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 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 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 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 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 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 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 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 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)

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)

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 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 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 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 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)

 

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])

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)

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 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 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 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 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)

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 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 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 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 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 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)

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 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)

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 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 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 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 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 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 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 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 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 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 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 Idol of Caring What People Think

icon from Damascene Gallery

St. Ephrem the Syrian ca. 306-373

I have made shame an idol for myself…

A man’s neighbor has become his god: every moment he seeks to please him;

if he does wrong, he feels shame before him, if he does him an injury, he is afraid;

or if he does him some good, then he has spoiled that good by his thirst for praise.

Such a man has become an abject slave in all these ways.

The Good One gave us freedom, but we have reduced this to slavery.

May we exchange, for Your lordship, this overlord we have made for ourselves! (Hymns on Paradise, Hymn VII.31)

On the Savor of Orthodoxy

Hieromonk Seraphim Rose 1934-1982

We must keep up the living contact with the older…clergy, even if some of them may seem to us a little too liberal, otherwise we will become lost in the zealot jungle which is growing up around us.

…We who wish to remain in the true tradition of Orthodoxy will have to be zealous and firm in our Orthodoxy without being fanatics, and without presuming to teach our bishops what they should do. Above all, we must strive to preserve the true fragrance of Orthodoxy, being at least a little “not of this world,” detached from all cares and politics even of the Church, nourishing ourselves on the otherworldly food the Church gives us in abundance. Elder Macarius well says in a letter: “Fanaticism limits a man’s way of thinking, but true faith gives freedom. This freedom is revealed by the firmness of a man in all possible cases of happiness and unhappiness.” That freedom is a sign of our Orthodoxy… But to see this one must have the savor of Orthodoxy. Let us not lose it! (Letters from Father Seraphim pp. 167-168, Third Day of Trinity 1976)

On the Necessity of Fasting

St. John of Kronstadt 1829-1908

Today, beloved brothers and sisters, was read the Gospel passage from the Evangelist Mark on how a father asked Jesus Christ to heal his son, a deaf and dumb child who was possessed, by casting out the evil spirit who was the reason the child was deaf and dumb. ‘Deaf and dumb spirit,’ said the Lord to the impure one, ‘I command you, come out of him and enter him no more.’ Then the spirit cried out, convulsed him greatly, and came out of him. And he became as one dead, so that many said, ‘He is dead.’ But Jesus took him by the hand and lifted him up, and he arose (Mark 9:25–27). But see how evil was the spirit who tormented the child. His father told the Lord how wherever it seizes him, it throws him down; he foams at the mouth, gnashes his teeth, and becomes rigid (Mark 9:18). This happened also at the time when the father brought his son to the Saviour. And when the Lord asked the father, as if he did not already know, even though, as God, He knows all, ‘How long has this been happening to him?’ And he said, ‘From childhood. And often he has thrown him both into the fire and into the water to destroy him,’ and he asked the Lord to have compassion on him and his son, and to help them, if He can do anything. Jesus told him: ‘If you can believe, all things are possible to him who believes.’ And the unfortunate father of little faith cried out with tears ‘Lord, I believe; help my unbelief!’ (Mark 9:21–24).

Do you see what power the Lord attributes to faith and to the one who believes? All things are possible to him who believes , He says. The one who believes is able to cast out demons and to heal all kinds of diseases. And how powerless and miserable is the unbeliever! He cannot even control himself, and cannot overcome his own sins, but as a slave he serves them and is tormented by them. And as the unfortunate father initially brought his possessed son to the Apostles and they were not able to expel this demon from him, they asked the Lord in private why they were not able to expel him. The Lord answered them: This kind can come out by nothing but prayer and fasting (Mark 9:29). Such is the Lord’s praise for prayer and fasting. This is the evangelical basis for fasting. How could those who call themselves followers of the Gospel have expelled fasting from our common life, as if it was unnecessary?! Is it not because in our days passions and iniquity and demonic possessions of all kinds have multiplied, so much so that some Christians have broken their ties with the Church and have renounced prayer and fasting as something superfluous? (Season of Repentance: Lenten Homilies of Saint John of Kronstadt, On the Fourth Sunday of Great Lent)

On “Valid” Sacraments Outside the Church

Pope Paul VI and Pat. Athenagoras

Protopresbyter John Romanides 1927-2001

The Balamand agreement is…based on an interpretation of our Lord’s Prayer in John 17 which is not part of the Patristic tradition… This agreement takes advantage of those naive Orthodox who have been insisting that they are a “sister” Church of a Vatican “sister” Church, as though glorification (theosis) can have a sister otherwise than herself. The Orthodox at Balamand fell into this their own trap since this presupposes the validity of Latin sacraments. This is a strange phenomenon indeed since the Latins never believed that glorification in this life is the foundation of apostolic succession and the Mysteries (Sacraments) of and within the Body of Christ. Even today the Latins and the Protestants translate 1 Cor. 12:26 as “honored” instead of “glorified.”

But Vatican II had also set its trap of unilaterally recognizing Orthodox Mysteries (Sacraments) into which the Balamand Orthodox fell according to plan.

More important than the validity of Mysteries is the question of who participates in them…It would seem that the Orthodox may legitimately and dutifully wish and hope out of love that Latin and Protestant mysteries are indeed valid and efficacious, but leave the matter in the hands of God. But to pronounce them valid, 1) when the Latins do not accept glorification (theosis) in this life as the central core of Apostolic Tradition and succession and 2) when they believe instead that happiness is one’s final end, is indeed strange. One does not need valid Mysteries in order to become eternally happy. Franco-Latin official teachings on the Mysteries have been historically not only un-Orthodox, but anti-Orthodox.

…At the time of Vatican II the New York Times had announced on its title page that the schism between the Orthodox and the Vatican had supposedly ended. This was due to the fact that the Latins understood the lifting of the Anathemas of 1054 as a lifting of the excommunication. Constantinople lifted, as it seems, only anathemas. For the Latins this was in keeping with Vatican II on the validity of Orthodox Mysteries. This made it possible for Latins to take communion at Orthodox Churches and, according to the Latins, vice versa. The Orthodox had difficulties refusing communion to Latins and the Vatican temporarily suspended the practice.

This Balamand agreement has been accepted by the representatives of nine out of 14 Orthodox Churches but not yet by their Synods nor by a Pan-Orthodox Council. In the meantime the Vatican may once again encourage Latins and Uniates to take communion at Orthodox Churches while encouraging the Orthodox to do likewise. The very fact that the Orthodox at Balamand have extended full recognition to Latin Mysteries means that the impression could be easily created that only bigotry could be the reason for refusing inter-communion and con-celebration.

…Since at least 1975 the WCC has been carefully and very successfully cultivating the image of the Orthodox as lacking Christian love for refusing communion to others. A likely refusal of the Orthodox to accept Uniates under one of their Archbishops or Patriarchs may become part of a similar practice of picturing the Orthodox as indeed bigots, especially since in this case they would be refusing communion to and con-celebration with clergy whose mysteries they fully recognize.

Now that the Balamand agreement has become a candidate to become a sequel to Vatican II and in which case Uniatism will no longer have any reason for existing, the Orthodox will be faced with the consequences of their continued refusal of communion with the Latins and Uniates.

What is most interesting is the fact that according to the Balamand agreement Mysteries are valid whether one accepts seven or 22 Ecumenical Councils and their teachings and practices. The impression will be certainly created that only lack of love could be the reason why the Orthodox may continue to refuse inter-communion and con-celebration with the Vatican.

It seems that the Orthodox at Balamand are attempting to introduce an innovation in regards to biblical Mysteries. Up to now the Orthodox Churches usually accepted into their membership individuals or Churches by means of either exactitude (akribeia) or economy (oikonomia).

(a) By Exactitude one is accepted by baptism, chrismation and profession of the Orthodox Faith accompanied by rejection of former errors.

(b) By Economy one is accepted by chrismation and profession of the Orthodox faith and the rejection of former errors.

Neither of these two means of entry into the Church is in itself a judgment on the validity or non-validity of the sacraments of the Church of origin, since there are no Mysteries outside of the Body of Christ. One is either a member of the Body of Christ by his baptism of the Spirit, i.e. illumination and/or glorification in Christ or one is still in the state of purification by his baptism by water unto forgiveness of sins and in the process of becoming a member of the Body of Christ and a temple of the Holy Spirit. One may be a believer in Christ without belonging to either of these categories. This holds true for nominal Orthodox also. It is up to each Synod of Orthodox bishops to decide the status of each group of those who are seeking communion within the Body of Christ.

… [S]ince Peter the Great…professors of Orthodox faculties became no longer aware, and many are still not aware, of this biblical/patristic tradition of cure and are therefore prone to copy from non-patristic or non-Orthodox works to write their teaching manuals. The result has been the appearance of large groups of clergy who no longer see any important difference between the Latin and Orthodox understandings of the Mysteries within the Body of Christ.

The basic question before us is clear: Is dogma 1) a protection from speculating quack doctors and 2) a guide to the cure of the purification and the illumination of the heart and glorification (theosis), or not? (Orthodox and Vatican Agreement)

On the Trials of Darkness After Death

St. Theodosius of the Kiev Caves 1009-1074

…I pray Thee, O my Lord, have mercy on my soul, that it may not encounter the malice of Thy enemies, but that Thy angels may receive it and lead it through the trials of the darkness after death towards the light of Thy mercy. (A Life of St. Theodosius, The Way of the Pilgrim and Other Classics of Russian Spirituality edited by G.P. Fedotov [kindle version])

On the Key to Orthodoxy and Everything Else

icon by George Kordis, egg-tempera on wooden board, 2012

St. Maximus the Confessor 580-662

The mystery of the Incarnation of the Logos is the key to all the inner symbolism and typology in the Scriptures, and in addition gives us knowledge of created things, both visible and intelligible. He who apprehends the mystery of the Cross and the Burial apprehends the inward essences of created things; while he who is initiated into the inexpressible power of the Resurrection apprehends the purpose for which God first established everything. (Centuries on Theology and Economy, 1.66)

On Orthodox Petrine Succession

St. John Chrysostom ca. 349-407

In speaking of Peter, the recollection of another Peter [St. Flavian of Antioch] has come to me, our common father and teacher, who has succeeded to the virtue of Peter, and also to his Chair. For this is the one great prerogative of our city [Antioch], that it received the Coryphaeus of the Apostles as its teacher in the beginning. For it was right that she who first was adorned with the name of Christians before the whole world, should receive the first of the Apostles as her pastor. But though we received him as teacher, we did not retain him to the end, but gave him up to Royal Rome. Nay, but we did retain him till the end; for we do not retain the body of Peter but we retain the Faith of Peter as though it were Peter himself; and while we retain the Faith of Peter, we have Peter himself. (Fr. Laurent Cleenewerk, His Broken Body [kindle version])

On the Relevance of the Holy Fathers

Fr. Georges Florovsky 1893-1979

I have often a strange feeling. When I read the ancient classics of Christian theology, the Fathers of the Church, I find them more relevant to the troubles and problems of my own time than the production of modern theologians. The Fathers were wrestling with existential problems, with revelations of the eternal issues which were described and recorded in Holy Scripture. I would risk a suggestion that St. Athanasius and St. Augustine are much more up to date than many of our theological contemporaries. (The Lost Scriptural Mind, CW I:16)

Evangelist Billy Graham on the Soul After Death

Hieromonk Seraphim Rose 1934-1982

Orthodox Christians are fortunate to have the teaching of the aerial toll- houses and the particular judgment clearly set forth in numerous Patristic writings and Lives of Saints, but actually any person who carefully reflects on nothing more than the Holy Scripture will come to a very similar teaching. Thus, the Protestant Evangelist Billy Graham writes in his book on angels: “At the moment of death the spirit departs from the body and moves through the atmosphere. But the Scripture teaches us that the devil lurks there. He is ‘the prince of the power of the air’ (Eph. 2:2). If the eyes of our understanding were opened, one would probably see the air filled with demons, the enemies of Christ. If satan could hinder the angel of Daniel for three weeks on his mission to earth, we can imagine the opposition a Christian may encounter at death…. The moment of death is satan’s final opportunity to attack the true believer; but God has sent His angels to guard us at that time.” (Billy Graham, Angels, God’s Secret Messengers , Doubleday, New York, 1975, pp. 150–51.) (The Soul After Death, Chap. 6 [kindle version])

On Tradition, Fasting and Prayer

St. Polycarp of Smyrna ca. 69-155

Wherefore, forsaking the vanity of many, and their false doctrines, let us return to the word which has been handed down to us from Jude 3 the beginning; watching unto prayer, 1 Peter 4:7 and persevering in fasting; beseeching in our supplications the all-seeing God not to lead us into temptation, Matthew 6:13; Matthew 26:41 as the Lord has said: The spirit truly is willing, but the flesh is weak. Matthew 26:41; Mark 14:38 (Epistle to the Philippians, 7)

On Sin

St. John of Kronstadt 1829-1908

Sin is a perversion of one’s nature, voluntary madness, abominable foolishness, a voluntary turning away from good to evil, from truth to falsehood, from simplicity to malice, from light to darkness, from strength to infirmity, from freedom to captivity, from peace to confusion, from life to death; sin is a disgusting filth, an illusion abominable to God, a poison that corrupts the soul. Sin begot all of the disasters in the world and all diseases, such as the one that afflicted the paralytic mentioned today; it begot all famines, all lethal or epidemic diseases, wars, fires, earthquakes, and all death, both temporary and eternal. Sin turned the highest of the angels into the devil, Lucifer into Satan, as well as all of the spirits who revolted against God, who were once angels of indescribable light and beauty, and became the darkest and most repulsive demons. Sin produced and produces horrible evils, terrible disasters, atrocious upheavals in the world, among mankind; because of sin, all of nature lies in disarray. It is impossible to describe, impossible to mourn enough, all of the tears of mankind are not enough to grieve for the frightful consequences of sin to the world. (Homily 20, On the Second Sunday of Lent)

On St. Gregory Palamas

Elder Aimilianos of Simonopetra

Today is also the Second Sunday of Lent, when we celebrate the memory of Saint Gregory Palamas. He was the son of a Byzantine nobleman, but renounced the world and became a monk, persuading his mother, siblings, and servants also to be tonsured and enter monasteries and convents. Every day he drank only a little water and ate only a little bread. He avoided sleep as much as he could, because it robbed him of precious hours for prayer, which for him was communion with God. For a three-month period, he slept only for a short interval around mid-day, after consuming a small amount of bread. He was a “heavenly man and an earthly angel”. For five days of the week he remained secluded in his cell, leaving it only on Saturdays and Sundays in order to attend the Divine Liturgy. There he sought the face of God, an experience essential for his assimilation to the divine, for his growth in likeness to God. Like the Psalmist, his constant wish was to be with God, to be united with Him. As he was dying, he appeared to be speaking, although his voice was little more than a whisper. One of his disciples drew near and heard him say the following words: “The things of heaven are destined for heaven”. And this he repeated, his biographer tells us, in a rhythmic fashion until the moment when his “heavenly soul was released from its natural union with the earth, and joined the company of the angels, with whom he had long consorted.” Saint Gregory could not imagine himself to be merely a creature of the earth, because all his thoughts, his heart, his desires, and his whole being were of heaven. He was completely united with God. (Psalms and the Life of Faith, On Psalm 63. pp. 16-18)

On How to Know if One Holds the Correct Faith

St. Gregory Palamas ca. 1296-1359

What proof is there that we have a right belief in God, that we have a trustworthy and devout understanding of Him? It is that we confess the same faith as our God-bearing Fathers. (Homily 8, On Faith)

St. John of Kronstadt on the Sunday of Orthodoxy

St. John Kronstadt 1829-1908

But why on this Sunday, which is called the Sunday of Orthodoxy, did the Church appoint the reading of this Gospel passage about the conversation between the Lord and Nathanael? Because, in the words of the Lord, Nathanael displayed the nature of a true, or Orthodox, Christian, and in general the nature of the true Orthodox Church of Christ. Behold, an Israelite indeed, said the Lord about Nathanael, in whom is no deceit; that is, behold a man who thinks, reasons, believes, hopes, speaks, and acts correctly, frankly, and firmly, just as Nathanael immediately and correctly believed in Jesus Christ as the Son of God, and never again wavered in his faith and hope, did not change his mind regarding His divine Person. Is this not also how a true Christian must be? Is this not how the entire divinely established society of Orthodox Christians must be? Is it not how the Orthodox Church must, as it is, be? What high praise Nathanael received from Him, Who tries all hearts and reigns, in the words: Behold, an Israelite indeed, in whom is no deceit! What high praise for the Christian of whom the Lord says: behold, a true Christian, in whom is no deceit; as well as for the Church of which the Lord says: behold a Church, in which there is neither deceit nor the vain inventions of men; that is a Church that is true in all its teachings, mysteries, divine series, government, and throughout all of its structure. And these are precisely how all of our saints are, how our entire Orthodox Church is, since its beginning until our days, as evidenced by the objective history of the Church and by God Himself, through the various signs and miracles performed in the Church. It is, according to the Apostle, the pillar and ground of the truth (1 Tim. 3:15); a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing (Eph. 5:27). And with what sanguinary feats, what struggles with the enemies of truth, with how many deaths of those who were zealous for the purity, sanctity, and orthodoxy of the faith and the Church, my brethren, was the orthodoxy of our faith acquired for all of us, our guide toward eternal life! Just as rivers of blood were shed for the preservation and integrity of our nation, and in it Orthodox faith, by our ancestors, Russian soldiers and leaders, who fought against pagans, Muslims, and other Christians who were strangers to the Orthodox Church, so were rivers of blood also shed for the preservation of the Orthodox faith by apostles, prophets, and martyrs; much suffering was endured by revered fathers and other champions of the faith.

And what about us, children of the Orthodox Church? Do we preserve this most precious heritage, the Orthodox Faith? Do we follow its teachings, commandments, rules, statutes, advice? Do we love to offer this service to God, the fruit of our lips, giving thanks to His name (Heb. 13:15)? Are we renewed by it? Do we sanctify ourselves every day, do we perfect ourselves in our love for God and neighbor, do we cherish our faith, do we consider it the greatest mercy of God, the very first and greatest benefit of life the fact that we are fortunate to belong to the Orthodox Church, which is the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church?

What is our answer to these questions, if we desire to answer honestly? To our shame we must confess that many, many Orthodox Christians not only do not have the Orthodox faith in their hearts and lives, but also do not have it even in their tongues, and faith has either completely disappeared from their lives or they have become completely indifferent toward any faith: Catholicism, Lutheranism, Judaism, Islam, even paganism. We hear from many people that you can please God in every faith, that is, as if every faith is pleasing to God, and as if God is indifferent to truth and falsehood, right and wrong. Look at the consequences of ignoring one’s faith, of the ignorance of the spirit and history of their Church, alienation from its life and divine services, the consequences of ignoring concepts of Orthodoxy, heterodoxy and other faiths!

…We must also mention, for the glory of the Orthodox faith, that no other religion except Orthodoxy can bring man to moral perfection or holiness and perfect agreeableness to God, as evidenced by the history of the Church and the incorrupt and wonderworking remains of the holy saints of God, and by the wonderful feats of the the saints of the Orthodox Church, through which they were perfectly pleasing to God, and who even while they were still alive were clairvoyant and wonderworkers. And so it should be, according to common sense: only the perfect faith can bring one to perfection, with all divine powers, all the spiritual armor of God against the passions of the flesh, the world and the devil!

If nowadays many Orthodox Christians live worse than Muslims and pagans, so much so that the head of all Muslims in Russia publicly proclaimed in St. Petersburg praise for his fellow Muslims for the fact that among them there are no people so wicked as among the Christians, who attempted to end the life of the Tsar. This truly impious life of Christians must not in the least, of course, be blamed on the Orthodox Faith, which is unwavering in its principles of truth and holiness, according to the promise of the Savior Himself and the testimony of history. Such people, even though they came from us, were never one of us in essence, but only in name. (Season of Repentance, Lenten Homilies of Saint John of Kronstadt: Homily 16, On the Sunday of Orthodoxy)

Season of Repentance, Lenten Homilies of St. John of Kronstadt

On Reconciling with Our Neighbor

St. Tikhon of Zadonsk 1724-1783

Look, Christian, how necessarily we must be reconciled with our neighbor. God will accept neither our repentance, nor prayers, nor anything else from us as long we have not been reconciled with our neighbor, so dear does God hold love and peace with our neighbor.

