Elder Sophrony on Orthodoxy and Ecumenism

szElder Sophrony of Essex

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

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

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

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

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

Conclusions and Summary of the Theological-Academic Conference:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Holy and Great Council Logo

                 Holy and Great Council Logo

Signposts on the Way to Crete [1]

by Protopresbyter Peter Heers

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Signposts on The Way of the Pan Orthodox Council

1. The Beginning

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

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

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

2. Methodological Similarities

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

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

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

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

He wrote:

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

3. Common Aims with the Second Vatican Council

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

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

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

4. “Free From Dogmatism”

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

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

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

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

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

St. Justin explains:

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

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

5. Support of the Ecumenical Movement

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

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

6. The Dominant Role Played by Academic Theologians

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ecclesiological Convergence: Following Vatican II, not the Holy Fathers

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

He wrote:

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

Note the order of things according to this observer:

The ambiguity of the texts are seen as the catalyst:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

He writes in 1976:

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

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

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

Reverend Fathers, beloved in Christ,

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

· the beginning and the methodology of the Council,

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

· the absence of experiential (true) theologians,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

[15] Sullivan, Significance, 273.

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

[17] Lumen Gentium 8.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

On Monotonic and Polyphonic Chant

athos_chantBishop Chrysostomos
 Former Archbishop and Metropolitan Emeritus of Etna

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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 Small and Great Dogmatic Errors

TarasiusSt. Tarasios of Constantinople ca. 730-806

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

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

IMG_0986

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

 

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

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

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

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

On Conciliar Truth

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

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

On 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 Objective of Dialogues

imageRussian Orthodox Church Bishops Council 2008 

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

On the Sane Members of the Church

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

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

A Second Intervention in View of the Great Council

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

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

12th February 2016

Your Beautitude, holy President of the Holy Synod,

Your Eminences, holy Hierarchs,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Your Beatitude,

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

With deepest respect,

I kiss your right hand,

Demetrios Tselengides

Professor of the School of Theology of Aristotle University of Thessaloniki

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

translated by Fr. Kristian Akselberg

Fr. Theodore Zisis on the Great Council

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

Part 1

Part 2

 

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

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

Thessaloniki February 3, 2016

H/T: Lessons From a Monastery

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

General Assessment of the Text

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

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

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

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

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

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

On Akribeia and Oikonomia

Ss. Cyprian and Augustine

                   Ss. Cyprian and Augustine

Protopresbyter George Dion Dragas

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

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

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

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

On Celebrating in Various Languages

Pazardjik Ss. Cyril Methodius Monument

Pazardjik Ss. Cyril Methodius Monument

Patriarch of Antioch Theodore Balsamon ca. 12th cent.

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

On Law, Grace and the Holy Canons

PatsavosDr. Lewis Patsavos, Professor Emeritus of Canon Law

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

St. 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 Common Prayer

Fr. Sergei Sveshnikov

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

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

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

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)

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 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 Divine Canons

Nicea II Seventh Ecumenical Council 787 a.d.

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

On Church Preaching

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

The Moscow Council December 1, 1917

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

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

On the Ancient Method of Infant Baptism in the English Church

The Second Council of Calcuith, England AD 816

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

On Secular Takeovers of the Church

St. Vladimir the Great ca. 958-1015

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

On Praying with the Eastern Heterodox Churches

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

Patriarch of Antioch Theodore Balsamon ca. 12th cent.

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

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

On the Sin of Concealing the True Faith

St. Meletios Galesiotes ca. 1209-1286

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

On Female Deacons in the Ancient Church

Hieromonk Matthew Blastares ca. 14th cent. 

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

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

On Third Marriages

The Unequal Marriage (1862) by Pukirev

Patriarch Theodore Balsamon ca. 12th

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

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

Hieromonk Matthew Blastares ca. 14th century

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

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

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

Concerning the Tomos of Union

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

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

On the Customs of the Italians

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

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 Canonicity

Fr. Alexander Schmemann 1921-1983

No term is used—and misused—among the Orthodox people in America more often than the term canonical. One hears endless discussions about the “canonicity” or the “uncanonicity” of this or that bishop, jurisdiction, priest, parish. Is it not in itself an indication that something is wrong or, at least, questionable from the canonical point of view in America, that there exists a canonical problem which requires an overall analysis and solution? Unfortunately the existence of such a problem is seldom admitted. Everyone simply claims the fulness of canonicity for his own position and, in the name of it, condemns and denounces as uncanonical the ecclesiastical status of others. And one is amazed by the low level and cynicism of these “canonical” fights in which any insinuation, any distortion is permitted as long as it harms the “enemy.” The concern here is not for truth, but for victories in the form of parishes, bishops, priests “shifting” jurisdictions and joining the “canonical” one. It does not matter that the same bishop or priest was condemning yesterday what today he praises as canonical, that the real motivations behind all these transfers have seldom anything to do with canonical convictions; what matters is victory. We live in the poisoned atmosphere of anathemas and excommunications, court cases and litigations, dubious consecrations of dubious bishops, hatred, calumny, lies! But do we think about the irreparable moral damage all this inflicts to our people? How can they respect the Hierarchy and its decisions? What meaning can the very concept of canonicity have for them? Are we not encouraging them to consider all norms, all regulations, all rules as purely relative? One wonders sometimes whether our bishops realize the scandal of this situation, whether they ever think about the cynicism all this provokes and feeds in the hearts of Orthodox people. Three Russian jurisdictions, two Serbian, two Romanian, two Albanian, two Bulgarian. A split among the Syrians . . . The animosity between the Russians and the Carpatho-Russians… The Ukrainian problem! And all this at a time when Orthodoxy in America is coming of age, when truly wonderful possibilities exist for its growth, expansion, creative progress. We teach our children to be “proud” of Orthodoxy, we constantly congratulate ourselves about all kinds of historic events and achievements, our church publications distill an almost unbearable triumphalism and optimism, yet, if we were true to the spirit of our faith we ought to repent in “sackcloth and ashes,” we ought to cry day and night about the sad, the tragical state of our Church. If “canonicity” is anything but a pharisaic and legalistic self-righteousness, if it has anything to do with the spirit of Christ and the tradition of His Body, the Church, we must openly proclaim that the situation in which we all live is utterly uncanonical regardless of all the justifications and sanctions that every one finds for his “position.” (The Canonical Problem 1, An Uncanonical Situation)

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 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 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)

St. Tikhon of Moscow on the New Calendar

St. Tikhon of Moscow 1865-1925

…[T]he Julian Calendar itself is not a dogma of faith of the Church and could, in theory and principle, be altered.

The common consent of all the Autocephalous Orthodox Churches would be required in order to lawfully introduce the New Calendar. Besides, the Julian Calendar has been hallowed by centuries of liturgical use by the whole Church, and no one Local Church can replace it unilaterally.

And it must be introduced not only lawfully, but also painlessly, and that could only be achieved with the consent of the believing people. According to the teaching of the Orthodox Church, the guardians of the purity of the faith and of the patristic traditions are not only the head of the Church, nor all the hierarchs combined, but the entire body of the Church, including the faithful laity, to whom belong established rights and a voice in ecclesiastic affairs. The head of one of the Local Churches, and the Patriarch of Russia, in particular, is not the Pope of Rome, enjoying absolute and boundless power. He cannot govern the people of God tyrannically, not asking their consent, and not taking into consideration their religious conscious, their beliefs, practices and skills. History demonstrates that compelling the people of God, rather than convincing them, always fails.

…The so-called ‘Pan-Orthodox Congress’ was not an Ecumenical Council; not all the Local Churches were represented. Thus, its resolutions could only be implemented if they were approved by an Ecumenical Council, or by the Synod of each of the Local Churches separately. Despite the fact that the majority of representatives did not approve of the Calendar change, Patriarch Meletius, violating Catholic unity, introduced the new style into his Patriarchate. The Renovationists in Russia embraced this change.

…Rumors have reached us that in 1925 an Ecumenical Council will be held to mark the 1,600th anniversary of the First Ecumenical Council at Nicea. If such a council is convoked canonically, then it would be best to raise this question then. Once the new style has been accepted by the entire Catholic Church, then perhaps we can prevail upon the faithful in Russia to accept it too, if the Orthodox bishops, appointed by me, and whom the faithful trust and follow, will have the freedom of abiding in their dioceses, of communicating with their flock, and of religious direction of the clergy and parishes found in canonical communion with me. (New Zion in Babylon II by V. Moss p. 252-254)

On Icons of the Trinity

Great Council of Moscow 1666-1667

We decree that a skilled painter, who is also a good man (from the ranks of the clergy) be named monitor of the iconographers, their leader and supervisor. Let the ignorant not mock the ugly and badly painted icons of Christ, of His Mother, His Saints. Let all vanity of pretended wisdom cease, which has allowed everyone habitually to paint the Lord Sabaoth in various representations according to his own fantasy, without an authentic reference… We decree that from now on the image of the Lord Sabaoth will no longer be painted according to senseless and unsuitable imaginings, for no one has ever seen the Lord Sabaoth (that is, God the Father) in the flesh. Only Christ was seen in the flesh, and in this way He is portrayed, that is, in the flesh and not according to His divinity. Likewise, the most Holy Mother of God and other Saints of God…

To paint on icons the Lord Sabaoth (that is, the Father) with a white beard holding the Only-Begotten Son in His lap with a dove between them is altogether absurd and improper, for no one has ever seen the Father in His Divinity. Indeed, the Father has no flesh, and it is not in flesh that the Son was born of the Father before all ages. And if the Prophet David says, ‘from the womb, before the morning star, I have begotten You’ (Ps. 109 [110]:3), such a generation is certainly not corporeal, but unutterable and unimaginable. For Christ Himself says in the Holy Gospel, ‘No one knows the Father except the Son’. In chapter 40, Isaiah asks: ‘What likeness will you find for God or what form to resemble His?’ Likewise, the holy Apostle Paul says in chapter 17 of Acts: ‘Since we are God’s offspring, we ought not to believe that the Godhead is the same as gold, silver, or stone shaped by human art and thought.’ St. John of Damascus likewise says: ‘Who can make an imitation of God the invisible, the incorporeal, the indescribable, and unimaginable? To make an image of the Divinity is the height of folly and impiety.’ (On the Heavens, Bk. IV, On the Image) St. Gregory Dialogos forbade in a similar way. This is why the Lord Sabaoth, Who is the Godhead, and the engendering before all ages of the Only-Begotten Son of the Father must only be perceived through our mind. By no means is it proper to paint such images: it is impossible. And the Holy Spirit is not, in His nature a dove: He is by nature God. And no one has ever seen God, as the holy Evangelist points out. Nonetheless, the Holy Spirit appeared in the form of dove at the Holy Baptism of Christ in the Jordan; and this is why it is proper to represent the Holy Spirit in the form of a dove, in this context only. Anywhere else, those who have good sense do not represent the Holy Spirit in the form of a dove, for on Mount Tabor He appeared in the form of a cloud, and in another way elsewhere. Besides, Sabaoth is not the name of the Father only, but of the Holy Trinity. According to Dionysius the Areopagite, ‘Sabaoth’ is translated from the Hebrew as ‘Lord of Host’. And the Lord of Hosts is the Trinity. And if the Prophet Daniel says that he has seen the Ancient of Days sitting on the throne of judgment, that is not taken to mean the Father, but the Son at His Second Coming, who will judge all nations with his fearsome judgment.

Likewise, on icons of the Holy Annunciation, they paint the Lord Sabaoth breathing from His mouth, and that breath reaches the womb of the Most Holy Mother of God. But who has seen this, or which passage from Holy Scripture bears witness to it? Where is this taken from? Such a practice and others like it are clearly adopted and borrowed from people whose understanding is vain, or rather whose mind is deranged or absent. This is why we decree that henceforth such mistaken painting cease, for it comes from unsound knowledge. It is only in the Apocalyspe of St. John that the Father can be painted with white hair, for lack of any other possibility, because of the visions contained in it.

It is good and proper to place a Cross, that is, the Crucifixion of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, above the Deisis in the holy churches in the place of Lord Sabaoth, according to the norm preserved since ancient times in all the holy churches of the eastern countries, in Kiev, and everywhere else except in the Muscovite State. This is a great mystery kept by the holy Church…

We say this to shame the iconographers so that they stop making false and vain paintings, and from now on paint nothing according to their own ideas, without an authentic reference. (The Image of God the Father in Orthodox Theology and Iconography and Other Studies by Fr. Steven Bingham pp. 137-139)

Holy Synod of the Russian Church 1722

On the antimensia…, it is strictly forbidden to represent the Lord Sabaoth in the form of an old man, and the holy Evangelists in the form of animals. (ibid., p. 144)

Holy Synod of Constantinople 1776

It has been decreed by the Synod that the icon allegedly of the Trinity is an innovation. It is alien to the apostolic Orthodox Catholic Church and is not accepted by it. It infiltrated the Church through the Latins. (ibid., p. 146)

 

 

 

On the Decree of the Seventh Ecumenical Council

What the Council Decreed

The council decreed that similar veneration and honour should be paid to the representations of the Lord and of the Saints as was accustomed to be paid to the “laurata” and tablets representing the Christian emperors, to wit, that they should be bowed to, and saluted with kisses, and attended with lights and the offering of incense. But the Council was most explicit in declaring that this was merely a veneration of honour and affection, such as can be given to the creature, and that under no circumstances could the adoration of divine worship be given to them but to God alone.

The Greek language has in this respect a great advantage over the Hebrew, the Latin and the English; it has a word which is a general word and is properly used of the affectionate regard and veneration shown to any person or thing, whether to the divine Creator or to any of his creatures, this word is proskynesis ; it has also another word which can properly be used to denote only the worship due to the Most High, God, this word is latreia . When then the Council defined that the worship of “latria “was never to be given to any but God alone, it cut off all possibility for idolatry, mariolatry, iconolatry, or any other “latry” except “theo-latry.” If therefore any of these other “latries” exist or ever have existed, they exist or have existed not in accordance with, but in defiance of, the decree of the Second Council of Nice.

But unfortunately, as I have said, we have neither in Hebrew, Latin, nor English any word with this restricted meaning, and therefore when it became necessary to translate the Greek acts and the decree, great difficulty was experienced, and by the use of “adoro” as the equivalent of proskyneo many were scandalized, thinking that it was divine adoration which they were to give to the sacred images, which they knew would be idolatry. The same trouble is found in rendering into English the acts and decrees; for while indeed properly speaking “worship” no more means necessarily divine worship in English than “adoratio” does in Latin (e.g. I. Chr. xxix. 20, “All the congregation bowed down their heads and worshipped the Lord and the King” [i.e. Solomon]; Luke xiv. 10, “Then shalt thou have worship in the presence of them that sit at meat with thee “), yet to the popular mind “the worship of images” is the equivalent of idolatry. In the following translations I have uniformly translated as follows and the reader from the English will know what the word is in the original.

Proskyneo , to venerate; timao, to honour; latreuo, to adore; aspaxomai to salute; douleuo, to serve; eikon , an image.

The relative force of proskynesis and latreia cannot better be set forth than by Archbishop Trench’s illustration of two circles having the same centre, the larger including the less (New Testament Synonyms, sub voce latreuo).

To make this matter still clearer I must ask the reader’s attention to the use of the words abadh and shachah in the Hebrew; the one abadh, which finds, when used with reference to God or to false gods its equivalent in latreuo ; the other shachah, which is represented by proskyneo. Now in the Old Testament no distinction in the Hebrew is drawn between these words when applied to creator or creature. The one denotes service primarily for hire; the other bowing down and kissing the hand to any in salutation. Both words are constantly used and sometimes refer to the Creator and sometimes to the creature–e.g., we read that Jacob served (abadh) Laban (Gen. xxix. 20); and that Joshua commanded the people not to serve the gods of their fathers but to serve (abadh) the Lord (Josh. xxiv. 14). And for the use of shachah the following may suffice: “And all the congregation blessed the Lord God of their fathers and bowed down their heads and worshipped (Hebrew, shachah; Greek, proskyneo ; Latin, adoro) the Lord and the King” (I. Chr. xxix. 20). But while it is true of the Hebrew of the Old Testament that there is no word which refers alone to Divine Worship this is not true of the Septuagint Greek nor of the Greek of the New Testament, for in both proskyneo has always its general meaning, sometimes applying to the creature and sometimes to the Creator; but latreuo is used to denote divine worship alone, as St. Augustine pointed out long ago.

This distinction comes out very clearly in the inspired translation of the Hebrew found in Matthew iv. 10, “Thou shalt worship (proskynesis) the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve (latreuseis ).” “Worship” was due indeed to God above all but not exclusively to Him, but latria is to be given to “Him only.”

I think I have now said enough to let the reader understand the doctrine taught by the council and to prove that in its decree it simply adopted the technical use of words found in the Greek of the Septuagint and of the New Testament. I may then close this introduction with a few remarks upon outward acts of veneration in general.

Of course, the outward manifestation in bodily acts of reverence will vary with times and with the habits of peoples. To those accustomed to kiss the earth on which the Emperor had trodden, it would be natural to kiss the feet of the image of the King of Kings. The same is manifestly true of any outward acts whatever, such as bowing, kneeling, burning of lights, and offering of incense. All these when offered before an image are, according to the mind of the Council, but outward signs of the reverence due to that which the image represents and pass backward to the prototype, and thus it defined, citing the example of the serpent in the wilderness, of which we read, “For he that turned himself toward it was not saved by the thing that he saw, but by thee, that art the Saviour of all” (Wisdom xvi. 17). If anyone feels disposed to attribute to outward acts any necessary religious value he is falling back into Judaism, and it were well for him to remember that the nod which the Quakers adopted out of protest to the bow of Christians was once the expression of divine worship to the most sacred idols; that in the Eastern Church the priest only bows before the Lord believed to be present in the Holy Sacrament while he prostrates himself before the infidel Sultan; and that throughout the Latin communion the acolytes genuflect before. the Bishop, as they pass him, with the same genuflection that they give to the Holy Sacrament upon the Altar. In this connexion I quote in closing the fine satire in the letter of this very council to the Emperor and Empress. St. Paul “says of Jacob (Heb. xi. 2I), ‘He worshipped the top of his staff,’ and like to this is that said by Gregory, surnamed the Theologian, ‘Revere Bethlehem and worship the manger,’ But who of those truly understanding the Divine Scriptures would suppose that here was intended the Divine worship of latria? Such an opinion could only be entertained by an idiot or one ignorant of Scriptural and Patristic knowledge. Would Jacob give divine worship to his staff? Or would Gregory, the Theologian, give command to worship as God a manger!” (Introduction to the Seventh Ecumenical Council, 2. NPNF II [Vol. 14] pp. 523-528)

Patriarch Dositheus on the Reception of Converts

Patriarch Dositheus II of Jerusalem 1641-1707

For heretics who renounce their heresy and join the Catholic Church are received by the Church; although they received their valid Baptism with weakness of faith. Wherefore, when they afterwards become possessed of the perfect faith, they are not again baptized. (The Confession of Dositheus, Decree XV)

On the Holy Spirit and Conciliarism

Icon by Deacon Matthew Garrett of http://www.holy-icons.com

Synod of Jerusalem 1672

[T]here are necessarily required the votes and signatures of the other holy Patriarchs, and generally the common consent of all the ecclesiastics, and of others eminent for holiness and wisdom, so as not to be gainsaid by any such.

For the Eastern Church doth not give heed to, or rely upon one, or two, or more who represent a party, but not the whole; that she should be directed as they would, be they who they may, though they be the highest theologians, or be eminent for sanctity, so as to able even to raise the dead, much less the ambitious and deceitful, and who secretly weave, as it were, a spider’s web of trumpery bugbears; but in all the aforesaid agree closely together. For being so led she recogniseth as her teacher the Holy Spirit, and make a profession in nowise out of harmony with the divine word, and the Apostolical and Patriarchal traditions. (Chap 3)

On Canonical Orthodoxy

St. Theodore the Studite ca. 759-826

[The Church of God] has not permitted anything to be done or said against the established decrees and laws, although many shepherds have in many ways railed against them (cf. Jer. 10:25). When they have called great and very numerous synods, and given themselves the name of the Church of God, they were careful to put on a show of concern for the canons, while in truth acting against them.

Sir, a synod does not consist simply in the gathering together of bishops and priests not matter how many there are… A synod occurs when, in the Lord’s name, the canons are thoroughly searched out and maintained. And a synod is not to bind and loose in some random way, but as seems proper to the truth and to the canon and to the rule of strictness.

