Elder Sophrony on Orthodoxy and Ecumenism

szElder Sophrony of Essex

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

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

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

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

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

Conclusions and Summary of the Theological-Academic Conference:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Holy and Great Council Logo

                 Holy and Great Council Logo

Signposts on the Way to Crete [1]

by Protopresbyter Peter Heers

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Signposts on The Way of the Pan Orthodox Council

1. The Beginning

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

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

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

2. Methodological Similarities

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

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

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

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

He wrote:

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

3. Common Aims with the Second Vatican Council

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

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

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

4. “Free From Dogmatism”

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

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

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

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

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

St. Justin explains:

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

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

5. Support of the Ecumenical Movement

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

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

6. The Dominant Role Played by Academic Theologians

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ecclesiological Convergence: Following Vatican II, not the Holy Fathers

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

He wrote:

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

Note the order of things according to this observer:

The ambiguity of the texts are seen as the catalyst:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

He writes in 1976:

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

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

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

Reverend Fathers, beloved in Christ,

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

· the beginning and the methodology of the Council,

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

· the absence of experiential (true) theologians,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

[15] Sullivan, Significance, 273.

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

[17] Lumen Gentium 8.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

St. Cyril of Alexandria on Miaphysite Christology and Chalcedonian Dyophysitism

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

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

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Fr. John McGuckin

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

The Quest for the Phronema Patrum

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

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

On Islam and Salvation

iconof_stignatiusbrianchaninovSt. Ignaty Brianchaninov 1807-1867

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

Turkey Pope Demo 01

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

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

On ‘Partial’ Ecclesiological Communion

IMG_4180Protopresbyter Peter Heers

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

[3] Ware, Communion and Intercommunion, 20.

[4] Ware, Communion and Intercommunion, 23.

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

IMG_0986

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

 

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

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

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

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

On Conciliar Truth

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

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

On Orthodox Catholic Teaching

PaisiusSt. Paisii Velichkovsky 1722-1794

Knowing, as is clear from the teaching and commandments of our God-bearing Fathers, that one who has brethren under his guidance must not instruct and teach them according to his own understanding and discernment. But rather according to the true and right understanding of Divine Scripture, as is taught by the divine Fathers, teachers of the inhabited world, and likewise by the teachers and instructors of monastic life, being enlightened by the grace of the All-Holy Spirit. And knowing further the poverty of my own mind, and fearing and trembling lest I myself fall, and push those who follow me, into a pit of perdition like a blind man, according to the word of the Lord, because of my inexperience. Therefore, I placed as an unshakable foundation in true and undeceived instruction, undeviating from the true path of God, both for my own poor soul and for my holy brethren, the Divine Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments and its true interpretation by the grace of the All-Holy Spirit, that is, the teaching of our God-bearing Fathers, the teachers of the inhabited world and the instructors of the monastic life, the Holy Councils and all the Canons of the Apostles and Councils and Holy Fathers which the Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Eastern Church contains, and all Her commandments and rites. I offered all this, as I have said, as instruction for myself and the holy brethren, so that both I and the brethren living with me, being instructed by these, God cooperating and enlightening us by His grace, might not sin against the right and catholic thinking of the Holy Orthodox Church. (Blessed Paisius Velichkovsky: The Man Behind the Philokalia, p. 77-78)

On the Head and the Members

All SaintsBlessed Augustine of Hippo ca. 354-430

Let us rejoice, then, and give thanks that we are made not only Christians, but Christ. Do ye understand, brethren, and apprehend the grace of God upon us? Marvel, be glad, we are made Christ. For if He is the Head, we are the Members: the whole Man is — He and we — the fullness of Christ, then, is Head and Members. Head and Members, what is that? Christ and the Church. (Homilies on the Gospel of St. John, XXI.8 (PL 75, 1568 A)

On Unity in Secular Unessentials

229365.bDr. Constantine Cavarnos 1918-2011

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

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

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

On the Objective of Dialogues

imageRussian Orthodox Church Bishops Council 2008 

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

On Uniting the Churches

stbasil8St. Basil the Great ca. 330-379

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)

A Second Intervention in View of the Great Council

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

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

12th February 2016

Your Beautitude, holy President of the Holy Synod,

Your Eminences, holy Hierarchs,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Your Beatitude,

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

With deepest respect,

I kiss your right hand,

Demetrios Tselengides

Professor of the School of Theology of Aristotle University of Thessaloniki

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

translated by Fr. Kristian Akselberg

On an Important Question

IMG_3047St. Maximus the Confessor ca. 580-662

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

Fr. Theodore Zisis on the Great Council

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

Part 1

Part 2

 

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

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

Thessaloniki February 3, 2016

H/T: Lessons From a Monastery

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

General Assessment of the Text

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

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

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

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

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

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

On Akribeia and Oikonomia

Ss. Cyprian and Augustine

                   Ss. Cyprian and Augustine

Protopresbyter George Dion Dragas

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

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

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

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

On the Place of Refuge

RahabBlessed Jerome of Stridonium ca. 347-420

To be as martyrs, or as apostles, or as Christ, involves a hard struggle, but which brings with it a great reward. All such efforts are only of use when they are made within the Church’s pale; we must celebrate the Passover in one house [Ex. 12:46], we must enter the ark with Noah [1 Pet. 3:20], we must take refuge from the fall of Jericho with the justified harlot, Rahab. (Letter 22, to Eustochium) 

On Personalist Theology and the Primus

image from newromepress.com

image from newromepress.com

Protopresbyter Michael Azkoul

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

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

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

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

Fr. John Panteleimon Manoussakis

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Note: footnotes below not included in original works.

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

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

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

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

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

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

On the Source of Disorder and Disharmony

Agios VasiliosSt. Basil the Great ca. 330-379

Liberated from the error of pagan tradition through the benevolence and lovingkindness of the good God with the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, and by the operation of the Holy Spirit, I was reared from the very beginning by Christian parents. From them I learned even in babyhood the Holy Scriptures which led me to a knowledge of the truth. When I grew to manhood, I traveled about frequently and, in the natural course of things, I engaged in a great many worldly affairs. Here I observed that the most harmonious relations existed among those trained in the pursuit of each of the arts and sciences; while in the Church of God alone, for which Christ died and upon which He poured out in abundance the Holy Spirit, I noticed that many disagree violently with one another and also in their understanding of the Holy Scriptures. Most alarming of all is the fact that I found the very leaders of the Church themselves at such variance with one another in thought and opinion, showing so much opposition to the commands of our Lord Jesus Christ, and so mercilessly rending asunder the Church of God and cruelly confounding His flock that, in our day, with the rise of the Anomoeans, there is fulfilled in them as never before the prophecy, ‘Of your own selves shall arise men speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them.’ (Acts 20:30)

Witnessing such disorders as these and perplexed as to what the cause and source of such evil might be, I at first was in a state, as it were, of thick darkness and, as if on a balance, I veered now this way, now that—attracted now to one man, now to another, under the influence of protracted association with these persons, and then thrust in the other direction, as I bethought myself of the validity of the Holy Scriptures. After a long time spent in this state of indecision and while I was still busily searching for the cause I have mentioned, there came to my mind the Book of Judges which tells how each man did what was right in his own eyes and gives the reason for this in the words: ‘In those days there was no king in Israel.’ (Jags 21:24) With these words in mind, then, I applied also to the present circumstances that explanation which, incredible and frightening as it may be, is quite truly pertinent when it is understood; for never before has there arisen such discord and quarreling as now among the members of the Church in consequence of their turning away from the one, great, and true God, only King of the universe. Each man, indeed, abandons the teachings of our Lord Jesus Christ and arrogates to himself authority in dealing with certain questions, making his own private rules, and preferring to exercise leadership in opposition to the Lord to being led by the Lord. Reflecting upon this and aghast at the magnitude of the impiety, I pursued my investigation further and became convinced that the aforesaid cause was no less the true source also of secular difficulties. I noticed that as long as the common obedience of the others to some one leader was maintained, all was discipline and harmony in the whole group; but that division and discord and a rivalry of leaders besides proceeded from a lack of leadership. Moreover, I once had observed how even a swarm of bees, in accordance with a law of nature, lives under military discipline and obeys its own king with orderly precision. Many such instances have I witnessed and many others I have heard of, and pereons who make profession of such matters know many more still, so that they can vouch for the truth of what I have said. Now, if good order with its attendant harmony is characteristic of those who look to one source of authority and are subject to one king, then universal disorder and disharmony are a sign that leadership is wanting. By the same token, if we discover in our midst such lack of accord as I have mentioned, both with regard to one another and with respect to the Lord’s commands, it would be an indictment either of our rejection of the true king, according to the Scriptural saying: ‘only that he who now holdeth, do hold, until he be taken out of the way,’ (2 Thes. 2:7) or of denial of Him according to the Psalmist: “The fool hath said in his heart: There is no God.”(Ps. 13:1) And as a kind of token or proof of this, there follow the words: ‘They are corrupt and are become abominable in their ways.’

…From this and similar evidence I concluded that, in general, as a result of not knowing God, the wickedness of vice produces a reprobate understanding and, in particular, that the disagreement in the world comes from the fact that we have rendered ourselves unworthy of the Lord’s leadership. But, if I should apply myself to an inquiry into such behavior, I should be unable to assess the full extent of its obtuseness, or irrationality, or madness, or—what word I should use I know not, because of the enormity of the evil If even among the very brutes we find mutual harmony preserved by reason of their obedience to a leader, what ought we to say of the great disharmony existing among ourselves and of our insubordination to the Lord’s commands? Must we not think that all these models are proposed to us now by the good God for our instruction and conversion, but that in the great and dreadful day of judgment they will be brought forward by Him unto the shame and condemnation of those who have not profited by the instruction? Already, to be sure, He has said and He ever keeps saying: ‘The ox knoweth his owner, and the ass his master’s crib; but Israel hath not known me and my people hath not understood/ 12 and many other utterances of this kind are to be found. Consider, further, these words of the Apostle: ‘And if one member suffer anything, all the members suffer with it; or if one member glory, all the members rejoice with it 3 ; 13 likewise, that saying: ‘that there might be no schism in the body, but the members might be mutually careful one for another 514 —that is to say, being animated by one soul dwelling therein. Wherefore is it so ordained? In my opinion, so that this conformity and harmony may exist in a pre-eminent degree in the Church of God to which are addressed the words: ‘Now you are the body of Christ and members of member’ 15 —that is, the one and only true Head which is Christ exercises dominion over and unites the members, each with the other, unto harmonious accord. With those among whom harmony is not secured, however, the bond of peace is not preserved, mildness of spirit is not maintained, but there dissension, strife and rivalry are found. It would be a great piece of audacity to call such persons ‘members of Christ’ or to say that they are ruled by Him; but it would be the expression of an honest mind to say openly that the wisdom of the flesh is master there and wields a royal sovereignty, according to the words of the Apostle who says definitively: To whom you yield yourselves servants to obey, his servants you are whom you obey,’ (Rom. 6:16)…

In the light of these and many more sayings which I pass over in silence, it is so obviously and undeniably essential for unity to be fully realized in the whole Church at once, according to the will of Christ in the Holy Spirit, and, on the other hand, disobedience to God through mutual discord is so dangerous and fatal (‘for,’ says the Evangelist, ‘he that believeth not the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abideth on him’), that I thought the following inference could be drawn: Whatever sins a man is able to gain pardon for from God, or whatever be their number or their gravity, he is, in any case, liable to condemnation for contumacy. Accordingly I find, in taking up the Holy Scripture, that in the Old and New Testament contumacy toward God is clearly condemned, not in consideration of the number or heinousness of transgressions, but in terms of a single violation of any precept whatsoever, and, further, that the judgment of God covers all forms of disobedience…

A very wicked convention, however, leads us astray and a perverted human tradition is the source of great evil for us; I mean that tradition according to which some sins are denounced and others are viewed indifferently. Crimes like homicide and adultery are the object of a violent but feigned indignation, while others, such as anger or reviling or drunkenness or avarice, are not considered deserving of even a simple rebuke. Yet, regarding all these transgressions, Paul, speaking in Christ, also expressed in another place the view noted above, saying: ‘they who do such things are worthy of death.’ And certainly, where every height that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God is destroyed, and every understanding is brought into captivity unto the obedience of Christ., and every disobedience receives condign punishment, there, nothing is left undestroyed, nothing remitted without penalty, nothing is exempt from the obedience of Christ. Moreover, the Apostle has shown also that all forms of disobedience have a common feature in that they all represent the very greatest impiety. (“On the Judgment of God”, Ludwig Schopp. The Fathers Of The Church A New Translation Saint Basil Ascetical Works Volume 9 [Kindle Locations 572-781]. The Catholic University Of America Press)

 

 

 

 

On Initiation into the Church via Baptism and the Eucharist

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

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

Protopresbyter Peter Heers D. Th.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

[519]. Zizioulas, ibid., 12.

