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

Conclusions and Summary of the Theological-Academic Conference:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Holy and Great Council Logo

                 Holy and Great Council Logo

Signposts on the Way to Crete [1]

by Protopresbyter Peter Heers

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Signposts on The Way of the Pan Orthodox Council

1. The Beginning

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

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

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

2. Methodological Similarities

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

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

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

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

He wrote:

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

3. Common Aims with the Second Vatican Council

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

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

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

4. “Free From Dogmatism”

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

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

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

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

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

St. Justin explains:

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

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

5. Support of the Ecumenical Movement

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

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

6. The Dominant Role Played by Academic Theologians

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ecclesiological Convergence: Following Vatican II, not the Holy Fathers

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

He wrote:

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

Note the order of things according to this observer:

The ambiguity of the texts are seen as the catalyst:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

He writes in 1976:

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

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

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

Reverend Fathers, beloved in Christ,

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

· the beginning and the methodology of the Council,

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

· the absence of experiential (true) theologians,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

[15] Sullivan, Significance, 273.

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

[17] Lumen Gentium 8.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

On ‘Partial’ Ecclesiological Communion

IMG_4180Protopresbyter Peter Heers

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

[3] Ware, Communion and Intercommunion, 20.

[4] Ware, Communion and Intercommunion, 23.

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

IMG_0986

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

 

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

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

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

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

St. Nektarios on Purgatory

Saint_Nektarios_of_Aegina_at_RizarioSt. Nektarios of Aegina 1846-1920

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

On Initiation into the Church via Baptism and the Eucharist

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

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

Protopresbyter Peter Heers D. Th.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

[519]. Zizioulas, ibid., 12.

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

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

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

[523]. Ibid., 20.

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

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

[526]. Ibid., 117– 18.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

St. Mark of Ephesus on Eucharistic Consecration

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

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

On the Words of Holy Scripture

saint_leo3Pope St. Leo the Great ca. 400-461

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

On the Immaculate Conception and Sinlessness of the Theotokos

Protopresbyter Georges Florovsky 1893-1979

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

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

also see: The Mariology of Nicholas Cabasilas by Constantine Tsirpanlis

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

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

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

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

On Common Prayer

Fr. Sergei Sveshnikov

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

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

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

On Praying Before Icons

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

St. Ignaty Brianchaninov 1807-1867

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

On Papal Infallibility

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

St. Nektarios of Aegina 1846-1920

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

On the Authority of Liturgical Texts

image from pravoslavie.ru

Met. Hilarion of Volokolamsk

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Eastern Patriarchs on Purgatory

The Eastern Patriarchs to the English Non-Jurors 1721

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

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 Ancient Method of Infant Baptism in the English Church

The Second Council of Calcuith, England AD 816

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

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

by Hieromonk Enoch

Introduction

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

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

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

Further he said:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Testimony of Ancient and Medieval Irish Orthodox On the Bloodless Sacrifice

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

Draw night, and take the Body of the Lord,

 

And drink the Holy Blood for you outpoured.

Saved by That Body, Hallowed by That Blood,

Whereby refreshed, we render thanks to God.

[By the Sacrament of the Body and the Blood,

All are delivered from the infernal chasm.]

Salvation’s Giver, Christ the Only Son,

By that His Cross and Blood the Victory Won.

Offered was He for greatest and for least,

Himself the Victim, and Himself the Priest.

Victims were offered by the law of old,

That, in a type, Celestial Mysteries told.

He, Ransomer from death, and Light from shade,

Giveth His Holy Grace His Saints to aid.

Approach ye, then, with faithful hearts sincere,

And take the safeguard of salvation here.

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

To all believers Life Eternal yeids.

With Heavenly Bread makes them hunger whole,

Gives Living Waters to the thirsty soul.

Alpha and Omega, to Whom shall bow,

All nations at the Doom, is with us now.

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

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

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

 

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

             

A Translation of the Oldest Irish Tract on the Mass

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

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

—————————————————————————————–

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

On the Petrified Church

St. Nikolai Velimirovich 1880-1956

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

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

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

On the Absolute Sinlessness of the Theotokos

St. John of Shanghai and San Francisco 1896-1966

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

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

Orthodox Observations on Purgatory

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

Metropolitan Macarius of Moscow 1816-1882

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

On How the Holy Spirit is Sent

St. Gregory Palamas ca. 1296-1359

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

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

On the Customs of the Italians

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

On Ecumenical Patriarchal Claims to Universality

Fr. John Meyendorff 1926-1992

In the case of the Patriarchate of Constantinople, it is obvious that the power of its incumbent is always defined in reference to his position in the Christian oikouméne, the universal empire and the universal church indivisibly united. The title of ‘Ecumenical Patriarch’ has no other meaning. Of course the empire of Justinian, of Basil II and of John V Palaeologus hardly represented the same political reality, and the relationships between the patriarch and the powerful emperors of the past were different from those that prevailed during the Palaeologan period. However, the principles and ideals of the oikouméne had remained the same, with the patriarchate now carrying a much heavier responsibility for their preservation than it ever had in the past, precisely because the emperors were now politically much too weak to play their former role in the Christian world. Of course, the patriarch in the fourteenth century, was not invested with the externals signs of imperial power (which the Roman popes had assumed already in the early Middle Ages and which were also to be adopted by the patriarchs of Constantinople after the capture of the city by the Turks), but was gradually and de facto taking up the position of main spokesman for the Orthodox ‘family of nations’.

…[W]hereas [Patriarch Athanasius I] accepted the Byzantine political ideology of the empire and expressed the greatest respect for the ‘divine majesty’ of Andronicus II, acknowledging his traditional power in the field of Church administration, Athanasius also demanded from the emperor a strict adherence to the faith and ethics of Orthodoxy, and obedience to the Church. Upon returning to the patriarchate in September 1303, he had Andronicus sign a promise ‘not only to keep the Church fully independent and free, but also to practice towards Her a servant’s obedience, and to submit to Her every just and God-pleasing demand’.

…Quite naturally, the ideals of Patriarch Athanasius would serve as inspiration to the monks who, after 1347, came, like him, to occupy the Patriarchate… the power and authority of the Ecumenical Patriarchate was re-emphasized anew, especially in terms of its concern for the ‘universal’ Church.

…[O]fficial documents described the role of the Church of Constantinople in terms of ‘universal solicitude’. A document issued in 1355 by Patriarch Callistus is particularly revealing. It is addressed to the group of hesychast monks in Bulgaria — including St. Theodosius of Trnovo —  who apparently were advocates of Constantinopolitan centralism. They were, together with Callistus himself, fellow disciples of St. Gregory of Sinai on Mount Athos. In this document, Callistus sternly criticizes the Bulgarian Patriarch of Trnovo for failing to mention the Ecumenical Patriarch, as his superior. The Patriarch of Constantinople, according to Callistus, ‘judges in appeal, straightens out, confirms and authenticates’ the judgments of the other three ancient Patriarchs: Alexandria, Antioch and Jerusalem. How much more, he asks, he must also be recognized as lord (kyrios) of the Church of Bulgaria, whose primate, according to Callistus, has received the title of ‘Patriarch’ in only an honorific sense, but is not essentially different from one of the metropolitans, subjected to Constantinople… This restrictive view was hardly shared by the Patriarch of Trnovo himself who, in 1352, had even consecrated a Metropolitan of Kiev without referring to Constantinople.

This trend toward reaffirmation of Constantinople’s primacy is also apparent in patriarchal documents relative to Russia. In 1354, the synodal act of Patriarch Philotheos appointing Bishop Alexis as Metropolitan of Kiev and all Russia proclaimed: ‘The holy, catholic and apostolic Church of God [i.e. of Constantinople], which administers always all things for the better, according to the unfailing privilege and power granted to it from on high, by the grace of Christ, manifests its concern and solicitude over all the most holy churches wherever they are found, so that they may be governed and directed for the good and in accordance with the Lord’s law. In 1370, addressing Grand-prince Dimitri of Moscow, Philotheos calls himself bluntly the ‘common father, established by the Most-High God, of all the Christians found everywhere on earth’. In another letter, written in the same year to the princes of Russia, urging them to submit themselves to their Metropolitan Alexis, Philotheos expresses the theory of ‘universal solicitude’ in a way, practically indistinguishable from the most authoritarian pronouncements of the Roman Popes:

“Since God has appointed Our Humility as leader of Christians found anywhere in the inhabited earth, as solicitor and guardian of their souls, all of them depend on me, the father and teacher of them all. If that were possible, therefore, it would have been my duty to walk everywhere on earth by the cities and the countries and to teach there the Word of God. I would have to do so unfailingly, since this is my duty. However, since it is beyond the possibility of one weak and mightless man to walk around the entire inhabited earth, Our Humility chooses the best among men, the most eminent in virtue, establishes and ordains them as pastors, teachers and high-priests, and sends them to the ends of the universe. One of them goes to your great country, to the multitudes which inhabit it, another reaches other areas of the earth, and still another goes elsewhere, sos that each one, in the country and place which was appointed for him, enjoys territorial rights, an episcopal chair and the rights of Our Humility.”

In 1393, Patriarch Anthony (1389-90, 1391-7) not only reaffirms, in a letter to Novgorod, his leadership of ‘all the Christians in the universe’, but also, in his letter to the Muscovite Grand-prince Basil I, indignantly reproaches Basil for having forgotten that ‘the Patriarch is the vicar of Christ and sits on the very throne of the Master’.

There is no doubt that the definition of the Patriarch as ‘vicar’ of Christ is directly inspired by the Epanagoge, the well-known legal compendium of the Macedonian period, describing the functions of the Byzantine oikouméne and defining the role of the ‘Ecumenical Patriarch’ not in terms of his sacramental functions, but rather in his political and social responsibilities: the author (possibly Photius) wants to affirm the role of patriarch as ‘a living image of Christ’ in society, without according that particular religious function to the emperor. Verbal dependence upon the Epanagoge also appears in the text of Philotheos quoted above as it appears in the definition of the functions of the patriarch in the Epanagoge:

“The throne of Constantinople, receiving its honor from the empire, was given primacy through synodal decrees… The responsibility and care for all the metropolitanates and dioceses, the monasteries and churches, and also judgment and sanction, depend upon the patriarch of the area. But the incumbent of the See of Constantinople can… rule on issues arising in other thrones and pass final judgment on those.”

