On Unity in Secular Unessentials

229365.bDr. Constantine Cavarnos 1918-2011

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

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

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

On How the Theotokos Taught the Church

St.-PhilaretSt. Philaret of Moscow 1821-1867

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

On the Ever-Virgin

icon from Mount Tabor Studios, Raymond Vincent

icon from Mount Tabor Studios, Raymond Vincent

St. Basil the Great 330-379

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

On Icons of the Word Made Flesh

Nativity by Gabriel Toma Chituc

          Nativity by Gabriel Toma Chituc

St. Theodore the Studite 759-826

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

On the Activity of the Saints

Eustratios the Presbyter of Hagia Sophia fl. 590s

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

Patriarch Kirill of Moscow on Contemporary Issues

Patriarch Kirill of Moscow

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

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

 

 

 

On Rock and Sand

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

On the Heads of the Church

The Great High Priest by Damascene Gallery

The Eastern Patriarchs to the English Non-Jurors 1721

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

On 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 the Letter

St. Maximus the Confessor ca. 580-662

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

On the Ancient Method of Infant Baptism in the English Church

The Second Council of Calcuith, England AD 816

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

On the Petrified Church

St. Nikolai Velimirovich 1880-1956

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

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

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

On the Church Fathers and the Protestant Reformers

Rock and Sand published by New Rome Press

Fr. Josiah Trenham

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

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

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

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

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

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

On Fasting and Prayer in Holy Scripture

Patriarch Jeremiah II of Constantinople 1530-1595

Since the fasts and the prayers are necessary, hearken unto the Lord who says in the second chapter of the Gospel according to Saint Luke: “And there was a prophetess Anna… She did not depart from the Temple, worshipping with fasting and prayer night and day” (Lk. 2:36-37). Also, hear Paul in the seventh chapter of his First Epistle to the Corinthians: “that you may devote yourselves to fast and prayer” (1 Cor. 7:5). And also, the sixth chapter of his Second Epistle to the Corinthians [reads]: “in watchings, in fastings” (2 Cor. 6:5). And if someone would like to elicit similar testimonies from the Scripture, he will easily find many others. (Augsburg and Constantinople, p. 209. The Three Answers: Second Exchange: Constantinople to Tubingen, 15)

On Saving Faith

St. Stephen of Perm 1340-1396

Do good on the basis of your faith in God, remember that faith alone without good works will not save you, for it is dead. Do not be like the whited sepulchers which appear beautiful on the outside, but are filled with bones and decay within. Do not call out to God: ‘O Lord! O Lord!’ for He will not save you if through your deeds you do not show your faith in Him and your obedience to His will. Do not quarrel, do not give in to anger, do not fight – be helpers and partners to each other. And the final words I will say unto you: Henceforth, brothers, I commend you to God and to His Word of grace, which has the power to save you, for He is our Savior, glory to him forever, amen! (A Nineteenth-Century Life, N. N. Filippov, Sviatoi Stefan, episkop Permskii. Istoricheskii razskaz. St. Petersburg: Izdanie M. V. Kliukina, 1893)

Evangelist Billy Graham on the Soul After Death

Hieromonk Seraphim Rose 1934-1982

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

On the Orthodox Old Testament Canon

Apocrypha in the 1611 KJV

Archbishop Chrysostomos of Etna and Bishop Auxentius of Photiki

As regards the canon of the Old Testament and the apocryphal, or deuterocanonical, texts, we cannot deal with our subject as easily as…the canon of the New Testament. Here, a comparative perspective is quintessential. We might characterize the Eastern Orthodox position on the Apocrypha as lying somewhere between the stance of the Protestants and that of the Roman Catholics, which represent the extremes of a spectrum of opinion ranging from acceptance to rejection of the texts.

Excepting Psalm 151 and III Maccabees, the Roman Catholic Church accepts the Septuagint text of the Old Testament. Despite Saint Jerome’s characterization of the Apocrypha as mere ecclesiastical books, the Augustinian notion of the full canonicity of the books prevailed. Partially in response to the Protestant Reformation, and its rationalistic reassessment of the value of the deuterocanonical books, the Counter-Reformation Council of Trent (1545-1563), in its fourth session, endowed the canon of the Old Testament, including the Apocrypha, with dogmatic authority.

To describe the Protestant position as one which rejects the Apocrypha as part of the Old Testament Canon is admittedly artificial. Lacking a criterion of conciliar ratification such as the pronouncements of Trent, it is difficult to pinpoint an official Protestant determination. Moreover, there is, strictly speaking, no such thing as a “Protestant” determination, simply because Protestantism is a fairly inaccurate term used to cover a broad range of theological tradition and creeds. However, we shall, for the sake of comparison (by which to elucidate the Orthodox view of the Old Testament Scripture), define as the Protestant stance the view presented by a number of historically significant Reformed bodies.

Martin Luther’s (1483-1546) translation of the Bible (1534) grouped the Apocrypha at the end of the Old Testament; they were good for reading, but not equal to Holy Writ. The Thirty-nine Articles of Religion (1563) of the Church of England directed that the deuterocanonical texts were not to be used to establish doctrine. The King James Bible of 1611 printed the Apocrypha as separate texts between the Old and New Testaments. And the Westminster Confession of 1647 rejected the Apocrypha as writings of men only. Granted that modern Protestant theologians have varying opinions on the disputed books, our tentative, if admittedly contrived, view of the Protestant treatment of the Apocrypha marks one pole of the spectrum of attitudes.

It would be indeed unwise if we were to see the Orthodox attitude toward the Apocrypha as a kind of midpoint along our spectrum. In this sense, we would abuse our conceptual construct. The Orthodox position is one which which corresponds, in part, with both the Roman Catholic and Protestant views, neither representing one or the other faithfully, nor providing a distinct alternative to either. On the one hand, as in Roman Catholicism, the Orthodox accept the decrees of the Church Councils as authoritatively binding. On the other hand, they see these decrees as efficacious only when they are accepted by the universal Church and brought to full maturity by their compatibility with spiritual life and experience, with what is “Orthodox”. About this we will have much more to write. Suffice it to say that this principle (the marriage of practice and authority, indeed of praxis and theoria) accounts for the fact that, today (as was so vividly apparent at the unfortunate Pan-Orthodox Synod of Rhodes in 1961), Greek theological thinkers fully accept the Apocrypha, while some contemporary Russian theologians express reservations about them. Yet the unity of the two Churches prevails. It is not that two attitudes prevail in the one Church, but that the two attitudes define and constitute the position of the One Church. This is always the way we must speak of the Church, in these times of trial, when Her unity is paradoxical, internal, and not subject to cold, rational analyses. (Scripture and Tradition pp. 20-22)

On the Catholicity of Holy Icons

St. Nikephoros, Hagia Sophia mosaic

St. Nikephoros of Constantinople ca. 758-828

But you… have decided to wage war on us [the Church]… Nonetheless, you have decided to raise up against [Orthodox doctrine] some murky teachings from pernicious men. What Rome is it, first called the seat of the Apostles, that accords with you in rejecting the revered image of Christ? Rather, Rome joins us in laboring and rejoicing to honor that [image]. What Alexandria is it, venerable precinct of the Evangelist Mark, that ever joined [you] in refusing to set up the bodily and material likeness of the Mother of God? Rather, Alexandria assists and agrees with us in this [point]. What Antioch is it, far-famed seat of Peter, the chief [of the Apostles], that concurs [with you] in insulting the representation of the Saints? Rather, Antioch shares with us the long tradition of honoring these [images]. What Jerusalem is it, renowned home of [James] the brother of the Lord, that conspires [with you] in destroying the traditions [handed down] from the Fathers? (Bithos, ‘Saint Methodios of Constantinople, A Study of His Life and Works, p. 158)

St. Philaret of Moscow on the Reception of Converts

St. Philaret of Moscow 1821-1867

Question 1

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

Reply

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

Question 2

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

Reply

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

 

St. Philaret on the Intercessions of the Saints

St. Philaret of Moscow 1821-1867

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

On How to Read Holy Scripture

Hieromonk Seraphim Rose 1934-1982

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Inspiration of Scripture

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How to Interpret Scripture

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

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

Literal vs. Non-literal

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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)

 

On Salvation for the Whole Man

St. Justin the Philosopher ca. 103-165

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

On Many of Those Outside of the Church

Archimandrite Placide Deseille

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

On the 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 the Decree of the Seventh Ecumenical Council

What the Council Decreed

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

On Why the Orthodox Pray for the Dead

Eustratios Argenti 1687-1757

To show that their souls are alive, and have not passed into non-existence as the irrational beasts.

In confirmation of the General Resurrection.

In confirmation of the Last Judgment.

To confirm that each of them has not yet received his reward (as the Holy Fathers teach).

To remind us that they are our members, and that we ought to commemorate them.

To help them. ‘For sacrifices and almsgiving help some, effecting for them a complete remission; while for those who have been condemned, they perhaps make the punishment more tolerable’ (St. Augustine, Enchiridion, Chap. 110)

To comfort and console their relatives who are still alive.

In accordance with teaching of the greatest antiquity, handed down to us from the Fathers, that we should pray for those who have fallen asleep to commemorate them.

Because we are under obligation to pray for one another. The Calvinolutherans are thus misanthropists and haters of their brethren, for after burying their kinfolk they then refuse to make any further mention of them. (Eustratios Argenti, A Study of the Greek Church Under Turkish Rule by Kallistos Ware, pp. 157-158)

 

Patriarch Dositheus on the Reception of Converts

Patriarch Dositheus II of Jerusalem 1641-1707

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

On the 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)

On Ancient Proto-Protestantism

St. John Damascene ca. 676-749

The Cataphrygians, or Montanists…accept the Old and New Testaments, but they also introduce other prophets of whom they make much — a certain Montanus and a Priscilla. (On Heresies, 48)

The Pepuzians… belong to the Cataphrygians, they hold other things which these last do not…Furthermore, they permit women to hold authority and to officiate as priests. (ibid., 49)

Aerius was a native of Pontus and, being still alive, he continues to be a source of annoyance… Since Aerius had not been appointed bishop, he gave out many things against the Church…he has gone to even greater excess by holding that it is unnecessary to offer Mass for the deceased. He forbids fasting on Wednesdays and Fridays and during Lent, and also forbids the celebration of Easter. He indulges without restraint in every sort of meat and food. Should any one of his followers wish to fast, he tells him not to do so on the stated days, but whenever he wishes — ‘For,’ says he, ‘you are not under any law.’ He further claims that there is no difference between bishops and priests. (ibid., 75)

The Aetians…say it is nothing serious to have erred in any way, whether by fornication or some other sin, since God requires nothing else save that one adhere to this faith which they hold. (ibid., 76)

The Antidicomarianites, say that after having given birth to the Savior, the blessed Mary, the Ever-Virgin, had marital relations with Joseph. (ibid., 78)

The Accusers of Christians are such and so called, because those Christians who worship one living and true God praised in Trinity they accused of worshipping as gods, after the manner of the Greeks, the venerable images of our Lord Jesus Christ, of our immaculate lady, the holy Mother of God, of the holy angels, and of His saints. They are furthermore called Iconoclasts, because they have shown deliberate dishonor to all these same and holy and venerable images have consigned them to be broken up and burnt. Likewise, some of those painted on walls they have scraped off, while others they have obliterated with whitewash and black paint. (ibid., 102)

The one-hundred-and-third heresy is that of the Apostichae (makers of schism) who are also called Doxarii (Gloriers). They seek after their own glory and submit neither to the law of God nor to His priests…although they are neither bishops nor presidents of the people, but only members of the common herd, they separate themselves from the Catholic Church… They differ among themselves and are in a state of utter confusion, because their falsehood is split into many factions. They have separated from the communion of the Church and pretend to a great severity of discipline, with each one vying to prove himself better than the next. Some of them do not admit Holy Baptism and do not receive Holy Communion, whereas others will kiss neither a newly made figure of the venerable Cross nor a holy image. What is worst of all, since they consider themselves to be superior to all men they will accept no priest, but ‘speaking lies in hypocrisy and having their consciences seared’ (1 Tim. 4:2) they contend in words of no profit and lay up for themselves wood, hay and stubble (2 Tim. 2:14, 1 Cor. 3:12) as most inflammable fuel for the eternal fire. May we be delivered both from the frenzy of the Iconoclasts and from the madness of the Aposchistae, which, although they are diametrically opposed evils, are equal in their impiety. (ibid., 103)

These heresies detailed above have been described in brief, because, although they amount to but a hundred altogether, all the rest come from them. The Catholic Church has kept itself from all these, as so many pitfalls, and, instructed by the Holy Trinity, it teaches rightly and religiously… (The Fount of Knowledge: On Heresies)

On the Orthodox Veneration of the Theotokos

Eastern Patriarchs to the Church of England, April 12th, 1718

Though they call the Mother of our Lord blessed, and magnify the Grace of God which so highly exalted her; yet are they afraid of giving the glory of God to a creature, or to run into any extreme by blessing and magnifying her: and do hence rather choose to bless and magnify God for the high grace and honor conferred upon her, and for the benefit which we receive by that means.

Here we may fairly cry out with David, They were in great fear where no fear was (Ps. 53:5). For, when we thus magnify and extol the holy Mother of God, and Ever-Virgin Mary, we do by no means give divine honor either to this most glorious creature, or any other, but acknowledge and adore one and one only Maker and Creator of all things visible and invisible; and serve, praise, and glorify Him alone as God the Almighty. For, we know how to make a distinction in worship, and give that of latria to God only, but that of dulia to the Holy Apostles, Martyrs and righteous and godly Fathers, honoring them as faithful servants and true friends of God: therein imitating the holy Psalmist David, who says, I greatly honor thy friends O God (Ps. 139: 17). For whom The Lord called His friends and children, (for He says, I no more call you servants, but friends and children and heirs, Jn. 15:15) the same we honor and worship, not with latria, but with dulia; and call upon them for their intercession, as persons that are living after death, and have received favor from God, and as seeing and hearing what is done here, even as the Angels. Hear what Eusebius Pamphilus says in his second Oration of the Life of Constantine the Great. Says he, The great Constantine in his Edict ordains that the estates of the Martyrs. If they have no heir, should go to the Church. And why did he make this order? It is, says he, by no means hard even upon the dead, that she for whom they have been laboring, should be the heir. Indeed we worship our Lady the Virgin-Mother of God with hyperdulia, but not as God; as the Theotokos and Mother of God, but not with latria: God forbid; that would be blasphemy. For God only do we worship with latria, and make her our intercessor with Him for sins committed after Baptism, and by her hope for remission from Him. But let not this affrighten you. For, no one that is not wholly ignorant and without understanding, could worship or serve the creature above the Creator, unless he was an idolator, a polytheist and a madman. For we honor also earthly princes, and crown them, and bow down to them with much reverence, and worship them with bended knee; and are not upon that account called men-worshippers, nor are we looked upon as people that honor the creature above the Creator. For, the worship we give them is that of dulia, as servants elect of God, and honored of Him, and therefore both being called, theostepheis. Nor are we found fault with this. Besides, a terrestrial prince seeing his friends and servant honored and worshipped by other inferiors, rejoices and abundantly recompenses the honor to them. For, we don’t pay them the same honor that is due to the king only, but such as is proper for the friends of a king. However, if this offends them, they may forbear saying, “Holy Mother of God, help us”; and instead of it, may say, “Merciful and Almighty Lord, assist the intercessions of Mary the Holy Virgin and Mother of God, and save us”; until in time they come to be reconciled to the other. (The Answers of the Orthodox of the East to the Proposals sent from Britain for a Union and Agreement with the Oriental Church. Points of Difference: Proposition 2)

On the Biblico-Patristic Mindset

Fr. Georges Florovsky 1893-1979

If you turn to the Fathers of the Church you will see that they are scriptural throughout, in their preaching, in their basic vocabulary. Well, can we say that our Orthodoxy today is as scriptural as it was in the Fathers? The Protestants remind us of this. (Interview published in the magazine Concern, Vol. III, No. 4, Fall 1968.)

On Music in Holy Scripture

St. Maximus the Confessor ca. 580-662

If you are looking for a clarification of the music found in Scripture, understand it in the following way. “Praise the Lord with the sound of the trumpet”: at the commemeration of the resurrection the earth is jolted by a trumpet, as it had been written. “Praise Him with stringed instrument and harp”: with our tongue and our mouth as though we were being plucked by the Spirit, as by a plectrum. “Praise Him with timbrel and dance”: with flesh and soul, from which our petitions, like dancers, step across to God. “Praise him with strings and pipes”: with the heart and with all the internal organs and nerves, which he has called pipes. “Praise Him with clanging cymbals”: with the lips through which the harmonious songs of psalmody are composed. (Questions and Doubts: Various Questions and Selections from Various Passages that are Perplexing, Question I, 71)

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)

St. Photios on Total Depravity

St. Photios the Great ca. 810-891

Read a book whose subscription reads, “Theodore of Antioch, Against Those Who Say That Men sin by Nature and not by Intention.” His polemic against those is developed in five books.  He wrote this work against Westerners touched by this ill…

The principles of their heresy are, in summary, the following:  Men sin, they say, by nature and not by intention; and ‘by nature’ they do not mean that nature which was in Adam when first created (because this, they say, was good because made by a good God), but that nature which was his later after the fall because of his ill conduct and sin.  He received a sinful nature in exchange for the good and a mortal nature in exchange for an immortal; it is in this manner and by nature that men became sinners after having been good by nature.  It is in their nature and not by a voluntary choice that they acquired sin.

The second point is connected to the preceding propositions. They say that infants, even newly born, are not free from sin because, since the disobedience of Adam, nature is fixed into sin and that this sinful nature, as was said, extends to all his descendants.  They quote, he says, the verse, “I was born in sin” and others similar: the holy baptism itself; the communion with the incorruptible body for the remission of sins and the fact that these apply to infants as a confirmation of their own opinion.  They claim also that no man is just, and this is thus obviously a corollary of their initial position, “because nothing of flesh can be justified before you,” he says, and he cites other texts of the same kind.

The fourth point (O blasphemous and impious mouth) is that Christ Himself, our God, because He put on a nature soiled by sin, was not Himself free from sin.  However, in other places in their impious writings, as the author says, it can be seen that they apply the Incarnation to Christ not in truth and in nature, but only in appearance.

The fifth point is that marriage, they say, or the desire of carnal union and the ejection of seed and all that is of that domain and by which our species perpetuates itself and increases itself are works of the evil nature into which Adam fell through sin to receive all the weight of the evils because of his sinful nature.  Such are thus the positions of the heretics. (Myriobiblion 177)

On Defending the Unwritten Traditions

St. Basil the Great ca. 330-379

[T]he object of attack is faith. The one aim of the whole band of opponents and enemies of sound doctrine 1 Tim. 1:10 is to shake down the foundation of the faith of Christ by levelling apostolic tradition with the ground, and utterly destroying it. So like the debtors,— of course bona fide debtors— they clamor for written proof, and reject as worthless the unwritten tradition of the Fathers. But we will not slacken in our defence of the truth. We will not cowardly abandon the cause. (On the Holy Spirit, 25)

On the Translation of the Seventy (LXX)

St. Cyril of Jerusalem ca. 313-386

For the process was no word-craft, nor contrivance of human devices: but the translation of the Divine Scriptures, spoken by the Holy Ghost, was of the Holy Ghost accomplished.

Of these read the two and twenty books, but have nothing to do with the apocryphal writings. Study earnestly these only which we read openly in the Church. Far wiser and more pious than yourself were the Apostles, and the bishops of old time, the presidents of the Church who handed down these books. Being therefore a child of the Church, trench thou not upon its statutes. (Catechetical Lectures, 4.34-35)

St. Basil on Eternal Security

St. Basil the Great ca. 330-379

So truly stands the whole of human life, not contented with what has gone before and fed not so much on the past as on the future. For how is a man the better for having his belly filled yesterday, if his natural hunger fails to find its proper satisfaction in food today? In the same way the soul gains nothing by yesterday’s virtue unless it be followed by the right conduct of today. For it is said I shall judge you as I shall find you.

Vain then is the labor of the righteous man, and free from blame is the way of the sinner, if a change befall, and the former turn from the better to the worse, and the latter from the worse to the better. So we hear from Ezekiel teaching as it were in the name of the Lord, when he says, if the righteous turns away and commits iniquity, I will not remember the righteousness which he committed before; in his sin he shall die, and so too about the sinner; if he turn away from his wickedness, and do that which is right, he shall live. Where were all the labours of God’s servant Moses, when the gainsaying of one moment shut him out from entering into the promised land? What became of the companionship of Gehazi with Elissæus, when he brought leprosy on himself by his covetousness? What availed all Solomon’s vast wisdom, and his previous regard for God, when afterwards from his mad love of women he fell into idolatry? Not even the blessed David was blameless, when his thoughts went astray and he sinned against the wife of Uriah. One example were surely enough for keeping safe one who is living a godly life, the fall from the better to the worse of Judas, who, after being so long Christ’s disciple, for a mean gain sold his Master and got a halter for himself. Learn then, brother, that it is not he who begins well who is perfect. It is he who ends well who is approved in God’s sight. (Letter 42. 1-2)

Chrysostom on Calling No Man Father

St. John Chrysostom ca. 349-407

For what says He? But be not ye called Rabbi. Then follows the cause also; For one is your master, and all you are brethren; Mat. 23:8 and one has nothing more than another, in respect of his knowing nothing from himself. Wherefore Paul also says, For who is Paul, and who is Apollos, but ministers? 1 Cor. 3:5 He said not masters. And again, Call not, father, Mat. 23:9 not that they should not call, but they may know whom they ought to call Father, in the highest sense. For like as the master is not a master principally; so neither is the father. For He is cause of all, both of the masters, and of the fathers. (Homilies on Matthew, 72.3)

St. John of Kronstadt on Praying to Saints

St. John of Kronstadt 1828-1908

Lutherans say: “Why should we ask the prayers of the saints for ourselves? We pray to God Himself.” But they contradict themselves, for why do they ask a pastor to pray for them? They might as well pray without a pastor if everyone has equal access to God and we have no need of any sanctified suppliants. What blindness! They say that by praying to the saints we worship idols. This is untrue. We do not pray to any saints as we pray to God, we only ask his prayers for ourselves. Is there a shadow of idolatry in this? In the same manner as we ask God’s living ministers and suppliants to pray to Him for us, so likewise we ask the heavenly suppliants, who, from their love to God, have great boldness before Him; besides this, very many of them, even when they lived here on earth, were already suppliants and intercessors before God for the world; there, in heaven, this activity of theirs is only continued, has attained greater dimensions, and is especially powerful, because it is no longer hindered by the heavy and inert flesh. (On Prayer: Extracts from His Writings: IX. 99)

On the Virgin

St. Epiphanius of Salamis ca. 315-403

Is not the very name [virgin] sufficient witness? Is it not enough to convince you, you quarrelsome fellow? Was there ever anyone who dared pronounce the name of holy Mary without immediately adding the title “Virgin”? (Haer. 78.6)

On St. Seraphim of Sarov and Francis of Assisi

“The event which we relate below was communicated to us verbally in August 1931 by Mr. K. who afterwards wrote it to us in a letter. It is this letter which we shall make use of here.

It is common knowledge that St Seraphim knew experimentally and said more than oce that Christianity was preserved in all its plentitude and purity in the Orthodox Church. And what is most sriking and convincing is his own sublime virtue and the fullness of grace which dwelt in him with such ‘power’ (Mk. 9:1) as it seldom did even in the ancient Saints. It is sufficient to mention merely the talk of N.A. Motovilov with the Saint (during which he was miraculously transfigured like the Lord on Mount Tabor) in order to establish without the slightest doubt that Orthodoxy still retains in actual fact its original purity, vitality, fullness, and perfection.

But let us quote his own words: ‘We have the Orthodox faith which has not the slightest blemish.’ ‘

I pray and beseech you, he said on another occassion to some Old Ritualists, ‘go to the Greek-Russian Church. It is in all the glory and power of God. It is directed by the Holy Spirit.’

This has also been testified to by a follower of another confession. Here are the facts.

‘A friend of mine’, writes Mr. K., ‘forwarded to me a letter written in French in which an Alsatian lady asks him to send her something about the Russian Orthodox Church–a prayer book or something of the kind. If I am not mistaken, it was in the year 1925. Something was sent to her in answer to her letter, and there the matter rested for some time.

In 1927 I was in that place and tried to make her acquaintance; but she was away for the summer holidays, and I only made the acquaintance of her mother-in-law, an old lady of great Christian charity and purity of heart.

She told me that their family belonged to an ancient and noble line in Alsace, the N.N.s and that they were Protestants. It must be said that in this district of Alsace the villagers are of mixed faith, one half being Roman Catholic and the other half Protestants. They share a common church, in which they perform their services in turns. At the end of the church there is a Catholic altar with statues and all appurtenances. When the Protestants hold a service, they pull a curtain in front of the Catholic altar, roll their table out into the middle and pray. Recently there has been a movement in Alsace among the Protestants in favour of the veneration of Saints. This occurred after the appearance of Sabatier’s book on Francis of Assisi. Though a Protestant he was captivated by this Saint’s way of life after a visit to Assisi. The family of my friends also fell under the spell of this book. Though they remained in Protestantism, they nevertheless felt dissatisfied with it and in particular they strove for a restoration of the Sacraments and the veneration of the Saints. Moreover, it was typical of them that when the pastor performed the marriage ceremony, they asked him not to pull the curtain over the Catholic altar so that they might see at least the statued of the Saints. Their heart was seeking the true Church.

Once the young wife was ill and was sitting in the garden, reading a life of Francis of Assisi. The garden was in full bloom. The quiet of the countryside enfolded her. While reading the book, she fell into a light sleep.

‘I don’t know myself how it was,’ she told me afterwards. ‘Suddenly I saw Francis himself coming towards me, and with him a little old man like a patriarch, bent but radiant,’ she said indicating thereby his old age and venerable appearance. He was all in white. She felt frightened, but they came quite near her and Francis said, ‘My daughter, you seek the true Church. It is there, where he is. It supports everyone, and does not require support from anyone.’

The white Elder remained silent and only smiled approvingly at the words of Francis. The vision ended. She came to herself, as it were. And somehow the thought came to her: ‘This is connected with the Russian Church.’ And peace descended on her soul. After this vision the letter was written which I mentioned at the beginning.

Two months later, I was again at their house, and this time I learned from the visionary herself one more detail. They had hired a Russian workman. When she visited his room to see whether he was comfortably settled, she saw there a small Icon and recognized in it the Elder whom she had seen, in her light sleep, with Francis. Astonished and alarmed she asked, ‘Who is he, that little old man?’

‘St. Seraphim, our Orthodox Saint,’ answered the workman. Then she understood the meaning of the words of Francis about the truth being in the Orthodox Church.” (St. Seraphim of Sarov: A Spiritual Biography by Archimandrite Lazarus Moore)

 

On the Church and the Canon of Holy Scripture

St. Hilarion Troitsky 1886-1926

[R]eason left to itself will not stop at the abolition of the very books of Holy Scripture. Indeed, what is the basis for recognizing these or other books as Holy Scripture and genuine Apostolic works? There can only be one answer to this question: our recognition of certain books as Holy Scripture and authentic Apostolic works is based solely on faith in the Church and on trust in the authority of the Church. The books of Holy Scripture were written by the Apostles and entrusted to the custody of the Church. The Apostles, and particularly the Apostle Paul, even gave special proof of the genuineness of their Epistles, providing them with their own handwritten signature. The custodian of the authentic Epistles and all the Apostolic writings was the Church. Only she could judge the Apostolic value of her property. After all, the Church expressed in her decisions her teaching on the composition of Holy Scripture. Thus we must recognize as the New Testament precisely those twenty-seven well-known books which were recognized as the New Testament by the Church.

Blessed Augustine said: “Ego uero Euangelio non crederem, nisi me catholicae ecclesiae commouerat auctoritas.” For my part, I should not believe the gospel except as moved by the authority of the Catholic Church. (Against the Epistle of Manichaeus called Fundamental 5.6) These words of Augustine express a great truth. If there is no Church, there will be no Holy Scripture either. Protestants and sectarians seemingly recognize and revere Holy Scripture; but does not their recognition hang in thin air? Let Protestants or sectarians completely and sincerely think out the question: why do we recognize exactly these books as Holy Scripture? To refer to one’s personal opinion is to refuse to give a reasonable answer. We cannot refer to scholarship either. The question of the origin and authenticity of the books of Holy Scripture is much debated in scholarly circles. This scholarly literature has already been growing for entire centuries. Piles of books have been written, but with no positive results. There are simply no results that could command the agreement of all. How can a Protestant refer to his “impartial” scholarship, when hopeless disputes go on, even concerning the authenticity of the Gospels, especially the Gospel of John? Let the Protestants resolve the question of the genuineness of the Pastoral Epistles of the Apostle Paul! But the representatives of Protestant scholarship all answer this question in different ways. The conservative scholars recognize them to be genuine works of the Apostle Paul. Others say that they are only based on authentic letters of Paul; in their present form they cannot possibly belong to him and they contain later additions. Still others declare the Pastoral Epistles to be complete later forgeries with a tendentious motive: that they were written to justify the newly established hierarchical structure and were written in the middle of the second century, and the name of the Apostle Paul has simply been falsely ascribed to them. To whom should we listen? Why this scholar and not another? Are there many people who are capable on their own of weighing the mass of contradictory arguments? And are there many people who are capable of entering into the fine points of scholarly investigation? There is no common authority and it is not known whom to listen to. Listening to all of them at the same time is impossible, since one goes to the woods, while another goes to the woodpile; one strives for the clouds, while another goes backwards; and yet another wants to go into the water.

 Doubt in the authenticity of the books of Holy Scripture arose with Protestantism itself. Indeed, Luther rejected the Epistle of James, calling it for some reason a straw letter. And the followers of Luther went incomparably further. Therefore, it is necessary to recognize that the concept of an absolute canon of Holy Scripture is exclusively a Church concept; outside of the Church it is totally inconceivable.

