gregory the Theologian, God Himself is Paradise and punishment for man, since each man tastes God’s “energies” (His perceptible presence) according to the condition of his soul. St. Gregory further advises the next life will be “light for those whose mind is purified… in proportion to their degree of purity” and darkness “to those who have blinded their ruling organ [meaning the “mind”]…in proportion to their blindness…”

St. Cyril of Jerusalem writes about the Second Coming of Christ, “the sign of the Cross [at His returning] will be terror to His foes, but joy to His friends who have believed in Him”.

Lactantius (AD 260-330) wrote that on His return “there comes before Him an unquenchable fire”.

St. John Chrysostom (AD 344-407) wrote [in homily LXXVI] “let us clothe ourselves with spiritual fire, let us gird ourselves with its flame. No man who bears flame fears those who meet him; be it wild beast, be it man, be it snares innumerable, so long as he is armed with fire, all things stand out of his way, all things retire. The flame is intolerable, the fire can not be endured, it consumes all. With this fire let us clothe ourselves, offering up glory to our Lord Jesus Christ, with whom the Father, together with the Holy Spirit, be glory, might, honor, now and ever and world without end. Amen.”

A prayer of St. Simeon the Translator goes: “…Thou who art a fire consuming the unworthy, consume me not, O my Creator, but rather pass through all my body parts, into all my joints, my veins, my heart. Burn Thou the thorns of all my transgressions, Cleanse my soul and hallow Thou my thoughts [etc.] …that from me, every evil deed and every passion may flee as from fire…”

The Holy Orthodox Church, in keeping with Scripture and the most ancient Christian doctrine, teaches that all people come into the presence of God in the afterlife. Some will bask in joy because of that infinite love, glory, light, power, and truth that is Almighty God. Others will cower in fear and be in torment DUE TO THAT SAME PRESENCE. All the same, there will be some kind of separation or “great gulf”.

“Life” in the Orthodox Church as defined by the Fathers, is experiencing the perfect, pure and infinite love of God in ultimate harmony and intimacy for eternity, and “death” is experiencing God’s energies in torment, darkness and disharmony for eternity. It is only through Christ that we come to that place of perfect harmony, in this life, in this world. The goal of the Christian is not to get to “heaven” in the after life, but rather to come to a state of constant communion with the Holy Spirit, beginning in this life. We may bask in the presence of God’s glory here and now, and in the afterlife for eternity.

Accordingly, from ancient times icons have shown the Saints dwelling in a place filled with the golden, uncreated divine light of God. With the icon we symbolically peer through this “window” into the spirit realm infused with God’s energies. In the icon of the Heavenly Kingdom, we see Christ enthroned in the center as God Almighty, surround with the host of angels, His mother the Theotokos, and all the saints. However, at His feet you see others, also in His presence, who are being burned and tormented due to just being there, and have no escape. The larger more elaborate icons of the Resurrection show the Old Testament saints with halos looking on with joy, and others without halos on the other side of the gulf, looking on in fear and confusion, as Christ frees the captives of Death. He rescues all of humanity (represented by Adam and Eve being pulled from the tomb) and all of creation with them, from the beginning of time to the end of time.

It is not God’s intention that his love will torment us, but that will be the inevitable result of pursuing our own selfish desires instead of seeking God. When we are in harmony with God, we will bask in that presence. Yet, if we desire our own will and are in disharmony with God, we suffer in His presence. Satan is evil not just because he harms others, but because he is an angel of light who stands in the presence of God yet chooses to pursue his own selfish desires, which causes him to tremble in fear. Satan and his fallen angels, the demons, were thrown to the earth and he became the ‘god of this world’. It can be speculated that Satan and his demons are on the earth because it is the only place they can escape God’s presence, if only temporarily. This is why they will suffer for eternity after God reclaims the world at the end of this age, filling It with his presence. Then there will be nowhere to escape God, for both demons and evildoers.

So “hell” is not a “place” but rather a condition we allow ourselves to be in, not because of God’s “justice” but because of our own selfish and sinful disobedience. In other words, we put ourselves in “hell” when we do anything other than seeking God’s will. It is not that God wants to harm us; He loves us unconditionally, but torment is the result of coming into His pure presence when we are in an impure condition.