We have seen above that the canonical tradition and ecclesiology of the Byzantine Church are incompatible with the formal literal meaning of the letter of Philotheos, which represents the Patriarch as a ‘universal’ bishop with the local metropolitans acting only as his representatives. The language used by the patriarchal chancery in drafting documents addressed to Russia must have been chosen for ad hoc reasons with the aim of impressing the still relatively unsophisticated Slavs with the importance of Byzantium as centre of the Christian world, even at the expense of strict canonical consistency… It is important to note, however, that the source of this rhetoric is to be found in civil law, representing Byzantine political ideology, and not theological and canonical literature per se. (Byzantium and the Rise of Russia, pp. 112-115)

On “Valid” Sacraments Outside the Church

Pope Paul VI and Pat. Athenagoras

Protopresbyter John Romanides 1927-2001

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

On the Motivation to do Good

Archbishop Averky of Syracuse 1906-1976

[A]dvocates of autonomous morality attack Christian morality as if it were motivated by primitive moral principles: fear of future torments in hell and the desire for a reward in the future life. The Gospel indeed speaks of rewards that await the righteous and punishments that will befall unrepentant sinners. However, nowhere are these rewards and punishments offered as the main, exclusive motivation for a Christian. In fact, these rewards and punishments are not the motivation but the natural end result of one’s lifestyle. Christ explains that the narrow and sorrowful path of life preached by Him has as its natural end eternal joy, while the broad and easy path, counter to the Gospel, culminates in eternal grief, eternal torment. These are not incentives, not external pedagogical methods to force a person to act in a certain way. They are the natural results of a chosen lifestyle, which He warns against and makes abundantly clear. It is long overdo for us to reject that absurd and even blasphemous notion that floated over to us from Catholicism that God rewards us for good deeds and punishes us for evil ones. God does not want anyone to perish but desires all people to be saved and come to knowledge of the truth. A person destroys himself, since evil deeds frequently repeated make a person evil in his nature and incapable of experiencing that light and joy, which is the natural lot of those who are good. The only motive of Christian morality is love, love for God as our Father and Benefactor. St John the Apostle and Evangelist says, We love Him because He first loved us. (1 John 4:19). And He Himself is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the whole world (1 John 2:2). Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another (1 John 4:10–11). If someone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar: for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen, how can he love God whom he has not seen (1 John 4:20)? And this commandment have we from Him: That he who loves God must love his brother also (1 John 4:21). How is our love expressed for God and what is the proof of its sincerity? The Apostle explains: For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments. And His commandments are not burdensome (1 John 5:3).

What could possibly be greater than such motivation? On the other hand, what kind of real incentive does autonomous morality offer us? “Good for goodness’ sake”? Such an idea is very obscure. (The Struggle for Virtue: Asceticism in a Modern Secular Society [kindle version])

On Orthodox Petrine Succession

St. John Chrysostom ca. 349-407

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

On Curing the Great Schism

Schemamonk Father Constantine (Cavarnos) 1918-2011

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

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

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

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

On Pope St. Gregory and the Title ‘Ecumenical’

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

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

On the 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 Self-Deification

Christopher Veniamin

Father Sophrony also makes another very interesting and important observation concerning the example given by Christ and our own theosis or deification. He points to the fact that even though the deification of Christ’s human nature was, as Saint John Damascene says, effected from the very moment in which He assumed our nature, nevertheless Christ as Man shied away from anything which might give the impression of auto-theosis, that is to say, self-deification or self-divinization. That is why we see the action of the Holy Spirit underlined at His Holy Birth: “The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee… therefore also that holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God” (Luke 1:35); also, the Holy Spirit descends upon Christ at His Baptism in the Jordan (Matt. 3:15); and concerning the Resurrection, the Scriptures speak thus: “God, that raised Him up form the dead, and gave Him glory” (1 Pet. 1:21); and finally, Christ Himself, teaching us the way of humility and how always to ascribe glory to Our Heavenly Father, says: “If I bear witness of Myself, My witness is not true. There is Another that beareth witness of Me; and I know that the witness which He witnesseth of me is true” (John 5:31-32).

The same movement may be observed in the Divine Liturgy. The Words of Institution — “Take eat, this is My Body”, “Drink of this all of You, this is My Blood” — by themselves are not regarded as sufficient to effect the consecration of the Holy Gifts; they must be accompanied by the Epiklesis, the invocation of the Holy Spirit, precisely in order to avoid any notion of self-deification, to avoid, that is, giving the impression that simply by speaking the words which Christ spoke, we are able to transform the Holy Gifts into the precious Body and Blood of Christ. (Veniamin, ‘The Orthodox Understanding of Salvation: “Theosis” in Scripture and Tradition’ pp. 20-21. The Orthodox Understanding of Salvation: “Theosis” in Saint Silouan the Athonite and Elder Sophrony of Essex)

On the Differences Between Orthodox and Roman Catholic Views of the Afterlife and Middle State

The Return of the Prodigal Son

Love, Purification, and Forgiveness versus Justice, Punishment, and Satisfaction: The Debates on Purgatory and the Forgiveness of Sins at the Council of Ferrara – Florence by Fr. D. Bathrellos

A significant part of the debates at the Council of Ferrara-Florence was dedicated to the question of purgatory and more generally of the forgiveness of sins after death. Both Latins and Greeks agreed that there are Christians who belong to the so-called ‘middle state’ and who, assisted by the suffrages of the Church, will in due course join the group of the saved. But they disagreed as to how these souls will attain to salvation. The Latins emphasized divine justice, punishment, and satisfaction. Divine justice demands that those who have failed to offer full satisfaction for sins forgiven in this life will have to go through fiery punishment in purgatory, until due satisfaction is eventually offered. The Greeks, on the other hand, emphasized God’s love and forgiveness. They repudiated the idea of purgatory and of material fire burning (immaterial) souls, and rejected the Latin view that souls are punished for sins already forgiven. They argued that the souls of people who die with unforgiven minor sins will experience spiritual sufferings in the afterlife, which, however, are not divine punishments but self-inflicted consequences of these sins. These souls will eventually be purified and saved thanks to God’s love and forgiveness.

Read the paper here and here

On the Root Cause of the Great Schism

Saint Nektarios of Aegina 1846-1920

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

On Francis of Assisi and the Soul After Death

Death and Ascension of Francis of Assisi

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

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

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

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

Smirking Face of the Devil Discovered in Giotto Fresco

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

by Nick Squires

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

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

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

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

Demonic face in the cloud

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

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

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

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

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

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

On Orthodoxy’s Ecumenical Priority

 

Cross Appearance over Mt. Hymettus 1925

Elder Philotheos Zervakos 1884-1980

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

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

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

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

Elder Paisios the Athonite 1924-1994

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

On False Ecumenism Prior to the 20th Century

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

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

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

Metropolitan Kallistos Ware

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Met. Anthony Khrapovitsky on Heterodoxy and Ecumenism

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

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

Met. Anthony Khrapovitsky 1863-1936

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

also read here

On Many of Those Outside of the Church

Archimandrite Placide Deseille

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

On Crypto-Romanism

Orthodox Bishop being symbolically baptized by a Roman Catholic Bishop

Metropolitan Kallistos Ware

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

On the Reception of Heretics

Ecumenical Patriarch Cyril V

Metropolitan Kallistos Ware

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

On the Awesome Responsibility of Ordaining

St. John Moschos ca. 550-619

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

On Defending the Tome of Leo

St. John Moschos ca. 550-619

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

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

On When the Roman Empire Became Orthodox

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

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

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

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

On the Heresy of Rejecting Vatican I (1870)

Fr. Laurent Cleenewerck

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

On the Words of Institution and the Epiklesis

St. Nicholas Cabasilas ca. 1323-1391

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Supposing, on the other hand, that the prayer of the Latins is asking that the offerings be raised in dignity and transformed into a higher reality, then they are guilty of a monstrous blasphemy if, considering that the Body of the Lord is already present, they nevertheless believe it can become something higher or holier.

Thus it is clear that the Latins know perfectly well that the bread and the wine are not yet consecrated; that is why they pray for the offerings as elements still in need of prayer. They pray that these which are still here below may be carried on high, that, as offerings which have not yet been sacrificed, they may be carried to the altar where they are to be immolated. For this, they have need of the hand of angel. In the sense in which the great Dionysius speaks when he says that the first hierarchy, that of the angles, comes to the aid of the second and human hierarchy.

This prayer can have only one significance – it transforms the offerings into the Body and Blood of the Lord. It is not to be imagined that the altar which it names lies in some place above the heavens set apart by God; to do this would be to associate ourselves with those who believe that the proper place of worship is in Jerusalem or on the mountain of Samaria. (Jn. 4:20-21) But since, as St. Paul says, there is one God and one mediator between God and men, Jesus Christ, in the Savior alone is all that can confer upon us sanctification or have power of intercession. And what are those things which have power of intercession and can confer sanctification? The priest, the victim, the altar. For, as the Lord says, “The altar that sanctifieth (Mat. 23:19) – the altar consecrates the gift.

Now, since Christ alone sanctifies, He alone must be priest, victim and altar. We know from His own words that He is both priest and victim: “For their sakes I sanctify Myself.” (Jn. 17:19) The most holy Dionysius, in his chapter On Chrism, tells us that Christ is the altar. “If our divine altar is Jesus, He Who is the divine consecration of heavenly minds, in Whom we ourselves, consecrated and mystically sacrificed, have our oblation, let us look upon this divine altar with the eyes of the Spirit.”

The priest then prays that the offerings may be carried up to the heavenly altar – in other words, that they may be consecrated and transformed into the heavenly Body of the Lord. There is no question of a change of place, a passage from earth to heaven, since we see that the offerings remain among us, and that even after the prayer their appearances remain.

Since the altar consecrates the gifts placed upon it, to pray that the gifts may be carried to the altar is to ask that they be consecrated.

What is the consecration conferred by the altar? That of the offerings placed upon it. Through that consecration the Divine Priest Himself is sanctified by being offered to God and sacrificed. (Jn. 17:19) Since Christ is at one and the same time priest, altar, victim, the consecration of the offerings by this priest, their transformation into the victim, and their carrying up to the heavenly altar are all one and the same thing. Therefore, if you pray that any one of these things come to pass, you pray for all; you possess that for which you pray and you have accomplished the sacrifice.

