Now I come to you, the Priests of Greece and especially of Athens, and I beg you to hear me attentively. When 50 years ago—I do not remember precisely—Meletios Metaxakis of Kition…ascended to the Archepiscopal throne of Athens, he summoned a clergy congress in a hall in the offices of the Metropolis. Almost all the priests of Athens came enthusiastically to hear his paternal counsels. Instead of telling them, as Christ told His disciples, ‘Ye are the light of the world. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father Who is in heaven’ [St. Matthew 5:14,16]—to be ‘humble, merciful, meek, pure in heart, peacemakers, patient in afflictions, temptations, persecutions, accusations, and to rejoice when men persecute you, hate you and wrong you, to love God and every man, even your enemies, and to pray for them’ [St. Matthew, chapter 5]—he gave them the following advice. Listen, so that you may shudder and weep: ‘In Europe all the clergy shave, cut their hair, and go without rasa. We should imitate them, in case we should seem out of date and uncivilized.’ Then almost all the priests, with one mouth, with boldness and confidence, said to him: ‘Your Beatitude, we are Greek Orthodox; we will never become heretics, Protestants or Papists.’ Then, as a politician, not as a pastor, he told them: ‘I did not tell you to become Protestants and Papists. I told you that, because I am concerned for your health, since beards, uncut hair and rasa cause illness.’ A fair number of priests replied to him: ‘We are healthier than those who are shaven and woman-faced.’ Having given up hope because his aim and his advice had proved vain and fruitless, he turned to a doctor, whom he had brought along to assist his purpose, and said to him, ‘Doctor, talk to them, advise them, because they will not listen to me.’ When he was called upon to speak, the doctor began to give them advice, but some of the priests did not allow him to, saying to the Metropolitan: ‘Let the physician heal himself.’ Others said to the doctor, ‘Go and cure the sick who summon you. We are neither sick nor have we summoned you,’ and in this way the clergy congress dissolved into a shaming of Meletios Metaxakis, the modernist, the innovator, the scorner of Patristic Traditions, and redounded to the glory of God, the boast of Orthodoxy, and the praise of the priests of Athens. (Fourth Clarion Call to Salvation [Thessaloniki: “Orthodoxos Kypseli” Editions, 1981], p. 36)
…[H]e was altogether wonderful in faith and religious, for he never held communion with… schismatics, knowing their wickedness and apostasy from the beginning; nor had he friendly dealings with the Manichæans or any other heretics; or, if he had, only as far as advice that they should change to piety. For he thought and asserted that intercourse with these was harmful and destructive to the soul. In the same manner also, he loathed the heresy of the Arians, and exhorted all neither to approach them nor to hold their erroneous belief… saying that their words were worse than the poison of serpents. (Life of St. Anthony, 68)
I think then that the one great end of all who are really and truly serving the Lord ought to be to bring back to union the Churches now
at sundry times and in various manners divided from one another. In attempting myself to effect this, I cannot fairly be blamed as a busybody, for nothing is so characteristically Christian as the being a peacemaker, and for this reason our Lord has promised us peacemakers a very high reward. (Letter 114)
Hatred of the brethren makes room next for Antichrist; for the devil prepares beforehand the divisions among the people, that he who is to come may be acceptable to them. But God forbid that any of Christ’s servants here, or elsewhere, should run over to the enemy!
Writing concerning this matter, the Apostle Paul gave a manifest sign, saying, For that day shall not come, except there came first the falling away, and the man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition, who opposes and exalts himself against all that is called God, or that is worshipped; so that he sits in the temple of God, showing himself that he is God. Do you not remember that when I was yet with you, I told you these things? And now you know that which restrains, to the end that he may be revealed in his own season. For the mystery of iniquity does already work, only there is one that restrains now, until he be taken out of the way. And then shall the lawless one be revealed, whom the LordJesus shall slay with the breath of His mouth, and shall destroy with the brightness of His coming. Even him, whose coming is after the working of Satan, with all power and signs and lying wonders, and with all deceit of unrighteousness for them that are perishing. (2 Thes. 2:3-10)
Thus wrote Paul, and now is the falling away. For men have fallen away from the right faith… And formerly the heretics were manifest; but now the Church is filled with heretics in disguise. For men have fallen away from the truth, and have itching ears. (2 Tim. 4:3) Is it a plausible discourse? All listen to it gladly. Is it a word of correction? All turn away from it. Most have departed from right words, and rather choose the evil, than desire the good. This therefore is the falling away, and the enemy is soon to be looked for: and meanwhile he has in part begun to send forth his own forerunners , that he may then come prepared upon the prey. Look therefore to yourself, O man, and make safe your soul. The Church now charges you before the Living God; She declares to you the things concerning Antichrist before they arrive. Whether they will happen in your time we know not, or whether they will happen after you we know not; but it is well that, knowing these things, you should make yourself secure beforehand. (Catechetical Lectures, Lecture 15.9)
Once, an Orthodox clergyman from abroad asked [St. Paisios] about a difficulty he had encountered. His bishop put halls under the churches for dancing and other anti-traditional activities. The Christians in his diocese, ill-at-ease, had fled to a schismatic church. The Elder’s response was, “If you want to help the people, you shouldn’t take what your bishop is doing lightly. That’s just the kind of behavior that makes people leave the Church. I’m not saying you should break communion with him and cause a schism, or that you should speak against him publicly. But you shouldn’t praise him either.”
With his love, prayer and discretion, the elder knew when to speak and how to act to quietly help the Mother Church, avoiding extremes and healing wounds that afflict the body of the Church and scandalize the faithful. (Elder Paisios of Mount Athos by Hieromonk Isaac, p. 665)
Hieromonk Seraphim of Platina 1934-1982
One big mistake we can make about our Orthodoxy is being too loose, too “liberal” about it. This comes from ignorance. Some Orthodox people think that the Orthodox Church is nothing more than the Russian or Greek equivalent of the Episcopalian Church; with such an idea of course, one is not going to try very hard to bring anyone to the Orthodox Faith. This is the error of the ecumenical movement, which arranges meetings and conferences with non-Orthodox Churches, not with the aim of bringing them to the true Faith of Orthodoxy, but on a basis of worldly friendship, in order to speak of the secondary things which we have common with them, and to gloss over the differences which separate us and an awareness of which make them eager to accept the Orthodox Faith. This is not to say that all meetings between Orthodox and non-Orthodox Christians, even on an official level, are wrong — but only that as ordinarily practiced these meetings are not an Orthodox witness to the non-Orthodox, as they should be.
With all respect to the views of the non-Orthodox, we are not living our Orthodox Faith rightly if we do not make others somehow aware of of the differentness of Orthodoxy. This does not need to mean arguments and polemics about aspects of the Faith, although these might arise after others have become interested in Orthodoxy. The very way one leads one’s Orthodox life, if one is serious about fulfilling the commitment of being an Orthodox Christian, is already a witness to others…
Yet another mistake made by contemporary Orthodox is what one might call the “fortress mentality”: we have the truth of Orthodoxy, and the times are so bad that our chief activity now is to defend it against the enemies on every side. Often this mentality goes overboard in finding “betrayers” and “heretics” in the midst of Orthodox Christians themselves, and very often it is so concerned with its own “correctness” and the “incorrectness” of others that is has very little strength left to preach the Gospel of salvation even to the Orthodox, let alone to those outside the Church.
Now, Orthodoxy is indeed the correct teaching and the correct worship of God, and this is why this temptation is so easy to fall into. But we must remember that Christ Himself was constantly accused of being “incorrect” by the chief priests and pharisees of His time, and we have to remember that correctness in itself is nothing, and can even cause us to lose our soul, if we do not have first of all something much more fundamental and deep — the “one thing needful” for or salvation. This “one thing” might be called “living faith,” and it is inseparable from something which is all too lacking in the Church today — evangelical fervor. If we have found the true Faith after our own often arduous search, we cannot help but want others to share it. (The Orthodox Word 2002 no. 226 p. 247-248, 250-251)
We must keep up the living contact with the older…clergy, even if some of them may seem to us a little too liberal, otherwise we will become lost in the zealot jungle which is growing up around us.
…We who wish to remain in the true tradition of Orthodoxy will have to be zealous and firm in our Orthodoxy without being fanatics, and without presuming to teach our bishops what they should do. Above all, we must strive to preserve the true fragrance of Orthodoxy, being at least a little “not of this world,” detached from all cares and politics even of the Church, nourishing ourselves on the otherworldly food the Church gives us in abundance. Elder Macarius well says in a letter: “Fanaticism limits a man’s way of thinking, but true faith gives freedom. This freedom is revealed by the firmness of a man in all possible cases of happiness and unhappiness.” That freedom is a sign of our Orthodoxy… But to see this one must have the savor of Orthodoxy. Let us not lose it! (Letters from Father Seraphim pp. 167-168, Third Day of Trinity 1976)
No term is used—and misused—among the Orthodox people in America more often than the term canonical. One hears endless discussions about the “canonicity” or the “uncanonicity” of this or that bishop, jurisdiction, priest, parish. Is it not in itself an indication that something is wrong or, at least, questionable from the canonical point of view in America, that there exists a canonical problem which requires an overall analysis and solution? Unfortunately the existence of such a problem is seldom admitted. Everyone simply claims the fulness of canonicity for his own position and, in the name of it, condemns and denounces as uncanonical the ecclesiastical status of others. And one is amazed by the low level and cynicism of these “canonical” fights in which any insinuation, any distortion is permitted as long as it harms the “enemy.” The concern here is not for truth, but for victories in the form of parishes, bishops, priests “shifting” jurisdictions and joining the “canonical” one. It does not matter that the same bishop or priest was condemning yesterday what today he praises as canonical, that the real motivations behind all these transfers have seldom anything to do with canonical convictions; what matters is victory. We live in the poisoned atmosphere of anathemas and excommunications, court cases and litigations, dubious consecrations of dubious bishops, hatred, calumny, lies! But do we think about the irreparable moral damage all this inflicts to our people? How can they respect the Hierarchy and its decisions? What meaning can the very concept of canonicity have for them? Are we not encouraging them to consider all norms, all regulations, all rules as purely relative? One wonders sometimes whether our bishops realize the scandal of this situation, whether they ever think about the cynicism all this provokes and feeds in the hearts of Orthodox people. Three Russian jurisdictions, two Serbian, two Romanian, two Albanian, two Bulgarian. A split among the Syrians . . . The animosity between the Russians and the Carpatho-Russians… The Ukrainian problem! And all this at a time when Orthodoxy in America is coming of age, when truly wonderful possibilities exist for its growth, expansion, creative progress. We teach our children to be “proud” of Orthodoxy, we constantly congratulate ourselves about all kinds of historic events and achievements, our church publications distill an almost unbearable triumphalism and optimism, yet, if we were true to the spirit of our faith we ought to repent in “sackcloth and ashes,” we ought to cry day and night about the sad, the tragical state of our Church. If “canonicity” is anything but a pharisaic and legalistic self-righteousness, if it has anything to do with the spirit of Christ and the tradition of His Body, the Church, we must openly proclaim that the situation in which we all live is utterly uncanonical regardless of all the justifications and sanctions that every one finds for his “position.” (The Canonical Problem 1, An Uncanonical Situation)
[W]e on the Holy Mountain follow the Old Calendar, but we are in spiritual communion with the official Church, and we are not inclined to split off from it. We might protest what is badly worded, but we are in the bosom of the Church, and we struggle to correct them from our place. Those who are outside the walls of the Church are exposed to the various wolves in sheep’s clothing, who seek to tear them apart. (Elder Anthimos of Saint Anne’s, the Wise and God-bearing Contemporary Father of Mount Athos [kindle version])
Unite in this faith all the great Christian societies, woefully having fallen aside from the unity of the Holy Orthodox Catholic and Apostolic Church, which is Your Body and whose Head art Thou and the Savior of the Body… grant unto their hearts to know the truth and salvific nature of Thy Church and to unite with it; link to Thy holy Church also those who are suffering from ignorance, delusion, and the stubbornness of schism… Draw all nations populating the earth to this faith, that they may all glorify Thee, the only God of all, with one heart and one mouth. (Kizenko, ‘A Prodigal Saint: Father John of Kronstadt and the Russian People’, p. 54)
In response to a question we received…
Bp. Athansije, retired Bishop of Zahumlje and Herzegovina
We were closely acquainted with the Blessed Father Justin and we know that he had never broke communion with any of the Orthodox Churches or a Bishop or a Patriarch, not even with the Serbian Patriarch Germanos (1958-1990)– as some zealots ‘shamelessly lie’ — not even when the Patriarch Germanos was one of the ‘presidents of the WCC’ (a formal and honorary title without any binding conditions or duties as indeed was the participation of the Serbian Orthodox Church in the WCC). As a free and responsible member of the Church of Christ, Justin prophetically reproved and, when necessary, criticized in written form (having written a couple of criticism letters to Patriarch Germanos and the Synod, inter alia, the letters pertaining to superficial western ecumenism). But on no account did he ever create a schism, but on the contrary used to say: “Schisms are easily made but they are enormously difficult to heal” (therefore he opposed the unwisely made and increasingly deepening ‘American Schism’ just as he was against ‘the Macedonian Schism’). (St. Justin Popovich, Notes on Ecumenism. Commentary on Father Justin’s Notes, pp. 36-37)
If a layman, baptized and confirmed in the established Church of England, were to apply to you to be admitted into full communion with the Greek Church, would you be obliged to receive him, even if it might seem to you that it would be better for him to remain in the English Church?
To reply to this question, one first has to understand it. But the question posed here is not readily comprehensible and therefore it is necessary to pose the following the question in return: Under what circumstances could a priest of the Orthodox Church, believing in its Apostolic dignity and purity, suppose it would be better for a member of the English Church to remain in it rather than unite himself to the Orthodox Church? Until this second question is resolved, an Orthodox priest of the Catholic Eastern Church can assume that the question originally posed does not exist; and that consequently it does not require an answer.
If a layman were to be received, would it be necessary to give him baptism and confirmation, conditionally or unconditionally?
A member of the Anglican Church, who has definitely received a baptism in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, even though it be by effusion (pouring), can, in accordance with the rule accepted in the Church of Russia (which the Church of Constantinople considers to be a form of condescension), be received into the Orthodox Church without a new baptism, but the sacrament of chrismation must be administered to him, because confirmation, in the teaching of the Anglican Church, is not a sacrament. (Guidance from Metropolitan Philaret of Moscow Regarding English Converts to Orthodoxy. Embassy, Emigrants, and Englishmen p. 607)
Only yesterday evening I received a card bearing the message “Metropolitan Anthony is invited to reply to the address by Sir Samuel Hoare on Christian Unity.”
It is far easier for me to fulfill this task than it would be if I had been asked to talk about the union of Churches. From childhood we have been accustomed to believe in One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church, as the the Fathers of the Second Ecumenical taught us. This Church cannot be divided, since Christ has said, “I will build My Church, and the gates of hell shall not overcome it.”
It is another matter if we talk about Christian unity — that is to say, the unity firstly of individual people, religious communities and whole peoples, believing in Christ as God, and recognizing the Holy Gospel and the Holy Bible. Everyone zealous for the word of God must also free our souls from the constant intellectual striving to prove them wrong.
On the contrary, more pleasing to God is he amongst us who attempts to bring out everything which unites us together, and who will try not to reduce the number of such truths to a minimum, but to find as many points in common as possible. This relates particularly to those Christian communities and confessions which are making friendly moves towards our Church.
Let nobody think that the principle I have first stated is a concession to the liberal spirit of the times, or to confessional indifference, because the Orthodox Church has been guided this principle in the times of the strictest application of the Ecumenical Canons, as expressed in the 95th Rule of the Sixth Ecumenical Council and the First Canonical Rule of St. Basil the Great.
I will not quote from these canons at this point (although I have brought them with me). However, I can only report my personal view, which I published some two years ago in the Russian newspaper, Novoye Vermya, and this view is in full accord with the two canons I have just mentioned. If any Anglican bishop or clergyman wished to enter the Orthodox Church, then he could be received by the third rite, that is to say, without his ordination being repeated or, in other words, he could be received in his orders.
Let no one think that these remarks are made for the purpose of propaganda — they are simply an expression of my conviction of the confessional closeness between the Anglican Church and the Orthodox Church. I have become even more convinced of this closeness over the last few months when I learnt that the religious leaders of the English nation accept the Nicene-Constantinopolitan Creed, are restoring monasticism and no longer reject the veneration of icons or the seven Sacraments. (Embassy, Emigrants and Englishmen pp. 235-236)
Met. Anastassy Gribanovsky 1873-1965
The noble sincerity of your speech, so characteristic of a true Englishman, is as remarkable as is the clarity and breadth of your theological approach to the matter of the union of the Union of the Churches. With your characteristic spiritual sensitivity you have understood how hard it would be for us to lay ourselves open to criticism on the grounds that we were prepared to sacrifice the precious treasury of faith which the Orthodox Church had preserved so watchfully since the time of the Apostles. The unsullied purity of her belief and the fullness of Ecumenical truth which she possesses — these are our chief boast before the whole world, and we do not want anyone to steal them away from us.