Then keep from neglecting reconciliation when you have offended your neighbor, but be reconciled to him without delay, lest you fall under the righteous wrath of God. If you have offended him in word, also be reconciled in word. Humble yourselves before him and beg forgiveness of him. If you have offended him in deed, also be reconciled in deed. Death stalks invisibly, behind us and seizes us unawares. What, then, will become of a man if he is taken without reconciliation and in enmity? He shall appear before the judgment of Christ with what he takes from this world. What is forgiven and made up now will not appear there.

Then be reconciled with your adversary, beloved, while you are yet in the way. Attend to it for this reason, Christian: you were able to offend your brother, then you should also be able to reconciled with him. But neither delay in so important a matter, nor set it aside for tomorrow, for you do not know whether you will live until the next day. God promised His mercy to us who repent, but He did not promise us tomorrow’s day. Then convince yourself, and break down the idol of pride which is in your heart, and bow down with humility before your neighbor whom you have offended. (Journeys to Heaven, Chap. 10 pp. 140-141)

On Correcting Defects Within the Church

St. Philaret of Moscow 1821-1867

It is easier to uncover and expose defects than to correct them. The misfortune of our time is that the number of errors and imprudences accumulated over more than a century are all but beyond our power and means of correction. Therefore, one must not oppose all defects at once, but take first those which are the most harmful. Likewise, one ought not to suggest all possible means of correction all at once, but rather, first put forward those which are both the most needful and most practical. (St. Innocent, Apostle to America p. 250)

On Holy Writ

Pope St. Gregory the Dialogist ca. 540-604

[T]here are two Testaments of Holy Writ, both of which God wished to be written in order to set us free from the death of the soul. Or indeed because there are two precepts of charity, namely love of God and love of our neighbor, whereby the sayings of Holy Writ quicken us… For we are restored to life through the precepts of Holy Writ, we who lay dead in our guilt. Thus it is rightly said through the Psalmist to Almighty God: “Thy justifications I will never forget: for by them Thou hast given me life” (Ps. 118:93). The precepts of the Lord are called justifications by which He justifies us by correcting us. Of these the Psalmist speaks more plainly: “I will think of Thy justifications: I will not forget Thy words” (Ps. 118:16). Then He quickens us therein because He thereby shows us the spiritual life, and by the afflation of the Spirit instills it into our minds. Because this happens daily in the midst of the elect through the gift of grace…

This Holy Writ has become the light of our journey for us in the darkness of this present life. Hence Peter too says: “Whereunto you do well to attend, as to a light that shineth in a dark place” (2 Pet. 1:19). Hence the Psalmist too says: “Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path” (Ps. 118:105). Yet we know that our very lantern is dim for us unless Truth light it for our minds. So the Psalmist says a second time: “For Thou lights my lamp, O Lord: O my God, enlighten my darkness” (Ps. 17:29). For who is a burning lantern unless the light is there? But created light does not shine for us unless it is illumined by the Uncreated Light. (Homilies on Ezekiel, Homily 7.16-17)

On Imitating Divine Mercy

Pope St. Leo the Great ca. 400-461

[T]hough we are not anxious for vengeance, we cannot in any way be allied with the devil’s servants. Yet if we learn they are quitting the ranks of heresy, repenting them of their error and turning from the weapons of discord to the lamentations of sorrow, we also can intercede for them, lest they perish for ever, thus following the example of the Lord’s loving-kindness, who, when nailed to the wood of the cross prayed for His persecutors, Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do.” Lk. 23:34. ThatChristian love may do this profitably for its enemies, wicked heretics must cease to harass God’s ever religious and ever devout Church; they must not dare to disturb the souls of the simple by their falsehoods, to the end that, where in all former times the purest faith has flourished, the teaching of the Gospel and of the Apostles may now also have free course; because we also imitating, so far as we can, the Divine mercy desire no one to be punished by justice, but all to be released by mercy. (Letter 164)

On Proper Fasting

St. Athanasius the Great ca. 297-373

[L]et us vie with each other in observing the purity of the fast 1 Cor. 9:24-27, by watchfulness in prayers, by study of the Scriptures, by distributing to the poor, and let us be at peace with our enemies. Let us bind up those who are scattered abroad, banish pride, and return to lowliness of mind, being at peace with all men, and urging the brethren unto love. Thus also the blessed Paul was often engaged in fastings and watchings, and was willing to be accursed for his brethren. Blessed David again, having humbled himself by fastings, used boldness, saying, ‘O Lord my God, if I have done this, if there is any iniquity in my hands, if I have repaid those who dealt evil with me, then may I fall from my enemies as a vain man. ‘ If we do these things, we shall conquer death; and receive an earnest of the kingdom of heaven. (Letter 14)

On the Eternal Effects of Fasting Upon the Soul

St. Gregory Palamas ca. 1296-1359

We are made up of a soul and body, and both soul and body consist of many members. For the soul too has members after a fashion: those parts of it concerned with growth, desiring, anger and reason. Therefore, true fasting must extend to every part, cleansing and healing them all. Fasting, brethren, gently and and kindly restores the soul to health, and that is why our Fathers imposed it on us during these days.

If we shrink from fasting in our foolishness, hell waits to punish us, to cut us down and burn us, at that time when Christ will cut in pieces anyone incapable of being healed and consign them to unquenchable fire to suffer eternal punishment. It was because we did not fast in Paradise that we were thrown out into this life full of sufferings. In the same way, if we have not fasted here or lived with as much self-restraint as we could, we shall fall into that unquenchable and unbearable hell-fire. (Homily 9.9)

St. Maximus on Supposed Contradictions in Holy Scripture

St. Maximus the Confessor ca. 580-662

I believe, therefore, that if the meaning of the whole of Divine Scripture is properly and piously smoothed out, the disagreements perceived on the literal level of the text will be seen to contain nothing contradictory or inconsistent. (Ambigua to John, Ambiguous 21)

On the Ultimate Fate of the Passionate Soul

St. Maximus the Confessor ca. 580-662

[I]f the soul, as I have said, uses its own powers properly, and if, consistent with God’s purpose, it passes through the sensible world by way of the spiritual principles that exist within it, so that with understanding it arrives at God. If, however, it makes the wrong or mistaken use of these powers, delving into the world in a manner contrary to what is proper, it is obvious that it will succumb to dishonorable passions, and in the coming life will rightly be cast away from the presence of the divine glory, receiving the dreadful condemnation of being estranged from relation with God for infinite ages, a sentence so distressing that the soul will not be able to contest it, for it will have as a perpetually relentless accuser its own disposition, which created for it a mode of existence that in fact did not exist. (Ambigua to John, Ambiguum 21)

On Marriage and Procreation

St. Methodius of Olympus died ca. 311

For I think I have perceived clearly from the Scriptures that, after He had brought in virginity, the Word did not altogether abolish the generation of children; for although the moon may be greater than the stars, the light of the other stars is not destroyed by the moonlight.

Let us begin with Genesis, that we may give its place of antiquity and supremacy to this Scripture. Now the sentence and ordinance of God respecting the begetting of children Gen. 1:28 is confessedly being fulfilled to this day, the Creator still fashioning man. For this is quite manifest, that God, like a painter, is at this very time working at the world, as the Lord also taught, “My Father works hitherto.” But when the rivers shall cease to flow and fall into the reservoir of the sea, and the light shall be perfectly separated from the darkness,—for the separation is still going on,—and the dry land shall henceforth cease to bring forth its fruits with creeping things and four-footed beasts, and the predestined number of men shall be fulfilled; then from henceforth shall men abstain from the generation of children. But at present man must cooperate in the forming of the image of God, while the world exists and is still being formed; for it is said, “Increase and multiply.” Gen. 1:28 And we must not be offended at the ordinance of the Creator, from which, moreover, we ourselves have our being. For the casting of seed into the furrows of the matrix is the beginning of the generation of men, so that bone taken from bone, and flesh from flesh, by an invisible power, are fashioned into another man. And in this way we must consider that the saying is fulfilled, “This is now bone of my bone, and flesh of my flesh.” Gen. 2:23

And this perhaps is what was shadowed forth by the sleep and trance of the first man, which prefigured the embraces of connubial love. When thirsting for children a man falls into a kind of trance,  softened and subdued by the pleasures of generation as by sleep, so that again something drawn from his flesh and from his bones is, as I said, fashioned into another man. For the harmony of the bodies being disturbed in the embraces of love, as those tell us who have experience of the marriage state, all the marrow-like and generative part of the blood, like a kind of liquid bone, coming together from all the members, worked into foam and curdled, is projected through the organs of generation into the living body of the female. And probably it is for this reason that a man is said to leave his father and his mother, since he is then suddenly unmindful of all things when united to his wife in the embraces of love, he is overcome by the desire of generation, offering his side to the divine Creator to take away from it, so that the father may again appear in the son.

Wherefore, if God still forms man, shall we not be guilty of audacity if we think of the generation of children as something offensive, which the Almighty Himself is not ashamed to make use of in working with His undefiled hands; for He says to Jeremiah, “Before I formed you in the belly I knew you; ” Jeremiah 1:5 and to Job, “Did you take clay and form a living creature, and make it speak upon the earth? ” and Job draws near to Him in supplication, saying, “Your hands have made me and fashioned me.” Job 10:8 Would it not, then, be absurd to forbid marriage unions, seeing that we expect that after us there will be martyrs, and those who shall oppose the evil one, for whose sake also the Word promised that He would shorten those days? Mat. 24:22 For if the generation of children henceforth had seemed evil to God… for what reason will those who have come into existence in opposition to the divine decree and will be able to appear well-pleasing to God? And must not that which is begotten be something spurious, and not a creature of God, if, like a counterfeit coin, it is moulded apart from the intention and ordinance of the lawful authority? And so we concede to men the power of forming men. (Banquet of Ten Virgins, Discourse 2.1-2)

On Prayer and the End of the World

St. Silouan the Athonite 1886-1938

Prayer keeps the world alive and when prayer fails, the world will perish… “Nowadays,” perhaps you will say, “there are no more monks like that to pray for the whole world.” But I tell you that when there are no more men of prayer on earth, the world will come to an end and great disasters will befall. They have already started. (Archimandrite Sophrony of Essex, ‘St. Silouan the Athonite’, p. 223)

On Priests and the Powerful of the World

St. John of Kronstadt 1829-1908

The priest must be higher than the lordly haughtiness of well-born and coddled and not cringe before or fawn upon this haughtiness; he must not lower himself, not be cowardly before the powerful of this world, but hold himself with an awareness of his clerical dignity, gravely, evenly, in a pastoral manner — and serve unhurriedly, not so as to please people. He must denounce caprices, lordly arrogance, and any coldness to matters concerning the faith. (A Prodigal Saint, pp. 89-90)

On Another City

Fr. Georges Florovsky 1893-1979

Monasticism is something ‘other,’ a kind of ‘anti-city,’ anti-polis, for it is basically ‘another’ city… Christian history unfolds in an antithesis between the Empire and the Desert [but] monasticism succeeded, much more than the Empire ever did, to preserve the true ideal of culture in its purity and freedom. In any case, spiritual creativity was richly nourished from the depths of the spiritual life. (Christianity and Civilization)

St. Justinian on Universalism

Emperor St. Justinian ca. 483-565

Will render men slothful, and discourage them from keeping the commandments of God. It will encourage them to depart from the narrow way, leading them by deception into ways that are wide and easy. Moreover, such a doctrine completely contradicts the words of our Great God and Savior. For in the Holy Gospel he himself teaches that the impious will be sent away into eternal punishment, but the righteous will receive life eternal. Thus to those at his right, he says: “Come, O blessed of my Father, and inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world” [Mt 25:34]. But to those on his left, he says: “Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels” [Mt 25:41]. The Lord clearly teaches that both heaven and hell are eternal, but the followers of Origen prefer the myths of their master over and against the judgments of Christ, which plainly refute them. If the torments of the damned will come to an end, so too will the life promised to the righteous, for both are said to be “eternal.” And if both the torments of hell and the pleasures of paradise should cease, what was the point of the Incarnation of our Lord Jesus Christ? What was the purpose of his cruciixion, his death, burial, and resurrection? And what of all those who fought the good fight and sufered martyrdom for the sake of Christ? What benefit will their suferings have been to them, if in the “final restoration” they will receive the same reward as sinners and demons? (Against Origen PG 86.975 BD)

On Pope St. Gregory and the Title ‘Ecumenical’

Gregory the Great and the Sixth-Century Dispute Over the Ecumenical Title

An article by George Demacopoulos which explores the dispute between St. Gregory the Dialogist and Patriarch St. John the Faster over the title “Ecumenical”. It argues that the promotion of the title coincided with other Eastern challenges to Roman prestige and St. Gregory’s diplomatic strategies evolved over the course of the controversy. While nothing in his correspondence suggests that he would endorse subsequent claims to universal Roman privilege, Demacopoulos argues that Eastern ambition actually pushed the Pontiff to embrace the rhetorical claims of Petrine privilege.

On the Scope of the Lord’s Prayer

St. Maximus the Confessor ca. 580-662

…[H]e Himself worked and taught many new mysteries whose number and dimension the mind can in no way grasp or measure. There are seven in number which are more general than the others which He appears to have given to men in His extraordinary generosity. The scope of the [Lord’s] prayer, as I have said, mysteriously contains their meaning: theology, adoption in grace, equality of honor with angels, participation in eternal life, the restoration of nature inclining toward itself to a tranquil state, the abolition of the law of sin, and the overthrowing of the tyranny of evil which has dominated us by trickery. Let us examine the truth of what has just been said. (Commentary on the Our Father, Prologue 1.)

A Prayer for Unity in Christ

St. John of Kronstadt 1829-1908

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)

On Love for Enemies

St. Silouan the Athonite 1886-1938

[H]e who will not love his enemies cannot come to know the Lord and the sweetness of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit teaches us to love our enemies, so that the soul pities them as if they were her own children.

There are people who desire the destruction, the torment in hell-fire of their enemies, or the enemies of the Church. They think like this because they have not learnt divine love from the Holy Spirit, for he who has learned the love of God will shed tears for the whole world.

You say that So-and-so is an evil-doer and may he burn in hell-fire. But I ask you — supposing God were to give you a fair place in paradise, and you saw burning in the fire the man on whom you had wished the tortures of hell, even then would you really not feel pity for him, whoever he might be, an enemy of the Church even? Or is it that you have a heart of steel? But there is no place for steel in paradise. Paradise has need of humility and the love of Christ, which pities all men.

The grace of God is not in the man who does not love his enemies. O merciful Lord, by Thy Holy Spirit teach us to love our enemies, and pray for them with tears. (St Silouan the Athonite by Archimandrite Sophrony, pp. 275-276)

St. Gregory Palamas on Islam

St. Gregory Palamas ca. 1296-1359

It is true that Mohammed started from the east and came to the west, as the sun travels from the east unto the west. Nevertheless, he came with war, knives, pillaging, forced enslavement, murders, and acts that are not from the good God, but instigated by the chief manslayer, the devil. Consider now, in times past, did not Alexander (the Great) prove victorious from the east to the west? There have also been many others, in many other times, who set out on military campaigns and dominated the world. Yet none of the peoples believed in their leaders as you revere Mohammed. Though Mohammed may employ violence and offer pleasures, he cannot secure the approval of the world. Albeit, the teaching of Christ, though it turns away from (worldly) pleasures, it has taken hold to the ends of the world, without violence, since it is opposed to it. This phenomenon is the victory that overcomes the world (1 Jn. 5:4).

 

On Searching the Divine Scriptures

St. Symeon the New Theologian ca. 949-1022

[L]et us be persuaded by the Master Who says: “Search the Scriptures” (Jn. 5:39). Search, that is, and not meddle! Search the Scriptures and do not busy yourselves with disputes which lie outside the sacred writings. Search the Scriptures so that you may learn about faith, and hope, and love. About faith, so that you may not be tossed about by every wind which comes from the trickery of unstable men, but are rather rooted in the true dogma of the apostolic and catholic Church and “rightly divide” the word of her truth (II Tim. 2:15). And not only this, but you should be taught as well to seek out the fruits of faith and the profit which derives from them through the practice of the commandments. (First Ethical Discourse XII)

On Being Born of the Spirit

St. Basil the Great ca. 330-379

It is the mark of one who is born of the Spirit to become, according to the measure given to him, that which He is of Whom he is born, as Scripture says: ‘That which is born of flesh is flesh, and that which born of the Spirit is spirit’. (Morals, Rule 80.22) 

On Good Death

St. Gregory Palamas ca. 1296-1359

Except for sin nothing in this life, even death itself, is really evil, even if it causes suffering. The company of the saints brought bodily sufferings upon themselves. The martyrs made the violent death which others inflicted on them into something magnificent, a source of life, glory and the eternal heavenly kingdom, because they exploited it in a good way that pleased God. (Homily XVI, 33)

On the Benefits of Knowing Holy Scripture

St. Theophan the Recluse ca. 1815-1894

Psalm 118:16 On Thy statutes will I meditate; I will not forget Thy words.

St. Basil the Great bears witness that in his time children were made to memorize some psalms and parables. Do we do anything like that now? Is anything like that done by those who have taken up the yoke of asceticism? Yes, in many ways we have fallen behind the salutary practices of old. This, however, does not diminish the value of what is described in this verse. It means the following: Memorize verses of Scripture considered in the preceding text, and repeat what was memorized whenever the mind and speech are free. The Hebrew word corresponding to will meditate means “to turn over with delight in the mind and on the tongue” — as one might a piece of candy, for instance. Such an occupation could be offered to all who sincerely seek to please God in all.

Among us, amy of those living ascetic lives read the Psalter at home in their cells. This partly fulfills the lesson of our verse. And perhaps home prayers, personal and monastic, could be regarded as this type of activity. But more directly it means: to intentionally choose passages of the Holy Scriptures for memorizing and then repeating them in our minds.

Through this last practice, the commandments, having already occupied all the faculties of the soul, shall occupy the memory and sanctify it. The blessing from this is indescribable! …The same thing happens to the soul as to poor fruit when it is sugared. The sugar penetrates its pores, making it sweeter and protecting it from spoiling. Similarly the soul, saturated with memorized words of God, rejects the corruption of shameless and empty thoughts and is filled to sweetness with the memory of things divine.

…If we accept this, then here is a rule for beginners as to how to deal with evil thoughts. Memorize as many passages of the Scriptures as possible, in particular the words of and deeds of Christ the Savior, and repeat them often. (Psalm 118, A Commentary by St. Theophan the Recluse, pp. 47-48)

On St. Justin Popovich and Communion with the Serbian Patriarch

In response to a question we received…

Bp. Athansije, retired Bishop of Zahumlje and Herzegovina

We were closely acquainted with the Blessed Father Justin and we know that he had never broke communion with any of the Orthodox Churches or a Bishop or a Patriarch, not even with the Serbian Patriarch Germanos (1958-1990)– as some zealots ‘shamelessly lie’ — not even when the Patriarch Germanos was one of the ‘presidents of the WCC’ (a formal and honorary title without any binding conditions or duties as indeed was the participation of the Serbian Orthodox Church in the WCC). As a free and responsible member of the Church of Christ, Justin prophetically reproved and, when necessary, criticized in written form (having written a couple of criticism letters to Patriarch Germanos and the Synod, inter alia, the letters pertaining to superficial western ecumenism). But on no account did he ever create a schism, but on the contrary used to say: “Schisms are easily made but they are enormously difficult to heal” (therefore he opposed the unwisely made and increasingly deepening ‘American Schism’ just as he was against ‘the Macedonian Schism’). (St. Justin Popovich, Notes on Ecumenism. Commentary on Father Justin’s Notes, pp. 36-37)

On Adapting the Gospel to Modern Man

Fr. Georges Florovsky 1893-1979

Fit the Gospel to so-called modern man. …One is not dealing with a linear development of human thought. It goes in zig-zags. …Modern man changes so quickly it impossible to keep up. As soon as one thinks… he has adjusted himself to modern man, so-called modern man is another… of course we must speak so that the Gospel is understandable. But the ancient message will ever be the same. It is not the message which should adjust to man, but man who should adjust to the message. (Blane, Georges Florovsky, 204, n. 220.)

