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 Chalcedon and Semantics

uec_gr_athos_great_lavra_church_athanasius_fourth_ecumenical_councilFr. Georges Florovsky 1893-1979

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

Jaroslav Pelikan 1923-2006

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

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

Fr. John McGuckin

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

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

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

On Peace and Truth

St CyrilSt. Cyril of Alexandria ca. 376-444

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

St. Cyril of Alexandria on Miaphysite Christology and Chalcedonian Dyophysitism

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

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

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Fr. John McGuckin

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

The Quest for the Phronema Patrum

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

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

On Sophiology and Russian Intellectualism

imageSt. John of Shanghai and San Francisco 1896-1966

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

On Islam and Salvation

iconof_stignatiusbrianchaninovSt. Ignaty Brianchaninov 1807-1867

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

Turkey Pope Demo 01

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

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

On ‘Partial’ Ecclesiological Communion

IMG_4180Protopresbyter Peter Heers

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

[3] Ware, Communion and Intercommunion, 20.

[4] Ware, Communion and Intercommunion, 23.

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

On Small and Great Dogmatic Errors

TarasiusSt. Tarasios of Constantinople ca. 730-806

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

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

IMG_0986

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

 

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

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

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

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

On St. Anthony’s Relations with the Heterodox

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

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

On the Objective of Dialogues

imageRussian Orthodox Church Bishops Council 2008 

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

On Development of Dogma

FlorovskyProtopresbyter Georges Florovsky 1893-1979

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

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

On the Sane Members of the Church

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

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

A Second Intervention in View of the Great Council

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

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

12th February 2016

Your Beautitude, holy President of the Holy Synod,

Your Eminences, holy Hierarchs,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Your Beatitude,

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

With deepest respect,

I kiss your right hand,

Demetrios Tselengides

Professor of the School of Theology of Aristotle University of Thessaloniki

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

translated by Fr. Kristian Akselberg

On an Important Question

IMG_3047St. Maximus the Confessor ca. 580-662

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

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 Divisions and the Antichrist

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

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

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

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

On Personalist Theology and the Primus

image from newromepress.com

image from newromepress.com

Protopresbyter Michael Azkoul

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

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

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

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

Fr. John Panteleimon Manoussakis

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Note: footnotes below not included in original works.

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

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

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

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

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

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

On Initiation into the Church via Baptism and the Eucharist

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

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

Protopresbyter Peter Heers D. Th.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

[519]. Zizioulas, ibid., 12.

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

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

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

[523]. Ibid., 20.

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

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

[526]. Ibid., 117– 18.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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)

Patriarch Kirill of Moscow on Contemporary Issues

Patriarch Kirill of Moscow

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

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

 

 

 

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

St. Photios the Great ca. 810-893

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

On the First ‘Pillar of Orthodoxy’

StSophronius of Jerusalem ca. 560-638

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

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

The Pillars of Orthodoxy

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

On Reasons that Chalcedon was Rejected

Aloys Grillmeier SJ 1910-1998

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

On the Mortal Sin of Heresy

St. Ignatius Brianchaninov 1807-1867

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

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

On Those Wiser Than the Fathers

St. Maximus the Confessor ca. 580-662

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

On the Example of the New Martyrs

Protopresbyter Theodoros Zisis Emeritus Professor of the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki

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

On the Augustinian View of the Sacraments

Metropolitan Hilarion of Volokolamsk

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

On Church, Orthodoxy and the Eucharist

Metropolitan Hierotheos of Nafpaktos and St. Vlasios

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

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

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

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

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

Protopresbyter George Metallinos, Professor Emeritus of Athens University

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

On Orthodoxy and Other Religions

St. Porphyrios of Kavsokalyvia 1906-1991

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

On Common Mistakes Within Orthodoxy

Righteous Seraphim of Platina icon from Uncut Mountain Supply

Hieromonk Seraphim of Platina 1934-1982

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

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

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

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

On Praying with the Eastern Heterodox Churches

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

Patriarch of Antioch Theodore Balsamon ca. 12th cent.

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

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

On False Ecumenism and Authentic Orthodox Mission

Fr. Peter Alban Heers

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

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

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

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

On Unintentional Monophysitism

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

St. Maximus the Confessor ca. 580-662

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

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

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

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

On the Customs of the Italians

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

On the Dialogue of Love

St. Justin Popovich 1894-1979

The “dialogue of love” — but preceded by: the dialogue of Truth. The “dialogue of love” may as well be held by devils: but then it will be the dialogue of lies. The “dialogue of love”, but speaking the truth in love (Eph. 4:15). This is that neotestamental love, Theanthropic love: which defeats sin, kills death, destroys devils, and consequently saves, deifies, theohumanizes and trinitizes man. (Notes on Ecumenism, p. 21)

Fr. Florovsky on Intercommunion

Andrew Blane

The issue on which Bulgakov and Florovsky diverged most widely at the Fellowship [of St. Alban and St. Sergius] meetings was introduced by Father Bulgakov in 1933. Noting with regret that the members of the Fellowship had for six years shared in each other’s liturgy and eucharistic celebrations, but had refrained from partaking of communion together because of the differing views and practices of their Churches, he made the rather daring proposal “that the Fellowship should take what he called ‘molecular action,’ and proceed with a plan of intercommunion for its own members, without waiting for the two Churches as a whole to act officially.” Bulgakov then offered such a plan. In order to safeguard the principle of Church order his plan called for “a special sacramental blessing to be bestowed upon the Anglicans by an Orthodox hierarch, and the Anglicans should submit to it and accept it as an ‘act of sacrifice’.” This dramatic proposal was discussed for some two years, with discord at times so acute that it threatened to destroy the new Fellowship. It was not simply a matter of Anglicans versus Orthodox, but rather that each side experienced deep fissures. The rift among the Russian participants has been concisely described by Roger Lloyd, the Anglican historian:

“Bulgakov knew from the beginning that he would find opposition from his own side, but he had not realized how strong this opposition would be. Florovsky, for example, spoke for many Russians when he said that the sacramental blessing could not absolve schismatics from the duty and obligation of submitting to the sacrament of penance before admission to the Church, for this essential rite for the reception of schismatics “in their existing orders”. It seemed to him that under the proposals inter-communion was to be had too cheaply by the Anglicans…’ (Georges Florovsky: Russian Intellectual, Orthodox Churchman, ed. by A. Blane, p. 65)

On “Valid” Sacraments Outside the Church

Pope Paul VI and Pat. Athenagoras

Protopresbyter John Romanides 1927-2001

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

On the Mystery of Baptism and the Unity of the Church

The Mystery of Baptism and the Unity of the Church by Protopresbyter Peter Heers

An address prepared for the academic conference Ecumenism: Origin, Expectations and Disenchantment 

 

 

https://www.academia.edu/11397436/The_Mystery_of_Baptism_and_the_Unity_of_the_Church

Fr. Peter’s academia.edu page:

https://aristoteleio.academia.edu/FrPeterHeers

and his webpage which is under development:

http://orthodoxethos.com

 

 

 

On Curing the Great Schism

Schemamonk Father Constantine (Cavarnos) 1918-2011

With regard to what is happening within the Roman Catholic Church, if (as you say) “they are opening new horizons in relations between Catholics and Orthodox,” this is something about which I cannot speak with any certainty. What I can say is that if the Roman Catholics decisively set aside of the dogmas of the primacy and infallibility of the Pope, this would be an important step towards unity.

You inquire if I see any actual possibility of curing the so-called Schism between East and West. My answer is that I do not see this in the immediate future. Such a “cure”, in order to be realized, must presuppose the rejection of the dogmas that I mentioned, and of other innovations of the Catholics — dogmatic, liturgical, mysteriological [sacramental], etc. Until now, there are no indications that Roman Catholicism is disposed to doing this.

Finally, you ask if I see any way through which the Schism can be cured, “without one side surrendering to the other.” If by the word “surrender” you mean such a rejection, then it is obvious that I see no other way by which it is possible to cure the Schism, save by one side “surrendering,” as you say, to the other. But we must explain here, what we mean by the word “side”. I, of course, do not take it to mean the Oecumenical Patriarch, who is wrongly considered the “Pope of the East” by many Westerners and some would-be Orthodox, and, indeed, by Athenagoras I himself. The head of the Church for any true Orthodox Christian is neither the Pope nor the Oecumenical Patriarch, but Christ Himself. Consequently, the “surrender” in question would entail a yielding to Christ Himself, Who is “the Way, the Truth, and the Life!”

In closing, I must note my conviction that if the Roman Catholics indeed wish to understand the Orthodox Faith, they must abandon their “dialogues” and “symposiums”, which are in vogue today, with the would-be Orthodox and seek this understanding — as you seek it — in the writings of the Great Fathers of the Eastern Orthodox Church and modern “conservative” theologians. (“A Letter to a Roman Catholic”. Orthodox Tradition Vol. XXXI, 3 2014)

On Secularism, the Church and Family Life

Fr. Peter Heers

The Reverend Fr. Peter Heers, who received his doctorate from Aristotle University, Thessaloniki and has several children of his own, speaks from both personal experience and broad study on some of the most important issues in the Church today–spiritual life and salvation of the family in an age of secularism.

h/t to Ad Orientem

 

St. John of Kronstadt on the Sunday of Orthodoxy

St. John Kronstadt 1829-1908

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

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

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

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

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

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

On Relations with Heterodox and Unbelievers

St. Anatoly of Optina 1824-1894

Do not fear sorrows, but fear the stubbornness of heretics who try to separate a man from Christ, which is why Christ commanded us to consider them as pagans and pharisees. (Living Without Hypocrisy, p. 48)

St. Nektary of Optina 1853-1928

One may have a good worldly relationship with nonbelievers, but one cannot have a relationship in prayer and one must not carry on arguments about religion so that the name of God not be offended during an argument. (ibid., p. 98)

On Imitating Divine Mercy

Pope St. Leo the Great ca. 400-461

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

On Misusing the Holy Fathers

Pope St. Martin the Confessor ca. 590-655

They who make war on the spiritual Jerusalem, namely the Catholic Church, imitate those who made war on the earthly Jerusalem, and endeavor — they too — misuse the teachings of the Fathers. Just as Rabshekah once misused their ancestral tongue against the people of Judah in order to make his murderousness hard to detect (2 Kgs. 18:26-35, Isa. 36:11-20) so likewise do they with their false beliefs; for this they do with malicious intent, not to honor the Fathers but to deceive the more simple, just as he did with the people of Judah. But, says the Lord, ‘you shall know them by their fruits, for they are like plastered sepulchers, which from the outside appear beautiful to men’ — just as heretics do who use the statements of the Fathers as a disguise — but inside are full of [dead men’s] bones and all uncleanness’ (Mt. 7:16, 23;37), I mean dead and fetid doctrines. For ‘they adduce terms not in their plain sense,’ as the Great Cyril testifies, ‘but with a certain deceit and malice.’ (Ep. 46, Second Letter to Succensus) Noting this well, we ourselves ought to be in no fear of reproach by men nor be cowed by their contempt, since this is what the Lord Himself enjoins on us, saying through the Prophet Isaiah, ‘Hearken to me, you who know judgment, my people in whose heart is my law: fear not the reproach of men and not be cowed by their disdain.’ (Isa. 51:7) For with His fullness of wisdom the Lord exposes them and ‘hunts’ them down through you, his ‘hunters’ dear to God, according to the statement in Jeremiah, ‘And after this I shall send many hunters, and they shall hunt them on every mountain and on every hill and from the clefts of the rocks, because my eyes are on all their ways.’ (Jer. 16:16-17) The ‘clefts of the rocks’ are perhaps the more arcane statements of the Holy Fathers about Christ; for heretics used them to contrive a deceitful dishes for themselves, so as to appear adept rather than abject in the sight of God — to the less instructed, but not to you who are perfected in regard to God. (Acts of the Lateran Synod of 649, Third Session: 142)

On Adapting the Gospel to Modern Man

Fr. Georges Florovsky 1893-1979

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

St. Philaret of Moscow on the Reception of Converts

St. Philaret of Moscow 1821-1867

Question 1

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

Reply

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

Question 2

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

Reply

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

 

On Confessing the Orthodox Church with Truth and Love

Met. Anthony Khrapovitsky 1863-1936

Only yesterday evening I received a card bearing the message “Metropolitan Anthony is invited to reply to the address by Sir Samuel Hoare on Christian Unity.”

It is far easier for me to fulfill this task than it would be if I had been asked to talk about the union of Churches. From childhood we have been accustomed to believe in One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church, as the the Fathers of the Second Ecumenical taught us. This Church cannot be divided, since Christ has said, “I will build My Church, and the gates of hell shall not overcome it.”

It is another matter if we talk about Christian unity — that is to say, the unity firstly of individual people, religious communities and whole peoples, believing in Christ as God, and recognizing the Holy Gospel and the Holy Bible. Everyone zealous for the word of God must also free our souls from the constant intellectual striving to prove them wrong.

On the contrary, more pleasing to God is he amongst us who attempts to bring out everything which unites us together, and who will try not to reduce the number of such truths to a minimum, but to find as many points in common as possible. This relates particularly to those Christian communities and confessions which are making friendly moves towards our Church.

Let nobody think that the principle I have first stated is a concession to the liberal spirit of the times, or to confessional indifference, because the Orthodox Church has been guided this principle in the times of the strictest application of the Ecumenical Canons, as expressed in the 95th Rule of the Sixth Ecumenical Council and the First Canonical Rule of St. Basil the Great.

I will not quote from these canons at this point (although I have brought them with me). However, I can only report my personal view, which I published some two years ago in the Russian newspaper, Novoye Vermya, and this view is in full accord with the two canons I have just mentioned. If any Anglican bishop or clergyman wished to enter the Orthodox Church, then he could be received by the third rite, that is to say, without his ordination being repeated or, in other words, he could be received in his orders.

Let no one think that these remarks are made for the purpose of propaganda — they are simply an expression of my conviction of the confessional closeness between the Anglican Church and the Orthodox Church. I have become even more convinced of this closeness over the last few months when I learnt that the religious leaders of the English nation accept the Nicene-Constantinopolitan Creed, are restoring monasticism and no longer reject the veneration of icons or the seven Sacraments. (Embassy, Emigrants and Englishmen pp. 235-236)

Met. Anastassy Gribanovsky 1873-1965

The noble sincerity of your speech, so characteristic of a true Englishman, is as remarkable as is the clarity and breadth of your theological approach to the matter of the union of the Union of the Churches. With your characteristic spiritual sensitivity you have understood how hard it would be for us to lay ourselves open to criticism on the grounds that we were prepared to sacrifice the precious treasury of faith which the Orthodox Church had preserved so watchfully since the time of the Apostles. The unsullied purity of her belief and the fullness of Ecumenical truth which she possesses — these are our chief boast before the whole world, and we do not want anyone to steal them away from us.

If the Eastern Churches had really set out on the path of compromise as she is now being accused of doing by certain theologians of the Church of Rome, then, to begin with she would lose her authority in your eyes, for what is it that draws you to her, if not the desire to find in her dogmatic teachings and ecclesiastical practice the unsullied Apostolic Tradition?

Compromise can be used only in the realm of purely worldly political relationships but in matters of faith, as the respected Mr. Riley has commented, there is no scope for bargaining.

Being aware of the particular importance and responsibility of this holy work [Church union], the Russian Church has always approached it with particular caution and [has] never attempted to underestimate the importance of the dogmatic, canonical and liturgical differences which separate us from the Anglicans.

If we consider the views of the entire Anglican Church, and not just those of the Anglo-Catholics, who so far constitute a minority, then the differences prove to be far more profound than many people think. When studying the official confession of faith of the Anglican Church our theologians, from Khomiakov to Professors Sokoloff and Kerensky, have pointed out this aspect of the situation quite distinctly, as well as the lack of inner unity within the Anglican Church itself.

Nevertheless, with each passing year the two Churches are increasingly drawn to one another. What, then, is it that brings them together? Evidently there is some inner kinship, which is revealed as we become more closely acquainted.

The Protestant storm did not completely extinguish the spark of ancient patristic tradition [in the Anglican Church]. This has continued to shed its quiet, joyful light and the darkness has not extinguished it (John 1:15).

The striving of the Anglican Church to commune once again with the Unity of the Universal Church, combined with a profound and sincere disposition in her pastors and flock — the spirit of love and humility, which inspires the best of her children — this is the basis on which the spiritual alliance between her and the Eastern Church is now being created and strengthened.

Anyone who values the truth of Orthodoxy so highly inevitably becomes akin to us in spirit.

Anyone who has such a sincere admiration for our much-suffering Russian Church, whose vesture is drenched in the blood of the martyrs, will illuminate his own spiritual state with a reflected light, which will give him the same zeal for preserving eternal spiritual truth and the same readiness to suffer for it, for like is known by the like, for we usually admire in others that which we bear as a sacred ideal in our own souls…

May the God of patience and consolation grant us to attain to perfect unity of faith and love, so that there will no longer be divisions between us, but we will be united in one Spirit and in the same thoughts and with unity of soul glorify God the Father and our Lord Jesus Christ, Who have called us to eternal glory (Rom. 15:5; 1 Cor. 1:9-10) (ibid. pp. 238-239)

 

St. Justinian on Heterodoxy

St. Justinian the Emperor ca. 483-565

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

On Innovators

St. Maximus the Confessor ca. 580-662

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

On the Definition of the Term ‘Heretic’

Emperor St. Justinian the Great ca. 483-565

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

 

On Orthodox/Non-Chalcedonian Ecumenical Discussions

Council of Chalcedon

Fr. John Romanides 1927-2001

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

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

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

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

On the Tome of Leo and ‘Eastern Ecumenism’

Fr. Georges Florovsky 1893-1979

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

On Catechumens and Those Accepted by Oikonomia

St. Cyprian of Carthage ca. 200-258

On which place some, as if by human reasoning they were able to make void the truth of the Gospel declaration, object to us the case of catechumens; asking if any one of these, before he is baptized in the Church, should be apprehended and slain on confession of the name, whether he would lose the hope of salvation and the reward of confession, because he had not previously been born again of water? Let men of this kind, who are aiders and favorers of heretics, know therefore, first, that those catechumens hold the sound faith and truth of the Church, and advance from the divine camp to do battle with the devil, with a full and sincere acknowledgment of God the Father, and of Christ, and of the Holy Ghost; then, that they certainly are not deprived of the sacrament of baptism who are baptized with the most glorious and greatest baptism of blood, concerning which the Lord also said that He had another baptism to be baptized with. But the same Lord declares in the Gospel, that those who are baptized in their own blood, and sanctified by suffering, are perfected, and obtain the grace of the divine promise, when He speaks to the thief believing and confessing in His very passion, and promises that he should be with Himself in paradise. Wherefore we who are set over the faith and truth ought not to deceive and mislead those who come to the faith and truth, and repent, and beg that their sins should be remitted to them; but to instruct them when corrected by us, and reformed for the kingdom of heaven by celestial discipline.

But some one says, What, then, shall become of those who in past times, coming from heresy to the Church, were received without baptism? The Lord is able by His mercy to give indulgence, and not to separate from the gifts of His Church those who by simplicity were admitted into the Church, and in the Church have fallen asleep. Nevertheless it does not follow that, because there was error at one time, there must always be error; since it is more fitting for wise and God-fearing men, gladly and without delay to obey the truth when laid open and perceived, than pertinaciously and obstinately to struggle against brethren and fellow priests on behalf of heretics. (Letter 72.22-23)

On Church Unions

St. Raphael of Brooklyn 1860-1915

[E]xperience has forced upon me the conviction that to promote courtesy and friendship, which seems to be the only aim of the Union at present, not only amounts to killing precious time, at best, but also is somewhat hurtful to the religious and ecclesiastical welfare of the Holy Orthodox Church in these United States… I view union as only a pleasing dream. Indeed, it is impossible for the Holy Orthodox Church to receive—as She has a thousand times proclaimed, and as even the Papal See of Rome has declaimed to the Holy Orthodox Church’ s credit—anyone into Her Fold or into union with Her who does not accept Her Faith in full without any qualifications—the Faith which She claims is most surely Apostolic. (Letter of  Resignation from the Anglican and Orthodox Churches Union, published in theRussian Orthodox Messenger, February 18, 1912)

Fr. Dumitru Staniloae on Heterodox Sacraments

Fr. Dumitru Staniloae 1903-1993

In the case of one who is entering into full communion of faith with the members of the Orthodox Church and is becoming a member, economia [dispensation] is understood to give validity to a Mystery previously performed outside of the Church. (“Towards an Orthodox Ecumenism” excerpted from a Letter to Patriarch Bartholomew Concerning the Balamand Agreement)

On Blind Obedience to Hierarchs

Sts. Makarios of Corinth 1731-1805 and Nikodemos the Hagiorite 1749-1809

Objection: …[F]irst, that the Canons and the commandments are under the authority of the Hierarchs; secondly, that we should not examine what our Hierarchs, teachers, and spiritual fathers tell us, but just obey them in all things with simplicity; and thirdly, they cite the Apostolic dictum: “Obey them that rule over you, and submit yourselves. (Heb. 13:17)

To the three parts of this objection we have nothing of our own to say, lest we cause confusion and perturbation to some; however, we reckon it harmful to people’s souls to remain completely silent about them. Let us, therefore, see what the Saints say, so that no one might have any grounds for complaining.

…The Divine Chrysostom demonstrates from the Consecration of Hierarchs that Hierarchs are subject to the Divine Canons and commandments:

“Because the High Priest was the head of the people, it was necessary for him, being the head of all, to have on his head a symbol of his authority (for absolute power is intolerable; but since he has the symbol of sovereignty on his head, he shows that he is subject to the law.) The Law ordains that his head not be bare, but covered, so that the head of the people might learn that he has another, greater Head. For this reason, in the Church, at the Ordinations of Priests [St. Nikodemos: ‘Priests’ is written here instead of ‘Hierarchs’, since the author is referring to Priesthood in general; in fact, only Hierarchs carry the Divinely transmitted Scriptures on their head, according to Dionysius the Aeropagite], the Gospel of Christ is placed on the head of the Ordinand, so that he might learn that he is receiving the true tiara of the Gospel and so that he might also learn that, although he is the head of all, he is nonetheless subject to the laws of the Gospel, that he governs all, but is himself governed by the laws, and that, while he enacts all the laws, his powers are defined by the laws. For this reason, one of the ancients (Ignatios was his name), who was adorned by Priesthood and martyrdom, write, in a letter to a certain Hierarch: ‘Let nothing be done without your will; and as for yourself, do nothing without the will of God.’ (Epistle to Polycarp) Therefore, the fact that the Hierarchs has the Gospel placed on his head signifies that he is under authority.” (Homily ‘That the Legislator of the Old and New Testaments is One and the Same’)

To the second point that they mention, that that we should not examine our Hierarchs, teachers, and spiritual fathers, but obey them in all matters, St. Basil the Great replies that “the preacher of the Word must both do and say everything with great circumspection and scrutiny, with a view to pleasing God, since he ought to be scrutinized and approved even by those entrusted to him.” (Morals, Rule 70.37)

And again: “Such hearers as have been instructed in the Scriptures should examine what is said by their teachers; and they should accept what is in conformity with the Scriptures and reject what is alien to them, and should vehemently shun those who persist in such teachings.” (Morals, Rule 72)

And again: Those who do not have much knowledge of Scripture should recognize the distinguishing characteristics of the Saints by the fruits of the Spirit, receiving those who possess such characteristics and shunning those who do not.” (Morals, 70.2)

…To the third part of the objection the Divine Chrysostom responds: “Anarchy is altogether an evil, the occasion of many calamities, and the source of disorder and confusion […]. However, the disobedience of those who are ruled is no less an evil […]. But perhaps someone will say, there is also a third evil, when the ruler is bad. I myself, too, know it, and it is no small evil, but a far worse evil than anarchy. For it is better to be led by no one than to be led by one who is evil. For the former indeed are oftentimes saved, and oftentimes are in peril, but the latter will be altogether in peril, being led into the pit of perdition. How then does Paul say, ‘Obey them that have rule over you, and submit yourselves (Heb. 13:17)?’ Having said above, ‘whose faith follow, considering the end of their conversation’ (Heb. 13:7), he then said, ‘Obey them that have rule over you, and submit yourselves’. ‘What then,’ you say, ‘when he is wicked, should we not obey?’ Wicked? In what sense? If in regard to faith, flee and avoid him, not only if he is a man, but even if he is an angel come down from heaven; but if in regard to life, be not over-curious. And I do not cite this instance from my own experience, but from Divine Scripture. For hear Christ saying, ‘The Scribes and Pharisees sit in Moses’ Seat.’ (Mat. 23:2) Having previously said many fearful things about them, He then says, ‘They sit in Moses’ Seat: all therefore whatsoever they bid you observe, […] do; but do not ye after their works.’ (Mat. 23:2-3) What he means is that they have the office, but are of unclean life; but pay attention not to their life, but to their words. For no one would be harmed on account of their characters. How is this? Both because their characters are manifest to all, and also because even if one of them were ten thousand times as wicked he would never teach what is wicked. But with regard to faith, the evil is not manifest to all, and the wicked will ruler will not forbear from teaching false doctrines. For the saying, ‘Judge not, that ye be not judged’ (Mat. 7:1) pertains to life, not to faith […]. Paul, however, previously commended them [he testified, that is, that the Shepherds were in every way upright], and then he says: ‘Obey them that have the rule over you'”. (Homily XXXIV On Hebrews)

This is what the Saints say. But as for us, brethren, since the Lord has called us to be at peace, we should submit to our Hierarchs, spiritual fathers, and teachers on account of the dignity that they have before God. But if any one of them does something irrational or impedes us from doing some God-pleasing deed, let us not cease from beseeching and imploring until we persuade him that the will of God should be done, in order that peace might reign between us; that concord and harmony might prevail; that love might be shown towards Shepherds and sheep, towards Hierarchs and Christians, towards Priests and lay people, towards superiors and subordinates; and that scandals, disturbances, schisms, and divisions might remain far from us. For such things are destructive of our souls, our homes, our Churches, and of every community and nation. In brief, let peace reign, in order that might all be one body and one spirit, all with one hope even as we were called, (cf. Eph. 4:4) and that the God of peace might be with us. (Concerning Frequent Communion, Objection 12. Manna from Athos: The Issue of Frquent Communion on the Holy Mountain in the Late Eighteenth and Early Nineteenth Centuries by Hieromonk Patapios and Archbishop Chrysostomos, p. 167-171)

St. Dionysius on the Reception of Heretics

St. Dionysius the Great died ca. 265

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

On Orthodoxy’s Ecumenical Priority

 

Cross Appearance over Mt. Hymettus 1925

Elder Philotheos Zervakos 1884-1980

I had hoped that the sufferings which have come from the sins of all us Greeks—both clergy and lay, men and women, small and great—would have brought You to Your senses, and that You would have diverted Your audacious and (to the Orthodox Church) most soul-harming resolution into an effort to unite the divided portions of the Orthodox Church in Greece. One would have expected that the Primate of Greek Orthodoxy would have first preached repentance to all of the Orthodox Church and to the sinful Greek people; that he would have given the sign for a return to the All-Ruler; and that he would call for a union and friendship with the most loving—but also most just—Heavenly Father, from Whom, as disobedient and ungrateful despisers of His Divine commandments and precepts, we have broken away and are become, instead of His friends, His enemies. Likewise, one would have expected that You would have taken care to restore the unity of our Church from the division and schism caused by that thoughtless, pointless, untimely and diabolical innovation—the introduction of the Gregorian (Papal) Calendar by Your Masonic predecessor, Meletios Metaxakis, who misled the then Archbishop of Athens, Chrysostom Papadopoulos.