And no authority whatever has been given to bishops for any transgression of a canon. They are to follow what has been decreed, and to adhere to those who have gone before. (Epistle 24, 62-80)

Shall we say: ‘Since it is lawful for an archbishop together with his associates to do as he pleases, let him be for the duration of his archbishopric a new Evangelist, another Apostle, a different Law-giver?’ Certainly not. For we have an injunction from the Apostle himself: If anyone preaches a doctrine, or urges you to do something against what you have received, against what is prescribed by the canons of the catholic and local synods held at various times, he is not to be received, or to be reckoned among the number of the faithful. And I forbear even to mention the terrible judgment with which the Apostle concludes (Gal. 1:8). (Epistle 24, 94-101)

Even if we are great sinners, we are Orthodox and children of the universal Church, repudiating every heresy, and receiving every ecumenical and local synod that is approved; and not only that, but also the canonical constitutions promulgated by them. For he who appears to have right faith but is not guided by the sacred canons is not fully, but only half-way Orthodox. (Epistle 25, 31-35)

On How to View Apostasy

Hieromonk Seraphim Rose 1934-1982

The whole question of ecumenism and apostasy cannot be placed simply on the canonical-dogmatic-formal level; it must be viewed first spiritually. Fr. Dimitry also speaks forcefully against letting a purely formal approach to the canons bind us spiritually and actually strangle church life, thus allowing Protestants to take over with their fresher approach. (Letters, July 29/Aug. 11, 1976)

On War

St. Basil the Great ca. 330-379

Homicide in war is not reckoned by our Fathers as homicide; I presume from their wish to make concession to men fighting on behalf of chastity and true religion. Perhaps, however, it is well to counsel that those whose hands are not clean only abstain from communion for three years. (Letter 188, Canon 13)

On What Sort of Scandals the Orthodox Should Disregard

St. Nikodemos the Hagiorite 1749-1809

Yes, I know that there is a kind of scandal that one should disregard. And what is this? Listen. When you perform one of God’s commandments or observe the divine and sacred Canons of the Holy Apostles or of the Ecumenical and local Synods, or the Traditions of the Church, and, quite simply when you strive to do the will of God, and another person is scandalized on this account, then you should disregard that “scandal” and carry out the commandment of God and observe the divine and sacred Canons, saying to those who are scandalized and would hinder you what the Apostles said to the Jews: “We ought to obey God rather than men” (Acts 5:29), and again: “Whether it be right in the sight of God to hearken unto you more than unto God, judge ye” (Acts 4:19). For if, on account of the potential scandal, and out of fear and a desire to please men, you contemn the commandment and the will of God and the divine canons, putting men before God and the love of men before the love of God, you become man-pleasing rather than God-pleasing. You sin and grieve God and the Saints rather than grieving men, fearing men more than God. Who can fail to see how contrary all of this is to the divine Scriptures and to your salvation? “If a man should at all sin against another, then they shall pray for him to the Lord; but if a man sin against the Lord, who shall entreat for him?” (1 Kgs. 2:25) And again: “And fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul; but rather fear Him which is able to destroy both souls and body in Hell.” (Mat. 10:28)

Hence, St. Basil the Great says that one should not impede him who does the will of God, whether he does so according to God’s commandment, or according to some other purpose, in conformity with the commandment. Yet neither should he who does God’s will obey those who impede him, even if they are friends, but abide by the judgment and decision that he has made:

One ought not to impede him who does the will of God, whether he is following the commandment at God’s behest or in accordance with reason; neither should he who does God’s will put up with those who hinder him, even if they are friends, but should abide by his decision. (Moral Rules, Rule XIX, PG, Vol. xxxi, col. 733A) (On Christian Morality: Discourse X, Part 2.)

On Local Conciliar Decrees

St. Photios the Great ca. 810-893

Everybody must preserve what was defined by common ecumenical decisions, but a particular opinion of a church father or a definition issued by a local council can be followed by some and ignored by others. Thus, some people customarily shave their beards; others reject this practice by local conciliar decrees. Thus, as far as we are concerned, we consider it reprehensible to fast on Saturdays, except once a year (on Holy Saturday), while others fast on other Saturdays as well. Thus, tradition avoids disputes by making practice prevail over the rule.

In Rome, there are no priests legitimately married, while our tradition permits men, once married, to be elevated to the priesthood. When the faith remains inviolate, common and catholic decisions are also safe; a sensible man respects the practices and laws of others; he considers it neither wrong to observe them nor illegal to violate them. (To Pope Nicholas I of Rome Ep. 2, PG 102, cols. 604-605D)

The Holy Synod of Rome on Holy Icons

Lateran Council of 769 If we wish to be partners with the saints, we should venerate the relics of the saints, not only of their bodies, but also of their vestments, the basilicae named after them, and even their images and likenesses wherever they might be depicted. (Council of Rome [769], MGH Conc. 2,1:87.)

On the Purpose of Canons and Penances

Council in Trullo 692

It behooves those who have received from God the power to loose and bind, to consider the quality of the sin and the readiness of the sinner for conversion, and to apply medicine suitable for the disease, lest if he is injudicious in each of these respects he should fail in regard to the healing of the sick man. For the disease of sin is not simple, but various and multiform, and it germinates many mischievous offshoots, from which much evil is diffused, and it proceeds further until it is checked by the power of the physician. Wherefore he who professes the science of spiritual medicine ought first of all to consider the disposition of him who has sinned, and to see whether he tends to health or (on the contrary) provokes to himself disease by his own behavior, and to look how he can care for his manner of life during the interval. And if he does not resist the physician, and if the ulcer of the soul is increased by the application of the imposed medicaments, then let him mete out mercy to him according as he is worthy of it. For the whole account is between God and him to whom the pastoral rule has been delivered, to lead back the wandering sheep and to cure that which is wounded by the serpent; and that he may neither cast them down into the precipices of despair, nor loosen the bridle towards dissolution or contempt of life; but in some way or other, either by means of sternness and astringency, or by greater softness and mild medicines, to resist this sickness and exert himself for the healing of the ulcer, now examining the fruits of his repentance and wisely managing the man who is called to higher illumination. For we ought to know two things, to wit, the things which belong to strictness and those which belong to custom, and to follow the traditional form in the case of those who are not fitted for the highest things, as holy Basil teaches us. (Canon 102)

St. Euthymius the Great on Chalcedon

St. Euthymius the Great ca. 377-473

When the news had circulated, as people reported that the great Euthymius had accepted the definition of the faith proclaimed at Chalcedon, all the monks about to accept it, had they not been prevented by one Theodosius, in appearance a monk but in reality a precursor of Antichrist. Coming to Palestine, this man beguiled the empress Eudocia, who was here at that time, and seduced all the monastic population, inveighing against the Council of Chalcedon as having subverted the true faith and approved the doctrine of Nestorius…While at that time almost all the urban population and the monks of the desert followed his apostasy, of the whole desert only the great Euthymius refused to be of his communion. Theodosius was clever enough to send for him because of his great reputation; since the great Euthymius refused to come to the holy city, Theodosius sent to him two monastic archimandrites to invite him to join his party — Elpidius, the disciple and successor of the great Passarion, and Gerontius, who had succeeded blessed Melania. When these men arrived and began their plea, the great Euthymius said, ‘Far be it from me to share in the murderous crimes of Theodosius or be seduced by his heresy.’ Elpidius and Gerontius replied, ‘But ought we to share the doctrines of Nestorius, which have been approved by the council now assembled at Chalcedon by means of the expression “in two natures”? Where have we read in Holy Scripture, or which of the holy fathers has taught us, that Christ is to be acknowledged in two natures, as the council has affirmed?’

The great Euthymius said in answer, ‘I have not read in detail everything that this council has examined and enacted, but as regards the definition it has issued I cannot in any respect accuse it of heresy. It commends the faith of the three hundred and eighteen holy fathers who assembled at Nicea, and professes observing it and keeping it unshakable and inviolate; it teaches following the one hundred and fifty fathers at Constantinople and those who assembled at Ephesus against the impious Nestorius; it calls Bishop Cyril of Alexandria its ally and inscribes him as teacher of the true faith; it proclaims the holy Virgin mother of God, and professes that of her was born according to the flesh the Only-begotten Son and Word of God, and ascribes to Him two generations, one from the Father, timeless and bodiless, and the other from the virgin mother, in time and in an animate body; it professes that the one Christ is to be acknowledged in two natures in accordance with the concepts of godhood and manhood. Consequently, it applies the expressions “without confusion, without change, without division, without separation” both because of those who have the effrontery to divide or separate the ineffable and irreversible hypostatic union that took place in the womb and because of those who say that the Word of God became flesh by transformation and make the flesh of the Only-begotten of one substance with the godhood, and further because of those who do not profess the hypostatic union of the Word with the flesh but concoct the impious monstrosity of a commixture, confusion, and blending of essences, and who say that the nature of the godhood and that of the flesh have been made one nature, with the consequence that, according to their account, neither can Christ’s passibility be preserved because of the impassibility of his godhood nor, conversely, can His impassibility because of the passibilty of His manhood. It was, accrodingly, for this purpose of a correct understanding that the council inserted the expression “in two” into its definition, not as if dividing Christ into individual parts but professing the same Christ in each one and each one in the same Christ. Consequently, we too, when we hear the council affirming Christ in two natures, do not suppose that it is introducing division or cleavage into the composite hypostasis of Christ, but acknowledge that it signifies the difference of the natures, in accordance with the words of the sainted Archbishop Cyril of Alexandria, “not as if the difference of the natures is destroyed by the union”.’ (Cyril of Scythopolis, Life of Euthymius 27)

On Strictness and Economy in the Church

St. Nikodemos the Hagiorite 1749-1809

…[T]wo kinds of administration and correction are kept in the Church of Christ, the one is called “akribeia” and the other “oikonomia” and “condescension”; it is by these two that the ministers (oikonomoi) of the Spirit regulate the salvation of the souls, using sometimes the one and sometimes the other. (Pêdalion [The Rudder]… Agapiou kai Nikodêmou, ekd. 2, Athens 1841, s. 30)

On the Solution to Old Calendarist Divisions

Hieromonk Seraphim Rose 1934-1982

This whole quarrel among the Greek Old Calendarists is very unfortunate. Besides involving personalities, which only clouds things, the real issues involved are very subtle and delicate ones that require much tact and patience and love, not theological and canonical tirades. (Letter March 2/15, 1974)

The two sides quote canons back and forth, when what is needed is love and understanding – and that statement, I realize, could have come straight from the lips of some ecumenist, which only shows how difficult the true path of Orthodoxy has become in our days. (Letter April 24/May 7, 1974)

On the Place of the Gospels at the Ecumenical Councils

Fr. Georges Florovsky 1893-1979

With so much controversy over who presided at the Ecumenical Councils, with so much written on that subject, one reality is often lostneglected, or forgotten. In the middle of the assembled clergy something special lay upon a desk or table. That something special held a special place and had a special significance at all councils. On that desk or table lay an open copy of the Gospels. It was there not only as a symbol but also as a reminder of the real presence of Christ in accordance with His promise that where two or three are gathered together in His name, He will be present. In a very real sense it was the presence of the open Gospel, which presided. Christ is the Truth. The source and the criterion of the truth of Christianity is the Divine Revelation, in both the apostolic deposit and in the Holy Scriptures. (The Byzantine Fathers of the Fifth Century)

Seventh Ecumenical Council on the Intercession of the Saints

Seventh Ecumenical Council Nicea II 787

[W]e salute the voices of the Lord and of His Apostles through which we have been taught to honor in the first place her who is properly and truly the Mother of God and exalted above all the heavenly Powers; also the holy and angelic powers; and the blessed and altogether lauded Apostles, and the glorious Prophets and the triumphant Martyrs which fought for Christ, and the holy and God-bearing Doctors, and all holy men; and to seek for their intercessions, as able to render us at home with the all-royal God of all, so long as we keep His commandments, and strive to live virtuously. (Session 4)

On Missing Church Services

Council in Trullo 692

If any bishop, or presbyter, or deacon, or any of those who are enumerated in the list of the clergy, or a layman, has no very grave necessity nor difficult business so as to keep him from church for a very long time, but being in town does not go to church on three consecutive Sundays— three weeks— if he is a cleric let him be deposed, but if a layman let him be cut off. (Canon 80)

On Dyotheletism

Pope St. Agatho ca. 7th century

[T]his then is the status [and the regular tradition ] of our Evangelical and Apostolic faith, to wit, that as we confess the holy and inseparable Trinity, that is, the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost, to be of one deity, of one nature and substance or essence, so we will profess also that it has one natural will, power, operation, domination, majesty, potency, and glory. And whatever is said of the same Holy Trinity essentially in singular number we understand to refer to the one nature of the three consubstantial Persons, having been so taught by canonical logic. But when we make a confession concerning one of the same three Persons of that Holy Trinity, of the Son of God, or God the Word, and of the mystery of His adorable dispensation according to the flesh, we assert that all things are double in the one and the same our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ according to the Evangelical tradition, that is to say, we confess His two natures, to wit the divine and the human, of which and in which He, even after the wonderful and inseparable union, subsists. And we confess that each of his natures has its own natural propriety, and that the divine, has all things that are divine, without any sin. And we recognize that each one (of the two natures) of the one and the same incarnated, that is, humanated (humanati) Word of God is in Him unconfusedly, inseparably and unchangeably, intelligence alone discerning a unity, to avoid the error of confusion. For we equally detest the blasphemy of division and of commixture. For when we confess two natures and two natural wills, and two natural operations in our one Lord Jesus Christ, we do not assert that they are contrary or opposed one to the other (as those who err from the path of truth and accuse the apostolic tradition of doing. Far be this impiety from the hearts of the faithful!), nor as though separated (per se separated) in two persons or subsistences, but we say that as the same our Lord Jesus Christ has two natures so also He has two natural wills and operations, to wit, the divine and the human: the divine will and operation He has in common with the coessential Father from all eternity: the human, He has received from us, taken with our nature in time. This is the apostolic and evangelic tradition, which the spiritual mother of your most felicitous empire, the Apostolic Church of Christ, holds.

This is the pure expression of piety. This is the true and immaculate profession of the Christian religion, not invented by human cunning, but which was taught by the Holy Ghost through the princes of the Apostles. This is the firm and irreprehensible doctrine of the holy Apostles… (Letter to the Sixth Ecumenical Council )

On Clergy and Secret Societies

Council in Trullo 692

But in future, since the priestly canon openly sets this forth, that the crime of conspiracy or secret society is forbidden by external laws, but much more ought it to be prohibited in the Church; we also hasten to observe that if any clerics or monks are found either conspiring or entering secret societies, or devising anything against bishops or clergymen, they shall be altogether deprived of their rank. (Canon 34)

On Episcopal Requirements

Seventh Ecumenical Council Nicea II 787

When we recite the Psalter, we promise God: I will meditate upon your statutes, and will not forget your words. It is a salutary thing for all Christians to observe this, but it is especially incumbent upon those who have received the sacerdotal dignity. Therefore we decree, that every one who is raised to the rank of the episcopate shall know the Psalter by heart, so that from it he may admonish and instruct all the clergy who are subject to him. And diligent examination shall be made by the metropolitan whether he be zealously inclined to read diligently, and not merely now and then, the sacred canons, the Holy Gospel, and the book of the divine Apostle, and all other divine Scripture; and whether he lives according to God’s commandments, and also teaches the same to his people. For the special treasure of our high priesthood is the oracles which have been divinely delivered to us, that is the true science of the Divine Scriptures, as says Dionysius the Great. And if his mind be not set, and even glad, so to do and teach, let him not be ordained. For says God by the prophet, You have rejected knowledge, I will also reject you, that you shall be no priest to me.

Ancient Epitome: Whoever is to be a bishop must know the Psalter by heart: he must thoroughly understand what he reads, and not merely superficially, but with diligent care, that is to say the Sacred Canons, the Holy Gospel, the book of the Apostle, and the whole of the Divine Scripture. And should he not have such knowledge, he is not to be ordained. (Canon 2)

Icon Source

St. Theophan on the Anathema

St. Theophan the Recluse 1815-1894

What is an Anathema?

Rarely does the Rite of Orthodoxy, which is now being performed, take place without censures and reproaches on somebody’s part. And no matter how many sermons are given explaining that the Church here acts wisely for the salvation of her children — still the malcontents just keep repeating their line. Either they do not listen to the sermons, or these sermons do not strike home as regards the latters’ perplexities, or perhaps they have formed their own conception of this rite and do not want to abandon it, no matter what you tell them.

To some people our anathemas seem inhumane, to others constricting. Such charges might be valid in other situations, but there is no way they can apply to our Rite of Orthodoxy. I will clarify for you briefly why the Church acts thus, and I think you yourselves will agree with me that in so doing, the Church acts wisely.

What is the holy Church? It is a society of believers, united among themselves by a unity of confession of divinely revealed truths, by a unity of sanctification by divinely established Mysteries, and by a unity of government and guidance by God-given shepherds. The oneness of confession, sanctification, and administration constitutes the rule of this society, which is obligatory for anyone who joins it. Membership in this society is contingent upon accepting this rule and agreeing with it; remaining in this society is contingent upon fulfilling it. Let us see how the holy Church grew and how it continues to grow. The preachers preach. Some of the listeners do not accept the preaching and leave; others accept it and as a result of accepting it are sanctified by the holy Mysteries, follow the guidance of the shepherds, and thus are incorporated into the holy Church — they are churched. That is how all the Church’s members enter her. In entering her, they are mingled with all her members, they are united with them, and they remain in the Church only as long as they continue to be one with them all.

From this simple indication regarding how the Church is formed, you can see that as a society, the holy Church came to be and continues to exist just like any other society. And so regard it as you would any other, and do not deprive it of the rights belonging to any society. Let us take, for example, a temperance society. It has rules which every member must fulfill. And each of its members is a member precisely because he accepts and abides by its rules. Now suppose that some member not only refuses to abide by the rules but also holds many views completely opposed to those of the society and even rises up against its very goal. He not only does not himself observe temperance but even reviles temperance itself and disseminates notions which might tempt others and deflect them from temperance. What does the society ordinarily do with such people? First it admonishes them, and then it expels them. There you have an anathema! No one protests this, no one reproaches the society for being inhuman. Everyone acknowledges that the society is acting in a perfectly legitimate manner and that if it were to act otherwise, it could not exist.

So what is there to reproach the holy Church for when she acts likewise? After all, an anathema is precisely separation from the Church, or the exclusion from her midst of those who do not fulfill the conditions of unity with her and begin to think differently from the way she does, differently from the way they themselves promised to think upon joining her. Recollect how it happened! Arius appeared, who held impious opinions concerning Christ the Savior, so that with these notions he distorted the very act of our salvation. What was done with him? First he was admonished, and admonished many times by every persuasive and touching means possible. But since he stubbornly insisted upon his opinion, he was condemned and excommunicated from the Church — that is, he is expelled from our society. Beware, have no communion with him and those like him. Do not yourselves hold such opinions, and do not listen to or receive those who do. Thus did the holy Church do with Arius; thus has she done with all other heretics; and thus will she do now, too, if someone appears somewhere with impious opinions. So tell me, what is blameworthy here? What else could the holy Church do? And could she continue to exist if she did not employ such strictness and warn her children with such solicitude about those who might corrupt and destroy them?

Let us see — what false teachings and what false teachers are excommunicated? Those who deny the existence of God, the immortality of the soul, divine providence; those who do not confess the all-holy Trinity, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, the One God; those who do not acknowledge the divinity of our Lord Jesus Christ and our redemption by His death on the Cross; those who reject the grace of the Holy Spirit and the divine Mysteries which bestow it, and so forth. Do you see what manner of issues they touch upon? These are issues which are the very reason the holy Church is the Church, principles upon which she is founded and without which she could not be that which she is. Therefore those who rise up against such truths are to the Church what those who make attempts against our lives and our property are to us in our daily life. Robbers and thieves, after all, are nowhere permitted to carry on freely and go unpunished! And when they are bound and handed over to the law and to punishment, no one considers this to be inhumane or a violation of freedom. On the contrary, people see in this very thing both an act of love for man and a safeguard for freedom — with regard to all the members of society. If you judge thus here, judge thus also concerning the society of the Church. These false teachers, just like thieves and robbers, plunder the property of the holy Church and of God, corrupting her children and destroying them.

Does the holy Church really err in judging them, binding them, and casting them out? And would it really be love for man if she regarded the actions of such people with indifference and left them at liberty to destroy everyone else? Would a mother permit a snake to freely crawl up to and bite her little child, who does not understand the danger? If some immoral person were to gain access to your family and begin tempting your daughter, or your son — would you be able to regard their actions and their speeches with indifference? Fearing to gain a reputation for being inhumane and old- fashioned, would you tie your own hands? Would you not push such a person out the door and close it against them forever?! You should view the actions of the holy Church in the same way. She sees that individuals of corrupt mind appear, and corrupt others — and she rises up against them, drives them away, and calls out to all those who are her own: Beware — so-and-so and such-and-such people wish to destroy your souls. Do not listen to them; flee from them. Thus she fulfills the duty of motherly love, and therefore acts lovingly — or as you put it, humanely.

At the present time, we have a proliferation of nihilists, spiritists and other pernicious clever ones who are carried away with the false teachers of the West. Do you really think that our holy Church would keep silence and not raise her voice to condemn and anathematize them, if their destructive teachings were something new? By no means. A council would be held, and in council all of them with their teachings would be given over to anathema, and to the current Rite of Orthodoxy there would be appended an additional item: To Feyerbach, Buchner, and Renan, to the spiritists, and to all their followers — to the nihilists – – be anathema. But there is no need for such a council, and there is no need either for such an addition. Their false teachings have already all been anathematized in advance in those points where anathema is pronounced to those who deny the existence of God, the spirituality and immortality of the soul, the teachings concerning the all-holy Trinity and concerning the divinity of our Lord Jesus Christ. Do you not see with what wisdom and foresight the holy Church acts when she makes us perform the present proclamation and listen to it? And yet they say, “This is outdated.” It is precisely now that it is relevant. Perhaps 100 years ago it was not relevant. But one must say concerning our time, that if a Rite of Orthodoxy did not as yet exist, it would be needful to introduce one, and to perform it not only in the capital cities but in all places and in all churches: in order to collect all the evil teachings opposed to the Word of God, and to make them known to all, in order that all might know what they need to beware of and what kind of teachings to avoid. Many are corrupted in mind solely due to ignorance, whereas a public condemnation of ruinous teachings would save them from perdition.

Thus, the Church excommunicates, expels from her midst (when it is said, “Anathema to so-and-so”, that means the same thing as, “So-and-so: out of here”), or anathematizes for the same reason that any society does so. And she is obliged to do this in self-preservation and to preserve her children from destruction. Therefore there is nothing blameworthy or incomprehensible about this present Rite. If anyone fears the act of anathema, let him avoid the teachings which cause one to fall under it. If anyone fears it for others, let him restore him to sound teaching. If you are Orthodox and yet you are not well disposed toward this act, then you are found to be contradicting yourself. But if you have already abandoned sound doctrine, then what business is it of yours what is done in the Church by those who maintain it? By the very fact that you have conceived a different view of things than that which is maintained in the Church, you have already separated yourself from the Church. It is not inscription in the baptismal records which makes one a member of the Church, but the spirit and content of one’s opinions. Whether your teaching and your name are pronounced as being under anathema or not, you already fall under it when your opinions are opposed to those of the Church, and when you persist in them. Fearful is the anathema. Leave off your evil opinions. Amen. (Translated from the Russian text published in Pravoslavnaya Rus, #4, 1974.)

Source

see also:

http://classicalchristianity.com/2012/08/12/on-the-anathema-and-its-meaning/

http://classicalchristianity.com/2012/10/08/on-heresies-and-those-who-hold-them/

http://classicalchristianity.com/2012/10/08/on-heresy-and-humility/

On Observing Lent

Apostolic Canons ca. 1st cent.