On the Followers of False Teachers

St. Nikolai Velimirovich 1880-1956

Are the people at fault if godless elders and false prophets lead them onto foreign paths? The people are not at fault to as great an extent as their elders and the false prophets, but they are at fault to some extent.For God gave to the people also to know the right path, both through their conscience and through the preaching of the word of God, so that people should not blindly have followed their blind guides, who led them by false paths that alienated them from God and His Laws. (The Prologue from Ochrid, Birmingham: Lazarica Press, 1986, vol. II, p. 149)

On Salvation in Hades

St. Cyril of Alexandria ca. 376-444

What occasion will we still have for weeping? On the contrary, will not what has happened to us, thanks to the Savior, cause us boundless rejoicing? He it was Who showed the way of salvation not only to us, but also went as herald to the once disobedient spirits of the underworld, as Peter says (1 Pet. 3:19-20). For it would not have done for His loving-kindness to be shown only to some; the manifestation of the gift had to extended to all of nature. For He spoke opportunely through the Prophets, “One part shall be rained upon, and the part on which I shall not rain shall be dried up.” (Amos 4:7) But the word which befits the Savior is: “Come to me, all you who labor and are weary, and I will give you rest.” (Mt. 11:28) Having proclaimed His message, then, to the spirits in the underworld and having said to those in fetters, “Come forth!” and to those in darkness, “Show yourselves!” (cf. Isa. 49:9) He raised up the temple of Himself in three days, (cf. Jn. 2:19) and renewed for nature even the ascent into heaven, presenting Himelf to the Father as a kind of first-fruits of humanity, having endowed those on earth with a share of the Spirit as a pledge of grace. (cf. 2 Cor. 5:5) (Festal Letter 2.8)

St. John of Damascus ca. 676-749

Some say that [Christ delivered from Hades] only those who believed,
such as fathers and prophets,
judges and together with them kings, local rulers
and some others from the Hebrew people,
not numerous and known to all.
But we shall reply to those who think so
that there is nothing undeserved,
nothing miraculous and nothing strange
in that Christ should save those who believed,
for He remains only the fair Judge,
and every one who believes in Him will not perish.
So they all ought to have been saved
and delivered from the bonds of Hades
by the descent of God and Master —
that same happened by His Disposition.
Whereas those who were saved only through [God’s] love of men
were, as I think, all those
who had the purest life
and did all kinds of good works,
living in modesty, temperance and virtue,
but the pure and divine faith
they did not conceive because they were not instructed in it
and remained altogether unlearnt.
They were those whom the Steward and Master of all
drew, captured in the divine nets
and persuaded to believe in Him,
illuminating them with the divine rays
and showing them the true light. (Concerning Those Who Died in Faith PG 95, 257 AC).

St. Philaret of Moscow on the Reception of Converts

St. Philaret of Moscow 1821-1867

Question 1

If a layman, baptized and confirmed in the established Church of England, were to apply to you to be admitted into full communion with the Greek Church, would you be obliged to receive him, even if it might seem to you that it would be better for him to remain in the English Church?

Reply

To reply to this question, one first has to understand it. But the question posed here is not readily comprehensible and therefore it is necessary to pose the following the question in return: Under what circumstances could a priest of the Orthodox Church, believing in its Apostolic dignity and purity, suppose it would be better for a member of the English Church to remain in it rather than unite himself to the Orthodox Church? Until this second question is resolved, an Orthodox priest of the Catholic Eastern Church can assume that the question originally posed does not exist; and that consequently it does not require an answer.

Question 2

If a layman were to be received, would it be necessary to give him baptism and confirmation, conditionally or unconditionally?

Reply

A member of the Anglican Church, who has definitely received a baptism in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, even though it be by effusion (pouring), can, in accordance with the rule accepted in the Church of Russia (which the Church of Constantinople considers to be a form of condescension), be received into the Orthodox Church without a new baptism, but the sacrament of chrismation must be administered to him, because confirmation, in the teaching of the Anglican Church, is not a sacrament. (Guidance from Metropolitan Philaret of Moscow Regarding English Converts to Orthodoxy. Embassy, Emigrants, and Englishmen p. 607)

 

St. Philaret on the Intercessions of the Saints

St. Philaret of Moscow 1821-1867

The Orthodox Church looks with sorrow on those not belonging to her who reject the invocation of the Saints, since they are depriving themselves of spiritual help which of no small importance. But to receive such people into her communion would be bringing contradiction into her midst, and opening a path for foreign opinions to weaken and change her ancient, true and salutary tradition…

If we had seen how the Apostle Peter prayed and raised Tabitha from the dead, would we not be inspired, when feeling the need of spiritual help, to say to him “Pray also for us”? Why can we not also say this to him now, when he is at a higher level of closeness to God?

According to the Creed we believe in “one Church”. Is it only the earthly Church in which we believe? According to the Apostle’s teaching, faith relates to things not seen. Is it not therefore more characteristic of faith that it should relate to the One Church of Christians, both those struggling on earth and the perfected righteous ones in the heavens? In that case, what can hinder the communion of those on earth with those in heaven? We are commanded to love one another and pray for one another; where is it said to the saints in heaven “Do not love your brothers on earth and do not wish them good things from God” or, what is the same thing, “Do not pray for them”?

In the book of the Prophet Zechariah (1:12-13) it is written, “Then the Angel of the Lord answered and said, O Lord of hosts, how long will you not have mercy on Jerusalem…?” Here you see the angel is praying for Jerusalem. “And the Lord answered the angel who talked with me, with good and comforting.” You see, the angel’s prayer is accepted.

In the book of the Prophet Jeremiah (15:1) it is written, “Then the Lord said to me, ‘Even if Moses and Samuel stood before Me, My mind would not be favorable toward this people.'” This was said in a specific instance, when the Jews had, through their inquiries, made themselves incapable of accepting mercy. Consequently, in different circumstances, the Lord would permit Moses and Samuel to stand before Him in prayer, and their prayer would be accepted unto mercy, just as he accepted and fulfilled their prayers during their earthly life.

Do not reprove the Orthodox Church for the fact that her prayerful love is widespread, and is not limited to the earth, but extends form the earth to heaven, and from heaven embraces the earth.

“The one Mediator between God and man is Christ Jesus, Who gave Himself as a deliverance for all.” But the prayers both of earth and of heaven reach out to Him, and to His intercessions before His Father. (Guidance from Metropolitan Philaret of Moscow Regarding English Converts to Orthodoxy, Reply to Question 6. Embassy, Emigrants, and Englishmen pp. 610-611)

On How to Read Holy Scripture

Hieromonk Seraphim Rose 1934-1982

It is well known that Protestants spend a great deal of time on Holy Scripture, because for them it is everything. For us Orthodox Christians the Scripture also holds an essential place. Often, however, we do not take advantage of it, and do not realize what importance it has for us; or if we do, we often do not approach it in the right spirit because the Protestant approach and Protestant books about the Scriptures are widespread, while our Orthodox approach is quite different.

The fact that Scripture is an essential part of our Faith can be seen in our Orthodox services. There are daily readings from the New Testament from both the Epistles and Gospels. In one year we read through almost the entire New Testament. In the first three days of the week before Pascha—the feast of Christ’s Resurrection, the four Gospels are read in church, and on Thursday night of Passion Week twelve long selections from the Gospels are read concerning the Passion of our Lord, with verses sung in between, commenting on these passages. The Old Testament is also used in the services. In the vespers for every great feast three parables are read prefiguring the feast. And the Divine services themselves are filled with Scriptural quotations, Scriptural allusions and inspiration coming directly from Holy Scripture. Orthodox Christians also read the Scripture outside the services. St. Seraphim, in his monastic life, read the entire New Testament every week. Perhaps it is because we have such a richness of Scripture in our Orthodox tradition that we are often guilty of taking them for granted, of not valuing and making use of the Scriptures.

One of the leading interpreters of Holy Scripture for us is St. John Chrysostom, an early 5th century Holy Father. He wrote commentaries on practically the whole of the New Testament, including all of St. Paul’s epistles and also many Old Testament books. In one sermon concerning Scripture, he addresses his flock:

“I exhort you, and I will not cease to exhort you to pay heed not only to what is said here, but when you are home also you should occupy yourselves attentively with the reading of Holy Scripture. Let no one say to me such cold words—worthy of judgment—as these: ‘I am occupied with a trial, I have obligations in the city, I have a wife, I have to feed my children, and it is not my duty to read the Scripture but the duty of those who have renounced everything.’ What are you saying?! It is not your duty to read Scripture because you are distracted by innumerable cares? On the contrary, it is your duty more than those others, more than the monks; they do not have such need of help as do you who live in the midst of such cares. You need treatment all the more, because you are constantly under such blows and are wounded so often. The reading of Scripture is a great defense against sin. Ignorance of the Scripture is a great misfortune, a great abyss. Not to know anything from the word of God is a disaster. This is what has given rise to heresies, to immorality; it has turned everything upside down.”

Here we see that the reading of Holy Scripture provides us with a great weapon in the fight against the worldly temptations surrounding us—and we do not do enough of it. The Orthodox Church, far from being against the reading of Scripture, greatly encourages it. The Church is only against the misreading of Scripture, against reading one’s own private opinions and passions, even sins into the sacred text. When we hear that the Protestants are all excited about something that they say is in the Scripture—the rapture, for example, or the millennium—we are not against their reading the Scripture but against their misinterpretation of the Scripture. To avoid this pitfall ourselves we must understand what this sacred text is and how we should approach it.

The Bible—the Holy Scripture, the Old and New Testaments—is not an ordinary book. It is one that contains not human but divinely revealed truths. It is the word of God. Therefore, we must approach it with reverence and contrition of heart, not with mere idle curiosity and academic coldness. Nowadays one cannot expect a person who has no sympathy for Christianity, no sympathy for the Scriptures to have a proper attitude of reverence. There is, however, such power in the words of Scripture—especially in the Gospels—that it can convert a person even without this proper attitude We have heard of cases in communist countries; the police go out in special squads to persecute believers and break up their meetings; they confiscate all their literature: Bibles, hymn books, patristic texts—many written out by hand. They’re supposed to burn them, but sometimes either the person who is assigned to bum them or the person collecting them gets curious and begins reading the condemned materials. And there have been cases where this has changed the person’s life. All of a sudden he meets Jesus Christ. And he’s shocked, especially if he has been raised with the notion that this is a great evil; here he discovers that there is no evil here but rather something quite fantastic.

Many modern scholars approach the Scriptures with a cold, academic spirit; they do not wish to save their souls by reading Scripture: they only want to prove what great scholars they are, what new ideas they can come up with; they want to make a name for themselves. But we who are Orthodox Christians must have utmost reverence and contrition of heart; i.e., we must approach the word of God with a desire to change our hearts. We read the Scripture in order to gain salvation, not, as some Protestants believe, because we are already saved without the possibility of falling away, but rather as those desperately trying to keep the salvation which Christ has given us, fully aware of our spiritual poverty. For us, reading Scripture is literally a matter of life and death. As King David wrote in the Psalms: Because of Thy words my heart hath bee, afraid. I will rejoice in Thy sayings as one that hath found great spoil.

The Scripture contains truth, and nothing else. Therefore, we must study the Scripture believing in its truth, without doubt or criticism. If we have this latter attitude we shall receive no benefit from reading Scripture but only find ourselves with those “wise” men who think they know more than God’s revelation. In fact, the wise of this world often miss the meaning of Scripture. Our Lord prayed: I thank Thee, O Father…that Thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent and hast revealed them unto babes (Luke 10:21). In our approach we must not be sophisticated, complicated scholars; we must be simple. And if we are simple the words will have meaning for us.

For our reading of Scripture to be fruitful, to help save our souls, we must ourselves be leading a spiritual life in accordance with the Gospel. The Scriptures are addressed precisely’ to those who are trying to lead a spiritual life. Others will usually read them in vain, and will not even understand much. St. Paul teaches: The natural [i.e., unspiritual] man receiveth not the things of the spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned (I Cor. 2:14). The more one is leading a spiritual life, the more one is capable of understanding the Scripture.

A second point. Because we are weak and can only boast of our infirmities, we must pray to God to open the eyes of our understanding by His grace Even Christ’s disciples on the road to Emmaus did not understand the Scripture; they did not understand that it was Christ in front of them interpreting the Scripture, until Christ Himself opened their minds (Luke 24:45). So unless we have our minds opened—which comes from the grace of God—we will read Scripture and not understand it; hearing we will not understand, seeing we will not see.

The Inspiration of Scripture

Why do we say that Scripture is the inspired word of God? Among occultists and spiritualists there is a phenomenon known as automatic writing, in which a person is literally possessed by a spirit and writes without using his free will. In fact, the latest fashion in this kind of occultism is to sit in front of a typewriter and let the spirit take over your fingers, and “spirit messages” appear. This is not the way Holy Scripture is inspired. This is the way demons operate. St. Basil, in his introduction to his commentary on the book of Isaiah, writes:

“Some think that the prophets prophesied in ecstasy, so that the human mind was eclipsed by the Spirit. But it is against the promise of God to give divine inspiration in an ecstatic state, so that when a person is filled with divine teachings he should go out of his normal mind, and when he gives benefit to others he should receive no benefit from his own words… And in general,” St. Basil continues, “is it reasonable that the spirit of wisdom should make a man like someone out of his mind, and that the spirit of knowledge should annihilate the power of reason? Light does not produce darkness, but on the contrary awakens the power of sight given by nature. And the spirit does not produce darkness in souls; on the contrary, the mind which has been cleansed of sinful defilements is thereby awakened to mental vision or contemplation.’

The revelation of Holy Scripture is thus given to pure and holy men who are in an exalted end inspired state but in full possession of their mental faculties. Those who wish to understand the Scriptures must likewise be struggling to lead a pure and holy life, receiving God’s grace to understand what the Holy Spirit has revealed. St. Basil, in this same introduction, writes:

“The first and great gift, which requires that a soul be carefully cleansed, is to contain in oneself divine inspiration and to prophesy of God’s mysteries [This refers to a person who writes the Scripture]. And the second gift after this, which likewise requires great and assiduous care, is to pay heed to the intent of what has been declared by the Spirit, and not to err in understanding it, but to be led up to this understanding by the Spirit.” That is, the second great thing is to understand what these prophets, the writers of Holy Scripture have written in their state of respiration. So we ourselves must be striving to receive God’s grace and inspiration to understand the Scripture. Therefore, the labor of interpreting the Scripture is not an easy one. In fact, St. Basil teaches, ‘there are many places in Scripture that are deliberately difficult to understand.’ How can this be? He writes:

“Just as our Creator did not will that we should be like the animals and that all the conveniences of life should be born together with us [i.e., fur to clothe us, horns to defend us, etc], so that the lack of what is ncessary should lead to the use of the mind; so too is Scripture, He allowed there to be a lack of clarity is [sometimes] for the benefit of the mind, so as to arouse its activity. That which is obtained with labor somehow attaches itself more to us, and what is produced over a long time is more solid, while that which is obtained easily is not so much enjoyed.” That is, we see that the Scriptures are deliberately difficult so that we might force our mind to be raised up to a state of understanding and not simply received on a platter an already obvious meaning.

All this shows that the reading of Scripture is not to be taken up lightly, and it is not just to gather information which we can take or leave. Rather, it is for the salvation of our souls. And as we read we must be n the process of changing ourselves because this is the purpose of Scripture. If we are not converted: it is to convert us, if we are already converted it is so that we will work on ourselves more, if we are working on ourselves it is so that we will be humble and not think too highly of ourselves. There is no state in which Scripture is not applicable to us.

All this is quite different from the teachings of those Protestants who regard Scripture as an infallible oracle (which is, in fact, similar to a belief in the infallibility of the Pope of Rome) and that man’s common sense can understand its meaning. If you look at the innumerable Protestant sects you will see that they each have different peculiar interpretations of the same passages, and they all say theirs is the ‘obvious’ meaning. Sometimes they learn Greek, and they say that’s ‘obviously’ what the Greek says, while someone else has exactly the opposite interpretation and he thinks it’s just as obvious. How do you know what it really says?

How to Interpret Scripture

First, some examples of how to misinterpret Scripture. There are in Scripture numerous passages which seem to contradict other passages. For example, ‘Whosoever abideth in God sinneth not, and Whosoever sinneth hath not seen Him, neither knoweth Him’ (I John 3:9). According to the plain meaning of this passage you would think that a person who becomes a Christian ceases to sin. If this is so, why do we have confession? Why do we look at ourselves and see that we constantly sin? Does this mean that we are not really Christians? But in this same epistle we read: ‘If we say we have no sin we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us’ (I John 1:8). How can the same writer say two such seemingly contradictory, things? It’s obvious that we must have a deeper understanding of both passages. We must understand that while we have the grace of God we do not sin; when we sin it proves we have lost the grace of God, and we must struggle to regain it. We must recognize that there is a standard, a model which we must follow, which is not to sin. We must not deceive ourselves in thinking that we are constantly in a sinless state; rather, we are constantly striving towards it, sometimes reaching it and then falling away. That is our Christian lift. These passages must be read with an awareness of what it is to struggle as an Orthodox Christian.

Again, St. Matthew says, ‘Call no man your father on the earth’ (Matthew 23:9). Many Protestants interpret this quite literally and thereby refuse to call any clergyman “Father”. But even this same book of St. Matthew calls Abraham the father of us all (Matthew 4:16). That, of course, concerns a father who is dead; that’s one difference. In his epistle to the Hebrews, St. Paul speaks of the fathers and prophets of the Old Testament; these are also dead. But he also speaks about living fathers: ‘Though ye have ten thousand instructors in Christ, yet have ye not many fathers, for in Christ Jesus I have begotten you through the Gospel’ (1 Cor. 4:15). Here he says quite clearly that “I am your spiritual father.” He doesn’t say this in so many words, so the Protestants overlook this passage. Nevertheless, he is saying, “that you have not many fathers, therefore you have some, and I am one of them because I have begotten you in the Gospel”. That seems to contradict what the Lord says, “Call no man father upon the earth”. But here Our Lord is speaking about the One Father; there is One Who is Father in the sense that no one else is father. There are others who are fathers in the limited sense: there are some spiritual fathers, there are fathers in the flesh…, they are all fathers but different types Just as He says, Neither be ye called masters: for one is your Master, Even Christ (Matthew 23:10).

Literal vs. Non-literal

Once we were visited by some Protestants who told us that they interpreted the Bible absolutely literally. I asked them about the passage, “Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of Man, and drink His blood, ye have no life in you”‘ (John 6:53). And the first thing they said was, “Well, that is not literal.” Immediately they contradicted themselves. They think that they accept everything literally, but they make excuses for not accepting literally those passages which do not agree with their beliefs.

Many passages in Scripture can only by understood in the context of dogmatic teaching—which a person receives either from other scriptures or from some other source, either from the authority of the Church or the private opinions of some particular teacher. Some Seventh-Day Adventists, commenting on the Lord’s promise to the wise thief, “Verily I say unto thee, today thou shalt be with Me in Paradise” (Luke 23:43), claim that it is mispunctuated, that it should read: “Verily, I say unto thee today, thou shalt…”, because they believe that when a person dies his soul goes to sleep, and therefore the thief could not be with Christ in Paradise today. Here is an example of changing the meaning of Scripture to conform with one’s beliefs. And because their dogmatic teaching is wrong on this subject, their interpretation of Scripture is also wrong.

There are many such seeming problems which can be seen if one looks at separate verses of Scripture. Some Protestants argue for hours, even years, over such questions. It is important for us not to get bogged down in such problems. We must understand the principles of correctly interpreting Scripture. About this St. John Chrysostom writes in his homily in Philippians:

“One must not simply seize the words of Scripture and tear them out of their connection and context. One must not take bare words, depriving them of support from what precedes and what follows in order then simply to ridicule and make clever tricks. For if in criminal trials, where we examine worldly matters, we set forth everything which serves for justification—the place and time, the causes, the persons and much else—would it not be absurd when we have before us the struggle for eternal life to quote the words of Scripture simply, just as they occur.”