Unfortunately not, however. Not only did You have no provision and no concern for the above-mentioned primary needs and similar urgent sacred matters that should take precedence over every other endeavor, but instead, to the strengthening and widening of the schism within the Church of Greece, You hasten with swift step and slavish mind to the fulfillment of Your first dubious decision—that is, toward false union with the falsely-infallible Pontiff who summoned You, as someone in error, to return to the Papal fold.

It is precisely because I see that the Union above every other union—that is, the essential Union and Friendship with the Triune God—does not concern You (nor does the reestablishment of the unity of the divided and much-suffering Greek Orthodox Church) that I am obliged to write You, fearing lest I shall sin if I keep silent and do not profess the truth. See, Your All-Holiness, how by means of dissension the wolf seizes and scatters the sheep of Your own flock which the Lord has entrusted unto You and for which He shed His Blood. And You have no concern for the sheep. You are only concerned at all cost to achieve union and friendship with—and Your own and Your flock’s submission to—the Pope.

…Understand this truth that others also have pointed out to You. Before anything else, it is Your job to bring peace and unity to the Orthodox Church, which has been literally shaken by the innovation which—in a manner that was anarchical and without the agreement of all Orthodox Churches—was introduced into the Church of Greece in the year 1924; an innovation that overturned the ecclesiastical order and Tradition established from ages past, that brought about dissensions and divisions, that destroyed unity of worship and created a religious schism among Orthodox everywhere. First take away this schism, and then turn toward the West. Then, and only then, open the portals of the Orthodox Church, and with pure and unfeigned love say unto the Pope and to the heretics, “You desire union? We also desire it and long for it ardently. Behold, we receive you gladly once you have previously cast off your evil doctrines and errors and cast away all that is against the sacred Canons and patristic Traditions of the seven Holy Ecumenical Councils. (A Desperate Appeal by Philotheos Zervakos)

Elder Paisios the Athonite 1924-1994

With sadness I must write that among all the “unionists” I’ve met, never have I seen them to have either a drop or shred of spirituality. Nevertheless, they know how to speak about love and union while they themselves are not united with God, for they have not loved Him.

I would like tenderly to beseech all our unionist brothers: Since the issue of the union of the Churches is something spiritual, and we have need of spiritual love, let’s leave it to those who greatly love God and are [genuine] theologians, like the Fathers of the Church—not the legalists—who have offered up and continue to give themselves in service to the Church (instead of just buying big candles), and who were and are lit by the fire of love for God rather than by the lighter of the church sacristan… We should recognize that there exist not only natural but also spiritual laws. Therefore, the future wrath of God is not averted by a convocation of sinners (for then we shall receive double the wrath), but by repentance and adherence to the commandments of the Lord.

Also, we should know well that our Orthodox Church does not have even one shortcoming. The only apparent insufficiency is the shortage of sober Hierarchs and Shepherds with a Patristic foundation. “Few are chosen.” This should not, however be upsetting. The Church is Christ’s Church, and He governs Her. It is not a Temple built by the pious from rocks, sand and mortar, which is then destroyed by the fire of barbarians; the Church is Christ Himself. “And whosoever shall fall on this Stone shall be broken: but on whomsoever it shall fall, it will grind him to powder.” (Matt. 21:44-45)

When He must needs, the Lord will bring forth the Mark of Ephesuses and Gregory Palamases, so as to bring together all our scandalized brethren, to confess the Orthodox Faith, to strengthen the Tradition, and to give great joy to our Mother, the Church.

In times past we see that many faithful children of our Church, monastics and laymen, have unfortunately broken away from Her on account of the unionists. In my opinion, separation from the Church each time the Patriarch makes a mistake is not good at all. From within, close to the Mother Church, it is the duty and obligation of each member to struggle in their own way. To cease commemoration of the Patriarch; to break away and create their own Church; and to continue to speak insultingly to the Patriarch: this I think, is senseless.

If, for this or that occasional deviation of the Patriarchs, we separate ourselves and make our own Churches—may God protect us!—we’ll pass up even the Protestants. It is easy for one to separate but difficult to return. Unfortunately we have many “churches” in our times, created either by big groups or even just one person. Because there happened to be a church in their kalyve (I am speaking about things happening on the Holy Mountain), they figured they could create their own independent Church.

If the unionists gave the Church the first wound, the aforementioned give the second.

Let’s pray that God will illumine all of us, including our Patriarch Athenagoras, that union of these “churches” will come about first; that tranquility would be realized within the scandalized Orthodox fold; so that peace and love would exist among the Eastern Orthodox Churches. Then let’s think about union with other “Confessions”—and only if they sincerely desire to embrace Orthodox Dogma. (A Private Letter on Ecumenism)

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)

St. Gregory the Dialogist on Heterodox Sacraments

Pope St. Gregory the Dialogist ca. 540-604

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

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

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

On False Ecumenism Prior to the 20th Century

This post is dedicated to our anti-ecumenical True Orthodox brethren who have gone so far as to say that all the Orthodox Patriarchates are apostate and graceless due to our contemporary ecumenical woes. One of the gravest errors of the True Orthodox is the belief that false ecumenism is basically a 20th century phenomenon. The excerpt below will plainly demonstrate that the pan-heresy of false ecumenism has actually plagued the Orthodox Catholic Church more acutely prior to 1920 (e.g. the Patriarchal Encyclical ‘To the Churches of God Everywhere’), 1924 (e.g. the New Calendar) and 1965 (the ‘Lifting of the Anathemas’). Communicatio in sacris, joint services, heterodox confessors and preachers and crypto-romanist hierarchs were rampant, even affecting Mt. Athos; and yet no True Orthodox holds that the Eastern Patriarchates fell prior to the 20th century…  

As problematic as the heresy of false ecumenism truly is within the Church, with a knowledge of recent history, one could actually dare to say that our plight has significantly improved. It is ever the duty for all Orthodox Christians to pursue and keep the Truth as we received it from the Holy Fathers and to resist relativism, modernism and the misanthropic pseudo-love of false unions.

St. Vincent of Lerins – To preach any doctrine therefore to Catholic Christians other than what they have received never was lawful, never is lawful, never will be lawful: and to anathematize those who preach anything other than what has once been received, always was a duty, always is a duty, always will be a duty. (The Commonitory 9.25)

Metropolitan Kallistos Ware

[I]f an underlying hostility towards Rome is never entirely absent, it is surprising how little it is in evidence in the Greek world of the seventeenth century. Despite occasional outbreaks of hostility, particularly at Constantinople and Jerusalem, encounters between Orthodox and Roman Catholics were often extremely cordial. Mixed marriages were frequent; the two sides took active part in one another’s services; western missionaries, with full permission from Orthodox authorities, preached in Orthodox churches and heard the confessions of Orthodox faithful; Orthodox received communion from Roman Catholic priests, while Greek converts to Rome were often told by the western missionaries to receive communion as before at Orthodox altars; a Roman Catholic was accepted as godparent at an Orthodox baptism, and vice versa. Both sides frequently acted as if the schism between east and west did not exist. The Latin missionaries, in the absence of any bishop of their own, behaved towards the local Orthodox bishop as though they recognized him as their ordinary; the Orthodox authorities for their part, so far from repudiating the missionaries as intruders, welcomed them as friends and allies, and encouraged them to undertake pastoral work among the Greek population.

Instances of common worship and communicatio in sacris during the seventeenth century are so frequent that only a few examples can be mentioned here (the evidence is set forth in detail by P. Grigoriou, and by G. Hoffman in numerous articles). Some of the most striking cases are found in the Ionian Islands, at this time under Venetian rule. An anonymous Athonite monk of the sixteenth century has left a vivid description of the situation prevailing on Kerkyra (Corfu), where members of the two churches lived side by side on terms of the utmost friendship. While the monk himself disapproved strongly of what went on — he entitles his work ‘The Errors of the Corfiots, on Account of Which We Excommunicate Them’ — it is evident that on Kerkyra itself these acts of friendship were accepted as a matter of course. The Greeks, so the monk writes, receive communion from Roman priests and go to them for confession. The clergy of the two churches hold joint processions on Corpus Christi and on Holy Saturday, and even celebrate the Eucharist simultaneously in the same building, although at separate altars:

“The Latins hold a procession with the unleavened bread which they consecrate and call the Holy Gift. In front walk the Jews, then the Greeks, and after them the Latins — all of them together dressed up in their holy vestments; they sing together and all become one.

The Latins observe a festival in their cathedral in honor of a certain Arsenius, a local saint; and Greeks and Latins celebrate the Liturgy together in the same building, but at separate altars. The Greeks read the epistle first, and then the Latins, and the same thing happens with the Gospel. As for the people, both nations stand mixed up together in front of two altars, praying together and singing together…

On Holy Saturday the Greeks and Latins assemble in one of the Latin churches and the priests of both sides together carry upon their heads the Epitaphion or Lamb, all together carrying the same Epitaphion, and they go with it to another church.” (Athos, Iviron, ms. 1340, quoted in Grigoriou, pp. 112-13)

When the Orthodox Archpriest at Kerkyra died, the Latin clergy of the island sued to take part in his funeral procession, wearing vestments and carrying candles; the Orthodox clergy did the same at the funeral of the Roman Catholic bishop. The Orthodox clergy ceremonially attended the enthronement of  a new Roman bishop, while the Roman bishop in turn paid ceremonial visits of courtesy to the Orthodox. On Saint Spiridon’s day in the year 1724, for example, Cardinal Quirini went to the Liturgy in the Orthodox cathedral, clad in his cappa magna and preceded by a chaplain with a great cross of silver. He was received in procession on his arrival; after the reading of the Gospel the book was brought to him to be kissed; at the end of the service he was solemnly presented with the antidoron.

Much the same things happened on nearby islands. On Zakynthos (Zante), as on Kerkyra, joint services were held, and at the end of these functions the clergy of both churches sang the Ad Multos Amnos first in honor of the Pope of Rome and then for the Patriarch of Constantinople. On Kephallenia, when an Orthodox procession with a miracle-working icon passed a Latin church, the Roman Catholic priest used to come out with the incense and candles to cense the icon; Orthodox clergy did the same when the Corpus Christi procession went past their churches, and themselves took part in the actual procession. The liturgical arrangements for the Holy Saturday procession were even more remarkable on Kephallenia than on Kerkyra: on top of the Orthodox Epitaphion was placed the Latin Blessed Sacrament (whether in monstrance or a ciborium is not stated), and the Epitaphion with the Sacrament was then carried processionally by the Roman Catholic Archbishop and the Orthodox Archpriest, walking side by side, assisted by two leading laymen of the respective churches.

Turning from the Ionian to the Aegean islands, we find similar instances of communicatio in sacris. On Andros, where the population was predominantly Orthodox, the Greek bishop and his clergy in full vestments, with candles and torches, took part in the Latin Corpus Christi procession; the same thing occurred on Mykonos and Naxos, and elsewhere. In some places — Naxos, for example — the Roman Catholics were allowed to say Mass in Orthodox churches, using a temporary altar in front of the iconostasis. Elsewhere — on Thera, for instance, and Paros — there were ‘mixed churches’, with two altars in adjacent sanctuaries, one for the Roman and one for the Byzantine rite. As late as the beginning of the nineteenth century, there were two Orthodox churches on Syros, containing Latin altars still used by Roman Catholic clergy.

The Orthodox authorities gladly employed the Latin missionaries as preachers and confessors. “I have received written permission from the Greek Metropolitan”, writes a Jesuit from Naxos in 1641, “to preach and catechize in Greek churches.” The Orthodox Metropolitan in Smryna, so another Jesuit reports, “has given his subjects complete freedom to go to our clergy for confession… and to our clergy he has given full power to hear confessions in his church both from Greeks and Latins.” On Thera, the nuns of the Orthodox convent of Saint Nicholas had Jesuit Fathers as their confessors; at Athens a retired Orthodox Metropolitan went regularly for confession to a French Capuchin priest.

Not only the higher authorities but the local population received the missionaries with great enthusiasm. “During the seasons of Lent and Advent”, a Jesuit priest relates, “…the preachers, on leaving the pulpit [of the Latin churches], are sometimes forced to go up again into those of the Greek and Armenian churches, to satisfy the desire which people have to hear the word of God… The missionaries often go to pay their respects to the [Greek] bishops and clergy, with whom we maintain a perfect understanding; the conversation is always on some religious topic, for several of them ask only to be instructed.” “The Greeks and the Syrians”, writes Père Besson in the middle of the seventeenth century, “open their houses to the apostolic men; they open even the doors of their churches and their pulpits. The parish priests welcome our assistance, the bishops beg us to cultivate their vineyards.”

The attitude of the Greek bishops is intelligible enough: they needed preachers and confessors; their own clergy were for the most part simple and ill-educated; the Latin missionaries were incomparably better qualified to give instruction and spiritual direction. But what was the attitude of the missionaries toward the Orthodox who came to them for confession? Sometimes they encouraged them to make an act of submission to the Roman Catholic Church, but more often — particularly when their penitents were ignorant and uneducated — they gave them absolution without embarking on any matters of religious controversy. And even when the Greeks did make a formal act of adherence to Rome they were usually told by the missionaries to continue outwardly in their previous allegiance, receiving communion as before from Orthodox priests. If there was no Roman Catholic bishop available, the missionaries sometimes even allowed their converts to accept ordination from an Orthodox bishop. In practice they treated the Orthodox not so much as schismatics who required to be reconciled to the Church, but as if they were already Catholics, albeit Catholics who had fallen into certain corruptions and errors from which they required to be purged gently. It is to be noted, however, that throughout the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries the higher authorities at Rome itself adopted a far more rigorous position, in general forbidding all communicatio in sacris with Orthodox, although occasional exceptions were permitted (Pope Benedict XIV, for example, stated in a session of the Holy Office on 24 February 1752: ‘Communicationem in divinis cum haereticis non posse nec debere tam facile ac tam generaliter pronunciari in omni penitus circumstantia de jure vetitam‘). But the missionaries took little notice of the directives which they received, and persisted in their more tolerant attitude.

The Orthodox not only welcomed the western missionaries when they arrived, but frequently took the initiative and invited them to come. We may take as an example the relations between Athos and Rome during the second quarter of the seventeenth century. In 1628 Ignatius, Abbot of the monastery of Vatopedi on the Holy Mountain, visited Rome and asked the Propaganda to send a priest to set up a school on Athos for the monks. In answer to this request, Nicholas Rossi, formerly a student at the college of Saint Athanasius in Rome, was sent in 1635-6 to Athos, and opened a school at Karyes. In 1641, however, the Turkish authorities forced him to move with his school to Thessalonica; he died the following year and soon after the school came to an end. In 1643 the ruling synod of the Holy Mountain — the Great Epistasia — sent a letter to the Pope, asking a church be given them in the city of Rome, in which monks from Athos could serve, while a the same time carrying on their studies; in return they offered a kellion or skete on Athos, for use of Basilian monks from Italy who wished to live on the Holy Mountain. Although nothing came of this suggestion, it shows that the Athonite authorities at this date cannot have felt much hostility to Rome.

The same friendship and trust was displayed by Damaskinos, Greek Metropolitan of Aegina. In 1680 he wrote to Pope Innocent XI, asking that two Jesuits be sent to the island, qualified to teach and to hear confessions from clergy and laity of diocese. His letters begins:

“Most blessed ruler set up over us by God, Pope of Elder Rome, God-protected Shepherd of the true sheep of the Word, equal to the angels, honorable, holy, and true Head, guarding the Apostolic Church, the boast of Orthodox Christendom, supreme bishop, guardian, locum-tenens and vicar of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

Specific though this declaration may appear, Damaskinos probably intended it not as a formal submission to Rome, but rather a piece of diplomatic courtesy; yet when diplomatic courtesy is carried to such a point, it paves the way for a formal submission. And whatever precise weight be attached to the Metropolitan’s words, the fact remains that he was fully prepared to use Roman Catholic religious for pastoral work in his diocese.

These are but a few examples out of many; but sufficient has been said to indicate something of the friendly relations prevailing during the seventeenth century between Orthodox and Roman Catholics in may parts of the Greek world. On the local level, the schism was in practice quietly ignored. (Eustratios Argenti: A Study of the Greek Church Under Turkish Rule by Kallistos Ware, pp. 17-23)

Elder Paisios on Cassocks

– Geronda, there is this expression, “Is it really the cassock that makes the priest?”

Well, think of two olive trees, one with leaves and the other without. Which one do you prefer? Once when I was at the Kalyvi of the Holy Cross, I peeled the trunk of an olive tree and wrote this on it, “The trees got rid of their garments; it’s time to see the fruit of their labor!” Next to that I wrote, “A priest without his cassock (arasotos) is a priest without redemption (asotos).”

– Geronda, someone brought an Orthodox priest wearing only trousers [without his cassock] to the monastery. Should we have asked for his blessing?

What blessing? You should have told the person who brought him, no matter how important he was, “Forgive us, but it is a rule in our monastery to give cassocks to priests who are not wearing one. To have a priest come to an Orthodox women’s monastery wearing only his trousers! That is inappropriate.” When the person who brought him has no shame, and when the priest himself is not ashamed for having come without his cassock, why should you be embarrassed to ask him to put one on? I once met a young archimandrite wearing laymen’s clothing at an airport. He was going abroad and introduced himself, “I am Father so and so,” he said. “Where is your cassock?” was my answer. Of course, I did not prostrate in front of him.

– Geronda, some people claim that a modernized clergy will be better able to help people.

When Patriarch Demetrios visited the seminary of the Holy Cross in the United States, a few pious American students went up to him and said, “Your Holiness, don’t you think it’s time for clergy to be more up to date?” The Patriarchs response was, “Saint Cosmas said that when clergy turn into laymen, laymen will turn into demons.” Wasn’t that a good answer? Then they prepared this luxurious suite for him with a fancy bed and so on. The moment he saw it, he said, “Is this where I am supposed to stay, in this room? You’d better bring me a simple cot. When a clergyman becomes worldly, he becomes the devil’s candidate.” (Spiritual Counsels vol. I, pp. 358-359)

Met. Anthony Khrapovitsky on Heterodoxy and Ecumenism

Solemn procession during the celebration of 1600th anniversary of the First Ecumenical Council, headed by Ecclesial Council of Canterbury. In front is Met. Germanos of Thyateira; behind Met. Anthony is his cell-attendant Hieromonk Feodosii. (June 1925)

Met. Anthony’s ecclesiology is representative of the ecclesiology put forth in striking clarity by St. Cyprian of Carthage. However, holding this ecclesiology did not prevent Met. Anthony and ROCOR from engaging in a healthy, unambiguous and sober type of ecumenism with heterodox from eastern and western confessions. Met. Anthony proves that traditional Orthodoxy and ecumenism can be held together successfully. Additionally, this post proves that photos of Orthodox participation in ecumenical activities, or photos of Orthodox at joint events with the heterodox, are not necessarily a sign of dogmatic compromise.

Met. Anthony Khrapovitsky 1863-1936

The Church’s anathema throws disobedient persons from the salvific flock of Christ, which remains with the same fullness of grace-filled gifts… The Orthodox Church always taught through the mouth of the Holy Fathers and the canons of the Ecumenical Councils that there is no communion with grace-filled life in Christ outside Her and that one receives His gifts only in Her bosom and that outside of her there are no bishops, nor priests, nor mysteries. (Metropolitan Antonii (Khrapovitskii), Archpastor of the Russian Diaspora: Conference Proceedings. Edited by Vladimir Tsurikov, p. 95)

Indeed, we are not going to con-celebrate there, but shall have to search together for a true teaching on the controversial points of faith. (Metropolitan Antonii (Khrapovitskii), Archpastor of the Russian Diaspora: Conference Proceedings. Edited by Vladimir Tsurikov, p. 96)

[C]onviction in the rightness of one’s own Church and that all heretics and schismatics are void of grace does not impede an objective and patient discussion on issues of faith and absolutely cannot instill in the adherents of these views a proud and disdainful mood. (Metropolitan Antonii (Khrapovitskii), Archpastor of the Russian Diaspora: Conference Proceedings. Edited by Vladimir Tsurikov, p. 96)

While the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church exists, at the same time Christianity — that is, individuals, religious communities, and entire communities who believe in Christ as God and recognize the Holy Scriptures — also exists. (Metropolitan Antonii (Khrapovitskii), Archpastor of the Russian Diaspora: Conference Proceedings. Edited by Vladimir Tsurikov, p. 102)

Striving for unification [in faith] is the obligation of all those who have a zeal for the Word of God. Such unification should be expressed first of all in freeing our souls not only from all feelings of ill-will toward those not of a like mind, but also from efforts in our own minds to prove them wrong. On the contrary, he among us will be more pleasing to God who put forward an effort to clarify everything that unites us and that will strive not to reduce the number of such truths, but possibly to increase them, and especially in relation to those Christian bodies and confessions that come to meet our Church in friendship. (Metropolitan Antonii (Khrapovitskii), Archpastor of the Russian Diaspora: Conference Proceedings. Edited by Vladimir Tsurikov, p. 104)
All heterodox confessions are deprived of hierarchical grace, and one cannot exempt the Anglican Church from other Christian confessions, including the Catholic Church. (Metropolitan Antonii (Khrapovitskii), Archpastor of the Russian Diaspora: Conference Proceedings. Edited by Vladimir Tsurikov, p. 105)

Look with reverence on your [Anglican] pastoral service as upon the highest service of the Lord, if you will be worthy to fulfill your high responsibility… Young people, chosen by God: you are called to the highest earthly service to God — to be the light of the world and the salt of the earth. (Metropolitan Antonii (Khrapovitskii), Archpastor of the Russian Diaspora: Conference Proceedings. Edited by Vladimir Tsurikov, pp. 105-106)

It is very clear to me that the soul and heart of a faithful Englishman is not limited by utilitarian goals and plans, whether narrowly political or national. Heaven and afterlife have not been expelled from this heart; although, the theory of moral utilitarianism has been designed in England, so what? Despite the fact that Holy Russia gave to the world not just to St. Seraphim of Sarov, but also Lenin, it is still Holy Russia.

