Elder Sophrony on Orthodoxy and Ecumenism

szElder Sophrony of Essex

Forgive me; perhaps all this is superfluous. At this point, though, I would like to say a little about the fact that at the present time a significant part of the Christian world tends to accept one of the most dangerous heresies. What is consists of is people saying that in our days there is not one Church which has kept fully the true teaching of Christ; or which possesses complete knowledge of the mystery of the holy, grace-filled Christian life on the ethical and ascetic level. Supposedly, many of the Churches which are nominally Christian have equal grace, and because of that we should proceed towards the union of the Churches on the basis of some common program. One of the most frequent questions which one comes across is the question of who will be saved and who will not be saved. These people usually think that it is not only the Orthodox who will be saved (according to Orthodox teaching), not only the Catholics (according to Catholic teaching), but all virtuous people in general who believe in Christ. This viewpoint has passed from the Protestants to the faithful of other Churches. There are many among the Orthodox who hold this opinion.

Some people think that no single one of the existing Churches can receive the fulness of knowledge and grace, because each one of them in one or another degree has deviated from the truth. They think that only now ‘at the end of the ages’ they (these sages) have fully grasped the spirit of the teaching of Christ, and that the entire Christian world has been led astray for many centuries until now. That now the time has come when we must unite all the separated parts into one universal and apostle Church, which will have the fulness of truth in all its aspects, even though this union will only embrace what is common to all the Churches. What is even worse, some of them are pondering in their hearts a certain high, supra-ecclesial, mystical, understanding of Christian religion, which… I won’t say more about this.

I digressed into discussing this for one reason only: to tell you that I very much want you (and I pray to God for this) not to be deceived by all that, but to be convinced firmly in your heart and mind that on this earth there is one unique and true Church which Christ founded; that this Church maintains unspoiled the teaching of Christ, that she in her totality (and not in her individual members) possesses the fulness of knowledge and grace and infallibility. [I want you to be convinced] that what for several people seems to be incompleteness in her teaching is none other than the potential for some scholarly elaboration of her inexhaustible and infinite riches — this, however, does not contradict in any measure what I said above about her possessing the fulness of knowledge.

The definitive form of expression of the Church’s teaching at the Ecumenical Councils cannot be subjected to any change. All future academic work must obligatorily concur with what was given in divine revelation and in the teaching of the Ecumenical Councils of the Church. The same is true in connection with grace: only the one and unique Church can have the fulness of grace. All the other Churches, however, do have grace because of their faith in Christ, but not in its fulness. We can, furthermore, believe that in our days there are still people who, by the grace of the Holy Spirit, are equal to the great Saints of the Church of ancient times. (I am saying this in connection with what I heard about several people in Russia.) [This is] because Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever (Heb. 13:8). All this is the truth. Whoever departs from this faith will not stand. (Striving for Knowledge of God pp. 144-146. Letter 11)

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The Holy and Great Council: With Great Preparation but Without Expectations

Conclusions and Summary of the Theological-Academic Conference:

The Holy and Great Council: With Great Preparation but Without Expectations

holysynodbanneromhkseaInvoking the blessings of the Holy Trinity, on Wednesday, March 23, 2016, in the Melina Merkouri Hall of the Peace and Friendship Stadium, in Piraeus, Greece, at Neo Faliro, the Theological-Academic Conference entitled “The Holy and Great Council: With Great Preparation but Without Expectations” began.

Sponsored by the Dioceses of Glyfada, Gortina, Kithyron, Pireaus and the Synaxis of Clergy and Monastics, as well as the Congregation of Priests and Monks, the conference was honored by the presence of many respected Fathers, priests, presidents of Christian Organizations, Professors of the Theological Schools, Theologians and about a thousand attendants. The Seminar was organized by the five-member Academic board: Metropolitan of Piraeus Seraphim, Archmandrite Athanasios Anastasiou, the former abbot of the Holy Monastery of Great Meteoron, Protopresbyter George Metallinos, Dean Emeritus of the Theological School of Athens, Protopresbyter Theodoros Zisis, Professor Emeritus of the Theological School of the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, Demetrius Tselingides, Honored Professor of the Theological School of the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki. Present at the Conference, with greetings from the Church of Ukraine, was the Bishop of Bantsen, Logginos and Fr. Sabbas the head of the Great Lavra Monastery on Mount Athos. Also, representing Metropolitan Gabriel of Losetz of the Church of Bulgaria, was Fr. Matthew Voulkanescou, priest of the Holy Metropolis of Piraeus, who read his greeting.

The general theme of the Conference was divided into four sessions, with talks given by their Eminences, Seraphim of Pireaus, Hierotheos of Nafpaktos and Agios Vlasios, Paul of Glyfada, Seraphim of Kithiron and Jeremiah of Gortyna and Megalopolis, the university professors, Prot. Fr. George Metallinos, Prot. Fr. Theodoros Zisis, Dr. Demetrios Tseleggidis, Archamndrite Saranti Sarantos, having a doctorate from the Theology School of the University of Athens, Archimandrite Athanasios Anastasiou, Protopresbyter Fr. Peter Heers, having a doctorate from the Theology School of the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, Protopresbyter Fr. Anastasio Gkotsopoulos, Theologian (Master Theology) and rector of the Church of St. Nicholas, Patra, Archmandrite Paul Dimitrakopoulos, Theologian (Master Theology), Director of the Office Against Heresies of the Metropolis Piraeus, Mr. Stavros Bozoviti, Theologian-Author, member of the Brotherhood of Theologians “Sotir” and Protopresbyter Fr. Aggelos Angelakpoulos, Theologian and priest of the Metropolis of Piraeus.

Based upon the lectures and the ensuing dialogue, the following resolution was drafted and approved by all:

1. The Theology of our Church is the gift of Divine Revelation, the experience of Pentecost. There is no Church without Theology and no Theology outside of the Church, theology which was spoken by the Prophets, the Apostles, the Fathers and the Holy Synods. When a Council does not follow Orthodox teaching, it cannot be a true Orthodox Council, acceptable to the Orthodox faithful. This can happen when the participants in the Council do not have the experience of the Holy Fathers or do not, at least, follow them without misinterpreting them. In that case, the members of the Council proclaim heretical teachings or become influenced by political goals or other agendas. The modern ecclesiastical reality has shown that today’s high ranking members of the church hierarchy are, in fact, often unduly and improperly influenced by political agendas. In many of the cases, we can see that an inter-ecclesiastical rivalry is created where national and political agendas predominate.

2. After a long period of preparation for the convening of the Holy and Great Council – 93 years – we see from the topics, the pre-council documents and the comments of the organizing committee, that there is a great loss of the true ideal of a council, a loss of theological fullness and clarity and, with respect to the ideas of the documents that will be discussed, an even greater problem with the theological ambiguity in which they are written.

3. The fact that not all bishops, but only twenty-four, from every local autocephalous church will participate in the Council, is foreign to our canonical and conciliar tradition. The existing historical records bear witness, not to representation, but to the greatest possible participation of bishops from all districts of the Church throughout the world. In addition, the fact that this council is not being characterized as Ecumenical because of the novel assertion that “Western Christians are unable to participate” (Patriarch Bartholomew) stands in direct conflict with the Holy Fathers, who convened the Holy Councils without the heretics in attendance. Consequently, it is unacceptable for its organizers to claim that its authority is tantamount to and on par with the Ecumenical Councils. But neither can this Council be called Pan-Orthodox, because it obviously doesn’t allow all Orthodox bishops to participate. What is equally without witness in our ecclesiastical and canonical tradition, and for this reason unacceptable, is the rule, one Church–one vote, with the necessity of unanimity between all of the local churches. Every bishop has the right to his own vote, since for non-dogmatic issues the principle “let the vote of the majority prevail” is in effect. We also believe that it is both unacceptable to predetermine the issues and for the Council to be organized without the ruling body of bishops of the local churches having synodically expressed their position on these issues.

4. The Joint Theological Dialogues between the Orthodox and the heterodox which have taken place so far have been a tragic failure, as the pioneers of these dialogues themselves now confess. The so-called offering of help, through the dialogues, to the heterodox for their return to the truth in Christ and to Orthodoxy is now known to be false and nonexistent. In the final analysis, these Dialogues serve and promote the goals of a move to a New World Order and of Globalization. An important reality currently being ignored, which the pre-conciliar documents present, is the fact that there is, strangely, no critical assessment of the progress made so far, both in the Joint Theological Dialogues between the Orthodox Church and the rest of the Christian communities, or in the Church’s participation in the Ecumenical movement and the W.C.C. – something which was clearly present in the texts of the Third Pre Conciliar Conference.

5. The pre conciliar text entitled: “Relations of the Orthodox Church with the Rest of the Christian World,” presents a series of theological inconsistencies and even contradictions. Thus, the first article correctly declares the ecclesiastical self-consciousness of the Orthodox Church to be the “One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church.” However, the sixth article presents a contradiction to above article’s (1) formulation. It characteristically states, that “the Orthodox Church acknowledges the existence in history of other Christian Churches and confessions which are not in communion with her.” This raises the obvious theological question: If the Church is “One,” according to the Symbol of Faith and the consciousness of the Orthodox Church (Article 1), how then is there mention of other Christian Churches? It is obvious that these other Churches are heterodox. The heterodox “Churches,” however, can in no way be called “Churches” by the Orthodox. Theologically speaking, there can’t be many “Churches” with dogmatic differences and, indeed, with respect to many theological issues. Consequently, since these “Churches” remain steadfast in their faith’s cacodoxy, it is not theologically correct to impart to them any ecclesiality (especially in an official manner), while separated from the “One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church.” In the same article (6) there is found a second serious theological contradiction. In the beginning of the article the following is noted: “The unity by which the Church is distinguished in her ontological nature is impossible to shatter.” At the end of the same article, however, it is stated that the Orthodox Church’s participation in the Ecumenical Movement is for the purpose of “pursuing an objective goal – to tread the path to unity.” Here another question is raised: Since the unity of the Church is a fact, what kind of unity of the Churches is being sought within the Ecumenical Movement? Maybe what is meant is the return of the Western Christians to the ONE and only Church? This is not at all apparent from the letter and the spirit of the text as a whole. On the contrary, it clearly gives the impression that the Church is, in fact, divided and that the goals of the interlocutors aim at the unity of the Church.

6. The above text moves within the confines of the new ecumenist ecclesiology, which has already been articulated by the Second Vatican Council. This new ecclesiology posits the recognition of the baptism of all the Christian confessions as its foundation (so-called “Baptismal Theology”). The writers of the text call upon the seventh canon of the Second Ecumenical Council and the ninety-fifth Canon of the Sixth Ecumenical Council, in order to lend canonical validity and synodical legitimacy to this cacodox ecclesiology. However, these Holy Canons only regulate the way in which repentant heretics are accepted into the Church, and no way do they speak of the ecclesiological status of the heretics, neither do they speak of the process of dialogue between the Church and heresy. Furthermore, they certainly don’t imply the “existence” of the sacraments of the heterodox, nor that such heresies impart saving Divine Grace. Never has the Church recognized nor proclaimed ecclesiality for those in delusion and heresy. The “portion of the saved” of which these Holy Canons speak is only found in Orthodoxy and not in heresy. The economy, which the above canons introduce, cannot be applied today to Western Christians (Roman Catholic and Protestants), because they lack the theological presuppositions and the criteria which these specific canons set. And, because economy can’t be applied in matters that concern the dogmatic self-awareness of our Church, the Western Christians are called upon to renounce and anathematize their heresy, to abandon their religious communities, to be catechized and, in repentance, to seek acceptance into the Church through Baptism.

7. There is also no mention, in the above text, of any specifically defined cacodoxy or delusion, as if the spirit of delusion was no longer at work in our days. The text doesn’t point out any heresy or distortion in the ecclesiastical teachings and practice of those in the Christian world who are outside of Orthodoxy. On the other hand, the cacodoxy and heretical departures from the teachings of the Fathers of the Ecumenical Councils are characterized as “traditional theological differences, or possible new disagreements” (§ 11), which the Orthodox Church and heterodoxy are called upon to “overcome (§ 11).” The authors of this text desire the unity of the “Churches,” not unity in the Church of Christ. And it is for this reason that there is not found any call to repentance, nor to the denial and condemnation of the delusions and false teachings which have infiltrated the life of these heretical communities.

8. The above text references at length the W.C.C. (§§ 16-21) and it positively evaluates its contribution to the Ecumenical Movement, pointing out the full and equal participation of the Orthodox Churches and their contribution “to the witness of truth and promotion of unity of Christians” (§ 17). However, the image that is given to us by this text regarding the W.C.C. is false and artificial. To begin with, the very inclusion of the Orthodox Church in an organization which presents itself as a kind of “super church” [ὑπερεκκλησία], and it’s coexistence and cooperation with heresy constitute a violation of its canonical order and a breach of its ecclesiological self-understanding. The theological identity of the W.C.C. is clearly Protestant. The witness of the Orthodox Church in its whole has not, thus far, been received by the Protestant confessions of the W.C.C., as is apparent from its seventy year history. All of this makes manifest that the end result of the W.C.C. tends toward the homogenization of its confessions/members by way of a long, drawn out intermingling. This text hides the truth of what has really been going on during these dialogues with the Potestant confessions/members of the W.C.C. and the dead-end which they have reached. Besides this, the text doesn’t condemn the unacceptable, from an Orthodox point of view, common documents of the General Assembly of the W.C.C. (Porto Alegre, Busan etc.), and in addition, it neglects to mention the many degenerative phenomena that we find there, such as the “Liturgy of Lima,” intercommunion, inter religious common prayer, ordination of women, inclusive language, and the acceptance of homosexuality on the part of many confessions, and much more.

9. The changing of the Church’s calendar in 1924 by the Ecumenical Patriarchate and the Church of Greece was a one-sided, arbitrary act, for it was not a Pan-Orthodox decision. It fragmented the liturgical unity between the Local Orthodox Churches and caused schisms and divisions between the faithful. The change the calendar came about through the efforts of Patriarch Meletios (Metaksakis), heterodox confessions and Western governmental agencies. [Leading up to the Pan Orthodox Council] there appeared a commitment on the part of ecclesiastical leaders, which raised expectations among the faithful, that this Council was to discuss and resolve this issue. Unfortunately, during the long drawn-out pre-conciliar proceedings, the Papal Protestants and the Reformed Protestants posed a new issue for the Orthodox, the “common celebration of Pascha.” Consequently, the interest was turned to this new issue and the discussion regarding the healing of the wound of liturgical unity, during the celebration of the unmovable feasts, (something which was caused without reason or pastoral need) lost momentum. Even though it was the most urgent and burning issue, during the final stage of preparations for the Council, and without any synodical decisions made by the Local Churches, the calendar issue was removed from the list of issues.

10. The history of the Ecumenical Councils confirm that each time they were convened it was on account of some kind of heresy which was threatening the experience, in the Holy Spirit, of ecclesiastical truth and its expression by the Church’s body. On the contrary, the coming Council will be convened, not to define the faith in opposition to heresy, but to grant official recognition and legitimization to the pan-heresy of Ecumenism. The proceedings as a whole, the preparation and subject matter of the Council are the result of the imposition of an ecclesiastical oligarchy, which expresses an academic, ossified, limp and spiritless theology, cut off from the ecclesiastical body. The final judge of the rightness and the validity of the decisions of the Councils is always the fullness of the Church – the clergy, monastics and the faithful people of God – that with its watchful ecclesiastical and dogmatic consciousness, confirms or rejects all such decisions. However, this planned Council completely lacks this important parameter, since, as was officially stated, the bearer of the validity of its decisions will be its “conciliarity” and not the Orthodox plentitude.

11. Another basic prerequisite for the legitimacy of the Great and Holy Council is for it to recognize as Ecumenical, as does the consciousness of the Church, the VIII (879-880) Council, which convened under St. Photios and the IX (1351), which convened under St. Gregory Palamas, and which condemned the heretical teachings emanating from Papism. But this possibility has not even entered the subject matter of the Council or the pre-conciliar texts.

12. The Orthodox way of fasting is so firmly entrenched in the consciousness of the pastors and the people, that it needs no reduction or adjustment. It is the pastors of the Church who have the responsibility to acquire an ascetic mindset and to be educated in their Orthodox Faith in order to therefore discerningly teach their flock by example and by making use of the inconceivable wealth of the writings of the Holy Fathers. Our Orthodox Church benevolently applies economy, in all its grandeur, to all Orthodox Christians throughout the world. There are so many texts by the Holy Fathers on fasting and its passion-killing and saving effects that there is no need for the trivialization which this issue is undergoing at the hands of the post-patristic revisionists with their minimalist mindset, who pretend to care about modern man. If the coming Council imposes new reforms on the number of fasting days and types of food, it will be mimicking the totalitarianism that characterizes papal canon law, which officially and stiflingly regulates even economy itself.

13. Throughout the twentieth century Ecumenism degenerated and has now morphed into a pan-religious fantasy. The unending inter-religious meetings and common prayer services between Orthodox and the leaders of the world’s religions (e.g. Assisi) testify to the fact that the ultimate goal of Ecumenism is the mutual acceptance of all religions and their merging into one grotesque “religious” body, a pan-religious nightmare, which seeks to negate the saving truth of Orthodoxy. In light of this, it impossible to justify inter-religious cooperation. Neither can it be founded on Holy Scripture nor the teachings of the Holy Fathers. The God-inspired words of the Apostle are crystal clear: “Do not be unequally yoked together with unbelievers. For what fellowship has righteousness with lawlessness? And what communion has light with darkness?” II Cor. 6:14). In addition, the ideal of peaceful coexistence, which is pushed by the inter-religious dialogues ad nauseam, is impossible, since it stands in direct contrast with the Lord’s words, “If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you.” (Jn. 15:20), and with the words of the Apostle, “all who desire to live godliness in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution” (II Tim. 3:12). Those who have participated up to now in these dialogues have, unfortunately, not been able to convey the unadulterated Orthodox Christian teaching, nor has their witness brought about the conversion of even one person of another faith to Orthodoxy. On the other hand, they have now reached the sorry state of being led astray into delusion and heresies, putting forward blasphemous declarations, scandalizing the faithful people of God, misleading into delusion those who are weak in the Faith and causing a great spiritual erosion and corruption in the Orthodox mindset. Besides this, despite the plethora of dialogues which have taken place up until now, not only has Islamic fanaticism not lessened, but it is growing more and more.

14. We must be inspired by the struggles of the Prophets of the Old Testament and by the Holy Fathers of our Church to guard the Sacred Trust [Παρακαταθήκη]. Like them, we are facing attempts to adulterate the Orthodox faith, like the Mosaic faith in the Old Testament, where first Canaanite and later Babylonian and Egyptian elements were threatening to contaminate the faith in the One God. Great men – prophets, kings, political leaders, and others – struggled valiantly to preserve this faith pure. They especially fought against the various false prophets who emerged from time to time.

In summary, we conclude that the coming “Great and Holy Council” will be neither Great nor Holy because, based on the facts as they now stand, it does not appear to be in accord with the synodical and canonical tradition of the Orthodox Catholic Church. It also appears that it will not truly function as a genuine continuation of the ancient and great Ecumenical and Local Councils. The way in which the Pre-Conciliar documents are worded, which are dogmatic in character, leave no room for doubt that the Council in question aims to grant ecclesiality to the heterodox and to expand the canonical and sacramental boundaries of the Church. However, no Pan-Orthodox Council has the authority to delineate the Church’s identity differently from that which has always been and now is. There are also no indications that the Council in question will move to condemn the modern heresies, especially the pan-heresy of Ecumenism. To the contrary, everything indicates that the upcoming Great and Holy Council is an attempt to legitimize and consolidate this pan-heresy. Nevertheless, we are wholly convinced that all decisions expressing an ecumenist spirit will not be accepted by the clergy and people of God, whereas the Council itself will be recorded in our ecclesiastical history as a pseudo-synod.

ORIGINAL SOURCE: http://epomeni-tois-agiois-patrasi.blogspot.com.cy/2016/03/blog-post_28.html

Translation: Fr. Nicholas K.
Editing: Fr. Peter H.

From the Second Vatican Council (1965) to the Pan Orthodox Council (2016)

Holy and Great Council Logo

                 Holy and Great Council Logo

Signposts on the Way to Crete [1]

by Protopresbyter Peter Heers

It is an overused but necessary cliché to state that the Orthodox Church is the Church of the Oecumenical Councils. It is more essential to state that the Orthodox Church not only held and lived through those Councils, it also lives daily by the words spoken by the Holy Apostles in that first of all Church Councils in Jerusalem: it seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us (Acts 15:28); first to the Holy Spirit and then to the Apostles, and all the successors of the Apostles. This theanthropic way of being, which began in earnest in council on the day of Pentecost, is integral to, irremovable from, the life of the Orthodox Church and of Orthodox Christians.

It is the implication of this reality, or rather the absence of evidence thereof among those at the highest levels of the Church, which makes my presentation to you tonight all the more difficult, even painful.

The Orthodox Church stands just weeks away from the long awaited “Great and Holy Council,” which will convene in Crete on the Feast of Pentecost. This Council is unique in the history of the Church for the length of time it has been under preparation, but also for another first: the degree to which its preparatory meetings, organization and certain of its texts have, under the influence of a council of the heterodox, the Second Vatican Council, diverted from the Orthodox way.

This is the reason that, immediately upon the publication of the pre-synodical texts, a wave of objections arose on a pan-Orthodox level. Certain among the more fanatical enthusiasts of ecumenism have attempted to downplay the serious and studied critiques which have been levelled against the pre-synodical texts and the Council itself asserting the criticism is coming from “extremists” and “fanatics” who are “against the council,” have no respect for the conciliar system or an ecclesiastical ethos. These critics neglect the fact that objections to the ecclesiologically abysmal texts have been expressed on a pan-Orthodox level by:

  1. Professors of Theology from Orthodox Theological Schools.
  2. Monastic Brotherhoods, including the Holy Community of Mt. Athos, monasteries in Moldavia, which have also ceased commemoration of their chief hierarch because he accepted, under pressure from the Patriarch of Moscow, the pre-synodical texts, and monasteries in Greece, Georgia and Bulgaria have expressed sharp disagreement.
  3. Dozens of bishops from throughout the Orthodox world have expressed their categorical opposition to the texts as they presently stand. Among these are more than twenty hierarchs from the Church of Greece which have issued forceful statements opposing aspects not only of the pre-synodical texts but also the Council itself, some of which have, for reasons of conscience, declined to participate. In the much-embattled Orthodox Church of the Ukraine, the exceptionally beloved and highly honoured Bishop Longin ceased commemoration of the Patriarch of Russia after he pushed through the Holy Synod acceptance of the pre-synodical texts.
  4. Finally, but most importantly, the Holy Synods of Local Churches, such as the Church of Cyprus, have expressed sharp criticism of aspects of the pre-synodical texts. The hierarchy of the Church of Greece will meet next week to consider the objections of many hierarchs and publish either their rejection of the texts or recommendations for substantial changes. The Holy Synods of the Churches of Bulgaria and Georgia, in spite of intense external pressure exerted against them, have issued unanimous decisions which reject aspects of the pre-synodical texts. And the Holy Synod of the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad has issued an extensive and well-documented critique of the pre-synodical texts along the same lines as the Local Churches mentioned above.

Hence, in our examination of the Council we do not stand alone but join a large and growing segment of the Orthodox hierarchy and clergy who are calling attention to serious problems with the Council and the texts hierarchs are being asked to endorse.

Let us now turn our attention to the matter at hand. In our analysis we will revisit a number of historical and theological “signposts” the Church has passed on its way to Crete, after which we believe the following will be clear: the way of the Pan Orthodox Council does not resemble the theanthropic way of the Apostles; and the ecclesiology the Council is being asked to embrace has never been recognized as “good to the Holy Spirit” or to the preceding successors of the Apostles, the Holy Fathers.

Signposts on The Way of the Pan Orthodox Council

1. The Beginning

The Second Vatican Council was announced by Pope John XXIII on January 25, 1959, and held 178 meetings in the autumn of four successive years. The first gathering was on October 11, 1962, and the last on December 8, 1965.

The first Pan Orthodox Conference, which was called in order to begin preparations for Pan-Orthodox Council, took place in 1961, just three years after the announcement of the Second Vatican Council by the Pope and one year before its commencement.

While today, “it is, in the final analysis, impossible to ascertain for certain which side influenced the other,” [2] that the two councils began in earnest together and the Orthodox side regularly compares its work to Vatican II is undoubtedly a signpost of significance.

2. Methodological Similarities

Although it may be contested that the Patriarchate, in calling the First Pan Orthodox Conference in Rhodes, was reacting to the calling of the Second Vatican Council, what is quite clear is that the methodology adopted in Rhodes and henceforth, was wholly taken from Vatican II. Indeed, it is undisputed in ecumenical circles that the organizers of the Pan Orthodox Council had as their model for the pre-synodical committees and the functioning of the Council itself the modus operandi of the Second Vatican Council.

This is the second signpost on the way to Crete which alerts us to a foreign source of inspiration for the Council.

As researcher Maria Brun, a Roman Catholic specialist on the Pan-Orthodox Council at the Ecumenical Patriarchate’s Center in Chambessy, has written: “it is well known that the way in which the Second Vatican Council was carried served as the prototype for the work of the preparatory commission of the Pan Orthodox Council” and that “the Orthodox Church . . . had recourse to the Second Vatican Council for its inspiration.” [3]

Roman Catholic researchers of the Second Vatican Council and the Pan Orthodox Council are not alone in reaching this conclusion. The great Professor of Dogmatics and Saint of the Church, Justin Popovich likewise came to this conclusion. Far from praising matters, St Justin Popovich, in his 1976 memorandum to the Holy Synod of the Serbian Orthodox Church, saw in this approach to convening and organizing the Council a sure sign of its alienation from Orthodox Tradition and pledge of its falsity.

He wrote:

“In reality, all of this manifests and underscores not only the usual lack of consistency, but also an obvious incapacity and failure to understand the nature of Orthodoxy on the part of those who at the present time, in the current situation, and in such a manner would impose their “Council” on the Orthodox Churches – an ignorance and inability to feel or to comprehend what a true ecumenical council has meant and always means for the Orthodox Church and for the pleroma of its faithful who bear the name of Christ. For if they sensed and realized this, they would first of all know that never in the history and life of the Orthodox Church has a single council, not to mention such an exceptional, grace-filled event (like Pentecost itself) as an ecumenical council, sought and invented topics in this artificial way for its work and sessions; – never have there been summoned such conferences, congresses, pro-synods, and other artificial gatherings, unknown to the Orthodox conciliar tradition, and in reality borrowed from Western organizations alien to the Church of Christ.” [4]

3. Common Aims with the Second Vatican Council

A third signpost which alerts us that the Pan Orthodox Council is not following the Holy Fathers is the stated purpose of the Council. Imitating totally the Second Vatican Council, it shares with it the raison d’être for its calling: renovation or “renewal” of the internal life and organization of the Church. Like Vatican II, the Pan-Orthodox Council is being called not to confront dogmatic error, as has every previous universal council, but to renovate and re-organize the Church.

In an article dating back from when Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew was still a Metropolitan, in the journal The National Catholic Reporter, the Patriarch said the following, revealing his intentions for the Pan Orthodox Council:

“Our aims are the same an John’s (Pope John XXIII): to update the Church and promote Christian unity… The Council will also signify the opening of the Orthodox Church to non-Christian religions, to humanity as a whole. This means a new attitude toward Islam, toward Buddhism, toward contemporary culture, toward aspirations for brotherhood free from racial discrimination…in other words, it will mark the end of twelve centuries of isolation of the Orthodox Church.” [5]

4. “Free From Dogmatism”

Moreover, as has been stressed, this is – like Vatican II – a “non-dogmatic” council at which dogmas are not to be removed from the “storehouse,” as Patriarch Athenagoras is famously quoted as saying. [6] With this similarity with Vatican II we have arrived at the forth signpost on our way to Crete.

The First Pan Orthodox Pre-Concilar Conference in 1976 (to which St. Justin wrote in response) decided, perhaps inspired by the example of Vatican II (which the Pope wanted “free from dogmatism”), to not directly address the dogmas and the canons of the Church, but nonetheless to make decisions of a theological and ecclesiological (i.e. essentially dogmatic) nature based upon them. [7]

Thus, we have a double-minded, mixed-message coming from the organizers: one the one hand it is a “non-dogmatic” council (unheard of) and yet, on the other hand, decisions made will be of a theological and ecclesiological nature.

In effect, this sends a message to the faithful, not only to the laymen but also to clergy, even bishops, which mollifies them and neutralizes vigilance. It is as if to say: “nothing to see here, keep calm and move along,” when in actuality there is a new ecclesiology, a new dogmatic teaching as to what constitutes the Church, being expressed and sanctioned.

Contrast this with the approach of the Holy Fathers, both to the need to “dogmatize” in order to confront schism and heresy (there is no shortage of either in our day!) and to the purpose of the Oecumenical Council.

St. Justin explains:

“Historical reality is perfectly clear: the holy Councils of the Holy Fathers, summoned by God, always, always had before them one, or at the most, two or three questions set before them by the extreme gravity of great heresies and schisms that distorted the Orthodox Faith, tore asunder the Church and seriously placed in danger the salvation of human souls, the salvation of the Orthodox people of God, and of the entire creation of God. Therefore, the ecumenical councils always had a Christological, soteriological, ecclesiological character, which means that their sole and central topic – their Good News – was always the God-Man Jesus Christ and our salvation in Him, our deification in Him.”

The irony and tragedy of the matter lies in the fact that we are faced with “the extreme gravity of a great heresy” which has distorted the Orthodox Faith and is tearing asunder the Church and even depriving many of salvation. This heresy is, of course, the pan-heresy of the new ecumenist ecclesiology which denies the Oneness, Holiness, Catholicity and Apostolicity of the Church. Instead of following Vatican II in embracing this new anti-ecclesiology a council should be called in order to decisively denounce it and clearly proclaim anew the diachronic patristic vision of the Body of Christ.

5. Support of the Ecumenical Movement

In direct opposition to such an appropriate and Orthodox response to syncretistic ecumenism, the Pan Orthodox Council is once again in harmony and in step with Vatican II in not only a positive assessment of ecumenism but continued and deepening participation in the movement. This alignment is the fifth signpost on our way to a proper understanding of the coming Council.

In spite of the fact that Orthodox participation in ecumenism has always been, and is today, a cause of division among Orthodox Christians, that two Local Orthodox Churches have long removed themselves from the World Council of Churches and that many bishops and clergy have consistently called for an end to continued compromise and humiliation of the Orthodox in that body, the organizers of the Council and drafters of its texts are unperturbed and unwavering in their support and promotion of it.

6. The Dominant Role Played by Academic Theologians

The sixth signpost which one can observe on the way Crete is the predominant role of academic theologians in the formation of the texts under consideration.

Following the example of Vatican II, the texts of the Pan-Orthodox Council have been prepared by a committee of academically trained theologians and hierarchs, sent as representatives of the Local Churches.

With regard to the Vatican’s council, it is widely recognized that the academic theologians “were the engineers of the massive reforms that were initiated at Vatican II.” [8] Their contribution “was remarkable. . . . The bishops of Vatican II were aware of the importance of the theologians.” [9] The Council extended official acceptance to their decades of work for the renovation of theology, and in particular, of ecclesiology.[10]

With regard to the Pan Orthodox Council, something very similar is at work. The entire pleroma of the Church – laity, monastics, clergy and even hierarchs and even the hierarchy of the Local Churches – have largely been left out of the process. A small group of academic theologians have been the guiding hand which has shaped the texts to be submitted for ratification in Crete.

Indicative of the limited participation of hierarchs, not to mention monastics or clergy, is the fact that the final texts, although approved in committee in October of last year, were not made known to the hierarchs and faithful until late January of 2016. This, however, did not preclude select academic theologians in Thessaloniki and Athens from gaining access to the final texts and presenting papers on them in December.

While the domination of academic theologians in the West, at the Second Vatican Council cannot be considered either a break with past practice or particularly problematic (indeed it is hailed as a great and positive contribution), for the Orthodox, for whom a theologian is one who prays, to have academic theologians guiding the bishops is an apostasy from Orthodox epistemology and a sign that Barlaamism has once again raised its deluded head. We must not forget that at every turn in the history of the Councils at which orthodoxy was proclaimed “it seemed good to the Holy Spirit” and to ascetic bishops – not to philosophizing scholastics who had no relation to neptic (νηπτική) theology and practice.

Ecclesiological Convergence: Following Vatican II, not the Holy Fathers

Let us now turn our attention to the essence of Pan Orthodox Council and in particular to the convergence one can observe with respect to the two councils’ approach to ecclesiological-dogmatic matters.

To begin with, one is struck with the convergence, or rather, total identification with regard to the stance taken on the various heresies. The texts of the Second Vatican Council, and those of the Pan Orthodox Council, make no reference at all to heresies or delusions, as if the spirit of delusion is no longer at work in our day. [11] The Fathers in every age and at every Local and Ecumenical Council had this one basic task: the awakening of the ecclesiastical conscience. They took care to direct the attention of the fullness of the Church to the adulteration and corruption of the Revelation of the Gospel from “grievous wolves” (Acts 20:29), from those “speaking perverse things” (Acts 20:30), from “false prophets” (2 Pet. 2:1), and from “damnable heresies” (2 Pet. 2:1). Both the Second Vatican Council and the Pan Orthodox Council stand opposite this established apostolic, patristic and synodical practice of the Church: they name no delusion, no heresy, no falsification of ecclesiastical teaching and life! On the contrary, in the proposed texts of the Pan Orthodox Council, and in particular, in the text “Relations of the Orthodox Church to the Rest of the Christian World,” heretical diversions from the teaching of the Fathers and Ecumenical Councils are characterized as simply “traditional theological differences” and “possible new disagreements” (§ 11), which the Orthodox Church and the heterodox are called upon to “overcome”! The influence here of the Second Vatican Council and its Decree on Ecumenism is obvious![12]

Secondly, the Pan Orthodox Council, following the Second Vatican Council and moving within “new circumstances” (§ 4) in which supposedly heresies do not exist, took the unprecedented initiative to officially invite to be present as “observers” at the Council, heterodox “representatives of Christian Churches or Confessions, with which the Orthodox Church conducts Bi-Lateral Dialogues, as well as from other Christian organizations.” [13] Never, in the two-thousand year history of the Church, have heterodox “observers” representing heresies which have been condemned by Ecumenical Councils and the ecclesiastical conscience been present at a local or Ecumenical Council. This novel idea of having “observers” was only introduced 50 years ago at the papal council, the Second Vatican Council. A Pan Orthodox Council, however, should not have as its model papal practices, methods and measures.

Another characteristic similarity between the texts of the Second Vatican Council and the Pan Orthodox Council is the use of ambiguous and questionable terminology which allows for varied or even opposing interpretations.

The most famous of such contested phrases from the Second Vatican Council is found in the dogmatic Constitution Lumen Gentium where a decisive change was made to the definition of the Church.

In order to be consistent with a new view of the separated churches, Lumen Gentium dropped an absolute and exclusive identity between the Church of Christ and the Roman Catholic Church, as had been traditionally asserted. [14] The preparatory commission to the council in its opening session of 1962 had made the following statements in the schema De Ecclesia: “The Roman Catholic Church is the Mystical Body of Christ . . . and only the one that is Roman Catholic has the right to be called Church.” [15]

This simple identification of the Church of Christ with the Roman Catholic Church, which had also been repeatedly stated in papal encyclicals [16] . . . was replaced with the statement that “the Church of Christ “subsists in” the Catholic Church.” [17]

Not long ago, fifty years after the council, the head of ecumenical relations at the Vatican, Cardinal Kasper, was forced to admit that “the interpretation of [subsists in] amounts to ‘Desideratum’ [something still desired] and includes amphoteric elements which accept twofold interpretations; it is at once inclusive and exclusive.” [18]

Hence, it is not without reason, then, that many speak of a double standard and a duplicitous stance on the part of the authors of the Council’s texts. It cannot be an accident that the Second Vatican Council, especially in the texts of Lumen Gentium and Unitatis Redintegratio, is claimed as the source for both those who advance an “exclusive” ecclesiology and those who advance an “inclusive” ecclesiology. For, as a leading ecumenist professor in Thessaloniki has written, “they use the same sources, but come to entirely different conclusions.” [19]

Allow me to provide another example from the Constitution on the Church, Lumen Gentium. Although Lumen Gentium established new criteria for participation in the Church, even a new view of the Church itself, it did not discard the traditional view of the unity of the Church either; it simply no longer applies it to non–Roman Catholics. In Lumen Gentium, the two views follow one after another.

Hence, full participation in the unity of the Church, for Roman Catholics, is described in article 14 of Lumen Gentium. Immediately following this, in article 15, we read of the unity in Christ and the Holy Spirit, and the mysteries of the Church— the “multiple internal links” that establish the separated brethren in an incomplete communion.

In accord with this twofold unity, Rome continues to view itself as the only “concrete manifestation” of the Church—the Church willed by Christ—while non–Roman Catholic churches are churches only in a diminished way (see UR 3d and e).

However, strangely, no matter how “weakened” or “wounded” (See Dominus Iesus) they are supposed to be, these churches are said to have fully legitimate mysteries. [20] Fully united with Christ, their unity with and in the Church is, nonetheless, imperfect. Such a state, hitherto unheard of, is stated but left unexplained. Whatever may be lacking, they are a part of the Church. Schismatics and heretics can be united to Christ and become members of the Body of Christ without, however, being members of the Roman Catholic Church. Roman Catholics, Protestants, and Orthodox are all a part of the One Church, even if at varying degrees of fullness.

As Fr. Francis Sullivan writes, summing up the image of the universal Church of Christ created by the new ecclesiology:

One can think of the universal Church as a communion, at various levels of fullness, of bodies that are more or less fully churches. . . . It is a real communion, realized at various degrees of density or fullness, of bodies, all of which, though some more fully than others, have a truly ecclesial character. [21]

It is crucial to keep this idea of the Church in mind when I will read from the pre-synodical draft text “Relations of the Orthodox Church with the Rest of the Christian World.” In the warped ecumenical ecclesiological double-speak of post-Vatican II ecumenism, the mere identification of the Orthodox Church with the One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church does not preclude the simultaneous recognition of other Churches as possessing an “ecclesial nature” or even as being “more or less fully churches.” Such an unorthodox reading is, of course, quite likely when the text makes particular references to heterodox confessions as “churches.”

Before we examine the relevant portions of the Pan Orthodox Council texts and the ecclesiological convergence observed therein, allow me to pause and share with you a personal anecdote to throw our subject into relief.

Lest we think that the texts of the Council are rather insignificant and any possible ambiguity in them will play a minor role in the future life of the Church, listen to the following plea I received from a thoughtful Roman Catholic observer.

He wrote:

“To my friends in the Orthodox Christian Church, take extreme care for this Great and Holy Synod…otherwise it will be to Orthodoxy what Vatican II was to the [Roman] Catholic Church of the 1960’s. That is, because of the ambiguity of language of the documents of the Council it was the catalyst for the Apostasy we now face in the West… Most especially it is responsible for the false witness of our hierarchy up to and including this current Pope. Be vigilant, strong, and Faithful to Christ and His Church. Don’t let what happened … as a result of Vatican II, despite the best efforts of some clergy and laity, happen to the [Orthodox] Church. The few who remain Faithful within [our] Church have derisively been labelled “traditional” Catholics …their pre-Vatican II faith and practice is now openly mocked by the main body of the Novus Ordo, (or New Order of the Conciliar Church) and we have been and are increasingly marginalized in our services and fellowship with other [Roman] Catholics. I pray that you remain always faithful to the Orthodox, traditions, doctrines and Dogmas.

Note the order of things according to this observer:

The ambiguity of the texts are seen as the catalyst:

1. for apostasy
2. enabling of a false witness from some hierarchs
3. and a marginalization of the faithful

Let us now turn to the relevant portions of the most problematic text submitted to the Council, “Relations of the Orthodox Church to the rest of the Christian World” to see the same ambiguity at work as in the texts of the Second Vatican Council.

As has already been pointed out by venerable hierarchs and theologians, including Metropolitan Hierotheos (Vlachos) of Nafpaktou and Professor Demetrios Tselingides, this pre-synodical text displays recurrent theological ambiguity, inconsistency and contradiction.

In the first article it proclaims the ecclesiastical self-identity of the Orthodox Church, considering Her to be the “One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church.” In article six, however, a contradictory statement is made, that the “the Orthodox Church recognizes the historic existence of other Christian Churches and Confessions not in communion with Her.”

The question arises: If the Church is “One”, as we confess in the Symbol of Faith, as is commemorated in article 1 this text, then what is meant by referring to other Christian “Churches” in a text purported to express Orthodox ecclesiology?

As Professor Tselingides has written, “Considering things from a dogmatic perspective it is not possible to speak about a plurality of “Churches” with different dogmas, and this, indeed, with regard to many different theological issues. Consequently, as long as these “Churches” remain firm in the erroneous beliefs of their faith, there is no theological justification to grant them ecclesial recognition —and this officially —outside of the “‘One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church.’”

In a dogmatic text of this nature it should be obvious that the term “Church” must be used strictly in accordance with the Orthodox meaning of the word, so as to exclude any possible misinterpretation. Given the unorthodox ecclesiological paradigm of post-Vatican II ecumenism, which we alluded to earlier, there is sufficient basis for the hierarchs of the Local Churches to reject this draft text on relations with the Heterodox.

In this same article (#6), we find another instance of serious theological ambiguity and contradiction. At the outset we read that “According to the ontological nature of the Church, it is impossible for [Her] unity to be shattered.” At the end, however, it is written that, by Her participation in the Ecumenical Movement, the Orthodox Church has as its “objective aim the paving of the way which leads toward unity.”

This particular instance of ambiguity and contradiction reminds one of articles 14 and 15 in Lumen Gentium, mentioned earlier, where two opposing visions of the Church are presented successively.

In this instance, the unity of the Church is initially acknowledged as a given, only to be followed by the idea that unity is what is still being sought. Again, to quote Professor Tselingides: “What type of unity of Churches is being sought in the context of the Ecumenical Movement? Does it perhaps mean the return of Western Christians to the ONE and only Church? Such a meaning, though, does not emerge either in the letter or the spirit of the entire text. On the contrary, indeed, the impression is given that there exists a long-established division in the Church and that the prospects of the [Ecumenical] dialogues focus on the disrupted unity of the Church.”

Our final example is the theological confusion caused by the ambiguity in article 20, which reads:

“The prospects of the theological dialogues of the Orthodox Church with the other Christian Churches and Confessions shall always be determined on the basis of Her canonical criteria of the already established ecclesiastical tradition (canon seven of the Second Ecumenical Council and canon 95 of the Quinisext Council).”

Why were these canons cited? These canons address the reception of specific heretics that had demonstrated their desire to join the Orthodox Church. However, as Professor Tselingides has pointed out, “it is apparent from the letter and spirit of the text, as judged from a theological perspective, that there is no discussion whatsoever of the return of the heterodox to the Orthodox Church, the only Church.”

So, why are these canons cited as basis for our theological dialogues with the Heterodox? The answer supplied by Metropolitan Hierotheos of Nafpaktou and Professor Tselingides is that the aim of this article (#20) is to subtly insert so-called “baptismal theology” through the “back door” into the Council’s texts. Given the great ambiguity of the text, one may think that our answer is based solely upon our deductions. Rather, we were led to this conclusion based upon on the initial explanations given by leading ecumenist theologians Professor Tsompanides of the Theological School of Thessaloniki and Metropolitan Chrysostom of Messenia.

The recent reply of Metropolitan Chrysostom to our original criticisms presents us with another opportunity to show that the academic theologians in service of the Pan Orthodox Council are, like their predecessors at Vatican II, adept in the art of double speak.

Metropolitan Chrysostom, in his memorandum to the hierarchy of the Orthodox Church of Greece [22] regarding the text in question refers to article 20 and angrily insists that in no way is it related to “baptismal theology.”

Metropolitan Chrysostom, having sharply dismissed his critics as “theologically inept” for suggesting any adoption of “baptismal theology” on his part, then writes the following: “The ‘kat’oikonomian’ reception of the heterodox by the Orthodox Church, either by confession of faith or by Chrismation, implies the ‘kat’oikonomian’ acceptance of their baptism as valid and real, not, however, of all of the other mysteries or the particular Confession…”

This is, in fact, a fairly accurate description of “baptismal theology” which the Metropolitan insists he rejects. The Metropolitan could easily be mistaken as describing the common baptism theory of Vatican II, which views non-Roman Catholic baptism not only as preserving the form but as also communicating the reality of the mystery. His words also remind one of the uniquely Augustinian principle that heretics had the sacramentum (sign) but not the res sacramenti (the reality it conveys), with the decisive difference that the Metropolitan rather holds that they had both the sacramentum, or τύπος, and the res sacramentum, or reality of the τύπος.

In any case, what is clear is that Metropolitan Chrysostom and all who may hold that a valid and real baptism exists outside the Church – including the drafters of the pre-synodical text – cannot be mistaken for presenting the Orthodox teaching which refuses to divide Christ, refuses, that is, to separate the Mysteries, since Christ is all in all and every Mystery is an expression of the One Mystery, Who is Christ. Simply put, there can be no acceptance, even ‘kat’oikonomian’, of partial initiation or participation in the One Christ. For the Orthodox, an authentic Mystery takes place within the bounds of the One Church with full, not partial, fidelity to the faith and practice of the Church.

All of the foregoing (and much more which could be cited) supports the statement made by the Abbot and brothers of Karakalou Monastery on Mt. Athos concerning the texts of the Great and Holy Council, namely, that the pre-synodical texts are “ambiguous and allow for interpretations which divert from Orthodox dogma.”

In conclusion allow me to bring to your attention the following judgements made forty years ago by two ecclesiastical men of exceptional insight and discernment of the spirits of this age.

The first, Fr. Seraphim Rose, was at the time but a monk writing from the wilderness of northern California, far from the pre-synodical commissions and committees. Yet, his judgement has withstood the test of time and comes to confirm for us that little has changed from the first to the last with regard to the Council:

He writes in 1976:

“Measured by the sober standard of unchanging, Patristic Orthodoxy, the preparations for an “eighth Ecumenical Council” (now termed Pan-Orthodox Council) are exposed as un-Orthodox, lacking in seriousness, and profoundly unpastoral and irresponsible. Such a Council is a project rooted not in Orthodox wisdom and in heartfelt concern for the salvation of souls, but rather in the “spirit of the times”; it is intended to please, not God, but the world, and in particular the heterodox world. Judging from the experience of the Vatican Council and its effect on Roman Catholicism, such a Council, if it is held, will produce profound disorders and anarchy in the Orthodox world…the proposed “Ecumenical Council,” on the basis of the preparations that have hitherto been made for it, cannot be anything but another “robber council,’ a betrayal of Christ and His Church.”[23]

Writing about the same time (1976) and in total agreement, the great dogmatician and Confessor of the Faith, Saint Justin Popovich pleaded with his hierarchy to abstain not only from the preparations but from the Council itself, foreseeing the most bitter fruits from its convening:

“My conscience once more obliges me to turn with insistence and beseeching to the Holy Council of Bishops of the martyred Serbian Church: let our Serbian Church abstain from participating in the preparations for the “ecumenical council,” indeed from participating in the council itself. For should this council, God forbid, actually come to pass, only one kind of result can be expected from it: schisms, heresies and the loss of many souls. Considering the question from the point of view of the apostolic and patristic and historical experience of the Church, such a council, instead of healing, will but open up new wounds in the body of the Church and inflict upon her new problems and new misfortunes.” [24]

Reverend Fathers, beloved in Christ,

This powerful prophetic voice of the great Confessor of our Faith, Saint Justin, remains today, after forty years, exceptionally relevant and authentic. The events of the last four decades have only confirmed the right judgement of the Saint. Moreover, all that has been presented to you tonight, namely,

· the beginning and the methodology of the Council,

· the insistent avoidance of discussion of the dogmatic challenges facing the Church (including ecumenism),

· the absence of experiential (true) theologians,

· the characterization of heresy as “Churches”, the invitation of the leaders of the heresies to be present as “observers”,

· the recognition of the baptism (and by extension other mysteries) of heretical confessions, as well as their “ecclesial nature”,

confirms the apprehensions of many that the Pan Orthodox Council does not fulfil the presuppositions to be received in the ecclesiastical consciousness as “following the Holy Fathers.”

On the contrary, as we have shown above, the Council has been decisively influenced by the ecclesiological positions and practices of the Vatican and, on this account, tends toward being received by the Faithful as merely “following the Second Vatican Council.”

[1] This lecture was delivered to the Diakideio Institute for the Education of the People in Patra, Greece, May 18, 2016.

[2] «Το ποιός, σε τελική ανάλυση, επηρέασε ποιόν, σήμερα δεν είναι πλέον δυνατόν να διαπιστωθεί.» (Maria Brun, «O αντίκτυπος της Β′ Βατικάνειας Συνόδου στην Όρθόδοξη Εκκλησία», στο περιοδικό Θεολογία, Τόμος 86, Τεύχος 2, Απρίλιος – Ιούνιος 2015).
[3] Brun, «O αντίκτυπος της Β′ Βατικάνειας Συνόδου στην Όρθόδοξη Εκκλησία».

[4] See: http://orthodoxinfo.com/ecumenism/stjustin_council.aspx.

[5] Council Coming for Orthodox”, interview by Desmond O’Grady, The National Catholic Reporter, in the January 21, 1977 edition. See also: http://orthodoxinfo.com/ecumenism/towards.aspx.

[6] This also reminds one of the famous expression of Ecumenical Patriarch Athenagoras, himself responsible for calling the first Pan-Orthodox preparatory meetings: “The age of dogma has passed” (a statement by Patriarch Athenagoras; see Akropolis [29 June 1963]) and “Dogmas are the power of the Church, her wealth, and for this reason we keep our wealth in a vault. But this in no way impedes us from minting a new coinage with the other Churches: ‘the coinage of love….’” (Declared after the meeting between Patriarch Athenagoras and Pope Paul VI (Jerusalem, January 6, 1964).)

[7] «H Α ΠΠΔ αποφάσισε το 1976 να αφήσει αμετάβλητα τα δόγματα και τους κανόνες…και να λάβει, επί τη βάσει αυτών, θεολογικής και εκκλησιολογικής φύσεως αποφάσει» (Maria Brun).

[8] Swidler, Leonard, ‘The Context: Breaking Reform by Breaking Theologians and Religious,’ in The Church in Anguish: Has the Vatican Betrayed Vatican II?, ed. by Hans Kung and Swidler, ἔκδ. Harper and Row, San Francisco 1987, σσ. 189-192 (σ. 189), ὅπως ἀναφέρεται στὸν Gabriel, Yves Congar’s Vision, σ. 57

[9] Congar, Yves, Le Theologien dans l’Eglise aujourd’hui, σ. 12, as quoted in Gabriel, Yves Congar’s Vision, σ. 57

[10] Βλ: Mettepenningen, Nouvelle Théologie. «[Ἡ ἐπιρροή τους, ὅπως μποροῦμε νὰ δοῦμε ἀπὸ τὶς acta τῆς Συνόδου καὶ τὰ ποικίλα Συνοδικὰ ἡμερολόγια, ἀποδείχθηκε ἐξόχως σημαντικὴ» (σ. 6). Βλ. ἐπίσης: Guarino, Thomas G., Foundations of Systematic Theology. ἔκδ. T&T Clark, New York 2005), σ. 288

[11] The Third Pan Orthodox Conference (Chambessy 1986) did not dare to adopt the phrase “heterodox Christians.” According to the minutes of the meeting, Metropolitan George of Mt. Lebanon stated: “I was ready to suggest the term “heterodox Christians”, but perhaps we are able to find an even more moderate expression.” The president of the meeting, Metropolitan Chrysostom of Myron, responded: “Let us avoid using the term “heterodox.”! (Συνοδικά ΙΧ, σ. 251).

[12] See Unitatis Redintegratio § 3,4 and Protopresbyter Peter Heers, The Ecclesiological Renovation of Vatican II (Uncut Mountain Press, 2015), 271-76.

[13] According to the decision of the Primates (Jan. 21-28, 2016) the following will be invited to be present as representatives: 1) two from the Roman Catholic Church, 2) one from the Coptic Church, 3) one from the Ethiopian Church, 4) one from the Armenian Church, 5) one from the Catholicos of Cilicia, 6) one from the Syro-Jacobite Church, 7) one from the Anglican Church, 8) the Archbishop of the Old Catholics of the Union of Utrecht, 9) one from the worldwide Lutheran Federation, 10) the General Secretary of the World Council of Churches and the Head of the Faith and Order Commission, 11) the President of the European Council of Churches, 12) the General Secretary of the Middle Eastern Council of Churches, and 13) the President of the Council of the Evangelical Church of Germany.

[14] The official explanation given to the bishops by the Theological Commission to explain this change shows that it was made to agree with the new consideration of the non–Roman Catholic mysteries and communions as such. The Commission said the change was made “so that the expression might better agree with the affirmation about the ecclesial elements which are found elsewhere.” Sullivan, Francis A., S.J. “The Significance of the Vatican II Declaration that the Church of Christ ‘Subsists in’ the Roman Catholic Church.” In René Latourelle, editor, Vatican II: Assessment and Perspectives, Twenty-five Years After (1962– 1987). Volume 2. New York: Paulist Press, 1989, 274.

[15] Sullivan, Significance, 273.

[16] For example, Pope Pius XII, in both Mystici Corporis (1943) and Humani generis (1950), made it very clear that the Mystical Body of Christ, the Church of Christ, and the Roman Catholic Church were one and the same thing.

[17] Lumen Gentium 8.

[18] Τσομπανίδης, Στυλιανός Χ. [Tsombanidis, Stylianos X.]. Η Διακήρυξη “Dominus Iesus” και η Οικουμενική Σημασία της [The declaration “Dominus Iesus” and its ecumenical meaning]. Πουρναρά: Θεσσαλονίκη, 2003, 122– 23.

[19] Τσομπανίδης, Ἡ Διακήρυξη Dominus Iesus, 82.

[20] This is apparent, for example, in UR 15a: “through the celebration of the Holy Eucharist in each of these [Orthodox] Churches, the Church of God is built up and grows in stature.”

[21] Sullivan, “The Significance of the Vatican II Declaration that the Church of Christ ‘Subsists in’ the Roman Catholic Church,” 283 (emphasis added). Likewise, according to I. Spiteri, “[ from a reading of the encyclical UUS] a new image of the Church emerges, a Church which is constituted by a communion of Churches, in which, in some way, all Christian Churches belong.” Ἰ. Σπιτέρης, “Ἡ Καθολική Ἐκκλησία καὶ οἱ ἄλλες χριστιανικές Ἐκκλησίες” [The Catholic Church and the other Christian Churches], Θ. Κοντίδης (ἐπιμ.), (Ὁ Καθολικισμος, Ἀθήνα 2000), 246.

[22] See: http://www.amen.gr/article/ypomnima-tou-mitropoliti-messinias-gia-to-panorthodokso-keimeno-sxeseis-tis-orthodoksou-ekklisias-pros-ton-loipon-xristianikon-kosmon.

[23] The Orthodox Word, Nov.-Dec. 1976 (71), 184-195 (http://orthodoxinfo.com/ecumenism/towards.aspx).

[24] Ορθόδοξος Τύπος, 304/10.2.1978, σ. 4. In English: http://orthodoxinfo.com/ecumenism/stjustin_council.aspx.