If the Eastern Churches had really set out on the path of compromise as she is now being accused of doing by certain theologians of the Church of Rome, then, to begin with she would lose her authority in your eyes, for what is it that draws you to her, if not the desire to find in her dogmatic teachings and ecclesiastical practice the unsullied Apostolic Tradition?
Compromise can be used only in the realm of purely worldly political relationships but in matters of faith, as the respected Mr. Riley has commented, there is no scope for bargaining.
Being aware of the particular importance and responsibility of this holy work [Church union], the Russian Church has always approached it with particular caution and [has] never attempted to underestimate the importance of the dogmatic, canonical and liturgical differences which separate us from the Anglicans.
If we consider the views of the entire Anglican Church, and not just those of the Anglo-Catholics, who so far constitute a minority, then the differences prove to be far more profound than many people think. When studying the official confession of faith of the Anglican Church our theologians, from Khomiakov to Professors Sokoloff and Kerensky, have pointed out this aspect of the situation quite distinctly, as well as the lack of inner unity within the Anglican Church itself.
Nevertheless, with each passing year the two Churches are increasingly drawn to one another. What, then, is it that brings them together? Evidently there is some inner kinship, which is revealed as we become more closely acquainted.
The Protestant storm did not completely extinguish the spark of ancient patristic tradition [in the Anglican Church]. This has continued to shed its quiet, joyful light and the darkness has not extinguished it (John 1:15).
The striving of the Anglican Church to commune once again with the Unity of the Universal Church, combined with a profound and sincere disposition in her pastors and flock — the spirit of love and humility, which inspires the best of her children — this is the basis on which the spiritual alliance between her and the Eastern Church is now being created and strengthened.
Anyone who values the truth of Orthodoxy so highly inevitably becomes akin to us in spirit.
Anyone who has such a sincere admiration for our much-suffering Russian Church, whose vesture is drenched in the blood of the martyrs, will illuminate his own spiritual state with a reflected light, which will give him the same zeal for preserving eternal spiritual truth and the same readiness to suffer for it, for like is known by the like, for we usually admire in others that which we bear as a sacred ideal in our own souls…
May the God of patience and consolation grant us to attain to perfect unity of faith and love, so that there will no longer be divisions between us, but we will be united in one Spirit and in the same thoughts and with unity of soul glorify God the Father and our Lord Jesus Christ, Who have called us to eternal glory (Rom. 15:5; 1 Cor. 1:9-10) (ibid. pp. 238-239)
[E]xperience has forced upon me the conviction that to promote courtesy and friendship, which seems to be the only aim of the Union at present, not only amounts to killing precious time, at best, but also is somewhat hurtful to the religious and ecclesiastical welfare of the Holy Orthodox Church in these United States… I view union as only a pleasing dream. Indeed, it is impossible for the Holy Orthodox Church to receive—as She has a thousand times proclaimed, and as even the Papal See of Rome has declaimed to the Holy Orthodox Church’ s credit—anyone into Her Fold or into union with Her who does not accept Her Faith in full without any qualifications—the Faith which She claims is most surely Apostolic. (Letter of Resignation from the Anglican and Orthodox Churches Union, published in theRussian Orthodox Messenger, February 18, 1912)
St. Nicholas of Athens (Papa-Nicholas Planas) 1851-1932 glorified by the Ecumenical Patriarchate in 1992
Once the chanter of the vigils, Panayiotes Tomis, asked him (St. Nicholas), “What do you think, Father, about the calendar?” And he answered him, “From conviction, the Old, and from obligation, the New!!” The chanter was dissatisfied and left. (Papa-Nicholas Planas: The Simple Shepherd of the Simple Sheep p. 10)
Of course, Papa-Nicholas’ staunch adherence to the ecclesiastical calendar soon became widely known, and because of his holiness and the popularity he enjoyed among the faithful, the New Calendar church authorities — particularly the then Archbishop of Athens Chrysostom Papadopoulos, who had been responsible for the change in the calendar — became exceedingly annoyed. How could the saintly Papa-Nicholas be lending himself to such “unhealthy elements” as the Old Calendarists? The account of the meting between Papa-Nicholas and Archbishop Papadopoulos was related to us by Bishop Germanos of Synnada… here is Bishop Germanos’ account of the encounter between Papa-Nicholas and Archbishop Chrysostom Papadopoulos:
“Papa-Nicholas grew nervous, and like a little child, became frightened when he was told some days prior to the meeting that the Archbishop wanted to see him. He kept on repeating over and over again, ‘What does he want to see me for?’ By the time he got to the Archbishop’s office, he was like a schoolchild sent to the principal’s office. Papa-Nicholas was a very meek person, and did not like confrontations. He did not like even being present at quarrels. In any case, when he entered the Archbishop’s office, the Archbishop arose and greeted him very kindly and gave him a seat. So he sat down, but he was still very nervous. With a very serious expression, the Archbishop began, ‘Papa-Nicholas, as you know, we love you and respect you greatly. However, it has come to our ears that you are an Old Calendarist, and that, contrary to the Holy Synod’s encyclical, you are celebrating the Church feasts according to the old reckoning and not according to the corrected and reformed calendar.’ Then, in his typical childlike simplicity, Papa-Nicholas answered, ‘Oh–oh–only at night, only at night!’ This reply floored the Archbishop.” (ibid. p. 106)
Fr. Alexey Young
[Papa-Nicholas] continued to serve according to the Old Calendar — even when this necessitated serving secretly at night, but he did not leave the New Calendar bishops who had enacted this unlawful change. To the “ecclesiastical politics” of his day he reacted with his characteristic patience, meekness, and with obedience wherever possible without compromising the principles of traditional Orthodoxy.
When his secret serving according to the Old Calendar was discovered he was often reprimanded by the higher authorities in the Church. He always appeared when summoned and took his dressing-down without self-justification, disarming his accusers with his childlike simplicity and forthrightness. His intent was to remain true to his conscience; he did not try to build up a following or in any way stir up the faithful over the issue of the Calendar, although he blessed others to follow his example and to work for the formal reinstatement of the Old Calendar. Over and ever he said to everyone, “Whatever has been done uncanonically cannot stand–it will fall.”
Sadly, the Calendar question was never resolved. The harsh and quite unchristian polemics that have become a hallmark of many in the Greek Old Calendar Movement since then are far removed from the behavior of Papa-Nicholas who is championed as the Movement’s founder. One cannot help but wish that his stirring example of charity had been taken more to heart by those that shared his love for the Traditions of the Church in that otherwise worthy movement.
Photios Kontoglou, the great 20th century iconographer of Greek Orthodoxy, himself a lover of the Church’s Traditions, wrote that “for Christians there does not exist a more effective teaching than reading the life of a saint–especially that of one who has lived in our own time and Who, by his own life, was manifested as a saint without fanfare.” Papa Nicholas has been described as “a living sermon.” In his life we find not only a lesson in dealing with some of the unprecedented difficulties facing the Church today, but also a criterion by which we may measure our own behavior as Orthodox Christians, wherever we are, whatever our circumstances, no matter what scandals, temptations, or trials come our way. (Orthodox America: The Simple Shepherd)
Objection: …[F]irst, that the Canons and the commandments are under the authority of the Hierarchs; secondly, that we should not examine what our Hierarchs, teachers, and spiritual fathers tell us, but just obey them in all things with simplicity; and thirdly, they cite the Apostolic dictum: “Obey them that rule over you, and submit yourselves. (Heb. 13:17)
To the three parts of this objection we have nothing of our own to say, lest we cause confusion and perturbation to some; however, we reckon it harmful to people’s souls to remain completely silent about them. Let us, therefore, see what the Saints say, so that no one might have any grounds for complaining.
…The Divine Chrysostom demonstrates from the Consecration of Hierarchs that Hierarchs are subject to the Divine Canons and commandments:
“Because the High Priest was the head of the people, it was necessary for him, being the head of all, to have on his head a symbol of his authority (for absolute power is intolerable; but since he has the symbol of sovereignty on his head, he shows that he is subject to the law.) The Law ordains that his head not be bare, but covered, so that the head of the people might learn that he has another, greater Head. For this reason, in the Church, at the Ordinations of Priests [St. Nikodemos: ‘Priests’ is written here instead of ‘Hierarchs’, since the author is referring to Priesthood in general; in fact, only Hierarchs carry the Divinely transmitted Scriptures on their head, according to Dionysius the Aeropagite], the Gospel of Christ is placed on the head of the Ordinand, so that he might learn that he is receiving the true tiara of the Gospel and so that he might also learn that, although he is the head of all, he is nonetheless subject to the laws of the Gospel, that he governs all, but is himself governed by the laws, and that, while he enacts all the laws, his powers are defined by the laws. For this reason, one of the ancients (Ignatios was his name), who was adorned by Priesthood and martyrdom, write, in a letter to a certain Hierarch: ‘Let nothing be done without your will; and as for yourself, do nothing without the will of God.’ (Epistle to Polycarp) Therefore, the fact that the Hierarchs has the Gospel placed on his head signifies that he is under authority.” (Homily ‘That the Legislator of the Old and New Testaments is One and the Same’)
To the second point that they mention, that that we should not examine our Hierarchs, teachers, and spiritual fathers, but obey them in all matters, St. Basil the Great replies that “the preacher of the Word must both do and say everything with great circumspection and scrutiny, with a view to pleasing God, since he ought to be scrutinized and approved even by those entrusted to him.” (Morals, Rule 70.37)
And again: “Such hearers as have been instructed in the Scriptures should examine what is said by their teachers; and they should accept what is in conformity with the Scriptures and reject what is alien to them, and should vehemently shun those who persist in such teachings.” (Morals, Rule 72)
And again: Those who do not have much knowledge of Scripture should recognize the distinguishing characteristics of the Saints by the fruits of the Spirit, receiving those who possess such characteristics and shunning those who do not.” (Morals, 70.2)
…To the third part of the objection the Divine Chrysostom responds: “Anarchy is altogether an evil, the occasion of many calamities, and the source of disorder and confusion […]. However, the disobedience of those who are ruled is no less an evil […]. But perhaps someone will say, there is also a third evil, when the ruler is bad. I myself, too, know it, and it is no small evil, but a far worse evil than anarchy. For it is better to be led by no one than to be led by one who is evil. For the former indeed are oftentimes saved, and oftentimes are in peril, but the latter will be altogether in peril, being led into the pit of perdition. How then does Paul say, ‘Obey them that have rule over you, and submit yourselves (Heb. 13:17)?’ Having said above, ‘whose faith follow, considering the end of their conversation’ (Heb. 13:7), he then said, ‘Obey them that have rule over you, and submit yourselves’. ‘What then,’ you say, ‘when he is wicked, should we not obey?’ Wicked? In what sense? If in regard to faith, flee and avoid him, not only if he is a man, but even if he is an angel come down from heaven; but if in regard to life, be not over-curious. And I do not cite this instance from my own experience, but from Divine Scripture. For hear Christ saying, ‘The Scribes and Pharisees sit in Moses’ Seat.’ (Mat. 23:2) Having previously said many fearful things about them, He then says, ‘They sit in Moses’ Seat: all therefore whatsoever they bid you observe, […] do; but do not ye after their works.’ (Mat. 23:2-3) What he means is that they have the office, but are of unclean life; but pay attention not to their life, but to their words. For no one would be harmed on account of their characters. How is this? Both because their characters are manifest to all, and also because even if one of them were ten thousand times as wicked he would never teach what is wicked. But with regard to faith, the evil is not manifest to all, and the wicked will ruler will not forbear from teaching false doctrines. For the saying, ‘Judge not, that ye be not judged’ (Mat. 7:1) pertains to life, not to faith […]. Paul, however, previously commended them [he testified, that is, that the Shepherds were in every way upright], and then he says: ‘Obey them that have the rule over you'”. (Homily XXXIV On Hebrews)
This is what the Saints say. But as for us, brethren, since the Lord has called us to be at peace, we should submit to our Hierarchs, spiritual fathers, and teachers on account of the dignity that they have before God. But if any one of them does something irrational or impedes us from doing some God-pleasing deed, let us not cease from beseeching and imploring until we persuade him that the will of God should be done, in order that peace might reign between us; that concord and harmony might prevail; that love might be shown towards Shepherds and sheep, towards Hierarchs and Christians, towards Priests and lay people, towards superiors and subordinates; and that scandals, disturbances, schisms, and divisions might remain far from us. For such things are destructive of our souls, our homes, our Churches, and of every community and nation. In brief, let peace reign, in order that might all be one body and one spirit, all with one hope even as we were called, (cf. Eph. 4:4) and that the God of peace might be with us. (Concerning Frequent Communion, Objection 12. Manna from Athos: The Issue of Frquent Communion on the Holy Mountain in the Late Eighteenth and Early Nineteenth Centuries by Hieromonk Patapios and Archbishop Chrysostomos, p. 167-171)
For we on our part graciously welcomed the leaders who had been assigned to the separated portion on the grounds that their novel secession was prompted by piety with the object of helping the struggle of Orthodox doctrine, and we did not reject them as enemies but embraced them as brothers who for a short time had contested our paternal inheritance, though in a brotherly, not a malicious way. Though we did not welcome their opposition, we respected their zeal. Disagreement motivated by piety is superior to concord held together by sentiment. That is why we converted their withdrawal to our increment, dispelling their suspicions by an act of charity and reversing the usual order to such a degree that instead of grace following their election, election followed grace, and we accepted to this end the consecration by alien hands, anticipated to a degree by the Spirit. You for your part laid aside your misgivings based on the letter and sought reassurance in the spirit… (Oration 6.11)
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)
…[T]he Julian Calendar itself is not a dogma of faith of the Church and could, in theory and principle, be altered.
The common consent of all the Autocephalous Orthodox Churches would be required in order to lawfully introduce the New Calendar. Besides, the Julian Calendar has been hallowed by centuries of liturgical use by the whole Church, and no one Local Church can replace it unilaterally.
And it must be introduced not only lawfully, but also painlessly, and that could only be achieved with the consent of the believing people. According to the teaching of the Orthodox Church, the guardians of the purity of the faith and of the patristic traditions are not only the head of the Church, nor all the hierarchs combined, but the entire body of the Church, including the faithful laity, to whom belong established rights and a voice in ecclesiastic affairs. The head of one of the Local Churches, and the Patriarch of Russia, in particular, is not the Pope of Rome, enjoying absolute and boundless power. He cannot govern the people of God tyrannically, not asking their consent, and not taking into consideration their religious conscious, their beliefs, practices and skills. History demonstrates that compelling the people of God, rather than convincing them, always fails.
…The so-called ‘Pan-Orthodox Congress’ was not an Ecumenical Council; not all the Local Churches were represented. Thus, its resolutions could only be implemented if they were approved by an Ecumenical Council, or by the Synod of each of the Local Churches separately. Despite the fact that the majority of representatives did not approve of the Calendar change, Patriarch Meletius, violating Catholic unity, introduced the new style into his Patriarchate. The Renovationists in Russia embraced this change.