Mutual trust of the better parts of the soul—that is the quality that draws both individuals and nations closer, freeing an intellectual exchange from suspicions and insincerity. These suspicions, which people usually have who discuss questions of confessional differences, are the main obstacles to rapprochement both in convictions and in life. Englishmen showed us the best parts of their souls, and we, in our turn, have to continue to study their theology and religious life. (Metropolitan Antonii (Khrapovitskii), Archpastor of the Russian Diaspora: Conference Proceedings. Edited by Vladimir Tsurikov, p. 106)

also read here

On Many of Those Outside of the Church

Archimandrite Placide Deseille

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

On Crypto-Romanism

Orthodox Bishop being symbolically baptized by a Roman Catholic Bishop

Metropolitan Kallistos Ware

[T]here was [a] far more important reason for the hardening of the Orthodox attitude around this time. The Orthodox authorities, while prepared to make use of the Latin missionaries, had at the outset little desire to become Roman Catholics. But the missionaries were gifted and persuasive advocates for the Papal cause: friendship with them inevitably produced converts to the Roman Catholic faith, and the Orthodox gradually came to realize with alarm how numerous and influential these converts were. Here, then, was another factor which caused an increase in hostility — the success of Latin penetration and propaganda.

Matters were made worse by the policy of concealment which the western clergy adopted. The missionaries, when they collaborated with the Orthodox, had naturally but one ultimate aim — the reconciliation of the Eastern Church to the see of Rome. but they realized that the best way to achieve their purpose was not to embark at once upon official negotiations, still less to undertake open and aggressive proselytism among Orthodox congregations, but rather to win the confidence of the Greeks, to infiltrate among them, and so work upon them from within. Converts, as we have seen, were told to continue outwardly as members of their previous Church, and to receive communion there as before. Thus, in the course of the seventeenth century there was built up a powerful crypto-Roman party within the outward boundaries of the Orthodox Church — ‘un noyau catholique’, as Father Charon terms it. The crypto-Romanists included a number of Greek bishops: the missionaries persuaded them to send professions of faith to Rome, but told them not to make their submission public, nor to cease from holding office as before in the Orthodox hierarchy. The missionaries naturally hoped that when this Papalist party had gained sufficient strength, the corporate union of a whole area, or even of an entire Patriarchate, could be proclaimed as fait accompli. The Greeks, when they woke up to what was going on, viewed the missionaries with suspicion rather than friendship. The westerners, so the Greeks thought at first, had come to bring them light; now it turned out that they had brought fire to burn the Greeks’ house about their ears.

This strategy of secret conversion had been used by the Jesuits with great success in the Ukraine during the decade preceding the Union of Brest-Litovsk (1595-6); and during the following century it looked for a time as if it might succeed in the Patriarchate of Constantinople as well. The Jesuits founded a house at Constantinople in 1609, and almost immediately they opened a school, which was attended by Greek children as well as Latin: naturally it served as a most valuable means for propagating ‘unionist’ ideas among young Orthodox. The Jesuits and the other Latin missionaries, aided by the French and Austrian Embassies, aimed to create an ‘alliance’ between the Patriarch of Constantinople and the Pope of Rome, and so to counteract the Protestant tendencies of the Patriarch of Alexandria, Cyril Lukaris — ‘the forerunner of antichrist, Cyril the Calvininst’, as one of his enemies called him (Cyril Kontaris to the Austrian Ambassador Rudolph Schmidt).

Several Patriarchs of Constantinople were won over to the Roman cause. Even before the establishment of the Jesuits, in 1608 Patriarch Neophytos II sent a formal profession of faith to Pope Paul V, signed in his own hand: needless to say, this act of submission was not made public. Timothy II, Patriarch from 1612 to 1620, was also very friendly towards the Roman Church: ‘bene de fide catholica sentit, nos amat’, as a Jesuit at Constantinople put it. In March 1615 Timothy wrote a letter to Pope Paul V, in which he declared that he acknowledged the Pope as his ‘head’, and was willing to obey him in all things; he did not, however, make a formal profession of faith.

During the reign of Cyril Lukaris at Constantinople, his opponents — as was only to be excepted — appealed to Rome for assistance, Gregory IV of Amasia, who for a short time replaced Lukaris as Patriarch (12 April to 18 June 1623), was on friendly terms with the Roman Catholics. Athanasius III Patellaros, who was Patriarch for forty days in 1634, after his deposition made a formal act of submission to Rome (21 October 1635): he occupied the Ecumenical Throne once more in 1652, but only for a few days. The chief opponent of Lukaris, Cyril II of Berrhoia (Cyril Kontaris), on 15 December 1638 sent a formal profession of faith to Rome, while actually in office as Patriarch. Shortly after this, he was deposed and sent into exile; while journeying to his destination he was strangled. Joannikios II, four times Patriarch in less than ten years (1646-56), was very cordial towards Rome, but he avoided committing himself to any formal act of submission.

A future Patriarch of Constantinople, Parthenios II, while Metropolitan of Chios, in 1640 wrote as follows to Pope Urban VIII: ‘…To your Beatitude I render all due obedience and submission, acknowledging you to be the true successor of the leader of the Apostles, and the chief shepherd of the Catholic Church throughout the whole world. With all piety and obedience I bow before your holy feet and kiss them, asking your blessing, for with full power you guide and tend the whole of Christ’s chosen flock. So I confess and so I believe; and I am zealous that my subjects also should be such as I am myself. Finding them eager, I guide them in the ways of piety; for there are not a few who think just as I do… (Hofman, ‘Der Metropolit von Chios, Parthenios’, in Ostkirchliche Studien, vol. i, pp. 297-300)

It seems likely that after his appointment to Constantinople, he continued to do all he could to ‘guide his subjects in the ways of piety’!

The diary of John Covel, chaplain to the English Embassy at Constantinople from 1670 to 1677, supplies interesting information about Roman activities at this date:

‘Feb. 7th came a young priest — he wrote down his name himself, D. Hilarione Bubuli — to me from Padre Jeremiah, to know if any letters were for Venice from my Ld., me, etc.; amongst other discourse he made a great discovery to me. He was a Basilian (a Greek), but in orders (by Rome), a Venetian, born and bred under the Greek Archbp. there. He was not informed well by Padre Jeremiah (who is Greek of another stamp), and, taking me for a Romanist, told me there were many other Metropolites now Romans in their hearts, and that some money wd. do anything amongst them; they question’d not but shortly to make Metropolites enough of their own way.’

There was a plan afoot, so Covel continues, whereby the Ambassador of France and the other Roman Catholic residents at Constantinople were to secure the removal of the present Patriarch: he was to be replaced by the Metropolitan of Paros, ‘a true man in his heart to them’. ‘The businesse’, Covel states, ‘is committed to the Italian Archbp. now at the new church (St. Francesco): he [Father Hilarione] told me the Jesuits and the Capuchins know of it’. As Covel put it in his dairy, ‘Though the Ch. of Rome boast their Emissaryes here (as, indeed, there are many, many), Jesuits, Dominicans, Franciscans, yet, believe me, they have other designes than converting of Turkes.’

The Latin missionaries secured illustrious converts at many other places besides Constantinople itself. Josaphat, Metropolitan of Lacedaemon in 1625, three Patriarchs of Ochrid between 1624 and 1658, Meletios, Metropolitan of Rhodes (1645-51), six Greek bishops in the Kyklades in 1662, the monastery of Saint John, Patmos, in 1681 and again in 1725, a convent of nuns on the island of Santorin in 1710, an abbot from the monastery of Iviron, Mount Athos, in 1726, the abbot of a monastery on Hydra in 1727, Kallinikos, Metropolitan of Aegina, with many of his clergy, 1727: so the cases of submission continue. Even the protestantizer Cyril Lukaris wrote to Paul V in 1608, in terms that which imply a recognition of Papal supremacy! (Griechische Patriarchen ind Romische Papste, Orientalia Christiana, vol. xv, No. 52, pp. 15, 44-46.) This list is by no means exhaustive: no doubt there were many other conversions, for which the documentary evidence has perished, or remains unpublished. It must be kept in mind, of course, that the motive in many cases was not so much religious conviction as the hope of material aid and temporal advantage; in each instance the good faith of the ‘convert’ needs to be carefully examined. But whatever the motives, conversions undoubtedly took place.

Yet at Constantinople and in most areas these conversions remained the acts of individuals. They did not lead, as the missionaries had hoped, to the corporate reunion of whole dioceses and Patriarchates in bloc. In one place only was the process of infiltration more successful: the Patriarchate of Antioch. During the seventeenth century a number of Patriarchs here, as at Constantinople, came under Roman Catholic influence. In 1631 Ignatius III made what amounted virtually to an act of submission to the Pope, although nothing formal was concluded. His successor, Euthymios II (Patriarch from May to December 1634), negotiated secretly with Rome. The next Patriarch, Euthymios III (reigned 1634-47), was on friendly terms with the Latin missionaries, and assured them that he acknowledged the supremacy of the Pope; but he refused to sign any act of submission, however secret, saying that he was surrounded by spies, and that if he signed, he would as a result undoubtedly be poisoned.

Macarius III (1647-72) was less timorous. In 1662 he sent a secret profession of faith to Rome; and at a dinner in the same year with the French Consul at Damascus, also attended by the Syrian and Armenian Patriarchs, he openly proposed a toast ‘to the health of our Holy Father the Pope: and I pray God that there may be but one flock and one shepherd, as once there was in the past. Two later Patriarchs, Athanasius III around 1687 and Cyril V around 1716, also sent secret submissions to Rome, but the good faith of Athanasius was somewhat in doubt, since in practice he showed himself a fierce and active opponent of Roman Catholicism.

Matters eventually came to a head in 1724, when an open division occurred between the Romanist party within the Patriarchate and those who wished to continue Orthodox. In this year Patriarch Athanasius III died. The clergy and leading laity of the pro-Roman group at Damascus assembled in great haste and elected Seraphim Tanas as successor. Seraphim, who took the title Cyril VI, had been educated at Rome, and his attachment to the Roman Catholic cause was well known. Meanwhile, when news arrived at Constantinople of the death of Athansius III, the Holy Synod promptly elected as Patriarch a young Greek monk aged twenty-eight, named Silvester. When the Synodof Constantinople learnt of the election of Tanas at Damascus, they refused to recognize it in any way. Thus from 1724 onwards, there were two rival Patriarchs claiming the Antiochene throne, the one owing allegiance to the Pope and the other recognized at Constantinople.

Silvester, who reigned from 1724 to 1766, did his utmost to bring the schism to an end, displaying a pastoral zeal not always found in Orthodox prelates of the Turkish period. Eustratios Argenti, in a letter of 1751, terms him ‘a second Athanasius’, ‘a truly apostolic man’; but he was unable to exercise any effective control over a great part of his nominal Patriarchate, which continued to recognize Cyril VI. The two rivals made life equally unpleasant for one another. In 1725 Cyril was forced to flee from Damascus to the Lebanon. But Silvester in his turn encountered such lively opposition from the Roman party (supported by the French Consul) that he too was obliged to withdraw: leaving Aleppo, he went first to Tripoli and then to Macedonia and Rumania. After seven years outside his Patriarchate, Silvester returned to Syria in 1723 and tried to establish himself at Damascus, but the Roman party caused him so much trouble that he retired to North Syria. So matters continued: with the help of Turkish authorities, Orthodox and Roman Catholics harassed and persecuted one another, until both sides were utterly exhausted.

The debacle at Antioch made the Orthodox realize once and for all the dangers to which they were exposed through infiltration and propaganda from western missionaries. A bishop in virtual exile from his own see, an ancient Patriarchate rent in two, and its very survival as part of the Orthodox Church threatened: such were the results which the Greeks saw as following from Latin penetration. Is it astonishing that they should no longer extend the same welcome to the Latin missionaries?

…Thus the Venetian occupation of the Peloponnese, the success of Latin missionary infiltration culminating in the schism at Antioch, and the increase of Orthodox counter-propaganda, together with other factors of lesser import, combined around the beginning of the eighteenth century to accentuate the separation between Rome and the Orthodox Church. In places, the older situation persisted: as late as 1749, for example, Patriarch Cyril V of Constantinople found it necessary to reprimand the Orthodox of Siphnos and Mykonos for sharing in worship and sacraments with the Latins, and for behaving in general as if there was no division between the Orthodox Church and Rome. But while the attitude displayed here by the people of Siphnos and Mykonos was very common in 1650, by 1750 it had become exceptional; and whereas in 1650 it was widely tolerated by the Orthodox hierarchy, a hundred years later the Patriarch sharply condemned it. After 1700 the sharing of churches and pulpits, together with all forms of communicatio in sacris, became less and less frequent, although they did not entirely cease (Indeed, in parts of the Near East a measure of communicatio in sacris has been continued right up to the present day). To an ever-increasing extent the Greeks came to regard the Latin missionaries no longer as fellow-workers whose collaboration they gladly accepted, but as enemies dedicated to overthrow of the Orthodox faith. (Eustratios Argenti: A Study of the Greek Church Under Turkish Rule, pp. 24-30, 32-33)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

On the Reception of Heretics

Ecumenical Patriarch Cyril V

Metropolitan Kallistos Ware

When in 1750 Patriarch Cyril V insisted that Latin converts should undergo a fresh baptism on entering the Orthodox Church, he was attacked not only by the Roman Catholic residents in Constantinople, but also – more surprisingly – by many of his own Orthodox flock, who denounced his actions as an innovation, contrary to the Canons and the tradition of the Church. Yet in fact the matter was by no means as straightforward as most of Cyril’s opponents imagined. The Patriarch, so far from flouting the tradition of the past, could quote weighty precedents on his side, both from the ancient Fathers and from more recent history. It was not the first time since the great schism between east and west that Orthodox had demanded the rebaptism of converts.

From the fourth century onwards heretics and schismatics who are reconciled to the Church have been divided into three classes:

(1) Some are received into communion without further formality, once they have made an abjuration of their errors and a profession of faith.

(2) Others are required not only to make an act of abjuration and a profession of faith, but to be anointed with Holy Chrism.

(3) Others again are not only chrismated but baptized, their previous Baptism at the hands of heretics being rejected as invalid.

With an inconsistency more apparent than real, the Orthodox Church has sometimes placed Latin converts in the first class, and sometimes in the second or third. As an added complication, the practice of Russians at any given moment usually differed from that of the Greeks: when the Russian Church rebaptized the Latins, the ancient Patriarchates of the East did not, and vice versa.

Until the Fall of Constantinople the Byzantine Church made no specific enactments concerning the reception of Latin converts. Cases of rebaptism were not entirely unknown. As early as 1054 we find Cardinal Humbert protesting that the Greeks ‘rebaptizant in nomine sanctae Trinitatis baptizatos, et maxime Latinos’; and in 1215 the Lateran Council accused the Greeks of rebaptizing western Christians. But it seems that, at any rate until the fourteenth century, as a general rule neither Baptism nor Chrismation was considered necessary. Writing around 1190, the Byzantine canonist Theodore Balsamon says that a Latin may be admitted to communion “provided he first declares that he will abstain from Latin doctrines and customs, and, provided that he has been instructed according to the Canons, and is willing to be treated in all things Orthodox.” There is no suggestion that he must also be chrismated or baptized: evidently Balsamon placed western Christians in the first of the three classes mentioned above, not in the second or third. But by the 15th century many Greeks had become more rigorous, and Saint Mark of Ephesus states in his day Latins were received by Chrismation. This was not, however, the invariable practice, for even in the 15th century instances occur in which Latins were received by simple profession of faith.

The matter was first regularized by a Council held at Constantinople in 1484. The practice described by Mark of Ephesus was formally ratified and a special order drawn up in which Chrismation was required as well as an abjuration and a profession of faith. These regulations remained officially in force for the next three hundred years throughout the four Patriarchates of Constantinople, Alexandria, Antioch and Jerusalem.

It seems, however, that in the 17th century some Greeks, not content with the regulations of 1484, were not only chrismating Latins but baptizing them. Caucus, Latin Archbishop of Corfu, begins his long list of the ‘Errors of the Modern Greeks’ (there are thirty-one items in all) by stating, ‘They re-baptize all Latins that embrace their Communion.’ Leo Allatius, anxious as ever not to exaggerate the divergences between east and west, argues that Caucus had confused Chrism with Baptism: the Greeks chrismate Latin converts but do not baptize them. Father Richard Simon, however, writing later in the same century, maintains that there is more in Caucus’ charge than Allatius was prepared to allow:

‘As to the re-baptizing of the Latins, it is certain that they have done it in other places, besides Corfu; and that because of the enmity they bear towards them, looking upon all their ceremonies as abominable.’

Simon’s testimony is confirmed by another French priest, Father Francois Richard, writing in 1657:

‘A number of Greeks do not regard our baptism as good and valid; and although this heresy does not prevail so much on the islands of the Archipelago as in the towns of the mainland, none the less some are to be found who rebaptize those of us Franks who wish to pass over to their rite. But others are content to have them rechrismated (this, however, is another heresy)’.

It should be mentioned in passing that the Greeks were not the only ones to practice rebaptism. In the middle of the 14th century, for example, when the Byzantine Emperor John V Cantacuzene went to Hungary to negotiate an alliance, King Louis of Hungary demanded as a prelimary condition that the Emperor and his suite should undergo Baptism at the hands of Roman clergy. And when Louis conquered large tracts of Bulgaria, Latin missionaries proceeded systematically to rebaptize the Orthodox there: it is said that eight Franciscan friars administered Baptism to no less than 200,000 persons in the course of fifty days. Similar instances, on a less spectacular scale, seem to have occurred in the eastern Mediterranean during the 17th century; Nektarios, Patriarch of Jerusalem, describes a strange case in which (so he alleges) an Orthodox priest was rebaptized by the Franciscans in the Holy City.

From 1484, then, the Greeks normally chrismated Latin converts, although instances of rebaptism occasionally occurred. Affairs in Russia had meanwhile taken a different course. Up to the middle of the 15th century there was the same variation there as in the Byzantine Church: sometimes rebaptism, more usually reception by Chrismation or simple profession of faith. But after the Council of Florence (1438-9) rebaptism became more and more frequent, until in 1620 a Council at Moscow formally decreed that all converts must be baptized on embracing Orthodoxy, whatever the previous Baptism which they had received. This decision was reversed by a further Council held at the same city in 1667, which laid down that Russia should henceforth follow the Greek ruling of 1484.

But in the south of Russia, the Church of Kiev, which fell under the jurisdiction of the Ecumenical Patriarch, had always followed the 1484 regulations, so that while the Orthodox of Great Russia were rebaptizing converts, the Orthodox of Little Russia merely chrismated them. In the middle of the 17th century Kiev went even further than Constantinople: the Metropolitan Peter of Moghila, in the Ritual or Trebnik which he issued in 1646, laid down that Roman Catholic converts should be received without chrismation. The Trebnik divides converts into three classes with which we are already familiar:

(1) Socinians and Anabaptists (for these, both rebaptism and Chrismation are required;

(2) Lutherans and Calvinists (chrismated, but not baptized);

(3) apostate Orthodox, Roman Catholics, whether of the eastern or the western rite, and Armenians (received without Chrismation, after an abjuration of their previous heresy).

As we should expect, the sacramental theology which Moghila’s Trebnik presupposes is Latin rather than Greek.

Lutheran and Calvinist converts were for a time treated more rigorously than Roman Catholics. In 1644 Parthenios II, Patriarch of Constantinople, laid down that they must be baptized as well as chrismated. But in 1672 the Council of Jerusalem stated in general terms that heretics who join the Orthodox Church are not baptized; and since no distinction is drawn between Roman Catholics and Protestants, the Council presumably intended this ruling to apply to the latter as well as the former. In Russia the Council of 1667 merely decreed that Latins were to be accepted without rebaptism, but said nothing about Protestants, who continued to be received by Baptism as before. But in 1718 Peter the Great wrote to Jeremias III of Constantinople inquiring about Protestant Baptism, and the Patriarch replied that Lutherans and Calvinists who are received into the Orthodox Church, ‘ought to be perfected merely by unction with the Holy Chrism, and not rebaptized.’ This ruling was followed henceforward in Russia.

The Greek and Russian Churches, therefore, after two hundred years of divergent practice were once more in substantial agreement at the start of the 18th century. Neither Roman Catholics nor Protestants (apart from members of certain extremist sects) were received by Baptism, but they were merely chrismated. The Church of Kiev alone deviated slightly from this general pattern, since here from 1646 onwards, Roman Catholics – but not, of course, Protestants — were received without Chrismation.

So matters continued until the accession of Cyril V to the throne of Constantinople in 1748. (Eustratios Argenti: A Study of the Greek Church Under Turkish Rule, pp. 65-70)

On Various Approaches to Heterodoxy in the Russian Church

Fr. Georges Florovsky 1893-1979

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

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

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

On One Catholic and Apostolic Church

St. Photios the Great ca. 810-893

There is one Catholic and Apostolic Church of Christ, not more, nor even two; congresses other than this are synagogues of wicked men and a synod of dissenters; thus do we the true Christians think, thus do we believe, thus do we proclaim. (Epistle 284, Against the Heresy of the Theopaschites)

 

On Confessional Relativism

St. John of Kronstadt 1829-1908

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

On the Heresy of Rejecting Vatican I (1870)

Fr. Laurent Cleenewerck

In an attempt to be ‘irenic’, many Roman Catholics maintain that the Orthodox Church is not ‘in heresy’ but only ‘in schism’. More properly, this could be expressed as ‘the particular Churches of the Orthodox which are not in communion with the Church of Rome are schismatic and not fully catholic (yet not heretical)’. Roman Catholic books tend to refer to the Orthodox as ‘dissidents’ or ‘schismatics’ but more rarely as ‘heretics’. Unfortunately, this generous view is rather indefensible. Since Vatican I (1870), the Roman Catholic Church holds as a divinely revealed dogma that the Bishop of Rome is the sole successor of St. Peter with episcopal authority over the universal Church. Furthermore, the Council pronounced the anathema on those who reject this view, with a clear reference to the Orthodox interpretation:

“So, then, if anyone says that the Roman Pontiff has merely an office of supervision and guidance, and not the full and supreme power of jurisdiction over the whole Church, and this not only matters of faith and morals, but also in those which concern the discipline and government of the Church dispersed throughout the whole world; or that he only has the principal part, but not the absolute fullness, of this supreme power; or that this power of his is not ordinary and immediate both over all and each of the Churches and over all and each of the pastors and faithful: let him be anathema.”

“So then, should anyone, which God forbid, have the temerity to reject this definition of ours [regarding papal infallibility]: let him be anathema.”

It is therefore preferable and more honest to present things as they really are: the Roman Catholic Church teaches that the Orthodox are in a state of schism and heresy, under papal anathema. As the late Fr. John Hardon, S.J., explained quite frankly:

“Technically a schismatic differs from a heretic as one who sins against obedience or charity differs from a person who denies the faith. In the strict sense, a schismatic still admits the whole body of revelation but refuses to acknowledge the de facto authority of the Roman Pontiff or to share with the rest of the faithful in their practice of the Catholic religion. Since the Vatican definitions on papal authority, however, it is scarcely possible for a person to be only schismatic without also being a heretic. And even before the Vatican Council, it was common knowledge that those who originally broke with the Church’s unity for disciplinary reasons, before long ended by questioning certain articles of faith. An outstanding example is the so-called Eastern Orthodox Church…”

Conversely, there is no doubt that the Orthodox share the reciprocal view, as made clear by the following excerpt from the Encyclical of Eastern Patriarch (1848):

“Of these heresies was formerly Arianism, and at present the Papacy.”

Since Vatican I, the tone has changed and the mutual excommunications of 1054 have been lifted, but the dogmatic framework is still the same. In fact, it is the opinion of many observers, within both Catholicism and Orthodoxy, that the divide may be widening, not so much theologically as culturally and ‘ontologically’. In 1997, Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople made the following statement:

“We confirm not with unexpected astonishment, but neither with indifference, that indeed the divergence between us continually increases and to point to which are courses are taking us, foreseeably, is indeed different… The manner in which we exist has become ontologically different.”

If our goal is to work towards reconciliation, it is essential to be honest about what has been said in the past and what we believe today. Only then can both sides start anew with a genuine dialogue of ‘truth in love’. (His Broken Body: Understanding and Healing the Schism Between the Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox Churches, pp. 123-124 [kindle version])

On the Danger of Not Following the Contemporary Saints

St. Symeon the New Theologian ca. 949-1022

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

On Those Outside the Orthodox Church

Met. Hilarion Alfeyev

The Augustinian understanding of the “efficacy” of the sacraments was never fully accepted in the Orthodox Church. Such an understanding of the sacraments is unacceptable for Orthodox tradition, for it is an understanding in which the grace within them is considered autonomous, independent of the Church. The sacraments can be performed only within the Church, and it is the Church that bestows efficacy, reality and salvation on them. In the Eastern Church, the attitude toward the sacraments of heretics and schismatics varied in different ages depending on the circumstances. The important role of evaluating this or that group that had separated itself from the Church provided a teaching opportunity: they approached those schisms that had caused the most damage to ecclesial unity.