This is precisely what many Protestants do; not having the whole context, not having the whole, reasoned theological dogma, they quote the Scriptures just as they occur: “It’s obvious that’s what it means.” But Scripture must be placed in context, in the complete picture both of the book in which they occur, in the rest of Holy Scripture, and in the whole teaching of Christ as handed down in His Church.

A difficult question concerns what in Holy Scripture is to be interpreted literally and what is not to be interpreted literally. We cannot answer this question by “common sense” because this only causes new sects to arise. St. Simeon the New Theologian, the great Orthodox Father of the 11th century, explains this in concise form:

“Christ the Master of all daily teaches us through the Holy Gospel, where some things He speaks in a hidden way so that not many might understand, when He speaks in parables. And some of these things He later explains alone to his disciples, saying: ‘Unto you it is given to know the mysteries of the Kingdom of God, but to the rest in parables’ (Luke 8:10). But other things He speaks plainly, clearly to everyone, as the Apostle said to him, ‘Lo, now speakest Thou plainly and speakest no parable’ (John 16:29). Therefore, it is our duty to investigate and find out in which words the Lord taught plainly and clearly, and in which He taught in a hidden manner and in parables.”

St. Simeon gives examples of when our Lord speaks plainly. For instance,” Love your enemies” (Matt. 5:44). We are to understand that literally. Or again, in the Beatitudes: “Blessed are they that weep for they shall laugh, etc.” We must understand this as it is written; now is a time for weeping. And again, “Repent, for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand” (Matt. 3:2); or “He that loveth his own soul will lose it” (John 3:25); or “If any would follow Me, let him renounce himself and take up his cross and follow Me” (Matt. 16:24). Some of these things are very hard to do. And some are even quite difficult for our worldly minds to grasp. But, with knowledge of the Kingdom of Heaven and the spiritual life, they become clear and they are interpreted literally, even though sometimes also by the use of metaphors. As examples of parables, St. Simeon speaks of “faith being like a mustard seed” (Luke 13), or of “the Kingdom of Heaven being like the pearl of great price” (Matt. 13:45) or “leaven” (Matt. 13:33). St. Simeon continues:

“Therefore, reflect, I beg you, on how great is God’s wisdom, that by means of such sensuous examples, which seem to us to be lowly, He depicts for us and like an artist sketches out in our mind that which is unthinkable and unapproachable. He does this so that unbelievers might remain blind, deprived of knowledge of those good things of heaven, since they have become unworthy of this by reason of unbelief. But believers, on the other hand, hearing and receiving with faith the word of the parable, might see the truth and clearly know the reality in the things which are shown by the parables, for parables are the images of spiritual things.” (Homily 53) St. Simeon teaches that the epistles of the apostles also contain many hidden things, in addition to the things which are said plainly.

Closely related to the literal vs. the mystical meaning of texts are cases in which a particular text has many meanings, where material objects are spoken of in order to raise our minds to spiritual realities. This is not to say that we should deliberately search the Scriptures for symbols, as if whatever is said means something else; rather, it is a matter of raising ourselves to a spiritual level where we can begin to understand the spiritual reality about which the inspired writers often speak. Thus, when David says, “Thou has broken my bonds asunder” (Ps. 115), he is not merely speaking of physical bonds and using this as a symbol of deliverance from corruption and death. This is the mystical meaning. But he is not using this worldly image of “bonds” in order only to express the mystical meaning, the lack of corruption or immortality; he is also speaking at the same time on a second level of meaning, using the physical image as an opportunity to express the spiritual truth of deliverance from corruption. If we already know the Christian teaching of Adam’s fall, the corruption of the world, and our redemption by Jesus Christ, and if we are struggling to raise ourselves to this spiritual level, we do not need a commentary to explain the words; that is, the Holy Fathers will help us, but we don’t need a commentary to tell us that “x=y.” The words themselves express the spiritual meaning. Anyone who reads and prays with the psalms has experienced this. Especially in times of sorrow, the words of psalms acquire a new and deeper meaning; we find that physical things refer to our own sorrows and dejection and our need to receive deliverance from Christ.

The Orthodox services are full of this same kind of language, which we call sacred poetry. The key to understanding this poetry is the leading of a spiritual life, which is what Scripture speaks about. In a word, the understanding of Scripture requires God’s grace. St. Simeon the New Theologian gives an excellent image of this:

“Spiritual knowledge is like a house built in the midst of Greek and worldly wisdom, in which house, like a tightly locked trunk, there is the knowledge of the divine Scriptures, and the unutterable treasure hidden in this knowledge of the Scriptures, that is, Divine grace. Those who enter this house cannot see this treasure if the trunk is not opened for them, but this trunk cannot be opened by any human wisdom. This is why people who think in a worldly way do not know the spiritual treasure which lies in the trunk of spiritual knowledge, and just as someone who lifts this trunk on his shoulders cannot by this alone see the treasure which is inside, so also even if someone were to read and learn by heart the divine Scriptures, and could read them all like a single psalm, he cannot by this alone acquire the grace of the Holy Spirit, which is hidden in them. For just as what is hidden in the trunk cannot be revealed by the trunk itself, so also what is concealed in the divine Scriptures cannot be revealed by the Scriptures themselves.” (Homily 39)

This is a very interesting passage; is shows that the Protestants are clearly wrong—for Scripture itself does not reveal the meaning of Scripture. Rather, it is revealed by God’s grace. St. Simeon continues:

“When God comes to dwell in us and reveals Himself to us consciously, then we awaken to knowledge, i.e., we understand in reality those mysteries which are concealed in the divine Scriptures. But it is impossible to attain this in any other way. Those who do not know what I have spoken about and have not experienced it in reality have not yet tasted of the sweetness of the immortal life which the divine words have, and they boast only of their knowledge; they place the hope for their salvation on the knowledge of the divine Scripture alone and in the fact that they know it by heart. Such ones, after death, will be judged more than those who have not heard the Scripture at all. Especially do those who have gone astray in ignorance corrupt the meaning of divine Scripture and interpret it according to their lusts. For them the power of divine Scripture is inaccessible. One who has the whole of Divine Scripture on his lips cannot understand and attain to the mystical divine glory and power concealed in it if he will not fulfill the commandments of God and be vouchsafed to receive the Comforter, the Spirit of Truth, Who might open to him the words of Divine Scripture as a book, and show him the mystical glory which is within them and might at the same time show the power and glory of God; which good things are concealed in them, together with eternal life overflowing with those good things. But these things are concealed and unknown to all those who are careless disdainers of God’s commandments.”

Thus, in order to read and understand the Scriptures we must be leading a life according to the commandments, receiving the grace of the Holy Spirit, even as the authors of the sacred books were doing. And we must be eager and zealous in our reading. St. John Damascene, the great Orthodox Father of the 8th century, who summed up the teaching of the earlier Fathers in his book, On the Orthodox Faith, says, “Let us not knock casually, but with eagerness and persistence, and let us not lose heart while knocking, for so it will be opened to us. If we should read once and then a second time and still not understand what we are reading, let us not be discouraged. Rather, let us persist, let us reflect and inquire, for it is written: ‘Ask thy father and he will declare it to thee, thy elders and they will tell it thee’ (Deut. 32:7). For not all have knowledge. From the fountain of paradise let us draw ever flowing and most pure waters springing up into life everlasting; let us revel in them; let us revel greedily in them to satiety, for they contain the grace which cannot be exhausted.”

Another important point in approaching Scriptures is that we should approach them with humility, i.e., we should not expect to read just once and immediately “understand”; we should not expect to read and use our common sense and think that we really understand; but we should have a very humble idea that there is probably a great deal that we missed, even in the most seemingly “obvious” passages. We must have this basic humility because the underlying cause of all these Protestant sects, which are based on different interpretations of Scriptures, is precisely pride. They read and they think, “I understand what it says.” And that is wrong. When we read the Scriptures we must think to ourselves: “I understand a little, my fathers have taught me, I’ve read commentaries and heard sermons in Church, and my understanding is in accordance with what I’ve been taught by Church Tradition; but still, I don’t trust entirely that I know what it means.” We cannot simply take the first idea that comes into our minds—or even the second or third idea; we must go deeper and see what the Fathers teach us, what the Church teaches us, how this fits in with other books of the Bible, always thinking that our knowledge of Scripture—no matter how much we know—is always deficient; we never know enough; we must always be willing to learn more. (Source)

St. Justinian on Heterodoxy

St. Justinian the Emperor ca. 483-565

But inasmuch as heretics, who respect neither God nor the penalties threatened by my severe laws, eagerly execute the work of the devil, and, by seducing the simple away from the true Church, furtively hold misgatherings and misbaptisms. (Novella 132)

On the Counsel of the Saints

St. Ephrem the Syrian ca. 306-373

Never refuse the counsel of holy men, even if you are learned; for this, too, is one of the fruits of knowledge. (Hypothesis XVIII, The Evergetinos Vol. II of the First Book)

On Interpreting Genesis “Literally”

Hieromonk Seraphim Rose 1934-1982

I am afraid that not all who speak about Genesis and evolution pay attention to this principle. Some people are so concerned to combat Protestant Fundamentalism that they go to extreme lengths to refute anyone who wishes to interpret the sacred text of Genesis “literally”; but in so doing they never refer to St. Basil or other commentators on the book of Genesis, who state quite clearly the principles we are to follow in interpreting the sacred text. I am afraid that many of us who profess to follow the patristic tradition are sometimes careless, and easily fall into accepting our own “wisdom” in place of the teaching of the holy Fathers. I firmly believe that the whole world outlook and philosophy of life for an Orthodox Christian may be found in the holy Fathers; if we will listen to their teaching instead of thinking we are wise enough to teach others from our own “wisdom,” we will not go astray. (Letter to Dr. Alexander Kalomiros)

On the Full Knowledge of God

St. Symeon the New Theologian ca. 949-1022

For my part, I will naturally grieve and weep at the breaking up of my own members, my own race, of brothers according to flesh and spirit, because we who have put on Christ through baptism account the Mysteries of Christ as nothing. We think we will receive the full knowledge of God’s truth by means of worldly wisdom, and fancy that this mere reading of the God-inspired writings of the Saints is to comprehend Orthodoxy, and that this is an exact and certain knowledge of the Holy Trinity… For no one is able to think or speak properly about what concerns the Holy Trinity from just reading the Scriptures. One instead accepts it by faith alone, abides with what has been written, and does not dabble with anything more. As for those who are curious and dare to meddle cheerfully with divine things, [they should understand that] it is not possible to say anything at all outside of what has been written and taught by the Fathers. (The Ethical Discourses: Ninth Ethical Discourse)

On the Grace of God and Human Efforts

Go and buy it now!

St. Theophan the Recluse  1815-1894

A God-pleasing life is nurtured by both [grace and zeal] inseparably. Grace will not lend any help without our own efforts, nor can our own efforts do anything lasting without God’s grace. It is the union of of freedom and grace that accomplishes the task. Do not ask which is larger, which smaller; which one begins, which follows because we cannot comprehend this. But simply bear in mind: Both are equally important, for one can do nothing in us without the other.

Hasten to accomplish what is in your power, like the holy Prophet David, who first mentioned zeal, but then called for grace. What is from God is always ready, if only we were ready. For that reason, he does not augment his prayer, but only cries: Oh, that my ways were directed! (Ps. 118 (119):5)

To graft commandments to the heart to such an extent that they will permanently dwell there and direct the heart itself — this is the doing of God’s grace. No matter how hard he may try, man cannot do it on his own. Thus, with all man’s efforts, the transformation of the heart is achieved through grace and through grace alone. Here is the substantial difference between a Christian and a pagan!

Yet without works and spiritual deeds in fulfilling the commandments, grace will not graft anything to the heart, leaving it as it is, with all its passionate tastes and attractions, even though a person may have been baptized and partakes of other sacraments. Here lies the difference between Christians who toil hard spiritually and those who do not find it necessary to constrain themselves, although they conduct themselves honestly. The law do spiritual life dictates that what a person does not struggle for will it be given by God’s grace, although with his own effort alone he will not succeed in anything. (Psalm 118: A Commentary by Saint Theophan the Recluse, p. 23, 38-39)

On Innovators

St. Maximus the Confessor ca. 580-662

[T]hose who have itching ears and itching tongues are those who wish only to hear or or tell of something new, who are always delighted by innovations, and in relocating the boundaries established by their fathers — to use a biblical phrase — and who take pleasure in the ephemeral and exotic, and who rise up against whatever is well known, well established, and unchanging, as being dull, commonplace, and of no value. They would gladly embrace the latest fashion, even though it were demonstrably false and could bring no benefit to the soul. (Ambiguum 13)

On Grace and Orthodox Dogma

Hieromonk Seraphim Rose 1934-1982

On grace, for example, the Egyptian Father St. Paisius the Great failed to recognize his own disciple after he returned from a brief trip to Alexandria. It turned out that the disciple had met a heretic and had agreed with him that “perhaps” some Orthodox dogma was not true after all, and grace left him, and this was literally seen by his elder, so real is grace, and so carefully must it be kept. (Letters From Father Seraphim, p. 24. Letter August 16/29, 1971)

On the Accusations of Moses

St. Ambrose of Milan ca. 338-397

In a mystical sense it is well said to the Jews: I judge you not, that is, I, the universal Saviour, I, who am the Remission of sins, judge you not, for ye have not received Me. I judge you not, I freely pardon you. I, who by My Blood redeem sinners, judge you not. I judge you not, for I would not the death but the life of a sinner. I judge you not, for I condemn not but justify those who confess their sins. Moses accuses you, he in whom you trust convicts you. He can accuse you, he cannot judge you, this is reserved to his Creator. He then in whom ye trust accuses you, He in Whom ye would not trust absolves you. (Letter 127, 13)

On the Definition of the Term ‘Heretic’

Emperor St. Justinian the Great ca. 483-565

We term everyone a heretic who does not belong to the Catholic Church and to our Orthodox and holy Faith. (Cod. 1, 5, 12, 4; cf. Proc. HA 11, 14.)

 

On the Lesson of Wood

St. Ephrem of Syria ca. 306-373

Let Fire be a demonstration for thee, that is buried and dead in secret, and the rubbing of wood with wood brings it to life for the destruction of both of them ; but when it (i.e. Fire) has come to life it turns to burn the substance that brought it to life by its companionship. Oh, the evident illustration!— that Wood is made a grave for Fire, and when the one has been resurrected from it, it is destroyed by that one! (On Virginity, XII)

On Orthodox/Non-Chalcedonian Ecumenical Discussions

Council of Chalcedon

Fr. John Romanides 1927-2001

Our discussions have now reached the point where the Chalcedonian Orthodox are clearly being told that the Non-Chalcedonians should not be expected to accept Chalcedon as a condition of union. This now seems to be put to us as a condition for continuing our unofficial dialogue. Such a condition is unacceptable and for us can only mean the end of dialogue. We strongly sense that either:

(1) there has taken place a radical change since (the discussions at) Aarhus [1964] and Bristol [1967], or

(2) we have all along been the objects of an ecumenical technique which aims at the accomplishment of inter-communion or communion, or union without agreement on Chalcedon and the Fifth, Sixth, and Seventh Ecumenical Councils.

The Non-Chalcedonians should very clearly realize that from our side the faith professed cannot be separated from the people who profess. The faith confessed by the Fathers of Chalcedon is the true faith. If we accept that faith we must accept also the Fathers who profess this true faith. Otherwise, the communion of saints confessing this faith is not accepted as a reality. In this connection, I would stress that we are not going to be maneuvered into positions predetermined for us by ecumenical technicians and strategists. (Greek Orthodox Theological Review Spring-Fall 1971)

On the Tome of Leo and ‘Eastern Ecumenism’

Fr. Georges Florovsky 1893-1979

I should like to be an advocatus diabolus because I feel the need. First, I am wholeheartedly in favor of a reconciliation between eastern churches, but I am not for over-emphasis on the East. Eastern ecumenism is a contradiction in terms. The West also belongs to the oikoumene. We cannot afford to forget the West — and the Tome of Leo. The Christian Tradition is universal. The Byzantine Church was afraid of precipitating a schism by rejecting Leo. We must also be careful. …I have also doubts about agreement on the basis of a one-sided Cyrillian formula. I think it is important to come to terms with the later Ecumenical Councils. (1964, Discussion on the Paper ‘The Problem of the Unification of Non-Chalcedonian Churches of the East with the Orthodox on the Basis of  Cyril’s Formula: “Mia Physis tou Theou Logou Sesarkomene’ by Professor Johannes N. Karmiris)

On Orthodox Christological Terminology

Fr. Dumitru Staniloae 1903-1993

The term “two natures” was introduced of necessity precisely to express the fact that the godhead and manhood persist without confusion in Christ. The Non-Chalcedonians had an aversion for the use number concerning Christ, believing number to bring division into his oneness. But in that way they made it impossible for themselves to express the non-confusion of the godhead and manhood in Him. The Non-Chalcedonians said: “No number of the natures in Christ must be asserted, because number introduces division”. Emperor Justinian observed that, when number is used to indicate thing that are united, a distinction is made only in word and thought, but not a real division among the things. But in any case, where the distinction is kept, number too, necessarily follows (St. Justinian’s ‘Confession of Faith’).

Apart from that, the fact that the Non-Chalcedonians affirmed only one nature in Christ, thus running the risk of confusing the godhead and manhood, forced the Church, both at Chalcedon and afterwards, to affirm that there are two natures in Christ.

It is true that the Non-Chalcedonians, wishing to avoid this confusion, specified that the single nature which they asserted is a “composite nature”. But the composite character made this nature no less one. Furthermore, the Orthodox had a lot of reasons for not admitting a composite nature in Christ, The parts of the composite nature combine to form a being in which each part depends upon the other, objected St. Maximus the Confessor (Epistle 19). Can we admit that the divine nature can combine with the human so as to form one single nature with the human?

Apart from that, the recognition of two natures in Christ’s single hypostasis is necessitated by the fact that His human nature continues in Him in its entirety, not in an inorganic form, but as an organic structure in a way through a reciprocal conditioning of its parts. The human in Christ, the distinctively psychological whole, which neither dissolves itself nor admits an extraneous element into its natural synthesis. Only in this way does it continue in its human ontological status (as the Sixth Ecumenical Council says). Only in this way can the human be the specifically human vehicle for manifesting the divine hypostasis: only thus can the deifying action of the godhead live in a human way. …The expression “one hypostasis in two natures” takes account of these two different unities in Christ and does not confuse them. It expresses the quality of these different unities more adequately than the expression “a composite nature” or than the identifying of nature with hypostasis (The Christology of the Synods, p. 130-137)

On Living According to Holy Scripture

St. Anthony the Great ca 251-356

Pay attention to what I tell you: whoever you may be, always have God before your eyes, whatever you do, do it according to the testimony of the Holy Scriptures… (Sayings of St. Anthony the Great, 3)

On the Root Cause of the Great Schism

Saint Nektarios of Aegina 1846-1920

The unity of the Church is not founded by, or based on, one only person out of all the Apostles, but in the sole person of our Saviour Jesus Christ… Of the Ecumenical Church, only the Roman Church has perceived the spirit of unity differently and has sought to attain it and has striven for it through other means. It was this different perception regarding the manner of unification that provoked the Schism, which, having made its start from the very first centuries grew with time and progressed according to the measures determined by the principles of the Roman Church, until it arrived at the complete schism, because of the demands of the Popes… In this lies the reason for the Schism, which is truly a most significant reason because it overturns the spirit of the Gospel, and is a most important dogmatic reason, because it is the denial of the principles of the Gospel. The remaining dogmatic reasons – albeit very important ones – can be regarded as secondary and as the outcome of the first reason. (A Historical Study Regarding the Causes of the Schism”, vol.1, Athens 1911, p. 69)

On the Eschatological View of the Third Rome Theory

Fr. Georges Florovsky 1893-1979

The first traces of the famous “Third Rome Theory” are sketched out precisely in…perspectives of apocalyptical unrest. The theory is intrinsically an eschatological one, and the monk Filofei sustains its eschatological tones and categories. “For two Romes have fallen, a third stands, and a fourth there cannot be.” The pattern is a familiar one taken from Byzantine apocalyptical literature: it is the translatio imperii, or more accurately, the image of the wandering Kingdom — the Kingdom or city wandering or straying until the hour comes for it to flee into the desert.