If any bishop, presbyter, or deacon, or reader, or singer, does not fast the holy Quadragesimal fast of Easter, or the fourth day, or the day of Preparation, let him be deposed, unless he be hindered by some bodily infirmity. If he be a layman, let him be excommunicated. (Canon 69)

Not Merely About Calendars

Protopresbyter George Metallinos

The Resurrection of Christ is not only the unshakeable foundation of our Faith (“If Christ be not raised, your faith is vain”, 1 Cor. 15:17), but also brings to mind the tragic division in the Christian world of our era.

The goal of ecumenical or inter-Christian dialogue is precisely to remove this division and to restore unity.

Indeed, in ecumenical circles, the common celebration of Pascha is considered to be an essential step in this direction.

The decision to change the calendar (1923-1924) — a hasty decision that was not pan-Orthodox — led to the common Christian celebration of Christmas (and the immovable Feasts), but not to that of Pascha (and the movable Feasts), which continues to be determined in the Orthodox world on the basis of the Julian (Old) Calendar.

A recent Patriarchal Encyclical (No. 150/26 May 1995) raises the question of the necessity of “determining” “a common date for the celebration of the Great Feast of Pascha by all Christians,” thereby promoting a unionist course.

We should not forget, however, certain fundamental historical and theological constants which decisively determine the meaning of Christian (Church) Feasts and our liturgical experience of them, as in the case of Pascha:

(a) Many Orthodox rightly maintain that the impediment to celebrating Feasts at the same time as the non-Orthodox is not the difference in calendars, but the difference in dogma and theology; that is, our non-convergence on matters of faith, given, in particular, that “faith” in the unbroken Christian Tradition, which is continued in Orthodoxy, is not a simple — either perfunctory or scholastic — acceptance of certain disincarnate “truths” of an absolute nature, but, rather, participation in a way of life handed down by the Apostles and the Fathers, which leads to our experiencing the Holy Spirit.

This experience, when formulated in words, constitutes the Faith of the Church as the Lord’s Body.This is how we should understand the Church’s canonical injunction — from the First OEcumenical Synod, which, in 325 A.D., resolved the issue of the celebration of Pascha once and for all down to the present day — “not to keep feast with the Jews,” which is tantamount, today, “not to keep feast with the heterodox.”

This is not a fruit of religious bigotry, but the expression of a healthy and active ecclesiastical self-awareness. For this reason, as far back as 1582, the Orthodox East rejected the “New” Calendar, not for scientific, but for ecclesiological reasons, since the introduction of this calendar was linked both by Westerners and by our own unionists with the imposition of a simultaneous observance of feasts as a (de facto) facilitation of union “from the grass roots” (on a broad basis).

This spirit was embodied in the controversial Encyclical of 1920, which proposed “the acceptance of a single calendar for the simultaneous celebration of the major Christian feasts by all the Churches.”

We will not dwell, here, on the fact that this Encyclical places Orthodoxy and non-Orthodoxy on the same level. We will, however, recall that, while certainly paving the way for ecumenism, it nonetheless served to provoke the genesis of the “Old Calendarist” question, which remains a tragic and traumatic experience in the body of the Orthodox Church and ought, for this very reason, to be resolved prior to any partial or broader settlement in the domain of “ecumenical” dialogue.

(b) The precondition for the common “celebration of Christian feasts” is not agreement over the calendar or diplomatic and legal accords, but “the unity of faith and the communion of the Holy Spirit”; namely, adherence to an understanding of Christianity as a “spiritual hospital” (St. John Chrysostomos), that is, as an existential and social hospital and as a method of therapy.

The ideologizing of Christianity or its academic formulation — maladies resulting from ecumenical dialogue — not only do not lead us to the unity we desire, but actually take us away from it. The unity and union which culminate in the Holy Table and the Holy Cup require “unanimity” in faith and in Christian life as a whole; that is, acceptance of the Apostolic Tradition in its totality and incorporation into it.

It is for precisely this reason that worship and the liturgical tradition alone do not constitute a basis of unity, as those engaged in ecumenical dialogue widely, but erroneously, believe. Worship and participation in worship are not efficacious in soteriological terms, outside the aforementioned context of a common ecclesiological tradition. The perennial prayer of the Orthodox believer is for “the restoration and reunion of the erring” to the Body of Christ, the One Church (Liturgy of St. Basil the Great).

In this way, the amphidromic force of the statement of St. Paul, which we cited at the beginning, is justified: “If the Resurrection of Christ is the foundation of our Faith, then authentic Faith is the sole precondition for participation in the Resurrection as the greatest event of our salvation in Christ.”

Source: http://www.orthodox.net/articles/conflicting-dogma-theology-and-separate-celebrations-of-pascha-fr-george-metallinos.html

On Binding Again

St. John Moschos ca. 550-619

The Fathers of old time were truly great and highly disciplined men who could loosen the rule and bind again. This present generation is not strong enough to loosen the rule and then to bind it again. If we once loosen the rule, we no longer maintain our ascetic way of life. (The Spiritual Meadow, 162)

On Disputing the Faith

Lateran Synod 649 a.d.
Doubtless it is of great advantage to have no dispute on the faith, but the good is not to be rejected with the bad, the doctrine of the Fathers with that of heretics. Such conduct rather fosters than extinguishes disputes. Ceasing to defend the faith is no way to put down heresy. (4th Session)

On the Laws of the Church

St. John Maximovitch 1896-1966

We all sin, we all transgress Christ’s commandments and the laws of the holy Church, but some acknowledge themselves to be sinners and repent of their transgressions, while others, instead, reject the very laws and do not want to submit to them; they say that these laws are out-dated, that they are no longer needed; as if we are smarter than those who gave us the Church laws, which the Lord Himself gave through His Apostles and hierarchs. Here before you are two paths: the path of the wise thief, and the path of the one who was pulled down to hades by the weight of his blasphemy.

…Here, brethren, is the path of the two thieves. Some desire salvation, others desire only enjoyment in this world, and when they do not succeed in obtaining it they blaspheme those laws which are given for our salvation.

Even today various divisions can spring up among us. The laws of Christ’s Church are immutable; a Christian must submit to them irrespective of what others think, of how society regards these laws — whether favorably or unfavorably. Those faithful to Christ follow after Him along the path of those laws, those ordinances which the holy Church sacredly preserves. Those who desire unnecessary comforts and pleasures in this temporal world — which sooner or later will perish — these people prefer other laws, not the laws of the Church but those which allow them to live as they want, to think what they want, to place their own will above the spirit of the Church, that spirit given by the Lord God Himself; and they invite others to follow this same path.

It may be, brethren, that soon you will again experience a time of turmoil, and some of you will be called to take the path of denying those sacred laws and to submit to laws established by mere human authority. Beware of such a path! Beware of the path taken by the thief on the left, for by the weight of blasphemy, by the weight of reviling Christ he went to his eternal perdition. Those who revile the laws of the Church revile Christ Himself, Who is the Head of the Church, for the laws of the Church were given by the Holy Spirit through the Apostles. And the laws of local Churches are based on those same laws and canons of the Church. Let us not consider ourselves wiser than those saints and hierarchs who established the rules of the Church; let us not imagine ourselves to be great sages. Rather, let us humbly call out together with the wise thief. Remember me, O Lord, in Thy kingdom!

Pray for the forgiveness of sins. If we transgress the laws of the Church, if we constantly violate them, pray that the Lord have mercy and lead us together with the wise thief into the Kingdom of Heaven. Then we will not follow the path taken by the ungodly thief, who remained ungodly to the end and descended into the nethermost depths. From which may the Lord deliver us all. Amen. (Sermon on the Sunday of Orthodoxy)

Source

St. Basil on Fornication

St. Basil the Great ca. 330-379

Canon 3. A deacon who commits fornication after his appointment to the diaconate is to be deposed. But, after he has been rejected and ranked among the laity, he is not to be excluded from communion. For there is an ancient canon that those who have fallen from their degree are to be subjected to this kind of punishment alone.

Canon 6. The fornication of canonical persons is not to be reckoned as wedlock, and their union is to be completely dissolved, for this is both profitable for the security of the Church and will prevent the heretics from having a ground of attack against us, as though we induced men to join us by the attraction of liberty to sin. (1st Canonical Letter, Epistle 188)

Canon 26. Fornication is not wedlock, nor yet the beginning of wedlock. Wherefore it is best, if possible, to put asunder those who are united in fornication. If they are set on cohabitation, let them admit the penalty of fornication. Let them be allowed to live together, lest a worse thing happen. (2nd Canonical Letter, Epistle 199)

Canon 59. The fornicator will not be admitted to participation in the sacrament for seven years; weeping two hearing two kneeling two, and standing one: in the eighth he will be received into communion.

Canon 69. The Reader who has intercourse with his betrothed before marriage, shall be allowed to read after a year’s suspension, remaining without advancement. If he has had secret intercourse without betrothal, he shall be deposed from his ministry. So too the minister. (3rd Canonical Letter, Epistle 217)

On How to Reject Heterodoxy

St. Nikodemos the Hagiorite 1749-1809

The heterodox convictions and unlawful customs of the Latins and other heretics we must abhor and turn away from; but whatever is to be found in them to be correct and confirmed by the Canons of the Holy Synods, this we should not abhor or turn away from, lest we unwittingly abhor and turn away from those Canons. (Christian Morality: Introduction xlv-xlvi)

Leontius of Jerusalem on Chalcedon

Leontius of Jerusalem ca. 485-543
 
‘There was unquestionably some people in the council [of Chalcedon]’, my friend says, ‘who were found to have formerly belonged to Nestorius.’
 
By way of granting this point to them as a provisional concession – recognizing the weak point of their argument, we have no wish to further extend our defense – how is it that all of Sodom, and all of Gomorrah, were saved for the sake of only five just men, though the clamor of their lawlessness rose all the way to heaven, whereas on account of two or three individuals among the [Chalcedonians] (even though those individuals kept their impiety a secret when they were with the participants) the entire blessed assembly and the holy members of the priesthood, all six hundred and thirty of them, have been included under the same sentence (as being ungodly in thought on the grounds of not looking closely into the truth) by the God who says when two or three are gathered together in my name, there I am in the midst of them? This is so because, given that the divine tolerance extends not only to them, but also, and even more generously, to all the holy Church of Christ throughout the world, the Church of all peoples and all nations, He intended the doctrines voted on at Chalcedon to endure, not for a season, but as an everlasting tradition, one which we with God recognize at the present. Isn’t any man a prime sinner against the concept of divine providence who denies that the meaning of the faith about Christ’s Incarnation has been proclaimed to the world through the holy councils, yet considers it to have been confirmed in succeeding generations? If you don’t take an acceptable stance towards the holy synod, not even in the light of this understanding of divine providence, but still suspect, on the basis of your long-standing prejudice, that certain of the men at it, acting as individuals and in secret, continued to hold, even then, the false opinion of Nestorius, even though they accommodated themselves to what was said by the majority, then let’s also investigate what justice there is in condemning the synod on that score. Tell us, then: was it impossible for people who at one time didn’t hold correct opinions to the later learn piety instead, and become orthodox? The very action they took proclaims, so to speak, the fact that, when they anathematized Nestorius’ ideas in writing, they were utterly pious at that moment, if not before, for isn’t this the action of approved people? Likewise, was it impossible for certain other participants in the council, who were pious at that moment, to later fall into impiety? Didn’t Paul, the one-time persecutor, later preach the faith he once tried to destroy? Didn’t Judas, who once proclaimed the Lord along with the eleven when He sent them out two by two, later plot against Him? On the contrary, even if, at the very time of the council, there were certain evil-minded people among those present, and they were likewise included among those who acted and spoke rightly, what are the grounds for complaint against the council in that? It’s said, after all, that it’s for God alone to test hearts and minds.
 
‘But if it had a part that was altogether blameworthy,’ my friend says, ‘then the whole is condemned as spurious too.’
 
Well then, you have to find fault with the entire threshing-floor because of a single weed, and with the whole troop of the apostles because Judas was numbered among them! If the whole really is to be judged from the part, the reasonable conclusion clearly follows that, since many people from the Council of Ephesus participated in the Council of Chalcedon, the intent of the latter council was all the more anti-Nestorian as a result of their presence! Are you unaware of the fact that, even out of the 318 at Nicea, seventeen subscribed against Arius for fear they’d be deposed, but later on made terrible war against the great Athanasius, yet the entire council isn’t impugned because of it? If you refuse to understand the goodness of the whole from the part of it that’s sound, but attempt to impugn the whole on the basis of the dubious part, then consider the implications: since the latter holy council [of Chalcedon] in its entirety is attacked by you on the basis of one part of it, and since the people from the Council of Ephesus who were found at it are included in the attack on the whole – men who were part of the former council – it follows that the entirety of that former council [of Ephesus] must be attacked along with Chalcedon as an ‘act of zeal for Nestorius’ on the basis of the selected blameworthy part! The Council of Nicea, too, must be set aside as an act of zeal for Arius on account of the remnant of seventeen. Just so that you don’t fail to realize how rash your illegitimate abuse is, you should remember that even holy Symeon, who displayed his personal virtue to us on a pillar, was one of those who subscribed in the precincts of the Council [of Chalcedon] – Symeon, to whom even your patriarch Severus himself offered eulogies and worshipful hymns – as were Baradatus and James the wonder-workers. But why do you set these snares – exaggerated views based on plausible-seeming arguments on the part of people who are pugnaciously eager for assault on piety – for our feet, and hinder those who want to run well from obeying the truth? So as to demonstrate, as may be, before God and men that your secession from the Church isn’t reasonable, look, we set aside every argument we might make against your allegations, and make you the following offer: If you’ll join with us in confessing the tried and true doctrines, saying both ‘one incarnate nature of God the Word’ and that there are two natures of Christ united in His one hypostasis, and if you also don’t repudiate the Council, and Leo, and ourselves, then we, for our part, anathematize even an angel from heaven sooner than we do you, if he doesn’t think and speak and write likewise; we praise and accept Severus, Dioscorus, Timothy, and you, and anyone at all who shares such views; we add nothing to this, but we leave the judgment on those who think in this way, or who speak in one way and think in another, to God, the judge of all. (Testimonies of the Saints)
 

St. Theodore on the Holy Canons

St. Theodore Studite ca. 759-826

We who are Orthodox flee every heresy and accept all generally recognized councils, whether Ecumenical or Local. And we likewise firmly stand by the sacred canons which they adopted. For no one can fully teach the word of truth, supposing himself to have the right Faith, if he does not accept the guidance of the divine canons.  (Letter 1:30)

On the Reception of Converts in Orthodox Gaul

Council of Arles ca. 314

Concerning the Africans who use their own special law in that they practice rebaptism, it is resolved that if any come to the church from heresy, they question him on the creed (used at his baptism), and if they consider him to have been baptized into the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, let him only receive the laying on of hands so that he receive the Holy Spirit; but if when questioned he does not solemnly confess this Trinity, let him be baptized. (Canon 8)

On Bishops and the Canons

Apostolic Constitutions ca. 1st-4th cent.

Let these canonical rules be established by us for you, O you bishops; and if you continue to observe them, you shall be saved, and shall have peace; but if you be disobedient, you shall be punished, and have everlasting war one with another, and undergo a penalty suitable to your disobedience. (Bk. 8 Epilogue)

On Teaching Holy Scripture

Council in Trullo 692

It behooves those who preside over the churches, every day but especially on Lord’s days, to teach all the clergy and people words of piety and of right religion, gathering out of Holy Scripture meditations and determinations of the truth, and not going beyond the limits now fixed, nor varying from the tradition of the God-bearing fathers. And if any controversy in regard to Scripture shall have been raised, let them not interpret it otherwise than as the lights and doctors of the church in their writings have expounded it, and in those let them glory rather than in composing things out of their own heads, lest through their lack of skill they may have departed from what was fitting. For through the doctrine of the aforesaid fathers, the people coming to the knowledge of what is good and desirable, as well as what is useless and to be rejected, will remodel their life for the better, and not be led by ignorance, but applying their minds to the doctrine, they will take heed that no evil befall them and work out their salvation in fear of impending punishment. (Canon 19)

On Councils and Emperors

St. Athanasius the Great ca. 297-373

If a decision was made by the bishops, what concern had the emperor with it? Or if it was but a threat of the emperor, what need then was there of the designated bishops? When in the world was such a thing ever before heard of? When did a decision of the Church receive its authority from the Emperor? Or rather, when was his decree even recognized? There have been many councils in times past, and many decrees made by the Church; but never did the Fathers seek the consent of the Emperor for them, nor did the Emperor busy himself in the affairs of the Church.

The Apostle Paul had friends among those who belonged to the household of Caesar, and in writing to the Philippians he sent greetings from them: but never did he take them as associates in his judgments. But now we witness a novel spectacle, which is a discovery of the Arian heresy: heretics have assembled together with the Emperor Constantius, so that he, by alleging the authority of the bishops, may exercise his power against whomsoever he will, and while he persecutes may yet avoid the name of persecutor. (The Monk’s History of Arian Impiety, 52)

On Summoning Ecumenical Councils

St. Maximus the Confessor ca. 580-662

Then the saint mentioned how the synod convened in Rome by the blessed Pope Martin had condemned the Monothelites, to which Bishop Theodosius responded, “It is the Emperor’s summons that gives authority to a council.”

“If that were so, the Orthodox faith would have long since come to an end,” said Maximus. “Recall the councils summoned by imperial decree to proclaim that the Son of God is not of the same essence as God the Father. The first was held in Tyre, the second in Antioch, the third in Seleucia, the fourth in Constantinople under Eudoxius the Arian, the fifth in Nicaea, and the sixth in Sirmium. Considerably later, a seventh false council took place in Ephesus, at which Dioscorus presided. All these synods were convened by imperial decree, but were rejected and anathematized, since they endorsed godless doctrines. On what grounds, I would like to know, do you accept the council which condemned and anathematized Paul of Samosata? Gregory the Wonder-worker presided over that council, and its resolutions were confirmed by Dionysius, Pope of Rome, and Dionysius of Alexandria. No Emperor convoked it, but it is unassailable and irrefutable. The Orthodox Church recognizes as true and holy precisely those synods that proclaimed true dogmas. Your holiness knows that the canons require that local councils be held twice yearly in every Christian land for the defense of our saving faith and for administrative purposes; however, they say nothing about imperial decrees.” (St. Dimitri Rostov, Life of St. Maximus)

St. Gregory Palamas’ Confession of Faith

St. Gregory Palamas 1296-1359

We accord relative veneration to the Holy Icon of the Son of God, Who was circumscribed as having become incarnate for us, ascribing veneration in a relative manner to the prototype. We venerate the precious Wood of the Cross, and all the symbols of His sufferings, as being true Divine trophies over the common enemy of our race. In addition to the saving image of the precious Cross, we venerate the Divine Churches and places, as well as the sacred vessels and the Divinely-transmitted Scriptures, because God dwells in them. Likewise, we venerate the icons of the Saints, because of our love for them and for God, Whom they truly loved and served, in our veneration lifting our mnds up to the figures depicted in the Icons. We also venerate the Relics of the saints, since the sanctifying Grace of the same has not departed from their most sacred bones, just as the Godhead was not separated from the Master’s body in His three-day death…

…We cherish all ecclesiastical traditions, both written and unwritten, and above all the most mystical and All-Sacred Rite, Communion, and Assembly, the source of perfection for all the other rites, at which, in recollection of Him Who emptied Himself without emptying and took flesh and suffered on our behalf, according to the Divine command which He Himself fulfills, the most Divine Consecration of the Bread and the Cup is celebrated, in which these become the life-giving Body and Blood. He bestows ineffable communion and participation on those who appraoch in purity. We cast aside and subject to anathema all those who do not confess and believe as the Holy Spirit foretold through the Prophets, as the Lord decreed when He appeared to us through the flesh, as the Apostles preached after being sent by Him, as our Fathers and their successors taught us, but who have either started their own heresy or followed to the end those who have made an evil start.

We accept and salute the Holy Ecumenical Synods: The one in Nicea, of the 318 God-bearing Fathers, against God-fighting Arios, who impiously degraded the Son of God down to the level of a creature and sundered the Godhead that is worshipped in Father, Son, and Holy Spirit into created and uncreated; the one after it in Constantinople of the 150 Holy Fathers, against Macedonius of Constantinople, who impiously degraded the Holy Spirit down to the level of a creature and no less than the former sundered the one Godhead into created and uncreated; the one after it in Ephesus of the 200 Fathers, against Patriarch Nestorios of Constantinople, who rejected the hypostatic union of Divinity and humanity in Christ, and completely refused to call “Theotokos” the Virgin who truly gave birth to God; and the fourth in Chalcedon of the 630 Fathers, against Evtyches and Dioskoros, who propounded the evil doctrine of one nature in Christ; and the one after it in Constantinople of the 165 Fathers, against Theodore and Diodoros, who entertained the same ideas as Nestorios and commended his ideas in their writings, and against Origen, Didymos, and Evagrios, who were from an older period, but had attempted to infiltrate the Church of God with certain fables; and the one after it in the same city of the 170 Fathers, against Sergios, Pyrrhos, and Paul of Constantinople, who rejected two energies and two wills appropiate to the two natures of Christ; and the one in Nicea of the 367 Fathers, against the Iconoclasts. (excerpted from “A Confession of the Orthodox Faith Set Forth by His Eminence, Gregory Palamas, Archbishop of Thessalonica” trans. Hieromonk Patapios)

On the Priesthood and Marriage

Apostolic Canons ca. 1st cent.

Let not a bishop, a priest, or a deacon cast off his own wife under pretence of piety; but if he does cast her off, let him be suspended. If he go on in it, let him be deprived. (Canon 6)

Council of Gangra ca. 4th cent.

If any one shall maintain, concerning a married presbyter, that is not lawful to partake of the oblation when he offers it, let him be anathema. (Canon 4)

Council of Carthage ca. 419

Faustinus, the bishop of the Potentine Church, in the province of Picenum, a legate of the Roman Church, said: It seems good that a bishop, a presbyter, and a deacon, or whoever perform the sacraments, should be keepers of modesty and should abstain from their wives.