That very rule acted in relation to heretics as to divergences from general church teachings on dogmatic issues. One of the most important Eastern Christian texts dedicated to this theme is the oration in honor of St. Athanasius of Alexandria, attributed to the hand of [St.] Gregory the Theologian. In this text, Gregory tells of the schism that was brewing between the Latin and Greek bishops on the question of triadological terminology and which Athanasius succeeded in preventing. In the course of the exposition, Gregory expresses a few precious ideas on the grounds of dogmatic disputes and schism between different Churches (the argument in this text revolves around the Council of Alexandria in 362, at which the question of the meaning of the triadological terms “hypostasis” and “essence” was raised:)

For as, in the case of one and the same quantity of water, there is separated from it, not only the residue which is left behind by the hand when drawing it, but also those drops, once contained in the hand, which trickle out through the fingers; so also there is a separation between us and, not only those who hold aloof in their impiety, but also those who are most pious, and both in regard to such doctrines as are of small consequence… and also in regard to expressions intended to bear the same meaning. We use in an orthodox sense the terms one Essence and three Hypostases, the one to denote the nature of the Godhead, the other the properties of the Three; the Italians mean the same, but owing to the scantiness of their vocabulary, and its poverty of terms, they are unable to distinguish between Essence and Hypostases, and therefore introduce the term Persons, to avoid being understood to assert three Essences. The result, were it not piteous, would be laughable. This slight difference of sound was taken to indicate a difference of faith. Then, Sabellianism was suspected in the doctrine of Three Persons, Arianism in that of Three Hypostases, both being the offspring of a contentious spirit. And then, from the gradual but constant growth of irritation (the unfailing result of contentionsness) there was a danger of the whole world being torn asunder in the strife about syllables… [Athanasius] conferred in his gentle and sympathetic way with both parties, and after he had carefully weighed the meaning of their expressions, and found that they had the same sense, and were in nowise different in doctrine, by permitting each party to use its own terms, he bound them together in unity of action. (Oration 21.35)

In the above text Gregory, first of all, stresses that the difference in dogmatic terminology does not always signify a discrepancy in the understanding of the same dogmata, and further not all dogmatic disputes arising between churches are the result of differences in faith; many of them were simply “a slightly different sound.” In other words, not every dogmatic discrepancy is absolutely a heresy. The history of the Church knows many instances when the confession of faith of one local church, translated into another language or concept in the context of a different theological tradition, is perceived as heretical and is rejected by another Church. Schisms arose on these grounds, eucharistic relations ceased between Churches, and their heads conferred anathemas on each other. Then time passed, and people understood that they were speaking in different tongues, yet professed one faith: then ecclesial relations were restored.

No less important is this other thesis: there exist insignificant (lit. “small”) dogmata, on the grounds for which discord is permissible. These are dogmata that, in Gregory’s opinion, can be “disregarded” for the sake of Church unity.

Now, for the third thesis contained in the text just quoted: it is frequently not only “those unfortunate ones” (heretics) who are severed from the Church, but also those “most pious Christians” who either rejected some kind of dogmatic formula suspected of containing heresy, or digressed into an incorrect understanding of one of these “small dogmata”. This thesis covers the essential difference between [St.] Gregory and [St.] Cyprian of Carthage, who considered only “wolves, dogs and snakes” to be separated from the Church. In Gregory’s mind, among those who have separated themselves from Church are those who remain faithful to it, although they turn out to be outside relationship with it. Not all Christians who separate themselves from the Church are one hundred percent heretics. The theologian demands tactfulness and vigilance in order to define whether or not there is this or that heretical teaching incompatible with general church teaching, or whether there is a discrepancy on the grounds of “small dogmata”, permissible within the unity of church tradition, or a “dispute on sounds” in general, arising as a result of misunderstanding and ignorance. (Orthodox Christianity: Doctrine and Teaching of the Orthodox Church, Vol. II. pp. 405-407) 

see also: http://classicalchristianity.com/2013/12/20/on-the-reception-of-the-heterodox/

also here: http://classicalchristianity.com/2014/07/06/on-cyprianic-and-augustinian-theories-and-heterodox-sacraments/

On Cyprianic and Augustinian Theories and Heterodox Sacraments

Met. Kallistos Ware

[S]omething must be said about the term ‘rebaptism’… Strictly speaking such a word begs the whole question at issue. Orthodox  believe, just as firmly as Roman Catholics, that Baptism is conferred once for all, and cannot be repeated without grave sacrilege and blasphemy. Thus when Greeks and Russians intended on baptizing converts, they did not think of this as a second Baptism, but argued that the converts in question had never been truly baptized in the first place. They would have said that they were not ‘rebaptizing’ but ‘baptizing’ them.

But on what grounds did [Ecumenical Patriarch] Cyril V and his party reject all western baptisms as null and void? Their basic position is clearly stated in the Definition of 1755… “We know only One, our own, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church, and acknowledge only her sacraments, and consequently only her divine Baptism.’ The line of thought is evident: there is only one Church — the Orthodox Catholic Church; the sacraments are God’s gift to the Church, and therefore cannot be conferred by any who are outside her; heretics and schismatics are outside the Church, and so cannot possess the sacrament of baptism or any other. Since, then, their previous Baptism is invalid, converts from the west on embracing Orthodoxy must undergo the true Baptism of the Church.

This view of sacramental validity is usually termed the Cyprianic, for it finds its classic expression in the works of Saint Cyprian of Carthage.  Some fifty years before Cyprian, the same view had already been expounded by another African writer, Tertullian, in the De Baptismo (a work belonging to his Catholic period, probably composed around 198-200): For us there is one, and only one Baptism, since there is only one God and one Church in the heavens… But the heretics have no participation in our teaching: the very fact that they are excluded from communion proves them to be outsiders… We and they do not have the same God, nor the one — that is to say the same — Christ; and so we cannot both have the one Baptism, for it is not the same. (De Baptismo, 15)

So Tertullian draws his conclusion: since heretics do not possess the one Baptism, they lack the power to confer Baptism on each other.

Tertullian is closely followed by Saint Cyprian: Baptism cannot be common to us and the heretics, for we do not have God the Father in common, nor Christ the Son, nor the Holy Spirit, nor the faith, nor the Church itself. Therefore those who come from heresy to the Church ought to be baptized, so that they may be made ready for the Kingdom of God by divine regeneration in the lawful, true, and unique Baptism of the Holy Church. (Epistle 73.21)

‘The Church is one,’ Cyprian argues, ‘and only those who are in the Church can be baptized (Epistle 69.2); ‘we say that no heretic or schismatic whatsoever has any power or right (nihil habere potentates ac iuris). (Epistle 69.1). ‘No heretic or schismatic whatever possesses the Holy Spirit… and he who does not possess the Holy Spirit cannot in any sense baptize… All without exception who come over to the Church of Christ from the adversaries and the antichrists are to be baptized with the Baptism of the Church’. (Epistle 69. 10-11)

Such was the sacramental theology which lay behind Cyril’s Definition of 1755. The Cyprianic view can be summarized in a syllogism:

True sacraments cannot exist outside the Church; Heretics and schismatics are outside the Church; Therefore, heretics and schismatics do not possess true sacraments.

But the west since the time of Augustine has normally adopted a somewhat different position. Augustine accepted Cyprian’s minor premise but denied his major. Unlike Saint Cyprian, he distinguished between validity and regularity: a sacrament performed by heretics or schismatics, while irregular and illegitimate, is nonetheless technically valid provided that certain specified conditions are fulfilled. Whereas Cyprian denied heretics both ius and potestas to perform sacraments, Augustine denied them the first, but not necessarily the second. A number of Orthodox theologians, particularly in Russia during the past three centuries, have inclined towards the Augustinian view; but in general the position of the Orthodox Church has been Cyprianic and non-Augustinian. The Cyprianic view was taken for granted by most Greek writers of the 18th century… and the Cyprianic view is still followed by the standard Greek manuals of theology in use today.

Two qualifications must be added here. First, although the Augustinian theory predominates in the west, it is not accepted universally: in some Roman Catholic writings an approximation can be found to the Cyprianic position. (see F. Clark, Anglican Orders and Defect of Intention, London, 1956, p. 10, note 1.) Secondly, while most Orthodox continue in the main to hold the Cyprianic theory, many of them today would slightly modify the austerity of Cyprian’s conclusion. Augustine accepted Cyprian’s minor premise but denied his major; it is equally possible to accept the major and deny the minor, and it this that many Orthodox at the present moment have chosen to do. They continue to claim that the Orthodox Church is the one, true Church; they still uphold the basic Cyprianic principle that outside the Church there can be no sacraments; they make no use of the Augustinian distinction between validity and regularity. But they would yet add that many non-Orthodox Christians are still in some sense members of the Church, so that it is possible that in certain cases these non-Orthodox possess true sacraments. But Greek Orthodox in the eighteenth century… were less lenient in their reasoning: like Cyprian — and for that matter, like most of the Fathers — they would simply have said that heretics and schismatics are outside the Church, and left the matter at that. (Eustratios Argenti: A Study of the Greek Church Under the Turkish Rule by Kallistos Ware, pp. 80-82)

also see: http://classicalchristianity.com/2013/12/20/on-the-reception-of-the-heterodox/

http://classicalchristianity.com/2014/07/09/on-those-outside-the-orthodox-church/

On the Ecumenism of St. Philaret of Moscow

St. Hilarion Troitsky 1886-1926

It is no use quoting from some Russian theologian’s or hierarch’s words to the effect that the partitions separating the Christian churches do not reach the heavens: the fact of the West’s falling away from the Church in 1054 is for the Orthodox believer a present fact of religious experience… [Y]ou adduce the viewpoint of the famous Metropolitan Philaret of Moscow, Philaret, who wrote in one of his early treatises: “No church which believes Jesus to be the Christ will I dare call false.” But there are quite a few obstacles to recognizing as valid Metropolitan Philaret’s reasoning that churches can be either pure truth or of impure truth. A church of impure truth seems to me to be evidently a false one, and there cannot be a false church; such a church ceases to be a church, becoming an extra-ecclesial community. For Metropolitan Philaret did not partake of the Eucharist with the Latins; and neither do other theologians of ours, who occasionally show too much zeal in defending the unacceptable doctrine of the unity the Church, according to which the one Church may embrace local churches that have for centuries been out of communion with each other. And this looks inconsistent to me. Why then shouldn’t one celebrate the mass or partake of the eucharist with a priest of the local Roman Church?

No, the falling away of Rome from the Church (or of the East from Rome) is a fact on hand, which should not be hushed up and reduced to zero. (The Unity of the Church and the World Conference of Christian Communities)

St. Ambrose of Optina on the Roman Catholic Church

St. Ambrose of Optina 1812-1891

[T]he main heresy of the Roman Church is not in subject matter, but in action; there is the fabricated dogma of supremacy, or rather, prideful striving for dominance of the bishops of Rome over the four other Eastern Patriarchs. For the sake of this dominance, supporters of the Roman Church placed their pope above the canons and foundations of the Ecumenical Councils, believing in his infallibility. But history truthfully testifies as to just what this papal infallibility is. About Pope John XXIII, it was stated in the decision of the Council of Constance, which deposed this pope: “It has been proved that Pope John is an inveterate and incorrigible sinner, and he was and is an unrighteous man, justly indicted for homicide, poisoning, and other serious crimes; a man who often and persistently before various dignitaries claimed and argued that the human soul dies and burns out together with the human body, like souls of animals and cattle, and that the dead will by no means resurrect in the last day.” The lawless acts of Pope Alexander VI and his sons were so monstrous that, in the opinion of his contemporaries, this pope was trying to establish on Earth the kingdom of satan, and not the Kingdom of God. Pope Julius II reveled in the blood of Christians, constantly arming–for his own purposes–one Christian nation against another (Spiritual Conversation, No. 41, 1858). There are many other examples, testifying to the great falls and fallibility of popes, but there is no time to talk about them now. With such historical evidence of its impairment through heresy and of the falls of its popes, is it warranted for the papists to glory in the false dignity of the Roman Church? Is it just that they should abase the Orthodox Eastern Church, whose infallibility is based not on any one representative, but on the Gospel and Apostolic teachings and on the canons and decisions of the seven Ecumenical and nine Local Councils? At these Councils were God-inspired and holy men, gathered from the entire Christian world, and they established everything relating to the requirements and spiritual needs of the Church, according to the Holy Scriptures. So, do the papists behave soundly, who, for the sake of worldly goals, place the person of their pope above the canons of the Ecumenical Councils, considering their pope as more than infallible?

For all the stated reasons, the Catholic Eastern Church severed its communion with the local Church of Rome, which had fallen away from the truth and from the canons of the catholic Orthodox Church. Just as The Roman bishops had begun with pridefulness, they are also ending with pridefulness. They are intensifying their argument that allegedly the Orthodox Catholic Church fell away from their local Church. But that is wrong and even ridiculous. Truth testifies that the Roman Church fell away from the Orthodox Church. Although for the sake of imaginary rightness papists promote the view that during the time of union with the Catholic Orthodox Church, their patriarch was first and senior among the five patriarchs, this was true only for the sake of Imperial Rome, and not because of some spiritual merit or authority over the other patriarchs. It is wrong that they called their Church “Catholic”, i.e. universal. A part can never be named the whole; the Roman Church before its fall from Orthodoxy, comprised only a fifth part of the one Catholic Church. Especially since it rejected the decisions of the Ecumenical Councils the Roman Church should not be called catholic, as it follows its own incorrect theorizing.

To some, the sheer numbers and widespread distribution of adherents to the Latin Church is eye-catching, and therefore those who unreliably understand truth deliberate: should it not be for this reason that the Latin Church be called Ecumenical or Catholic? But this view is extremely erroneous, because nowhere in Holy Scriptures are special spiritual rights ascribed to great numbers and large quantity. The Lord clearly showed that the sign of the true Catholic Church does not consist in great numbers and quantity when he spoke in the Gospels, Fear not, little flock; for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom (Lk. 12:32). There is another example in Holy Scripture which does not favor quantity. Upon the death of Solomon, the kingdom of Israel was divided in the presence of his son, and Holy Scripture presents ten tribes as having fallen away; whereas two, having remained faithful to their duty, had not fallen away. Therefore, the Latin Church in vain tries to prove its correctness by its multitude, quantity, and widespread distribution.

At the Ecumenical Councils, a completely different indication of the Ecumenical Church was designated by the Holy Fathers, i.e. determined in council: to believe in the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church, and not simply in a universal, or everywhere-present church. Although the Roman Church has followers everywhere in the world, since it did not maintain inviolate the catholic and apostolic decrees, but rather deviated towards innovation and incorrect philosophies, it does not at all belong to the One, Holy and Apostolic Church.

Those well-disposed towards the Latins likewise extremely erroneously reason that, firstly, upon the falling away of the West from Orthodoxy, something as if became lacking in the Catholic Church. This loss was replaced long ago by all-wise Providence–it was the foundation in the North of the Orthodox Church of Russia. Secondly, they think that allegedly for the sake of the former seniority and size of the Roman Church, the Orthodox Church has need of union with it. However, we are speaking not of a human judgment, but a judgment of God. Apostle Paul clearly says, What communion hath light with darkness? (2 Cor. 6:14) – i.e., the light of Christ’s truth can never be combined with the darkness of heresy. The Latins don’t want to leave their heresy, and they persist, as the words of Basil the Great testifies about them what has been proven over many centuries, “They do not know the truth and do not wish to know; they argue with those who proclaim the truth to them and assert their heresy,” as stated above.

Instead of entertaining the above-mentioned thoughts, those supportive of the Latins, would be better off thinking about what’s said in the psalms, I have hated the congregation of evil-doers (Ps. 25:5), and to pity those who, for the sake of domination and avarice and other worldly aims and benefits, scandalized almost the entire world through the Inquisition and cunning Jesuit intrigues, and even now outrage and abuse the Orthodox in Turkey through their missionaries. Latin missionaries don’t care about converting to the Christian faith the native Turks, but they strive to pervert from the true path the Orthodox Greeks and Bulgarians, using for this purpose all sorts of unpleasant means and schemes. Is this not craftiness, and is this craftiness not malicious? Would it be prudent to seek unity with such people? For the same reason, should one be surprised at the feigned diligence and selflessness of such figures, i.e. the Latin missionaries and sisters of mercy? They are downright pitiable ascetics. They strive to convert and lead people, not to Christ, but to their pope.

What should we say in response to these questions: can the Latin Church and other religions be called the New Israel and ark of salvation? And how can one understand the Eucharist of this Church of Rome? Only the Church of the right-believing, undamaged by heretical philosophizing, can be called the New Israel. Holy Apostle John the Theologian says, They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would no doubt have continued with us: but they went out, that they might be made manifest that they all were not of us (1 Jn. 2:19). And Holy Apostle Paul says, One Lord, one faith (Eph. 4:5), i.e. one is the true faith, and not every belief is good–as those having separated themselves from the one true Church recklessly think, about whom Holy Apostle Jude writes, How that they told you there should be mockers in the last time, who should walk after their own ungodly lusts. These be they who separate themselves, sensual, having not the Spirit (Jude 1:18-19). Therefore, how can these, who are alien to the spirit of truth, be called the New Israel? Or, how can they be called a haven of salvation for anyone, when both one and the other cannot be effectuated without the grace of the Holy Spirit?

In the Orthodox Church, it is believed that the bread and wine in the mystery of the Eucharist are transubstantiated by the invocation and descent of the Holy Spirit. But the Latins, as mentioned above, considered this invocation unnecessary and excluded it from their Liturgy. Thus, he who understands–let him understand about the Eucharist of the Latins.

And another question: if, as it is said, except for the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church, which is called the Orthodox Church, salvation in other religions is doubtful, then why is this truth not preached openly in Russia? To this question the answer is very simple and clear. In Russia religious tolerance is allowed, and the heterodox occupy important posts along with Orthodox: heads of educational institutions for the most part are heterodox; leaders of provinces and districts of cities are often heterodox; regimental and battalion commanders are not infrequently heterodox. Wherever a clergyman starts openly proclaiming that outside of the Orthodox Church there is no salvation, heterodox of religious rank take offense. From such a situation, Russian Orthodox clergy have acquired the habit and engrained characteristic of talking about this subject evasively. For this reason, and from continual interaction with heterodox, but more from reading their works, perhaps some began to be lax in their thoughts about the hope of salvation and other religions.

Despite the Orthodox Church’s spirit of meekness and the love of peace and patience of her pastors and followers, in the West there has been published during the preceding centuries by followers of different Christian creeds, and predominantly in our times, such a multitude of books against the teaching of the Eastern Church that not only would it be difficult to appraise their merit, it would be hard to enumerate them. And although such books in general are filled with slanders, fables, blame, obvious inventions and lies, and especially mental poison-creating cobwebs, with the obvious goal of forming in Europe a spirit hostile to the Eastern Church, and especially to our homeland, and, having shaken the faith of our Orthodox Church, to seduce her followers from the path of truth. But since they are published under tempting names, in agreeable forms, with such typographical neatness that they unconsciously lure the curiosity of readers, not a few of whom are found in our homeland, where these works penetrate by dark paths, and who, having a superficial understanding of the subjects of Christian doctrine, cannot help but be carried away by thoughts contrary to the truth. The writers of the Latin Church have now especially armed themselves against the Orthodox, proclaiming the supremacy of their pope and local Roman Church over all governments and local Churches and nations of the world. Predominantly at the current time those busy with this are the Jesuits in France, who, using the omnipresence of the French language, are intensifying some sort of feverish activity by means of works in that language to implant their manner of thought everywhere against the doctrine and hierarchical structure of the Eastern Church–not ashamed for this purpose to create the most heinous fictions, obvious lies and shameless distortion of historical truths. Many of the educated Orthodox, reading these works in the French language, and not reading their own in Russian about the Orthodox faith, can easily believe the fine-spun lies instead of the truth, which they do not know well.

For those who wish to know in detail the reasons why the papists have deviated so far from Orthodoxy, it’s useful to read a recently published work by Avdii Vostokov [late nineteenth century] about the Roman Church’s relationship with other churches. In the second part of this book are particularly striking passages about the oath of Latin bishops to their pope and about slanders of papists against the Orthodox (p. 49, 60 and 137). (A Reply to One Well-disposed Towards the Latin Church: Regarding the Unjust Glorying of the Papists in the Imaginary Dignity of Their Church)

Source: http://www.pravoslavie.ru/english/63657.htm

 

On the Contemporary State of Orthodoxy

Hieromonk Seraphim Rose 1934-1982

Looking at Orthodoxy, at its present state and its prospects in the period before us, we may see two opposed aspects. First of all, there is the spirit of worldliness which is so present in the Orthodox Churches today, leading to a watering-down of Orthodoxy, a loss of the difference between Orthodoxy and heterodoxy. This worldliness has produced the Ecumenical movement, which is leading to the approaching Unia with Rome and the Western confessions—something that may well occur in the 1980s. In itself, this will probably not be a spectacular event: most Orthodox people have become so unaware of their faith, and so indifferent to it, that they will only welcome the opportunity to receive communion in a Roman or Anglican church. This spirit of worldliness is what is in the air and seems natural today; it is the religious equivalent of the atheist-agnostic atmosphere that prevails in the world.

What should be our response to this worldly ecumenical movement? Fortunately, our bishops of the Russian Church Outside of Russia have given us a sound policy to follow: we do not participate in the Ecumenical Movement, and our Metropolitan [Philaret] has warned other Orthodox Christians of the disastrous results of their ecumenical course if they continue; but at the same time our bishops have refused to cut off all contact and communion with Orthodox Churches involved in the Ecumenical Movement, recognizing that it is still a tendency that has not yet come to its conclusion (the Unia with Rome)… But because of this policy, our Church suffers attacks both from the left side (from ecumenists who accuse us of being uncharitable, behind the times, and the like) and from the right side (by groups in Greece that demand that we break communion with all Orthodox Churches and declare them to be without grace).

Indeed, if one looks at the state of the Orthodox Church in Greece, we can see that the Ecumenical Movement has produced a reaction that has often become excessive, and sometimes is almost as bad as the disease it seeks to cure. The more moderate of the Old Calendarist groups in Greece has a position similar to that of our Russian Church Abroad; but schism after schism has occurred among the Old Calendarists over the question of strictness. A few years ago one of these groups cut off communion with our Russian Church Abroad because our bishops refused to declare that all other Orthodox Churches are without grace; this group now declares that it alone has grace, only it is Orthodox. Recently this group has attracted some converts from our Russian Church Abroad, and we should be aware that this attitude is a danger to some of our American and European converts: with our calculating, rationalistic minds it is very easy to think we are being zealous and strict, when actually we are chiefly indulging our passion for self-righteousness.

One Old Calendarist bishop in Greece has written to us that incalculable harm has been done to the Orthodox Church in Greece by what he calls the “correctness disease”, when people quote canons, Fathers, the typicon in order to prove they are correct and everyone else is wrong. Correctness can truly become a disease when it is administered without love and tolerance and awareness of ones own imperfect understanding. Such a correctness only produces continual schisms, and in the end only helps the Ecumenical Movement by reducing the witness of sound Orthodoxy.

Conspicuous among Orthodox today—certain to be with us into the 1980s—is the worldly spirit by which Orthodoxy is losing its savor, expressed in the Ecumenical Movement, together with the reaction against it, which is often excessive precisely because the same worldly spirit is present in it.

There will undoubtedly be an increasing number of Orthodox converts in America and Europe in the coming decade, and we must strive that our missionary witness to them will help to produce, not cold, calculating, correct experts in the letter of the law, but warm, loving, simple Christians—at least as far as our haughty Western temperament will allow.

Once Fr. Dimitri [Dudko] was asked about how much better off religion was in the free world than in Russia, and he answered: Yes, they have freedom and many churches, but theirs is a spirituality with comfort. We in Russia have a different path, a path of suffering that can produce real fruit.

We should remember this phrase when we look at our own feeble Orthodoxy in the free world: are we content to have beautiful churches and chanting; do we perhaps boast that we keep the fasts and the church calendar, have good icons and congregational singing, that we give to the poor and perhaps tithe to the Church? Do we delight in exalted patristic teachings and theological conferences without having the simplicity of Christ in our hearts? Then ours is a spirituality with comfort, and we will not have the spiritual fruits that will be exhibited by those without all these comforts, who deeply suffer and struggle for Christ. In this sense we should take our tone from the suffering Church in Russia and place the externals of the Churchs worship in their proper place.

Our most important task, perhaps, is the Christian enlightenment of ourselves and others. We must go deeper into our faith—not by studying the canons of Ecumenical Councils or the typicon (although they also have their place), but by knowing how God acts in our lives; by reading the lives of God-pleasers in the Old and New Testaments (we read the Old Testament far too little; it is very instructive); by reading the lives of Saints and the writings of the Holy Fathers on practical spiritual life; by reading about the suffering of Christians today and in recent years. In all of this learning our eyes must be on heaven above, the goal we strive for, not on the problems and disasters of earth below.