…For a “Josephite”, the “Third Rome” meant that great and newly constructed Christian kingdom of Muscovy. By contrast, for Maxim, [St. Maxim the Greek] the “Third Rome” signified a City wandering in the wilderness.

“Journeying along a wild road filled with many dangers, I came upon a woman kneeling with her regal head held in her hands, moaning bitterly and weeping inconsolably. She was dressed entirely in black, as is the custom for widows. Around her were wild animals: lions, bears, wolves, and foxes… ‘Basileia [Empire] is my name…’ ‘Why do you sit alongside this road surrounded as it is by wild animals?’ And again she answered me: “O traveler, let this road be the last one in an accursed age.’ ” (The Ways of Russian Theology)

On Reconciling with Zealots

St. Gregory the Theologian ca. 329-389

For we on our part graciously welcomed the leaders who had been assigned to the separated portion on the grounds that their novel secession was prompted by piety with the object of helping the struggle of Orthodox doctrine, and we did not reject them as enemies but embraced them as brothers who for a short time had contested our paternal inheritance, though in a brotherly, not a malicious way. Though we did not welcome their opposition, we respected their zeal. Disagreement motivated by piety is superior to concord held together by sentiment. That is why we converted their withdrawal to our increment, dispelling their suspicions by an act of charity and reversing the usual order to such a degree that instead of grace following their election, election followed grace, and we accepted to this end the consecration by alien hands, anticipated to a degree by the Spirit. You for your part laid aside your misgivings based on the letter and sought reassurance in the spirit… (Oration 6.11)

On Faith and Science

St. Nikolai Velimirovich 1880-1956

European education has been separated from faith in God. It has thus turned into a poisoner, and is, because of this, the death of European humanity. Even in pagan cultures, science was never separated from faith, although the faith was wrong and stupid. It has only happened in Europe, the same Europe that received the most perfect faith. But, because of the conflict with ecclesiastical leaders, Europe became embittered and rejected the most perfect faith, while retaining the most perfect science. Oh, my brethren, it has rejected divine knowledge and accepted human ignorance! What stupidity, and what darkness! (Through the Prison Window, Himmelsthür 1985, p.72)

On the Outcome of Sexual Immorality

St. Tikhon of Zadonsk 1724-1783

Fire from Heaven consumed the Sodomites for their abominable impurity. What then should the present-day fornicators and adulterers and other defilers expect, but the fire of Gehenna in which they shall burn forever, yet not be consumed? (Journey to Heaven: Counsels on the Particular Duty of Every Christian. Chap. 3 God’s Warnings)

On the Image of the Image of God

St. Theophan the Recluse 1815-1894

The husband, as the image and glory of God amongst creatures, must not cover his head in church, while the wife was taken from the husband later, created, as it were, in accordance with his image, and is therefore the image of the image, or the reflection of the glory of the husband, and must therefore cover herself in church as a sign of subjection to her husband. (Tolkovanie Poslanij sv. Apostola Pavla (Interpretation of the Epistles of the Holy Apostle Paul), Moscow, 2002, p. 179)

On How the Devil Uses Holy Scripture

St. Ambrose of Milan ca. 338-397

For God’s power is to conquer; Scripture conquers for me. Learn, here, too, that Satan transforms himself into an angel of light (2 Cor. 11:14), and from the Holy Scriptures themselves often prepares a snare for the Faithful. Thus he makes heretics, thus he dissipates faith, thus he assails the duties of piety. Therefore, let not a heretic seize you because he can cite some examples from the Scriptures, nor let he who seems learned arrogate them. The devil, too, uses the evidence of the Scriptures (Lk. 4:10-11), yet not in order to teach, but to entrap and deceive. He recognizes one intent on religion, illustrious with virtues, and very powerful with signs and wonders; he sets the snare of bragging, in order to puff up such a man with pride, so that he does not trust in his piety, but trusts in bragging, nor does he impute it to God, but seizes it for himself. (Exposition of St. Luke Bk. IV, 26)

On Why God Made Those Who are to be Punished

St. Gregory Palamas 1296-1359

As for those who accuse God of calling people who were not going to act in obedience to Him, no doubt they would also have held Him responsible for the destruction of such people, had He not called them. He called them so that no one could say that He was the cause of their being punished. Why was it, then, that He created men who were to be damned? He did not make them to be punished, but to be saved, as is clear from the fact that He called them. If He wanted to damn anyone at all, He would not have called everyone to salvation. If God led me and called me to salvation through His goodness, but I turned out evil, ought my wickedness, before it even existed, to have overcome His eternal goodness and have thwarted it? That would be totally unreasonable. People who assert otherwise and make accusations against the Creator are actually saying that it was wrong to make human beings rational. For reason would be pointless without free choice and the power of self-governance. How can someone have the freedom to choose and the power to act freely, unless he were able to do evil, should he so wish? If he could not be wicked, nor could he, presumably, be good.

Anyone who states that God should not have made those people who will be punished, is also saying that He should not have made those who will be saved, or any rational free beings at all.  As everything else was made for the sake of mankind, such a person is contending that God should not have created anything. Do you see the absurdity of this? God made the human race rational and free, and because of men’s tendency to please themselves and the different uses to which they put their freedom, some were to become bad, and others good. What should God, Who is truly good, have done? Ought He not to have brought good men into being on account of those who would turn evil? That would be the greatest injustice imaginable. For even if there were only going to be one good person, it would not have been just to stop creating, since one who does God’s will superior to innumerable sinners. (Homily 41.5-6) 

On Francis of Assisi and the Soul After Death

Death and Ascension of Francis of Assisi

I toured Italy for two weeks and Assisi was one of the scheduled stops so I got the opportunity to see this peculiar fresco pretty closely. Our tour guide pointed out the recent discovery of a demonic face in the cloud beneath the ascending Roman Catholic saint. I asked the guide the significance of the demonic image and she stated that it symbolized an old belief that held that demons in the air tried to impede souls on their way to heaven.

Despite the objections of a minority within the U.S., Orthodoxy can claim to have taught this belief universally for 2,000 years and many contemporary Saints and prominent teachers have taught it as well. Fr. Seraphim Rose was highly criticized for his book The Soul After Death where he taught the patristic post-mortem teaching. Whereas, Fr. Peter Alban Heers, who resides in Thessaloniki, Greece states: “In America, Fr. Seraphim, although venerated by many and with many miracles associated with his life after his repose, is sometimes seen as controversial because of his writings, especially on the soul after death. He is seen as controversial or just plain wrong. Whereas here in Greece, a traditional Orthodox country, we see that this book, The Soul After Death, has been the most positively received of all the books Fr. Seraphim has written.”

For a complete treatment of this particular topic, purchase Jean-Claude Larchet’s comprehensive work Life After Death According to the Orthodox Tradition.

Read the article below and see the images to observe how the Orthodox teaching on the intermediate state must have persisted in the West even after the Schism.

Smirking Face of the Devil Discovered in Giotto Fresco

The smirking face of the Devil has been discovered hidden in a fresco by the Italian medieval artist Giotto after remaining undetected for more than 700 years in the Basilica of St Francis in Assisi.

by Nick Squires

The Satanic image went unnoticed until now because it is artfully hidden in the folds of a cloud and is invisible from ground level.

The discovery of the face, in a fresco which depicts the death of St Francis, was made by Chiara Frugoni, a medievalist and an expert on the saint.

“It’s a powerful portrait, with a hooked nose, sunken eyes and two dark horns,” Ms Frugoni said in an article in a forthcoming issue of the St Francis art history periodical.

“The significance of the image still needs to be delved into. In the Middle Ages it was believed that demons lived in the sky and that they could impede the ascension of human souls to Heaven.”

Demonic face in the cloud

“Until now it was thought that the first painter to use clouds in this way was Andrea Mantegna, with a painting of St Sebastian from 1460, in which high up in the sky there’s a cloud from which a knight on horseback emerges. Now we know that Giotto was the first (to use this technique).”

Sergio Fusetti, the head of the restoration work in the basilica, said the devil face may have been a dig at somebody the artist had quarrelled with.

Claudio Strinati, an art historian, said it was not unusual for Renaissance artists to include hidden meanings in their works. “Paintings often had two facets – an explicit one and an implicit one.”

Millions of pilgrims and tourists have trooped through the basilica in Assisi, in Umbria, since the fresco was painted in the 13th century without noticing the devil’s face.

Close-up of the demonic face in the cloud discovered by medievalist expert Chiara Frugoni.

It was only discovered during restoration of the fresco, the 20th in a series of images of St Francis’s life and death by Giotto.

St. Augustine on the Departure of the Soul

Blessed Augustine of Hippo ca. 354-430

I then, O my Praise and my Life, Thou God of my heart, putting aside for a little her good deeds, for which I joyfully give thanks to You, do now beseech You for the sins of my mother. Hearken unto me, through that Medicine of our wounds who hung upon the tree, and who, sitting at Your right hand, makes intercession for us. Rom. 8:34 I know that she acted mercifully, and from the heart Mat. 18:35 forgave her debtors their debts; do Thou also forgive her debts, whatever she contracted during so many years since the water of salvation. Forgive her, O Lord, forgive her, I beseech You; enter not into judgment with her. Let Your mercy be exalted above Your justice, James 2:13 because Your words are true, and You have promised mercy unto the merciful; Mat. 5:7 which You gave them to be who wilt have mercy on whom You will have mercy, and wilt have compassion on whom You have had compassion. Rom. 9:15

And I believe You have already done that which I ask You; but accept the free-will offerings of my mouth, O Lord. For she, when the day of her dissolution was near at hand, took no thought to have her body sumptuously covered, or embalmed with spices; nor did she covet a choice monument, or desire her paternal burial-place. These things she entrusted not to us, but only desired to have her name remembered at Your altar, which she had served without the omission of a single day; whence she knew that the holy sacrifice was dispensed, by which the handwriting that was against us is blotted out; Col. 2:14 by which the enemy was triumphed over, who, summing up our offenses, and searching for something to bring against us, found nothing in Him Jn. 14:30 in whom we conquer. Who will restore to Him the innocent blood? Who will repay Him the price with which He bought us, so as to take us from Him? Unto the sacrament of which our ransom did Your handmaid bind her soul by the bond of faith. Let none separate her from Your protection. Let not the lion and the dragon Ps. 91: 13 introduce himself by force or fraud. For she will not reply that she owes nothing, lest she be convicted and got the better of by the wily deceiver; but she will answer that her sins are forgiven Mat. 9:2 by Him to whom no one is able to repay that price which He, owing nothing, laid down for us. (Confessions Bk. 9 Chap. 13.35-36)

On St. Augustine and Orthodoxy

Hieromonk Seraphim Rose 1934-1982

…Augustine is a “scapegoat”—hit him hard enough and it proves how Orthodox you yourself really are!

…Let us assume that one’s exegesis of Romans 5:12 is incorrect; that one believes like Augustine on the transmission of Original Sin; that one knows little of the difference between the “transcendent” and the “economic” Trinity and sometimes confuses them. Can’t one still be Orthodox? Does one have to shout so loudly one’s “correctness” on such matters, and one’s disdain (and this disdain is strongly felt!) for those who believe thus? In the history of the Church, opinions such as these which disagree with the consensus of the Church have not been a cause for heresy hunts. Recognizing our fallible human nature, the Fathers of the past have kept the best Orthodox views and left in silence such private views which have not tried to proclaim themselves the only Orthodox views.

I myself fear the cold hearts of the “intellectually correct” much more than any errors you might find in Augustine. I sense in these cold hearts a preparation for the work of Antichrist (whose imitation of Christ must also extend to “correct theology”!); I feel in Augustine the love of Christ. (Letter to Fr. Michael Azkoul 1981)

On the Terminology of Chalcedon

Fr. Georges Florovsky 1893-1979

…[W]e should never believe that dogmatic terminologies of the past are simply temporary formulations without continuing significance. There cannot be a fruitful discussion on dogmatical differences without careful reference to historical terminology. We are bound to use the terms; through these we confess the truth, guided by the Holy Spirit in the Church. We are not imprisoned by terminologies; but we are bound by the spirit, if not the letter, of the Fathers and their understanding of Christian truth.

I do not think our separation [with Non-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. Again, the “complete” human “nature” is free of sin, sin being a reduction of human nature to subhuman condition.

At this point I want to suggest a distinction which I have made already many years ago, in my Russian book, The Byzantine Fathers. There are, in fact, two different kinds of dyophysitism — I call them respectively: symmetrical and asymmetrical. Nestorianism is a symmetrical dyophysitism: there is strict and complete parallelism of two natures which lead inevitably to the duality of prosopa or subjects, which may be united only in unity of function — this is the meaning of the Nestorian prosopon tes henoseos, which coordinates the two “natural” prosopa. The dyophysitism of Chalcedon is, on the contrary, an asymmetrical dyophysitism: there is but one hypostasis, as the subject of all attributions, although the distinction of Divine and human natures is carefully safeguarded. The duality of prosopa is emphatically rejected. The crux of the definition is precisely here: hena kai ton auton. “Humanity” is included in the Divine hypostasis and exists, as it were, within this one hypostasis. There is no symmetry: two natures, but one hypostasis. The human nature is, as it were, sustained by the Divine hypostasis: enhypostatos. Indeed, this enhypostasia, as it has been explained in the later Byzantine theology, indicates a different status of Christ’s humanity in comparison with the humanity of “ordinary” men — psiloi anthropoi. It is the humanity of the Logos. Yet, in character it is “consubstantial” with the humanity of men. But Christ is not a man, although kata ten anthropoteta He is homoousios hemin. The “status” of His humanity, however, is different from ours: choris hamartias. This has a decisive soteriological significance: Christ was exempt from the inevitability of death, and consequently His death was a voluntary death, or free sacrifice. It would be out of place to develop this idea now any longer. But it may be helpful to say a word or two on the Christological significance of our conception of Sin, in its relationship to human “nature”. Again, one may develop two basic conceptions of man, which I use to denote as anthropological maximalism and anthropological minimalism. The obvious instances are: Pelagius, on the one hand, and Augustine, on the other. The “high” conception of man leads inevitably to low Christology: man needs but a pattern of perfection and example to follow. This is precisely the line of Nestorius. On the other hand, a pessimistic anthropology requires a “maximalist” Christology. In this case man needs, in the phrase of St. Gregory of Nazianzus, “God Incarnate” as his Savior.

Here, I have to offer the solution that I suggested in a paper published only in Russian several years ago. One has to speak of symmetrical and asymmetrical dyophysitism. The symmetrical, consistent with the formula true God, and true man, accepts that ontologically there is an equal share of divinity and humanity in the one hypostasis of Christ, but further it accepts that there is an ontological identification of the humanity of Christ with humanity in general. This can lead to a crypto-Nestorian distinction or even separation of two persons. Well, can you say that Christ was of two hypostases? This can lead to maximalist conception of man which can result in a maximalist conception of the Incarnation.

Chalcedon was clearly for asymmetrical dyophisitism. The humanity of Christ is proper to the humanity that the Divine Logos fully and atreptos assumed. There is, however, a certain dissimilarity between humanity in general and humanity of Christ as the Divine Logos, because this humanity is sinless and incorruptible. You can say that Christ was free from the necessity to die. The Augustinian position seems not to pay so much attention to this dissimilarity and the Monophysites risk also keeping this dissimilarity in a consistent way by slipping to the position of absolute ontological consubstantiality which denies in Christ the full qualities of humanity in general. (Aug. 12th, 1964 Discussion on the Paper “Chalcedonians and Monophysites After Chalcedon” by The Rev. Professor J. Meyendorff. Morning Session)

On Salvation for the Whole Man

St. Justin the Philosopher ca. 103-165

But, in truth, He has even called the flesh to the resurrection, and promises to it everlasting life. For where He promises to save man, there He gives the promise to the flesh. For what is man but the reasonable animal composed of body and soul? Is the soul by itself man? No; but the soul of man. Would the body be called man? No, but it is called the body of man. If, then, neither of these is by itself man, but that which is made up of the two together is called man, and God has called man to life and resurrection, He has called not a part, but the whole, which is the soul and the body. Since would it not be unquestionably absurd, if, while these two are in the same being and according to the same law, the one weresaved and the other not? And if it be not impossible, as has already been proved, that the flesh be regenerated, what is the distinction on the ground of which the soul is saved and the body not? Do they make God a grudging God? But He is good, and will have all to be saved. And by God and His proclamation, not only has your soul heard and believed on Jesus Christ, and with it the flesh, but both were washed, and both wrought righteousness. They make God, then ungrateful and unjust, if, while both believe in Him, He desires to save one and not the other. Well, they say, but the soul is incorruptible, being a part of God and inspired by Him, and therefore He desires to save what is peculiarly His own and akin to Himself; but the flesh is corruptible, and not from Him, as the soul is. Then what thanks are due to Him, and what manifestation of His power and goodness is it, if He purposed to save what is by nature saved and exists as a part of Himself? For it had its salvation from itself; so that in saving the soul, God does no great thing. For to be saved is its natural destiny, because it is a part of Himself, being Hisinspiration. But no thanks are due to one who saves what is his own; for this is tosave himself. For he who saves a part himself, saves himself by his own means, lest he become defective in that part; and this is not the act of a good man. For not even when a man does good to his children and offspring, does one call him agood man; for even the most savage of the wild beasts do so, and indeed willingly endure death, if need be, for the sake of their cubs. But if a man were to perform the same acts in behalf of his slaves, that man would justly be called good. Wherefore the Saviour also taught us to love our enemies, since, says He, what thanks have you? So that He has shown us that it is a good work not only to lovethose that are begotten of Him, but also those that are without. And what He enjoins upon us, He Himself first of all does. (On the Ressurection, 8)

On the Righteousness and Compassion of God

St. 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 fromheaven 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 endeavour 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, Mat. 26:24 and that it shall be more tolerable for Sodom and Gomorrha in the judgment than for that city which did not receive the word of His disciples. Mat. 10:15 (Against Heresies 4.28.1)

St. Dionysius on the Reception of Heretics

St. Dionysius the Great died ca. 265

…[I]ndeed, (Pope Stephen of Rome) had written letters about Helanus and Firmilianus, and about all who were established throughout Cilicia and Cappadocia, and all the neighboring provinces, giving them to understand that for that same reason he would depart from their communion, because they rebaptized heretics. And consider the seriousness of the matter. For, indeed, in the most considerable councils of the bishops, as I hear, it has been decreed that they who come from heresy should first be trained in Catholic doctrine, and then should be cleansed by baptism from the filth of the old and impure leaven.Asking and  calling him to witness on all these matters, I sent letters. (Fragments: Epistle 6)

On the Privileges of the See of Constantinople

Note: Of course, all the privileges of the Ecumenical Patriarch described below are contingent upon the Orthodoxy of his faith. 