It is like spending your whole life in a cave or basement in darkness, never seeing the sun, then suddenly being thrust into bright sunshine. Your skin will burn, your eyes will burn, you will want to bury yourself under the rocks to try and escape this terrible thing pouring down on you, but there is no escape, just as described in Revelation. However, if you expose yourself to the sun regularly and often, eventually you will want nothing but to bask it the warmth and light of the sunshine. The same sunshine that torments one person brings warmth and pleasure to another. Similarly, if you get too close to the sun, you will be burned, not because the sun wants to burn you, because it is the sun’s nature.

Roman Catholic and Protestant Understanding

It is clear from the Scriptures and the Church Fathers there is no room in the afterlife for Purgatory, limbo, or any place apart from God, nor for Calvin’s idea of predestination and “divine justice”.

Neither in scripture, nor in the writings of the Saints do we see any such innovation as Purgatory or even of Hell as a place of torment apart from God.

Purgatory, according to the “Catechism of the Catholic Church” article 1030-1031, is defined as the place of “All who die in God’s grace and friendship, but still imperfectly purified…after death they undergo purification, so as to achieve the holiness necessary to enter the joy of heaven.” The more purging that is necessary, the longer one must spend in purgatory. Further, in article 1032, “The Church also commends almsgiving, indulgences, and works of penance undertaken on behalf of the dead…” presumably to hasten how quickly one may complete this purging.

Built into this uniquely Roman Catholic doctrine is the assumption that in the afterlife we would experience time passing the same way we do in the physical world. This is a mistake because there are enough hints in Scripture that time as we know it does not exist in the spirit world. For example: “… one day with the Lord is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day”. (2 Peter 3:8). Also the idea that the return of Christ is immanent, in addition to the prevalent use of the word ‘eternal’ throughout the Old and New Testaments. In the Revelation of St. John many scholars believe that St. John is not describing sequential events (which would be nonsensical, since the narrative jumps around so much) but the Saint is rather seeing all the events occurring simultaneously. It is like he is in a room with all this activity happening at once, and he says “then I turned and I saw…”. He is describing the sequence in which he sees the visions, but that is not necessarily in the order that the events occurred.

Even modern science tells us that time and space are connected. Without physical space [i.e. creation], there is no time.

So it is very speculative to assume that time passes outside of creation the same way it does here. No sound doctrine can be built based on this assumption.

The Orthodox believe, from Scripture and the writings of the saints, that because God is perfect he does not change. However, imperfect humanity continues to change. So when someone in an imperfect “forever changing” condition comes into God’s pure unchanging presence, it is experienced as darkness and torment. Presumably, at the time of death we lose the ability to change, since our condition will be “consolidated” by being “caught” in the pure, unchanging presence of God, which will also occur to the living at the Apocalypse. The idea of changing in Purgatory is incompatible with the timeless, changeless nature of the afterlife.

Furthermore, nowhere in the original language of the Bible does the Calvinistic idea occur of a place of “hellfire” torment, created especially by God so He can punish those he judges for eternity. Why would a God who loves us unconditionally torment us for eternity, because of an equally unbiblical notion of Divine Justice? In fact nowhere in the Bible does it explicitly state that it is God that punishes the sinners. If you put your hand in the fireplace, is it the fire’s intention to punish you? Or is the torment you experience caused by your own foolish action? It is merely the nature of the fire to burn your unprotected skin.

Uncreated Energies

The understanding of heaven and “punishment” [hell] in historic Christianity is inextricably linked to the biblical concept of the Uncreated Light of God. The Uncreated Energies (or “Light” the purest form of energy) are understood by the Orthodox to be the Energies of God. This Energy is the “consuming fire”, the Shechinah glory, the fire that burns gold to purify it, as St. Paul writes. It is the fire that burns the weeds left in the field, the fire that burns the pruned branches, it is the lake of divine fire, and the thirst and burning that torments the Rich Man is this same Uncreated Energy. Yet, the same fire that torments the impure gives warmth and comfort to the pure of heart.

In fact the Greek word “energeia”, and it’s various forms, appears over 30 times in the new Testament, yet it is not translated as “energy” even once in most popular English translations. It is variously rendered as operation, strong, do, in-working, effectual, be mighty in, shew forth self, and even simply dropped out of the sentence; everything except what it means. Yet, this word was well established in the Greek language in the first century. It was first used by Aristotle, some three centuries before Christ, as a noun, as “energy” in the metaphysical sense- which was borrowed in recent years in English as an engineering term. But even in a modern metaphysical sense, it is exactly as the ancient Greeks use the word, because it is the same word. Yet the translators insisted on ignoring how this word is actually used by Greek speakers and distorted it into a number of verbs and adjectives (or simply drop it from the verse), which leaves only confusion and misunderstanding for English readers.