Our Christian life and learning must be such that it will enable us to know the true Christ and to recognize the false Christ (Antichrist) when he comes. It is not theoretical knowledge or correctness that will give this knowledge to us. Vladimir Soloviev in his parable of Antichrist has a valuable insight when he notes that Antichrist will build a museum of all possible Byzantine antiquities for the Orthodox, if only they accept him. So, too, mere correctness in Orthodoxy without a loving Christian heart will not be able to resist Antichrist; one will recognize him and be firm to stand against him chiefly by the heart and not the head. We must develop in ourselves the right Christian feelings and instincts, and put off all fascination with the spiritual comforts of the Orthodox way of life, or else we will be—as one discerning observer of present-day converts has observed—Orthodox but not Christian. (Orthodoxy Facing the 1980s)

St. Tikhon of Moscow on Heterodox Sacraments

St. Tikhon of Moscow 1865-1925

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

http://www.pravoslavie.ru/english/70565.htm

1923 Pan-Orthodox Congress on the Appearance of Clergy

1923 Pan-Orthodox Congress

The committee unanimously is of the opinion that the Pan-Orthodox Congress is able to proceed to the following decision; namely, that the cutting of clergymen’s hair is permitted and that their existing outward appearance should be confined only in the church and for solemn services, but during other times, with certain distinguishing marks of each rank, uniform dress for all clergy should be introduced consisting of a broad-rimmed hat and black overcoat reaching down to the feet according to the example of the Anglican clergy. (Session Seven. “A Quest for Reform of the Orthodox Church” by Patrick Visuco, p. 129)

The 1923 Pan-Orthodox Congress also introduced the New Calendar into the Orthodox Church. With suggestions like the one above, second marriages for clergy and the New Calendar, it is not difficult to see the direction that the intended reforms were supposed to take the Church.

St. Justin Popovich on Orthodox Ecumenism

St. Justin Popovich 1894-1979

You have raised many questions and asked my opinion on various issues; whole books can be written on each of them; therefore, I have to be very brief, as brief as possible.

The attitude towards the non-orthodox Christian world, first and foremost, one must establish oneself in Orthodoxy with one’s mind and heart and life: in it’s Holy Mysteries and holy virtues; thereby catholicizing oneself, one’s mind and heart and life; living constantly with “all the saints” for this is only way to know divine-human depths and heights and breadth of everything belonging to Christ: to live “with all the saints” = to think “with all the saints” = to feel “with all the saints” = to pray “with all the saints” = to love “with all the saints”. Only in this way the holy and infallible criterion of Truth is provided = of the Church of Christ which invariably is the Hypostatic Truth of Christ the God-man, neither anyone or anything other than Him: “the fullness of Him who fills all in all.”

…”Ecumenisms” are in fashion. But, it seems to me, the most important thing therein is being overlooked: Ecumenism of the Theanthropic Truth is heart of Theanthropic Orthodox ecumenism, which invariably is the Hypostasis of the God-man Christ, in its cosmic, pan-cosmic, above-cosmic and all-embracing omneity as well as in its historical concreteness. On no account can man, or anything human, be a criterion, a symbol, or a concretum of ecumenism. Man, whoever he may be, can never be a criterion, for this but only and always the God-man. The entire tragedy of the West resides in its rejection of Christ’s God-manhood, both as modus vivendi and modus cognoscendi, through various kinds of hominisms and humanisms. (Letter Dec. 25, 1964)

On Attending Heterodox Services

St. Raphael of Brooklyn 1860-1915

I further direct that Orthodox Christians should not make it a practice to attend the services of other religious bodies, so that there be no confusion concerning the teaching or doctrines. Instead, I order that the head of each household, or a member, may read the special prayers which can be found in the Hours in the Holy Orthodox Service Book, and such other devotional books as have been set forth by the authority of the Holy Orthodox Church. (Letter on the Anglicans)

On Beneficial Sternness

Met. Philaret of New York 1903-1985

I wish to return to the issue of heresy and schism. His Beatitude, Metropolitan Anthony [Khrapovitsky] asks: “is it permissible to be stern with heretics, who perhaps sincerely believe in the righteousness of their cause?” “One must never idealize heretics”, he replies, “since the basis for their departure is not virtue, but the passions and sins of pride, obstinacy, and malice. Sternness towards heretics”, says Vladyka, “is beneficial not only for the sake of protecting people from their influence, but also for the heretics themselves.”

We have seen that the Holy Fathers equate obstinate schismatics with heretics. Consequently, is it proper to coddle them as, unfortunately, occurs among us? And all this for the sake of an evil and false “peace”... (Letter to Abbess Magdalena)


On Ecumenism Done Correctly

THE 1954 DECLARATION OF THE ORTHODOX DELEGATES CONCERNING FAITH AND ORDER

At Evanston, Illinois, 1954, read by Archbishop Michael of North and South America, delegate of the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople

As delegates of the Orthodox Church participating at this Assembly of the World Council of Churches, we submit the following statement concerning the report of Section I.

1. We have studied the document with considerable interest. It falls into three parts: the first contains an able exposition of the New Testament doctrine of the Church. The organic character of the Church and her indissoluble unity with Christ are adequately stressed in the document. We feel that this at least provides fruitful ground for further theological elaboration. The second and third parts of the document deal with the divided state of Christendom and suggest practical steps toward union. It is our conviction that it does not follow logically from the first part and indeed if we do actually accept the New Testament doctrine of the Church we should come to write different practical conclusions which have been familiar to us Orthodox for centuries. The whole approach to the problem of reunion is entirely unacceptable from the standpoint of the Orthodox Church.

2. The Orthodox conception of church unity implies a twofold agreement:

(a) The whole of the Christian Faith should be regarded as one indivisible unity. It is not enough to accept just certain particular doctrines, basic as they may be in themselves, e.g. that Christ is God and Saviour. It is compelling that all doctrines formulated by the Ecumenical Councils, as well as the totality of the teaching of the early, undivided Church, should be accepted. One cannot be satisfied with formulas which are isolated from the life and experience of the Church. They must be assessed and understood within the context of the Church’s life. From the Orthodox viewpoint, reunion of Christendom with which the World Council of Churches is concerned can be achieved solely on the basis of the total, dogmatic Faith of the early, undivided Church without either subtraction or alteration. We cannot accept a rigid distinction between essential and non essential doctrines, and their is no room for comprehensiveness in the Faith. On the other hand, the Orthodox Church cannot accept that the Holy Spirit speaks to us only through the Bible. The Holy Spirit abides and witnesses through the totality of the Church’s life and experience. The Bible is given to us within the context of Apostolic Tradition in which in turn we possess the authentic interpretation and explication of the Word of God. Loyalty to the Apostolic Tradition safeguards the reality and continuity of church unity.

(b) It is through the Apostolic Ministry that the mystery of the Pentecost is perpetuated in the Church. The Episcopal Succession from the Apostles constitutes an historical reality in the life and structure of the Church and one of the pre suppositions of her unity throughout the ages. The unity of the Church is preserved through the unity of the Episcopate. The Church is one Body whose historical continuity and unity is also safeguarded by the common faith arising spontaneously out of the fulness (pleroma) of the Church.

3. Thus when we are considering the problem of Church unity we cannot envisage it in any other way than as the complete restoration of the total faith and the total episcopal structure of the Church which is basic to the sacramental life of the Church. We would not pass judgment upon those of the separated communions. However, it is our conviction that in these communions certain basic elements are lacking which constitute the reality of the fulness of the Church. We believe that the return of the communions to the Faith of the ancient, united, and indivisible Church of the Seven Ecumenical Councils, namely to the pure and unchanged and common heritage of the forefathers of all divided Christians, shall alone produce the desired reunion of all separated Christians. For, only the unity and the fellowship of Christians in a common Faith shall have as a necessary result their fellowship in the sacraments and their indissoluble unity in love, as members of one and the same Body of the one Church of Christ.

4. The “perfect unity” of Christians must not be interpreted exclusively as a realization at the Second Coming of Christ. We must acknowledge that even at the present age the Holy Spirit dwelling in the Church continues to breathe in the world, guiding all Christians to unity. The unity of the Church must not be understood only eschatologically, but as a present reality which is to receive its consummation in the Last Day.

5. It is suggested in the report of the section that the road which the Church must take in restoring unity is that of repentance. We must recognize that there have been and there are imperfections and failures within the life and witness of Christian believers, but we reject the notion that the Church herself, being the Body of Christ and the repository of revealed Truth and the “whole operation of the Holy Spirit,” could be affected by human sin. Therefore, we cannot speak of the repentance of the Church which is intrinsically holy and unerring. For, “Christ loved the Church and gave himself for it, that He might sanctify it in the washing of water and the word, that He might present it to Himself as a glorious Church, not having spot or wrinkle or blemish or any such thing, but that it should be holy and without blemish” (Eph. 5 26 27).

Thus the Lord, the only Holy One, sanctified His Church for ever and ordered that her task be the “edification of the saints and the building of the body of Christ.” Her holiness is not vitiated by the sins and failures of her members. They cannot in any way lessen or exhaust the inexhaustible holiness of the divine life which from the Head of the Church is diffused throughout all the body.

6. In conclusion, we are bound to declare our profound conviction that the Holy Orthodox Church alone has preserved in full and intact “the faith once delivered unto the saints.” It is not because of our human merit, but because it pleases God to preserve “his treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency of the power may be of God.” (2 Cor. 4: 7).

On Commemorating the Saints Without Profit

St. Maximus the Confessor ca. 580-662

How do you profit by commemorating [the Saints] when you renounce their doctrines? (Life of St. Maximus the Confessor)

Elder Paisios on Common Prayers with the Heterodox

Elder Paisios the Hagiorite 1924-1994

Today unfortunately, the European courtesy has come in and they try to show themselves as being nice. They wish to show superiority and finally they end up worshipping the two horned devil. “One religion”, they tell you, “should exist”, and they level out everything. Some also come to me and tell me “All of us who believe in Christ should create one religion”. “Now it is as if you are telling me”, I told them, “about gold and copper, so many carats gold and that much copper, that was separated, to gather them and make them one again. Is it correct to mix them again? Ask a jeweler. Is it proper to mix trash with gold? So much struggle was waged to distil the dogma”. The Holy Fathers must have known something for prohibiting the relationships with the heretics. Today they say: “we should pray together not only with a heretics but also with the Buddhist and with the fire worshipper and the demon worshipper. The Orthodox must also be present in common prayers and in their conferences. It is a presence”. What presence? They resolve everything with logic and justify the unjustifiable. The European mind believes that also the spiritual matters can also come into the Common Market. Some of the Orthodox who are shallow and wish to make a promotion, “a mission”, they arrange conferences with the heterodox to cause a sensation, believing this way that they promote Orthodoxy, by becoming so to speak “Hungarian goulash” with the false believers. Then the super-zealots take hold of the other end; they also blaspheme against the Mysteries of the New-calendarists, etc. and deeply scandalize the souls who have piety and Orthodox sensitivity. On the other hand, the heterodox come to conferences, act like teachers, take whatever good spiritual thing they find from the Orthodox, they process it, they give it their own color and mark and they present it as a prototype. And the strange contemporary world becomes touched by such strange things and is spiritually destroyed. The Lord, though at the appropriate time, will present the Mark Evgenikoses and the Gregory Palamases, who will assemble all our deeply scandalized brothers, to confess the Orthodox faith and strengthen the traditions of the Church and give great joy to our Mother, the Church. (With Anguish and Love for the Contemporary Man)

source: http://www.impantokratoros.gr/6467BAA7.en.aspx

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)

St. Maximus on Compromising the Faith

St. Maximus the Confessor ca. 580-662

[I]f the saving faith should be annulled simultaneously with erroneous belief for the sake of an arrangement, this kind of so-called arrangement is a complete separation from God and not a union. I mean that tomorrow the…Jews will begin to say: ‘Let’s arrange a peace with one another, and unite, and let us remove circumcision and you baptism, and we won’t fight with each other any more.’ This is what the Arians too once proposed in writing at the time of Constantine the Great, when they said: ‘Let’s remove the words “homoousion” and “heteroousion” and let the churches unite.’ Our God-bearing Fathers didn’t accept this; instead they chose to be persecuted and die rather than pass over in silence an expression which indicated the one supersubstantial Godhead of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. And Constantine the Great concurred with those who had made these proposals, as has been recorded by many who diligently wrote about the events of that time. No emperor was able to persuade the Fathers who speak of God to be reconciled with heretics of their times by means of equivocal expressions. Instead they employed clear and authoritative expressions, and ones that corresponded to the teaching that was being enquired into, saying plainly that it is the mark of priests to make an inquiry and to define on the subject of the saving teachings of the Catholic Church. (Record of the Trial, 4) 

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 the Reception of the Heterodox

Archimandrite Placide Deseille

The monks of Mount Athos are often criticized for their opposition to ecumenism, and are quite happily accused of sacrificing love for truth. We readily saw, from the time of our first visit when we were still Roman Catholics with no thought whatever of becoming Orthodox, how well the monks knew how to combine a gracious and attentive love towards other people, whatever their religious convictions and allegiance, with doctrinal intransigence. As they see it, moreover, total respect for the truth is one of the first duties that love for the other requires of them.

They have no particular doctrinal position. They simply profess the faith of the Orthodox Church: “The Church is one. And this one and true Church, which safeguards the continuity of ecclesial life, that is, the unity of the Tradition, is Orthodoxy. To allow that this one and true Church, in its pure form, is not be found on earth, but that it is partially contained in different ‘branches’ would be… to have no faith in the Church and in her Head.”

Quite simply, the Athonites want this conviction to be in keeping with their deeds. They cannot approve of words or behavior that would seem to imply a de facto recognition of the “branch theory.” Christian unity, which is as dear to their hearts as anyone’s, can only be brought to pass by the agreement of the non-Orthodox to the integrity and fullness of the Apostolic Faith. It could never be the fruit of compromise or of the efforts born of a natural and human aspiration for unity among men. This would be to cheapen the deposit of faith entrusted to the Church. In ecumenism, as in the spiritual life, the Athonite position is one of sobriety and discernment. If one wants to please God and enter into His Kingdom, one must know how to assess the movements of one’s feelings as well as the rationalizings of one’s mind. Above all, one must give up being “pleasing to men”.

The Question of Baptism

During our first conversations with Father Aemilianos, the abbot of Simonos Petras, about our entry into Orthodoxy, he had not concealed from us that, in his eyes, the customary and most appropriate form of entry into the Orthodox Church was through baptism. I had never thought about this aspect of Orthodox ecclesiology and, at the time, was quite surprised by it. I made a careful study of the problem beginning with the canonical and patristic sources. I also found several articles, written by Catholic and Orthodox theologians and canonists, to be quite helpful.

After a thorough examination of the question, and with the full agreement of our new abbot, it was decided that, when the time came, we would be received into the Orthodox Church by baptism. This later aroused surprise and sometimes indignation in those Catholic or Orthodox circles that were little acquainted with the theological and canonical tradition of the Greek Church. Since a large amount of inaccurate information has been circulated on this subject, I think it right here to give some historical and doctrinal details that will serve for a better understanding of the facts.

Since the third century two customs have co-existed in the Church for the reception of heterodox Christians: reception by the imposition of hands (or, by chrismation), and repetition of the baptismal rite already received in heterodoxy. Rome accepted only the laying on of hands and strongly condemned the repetition of baptism of heretics. The Churches of Africa and Asia, on the other hand, held on to the second practice, the most ardent defenders of which were Saints Cyprian of Carthage and Firmilian of Caesarea. The latter two insisted on the bond that exists between the sacraments and the Church. For them, a minister who had separated himself from the Church’s profession of faith had separated himself at the same time from Church herself, and so could no longer administer her sacraments.

From the fourth century, the Roman doctrine on the validity of heterodox sacraments, upheld by the exceptional authority of Saint Augustine in the West, was imposed on the whole Latin Church, at least in matters of baptism. The question of the validity of the heterodox ordination of priests was not generally accepted in the West until the thirteenth century.

In the East, however, thanks especially to the influence of Saint Basil, the ecclesiology and sacramental theology of Saint Cyprian never ceased to be considered as more in conformity with the tradition and spirit of the Church than the doctrine of Saint Augustine [who, in any case, was largely unknown in the Greek-speaking Church – ED.]. Baptism remained the absolute norm, akribeia [lit. exactness]; although, taking into account the practice of those local churches which recognized the baptism of heretics who did not deny the very fundamentals of the faith (the doctrine of the Trinity), it was accepted that when reasons of “economy” demanded it (that is, out of condescension for human weakness) they could be received by the laying on of hands, or Chrismation.

The principal canonical basis for the non-recognition of heterodox sacraments is the 46th Apostolic Canon which declares: “We ordain that a bishop, priest, or deacon who has admitted the baptism or sacrifice of heretics be deposed.” These Apostolic Canons, confirmed by the VIth Ecumenical Council (in Trullo) in 692, comprise the foundation of Orthodox canon law. The practice of economy in certain cases is authorized by Canon I of Saint Basil the Great.

At a later time, in the seventeenth century, the Russian Orthodox Church came under a very strong Latin influence, and was partially won over to the position of Saint Augustine. She then decided to receive Catholics into Orthodoxy by confession and a profession of faith alone. From the perspective of traditional Orthodox theology, this could only be accepted as a very generous instance of recourse to the principal economy.

This explains the apparent contradictions found in the canonical texts of the Councils and the Fathers, as well as in the practice of the Orthodox Church down the centuries. So far as present practice is concerned, the reception of Catholics by baptism is very clearly prescribed in the Pedalion, an official compendium of canon law for the Churches of the Greek language, in which the text of the canons is accompanied by commentaries by Saint Nicodemus of the Holy Mountain, a very great authority. For the territories under the jurisdiction of the Patriarchate of Constantinople, the decree prescribing the baptism of Catholics has never been abolished. As for the Church of Greece: “Those who wish to embrace Orthodoxy must be invited to rebaptism, and only in those cases where this is not possible should they be received by anointing with Holy Chrism.”

Athos is a country where only monks live, who by virtue of their calling must strive to live out as best they can all the demands of Christian life and the Church’s Tradition. They engage in no pastoral activity, nor do they seek to proselytize, that is, to draw people to Orthodoxy by making things easier for them. It is therefore normal for them to abide by akribeia, though without blaming those who, finding themselves in different circumstances, have recourse to economy.

Athos’ vocation is akribeia in all spheres. It is normal for non-Orthodox who become monks there to be received by baptism. Yet the monks of Athos are not men given to the constant condemnation of others, nor do they prefer severity to mercy, nor are they attached to a narrow-minded rigorism. The issue is on an altogether different level.

Some people have written that by “imposing” a new baptism on us, the monks of Athos forced us to repudiate and mock the whole of our past as Catholic monks. Others have also written that, to the contrary, it was we who asked for baptism, contrary to the wishes of our abbot, in order to satisfy the most rigorous minority of Athonite monks.

These assertions have nothing to do with reality. The monks of Athos in fact imposed nothing on us. They did not oblige us to become Athonite monks, and they left us perfectly free to be received into Orthodoxy by different means elsewhere. Nor were we looking into please anyone at all. But since we had chosen, as we said above, to become monks of Mount Athos, we could only be received in the way accepted by men whom we held to be our fathers and brothers, and whose way of thinking we knew perfectly well. We asked freely to be received by baptism, in complete agreement with our abbot, because this procedure seemed to us both right and necessary for Athos, both theologically sound and canonically correct. This was not “deny” our Catholic baptism received in the name of the Trinity, but to confess that everything it signified was fulfilled by our entry into the Orthodox Church. It was not to deny the real communion that exists between the Orthodox and Catholic Churches in much of their doctrine and sacramental practice, but it was to recognize that this communion in the faith is not perfect, and that, consequently, according to the most exact form of Orthodox theology, Catholic sacraments cannot be purely and simply recognized by the Orthodox Church.

I have been asked for my retrospective opinion on the sacraments that we had ourselves administered while still priests of the Roman Church. I would simply reply that the Orthodox Church speaks more willingly about the “authenticity” and “legitimacy” of sacraments than about their “validity”. Only sacraments administered and received in the Orthodox Church are “authentic” and “legitimate” and, according to the usual order of things, the validity, or effective communications of grace, depends on this legitimacy. But the Holy Spirit is free with His gifts, and He can distribute them without going through the usual channels of salvation wherever He finds hearts that are well-disposed. Saint Gregory the Theologian said once: “Just as many of our own people are not really with us, because their lives separate them from the common body, so on the other hand many belong to us who outwardly are not ours, those whose conduct is in advance of their faith, who lack only the name, although they possess the reality itself” (PG 35, 992). He goes on to cite the case of his own father who before his conversion was “a foreign bough, if you wish, but by his way of life, a part of us.” We can therefore only leave this matter, with complete confidence, to the mercy of God. (“Stages of a Pilgrimage”. The Living Witness of the Holy Mountain: Contemporary Voices from Mount Athos trans. By Hieromonk A. Golitzin, pp. 86-90)

St. Nikolai Velimirovich on Orthodox Ecumenism

St. Nikolai Velimirovich 1880-1956

A declaration of the Orthodox representatives points out that every Christian denomination holds only one segment of Christian faith; only the Orthodox Church has the fullness of the true faith that was once and for all given to the saints(Jude 3)… The real unity of all churches cannot be achieved by mutual concessions, but only by the adoption of the only true faith in its entirety, such as was passed down by the Apostles and formulated at the Councils; in other words, by the return of all Christians to this unique and undivided Church that the ancestors of all Christians belonged to for the first centuries after Christ. This true Church is the Holy Orthodox Church… When it comes to the questions of the principles of faith and the idea of Church, the Orthodox have neither the need nor right to change their position… The Orthodox  church is neither left nor right. (Treasures New and Old: Writings by and about St. Nikolai Velimirovich. “The Christology of St. Nikolai, Bishop of Ohrid and Zhicha”. Contemporary Christian Thought Series, Number 8)

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 Ritualism and Liberalism

St. Nikolai Velimirovich 1880-1956

Neither Ritualism nor Liberalism helps anything without the true Christian spirit. The modern Ritualism and Liberalism are absolutely equally worthless from the Christian point of view, being so hostile to each other as they are filled with the unclean spirit of hatred, unforgiveness, despising and even persecuting each other. They are equally unchristian and even antichristian. Measured by the mildest measure they are the new edition of the Judaistic Pharisaism and Sadduceeism. The Ritualists cling to their ritual, the Liberals cling to their protest against the Ritualists. But the true spirit by which both of them move and act and write and speak is the unclean spirit of hatred and despite each other, the very spirit which excludes them both from communion with Christ and the Saints. The Church has been equally de-christianized by Ritualists and Liberals, by Conservatives and Modernists, by bowers and talkers. The Church must now be rechristianized amongst all of them and through all of them. Let the Church be the Church, i.e. the community of saints. Let the world know that the Church’s mission on earth is not accumulate wealth, or to gain political power or knowledge, or to cling to this institution or to that, but to cleanse mankind from its unclean, evil spirits, and to fill it with the spirit of saintliness. Let the Church first change her spirit and then urge the whole of mankind to change theirs. (The Works of Rev. Nicholai Velimirovic)

On the True Peacemakers

Pope St. Clement of Rome fl. ca. 80-102

Let us cleave, therefore, to those who cultivate peace with godliness, and not to those who hypocritically profess to desire it. (Epistle to the Corinthians, 15.1)

On Closed Communion in the Early Church

St. Justin the Philosopher ca. 103-165

And this food is called among us Εὐχαριστία [the Eucharist], of which no one is allowed to partake but the man who believes that the things which we teach are true, and who has been washed with the washing that is for the remission of sins, and unto regeneration, and who is so living as Christ has enjoined. (First Apology 66)

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On Salvation, Right Faith and the Commandments

St. Maximus the Confessor ca. 580-662

The Lord joined to right faith the keeping of all the commandments for this reason: He knew that one, apart from the other, was not able to save us. (The Ascetic Life, 2)

On Preserving Peace in the Church

Pope St. Leo the Great ca. 400-461

Peace is not preserved except by having a single profession of faith. (Letter 130)

On the Unity of Faith

St. Nicholas Cabasilas ca. 1323-1391

What is unity of faith? A double-minded man is inconstant in all his ways (Jam. 1:8) — the double-minded man being he who is doubtful and has no certainty or stability. Such a man, wavering from one side to the other, does not go straight forward upon either road. The opposite of this unhapy state is unity, namely, that which is strong, constant, and stable. He who is steadfast in faith has definite knowledge concerning any particular matter — either that it is, or that it is not. The doubter, on the other hand, is shown by his very title — amphibolos — to waiver between the two. The unity of the faith is, then, that which is unshakable and free from all hesitation.