Met. Anthony Khrapovitsky 1863-1936

According to the doctrine of Christ’s Church as expressed in the decisions of the Seven Ecumenical Councils, the See of Constantinople is not only one of the Ecclesiastical Provinces but is considered as a constant element of the Orthodox Church in all its fullness, as an authority linked not only with its own diocese but likewise with the whole Orthodox Church throughout the world. This is why since the fifth century the Patriarch of Constantinople as Bishop of New Rome was recognized by the Ecumenical Councils as the equal in power and honor of the Bishop of Old Rome (Canon II of the Second Ecumenical Council and Canons XXVIII and XXXVI of the Fourth Ecumenical Council). And what is especially important, it was recognized that he had the right to receive the appeals of Bishops who were not satisfied with the decisions of regional councils (Canon XVII of the Fourth Ecumenical Council). In this latter sense the Patriarch of Constantinople is, in the eyes of Orthodox Christians in every country, the supreme judge. (Message to the Statesmen Assembled at the Lausanne Political Conference Dec. 1922-Jan. 1923. Fouyas, Orthodoxy, Roman Catholicism and Anglicanism pp. 128-129)

In his response of February 20, 1925, to [a] query as to whether an Ecumenical Patriarch may, according to canonical regulations, reside outside Constantinople, [Met.] Antony comments:

Of course he can, and the inhabitants of the Capital are bound to continue to count him as their Chief Pastor, and are bound to obey him as are we our Holy Patriarch… (Metropolitan Antonii (Khrapovitskii), Archpastor of the Russian Diaspora: Conference Proceedings. Edited by Vladimir Tsurikov, p. 101)

St. John Maximovitch 1896-1966

Such an outward abasement of the hierarch of the city of St. Constantine, which was once the capital of the ecumene, has not caused reverence toward him to be shaken among Orthodox Christians, who revere the See of Sts. Chrysostom and Gregory the Theologian. From the height of this See the successor of Sts. John and Gregory could spiritually guide the whole Orthodox world, if only he possessed their firmness in the defense of righteousness and truth… (On the Decline of the Ecumenical Patriarch)

On the Resurrection in the Torah

St. Epiphanius of Salamis ca. 315-403
‘Pentateuch’ I mean Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy; in Hebrew their names are Bereshith, Elleh Shamoth, Vayyiqra, Vayidabber and Elleh ha Devarim.

There are intimations of the resurrection of the dead in these five books, but it is certainly not proclaimed plainly. There also hints in them of God’s Only-Begotten Son, of the Holy Spirit, and of opposition to idolatry, but as the most obvious doctrine in them the subject of the Monarchy is introduced, and in the Monarchy the Trinity is proclaimed spiritually.

But they are refuted in every way with regard to the resurrection of the dead. First from Abel, since his blood conversed with the Lord after he died. But blood is not soul; the soul is in the blood. And God did not say, ‘The soul crieth unto me,’ but, ‘The blood crieth unto me,’ proving that there is hope for a resurrection of bodies.

Moreover Enoch was translated so as not to see death, and was nowhere to be found. Sarah too, made fruitful again at the implantation of seed, after her womb was dead and her menstrual flow dried up; conceiving a child by promise in her old age, because of the hope of the resurrection.

And this is not all. When Jacob too was seeing to his own bones, he was giving orders about them as of things that were not going to perish. And not only he but Joseph too, when he gave his orders in his turn, gave indication of the form of the resurrection.

And this is not all. Moreover Aaron’s rod, which budded when it was dry, bore fruit again in hope of life, showing that our dead bodies will arise, and pointing to resurrection. And Moses’ wooden rod similarly gave token of resurrection, since it was brought to life by God’s will and became a serpent.

Moreover, in blessing Reuben Moses says, ‘Let Reuben live, and let him not die,’ though he means someone who has died long ago. This is to show that there is life after death, but a sentence of second death, for damnation. So he gives him two blessings by saying, ‘Let him live,’ at the resurrection, and ‘Let him not die,’ at the judgment—not meaning death by departing the body, but death by damnation. (Panarion 2.1-2.2, 3.1-3.5)

St. Gregory the Dialogist on Heterodox Sacraments

Pope St. Gregory the Dialogist ca. 540-604

[Job’s] friends, who, while acting as his counsellors, at the same time inveigh against him, are an express image of heretics, who under shew of giving counsel, are busied in leading astray; and hence they address the blessed Job as though in behalf of the Lord, but yet the Lord does not commend them, that is, because all heretics, while they try to defend, only offend God.  Whence they are plainly told, and that by the same holy man I desire to reason with God; first shewing that ye are forgers of lies, ye are followers of corrupt doctrines. [Job 13, 3.4.]  According to which it appears that these by their erroneous notions stood as a type of heretics, whom the holy man charges with adhering to a creed [cultui] of corrupt doctrines.  But every heretic, in this, that he is seen to defend God, is a gainsayer of His truth, according to the testimony of the Psalmist, who says, That Thou mightest still the enemy and the defender [Ps. 8, 2. E.V. avenger], for he is an enemy and defender, who so preaches God as thereby to be fighting against Him.
Now because it sometimes happens that heretics being penetrated with the bountiful streams of Divine grace return to the unity of Holy Church, this is well represented in the very reconcilement of his friends.  Yet blessed Job is bidden to intercede for them, because the sacrifices of heretics can never be acceptable to God, unless they be offered in their behalf by the hands of the universal Church, that by her merits they may obtain the recovery of salvation, whom they did strike before by assailing her with the darts of their words; and hence seven sacrifices are recorded to have been offered for them, for whereas in confessing they receive the Spirit of sevenfold grace, they do as it were obtain expiation by seven offerings.  It is hence that in the Apocalypse of John the whole Church is represented by the number of seven Churches [Rev. 1, 12].  Hence it is said of wisdom by Solomon, Wisdom hath builded her house; she hath hewn, out her seven pillars. [Prov. 9, 1] And thus by the very number of the sacrifices those reconciled heretics set forth what they were before, in that these are not united to the perfection of sevenfold grace, except by returning.

But they are well described as having offered for themselves bulls and rams.  For in the bull is figured the neck of pride, and in the ram, the leading of the flocks that follow.  What then is it to slaughter bulls and rams in their behalf, but to put an end to their proud leading, so that they may think humbly of themselves, and not seduce the hearts of the innocent to follow after them.  For they had started away from the unity of the Church with a swelling neck, and were drawing after them the weak folk like flocks following behind.  Therefore let them come to blessed Job; i.e.  return to the Church; and present bulls and rams to be slaughtered for a sevenfold sacrifice, and that they may be united to the universal Church, let them with the interposition of humility kill all the swelling humor wherewith their proud leadership savoured them. (Morals on the Book of Job, Preface: 15, 17-18)

And indeed we have learned from the ancient institution of the Fathers that whosoever among heretics are baptized in the name of the Trinity, when they return to holy Church, may be recalled to the bosom of mother Church either by unction of chrism, or by imposition of hands, or by profession of the faith only. Hence the West reconciles Arians to the holy Catholic Church by imposition of hands, but the East by the unction of holy chrism. But Monophysites and others are received by a true confession only, because holy baptism, which they have received among heretics, then acquires in them the power of cleansing, when either the former receive the Holy Spirit by imposition of hands, or the latter are united to the bowels of the holy and universal Church by reason of their confession of the true faith. Those heretics, however, who are not baptized in the name of the Trinity, such as the Bonosiaci and the Cataphrygæ, because the former do not believe in Christ the Lord, and the latter with a perverse understanding believe a certain bad man, Montanus, to be the Holy Spirit, like whom are many others—these, when they come to holy Church, are baptized, because what they received while in their error, not being in the name of the HolyTrinity, was not baptism. Nor can this be called an iteration of baptism, which, as has been said, had not been given in the name of the Trinity. But the Nestorians, since they are baptized in the name of the Holy Trinity— though darkened by the error of their heresy in that, after the manner of Jewish unbelief, they believe not the Incarnation of the Only-begotten— when they come to the Holy Catholic Church, are to be taught, by firm holding and profession of the true faith, to believe in one and the same Son of God and man, ourLord God Jesus Christ, the same existing in Divinity before the ages, and the same made man in the end of the ages, because The Word was made flesh and dwelt among us Jn. 1:14.(Epistles, Bk. 11: Epistle 67)

On the Material Side of Orthodoxy

St. Ignaty Brianchininov 1807-1867

Look, brethren, look what the devil is doing, has done and will do — leading the mind of man from heaven to material things, chaining the heart of man to earth and earthly pursuits and occupations! Look and be alarmed with a healthy fear! Look and be aware with necessary soul-saving caution! …[H]e taught to give special attention to their fasting and other bodily exercises and to attribute special significance to dry bread, mushrooms, cabbage, peas, or beans; and in this way sensible, holy, and spiritual exercises were turned into senseless, carnal and sinful farces. …[H]e inspired to attach an exaggerated importance to the material side of church services, while obscuring the spiritual side of the rites; thus, by hiding the essence of Christianity from these unfortunate people and leaving them only a distorted material wrapper or covering he enticed them to fall away from the Church into the most foolish form of clouded perception, into schism. (The Arena, [kindle version])

On Pity for the Reprobate

St. Silouan the Athonite 1886-1938

If you do not feel pity for the sinner destined to suffer the pains of hell-fire, it means that the grace of the Holy Spirit is not in you, but an evil spirit. While you are still alive, therefore, strive by repentance to free yourself from this spirit. (Saint Silouan the Athonite, p. 352)

On Strictness

Hieromonk Seraphim Rose 1934-1982

They have built a church career for themselves on a false but attractive premise: that the chief danger to the Church today is lack of strictness. No—the chief danger is something much deeper—the loss of the savor of Orthodoxy, a movement in which they themselves are participating, even in their ‘strictness’…  ‘Strictness’ will not save us if we don’t have any more the feeling and taste of Orthodoxy. (Father Seraphim Rose: His Life and Works, p. 532)

A few years ago one of these groups cut off communion with our Russian Church Abroad because our bishops refused to declare that all other Orthodox Churches are without grace; this group now declares that it alone has grace, only it is Orthodox. Recently this group has attracted some converts from our Russian Church Abroad, and we should be aware that this attitude is a danger to some of our American and European converts: with our calculating, rationalistic minds it is very easy to think we are being zealous and strict, when actually we are chiefly indulging our passion for self-righteousness. (Orthodoxy Facing the 1980s)

Their ‘strictness’, forces them to become so involved in church politics that spiritual questions become quite secondary. I know for myself that if I would have to sit down and think out for myself exactly which shade of ‘zealotry’ is the ‘correct’ one today—I will lose all peace of mind and be constantly preoccupied with questions of breaking communion, of how this will seem to others, of ‘what will the Greeks think’ (and which Greeks?), and ‘what will the Metropolitan think?’ And I will not have time or inclination to become inspired by the wilderness, by the Holy Fathers, by the marvelous saints of ancient and modern times who lived in a higher world. In our times especially, it is not possible to be entirely detached from these questions, but let us place first things first. (Life and Works, Chap. 63)

On Monogamy and the Diocese

St. Athanasius the Great ca. 297-373

Art thou bound to a wife? Seek not to be loosed. (1 Cor. 7:27) For if this expression applies to a wife, how much more does it apply to a Church, and to the same Episcopate; to which whomsoever is bound ought not to seek another, lest he prove an adulterer according to Holy Scripture. (Defense Against the Arians 6; PG 25.260; NPNF 2.4, p. 104)

On Apostolic Responsibility

Metropolitan Amphilochius (Radovich)

His [St. Nikolai Velimirovich] 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.* (The Theanthropic Ethos of Holy Bishop Nikolai Velimirovich. [kindle version])

* St. Philip’s Church in Harlem, New York

On God’s Providence

St. John Chrysostom ca. 349-407

Therefore, you too, O man, especially do not be inquisitive about the common Master of us all. But if you are so contentious and daring as to rage with such madness, then wait for the final outcome of events. For if the farmer waits the whole winter, considering not what the wheat is undergoing during the time of frost, but the benefit he will get from it, much more so, before Him who cultivates the whole world, as well as our souls, is it fitting for you to wait for the final outcome. But by outcome I do not mean only the outcome in the present life—for often it will be here, as well—but also that in the life to come. God’s economy is directed toward a single end in each of these lives: our salvation and good repute. Even if it is divided in two with regard to time, it is united with regard to objective. Just as at first it is winter  and then it is spring, and the passage of each season has a single goal— the ripening of the fruit—so it is with our affairs.

Therefore, when you see the Church scattered, undergoing the utmost sufferings, its prominent members attacked and flogged, its leader carried afar off, consider not only these things, but also the things that will result from them: the rewards, the compensations, the prizes, the awards. He that endureth to the end shall be saved, says the Lord (Matt. 10:22). In the time of the Old Covenant, when the teaching on the resurrection was not yet well known, both things came to pass in the present life. But in the time of the New Covenant, this is not always so. Rather, there are instances where there are painful things here in this life, and the good things await our departure from here.

Nevertheless, since under the Old Covenant the good things of life were coming to pass for them in this present life, especially admirable are they who did not enjoy these good things, since without clearly knowing the teaching on the resurrection, and seeing events occurring which were contrary to the promises of God, they were not scandalized, they were not thrown into confusion, they were not troubled. Rather, they submitted themselves to God’s incomprehensible providence, not being scandalized by adverse events. Knowing the resourcefulness and inventiveness of His Wisdom, they waited for the end. Moreover, everything that was done to them before the end they endured with thankfulness, and they continued to glorify the God Who allowed these things to take place. (On the Providence of God, Chap. 9. excerpted from Orthodox Word No. 294-295, 2014)

On Confessional Condescension

St. Basil the Great ca. 330-379

We live in days when the overthrow of the Churches seems imminent; of this I have long been cognizant. There is no edification of the Church; no correction of error; no sympathy for the weak; no single defense of sound brethren; no remedy is found either to heal the disease which has already seized us, or as a preventive against that which we expect. Altogether the state of the Church (if I may use a plain figure though it may seem too humble an one) is like an old coat, which is always being torn and can never be restored to its original strength. At such a time, then, there is need of great effort and diligence that the Churches may in some way be benefited. It is an advantage that parts hitherto severed should be united. Union would be effected if we were willing to accommodate ourselves to the weaker, where we can do so without injury to souls; since, then, many mouths are open against the Holy Ghost, and many tongues whetted to blasphemy against Him, we implore you, as far as in you lies, to reduce the blasphemers to a small number, and to receive into communion all who do not assert the Holy Ghost to be a creature, that the blasphemers may be left alone, and may either be ashamed and return to the truth, or, if they abide in their error, may cease to have any importance from the smallness of their numbers. Let us then seek no more than this, but propose to all the brethren, who are willing to join us, the Nicene Creed. If they assent to that, let us further require that the Holy Ghost ought not to be called a creature, nor any of those who say so be received into communion. I do not think that we ought to insist upon anything beyond this. For I am convinced that by longer communication and mutual experience without strife, if anything more requires to be added by way of explanation, the Lord Who works all things together for good for them that love Him, (Rom. 8:28) will grant it. (Letter 113)

On Believing Simply

Hieromonk Seraphim Rose 1934-1982

Not too many years ago the Abbess of a con­vent of the Rus­sian Ort­ho­dox Church, a woman of righ­teous life, was deli­ve­ring a ser­mon in the con­vent church on the feast of the Dor­mi­tion of the Most Holy Mot­her of God. With tears she entre­a­ted her nuns and the pil­grims who had come for the feast to accept enti­rely and who­le­hear­tedly what the Church hands down to us, taking such pains to pre­serve this tra­di­tion sacredly all these centuries- and not to choose for one­self what is “important” and what is “dis­pensable”; for by thin­king one­self wiser than the tra­di­tion, one may end by losing the tra­di­tion. Thus, when the Church tells us in her hymns and icons that the Apost­les were mira­culously gat­he­red from the ends of the earth in order to be pre­sent at the repose and burial of the Mot­her of God, we as Ort­ho­dox Chri­sti­ans are not free to deny this or rein­ter­pret it, but must believe as the Church hands it down to us, with sim­pli­city of heart.

A young Western con­vert who had lear­ned Rus­sian was pre­sent when this ser­mon was deli­ve­red. He him­self had thought about this very sub­ject, having seen icons in the tra­di­tio­nal ico­no­grap­hic style depi­cting the Apost­les being trans­por­ted on clouds to behold the Dor­mi­tion of the Theo­tokos; and he had asked him­self the question: are we actu­ally to under­stand this “lite­rally,” as a mira­culous event, or is it only a “poe­tic” way of expres­sing the com­ing toget­her of the Apost­les for this event … or per­haps even an imag­i­na­tive or “ideal” depi­ction of an event that never occur­red in fact? (Such, indeed, are some of the questions with which “Ort­ho­dox the­o­lo­gi­ans” occupy them­sel­ves in our days.) The words of the righ­teous Abbess there­fore struck him to the heart, and he under­stood that there was somet­hing dee­per to the recep­tion and under­stan­ding of Ort­ho­doxy than what our own mind and fee­lings tell us. In that instant the tra­di­tion was being han­ded down to him, not from books but from a living ves­sel which con­tai­ned it; and it had to be recei­ved, not with mind or fee­lings only, but above all with the heart, which in this way began to receive its dee­per trai­ning in Orthodoxy.

Later this young con­vert enco­un­te­red, in per­son or through rea­ding, many people who were lear­ned in Ort­ho­dox the­o­logy. They were the “the­o­lo­gi­ans” of our day, those who had been to Ort­ho­dox schools and become the­o­lo­gi­cal “experts.” They were usu­ally quite eager to speak on what was Ort­ho­dox and what non-Orthodox, what was important and what secon­dary in Ort­ho­doxy itself; and a num­ber of them pri­ded them­sel­ves on being “con­ser­va­ti­ves” or “tra­di­tio­na­lists” in faith. But in none of them did he sense the aut­ho­rity of the simple Abbess who had spo­ken to his heart, unlear­ned as she was in such “theology.”

And the heart of this con­vert, still taking his baby steps in Ort­ho­doxy, lon­ged to know how to believe, which means also whom to believe. He was too much a per­son of his times and his own upbrin­ging to be able sim­ply to deny his own rea­so­ning power and believe blindly eve­ryt­hing he was told; and it is very evi­dent that Ort­ho­doxy does not at all demand this of one-the very wri­tings of the Holy Fat­hers are a living memo­rial of the wor­king of human rea­son enligh­te­ned by the grace of God. But it was also obvious that there was somet­hing very much lack­ing in the “the­o­lo­gi­ans” of our day, who for all their logic and their know­ledge of Patri­stic texts, did not con­vey the fee­ling or savor of Ort­ho­doxy as well as a simple, theologically-uneducated Abbess. (Introduction to the Orthodox Veneration of Mary the Birth-Giver of God by St. John Maximovitch)

On Many of Those Outside of the Church

Archimandrite Placide Deseille

The Universal Church is made of all the local Churches in communion with each other. The Fathers tell us that She is the one Ark of Salvation given by God to the people… the one Bride of Christ. She is the spiritual Mother who alone through Baptism can give birth to children for a new life and make them sons of God. As the Body of Christ, She is the only place where people can truly be united with God and each other through the sanctifying power of the Spirit. Does this mean that no person can be saved and sanctified outside of allegiance to the visible Church? There are hints in the Fathers that they know the freedom of the Holy Spirit in His gifts, and that He can bring them to people beyond the usual ways of salvation, in the place where He finds the corresponding disposition of the heart: ‘Many of those who are outside of us belong to us — those whose virtues anticipate faith and who do not possess the name of believer as they already possess the reality,’ says St. Gregory the Theologian… Of his sister he says: ‘All her life was a purification and perfecting… I dare to say that Baptism brought her not grace, but perfection.’ (The Mystery of Faith: An Introduction to the Teaching and Spirituality of the Orthodox Church by Metropolitan Hilarion Alfeyev, pp. 128-129)

On the Doctrine of Severus

St. Maximus the Confessor ca. 580-662

How did the Word Incarnate truly become a human being, if he lacked that which best characterizes a nature as rational? For what is deprived of the movement of longing that follows desire has no share in any power of life. And that which does not possess any power of life out of its nature is clearly not a soul of any kind, without which the flesh is not what it is. Therefore the economy would be a mere fantasy, if he merely had the shape of flesh. But if, as Severus said, he did not have, as man, a natural will, the Word Incarnate would not fulfill the hypostatic union with flesh, endowed by nature with a rational soul and intellect. For if he was truly, as man, lacking a natural will, he would not truly have become perfect man. And if he did not truly become perfect man, he did not become man at all. For what kind of existence does an imperfect nature have, since its principle of existence no longer exists?  The purport therefore of Severus, and his followers, is by a certain natural diminishment to expel the assumed nature in the ineffable union, and to cover themselves with the defilement of Mani’s fantasy, Apollinaris’ confusion, and Eutyches’ fusion. I remember when I was staying in the island of Crete, that I heard from certain false bishops of the Severan party, who disputed with me, that ‘we do not say, in accordance with The Tome of Leo, that there are two energies in Christ, because it would follow that there are two wills, and that would necessarily introduce a duality of persons, nor again do we say one energy, which might be regarded as simple, but we say, in accordance with Severus, that one will, and every divine and human energy proceeds from one and the same God the Word Incarnate.’ Against them one might angrily apply that part of the prophecy: “O, O, flee from the north; in Zion you are saved, you who inhabit the daughter of Babylon.” (Zec. 2:6-7) From the north: that is truly the understanding of Severus, a place become gloomy, and deprived of divine the continuance of the divine light. Daughter of Babylon: the confided teaching of false dogmas, wickedly brought forth from the most wicked habit picked up from him, which those inhabit, who have turned away from the light of knowledge, and not with those to be saved through conversion to Zion, I mean the Church.