By all the bishops it was said: It is right that all who serve the altar should keep pudicity from all women. (Canon 4)

Aurelius, the bishop, said: We add, most dear brethren, moreover, since we have heard of the incontinency of certain clerics, even of readers, towards their wives, it seemed good that what had been enacted in various councils should be confirmed, to wit, that subdeacons who wait upon the holy mysteries, and deacons, and presbyters, as well as bishops according to former statutes, should contain from their wives, so that they should be as though they had them not and unless they so act, let them be removed from office. But the rest of the clergy are not to be compelled to this, unless they be of mature age. And by the whole council it was said: What your holiness has said is just, holy, and pleasing to God, and we confirm it. (Canon 25)

Council in Trullo ca. 692

Moreover this also has come to our knowledge, that in Africa and Libya and in other places the most God-beloved bishops in those parts do not refuse to live with their wives, even after consecration, thereby giving scandal and offense to the people. Since, therefore, it is our particular care that all things tend to the good of the flock placed in our hands and committed to us—it has seemed good that henceforth nothing of the kind shall in any way occur. And we say this, not to abolish and overthrow what things were established of old by Apostolic authority, but as caring for the health of the people and their advance to better things, and lest the ecclesiastical state should suffer any reproach. For the divine Apostle says: Do all to the glory of God, give none offense, neither to the Jews, nor to the Greeks, nor to the Church of God, even as I please all men in all things, not seeking my own profit but the profit of many, that they may be saved. Be imitators of me even as I also am of Christ. But if any shall have been observed to do such a thing, let him be deposed. (Canon 12)

Since we know it to be handed down as a rule of the Roman Church that those who are deemed worthy to be advanced to the diaconate or presbyterate should promise no longer to cohabit with their wives, we, preserving the ancient rule and apostolic perfection and order, will that the lawful marriages of men who are in holy orders be from this time forward firm, by no means dissolving their union with their wives nor depriving them of their mutual intercourse at a convenient time. Wherefore, if anyone shall have been found worthy to be ordained subdeacon, or deacon, or presbyter, he is by no means to be prohibited from admittance to such a rank, even if he shall live with a lawful wife. Nor shall it be demanded of him at the time of his ordination that he promise to abstain from lawful intercourse with his wife: lest we should affect injuriously marriage constituted by God and blessed by his presence, as the Gospel says: What God has joined together let no man put asunder; and the Apostle says, Marriage is honourable and the bed undefiled; and again, Are you bound to a wife? Seek not to be loosed. But we know, as they who assembled at Carthage (with a care for the honest life of the clergy) said, that subdeacons, who handle the Holy Mysteries, and deacons, and presbyters should abstain from their consorts according to their own course [of ministration]. So that what has been handed down through the Apostles and preserved by ancient custom, we too likewise maintain, knowing that there is a time for all things and especially for fasting and prayer. For it is meet that they who assist at the divine altar should be absolutely continent when they are handling holy things, in order that they may be able to obtain from God what they ask in sincerity.

If therefore anyone shall have dared, contrary to the Apostolic Canons, to deprive any of those who are in holy orders, presbyter, or deacon, or subdeacon of cohabitation and intercourse with his lawful wife, let him be deposed. In like manner also if any presbyter or deacon on pretence of piety has dismissed his wife, let him be excluded from communion; and if he persevere in this let him be deposed. (Canon 13)

The wife of him who is advanced to the Episcopal dignity, shall be separated from her husband by their mutual consent, and after his ordination and consecration to the episcopate she shall enter a monastery situated at a distance from the abode of the bishop, and there let her enjoy the bishop’s provision. And if she is deemed worthy she may be advanced to the dignity of a deaconess. (Canon 48)

On the Various Receptions of Western Converts

Patriarchal αnd Synodical Letter May 26, 1875

Having considered in synod the matter under discussion, namely, the baptism of the Latins, that is, whether it can be regarded as valid or not, we saw clearly in the historical facts and the ecclesiastical enactments of various times, that this matter bears many pros and cons and has had many advocates and opponents, which certainly has not escaped Your Excellency. For even before the Schism, Patriarch Kerularios used to baptize the Latins who converted tο Orthodoxy, as it is stated in the Pittakion which Humbert, the Exarch of Leo ΙΧ left οn the Table of St. Sophia against Patriarch Michael, αnd from an epistle of this Patriarch tο Patriarch Peter of Alexandria and from the fact that this act of Kerularios appears to have fοund many imitators as time went οn. Indeed the Lateran Synod of 1215 criticized the Orthodox for re-baptizing the Latins, i.e. the converts from the Latin Church. After the Schism, however, we have, αmong the many others, Mark Eugenikos, who pronounces that we should only anoint the Latins with Myrhon, and besides, there are synodical decisions, such as that summoned in 1207, and that summoned in 1484 under Patriarch Symeon in which the other three Patriarchs were present, οn which occasion the well known Acolouthy was composed, and also another one in 1600 summoned in the Royal city and another one summoned in Moscow by Patriarch Ioasaph of Moscow in 1667 on which occasion two other Patriarchs from the East were present, Paisios of Alexandria and Makarios of Antioch. All these declared that only with Myrhon (Chrism) should we perfect the converts from the Western Church. Οn the other hand we have the Decision taken in Moscow in 1622 by Philaret Patriarch of Russia and the Horos which was issued under Cyril V, Patriarch of Constantinople in 1755 αnd which became accepted by all the then Patriarchs, which indicates that they [the Latin converts] should be baptized. Thus, the baptisιn of the Westerners, was sometimes regarded as valid, because it wαs done in the name of the Holy Trinity and was referred to the proper baptism, and sometimes as invalid, because of the many irregularities of form with which it was clothed with the passage of time by the constantly increasing vain study of the Western Church. Hence, the Most Holy Russian Church, taking its lead from obvious reasons makes use of the Decisions of the newer Synod of Moscow under Patriarch Ioasaph of Moscow, discerning that they are contributive tο the benefιt of the Church in that place, whereas the Churches in the East consider it necessary for the benefit of Orthodoxy to follow the Horos which had been issued under Cyril V. Since these things happen to be such, it is left to the spiritual discernment of Your Excellency αnd of the rest of the Synodical members to accept or reject the use of economy which another Church has upheld for more than two centuries without wavering, if, as she writes, this economy implies many benefits to the Church there and secures her from encroaching dangers. Whenever, then, the local orthodox Churches might be able tο gather together, then, with God’s help, the desired agreement οn this subject will take place, as with others as well. (Memorandum of Metropolitan Agathangelos of Chalcedon to His Αll-Divine Αll-Holiness the Ecumenical Patriarch Photius, published in Ορθοδοξία, 6:66 (1931 ) pp. 418-9. Translated by Fr. George D. Dragas)

Source: http://www.myriobiblos.gr/texts/english/Dragas_RomanCatholic.html

St. Photios on the Popes of Rome

St. Photios the Great ca. 810-893

What will hinder me from referring to other Fathers? 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 clearly taught that the All-Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father. 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 anathematised 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.

…Thus, I will not hold back what needs to be said: it is the same senseless act of impiety which rushes towards perdition instead of towards the Savior. With a multi-tongued voice under the inspiration of the Spirit, the Synod spoke clearly; they are confirmed by all votes and the all-wise Leo resoundingly concurs. Apply your mind, therefore, to what follows towards the end of the entire section of the Acts it says quite clearly: The Holy and Ecumenical Synod fixes therefore with these men from every quarter, with exactness and harmony, our exact exposition, the meaning of which the chief legate of Leo procured. What did it decree? That no one is permitted to declare a different faith; that is to say, neither to write it, nor assent to it, nor think it, nor teach it to others. But for those who presume to accept another faith, that is they who promulgate or teach or deliver a different Symbol to those who wish to return to the knowledge of the truth from Hellenism, or Judaism, or any other heresy; and if any are bishops or clergy, let the bishops be deprived of their diocese and the clerics be deposed of their office; but if they be monks or laity, let them be anathema.

You should consider the equally renowned Vigilius, equal in throne and rank of glory with those other men, who assisted at the Fifth Synod which is also adorned with holy and ecumenical decrees. Like an unerring rule, this man conformed himself to its true dogmas. He voiced agreement in other matters and with equal zeal matching those Fathers before him and of his own time, proclaiming that the All-Holy and Consubstantial Spirit proceeds from the Father, also saying that if anyone introduced any definition other than the unanimous and common faith of the pious, then he should be delivered to the same bonds of anathema.

You should consider the noble and good Agatho, honoured with the same victorious deeds. Through his legates, he convened and made illustrious the Sixth Synod (which also shines with ecumenical rank), being present there, if not bodily, then certainly in will and with all diligence. He preserved the Symbol of our inviolate, pure, and unchangeable Faith without innovation, in accordance with the synods. Moreover, he confirmed the Synod by placing under an equal curse any so bold as to alter any word taught by it as dogma; these words which were affirmed as dogma from the beginning. (Mystagogy of the Holy Spirit, 79-83)

On the Anathema and It’s Meaning

St. John Maximovitch 1896-1966

The Greek word “anathema” consists of two words: “ana”, which is a preposition indicating movement upwards and “thema”, which means a separate part of some- thing. In military terminology, “thema” meant a detachment; in civil government “thema” meant a province. We currently use the word “theme”, derived from “thema”, to mean a specific topic of a written and intellectual work.

“Anathema” literally means the lifting up of something separate. In the Old Testament this expression was used both in relation to that which was alienated due to sinfulness and likewise to that which was dedicated to God.

In the New Testament, in the writing of the Apostle Paul it is used once in conjunction with “maranatha”, meaning the coming of the Lord. The combination of these words means separation until the coming of the Lord; in other words – being handed over to Him (1 Cor 16:22).

The Apostle Paul uses “anathema” in another place without the addition of “maranatha” (Gal 1:8-9). Here “anathema” is proclaimed against the distortion of the Gospel of Christ as it was preached by the Apostle, no matter by whom this might be commited, whether by the Apostle himself or an angel from the heavens. In this same expression there is also implied: “let the Lord Himself pass judgement”, for who else can pass judgement on the angels?

St John the Theologian in Revelation (22:3) says that in the New Jerusalem there will not be any anathema; this can be understood in two ways, giving the word anathema both meanings: 1) there will not be any lifting up to the judgement of God, for this judgement has already been accomplished; 2) there will not be any special dedication to God, for all things will be the Holy things of God, just as the light of God enlightens all (Rev 21:23).

In the acts of the Councils and the further course of the New Testament Church of Christ, the word “anathema” came to mean complete separation from the Church. “The Catholic and Apostolic Church anathematizes”, “let him be anathema”, “let it be anathema”, means a complete tearing away from the church. While in cases of “separation from the communion of the Church” and other epitimia or penances laid on a person, the person remained a member of the Church, even though his participation in her grace filled life was limited, those given over to anathema were thus completely torn away from her until their repentance. Realizing that she is unable to do anything for their salvation, in view of their stubbornness and hardness of heart, the earthly church lifts them up to the judgement of God. That judgment is merciful unto repentant sinners, but fearsome for the stubborn enemies of God. “It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God … for our God is a consuming fire” (Heb 10:31 ; 12:29).

Anathema is not final damnation: until death repentance is possible. “Anathema” is fearsome not because the Church wishes anyone evil or God seeks their damnation. They desire that all be saved. But it is fearsome to stand before the presence of God in the state of hardened evil: nothing is hidden from Him. (Orthodox Life, vol 27, Mar-April 1977, pp 18,19)

Source: http://www.orthodox.net/articles/anathema-st-john.html

The Christological Confession of Orthodox England

Synod of Heathfield ca. 680 a.d.

ABOUT this time, Theodore [of Canterbury] being informed that the faith of the church at Constantinople was much perplexed by the heresy of Eutyches, and desiring to preserve the churches of the English, over which he presided, from that infection, an assembly of many venerable priests and doctors was convened, at which he diligently inquired into their doctrines, and found they all unanimously agreed in the Catholic faith. This he took care to have committed to writing by the authority of the synod, as a memorial, and for the instruction of succeeding generations…

In the name of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, in the tenth year of the reign of our most pious lord, Egfrid, king of the Northumbrians, the seventeenth of September, the eighth indiction; and in the sixth year of the reign of Ethelfrid, king of the Mercians, in the seventeenth year of the reign of Aldhulf, of the East Angles, in the seventh year of the reign of Lothair, king of Kent; Theodore, by the grace of God, archbishop of the island of Britain, and of the city of Canterbury, being president, and the other venerable bishops of the island of Britain sitting with him, the holy Gospels being laid before them, at the place which, in the Saxon tongue, is called Heathfield, we conferred together, and expounded the true and orthodox faith, as our Lord Jesus in the flesh delivered the same to his disciples, who saw Him present, and heard his words, and as it is delivered in the creed of the holy fathers, and by all holy and universal synods in general, and by the consent of all approved doctors of the Catholic church; we, therefore, following them jointly and orthodoxly, and professing accordance to their divinely inspired doctrine, do believe, and do, according to the holy fathers, firmly confess, properly and truly, the Father, and Son, and Holy Ghost, a trinity consubstantial in unity, and unity in trinity, that is, one God subsisting in three consubstantial persons, of equal honour and glory.

We have received the five holy and general councils of the blessed fathers acceptable to God; that is, Of 318 bishops, who were assembled at Nice, against the most impious Arius and his tenets; and at Constantinople, Of 150, against the madness of Macedonius and Eudoxius, and their tenets; and at Ephesus, first of 200, against the most wicked Nestorius and his tenets; and at Chalcedon, 0f 360, against Eutyches and Nestorius, and their tenets, and again at Constantinople. In a fifth council, in the reign of Justinian the younger, against Theodorus and Theodoret, and the epistles of Iba, and their tenets, against Cyril;” and again a little lower, “the Synod held in the city of Rome [the Lateran Synod of 649], in the time of the blessed Pope Martin, in the eighth indiction, and in the ninth year of the most pious Emperor Constantine, we receive : and we glorify our Lord Jesus Christ, as they glorified Him, neither adding nor diminishing anything ; anathematizing those with our hearts and mouths whom they anathematized, and receiving those whom they received, glorifying God the Father, who is without beginning, and his Only-­Begotten Son generated from eternity, and the Holy Ghost proceeding from the Father and the Son in an ineffable manner, as those holy apostles, prophets, and doctors, whom we have above-mentioned, did declare. And all we, who, with Archbishop Theodore [of Canterbury], have thus expounded the Catholic faith, have also subscribed thereto. (St. Bede’s Ecclesiastical History of the English People Bk. 4.17)

St. Theodore of Canterbury on Marriage

St. Theodore of Canterbury ca. 602-690

Of Marriages: that nothing be allowed but lawful wedlock; that none commit incest; no man quit his true wife, unless, as the Gospel teaches, on account of fornication. And if any man shall put away his own wife, lawfully joined to him in matrimony, that he take no other, if he wishes to be a good Christian, but continue as he is, or else be reconciled to his own wife. (Synod of Hertford ca. 673, Canon 10.  St. Bede’s Ecclesiastical History of the English Nation Bk. 4.5)

On Sts. Cyril and Leo

St. Sophronius of Jerusalem ca. 560-638

We also accept and receive cordially with the same embrace all the godly writings, full of divine wisdom, of the inspired Cyril, in that they are full of all correctness and destroy every impiety of the heretics, especially the two synodical letters against Nestorius, hateful to God and pursued by God, both the second and third to which were attached the Twelve Chapters, which burnt up the entire perversity of Nestorius with the coals of the holy Apostles of equal number. Together with these I accept also the synodical letter written to the most holy leaders of the East, in which he called their utterances sacred and confirmed peace with them. Counted in with these we assert that the letters of the eastern Fathers are indissoluble because they were accepted by the godly Cyril himself, and were attested by him in indisputable terms as orthodox.

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)

On Liturgical Usages

Constantinople IV Eighth Ecumenical Council 879/880

Every Church has certain old usages which it has inherited. One should not quarrel and argue about them. Let the Roman Church observe its usages; this is legitimate. But let also the Church of Constantinople observe certain usages which it has inherited from old times. Let it be likewise so in the Oriental sees. . . . Many things would have not happened if the Churches had followed this recommendation in the past. (Mansi, XVII, Col. 489.)

Source

Horos of the Eighth Ecumenical Council

Constantinople IV Eighth Ecumenical Council 879/880

Jointly sanctifying and preserving intact the venerable and divine teaching of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, which has been established in the bosom of our mind, with unhesitating resolve and purity of faith, as well as the sacred ordinances and canonical stipulations of his holy disciples and Apostles with an unwavering judgment, and indeed, those Seven holy and ecumenical Synods which were directed by the inspiration of the one and the same Holy Spirit and effected the [Christian] preaching, and jointly guarding with a most honest and unshakeable resolve the canonical institutions invulnerable and unfalsified, we expel those who removed themselves from the Church, and embrace and regard worthy of receiving those of the same faith or teachers of orthodoxy to whom honor and sacred respect is due as they themselves ordered. Thus, having in mind and declaring all these things, we embrace with mind and tongue and declare to all people with a loud voice the Horos (Rule) of the most pure faith of the Christians which has come down to us from above through the Fathers, subtracting nothing, adding nothing, falsifying nothing; for subtraction and addition, when no heresy is stirred up by the ingenious fabrications of the evil one, introduces disapprobation of those who are exempt from blame and inexcusable assault on the Fathers. As for the act of changing with falsified words the Horoi (Rules, Boundaries) of the Fathers is much worse that the previous one. Therefore, this holy and ecumenical Synod embracing whole-heartedly and declaring with divine desire and straightness of mind, and establishing and erecting on it the firm edifice of salvation, thus we think and loudly proclaim this message to all:

“I believe in One God, Father Almighty, … and in One Lord Jesus Christ, the Only-begotten Son of God… and in the Holy Spirit, the Lord … who proceeds from the Father… [the whole Creed is cited here]”

Thus we think, in this confession of faith we were we baptized, through this one the word of truth proved that every heresy is broken to pieces and canceled out. We enroll as brothers and fathers and co-heirs of the heavenly city those who think thus. If anyone, however, dares to rewrite and call Rule of Faith some other exposition besides that of the sacred Symbol which has been spread abroad from above by our blessed and holy Fathers even as far as ourselves, and to snatch the authority of the confession of those divine men and impose on it his own invented phrases and put this forth as a common lesson to the faithful or to those who return from some kind of heresy, and display the audacity to falsify completely the antiquity of this sacred and venerable Horos (Rule) with illegitimate words, or additions, or subtractions, such a person should, according to the vote of the holy and Ecumenical Synods, which has been already acclaimed before us, be subjected to complete defrocking if he happens to be one of the clergymen, or be sent away with an anathema if he happens to be one of the lay people. (Horos of the Eighth Ecumenical Council: Acts 6 & 7)

source: http://www.oodegr.com/english/dogma/synodoi/8th_Synod_Dragas.htm

Are Ecumenical Councils Inspired?

Fr. Thomas Hopko: The dogmatic definitions (dogma means official teaching) and the canon laws of the Ecumenical Councils are understood to be inspired by God and to be expressive of His will for men. Thus, they are essential sources of Orthodox Christian doctrine.

Source: http://oca.org/orthodoxy/the-orthodox-faith/doctrine/sources-of-christian-doctrine/the-councils

Nicea II 7th Ecumenical Council 787

The pattern for those who have received the sacerdotal dignity is found in the testimonies and instructions laid down in the canonical constitutions, which we receiving with a glad mind, sing unto the Lord God in the words of the God-inspired David, saying: I have had as great delight in the way of your testimonies as in all manner of riches. You have commanded righteousness as your testimonies for ever. Grant me understanding and I shall live. Now if the word of prophesy bids us keep the testimonies of God forever and to live by them, it is evident that they must abide unshaken and without change. Therefore Moses, the prophet of God, speaks after this manner: To them nothing is to be added, and from them nothing is to be taken away. And the divine Apostle glorying in them cries out, which things the angels desire to look into, and, if an angel preach to you anything besides that which you have received, let him be anathema. Seeing these things are so, being thus well-testified unto us, we rejoice over them as he that has found great spoil, and press to our bosom with gladness the divine canons, holding fast all the precepts of the same, complete and without change, whether they have been set forth by the holy trumpets of the Spirit, the renowned Apostles, or by the Six Ecumenical Councils, or by Councils locally assembled for promulgating the decrees of the said Ecumenical Councils, or by our holy Fathers. For all these, being illumined by the same Spirit, defined such things as were expedient. Accordingly those whom they placed under anathema, we likewise anathematize; those whom they deposed, we also depose; those whom they excommunicated, we also excommunicate; and those whom they delivered over to punishment, we subject to the same penalty. And now let your conversation be without covetousness, cries out Paul the divine Apostle, who was caught up into the third heaven and heard unspeakable words.

Ancient Epitome: We gladly embrace the Divine Canons, viz.: those of the Holy Apostles, of the Six Ecumenical Synods, as also of the local synods and of our Holy Fathers, as inspired by one and the same Holy Spirit. Whom they anathematize we also anathematize; whom they depose, we depose; whom they cut off, we cut off; and whom they subject to penalties, we also so subject. (Canon 1)

Are the Non-Chalcedonians Orthodox?