…Therefore, he who wishes to commend himself to God and to place himself in His keeping has need of an unshakable faith and the aid of the Holy Spirit. Nor do we commend ourselves alone to God, but each other also; for, according to the law of charity, we must seek the good of others as well as our own. (Commentary on the Divine Liturgy, 14)

On Fighting for the Orthodox Faith

St. Nikodemos the Hagiorite 1749-1809

If there is a discussion or debate about the faith and traditions of our Church, then even the most peaceful and quiet person must fight against these, not with a disturbed heart however, but with a courageous and firm anger, according to that which Joel says: “Let the meek become a warrior” (Joel 4:11). (Unseen Warfare [Athens; Panagopoulos, 2003], 271)

On Silent Shepherds

St. Gregory the Dialogist ca. 540-604

[A]s incautious speaking leads into error, so indiscreet silence leaves in error those who might have been instructed. For often improvident rulers, fearing to lose human favor, shrink timidly from speaking freely the things that are right; and, according to the voice of the Truth Jn. 10:12, serve unto the custody of the flock by no means with the zeal of shepherds, but in the way of hirelings; since they fly when the wolf comes if they hide themselves under silence. For hence it is that the Lord through the prophet upbraids them, saying, Dumb dogs, that cannot bark Isa. 56:10. Hence again He complains, saying, You have not gone up against the enemy, neither opposed a wall for the house of Israel, to stand in the battle in the day of the Lord Eze. 13:5. Now to go up against the enemy is to go with free voice against the powers of this world for defence of the flock; and to stand in the battle in the day of the Lord is out of love of justice to resist bad men when they contend against us. For, for a shepherd to have feared to say what is right, what else is it but to have turned his back in keeping silence? But surely, if he puts himself in front for the flock, he opposes a wall against the enemy for the house of Israel. Hence again to the sinful people it is said, Your prophets have seen false and foolish things for you: neither did they discover your iniquity, to provoke you to repentance Lam. 2:14. For in sacred language teachers are sometimes called prophets, in that, by pointing out how fleeting are present things, they make manifest the things that are to come. And such the divine discourse convinces of seeing false things, because, while fearing to reprove faults, they vainly flatter evil doers by promising security: neither do they at all discover the iniquity of sinners, since they refrain their voice from chiding. For the language of reproof is the key of discovery, because by chiding it discloses the fault of which even he who has committed it is often himself unaware. Hence Paul says, That he may be able by sound doctrine even to convince the gainsayers Tit. 1:9. Hence through Malachi it is said, The priest’s lips keep knowledge, and they shall seek the law at his mouth Mal. 2:7. Hence through Isaiah the Lord admonishes, saying, Cry aloud, spare not, lift up your voice like a trumpet  Isa. 58:1. For it is true that whosoever enters on the priesthood undertakes the office of a herald, so as to walk, himself crying aloud, before the coming of the judge who follows terribly. Wherefore, if the priest knows not how to preach, what voice of a loud cry shall the mute herald utter? For hence it is that the Holy Spirit sat upon the first pastors under the appearance of tongues Acts 2:3; because whomsoever He has filled, He himself at once makes eloquent. Hence it is enjoined on Moses that when the priest goes into the tabernacle he shall be encompassed with bells Ex. 28:33; that is, that he shall have about him the sounds of preaching, lest he provoke by his silence the judgment of Him Who beholds him from above. For it is written, That his sound may be heard when he goes in unto the holy place before the Lord and when he comes out, that he die not Ex. 28:35. For the priest, when he goes in or comes out, dies if a sound is not heard from him, because he provokes the wrath of the hidden judge, if he goes without the sound of preaching. Aptly also are the bells described as inserted in his vestments. For what else ought we to take the vestments of the priest to be but righteous works; as the prophet attests when he says, Let Your priests be clothed with righteousness Ps. 131:9? The bells, therefore, are inherent in his vestments to signify that the very works of the priest should also proclaim the way of life together with the sound of his tongue. (Pastoral Rule Bk. 2.4)

On the Importance of Truth and Holiness

St. Irenaeus of Lyons died ca. 202

Godliness becomes cloudy and loses its luster by bodily impurity, and is broken and stained and loses its integrity when falsehood enters the soul; but it will be preserved in beauty and due measure by the truth constantly abiding in the mind and holiness in the body. For what use is it to know the truth in words, only to defile the body and perform evil deeds? Or what real good at all can bodily holiness do, if truth is not in the soul? (Proof of Apostolic Preaching, 2)

On Innovative Teachings

St. John Damascene ca. 676-749

Listen to me, people of all nations, men, women, and children, all of you who bear the Christian name:

If any one preach to you something contrary to what the Catholic Church has received from the holy Apostles, Fathers and Councils, and has kept down to the present day, do not heed him. Do not receive the serpent’s counsel, as Eve did, to whom it was death. If an angel or emperor teaches you anything contrary to what you received, shut your ears. I have refrained so far from saying, as the holy Apostle said, “Let him be anathema,” (Gal. 1:8) in the hope of amendment. (Apologia Against Those Who Decry Holy Images, II)

On Lawful War and Vexatious Peace

St. Isidore of Pelusium died ca. 449

There is, my wise friend, both a lawful war and a peace that is more vexatious than any implacable conflict—as the Psalm says, ‘I was jealous of the transgressors, beholding the tranquility of sinners’ (Psa. 72:3). (Epistle 4.36, To Peter)

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 the Relationship Between Christology and Ecclesiology

Vladimir Lossky 1903-1958

The Church, in its christological aspect, appears as an organism having two natures and two wills. In the history of Christian dogma all the christological heresies come to life anew and reappear with reference to the Church. Thus, there arises a Nestorian ecclesiology, the error of those who would divide the Church into distinct beings: on the one hand the heavenly and invisible Church, alone true and absolute; on the other, the earthly Church (or rather ‘the churches’) imperfect and relative, wandering into the shadows, human societies seeking to draw near, so far as possible for them, to that transcendent perfection. A Monophysite ecclesiology, on the contrary, manifests itself in a desire to see the Church as essentially a divine being whose every detail is sacred, wherein everything is imposed with a character of divine necessity, wherein nothing can changed or modified, because human freedom, synergy, the co-operation of man with God, have no place within this hieratic organism from which the human side is excluded; this is a magic of salvation operative through sacraments and rites faithfully carried out. These two ecclesiological heresies of opposite tendency appeared, almost at the same time, during the course of the seventeenth century. The first (the Eastern Protestantism of Cyril Loukaris) arose within the jurisdiction of the patriarchate of Constantinople; the second developed in Russia, in the form of the schism (raskol) known as that of the ‘Old Believers’. The two ecclesiological errors were crushed by the great councils of Jerusalem and of Moscow. Monotheletism in ecclesiology is expressed above all in a negation of the economy of the Church in regard to the external world, for the salvation of which the Church is founded. The contrary error (which could not have a precedent in the Christological heresies, unless it be in a semi-Nestorianism) consists in an attitude of compromise which is ready to sacrifice the truth to the exigencies of ecclesiastical economy in relation to the world. This is the ecclesiological relativism, a danger proper to the ‘ecumenical’ movement and to other similar trends. The Apollinarian heresy, which denied the human understanding in the manhood of Christ, shows itself in the realm of ecclesiology in the refusal to acknowledge the full human consciousness – as, for example, in the doctrinal ministry of the Church, when the truth is regarded as being revealed in councils like a deus ex machina, independently of those present. Thus, all that can be asserted or denied about Christ can equally well be applied to the Church, inasmuch as it is a theandric organism, or, more exactly, a created nature inseparably united united to God in the hypostasis of the Son, a being which has – as He has – two natures, two wills and two operations which are at once inseparable and yet distinct. (Mystical Theology of the Eastern Church. Two Aspects of the Church, pp. 186-187)

On Withstanding False Teachers in the Church

St. Ignatius of Antioch ca. 50-117

Let not those who seem worthy of credit, but teach strange doctrines, (1 Timothy 1:3, 1 Timothy 6:3) fill you with apprehension. Stand firm, as does an anvil which is beaten. It is the part of a noble athlete to be wounded, and yet to conquer. And especially, we ought to bear all things for the sake of God, that He also may bear with us. Be ever becoming more zealous than what you are. Weigh carefully the times. Look for Him who is above all time, eternal and invisible, yet Who became visible for our sakes; impalpable and impassible, yet Who became passible on our account; and Who in every kind of way suffered for our sakes. (Letter to Polycarp, 3)

To withstand the false teachers in the Church one must:

1) stand firm like an anvil

2) expect to be wounded

3) bear all things

4) be more and more zealous

5) weigh the times carefully

6) look for Christ

On Bishops in Error

St. Jerome ca. 347-420

Heresy is subtle, and therefore the simple-minded are easily deceived. To be deceived is the common lot of both layman and bishop. But you say, “a bishop could not have been mistaken.” The truth is, men are elected to the episcopate who come from the bosom of Plato and Aristophanes. How many can you find among them who are not fully instructed in these writers? Indeed all, whoever they may be, that are ordained at the present day from among the literate class make it their study not how to seek out the marrow of Scripture, but how to tickle the ears of the people with the flowers of rhetoric. (Dialogue with a Luciferian 11)

On Communing With the Heterodox

St. John the Almsgiver ca. 7th cent.

[T]he blessed man taught and insisted upon with all was never on any occasion whatsoever to associate with heretics and, above all, never to take the Holy Communion with them, ‘even if’, the blessed man said, ‘you remain without communicating all your life, if through stress of circumstances you cannot find a community of the Catholic Church. For if, having legally married a wife in this world of the flesh, we are forbidden by God and by the laws to desert her and be united to another woman, even though we have to spend a long time separated from her in a distant country, and shall incur punishment if we violate our vows, how then shall we, who have been joined to God through the Orthodox faith and the Catholic Church-as the apostle says: “I espoused you to one husband that I might present you as a pure virgin to Christ” [2 Cor 11:2]-how shall we escape from sharing in that punishment which in the world to come awaits heretics, if we defile the Orthodox and holy faith by adulterous communion with heretics?’

For ‘communion’ he said, ‘has been so called because he who has “communion” has things in common and agrees with those with whom he has “communion”. Therefore I implore you earnestly, children, never to go near the oratories of the heretics in order to communicate there.’ (Leontius of Neapolis, Life of St. John the Almsgiver, 42)

From Whom to Flee

St. Gregory Palamas ca. 1296-1359

Let us flee from those who reject patristic interpretations and attempt by themselves to deduce the exact opposite. (Homily 27)

On the Importance of Right Faith

St. Ambrose of Optina 1812-1891
 
[H]e who possesses an incorrect, contradictory and false understanding of the Faith and Christian Truth has difficulty finding salvation, even when he wants it.  Even more difficult is it for him to possess a Christian spirit and the spirit of Christ.
 
You write that your brother graduated from a Petersburg university.  If someone were to tell your brother that in order to obtain a good position as a district attorney or even a judge one does not need any high school or university education, but only love for his fellow man, would he believe it? It is just as impossible for a man who does not have a correct and true knowledge of the dogmas of the Christian Faith to possess a Christian spirit. (Source)

On the Reduction of Christianity

St. Hilarion Troitsky 1886-1929

In order to become a follower of a particular philosophical school it is necessary to assimilate the philosophical works by the father of that school. But is it sufficient to know the New Testament in order to become a Christian? Would this knowledge be enough for salvation? Certainly not. It is possible to know the entire New Testament by heart, it is possible to know perfectly the entire teaching of the New Testament, and still be very, very far from salvation. For salvation it is necessary to be added to the Church, just as it is said in the Book of Acts that those who were being saved were added to the Church (cf. Acts 2:47; 5:13–14). This was when there were no Scriptures, but there was the Church, and there were those who were being saved. Why was it essential to be added to the Church? It is because special grace-bearing power is needed for salvation, and this power can only be possessed by those who participate in the life of the Church, in the life of the single and indivisible Body of Christ. The grace-filled power of the Holy Spirit acts in the Church in many different ways: in the Mysteries and rites of the Church, in common prayer and mutual love, in church services; and, as the divinely inspired Word of God, it also operates through the books of Holy Scripture…

Perhaps the saddest thing in our times is the distortion of Christ and the Church. Christianity is seen not as the new life of saved humanity, united in the Church, but as the sum of certain theoretical and moral positions. They have begun now to talk too much and too often about Christian teachings and have begun to forget about Church life. At the same time they have also begun to forget that the most important part of Christ’s work is His Incarnation. They have begun to regard Christ more as a wise teacher, while the truth of His Divine Sonship has receded into the background. To be a teacher it is not necessary to be the Only-begotten Son of God, One in essence with God the Father. They are willing to recognize as Christians not only the Arians, but even those who, like the ancient Jews, regard Christ as the ordinary son of a Nazareth carpenter, or at best as a brilliant religious teacher like the Buddha, Confucius, and others. Among us here [in Russia], even Leo Tolstoy has come to be considered a Christian, and what is more, not an ordinary one but a “true Christian.” To the contemporary religious consciousness, it is only the teaching of Christ that is necessary and understandable, but there is no need for Christ the God-man and the new life brought down to earth by Him, which has been preserved in the one grace-filled organism of the Church. In the contemporary religious consciousness, Christ has been brought down from His throne at the right hand of God the Father and placed in a preacher’s pulpit. (Holy Scripture and the Church)

The Church community undoubtedly embraces people who do not know the dogmas of the Council of Chalcedon and who are unable to say much about their dogmatic convictions…Members of the Church enjoy much leeway in theological views, yet the broad spectrum of theological opinion does not disrupt the unity of the Church. When it comes to that, the Church does not even have a doctrinal system with all its sections worked out in detail. This is why courses in dogmatic theology always differ from each other. This could not be so had the Church fixed obligatory answers to all dogmatic questions.
 
If the question of belonging or non-belonging to the Church be formulated in terms of theoretical dogma, it will be seen that it even cannot be resolved in a definite way. Just how far should conformity to the Church’s ideas go in dogmatic matters? Just in what is it necessary to agree and what kind of disagreement ensues following a separation from the Church? How to answer this question? And who has so much authority as to make the decision stand? Perhaps you will point to the faith in the Incarnate Son of God as the chief characteristic of belonging to the Church. Yet the German Protestants are going to argue against the necessity of even this feature, since in their religion there are to be found even such ministers who openly deny the Divinity of the Savior.
 
Christ never wrote a course in dogmatic religion. Precise formulation of the principal dogmas of Christianity took place centuries after the earthly life of the Savior. What, then, determined the belonging to the Church in those, the very first, times of the historical existence of Christianity? This is attested to in the book of the Acts of the Apostles: “Such as should be saved were added to the Church” (2:45, 6:13-14). Membership in the Church is determined by unity with the Church. It cannot be otherwise, if only because the Church is not a school of philosophy. She is a new mankind, a new grace-filled organism of love. She is the body of Christ. (The Unity of the Church and the World Conference of Christian Communities)

On True Christianity

St. Gregory Palamas ca. 1296-1359

Those who do not belong to the Truth do not belong to the Church of Christ either; and all the more so if they speak falsely of themselves by calling themselves, or are called by each other, holy pastors and hierarchs; because it has been instilled in us that Christianity is characterized not by persons, but by truth and exactitude of Faith. (Refutation of the Letter of Patriarch Ignatios) 

On the Rule of Moses

St. Vincent of Lerins died ca. 445

But some one will ask:

“How is it then, that certain excellent persons, and of position in the Church, are often permitted by God to preach novel doctrines to Catholics?”

A proper question, certainly, and one which ought to be very carefully and fully dealt with, but answered at the same time, not in reliance upon one’s own ability, but by the authority of the divine Law, and by appeal to the Church’s determination.

Let us listen, then, to Holy Moses, and let him teach us why learned men, and such as because of their knowledge are even called Prophets by the apostle, are sometimes permitted to put forth novel doctrines, which the Old Testament is wont, by way of allegory, to call strange gods, forasmuch as heretics pay the same sort of reverence to their notions that the Gentiles do to their gods.

Blessed Moses, then, writes thus in Deuteronomy: If there arise among you a prophet or a dreamer of dreams, that is, one holding office as a Doctor in the Church, who is believed by his disciples or auditors to teach by revelation: well—what follows? and gives you a sign or a wonder, and the sign or the wonder come to pass whereof he spoke,— he is pointing to some eminent doctor, whose learning is such that his followers believe him not only to know things human, but, moreover, to foreknow things superhuman, such as, their disciples commonly boast, were Valentinus, Donatus, Photinus, Apollinaris, and the rest of that sort! What next? And shall say to you, Let us go after other gods, whom you know not, and serve them. What are those other gods but strange errors which you know not, that is, new and such as were never heard of before? And let us serve them; that is, Let us believe them, follow them. What last? You shall not hearken to the words of that prophet or dreamer of dreams. And why, I pray you, does not God forbid to be taught what God forbids to be heard? For the Lord, your God, tries you, to know whether you love Him with all your heart and with all your soul. The reason is clearer than day why Divine Providence sometimes permits certain doctors of the Churches to preach new doctrines— That the Lord your God may try you; he says. And assuredly it is a great trial when one whom you believe to be a prophet, a disciple of prophets, a doctor and defender of the truth, whom you have folded to your breast with the utmost veneration and love, when such a one of a sudden secretly and furtively brings in noxious errors, which you can neither quickly detect, being held by the prestige of former authority, nor lightly think it right to condemn, being prevented by affection for your old master.

Here, perhaps, some one will require us to illustrate the words of holy Moses by examples from Church History. The demand is a fair one, nor shall it wait long for satisfaction.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

On Terminological Deception

St. Justinian the Emperor 483-565

[I]t is the custom of heretics to use expressions which are used correctly by the Orthodox, and to alter the correct understanding and explanations of these expressions in terms that fit their own impiety so that they may deceive the more simple-minded. Only when these expressions are rightly interpreted and understood are they in accordance with true belief, but when the heretics misinterpret them and put them forth in a wicked manner they contain an impious meaning. (The Edict on the True Faith)

On the Eyes of the Church

St. Gregory the Theologian ca. 329-389

For the light of the body is the eye, (Mat. 6:22) as we have heard; not only the bodily eye which sees and is seen, but that which contemplates and is contemplated spiritually. But the light of the Church is the Bishop, as is evident to you even without our writing it. As then the straightness or crookedness of the course of the body depends upon the clearness or dulness of the eye, so must the Church necessarily share the peril or safety incurred by the conduct of its Chief. (Epistle 41)

On Certain Theologians Tolerated Within the Church

St. Nikolai Velimirovich 1880-1956

Truth be told, there are some theologians in the Orthodox Church who are following in the footsteps of heretical theologians, thinking that the Gospel in itself is not strong enough to defend and support itself in the storms of the world. They find heretical thoughts and methods alluring. With their whole soul they have joined the heretics but they outwardly hold on to the Orthodox Church just nominally—for the sake of support. …The Orthodox Church as a whole renounces such theologians and does not recognize them as Her own but suffers them for two reasons. One, She is awaiting their repentance and change. Two, She does not want to make an even greater evil out of this which is to say, push them downhill into the army of heretics while destroying their souls. Those theologians are not bearers of Orthodox conscience or consciousness but are sick organs of the body of the Church. The bearers of the Orthodox conscience or consciousness are the people, monastics and clergy. (Missionary Letters of Saint Nikolai Velimirovich [Grayslake, iL: Diocese of New Gracanica and Midwestern America, 2011], p. 164.)

On Clerical Attire

Blessed Elder Epiphanios Theodoropoulos (+1989)

Orthodox Christians, even those who are of a worldly mind and spirit, find little, if any, spiritual comfort among the “progressive” and “modern” priests of our days. We thus make the following odd and strange observation: Priests who are strictly traditional, while serving as the ideal image for our conservative and traditional laity, also enjoy at the same time the immense respect, I dare say even admiration, of worldly laity. The latter even treat them with a great amount of respect which one might say it borderlines on the awe and fear that is usually directed towards our saints.

On the other side of the spectrum, “modernized” clergy exclusively provoke the anxiety and extreme uneasiness of traditionally-minded laity. Furthermore, while they are gladly accepted by the like-minded laity, they actually never gain their esteem and respect which is instead enjoyed only by priests who live a strict, spiritual life and have a traditional appearance.

The phrase “this is a holy man” has often been directed towards the strict and traditional clergy, irrespective of whether this clergy was married or celibate. Additionally, such characterization has been made not only by pious laity but even by those of a secular mind or others who are even indifferent towards religion or religious things. However, it has never been made by anyone, irrespective of their religious devotion, for the “progressive” and “modernized” priests or generally for any clergy that chooses, through their appearance, lifestyle and behavior, to exemplify “the spirit of our days.” This distinction carries many implications…

At this time, it would be proper to note the following: A lay theologian with progressive tendencies conveyed to me the following observation that he made during an American, non-Orthodox, clergy conference that took place in Athens, Greece.

“What can I tell you Father?” he asked. “You are absolutely correct in your thinking. I can not possibly consider these people as any kind of priests! You greet them and feel a complete lack of desire to show any respect, to spontaneously bend down and kiss their hand. You see them on the bus and you develop complete indifference towards jumping up and offering them your seat. Looking at them, I get the impression that I am staring at fancy restaurant waiters!… How very different I feel, though, when I see one of our priests, even if it is a simple monk!…”

One, of course, could easily misinterpret these words as the result of habitual observations, because in Greece we have been accustomed to see only cassock-wearing priests. For this reason, I must also mention a casual observation made during an interview of a well known European scientist (and published within the columns of the newspaper — “Ethnos” – several years ago, on February 17, 1970):

“It is so beautiful,” he said, “to watch a Greek priest and to pick him out from a distance; our clergy, on the other hand, must be literally sitting right next to you to distinguish them as such.”

These words must be repeated and heard over and over again by all those who for “aesthetic” reasons wish to abolish the use of cassocks. This testimony was made by a distinguished scientist and (interestingly enough) reported by a newspaper columnist who is well-known to be in clear favor of “ridding our clergy of their cassocks.” The subject scientist is surely accustomed to seeing his clergy with an outwardly appearance that parallels that of laity; nevertheless, he is inspired and exclaims upon seeing the cassock-wearing Greek priest, that “it is so wonderful to observe a priest dressed in this manner.”

One could, at this point, tell us:

“OK! Let us have different and peculiar attire for the clergy. Such garb, however, must not be so very unique and different from the dress code of laity. Let it be somewhat contemporary. The cassock is so ‘out of step with our times.’ Why should we thus not abolish it? The spirit of our times considers it as completely repulsive…”

Oh, this ancient and everlasting “spirit of our times!” It is exactly because every century and every generation has this same “spirit” (and the same thought process) that our clergy must be imposed upon a world that is flowing forward within a rapidly moving stream, constantly evolving and ever-changing. Science and technology are realizing dizzying leaps on a daily basis. Things of yesterday are unrecognizable by the people of today; things of today will be correspondingly unknown to the people of tomorrow. Thus, a little time passes and everything new and exciting becomes old and boring… It is within this unrestrained flow, these continuous alterations, this perpetual motion, these uninterrupted waves and oscillations, these terrible vibrations of the world that our clergy exists unaltered. Let us permit God’s priest to stand accordingly, as an unmovable rock and a sky-high column of light. He has neither a name nor an age. He is the one and the same from Jesus’ time (if not from the age of Malchizedek) and will be the same through the end of time! He, of course, has flesh, is born, lives and dies and is replaced by others. However, he is the same with the One Whom he represents on earth, even though he exists and has existed at millions of altars. The priesthood is one and the same, and emanates from Him.

This, therefore, is the Orthodox priest, the one and only that lies above place and time, binding together earth and heaven, uniting past, present and future, having been assimilated with the Son of God, possessing an infinite and eternal dimension, and whom we now wish to subjugate to the commands of the “spirit of time” of various generations. At times our priest may change but that is a process which occurring “naturally” through the forceful and violent nature of generational changes, for even he is subject to the illnesses of our “times.” However, is it not highly improper and awful to insist upon theoretical changes to the very foundation of clergy?

The Orthodox priest is the incarnation of the absolute, the expression of whatever is permanent, stable and motionless, the trumpet of heaven on earth, an icon of incorruptibility, and he who points out to all of us the pathway to eternity. Let us allow him to remain identical and unchangeable throughout the centuries, even in his external appearance, thus serving as a reminder and a symbol of the eternal and immutable Truths that he represents and upon which any type of change or the overshadowing of a social trend can carry no impact.