Your [Latin] priests, regarding Christ as the victim, pray that the offerings may be placed in Him; thus, though in different words, they are asking just what we sk. That is why our priests, after they have prayed that the elements may be changed into the Divine Body and Blood, and having made mention of the heavenly altar, do not go on to ask that the offerings be carried up to it, since they have already been taken there and accepted, but they ask that in return the grace and the gift of the Holy Spirit may be sent to us. “Let us pray for the consecrated offerings.” That they may be consecrated? Certainly not, since they are so already; but that they might sanctify us, that God Who sanctified them may sanctify us through them.

It is evident therefore that is not the whole Latin Church which condemns the prayer for the offerings after the words of consecration, but only a few innovators who are causing her harm in other ways; they are men who pass their time in nothing else but “to tell, or to hear some new thing”. (Acts 17:21) (A Commentary on the Divine Liturgy, 29-31)

(*) This should be “hands”. In the Roman Catholic rite the head of a bishop is anointed at his consecration.

(**) The prayer referred to is as follows: We humbly beseech Thee Almighty God, command that these things be carried by the hands of Thy angel  to Thy altar on high before the sight of Thy divine majesty: that so many of us as shall by this partaking at the altar receive the most holy Body and Blood of Thy Son, may be fulfilled with all grace and heavenly benediction. Through the same Christ our Lord. 

From the Catholic Encyclopedia – Epiklesis 

It is certain that all the old liturgies contained such a prayer. For instance, the Liturgy of the Apostolic Constitutions, immediately after the recital of the words of Institution, goes on to the Anamnesis — “Remembering therefore His Passion…” — in which occur the words: “thou, the God who lackest nothing, being pleased with them (the Offerings) for the honor of Thy Christ, and sending down Thy Holy Spirit on this sacrifice, the witness of the Passion of the Lord Jesus, to manifest (opos apophene) this bread as the Body of Thy Christ and this chalice as the Blood of Thy Christ…” (Brightman, Liturgies Eastern and Western, I, 21). So the Greek and Syrian Liturgies of St. James (ibid., 54, 88-89), the Alexandrine Liturgies (ibid., 134, 179), the Abyssinian Rite (ibid., 233), those of the Nestorians (ibid., 287) and Armenians (ibid., 439). The Epiklesis in the Byzantine Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom is said thus: “We offer to Thee this reasonable and unbloody sacrifice; and we beg Thee, we ask Thee, we pray Thee that Thou, sending down Thy Holy Spirit on us and on these present gifts” (the Deacon says: “Bless, Sir the holy bread”) “make this bread into the Precious Body of Thy Christ” (Deacon: “Amen. Bless, Sir, the holy chalice”): “and that which is in this chalice, the Precious Blood of Thy Christ” (Deacon: “Amen. Bless, Sir, both”), “changing [metabalon] them by Thy Holy Spirit” (Deacon: “Amen, Amen, Amen.”). (Brightman, op. cit., I 386-387).

Nor is there any doubt that the Western rites at one time contained similar invocations. The Gallican Liturgy had variable forms according to the feast. That for the Circumcision was: “Hæc nos, Domine, instituta et præcepta retinentes suppliciter oramus uti hoc sacrificium suscipere et benedicere et sanctificare digneris: ut fiat nobis eucharistia legitima in tuo Filiique tui nomine et Spiritus sancti, in transformationem corporis ac sanguinis domini Dei nostri Jesu Christi unigeniti tui, per quem omnia creas…” (Duchesne, “Origines du culte chrétien”, 2nd ed., Paris, 1898, p. 208, taken from St. Germanus of Paris, d. 576). There are many allusions to the Gallican Invocation, for instance St. Isidore of Seville (De eccl. officiis, I, 15, etc.). The Roman Rite too at one time had an Epiklesis after the words of Institution. Pope Gelasius I (492-496) refers to it plainly: “Quomodo ad divini mysterii consecrationem coelestis Spiritus adveniet, si sacerdos…criminosis plenus actionibus reprobetur?” (“Epp. Fragm.”, vii, in Thiel, “Epp. Rom. Pont.”, I, 486). Watterich (Der Konsekrationsmoment im h. Abendmahl, 1896, pp. 133 sq.) brings other evidences of the old Roman Invocation. he (p. 166) and Drews (Entstehungsgesch. des Kanons, 1902, p. 28) think that several secrets in the Leonine Sacramentary were originally Invocations (see article CANON OF THE MASS). Of the essential clause left out — our prayer: “Supplices te rogamus” (Duchesne, op. cit., 173-5). It seems that an early insistence on the words of Institution as the form of Consecration (see, for instance, Pseudo-Ambrose, “De Mysteriis”, IX, 52, and “De Sacramentis”, IV, 4, 14-15, 23; St. Augustine, Sermon 227) led in the West to the neglect and mutilation of the Epiklesis.

That in the Liturgy the Invocation should occur after the words of Institution is only one more case of many which show that people were not much concerned about the exact instant at which all the essence of the sacrament was complete. They looked upon the whole Consecration-prayer as one simple thing. In it the words of Institution always occur (with the doubtful exception of the Nestorian Rite); they believed that Christ would, according to His promise, do the rest. But they did not ask at which exact moment the change takes place. Besides the words of Institution there are many other blessings, prayers, and signs of the cross, some of which came before and some after the words, and all, including the words themselves, combine to make up the one Canon of which the effect is Transubstantiation. So also in our baptism and ordination services, part of the forms and prayers whose effect is the sacramental grace comes, in order of time, after the essential words. It was not till Scholastic times that theologians began to discuss the minimum of form required for the essence of each sacrament.

On the First Pontifical Definition of Purgatory (1254)

Pope Innocent IV official letter (sub catholicae) to Cardinal Eudes of Chateauroux, the papal legate to the Greeks on Cyprus

March 6, 1254

Since the Truth asserts in the Gospel that, if anyone blasphemes against the Holy Spirit, this sin will not be forgiven either in this world or the next: by which we are given to understand that certain faults are pardoned in the present time, and others in the other life; since the Apostle also declares that the work of each man, whatever it may be, shall be tried by fire and that if it burns the worker will suffer the loss, but he himself will be saved yet as by fire; since the Greeks themselves, it is said, believe and profess truly and without hesitation that the souls of those who die after receiving penance but without having had time to complete it, or who die without mortal sin but guilty of venial [sins] or minor faults are purged after death and may be helped by the suffrages of the Church; we, considering that the Greeks assert that they cannot find in the works of their doctors any certain and proper name to designate the place of this purgation, and that, moreover, according to the traditions and authority of the Holy Fathers, this name is Purgatory, we wish that in the future this expression be also accepted by them. For, in this temporary fire, sins, not of course crimes and capitol errors, which could not previously have been forgiven through penance, but slight and minor sins, are purged; if they have not been forgiven during existence, they weigh down the soul after death.

On Cyprianic and Augustinian Theories and Heterodox Sacraments

Met. Kallistos Ware

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Papal Bull of Excommunication in 1054

Humbert, cardinal bishop of the holy Roman Church by the grace of God; Peter, Archbishop of Amalfi; and Frederick, Deacon and chancellor, to all the children of the Catholic Church.

The holy, primary, and Apostolic See of Rome, to which the care of all the churches most especially pertains as if to a head, deigned to make us its ambassadors to this royal city for the sake of the peace and utility of the Church so that, in accordance with what has been written, we might descend and see whether the complaint which rises to its ears without ceasing from this great city, is realized in fact or to know if it is not like this.
Let the glorious emperors, clergy, senate, and people of this city of Constantinople as well as the entire Catholic Church therefore know that we have sensed here both a great good, whence we greatly rejoice in the Lord, and the greatest evil, whence we lament in misery. For as far as the columns of the imperial power and its honored and wise citizens go, this city is most Christian and orthodox.
But as far as Michael, who is called patriarch through an abuse of the term, and the backers of his foolishness are concerned, innumerable tares of heresies are daily sown in its midst.
Because like Simoniacs, they sell the gift of God;

Like Valesians, they castrate their guests and promote them not only to the clergy but to the episcopacy;

Like Arians, they rebaptize those already baptized in the name of the Holy Trinity, and especially Latins;

Like Donatists, they claim that with the exception of the Greek Church, the Church of Christ and baptism has perished from the world;

Like Nicolaitists, they allow and defend the carnal marriages of the ministers of the sacred altar;

Like Severians, they say that the law of Moses is accursed;

Like Pneumatomachoi or Theomachoi, they cut off the procession of the Holy Spirit from the Son;

Like the Manichaeans among others, they state that leave is ensouled (animatum);

Like the Nazarenes, they preserve the carnal cleanness of the Jews to such an extent that they refuse to baptize dying babies before eight days after birth and, in refusing to communicate with pregnant or menstruating women, they forbid them to be baptized if they are pagan;

And because they grow the hair on their head and beards, they will not receive in communion those who tonsure their hair and shave their beards following the decreed practice of the Roman Church.