When we are energized by the Divine Energies, we will radiate the pure Light of God. Translating directly from the Greek, Saint Paul writes to the Philippians [2:13] “For it is God who is energizing in you, according to His will and to energize for the sake of His being well-pleased.” In verse 3:21 he further writes “[Christ] who will change the appearance of our humble bodies to take on the form of the body of His glory, through the energization of his Power…” And to the Ephesians in verse 1:19 “and what exceeding greatness of his power, in us who believe, through the energization of His mighty strength, energized in Christ, raising him from the dead and seating him in the right hand of Him in the heavens” So this energy “in us” changes our bodies to glory, and was the same energy that raised Christ from the dead. This energy is in fact, the Grace of God, in Eph 3:7 St. Paul writes “That I was made an attendant through the gift of the Grace of God, granted to me by the energization of his Power”.

This same Energy also has the power to heal, as St. James writes [5:16] “Therefore confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another, so that you may be healed, prayers energized by a righteous one are very powerful”. This same energy comes from the “one” that restrains evil, in II Thess 2:7 St. Paul writes “For already the mysterious lawless one is only restrained now by the Energies, until he comes out of the midst of it”

Receiving this Divine Energy is the results of faith in the true God, as St. Paul tells the Thessalonians in I Thess 2:12 “…[you received] …the true Logos of God, which also energizes in you believers”. Moreover, to the Galatians he asks a rhetorical question with an obvious answer [3:5] “Indeed, would it not be in vain, if the One providing you the Spirit and the powerful Energies in you, were by works of the law, or rather by hearing in faith?”

There are many stories in the historic tradition, both ancient and relatively modern, that tell of the saints radiating light when they pray (for example St. Mary of Egypt, St. Sava, St. Mathew of Ethiopia, and others). The Light that Christ radiated on mount Tabor during the Transfiguration is this Uncreated Light, seen in Christ revealing his true nature. The halos in icons are not rings or crowns (as often wrongly represented in western religious art) but rather a sphere of light, like the sphere of light around a candle in a dark room. This light that Christ, his mother the Theotokos, the angels and saints radiate in the icon is this Uncreated Light of God.

This is the Transforming Light that “makes all things new”. Salvation is in fact this Energy assimilating us to God, “divinizing” the believers, making us “Christ-like”, through the Energization of the Power of God. When we are in perfect harmony with God, the Holy Spirit energizes within us, and we too radiate this Uncreated Light. All of the saints radiate this Light of Christ. Interestingly, in properly rendered icons none of the Apostles have halos until after Pentecost, when the Holy Spirit was poured out into the Church. This event, the Pentecost, is when the Apostles were “assimilated” into divination, transforming them [literally in the Greek “metamorphoses”] into Holy beings, into “non-earthy ones” (lit. in the Greek), and when, according to Tradition, the Holy Church had begun.

The Energy is Uncreated because it existed before creation, it is the Light and Truth and the Love and the Life that IS God. When we have that Truth, Love and Life of God, than we too will radiate this Divine Light.

The ancients understood that light was the purest form of energy. This is why there are so many biblical allusions to the sun for God. The sun was the source of “pure” light, life and heat, and this created light was likened to the Uncreated Light of God, the source of Everlasting “Zoe” and “Zesty”, spiritual “life” and “heat” or more properly “vitality”. This is why the term “illuminated” is used to describe the saints who saw these “divinizing” Visions in Heaven. In fact, it is impossible to properly understand the role of Light in theology if you do not understand it from the Light-Energy perspective.

Yet, Saint Paul also cautions the Roman about this Energy in 7:5 “for when we were in the flesh, passionate for sins according to the law, the Energy in our members brings fourth the fruit of death”. And likewise he warns the Corinthians [II Cor 4:12] “For this reason it energizes death in us, though it is Life in you”. And in Hebrews 4:12 another sober warning “For the living Logos of God, and [the living] Energies, also sharper than a two edged sword, passing through, dividing both soul and spirit, joints from marrows, judging the thought and intents of the heart”. Note in this last verse in English bibles, the word “Energies” is just dropped from the text, yet the clear implication in the Greek is that the “logos” is one edge, and the “energy” is the other edge of the sword. Implying quite literally, without this Energy, one is not fully armed.