On Monotonic and Polyphonic Chant

athos_chantBishop Chrysostomos
 Former Archbishop and Metropolitan Emeritus of Etna

It is well known that in 1846, Patriarch Anthimos VI, who between 1845 and 1873 served three non-consecutive terms on the Ecumenical Throne, issued an encyclical, together with his Bishops, in November of that year, decrying and disallowing the introduction of polyphonic singing in four parts (tetraphony) into the Greek Orthodox Church. A document purported to be the text of this official encyclical has been in circulation for some time and has been variously translated into English. The most common and widespread English translation of it appears under the title, “An Official Condemnation of Four-Part Harmony: An Encyclical of the Ecumenical Patriarchate.” It is fairly adequately translated, though with a few imprecise and awkward exceptions. The document vigorously maintains that Byzantine chant, or monotonic singing, was handed down by the Fathers of the Church and that the introduction of secular music, and specifically tetraphonic singing, into the solemnity of Orthodox worship violates canonical prescriptions against innovations in what is established ecclesiastical tradition. It concludes with an appeal propter fidem to guard the traditions of the Church and to accept, by way of abolishing the innovation of tetraphony, the counsel of the Patriarch and his Synod, so as to enjoy continuing ecclesiastical praise and accolades.

In fact, the document in question is not an official synodal condemnation of four-part harmony; nor is it an official synodal encyclical. It is, rather, simply a letter of exhortation. The misleading title appended to both the Greek and English texts of the document, identifying it as a “condemnation of four-part harmony” and calling it a “Patriarchal encyclical,” is taken from the title of an article (dubbed a chronicle) in the famous monthly Orthodox publication, Kιβωτός, or The Ark (defunct since 1955), in which the celebrated defender of Byzantine music and Iconography, Photios Kontoglou, often published. The article, written by Alexander Pa- pademetriou, is entitled, “Over a Hundred Years Ago: An Official Condemnation of Tetraphony,” and features a reprint of, and comments on, the exhortatory letter. The reproduction of this untitled letter (as Papademetriou correctly identifies it), is directed to “the Most devout Priests, most holy Hieromonks, most noble dignitaries, most valued merchants, and all other blessed Christians constituting the Orthodox community of Capella in Vienna” [translation mine], and is dated November 5, 1846 (Old Style). It was prompted by a decision of the Orthodox Greeks in Vienna to ban traditional monophonic singing and replace it with western polyphonic music. Constantine Cavarnos sums up this innovation as follows:

“Four-part harmony, which the Russians took from the Western Church, was introduced in certain Greek churches in the nineteenth century. The first to introduce it in a Greek church were the Greeks of Vienna. In 1844, these people officially abolished Byzantine chanting and introduced four-part harmony into the two Greek Orthodox churches of Vienna. Afterwards, four-part harmony was introduced in Pest, Baden, Alexandria, Athens, and elsewhere”.

The aforementioned letter of exhortation was not, again, an official condemnation of tetraphony as such. While certainly judging four-part singing to be inappropriate for Church use, it was an admonition (note the phrase “we paternally advise you”) to reverse or rescind the decision of the Greek community in Vienna to cease using traditional Greek Orthodox chant. This becomes quite clear when one expertly examines the complex history of Byzantine chant… The Vienna Greek community’s innovation did not spread to other Greek communities in Europe because it had suddenly given voice to a new idea. Deviations from the strictest canons of Byzantine music were already known elsewhere in the Greek diaspora, and polyphony made its debut in Vienna as early as 1808, with the introduction of instruction in tetraphonic singing. This corresponded to an equally strong, if less studied, movement towards polyphony among the influential Greeks of Trieste. It was the precipitous proscription of the use of traditional Byzantine chant on the part of the Greek community in Vienna—and this in manifestly disrespectful and supercilious written exchanges with the Patriarchate, expressing patently anserine arguments against Byzantine music in favor of the putatively more sophisticated music of the West—that so roused the attention of Constantinople and triggered the letter in question.

The notion that, in reaction to some hitherto unknown assault against the monolithic use of ancient Byzantine chant, the Patriarchate suddenly issued an encyclical, on November 5, 1846, universally condemning, urbi et orbi, the use of four-part harmony throughout the Orthodox Church is simply not the case. This is a myth created by the confusion of the letter of November 5, as we shall see, with an actual Patriarchal proclamation on tetraphony in the same month. This is an important point, since the Patriarch’s exhortatory letter must be understood in the context of the specific events and exchanges that led to its promulgation. Constantinople’s official comments on four-part harmony, while related to the exchanges with the Greek community in Vienna, have a different and broader etiology, rationale, and aim, and thus they must be separately evaluated. Once again, the letter directed specifically to the Viennese Greeks had an undeniable pastoral tone and implored the two Orthodox communities there to return to and preserve the traditions of the Greek Church, thus maintaining the unity of Greeks beyond its borders with a nation that had only sixteen years earlier been recognized by the London Protocol as a sovereign state, after a long and bloody war of independence against the Ottoman Empire. The official proclamation on tetraphony, while certainly a reaction to ecclesiastical innovation among the Greeks in Europe, was a more nuanced statement than it may seem; it also addressed other concerns of the Œcumenical Patriarchate by way of the issue of innovation in Church singing.

The official proclamation on tetraphony by the Patriarchate in Constantinople—and I have a copy of the original before me— is entitled: Ἐγκύκλιος Πατριαρχικὴ καὶ Συνοδικὴ Ἐπιστολή: Kα- ταργοῦσα καὶ ἀπaγορεύουσα τὴν καινοτόμον εἴσαξιν καὶ χρῆσιν τῆς καινοφανοῦς τετραφώνου μουσικῆς ἐν ταῖς ἱεραῖς ἀκολου- θίαις τῶν ἁπανταχοῦ ὀρθοδόξων [sic] Ἐκκλησιῶν (A patriarchal and synodal encyclical letter: Rescinding and forbidding the innovative introduction and usage of the newly appeared tetraphonic music in the sacred services of orthodox churches everywhere”). The title page indicates that it is produced under the “care and supervision” (προνοίᾳ καὶ φροντίδι) of “His All-Holiness, Œc- umenical Patriarch Lord Lord Anthimos and the Holy and Sacred Synod.” The title page on the ten-page pamphlet indicates that it is “From the Press of the Nation at the Patriarchate in Constantinople,” and the publication is dated November (Kατὰ Nοέμβριον) 1846. I have translated the word “καταργοῦσα” as “rescinding”— one of its uses—instead of “abolishing,” thereby emphasizing that it, like the letter of November 5, 1846, is in part a direct nullification of the egregious proscription, by the Greeks in Vienna, of the use of Byzantine music in their two Churches. At the same time, it effectively underscores the fact that this official encyclical from the Patriarchate is not some Taliban-like condemnation in vacuo of polyphony, as various individuals, not a few overly zealous, have made it out to be, and particularly by associating it with the letter of exhortation issued to the Viennese Greek communities.

…[H]aving looked, now, at the more immediate and primary historical context of the 1846 letter to the Greek community in Vienna and the Patriarchal Encyclical on Byzantine chanting and Orthodox Church singing, allow me to make some more gen- eral remarks about chanting and psalmody. In the first three centuries of Christian monasticism, which came to influence much of our Orthodox worship, chanting was, if not discouraged, at least thought to be a distraction in spiritual life. The desert Fathers, for instance, who were more given to reading the Psalms than to singing them, were especially suspicious of ornate hymns or complex chants. In stark form, their admonitions against psalmody can be seen in the following excerpt from the Evergetinos, directed by Abba Pambo, a fourth-century Saint, to one of his disciples, who had heard what may well have been some primitive psalmodic counterpart of future asmatic Church services. His words are striking:

“The days are coming upon us when monks will abandon the strong food given to them by the Holy Spirit and chase after songs and melodies. . . . [M]onks have not come into this desert in order to inflate their minds, while standing in the presence of God, with the singing of Psalms…”

This trend was not a dominant one, obviously. However, it lingers in the Orthodox understanding of hymnography. St. John Chrysostomos, for example, calls our tongues the strings of a spiritual lyre, calling us to mortify the flesh and create a harmony of mind and soul, in order to create a spiritual melody. In so doing he calls us to “spiritualize” our Church music and to connect it to the inner life and what the Hesychasts would call the harmony of the body with the noetic quality and of bodily speech and song with the inner voice of mystical knowing. It is thus only natural that there lingers in the Orthodox world a suspicion of the secularized music of what it sees as the humanistic West. A fair-minded observer must live with this fact, factoring it into any consideration of proclamations like that of the Ecumenical Patriarchate on tetraphony in 1846, neither understating nor overstating it.

Let me conclude by saying that I am unapologetic about my strong preference for Byzantine music, when properly, piously, and skillfully chanted by a humble Cantor with a good voice and the self-effacing demeanor famously attributed to St. John Koukouzeles. It subdues the emotions and enhances the spiritual faculties. I also immensely like traditional Slavic ecclesiastical music, including some that is sung polyphonically with worshipful piety, well, and without the flourish of the opera. The latter, I believe, appeals more greatly to the emotions, but the emotions, when cleansed and properly directed, can also bring us into basic spiritual intercourse with God. Nor do I argue that both kinds of music have no place in the concert hall, if respectfully presented. In the end, whatever music we sing, it must first adorn the Eucharistic celebration, which is central to all Church services, play an accessory rôle in its cel- ebration, and complement the “otherly” that dominates the Church’s sacred space. If operatic performances in Church can thwart that divine aim, so can arrogant Cantors, thinking themselves anything more than servants to the Liturgy and its priestly celebrants.

Likewise, if intransigence in resisting a moderate, intelligent view of the primacy of certain traditions of Church music can prove harmful to Holy Tradition, so can insistence on such traditions, when spawned by phyletism, narrow-mindedness, and an abuse of the historical context in which the Church lives. I thus advocate a use of multiple traditions, covered by the light of what is spiritually fruitful and respectful of the enduring standard. (A Few Remarks About Byzantine Chant as the Unique Standard of Orthodox Church Singing, Orthodox Tradition: Volume XXXIII, Number 1)

On Chalcedon and Semantics

uec_gr_athos_great_lavra_church_athanasius_fourth_ecumenical_councilFr. Georges Florovsky 1893-1979

I do not think our separation [with Anti-Chalcedonians] is due only to historical misunderstandings about the terms physis, hypostasis, ousia, prosopon, etc. These terms have taken a definite sense in the effort of the whole undivided Church to voice the one truth of the revelation of God. They used the Greek language. Well, Greek is the language of the New Testament. Everything in early Christianity is Greek. We are all Greeks in our thinking as Christians. This is not meant in a narrow nationalistic sense, but as part of our common spiritual and intellectual background. The Fathers worked out an interpretation from which we simply cannot escape. They had to clothe the event of revelation in understandable language and categories. The difficulty was there right from the beginning, to understand fully these categories and interpret them fully in the realm of soteriology and anthropology. The special difficulty was really to interpret “hypostasis” in regard to the union of the two natures. Chalcedon emphasized the atreptos [without change]This implies that in One hypostasis of the Incarnate Logos humanity was present in its absolute completeness — teleios anthropos, although it was the proper humanity of the Logos. The term physis is used in the Chalcedonian definition precisely for the purpose to emphasize this “completeness”. In fact, atreptos and teleios anthropos belong indivisibly together. (Aug. 12th, 1964 Discussion on the Paper “Chalcedonians and Monophysites After Chalcedon” by The Rev. Professor J. Meyendorff. Morning Session)

Jaroslav Pelikan 1923-2006

Even more than the christological controversies before Chalcedon the continuing debate after Chalcedon was shaped by non-theological factors, ranging from mob rule and athletic rivalry to military promotions and the domestic intrigues of the imperial household… Nevertheless, the religious, liturgical, and dogmatic import of the debate must not be minimized because of any of this. For the post-Chalcedonian conflicts made it clear that as the settlement of the dogma of the Trinity at Nicea and Constantinople had reopened the christological question, so the settlement of the dogma of the two natures in Christ at Ephesus and Chalcedon reopened the trinitarian question, as well as the other fundamental presupposition of christological doctrine, the question of soteriology. The controversy had come full circle. (The Emergence of the Catholic Tradition 100-600, p. 266-267)

Although the reasons for this continuing schism over the dogma of the Person of Christ lie in large measure outside the history of doctrine, it would be sheer reductionism to suppose, as many modern interpreters have, that there were no genuine doctrinal issues at stake. (The Spirit of Eastern Christendom 600-1700, p. 37-38)

Fr. John McGuckin

[T]he Christological difficulties between the separated Orthodox communions do not thereby disappear by lexicological magic, as if they never existed outside the realm of semantic confusion and misunderstanding…

Is this double speak to be at once Miaphysite and Dyophysite? Not for those who understand the patristic semantics; because in the first phrase physis means more or less what hypostasis came to mean, and still means now. And in the second affirmation, in the Chalcedonian dyophysite language, physis means no more than a set of natural attributes deductible from observation, but certainly no longer the archaic sense of ‘concrete instantiation’. Thus we affirm in the Miaphysite phrase that the Incarnate Lord is a single hypostasis-as-physis. And in the Chalcedonian dyophysite language we affirm that the Single Lord unites two perfectly intact natures (Godhead and Humanity) which are irrefragably and mysteriously made One in the unificative energy of his own single person (hypostasis, prosopon – even physis – but only as the latter term was understood in the time of the earlier Fathers, as a synonym of hypostasis). Therefore it is by no means incompatible with Orthodoxy, rather necessary for a fuller confession of the faith, to assert the correctness of both the Cyrilline Miaphysite formula and the Chalcedonian definition: Mia physis and dyo-physeis. But here we have to understand the patristic semantics properly and keep the two key issues to the fore: first that physis in the Miaphysite confession means ‘person’; secondly that the Chalcedonian dyophysite statement does not mean two natures abiding after the henosis in an unchanging static parallelism, but rather as inseparably united in the divine force of the unity of Christ’s person.

So, is the long and large falling out between the Byzantine and Oriental Orthodox all about this simple misunderstanding of how ancient words can carry different meanings and shift in nuances over the years? Yes, partly. But something else is also at stake; and, for me at least, it still carries on today in similar, less radical, ways to the root causes of the ancient debate. (St. Cyril of Alexandria’s Miaphysite Christology and Chalcedonian Dyophysitism)

On Peace and Truth

St CyrilSt. Cyril of Alexandria ca. 376-444

I love peace; there is nothing that I detest more than quarrels and disputes. I love everybody, and if I could heal one of the brethren by losing all my possessions and goods, I am willing to do so joyfully; because it is concord that I value most… But there is a question of the faith and of a scandal which concerns all the churches of the Roman Empire… The sacred doctrine is entrusted to us… I am ready to endure with tranquility all the blame, all humiliations, all injuries provided that faith is not endangered. I am filled with love for Nestorius; nobody loves him more than I do… If, in accordance with Christ’s commandment, we must love our very enemies themselves, is it not natural that we should be united in special affection to those who are in the priesthood? But when the faith is attacked, we must not hesitate to sacrifice our life itself. And if we fear to preach the truth because that causes us some inconvenience, how, in our gatherings, can we chant the combats and triumphs of our holy martyrs? (Christological Dialogue on the Incarnation of the Only-Begotten, p. 15)

St. Cyril of Alexandria on Miaphysite Christology and Chalcedonian Dyophysitism

st_cyril_alexandriaThe following Fr. John McGuckin paper is a must-read for those interested in the ongoing dialogue between the Orthodox and the Anti-Chalcedonian Miaphysites. Fr. John is an expert on St. Cyril’s theology and all are encouraged to read, and re-read his magnificent “St. Cyril of Alexandria: The Christological Controversy: Its History, Theology, and Texts”; nevertheless, there are also some objectionable ecclesiological misstatements within the paper. Fr. John utilizes terminology like “separated brethren” typical of those who have embraced an errant form of ecumenism. This is the terminology of Vat II, therefore, he seems to imply that the Anti-Chalcedonians are to be numbered among the Orthodox. The Word says, “My dove, my undefiled is one; She is the only one of her mother” (Songs 6:9); consequently, “theosis has no sister”. There has never been any local Orthodox Church that has been repeatedly anathematized by the others in successive Ecumenical Synods and eucharistic ecclesiology cannot be stretched so far. The Anti-Chalcedonians have been cut off from the Church according to Orthodox dogmatic sources and the Saints. Likewise, the Orthodox and Council of Chalcedon have been anathematized by their dogmatic authorities. (refer to Christology and the Council of Chalcedon by Fr. Shenouda Ishak, Parts 5 & 6)

We long and pray for the day when we can unite with the Anti-Chalcedonians, and everyone else who has rejected Orthodox doctrine, however, this union can only occur via the path of repentance, rejection of error, embracing the Truth and adhering to the Orthodox dogmas set forth in the Ecumenical Synods and other sources of Orthodox Tradition. St. John of Kronstadt: “Unite in this faith all the great Christian societies, woefully having fallen aside from the unity of the Holy Orthodox Catholic and Apostolic Church, which is Your Body and whose Head art Thou and the Savior of the Body… grant unto their hearts to know the truth and salvific nature of Thy Church and to unite with it; link to Thy holy Church also those who are suffering from ignorance, delusion, and the stubbornness of schism… Draw all nations populating the earth to this faith, that they may all glorify Thee, the only God of all, with one heart and one mouth.” (Kizenko, ‘A Prodigal Saint: Father John of Kronstadt and the Russian People’, p. 54)

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Fr. John McGuckin

St. Cyril of Alexandria’s Miaphysite Christology and Chalcedonian Dyophysitism

The Quest for the Phronema Patrum

The critically important phrase which St. Cyril of Alexandria uses in his early Christological doctrine, Mia physis tou theou logou sesarkomene (One enfleshed nature (physis) of God the Word), is one that the Non-Chalcedonian (Oriental) Orthodox Churches return to with great insistence, as part of their historic position that Chalcedon 451 departed from Cyril’s authentically patristic theology of the Incarnate Union (of God and Man) in Christ’s own divine Person. It is therefore of the utmost importance in the ongoing discussion of the separated Orthodox traditions that this Cyrilline Miaphysite teaching should be understood (by all parties), for it is something that is the common faith of both the Byzantine and the Oriental Orthodox traditions. It is the thesis of this paper that the Byzantine Orthodox Tradition, offering as its confession of Christological faith a synthesis of the synodical teachings from Ephesus 431 to Chalcedon 451 and Constantinople 553 (the three can never be separated in the confession of the Byzantine Orthodox, since all are regarded as the authentic exegesis of the others) is that the Miaphysite doctrine of St. Cyril is as correct as the Dyophysite doctrine of Chalcedon. That this is not a hopelessly illogical stance is explained on the basis that the term physis is being used by Cyril in an archaic sense, as equivalent to the term hypostasis at Chalcedon later; and so the Mia physis can coexist as an important (and common element of universal Christian Orthodoxy) along with the dyo physeis, without being logically contradictory. The implications of this will be further argued to the effect that Cyrilline Miaphysites are not necessarily Monophysites (who have largely existed between the covers of heresiology books) no more than Chalcedonian Dyophysites must be either Nestorians or deniers of the wondrous effects of the Christological Union (henosis). However, the article also states as its thesis that the Christological difficulties between the separated Orthodox communions do not thereby disappear by lexicological magic, as if they never existed outside the realm of semantic confusion and misunderstanding. On the contrary, the discussion will address the charge of the Oriental Orthodox that the continuing insistence on two natures after the Christological Union means that Chalcedonians do not really take on board the implications that what the Word has made one in Himself (the two natures of Godhead and Humanity) cannot legitimately be spoken of, after the Union, as two.

The investigation of this ancient patristic phrase of the Mia Physis is thus more than an exercise in historical theology. It has direct and important implications for the communion of the Orthodox churches in fundamental ways today, as separated brothers and sisters begin to hear one another more clearly, and study the foundational texts more seriously than for many centuries past. What is at stake is a common search for a central value for all Orthodox, namely the true exegesis of what is the phronema patrum or patristic mindset and how this is manifested in synodical statements that are believed to be Oecumenical (that is of the whole Christian Oikoumene) precisely because these Synods themselves represent this essential phronema most purely.

On the Suffering God

IMG_3921St. Maximus the Confessor ca. 580-662

As God, He was the motivating principle of His own humanity, and as man He was the revelatory principle of His own divinity. One could say then, that He experienced suffering in a divine way, since it was voluntary (and He was not mere man); and that He worked miracles in a human way, since they were accomplished through the flesh (for He was not naked God). Therefore His sufferings are wondrous, for they have been renewed by the natural divine power of the One Who suffered. So too are His wonders wedded to passibility, for they were completed by the naturally passible power of the flesh of the One Who worked them. (Ambiguum 5, 18)

On Obedience for Our Sakes

BetrayalSt. Athanasius the Great ca. 297-373

For even though He was God, yet He fulfilled obedience in the flesh and according to the flesh and prevailed over the will of the flesh by the will of the Godhead, as He had said beforehand, ‘I have come down from heaven not to do My own will, but the will of the Father Who sent Me, calling that of the flesh His own will, since the flesh had become His own.

It was necessary for the will of the flesh to be moved and yet subjected to the divine will, and so human disobedience is forgiven as a result of this extraordinary obedience, that of Christ for our sake. (Sermon on ‘Now My soul is troubled’ preserved in full in the Acts of Constantinople III, ACO II/2, 658-62, p. 660,10-17)

On the Dread in Gethsemane

Garden-of-GethsemaneSt. Ambrose of Milan ca. 338-397

[H]e felt dread as a man and was troubled as a man. It was not the Power that was troubled, it was not the Godhead that was troubled: He was troubled in His own soul, He was troubled in the nature of human weakness; for since He took our soul, therefore, He assumed the emotions of our souls as well. For He was not able to be troubled or distressed as God. But even if He says, ‘My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?, He utters this as man, displaying my infirmities. For when we are in danger, we think that we have been abandoned by God. So He is troubled as man, He weeps as man, He is crucified as man. (De Fide II.7, 25-33, CSEL 78, pp. 75-6)

[W]hen He says, ‘Let not My will be done,’ He indicates the human will by this remark; in adding ‘Yours’, He displays His paternal will, since the human will is for a time, while God’s will is by nature eternal. Therefore, the will of the Father and the will of the Son are not different; for where there is one Godhead, the will is certainly one. (Exposition of Luke X. 60, CCSL 14, 363)

St. Cyril on Dyoenergism and Dyotheletism

agonia-ist2010St. Cyril of Alexandria ca. 376-444

For things that have the same nature as one another will operate in the same way, while with things whose qualities have a different account the account of their operation in all respects would not be the same. (Commentary on the Holy Gospel According to John II.6, ed. Pusey, I, p. 318, 5-8)

Let the inquisitive again reflect that the Savior, in saying that His works bore clear witness that He was God by nature, taught plainly that it would not be among things possible for the operation and power fitting to God to exist in anything indistinguishably unless it too were God by nature. (ibid. III.1, ed. Pusey, I, p. 373, 10-15)

For it is, I think, clear and acknowledged by everyone that the properties of the Godhead are completely inaccessible to the created nature, and its natural attributes could never occur in any other existing thing in an equal and indistinguishable mode. (ibid. III.5, ed. Pusey, I, p. 448, 15-19)

‘If death can die without My dying’ (this clearly refers to the flesh) ‘let the cup depart’ (He says), ‘but’ (since it could not happen otherwise) ‘not as I will but as You will.’ You perceive how powerless again is human nature even in Christ, as it is found in itself; but is raised up to a courage proper to God the Word united to it. (ibid. IV.1, ed. Pusey, I, p. 487, 13-19)

If He perfected us through water and the Spirit, surely the same operated both divinely and humanly at the same time, being, in a single Being, both God and man together. (Commentary on Hebrews, lost fragment)

Things possessing the same operation and exercising the same natural powers must of necessity have wholly the same essence as well, for none of the things that exist will possess indistinguishably the same powers and operations as what is different in nature and different in essence. (Thesaurus, 8. PG 75. 105AB)

Things with the same operation are acknowledged to be of the same essence as well. (Thesaurus 10, PG 105. 137AB)

No sensible person would concede that things different in kind and nature possess the same operation. For fire could not have one and the same operation as water; but just as they possess a distinct definition of essence and qualities, so they will exhibit a different operation as well. (Thesaurus 14, PG 75. 241B)

When the Savior is shown dreading death and saying, ‘If it is possible, let this cup pass from me,’ (Mt. 26:39) reflect again that, when it was in dread of death, the flesh that was borne by God the Word was taught to suffer this no longer. He said to the Father, Not as I will, but as You will.’ (Mt. 26:39) For He did not fear death as Word and God, but was eager to perform the dispensation to the end, for such was the will of the Father. He had as well a volition not to die, because the flesh of its nature deprecated death. Therefore, teaching the manhood to think these thoughts no longer but to seek the will of God, He says as Man, ‘Not as I will but You will’. (Thesaurus 24, PG 75. 397A)

St Cyril

The Savior abolished death by His own death. For just as death would not have been abolished had He not died, so is it with each of the emotions of the flesh. For if He had not felt dread, nature would not be free of dread; if He had not felt distress, there would never have been an end to distress; if He had not been troubled and terrified, it would have never escaped from these things. Applying the same reasoning to each of the human experiences, you will find that the emotions of the flesh were excited in Christ not so that they might prevail as in us, but so that, once excited, they might be abolished by the power of the Word Who dwelt in the flesh, with nature being changed for the better. (Thesaurus 24, PG 75. 397C)

The Word of God became man not in order to perform and utter everything as God before the Incarnation, but so that often through the neediness of the dispensation with the flesh He might say certain things as man. Therefore, since the Mystery had this power, would it not be absurd for the hearers to take offense at His speaking, at times, in a more human way? Foe He speaks as man, and also speaks as God, having power to do both. (Thesaurus 24, PG 75. 400AB)

For how could One Who in works is equal to the Father be inferior as regards His nature? And how could One invested with the same operation and power as He is be different from Him in nature? (Thesaurus 32, PG 75. 453BC)

On Scriptural Interpretations

191710.pSt. Maximus the Confessor ca. 580-662

I ask you not to take what I say as a definitive spiritual interpretation of the [biblical] passages in question, for I am very far from the mind and meaning of the divine words, with respect to which I need to be taught by others. If it should happen that you—on your own or with others—are able to provide a better interpretation or perchance to learn something from what I have written, this is for you to determine, and produce a more elevated and true understanding, the fruit of which is the heart’s fulfillment for those who long for spiritual insight into the things that puzzle and perplex them. This is because the divine word [of Scripture] is like water, for just as water operates in different species of plants and vegetation and in different kinds of living things—by which I mean in human beings who drink the Word Himself—the Word is manifested in them through the virtues, in proportion to their level of knowledge and ascetic practice, like burgeoning fruit produced according to the quality of virtue and knowledge in each, so that He becomes known to others through other qualities and characteristics. For the divine Word could never be circumscribed by a single individual interpretation, nor does it suffer confinement in a single meaning, on account of its natural infinity. (Questions to Thalassius, Prologue)

On Eternal Blindness

maximusconfessor1St. Maximus the Confessor ca. 580-662

With God’s cooperation we omit none of the aforementioned steps, lest through even minor negligence we render our faith blind and devoid of eyes, and thus be deprived of the illuminations of the Spirit which are given through actual deeds, and be justly punished for endless ages (κολασθῶμεν δικαίως εἰς ἀπείρους αἰώνας), for to the extent that it depended upon us, we blinded the divine eyes of faith which had opened within us according to the measure of our faith. (Questions to Thalassius, 54)

On Sophiology and Russian Intellectualism

imageSt. John of Shanghai and San Francisco 1896-1966

A consequence of the fall of the Russian State was the arising of the Russian Diaspora. More than a million people were forced to leave their homeland and be scattered about the whole face of the earth.

A significant part of the Russians who went abroad belonged to that intellectual class which in recent times has lived by the ideas of the West. While belonging to the Orthodox Church and confessing themselves to be Orthodox, the people of this class in their world outlook significantly departed from Orthodoxy. The chief sin of people of this class was that they did not build their convictions and way of life on the teaching of the Orthodox faith, but rather strove to make the rules and teaching of the Orthodox Church conform to their own habits and desires. Therefore, on the one hand they were but very little interested in the essence of Orthodox teaching, often even considering the dogmatic teaching of the Church as being completely unimportant; and on the other hand they fulfilled the demands and rites of the Orthodox Church, but only in so far as this did not interfere with their more European than Russian way of life. From this comes their disdainful attitude towards fasting, their visiting of churches only for a short time, and this rather more for the satisfaction of aesthetic than religious feeling, and their complete lack of understanding of religion as the chief foundation of the spiritual life of man.

In the public realm this class likewise lived by the ideas of the West. Without giving any place at all for the influence of the Church, it strove to reconstruct the whole life of Russia, especially in the realm of State government, according to Western models. For this reason, in recent times an especially fierce battle was waged against State authority, and at the same time the necessity for liberal reforms and a democratic organization of Russia became as it were a new faith, not to confess which signified that one was behind the times… the intellectual class led Imperial Russia to its fall and prepared the way for the Communist power.

After the coming to power of Communism, the intellectual class was partially annihilated, and partially it fled abroad, saving its own life… Finding themselves abroad, the Russian people suffered great spiritual shocks. In the souls of a majority there occurred a significant crisis which was marked by a mass return of the intellectual class to the Church.

However, this positive manifestation also had its negative side. By no means all of those who returned to faith accepted it in all the fullness of Orthodox teaching. The proud mind could not agree that up to now it had stood on a false path. There arose strivings to make Christian teaching agree with the previous views and ideas of the converts. Therefore there was a whole series of new religious-philosophical currents, often completely foreign to Church teaching. Of these currents, especially widespread was Sophiology, which is founded on the recognition of the value of man in himself and expresses the psychology of the intellectual class.

Sophiology as a doctrine is known to a comparatively small group of people, and very few actually subscribe to it openly. But a significant part of the Intellectual class of the emigration is spiritually akin to it, for the psychology of Sophiology is the worship of man, who is no longer the humble slave of God, but is himself a small god who has no need to be blindly submissive to the Lord God. A feeling of refined pride bound up with faith in the possibility for a man to live by his own wisdom, is very characteristic of many people who are “cultural” in the modern sense, who place above everything else the conclusions of their own minds and do not desire to be in everything submissive to the teaching of the Church, looking upon it favorably in a condescending way…

In the future life the judgment will be most severe for those Russians who, being educated in superb colleges, become the fiercest enemies of Russia. One is forced to foresee already that in the future the Diaspora will give many conscious workers against Orthodox Russia, who will strive to make it Catholic or spread various sects, and likewise those who, while remaining outwardly Orthodox and Russian, will secretly work against Russia.

But Russia was founded on and grew through Orthodoxy, and only Orthodoxy will save Russia. (The Meaning of the Russian Diaspora)

 

On Elder Philotheos and the Pious Priests

Elder PhilotheosBlessed Elder Philotheos of Paros 1884-1980

Now I come to you, the Priests of Greece and especially of Athens, and I beg you to hear me attentively. When 50 years ago—I do not remember precisely—Meletios Metaxakis of Kition…ascended to the Archepiscopal throne of Athens, he summoned a clergy congress in a hall in the offices of the Metropolis. Almost all the priests of Athens came enthusiastically to hear his paternal counsels. Instead of telling them, as Christ told His disciples, ‘Ye are the light of the world. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father Who is in heaven’ [St. Matthew 5:14,16]—to be ‘humble, merciful, meek, pure in heart, peacemakers, patient in afflictions, temptations, persecutions, accusations, and to rejoice when men persecute you, hate you and wrong you, to love God and every man, even your enemies, and to pray for them’ [St. Matthew, chapter 5]—he gave them the following advice. Listen, so that you may shudder and weep: ‘In Europe all the clergy shave, cut their hair, and go without rasa. We should imitate them, in case we should seem out of date and uncivilized.’ Then almost all the priests, with one mouth, with boldness and confidence, said to him: ‘Your Beatitude, we are Greek Orthodox; we will never become heretics, Protestants or Papists.’ Then, as a politician, not as a pastor, he told them: ‘I did not tell you to become Protestants and Papists. I told you that, because I am concerned for your health, since beards, uncut hair and rasa cause illness.’ A fair number of priests replied to him: ‘We are healthier than those who are shaven and woman-faced.’ Having given up hope because his aim and his advice had proved vain and fruitless, he turned to a doctor, whom he had brought along to assist his purpose, and said to him, ‘Doctor, talk to them, advise them, because they will not listen to me.’ When he was called upon to speak, the doctor began to give them advice, but some of the priests did not allow him to, saying to the Metropolitan: ‘Let the physician heal himself.’ Others said to the doctor, ‘Go and cure the sick who summon you. We are neither sick nor have we summoned you,’ and in this way the clergy congress dissolved into a shaming of Meletios Metaxakis, the modernist, the innovator, the scorner of Patristic Traditions, and redounded to the glory of God, the boast of Orthodoxy, and the praise of the priests of Athens. (Fourth Clarion Call to Salvation [Thessaloniki: “Orthodoxos Kypseli” Editions, 1981], p. 36)

On the Mystery of Lawlessness

1SR14__56007.1429296344.900.900Hieromonk Seraphim of Platina 1934-1982

St. Paul mentions the Apostasy, in 2 Thessalonians, he gives a second name for this movement or process. He calls it the “mystery of iniquity,” the “mystery of lawlessness.” He says the mystery of lawlessness is already at work, preparing for Antichrist, who is the “man of lawlessness.” As we look around in our twentieth century civilization, the word “lawlessness” or “anarchy” is perhaps the chief characteristic which identifies it.

…In the realm of moral teaching, it is quite noticeable, especially in the last twenty years or so, how lawlessness has become the norm. And even people in high positions within the clergy in various denominations of Catholics and Protestants, and so forth, are sometimes quite willing to justify all kinds of things which were previously considered immoral. Now there is considered something of a new morality, “situation ethics,” and so forth.

Solzhenitsyn mentions specifically in his Harvard lecture what happened in New York City three years ago when the electricity was cut off. He said: “The center of your culture is left without electric power for a few hours only, and all of a sudden crowds of American citizens start looting and creating havoc. The smooth surface film must be very thin. Your social system must be quite unstable and unhealthy”. . . . Forty years ago in America, if the lights went out, people would have helped each other out, lit candles, and so forth. Now, instead, they go and break windows, loot, take everything they can get for themselves, kill people and get away with whatever they think they can get away with. Something has changed in a short time.

All this is a sign of what St. Paul calls the “mystery of lawlessness.” It is a mystery because a mystery is something which is not fully revealed in this world; it is something which comes from the other world. And the “mystery of righteousness” is the whole story of how Christ came from heaven and tried to save us. The mystery of lawlessness is the opposite: it is some kind of mystery coming up from hell, which breaks into this world and changes this world. Therefore, this mystery of lawlessness or anarchy is preparing for the coming of the man of lawlessness, who is Antichrist.

Even in politics and government– which make no sense at all unless you have the idea of order-this idea of lawlessness is entering in… (Signs of the End Times)

On Islam and Salvation

iconof_stignatiusbrianchaninovSt. Ignaty Brianchaninov 1807-1867

Vainly and erroneously you think and say that virtuous… Muslims will be saved, that is they will join intercourse with God! Vainly you consider the contrary notion a novelty, a brief error! No! Such is the eternal teaching of the true Church, both Old Testament and New. The Church has always confessed that there exists one means of salvation: the Redeemer! She has confessed that the most virtuous of the fallen really do descend to Hell. Did the righteous of the True Church, the illumined from whom shone the Holy Spirit, the prophets and wonderworkers, believers in the Redeemer’s coming but with the demise of the anticipated coming of the Redeemer, descend to Hell so that, as you wish, the Muslims who neither recognize nor believe in the Redeemer receive, because they seem to you good people, that salvation which is delivered solely– solely, I repeat to you, by means of — belief in the Redeemer? — Christians! Know Christ! — Witness that you don’t know Him, that you denied him in claiming the possibility of salvation without Him for some kind of virtue! Claiming the possibility of salvation without belief in Christ denies Him and, maybe not consciously, falls into the grave sin of blasphemy. “Therefore we conclude,” says the Holy Apostle Paul, “that a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law.” (Romans 3:28) “Even the righteousness of God which is by faith of Jesus Christ unto all and upon all them that believe: for there is no difference: for all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God; being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus” (Romans 3:22-4). You will object: “The Holy Apostle James requires without fail good works; he teaches that ‘faith, if it hath not works, is dead’ (James 2:17).” Look again at what the Holy Apostle James requires. You will see that he, just like all God-inspired writers of Holy Scripture, requires the works of faith, and not the virtues of our fallen state! He requires living faith, confirmed by the deeds of the new man, and not the virtues of the fallen state, which are repugnant to faith. He cites the deeds of Patriarch Abraham, the work from which appeared the faith of a righteous man: this work consisted of offering as a sacrifice to God his only begotten son. To offer one’s son as a sacrifice– this is totally not a virtue according to human nature: it is a virtue as the fulfilment of the command of God, as a work of faith. Take a good look at the New Testament and in general all of Holy Scripture: you will find that it demands fulfilment of the commandments of God, that this fulfilment is called works, that from this fulfilment of God’s commandments faith in God comes to life, as functioning; without works faith is dead, lacking any movement. And contrary to this, you will find that virtuous works of the fallen state, done out of feeling, blood, impulses or tenderheartedness– are prohibited, repudiated! And namely for these virtues you like… the Muslims! To them, though it were repudiation of Christ, you want to give salvation. (Letter 203)

Turkey Pope Demo 01

You are blessed if you recognize the difference between the virtuous of the spirit and of the heart, between the virtuous peculiar solely to the New Adam, and virtuous which the old Adam is capable of joining: between the virtuous of the Gospel and the virtuous of our fallen state, the virtuous to whom are not strange idolaters, Muslims and all such people who shun the following of sacred Truth. (Letter 234)

Faith is sacred and true only when it is faith in the sacred Truth, when it is faith which yields on the earth the human form of divine Truth, our Lord Jesus Christ. Any other faith, except faith in the sacred Truth, is superstition. The fruits of superstition are ruin. Such faith is condemned by God: it is the faith of idolators in their idols, Muslims in their false prophet Mohammed and in the Qu’ran, heretics in their blasphemous dogmas and in their hereseiarchs, and rationalists in their fallen human intellect. With this faith will the Antichrist be believed by his followers. (Letter 236)

On ‘Partial’ Ecclesiological Communion

IMG_4180Protopresbyter Peter Heers

The idea of full and partial communion, so central to the new ecclesiology, is inconsistent with this understanding of the organic unity of the Church. Once again, in this regard as well, Vatican II was not a return to the patristic vision of the Church, but rather a further step away from it. As Metropolitan Kallistos Ware has written: “The Bible, the Fathers or the Canons know of only two possibilities: communion and non-communion. It is all or nothing. They do not envisage any third alternative such as ‘partial intercommunion.’” [1] Father Georges Florovsky likewise points out that in the patristic view of the Church “there was simply the question of ‘full communion,’ that is, of membership in the Church. And there were identical terms of this membership for all.” [2]

The identification of “full membership” with “membership in the Church”— a membership based on identical terms for all— could not come into more direct opposition to the heart of the new ecclesiology, which is based upon the possibility of there being degrees of membership in the Body of Christ. This idea stems from the acceptance of a division of the Mysteries from each other and from the Mystery of the Church as a whole. They suppose that Baptism can exist outside the unity of the Church and the other mysteries, mechanically, as it were, imparting membership to those who receive it in separation.

However, just as the Eucharist “is indissolubly bound to the whole content of faith, and likewise to the visible structure of the Church,” [3] so too is Baptism. And, just as “those who advocate intercommunion on the basis of ‘Eucharistic ecclesiology’” treat the Eucharist “too much in isolation (ibid.),” those who advocate a partial communion on the basis of a “common Baptism” likewise consider Baptism too much in isolation. While putting forth Baptism as a point of unity, they fail to realize that, apart from unity in faith and unity in the bishop, unity in a “common Baptism” is impossible. Just as communing together in the Holy Eucharist cannot compensate for, let alone create, unity in faith (ibid.), so too sharing the typos of Baptism (if it is actually shared) cannot create ecclesiastical unity or even a so-called “partial” unity.

Moreover, just as the Eucharist is celebrated and received locally and visibly, such that the separation of the heterodox from participation in the Eucharist is likewise visible and local, so too is Baptism performed in the local Eucharistic Synaxis, from which the heterodox are necessarily excluded. The One Church does not exist as an abstract idea, but is manifested visibly in time and space as the local Church. “One cannot be baptized into the Catholic Church without belonging at the same time to a local Church,” [4] for the local Church, “as an ‘organism,’ a sacramental body, is not a ‘part’ or a ‘member’ of a wider universal organism. It is the very Church itself.” [5] Likewise, one cannot be baptized into the “Catholic Church” of Christ without being in communion with all of the members of the Body, for Christ, the Head of the Church, is inseparable from all of His members. “Why,” asks St. John Chrysostom, “letting go the Head, dost thou cling to the members? If thou art fallen off from it, thou art lost.” [6] Whether one falls from the Head or from the Body, the result is the same: he has lost both the one and the other.

There is, therefore, no basis to suppose, as proponents of Unitatis Redintegratio and the new ecclesiology do, that “despite divisions and mutual condemnations all communities of the baptized . . . are in communion,” [7] even if only partially. Communion is one both vertical and horizontal, both with God and among men, both between the Head and His Body, and it is full and only full: “being complete here and complete there also.” [8] The Lord shows no partiality, but distributes the gifts to all alike within the Body. Once united, all become a single house, all are related and brothers in Christ. Just as there can be no partial Christ, there can be no partial communion in Christ, for the Body of communion, “which is his body, [is] the fulness of him that filleth all in all” (Eph. 1: 23). From the moment one is a member, the communion he enjoys in Christ is full, for Christ only gives Himself fully. Whether or not he fully actualizes this self-offering of Christ is not an institutional but an individual issue, and that within the Body.

Whether we speak of one Mystery or another, of Baptism or the Eucharist, one and the same Christ is offering Himself to man, uniting man to Himself. This unity with God is accomplished in the mysteries, all of which have certain presuppositions, first of all, and common to all, unity in faith. That is why what Fr. Dimitru Staniloae insists upon, and warns against, with regard to the Eucharist and “intercommunion” is equally true of Baptism and “partial communion”:

“Ecclesiastical unity, unity in faith, and unity in the Holy Eucharist are all three inseparable and interdependent for the total communion and life in Christ. Consequently, the Orthodox Church cannot accept “intercommunion,” which separates communion in the Holy Eucharist from unity in faith and ecclesiastical unity. More correctly, “intercommunion” is a danger which threatens to destroy the Church, break up the unity of faith and [communion in] the Holy Eucharist [among the Orthodox].” [9] 

So, too, the Orthodox Church cannot accept “partial” or “incomplete” communion in a “common Baptism,” for there can be no division between the Mysteries and the Mystery and between Christ in the Mysteries and Christ in whom we believe and trust, whom we confess, and in whom we have our being, our unity. Therefore, the acceptance of an “incomplete communion” between the Church and the heterodox is, like intercommunion in the Eucharist, a grave danger to the unity of the body of Christ. The body of the Church is joined together with the Lord such that, as St. John Chrysostom has written, even the slightest division, the slightest “imperfection” or “incompleteness,” would eventually bring the dissolution of the entire body. (Heers, Fr. Peter [2015-11-16]. The Ecclesiological Renovation of Vatican II: An Orthodox Examination of Rome’s Ecumenical Theology Regarding Baptism and the Church (Kindle Locations 2478-2482). Uncut Mountain Press. Kindle Edition)

[1] Archimandrite Kallistos Ware, Communion and Intercommunion: A Study of Communion and Intercommunion Based on the Theology and Practice of the Eastern Church (Minneapolis: Light and Life, 1980), 16.

[2] Fr. Georges Florovsky, “Terms of Communion in the Undivided Church,” in Intercommunion. The Report of the Theological Commission Appointed by the Continuation Committee of the World Conference on Faith and Order together with a Selection from the Material Presented to the Commission, ed. D. Baillie and John Marsh (London, 1952), 50, as quoted in Ware, Communion and Intercommunion, 16– 17. Professor George Galitis is also quoted by Ware in the same vein, that in the ancient Church “there is only communion and non-communion” (G. Galitis, The Problem of Intercommunion with the Heterodox from an Orthodox Point of View: A Biblical and Ecclesiological Study [in Greek] [Athens, 1966], 24– 25.) It is important to note that Fr. Georges Florovsky, whose views are often cited in support of versions of theories of baptismal theology-ecclesiology, quite early on explicitly qualified his scholarly musings on the views of St. Augustine and stated that the Saint’s views were “no more than a ‘theologoumenon,’ a doctrine set forth by a single Father.” Likewise, he urged the Orthodox to take it into account, not for its own sake or on its own terms, and certainly not as it has been played out within Latin theology, but simply as one view that can aid in the formation of a “true ecumenical synthesis.” Indeed, Fr. Florovsky lamented that the Orthodox have too often expounded upon the doctrine of the sacraments using the Roman model, without any creative or transforming adoption of St. Augustine’s conception. On the contrary, Fr. Florovsky formally and firmly rejected the theory of primordial unity in a common Baptism as is stressed by Roman Catholicism, explaining that it, like the Protestant branch theory, glosses over and minimizes the scandal of “dis-union,” which for him was to be faced forthrightly and explained in terms of “the true [Orthodox] Church and secessions.” Florovsky stressed the unity of the mysteries, especially the first three, and hence thought less in terms of regeneration linked to Baptism than of incorporation into the common Body of Christ in the Eucharist. See Andrew Blane, Georges Florovksy, Russian Intellectual and Orthodox Churchman (Crestwood, NY: St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press, 1997), 311– 17.

[3] Ware, Communion and Intercommunion, 20.

[4] Ware, Communion and Intercommunion, 23.

[5] Schmemann, “Unity, Division, Reunion.”

[6] PG 62.344.36: Τί τοίνυν τὴν κεφαλὴν ἀφεὶς, ἔχει τῶν μελῶν; ἐὰν ἐκεῖθεν ἐκπέσῃς, ἀπόλωτας.

[7] Jorge A. Scampini, “We acknowledge one Baptism for the forgiveness of sins,” address given at the Faith and Order Plenary Commission in Kuala, Malaysia, July 28– August 6, 2004. It is significant to note that Pope John Paul II, in his encyclical Ut Unum Sint (par. 42), linked this idea of deep communion in spite of division to “baptismal character,” thus following faithfully the precedent established by Congar, Bea, and Vatican II: “The very expression separated brethren tends to be replaced today by expressions which more readily evoke the deep communion— linked to the Baptismal character— which the Spirit fosters in spite of historical and canonical divisions. Today we speak of “other Christians,” “others who have received Baptism,” and “Christians of other Communities.” . . . This broadening of vocabulary is indicative of a significant change in attitudes. There is an increased awareness that we all belong to Christ.”

[8] PG 63.131.39, Saint John Chrysostom, Homily on the Epistle to the Hebrews, 17.6.

[9] Dimitru Staniloae, Γιὰ ἕναν Ὀρθόδοξο Οἰκουμενισμὸ [Toward an Orthodox Ecumenism] (Athens, 1976), 29.

renovation-of-second-vatican-council--en

 

On Small and Great Dogmatic Errors

TarasiusSt. Tarasios of Constantinople ca. 730-806

Evil is evil, especially in matters of the Church, as far as dogmas are concerned, it is all the same to err to a small degree or to a great degree, because in one case or the other the law of God is broken. (Mansi 12: 1030: Κανόνες τῆς Ζ′ Οἰκουμενικῆς Συνόδου, Κανὼν 1 [Acts of the Seventh Ecumenical Council, Act I], 1031– 1034)

On the Recognition of Heterodox Baptism as the Basis for a New Ecclesiology

IMG_0986

Theological – Academic Conference – The Great and Holy Council: Great Preparation Without Expectations – Conference Hall of the “Peace and Friendship” Stadium – Piraeus, Greece – Wednesday, March 23, 2016

 

The Recognition of the Baptism of the Heterodox as the Basis for a New Ecclesiology by Protopresbyter Peter Heers [FINAL] (Piraeus March 23, 2016)

The Recognition of the Baptism of the Heterodox as the Basis for a New Ecclesiology (In Step with Vatican II) by Protopresbyter Peter Heers

With the push for a pan-Orthodox acceptance of the Pre-Synodical text, “Relations of the Orthodox Church with the Rest of the Christian World,” a century long process of distortion of Orthodox ecclesiology is coming to fruition. Insomuch as the Pan-Orthodox Council accepts the erroneous teaching that heretical ministrations are mysteries of the One Church, so much so will it acquiesce to the adoption of a new ecclesiology.

In this lecture my intention is to succinctly present the origins of this erroneous teaching, two of the pillars of the new Vatican II ecclesiology which largely rest on this teaching, the adoption of this error by Orthodox ecumenists and the attempt to secure pan-Orthodox reception of it via the pre-Synodical text on the heterodox.

On Icons of the Holy Angels

Meister_der_Ikone_des_Erzengels_Michael_001_adjustedSt. Methodius of Olympus died ca. 311

For instance, then, the images of our kings here, even though they be not formed of the more precious materials— gold or silver— are honoured by all. For men do not, while they treat with respect those of the far more precious material, slight those of a less valuable, but honour every image in the world, even though it be of chalk or bronze. And one who speaks against either of them, is not acquitted as if he had only spoken against clay, nor condemned for having despised gold, but for having been disrespectful towards the King and Lord Himself. The images of God’s angels, which are fashioned of gold, the principalities and powers, we make to His honor and glory. (The Second Discourse on the Resurrection)

On the Errors of Polytheism and Monadic Monotheism

Contradict

                               Contradict

St. Maximus the Confessor ca. 580-662

“Neither Greek nor Jew.” This refers to a difference, or more properly a contradiction, in opinions about God. The Greek notion foolishly introduces a multiplicity of principles and divides the single principle into contrary energies and forces. It fashions a polytheist cult which becomes factious by reason of the multitude of its objects and ludicrous because of the various ways of veneration. The Jewish notion introduces a single principle but one which is petty and imperfect, almost impersonal as deprived of reason and life. Through opposite ways it results in the same evil as the first notion, a disbelief in the true God. It limits to a single person the one principle which would subsist without the Word and the Spirit, or which would be qualified by the Word and the Spirit. It does not see what God would be if He had no part with the Word and Spirit, nor how He would be God in having part with them as if they were accidents, by a participation close to that of rational beings subject to generation. In Christ, as I have said, there is none of these things, but only the reality of genuine piety, a steadfast law of mystical theology which rejects any expansion of the divinity as the first notion does, while not allowing any contraction as does the second. Thus there is no dissension by a plurality of natures, the Greek error, nor an affirmation of the oneness of hypostasis, the Jewish error, because being deprived of the Word and the Spirit or qualified by the Word and the Spirit, God is not honored as Mind, Word, and Spirit. This teaches us, who have been introduced to the perfect knowledge of truth by a calling of grace in faith, to recognize that the nature and the power of the divinity is one, and therefore that there is one God contemplated in the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

…In this way polytheism is not introduced by division, nor atheism by confusion. By avoiding both, the understanding of God in the light of Christ shines forth. I call Christ’s understanding the new proclamation of truth… “neither Jew nor Greek,” that is, no conception opposed to God; “neither circumcision nor uncircumcision,” that is, no different religions issued from these opposed conceptions… Both of these together end up at the same evil, insolence against God. (Commentary on the Our Father)

On Conciliar Truth

imagePatriarchal and Synodical Encyclical on the Convocation of the Holy and Great Council of the Orthodox Church (March 18, 2016)

[T]he triumph of truth over falsehood treaded along the…path followed by the Church from the beginning of her history, namely the truth of conciliarity. The distinction between truth and falsehood—orthodoxy and heresy—is not always easily discernible. Even heretics believed, and continue to believe, that they possessed the truth; moreover, there will always be some who shall consider those who do not agree with their position as “heretics.” The Orthodox Church, in this case, recognizes only one authority: the Council of her canonical hierarchs. Beyond a conciliar decision, the distinction between orthodoxy and heresy is not possible. The Church’s dogmas and holy canons bear the seal of conciliarity. Orthodoxy is the conciliar Church. (Source)

On Emphasizing God’s Mercy and Neglecting the Judgment

Irenaeus-of-LyonsSt. Irenaeus of Lyons died ca. 202

Inasmuch, then, as in both Testaments there is the same righteousness of God [displayed] when God takes vengeance, in the one case indeed typically, temporarily, and more moderately; but in the other, really, enduringly, and more rigidly: for the fire is eternal, and the wrath of God which shall be revealed from heaven from the Face of our Lord (as David also says, But the face of the Lord is against them that do evil, to cut off the remembrance of them from the earth ), entails a heavier punishment on those who incur it—the Elders pointed out that those men are devoid of sense, who, [arguing] from what happened to those who formerly did not obey God, do endeavor to bring in another Father, setting over against [these punishments] what great things the Lord had done at His coming to save those who received Him, taking compassion upon them; while they keep silence with regard to His judgment; and all those things which shall come upon such as have heard His words, but done them not, and that it were better for them if they had not been born, Matthew 26:24 and that it shall be more tolerable for Sodom and Gomorrah in the judgment than for that city which did not receive the word of His disciples. Matthew 10:15

For as, in the New Testament, that faith of men [to be placed] in God has been increased, receiving in addition [to what was already revealed] the Son of God, that man too might be a partaker of God; so is also our walk in life required to be more circumspect, when we are directed not merely to abstain from evil actions, but even from evil thoughts, and from idle words, and empty talk, and scurrilous language: thus also the punishment of those who do not believe the Word of God, and despise His advent, and are turned away backwards, is increased; being not merely temporal, but rendered also eternal. For to whomsoever the Lord shall say, Depart from me, you cursed, into everlasting fire, Matthew 25:41 these shall be damned forever; and to whomsoever He shall say, Come, you blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you for eternity, Matthew 25:34 these do receive the kingdom forever, and make constant advance in it; since there is one and the same God the Father, and His Word, who has been always present with the human race, by means indeed of various dispensations, and has wrought out many things, and saved from the beginning those who are saved, (for these are they who love God, and follow the Word of God according to the class to which they belong,) and has judged those who are judged, that is, those who forget God, and are blasphemous, and transgressors of His word. (Against Heresies Bk. 4.28.1-2)

On Partaking of the Mysteries During Lent

The Golden-MouthSt. John Chrysostom ca. 349-407

I observe many partaking of Christ’s Body lightly and just as it happens, and rather from custom and form, than consideration and understanding. When, says a man, the holy season of Lent sets in, whatever a man may be, he partakes of the Mysteries, or, when the day of the Lord’s Epiphany comes. And yet it is not the Epiphany, nor is it Lent, that makes a fit time for approaching, but it is sincerity and purity of soul. With this, approach at all times; without it, never. For as often, 1 Cor. 11:26 says he, as you do this, you proclaim the Lord’s death, i.e., you make a remembrance of the salvation that has been wrought for you, and of the benefits which I have bestowed. Consider those who partook of the sacrifices under the old Covenant, how great abstinence did they practice? How did they not conduct themselves? What did they not perform? They were always purifying themselves. And do you, when you draw near to a sacrifice, at which the very Angels tremble, do you measure the matter by the revolutions of seasons? And how shall you present yourself before the judgment-seat of Christ, thou who presumest upon His body with polluted hands and lips? You would not presume to kiss a king with an unclean mouth, and the King of Heaven do you kiss with an unclean soul? It is an outrage. Tell me, would you choose to come to the Sacrifice with unwashen hands? No, I suppose, not. But you would rather choose not to come at all than come with soiled hands. And then, thus scrupulous as you are in this little matter, do you come with soiled soul and thus dare to touch it? And yet the hands hold it but for a time, whereas into the soul it is dissolved entirely. What, do you not see the holy vessels so thoroughly cleansed all over, so resplendent? Our souls ought to be purer than they, more holy, more brilliant. And why so? Because those vessels are made so for our sakes. They partake not of Him that is in them, they perceive Him not. But we do—yes, verily. Now then, you would not choose to make use of a soiled vessel and do you approach with a soiled soul? Observe the vast inconsistency of the thing. At the other times you come not, no, not though often you are clean; but at Easter, however flagrant an act you may have committed, you come. Oh! The force of custom and of prejudice! (Homily 3 on Ephesians)

On Prayer and Spiritual Vulnerability

seagull-in-the-sun2St. Theophan the Recluse 1815-1894

One who prays is like a bird, soaring high in the air, neither to be captured by the net, nor reached by an arrow. But when noticing some delectable seeds, it flies down from above and starts to peck at them, it can get entangled in a net or easily shot. Thus, the one who prays is difficult for enemies to catch, for the Spirit of prayer lifts him high. But if he, leaving the heights, drops down to what is earthly and begins to be beguiled by this and that — no wonder he will be caught and dragged away to indecent actions. And who is guilty? If he had not left prayer, it would not have allowed him to fall. (Commentary on Psalm 118: Verse 117)

On the Chasm in Hades

Lazarus in Abe's bosom_fol.16r sc 2BSt. Gregory of Nyssa ca. 335-395

I next turn my attention to the chasm [Lk 16.26] mentioned in the Gospel which the patriarch [Abraham] said was established between evil and good persons. More accurately, the Lord of the patriarch said that the damned could not pass over to the repose of the saints, nor could the saints pass over to them. I do not accept opinions with regard to this matter as true; only the Gospel should be trusted. …I do not believe that he who was included in [the patriarch’s] repose could traverse that chasm which the impious could not bridge whether they willed it or not. Thus the devil could not freely cross the chasm and deprive the saints of holiness; he was unable to do this and could not attribute evil to anyone who did not want it. For a person established in the good cannot cross over to evil; even though a person might wish to do this, the chasm does not permit it. (Letter Concerning the Sorceress [of Endor] to Bishop Theodoxios)

On Universalism and St. Maximus the Confessor

maximusconfessor1Brian E. Daley, S.J.