People cite Vladyka John [Maximovitch]… To that which has been said above concerning him, I will add yet the following. Two days ago I was conversing about Vladyka John with a man whom Vladyka knew while still in Yugoslavia. When war broke out in the 1940s, and then during the post-war upheavals, this man was forced, “in the struggle for existence”, to roam quite a bit about this wide world. When, after the passage of several years, he again met with Vladyka, he began to recount to him concerning his “tribulations”. In particular, he said: “For three years I had to live where there was no Orthodox church, and I went to the Copts.” “What? You went to the Copts?” inquired Vladyka John. The man, having cringed, as he himself related, at Vladyka’s severe tone, replied: “Yes, I did, but I didn’t attend their liturgies”. “But you did attend the vigils?” “I did, Vladyka.” “But did you repent of it?” “No, but then, I didn’t pray there, I was only present.” “Well, the next time you go to confession, without fail repent of the fact that you were present at the services of the heretics,” concluded Vladyka John. (Metropolitan Philaret [Voznesensky]: Two Letters to Archbishop Averky)

Blessed Elder Paisios considered the anti-Chalcedonians (that is, the Monophysites) — along with the other heretics and those of other religions — to be creatures of God and our brothers according to the flesh, in terms of our common descent from Adam; but he didn’t consider them childern of God and our brothers according to the Spirit, characterizations he applied only to Orthodox Christians. Regarding the Monophysite’s sympathizers and their fervent supporters among the Orthodox, he observed, “They don’t say that the Monophysites didn’t understand the Holy Fathers — they say that the Holy Fathers did not understand them. In other words, they talk as if they are right and and the fathers misunderstood them”. He considered proposals to erase from the liturgical books statements identifying Dioscorus and Severus as heretics to be a blasphemy against the holy fathers. He said, “So many divinely enlightened holy fathers who were there at the time didn’t understand them, took them the wrong way, and now we come along after so many centuries to correct the holy fathers? And they don’t take the miracle of Saint Euphemia into account? Did she misunderstand the heretics’ tome too? (Hieromonk Isaac: Elder Paisios of Mount Athos; 2012 For the English Language by the Holy Monastery of St. Arsenios the Cappadocian , pp. 659-660)

…How is it possible to accept as correct that which has now been understood by twenty-one representatives of the Patriarchates and Autocephalous Churches – that is, that for fifteen hundred years the Orthodox and Monophysites had the same Christological Faith – when it is a fact that four Ecumenical Councils condemned the latter as heretical? Is it possible that the Holy Fathers who took part in them were mistaken, and were unjust towards the Monophysites? Was there not to be found even one of the 630 Fathers of the Fourth Ecumenical Council, of the 165 Fathers of the Fifth, of the 227 of the Sixth, or of the 367 of the Seventh, to understand this which the ecumenist Orthodox of Chambésy have now understood – that is, that the Monophysites are not heretics? So it is that 1,389 Holy Fathers are in error, and the twenty-one representatives of the innovative Orthodox are right? Are we to believe that the Holy Spirit did not enlighten the Holy Fathers? Are we to deny the divine inspiration of the Holy Councils? Heretical and blasphemous! Even more boldly, are we to assert that St. Euphemia, who sealed with a miracle the Definition of Faith of the Fourth Ecumenical Council, misunderstood the ‘Orthodoxy’ of the Monophysites because she did not understand the language? A fearsome thing! (*) (Archbishop Chrysostom Kiousis, Genuine Orthodox Church of Greece excerpted from Vladimir Moss, New Zion in Babylon Part 6 pg. 29)

(*) The Council of Chalcedon sat in the cathedral consecrated in the name of the Great-martyr St. Euphemia (+ ca. 307 ad). Present at the council were 630 representatives from all the local Christian Churches. Both the Monophysite and Orthodox parties were well-represented at the council, so the meetings were quite contentious, and no decisive consensus could be reached. Patriarch Anatolius of Constantinople suggested that the council submit the decision to the Holy Spirit, acting through Saint Euphemia.

Both parties wrote a confession of their faith and placed them in the tomb of the saint Euphemia which was sealed in the presence of the emperor Marcian (450-457), who placed the imperial seal on it and set a guard to watch over it for three days. During these days both sides fasted and prayed. After three days the tomb was opened and the scroll with the Orthodox confession was seen in the right hand of St Euphemia while the scroll of the Monophysites lay at her feet.

This miracle is attested by a letter sent by the council to Pope St. Leo the Great: For it was God who worked, and the triumphant Euphemia who crowned the meeting as for a bridal , and who, taking our definition of the Faith as her own confession, presented it to her Bridegroom by our most religious Emperor and Christ-loving Empress, appeasing all the tumult of opponents and establishing our confession of the Truth as acceptable to Him, and with hand and tongue setting her seal to the votes of us all in proclamation thereof. (Letter 98.3)

St. Sophronius of Jerusalem also attests to St. Euphemia’s support of Chalcedon in his Synodical Letter ca. 634 a.d.: And the fourth gathering, full of divine wisdom, after the three only in time, was assembled with 639 Fathers, worthy of praise and torch-bearers of the faith. It held its godly convocation by God in Chalcedon and the martyr Euphemia sharing its labors (the one who also up to the present fights on behalf of their definition of faith and speaks unceasingly and mightily about their far-famed and very great assembly). It dispatched that unhallowed pair, I mean Eutyches and Dioscorus, and blocked up their malevolence, hostile to God, which flowed as if from the spring of Apollinaris… (Synodical Letter 2.5.1)

In reality there is not a Father and Saint of the Church throughout the age-long Tradition of the fifteen centuries, from the Fourth Ecumenical Synod until today, who would believe and teach that we do not have differences in faith with the Non-Chalcedonians and that they are essentially Orthodox as we are. On the contrary, there are many great Saints of our Church, after the Synod of Chalcedon, who set forth the depth and the breadth, in any case the extent, of the heresy of the Non-Chalcedonians. Among them are colossi and giants of theology, pillars of Orthodoxy, whose multifarious wisdom, apart from the illumination of the Holy Spirit, is astonishing and undeniable, so much superior to the wisdom of those conducting the dialogue today, that it appears risible to argue that they did not understand the reasoning and the positions of the Non-Chalcedonians and that we understand them better today. (Protopresbyter Theodore Zisis, Professor at the University of Thessaloniki: St. John of Damascus and the ‘Orthodoxy’ of the Non-Chalcedonians)

More than anything else, the spirit of the system distinguishes the Monophysites from St. Cyril. It was not at all easy to reshape Cyril’s inspired doctrine into a logical system, and the terminology made this problem more difficult. Hardest of all was intelligibly defining the form and character of the human “traits” in the God-Man synthesis. The followers of Severus could not speak of Christ’s humanity as a “nature.” It broke down into a system of traits, for the doctrine of the Logos “taking” humanity was still not developed fully by Monophysitism into the idea of “inter-hypostasisness.” The Monophysites usually spoke of the Logos’ humanity as oikonomia. It is not without foundation that the fathers of the Council of Chalcedon detected here a subtle taste of original Docetism. Certainly this is not the Docetism of the ancient Gnostics at all, nor is it Apollinarianism. However, to the followers of Severus the “human” in Christ was not entirely human, for it was not active, was not “self-motivated.” In the contemplation of the Monophysites the human in Christ was like a passive object of Divine influence. Divinization or theosis seems to be a unilateral act of Divinity without sufficiently taking into count the synergism of human freedom, the assumption of which in no way supposes a “second subject.” In their religious experiment the element of freedom in general was not sufficiently pronounced and this could be called anthropological minimalism. (Fr. Georges Florovsky: The Byzantine Fathers of the Sixth Through Eighth Centuries)

The “monophysite” position consisted essentially in a sort of “Cyrillian fundamentalism” which allowed no compromise at all. The Chalcedonian orthodox camp was making major terminological concessions and clarifications: the antichalcedonians were making none. Even the great Severus of Antioch, who saw the dangers of unabashed Monophysitism and understood the importance of affirming the full reality of Christ’s manhood, stopped short from accepting “two natures after the union”. Several individual leaders of Monophysitism eventually accepted Chalcedon, but they were disavowed by their flocks.

Essentially a conservative or “fundamentalist” schism, Monophysitism rejected the “catholic” dimension of Chalcedon. Indeed, in the view of Chalcedonian and Neo-Chalcedonian orthodoxy, the catholicity of the Church requires that the one Truth be expressed in different terminologies; that some legitimacy be granted not only to Alexandrian expressions of salvation in Christ, but also to the Antiochian and the Western Latin tradition found in the Tome of Leo (provided there was agreement in substance); that a clearly “diphysite” christology was necessary to refute Eutychianism, and that it did not amount to a disavowal of St. Cyril. By standing for their theology, their formulas only, the Monophysites were moving in the direction of deliberate and exclusive sectarianism. This trend resulted in further grouping and splits, each group affirming its own exclusivity, rejecting other groups by always remaining opposed to Chalcedonian unity…In Egypt alone, by the end of the sixth century, the anti-chalcedonian opposition was split into twenty groups, each claiming canonical and doctrinal purity, and, in many cases, counting adepts in Syria, Arabia and Persia (Fr. John Meyendorff, Imperial Unity and Christian Divisions: The Christian East After Justinian, pp. 252-253)

Strictly speaking, it is not fair to characterize the anti-Chalcedonians as Monophysites. Most of them were clearly far from being at one with Eutyches. However, it seems doubtful that their Monophysitism was totally verbal and that they were absolutely clear of monophysitizing tendencies and traits. At any rate, it is difficult to be other than negative in our judgment of the Christology of Severus and the anti-Chalcedonians overall. Their Christology seems to have been one-sided, emphasizing the unity of Christ and failing to safeguard equally well the distinction between the divine and human elements in him. Their rejection of the Chalcedonian distinction between person/hypostasis and nature/essence, related as it was to a certain interpretation of Cyril and a kind of Cyrillian fundamentalism, kept them from taking advantage of the Council’s terminological achievements, which, by comparison with the language of Cyril, unquestionably marked a step forward. As Grillmeier has observed, the fact that the anti-Chalcedonians sought unity and distinction on the same level, the level of nature, inevitably led them into a contradiction, which seems to be relevant to the fact that in their various camp various Trinitarian and Christological heresies evolved together with internal schisms, fractions, and splinter groups. Their prejudice against the number two is as suspicious as their relegation of the humanity of Christ to a set of qualities of the Logos. Their unwavering opposition to Chalcedon and it’s post-Chalcedonian exponents indicates that in all probability their Christology differed from theirs. Finally, their monothelitism and monoenergism exerted a negative influence on those theologians of the official Church who, by trying to bridge the gap between the Church and the anti-Chalcedonians, ended up by adopting those positions that led to the outburst of the monothelite controversy of the seventh century. (Fr. Demetrius Bathrellos: The Byzantine Christ/ Person, Nature and Will in the Christology of St. Maximus the Confessor, pg. 33-34)

The condemnation of Eutychius by the Non-Chalcedonians does not constitute in our view a guarantee of their Orthodoxy. They also must condemn the moderate monophysitism of Severos and Dioscoros. It is a very delicate point but nevertheless a fundamental one. Perhaps on this delicate point lies our difference with today’s Non-Chalcedonians. Because of this difference they must explicitly confess the term of the 4th Ecumenical Synod. (Suggestions of a Committee from the Sacred Community of the Holy Mountain Athos – Concerning the Dialogue of the Orthodox with the Non-Chalcedonians)

Fourth Ecumenical Council: Chalcedon 451

And the adversary would have been like a wild beast outside the fold, roaring to himself and unable to seize any one, had not the late bishop of Alexandria thrown himself for a prey to him, who, though he had done many terrible things before, eclipsed the former by the latter deeds; for contrary to all the injunctions of the canons, he deposed that blessed shepherd of the saints at Constantinople, Flavian, who displayed such Apostolic faith, and the most pious bishop Eusebius, and acquitted by his terror-won votes Eutyches, who had been condemned for heresy, and restored to him the dignity which your holiness had taken away from him as unworthy of it, and like the strangest of wild beasts, falling upon the vine which he found in the finest condition, he uprooted it and brought in that which had been cast away as unfruitful, and those who acted like true shepherds he cut off, and set over the flocks those who had shown themselves wolves: and besides all this he stretched forth his fury even against him who had been charged with the custody of the vine by the Saviour, we mean of course your holiness, and purposed excommunication against one who had at heart the unifying of the Church. And instead of showing penitence for this, instead of begging mercy with tears, he exulted as if over virtuous actions, rejecting your holiness’ letter and resisting all the dogmas of the Truth. (Pope St. Leo, Epistles: Letter 98 From the Council of Chalcedon to Leo)

Fifth Ecumenical Council: Constantinople II 553

…[I]f anyone shall calumniate the holy Council of Chalcedon, pretending that it made use of this expression [one hypostasis] in this impious sense, and if he will not recognize rather that the Word of God is united with the flesh hypostatically, and that therefore there is but one hypostasis or one only Person, and that the holy Council of Chalcedon has professed in this sense the one Person of our Lord Jesus Christ: let him be anathema. For since one of the Holy Trinity has been made man, viz.: God the Word, the Holy Trinity has not been increased by the addition of another person or hypostasis. (Canon 5)

The term ‘Orthodox’ originally came into popular usage in the Eastern Christian world as a descriptor of the church communities in the sixth century, to distinguish those who accepted the decrees of the Council of Chalcedon (451 ad) from those who refused them. It grew up as a party term, therefore, meant to distinguish the Byzantine Christians (and the Latins along with them) from those dissenting from the Christological settlement of Chalcedon. (Fr. John McGuckin: The Orthodox Church pg. 24)

It is well known that among the dialogues that the Orthodox Catholic Church is conducting with the heterodox is the one with the Monophysites, or “Non-Chalcedonians,” or “Pre-Chalcedonians,” or the “Ancient Orientals,” or—as they have recently been called, contrary to Tradition—, “Oriental Orthodox.” …[A] fruit of this theological relativism and syncretism that they have been cultivating was the prettified picture of our differences with the Monophysites, who are no longer called such, but at first “Non-Chalcedonians,” then “Pre-Chalcedonians” or “Ancient Orientals,” and now “Orthodox,” since we have demolished the boundaries and the frontiers, despite the advice of the Fathers “not to remove the eternal boundaries which our Fathers established,” and have allowed the Monophysites, who have been heretics for fifteen centuries in the conscience of the Church, to become fellow-heirs of Orthodoxy and be called Orthodox after ourselves, without return and repentance. The theological confusion and muddle is really astonishing, as is the demolition of all the boundaries. If someone just ten years earlier were to read or hear the term “Inter-Orthodox Commission” or “Orthodox Churches,” he would surely understand a commission of Orthodox or local Orthodox Churches that belong to the Orthodox Eastern Catholic Church, which comprises the autocephalous Orthodox Churches of the East with the Church of Constantinople occupying the first place. However, this is not self-evident now; after many years of organized work by the draughtsmen of Ecumenism an “Inter-Orthodox Commission” can include Non-Chalcedonians, since with our acquiescence the Monophysite Churches of the Copts, the Syro-Jacobites, the Armenians, the Ethiopians, et al., are now numbered among the Orthodox Churches of the East. (Protopresbyter Theodore Zisis, Professor at the University of Thessaloniki: St. John of Damascus and the ‘Orthodoxy’ of the Non-Chalcedonians)

[T]he lack of recognition by the so-called Anti-Chalcedonians of the Fourth, Fifth and Sixth Ecumenical Councils, and the theory of some Orthodox theologians of Neo-Chalcedonianism, in essence have a common denominator and cannot be accepted by the Orthodox Church.

It is precisely for this reason that we cannot, on the Orthodox side, speak of Anti-Chalcedonians or Pre-Chalcedonians, but only of Monophysites, since the so-called Anti-Chalcedonians believe that, although the union in Christ was of two natures, after the union there is one nature in Christ. Some so-called Anti-Chaldedonians argue that, although after the union there is one nature in Christ, the human nature has not disappeared. And this view is paradoxical. How can it be one nature in Christ after the union “without the human nature disappearing”, and how does this human nature stand by itself, without this being considered Nestorianism, which the Anti-Chalcedonians want to fight? This is the reason that moves me to call them Monophysites and not Anti-Chalcedonians or Pre-Chalcedonians. (Met. Hierotheos Vlachos of Nafpaktos and St. Blasios, Dialogue with the Monophysites)

Sixth Ecumenical Council: Constantinople III 680-681

Wherefore this our holy and Ecumenical Synod having driven away the impious error which had prevailed for a certain time until now, and following closely the straight path of the holy and approved Fathers, has piously given its full assent to the five holy and Ecumenical Synods (that is to say, to that of the 318 holy Fathers who assembled in Nicea against the raging Arius; and the next in Constantinople of the 150 God-inspired men against Macedonius the adversary of the Spirit, and the impious Apollinaris; and also the first in Ephesus of 200 venerable men convened against Nestorius the Judaizer; and that in Chalcedon of 630 God-inspired Fathers against Eutyches and Dioscorus hated of God; and in addition to these, to the last, that is the Fifth holy Synod assembled in this place, against Theodore of Mopsuestia, Origen, Didymus, and Evagrius, and the writings of Theodoret against the Twelve Chapters of the celebrated Cyril, and the Epistle which was said to be written by Ibas to Maris the Persian), renewing in all things the ancient decrees of religion, and chasing away the impious doctrines of irreligion. And this our holy and Ecumenical Synod inspired of God has set its seal to the Creed which was put forth by the 318 Fathers, and again religiously confirmed by the 150, which also the other holy synods cordially received and ratified for the taking away of every soul-destroying heresy. (The Definition of the Faith)

And as we recognize two natures, so also we recognize two natural wills and two natural operations. For we dare not say that either of the natures which are in Christ in His incarnation is without a will and operation: lest in taking away the proprieties of those natures, we likewise take away the natures of which they are the proprieties. For we neither deny the natural will of his humanity, or its natural operation: lest we also deny what is the chief thing of the dispensation for our salvation, and lest we attribute passions to the Godhead. For this they were attempting who have recently introduced the detestable novelty that in him there is but one will and one operation, renewing the malignancy of Arius, Apollinaris, Eutyches and Severus. (The Prosphoneticus to the Emperor)

Council in Trullo 692

Moreover we confirm that faith which at Chalcedon, the Metropolis, was set forth in accordance with orthodoxy by the six hundred and thirty God-approved fathers in the time of Marcian, who was our Emperor, which handed down with a great and mighty voice, even unto the ends of the earth, that the one Christ, the son of God, is of two natures, and must be glorified in these two natures, and which cast forth from the sacred precincts of the Church as a black pestilence to be avoided, Eutyches, babbling stupidly and inanely, and teaching that the great mystery of the incarnation (οἰκονωμίας) was perfected in thought only. And together with him also Nestorius and Dioscorus of whom the former was the defender and champion of the division, the latter of the confusion [of the two natures in the one Christ], both of whom fell away from the divergence of their impiety to a common depth of perdition and denial of God. (Canon 1)

Whereas we have heard that in some places in the hymn Trisagion there is added after Holy and Immortal, Who was crucified for us, have mercy upon us, and since this as being alien to piety was by the ancient and holy Fathers cast out of the hymn, as also the violent heretics who inserted these new words were cast out of the Church; we also, confirming the things which were formerly piously established by our holy Fathers, anathematize those who after this present decree allow in church this or any other addition to the most sacred hymn; but if indeed he who has transgressed is of the sacerdotal order, we command that he be deprived of his priestly dignity, but if he be a layman or monk let him be cut off. (Canon 81)

…[T]he Manichæans, and Valentinians and Marcionites and all of similar heresies must give certificates and anathematize each his own heresy, and also Nestorius, Eutyches, Dioscorus, Severus, and the other chiefs of such heresies, and those who think with them, and all the aforesaid heresies; and so they become partakers of the holy Communion. (Canon 95)

Pope St. Gregory the Dialogist on the method of receiving Monophysites into the Church: 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. (Epistles, Bk. 11: Epistle 67)

Seventh Ecumenical Council: Nicea II 787

We detest and anathematize Arius and all the sharers of his absurd opinion; also Macedonius and those who following him are well styled Foes of the Spirit (Pneumatomachi). We confess that our Lady, St. Mary, is properly and truly the Mother of God, because she was the Mother after the flesh of One Person of the Holy Trinity, to wit, Christ our God, as the Council of Ephesus has already defined when it cast out of the Church the impious Nestorius with his colleagues, because he taught that there were two Persons [in Christ]. With the Fathers of this synod we confess that he who was incarnate of the immaculate Mother of God and Ever-Virgin Mary has two natures, recognizing him as perfect God and perfect man, as also the Council of Chalcedon has promulgated, expelling from the divine Atrium [αὐλῆς] as blasphemers, Eutyches and Dioscorus; and placing in the same category Severus, Peter and a number of others, blaspheming in various fashions. Moreover, with these we anathematize the fables of Origen, Evagrius, and Didymus, in accordance with the decision of the Fifth Council held at Constantinople. We affirm that in Christ there be two wills and two operations according to the reality of each nature, as also the Sixth Synod, held at Constantinople, taught, casting out Sergius, Honorius, Cyrus, Pyrrhus, Macarius, and those who agree with them, and all those who are unwilling to be reverent. (The Decree)

And now having carefully traced the traditions of the Apostles and Fathers, we are bold to speak. Having but one mind by the inbreathing of the most Holy Spirit, and being all knit together in one, and understanding the harmonious tradition of the Catholic Church, we are in perfect harmony with the symphonies set forth by the six, holy and ecumenical councils; and accordingly we have anathematised the madness of Arius, the frenzy of Macedonius, the senseless understanding of Appolinarius, the man-worship of Nestorius, the irreverent mingling of the natures devised by Eutyches and Dioscorus, and the many-headed hydra which is their companion. We have also anathematised the idle tales of Origen, Didymus, and Evagrius; and the doctrine of one will held by Sergius, Honorius, Cyrus, and Pyrrhus, or rather, we have anathematised their own evil will. Finally, taught by the Spirit, from whom we have drawn pure water, we have with one accord and one soul, altogether wiped out with the sponge of the divine dogmas the newly devised heresy, well-worthy to be classed with those just mentioned, which springing up after them, uttered such empty nonsense about the sacred icons. And the contrivers of this vain, but revolutionary babbling we have cast forth far from the Church’s precincts. (Letter of the Synod to the Emperor and Empress)

Fr. Georges Florovsky: “It is not a case of lifting some simple canonical anathema. The case is much more difficult when the anathema is of theological nature.”(quote excerpted from Suggestions of a Committee from the Sacred Community of the Holy Mountain Athos Concerning the Dialogue of the Orthodox with the Non-Chalcedonians)

Lateran Council 649

If anyone according to the holy Fathers, harmoniously with us and likewise with the Faith, does not with mind and lips reject and anathematize all the most abominable heretics together with their impious writings even to one least portion, whom the holy Catholic and apostolic Church of God, that is, the holy and universal five Synods and likewise all the approved Fathers of the Church in harmony, rejects and anathematizes, we mean Sabellius, Arius, Eunomius, Macedonius, Apollinaris, Polemon, Eutyches, Dioscurus, Timothy Aelurus, Severus, Theodosius, Colluthus, Themistius, Paul of Samosata , Diodorus, Theodore, Nestorius, Theodulus the Persian, Origen, Didymus, Evagrius, and briefly all the remaining heretics, who have been condemned and cast out by the Catholic Church; whose teachings are the fruit of diabolical operation, and those, who unto the end have obstinately suggested (ideas) similar to these, or do suggest (them), or are believed to suggest (them), with whom (they are) justly (associated), inasmuch as (they are) like them and (are) possessed of a similar error, according to which they are known to teach and by their own error determine their lives…(Canon 18)

St. Maximus the Confessor, who organized this synod presided over by Pope St. Martin, referred to the Lateran Council of 649 as the “sixth synod, which through the divine inspiration of God set forth with all pure piety the doctrines of the holy Fathers”. Although Pope St. Martin and St. Maximus were abducted after the council by Emperor Constans II and tried in Constantinople for their role in the council (Martin being replaced as pope before his death in exile and Maximus having his tongue and right hand cut off), their position was ultimately endorsed by the Sixth Ecumenical Council in 680.