It is completely incomprehensible when sectarians want to talk about canonical and uncanonical books of Holy Scripture. Protestants study the history of the New Testament canon a good deal, but that very history is utterly devastating to the concept of canonicity outside the Church. History shows that the canon has not always and in all the [local] Churches been the same. A few centuries passed before the canon was fixed by conciliar decisions. For us there is nothing tempting in this, since we believe in the Church, and therefore her decisions are equally sacred, whether they belong to the second, fourth or twentieth century. But not so for the Protestants and others who deny the truth of the Church. For them, the history of the New Testament canon casts doubt upon the very concept of canonicity. The more consistent Protestants do not conceal this. For example, Adolf Jülicher concludes his study on the history of the New Testament canon with a very characteristic sentence: “The unassailable fact of the human and gradual genesis of the New Testament canon may serve the purpose of liberating us from the danger that this canon could turn from being a support into being an oppressive yoke.” (Holy Scripture and the Church)

 

Bede the Venerable on the Old Testament Prohibition of Images

Bede the Venerable ca. 673-735

[I]f we examine the words of the law more carefully, perhaps it will become apparent that it is not making images of objects or animals that is forbidden. Rather what is entirely prohibited is making them for the purpose of idolatry. Finally, as the Lord on the holy mountain was about to say, You shall not make for yourself a carved thing, He first said, You shall not have strange gods before me, and then added, You shall not make for yourself a carved thing, or the likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or in the earth beneath, or of those things that are in the waters under the earth; and He concluded as follows: You shall not adore them or serve them. (Ex 20:3–5) These words are a clear statement that what people are forbidden to make are those images which the impious are in the habit of making for the worship of alien gods and which the gentiles have misguidedly devised for service and worship. Moreover, in my opinion, no prescription of the divine law forbids making these; otherwise even the Lord in response to the Pharisees who put him to the test on rendering to Caesar the coin of tribute on which, they said, Caesar’s name and image was depicted, would certainly not have said the words, Render to Caesar what are Caesar’s and to God what are God’s. Rather he would have corrected their error and said, ‘It is not lawful for you in the minting of your gold to make the image of Caesar because the divine law forbids such sculpture.’ For when the coin of tribute was shown him, it would have been an opportunity for him to say so, if Caesar’s image had been misrepresented upon it for purposes of idolatry and not rather in token of his royal authority. (On the Temple, Bk.2:19.11)

St. Gregory Palamas on the Filioque

St. Gregory Palamas 1296-1359

How can you say that which is not boldly spoken by the proclaiming truth, which the Spirit did not announce, the proclaimer of all truth, to which He did not bear witness and which He did not relay, He who notified all His friends about all that He heard from the Father, Who came so that He might bear witness to the truth? How can you introduce an alien addition to the specific creed, which was written jointly by the chosen Fathers who, gathered together spiritually for this, wrote the Creed from a sincere opinion of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit and gave it as a touchstone of the true knowledge of God and immutable confession of faith for all the elect to direct the word of truth? …In our opinion, at first your addition needs to be taken away, and then to consider whether the Holy Spirit is from the Son or not, and to maintain whether or not it corresponds to the extant decision of the God-bearers. (Apodictic Treatise 1)

On Injuring the Gospel

St. Basil the Great ca. 330-379

[W]ere we to attempt to reject such customs as have no written authority, on the ground that the importance they possess is small, we should unintentionally injure the Gospel in its very vitals; or, rather, should make our public definition a mere phrase and nothing more…For I hold it apostolic to abide also by the unwritten traditions. (On the Holy Spirit 27.66, 29.71)

On How to Debate Iconophobes

St. Hilarion Troitsky 1886-1929

Today we ever more frequently run up against this kind of reasoning: “We read such and such in Holy Scripture. The Church teaches differently. So the Church is wrong.” All kinds of sectarians monotonously chant in this manner ad nauseam. There are even those who echo these ideas while calling themselves Christians, that is, they have adopted incomprehensible arrogance in their attitude toward the Church, placing themselves far above her. Holding the point of view described above regarding the sources of doctrine, it is not easy to respond properly. Let us consider, for example, the issue of the veneration of icons. A sectarian points out the prohibition of images in the Old Testament (cf. Ex. 20:4), or the words of Christ about spiritual worship (cf. Jn. 4:23). For him icons are a contradiction. Do we respond by saying that the veneration of icons is based on Tradition? But Tradition is to be accepted only when it does not contradict Scripture. References, for example, to the Cherubim on the curtain of the Old Testament Temple are not very convincing. Thus, the dispute continues without end and to no avail because the missionaries themselves adopt the sectarian perspective, and that perspective by its very essence leads only to a battle of words, but not to the truth. In contrast, drawing from the idea of the Church, we do not even need to argue on the basis of Scripture; for us, our faith in the Church is enough. The fruitlessness of disputes “from the Scripture” was recognized long ago by Tertullian, who said that such arguments could only make your stomach and brain ill or cause you to lose your voice, falling finally into rabid fury from the blasphemies of heretics (Prescription Against Heretics, 17). He asserts that it is not worth appealing to Scripture, since victory is either unlikely or completely impossible. But a person of the Church can boldly reiterate these words, since to  him “it is quite the same to be taught by Scripture and by the Catholic Church” (The Confession of Dositheus). (Holy Scripture and the Church)

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 Scholasticism

St. Maxim the Greek ca. 1475-1556

No dogma, human or divine, can firmly be considered reliable among them [scholastics], if Aristotelian syllogisms do not affirm that dogma and if it does not respond to artistic demonstration. (Florovsky, Ways of Russian Theology)

On Striving for Christian Unification

Metropolitan Anthony Khrapovitsky 1863-1936

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. (Zhizneopisanie Blazheneishego Antoniia (…) 7 (New York, 1961), 85.)

Source

St. Irenaeus on True Knowledge

St. Irenaeus died ca. 202

True knowledge is [that which consists in] the doctrine of the apostles and the ancient constitution of the Church throughout all the world, and the distinctive manifestation of the body of Christ according to the successions of the bishops, by which they have handed down that Church which exists in every place, and has come even unto us, being guarded and preserved without any forging of Scriptures, by a very complete system of doctrine, and neither receiving addition nor [suffering] curtailment [in the truths which she believes]; and [it consists in] reading [the word of God] without falsification, and a lawful and diligent exposition in harmony with the Scriptures, both without danger and without blasphemy; and [above all, it consists in] the pre-eminent gift of  love, 2 Cor. 8:1, 1 Cor. 13 which is more precious than knowledge, more glorious than prophecy and which excels all the other gifts [of God]. (Against Heresies 4.33.8)

St. Irenaeus’ formula for true knowledge consists of five major points:

1) Apostolic Doctrine

2) The Church founded in ancient times which extends throughout all the world

3) Bishops with Apostolic Succession

4) Reading Scriptures in harmony without falsification

5) Love

On the Well-Being of a Church

Blessed Jerome ca. 347-420

The well-being of a Church depends upon the dignity of its chief-priest [bishop], and unless some extraordinary and unique functions be assigned to him, we shall have as many schisms in the churches as there are priests. (Dialogue with a Luciferian 9)

Where is the Church?

St. Ignatius of Antioch ca. 50-117

See that you all follow the bishop, even as Jesus Christ does the Father, and the presbytery as you would the apostles; and reverence the deacons, as being the institution of God. Let no man do anything connected with the Church without the bishop. Let that be deemed a proper Eucharist, which is [administered] either by the bishop, or by one to whom he has entrusted it. Wherever the bishop shall appear, there let the multitude [of the people] also be; even as, wherever Jesus Christ is, there is the Catholic Church. (Epistle to the Smyrnaeans, 8)

St. Irenaeus of Lyons died ca. 202

For in the Church, it is said, God has set apostles, prophets, teachers, 1 Cor. 12:28 and all the other means through which the Spirit works; of which all those are not partakers who do not join themselves to the Church, but defraud themselves of life through their perverse opinions and infamous behaviour. For where the Church is, there is the Spirit of God; and where the Spirit of God is, there is the Church, and every kind of grace; but the Spirit is truth. (Against Heresies Bk. 3.24.1)

Florovsky on Scripture and Tradition

Protopresbyter Georges Florovsky 1893-1979
It is quite false to limit the “sources of teaching” to Scripture and tradition, and to separate tradition from Scripture as only an oral testimony or teaching of the Apostles. In the first place, both Scripture and tradition were given only within the Church. Only in the Church have they been received in the fulness of their sacred value and meaning. In them is contained the truth of Divine Revelation, a truth which lives in the Church. This experience of the Church has not been exhausted either in Scripture or in tradition; it is only reflected in them. Therefore, only within the Church does Scripture live and become vivified, only within the Church is it revealed as a whole and not broken up into separate texts, commandments, and aphorisms. This means that Scripture has been given in tradition, but not in the sense that it can be understood only according to the dictates of tradition, or that it is the written record of historical tradition or oral teaching. Scripture needs to be explained. It is revealed in theology. This is possible only through the medium of the living experience of the Church.
We cannot assert that Scripture is self-sufficient; and this not because it is incomplete, or inexact, or has any defects, but because Scripture in its very essence does not lay claim to self-sufficiency. We can say that Scripture is a God-inspired scheme or image (eikón) of truth, but not truth itself. Strange to say, we often limit the freedom of the Church as a whole, for the sake of furthering the freedom of individual Christians. In the name of individual freedom the Catholic, ecumenical freedom of the Church is denied and limited. The liberty of the Church is shackled by an abstract biblical standard for the sake of setting free individual consciousness from the spiritual demands enforced by the experience of the Church. This is a denial of catholicity, a destruction of catholic consciousness; this is the sin of the Reformation. Dean Inge neatly says of the Reformers: “their creed has been described as a return to the Gospel in the spirit of the Koran” (Very Rev. W. R. Igne, The Platonic Tradition in English Religious Thought, 1926, p. 27). If we declare Scripture to be self-sufficient, we only expose it to subjective, arbitrary interpretation, thus cutting it away from its sacred source. Scripture is given to us in tradition. It is the vital, crystallizing centre. The Church, as the Body of Christ, stands mystically first and is fuller than Scripture. This does not limit Scripture, or cast shadows on it. But truth is revealed to us not only historically. Christ appeared and still appears before us not only in the Scriptures; He unchangeably and unceasingly reveals Himself in the Church, in His own Body. In the times of the early Christians the Gospels were not yet written and could not be the sole source of knowledge. The Church acted according to the spirit of the Gospel, and, what is more, the Gospel came to life in the Church, in the Holy Eucharist. In the Christ of the Eucharist Christians learned to know the Christ of the Gospels, and so His image became vivid to them.
This does not mean that we oppose Scripture to experience. On the contrary, it means that we unite them in the same manner in which they were united from the beginning. We must not think that all we have said denies history. On the contrary, history is recognized in all its sacred realism. As contrasted with outward historical testimony, we put forward no subjective religious experience, no solitary mystical consciousness, not the experience of separate believers, but the integral, living experience of the Catholic Church, catholic experience, and Church life. And this experience includes also historical memory; it is full of history. But this memory is not only a reminiscence and a remembrance of some bygone events. Rather it is a vision of what is, and of what has been, accomplished, a vision of the mystical conquest of time, of the catholicity of the whole of time. The Church knows naught of forgetfulness. The grace-giving experience of the Church becomes integral in its catholic fulness.
This experience has not been exhausted either in Scripture, or in oral tradition, or in definitions. It cannot, it must not be, exhausted. (The Catholicity of the Church)

St. Hilary on the Brothers of the Lord

St. Hilary of Poitiers ca. 300-368

[S]ome very depraved men…view that there were many brothers of our Lord as a point of tradition. If there had been sons of Mary who were not rather produced from a previous marriage of Joseph’s, Mary never would have been transferred to the Apostle John as his mother at the time of the Passion, nor would the Lord have said to them both, “Woman, behold your son,” and to John, “Behold your mother,” unless perhaps He was leaving His disciples’ filial love in order to comfort her who was left behind. (Commentary on Matthew, 1.4)

On Contempt for Divine Truth

Pope St. Gelasius I died ca. 496

We have noted with vexation that contempt for divine truths has reached such a level that even women, it is reported, serve at the holy altars. Everything that is entrusted exclusively to men is performed by the sex that has no right to do so.

And of all these obnoxious transgressions which we reprimand singly, all the criminal guilt falls on those priests who either commit them personally, or who by not making the culprits known show that they agree with these wicked excesses – if we may even call by the name ‘priests’ those men who are prepared to so degrade the religious office entrusted to them that, sinking down to perverse and profane pursuits without any respect for Christian regulations, they run headlong into a deadly abyss.

And when it is written that ‘Whoever scorns small things will gradually come to a fall’ (Ecclesiasticus 19:1), what should we think about those people who borne down by the immense and multiplicitous burden of their depravities, have caused an enormous downfall by their various impulsive actions which can be seen not only to lead themselves to perdition, but inflict a mortal plague on all churches if they are not healed?

And let those people have no doubt, not only whoever has dared to do these things but also those who, in spite of knowing about it, kept silence, that they lie under the loss of their own honor if they do not hasten, as fast as they can, to heal the lethal wounds with adequate medication. (Ep. IX, 26 PL 59 55)

On Those Who Don’t Need the Holy Fathers

Abba Dorotheus of Gaza ca. 505-565

I knew a man who came to a miserable state. From the beginning, if one of his brethren said anything to him, he used to say, ‘Who is he? He is not Zosimas or one of his lot.’ Then he began to cheapen them and to say, ‘There is no one of any importance but Macarius,’ and after a little while, to say, ‘Who is Macarius, anyway? There is no one any good, except perhaps Basil or Gregory.’ And then in a short while he began to debunk them, saying, Who is Basil? Who is Gregory? There is no one who counts but Peter and Paul.’ And I said to him, ‘Really, brother, you are going to despise these soon.’ And believe me, after a short time he began saying, ‘Who is Paul? Who is Peter? There is no one but the Holy Trinity!’ And so at last he lifted himself up against God—and there he gave up! (Discourses and Sayings)

On the Destruction of the World

St. Irenaeus of Lyons died ca. 202

For since there are real men, so must there also be a real establishment (plantationem), that they vanish not away among non-existent things, but progress among those which have an actual existence. For neither is the substance nor the essence of the creation annihilated (for faithful and true is He who has established it), but the fashion of the world passes away; 1 Cor.7:31 that is, those things among which transgression has occurred, since man has grown old in them. And therefore this [present] fashion has been formed temporary, God foreknowing all things; as I have pointed out in the preceding book, and have also shown, as far as was possible, the cause of the creation of this world of temporal things. But when this [present] fashion [of things] passes away, and man has been renewed, and flourishes in an incorruptible state, so as to preclude the possibility of becoming old, [then] there shall be the new heaven and the new earth, in which the new man shall remain [continually], always holding fresh converse with God. And since (or, that) these things shall ever continue without end, Isaiah declares, For as the new heavens and the new earth which I do make, continue in my sight, says the Lord, so shall your seed and your name remain. Isa. 66:22 And as the presbyters say, Then those who are deemed worthy of an abode in heaven shall go there, others shall enjoy the delights of paradise, and others shall possess the splendour of the city; for everywhere the Saviour shall be seen according as they who see Him shall be worthy. (Against Heresies 5.36.1)

St. Methodius of Olympus died ca. 311

[I]t is not satisfactory to say that the universe will be utterly destroyed, and sea and air and sky will be no longer. For the whole world will be deluged with fire from heaven, and burnt for the purpose of purification and renewal; it will not, however, come to complete ruin and corruption. For if it were better for the world not to be than to be, why did God, in making the world, take the worse course? But God did not work in vain, or do that which was worst. God therefore ordered the creation with a view to its existence and continuance, as also the Book of Wisdom confirms, saying, For God created all things that they might have their being; and the generations of the world were healthful, and there is no poison of destruction in them. Wisdom 1:14 And Paul clearly testifies this, saying, For the earnest expectation of the creature waits for the manifestation of the sons of God. For the creature was made subject to vanity, not willingly, but by reason of him that subjected the same in hope: because the creature itself also shall be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God. Rom.8:19-21 For the creation was made subject to vanity, he says, and he expects that it will be set free from such servitude, as he intends to call this world by the name of creation. For it is not what is unseen but what is seen that is subject to corruption. The creation, then, after being restored to a better and more seemly state, remains, rejoicing and exulting over the children of God at the resurrection; for whose sake it now groans and travails, waiting itself also for our redemption from the corruption of the body, that, when we have risen and shaken off the mortality of the flesh, according to that which is written, Shake off the dust, and arise, and sit down, O Jerusalem, Isa. 52:2 and have been set free from sin, it also shall be freed from corruption and be subject no longer to vanity, but to righteousness. Isaiah says, too, For as the new heaven and the new earth which I make, remains before me, says the Lord, so shall your seed and your name be; Isa. 66:22 and again, Thus says the Lord that created the heaven, it is He who prepared the earth and created it, He determined it; He created it not in vain, but formed it to be inhabited. Isa. 45:18 For in reality God did not establish the universe in vain, or to no purpose but destruction, as those weak-minded men say, but to exist, and be inhabited, and continue. Wherefore the earth and the heaven must exist again after the conflagration and shaking of all things.

But if our opponents say, How then is it, if the universe be not destroyed, that the Lord says that heaven and earth shall pass away; Mat. 24:35 and the prophet, that the heaven shall perish as smoke, and the earth shall grow old as a garment; Isa. 51:6 we answer, because it is usual for the Scriptures to call the change of the world from its present condition to a better and more glorious one, destruction; as its earlier form is lost in the change of all things to a state of greater splendour; for there is no contradiction nor absurdity in the Holy Scriptures. For not the world but the fashion of this world passes away,1 Cor. 7:31 it is said; so it is usual for the Scriptures to call the change from an earlier form to a better and more comely state, destruction; just as when one calls by the name of destruction the change from a childish form into a perfect man, as the stature of the child is turned into manly size and beauty. We may expect that the creation will pass away, as if it were to perish in the burning, in order that it may be renewed, not however that it will be destroyed, that we who are renewed may dwell in a renewed world without taste of sorrow; according as it is said, When You let Your breath go forth, they shall be made, and You shall renew the face of the earth; God henceforth providing for the due temperature of that which surrounds it. For as the earth is to exist after the present age, there must be by all means inhabitants for it, who shall no longer be liable to death, nor shall marry, nor beget children, but live in all happiness, like the angels, without change or decay. Wherefore it is silly to discuss in what way of life our bodies will then exist, if there is no longer air, nor earth, nor anything else. (Discourse on the Resurrection 8-9)

On Flesh and Spirit

Gal. 5:17 For the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary to one another, so that you do not do the things that you wish.

St. Theophylact of Ohrid ca. 1055-1107

Here the Manicheans, and all likeminded heretics, make their attack. They claim that man consists of two opposing essences and that this statement of the Apostle supports their claim. But it is not so; Paul is not speaking of essences. By flesh he does not mean the body, but rather, earthly, negligent, and lax thoughts. And by spirit he does not mean the soul, but a spiritual attitude. The earthly attitude, he explains, is opposed to the spiritual, and the spiritual attitude to the earthly. What he is describing is not a battle between soul and body, but the contest between good and evil thoughts. To will or not to will something is a function of the rational soul. Then he adds, so that ye cannot do the things that ye would. For the body is a co-worker with the soul, not an opponent. The soul clings to the body, striving mightily not to abandon it, and suffers when it is sundered from the body. How, then, can these two entities — which have such a close relationship, affinity, sympathy and familiarity — be opposed to one another? (Commentary on Galatians)

On Apollinarianism and Dispensationalism

St. Basil the Great ca. 330-379

Next comes Apollinarius, who is no less a cause of sorrow to the Churches. With his facility of writing, and a tongue ready to argue on any subject, he has filled the world with his works, in disregard of the advice of him who said, Beware of making many books. In their multitude there are certainly many errors. How is it possible to avoid sin in a multitude of words? And the theological works of Apollinarius are founded on Scriptural proof, but are based on a human origin. He has written about the resurrection, from a mythical, or rather Jewish, point of view; urging that we shall return again to the worship of the Law, be circumcised, keep the Sabbath, abstain from meats, offer sacrifices to God, worship in the Temple at Jerusalem, and be altogether turned from Christians into Jews. What could be more ridiculous? Or, rather, what could be more contrary to the doctrines of the Gospel? (Letter 263.4)

On the Filioque and Nestorianism

Patriarch Jeremiah [II] of Constantinople 1530-1595

[C]onsequently, it would be absurd to say that the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Son, also. And how could we understand John’s declaration when Jesus was baptized: “I saw the Spirit descend as a dove from heaven, and it remained upon Him” (Jn. 1:32). For if you say that the Spirit proceeded not from the Father alone, but also from the Son, you destroy the one Christ by dividing Him into two, as did Nestorios, in order that you might say that the Spirit descended from the Son of God to the Son of man. Hence, it follows that the truth is that the Spirit, who proceeds from the Father, remains and rests in the Son. (The Second Theological Exchange with the Lutherans, 35)

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. Ambrose on Faith and Works

St. Ambrose of Milan ca. 338-397
 
The beauty of a good thing pleases the more, if it be shown under various aspects. For those are good things, whereof the texture of the priestly robe was the token, that is to say, either the Law, or the Church, which latter has made two garments for her spouse, as it is written — the one of action, the other of spirit, weaving together the threads of faith and works.
 
Whether, then, you join to faith already present in the soul, bodily acts agreeing thereto; or acts come first, and faith be joined as their companion, presenting them to God— here is the robe of the minister of religion, here the priestly vestment. Faith is profitable, therefore, when her brow is bright with a fair crown of good works. (Jam. 2:14-26) (De Fide 2:11,13-14)

St. Augustine on Calling Men Father

Blessed Augustine of Hippo ca. 354-430

And they forgat His benefits, and the wonderful works of Him which He showed to them; before their fathers the wonderful things which He did Ps. 77:11… For why should they not have been called fathers? It is not in the same manner as God is the One Father, who does regenerate with His Spirit those whom He does make sons for an everlasting inheritance; but it is for the sake of honour, because of their age and kindly carefulness: just as Paul the elder says, Not to confound you I am writing these things, but as my dearly beloved sons I am admonishing you: 1 Cor. 4:14 though he knew of a truth that it had been said by the Lord, Call ye no man your father on earth, for One is your Father, even God. Mat. 23:9 And this was not said in order that this term of human honour should be erased from our usual way of speaking: but lest the grace of God whereby we are regenerated unto eternal life, should be ascribed either to the power or even sanctity of any man. Therefore when he said, I have begotten you; he first said, in Christ, and through the Gospel; lest that might be thought to be of him, which is of God… (Exposition on the Psalms, Ps. 78 Chap.10)

St. Raphael on Anglicanism

St. Raphael of Brooklyn 1860-1915

To My Beloved Clergy and Laity of the Syrian Greek-Orthodox Catholic Church in North America:

Greetings in Christ Jesus, Our Incarnate Lord and God.

My Beloved Brethren:

Two years ago, while I was Vice-President and member of the Anglican and Eastern Orthodox Churches Union, being moved with compassion for my children in the Holy Orthodox Faith once delivered to the saints (Jude 1:3), scattered throughout the whole of North America and deprived of the ministrations of the Church; and especially in places far removed from Orthodox centers; and being equally moved with a feeling that the Episcopalian (Anglican) Church possessed largely the Orthodox Faith, as many of the prominent clergy professed the same to me before I studied deeply their doctrinal authorities and their liturgy—the Book of Common Prayer—I wrote a letter as Bishop and Head of the Syrian-Orthodox Mission in North America, giving permission, in which I said that in extreme cases, where no Orthodox priest could be called upon at short notice, the ministrations of the Episcopal (Anglican) clergy might be kindly requested. However, I was most explicit in defining when and how the ministrations should be accepted, and also what exceptions should be made. In writing that letter I hoped, on the one hand, to help my people spiritually, and, on the other hand, to open the way toward bringing the Anglicans into the communion of the Holy Orthodox Faith.

On hearing and in reading that my letter, perhaps unintentionally, was misconstrued by some of the Episcopalian (Anglican) clergy, I wrote a second letter in which I pointed out that my instructions and exceptions had been either overlooked or ignored by many, to wit:

a) They (the Episcopalians) informed the Orthodox people that I recognized the Anglican Communion (Episcopal Church) as being united with the Holy Orthodox Church and their ministry, that is holy orders, as valid.

b) The Episcopal (Anglican) clergy offered their ministrations even when my Orthodox clergy were residing in the same towns and parishes, as pastors.

c) Episcopal clergy said that there was no need of the Orthodox people seeking the ministrations of their own Orthodox priests, for their (the Anglican) ministrations were all that were necessary.

I, therefore, felt bound by all the circumstances to make a thorough study of the Anglican Church’s faith and orders, as well as of her discipline and ritual. After serious consideration I realized that it was my honest duty, as a member of the College of the Holy Orthodox Greek Apostolic Church, and head of the Syrian Mission in North America, to resign from the vice-presidency of and membership in the Anglican and Eastern Orthodox Churches Union. At the same time, I set forth, in my letter of resignation, my reason for so doing.

I am convinced that the doctrinal teaching and practices, as well as the discipline, of the whole Anglican Church are unacceptable to the Holy Orthodox Church. I make this apology for the Anglicans whom as Christian gentlemen I greatly revere, that the loose teaching of a great many of the prominent Anglican theologians are so hazy in their definitions of truths, and so inclined toward pet heresies that it is hard to tell what they believe. The Anglican Church as a whole has not spoken authoritatively on her doctrine. Her Catholic-minded members can call out her doctrines from many views, but so nebulous is her pathway in the doctrinal world that those who would extend a hand of both Christian and ecclesiastical fellowship dare not, without distrust, grasp the hand of her theologians, for while many are orthodox on some points, they are quite heterodox on others. I speak, of course, from the Holy Orthodox Eastern Catholic point of view. The Holy Orthodox Church has never perceptibly changed from Apostolic times, and, therefore, no one can go astray in finding out what She teaches. Like Her Lord and Master, though at times surrounded with human malaria—which He in His mercy pardons—She is the same yesterday, and today, and forever (Heb. 13:8) the mother and safe deposit of the truth as it is in Jesus (cf. Eph. 4:21).

The Orthodox Church differs absolutely with the Anglican Communion in reference to the number of Sacraments and in reference to the doctrinal explanation of the same. The Anglicans say in their Catechism concerning the Sacraments that there are “two only as generally necessary to salvation, that is to say, Baptism and the Supper of the Lord.” I am well aware that, in their two books of homilies (which are not of a binding authority, for the books were prepared only in the reign of Edward VI and Queen Elizabeth for priests who were not permitted to preach their own sermons in England during times both politically and ecclesiastically perilous), it says that there are “five others commonly called Sacraments” (see homily in each book on the Sacraments), but long since they have repudiated in different portions of their Communion this very teaching and absolutely disavow such definitions in their “Articles of Religion” which are bound up in their Book of Common Prayer or Liturgy as one of their authorities.

The Orthodox Church has ever taught that there are seven Sacraments. She plainly points out the fact that each of the seven has an outward and visible sign and an inward and spiritual Grace, and that they are of gospel and apostolic origin.

Again, the Orthodox Church has certain rites and practices associated and necessary in the administration of the Sacraments which neither time nor circumstances must set aside where churches are organized. Yet the Anglicans entirely neglect these, though they once taught and practiced the same in more catholic days.

In the case of the administration of Holy Baptism it is the absolute rule of the Orthodox Church that the candidate must be immersed three times (once in the name of each Person of the Holy Trinity). Immersion is only permissory in the Anglican Communion, and pouring or sprinkling is the general custom. The Anglicans do not use holy oil in the administration, etc., and even in doctrinal teaching in reference to this Sacrament they differ.

As to the doctrine concerning Holy Communion the Anglican Communion has no settled view. The Orthodox Church teaches the doctrine of transubstantiation without going into any scientific or Roman Catholic explanation. The technical word which She uses for the sublime act of the priest by Christ’s authority to consecrate is “transmuting” (Liturgy of Saint John Chrysostom). She, as I have said, offers no explanation, but She believes and confesses that Christ, the Son of the living God Who came into the world to save sinners, is of a truth in His “all-pure Body” and “precious Blood” (Liturgy of Saint John Chrysostom) objectively present, and to be worshiped in that Sacrament as He was on earth and is now in risen and glorified majesty in Heaven; and that “the precious and holy and life-giving Body and Blood of Our Lord and God and Saviour Jesus Christ are imparted” (to each soul that comes to that blessed Sacrament) “Unto the remission of sins, and unto life everlasting” (Liturgy of Saint John Chrysostom).

Confirmation or the laying on of hands, which the Orthodox Church calls a Sacrament—”Chrismation”—in the Anglican Church is merely the laying on of hands of the Bishop accompanied by a set form of prayers, without the use of Holy Chrism, which has come down from Apostolic days as necessary.

Holy Matrimony is regarded by the Anglican Communion as only a sacred rite which, even if performed by a Justice of the Peace, is regarded as sufficient in the sight of God and man.

Penance is practiced but rarely in the Anglican Communion, and Confession before the reception of Holy Communion is not compulsory. They have altogether set aside the Sacrament of Holy Unction, that is anointing the sick as commanded by Saint James (see James 5:14). In their priesthood they do not teach the true doctrine of the Grace of the Holy Orders. Indeed they have two forms of words for ordination, namely, one which gives the power of absolution to the priest, and the alternative form without the words of Our Lord, whosoever sins ye remit, etc. (John 20: 23). Thus they leave every bishop to choose intention or non-intention in the act of ordination as to the power and Grace of their priesthood (“Ordination of Priests,” Book of Common Prayer).

But, besides all of this, the Anglican Communion ignores the Orthodox Church’s dogmas and teachings, such as the invocation of saints, prayers for the dead, special honor to the blessed Virgin Mary the Mother of God, and reverence for sacred relics, holy pictures and icons. They say of such teaching that it is “a foul thing, vainly invented, and grounded upon no warranty of Scripture, but rather repugnant to the word of God” (Article of Religion, XXII).

There is a striking variance between their wording of the Nicene Creed and that of the Holy Orthodox Church; but sadder still, it contains the heresy of the “filioque.”

I do not deem it necessary to mention all the striking differences between the Holy Orthodox Church and the Anglican Communion in reference to the authority of holy tradition, the number of Ecumenical Councils, etc. Enough has already been said and pointed out to show that the Anglican Communion differs but little from all other Protestant bodies, and therefore, there cannot be any intercommunion until they return to the ancient Holy Orthodox Faith and practices, and reject Protestant omissions and commissions.

Therefore, as the official head of the Syrian Holy Orthodox Catholic Apostolic Church in North America and as one who must give account (Heb. 13:17) before the judgment seat of the Shepherd and Bishop of our souls (I Pet. 2:25), that I have fed the flock of God (I Pet. 5:2), as I have been commissioned by the Holy Orthodox Church, and inasmuch as the Anglican Communion (Protestant Episcopal Church in the USA) does not differ in things vital to the well-being of the Holy OrthodoxChurch from some of the most errant Protestant sects, I direct all Orthodox people residing in any community not to seek or to accept the ministrations of the Sacraments and rites from any clergy excepting those of the Holy Orthodox Catholic and Apostolic Church, for the Apostolic command that the Orthodox should not commune in ecclesiastical matters with those who are not of the same household of faith (Gal. 6:10), is clear: “Any bishop, or presbyter or deacon who will pray with heretics, let him be anathematized; and if he allows them as clergymen to perform any service, let him be deposed.” (Apostolic Canon 45) “Any bishop, or presbyter who accepts Baptism or the Holy Sacrifice from heretics, we order such to be deposed, for what concord hath Christ with Belial, or what part hath he that believeth with an infidel?” (Apostolic Canon 46)

As to members of the Holy Orthodox Church living in areas beyond the reach of Orthodox clergy, I direct that the ancient custom of our Holy Church be observed, namely, in cases of extreme necessity, that is, danger of death, children may be baptized by some pious Orthodox layman, or even by the parent of the child, by immersion three times in the names of the (Persons of the) Holy Trinity, and in case of death such baptism is valid; but, if the child should live, he must be brought to an Orthodox priest for the Sacrament of Chrismation.

In the case of the death of an Orthodox person where no priest of the Holy Orthodox Church can be had, a pious layman may read over the corpse, for the comfort of the relatives and the instruction of the persons present, Psalm 90 and Psalm 118, and add thereto the Trisagion (“Holy God, Holy Mighty,” etc.). But let it be noted that as soon as possible the relative must notify some Orthodox bishop or priest and request him to serve the Liturgy and Funeral for the repose of the soul of the departed in his cathedral or parish Church.

As to Holy Matrimony, if there be any parties united in wedlock outside the pale of the holy Orthodox Church because of the remoteness of Orthodox centers from their home, I direct that as soon as possible they either invite an Orthodox priest or go to where he resides and receive from his hands the Holy Sacrament of Matrimony; otherwise they will be considered excommunicated until they submit to the Orthodox Church’s rule.

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.

Commending our clergy and laity unto the safekeeping of Jesus Christ, and praying that the Holy Spirit may keep us all in the truth and extend the borders of the Holy Orthodox Faith, I remain.

Your affectionate Servant in Christ

+ RAPHAEL

Accuracy of translation and fact of the above prescriptive direction and pastoral instruction being still in force and authority, unabated and unmodified, now and for all future time in this jurisdiction, certified April 27, 1927, by:

+AFTIMIOS,

Archbishop of Brooklyn,

First Vicar of the Russian American Jurisdiction,

Head of the Syrian Greek Orthodox Catholic Mission in North America

Taken from “The Most Useful Knowledge for the Orthodox Russian-American Young People,” compiled by V. Rev. Peter G. Kohanik, 1932-34. This was reprinted in Orthodox Life, Vol. 43, No. 6, 1993.