When [Maximus] speaks of the condition of the sinner after Christ’s Judgment, on the other hand, [he] stresses in a number of places that change, repentance and forgiveness will then no longer be possible. In contrast to this present life, the coming age is one “in which one may not expect any forgiveness of sins, but only the recompense of a fitting reward for the way one has lived, appropriate for each person”. (Amb. Io. 53: PG91, 1376B10-13. Cf. Ep.1: PG 91, 381 D11-384A7)

The reason is not merely that God has fixed an arbitrary time-limit to His mercy, but something much more profoundly anthropological: the end of this human history, its transformation at the moment of Resurrection and Judgment, will necessarily put an end both to human action and to human change by removing the conditions which made them possible:

The ages of the flesh, in which we now live are characterized by doing; but the ages which will belong to the Spirit, after this present life, will be transformed into ages of undergoing. (Quest. Thal. 22: PG 90: 320- C7-13.)

Being itself, the most elementary mode of existence for rational creatures, is essentially “a matter of potency”, which free actualization, by means of conscious choice of the good, seeks to change into the higher existential mode of well-being (Amb. Io. 65: PG 91, 1392A4-B4). Both of these modes of existence are limited by time and finitude, however, and the creature can only be raised to the third and highest mode, that of ever-being by God’s gift. The gift, then, involves self-transcendence on the part of the creature: a movement beyond the limits of both potency and conscious, determinate act into a timeless, changeless state of rest:

As, then, voluntary activity makes use of the potentiality of nature, either in accord with nature or against nature it reaches nature’s limit of well-being or ill-being; this is ever-being, in which the souls have their Sabbath, receiving rest from all motion. The eighth and first, or better the one and endless day is the unadulterated, wholly radiant presence of God, which comes after things in motion have come to rest. It abides totally, in the appropriate way, for the total being of those who have freely used the structure of their being in accord with nature, and bestows on them ever-well-being, by giving a share in itself, because it alone, properly speaking, is and is forever and is good; but for those who freely have used the structure of their being contrary to nature, it properly bestows not well-being but ever-ill-being, since well-being is no longer accessible to them who have taken up an opposing stand to it, who have no power at all to move after the revelation of what has been sought – the revelation to seekers of the goal of their seeking. (ibid., C9-D13)

Universal salvation or individual damnation; the totally transcendent self-gift of God, satisfying the natural longing of every creature, or the final self-destruction of the creature through his own free refusal of the fulfilling gift: these are the two poles that define the complex but ordered field of Maximus’s eschatology. Far from being an unresolved paradox, caused by the conflicting desires to preserve both the systematic optimism of Origen and the salutary fear instilled by traditional teaching, Maximus’ Christian vision of the future is, in my opinion, consistent both in itself and with the rest of his theology. Here, as in his Christology or his theology of creation, he is primarily concerned to keep the central paradox of Christianity intact: faith in a totally transcendent God who is both source and goal of a dynamically developing nature, who is Himself the only adequate fulfillment of nature’s needs and desires, and yet Who is wholly beyond nature’s right or ability to claim for itself; and at the same time, faith in a world of distinct, independent creatures whose metaphysical and existential integrity may never be compromised by pantheism or determinism, faith in a human world where freedom and moral goodness are indispensable steps, on the creature’s part, towards receiving the gift that saves. Origen and Gregory of Nyssa, too, had been passionately committed to preserving intact both the sovereign goodness of God and the freedom of the created spirit; but their solution of a universal apokatastasis or restoration of fallen spirits to grace, after whatever amount of medicinal suffering may be necessary to bring them to accept that grace, must have struck Maximus as not taking seriously enough either the gratuitousness of grace or the seriousness of created freedom. In any case, while he mounts no direct attack on the Origenist conception of apokatastasis, he offers – as we have already seen in detail – a rather different eschatological prospect, and uses the word apokatastasis – when he does use it – in a very different way.

One passage in the Ambigua sums up with particular clarity the eschatological implications of this nicely-measured interplay between what later Western theologians would call the natural and the super-natural, freedom and grace; it shows, in addition, how closely linked with that tension, in Maximus’s thinking, a real alternative between divinization and damnation must be:

For all things which exist and will exist according to an essence or which become or will become, or appear or will appear, their concepts pre-exist immovably in God; in accord with those concepts, all things are and have come to be and remain, always drawing closer to their own predetermined ideas through natural motion, and ever more closely approximated to being by particular kinds and degrees of motion and momentum of the will. They receive well-being through goodness and through their direct progress towards the concept to which they correspond; or they receive ill-being through vice and their movement against the concept to which they correspond. To put it concisely, (they move) in accordance with their possession or their lack of the power they have naturally, to share in him who exists completely imparticipable in nature, and who simply offers himself in his totality, by grace, to all – worthy and unworthy – in his unlimited goodness, and who endows each with the permanence of eternal being, corresponding to the way that each disposes himself and is. And for those who share or do not share, proportionately, in him who in the truest sense is and is well and is forever, there is an intensification and in- crease of punishment for those who cannot share, and of enjoyment for those who can share (Amb. 10.42:PG 91, 1329 A1-B7).

One of Maximus’s replies in the Quaestiones ad Thalassium makes the same point, more briefly and more boldly:

For nature does not contain the characteristics of the super-natural, just as it does not contain the laws of what is against nature. By ‘supernatural’ I mean the divine and inconceivable joy, which God naturally creates when he is united by grace to those who are worthy. By ‘against nature’, I mean the unspeakable anguish which is involved in the deprivation of this (joy), which God naturally creates when He is united with the unworthy against grace. For God is united with all, according to the quality of the fundamental state of each person; in a way that He understands, he supplies sensation to each one, corresponding to the way each is made by Him to receive the One Who is completely united to all, at the end of the ages (Quest. Thal. 59 PG 90, 609B14-C12).


Just as the human creature, in his freedom, has been given the crucial power to realize or to destroy the plan God had in creating him, the ability to act either (~according to nature) or (~against nature), so God, Who loves all creatures equally — even the damned — and offers Himself equally and totally to each, will not (perhaps cannot) prevent His love and presence from becoming Hell itself for those who have refused them. It is a paradox – perhaps even a paradox one honors best by a reverential silence – but a paradox at the very heart of the Christian doctrine of creation. (Apokatastasis and Honorable Silence in the Eschatalogy of Maximus the Confessor)

On Deathbed Repentance

St. John of KronstadtSt. John of Kronstadt 1829-1908

Many of us live as if we don’t have to die and give an account of our lives. What does this mean? Doesn’t this happen because such people think that all they have to do is to repent just before they die and they will receive a full pardon? Of course, God does not turn away those who come to Him even at the eleventh hour, that is, if they turn to Him with all their hearts. However, if your heart was far away from God for the longest part of your life, do you think that you will be able to move it toward God, to arouse in you a feeling of repentance before you die? Oh, brothers! It will be exactly then that your heart will be set against you, for your perdition. Many times have I seen how difficult it is for some to listen to an exhortation to repentance, and how those who never thought about correcting themselves, and were not able to repent during their lives, how they are lost during Confession before their departure from this life. No, brothers! A Christian ending is a reward for true Christians. Repent as much as you can during your lifetime, and then you will meet a peaceful death with sincere repentance. (Sergiev, Ivan Ilyich. 2015-03-01. Season of Repentance: Lenten Homilies of Saint John of Kronstadt [Kindle Locations 443-451]. Holy Trinity Publications. Kindle Edition)

On Praying for Our Enemies

divine-0223-polycarpSt. Polycarp of Smyrna died ca. 69-155

Pray for all… those that persecute and hate you, (Mat. 5:44) and for the enemies of the Cross, that your fruit may be manifest to all, and that you may be perfect in Him. (Epistle to the Philippians, 12)

On Orthodox Catholic Teaching

PaisiusSt. Paisii Velichkovsky 1722-1794

Knowing, as is clear from the teaching and commandments of our God-bearing Fathers, that one who has brethren under his guidance must not instruct and teach them according to his own understanding and discernment. But rather according to the true and right understanding of Divine Scripture, as is taught by the divine Fathers, teachers of the inhabited world, and likewise by the teachers and instructors of monastic life, being enlightened by the grace of the All-Holy Spirit. And knowing further the poverty of my own mind, and fearing and trembling lest I myself fall, and push those who follow me, into a pit of perdition like a blind man, according to the word of the Lord, because of my inexperience. Therefore, I placed as an unshakable foundation in true and undeceived instruction, undeviating from the true path of God, both for my own poor soul and for my holy brethren, the Divine Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments and its true interpretation by the grace of the All-Holy Spirit, that is, the teaching of our God-bearing Fathers, the teachers of the inhabited world and the instructors of the monastic life, the Holy Councils and all the Canons of the Apostles and Councils and Holy Fathers which the Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Eastern Church contains, and all Her commandments and rites. I offered all this, as I have said, as instruction for myself and the holy brethren, so that both I and the brethren living with me, being instructed by these, God cooperating and enlightening us by His grace, might not sin against the right and catholic thinking of the Holy Orthodox Church. (Blessed Paisius Velichkovsky: The Man Behind the Philokalia, p. 77-78)

On the Primordial Fast

Christ cursing Adam, Eve and the SerpantSt. Basil the Great ca. 330-379

Fasting is as old as humanity: it was legislated in Paradise. It was the first command that Adam received: You shall not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. You shall not eat legislates fasting and self-control. If Eve had fasted from the tree, we would not need this fasting now. For those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. We have been injured by sin; let us be healed by repentance. But repentance is futile without fasting. Cursed is the ground; thorns and thistles it shall bring forth to you. You have been ordered to be sorrowful, not to indulge yourself. Make satisfaction to God through fasting. Now the manner of life in Paradise is an image of fasting, not only insofar as man, sharing the life of the angels, achieved likeness to them by being content with little, but also because those who lived in Paradise had still not dreamt up what humans later discovered through their inventiveness: there was still no drinking of wine, still no animal sacrifices, not to mention whatever else beclouds the human mind. It is because we did not fast that we were banished from Paradise. So let us fast that we may return to it. Don’t you realize that Lazarus entered Paradise through fasting? Do not imitate the disobedience of Eve. Then again, do not take the serpent as your advisor, who suggests that you eat out of regard for the flesh. (2014-08-19. On Fasting and Feasts [Popular Patristic Series Book 50] Kindle Locations 1293-1311. St Vladimir’s Seminary Press. Kindle Edition)

On Self-Mercy and Self-Condemnation

last-judgment-1St. John Chrysostom ca. 347-407

He says, Depart from me, you cursed, (no longer of the Father; for not He laid the curse upon them, but their own works), into the everlasting fire, prepared, not for you, but for the devil and his angels. For concerning the Kingdom indeed, when He had said, Come, inherit the kingdom, He added, prepared for you before the foundation of the world; but concerning the fire, no longer so, but, prepared for the devil. I, says He, prepared the kingdom for you, but the fire no more for you, but for the devil and his angels; but since you cast yourselves therein, impute it to yourselves. And not in this way only, but by what follows also, like as though He were excusing Himself to them, He sets forth the causes. (Homilies on Matthew, Homily 79)

St. Symeon the New Theologian ca. 949-1022

Again, we who have been baptized “in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost” (Mat. 28:19) bear the name of Christ’s brethren (Heb. 2:11f.). We are more than this, for we are also His members (1 Cor. 6:15, 12:27). As His brother and His member you may honor all others, give them hospitality, and care for them. Yet if you ignore yourself and, instead of striving by every means to attain to the summit of that life and honor which are pleasing to God, leave your soul in the famine of laziness or the thirst of indifference or imprisoned in the dungeon of this filthy body through gluttony or love of pleasure, lying in filth, squalor, and deepest gloom as though it were dead, have you not treated Christ’s brother with contempt? Have you not abandoned Him to hunger and thirst? Have you not failed to visit Him when He was in prison (Mat. 25:42)? Surely, for this you will hear Him say, “You had no mercy on yourself, you will be shown no mercy.” (The Discourses: IX On Works of Mercy 5)

St. Gregory Palamas ca. 1296-1359

Let us be merciful to ourselves by being merciful to others, gain compassion by showing compassion, and do good that good may be done to us. For we receive the like in return: good works, benevolence, love, mercy, and compassion, but not merely to the same value and measure of excellence. You give out of what you possess as a man, and only as much as a man can bestow. But you receive in return a hundredfold from the inexhaustible divine treasures, together with eternal life, and benefit from as many great bounties as God can bestow, which “eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man” (1 Cor. 2:9).

May we make haste to obtain the riches of kindness and buy an eternal kingdom in exchange for a little money. We should be afraid even now of the sentence pronounced on the unmerciful, lest we receive the same condemnation. (Homily 4.24-25, On Christ’s Second Coming)

On the Dead in Christ in Comparison to the Living

whatwouldjesusdoSt. Nicholas Cabasilas ca. 1323-1391

As far as sanctification is concerned, those souls which are free of the body have an advantage over those still living in the flesh. It is true that they receive, through the prayers of the priest and the intercession of the holy offerings, purification and remission of their sin, and do not add new wrongdoing to the old, as most of the living do; they are either entirely absolved from all blame, or at least freed forever from the possibility of further sin. Because of this, they are better disposed for communion with the Savior, not only than the majority of the living, but also than they themselves would have been if they were still in the flesh. The very fact of being free from the bonds of the flesh makes them far more worthy to receive the holy Mysteries than they could possible have been if they were still housed in their bodies.

We know that in the next world there are many mansions, so that every degree of goodness may be glorified, and none may go unrewarded by the most just and loving Judge. Thus, those worthy of the greatest rewards, who are perfect, and who inherit perfect blessedness, such as St. Paul, enjoy this happiness more purely after death than they did while still in this life. So also those who are called to a lower position in this place of rest naturally gain more fruit from the Mysteries than they did while they were alive.

We have shown that all peace of soul and the entire reward of virtue, be it great or small, consists only in this Bread and this Chalice, which is partaken of by both the living and the dead. That is why our Lord Himself describes the future happiness of the Saints as a banquet; it is in order to show that in the next life there will be nothing save the Holy Table. Thus, the holy sacrifice of the Eucharist is for the dead as well as the living, and just as the latter, as we have said, receive a two-fold sanctification, so do the former. The dead are in no way inferior to the living; rather, they possess certain advantages over them. (A Commentary on the Divine Liturgy, 45: A Theological Parenthesis)

 

On Obedience and the Priesthood

icon source: wikipedia

           icon source: wikipedia

St. Theodore the Studite

…[G]ive a proper obedience. Priesthood, liturgy and divinization really consist in this. For numerous priests and liturgical celebrants, hierarchs, prophets and wonderworker shall perhaps be destined to torment without end. We have indeed heard the Lord say: “Many will say to me, ‘have we not done this or that in Your name,’ and they will hear: ‘I do not know you; depart from Me, you damned, to the fire outside prepared for the devil and his angels’.” [Will] you be my sacrifice? My celebrant? My initiator? My mystic? My god? For this discourse dares to go that far, even if it seems strange to you: “I have said, you are gods and you are all sons of the Most High.” (Great Catechesis 17)

On the Head and the Members

All SaintsBlessed Augustine of Hippo ca. 354-430

Let us rejoice, then, and give thanks that we are made not only Christians, but Christ. Do ye understand, brethren, and apprehend the grace of God upon us? Marvel, be glad, we are made Christ. For if He is the Head, we are the Members: the whole Man is — He and we — the fullness of Christ, then, is Head and Members. Head and Members, what is that? Christ and the Church. (Homilies on the Gospel of St. John, XXI.8 (PL 75, 1568 A)

St. Nektarios on Purgatory

Saint_Nektarios_of_Aegina_at_RizarioSt. Nektarios of Aegina 1846-1920

The Orthodox Church strongly rejects the purgatorial fire, the idea of a fire that cleanses souls… According to the Orthodox Church, there exists no intermediary order after death between those who proceed to Heaven and those who descend to Hades. There is no special intermediary place where the souls are found of those who have repented before death and have not brought forth the fruits of repentance… All these souls proceed to Hades, whence they cannot depart except through the prayers of the Church. (Study Concerning the Immortality of the Soul [Athens, 1901], pp. 168-169)

On Unity in Secular Unessentials

229365.bDr. Constantine Cavarnos 1918-2011

As far as various Protestant denominations are concerned, in view of the fact that they are very divided with respect to doctrines — there being as many Protestant “Faiths” as there are, so to speak, individual Protestants — “union” for them cannot consist in union in one and the same Christian Faith, but only in united activity in the pursuit of certain goals of a secular nature. This is why they keep postponing an answer to the request made by traditionalist Orthodox Christians for a clear, unambiguous definition of the term “union of the Churches”. They say, “Let us first seek unity, that is, united action, in the secular realm, and after this we can proceed to discussions of “union” in the Faith.

This approach obviously ignores Christ’s injunction: “Seek ye first the Kingdom of God, and His righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you” (Mat. 6:33). The Kingdom of God is not a kingdom of secular aims and values, but a Kingdom of spiritual Truth. For as Christ again says, “Ye shall know the Truth, and the truth shall make you free” (John. 8:32).

Father Florovsky has made a very apt remark on this approach in his book Ecumenism: A Doctrinal Approach. He says: “Would it not be an absurd situation, if Christians could have been at one in secular unessentials and still at variance in essentials? Would it not have suggested that all doctrinal or confessional disagreements were of no vital importance whatever? (Ecumenism Examined: A Concise Analytical Discussion of the Contemporary Ecumenical Movement, p. 61)

On St. Anthony’s Relations with the Heterodox

St. Anthony the GreatSt. Athanasius the Great ca. 297-373

…[H]e was altogether wonderful in faith and religious, for he never held communion with… schismatics, knowing their wickedness and apostasy from the beginning; nor had he friendly dealings with the Manichæans or any other heretics; or, if he had, only as far as advice that they should change to piety. For he thought and asserted that intercourse with these was harmful and destructive to the soul. In the same manner also, he loathed the heresy of the Arians, and exhorted all neither to approach them nor to hold their erroneous belief… saying that their words were worse than the poison of serpents. (Life of St. Anthony, 68)

Ss. Barsanuphius and John on Universalism

origen1A brother asked the holy Old Man, Abba Barsanuphius, saying: “Father, I do not know how I came upon the books of Origen and Didymus, as well as the Gnostic Chapters of Evagrius and the writing of his disciples. These books say… that the future hell must have an end and that human beings, angels, and demons can return to the state they first enjoyed as naked intellects, something they call apokatastasis… Therefore, my soul is afflicted, falling into doubt as to whether these things are true are not. Master, I entreat you to show me the truth so that I may hold to this and not perish. For nothing is said about these things in sacred Scripture. As Origen himself affirms in his Commentary on the Letter to Titus (Fragments in PG 14.1303-1306), this is neither of the Apostles nor of the Church… Evagrius, too, bears witness to this in his Gnostic Chapters, that no one has spoken of these things, nor has the Spirit Itself explained them. For in his sixty-fourth chapter of the second century of his Gnostic Chapters, he writes: ‘On the former, no one has spoken to us; on the latter, only the one on Mt. Horeb has explained to us.’… That there is no apokatastasis or end to hell, the Lord Himself revealed to us in the Gospel, saying: ‘These will go away into eternal punishment (Mt. 25:46); and again: ‘Where their worm never dies and the fire is never quenched.’ (Mk. 9:48) Therefore, master, how could these people expound such teachings, when the Apostles have not passed them down to us and the Holy Spirit has not explained them to us, as they themselves bear witness and the Gospels contradict? Be merciful, then, with my weakness, since you are a father of compassion, and show me clearly what these doctrines are about.”

Response by St. Barsanuphius the Great ca. 6th cent.

The heavens tremble over the preoccupations of human beings. The earth shakes over how people want to scrutinize the incomprehensible. These are the doctrines of the [heathen] Greeks; they are the vain talk of people who claim to be something (cf. Acts 5:6)… Avoid these things, brother, so that their word may not be established in your heart. They dry tears, blind the heart, and quite simply destroy those who pay any attention to them. Do not dwell on them; do not study them; for they are filled with bitterness and produce fruit unto death. As for knowledge about things to come, do not be deceived. Whatever you sow here, you will reap there (cf. Gal. 6:7-8). It is not possible for anyone to make progress after leaving this place. God will not labor to recreate the soul after anyone’s death… Brother, here is the place for labor; there is the place for reward. Here is the place of struggle; there is the place for crowns. Brother, if you want to be saved, do not preoccupy yourself with these things. For I bear witness before God that you have fallen into a pit of the devil and into ultimate death. Therefore, avoid these things and follow in the footsteps of the fathers. Acquire humility and obedience for yourself, as well as mourning, ascetic discipline, poverty, not reckoning yourself as anything, and other such virtues, which you will find in their Sayings and in the Lives. Bear “fruits worthy of repentance” (Lk. 3:8); and do not pay any attention to me, who talk but do not practice. (Letter 600)

The same brother asked the same question to the Other Old Man, Abba John.

Response by St. John the Prophet of Gaza ca. 6th cent.

Such wisdom does not come down from above, but is unspiritual and demonic. (cf. Jas. 3:1-5) This teaching is from the devil, leading to eternal hell those who pay attention to it. Anyone who is preoccupied with this teaching becomes a heretic; anyone who believes in it has deviated from the truth; anyone who adheres to it is alienated from God’s way. The workers of Christ, however, are not like this; the disciples of Christ have not taught this. Those who accept the word of truth do not accept such teachings. Brother, quickly detach yourself from these. Do not burn your heart with the fire of the devil. Do not sow thorns on your soil instead of grain; do not receive death instead of life. In short, do not receive the devil instead of Christ. Do not delay in these, and you will be saved like Lot from Sodom (cf. Gen. 19:15-29), through the prayers of the Saints. Amen. (Letter 601)

The same brother asked the same Old Man: “Should we not, then, read even the works of Evagrius?”

Response by St. John the Prophet.

Do not accept such doctrines from his works; but go ahead and read, if you like, those works that are beneficial for the soul, according to the parable about the net in the Gospel. For it is written: “They placed the good into baskets, but threw out the bad” (Mt. 13:48). You, too, should do the same. (Letter 602)

Question from the same person… “in regard to the subject of apokatastasis, the holy Gregory of Nyssa himself clearly speaks about it, but not in the manner in which they say he does, namely: ‘When hell ceases, humanity will return to its original condition, namely, that of pure intellects’; rather, he does in fact say that hell will cease and assume an end. (On the Soul and on the Resurrection, PG 46.108) Therefore, father, tell us why such a person does not speak correctly, as befits a holy person who has been counted worthy of speaking for the Holy Spirit. For some of the fathers and teachers even disagree about Paradise, saying that is not material but spiritual. And on other chapters of Scripture, one finds disagreements among some of them. So clarify this for us, master, we implore you, in order that we may be illumined by you and give glory to God, and so that we may not doubt our holy Fathers.”

Response by St. Barsanuphius

May all the fathers who have pleased God, the saints and the righteous and genuine servants of God pray for me. Do not think that, because they were saints, they were able actually to comprehend all the depths of God. For the Apostle says: “We know only in part.” (1 Cor. 13:9) And again: “To one is given through the Spirit such and such, and not all of these gifts to one and the same person; but to one person it was given in this way, to another in that way, and al of these gists are activated by one in the same Spirit (cf. 1 Cor. 12:4-11). Knowing then, that the [mysteries] of God are incomprehensible, the Apostle cried out: “O the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments, and how inscrutable His ways! For who has known the mind of the Lord? Or who has been His counselor?” (Rom. 11:33-34), and so forth. Applying themselves, therefore, to becoming teachers of their own accord, or else obliged by others to come to this point, they achieved great progress, sometimes even surpassing their own teachers. Moreover, they were assured about the truth in developing new doctrines, while at the same time remaining faithful to the traditions of their teachers.

In this way, there are also some [brothers] here who have received certain  doctrines from their teachers, which are not, however, correct. For after achieving progress and themselves becoming spiritual teachers, nevertheless, they did not pray to God about their teachers, in order to learn whether what they said was spoken through the Holy Spirit. Rather, trusting that their teachers possessed wisdom and knowledge, they did not in fact bother to discern their teachings. And so the teachings of their teachers became mingled with their own teachings, and they spoke sometimes from the doctrines learned from their masters, while at other times from the brilliance of their own intellect. Thus, even the words of their teachers were ascribed to their name. For while they received these words from others, they progressed and improved more than their teachers, and they spoke through the Holy Spirit; that is to say, they were assured by the Spirit and spoke from the doctrines of their teachers who proceeded them, but they did not actually examine these words in order to discern whether they needed to be assured by God through supplication and prayer in regard to their truth. So the teachings [of the two] were mingled together. Thus, since it was they who spoke the words, it was to their names that they were ultimately ascribed. Therefore, when you hear that one of them received from the Holy Spirit whatever he speaks, then this is clear assurance that we ought to trust him. When, however, this person speaks on those matters, it does not seem that he refers to the same kind of assurance, but rather to the teachings and tradition of those who preceded him. In this way, while paying attention to their knowledge and wisdom, nonetheless, they did not ask God about these matters, as to whether or not they are true.

There then! You have heard all my foolishness. So be calm, and commit yourselves to God, ceasing from such idle talk and paying attention to your passions, about which you will be asked to give account on the Day of Judgment. For you will not be asked about these matters, why you do not understand them or why you have not learned them. Therefore, weep and mourn. Follow in the footsteps of our fathers, of Poemen and all the other like him, and “run in such a way that you may win” (1 Cor. 9:24) in Christ Jesus our Lord, to Whom be the glory to the ages. Amen. (Letter 604)

 

On How Grace Operates in the Mysteries

http://damascenegallery.com/shop/icon/classic-icons/st-nicholas-cabasilas/

http://damascenegallery.com/shop/icon/classic-icons/st-nicholas-cabasilas/

St. Nicholas Cabasilas 1323-1391

The Holy Spirit grants to those who partake of the sacred offerings the remission of sins of their sins. “Let not this grace be removed from these offerings because of my sins.” There are two ways in which grace operates in the precious offerings; first, by grace they are sanctified, and secondly, by grace we are sanctified through them.

The working of grace upon the offerings — the first of which we spoke — cannot be invalidated by any human evil. Since the consecration of the offerings is not the work of human virtue, it cannot be hindered in any way by the wickedness of men.

But the second, the working of grace within us, demands our co-operation, and as a result, our negligence can impede it. In other words, grace will sanctify us through the sacred offerings if it finds us ready and fit for sanctification; if it should, on the other hand, find us unprepared, not only do we reap no benefit, but we suffer grave harm and loss. (A Commentary on the Divine Liturgy, 34)

On the Objective of Dialogues

imageRussian Orthodox Church Bishops Council 2008 

“A witness to the truth of the Holy Orthodoxy is an objective of inter-Christian and inter-religious dialogues, and the Russian Orthodox Church doesn’t accept any attempts to mix confessions, [and] to hold joint prayer services that artificially combine confessional or religious traditions.” (Source)

On Development of Dogma

FlorovskyProtopresbyter Georges Florovsky 1893-1979

Presently there can be no dogmatic development in the Church: for the dogmas are not theoretical axioms from which one could gradually and sequentially unfold the ‘theorems of faith.’

[I]t is a total misunderstanding to speak of the ‘development of dogma’. Dogmas do not develop; they are unchanging and inviolable, even in their external aspect — their wording… Dogma is an intuitive truth, not a discursive axiom which is accessible to logical development. (Gavrilyuk, Paul L. 2013-12-19. Georges Florovsky and the Russian Religious Renaissance [Changing Paradigms in Historical and Systematic Theology] Page 94. Oxford University Press, USA. Kindle Edition)

St. Maximus on the Gospel

resurrectionSt. Maximus the Confessor ca. 580-662

For this is, in my view, most assuredly, the Gospel of God: God’s mission and calling of man through the Begotten Son, by whom we as believers in Him, as the achievement of reconciliation with the Father, are given uncreated deification. (Q. Thal. 61, PG 90, 637D. 2013-01-01. “Knowing the Purpose of Creation through the Resurrection”.(Contemporary Christian Thought Series, number 20 [Kindle Locations 290-292]. Sebastian Press Publishing House & The Faculty of Orthodox Theology of the University of Belgrade. Kindle Edition.)

On Uniting the Churches

stbasil8St. Basil the Great ca. 330-379

I think then that the one great end of all who are really and truly serving the Lord ought to be to bring back to union the Churches now at sundry times and in various manners divided from one another. In attempting myself to effect this, I cannot fairly be blamed as a busybody, for nothing is so characteristically Christian as the being a peacemaker, and for this reason our Lord has promised us peacemakers a very high reward. (Letter 114)

On the Sane Members of the Church

St.-John-of-DamascusSt. John of Damascus ca. 676-749

[T]he sane members of the Church respect the sacred canons, and refer matters pertaining to these to bishops and presidents, thus showing by their deeds a great respect for those whom they esteem for the sake of the good order. (The Fount of Knowledge: On Heresies, 100)

A Second Intervention in View of the Great Council

12972811993_8c1fdb3325A Second Intervention – Confession of Faith by Dr. Demetrios Tselengides, Professor of the School of Theology at the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, in view of the Great Council.

With a new letter addressed to the Hierarchs of the Church of Greece, Dr. Demetrios Tselengides, Professor of the School of Theology at the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, stresses and highlights the problematic parts of the “Organisation and Working Procedure of the Holy and Great Council,” as well as other documents.

12th February 2016

Your Beautitude, holy President of the Holy Synod,

Your Eminences, holy Hierarchs,

In view of the imminent convocation of the Holy and Great Synod, I would respectfully once again like to put before you a few thoughts of a theological nature, which I hope might be of use.

From research I conducted, I was unpleasantly surprised to discover that the Church of Greece – from 1961, at which point the Pre-conciliar Pan-Orthodox Conferences for the aforementioned Great Synod began – has not addressed the decisions of these Conferences on the level of the Hierarchical Synod. The consequence of this is our arrival at the unfortunate ecclesiastical situation of today.

We are, that is, about to make ecclesiastical decisions on critical issues of a Great Pan-Orthodox Synod, but for this there is a serious lack of synodical treatment from the Local Synod of Hierarchs, something which is, by the way, anticipated by the Pre-conciliar Conferences.

At this moment we find ourselves ecclesiastically at the penultimate stage of the final decisions of the Great Pan-Orthodox Synod. I believe that things – despite their exceptional severity – are still healable. As is well-known, the synodical system of our Orthodox Church comprises a Spirit-led ecclesiastical operation, not only with respect to matters of administration and Her life, but also to the precise expression of Her dogmatic teaching.

More precisely, I believe that the synodical shortcomings of the past 55 years most certainly can be corrected now, provided the decisions of the forthcoming Synod of Hierarchs, in connection with the subjects of the forthcoming Great Synod of Orthodoxy, will be in agreement with the self-awareness of the Church and the Spirit-led experience of Her sacred Tradition.

Also something else of relevance and exceptional severity. I carefully read the recently published, “Organisation and Working Procedure of the Holy and Great Council” and have to put before you an observation of mine of a theological-dogmatic character.
In particular, Article 12, on the subject of “Voting and Approval of Texts”, makes the following important note: “The voting on the results of a discussion or review of a Council’s text on an agenda item:

1. shall be effected by autocephalous Orthodox Churches, not by each particular member of the delegations represented at the Council, in accordance with the unanimous decision of the Meeting of the Primates of Orthodox Churches;

2. the voting of a Church at the Council, not a member of a delegation, does not exclude the possibility for one or a few hierarchs in the delegation of a particular autocephalous Church to take a negative position towards introduced amendments or a text in general. The fact of disagreement shall be registered in the Minutes of the Council;

3. the evaluation of such disagreement is an internal affair of that Church to which the hierarchs belong. The Church may vote from the principle of internal majority expressed by its primate and for this reason it should be accorded the place and time necessary for considering this issue within the delegation..

We see in this article that the consensus of the Great Synod is limited to one vote for each Local Autocephalous Church. Individual disagreements – should it happen that these constituted a minority within the Local Churches – are left aside as “their internal affair”, something which is ecclesiologically unacceptable to the particular Pan-Orthodox Synod, when, indeed, the disagreement is over a subject of a doctrinal nature. And this is very likely to be the case. For example, the subject of the self-awareness and identity of the Church, which is dealt with in the document: “Relations of the Orthodox Church with the rest of the Christian World”, is a matter of ecclesiology; in other words, eminently theological. Consequently, it is not theologically permissible for a document recommended for adoption to, on the one hand, essentially recommend the Protestant “branch theory” – legitimising by the acceptance thereof the existence of many Churches with many different doctrines – while, on the other hand, the “Rules of Organisation and Operation of the Synod” in effect ignores the inevitable minority vote of hierarchs of individual Local Churches and does not take into account the theological concerns of their episcopal conscience.

And here arises the very appropriate theological-dogmatic question: How will the one faith of the Church, “with one mouth and with one heart” be confessed in this case? How will the Fathers of the Synod be able to say, “it seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us”? How will they demonstrate that they have “the mind of Christ,” as did the God-bearing Fathers of the Ecumenical Councils of the Church?

Your Beatitude,

When it comes to matters of dogma, as is well known, the truth is not found in the majority vote of the Hierarchs of the Synod. The truth is in itself a majority, for in the Church the truth is a Hypostatic reality. For this reason, whoever disagrees with it is cut off from the Church, and are deposed and excommunicated as appropriate. The Holy and Great Synod is not permitted to leave to lesser synodical bodies a subject of such exceptional severity as the inevitable disagreement of the minority vote of bishops over matters of dogma. As the highest synodical body, it is required to address this issue directly, otherwise there is a real danger of schism in the Church, precisely at the moment when this Great Synod aspires to reaffirm the visible unity of our Church.

With deepest respect,

I kiss your right hand,

Demetrios Tselengides

Professor of the School of Theology of Aristotle University of Thessaloniki

See original at: http://aktines.blogspot.gr/2016/02/blog-post_15.html

translated by Fr. Kristian Akselberg

On an Important Question

IMG_3047St. Maximus the Confessor ca. 580-662

If one states what is in Scripture and the Holy Fathers splits the Church, what will the person who annuls the teachings of the Saints be shown to do the Church, without which [teachings] the Church’s very existence is impossible? (Record of the Trial, 4)

On When People Speak Ill of You

0206barsanuphius.n.johnSs. Barsanuphius and John ca. 6th cent.

Q: A brother asked the Elder: “When I hear of someone that he is speaking ill of me, what should I do?”

A: Immediately stand at prayer and pray first for him, then for yourself, saying: “Lord Jesus Christ! Have mercy on this brother and me, Thy useless slave, and protect us from the evil one, by the prayers of Thy Saints.” Amen. (Answers to the Questions of Disciples, Question 556. Guidance Toward Spiritual Life, p. 125)

On St. Vincent of Lerins and Origen

2006Met. Kallistos Ware frequently quotes St. Vincent of Lerins in his talks and writing as ancient testimony in approval of the condemned theologian Origen of Alexandria. The Metropolitan routinely claims that he is agreement with St. Vincent when he wrote, “Who would not rather be wrong with Origen than right with everyone else?”. But what actually did St. Vincent say in context?

St. Vincent of Lerins died ca. 445

…[I]n the Church of God the teacher’s error is the people’s trial, a trial by so much the greater in proportion to the greater learning of the erring teacher… An important fact truly, useful to be learned, and necessary to be remembered, and to be illustrated and enforced again and again, by example upon example, in order that all true Catholics may understand that it behooves them with the Church to receive Teachers, not with Teachers to desert the faith of the Church.

My belief is, that among many instances of this sort of trial which might be produced, there is not one to be compared with that of Origen, in whom there were many things so excellent, so unique, so admirable, that antecedently any one would readily deem that implicit faith was to be placed all his assertions. For if the conversation and manner of life carry authority, great was his industry, great his modesty, his patience, his endurance; if his descent or his erudition, what more noble than his birth of a house rendered illustrious by martyrdom? Afterwards, when in the cause of Christ he had been deprived not only of his father, but also of all his property, he attained so high a standard in the midst of the straits of holy poverty, that he suffered several times, it is said, as a Confessor. Nor were these the only circumstances connected with him, all of which afterwards proved an occasion of trial. He had a genius so powerful, so profound, so acute, so elegant, that there was hardly any one whom he did not very far surpass. The splendor of his learning, and of his erudition generally, was such that there were few points of divine philosophy, hardly any of human which he did not thoroughly master. When Greek had yielded to his industry, he made himself a proficient in Hebrew. What shall I say of his eloquence, the style of which was so charming, so soft, so sweet, that honey rather than words seemed to flow from his mouth! What subjects were there, however difficult, which he did not render clear and perspicuous by the force of his reasoning? What undertakings, however hard to accomplish, which he did not make to appear most easy? But perhaps his assertions rested simply on ingeniously woven argumentation? On the contrary, no teacher ever used more proofs drawn from Scripture. Then I suppose he wrote little? No man more, so that, if I mistake not, his writings not only cannot all be read through, they cannot all be found; for that nothing might be wanting to his opportunities of obtaining knowledge, he had the additional advantage of a life greatly prolonged. But perhaps he was not particularly happy in his disciples? Who ever more so? From his school came forth doctors, priests, confessors, martyrs, without number. Then who can express how much he was admired by all, how great his renown, how wide his influence? Who was there whose religion was at all above the common standard that did not hasten to him from the ends of the earth? What Christian did not reverence him almost as a prophet; what philosopher as a master? How great was the veneration with which he was regarded, not only by private persons, but also by the Court, is declared by the histories which relate how he was sent for by the mother of the Emperor Alexander, moved by the heavenly wisdom with the love of which she, as he, was inflamed. To this also his letters bear witness, which, with the authority which he assumed as a Christian Teacher, he wrote to the Emperor Philip, the first Roman prince that was a Christian. As to his incredible learning, if any one is unwilling to receive the testimony of Christians at our hands, let him at least accept that of heathens at the hands of philosophers. For that impious Porphyry says that when he was little more than a boy, incited by his fame, he went toAlexandria, and there saw him, then an old man, but a man evidently of so great attainments, that he had reached the summit of universal knowledge.

Time would fail me to recount, even in a very small measure, the excellencies of this man, all of which, nevertheless, not only contributed to the glory of religion, but also increased the magnitude of the trial. For who in the world would lightly desert a man of so great genius, so great learning, so great influence, and would not rather adopt that saying, ‘That he would rather be wrong with Origen, than be right with others’.

What shall I say more? The result was that very many were led astray from the integrity of the faith, not by any human excellencies of this so great man, this so great doctor, this so great prophet, but, as the event showed, by the too perilous trial which he proved to be. Hence it came to pass, that this Origen, such and so great as he was, wantonly abusing the grace of God, rashly following the bent of his own genius, and placing overmuch confidence in himself, making light account of the ancient simplicity of the Christian religion, presuming that he knew more than all the world besides, despising the traditions of the Church and the determinations of the ancients, and interpreting certain passages of Scripture in a novel way, deserved for himself the warning given to the Church of God, as applicable in his case as in that of others, If there arise a prophet in the midst of you,… you shall not hearken to the words of that prophet,…because the Lord your God does make trial of you, whether you love Him or not. (Deut. 13:1) Truly, thus of a sudden to seduce the Church which was devoted to him, and hung upon him through admiration of his genius, his learning, his eloquence, his manner of life and influence, while she had no fear, no suspicion for herself—thus, I say, to seduce the Church, slowly and little by little, from the old religion to a new profaneness, was not only a trial, but a great trial.

But some one will say, Origen’s books have been corrupted. I do not deny it; nay, I grant it readily. For that such is the case has been handed down both orally and in writing, not only by Catholics, but by heretics as well. But the point is, that though himself be not, yet books published under his name are, a great trial, which, abounding in many hurtful blasphemies, are both read and delighted in, not as being some one else’s, but as being believed to be his, so that, although there was no error in Origen’s original meaning, yet Origen’s authority appears to be an effectual cause in leading people to embrace error.

The case is the same with Tertullian. For as Origen holds by far the first place among the Greeks, so does Tertullian among the Latins. For who more learned than he, who more versed in knowledge whether divine or human? With marvelous capacity of mind he comprehended all philosophy, and had a knowledge of all schools of philosophers, and of the founders and upholders of schools, and was acquainted with all their rules and observances, and with their various histories and studies. Was not his genius of such unrivalled strength and vehemence that there was scarcely any obstacle which he proposed to himself to overcome, that he did not penetrate by acuteness, or crush by weight? As to his style, who can sufficiently set forth its praise? It was knit together with so much cogency of argument that it compelled assent, even where it failed to persuade. Every word almost was a sentence; every sentence a victory…Yet this man also, notwithstanding all that I have mentioned, this Tertullian, I say, too little tenacious of Catholic doctrine, that is, of the universal and ancient faith, more eloquent by far than faithful, changed his belief, and justified what the blessed Confessor, Hilary, writes of him, namely, that by his subsequent error he detracted from the authority of his approved writings. He also was a great trial in the Church. But of Tertullian I am unwilling to say more. This only I will add, that, contrary to the injunction of Moses, by asserting the novel furies of Montanus which arose in the Church, and those mad dreams of new doctrine dreamed by mad women, to be true prophecies, he deservedly made both himself and his writings obnoxious to the words, If there arise a prophet in the midst of you,…you shall not hearken to the words of that prophet. For why? Because the Lord your God does make trial of you, whether you love Him or not.

It behooves us, then, to give heed to these instances from Church History, so many and so great, and others of the same description, and to understand distinctly, in accordance with the rule laid down in Deuteronomy, that if at any time a Doctor in the Church have erred from the faith, Divine Providence permits it in order to make trial of us, whether or not we love God with all our heart and with all our mind. (The Commonitory: 27-29, 42-47)

St. Vincent actually says the exact opposite in context.

(1 Tim. 4:16) Keep a close watch on yourself and on the teaching. Persist in this, for by so doing you will save both yourself and your hearers.

On St. Maximus and Origen

maximusconfessor1And when they [St. Maximus and his co-Confessors] had been dismissed to the prisons, Menas laid hold of the old man, saying in the presence of the officials: ‘God has struck you and brought you here so that you might accept the consequences of what you did to others, when you led everyone into the teachings of Origen.’

The servant of God said to him in the presence of everyone: ‘Anathema on Origen and his teachings, and on everyone of the same mind as himself.’

And the patrician Epiphanius said: ‘The censure adduced by you against him, Lord Menas, has come to an end, such that, even if he were an Origenist, he freed himself from a charge like that when he pronounced the anathema. From now on I won’t have a charge of that nature made about him any longer.’ (Record of the Trial, 5. Maximus the Confessor and His Companions: Documents From Exile edited by Pauline Allen and Bronwen Neil, p. 59-61. Oxford Early Christian Texts)

Fr. Theodore Zisis on the Great Council

bishops-at-phanar-600x399Special thanks to Matushka Constantina and the outstanding Lesson From a Monastery blog for these videos of Fr. Theodore Zisis and for all their wonderful labors.

Part 1

Part 2

 

On the Text: “Relations of the Orthodox Church with the Rest of the Christian World”

unnamedProfessor of the Theological School at the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, Dr. Dimitrios Tselengidis has sent his first theological observations to the Orthodox hierarchs of several Local Orthodox Churches (including those of Greece, Russia, Serbia, Georgia, Bulgaria, Alexandria, and Antioch) concerning the text: “Relations of the Orthodox Church with the Rest of the Christian World.”

Thessaloniki February 3, 2016

H/T: Lessons From a Monastery

This text displays recurrent theological inconsistency and contradiction. Thus, in the first article it proclaims the ecclesiastical self-identity of the Orthodox Church, considering Her—and very rightly—as the “One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church.” In article six, however, there is a contradiction with respect to the formulation of the above article (1). It notes characteristically that the “the Orthodox Church recognizes the historic existence of other Christian Churches and Confessions not in communion with Her.”

Here the reasonable theological question arises: If the Church is “One” according to our Creed and the Orthodox Church’s own self-identity (art. 1), then how is there mention of other Christian Churches? It is clear that these other Churches are heterodox.

Heterodox “Churches”, though, cannot at all be called “Churches” by the Orthodox. Considering things from a dogmatic perspective it is not possible to speak about a plurality of “Churches” with different dogmas, and this, indeed, with regard to many different theological issues. Consequently, as long as these “Churches” remain firm in the erroneous beliefs of their faith, there is no theological justification to grant them ecclesial recognition —and this officially —outside of the “One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church.”

In the same article (6), there is another serious theological contradiction. At the beginning of the article the following is noted: “According to the ontological nature of the Church, it is impossible for [Her] unity to be shattered.” At the end of this same article, however, it is written that, by Her participation in the Ecumenical Movement, the Orthodox Church has as its “objective aim the paving of the way which leads toward unity.”

Here the question is put: Given that the unity of the Church is an acknowledged fact, what type of unity of Churches is being sought in the context of the Ecumenical Movement? Does it perhaps mean the return of Western Christians to the ONE and only Church? Such a meaning, though, does not emerge either in the letter or the spirit of the entire text. On the contrary, indeed, the impression is given that there exists a long-established division in the Church and that the prospects of the [Ecumenical] dialogues focus on the disrupted unity of the Church.

Theological confusion is also caused by the ambiguity in article 20, which reads: “The prospects of the theological dialogues of the Orthodox Church with the other Christian Churches and Confessions shall always be determined on the basis of Her canonical criteria of the already established ecclesiastical tradition (canon seven of the Second Ecumenical Council and canon 95 of the Quinisext Council).”

But, canon seven of the Second Ecumenical Council and canon 95 of the Quinisext address the reception of specific heretics that had demonstrated their desire to join the Orthodox Church. However, it is apparent from the letter and spirit of the text, as judged from a theological perspective, that there is no discussion whatsoever of the return of the heterodox to the Orthodox Church, the only Church. Rather, in the text, the baptism of the heterodox is considered an accepted fact from the outset—and this without a Pan-Orthodox decision. In other words, the text endorses “Baptismal Theology.” Simultaneously, the text deliberately ignores the historic fact that the contemporary heterodox of the West (RC & Protestant) have not one, but heaps of dogmas that differ from the Orthodox Church (besides the filioque, created grace in the sacraments, the primacy of the pope, papal infallibility, the rejection of icons, and the rejection of the decisions of the Ecumenical Councils, etc.).

Article 21 also raises appropriate questions, where it notes that, “the Orthodox Church … has a favorable view of the documents adopted by the Commission [referring to the Committee for ‘Faith & Order’] . . . for the rapprochement of the Churches.” Here it must be observed that these documents [of the Committee] have never been adjudged by the Hierarchs of the Local Orthodox Churches.

Finally, in article 22 the impression is given that the Upcoming Holy and Great Council is prejudging the infallibility of its decisions, since it considers that, “the preservation of the authentic orthodox faith is ensured only through the synodical system, which has always rested in the Church and which constitutes the appropriate and final judge on all matters of faith.” In this article, the historic fact is ignored that in the Orthodox Church the final criteria is always the living dogmatic consciousness of the fullness of the Church, which in the past confirmed even Ecumenical Councils considered robber councils. The synodical system by itself does not mechanically ensure the correctness of orthodox faith. This only happens when the Synod of Bishops has the Holy Spirit and the Hypostatic Way—Christ—working within it, and thus as “syn”—“odikoi” [i.e., “traversing together on the way”] they are, in practice, “following the Holy Fathers.”

General Assessment of the Text

With all that is written and what is clearly implied in the text above, it is clear that its initiators and authors are attempting the institutional and official ratification of Christian Syncretistism-Ecumenism by means of a Pan-Orthodox Synod. This, however, would be catastrophic for the Orthodox Church. For this reason I humbly propose the text’s total withdrawal.

In closing, one theological observation on the text, “The Sacrament of Marriage and its Impediments” (See: https://mospat.ru/en/2016/01/28/news127389/). In article 5.i, it notes: “The marriage of an Orthodox person with a heterodox person is not permitted according to canonical akrivia [the ‘rule’] (canon 72 of the Quinisext Council in Trullo). However, it is possible to be blessed through condescension and love for man under the express condition that the children of this marriage will be baptized and raised in the Orthodox Church.”

Here, the express condition that, “the children of this marriage will be baptized and raised in the Orthodox Church” clashes with the theological guarantee of marriage as a sacrament of the Orthodox Church. The reason for this: because child-bearing shows itself—in connection with the baptism of children in the Orthodox Church—to legitimize the service of mixed marriage, something clearly forbidden by a Canon of the Ecumenical Councils (canon 72 of the Quinisext). In other words, a synod that is not Ecumenical, such as is the upcoming Holy and Great Council, explicitly turns a decision of an Ecumenical Council into something relative. This is unacceptable.

And finally this: If the blessed marriage does not provide children, is this marriage theologically legitimized simply on account of the intention of the heterodox spouse to place any possible children in the Orthodox Church?

For the sake of theological consistency, article 5.i, needs to be removed.

+ Translation by: Rev. Fr. Matthew Penney, Feb. 7th, 2016, with assistance by Fr. C. A, and edited by Fr. Peter Heers.

On Akribeia and Oikonomia

Ss. Cyprian and Augustine

                   Ss. Cyprian and Augustine

Protopresbyter George Dion Dragas

[An] obvious question relates to the rejection…of the distinction between akribeia and oikonomia as a ‘Greek innovation’ that was introduced by St. Nikodemos the Hagiorite!

Another question, which is really derived from the previous rejection, is the characterization of the varied nature of Orthodox praxis οn the issue of the reception of Roman Catholic converts as inconsistent, especially when compared to the Roman Catholic praxis, which is viewed as consistent! Is it not true that consistency, or lack of consistency, are established on the regular praxis of the Church in receiving non-Christians into the Una Sancta and not on exceptional cases, such as those of the reception of schismatic and heretical Christians into the Church? Have the Roman Catholics kept the praxis of the ancient undivided Church, i.e. the akribeia of the ancient canons cοncerning the administration of Holy Baptism? Is it not the case that Roman Catholics have been inconsistent, if not innovatory and even contradictory, in the celebration of Baptism at different times and places? Or is it unjust to view as inconsistent the Roman Catholic indiscriminate ‘openness’ towards Orthodox and other Christians concerning their Baptism (and now their Eucharist) from the point of view of the received apostolic faith and practice?

Finally, if the Orthodox doctrine of Baptism is indeed the same with the Roman Catholic one as the Agreed Statement [“Baptism αnd Sacramental Economy” of the North American Orthodox-Roman Catholic Theological Cοnsultation] claims, and if it is true that sacramentology goes hand in hand with ecclesiology, as the Geron Metropolitan Chrysostom of Ephesus has reminded us in his recent book, could it be claimed pari passu that Orthodox ecclesiology is the same with the Roman Catholic one? Has then the ecclesiological issue that divides Orthodox and Roman Catholics been resolved? Is it not fair to maintain that as long as there is division between these two (and indeed any other) Churches, the Cyprianic-Augustinian dilemma, which is somewhat parallel to the Orthodox akribeia-oikonomia dilemma, is bound to exist?

It seems to me that such questions are unavoidable, but hopefully the recent suggestions/issues of the Agreed Statement of the American Orthodox-Roman Catholic Theological Consultation will be finally determined by the Great and Holy Synod of the Orthodox Church which is επί θύρας. Better still, one may hope to find the answers to these problems by an ecclesial rapprochement of Orthodox and Roman Catholics (and indeed of all other Christians) on the basis of the venerable Holy Tradition which was once delivered to the Saints from the Apostles and the Fathers in the course of the new millennium which lies ahead of us. (The Manner of Reception of Roman Catholic Converts into the Orthodox Church)

On Why the Priest Invokes the Father at the Eucharistic Consecration

Christ the Great High-Priest 15th cent. icon from skete.com

Christ the Great High-Priest 15th cent. icon from skete.com

St. Nicholas Cabasilas 1323-1391

Why is it that for the consecration of the Offerings the Celebrant does not invoke the Son, Who is the Priest and Sanctifier, as we have said, but rather the Father?

It is to teach us that the Savior possess this power of sanctification not in His quality as a man, but because He is God, and because of the Divine power which He shares with His Father. This is what our Lord Himself wished to show us when, while instituting the Sacrament, He lifted His eyes up to heaven and offered the Bread to His Father. For the same reason, He performed many of His miracles in an attitude of prayer to God; He wished to show that this was not the work of His human nature, according to which He had a mother on earth, but of His Divinity, according to which God was His Father. In the same way, when He was about to ascend the Cross, wishing to show that He had two wills, the Divine and the Human, He attributed to His Father His divine will, keeping to Himself His human one. “Not as I will but as Thou will but as Thou wilt”, and again: “Not my will but Thine be done.” Yet the very words in which He seems to separate His own will from that of His Father show that He Himself willed that will of the Father which He fulfilled. For the phrase “Not my will but Thine be done” implies agreement and a unity of wills. He demonstrates this also when He reproaches Peter for shrinking from the idea of His Cross and death and again when He says: “I have greatly longed to eat this Passover with you before I suffer.” I have desired this Passover before My Passion, he says — as if to say: I have desired to reach the threshold of that Passion. (A Commentary on the Divine Liturgy, 31.)

On Being Saved Through Childbearing

image source: https://krishantheorthodoxsingh.wordpress.com/2014/07/18/astonishing-pictures-of-christian-palestine/

image source: https://krishantheorthodoxsingh.wordpress.com/2014/07/18/astonishing-pictures-of-christian-palestine/

Blessed Theophylact of Ochrid ca. 1055-1108

Not childbearing alone, but rearing them up… It is evident that a woman being virtuous is raising her children in virtue. Now if a virgin is being virtuous, doubtless she is being saved… Since the woman has been hindered from teaching… if she desires to be teaching, let her teach the children. But some say that the “childbearing” [1 Tim. 2:15] means that of the Theotokos. For she gave birth to the Savior, saving, they say, the women. (P.G. 125:364 BC [col. 40])

 

On Women in Christ

IMG_0983St. Paulinus of Nola ca. 354-431

The Apostle’s authority has allowed only women to have long hair, for though their faith like that of men removes the veil from their hearts, fitting modesty demands a covering for their heads and a veil for their brows… Hair is unbecoming for men because Christ, the Head of every man, cannot be concealed… She is no one’s head, but the embellishment of her husband by the adornment of her virtue. We might say that she is placed at the base to support that body’s chain which is linked to God by the head of Christ, to Christ by the head of man, and to man by the head of woman. But Christ makes woman also belong to the Head at the top by making her part of the body and of the structure of the limbs, for in Christ we are neither male or female (Gal. 3:28)…

Let them realize why Paul ordered their heads to be clothed with a more abundant covering: it is because of the angels, that is, the angels who are ready to seduce them and whom the saints will condemn… A woman ought to cover her head especially in prayer and prophecy. Then she becomes pregnant with the Spirit, and accordingly rouses the hatred of of the tempter all the more when she leaves behind the boundaries of her womanly weakness, and aspires to human perfection… So because a woman becomes spiritually pregnant,… she has a power over her head, so that the wiles and snares of the enemy may not confront her. Her hair shows that by this power she is both guided and defended. Strength is bestowed on her by that very humility of heart by which through the guidance of self-control she restrains the arrogance of knowledge. (Letter 23: To Severus)

On Our Present Circumstances

Fallen ChurchSt. Sophronius of Jerusalem ca. 560-638

[T]he present circumstances are forcing me to think differently about our way of life, for why are [so many] wars being fought among us? Why do barbarian raids abound? Why are the troops of the Saracens attacking us? Why has there been so much destruction and plunder? Why are there incessant outpourings of human blood? Why are the birds of the sky devouring human bodies?