…Rumors have reached us that in 1925 an Ecumenical Council will be held to mark the 1,600th anniversary of the First Ecumenical Council at Nicea. If such a council is convoked canonically, then it would be best to raise this question then. Once the new style has been accepted by the entire Catholic Church, then perhaps we can prevail upon the faithful in Russia to accept it too, if the Orthodox bishops, appointed by me, and whom the faithful trust and follow, will have the freedom of abiding in their dioceses, of communicating with their flock, and of religious direction of the clergy and parishes found in canonical communion with me. (New Zion in Babylon II by V. Moss p. 252-254)
Look, brethren, look what the devil is doing, has done and will do — leading the mind of man from heaven to material things, chaining the heart of man to earth and earthly pursuits and occupations! Look and be alarmed with a healthy fear! Look and be aware with necessary soul-saving caution! …[H]e taught to give special attention to their fasting and other bodily exercises and to attribute special significance to dry bread, mushrooms, cabbage, peas, or beans; and in this way sensible, holy, and spiritual exercises were turned into senseless, carnal and sinful farces. …[H]e inspired to attach an exaggerated importance to the material side of church services, while obscuring the spiritual side of the rites; thus, by hiding the essence of Christianity from these unfortunate people and leaving them only a distorted material wrapper or covering he enticed them to fall away from the Church into the most foolish form of clouded perception, into schism. (The Arena, [kindle version])
They have built a church career for themselves on a false but attractive premise: that the chief danger to the Church today is lack of strictness. No—the chief danger is something much deeper—the loss of the savor of Orthodoxy, a movement in which they themselves are participating, even in their ‘strictness’… ‘Strictness’ will not save us if we don’t have any more the feeling and taste of Orthodoxy. (Father Seraphim Rose: His Life and Works, p. 532)
A few years ago one of these groups cut off communion with our Russian Church Abroad because our bishops refused to declare that all other Orthodox Churches are without grace; this group now declares that it alone has grace, only it is Orthodox. Recently this group has attracted some converts from our Russian Church Abroad, and we should be aware that this attitude is a danger to some of our American and European converts: with our calculating, rationalistic minds it is very easy to think we are being zealous and strict, when actually we are chiefly indulging our passion for self-righteousness. (Orthodoxy Facing the 1980s)
Their ‘strictness’, forces them to become so involved in church politics that spiritual questions become quite secondary. I know for myself that if I would have to sit down and think out for myself exactly which shade of ‘zealotry’ is the ‘correct’ one today—I will lose all peace of mind and be constantly preoccupied with questions of breaking communion, of how this will seem to others, of ‘what will the Greeks think’ (and which Greeks?), and ‘what will the Metropolitan think?’ And I will not have time or inclination to become inspired by the wilderness, by the Holy Fathers, by the marvelous saints of ancient and modern times who lived in a higher world. In our times especially, it is not possible to be entirely detached from these questions, but let us place first things first. (Life and Works, Chap. 63)
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’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)
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)
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We live in days when the overthrow of the Churches seems imminent; of this I have long been cognizant. There is no edification of the Church; no correction of error; no sympathy for the weak; no single defense of sound brethren; no remedy is found either to heal the disease which has already seized us, or as a preventive against that which we expect. Altogether the state of the Church (if I may use a plain figure though it may seem too humble an one) is like an old coat, which is always being torn and can never be restored to its original strength. At such a time, then, there is need of great effort and diligence that the Churches may in some way be benefited. It is an advantage that parts hitherto severed should be united. Union would be effected if we were willing to accommodate ourselves to the weaker, where we can do so without injury to souls; since, then, many mouths are open against the Holy Ghost, and many tongues whetted to blasphemy against Him, we implore you, as far as in you lies, to reduce the blasphemers to a small number, and to receive into communion all who do not assert the Holy Ghost to be a creature, that the blasphemers may be left alone, and may either be ashamed and return to the truth, or, if they abide in their error, may cease to have any importance from the smallness of their numbers. Let us then seek no more than this, but propose to all the brethren, who are willing to join us, the Nicene Creed. If they assent to that, let us further require that the Holy Ghost ought not to be called a creature, nor any of those who say so be received into communion. I do not think that we ought to insist upon anything beyond this. For I am convinced that by longer communication and mutual experience without strife, if anything more requires to be added by way of explanation, the Lord Who works all things together for good for them that love Him, (Rom. 8:28) will grant it. (Letter 113)
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)
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)
Elder Ephraim of Philotheou
At St. Basil’s Skete in the seclusion of his cell, Geronda [Joseph the Hesychast] often knew what was happening in the outside world better than those who take pains to find out about such things. One day, Fr. Matthew, who was the leader of the group of zealots to whom Geronda belonged, began professing some extremist positions. He was an accomplished speaker that enticed many with his opinions. But when Geronda heard those views of his, he became concerned and began to pray to God about him. After awhile, God revealed the truth to Geronda in a vision:
I saw that there were two roads that the Fathers had mapped out: the cenobitic and the ascetical. And I saw that brother was following neither the one nor the other road, but said, “I will go here!” Then he went downhill through a thicket that descended to the sea. And there was someone beside him who said to me: “Do you see him? The road he took will take him to the depths!”
At the same time, I also saw that I was at St. Basil’s, up in the skete. I saw a dreadful fire burning the entire skete. So I said with grief: “Who lit this fire which will burn down the entire skete?” Then someone told me: “Fr. Matthew lit it, trying to support his way of thinking!”
The vision made Geronda realize that things were not well with Fr. Matthew’s way of life, and it made Geronda question also his ecclesiastical stance. (My Elder Joseph the Hesychast, pp. 164-165)
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)
The reality of the Church is indivisible. It was at this point that the first editor of Khomiakov’s letters to Palmer (in Russian), Fr. Alexander M. Ivantzov-Platonov (Professor of Church History at the University of Moscow), found it necessary to add a critical footnote. On the whole, he shared Khomiakov’s interpretation of the Church, but he was not prepared to deny the presence of Sacramental grace in separated communions. Ivantzov did his studying at the Moscow Academy, and was probably influenced by the ideas of Philaret. There was an obvious difference between the two interpretations: Philaret’s conception was wider and more comprehensive; Khomiakov’s was more cautious and reserved. Both interpretations still co-exist in the Orthodox Church, with resulting differences of approach to the main Ecumenical problem.
In the later period of discussion, the whole ecclesiological problem was brought to the fore. The main issue was: what was the Church Universal? and in what sense do “schisms” belong to the Church? Various answers were given, or often simply taken for granted in advance. Unity of belief does not by itself constitute the corporate reality of the Church, since the Church is a Divine institution. The “Branch Theory” of the Church was obviously unacceptable to the Orthodox. In any case, it minimizes the tragedy of disruption. Again, a schism is not just a human separation: it violates the basic structure of Christian existence. The only alternative available for Orthodox theologians seemed to be this: either separated bodies did not belong to the Church at all, and therefore were, not only historically but also spiritually, outside of it; or they were still, in a certain sense and under special conditions, related to the Church existentially. The latter conception is characteristic of Roman Catholicism, and goes back to St. Augustine; for that very reason many Orthodox would hesitate to accept it. It was, however, held by many Russian theologians, if not quite in the same sense (Philaret; Kireev; Svetlov). Accordingly, the Sacraments were not necessarily reiterated for the non-Orthodox, in the case of conversion, but were understood as having some real charismatic significance even outside of the strict canonical boundaries of the Church. This has been the common practice of the Russian Church in the last centuries. On the other hand, this practice could be interpreted in the light of the theory of “economy” which is characteristic of modern Greek theology; in this case, the fact of non-reiteration would not imply any recognition of these non-Orthodox ministrations, and should be interpreted simply as a pastoral dispensation. This point of view had already been represented in Russia by Schyutiako, and in recent times was elaborated with daring radicalism by the late Metropolitan Anthony (Khrapovitsky). He had an occasion to express this view in an ecumenical context, when he was invited to participate in the ”Conference on Faith and Order” in 1914. The delegation of the Planning Committee in the U.S., appointed in 1914, could not go because of the war but invitations were sent to all Orthodox Churches. In Russia, they were favorably received in high ecclesiastical quarters and some epistolary contacts were established.
Anthony, at that time Archbishop of Kharkov and a permanent Member of the Holy Synod, replied to the invitation with a long letter, in which he frankly stated his point of view. There was no spiritual reality, “no grace,” outside the Orthodox Church. All talks about “validity” are just “talmudist sophistries.” What is outside of the Orthodox Church is just “this world, foreign to Christ’s redemption and possessed by the devil.” It makes no difference, Anthony argued, whether the non-Orthodox have or do not have “right beliefs.” Purity of doctrine would not incorporate them in the Church. What is of importance is only the actual membership in the Orthodox Church, which is not compromised by doctrinal ignorance or moral frailty. “Doctrinal agreement” by itself means little. Membership in the Body is the only thing that counts. But, in spite of this global exclusion of all non-Orthodox from Christendom, Anthony was wholeheartedly in favor of Orthodox participation in the proposed “Conference on Faith and Order.” “Indeed, we are not going to con-celebrate there, but shall have to search together for a true teaching on the controversial points of faith.” An exchange of letters with Robert Gardiner, the secretary of the organizing commission, followed, in which the whole problem was thoroughly discussed. Another Russian theologian, Hilarion (Troitsky), at that time Professor of the Moscow Theological Academy, and later Archbishop of Krutitzy, published an “open letter” to Robert Gardiner, “The Unity of the Church and the Universal Christian Conference,” in which he developed the same radical conception: Separation is infinitely more important than Dissent. This interpretation of unity and schism was by no means commonly accepted, and was exposed to serious objections. In any case, there was no unanimity among Orthodox theologians on this basic problem of “ecumenical theology.” The documents just quoted belong to the later period, and, strictly speaking, are outside the scope of the present survey. Yet they summarize authentically the view which has been held and promoted by not a few in the course of 19th century ecumenical negotiations. (Orthodox Ecumenism in the Nineteenth Century)
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)
Looking at Orthodoxy, at its present state and its prospects in the period before us, we may see two opposed aspects. First of all, there is the spirit of worldliness which is so present in the Orthodox Churches today, leading to a watering-down of Orthodoxy, a loss of the difference between Orthodoxy and heterodoxy. This worldliness has produced the Ecumenical movement, which is leading to the approaching Unia with Rome and the Western confessions—something that may well occur in the 1980s. In itself, this will probably not be a spectacular event: most Orthodox people have become so unaware of their faith, and so indifferent to it, that they will only welcome the opportunity to receive communion in a Roman or Anglican church. This spirit of worldliness is what is in the air and seems natural today; it is the religious equivalent of the atheist-agnostic atmosphere that prevails in the world.
What should be our response to this worldly ecumenical movement? Fortunately, our bishops of the Russian Church Outside of Russia have given us a sound policy to follow: we do not participate in the Ecumenical Movement, and our Metropolitan [Philaret] has warned other Orthodox Christians of the disastrous results of their ecumenical course if they continue; but at the same time our bishops have refused to cut off all contact and communion with Orthodox Churches involved in the Ecumenical Movement, recognizing that it is still a tendency that has not yet come to its conclusion (the Unia with Rome)… But because of this policy, our Church suffers attacks both from the left side (from ecumenists who accuse us of being uncharitable, behind the times, and the like) and from the right side (by groups in Greece that demand that we break communion with all Orthodox Churches and declare them to be without grace).
Indeed, if one looks at the state of the Orthodox Church in Greece, we can see that the Ecumenical Movement has produced a reaction that has often become excessive, and sometimes is almost as bad as the disease it seeks to cure. The more moderate of the Old Calendarist groups in Greece has a position similar to that of our Russian Church Abroad; but schism after schism has occurred among the Old Calendarists over the question of strictness. A few years ago one of these groups cut off communion with our Russian Church Abroad because our bishops refused to declare that all other Orthodox Churches are without grace; this group now declares that it alone has grace, only it is Orthodox. Recently this group has attracted some converts from our Russian Church Abroad, and we should be aware that this attitude is a danger to some of our American and European converts: with our calculating, rationalistic minds it is very easy to think we are being zealous and strict, when actually we are chiefly indulging our passion for self-righteousness.
One Old Calendarist bishop in Greece has written to us that incalculable harm has been done to the Orthodox Church in Greece by what he calls the “correctness disease”, when people quote canons, Fathers, the typicon in order to prove they are correct and everyone else is wrong. Correctness can truly become a disease when it is administered without love and tolerance and awareness of ones own imperfect understanding. Such a correctness only produces continual schisms, and in the end only helps the Ecumenical Movement by reducing the witness of sound Orthodoxy.
Conspicuous among Orthodox today—certain to be with us into the 1980s—is the worldly spirit by which Orthodoxy is losing its savor, expressed in the Ecumenical Movement, together with the reaction against it, which is often excessive precisely because the same worldly spirit is present in it.
There will undoubtedly be an increasing number of Orthodox converts in America and Europe in the coming decade, and we must strive that our missionary witness to them will help to produce, not cold, calculating, correct experts in the letter of the law, but warm, loving, simple Christians—at least as far as our haughty Western temperament will allow.
Once Fr. Dimitri [Dudko] was asked about how much better off religion was in the free world than in Russia, and he answered: Yes, they have freedom and many churches, but theirs is a spirituality with comfort. We in Russia have a different path, a path of suffering that can produce real fruit.
We should remember this phrase when we look at our own feeble Orthodoxy in the free world: are we content to have beautiful churches and chanting; do we perhaps boast that we keep the fasts and the church calendar, have good icons and congregational singing, that we give to the poor and perhaps tithe to the Church? Do we delight in exalted patristic teachings and theological conferences without having the simplicity of Christ in our hearts? Then ours is a spirituality with comfort, and we will not have the spiritual fruits that will be exhibited by those without all these comforts, who deeply suffer and struggle for Christ. In this sense we should take our tone from the suffering Church in Russia and place the externals of the Churchs worship in their proper place.
Our most important task, perhaps, is the Christian enlightenment of ourselves and others. We must go deeper into our faith—not by studying the canons of Ecumenical Councils or the typicon (although they also have their place), but by knowing how God acts in our lives; by reading the lives of God-pleasers in the Old and New Testaments (we read the Old Testament far too little; it is very instructive); by reading the lives of Saints and the writings of the Holy Fathers on practical spiritual life; by reading about the suffering of Christians today and in recent years. In all of this learning our eyes must be on heaven above, the goal we strive for, not on the problems and disasters of earth below.
Our Christian life and learning must be such that it will enable us to know the true Christ and to recognize the false Christ (Antichrist) when he comes. It is not theoretical knowledge or correctness that will give this knowledge to us. Vladimir Soloviev in his parable of Antichrist has a valuable insight when he notes that Antichrist will build a museum of all possible Byzantine antiquities for the Orthodox, if only they accept him. So, too, mere correctness in Orthodoxy without a loving Christian heart will not be able to resist Antichrist; one will recognize him and be firm to stand against him chiefly by the heart and not the head. We must develop in ourselves the right Christian feelings and instincts, and put off all fascination with the spiritual comforts of the Orthodox way of life, or else we will be—as one discerning observer of present-day converts has observed—Orthodox but not Christian. (Orthodoxy Facing the 1980s)
They have separated themselves from the unity of the Ecumenical Church and are deprived of God’s grace, which abides in Christ’s Church… And all the actions and sacraments performed by the bishops and priests who have fallen away from the Church are without grace; while the faithful who take part with them in prayer and sacraments not only do not receive sanctification, they are subject to condemnation for taking part in sin. (Acts of His Holiness Patriarch Tikhon and the Latest Documents about the Succession of the Highest Church Authority: 1917-1943, editor Archpriest Vladimir Vorobiov et al., compiled by M.E. Gubonin [Moscow, 1994], 291)
First Hierarch of ROCOR 1936-1964
Archbishop John [Maximovitch] says that we have not deviated from the right path pointed out to us by Metropolitan Anthony [Khrapovitsky]. We are a part of the Russian Church and breathe with the spirit of the Russian Church of all ages. But it is dangerous to draw from this the extreme conclusion that we are the only Church, and that we need pay no attention to the others or reckon with them. We are going along the right path, and the others have declined from it, but we must not proudly despise the others, for there are Orthodox hierarchs and priests everywhere. The words of Maximus the Confessor are often cited: ‘if the whole universe were to communicate [with the Ecumenical Patriarch], I alone would not.’ But he said: ‘if’. And when the Prophet Elijah thought that he alone kept the faith, the Lord revealed to him that there were still 7,000 others… (New Zion in Babylon IV pg. 143 by Vladimir Moss)
While I was praying, I saw a brilliant, beautiful church. It had a small exit on the side, and everyone was coming out of the church. In the courtyard, they were arguing. One person shouted, ‘I am right!’ Another person shouted, ‘I am more right!’ And a third person, ‘I am the true church!’ This reveals that although they were arguing, they all belonged to a single church. They have dogmas in common, and they have grace, but they were arguing because they don’t have an open mind and haven’t achieved sainthood. So how could I say now that the official Church of Greece is heretical and lack’s God grace. Should I call it heretical only because of the Calendar? And should I say that their bishops are damned? I am with the Old Calendar, but I think differently from the Old Calendarists.
…Do you see, my child, that you are not sinning by commemorating the Patriarch, no matter what he said or did, since he has not been deposed? (My Elder Joseph the Hesychast by Elder Ephraim pp. 502, 506. The Calendar Issue)
The Old Calendar is not God, nor the Holy Spirit. It is Tradition, which they ought not to have despised; they ought to have respected it. They did not entirely reject it, however, as the Iconoclasts rejected the Icons and burned them. They did not cast the Saints out of the Church, they did not burn the calendar, they did not deny God, the Mysteries, or the Holy Spirit.
The Holy Fathers, who prescribed that the Feast of Pascha be celebrated according to the Julian Calendar, did not tell us: “With that [the Julian Calendar] you will celebrate the Mysteries; with that you will be saved; if you have that you are able to commit all manner of sins, to cast aside love, to have enemies amongst yourselves, to insult one another, to accuse one another, to anathematize one another, to beat one another, even inside Churches—you are free. You can do all of this, just as long as you keep the Old Calendar.”