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

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

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

[523]. Ibid., 20.

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

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

[526]. Ibid., 117– 18.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

On the Latest and Most Trustworthy Criterion of Truth

St. Silouan the Athonite

St. Silouan the Athonite

Blessed Elder Sophrony of Essex 1896-1993

Unwavering faith in the Church’s conciliar teaching and profound confidence in all that the Church has recognized and confirmed in her experience lie at the root of the Athonite monk’s life, preserving him from nonconformist dilettantism and fumbling research. Thus entering through faith into the life of the universal Church, the monk becomes co-possessor of her boundless riches, and his own personal experience acquires an absolutely authentic character.

By studying the Holy Scriptures, the works of the Holy Fathers and the inexhaustible dogmatic and prayerful treasures contained in liturgical books, the monk meets with ineffably great riches, and so he is not disposed himself to write on the same themes without introducing some basically new material. But when a real need arises in the life of the Church, then new books are written.

Each new book with claims to inclusion in the teaching of the Church is considered from every aspect and especially with regard to the influence it may have on the lives of men. This last criterion — its influence — is extremely important because of the close connection between dogmatic consciousness and life. The Church accepts nothing contrary to, or inconsistent with, the spirit of Christ-like love on which she feeds.

Individual sons and members of the Church on the path to this love stumble, fall, are guilty of violations, but the Church in her depths knows, through the Holy Spirit, the truth of Christ-like love, and wherever even the word love crops up but with another content she will not be seduced by any philosophy, any splendor of doctrine. Christ is not mocked.

And I believe that in his writings Blessed Staretz Silouan, a faithful son of the Church, has provided us with the latest and most trustworthy criterion of truth in the Church — Christ-like love for our enemies and Christ-like humility. (St. Silouan the Athonite, pp. 89-90)

On Applied Orthodox Dogmatics

st.-justin_popovichSt. Justin of Ćelije 1894-1979

Saints are people who live on earth by holy, eternal Divine truths. That is why the Lives of the Saints are actually applied dogmatics, for in them all the holy eternal dogmatic truths are experienced in all their life-creating and creative energies. In the Lives of the Saints it is most evidently shown that dogmas are not only ontological truths in themselves and for themselves, but that each one of them is a wellspring of eternal life and a source of holy spirituality. (Introduction to the Lives of the Saints)

On the Pyramid of Being

upside -down pyramidBlessed Elder Sophrony of Essex 1896-1993

In the structure of the world we observe a hierarchical order, a division into upper and lower — a pyramid of being. Yet the idea of equality is deeply rooted in our consciousness and is not to be denied.

Some people, observing the psycho-physical world for the one part, and the empirically-given spiritual state of humanity for the other, and remarking a pyramid of inequality in both, arrive at the conclusion that inequality is something ontologically necessary to human nature. Then, either because of passion or calm and collected philosophical conviction, they stifle the demands of their conscience, tirelessly strain to achieve equality in mankind’s existence.

But is equality possible where liberty is the fundamental principle of existence? Millenary experience of the history of humanity suggests a reply in the negative.

What, then, can be done to alter this state of affairs, so unacceptable to the human conscience? We cannot ignore our longing to see all men equal in plenitude of divine life.

Let us see how Christ resolved the dilemma.

The Lord does not deny the fact of inequality, hierarchy, division into upper and lower, into overlord and servant; but He turns the pyramid upside down and thus achieves the ultimate perfection.

The incontestable apex of this pyramid is the Son of Man Himself, the Unique, True, Eternal Savior; and He says of Himself that He ‘came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give His life as a ransom for many.’ (Mat. 20:28) Concerning the angels, we learn that they are beings superior to us in their knowledge and mode of existence, in comparison with our terrestrial mode of existence, but the Apostle speaks of them as ‘ministering spirits, sent forth to minister for them who shall be heirs of salvation.’ (Heb. 1:14) The Savior bade His disciples follow the example He gave them when He washed their feet. ‘Ye know,’ He told them, ‘that the princes of the Gentiles exercise dominion over them, and they that are great exercise authority upon them. But it shall not be so among you; but whosoever will be great among you, let him be your minister. And whosoever will be chief among you, let him be your servant.’ (Mat. 20:25-27; Mk. 10:42-44) Here we are shown both the designation and the raison d’être of the ecclesiastical hierarchy — to raise those low in the spiritual scale to a higher degree of perfection, as the Apostle puts it, ‘And He gave some apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; for the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ. Until we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ.’ (Eph. 4:11-13)

Christ as Creator — and in this sense, cause — of the created universe, took upon Himself the burden, the sin of the whole world. He is the summit of the inverted pyramid, the summit on which the whole weight of the pyramid of being falls. In an inexplicable way those who follow after Christ become like Him in taking upon themselves the burdens of the infirmities of others. ‘We then who are strong ought to bear the infirmities of the weak.’ (Rom. 15:1)

…The Christian goes downwards, into the depths of the overturned pyramid where the crushing weight is concentrated — to the place where the Lord is, Who took upon Himself the sins of the world — Christ… At the base of the overturned pyramid — the unfathomable base which is really the summit — is He Who took upon Himself the sins and burdens of the world, the Christ crucified in love for the world. And there we remark a quite especial life, a quite especial light, an especial fragrance. This is where love attracts the athletes of Christ. Love for Christ martyrizes the chosen one, weighs heavily on him, makes his life unbearably hard, until this love arrives at its ultimate desire, and the ways the soul elects to attain to that ultimate end are peculiar. (St. Silouan the Athonite, p. 237-239) 

St. Basil the Great on [re]Baptism

St Basil the GreatSt. Basil the Great ca. 330-379

Encratitæ, Saccophors and Apotactitæ all come under the same rule as the Novatians. For a canon was promulgated concerning the latter, although it varies from place to place; whereas nothing specific has been said regarding the former. Be that as it may, we simply rebaptize such persons. If among yourselves the measure of rebaptizing is banned, as it more surely is among the Romans for the sake of some economia, nevertheless let what we say prevail. For their heresy is something of an offshoot of the Marcionites who abominate marriage, and disdain wine, and say that God’s creation is defiled. Therefore we do not receive them into the Church unless they be baptized in our Baptism. And let them not say, ‘We have been baptized in the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit,’ when they suppose— as they do in a manner rivaling Marcion and the rest of the heresies— that God is the maker of things evil. Hence if this please you, then more bishops must come together and thus set forth the canon, so as to afford security to him who performs [rebaptism], and so that he who defends this practice might be considered trustworthy when responding on such matters.” (Letter 199 to St. Amphilochios, The Second Canonical Epistle: Canon 47. Πηδάλιον, τοῦ Ἱερομονάχου Ἀγαπίου καὶ Μοναχοῦ Νικοδήμου [Ἀθήνα: Κωνσταντίνου Γκαρπολᾶ, 1841], 369; English translation by the editors of George Metallinos, I Confess One Baptism: Interpretation and Application of Canon VII of the Second Ecumenical Council by the Kollyvades and Constantine Oikonomos [Mt. Athos, Greece: St. Paul’s Monastery, 1994], 131. excerpted from Heers, Fr. Peter [2015-11-16]. The Ecclesiological Renovation of Vatican II: An Orthodox Examination of Rome’s Ecumenical Theology Regarding Baptism and the Church [Kindle Locations 3898-3909]. Uncut Mountain Press. Kindle Edition)

On the Orthodox Empire

Ss Cyril & MethodiusSt. Cyril the Philosopher ca. 826-869

And they [the Jewish teachers of the Khazars] said once more, “if we accept that He [the Anointed One] has already come, as you claim on the basis of the Prophets and other arguments, then how is it that the Roman Empire is still in power?” The Philosopher answered, “It is no longer in power, for it has passed, like all empires at its likeness, for our Empire is not of Rome, but Christ.” (Life of Sts. Cyril of Methodios, Chapter 10. For the Peace from Above, An Orthodox Resource on War, Peace and Nationalism p. 97)

 

On Common Prayer

Fr. Sergei Sveshnikov

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

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

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

On Papal Infallibility

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

St. Nektarios of Aegina 1846-1920

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

On the Mortal Sin of Heresy

St. Ignatius Brianchaninov 1807-1867

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

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

On the Faithful

St. Gregory the Theologian ca. 329-389

I seem indeed to hear that voice, from Him Who gathers together those who are broken, and welcomes the oppressed:

[Y]ou surrounded yourself with walls and tablets and richly set stones, and long porticos and galleries, and shone and sparkled with gold, which you did, in part pour forth like water, in part treasure up like sand; not knowing that better is faith, with no other roof but the sky to cover it, than impiety rolling in wealth, and that three gathered together in the Name of the Lord (Mat. 18:20) count for more with God than tens of thousands of those who deny the Godhead. Would you prefer the whole of the Canaanites to Abraham alone? or the men of Sodom to Lot? or the Midianites to Moses, (Exo. 2:15) when each of these was a pilgrim and a stranger? How do the three hundred menwith Gideon, who bravely lapped, (Judges 7:5) compare with the thousands who were put to flight? Or the servants of Abraham, who scarcely exceeded them in number, with the many kings and the army of tens of thousands whom, few as they were, they overtook and defeated? (Gen. 14:14) Or how do you understand the passage that though the number of the children of Israel be as the sand of the sea, a remnant shall be saved? And again, I have left me seven thousand men, who have not bowed the knee to Baal? This is not the case; it is not? God has not taken pleasure in numbers.