 

St. Theodore on Iconoclasm

St. Theodore the Studite ca. 759-826

Not one heresy that has rocked the Church is as dreadful as the heresy of iconoclasm. Demonic in its acts and words, it denies Christ and destroys His personhood. On the one hand, it foolishly claims that it is impossible to depict Christ’s bodily form. In so doing it denies the incarnate Logos; even if He did become incarnate, He cannot be depicted. It says that He is a phantom-which is typical of the Manichean “gospel.” On the other hand (iconoclasm) destroys to the foundations and burns up God’s temples and all sacred objects on which are depicted the face of Christ, of the Theotokos, or any of the saints. (Letter 2.81 /PG 99:132 D-132A/)

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 Theotokos and Female Priesthood

St. Epiphanius of Salamis ca. 315-403

If God had so arranged things that the priesthood would be entrusted to women and that they would exercise a canonical role in the Church, first of all, before any other woman in the New Testament, He would have granted the priesthood to Mary, who was so honored that she carried the universal King in her womb. (Mary and the Fathers of the Church, The Blessed Virgin in Patristic Thought by Luigi Gambero pp. 127-128)

Dialogue Between a Montanist and an Orthodox ca. 4th cent.

We do not reject the prophecies of women. Blessed Mary prophesied when she said: “Henceforth all generations will call me blessed.” And, as you yourself say, Philip had daughters who prophesied and Mary, the sister of Aaron, prophesied. But we do not permit women to speak in the assemblies, nor to have authority over men, to the point of writing books in their own name: since, such is, indeed, the implication for them of praying with uncovered head…wasn’t Mary, the Mother of God, able to write books in her own name? To avoid dishonoring her head by placing herself above men, she did not do so. (The Gospel of Mary: Beyond a Gnostic and a Biblical Mary Magdelene by Esther A. de Boer pg. 94)

St. Maximus on the Blessed Virgin

St. Maximus the Confessor ca. 580-662

She said prophetically, “from now on every generation will call me blessed.” (Lk. 1:48) Truly the host of angels and generations of humanity call her blessed, and those who do not call her blessed and do not glorify her, they are not reckoned among humanity, but they are children of perdition and the portion of the devil. Nevertheless, every generation of true human beings calls her blessed and glorifies her as a helper and intercessor with the Lord. (The Life of the Virgin, 27)

On the Necessity of the Priesthood

St. Ignatios of Antioch ca. 50-117
 
In like manner, let all reverence the Deacons as an appointment of Jesus Christ, and the Bishop as Jesus Christ, Who is the Son of the Father, and the Presbyters as the sanhedrin of God, and assembly of the Apostles. Apart from these, there is no Church. (Epistle to the Trallians 3)

On the Episcopate

The Confession of Dositheus 1672

The dignity of the Bishop is so necessary in the Church, that without him, neither Church nor Christian could either be or be spoken of. For he, as a successor of the Apostles, having received in continued succession by the imposition of hands and the invocation of the All-holy Spirit the grace that is given him of the Lord of binding and loosing, is a living image of God upon the earth, and by a most ample participation of the operation of the Holy Spirit, who is the chief functionary, is a fountain of all the Mysteries [Sacraments] of the Catholic Church, through which we obtain salvation.

And he is, we suppose, as necessary to the Church as breath is to man, or the sun to the world. It has also been elegantly said by some in commendation of the dignity of the High Priesthood, “What God is in the heavenly Church of the first-born, (cf. Hebrews 12:23) and the sun in the world, that every High Priest is in his own particular Church, as through him the flock is enlightened, and nourished, and becomes the temple of God.” (cf. Ephesians 2:21)

It is obvious that this great mystery and dignity of the Episcopate has come down to us by a continued succession. For since the Lord has promised to be with us always, although He is with us by other means of grace and Divine operations, yet in a more eminent manner does He make us His own and dwell with us through the Bishop as chief functionary and through the divine Mysteries [sacraments] is united with us.  The Bishop is the first minister, and chief functionary, through the Holy Spirit, and does not allow us to fall into heresy. And, therefore [John] of Damascus, in his Fourth Epistle to the Africans, said that the Catholic Church is everywhere committed to the  care of the Bishops.  Clement, the first Bishop of the Romans, and Evodius at Antioch, and Mark at Alexandria, were acknowledged successors of Peter. Also [acknowledged] is that the divine Andrew seated Stachys on the Throne of Constantinople, in his own stead; and that in this great holy city of Jerusalem our Lord Himself appointed James, and that after James another succeeded, and then another, until our own times. And, therefore, Tertullian in his Epistle to Papianus called all Bishops the Apostles’ successors. To their succession to the Apostles’ dignity and authority Eusebius, the [friend] of Pamphilus, testifies, and all the Fathers testify, of whom it is needless to give a list. The common and most ancient custom of the Catholic Church confirms this .

And that the dignity of the Episcopate differs from that of the simple Priest, is obvious. For the Priest is ordained by the Bishop, but a Bishop is not ordained by a Priest, but by two or three High Priests, as the Apostolic Canon directs. And the Priest is chosen by the Bishop, but the High Priest is not chosen by the Priests or Presbyters, nor is he chosen by secular Princes, but by the Synod of the Primatial Church of that country, in which is situated the city that is to receive the ordinand, or at least by the Synod of the Province in which he is to become a Bishop. Or, if the city should choose him, it does not do so absolutely, but the election is referred to the Synod. And if it appear that he has [been chosen] agreeably to the Canons, the [Bishop] Elect  is advanced by ordination by the Bishops, with the invocation of the All-holy Spirit.  But if not, he whom the Synod chooses is advanced .

The [simple] Priest, indeed, retains to himself the authority and grace of the Priesthood, which he has received; but the Bishop imparts it to others also. And the one having received the dignity of the Priesthood from the Bishop, can only perform Holy Baptism, and Prayer-oil, minister sacrificially the unbloody Sacrifice, and impart to the people the All-holy Body and Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ, anoint the baptized with the Holy Myron [Chrism oil], crown the Faithful legally marrying, pray for the sick, and that all men may be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth, (cf. 1 Timothy 2:4) and especially for the remission and forgiveness of the sins of the Faithful, living and dead. And if he be eminent for experience and virtue, receiving his authority from the Bishop, he directs those Faithful that come unto him, and guides them into the way of possessing the heavenly kingdom, and is appointed a preacher of the sacred Gospel.

The High Priest is also the minister of all these, since he is in fact, as has been said before, the fountain of the Divine Mysteries and graces, through the Holy Spirit, and he alone consecrates the Holy Myron [Chrism oil]. And the ordinations of all orders and degrees in the Church are proper to him; and in a primary and highest sense he binds and looses, and his sentence is approved by God, as the Lord hath promised. (Matthew 16:19) And he preaches the Sacred Gospel, and contends for the Orthodox faith, and those that refuse to hear he casts out of the Church as heathens and publicans, (cf. Matthew 18:17) and he puts heretics under excommunication and anathema, and lays down his own life for the sheep. (cf. John 10:11) From which it is apparent, that without contradiction the Bishop differs from the simple Priest, and that without him all the Priests in the world could not exercise the pastorate in the Church of God, or govern it at all.

But it is well said by one of the Fathers, that it is not easy to find a heretic that has understanding. For when these forsake the Church, they are forsaken by the Holy Spirit, and there remains in them neither understanding nor light, but only darkness and blindness. For if that had not happened to them, they would not have opposed things that are most plain; among which is the truly great mystery of Episcopacy, which is taught by Scripture, written of, and witnessed to, both by all ecclesiastical history and the writings of holy men, and always held and acknowledged by the Catholic Church. (Decree 10)

St. Philaret on Icons and the Second Commandment

St. Philaret of Moscow 1821-1867

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Because it illustrates her use of holy icons.

520. What is an icon?

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

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

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

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

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

On Apostles, Bishops and Presbyters

Blessed Theodoret of Cyr ca. 393-457

[Paul] yokes together bishops and deacons, making no mention of presbyters (Tit. 1:7); certainly it was not possible thatmany bishops should be shepherds in one city, so it is clear that he calls the presbyters bishops. Indeed, in the same Epistle he called the Blessed Epaphroditus their apostle: “Your apostle,” he says, “and the co-worker of my necessity (Phil. 2:25).” Clearly, therefore, Epaphroditus, since Paul gives him the title of apostle, has been entrusted with the episcopal office. (Commentary on the Epistle’s of Paul: Phil. 1:1)

At that time they called the same persons “presbyters” and “bishops”; and those we now call bishops they designated “apostles”. In the course of time, however, they abandoned the name of “apostle” to those who truly were Apostles; and the title of bishop they accorded to those who had of old been called “apostles”. Thus Epaphroditus was apostle of the Philippians: “Your apostle,” he says, “and the co-worker of my necessity (Phil. 2:25).” Thus in Crete Titus and in Asia Timothy were apostles. Thus too the apostles and the presbyters wrote from Jerusalem to those in Antioch. (Commentary on the Epistle’s of Paul 1 Tim. 3:1)

On Icons and the Second Commandment

St. Gregory Palamas ca. 1296-1359

‘You shall not make an image of anything in the heavens above, or in the earth below, or in the sea’ (cf. Exod. 20:4), in such a way that you worship these things and glorify them as gods. For all are the creations of the one God, created by Him in the Holy Spirit through His Son and Logos, who as Logos of God in these latter times took flesh from a virgin’s womb, appeared on earth and associated with men (cf. Baruch 3:37), and who for the salvation of men suffered, died and arose again, ascended with His body into the heavens and ‘sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on High’ (Heb. 1:3), and who will come again with His body to judge the living and the dead. Out of love for Him you should make, therefore, an icon of Him who became man for our sakes, and through His icon you should bring Him to mind and worship Him, elevating your intellect through it to the venerable body of the Savior, that is set on the right hand of the Father in heaven. In like manner you should also make icons of the saints and venerate them, not as gods – for this is forbidden – but because of the attachment, inner affection and sense of surpassing honor that you feel for the saints when by means of their icons the intellect is raised up to them. It was in this spirit that Moses made icons of the Cherubim within the Holy of Holies (cf. Exod. 25:18). The Holy of Holies itself was an image of things supracelestial (cf. Exod. 25:40; Heb. 8:5), while the Holy Place was an image of the entire world. Moses called these things holy, not glorifying what is created, but thrown it glorifying God the Creator of the world. You must not, then, deify the icons of Christ and of the saints, but through them you should venerate Him who originally created us in His own image, and who subsequently consented in His ineffable compassion to assume the human image and to be circumscribed by it. You should venerate not only the icon of Christ, but also the similitude of His cross. For the cross is Christ’s great sign and trophy of victory over the devil and all his hostile hosts; for this reason they tremble and flee when they see the figuration of the cross. This figure, even prior to the crucifixion, was greatly glorified by the prophets and wrought great wonders; and when He who was hung upon it, our Lord Jesus Christ, comes again to judge the living and the dead, this His great and terrible sign will precede Him, full of power and glory (cf. Matt. 24:30). So glorify the cross now, so that you may boldly look upon it then and be glorified with it. And you should venerate icons of the saints, for the saints have been crucified with the Lord; and you should make the sign of the cross upon your person before doing so, bringing to mind their communion in the sufferings of Christ. In the same way you should venerate their holy shrines and any relic of their bones; for God’s grace is not sundered from these things, even as the divinity was not sundered from Christ’s venerable body at the time of His life-quickening death. By doing this and by glorifying those who glorified God – for through their actions they showed themselves to be perfect in their love for God – you too will be glorified together with them by God, and with David you will chant: ‘I have held Thy friends in high honor, O Lord’ (Ps. 159:17. LXX). (A New Testament Decalogue, 2nd Commandment)

St. Optatus on the Church and the Priesthood

St. Optatus of Milevis ca. 4th cent.

…[I]n vain do you claim for yourselves alone this name of the Church with her Endowments, which are rather with us than with you.

Now these Endowments are connected one with another, and are distinct, but in such a way, that it may be understood that one cannot be separated from another. For they are numerically distinct, but with one act of the mind we see them joined in their Body, as are the fingers on the hand; each of which we perceive to be removed by spaces from the others. Therefore he who possesses one, must possess them all, since not one of them can be apart from its fellows.

We may add that we possess, and that in the strictest sense, not one Endowment alone, but all.

So, of the above-mentioned Endowments, the Cathedra is, as we have said, the first, which we have proved to be ours, through Peter, and which draws to itself the ANGEL [the episcopate] — unless, perchance, you claim him for yourselves, and have him shut up somewhere or other. Send him out if you can, and let him exclude from his communion seven angels, our colleagues in Asia, to whose churches wrote the Apostle John — churches with which you cannot prove that you have any intercourse whatsoever.

On what ground, then, can you maintain that you possess an Angel able to move the Fountain, or one who, as such, can be numbered among the other Endowments of the Church?

Whatever is without the Seven Churches is alien. Supposing then that you really had even one Angel who belongs to the Church, through that one Angel you would be in communion with other Angels too, and through them with the above-mentioned Churches, and through these Churches with us also. If these things be as I have stated them, you have lost your case. (Against the Donatists Bk. 2.5-6)

On the Recipient of the Eucharistic Sacrifice

Council of Constantinople 1156

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

On the Mystery of Redemption

St. Gregory the Theologian ca. 329-389

Now we are to examine another fact and dogma, neglected by most people, but in my judgment well worth enquiring into. To Whom was that Blood offered that was shed for us, and why was It shed? I mean the precious and famous Blood of our God and High priest and Sacrifice. We were detained in bondage by the Evil One, sold under sin, and receiving pleasure in exchange for wickedness. Now, since a ransom belongs only to him who holds in bondage, I ask to whom was this offered, and for what cause? If to the Evil One, fie upon the outrage! If the robber receives ransom, not only from God, but a ransom which consists of God Himself, and has such an illustrious payment for his tyranny, a payment for whose sake it would have been right for him to have left us alone altogether. But if to the Father, I ask first, how? For it was not by Him that we were being oppressed; and next, On what principle did the Blood of His Only begotten Son delight the Father, Who would not receive even Isaac, when he was being offered by His Father, but changed the sacrifice, putting a ram in the place of the human victim? Is it not evident that the Father accepts Him, but neither asked for Him nor demanded Him; but on account of the Incarnation, and because Humanity must be sanctified by the Humanity of God, that He might deliver us Himself, and overcome the tyrant, and draw us to Himself by the mediation of His Son, Who also arranged this to the honour of the Father, Whom it is manifest that He obeys in all things? So much we have said of Christ; the greater part of what we might say shall be reverenced with silence. (Oration 45.22)

Christ was Never Forsaken by the Godhead in His Passion

Pope St. Leo the Great ca. 400-461

… [W]e bade the simple and unthinking hearer not take the words My God, etc., in a sense as if, when Jesus was fixed upon the wood of the cross, the Omnipotence of the Father’s Deity had gone away from Him; seeing that God’s and Man’s Nature were so completely joined in Him that the union could not be destroyed by punishment nor by death. For while each substance retained its own properties, God neither held aloof from the suffering of His body nor was made passible by the flesh, because the Godhead which was in the Sufferer did not actually suffer. And hence, in accordance with the Nature of the Word made Man, He Who was made in the midst of all is the same as He through Whom all things were made. He Who is arrested by the hands of wicked men is the same as He Who is bound by no limits. He Who is pierced with nails is the same as He Whom no wound can affect. Finally, He Who underwent death is the same as He Who never ceased to be eternal, so that both facts are established by indubitable signs, namely, the truth of the humiliation in Christ and the truth of the majesty; because Divine power joined itself to human frailty to this end, that God, while making what was ours His, might at the same time make what was His ours. The Son, therefore, was not separated from the Father, nor the Father from the Son; and the unchangeable Godhead and the inseparable Trinity did not admit of any division. For although the task of undergoing Incarnation belonged peculiarly to the Only-begotten Son of God, yet the Father was not separated from the Son any more than the flesh was separated from the Word. (Sermon 68.1)

On the Eucharist as Weapon

Fr. John Romanides 1928-2001

The greatest power of the devil is death, which is destroyed only within the body of Christ, where the faithful are continuously engaged in the struggle against Satan by striving for selfless love. This combat against the devil and striving for selfless love is centered in the corporate Eucharistic life of the local community–“For when you assemble frequently epi to auto (in the same place) the powers of Satan are destroyed and the destruction at which he aims is prevented by the unity of your faith (St. Ignatius of Antioch, Epistle to the Ephesians Chap. 13), therefore, who does not hear the Spirit within him calling him to the Eucharistic assembly for the corporate life of selfless love is obviously under the sway of the devil. “He, therefore, who does not assemble with the Church, has even by this manifested his pride and condemned himself…” (ibid. Chap. 5)(Original Sin According to St. Paul)

On Being Taught by Spiritual Fathers

St. Moses the Ethiopian 330-405

…[S]o far has this opinion been shown to be pleasing to God that we see that this system not without reason finds a place in Holy Scripture, so that the Lord would not of Himself instruct by the method of a Divine colloquy the lad Samuel, when chosen for judgment, but suffered him to run once or twice to the old man, and willed that one whom He was calling to converse with Him should be taught even by one who had offended God, as he was an old man, and preferred that he whom He had deemed worthy to be called by Him should be trained by the Elder in order to test the humility of him who was called to a Divine office, and to set an example to the younger men by the manner of his subjection.

And when Christ in His own Person called and addressed Paul, although He might have opened out to him at once the way of perfection, yet He chose rather to direct him to Ananias and commanded him to learn the way of truth from him, saying: “Arise and go into the city and there it shall be told thee what thou oughtest to do.” (Acts 9:6)  So He sends him to an older man, and thinks good to have him instructed by his teaching rather than His own, lest what might have been rightly done in the case of Paul might set a bad example of self-sufficiency, if each one were to persuade himself that he also ought in like manner to be trained by the government and teaching of God alone rather than by the instruction of the Elders. And this self-sufficiency the apostle himself teaches, not only by his letters but by his acts and deeds, ought to be shunned with all possible care, as he says that he went up to Jerusalem solely for this reason; viz., to communicate in a private and informal conference with his co-apostles and those who were before him that Gospel which he preached to the Gentiles, the grace of the Holy Spirit accompanying him with powerful signs and wonders: as he says “And I communicated with them the Gospel which I preach among the Gentiles lest perhaps I had run or should run in vain.” (Gal. 2:2) Who then is so self-sufficient and blind as to dare to trust in his own judgment and discretion when the chosen vessel confesses that he had need of conference with his fellow apostles. Whence we clearly see that the Lord does not Himself show the way of perfection to anyone who having the opportunity of learning despises the teaching and training of the Elders, paying no heed to that saying which ought most carefully to be observed: “Ask thy father and he will show it to thee: thine Elders and they will tell thee.” (Deut. 32:7) (St. John Cassian Conferences 2.14-15)

On Perfect Baptism

St. Gregory the Theologian ca. 329-389

Remember your confession. Into what were you baptised? The Father? Good but Jewish still. The Son?…good…but not yet perfect. The Holy Ghost?…Very good…this is perfect. (Oration 33.17)

On Trinitarian Baptism

St. Basil of Caesarea ca. 330-379

Let no one be misled by the fact of the Apostle’s frequently omitting the name of the Father and of the Holy Spirit when making mention of baptism, or on this account imagine that the invocation of the names is not observed (cf. Acts 8:16, 10:48, 19:5). As many of you, he says, as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ; and again, As many of you as were baptized into Christ were baptized into his death. For the naming of Christ is the confession of the whole, showing forth as it does the God who gave, the Son who received, and the Spirit who is, the unction. So we have learned from Peter, in the Acts, of Jesus of Nazareth whom God anointed with the Holy Ghost; Acts 10:38 and in Isaiah, The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me; Isa. 60:1 and the Psalmist, Therefore God, even your God, has anointed you with the oil of gladness above your fellows. Scripture, however, in the case of baptism, sometimes plainly mentions the Spirit alone.

For into one Spirit, it says, we were all baptized in one body. And in harmony with this are the passages: You shall be baptized with the Holy Ghost, Acts 1:5 and He shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost. Lk. 3:16 But no one on this account would be justified in calling that baptism a perfect baptism wherein only the name of the Spirit was invoked. For the tradition that has been given us by the quickening grace must remain for ever inviolate. He who redeemed our life from destruction gave us power of renewal, whereof the cause is ineffable and hidden in mystery, but bringing great salvation to our souls, so that to add or to take away anything involves manifestly a falling away from the life everlasting. If then in baptism the separation of the Spirit from the Father and the Son is perilous to the baptizer, and of no advantage to the baptized, how can the rending asunder of the Spirit from Father and from Son be safe for us? Faith and baptism are two kindred and inseparable ways of salvation: faith is perfected through baptism, baptism is established through faith, and both are completed by the same names. For as we believe in the Father and the Son and the Holy Ghost, so are we also baptized in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost; first comes the confession, introducing us to salvation, and baptism follows, setting the seal upon our assent. (On the Holy Spirit 12.28)

On Justification by Faith and Baptism

It was as a gift they were justified, not from the works of the Law but rather by faith and holy baptism — hence, to be sure, his saying, Wash, make yourselves clean. (Isa. 1:16)

While the Law achieved bodily cleansing through the water of purification, then, Christ removes every stain of our souls through holy baptism. We were baptized through the Holy Spirit and water, remember, and every form of wickedness in us, as it were, disappeared and was consumed like some useless rubbish, which is what fire does, after all. Blessed Paul also makes this clear in the words, “By faith Noah was warned and built an ark for the safety of his household,” (Heb. 11:7) which consisted of a few. In other words, “Eight people were saved through water, and baptism which prefigures now saves us, not as a removal of dirt from the body, but as an appeal to God for a good conscience. (1 Pet. 3:21) (Commentary on Isaiah, Chap. 1)

Christological Canons on the Virgin Theotokos

Fifth Ecumenical Council: Constantinople II 553

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

Lateran Council of 649

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

St. Jerome on Sects and Holy Scripture

Blessed Jerome ca. 347-420

I will tell you my opinion briefly and without reserve. We ought to remain in that Church which was founded by the Apostles and continues to this day. If ever you hear of any that are called Christians taking their name not from the Lord Jesus Christ, but from some other, for instance, Marcionites, Valentinians, Men of the mountain or the plain, you may be sure that you have there not the Church of Christ, but the synagogue of Antichrist. For the fact that they took their rise after the foundation of the Church is proof that they are those whose coming the Apostle foretold. And let them not flatter themselves if they think they have Scripture authority for their assertions, since the devil himself quoted Scripture, and the essence of the Scriptures is not the letter, but the meaning. Otherwise, if we follow the letter, we too can concoct a new dogma and assert that such persons as wear shoes and have two coats must not be received into the Church. (Dialogue with the Luciferians 28)

On Holy Wisdom

St. Nikolai Velimirovich 1880-1956

The most magnificent sanctuary of the Eastern Churches is called St. Sophia (Holy Wisdom), whereas the most magnificent sanctuaries in the Western Churches are called St. Peter’s, St. Paul’s, or St. John’s, etc. As every hair on our aged head and every line on the palm of our hand has a certain significance, so these dedications of the Church have doubtless certain significance. And this significance is typical of the religion of the East and the West. Western Christianity, grown upon the soil of a youthful individualism, preferred this or that apostle’s personality and dedicated their best temples to him. The aged East, tired of individualistic ambitions, tired of great men, flagellated the phantom of human greatness, was thirsty for something higher and more solid than any human personality. Adoration of great personalities being the very wisdom of this world, the East stretched its hands to a superhuman ideal, to the Holy Wisdom. It is a psychological fact that youth sees his ideal in personal greatness, progressed age in holiness. The East asked for something more eternal than Peter, Paul or John. There is wisdom, and there is holy wisdom. Philosophical or personal wisdom existed from the beginning of mankind, but Holy Wisdom entered the world with Jesus Christ. Christ was the embodiment of God’s wisdom, the very incarnation of Holy Wisdom. This wisdom stands above all human wisdom and revives and illuminates it. Holy Wisdom includes the essential wisdom of Peter, Paul, John, and any other Apostle or seer, or any other thing or creature, as the ocean includes the water of many rivers. In the darkest times of dissension, uncertainty or suffering, the Christian East did not so rely so much upon the great apostles, either Peter, or Paul, or John, but looked beyond time and space to the eternal Christ, the Logos of God, and asked for Light. And it looked to Eternity through this church inConstantinople, St. Sophia, as the all-embracing and all-reconciling, holy symbol. Whenever Peter, or Paul, or john, or any other apostle, or prophet, became the ground upon which believers quarreled, it was in the Holy Wisdom that they sought refuge and healing from their intellectual one-sidedness and ill-will.

Yet if Holy Wisdom has only in the East a magnificent symbol, Holy Wisdom is the very foundation, substance and aim of the Western Churchas well as the Eastern, yea of the one, holy Catholic Church. For Christianity had been destined neither for the East alone nor for the West alone, but for the whole globe. And what means the so-much abused word “Catholic” if not inclusiveness? Even such is, too, the meaning of the Divine wisdom as revealed in Christianity from the beginning. (The Works of Rev. Nicholai Velimirovic, Chapter 1: The Wisdom of the Church Sophia)

On Sola Scriptura and Churchless Christianity

St. Hilarion Troitsky 1886-1929

There are an increasing number of people among us who dream of some sort of churchless Christianity. These people have a seemingly constant anarchical system of thought. They are either incapable, or more often, are simply too lazy to think through to the end of their thoughts.

Without even speaking of the most evident contradictions of the churchless quasi-Christianity, it is always possible to see that it is completely void of the genuine Grace of Christian life, and the inspiration and quickening of the Spirit.

When people take the Gospel book, forgetting that the Church gave it to them, then it becomes like the Koran, said to have been dropped by Allah from the sky. When they somehow contrive to overlook the teaching about the Church in it, then all that remains of Christianity is the teaching, so powerless to re-create life and man, as is every philosophical system.

Our forebears, Adam and Eve, sought to become “like gods” without God, relying on the magical power of the beautiful “apple.” This is how many of our contemporaries dream of being saved: with the Gospel, but without the Church and without the God-man. They hope on the book of the Gospel exactly as Adam and Eve hope on the paradise apple.

The book, however, does not have the power to give them a new life. People who deny the Church constantly speak about “evangelical principles,” about evangelical teaching; but Christianity as life is completely alien to them.

In the churchless form, Christianity is only a sound, now and then sentimental, but always a caricature and lifeless. It is precisely these people who, while denying the Church, have made Christianity, in the words of V. S. Soloviev, “deathly boring.” As David Strauss observed, “When the edifice of the Church is destroyed and, on the bare, poorly leveled place, there is erected only the edifying sermon, the result is sad and terrible.” (Christianity or the Church)

On Female Ordinations

Apostolic Constitutions compiled ca. 1st-4th cent.

For if the man be the head of the woman, and he be originally ordained for the priesthood, it is not just to abrogate the order of the creation, and leave the principal to come to the extreme part of the body. For the woman is the body of the man, taken from his side, and subject to him, from whom she was separated for the procreation of children. For says He, He shall rule over you. Gen. 3:16 For the principal part of the woman is the man, as being her head. But if in the foregoing constitutions we have not permitted them to teach, how will any one allow them, contrary to nature, to perform the office of a priest? For this is one of the ignorant practices of the Gentile atheism, to ordain women priests to the female deities, not one of the constitutions of Christ. For if baptism were to be administered by women, certainly our Lord would have been baptized by His own mother, and not by John; or when He sent us to baptize, He would have sent along with us women also for this purpose. But now He has nowhere, either by constitution or by writing, delivered to us any such thing; as knowing the order of nature, and the decency of the action; as being the Creator of nature, and the Legislator of the constitution. (Bk 3.1.9)

For which reason, O bishop, ordain your fellow-workers, the labourers for life and for righteousness, such deacons as are pleasing to God, such whom you prove to be worthy among all the people, and such as shall be ready for the necessities of their ministration. Ordain also a deaconess who is faithful and holy, for the ministrations towards women. For sometimes he cannot send a deacon, who is a man, to the women, on account of unbelievers. You shall therefore send a woman, a deaconess, on account of the imaginations of the bad. For we stand in need of a woman, a deaconess, for many necessities; and first in the baptism of women, the deacon shall anoint only their forehead with the holy oil, and after him the deaconess shall anoint them: for there is no necessity that the women should be seen by the men; but only in the laying on of hands the bishop shall anoint her head, as the priests and kings were formerly anointed, not because those which are now baptized are ordained priests, but as being Christians, or anointed, from Christ the Anointed, a royal priesthood, and an holy nation, the Church of God, the pillar and ground of the marriage-chamber, 1 Pet. 2:9; 1 Tim. 3:15 who formerly were not a people, but now are beloved and chosen, upon whom is called His new name as Isaiah the prophet witnesses, saying: And they shall call the people by His new name, which the Lord shall name for them. (Bk. 3.2.15)

A deaconess does not bless, nor perform anything belonging to the office of presbyters or deacons, but only is to keep the doors, and to minister to the presbyters in the baptizing of women, on account of decency. (Bk. 8.3.28)

Tertullian of Carthage ca. 160-220

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. (Prescription Against Heretics 41)

St. Hippolytus of Rome ca. 170-235

When a widow is appointed, she is not ordained, but is chosen by name. If her husband has been dead a long time, she is appointed. If it has not been a long time since her husband died, she may not be trusted. If, however, she is old, let her be tested for a time. For often the passions grow old with those who give them a place in themselves. The widow is appointed by word alone, and then may join the rest of the widows. Do not lay hands upon her, for she does not offer the oblation, nor does she have a liturgical duty. Ordination is for the clergy because of liturgical duty. The widow is appointed because of prayer, which is a duty for all. (Apostolic Tradition 10)

Didascalia ca. 200-250

It is neither right nor necessary therefore that women should be teachers, and especially concerning the name of Christ and the redemption of His passion. For you have not been appointed to this, 0 women, and especially widows, that you should teach, but that you should pray and entreat the Lord God. For He the Lord God, Jesus Christ our Teacher, sent us the Twelve to instruct the People and the Gentiles; and there were with us women disciples, Mary Magdalene and Mary the daughter of James and the other Mary; but He did not send them to instruct the people with us. For if it were required that women should teach, our Master Himself would have commanded these to give instruction with us. (Bk. 3.6.1-2)

Council of Nicea I 325

Concerning the Paulianists who have flown for refuge to the Catholic Church, it has been decreed that they must by all means be rebaptized; and if any of them who in past time have been numbered among their clergy should be found blameless and without reproach, let them be rebaptized and ordained by the Bishop of the Catholic Church; but if the examination should discover them to be unfit, they ought to be deposed. Likewise in the case of their deaconesses, and generally in the case of those who have been enrolled among their clergy, let the same form be observed. And we mean by deaconesses such as have assumed the habit, but who, since they have no imposition of hands, are to be numbered only among the laity. (Canon 19)

St. John Chrysostom ca. 349-407

For those things which I have already mentioned might easily be performed by many even of those who are under authority, women as well as men; but when one is required to preside over the Church, and to be entrusted with the care of so many souls, the whole female sex must retire before the magnitude of the task, and the majority of men also; and we must bring forward those who to a large extent surpass all others, and soar as much above them in excellence of spirit as Saul overtopped the whole Hebrew nation in bodily stature: or rather far more. 1 Sam. 10:23 (On the Priesthood 2.2)

Contemporary Heresies Anathematized in the Synodikon of Orthodoxy

Anathema!

To them who in words accept the Economy of the Incarnation of the Word of God, but will not tolerate its representation by icons, and thus in word they make a pretense of accepting, but in fact deny our salvation.

To them who because of a mistaken adherence to the term uncircumscribed, wish not to depict in icons Christ, our True God, Who like us partook of flesh and blood, and thus show themselves to be Docetists.