…Why have churches been pulled down? Why is the cross mocked? Why is Christ, who is the dispenser of all good things and the provider of this joyousness of ours, blasphemed by pagan mouths (ethnikois tois stomasi) so that he justly cries out to us: “Because of you my name is

Why have churches been pulled down? Why is the cross mocked? Why is Christ, Who is the dispenser of all good things and the provider of this joyousness of ours, blasphemed by pagan mouths (ethnikois tois stomasi) so that He justly cries out to us: “Because of you My name is blasphemed among the pagans,” and this is the worst of all the terrible things that are happening to us…

egypt_bloody_jesus_AFPThat is why the vengeful and God-hating Saracens, the Abomination of Desolation clearly foretold to us by the Prophets, overrun the places which are not allowed to them, plunder cities, devastate fields, burn down villages, set on fire the holy churches, overturn the sacred monasteries, oppose the Byzantine armies arrayed against them, and in fighting raise up the trophies [of war] and add victory to victory. Moreover, they are raised up more and more against us and increase their blasphemy of Christ and the Church, and utter wicked blasphemies against God. Those God-fighters boast of prevailing over all, assiduously and unrestrainably imitating their leader, who is the devil, and emulating his vanity because of which he has been expelled from heaven and been assigned to the gloomy shades. Yet these vile ones would not have accomplished this nor seized such a degree of power as to do and utter lawlessly all these things, unless we had first insulted the gift [of baptism] and first defiled the purification, and in this way grieved Christ, the giver of gifts, and prompted Him to be angry with us, good though He is and though He takes no pleasure in evil, being the fount of kindness and not wishing to behold the ruin and destruction of men. We are ourselves, in truth, responsible for all these things and no word will be found for our defence. What word or place will be given us for our defence when we have taken all these gifts from Him, befouled them and defiled everything with our with our vile actions? (excerpted from Spencer, Robert. 2014-04-08. Did Muhammad Exist?: An Inquiry into Islam’s Obscure Origins. Kindle Locations 500-524. Intercollegiate Studies Institute. Kindle Edition)

On Living Orthodoxy and Spreading the Faith

1SR14__56007.1429296344.900.900Hieromonk Seraphim Rose 1934-1982

[O]ur attitude must be not self-centered but reaching out to those who are seeking for God and for a godly life. Nowadays, wherever there is a good-sized Orthodox community, the temptation is to make it into a society for self-congratulation and for taking delight in our Orthodox virtues and achievements: the beauty of our church buildings and furnishings, the splendor of our services, even the purity of our doctrine. But the true Christian life, even since the time of the Apostles, has always been inseparable from communicating it to others. An Orthodoxy that is alive by this very fact shines forth to others—and there is no need to open a “department of missions” to do this; the fire of true Christianity communicates itself without this. If our Orthodoxy is only something we keep for ourselves, and boast about it, then we are the dead burying the dead—which is precisely the state of many of our Orthodox parishes today, even those that have a large number of young people, if they are not going deeply into their Faith. It is not enough to say that the young people are going to church. We need to ask what they are getting in church, what they are taking away from church, and, if they are not making Orthodoxy a part of their whole life, then it really is not sufficient to say that they are going to church. (Living the Orthodox Worldview)

On the Biblico-Patristic Mindset II

St. Benedict of NursiaSt. Benedict of Nursia ca. 480-543

[F]or those who would hasten to the perfection of that life there are the teaching of the Holy Fathers, the observance of which leads to the height of perfection.  For what page or what utterance
of the divinely inspired books of the Old and New Testaments is not a most unerring rule for human life?  Or what book of the holy Catholic Fathers does not loudly proclaim how we may come by a straight course to our Creator?  Then the Conferences and the Institutes and the Lives of the Fathers,
as also the Rule of our holy Father Basil —  what else are they but tools of virtue for [the] right-living and obedient…?  But for us who are lazy and ill-living and negligent they are a source of shame and confusion. (The Rule, Chap. 73)

 

On Divisions and the Antichrist

cyril-of-jerusalem-1St. Cyril of Jerusalem ca. 313-386

Hatred of the brethren makes room next for Antichrist; for the devil prepares beforehand the divisions among the people, that he who is to come may be acceptable to them. But God forbid that any of Christ’s servants here, or elsewhere, should run over to the enemy!

Writing concerning this matter, the Apostle Paul gave a manifest sign, saying, For that day shall not come, except there came first the falling away, and the man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition, who opposes and exalts himself against all that is called God, or that is worshipped; so that he sits in the temple of God, showing himself that he is God. Do you not remember that when I was yet with you, I told you these things? And now you know that which restrains, to the end that he may be revealed in his own season. For the mystery of iniquity does already work, only there is one that restrains now, until he be taken out of the way. And then shall the lawless one be revealed, whom the LordJesus shall slay with the breath of His mouth, and shall destroy with the brightness of His coming. Even him, whose coming is after the working of Satan, with all power and signs and lying wonders, and with all deceit of unrighteousness for them that are perishing. (2 Thes. 2:3-10)

Thus wrote Paul, and now is the falling away. For men have fallen away from the right faith… And formerly the heretics were manifest; but now the Church is filled with heretics in disguise. For men have fallen away from the truth, and have itching ears. (2 Tim. 4:3) Is it a plausible discourse? All listen to it gladly. Is it a word of correction? All turn away from it. Most have departed from right words, and rather choose the evil, than desire the good. This therefore is the falling away, and the enemy is soon to be looked for: and meanwhile he has in part begun to send forth his own forerunners , that he may then come prepared upon the prey. Look therefore to yourself, O man, and make safe your soul. The Church now charges you before the Living God; She declares to you the things concerning Antichrist before they arrive. Whether they will happen in your time we know not, or whether they will happen after you we know not; but it is well that, knowing these things, you should make yourself secure beforehand. (Catechetical Lectures, Lecture 15.9)

On Leading in the Church

three holy hierarchsBlessed Jerome of Stridonium ca. 347-420

Let bishops hear this, let priests, hear, let every rank of learning get this clear: In the Church, leaders are servants. Let them imitate the Apostle [Paul]. The difference between secular rulers and Christian leaders is that the former love to be lord over their subordinates whereas the latter serve them. (Epistle to the Ephesians, 3.5.21, P.L. 26:530 AC [653, 654], in ACC, VIII:194)

On the Place of Refuge

RahabBlessed Jerome of Stridonium ca. 347-420

To be as martyrs, or as apostles, or as Christ, involves a hard struggle, but which brings with it a great reward. All such efforts are only of use when they are made within the Church’s pale; we must celebrate the Passover in one house [Ex. 12:46], we must enter the ark with Noah [1 Pet. 3:20], we must take refuge from the fall of Jericho with the justified harlot, Rahab. (Letter 22, to Eustochium) 

On True Love

st_maximus_the_confessorSt. Maximus the Confessor ca. 580-662

Many people have said much about love, but only in seeking it among Christ’s disciples will you find it, for only they have the true love, the teacher of love, of whom it is written, “If I have prophecy and know all mysteries and all knowledge but do not have love, it profits me nothing.” (1 Cor. 13:2) Therefore, the one who possesses love possesses God Himself, since “God is love.” (1 Jn. 4:8) To Him be glory forever. Amen.

On Personalist Theology and the Primus

image from newromepress.com

image from newromepress.com

Protopresbyter Michael Azkoul

I have no doubt that Patriarch Bartholomew acts with the greatest hope and sincerity for Christian unity, as every Christian should… He thinks of himself as a “bridge-builder,” aiming at union or harmony between Orthodoxy and the other Christian confessions. The Orthodox Church, again, seeks Christian unity, and it prays for it; however, it seeks unity in the Orthodox Faith, to which Faith it calls all confessions.

The Œcumenical Patriarch, it seems to me, comes to his view of the Church, in part, by way of believing himself competent to play this unitive role. No doubt reinforced by his education in the West—largely in Rome, in fact—he learned to place inordinate value on the human personality, embracing the principles of the philosophy of Personalism. Personalists have called for the reconstruction of the social order, so that the sanctity of human life and the dignity of each person might be foremost in our personal lives and in our social and, more specically, religious outlook. Strongly attracted to the precepts of Personalism, the Patriarch made it part of his new ecclesiological vision. Its ideas enable him, in the religious domain, to compare the human person to “the Supreme Person (Being)” and, thereby, to transcend the differences between men and between religions. Personalism promotes universal brotherhood, with all that this implies, and not individualism, which it equates with self-centeredness and solipsism. He links this brotherhood with the Church, since the Church aims at the restoration of the divine image in humanity, which Adam shattered by his disobedience, as St. Athanasius said.

It may be that, given his penchant for the Personalist worldview, the Patriarch follows Nicholas Berdyaev. “Personality,” the latter said, “is the moral principle, and our relation to all other values is determined by reference to it. Hence the idea of Personality lies at the basis of ethics…. Personality is a higher state than the value of the state, the nation, mankind or nature [1], and indeed is not part of that series.” While studying in Geneva, His All-Holiness met the famous Greek ecumenist, Nikos Nissiotis, who also instructed him in Personalism and its “new horizons”. It becomes clearer why the Patriarch no longer feels compelled to consider as final and unchangeable the Orthodox form of the Christian Faith. Personalism, since it rejects individualism, tears down Orthodox exclusivism, downplaying differences of every kind and honoring human agency in what are actually matters of divine prerogative. I have no way of knowing the depth to which this philosophy has penetrated the Patriarch’s soul, but it is not a jump in logic to think that Personalism directly influenced his diminution of Orthodox exclusivism and his loyalty to ecumenism and his own personal ecclesiological views—a loyalty which, not so incidentally, is inevitably and tragically leading to a schism in the Orthodox Church. (“The Ecclesiology of Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople”. Orthodox Tradition, Vol. XXXII Number 3, 2105, p. 7-8)

Note: the lengthy excerpt below is an example of personalism and its theological consequences.

Fr. John Panteleimon Manoussakis

The phenomenon of anti-papism, understood as the denial of a primus for the universal church and the elevation of such denial to a trait that allegedly identifies the whole Orthodox Church, is, properly speaking, heretical.

In saying this, I am returning the favor, so to speak, to all those who have taken upon themselves the onerous task of defending Orthodoxy against all kinds of heresy. And heresy is all they see. Any difference, not necessarily in matters of dogma but also in liturgy, in language, in vestments, in appearance, is immediately and solemnly denounced as heresy.

Anticipating the reaction of some who may find such a statement dangerous and inflammatory, I wonder if it is possible that anti-papism could be confused with Orthodoxy. And if there is such a possibility, is it not all the more necessary and urgent that we speak against such a false identification, distinguishing the Church to which we belong and which we serve— I speak here as an Orthodox clergyman— from that party that has constructed for itself a new identity exclusively based on the hatred for the office of Peter?

Nevertheless, the phenomenon of anti-papism has become increasingly more observable within the Orthodox Church. Those who want to elevate their dislike for the Pope into a definition for the Orthodox Church as a whole do not realize that, if they were right, their version of the Church would be reduced to little more than a religious club that can trace its origins to no earlier than the schism of 1054— a club that would owe its raison d’être entirely to the very opponent that it opposes.

…When I was a seminarian in Athens, I was taught that, unlike the Roman Church, the highest authority in the Orthodox Church— the one authority with absolute power to decide dogmatic and canonical matters— is an interpersonal (and thus impersonal) body: the Ecumenical Council.  By asserting such a claim, the Orthodox present a not-so-implicit critique against papal primacy, which is often caricatured as a centralized, imperialistic, and therefore totalitarian and oppressive ecclesiology. In opposition to such a structure, the Orthodox take pride in what they consider a more democratic structure. They give, however, little or no thought to the fact that the synod as a manifold body presupposes the office of the One— that is, the one primus who, although inter pares as far as his sacramental faculty is concerned, remains nevertheless unequal in his primacy. Similarly, the patriarch or the metropolitan is also inter pares with the bishops who are administratively under him; yet, as the 34th Apostolic Canon makes clear, the synod cannot do anything without his consent. As the bishop is also inter pares with all baptized Christians, he is one of them every time he officiates— an ecclesiological truth signified by the white sticharion (the equivalent of the alb) that the bishop, like all clerics, wears as the first piece of his liturgical vestments. And yet, despite the fact that he is inter pares with the faithful (cum fidelibus), the local church cannot do anything without him, nor would they even exist as a community…

There is no either/ or distinction between conciliarity and primacy. No council is conceivable without a primus. Philosophically speaking, the emphasis on primacy conforms with the idea that the “one” (in this case, the primus) is both logically, ontologically, and “chronologically” prior to the “many” (the synod). There is another reason why the Ecumenical Council cannot be considered an institution of authority for the Church— without, of course, meaning to say that Ecumenical Councils have no authority. The weight of the argument here falls not so much on authority but on the concept of the institution. An institution (θεσμός) implies both permanence and regularity, two basic characteristics lacking from the convocation of an Ecumenical Council that has more of the character of an event (extraordinary in nature) than that of a standing institution.

…In Christian theology the principle of unity is always a person. This simple truth can be attested on the Trinitarian, the christological, and the ecclesiological level, demonstrating, incidentally, the interrelated nature of these three branches of theology. The mystery of the Holy Trinity places in front of us, in an eminent way, the problematic of the dialectic between the one and the many, unity and difference, communion and otherness. It is well known that what safeguards the oneness of God and prevents faith in the Holy Trinity from lapsing into tritheism is the person of the Father…

Therefore, the monarchy of the Father not make us fear that the person of the Father is overemphasized at the expense, perhaps, of the Trinitarian communion. Rather, it is that person, or more accurately, the personal character, that safeguards the homoousian community of the Holy Trinity. In a similar vein, the christological debates, which began in the fifth century, sought, again, to come to terms with the distinction between the one and the many. Here, of course, the many are the two natures of Christ, which became a cause of puzzlement, for the difficulty was the simultaneous affirmation of the perfect divinity and perfect humanity of Christ, on the one hand, and of the fact that Christ was one, on the other. Again, the principle of unity, a unity “without division” and “without confusion,” as the definition of the Ecumenical Council of Chalcedon puts it, is safeguarded and upheld by a person— namely, the Person of the Incarnate Logos. My argument is that there must be a consistency between these dogmatic claims and our ecclesiological model, if we do not wish to divorce ecclesiology from theology. Ecclesiologically too, then, the principle of unity for all and each of the three levels of ecclesial structure must be a person, a primus. Here, I invoke the unambiguous witness of the Metropolitan Elpidophoros (Lambriniadis) of Bursa, who, as the Chief-Secretary of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, delivered an important speech at the Chapel of the Holy Cross Theological School in Brookline, saying the following:

“Let me add that the refusal to recognize primacy within the Orthodox Church, a primacy that necessarily cannot but be embodied by a primus (that is by a bishop who has the prerogative of being the first among his fellow bishops) constitutes nothing less than heresy. It cannot be accepted, as often it is said, that unity among the Orthodox Churches is safeguarded either by a common norm of faith and worship or by the Ecumenical Council as an institution. Both of these factors are impersonal while in our Orthodox theology the principle of unity is always a person. Indeed, in the level of the Holy Trinity the principle of unity is not the divine essence but the Person of the Father (“ Monarchy” of the Father), at the ecclesiological level of the local Church the principle of unity is not the presbyterium or the common worship of the Christians but the person of the Bishop, so too in the Pan-Orthodox level the principle of unity cannot be an idea or an institution but it needs to be, if we are to be consistent with our theology, a person.” [2]

…The history of the first millennium leaves no room for doubting that the pope’s primacy in terms of such Petrine ministry was universally acknowledged and accepted even by the Greek-speaking Church. Theologically, there is no reason why the Orthodox Church should not do the same presently. The history of Orthodoxy’s Balkanization and the present state of its diaspora make it difficult to deny that the consequences of the heresy of anti-papism— that is, the denial of a personal primacy in the universal church— have historically been linked to racism, which was condemned as a heresy in 1872 under the name of ethnophyletism. Here, racism is treated as a heresy because it ascribes the role of primacy to the nation, the “ethnos.” Thus, it commits a grave abuse of the theological principle we have described above, by substituting the person of the primus with the impersonal collectivity of the nation, sacrificing the particular for the universal. Racism invests a penultimate category— that of race or language— with the authority of the ultimate, ignoring that such categories will be eschatologically overcome, as the experience of Pentecost both promises and anticipates. By doing so, national churches preclude the eschatological vision of the gospel by realizing it in the present through a form of confessional or ethnic triumphalism. But, at the same time, we also have the phenomenon of the self-proclaimed “guardians of Orthodoxy,” who, implicitly and illicitly, assert themselves and their criteria for Orthodoxy over the entire church, as a type of primatial vision that supplants the legitimate structures of the Church (i.e., the bishop). By entrusting the ministry of primacy to a person, the Church defends herself against the insidious danger of idolatry. Idolatry is endemic to ideology. It elevates theories, concepts, or structures (no matter how benign or well-intended) to a normative status in the Church, which, in effect, establishes ideologies. I say that with respect to those who might prefer to see in the structure of the Church a democracy that would emphasize equality among the faithful, understanding the Church primarily as a community of equal members that “co-celebrate” the Eucharist. Such views are open and susceptible to idolization. On the other hand, the person of the bishop, in his concreteness and not in spite of his shortcomings and failures but precisely on account of them, offers himself as an antidote to idolatry insofar as his humanity cannot but subject him to a process of demystification that would be difficult, if not impossible, to be exercised with respect to a fleshless, impersonal construction.

…In the foregoing part of this chapter we had the opportunity to discuss the need for primacy in the Church in general. Our discussion demonstrated, to the best of our abilities, that such a primacy is required by the very structure of the Church’s ecclesiology and that, furthermore, it is a prerequisite necessitated by the Church’s theology. It was that same theology that gave us the insight to primacy’s personal character insofar as it can be exercised only by a person. That person is, in principle, the bishop of Rome. Yet the separation of the two churches has meant, first and foremost, that the Orthodox churches have been deprived of the benefits embodied in such a personal primacy. One might have expected that, in the absence of the Roman primacy, the see that follows after the elder Rome in the taxis of the pentarchy ought to have been given the ministry of primacy within the Orthodox Church. That is, primacy ought to be exercised by the Patriarchate of Constantinople, the New Rome, and more specifically in the person of the patriarch of Constantinople. In fact, the ancient appellation of Constantinople as New Rome would have assumed on this occasion a quasi-prophetic meaning, as it would have anticipated that this church was destined to become the Rome for the Eastern churches in the event that the communion with the elder Rome were to be severed [3].

…In the debate over primacy the Orthodox can feel the need to unite with Rome in its most palpable and tragic urgency— yet, without the recognition of some primacy within the Orthodox Church, the Orthdox cannot reach out to Rome, nor could Rome reach out to the Orthodox Church. In one of those ironic turns of history, it is only Rome that can help the Orthodox communion overcome its own internal divisions. The possibility of a schism among the various Orthodox churches looms as real today as ever over any reconciliatory effort with the Catholic Church; furthermore, it taints and undermines Orthodoxy’s witness to the world and remains a danger to the Orthodox Church’s well-being, like a ticking time bomb placed at its foundations. (For the Unity of All: Contributions to the Theological Dialogue between East and West, Foreword by Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew. [Kindle Locations 744-1011]. Cascade Books, an Imprint of Wipf and Stock Publishers. Kindle Edition)

Note: footnotes below not included in original works.

[1] Chrysostom Koutloumousianos: “Consider the idea (promulgated in some present day theological circles) that personhood is your very being, and this very being is not a part of your nature but is a gift granted by the Other, a human Other, whose ‘personal’ love offers you your identity. Indeed, there cannot be a more subtle and devious subversion of the sense of connectedness, mutuality, freedom, and even democracy. Perhaps the most challenging part of this understanding is its application in ecclesiology. By giving so much emphasis to the role of a hierarchical ‘first’, the person who supposedly stands in the place of the Father, we create totalitarian models of Church and society in which the institution—here primacy—becomes the intermediary that connects man with God… Metropolitan John [Zizoulas] has been the most passionate proponent of this personalistic position. His Trinitarian personalism has led to what one might call ‘episcopomonism’ and a new appreciation of the idea of primacy.

[2] The two quotes below demonstrate views in opposition to Met. Elpidophoros:

Metropolitan Hierotheos of Nafpaktos and Agiou Vlasio: “In Orthodox patristic theology it is clear that the mystery of the Holy Trinity is one thing, which we will never understand, and the doctrine of the mystery of the Holy Trinity, which the Fathers expressed after having experienced Revelation, is another thing. As well, the relationship of the Persons of the Holy Trinity moves on one level, while the relationships of human hypostases/persons are on another level. There are no analogies between God and man, because then we end up in metaphysics, which the Fathers so opposed. Moreover there are patristic texts and synodical decisions, as we see for example in the Synodikon of Orthodoxy, where metaphysics is condemned, since it claims that parallels and analogies exist between the uncreated and the created.”

Metropolitan Hilarion of Volokolamsk: “It was argued that the Holy Trinity is an image of both primacy and conciliarity, since there is in it the monarchy of God the Father, but also the communion of the three divine Persons: Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Some theologians went so far as to insist that there is ‘hierarchy’ among the three Persons, having found support in passages from St Basil the Great who speaks of a taxis (order) in the Trinity. It was claimed that this ordering, or hierarchy, should be reflected in the administrative structure of the Church at the three levels: local, regional, and universal…

Some argued, on the basis of this Trinitarian glorification, that the administrative structure of the Church on the regional level also reflects (or should reflect) the communion between the divine Persons of the Trinity. The text of the canon [Apostolic Canon 34], however, does not in fact permit such a comparison: rather, it is the ‘consent’, or harmony, that reigns between the three Hypostases of the Trinity which is cited here as an example which the bishops on the regional level should follow. With regard to the Trinitarian glorification itself, it is similar to many such glorifications that conclude canonical, dogmatic and liturgical texts, and was certainly not meant to draw any direct comparison between the Hypostases of the Holy Trinity and the ranks in church order… The synodality or conciliarity that exists in the Church and has its particular expression in the institution of synods or councils may indeed be compared with the harmony and concord reigning among the Persons of the Trinity. One should not, however, go any further than that by attempting to compare human ecclesial structures with the divine Trinitarian communion. Neither is it appropriate to interpret interrelationships between primacy and synodality in the Church by using Trinitarian analogies and, thereby, to refer to the ‘primacy’ of the Father with regard to the Son and the Holy Spirit. (Primacy and Synodality from an Orthodox Perspective)

[3] Met. Hilarious of Volokolamsk: This statement has been contested by some Orthodox theologians who refer to the fact that the 28th [Canon] of Chalcedon, on which the primacy of the Patriarch of Constantinople has been based, does not speak about him as ‘second after’ the Bishop of Rome: rather, it acknowledges him as ‘equal’ to the latter. Was there, then, some kind of double primacy in the Universal Church of the first millenium, with one pope for the West and one for the East? Byzantine sources speak rather of a pentarchy, a concept officially endorsed by Emperor Justinian and, according to which, the whole oecumene is divided into five patriarchates whose rights and privileges are equivalent. This equality was expressed at the Ecumenical Councils in various ways: how discussions were held, how decisions were taken, how decrees were signed. (ibid.)

On Moral Purity

St. John Chrysostom: "Crowns are wont to be worn on the heads of bridegrooms, as a symbol of victory, betokening that they approach the marriage bed unconquered by pleasure."

St. John Chrysostom: “Crowns are wont to be worn on the heads of bridegrooms, as a symbol of victory, betokening that they approach the marriage bed unconquered by pleasure.”

Alexei Khomiakov 1804-1860

Many nations adhere to an opinion that is absurd and displeasing to God: that moral purity is more suitable for women than men! Women’s morals depend on those of men. For the stronger vessel, the head of God’s creation, to demand from a weaker vessel, the woman, virtues that he himself does not possess, is not only irrational but also dishonest. (Berdiaev, N. Aleksei Stepanovich Khomiakov. Westmead, England: Gregg International Publishers Limited, 1971. 46)

On the Source of Disorder and Disharmony

Agios VasiliosSt. Basil the Great ca. 330-379

Liberated from the error of pagan tradition through the benevolence and lovingkindness of the good God with the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, and by the operation of the Holy Spirit, I was reared from the very beginning by Christian parents. From them I learned even in babyhood the Holy Scriptures which led me to a knowledge of the truth. When I grew to manhood, I traveled about frequently and, in the natural course of things, I engaged in a great many worldly affairs. Here I observed that the most harmonious relations existed among those trained in the pursuit of each of the arts and sciences; while in the Church of God alone, for which Christ died and upon which He poured out in abundance the Holy Spirit, I noticed that many disagree violently with one another and also in their understanding of the Holy Scriptures. Most alarming of all is the fact that I found the very leaders of the Church themselves at such variance with one another in thought and opinion, showing so much opposition to the commands of our Lord Jesus Christ, and so mercilessly rending asunder the Church of God and cruelly confounding His flock that, in our day, with the rise of the Anomoeans, there is fulfilled in them as never before the prophecy, ‘Of your own selves shall arise men speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them.’ (Acts 20:30)

Witnessing such disorders as these and perplexed as to what the cause and source of such evil might be, I at first was in a state, as it were, of thick darkness and, as if on a balance, I veered now this way, now that—attracted now to one man, now to another, under the influence of protracted association with these persons, and then thrust in the other direction, as I bethought myself of the validity of the Holy Scriptures. After a long time spent in this state of indecision and while I was still busily searching for the cause I have mentioned, there came to my mind the Book of Judges which tells how each man did what was right in his own eyes and gives the reason for this in the words: ‘In those days there was no king in Israel.’ (Jags 21:24) With these words in mind, then, I applied also to the present circumstances that explanation which, incredible and frightening as it may be, is quite truly pertinent when it is understood; for never before has there arisen such discord and quarreling as now among the members of the Church in consequence of their turning away from the one, great, and true God, only King of the universe. Each man, indeed, abandons the teachings of our Lord Jesus Christ and arrogates to himself authority in dealing with certain questions, making his own private rules, and preferring to exercise leadership in opposition to the Lord to being led by the Lord. Reflecting upon this and aghast at the magnitude of the impiety, I pursued my investigation further and became convinced that the aforesaid cause was no less the true source also of secular difficulties. I noticed that as long as the common obedience of the others to some one leader was maintained, all was discipline and harmony in the whole group; but that division and discord and a rivalry of leaders besides proceeded from a lack of leadership. Moreover, I once had observed how even a swarm of bees, in accordance with a law of nature, lives under military discipline and obeys its own king with orderly precision. Many such instances have I witnessed and many others I have heard of, and pereons who make profession of such matters know many more still, so that they can vouch for the truth of what I have said. Now, if good order with its attendant harmony is characteristic of those who look to one source of authority and are subject to one king, then universal disorder and disharmony are a sign that leadership is wanting. By the same token, if we discover in our midst such lack of accord as I have mentioned, both with regard to one another and with respect to the Lord’s commands, it would be an indictment either of our rejection of the true king, according to the Scriptural saying: ‘only that he who now holdeth, do hold, until he be taken out of the way,’ (2 Thes. 2:7) or of denial of Him according to the Psalmist: “The fool hath said in his heart: There is no God.”(Ps. 13:1) And as a kind of token or proof of this, there follow the words: ‘They are corrupt and are become abominable in their ways.’

…From this and similar evidence I concluded that, in general, as a result of not knowing God, the wickedness of vice produces a reprobate understanding and, in particular, that the disagreement in the world comes from the fact that we have rendered ourselves unworthy of the Lord’s leadership. But, if I should apply myself to an inquiry into such behavior, I should be unable to assess the full extent of its obtuseness, or irrationality, or madness, or—what word I should use I know not, because of the enormity of the evil If even among the very brutes we find mutual harmony preserved by reason of their obedience to a leader, what ought we to say of the great disharmony existing among ourselves and of our insubordination to the Lord’s commands? Must we not think that all these models are proposed to us now by the good God for our instruction and conversion, but that in the great and dreadful day of judgment they will be brought forward by Him unto the shame and condemnation of those who have not profited by the instruction? Already, to be sure, He has said and He ever keeps saying: ‘The ox knoweth his owner, and the ass his master’s crib; but Israel hath not known me and my people hath not understood/ 12 and many other utterances of this kind are to be found. Consider, further, these words of the Apostle: ‘And if one member suffer anything, all the members suffer with it; or if one member glory, all the members rejoice with it 3 ; 13 likewise, that saying: ‘that there might be no schism in the body, but the members might be mutually careful one for another 514 —that is to say, being animated by one soul dwelling therein. Wherefore is it so ordained? In my opinion, so that this conformity and harmony may exist in a pre-eminent degree in the Church of God to which are addressed the words: ‘Now you are the body of Christ and members of member’ 15 —that is, the one and only true Head which is Christ exercises dominion over and unites the members, each with the other, unto harmonious accord. With those among whom harmony is not secured, however, the bond of peace is not preserved, mildness of spirit is not maintained, but there dissension, strife and rivalry are found. It would be a great piece of audacity to call such persons ‘members of Christ’ or to say that they are ruled by Him; but it would be the expression of an honest mind to say openly that the wisdom of the flesh is master there and wields a royal sovereignty, according to the words of the Apostle who says definitively: To whom you yield yourselves servants to obey, his servants you are whom you obey,’ (Rom. 6:16)…

In the light of these and many more sayings which I pass over in silence, it is so obviously and undeniably essential for unity to be fully realized in the whole Church at once, according to the will of Christ in the Holy Spirit, and, on the other hand, disobedience to God through mutual discord is so dangerous and fatal (‘for,’ says the Evangelist, ‘he that believeth not the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abideth on him’), that I thought the following inference could be drawn: Whatever sins a man is able to gain pardon for from God, or whatever be their number or their gravity, he is, in any case, liable to condemnation for contumacy. Accordingly I find, in taking up the Holy Scripture, that in the Old and New Testament contumacy toward God is clearly condemned, not in consideration of the number or heinousness of transgressions, but in terms of a single violation of any precept whatsoever, and, further, that the judgment of God covers all forms of disobedience…

A very wicked convention, however, leads us astray and a perverted human tradition is the source of great evil for us; I mean that tradition according to which some sins are denounced and others are viewed indifferently. Crimes like homicide and adultery are the object of a violent but feigned indignation, while others, such as anger or reviling or drunkenness or avarice, are not considered deserving of even a simple rebuke. Yet, regarding all these transgressions, Paul, speaking in Christ, also expressed in another place the view noted above, saying: ‘they who do such things are worthy of death.’ And certainly, where every height that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God is destroyed, and every understanding is brought into captivity unto the obedience of Christ., and every disobedience receives condign punishment, there, nothing is left undestroyed, nothing remitted without penalty, nothing is exempt from the obedience of Christ. Moreover, the Apostle has shown also that all forms of disobedience have a common feature in that they all represent the very greatest impiety. (“On the Judgment of God”, Ludwig Schopp. The Fathers Of The Church A New Translation Saint Basil Ascetical Works Volume 9 [Kindle Locations 572-781]. The Catholic University Of America Press)

 

 

 

 

On St. Cyril and the Mia Physis Formula

St Kyril of AlexandriaHans Van Loon

[T]he most important reason why Cyril is often depicted as a Miaphysite theologian is the self-perpetuating myth that the mia physis formula would be his favorite formula, which he employed many times. We find this over and over again in the literature on the archbishop… How often does Cyril of Alexandria actually employ the mia physis formula? In the writings of the first two years of the Nestorian controversy we encounter it two times only, once in Contra Nestorium, and once in a quotation in Oratio ad Dominas. In comparison, ‘union/unite(d) according to hypostasis is found seventeen times in Contra Nestorium alone (plus four times ‘according to hypostasis’ with other nouns or verbs), four times in the Second Letter to Nestorius, five times in Oratio ad Dominas (plus once ‘according to hypostasis’ with another phrase), four times in the Third Letter to Nestorius, once in the anathemas (and once ‘separated according to hypostasis’ in Oratio ad Augustas). Therefore, at this stage of the controversy, Cyril’s ‘favorite phrase’ is ‘union / unite(d) according to hypostasis’, certainly not the mia physis formula. However, after Theodoret attacked the expression ‘union/unite(d) according to hypostasis’ as an innovation, Cyril dropped it altogether.

It may be added that in Oratio ad dominas, the mia physis formula is found in a quotation from Apollinarius’s Letter to Jovian, which Cyril thought to be written by Athanasius. His explicit reason for this quotation is the occurrence of the epithet ‘Theotokos’, not that it contains the formula. He does not in any way refer to or discuss the formula. In the one time that he speaks of ‘one nature, the incarnate [nature] of the Word himself ’ in Contra Nestorium, it is immediately followed by the analogy of soul and body. Therefore, it should be interpreted in light of this comparison.

Before the reunion with the Orientals in 433, there is only one other work of Cyril’s in which he speaks of ‘one nature’ in a christological context, Contra Orientales. We find the same quotation of pseudo-Athanasius which we also encountered in Oratio ad Dominas, now in Cyril’s defence of the eighth anathema, which states that Emmanuel should be honoured with one worship. Obviously, the reason for this quotation is not that it contains the mia physis formula, but that it also speaks of one worship. After citing pseudo-Athanasius, Cyril gives a brief quotation from Nestorius, “Let us confess God in man; let us revere the man who is co-worshipped because of the divine connection with God the Word”, which he discusses. Cyril then refers to an argument which Andrew of Samosata has used against him: he himself has said that the Son is co-seated on the throne with the Father, together with his own flesh; since συν and μετa are the same thing, why does he attack someone who says that the man must be co-worshipped (συν-) with God the Word and co-named (συν-) God?

In his response, Cyril makes a distinction between things that are one by composition, and things that are two because they are separate and by themselves. When someone attributes συν or μετa “to one person and one nature or hypostasis — as he himself did when he wrote that the Son is seated on the throne “with his own flesh”—the unity by composition is maintained. But when συν or μετa are applied to two separate beings—like Peter and John—, this does not indicate one entity. As usual, Cyril’s point is Christ’s unity over against a division into a man and the Word by themselves. His remark on one person, nature or hypostasis is a general statement. It cannot be concluded from this that the three terms have exactly the same meaning.

Our investigation into Cyril’s use of the mia physis formula so far leads to the following conclusion. In his writings until the reunion with the Orientals in 433 there are only four occurrences in which the archbishop speaks of ‘one nature’ in a christological context. In one of them, it concerns a general statement about the application of συν and μετa to a unity which is compounded. Two times we encounter the mia physis formula in a quotation from Apollinarius’s Letter to Jovian, which Cyril thought to be a work from Athanasius; he does not comment on the formula in any way. The only instance in which Cyril of Alexandria himself actually employs the mia physis formula is found in Contra Nestorium, where it is mentioned without any emphasis. One can only conclude that, in contrast with the many examples of dyophysite language, miaphysite terminology hardly plays a role in Cyril’s christology before the Reunion of 433, and therefore, is certainly not typical of his own christological vocabulary.

It is the partisans of his own party, dissatisfied with the reunion, which occasion him to give more attention to the mia physis formula in several letters…

…It may be concluded that, although the mia physis formula occurs relatively often in [the] letters following the reunion with the Orientals, the main reason that Cyril defends it is probably that he believed it to be taught by Athanasius and other Church Fathers. It is for him a tool —but by no means an essential tool — to stress the ontological unity of the Incarnate Word. He repeatedly explains it by referring to the anthropological analogy: just as the one human nature is a composition of the two natures of soul and body, so Christ is the one Incarnate nature of the Word, out of the natures of the Word and the flesh.

There is only one work of Cyril’s left in which we find the formula, On the Unity of Christ, one of his latest writings, containing an overview of his christology. There is one section in which the archbishop discusses the formula. It starts with a remark by his interlocutor B: “Both natures, then, have been confused and have become one”. Cyril first declares that it would be folly to think that the nature of the Word has been changed into that of flesh, or the other way round, and continues: “We do say that the Son is one and his nature one, even if he is conceived of as having assumed flesh with a rational soul”. When B asks whether there could be two natures, that of God and that of man, Cyril responds that divinity and humanity are different with respect to the principles inhering them, but that in Christ they have concurred into a unity beyond understanding.

When B presses him for an example of the union, Cyril mentions a human being: a human being is conceived of as one, “and his nature also as one, although there is not just one species, but he is rather composed out of two things, I mean, soul and body”. And if one separates the soul from the body, will there not be two men instead of one, he asks. When B refers to the ‘inner’ and the ‘outer man’, spoken of by Paul, understood as soul and body, Cyril answers that the apostle makes a distinction grasped by contemplation only.

B then argues that “if we say that the nature of the Son is one, even if he is regarded as incarnate (σεσαρκωμνς)”, a merger or a mixture must have taken place, “in that the human nature is as it were absorbed in him”. Cyril responds that it would be idle talk if someone alleged that a merger or mixture has taken place, “if it is confessed by us that the nature of the Son, incarnate and made man (σεσαρκωμνυ τε κα νηνρωπηκτς), is one”. And he adds: reasonings will not be able to convince someone. He points to the burning bush as a type of the incarnation.

We see that Cyril’s use of ‘one nature’ corresponds to that in his previous writings. The one nature of the Incarnate Word, the result of a concurrence of divinity and humanity, is compared to the one human nature, which is out of soul and body. The participle ‘incarnate’ belongs to ‘Word’, not to ‘nature’. Therefore, the mia physis is the composition of the two INDIVIDUAL NATURES of the Word and his humanity.

Having investigated all the passages in which Cyril speaks of ‘one nature’ in a christological context, it is clear that the mia physis formula is by no means his favorite formula, and that, although miaphysite terminology increased after the reunion with the Orientals, this was especially due to the questions raised by the partisans in his own party, to which he responded in letters. He defends the formula, as coming from the Fathers, but he explains it by the anthropological analogy, in which dyophysite and miaphysite language come together.

If the mia physis formula is found in Cyril’s own writings before the Reunion of 433 only three times, while two of the occurrences are quotations from pseudo-Athanasius, how is it possible that people in his own party place so much emphasis on the ‘one nature’? It seems that what Lebon writes about the leaders of the Miaphysites in the fifth and sixth centuries, also applies to Cyril’s contemporaries: they were more influenced by the pseudepigraphic Apollinarian writings than by those of Cyril. It is the Apollinarian forgeries which led them to question Cyril’s reunion with the Orientals, and therefore, indirectly, it is these forgeries which led Cyril to give more attention to the mia physis formula in his letters from 433 till 435. It is likely that the same reason induced him to devote a section in On the Unity of Christ to the ‘one nature’. (The Dyophysite Christology of Cyril of Alexandria, p. 521-530)

On Initiation into the Church via Baptism and the Eucharist

Every Orthodox should read this outstanding book! Go and get it!

Every Orthodox and Roman Catholic should read this outstanding book! Go and get it!

Protopresbyter Peter Heers D. Th.

“This is a fundamental identity: the Church in the Eucharist and the Eucharist in the Church. Where the God-man is not, the Church is not, and where the Church is not, there is no Eucharist. Everything outside this is heresy, non-church, anti-church, and psuedo-church.” St. Justin Popovich

The identification of the Body applies to the Body as a whole and to each of its aspects simultaneously. Each manifestation of the Body contains within it the fullness of the Body. “Each mystery constitutes a particular aspect or manifestation of a united reality,” [518] of the one mystery of Christ (Eph. 3: 4), “which hath been hid from ages and from generations, but now is made manifest to his saints” (Col. 1: 26). We recognize a mystery, such as holy Baptism, only when it is a reflection of the One Church. “No mystery can be conceived of per se, but only in relation to the Mystery, which recapitulates the entire ‘mystery of Christ,’ that is, the Divine Eucharist.” [519]

The Baptism of the Church is not simply form, matter, and intention. It is first of all initiation. That Baptism that we recognize as the one Baptism brings one into the life of the Church, the heart of which is the Eucharist. As Fr. George Florovsky has written: “The entire meaning and strength of the sacrament of Holy Baptism is that the baptized enters into the one Church, ‘the one Church of angels and men,’ [520] taking root and growing into the one Body of Christ, and becomes a ‘fellow citizen of the saints and friend of God’ [Eph. 2: 19], for ‘we are all one Spirit baptized into one body’ [1 Cor. 12: 13]. Holy Baptism is a mysterious initiation into the Church, as into the kingdom of grace.” [521]

Hence, if one is not initiated into the Church, if one does not enter into the one Church, into a particular local church through his parish community, [522] and become a member of the Body by partaking of the Eucharist, it would be impossible for the Orthodox to recognize that he has been truly baptized. Such a Baptism is not the Baptism of and into the Church. Such a Baptism, “a Baptism disconnected from the Holy Eucharist,” “is a death without resurrection.” [523] How does Baptism integrate us into the Church? Precisely by opening us up to the gift of the the Holy Spirit, which then gives us access to the Eucharist. The one presupposes the other, for they all belong together, with the Eucharist being the “self-evident fulfillment” of the others. [524] There is a “sacramental interdependence” such that it is impossible to speak of one without the other two, impossible to speak of someone being baptized without approaching Christ’s table in His Kingdom. In the words of Father Alexander Schmemann, for the Fathers the Eucharist is “the ‘focus,’ the source and the fulfillment of the entire— and not merely the liturgical— life of the Church, the sacrament of the Church’s self-manifestation and edification.” [525]

Baptism as integration, as entry, presupposes communion in the common cup of the Eucharist. For, “if the Church’s ultimate being and essence are revealed in and through the Eucharist, if Eucharist is truly the sacrament of the Church and not only one of the Church’s sacraments, then of necessity to enter the Church is to enter into the Eucharist, then Eucharist is indeed the fulfillment of Baptism.” [526] No mystery is an end in itself— except for the Eucharist. All other mysteries must be placed in the context of the Eucharist. Therefore, the faithful are baptized “so that having died with Christ they might partake of His Risen Life, and it is this Risen Life that the Eucharist manifests and communicates in the Church, making her members into witnesses of the things to come.” [527]

Having this in mind, when we turn to the text of Unitatis Redintegratio 3a, which recognizes those among the “separated brethren” who are not in “full communion” with the Roman Catholic Church as being “truly baptized” and “incorporated into Christ,” members of Christ’s Church, one is at a loss to know what this could mean. What kind of Baptism is this that incorporates into Christ without leading to the fulfillment of Baptism in the Eucharist? Or, what kind of “incorporation” is this that is effected without the Eucharist, since becoming one with the Body of Christ takes place in the Eucharist? [528] For what else could “incomplete communion” mean here except that they have not reached the “summit” of communion, according to Cardinal Kasper’s description of the Eucharist? Certainly, as it pertains to most Protestants who do not have a “valid” Eucharist, this must be what is meant. Thus, it is evident that what the mysteries, Baptism and the Eucharist, are understood to mean by the Orthodox does not coincide with the meaning found in Unitatis Redintegratio and Lumen Gentium.

The implications for ecclesiology are immense, for the members of the Church are constituted as the Church first and foremost through these mysteries. The separation and independence of Baptism from the Eucharist, on both a theoretical as well as a practical level, is not only unchallenged in Unitatis Redintegratio, it is an important pillar of the new ecclesiology developed therein. [529] This independence of Baptism from the Eucharist signifies much more than simply a liturgical diversion from traditional practice. It touches upon the faith itself and signals “a deep perversion of the identity of the Church with wide-ranging and serious consequences.” [530]

One cannot be incorporated into Christ and become His member in Baptism alone. [531] The Church is not created in the waters of Baptism alone, but, rather, was born from the side of Christ when “forthwith came there out blood and water” (John 19: 34); neither blood alone, nor water alone, but both together. [532] Those born have to be nourished; those baptized partake straightaway of divine food. That is why, for the Orthodox, “every Eucharistic assembly is an assembly of the entire Church,” [533] τὸ πλήρωμα, “the flesh of the Church” [534] which Christ assumed. Those not incorporated into this assembly [535] are not of the fullness, which means they have not been made members of Christ’s Body. For, we know of no such Baptism that is not fulfilled in the Eucharist. (The Ecclesiological Renovation of Vatican II: An Orthodox Examination of Rome’s Ecumenical Theology Regarding Baptism and the Church. 2015-11-16. [Kindle Locations 2597-2649]. Uncut Mountain Press. Kindle Edition)

[518]. John Zizioulas (Metropolitan of Pergamon), “Holy Baptism and Divine Liturgy,” in Holy Baptism: Our Incorporation into the Church of Christ [in Greek: “Ἅγιον Βάπτισμα καὶ Θεία Λειτουργία” στό Τό Ἅγιο Βάπτισμα: Ἠ ἔνταξή μας στήν Ἐκκλησία τοῦ Χριστοῦ (Athens: Apostoliki Diakonia, 2002), 11].

[519]. Zizioulas, ibid., 12.

[520]. Paraklitiki (Divine service book), Tone 1, Wednesday morning, aposticha.

[521]. Florovsky, “House of the Father,” 79.

[522]. “The fact that the newly illumined one must immediately gather epi to auto, and not simply commune of the Mysteries, means that with Baptism and Chrismation he is inscribed into a particular local church through his parish community, and is under a particular bishop, who presides at the Eucharist. Just as there are no absolute ordinations, neither can there exist absolute Baptisms.” (Zizioulas, “Holy Baptism and Divine Liturgy,” 24).

[523]. Ibid., 20.

[524]. The patristic witness to this unity of the Mysteries of Baptism and the Eucharist is ancient. See, for example: Saint Justin the Philosopher, First Apology, LXV; Psuedo-Clement, 100, 141; Hippolytus of Rome, Apostolic Tradition, 21; Canons of Hippolytus, 21, § 142– 143; Saint Ambrose of Milan, On the Mysteries, 8; Saint John Chrysostom, Catechetical Homily II. 2 and IV. 6; Saint Basil the Great, Concerning Baptism, 1.3. See the brief treatment of these sources and their witness in John (Zizioulas), Metropolitan of Pergamon (“ Holy Baptism and Divine Liturgy,” 13– 15. For a more extensive treatment of these sources see I. Yazigi (Hani), Hierodeacon, Ἠ τελετή τοῦ ἁγίου βαπτίσματος, (Ἱστορική, θεολογική καί τελετουργική θεώρησις) [The service of holy Baptism: Historic, theological and liturgical consideration], doctoral thesis, Thessaloniki, 1982).

[525]. Schmemann, Of Water and the Spirit, 117.

[526]. Ibid., 117– 18.

[527]. Ibid., p. 119 (emphasis added).

[528]. Stressing that the Divine Eucharist is the perfection of all the mysteries and the image of the Kingdom of God, Met. John (Zizioulas) of Pergamon asks rhetorically: “What benefit is Baptism, when the baptized does not immediately join the Eucharistic synaxis epi to auto? Can he become a son of the Kingdom without this?” (“ Holy Baptism and Divine Liturgy,” 23).

[529]. See UR 3 and 22. 530. Zizioulas, “Holy Baptism and Divine Liturgy,” 27.

[531]. One cannot stress this point enough. For Orthodox Christians it is an heretical idea to believe, as Fr. John Romanides has written, that “all baptized Christians are members of the body of Christ even though they hardly go to Church to commune and have not the slightest desire to struggle for selfless love and fight against the devil epi to auto as they solemnly swore at Baptism” (“ The Ecclesiology of St. Ignatius of Antioch,” The Greek Orthodox Theological Review 7: 1 and 2 [1961– 62]). “[ G]race is never given absolutely, but always in the synaxis and in the Church” (Zizioulas, “Holy Baptism and Divine Liturgy,” 26).

[532]. See St. Cyril of Alexandria, On John, 12, PG 74.677B, and St. John Chrysostom, On John, 85.3, PG 59.463. “Let it not be forgotten that not only does the Eucharist give meaning to Baptism, but that Baptism constitutes an inexorable presupposition for the Eucharist” (Zizioulas, “Holy Baptism and Divine Liturgy,” 26).

[533]. Hieromonk Gregorios, The Divine Liturgy: A Commentary in the Light of the Fathers (Mount Athos: Cell of St. John the Theologian, 2009), 26. “[ A]ccording to St. Dionysius the Aeropagite and the entire Patristic Tradition, at least up until St. Nicholas Cabasilas, the Eucharist alone gives meaning to every ecclesiastical and liturgical action precisely because it is a synaxis of the entire Church . . .” (Zizioulas, “Holy Baptism and Divine Liturgy,” 23).

[534]. St. John Chrysostom, Homily before his Exile, 2, PG 52.429.

[535]. “Without the synaxis [of the Eucharist] no liturgical action of any kind can have any meaning whatsoever, nor even the entire Christian life, I would say, including asceticism, the virtues, etc.” (Zizioulas, “Holy Baptism and Divine Liturgy,” 23).

On How the Theotokos Taught the Church

St.-PhilaretSt. Philaret of Moscow 1821-1867

[A]lthough she, by the height of grace, presides invisibly and in spirit over the assembly of the Apostles,— by lowliness of heart, in the body, she suffered not herself to be visibly the object of any glory, accepted no pre-eminence, and placed herself on the same rank with the other women, teaching them by her example, the same that the Apostle Paul taught them afterwards by his word: “Let your women keep silence in the churches.”; “Let the women learn in silence with all subjection. But I suffer not a woman to teach.” I should desire, I would say in passing, that our alienated brethren should take this example into serious consideration, they, who before the Judgment of Christ, having condemned without discrimination the whole hierarchy, and thereby punished themselves by a wilful renunciation of the Priesthood, do as the maximum of disorder, intrust the conduct of their divine service to virgins, who are undoubtedly not wise but foolish. For what virgin if not a foolish one, would dare to accept in the Church that which the holy Virgin the Mother of God dared not to undertake? (Select Sermons, Elibron Classics. Kindle Locations 4829-4837. Adegi Graphics LLC. Kindle Edition)

On the Ever-Virgin

icon from Mount Tabor Studios, Raymond Vincent

icon from Mount Tabor Studios, Raymond Vincent

St. Basil the Great 330-379

For it says: He did not know her until she had given birth to her firstborn son. Now this verse has given rise to the conjecture that, after rendering pure service in accomplishing the birth of the Lord through the Holy Spirit, Mary did not renounce the customary marital relations. But in our opinion, even if none of this harms the account of piety—for virginity was necessary for service in the economy, but inquiring into what happened next out of curiosity should be avoided by reason of its mystery—nonetheless, since lovers of Christ do not accept the opinion that the Mother of God ever ceased being a virgin, we think the following testimonies suffice. Let us return to: He did not know her until she had given birth to her son. In many instances the word “until” seems to suggest a kind of temporal boundary, but in reality it indicates indefiniteness. What did the Lord mean when he said: And behold, I am with you all days, until the close of the age? Indeed, not that the Lord was not going to be with the saints after this age! Rather, it means that the promise of the present age will not be rescinded in the age to come. So we say that in this case too the word “until” should be taken in the same way. Now when firstborn is said, by no means is he the firstborn in comparison to siblings who came after him. Rather, he is called the firstborn because he was the first one to open the womb of his mother. It is also clear from the story about Zechariah that Mary was always a virgin. For there is an account, and it has been handed down to us from the tradition, that Zechariah entrusted Mary to the place for the virgins after conceiving the Lord. Then he was slaughtered by the Jews between the temple and the altar. Charges had been brought against him by the people, on the grounds that by his actions he established that incredible and famous sign: a virgin gave birth and her virginity was not destroyed. (On Fasting and Feasts, Popular Patristic Series Book 50. Kindle Locations 606-627. St Vladimir’s Seminary Press. Kindle Edition)

On the Spiritual Life

vladika-averkyAbp. Averky of Syracuse 1906-1976

Now it should be clear what the spiritual life consists of, in contrast to the life of the soul and body. The spiritual life consists of satisfying the needs of the spirit, and the needs of the spirit consist of a person’s striving towards God, seeking for living communion with Him, and the desire to live according to God’s will. (The Struggle for Virtue: Asceticism in a Modern Secular Society, p. 25. Holy Trinity Publications. Kindle Edition)

On the Soul in the Balance

Weighing of a Soul from Icon of the Last Judgment

Weighing of a Soul from Icon of the Last Judgment. Source

St. Basil the Great ca. 330-379

Imagine your soul in a balance, devils and angels pulling at it in different directions. Which side will your heart defend? Who will win you over? Will it be fleshly delights or the holy soul? Present pleasure or a longing for the world to come? Will angels welcome you or will what you are tightly grasping now continue to own you? Commanders on the battlefield provide their soldiers with a password or token to equip them to call for help readily and to recognize one another clearly in any combat. But no one will recognize you, as belonging to either us or the enemy, if you fail to display the proper secret signs. How can the angel confirm your identity if you are not marked with the light of the Lord’s countenance? (Ps. 4:6) How can he rescue you from the foe if he sees no sign of your allegiance? Don’t you recall that the Angel of Death spared homes that had the mark, but killed the firstborn in homes without it? (Ex. 12:23) Unidentified riches are most liable to theft. Sheep are easy to steal if they have not been branded. (On Fasting and Feasts [Popular Patristic Series Book 50] Kindle Locations 1049-1056. St Vladimir’s Seminary Press. Kindle Edition)

On the Latest and Most Trustworthy Criterion of Truth

St. Silouan the Athonite

St. Silouan the Athonite

Blessed Elder Sophrony of Essex 1896-1993

Unwavering faith in the Church’s conciliar teaching and profound confidence in all that the Church has recognized and confirmed in her experience lie at the root of the Athonite monk’s life, preserving him from nonconformist dilettantism and fumbling research. Thus entering through faith into the life of the universal Church, the monk becomes co-possessor of her boundless riches, and his own personal experience acquires an absolutely authentic character.

By studying the Holy Scriptures, the works of the Holy Fathers and the inexhaustible dogmatic and prayerful treasures contained in liturgical books, the monk meets with ineffably great riches, and so he is not disposed himself to write on the same themes without introducing some basically new material. But when a real need arises in the life of the Church, then new books are written.

Each new book with claims to inclusion in the teaching of the Church is considered from every aspect and especially with regard to the influence it may have on the lives of men. This last criterion — its influence — is extremely important because of the close connection between dogmatic consciousness and life. The Church accepts nothing contrary to, or inconsistent with, the spirit of Christ-like love on which she feeds.

Individual sons and members of the Church on the path to this love stumble, fall, are guilty of violations, but the Church in her depths knows, through the Holy Spirit, the truth of Christ-like love, and wherever even the word love crops up but with another content she will not be seduced by any philosophy, any splendor of doctrine. Christ is not mocked.

And I believe that in his writings Blessed Staretz Silouan, a faithful son of the Church, has provided us with the latest and most trustworthy criterion of truth in the Church — Christ-like love for our enemies and Christ-like humility. (St. Silouan the Athonite, pp. 89-90)

On the Difference Between True and False Prophets

wolves and lambsPope St. Gregory the Dialogist 540-604

It must also be known that sometimes the Holy Prophets, when they are consulted, through their familiarity with prophesying, pass judgment from their own spirit, believing that they speak thus with the spirit of prophecy, but because they are holy men are swiftly corrected by the Holy Spirit, from Whom they hear what is true and censure themselves for speaking falsely. For who does not know that the Prophet Nathan was a holy man who reproached David the King openly concerning his guilt, and proclaimed what would befall him because of this same guilt? However, at the moment when David had inquired of him because he wished to build a Temple to the Lord, he replied: ‘Go, do all that is in thy heart; because the Lord is with thee’ (2 Kgs. 7:3). Concerning him, it was immediately added: ‘But it came to pass that night, that the word of the Lord came to Nathan, saying: Go, and say to my servant David: Thus saith the Lord [God], shalt thou build Me a house to dwell in? Whereas I have not dwelt in a house from the day that I brought the children out of the land of Egypt even to this day’ (2 Kgs. 7:4-6). And a little further on: ‘And when those days shall be fulfilled, and thou shalt sleep with thy fathers; I will raise up thy seed after thee, which shall proceed out of thy bowels, and I will establish his kingdom. He shall build a house to my name’ (2 Kgs. 7:12-14). Behold Nathan the Prophet, who before had said to the King, ‘Go, and do,’ presently apprised through the spirit of prophecy, proclaiming that this could not be, contradicted the King’s counsel and his own words because he discovered that what he said from his own spirit was false.