Synodikon of Orthodoxy

To them who reject the teachings which were pronounced for the establishment of the true doctrines of the Church of God by the Holy Fathers Athanasios, Cyril, Ambrose, Amphilochios the God-proclaiming, Leo the most holy Archbishop of Old Rome, and by all the others, and furthermore, who do not embrace the Acts of the Ecumenical Councils, especially those of the Fourth, I say, and of the Sixth, ANATHEMA! ANATHEMA! ANATHEMA….To Peter the Fuller and insane, who says, ‘Holy Immortal Who was crucified for us,’ ANATHEMA! ANATHEMA! ANATHEMA… To Peter the Paltry, the heretic, who was surnamed Lycopetrus, or ‘the Wolf,’ to the evil-minded Eutychius and Sabellios, ANATHEMA! ANATHEMA! ANATHEMA!. To James Stanstalus the Armenian, to Dioscorus the Patriarch of Alexandria, to the godless Severus, as well as to the like-minded Sergius, Paul and Pyrrus, and to Sergius, the disciple of Lycopetrus… ANATHEMA! ANATHEMA! ANATHEMA! To all the Eutychians and Monothelites and Jacobites and Artzibourziter, and simply all heretics,…ANATHEMA! ANATHEMA! ANATHEMA!

Professor G. Mantzaridis notes: It is not possible under the light of new dogmatic agreement for Synods that were condemned by Ecumenical Synods to be viewed as Orthodox in their teaching content, for a teaching is not exhausted only in the formulation of the dogma but also expresses the unity and identity of the Church. Neither is it possible for people who are anathematized in the Synodicon of Orthodoxy to be regarded as fathers of another Orthodox Church which is finally to be accepted as identical with the Church that formed the Synodicon. Always and especially in crucial times as in the present, attention to the through-the-ages identity and conscious of Orthodoxy is imperative. (G. Mantzaridis, Orthodoxy and European Unity, Thessalonika 1994, p.157-8)

St. Euthymias the Great ca. 377-473

When the news had circulated, as people reported that the great Euthymius had accepted the definition of the faith proclaimed at Chalcedon, all the monks were about to accept it, had they not been prevented by one Theodosius, in appearance a monk but in reality a precursor of Antichrist…Noting Theodosius’ utter shamelessness, the great Euthymius told the fathers not to share in his apostasy and so departed to the utter desert; on hearing of this, many anchorites adopted the same policy. At that time there was a great anchorite of Lycian origin, called Gerasimus (St. Gerasimus of the Jordan died ca. 475), who after succeeding in the monastic life in his own homeland and displaying many combats against the spirits of wickedness had recently left his homeland and was practicing the anchoritic life in the desert by the Jordan. He with the other anchorites had been seduced by the false teaching of Theodosius; but on hearing from almost all the anchorites of the resplendent grace of the great Euthymius he went to him at Rouba, and after staying with him for a considerable time was persuaded to assent to the definition issued by the council of Chalcedon and break off his association with Theodosius, as did other anchorites also…’ (Life of Euthymius, Cyril of Scythopolis: Lives of the Monks of Palestine)

St. Symeon Stylites the Elder ca. 390-459

On this account, I also, though mean and worthless, the refuse of the monks, have conveyed to his majesty my judgment respecting the creed of the six hundred and thirty holy Fathers assembled at Chalcedon, firmly resolving to abide by the faith then revealed by the Holy Spirit: for if, in the midst of two or three who are gathered in His name, the Saviour is present, how could it be otherwise, than that the Holy Spirit should be throughout in the midst of so many and so distinguished holy fathers? (Reply to Emperor Leo I, Evagrius Scholasticus: Ecclesiastical History Bk. 2.10)

St. Sabas the Sanctified ca. 439-532

The patriarch having sent letters in advance to the emperor (St. Justinian) announcing godly Sabas’ arrival, our divinely protected emperor, overjoyed, sent the imperial galleys to meet him; with them went out to meet him the patriarch Epiphanius, Father Eusebius and Bishop Hypatius of Ephesus. Receiving him, they led him to the emperor, and God revealed the grace accompanying his servant to the emperor as he had done previously in the time of Anastasius. For as he entered the palace with the said bishops and came within the curtain, God opened the emperor’s eyes; he saw the radiance of divine favor in the shape of a crown blazing forth and emitting sunlike beams from the head of the old man. Running up, he greeted him with reverence, kissing his godly head with tears of joy; on obtaining his blessing, he took from his hand the petition of Palestine and pressed him to go in and bless the Augusta Theodora. The elder went in and was received with joy by the Augusta, who greeted him respectfully and made this request: ‘Pray for me, father, that God grant me fruit of the womb.’ The Augusta said again, ‘Pray, father, that God give me a child.’ The elder said in reply, ‘The God of glory will maintain your empire in piety and victory.’ The Augusta was grieved at his not granting her request. So when he left her presence, the fathers with him expressed their doubts by asking, ‘Why did you distress the Augusta by not praying as she requested?’ The elder answered them, ‘Believe me, fathers, fruit will never come forth from her womb, lest it suck in the doctrines of Severus and cause worse upheaval to the Church than Anastasius.’ (Life of Sabas, Cyril of Scythopolis: Lives of the Monks of Palestine)

…[I]n the sixty-third year of the life of the great Sabas…He then transfered the Armenians from the little oratory to performing the office of psalmody in the Armenian language…But when some of them to recite the Trisagion hymn with the addition ‘who was crucified for us’ concocted by Peter nicknamed the Fuller, the godly man was rightly indignant and ordered them to chant this hymn in Greek according to the ancient tradition of the catholic Church and not according to the innovation of the said Peter, who had shared the opinions of Eutyches… (Life of Sabas 32, Cyril of Scythopolis: The Lives of the Monks of Palestine)

 The originator and perpetrator of all this is Severus, Acephelos and Apochist (*) from the original beginning, who for the destruction of his own soul and of the commonwealth has by God’s leave for our sins been appointed bishop of Antioch and has anathematized our holy fathers who in every way confirmed the apostolic faith defined and transmitted to us by the holy fathers assembled at Nicea and baptize all in it. Shunning and utterly rejecting communion with this Acephalos, we entreat your Piety to have pity on Sion, the mother of all the churches and protector of your rule dear to God, who is being so ignominiously maltreated and ravaged. (Ss. Sabas and Theodosius the Cenobiarch Petition to the Emperor, Life of Sabas 57)

(*) “Aposchist” means “a separatist” or schismatic. W.H.C. Frend in his work “The Rise of the Monophysite Movement” writes: There could be no greater mistake than to try to see the Monophysites as Donatism in Egyptian or Syrian form. Chalcedon was followed by a schism of hearts and minds throughout the whole of the east, but no ‘altar was set up against altar’ (phraseology of Augustine of Hippo and Optatus of Milevis) as it had been in Africa in 312. No formal break occured until a very considerable number of Christians throughout the east came to feel that it was intolerable to receive sacraments at the hands of one who was not strictly orthodox, especially when in some areas in the east these were received once a year. It was not until the time of Severus of Antioch, and due largely to his ‘strictness’ (akribeia) in relation to the reception of sacraments from Chalcedonians that permanent division between supporters and opponents of Chalcedon was rendered inevitable, and even then the organization of a rival Monophysite hierarchy took a very long while. For the generation following the council this step was not even considered, a fact which must influence any assessment of the nationalist or particularist and indeed any non-theological element in Monophysitism. (Chap. 2 The Emperor and His Church, pg. 62)

St. Justinian the Emperor ca. 483-565

So then, in that Apollinaris and Manichaeus deny the truth of the two natures in Christ, i.e. of His divinity and His humanity, it is clearly confirmed that those who have earned the name “Acephaloi” are of the same mind as these godless men, even though they may resist being called “Apollinarian” or “Manichaean” so that they may continue their deception. Following from this, it is clearly confirmed that Dioscorus and Timothy Aelurus, to whom the Acephaloi subscribe as fathers and teachers, follow the evil teachings of Apollinaris and Manichaeus, and believe and teach what is contrary to the teachings of Athanasius and Cyril, which we will now show. For instance, in the letter he sent from Gangros to Alexandria, Dioscorus says this:

“Unless the blood of Christ is by nature the blood of God and not of man, how will it differ from the blood of he-goats, young bulls, and heifers? These are earthly and corruptible, and the blood of men is also earthly and corruptible by nature. But as for the blood of Christ, we will never say that it belongs to one of those who is [earthly and corruptible] by nature.”

What could be harder to bear than this blasphemy of Dioscorus? For in denying that the blood of Christ is of the same essence as human nature, it is discovered that he does not confess the flesh of our Lord to be of the same essence as we, and he nullifies the salvation of man because he says that [the Logos’] body is of the same essence as the Logos’ divinity.

…In the same way we will show that Timothy Aelurus also agrees with Manichaeus, and that he also is of a different mind than our holy fathers Athanasius and Cyril. For instance, this Timothy says in the eighth chapter of the third book which he wrote when [exiled] in Cherson: “The nature of Christ is divine only even though it was incarnate.” Manichaeus writes the same thing in his letter to Cyndorus saying: “The whole is one nature although his form was seen as flesh.” To this we say that if, according to the nonsense of Timothy, the nature of Christis divine only, then the Father and the Holy Spirit also are Christ for there is one nature of the Godhead which we attribute to the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Moreover, this man’s stupidity would mean that [Christ’s] Passion is common [to all three Persons]. (Letter to the Monks of Alexandria Against the Monophysites)

Dioscorus sometimes has wrongly been accused of misinterpreting Cyril’s mind on this point, but in fact he consistently applied Cyril’s ideas and interpreted all christology on the basis of the pure Cyrilline canon, with one significant exception. What he did was to attempt to delete Cyril’s Antiochene negotiations from the picture. He came to regard all Syrian ‘variations’ on the Cyrilline theme as dispensable. This was a fatal emendation of his teacher’s life’s work. Dioscorus regarded the rapprochement of 433 as merely the result of imperial pressure placed on a sick old man, whose judgment had accordingly lapsed. In consequence, he cut across the diphysite literature of Cyril and thus abandoned the policy of mutual search for an agreed terminology that had been slowly bringing the churches together in common agreement after the council of Ephesus. In this, he not only abandoned a part of Cyril’s legacy, but made a large departure from Proclus too. (Fr. John McGuckin: Cyril of Alexandria and the Christological Controvery pg. 229)

In fact, it seems that Severus understands neither the holy fathers nor the reason for which Nestorius was condemned. For while the holy fathers confessed that the two natures of divinity and humanity were united in Christ, they forbad anyone to say that there in Him two hypostases or two prosopa or two sons. Nestorius, however, confessed that “nature,” “hypostasis,” and “prosopon” are the same thing; he therefore denied the hypostatic union of the two natures and said that each nature had its own hypostasis separate from the other, thereby producing two Christs and two Sons. It was for this blasphemy of his that he was condemned by the holy fathers. St. Cyril refuted this Judaizing madman at the Council of Ephesus by bringing forth the holy fathers who forbid speaking of two sons, but rather proclaim two natures and one son. (Against the Monophysites)

Leontius of Jerusalem ca. 485-543

Since we publicly assert and maintain the statement that the Lord is ‘out of two natures’ along with the statement that He is ‘in two natures’, since we speak of a combination, and of an entire nature, and since we anathematize even an angel from heaven if he doesn’t think likewise, what possible reason can these people have for refusing to agree with us on these, using both ‘out of two’ and ‘in two’, and electing to anathematize Severus, Dioscorus, and those with them, if they don’t think the same? Since blessed Flavian’s explanation says, ‘We are not looking for an excuse not to speak of one nature of the Word of God — made flesh, of course, and become man — because our one Lord Jesus Christ is out of both’, and since the synod loudly proclaims this, in what way, in light of all this, does the synod not agree with these assertions? (Testimonies of the Saints, 1844c)

Pope St. Gregory the Dialogist ca. 540-604

Besides, since with the heart man believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation, I confess that I receive and revere, as the four books of the Gospel so also the four Councils: to wit, the Nicene, in which the perverse doctrine of Arius is overthrown; the Constantinopolitan also, in which the error of Eunomius and Macedonius is refuted; further, the first Ephesine, in which the impiety of Nestorius is condemned; and the Chalcedonian, in which the pravity of Eutyches and Dioscorus is reprobated. These with full devotion I embrace, and adhere to with most entire approval; since on them, as on a four-square stone, rises the structure of the holy faith; and whosoever, of whatever life and behaviour he may be, holds not fast to their solidity, even though he is seen to be a stone, yet he lies outside the building. The fifth council also I equally venerate, in which the epistle which is called that of Ibas, full of error, is reprobated; Theodorus, who divides the Mediator between God and men into two subsistences, is convicted of having fallen into the perfidy of impiety; and the writings of Theodoritus, in which the faith of the blessed Cyril is impugned, are refuted as having been published with the daring of madness. But all persons whom the aforesaid venerable Councils repudiate I repudiate; those whom they venerate I embrace; since, they having been constituted by universal consent, he overthrows not them but himself, whosoever presumes either to loose those whom they bind, or to bind those whom they loose. Whosoever, therefore, thinks otherwise, let him be anathema. But whosoever holds the faith of the aforesaid synods, peace be to him from God the Father, through Jesus Christ His Son, Who lives and reigns consubstantially God with Him in the Unity of the Holy Spirit for ever and ever. Amen. (Bk. 1, Letter 25 to John of Constantinople, Eulogius of Alexandria, Gregory of Antioch, John of Jerusalem, and Anastasias, Ex-Patriarch of Antioch)

St. John the Almsgiver of Alexandria died ca. 616

To help this glorious man towards attaining his purpose which was indeed wholly divine, the Lord sent him John and Sophronius, [Sts. John Moschos and Sophronius of Jerusalem] who were wise in the things of God and worthy of perpetual remembrance. They were really honest counselors, and the Patriarch gave unquestioning ear to them as though they were his fathers, and was grateful to them for being most brave and valiant soldiers in the cause of the true faith. For trusting in the might of the Holy Spirit they engaged in a war of dialectics, setting their own wisdom against that of the mad followers of Severus and of the other unclean heretics who were scattered about the country; they delivered many villages and very many churches, and monasteries, too, like good shepherds saving the sheep from the jaws of these evil beasts, and for this reason above others the saintly Patriarch showed special honor to these saintly men. (Leontius of Neapolis, Life of St. John the Almsgiver, 32)

St. John Moschus ca. 550-619

About twenty miles from the city of Aegion in Cilicia there were two stylites located about six miles from each other. One of them was in communion with the holy catholic and apostolic church. The other, who had been the longer time on his column (which was near an estate called Cassiodora) adhered to the Severan sect. The heretical stylite disputed with the orthodox one in various ways, contriving and desiring to win over to his own sect. And having disseminated many words, he seemed to have got the better of him. The orthodox stylite, as though by divine inspiration, intimated that he would like the heretic to send him a portion of his eucharist. The heretic was delighted, thinking that he had led the other astray and he sent the required portion immediately without the slightest delay. The orthodox took the portion which was sent to him by the heretic (the sacrament of the Severan sect, that is) and cast it into a pot which he had brought to a boil before him — it was dissolved by the boiling of the pot. Then he took the holy eucharist of the orthodox church and cast it into the pot. Immediately the pot was cooled. The holy communion remained safe and undampened. He still keeps, for he showed it to us when we visited him. (The Spiritual Meadow 29)

Anastasios, priest and treasurer at the holy Church of the Resurrection of Christ our God told us that Cosmiana, the wife of Germanos the Patrician, came one night, wishing to worship alone at the holy and life-giving sepulchre of our Lord Jesus Christ, the true God. When she approached the sanctuary, our Lady the holy Mother of God, together with other women, met her in visible form, and said to her: ‘As you are not one of us, you are not to come in here, for you are none of ours.’ The woman was in fact a member of the sect of Severus Acephalos. She begged hard for permission to enter but the holy Mother of God: ‘Believe me, woman, you shall not come in here until you are in communion with us.’ The woman realized that it was because she was a heretic that she was being refused entry; and that nor would she be allowed in until she join the catholic an apostolic church of Christ our God. She sent for the deacon and when the holy chalice arrived, she partook of the holy body and blood of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ; and thus she was found worthy to worship unimpeded at the holy and life-giving sepulchre of our Lord Jesus Christ. (The Spiritual Meadow 48)

St. Sophronius of Jerusalem ca. 560-638

Accordingly, by the holy and consubstantial and worshipful Trinity, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, let there be anathema and condemnation forever: …Eutyches, Dioscorus, the protector and advocate of Eutyches; Barsumas, Zooras, Timothy called the Cat, Peter the Stammerer, and Acacius who crafted the Kenotikon (*) of Zeno; …Peter the Fuller, who dared to attach the cross to the Trisagion Hymn; another Peter, the defilement of Iberia of barbarian mind, who introduced another headless heresy among the Headless Ones, and Isaiah, the associate of this Peter. With all these, and before all and after all and according to all on behalf of all, let Severus be anathema, their thoroughly mad disciple, who of all the Headless Ones, new and old, is called a most cruel tyrant and a most hostile enemy of the holy catholic church, and a most disgusting seducer; and Theodosius of Alexandria, Anthimus of Trebizond, Jacob the Syrian; Julian of Halicarnassus… (Synodical Letter 2.6.1)

(*) St. Sophronius puns on the title of the Hen-otikon, Zeno’s document of “unity”, by calling it Ken-oticon, an “empty” document or a purgative. Additionally, St. Sophronius’ Synodical Letter was fully endorsed by the Sixth Ecumenical Council: “We have also examined the synodal letter of Sophronius of holy memory, some time Patriarch of the Holy City of Christ our God, Jerusalem, and have found it in accordance with the true faith and with the Apostolic teachings, and with those of the holy approved Fathers. Therefore we have received it as orthodox and as salutary to the holy Catholic and Apostolic Church, and have decreed that it is right that his name be inserted in the diptychs of the Holy Churches.” (Session XIII: Sentence Against the Monothelites)

St. Maximus the Confessor ca. 580-662

Severus knavishly says that hypostasis is the same as nature. (Patrologia Graeca, Vol. XCI, Col. 40A.)

Fr. Demetrios Bathrellos comments: For Maximus, the distinction between person/hypostasis, on the one hand, and nature/essence on the other, is indispensible for the articulation of a proper Christology. Severus’ fatal mistake consists precisely in his refusal to distinguish between them, because, without this distinction, it is not possible to denote unity and and distinction in a satisfactory way. Maximus argues that by identifying hypostasis with nature, Severus confuses divinity and humanity. By the same token, by arguing that there is a distinction in the natural qualities too, because, since nature and hypostasis are the same, ‘natural qualities’ equals ‘hypostatic qualities’; thus, for Maximus, Severus falls into Nestorianism (Ep. 15, 568D) (Byzantine Christ, pg. 101)

Nestorius and Severus, therefore, have one aim in their ungodliness, even though the mode is different. For the one, afraid of confusion, flees from the hypostatic union and makes the essential difference a personal division. The other, afraid of division, denies the essential difference and turns the hypostatic union into a natural confusion. It is necessary to confess neither confusion in Christ, nor division, but the union of those that are essentially different, and the difference of those that are hypostatically united, in order that the principle of the essences and the mode of the union might be proclaimed. But they break asunder both of these: Nestorius only confirms a union of gnomic qualities, Severus only confirms the difference of natural qualities after the union, and both of them have missed the truth of things. The one recklessly scribes division to the mystery, the other confusion. (Opuscule 3: 56D)

St. Anastasios the Sinaite died ca. 700

Aristotle says that persons are particular essences; going by this vain rule, Arius said that there were three essences, of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Going by this iniquitous definition, Severus said that Christ was one nature formed from two particular essences, that is, separate hypostases. (Patrologia Graeca, Vol. LXXXIX, Col. 108B.)