To them who accept the visions of the prophets, albeit unwillingly, but who do not – O wonder! – accept the images seen by the prophets even before the Incarnation of the Word, but vainly say that the intangible and unseeable essence was seen by the prophets, or even concede that these truly were revealed to the prophets as images and types and forms, but still cannot endure to depict in icons the Word become man and His sufferings for our sake.

To them who hear the Lord Who said that “If ye believed in Moses, ye would have believed in me” and who understand the saying of Moses, “The Lord our God will raise up for you a prophet like unto me,” but who, on the one hand, say that they accept the Prophet, yet on the other hand, do not permit the depiction in icons of the grace of the Prophet and our universal salvation such as He was seen, as He mingled with mankind, and worked many healings of passions and diseases, and such as He was crucified, was buried, and arose, in short, all that He both suffered and wrought for us; to those, therefore, who cannot endure to gaze upon these universal and saving deeds in icons, neither honor nor worship them.

To them who persist in the heresy of denying icons, or rather the apostasy of denying Christ, and are not counseled by the Mosaic law to be led to their salvation, nor are they convinced to return to piety by the apostolic teachings, nor are they induced by patristic exhortations and explanations to abandon their deception, nor are they persuaded by the agreement of the Churches of God throughout the whole world, but once for all have joined themselves to the portion of the Jews and Greeks; for those things wherewith the latter directly blaspheme the prototype, the former likewise have not blushed to insult in His icon Him that is depicted therein; therefore, to them who are incorrigibly possessed by this deception, and have their ears covered towards every Divine word and spiritual teaching, as already being putrified members, and having cut themselves off from the common body of the Church.

To them who consider the declarations of Divine Scripture against the idols as referring to the venerable icons of Christ our God and His saints.

To them who knowingly have communion with those who insult and dishonor the venerable icons.

To them who say that the Christians draw near to icons as if they were gods.

To them who dare to say that the Catholic Church at one time had accepted idols, and thus they overthrow the entire mystery, and blaspheme the Faith of the Christians.

To them who maintain that although the wise men of the Greeks and the foremost of the heresiarchs were put under anathema by the Seven Holy and Catholic Councils and by all the fathers that shone forth in Orthodoxy as ones alien to the Catholic Church because of the adulterations and loathsome superabundance of error in their teachings, yet they are exceedingly more excellent, both here and in the future judgment, than those pious and orthodox men who, by human passion or by ignorance, have committed some offense.

Whoever would defend an adherent of any heresy which disparages the Christians, or would defend someone who died in that heresy, let him be Anathema, Anathema, Anathema.

To them who do not accept with a pure and simple faith and with all their soul and heart the extraordinary miracles of our Saviour and God and of the holy Theotokos who without stain gave birth to Him, and of the other saints, but who attempt by sophistic demonstration and words to traduce them as being impossible, or to misinterpret them according to their own way of thinking, and to present them according to their own opinion.

To them who do not correctly understand the divine voices of the holy teachers of the Church of God and who attempt to misinterpret and pervert those things clearly and manifestly spoken in them by the grace of the Holy Spirit.

To them who do not confess that the Word and Son of God was begotten from the Father without change before the ages, and that in these latter times out of His abundant loving kindness, He became incarnate as a man from the immaculate Theotokos Mary, taking upon Himself for our salvation all that pertains to us save sin, and to them who consequently do not partake of His holy and immortal Mysteries with fear, inasmuch as they consider them as mere bread and common wine rather than the very flesh of the Master and His holy and precious Blood shed for the life of the world; to such men, Anathema.

To them who say that the sacrifice of His precious Body and Blood offered for our salvation by our Lord and God and Saviour Jesus Christ at the time of His world-saving Passion was offered up by Him to God the Father, and that He thus fulfilled the ministry of High Priest for us in His humanity (inasmuch as He is at the same time God and Sacrificer and Victim, according to St. Gregory the Theologian), but who then say that He, the Only Begotten, along with the Holy Spirit, did not Himself accept the sacrifice as God together with the Father; hence by such teachings they estrange from the divine equality of honor and dignity both God the Word and the Spirit, the Comforter, Who is of one essence and of one glory with Him.

To them who do not accept that the sacrifice which is offered daily by those who have received from Christ the priestly service of the Divine Mysteries, is in fact offered to the Holy Trinity, and thereby contradict the sacred and divine fathers, Basil and Chrysostom, and other God-bearing fathers who all agree in both their words and writings.

To them who hear the Saviour saying concerning the priestly service of the Divine Mysteries delivered by Him: “Do this in remembrance of Me,” but they do not understand “remembrance” correctly, but dare to say that the daily sacrifice offered by those who perform the sacred service of the Divine Mysteries, just as our Saviour, the Master of all, delivered to us, reenacts only symbolically and figuratively the Sacrifice of His own Body and Blood which our Saviour had offered on the Cross as a ransom and redemption of our common human nature; and for this reason, since they introduce the doctrine that this is a different sacrifice from the one originally consummated by the Saviour and refers to it merely symbolically and figuratively, they bring to naught the Mystery of the awesome and divine priestly service whereby we receive the earnest of the future life; therefore, to them who deny what is staunchly proclaimed by our divine Father John Chrysostom who says in many commentaries on the sayings of the Great Paul that the sacrifice is identical, that both are one and the same.

To them who invent and introduce intervals of time into the reconciliation of human nature with the Divine and blessed nature of the lifegiving and wholly inviolate Trinity, and legislate that we were first reconciled to the Only-begotten Word by His assumption of humanity and then afterwards to God the Father during the salutary Passion of the Saviour Christ; and thus they divide what is indivisible according to the divine and blessed fathers who taught that the Only-begotten reconciled us to Himself through the entire Mystery of the Economy, of the Incarnation and through Himself and in Himself to God the Father and, it follows necessarily, to the all-holy and life-creating Spirit; therefore to them who invent these new and strange doctrines we say, Anathema.

Again, to those same men who think and say that the name ‘Godhead’ or ‘Divinity’ can be applied only to the essence of God, but who do not confess in accord with the divinely-inspired theologies of the saints and the pious mind of the Church, that this appellation equally pertains to the Divine energy, and that thus one Godhead of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit is by all means still professed, whether one apply the name ‘Godhead’ to Their essence, or to Their energy, as the divine expounders of the mysteries have instructed us, Anathema! (The Synodikon of Orthodoxy)

Source: http://www.johnsanidopoulos.com/2010/02/synodicon-of-orthodoxy.html

St. Augustine on Assurance of Salvation

Blessed Augustine of Hippo ca. 354-430

Let us not expect security while we are on pilgrimage. When we do find ourselves wanting it, what we are looking for is bodily sluggishness rather than personal security. (Exposition of Psalm 85)

The Gospel warned us, “Be on the watch for the last day, the day when the Son of Man will come,” because it will spell disaster for those it finds secure as they are now – secure for the wrong reasons, I mean, secure in the pleasures of this world, when they ought to be secure only when they have dominated this world’s lusts. The Apostle certainly prepares us for that future life in words of which I also reminded you on that occasion. (Exposition of Psalm 147)

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)

On the New Testament Marys

Papias of Hieropolis ca. early 2nd cent.

(1.) Mary the mother of the Lord; (2.) Mary the wife of Cleophas or Alphæus, who was the mother of James the bishop and apostle, and of Simon and Thaddeus, and of one Joseph; (3.) Mary Salome, wife of Zebedee, mother of John the evangelist and James; (4.) Mary Magdalene. These four are found in the Gospel. James and Judas and Joseph were sons of an aunt (2) of the Lord’s. James also and John were sons of another aunt (3) of the Lord’s. Mary (2), mother of James the Less and Joseph, wife of Alphæus was the sister of Mary the mother of the Lord, whom John names of Cleophas, either from her father or from the family of the clan, or for some other reason. Mary Salome (3) is called Salome either from her husband or her village. Some affirm that she is the same as Mary of Cleophas, because she had two husbands. (Fragments of Papias)

The Key to the Closed Chest of Holy Scripture

St. Symeon the New Theologian ca. 949-1022

Brethren and Fathers,

Spiritual knowledge is like a house built in the midst of secular and pagan knowledge, in which there is laid up, like a solid and well-secured chest, the knowledge of the inspired Scriptures and the inestimable riches they contain. Those who enter into the house will never at all be able to see those treasures unless this chest is opened for them. But it does not belong to human wisdom (cf. 1 Cor. 2:13) ever to be able to open it, so that the riches of the Spirit deposited in it remain unknown to all who are worldly.

A man might pick up the entire chest and carry it on his shoulders without knowing what treasure is contained in it. So a person may read the Scriptures and commit them to memory and carry them with him as if they were but one psalm, and yet be ignorant of the gift of the Holy Spirit hidden within them. It is not by the chest that its contents are exposed, nor is it by the Scripture that the contents of Scripture become clear. How is this so? Listen!

You see a small chest, firmly secured on every side. By means of its weight and its external beauty you conjecture, or perhaps believe from what you have heard, that it contains a treasure. You pick it up quickly and go off with it. But tell me, what will it profit you if you constantly carry it about closed and locked without opening it? As long as you live you will never see the treasure it contains; you will not see the sparkling of its precious stones, the luster of its pearls, the flashing gleam of its gold. What will you profit, if you are not found worthy to take even a small part of it to but some food or clothing? But if, as we have said, you carry the chest about with you entirely sealed, even though it is filled with a great and costly treasure, will you not be worn out with hunger, thirst, and nakedness? You will not profit at all!

Pay heed to me brother, and apply this to spiritual things. Think of the chest as the Gospel of Christ and the other divine Scriptures. In them there is enclosed and sealed up eternal life together with the unutterable and eternal blessings which it contains, though unseen by physical eyes. As the Lord’s word says, “Search the Scriptures, for in them is eternal life” (Jn. 5:39). As for the man who carries the chest about, think of him as one who learns all the Scriptures by heart and always quotes them with his mouth. He carries them about in the memory of his soul as in a chest containing God’s commandments as precious stones (cf. Ps. 19:11) wherein is eternal life. For Christ’s words are light and life, as He Himself says, “He who does not obey the Son shall not see life” (Jn. 3:6). Together with the commandments [it contains] the virtues, like pearls.

From the commandments spring the virtues, and from them the revelation of the mysteries that are hidden and veiled in the letter. From the fulfillment of the commandments comes the practice of the virtues; through the practice of the virtues the commandments are fulfilled. Thus by means of these the door of knowledge has been opened to us (cf. Lk. 11:52); or rather, it has been opened, not by them, but by Him Who has said, “He who loves Me will keep My commandments, and My Father will love him, and I will reveal Myself to him” (Jn. 14:23,21). When, therefore, God “lives in us and moves among us” (2 Cor. 6:16) and perceptibly reveals Himself to us, then we consciously contemplate the contents of the chest, the divine mysteries that are hidden in the divine Scripture. Let no one decieve himself — in no other way it is possible for the chest of knowledge to be opened to us, and for us to enjoy the good things that it contains and partake of them and contemplate them. (The Discourses: XXIV On Spiritual Knowledge 1-3)

St. Athanasius on Church Unity

St. Athanasius the Great ca. 297-373

For as the psalmist says, what is so good or pleasant as for brethren to dwell in unity. But our dwelling is the Church, and our mind ought to be the same. For thus we believe that the Lord also will dwell with us, who says, ‘I will dwell with them and walk in them’ and ‘Here will I dwell for I have a delight therein.’ But by ‘here’ what is meant but there where one faith and religion is preached? (Tomus ad Antiochenos, 1)

Bede the Venerable on Sola Fide

Bede the Venerable ca. 673-735

Excerpted from Bede’s Commentary on the Seven Catholic Epistles

Jas 2:15-17 If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that? So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.

It is evident that just as words of concern alone do not help a naked or hungry person if food or clothing is not provided, so faith observed in name only does not save, for it is dead in itself if it is not made alive by works of charity, by which it may be made to come to life. Nor is that contrary to this statement which the Lord uttered, He who believes and is baptized will be saved (Mk. 16:16), for it must be understood there that only he truly beleives who carries out in deed what he believes. And because faith and charity cannot be seperated from one another – as Paul bears witness by saying, and faith which works through love (Gal. 5:6) – appropiately the apostle John brings forward a statement about charity akin to James’ about faith, saying, Anyone who has the world’s substance and sees his brother in need and closes his heart against him, how does the charity of God remain in him?

Jas. 2:19 You believe that God is one; you do well; the demons also believe and they tremble.

You should not think you are doing something great by believing that God is one, for the demons also do this, nor do they believe only in God the Father but also in God the Son. So it is Luke says, The demons also went out from many shouting and saying, “That you are the Son of God;’ and rebuking them, he did not allow them to speak, because they knew that he was Christ. (Lk. 4:41) And they do not only believe, they also tremble. So the legion who were besieging the man; cried out to him in a beseeching voice, “What is there between me and you, Jesus, Son of the most high God? I earnestly entreat you by God, do not torment me.” (Mk. 5:7) Therefore, those who do not believe that there is a God, or believe and do not fear, must be judged slower-witted and more shameless than the demons. But it is no great thing to believe there is a God and tremble if one does not also believe in him, that is, if love for him be not held in the heart. For it one thing to believe him, another to believe that he exists, another to believe in him. (credere illi…credere illum…credere in illum.) To beleive him is to believe that the things he speaks are true; to believe that he exists is to believe that he is God; to believe in him is to love him. Many, even the wicked, are able to believe the things he speaks are true; they believe that they are true and do not wish to make them their own because they are too lazy to do anything about them. Even the demons believe, however, that he is God. But they alone know how to believe in God who love God, who are Christians not only in name but also in action and [way of] life, because without love faith is empty; with love it is the faith of a Christian, without love the faith of a demon. Therefore, anyone who does not wish to believe that Christ is God still does not imitate the demons. He believes that Christ [is] but hates Christ, he makes a confession of faith out of fear of punishment not out of love of a crown. For they too were afraid of being punished. Accordingly, when blessed Peter, confessing the Lord, said, You are the Christ, the Son of the living God, (Mt. 16:16) he appears to utter by his mouth almost the same words as the demons; but their confession, because it was uttered with hatred for Christ, was rightly condemned, his, becuas it came forth from inward love, was rewarded.

 Jas. 2:20-21 Do you wish, however, O foolish man, to know that faith without works is worthless? Was not our father Abraham made righteous by works? and so on. Since the apostle Paul, preaching that man is made righteous by faith without works, (Rom. 4:1-25) was not well understood by those who took this saying to mean that when they had once believed in Christ, even though they might commit evils and live wickedly and basely, they could be saved by faith, [James] explains how the passage of the apostle Paul ought to be understood to have the same meaning as this letter. And all the moretherefore he uses the example of Abraham about faith being useless if it does not issue in good works, because the apostle Paul also used the example of Abraham to demonstrate that man is made righteous without deeds. For when he recalls Abraham’s good deeds which accompanied his faith, he shows well enough that the apostle Paul does not teach by Abraham that man is made righteous without works to the extent that anyone who believes it has no responsibility to perform good works, but for this reason instead, that no one should think he has come to the gift of righteousness which is in faith by the merits of his formwer good deeds. In this manner the Jews wished to set themselves above the gentiles who believed in Christ, because, they said, they had come to the grace of the Gospel by the merits of the good works which are in the law, and therefore many of those who believed were scandalized that the grace of Christ was being given to uncircumcised gentiles. Hence the apostle Paul says that a man can be made righteous by faith without works, but [he means] previous works. For how is a person made righteous by faith able to act, if not righteously? When, therefore, James says, Was not our father Abraham made righteous from works, offering his son Isaac upon the altar?, he intentionally advised that an example of good work was to be learned from the patriarch himself, challenging those among the Jews who had believed they like good off-spring, were following the actions of their first and foremost outstanding ancestor. And since he was advising them not to fall away in temptations and prove their faith through works, he chose anexample from the patriarch, by which he might be able to instruct them in each virtue. For what greater temptation, except for thosw hich concern injuries to one’s own body, can happen than that someone, an old man, should be compelled to slay his only and most beloved son? Would he delay giving a tunic or his own food to the poor for the sake of divine love when he did not delay giving over to death immediately at the order of the Lord the son whom he had received as his heir when he was an old man? Accordingly, this statement of blessed James agrees with what Paul says, By faith Abrham, when he was tempted, offered Isaac, and he was offering his only-begotten son who had received the promises, to whom it was siad, “That in Isaac will your seed be called,” thinking that God is able to raise even the dead. (Heb. 11:17-19) Indeed, in one and the same action of the blessed Abraham James has praised the outstanding quality of his works, paul the constancy of his faith; and nevertheless Paul has brought forawrd a statement not dissimilar and different than James. For they both knew that Abraham was perfect both in faith and in works, and therefore each of them emphasized in preaching on him the virtue which he perceived his hearers needed more. For becuase James was writing to those who held that faith without works was wasted, fittingly he brought forward that example in which the superior faith of Abraham which was also previously praised by the witness of Scripture showed itself, because it had not become listless and useless in his heart but had flamed up and was now ready to obey the divine commands. But because Paul was instructing those who were boasting of their works without the grace of faith, he showed that without faith it is impossible to please God, (Heb. 11:6) and in order to refute and correct their rashness, having gathered together the examples of all the patriarchs, he clearly taught that all were approved by the witness of the faith. (Heb. 11:39) So too, he referred especially to the faith with which Abraham offered Isaac, reckoning, he said, that God is able to raise even the dead. (Heb. 11:19) He added, therefore, the work of faith of him who God would immediately raise him up; for he believed that he would be raised up by God after death because he believed what he had heard was true, “That in Isaac will your seed be called.” (Heb. 11:18) Blessed James also afterwards explains this connection between each virtue, saying:

Jas 2:22-23 You see that faith was active along with his works, and faith was completed by his works; and the Scripture was fulfilled that says, “Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness”–and he was called a friend of God.

Paul treated of this witness most emphatically to the Romans, clearly teaching that so great is the virtue of faith that as soon as its mysteries are perceived it can make a righteous person out of an irreverent one. (Rom. 4:5) For because Abraham believed God with so great and lively a faith that he was ready in his mind to do everything God ordered, deservedly was his faith accounted for righteousness by God, who knew his heart. And that we also might know his faith by which he was made righteous, God tempted him, ordering him to offer his son, and by his works his faith was fulfilled, that is, how perfect it was in his heart was tested by the performance of works. Nowadays, too, if anyone coming recently to the faith receives baptism and then, intending with his whole heart to observe God’s commandments, shortly goes home from this light, then surely he has gone home made righteous by faith without works, because, by the determination of God himself, in whom he believed he did not have time to test his faith, live on for a long time and do not care to follow up with good works, must have it impressed upon them waht blessed James, after bringing forward the example of the faith together with the works of Abraham, at once appended, saying:

 Jas 2:24 You see that a person is justified by works and not by faith alone.

What he says, from works, means from the works of faith, because no one can have perfect works without faith but many faith without works if they lack the time for works. Of them it has been said, He was taken away lest wickedness change his understanding or craftiness deceive his mind. (Wis. 4:11)

1 Pet. 1:1 Simon Peter, a servant and apostle of Jesus Christ, to those who have obtained a faith of equal standing to ours

…For it is not legal circumcision but gospel faith alone that joins the peoples of the gentiles to the ancient people of God. Yet, because the same faith without works is not able to save, there is properly appended: In the righteousness of our Lord and saviour, Jesus Christ.

 1 Jn. 1:6 If we say that we have fellowship with him and walk in the darkness, we are lying and not telling the truth.

He is calling sins heresies and hatred darkness. Therefore, the confession of faith alone is not all sufficient for salvation when it lacks the witness of good works. But neither is the uprightness of works of any avail without faith and the simplicity of love.

 

On the Procession of the Holy Spirit

A certain Uniate priest by the name of John came to doubt the truth of his confession and appealed to Elder Paisius Velichkovsky with the entreaty that he clear up his perplexity. The main part of the Elder’s reply is given here:

The Holy Spirit Himself, Who proceeds from the Father and reposes in the Son, has inspired you by His grace to appeal with this question to a humble and sinful, but Orthodox, son of the Eastern Church…

The first and most important error of the Uniates is the teaching, which they have taken from the Romans, that the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father and the Son [Filioque]. This is the first and most important of all the heresies, for it includes in itself an incorrect judgment, contrary to Sacred Scripture, about God, Who is One in the Holy Trinity. He who confesses that the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father and from the Son supposes in God two principles: one of the Father, another of the Son. But we Orthodox confess in the Trinity one principle of the Father, as our Lord Jesus Christ taught us in the holy Gospel, when He said that the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father alone. He said: When the Comforter is come, Whom I send unto you from the Father, the Spirit of truth, Who proceedeth from the Father (Jn. 15:26). And the Apostle says: Every good gift and evry perfect gift is from above, coming from the Father of lights (Jm. 1:17). Do you see? He says “the Father of lights”; that is, the Father is the root and fount of Divinity; and the two lights, the Son and the Spirit from the single light, the Father, have their pre-eternal being, the Son in being begotten and the Holy Spirit in procession.

The divine Prophet David says: By the word of the Lord were the heavens established, and all the might of them by the Spirit of His mouth (Ps. 33:6). Do you see? He calls the Father Lord, but he calls the Son Word, as pre-eternally begotten of Him; and he calls the Holy Spirit of His (and not “Their”) lips, as proceeding from the Father alone. One could search out other testimonies also from the Old and New Testaments, which show more clearly than the sun that the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father alone and reposes in the Son, as was disclosed at the Baptism of the Lord.

Further, all the holy ecumenical teachers who have interpreted the Scripture as if with one mouth say that the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father, and nowhere have they written that he proceeds from the Son also. Thus, if Uniates think exactly like the Romans in such a serious heresy, what hope do they have for salvation, unless they openly renounce this Spirit-fighting heresy and become united again with the Holy Orthodox Eastern Church?

Spare neither property nor relatives if they do not wish to listen to you, but by all means save your own soul from perdition; because there is nothing more needful for you than the soul for which Christ died. But in fleeing, do not look back in your heart for the sake of swiftly perishing possessions; it is better for you to remain in poverty than to blaspheme Him. Depart and flee from the Unia as speedily as possible, lest death overtake you in it and you be numbered among the heretics and not among the Christians. And not only go away yourself, but advise others to go away also, if in your conscience you know that they will hear you. And if they will not hear you, then at least depart yourself from the nets of the enemy and be united in soul and heart with the Holy Orthodox Church, and thus, together with all [the faithful] holding the inviolate faith and fulfilling the commandments of Christ, you will be able to be saved. (The Letters of Elder Paisius from Niamets II: To a Uniate Priest, on the Procession of the Holy Spirit. Blessed Paisius Velichkovsky pp. 200-202)

On the Heretical Abuse of Scripture

St. Vincent of Lerins died ca. 445

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.

It was for this reason that the Saviour cried, Beware of false prophets who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves. Matt. 7:15 What is meant by sheep’s clothing? What but the words which prophets and apostles with the guilelessness of sheep wove beforehand as fleeces, for that immaculate Lamb which takes away the sin of the world? What are the ravening wolves? What but the savage and rabid glosses of heretics, who continually infest the Church’s folds, and tear in pieces the flock of Christ wherever they are able? But that they may with more successful guile steal upon the unsuspecting sheep, retaining the ferocity of the wolf, they put off his appearance, and wrap themselves, so to say, in the language of the Divine Law, as in a fleece, so that one, having felt the softness of wool, may have no dread of the wolf’s fangs. But what says the Saviour? By their fruits you shall know them; that is, when they have begun not only to quote those divine words, but also to expound them, not as yet only to make a boast of them as on their side, but also to interpret them, then will that bitterness, that acerbity, that rage, be understood; then will the ill-savour of that novel poison be perceived, then will those profane novelties be disclosed, then may you see first the hedge broken through, then the landmarks of the Fathers removed, then the Catholic faith assailed, then the doctrine of the Church torn in pieces.

Such were they whom the Apostle Paul rebukes in his Second Epistle to the Corinthians, when he says, For of this sort are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into apostles of Christ. 2 Cor. 11:12 The apostles brought forward instances from Holy Scripture; these men did the same. The apostles cited the authority of the Psalms; these men did so likewise. The Apostles brought forward passages from the prophets; these men still did the same. But when they began to interpret in different senses the passages which both had agreed in appealing to, then were discerned the guileless from the crafty, the genuine from the counterfeit, the straight from the crooked, then, in one word, the true apostles from the false apostles. And no wonder, he says, for Satan himself transforms himself into an angel of light. It is no marvel then if his servants are transformed as the servants of righteousness. Therefore, according to the authority of the Apostle Paul, as often as either false apostles or false teachers cite passages from the Divine Law, by means of which, misinterpreted, they seek to prop up their own errors, there is no doubt that they are following the cunning devices of their father, which assuredly he would never have devised, but that he knew that where he could fraudulently and by stealth introduce error, there is no easier way of effecting his impious purpose than by pretending the authority of Holy Scripture.

But some one will say, What proof have we that the Devil is wont to appeal to Holy Scripture? Let him read the Gospels wherein it is written, Then the Devil took Him (the Lord the Saviour) and set Him upon a pinnacle of the Temple, and said unto Him: If you be the Son of God, cast yourself down, for it is written, He shall give His angels charge concerning you, that they may keep you in all your ways: In their hands they shall bear you up, lest perchance you dash your foot against a stone. What sort of treatment must men, insignificant wretches that they are, look for at the hands of him who assailed even the Lord of Glory with quotations from Scripture? If you be the Son of God, says he, cast yourself down. Wherefore? For, says he, it is written. It behooves us to pay special attention to this passage and bear it in mind, that, warned by so important an instance of Evangelical authority, we may be assured beyond doubt, when we find people alleging passages from the Apostles or Prophets against the Catholic Faith, that the Devil speaks through their mouths. For as then the Head spoke to the Head, so now also the members speak to the members, the members of the Devil to the members of Christ, misbelievers to believers, sacrilegious to religious, in one word, Heretics to Catholics.

But what do they say? If you be the Son of God, cast yourself down; that is, If you would be a son of God, and would receive the inheritance of the Kingdom of Heaven, cast yourself down; that is, cast yourself down from the doctrine and tradition of that sublime Church, which is imagined to be nothing less than the very temple of God. And if one should ask one of the heretics who gives this advice, How do you prove? What ground have you, for saying, that I ought to cast away the universal and ancient faith of the Catholic Church? He has the answer ready, For it is written; and immediately he produces a thousand testimonies, a thousand examples, a thousand authorities from the Law, from the Psalms, from the Apostles, from the Prophets, by means of which, interpreted on a new and wrong principle, the unhappy soul may be precipitated from the height of Catholic truth to the lowest abyss of heresy. Then, with the accompanying promises, the heretics are wont marvellously to beguile the incautious. For they dare to teach and promise, that in their church, that is, in the conventicle of their communion, there is a certain great and special and altogether personal grace of God, so that whosoever pertain to their number, without any labour, without any effort, without any industry, even though they neither ask, nor seek, nor knock, have such a dispensation from God, that, borne up by angel hands, that is, preserved by the protection of angels, it is impossible they should ever dash their feet against a stone, that is, that they should ever be offended. (Commonitory 25-26)

On the Orthodox Way

St. Athanasius the Great ca. 297-373

For, what our Fathers have delivered, this is truly doctrine; and this is truly the token of doctors, to confess the same thing with each other, and to vary neither from themselves nor from their fathers; whereas they who have not this character are to be called not true doctors but evil. Thus the Greeks, as not witnessing to the same doctrines, but quarrelling one with another, have no truth of teaching; but the holy and veritable heralds of the truth agree together, and do not differ. For though they lived in different times, yet they one and all tend the same way, being prophets of the one God, and preaching the same Word harmoniously. (De Decretis 2.4)

Such are the machinations of these men against the truth: but their designs are manifest to all the world, though they attempt in ten thousand ways, like eels, to elude the grasp, and to escape detection as enemies of Christ. Wherefore I beseech you, let no one among you be deceived, no one seduced by them; rather, considering that a sort of judaical impiety is invading the Christian faith, be ye all zealous for the Lord; hold fast, every one, the faith we have received from the Fathers, which they who assembled at Nicæa recorded in writing, and endure not those who endeavour to innovate thereon. And however they may write phrases out of the Scripture, endure not their writings; however they may speak the language of the Orthodox, yet attend not to what they say; for they speak not with an upright mind, but putting on such language like sheeps’ clothing, in their hearts they think with Arius, after the manner of the devil, who is the author of all heresies. For he too made use of the words of Scripture, but was put to silence by our Saviour. (Ad Episcopus Aegypti et Libyae 8)

On Union With Christ by Holy Communion

St. Cyril of Alexandria ca. 376-444

The Savior Himself declares, “Whoever eats My Flesh and drinks My Blood abides in Me and I in him.” By this statement it is to be seen that Christ does not say He will be in us only after the fashion of some relation that is solely intellectual, but also through a participation truly according to nature. Just as if someone were to entwine two pieces of wax together and melt them with a fire, so that both are made one, so too through participation in the Body of Christ and in His Precious Blood, He is united in us and we too in Him. In no other way can that corruptible nature be vivified except by being united bodily to the Body of Him who is, by His very nature, life: that is, the Only-begotten. (Commentary on John, on 15:1) 

 

 

On Protestantism in the Early Church

St. Vincent of Lerins died ca. 445

We inveighed also against the wicked presumption of Nestorius in boasting that he was the first and the only one who understood Holy Scripture, and that all those teachers were ignorant, who before him had expounded the sacred oracles, forsooth, the whole body of priests, the whole body of Confessors and martyrs, of whom some had published commentaries upon the Law of God, others had agreed with them in their comments, or had acquiesced in them. In a word, he confidently asserted that the whole Church was even now in error, and always had been in error, in that, as it seemed to him, it had followed, and was following, ignorant and misguided teachers. (The Commonitory Chap. 31.83)

On Holy Scripture in the Church

Confession of Dositheus 1672

We believe the Divine and Sacred Scriptures to be God-taught; and, therefore, we ought to believe the same without doubting; yet not otherwise than as the Catholic Church has interpreted and delivered the same. For every foul heresy accepts the Divine Scriptures, but perversely interprets the same, using metaphors, and homonymies, and sophistries of man’s wisdom, confounding what ought to be distinguished, and trifling with what ought not to be trifled with. For if [we were to accept Scriptures] otherwise, each man holding every day a different sense concerning them, the Catholic Church would not  by the grace of Christ continue to be the Church until this day, holding the same doctrine of faith, and always identically and steadfastly believing. But rather she would be torn into innumerable parties, and subject to heresies. Neither would the Church be holy, the pillar and ground of the truth, (1 Timothy 3:15) without spot or wrinkle; (Eph. 5:27) but would be the Church of the malignant (Psalm 25:5) as it is obvious the church of the heretics undoubtedly is, and especially that of Calvin, who are not ashamed to learn from the Church, and then to wickedly repudiate her.