In this matter, the difference between true and false prophets is such that true Prophets, if they sometimes speak from their own spirit, having learnt from their hearers’ mind through the Holy Spirit, rapidly correctly this. For false prophets make false prophecies and those alien from the Holy Spirit continue in their falsity. (Homilies on the Book of Ezekiel, Homily 1.16-17)

On Moths and Rust

MothSt. Ambrose of Milan ca. 338-397

[T]he Gospel was written to Theophilos, i.e., to him whom God loves. If ye love God, it was written to you, discharge the duty of an Evangelist. Diligently preserve the pledge of a friend in the secrets of the Spirit. Frequently consider, often discuss the good things committed to thy trust by the Holy Spirit Who is given to us (2 Tim. 1:14). Faith is due first to a pledge; diligence follows faith, lest moth or rust consume (cf. Mat. 6:19-20) pledges committed to you; for what is committed to you can be consumed. The Gospel is a fine pledge, but see neither moth nor rust consume it in your spirit. Moths consume if ye poorly believe what ye have well read. A moth is a heretic… a moth… tears the garment… A moth is to know Christ without faith in His Godhead or in the Sacrament of His Body… But those who are of God keep the faith and therefore cannot suffer from the moth which divides the garment. For everything which is divided within itself, like the kingdom of Satan, cannot be everlasting (cf. Mat. 12:25). Moreover, it is the rust of the spirit when the keenness of religious intention is dulled by the defilements of worldly desires or the purity of the faith is stained by a cloud of unbelief. Rust of the mind is a desire for the familiar; rust of the mind is carelessness; rust of the mind is longing for honors, if the greatest hope of the present life is set thereon. And, therefore, let us turn toward the Divine, and let us sharpen our character; let us drill our disposition, so that we may have that sword which the Lord bade us sell our garment and buy (Lk. 22:36), always ready and shining, as if sheathed in the scabbard of our mind. For the soldiers of Christ must always have strong spiritual weapons for the destruction of fortifications against God (2 Cor. 10:4), lest when He come, the Leader of the Heavenly Host (cf. Josh. 5:13; Lk. 2:13), offended by the dullness of our weapons, separate us from the company of legions. (Exposition of St. Luke, Bk. 1: 12-14)

On Applied Orthodox Dogmatics

st.-justin_popovichSt. Justin of Ćelije 1894-1979

Saints are people who live on earth by holy, eternal Divine truths. That is why the Lives of the Saints are actually applied dogmatics, for in them all the holy eternal dogmatic truths are experienced in all their life-creating and creative energies. In the Lives of the Saints it is most evidently shown that dogmas are not only ontological truths in themselves and for themselves, but that each one of them is a wellspring of eternal life and a source of holy spirituality. (Introduction to the Lives of the Saints)

On Accusations of Idolatry

St.-John-of-DamascusSt. John Damascene ca. 676-749

[Muslims] accuse us of being idolaters, because we venerate the Cross, which they abominate. And we answer them:

‘How is it, then, that you rub yourselves against a stone in the Ka’ba and kiss and embrace it? …Let it be Abraham’s, as you so foolishly say. Just because Abraham had relations with a woman on it or tied a camel to it, you are not ashamed to kiss it, yet you blame us for venerating the Cross of Christ by which the power of the demons and the deceit of the Devil was destroyed.’ (The Fount of Knowledge: On Heresies, 101)

 

On the Pyramid of Being

upside -down pyramidBlessed Elder Sophrony of Essex 1896-1993

In the structure of the world we observe a hierarchical order, a division into upper and lower — a pyramid of being. Yet the idea of equality is deeply rooted in our consciousness and is not to be denied.

Some people, observing the psycho-physical world for the one part, and the empirically-given spiritual state of humanity for the other, and remarking a pyramid of inequality in both, arrive at the conclusion that inequality is something ontologically necessary to human nature. Then, either because of passion or calm and collected philosophical conviction, they stifle the demands of their conscience, tirelessly strain to achieve equality in mankind’s existence.

But is equality possible where liberty is the fundamental principle of existence? Millenary experience of the history of humanity suggests a reply in the negative.

What, then, can be done to alter this state of affairs, so unacceptable to the human conscience? We cannot ignore our longing to see all men equal in plenitude of divine life.

Let us see how Christ resolved the dilemma.

The Lord does not deny the fact of inequality, hierarchy, division into upper and lower, into overlord and servant; but He turns the pyramid upside down and thus achieves the ultimate perfection.

The incontestable apex of this pyramid is the Son of Man Himself, the Unique, True, Eternal Savior; and He says of Himself that He ‘came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give His life as a ransom for many.’ (Mat. 20:28) Concerning the angels, we learn that they are beings superior to us in their knowledge and mode of existence, in comparison with our terrestrial mode of existence, but the Apostle speaks of them as ‘ministering spirits, sent forth to minister for them who shall be heirs of salvation.’ (Heb. 1:14) The Savior bade His disciples follow the example He gave them when He washed their feet. ‘Ye know,’ He told them, ‘that the princes of the Gentiles exercise dominion over them, and they that are great exercise authority upon them. But it shall not be so among you; but whosoever will be great among you, let him be your minister. And whosoever will be chief among you, let him be your servant.’ (Mat. 20:25-27; Mk. 10:42-44) Here we are shown both the designation and the raison d’être of the ecclesiastical hierarchy — to raise those low in the spiritual scale to a higher degree of perfection, as the Apostle puts it, ‘And He gave some apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; for the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ. Until we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ.’ (Eph. 4:11-13)

Christ as Creator — and in this sense, cause — of the created universe, took upon Himself the burden, the sin of the whole world. He is the summit of the inverted pyramid, the summit on which the whole weight of the pyramid of being falls. In an inexplicable way those who follow after Christ become like Him in taking upon themselves the burdens of the infirmities of others. ‘We then who are strong ought to bear the infirmities of the weak.’ (Rom. 15:1)

…The Christian goes downwards, into the depths of the overturned pyramid where the crushing weight is concentrated — to the place where the Lord is, Who took upon Himself the sins of the world — Christ… At the base of the overturned pyramid — the unfathomable base which is really the summit — is He Who took upon Himself the sins and burdens of the world, the Christ crucified in love for the world. And there we remark a quite especial life, a quite especial light, an especial fragrance. This is where love attracts the athletes of Christ. Love for Christ martyrizes the chosen one, weighs heavily on him, makes his life unbearably hard, until this love arrives at its ultimate desire, and the ways the soul elects to attain to that ultimate end are peculiar. (St. Silouan the Athonite, p. 237-239) 

On Celebrating in Various Languages

Pazardjik Ss. Cyril Methodius Monument

Pazardjik Ss. Cyril Methodius Monument

Patriarch of Antioch Theodore Balsamon ca. 12th cent.

The Apostle Paul, writing to the Romans, states, “Or is God the God of Jews only and not also of Gentiles? Yes, of Gentiles also.” (Rom. 3:29) At any rate, those who are Orthodox in all things, even if they might be wholly bereft of Greek speech, shall celebrate in their own language with precise copies of the customary holy prayers translated from liturgical books with well-copied Greek letters. (The Sixty-Six Canonical Questions, Response to Question 6)

On Icons of the Word Made Flesh

Nativity by Gabriel Toma Chituc

          Nativity by Gabriel Toma Chituc

St. Theodore the Studite 759-826

If uncircumscribability is characteristic of God’s essence, and circumscription is characteristic of man’s essence, but Christ is from both: then He is made known in two properties, as in two natures. How would it not be blasphemous to say that He is uncircumscribed in body as well as spirit, since if His circumscription were removed His human nature would be removed also?

If things do not have the same properties, then their essences are different. It is proper to divinity to be uncircumscribable, bodiless, and formless. It is proper to humanity to be circumscribed, tangible, and three-dimensional. If, therefore, Christ is from both essences, He must be both uncircumscribable and circumscribed. If He is only one or the other, He is of only the one essence of which He has the property — which is heretical.

If Christ cannot be circumscribed, neither can He suffer; for impassibility is equivalent to uncircumscribability. But He is able to suffer, as the Scriptures say. Therefore, He is also circumscribable.

If Christ is uncircumscribable, as you say, not only in respect to His divinity, but also in respect to His humanity, then His humanity is also divinity. For things which have the same properties also have one nature. But if He is of two natures, He is therefore also of two properties: otherwise, by the removal of circumscription, the nature of humanity would also be removed.

If Christ is uncircumscribable, how can He Himself say, “They have pierced My hands and My feet; they have numbered all My bones” (LXX Ps. 21:16-17)? For that which is uncircumscribable does not have a nature to be pierced, nor to have its bones numbered. To believe these words is to confess the circumscription.

If Christ is uncircumscribable, how can the Forerunner say, “See the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world?” (Jn. 1:29) For that which is seen is not uncircumscribable, not to mention that which is pointed out with the finger. But if something should be seen and pointed out, then it would be within circumscription. Therefore, Christ is circumscribable.

If Christ is not circumscribable, He is not of two natures, divinity and humanity, since He does not have the property of each. For circumscribability is characteristic of humanity. But if He is of two natures, how can He avoid having the properties of those whose natures He has?

If Christ is not circumscribed, as you say, because He would be diminished in glory, then He was not conceived in the Virgin’s womb either, because He would have endured humiliation. But if He was not only conceived without humiliation, but even born as an infant, then He is circumscribed without shame.

Maleness and femaleness are sought only in the forms of bodies, since none of the differences which characterize sexes can be recognized in bodiless beings. Therefore, if Christ were uncircumscribable, as being without a body. He would also be without the difference of sex. But He was born male, as Isaiah says, from “the prophetess” (Is. 8:18): therefore, He is circumscribed. (Third Refutation of the Iconoclasts)

On Christian Marriage

St Nektary of OptinaSt. Nektary of Optina 1858-1928

For a woman, marriage is service to the Most Holy Trinity — see what a great honor it is to be a wife and a mother.

Happiness in married life is granted only to those who fulfill the Divine Commandments and treat marriage as a Mystery of the Christian Church. (Living Without Hypocrisy: Spiritual Counsels of the Holy Elders of Optina, p. 156)

On Safeguarding Christian Lands

Anti-christian thugSs. Cyril and Methodius ca. 9th cent.

Christ our God…ordered us to pray for our offenders and to do good to them. He also said that no one of us can show greater love in life than he who gives his life for his friends (Jn. 15:3). That is why we generously endure offenses caused us as private people. But in company we defend one another and give our lives in battle for our neighbors, so that you, having taken our fellows prisoners, could not imprison their souls together with their bodies by forcing them into renouncing their faith and into godless deeds. Our Christ-loving soldiers protect our holy Church with arms in their hands. They safeguard the sovereign in whose sacred person they respect the image of the rule of the Heavenly King. They safeguard their land because, with its fall, the home authority authority will inevitably fall too and evangelical faith will be shaken. These are precious pledges for which soldiers fight to the last. And if they give their lives in battlefield, the Church will include them in the community of the holy martyrs and call them intercessors before God. (Life of Sts. Cyril of Methodius. excerpted from For the Peace from Above: An Orthodox Resource Book on War, Peace and Nationalism, p. 118)

St. Philaret of Moscow on War

220px-Filaret,_Metropolitan_of_MoscowSt. Philaret of Moscow 1821-1867

God loves a peaceful world, and God blesses a righteous campaign. For as long as there are innocent people on earth, it is not possible to maintain peace without conflict. (Speech Before Russian Troops in 1843 During the Sebastopol Campaign)

Do not fear dangers, as you ally yourself with truth, for it better to die for her than to see her vanish. With your blood redeem the blessings that were purchased for you by your ancestors. Avoiding death for your faith or for the freedom of your homeland, you will die either as a criminal or a slave; die for your faith and for your homeland, and you will acquire life and a crown in heaven. (Spoken at the Meeting of the Members of “Conversations Among Lovers of the Russian Word”) (For the Peace From Above: An Orthodox Resource Book on War, Peace, Peace and Nationalism, p. 218)

St. Mark of Ephesus on Eucharistic Consecration

sf-marcu-evghenicul-la-sinodul-de-la-ferrara-florenta4St. Mark of Ephesus 1392-1444

We [Orthodox] have inherited the customary exposition of the sacramental liturgy from the Holy Apostles and their successors, the Doctors of the Church. With respect to none of these loci shall we discover that the gift of the Eucharist is hallowed and fructified/perfected (Gr. τελειοῦσθαι) by the very dominical lines and those words alone and, further, that [the gift] is altered to the dominical body and blood. Yet, concerning the [dominical] words among ourselves, on the one hand, the aforesaid are dogmatically and harmoniously referring to the memory (Gr. μνήμη) and power (Gr. δύναμις) of what was done at that time, as if they are fusing into the gifts offered unto a transmutation (Gr. μεταβολή), the change of which, on the other hand, additionally comes about after the following; namely, that of the prayer and the blessing of the priest actually altering the gifts to that very famous prototype (Gr. προτότυπος); viz., the dominical body and blood. Yet, these items and the [liturgical] commentaries themselves bear witness that we are to be found harmonious among ourselves. (The Libellus of Mark of Ephesus on the Eucharistic Consecration. excerpted from Fr.Christiaan Kappes “Annotated and Complete Epiclesis Sermons of John Torquemada and the Response of Mark of Ephesus at Florence 1439 [Appendices to upcoming monograph])

On Law, Grace and the Holy Canons

PatsavosDr. Lewis Patsavos, Professor Emeritus of Canon Law

What is said about the Holy Canons comes at a time when there is much confusion about the character and role of the canons in the Church. This sense of confusion is due mainly to the spirit of secularism which pervades our society…

The pastoral ministry of the Church has always been based upon Holy Canons, which constitute the Church’s law. Nevertheless, the relationship between pastoral ministry and the canons is not always correctly understood. The result is that we are sometimes directed towards antinomianism, which is the autonomous exercise of pastoral ministry in the absence of the canons, and other times towards legalism, i.e., the exercise of pastoral ministry according to the letter of the canons only, in a legalistic, juridical way.

The adoption and application of the Holy Canons by the Church as her law coincides with the teaching of Holy Scripture that the Law, which is an expression of grace, is a gift of God to His people. It has an instructive and pastoral character, which helps elevate and free the believer in Christ.

When one understands the true character of the Law in Holy Scripture and the relationship between law and grace, one also correctly understands the relationship between the Holy Canons and pastoral ministry. Understood in this way, pastoral ministry is protected from the two dangerous extremes of legalism and antinomianism.

An overview of the theology of law in the Old and New Testaments reveals the following conclusions:

  1. The Law of the Old Testament is not in substance detrimental, even though it is incomplete and temporary. The Law has a pastoral and soteriological character. Even the incomplete law of the Old Testament is necessary as a “pedagogue in Christ”. As decreed by the 82nd Canon of the Sixth Ecumenical Synod: “Therefore, embracing the ancient types, and the shadows, as symbols of the truth and patterns given to the Church, we prefer grace and receiving it as a fulfillment of the Law” (Gal. 3:19-25).
  2. The Law is not some beneficial human invention, but an expression of God’s revealed will for humankind (Ex. 24:12; Lev. 24:22).
  3. The Law is a means and not an end. By applying the law in humility, a person can be elevated to a relationship of love towards God and fellow human beings. In such a relationship one receives divine grace, the life of God, and salvation (1 Tim. 1:8-11).
  4. Misuse of the Law by transforming it from a means to an end becomes spiritually fatal for a person. However, the Law is not responsible for this misinterpretation (Rom. 7:6-16, 9:30-32).
  5. The Lord reveals the true content of the misinterpreted Law of the Old Testament and indicates that its true character is to be found in love. Love and decrees of law are in a relationship of substance and form (Mt. 22:36-40; Rom. 13:8-10).
  6. True freedom for the believer is not to be found in discarding the law, which is lawlessness, but in preserving it by living in love as responsible freedom towards God and fellow human beings (Rome. 6:15-18; Jas. 1:25).

According to the patristic interpretation of Scripture, there is no contradiction between law and Grace; rather, law constitutes an expression of grace. (Patsavos, L. J., Spiritual Dimensions of the Holy Canons, pp. 60-63)

St. Seraphim on Reading Holy Scripture

seraphim1St. Seraphim of Sarov 1759-1833

It is very profitable to occupy oneself with reading the word of God in solitude, and to read the whole Bible intelligently. For one such occupation alone, apart from good deeds, the Lord will not leave a person without His mercy, but will fill him with the gift of understanding. And when a man nourishes his soul with the word of God, there is realized in him an understanding of what is good and what is evil. The reading of the word of God should be performed in solitude, in order that the whole mind of the reader might be plunged into the truths of Holy Scripture, and that from this he might receive warmed and is filled with spiritual gifts, which rejoice the mind and heart more than any word. (Little Russian Philokalia, p. 41)

Fr. Florovsky on Repentance After Death and Universalism

Fr. Georges FlorovskyProtopresbyter Georges Florovsky 1893-1979

Now, sin has been destroyed and abrogated—it can not be said that “sin” has been redeemed, only persons may be redeemed. But it is not enough to acknowledge by faith the deed of the divine redemption—one has to be born anew. The whole personality must be cleansed and healed. Forgiveness must be accepted and assessed in freedom. It cannot be imputed—apart from an act of faith and gratitude, an act of love. Paradoxically, nobody can be saved by love divine alone, unless it is responded to by grateful love of human persons. Indeed, there is always an abstract possibility of “repentance” and “conversion” in the course of this earthly or historic life. Can we admit that this possibility continues after death? [E]ven in the concept of Purgatory no chance of radical conversion is implied. Purgatory includes but believers, those of good intentions, pledged to Christ, but deficient in growth and achievement. Human personality is made and shaped in this life—at least, it is oriented in this life. The difficulty of universal salvation is not on the divine side—indeed, God wants every man “to be saved,” not so much, probably, in order that His will should be accomplished and His Holiness secured, as in order that man’s existence may be complete and blessed. Yet, insuperable difficulties may be erected on the creaturely side. After all, is “ultimate resistance” a greater paradox, and a greater offense, than any resistance or revolt, which actually did pervert the whole order of Creation, did handicap the deed of redemption? Only when we commit ourselves to a docetic view of history and deny the possibility of ultimate decisions in history, in this life, under the pretext that it is temporal, can we evade the paradox of ultimate resistance.

St. Gregory of Nyssa anticipated a kind of universal conversion of souls in the afterlife, when the truth of God will be revealed and manifested with compelling evidence. Just at that point the limitation of the Hellenic mind is obvious. Evidence seemed to it to be the decisive motive for the will, as if “sin” were merely ignorance. The Hellenic mind had to pass through a long and hard experience of asceticism, of ascetic self-examination and self-control, in order to overcome this intellectualistic naïveté and illusion and discover a dark abyss in the fallen soul. Only in St. Maximus the Confessor, after some centuries of ascetic preparation, do we find a new and deepened interpretation of the apokatastasis. Indeed, the order of creation will be fully restored in the last days. But the dead souls will still be insensitive to the very revelation of Light. The Light Divine will shine to all, but those who once have chosen darkness will be still unwilling and unable to enjoy the eternal bliss. They will still cling to the nocturnal darkness of selfishness. They will be unable precisely to enjoy. They will stay “outside”—because union with God, which is the essence of salvation, presupposes and requires the determination of will. Human will is irrational and its motives cannot be rationalized. Even “evidence” may fail to impress and move it.

Eschatology is a realm of antinomies. These antinomies are rooted and grounded in the basic mystery of Creation. How can anything else exist alongside of God, if God is the plenitude of Being ? One has attempted to solve the paradox, or rather to escape it, by alleging the motives of Creation, sometimes to such an extent and in such a manner as to compromise the absoluteness and sovereignty of God. Yet, God creates in perfect freedom, ex mera liberalitate, that is, without any “sufficient reasons.” Creation is a free gift of unfathomable love. Moreover, man in Creation is granted this mysterious and enigmatic authority of free decision, in which the most enigmatic is not the possibility of failure or resistance, but the very possibility of assent. Is not the will of God of such a dimension that it should be simply obeyed— without any real, that is, free and responsible, assent? The mystery is in the reality of creaturely freedom. Why should it be wanted in the world created and ruled by God, by His infinite wisdom and love ? In order to be real, human response must be more than a mere resonance. It must be a personal act, an inward commitment. In any case, the shape of human life—and now we may probably add, the shape and destiny of the cosmos—depends upon the synergism or conflict of the two wills, divine and creaturely. Many things are happening which God abhors—in the world which is His work and His subject. Strangely enough, God respects human freedom, as St. Irenaeus once said, although, in fact, the most conspicuous manifestation of this freedom was revolt and disorder. Are we entitled to expect that finally human disobedience will be disregarded and “disrespected” by God, and His holy will shall be enforced, regardless of any assent? Or it would make a dreadful “masquerade” of human history? What is the meaning of this dreadful story of sin, perversion, and rebellion, if finally everything will be smoothed down and reconciled by the exercise of divine Omnipotence?

Indeed, the existence of Hell, that is, of radical opposition, implies, as it were, some partial “unsuccess” of the creative design. Yet, it was more than just a design, a plan, a pattern. It was the calling to existence, or even “to being,” of living persons. One speaks sometimes of the “divine risk”—le risque divin, says Jean Guitton. It is probably a better word than kenosis. Indeed, it is a mystery, which cannot be rationalized—it is the primordial mystery of creaturely existence.

Brunner takes the possibility of Hell quite seriously.

There is no security of “universal salvation/’ although this is, abstractly speaking, still possible—for the omnipotent God of Love. But Brunner still hopes that there will be no Hell. The trouble is that there is Hell already. Its existence does not depend upon divine decision. God never sends anyone to Hell. Hell is made by creatures themselves. It is human creation, outside, as it were, of “the order of creation”. The Last Judgment remains a mystery. (Creation and Redemption, Vol. 3 in the Collected Works, p. 262-265. Chap VII Eschatology: The Last Things and the Last Events)

St. Basil the Great on [re]Baptism

St Basil the GreatSt. Basil the Great ca. 330-379

Encratitæ, Saccophors and Apotactitæ all come under the same rule as the Novatians. For a canon was promulgated concerning the latter, although it varies from place to place; whereas nothing specific has been said regarding the former. Be that as it may, we simply rebaptize such persons. If among yourselves the measure of rebaptizing is banned, as it more surely is among the Romans for the sake of some economia, nevertheless let what we say prevail. For their heresy is something of an offshoot of the Marcionites who abominate marriage, and disdain wine, and say that God’s creation is defiled. Therefore we do not receive them into the Church unless they be baptized in our Baptism. And let them not say, ‘We have been baptized in the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit,’ when they suppose— as they do in a manner rivaling Marcion and the rest of the heresies— that God is the maker of things evil. Hence if this please you, then more bishops must come together and thus set forth the canon, so as to afford security to him who performs [rebaptism], and so that he who defends this practice might be considered trustworthy when responding on such matters.” (Letter 199 to St. Amphilochios, The Second Canonical Epistle: Canon 47. Πηδάλιον, τοῦ Ἱερομονάχου Ἀγαπίου καὶ Μοναχοῦ Νικοδήμου [Ἀθήνα: Κωνσταντίνου Γκαρπολᾶ, 1841], 369; English translation by the editors of George Metallinos, I Confess One Baptism: Interpretation and Application of Canon VII of the Second Ecumenical Council by the Kollyvades and Constantine Oikonomos [Mt. Athos, Greece: St. Paul’s Monastery, 1994], 131. excerpted from Heers, Fr. Peter [2015-11-16]. The Ecclesiological Renovation of Vatican II: An Orthodox Examination of Rome’s Ecumenical Theology Regarding Baptism and the Church [Kindle Locations 3898-3909]. Uncut Mountain Press. Kindle Edition)

On Pope St. Leo’s View of the Nestorian Heresy

saint_leo3Pope St. Leo the Great ca. 400-461

Let there, however, remain in force what was decreed specifically against Nestorius at the earlier council of Ephesus, at which Cyril of holy memory then presided, lest the impiety then condemned should derive any comfort from the fact that Eutyches is being struck down by condign execration. For the purity of faith and teaching, which we proclaim in the same spirit as did our Holy Fathers, condemns and prosecutes equally both the Nestorian and the Eutychian depravity together with their originators. Fare well in the Lord, most dear brethren. (Epistle 93, To the Council of Chalcedon)

On the Words of Holy Scripture

saint_leo3Pope St. Leo the Great ca. 400-461

[D]issent even in a single word from the teaching of the Gospels and Apostles is forbidden, as is any opinion on Holy Scripture that differs from what the blessed Apostles and our Fathers learnt and taught. (Epistle 82, To Emperor Marcian)

On the Grace of the Torah

st_maximus_the_confessorSt. Maximus the Confessor ca. 580-662

The grace of the New Testament is mystically hidden in the letter of the Old; thus, the Apostle says that “the Law is spiritual” (Rom. 7:14). The Law, consequently, although in the letter it ages and grows old when not being practiced (cf. Heb. 8:13), nevertheless in the spirit it constantly grows  young, being energized. For grace is absolutely unaging. (Two Hundred Chapters on Theology, 1.89)

St. Basil the Great on Headcoverings

Basil the GreatSt. Basil the Great ca. 330-379

[W]omen, who forget the fear of God and scorn the everlasting fire, on that day when they were supposed to be sitting in their homes in remembrance of the resurrection, reflecting on that day when the heavens will be opened and the Judge will appear to us out of the heavens, as well as the trumpets of God, and the resurrection of the dead, and the just judgment, and the repayment to each according to his deeds… instead of pondering these things in their mind, purifying their hearts of wicked thoughts, washing away their past sins with tears, and preparing themselves to meet Christ on that great Day of His Appearing, instead of doing these things they shook off their yoke of slavery to Christ, ripped the veils of modesty from their heads, despised God, despised His angels, acted shamelessly at the sight of every male, tousling their hair, dragging their garments in trains and at the same time tinkling with their feet… (Isa. 3:16 LXX) (On Fasting and Feasts [Popular Patristic Series Book 50, (Kindle Locations 1990-1998]. St Vladimir’s Seminary Press. Kindle Edition)

[N]o man ought to pray or prophesy with his head covered; and no woman with uncovered head. (Moralia, Rule 56)

On the Orthodox Empire

Ss Cyril & MethodiusSt. Cyril the Philosopher ca. 826-869

And they [the Jewish teachers of the Khazars] said once more, “if we accept that He [the Anointed One] has already come, as you claim on the basis of the Prophets and other arguments, then how is it that the Roman Empire is still in power?” The Philosopher answered, “It is no longer in power, for it has passed, like all empires at its likeness, for our Empire is not of Rome, but Christ.” (Life of Sts. Cyril of Methodios, Chapter 10. For the Peace from Above, An Orthodox Resource on War, Peace and Nationalism p. 97)

 

On the Activity of the Saints

Eustratios the Presbyter of Hagia Sophia fl. 590s

If, then, even before the Resurrection, those who have expended their efforts on the virtues enjoy the dignity of the Angels when they depart this life, and offer their hymns to God along with the Angels as a work of their own, and if those who are weighed down by troubles in this life have them as their advocates and helpers before God, with what right do you say that they can neither appear [on earth], nor be active, nor do anything else at all? (A Refutation of Those Who Say That the Souls of the Dead Are Not Active and Receive No Benefit from the Prayers and Sacrifices Made for Them to God)

On the Immaculate Conception and Sinlessness of the Theotokos

Protopresbyter Georges Florovsky 1893-1979

The growing idea of the Immaculate Conception of the Virgin Mary was intellectually linked with an evolving trend in the interpretation of Original Sin, but, more profoundly, it was rooted in a specific psychology and attitude developing historically within the bosom of the western Baroque. The veneration of Panagia and Theotokos by the Orthodox is by no means the same. It is grounded in a spiritual soil of an altogether different kind. (Ways of Russian Theology: The Kiev Academy)

Mary was chosen and elected to become the Mother of the Incarnate Lord… Can we properly define the nature and character of this preparation? We are facing here the crucial antinomy (to which we have alluded above). The Blessed Virgin was representative of the race, i.e. of the fallen human race, of the “old Adam.” But she was also the second Eve; with her begins the “new generation.” She was set apart by the eternal counsel of God, but this “setting apart” was not to destroy her essential solidarity with the rest of mankind. Can we solve this antinomical mystery in any logical scheme? The Roman Catholic dogma of the Immaculate Conception of the Virgin Mary is a noble attempt to suggest such a solution. But this solution is valid only in the context of a particular and highly inadequate doctrine of Original Sin and does not hold outside this particular setting. Strictly speaking, this “dogma” is an unnecessary complication, and an unfortunate terminology only obscures the undisputable truth of the Catholic belief. The “privileges” of the divine Motherhood do not depend upon a “freedom from original sin.” The fullness of grace was truly bestowed upon the Blessed Virgin and her personal purity was preserved by the perpetual assistance of the Spirit. But this was not an abolition of the sin. The sin was destroyed only on the tree of the Cross, and no “exemption” was possible, since it was only the common and general condition of the whole of human existence. It was not destroyed even by the Incarnation itself, although the Incarnation was the true inauguration of the New Creation. The Incarnation was but the basis and starting-point of the redemptive work of Our Lord. And the “Second Man” himself enters into his full glory through the gate of death. Redemption is a complex act, and we have to distinguish most carefully its moments, although they are supremely integrated in the unique and eternal counsel of God. Being integrated in the eternal plan, in the temporal display they are reflected in each other and the final consummation is already prefigured and anticipated in all the earlier stages. There was a real progress in the history of the Redemption. Mary had the grace of the Incarnation, as the Mother of the Incarnate, but this was not yet the complete grace, since the Redemption had not yet been accomplished. Yet her personal purity was possible even in an unredeemed world, or rather in a world that was in process of Redemption. The true theological issue is that of the divine election. The Mother and the Child are inseparably linked in the unique decree of the Incarnation. As an event, the Incarnation is just the turning-point of history, – and the turning-point is inevitably antinomical: it belongs at once to the Old and to the New. The rest is silence. We have to stand in awe and trembling on the threshold of the mystery. (Creation and Redemption, Volume Three in the Collected Works of Georges Florovsky, [Nordland, 1976] 176; 178; 181-183.)

also see: The Mariology of Nicholas Cabasilas by Constantine Tsirpanlis

and: St. Nicholas Cabasilas on the Mother of God by Met. Kallistos Ware

In his paper “The Sinlessness of the Mother of God in St. Nicholas Cabasilas” Orthodox Theologian Christopher Veniamin states, “…[T]hough certainly describable as ‘supranatural’ and even as ‘divine’ (cf. the troparion of the 8th Ode, Second Canon by Basil the Monk, Feast of the Entry of the Most Holy Theotokos into the Temple), yet the Holy Virgin’s birth is not described…as ‘virginal’ or ‘maidenly’. And this certainly seems to be in keeping with the earlier Patristic consensus, summed up in the words of St. John Damascene’s rhetorical exclamation: ‘O loins of Joachim most blessed, out of which came blameless seed’ (On the Nativity of the Theotokos PG 96, 664B.), and ‘Thou (sc. the Mother of God) from us (sc. Adam and Eve) hast inherited a corruptible body’ (On the Dormition of the Theotokos, ibid., 733C).”

The author also asserts: “The essential issue in the whole question of the sinlessness of the Mother of God must be the preservation of the uniqueness of Christ’s sinlessness. Christ’s salvific work would be debased or even nullified if we were to accept that someone else also fulfills the conditions of His sinlessness; if we were to accept, that is, that the Ever-Virgin was free born free from original sin… the secondary issue here is the determination of the exact moment at which divine grace began to act upon the Holy Virgin so as to cleanse and strengthen her, and it is largely on this point that Cabasilas presents a somewhat peculiar line of thought. And while some of his phrases and certain shifts of emphasis could be construed as resembling the opinions of the thirteenth century Scholastics, and even, at times, as diverging from Cabasilas’ immediate predecessors, such a view would not take into account sufficiently the fact his theological presuppositions belong to a fundamentally different world. Indeed, the diversity of opinion in the Patristic tradition is not necessarily mutually exclusive on the question of the Holy Virgin’s sinlessness and purity, as the work of Cabasilas’ contemporary, St. Gregory Palamas, clearly shows, with whom Cabasilas has much in common.” And in closing, Veniamin succinctly concludes, “It has been suggested that Cabasilas ‘overemphasizes’ and ‘over-extols’ the Mother of God, so as to result in a general exaltation of her person and the role she played in our salvation. But surely, this is nothing more than the effusion of Cabasilas’ profound veneration of the Most Holy Mother of God. What is certainly beyond dispute, however, is the fact that nowhere in the theology of St. Nicholas Cabasilas is the immaculate conception accepted, mentioned or inferred.” (The Orthodox Understanding of Salvation: “Theosis” in Scripture and Tradition, pp. 52, 58-59). Veniamin’s testimony is particularly weighty since he is the translator and editor of the English translation of the homilies on Mary the Mother of God by St. Gregory Palamas.

also see Panagia by Vladimir Lossky for another Orthodox perspective on the sinlessness of the Theotokos

On Orthodoxy with Commitment

Hieromonk Seraphim of Platina (+ Sept. 2, 1982)

We must not artificially isolate ourselves from the reality of today’s world; rather, we must learn to use the best things the world has to offer, for everything good in the world—if we are only wise enough to see it—points to God, and we must make use of it. Too many people make the mistake of limiting Orthodoxy to church services, set prayers, and the occasional reading of a spiritual book. True Orthodoxy, however, requires a commitment that involves every aspect of our lives. One is Orthodox all the time every day, in every situation of life—or one is not really Orthodox at all. For this reason we must develop an Orthodox worldview and live it. (Living an Orthodox Worldview, Lecture Aug. 1980)

Blessed Fr. Seraphim, pray for us!

On Common Prayer

Fr. Sergei Sveshnikov

Since the times of the Early Church, Christians have been very discriminate about their prayer and in whose company they choose to pray. Already in the Apostolic Canons (Canon 65, for example), a document arguably dating back to the end of the second century, both lay people and clergy are prohibited from praying with heretics under the threat of excommunication. Apostolic Canon 45 mandates: “Let any Bishop, or Presbyter, or Deacon that merely joins in prayer with heretics be suspended…” Similarly, Canon 33 of the Council of Laodicea (ca. 363-364 A.D.) says that “one must not join in prayer with heretics and schismatics.” Yet common prayer is one of the central goals of the contemporary ecumenical movement, including the ecumenical dialogue between Orthodox and Roman Catholic Churches. Seemingly in defiance of the ancient canons, Catholic and Orthodox hierarchs have routinely joined each other in prayer, to the joy of the proponents of such practices and to the dismay of opponents.

Those working to make common prayer more common argue that the belief in one true God unites the different branches of Christianity and even those outside of the larger Christian community, thus all prayers ascend to the same divine destinations. Opponents often assert that heretics do not pray to the same God, but to the devil instead (cf. John 8:44). Thus, joint prayer is viewed as impossible (cf. 2 Cor. 6:15) or having the risk of accidentally addressing the wrong “authority”.

There is another point of view: if prayer is viewed not simply as locution or interlocution, but as an experience that is transformative for the devotee, even as a way or a mode of life, then it becomes easier to understand why those who doubt each other’s orthodoxy are so cautious about praying together. It is not the risk of accidentally addressing the “wrong” god that becomes central to warnings against praying with heretics, but the risk of being influenced by a way and a mode of life with which one may disagree, in other words, it is the risk to one’s spiritual health. (Imagine That… : Mental Imagery in Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox Private Devotion, Introduction)

Patriarch Kirill of Moscow on Contemporary Issues

Patriarch Kirill of Moscow

The participation of the Russian Orthodox Church in bilateral and multilateral inter-Christian and inter-religious dialogues exists in order to witness to the truth of Holy Orthodoxy and also aims to affirm traditional moral values in the world and acquire good and just relations between different peoples… In the process of dialogue our Church will not accept attempts to ‘confuse faiths’, with joint prayers or attempts to unite confessional or religious traditions artificially. We should recall that this is the case even though certain senior ‘representatives’ of three or even four of the fifteen Local Orthodox Churches not only sometimes hold joint prayers with heterodox, but also actually allow limited concelebration with Roman Catholics and give them communion.

…When I asked a Protestant leader, ‘Tell me, when you started to ordain women, did you increase your number of parishioners?’ He smiled and said, ‘No’. I said, ‘It was not a missionary project?’ He said, ‘No, it was just respect for human rights’. That’s how a secular concept of human rights was incorporated into theology and Church practice, in spite of the whole tradition of the Christian Church. Everything in the apostolic tradition precludes this practice, but for the sake of a secular liberal standard it was incorporated into Church life. A second analogous problem was their attitude to homosexuality. Here, a decision in favour of secular liberal standards distorted the Word of God. It’s written in black and white, that it’s a sin. What do you think? Our brethren said, ‘Well, no, one doesn’t have to understand it; this isn’t a sin, you know, that was just the cultural context of the time when the Apostle Paul wrote’. Therefore, for the sake of liberal standards, they even abandoned the source of their faith. Recently, I met a very responsible ecumenical leader. I talked to him about what’s happening in Protestantism, it’s alienating the Protestants from the Orthodox and the Catholics, thereby increasing the internal gap in the Christian world, and if it continues to grow, it will make it harder to defend Christian values. What he said to me not only amazed me, but at the same time it helped me to understand how deep the crisis is in Christianity. He calmly said to me, ‘What’s so special about that? We also differ on the problems of the Middle East, we also have different attitudes to the economic crisis… so, we have different attitudes to homosexuality’. I see a very grim future for any dialogue between the Orthodox and Protestant world, it will not change the situation, there will be an even greater alienation of the Protestant world from Orthodoxy, and thus a weakening of common Christian witness. Therefore, the task facing the Orthodox Church is to testify to the purity of the apostolic tradition and the purity of faith, especially to Non-Orthodox Christians’. (Russian Orthodox Clarity on the Ecumenical Question)

 

 

 

On Praying Before Icons

Icon of the Mother of God “The Unexpected Joy” from oca.org

St. Ignaty Brianchaninov 1807-1867

The Holy Icons are accepted by the Holy Church for the purpose of arousing pious memories and feelings, but not all for arousing imagination. Standing before an icon of the Savior, stand as if before the Lord Jesus Christ Himself, Who is invisibly everywhere present and by His icon in that place, where the icon is. Standing before an icon of the Mother of God, stand as if before the Most-Holy Virgin herself; but keep your mind without images: there is a great difference between being in the presence of the Lord or standing before the Lord and imagining the Lord. (Sobraniye 2004, 1:76. excerpted from Fr. Sergei Sveshnikov, Imagine That…)

On Papal Infallibility

Pope Benedict XVI greets the youth in front of a huge Jesus Christ portrait in Krakow May 27, 2006. (Photo: REUTERS / Wolfgang Rattay)

St. Nektarios of Aegina 1846-1920

His Beatitude the Pope sinned greatly when he proclaimed himself infallible and sinless… Infallibility abrogates Synods, takes away from them significance, importance, and authority, and proclaims them incompetent, disturbing the confidence of the faithful in them. The proclamation of the infallibility of the Pope disturbed the foundations of the Western Church; because it provided ground for suspicion about the authority of Synods, and secondly it made her depend on the intellectual and spiritual development of a single person, the Pope… Since every Pope judges concerning what is right as it seems to him, and interprets Scripture as he wills, and lays down the law as he considers right, in what respect is he different from the multifarious dogmatists of the Protestant Church? …Perhaps in the case of the Protestants each individual constitutes a Church, while in the Western Church one individual constitutes the entire Church, not always the same individual but ever a different one. (The Seven Ecumenical Synods, [Athens], pp. 22-23, 27. excerpted from Cavarnos, The Question of Union, p. 20)

On the Dormition and the Holy Apostle Thomas

St. Maximus the Confessor ca. 580-662

Nevertheless, we have learned something else from truthful and reliable informants, and it has been written about before us and is trustworthy and reliable: that in the assembly of the holy Apostles for the Dormition of the Queen, one of the Apostles was providentially not able to arrive with the others. And the holy Apostles were expecting him, so that he perchance would also receive a blessing from the blessed and beloved body. Nevertheless, on the third day that Apostle also arrived, and he found his other comrades singing in front of the holy tomb, and he also heard the clear and sweet sound of the angels singing. And he besought the holy Apostles to open the venerable tomb so that he could embrace the all-holy body of the glorious Theotokos. Through the guidance of the Holy Spirit, the blessed Apostles heard their brother’s plea and opened the holy tomb with fear. But when they opened it, they did not find the glorious body of the holy mother of Christ, for it had been translated wherever her Son and God wished. For as He Himself was placed in a tomb when He endured death in the flesh for the sake of our salvation and gloriously arose on the third day, so it also seemed fitting to place the immaculate body of His mother in a tomb and likewise to translate it into eternal incorruptibility as He wished, either so that both elements were again united with each other, for so the creator of all things was pleased to honor the one who gave Him birth, or in some other way that the King of Glory and the Lord of life and death alone knows. So then the tomb was found empty. They found only the burial wrappings and the shroud in which they had laid her to rest, and the body of the immaculate Virgin was not there, but it had been raised up to her Son and God so that she will live and reign with Him completely, and thus our nature was raised up to heaven in the eternal kingdom not only by her Son but also by the immaculate Mother. Then the blessed Aon postles were filled with astonishment and joy, and they understood that the late arrival of one of the Apostles had taken place providentially for the revelation of this mystery, so that for his sake the tomb would be opened and the holy body’s translation would be made known. And they glorified Christ, who had fully glorified His all-holy and immaculate Mother, for they were suffused with light and fragrance from the holy tomb in which the body of the holy Virgin, wider than heaven, had been placed, and the brilliance and fragrance spread throughout the whole area of Gethsemane. So again they closed the holy tomb, and the Dormition of the holy Theotokos was proclaimed to the entire world. Nevertheless, a report has been circulated and has come to our ears that the Apostle who arrived on the third day was Thomas, coming from India, so that, as the Resurrection of Christ had previously been made more credible by Thomas, when on the eighth day the Lord entered through closed doors and showed him his hands and his holy side (cf. also John 20.26–27), in this way now the translation of the incorruptibly immaculate body of the holy and all-glorious Theotokos and ever-virgin Mary also would be made known by Thomas. (The Life of the Virgin, 117-118)

On the Impossibility of Falsehood in Holy Scripture

St. John Damascene ca. 676-749

It is good to search the Scriptures, but we must attend to them with a discerning mind. Beloved, it is impossible that God should prove false. (Against the Attackers of Holy Images, 2.7 excerpted from Payton Jr., James R. 2013-08-01. “A Patristic Treasury, Early Church Wisdom for Today” [Kindle Locations 7107-7108]. Ancient Faith Publishing. Kindle Edition)

On Fr. Florovsky in Pop Culture

Tall and gaunt, he would appear in the long black cassock of an Orthodox priest on the Princeton campus. The erudite undergraduates, considerably more flexible in their dress, styled him“the Grand Inquisitor” —a fitting title, given his tendency to project a sense of doctrinal authority. At Princeton, the staff of the Firestone Library christened Florovsky a “patron saint of photocopying” for the countless hours he spent at the copy machine. Apparently his photocopying talent was so well known that he even became an inspiration for the 1976 Super Bowl commercial of the Xerox Corporation, featuring a monk busily copying medieval manuscripts (*). In this way, unawares, Florovsky contributed to raising the American advertising industry to a higher level of intellectual sophistication. (Gavrilyuk, Paul L. 2013-12-19. Georges Florovsky and the Russian Religious Renaissance [Changing Paradigms in Historical and Systematic Theology] pp. 8-9. Oxford University Press, USA. Kindle Edition)

(*) as reported by John W. Barker, “An Addendum”to John V. A. Fine, “Father Georges Florovsky in America,” in J. W. Barker (ed.), Pioneers of Byzantine Studies in America (Amsterdam: Adolf M. Hakkert, 2002), 123.

On the Eschatology of St. Gregory the Theologian

Protopresbyter Georges Florovsky 1893-1979

Gregory has written little that deals with eschatology. He frequently speaks of man’s call to “deification,” and preaches the necessity of ascetic discipline. He summons sinners to repentance but mentions the fate of the unrepentant only in passing. Their greatest punishment will be rejection by God, and this will be a torment and a “shame to the conscience” that will have no end. For just men God is light but for the unjust He is fire, and “this most terrible fire is eternal for the wicked.” Possibly Gregory admits that purification can be achieved after death because he writes that sinners “may there be baptized by fire. This is the last baptism, the most difficult and prolonged, which eats up matter as if it were hay and consumes the weight of each sin.” It is probable that he had in mind only the fate of unrepentant Christians because he also writes: “I know a fire which is not purifying, but avenging. The Lord sends it down like rain on every sinner, adding to it brimstone and storms. It was prepared for the devil and his angels and for everyone who does not submit to the Lord, and it burns up the enemies around Him.” However, Gregory adds that “some may prefer to think that this fire is more merciful and worthy of Him who punishes.” Gregory does not agree with the extreme position of the Origenists. (The Eastern Fathers of the Fourth Century)

On the Baptism of Tears

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. Symeon the New Theologian ca. 949-1022

We have been baptized as babies, unaware; as incomplete we also incompletely received the grace, receiving the remission from the first trangression. (On the Mystical Life, The Ethical Discourses. Vol. 3: Life, Times, and Theology, p. 118)

The first Baptism has the water which foreshadows the tears, [and] it has the myron of the anointing which signifies beforehand the intelligible myron of the Spirit. The second [Baptism], however, is no longer a type of the truth, but is the truth itself. (On the Mystical Life, The Ethical Discourses. Vol. 3: Life, Times, and Theology, p. 117)

On Our Champion Leader

http://newgracanica.com/monastery/

St. Maximus the Confessor ca. 580-662

[T]he holy Theotokos was always a participant and a leader in every good thing. After the Ascension of Christ, she, the treasure house of all good things, being thus in her own country, took charge of every good thing, and while she was dwelling in the land, she was herself the model and leader of all good things. Thus, after his Ascension, the holy mother of Christ was the model and leader of every good activity for men and for women through the grace and support of her glorious King and Son. And that is why she then instructed the holy Apostles in fasting and prayer, and they were devoted to fasting and prayer and supplication until the fiftieth day was completed, and they were filled with the grace of the comforting Holy Spirit. And from there the worthy Apostles went forth to preach the Gospel, and they spread the word of life in Jerusalem and all Judea, and after a little while they went forth to the ends of the earth, wherever the Holy Spirit ordered them. And they made disciples of all nations and baptized in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, according to the command of the Lord…

[S]he was not only an inspiration and a teacher of endurance and ministry to the blessed Apostles and the other believers, she was also a co-minister with the disciples of the Lord. She helped with the preaching, and she shared mentally in their struggles and torments and imprisonments…

[S]he was the blessed hope of the Christians of that time and those to follow, and until the end of the world she is the mediator and the helper of the faithful. Nevertheless, her care and ministry were especially abundant at that time, in order to strengthen and guide the new Law of Christianity and to glorify the name of Christ. And the trials that fell upon the churches, the seizure of the homes of believers, the execution of many Christians, the arrests and various torments, the deeds and travails of the Apostles who were dispersed here and there, all this affected her. And she suffered for them all, and by word and deed she ministered to them. And she was the model of goodness and the teacher of excellence in the place of her Lord and Son, and she was a mediator and intercessor with him for all the believers, and she asked that her mercy and assistance be spread forth over all. And she was a leader and a teacher to the holy Apostles, and when anything was needed, they would tell her. And they received direction and good counsel from her, to the extent that those who were near the environs of Jerusalem would return. One after the other they went before her and reported everything that they were doing and how they were preaching, and they accomplished everything according to her direction. But once they went forth to distant lands, they were sure from year to year to go to Jerusalem for Easter and to celebrate the feast of Christ’s Resurrection with the holy Theotokos. And each one of them reported the success of their preaching and the sufferings that befell them from the Jews and Gentiles. And again they went forth to the work of their preaching, armed with her prayers and teachings. Thus they did from year to year, so long as nothing significant happened to anyone that would pose a hindrance, except for Thomas: he could not come because of the great distance and the difficult journey from India. But all the others came from year to year to greet the holy queen, and armed with her prayers they went forth again to preach the Gospel…

[B]ecause of this our Lord Jesus Christ thought it fitting that his all-holy mother should remain in this world many years, so that the believers would be greatly strengthened by her grace and the church of Christians would exceed in praising the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Nevertheless, the blessed and all-praised mother of God, honored by her Son with such great honor, reached old age, for the queen of all creatures was approaching the eightieth year of this fleeting life, and she did not cease from labor, prayer, and supplication to her Son, but from day to day she increased them, exceeding in every good work. She always appeared humble, and she increased her current activities and charitable work. As we have been well informed, after many years the bendings of her holy knees were still to be found in the marble of Zion, and whenever the bodily nature required a little sleep, her bed was a stone. In all this she had great poverty, and her generosity overcame the poverty. This golden and precious pair, with the one aided by the other: amazing abundance in great destitution, riches and generosity of heart in need. Nevertheless, her mercy was not only toward loved ones and acquaintances but toward strangers and enemies, for she truly was the mother of the merciful one; she was the mother of the Benevolent One and the Lover of humankind who makes the sun to shine on the good and the evil and sends rain on the righteous and sinners (Matt 5.45). She was the mother of the One who became flesh and was crucified for us, enemies and apostates, in order to spread His mercy upon us. She was the mother of the poor and needy and of the enrichment of all, because for our sake the Rich One was made poor in order to enrich us, the downcast and the poor. Now, then, may the discourse up to this point be about her deeds, her benefactions, and her glories. In all this I will say a lot very briefly: she gave birth supernaturally to a Son, the Word of God Incarnate, and her life and conduct also came to an end supernaturally, and in everything before this and everything after, she was made victorious by the abundance and wealth of her benevolence and good works. So greatly was she magnified: she became greater than all, as the sun is brighter than the stars. (The Life of the Virgin, 94, 97, 99, 102)

On the Full Knowledge of God II

St. Symeon the New Theologian ca. 949-1022

Brothers, if full knowledge of the true wisdom and knowledge of God were going to be given us through letters and formal study, what need would there be then for faith, or for divine Baptism, or even communion in the Mysteries? Obviously, none whatever. (On the Mystical Life, The Ethical Discourses. Vol. 3: Life, Times, and Theology, p. 117)

St. Photios on Pope St. Leo, the Tome and Chalcedon

St. Photios the Great ca. 810-893

Leo the Great, whilst bishop of [Old] Rome, carefully demonstrated divine matters in his inspired and dogmatic Tome. In this, he was confirmed by the Fourth Synod. He confirmed its decree, and was praised by the sacred, and God-inspired assembly. He…thus radiates the very same light of Orthodoxy, not only upon the entire West, but also to the ends of the East through his God-inspired and dogmatic epistles, through the legates who exercised his authority, and through the peace with which he illumined that great assembly collected by God. Moreover, he also said that if anyone set up or teach another doctrine other than that taught by the Synod, that person should be deposed if he were of the dignity of the priesthood or anathematized if he were a layperson or even a monastic, religious or ascetic. Whatever that God-inspired Synod decreed, Leo, similarly inspired by God, openly confirmed through the holy men Paschasinus, Lucentius and Boniface (as one may hear many times from them, indeed not only from them, but from him who sent them). Dispatching synodical letters, Leo himself testifies and confirms that the speeches, spirit, and decisions of his delegates are not theirs, but his own. Still, even if there were nothing of this, it is sufficient that they were his representatives at the Synod and that when the Synod ended, he professed to abide by its decisions. (Mystagogy, 79)

On the First ‘Pillar of Orthodoxy’

StSophronius of Jerusalem ca. 560-638

Together with those sacred writings of the all-wise Cyril, I likewise accept as being sacred and of equal honor, and the mother of the same Orthodoxy, also the God-given and divinely inspired letter of the great and illustrious Leo of godly mind, of the most holy Church of the Romans, or rather the luminary of all under the sun, which he wrote, clearly moved by the divine Spirit, to Flavian, the famous leader of the Queen of Cities, against the perverse Eutyches and Nestorius, hateful to God and deranged. Indeed I call and define this [letter] as ‘the pillar of orthodoxy’, following those holy Fathers who well defined it this way, as thoroughly teaching us every right belief, while destroying every heretical wrong belief, and driving it out of the halls of holy catholic church, guarded by God. With this divinely conceived epistle, and writing I also attach myself to all his letters and teachings as if they issued from the mouth of the chief Peter, and I kiss and cleave to them and embrace them with all my soul.

As I have said previously, I accept these five sacred and divine Councils of the blessed Fathers and all the writings of the all-wise Cyril, and especially those composed against the madness of Nestorius, and the epistle of the eastern leaders which was written to the most godly Cyril himself and which he attested as Orthodox. And [I accept] what Leo, the most holy shepherd of the most holy church of the Romans, wrote, and especially what he composed against the abomination of Eutyches and Nestorius. I recognize the latter as the definitions of Peter, the former those of Mark. (Synodical Letter 2.5.5, Sophronius of Jerusalem and Seventh-Century Heresy pp. 131-135)

The Pillars of Orthodoxy

Today we know the ‘Pillars of Orthodoxy’ to be the Saints that resisted western heresies (i.e. Papal Supremacy, Filioque, Barlaamism, Uniatism, etc.) however, in the past, the Holy Fathers of the Eastern Churches understood the ‘Pillar of Orthodoxy’ to be the Tome of St. Leo written against eastern christological heresies (Monophysitism and Nestorianism).

On Reasons that Chalcedon was Rejected

Aloys Grillmeier SJ 1910-1998

The parting [between non-Chalcedonians and followers of Chalcedon] begins with ‘in two natures’, which, however, is nothing but the consequence of the Cyrillic ‘perfect in divinity’, ‘the very same One also perfect in humanity’ or ‘One and the same consubstantial with the Father according to divinity’ and ‘consubstantial with us according to humanity’. Why does Timothy [II Aelurus, non-Chalcedonian Patriarch of Alexandria (d. 477), Coptic Synaxarion 12th Amshir] energetically reject the application of the word and concept physis to the ‘complete humanity’ of Christ? He seems to have various reasons for this, and they cannot all be reduced to a common denominator:

(1) To speak of nature means to assert of a subject what belongs to it necessarily and unrelinquishably from birth. To the divine Logos, however, belongs from eternity necessarily and unrelinquishably only the divine essence. To assert of Him a second ‘nature’ would mean that being human belongs to the one and only Son of God just as originally and necessarily as being divine. The Incarnation is rather a deed of the ‘oikonomia’, that is, of the free assumption of human form in time:

‘He is not that which He was not through a metamorphosis or a transformation (conversion); rather, He remained entirely God, consubstantial with the Father Who begot Him; because of the oikonomia [God’s free arrangement of salvation] and not because of His nature, He became human for us and our salvation.’ (Timothy Ael., Contra eos dicunt duas naturas [CPG 5475])

(2) If one must apply to the humanity of Christ the designation ‘second nature of the God Logos’, then one would have to make the same assertions about it as about the divine essence of Christ; what cannot be said of the divine nature must be also be withheld from the human nature:

‘It is impossible to call the life-giving flesh of our Lord the second nature of the God Logos or His second essence. Indeed, it is written that He Who was crucified, the Lord of glory [cf. 1 Cor. 2:8], suffered in His flesh. No one can say that the Lord of Glory suffered in His nature or essence [i.e., in His divinity]. But if the God Logos appropriated Himself another nature, that is, united Himself with a perfect human being, and if Christ is of two natures, as He seems to be for those who speak of two natures, then it follows that they say that He suffered in His nature [i.e., in His divinity] — which is a godless assertion — and that they assert that the divine nature is capable of suffering. For the nature of Christ is only divinity, which also became flesh without transformation for our salvation and so that He might appear in the flesh, according to the Scriptures [cf. 1 Tim. 3:16]…’ (Timothy Ael., op. cit., fol. 19vb)

(Classical Christianity: If the perfect and complete humanity of Christ is not a ‘nature’ then what exactly is it for the followers of Dioscorus, Timothy Aelurus and Severus?  Protopresbyter Georges Florovsky supplies the answer: “Hardest of all was intelligibly defining the form and character of the human ‘traits’ in the God-Man synthesis. The followers of Severus could not speak of Christ’s humanity as a ‘nature’. It broke down into a system of traits, for the doctrine of the Logos ‘taking’ humanity was still not developed fully by Monophysitism… The Monophysites usually spoke of the Logos’ humanity as oikonomia. It is not without foundation that the fathers of the Council of Chalcedon detected here a subtle taste of original Docetism. Certainly this is not the Docetism of the ancient Gnostics at all, nor is it Apollinarianism. However, to the followers of Severus the ‘human’ in Christ was not entirely human, for it was not active, was not ‘self-motivated’. The Byzantine Fathers of the Sixth Through Eighth Centuries

Therefore, the Christ of traditional non-Chalcedonianism has but one nature (the divine) in addition to human traits (excluding human will and energy) taken up for the salvation of Man.