The Holy Fathers who prescribed the Old Calendar did not become Saints because they kept the Old Calendar. They became Saints because they kept the Orthodox Faith, love, humility, and the other virtues. (Source: http://www.hsir.org/Theology_en/E3a3b004AgNektariosAK323.pdf)
Today unfortunately, the European courtesy has come in and they try to show themselves as being nice. They wish to show superiority and finally they end up worshipping the two horned devil. “One religion”, they tell you, “should exist”, and they level out everything. Some also come to me and tell me “All of us who believe in Christ should create one religion”. “Now it is as if you are telling me”, I told them, “about gold and copper, so many carats gold and that much copper, that was separated, to gather them and make them one again. Is it correct to mix them again? Ask a jeweler. Is it proper to mix trash with gold? So much struggle was waged to distil the dogma”. The Holy Fathers must have known something for prohibiting the relationships with the heretics. Today they say: “we should pray together not only with a heretics but also with the Buddhist and with the fire worshipper and the demon worshipper. The Orthodox must also be present in common prayers and in their conferences. It is a presence”. What presence? They resolve everything with logic and justify the unjustifiable. The European mind believes that also the spiritual matters can also come into the Common Market. Some of the Orthodox who are shallow and wish to make a promotion, “a mission”, they arrange conferences with the heterodox to cause a sensation, believing this way that they promote Orthodoxy, by becoming so to speak “Hungarian goulash” with the false believers. Then the super-zealots take hold of the other end; they also blaspheme against the Mysteries of the New-calendarists, etc. and deeply scandalize the souls who have piety and Orthodox sensitivity. On the other hand, the heterodox come to conferences, act like teachers, take whatever good spiritual thing they find from the Orthodox, they process it, they give it their own color and mark and they present it as a prototype. And the strange contemporary world becomes touched by such strange things and is spiritually destroyed. The Lord, though at the appropriate time, will present the Mark Evgenikoses and the Gregory Palamases, who will assemble all our deeply scandalized brothers, to confess the Orthodox faith and strengthen the traditions of the Church and give great joy to our Mother, the Church. (With Anguish and Love for the Contemporary Man)
[T]his variety in its observance has not originated in our time; but long before in that of our ancestors. It is likely that they did not hold to strict accuracy, and thus formed a custom for their posterity according to their own simplicity and peculiar mode. Yet all of these lived nonetheless in peace, and we also live in peace with one another; and the disagreement in regard to the fast confirms the agreement in the faith. (Eusebius, Ecclesiastical History Bk. 5.24.13)
The whole question of ecumenism and apostasy cannot be placed simply on the canonical-dogmatic-formal level; it must be viewed first spiritually. Fr. Dimitry also speaks forcefully against letting a purely formal approach to the canons bind us spiritually and actually strangle church life, thus allowing Protestants to take over with their fresher approach. (Letters, July 29/Aug. 11, 1976)
Neither Ritualism nor Liberalism helps anything without the true Christian spirit. The modern Ritualism and Liberalism are absolutely equally worthless from the Christian point of view, being so hostile to each other as they are filled with the unclean spirit of hatred, unforgiveness, despising and even persecuting each other. They are equally unchristian and even antichristian. Measured by the mildest measure they are the new edition of the Judaistic Pharisaism and Sadduceeism. The Ritualists cling to their ritual, the Liberals cling to their protest against the Ritualists. But the true spirit by which both of them move and act and write and speak is the unclean spirit of hatred and despite each other, the very spirit which excludes them both from communion with Christ and the Saints. The Church has been equally de-christianized by Ritualists and Liberals, by Conservatives and Modernists, by bowers and talkers. The Church must now be rechristianized amongst all of them and through all of them. Let the Church be the Church, i.e. the community of saints. Let the world know that the Church’s mission on earth is not accumulate wealth, or to gain political power or knowledge, or to cling to this institution or to that, but to cleanse mankind from its unclean, evil spirits, and to fill it with the spirit of saintliness. Let the Church first change her spirit and then urge the whole of mankind to change theirs. (The Works of Rev. Nicholai Velimirovic)
We have always held Augustine a man of holy memory because of his life and also of his services in our communion, nor has even report ever sullied him with unfavorable suspicion. We recall him as having once been a man of such great knowledge that even by my predecessors in the past he was always accounted among the best teachers. (Ep. 21 “Apostolici Verba Praecepti” to the Bishops of the Gaul, 431)
Pope Celestine I excommunicated Nestorius, procured the condemnation of the Pelagians at the Council of Ephesus and sent St. Patrick to Ireland.
The Church, in its christological aspect, appears as an organism having two natures and two wills. In the history of Christian dogma all the christological heresies come to life anew and reappear with reference to the Church. Thus, there arises a Nestorian ecclesiology, the error of those who would divide the Church into distinct beings: on the one hand the heavenly and invisible Church, alone true and absolute; on the other, the earthly Church (or rather ‘the churches’) imperfect and relative, wandering into the shadows, human societies seeking to draw near, so far as possible for them, to that transcendent perfection. A Monophysite ecclesiology, on the contrary, manifests itself in a desire to see the Church as essentially a divine being whose every detail is sacred, wherein everything is imposed with a character of divine necessity, wherein nothing can changed or modified, because human freedom, synergy, the co-operation of man with God, have no place within this hieratic organism from which the human side is excluded; this is a magic of salvation operative through sacraments and rites faithfully carried out. These two ecclesiological heresies of opposite tendency appeared, almost at the same time, during the course of the seventeenth century. The first (the Eastern Protestantism of Cyril Loukaris) arose within the jurisdiction of the patriarchate of Constantinople; the second developed in Russia, in the form of the schism (raskol) known as that of the ‘Old Believers’. The two ecclesiological errors were crushed by the great councils of Jerusalem and of Moscow. Monotheletism in ecclesiology is expressed above all in a negation of the economy of the Church in regard to the external world, for the salvation of which the Church is founded. The contrary error (which could not have a precedent in the Christological heresies, unless it be in a semi-Nestorianism) consists in an attitude of compromise which is ready to sacrifice the truth to the exigencies of ecclesiastical economy in relation to the world. This is the ecclesiological relativism, a danger proper to the ‘ecumenical’ movement and to other similar trends. The Apollinarian heresy, which denied the human understanding in the manhood of Christ, shows itself in the realm of ecclesiology in the refusal to acknowledge the full human consciousness – as, for example, in the doctrinal ministry of the Church, when the truth is regarded as being revealed in councils like a deus ex machina, independently of those present. Thus, all that can be asserted or denied about Christ can equally well be applied to the Church, inasmuch as it is a theandric organism, or, more exactly, a created nature inseparably united united to God in the hypostasis of the Son, a being which has – as He has – two natures, two wills and two operations which are at once inseparable and yet distinct. (Mystical Theology of the Eastern Church. Two Aspects of the Church, pp. 186-187)
St. Daniel the Stylite ca. 409-493
Through the devil’s working a tumult once arose in the most holy churches, for tares had sprung up from vain disputations and questionings, so that some of the monks, who were renowned for good living, through their simple-mindedness and through their failure to consider the matter with precision, left the most Holy Church and separated themselves from the holy fellowship and liturgy. These mischief-makers came to the holy man and tried to confound him with similar arguments, but he who kept the foundation of the holy faith unmovable and unshakable answered them saying:
“If the question which you raise is concerning God, your inquiry is no simple or ordinary matter, for the Divinity is incomprehensible; and it will be sufficient for you to study the Traditions of the Holy Apostles about Him and the teaching of the divine Fathers who followed in their steps and not trouble yourselves any further. But if the matter in dispute is about human affairs, as, for instance, if one priest has removed another, or has accepted one to whom the others object, all such things must be submitted to the judgment of God and to the rulers themselves to judge according to the divine canons; for we are the sheep and they are the shepherds, and they will give account to God for the flocks entrusted to them; let us abstain from vain and dangerous questionings and let us each consider that which concerns ourselves knowing that it is not without danger that we separate ourselves from our holy mother, the Church. For her bridegroom is the true Shepherd Who is able to recall to His fold the sheep that have strayed and to lead those who have not strayed to better pasture. Therefore it suffices us to believe unquestioningly in the Father, Son and Holy Ghost, and to receive the incarnate dispensation of our Lord Jesus Christ and his birth from the Virgin in the same way as He Himself was pleased to do in His own loving kindness, for it is written: ‘Seek not out the things that are too high for thee, neither search the things that are too deep for thee’ (Ecclesiasticus 3:21).” With this and similar counsel and warning he led their hearts away from soul-destroying questionings and kept them unshaken in the faith. (Life of St. Daniel the Stylite, 91)
The end of our “Greek adventure” (*) seems near! We only grieve for the scandal and divisions which the vainglory of our Greeks (*) is causing. Our poor American mission! How the OCA and the Greek Archdiocese will laugh! (Letter Oct. 2/15, 1975)
(*) The Holy Transfiguration Monastery under Fr. Panteleimon
[I]t is obviously only a matter of time before they [the super-correct] weary of the “incorrectness” and “inconsistency” of our bishops in not breaking off communion formally with all the Orthodox Churches. Doubtless they are already furious with us for revealing to the world in our new OW [Orthodox Word] that we have not broken with them. (Letter: Third Day of Trinity, 1976)
We, of course, are already guilty of many “sins” with which Fr. R castigates our Church — worst of all (I suppose), the giving of Communion to New Calendarists. I can see how each priest should be free to do as he thinks best on this question, but for us, I see that we must open ourselves to all the Orthodox who aren’t being helped by their own bishops and priests. Recently, we were visited by another Antiochian priest (from Los Angeles), and just the fact of our friendship is a source of strength which helps them to struggle more themselves. What the end will be, jurisdictionally speaking, I don’t know. But we must have the image of the Russian Church Abroad adjusted away from the “fanatic party line,” which up to now has tried to take over — and whose failure now is becoming evident. (Nov. 22/Dec. 5, 1981, Letters From Father Seraphim pg. 227)
[W]e joined the struggle under the restitution of the Patristic Calendar to the Church, setting as our primary goal, not the creation of a permanent ecclesiastical division, but the pacification of the Church and the union of all [Orthodox] Christians in the celebration of the Feasts. When we raised this flag of Orthodox unity, we proclaimed right from the beginning not only that we would uphold the right-believing authority of the Ecumenical Patriarchate and the Church of Greece, which the innovators have unworthily upset, but also that we would curb the excesses towards which the calendar struggle was deviating, bereft, as it was, of pastoral supervision, by way of the Hagiorite Priests who headed it, because of a lack of theological and canonical education, uncanonically re-chrismating the children of New Calendarists, to the detriment of the struggle and to the diminution of its Orthodox authority. (A Letter by Bishop Chrysostomos, Former Metropolitan of Florina, to His Grace, Bishop Germanos (Varykopoulos) of the Cyclades, in Response to the Latter’s Open Letter of October 20, 1937)
We Old Calendarists, however, do not constitute a particular, independent Orthodox Church in Greece, because no Church has recognized us as such; rather we exist within the recognized Autocephalous Greek Church as a sentinel that guards the institution of the Orthodox Festal Calendar, which was violated– as it should not have been– by the majority of the hierarchy; and we, who are continuing her history in the spirit of Orthodoxy. This erroneous and uncanonical idea, that we constitute a special Church, was thrown into the ring and introduced into political life by the late Archbishop Chrysostomos (Papadopoulos) of Athens, deliberately and maliciously, in order to portray us, in the eyes of the government and Greek society, as rebels who have lifted up our heels against the Autocephalous Church of Greece, and in this way to expose us to the ire of the government and the general disdain of society. (A Pastoral Encyclical)
The error…rests on the misapprehension that the Old Calendarists adhered to the ancestral traditions because the New Calendar Church was deprived of Divine Grace from the outset, as the conventicler bishops say. This perhaps can happen to those who follow a conventicle. But the Old Calendarists who knowledgeably belong to our Orthodox segment are well aware that following the Old Calendar is not a corollary of the validity or invalidity of the Mysteries of the New Calendarists, a question on which a valid synod alone has the right to pronounce. It is, rather, an inevitable necessity if one is to avoid sharing in the New Calendarists’ responsibility for the innovation, and a shining example of the boundless reverence and the sacred and godly zeal by which the followers of our Orthodox segment are animated with regard to the venerable traditions of the Church.
The demagogy and the opportunism of the contrary opinion lie, on the one hand, in the hope of attracting other converts to the Old Calendar, brandishing the invalidity of the Mysteries of the New Calendarists as a bugbear, and, on the other hand, in keeping these followers, and especially the gullible and lukewarm, in our sacred struggle. But the use of such demagogic and illegitimate means in order to hunt after followers for our Orthodox faction, while it may be permitted in the Latin Church, which has as an ethical maxim the Jesuit dictum, “The end sanctifies the means,” is not permitted by the Eastern Orthodox Church, which always teaches aright the word of truth. (A Clarification by Metropolitan Chrysostomos of His Pastoral Encyclical; Athens, January 18, 1945)
This whole quarrel among the Greek Old Calendarists is very unfortunate. Besides involving personalities, which only clouds things, the real issues involved are very subtle and delicate ones that require much tact and patience and love, not theological and canonical tirades. (Letter March 2/15, 1974)
The two sides quote canons back and forth, when what is needed is love and understanding – and that statement, I realize, could have come straight from the lips of some ecumenist, which only shows how difficult the true path of Orthodoxy has become in our days. (Letter April 24/May 7, 1974)
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)
[W]e in the West have something to learn from Fr. Dimitry’s attitude towards the non-Orthodox. Among Western converts to Orthodoxy (to speak of something close to home) there is indeed a temptation to speak too freely of “heresy” and “heretics,” and to make the errors of the non-Orthodox an excuse for a certain pharisaic smugness about our own “Orthodoxy.” Even when it is worded in a theologically correct manner, this attitude is spiritually wrong and helps to drive away from the Orthodox Church many who would otherwise be attracted to it. Fr. Dimitry’s attitude in this case, even if he sometimes expresses it in an imprecise way, is a sound one, both for the avoidance of phariseeism and a certain “sectarian” attitude on the part of his own Orthodox flock, and for the conversion of the non-Orthodox. Fr. Dimitry emphasizes that Orthodox Christians should go deeper into their own faith without judging the non-Orthodox; he rightly says: “Anyone who grows conceited about his faith is faithless” (Our Hope, p. 19), and again: “One can be Orthodox formally and yet perish faster than someone who belongs to another faith. Orthodoxy is joy at having found the truth, and the real Orthodox always looks at others with love. But if belonging to the Orthodox Church is accompanied by irritation at those who think otherwise, then one ought to doubt one’s belonging to Orthodoxy” (p. 44). By such statements Fr. Dimitry does not at all “betray” the Orthodox faith, as some think; he only encourages his flock to be first of all humble and loving in their confession of Orthodoxy, and to avoid pride and irritable “correctness,” for these are sectarian and not Orthodox qualities (which is why we should doubt our Orthodoxy if we have them) and will indeed cause us to be judged more severely than those of another faith. (In Defense of Fr. Dimitry Dudko)
The word “heretic” is indeed used too frequently nowadays. It has a definite meaning and function, to distinguish new teachings from the Orthodox teaching; but few of the non-Orthodox Christians today are consciously “heretics,” and it really does no good to call them that. (Father Seraphim Rose: His Life and Works)
I mean these remarks for those who give themselves up indiscriminately to the men who are dividing the Church. For if on the one hand those men have doctrines also contrary to ours, then on that account further it is not right to mix with them: if, on the other hand, they hold the same opinions, the reason for not mixing with them is greater still. And why so? Because then the disease is from lust of authority. Do you not know what was the fate of Korah, Dathan, and Abiram? (Numbers 16:1-35) Of them only did I say? Was it not also of them that were with them? What will you say? Shall it be said,
Their faith is the same, they are orthodox as well as we? If so, why then are they not with us? There is
one Lord, one faith, one baptism. If their cause is right, then is ours wrong; if ours is right, then is theirs wrong.
Children, says he,
tossed to and fro, and carried about with
every wind. Tell me, do you think this is enough, to say that they are orthodox? Is then the ordination of clergy past and done away? And what is the advantage of other things, if this be not strictly observed? For as we must needs contend for the faith; so must we for this also. For if it is lawful for any one, according to the phrase of them of old,
to fill his hands and to become a priest, let all approach to minister. In vain has this altar been raised, in vain the fullness of the Church, in vain the number of the priests. Let us take them away and destroy them.
God forbid! you will say. You are doing these things, and do ye say,
God forbid? How say ye,
God forbid, when the very things are taking place? I speak and testify, not looking to my own interest, but to your salvation. But if anyone be indifferent, he must see to it himself: if these things are a care to no one else, yet are they a care to me.
I planted, says he,
Apollos watered, but God gave the increase. 1 Cor. 3:6 How shall we bear the ridicule of the Greeks? For if they reproach us on account of our heresies, what will they not say of these things?
If they have the same doctrines, if the same mysteries, wherefore does a ruler in one Church invade another? See ye, say they,
how all things among the Christians are full of vainglory? And there is an ambition among them, and hypocrisy. Strip them, say they,
of their numbers, and they are nothing. Cut out the disease, the corrupt multitude. Would you have me tell what they say of our city, how they accuse us on the score of our easy compliances? Any one, say they, that chooses may find followers, and would never be at a loss for them. Oh, what a sneer is that, what a disgrace are these things! …For this cause do we also say these things, these things do we assert, that it may not be in your power in that day to say,
No one told us, no one gave us commandment, we were ignorant, we thought it was no sin at all. Therefore I assert and protest, that to make a schism in the Church is no less an evil than to fall into heresy. (Homily 11 on Ephesians)
We cannot follow…a kind of “reformed” Orthodoxy that happens to be mostly “correct” but is actually outside the tradition of Orthodoxy, a creation of human logic. It’s a terrible temptation for our times, and most of the converts will probably be drawn into it. We fear that all our articles about zealotry in the past years have helped to produce a monster. For the future we will have to emphasize the “feel” of Orthodoxy, without which zealotry is empty and even harmful.