For the doctrine of Severus, when examined is opposed both to theology and to the economy. (Opuscule 3)

On the Orthodox Flock of the Future

“On the day of his departure [being transferred from France to America] Blessed John [Maximovitch] was in our Church for his last farewell….he closed the holy gates, came out from the altar and, standing in the middle of the church, kept looking all around saying, ‘No, nothing should be changed in the church.”

“Your Eminence,” I then said, “I love our church very much, but unfortunately it is so small.”

“And soon even this will seem big,” Blessed John answered. “And in general, soon, our Church will remain such a tiny one”, and he pointed to the very tip of his middle finger. And again he looked in all directions, saying, “No, nothing should be changed in the Church.” (Letter of Zinaida V. Julem, from Paris to Father Herman, Summer, 1978; Fr. Seraphim Rose and Fr. Herman P., “Blessed John the Wonderworker”, Platina, CA (1987): Brotherhood of St. Herman of Alaska, pp. 135-137.)

On the Judge at the Tollhouses

St. Ignaty Brianchininov 1807-1867

Not only temporal sorrows, but also those that await man at his entry into eternity, beyond the bounds of the grave, are unable to withstand the vision of Divine providence. They are blunted and destroyed by the grace-filled consolation that always descends upon a soul who denies himself in order to be submissive to God. In the face of selflessness, in the face of devotion to God’s will, death itself is not terrible. The true servant of Christ entrusts his soul and his eternal lot into Christ’s hands, entrusting them with firm faith in Christ, with unwavering hope in His goodness and power. When his soul parts from his body, and the rejected angels defiantly and impudently approach him, he strikes the dark and evil angels with his self-renunciation and turns them to flight. “Take me—take me!” he courageously tells them. “Cast me into the abyss of darkness and fire; cast me into the abyss of hell, if it is my God’s will for you to do that, if such a determination has come from Him. It is easier to be deprived of the sweetness of Paradise, it is easier to bear the flames of hell, than to transgress the will and decision of the great God. I have surrendered myself to Him, and still surrender to Him! He is the Judge of my infirmities and sins, not you! You—even in the midst of your insane rebelliousness—are only the fulfillers of His determinations.” The servants of the prince of this world will tremble and become astonished, seeing such courageous selflessness, such meek, total devotion to God’s will! When they spurned that blessed obedience, they went from being radiant and good angels to being dark and utterly malicious demons. They will back away with shame, and that soul, without hindrance, will direct his course to where his treasure is—to God. There he will see, face to face, Him Who is seen here through faith in His providence, and he will eternally exclaim: Glory be to God! (“Glory be to God!” Orthodox Word No. 294-295, 2014)

On Various Approaches to Heterodoxy in the Russian Church

Fr. Georges Florovsky 1893-1979

The reality of the Church is indivisible. It was at this point that the first editor of Khomiakov’s letters to Palmer (in Russian), Fr. Alexander M. Ivantzov-Platonov (Professor of Church History at the University of Moscow), found it necessary to add a critical footnote. On the whole, he shared Khomiakov’s interpretation of the Church, but he was not prepared to deny the presence of Sacramental grace in separated communions. Ivantzov did his studying at the Moscow Academy, and was probably influenced by the ideas of Philaret. There was an obvious difference between the two interpretations: Philaret’s conception was wider and more comprehensive; Khomiakov’s was more cautious and reserved. Both interpretations still co-exist in the Orthodox Church, with resulting differences of approach to the main Ecumenical problem.

In the later period of discussion, the whole ecclesiological problem was brought to the fore. The main issue was: what was the Church Universal? and in what sense do “schisms” belong to the Church? Various answers were given, or often simply taken for granted in advance. Unity of belief does not by itself constitute the corporate reality of the Church, since the Church is a Divine institution. The “Branch Theory” of the Church was obviously unacceptable to the Orthodox. In any case, it minimizes the tragedy of disruption. Again, a schism is not just a human separation: it violates the basic structure of Christian existence. The only alternative available for Orthodox theologians seemed to be this: either separated bodies did not belong to the Church at all, and therefore were, not only historically but also spiritually, outside of it; or they were still, in a certain sense and under special conditions, related to the Church existentially. The latter conception is characteristic of Roman Catholicism, and goes back to St. Augustine; for that very reason many Orthodox would hesitate to accept it. It was, however, held by many Russian theologians, if not quite in the same sense (Philaret; Kireev; Svetlov). Accordingly, the Sacraments were not necessarily reiterated for the non-Orthodox, in the case of conversion, but were understood as having some real charismatic significance even outside of the strict canonical boundaries of the Church. This has been the common practice of the Russian Church in the last centuries. On the other hand, this practice could be interpreted in the light of the theory of “economy” which is characteristic of modern Greek theology; in this case, the fact of non-reiteration would not imply any recognition of these non-Orthodox ministrations, and should be interpreted simply as a pastoral dispensation. This point of view had already been represented in Russia by Schyutiako, and in recent times was elaborated with daring radicalism by the late Metropolitan Anthony (Khrapovitsky). He had an occasion to express this view in an ecumenical context, when he was invited to participate in the ”Conference on Faith and Order” in 1914. The delegation of the Planning Committee in the U.S., appointed in 1914, could not go because of the war but invitations were sent to all Orthodox Churches. In Russia, they were favorably received in high ecclesiastical quarters and some epistolary contacts were established.

Anthony, at that time Archbishop of Kharkov and a permanent Member of the Holy Synod, replied to the invitation with a long letter, in which he frankly stated his point of view. There was no spiritual reality, “no grace,” outside the Orthodox Church. All talks about “validity” are just “talmudist sophistries.” What is outside of the Orthodox Church is just “this world, foreign to Christ’s redemption and possessed by the devil.” It makes no difference, Anthony argued, whether the non-Orthodox have or do not have “right beliefs.” Purity of doctrine would not incorporate them in the Church. What is of importance is only the actual membership in the Orthodox Church, which is not compromised by doctrinal ignorance or moral frailty. “Doctrinal agreement” by itself means little. Membership in the Body is the only thing that counts. But, in spite of this global exclusion of all non-Orthodox from Christendom, Anthony was wholeheartedly in favor of Orthodox participation in the proposed “Conference on Faith and Order.” “Indeed, we are not going to con-celebrate there, but shall have to search together for a true teaching on the controversial points of faith.” An exchange of letters with Robert Gardiner, the secretary of the organizing commission, followed, in which the whole problem was thoroughly discussed. Another Russian theologian, Hilarion (Troitsky), at that time Professor of the Moscow Theological Academy, and later Archbishop of Krutitzy, published an “open letter” to Robert Gardiner, “The Unity of the Church and the Universal Christian Conference,” in which he developed the same radical conception: Separation is infinitely more important than Dissent. This interpretation of unity and schism was by no means commonly accepted, and was exposed to serious objections. In any case, there was no unanimity among Orthodox theologians on this basic problem of “ecumenical theology.” The documents just quoted belong to the later period, and, strictly speaking, are outside the scope of the present survey. Yet they summarize authentically the view which has been held and promoted by not a few in the course of 19th century ecumenical negotiations. (Orthodox Ecumenism in the Nineteenth Century)

On How to Help the Poor

Blessed Jerome ca. 347-420

And so I will respond to you with the words of our Lord: if you want to be perfect, to carry your cross, to follow the Saviour, and imitate Peter who said, “You see, Lord, that we have left everything to follow you,” (Matt.10:28) go, sell all that you have and give it to the poor, and follow the Saviour.

He did not say, Give it to your children, your brothers, your parents — by this rule, the Lord must come first — but “Give it to the poor,” or rather to  Christ, whom you help in the person of the poor; he, being rich, made himself poor for the love of us, and who says in the 39th psalm, “For me, I was poor and destitute, and the Lord took care of me.” (Ps. 40:17) And immediately at the beginning of the 40th psalm, “Happy is he who understands the needs of the poor and indigent.” (Ps.41:1)

He does not mean those who live in beggary and squalor and at the same time in their vices; but those of whom the apostle Paul spoke when he said, “They only asked us not to forget the poor.” (Gal. 2:10) It was for the relief of these poor that Paul and Barnabas undertook to collect money on the first day of the week in the congregations of (believing) gentiles, and that they hurried themselves, not sending others, to take it to those who had been stripped of their goods for Christ, who were suffering persecution and who had said to their father and mother, to their wife and children, “We do not know you.” (Deut. 33:9) These carry out the wish of the Father and of whom the Lord Saviour said, “These are my mother and my brothers, those who carry out the will of my father.” (Matt. 12:50, Luke 8:21)

I say this, not because we should not be charitable to Jews, gentiles, and to all the other poor, of whatever nation they may be; but we must always prefer Christians to unbelievers, and even among the Christians we should put a great distance between a man who is a sinner and one who is holy. This is why the apostle, who exhorts charity to all in  many places, recommends them to do so mainly towards fellow believers (Gal. 6:10). This is one with whom we are linked by religion, and who is not separated by sin from the brotherhood. If we are called to give food to our enemies when they are hungry, to give them drink when they are thirsty, and so to pour coals of fire on their head (Rom. 12:10), how much more towards those who are not our enemies, and who are Christians and holy? (Letter 120)

On Truth and the Eschaton

St. Maximus the Confessor ca. 580-662

The things of the past are shadow; those of the present icon; the truth is to be found in the things of the future. (Scolion on the Ecclesiastical Hierarchy, 3.3.2)

On Education and False Enlightenment

St. Seraphim of Sarov 1759-1833

Under the pretext of education, we have reached such a darkness of ignorance that what the ancients understood so clearly seems to us almost inconceivable. Even in ordinary conversation, the idea of God’s appearance among men did not seem strange to them. Thus, when his friends rebuked him for blaspheming God, Job answered them: How can that be when I feel the Spirit of God in my nostrils? (cf. Job 27:3). That is, ‘How can I blaspheme God when the Holy Spirit abides with me? If I had blasphemed God, the Holy Spirit would have withdrawn from me; but lo, I feel His breath in my nostrils.’

In exactly the same way it is said of Abraham and Jacob that they saw the Lord and conversed with Him, and that Jacob even wrestled with Him. Moses and all the people with him saw God when he was granted to receive from God the tables of the Law on Mount Sinai. A pillar of cloud and a pillar of fire, or, in other words, the evident grace of the Holy Spirit, served as guides to the people of God in the desert. People saw God and the grace of His Holy Spirit, not in sleep or in dreams, or in the excitement of a disordered imagination, but truly and openly.

We have become so inattentive to the work of our salvation that we misinterpret many other words in Holy Scripture as well, all because we do not seek the grace of God and in the pride of our minds do not allow it to dwell in our souls. That is why we are without true enlightenment from the Lord, which He sends into the hearts of men who hunger and thirst wholeheartedly for God’s righteousness. (Converastion with N. Motovilov)

On Biblical Questions

St. Basil the Great ca. 330-379

Read your Bible carefully, and you will find the answer to your question there. (Letter 188.16)

On Evangelization and Iconography

Bede the Venerable ca. 673-735

(597 a.d. British Isles) Augustine [of Canterbury] thus strengthened by the confirmation of the blessed Father Gregory, returned to the work of the word of God, with the servants of Christ, and arrived in Britain… It is reported that, as they drew near to the city, after their manner, with the holy Cross, and the Image of our sovereign Lord and King, Jesus Christ, they, in concert, sung this litany: “We beseech Thee, O Lord, in all Thy mercy, that thy anger and wrath be turned away from this city, and from the holy house, because we have sinned. Hallelujah.” (Ecclesiastical History of the English Nation, Bk. 1 Chap. XXV)

Chinese imperial Proclamation Tang Dynasty

(638 a.d. China) Bishop Alopen of the Kingdom of Ta-chin (Syria), bringing with him the Sutras and the Images, has come from afar and presented them at our Capital. Having carefully examined the scope of his teaching, we find it to be mysteriously spiritual, and of silent operation. Having observed its principal and most essential points, we reached the conclusion that they cover all that is most important in life…This Teaching is helpful to all creatures and beneficial to all men. So let it have free course throughout the Empire. (The Nestorian Stele Commemorating the Propagation of the Ta-ch’in [Syrian]Luminous Religion in China)

St. Nestor the Chronicler 1056-1114

(987 a.d. Kiev) As [the Greek Orthodox scholar] spoke thus, he exhibited to [Great Prince] Vladimir a canvas on which was depicted the Judgment Day of the Lord, and showed him, on the right, the righteous going to their bliss in Paradise, and on the left, the sinners on their way to torment. Then Vladimir sighed and said, “Happy are they upon the right, but woe to those on the left!” The scholar replied, “If you desire to take your place upon the right with the just, then accept baptism!” Vladimir took this counsel to heart, saying, “I shall wait yet a little longer,” for he wished to inquire about all the faiths. Vladimir then gave the scholar many gifts, and dismissed him with great honor. (The Russian Primary Chronicle) 

On the Awesome Responsibility of Ordaining

St. John Moschos ca. 550-619

When Abba Amos went down to Jerusalem and was consecrated Patriarch, all the higoumens of all the monasteries went up to do homage to him and, amongst them, I also went up, together with my higoumen. The Patriarch starated saying to the fathers: ‘Pray for me fathers, for I have been handed a great and difficult burden and I am a little terrified at the prospect of the patriarchal office. Peter and Paul and Moses, men of their stature are adequate shepherds of rational sheep, but I am a person of little worth. Most of all, I fear the burden of ordinations. I have found it written that the blessed Leo who became Primate of the Church of the Romans, remained at the tomb of the Apostle Peter for forty days, exercising himself in fasting and prayer, invoking the Apostle Peter to intercede with God for him, that his faults might be pardoned. When forty days were fulfilled, the Apostle appeared to him, saying: ‘I prayed for you, and all your sins are forgiven, except for those of ordinations. This alone will be asked of you: whether you did well, or not, in ordaining those whom you ordained.’ (The Spiritual Meadow, 149)

On Defending the Tome of Leo

St. John Moschos ca. 550-619

Theodore, the most holy bishop of the city of Dara in Libya, told us this:

When I was syncellos to the saintly Pope Eulogios [of Alexandria], in my sleep I saw a tall, impressive looking man who said to me: ‘Announce me to Pope Eulogios.’ I asked him: ‘Who are you, my lord? How do you wished to be announced?’ He replied: ‘I am Leo, Pope of Rome’, so I went in and announced: ‘The most holy and blessed Leo, Primate of the Church of the Romans, wishes to pay you his respects. As soon as Pope Eulogios heard, he got up and came running to meet him. They embraced each other, offered a prayer and sat down. Then the truly godly and divinely-inspired Leo said to Pope Eulogios: ‘Do you know why I have come to you?’ The other said he did not: ‘I have come to thank you’, he said, ‘because you have defended so well, and so intelligently, the letter which I wrote to our brother, Flavian, Patriarch of Constantinople. You have declared my meaning and sealed up the mouths of the heretics. And know, brother, that it is not only me whom you have gratified by this labor of yours, but also Peter, the Chief of the Apostles; and, above all, the very Truth which is proclaimed by us, which is Christ our God.’ I saw this, not only once, but three times. Convinced by the third apparition, I told it to the saintly Pope Eulogios. He wept when he heard it and, stretching out his hands to heaven, he gave thanks to God, saying: ‘I give you thanks, Lord Christ, our God, that you have made my unworthiness become a proclaimer of the truth, and that, by the prayers of your servants Peter and Leo, your Goodness has received our feeble endeavor as you did receive the widow’s two mites.’ (The Spiritual Meadow, 148)

On the Fullness of Truth in Orthodoxy

Hieromonk Seraphim Rose 1934-1982

…Orthodoxy is not merely a “tradition” like any other, a “handing down” of spiritual wisdom from the past; it is God’s Truth here and now — it gives us immediate contact with God such as no other tradition can do. There are many truths in the other traditions, both those handed down from a past when men were closer to God, and those discovered by gifted men in the reaches of the mind; but the full Truth is only in Christianity, God’s revelation of Himself to mankind. I will take only one example: there are teachings on spiritual deception in other traditions, but none so thoroughly refined as those taught by the Orthodox Holy Fathers; and more importantly, these deceptions of the evil one and our fallen nature are so omnipresent and so thorough that no one could escape them unless the loving God revealed by Christianity were close at hand to deliver us from them. Similarly: Hindu tradition teaches many true things about the end of the Kali Yuga; but one who merely knows these truths in the mind will be helpless to resist the temptations of those times, and many who recognize the Antichrist (Chakravarti) when he comes will nonetheless worship him — only the power of Christ given to the heart will have the strength to resist him. (Christ the Eternal Tao, p. 448)

On When the Roman Empire Became Orthodox

The Edict of Thessalonica (Cunctos Populos) 380 a.d.

EMPERORS GRATIAN, VALENTINIAN AND THEODOSIUS AUGUSTI. EDICT TO THE PEOPLE OF CONSTANTINOPLE.

It is our desire that all the various nations which are subject to our Clemency and Moderation, should continue to profess that religion which was delivered to the Romans by the divine Apostle Peter, as it has been preserved by faithful Tradition, and which is now professed by the Pontiff Damasus and by Peter, Bishop of Alexandria, a man of apostolic holiness. According to the apostolic teaching and the doctrine of the Gospel, let us believe in the one Deity of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, in equal majesty and in a Holy Trinity. We authorize the followers of this law to assume the title of Catholic Christians; but as for the others, since, in our judgment they are foolish madmen, we decree that they shall be branded with the ignominious name of heretics, and shall not presume to give to their conventicles the name of churches. They will suffer in the first place the chastisement of the divine condemnation and in the second the punishment of our authority which in accordance with the will of Heaven we shall decide to inflict.