You count tens of thousands, God counts those who are in a state of salvation; you count the dust which is without number, I the vessels of election. For nothing is so magnificent in God’s sight as pure doctrine, and a soul perfect in all the dogmas of the truth.— For there is nothing worthy of Him Who made all things, of Him by Whom are all things, and for Whom are all things, (1 Cor. 8:6) so that it can be given or offered to God: not merely the handiwork or means of any individual, but even if we wished to honor Him, by uniting together all the property and handiwork of all mankind. Do not I fill heaven and earth? (Jer. 23:24) says the Lord! And what house will you build Me? Or what is the place of My rest? (Isa. 66:1) But, since man must needs fall short of what is worthy, I ask of you, as approaching it most nearly, piety, the wealth which is common to all and equal in My eyes, wherein the poorest may, if he be nobleminded, surpass the most illustrious. For this kind of glory depends upon purpose, not upon affluence. These things be well assured, I will accept at your hands…

This I seemed to hear Him say, and to see Him do, and besides, to hear Him shouting to His people… (Oration 42. 7-9)

On the Augustinian View of the Sacraments

Metropolitan Hilarion of Volokolamsk

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

On Church, Orthodoxy and the Eucharist

Metropolitan Hierotheos of Nafpaktos and St. Vlasios

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

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

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

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

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

Protopresbyter George Metallinos, Professor Emeritus of Athens University

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

On the Petrified Church

St. Nikolai Velimirovich 1880-1956

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

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

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

On Orthodoxy and Other Religions

St. Porphyrios of Kavsokalyvia 1906-1991

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

On Keeping Peace Within the Local Church

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) 

On the Ancient Faith

St. Tikhon of Moscow 1865-1925

Let not our quest be to overthrow what is old, that which has been hallowed by the testament of the ages; let our earthly sojourn be dedicated in agreement with the eternal truth of Providence. If even the customs of our daily life are so near and dear to us, then let the holy customs of our faith and church life, the very Christianity announced by Christ, the ancient, Orthodox order of life, be for us a hundredfold more dear… Is it not for the support of the old order of church life, this so-to-say spiritual “conservatism,” to which the instructive words of [the] apostolic reading profoundly appeal: But continue thou in things which thou hast learned and hast been assured of, knowing of whom thou hast learned them (II Tim. 3:14)?

…The holy Orthodox Church also keeps the apostolic testament. Having shattered abuses raised against it over the course of long centuries by its enemies, up to now it has kept and maintained the holy Faith as passed on by the holy Apostles and teachers to the generations following them. Because of this, lovers of innovation quite often accuse it of being ossified and lifeless. Who of us has not heard similar reproaches? But do they not return upon the heads of the accusers? Have not we, who reside here, often come to see how heterodox people, fed up by constant innovations in faith, are drawn to the universal Orthodox Church and strive to find in it sound and immovable foundations on which they can pacify their restless souls? (The Orthodox Word 2008 no. 262, pp. 245-246)

On Praying with the Eastern Heterodox Churches

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

Patriarch of Antioch Theodore Balsamon ca. 12th cent.

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

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

On False Ecumenism and Authentic Orthodox Mission

Fr. Peter Alban Heers

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

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

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

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

On Orthodox Russia

Met. Anthony on Mt. Athos in 1920

Metropolitan Anthony Khrapovitsky 1863-1936

Russia is identified properly as an organism, as a people, as a powerful idea flowering through history. But what is our people in history and in its present circumstances? Is it an ethnic community? No. Russians define themselves before all else as a religious community, as a ecclesial community, which includes even Georgians and Greeks who are unable to speak the Russian language.

…It is clear that our people consider their spiritual forefathers not the ancient Russians, but the Greek Christians, and their enemies are our enemies. (Fr. J. Strickland, The Making of Holy Russia: The Orthodox Church and Russian Nationalism Before the Revolution pp. 129, 132)

On the Patriarchate in Moscow

The first Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia, Iov (Job) (1589-1605)

Nicholas Zernov 1898-1980

In 1588, the Patriarch of Constantinople, Jeremiah, came to Moscow in quest of alms. It was the first time that a senior hierarch of the Eastern Church had visited Russia. He was greeted with pomp and many festivities. He was greatly impressed with the splendor of the Church services and the devotion of the people. The Russians took the opportunity of his stay to re-open negotiations about the patriarchate and, in order to overcome the usual methods of Oriental diplomacy, with its non-committal promises and indefinite pronouncements, made a drastic proposal. They invited Jeremiah himself to become the Patriarch of the Russian Church. It was a tempting offer for a man who led a precarious existence as the head of Christians under the Turks. Here is Russia, he was treated as a beloved father in God; honor and popular devotion were offered to him. In Turkey, he was held responsible for every act committed by the Christians and lived in constant danger of martyrdom. After prolonged discussions, Jeremiah gave his consent. By so doing, he recognized at last the right of Russia to have her own Patriarchs. This was immediately recorded and retreat from that position was made impossible. But, once this was achieved, the Russians began to limit the scope of their original proposal by adding new conditions which made it much less attractive. They explained that they were unable to dismiss the present occupant of the metropolitan seat of Moscow, Job, from his post, and they offered the Greek prelate a seat in the provincial city of Vladimir. Other difficulties, such as those of language and differences in custom and tradition, were raised. The Greek prelate discovered meanwhile many inconveniences in Russian life which he had not noticed at first. The climate was cold, the food heavy and unusual, the services extremely long and exhausting, and the Patriarch was expected to set an example of endurance and piety.

So, after further protracted negotiations, Jeremiah himself suggested that a Russian might, after all, be a more suitable candidate for the patriarchal seat. This was exactly what the Russian government wanted, and, thus on January 26th, 1589, eighteen months after Jeremiah had arrived in the Russian capital, he himself elevated Job, the Metropolitan of Moscow, to the dignity of the Patriarch of All Russia. In the installation charter, signed by Jeremiah, the following was inserted:

“Because the Old Rome has collapsed on account of the heresy of Apollinarius [1], and because the second Rome, which is Constantinople, is now in possession of the godless Turks, thy great kingdom, O pious Tsar, is the Third Rome. It surpasses in devotion every other, and all Christian kingdoms are now merged in thy realm. Thou art the only Christian sovereign in the world, the master of all faithful Christians.”

This last sentence was an almost verbatim reproduction of Philotheus’ epistle to Basil III. A century earlier it was the daring prophecy of a devout monk; now it was the solemn declaration made by the highest authority of the Eastern Church.

It is open to question whether Jeremiah himself fully understood the Russian text and shared the interpretation given by the Russians to the act committed by him. The events of the next century revealed that the Greeks and the Russians differed considerably in their attitude to Moscow’s claims. But, in the sixteenth century, there was nothing as yet to disturb the peace between them. Jeremiah returned to Constantinople carrying with him generous alms and promising to secure the recognition of his action by the remaining three Patriarchs of the East.

This was not a very easy matter, but after four years of persistent effort, during which gifts were literally distributed among the Eastern prelates, the Russians at last won the desired approval. It was granted in 1593, when all four Patriarchs met in Constantinople and offered their new brother in Moscow fifth and last place in the hierarchy of honor. Such a decision conflicted with the charter signed by Jeremiah in Moscow four years earlier. The Russians were discontented, they wanted to secure at least the third place for their Patriarch, but they had to be satisfied with the major concession which had given them a patriarchal seat without causing a breach in relations with the conservative heads of the Eastern Church. (The Russians and Their Church, pp. 68-70)

[1] The use of unleavened bread in the Eucharist by the Latins was interpreted by the Russians as a sign of a defective conception of the Incarnation, leavened bread representing for them the fullness of manhood in Christ. 

On Rigor Mortis of the Church

Fr. Daniel Sysoev 1974-2009

I think that one of the most important problems facing the Orthodox Church in Russia, and even beyond its borders, is the ideological rigor mortis of the Church. The Church is considered as a kind of dead body; it is thought to be frozen and that nothing should be changed in it. It is understandable that we should not change dogmatics and Church Tradition — no one argues with that. However, the problem is that people try to preserve superstitions and false ideology, and, what is worse, they try to hang onto bad remnants of the Soviet period. I have traveled throughout the canonical territory of the Moscow Patriarchate, and I see one and the same picture everywhere. People do not know God or how salvation takes place; and all of their time is taken up with completely unimportant matters such as the minutiae of this or that rite, the details of this or that church policy, or one regional view or another.

In my opinion, it is an enormous misfortune that people have lost their Christ-centeredness. People have forgotten about the fact that we are, first of all, Christians, the children of God the Father and of Christ, and that we must move toward holiness and salvation. As a part of this, one sees a controversy over the frequent reception of Holy Communion, which unites us with the Lord. Some people think that it’s not that important, that one can somehow “earn” one’s salvation. However, they do not realize that this is the heresy of Pelagius — that one can earn one’s salvation by one’s own effort.

On the other hand, the standard of church life that they expound is sinful, pure and simple; it is a distortion of the real Church Tradition. For instance, one hears that Russians, because they are Russian, are already Orthodox. In one article that I read, I saw the assertion that even atheists are truly Orthodox, if they are part of the Russian culture. This is the replacement of faith with culture. Orthodoxy is God’s revelation, preserved in pure form since the times of the Apostles. One now sees efforts by some to replace the New Testament with national myths, including old ones that the Church has always fought against.

…Paganism often disguises itself in the Church under the appearance of Christianity — not in overt exterior manifestations, but hidden under a facade of pietism. People forget that their goal is to reach sanctity. Some of them believe it is a sin even to think of such a possibility, that they could reach sanctity, even though it is a fulfillment of a direct commandment of the Lord. We should spare no effort to overcome this problem. To overcome this, we must issue a new call for people to return to holiness. For this, it is necessary that we revive catechesis throughout the entire Church. Even those who are already baptized should study the Faith. People must know in Whom they believe, and what they should do in order to approach Him. People coming to church see it as an assembly line of spiritual services. They are not offered any spiritual growth; therefore, they go to the sectarians.

People think, in error, that sects are easier than the Orthodox. Recently, I had a chance to associate with Pentecostals. I learned that it is their practice to pray five hours during the day. What Orthodox Christian prays five hours a day? Sectarianism is the consequence of the Church not informing people of the commandments of the Lord, commandments that our Lord expects us to fulfill. The Gospel is seen as nothing but a collection of pious sayings; it is not seen as a means of real contact with God. We so fear being seduced by the world that we end up doing nothing. This is a terrible spiritual problem. If we do not overcome it, very many Christians will be ruined. It is an ideology of rigor mortis. It is not conservatism; rather, it is the murder of the Church. (The Orthodox Word No. 268, 2009, pp. 213-215)  

On the Savor of Orthodoxy

Hieromonk Seraphim Rose 1934-1982

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)

On Being Hot, Cold or Lukewarm

Archimandrite Vasileios of Iveron

As it says in the Book of Revelation: “I wish you were cold or hot. But because you are lukewarm, I will spit you out of My mouth” (Rev 3:16- 17). Dostoyevsky is hot. So he says, ‘…I believe in Christ, and if it turns out that Christ is outside the truth, I want Christ, not the truth’.