The “right wing” of Orthodoxy will probably be divided into many small jurisdictions in the future, most of them anathematizing and fighting with the others. (Letters From Father Seraphim pg. 167)
While the householder slept the enemy sowed tares among the wheat, and when the servants proposed to go and root them up the master forbade them, reserving for himself the separation of the chaff and the grain. There are vessels of wrath and of mercy which the Apostle speaks of in the house of God. The day then will come when the storehouses of the Church shall be opened and the Lord will bring forth the vessels of wrath; and, as they depart, the saints will say, 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 (1Jn. 2:19). No one can take to himself the prerogative of Christ, no one before the Day of Judgment can pass judgment upon men. If the Church is already cleansed, what shall we reserve for the Lord? There is a way which seems right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death (Prov. 14:12). When our judgment is so prone to error, upon whose opinion can we rely? (Dialogue with a Luciferian 22)
Truth be told, there are some theologians in the Orthodox Church who are following in the footsteps of heretical theologians, thinking that the Gospel in itself is not strong enough to defend and support itself in the storms of the world. They find heretical thoughts and methods alluring. With their whole soul they have joined the heretics but they outwardly hold on to the Orthodox Church just nominally—for the sake of support. …The Orthodox Church as a whole renounces such theologians and does not recognize them as Her own but suffers them for two reasons. One, She is awaiting their repentance and change. Two, She does not want to make an even greater evil out of this which is to say, push them downhill into the army of heretics while destroying their souls. Those theologians are not bearers of Orthodox conscience or consciousness but are sick organs of the body of the Church. The bearers of the Orthodox conscience or consciousness are the people, monastics and clergy. (Missionary Letters of Saint Nikolai Velimirovich [Grayslake, iL: Diocese of New Gracanica and Midwestern America, 2011], p. 164.)
Lest any one should say, that without thought I call them brethren, I would reply that such they are, for we cannot escape from the words of the prophet Isaiah; and, although they would not deny (as all men know well) that they hold us in abhorrence, and ban us utterly and are unwilling to be called our brethren, still we may not depart from the fear of God, for the Holy Spirit exhorts us by Isaiah the prophet, saying:
‘You who fear the Word of the Lord, hear ye the Word of the Lord. ‘To those who detest and curse you, and are unwilling to be called your brethren, say ye nevertheless: “You are our brethren.” ‘ (Isa. 66:5 LXX)
They therefore are without doubt brothers, though not good brothers. Wherefore let no one marvel that I term those brothers, who are unable to escape being our brethren. They and we have one spiritual birth, though widely differing is our conduct. For even Ham, who mocked undutifully at his father’s shame, was the brother of the innocent. In accordance with his deserts, he incurred the yoke of slavery, so that he — their brother — was assigned in bondage to his brethren. From this we see that, even where there is sin, the name of brotherhood is not lost. Concerning the sins of these our brethren, I will speak in another place. For they, sitting over against us, speak evil things about us. They consort with that Thief who robs God, and share their lot with adulterers (that is, with heretics), and make their sins an object of praise, and plan reproachful words against us Catholics. (Against the Donatists Book the First III)
Our Church remains loyal to the use of the Old Calendar and considers the introduction of the new calendar to be an error. Nonetheless, its tactic was always to preserve spiritual unity with Orthodox Churches, even those who have adopted the New Calendar, but only to the degree to which they celebrate Pascha in compliance with the decision of the First Ecumenical Council. Our Church has never labeled the Ecumenical Patriarchate or the Greek Archdiocese of North and South America as schismatic, and never abrogated spiritual union with them. (Letter dated 27 September 1961 from the Synod of Bishops to the True Orthodox Church of Greece)
Our Church keeps the Old Calendar and considers the introduction of the new calendar to be a mistake. Nevertheless, according to the policies of Patriarch Tikhon of blessed memory, we never broke spiritual communion with the canonical Churches in which the new calendar had been introduced. (Vladimir Moss, The Orthodox Church at the Crossroads , Ch. IV “The Lifting of the Anathemas [1955-1970]”, The Orthodox Foundation of St. Michael, Guildford [U.K.], 1992; p.119)
Synod of Russian Bishops Abroad 1974
Concerning the question of the presence or absence of grace among the new calendarists the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad does not consider herself or any other Local Church to have the right to make a conclusive decision, since a categorical evaluation in this question can be undertaken only by a properly convened, competent Ecumenical Council, with the obligatory participation of the free Church of Russia. (Thirty Years of Trial: The True Orthodox Christians of Greece, 1970-200 pg. 9 by Vladimir Moss)
On October 11, 1934 Geroge Paraschos and Basil Stamatoulis, the President and Secretary General respectively of the Community of Genuine Orthodox Christians, appealed to ROCOR President Metropolitan Anthony Khrapovitsky to consecrate bishops for them and accept them under his omophorion. But nothing came of their appeal. However, it may be doubted whether Metropolitan Anthony was really so favourable – as we have seen, in 1926 he was against breaking all ties with the new calendarists until they had been condemned at an Ecumenical Council. (Vladimir Moss, New Zion in Babylon III, p. 108)
Metropolitan Anthony Khrapovitsky 1863-1936
You know the 13th, 14th and 15th canons of the First-and-Second Council, which speaks about separating oneself from a Bishop or Patriarch after his conciliar condemnation. And there is the canon (the 15th), which says that the clergyman is worthy, not of condemnation, but of praise, who breaks links with him [the heretic] for the sake of the heresy condemned by the holy council or the fathers…, and besides ‘when he (that is, the first hierarch) preaches heresy publicly and teaches it openly in the Church’. But this, glory to God, neither P[atriarch] Basil [III of Constantinople] nor [Archbishop] Chrysostom [of Athens] have done yet. On the contrary, they insist on keeping the former Paschalion, for only it, and not the Julian Calendar itself was covered by the curse of the councils. True, P[atriarch] Jeremiah in the 15th [correct: 16th] century and his successor in the 18th anathematized the calendar itself, but this curse: 1) touches only his contemporaries and 2)does not extend to those frightened to break communion with him, to which are subjected only those who transgress the canonical Paschalion. Moreover (this needs to be noted in any case), the main idea behind the day of Pascha is that it should be celebrated by all Christians (that is, the Orthodox) on one and the same day throughout the inhabited world. True, I myself and my brothers do not all sympathize with the new calendar and modernism, but we beseech the Athonite fathers not to be hasty in composing letters (Romans 14). Do not grieve about our readiness to go to the [Constantinople] Council. Of course, there will be no council, but if there is, and if we go, as St. Flavian went to the Robber Council, then, of course, we will keep the faith and deliver the apostates to anathema. But as long as the last word has not been spoken, as long as the whole Church has not repeated the curses of Patriarch Jeremiah at an Ecumenical Council, we must retain communion, so that we ourselves should not be deprived of salvation, and, in aiming at a gnat, swallow a camel… (The Russian Church and the New Calendar by Vladimir Moss)
On 17 February 1925, Metropolitan Anthony sent a “sorrowful message” to the Constantinos, [Constantine IV] Patriarch of Constantinople, calling upon him to renounce the decisions of the Pan-Orthodox Conference of 1923 on issues associated with the calendar and second marriages for clerics, and to stop infringing on the former territories of the Russian empire that were being ministered to by the Russian Church. In sending this message, however, Metropolitan Anthony did not abrogate church relations with the Patriarchate of Constantinople. In a letter to Hieroschemamonk Feodosii on Mount Athos, he wrote, “for now while they [the modernizers] have not had the last word, and while the Church as a whole at an Ecumenical Council has not repeated the imprecation of Patriarch Jeremaiah [who in 1583 anathematized those among the Orthodox who adopted the Gregorian calendar], we must continue to maintain relationships lest we deprive ourselves of our own salvation, and swallow the camel while straining out the gnat.” (The Development of Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia’s Attitude Toward Other Local Orthodox Churches and Non-Orthodox Christians by Reader Andrei Psarev)
“Keep always in your mind’s eye… Metropolitan Anthony, who was like the ancient hierarchs, and in difficult times ask yourself how he would have acted in each case” said St John of Shanghai. It was precisely at the time that the Primate of ROCOR was Metropolitan Anthony that the Ecumenical Patriarch and the other Churches adopted the new calendar. The Patriarch Basil III mentioned below was not only a modernist but an ecumenist:
In the beginning of his letter to the Athos Hieroschemamonk Theodosius, Metropolitan Anthony posed the main question: “We must always think of this: what will my proposed step do for the Holy Church and for our souls?” Further he writes: “In the resolution of a question on continuing or breaking communion, one must, in accordance with Divine will, revealed through Tradition, the Canons and the lives of the Saints, employ condescension,” and in fact, ” “in certain circumstances, the breaking of communion with the guilty is mandatory only for bishops.” From the point of view of Holy Canons, the Hierarch, in his letter to Hieromonk Ilarion, clarifies: “Continue to commemorate Patriarch Basil as before… To separate from ones Patriarch is permitted by the 15 Canon of the Double Council only when he is condemned by the Council for clear heresy, and until then one can only refrain from fulfilling his unlawful demands. St Tarasius, Patriarch of Constantinople, teaches us by example how we are to treasure ecclesiastical peace. Let Fr. Theophan calmly continue to serve as a priest and pray for the good order of the holy Divine Churches.” In another letter to Hieroschemamonk Theodosius, Vladyka Anthony explains: ” “I grieve that you were persuading the brethren not to pray for Patriarch Basil… For the monks of Athos will be divided, not like the seamless garment of Christ. Pray that the Lord enlighten the old madman [the Patriarch]…” It is interesting to note that the Metropolitan thought first of the unity of the Athos monastics, which was more important than some sort of “true Orthodoxy,” for the great Hierarch knew in his inherent foresight what can happen: ” By this [that is, by breaking communion with the Patriarch] you approach the bezpopovtsi [priestless Old Believers] and at the very least, the schismatics.” In another letter he repeats: “In hastening towards division, [the zealots] can find themselves in the same abyss that the bezpopovtsi threw themselves.” One must note that the Metropolitan did not say that they must simply commemorate the Patriarch, but must pray for him, that the Lord “enlighten” him. In this way, healing untruth in the Church, the Metropolitan thought, was achieved not by schism, but by prayer. In conclusion, the Metropolitan writes to the zealots beyond reason: “Your zeal is worthy of praise, but hardly worthy of praise is rebellion and your judgment upon bishops!” (True Orthodoxy or Arrogation by Bernard Le Caro Member of the IV All-Diaspora Council Geneva, May 2/15, 2007)
It is interesting that in this question, Metropolitan Anastassy acted in the same way as Metropolitan Anthony, to whom the Greek Old Calendarists appealed, and were refused, in 1934. How carefully Metropolitan Anthony approached the observance of church unity is particularly clear in his letters to the Mt. Athos monk Fr. Theodosius. The latter, considering breaking with his archbishop for accepting New Calendar Greeks and writing to Metropolitan Anthony about this, received the following response: ‘Of course, I do not agree with your conclusion at all. The question remains that while recognizing holy tradition and witnessing their violation, in this case by the Greeks, one must still pose the following question: does such violation justify ecclesiastical separation or only reproof? You, Father, are one step away from falling into prelest’ [spiritual delusion]. May the Mother of God preserve you from the next step. I write to you as a benevolent friend: do not destroy your 40-year podvig [spiritual struggle] by a judgment of the Church on the basis of your relative formalism—relative and also arbitrary. The new calendar is no less distasteful to me than it is to you, but even worse is a break from Orthodoxy and its hierarchy by self-loving monks’. (Synodal Archives, Letters of Metropolitan Anthony, Letter No 17, April 18, 1930 excerpted from Nun Vassa [Larin] The Ecclesiastical Principle of Oikonomia and the ROCOR Under Metropolitan Anastassy)
This brings us to a fundamental question of definition: what is ecumenism? Some would-be zealots of Orthodoxy use the term in entirely too imprecise a fashion, as though the very use of the term or contact with an “ecumenical” organization is in itself a “heresy.” Such views are clearly exaggerations. “Ecumenism” is a heresy only if it actually involves the denial that Orthodoxy is the true Church of Christ. A few of the Orthodox leaders of the ecumenical movement have gone this far; but most Orthodox participants in the ecumenical movement have not said this much; and a few (such as the late Fr. Georges Florovsky) have only irritated the Protestants in the ecumenical movement by frequently stating at ecumenical gatherings that Orthodoxy is the Church of Christ. One must certainly criticize the participation of even these latter persons in the ecumenical movement, which at its best is misleading and vague about the nature of Christ’s Church; but one cannot call such people “heretics,” nor can one affirm that any but a few Orthodox representatives have actually taught ecumenism as a heresy. The battle for true Orthodoxy in our times is not aided by such exaggerations. (In Defense of Fr. Dimitry Dudko)
[H]oly Augustine, that wonderful man, was bishop, who was so great a theologian of the Church, in which he also died as an old man at the age of seventy, engrossed in prayer, and ill, and deeply grieved on account of the inroad which the Arian Vandals had made into Africa. Notwithstanding that this Hippo itself was burned down by them the library in it was preserved unharmed, by divine, and not by any human, power. Hence the writings of the saint, which were far more noteworthy and robust than any cedar tree, were preserved unburned, despite the fact that thereafter they were garbled by heretics. That is why Orthodox Easterners do not accept them in toto and as a matter of course, but only whatever agrees with the common consensus of the catholic Church. (Footnotes to Carthage Regional Council:52, The Rudder edited by R.J. Masterjohn pg 1338)
St. Augustine is mentioned 52 times in the Masterjohn edition of St. Nicodemus’ The Rudder (Pedalion), which is the first printed collection of Orthodox canon law. He is simply called “Augustine” 13 times: pgs. 243, 270, 400, 439, 464, 466, 529, 928, 1262, 1280, 1312, 1354, 1824. He is called “Holy Augustine” four times: pgs. 217, 271, 408, 1338. He is mentioned as “St. Augustine” 28 times: pgs. 253, 360, 401, 405 twice, 407, 409, 412 twice, 421, 791, 802 twice, 874, 883, 924, 1130, 1148, 1154, 1334, 1338, 1344, 1397, 1440, 1544, 1551, 1576, 1914. He is also called “sacred Augustine” three times: pgs. 420, 1154, 1347. Lastly, he is called “divine Augustine” four times: pgs. 568, 834, 287, 1319.
G. Demacopoulos and A. Papanikolau: In 1799, Nicodemus [the Hagiorite] edited and published Demetrios Kydones’ translation of Augustine’s Soliloquiorum, which had been circulating under the title Monologia. Perhaps more significantly, he included Augustine’s name among the saints to be commemorated on June 15, when he completed his monumental revision of the Synaxarion (a calendar of saint’s feastdays) between 1805 and 1807 (published for the first time in Venice, 1819). Following Nicodemus’ lead, the Russian Church added Augustine to their own Synaxarion later that century. These Synaxaria remain in use today. Although Nicodemus did not offer a vita or publish hymns for liturgical veneration, the latter was produced by Fr. Ambrose Pogodin of the Russian Orthodox Church in 1955. (Orthodox Readings of Augustine pg. 18)
Sometimes one’s zeal for “Orthodoxy” can be so excessive that it produces a situation similar to that which caused an old Russian woman to remark of an enthusiastic American convert “Well, he’s certainly Orthodox all right — but is he a Christian?”
To be “Orthodox but not Christian” is a state that has a particular name in Christian language: it means to be a pharisee, to be so bogged down in the letter of the Church’s laws that one loses the spirit that gives them life, the spirit of true Christianity. In saying this my aim is not to be critical or to point to anyone in particular — we all suffer from this — but only to point out a pitfall which can cause one to fail to take advantage of the riches which the Orthodox Church provides for our salvation, even in these evil times. (Orthodoxy in America )
Question: If someone asks me to anathematize Nestorius and the heretics with him, should I do this or not?
Response by John: That Nestorius and those heretics who follow him are under anathema, this is clear. But you should not hurry to anathematize anyone at all. For one who regards himself as sinful should mourn over one’s sins, and do nothing else. Neither, however, should you judge those who anathematize someone; for each person tests oneself.
Question: But if one thinks, as a result of this, that I believe the same as Nestorius, what should I tell him?
Response by John: Tell him: “Although it is clear that those people are worthy of their anathema, nevertheless I am more sinful than every other person and feel that, in judging another, I may condemn myself. Indeed, even if I anathematize Satan himself, if I am doing his works, then I am anathematizing myself.
“For, the Lord said: ‘If you love me, you will keep my commandments’ (Jn 14:15). And the Apostle says: ‘Whosoever does not love the Lord, let that person be under anathema’ (I Cor 16:22). Therefore, one who does not keep His commandments does not love Him; and one who does not love Him, is under anathema. So, then, how can such a person anathematize others?” Say these things to him; and if he persists in this, then for the sake of his conscience, just anathematize the heretic!