When we come face to face with this powerful Uncreated Light in an impure and sinful condition, we cower in fear and pain, for our impurities are revealed and “burned” by this illuminating Energy. Yet those who love God and want nothing but to be in constant communion with God, will strive towards purity and will bask in glory in this same Light. The same Energy that causes eternal death in the sinful, purifies and strengthens the faithful.

This is at the root of difference between the Eastern Orthodox and Western Christianity, whether Protestant or Roman Catholic, this biblical concept of the Uncreated Energies of God. In the west, the mystery of the Divine Energies was abandoned because it could not be understood outside of the metaphysical perspective, and therefore juridical socialistic rationalism was adopted. The west continues to flounder in darkness and is unarmed against the influence of the enemies of God, and therefore continues to innovate false theologies.

Tragically, in the west a few centuries after the Great Schism (1054 AD) an innovation (i.e. heresy) developed as a result of an attempt to rationalize God’s purifying fires. Latin theologians surmised that God created a place called purgatory with purging fires to “purify” those that die with imperfect atonement, and they further rationalized that paying indulgences could buy your loved ones out of these painful purging fires faster. This rationalization also helped keep the church prosperous and coffers full.

The western ideas had its roots in Augustinian theology (who was influenced by the Greek pagan philosophers). Unfortunately Augustine could not read Greek and had to devise his own theology from imperfect Latin translations. Late in his life he recanted much of his earlier writings, an act which was ignored in the West. Both Luther and Calvin developed their own theologies from Augustine’s erroneous writings, and ignoring Augustine’s later retraction. This is how the pagan notion of a God that both punishes and rewards made its way into western Christian theologies. Another major influence was the 13th century fantasy novelist Dante, who’s political satire known as the Inferno borrowed heavily from pagan mythology and bears little resemblance to Biblical eschatology.

Some Orthodox would contend that the western God, who both claims to love us, but also would condemn us to eternal punishment, is a schizophrenic God. It is reminiscent of the abusive groom who claims to love his bride but can not stop punishing her.

Calvin further rationalized if God is all knowing, then He knows who will be saved and who will not even before they are born, so therefore He must have created some people just so He can torment them in Hell for eternity. This is the infamous “predestination” of Calvin, which makes God the author of evil. This is not Biblical and certainly not Christian. Ultimately this doctrine denies free will, the choice that all humans have to either pursue righteousness, or selfishness.

Therefore the difference in the understanding of the Uncreated Energies is not just a difference between Roman Catholicism and Orthodoxy, it is a difference between almost all of the heterodox and the Orthodox.

In Conclusion

There is no “place” of torment, or even a “place” apart from God, because there is no “place” at all; you are outside of time and space. The “place” is actually a condition of either punishment (“hell”) or paradise (“heaven”) depending on how you experience the presence of God and His Uncreated Engergies.

Consider a person who hates God, and anything to do with religion, and has done nothing but pursued his own self-centered desires all his life. It would be far more terrifying, and painful, to spend eternity in the fiery embrace of God’s almighty and divine love with no escape, than to be far from Him.

Experiencing God’s presence and His in-filling transforming Energies in glory or in torment, as Paradise or as Punishment, is the heaven and hell of the Bible. Not something God did to us, but rather something we did to ourselves. God unconditionally pours out His love on all, WHETHER WE WANT IT OR NOT, whether we are ready for it or not, when we enter the afterlife. This is why the Gospel or “good news” of Jesus Christ should be shared with all people, of all nations, in all tongues. For there is nothing to fear from God’s perfect love, since love casts out all fear.

However, it is not totally wrong to understand the after life as “type” of Heaven and Hell. Because from each individual’s perspective, it will not be perceived as the same “place”, but rather as either torment and darkness you can not escape, or as the paradise you have always longed for. For those judged, they will experience God’s presence as eternal darkness and torment. Though it is very important to keep in mind what is the cause of either of these conditions, or one could reach very wrong conclusions about the nature of God, as they have in western theologies. To misrepresent the nature of a loving God would cause one to conclude that it was God’s intention to punish his creation. Indeed, one blasphemes the reputation of the God of the Bible when you make him into an angry vengeful god that punishes His creation. The cause of the torment is the poor choices that we make, not God. If one thinks of these two different “places” as conditions that we choose to be in, rather than “compartments” God puts us in, it would be more accurate.