Another person, for example, who is not lukewarm but cold is Nietzche. He does not write about Christ, but the Antichrist. However, since he is honest, once he found a single book by Dostoyevsky, which was Notes from the Underground, and not knowing who the author of that title was, he opened it in the bookstore and said, ‘This one is mine.’  So, a true encounter occurs between the Christ of Dostoyevsky and the Antichrist Nietzsche, because they are both true in their respective domains, hot and cold; neither of them was lukewarm. This is a testimony of true Orthodoxy which unites opposites. Orthodoxy is not lukewarm. Lukewarm things are the ones that man can make of his own accord through his human reasoning and sophistry. So, Orthodoxy is not easy, it leads us to the heaven of freedom and unification of opposites, but the ones that are true. (The Thunderbolt of Ever-Living Fire: American Conversations with an Athonite Elder, [kindle version])

On the Trials of Darkness After Death

St. Theodosius of the Kiev Caves 1009-1074

…I pray Thee, O my Lord, have mercy on my soul, that it may not encounter the malice of Thy enemies, but that Thy angels may receive it and lead it through the trials of the darkness after death towards the light of Thy mercy. (A Life of St. Theodosius, The Way of the Pilgrim and Other Classics of Russian Spirituality edited by G.P. Fedotov [kindle version])

On the Mystery of Baptism and the Unity of the Church

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

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

 

 

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

Fr. Peter’s academia.edu page:

https://aristoteleio.academia.edu/FrPeterHeers

and his webpage which is under development:

http://orthodoxethos.com

 

 

 

On the Difference Between Orthodoxy and Heterodoxy

Archimandrite Vasileios of Iveron

Orthodoxy differs from heterodoxy (the non-Orthodox) in a small way, but this small matter is the greatest thing. Orthodoxy gives you rest. A heresy is an easy answer, but it is one that actually tortures you because it ignores man. The way of Orthodoxy is filled with difficulties and crosses, but it leads you to the path wherein you glorify God for all things and are thankful for all things— the Resurrection. (The Thunder-Bolt of Ever-Living Fire: American Conversations with an Athonite Elder [kindle version])

On Orthodox Petrine Succession

St. John Chrysostom ca. 349-407

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

On Fighting from Within

Elder Anthimos the Athonite (St. Anne’s Skete) 1913-1996

[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])

On Curing the Great Schism

Schemamonk Father Constantine (Cavarnos) 1918-2011

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

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

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

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

On Secularism, the Church and Family Life

Fr. Peter Heers

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

h/t to Ad Orientem

 

St. John of Kronstadt on the Sunday of Orthodoxy

St. John Kronstadt 1829-1908

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

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

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

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

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

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

On Correcting Defects Within the Church

St. Philaret of Moscow 1821-1867

It is easier to uncover and expose defects than to correct them. The misfortune of our time is that the number of errors and imprudences accumulated over more than a century are all but beyond our power and means of correction. Therefore, one must not oppose all defects at once, but take first those which are the most harmful. Likewise, one ought not to suggest all possible means of correction all at once, but rather, first put forward those which are both the most needful and most practical. (St. Innocent, Apostle to America p. 250)

On Imitating Divine Mercy

Pope St. Leo the Great ca. 400-461

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

A Prayer for Unity in Christ

St. John of Kronstadt 1829-1908

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)

On Searching the Divine Scriptures

St. Symeon the New Theologian ca. 949-1022

[L]et us be persuaded by the Master Who says: “Search the Scriptures” (Jn. 5:39). Search, that is, and not meddle! Search the Scriptures and do not busy yourselves with disputes which lie outside the sacred writings. Search the Scriptures so that you may learn about faith, and hope, and love. About faith, so that you may not be tossed about by every wind which comes from the trickery of unstable men, but are rather rooted in the true dogma of the apostolic and catholic Church and “rightly divide” the word of her truth (II Tim. 2:15). And not only this, but you should be taught as well to seek out the fruits of faith and the profit which derives from them through the practice of the commandments. (First Ethical Discourse XII)

On St. Justin Popovich and Communion with the Serbian Patriarch

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)

St. Philaret of Moscow on the Reception of Converts

St. Philaret of Moscow 1821-1867

Question 1

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

Reply

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

Question 2

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

Reply

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

 

On Confessing the Orthodox Church with Truth and Love

Met. Anthony Khrapovitsky 1863-1936

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Met. Anastassy Gribanovsky 1873-1965

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

St. Justinian on Heterodoxy

St. Justinian the Emperor ca. 483-565

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

On the Definition of the Term ‘Heretic’

Emperor St. Justinian the Great ca. 483-565

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

 

On Church Unions

St. Raphael of Brooklyn 1860-1915

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

On the Root Cause of the Great Schism

Saint Nektarios of Aegina 1846-1920

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

On the Eschatological View of the Third Rome Theory

Fr. Georges Florovsky 1893-1979

The first traces of the famous “Third Rome Theory” are sketched out precisely in…perspectives of apocalyptical unrest. The theory is intrinsically an eschatological one, and the monk Filofei sustains its eschatological tones and categories. “For two Romes have fallen, a third stands, and a fourth there cannot be.” The pattern is a familiar one taken from Byzantine apocalyptical literature: it is the translatio imperii, or more accurately, the image of the wandering Kingdom — the Kingdom or city wandering or straying until the hour comes for it to flee into the desert.

…For a “Josephite”, the “Third Rome” meant that great and newly constructed Christian kingdom of Muscovy. By contrast, for Maxim, [St. Maxim the Greek] the “Third Rome” signified a City wandering in the wilderness.

“Journeying along a wild road filled with many dangers, I came upon a woman kneeling with her regal head held in her hands, moaning bitterly and weeping inconsolably. She was dressed entirely in black, as is the custom for widows. Around her were wild animals: lions, bears, wolves, and foxes… ‘Basileia [Empire] is my name…’ ‘Why do you sit alongside this road surrounded as it is by wild animals?’ And again she answered me: “O traveler, let this road be the last one in an accursed age.’ ” (The Ways of Russian Theology)

On Reconciling with Zealots

St. Gregory the Theologian ca. 329-389

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)

On Orthodoxy’s Ecumenical Priority

 

Cross Appearance over Mt. Hymettus 1925

Elder Philotheos Zervakos 1884-1980

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

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

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

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

Elder Paisios the Athonite 1924-1994

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

St. Gregory the Dialogist on Heterodox Sacraments

Pope St. Gregory the Dialogist ca. 540-604

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

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

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

On Monogamy and the Diocese

St. Athanasius the Great ca. 297-373

Art thou bound to a wife? Seek not to be loosed. (1 Cor. 7:27) For if this expression applies to a wife, how much more does it apply to a Church, and to the same Episcopate; to which whomsoever is bound ought not to seek another, lest he prove an adulterer according to Holy Scripture. (Defense Against the Arians 6; PG 25.260; NPNF 2.4, p. 104)

On False Ecumenism Prior to the 20th Century

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

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

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

Metropolitan Kallistos Ware

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Met. Anthony Khrapovitsky on Heterodoxy and Ecumenism

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

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

Met. Anthony Khrapovitsky 1863-1936

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

also read here

On Confessional Condescension

St. Basil the Great ca. 330-379

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)

On Many of Those Outside of the Church

Archimandrite Placide Deseille

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

On Crypto-Romanism

Orthodox Bishop being symbolically baptized by a Roman Catholic Bishop

Metropolitan Kallistos Ware

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

On Matthewite Ecclesiology

Bp. Matthew of Bresthena, founder of the Matthewites

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)

On the Reception of Heretics

Ecumenical Patriarch Cyril V

Metropolitan Kallistos Ware

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

On Various Approaches to Heterodoxy in the Russian Church

Fr. Georges Florovsky 1893-1979

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

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

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

On One Catholic and Apostolic Church

St. Photios the Great ca. 810-893

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

 

On When the Roman Empire Became Orthodox

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

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

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

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

On Confessional Relativism

St. John of Kronstadt 1829-1908

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

On Those Outside the Orthodox Church

Met. Hilarion Alfeyev

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

On Cyprianic and Augustinian Theories and Heterodox Sacraments

Met. Kallistos Ware

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

On the Ecumenism of St. Philaret of Moscow

St. Hilarion Troitsky 1886-1926

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

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

On the Visible and Invisible Church

St. Nektarios of Aegina 1846-1920

Those who are not reborn by the divine grace in the only One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church, do not belong to any church, either visible or invisible. (Two Studies, 1. On the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church 2. On Sacred Tradition [in Greek], Bookstore Nektarios Panagopoulos, Athens 1987, p. 28.)

On Erring Hierarchs and Ecclesial Elitism

Metropolitan Anastassy (Gribanovsky) 1873-1965

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)

The false policy belongs to the church authority and the responsibility for it falls on its leaders. Only heresy adopted by the whole Church tarnishes the whole Church. In this case, the people are not responsible for the behavior of the leaders, and the Church, as such, remains unblemished. (Synodal Archives, Council of Bishops 1953, Protocol No 5, 3/16 October, p. 16 excerpted from Nun Vassa [Larin] The Ecclesiastical Principle of Oikonomia and the ROCOR Under Metropolitan Anastassy)

On Ecumenism Done Correctly

THE 1954 DECLARATION OF THE ORTHODOX DELEGATES CONCERNING FAITH AND ORDER

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

On the Guardian of Dogma

Alexei Khomiakov 1804-1860

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

On the Holy Spirit and Conciliarism

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

Synod of Jerusalem 1672

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

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

On Troubles Within the Church

St. Cyril of Jerusalem ca. 313-386

If you shall hear that bishops advance against bishops, and clergy against clergy, and people against people even unto blood, be not troubled; for it has been written before. Take no notice of the things now happening, but the things which are written. Even if I who am teaching you am to die, you do not die with me. No, a hearer may even become better than his teacher, and he who came last might be first, since the Master receives even those of the eleventh hour. If among the Apostles there was found treason, are you surprised that even among bishops there is found hatred of the brethren? But the sign concerns not only rulers, but the people also; for He says, And because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold. Will any then among those present boast that he entertains sincere friendship towards his neighbour? Do not the lips often kiss, and the face smile, and the eyes brighten truthfully, while the heart is planing guile, and plotting mischief with words of peace? (Catechetical Lectures, 15.7)

On the Reception of the Heterodox

Archimandrite Placide Deseille

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

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

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

The Question of Baptism

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

On Heterodox Signs and Miracles

Leontius of Jerusalem ca. 485-543

But some people invent a different justification… for their disobedience to the truth. This is what they say: ‘When certain people who hold the same opinion as they do – some of them living in the flesh, and some who have passed on – have been seen to possess the gifts of healings and signs from God, how could the opinion held among them not be pleasing to God? It’s clear, after all, that divine powers operate on the basis of hearing and teaching God’s correct faith.’

What’s to be said against that argument is the following: to the really reputable judge of divine doctrines, this [working of miracles] is not sufficient grounds for confidence. In the first place, this [phenomenon] is to be found more rarely among our opponents, and ‘one swallow doth not a summer make’. On the contrary, even Arians (found to this day among the Lombards), and Nestorians (found among the Persians) sometimes work just as great miracles, but that doesn’t all on its own have the effect of justifying their choosing against us. Rather, such is the power of Christians’ faith over and against those entirely outside the faith when the Spirit’s made manifest. Moreover, it is often possible to observe gifts of miracles among orthodox and heterodox persons alike, not on account of orthodoxy alone – for then; truly, there’s truth in opposite definitions and contradictions! – but on account of the individual’s natural simplicity and humility (and even more, innocence of soul), or on account of his gentle and sympathetic disposition and, to put it simply, his greater personal fitness for so great a gift over the others who share his faith. If the capacity for a miracle-working really is present in anyone on account of his opinion alone, then everyone who took the same doctrinal stance must always have worked miracles in the same way. To tell the truth, though, teachers of the faith often aren’t miracle-workers; it’s those they’ve taught who perform signs.