Even when it is not fanatical, this spirit of “correctness” for its own sake turns out to be fruitless. As an example, I can tell you of a very good friend of ours, one of the zealot fathers of Mt. Athos. He is a “moderate” zealot, in that he recognizes the grace of New Calendar sacraments, accepts the blessings of priests of our Church, and the like; but he is absolutely strict when it comes to applying the basic Zealot principle, not to have communion not only with bishops whose teaching departs from Orthodox truth, such as the Patriarch of Constantinople, and not only with anyone who has communion with him, but with anyone who has communion with anyone who in any remote way has communion with him. Such “purity” is so difficult to attain in our days (our whole Russian Church Abroad, for example, is “tainted” in his eyes by some measure of communion with the other Orthodox Churches) that he is in communion with only his own priest and ten other monks in his group on the Holy Mountain; all of the rest of the Orthodox Church is not “pure.”
…When under Metropolitan Anastassy they began to speak about ‘the incorrect actions of the Church’, he used to stop them, pointing out that one must not ascribe the actions of the hierarchy to the Church, since the hierarchy is not the whole Church, even if it speaks in her name. On the see of Constantinople there were Paul the Confessor, Macedonius, Gregory the Theologian, John Chrysostom, Nestorius, Proclus, Flavian and Germanus. Some of them shone in sanctity and Orthodoxy, but others were the leaders of heresies. But the Church remained Orthodox. During iconoclasm after the expulsion of Severnin, Nicephorus and other, not only their sees, but also the majority of Episcopal sees were occupied by Iconoclasts. The other Churches did not even have communion with it [the see of Constantinople], according to the witness of St. Paul, who abandoned the heresy and his see, since they did not wish to have communion via the iconoclasts. Nevertheless, the Church of Constantinople remained Orthodox, although part of the people, and especially the guards and the bureaucrats, were drawn into iconoclasm. So now it is understandable when people who are not familiar with the language of the Church use the expression ‘Soviet church’, but it is not fitting for responsible and theological discussions. When the whole hierarchy of South-Western Rus’ passed into uniatism, the Church continued to exist in the person of the believing Orthodox people, which after many sufferings restored its hierarchy. (New Zion in Babylon IV pg. 144 by Vladimir Moss)
The teaching of th[e] “royal path” is set forth, for example, in the tenth of St. Abba Dorotheus’ Spiritual lnstructions, where he quotes especially the Book of Deuteronomy: Ye shall not turn aside to the right hand or to the left, but go by the royal path (Deut. 5:32, 17:11), and St. Basil the Great: “Upright of heart is he whose thought does not turn away either to excess or to lack, but is directed only to the mean of virtue.” But perhaps this teaching is most clearly expressed by the great Orthodox Father of the 5th century, St. John Cassian, who was faced with a task not unlike our own Orthodox task today: to present the pure teaching of the Eastern Fathers to Western peoples who were spiritually immature and did not yet understand the depth and subtlety of the Eastern spiritual doctrine and were therefore inclined to go to extremes, either of laxness or over-strictness, in applying it to life. St. Cassian sets forth the Orthodox doctrine of the royal path in his Conference on “sober-mindedness” (or “discretion”)—the Conference praised by St. John of the Ladder (Step 4:105) for its “beautiful and sublime philosophy”:
“With all our strength and with all our effort we must strive by humility to acquire for ourselves the good gift of sober-mindedness, which can preserve us unharmed by excess from both sides. For, as the Fathers say, the extremes from both sides are equally harmful—both excess of fasting and filling the belly, excess of vigil and excessive sleep, and other excesses.” Sobermindedness “teaches a man to go on the royal path, avoiding the extremes on both sides: on the right side it does not allow him to be deceived by excessive abstinence, on the left side to be drawn into carelessness and relaxation.” And the temptation on the “right side” is even more dangerous than that on the “left”: “Excessive abstinence is more harmful than satiating oneself; because, with the cooperation of repentance, one may go over from the latter to a correct understanding, but from the former one cannot” (i.e., because pride over one’s “virtue” stands in the way of the repentant humility that could save one). (Conferences, II, chs. 16, 2, 17.)
Applying this teaching to our own situation, we may say that the “royal path” of true Orthodoxy today is a mean that lies between the extremes of ecumenism and reformism on the one side, and a “zeal not according to knowledge” (Rom. 10:2) on the other. True Orthodoxy does not go “in step with the times” on the one hand, nor does it make “strictness” or “correctness” or “canonicity” (good in themselves) an excuse for pharisaic self-satisfaction, exclusivism, and distrust, on the other. This true Orthodox moderation is not to be confused with mere luke-warmness or indifference, or with any kind of compromise between political extremes. The spirit of “reform” is so much in the air today that anyone whose views are molded by the “spirit of the times” will regard true Orthodox moderation as close to “fanaticism,” but anyone who looks at the question more deeply and applies the patristic standard will find the royal path to be far from any kind of extremism. (The Royal Path)
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)
Unlike…spurious faith, true Orthodoxy was given and must be received without novelty and nothing must be accepted as a teaching or practice of the Church which is contrary to the Holy Scriptures and the dogma of the Universal Church. True Orthodoxy thinks only to serve God and to save souls and is not preoccupied with the secular and ephemeral welfare of men. True Orthodoxy is spiritual and not physical or psychological or earthly. In order to protect ourselves from “the spirit of the age” and preserve our fidelity to the true Orthodoxy, we ought firstly and with all our strength live blamelessly: A total and rigorous commitment to Christ, without deviation from the commandments of God or the laws of His holy Church. At the same time, we must have no common prayer or spiritual liaison with the modern apostasy or with anything which “soils” our holy Faith, even those dissidents who call themselves “Orthodox.” They will go their way and we will go ours. We must be honorable and tenacious, following the right way, never deviating in order to please men or from fear that we might lose some personal advantage. (The Orthodox Christian Witness, wherein it appeared translated from the French in La Foi Transmise (Nov. 1968), pp. 19-22)
Blessed Elder Philotheos Zervakos 1884-1980
The Lord commanded us to love our enemies and to pray for those who trouble, hate and treat us unjustly. The Old Calendarists are divided and one portion hates, criticizes and curses the other as heretical. They scorn the words of the Lord, who says that we should have love for one another, that we should love our enemies. And after so much hate, criticisms, anathemas, they self-title themselves as genuine [true] Orthodox! But since the one portion considers the other as heretical, which portion is the genuine Orthodox one? Since they don’t have love, none of them is Orthodox, and since they do not keep the commandment of love nor shall they be saved, because whoever does not have love no matter how many virtues he has, even if he has prophetical gifts, apostolic gifts, and even martyrdom, without love does not save us. (Paternal Counsels 1 & 2. source: http://orthodoxinfo.com/praxis/paternalcounsels.aspx)
Once in pre-revolutionary Russia, a certain well known holy elder was asked to characterize a true Orthodox Christian. “A true Orthodox Christian,” answered the elder, “is one who is repenting.” (Assistance in Holy Confession by Priest Gregory Naumenko. Orthodox Life Vol. 63 No. 2, March-April 2012)
Let a bishop or presbyter who shall baptize again one who has rightly received baptism, or who shall not baptize one who has been polluted by the ungodly, be deposed, as despising the cross and death of the Lord, and not making a distinction between the true priests and the false. (Canon 47)
Clement of Alexandria ca. 150-215
Now he who has fallen into heresy passes through an arid wilderness, abandoning the only true God, destitute of God, seeking waterless water, reaching an uninhabited and thirsty land, collecting sterility with his hands. And those destitute of prudence, that is, those involved in heresies, I enjoin, remarks Wisdom, saying, Touch sweetly stolen bread and the sweet water of theft; (Prov. 9:17) the Scripture manifestly applying the terms bread and water to nothing else but to those heresies, which employ bread and water in the oblation, not according to the canon of the Church. For there are those who celebrate the Eucharist with mere water. But begone, stay not in her place: place is the synagogue, not the Church. He calls it by the equivocal name, place. Then He subjoins: For so shall you pass through the water of another; reckoning heretical baptism not proper and true water. And you shall pass over another’s river, that rushes along and sweeps down to the sea; into which he is cast who, having diverged from the stability which is according to truth, rushes back into the heathenish and tumultous waves of life. (Stromata 1.19)
St. Cyprian of Carthage died ca. 258
For if the Church is not with heretics, therefore, because it is one, and cannot be divided; and if thus the Holy Spirit is not there, because He is one, and cannot be among profane persons, and those who are without; certainly also baptism, which consists in the same unity, cannot be among heretics, because it can neither be separated from the Church nor from the Holy Spirit. (Epistle 73.4)
St. Firmilian of Caesarea died ca. 269
Moreover, all other heretics, if they have separated themselves from the Church of God, can have nothing of power or of grace, since all power and grace are established in the Church where the elders preside, who possess the power both of baptizing, and of imposition of hands, and of ordaining. For as a heretic may not lawfully ordain nor lay on hands, so neither may he baptize, nor do any thing holily or spiritually, since he is an alien from spiritual and deifying sanctity.
…not all who call on the name of Christ are heard, and that their invocation cannot obtain any grace, the Lord Himself manifests, saying,
Many shall come in my name, saying, I am Christ, and shall deceieve many Mk. 13:6 Because there is no difference between a false prophet and a heretic. For as the former deceives in the name of God or Christ, so the latter deceives in the sacrament of baptism. Both strive by falsehood to deceive men’s wills. (Epistles of Cyprian 74.7-9)
St. Dionysius of Alexandria died ca. 265
Previously, indeed, (Stephen) had written letters about Helanus and Firmilianus, and about all who were established throughout Cilicia and Cappadocia, and all the neighbouring provinces, giving them to understand that for that same reason he would depart from their communion, because they rebaptized heretics. And consider the seriousness of the matter. For, indeed, in the most considerable councils of the bishops, as I hear, it has been decreed that they who come from heresy should first be trained in Catholic doctrine, and then should be cleansed by baptism from the filth of the old and impure leaven. Asking and calling him to witness on all these matters, I sent letters. (Epistle 6 to Sixtus, Bishop)
For truly, brother, I have need of advice, and I crave your judgment, lest perchance I should be mistaken upon the matters which in such wise happen to me. One of the brethren who come together to the church, who for some time has been esteemed as a believer, and who before my ordination, and, if I am not deceived, before even the episcopate of Heraclas himself, had been a partaker of the assembly of the faithful, when he had been concerned in the baptism of those who were lately baptized, and had heard the interrogatories and their answers, came to me in tears, and bewailing his lot. And throwing himself at my feet, he began to confess and to protest that this baptism by which he had been initiated among heretics was not of this kind, nor had it anything whatever in common with this of ours, because that it was full of blasphemy and impiety. And he said that his soul was pierced with a very bitter sense of sorrow, and that he did not dare even to lift up his eyes to God, because he had been initiated by those wicked words and things. Wherefore he besought that, by this purest laver, he might be endowed with adoption and grace. And I, indeed, have not dared to do this; but I have said that the long course of communion had been sufficient for this. For I should not dare to renew afresh, after all, one who had heard the giving of thanks, and who had answered with others Amen; who had stood at the holy table, and had stretched forth his hands to receive the blessed food, and had received it, and for a very long time had been a partaker of the body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ. Henceforth I bade him be of good courage, and approach to the sacred elements with a firm faith and a good conscience, and become a partaker of them. But he makes no end of his wailing, and shrinks from approaching to the table; and scarcely, when entreated, can he bear to be present at the prayers. (Epistle 9 to Sixtus)
St. Athanasius the Great ca. 297-373
For not he who simply says, ‘O Lord,’ gives Baptism; but he who with the Name has also the right faith. On this account therefore our Saviour also did not simply command to baptize, but first says, ‘Teach;’ then thus: ‘Baptize into the Name of Father, and Son, and Holy Ghost;’ that the right faith might follow upon learning, and together with faith might come the consecration of Baptism.
There are many other heresies too, which use the words only, but not in a right sense, as I have said, nor with sound faith, and in consequence the water which they administer is unprofitable, as deficient in piety, so that he who is sprinkled by them is rather polluted by irreligion than redeemed. (Four Discourses Against the Arians Bk. 2.18.42-43)
St. Optatus of Milevis ca. 4th cent.
Now there is another question: For what purpose have you mentioned those who have not the Sacraments which you and we alike possess? Sound health does not clamor for medicine; strength which is secure in itself does not need outside help; truth has no lack of arguments; it is the mark of a sick man to seek remedies; it is the sign of a sluggard and a weakling to run in search of auxiliaries; it belongs to a liar to rake up arguments. To return to your book, you have said that the Endowments of the Church cannot be with heretics, and in this you have said rightly, for we know that the churches of each of the heretics have no lawful Sacraments, since they are adulteresses, without the rights of honest wedlock, and are rejected by Christ, who is the Bridegroom of One Church, as strangers. This He Himself makes clear in the Canticle of Canticles. When He praises One, He condemns the others because, besides the One which is the true Catholic Church, the others amongst the heretics are thought to be churches, but are not such. Thus He declares in the Canticle of Canticles (as we have already pointed out) that His Dove is One, and that she is also the chosen Spouse, and again a garden enclosed, and a fountain sealed up.
Therefore none of the heretics possess either the Keys, which Peter alone received, or the Ring, with which we read that the Fountain has been sealed; nor is any heretic one of those to whom that Garden belongs in which God plants His young trees. (Against the Donatists Bk. 1.10)
You see, then, my brother Parmenian, that none but heretics only—-who are cut off from the home of truth—-possess ‘various kinds of false Baptisms with which he, who is stained, cannot wash, nor the unclean cleanse, nor the destroyer raise, nor he, who is lost, free, nor the guilty man give pardon, nor the condemned man absolve.’ (ibid. Bk. 1.12)
St. Cyril of Jerusalem ca. 313-386
We may not receive Baptism twice or thrice; else it might be said, Though I have failed once, I shall set it right a second time: whereas if you fail once, the thing cannot be set right; for there is one Lord, and one faith, and one baptism : for only the heretics are re-baptized , because the former was no baptism. (Procatechesis 7)
St. Basil of Caesarea ca. 330-379
The old authorities decided to accept that baptism which in nowise errs from the faith. Thus they used the names of heresies, of schisms, and of unlawful congregations. By heresies they meant men who were altogether broken off and alienated in matters relating to the actual faith; by schisms men who had separated for some ecclesiastical reasons and questions capable of mutual solution; by unlawful congregations gatherings held by disorderly presbyters or bishops or by uninstructed laymen. As, for instance, if a man be convicted of crime, and prohibited from discharging ministerial functions, and then refuses to submit to the canons, but arrogates to himself episcopal and ministerial rights, and persons leave the Catholic Church and join him, this is unlawful assembly. To disagree with members of the Church about repentance, is schism. Instances of heresy are those of the Manichæans, of the Valentinians, of the Marcionites, and of these Pepuzenes; for with them there comes in at once their disagreement concerning the actual faith in God. So it seemed good to the ancient authorities to reject the baptism of heretics altogether, but to admit that of schismatics, on the ground that they still belonged to the Church.
…For those who have not been baptized into the names delivered to us have not been baptized at all.
…[I]t seemed good to the ancient authorities, I mean Cyprian and our own Firmilianus, to reject all these, Cathari, Encratites, and Hydroparastatæ;, by one common condemnation, because the origin of separation arose through schism, and those who had apostatized from the Church had no longer on them the grace of the Holy Spirit, for it ceased to be imparted when the continuity was broken. 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. (Epistle 188: 1st Canonical Epistle, Canon 1)
St. Ambrose of Milan ca. 338-397
…now all are made whole; or more exactly, the Christian people alone, for in some even the water is deceitful. Jer. 15:18 The baptism of unbelievers heals not but pollutes. (On the Mysteries 4.23)
Blessed Jerome ca. 347-420
Cyprian of blessed memory tried to avoid broken cisterns and not to drink of strange waters: and therefore, rejecting heretical baptism, he summoned his African synod in opposition to Stephen, who was the blessed Peter’s twenty-second successor in the see of Rome. They met to discuss this matter; but the attempt failed. At last those very bishops who had together with him determined that heretics must be re-baptized, reverted to the old custom and published a fresh decree. Do you ask what course we must pursue? What we do our forefathers handed down to us as their forefathers to them. But why speak of later times? When the blood of Christ was but lately shed and the apostles were still in Judæa, the Lord’s body was asserted to be a phantom; the Galatians had been led away to the observance of the law, and the Apostle was a second time in travail with them; the Corinthians did not believe the resurrection of the flesh, and he endeavoured by many arguments to bring them back to the right path. Then came Simon Magus and his disciple Menander. They asserted themselves to be powers of God. Then Basilides invented the most high god Abraxas and the three hundred and sixty-five manifestations of him. Then Nicolas, one of the seven Deacons, and one whose lechery knew no rest by night or day, indulged in his filthy dreams. I say nothing of the Jewish heretics who before the coming of Christ destroyed the law delivered to them: of Dositheus, the leader of the Samaritans who rejected the prophets: of the Sadducees who sprang from his root and denied even the resurrection of the flesh: of the Pharisees who separated themselves from the Jews on account of certain superfluous observances, and took their name from the fact of their dissent: of the Herodians who accepted Herod as the Christ. I come to those heretics who have mangled the Gospels, Saturninus, and the Ophites, the Cainites and Sethites, and Carpocrates, and Cerinthus, and his successor Ebion, and the other pests, the most of which broke out while the apostle John was still alive, and yet we do not read that any of these men were re-baptized.