It was precisely this consequence that Chalcedon sought to avoid through its distinction between hypostasis and nature. With the text just quoted, Timothy shows that he did not understand this basic idea. (Classical Christianity: St. Paisios the Athonite rightly remarked, “They don’t say that the Monophysites didn’t understand the Holy Fathers – they say that the Holy Fathers did not understand them. In other words, they talk as if they are right and and the Fathers misunderstood them.” Hieromonk Isaac: Elder Paisios of Mount Athos; 2012 For the English Language by the Holy Monastery of St. Arsenios the Cappadocian , p. 659) As long as he kept his concept of nature, he was right in rejecting the two-natures formula. But his two objections against the application of the nature concept to the humanity of Jesus are contradictory. (1) To assert the ‘nature’ of the incarnate Logos can mean only what belongs to Him from eternity as the Son of the Father. To have humanity as a ‘second nature’ would mean that Christ would also have to have been preexistent as a human being, and indeed in the form of God. This, however, would make humbling and exalting, as described in Phil. 2, impossible:

‘If those who assume two natures say that the voluntary kenosis, the humbling and the exalting belong to the human nature  [of Christ], then how can it be that He was in the form of God (Phil. 2:6) and renounced His greatness, He Who is worshipped by all in the glory appropriate to God [cf. Phil. 2:11]? How can one say that He took on the form of a slave if He already was one? How has He become like human beings and been found in human form (Phil. 2:7), this human being Who was already this by nature, according to the statements of those who speak of two natures? Then He would have become like God through robbery. But He humbled Himself (Phil. 2:8)…’ (ibid., fol. 18vc)

This original meaning of physis, which the Syriac kyana also contains, is thus to be considered: it means ‘innate essence’. For the Logos of the Father, creaturely humanity can never be ‘innate’, that is ‘nature’. There is absolutely no place for a ‘duality’, for the nature of the Logos is simple. And to a ‘simple’ being one cannot accord a ‘natural duality’ [cf. ibid., fol. 19rb, where Timothy declares it impossible to accord ‘two natures to simple beings’]. Timothy’s rejection of the nature concept for the humanity of Christ is best understood on the basis of this fundamental idea of his. (2) Following this immediately, yet secondarily, is a further determination of nature: it is entirely, completely, with all its characteristics, what Timothy interprets with the words hypostasis (qenōma) and person:

‘There is no nature that is not also hypostasis and no hypostasis that is not person (parsōpā). Thus if there are two natures, there are also with all necessity two persons and even two Christs, as the new teachers proclaim.’ (thus in the 9th refutation of the definition of Chalcedon, fol. 41rc)

In order to escape the Nestorian division into two natures or persons, Timothy reserves the term nature solely for the God Logos, the mia physis tou theo logou (one nature of God the Word), and expresses the humanity only with the sesarkomene. He wants to hold exclusively to the Nicean schema, in which for him the entire doctrine of the Incarnation is expressed — not in a static view, as seems characteristic of Chalcedon, but in the spectacle of the historical event. We will summarize his teaching again with a section of the petition that he sent to Emperor Leo:

‘But I believe that God has put into the mind of your Serenity to set right the statements in this letter, which are a cause of stumbling to the believers; for these statements are in accord, and agreement, and conjunction with the doctrine of Nestorius, who was condemned for cleaving asunder and dividing the Incarnation of our Lord Jesus Christ, in respect of natures, and persons, and properties, and names, and operations; who also interpreted the words of Scripture to mean two, which are not contained in the Confession of Faith of the 318. For they declared that the Only-Begotten Son of God, Who is of the same Nature with the Father, came down, and became incarnate, and was made man; and suffered, and rose again, and ascended to Heaven; and shall come to judge the quick and the dead. And natures, and persons, and properties were not mentioned by them, nor did they divide them. But they confessed the divine and the human properties to be of One by the dispensation.

Accordingly, I do not agree with the transaction of Chalcedon, because I find in them divisions and cleavage of the dispensation.’ (Zacharias Rh., HE IV 6)

Thus the number ‘two’ cannot be applied at all to Christ as long as the assertion concerns Christ Himself. One cannot speak of two natures or persons or characteristics or names or activities. Similar formulations are found in the History of Dioscorus, but there they exhibit a more advanced form, which belongs to the time of Severus. Thus Dioscorus is supposed to have written to Emperor Marcian:

‘How can the rebellious [Pope] Leo have dared to open his mouth and blaspheme the Most High by saying: we must confess in the Messiah two natures and two characteristics and [two] activities, since the holy church confesses one nature of the incarnate God without mixing or change; [even in death] the divinity of my Master was not separated from His humanity, not even for a moment; but this horrible, this stupid, this accursed Leo, who wanted to separate the soul from the body of our Lord, must immediately and without delay be thrown into utter darkness.’ (F. Nau, JA X 1, p. 254 [with Syriac text on p. 36] cf. Grillmeier, CCT II/1, pp. 136-137: The above-mentioned Logos separation is, however, also rejected by Leo.)

Similarly, Dioscorus is supposed to have written to Juvenal of Jerusalem, still at Chalcedon:

‘Cursed by anyone who assumes two natures in the Messiah after the indivisible unity…! Cursed be anyone who assumes in the Messiah two properties and two activities.’ (ibid., 278 (Syr. p. 64)

(Classical Christianity: Fr. Florovsky offers helpful commentary on the theological formulation above: “In the contemplation of the Monophysites the human in Christ was like a passive object of Divine influence. Divinization or theosis seems to be a unilateral act of Divinity without sufficiently taking into count the synergism of human freedom, the assumption of which in no way supposes a ‘second subject’. In their religious experiment the element of freedom in general was not sufficiently pronounced and this could be called anthropological minimalism.’ The Byzantine Fathers of the Sixth Through Eighth Centuries)

…This introduces the main themes of the Monophysite controversy with the followers of Chalcedon. (Christ in the Christian Tradition, Vol. 2. Part 4. ‘The Church of Alexandria with Nubia and Ethiopia after 451, pp. 31-34)

 

On Orthodox Arts and Holy Tradition

Hagia Sophia Imperial Gate Mosaic from wikimedia commons

Schemamonk Father Constantine (Cavarnos) 1918-2011

Everything is organically related. About the Church’s arts, for example… iconography addresses itself to our sense of sight, while music addresses itself to our sense of hearing, but both seek to express the same essence, the Orthodox Faith. Architecture has its own tradition, particularly recognizable in the dome, in the round arch, and by the surfaces that are used for the wall paintings, which other kinds of architecture, such as the Gothic, do not provide. The architecture of the Orthodox church is a very important element of the totality; in other words, all of these arts are organically interrelated, though using different media. The iconography, hymnody, music, and architecture of the Byzantine tradition are trying to convey the same thing. They have the same point of origin: they all spring from and are used to communicate the Orthodox Faith and make it apprehensible to the believer through the senses. Thus, you can see the organic unity of the fine arts of Orthodoxy. You can also see it in the appearance of the priest, the monk, the form of the prayers, and the Liturgy. All of these things are organically related to one another. If you say that traditional iconography is not essential, or the traditional music is secondary and can be replaced with organs or violins, while still retaining Orthodoxy—that’s not so! When you eliminate these things, what’s left? Soon you’ll begin toning down the dogmas because of minimalism or relativism. The Greeks have a word for this: xephtisma, “unravelment.” Your pants are torn in one place, you let that go, then the tear spreads out. If you don’t patch it up in time, it will spread more and more, and the whole garment then falls to pieces. So you have to mend it. If you don’t take the time to repair any kind of break from the Tradition, then the whole thing begins to fall apart. And that’s what has happened to much of the Orthodox world. It’s falling apart in this way, saying: This does not matter, that is not essential, that’s unimportant, that’s a convention, and so forth. (Unwavering Fidelity to Holy Tradition)

 

 

On the Mortal Sin of Heresy

St. Ignatius Brianchaninov 1807-1867

You say, ‘heretics are Christians just the same.’ Where did you take that from? Perhaps someone or other calling himself a Christian while knowing nothing of Christ, may in his extreme ignorance decide to acknowledge himself as the same kind of Christian as heretics, and fail to distinguish the holy Christian faith from those offspring of the curse, blasphemous heresies. Quite otherwise, however, do true Christians reason about this. A whole multitude of saints has received a martyr’s crown, has preferred the most cruel and prolonged tortures, prison, exile, rather than agree to take part with heretics in their blasphemous teaching.

The Ecumenical Church has always recognised heresy as a mortal sin; she has always recognised that the man infected with the terrible malady of heresy is spiritually dead, a stranger to grace and salvation, in communion with the devil and the devil’s damnation. Heresy is a sin of the mind; it is more a diabolic than a human sin. It is the devil’s offspring, his invention; it is an impiety that is near idol-worship. Every heresy contains in itself blasphemy against the Holy Spirit, whether against the dogma or the action of the Holy Spirit. (Brianchaninov, Pis’ma, no. 283; translated as “Concerning the Impossibility of Salvation for the Heterodox and Heretics”, The Orthodox Word, March-April, 1965, and Orthodox Life, January-February, 1991)

On the Essence-Energy Dogma

Fr. Georges Florovsky 1893-1979

[T]he distinction between “grace” and “essence”: he theia kai theopoios ellampsis kai charis ouk ousiaall’ energeia esti Theou [the Divine and Divinizing illumination and grace is not the essence, but the energy of God; St. Gregory Palamas Capita Phys., Theol., etc., 68-9]. This basic distinction was formally accepted and elaborated at the Great Councils in Constantinople, 1341 and 1351. Those who would deny this distinction were anathematized and excommunicated. The anathematisms of the council of 1351 were included in the Rite for the Sunday of Orthodoxy in the Triodion. Orthodox theologians are bound by this decision. (St. Gregory Palamas and the Tradition of the Fathers)

On the Authority of Liturgical Texts

image from pravoslavie.ru

Met. Hilarion of Volokolamsk

One of the tragic consequences of the divorce between Christian theory and praxis, between faith and knowledge, is that nowadays knowledge about theological subjects does not necessarily presuppose faith. You can be a theologian and not belong to any church community; in principle, you do not need to believe in God to receive a theological degree. Theology is reduced to one of the subjects of human knowledge alongside with chemistry, mathematics or biology.

Another divorce which needs to be mentioned is that between theology and liturgy. For an Orthodox theologian, liturgical texts are not simply the works of outstanding theologians and poets, but also the fruits of the prayerful experience of those who have attained sanctity and theosis. The theological authority of liturgical texts is, in my opinion, higher than that of the works of the Fathers of the Church, for not everything in the works of the latter is of equal theological value and not everything has been accepted by the fullness of the Church. Liturgical texts, on the contrary, have been accepted by the whole Church as a “rule of faith” (kanon pisteos), for they have been read and sung everywhere in Orthodox churches over many centuries. Throughout this time, any erroneous ideas foreign to Orthodoxy that might have crept in either through misunderstanding or oversight were eliminated by church Tradition itself, leaving only pure and authoritative doctrine clothed by the poetic forms of the Church’s hymns.

Several years ago I came across a short article in a journal of the Coptic Church where it stated that this Church had decided to remove prayers for those detained in hell from its service books, since these prayers “contradict Orthodox teaching.” Puzzled by this article, I decided to ask a representative of the Coptic Church about the reasons for this move. When such opportunity occurred, I raised this question before one Coptic metropolitan, who replied that the decision was made by his Synod because, according to their official doctrine, no prayers can help those in hell. I told the metropolitan that in the liturgical practice of the Russian Orthodox Church and other local Orthodox Churches there are prayers for those detained in hell, and that we believe in their saving power. This surprised the metropolitan, and he promised to study this question in more detail.

During this conversation with the metropolitan I expressed my thoughts on how one could go very far and even lose important doctrinal teachings in the pursuit of correcting liturgical texts. Orthodox liturgical texts are important because of their ability to give exact criteria of theological truth, and one must always confirm theology using liturgical texts as a guideline, and not the other way round. The lex credendi grows out of the lex orandi, and dogmas are considered divinely revealed because they are born in the life of prayer and revealed to the Church through its divine services. Thus, if there are divergences in the understanding of a dogma between a certain theological authority and liturgical texts, I would be inclined to give preference to the latter. And if a textbook of dogmatic theology contains views different from those found in liturgical texts, it is the textbook, not the liturgical texts, that need correction.

Even more inadmissible, from my point of view, is the correction of liturgical texts in line with contemporary norms. Relatively recently the Roman Catholic Church decided to remove the so-called “antisemitic” texts from the service of Holy Friday. Several members of the Orthodox Church have begun to propagate the idea of revising Orthodox services in order to bring them closer to contemporary standards of political correctness. For example, the late Archpriest Serge Hackel from England, an active participant in the Jewish-Christian dialogue, proposed the removal of all texts from the Holy Week services that speak of the guilt of the Jews in the death of Christ (cf. his article “How Western Theology after Auschwitz Corresponds to the Consciousness and Services of the Russian Orthodox Church,” in Theology after Auschwitz and its Relation to Theology after the Gulag: Consequences and Conclusions, Saint-Petersburg, 1999, in Russian). He also maintains that only a ‘superficial and selective’ reading of the New Testament brings the reader to the conclusion that the Jews crucified Christ. In reality, he argues, it was Pontius Pilate and the Roman administration who are chiefly responsible for Jesus’ condemnation and crucifixion.

This is just one of innumerable examples of how a distortion of the lex credendi inevitably leads to “corrections” in the lex orandi, and vice versa. This is not only a question of revising liturgical tradition, but also a re-examination of Christian history and doctrine. The main theme of all four Gospels is the conflict between Christ and the Jews, who in the end demanded the death penalty for Jesus. There was no conflict between Christ and the Roman administration, the latter being involved only because the Jews did not have the right to carry out a death penalty. It seems that all of this is so obvious that it does not need any explanation. This is exactly how the ancient Church understood the Gospel story, and this is the understanding that is reflected in liturgical texts. However, contemporary rules of “political correctness” demand another interpretation in order to bring not only the Church’s services, but also the Christian faith itself in line with modern trends.

The Orthodox Tradition possesses a sufficient number of “defence mechanisms” that prevent foreign elements from penetrating into its liturgical practice. I have in mind those mechanisms that were set in motion when erroneous or heretical opinions were introduced into the liturgical texts under the pretext of revision. One may recall how Nestorianism began with the suggestion to replace the widely-used term Theotokos (Mother of God) with Christotokos (Mother of Christ), the latter was seen as more appropriate by Nestorius. When this suggestion was made, one of the defence mechanisms was activated: the Orthodox people were indignant and protested. Later, another mechanism was put into operation when theologians met to discuss the problem. Finally, an Ecumenical Council was convened. Thus, it turned out that a dangerous Christological heresy, lurking under the guise of a seemingly harmless liturgical introduction, was later condemned by a Council.

To rediscover the link between theology, liturgy and praxis, between lex orandi, lex credendi and lex Vivendi would be one of the urgent tasks of theological education in the 21st century. The whole notion of a “theology” as exclusively bookish knowledge must be put into question. The whole idea of a “theological faculty” as one of many other faculties of a secular university needs to be re-examined. The notions of “non-confessional,” “unbiased,” “objective’ or “inclusive” theology as opposed to “confessional” or “exclusive” must be reconsidered. (Source)

On the Faithful

St. Gregory the Theologian ca. 329-389

I seem indeed to hear that voice, from Him Who gathers together those who are broken, and welcomes the oppressed:

[Y]ou surrounded yourself with walls and tablets and richly set stones, and long porticos and galleries, and shone and sparkled with gold, which you did, in part pour forth like water, in part treasure up like sand; not knowing that better is faith, with no other roof but the sky to cover it, than impiety rolling in wealth, and that three gathered together in the Name of the Lord (Mat. 18:20) count for more with God than tens of thousands of those who deny the Godhead. Would you prefer the whole of the Canaanites to Abraham alone? or the men of Sodom to Lot? or the Midianites to Moses, (Exo. 2:15) when each of these was a pilgrim and a stranger? How do the three hundred menwith Gideon, who bravely lapped, (Judges 7:5) compare with the thousands who were put to flight? Or the servants of Abraham, who scarcely exceeded them in number, with the many kings and the army of tens of thousands whom, few as they were, they overtook and defeated? (Gen. 14:14) Or how do you understand the passage that though the number of the children of Israel be as the sand of the sea, a remnant shall be saved? And again, I have left me seven thousand men, who have not bowed the knee to Baal? This is not the case; it is not? God has not taken pleasure in numbers.

You count tens of thousands, God counts those who are in a state of salvation; you count the dust which is without number, I the vessels of election. For nothing is so magnificent in God’s sight as pure doctrine, and a soul perfect in all the dogmas of the truth.— For there is nothing worthy of Him Who made all things, of Him by Whom are all things, and for Whom are all things, (1 Cor. 8:6) so that it can be given or offered to God: not merely the handiwork or means of any individual, but even if we wished to honor Him, by uniting together all the property and handiwork of all mankind. Do not I fill heaven and earth? (Jer. 23:24) says the Lord! And what house will you build Me? Or what is the place of My rest? (Isa. 66:1) But, since man must needs fall short of what is worthy, I ask of you, as approaching it most nearly, piety, the wealth which is common to all and equal in My eyes, wherein the poorest may, if he be nobleminded, surpass the most illustrious. For this kind of glory depends upon purpose, not upon affluence. These things be well assured, I will accept at your hands…

This I seemed to hear Him say, and to see Him do, and besides, to hear Him shouting to His people… (Oration 42. 7-9)

On Fear of Punishment as a Remedy for Evil

St. Basil the Great ca. 330-379

You might indeed find many remedies for evil in Scripture, many medicines to save from destruction and lead to health; the mysteries of death and resurrection, the sentences of terrible judgment and everlasting punishment; the doctrines of repentance and of remission of sins; all the countless illustrations of conversion, the piece of money, the sheep, the son who wasted his substance with harlots, who was lost and was found, who was dead and alive again. Let us not use these remedies for ill; by these means let us heal our soul. Bethink you of your last day, for you will surely not…live for ever. The distress, the gasping for breath, the hour of death, the imminent sentence of God, the Angels hastening on their way, the soul fearfully dismayed, and lashed to agony by the consciousness of sin, turning itself piteously to things of this life and to the inevitable necessity of that long life to be lived elsewhere. Picture to me, as it rises in your imagination, the conclusion of all human life, when the Son of God shall come in His glory with His Angels, For He shall come and shall not keep silence; when He shall come to judge the quick and dead, to render to every one according to his work; when that terrible trumpet with its mighty voice shall wake those that have slept through the ages, and they that have done good shall come forth unto the resurrection of life, and they that have done evil unto the resurrection of damnation. Remember the vision of Daniel, and how he brings the judgment before us: I beheld till the thrones were cast down, and the Ancient of Days did sit, Whose garment was white as snow, and the hair of His head like the pure wool;…and His wheels as burning fire. A fiery stream issued and came forth before Him; thousand thousands ministered unto Him, and ten thousand times ten thousand stood before Him: the judgment was set, and the books were opened, (Daniel 7:9-10) clearly disclosing in the hearing of all, Angels and Men, things good and evil, things done openly and in secret, deeds, words, and thoughts all at once. What then must those men be who have lived wicked lives? Where then shall that soul hide which in the sight of all these spectators shall suddenly be revealed in its fullness of shame? With what kind of body shall it sustain those endless and unbearable pangs in the place of fire unquenched, and of the worm that perishes and never dies, and of depth of Hades, dark and horrible; bitter wailings, loud lamenting, weeping and gnashing of teeth and anguish without end? From all these woes there is no release after death; no device, no means of coming forth from the chastisement of pain.

We can escape now. While we can, let us lift ourselves from the fall: let us never despair of ourselves, if only we depart from evil. Jesus Christ came into the world to save sinners… If you give yourself to Him He will not hold back. He, in His love, will not disdain even to carry you on His own shoulders, rejoicing that He has found His sheep which was lost. The Father stands and awaits your return from your wandering. Only come back, and while you are yet afar off, He will run and fall upon your neck, and, now that you are cleansed by repentance, willenwrap you in embraces of love. He will clothe with the chief robe the soul that has put off the old man with all his works; He will put a ring on hands that have washed off the blood of death, and will put shoes on feet that have turned from the evil way to the path of the Gospel of peace. He will announce the day of joy and gladness to them that are His own, both angels and men, and will celebrate your salvation far and wide. (Letter 46: 5-6, To a Fallen Virgin)

 

 

On Prayer and Smoking

In 1905 Father Silouan spent several months in Russia, often visiting monasteries. One one of his train journeys he sat opposite a shopkeeper, who in a friendly gesture opened his silver cigarette case and offered him a cigarette. Father Silouan thanked him but refused to take one. Then the shopkeeper began talking, asking, ‘Are you refusing, Father, because you think it is a sin? But smoking is often a help in life. It relaxes you, and makes a few minutes’ break. Smoking helps one to get on with one’s work or have a friendly chat, and in general…’ And so on, trying to persuade Father Silouan to have a cigarette. In the end Father Silouan made up his mind to say to him, ‘Before you light up a cigarette, pray and repeat one “Our Father…”‘ To this the shopkeeper replied, ‘Praying before having a smoke somehow doesn’t work.’ To this Silouan observed, ‘So better not start anything which cannot be preceded by untroubled prayer.’ (St. Silouan the Athonite by Archimandrite Sophrony, p. 70)

Fr. Florovsky on Universalism

Protopresbyter Georges Florovsky 1893-1979

According to the contemporary view, shared by Berdyaev, the acceptance of an eternal hell smacks of obscurantism. But in my view the denial of the possibility of an eternal hell cancels human freedom and deprives it of seriousness. ‘Theomachy’ is already ‘hell,’ although many may presently enjoy it. (Gavrilyuk, Paul L. 2013-12-19. Georges Florovsky and the Russian Religious Renaissance [Changing Paradigms in Historical and Systematic Theology], p. 143. Oxford University Press, USA. Kindle Edition)

The Eastern Patriarchs on Purgatory

The Eastern Patriarchs to the English Non-Jurors 1721

As for the purgatorial fire, invented by the Papists to command the purse of the ignorant, we will by no means hear of it. For, it is a fiction and a doting fable, invented for lucre and to deceive the simple; and in a word, has no existence but in the imagination. There is no appearance nor mention of it in the Sacred Scriptures or Holy Fathers, whatsoever the authors or abettors of it may clamor to the contrary. But we say, that the benefactions and holy sacrifices, the alms and prayers of the Church and her priests for the dead, are the things that greatly profit them; and not the purgatorial fire, which does not by any means anywhere exist. For, these relieve the pains which the souls endure in Hades, as is plain from the Centurion, whose son our Lord healed at the Centurion’s petition, and from the Paralytic, whom He recovered by a double cure for the faith of those that brought him to Him, and might be proved from a thousand other instances as clear as the sun. (The Answers of the Orthodox of the East to the Proposals sent from Britain for Union and Agreement with the Oriental Church: Answers to Proposals 9, 10, 11 and 12)

St. Silouan the Athonite and Elder Sophrony on Universalism

Elder Sophrony of Essex 1896-1993

There is a domain in human life where a limit is set even to love — where even love is not supreme. This domain is freedom.

Man’s freedom is positive, real. It concedes no determinism in his destiny, so that neither the sacrifice of Christ Himself nor the sacrifices of all those who have trodden in His footsteps lead necessarily to victory.

The Lord said, ‘And I, if I be lifted up from the earth’ (that is ‘crucified on the cross’) ‘will draw all men unto me’. (cf. John 12:32) Thus Christ’s love hopes to draw all men to Him, and so reaches out to the last hell. There may be some – whether many or few, we do not know – who will meet even this perfect love, this perfect sacrifice, with a rejection, even on the eternal level, and declare, ‘I want no part in it’. (It was this recognition of this abyss of freedom which prompted the Fathers of the Church to repudiate the determinist theories of the Origenists. Belief in Apocatastasis, understood as universal salvation predestined in the divine purpose, would certainly rule out the sort of prayer that we see in the Staretz.)

What was made known to the Staretz in his vision of Christ outweighed all doubt and hesitation. He knew that it was the Almighty God that had appeared to him. He was sure that the humility of Christ which he had come to know, and the love which filled him to the limits of his strength, were the action of God the Holy Spirit. He knew in the Holy Spirit that God is boundless love and mercy, yet knowledge of this truth did not lead him to conclude that ‘anyway, we shall all be saved’. Awareness of the possibility of eternal damnation remained deeply engrained in his spirit. (St. Silouan the Athonite, p. 109)

On Those Wiser Than the Fathers

St. Maximus the Confessor ca. 580-662

If someone reads this (or any other book whatever) not for the sake of spiritual profit but to hunt for phrases to reproach the author so that he might then set himself up in his own opinion as wiser than the author, such a person will never receive any profit of any kind. (Prologue to Four Centuries on Love)

On Rock and Sand

Part 1 of an Ancient Faith Today interview with Fr. Josiah Trenham. They discuss his new book Rock and Sand – An Orthodox Appraisal of the Protestant Reformers and their Teaching, published by New Rome Press. The interview is also available in video format from Patristic Nectar Films.

On the Divine Canons

Nicea II Seventh Ecumenical Council 787 a.d.

[W]e… press to our bosom with gladness the divine canons, holding fast all the precepts of the same, complete and without change, whether they have been set forth by the holy trumpets of the Spirit, the renowned Apostles, or by the Six Ecumenical Councils, or by Councils locally assembled for promulgating the decrees of the said Ecumenical Councils, or by our Holy Fathers. For all these, being illumined by the same Spirit, defined such things as were expedient. Accordingly those whom they placed under anathema, we likewise anathematize; those whom they deposed, we also depose; those whom they excommunicated, we also excommunicate; and those whom they delivered over to punishment, we subject to the same penalty. (Canon 1)

On the Heads of the Church

The Great High Priest by Damascene Gallery

The Eastern Patriarchs to the English Non-Jurors 1721

[O]ur Lord Jesus Christ is the only Head of the Church both in earth and heaven, militant and triumphant; but since He has set over His own creatures Apostles and High-priests, Heads and Governors, Heads not original but derivative and secondary; containing and giving life to the whole earthly body of the Faithful, through the first and universal Head, in whom we live and move and have our being, to be mediators between God and men in performing the ministrations our Lord has commanded them; namely, in teaching and baptizing and administering all the Divine Mysteries; giving them as is confessed, the power of binding and loosing; therefore every one of our Bishops both is, and is esteemed, a particular head of the churches of each city, subject to the first and universal Head. Upon this account, the 34th Canon of the Holy Apostles calls the Primus among the Bishops, a Head, saying, “The Bishops of every nation ought to know their Primus, and esteem him as their Head”. For the Holy Spirit has placed the Bishops and Priests for Shepherds to the Church of God, administering the word of Life to the perfecting of the Saints. We don’t therefore improperly call them Heads and fountains of Sanctity among us: and we believe that from the Bishops we receive the sacred Mysteries and charismata of the Spirit, as from Christ our Supreme Head. And as the Angels, taking upon them the form and person of God, as when it is said, “I am the Lord thy God, (for, ‘the Law of God was delivered by Angels’,) did not thereby assume to themselves the nature of the Deity ; so the genuine Governors of the Church, being called Heads, derive that appellation from the real Head, and perform His part, and refer all their ministrations to Him as the immediate Head, and not unto themselves; as Moses also was by God constituted a God unto Pharaoh, without any injury to the Divine Majesty; and the Apostles as well as the Lord, were said to be the Light of the World. For, though Christ be the Foundation of the Faith, yet the Prophets and Apostles both are, and are said to be so in Scripture. (The Answers of the Orthodox of the East to the Proposals sent from Britain for and Union and Agreement with the Oriental Church: Answer to Proposal Eight)

On Making the Sign of the Cross

Patriarch Macarius of Antioch 1600-1672

A Brief Commentary on How Christians Ought to Make the Sign of the Cross over Their Faces

This has two explanations. The first one is as follows. The Holy Fathers prescribed making the Sign of the Cross in the following way. First, the person intending to pray must gather together the three fingers of his right hand (three, in reference to the Holy Trinity)—the thumb and the two fingers adjacent to it. Then, he must raise them to the upper part of his head and place them on his forehead. Then, he should bring them down and place them on his abdomen. Then, he should raise them again and place them on his right shoulder. Then, he should raise them from there and place them on his left shoulder. After that, he should bring them down.

When a person places these three fingers on his forehead he should say, “Holy God.” When he places them on his abdomen he should say, “Holy Mighty.” When he places them on his right shoulder he should say, “Holy Immortal.” Finally, when he places them on his left shoulder and then goes down in prostration he should say, “Have mercy on us.” Alternatively, when he touches these four parts of his body [with his fingers], he can say, “O come, let us worship and fall down before Christ our King and our God” or “O God, forgive me, a sinner, and have mercy on me.”

When a person raises these three fingers to the upper part of his head, this signifies Christ’s coming down from heaven to earth. When he places them on his abdomen, this signifies Christ’s coming down from heaven, dwelling in the Virgin’s womb, taking a body from her, and the fact that He was crucified in this body and saved us. When he places his fingers on his right shoulder, this signifies that Christ will count us among the [righteous] standing on His right hand on the Day of Judgment. When he places his fingers on his left shoulder, this signifies that Christ has delivered us from standing with the sinners on His left.

The second explanation is the following. When a person gathers these three fingers together, raises them to the upper part of his head, and places them on his forehead, this signifies that Christ our Lord and God came down from heaven to earth for the sake of our salvation and so that we might believe in Him. When a person places his fingers on his abdomen, this signifies that Christ was incarnate of the Virgin Mary, was crucified, and descended to the lowest reaches of Hades, to save the souls of the righteous who had been undergoing a punishment there in the days of old. It also indicates that He is going to save all those believing in Him and keeping His commandments. When a person places his fingers on his right shoulder, this signifies that Christ ascended into heaven and sits at the right hand of God the Father, and also that He shall come again to judge the living and the dead. He will make the righteous to stand on His right hand, as He had promised us in the pure Gospel. The sinners, however, will stand on His left. When a worshipper places his three fingers on his left shoulder, this signifies that he is praying to [Christ] and beseeching Him that He will not make him one of the people of the left side but will deem him worthy to stand on His right hand [on the Day of Judgment]. For all these reasons, it is incumbent on every Christian to make the sign of the cross after this fashion, so as to gain all the said benefits, and not to make it in any other way, lest one forfeit the great benefits mentioned above. (Noble, Samuel; Treiger, Alexander [2014-02-15]. The Orthodox Church in the Arab World, 700 – 1700: An Anthology of Sources [Orthodox Christian] [Kindle Locations 6319-6344]. Northern Illinois University Press. Kindle Edition)

On the Fate of the Soul in Byzantine Art and Liturgy

 

Separation of the Soul from the Body, fol. 63v, Heavenly Ladder of John Klimax, 1081, Princeton, University Library, Manuscripts Division

‘He Who is at the Point of Death’: The Fate of the Soul in Byzantine Art and Liturgy

by Vasileios Marinis

This paper is an examination of the content and iconography of the Kanon eis Psychorragounta (Canon for He Who Is at the Point of Death). This was the most important component of an akolouthia by the same name, a liturgical service meant to be read and sung on one’s behalf shortly before death. The canon’s extensive use and impact are evident in that it was depicted at least three times, once in manuscript illumination and twice in monumental painting, unusual given the rarity of illustrations of minor services. Because of its inclusion in euchologia, the prayer books used by clergy containing all the services of the Byzantine Rite, the author argues that the akolouthia and its canon provided a canonical, Church-sanctioned understanding of death and its immediate aftermath and exerted a normative influence on people’s perception of the separation of the soul from the body and subsequent events. On the most basic level, the iconography of the canon is meant to illustrate its contents.

On the Example of the New Martyrs

Protopresbyter Theodoros Zisis Emeritus Professor of the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki

[W]e cannot forget the glory and boast of the Church in more modern times, the New Martyr Saints. Not only those who had the blessing to have the Holy Kollyvades and other blessed Elders, as ‘trainers’ for their martyrdom, but also the host of other New Martyrs, men and women who followed the Tradition of the Holy Apostles and Fathers which asserts that Christ is the only road to salvation. They refused to convert, and even used harsh words against Mohammed, paying for their refusal and confession with their blood. It is a gross insult to the New Martyrs, what is being said in the context of the inter-faith dialogues of the Ecumenists, even by patriarchs, bishops and other clergymen and theologians, to wit, that other religions are a road to salvation, that Mohammad is a prophet, that the three monotheistic religions — Judaism, Christianity and Mohammedanism — have the same God, and that the Koran is a holy and sacred book, worthy of being given as a gift. Do they not know of the great Holy Fathers’ severe criticism; of the total rejection of Mohammed and the Koran by Saints Maximus the Confessor and John Damascene, by Gregory Palamas and many others? (Birth and Evolution of the Post-Patristic Battle Against the Fathers)

On Patristic Tradition

Ecumenical Patriarch Gennadios II Scholarios ca. 1400-1473

We are convinced that nothing is more sacred, nothing more wise than the Patristic tradition and we hope to run this course under faithful leaders. (Oeuvres completes de Georges Scholaris, ed. L. Petit- X. Siderides- M. Jugie, Paris 1928-36, vol. II, 15 and II, 44)

On Origenist Eschatology

Metropolitan Hilarion of Volokolamsk

[T]he Orthodox Church is far from the excessive optimism of those who maintain that at the end of time God’s mercy will extend to all of unrighteous humanity and all people, including great sinners, and together with them the devil and his demons will be saved in a lofty form by will of the God Who is good. Origen expressed this idea in the third century, Origen whose teaching on apokatastasis (“universal restoration”) was condemned in its entirety by an Ecumenical Council as contrary to the teachings of the Fathers of the Church.

…However, such a theory, first of all, contradicts the Christian vision of the historical process as a path to the final transfiguration into a better state, and not at all as a return to the initial condition. Protopresbyter Georges Florovsky writes that “the whole pathos of Origen’s system is concluded in the cancellation, the abolition of the enigma of time and being. It is precisely in this intimate thought that his famous teaching of the ‘universal restoration (apokatastasis) lies… Apokatastasis is the rejection of history. The whole content of historical time is dispersed without memory or consequence. And ‘after’ history remains only that which was already ‘before’ history.” (Dogmat i istoriya, Moscow 1995, 294-295)

…Origenist apokatastasis radically contradicts the basic fundamentals of Christian morality. Indeed, what moral sense is there throughout the whole drama of human history if good and evil end up being equal in the eyes of divine mercy and just judgment? What meaning does the separation of the sheep and the goats at the Last Judgment have, if the good is not the only and absolute criterion by which this division occurs, or if this division bears a temporary character? What meaning is there in suffering, prayer, ascetical efforts, the fulfillment of the Gospel commandments, if the righteous will be sooner or later equal to sinners? As Emperor Justinian asked, is it fair that “those who led a life full of perfection to the end should be united with the lawless and pederasts, and to acknowledge that both the former and the latter should enjoy equal blessings?” (Letter to the Holy Council on Origen and His Accomplices) The Origenist understanding of apokatastasis does not give an answer even to one of these questions.

Origen’s supposition on the potential salvation of the devil and his demons is in radical opposition to Church Tradition… the devil and demons’ falling away from God is perceived in Christian Tradition as final and irrevocable. In the words of John of Damascus, repentance is impossible both for angels and for the devil and his demons. It is impossible for the former because they are incorporeal and do not sin, and for the latter because they cannot change and be saved, but the unquenchable fire and eternal torment await them.

Origen’s view on the non-eternal nature of the torment… directly contradicts the Gospel, where this torture and perdition of sinners is repeatedly called eternal… It is true that Origen placed much attention on the fact that the adjective “eternal” (aionios) comes from the word “age” (aion) and therefore can indicate a certain length, though not a never-ending stretch, of time: in Origen’s opinion, hellfire is exactly like this — eternal, but not never-ending. The argument is on the two notions of the word “eternity” — on the eternity of God in comparison to which nothing created is eternal, and on eternity as an endless length of time. However, such a distinction is absent in the very texts of Holy Scripture that speak of eternal torment and eternal perdition, as well as any kind of allusions to the possibility of a spiritual progression and subsequent salvation of the devil and his demons.

…The teaching on apokatastasis and universal salvation gained a whole group of supporters in the form of theologians and philosophers of the Russian diaspora in the twentieth century. The consistent and decisive proponents of this teaching were Archpriest Sergius Bulgakov and N.A. Berdiaev. V.N. Lossky was more cautious, yet still spoke out in favor of this teaching. Metropolitan Anthony of Sourozh in particular also repeatedly defended it in his compositions… However, the opinions of individual theologians and philosophers defending the teaching of universal salvation do not grant it legitimacy. The Church condemned the concept of apokatastasis. (Orthodox Christianity Vol. II: Doctrine and Teaching of the Orthodox Church, pp. 557-570)

On the Death of Infants

Holy Innocents from Uncut Mountain Supply

Lenten Triodion

When baptized infants die, they enjoy the paradise of delight, whereas those not illumined by baptism and those born to pagans go neither to paradise nor to Gehenna. (Saturday before Meatfare; Matins. Synaxarion at the Sixth Ode of the Canon)

On Understanding the Divine Services

St. Nikodemos the Hagiorite 1749-1809

[B]eware, brethren, the thought which the devil implants in some and which says: ‘you are unlettered and unlearned and do not understand what is said in church and so why do you submit to the Church in all things?’ You are answered, brethren, by an abba in the ‘Sayings of the Desert Fathers’, who tells you: ‘It may be that you do not understand what is said in church, but the devil does and quakes and fears and flees. I mean that you, too, even if you do not understand all the words spoken in church, you will understand a lot of them and benefit from them’. And I would add this: if you go often to church and hear divine words, the continuation of this is that, in time, you will understand what you – earlier – did not, as Chrysostom says, because God, seeing your willingness, will open your mind and illumine you to understand. (Χρηστοήθεια τῶν Χριστιανῶν, Rigopoulos Publications, Thessaloniki 1999, p. 305, footnote) 

On the Augustinian View of the Sacraments

Metropolitan Hilarion of Volokolamsk

The Augustinian understanding of the “efficacy” of the sacraments was never fully accepted in the Orthodox Church. Such an understanding of the sacraments is unacceptable for Orthodox tradition, for it is an understanding in which the grace inherent within them is considered autonomous, independent of the Church. The sacraments can be performed only within the Church, and it is the Church that bestows efficacy, reality, and salvation on them. (Orthodox Christianity Vol. II: Doctrine and Teaching of the Orthodox Church, p. 405)

On Prayer and Theology

St. Maximus the Confessor ca. 580-662

Prayer is higher than theology. For the one theologizes about the divine based on past events, whereas prayer joins the soul, in an unknowable and ineffable way, to God Himself. (Question and Doubts, Question 46)

On Church, Orthodoxy and the Eucharist

Metropolitan Hierotheos of Nafpaktos and St. Vlasios

Of course, no one would want to deny the great value of the Divine Eucharist, at which we partake of the Body and Blood of Christ and to which all the sacraments and the life of the Church are directed, but it is not possible for the Divine Eucharist to be made independent of the Church and the whole of ecclesiastical life.

…[T]here is a close connection between Church, Orthodoxy and Eucharist, as we see in Saint Irenaeus, Bishop of Lyons. There is no Church without Orthodoxy and the Eucharist; nor is there Orthodoxy without the Church and the Eucharist; just as there is no Eucharist outside the Church and Orthodoxy. Then, the Divine Eucharist cannot be considered Orthodox outside the canonical structure of the Church and the necessary requirements for participation in it. The Fathers of the Church and the Canons of the Local and Ecumenical Synods record the requirements for people wishing to participate in the Divine Eucharist and Holy Communion, which are the ascetic life and the hesychast mode of life. The Divine Eucharist cannot replace purification, enlightenment and deification nor, of course, can the opposite obtain. Here, too, there is balanced reciprocity.

Besides, apart from the Divine Eucharist, basic centers for the life of the Church are Scripture, dogma and prayer, which the Divine Eucharist presupposes. There is a very profound association between the lex credendi and the lex orandi. The Bishop is the President of the Eucharistic Synaxis but at the same time [should be] a prophet who proclaims prophetic words to the congregation who desire to progress from the image to the likeness. Of course, within the Church and at the Divine Eucharist there are different spiritual ages, and the Holy Spirit ministers appropriately to each. And then, the grace of God in the Sacraments acts independently of the condition of the canonical clergy and laity, but not all those who partake of the holy Sacraments benefit, unless they take part in the purifying, enlightening and glorifying energy of God.

… All of this made Fr. John Romanides say that it is not the Eucharist that makes the Church the real Church, but the Church which makes the Eucharist the real Eucharist. In other words, the horse (dogma/canons) comes before the cart, not vice versa. In any case, as we know, outside the Orthodox Church, with its dogmas and sacred canons, there is no Eucharist in the Orthodox meaning of the word. So we can talk about ecclesiastical Eucharist, but not about Eucharistic ecclesiology. (Post-Patristic Theology from a Church Perspective)

On Survival of the Fittest

St. Barsanuphius of Optina 1845-1913

Darwin created an entire system according to which life is a struggle for existence, a struggle for the strong against the weak, where those that are conquered are doomed to destruction. This is already the beginning of a bestial philosophy, and those who come to believe in it wouldn’t think twice about killing a man, assaulting a woman, or robbing their closest friend – and they would do all this calmly, with a full recognition of their right to commit their crimes. (V. Moss, An Essay on Universal History – Part 3: The Age of Revolution [1789-1861], p. 2)

On That Which Restrains the Antichrist

St. Theophan the Recluse 1815-1894

The Tsar’s authority, having in its hands the means of restraining the movements of the people and relying on Christian principles itself, does not allow the people to fall away from them, but will restrain it. And since the main work of the Antichrist will be to turn everyone away from Christ, he will not appear as long as the Tsar is in power. The latter’s authority will not let him show himself, but will prevent him from acting in his own spirit. That is what “he that restraineth” is [2 Thes. 2:7]. When the Tsar’s authority falls, and the peoples everywhere acquire self-government (republics, democracies), then the Antichrist will have room to maneuver. It will not be difficult for Satan to train voices urging apostasy from Christ, as experience showed in the time of the French Revolution. Nobody will give a powerful ‘veto’ to this. A humble declaration of faith will not be tolerated. And so, when these arrangements have been made everywhere, arrangements which are favourable to the exposure of antichristian aims, then the Antichrist will also appear. Until that time he waits, and is restrained. (V. Moss, An Essay in Universal History – Part 4: The Age of Empire [1861-1914], p. 134)

On the Direction of the Ecumenical Patriarchate in the 20th Century

Protopresbyter George Metallinos, Professor Emeritus of Athens University

The 19th century is especially important for every development, spiritual and political. Not merely were the nation states formed and with them the concomitant replacement of Orthodox Ethnarchy with national autocephalous states, but the ravages of multifarious Protestantism, as missionary activity, engulfed the Orthodox East, paving a way towards the Ecumenism of the 20th century. With the opening of this new period, there also began the progressively uncertain stance of Orthodoxy, particularly the Ecumenical Patriarchate, which hovered between Patricity, which had continued under Turkish rule, and the new choices, which would lead to compromise and, today, to identification with that delusion which had for centuries been rebuffed.

…The robust stance on the part of the Orthodox Ecclesiastical Leadership towards the heterodox West changed officially at the beginning of the 20th century, at the time of Patriarch Ioakeim III (+1912). This discontinuation is patently obvious merely from a comparison of the dogmatic and creedal texts from 1902 onwards with those of the 19th century…

The prelude to this change had already appeared in 1865, when the headship of the Theological School in Halki was transferred from the traditional and Patristic Konstantinos Typaldos, titular Metropolitan of Stavroupolis, to Filotheos Vryennios (+1918) who had studied in Germany and was later to become Metropolitan of Didymoteikhos. With Vryennios, a new stage was inaugurated as regards Western Christendom, which also reveals the change of heart within the Ecumenical Patriarchate, with which the School was always in step. “The voice of the School was its voice”, according to the statement of our Ecumenical Patriarch, Vartholomaios. But in what did the change lie? The spirit of admiration for the West and Europeanization intensified, as did the cultivation of ecumenical relations.

The re-evaluation of the attitude of the Ecumenical Patriarchate towards the West was a consequence of the change in the political relations of the Ottoman Empire with Western Governments. This change of tack, however, was not confined to the level of political and social relations, but also, unfortunately, affected theology. The re-adjustment of theology is clear in the path followed by the School, which reflected the policy of the Phanar. And here is the proof: according to the school archives, from 1855, when the institution of “Theses” and “Dissertations” began to function, and until 1862, thirteen of the studies by students were related to the Latin Church and, in particular, to the institution of the Papacy, in a spirit clearly of disputation and censure. In other words, some 1/5 of the student’s academic essays were critical of Papal primacy. This was the spirit of the School and of the Ethnarchy at the time. After Typaldos, the studies on the subject from 1869 to 1907 amount to a total of 21. From 1907, however, until 1922, there are no other texts of this nature, while from 1923 until 1971, when, “on the Lord knows what grounds”, the School closed, only three texts appeared. The complete change in spirit is confirmed by the dissertation by Kyriakos Koutsoumalis in 1968: “The Theological Dialogue with the Roman Catholic Church in the Three Pan-Orthodox Conferences”.

But this means that, at the center of the Ethnarchy, a new attitude was inaugurated, in a positive spirit, towards the West, which had until then been repulsed. This spirit was Western-friendly and in favor of “ecumenical relations”. The main point of reference would henceforth not be the East, but the West, with whatever that meant. The boundaries of this change were laid out by three important Texts of the Ecumenical Throne: the Encyclical of Patriarch Ioakeim III in 1902; the Declaration of 1920; and the Encyclical of 1952. The first put into effect the ecumenical overture towards Western Christendom, while the others are of a purely programmatic nature, inaugurating and promoting the path towards Ecumenism with the “Ecumenical Movement”. The participation of the Ecumenical Patriarchate in this led to today’s relations, which the Orthodox conscience censures. The change which followed is revealed by the language used. The “tendrils”, as the Western Christian groupings were called in 1902, became “Churches” by 1920, which, of course, is a matter of praise for Ecumenists, both Greek and foreign. But this has meant, however, a gradual equation of Western confessions with the One Church, the Orthodox. At this point, the last Pope was more sincere when, in 2008, he refused to recognize the Protestants as a Church, while he called Orthodoxy “wanting” since it did not accept his primacy.

With the Declaration of 1920, the Ecumenical Patriarchate presented the rule-book for the attitude to be taken by the Orthodox party within the Ecumenical Movement. If the Encyclical of 1902 opened the way for our participation in the Ecumenical Movement, the Declaration of 1920 prepared our entry into the WCC, while the Encyclical of 1952, under the tenure of Patriarch Athenagoras, operated as a completion and ratification of this planned course of action. For this reason, great Orthodox theologians, such as Ioannis Karmiris and Fr. George Florovsky, despite their attachment to the Ecumenical Patriarchate, felt obliged to express their reservations towards these overtures and the developments set in train by them.

For a short time, a brake was applied to this process by the “Resolution of the Conference in Moscow against Papism” in 1948. There, Papism was denounced for all the newly-appeared Roman dogmas. As the Delcaration says, the Popes “corrupted the purity of the teaching of ancient ecumenical Orthodoxy through their newly-introduced dogmas”. Papism is explicitly called “anti- Christian”. This marks a return to the pre-1900 spirit, though there was to be no continuation, as events proved. This was also contributed to by the language used to avoid scandalizing Church-goers. In the Encyclical of 1952, the Ecumenical Patriarchate says that “through its participation so far in the Pan- Christian Movement, the Orthodox Church has sought to bring to the attention of the heterodox and to transmit to them the wealth of its faith, worship and organization, as well as its religious and ascetic experience, and also to become informed itself of their new methods and concepts of ecclesiastical life and action”. Fearing, however, the relativization of the faith, Ioannis Kasimiris felt the need to stress that: “The participation of the Orthodox… and co-operation… has the meaning of communion of love and not communion in dogmatic teaching and the mysteries”, as if a “communion of love” could be possible without unity of faith (“faith working through love” Gal. 5:6). The true aims of inter-Christian Ecumenism are freely revealed by hierarchs of the Ecumenical Throne such as Yermanos, Archbishop of Thyateira (Strinopoulos), who, referring at length to the Declaration of 1920, which he himself wrote, together with other professors of Halki, said: “There is a need for the Churches to realize that, apart from unity, in the strict sense of the term… there is also another, more inclusive concept of unity, according to which anybody who accepts the fundamental teaching of the revelation of God in Christ and receives Him as the Savior and the Lord, should be considered a member of the same body and not a stranger”. “Without going into an examination of the dogmatic differences that separate the Churches”, the Archbishop of Thyateira added, “we should cultivate precisely this idea of broader unity…”. What is clear here is the theory of the broad Church, which demands the marginalization of the faith and of the saving nature of dogma, in contradistinction to the Apostolic and Patristic tradition of all the centuries.

But another equally prominent Hierarch of the Ecumenical Patriarchate and one of its leading members, the former Archbishop of America, Iakovos, made this aim even clearer in an interview he gave in 1999: “What really made me cross was all the battles and then the relative failure of the Ecumenical Dialogue, which aimed at the union or rapprochement of the Churches and then, more generally, of all religions”. This is a genuine confession of the aspirations of the Ecumenical Movement and its connection with the inter-religious dialogue, as well as the New Age objectives for the achievement of a Universal Religion. But the Blessed Justin (Popović) expressed a responsible and objective critique, calling Ecumenism: “… a common name for the pseudo-Christianities and for the pseudo-Churches of Western Europe. Within it you will find all the European Humanisms, with Papism in the forefront. All these pseudo- Christians, all these pseudo-Churches are nothing more than heresy upon heresy. Their common evangelical name is All-Embracing Heresy”. And he wonders: “Was it therefore necessary for the Orthodox Church, this most undefiled Theanthropic body and organization of the Theanthropic Christ to be humiliated so monstrously that its theologian representatives, even hierarchs, should seek organic participation and inclusion in the WCC? Alas, unheard of betrayal”.

Fr. Justin was able to foresee the outcome of ecumenical relations, which culminated in the decisions of Balamand (1993) (= confirmation of the Papist heresy as a sister Church and of the Unia, which took part officially in the Dialogue) and of Porto Allegre (2006) (=acceptance of Protestant ecclesiology), as well as the de facto recognition of “baptismal theology”, “common service”, without unity of the faith, of “the expanded Church” and of “cultural pluralism”.

Ecumenism in all its dimensions and versions has proved to be a real Babylonian captivity for the Ecumenical Patriarchate and all the local leaders of the Orthodox Church. The boasting and self-congratulation of our Ecumenists about a supposed “new era” which the Ecumenical Patriarchate opened with the Patriarchal Encyclicals of 1902 and 1920 are not justified because “what has been achieved is to legitimize the heresies and schisms of Papism and Protestantism”. This is the carefully-weighed conclusion of Fr. Theodoros Zisis to which I fully subscribe.

It is therefore clear that Ecumenism has now been proved to be an ecclesiological heresy, a “demonic syncretism”, which seeks to bring Orthodoxy into a federal union with the Western heretical panspermia. But in this way Orthodoxy does not influence the non-Orthodox world soteriologically, because it has itself been trapped in the pitfalls of Ecumenism, in the persons of the local leaderships who are working towards wearing it down and alienating it.

So, instead of following the example of our Holy Fathers in the preservation of Orthodoxy as the sole chance of salvation for mankind and society, our Church leadership is doing exactly the opposite: by confusing Orthodoxy with heresy within the sphere of Ecumenism and, to all intents and purposes, recognizing the heretical delusion, it has brought about the dilution of the criteria of the Orthodox faithful and is depriving them and the world of the chance of salvation.

It is precisely in this direction that the intervention of so-called “Post- Patristic Theology” proves to be demonic, in that it offers theological cover and support to our ecumenist hysteria and to the demolition of our Patristic and traditional foundations. This, of course, is not happening with a direct polemic against the faith of the Synods and the Fathers — on the contrary, this is often praised hypocritically and extolled — but, rather, by casting doubt on its neptic requirements, avoiding any condemnation of heresies, and thus the de facto recognition of them as Churches, i.e. of an equal soteriological weight as Orthodoxy. In this way, the Holy Fathers and their teaching are rejected, supposedly because they have overturned the faith and practice of the ancient Church. Post-Patricity, in other words, is in its essence anti-patricity, because this Protestantizing movement weakens the Patristic tradition, without which Orthodoxy is unable to withstand the maelstrom of Ecumenism and compliance with the plans of the New Age. And, to paraphrase Dostoevsky: “Without the Fathers, everything is permitted”! Whereas according to Saint Gregory Palamas: “In this lies piety: not doubting the God-bearing Fathers”. (From Patricity to Post-Patricity: 
The Self-Destruction of the Orthodox Leadership)

On St. Tikhon of Moscow

Chosen for His People published by Holy Trinity Seminary Press

St. Tikhon of Moscow 1865-1925

Beloved in Christ, fathers and brethren,

I have just uttered the prescribed words: “I thank and accept and say nothing against.” Of course, enormous is my gratitude to the Lord for the mercy bestowed on me. Great also is my gratitude to the members of the Sacred All-Russian Council for the high honor of my election into the members of candidates for the Patriarchate. But arguing, as a man, I could say a lot against my present election. Your news about my election as Patriarch is for me that scroll on which was written: ‘Tears, groans and mourning.’ Such was the scroll that the Prophet Ezekiel had to eat. How many tears I shall have to swallow and how many groans let out in the patriarchal service that is set before me, and especially at such a terrible time! Like the ancient leader of the Hebrew people, Moses, I shall have to say to the Lord:

‘Why dost Thou torment Thy servant? And why haveI not found mercy before Thine eyes, that Thou shouldest lay upon me the burden of the whole of this people? Did I bear this people in my womb and give birth to it, that Thou shouldest say to me: bear it in your hands as a nanny bears a child? I alone cannot bear all this people, for it is heavy for me’ (Numbers 11.11-14).