One and the same Spirit doesn’t give all the miracles He works to one and the same person, for to one is given a word of wisdom, but to another a word of knowledge, to another gifts of healing, to another the working of miracles, to another faith according to the same Spirit. It’s remarkable how the one who speaks in tongues doesn’t receive the most closely related gift to speaking in tongues at all, and interpret tongues. It’s therefore possible for some people who’ve received neither a pure word of wisdom, nor a word of knowledge, nor lofty faith, to have the gift of miracles, and there’s no sound reason for deciding about one of the Spirit’s gifts on the basis of another. Let me make my point more clearly: If gifts of miracles existed solely among these people, or if they were observed to a greater extent among them than among us, then their view really has a prima facie case for its orthodoxy over against ours, since the Lord has confirmed only their message by the signs that followed, as it is written, just as He also once commended the preaching of the Apostles to all nations, and just as He made Moses’ and Aaron’s signs triumph over those of Jannes and Jambres against the Egyptians. If, however, greater and more numerous miracles from the Spirit are to be seen among us throughout the world, how is t that they’d have their doctrine be more trustworthy on the basis of miracles alone? Don’t let them propose this line of argument, then, as being any advantage to them in the way of offering some kind of defense for their superstition!

If Sceva, though a Jew, drove out demons with his sons by adjuring them in the name of Christ, yet isn’t counted among the Lord’s disciples for that alone, it’s clear that our opponents don’t have an excuse for their sin on that basis either. On that day, He says, many shall say to me, ‘Lord, didn’t we prophesy in Your name, and cast out demons, and perform many wonders?’ And then I shall declare to them, ‘I never knew you.’ It’s clear then, that the manifestation of a miracle is not sufficient grounds distinguishing between those who are known, and those who are disowned, by Christ; often the miracle happens through faith (more correct than the miracle-worker’s) of the one to about to receive the benefit, or through the onlooker’s faith, to enhance their simple confidence about religion. Sometimes, too, it happens by means of foreknowledge on God’s part of a general need of the moment and the district, and by agency of whatever person brought it to pass.

In our own times and places the story is told of a certain actor from a theater company who, being charged with riot and murder, tried to escape from the judge in the deserts near what is called the barbarian border, and was captured by Christian Arabs. Because he seemed to them to be a monk on account of his shaved head, and to be able, like the monks who consort with them, to perform the mystery of the bread of life, he was earnestly entreated by them with signs to celebrate the liturgy of the divine offering, and was set apart from his fellow prisoners on his own. He found no way to convince them by argument of his own unfitness, and he was impotent to resist their demand any longer. He made for himself an altar out of sticks in the desert, spread a fine cloth, set out newly baked bread, and mingled wine in a wooden chalice. Offering the gifts, he made the sign of the cross over them as he looked toward heaven, and glorified the Holy Trinity alone. Then he broke [the bread] and distributed it to them. Afterwards, they took away the cup and the cloth with reverence, as being sanctified, so that they would no longer be used for any profane use. The only thing that they overlooked was the altar. Without warning a great fire fell from heaven! It struck none of them, and hurt no one, but it burned up the entire altar of sticks, and destroyed it so completely as to leave behind not even their ashes. The barbarians, given complete confidence in the man who performed the ritual by the marvel they’d seen, insisted that he ask for some gift of them in return for the liturgy. He asked that all those captured with him be released with him; his wish was granted, and he freed all his companions from their unfortunate situation. Now this man was of our persuasion only in that, when he went to church, he gathered with us, thought to tell the truth he did so without realizing there was a difference between Christians. The Arabs, however, traditionally shared in the heresy of the Jacobites, who themselves give pride of place to one nature in the Lord. These Jacobites were the first to make the practice of traveling with the Arabs in the desert and ministering to them in every way. These men neither knew of, nor taught, precision about the comparison between the doctrines held by different Christian groups. Rather, they were converted by the ideas of Jacob [Baradatus], taking the imprint of these ideas without any examination, much in the way the Persians were converted by the ideas of Nestorius. (“Testimonies of the Saints”.  Leontius of Jerusalem edited and translated by Patrick T. R. Gray pp. 157-161)

 

St. Nikolai Velimirovich on Orthodox Ecumenism

St. Nikolai Velimirovich 1880-1956

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

On Praying for the Union of All

St. Philaret of Moscow 1782-1867

At the beginning of the Divine Liturgy, between the first prayerful petitions to God the Lord, the Orthodox Church pronounces the following: “For the peace of the whole world, for the welfare of the holy churches of God, and for the union of all, let us pray to the Lord.”

Hearing this, some, filling their heart with love, peaceableness and tolerance, pray not only for “for the welfare and the union,” that is for the preservation in unity of “the holy churches of God” Orthodox, particular, comparing the Universal Church, such as those of Constantinople, Alexandria, Antioch, Jerusalem, Russia, but for the reunion of churches which fell away from Orthodoxy, such as the Roman and Armenian. But some, maintaining a firm zeal about Orthodoxy pray only for “the union of the holy churches of God” which are Orthodox.

Who would not respect a zeal for Orthodoxy? Who does not recognize the worthiness of all-encompassing love? Which of the two meanings of the prayer mentioned above is one to embrace and unite with the prayer of the Orthodox Church? Or better yet, which of the two meanings is the primary one, taught to us by the Orthodox Church itself with the words of its established ritual? Does the Orthodox Church correctly pray only for the Orthodox churches? Teaching us by her prayers to reach out with our love to the edges of “the whole world,” does it limit its boundaries of love when it comes to churches? Does it not want the salvation of the heterodox churches through their return and their union with the Orthodox Church?

How does the Orthodox Church formulate her prayer for the union of churches? “For the peace of the whole world, and for the welfare of the holy churches of God, and for the union of all, let us pray to the Lord.” If the prayer was to have a limited meaning only for Orthodox churches, then it would have been proper to phrase the words as follows: “For the welfare and the union of all God’s holy churches let us pray to the Lord.” But that is not the case and the prayer is divided into two parts:

    1. “for the welfare of the holy churches of God,” and
    2. “and for the union of all.”

This prayer is offered always, both in time of peace and in time of discord for the Church. Therefore the first part of the prayer has the following meaning: “for the welfare,” that is for the peace and unity of the Orthodox “holy churches of God” so that the welfare already granted to them would be preserved where it exists and where there is something in some kind of discord, then it should be restored anew by God’s grace. By the same token the second part of the prayer should be understood to be “for the union” of churches that it may be preserved where it exists, and be restored where it does not. (On the Union of Churches)

On Embodying Pan-Orthodoxy

St. Raphael of Brooklyn 1860-1915

I am an Arab by birth, a Greek by primary education, an American by residence, a Russian at heart, and a Slav in soul. (Fr. Josiah Trenham, Orthodox Reunion: Overcoming the Curse of Jurisdictionalism in America)

On Orthodoxy and Secular Governments

St. Nikolai Velimirovich 1880-1956

There are three ages in the history of the Church: the Golden Age, when the Church was opposed to political governments; the Iron Age, when she was politically directing Europe’s kingdoms; and the Stone Age, when she has been subdued to the service of political governments. What a humiliation for the present generation to live in the Stone Age of Christianity!

Trying to unite Church and State we are trying to unite what God separated from the beginning of our era. To separate the Church from the State does not mean, as many think, to separate soul from body; it means to separate two quite opposed spirits unakin and hostile to each other, like Cross and Capitol.

The worm of comfort and human inertia has reconciled Christianity with secular, pagan governments, and so paralyzed the most divine movement in human history… Christianity is neither monarchical nor republican. It does not care about institutions but about the spirit living in them. That institution is the best which is fullest of the Christian spirit. From this point of view, an autocracy may be better than a republic, and vice versa. (The Works of Rev. Nicholai Velimirovic D.D., “The Agony of the Church”.)

On True Orthodox Patriotism

St. Justin Popovich 1894-1979

[R]eal Orthodox can never be chauvinists. I recall once, in a conversation with me in 1926, the blessedly reposed metropolitan [A. Khrapovitsky] related to me the following: “On Athos there is a custom that a monk who does not forgive offences is punished by being made to omit the words ‘and forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors,’ at the reading of the Lord’s Prayer, until such a time when he has forgiven the offence committed against him. And I myself have suggested,” added the great saint, “that the chauvinist-nationalists not read the ninth article of the Symbol of Faith.”

If we were to crystallize this principle of Vladyka, it would read as follows: the Russian, Serbian, and Bulgarian nations can be great only if the goal of their existence be the collective realization of the commandments of the Gospel. Otherwise, “Serbianism”, “Russianism”, and “Bulgarianism”, are reduced to senseless and pernicious chauvinism. If “Serbianism” flourishes not by the power of evangelical podvigs and not to Orthodox catholicity, then it will choke in its own egoistic chauvinism. What is profitable for Serbdom is profitable for other nationalities as well. Nations pass, the Gospel is eternal. Only in so far as a nation is filled with the eternal evangelical truth and righteousness, does it exist, and itself becomes and remains eternal. Only such patriotism can be justified from an evangelical point of view. This is the patriotism of the holy apostles, the holy martyrs, the holy fathers. When the emperor-tormentor asked the holy martyrs Acindynus, Pegasius, and Anempodistus where they were from, they answered: “Are you asking us, O Emperor, about our homeland? Our homeland and our life is the most holy, consubstantial and undivided Trinity: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, the one God.” (On Met. Anthony Khrapovitsky)

On the Whole Christ

St. Augustine of Hippo ca. 354-430

For Christ is not simply in the head and not in the body, but Christ whole is in the Head and Body. What, therefore, His members are, that He is; but what He is, it does not necessarily follow that His members are. For if His members were not Himself, He would not have said, Saul, why do you persecute me? Acts 9:4 For Saul was not persecuting Himself on earth, but His members, namely, His believers. He would not, however, say, My saints, My servants, or, in short, My brethren, which is more honorable; but, Me, that is, My members, whose Head I am. (Tractates on the Gospel of John, 28.1)

On the Non-Orthodox

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

Throughout Christian history, not only individual Christians but also entire Christian communities moved away from the unity with the Orthodox Church. Some of them have perished in course of history, while others have survived through the centuries. The most fundamental divisions of the first millennium, which have survived to this day, took place after the Third and Fourth Ecumenical Councils, when some Christian communities refused to accept their decisions. As a result, the Assyrian Church of the East and the Non-Chalcedonian Churches, including the Coptic, Armenian, Syrian Jacobite, Ethiopian and Malabar Churches, are separated even today. In the second millennium, the separation of the Roman Church was followed by internal divisions in Western Christianity, brought about by the Reformation, which resulted in the continual formation of different Christian denominations outside of communion with the Roman see. There were also breakaways from the unity with Local Orthodox Churches, including the Russian Church.

Delusions and heresies result from a person’s desire to assert himself and set himself apart. Every division or schism implies a certain measure of falling away from the plenitude of the Church. A division, even if it happens for non-doctrinal reasons, is a violation of Orthodox teaching on the nature of the Church and leads ultimately to distortions in the faith.

The Orthodox Church, through the mouths of the holy fathers, affirms that salvation can be attained only in the Church of Christ. At the same time however, communities which have fallen away from Orthodoxy have never been viewed as fully deprived of the grace of God. Any break from communion with the Church inevitably leads to an erosion of her grace-filled life, but not always to its complete loss in these separated communities. This is why the Orthodox Church does not receive those coming to her from non-orthodox communities only through the sacrament of baptism. In spite of the rupture of unity, there remains a certain incomplete fellowship which serves as the pledge of a return to unity in the Church, to catholic fullness and oneness.