For these errors and many others committed by them, Michael himself, although admonished by the letters of our lord Pope Leo, contemptuously refused to repent.
Furthermore, when we, the Pope’s ambassadors, wanted to eliminate the causes of such great evils in a reasonable way, he denied us his presence and conversation, forbid churches to celebrate Mass, just as he had earlier closed the churches of the Latins and, calling them “Azymites,” had persecuted the Latins everywhere in word and deed. Indeed, so much [did he persecute them] that among his own children, he had anathematized the Apostolic See and against it he still writes that he is the “Eumenical Patriarch”.
Therefore, because we did not tolerate this unheard of outrage and injury of the first, holy, and Apostolic See and were concerned that the Catholic faith would be undermined in many ways, by the authority of the holy and individuated Trinity and the Apostolic See, whose embassy we are performing, and of all the orthodox fathers from the Seven Councils and of the entire Catholic Church, we thus subscribe to the following anathema which the most reverend Pope has proclaimed upon Michael and his followers unless they should repent.
Michael, neophyte patriarch through abuse of office, who took on the monastic habit out of fear of men alone and is now accused by many of the worst of crimes; and with him Leo called bishop of Achrida; Constantine, chaplain of this Michael, who trampled the sacrifice of the Latins with profane feet; and all their followers in the aforementioned errors and acts of presumption: Let them be anathema Maranatha with the Simoniacs, Valesians, Arians, Donatists, Nicolaitists, Severians, Pneumatomachoi, Manichaeans, Nazarenes, and all the heretics — nay, with the devil himself and his angels, unless they should repent. AMEN, AMEN, AMEN.
http://ercf.blogspot.com/2011/05/papal-bull-of-excommunication-to.html

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)

St. Ambrose of Optina on the Roman Catholic Church

St. Ambrose of Optina 1812-1891

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

On the Origin of the Term Pan-Heresy

Bishop Athanasius Yevtich, retired Bishop of Zahumlje and Herzegovina

…Justin designated ecumenism as pan-heresy and we remind [the reader] that the same term “pan-heresy” (Grk. panairesis) had already been used by Patriarch Germanos II of Constantinople (1222-1240 — the one who issued to Saint Sava of Serbia the Tomos of Autocephaly of the Serbian Orthodox Church) to refer to Latin delusions — heresies of his time (Letters to Cypriot Monks PG 140, 602-622). Still, one has to bear in mind that such a harsh stance of the Patriarch Germanos II had been preceded by the Fourth Crusade and occupation of the Orthodox Church in Byzantium by Latin hierarchy (except for the small Nicene Empire) as well as by holding of the papal “ruffianly” Lateran Council in 1215 (where the Latin “Patriarch of Constantinople” Thomas Morosini was elected!) And yet the Patriarch Germanos II wrote the Letter to Pope Gregory IX (1227-1241) and had dialogues with the Latins on two occasions: in Nicea and Nimfeu (1232-1234) and requested the convocation of the Joint Ecumenical Council just as it was subsequently to be requested as well by the Hesychast Fathers (Holy Patriarchs Kallistos and Philotheos; Joseph Vrienie — the disciple of Palamas and his disciple Mark of Ephesus). (Notes on Ecumenism pg. 36, Commentary on Father Justin’s Notes)

On the Guardian of Dogma

Alexei Khomiakov 1804-1860

The Pope is greatly mistaken in supposing that we consider the ecclesiastical hierarchy to be the guardian of dogma. The case is quite different. The unvarying constancy and unerring truth of Christian dogma does not depend upon any hierarchal order; it is guarded by the totality, by the whole people of the Church, which is the Body of Christ. (Russia and the English Church, pg. 94)  

On the Origin of Papal Primacy

Council of Chalcedon 451

[T]he Fathers rightly granted privileges to the throne of old Rome, because it was the royal city. (Canon 28)

St. Nicholas Cabasilas ca. 1323-1391

[T]he pope indeed has two privileges: he is the bishop of Rome…and he is the first among the bishops. From Peter he has received the Roman episcopacy; as to the primacy, he received it much later from the blessed Fathers and the pious Emperors, for it was just that ecclesiastical affairs be accomplished in order. (De Primatu Papae, PG 149, 701 CD)

On the Reception of the Heterodox

Archimandrite Placide Deseille

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

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

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

The Question of Baptism

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

On the Honor of the Pope of Rome

Pope St. Gregory the Great ca. 540-604

My honor is the honor of the Universal Church. My honor is the strength and unity of my brethren. I am truly honored when the honor due to every individual amongst them is not withheld. (Migne, P.L. lxxvii, 933 cf. Fouyas, “Orthodoxy, Roman Catholicism and Anglicanism”, pg. 145)

On the Equality of Apostles Peter and Paul

St. Gregory Palamas ca. 1296-1359

[W]e commemorate each of the saints with hymns and appropriate songs of praise, how much more should we celebrate the memory of Peter and Paul, the supreme leaders of the pre-eminent company of the Apsotles?

[B]oth these luminaries together brighten the Church, for their meeting produces a wealth of light, not an eclipse. It is not the case that one has a higher orbit and is placed above, while the other is lower down and passes under his shadow. Nor does one rule the day, the other the night, such that one would overshadow the other if they appeared opposite each other. Light is not produced by one and received by the other in such a way that the latter’s radiance would vary sometimes depending on the distance between them. Rather, both share equally in Christ, the everlasting source of eternal light, and have attained to the same height, glory and radiance. That is why the coming together of these lights signifies their solidarity and support for one another and illuminates the souls of the faithful twice over.

Once Peter made… heartfelt confession, the Lord ordained him shepherd and chief pastor of his whole Church, and also promised to encompass him with such strength… given that Paul made the same confession of faith as Peter, had the same zeal, humility, and love, surely they received the same rewards from Him who measures everything with completely just scales, yardstick and plumbline. Anything else would be unreasonable. That is why the Lord told Peter, “Thou art Peter and upon this rock I will build My Church” (Mat. 16:18), whereas He said to Ananias of Paul, “He is a chosen vessel unto Me, to bear My name before Gentiles and kings” (Acts 9:15). Which name? Clearly the name we have been given, the name of Christ’s Church, which rests on the foundation stone of Peter. Notice that Peter and Paul are equal in prominence and glory, and both hold up the Church. Consequently, the Church now bestows one and the same honor on both, and celebrates them together with equal esteem. (Homily 28)

St. Gregory the Theologian on Petrine Supremacy

St. Gregory the Theologian ca. 329-389

Although I honor Peter, I am not only Petrine; I also honor Paul but I am not only Pauline. I do not accept the distinction made by men, in those matters which have been made by God. (P.G. xxxvi, 301. Excerpted from Orthodoxy, Roman Catholicism and Anglicanism by Archbishop Methodius Fouyas pg. 79)

[A]lthough nature had not given us two Suns, nevertheless we have two Romes, which radiate like lamps to all the universe. The New Rome shines in the East, and the Old Rome shines in the West. But both are equal. (P.G. xxxvii, 1068. Fouyas, ibid. pg. 79)

On Purgatory and the Afterlife

Bishop Auxentios of Photiki

When the body and soul are separated, according to Roman Catholic teaching, the soul experiences a Particular Judgment at death. Those with mortal sins and who are unrepentant go to Hell, while saints go directly to Heaven. Unbaptized babies enter into Limbo, and the souls of those who die with sins on their souls, but who are repentant, go to Purgatory, where their stay can be shortened by the prayers of the faithful on earth. Those in Purgatory, however, are guaranteed salvation after the cleansing of the purgatorial fires. At the Great Judgment, after the return of Christ to earth, those in Purgatory will be released, if they have not already been, and the sinners in Hell and saints in Heaven will be confirmed in the decisions rendered about them at the Particular Judgment at the time of death. While these views have been modified by the Catholic Church since the Second Vatican Council, they nonetheless represent traditional Roman Catholic teaching and the doctrines which underlie the Second Council’s reforms.

According to Orthodox teaching, there is also a Particular Judgment after death, based, like Latin doctrine, on St. Paul’s statement that a man dies once and is then judged (Heb. 9:27). When Christ teaches that those who heed His words will not come into judgment, He establishes the Orthodox belief that saints go straight into Paradise (Jn. 5:24). St. Maximos the Confessor says that those who have perfect love of God are caught in the clouds at death are not brought to judgment.  The judgment of the imperfect – a calling into account for their sins – sometimes begins, however, when the demons and angles come to question them. St. John Klimakos, in the seventh step of his Ladder, recounts the experiences of a man who was being questioned about his life by unseen spirits while still on his deathbed. St. Gregory the Dialogist, an Orthodox Bishop of Rome living before the separation of the Roman Catholic Church from the Orthodox Church, also provides many accounts of such testing, which are contained in the first volume of the Evergetinos, a collection of spiritual writings also edited in the eighteenth century by St. Nicodemos the Hagiorite. Thus the soul of a sinner who has lived a careless life, according to these Orthodox teachings, is taken to punishment, after being tested by the demons, while the person who, despite his sins, lived in repentant humility is allowed to pass, after his testing, into a state of bliss, escorted thereto by angels.

Between the Particular Judgment and the Great Judgment, at Christ’s Second Coming, the righteous and the evil experience a foretaste of the suffering or joy that they will experience after the Great Judgment. They remain feeling, conscious entities, having memories and even – most especially in the case of the righteous – recognizing one another. As the great Abba Dorotheos writes, “…the soul [in this state] forgets nothing that it did in the world.” In this Middle State, moreover, those who are condemned and those who are saved can benefit from the prayers of the living. For, as St. Makarios the Great writes in one of his homilies, “There are many levels and differences and measures, both in the kingdom [in Heaven] and in Hell.” Souls in the Middle State are, as it were, at one of the many levels of punishment and spiritual reward that exist in Heaven and in Hell. And by the prayers and almsgiving of the faithful on earth, since the Particular Judgment is not a final judgment, these souls can improve their lot. St. Nectarios, a contemporary Church Father, in an essay on the immortality of the soul and the benefit of memorial services, published in Athens in 1901, tells us that one can be delivered even from the sufferings of Hell by the prayers of the Church.

We must emphasize here that the prayers and acts of charity of the faithful on earth, not the cleansing of a purgatorial fire, benefit the dead, according to Orthodox teaching. This is because the unity of the Church extends to the realm beyond and because the efficacy of prayer does not end with death. Those in Middle State may still come to salvation or may better their eternal lot through the love of the praying Christian Church. It is the confusion of this possibility of spiritual growth in the Middle State, which expresses the great power of love and Christian compassion beyond the grave that leads some observers wrongly to think that the Orthodox Church believes in Purgatory. It does not, in fact, accept the idea that souls must be cleansed by the fire of Purgatory and that this cleansing can be facilitated by indulgences (payments of money) from the body of believers on earth, as did the medieval Latin Church.

Nor does it believe that those in the Middle State are assured of salvation. The Middle State is inhabited both by those who will be saved and by those who will be damned at the Final Judgment. It is wholly unrelated to the idea of Purgatory and a cleansing fire that prepares the soul for Paradise, and idea which suggests that God bestows bliss on those whom He first burns and punishes – something repugnant to Orthodox, who call God a “man-loving God”. In the Middle State, there is an opportunity for spiritual growth in an upward direction, in recognition both of the love of God and the efficacy of the loving prayers of the living for those who are dead.