GIVEN IN THESSALONICA ON THE THIRD DAY FROM THE CALENDS OF MARCH, DURING THE FIFTH CONSULATE OF GRATIAN AUGUSTUS AND FIRST OF THEODOSIUS AUGUSTUS (Codex Theodosianus, xvi.1.2)

On St. John Maximovitch

Met. Anthony Khrapovitsky 1863-1936

I am sending you Bishop John as my soul, as my heart. This little, frail man, almost a child in appearance, is something of a miracle of ascetic firmness and strictness in our time of universal spiritual paralysis…

Met. Philaret of New York 1903-1985

It is hardly possible to doubt that Vladyka manifestly pleased God by his truly ascetic life and struggle of prayer. It is worthy of attention that when we served his funeral on the sixth day (for various reasons I was long delayed en route, and they waited a long time for me; therefore, instead of the scheduled Tuesday, we performed the funeral on Thrusday, at six o’clock in the evening), his coffin stood open. Not only were there no signs of of bodily decomposition whatsoever, but Vladyka lay as one sleeping; his hands had their usual appearance and color and were soft and warm… his incorruption was obvious. (quotes excerpted from Lantern of Grace pp. 57-58)

On Confessional Relativism

St. John of Kronstadt 1829-1908

To our shame, we must admit that in many Orthodox Christians the Orthodox Faith is not only absent in their heart, but it is also not on their tongue; among them it has vanished entirely, or has been turned into total indifference with regard to any religion whatever–Catholic, Lutheran, Jewish, Mohammendan, or pagan. We hear that one may please God in every religion, i.e., that every religion is supposedly pleasing to God, and that falsehood and truth, righteousness and unrighteousness are matters about which God does not care.
This is what ignorance of their own Faith, ignorance of the spirit and history of their Church, estrangement from its life and divine services, has brought many to–an eclipse of any understanding of Orthodoxy, heterodoxy and other religions! (On the Joy of Being Orthodox)
My brothers, only the Orthodox Faith purifies and sanctifies human nature corrupted by sin, renews the decayed, enlightens the darkened, heals those wounded by sin, warms the frozen, and unites those separated from God. (The Rush to Embrace by Fr. Alexey Young, p. 86)

On Christians at the Judgment

Blessed Jerome ca. 347-420

Their worm shall not die and their fire shall not be extinguished (Isa. 66: 24)… If anyone wants these punishments someday to end, granted it be after a very long time, and to have an end to these torments, let them make use of these testimonies: “When the full number of Gentiles shall have entered, then all Israel shall be saved.” (Rom. 11:25)… Just as we believe there are eternal torments for the devil and all the nay-sayers and impious persons who say in there heart: “There is no God” (Ps. 13 [14]:1), so too, for sinners and impious persons who are, nevertheless, Christians, whose works are to be tried in the fire and purged, we think that the sentence of the Judge will be tempered and blended with clemency. (Commentary on Isaiah, 18, 66.24)

On the Fate of True Christians

St. Seraphim of Sarov 1759-1833

Elijah the Tishbite, in complaining to the Lord against Israel that in its entirety it had bent the knee to Baal, said in prayer that he alone, Elijah, had remained faithful to the Lord, but they were already seeking to take away his soul also… And what, Batisuhka, did the Lord answer him? — I have left seven thousand men in Israel who have not bent the knee to Baal (1 Kgs. 19:18). And so, if in the kingdom of Israel, which had fallen away from the kingdom of Judea which was faithful to God and had become completely corrupted, there remained still seven thousand men faithful to the Lord, then what shall we say of Russia? I suppose that in the kingdom of Israel at that time there were no more than three million people. And how many, Batiushka, are there now in our Russia?

I replied: “About sixty million.” And he continued.

“Twenty times more. Then judge for yourself how many we have now who are still faithful to God! So it is, Batiushka, so it is: ‘Whom He did foreknow, He also did forechoose, and whom He did forechoose, He also did predestinate; and whom He did predestinate, He will watch over and glorify. And so, what is there for us to be downcast about!… God is with us! (cf. Rom. 8:29-31). He that trusteth in the Lord shall be as Mount Zion… and the Lord is round about His people (Ps. 124:1-2). The Lord shall preserve thy going out and thy coming in from this time forth even forevermore; …the sun shall not smite thee by day nor the moon by night (Ps. 120:6-8).

And then I asked him what this means, and why he was saying this to me.

“Because,” Batiushka Seraphim replied, “in this same way the Lord will preserve, as the apple of His eye, His people, that is, Orthodox Christians who love Him and serve Him with all their heart and all their mind, both in word and deed, day and night. And such are they who preserve entirely all the rules, dogmas, and traditions of our Eastern Orthodox Church, and who with their lips confess the piety which has been handed down by the Church, and who act in very deed in all circumstances of life according to the holy commandments of our Lord Jesus Christ.” (Little Russian Philokalia, pp. 118-119. “Concerning the Fate of True Christians”, written down by Motovilov on the night of October 26-27, 1844)

On Teaching in Accordance with Holy Scripture

St. Cyril of Alexandria ca. 376-444

I will say this, that it is proper that those, who in some manner are brought forward to teach or wish to write, behold with the sincere eye of the mind the understanding of divine Scripture and proceed rightly toward its intention and thus dispose their utterances unto judgment, fearing lest perhaps by teaching or thinking on the contrary the opposite to what it is, they may be called least in the Kingdom of Heaven (cf. Mt. 5:19), the desire for which forces those who look toward it to reject wandering from the way which leads to that Kingdom and to hasten to that blessed life. (cf. Mt. 7:13-14) (Letter 91.5 [Alternate Version])

 

On the Nature of Future Punishments

Blessed Jerome ca. 347-420

There are many who say there are no future punishments for sins nor any torments extrinsically applied, but that sin itself and the consciousness of guilt serve as punishment, while the worm in the heart does not die, and a fire is kindled in the mind, much like a fever, which does not torment the ailing person externally but punishes even bodies by its seizures, without the application of any torments that might be brought to bear from without. These arguments and fraudulent fancies are but inane and empty words having the semblance of a certain eloquence of speech but serving only to delude sinners; and if they give them credence they only add to the burden of eternal punishment which they will carry with them. (Commentary on Ephesians, 3.5,6)

St. Ambrose of Milan on the Unbaptized

St. Ambrose of Milan ca. 338-397

Unless a man be born again of water and the Holy Spirit, he cannot enter the Kingdom of God (cf. Jn. 3:5). No one is excepted: not the infant, not the one prevented by some necessity. They may however, have an undisclosed exemption from punishments; but I do not know whether they have the honor of the Kingdom. (On Abraham, 2.11.84)

But I hear you lamenting because he had not received the sacrament of Baptism. Tell me, what else could we have, except the will to it, the asking for it? He too had just now this desire; and after he came into Italy it was begun, and a short time ago he signified that he wished to be baptized by me. Did he, then, not have the grace which he desired? Did he not have what he eagerly sought? Certainly, because he already sought it, he received it. What else does it mean: Whatever just man shall be overtaken by death, his soul shall be at rest (Wisdom of Solomon 4:7). (Sympathy at the Death of Valentinian, 51)

On the Benefits of the Holy Spirit

St. Basil the Great ca. 330-379

Through the Holy Spirit comes our restoration to paradise, our ascension into the Kingdom of Heaven, our return to the adoption of sons, our liberty to callGod our  Father, our being made partakers of the grace of Christ, our being called children of light, our sharing in eternal glory, and, in a word, our being brought into a state of all fullness of blessing, (Rom. 15:29) both in this world and in the world to come, of all the good gifts that are in store for us, by promise hereof, through faith, beholding the reflection of their grace as though they were already present, we await the full enjoyment. If such is the earnest, what the perfection? If such the first fruits, what the complete fulfillment? (On the Holy Spirit, 15.36)

On the Most Supernatural Among Supernaturals

St. Mark of Ephesus ca. 1392-1444

Nevertheless, let one remove every rational account with respect to that which concerns the Theotokos, who alone is the most supernatural marvel among supernaturals realized from eternity, who is also higher than all rational discourse; for in a a true way God wished His own omnipotence to be manifested in this woman. (First Antirrhetic, II.16-19)

On the Holy Spirit in the World

St. Seraphim of Sarov 1759-1833

[W]hen through the tasting of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil—which was premature and contrary to the commandment of God—they learnt the difference between good and evil and were subjected to all the afflictions which followed the transgression of the commandment of God, then they lost this priceless gift of the grace of the Spirit of God, so that, until the actual coming into the world of the God-Man Jesus Christ, the Spirit of God was not yet in the world because Jesus was not yet glorified (Jn. 7:39).

However, that does not mean that the Spirit of God was not in the world at all, but His presence was not so apparent as in Adam or in us Orthodox Christians. It manifested only externally; yet the signs of His presence in the world were known to mankind. Thus, for instance, many mysteries in connection with the future salvation of the human race were revealed to Adam as well as to Eve after the fall. And for Cain, in spite of his impiety and his transgression, it was easy to understand the voice which held gracious and divine though convicting converse with him. Noah conversed with God. Abraham saw God and His day and was glad (cp. Jn. 8:56). The grace of the Holy Spirit acting externally was also reflected in all the Old Testament prophets and Saints of Israel. The Hebrews afterwards established special prophetic schools where the sons of the prophets were taught to discern the signs of the manifestation of God or of Angels, and to distinguish the operations of the Holy Spirit from the ordinary natural phenomena of our graceless earthly life. Simeon who held God in his arms, Christ’s grand-parents Joakim and Anna, and countless other servants of God continually had quite openly various divine apparitions, voices and revelations which were justified by evident miraculous events. Though not with the same power as in the people of God, nevertheless, the presence of the Spirit of God also acted in the pagans who did not know the true God, because even among them God found for Himself chosen people. Such, for instance, were the virgin-prophetesses called Sibyls who vowed virginity to an unknown God, but still to God the Creator of the universe, the all-powerful Ruler of the world, as He was conceived by the pagans. Though the pagan philosophers also wandered in the darkness of ignorance of God, yet they sought the truth which is beloved by God, and on account of this God-pleasing seeking, they could partake of the Spirit of God, for it is said that the nations who do not know God practice by nature the demands of the law and do what is pleasing to God (cf. Rom. 2:14). The Lord so praises truth that He says of it Himself by the Holy Spirit: Truth has sprung out of the earth, and righteousness has looked down from heaven (Ps. 84:11).

So you see, your Godliness, both in the holy Hebrew people, a people beloved by God, and in the pagans who did not know God, there was preserved a knowledge of God—that is, my son, a clear and rational comprehension of how our Lord God the Holy Spirit acts in man, and by means of what inner and outer feelings one can be sure that this is really the action of our Lord God the Holy Spirit, and not a delusion of the enemy. That is how it was from Adam’s fall until the coming in the flesh of our Lord Jesus Christ into the world. (Conversation with N. Motovilov)

St. John Cassian on Frequent Communion

St. John Cassian ca. 360-435
Yet we ought not to suspend ourselves from the Lord’s Communion because we confess ourselves sinners, but should more and more eagerly hasten to it for the healing of our soul, and purifying of our spirit, and seek the rather a remedy for our wounds with humility of mind and faith, as considering ourselves unworthy to receive so great grace. Otherwise we cannot worthily receive the Communion even once a year, as some do, who live in monasteries and so regard the dignity and holiness and value of the heavenly sacraments, as to think that none but saints and spotless persons should venture to receive them, and not rather that they would make us saints and pure by taking them. And these thereby fall into greater presumption and arrogance than what they seem to themselves to avoid, because at the time when they do receive them, they consider that they are worthy to receive them. But it is much better to receive them every Sunday for the healing of our infirmities, with that humility of heart, whereby we believe and confess that we can never touch those holy mysteries worthily, than to be puffed up by a foolish persuasion of heart, and believe that at the year’s end we are worthy to receive them. Wherefore that we may be able to grasp this and hold it fruitfully, let us the more earnestly implore the Lord’s mercy to help us to perform this, which is learnt not like other human arts, by some previous verbal explanation, but rather by experience and action leading the way; and which also unless it is often considered and hammered out in the Conferences of spiritual persons, and anxiously sifted by daily experience and trial of it, will either become obsolete through carelessness or perish by idle forgetfulness. (Conferences, 23.21:Third Conference of Abbot Theonas on Sinlessness)

On the Danger of Not Following the Contemporary Saints

St. Symeon the New Theologian ca. 949-1022

[T]he Saints — those who appear from generation to generation, from time to time, following the Saints who preceded them — become linked with their predecessors through obedience to the divine commandments, and endowed with divine grace, become filled with the same light. In such a sequence all of them together form a kind of golden chain, each Saint being a separate link in this chain, joined to the first by faith, right actions and love; a chain which has its strength in God and can hardly be broken. A man who does not express a desire to link himself to the latest of the saints (in time) in all love and humility owing to a certain distrust in himself, will never be linked to the preceding saints and will not be admitted to their succession, even though he thinks he possesses all possible faith and love for God and for all His saints. He will be cast out of their midst, as one who refused to take humbly the place allotted to him by God before all time, and to link himself to that latest saint (in time) as God had disposed. (Practical and Theological Precepts, 157-158. Writings From the Philokalia: On the Prayer of the Heart)

On the Words of Institution and the Epiklesis

St. Nicholas Cabasilas ca. 1323-1391

Certain Latins attack us thus: They came that after the words of the Lord: “Take and eat” and what follows there is no need of any further prayer to consecrate the offerings, since they are already consecrated by the Lord’s word. They maintain that to pronounce these words of Christ and then to speak of bread and wine and to pray for their consecration as if they had not already been consecrated, is not only impious but futile and unnecessary. Moreover they say that the blessed Chrysostom is witness that these words consecrate the offerings when he said in the same way that the words of the Creator, “Be fruitful and multiply” (Gen. 1:22), spoken on a single occasion by God, continue to take effect, so the words once spoken by the Savior are also operative forever. Those who rely more on their own prayer than on God’s word are in the first place implying that His words lack effectiveness. They show that they put more trust in themselves, and in the third place they make the holy sacrament dependent on something uncertain, namely, human prayer, and in so doing they represent so great a mystery in which the most steadfast faith must be shown as something full of uncertainty. For it does not follow that he who prays will necessarily be heard, even if he has the virtue of Paul.

It is not difficult to refute all these arguments. Take first the works of the divine John [Chrysostom] on which they rely and consider whether the words of Christ can be compared to the words of the Creator. God said: “Be fruitful and multiply”. What then? After these words do we need nothing more to achieve this and is nothing else necessary for the increase of the human race? Is not marriage and conjugal union essential, and all the other cares which go with marriage, and without which it would be impossible for mankind to exist and develop? We consider marriage, therefore, necessary for the procreation of children, and after marriage we still pray towards this end, and without seeming to despise the Creator’s command, being well aware that it is the primary cause of procreation, but through the medium of marriage, provision for nourishment and so on. And in the same way, here in the liturgy we believe that the Lord’s words do indeed accomplish the mystery, but through the medium of the priest, his invocation, and his prayer. These words do not take effect simply in themselves or under any circumstances, but there are many essential conditions, and without these they do not achieve their end. Who does not know that it is the death of Christ alone which has brought remission of sins to the world? But we also know that even after His death faith, penitence, confession and the prayer of the priest are necessary, and a man cannot receive remission of sins unless he has first been through these processes. What then? Are we to dishonor His death and to claim that it is no effect, by believing that its results are inadequate unless we ourselves add our contribution? By no means.

It is unreasonable to address reproaches like these to those who pray for the consecration of the offerings. Their confidence in their prayer is not confidence in self, but in God Who has promised to grant what they are seeking. It is indeed the very contrary which is fundamental to the conception of prayer. For suppliants perform the act of prayer because they fail to trust themselves in the matters about which they pray and they believe and that they can obtain their requests from God alone. In throwing himself upon God, the man who prays admits that he recognizes his own helplessness and that he is dependent upon God for everything. This is not my affair, he says, nor within my own powers, but it has need of you, Lord, and I trust it all to you. These principles have an even more wonderful application when we are forced to ask things which are above nature and beyond all understanding, as the sacraments are. Then it is absolutely essential that those who make prayer should rely on God alone. For man could not even have imagined these things if God had not taught him of them; he could not have conceived the desire for them if God had not exhorted him; he could not have expected to receive it if he had not received the hope of it from Him Who is the Truth. He would not have even dared to pray for those things if God had not clearly shown him that it was according to His will that they should be sought for, and that He is ready to grant them to those who ask. As a result, the prayer is neither uncertain nor the result unsure, as the Lord of the gift has in every way made known His desire to grant it. This is why we believe that the sanctification of the mysteries is in the prayer of the priest, certainly not relying on any human power, but on the power of God. We are assured of the result, not by reason of man who prays, but by reason of God Who hears; not because mantas made a supplication, but because the Truth has promised to grant it.

There is no need to speak of the way in which Christ has shown His desire to ever grant this grace. This is why He came into the world, why He was made a sacrifice, why He died. This is why altars and priests and every purification and all the commandments, the teaching and the exhortations exist: all to the end that this holy table may be placed before us. This is why the Savior declared that He desired to keep the Passover (Lk. 22:15), for it was then that He was going to give the true Passover to His disciples. This is why He commanded them: “Do this in remembrance of Me”, for He wished this mystery to be performed among us always.

How then could those who pray have any doubt about the object of their prayer, if He intended that those things which they seek to have be received by them, and He Himself wishes to grant them Who alone has the power to give? Therefore those who believe that the offerings are consecrated by prayer are neither scorning the words of the Savior, nor trusting in themselves, nor yet causing dependence on something uncertain, such as human prayer, as the Latins vainly reproach us.

A further proof is that the all-holy Chrism, stated by the blessed Dionysius [the Areopagite] to be in the same category as Holy Communion, is also consecrated and sanctified by prayer. And the faithful have no doubt that this prayer is efficacious and consecrates. In the same way the ordination of priests, and that of bishops as well, is effected by prayer. He who is ordaining lays on his hands and then says to the clergy: “Let us pray for him that the grace of the Holy Spirit may come upon him.” Similarly in the Latin Church the bishop ordaining priests anoints the head (*) of the candidate with oil and prays that he may be richly endowed with the grace of the Holy Spirit. And it is through prayer that the priest gives absolution from sin to penitents. In the last sacrament of Unction it is equally the prayer of the priests which confers it; this sacrament has the power to give healing from bodily illness and the remission of sins to those on whom it is performed, as is confirmed by Apostolic Tradition: Is there any sick among you? Let him call for the elders of the church; and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord; and the prayer of faith shall save the sick, and the Lord shall raise him up; and if he have committed any sins they shall be forgiven him. (James 5:14-15)

How can those who condemn the prayer in the sacraments answer all these arguments?

If, as they say, the result of prayer is uncertain it would be equally uncertain whether the priest is truly of that holy office whose name he bears, or whether the Chrism has the power to consecrate, and therefore it would be impossible for the sacrament of Holy Communion to exist, since there would be neither priest nor altar. For our critics would hardly maintain that the words of the Lord would be effective if they were spoken by just anyone, and perhaps even without an altar. And indeed the altar upon which the bread must be placed is in fact itself consecrated with the Chrism which in turn is consecrated by prayer. And further, who can give us remission of sins if there is doubt about the priests and their supplications?

To follow the innovations of these men would indeed inevitably mean the total destruction of all Christianity. It is therefore clear that for those who hold such doctrines the very foundations of their virtue are in question, and there is indeed great danger for those who fabricate innovations of this kind, alien to the tradition of the Fathers and undermining the security which this tradition guarantees. For God Himself has said that He answers prayer and grants the Holy Spirit to those who ask, and nothing is impossible to those who pray in faith, and his assurance cannot be untrue. It is nowhere stated that this will happen to those who simply speak this or that word. It is the tradition of the Fathers who received this teaching from the Apostles and from their successors, that the sacraments are rendered effective through prayer; all the sacraments, as I have said, and in particularly the Holy Eucharist. Basil the Great and John Chrysostom, the great teachers of the Church, affirmed this, as so many others had already done. Those who deny such authorities deserve no consideration from those who believe in right doctrine. The words of the Lord about the Holy Mysteries were spoken in a narrative manner. None of the Apostles or teachers of the Church has ever appeared to say that they are sufficient to consecrate the offerings of sacraments. The blessed John [Chrysostom] himself said that, spoken once by Christ, and having actually been said by Him, they are always effective, just as the word of the Creator is. But it is nowhere taught that now, spoken by the priest, and by reason of being said by him, they have that efficacy. In the same way the Creator’s word is not effective because it is spoken by a man, applied to each particular case, but only because it was spoken by the Lord.

That which silences our adversaries decisively is the fact that the Latin Church herself, to whom they refer themselves, does not cease to pray for the offerings after the words of consecration have been pronounced. This point has escaped them, no doubt, because the Latins do not recite this prayer immediately after pronouncing Christ’s words, and because they do not ask explicitly for consecration and the transformation of the elements into the Body of the Lord, but use other terms, which, however, have exactly the same meaning.

This is their prayer: “Command that these offerings be carried in the hands of Thy holy angels to Thine altar on high.” (**) What do they mean when they say: “That these offerings may be carried up”? Either they are asking for a local translation of the offerings, i.e. from the earth and lower regions to heaven, or they are asking that they be raised in dignity from a humble state to the highest of all.

If the first of these is the case, we must ask of what benefit it is to us to pray that the holy mysteries may be taken away from us, since our prayers and our faith assure us and demand that they should not only be with us but remain with us, since it is in this that Christ’s remaining with us even to the end of the world consists. (Mat. 28:20) And if they know it is Christ’s Body, how can they not believe that He is truly and mysteriously both with us and in heaven, sitting at the Father’s right hand, in a manner known only to Himself? How, on one hand, shall that which i