As we have made mention of that distinguished saint, let us show also from his Apocalypse that repentance unaccompanied by baptism ought to be allowed valid in the case of heretics. It is imputed Rev. 2:4 to the angel of Ephesus that he has forsaken his first love. In the angel of the Church of Pergamum the eating of idol-sacrifices is censured Rev. 2:14, and the doctrine of the Nicolaitans Rev. 2:15. Likewise the angel of Thyatira is rebuked Rev. 2:20 on account of Jezebel the prophetess, and the idol meats, and fornication. And yet the Lord encourages all these to repent, and adds a threat, moreover, of future punishment if they do not turn. Now he would not urge them to repent unless he intended to grant pardon to the penitents. Is there any indication of his having said, Let them be re-baptized who have been baptized in the faith of the Nicolaitans? Or let hands be laid upon those of the people of Pergamum who at that time believed, having held the doctrine of Balaam? Nay, rather,
Repent therefore, Rev. 2:16 he says,
or else I come to you quickly, and I will make war against them with the sword of my mouth.
If, however, those men who were ordained by Hilary, and who have lately become sheep without a shepherd, are disposed to allege Scripture in support of what the blessed Cyprian left in his letters advocating the re-baptization of heretics, I beg them to remember that he did not anathematize those who refused to follow him. At all events, he remained in communion with such as opposed his views. He was content with exhorting them, on account of Novatus and the numerous other heretics then springing up, to receive no one who did not condemn his previous error. In fact, he thus concludes the discussion of the subject with Stephen, the Roman Pontiff:
These things, dearest brother, I have brought to your knowledge on account of our mutual respect and love unfeigned, believing, as I do, that from the sincerity of your piety and your faith you will approve such things as are alike consonant with piety and true in themselves. But I know that some persons are unwilling to abandon views which they have once entertained, and are averse to a change of purpose; they would rather, without breaking the bond of peace and concord between colleagues, adhere to their own plans, when once they have been adopted. This is a matter in which we do not force anyone, or lay down a law for anyone; let each follow his own free choice in the administration of the Church: let each be ruler in his own sphere since he must give account of his action to the Lord. In the letter also to Jubaianus on the re-baptization of heretics, towards the end, he says this:
I have written these few remarks, my dearest brother, to the best of my poor ability, without dictating to anyone, or prejudicing the case of anyone: I would not hinder a single bishop from doing what he thinks right with the full exercise of his own judgment. So far as is possible, we avoid disputes with colleagues and fellow bishops about the heretics, and maintain with them a divine harmony and the Lord’s peace, particularly since the Apostle says: 1 Cor. 11:16 ‘But if any man seem to be contentious, we have no such custom, neither the churches of God.’ With patience and gentleness we preserve charity at heart, the honour of our order, the bond of faith, the harmony of the episcopate.
There is another argument which I shall adduce, and against that not even Hilary, the modern Deucalion, will venture to mutter a syllable. If heretics are not baptized and must be re-baptized because they were not in the Church, Hilary himself also is not a Christian. For he was baptized in that Church which always allowed heretical baptism. Before the Synod of Ariminum was held, before Lucifer went into exile, Hilary when a deacon of the Roman Church welcomed those who came over from the heretics on account of the baptism which they had previously received. It can hardly be that Arians are the only heretics, and that we are to accept all but those whom they have baptized. You were a deacon, Hilary (the Church may say), and received those whom the Manichæans had baptized. You were a deacon, and acknowledged Ebion’s baptism. All at once after Arius arose you began to be quite out of conceit with yourself. You and your household separated from us, and opened a new laver of your own. If some angel or apostle has re-baptized you, I will not disparage your procedure. But since you who raise your sword against me are the son of my womb, and nourished on the milk of my breasts, return to me what I gave you, and be, if you can, a Christian in some other way. Suppose I am a harlot, still I am your mother. You say, I do not keep the marriage bed undefiled: still what I am now I was when you were conceived. If I commit adultery with Arius, I did the same before with Praxias, with Ebion, with Cerinthus, and Novatus. You think much of them and welcome them, adulterers as they are, to your mother’s home. I don’t know why one adulterer more than others should offend you.
But if anyone thinks it open to question whether heretics were always welcomed by our ancestors, let him read the letters of the blessed Cyprian in which he applies the lash to Stephen, bishop of Rome, and his errors which had grown inveterate by usage. Let him also read the pamphlets of Hilary on the re-baptization of heretics which he published against us, and he will there find Hilary himself confessing that Julius, Marcus, Sylvester, and the other bishops of old alike welcomed all heretics to repentance; and, further, to show that he could not justly claim possession of the true custom; the Council of Nicæa also, to which we referred not long ago, welcomed all heretics with the exception of the disciples of Paul of Samosata. And, what is more, it allows a Novatian bishop on conversion to have the rank of presbyter, a decision which condemns both Lucifer and Hilary, since the same person who is ordained is also baptized. (Dialogue Against the Luciferians 23-27)
Blessed Augustine of Hippo ca. 354-430
…so let them understand that men may be baptized in communions severed from the Church, in which Christ’s baptism is given and received in the said celebration of the sacrament, but that it will only then be of avail for the remission of sins, when the recipient, being reconciled to the unity of the Church, is purged from the sacrilege of deceit, by which his sins were retained, and their remission prevented. For, as in the case of him who had approached the sacrament in deceit there is no second baptism, but he is purged by faithful discipline and truthful confession, which he could not be without baptism, so that what was given before becomes then powerful to work his salvation, when the former deceit is done away by the truthful confession; so also in the case of the man who, while an enemy to the peace and love of Christ, received in any heresy or schism the baptism of Christ, which the schismatics in question had not lost from among them, though by his sacrilege his sins were not remitted, yet, when he corrects his error, and comes over to the communion and unity of the Church, he ought not to be again baptized: because by his very reconciliation to the peace of the Church he receives this benefit, that the sacrament now begins in unity to be of avail for the remission of his sins, which could not so avail him as received in schism.
But if they should say that in the man who has approached the sacrament in deceit, his sins are indeed removed by the holy power of so great a sacrament at the moment when he received it, but return immediately in consequence of his deceit: so that the Holy Spirit has both been present with him at his baptism for the removal of his sins, and has also fled before his perseverance in deceit so that they should return: so that both declarations prove true—both, “As many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ;” and also, “The holy spirit of discipline will flee deceit;”— that is to say, that both the holiness of baptism clothes him with Christ, and the sinfulness of deceit strips him of Christ; like the case of a man who passes from darkness through light into darkness again, his eyes being always directed towards darkness, though the light cannot but penetrate them as he passes—if they should say this, let them understand that this is also the case with those who are baptized without the pale of the Church, but yet with the baptism of the Church, which is holy in itself, wherever it may be; and which therefore belongs not to those who separate themselves, but to the body from which they are separated; while yet it avails even among them so far, that they pass through its light back to their own darkness, their sins, which in that moment had been dispelled by the holiness of baptism, returning immediately upon them, as though it were the darkness returning which the light had dispelled while they were passing through it. (On Baptism Bk. 1 Chap. 12.18-19)
It is to no purpose, then, that they say to us, “If you acknowledge our baptism, what do we lack that should make you suppose that we ought to think seriously of joining your communion?” For we reply, We do not acknowledge any baptism of yours; for it is not the baptism of schismatics or heretics, but of God and of the Church, wheresoever it may be found, and wherever it may be transferred. But it is in no sense yours, except because you entertain false opinions, and do sacrilegious acts, and have impiously separated yourselves from the Church. For if everything else in your practice and opinions were true, and still you were to persist in this same separation, contrary to the bond of brotherly peace, contrary to the union of all the brethren, who have been manifest, according to the promise, in all the world; the particulars of whose history, and the secrets of whose hearts, you never could have known or considered in every case, so as to have a right to condemn them; who, moreover, cannot be liable to condemnation for submitting themselves to the judges of the Church rather than to one of the parties to the dispute—in this one thing, at least, in such a case, you are deficient, in which he is deficient who lacks charity. Why should we go over our argument again? Look and see yourselves in the apostle, how much there is that you lack. For what does it matter to him who lacks charity, whether he be carried away outside the Church at once by some blast of temptation, or remain within the Lord’s harvest, so as to be separated only at the final winnowing? And yet even such, if they have once been born in baptism, need not be born again. (On Baptism Bk. 1 Chap. 14.22)
St. Vincent of Lerins died ca. 445
Once on a time then, Agripinnus, bishop of Carthage, of venerable memory, held the doctrine— and he was the first who held it— that Baptism ought to be repeated, contrary to the divine canon, contrary to the rule of the universal Church, contrary to the customs and institutions of our ancestors. This innovation drew after it such an amount of evil, that it not only gave an example of sacrilege to heretics of all sorts, but proved an occasion of error to certain Catholics even.
When then all men protested against the novelty, and the priesthood everywhere, each as his zeal prompted him, opposed it, Pope Stephen of blessed memory, Prelate of the Apostolic See, in conjunction indeed with his colleagues but yet himself the foremost, withstood it, thinking it right, I doubt not, that as he exceeded all others in the authority of his place, so he should also in the devotion of his faith. In fine, in an epistle sent at the time to Africa, he laid down this rule:
Let there be no innovation— nothing but what has been handed down. For that holy and prudent man well knew that true piety admits no other rule than that whatsoever things have been faithfully received from our fathers the same are to be faithfully consigned to our children; and that it is our duty, not to lead religion whither we would, but rather to follow religion whither it leads; and that it is the part of Christian modesty and gravity not to hand down our own beliefs or observances to those who come after us, but to preserve and keep what we have received from those who went before us. What then was the issue of the whole matter? What but the usual and customary one? Antiquity was retained, novelty was rejected.
But it may be, the cause of innovation at that time lacked patronage. On the contrary, it had in its favor such powerful talent, such copious eloquence, such a number of partisans, so much resemblance to truth, such weighty support in Scripture (only interpreted in a novel and perverse sense), that it seems to me that that whole conspiracy could not possibly have been defeated, unless the sole cause of this extraordinary stir, the very novelty of what was so undertaken, so defended, so belauded, had proved wanting to it. In the end, what result, under God, had that same African Council or decree? None whatever. The whole affair, as though a dream, a fable, a thing of no possible account, was annulled, cancelled, and trodden underfoot.
And O marvellous revolution! The authors of this same doctrine are judged Catholics, the followers heretics; the teachers are absolved, the disciples condemned; the writers of the books will be children of the Kingdom, the defenders of them will have their portion in Hell. For who is so demented as to doubt that that blessed light among all holy bishops and martyrs, Cyprian, together with the rest of his colleagues, will reign with Christ; or, who on the other hand so sacrilegious as to deny that the Donatists and those other pests, who boast the authority of that council for their iteration of baptism, will be consigned to eternal fire with the devil? (The Commonitory 6.16-18)
Pope St. Leo the Great ca. 400-461
For they who have received baptism from heretics, not having been previously baptized, are to be confirmed by imposition of hands with only the invocation of the Holy Ghost, because they have received the bare form of baptism without the power of sanctification. And this regulation, as you know, we require to be kept in all the churches, that the font once entered may not be defiled by repetition, as the Lord says,
One Lord, one faith, one baptism. And that washing may not be polluted by repetition, but, as we have said, only the sanctification of the Holy Ghost invoked, that what no one can receive from heretics may be obtained from Catholic priests. (Letter 159.8)
Concerning those who have come from Africa or Mauretania and know not in what sect they were baptized, what ought to be done in their case ?
Reply. These persons are not doubtful of their baptism, but profess ignorance as to the faith of those who baptized them: and hence since they have received the form of baptism in some way or other, they are not to be baptized but are to be united to the Catholics by imposition of hands, after the invocation of the Holy Spirit’s power, which they could not receive from heretics. (Letter 167: Question 18)
St. Fulgentius of Ruspe 467-533
Anyone who receives the sacrament of baptism, whether in the Catholic Church or in a heretical or schismatic one, receives the whole sacrament; but salvation, which is the strength of the sacrament, he will not have, if he has had the sacrament outside the Catholic Church [and remains in deliberate schism]. He must therefore return to the Church, not so that he might receive again the sacrament of baptism, which no one dare repeat in any baptized person, but so that he may receive eternal life in Catholic society, for the obtaining of which no one is suited who, even with the sacrament of baptism, remains estranged from the Catholic Church. (The Rule of Faith 43)
St. Gregory the Dialogist ca. 540-604
And indeed we have learned from the ancient institution of the Fathers that whosoever among heretics are baptized in the name of the Trinity, when they return to holy Church, may be recalled to the bosom of mother Church either by unction of chrism, or by imposition of hands, or by profession of the faith only. Hence the West reconciles Arians to the holy Catholic Church by imposition of hands, but the Eastby the unction of holy chrism. But Monophysites and others are received by a true confession only, because holy baptism, which they have received among heretics, then acquires in them the power of cleansing, when either the former receive the Holy Spirit by imposition of hands, or the latter are united to the bowels of the holy and universal Church byreason of their confession of the true faith. Those heretics, however, who are not baptized in the name of the Trinity, such as the Bonosiaci and theCataphrygæ, because the former do not believe inChrist the Lord, and the latter with a perverse understanding believe a certain bad man, Montanus, to be the Holy Spirit, like whom are many others—these, when they come to holy Church, are baptized, because what they received while in their error, not being in the name of the Holy Trinity, was not baptism. Nor can this be called an iteration of baptism, which, as has been said, had not been given in the name of the Trinity. But the Nestorians, since they are baptized in the name of the HolyTrinity— though darkened by the error of their heresy in that, after the manner of Jewish unbelief, they believe not the Incarnation of the Only-begotten— when they come to the Holy Catholic Church, are to be taught, by firm holding and profession of the true faith, to believe in one and the same Son of God and man, our Lord God Jesus Christ, the same existing in Divinity before the ages, and the same made man in the end of the ages, because The Word was made flesh and dwelt among us Jn. 1:14. (Epistles, Bk. 11: Epistle 67)
Bede the Venerable ca. 673-735
For where is a good conscience except where there is a sincere faith? For the Apostle Paul teaches that the purpose of the commandment is charity from a pure heart and a good conscience and unfeigned faith. (1 Tim. 1:5) The fact, therefore, that the water of the flood did not save thouse outside the ark but slew them without doubt prefigured every heretic who, although having the sacrament of baptism, is to be plunged into the lower world not by other waters but by those very waters by which the ark is raised up to the heavens. (Commentary on 1st Peter)
St. John Damascene ca. 676-749
We confess one baptism for the remission of sins and for life eternal. For baptism declares the Lord’s death. We are indeed
buried with the Lord through baptism Col. 2:12, as says the divine Apostle. So then, as our Lord died once for all, we also must be baptized once for all, and baptized according to the Word of the Lord, In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit Mat. 28:19, being taught the confession in Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Those , then, who, after having been baptized into Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, and having been taught that there is one divine nature in three subsistences, are rebaptized, these, as the divine Apostle says, crucify the Christ afresh. For it is impossible, he says, for those who were once enlightened, etc., to renew them again unto repentance: seeing they crucify to themselves the Christ afresh, and put Him to an open shame. Heb. 6:4 But those who were not baptized into the Holy Trinity, these must be baptized again. For although the divine Apostle says: Into Christ and into His death were we baptized Rom. 6:3, he does not mean that the invocation of baptism must be in these words, but that baptism is an image of the death of Christ. For by the three immersions , baptism signifies the three days of our Lord’s entombment. The baptism then into Christ means that believers are baptized into Him. We could not believe in Christ if we were not taught confession in Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. For Christ is the Son of the Living God Mat. 16:16, Whom the Father anointed with the Holy Spirit Acts 10:38: in the words of the divine David, Therefore God, your God, has anointed you with the oil of gladness above your fellows. And Isaiah also speaking in the person of the Lord says, The Spirit of the Lord is upon me because He has anointed me. Isa. 61:1 Christ, however, taught His own disciples the invocation and said, Baptizing them in the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Mat. 28:19 (Exact Exposition of the Orthodox Faith Bk. 4.9)
We further declare that we hold fast to the decrees of the four Councils, and in every way follow the holy Fathers, Athanasius, Hilary, Basil, Gregory the Theologian, Gregory of Nyssa, Ambrose, Theophilus, John (Chrysostom) of Constantinople, Cyril, Augustine, Proclus, Leo and their writings on the true faith. (Session 1 – Extracts from the Acts: Emperor Justinian’s Letter Read Before the Fathers)
For with us the holy multitude of the supernal spirits adore one Lord Jesus Christ. Moreover several letters of Augustine, of most religious memory, who shone forth resplendent among the African bishops, were read, showing that it was quite right that heretics should be anathematized after death. And this ecclesiastical tradition, the other most reverend bishops of Africa have preserved: and the holy Roman Church as well had anathematized certain bishops after their death, although they had not been accused of any falling from the faith during their lives: and of each we have the evidence in our hands. (The Sentence of the Synod)
Wherefore on account of our desire that you, my brothers, should know what we have done in this matter, we make it known to you by this letter. For no one can doubt how many were the discussions raised on account of the Three Chapters, that is, concerning Theodore, sometime bishop of Mopsuestia, and his writings, as well as concerning the writings of Theodoret, and concerning that letter which is said to have been written by Ibas to Maris the Persian: and how diverse were the things spoken and written concerning these Three Chapters. Now if in every business sound wisdom demands that there should be a retractation of what was propounded after examination, there ought to be no shame when what was at first omitted is made public after it is discovered by a further study of the truth. [And if this is the case in ordinary affairs] how much more in ecclesiastical strifes should the same dictate of sound reason be observed? Especially since it is manifest that our Fathers, and especially the blessed Augustine, who was in very truth illustrious in the Divine Scriptures, and a master in Roman eloquence, retracted some of his own writings, and corrected some of his own sayings, and added what he had omitted and afterward found out. We, led by their example never gave over the study of the questions raised by the controversy with regard to the before-mentioned Three Chapters, nor our search for passages in the writings of our Fathers which were applicable to the matter. (The Decretal Letter of Pope Vigilius in Confirmation of the Fifth Synod)
Question: “If the Orthodox faith is the only true faith, can Christians of other confessions be saved? May a person who has led a perfectly righteous life on earth be saved on the strength of his ancestry, while not being baptized as Christian?