At the General Resurrection, at Christ’s Second Coming, when the bodies of the dead will be raised, made spiritual, and joined to the soul, then Christ will assign each soul either to Heaven or Hell. Those with a foretaste of Heaven will know its blessedness more greatly, while those with a foretaste of Hell will know its torments more fully. At the same time, through the prayers of the Church, some of those in the Middle State may be lifted up and advanced to a higher and more positive state – even from damnation to salvation. For them, the General Resurrection may entail a change in their eternal plight. In this way, the Church on earth and the souls of those in the so-called Middle State are joined together in prayer and love and in a common effort for the salvation of all mankind, which is what God wishes.

It is important to note that Roman Catholic doctrines about life after death and Purgatory are based on theological theory, as demonstrated by the fact that the Second Vatican Council could modify such theory and put forth a revised notion of life after death and the cleansing effects of Purgatorial fire. It is true that some Roman Catholic ideas about life after death are derived from the teachings of the Orthodox Church (ideas gleaned from Orthodoxy before the Latin Church’s separation from the Mother Church of Christianity); but whereas the Orthodox teaching on the afterlife is drawn from Scriptural exegesis, the Patristic witness, and the living experiences which underlie these two sources of authority, the Latin Church has dealt with these living witnesses in a dead way, as theories, in formulating her doctrine.

There is nothing theoretical in the Orthodox view. There is no attempt to make the mystery of death conform to a systematic model. For the afterlife has its own dimensions of reality and its own working principles: eternal principles that remain largely unknowable to the minds of men and women limited by the confines of time and space. The teachings of the Orthodox Church on this subject are nothing less than codified experience and a statement of the nature of the afterlife as it has been revealed to the Church. The subject is not open to debate, since what is empirical is clearly before us and is devoid of the hypothetical. Moreover, the Orthodox view of Purgatory and the afterlife is not subject to revision or change. Should a Church council, citing theoretical reasons for revising Orthodox teachings, restate our beliefs, as the Second Vatican Council did those of the Latin Church, then that council would earn itself the title of a false council, of a heretical gathering. The true spiritual experience of the Church is not chaotic or speculative, and it is thus not subject to theoretical readjustments. It can be but confirmed and protected.(A Patristic Reader: “Latin Purgatory and the Orthodox View of the Afterlife” by Bishop Auxentios pg. 83-90)

On the Infallible Pope of Orthodoxy

St. Nikolai Velimirovich 1880-1956

Orthodoxy does have its own Pope, older than all the popes and patriarchs in the world. It had Him from the beginning and it will have him to the end of time. That is the same Pope whom all the Apostles of Christ called upon. The Holy Spirit. The Spirit of wisdom and reason, the Spirit of comfort and the power of God — He is the true Pope of Christ’s Church always and forever and without a substitution or replacement, without dispute or choice, without a predecessor and successor. And that the Apostles recognized the Holy Spirit as their highest leader and pope is attested by a document written by their own hands at the First Apostolic Council in Jerusalem, which says these important words: For it seemed good to the Holy Ghost, and to us (Acts 15:28). It is apparent that the Apostles placed the Holy Spirit before and above themselves. Before this and every meeting they prayed to Him, called upon Him, submitted themselves completely to Him. Do not all the elders of the Orthodox Church do this to this day?

Whenever the councils meet they first remember their infallible Pope: the Holy Spirit. They call upon Him with fear and trembling before beginning any work and they comletely submit themselves to Him. This is not only done by the Church elders but also by government officials in Orthodox countries, ministers and senators, who would always first call the Holy Spirit and would then begin their work in the counsels or senates. The schools elders have also always done the same. Do you know that at the beginning of the school day they call uon the Holy Spirit together with their students? And the All-Good, All-Powerful and All-Wise Holy Spirit guides everything, strengthens everthing, inspires everything: the Church, the state and the education system. And He governs everyone in everything, but not through force like earthly dictators but rather like a father, with wisdom and love. He is our father through the baptism we were baptized with. And you know that the Greek word “pope” means “father”. So, by the true, historical and moral meaning the Holy Spirit is our father, our Pope. Then why would the Orthodox Church need another father or pope? Did the Lord Christ not warn us to be wary of earthly popes and fathers? He commanded nineteen centuries ago: And call no man your father (pope) upon the earth: for one is your Father, which is in heaven. (Mat. 23:9)

Peace and health from God to you. (Missionary Letters of Saint Nikolai Velimirovich: Part 1. Letter 48)

A Brief History on Bearded and Shaven Clergy

Henry Chadwick

Curiously a social difference between some Greeks and some Romans would survive from the age of the Roman Republic to provide abrasions between the Greek and Latin Churches. In the first century before Christ Cicero (Pro Caelio 33) regarded beards as indicating Greek culture; philosophical tutors had beards (Epicetus 3.1.24). Early in the second century in the Greek orator Dio of Prusa (36.17) and in Apollonius of Tyana (Ep. 63), to be clean-shaven was effeminate. The philosopher-emperor Marcus Aurelius could have an impressive beard, reported by Herodian (5.2.3-4) and Julian (3, 17 C), but Caracalla appearing clean-shaven at Antioch was thought less than heroic (Dio Cassius 78.20). Late in the fourth century Jerome (in Isai. 3.7.21-22, p. 115 Vallarsi) felt it worthy of note that the Gothic tribesmen invading the Balkans were clean-shaven; not what he expected. Beards were a sign of virility. But unkempt beards could provoke comment, and at Antioch the emperor Julian’s provoked mockery answered in his embarrassing Misopogon (the Beard-Hater).

Jerome’s attack on Jovinian, a monk and priest, declared that the only difference between Jovinian and a goat was that he shaved off his beard (2.21). This is the earliest evidence for the custom with western clergy. Those who felt that a beard added dignity and authority wanted priests to keep their beards, and this was included among the rulings in the Statuta Ecclesiae Antiqua produced by a fifth-century canonist is southern Gaul, repeated by a synod at Barcelona in 540. These rulings, however, imply that shaving had become normal in the Latin Church.

In the Greek east the sixth and seventh centuries appear to have been the period after which the clergy and monks became expected to be bearded, and by the tenth century the custom had become a painful issue in the disputes between the Greek and Latin churches. In the eleventh century Sardinian clergy failing to remove their beards were threatened by Pope Gregory VII with confiscation of property (Ep. 8.10). He was perhaps a pope for whom what was not forbidden was compulsory; such a matter could not be left to personal discretion. Early in the thirteenth century in Calabria, where the Greek and Latin clergy existed side by side, Joachim of Fiore suggested that their difference was prefigured in Scripture by hairy Esau and smooth Jacob. (East and West: The Making of a Rift in the Church From Apostolic Times Until the Council of Florence pp. 11-12)

On Local Conciliar Decrees

St. Photios the Great ca. 810-893

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

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

On Differences of Custom and Usage

St. Theophylact of Ochrid ca. 1055-1107
When we Greeks find fault with the Filioque, they shake Peter’s keys at us… Nevertheless differences of custom and usage are no sufficient grounds for schism. Experience shows that arguing about azyma and Lenten fasts gets nowhere. The Greeks should be accommodating and make concessions… hoping that in time they will correct their errors to conform to the apostolic tradition stemming from Jerusalem. (Henry Chadwick, “East and West The Making of a Rift in the Church From Apostolic Times Until the Council of Florence. Chap. 34, pp. 221-222)

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 Petrine Episcopate

St. Gildas the Wise ca. 516-570

[T]he whole episcopal order exercises spiritual authority in the Church and inherits the power which Christ first granted to Peter. (K. Hughes “The Celtic Church and the Papacy”)

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)

St. Mark of Ephesus on the Reception of Roman Catholics

St. Mark of Ephesus ca. 1392-1444

Latins must not be re-baptized but only after the renunciation of their heresies and confession of sins, be anointed with Chrism and admit them to the Holy Mysteries and in this way bring them into communion with the holy, catholic Eastern Church, in accordance with the sacred canons. (Acts of the Moscow Councils 1666-1667, Moscow, 1893, pp. 174-175)

Source

On the Salvation of Roman Catholics

St. Theophan the Recluse 1815-1894

I do not know if Catholics will be saved, but if I became a Catholic I would not be saved. Source

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

On Episcopal Primacy

St. Cyprian of Carthage ca. 258

For no one [of us ] has set himself up [to be] bishop [of bishops], or attempted with tyrannical dread to force his colleagues to obedience to him, since every bishop has, for the license of liberty and power, his own will, and as he cannot be judged by another, so neither can he judge another. But we await the judgment of our universal Lord, our Lord Jesus Christ, who one and alone has the power, both of advancing us in the governance of his Church, and of judging of our actions [in that position]. (Council of Carthage 257 a.d.)

St. Paphnutius on Clerical Celibacy

Socrates Scholasticus ca. 4th cent.

Let this single fact respecting Paphnutius suffice: I shall now explain another thing which came to pass in consequence of his advice, both for the good of the Church and the honor of the clergy. It seemed fit to the bishops to introduce a new law into the Church, that those who were in holy orders, I speak of bishops, presbyters, and deacons, should have no conjugal intercourse with the wives whom they had married while still laymen. Now when discussion on this matter was impending, Paphnutius having arisen in the midst of the assembly of bishops, earnestly entreated them not to impose so heavy a yoke on the ministers of religion: asserting that ‘marriage itself is honorable, and the bed undefiled’; (Heb. 13:4) urging before God that they ought not to injure the Church by too stringent restrictions. ‘For all men,’ said he, ‘cannot bear the practice of rigid continence; neither perhaps would the chastity of the wife of each be preserved’: and he termed the intercourse of a man with his lawful wife chastity. It would be sufficient, he thought, that such as had previously entered on their sacred calling should abjure matrimony, according to the ancient tradition of the Church: but that none should be separated from her to whom, while yet unordained, he had been united. And these sentiments he expressed, although himself without experience of marriage, and, to speak plainly, without ever having known a woman: for from a boy he had been brought up in a monastery, and was specially renowned above all men for his chastity. The whole assembly of the clergy assented to the reasoning of Paphnutius: wherefore they silenced all further debate on this point, leaving it to the discretion of those who were husbands to exercise abstinence if they so wished in reference to their wives. Thus much concerning Paphnutius. (Ecclesiastical History Bk. 1.11)