Wherefore, the witness also of the Catholic Church is, we believe, not of inferior authority to that of the Divine Scriptures. For one and the same Holy Spirit being the author of both, it is quite the same to be taught by the Scriptures and by the Catholic Church. Moreover, when any man speaks from himself he is liable to err, and to deceive, and be deceived; but the Catholic Church, as never having spoken, or speaking from herself, but from the Spirit of God — who being her teacher, she is ever unfailingly rich — it is impossible for her to in any wise err, or to at all deceive, or be deceived; but like the Divine Scriptures, is infallible, and has perpetual authority. (Decree 2)

We believe that the Catholic Church is taught by the Holy Spirit. For He is the true Paraclete; whom Christ sends from the Father, (cf. John 25:26) to teach the truth, (cf. John 26:13) and to drive away darkness from the minds of the Faithful. The teaching of the Holy Spirit, however, does not directly illuminate the Church, but [does so] through the holy Fathers and Leaders of the Catholic Church. All Scripture is, and is called, the word of the Holy Spirit, not that it was spoken directly by Him, but that it was spoken by Him through the Apostles and Prophets. In like manner the Church is taught indeed by the Life-giving Spirit, but through the medium of the holy Fathers and Doctors (whose rule is acknowledged to be the Holy and Ecumenical Synods; for we shall not cease to say this ten thousand times); and, therefore, not only are we persuaded, but do profess as true and undoubtedly certain, that it is impossible for the Catholic Church to err, or at all be deceived, or ever to choose falsehood instead of truth. For the All-holy Spirit continually operating through the holy Fathers and Leaders faithfully ministering, delivers the Church from error of every kind. (Decree 12)

On Perpetual Virginity and the Term “Firstborn”

Luke 2:7 And she gave birth to her firstborn Son…

St. Cyril of Alexandria ca. 376-444

In what sense then her firstborn? By firstborn she here means, not the first among several brethren, but one who was both her first and only son: for some such sense as (his exists among the significations of “firstborn.” For sometimes also the Scripture calls that the first which is the only one; as “I am God, the First, and with Me there is no other.” To shew then that the Virgin did not bring forth a mere man, there is added the word firstborn; for as she continued to be a virgin, she had no other son but Him Who is of the Father: concerning Whom God the Father also proclaims by the voice of David, “And I will set Him Firstborn high among the kings of the earth.” Of Him also the all-wise Paul makes mention, saying, “But when He brought the First-begotten into the world, He saith, And let all the angels of God worship Him.” How then did He enter into the world? For He is separate from it, not so much in respect of place as of nature; for it is in nature that He differs from the inhabitants of the world: but He entered into it by being made man, and becoming a portion of it by the Incarnation. For though He is the Only-begotten as regards His divinity, yet as having become our brother, He has also the name of Firstborn; that, being made the first-fruits as it were of the adoption of men, He might; make us also the sons of God. (Sermon 1: Luke 2:1-7)

On Authority in the Church

Blessed Augustine of Hippo ca. 354-430 

…[I]f you acknowledge the supreme authority of Scripture, you should recognise that authority which from the time of Christ Himself, through the ministry of His apostles, and through a regular succession of bishops in the seats of the apostles, has been preserved to our own day throughout the whole world, with a reputation known to all. (Against Faustus Bk. 33.9)

On the Patristic Old Testament Canon

Following the rule of the Catholic Church, we call Sacred Scripture …”The Wisdom of Solomon,” “Judith,” “Tobit,” “The History of the Dragon” [Bel and the Dragon], “The History of Susanna,” “The Maccabees,” and “The Wisdom of Sirach.” For we judge these also to be with the other genuine Books of Divine Scripture genuine parts of Scripture. For ancient custom, or rather the Catholic Church, which has delivered to us as genuine the Sacred Gospels and the other Books of Scripture, has undoubtedly delivered these also as parts of Scripture, and the denial of these is the rejection of those. And if, perhaps, it seems that not always have all of these been considered on the same level as the others, yet nevertheless these also have been counted and reckoned with the rest of Scripture, both by Synods and by many of the most ancient and eminent Theologians of the Catholic Church. All of these we also judge to be Canonical Books, and confess them to be Sacred Scripture. (Confession of Dositheus 1672, Question 3)

The Didache ca. 80

My child, him that speaks to you the word of God remember night and day; and you shall honour him as the Lord; for in the place whence lordly rule is uttered, there is the Lord. And you shall seek out day by day the faces of the saints, in order that you may rest upon their words. You shall not long for division, but shall bring those who contend to peace. You shall judge righteously, you shall not respect persons in reproving for transgressions. You shall not be undecided whether it shall be or no. Be not a stretcher forth of the hands to receive and a drawer of them back to give. (Sirach 4:36) (Didache 4)

Pope St. Clement of Rome fl. 96

Many women also, being strengthened by the grace of God, have performed numerous manly exploits. The blessed Judith, when her city was besieged, asked of the elders permission to go forth into the camp of the strangers; and, exposing herself to danger, she went out for the love which she bare to her country and people then besieged; and the Lord delivered Holofernes into the hands of a woman. (Judith 8:30)Esther also, being perfect in faith, exposed herself to no less danger, in order to deliver the twelve tribes of Israel from impending destruction. For with fasting and humiliation she entreated the everlasting God, who sees all things; and He, perceiving the humility of her spirit, delivered the people for whose sake she had encountered peril. (To the Corinthians 55)

Now women prophesied also. Of old, Miriam the sister of Moses and Aaron, Exodus 15:20 and after her Deborah, Judges 4:4 and after these Huldah 2 Kings 22:14 and Judith Judith 8 — the former under Josiah, the latter under Darius. The mother of the Lord did also prophesy, and her kinswoman Elisabeth, and Anna; and in our time the daughters of Philip; Acts 21:9 yet were not these elated against their husbands, but preserved their own measures. (Apostolic Constitutions 8.2)

St. Polycarp of Smyrna ca. 69-155

Stand fast, therefore, in these things, and follow the example of the Lord, being firm and unchangeable in the faith, loving the brotherhood, 1 Peter 2:17 and being attached to one another, joined together in the truth, exhibiting the meekness of the Lord in your intercourse with one another, and despising no one. When you can do good, defer it not, because alms delivers from death. (Tobit 4:10, Tobit 12:9) Be all of you subject one to another 1 Peter 5:5 having your conduct blameless among the Gentiles, 1 Peter 2:12 that you may both receive praise for your good works, and the Lord may not be blasphemed through you. But woe to him by whom the name of the Lord is blasphemed! Isaiah 52:5 (Epistle to the Philippians 10)

St. Irenaeus of Lyons died ca. 202

For who is the God of the living unless He who is God, and above whom there is no other God? Whom also Daniel the prophet, when Cyrus king of the Persians said to him, Why do you not worship Bel? did proclaim, saying, Because I do not worship idols made with hands, but the living God, who established the heaven and the earth and has dominion over all flesh. (Bel and the Dragon 1:4-5) Again did he say, I will adore the Lord my God, because He is the living God. (Against Heresies 4.5.2)

St. Athenagoras of Athens ca. 133-190

But, since the voices of the prophets confirm our arguments— for I think that you also, with your great zeal for knowledge, and your great attainments in learning, cannot be ignorant of the writings either of Moses or of Isaiah and Jeremiah, and the other prophets, who, lifted in ecstasy above the natural operations of their minds by the impulses of the Divine Spirit, uttered the things with which they were inspired, the Spirit making use of them as a flute-player breathes into a flute—what, then, do these men say? The Lord is our God; no other can be compared with Him. (Baruch 3:36) And again: I am God, the first and the last, and besides Me there is no God. (Isa. 44:6) (Plea for Christians 9)

Clement of Alexandria ca. 150-215

Excellently, therefore, the Divine Scripture, addressing boasters and lovers of their own selves, says, “Where are the rulers of the nations, and the lords of the wild beasts of the earth, who sport among the birds of heaven, who treasured up silver and gold, in whom men trusted, and there was no end of their substance, who fashioned silver and gold, and were full of care? There is no finding of their works. They have vanished, and gone down to Hades.” (Bar. 3:16-19) (The Instructor Bk. 2.3)

Tertullian of Carthage ca. 160-220

Then, if God had been unable to make all things of nothing, the Scripture could not possibly have added that He had made all things of nothing (2 Macc. 7:28): (there could have been no room for such a statement,) but it must by all means have informed us that He had made all things out of Matter, since Matter must have been the source; because the one case was quite to be understood, if it were not actually stated, whereas the other case would be left in doubt unless it were stated. (Against Hermogenes 21)

St. Hippolytus of Rome ca. 170-236

I produce now the prophecy of Solomon, which speaks of Christ, and announces clearly and perspicuously things concerning the Jews; and those which not only are befalling them at the present time, but those, too, which shall befall them in the future age, on account of the contumacy and audacity which they exhibited toward the Prince of Life; for the prophet says, The ungodly said, reasoning with themselves, but not aright, that is, about Christ, Let us lie in wait for the righteous, because he is not for our turn, and he is clean contrary to our doings and words, and upbraids us with our offending the law, and professes to have knowledge of God; and he calls himself the Child of God. And then he says, He is grievous to us even to behold; for his life is not like other men’s, and his ways are of another fashion. We are esteemed of him as counterfeits, and he abstains from our ways as from filthiness, and pronounces the end of the just to be blessed. And again, listen to this, O Jew! None of the righteous or prophets called himself the Son of God. And therefore, as in the person of the Jews, Solomon speaks again of this righteous one, who is Christ, thus: He was made to reprove our thoughts, and he makes his boast that God is his Father. Let us see, then, if his words be true, and let us prove what shall happen in the end of him; for if the just man be the Son of God, He will help him, and deliver him from the hand of his enemies. Let us condemn him with a shameful death, for by his own saying he shall be respected. (Wisdom 2:12-20) (Against the Jews 9)

Origen ca. 185-254

Then, knowing that there was a secret and mystical meaning in the passage, as was becoming in one who was leaving, in his Epistles, to those who were to come after him words full of significance, he subjoins the following, Behold, I show you a mystery; which is his usual style in introducing matters of a profounder and more mystical nature, and such as are fittingly concealed from the multitude, as is written in the book of Tobit: It is good to keep close the secret of a king, but honourable to reveal the works of God, — in a way consistent with truth and God’s glory, and so as to be to the advantage of the multitude. (Contra Celsum 5.19)

Solomon, e.g., declaring in one passage, that instruction unquestioned goes astray; and Jesus the son of Sirach, who has left us the treatise called Wisdom, declaring in another, that the knowledge of the unwise is as words that will not stand investigation. Our methods of discussion, however, are rather of a gentle kind; for we have learned that he who presides over the preaching of the word ought to be able to confute gainsayers. (Contra Celsum 6.7)

St. Cyprian of Carthage died ca. 258

This law of prayer the three children observed when they were shut up in the fiery furnace, speaking together in prayer, and being of one heart in the agreement of the spirit; and this the faith of the sacred Scripture assures us, and in telling us how such as these prayed, gives an example which we ought to follow in our prayers, in order that we may be such as they were: Then these three, it says, as if from one mouth sang an hymn, and blessed the Lord. (Song of the Three Children 27) (Treatises 4.8)

St. Methodius of Olympus died ca. 311

But it is not satisfactory to say that the universe will be utterly destroyed, and sea and air and sky will be no longer. For the whole world will be deluged with fire from heaven, and burnt for the purpose of purification and renewal; it will not, however, come to complete ruin and corruption. For if it were better for the world not to be than to be, why did God, in making the world, take the worse course? But God did not work in vain, or do that which was worst. God therefore ordered the creation with a view to its existence and continuance, as also the Book of Wisdom confirms, saying, For God created all things that they might have their being; and the generations of the world were healthful, and there is no poison of destruction in them. Wisdom 1:14 And Paul clearly testifies this, saying, For the earnest expectation of the creature waits for the manifestation of the sons of God. For the creature was made subject to vanity, not willingly, but by reason of him that subjected the same in hope: because the creature itself also shall be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God. (Rom. 8:19-21) (Discourse on the Resurrection 8)

St. Athanasius the Great ca. 297-373

There are, then, of the Old Testament, twenty-two books in number; for, as I have heard, it is handed down that this is the number of the letters among the Hebrews; their respective order and names being as follows…then Jeremiah with Baruch, Lamentations, and the epistle, one book… (39th Festal Epistle)

Pope Damasus I ca. 305-384

Now indeed we must treat of the divine Scriptures, what the universal Catholic Church accepts and what she ought to shun. The order of the Old Testament begins here: Genesis, one book; Exodus, one book; Leviticus, one book; Numbers, one book; Deuteronomy, one book; Joshua [son of] Nave, one book; Judges, one book; Ruth, one book; Kings [1 & 2 Samuel, 1& 2 Kings], four books; Paralipomenon [Chronicles], two books; Psalms, one book; Solomon, three books: Proverbs, one book; Ecclesiastes, one book; Canticle of Canticles, one book; likewise Wisdom, one book; Ecclesiasticus [Sirach], one book. Likewise is the order of the Prophets: Isaias, one book; Jeremias, one book…Lamentations, Ezechiel, one book; Daniel, one book; Osee…Nahum…Habacuc…Sophonias…Aggeus…Zacharias…Malachias…likewise the order of the historical [books]: Job, one book; Tobit, one book; Esdras, two books; Esther, one book; Judith, one book; Maccabees, two books. (The Decree of Damasus)

St. Cyril of Jerusalem ca. 313-386

For when they speak against the ascension of the Saviour, as being impossible, remember the account of the carrying away of Habakkuk: for if Habakkuk was transported by an Angel, being carried by the hair of his head , (Bel and the Dragon) much rather was the Lord of both Prophets and Angels, able by His own power to make His ascent into the Heavens on a cloud from the Mount of Olives. (Catechetical Lectures 14.25)

St. Epiphanius of Salamis ca. 315-403

For if thou were begotten of the Holy Ghost, and taught by the Apostles and Prophets, this should you do: Examine all the sacred codices from Genesis to the times of Esther, which are twenty-seven books of the Old Testament, and are enumerated as twenty-two; then the four Holy Gospels… the books of Wisdom, that of Solomon, and the Son of Sirach, and in fine all the books of Scripture [Gk. divine writings]. (Adversus Haereses, Haeres 76.5)

St. Basil the Great ca. 330-379

What Scripture says is very true, As for a fool he changes as the moon. (Sirach 27:12) (Hexaemeron 6.10)

St. Ambrose of Milan ca. 337-397

For it is written: Hedge your ears about with thorns; Sirach 28:28 and again: Beware of dogs, beware of evil workers; Phil. 3:2 and yet again: A man that is an heretic, avoid after the first reproof, knowing that such an one is fallen, and is in sin, being condemned of his own judgment. Tit. 3:10-11 So then, like prudent pilots, let us set the sails of our faith for the course wherein we may pass by most safely, and again follow the coasts of the Scriptures. (De Fide Bk. 1.6.47)

The prophets say: In Your light we shall see light; and again: Wisdom is the brightness of everlasting light, and the spotless mirror of God’s majesty, the image of His goodness. Wisdom 7:26 See what great names are declared! (ibid. Bk. 1.7.49)

St. John Chrysostom ca. 347-407

But why does he call it old? Either because our former life was of this sort, or because that which is old is ready to vanish away, (Hebrews 8:13) and is unsavory and foul; which is the nature of sin. For He neither simply finds fault with the old, nor simply praises the new, but with reference to the subject matter. And thus elsewhere He says, (Sirach 9:15) New wine is as a new friend: but if it become old, then with pleasure shall you drink it: in the case of friendship bestowing his praise rather upon the old than the new… Elsewhere the Scripture takes the term old in the sense of blame; for seeing that the things are of various aspect as being composed of many parts, it uses the same words both in a good and an evil import, not according to the same shade of meaning. Of which you may see an instance in the blame cast elsewhere on the old: Psalm 17:46. ap. Septuagint They waxed old, and they halted from their paths. And again, Psalm 6:7 ap. Septuagint I have become old in the midst of all mine enemies. And again, O you that are become old in evil days. (Daniel 13:52. Hist. Susannah) So also the Leaven is often taken for the kingdom of Heaven , although here found fault with. But in that place it is used with one aspect, and in this with another. (Homilies on First Corinthians, 15.10)

Blessed Jerome ca. 347-420

Among the Hebrews the Book of Judith is found among the Hagiographa, the authority of which toward confirming those which have come into contention is judged less appropriate. Yet having been written in Chaldean words, it is counted among the histories. But because this book is found by the Nicene Council to have been counted among the number of the Sacred Scriptures, I have acquiesced to your request, indeed a demand, and works having been set aside from which I was forcibly curtailed, I have given to this (book) one short night’s work translating more sense from sense than word from word. (Preface to Judith)

St John Cassian ca. 360-435

And so far do all who perish, perish against the will of God, that God cannot be said to have made death, as Scripture itself testifies: For God made not death, neither rejoices in the destruction of the living. (Wisdom 1:13) (Conference 13.7)

St. Vincent of Lerins died ca. 445

…[W]hereas the divine Oracles cry aloud, Remove not the landmarks, which your fathers have set, (Prov. 22:28) and Go not to law with a Judge, (Sirach 8:14) and Whoso breaks through a fence a serpent shall bite him, (Ecclesiastes 10:8) and that saying of the Apostle wherewith, as with a spiritual sword, all the wicked novelties of all heresies often have been, and will always have to be, decapitated, O Timothy, keep the deposit, shunning profane novelties of words and oppositions of the knowledge falsely so called, which some professing have erred concerning the faith. (1 Tim.6:20) (Commonitory 21.51)

St. Cyril of Alexandria ca. 376-444

Since the holy seraphim offered hymns of praise with pure and holy mouths, you see, he [Isaiah the Prophet] for his part was fearful, being instructed by God and not unaware that no appealing hymn is found in the mouth of a sinner, (Sirach 15:9) as Scripture says. (Commentary on Isaiah, Chap. 6)

St. Patrick of Ireland ca. 387-493

“The Almighty turns away from the gifts of wicked men.” “He who offers sacrifice from the goods of the poor, is like a man who sacrifices a son in the sight of his own father.” (Sirach 34:24) “Those riches,” it is written, “which he has gathered in unjustly will be vomited out of his belly.” “And now the angel of death comes to drag him away. He will be mauled by angry dragons, killed by the serpent’s tongue. Moreover, everlasting fire is consuming him.” So, “Woe to those who feast themselves on things that are not their own.” Or, “What does it profit a man if he gains the whole world and suffers the loss of his own soul?” (Letter to Coroticus 8)

And so, now you, Coroticus-and your gangsters, rebels all against Christ, now where do you see yourselves? You gave away girls like prizes: not yet women, but baptized. All for some petty temporal gain that will pass in the very next instant. “Like a cloud passes, or smoke blown in the wind,” (Wisdom 5:15) so will “sinners, who cheat, slip away from the face of the Lord. But the just will feast for sure” with Christ. “They will judge the nations” and unjust kings “they will lord over” for world after world. Amen. (Letter to Coroticus 19)

St. Benedict of Nursia ca. 480-547

As for self-will, we are forbidden to do our own will by the Scripture, which says to us, “Turn away from your own will” (Sirach 18:30), and likewise by the prayer in which we ask God that His will be done in us. (Rule of St. Benedict: 7)

St. Justinian the Emperor ca. 483-565

We marvel at how empty their minds are, for they dare to oppose themselves to the divine Scripture which says quite plainly, “Both the godless and their wickedness are equally abhorrent to God.” (Wisdom 14:9) (The Edict on the True Faith)

St. John Damascene ca. 676-749

And although the holy Scripture says, Therefore God, your God, has anointed you with the oil of gladness , it is to be observed that the holy Scripture often uses the past tense instead of the future, as for example here: Thereafter He was seen upon the earth and dwelt among men. (Baruch 3:38) For as yet God was not seen nor did He dwell among men when this was said. And here again: By the rivers of Babylon, there we sat down; yea wept. For as yet these things had not come to pass. (Exact Exposition of the Orthodox Faith Bk. 4.6)

The divine Scripture likewise says that the souls of the just are in God’s hand (Wisdom 3:1) and death cannot lay hold of them. (Exact Exposition of the Orthodox Faith Bk.4.15)

St. Gregory Palamas ca. 1296-1359

Scripture tells us, ‘God did not create death’ (Wisdom 1:13). Rather, He impeded its inception in so far as this was fitting, and in so far as it was consistent with His justice to obstruct those to whom He Himself had given free will when He created them. For from the beginning God gave them a counsel that would lead to immortality, and so that they would be safeguarded as far as possible He made His life-generating counsel a commandment. (Topics of Natural and Theological Science and on the Moral and Ascetic Life: One Hundred and Fifty Texts, 47)

For more information on the Old Testament canon of the Church:

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)

Against the Dispensationalists

St. Gregory of Nyssa ca. 335-395

Now if we loudly preach all this, and testify to all this, namely that Christ is the power of God and the wisdom of God, always changeless, always imperishable, though He comes in the changeable and the perishable; never stained Himself, but making clean that which is stained; what is the crime that we commit, and wherefore are we hated? And what means this opposing array of new Altars? Do we announce another Jesus? Do we hint at another? Do we produce other Scriptures? Have any of ourselves dared to say Mother of Man of the Holy Virgin, the Mother of God: which is what we hear that some of them say without restraint? Do we romance about three Resurrections? Do we promise the gluttony of the Millennium? Do we declare that the Jewish animal-sacrifices shall be restored? Do we lower men’s hopes again to the Jerusalem below, imagining its rebuilding with stones of a more brilliant material? (Letter 17)

On the Origin of Single Immersion Baptism

Constantinople I 381, 2nd Ecumenical Council 
 
Those who from heresy turn to orthodoxy, and to the portion of those who are being saved, we receive according to the following method and custom: Arians, and Macedonians, and Sabbatians, and Novatians, who call themselves Cathari or Aristori, and Quarto-decimans or Tetradites, and Apollinarians, we receive, upon their giving a written renunciation [of their errors] and anathematize every heresy which is not in accordance with the Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church of God. Thereupon, they are first sealed or anointed with the holy oil upon the forehead, eyes, nostrils, mouth, and ears; and when we seal them, we say, The Seal of the gift of the Holy Ghost. But Eunomians, who are baptized with only one immersion, and Montanists, who are here called Phrygians, and Sabellians, who teach the identity of Father and Son, and do sundry other mischievous things, and [the partisans of] all other heresies— for there are many such here, particularly among those who come from the country of the Galatians:— all these, when they desire to turn to orthodoxy, we receive as heathen. On the first day we make them Christians; on the second, catechumens; on the third, we exorcise them by breathing thrice in their face and ears; and thus we instruct them and oblige them to spend some time in the Church, and to hear the Scriptures; and then we baptize them. (Canon 5)
 
International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (ISBE): Trine (Triune) Immersion 

Eunomius (circa 360) introduced single immersion “into the death of Christ.” This innovation was condemned. Apostolical Constitutions, 50, says, “If any presbyter or bishop does not perform the one initiation with three immersions, but with giving one immersion only into the death of the Lord, let him be deposed.” Single immersion was allowed by Gregory the Great (circa 691) to the church in Spain in opposition to the Arians who used a trine (not triune) immersion (Epis., i. 43). This was exceptional.  

 

 

On the Difference Between Veneration and Worship

Nicea II 787, 7th Ecumenical Council

St. Tarasios of Constantinople ca. 730-806

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

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

On Iconoclasm

Nicea II 787, 7th Ecumenical Council

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

On the King and the Fox

St. Irenaeus of Lyons died ca. 202

[T]hey disregard the order and the connection of the Scriptures, and so far as in them lies, dismember and destroy the truth. By transferring passages, and dressing them up anew, and making one thing out of another, they succeed in deluding many through their wicked art in adapting the oracles of the Lord to their opinions. Their manner of acting is just as if one, when a beautiful image of a king has been constructed by some skilful artist out of precious jewels, should then take this likeness of the man all to pieces, should rearrange the gems, and so fit them together as to make them into the form of a dog or of a fox, and even that but poorly executed; and should then maintain and declare that this was the beautiful image of the king which the skilful artist constructed, pointing to the jewels which had been admirably fitted together by the first artist to form the image of the king, but have been with bad effect transferred by the latter one to the shape of a dog, and by thus exhibiting the jewels, should deceive the ignorant who had no conception what a king’s form was like, and persuade them that that miserable likeness of the fox was, in fact, the beautiful image of the king. (Against Heresies Bk. 1.8.1)

On Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God

St. Anthony the Great ca. 251-356

God is good, dispassionate and immutable. Now someone who thinks it reasonable and true to affirm that God does not change, may well ask how, in that case, it is possible to speak of God as rejoicing over those who are good and showing mercy to those who honor Him, while turning away from the wicked and being angry with sinners. To this it must be answered that God neither rejoices nor grows angry, for to rejoice and to be offended are passions; nor is He won over by the gifts of those who honor Him, for that would mean He is swayed by pleasure. It is not right to imagine that God feels pleasure or displeasure in a human way. He is good, and He only bestows blessings and never does harm, remaining always the same. We men, on the other hand, if we remain good by resembling God we are united to Him; but if we become evil through not resembling God, we are seperated from Him. By living in holiness we cleave to God; but by becoming wicked we make Him our enemy. It is not that He grows angry with us in an arbitrary way, but it is our own sins that prevent God from shining within us, and expose us to demons who punish us. And if through prayer and acts of compassion we gain release from our sins, this does not mean that we have won God over and made Him change, but that through our actions and turning to God we have cured our wickedness and so once more have enjoyment of God’s goodness. Thus to say that God turns away from the wicked is like saying that the sun hides itself from the blind. (Philokalia Vol. 1: On the Character of Men 150)

St. Ephrem on the Sects

St. Ephrem the Syrian ca. 306-373

While (the sects) mutually refute and condemn each other, it has happened to truth as to Gideon; that is, while they fight against each other, and fall under wounds mutually inflicted, they crown her. All the heretics acknowledge that there is a true Scripture. Had they all falsely believed that none existed, some one might reply that such Scripture was unknown to them. But now that have themselves taken away the force of such plea, from the fact that they have mutilated the very Scriptures. For they have corrupted the sacred copies; and words which ought to have but one interpretation, they have wrested to strange significations. Whilst, when one of them attempts this, and cuts off a member of his own body, the rest demand and claim back the severed limb…It is the Church which perfect truth perfects. The Church of believers is great, and its bosom most ample; it embraces the fulness (or, the whole) of the two Testaments. (Syr. Serm. 2, Ephraem Adv. Haeres excerpted from “The Faith Of Catholics Confirmed by Scripture and Attested by the Fathers of the First Five Centuries of the Church” pg. 371)

On Priestesses and Deaconesses

St. Epiphanius of Salamis ca. 320-403

It is true that in the Church there is an order of deaconesses, but not for being a priestess, nor for any kind of work of administration, but for the sake of the dignity of the female sex, either at the time of Baptism, or of examining the sick or suffering, so that the naked body of a female may not be seen by men administering sacred rites, but by the deaconess. (Panarion 79.3)

 

Council of Laodicea ca. 364

Presbytides, as they are called, or female presidents, are not to be appointed in the Church. (Canon 11)

St. Epiphanius on Bishops and Priests

St. Epiphanius of Salamis ca. 315-403
 
To those who have any intelligence it is clear that to say that bishop and priest are equal is the utter fullness of stupidity. And how should this be possible? This order [of episcopate] is a begetting of fathers; for it begets fathers to the Church; but the other, not able to beget fathers, begets children for the Church, through the rebirth of Baptism, but not fathers or teachers. And how were it possible for someone to ordain a priest, if he did not himself have hands laid on him for the laying on of hands, or to say that he is equal to the bishop? (Panarion 75.4)

 

 

On Christ Being Sacrificed Once and For All

St. John Chrysostom ca. 349-407

What then? Do not we offer every day? We offer indeed, but making a remembrance of His death, and this [remembrance] is one and not many. How is it one, and not many? Inasmuch as that [Sacrifice] was once for all offered, [and] carried into the Holy of Holies. This is a figure of that [sacrifice] and this remembrance of that. For we always offer the same, not one sheep now and tomorrow another, but always the same thing: so that the sacrifice is one. And yet by this reasoning, since the offering is made in many places, are there many Christs? But Christ is one everywhere, being complete here and complete there also, one Body.  As then while offered in many places, He is one body and not many bodies; so also [He is] one sacrifice. He is our High Priest, who offered the sacrifice that cleanses us. That we offer now also, which was then offered, which cannot be exhausted. (Homily 17 On Hebrews, 6)

On Catholicity

St. Optatus of Milevis ca. 4th cent.

Catholicism is constituted by a simple and true understanding in the law, by an unique and most true mystery, and by unity of minds. But schism, after the bond of peace has been broken, is brought into existence through passion, is nourished by hatred, is strengthened by envy and dissensions, so that the Catholic Mother is abandoned, whilst her unfilial children go forth outside and separate themselves (as you have done) from the root of Mother Church—-cut off by the shears of their hatred—-and wickedly depart in rebellion. They are not able, however, to do anything new, or different from that which long ago they learned from their Mother. (Against the Donatists, Bk.1.11)

On Orthodox Ecclesiology

Synod of Nicea ca. 382

Thus since among us there is agreement in the faith and Christian charity has been established, we shall cease to use the phrase condemned by the apostles, I am of Paul and I of Apollos and I of Cephas, and all appearing as Christ’s, who in us is not divided, by God’s grace we will keep the body of the church unrent, and will boldly stand at the judgment seat of the Lord. (Synodical Letter)

On the True Theotokos

St. Gregory the Theologian ca. 329-389

If anyone does not believe that Holy Mary is the Mother of God, he is severed from the Godhead. (Epistle 101: To Cledonius)

St. Cyril of Alxandria ca. 376-444

If any one confess not that Emmanuel is in truth God and that the holy Virgin is therefore Mother of God, for she bare after the flesh the Word of God made Flesh, be he anathema. (Third Letter to Nestorius, Anathema 1)

St. Maximus the Confessor ca. 580-662

In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, the co-essential and supersubstantial Trinity; of all the hosts of heaven; of the choir of holy apostles and prophets; of the innumerable array of martyrs; and of every righteous soul reposed in the faith: may he be anathema who fails to confess our all-hymned, all-holy, immaculate Lady, the most honorable of rational beings, as the true Mother of God, Who hath made heaven and earth, the sea and all that is therein, now and ever and unto ages of ages. (St. Dimitri Rostov, Life of St. Maximus)

The 7th Ecumenical Council on Sola Scriptura

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

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

On Theological Distortion

Fr. John Romanides 1928-2001

Satan has distorted so much the theology of the heretics and those supposed Orthodox influenced by the West, to the point where some think that salvation is not from the dominion and grasp of the enemy, but of God. God became man in order to save us from Himself! (Letter of Fr. John Romanides to Fr. Theoklitos Dionysiatis written in late 1957 or early 1958)

Source: http://www.johnsanidopoulos.com/2010/11/prophetic-letter-of-fr-john-romanides.html

On Christ’s Death and the Unity of the Church

St. Athanasius the Great ca. 293-373

So something surprising and startling has happened; for the death, which they thought to inflict as a disgrace, was actually a monument of victory against death itself. Whence neither did He suffer the death of John, his head being severed, nor, as Esaias, was He sawn in sunder; in order that even in death He might still keep His body undivided and in perfect soundness, and no pretext be afforded to those that would divide the Church. (On the Incarnation of the Word 24.4)

St. John Chrysostom on the Written Word

St. John Chrysostom ca. 349-407

It were indeed meet for us not at all to require the aid of the written Word, but to exhibit a life so pure, that the grace of the Spirit should be instead of books to our souls, and that as these are inscribed with ink, even so should our hearts be with the Spirit. But, since we have utterly put away from us this grace, come, let us at any rate embrace the second best course.

For that the former was better, God has made manifest, both by His words, and by His doings. Since unto Noah, and unto Abraham, and unto his offspring, and unto Job, and unto Moses too, He discoursed not by writings, but Himself by Himself, finding their mind pure. But after the whole people of the Hebrews had fallen into the very pit of wickedness, then and thereafter was a written word, and tables, and the admonition which is given by these.

And this one may perceive was the case, not of the saints in the Old Testament only, but also of those in the New. For neither to the apostles did God give anything in writing, but instead of written words He promised that He would give them the grace of the Spirit: for He, says our Lord, shall bring all things to your remembrance. Jn. 14:26 And that you may learn that this was far better, hear what He says by the Prophet: I will make a new covenant with you, putting my laws into their mind, and in their heart I will write them, and, they shall be all taught of God. (cf. Jer. 31:33 LXX; Jn. 6:45) And Paul too, pointing out the same superiority, said, that they had received a law not in tables of stone, but in fleshy tables of the heart. (2 Cor. 3:3)

But since in process of time they made shipwreck, some with regard to doctrines, others as to life and manners, there was again need that they should be put in remembrance by the written word.