The Orthodox Church cannot accept the assumption that despite the historical divisions, the fundamental and profound unity of Christians has not been broken and that the Church should be understood as coextensive with the entire “Christian world”, that Christian unity exists across denominational barriers and that the disunity of the churches belongs exclusively to the imperfect level of human relations. According to this conception, the Church remains one, but this oneness is not, as it were, sufficiently manifest in visible form. In this model of unity, the task of Christians is understood not as the restoration of a lost unity but as the manifestation of an existing unity. This model repeats the teaching on “the invisible Church” which appeared during the Reformation.

The so-called “branch theory”, which is connected with the conception referred to above and asserts the normal and even providential nature of Christianity existing in the form of particular “branches”, is also totally unacceptable.

Orthodoxy cannot accept that Christian divisions are caused by the inevitable imperfections of Christian history and that they exist only on the historical surface and can be healed or overcome by compromises between denominations.

The Orthodox Church cannot recognize “the equality of the denominations”. Those who have fallen away from the Church cannot re-unite with her in their present state. The existing dogmatic differences should be overcome, not simply bypassed, and this means that the way to unity lies through repentance, conversion and renewal. (Basic Principles of Attitude to the Non-Orthodox 1.13-15, 2.4-7) Source

On Ritualism and Liberalism

St. Nikolai Velimirovich 1880-1956

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

On the Honor of the Pope of Rome

Pope St. Gregory the Great ca. 540-604

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

On How the Church Prays for the World

St. Prosper of Aquitaine ca. 390-455

The Church pleads before God everywhere, not only for the saints and those regenerated in Christ, but also for all infidels and all enemies of the Cross of Christ, for all worshippers of idols, for all who persecute Christ in His members, for the Jews whose blindness does not see the light of the Gospel, for heretics and schismatics who are alien to the unity of faith and love.

But what does she beg for them, if not that they leave their errors and be converted to God, that they accept the faith, accept love, that they be freed from the shadows of ignorance and come to the knowledge of the truth? (The Call of All Nations, 1.12)

On Preserving Peace in the Church

Pope St. Leo the Great ca. 400-461

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

On the Faith of Forefather Adam

St. Epiphanius of Salamis ca. 315-403

Anyone who is willing to make an impartial investigation can see, from the very object of it, that the Holy Catholic Church is the beginning of everything. Adam, the man who was formed at the first, was not formed with a body circumcised, but uncircumcised. He was no idolater, and he knew the Father as God, and the Son and Holy Spirit, for he was a prophet.

Without circumcision he was no Jew and since he did not worship carved images or anything else, he was no idolater. For Adam was a prophet, and knew that the Father had said, “Let us make man,”to the Son. What was he, then, since he was neither circumcised nor an idolater—except that he exhibited the character of Christianity?

And we must take this to be the case of Abel, Seth, Enosh, Enoch, Methuselah, Noah and Eber, down to Abraham. (Panarion 2.4-6)

On the Bread of the New Covenant

St. Ephrem the Syrian ca. 306-373

The Church gave us the living Bread, in place of the unleavened bread that Egypt had given. Mary gave us the refreshing Bread, in place of the fatiguing bread that Eve procured for us. (Hymns for the Unleavened Bread 6, 6-7)

Chrysostom on the Church

St. John Chrysostom ca. 349-407

Do not hold aloof from the Church; for nothing is stronger than the Church. The Church is your hope, your salvation, your refuge. It is higher than the heaven, it is wider than the earth. It never waxes old, but is always in full vigour. Wherefore as significant of its solidity and stability Holy Scripture calls it a mountain: or of its purity a virgin, or of its magnificence a queen; or of its relationship to God a daughter; and to express its productiveness it calls her barren who has borne seven: in fact it employs countless names to represent its nobleness. For as the master of the Church has many names: being called the Father, and the way, Jn. 14:6 and the life, Ibid and the light, and the arm, and the propitiation, 1 Jn. 2:2 and the foundation, 1 Cor. 3:11 and the door, Jn. 10:7 and the sinless one, and the treasure, and Lord, and God, and Son, and the only begotten, and the form of God, Phil. 2:6 and the image Col. 1:15 of God so is it with the Church itself: does one name suffice to present the whole truth? By no means. But for this reason there are countless names, that we may learn something concerning God, though it be but a small part. Even so the Church also is called by many names. She is called a virgin, albeit formerly she was an harlot: for this is the miracle wrought by the Bridegroom, that He took her who was an harlot and has made her a virgin. Oh! What a new and strange event! With us marriage destroys virginity, but with God marriage has restored it. With us she who is a virgin, when married, is a virgin no longer: with Christ she who is an harlot, when married, becomes a virgin. (Homily 2 on Eutropius, 6)

On the Relationship Between Christology and Ecclesiology

Vladimir Lossky 1903-1958

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

On Building Churches

St. John Maximovitch 1896-1966

Some people are saying: “The time is not come to build the Lord’s house.” Among them are many who are buying houses for themselves, who live in their own houses in full satisfaction of their material needs, or who are selling their homes to move into better and better dwellings, increasing their assets. It is understandable when such words are heard from unbelievers… But how can they be repeated by believers who themselves go to church?

 

A church is a place that is consecrated, holy, in which there always dwells the grace of God. At the consecration of Solomon’s temple, the glory of the Lord in the appearance of a cloud filled the house of God. So it was in the Old Testament temple. How much more powerfully does the grace of God act in the temples of the New Testament where there is offered the true cleansing from sin, where we partake of the true Body and Blood of Christ, where during the Divine Liturgy, the Holy Spirit continually descends upon the gifts being consecrated and upon the people present? One can pray anywhere, and God hears prayers from everywhere. But it’s much easier to pray to a church where everything is conducive to prayer. From there our prayers ascend to God, and the mercies of God are sent down upon us.

 

The construction of a church is a sacrifice to God; to allocate a parcel of land for church services is to sacrifice unto God a part of your own property, but most of all it is a gift of your love, your zeal. Churches are not needed by God Whose throne is heaven and Whose footstool is the earth; it is we who need them. It is we who benefit from donating toward the building of churches, although the Lord accepts not so much the substances of our alms as much as He does our zeal-the quality of our effort. Christ approved the widow’s mite, saying that she had given more than anyone else, for the rich cast in a great deal from their abundance, but she gave all she had, all her livelihood. Those alms we give in the name of God are received by God Himself.  Spiritually, our alms are laid up in the treasuries of heaven, God’s treasuries, from which no one can steal them away. If someone steals any church possession, he steals from God Himself. At each Liturgy, those who contributed to the building of the church are commemorated. In building churches here on earth, we create for ourselves eternal habitations in heaven. Decades will pass, our bodies will decay, perhaps our very bones will turn to dust, but our souls will live eternally. Happy will he be who prepared for his soul a dwelling in the heavenly mansions. Even if the churches which are built should fall to ruin, the names of those who contributed to their construction will be written in God’s eternal books, and the prayers which arose from within these Churches will be sealed. Source

On the Church and the Canon of Holy Scripture

St. Hilarion Troitsky 1886-1926

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

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

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

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

 

On the Original Purpose of the Old Calendarist Movement

Metropolitan Chrysostom of Florina 1870-1955

[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)

On the Necessity of Church Buildings

St. Philaret of Moscow 1821-1867

God is omnipresent and therefore does not need churches, which are always small for Him and cannot contain him. But man is limited, and thus needs a limited revelation of God’s presence. God condescended to this need of man and deigned that this church exist, granting it the grace of His particular presence. We know of only one state of man in which he has no need of churches: the eternal life in the New Jerusalem, under a new heaven and new earth… The seer of mysteries notes a special, distinguishing feature of New Jerusalem, namely there is no church there: and I saw no church there (Rev. 21:22)… But we are not yet in the New Jerusalem, which will descend from the heavens, and therefore need a church. Belonging to creation after the Fall, our own flesh, rough and unpurified, blocks our entrance into the holy, grace-filled presence of God. This is why it is necessary for His charismatic presence to reveal Itself to us in the holy churches. The heavens– where Christ, our Light, ascended– have not yet opened up and revealed to us the radiance of His glory. Because of this we need for the time being at least a small heaven on earth, as well as light– even though it may be hidden in a mystery. We can find all this in church, through prayer, the word of God, and the sacraments. (Homilies and Speeches, 4.2-3)

On the Effects of Separation From the Church

St. Hilarion Troitsky 1886-1929
 
To separate, to go into isolation, is… for a Local Church the same as for a ray of sunlight to separate from the Sun, for a stream to separate from its wellspring, for a branch to separate from its trunk. The spiritual life can only exist in organic connection with the Ecumenical Church; if this connection is broken, Christian life will then unavoidably dry up. Source

On Perpetuating Schisms

St. John Chrysostom ca. 349-407

 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)

On the Reduction of Christianity

St. Hilarion Troitsky 1886-1929

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

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

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

On True Christianity

St. Gregory Palamas ca. 1296-1359

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

On Striving for Christian Unification

Metropolitan Anthony Khrapovitsky 1863-1936

Striving for unification [in faith] is the obligation of all those who have a zeal for the Word of God. Such unification should be expressed first of all in freeing our souls not only from all feelings of ill-will toward those not of a like mind, but also from efforts in our own minds to prove them wrong. On the contrary, he among us will be more pleasing to God who put forward an effort to clarify everything that unites us and that will strive not to reduce the number of such truths, but possibly to increase them, and especially in relation to those Christian bodies and confessions that come to meet our Church in friendship. (Zhizneopisanie Blazheneishego Antoniia (…) 7 (New York, 1961), 85.)

Source

On Right-Wing Super-Correct Orthodoxy

Hieromonk Seraphim Rose 1934-1982

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)

St. Irenaeus on True Knowledge

St. Irenaeus died ca. 202

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

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

1) Apostolic Doctrine

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

3) Bishops with Apostolic Succession

4) Reading Scriptures in harmony without falsification

5) Love

On the Well-Being of a Church

Blessed Jerome ca. 347-420

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

On How Schism Becomes Heresy

Blessed Augustine ca. 354-430

A schism persisting wrongly becomes a heresy, or degenerates into a heresy, in spite of the fact that what makes schismatics is chiefly and mainly, not a different belief, but a disrupted partnership of communion. (The Rudder, pg. 1544)

On Judgment Before the Time

St. Jerome  ca. 347-420

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)

Where is the Church?