St. Nectarios on the Terms of Catholic-Orthodox Union

St. Nectarios of Aegina 1846-1920

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

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

On the Nature of the Church

St. Justin Popovich 1894-1979

…[T]he Orthodox Church, in its nature and its dogmatically unchanging constitution is episcopal and centred in the bishops. For the bishop and the faithful gathered around him are the expression and manifestation of the Church as the Body of Christ, especially in the Holy Liturgy: the Church is Apostolic and Catholic only by virtue of its bishops, insofar as they are the heads of true ecclesiastical units, the dioceses. At the same time, the other, historically later and variable forms of church organisation of the Orthodox Church: the metropolias, archdioceses, patriarchates, pentarchias, autocephalies, autonomies, etc., however many there may be or shall be, cannot have and do not have a determining and decisive significance in the conciliar system of the Orthodox Church. Furthermore, they may constitute an obstacle in the correct functioning of the conciliar principle if they obstruct and reject the episcopal character and structure of the Church and of the Churches. Here, undoubtedly, is to be found the primary difference between Orthodox and papal ecclesiology. (On a Summoning of the Great Council of the Orthodox Church)

On Orthodox-Catholic Unification

Encyclical of the Eastern Patriarchs 1895

And indeed for the holy purpose of union, the Eastern Orthodox and Catholic Church of Christ is ready heartily to accept all that which both the Eastern and Western Churches unanimously professed before the ninth century, if she has perchance perverted or does not hold it. And if the Westerns prove from the teaching of the holy Fathers and the divinely assembled Ecumenical Councils that the then orthodox Roman Church, which was throughout the West, even before the ninth century read the Creed with the addition, or used unleavened bread, or accepted the doctrine of a purgatorial fire, or sprinkling instead of baptism, or the immaculate conception of the ever-Virgin, or the temporal power, or the infallibility and absolutism of the Bishop of Rome, we have no more to say. But if, on the contrary, it is plainly demonstrated, as those of the Latins themselves, who love the truth, also acknowledge, that the Eastern and orthodox catholic Church of Christ holds fast the anciently transmitted doctrines which were at that time professed in common both in the East and the West, and that the Western Church perverted them by divers innovations, then it is clear, even to children, that the more natural way to union is the return of the Western Church to the ancient doctrinal and administrative condition of things; for the faith does not change in any way with time or circumstances, but remains the same always and everywhere, for ‘there is one body and one Spirit,’ it is said, ‘even as ye are called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all.” (Paragraph 6)

icon source: http://spiritualpaintings.com/gallery.html

On If the Pope Became Orthodox

Metropolitan Anthony Khrapovitsky 1863-1936

The Church is one and has never been divided, but  heretics and schismatics fell away from her in the first age, have fallen away since, and will fall away until the Lord’s Second Coming.  Therefore, there can be no question of union with heretics and schismatics, but only of their restoration to union with the Church from which they fell away.

If the Roman Catholics should renounce their imaginings, then their restoration to union with the Church would be a matter for the greatest joy to the faithful and to the Holy Angels, not only for the sake of their souls’ salvation but for the realization of the restored fullness of the Church’s life to which our brethren of the West would bring that corporate ecclesiastical activity which is characteristic to them.    In the circumstance of the renunciation by the Roman Catholics of their pseudo-dogmas, and in particular of that absurd one of them which ascribes Infallibility to the Pope in matters, of Faith, the Holy Church, in restoring them to union with herself, would not only certainly restore to the Roman Primate that primacy which was assigned to him before his falling away into schism, but would probably invest him with such an authority in the Ecumenical Church as had never hitherto been assigned to him — inasmuch as that which he formerly possessed was confined to Western Europe and North-West Africa.

But such authority, assumed as being given to the Pope after his return to Orthodoxy, would be based, not on Roman fables about the Apostle Peter as chief over all the Apostles, about the succession of the Popes to the fullness of his imaginary authority, about in­dulgences, purgatory, etc., but in the practical need of ecclesiastical life by the force of which that life was gradually centralized: first, in the metropolitanates (from the third century) and then in the patriarchates (from the fourth and fifth centuries) with the result that the authority of the metropolitans and patriarchs in their areas was continually and gradually strengthened in proportion to the assimilation of the people to Christian culture. We admit for the future the conception of a single personal supremacy of the Church in consonance with the broadest preservation of the conciliar principle and on the condition that that supremacy does not pretend to be based on such invented traditions as the above, but only on the practical need of ecclesiastical life. (The Christian East, Feb. 1924, no. 1, 24-25)

http://www.rocorstudies.org/articles/2012/02/24/metropolitan-anthony-khrapovitskii-how-would-we-have-treated-the-pope-had-he-converted-to-orthodoxy/

The Papal Ruling on Church Slavonic

The Slavs rejoiced to hear the greatness of God extolled in their native tongue. The apostles [Cyril and Methodius] afterward translated the Psalter, the Oktoechos, and other books.

…[S]ome zealots began to condemn the Slavic books, contending that it was not right for any other nation to have its own alphabet apart from the Hebrews, the Greeks and the Latins, according to Pilate’s superscription, which he composed for the Lord’s Cross. When the Pope at Rome heard of this situation, he rebuked those who murmured against Slavic books, saying:

“Let the word of Scripture be fulfilled that ‘all nations shall praise God’ (Ps. 71:17), and likewise that ‘all nations shall declare the majesty of God according as the Holy Spirit shall grant them to speak’ (Acts 2:4). Whosoever condemns the Slavic writing shall be excluded from the Church until he mend his ways. For such men are not sheep but wolves; by their fruits ye shall know them and guard aginst them. Children of God, hearken unto His teachings, and depart not from the ecclesiastical rule which Methodius your teacher has appointed to you.” (The Russian Primary Chronicle, 25)

On Priesthood in the Church

St. Macarius the Great ca. 4th cent.

Formerly Moses and Aaron, who were given the power of the priesthood, had to suffer many things. Caiaphas, when he took over their role, persecuted and condemned the Lord. However, the Lord, respecting the priesthood, permitted that to happen. Likewise the prophets were persecuted by their own nation. Also, Peter succeeded Moses, entrusted with the new Church of Christ and the authentic priesthood. (The Fifty Spiritual Homilies, Homily 26.23)

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 How to Reject Heterodoxy

St. Nikodemos the Hagiorite 1749-1809

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

On Christ and Apostle Peter

Blessed Augustine ca. 354-430

We, therefore, who are called and are Christians, do not believe in Peter, but in Him whom Peter believed—being edified by Peter’s sermons about Christ…and…aided by his good deeds. Christ Himself, who was Peter’s Master in the doctrine which leads to eternal life, is our Master too. (City of God 18.54)

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 the Ordained

St. John Chrysostom ca. 349-407

Ordination does not lead a man to power, nor does it raise him on high, nor does it confer dominion. We have all received the same Spirit, we have all been called to sonship; those whom the Father has tested, He has counted worthy of serving their own brethren in a position of authority. (Homily: That We Should Anathematize the Living and the Dead, 4)

On the Priesthood and Marriage

Apostolic Canons ca. 1st cent.

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

Council of Gangra ca. 4th cent.

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

Council of Carthage ca. 419

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

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

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

Council in Trullo ca. 692

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

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

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

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

On Transubstantiation

St. Philaret of Moscow 1821-1867

In the exposition of the faith by the Eastern Patriarchs, it is said that the word transubstantiation is not to be taken to define the manner in which the bread and wine are changed into the Body and Blood of the Lord; for this none can understand but God; but only thus much is signified, that the bread truly, really, and substantially becomes the very true Body of the Lord, and the wine the very Blood of the Lord. In like manner John Damascene, treating of the Holy and Immaculate Mysteries of the Lord, writes thus: It is truly that Body, united with Godhead, which had its origin from the Holy Virgin; not as though that Body which ascended came down from heaven, but because the bread and wine themselves are changed into the Body and Blood of God. But if thou seekest after the manner how this is, let it suffice thee to be told that it is by the Holy Ghost; in like manner as, by the same Holy Ghost, the Lord formed flesh to himself, and in himself, from the Mother of God; nor know I aught more than this, that the Word of God is true, powerful, and almighty, but its manner of operation unsearchable. (J. Damasc. Theol. lib. iv. cap. 13, § 7.) (The Longer Catechism of the Orthodox Catholic Church, 340)

Source

On the Various Receptions of Western Converts

Patriarchal αnd Synodical Letter May 26, 1875

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

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

St. Bede on the Power of Binding and Loosing

Bede the Venerable ca. 673-735

Although it may seem that this power of loosing and binding was given by the Lord only to Peter, we must nevertheless know without any doubt that it was also given to the other Apostles, as Christ Himself testified when, after the triumph of His Passion and Resurrection, He appeared to them and breathed upon them and said to them all: ‘Receive ye the Holy Spirit: if ye forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven to them; if ye retain the sins of any, they are retained [Jn. 20:22,23].’ Indeed, even now the same office is committed to the whole Church in Her bishops and priests. (Homily 1.20, The Orthodox New Testament: Endnotes — Matthew pg. 106)

On Liturgical Usages

Constantinople IV Eighth Ecumenical Council 879/880

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

Source

Horos of the Eighth Ecumenical Council

Constantinople IV Eighth Ecumenical Council 879/880

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

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

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

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

On Early Western Liturgical Differences

St. Gregory the Dialogist ca. 540-604

One coming from Sicily has told me that some friends of his, whether Greeks or Latins I know not, as though moved by zeal for the holy Roman Church, murmur about my arrangements [i.e. of divine service], saying, How can he be arranging so as to keep the Constantinopolitan Church in check, when in all respects he follows her usage? And, when I said to him, What usages of hers do we follow? He replied; you have caused Alleluia to be said at mass out of the season of Pentecost ; you have made appointment for the sub-deacons to proceed disrobed, and for Kyrie Eleison to be said, and for the Lord’s Prayer to be said immediately after the canon. To him I replied, that in none of these things have we followed another Church.

For, as to our custom here of saying the Alleluia, it is said to be derived from the Church of Jerusalem by the tradition of the blessed Jerome in the time of pope Damasus of blessed memory; and accordingly in this matter we have rather curtailed the former usage which had been handed down to us here from the Greeks.