Let the world’s countenance be altered, let nature’s appearance be infected, but allow our clergy’s form and appearance (yes, their form and appearance) remain unchanged. Let Christ silently proclaim, through our priests, to the intoxicated, staggering, and continuously vibrating and evolving world: In the middle of this universal relativity and fluidity, in the middle of successive turnabouts, alterations, and changes, in the middle of corruption and extreme uncertainty, I remain. The Absolute and Ever-Lasting, the Incorruptible and Unaltered, the One and Only God!

from the book «Ἄρθρα, Μελέται – Ἐπιστολαί» (“Articles, Studies – Letters”), vol. 1, pg. 414, translated from the Greek by the staff of St. POIMEN Brotherhood

St. Nectarios on the Terms of Catholic-Orthodox Union

St. Nectarios of Aegina 1846-1920

The terms of union are such that they render the sought-for union impossible, because they have no point of contact. Each seeks from the other nothing more nor less than the denial of itself and the basic principles upon which the whole structure of the church is founded. For on the one hand, the Papal church is based on the primacy of the Pope according to their understanding of this point; and on the other, the Eastern Church is founded upon the Ecumenical Councils. Because of this, the terms of union brought forward by either side are impossible of acceptance since they overturn the churches from their very foundations. Hence the ineffectiveness of any concessions either side can make. The primacy of honor which is given by the Eastern Church to the Pope is a useless concession because it lacks the power to hold the fabric of the Western Church together. The concessions given by the Pope to the Eastern Church—that is, her remaining in her own dogmas, customs and disciplines—are not in the least considered as “concessions” by her but as legitimate in themselves, since they are founded on the Canons of the Church, for which reason alone she abides in them. But she demands also that the Pope himself with all the Western Church return to her bosom, renouncing their former life, and come in repentance to her. Therefore the apparent concessions have no meaning whatever, since they are not actually concessions. For union to come about, it is necessary that the concessions remove the main causes of separation. The concessions will truly be such when the Pope gives up his own ways, and not when he simply tolerates those things that have been well-established in the Church. Since the main causes of the separation remain as such, the churches persist in their own ways, and union is impossible. For union to be established, it must be made secure upon the same principle. Otherwise every labor is vain.  (An Historical Study Concerning the Causes of the Schism… Concerning the Impossibility or Possibility of Union)

Source: http://orthodoxinfo.com/ecumenism/desperate.aspx

Met. Anthony Khrapovitsky on the Old Calendar Schism

On October 11, 1934 Geroge Paraschos and Basil Stamatoulis, the President and Secretary General respectively of the Community of Genuine Orthodox Christians, appealed to ROCOR President Metropolitan Anthony Khrapovitsky to consecrate bishops for them and accept them under his omophorion. But nothing came of their appeal. However, it may be doubted whether Metropolitan Anthony was really so favourable – as we have seen, in 1926 he was against breaking all ties with the new calendarists until they had been condemned at an Ecumenical Council. (Vladimir Moss, New Zion in Babylon III, p. 108)

Metropolitan Anthony Khrapovitsky 1863-1936

You know the 13th, 14th and 15th canons of the First-and-Second Council, which speaks about separating oneself from a Bishop or Patriarch after his conciliar condemnation. And there is the canon (the 15th), which says that the clergyman is worthy, not of condemnation, but of praise, who breaks links with him [the heretic] for the sake of the heresy condemned by the holy council or the fathers…, and besides ‘when he (that is, the first hierarch) preaches heresy publicly and teaches it openly in the Church’. But this, glory to God, neither P[atriarch] Basil [III of Constantinople] nor [Archbishop] Chrysostom [of Athens] have done yet. On the contrary, they insist on keeping the former Paschalion, for only it, and not the Julian Calendar itself was covered by the curse of the councils. True, P[atriarch] Jeremiah in the 15th [correct: 16th] century and his successor in the 18th anathematized the calendar itself, but this curse: 1) touches only his contemporaries and 2)does not extend to those frightened to break communion with him, to which are subjected only those who transgress the canonical Paschalion. Moreover (this needs to be noted in any case), the main idea behind the day of Pascha is that it should be celebrated by all Christians (that is, the Orthodox) on one and the same day throughout the inhabited world. True, I myself and my brothers do not all sympathize with the new calendar and modernism, but we beseech the Athonite fathers not to be hasty in composing letters (Romans 14). Do not grieve about our readiness to go to the [Constantinople] Council. Of course, there will be no council, but if there is, and if we go, as St. Flavian went to the Robber Council, then, of course, we will keep the faith and deliver the apostates to anathema. But as long as the last word has not been spoken, as long as the whole Church has not repeated the curses of Patriarch Jeremiah at an Ecumenical Council, we must retain communion, so that we ourselves should not be deprived of salvation, and, in aiming at a gnat, swallow a camel… (The Russian Church and the New Calendar by Vladimir Moss)

On 17 February 1925, Metropolitan Anthony sent a “sorrowful message” to the Constantinos, [Constantine IV] Patriarch of Constantinople, calling upon him to renounce the decisions of the Pan-Orthodox Conference of 1923 on issues associated with the calendar and second marriages for clerics, and to stop infringing on the former territories of the Russian empire that were being ministered to by the Russian Church. In sending this message, however, Metropolitan Anthony did not abrogate church relations with the Patriarchate of Constantinople. In a letter to Hieroschemamonk Feodosii on Mount Athos, he wrote, “for now while they [the modernizers] have not had the last word, and while the Church as a whole at an Ecumenical Council has not repeated the imprecation of Patriarch Jeremaiah [who in 1583 anathematized those among the Orthodox who adopted the Gregorian calendar], we must continue to maintain relationships lest we deprive ourselves of our own salvation, and swallow the camel while straining out the gnat.”  (The Development of Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia’s Attitude Toward Other Local Orthodox Churches and Non-Orthodox Christians by Reader Andrei Psarev)

“Keep always in your mind’s eye… Metropolitan Anthony, who was like the ancient hierarchs, and in difficult times ask yourself how he would have acted in each case” said St John of Shanghai. It was precisely at the time that the Primate of ROCOR was Metropolitan Anthony that the Ecumenical Patriarch and the other Churches adopted the new calendar. The Patriarch Basil III mentioned below was not only a modernist but an ecumenist:

In the beginning of his letter to the Athos Hieroschemamonk Theodosius, Metropolitan Anthony posed the main question: “We must always think of this: what will my proposed step do for the Holy Church and for our souls?” Further he writes: “In the resolution of a question on continuing or breaking communion, one must, in accordance with Divine will, revealed through Tradition, the Canons and the lives of the Saints, employ condescension,” and in fact, ” “in certain circumstances, the breaking of communion with the guilty is mandatory only for bishops.” From the point of view of Holy Canons, the Hierarch, in his letter to Hieromonk Ilarion, clarifies: “Continue to commemorate Patriarch Basil as before… To separate from ones Patriarch is permitted by the 15 Canon of the Double Council only when he is condemned by the Council for clear heresy, and until then one can only refrain from fulfilling his unlawful demands. St Tarasius, Patriarch of Constantinople, teaches us by example how we are to treasure ecclesiastical peace. Let Fr. Theophan calmly continue to serve as a priest and pray for the good order of the holy Divine Churches.” In another letter to Hieroschemamonk Theodosius, Vladyka Anthony explains: ” “I grieve that you were persuading the brethren not to pray for Patriarch Basil… For the monks of Athos will be divided, not like the seamless garment of Christ. Pray that the Lord enlighten the old madman [the Patriarch]…” It is interesting to note that the Metropolitan thought first of the unity of the Athos monastics, which was more important than some sort of “true Orthodoxy,” for the great Hierarch knew in his inherent foresight what can happen: ” By this [that is, by breaking communion with the Patriarch] you approach the bezpopovtsi [priestless Old Believers] and at the very least, the schismatics.” In another letter he repeats: “In hastening towards division, [the zealots] can find themselves in the same abyss that the bezpopovtsi threw themselves.” One must note that the Metropolitan did not say that they must simply commemorate the Patriarch, but must pray for him, that the Lord “enlighten” him. In this way, healing untruth in the Church, the Metropolitan thought, was achieved not by schism, but by prayer. In conclusion, the Metropolitan writes to the zealots beyond reason: “Your zeal is worthy of praise, but hardly worthy of praise is rebellion and your judgment upon bishops!” (True Orthodoxy or Arrogation by Bernard Le Caro Member of the IV All-Diaspora Council Geneva, May 2/15, 2007)

It is interesting that in this question, Metropolitan Anastassy acted in the same way as Metropolitan Anthony, to whom the Greek Old Calendarists appealed, and were refused, in 1934. How carefully Metropolitan Anthony approached the observance of church unity is particularly clear in his letters to the Mt. Athos monk Fr. Theodosius. The latter, considering breaking with his archbishop for accepting New Calendar Greeks and writing to Metropolitan Anthony about this, received the following response: ‘Of course, I do not agree with your conclusion at all. The question remains that while recognizing holy tradition and witnessing their violation, in this case by the Greeks, one must still pose the following question: does such violation justify ecclesiastical separation or only reproof? You, Father, are one step away from falling into prelest’ [spiritual delusion]. May the Mother of God preserve you from the next step. I write to you as a benevolent friend: do not destroy your 40-year podvig [spiritual struggle] by a judgment of the Church on the basis of your relative formalism—relative and also arbitrary. The new calendar is no less distasteful to me than it is to you, but even worse is a break from Orthodoxy and its hierarchy by self-loving monks’. (Synodal Archives, Letters of Metropolitan Anthony, Letter No 17, April 18, 1930 excerpted from Nun Vassa [Larin] The Ecclesiastical Principle of Oikonomia and the ROCOR Under Metropolitan Anastassy)

Hieromonk Seraphim on Ecumenism

Hieromonk Seraphim Rose 1934-1982

This brings us to a fundamental question of definition: what is ecumenism? Some would-be zealots of Orthodoxy use the term in entirely too imprecise a fashion, as though the very use of the term or contact with an “ecumenical” organization is in itself a “heresy.” Such views are clearly exaggerations. “Ecumenism” is a heresy only if it actually involves the denial that Orthodoxy is the true Church of Christ. A few of the Orthodox leaders of the ecumenical movement have gone this far; but most Orthodox participants in the ecumenical movement have not said this much; and a few (such as the late Fr. Georges Florovsky) have only irritated the Protestants in the ecumenical movement by frequently stating at ecumenical gatherings that Orthodoxy is the Church of Christ. One must certainly criticize the participation of even these latter persons in the ecumenical movement, which at its best is misleading and vague about the nature of Christ’s Church; but one cannot call such people “heretics,” nor can one affirm that any but a few Orthodox representatives have actually taught ecumenism as a heresy. The battle for true Orthodoxy in our times is not aided by such exaggerations. (In Defense of Fr. Dimitry Dudko)

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 When Not to be Meek

St. Photios the Great ca. 810-893

For, though it has been commanded that we tolerate those who otherwise despise us because we are disciples of Him Who is gentle and peaceful, still no one can tolerate those who commit violence against the Faith; since even He Himself, though He gently bore other things and did not retaliate, not only those who had become so desperate as to make His Father’s house a house of commerce did He drive away therefrom with vehement censure, but also, having threatened with a double punishment those who were sharpening their tongues against the Holy Spirit, He made their city, men and all, a work of fire and sword and famine in this world and assured them, through the fact that He had disclosed their present punishment with much anger, that they should not escape the future punishment as well. (Letter 8, From Exile to the Bishops)

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)

St. John of Kronstadt on Being Orthodox

St. John of Kronstadt 1829-1908
 
But what about us, the children of the Orthodox Church? Are we preserving this precious inheritance, the Orthodox Faith; are we following its teachings, commandments, canons, rules, counsel? Do we love to offer service to God? Are we renewed thereby, are we hallowed each and every day, are we setting ourselves aright, are we attaining the perfection which the saints have reached? Are we becoming perfect in love for God and our neighbors; do we cherish our Faith; do we regard the mercy of God as the greatest thing, and that we have the good fortune to belong to the Orthodox Church is the first and greatest happiness in our life? What answer would we give to these questions if we were to respond according to our conscience?
To our shame, we must admit that in many Orthodox Christians the Orthodox Faith is not only absent in their heart, but it is also not on their tongue; among them it has vanished entirely, or has been turned into total indifference with regard to any religion whatever–Catholic, Lutheran, Jewish, Mohammendan, or pagan. We hear that one may please God in every religion, i.e., that every religion is supposedly pleasing to God, and that falsehood and truth, righteousness and unrighteousness are matters about which God does not care.
 
This is what ignorance of their own Faith, ignorance of the spirit and history of their Church, estrangement from its life and divine services, has brought many to–an eclipse of any understanding of Orthodoxy, heterodoxy and other religions! The annals of modern events relate that somewhere in Russia a certain headmaster, during the examination of his students, referred to the story of the sacrifice of Isaac as stupid. This is darkness, chaos, pernicious ignorance! The Christian, as a member of the Church, must know his own Faith and strive to live according to that Faith, to achieve salvation by means of that Faith, because the enemies of our salvation never sleep; they seek our destruction every hour and every day. The Orthodox Christian must not dismiss his Faith as a concern merely of certain people, or as a disposable toy appropriate only for children, or something fit only, as it were, for the uneducated common folk.
 
It would not be out of place to remind those who think thus of the venerable antiquity of our Faith, which is contemporary with the beginning of the human race, and of its direct origin with God and that men of high birth, vocation. position and gender lived and attained salvation in this Faith–glorious kings and wise philosophers, law-givers and the greatest orators, nobles and simple folk, rich and poor, men and women, the beauty and glory of the human race. To the glory of the Orthodox Faith one ought also to say that no other religion than the Orthodox Faith is capable of bringing man to moral perfection or holiness and the pleasing of God, as is shown by the history of the Church and the incorrupt, wonder-working remains of the holy favorites of God and the miraculous feats of the saints of the Orthodox Church, whereby they became perfectly pleasing unto God, becoming clairvoyant and working wonders even during their lifetime. Thus must it be for the sane mind: only a perfect Faith with all its divine powers, with the full spiritual armor of God, is able to bring one to perfection, against the passion-fraught flesh, the world and the devil.
 
And if now many even Orthodox Christians live badly, their manner of life, even if truly ungodly, cannot in the least, of course, be held against the Orthodox Faith, which is unshakable in its principles of Truth and holiness, in accordance with the promise of the Savior Himself and the testimony of history. Such people, although they have departed from us, were not ours in essence, but only in name…
 
Yea, my brethren, only the Orthodox Faith purifies and sanctifies human nature which has been defiled by sin…Do you wish to be assured of this? Read the history of the lives of the saints, the history of the Church, and you will see this for yourselves. You will see wolves transformed into lambs, fornicators into angelic righteous men and women, misers into paragons of charity, lovers of pleasure into ascetics; you will see people of power and earthly grandeur and luxury in humble monastic garb…These were true Christians indeed; these were angels in the flesh, citizens of heaven while still on earth… This is what our Orthodox Faith can do with those who sincerely hold to it and follow its direction!
 
But why does it not produce such a salvific change within us? Because of disbelief and lack of faith, flippancy, depravity and unrepentance of heart, because of the passions which have intensified and gained dominion over us, because we have withdrawn from the Church, and because many are not in the least imbued with the spirit and life of the Church, and many are only weakly, only formally, insincerely, attached to it. Because all the modern lusts have been engendered within us…For us to be genuine Orthodox Christians, we must first of all have living, constant fellowship with the Orthodox Church, i.e., participation in its prayers, teachings, mysteries, we must earnestly study our Faith and become imbued with it, live in its spirit, be guided by its rules, commandments, precepts; and most important, we must restore within us by true and profound repentance the image of the true Orthodox Christian, according to the image of the saints, ancient and recent, according to the model of our Lord Jesus Christ Himself, Who says: “I have given you an example, that ye should do as I have done to you” (Jn. 13: 15), that the Lord may also say to us, as He once said of Nathanael, “Behold an Israelite indeed, in whom is no guile!” Amen. (On the Joy of Being Orthodox)
 

On the Ears of the Laity

St. Hilary of Poitiers ca. 300-368

Specious indeed is the name of Peace, and beautiful is the idea of Unity; but who can doubt that the only Unity of the Church and of the Gospel is the Peace of Christ? This is the Peace which He left us when He was going to the Father (John 20:19); this is the Peace, most dearly beloved brethren, which we ought to seek when lost, and which, when disturbed, we ought to compose, and which, when found, we ought to hold fast. But now we have an Antichristian Unity forced upon us. Strenuous endeavours are made by some that Christ may be denied when He is supposed to be preached. Men labour to maintain the cause of Christ by courting the powers of the World. O ye Bishops, I ask you to consider what were the suffrages which the Apostles asked for the preaching of the Gospel? By what powers of the World were they enabled to preach Christ, and to win the Nations from idols to God? When they sang hymns to God in prison and in bonds, and after scourgings (Acts 16:25), did they invoke the aid of an officer from the Palace? Did Paul, who was a spectacle in the theatre, ever gather together a Church by means of an Imperial Edict? Did he ask for the patronage of a Nero, a Vespasian, or a Decius? And yet those holy men, who laboured with their hands, and met in secret chambers and upper rooms, and traversed towns, villages, and countries in spite of decrees of Senates, and edicts of Kings, had they not the keys of the Kingdom of Heaven? And did not God stretch forth His Hand to help them by ordering the things of this world in such wise that Christ was more fully preached in proportion as the preaching of Christ was more strictly forbidden? But now, alas! earthly suffrages impose divine faith, and Christ is convicted of weakness by the canvassing of earthly patronage in behalf of His Name. Now the Church scares men by exile and imprisonment, and forces them to believe her by dint of banishment and bonds. She who was consecrated by the menaces of her persecutors, now hangs a suppliant on the condescension of those who communicate with her. She who was propagated by the banishment of her priests, now banishes priests. She who cannot be Christ’s, except the World hate her, now boasts that the World loves her. Such is now the condition of the Church in comparison with the Church which was entrusted to our keeping, and which we are now in danger of losing by reason of the treachery of Bishops. But thank God the people in our Churches believe what they hear. They hear there that Christ is God, and they therefore deem Him to be God. They hear there that He is the Son of God, and they believe His Sonship to be real. They hear that He existed ‘before all worlds,’ and they think this to mean that He existed always. And so the ears of our people are holier than the hearts of our Priests. (St. Hilary Contra Auxentius)

On Various Rites of Reception

Jubilee Bishop’s Council Russian Orthodox Church Aug. 14, 2000

The existence of various rites of reception (through Baptism, through Chrismation, through Repentance) shows that the Orthodox Church relates to the different non-Orthodox confessions in different ways. The criterion is the degree to which the faith and order of the Church, as well as the norms of Christian spiritual life, are preserved in a particular confession. By establishing various rites of reception, however, the Orthodox Church does not assess the extent to which grace-filled life has either been preserved intact or distorted in a non-Orthodox confession, considering this to be a mystery of God’s providence and judgment. (Basic Principles of the Attitude of the Russian Orthodox Church the Other Christian Confessions 1.17)

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)

On Holding Fast

St. Basil the Great ca. 330-379

And what is our condition? Love is grown cold; the teaching of the Fathers is being laid waste; everywhere is shipwreck of the Faith; the mouths of the Faithful are silent; the people, driven from the houses of prayer, lift up their hands in the open air to their Lord which is in heaven. Our afflictions are heavy; martyrdom is nowhere to be seen, because those who evilly entreat us are called by the same name as ourselves. (Letter 164.2)

I exhort you, therefore, not to faint in your afflictions, but to be revived by God’s love, and to add daily to your zeal, knowing that in you ought to be preserved that remnant of true religion which the Lord will find when He comes on the earth. Even if bishops are driven from their Churches, be not dismayed. If traitors have arisen from among the very clergy themselves, let not this undermine your confidence in God. We are saved not by names, but by mind and purpose, and genuine love toward our Creator. Bethink you how in the attack against our Lord, high priests and scribes and elders devised the plot, and how few of the people were found really receiving the word. Remember that it is not the multitude who are being saved, but the elect of God. Be not then affrighted at the great multitude of the people who are carried here and there by winds like the waters of the sea. If but one be saved, like Lot at Sodom, he ought to abide in right judgment, keeping his hope in Christ unshaken, for the Lord will not forsake His holy ones. Salute all the brethren in Christ from me. Pray earnestly for my miserable soul. (Letter 257)

On Stricter Judgments

St. Cyril of Alexandria ca. 376-444

What shall we do against these evils, we who have been entrusted by God with the doctrine of the mystery, against whom on the day of judgment those who are introduced into the mysteries will certainly testify? For they will say that they kept the faith as they were introduced to it by us. And if we have done this rightly, we shall both receive a reward and meet with praise, but if we do otherwise and perversely, what kind of flames will be enough to punish us? For we shall hear, “You destroyed my land and you killed my people,” according to the Scripture. Each of those who are laymen in rank will give an account of his own life. But we who have been heavily laden with the duties of the episcopacy will give an account, not only of ourselves, but of all those believing in Christ. (Letter 9)

On Good Works and Right Faith

St. Cyril of Alexandria ca. 376-444

Our Lord Jesus Christ somewhere says to God His Father in heaven, “Now this is everlasting life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Him Whom You have sent, Jesus Christ.” (Jn. 17:3) Faith that is true and not subject to derision, because it has the brilliance attendant on good works, fills us with every good and reveals those who have found illustrious glory. The splendor of our actions if it appears to have no share in orthodox teachings and blameless faith would not at all benefit the soul of man, in my opinion. Just as “faith without works is dead,” (cf. Jas. 2:20) so also we say that the reverse is true. Therefore let integrity in faith shine forth along with the glories of upright living. Thus we shall be perfect according to the Law of the all-wise Moses, “You shall be perfect,” he says, “before the Lord your God.” (Deut. 18:13) (Letter 55.2)

St. Isaac the Syrian on Reading Heterodoxy

St. Isaac the Syrian died ca. 700

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

On the Effects of Being Patristic

Blessed Elder Paisios 1924-1994
 
If we were living Patristically, we would all be enjoying a spiritual health that would have been the envy of all the heterodox; it would have made them abandon their sick fallacies and render them saved, without any sermons.  At present, they are not moved by our holy Patristic tradition, because they are waiting to see our Patristic continuity – our true kinship with the Saints. 
 

On Rational Sheep

Apostolic Constitutions ca. 1st-4th cent.