And it will certainly be “paradise” to finally experience His Divine Love up close and in person for those who seek it. It is all in the perception.

Such is the nature of a loving God. For God is God.

The Danger of False Humility

In Colossians Chapter 2, St. Paul warns us of those who demonstrate false humility. False humility is the subversive tactic of wolves as they display mere clothing of a shepherd or other type of honest and caring person. It’s not always easy to identify and can turn into an extremely arrogant accusation if not carefully sought. Judas, when he kissed Jesus, is an obvious example of false humility. But what about those that put the “kiss of Judas” into words and actions according to customs and tactics of today’s society? In other words, we are not looking for someone to literally kiss another person but we are looking for completely different things according to the psychology of our culture.  

The snare of false humility is its very outward proclamation of humility. I once visited a conference of a newly formed denomination that claimed to have Protestant Reformation essentials, where the leader of this organization continually (and I was told that this was a regular speech of his) claimed that he was an “arrogant man.”  My buddy and I saw this as a demonstration of false humility! Why? Well, this particular man proclaimed a number of accusations against the historic Church that he felt were just reasons for beginning his new venture, yet these accusations were autonomously founded. This leader wanted no accountability from any of the Reformed or other historic churches. He claimed that they had essentials in the faith so wrong, that it was necessary for him to begin his own venture completely apart from any of the historic positions. He began a new form of Church polity (with him as the head, of course) and a new form of doctrine that was inclusive to the more modern elements of the Church.

Not only was this man autonomous in his ecclesiology, he was autonomous in his family ethics. He continually preached a high standard of ethics for the family, yet he was not adhering to this same standard; flying from conference to conference to speak and counsel, while his teenage son spiraled into a form of depression. It seemed that in order to cover his guilt, he would come out and preach directly against it. In the subject of homiletics, we call this “preaching your own convictions.” This can happen to any pastor; he, being convicted of a certain sin, rather than repenting of the sin by changing his ways, vents his frustration over the pulpit. In judicial terms this can be called abuse of power under the color of authority. The leader, knowing that his flock will interpret his ethical speech as a command to them, turns his own convictions inside-out by using the pulpit as a scapegoat.

False humility is often used as a sort of partial repentance. It gives us the ability to feel like we have given up illegal weapons but within our basement is an entire arsenal of the latest terrorist paraphernalia with actual names of future victims written on them. When this individual confesses – especially publicly –  to a particular sliver of his problem or just denounces that particular type of ungodly behaviour, it becomes difficult to prosecute them when they become a complete and obvious danger to the Church or society. To obtain a warrant – to use the judicial language again –  can be almost impossible because, after all, we all know that this man is not like that. He publicly denounces this kind of behaviour constantly.

This is why St. Paul warns us about leaders who carry this tactic of false humility. It is deception and hypocrisy, and is clearly the ploy of the devil. May we all be aware of this sin in our own lives and may we be watchful of it in our leaders. And with that last sentence said, may we not be overzealous and arrogant when watching for false humility in leadership, lest we falsely accuse and become divisive ourselves.

Through Baptism We Enter Salvation

In his book Orthodox Dogmatic Theology, Fr. Pomazansky speaks of Baptism:

 
It serves as the door leading into the Kingdom of grace, or the Church, and it grants access to participation in the other Mysteries. Even before the establishment of the Mystery of Baptism, the Lord Jesus Christ in His conversation with Nicodemus indicated the absolute necessity of it for salvation: “Verily, verily, I say unto thee, except a man be born from above, he cannot see the Kingdom of Heaven.” When Nicodemus expressed his perplexity, “How can a man be born when he is old?” the Saviour replied that the new birth would be accomplished by water and the Spirit: “Verily, verily, I say unto thee, except a man be born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter into the Kingdom of God. That which as born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit” (John 3:3-6).
The passage that Pomazansky quotes is vital to Orthodox theology. Many Protestants will contend that Baptism is a mere “sign” and has no spiritual value whatsoever. But, it is very clear here that Christ is issuing Baptism as a means of entering the Covenant itself, a means of becoming born again, and that without it one cannot be saved. Paul the Apostle speaks of Baptism in this same manner when he says, “There is also an antitype which now saves us—baptism…”(1 Peter 3:21). Fr. Pomazansky goes on to say: Baptism is a “new birth,” and it is performed for the salvation of men (Mark 16:16). Moreover, setting forth the grace-given significance of Baptism, the Apostles in their Epistles mdicate that m it we a