Further, as to my having caused the sub-deacons to proceed disrobed, this was the ancient usage of the Church. But it pleased one of our pontiffs, I know not which, to order them to proceed in linen tunics. For have your Churches in any respect received their tradition from the Greeks? Whence, then, have they at the present day the custom of the subdeacons proceeding in linen tunics, except that they have received it from their mother, the Roman Church?

Further, we neither have said nor now say the Kyrie Eleison, as it is said by the Greeks: for among the Greeks all say it together; but with us it is said by the clerks, and responded to by the people; and as often as it is said, Christe Eleison is said also, which is not said at all among the Greeks. Further, in daily masses we suppress some things that are usually said, and say only Kyrie Eleison, Christe Eleison, so as to devote ourselves a little longer to these words of deprecation. But the Lord’s Prayer (orationem Dominicam) we say immediately after the prayer (mox post precem) for this reason, that it was the custom of the apostles to consecrate the host of oblation to (ad) that same prayer only. And it seemed to me very unsuitable that we should say over the oblation a prayer which a scholastic had composed, and should not say the very prayer which our Redeemer composed over His body and blood . But also the Lord’s Prayer among the Greeks is said by all the people, but with us by the priest alone. Wherein, then, have we followed the usages of the Greeks, in that we have either amended our own old ones or appointed new and profitable ones, in which, however, we are not shown to be imitating others? Wherefore, let your Charity, when an occasion presents itself, proceed to the Church of Catana; or in the Church of Syracuse teach those who you believe or understand may possibly be murmuring with respect to this matter, holding a conference there, as though for a different purpose, and so desist not from instructing them. For as to what they say about the Church of Constantinople, who can doubt that it is subject to the Apostolic See, as both the most pious lord the emperor and our brother the bishop of that city continually acknowledge? Yet, if this or any other Church has anything that is good, I am prepared in what is good to imitate even my inferiors, while prohibiting them from things unlawful. For he is foolish who thinks himself first in such a way as to scorn to learn whatever good things he may see. (Bk. 9, Letter 12)

On Papal Primacy

St. Symeon of Thessaloniki ca. 1381-1429

We should not contradict the Latins when they say that the Bishop of Rome is the first. This primacy is not harmful to the Church. But only let them show that he is true to the faith of Peter and his successors; then let him have all the privileges of Peter, let him be first, the head of all and the supreme hierarch. Only let him be faithful to the Orthodoxy of Sylvester and Agathon, Leo, Liberius, Martin and Gregory, then we too shall call him apostolic father and the first among hierarchs; then we will be under his authority not only as under Peter, but the very Saviour Himself. (PG 145, 120 AC)

Encyclical of the Eastern Patriarchs 1848

Therefore let his Holiness be assured, that if, even now, he will write us such things as two hundred fathers on investigation and inquiry shall find consonant and agreeing with the said former Councils, then, we say, he shall hear from us sinners today, not only, “Peter has so spoken,” or anything of like honor, but this also, “Let the holy hand be kissed which has wiped away the tears of the Catholic Church.” (Paragraph 15)

On the Apostle Peter and the Episcopate

St. Cyprian of Carthage died ca. 258

Our Lord, whose precepts and admonitions we ought to observe, describing the honour of a bishop and the order of His Church, speaks in the Gospel, and says to Peter: I say unto you, That you are Peter, and upon this rock will I build my Church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. And I will give unto you the keys of the kingdom of heaven: and whatsoever you shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever you shall loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven. Thence, through the changes of times and successions, the ordering of bishops and the plan of the Church flow onwards; so that the Church is founded upon the bishops, and every act of the Church is controlled by these same rulers. Since this, then, is founded on the divine law, I marvel that some, with daring temerity, have chosen to write to me as if they wrote in the name of the Church; when the Church is established in the bishop and the clergy, and all who stand fast in the faith. (Epistle 26.1)

And the Lord also in the Gospel, when disciples forsook Him as He spoke, turning to the twelve, said, Will you also go away? then Peter answered Him, Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the word of eternal life; and we believe, and are sure, that You are the Son of the living God. (Jn. 6:67-69) Peter speaks there, on whom the Church was to be built, teaching and showing in the name of the Church, that although a rebellious and arrogant multitude of those who will not hear and obey may depart, yet the Church does not depart from Christ; and they are the Church who are a people united to the priest, and the flock which adheres to its pastor. Whence you ought to know that the bishop is in the Church, and the Church in the bishop; and if any one be not with the bishop, that he is not in the Church, and that those flatter themselves in vain who creep in, not having peace with God’s priests, and think that they communicate secretly with some; while the Church, which is Catholic and one, is not cut nor divided, but is indeed connected and bound together by the cement of priests who cohere with one another. (Epistle 68.8)

If any one consider and examine these things, there is no need for lengthened discussion and arguments. There is easy proof for faith in a short summary of the truth. The Lord speaks to Peter, saying, I say unto you, that you are Peter; and upon this rock I will build my Church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. And I will give unto you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; and whatsoever you shall bind on earth shall be bound also in heaven, and whatsoever you shall loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven. And again to the same He says, after His resurrection, Feed my sheep. And although to all the apostles, after His resurrection, He gives an equal power, and says, As the Father has sent me, even so send I you: Receive the Holy Ghost: Whose soever sins you remit, they shall be remitted unto him; and whose soever sins you retain, they shall be retained; (Jn. 20:21) yet, that He might set forth unity, He arranged by His authority the origin of that unity, as beginning from one. Assuredly the rest of the apostles were also the same as was Peter, endowed with a like partnership both of honour and power; but the beginning proceeds from unity. Which one Church, also, the Holy Spirit in the Song of Songs designated in the person of our Lord, and says, My dove, my spotless one, is but one. She is the only one of her mother, elect of her that bare her. (Song of Songs 6:9) Does he who does not hold this unity of the Church think that he holds the faith? Does he who strives against and resists the Church trust that he is in the Church, when moreover the blessed Apostle Paul teaches the same thing, and sets forth the sacrament of unity, saying, There is one body and one spirit, one hope of your calling, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God? (Eph. 4:4)

And this unity we ought firmly to hold and assert, especially those of us that are bishops who preside in the Church, that we may also prove the episcopate itself to be one and undivided. Let no one deceive the brotherhood by a falsehood: let no one corrupt the truth of the faith by perfidious prevarication. The episcopate is one, each part of which is held by each one for the whole. The Church also is one, which is spread abroad far and wide into a multitude by an increase of fruitfulness. (Treatise 1: On the Unity of the Church 4-5)

St. Silouan on Those Who Differ From Us in Faith

St. Silouan the Athonite 1886-1938

Father Silouan’s attitude towards those who differed from him was characterized by a sincere desire to see what was good in them, and not to offend them in anything they held sacred. He always remained himself; he was utterly convinced that ‘salvation lies in Christ-like humility’, and by virtue of this humility he strove with his whole soul to interpret every man at his best. He found his way to the heart of everyone — to his capacity for loving Christ.

I remember a conversation he had with a certain Archmandrite who was engaged in a missionary work. This Archmandrite thought highly of the Staretz and many a time went to see him during his visit to the Holy Mountain. The Staretz asked him what sort of sermons he preached to people. The Archimandrite, who was still young and inexperienced, gesticulated with his hands and swayed his whole body, and replied excitedly,

‘I tell them, Your faith is all wrong, perverted. There is nothing right, and if you don’t repent, there will be no salvation for you.’

The Staretz heard him out, then asked, ‘Tell me, Father Archimandrite, do they believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, that He is the true God?

‘Yes, that they do believe.’

‘And do they revere the Mother of God?’

‘Yes, but they are not taught properly about her.’

‘And what of the Saints?’

‘Yes, they honor them but since they have fallen away from the Church, what saints can they have?’

‘Do they celebrate the Divine Office in their churches? Do they read the Gospels?’

‘Yes, they do have churches and services but if you were to compare their services with ours — how cold and lifeless theirs are!’

‘Father Archimandrite, people feel in their souls when they are doing the proper thing, believing in Jesus Christ, revering the Mother of God and the Saints, whom they call upon in prayer, so if you condemn their faith they will not listen to you… But if you were to confirm that they were doing well to believe in God and honor the Mother of God and the Saints; that they are right to go to church, and say their prayers at home, read the Divine word, and so on; and then gently point out their mistakes and show them what they ought to amend, then they would listen to you, and the Lord would rejoice over them. And this way by God’s mercy we shall all find salvation…God is love, and therefore the preaching of His word must always proceed from love. Then both preacher and listener will profit. But if you do nothing but condemn, the soul of the people will not heed you, and no good will come of it.’ (St. Silouan the Athonite by Archimandrite Sophrony pp. 63-65)

The Theotokos is Not a Co-Redemptrix

St. Ambrose of Milan ca. 338-397

Mary, the mother of the Lord stood by her Son’s Cross; no one has taught me this but the holy Evangelist St. John. Jn. 19:25 Others have related how the earth was shaken at the Lord’s passion, the sky was covered with darkness, the sun withdrew itself; Mat.27:45 that the thief was after a faithful confession received into paradise. Lk. 23:43 John tells us what the others have not told, how the Lord fixed on the Cross called to His mother, esteeming it of more worth that, victorious over His sufferings, He rendered her the offices of piety, than that He gave her a heavenly kingdom. For if it be according to religion to grant pardon to the thief, it is a mark of much greater piety that a mother is honoured with such affection by her Son. Behold, He says, your Son… …Behold your mother. Jn. 19:27 Christ testified from the Cross, and divided the offices of piety between the mother and the disciple. The Lord made not only a public but also a private testament, and John signed this testament of His, a witness worthy of so great a Testator. A good testament not of money but of eternal life, which was written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, Who says: My tongue is the pen of a quickly writing scribe.