From now on the care of all the Russian churches is laid upon me, and I must care for them every day. And who could be happy with that, even if he were among those who are stronger than me? But may the will of God be done! I find strength in the fact that I did not seek this election, and it came in spite of me and in spite of men, in accordance with the lot of God. I trust that the Lord Who has called me will Himself help me through His Almighty Grace to bear the burden laid upon me and will make it light. A consolation and encouragement for me is the fact that my election has not taken place without the will of the All-Pure Mother of God. Twice she, through the presence of her honourable Vladimir icon has been present in the cathedral of the Saviour at my election. This time the lot was drawn from her wonderworking image. I have as it were come under her honourable omophorion. May she the all-powerful one stretch out to me, the weak one, the hand of her help, and may she deliver this city and all the Russian land from every need and sorrow. (Chosen for His People, A Biography of Patriarch Tikhon by Jane Swan, pp. 15-16)

On Church Preaching

Moscow Council of 1917 following the election of Patriarch St. Tikhon of Moscow

The Moscow Council December 1, 1917

Church preaching, in accordance with the Word of God (Matt. 28:19-20. Mk. 16:15, Acts 1:8, 1 Cor. 9:16, 2 Tim. 4:2, et al.), Church Canons (Apostolic Canons 36 and 58, Canon 19 of the Sixth Ecumenical Council, Canon 2 of the Seventh Ecumenical Council), and the directions of the typikon of the Church, is one of the major duties of the pastoral ministry and must be heard as often as possible at the public and private services, outside of services, but without exception at every Divine Liturgy celebrated on Sundays or Feast Days (Canon 19 of the Sixth Ecumenical Council), as well as in special circumstances that concern the life of the Church, society, or the State. As a reminder of this, Canon 58 of the Holy Apostles, Canon 19 of the Sixth Ecumenical Council, and Canon 2 of the Seventh Ecumenical Council shall be printed in the new editions of the Priest’s Service Book and of the Archieratikon, with the following commentary:

If a bishop or a presbyter celebrates the Divine Liturgy on a Sunday or Feast Day and does not preach the Word of God or commission the preaching to his concelebrants, and thus shows neglect for the clergy and the people, he commits a grave sin, for he saddens Christ, Who commanded to the shepherds of His Church to preach the Gospel. He disregards the word of the Apostle who says, “Take heed to yourself and to your teaching; hold to that, for by doing so you will save both yourself and your hearers” (1 Tim. 4:16), and forgets the injunctions of the Holy Fathers, shepherds, and teachers of the Universal Church. But, following the example of Christ the Chief Shepherd, of the Holy Apostles and of the Holy Fathers, may the bishops and presbyters of the Orthodox Church of Russia be divinely inspired preachers who console by the salvific teaching, denounce those who oppose it, and rather than only on Sundays or Feast Days, as was said above, but in every day may they preach the Word of God, and rather than only at the time of Divine Liturgy, may they also preach at other services and sacramental rites, if it is possible. So also may they at any other time call their flock to the hearing of the Word of God. (‘The Definition of the Sacred Council of the Orthodox Church of Russia on Church Preaching’. The Moscow Council [1917-1918] The Creation of the Conciliar Institutions of the Russian Orthodox Church by Hyacinthe Destivelle, O.P., p. 25-26)

On Being Judgmental

St. John Cassian ca. 360-435

A clear proof that a soul has not yet cut loose from the corruption of sin is when it feels no sympathizing pity for the wrongdoing of others but holds instead to the strict censoriousness of a judge. (Conferences, 11.10)

On the Letter

St. Maximus the Confessor ca. 580-662

It is necessary that the one who seeks after God in a religious way never hold fast to the letter, lest that one mistakenly understand things said about God for God Himself. (Chapters on Knowledge, 2.73)

Fr. Florovsky on Fr. John Romanides and “The Ancestral Sin”

Fr. Georges Florovsky 1893-1979

At present, there is a dearth of theological resources in the Orthodox Church. Nevertheless, I am hopeful about my student, Fr. John Romanides, who made a debut three or four years ago with an excellent doctoral dissertation (in Greek, in
Athens) on Original Sin in the teaching [of the Fathers] of the first two centuries. Now he is studying with me towards a Ph.D. at Harvard. He has a bias towards “isolationism,”drawing away from the West in everything and locking himself in
the Byzantine tradition. Nevertheless, he remains on the level of genuine theological culture and deep ecclesiality (glubokaia tserkovnost’). (Gavrilyuk, Paul L. 2013-12-19. Georges Florovsky and the Russian Religious Renaissance: Changing Paradigms in Historical and Systematic Theology, p. 248. Oxford University Press, USA. Kindle Edition)

On Why Women Were the First to Witness the Resurrection

St. Gregory of Nyssa ca. 335-395

Since, as the Apostle tells us, “the woman was deceived and became a transgressor” [1 Tim 2: 14] and was by her disobedience foremost in the revolt from God, woman became the first witness of the Resurrection, that she might retrieve by her faith in the Resurrection the overthrow caused by her disobedience. By making herself at the beginning a minister and advocate to her husband of the counsels of the serpent, she brought into human life the beginning of evil and its train of consequences; so, by ministering to His disciples the words of Him who slew the rebel dragon, she became to men the guide to faith, whereby with good reason the first proclamation of death is annulled. (Against Eunomius, 12.1)

On Various Theories of Purgation

St. Augustine of Hippo ca. 354-430

But if it be said that in the interval of time between the death of this body and that Last Day of Judgment and retribution which shall follow the Resurrection, the bodies of the dead shall be exposed to a fire of such a nature that it shall not affect those who have not in this life indulged in such pleasures and pursuits as shall be consumed like wood, hay, stubble, but shall affect those others who have carried with them structures of that kind; if it be said that such worldliness, being venial, shall be consumed in the fire of tribulation either here only, or here and hereafter both, or here that it may not be hereafter—this I do not contradict, because possibly it is true. For perhaps even the death of the body is itself a part of this tribulation, for it results from the first transgression, so that the time which follows death takes its color in each case from the nature of the man’s building. The persecutions, too, which have crowned the martyrs, and which Christians of all kinds suffer, try both buildings like a fire, consuming some, along with the builders themselves, if Christ is not found in them as their foundation, while others they consume without the builders, because Christ is found in them, and they are saved, though with loss; and other buildings still they do not consume, because such materials as abide for ever are found in them. In the end of the world there shall be in the time of Antichrist tribulation such as has never before been. How many edifices there shall then be, of gold or of hay, built on the best foundation, ChristJesus, which that fire shall prove, bringing joy to some, loss to others, but without destroying either sort, because of this stable foundation! (City of God, Bk. 21.26)

On the Ancient Method of Infant Baptism in the English Church

The Second Council of Calcuith, England AD 816

Let Presbyters also know that when they administer Baptism they ought not to pour the consecrated water upon the infants’ heads, but let them always be immersed in the font; as the Son of God Himself afforded an example unto all believers when He was three times immersed in the river Jordan. (Canon 11)

The Belief of the Ancient Irish Church in the Bloodless Sacrifice and Real Presence

by Hieromonk Enoch

Introduction

There is a class of works from the 19th century and before that reveals much interesting work on the ancient Irish (and other Celtic) Churches in Britain. However, one of the problems is that they are generally written by Roman Catholics or Protestants. Now, this is natural, as there were few, if any, Orthodox Christians living in areas most concerned with the question as to the doctrines of the ancient Celtic Churches. However, by far, the most unbelievable are the works composed by Protestants, particularly Irish Episcopalians [which from the Reformation on up to the 20th century represented the Anglican Church that was established in Ireland and supported by few converts and immigrants], Scottish Presbyterians who immigrated to Ireland at the instigation of the English Protestant monarchs, and, worst of all, Baptists, who claim St. Patrick was a Baptist, or some form of Protestant (I heard this myself in person from two Baptist ministers when I was a teenager and was so shocked I could hardly respond).

In general, heterodox Papist writers seem to be more reasonable in these debates, because they simply quote lives of saints, Irish fathers, councils, liturgical books, etc. However, again, they do have many blind spots when it comes to questions of the papacy and the Irish Church; suffice it to say that Ireland and other Celtic Churches were no different than most of the other Churches in Orthodoxy at that period, i.e., they had a profound reverence for the Apostolic See of Rome, but, also for the Apostolic Sees of Alexandria, Jerusalem, and Antioch. Indeed, the Holy Abbot St. Cummian, when writing to convince the Irish Church to accept the correct Paschal Cycle, appealed not simply to the Apostolic See of Rome, but, to other Apostolic Sees. He says:

“I find it was ordered that all those were to be excommunicated who dared to act against the statutes of the FOUR APOSTOLIC SEES of Rome, Jerusalem, Antioch, and Alexandria.”

Further he said:

“Can anything be more absurd than to say our mother the Church—Rome errs, Jerusalem errs, Antioch errs, and the whole world errs, the Irish and the Britons alone are in the right?”

In his case, St. Cummian’s efforts were successful with Southern Ireland.  St. Cummian, the great student of the ancient monastic school of Clonfert, with his piety and learning carried the day at the 630 AD Synod of Magh Lene. The Britons [i.e. original inhabitants of Great Britain prior to the 5th and 6th century Germanic invasions] in Wales acceded to the correct date, finally, around the year 770 by the influence of St. Elfod (though extracts from Hughe’s ‘Horae Britannicae’ indicate that some were still not satisfied, with Welsh envoys being sent to Constantinople, only to be informed by Patriarch St. Methodios for them to keep Pascha on the correct cycle instead of their obsolete 5th century tables).

For the Irish (and others), because Rome was where the Holy Apostles Peter and Paul were martyred and because it was the only Patriarchate in the West, a great deal of deference and respect was shown, based upon customary and traditional privileges. However, this was certainly not something on the level of the insanity of Hildebrand’s “Dictatus Papae” of 1072 (which can be considered a founding document of the heretical post-Schism Papacy).

As regards the belief of the Irish Church on holy icons, relics, intercession of the Saints, we can turn either to the Litanies of the Saints in their own ancient texts, the Irish Lives of the Saints, the liturgical books, or, if we wish, to the great exposition of St. Dungal (the great defender of Icons, Relics, and Intercession of the Saints in the 830’s against the more ‘moderated’ Iconoclasm then taking root in Turin and among Frankish bishops).

The Papist writers can successfully show that the Irish saints and fathers believed in prayer for the dead, the Bloodless Sacrifice, Apostolic and Hierarchical Priesthood, monasticism, and the other Sacraments. Much was expended by many of these writers on prayer for the dead; however, they cannot show that the 12th and 13th Papal doctrine of Purgatory was held by them. They simply make the leap from prayer for the departed faithful and its aid for those who die without works of repentance (though having repented) all the way to Purgatorial Fire that is needed to fulfill temporal punishment to Divine Satisfaction and provide purification. Such a later doctrine was foreign to them and to the Fathers and the vast majority of writers until Purgatory’s invention in the 12th century. Prior to this invention of Purgatory (with its temporal punishment and satisfaction) the teachings of the ancient Irish and was the same the more modern Orthodox. For example, we need only look to see what we find in the Russian Orthodox theological works of the 19th century (such as Met. Macarius), as well as in Decree 18 of the Synod of Jerusalem in the 17th century, the corrected Confession of Peter Moghila (corrected of errors by the Synod of Jassy, and which later became the basis of the Longer Catechism of the Russian Church), the teaching of St. Mark of Ephesus in his homilies against Purgatory, the decree of the Ecumenical Patriarchate and the other Patriarchates and Synods in the 1720s, and many others. In reality, the Irish belief was essentially that which we find enunciated by Orthodox writers today and in the past (as the Irish at this period were part of the Orthodox Church). Of course, the reason for this deficiency in different areas by Protestant and RC historians is because they don’t realize that the ancient Irish Church was in fact an Orthodox Church.

At the end I will append a translation of the oldest “Irish Tract on the Mass” with a brief introduction.

Testimony of Ancient and Medieval Irish Orthodox On the Bloodless Sacrifice

Let us ask the question, “What did the ancient Irish Church believe about the Eucharist?”

First, we have the worthy testimony of the Irish monk and writer, Probus, who composed the 10th century Life of St. Patrick from previous manuscripts. Probus reposed around the year 950 AD. In it, St. Patrick is asked by some nobles to show them the True God. As John Lannigan relates the event in his “An Ecclesiastical History of Ireland” written in 1829, drawing from Probus:

“When advanced into the plain of Connaught he stopped with his clerical companions at a fountain near the royal residence Cruachan and at break of day began to chant the praises of the Lord. The ladies [Irish princesses], having come very early in the morning to the fountain for the purpose of washing themselves, were struck with the singular appearance of persons clothed in white garments, and holding books in their hands. On inquiring who they were and to what species of beings they belong, whether celestial, aerial, or terrestrial, St. Patrick seized the opportunity of announcing to them the true God, Author of all; and answering certain questions of theirs, such as, where his God dwelt, in heaven or on the earth, on mountains, in vallies, in the sea, or in rivers; was he rich, how to be revered, was he young or old, had he sons and daughters, were they handsome, etc, and he thus explained the Truths of the Christian Religion. Delighted with his discourse they expressed a wish to know how they could become acceptable in the sight of the Almighty, and declared themselves ready to go through whatever the saint would command them to do. Accordingly he instructed them; and, on their having professed their belief in the doctrines proposed by him, he also baptized them. In answer to their desire of seeing Christ face to face, he told them that Eucharistic Communion was one of the necessary requisites with regard to that object, upon which they said, ‘Give us the Sacrifice of the Body and Blood of Christ, that we may be freed from the corruption of the flesh, and see our spouse, Who is in Heaven.” And, St. Patrick, then celebrating Mass, they received the Holy Eucharist.” (Eccl. Hist. of Ireland, pg. 242, John Lanigan)

 

In the Martyrology of the Blessed and Holy Irish Bishop, St. Óengus mac Óengobann, better known as Saint Óengus of Tallaght or Óengus the Culdee, composed in the early 9th century (St. Oengus commemorated on March 11), it speaks on April 13th of the Holy Bishop Tassach, companion of St. Patrick, and says thus:

“The kingly Bishop Tassach, who administered on his arrival, the Body of Christ, the Truly Powerful King, and the Communion to St. Patrick.”

When the holy Bishop and disciple of St. Patrick, St. Benignus of Armagh (467 AD) reposed, we have the following related in his ancient “Vita”:

“When the man of God (Benignus) saw that the time of his dissolution was near at hand, he sent for St. Jarlath…and received most devoutly from his hand the earnest and pledge of eternal happiness–namely, the Body of Christ; and thus prepared himself for death and for his entrance into his country.”

 

We have also the ancient Life of St. Brigid, who was only 12 at the repose of St. Patrick. Her life was written by the Irish monk Cogitosus in the 7th century. He says in the Vita about the celebration of Mass in the monastic church of St. Brigid’s and how the Bishop and clergy came to visit to celebrate the Unbloody Sacrifice:

“And through the one door, placed on the right side (of the church of Kildare), the chief prelate entered the Sanctuary, accompanied by his regular school, and those who are deputed to the Sacred Ministry of Offering Sacred and Dominical Sacrifices. Through the other door…none enter but the abbes, with her virgins and widows, among the faithful, when going to participate in the Banquet of the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ.”

 

We need not go into detail about the Chancel Screen with holy images that adorned the monastic church and the holy curtains, and how this was reserved for clergy alone during Holy Services [though, there was a section wherein the nuns could go into to receive Holy Communion]. Certainly not a ‘Proto-Protestant’ Irish church!

Of course, the Vita states that at her death, St. Brigid, “previously received the Holy Communion of the Body and Blood of Our Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of the Living God.”

In the ancient life of St. Brendan of Clonfert, we learn that Holy Brendan was told by the sacristan that St. Gildas asked him to Offer Mass. The Sacristan says:

Our holy abbot commands thee to Offer the Body of Christ. Here is the Altar, and the Missal written in Greek characters–chant in it as our abbot does.

 

And another miracle was worked, St. Brendan, who could only read Latin in Roman letters, read Latin in Greek letters; it should be noted that Greek learning still flourished in Irish monasteries, and some even wrote missals in Latin in Greek letters, and, as we know from St. Dionysius Monastery in Gaul, some celebrated their own liturgy in the Greek language; according to the rubrics of the old English liturgical books the “Gloria in Excelsis” was chanted in Greek and Latin on Pentecost .

In the Life of the Irish St. Columba, written by St. Adamnan of Iona, we find the following concerning St. Columba in regards to St. Cronan, Bishop of Munster:

“Upon Sunday he was ordered by St. Columba to MAKE THE BODY OF CHRIST according to the usual practice.”

 

Let us not forget the Irish Bangor Antiphonary (7th century)  which has the following hymn for Communion:

Come, ye people to the Holy and Immortal Mystery, the Offering we must make. With fear and faith, let us draw near, with hearts made clean by repentance let us communicate the Gifts! For the Lamb of God is SET FORTH to the Father a SACRIFICE FOR US. Let us worship only Him, let us give Glory to Him, crying with the Angel: alleluia.

 

The ancient hymn ascribed to St. Secundinus (Sechnall), the disciple and nephew of St. Patrick is explicit. This places the hymn as early as the 450s. Even at the latest dating, the communion hymn is place in the 600s.  The whole hymn breathes of the Biblical-Patristic teaching on the Real Presence and Bloodless Sacrifice. The whole hymn stands to be quoted in full:

Draw night, and take the Body of the Lord,

 

And drink the Holy Blood for you outpoured.

Saved by That Body, Hallowed by That Blood,

Whereby refreshed, we render thanks to God.

[By the Sacrament of the Body and the Blood,

All are delivered from the infernal chasm.]

Salvation’s Giver, Christ the Only Son,

By that His Cross and Blood the Victory Won.

Offered was He for greatest and for least,

Himself the Victim, and Himself the Priest.

Victims were offered by the law of old,

That, in a type, Celestial Mysteries told.

He, Ransomer from death, and Light from shade,

Giveth His Holy Grace His Saints to aid.

Approach ye, then, with faithful hearts sincere,

And take the safeguard of salvation here.

He that in this world rules His saints, and shields,

To all believers Life Eternal yeids.

With Heavenly Bread makes them hunger whole,

Gives Living Waters to the thirsty soul.

Alpha and Omega, to Whom shall bow,

All nations at the Doom, is with us now.

The text in brackets was not rendered by the existing translation this author had access to, and was rendered by this author into English. Thus, it does not follow any specific metrical or rhyming scheme as found in many Patristic Latin hymn text.

The ancient “Irish Tracts on the Mass” which were commentaries in Latin and Gaelic on the Old Irish liturgical ritual (which was in Latin) contains exposition of the ancient Irish belief.  Dr. Matthew Kelley dates the following one to be the earliest composition, possibly dating from around the year 500 AD.  James Gaffney, in his work “The Ancient Irish Church” quotes the translation of Professor O’Curry upon one section, translated as follows:

Another division of that pledge, which which has been left to the Church to comfort her, is the Body of Christ and His Blood, which are Offered upon the Altars of the Christians. The BODY, EVEN WHICH WAS BORN OF MARY, IMMACULATE VIRGIN, without destruction of her Virginity, without opening the the Womb, without presence of man; and which was Crucified by the unbelieving Jews, out of spite and envy, and which arose after three days from death, and sits upon the Right Hand of God the Father in Heaven, in Glory and in Dignity before the Angels of Heaven;–it is that Body, the same as it is in this Great Glory, which the righteous consume off God’s Table, that is, the Holy Altar. For this Body is the Rich Viaticum of the faithful, who journey through the paths of pilgrimage and penitence of this world to the heavenly fatherland. This is the Seed of the Resurrection in the Life Eternal to the righteous. It is, however, the origin and cause of falling to the impenitent, who believe not, and to the sensual, who distinguish it not, though they believe. Woe then to the Christian who distinguishes not This Holy Body of the Lord by pure morals, charity, and by mercy. For it is in this Body that will be found the example of the charity which excels all charity, viz., to Sacrifice Himself, without guilt, in satisfaction for the guilt of the whole race of Adam. This, then, is the perfection of the Catholic Faith, as it is taught in the Holy Scriptures.

 

The above extract is derived, as Dr. Kelly states, from the most ancient Old Gaehlic commentary section.  Dr. Kelly observes, based upon observations on the manuscript and the style that “Gaehlic part of the tract is of the purest and most ancient Christian character”.  Thus, we have a text that represents ideas that date back to the earliest period of the Old Irish Church.

             

A Translation of the Oldest Irish Tract on the Mass

From “An Ancient Irish Tract on the Mass” dated by Professor Matthew O’Kelly to circa 500 AD; thus, describing the Mass of St. Patrick, being a spiritual and allegorical, though sometimes literal, description. Being a devotional Tract of extreme antiquity in the Irish Church, it seems, in some places to be very extraordinary in its allegorical interpretation of actions of the Mass, but, as long as we take and press these not too far, we will be safe, but, such is the same with all allegorical interpretation. Important also is the testimony that this Tract, the earliest of many, gives to ritual actions of the Liturgy of the Irish Church at such an early date. It contains mundane actions combined with profound veneration for the Holy and Worship of God with meditations upon the the very nature of Charity, found fully for the Christian in the Holy Sacrifice, wherein God Himself gives Himself to men, and for which the righteous take reward and the wicked harm.

The following was extracted from the Irish Ecclesiastical Record Volume 2, and is from O’Curry and O’Looney’s composite translation. As noted, the learned Dr. Matthew Kelly (19th century), the great Irish antiquarian and historian, said that he “believed it to be the Mass brought into Erinn by St. Patrick, differing as it does in some places, as to the order of the ceremonies, from any other Mass that he had ever seen.”

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Concerning the Shapes and Spiritual Sentiments of the Order of the Oblation of the Sacrifice

The figure of the Incarnation of Christ from His Conception to His Passion, and to His Ascension, is what is taught in the Order of the Mass.

The Church which shelters the congregation, and the Altar, is the figure of that human divine shelter, of which is said, “Protect me under the shadow of Thy Wings.” (Ps. 16:8)

The Altar in the Church is a figure of the persecution of the Christians, under which they suffered long tribulations, in Communion with the Body of Christ. Just as the Holy Ghost saith of saints, “I have trodden the winepress alone,” that is, He with His Members.

The Chalice of the Mass is a figure of the Church, which was planted and founded upon the persecutions of the prophets, and on the wisdom of God also. As Christ said, “Upon this Rock will I build My Church”; that is, upon the strength of the Faith of the First Martyrs who suffered for the foundations of the edifice, and of the Martyrs of the Latter Times even unto Elias and Enoch.

When water is being served in the beginning into the Chalice by the server, it is what is then meet: and he saith, “I ask Thee, O Father,” a drop then; “I beseech Thee, O Son,” a drop with that, “I beg Thee, O Holy Ghost”, the third drop with that; this is the figure of the congregation having advanced to the knowledge of the New Law, through the consent of the Will of the [Blessed] Trinity, and through the operation of the Holy Ghost, and that it was said, “I will pour out My Spirit upon all flesh and they shall prophecy” and the rest, and that was said: “They shall come from the east and from the west and from the north, and recline with Abraham, and Isaach, and Jacob in the Kingdom of God,” that is, in the eternal Church the first are last in the heavenly Kingdom.

After this wine is put into the chalice upon the water, that is [a figure] of the Divinity of Christ coming upon humanity among men at the time of His Incarnation and when the people were begotten, as it is said, “The Angel uttered the word; the Virgin conceived Christ, that is, it was then that the Godhead came into conjunction with the Manhood. Of the people, however, He said, “Have I conceived all this people?” Again: “In sorrow and pain shalt thou receive thy children.” It was the Church that said that: “As the Apostle says: My little children, of whom I travail in birth again until Christ be formed in you.”

This is what is said at putting wine into the chalice of the Mass: “May the Father forgive;” then a drop: ” May the Son pardon;” then another drop: “May the Holy Ghost have mercy;” then the third drop.

A hymn is chanted at the Mass after that, both the Introit and prayers and additions, until he reaches the lections [Epistle] of the Apostles and the Psalm of the digraid [the Gradual]. This is a figure of the dispensation of the Patriarchs by which the nature of Christ was made known through mysteries, and deeds, and consummations of nature, that it was said: “Abraham saw My Day and was glad”; because it was through the law of nature that Abraham saw the teachings of the Gospel. And the two psalm of the Gradual are said from that to the twice uncovering of the Chalice of the Mass: this is the figure of the written delivered Law in which Christ is figured [i.e., Law of Moses], and it was not comprehended, but that He was figured in it, and the even had not come, and nothing was perfected through it, for Law [of Moses] leads no one to perfection.

The two and and an half strippings of the Chalice of the Offertory and of the Oblation, and all that is sung at them, both of the Gospel and Alleluia, is the figure of the written law [the prophecies], in which Christ was manifestly foretold, but that He was not seen until He was Born.

At the elevation of the Chalice of the Mass and the Paten after having completely stripped them, then this verse is sung, i.e., Sacrifice to God the Sacrifice of Praise [i.e. Offertory rite–Fr Enoch]: [This is] the figure of the birth of Christ, and of His elevation through wonders and miracles. This is the beginning of the New Testament.

At the time when they sing, “Jesus took bread standing in the midst of His Disciples all the way unto the end”, the priests bow three times in repentance of the sins which they may have committed, and they Sacrifice to God, and thy sing this Psalm in full, “Have mercy on me, O God…” [Ps. 50]. And a voice is not sent into the sound by them [i.e., a voice is not audible from among the congregation], that the priest should not be interrupted, because it is then meet that his mind should not be diverted from God, even in one word [by one word], for it [disturbance] is antagonistic to the spiritual order, and the prayer is not acceptable by God if it is not thus it is made; and hence the name of this prayer is “The Most Dangerous Prayer”.

The three steps which the man of orders makes backward, and advances again forward, these are the three steps by which man fall, viz., in thought, in word, and in deed; and they [the three returning steps] are the three steps by which man is renewed again to God.

The attack which the priests directs at the Chalice of the Mass, and at the Paten, and at the Oblation, and the attack which he makes on the Oblation to break It, are the figures of the abuse, and the buffeting, and the arresting, which Christ suffered, and that is its comprehensible resolution.

And the Oblation upon the Paten is the Body of Christ upon the Cross. The Fraction of its on the Paten is the mangling of the Body of Christ on the Tree of the Cross.

The contact by which the two parts are brought into contact after that breaking, is the figure of the perfectness of the Body of Christ after His Resurrection. The breaking by both parts are broke afterwards; that is the figure of the cutting of the Blood which the Jews shed from the Body of Christ; the part which is brought under the half which the priests hold in his left hand, is a figure of the deadly wound inflicted by the spear, from the hand of Longinus, in the armpit of the right side of Jesus. Because it was westward the Face of Christ was upon His Cross, that is towards the city of Jerusalem; and it was eastward the face of Longinus was and what was left to him was right to Christ, for it was towards us the Face of Christ was turned when coming unto us–as it was said: “But unto you that fear my name shall the Sun of righteousness arise in that day,” and “the Lord shall come from the East.” His back was therefore towards us when departing from us, and He was calling upon all the people to come unto Him after Him, saying, “Come ye all unto Me, after Me.”

The hold [adjusting or arranging] by which the priest’s hand holds [arranges or adjusts] the Paten and the Chalice of the Mass is the figure of the congregating of the people of heaven, and the people of earth into one fold; that is, the people of heaven through the Table, the people of earth through the Chalice.

And this is the foundation of the Faith which every Christian is bound to hold; and it is upon this foundation that every virtue which he practices, and ever good work which he performs, is erected.

For it is through this perfection of the Faith with tranquil charity, and with steadfast hope, that all faithful are saved. For it is this Faith, that is the Catholic Faith, that conducts the righteous to the sight; that is, to see God in the Glory and in the Dignity in which He Abides. It is this sight which is offered as a golden reward to the righteous after the Resurrection. The pledge for this sign, which has been left to the Church here for the present, is the Holy Ghost, which resides in, which comforts, and which strengthens her with all virtues.

It is this Spirit which distributes His Own peculiar Gifts to every faithful member in the Church, as He pleases, and as they require to receive it from Him. For it is by the Holy Ghost these noble Gifts following are bestowed upon the Church among men, viz.: Baptism, and Penitence, and the expectation of persecutions and afflictions.

One of the Noble Gifts of the Holy Ghost is the Holy Scriptures, by which all ignorance is enlightened and all worldly afflictions comforted; by which all spiritual light is kindled; ;by which all debility is mad strong. For it is through the Holy Scripture that heresy and schism are banished form the Church, and all contentions and divisions reconciled. It is in it well-tried counsel and appropriate instruction will be found for every degree in the Church. It is through it the snares of demons, and vices, are banished from every faithful member in the Church. For the Divine Scripture is the mother and the benign nurse of all the faithful who meditate and contemplate it, and who are nurtured by it, until they are chosen children of God by its advice. For the wisdom, that is the Church, bountifully distributes to her children the variety of her sweetest drink, and the choicest of her spiritual food, by which they are perpetually intoxicated and cheered.

Another division of that pledge, which has been left with the Church to comfort her, is the Body of Christ, and His Blood, which are Offered upon the Altars of the Christians.

The Body which was Born of Mary the Virgin, without any stain, without destruction of her Virginity, without opening of the womb, without presence of man, and which was Crucified by the unbelieving Jews out of spit and envy, and Which Arose after three days from death, and Sits upon the Right Hand of God the Father in Heaven, in Glory and in Dignity before the Angels in Heaven.

It is the Body the Same as It is in this Great Glory, which the righteous consume off God’s Table, that is, off the Holy Altar. For this Body is the Rich Viaticum of the faithful, who journey through the paths of pilgrimage and repentance of this world to the Heavenly Fatherland. This is the Seed of the Resurrection in the Life Eternal to the righteous. It is, however, the origin and cause of falling to the impenitent, who believe not, and to the sensual, who distinguish It not, though they believe. Woe then to the Christian who distinguishes not This Holy Body of the Lord, by pure morals, by charity, and by mercy. For it is in This Body that will be found the example of the charity which excels all charity, that is: To Sacrifice Himself without guilt in satisfaction for the guilt of the whole race of Adam.

This, then, is the perfection and fullness of the Catholic Faith, as it is taught in the Holy Scriptures, etc.

On the Petrified Church

St. Nikolai Velimirovich 1880-1956

“The petrified Church”, so Professor Harnack from Berlin called the Orthodox Church of the East. I know his reasons for that very well. Comparing the unchangeable image of Christ, fixed in the East once for all, with the confusing thousand opinions of Christ in Protestant Germany, he was quite justified in calling our Church by a striking name, so differentiating Her from his own. I am glad that he invented the name “petrified.” With the proud spirit of a Protestant scientist, I wonder why He did not invent a worse name for Eastern Orthodoxy. I wonder much more that Professor Harnack, one of the chief representatives of German Christianity, omitted to see how every hollow that he and his colleagues made in traditional Christianity in Germany was at once filled with the all-conquering Nietzscheanism. And I wonder, lastly, whether he is now aware that in the nineteen hundred and fourteenth year of our Lord, when he and other destroyers of the Bible, who proclaimed Christ a dreamy maniac, clothed Christianity in rags, Nietzscheanism grew up the real religion of the German race.

What is the fact about the “petrified” Church? If “petrified” means intact, or whole, or undestroyed, or living always in the same dress but still living, then the famous Professor may be right. Yet this petrified Church has always come victorious out of any test to which she has been put. The Christian Church is always on trial, and I think she is never so much Christian as when she is being tested. She does not shine or develop or make progress otherwise than through hard tests. Christianity is founded upon a drama and not upon a science; therefore its growth and development are dramatic and not scientific. Let us take an example. Eastern Orthodoxy was put to the test for centuries to fight for its existence and its ideals against the ruling Islam. Roman Catholicism was put to a similar test in Spain. German Protestantism was put to the test of German science. What happened? Islam was defeated in Russia and in the Balkans, not only physically, but morally and intellectually. The epoch of the catacombs and the bloody days of Nero and Diocletian have been repeated once more in the Balkans, in Russia, and are still being experienced in Armenia and Asia Minor. The killed and martyred kings, princes, bishops, priests and laymen from these countries will not be ashamed before the martyrs from the Coliseum. Orthodox Christianity stood the test very well. It saved itself; it gave the inspiration for resistance; it showed itself superior even afterwards when the enslaved countries were liberated. Holy Russia counts her greatness from the time when she got rid of Islam. During the five years of their freedom Serbia, Greece and Bulgaria built more than the Turks built during 500 years of Turkish rule.

Roman Catholicism in Spain came through its test very badly. Before the Islamic invasion, and after it for a long time, the Christian population showed itself inferior to the Moors, in work, in justice, in progress. But to the honour of Roman Catholicism I must say that it stood the test very well in Croatia and in Hungary in its struggle against Islam. German cathedral Protestantism failed in its test. It is destroyed as a religion, it exists only as an archival science. It ceased to be what Christianity really sought to be–a drama; it is transformed into an indifferent scientific medium for reading, exploring, classifying, comparing, criticising. It is no more a living, dramatic being–no more the serving, ruling and suffering Christ. There is very little heroic or divine in it! (The Works: Nikolai Velimirovic (Kindle Locations 1010-1014). Packard Technologies. Kindle Edition)

On Orthodoxy and Other Religions

St. Porphyrios of Kavsokalyvia 1906-1991

Only the religion of Christ unites and we must all pray that people come to this. This union will not occur by believing… that religions are the same. They are not the same… Our Orthodoxy is not related to other religions. (Middleton, Dr. Herman A. 2013-08-05. Precious Vessels of the Holy Spirit: The Lives and Counsels of Contemporary Elders of Greece (Kindle Locations 1999-2000). Protecting Veil. Kindle Edition)

On Communion Participation

Elder Philotheos Zervakos 1884-1980

Some people don’t partake of Holy Communion at all due to impiety and an absence of faith. Others, out of ignorance, weakness of faith, carelessness, and an absence of true and pure love for God, partake one or two times a year as a habit, without fear, faith, and love. It is sad and worthy of great lamentation for the priest to stand at the Beautiful Gate and invite Christians to commune, and for not one person to come forward. (Middleton, Dr. Herman A. 2013-08-05. Precious Vessels of the Holy Spirit: The Lives and Counsels of Contemporary Elders of Greece (Kindle Locations 1856-1859). Protecting Veil. Kindle Edition)

On the Absolute Sinlessness of the Theotokos

St. John of Shanghai and San Francisco 1896-1966

The teaching of the complete sinlessness of the Mother of God does not correspond to Sacred Scripture, where there is repeatedly mentioned the sinlessness of the “One Mediator between God and man, the man Jesus Christ (I Tim. 2:5); “and in Him is no sin’.” (I John 3:5);, “Who did no sin, neither was guile found in His mouth.” (I Peter 2:22);. “One that hath been in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin” (Heb. 4:15); “Him Who knew no sin, He made to be sin on our behalf” (II Cor. 5:21). But concerning the rest of men it is said, Who is pure of defilement? No one who has lived a single day of his life on earth (Job 14:4). God commendeth His own love toward us in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us If, while we were enemies, we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, being reconciled, shall we be saved by His life (Rom. 5:8-10).

This teaching contradicts also Sacred Tradition, which is contained in numerous Patristic writings, where there is mentioned the exalted sanctity of the Virgin Mary from her very birth, as well as her cleansing by the Holy Spirit at her conception of Christ, but not at her own conception by Anna. “There is none without stain before Thee, even though his life be but a day, save Thou alone, Jesus Christ our God, Who didst appear on earth without sin, and through Whom we all trust to obtain mercy and the remission of sins.” (St. Basil the Great, Third Prayer of Vespers of Pentecost.) “But when Christ came through a pure, virginal, unwedded, God-fearing, undefiled Mother without wedlock and without father, and inasmuch as it befitted Him to be born, He purified the female nature, rejected the bitter Eve and overthrew the laws of the flesh” [St. Gregory the Theologian, “In Praise of Virginity”]. However, even then, as Sts. Basil the Great and John Chrysostom speak of this, she was not placed in the state of being unable to sin, but continued to take care of her salvation and overcame all temptations [St. John Chrysostom, Commentary on John, Homily 85; St. Basil the Great, Epistle-160] (The Orthodox Veneration of the Mother of God)

Orthodox Observations on Purgatory

Our Lady of Mt. Carmel releasing souls from Purgatory. Image from Wikipedia

Metropolitan Macarius of Moscow 1816-1882

Orthodox Dogmatic Theology,  Vol. 2, 1857, §259. pp.463-467

The doctrine of the Roman Church on Purgatory has some resemblance to the doctrine of the Orthodox Church on the possibility for some sinners to be released from the bonds of Hades by the prayers of the living, although it has also some difference. To properly judge between the one and the other one must understand the teaching as set forth by the Roman theologians themselves.

I. They distinguish in the doctrine of Purgatory two parts: the ‘essential part’, or what has been decreed and taught by their church as dogma, and the inconsequential, that is to say, what has not been fixed by their Church and forms the object of theological opinions. The first part refers only to two points:

a) there is a purgatory, that is to say a place or state of atonement (status expiationis) in which the souls of those who died without having received absolution for even slight faults, or even after obtaining absolution for their sins, but without enduring in this life the temporal punishment for sins, suffer torment to satisfy Divine Justice, until they have been purified by these torments and have become worthy of eternal felicity.

b) the souls of those in Purgatory are in great need of prayer to aid them, such as alms, and especially the Bloodless Sacrifice.

As regards the non-essential teaching relates the solution of the following questions:
a) Is Purgatory a specific place or not, and if so, where is it? Are the sufferings of the souls in the purgatorial fire real or metaphorical?
b) How long are souls in purgatory? How are they aided by the prayers of the Church? (2)

II .— Stopping our thoughts on the essential part of the Roman doctrine concerning Purgatory, we find some resemblance to that of the Orthodox Church on the prayers for the dead, and at the same time some differences.

1) There is similarity in the fundamental idea. Indeed, the Orthodox Church teaches, like that of Rome: —- a) that the souls of some of the dead, namely those who died in faith and repentance, but without having had time to bring in life fruit worthy of repentance, and therefore, did not manage to receive from God complete forgiveness of their sins and be purified, undergo torments until they are deemed worthy of forgiveness and cleansed ; —- b) that in such cases the souls of the dead are benefited by prayers for them from those of their brothers in Christ who are still living, their works of charity, and especially the Offering of the Bloodless Sacrifice.

2) The differences, in particular, are: a) According to the doctrine of the Orthodox Church the aforesaid souls of the dead are suffering because, although they repented before death, they have not had time to bring forth fruits worthy of repentance, and therefore to deserve God’s complete forgiveness of their sins, and, thus, to actually be purified, and to overcome the natural consequences of sin, punishment; whereas, according to the doctrine of the Church of Rome, the souls of the dead suffer in Purgatory, strictly because they have not suffered here below the temporal punishment needed for sins in satisfaction of Divine Justice;. b) According to the Orthodox doctrine, these souls are purified of sins and deserve God’s forgiveness, not by themselves and of their own suffering but by the prayers of the Church and by the power of the Bloodless Sacrifice; with these same prayers not only benefiting the souls suffering, but mitigating their position, freeing them from the torment [2], whereas, according doctrine of the Roman Church, it is by their same suffering that souls are purified in Purgatory and thus Divine Justice is satisfied, and the prayers of the Church serve only to give them some relief in this condition. [3]

3) Moreover, although the differences between the Roman doctrine of Purgatory and the Orthodox doctrine of prayer for the dead are over these particulars, nevertheless, these are important, and we cannot accept the differences. For upon these differences we find both false things and a reversal of fundamental dogma:

a. the first idea is false, as we have already seen, [4] that is, that a sinner who repents before dying should still bring a kind of satisfaction to divine justice for his sins undergoing some temporal punishment for this purpose, and that in Purgatory, for lack of being able to suffer here below. Complete satisfaction to Divine Justice, the same superabundant satisfaction, was Presented once and for all, for all sinners, through Jesus Christ Our Savior, Who took upon Himself the sins of the world and all punishment for sin; and, to obtain complete forgiveness of God and freedom from all punishment of sin, sinners have to appropriate the merits of the Redeemer, that is to say, believe in Him, truly repent of their sins, bring forth fruits worthy of repentance, i.e., good deeds. Consequently, if there are sinners who, having repented before they died, have, despite this, torments to endure after death, it is only because they do not have time to fully appropriate the merits of the Savior, either because of the weakness of their faith in Him or by an effect of the failure of their repentance, and mainly because they did not bear fruits worthy of repentance, and were not actually purified from sin, as the Orthodox Church teaches.

b. it is no less a misconception that sinners would be purified in Purgatory and satisfy divine justice by their own torments. In whatever sense the fire of Purgatory is understood, either literally or in a figurative sense, in none of these senses can we ascribe this to God. If you attach a literal meaning to the fire, then, the fire by its very nature is incapable of purifying a soul which is a simple and immaterial spiritual essence. If you attach a figurative meaning, that is to say, the fire is an inner torment of the soul due to its consciousness of its past sins and the deep contrition for them, then, in that case, this cannot purify the soul in the life beyond the grave, because in the life after death there is no longer a place for repentance, nor for merit or any personal self-correction as Roman Catholics believe. And as long as the soul remains in sin, not purified and renewed, until then, whatever it may have to endure, it can in no way satisfy by its own suffering the Divine Justice and overcome these inevitable consequences of sin. [5]

c. If the souls of some of the dead suffer in Purgatory, even repentant sinners must necessarily suffer a temporal punishment for sin in satisfaction to Divine Justice, and, if the souls suffering in Purgatory are truly cleansed and meet their obligation to Divine Justice, then, the question is, “What is the point of prayers and the general intercession of the Church in their favour?” The souls in Purgatory necessarily have to suffer until they have fulfilled the desired satisfaction and have been purified by suffering; now, if the prayers of the Church only weaken and alleviate that suffering, instead of shortening the period of time that souls must pass in Purgatory, they (the prayers) prolong it and therefore are less useful than harmful. Does this not, of course, overturn the fundamental idea of the dogma of the prayers for the dead?

III. – If we now turn our attention to the non-essential part of the Roman doctrine concerning Purgatory, being theological opinions we find that it differs much more from the doctrine of the Orthodox Church on prayer for the dead, though on issues of little importance judging by their intimate meaning. Let us mention the two most remarkable:

1) The Orthodox Church teaches there is no intermediate class after death between those who are saved and go to heaven, and those who are condemned, and go to Hades; there is not a particular intermediate place where souls go who did penance before death and are subject to the prayers of the Church; all those souls go to Hades, where they can only be freed by its prayers. [6] Most Roman theologians consider Purgatory as a special intermediary place between heaven and hell, and sometimes placed in the vicinity thereof, in the interior of the earth, sometimes close to that one, sometimes in the air. There are others, however, who see in purgatory, not a place apart, but a particular state of souls, and recognize that the souls in this state can undergo their temporal punishment and be purified even where are contained those condemned to eternal punishment (that is to say, to hell); thus, there can be found in the same prison inmates sentenced to temporary imprisonment and prisoners condemned forever. (7)

2) The Orthodox Church strongly rejects the teaching of a Purgatorial fire, in the truest sense of the word, which cleanses the soul. (8) A great number of Roman theologians consider this fire as real and material (this being the almost universal belief of the laity of the Roman confession), and to garner proof of their teaching they attempt to collect from the Holy Scriptures and from the writings of the ancient Doctors of the Church references that seem to refer to such a fire (9). Others, however, understand the fire of Purgatory in a figurative sense, for spiritual torment, and therefore cite in their treaties on the subject similar evidence either from the word of God, or the writings of the Fathers, adding that the ancient Doctors themselves were of varied opinions on the fire (10). It would therefore be superfluous even to refute the evidence given. It is finally noted that in general their church has not determined precisely what the fire of Purgatory is, if it is material or not, and therefore it does not belong to faith to understand it in one way or another (11).

We will say nothing of other opinions concerning Purgatory, for example, how long a soul remains, and if they are all suffer the same space of time for the same penalties; what penalties they face; if they are more stringent than those of the present life and lighter than those of hell; if souls in purgatory pray for themselves and for us who are still  in this world; if they give themselves up to the practice of good works, etc., etc. All these opinions have little value even to theologians of Rome and few seriously engaged themselves in answering them (12). (Source) h/t Hieromonk Enoch

Notes from Metropolitan Macarius of Moscow’s “Orthodox Dogmatic Theology”, Volume 2, 1857, §259. pp. 463-467

1. Perrone. Praelectiones theologicae. Vol. III. 308-310. Louvain, 1839; Feier. Institutiones Theologiae Dogmaticae. VII. R. 41-47; Cursus Theologiae Completus VII. P. 1604 et squ; Liebermann. Institutiones Theologiae. V. Paris, 1839. P. 406-413
2. The Confession of the Orthodox Faith, Dogmatic Epistle of the Eastern Patriarchs, Part 1, Response 64.
3. At the Council of Florence this doctrine was expressed as: “Si vere poenitentes in charitate Dei decesserint, antequam dignis poenitentiae fructibus de commissis satisfecerint et omissis: eorum animas poenis purgatorii post mortem purgari, et, ut a poenis hujusmodi releventur, prodesse eis fidelium suffragia, missarum scilicet sacrifica, orationes….” (In Definit. Fidei.) [“If true penitents do depart in the love of God, but, before they make satisfaction by fruits worthy of repentance for things committed and omitted, their souls are cleansed after death by the penalties of purgatory, and, they are relieved from the pains of this sort by the suffrages of the faithful, that is to by the Sacrifice of the Mass, prayers…”]
4. Orthodox Dogmatic Theology, Vol. 2. §226-228, Concerning Penance and so-called “Indulgences”
5. Orthodox Confession, Response 66, Dogmatic Epistle of the Eastern Patriarchs
6. Orthodox Confession, Response 64, Dogmatic Epistle of the Eastern Patriarchs
7. Cursus Theologia Completus. T. VII. P. 1607; Feier. Institutiones Theologiae Dogmaticae VII. P. 42; Liebermann. Institutiones Theologiae. Paris, 1839. V> $!#
8. Orthodox Confession, Response 66, Dogmatic Epistle of the Eastern Patriarchs
9. Cursus Theologiae Completus. Locus citatus.
10. Perrone. Praelectiones theologicae. Vol.III. P.310-318,323,327; Klee. Manuel de l’histoire des dogmatiques. T.II.Paris, 1848. P.474

11. Bellarmin. De purgatorio. Liber II. S. 11 [Bellarmine. About purgatory. Book II, Chapter 11].
12. Feier. Institutiones Theologiae dogmaticae VII. P.42-43; Cursus Theologiae completus VII. P.1068-1612.

On St. Columba and the Married Couple

St. Adamnan of Iona ca. 624-704

When the Saint [Columba of Iona] was living on the Rechrean island, a certain man of humble birth came to him and complained of his wife, who, as he said, so hated him, that she would on no account allow him to come near her for marriage rights. The saint on hearing this, sent for the wife, and, so far as he could, began to reprove her on that account, saying: “Why, O woman, dost thou endeavour to withdraw thy flesh from thyself, while the Lord says, ‘They shall be two in one flesh’? Wherefore the flesh of thy husband is thy flesh.” She answered and said, “Whatever thou shalt require of me I am ready to do, however hard it may be, with this single exception, that thou dost not urge me in any way to sleep in one bed with Lugne. I do not refuse to perform every duty at home, or, if thou dost.command me, even to pass over the seas, or to live in some monastery for women.” The saint then said, “What thou dost propose cannot be lawfully done, for thou art bound by the law of the husband as long as thy husband liveth, for it would be impious to separate those whom God has lawfully joined together.” Immediately after these words he added: “This day let us three, namely, the husband and his wife and myself, join in prayer to the Lord and in fasting.” But the woman replied: “I know it is not impossible for thee to obtain from God, when thou askest them, those things that seem to us either difficult, or even impossible.” It is unnecessary to say more. The husband and wife agreed to fast with the saint that day, and the following night the saint spent sleepless in prayer for them. Next day he thus addressed the wife in presence of her husband, and said to her: “O woman, art thou still ready to-day, as thou saidst yesterday, to go away to a convent of women?” “I know now,” she answered, “that thy prayer to God for me hath been heard; for that man whom I hated yesterday, I love today; for my heart hath been changed last night in some unknown way–from hatred to love.” Why need we linger over it? From that day to the hour of death, the soul of the wife was firmly cemented in affection to her husband, so that she no longer refused those mutual matrimonial rights which she was formerly unwilling to allow. (St. Adamnan, Life of St. Columba, Chap. 62)

On Keeping Peace Within the Local Church

Once, an Orthodox clergyman from abroad asked [St. Paisios] about a difficulty he had encountered. His bishop put halls under the churches for dancing and other anti-traditional activities. The Christians in his diocese, ill-at-ease, had fled to a schismatic church. The Elder’s response was, “If you want to help the people, you shouldn’t take what your bishop is doing lightly. That’s just the kind of behavior that makes people leave the Church. I’m not saying you should break communion with him and cause a schism, or that you should speak against him publicly. But you shouldn’t praise him either.”

With his love, prayer and discretion, the elder knew when to speak and how to act to quietly help the Mother Church, avoiding extremes and healing wounds that afflict the body of the Church and scandalize the faithful. (Elder Paisios of Mount Athos by Hieromonk Isaac, p. 665) 

On Baptism and the Holy Spirit

St. Athanasius the Great ca. 297-373

For as the faith in the Triad, which has been delivered to us, joins us to God; and as he who takes anything away from the Triad, and is baptized in the name of the Father alone, or in the name of the Son alone, or in the Father and the Son without the Holy Spirit, receives nothing, but remains ineffective and uninitiated, both himself and he who is supposed to initiate him (for the rite of initiation is in the Triad); so he who divides the Son from the Father, or who reduces the Spirit to the level of the creatures, has neither the Son nor the Father, but is without God, worse than an unbeliever, and anything rather than a Christian. And justly so. For as baptism, which is given in Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, is one; and as there is one faith in the Triad (as the Apostle said); so the holy Triad, being identical with Itself and united within Itself, has in It nothing which belongs to things originate. This is the indivisible unity of the Triad; and faith therein is one. But if, from the new discovery you Tropici have made, it is not so; if you have dreamed dreams of calling the Holy Spirit a creature — then you no longer have one faith and one baptism, but two, one in the Father and the Son, another in an angel who is a creature. There is no security or truth left you. For what communion can there be between that which is originate and that which creates ? What unity between the lower creatures and the Word who created them? Knowing this, the blessed Paul does not divide the Triad as you do; but, teaching Its unity, when he wrote to the Corinthians concerning things spiritual, he finds the source of all things in one God, the Father, saying: ‘There are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit. And there are diversities of ministrations, but the same Lord. And there are diversities of workings, but the same God who worketh all things in all.’ The gifts which the Spirit divides to each are bestowed from the Father through the Word. (Letters to Serration, Epistle 1.30)

On the Holy Spirit in Holy Scripture

St. Gregory the Theologian ca. 329-389

But, he says, who in ancient or modern times ever worshipped the Spirit? Who ever prayed to Him? Where is it written that we ought to worship Him, or to pray to Him, and whence have you derived this tenet of yours? We will give the more perfect reason hereafter, when we discuss the question of the unwritten; for the present it will suffice to say that it is the Spirit in Whom we worship, and in Whom we pray. For Scripture says, God is a Spirit, and they that worship Him must worship Him in Spirit and in truth. And again,—We know not what we should pray for as we ought; but the Spirit Itself makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered; and I will pray with the Spirit and I will pray with the understanding also; —that is, in the mind and in the Spirit. Therefore to adore or to pray to the Spirit seems to me to be simply Himself offering prayer or adoration to Himself…

Over and over again you turn upon us the silence of Scripture. But that it is not a strange doctrine, nor an afterthought, but acknowledged and plainly set forth both by the ancients and many of our own day, is already demonstrated by many persons who have treated of this subject, and who have handled the Holy Scriptures, not with indifference or as a mere pastime, but have gone beneath the letter and looked into the inner meaning, and have been deemed worthy to see the hidden beauty, and have been irradiated by the light of knowledge…Since, then, there is so much difference in terms and things, why are you such a slave to the letter, and a partisan of the Jewish wisdom, and a follower of syllables at the expense of facts?

The New manifested the Son, and suggested the Deity of the Spirit. Now the Spirit Himself dwells among us, and supplies us with a clearer demonstration of Himself. For it was not safe, when the Godhead of the Father was not yet acknowledged, plainly to proclaim the Son; nor when that of the Son was not yet received to burden us further (if I may use so bold an expression) with the Holy Ghost; lest perhaps people might, like men loaded with food beyond their strength, and presenting eyes as yet too weak to bear it to the sun’s light, risk the loss even of that which was within the reach of their powers; but that by gradual additions, and, as David says, Goings up, and advances and progress from glory to glory, the Light of the Trinity might shine upon the more illuminated. For this reason it was, I think, that He gradually came to dwell in the Disciples, measuring Himself out to them according to their capacity to receive Him, at the beginning of the Gospel, after the Passion, after the Ascension, making perfect their powers, being breathed upon them, and appearing in fiery tongues. And indeed it is little by little that He is declared by Jesus, as you will learn for yourself if you will read more carefully. I will ask the Father, He says, and He will send you another Comforter, even the spirit of Truth. This He said that He might not seem to be a rival God, or to make His discourses to them by another authority. Again, He shall send Him, but it is in My Name. He leaves out the I will ask, but He keeps the Shall send, then again, I will send,—His own dignity. Then shall come, the authority of the Spirit.

You see lights breaking upon us, gradually; and the order of Theology, which it is better for us to keep, neither proclaiming things too suddenly, nor yet keeping them hidden to the end. For the former course would be unscientific, the latter atheistical; and the former would be calculated to startle outsiders, the latter to alienate our own people…

This, then, is my position with regard to these things, and I hope it may be always my position, and that of whosoever is dear to me; to worship God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Ghost, Three Persons, One Godhead, undivided in honour and glory and substance and kingdom, as one of our own inspired philosophers not long departed showed. Let him not see the rising of the Morning Star, as Scripture says, nor the glory of its brightness, who is otherwise minded, or who follows the temper of the times, at one time being of one mind and of another at another time, and thinking unsoundly in the highest matters. For if He is not to be worshipped, how can He deify me by Baptism? But if He is to be worshipped, surely He is an Object of adoration, and if an Object of adoration He must be God; the one is linked to the other, a truly golden and saving chain. And indeed from the Spirit comes our New Birth, and from the New Birth our new creation, and from the new creation our deeper knowledge of the dignity of Him from Whom it is derived.

This, then, is what may be said by one who admits the silence of Scripture. But now the swarm of testimonies shall burst upon you from which the Deity of the Holy Ghost shall be shown to all who are not excessively stupid, or else altogether enemies to the Spirit, to be most clearly recognized in Scripture. Look at these facts:—Christ is born; the Spirit is His Forerunner. He is baptized; the Spirit bears witness. He is tempted; the Spirit leads Him up. He works miracles; the Spirit accompanies them. He ascends; the Spirit takes His place. What great things are there in the idea of God which are not in His power? What titles which belong to God are not applied to Him, except only Unbegotten and Begotten? For it was needful that the distinctive properties of the Father and the Son should remain peculiar to Them, lest there should be confusion in the Godhead Which brings all things, even disorder itself, into due arrangement and good order. Indeed I tremble when I think of the abundance of the titles, and how many Names they outrage who fall foul of the Spirit. He is called the Spirit of God, the Spirit of Christ, the Mind of Christ, the Spirit of The Lord, and Himself The Lord, the Spirit of Adoption, of Truth, of Liberty; the Spirit of Wisdom, of Understanding, of Counsel, of Might, of Knowledge, of Godliness, of the Fear of God. For He is the Maker of all these, filling all with His Essence, containing all things, filling the world in His Essence, yet incapable of being comprehended in His power by the world; good, upright, princely, by nature not by adoption; sanctifying, not sanctified; measuring, not measured; shared, not sharing; filling, not filled; containing, not contained; inherited, glorified, reckoned with the Father and the Son; held out as a threat; the Finger of God; fire like God; to manifest, as I take it, His consubstantiality); the Creator-Spirit, Who by Baptism and by Resurrection creates anew; the Spirit That knows all things, That teaches, That blows where and to what extent He lists; That guides, talks, sends forth, separates, is angry or tempted; That reveals, illumines, quickens, or rather is the very Light and Life; That makes Temples; That deifies; That perfects so as even to anticipate Baptism, yet after Baptism to be sought as a separate gift; That does all things that God does; divided into fiery tongues; dividing gifts; making Apostles, Prophets, Evangelists, Pastors, and Teachers; understanding manifold, clear, piercing, undefiled, unhindered, which is the same thing as Most wise and varied in His actions; and making all things clear and plain; and of independent power, unchangeable, Almighty, all-seeing, penetrating all spirits that are intelligent, pure, most subtle (the Angel Hosts I think); and also all prophetic spirits and apostolic in the same manner and not in the same places; for they lived in different places; thus showing that He is uncircumscript.