Reflect then how great an evil it is for us, who ought to live so purely as not even to need written words, but to yield up our hearts, as books, to the Spirit; now that we have lost that honor, and have come to have need of these, to fail again in duly employing even this second remedy. For if it be a blame to stand in need of written words, and not to have brought down on ourselves the grace of the Spirit; consider how heavy the charge of not choosing to profit even after this assistance, but rather treating what is written with neglect, as if it were cast forth without purpose, and at random, and so bringing down upon ourselves our punishment with increase.

But that no such effect may ensue, let us give strict heed unto the things that are written; and let us learn how the Old Law was given on the one hand, how on the other the New Covenant. (Homily One on Matthew)

The Cross: An Orthodox-Protestant Comparison

St. Athanasius the Great ca. 293-373

And that the words ‘Why have You forsaken Me?’ are His, according to the foregoing explanations (though He suffered nothing, for the Word was impassible), is notwithstanding declared by the Evangelists; since the Lord became man, and these things are done and said as from a man, that He might Himself lighten these very sufferings of the flesh, and free it from them. Whence neither can the Lord be forsaken by the Father, who is ever in the Father, both before He spoke, and when He uttered this cry. Nor is it lawful to say that the Lord was in terror, at whom the keepers of hell’s gates shuddered and set open hell, and the graves did gape, and many bodies of the saints arose and appeared to their own people. Therefore be every heretic dumb, nor dare to ascribe terror to the Lord whom death, as a serpent, flees, at whom demons tremble, and the sea is in alarm; for whom the heavens are rent and all the powers are shaken. For behold when He says, ‘Why have You forsaken Me?’ the Father showed that He was ever and even then in Him; for the earth knowing its Lord who spoke, straightway trembled, and the veil was rent, and the sun was hidden, and the rocks were torn asunder, and the graves, as I have said, did gape, and the dead in them arose; and, what is wonderful, they who were then present and had before denied Him, then seeing these signs, confessed that ‘truly He was the Son of God’. (Four Discourses Against the Arians Bk. 3.29)

St. Hilary of Poitiers ca. 300-386

Yet, I suppose, you will arm yourself also for your godless contention with these words of the Lord, My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me ? Perhaps you think that after the disgrace of the cross, the favour of His Father’s help departed from Him, and hence His cry that He was left alone in His weakness. But if you regard the contempt, the weakness, the cross of Christ as a disgrace, you should remember His words, Verily I say unto you, From henceforth you shall see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of power, and coming with the clouds of Heaven.

But, they say, the cross was a dishonour to Him; yet it is because of the cross that we can now see the Son of Man sitting on the right hand of power, that He Who was born man of the womb of the Virgin has returned in His Majesty with the clouds of heaven. Your irreverence blinds you to the natural relations of cause and event: not only does the spirit of godlessness and error, with which you are filled, hide from your understanding the mystery of faith, but the obtuseness of heresy drags you below the level of ordinary human intelligence. For it stands to reason that whatever we fear, we avoid: that a weak nature is a prey to terror by its very feebleness: that whatever feels pain possesses a nature always liable to pain: that whatever dishonours is always a degradation. On what reasonable principle, then, do you hold that our Lord Jesus Christ feared that towards which He pressed: or awed the brave, yet trembled Himself with weakness: or stopped the pain of wounds, yet felt the pain of His own: or was dishonoured by the degradation of the cross, yet through the cross sat down by God on high, and returned to His Kingdom? (On the Holy Trinity Bk. 10.31,33)

St. Gregory the Theologian ca. 329-389

Take, in the next place, the subjection by which you subject the Son to the Father. What, you say, is He not now subject, or must He, if He is God, be subject to God? You are fashioning your argument as if it concerned some robber, or some hostile deity. But look at it in this manner: that as for my sake He was called a curse, Who destroyed my curse; and sin, who takes away the sin of the world; and became a new Adam to take the place of the old, just so He makes my disobedience His own as Head of the whole body. As long then as I am disobedient and rebellious, both by denial of God and by my passions, so long Christ also is called disobedient on my account. But when all things shall be subdued unto Him on the one hand by acknowledgment of Him, and on the other by a reformation, then He Himself also will have fulfilled His submission, bringing me whom He has saved to God. For this, according to my view, is the subjection of Christ; namely, the fulfilling of the Father’s Will. But as the Son subjects all to the Father, so does the Father to the Son; the One by His Work, the Other by His good pleasure, as we have already said. And thus He Who subjects presents to God that which he has subjected, making our condition His own. Of the same kind, it appears to me, is the expression, “My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?” It was not He who was forsaken either by the Father, or by His own Godhead, as some have thought, as if It were afraid of the Passion, and therefore withdrew Itself from Him in His Sufferings (for who compelled Him either to be born on earth at all, or to be lifted up on the Cross?) But as I said, He was in His own Person representing us. For we were the forsaken and despised before, but now by the Sufferings of Him Who could not suffer, we were taken up and saved. Similarly, He makes His own our folly and our transgressions; and says what follows in the Psalm, for it is very evident that the Twenty-first Psalm refers to Christ. (Fourth Theological Oration, Oration 30.5)

St. John Chrysostom ca. 349-407

And for this reason, even after this He speaks, that they might learn that He was still alive, and that He Himself did this, and that they might become by this also more gentle, and He says, Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani? Matt. 27:46 that unto His last breath they might see that He honors His Father, and is no adversary of God. Wherefore also He uttered a certain cry from the prophet, even to His last hour bearing witness to the Old Testament, and not simply a cry from the prophet, but also in Hebrew, so as to be plain and intelligible to them, and by all things He shows how He is of one mind with Him that begot Him. (Homilies on Matthew 88)

St. Cyril of Alexandria ca. 376-444

The cry My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me? is the utterance of Adam, who trampled on the commandment given to him and disregarded God’s Law; thus did God abandon human nature, which had become accursed. When the Only-begotten Word of God came to restore fallen man, the abandonment entailed by that curse and corruption had to come to an end. My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me? is the voice of Him Who destroyed our forsakenness, as if He were imploring the Father to be gracious to mankind. When, as man, He asks for something, it is for us; as God, He was in need of nothing. (Second Oration to the Empresses on the True Faith, 18, Patrologia Græca, Vol. LXXVI, col. 1357A.)

Pope St. Leo the Great ca. 400-461

Hence it is that the Lord Jesus Christ, our Head, representing all the members of His body in Himself, and speaking for those whom He was redeeming in the punishment of the cross, uttered that cry which He had once uttered in the psalm, O God, My God, look upon Me: why have You forsaken Me ? That cry, dearly-beloved, is a lesson, not a complaint. For since in Christ there is one person of God and man, and He could not have been forsaken by Him, from Whom He could not be separated, it is on behalf of us, trembling and weak ones, that He asks why the flesh that is afraid to suffer has not been heard. For when the Passion was beginning, to cure and correct our weak fear He had said, Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from Me: nevertheless not as I will but as You; and again, Father, if this cup cannot pass except I drink it, Your will be done Matt. 26:39, 42 . As therefore He had conquered the tremblings of the flesh, and had now accepted the Father’s will, and trampling all dread of death under foot, was then carrying out the work of His design, why at the very time of His triumph over such a victory does He seek the cause and reason of His being forsaken, that is, not heard, save to show that the feeling which He entertained in excuse of His human fears is quite different from the deliberate choice which, in accordance with the Father’s eternal decree, He had made for the reconciliation of the world? And thus the very cry of Unheard is the exposition of a mighty Mystery, because the Redeemer’s power would have conferred nothing on mankind if our weakness in Him had obtained what it sought. Let these words dearly-beloved, suffice today, lest we burden you by the length of our discourse: let us put off the rest till Wednesday. The Lord shall hear you if you pray that we may keep our promise through the bounty of Him Who lives and reigns for ever and ever. Amen. (Homily 67.7)

St. John Damascene ca. 676-749

Further, these words, My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me Matt. 27:46? He said as making our personality His own. For neither would God be regarded with us as His Father, unless one were to discriminate with subtle imaginings of the mind between that which is seen and that which is thought, nor was He ever forsaken by His divinity: nay, it was we who were forsaken and disregarded. So that it was as appropriating our personality that He offered these prayers. (Exact Exposition of the Orthodox Faith Bk. 3.24)

Excerpted from “Book Review: The Orthodox Way” http://orthodoxinfo.com/phronema/review_tow.aspx

Amen. Amen. Amen. I believe, I believe, I believe and confess to the last breath, that this is the life-giving body that your only-begotten Son, our Lord, God and Saviour Jesus Christ took from our Lady, the Lady of us all, the holy Theotokos Saint Mary. He made it one with his divinity without mingling, without confusion and without alteration. He witnessed the good confession before Pontius Pilate. He gave it up for us upon the holy wood of the Cross, of His own will, for us all. Truly I believe that His divinity parted not from His humanity for a single moment nor a twinkling of an eye. Given for us for salvation, remission of sins and eternal life to those who partake of him. I believe, I believe, I believe that this is so in truth. Amen. (Coptic Liturgy of St. Basil, The Confession)

*A Jewish Contextual Note*

The person who is dying, whose soul is ebbing from its home in the body, is draped in a tallit. The bystanders help them to wash their hands ritually, three times over the right, three times over the left. The dying person then does a little Yom Kippur (Day of Atonement) either verbally or in their thoughts, reflecting on their life, asking for forgiveness for having wronged people, etc., and if they are able to, they recite Psalms 4, 6, 121, 145. As they feel themselves at the door of death, they recite Psalm 22 and 29 (13th-century Rabbi Moshe ibn Nachmon, quoted in Choch’mat Ahdam, No. 151). Quoted from Death By Rabbi Gershon Winkler

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Martin Luther: So then, gaze at the heavenly picture of Christ, who descended into hell for your sake and was forsaken by God as one eternally damned when he spoke the words on the cross, “Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani!” – “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” In that picture your hell is defeated and your uncertain election is made sure. (Luther, Martin. “Treatise on Preparing to Die.”)

John Calvin: Nothing had been done if Christ had only endured corporeal death. In order to interpose between us and God’s anger, and satisfy his righteous judgment, it was necessary that he should feel the weight of divine vengeance. Whence also it was necessary that he should engage, as it were, at close quarters with the powers of hell and the horrors of eternal death…Hence there is nothing strange in its being said that he descended to hell, seeing he endured the death which is inflicted on the wicked by an angry God. It is frivolous and ridiculous to object that in this way the order is perverted, it being absurd that an event which preceded burial should be placed after it. But after explaining what Christ endured in the sight of man, the Creed appropriately adds the invisible and incomprehensible judgment which he endured before God, to teach us that not only was the body of Christ given up as the price of redemption, but that there was a greater and more excellent price—that he bore in his soul the tortures of condemned and ruined man. (Calvin, John. “Institutes of the Christian Religion.” Book 3:Chapter 16.

Charles Hodge: The penalty of the divine law is said to be eternal death. Therefore if Christ suffered the penalty of the law He must have suffered death eternal; or, as others say, He must have endured the same kind of sufferings as those who are cast off from God and die eternally are called upon to suffer. (Hodge, Charles. “Systematic Theology.” Vol. 2, Part 3, Ch 6, Sec 3)

John MacArthur: To [Jesus] was imputed the guilt of their sins, and He was suffering the punishment for those sins on their behalf. And the very essence of that punishment was the outpouring of God’s wrath against sinners. In some mysterious way during those awful hours on the cross, the Father poured out the full measure of His wrath against sin, and the recipient of that wrath was God’s own beloved Son. In this lies the true meaning of the cross. (MacArthur, John. “The Murder of Jesus.” Pg. 219)

R.C. Sproul: What prevents us from seeing God is our heart. Our impurity. But Jesus had no impurity. And Thomas said He was pure in heart. So obviously He had some, some experience of the beauty of the Father. Until that moment that my sin was placed upon Him. And the one who was pure was pure no more. And God cursed Him. It was if there was a cry from Heaven – excuse my language but I can be no more accurate than to say – it was as if Jesus heard the words ‘God damn you’, because that’s what it meant to be cursed, to be damned, to be under the anathema of the Father. As I said I don’t understand that, but I know that it’s true. (R.C. Sproul. Together for the Gospel. April 17, 2008. Louisville, KY. Session V – The Curse Motif of the Atonement. Minute 55:01)

John Piper: Hell is all about echoing faintly the glory of Calvary. That’s the meaning of hell in this room right now. To help you feel in some emotional measure the magnificence of what Christ did for you when he bore not only your eternal suffering, but millions of people’s eternal suffering when His Father put our curse on Him. What a Saviour is echoed in the flames of hell. So that’s what I mean when I say hell is an echo of the glory of God, and an echo of the Savior’s sufferings, and therefore an echo of the infinite love of God for our souls. (John Piper. Resolved Conference 2008. Session 8 – The Echo and Insufficiency of Hell. Min 40:00)

H/T Jay Dyer http://jaysanalysis.com/2010/04/12/quotes-from-calvinist-theologians-proving-ariannestorianism/

St. Nectarios on Sacred Tradition

St. Nectarios of Aegina 1846-1920

Sacred Tradition is the very Church; without Sacred Tradition the Church does not exist. Those who deny the Sacred Tradition deny the Church and the preaching of the Apostles. (Constantine Cavarnos, St. Nectarios of Aegina)

On Salvation as Process

St. Cyprian of Carthage died ca. 258

Confession is the beginning of glory, not the full desert of the crown; nor does it perfect our praise, but it initiates our dignity; and since it is written, He that endures to the end, the same shall be saved, Mat. 10:22 whatever has been before the end is a step by which we ascend to the summit of salvation, not a terminus wherein the full result of the ascent is already gained. (On the Unity of the Church 21)

Christian Life is Impossible Outside the Church

New Martyr St. Hilarion Troitsky 1886-1929
Outside the Church and without the Church, Christian life is impossible. Without the Church, the Christian teaching alone remains as an empty sound, for Christian life is Church life. Only in the life of the Church can a person live and develop. In a bodily organism, separate members never grow or develop independently of one another, but always and only in connection with the whole organism. The same applies to the Church. For the growth of the Church is at the same time the growth of its members.
…Christianity is not concerned with the interests of reason; but only with those of the salvation of man. In Christianity, therefore, there are no purely theoretical tenets. Dogmatic truths have moral significance, and Christian morals are founded on dogma. Included in the concept of the Church is this: the Church is that point at which dogma becomes moral teaching and Christian dogmatics become Christian life. The Church thus comprehended gives life to and provides for the implementation of Christian teaching. Without the Church there is no Christianity; there is only the Christian teaching which, by itself, cannot “renew the fallen Adam.”If we now turn from the doctrine of the Church as revealed in the New Testament to the facts of the history of Christianity, we shall see that this is precisely the concept which was fundamental to the Christian view and which had been shaping its reality. Before anything else, the Christians became conscious of themselves as members of the Church. The Christian community referred to itself as a “Church”in preference to all other names. The word “Church”(ekklisia) appears one hundred and ten times in the New Testament, while such words as “Christianity”and similar words are completely unknown in the New Testament. After the descent of the Holy Spirit on Christ’s disciples and apostles, the Church came into being as a visible community with a spiritual interrelation among its members.At first there was no comprehensive system of teaching. The faith of Christ was set down in a few of the general dogmas. There was nothing to be learned in Christianity and little common accord called for in any abstract propositions. What did it mean at that time to be a Christian?

In our times we hear many various answers such as: “To be a Christian means to recognize Christ’s teaching, to try to fulfill His commandments.”This, of course, is the best of such answers. The first Christians, however, answered the question in a completely different way. From the very first pages of its history, Christianity appears before us in the form of a harmonious and unanimous community. Outside of this community there were no Christians. To come to believe in Christ, to become a Christian – this meant uniting with the Church. This is repeatedly expressed in the book of the Acts of the Apostles, where we read that the Lord daily added the saved to the Church (cf. Acts 2:47; 5:13-14). Each new believer was like a branch grafted to the tree of Church life.(Christianity or the Church?)

The Greatest Lie of All

New Martyr Hilarion Troitsky 1886-1929
 
It is Protestantism that openly proclaimed the greatest lie of all: that one can be a Christian while denying the Church. Nevertheless, by tying its members by some obligatory authorities and church laws, Protestantism entangles itself in hopeless contradiction: having itself separated the individual from the Church, it nevertheless places limits on that freedom. From this stems the constant mutiny of Protestants against those few and pitiful remnants of the Church consciousness which are still preserved by the official representatives of their denominations. (Christianity or the Church)

On Those That Deny the Monarchical Episcopate

St. Athanasius ca. 297-373

But if the organising of the Churches is distasteful to you, and you do not think the ministry of the episcopate has its reward, why, then you have brought yourself to despise the Saviour that ordered these things? I beseech you, dismiss such ideas, nor tolerate those who advise you in such a sense, for this is not worthy of Dracontius. For the order the Lord has established by the Apostles abides fair and firm; but the cowardice of the brethren shall cease.

For if all were of the same mind as your present advisers, how would you have become a Christian, since there would be no bishops? Or if our successors are to inherit this state of mind, how will the Churches be able to hold together? Or do your advisers think that you have received nothing, that they despise it? If so surely they are wrong. For it is time for them to think that the grace of the Font is nothing, if some are found to despise it. But you have received it, beloved Dracontius; do not tolerate your advisers nor deceive yourself. (Letter 49.3-4)

On Salvation and the Flesh

Tertullian ca. 160-220

Let us now consider its special relation to Christianity, and see how vast a privilege before God has been conferred on this poor and worthless substance. It would suffice to say, indeed, that there is not a soul that can at all procure salvation, except it believe while it is in the flesh, so true is it that the flesh is the very condition on which salvation hinges. And since the soul is, in consequence of its salvation, chosen to the service of God, it is the flesh which actually renders it capable of such service. The flesh, indeed, is washed, in order that the soul may be cleansed; the flesh is anointed, that the soul may be consecrated; the flesh is signed (with the cross), that the soul too may be fortified; the flesh is shadowed with the imposition of hands, that the soul also maybe illuminated by the Spirit; the flesh feeds on the Body and Blood of Christ, that the soul likewise may fatten on its God. (On the Resurrection of the Flesh 8)

On Honoring Father and Mother

Blessed Augustine of Hippo ca. 354-430

Let us love our Lord God, let us love His Church: Him as a Father, Her as a Mother: Him as a Lord, Her as His Handmaid, as we are ourselves the Handmaid’s sons. But this marriage is held together by a bond of great love: no man offends the one, and wins favor of the other. Let no man say, ‘I go indeed to the idols, I consult possessed ones and fortunetellers: yet I abandon not God’s Church; I am a Catholic.’ While you hold to your Mother, you have offended your Father. Another says, ‘Far be it from me; I consult no sorcerer, I seek out no possessed one, I never ask advice by sacrilegious divination, I go not to worship idols, I bow not before stones; though I am in the party of Donatus.’ What does it profit you not to have offended your Father, if He avenges your offended Mother…Hold then, most beloved, hold all with one mind to God the Father, and the Church our Mother. (Expositions on the Psalms, 88)

On the Orthodox Definition of Justification and Grace

St. Macarius the Great ca. 4th cent.

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

St. Gregory Palamas ca. 1296-1359

So the Fathers tell us that the divine grace of the suprasensible light is God. But God in His nature does not simply identify Himself with this grace, because He is able not only to illumine and deify the mind, but also to bring forth from nonbeing every intellectual essence. (The Triads, B.23)

On Partial Preterism

St. Athanasius of Alexandria ca. 293-373

Now observe; that city, since the coming of our Savior, has had an end, and all the land of the Jews has been laid waste; so that from the testimony of these things (and we need no further proof, being assured by our own eyes of the fact) there must, of necessity, be an end of the shadow. And not from me should these things be learned, but the sacred voice of the prophet foretold, crying; ‘Behold upon the mountains the feet of Him that brings good tidings, and publishes peace Nahum 1:15;’ and what is the message he published, but that which he goes on to say to them, ‘Keep your feasts, O Judah; pay to the Lord your vows. For they shall no more go to that which is old; it is finished; it is taken away: He is gone up who breathed upon the face, and delivered you from affliction. ‘ Now who is he that went up? A man may say to the Jews, in order that even the boast of the shadow may be done away; neither is it an idle thing to listen to the expression, ‘It is finished; he is gone up who breathed.’ For nothing was finished before he went up who breathed. But as soon as he went up, it was finished. Who was he then, O Jews, as I said before? If Moses, the assertion would be false; for the people were not yet come to the land in which alone they were commanded to perform these rites. But if Samuel, or any other of the prophets, even in that case there would be a perversion of the truth; for hitherto these things were done in Judæa, and the city was standing. For it was necessary that while that stood, these things should be performed. So that it was none of these, my beloved, who went up. But if you would hear the true matter, and be kept from Jewish fables, behold our Saviour who went up, and ‘breathed upon the face, and said to His disciples, Receive the Holy Ghost John 20:22.’ For as soon as these things were done, everything was finished, for the altar was broken, and the veil of the temple was rent; and although the city was not yet laid waste, the abomination was ready to sit in the midst of the temple, and the city and those ancient ordinances to receive their final consummation. (Letters 1)

St. John Chrysostom 349-407 a.d.

And as He sat upon the mount of Olives, the disciples came unto Him privately, saying, Tell us when shall these things be? And what shall be the sign of Your coming, and of the end of the world? Matthew 24:3

Therefore did they come unto Him privately, as it was of such matters they meant to inquire. For they were in travail to know the day of His coming, because of their eager desire to behold that glory, which is the cause of countless blessings. And these two things do they ask him, when shall these things be? That is, the overthrow of the temple; and, what is the sign of your coming? But Luke says, Luke 21:6-7 the question was one concerning Jerusalem, as though they were supposing that then is His coming. And Mark says, that neither did all of them ask concerning the end of Jerusalem, but Peter and John, as having greater freedom of speech.

What then says He? Take heed that no man deceive you. For many shall come in my name, saying, I am Christ, and shall deceive many. And you shall hear of wars and rumors of wars. See that you be not troubled; for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet. Matthew 24:4-6

But of wars in Jerusalem is He speaking; for it is not surely of those without, and everywhere in the world; for what did they care for these? And besides, He would thus say nothing new, if He were speaking of the calamities of the world at large, which are happening always. For before this, were wars, and tumults, and fightings; but He speaks of the Jewish wars coming upon them at no great distance, for henceforth the Roman arms were a matter of anxiety. Since then these things also were sufficient to confound them, He foretells them all…

For He brought in also a prophecy, to confirm their desolation, saying, But when you shall see the abomination of desolation, spoken of by Daniel the prophet, standing in the holy place, let him that reads understand. He referred them to Daniel. And by abomination He means the statue of him who then took the city, which he who desolated the city and the temple placed within the temple, wherefore Christ calls it, of desolation. Moreover, in order that they might learn that these things will be while some of them are alive, therefore He said, When ye see the abomination of desolation…

And if you are minded to learn these things more distinctly, I mean, the famines, the pestilences, the earthquakes, the other calamities, peruse the history about these things composed by Josephus, and you will know all accurately. Therefore Himself too said, Be not troubled, for all must be; and, He that endures to the end, the same shall be saved; and, The gospel shall surely be preached in all the world. For when weakened and faint at the fear of what had been said, He braces them up by saying, Though ten thousand things be done, the gospel must be preached in every part of the world, and then shall the end come. (Homily 75: On Matthew)

Then let them which be in Judæa flee into the mountains. And let him that is on the housetop not come down to take anything out of his house. Neither let him which is in his field return back to take his clothes.

Having spoken of the ills that were to overtake the city, and of the trials of the apostles, and that they should remain unsubdued, and should overrun the whole world, He mentions again the Jews’ calamities, showing that when the one should be glorious, having taught the whole world, the others should be in calamity…

Then, to show again the greatness of the calamity, He says, Pray ye that your flight be not in the winter, neither on the Sabbath day. For then shall be great tribulation, such as was not since the beginning of the world until now, neither shall be. Matthew 24:20-21

Do you see that His discourse is addressed to the Jews, and that He is speaking of the ills that should overtake them? For the apostles surely were not to keep the Sabbath day, neither to be there, when Vespasian did those things. For indeed the most part of them were already departed this life. And if any was left, he was dwelling then in other parts of the world.

But wherefore neither in the winter, nor on the Sabbath day? Not in the winter, because of the difficulty arising from the season; not on the Sabbath day, because of the absolute authority exercised by the law. For since they had need of flight, and of the swiftest flight, but neither would the Jews dare to flee on the Sabbath day, because of the law, neither in winter was such a thing easy; therefore, Pray ye, says He; for then shall be tribulation, such as never was, neither shall be.

And let not any man suppose this to have been spoken hyperbolically; but let him study the writings of Josephus, and learn the truth of the sayings. For neither can any one say, that the man being a believer, in order to establish Christ’s words, has exaggerated the tragical history. For indeed He was both a Jew, and a determined Jew, and very zealous, and among them that lived after Christ’s coming.

What then says this man? That those terrors surpassed all tragedy, and that no such had ever overtaken the nation. For so great was the famine, that the very mothers fought about the devouring of their children, and that there were wars about this; and he says that many when they were dead had their bellies ripped up.

I should therefore be glad to inquire of the Jews. Whence came there thus upon them wrath from God intolerable, and more sore than all that had befallen aforetime, not in Judæa only, but in any part of the world? Is it not quite clear, that it was for the deed of the cross, and for this rejection? All would say it, and with all and before all the truth of the facts itself.

But mark, I pray you, the exceeding greatness of the ills, when not only compared with the time before, they appear more grievous, but also with all the time to come. For not in all the world, neither in all time that is past, and that is to come, shall any one be able to say such ills have been. And very naturally; for neither had any man perpetrated, not of those that ever have been, nor of those to come hereafter, a deed so wicked and horrible. Therefore He says, there shall be tribulation such as never was, nor shall be.

And except those days should be shortened, there should no flesh be saved; but for the elect’s sake those days shall be shortened. By these things He shows them to be deserving of a more grievous punishment than had been mentioned, speaking now of the days of the war and of that siege. But what He says is like this. If, says He, the war of the Romans against the city had prevailed further, all the Jews had perished (for by no flesh here, He means no Jewish flesh), both those abroad, and those at home. For not only against those in Judæa did they war, but also those that were dispersed everywhere they outlawed and banished, because of their hatred against the former… (Homily 76: On Matthew)

St. Cyril of Alexandria ca. 376-444

Lk. 21:5-13. And as some spoke of the temple, that it was adorned with goodly stones and offerings, He said; As for these things that you behold, the days will come in which there shall not be left here stone upon stone which shall not be thrown down. And they asked Him, saying, Teacher, when therefore shall these things be, and what is the sign when these things are about to happen? But He said, Look! Be not deceived: for many shall come in My name, saying, That I am He: and the time is near. Go you therefore not after them. And when you have heard of wars and commotions, be not troubled: for these things must first happen; but the end is not immediately. Then said He to them, Nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom: great earthquakes shall be in all places, and famines, and pestilences: and terrors from, heaven, and there shall be great signs. But before all these things they shall lay their hands upon you, and persecute you, delivering you up to synagogues and prisons, and bringing you before kings and rulers for My name sake: but this shall prove to you a witnessing.FROM Christ we have received the knowledge of things about to happen: for it is even He Who “reveals the deep things out of darkness,” and knows those that are hidden: and “in Him are all the treasures of wisdom, and the hidden things of knowledge.'” He changes times and seasons: and refashions the creation to that which it was at the beginning. For it was by His means that when it existed not, it was brought into existence according to the will of God the Father: for He is His living and personal power and wisdom: and again by His means it will easily be changed into that which is better. For as His disciple says, “We expect new heavens, and a new earth, and His promises.”

Now the cause of this digression has been in part the question put to our common Saviour Christ respecting the temple, and the things therein, and partly the answer He made thereto. For some of them showed Him the mighty works that were in the temple, and the beauty of the offerings; expecting that He would admire as they did the spectacle, though He is God, and heaven is His throne. But He deigned, so to speak, no regard whatsoever to these earthly buildings, trifling as they are, and absolutely nothing, compared I mean to the mansions that are above; and dismissing the conversation respecting them, turned Himself rather to that which was necessary for their use. For He forewarned them, that however worthy the temple might be accounted by them of all admiration, yet at its season it would be destroyed from its foundations, being thrown down by the power of the Romans, and all Jerusalem burnt with fire, and retribution exacted of Israel for the slaughter of the Lord. For after the Saviour’s crucifixion, such were the things which it was their lot to suffer.

They however understood not the meaning of what was said, but rather imagined that the words He spoke referred to the consummation of the world. They asked therefore, “When shall these things be? and what is the sign when they are about to happen? What therefore is Christ’s answer? He meets the view of those who put to Him the enquiry, and omitting for the present what He was saying about the capture of Jerusalem, He explains what will happen at the consummation of the world, and, so to speak, warns them and testifies, saying, “Look! Be not deceived: for many shall come in My Name, saying, that I am He, and the time is near. Go you not after them.'” For before the advent of Christ the Saviour of us all from heaven, various false Christs and false prophets will appear preceding Him, falsely assuming to themselves His person, and coming into the world like eddies of smoke springing up from a fire about to break forth. “But follow them not,” He says. For the Only-begotten Word of God consented to take upon Him our likeness, and to endure the birth in the flesh of a woman, in order that He might save all under heaven. And this to Him was an emptying of Himself, and a humiliation. For what is the measure of humanity compared with |652 the divine and supreme majesty and glory? As one therefore Who had humbled Himself to emptiness, He deigned to remain unknown, even charging the holy apostles before His precious cross that they should not reveal Him. For it was necessary that the manner of His dispensation in the flesh should remain hid, that by enduring as a man for our sakes even the precious cross, He might abolish death, and drive away Satan from his tyranny over us all. For, as Paul says; “The wisdom that was in Christ, by which is meant that which is by Christ, none of the rulers of this world knew: for if they had known it, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory.” It was necessary therefore that He should remain unknown during the time that preceded His passion: but His second advent from heaven will not happen secretly as did His coming at first, but will be illustrious and terrible. For He shall descend with the holy angels guarding Him, and in the glory of God the Father, to judge the world in righteousness. And therefore He says, “when there arise false Christs and false prophets, go you not after them.'”

And He gives them clear and evident signs of the time when the consummation of the world is now near. “For there shall be wars, He says, and tumults: and famines and pestilences everywhere: and terrors from heaven, and great signs.” For, as another evangelist says, “all the stars shall fall: and the heaven be rolled up like a scroll, and its powers shall be shaken.”

But in the middle the Saviour places what refers to the capture of Jerusalem: for He mixes the accounts together in both parts of the narrative. “For before all these things, He says, they shall lay their hands upon you, and persecute you, delivering you up to synagogues and to prisons, and bringing you before kings and rulers for My Name’s sake. But this shall prove to you a witnessing.” For before the times of consummation the land of the Jews was taken captive, being overrun by the Roman host; the temple was burnt, their national government overthrown, the means for the legal worship ceased;—-for they no longer had sacrifices, now that the temple was destroyed,—-and, as I said, the country of the Jews, together with Jerusalem itself, was utterly laid waste. And before those things happened, the blessed disciples were persecuted by them. They were imprisoned: had part in unendurable trials: were brought before judges: were sent to kings; for Paul was sent to Rome to Caesar. But these things that were brought upon them were to them for a witnessing, even to win for them the glory of martyrdom.

And He testifies to them, ‘Meditate not beforehand what defence you will make: for you shall receive of Me wisdom and a tongue which all those who stand against you shall not be able to resist or to speak against.’ And cutting away the grounds of human pusillanimity, He tells them, ‘that they shall be delivered up by brethren and friends and kinsfolk:’ but He promises that certainly and altogether He will deliver them, saying, that “a hair of your head shall not perish.”