Nor was Mary below what was becoming the mother of Christ. When the apostles fled, she stood at the Cross, and with pious eyes beheld her Son’s wounds, for she did not look for the death of her Offspring, but the salvation of the world. Or perchance, because that royal hall knew that the redemption of the world would be through the death of her Son, she thought that by her death also she might add something to the public good. But Jesus did not need a helper for the redemption of all, Who saved all without a helper. Wherefore also He says: I have become like a man without help, free among the dead. He received indeed the affection of His mother, but sought not another’s help. (Letter 63: 109-110)

St. Leo on the Priesthood

Pope St. Leo the Great ca. 400-461

For it is He of whom it is prophetically written, You are a priest for ever after the order of Melchizedeck , that is, not after the order of Aaron, whose priesthood descending along his own line of offspring was a temporal ministry, and ceased with the law of the Old Testament, but after the order of Melchizedeck, in whom was prefigured the eternal High Priest. And no reference is made to his parentage because in him it is understood that He was portrayed, whose generation cannot be declared. And finally, now that the mystery of this Divine priesthood has descended to human agency, it runs not by the line of birth, nor is that which flesh and blood created, chosen, but without regard to the privilege of paternity and succession by inheritance, those men are received by the Church as its rulers whom the Holy Ghost prepares: so that in the people of God’s adoption, the whole body of which is priestly and royal, it is not the prerogative of earthly origin which obtains the unction , but the condescension of Divine grace which creates the bishop. (Sermons 3.1)

On the Indelible Mark of the Priesthood

St. Cyprian of Carthage died ca. 258

But he could not hold the episcopate, even if he had before been made bishop, since he has cut himself off from the body of his fellow bishops, and from the unity of the Church; since the apostle admonishes that we should mutually sustain one another, and not withdraw from the unity which God has appointed, and says, Bearing with one another in love, endeavouring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. Eph. 4:2-3 He then who neither maintains the unity of the Spirit nor the bond of peace, and separates himself from the band of the Church, and from the assembly of priests, can neither have the power nor the honour of a bishop, since he has refused to maintain either the unity or the peace of the episcopate. (Letter 51)

St. Basil of Caesarea ca. 330-379

The first separatists had received their ordination from the Fathers, and possessed the spiritual gift by the laying on of their hands. But they who were broken off had become laymen, and, because they are no longer able to confer on others that grace of the Holy Spirit from which they themselves are fallen away, they had no authority either to baptize or to ordain.  And therefore those who were from time to time baptized by them, were ordered, as though baptized by laymen, to come to the church to be purified by the Church’s true baptism. (Letter 188: Canon 1)

St. Maximus the Confessor 580-662

“And you still refuse to enter into communion with the Patriarchate of Constantinople?” they asked.

“Still,” he answered.

They asked, “Why so?”

“Because the leaders of this Church have rejected the definitions of four holy councils and accepted the Nine Chapters published in Alexandria; the Ekthesis written by Sergius, Patriarch of Constantinople; and the recently issued Typos. What they proclaimed as dogma in the Ekthesis they rejected in the Typos. They have repeatedly excommunicated themselves from the Church and are completely unstable in the faith. Additionally, they have been cut off and stripped of priesthood by the local council held at Rome. What Mysteries, then, can they perform? And what spirit descends on those whom they ordain?(St. Dimitri Rostov: Life of St. Maximus)

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 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 Orthodox and Roman Catholic Differences

Blessed Father Seraphim Rose 1934-1982

Question: Something I don’t know much about, and probably a lot of other people don’t is: what are some of the concrete differences and similarities between, say the Russian Orthodox Church and, say, the Roman Catholic Church with regard to different doctrines and ideas, like about the Trinity or whether priests marry or not – all those million and one little differences.

Fr. Seraphim: There are a lot of little differences. There is one main difference, I think; and I would explain it precisely in connection with the Holy Spirit. The Church of Christ is that which gives grace to people; and in the West, when Rome broke off from this Church, this grace was actually lost (maybe people individually found it here and there, but from their whole Church the grace was cut off). I look at modern Roman Catholicism as an attempt to substitute, by human ingenuity, the grace which is lost. Therefore, it makes the Pope “infallible”, having to give an answer to the question of “where is truth?”

There are some who look at our Orthodox Church and say, “It’s impossible for people to find truth there. You say you don’t believe in any one pope or bishop, and thus there is no guarantee; you don’t believe in the Scriptures like a Protestant might and say that they are the absolutely ‘infallible’ word. If you have a controversy, where is the final word?” And we say that the Holy Spirit will reveal Himself. This happens especially when bishops come together in council, but even then there can be a false council. One might then say, “There’s no hope!” But we say that the Holy Spirit guides the Church, and therefore He will not be false to the Church. If you haven’t got the feeling that this is so, then you devise things like making the Bible infallible, making the Pope infallible. Also, you make Orthodox things – as the Roman Catholics did – into some kind of “law”, so that everything is nicely defined: if you break this law you go your confessor, get such-and-such a penance, and you’re all “set” again. Orthodoxy does not believe; from this came the whole idea of indulgences, which is a totally legalistic perversion of the idea of repentance. If you repent, like the thief on the cross, you can be saved at that moment.

Orthodoxy always emphasizes this spiritual aspect of the relationship of one’s own soul to God; and all the sacraments and discipline of the Church are only a means of getting one’s soul right with God: this is the whole of our Faith. In the Roman Church until very recently when things began to dissolve, the emphasis was rather on obeying a whole set of laws and thereby getting “right” with God in a legalistic sense, which is a substitute for the Holy Spirit. (God’s Revelation to the Human Heart: Questions and Answers, pg 48)

On Purgatory

Synod of Constantinople 1772

We the godly, following the truth and turning away from such innovations, confess and accept two places for the souls of the dead, Paradise and Hades, for the righteous and sinners, as the Holy Scripture teaches us. We do not accept a third place, a Purgatory, by any means, since neither Scripture nor the Holy Fathers have taught us any such thing. However, we believe these two places have many abodes…
None of the teachers of the Church have handed down or taught such a Purgatory, but they all speak of one single place of punishment, Hades, just as they teach about one luminous and bright place, Paradise. But both the souls of the holy and the righteous go indisputably to Paradise and those of the sinners go to Hades, of whom the profane and those who have sinned unforgivably are punished forever and those who have offended forgivably and moderately hope to gain freedom through the unspeakable mercy of God. For on behalf of such souls, that is of the moderately and forgivably sinful, there are in the Church prayers, supplications, liturgies, as well as memorial services and almsgiving, that those souls may receive favour and comfort. Thus when the Church prays for the souls of those who are lying asleep, we hope there will be comfort for them from God, but not through fire and Purgatory, but through divine love for mankind, whereby the infinite goodness of God is seen.

Source: http://mb-soft.com/believe/txw/orthcoun.htm

On the Successors of the Apostles

Blessed Jerome ca. 347-420

It is not the case that there is one church at Rome and another in all the world beside. Gaul and Britain, Africa and Persia, India and the East worship one Christ and observe one rule of truth. If you ask for authority, the world outweighs its capital. Wherever there is a bishop, whether it be at Rome or at Engubium, whether it be at Constantinople or at Rhegium, whether it be at Alexandria or at Zoan, his dignity is one and his priesthood is one. Neither the command of wealth nor the lowliness of poverty makes him more a bishop or less a bishop. All alike are successors of the apostles. (Letter 146)

Chrysostom on Being Saved Through Fire

1 Cor. 3:12-15 If any man build upon this foundation gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay, stubble; each man’s work shall be made manifest: for the day shall declare it, because it is revealed in fire; and the fire shall prove each man’s work of what sort it is. If any man’s work abide which he built thereon, he shall receive a reward. If any man’s work shall be burned, he shall suffer loss: but he himself shall be saved; yet so as through fire.

St. John Chrysostom ca. 349-407

Now his meaning is this: If any man have an ill life with a right faith, his faith shall not shelter him from punishment, his work being burnt up. The phrase, shall be burned up, means, shall not endure the violence of the fire. But just as if a man having golden armor on were to pass through a river of fire, he comes from crossing it all the brighter; but if he were to pass through it with hay, so far from profiting, he destroys himself besides; so also is the case in regard of men’s works. For he does not say this as if he were discoursing of material things being burnt up, but with a view of making their fear more intense, and of showing how naked of all defence he is who abides in wickedness. Wherefore he said, He shall suffer loss: lo, here is one punishment: but he himself shall be saved, but so as by fire; lo, again, here is a second. And his meaning is, He himself shall not perish in the same way as his works, passing into nought, but he shall abide in the fire.

He calls it, however, “salvation”, you will say; why, that is the cause of his adding, so as by fire: since we also used to say, It is preserved in the fire, when we speak of those substances which do not immediately burn up and become ashes. For do not at sound of the word fire imagine that those who are burning pass into annihilation. And though he call such punishment “salvation”, be not astonished. For his custom is in things which have an ill sound to use fair expressions, and in good things the contrary. For example, the word “captivity” seems to be the name of an evil thing, but Paul has applied it in a good sense, when he says, Bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ. 2 Corinthians 10:5 And again, to an evil thing he has applied a good word, saying, Sin reigned, Romans 5:21 here surely the term reigning is rather of auspicious sound. And so here in saying, he shall be saved, he has but darkly hinted at the intensity of the penalty: as if he had said, “But himself shall remain forever in punishment”. (Homily 9 on First Corinthians)

On When in Rome

Blessed Augustine of Hippo ca. 354-430

I think you may have heard me relate before, what I will nevertheless now mention. When my mother followed me to Milan, she found the Church there not fasting on Saturday. She began to be troubled, and to hesitate as to what she should do; upon which I, though not taking a personal interest then in such things, applied on her behalf to Ambrose, of most blessed memory, for his advice. He answered that he could not teach me anything but what he himself practised, because if he knew any better rule, he would observe it himself. When I supposed that he intended, on the ground of his authority alone, and without supporting it by any argument, to recommend us to give up fasting on Saturday, he followed me, and said: When I visit Rome, I fast on Saturday; when I am here, I do not fast. On the same principle, do you observe the custom prevailing in whatever Church you come to, if you desire neither to give offense by your conduct, nor to find cause of offense in another’s. When I reported this to my mother, she accepted it gladly; and for myself, after frequently reconsidering his decision, I have always esteemed it as if I had received it by an oracle from heaven. For often have I perceived, with extreme sorrow, many disquietudes caused to weak brethren by the contentious pertinacity or superstitious vacillation of some who, in matters of this kind, which do not admit of final decision by the authority of Holy Scripture, or by the tradition of the universal Church or by their manifest good influence on manners raise questions, it may be, from some crotchet of their own, or from attachment to the custom followed in one’s own country, or from preference for that which one has seen abroad, supposing that wisdom is increased in proportion to the distance to which men travel from home, and agitate these questions with such keenness, that they think all is wrong except what they do themselves. (Letter 54)