St. John Damascene ca. 676-749

The Egyptians, who are also called schematics and Mononphysites: separated from the Orthodox Church on the pretext of the document approved at Chalcedon and known as the Tome. They have been called Egyptians, because it was the Egyptians who first started this form of heresy during the reigns of the Emperors Marcian and Valentinian; in every other way they are Orthodox. Because they were attached to Dioscoros of Alexandria, who was deposed by the Synod in Chalcedon for advocating the teachings of Eutyches, they opposed the Synod and fabricated countless charges against it to the best of their ability. We have taken up these charges in this book and sufficiently refuted them, showing them to be clumsy and stupid. Their leaders were Theodosios of Alexandria, from whom derive the Theodosians, and James [Baradaios] of Syria, from whom the Jacobites derive. Privy to them, and supporters and champions, were Severos, the corrupter from Antioch, and John [Philoponos] the Tritheite, who toiled on vain things; they denied the mystery of our common salvation. They wrote many things against the God-inspired teaching of the 630 Fathers of Chalcedon, and laid many snares, so to speak, and “stumbling blocks by the path” (Ps. 139:6) for those who were perishing by their pernicious heresy. Nevertheless, even though they teach that there are particular substances, they confound the mystery of the Incarnation. We considered it necessary to discuss their impiety in brief, adding short notes in refutation of their godless and abominable heresy. I shall set forth the teachings, or rather, ravings, of their champion John, in which they take so much pride. (Concerning Heresies 83)

Dioscorus and Severus and the multitudinous mobs of both accepted that there was one and the same hypostasis, defining in a similar way that there was one nature, ‘not knowing what they say nor understanding what they assert.’ The disease or deception in their mind lay in this, that they conceived nature and hypostasis to be the same. (Greek Fathers of the Church Vol. 4 pg. 346, Thessaloniki: 1990)

…[W]e declare that the addition which the vain-minded Peter the Fuller made to the Trisagium or Thrice Holy Hymn is blasphemous; for it introduces a fourth person into the Trinity, giving a separate place to the Son of God, Who is the truly subsisting power of the Father, and a separate place to Him Who was crucified as though He were different from the Mighty One, or as though the Holy Trinity was considered passible, and the Father and the Holy Spirit suffered on the Cross along with the Son. Have done with this blasphemous and nonsensical interpolation! For we hold the words Holy God to refer to the Father, without limiting the title of divinity to Him alone, but acknowledging also as God the Son and the Holy Spirit: and the words Holy and Mighty we ascribe to the Son, without stripping the Father and the Holy Spirit of might: and the words Holy and Immortal we attribute to the Holy Spirit, without depriving the Father and the Son of immortality. For, indeed, we apply all the divine names simply and unconditionally to each of the subsistences in imitation of the divine Apostle’s words. But to us there is but one God, the Father, of Whom are all things, and we in Him: and one Lord Jesus Christ by Whom are all things, and we by Him 1 Cor. 8:5. And, nevertheless, we follow Gregory the Theologian when he says, But to us there is but one God, the Father, of Whom are all things, and one Lord Jesus Christ, through Whom are all things, and one Holy Spirit, in Whom are all things: for the words of Whom and through Whom and in Whom do not divide the natures (for neither the prepositions nor the order of the names could ever be changed), but they characterise the properties of one unconfused nature. And this becomes clear from the fact that they are once more gathered into one, if only one reads with care these words of the same Apostle, Of Him and through Him and in Him are all things: to Him be the glory for ever and ever. Amen Rom. 11:36.

For that the Trisagium refers not to the Son alone , but to the Holy Trinity, the divine and saintly Athanasius and Basil and Gregory, and all the band of the divinely-inspired Fathers bear witness: because, as a matter of fact, by the threefold holiness the Holy Seraphim suggest to us the three subsistences of the superessential Godhead. But by the one Lordship they denote the one essence and dominion of the supremely-divine Trinity. Gregory the Theologian of a truth says , Thus, then, the Holy of Holies, which is completely veiled by the Seraphim, and is glorified with three consecrations, meet together in one lordship and one divinity. This was the most beautiful and sublime philosophy of still another of our predecessors. (Exposition of the Orthodox Faith Bk. 3.10: Concerning the Trisagion)

St. Photios the Great ca. 810-893

Countless have been the evils devised by the cunning devil against the race of men, from the beginning up to the coming of the Lord. But even afterwards, he has not ceased through errors and heresies to beguile and deceive those who listen to him. Before our times, the Church, witnessed variously the godless errors of Arius, Macedonius, Nestorius, Eutyches, Discorus, and a foul host of others, against which the holy Ecumenical Synods were convened, and against which our holy and God-bearing Fathers battled with the sword of the Holy Spirit. Yet, even after these heresies had been overcome and peace reigned, and from the Imperial Capital the streams of Orthodoxy flowed throughout the world; after some people who had been afflicted by the Monophysite heresy returned to the True Faith because of your holy prayers(Encyclical to the Eastern Patriarchs)

Holy Saints Euphemia, Cyril, Leo, Sophronius and Maximus, pray for us!

On the Recipient of the Eucharistic Sacrifice

Council of Constantinople 1156

The Life-giving sacrifice has never been offered only to the Father of the Only Begotten Who is the Source of all things, neither when it was first offered by Christ the Saviour, nor at any subsequent time even to the present day. It has always been offered also to the Word, Who became incarnate; and the Holy Spirit is not left out of so divine an honour. The oblation of the Mysteries which is consecrated on each occasion by the power of the Trinity, has been made (and is still made) to the Godhead over all, in the Trinity of Hypostases, which is known to us as united and as one in the same nature, and as co-eternal. (PG 115.140-8.)

Fr. Seraphim Rose on the Canons

Hieromonk Seraphim Rose 1934-1982

Concerning canons: This is a great stublimg block specifically for converts, for one thing because of the temptation to Phariseeism which we all have, and for another because the canons, representing the “law” of the Church, can only be understood and applied within the tradition of the Church and in the Spirit Who guides the Church. A large part of the Church’s tradition is “uncodified”, being contained in Lives of the Saints and patristic writings (to which there is no general index, thanks be to God — or else no convert would survive!), and part of the Church’s tradition is still unwritten. The canons are the most obvious part of the Church’s tradition, and therefore some converts experience shipwreck by jumping on them and trying to apply them without being aware of the whole tradition of which they are but one part.

The canons were made for man, and not man for the canons. Some canons simply cannot or should not, at certain times and circumstances, be applied with strictness; hence the Church’s “economy”. Also, as a rule, the application of the canons (and their “economy”) is the business of bishops, and they do as much as possible with mutual consultation. How much more, then, should the rest of us refrain from trusting our own judgment with regard to them? Some of them, to be sure, that concern us directly, we must know about and, if possible, being taught by or consulting with others wiser in the faith, must be prepared to defend — for example, the canons regarding common prayer with heretics, the trangressing of which involves a betrayal of the very idea of the Church of Christ. Other canons, such as the permissible age for ordination to diaconate or priesthood, do not involve any such betrayal and are none of our business, and if we were to start making bishops accountable (to ourselves!) for them it would be exactly the same as if the bishops were to start interfering in the home and job life of ordinary parishioners. In general, however, the canons are doubtless too much stressed in polemics, and if we are to remain in the Church in these difficult times it will be primarily because we are faithful to the Spirit of the Church, and not to the canons.

Concerning such subtler issues as obedience and authority in the Church: they are likewise “laws” that one must know how to apply within the Church’s tradition and Spirit. This really can’t be “argued”, as you attempt to do…(“Do we abandon the rules just because things get tough?” etc.); it can only be experienced and suffered through (if need be), with trust in God and consultation with elders in the Faith…

…Do not trust your mind too much; thinking must be refined by suffering, or it will not stand the test of these cruel times. I do not believe that the “logical” ones will be with Christ and His Church in the days coming upon us; there will be too many “reasons” against it, and those who trust in their own minds will talk themselves out of it. (Oct. 18/31, 1972 Letters From Father Seraphim)

The Seventh Ecumenical Council on Tradition

Seventh Ecumenical Council Nicea II 787

Anathema to those who receive not all the Traditions of the Church, whether written or unwritten. (Eighth Session)

Canons of the Lateran Council of 649

The Lateran Council of 649 was a local council of the Church of Rome organized by Maximus the Confessor and called by Pope Theodore I of Rome that was the first attempt by a pope of Rome to convene an ecumenical council independent of the Roman emperor. Pope Theodore died before the council met and was replaced by Pope Martin I. Although Martin and Maximus the Confessor were abducted after the council by Constans II and tried in Constantinople for their role in the council (Martin being replaced as pope before his death in exile), their position was ultimately endorsed by the Sixth Ecumenical Council in 680.

The synod had its roots in correspondence between Pope Theodore I and Maximus dating to 646, before the latter’s arrival in Rome. The momentum for the Council was almost extinguished when Patriarch Pyrrhus I of Constantinople in late 646/early 647 denounced Monothelitism before the clergy and laity in Roma. However, Pyrrhus changed his mind after leaving Rome and arriving in Ravenna. His successor, Paul II of Constantinople, was of the same mind.

Emperor Constans II issued the Typos in 648 which prohibited any discussion of the issue of “one will and one energy, or two energies and two wills” in Christ. The Typos was viewed as an unacceptable threat to the legacy of Chalcedon, and thus hardened the determination of Theodore and Maximus to convene a council. Maximus and other monks from his order did all of planning, preparation, and scripting of the Council, while there is little evidence that Pope Theodore did much to prepare for it.

On May 14, 649, Theodore died while preparations were on-going for the Council. His death left Maximus without his patron and collaborator of the last three years with the Papacy vacant at one of the most crucial times in the church’s history. The Roman clergy were faced with the difficult dilemma of finding a successor with the intellectual reputation to convene the Council, and who would not be denied the iussio of the emperor required for his consecration.

On July 5, 649, with the influence of Maximus, a deacon from Todi, in central Italy, was consecrated Pope Martin I, the first (and only) pope consecrated without imperial approval during the period of the Byzantine Papacy. Although he was the former apocrisiarius to Constantinople and well respected in the East, Martin’s election was an indisputable “battle cry against Constantinople”. Martin’s stature and proficiency in Greek was attested to by Theodore’s offer to appoint Martin as his personal representative to an earlier proposed synod in Constantinople.

News of the impending council reached Constantinople as Martin prepared for it during the summer and fall of 649, but the empire was too occupied with crises in the East to divert its attention. Far from being spontaneous or extemporaneous, the Council had been meticulously prepared and rehearsed over the previous three years. Despite Martin’s nominal role in presiding over the Council, none of its participants were ignorant of the decisive influence of Maximus in bringing it about. According to Ekonomou, the Council was “in form as well as substance, a manifestly Byzantine affair”.

The Council was attended by 105 bishops, all but one from the western portion of the Eastern Roman Empire. Stephen of Dor, a Palestinian, was the only bishop whose See was not in Italy, Sicily, Sardinia, Corsica, or Africa. Transalpine Europe, Spain, Greece, and Crete—despite lying within the ecclesiastical jurisdiction of Rome—were not represented. One-fourth of the bishops were (as indicated by their names) likely of Eastern ethnicity or origin and thus probably Greek-speaking.

The Council’s formal pronouncements amounted to 20 canons. Canons X and XI are the ones that specifically took up the subject of Christ’s two wills and two energies, and were based mainly on Maximus’s earlier disputation against Pyrrhus while in Carthage. Source: http://orthodoxwiki.org/Lateran_Council

Canon 1. If anyone does not confess properly and truly in accord with the holy Fathers that the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit [are a] Trinity in unity, and a unity in Trinity, that is, one God in three subsistences, consubstantial and of equal glory, one and the same Godhead, nature, substance, virtue, power, kingdom, authority, will, operation of the three, uncreated, without beginning, incomprehensible, immutable, creator and protector of all things, let him be condemned.

Canon 2. If anyone does not properly and truly confess in accordance with the Holy Fathers that God the Word himself, one of the holy and consubstantial and venerable Trinity, descended from heaven, and was incarnate of the Holy Spirit and Mary ever Virgin, and was made man, was crucified in the flesh, voluntarily suffered for us and was buried, and arose again on the third day, and ascended into heaven, and sits at the right hand of the Father, and will come again with paternal glory, with his flesh assumed by Him and intellectually animated, to judge the living and the dead, let him be condemned.

Canon 3. If anyone does not properly and truly confess in accord with the holy Fathers, that the holy Mother of God and ever Virgin and immaculate Mary in the earliest of the ages conceived of the Holy Spirit without seed, namely, God the Word Himself specifically and truly, who was born of God the Father before all ages, and that she incorruptibly bore [Him?], her virginity remaining indestructible even after His birth, let him be condemned.

Canon 4. If anyone does not properly and truly confess according to the holy Fathers, two nativities of our one Lord and God Jesus Christ, as before the ages from God and the Father incorporally and eternally, and as from the holy ever Virgin, Mother of God Mary, corporally in the earliest of the ages, and also one and the same Lord of us and God, Jesus Christ with God and His Father according to His divine nature and , consubstantial with man and His Mother according to the human nature, and the same one passible in the flesh, and impassible in the Godhead, circumscribed in the body, uncircumscribed in Godhead, the same one uncreated and created, terrestial and celestial, visible and intelligible, comprehensible and incomprehensible, that all mankind which fell under sin, might be restored through the same complete man and God, let him be condemned.

Canon 5. If anyone does not properly and truly confess according to the holy Fathers one incarnate nature of God the Word, in this way, that our substance is called incarnate perfectly in Christ God and without diminution, provided substance is signified without sin, let him be condemned.

Canon 6. If anyone does not properly and truly confess according to the holy Fathers, that from two and in two natures substantially united unconfusedly and undividedly there is one and the same Lord and God, Jesus Christ, let him be condemned.

Canon 7. If anyone does not properly and truly confess according to the holy Fathers, the substantial difference of the natures preserved in Him, unconfusedly and undividedly, let him be condemned.

Canon 8. If anyone does not properly and truly confess according to the holy Fathers the substantial union of the natures recognized in Him undividedly and unconfusedly, let him be condemned.

Canon 9. If anyone does not properly and truly confess according to the holy Fathers, the natural properties of His Godhead and of His humanity preserved without diminution and without injury in Him, let him be condemned.

Canon 10. If anyone does not properly and truly confess according to the holy Fathers two wills of one and the same Christ our God, united uninterruptedly, divine and human, and on this account that through each of His natures the same one of His own free will is the operator [Editors add: operator] of our salvation, let him be condemned.

Canon 11. If anyone does not properly and truly confess according to the holy Fathers two operations of one and the same Christ our God uninterruptedly united, divine and human, from this that through each of His natures He naturally is the same operator of our salvation, let him be condemned.

Canon 12. If anyone according to the wicked heretics confesses one will and one operation of Christ our God, to the destruction of the confession of the holy Fathers and to the denial of the same dispensation of our Savior, let him be condemned.

Canon 13. If anyone according to the wicked heretics, contrary to the doctrine of the Fathers, confesses both one will and one operation, although two wills and two operations, divine and human, have been substantially preserved in union in Christ God, and have been piously preached by our holy Fathers, let him be condemned.

Canon 14. If anyone according to the wicked heretics, together with one will and one operation, which is impiously confessed by the heretics, denies and rejects both two wills and in like manner two operations, that is, divine and human, which are preserved in unity in the very Christ God, and are proclaimed in regard to Him in an orthodox manner by the holy Fathers, let him be condemned.

Canon 15. If anyone according to the wicked heretics unwisely accepts the divine-human operation, which the Greeks call (Greek text deleted),as one operation, but does not confess that it is twofold according to the holy Fathers, that is, divine and human, or that the new application itself of the word “divine-human” which has been used is descriptive of one, but not demonstrative of the marvelous and glorious union of both, let him be condemned.

Canon 16. If anyone according to the wicked heretics in the destruction of the two wills and the two operations, that is, divine and human, preserved essentially in unity in Christ God, and piously preached by the holy Fathers, foolishly connects discords and differences with the mystery of His dispensation, and so attributes the evangelical and apostolic words about the same Savior not to one and the same person and essentially to the same Lord Himself and God, our Jesus Christ, according to blessed Cyril, so that he is shown to be by nature God and likewise man, let him be condemned.

Canon 17. If anyone in word and mind does not properly and truly confess according to the holy Fathers all even to the last portion that has been handed down and preached in the holy, Catholic, and apostolic Church of God, and likewise by the holy Fathers and the five venerable universal Councils, let him be condemned.

Canon 18. If anyone according to the holy Fathers, harmoniously with us and likewise with the Faith, does not with mind and lips reject and anathematize all the most abominable heretics together with their impious writings even to one least portion, whom the holy Catholic and apostolic Church of God, that is, the holy and universal five Synods and likewise all the approved Fathers of the Church in harmony, rejects and anathematizes, we mean Sabellius, Arius, Eunomius, Macedonius, Apollinaris, Polemon, Eutyches, Dioscurus, Timothy Aelurus, Severus, Theodosius, Colluthus, Themistius, Paul of Samosata , Diodorus, Theodore, Nestorius, Theodulus the Persian, Origen, Didymus, Evagrius, and briefly all the remaining heretics, who have been condemned and cast out by the Catholic Church; whose teachings are the fruit of diabolical operation, and those, who unto the end have obstinately suggested (ideas) similar to these, or do suggest (them), or are believed to suggest (them), with whom (they are) justly (associated), inasmuch as (they are) like them and (are) possessed of a similar error, according to which they are known to teach and by their own error determine their lives, we mean, Theodore formerly Bishop of Pharan, Cyrus of Alexandria, Sergius of Constantinople, or his successors, Pyrrhus and Paul, persisting in their treachery, and all their impious writings; and those, who have unto the end obstinately suggested, or are suggesting, or are believed to suggest (ideas) similar to those, that is, one will and one operation of the divinity and humanity of Christ, and besides these the very impious Ecthesis, which was composed at the persuasion of the same Sergius by Heraclius, formerly emperor in opposition to the orthodox faith, defining that one will of Christ God, and one operation from the composite are to be venerated; but also everything, which has been impiously written or done by them in defense of it, and those who accept it, or any thing that has been written or done in defense of it; and together with those again the wicked Typus, who on the persuasion of the aforementioned Paul was prepared recently by the most serene Emperor Constantine [read: Constantius], the emperor against the Catholic Church, inasmuch as he promulgates equally the denial and by silence the binding together of two natural wills and operations, divine and human, which are piously preached by the holy Fathers in the very Christ, true God and our Savior, together with one will and operation, which is impiously venerated in Him by the heretics, and inasmuch as he unjustly defines that together with the holy Fathers the wicked heretics also are freed from all reprehension and condemnation, unto the trimming down of the definitions or of the rule of the Catholic Church.

If anyone therefore, as has been said, does not in agreement with us reject and anathematize all these most impious teachings of their heresy, and those matters which have been impiously written by anyone in defense of them or in definition of them, and the specifically designated heretics, we mean Theodore, Cyrus and Sergius, Pyrrhus and Paul, seeing that they are the rebels against the Catholic Church; or if anyone holds as condemned and entirely deposed some one of these who were in writing, or without writing, in any manner or place or time whatsoever rashly deposed or condemned by them (heretics) or by persons like them, inasmuch as the one condemned does not believe at all like them but with us confesses the doctrine of the holy Fathers-but, on the contrary (anyone) does not consider everybody who has been of this class-that is, whether bishop or priest or deacon or a member of any other ecclesiastical rank, or monk or layman-pious and orthodox and a defender of the Catholic Church, and also more firmly settled in the order to which he has been called by the Lord, but believes such (to be) impious and their judgments in defense of this detestable, or their opinions vain and invalid and weak, nay more wicked and execrable or worthy of condemnation, let such a person be condemned.

Canon 19. If anyone who indubitably has professed and also understands those (teachings) which the wicked heretics suggest, through vain impudence says that these are teachings of piety, which the investigators and ministers of the Word have handed down from the beginning, that is to say, the five holy and universal Synods, certainly calumniating the holy Fathers themselves and the five holy Synods mentioned, in the deception of the simple, or in the acceptance of their own impious treachery, let such a person be condemned.

Canon 20. If anyone according to the wicked heretics in any manner whatsoever, by any word whatsoever, or at any time or place whatsoever illicitly removing the bounds which the holy Fathers of the Catholic Church have rather firmly established[ Prov. 22:28], that is, the five holy and universal Synods, in order rashly to seek for novelties and expositions of another faith; or books, or letters, or writings, or subscriptions, or false testimonies, or synods, or records of deeds, or vain ordinations unknown to ecclesiastical rule; or unsuitable and irrational tenures of place; and briefly, if it is customary for the most impious heretics to do anything else, (if anyone) through diabolical operation crookedly and cunningly acts contrary to the pious preachings of the orthodox (teachers) of the Catholic Church, that is to say, its paternal and synodal proclamations, to the destruction of the most sincere confession unto the Lord our God, and persists without repentance unto the end impiously doing these things, let such a person be condemned forever,and let all the people say: so be it, so be it[ Ps. 105:48].

Source: http://www.catecheticsonline.com/SourcesofDogma3.php

Christological Canons on the Virgin Theotokos

Fifth Ecumenical Council: Constantinople II 553

If anyone says that the holy glorious ever-virgin Mary is falsely but not truly the Mother of God; or (is the Mother of God) according to relation, as if a mere man were born, but not as if the Word of God became incarnate [and of her] from her, but the birth of the man according to them being referred to the Word of God as being with the man when he was born, and falsely accuses the holy synod of Chalcedon of proclaiming the Virgin Mother of God according to this impious conception which was invented by Theodore; or, if anyone calls her the mother of the man or the mother of the Christ, as if the Christ were not God, but does not confess that she is exactly and truly the Mother of God, because God the Word, born of the Father before the ages, was made flesh from her in the last days, and that thus the holy Synod of Chalcedon confessed her (to be), let such a one be anathema. (Canon 6)

Lateran Council of 649

If anyone, in conformity with the Holy Fathers, does not confess that Mary Immaculate, actually and truthfully is the holy Mother of God and ever virgin, inasmuch as she conceived Him, who is uniquely and truly God,—the Word born of God the Father from all eternity, in these latter times of the Holy Spirit without seed, and bore Him without any corruption, her virginity remaining also intact after His birth, let him be condemned. (Canon 3)

St. Leo on the Canons

Pope St. Leo the Great ca. 400-461

We have just and reasonable reason for rejoicing, when we learn that the Lord’s priests have done what is agreeable both to the rules of the Father’s canons and to the Apostles‘ institutions. For the whole body of the Church must needs increase with a healthy growth, if the governing members excel in the strength of their authority, and in peaceful management. (Letter 40)

St. Cyril on the Canons

St. Cyril of Alexandria ca. 376-444

Every one of our ecclesiastical affairs when straightened out in conformity with Canonical discipline, instead of causing us any embarrassment, actually relieves us from the disparaging remarks of some persons and rather gains us the commendation of right-thinking persons. For who would not accept an impartial decision to which in fact many persons have come? or who will deny that to judge rightly and in keeping with the law is not reprehensible, but rather merits praise? (The Rudder: The Five Canons of Our Father Among the Saints Archbishop of Alexandria)

On the Sacred Canons

Metropolitan Augustinos (Kantiotis) of Florina 1907-2010

And we ask: These sacred canons, which were put together in holy Spirit by God-bearing Fathers, whose shoe laces we modern fathers are unworthy of untying, are in force or not in force in the Orthodox Church? Yes or no? If not, then honorably and with straight talk it must be said and it must be indicated, which organ superior to ecumenical and regional synods took such a more modern decision. For it will constitute an example of the ultimate hypocrisy, for the bishops, on the one hand, during the dreadful hour of their ordination to promise that they shall [vigilantly keep or actively] observe them without deviating, but in practice though, to trample them underfoot flagrantly and to provoke in this way the astonishment of the remaining faithful, who in this century of faithlessness preserve the kindlings of Orthodoxy, as the canon (rule) of faith and life. If however, the sacred canons continue to be in force, then these canons should be enforced in practice and every person that dares to stray away from their line should undergo the demanded annulments. To this question there must, at all events, be given an answer. For, it is not concerning an issue which, according to the teaching of the canons, there is room for economy and condescension. This is about the issue related to the faith, concerning the protection of that which is of the Orthodox Faith from apostates and heretics, who, so long as they do not repent, but persist in their errors, must be found at the canonical, [proper] distance. Now the keeping of such a distance must not be characterized as “misallodoxia” (hatred for people of other views) and harshness, but as an expression of a robust Orthodox “phronema” (mentality; mind-set; mental orientation) and genuine Christian love, which through strictness looks to the enlightenment and coming to an awareness of the those in error and their return to the sacred fold. For this kind of strictness, which encloses depth of love, sacred Augustine clamours: “O merciful strictness!”. (Open Letter to the Ecumenical Patriarch Demetrios)

Source: http://www.augoustinos-kantiotis.gr/?p=14035

In Step with the Times

Archbishop Averky (Taushev) 1906-1976
 
IN STEP WITH THE TIMES!-Behold the watchword of all those who in our time so intensely strive to lead the Church of Christ away from Christ, to lead Orthodoxy away from true confession of the Orthodox Christian Faith. Perhaps this watchword does not always nor with everyone resound so loudly, clearly, and openly-this, after all, might push some away!-The important thing is the practical following of this watchword in life, the striving in one way or another, in greater or lesser degree and measure, to put it into practice.
 