And, to make His prediction yet again more clear, and more plainly to mark the time of its capture, He says, “When you have seen Jerusalem girt about with armies, then know that its destruction is nigh.” And afterwards again He transfers His words from this subject to the time of the consummation, and says; “And there shall be signs in the sun, and in the moon, and in the stars; and on the earth distress of nations in perplexity: from the sound of the sea, and its surging, as the souls of men depart: from fear and expectation of the things which are coming upon the world: for the hosts of heaven shall be shaken.” For inasmuch as creation begins, so to speak, to be changed, and brings unendurable terrors upon the inhabitants of earth, there will be a certain fearful tribulation, and a departing of souls to death. For the unendurable fear of those things that are coming will suffice for the destruction of many.

“Then, He says, they shall see the Son of man coming in a cloud with power and great glory.” Christ therefore will come not secretly nor obscurely, but as God and Lord, in glory such as becomes Deity; and will transform all things for the better. For He will renew creation, and refashion the nature of man to that which it was at the beginning. “For when these things, He says, come to pass, lift up your heads, and look upwards: for your redemption is near.” For the dead shall rise, and this earthly and infirm body shall put off corruption, and shall clothe itself with incorruption by Christ’s gift, Who grants to those that believe in Him to be conformed to the likeness of His glorious body. As therefore His disciple says, “The day of the Lord will come as a thief; in which the heavens indeed shall suddenly pass away, and the elements being on fire shall be dissolved, and the earth and all the works that are therein shall be burnt up.” And further, he adds thereunto, “Since therefore all these things are being dissolved, what sort of persons ought we to be, that we may be found holy, and without blame, and unreproved before Him?” And Christ also Himself says, “Be you therefore always watching, supplicating that you may be able to escape from all those things that are about to happen, and to stand before the Son of Man.” “For we shall all stand before His judgment seat,” to give an account of those things that we have done. But in that He is good and loving to mankind, Christ will show mercy on those that love Him; by Whom and with Whom to God the Father be praise and dominion, with the Holy Spirit, for ever and ever, Amen. (Commentary on Luke, Sermon CXXXIX)

Pope St. Gregory the Great ca. 540-604

No one who has ever read the story of the destruction of Jerusalem brought about by the Roman rulers Vespasian and Titus is ignorant that it occasioned the Lord’s weeping. This is the literal explanation of these things…We read that the ‘days shall come upon thee that enemies shall put a rampart around thee (Lk. 19:43a).’ (Gospel Homilies, 357: Hom. 39 P.L. 76)

St. Maximus the Confessor 580-662 a.d.

From the passions embedded in the soul the demons take their starting base to stir up passionate thoughts in us. Then, by making war on the mind through them they force it to go along and consent to sin. When it is overcome they lead it on to a sin of thought, and when this is accomplished they finally bring it as a prisoner to the deed. After this, at length, the demons who have devastated the soul through thoughts withdraws with them. In the mind there remains only the idol of sin about which the Lord says, “When you see the abomination of desolation standing in the Holy Place, let him who reads understand.” Man’s mind is a holy place and a temple of God in which the demons have laid waste the soul through passionate thoughts and set up the idol of sin. That these things have already happened in history no one who has read Josephus can, I think, doubt, though some say that these things will also happen when Antichrist comes.  (2nd Century on Love, 31)

St. Andrew of Caesarea ca. 7th cent. a.d.

Rev. 7:2-3a And I saw another angel ascending from the place ofthe rising ofthe sun, having the seal ofthe living God. And he cried out with a loud voice to the four angels to whom had been given (power) to harm the earth and the sea, “saying,

Just as it had been revealed to Ezekiel long ago about the one dressed in fine linen who sealed the foreheads of those who groan so that the righteous would not be destroyed together with the unrighteous; because the hidden virtue of the saints is unknown even to angels; this (is) also shown here to the blessed one (John), the superior holy power urging the punishing holy angels to do nothing to those who committed offenses before the knowledge of those distinguised by the sealing who serve the truth. If this is partially taken place a long time ago, to the ones who had believed in Christ who had escaped the sack of Jerusalem by the Romans, reckoned as many tens of thousands, according to James the Great who had shown the blessed Paul their great number.

The Venerable Bede 673-735 a.d.

What he says about avarice eating up their flesh like fire and how they have stored up wrath for themselves at the last days is especially fitting for them. For it becomes evident  that was fulfilled in their case after the slaying of James himself, when the city of Jerusalem and likewise the whole province of Judea was taken and destroyed by the Romans in punishment, manifestly, for the blood of the Lord and for heinous deeds that they had commited. (Commentary on James, 5:5-6)

On the Communion of Saints

Communion with the Bodiless Powers
 
Gen. 19:15-16 As morning dawned, the angels urged Lot, saying, “Up! Take your wife and your two daughters who are here, lest you be swept away in the punishment of the city.” But he lingered. So the men seized him and his wife and his two daughters by the hand, the LORD being merciful to him, and they brought him out and set him outside the city.
 
 Gen. 32:1-2 Jacob went on his way, and the angels of God met him. And when Jacob saw them he said, “This is God’s camp!” So he called the name of that place Mahanaim. (Heb. two camps)

 

1 Kgs. 6:15-18 And when the servant of the man of God was risen early, and gone forth, behold, an host compassed the city both with horses and chariots. And his servant said unto him, Alas, my master! how shall we do? And he answered, Fear not: for they that [be] with us [are] more than they that [be] with them. And Elisha prayed, and said, LORD, I pray thee, open his eyes, that he may see. And the LORD opened the eyes of the young man; and he saw: and, behold, the mountain [was] full of horses and chariots of fire round about Elisha. And when they came down to him, Elisha prayed unto the LORD, and said, Smite this people, I pray thee, with blindness. And he smote them with blindness according to the word of Elisha.

Tob 12:12-15 When thou didst pray with tears, and didst bury the dead, and didst leave thy dinner, and hide the dead by day in thy house, and bury them by night, I offered thy prayer to the Lord. And because thou wast acceptable to God, it was necessary that temptation should prove thee. And now the Lord hath sent me to heal thee, and to deliver Sara thy son’s wife from the devil. For I am the angel Raphael, one of the seven, who stand before the Lord.

Job 33:22-24 His soul hath drawn near to corruption, and his life to the destroyers. If there shall be an angel speaking for him, one among thousands, to declare man’s uprightness, he shall have mercy on him, and shall say: Deliver him, that he may not go down to corruption: I have found wherein I may be merciful to him.

Ps. 91:12-13 For he will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways. On their hands they will bear you up, lest you strike your foot against a stone.

Psa 103:20 Bless the LORD, O you his angels, you mighty ones who do his word, obeying the voice of his word!

Psa 148:1-2  Praise the LORD! Praise the LORD from the heavens; praise him in the heights! Praise him, all his angels; praise him, all his hosts!

Dan 8:15-18 When I, Daniel, had seen the vision, I sought to understand it. And behold, there stood before me one having the appearance of a man. And I heard a man’s voice between the banks of the Ulai, and it called, “Gabriel, make this man understand the vision.”  So he came near where I stood. And when he came, I was frightened and fell on my face. But he said to me, “Understand, O son of man, that the vision is for the time of the end.” And when he had spoken to me, I fell into a deep sleep with my face to the ground. But he touched me and made me stand up.

Dan. 10:19-21 And he (St. Gabriel) said, “O man greatly loved, fear not, peace be with you; be strong and of good courage.” And as he spoke to me, I was strengthened and said, “Let my lord speak, for you have strengthened me.” Then he said, “Do you know why I have come to you? But now I will return to fight against the prince of Persia; and when I go out, behold, the prince of Greece will come. But I will tell you what is inscribed in the book of truth: there is none who contends by my side against these except Michael, your prince.

Zec 1:12-13 Then the angel of the LORD said, ‘O LORD of hosts, how long will you have no mercy on Jerusalem and the cities of Judah, against which you have been angry these seventy years?’And the LORD answered gracious and comforting words to the angel who talked with me.

Mat 18:10 See that you despise not one of these little ones: for I say to you, that their angels in heaven always see the face of my Father who is in heaven.

Mat. 13:49-50 So it will be at the close of the age. The angels will come out and separate the evil from the righteous and throw them into the fiery furnace. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.

Luk 15:7 Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance.

Lk. 16:22 The poor man died and was carried by the angels to Abraham’s side…

Acts 7:52-53 Which of the prophets did your fathers not persecute? And they killed those who announced beforehand the coming of the Righteous One, whom you have now betrayed and murdered, you who received the law as delivered by angels and did not keep it.”

Act 11:12 And the Spirit said to me that I should go with them, nothing doubting. And these six brethren went with me also: and we entered into the man’s house. And he told us how he had seen an angel in his house, standing and saying to him: Send to Joppe and call hither Simon, who is surnamed Peter…

Act 12:6-11 And when Herod would have brought him forth, the same night, Peter was sleeping between two soldiers, bound with two chains: and the keepers before the door kept the prison. And behold an angel of the Lord stood by him and a light shined in the room. And he, striking Peter on the side, raised him up, saying: Arise quickly. And the chains fell off from his hands. And the angel said to him: Gird thyself and put on thy sandals. And he did so. And he said to him: Cast thy garment about thee and follow me, and going out, he followed him. And he knew not that it was true which was done by the angel: but thought he saw a vision..And when Peter was come to himself, he said, Now I know of a truth, that the Lord hath sent forth his angel and delivered me out of the hand of Herod, and from all the expectation of the people of the Jews.

Act 12:14 Recognizing Peter’s voice, in her joy she did not open the gate but ran in and reported that Peter was standing at the gate. They said to her, “You are out of your mind.” But she kept insisting that it was so, and they kept saying, “It is his angel!”

1 Cor. 11:10 That is why a wife ought to have a symbol of authority on her head, because of the angels. (Note: this verse could refer to celestial spirits co-worshipping in the liturgical assembly and/or bishops in the Church, Rev. 1:20)

Gal. 3:19  Why then the law? It was added because of transgressions, until the offspring should come to whom the promise had been made, and it was put in place through angels by an intermediary.

1 Tim. 5:21 In the presence of God and of Christ Jesus and of the elect angels I charge you to keep these rules without prejudging, doing nothing from partiality.

Heb 1:13 And to which of the angels has he ever said, “Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet”? Are they not all ministering spirits sent out to serve for the sake of those who are to inherit salvation?

Heb. 2:1-2  Therefore we must pay much closer attention to what we have heard, lest we drift away from it. For since the message declared by angels proved to be reliable, and every transgression or disobedience received a just retribution…

Heb. 12:22 But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to innumerable angels in festal gathering…

Heb. 13:2 Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares.

Jude 1:9 But when the archangel Michael, contending with the devil, was disputing about the body of Moses, he did not presume to pronounce a blasphemous judgment, but said, “The Lord rebuke you.”

Rev. 1:1 The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave unto him, to shew unto his servants things which must shortly come to pass; and he sent and signified [it] by his angel unto his servant John…

Rev 8:3-5 And another angel came and stood before the altar, having a golden censer: and there was given to him much incense, that he should offer of the prayers of all saints, upon the golden altar which is before the throne of God. And the smoke of the incense of the prayers of the saints ascended up before God from the hand of the angel. And the angel took the censer and filled it with the fire of the altar and cast it on the earth: and there were thunders and voices and lightnings and a great earthquake. (Please compare with: Psa 141:2 Let my prayer be set forth as incense before you, and the lifting up of my hands as the evening sacrifice! It is angel that the psalmist beckons to “set forth” the prayers before God.)

1 Enoch 9:1-3 (non-canonical) And then Michael, Uriel, Raphael, and Gabriel looked down from heaven and saw much blood being shed upon the earth, and all lawlessness being wrought upon the earth. And they said one to another: ‘The earth made without inhabitant cries the voice of their crying† up to the gates of heaven. And now to you, the holy ones of heaven, the souls of men make their suit, saying, “Bring our cause before the Most High.”.’

Hermas ca. 90

[The Shepherd said:] ‘But those who are weak and slothful in prayer, hesitate to ask anything from the Lord; but the Lord is full of compassion, and gives without fail to all who ask him. But you, [Hermas,] having been strengthened by the holy angel [you saw], and having obtained from him such intercession, and not being slothful, why do not you ask of the Lord understanding, and receive it from him?’” (The Shepherd 3:5:4)

Clement of Alexandria ca. 150-215

In this way is he [the true Christian] always pure for prayer. He also prays in the society of angels, as being already of angelic rank, and he is never out of their holy keeping; and though he pray alone, he has the choir of the saints standing with him [in prayer]. (Miscellanies 7:12)

Origen ca. 185-254

But not the high priest [Christ] alone prays for those who pray sincerely, but also the angels . . . as also the souls of the saints who have already fallen asleep. (Prayer 11)

St. Gregory Thaumaturgus ca. 213-270 a.d.

…and if I may seek to discourse of aught beyond this, and, in particular, of any of those beings who are not seen, but yet are more godlike, and who have a special care for men, it shall be addressed to that being who, by some momentous decision, had me allotted to him from my boyhood to rule, and rear, and train,—I mean that holy angel of God who fed me from my youth, as says the saint dear to God, meaning thereby his own peculiar one. (Acknowledged Writings, Oration to Origen, Part IV)

St. Anthony the Great 251-356

When the holy Abba Anthony lived in the desert he was beset by accidie, and attacked by many sinful thoughts. He said to God, “Lord, I wand to be saved but these thoughts do not leave me alone; what shall I do in my affliction? How can I be saved?” A short while afterwards, when he got up to go out, Anthony say a man like himself sitting at his work, getting up from his work to pray, then sitting down again and plaiting a rope, then getting up again to pray. It was an angel of the Lord sent to correct and reassure him. He heard the angel saying to him, “Do this and you will be saved.” At these words, Anthony was filled with joy and courage. He did this, and he was saved. (Sayings of the Desert Fathers, 1)

St. Hilary of Poitiers ca. 300-368

To those who wish to stand [in God’s grace], neither the guardianship of saints nor the defenses of angels are wanting. (Commentary on the Psalms 124:5:6)

St. Martin of Tours ca. 316-397

It is also well known that angels were very often seen by him, so that they spoke in turns with him in set speech. (Sulpitius Severus, Life of St. Martin. Chap. 21)

St. Ambrose of Milan ca. 337-397

May Peter, who so successfully weeps for himself, weep also for us, and turn upon us the friendly look of Christ. The angels, who are appointed to guard us, must be invoked for us; the martyrs, to whose intercession we have claim by the pledge of their bodies, must be invoked. They who have washed away their sins by their own blood, may pray for our sins. For they are martyrs of God, our high priests, spectators of our life and our acts. We need not blush to use them as intercessors for our weakness; for they also knew the infirmity of the body when they gained the victory over it. (in Schaff, HCC 3, 440)

Blessed Augustine of Hippo ca. 354-430

Accordingly we never offer, or require any one to offer, sacrifice to a martyr, or to a holy soul, or to any angel. Any one falling into this error is instructed by doctrine, either in the way of correction or of caution. For holy beings themselves, whether saints or angels, refuse to accept what they know to be due to God alone. We see this in Paul and Barnabas, when the men of Lycaonia wished to sacrifice to them as gods, on account of the miracles they performed. They rent their clothes, and restrained the people, crying out to them, and persuading them that they were not gods. We see it also in the angels, as we read in the Apocalypse that an angel would not allow himself to be worshipped, and said to his worshipper, “I am thy fellow-servant, and of thy brethen. (Against Faustus, Book XX, 21)

St. Columba of Iona ca. 521-597

Another time also, while the blessed man was living in the Iouan island (Hy, now Iona), he made this known to the assembled brethren with very great earnestness, saying, “Today I wish to go alone to the western plain of this island; let none of you therefore follow me.” They obeyed, and he went alone, as he desired. But a brother, who was cunning, and of a prying disposition, proceeded by another road, and secretly placed himself on the summit of a certain little hill which overlooked the plain, because he was very anxious to learn the blessed man’s motive for going out alone. While the spy on the top of the hill was looking upon him as he stood on a mound in the plain, with arms extended upwards, and eyes raised to heaven in prayer, then, strange to tell, behold a wonderful scene presented itself, which that brother, as I think not without the leave of God, witnessed with his own eyes from his place on the neighbouring hill, that the saint’s name and the reverence due to him might afterwards, even against his wishes, be more widely diffused among the people, through the vision thus vouchsafed. For holy angels, the citizens of the heavenly country, clad in white robes and flying with wonderful speed, began to stand around the saint whilst he prayed; and after a short converse with the blessed man, that heavenly host, as if feeling itself detected, flew speedily back again to the highest heavens. The blessed man himself also, after his meeting with the angels, returned to the monastery, and calling the brethren together a second time, asked, with no little chiding and reproof, which of them was guilty of violating his command. When all were declaring they did not know at all of the matter, the brother, conscious of his inexcusable transgression, and no longer able to conceal his guilt, fell on his knees before the saint in the midst of the assembled brethren, and humbly craved forgiveness. The saint, taking him aside, commanded him under heavy threats, as he knelt, never, during the life of the blessed man, to disclose to any person even the least part of the secret regarding the angels’ visit. It was, therefore, after the saint’s departure from the body that the brother related that manifestation of the heavenly host, and solemnly attested its truth. Whence, even to this day, the place where the angels assembled is called by a name that beareth witness to the event that took place in it; this may be said to be in Latin “Colliculus Angelorum” and is in Scotic Cnoc Angel (now called Sithean Mor). Hence, therefore, we must notice, and even carefully inquire, into the fact how great and of what kind these sweet visits of angels to this blessed man were, which took place mostly during the winter nights, when he was in watching and prayer in lonely places while others slept. These were no doubt very numerous, and could in no way come to the knowledge of other men. Though some of these which happened by night or by day might perhaps be discovered by one means or another, these must have been very few compared with the angelic visions, which, of course, could be known by nobody. The same observation applies in the same way to other bright apparitions hitherto investigated by few, which shall be afterwards describe. (St. Adamnan, Life of St. Columba)

Communion with the Redeemed

2 Macc. 15:12-16 Now the vision was in this manner. Onias, who had been high priest, a good and virtuous man, modest in his looks, gentle in his manners, and graceful in speech, and who from a child was exercised in virtues holding up his hands, prayed for all the people of the Jews: After this there appeared also another man, admirable for age, and glory, and environed with great beauty and majesty: Then Onias answering, said: This is a lover of his brethren, and of the people of Israel: this is he that prayeth much for the people, and for all the holy city, Jeremias, the prophet of God. Whereupon Jeremias stretched forth his right hand, and gave to Judas a sword of gold, saying: Take this holy sword, a gift from God, wherewith thou shalt overthrow the adversaries of my people Israel.

Sirach 46:16, 22-23 Samuel the prophet of the Lord, the beloved of the Lord his God, established a new government, and anointed princes over his people. And before the time of the end of his life in the world, he protested before the Lord, and his anointed: money, or any thing else, even to a shoe, he had not taken of any man, and no man did accuse him. And after this he slept, and he made known to the king, and shewed him the end of his life, and he lifted up his voice from the earth in prophecy to blot out the wickedness of the nation.

Baruch 3:4 O Lord Almighty, thou God of Israel, hear now the prayers of the dead Israelites, and of their children, which  have sinned before thee, and not hearkened unto the voice of thee their God: for the which cause these plagues cleave unto us.

Mat. 27:47 And about the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, saying, Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani? that is to say, My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me? Some of them that stood there, when they heard [that], said, This [man] calleth for Elias.

Luk 9:28-32 Now about eight days after these sayings he took with him Peter and John and James and went up on the mountain to pray. And as he was praying, the appearance of his face was altered, and his clothing became dazzling white. And behold, two men were talking with him, Moses and Elijah, who appeared in glory and spoke of his departure, which he was about to accomplish at Jerusalem. Now Peter and those who were with him were heavy with sleep, but when they became fully awake they saw his glory and the two men who stood with him.

Luk 16:22-31 The poor man died and was carried by the angels to Abraham’s side. The rich man also died and was buried, and in Hades, being in torment, he lifted up his eyes and saw Abraham far off and Lazarus at his side. And he called out, ‘Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus to dip the end of his finger in water and cool my tongue, for I am in anguish in this flame.’ But Abraham said, ‘Child, remember that you in your lifetime received your good things, and Lazarus in like manner bad things; but now he is comforted here, and you are in anguish. And besides all this, between us and you a great chasm has been fixed, in order that those who would pass from here to you may not be able, and none may cross from there to us.’ And he said, ‘Then I beg you, father, to send him to my father’s house– for I have five brothers–so that he may warn them, lest they also come into this place of torment.’ But Abraham said, ‘They have Moses and the Prophets; let them hear them.’ And he said, ‘No, father Abraham, but if someone goes to them from the dead, they will repent.’ He said to him, ‘If they do not hear Moses and the Prophets, neither will they be convinced if someone should rise from the dead.'”

Rev 5:8 And when he had taken the scroll, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb, each holding a harp, and golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints.

Rev. 6:9-11 When he opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slain for the word of God and for the witness they had borne. They cried out with a loud voice, “O Sovereign Lord, holy and true, how long before you will judge and avenge our blood on those who dwell on the earth?” Then they were each given a white robe and told to rest a little longer, until the number of their fellow servants and their brothers should be complete, who were to be killed as they themselves had been.

Rev 18:19-20, 19:1-2 And they threw dust on their heads as they wept and mourned, crying out, “Alas, alas, for the great city where all who had ships at sea grew rich by her wealth! For in a single hour she has been laid waste. Rejoice over her, O heaven, and you saints and apostles and prophets, for God has given judgment for you against her!” After this I heard what seemed to be the loud voice of a great multitude in heaven, crying out, “Hallelujah! Salvation and glory and power belong to our God, for his judgments are true and just; for he has judged the great prostitute who corrupted the earth with her immorality, and has avenged on her the blood of his servants.”

1 En. 15:1-2 (non-canonical) And He answered and said to me, and I heard His voice: ‘Fear not, Enoch, thou righteous man and scribe of righteousness: approach hither and hear my voice. And go, say to the Watchers of heaven, who have sent thee to intercede for them: “You should intercede” for men, and not men for you…

1 En. 39:4-5 (non-canonical) And there I saw another vision, the dwelling-places of the holy, And the resting-places of the righteous. Here mine eyes saw their dwellings with His righteous angels, And their resting-places with the holy. And they petitioned and interceded and prayed for the children of men, And righteousness flowed before them as water, And mercy like dew upon the earth: Thus it is amongst them for ever and ever.

1 En. 47:1-2 (non-canonical) And in those days shall have ascended the prayer of the righteous, and the blood of the righteous from the earth before the Lord of Spirits. In those days the holy ones who dwell above in the heavens shall unite with one voice and supplicate and pray [and praise, and give thanks and bless the name of the Lord of Spirits] on behalf of the blood of the righteous which has been shed, And that the prayer of the righteous may not be in vain before the Lord of Spirits. That judgement may be done unto them, and that they may not have to suffer for ever.

St. Ignatius of Antioch ca. 45-107

Now these things took place on the thirteenth day before the Kalends of January, that is, on the twentieth of December, Sura and Senecio being then the consuls of the Romans for the second time. Having ourselves been eye-witnesses of these things, and having spent the whole night in tears within the house, and having entreated the Lord, with bended knees and much prayer, that He would give us weak men full assurance respecting the things which were done, it came to pass, on our falling into a brief slumber, that some of us saw the blessed Ignatius suddenly standing by us and embracing us, while others beheld him again praying for us, and others still saw him dropping with sweat, as if he had just come from his great labour, and standing by the Lord. When, therefore, we had with great joy witnessed these things, and had compared our several visions together, we sang praise to God, the giver of all good things, and expressed our sense of the happiness of the holy [martyr]; and now we have made known to you both the day and the time [when these things happened], that, assembling ourselves together according to the time of his martyrdom, we may have fellowship with the champion and noble martyr of Christ, who trod under foot the devil, and perfected the course which, out of love to Christ, he had desired, in Christ Jesus our Lord; by whom, and with whom, be glory and power to the Father, with the Holy Spirit, for evermore! Amen. (Martyrdom of St. Ignatius of Antioch)

St. Hippolytus ca. 170-236

[Appealing to the three companions of Daniel] Think of me, I beseech you, so that I may achieve with you the same fate of martyrdom. (On Daniel, 11:30)

Early Christian Inscriptions ca. 250

Blessed Sozon gave back [his spirit] aged nine years; may the true Christ [receive] your spirit in peace, and pray for us. (no. 25)

Gentanius, a believer, in peace, who lived twenty-one years, eight months, and sixteen days, and in our prayers ask for us, because we know that you are in Christ. (no. 29)

Pray for your parents, Matronata Matrona. She lived one year, fifty-two days. (no. 36)

St. Cyprian of Carthage + 258

Let us remember one another in concord and unanimity. Let us on both sides [of death] always pray for one another. Let us relieve burdens and afflictions by mutual love, that if one of us, by the swiftness of divine condescension, shall go hence first, our love may continue in the presence of the Lord, and our prayers for our brethren and sisters not cease in the presence of the Father’s mercy. (Letters 56[60]:5)

St. Dionysius of Alexandria + 265

These holy martyrs, who were once with us, are now seated with Christ. They are sharers in His kingdom and partakers with Him in His judgment. They act as His judicial assessors. (Epistles, Fragments of Epistles)

St. Anthony the Great ca. 251-356 

The brethren came to Abba Anthony and laid before him a passage from Leviticus. The old man went out into the desert, secretly followed by Abba Ammonas, who knew that this was his custom. Abba Anthony went a long way off and stood there praying, crying in a loud voice, ‘God, send Moses, to make me understand this saying.’ Then there came a voice speaking with him. Abba Ammonas said that although he heard the voice speaking with him, he could not understand what it said.” (Sayings of the Desert Fathers, 26)

Rylands Papyrus ca. 300

Mother of God, [listen to] my petitions; do not disregard us in adversity, but rescue us from danger. (Rylands Papyrus 470)

St. Cyril of Jerusalem ca. 313-386

Then we commemorate also those who have fallen asleep before us, first Patriarchs, Prophets, Apostles, Martyrs, that at their prayers and intercessions God would receive our petition. (Catechetical Lecture XXIII: 9)

 St. Epiphanius ca. 315-403

Futhermore, as to mentioning the names of the dead,how is there anything very useful in that? What is more timely or more excellent than that those who are still here should believe that the departed do live, and that they have not retreated into nothingness, but that they exist and are alive with the Master…Useful too is the prayer fashioned on their behalf…For we make commemoration of the just and of sinners: of sinners, begging God’s mercy for them; of the just and the Fathers and Patriarchs and Prophets and Apostles and Evangelists and martyrs and confessors, and of bishops and solitaries, and of the whole list of them… (The Panarion,75:8)

St. Gregory of Nyssa ca. 335-394

Only may that power come upon us which strengthens weakness, through the prayers of him[i.e. St. Paul] who made his own strength perfect in bodily weakness. (Gregory of Nyssa, Against Eunomius,1:1)

St. Ambrose of Milan ca. 340-397

May Peter, who so successfully weeps for himself, weep also for us, and turn upon us the friendly look of Christ. The angels, who are appointed to guard us, must be invoked for us; the martyrs, to whose intercession we have claim by the pledge of their bodies, must be invoked. They who have washed away their sins by their own blood, may pray for our sins. For they are martyrs of God, our high priests, spectators of our life and our acts. We need not blush to use them as intercessors for our weakness; for they also knew the infirmity of the body when they gained the victory over it. (in Schaff, HCC 3, 440)

Blessed Jerome ca. 347-420

For you say that the souls of Apostles and martyrs have their abode either in the bosom of Abraham, or in the place of refreshment, or under the altar of God, and that they cannot leave their own tombs, and be present there they will. They are, it seems, of senatorial rank, and are not subjected to the worst kind of prison and the society of murderers, but are kept apart in liberal and honourable custody in the isles of the blessed and the Elysian fields. Will you lay down the law for God? Will you put the Apostles into chains? So that to the day of judgment they are to be kept in confinement, and are not with their Lord, although it is written concerning them, ‘They follow the Lamb, whithersoever he goeth.’ If the Lamb is present everywhere, the same must be believed respecting those who are with the Lamb. And while the devil and the demons wander through the whole world, and with only too great speed present themselves everywhere; are martyrs, after the shedding of their blood, to be kept out of sight shut up in a coffin, from whence they cannot escape? You say, in your pamphlet, that so long as we are alive we can pray for one another; but once we die, the prayer of no person for another can be heard, and all the more because the martyrs, though they cry for the avenging of their blood, have never been able to obtain their request. If Apostles and martyrs while still in the body can pray for others, when they ought still to be anxious for themselves, how much more must they do so when once they have won their crowns, overcome, and triumphed? A single man, Moses, oft wins pardon from God for six hundred thousand armed men; and Stephen, the follower of his Lord and the first Christian martyr, entreats pardon for his persecutors; and when once they have entered on their life with Christ, shall they have less power than before? The Apostle Paul says that two hundred and seventy-six souls were given to him in the ship; and when, after his dissolution, he has begun to be with Christ, must he shut his mouth, and be unable to say a word for those who throughout the whole world have believed in his Gospel? Shall Vigilantius the live dog be better than Paul the dead lion? I should be right in saying so after Ecclesiastes, if I admitted that Paul is dead in spirit. The truth is that the saints are not called dead, but are said to be asleep. Wherefore Lazarus, who was about to rise again, is said to have slept. And the Apostle forbids the Thessalonians to be sorry for those who were asleep. As for you, when wide awake you are asleep, and asleep when you write, and you bring before me an apocryphal book which, under the name of Esdras, is read by you and those of your feather, and in this book it is written that after death no one dares pray for others. I have never read the book: for what need is there to take up what the Church does not receive? It can hardly be your intention to confront me with Balsamus, and Barbelus, and the Thesaurus of Manichaeus, and the ludicrous name of Leusiboras; though possibly because you live at the foot of the Pyrenees, and border on Iberia, you follow the incredible marvels of the ancient heretic Basilides and his so-called knowledge, which is there ignorance, and set forth what is condemned by the authority of the whole world. I say this because in your short treatise you quote Solomon as if he were on your side, though Solomon never wrote the words in question at all; so that, as you have a second Esdras you may have a second Solomon. And, if you like, you may read the imaginary revelations of all the patriarchs and prophets, and, when you have learned them, you may sing them among the women in their weaving-shops, or rattler order them to be read in your taverns, the more easily by these melancholy ditties to stimulate the ignorant mob to replenish their cups. (Against Vigilantius, 6)

Blessed Augustine ca. 354-430

A Christian people celebrates together in religious solemnity the memorials of the martyrs, both to encourage their being imitated and so that it can share in their merits and be aided by their prayers. (Against Faustus the Manichean).