Hear, O you bishops; and hear, O you of the laity, how God speaks: I will judge between ram and ram, and between sheep and sheep. And He says to the shepherds: You shall be judged for your unskilfulness, and for destroying the sheep. That is, I will judge between one bishop and another, and between one lay person and another, and between one ruler and another (for these sheep and these rams are not irrational, but rational creatures): lest at any time a lay person should say, I am a sheep and not a shepherd, and I am not concerned for myself; let the shepherd look to that, for he alone will be required to give an account for me. For as that sheep that will not follow its good shepherd is exposed to the wolves, to its destruction; so that which follows a bad shepherd is also exposed to unavoidable death, since his shepherd will devour him. Wherefore care must be had to avoid destructive shepherds. (Bk. 2.19)

St. Meletios of Antioch died ca. 381

Do not show obedience to bishops who exhort you to do and to say and to believe in things which are not to your benefit. What pious man would hold his tongue? Who would remain completely calm? In fact, silence equates to consent. This was clearly indicated by John the Baptist, and by the Maccabees through their legislation, who went as far as risking death, without overlooking the fact that the law is susceptible to changes. (Andrei Psarev, The Limits of Non-conformity in the Byzantine Church [861-1300]: A Study of Canon 15 of the First and Second Council in Constantinople [861] pg. 13)

St. Photios the Great ca. 810-893

Can a priest be a heretic? The wolf may escape and get away, but do not be fooled and approach it, and even if it appears to be wagging its tail gently, avoid coming into contact with it, as it is like poison from a snake. (ibid., pg. 13)

St. Hilary on False Teachers

St. Hilary of Poitiers ca. 300-368

But though many may heap up teachers according to their desires, and banish sound doctrine, yet from the company of the Saints the preaching of truth can never be exiled. From our exile we shall speak by these our writings, and the Word of God which cannot be bound will run unhindered, warning us of this time which the Apostle prophesied. For when men show themselves impatient of the true message, and heap up teachers according to their own human desires, we can no longer doubt about the times, but know that while the preachers of sound doctrine are banished truth is banished too. We do not complain of the times: we rejoice rather, that iniquity has revealed itself in this our exile, when, unable to endure the truth, it banishes the preachers of sound doctrine, that it may heap up for itself teachers after its own desires. We glory in our exile, and rejoice in the Lord that in our person the Apostle’s prophecy should be fulfilled. (On the Trinity Bk. 10.4)

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

On the Duties of Monks

St. Theodore the Studite ca. 759-826

If there are any monks in our day, they will be proved by their works. The work of a monk is to not tolerate any innovations whatsoever as pertains to the Gospel, that they not become examples to laymen as proposing heresy and communion with heretics, for they will give account for their [the laity’s] loss [of salvation]. (Letter 79, to Abbot Theophilos, PG 99, 1049)

On When Not to Remain Silent

St. Theodore the Studite ca. 759-826

The Commadment of the Lord is not to remain silent in times when the faith is in danger. ‘Speak, he said, and do not remain silent.’” And, “if any man draw back, my soul shall have no pleasure in him” (Heb. 10:38).  And, “if these should hold their peace, the stones would immediately cry out” (Lk. 19:40). Thus, when it is a matter of faith, one should not say: ‘Who am I, a priest or a leader of the people?’ In no case should one remain silent. (Letter 71, to Pantoleonti Logotheti, PG 99, 1321)


On Heretical Hierarchs and Orthodoxy

St. John Maximovitch 1896-1966

…When under Metropolitan Anastassy they began to speak about ‘the incorrect actions of the Church’, he used to stop them, pointing out that one must not ascribe the actions of the hierarchy to the Church, since the hierarchy is not the whole Church, even if it speaks in her name. On the see of Constantinople there were Paul the Confessor, Macedonius, Gregory the Theologian, John Chrysostom, Nestorius, Proclus, Flavian and Germanus. Some of them shone in sanctity and Orthodoxy, but others were the leaders of heresies. But the Church remained Orthodox. During iconoclasm after the expulsion of Severnin, Nicephorus and other, not only their sees, but also the majority of Episcopal sees were occupied by Iconoclasts. The other Churches did not even have communion with it [the see of Constantinople], according to the witness of St. Paul, who abandoned the heresy and his see, since they did not wish to have communion via the iconoclasts. Nevertheless, the Church of Constantinople remained Orthodox, although part of the people, and especially the guards and the bureaucrats, were drawn into iconoclasm. So now it is understandable when people who are not familiar with the language of the Church use the expression ‘Soviet church’, but it is not fitting for responsible and theological discussions. When the whole hierarchy of South-Western Rus’ passed into uniatism, the Church continued to exist in the person of the believing Orthodox people, which after many sufferings restored its hierarchy. (New Zion in Babylon IV pg. 144 by Vladimir Moss)

On Christians in a Sinful Age

St. Philaret of Moscow 1821-1867

A fish that is alive swims against the flow of water. One that is dead floats down with the water. A true Christian goes against the current of this sinful age. A false one is swept away by its swiftness. (Orthodox Life Vol. 63 No. 3 May-June 2012 pg. 43)

On the Royal Path

Hieromonk Seraphim Rose 1934-1982

The teaching of th[e] “royal path” is set forth, for example, in the tenth of St. Abba Dorotheus’ Spiritual lnstructions, where he quotes especially the Book of Deuteronomy: Ye shall not turn aside to the right hand or to the left, but go by the royal path (Deut. 5:32, 17:11), and St. Basil the Great: “Upright of heart is he whose thought does not turn away either to excess or to lack, but is directed only to the mean of virtue.” But perhaps this teaching is most clearly expressed by the great Orthodox Father of the 5th century, St. John Cassian, who was faced with a task not unlike our own Orthodox task today: to present the pure teaching of the Eastern Fathers to Western peoples who were spiritually immature and did not yet understand the depth and subtlety of the Eastern spiritual doctrine and were therefore inclined to go to extremes, either of laxness or over-strictness, in applying it to life. St. Cassian sets forth the Orthodox doctrine of the royal path in his Conference on “sober-mindedness” (or “discretion”)—the Conference praised by St. John of the Ladder (Step 4:105) for its “beautiful and sublime philosophy”:

“With all our strength and with all our effort we must strive by humility to acquire for ourselves the good gift of sober-mindedness, which can preserve us unharmed by excess from both sides. For, as the Fathers say, the extremes from both sides are equally harmful—both excess of fasting and filling the belly, excess of vigil and excessive sleep, and other excesses.” Sobermindedness “teaches a man to go on the royal path, avoiding the extremes on both sides: on the right side it does not allow him to be deceived by excessive abstinence, on the left side to be drawn into carelessness and relaxation.” And the temptation on the “right side” is even more dangerous than that on the “left”: “Excessive abstinence is more harmful than satiating oneself; because, with the cooperation of repentance, one may go over from the latter to a correct understanding, but from the former one cannot” (i.e., because pride over one’s “virtue” stands in the way of the repentant humility that could save one). (Conferences, II, chs. 16, 2, 17.)

Applying this teaching to our own situation, we may say that the “royal path” of true Orthodoxy today is a mean that lies between the extremes of ecumenism and reformism on the one side, and a “zeal not according to knowledge” (Rom. 10:2) on the other. True Orthodoxy does not go “in step with the times” on the one hand, nor does it make “strictness” or “correctness” or “canonicity” (good in themselves) an excuse for pharisaic self-satisfaction, exclusivism, and distrust, on the other. This true Orthodox moderation is not to be confused with mere luke-warmness or indifference, or with any kind of compromise between political extremes. The spirit of “reform” is so much in the air today that anyone whose views are molded by the “spirit of the times” will regard true Orthodox moderation as close to “fanaticism,” but anyone who looks at the question more deeply and applies the patristic standard will find the royal path to be far from any kind of extremism. (The Royal Path)

Source: http://orthodoxinfo.com/ecumenism/royal.aspx

Elder Paisios on the Heterodox

Blessed Elder Paisios the Athonite 1924-1994

There’s no need for us to tell Christians who aren’t Orthodox that they’re going to hell or that they’re antichrists; but we also mustn’t tell them that they’ll be saved, because that’s giving them false assurance, and we’ll be judged for it. We have to give them a good kind of uneasiness — we have to tell them that they’re in error…In order for us to pray with someone, we must agree on the faith. (Elder Paisios of Mount Athos by Hieromonk Isaac pg. 658)

St. Justin Popovich on Intercommunion

St. Justin Popovich 1894-1979

Intercommunion, that is to say participating with heretics in the Holy Sacraments, and especially in the Holy Eucharist, is the most shameless betrayal of our Lord Jesus Christ, Judas’ betrayal. It is especially the betrayal of the whole of the one and unique Church of Christ, of the Holy Tradition of the Church. One would have to rid oneself of one’s Christlike way of thinking and one’s conscience before the various sacraments, before their holy meanings, and the holy commandments in order to do this.

First of all we would have to ask ourselves on what Ecclesiology and on what Theology of the Church is “intercommunion” based? This is because all of Orthodox Theology is not founded on or based on “inter-communion,” but upon the theanthropic reality of communion, that is to say upon theanthropic Communion itself. (cf. 1 Cor. 1: 9; 10: 16-17; 2 Cor. 13: 13; Heb. 2: 14; 3: 14; Jn. 1: 3) The idea of inter-communion is contradictory in itself and totally inconceivable for the Orthodox Catholic conscience.

The second fact, indeed a sacred fact of Orthodox faith, is the following: In Orthodox teaching about the Church and the Sacraments, the single most unique mystery is the Church itself, the Body of the God-man Christ, so that she is the only source and the content of all divine Sacraments. Outside of this theanthropic and inclusive Mystery of the Church, the Pan-Mystery itself, there are no and cannot be any “mysteries”; therefore, there can be no inter-communion of Mysteries. Consequently we can only speak about Mysteries within the Context of this unique Pan-Mystery which is the Church. This is because the Orthodox Church, as the Body Christ, is the source and the foundation of the Sacraments and not the other way around. The Mysteries, Sacraments, cannot be elevated above the church, or examined outside the Body of the Church.

Because of this, in accordance with the mind of the Catholic Church of Christ, and in accordance with the whole of Orthodox Tradition, the Orthodox Church does not recognize the existence of other mysteries or sacraments outside of itself, neither does it recognize them as being mysteries, and one cannot receive the sacraments until one comes away from the heretical “Churches,” that is to say the pseudo-Churches, through repentance to the Orthodox Church of Christ. (Orthodox Faith and Life in Christ, pp. 172-174)

On Usage of the Term ‘Orthodox’

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) 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)

On Three Non-Negotiables

Elder Sophrony Sakharov 1896-1993

There are three things I cannot take in: nondogmatic faith, nonecclesiological Christianity and nonascetic Christianity. These three – the church, dogma, and asceticism – constitute one single life for me. (Letter to D. Balfour, August 21, 1945)

St. John Maximovitch on Apostasy

St. John Maximovitch 1896-1966

There will be a mass falling away from the faith; even many bishops will betray the faith, justifying themselves by pointing to the splendid position of the Church.

A search for compromise will be the characteristic disposition of men. Straightforwardness of confession will vanish. Men will cleverly justify their fall, and an endearing evil will support such a general disposition. Men will grow accustomed to apostasy from the truth and to the sweetness of compromise and sin. (Homily on the Last Judgment)

On Communion with the Heterodox

St. Athanasius of Alexandria ca. 297-373

I have been compelled, at the instance of certain most sincere brethren, to write at once in order that keeping faithfully and without guile the pious faith which God’s grace works in you, you may not give occasion of scandal to the brethren. For when any sees you, the faithful in Christ, associate and communicate with such people, [or worshipping along with them], certainly they will think it a matter of indifference and will fall into the mire of irreligion. Lest, then, this should happen, be pleased, beloved, to shun those who hold the impiety [of Arius], and moreover to avoid those who, while they pretend not to hold with Arius, yet worship with the impious. And we are specially bound to fly from the communion of men whose opinions we hold in execration. [If then any come to you, and, as blessed John 2 Jn. 10 says, brings with him right doctrine, say to him, All hail, and receive such an one as a brother.] But if any pretend that he confesses the right faith, but appear to communicate with those others, exhort him to abstain from such communion, and if he promise to do so, treat him as a brother, but if he persist in a contentious spirit, him avoid. (Letter 53)

On the Necessity of Proclaiming the Gospel

St. Maximus the Confessor ca. 580-662

Our salvation does not depend merely on faith of the heart. The Lord teaches, Whosoever shall deny Me before men, him will I also deny before My Father Which is in heaven. Furthermore, the divine Apostle tells us, With the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation. If God and the Prophets and Apostles command that the mystery of faith which is the salvation of the whole world be confessed openly, then our salvation is hindered when its proclamation is forbidden. (St. Dimitri Rostov: Life of St. Maximus)

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

St. Tikhon on the Orthodox Faith

St. Tikhon of Moscow 1865-1925

How speedily some of us lose the Orthodox faith in this country of many creeds and tribes! They begin their apostasy with things, which in their eyes have but little importance. They judge it is ‘old fashioned’ and ‘not accepted amongst educated people’ to observe all such customs as: praying before and after meals, or even morning and night, to wear a cross, to keep icons in their houses and to keep church holidays and fast days. They even do not stop at this, but go further: they seldom go to church and sometimes not at all, as a man has to have some rest on a Sunday (…in a saloon); they do not go to confession, they dispense with church marriage and delay baptizing their children.

And in this way their ties with Orthodox faith are broken! They remember the Church on their deathbed, and some don’t even do that! To excuse their apostasy they naively say: ‘this is not the old country, this is America, and consequently it is impossible to observe all the demands of the Church.’, as if the word of Christ is of use for the old country only and not for the whole world. As if the Orthodox faith is not the foundation of the world!

‘Ah, sinful nation, a people laden with iniquity, a seed of evil doers, children that are corrupters: they have forsaken the Lord, they have provoked the Holy One of Israel into anger.’ (Is 1.4)

If you do not preserve the Orthodox faith and the commandments of God, the least you can do is not to humiliate your hearts by inventing false excuses for your sins!

If you do not honor our customs, the least you can do is not to laugh at things you do not know or understand.

If you do not accept the motherly care of the Holy Orthodox Church, the least you can do is to confess you act wrongly, that you are sinning against the Church and behave like children!

If you do, the Orthodox Church may forgive you, like a loving mother, your coldness and slights, and will receive you back into her embrace, as if you were erring children.

Holding to the Orthodox faith, as to something holy, loving it with all their hearts and prizing it above all, Orthodox people ought, moreover, to endeavor to spread it amongst people of other creeds.

Christ the Savior has said that ‘neither do men light a candle and put it under a bushel, but on a candle stick, and it giveth light unto all that are in the house.’ (Mt 5.15)

The light of Orthodoxy was not lit to shine only on a small number of men. The Orthodox Church is universal; it remembers the words of its Founder: ‘Go ye into the world, and preach the gospel to every creature’ (Lk 16.15), ‘go ye therefore and teach all nations’ (Mt 28.19). (Homily on the Triumph of Orthodoxy)

Source: http://www.monachos.net/content/patristics/patristictexts/233

Prepare for the Catacombs

Hieromonk Seraphim Rose 1934-1982

We ourselves have a feeling—based on nothing very definite as yet—that the best hope for preserving true Orthodoxy in the years ahead will lie in such small gatherings of believers, as much as possible ‘one in mind and soul.’ The history of the twentieth century has already shown us that we cannot expect too much from the ‘Church organization’; there, even apart from heresies, the spirit of the world has become very strong. Archbishop Averky, and our own Bishop Nektary also, have warned us to prepare for catacomb times ahead, when the grace of God may even be taken away from the ‘Church organization’ and only isolated groups of believers will remain. Soviet Russia already gives us an example of what we may expect—only worse, for the times do not get better. (Hope – Fr. Seraphim Rose, His Life and Works)

On Modernism

Metropolitan Philaret (Voznesensky) 1903-1985

Modernism consists in that bringing-down, that re-aligning of the life of the Church according to the principles of current life and human weaknesses. We saw it in the Renovation Movement and in the Living Church in Russia in the twenties. At the first meeting of the founders of the Living Church on May 29, 1922, its aims were determined as a “revision and change of all facets of Church life which are required by the demands of current life” (The New Church, Prof. B. V. Titlinov, Petrograd-Moscow, 1923, p. 11). The Living Church was an attempt at a reformation adjusted to the requirements of the conditions of a communist state. Modernism places that compliance with the weaknesses of human nature above the moral and even doctrinal requirements of the Church. In that measure that the world is abandoning Christian principles, modernism debases the level of religious life more and more. Within the Western confessions we see that there has come about an abolition of fasting, a radical shortening and vulgarization of religious services, and, finally, full spiritual devastation, even to the point of exhibiting an indulgent and permissive attitude toward unnatural vices of which St. Paul said it was shameful even to speak. (Second Sorrowful Epistle)

Will He Find Faith on Earth?

Lk. 18:8 Nevertheless, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?

Metropolitan Philaret (Voznesensky) 1903-1985

When and where did the Lord promise that the whole world could be united in the Church? Such an expectation is nothing more than a chiliastic hope with no foundation in the Holy Gospels. All men are called unto salvation; but by no means do all of them respond. Christ spoke of Christians as those given Him from the world (John 17:6). He did not pray for the whole world but for those men given Him from the World. And the apostle St. John teaches that the Church and the world are in opposition to each other, and he exhorts the Christians, saying, “Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him” (I John 1:16). Concerning the sons of the Church, the Savior said, “They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world” (John 17:16). In the persons of the Apostles the Savior warned the Church that in the world She would have tribulation (John 16:33), explaining to His Disciples: “If you were from the world, the world would love its own; but because you are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you” (John 15:19). In Holy Scriptures, therefore, we see that a clear distinction is made between the sons of the Church and the rest of mankind. Addressing himself to the faithful in Christ and distinguishing them from unbelievers, St. Peter writes, “But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a peculiar people” (I Peter 2:9).

We are in no manner assured in Scripture of the triumph of truth on earth before the end of the world. There is no promise that the world will be transfigured into a church uniting all of mankind as fervent ecumenists believe, but rather there is the warning that religion will be lacking in the last days and Christians will suffer great sorrow and hatred on the part of all nations for the sake of our Savior’s Name (Matt. 24:9-12).

…Therefore the efforts of Orthodox Christians should not be directed to the building of organizations, but toward becoming inhabitants of the new Creation after the Final Judgment through living a pious life in the one true Church. In the meantime, activities aimed at building the Kingdom of God on earth through a fraudulent union of various confessions without regard for the Truth, which is kept only within the Tradition of the Holy Orthodox Church, will only lead us away from the Kingdom of God and into the kingdom of the Antichrist.

It must be understood that the circumstance which prompted our Savior to wonder if at His Second Coming He would find the Faith yet upon the earth is brought about not only by the direct propagation of atheism, but also by the spread of ecumenism.

The history of the Church witnesses that Christianity was not spread by compromises and dialogues between Christians and unbelievers, but through witnessing the truth and rejecting every lie and every error. It might be noted that generally no religion has ever been spread by those who doubted its full truth. (Second Sorrowful Epistle)

A Prophetic Warning

St. Paisius Velichkovsky 1722-1794

…[I]f you depart from heeding and reading Patristic books you will fall away from the love Christ, that is, from the fulfilling of Christ’s commandments and there will enter into your midst rebellion, tumult, and disorder, disturbance of soul, wavering and hopelessness, murmuring against and judgment of each other; and because the increase of these, the love of many will grow cold, or rather that of almost all; and if such will be, this community will soon be dissolved, first in soul, and with time and body also. (Blessed Paisius Velichkovsky: The Man Behind the Philokalia pg. 123)

On the Duty of All Orthodox Christians

St. Vincent of Lerins died ca. 445

To preach any doctrine therefore to Catholic Christians other than what they have received never was lawful, never is lawful, never will be lawful: and to anathematize those who preach anything other than what has once been received, always was a duty, always is a duty, always will be a duty. (The Commonitory 9.25)

…[I]t is the sure characteristic of Catholics to keep that which has been committed to their trust by the holy Fathers, to condemn profane novelties, and, in the Apostle’s words, once and again repeated, to anathematize every one who preaches any other doctrine than that which has been received. (Gal. 2:9) (ibid. 24.63)

Nicea II 7th Ecumenical Council 787

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. (Ancient Epitome of Canon 1)

Encyclical of the Eastern Patriarchs 1848

…[N]either Patriarchs nor Councils could then have introduced novelties amongst us, because the protector of religion is the very body of the Church, even the people themselves, who desire their religious worship to be ever unchanged and of the same kind as that of their fathers. (Paragraph 17)

 

On Zeal for the Truth

Metropolitan Philaret (Voznesensky) of New York 1903-1985

Let us grant that modern preachers of heresy are not so belligerent towards the Orthodox Church as the ancient ones were. However, that is not because their doctrines are nearer to Orthodox teaching, but because Protestantism and Ecumenism have built up in them the conviction that there is no One and True Church on earth, but only communities of men who are in varying degrees of error. Such a doctrine kills any zeal in professing what they take to be the truth, and therefore modern heretics appear to be less obdurate than the ancient ones. But such indifference to truth is in many respects worse than the capacity to be zealous in defense of an error mistaken for truth. Pilate, who said “What is truth?” could not be converted; but Saul, the persecutor of Christianity, became the Apostle Paul. That is why we read in the Book of Revelation the menacing words to the Angel of the Church of Laodicea: “I know thy works, that thou art neither cold nor hot: I would thou wert cold or hot. So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spew thee out of my mouth.” (Rev. 3:15-16) (First Sorrowful Epistle)

The Vision of Theophanes

St. John Moschos ca. 550-619

There was an elder residing at the Lavra of Calamon on the holy Jordan whose name was Cyriacos. He was a great elder in the sight of God. A brother came to him, a stranger from the land of Dara, named Theophanes, to ask the elder about lewd thoughts. The elder began to encourage him by talking about self-control and purity. Having benefited greatly, the brother said to the elder: ‘Abba, in my country I am in communion with Nestorians, sir; which means I cannot stay with you, even though I would like to.’ When the elder heard the name of Nestorius he became very concerned about the destruction of the brother. He urged and besought him to seperate himself from that noxious heresy and to go to the catholic, apostolic church. He said to him: ‘There is no other way of salvation than rightly to discern and believe that the holy Virgin Mary is in truth the Mother of God.’ The brother said to the elder: ‘But truly, abba, all the sects speak like that sir: that if you are not in communion with us, you are not being saved. I am a simple person and really do not know what to do. Pray to the Lord that by a deed He will show me which is the true faith.’ The elder was delighted to grant the brother this request. He said to him: ‘Stay in my cell and put your trust in God that His goodness will reveal the truth to you’. He left the brother in the cave and went out to the Dead Sea, praying for him. About the ninth hour of the second day, the brother saw a person of awesome appearance standing before him and saying to him: ‘Come and see the truth.’ He took the brother and brought him to a dark and disagreeable place where there was fire — and showed him Nestorius, Theodore, Eutyches, Appollinarius, Evagrios and Didymus, Dioscorus and Severus, Arius and Origen and some others, there in that fire. The apparition said to the brother: ‘This place is prepared for heretics and for those who blaspheme against the Mother of God and for those who follow their teachings. If you find this place to your liking, then stay with the doctrine you now hold. If you have no wish to enter the pains of this chastisement, proceed to the holy catholic church in which the elder teaches. For I tell you that if a man practice every virtue and yet not glorify God correctly, to this place he will come.’ At that saying the brother returned to his senses. When the elder came back, he told him everything that had happened, exactly as he saw it. Then he went and entered into communion with the holy, catholic and apostolic church. He stayed with the elder at Calamon and, having passed several years in his company, he fell asleep in peace. (The Spiritual Meadow, 26.)

The Testament of St. Theodosius

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

Lord, give the blessing!

I have something to say to you, God-loving Prince! I, Theodosius, the wretched slave of the All-Holy Trinity: the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, was born and raised in the pure and Orthodox faith and in good Orthodox teaching by my father and mother.

Beware, my child, of those who are crooked in faith, and beware all their conversations, for our land is full of them.

If a man will save his soul, this is possible only by living in the Orthodox faith. For there is no other faith better than our pure, holy, Orthodox faith. Living in this faith, not only will you be delivered from sins and eternal torments, but you will also become a partaker of eternal life, and you will rejoice endlessly with the saints. But those who live in another faith will not see eternal life.

Also, my child, it is not good to praise a foreign faith. He who praises a foreign faith is doing the same as if he were blaspheming against his own faith. But if someone will praise both his own faith and a foreign faith, then he is two-faithed, and is close to heresy.

And so, my child, beware of them and always stand for your own faith. Do not be friendly with them, but flee from them and struggle in your own faith through good works. Give alms not only to those of your own faith, but also to those of other faiths. If you see someone naked or hungry, or who has fallen into misfortune, – whether he is a Jew, or a Turk, or a Latin, – be merciful to everyone, deliver him from his misfortune, as far as you are able, – and you will not be deprived of a reward from God. For God Himself in this age pours out His mercies not only on Christians, but also on the unbelievers. God cares for pagans and unbelievers in this age, but in the future age they will be strangers to the eternal good things. But we who live in the Orthodox faith will both receive all good things here and will be saved in the future age by our Lord Jesus Christ.

My child! If it will be necessary for you even to die for this holy faith, go with boldness to death. In this way did the saints die for the faith, and they now live in Christ.

My child, if you see those of other faiths quarrelling with the Orthodox and trying to seduce them away from the Orthodox Church, help the Orthodox. In this way you will deliver the sheep from the mouth of the lion. But if you are silent and leave him helpless, that is the same as if you took away a soul that had been redeemed by Christ and handed him over to Satan.

If someone says to you: “Both your and our faith are from God”, you, my child, must reply to him as follows: “O crooked in faith! Or do you think that God, too, is two-faithed? Have you not heard what the Scripture says: ‘There is one God, one faith, one baptism’ (Ephesians 4.5)? How many years have you kept the right, Apostolic faith, and now through Satan’s insinuation you have been corrupted into evil belief. Have you not heard the teaching of the Apostle Paul: ‘Even if an angel should come from heaven and preach to you a Gospel that we have not preached to you, let him be anathema’ (Galatians 1.8)? But you have rejected the apostolic teaching and the decrees of the Holy Fathers and accepted a wrong and corrupted faith, filled with all destruction. Therefore you are rejected by us. You are dead, and the sacrifice you offer [i.e., the Eucharist] is dead. But we offer a living sacrifice to the living God, a pure and undefiled sacrifice, so as to obtain eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. To Him be glory. Amen. (Testament of St. Theodosius of the Kiev Caves to the Great-Prince Iziaslav on the Orthodox Christian Faith)

On Heresy

Gal 5:19-21

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

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

St. Ignatius of Antioch ca.45-107

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

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

St. Irenaeus of Lyons died ca. 202

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

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

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

Clement of Alexandria ca. 150-215

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

Tertullian ca. 160-220

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

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

St. Hippolytus of Rome ca. 170-235

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

St. Methodius of Olympus died ca. 311

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

St. Athanasius of Alexandria ca. 293-373

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

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

St. Hilary Poitiers ca. 300-368

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

St. Cyril of Jerusalem ca. 313-386

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

St. Gregory Nazianzus ca. 329-390

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

St. Basil of Caesarea ca. 330-379

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

Abba Agathon ca. 4th cent.

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

Abba Poemen the Great ca. 4th cent.

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

Abba Theodore ca. 4th cent.

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

Blessed Jerome ca. 347-420

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

St. John Chrysostom ca. 349-407

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

Blessed Augustine of Hippo ca. 354-430

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

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

St. John Cassian ca. 360-435

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

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

St. Vincent of Lerins died ca. 445

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

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

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

St. Maximus the Confessor ca. 580-662

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

St. John Climacus ca. 7th cent.

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

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

“To lapse into heresy,” I replied.

(ibid., Step 15)

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

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

St. Isaac the Syrian died ca. 700

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

Bede the Venerable ca. 673-735

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

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

St. John Damascene ca. 676-749

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

St. Symeon the New Theologian ca. 949-1022

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

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

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

Izyaslav of Kiev)