St. Ignatius of Antioch ca. 50-117

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

St. Irenaeus of Lyons died ca. 202

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

On the Meaning of “Catholic”

Cyril of Jerusalem ca. 313-386

[W]hat  still remains to be said for the Article, In one Holy Catholic Church, on which, though one might say many things, we will speak but briefly.
It is called Catholic then because it extends over all the world, from one end of the earth to the other; and because it teaches universally and completely one and all the doctrines which ought to come to men’s knowledge, concerning things both visible and invisible, heavenly and earthly ; and because it brings into subjection to godliness the whole race of mankind, governors and governed, learned and unlearned; and because it universally treats and heals the whole class of sins, which are committed by soul or body, and possesses in itself every form of virtue which is named, both in deeds and words, and in every kind of spiritual gifts.
In this Holy Catholic Church receiving instruction and behaving ourselves virtuously, we shall attain the kingdom of heaven, and inherit eternal life; for which also we endure all toils, that we may be made partakers thereof from the Lord. For ours is no trifling aim, but our endeavour is for eternal life. (Catechetical Lectures 18.22-23, 28)

On Certain Theologians Tolerated Within the Church

St. Nikolai Velimirovich 1880-1956

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

On the Curse of Jurisdictionalism

Orthodox Unity: Overcoming the Curse of Jurisdictionalism by Fr. Josiah Trenham


This lecture by Fr Josiah has been delivered in various venues throughout the country and an earlier version of the lecture was published in the St. Vladimir’s Theological Quarterly (Vol. 50, No. 3, 2006). The lecture is a theological commentary on the un-canonical arrangement of the Orthodox Church. It is a honest and bold attempt to articulate the evils of jurisdictionalism, and a call to canonically normalize post-haste before further negative consequences afflict the life of the Church in America.

http://patristicnectar.org/free.html

St. Nectarios on the Terms of Catholic-Orthodox Union

St. Nectarios of Aegina 1846-1920

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

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

Met. Anthony Khrapovitsky on the Old Calendar Schism

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

Metropolitan Anthony Khrapovitsky 1863-1936

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

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

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

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

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

On the Nature of the Church

St. Justin Popovich 1894-1979

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

Hieromonk Seraphim on Ecumenism

Hieromonk Seraphim Rose 1934-1982

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

Florovsky on Scripture and Tradition

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

On Orthodox-Catholic Unification

Encyclical of the Eastern Patriarchs 1895

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

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

On If the Pope Became Orthodox

Metropolitan Anthony Khrapovitsky 1863-1936

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

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

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

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

The Papal Ruling on Church Slavonic

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

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

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

Not Merely About Calendars

Protopresbyter George Metallinos

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

St. Alexander on the Church

St. Alexander of Alexandria died ca. 326

We believe in one only Catholic Church, which cannot be destroyed even though all the world were to take counsel to fight against it, and which gains the victory over all the impious attacks of the heterodox; for we are emboldened by the words of its Master, ‘ Be of good cheer, I have overcome the world. (Epistle to Alexander of Constantinople)

On the Ears of the Laity

St. Hilary of Poitiers ca. 300-368

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

On Various Rites of Reception

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

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

On Holding Fast

St. Basil the Great ca. 330-379

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

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

On Nationalism

St. Justin Popovich 1894-1979

The Church is God-human, eternity incarnated within the boundaries of time and space. She is here in this world but she is not of this world (John 18:36). She is in the world in order to raise it on high where she herself has her origin. The Church is ecumenical, catholic, God-human, ageless, and it is therefore a blasphemy—an unpardonable blasphemy against Christ and against the Holy Ghost—to turn the Church into a national institution, to narrow her down to petty, transient, time-bound aspirations and ways of doing things. Her purpose is beyond nationality, œcumenical, all-embracing: to unite all men in Christ, all without exception to nation or race or social strata. “There is neither Greek nor Jew, their is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female: for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Gal. 3:28), because “Christ is all, and in all.” The means and methods of this all-human God-human union of all in Christ have been provided by the Church, through the holy sacraments and in her God-human works (ascetic exertions, virtues). And so it is: in the sacrament of the Holy Eucharist the ways of Christ and the means of uniting all people are composed and defined and integrated. Through this mystery, man is made organically one with Christ and with all the virtues: faith, prayer, fasting, love, meekness, through compassion and giving alms, a man consolidates in this union and preserves himself in its sanctity, personally experiencing Christ both as the unity of his personality and as the essence of his union with other members of the body of Christ, the Church.

The Church is the personhood of the God-human Christ, a God-human organism and not a human organization. The Church is indivisible, as is the person of the God-human, as is the body of the God-human. For this reason it is a fundamental error to have the God-human organism of the Church divided into little national organizations. In the course of their procession down through history many local Churches have limited themselves to nationalism, to national methods and aspirations, ours being among them. The Church has adapted herself to the people when it should properly be just the reverse: the people adapting themselves to the Church. This mistake has been made many times by our Church here. But we very well know that these were the “tares” of our Church life, tares which the Lord will not uproot, leaving them rather to grow with the wheat until the time of harvest (Matt. 13, 29-30). We also well know (the Lord so taught us) that these tares have their origin in our primeval enemy and enemy of Christ: the devil (Matt. 13, 25-28). But we wield this knowledge in vain if it is not transformed into prayer, the prayer that in time to come Christ will safeguard us from becoming the sowers and cultivators of such tares ourselves.

It is now high time—the twelfth hour—time for our Church representatives to cease being nothing but the servants of nationalism and for them to become bishops and priests of the One, Holy Catholic, and Apostolic Church. The mission of the Church, given by Christ and put into practice by the Holy Fathers, is this: that in the soul of our people be planted and cultivated a sense and awareness that every member of the Orthodox Church is a Catholic Person, a person who is for ever and ever, and is God-human; that each person is Christ’s, and is therefore a brother to every human being, a ministering servant to all men and all created things. This is the Christ-given objective of the Church. Any other is not an objective of Christ but of the Antichrist. For our local Church to be the Church of Christ, the Church Catholic, this objective must be brought about continuously among our people. And yet what are the means of accomplishing this God-human objective? Once again, the means are themselves God-human because a God-human objective can only be brought about exclusively by God-human means, never by human ones or by any others. It is on this point that the Church differs radically from anything which is human or of this earth. (“The Inward Mission of the Church”, Orthodox Faith and Life in Christ pp. 23-26)

On the Battle for Sound Faith

 

St. Basil the Great ca. 330-379

We stand in the arena to fight for our common heritage, for the treasure of the sound faith, derived from our Fathers. Grieve with us, all you who love the brethren, at the shutting of the mouths of our men of true faith, and at the opening of the bold and blasphemous lips of all who utter unrighteousness against God. The pillars and foundation of the truth are scattered abroad. We, whose insignificance has allowed of our being overlooked, are deprived of our right and free speech. Enter into the struggle for the people’s sake. Do not think only of your being yourselves moored in a safe haven, where the grace of God gives you shelter from the tempest of the winds of wickedness. Reach out a helping hand to the churches that are being buffeted by the storm, lest if they are abandoned, they suffer complete shipwreck of the faith. Lament for us, in that the Only-Begotten is being blasphemed, and there is none to offer contradiction… Oh that my head were waters, and my eyes a fountain of tears, (Jer. 9:1) and I will weep many days for the people who are being driven to destruction by these vile doctrines. The ears of the simple are being led astray, and have now gotten used to heretical impiety. The nurslings of the Church are being brought up in the doctrines of iniquity. What are they to do? Our opponents have the command of baptisms; they speed the dying on their way; they visit the sick; they console the sorrowful; they aid the distressed; they give succour of various kinds; they communicate the mysteries. All these things, as long as the performance of them is in their hands, are so many ties to bind the people to their views. The result will be that in a little time, even if some liberty be conceded to us, there is small hope that they who have been long under the influence of error will be recalled to recognition of the truth. (Letter 243.4 to the Bishops of Italy and Gaul)

I am Dark and Comely

Bede the Venerable ca. 673-735

So the Church says, “I am dark and comely, as the tents of Kedar, and as the curtains of Solomon;” (Songs 1:5) for she does not say, I was dark and am comely, but she has said that she is both, because of the fellowship in the sacraments, and a commingling for a time of the good and bad fish within one net, seeing that the tents of Kedar belong to Ishmael, “for that he shall not be heir with the free woman”. (Gal. 4:30) (Explanation of the Apocalypse: Letter of Beda to Eusebius)

What Defines Orthodoxy?

St. Justin Popovich 1894-1979

Orthodox Christians are Orthodox because they maintain a continuous sense of divine-human catholicity which they preserve and kindle through prayer and humility. They never preach about themselves; they never boast; they never remain entirely within their base human nature; they never idealize humanism. The holy Christ-bearing Apostles once and for all gave the definition of the eccelesial dimension of divine humanity: “For it seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us.” (Acts 15:28) First, the Holy Spirit, and then, us; “us” in as much as we allow the Holy Spirit to act through us.

Included in this theanthropic apostolic definition is the entire method by which the Church carries out Her divine-human activity in the world. The holy Martyrs and Confessors, the holy Fathers and Ecumenical Synods accepted and continued this method. If someone departs from this method he deaprts from the Holy Spirit as well the holy Apostles, Martyrs, Fathers and Ecumenical Synods. Further, he deviates from the unity, holiness, catholicity, and apostolicity of the theanthropic faith of Christ, that is, he is cut off from the Lord Jesus Christ. The Orthodox Church is one, holy, catholic, and apostolic because it does not deviate from this method. The Church is Orthodox because it continuously confesses, maintains and safeguards not only the theanthropic, apostolic-catholic, ecumenical truth of Christianity but also the theanthropic, apostolic-catholic, ecumenical methodology of Christianity. The Lord Jesus is both the Truth and the Way. If one departs from the theanthropic methodology, one cannot also avoid deviating away from the theanthropic truth and the God-man Christ.

The Orthodox Church contains the complete teaching of the God-man Christ precisely because it does not deviate from the theanthropic methodology of the holy Apostles and the Ecumenical Synods. The believing individual of the Orthodox, apostolic and patristic faith both senses and understands that they are co-workers of the Holy Spirit only, and as such they constantly listen, through prayer, to what the Spirit says, do what the Spirit asks of them, and continually examine their own thoughts and words by the Spirit. Since the catholic unity of the theanthropic Truth is always present in the catholic conscience of the Orthodox Church, the holy Fathers and Teachers continuously participate in the theanthropic life of the Church through the charismatic action of the Holy Spirit. This is reflected in an encyclical issued by the Orthodox Patriarchs a few centuries ago: “We believe that the Holy Spirit instructs the Catholic Church…The Church is most certainly instructed by the life-sustaining Spirit through the holy Fathers and Teachers…We confess that it is impossible for the Catholic Church to err or to be completely mistaken or to choose falsehood instead of truth. The All-Holy Spirit, acting through faithfully serving holy Fathers and spiritual guides delivers the Church from any kind of error.” (Confession of Dositheus, Article 12) (Orthodox Faith and Life in Christ pp. 87-89: Highest Value and Last Criterion in Orthodoxy)

On Asceticism Within the Church

Blessed Jerome ca. 347-420

To be as the martyrs, or as the apostles, or as Christ, involves a hard struggle, but brings with it a great reward. All such efforts are only of use when they are made within the church’s pale; we must celebrate the passover in the one house, Exo. 12:46 we must enter the ark with Noah, 1 Pet. 3:20-21 we must take refuge from the fall of Jericho with the justified harlot, Rahab. James 2:25 (Letter 22.38)

On Zealotry and Narrow Orthodoxy

Hieromonk Seraphim Rose 1934-1982

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.”