…In this journal we find a lead article literally entitled: “The Necessity for the Codification and Publication of a New Collection of Canons of the Orthodox Church.” The author of this article, while cunningly affirming that “the ideal principles of the Church will remain everywhere and always unchanging,” nonetheless attempts to prove that the collection of canons of the Orthodox Church is only the product of a time long since passed into eternity, and therefore that it does not answer to the demands of contemporary life and must be abolished and replaced by another. This new collection of canons, observe, “must be brought into agreement with the fundamental principles of life,” with which the Church supposedly “has always reckoned.” “Our time,” says this cunning author, “is different in many respects from the time of the Ecumenical Councils, at which these canons were composed, and therefore these canons cannot now be applied.”
 
Let us look now and see precisely which canons it is that this modernist author considers obsolete and subject to abrogation:
 
-The 9th canon of the Holy Apostles, which demands that the faithful, after entering church, should remain at the Divine service to the end, and should not cause disorder by walking about the church.
-The 80th canon of the Council of Trullo, which punishes clergy by deposition, and laymen with excommunication, for failure to attend church for three successive Sundays without some important reason.
-The 24th canon of the Council of Trullo, which prohibits clergy and monks from visiting race tracks and other entertainments; to this canon the author adds the entirely naive, strange remark that it was only in earlier times that such amusements were places of depravity and vice, while now they are supposedly “centers of culture and education.”(?!)
-The 54th canon of the Holy Apostles, which prohibits clergy, without unavoidable necessity, from entering a tavern; here again it somehow seems that previously the tavern was some different kind of establishment from what it is now.
-The 77th canon of the Council of Trullo and the 30th canon of the Council of Laodicea, which prohibit Christian men from bathing together with women; why it is necessary to acknowledge these canons too as “obsolete” is completely incomprehensible!
 -The 96th canon of the Council of Trullo, which condemns artificial curling of the hair and in general all adornment of oneself with various kinds of finery “for the enticement of unstable souls”-instead of “adorning oneself with virtues and with good and pure morals”; this canon in our times, it would seem, has not only not become “obsolete,” it has become especially imperative, if we call to mind the indecent, shameless womens fashions of today, which are completely unsuitable for Christian women.
 
This is sufficient for us to see what purpose it is that the aforementioned “reform” in our Orthodox Church has in view, with what aim there is proposed the convocation of an Eighth Ecumenical Council, about which all “modernists” so dream, already having a foretaste of the “carefree life” that will then be openly permitted and legitimized for all!
 
But let us reflect more deeply upon what is the terrible essence of all these demands for the abrogation of supposedly “obsolete” canonical rules. It is this: these contemporary church “reformers” who now so impudently raise their heads even in the bosom of our Orthodox Church itself (and terrible to say, their number includes not merely clergy, but even eminent hierarchs!) accept contemporary life with all its monstrous, immoral manifestations as an unshakable fact (which is, as we have seen above, not at all an Orthodox, but a heterodox, Western conception!), and they wish to abrogate all those canonical rules which precisely characterize Orthodoxy as an ascetic faith that calls to ascetic labor, in the name of the uprooting of sinful passions and the implanting of Christian virtues. This is a terrible movement, perilous for our Faith and Church; it wishes to cause, in the expression of Christ the Saviour, the salt to lose its savor; it is a movement directed toward the overthrow and annihilation of the true Church of Christ by means of the cunning substitution for it of a false church.
 
…It is one thing to sin and repent, knowing and acknowledging that one is sinning and is in need of repentance and correction of life. It is something else again to legitimize lawlessness, to sanction sin, lulling thus one’s conscience and thus abolishing the very foundations of the Church. To this we have no right, and it is a most grievous crime before God, the Holy Church, and the souls of the faithful who seek eternal salvation.
And for how long, to what limits may we permit ourselves to go on such a slippery path, abrogating the Church canons which uphold Christian morality? Right now in America and, as we hear, in places also in other countries which have accepted contemporary “culture,” there is increasing propaganda for the official abrogation of marriage and the legalization in place of marriage of “free love”; the use of contraceptive pills is being sanctioned for married couples, and even for the unmarried, since marriage supposedly has as its purpose not the procreation of children, but “love”; legal recognition is being prepared for the heinous, unnatural passion of homosexuality, all the way to the establishment for homosexuals of a special church wedding rite (proposal of an Anglican bishop); etc., etc.
 
And so? Should our Church too follow this fashionable path- “in step with the times,” so as not to be left behind the march of life? But what kind of “church” will this be that will allow itself all this, or even merely look at it with all-forgiving condescension? It will be no longer a church at all, but a veritable Sodom and Gomorrah, which will not escape, sooner or later, the terrible chastisement of God.
 
We must not allow ourselves to be deluded and deceived, for we do not need such a “church,” or rather “false church.” We may ourselves be weak, and feeble, and we may often sin, but we will not allow the Church canons to be abrogated, for then it will become necessary to acknowledge the very Gospel of Christ, by which contemporary men do not wish to live, as “obsolete,” as “not answering to the spirit of the times,” and abrogate it!
 
But the Gospel of Christ, together with all the canons of the Church, as well as the Church ordinances, outline for us that Christian ideal toward which we must strive if we desire for ourselves eternal salvation. We cannot allow a lowering of this ideal for the gratification of sinful passions and desires, a blasphemous abuse of these holy things. Whatever “reforms” all these contemporary criminal “reformers” may desire, the truly-believing Orthodox Church consciousness cannot acknowledge or accept them. And whatever the apostates from true Orthodoxy, from the ascetic Faith, may do, we will not allow the modernization of our Church, and we will NOT go “in step with the times”! (Should the Church be in Step with the Times?)
 

The Outrageous Spiritual Condition of Contemporary Man

Blessed Elder Paisios the Athonite 1924-1994

The things that take place…, so many grave sins. Not even the Holy Fathers had forseen such sins in the Sacred Canons. It’s like Sodom and Gomorrah when God had said, “I don’t believe that such sins exist; I should go and see for myself.”

Source: http://frjosiah.wordpress.com/2012/02/01/the-outrageous-spiritual-condition-of-contemporary-man/

On Canon Law and Contemporary Orthodoxy

Metropolitan Anthony (Khrapovitsky) of Kiev, First Primate of ROCOR 1863-1936

According to the Nomocanon, three-quarters of our contemporaries coming to confession are liable not just to strict penances, but to complete deprivation of communion for ten or twenty years, or even till the hour of death. But in this same Canon Law it is explained under what conditions this excommunication can be shortened as much as two or three times. However, it does not mention the most important condition, which did not exist when the Nomocanon was compiled. By this we mean the general sinfulness of the last two centuries and the consequence of this– that it is incomparably more difficult to struggle with sin than it was in the times of the ancient piety. This piety was universal and all the moral principles and customs of family and social life were subject to it; an example of this was the custom of adolescents marrying at the very onset of sexual maturity, or even earlier than this, at the age of fifteen: exceptions were made only for those youths and maidens who had given a vow of virginity. And so, under contemporary conditions of life, which are so far removed from God’s commandments, the strictness of penances has to be reduced many times. But it is regrettable that spiritual fathers no longer give penances at all, either because of their own neglect of confession or else out of false delicacy or timidity. This non-application of penances causes scandal and no little distress to former Uniates, descendants of Polish Uniates, and also of the firmly Orthodox parishioners of those Great Russian dioceses which have retained to some extent the Old Believer way of life or, to be more precise, a strictly Church-centered way of life. But it is not just a question of causing distress; we must fulfill the laws of our religion, even if we soften them in accordance with the lowered spiritual strength of our contemporaries. (Confession: A Series of Lectures on the Mystery of Repentance)

The Fifth Ecumenical Council on St. Augustine

Fifth Ecumenical Council Constantinople II 553

We further declare that we hold fast to the decrees of the four Councils, and in every way follow the holy Fathers, Athanasius, Hilary, Basil, Gregory the Theologian, Gregory of Nyssa, Ambrose, Theophilus, John (Chrysostom) of Constantinople, Cyril, Augustine, Proclus, Leo and their writings on the true faith. (Session 1 – Extracts from the Acts: Emperor Justinian’s Letter Read Before the Fathers)

For with us the holy multitude of the supernal spirits adore one Lord Jesus Christ. Moreover several letters of Augustine, of most religious memory, who shone forth resplendent among the African bishops, were read, showing that it was quite right that heretics should be anathematized after death. And this ecclesiastical tradition, the other most reverend bishops of Africa have preserved: and the holy Roman Church as well had anathematized certain bishops after their death, although they had not been accused of any falling from the faith during their lives: and of each we have the evidence in our hands. (The Sentence of the Synod)

Wherefore on account of our desire that you, my brothers, should know what we have done in this matter, we make it known to you by this letter. For no one can doubt how many were the discussions raised on account of the Three Chapters, that is, concerning Theodore, sometime bishop of Mopsuestia, and his writings, as well as concerning the writings of Theodoret, and concerning that letter which is said to have been written by Ibas to Maris the Persian: and how diverse were the things spoken and written concerning these Three Chapters. Now if in every business sound wisdom demands that there should be a retractation of what was propounded after examination, there ought to be no shame when what was at first omitted is made public after it is discovered by a further study of the truth. [And if this is the case in ordinary affairs] how much more in ecclesiastical strifes should the same dictate of sound reason be observed? Especially since it is manifest that our Fathers, and especially the blessed Augustine, who was in very truth illustrious in the Divine Scriptures, and a master in Roman eloquence, retracted some of his own writings, and corrected some of his own sayings, and added what he had omitted and afterward found out. We, led by their example never gave over the study of the questions raised by the controversy with regard to the before-mentioned Three Chapters, nor our search for passages in the writings of our Fathers which were applicable to the matter. (The Decretal Letter of Pope Vigilius in Confirmation of the Fifth Synod)

The Sixth Ecumenical Council on Free Will

Constantinople III, Sixth Ecumenical Council 680-681

For should we say that the human nature of our Lord is without will and operation, how could we affirm in safety the perfect humanity? For nothing else constitutes the integrity of human nature except the essential will, through which the strength of free-will is marked in us; and this is also the case with the substantial operation. For how shall we call Him perfect in humanity if He in no wise suffered and acted as a man? For like as the union of two natures preserves for us one subsistence without confusion and without division; so this one subsistence, showing itself in two natures, demonstrates as its own what things belong to each. (Prosphneticus to the Emperor)

On the Difference Between Veneration and Worship

Nicea II 787, 7th Ecumenical Council

St. Tarasios of Constantinople ca. 730-806

And as the hands and feet are moved in accordance with the directions of the mind, so likewise, we, having received the grace and strength of the Spirit, and having also the assistance and co-operation of your royal authority, have with one voice declared as piety and proclaimed as truth: that the sacred icons of our Lord Jesus Christ are to be had and retained, inasmuch as he was very man; also those which set forth what is historically narrated in the Gospels; and those which represent our undefiled Lady, the holy Mother of God; and likewise those of the Holy Angels (for they have manifested themselves in human form to those who were counted worthy of the vision of them), or of any of the Saints. [We have also decreed] that the brave deeds of the Saints be portrayed on tablets and on the walls, and upon the sacred vessels and vestments, as hath been the custom of the holy Catholic Church of God from ancient times; which custom was regarded as having the force of law in the teaching both of those holy leaders who lived in the first ages of the Church, and also of their successors our reverend Fathers. [We have likewise decreed] that these images are to be reverenced ( proskunein ), that is, salutations are to be offered to them. The reason for using the word is, that it has a two-fold signification. For kunein in the old Greek tongue signifies both “to salute” and “to kiss.” And the preposition pros gives to it the additional idea of strong desire towards the subject; as for example, we have fero and prosfero , kuro and proskuro , and so also we have kuneo and proskuneo . Which last word implies salutation and strong love; for that which one loves he also reverences ( proskunei ) and what he reverences that he greatly loves, as the everyday custom, which we observe towards those we love, bears witness, and in which both ideas are practically illustrated when two friends meet together. The word is not only made use of by us, but we also find it set down in the Divine Scriptures by the ancients. For it is written in the histories of the Kings, “And David rose up and fell upon his face and did reverence to ( prosekunhse ) Jonathan three times and kissed him” (1 Kings xx., 41). And what is it that the Lord in the Gospel says concerning the Pharisees? “They love the uppermost rooms at feasts and greetings ( aspasmous ) in the markets.” It is evident that by “greetings” here, he means reverence ( prosekunhsin ) for the Pharisees being very high-minded and thinking themselves to be righteous were eager to be reverenced by all, but not [merely] to be kissed. For to receive salutations of this latter sort savoured too much of lowly humility, and this was not to the Pharisees’ liking. We have also the example of Paul the divine Apostle, as Luke in the Acts of the Apostles relates: “When we were come to Jerusalem, the brethren received us gladly, and the day following Paul went in with us unto James, and all the presbyters were present. And when he had saluted ( aspasamenos ) them, he declared particularly what things God had wrought among the Gentiles by his ministry” (Acts 21:17,18,19). By the salutation here mentioned, the Apostle evidently intended to render that reverence of honour which we shew to one another, and of which he speaks when he says concerning Jacob, that “he reverenced the top of his staff” (Heb. 11:21). With these examples agrees what Gregory surnamed Theologian says: “Honour Bethlehem, and reverence the manger.”

Now who of those rightly and sincerely understanding the Divine Scriptures, has ever supposed that these examples which we have cited speak of the worship in spirit? [Certainly no one has ever thought so] except perhaps some persons utterly bereft of sense and ignorant of all knowledge of the Scriptures and of the teaching of the Fathers. Surely Jacob did not adore the top of his staff; and surely Gregory the Theologian does not bid us to adore the manger? By no means. Again, when offering salutations to the life-giving Cross, we together sing: “We reverence, thy cross, O Lord, and we also reverence the spear which opened the life-giving side of thy goodness.” This is clearly but a salutation, and is so called, and its character is evinced by our touching the things mentioned with our lips. We grant that the word proskynesis is frequently found in the Divine Scriptures and in the writings of our learned and holy Fathers for the worship in spirit, since, being a word of many significations, it may be used to express that kind of reverence which is service. As there is also the veneration of honour, love and fear. In this sense it is, that we venerate your glorious and most noble majesty. So also there is another veneration which comes of fear alone, thus Jacob venerated Esau. Then there is the veneration of gratitude, as Abraham reverenced the sons of Heth, for the field which he received from them for a burying place for Sarah his wife. And finally, those looking to obtain some gift, venerate those who are above them, as Jacob venerated Pharaoh. Therefore because this term has these many significations, the Divine Scriptures teaching us, “Thou shalt venerate the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve,” says simply that veneration is to be given to God, but does not add the word “only;” for veneration being a word of wide meaning is an ambiguous term; but it goes on to say “thou shalt serve ( latreuseis ) him only,” for to God alone do we render latria. (The Letter of the Synod to the Emperor and Empress)

On Iconoclasm

Nicea II 787, 7th Ecumenical Council

This heresy is the worst of all heresies. Woe to the iconoclasts! It is the worst of heresies, as it subverts the Economy of our Saviour. (Session 1: Extracts from the Acts)

On Infant Baptism

Council of Carthage ca. 419

Likewise it seemed good that whosoever denies that infants newly from their mother’s wombs should be baptized, or says that baptism is for remission of sins, but that they derive from Adam no original sin, which needs to be removed by the laver of regeneration, from whence the conclusion follows, that in them the form of baptism for the remission of sins, is to be understood as false and not true, let him be anathema.

For no otherwise can be understood what the Apostle says, By one man sin has come into the world, and death through sin, and so death passed upon all men in that all have sinned, than the Catholic Church everywhere diffused has always understood it. For on account of this rule of faith (regulam fidei) even infants, who could have committed as yet no sin themselves, therefore are truly baptized for the remission of sins, in order that what in them is the result of generation may be cleansed by regeneration. (Canon 110)

On How to Interpret Chalcedon

Constantinople II, 5th Ecumenical Council 553 a.d.

If anyone understands the expression “one only Person of our Lord Jesus Christ” in this sense, that it is the union of many hypostases, and if he attempts thus to introduce into the mystery of Christ two hypostases, or two Persons, and, after having introduced two persons, speaks of one Person only out of dignity, honour or worship, as both Theodorus and Nestorius insanely have written; if anyone shall calumniate the holy Council of Chalcedon, pretending that it made use of this expression [one hypostasis] in this impious sense, and if he will not recognize rather that the Word of God is united with the flesh hypostatically, and that therefore there is but one hypostasis or one only Person, and that the holy Council of Chalcedon has professed in this sense the one Person of our Lord Jesus Christ: let him be anathema. For since one of the Holy Trinity has been made man, viz.: God the Word, the Holy Trinity has not been increased by the addition of another person or hypostasis. (The Capitula of the Council V)

The 7th Ecumenical Council on Sola Scriptura

Nicea II, 7th Ecumenical Council 787 a.d.

Anathema to those who spurn the teachings of the holy Fathers and the tradition of the Catholic Church, taking as a pretext and making their own the arguments of Arius, Nestorius, Eutyches, and Dioscorus, that unless we were evidently taught by the Old and New Testaments, we should not follow the teachings of the holy Fathers and of the holy Ecumenical Synods, and the tradition of the Catholic Church. (Session I)

The Orthodox Church on Abortion

The following represent the teaching of the Orthodox Church from the [early] second century through the fifth century…. Note that penalties, when they are given, are neither civil nor criminal, but ecclesiastical and pastoral (excommunication for the purpose of inducing repentance). Also note that the these quotes deal with both surgical and chemically induced abortion, both pre- and post-quickening.

From the Letter to Diognetus:
(speaking of what distinguishes Christians from pagans) “They marry, as do all others; they beget children but they do not destroy their offspring” (literally, “cast away fetuses”).

From the Didache:
“You shall not slay the child by abortions.”

From the Letter of Barnabus:
“You shall not destroy your conceptions before they are brought forth; nor kill them after they are born.”

From St. Clement:
“Those who use abortifacients commit homicide.”

From Tertullian:
“The mold in the womb may not be destroyed.”

From St. Basil the Great:
“The woman who purposely destroys her unborn child is guilty of murder. The hair-splitting difference between formed and unformed makes no difference to us.”

From St. Augustine:
“Sometimes their sadistic licentiousness goes so far that they procure poison to produce infertility, and when this is of no avail, they find one means or another to destroy the unborn and flush it from the mother’s womb. For they desire to see their offspring perish before it is alive or, if it has already been granted life, they seek to kill it within the mother’s body before it is born.”

From St. John Chrysostom:
“Why do you sow where the field is eager to destroy the fruit? Where there are medicines of sterility? Where there is murder before birth? You do not even let a harlot remain only a harlot, but you make her a murderess as well. Indeed, it is something worse than murder and I do not know what to call it; for she does not kill what is formed but prevents its formation. What then? Do you condemn the gifts of God, and fight with His laws? What is a curse you seek as though it were a blessing. Do you make the anteroom of slaughter? Do you teach the women who are given to you for a procreation of offspring to perpetuate killing?”

Canon XCI:
As for women who furnish drugs for the purpose of procuring abortions, and those who take fetus-killing poisons, they are made subject to penalty for murderers.

Canon II:
“A woman who aborts deliberately is liable to trial as a murderess. This is not a precise assertion of some figurative and inexpressible conception that passes current among us. For here there is involved the queston of providing for the infants to be born, but also for the woman who has plotted against her own self. For in most cases the women die in the course of such operations, But besides this there is to be noted the fact that the destruction of the embryo constitutes another murder…. It behooves us, however, not to extend their confessions to the extreme limit of death, but to admit them at the end of the moderate period of ten years, without specifying a definite time, but adjusting the cure to the manner of penitence.”

Canon XXI:
“Regarding women who become prostitutes and kill their babies, and who make it their business to concoct abortives, the former rule barred them for life from communion, and they are left without resource. But having found a more philanthropic alternative, we have fixed the penalty at ten years, in accordance with the fixed degrees. …”

“As for women who destroy embryos professionally, and those (non-prostitutes) who give or take poisons with the object of aborting babies and dropping them prematurely, we prescribe the rule that they, by economy, be treated up to five years at most.”

All quotes are from “The Church Fathers on Social Issues,” Department of Youth Ministry of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of North and South America