Answer: “For He saith to Moses, I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion. So then it is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth [struggleth], but of God that showeth mercy” (Rom. 9:15-16). In the Orthodox Church we have the path of salvation indicated to us and we are given the means by which a person maybe morally purified and have a direct promise of salvation. In this sense St. Cyprian of Carthage says that “outside the Church there is no salvation.” In the Church is given that of which Apostle Peter writes to Christians (and only Christians): “According as His divine power hath given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him that hath called us to glory and virtue: Whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises: that by these ye might be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust. And beside this, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue; and to virtue knowledge, and to knowledge temperance; and to temperance patience, and to patience godliness; and to godliness brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness charity. For if these things be in you, and abound, they make you that ye shall neither be barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ” (2 Pet. 1:3-8). And what should one say of those outside the Church, who do not belong to her? Another apostle provides us with an idea: “For what have I to do to judge them also that are without? Do not ye judge them that are within? But them that are without God judgeth” (1 Cor. 5:12-13). God “will have mercy on whom He will have mercy” (Rom 9:18). It is necessary to mention only one thing: that to “lead a perfectly righteous life,” as the questioner expressed it, means to live according to the commandments of the Beatitudes—which is beyond the power of one, outside the Orthodox Church, without the help of grace which is concealed within it.
The question: Can the heterodox, i.e. those who do, not belong to Orthodoxy—the One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church—be saved, has become particularly painful and acute in our days.
In attempting to answer this question, it is necessary, first of all, to recall that in His Gospel the Lord Jesus Christ Himself mentions but one state of the human soul which unfailingly leads to perdition—i.e. blasphemy against the Holy Spirit (Matt. 12:1-32). The Holy Spirit is, above all, the Spirit of Truth, as the Saviour loved to refer to Him. Accordingly, blasphemy against the Holy Spirit is blasphemy against the Truth, conscious and persistent opposition to it. The same text makes it clear that even blasphemy against the Son of Man—i.e. the Lord Jesus Christ, the incarnate Son of God Himself may be forgiven men, as it may be uttered in error or in ignorance and, subsequently may be covered by conversion and repentance (an example of such a converted and repentant blasphemer is the Apostle Paul. (See Acts 26:11 and I Tim. 1:13.) If, however, a man opposes the Truth which he clearly apprehends by his reason and, conscience, he becomes blind and commits spiritual suicide, for he thereby likens himself to the devil, who believes in God and dreads Him, yet hates, blasphemes, and opposes Him. Thus, man’s refusal to accept the Divine Truth and his opposition thereto makes him a son of damnation. Accordingly, in sending His disciples to preach, the Lord told them: “He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved, but he that believeth not shall be damned” (Mk. 16:16), for the latter heard the Lord’s Truth and was called upon to accept it, yet refused, thereby inheriting the damnation of those who “believed not the truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness” (II Thes. 2:12).
The Holy Orthodox Church is the repository of the divinely revealed Truth in all its fullness and fidelity to apostolic Tradition. Hence, he who leaves the Church, who intentionally and consciously falls away from it, joins the ranks of its opponents and becomes a renegade as regards apostolic Tradition. The Church dreadfully anathematized such renegades, in accordance with the words of the Saviour Himself (Matt. 18:17) and of the Apostle Paul (Gal. 1:8-9), threatening them with eternal damnation and calling them to return to the Orthodox fold. It is self evident, however, that sincere Christians who are Roman Catholics, or Lutherans, or members, of other non-Orthodox confessions, cannot be termed renegades or heretics—i.e. those who knowingly pervert the truth…* They have been born and raised and are living according to the creed which they have inherited, just as do the majority of you who are Orthodox; in their lives there has not been a moment of personal and conscious renunciation of Orthodoxy. The Lord, “Who will have all men to be saved” (I Tim. 2:4) and “Who enlightens every man born into the world” (Jn. 1.43), undoubtedly is leading them also towards salvation In His own way.
With reference to the above question, it is particularly instructive to recall the answer once given to an inquirer by the Blessed Theophan the Recluse. The blessed one replied more or less thus: “You ask, will the heterodox be saved… Why do you worry about them? They have a Saviour Who desires the salvation of every human being. He will take care of them. You and I should not be burdened with such a concern. Study yourself and your own sins… I will tell you one thing, however: should you, being Orthodox and possessing the Truth in its fullness, betray Orthodoxy, and enter a different faith, you will lose your soul forever.”
We believe the foregoing answer by the saintly ascetic to be the best that can be given in this matter.
* The Greek word for “heresy” is derived from the word for “choice” and hence inherently implies conscious, willful rejection or opposition to the Divine Truth manifest in the Orthodox Church.
(From Orthodox Life, Vol. 34, No. 6 [Nov.-Dec., 1984], pp. 33-36)
The Orthodox teaching of the Church, which in itself is quite clear and rests upon Sacred Scripture and Sacred Tradition, is to be contrasted with another concept which is widespread in the contemporary Protestant world and has penetrated even into Orthodox circles. According to this different concept, all the various existing Christian organizations, the so-called “confessions” and “sects,” even though they are separated from each other, still comprise a single “invisible Church,” inasmuch as each of them confesses Christ as Son of God and accepts His Gospel.
The dissemination of such a view is aided by the fact that side by side with the Orthodox Church there exists outside of her a number of Christians that exceeds by several times the number of members of the Orthodox Church. Often we can observe in this Christian world outside the Church a religious fervor and faith, a worthy moral life, a conviction—all the way to fanaticism—of one’s correctness, an organization and a broad charitable activity. What is the relation of all of them to the Church of Christ?
Of course, there is no reason to view these confessions and sects as on the same level with non-Christian religions. One cannot deny that the reading of the word of God has a beneficial influence upon everyone who seeks in it instruction and strengthening of faith, and that devout reflection on God the Creator, the Provider and Saviour, has an elevating power there among Protestants also. We cannot say that their prayers are totally fruitless if they come from a pure heart, for in every nation he that feareth Him… is accepted with Him (Acts 10:3-5). The Omnipresent Good Provider God is over them, and they are not deprived of God’s mercies. They help to restrain moral looseness, vices, and crimes; and they oppose the spread of atheism.
But all this does not give us grounds to consider them as belonging to the Church. Already the fact that one part of this broad Christian world outside the Church, namely the whole of Protestantism, denies the bond with the heavenly Church, that is, the veneration in prayer of the Mother of God and the saints, and likewise prayer for the dead, indicates that they themselves have destroyed the bond with the one Body of Christ which unites in itself the heavenly and the earthly. Further, it is a fact that these non-Orthodox confessions have “broken” in one form or another, directly or indirectly, with the Orthodox Church, with the Church in its historical form; they themselves have cut the bond, they have “departed’ from her. Neither we nor they have the right to close our eyes to this fact.
The teachings of the non-Orthodox confessions contain heresies which were decisively rejected and condemned by the Church at her Ecumenical Councils. In these numerous branches of Christianity there is no unity, either outward or inward—either with the Orthodox Church of Christ or between themselves. The supra-confessional unification (the “ecumenical movement!’) which is now to be observed does not enter into the depths of the life of these confessions, but has an outward character. The term ” invisible” can refer only to the Heavenly Church. The Church on earth, even though it has its invisible side, like a ship a part of which is hidden in the water and is invisible to the eyes, still remains visible, because it consists of people and has visible forms of organization and sacred activity.
Therefore it is quite natural to affirm that these religious organizations are societies which are “near,” or “next to,” or ” close to,” or perhaps even” adjoining” the Church, but sometimes ” against” it; but they are all “outside” the one Church of Christ. Some of them have cut themselves off, others have gone far away. Some, in going away, all the same have historical ties of blood with her; others have lost all kinship, and in them the very spirit and foundations of Christianity have been distorted. None of them find themselves under the activity of the grace which is present in the Church, and especially the grace which is given in the Mysteries of the Church. They are not nourished by that mystical table which leads up along the steps of moral perfection.
The tendency in contemporary cultural society to place all confessions on one level is not limited to Christianity; on this same all-equalling level are placed also the non-Christian religions, on the grounds that they all “lead to God,” and besides, taken all together, they far surpass the Christian world in the number of members who belong to them.
All of such “uniting” and “equalizing” views indicate a forgetfulness of the principle that there can be many teachings and opinions, but there is only one truth. And authentic Christian unity—unity in the Church—can be based only upon oneness of mind, and not upon differences of mind. The Church is the pillar and ground of the Truth (I Tim. 3:15). (From Orthodox Dogmatic Theology, trans. by Fr. Seraphim Rose (Platina, CA: St. Herman of Alaska Brotherhood, 1994), pp. 243-246)
I was happy to receive your letter—happy not because you are confused about the question that troubles you, but because your attitude reveals that in the truth of Orthodoxy to which you are drawn you wish to find room also for a loving, compassionate attitude to those outside the Orthodox Faith.
I firmly believe that this is indeed what Orthodoxy teaches….
I will set forth briefly what I believe to be the Orthodox attitude towards non-Orthodox Christians.
1. Orthodoxy is the Church founded by Christ for the salvation of mankind, and therefore we should guard with our life the purity of its teaching and our own faithfulness to it. In the Orthodox Church alone is grace given through the sacraments (most other churches don’t even claim to have sacraments in any serious sense). The Orthodox Church alone is the Body of Christ, and if salvation is difficult enough within the Orthodox Church, how much more difficult must it be outside the Church!
2. However, it is not for us to define the state of those who are outside the Orthodox Church. If God wishes to grant salvation to some who are Christians in the best way they know, but without ever knowing the Orthodox Church—that is up to Him, not us. But when He does this, it is outside the normal way that He established for salvation—which is in the Church, as a part of the Body of Christ. I myself can accept the experience of Protestants being ‘born-again’ in Christ; I have met people who have changed their lives entirely through meeting Christ, and I cannot deny their experience just because they are not Orthodox. I call these people “subjective” or “beginning” Christians. But until they are united to the Orthodox Church they cannot have the fullness of Christianity, they cannot be objectively Christian as belonging to the Body of Christ and receiving the grace of the sacraments. I think this is why there are so many sects among them—they begin the Christian life with a genuine conversion to Christ, but they cannot continue the Christian life in the right way until they are united to the Orthodox Church, and they therefore substitute their own opinions and subjective experiences for the Church’s teaching and sacraments.
About those Christians who are outside the Orthodox Church, therefore, I would say: they do not yet have the full truth—perhaps it just hasn’t been revealed to them yet, or perhaps it is our fault for not living and teaching the Orthodox Faith in a way they can understand. With such people we cannot be one in the Faith, but there is no reason why we should regard them as totally estranged or as equal to pagans (although we should not be hostile to pagans either—they also haven’t yet seen the truth!). It is true that many of the non-Orthodox hymns contain a teaching or at least an emphasis that is wrong—especially the idea that when one is “saved” he does not need to do anything more because Christ has done it all. This idea prevents people from seeing the truth of Orthodoxy which emphasizes the idea of struggling for one’s salvation even after Christ has given it to us, as St. Paul says: Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling [Phil. 2:12]. But almost all of the religious Christmas carols are all right, and they are sung by Orthodox Christians in America (some of them in even the strictest monasteries!).
The word “heretic” (as we say in our article on Fr. Dimitry Dudko) is indeed used too frequently nowadays. It has a definite meaning and function, to distinguish new teachings from the Orthodox teaching; but few of the non-Orthodox Christians today are consciously “heretics,” and it really does no good to call them that.
In the end, I think, Fr. Dimitry Dudko’s attitude is the correct one: We should view the non-Orthodox as people to whom Orthodoxy has not yet been revealed, as people who are potentially Orthodox (if only we ourselves would give them a better example!). There is no reason why we cannot call them Christians and be on good terms with them, recognize that we have at least our faith in Christ in common, and live in peace especially with our own families. St. Innocent’s attitude to the Roman Catholics in California is a good example for us. A harsh, polemical attitude is called for only when the non-Orthodox are trying to take away our flocks or change our teaching… (From Father Seraphim Rose: His Life and Works [Platina, CA: St. Herman Press], pp. 843-852. Copyright 2003 by the St. Herman of Alaska Brotherhood, Platina, California.)
“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… What Mysteries, then, can they perform? And what spirit descends on those whom they ordain?”
“So then, you alone will be saved, and all others will perish?” the Emperor’s men objected.
The saint explained, “When the people in Babylon worshipped the golden idol, the Three Holy Youths condemned no one. Their concern was not for the doings of others, but that they themselves should not fall away from piety. When Daniel was cast into the lion’s den, he did not condemn those who, obeying Darius, failed to worship God, but kept in mind his own duty. He preferred to die rather than sin against conscience and transgress God’s law. God forbid that I should judge anyone or say that I alone will be saved! Nevertheless, I would rather die than violate my conscience by betraying the Orthodox faith in any particular.” (St. Dimitri Rostov, The Life of St. Maximus the Confessor)
For the controversy is not merely as regards the day, but also as regards the form itself of the fast. For some consider themselves bound to fast one day, others two days, others still more, while others [do so during] forty: the diurnal and the nocturnal hours they measure out together as their [fasting] day. And this variety among the observers [of the fasts] had not its origin in our time, but long before in that of our predecessors, some of whom probably, being not very accurate in their observance of it, handed down to posterity the custom as it had, through simplicity or private fancy, been [introduced among them]. And yet nevertheless all these lived in peace one with another, and we also keep peace together. Thus, in fact, the difference [in observing] the fast establishes the harmony of [our common] faith. And the presbyters preceding Soter in the government of the Church which you now rule— I mean, Anicetus and Pius, Hyginus and Telesphorus, and Sixtus— did neither themselves observe it [after that fashion], nor permit those with them to do so. Notwithstanding this, those who did not keep [the feast in this way] were peacefully disposed towards those who came to them from other dioceses in which it was [so] observed although such observance was [felt] in more decided contrariety [as presented] to those who did not fall in with it; and none were ever cast out [of the Church] for this matter. On the contrary, those presbyters who preceded you, and who did not observe [this custom], sent the Eucharist to those of other dioceses who did observe it. And when the blessed Polycarp was sojourning in Rome in the time of Anicetus, although a slight controversy had arisen among them as to certain other points, they were at once well inclined towards each other [with regard to the matter in hand], not willing that any quarrel should arise between them upon this head. For neither could Anicetus persuade Polycarp to forego the observance [in his own way], inasmuch as these things had been always [so] observed by John the disciple of our Lord, and by other apostles with whom he had been conversant; nor, on the other hand, could Polycarp succeed in persuading Anicetus to keep [the observance in his way], for he maintained that he was bound to adhere to the usage of the presbyters who preceded him. And in this state of affairs they held fellowship with each other; and Anicetus conceded to Polycarp in the Church the celebration of the Eucharist, by way of showing him respect; so that they parted in peace one from the other, maintaining peace with the whole Church, both those who did observe [this custom] and those who did not. (Fragments From Lost Writings 3)
The Apostles ordained, that
we should not judge any one in respect to meat or drink, or in regard to a feast day, or the new moons, or the sabbaths. Col. 2:16 Whence then these contentions? Whence these schisms? We keep the feast, but in the leaven of malice and wickedness, cutting in pieces the Church of God; and we preserve what belongs to its exterior, that we may cast away these better things, faith and love. We have heard from the prophetic words that these feasts and fasts are displeasing to the Lord. Isa.1:14 (ibid. 38)