They who say and teach these things, and moreover call Him another Paraclete in the sense of another God, who know that blasphemy against Him alone cannot be forgiven, and who branded with such fearful infamy Ananias and Sapphira for having lied to the Holy Ghost, what do you think of these men? Do they proclaim the Spirit God, or something else? Now really, you must be extraordinarily dull and far from the Spirit if you have any doubt about this and need some one to teach you. So important then, and so vivid are His Names. Why is it necessary to lay before you the testimony contained in the very words? And whatever in this case also is said in more lowly fashion, as that He is Given, Sent, Divided; that He is the Gift, the Bounty, the Inspiration, the Promise, the Intercession for us, and, not to go into any further detail, any other expressions of the sort, is to be referred to the First Cause, that it may be shown from Whom He is, and that men may not in heathen fashion admit Three Principles. For it is equally impious to confuse the Persons with the Sabellians, or to divide the Natures with the Arians. (Oration 31.12, 21, 26-30)

On Living in the Spirit

St. Philaret of Moscow 1782-1867

There are some even among Christians, to whom the gifts of the Holy Ghost seem so strange, that although they dare not entirely reject them, they nevertheless refer them to other persons and to other times, and without acknowledging the necessity of being “born again,” content themselves either with a vain hope in the merits of the Mediator, or even with their own righteousness. Let us not be deceived by the tempting aspect which worldly honesty generally bears. To be no enemy to faith, to do no crying injustice, to make an occasional display of charity, to avoid pernicious excesses, in short, to fulfil merely the most indispensable and outward duties of a man and of a member of society, is but to whiten one’s sepulchre, which nevertheless remains “within full of dead men’s bones” ;” it is to pluck the “leaves of the tree of life”, given for the “healing of the nations”, but not to “eat its fruit”, which should feed the Christian; it is to have “the righteousness of the scribes and pharisees”, which does not lead into the Kingdom of God.  But to penetrate into the recesses of one’s own heart, from which “proceed evil thoughts” and there to establish purity and holiness, “to keep the whole law “and not to “offend in one point” in order not to be “guilty of all”; who is the man, that left to his own understanding and powers, will boast of being able to do this? It is God alone Who “creates in man a clean heart, and renews a right spirit within him.”

We must be born again in order to see the Kingdom of God. On the other hand, although the incorruptible seed of this heavenly birth was brought down unto earth by the death of the God-Man Jesus, still we cannot leave all the rest to the power of His merits, however unlimited they be. How is this? Did God then deliver up His Son as a sacrifice not only to His own justice, but also to our ingratitude? Was the reality of the Sacrifice of the Cross made known to us in order that we might remain the more thoughtless and inactive? To think thus is not to exalt the merits of Christ, but rather to lower them, and to rest on them with the same pernicious thoughtlessness as once the Jews “rested on the law.” If we have been baptized in Christ, then let us, in accordance with that confession, manifest in ourselves the fruit of baptism, not by water only, but by the Spirit, for Christ “baptizes with the Holy Ghost and with fire.”

Finally, when the Divine gift of the Spirit appears to us to be but seldom manifested, let us not on that account infer that it does not exist for all. It is for us all as long as all are for it. If its presence is no longer perceived, then it is either because though we have eyes yet we do not see ; or is it indeed because the question, “when the Son of Man cometh, shall He find faith on the earth ?” is near its solution, and the world itself is come to its last gasp? The universe knows what became of it when God said in His wrath, “My Spirit shall not always strive with man, for he also is flesh.” Then was it that not only lawless mankind, but all creatures subject not of themselves to vanity were destroyed by the revenging flood. One more such threat,— and there comes the fiery deluge of the Last Judgment. But as long, Christians, as God preserves our existence, and the welfare of His Church, so long need we not doubt that the Spirit of God abideth in it. Even as at the time of the creation of the world, “the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters,” so is it moving even now, during the continued restoration of man, upon the deep of our disordered being, and by its quickening power ensures his regeneration by grace. Let us yield ourselves unto His Almighty will; let us turn our thoughts and desires from the flesh and the world unto Him; let us, out of the depth of our fallen nature cry unto the Holy One, that He should come unto us, and by the grace acquired through the mediation of the Redeemer, should cleanse, enlighten, regenerate, sanctify, and save our souls. Amen. (Sermon XIII, On the Gifts of the Holy Ghost)

On How the Holy Spirit is Sent

St. Gregory Palamas ca. 1296-1359

A short while ago, with the strong eyes of faith, we beheld Christ ascending, no less clearly than those accounted worthy to be His eye-witnesses. Nor are we less favored than they. “Blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed”, says the Lord (Jn. 20:29), referring to those who’ve found assurance through hearing, and see by faith. Recently we saw Christ lifted up from the ground bodily (Acts 1:9). Now, through the Holy Spirit sent by Him to His disciples, we see how far Christ ascended and to what dignity He carried up the nature He assumed from us. Clearly He went up as high as the place from which the Spirit sent by Him descended. He Who spoke through the prophet Joel showed us whence the Spirit comes, saying “I will pour out My Spirit upon all flesh” (Joel 2:28), and to Him David addressed the words, “Thou sendest forth Thy Spirit; they are created: and Thou renewest the face of the earth” (Ps. 104:30). It follows that at His ascension Christ went up to the Father on high, as far as His Fatherly bosom, from which comes the Spirit. Having been shown, even in His human form, to share the Father’s glory, Christ now sent forth the Spirit Who comes from the Father and is sent by Him from Heaven. But when we hear that the Spirit was sent by the Father and the Son, this does not mean that the Spirit has no part in Their greatness, for He is not just sent, but also Himself sends and consents to be sent.

This is clearly shown by Christ’s words spoken through the prophet, “Mine hand hath laid the foundation of the earth and stretched out the heavens, and now the Lord God, and His Spirit, hath sent Me” (cf. Isa. 48:13-16). Again, speaking through the same prophet He says, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me; because the Lord hath anointed Me to preach good tidings unto the meek” (Isa. 61:1). The Holy Spirit is not just sent, but Himself sends the Son, Who is sent by the Father. He is therefore shown to be the same as the Father and the Son in nature, power, operation and honor. (Homily 24, 1-2) 

On Common Mistakes Within Orthodoxy

Righteous Seraphim of Platina icon from Uncut Mountain Supply

Hieromonk Seraphim of Platina 1934-1982

One big mistake we can make about our Orthodoxy is being too loose, too “liberal” about it. This comes from ignorance. Some Orthodox people think that the Orthodox Church is nothing more than the Russian or Greek equivalent of the Episcopalian Church; with such an idea of course, one is not going to try very hard to bring anyone to the Orthodox Faith. This is the error of the ecumenical movement, which arranges meetings and conferences with non-Orthodox Churches, not with the aim of bringing them to the true Faith of Orthodoxy, but on a basis of worldly friendship, in order to speak of the secondary things which we have common with them, and to gloss over the differences which separate us and an awareness of which make them eager to accept the Orthodox Faith. This is not to say that all meetings between Orthodox and non-Orthodox Christians, even on an official level, are wrong — but only that as ordinarily practiced these meetings are not an Orthodox witness to the non-Orthodox, as they should be.

With all respect to the views of the non-Orthodox, we are not living our Orthodox Faith rightly if we do not make others somehow aware of of the differentness of Orthodoxy. This does not need to mean arguments and polemics about aspects of the Faith, although these might arise after others have become interested in Orthodoxy. The very way one leads one’s Orthodox life, if one is serious about fulfilling the commitment of being an Orthodox Christian, is already a witness to others…

Yet another mistake made by contemporary Orthodox is what one might call the “fortress mentality”: we have the truth of Orthodoxy, and the times are so bad that our chief activity now is to defend it against the enemies on every side. Often this mentality goes overboard in finding “betrayers” and “heretics”  in the midst of Orthodox Christians themselves, and very often it is so concerned with its own “correctness” and the “incorrectness” of others that is has very little strength left to preach the Gospel of salvation even to the Orthodox, let alone to those outside the Church.

Now, Orthodoxy is indeed the correct teaching and the correct worship of God, and this is why this temptation is so easy to fall into. But we must remember that Christ Himself was constantly accused of being “incorrect” by the chief priests and pharisees of His time, and we have to remember that correctness in itself is nothing, and can even cause us to lose our soul, if we do not have first of all something much more fundamental and deep — the “one thing needful” for or salvation. This “one thing” might be called “living faith,” and it is inseparable from something which is all too lacking in the Church today — evangelical fervor. If we have found the true Faith after our own often arduous search, we cannot help but want others to share it. (The Orthodox Word 2002 no. 226 p. 247-248, 250-251)

On the Ancient Faith

St. Tikhon of Moscow 1865-1925

Let not our quest be to overthrow what is old, that which has been hallowed by the testament of the ages; let our earthly sojourn be dedicated in agreement with the eternal truth of Providence. If even the customs of our daily life are so near and dear to us, then let the holy customs of our faith and church life, the very Christianity announced by Christ, the ancient, Orthodox order of life, be for us a hundredfold more dear… Is it not for the support of the old order of church life, this so-to-say spiritual “conservatism,” to which the instructive words of [the] apostolic reading profoundly appeal: But continue thou in things which thou hast learned and hast been assured of, knowing of whom thou hast learned them (II Tim. 3:14)?

…The holy Orthodox Church also keeps the apostolic testament. Having shattered abuses raised against it over the course of long centuries by its enemies, up to now it has kept and maintained the holy Faith as passed on by the holy Apostles and teachers to the generations following them. Because of this, lovers of innovation quite often accuse it of being ossified and lifeless. Who of us has not heard similar reproaches? But do they not return upon the heads of the accusers? Have not we, who reside here, often come to see how heterodox people, fed up by constant innovations in faith, are drawn to the universal Orthodox Church and strive to find in it sound and immovable foundations on which they can pacify their restless souls? (The Orthodox Word 2008 no. 262, pp. 245-246)

On St. Kevin of Ireland and the Aerial Demons

How St. Kevin of Glendalough [ca. 498-618] did battle with demons, and by the Mercy of God, Saved the Soul of an Undeserving Man, by God’s Grace

A certain cruel soldier had frequently perpetrated robberies among those mountain ridges. He had never done a good action but one, which was praying each day, that through St. Kevin’s merits, his soul might be saved. On a particular occasion, being surrounded by those who were in pursuit of him, he was put to death, and afterwards cut to pieces. An Angel of the Lord then appeared to [St.] Kevin saying: “A certain wretched man, who hath daily invoked thee to ward off danger from his soul, is slain on this day. Do you, therefore, act valiantly in the Lord’s name, and follow the demons who drag his soul to torments. For, although his body is destroyed, yet through the power of God, you shall snatch his soul from destruction.” Then, the holy Abbot felt comforted. Guided by the Angel, he was taken up from the earth to the higher regions of air, where he remained from the ninth hour to the following day, engaged in a contest with demons. In fine, through the Mercy of God, he release the wretched man’s soul from their power. Meantime, not knowing the cause of their holy Abbot’s absence, his monks felt sorrowful, on finding their venerable superior missing. When he returned to them, on the following day, he said: “O my brethren, bury the body of that culprit in your cemetery, for on his account, I ascended towards heaven. His soul is now liberated from the demons, and is at rest in God’s presence.” The monks did as they were commanded, while admiring those wonders wrought by the Almighty, through his holy servant. (J. O’Hanlon, “Lives of the Irish Saints” Volume 6, pp. 62-63)

H/T to Fr. Enoch

On the Responsibility for the Scarcity of Preaching

St. Theophan the Recluse 1815-1894

I agree with you that the priests must speak with the faithful more often and converse with them both inside and outside the church. I do not agree, though, that, if this does not happen, the parishioners lack spiritual food. But even in that case, if I had to blame someone, I would blame the flock more than the pastors! For, which priest would overlook his parishioners’ quest for additional and more specialized teaching? You yourselves avoid the priests and, if you happen to meet one, you do not ask him about matters of the faith. This is why they also do not address such subjects and avoid teaching you in church, lest they become burdensome and alienate you.

I am not justifying the priests who do not teach and preach. It is their duty to be burning with divine aspirations and talk to the faithful, while the duty of the faithful is to eagerly embrace the teaching. I am only pointing out that you also bear responsibility for the scarcity of preaching. (Preaching Another Christ: An Orthodox View of Evangelicalism, p. 41)

On Secular Takeovers of the Church

St. Vladimir the Great ca. 958-1015

If anyone breaks my rule, whether he be my son or a servant, or anyone of my race or one of the boyars, and interferes in the ecclesiastical affairs of the Metropolitan, which I gave into the hands of the Metropolitan, and of the Church, and of the bishops in all the cities in accordance with the Canons, he will be judged and punished. If anyone tries to seize the judgment of the Church, he will be deprived of the name of Christian, and may all such be cursed by the Holy Fathers. (quoted V. Moss, “Church and State in Kievan Rus’. excerpted from Archbishop Seraphim (Sobolev), Russkaia Ideologia (The Russian Ideology), St. Petersburg, 1992, pp. 83-84)

On Praying with the Eastern Heterodox Churches

Great-Martyr St. Euphemia who approved the Council of Chalcedon visits St. Paisios the Hagiorite

Patriarch of Antioch Theodore Balsamon ca. 12th cent.

Question: Shall one perform priestly rites or pray together without danger with heretics, namely Jacobites and Nestorians, in their churches or even our own, or might one share a common table with them, or perform sponsorship at holy baptism, or perform memorial services of the departed, or commune of the Divine Sanctified Elements with them? For the areas difficulties create many such things, and I seek what one must do.

“Do not give the holy things to the dogs,” our Lord and God has said, nor “cast pearls before swine.” Indeed, on this account account Canon 64 of the Holy Apostles, the heralds of God, also states, “if any clergyman or layman might enter an assembly of the Jews or heretics to pray, let him be defrocked and excommunicated.” Canon 33 of the Council in Laodicea, but indeed also 6 and 34, states the following: “Concerning not permitting heretics to enter into a house of God while they remain in heresy,” because one must not pray with a heretic or schismatic, “a Christian must not abandon Christ’s martyrs and depart for false martyrs, namely, heretical ones or those that the aforementioned heretics produced. For these are estranged from God. Therefore, let those departing to them be anathematized.” Indeed, on this account we also decided that both clergy and laity are subject not only to excommunication and defrocking when they pray together in a church of Orthodox or heretics or whenever they pray together as clergy, or even share a meal together, but also shall they be punished in a more severe way, according to the provisions of the cited divine canons. For the difficulties of areas, and the increase of heretics, did not change the soundness of the Orthodox Faith. (Canonical Questions of the Most Holy Patriarch of Alexandria, Lord Markos, and the Answers for them by the Most Holy Patriarch of Antioch, Lord Theodoros Balsamon: Question 15. Viscuso, “A Guide to the Church Under Islam” pp. 82-84)

On False Ecumenism and Authentic Orthodox Mission

Fr. Peter Alban Heers

The one and only way out of the dead end of this ecumenistic ecclesiology and mission – which has done more to split the Orthodox Church than unite Her – is the path of Orthodox mission.

If Protestant mission led us into ecumenism, Orthodox mission will lead us out: tried and tested apostolic and patristic mission, true, uncompromising, ascetic, otherworldly, and sacrificial, which aims at heavenly, not temporal, ends. Mission in the spirit and tradition of Apostles Peter and Paul, Ss. Cyril and Methodios, St. Stephen of Perm, St. Kosmas Aitolos, St. Innocent of Alaska, and, in our own times, Blessed Father Cosmas of Grigoriou and Zaire and the ever‐memorable Bishop Nectarios of Madagascar.

To such Orthodox witness there can be no objection on the part of anyone. Such an Orthodox witness can unite all Orthodox in the realization of an authentic catholic vision of mission, where we all, according to the words of the Apostle Peter, will be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh a reason of the hope that is in you (1 Peter 3:15).

With such a spiritual and authentically ecclesiastical Mission we will be able to call all – heterodox and all religious believers – into the unique Ark of salvation, the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church, which is in truth the very Body of the Resurrected Lord Jesus Christ. (The Missionary Origins of Modern Ecumenism: Milestones leading up to 1920)

On the Cleansing Power of the Fear of Death

Pope St. Gregory the Dialogist ca. 540-604

[S]ometime the only fear of death doth purge the souls of just men from their smaller sins, as you and I have often heard of a certain holy man that was very much afraid when he came to die: and yet, after he was dead, appeared to his disciples in a white stole, reporting to them in what excellent manner he was received, when he departed out of this world. (Dialogues Bk. 4 Chap. 46)

On the Middle State of Souls in Patristic and Byzantine Literature

The Forerunner Preaching in Hades

“To Sleep, Perchance to Dream”: The Middle State of Souls in Patristic and Byzantine Literature

by Nicholas Constans (Fr. Maximos of Simonopetra)  Senior Research Scholar at Holy Cross Greek Orthodox School of Theology, in Brookline, Mass. He holds a Ph.D. in Patristics and Historical Theology from the Catholic University of America, in Washington, D.C. He was a professor of theology at Harvard Divinity School, after which he became a monk at Simonopetra (Mt. Athos).

This study is concerned with Patristic and Byzantine beliefs about the immediate postmortem phase of existence, understood as a liminal, intermediate phase between death and resurrection. Never precisely defined, this para-eschatological state appears as an attenuated, semiconscious mode of existence, of indefinite relation to time and space. It is often a phase of self-discovery, or of being self-discovered, in which one’s true character is uncovered and revealed. As a mode of self-confrontation and encounter, it is frequently seen as a form of judgment anticipatory of a future resurrection and a final judgment.

read the paper here

On the Tonsure of Muscovite Priests in the 17th Century

Archdeacon Paul of Aleppo 1627-1669

On the second and third day of the festival, our Lord the Patriarch said mass in the upper church, after they had lighted up the stove from the preceding evening, and ordained Priests and Deacons: for when the report spread over the country, that the Patriarch of Antioch was conferring the sacerdotal dignity, persons began to flock to him from every hollow vale, bringing presents of fish, butter, honey, etc., accompanied with… petitions, praying that he would grant them this favor. These new Priests used very much to excite our admiration; for without a moment’s delay, they clothed themselves in the sacerdotal dress, which is a cloth cassock with a broad-laced collar, and, shaving a large circle on the top of the head, plaited the hair over their foreheads., and drew it behind their ears, as the women do. The only part of their hair which they shave, is on the crown of the head; the rest they allow to grow: and by this slight change they appeared, suddenly, as though they were Priests of many years standing: for the Muscovites are exceedingly quick in their apprehension of any thing that is taught them. (Excerpt From: Paul, of Aleppo, Archdeacon, fl. 1654-1666. “The Travels of Macarius : Patriarch of Antioch.” iBooks)

On the Sin of Concealing the True Faith

St. Meletios Galesiotes ca. 1209-1286

If anyone endowed with knowledge and well versed in the truth in some way conceals it and does not proclaim and state it openly, and if he does not cleave to the Divine and Sacred Canons or guard the laws handed down by the Fathers, he is rightly subject to… punishment. He who keeps silent about the truth conceals Christ in a tomb. As a certain Father has said before and another also says, to keep silent about the right Faith is truly a great danger, which leads to eternal punishment and the pit of perdition. It is not right, it is not lawful, it is not fitting for those of right belief to be silent at all when those eager to promote deception and error violate the laws of God. Where God is at stake, says one of the great Fathers [St. Gregory the Theologian], and the forces of harm and destruction are aimed directly against Him, what faithful Christian can keep silent? Who can be at peace at all? For silence betokens acquiescence. (Against the Latins, Discourse X)

On the Purpose of Asceticism

St. Maximus the Confessor ca. 580-662

Asceticism, and the toils that go with it, was devised simply in order to ward off deception, which established itself through sensory perception, it is not [as if] the virtues have been newly introduced from the outside, for they inhere in us from creation, as hath already been said. Therefore, when deception is completely expelled, the soul immediately exhibits the splendor of its natural virtue. (Disputation with Pyrrhus, 95)

On the Church Fathers and the Protestant Reformers

Rock and Sand published by New Rome Press

Fr. Josiah Trenham

Calvin read and quoted many Holy Fathers. He admired St. John Chrysostom’s biblical commentaries and once had resolved to translate them into French. He was a devotee of St. Augustine, and quoted Ss. Cyprian and Athanasius and others frequently. However, his attitude towards them was not an Orthodox one. Here are his words,

“Certainly, Origen, Tertullian, Basil, Chrysostom and others like them would never have spoken as they do, if they had followed what judgment God had given them. But from desire to please the wise of the world, or at least from fear of annoying them, they mixed the earthly with the heavenly. That was a hateful thing, totally to cast man down, and repugnant to the common judgment of the flesh. These good persons seek a means more in conformity with human understanding: that is to concede I know of not what to free will, and allow some natural virtue to man; but meanwhile the purity of the doctrine is profaned.”

Here is Calvin in all his arrogance and theological overconfidence. His accusations against the likes of Ss. Chrysostom and Basil the Great are that they were too worldly, too submissive to worldly powers, and not willing enough to defy merely human judgments.

These charges are ironic in that they apply far more to Calvin himself and the Protestant Reformers than to the Holy Fathers he attacks. Chrysostom and Basil were ascetic monks who were other-worldly, and show Calvin as still quite fixed to the earth by comparison. Who was the one who rejected his tonsure and married? And that a widow? Who was the one so irascible that he could not bear to be contradicted? Who was the one who received a large salary from the state? Who was the one complicit in the execution of heretics? Who was the one who died in the comfort of his own home with the approbation of the wise of Geneva, instead of in harsh exile with the opposition of emperor? That the Holy Fathers refused to articulate Calvin’s doctrine of predestination is hardly a sign of complicity with worldly men, but rather a refusal to articulate what does not have the support of the Holy Scriptures and the consensus patrum.

…Were not the 318 Nicene Fathers bishops? Did they not believe that the Eucharist was the very Body and Blood of Jesus Christ? Did they not celebrate the liturgy, honor monasticism, venerate relics, make holy pilgrimage, express devotion to the Holy Theotokos and Ever-Virgin Mary, pray for the departed, invoke the Saints, obey sacred canons, and read Scripture in accord with the tradition? The answer, of course, to these questions is “Yes”.

And so, the Reformers and their descendants have this question to answer: Why do they demand adherence to the Trinitarian positions of the Holy Fathers while explicitly or implicitly degrading these same Holy Fathers by their Protestant criticisms? How can Protestant teachers be consistent in demanding adherence to the dogmas of Fathers of the early councils when these same Fathers believed the Holy Eucharist to be the very Body and Blood of Christ, worshipped liturgically, prayed to Saints, venerated the Mother of God, insisted on the governance of the church by bishops, and interceded for the repose of departed souls? Why accept the creeds of these four councils but reject their canons, something that the Fathers of the councils themselves explicitly forbade? This dilemma remains unsolved even for Protestants today. Protestants say they wish to preserve the fundamental teachings of Christianity, yet denigrate the lives of those Christians who articulated these fundamental teachings. (Rock and Sand: An Orthodox Appraisal of the Protestant Reformers and Their Teachings, pp. 131-134)

On Orthodoxy and Black Americans

“The United States of America, after many years of union and peace, after gigantic material and moral development, are separated into two hostile camps. The Northern States, guided by true reason and evangelical principles, persistently seek the abolition of the slavery of the blacks. The Southern States, blinded by a badly understood material interest, obstinately and anti-Christianly seek the perpetuation of slavery. This war of ideas and physical interests is prosecuted to desperation. Bloody battles are delivered, but victory until the present is doubtful, and the return of peace does not seem near. But if we cast a careful eye upon the wonderful events of this age, we shall be inclined to believe that those who contend so nobly for the most unquestionable and humane rights, will, God helping them, reach the object of their desires.” (The Oriental Star)

Morgan traveled to Constantinople with a letter from the Philadelphia Greek community, which supported his ordination and also said that if he failed to establish a Black Orthodox parish, he was welcome to serve as their assistant pastor. So Morgan arrived in Istanbul, and he was interviewed by Metropolitan Joachim of Pelagoneia, one of the few bishops of the Patriarchate who knew English. Metropolitan Joachim recommended that Morgan be baptized, chrismated, ordained, and then sent back to America to “carry the light of the Orthodox faith among his racial brothers.” And so, in August, Morgan was baptized in front of three thousand people, and on the Feast of the Dormition, he was ordained a priest. He took the name “Father Raphael” in place of Robert. The Ecumenical Patriarchate sent him back to America with vestments, liturgical books, a cross, and twenty pounds sterling. He was given the right to hear confessions, but the Holy Synod denied his request for an antimension and Holy Chrism.

  • St. Nikolai Velimirovich preached in English at a Black church in Harlem in the 1920’s:

Metropolitan Amphilochius (Radovich):His sense of apostolic responsibility for all people and all nations can be explained. It is a fact that he was nearly the first [Orthodox] Christian bishop who preached Christ, in English, in the 20s of the twentieth century, to African Americans in Manhattan, New York [at St.Phillip’s Church in Harlem]. (The Theanthropic Ethos of Holy Bishop Nikolai Velimirovich. [kindle version])

Archbishop Iakovos would later explain that it was an obligation to speak up that led him to Selma: “We have fought oppressive and repressive political regimes, based on Christian principles, for centuries… A Christian must cry out in indignation against all persecution. That’s what made me walk with Martin Luther King Jr. in Selma. We are all responsible, and must continue to speak out.”

On Unintentional Monophysitism

Disputations with Pyrrhus published by  St. Tikhon’s Monastery Press

St. Maximus the Confessor ca. 580-662

PYRRHUS: But those [who confess only one will] do not do so from an evil disposition or cunning, but only mean thereby to express the highest union.

MAXIMUS: If this be conceded to the Severans, then, taking advantage of this concession, they will say, not unreasonably, “We do not say ‘one nature’ from an evil disposition or cunning, but because we wish, just as you do by the expression ‘one will’, to manifest the Supreme Union [of God and man in Christ].” [*] For those who say what thou has just said lend weapons to them that oppose them, after the manner of David and Goliath. (The Disputation with Pyrrhus, 74-75)

[*] Translator’s Note: The attitude of St. Maximus is in clear contradiction to that found in the recent study Does Chalcedon Divide or Unite?: Towards a Convergence in Orthodox Christology. There, in the “Agreed Statements” held between Orthodox and so-called “Oriental” (i.e. Nestorian and Monophysite) churches at the Third Unofficial Consultation in Geneva, Switzerland, 16-21 August, 1970, a distinction is drawn between “the doctrinal definitions and canonical legislations of a Council, but also between the true intention of the dogmatic definition of a Council and the particular terminology in which it is expressed, which latter has less authority than the intention.” (Does Chalcedon Divide or Unite?, World Council of Churches, 1981. p. 10) 

It is worth recalling that St. Cyril initially does not use the term physis with the precision of the Antiochenes, but that he does subsequently move in this direction by accepting the Formula of Union. It might be argued in favor of the WCC study that St. John of Damascus does not refer to the Monophysites as heretics but only as schismatics. However, St. Maximus is quite clear in calling Monophysitism a heresy. This is because Monophysitism, in its Severan form, attempts to confess “two operations” without the underlying natures, a metaphysical impossibility. The Confessor is quite explicit in his accusations against Severus. According to the Confessor, Severus’ error is twofold: 1) he confuses hypostasis and nature and nevertheless calls the properties of each nature a really existent thing (Opuscule 2, PG 91:41C); and 2) that the attempt thus to distinguish two natural properties without their underlying natures is in fact “a real confusion of the real verities in Christ.” (Opuscule 2, PO 44A.) A little later on, referring both to Nestorius and Severus, the Confessor seems to interpret their “intentions” somewhat differently than the Geneva consultation: “Truly, this is a pair of evil and law-breaking men who would thus insanely and wickedly transgress the truth of correct dogmas in opposite [ways].” (Opuscule 2, PG 44AB).

On Female Deacons in the Ancient Church

Hieromonk Matthew Blastares ca. 14th cent. 

[W]omen deacons…fulfilled a certain ministry in the clergy. At present, they are almost entirely unknown. Except there are some who say that they served in the baptizing of women because it was not proper for these naked women who were baptized after puberty to be seen by the eyes of men. Others say that it was permissible for them to even enter the holy altar and to share the things of male deacons nearly equally with them. However, women deacons were later forbidden by the Fathers both to enter the altar and to practice the things of their ministry on account of the involuntary monthly flow. That the holy altar was formerly accessible to women is to be inferred from many other authorities and especially the funeral oration that the great Gregory the Theologian had made upon his sister (Homily 8). However, it does not appear plausible to me that a woman became a deacon of the Sacred and Bloodless Sacrifice, as there is no sound reason why women, who are not permitted to teach in public, should be raised to the rank of diaconate, whose work is to purify orally those unbelievers, that come forward for baptism.

Furthermore, the most ancient of the books in which the rites of all ordinations have been accurately recorded, also indicate that the age of a deaconess must be forty; that her schema must be monastic and perfect; that during her life, she must contend for virtue with the most excellent of men; and that as much as is solemnized in her ordination, short of a little, is also celebrated in the case of male deacons. Thus, she who draws herself to the sacred table, before its uplifted heights, is covered with a veil. After the exclamation, “The Divine Grace which heals infirmities,” she does not kneel, but only bows her head. The archpriest, who places his hand upon her, prays that she who seeks a chaste and seemly way of life fulfills the work of deaconess blamelessly, and in this way devotes herself to the holy temples. Indeed, the books do not permit her to minister the Undefiled Mysteries or to be entrusted with a fan as in the manner of male deacon. Next, the the diaconal orarion is placed around her neck under the veil by the archpriest, who brings its two ends together in front. During the time of Communion, she partakes of the Divine Mysteries after the male deacons. Then, she who receives the chalice from the hands of the archpriest distributes nothing, but immediately places it on the holy table. (An Alphabetical Collection of All Subjects That are Contained in the Sacred and Divine Canons, prepared and at the same time organized by Matthew, the least among Hieromonks. excerpted from Viscuso, “Sexuality, Marriage, and Celibacy in Byzantine Law” pp. 110-112)

On Orthodox Russia

Met. Anthony on Mt. Athos in 1920

Metropolitan Anthony Khrapovitsky 1863-1936

Russia is identified properly as an organism, as a people, as a powerful idea flowering through history. But what is our people in history and in its present circumstances? Is it an ethnic community? No. Russians define themselves before all else as a religious community, as a ecclesial community, which includes even Georgians and Greeks who are unable to speak the Russian language.

…It is clear that our people consider their spiritual forefathers not the ancient Russians, but the Greek Christians, and their enemies are our enemies. (Fr. J. Strickland, The Making of Holy Russia: The Orthodox Church and Russian Nationalism Before the Revolution pp. 129, 132)

On Third Marriages

The Unequal Marriage (1862) by Pukirev

Patriarch Theodore Balsamon ca. 12th

If a rural priest might perform a benediction of a third marriage, while knowing that it was a third marriage, may he be punished, or as a peasant shall he be deemed worthy of pardon?

The one ignorant of the fact, whoever he may be, is worthy of pardon in accordance with the laws. The one who is ignorant of the law is not pardoned. Since by the new legislation of the celebrated emperor Lord Konstantinos Porphyrogennetos, the third marriage is sometimes permitted, and sometimes not permitted (for those who have children from the first or second marriage, and those who exceed forty years of age, are not able to contract a third union), we say that the priest who had performed a benediction of such an impeded third marriage is to be defrocked, because he was ignorant of the law’s main points. However, peasants, who are ignorant of the law’s fine points, are pardoned sometimes, since legal matters are not clear to all men. (Canonical Questions of the Most Holy Patriarch of Alexandria, Lord Markos, and the Answers for them by the Most Holy Patriarch of Antioch, Lord Theodoros Balsamon. excerpted from Viscuso, “A Guide to the Church Under Islam” p. 133)

Hieromonk Matthew Blastares ca. 14th century

Basil the Great in his fourth canon states, “We hold the custom of five years’ excommunication for trigamists when the marriage is clearly not dissolved. However, we no longer call such an affair marriage, but polygamy, or rather fornication that has been tempered, i.e., not dissolved, but reduced; limited to one woman. Wherefore, the Lord also said to the Samaritan woman, who had five husbands in turn, “He whom you have now is not your husband,” because they that go beyond the limit of digamy are no longer worthy to be called by the name of husband or wife.” However, he states that “it is not altogether necessary to bar them from the Church, but only for their punishment to be spent in the places of the hearers and of those that stand, not however, in that of the weepers.”

But also, again in canon fifty, he states, “There is clearly no ecclesiastical law of third marriage. Nevertheless, we view such things as defilements of the Church. However, we do not submit them to public condemnations because they are more preferable than unrestrained fornication.” Thus, we do not condemn the practice so as to also dissolve them, but according to the Tomos of Union which will be discussed shortly, by its decisions and command, we accept these marriages.

Gregory the Great, who is surnamed the Theologian, stated, “The first marriage is legal, the second is a concession, the third is a transgression of law, and one beyond this, the life of a swine, which does not have many examples of its evil.” (Homily 37.8)

Concerning the Tomos of Union

At this time, three marriages were recognized by ancient laws. Emperor Leo the Wise, who entered into a fourth marriage, was subjected to anathema by Patriarch Nicholas [I Mystikos], who required the emperor to quit himself of this union. Because the patriarch was absolutely inflexible, the emperor expelled Nicholas from the Church, and appointed as patriarch Euthymios Synkellos, a holy man. However, Euthymios, with a majority of hierarchs, contending not only tetragamy, but also trigamy to be illegal, with all zeal hindered the emperor who wished to decree that marriage be extended as far as the fourth for those who so desired. On account of this, a schism arose in the Church, which also sustained the dispute over the throne between Leo VI’s son Constantine Porphryogennetos and the latter’s father-in-law Romanos. At this time, in the year 6428 [920 AD], the so-called Tomos of Union was brought forth, which determined when it is fitting to concede a third marriage for some, excellently places reins on shameless desires of the passions, and it is annually read during July on the ambon. Thus, it states the following toward the end:

“Men who have reached forty years of age, and who cast themselves into a third marriage, inasmuch as they are defilements of the Church, we rule that they are to be excommunicated for five years, and after this expires, they are to approach for Communion once a year, on the venerable day of saving Pascha, after purifying themselves as much as possible by the fast for Pascha. The priest who dares, contrary to the decision, to deem some of these worthy of Holy Communion, will be risking his own rank. We command these things when there are no children from previous marriages. But if in fact there are children, the third marriage will be forbidden. But if a man is thirty and has received a succession of offspring from previous marriages, and nevertheless now joins himself to a third woman on account of the licentiousness of fleshly desire, let him be excommunicated for four years. Afterward, let him partake of Communion three times a year: on the Resurrection Day of Pascha, the Dormition of the undefiled Theotokos, and the feast day of the Lord’s Nativity because the fasts before these days are believed to purify most of the stain absorbed by him. However, if he is childless, this man is worthy of pardon if he chooses a third marriage on account of a desire to procreate children; and, excluded from Communion for three years, he should be treated with customary penalty.” (An Alphabetical Collection of All Subjects That are Contained in the Sacred and Divine Canons, prepared and at the same time organized by Matthew, the least among Hieromonks. excerpted from Viscuso, “Sexuality, Marriage, and Celibacy in Byzantine Law” pp. 97-99)

On the Customs of the Italians

St. Meletios Galesiotes lived from ca. 1209-1286. He is known as Homologetes (the Confessor) because of his adamant resistance to the church union between Constantinople and Rome manufactured by Michael VIII Palaiologos at the Second Council of Lyons (1272-1274). St. Meletios compared the Emperor to Julian the Apostate and, like St. Maximus the Confessor, was imprisoned, exiled and had his tongue cut out. Between 1276 and 1280 he wrote a poem in political verse that was intended to present all of the essentials of the Orthodox faith in a single “gathering”. This article includes an edition and translation of Logos 3, part 1, “Against the Italians or Against the Latins”. An extensive commentary places the text within a large group of lists of Latin “errors” or “heresies”.

On the Crosses of Christ

St. Philaret of Moscow 1821-1867

Who shall measure this universal cross borne by the Captain of our Salvation? Who shall tell its weight ? Who shall number the various multitudes of crosses of which it is formed, like the sea of drops of water? It was not from Jerusalem to Golgotha alone that this cross was borne with the help of Simon the Cyrenian; it was borne from Gethsemane to Jerusalem, and to Gethsemane from Bethlehem itself. The whole life of Jesus was one cross, and no one put forth his hand to this burden except to make it the more burdensome. “He hath trodden the winepress “of the wrath of God “alone, and of the people there was none with Him.”

…They number unto the Eternal One eight days of this new life, and then subject Him to the bloody law of circumcision. The Lord of the temple is “brought into the temple to be presented unto the Lord: “and He Who came to redeem the world, is redeemed “by a pair of turtle doves.”

Whilst He was yet without power of speech, the sword of the preaching of the cross is already being sharpened in the lips of Simeon, and pierces through the soul of His mother.

A few men of a strange tribe come to salute Him with the title of King of the Jews; but even this faint glory excites against Him the enmity of the Jewish king, makes Him the innocent cause of bloodshed, and obliges Him to withdraw Himself from among the people of God into a land of idolatry.

And what did not Jesus suffer afterwards from the very day of His entering on the solemn ministry of the salvation of mankind? The Holy One of God coming to sanctify mankind, in company with sinners, seeking purification, bows His head beneath the hand of man, and receives baptism; baptism indeed, my brethren, that is to say, immersion, not so much in the water, as in the fulness of the cross [*].

…Wilt Thou not rest, Thou divine Cross- bearer, even for one moment from the yoke, ever pressing more heavily on Thy shoulders ? Wilt Thou not rest, if not to renew Thy strength for new labours, at least in condescension to the infirmities of Thy followers? Yea, on coming nigh unto Golgotha, Thou wilt rest on Mount Tabor. Go up then unto that mountain of glory; let Thy face be lighted up by heavenly light— let Thy raiment become white and glistening— let the law and the prophets come to acknowledge in Thee their fulfilment— let the voice of Thy Father’s goodwill be heard! But do not you perceive, my hearers, how the Cross follows Jesus even to Mount Tabor, and how the preaching of the Cross is inseparable from the preaching of the glorification ? Even there, amidst such great glory, of what do Moses and Elias speak unto Jesus? They speak of His Cross and Death: “And they spake of His decease.”

…Words fail, my brethren, to follow the Great Sufferer from Gethsemane to Jerusalem, and thence to Golgotha; from His inner Cross to His outer one. But the mystical rites celebrated this day by the Church have already traced unto you this road and His last cross. (Sermon 5, On the Cross)

[*] Translator’s note: In Russian, the word baptism, krestsbenie, is derived from the word cross, krestt; so that to be baptised is equivalent to being crossed.

On the Virgins and the Bridegroom

St. John of Kronstadt 1829-1908

[T]he ten virgins, of which five were wise and five foolish, symbolize us Christians. Some of us are wise because of our faith, our virtuous life, and because we are prepared for our death; others are foolish due to their unbelief or cold indifference to the faith, their impure carnal life, and their being unprepared for their death and the judgment that will immediately follow it, for it is appointed for men to die once, but after this the judgment (Heb 9:27). The foolish ones, it is said, took their lamps but did not take oil with them. What do the lamps and the oil for the lamps mean? The the Saviour’s words: the lamp of the body is the eye (Matt 6:22), by “eye” He means the heart of man, or soul. The oil symbolizes alms, according to St John Chrysostom’s interpretation, or good deeds in general. Therefore, the foolish Christians, going out to meet the bridegroom, did not prepare for their souls good deeds, which could have supported their spiritual life. The wise ones, it is said, took oil in their vessels with their lamps, meaning that they stocked up on good deeds in order to worthily meet the bridegroom. Who is the bridegroom? Jesus Christ. When and how do we go out to meet Him? Our entire lives must be since their beginning a preparation for our personal meeting with Him, because every soul after its death must appear and answer before Him, as to the Author of our life. Throughout our lives we must take care to acquire and preserve in our hearts a living faith and an ardent love for God, so that after our deaths standing before the terrible throne of the Lord of glory will neither be shameful nor to our condemnation. We will go out for the general meeting with Him during our resurrection from the dead, when all who are in the graves will hear His voice and come forth— those who have done good, to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil, to the resurrection of condemnation (John 5:28–29). The bridegroom, that is, Jesus Christ, is in no hurry to cut our lives short with death, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance (2 Pet 3:9), and is equally delaying His glorious, and dreadful, second coming so that the sons of the kingdom may multiply more and more.

Meanwhile, people, temporarily seduced by the sweetness of sin, by its impunity, and seeing that the world remains stable, think it will remain as such forever, and they themselves, enjoying robust health and other material goods, immerse themselves in spiritual slumber, not caring for their correction, and thus sleep the sleep of sin. However, precisely at the midnight of their sinful sleep, when none among the sinners thinks about the grave dangers in which they find themselves, a loud voice is heard: behold, the bridegroom comes, go out to meet Him. Then all will tremble and light their lamps, that is, will exert spiritual attention. At that time it will be good for the wise Christians: their souls will ignite with the sweetest love for God; but for the foolish, it will be bad. Their souls, like lamps without oil, will die out, that is, they will grow dark and cold from the lack of love for God, the source of love, and will start to taste the torments of hell. They will ask the wise Christians for oil, that is, for good deeds, but those will not give it to them, so that they also may not be opportunities to do them, however, precisely at this time when they wish to do good deeds, the bridegroom will come, death will catch them by surprise, and will place them before the heavenly Judge without any virtues whatsoever, reeking of the filth of their own lawlessness. They will desire to go inside the bridal chamber of the heavenly kingdom, which all of us from birth are destined to enter, the reason for which we live. Their Lord will not allow them to enter, and will say to them: I do not know you. Watch therefore, the Lord concludes the parable, for you know neither the day nor the hour in which the Son of Man is coming.

Now all of us understand the church hymn: “Behold, the Bridegroom comes at midnight, and blessed is that servant,” that is, every Christian, “whom He shall find watching, and again, unworthy is the servant whom He shall find heedless (sleeping the sleep of sin). Beware, therefore, O my soul, do not be weighed down with sleep (that is, do not be weighed down with the sleep of sin), lest you be given up to (eternal) death, and lest you be shut out of the Kingdom. But rouse yourself crying: Holy, holy, holy, art Thou, O our God, through the Theotokos have mercy on us.” Amen. (Season of Repentance, Lenten Homilies of St. John of Kronstadt: Homily 30, On the Hymn “Behold, the Bridegroom Comes at Midnight”)

On The Prophecy and Mystery of Palm Sunday

icon from the Temple Gallery

St. Philaret of Moscow 1821-1867

What of a truth does this royal entry of the Lord into Jerusalem signify ? Wherefore so wonderful a prediction? Why such a multitude of miracles? What is the intention of such unwonted arrangements? What is the result of these Divine works? What is the fruit of so majestic, but at the same time so transient an appearance of the King of Zion ? Like lightning does the kingdom of heaven show itself over Jerusalem, and like lightning is it swallowed up in the region of darkness…

The entry of the Lord into Jerusalem is not the mere manifestation of His present kingdom, but rather a prophecy and a fore- shadowing of His future kingdom. His kingdom is not this Jerusalem, which shall soon be destroyed, nor is it the country of Judea, which shall soon be conquered and laid waste, but the Church against which even “the gates of hell shall not prevail.” The ass and the colt upon which He sitteth during His royal progress, typify the two classes of people over whom He is come to reign spiritually— the Jews and the Gentiles. The ass bearing the yoke is the image of the Jews, who have long borne upon their necks the yoke of the law,”a yoke which,” as the best of them confesses, “neither our fathers nor we are able to bear,” and which it was therefore necessary to change for the easy yoke and light burden of Christ. The untrained colt typifies the Gentiles, untamed by doctrine, and ignorant of the law. The Apostles take the ass and its colt without hindrance, that is, the Apostles, notwithstanding all impediments, subdue Jews and Gentiles to the Kingdom of Christ. The Lord mounts the colt, and the ass follows: that is, it is the Gentiles who first, for the most part, submit to the Kingdom of Christ, and when the predestined number of Gentiles shall have entered into the fulness of the Church, then will also the remaining Jews be converted and rejoin them. The untrained colt submissively bears the King: that is, the untaught, and until now self- willed Gentiles, are soon trained by the doctrine of the law of Christ. Garments are spread before the King : that is, perfect followers of Christ resign everything to Him. Children welcome and praise the King: that is, hearts childlike in their simplicity and sincerity receive Christ in faith, and glorify Him by love.

Christians! Sons of the Kingdom of Christ! If we do behold the glory, or penetrate the mystery of today’s solemnity, let us not suffer it to pass by as something that concerns us not ; for in this case we should remain aliens and strangers to the Kingdom of Christ. Does the Lord send any of us on any mission? Then let us obey like the Apostles, without demur. Does He require anything from us? Let us surrender everything without contradiction, in the same manner as the unknown man, at the name of the Lord, gave up his property; let us also willingly give up everything, although it were at the cost of what is most necessary to us, as did those who spread their garments on His way. (Sermon IV, Select Sermons)

On the Divine Counsel and the Raising of Lazarus

St. Gregory Palamas ca. 1296-1359

In the beginning when man was to be formed, there was a Counsel beforehand. So now also, in the case of Lazarus, when a man was to be formed anew, there was a Counsel first. When man was to be created the Father said to the Son, “Let us make man” (Gen. 1:26), the Son listened to the Father, and man was brought into being. Now, by contrast, the Father listened to the Son speaking, and Lazarus was brought to life.  Notice that the Father and the Son are of equal honor and have the same will. The words are not in the form of prayer but of lordship and absolute authority. (Homily Fifteen, On Palm Sunday)

On Fasting and Prayer in Holy Scripture

Patriarch Jeremiah II of Constantinople 1530-1595

Since the fasts and the prayers are necessary, hearken unto the Lord who says in the second chapter of the Gospel according to Saint Luke: “And there was a prophetess Anna… She did not depart from the Temple, worshipping with fasting and prayer night and day” (Lk. 2:36-37). Also, hear Paul in the seventh chapter of his First Epistle to the Corinthians: “that you may devote yourselves to fast and prayer” (1 Cor. 7:5). And also, the sixth chapter of his Second Epistle to the Corinthians [reads]: “in watchings, in fastings” (2 Cor. 6:5). And if someone would like to elicit similar testimonies from the Scripture, he will easily find many others. (Augsburg and Constantinople, p. 209. The Three Answers: Second Exchange: Constantinople to Tubingen, 15)

On Grace and Choice

St. Basil the Great ca. 330-379

‘When we were dead through our trespasses, God made us alive together with Christ’ (Eph. 2:5) Nonetheless, everything is by grace in so far as it comes from grace; for without grace we can do nothing whatsoever. Therefore, on the one hand, it is said that grace comes first because of the weakness inherent in the creature; on the other hand, it is said that our choice is to follow, while grace leads, not in order to force choice, but to help us use our free will just like one who holds a light for those who wish to see it. Hence, he says, also, ‘through faith’ (Eph. 2:8) so that free will is not outraged. (On Baptism, Bk. 2, PG 31.1537)

On Saving Faith

St. Stephen of Perm 1340-1396

Do good on the basis of your faith in God, remember that faith alone without good works will not save you, for it is dead. Do not be like the whited sepulchers which appear beautiful on the outside, but are filled with bones and decay within. Do not call out to God: ‘O Lord! O Lord!’ for He will not save you if through your deeds you do not show your faith in Him and your obedience to His will. Do not quarrel, do not give in to anger, do not fight – be helpers and partners to each other. And the final words I will say unto you: Henceforth, brothers, I commend you to God and to His Word of grace, which has the power to save you, for He is our Savior, glory to him forever, amen! (A Nineteenth-Century Life, N. N. Filippov, Sviatoi Stefan, episkop Permskii. Istoricheskii razskaz. St. Petersburg: Izdanie M. V. Kliukina, 1893)

On the Riches We Can Keep

Elder Barsanuphius of Optina 1845-1913

Everyone knows the story about the young man in the Gospels. He approaches Christ and asks how he can inherit eternal life. The Lord replies, do thus and thus. “All this I have fulfilled,” says the young man. “Then if you wish to be perfect,” says Christ, “sell your possessions and give everything to the poor.” This commandment of Christ has profound meaning. The possessions which it necessary for us to give away are those things which we have received from the world. We must take them out of our heart and give them away, so that there will be nothing worldly there, so that Christ alone will be there. I earnestly entreat you — preserve your heart; let it belong entirely to the Lord. Don’t let anyone within it besides your spiritual father, and perhaps also a friend in the Lord.

There are possessions which one need not give away. The well-known and comprehensively educated physician, Professor Prigorov, was possessed of great erudition, and made use of it to the glory of God. When he was asked how he could combine the fulfillment of all the rites and dictates of the Orthodox Church with his enormous practice, he replied, “The Lord helps me, since I use my knowledge to the glory of my Lord Jesus Christ.” Such riches, that is, such knowledge, one need not renounce. (Elder Barsanuphius of Optina, p. 648)

On Striving for Exalted States Prematurely

icon by Christopher Klitou

St. Ignaty Brianchininov 1807-1867

In the chapter on Obedience [St. John of the Ladder says], “Scan the mind of inexperienced novices, and there you will find distracted thought: a desire for solitude, for the strictest fast, for uninterrupted prayer, for absolute freedom from vanity, for unbroken remembrance of death, for continual compunction, for perfect absence of anger, for profound silence, for surpassing purity. And if by divine providence they lack these in the beginning, they rush in vain to another life and are deceived. For the enemy urges them to seek these perfections before the time, so that they may not persevere and in due time attain them. But to those living in solitude the fraud extols hospitality, service, brotherly love, community life, visiting the sick. And the deceiver’s aim is to make the latter as impatient as the former.”

The fallen angel tries to deceive monks and drag them to perdition by suggesting to them not only sin in its various forms but also the most exalted virtues unsuited to their condition. Do not trust your thoughts, opinions, dreams, impulses, or inclinations, even though they offer you or put before you in an attractive guise the most holy monastic life. If the monastery in which you are residing gives you the possibility of living a life according to the commandments of the Gospel and unless you are exposed to temptations to mortal sin, do not leave your monastery. Endure courageously its defects, both spiritual and material. Do not think you can find a sphere of activity not given by God to our time. (The Arena: Guidelines for Spiritual and Monastic Life [kindle version])

On the Vision of the Saints

St. Athanasius the Great ca. 297-373

All those who have their mind on high, all those who forget the things of the earth, all those who give no care to the flesh… who, to be sure, have mortified their earthly members, having a pure mind and an acute mind’s eye, being yet on earth, these see the sufferings that are in hell, the eternal torments, the everlasting fire, the outer darkness, the weeping and the gnashing of teeth. But they also see the heavenly gifts that God has presented to the Saints: the royal attire, the shining inner chambers, the inexpressible delights and eternal life. What more can I say? Indeed, the greatest wonder of all is that he who has a pure mind also perceives with his inner eyes even God Himself. (Constantine Cavarnos, The Future Life According to Orthodox Teaching, p. 38)

On the Dialogue of Love

St. Justin Popovich 1894-1979

The “dialogue of love” — but preceded by: the dialogue of Truth. The “dialogue of love” may as well be held by devils: but then it will be the dialogue of lies. The “dialogue of love”, but speaking the truth in love (Eph. 4:15). This is that neotestamental love, Theanthropic love: which defeats sin, kills death, destroys devils, and consequently saves, deifies, theohumanizes and trinitizes man. (Notes on Ecumenism, p. 21)

Fr. Florovsky on Intercommunion

Andrew Blane

The issue on which Bulgakov and Florovsky diverged most widely at the Fellowship [of St. Alban and St. Sergius] meetings was introduced by Father Bulgakov in 1933. Noting with regret that the members of the Fellowship had for six years shared in each other’s liturgy and eucharistic celebrations, but had refrained from partaking of communion together because of the differing views and practices of their Churches, he made the rather daring proposal “that the Fellowship should take what he called ‘molecular action,’ and proceed with a plan of intercommunion for its own members, without waiting for the two Churches as a whole to act officially.” Bulgakov then offered such a plan. In order to safeguard the principle of Church order his plan called for “a special sacramental blessing to be bestowed upon the Anglicans by an Orthodox hierarch, and the Anglicans should submit to it and accept it as an ‘act of sacrifice’.” This dramatic proposal was discussed for some two years, with discord at times so acute that it threatened to destroy the new Fellowship. It was not simply a matter of Anglicans versus Orthodox, but rather that each side experienced deep fissures. The rift among the Russian participants has been concisely described by Roger Lloyd, the Anglican historian:

“Bulgakov knew from the beginning that he would find opposition from his own side, but he had not realized how strong this opposition would be. Florovsky, for example, spoke for many Russians when he said that the sacramental blessing could not absolve schismatics from the duty and obligation of submitting to the sacrament of penance before admission to the Church, for this essential rite for the reception of schismatics “in their existing orders”. It seemed to him that under the proposals inter-communion was to be had too cheaply by the Anglicans…’ (Georges Florovsky: Russian Intellectual, Orthodox Churchman, ed. by A. Blane, p. 65)

On the Fountain of Immortality

The Fountain of Immortality

Other beautiful recordings and videos from Dn. Alexander Koranda here

On Satisfying Divine Righteousness

St. Nektarios of Pentapolis 1846-1920

[B]oth the Holy Synods as well as the Holy Fathers — St. Athanasios the Great and Peter Patriarchs of Alexandria, St. Dionysios, St. Gregory Thaumaturgos, St. Basil, the divine Chrysostom, and others — precisely designate the satisfaction required of sinners according to the quantity and degree of sin; because the person who does not obey [these canons] will be sent to the future courthouses to give an account of the improprieties that he has committed, as having rejected the laws of the Church. Therefore, the satisfaction of the insulted Divine Justice is an unavoidable requirement. So then, an urgent need obligates us to hasten towards propitiation of God, especially since we do not know what tomorrow will bring. We should hasten with tears. We should appear before the sympathetic judge and therapist, the affectionate spiritual father, with contrition of heart and compunction. We should pour out our heart wile confessing our sins, so that we may be acquitted from the condemnation of the future tribunal — where everyone who did not give an account of the deeds they committed to the earthly courthouses will be sent — so that we may reconcile with God and become communicants of eternal life. (Repentance and Confession, Part 2: Confession, 4. The Person who has Sinned is Obligated to Satisfy the Divine Righteousness, pp. 48-49)

Note by the translators: They who reject the idea of the necessity of satisfying/compensating Divine Righteousness as a denial of the satisfaction made by our Savior Christ to God the Father, these people neglect that this is in reference to sinful Christians and not to unbelievers. Yes, reconciliation has already been made through Jesus Christ. St. Nicodemos says that “the satisfaction and payment made by our Lord on behalf of our sins was so bountiful and rich that this satisfaction resembles a boundless ocean, while all the sins of humanity — past, present, and future — represent a drop of water.” (Unseen Warfare, p. 207) However, having sinned after baptism, we have “saddened” the Savior Himself, and it is Him Who we are seeking to please through repentance, confession and good works. This is what St. Nektarios is calling “satisfaction of Divine Righteousness”. This is what all the saints have spoken about in their own manner. St. Mark the Ascetic says: “A sinner cannot escape retribution except through repentance appropriate to his offense.” (Philokalia, Vol. 1, p. 130) St. Maximos the Confessor says: “No sinner can escape future judgment without experiencing in this life either voluntary hardships or afflictions he has not chosen.” (Philokalia, Vol. 2, p. 76) (ibid., p. 44) 

On the Patriarchate in Moscow

The first Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia, Iov (Job) (1589-1605)

Nicholas Zernov 1898-1980

In 1588, the Patriarch of Constantinople, Jeremiah, came to Moscow in quest of alms. It was the first time that a senior hierarch of the Eastern Church had visited Russia. He was