St. John Chrysostom ca. 349–407

Night had fallen, and promptly at the hour of Compline, an official who fell into the imperial disfavor besought St. Chrysostom for his mediation of the matter. He found Proclus, the saint’s disciple and a future bishop, and said that he had an appointment in Archbishop John’s cell. Proclos went towards the archbishop’s cell to announce the official’s arrival. Having found the door shut, he was thinking there was no one inside the cell. He then peered through the little opening in the door. He observed the saint sitting and writing. A bald man of vnerable aspect, who was over John’s shoulder, was bent over and speaking into his ear. He was unable to interrupt the archbishop who was engrossed with the words of the visitor who was speaking into his ear. This continued for three nights. When the third morning came and the saint remembered the court official, he asked Proclos about him, who answered, “He came, Despota, and waited three nights here, but he was unable to meet with thee.” The saint said, “And how come thou didst not come and tell me about him, even as I commanded thee?” Proclos replied, “I did come, my Despota, five, even ten times, but it was not possible to speak with thee, because a certain reverent-looking bald man was standing over thee, speaking into thine ear, and I did not wish to interrupt his conversation, for I observed thou didst give great heed to waht he uttered.” The saint asked, “And who was that person who was speaking?” Proclos answered, “My Despota, who that man was, I know not.” Proclos then went on describing the man, when he happened to look at the wall opposite where the archbishop had his writing desk. There was an icon of St. Paul on the wall. Proclos took one glance of the icon, and understood immediately that the man he was describing was already depicted in the sacred image, and exclaimed, “The man with whom I saw thee was like unto the Apostle Paul, whom thou hast in the icon before thee when thou dost write!” (The Lives of the Three Great Hierarchs, Buena Vista, Co.: Holy Apostles Convent, 1998), pp.167-168

St. Patrick of Ireland ca. 387-493

The very same night while I was sleeping Satan attacked me violently, as I will remember as long as I shall be in this body; and there fell on top of me as it were, a huge rock, and not one of my members had any force. But from whence did it come to me, ignorant in the spirit, to call upon ‘Elias’? And meanwhile I saw the sun rising in the sky, and while I was crying out ‘Elias, Elias’ with all my might, lo, the brilliance of that sun fell upon me and immediately shook me free of all the weight; and I believe that I was aided by Christ my Lord, and that his Spirit then was crying out for me, and I hope that it will be so in the day of my affliction, just as it says in the Gospel: ‘In that hour’, the Lord declares, ‘it is not you who speaks but the Spirit of your Father speaking in you.’ (Confessio, 20)

Blessed Theodoret of Cyr ca. 393-457

The noble souls of the triumphant are sauntering around heaven, dancing in the choruses of the bodiless; and not one tomb for each conceals their bodies, but cities and villages divide them up and call them healers and preservers of souls and bodies, and venerate them a guardians and protectors of cities; and when they intervene as ambassadors before the Master of the universe the divine gifts are obtained through them; and though the body has been divided, its grace has continued undivided. And that little particle and smallest relic has the same power as the absolutely and utterly undivided martyr. (The Cure of Pagan Maladies, 8:54)

Pope St. Leo the Great ca. 400-461

Thou gainest nothing, thou prevailest nothing, O savage cruelty. His mortal frame is released from thy devices, and, when Laurentius departs to heaven, thou art vanquished. The flame of Christ’s love could not be overcome by thy flames, and the fire which burnt outside was less keen than that which blazed within.

Thou didst but serve the martyr in thy rage, O persecutor: thou didst but swell the reward in adding to the pain. For what did thy cunning devise, which did not redound to the conqueror’s glory, when even the instruments of torture were counted as part of the triumph? Let us rejoice, then, dearly-beloved, with spiritual joy, and make our boast over the happy end of this illustrious man in the Lord, Who is ‘wonderful in His saints,’ in whom He has given us a support and an example, and has so spread abroad his glory throughout the world, that, from the rising of the sun to its going down, the brightness of his deacon’s light doth shine, and Rome is become as famous in Laurentius as Jerusalem was ennobled by Stephen. By his prayer and intercession we trust at all times to be assisted; that, because all, as the Apostle says, ‘who wish to live holily in Christ, suffer persecutions,’ we may be strengthened with the spirit of love, and be fortified to overcome all temptations by the perseverance of steadfast faith. Through our Lord Jesus Christ. (Sermon 85: On the Feast of Laurence the Martyr, 4)

Pope St. Gregory the Great ca. 540-604

But what shall I say of the bodies of the blessed apostles, when it is well known that, at the time when they suffered, believers came from the East to recover their bodies as being those of their own countrymen? And, having been taken as far as the second milestone from the city, they were deposited in the place which is called Catacumbas. But, when the whole multitude came together and endeavoured to remove them thence, such violence of thunder and lightning terrified and dispersed them that they on no account presumed to attempt such a thing again. And then the Romans, who of the Lord’s loving-kindness were counted worthy to do this, went out and took up their bodies, and laid them in the places where they are now deposited.

Who then, most serene lady, can there be so venturesome as, knowing these things, to presume, I do not say to touch their bodies, but even at all to look at them? Such orders therefore having been given me by you, which I could by no means have obeyed, it has not, so far as I find, been of your own motion; but certain men have wished to stir up your Piety against me, so as to withdraw from me (which God forbid) the favour of your good will, and have therefore sought out a point in which I might be found as if disobedient to you. But I trust in Almighty God that your most kind good will is in no way being stolen away from me, and that you will always have with you the power of the holy apostles, whom with all your heart and mind you love, not from their bodily presence, but from their protection.

Moreover, the napkin, which you have likewise ordered to be sent you, is with his body, and so cannot be touched, as his body cannot be approached. But since so religious a desire of my most serene lady ought not to be wholly unsatisfied, I will make haste to transmit to you some portion of the chains which Saint Peter the apostle himself bore on his neck and his hands, from which many miracles are displayed among the people; if at least I should succeed in removing it by filing. For, while many come frequently to seek a blessing from these same chains, in the hope of receiving a little part of the filings, a priest attends with a file, and in the case of some seekers a portion comes off so quickly from these chains that there is no delay: but in the case of other seekers the file is drawn for long over the chains, and yet nothing can be got from them. (Epistle XXX. To Constantina Augusta)

St. John Climacus c. 7th Century

After forty years of hermit life at Tholas, against his will John was elected as abbot, a party of six hundred pilgrims chanced to arrive at the monastery. While they were all being given a meal, John saw “a man with short hair, dressed like a Jew in a white tunic, going round with an air of authority and giving orders to the cooks, cellarers, stewards and other servants.” Once the meal had finished, the man nowhere to be found. “It was our lord Moses,” said John. “He has done nothing strange in serving here in the place that is his own.” (Introduction to the Divine Ladder)

The Venerable Bede ca. 673-735

Then the blessed Lupus and all the rest awakened their elder (St. Germanus of Auxerre), that he might oppose the raging elements. He, showing himself the more resolute in proportion to the greatness of the danger, called upon Christ, and having, in the name of the Holy Trinity, sprinkled a little water, quelled the raging waves, admonished his companion, encouraged all, and all unanimously fell to prayer. The Deity heard their cry, the enemies were put to flight, a calm ensued, the winds veering about applied themselves to forward their voyage, and having soon traversed the ocean, they enjoyed the quiet of the wished for shore. A multitude flocking thither from all parts, received the priests, whose coming had been foretold by the predictions even of their adversaries. For the wicked spirits declared what they feared, and when the priests afterwards expelled them from the bodies they had taken possession of, they made known the nature of the tempest, and the dangers they had occasioned, and that they had been overcome by the merits and authority of the saints. (Eccles. History, Chap. 17)

Germanus, bearing in his hands the standard instructed his men all in a loud voice to repeat his words, and the enemy advancing securely, as thinking to take them by surprise, the priests three times cried, Hallelujah. A universal shout of the same word followed, and the hills resounding the echo on all sides, the enemy was struck with dread, fearing, that not only the neighbouring rocks, but even the very skies were falling upon them and such was their terror, that their feet were not swift enough to deliver them from it. They fled in disorder, casting away their arms, and well satisfied if, with their naked bodies, they could escape the danger; many of them, in their precipitate and hasty flight, were swallowed up by the river which they were passing. The Britons, without the loss of a man, beheld their vengeance complete, and became inactive spectators of their victory. The scattered spoils were gathered up, and the pious soldiers rejoiced in the success which heaven had granted them. The prelates thus triumphed over the enemy without bloodshed, and gained a victory by faith, without the aid of human force and, having settled the affairs of the Island, and restored tranquillity by the defeat, as well as of the invisible; as of the carnal enemies, prepared to return home. Their own merits, and the intercession of the holy martyr Alban, obtained them a safe passage, and the happy vessel restored them in peace to their rejoicing people. (ibid., Chap. 20)

St. John Damascene ca. 676-749

To the saints honour must be paid as friends of Christ, as sons and heirs of God: in the words of John the theologian and evangelist, As many as received Him, to them gave He power to became sons of God. So that they are no longer servants, but sons: and if sons, also heirs, heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ: and the Lord in the holy Gospels says to His apostles, Ye are My friends. Henceforth I call you not servants, for the servant knoweth not what his lord doeth. And further, if the Creator and Lord of all things is called also King of Kings and Lord of Lords and God of Gods, surely also the saints are gods and lords and kings. For of these God is and is called God and Lord and King. For I am the God of Abraham, He said to Moses, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob. And God made Moses a god to Pharaoh. Now I mean gods and kings and lords not in nature, but as rulers and masters of their passions, and as preserving a truthful likeness to the divine image according to which they were made (for the image of a king is also called king), and as being united to God of their own free-will and receiving Him as an indweller and becoming by grace through participation with Him what He is Himself by nature. Surely, then, the worshippers and friends and sons of God are to be held in honour? For the honour shewn to the most thoughtful of fellow-servants is a proof of good feeling towards the common Master. (Orthodox Faith, 4:15)

St. Symeon the New Theologian ca. 949-1022

One day as he stood and recited, “God, have mercy upon me, a sinner” (Lk. 18:13), uttering it with his mind rather than his mouth, suddenly a flood of divine radiance appeared from above and filled all the room. As this happened the young man lost all awareness (of his surroundings) and forgot that he was in a house or that he was under a roof. He saw nothing but light all around and did not know whether he was standing on the ground. He was not afraid of falling; he was not concerned with the world, nor did anything pertaining to men and corporeal beings enter his mind. Instead, he was wholly in the presence of immaterial light and seemed to himself to have turned into light. Oblivious of all the world he was filled with tears and with ineffable joy and gladness. His mind then ascended to heaven and beheld yet another light, which was clearer than that light which was close at hand. In a wonderful manner there appeared to him, standing close to that light, the saint of whom we have spoken, the old man equal to the angels, who had given him the commandment and the book (St. Symeon the Studite). (The Discourses, XXII)

One Church in Heaven and on Earth

Eph. 3:14-19 For this reason I kneel before the Father, from whom his whole family in heaven and on earth derives its name. I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge–that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.

Col 1:12 …giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in light.

Heb 11:39-12:1 And all these, though commended through their faith, did not receive what was promised, since God had provided something better for us, that apart from us they should not be made perfect. Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us…

Vincent’s Word Studies: Lit. having so great a cloud of witnesses lying around us. Νέφος cloud, N.T.o , means a great mass of cloud covering the entire visible space of the heavens, and therefore without definite form, or a single large mass in which definite outlines are not emphasized or distinguished. It thus differs from νεφέλη, which is a detached and sharply outlined cloud. Νέφος is therefore more appropriate to the author’s image, which is that of a vast encompassing and overhanging mass. The use of cloud for a mass of living beings is familiar in poetry. Thus Homer, a cloud of footmen (Il. xxiii. 138): of Trojans (Il. xvi. 66). Themistocles, addressing the Athenians, says of the host of Xerxes, “we have had the fortune to save both ourselves and Greece by repelling so great a cloud of men” (Hdt. viii. 109). Spenser, F. Q. i. 1, 23

Witnesses (μαρτύρων) does not mean spectators, but those who have born witness to the truth, as those enumerated in ch. 11. Yet the idea of spectators is implied, and is really the principal idea. The writer’s picture is that of an arena in which the Christians whom he addresses are contending in a race, while the vast host of the heroes of faith who, after having born witness to the truth, have entered into their heavenly rests watches the contest from the encircling tiers of the arena, compassing and overhanging it like a cloud, filled with lively interest and sympathy, and lending heavenly aid. (Marvin R. Vincent)

Word Pictures of the New Testament …The metaphor refers to the great amphitheater with the arena for runners and tiers upon tiers of of seats rising up like a cloud. The martyrs here are not mere spectators but testifiers who testify from their own experience to God’s fulfulling promises as shown in Hebrews Chap 11. (A.T. Robertson)

Heb. 12:18-24 You have not come to a mountain that can be touched and that is burning with fire, to darkness, gloom and storm, to a trumpet blast or to such a voice speaking words that those who heard it begged that no further word be spoken to them, because they could not bear what was commanded: If even an animal touches the mountain, it must be stoned. The sight was so terrifying that Moses said, ‘I am trembling with fear.’ But you have come to Mount Zion, to the heavenly Jerusalem, the city of the living God. You have come to thousands upon thousands of angels in joyful assembly, to the church of the firstborn, whose names are written in heaven. You have come to God, the judge of all men, to the spirits of righteous men made perfect, to Jesus the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel.

How Can They Hear Us?

2Ki 5:25-27  He went in and stood before his master, and Elisha said to him, “Where have you been, Gehazi?” And he said, “Your servant went nowhere.” But he said to him, “Did not my heart go when the man turned from his chariot to meet you? Was it a time to accept money and garments, olive orchards and vineyards, sheep and oxen, male servants and female servants? Therefore the leprosy of Naaman shall cling to you and to your descendants forever.” So he went out from his presence a leper, like snow.

2Ki 6:10-12 And the king of Israel sent to the place about which the man of God told him. Thus he used to warn him, so that he saved himself there more than once or twice. And the mind of the king of Syria was greatly troubled because of this thing, and he called his servants and said to them, “Will you not show me who of us is for the king of Israel?” And one of his servants said, “None, my lord, O king; but Elisha, the prophet who is in Israel, tells the king of Israel the words that you speak in your bedroom.”

Eze 8:1-3 In the sixth year, in the sixth month, on the fifth day of the month, as I sat in my house, with the elders of Judah sitting before me, the hand of the Lord GOD fell upon me there. Then I looked, and behold, a form that had the appearance of a man. Below what appeared to be his waist was fire, and above his waist was something like the appearance of brightness, like gleaming metal. He put out the form of a hand and took me by a lock of my head, and the Spirit lifted me up between earth and heaven and brought me in visions of God to Jerusalem, to the entrance of the gateway of the inner court that faces north, where was the seat of the image of jealousy, which provokes to jealousy.

Luk 15:7 Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance.

1 Cor. 4:9  For I think that God has exhibited us apostles as last of all, like men sentenced to death, because we have become a spectacle to the world, to angels, and to men.

1 Cor. 6:17 But he who is joined to the Lord becomes one spirit with him.

St. Athanasius the Great ca. 293-373

And this is so, for once again he was sitting on the mountain, and looking up saw in the air some one being borne upwards, and there was much joy among those who met him. Then wondering and deeming a company of that kind to be blessed, he prayed to learn what this might be. And immediately a voice came to him: ‘This is the soul of Amun, the monk at Nitria.’ Now Amun had persevered in the discipline up to old age; and the distance from Nitria to the mountain where Antony was, was thirteen days’ journey. The companions of Antony therefore, seeing the old man amazed, asked to learn, and heard that Amun was just dead [8]. And he was well known, for he had stayed there very often, and many signs had been wrought by his means. And this is one of them. Once when he had need to cross the river called Lycus (now it was the season of the flood), he asked his comrade Theodorus to remain at a distance, that they should not see one another naked as they swam the water. Then when Theodorus was departed he again felt ashamed even to see himself naked. While, therefore, he was pondering filled with shame, on a sudden he was borne over to the other side. Theodorus, therefore, himself being a good man, approached, and seeing Amun across first without a drop of water falling from him, enquired how he had got over. And when he saw that Amun was unwilling to tell him, he held him by the feet and declared that he would not let him go before he had learned it from him. So Amun seeing the determination of Theodorus especially from what he had said, and having asked him to tell no man before his death, told him that he had been carried and placed on the further side. And that he had not even set foot on the water, nor was that possible for man, but for the Lord alone and those whom He permits, as He did for the great apostle Peter. Theodorus therefore told this after the death of Amun. And the monks to whom Antony spoke concerning Amun’s death marked the day; and when the brethren came up from Nitria thirty days after, they enquired of them and learned that Amun had fallen asleep at that day and hour in which the old man had seen his soul borne upwards. And both these and the others marvelled at the purity of Antony’s soul, how he had immediately learned that which was taking place at a distance of thirteen days’ journey, and had seen the soul as it was taken up.  (Life of St. Anthony, 60)

St. Benedict of Nursia ca. 480-547

The man of God, Bennet, being diligent in watching, rose early up before the time of matins (his monks being yet at rest) and came to the window of his chamber, where he offered up his prayers to almighty God. Standing there, all on a sudden in the dead of the night, as he looked forth, he saw a light, which banished away the darkness of the night, and glittered with such brightness, that the light which did shine in the midst of darkness was far more clear than the light of the day. Upon this sight a marvellous strange thing followed, for, as himself did afterward report, the whole world, gathered as it were together under one beam of the sun, was presented before his eyes, and whiles the venerable father stood attentively beholding the brightness of that glittering light, he saw the soul of Germanus, Bishop of Capua, in a fiery globe to be carried up by Angels into heaven.

Then, desirous to have some witness of this so notable a miracle, he called with a very loud voice Servandus the Deacon twice or thrice by his name, who, troubled at such an unusual crying out of the man of God, went up in all haste, and looking forth saw not anything else, but a little remnant of the light, but wondering at so great a miracle, the man of God told him all in order what he had seen, and sending by and by to the town of Cassino, he commanded the religious man Theoprobus to dispatch one that night to the city of Capua, to learn what was become of Germanus their Bishop: which being done, the messenger found that reverent Prelate departed this life, and enquiring curiously the time, he understood that he died at that very instant, in which the man of God beheld him ascending up to heaven.

PETER: A strange thing and very much to be admired. But whereas you say that the whole world, as it were under one sunbeam, was presented before his eyes, as I must needs confess that in myself I never had experience of any such thing, so neither can I conceive by what means the whole world can be seen of any one man.

GREGORY: Assure yourself, Peter, of that which I speak: to wit, that all creatures be as it were nothing to that soul which beholdeth the Creator: for though it see but a glimpse of that light which is in the Creator, yet very small do all things seem that be created: for by means of that supernatural light, the capacity of the inward soul is enlarged, and is in God so extended, that it is far above the world: yea and the soul of him that seeth in this manner, is also above itself; for being rapt up in the light of God, it is inwardly in itself enlarged above itself, and when it is so exalted and looketh downward, then doth it comprehend how little all that is, which before in former baseness it could not comprehend. The man of God, therefore, who saw the fiery globe, and the Angels returning to heaven, out of all doubt could not see those things but in the light of God: what marvel, then, is it, if he saw the world gathered together before him, who, rapt up in the light of his soul, was at that time out of the world? But albeit we say that the world was gathered together before his eyes, yet were not heaven and earth drawn into any lesser room than they be of themselves, but the soul of the beholder was more enlarged, which, rapt in God, might without difficulty see that which is under God, and therefore in that light which appeared to his outward eyes, the inward light which was in his soul ravished the mind of the beholder to supernal things, and shewed him how small all earthly things were. (Pope St. Gregory Dialogos: Second Dialogue, The Life of St. Benedict)

St. Columba of Iona ca. 521-597

But, to return to the point in hand: among the miracles which this same man of the Lord, while dwelling in mortal flesh, performed by the gift of God, was his foretelling the future by the spirit of prophecy, with which he was highly favoured from his early years, and making known to those who were present what was happening in other places: for though absent in body he was present in spirit, and could look on things that were widely apart, according to the words of St. Paul, “He that is joined unto the Lord is one spirit.”

Hence this same man of the Lord, St. Columba, when a few of the brethren would sometimes inquire into the matter, did not deny but that by some divine intuition, and through a wonderful expansion of his inner soul, he beheld the whole universe drawn together and laid open to his sight, as in one ray of the sun.

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After these things were thus narrated, Lugbe, the soldier of Christ, began to question the saint in private. ‘Tell me, I entreat of thee, about these and such like prophetic revelations, how they are made to thee, whether by sight or hearing, or other means unknown to man.’ To this the saint replied, ‘Thy question regardeth a most difficult subject, on which I can give thee no information whatever, unless thou first strictly promise, on thy bended knees, by the name of the Most High God, never to communicate this most secret mystery to any person all the days of my life.’ Hearing this, Lugbe fell at once on his knees, and, with face bent down to the ground, promised everything faithfully as the saint demanded. After this pledge had been promptly given he arose, and the saint said to him, ‘There are some, though very few, who are enabled by divine grace to see most clearly and distinctly the whole compass of the world, and to embrace within their own wondrously enlarged mental capacity the utmost limits of the heavens and the earth at the same moment, as if all were illumined by a single ray of the sun.’ (St. Adamnan, The Life of St. Columba)

Patriarch Jeremias II (Tranos) of Constantinople 1530-1595

You reckon the invocation of the saints, their icons, and their sacred relics as futile. You reject their veneration, taking as a pretext the Hebrew source. Moreover, you also reject confession to one another. In addition, you reject the angelic, monastic life. And about these matters we say that the Holy [Scripture] passages concerning them have not been interpreted by such theologians as you are, for neither Saint Chrysostom nor any other of the blessed and true theologians interpreted as if they were dragged along by a torrent. But, indeed, he [Chrysostom] and the holy man after him, being full of the Holy Spirit who performed supernatural miracles while they were living and after they died, interpreted [the Holy Scriptures] as they did; and they received such traditions, and they handed them down successively and gave them to us as indispensable and pious [sacraments]. Some of these even Old Rome also keeps and acquiesces with us. From whence have you reckoned better than Old and New Rome? Indeed, have you forsaken the interpretations of the true theologians and considered your own as more preferable? From the source of the Hebrew tradition we learn from history that contempt for the holy icons and sacred relics had its origin from the Hebrews. The schisms of the Lutherans there, which are many and various, were indeed caused and spread by some Hebrews, as it has been broached abroad feigning piety. And already, as you see, they have taken root and have opened the way for more evil as day by day they grow worse. Being completely not in communion with them [the Hebrews], we covet and, indeed, unshakably, the sacraments of our Church. We closely adhere to the teachings which have been uttered by the successors of the God-preaching Holy Apostles. We consider their interpretations as more precious than all the gold and gems. Indeed, we invoke the all-holy saints not as saviors and redeemers, God forbid, for only One is the Savior and Redeemer, the Christ; but we who are sinners and in the midst of evils hold them forth as intermediaries who have completed the journey of life in a holy and satisfactory manner and have departed to God, and who richly intercede for us. And of course, we are not committing sin by continually pursuing this aim. For by venerating their holy icons and their relics which cause thousands of healings to those who on occasion approach in faith, we reap extraordinary beneficences from them, and we are illumined in soul and body. We confess also to one another, according to the Holy Scriptures. We revere the monastic and angelic life. We pray that those who lift up these burdens do not turn back at all, if indeed they would choose to be properly prepared for the kingdom of heaven.  (Third Answer to the Lutherans, Issued in the year 1581, June 6. Protonotarios Theodosios)

Synod of Jerusalem 1672

We believe our Lord Jesus Christ to be the only mediator, and that in giving Himself a ransom for all He hath through His own Blood made a reconciliation between God and man, and that Himself having a care for His own is advocate and propitiation for our sins. Albeit, in prayers and supplications unto Him, we say the Saints are intercessors, and, above all, the undefiled Mother of the very God the Word; the holy Angels too — whom we know to be set over us — the Apostles, Prophets, Martyrs, Pure Ones, and all whom He hath glorified as having served Him faithfully. With whom we reckon also the Bishops and Priests, as standing about the Altar of God, and righteous men eminent for virtue. For that we should pray one for another, and that the prayer of the righteous availeth much, {James 5:16} and that God heareth the Saints rather than those who are steeped in sins, we learn from the Sacred Oracles. And not only are the Saints while on their pilgrimage regarded as mediators and intercessors for us with God, but especially after their death, when all reflective vision being done away, they behold clearly the Holy Trinity; in whose infinite light they know what concerneth us. For as we doubt not but that the Prophets while they were in a body with the perceptions of the senses knew what was done in heaven, and thereby foretold what was future; so also that the Angels, and the Saints become as Angels, know in the infinite light of God what concerneth us, we doubt not, but rather unhesitatingly believe and confess. (Confession of Dositheus, Decree VIII)

St. Theophan the Recluse 1815-1894

When true prayer, that is, sincere prayer, moves in the soul, then that prayer, by means of the action of the element upon it, flies it has if on a beam of light to the Saints, and tells him what we want and what we are praying about. There is no gap between the time we make our prayer and when it is heard; the only necessity is that it comes from our heart. It is our telegraph line to Heaven. The very same prayers, which are not from our heart, but which come only from our head and tongue, do not produce a ray which rises to heaven, and they are not audible there. These are not even prayers, but only prayer-like modes. (The Spiritual Life, pp. 84-86)

St. John of Kronstadt 1829-1908

How is it that the saints see us and our needs and hear our prayers? Let us make the following comparison: Suppose that you were transplanted to the sun and were united to it. The sun lights the whole earth with its rays, it lights every particle of the earth. In these rays you also see the earth, but you are so small in proportion to the sun, that you would form, so to say, but one ray, and there are an infinte number of such rays. By its identity with the sun this ray takes an intimate part in lighting the whole world through the sun. So also the saintly soul, having been united to God, as to it’s spiritual sun, sees, through the medium of it’s spiritual sun, which lights the whole universe, all men and the needs of those that pray. (My Life in Christ, pg. 2)

Origen on the LXX Additions to Daniel

Origen of Alexandria ca. 185-254

Again, through the whole of Job there are many passages in the Hebrew which are wanting in our copies, generally four or five verses, but sometimes, however, even fourteen, and nineteen, and sixteen. But why should I enumerate all the instances I collected with so much labour, to prove that the difference between our copies and those of the Jews did not escape me? In Jeremiah I noticed many instances, and indeed in that book I found much transposition and variation in the readings of the prophecies. Again, in Genesis, the words, God saw that it was good, when the firmament was made, are not found in the Hebrew, and there is no small dispute among them about this; and other instances are to be found in Genesis, which I marked, for the sake of distinction, with the sign the Greeks call an obelisk, as on the other hand I marked with an asterisk those passages in our copies which are not found in the Hebrew. What needs there to speak of Exodus, where there is such diversity in what is said about the tabernacle and its court, and the ark, and the garments of the high priest and the priests, that sometimes the meaning even does not seem to be akin? And, forsooth, when we notice such things, we are immediately to reject as spurious the copies in use in our Churches, and enjoin the brotherhood to put away the sacred books current among them, and to coax the Jews, and persuade them to give us copies which shall be untampered with, and free from forgery! Are we to suppose that that Providence which in the sacred Scriptures has ministered to the edification of all the Churches of Christ, had no thought for those bought with a price, for whom Christ died; whom, although His Son, God who is love spared not, but gave Him up for us all, that with Him He might freely give us all things?

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On How to Discern the Biblical Canon

Blessed Augustine of Hippo ca. 354-430

The most skillful interpreter of the sacred writings, then, will be he who in the first place has read them all and retained them in his knowledge, if not yet with full understanding, still with such knowledge as reading gives, — those of them, at least, that are called canonical. For he will read the others with greater safety when built up in the belief of the truth, so that they will not take first possession of a weak mind, nor, cheating it with dangerous falsehoods and delusions, fill it with prejudices adverse to a sound understanding. Now, in regard to the canonical Scriptures, he must follow the judgment of the greater number of catholic churches; and among these, of course, a high place must be given to such as have been thought worthy to be the seat of an apostle and to receive epistles.

Accordingly, among the canonical Scriptures he will judge according to the following standard: to prefer those that are received by all the catholic churches to those which some do not receive. Among those, again, which are not received by all, he will prefer such as have the sanction of the greater number and those of greater authority, to such as are held by the smaller number and those of less authority. If, however, he shall find that some books are held by the greater number of churches, and others by the churches of greater authority (though this is not a very likely thing to happen), I think that in such a case the authority on the two sides is to be looked upon as equal.

Now the whole canon of Scripture on which we say this judgment is to be exercised, is contained in the following books: — Five books of Moses, that is, Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy; one book of Joshua the son of Nun; one of Judges; one short book called Ruth, which seems rather to belong to the beginning of Kings; next, four books of Kings, and two of Chronicles— these last not following one another, but running parallel, so to speak, and going over the same ground. The books now mentioned are history, which contains a connected narrative of the times, and follows the order of the events. There are other books which seem to follow no regular order, and are connected neither with the order of the preceding books nor with one another, such as Job, and Tobias, and Esther, and Judith, and the two books of Maccabees, and the two of Ezra, which last look more like a sequel to the continuous regular history which terminates with the books of Kings and Chronicles.

Next are the Prophets, in which there is one book of the Psalms of David; and three books of Solomon, viz., Proverbs, Song of Songs, and Ecclesiastes. For two books, one called Wisdom and the other Ecclesiasticus, are ascribed to Solomon from a certain resemblance of style, but the most likely opinion is that they were written by Jesus the son of Sirach. Still they are to be reckoned among the prophetical books, since they have attained recognition as being authoritative.

The remainder are the books which are strictly called the Prophets: twelve separate books of the prophets which are connected with one another, and having never been disjoined, are reckoned as one book; the names of these prophets are as follows: — Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Jonah, Micah, Nahum, Habakkuk Zephaniah, Haggai, Zechariah, Malachi; then there are the four greater prophets, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Daniel, Ezekiel. The authority of the Old Testament is contained within the limits of these forty-four books.

That of the New Testament, again, is contained within the following: — Four books of the Gospel, according to Matthew, according to Mark, according to Luke, according to John; fourteen epistles of the Apostle Paul — one to the Romans, two to the Corinthians, one to the Galatians, to the Ephesians, to the Philippians, two to the Thessalonians, one to the Colossians, two to Timothy, one to Titus, to Philemon, to the Hebrews: two of Peter; three of John; one of Jude; and one of James; one book of the Acts of the Apostles; and one of the Revelation of John. (On Christian Doctrine Bk. 2.8)

On St. Jerome’s Change of Mind

Blessed of Jerome ca. 347-420

BEGINNING OF THE PROLOGUE TO TOBIAS

Jerome to the Bishops in the Lord Cromatius and Heliodorus, health!

I do not cease to wonder at the constancy of your demanding. For you demand that I bring a book written in Chaldean words into Latin writing, indeed the book of Tobias, which the Hebrews exclude from the catalogue of Divine Scriptures, being mindful of those things which they have titled Hagiographa. I have done enough for your desire, yet not by my study. For the studies of the Hebrews rebuke us and find fault with us, to translate this for the ears of Latins contrary to their canon. But it is better to be judging the opinion of the Pharisees to displease and to be subject to the commands of bishops. I have persisted as I have been able, and because the language of the Chaldeans is close to Hebrew speech, finding a speaker very skilled in both languages, I took to the work of one day, and whatever he expressed to me in Hebrew words, this, with a summoned scribe, I have set forth in Latin words. I will be paid the price of this work by your prayers, when, by your grace, I will have learned what you request to have been completed by me was worthy.

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Rufinus’ Defense of the LXX

Rufinus ca. 345-410

Perhaps it was a greater piece of audacity to alter the books of the divine Scriptures which had been delivered to the Churches of Christ by the Apostles to be a complete record of their faith by making a new translation under the influence of the Jews. Which of these two things appears to you to be the less legitimate? As to the sayings of Origen, if we agree with them, we agree with them as the sayings of a man; if we disagree, we can easily disregard them as those of a mere man. But how are we to regard those translations of yours which you are now sending about everywhere, through our churches and monasteries, through all our cities and walled towns? are they to be treated as human or divine? And what are we to do when we are told that the books which bear the names of the Hebrew Prophets and lawgivers are to be had from you in a truer form than that which was approved by the Apostles? How, I ask, is this mistake to be set right, or rather, how is this crime to be expiated? We hold it a thing worthy of condemnation that a man should have put forth some strange opinions in the interpretation of the law of God; but to pervert the law itself and make it different from that which the Apostles handed down to us,–how many times over must this be pronounced worthy of condemnation? To the daring temerity of this act we may much more justly apply your words: “Which of all the wise and holy men who have gone before you has dared to put his hand to that work?” Which of them would have presumed thus to profane the book of God, and the sacred words of the Holy Spirit? Who but you would have laid hands upon the divine gift and the inheritance of the Apostles?

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