Perhaps there are only ten or twelve people left in the world who are perfectly “strict” and “pure” in their Orthodoxy — this I really don’t know; but it simply cannot be that there are really only ten or twelve Orthodox Christians left in the world with whom one can have true oneness of faith, expressed in common communion. I think that you can see that there is some kind of spiritual dead-end here; even if we had to believe such a narrow view of Orthodoxy according to the letter, our believing Christian heart would rebel against it. We cannot really live by such strictness; we must somehow be less “correct” and closer to the heart of Orthodox Christianity. (excerpted from the talk “Orthodoxy in America”)

On Papal Primacy

St. Symeon of Thessaloniki ca. 1381-1429

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

Encyclical of the Eastern Patriarchs 1848

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

On the Holy Orthodox Faith

Encyclical of the Eastern Patriarchs 1848

For our faith, brethren, is not of men nor by man, but by revelation of Jesus Christ, which the divine Apostles preached, the holy Ecumenical Councils confirmed, the greatest and wisest teachers of the world handed down in succession, and the shed blood of the holy martyrs ratified. Let us hold fast to the confession which we have received unadulterated from such men, turning away from every novelty as a suggestion of the devil. He that accepts a novelty reproaches with deficiency the preached Orthodox Faith. But that Faith has long ago been sealed in completeness, not to admit of diminution or increase, or any change whatever; and he who dares to do, or advise, or think of such a thing has already denied the faith of Christ, has already of his own accord been struck with an eternal anathema, for blaspheming the Holy Ghost as not having spoken fully in the Scriptures and through the Ecumenical Councils. This fearful anathema, brethren and sons beloved in Christ, we do not pronounce today, but our Savior first pronounced it (Matt. 12:32): Whosoever speaketh against the Holy Ghost, it shall not be forgiven him, neither in this world, neither in the world to come. St. Paul pronounced the same anathema (Gal. 1:6): I marvel that ye are so soon removed from Him that called you into the grace of Christ, unto another Gospel: which is not another; but there be some that trouble you, and would pervert the Gospel of Christ. But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you, than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed. This same anathema the Seven Ecumenical Councils and the whole choir of God-serving fathers pronounced.

Our Church holds the infallible and genuine deposit of the Holy Scriptures, of the Old Testament a true and perfect version, of the New the divine original itself. The rites of the sacred Mysteries, and especially those of the divine Liturgy, are the same glorious and heartquickening rites, handed down from the Apostles. No nation, no Christian communion, can boast of such Liturgies as those of James, Basil, Chrysostom. The august Ecumenical Councils, those seven pillars of the house of Wisdom, were organized in it and among us. This, our Church, holds the originals of their sacred definitions. The Chief Pastors in it, and the honorable Presbytery, and the monastic Order, preserve the primitive and pure dignity of the first ages of Christianity, in opinions, in polity, and even in the simplicity of their vestments. Yes! (Paragraph 20-21)

On the Orthodox Holy Fathers

St. Ignaty Brianchininov 1807-1867

But where are you hidden, O true and holy Faith? I could not recognize you in fanaticism which was not sealed with the Gospel meekness; it breathed passion and high-mindedness! I could not recognize you in the arbitrary teaching which separated from the Church, making up its own new system, vainly and pridefully proclaiming the discovery of a new, true Christian faith, after a lapse of eighteen centuries from the Incarnation of God the Word!

Oh! In what a heavy perplexity my soul was! How frightfully it was weighed down! What waves of doubt rose up against it, arising from distrust of myself, from distrust of everything that was clamoring, crying out around me because of my lack of knowledge, my ignorance of the truth.

And I began often, with tears, to implore God that He might not give me over as a sacrifice to error, but that He might show me the right path on which I should direct towards Him my invisible journey of mind and heart. And, O wonder! Suddenly a thought stood before me… My heart went out to it as to the embrace of a friend. This thought inspired me to study faith in the sources — in the writings of the Holy Fathers! “Their holiness,” the thought said to me, “vouches for their trustworthiness: choose them for your guides.”

I obeyed. I found the means of obtaining the works of the holy pleasers of God, and with eagerness I began to read them, investigate them deeply. Having read some, I would take up others, read them, re-read them, study them. What was it that above all struck me in the works of the Fathers of the Orthodox Church? It was their harmony, their wondrous, magnificent harmony. Eighteen centuries, through their lips, testified to a single unanimous teaching, a Divine teaching!

When on a clear autumn night I gaze at the clear sky, sown with numberless stars, so diverse in size yet shedding a single light, then I say to myself: such are the writings of the Holy Fathers! When on a summer day I gaze at the vast sea, covered with a multitude of diverse vessels with their unfurled sails like white swans’ wings, vessels racing under a single wind to a single goal, to a single harbor, I say to myself: such are the wrtings of the Fathers! When I hear a harmonious, many-voiced choir, in which diverse voices in elegant harmony sing a single Divine song, then I say to myself: such are the writings of the Holy Fathers!

And what teaching do I find in them? I find a teaching repeated by all the Fathers, namely, that the only path to salvation is the unwavering following of the instructions of the Holy Fathers. “Have you seen,” they say, “anyone deceived by false teaching, perishing from an incorrect choice of ascetic labors? — then know that he followed hmself, his own understanding, his own opinions, and not the teaching of the Holy Fathers,” (Abba Drortheos of Gaza, 5th Instruction) out of which is composed the dogmatic and moral teaching of the Church. With this tradition as a priceless possession, the Church nourishes Her children. This thought [of taking the Holy Fathers as my guide] was sent by God, from Whom every good gift, from Whom every good thought is the beginning of every good thing. (cf. St. John Chrysostom, 7th Prayer Before Sleep, 2nd half, 4th petition) Thus do the Fathers maintain, thus it is made clear from the very essence of the matter.  (My Lamentation, The Orthodox Word Vol. 38, No. 1 [222]2002)

On How the Church is Taught

The Confession of Dositheus 1672

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

On the Apostle Peter and the Episcopate

St. Cyprian of Carthage died ca. 258

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

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

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

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

On the Royal Path

Hieromonk Seraphim Rose 1934-1982

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

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

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

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

St. Justin Popovich on Intercommunion

St. Justin Popovich 1894-1979

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

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

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

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

On Why the World Has Not Ended

2 Pet. 3:11-12 Since all these things are thus to be dissolved, what sort of people ought you to be in lives of holiness and godliness, waiting for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be set on fire and dissolved, and the heavenly bodies will melt as they burn!

St. Nikolai Velimirovich 1880-1956

The Church’s craving for comfort is indeed her craving for death. Like a noble knight who descends into prison to liberate the enchained slaves, to whom the prison is painful and liberation still more painful, so is the Church’s position in this world. But how regrettable should it be if the noble knight accommodated himself in the prison among the slaves and forgot the light from which he descended and to which he ought to return! “He is one ourselves,” the slaves will say. So might today all the worldly institutions about the Christian Church in this valley of slavery: “She is one of ourselves.” She is destined to quicken the world end, and she is postponing it. One millennium past, another is nearby, yet the Church does not think of the world end: she loves this world; that is her curse. The world still exists because of the Church’s hesitation and fear. Were she not hesitating and fearing she had been dramatically struggling and suffering, and a new heaven and a new earth should be in sight. Why has the Church stopped being a drama? Why is she hesitating and fearing? Doubts and comfort have weakened the Church. The most tragical religion has climbed from Golgotha to Olympus and is now lying there comfortably, in the sunshine and forgetfulness, while Chronos, appeased, continues to measure time by thousands of years, as before. (The Works of Rev. Nikolai Velimirovich Chap. 2: The Drama of the Church)

St. Optatus on the Church and the Priesthood

St. Optatus of Milevis ca. 4th cent.

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

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

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

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

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

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

On Usage of the Term ‘Orthodox’

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

On Greeks vs. Russians

Hieromonk Seraphim Rose 1934-1982

In general, the whole  concept of “Greek” versus “Russian” seems to us a rather artificial and is only a cause of quite unnecessary tensions and quarrels. Obviously, the “Greeks” who use “Russian” as a term of opprobium are thinking of a certain kind of attitude among Russians which is indeed deplorable; and the other side obviously has in mind some unpleasant characteristics of some “Greeks”. But this only proves we are all human, and the truth is not to be found in either “party” as such. It would be better and wiser to think of both “Greeks” and “Russians” only the best things, those which enter into the higher harmony of Orthodoxy, which is beyond nationalities. This is how Vladika John [Maximovitch] always thought of “Greeks” and is why he adopted many Greek customs which are not commonly practiced by Russians today — Greek customs, that is, which are closer to the authentic tradition of Orthodoxy, and certainly not just because they are “Greek”! (Oct 18/31, 1972 Letters From Father Seraphim)

On True Orthodoxy

Archbishop Averky (Taushev) 1906-1976

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)

The Official Name of the Church

St. Raphael of Brooklyn 1860-1915

The official name of our Church is “The Holy Orthodox Catholic Apostolic Church”. The Church of the East has never from the first been known by any other name than Catholic, nor has she set aside this title in any official document. (Letter to D.M. Canright, 1914, published in The Lord’s Day)

St. Nilus on the Orthodox Tradition

St. Nilus of Sora 1443-1508

We must be grounded in the tenets of our faith. I believe in one God, in the glorious Trinity of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, one in being and undivided. I believe also in the incarnation of the Son of God who is both truly God and truly man. I profess this and all other creeds of the Orthodox Church and accept and confess with all my soul. Also with great faith and love I profess that my Lady is the holy, most pure Birth-giver of God and I exalt and glorify her.

And I repsect and accept all the Saints and I exalt them and unite myself with them by the grace of Christ. I also have recourse with all my soul to the holy, catholic, and apostolic Church. And I accept all its teachings which the Church hands down from the Lord and the holy Apostles and holy Fathers of the ecumenical and local councils and from the other holy Fathers, all of which form the Tradition passed down concerning the Orthodox Faith and the decrees of the Church councils.

All these I accept and reverence with great faith and love.

I see clearly that if it is God’s will for us to gather together, then it behooves us to live according to the traditions of the saints and fulfill the commands of God and observe the traditions of the holy Fathers and not to excuse ourselves by ignoring the blame of sins saying that nowadays it is impossible to live according to the Scriptures and follow the writings of the holy Fathers.

But if we also are weak, still it is proper to follow the example of the ancient and blessed Fathers, even if we are not able toequal their exploits. If anyone does not wish to follow this basic approach, let him cease harassing me, even though I am also a poor sinner. I turn away such persons and have nothing to do with them. (Nil Sorsky: The Complete Writings. The Tradition [Predanie])

 

On Three Non-Negotiables

Elder Sophrony Sakharov 1896-1993

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

On the Mystery of the Ethiopian Woman

St. Ambrose of Milan ca. 338-397

Miriam the prophetess herself, who with her brothers had crossed the straits of the sea on foot, because, being still ignorant of the mystery of the Ethiopian woman, she had murmured against her brother Moses, broke out with leprous spots, Num. 12:10 so that she would scarcely have been freed from so great a plague, unless Moses had prayed for her. Although this murmuring refers to the type of the Synagogue, which is ignorant of the mystery of that Ethiopian woman, that is the Church gathered out of the nations, and murmurs with daily reproaches, and envies that people through whose faith itself also shall be delivered from the leprosy of its unbelief, according to what we read that: blindness in part has happened unto Israel, until the fullness of the Gentiles be come in, and so all Israel shall be saved. Rom. 11:25 (Letter 63:57)

On the Ark of the New Covenant

Jer. 3:15-16 And I will give you shepherds after My heart, and they shall certainly tend you with knowledge. And it shall come to pass that when you are multiplied and increased upon the land, says the Lord, in those days they shall say no more, The ark of the Covenant of the Holy One of Israel. It shall not come to mind; it shall not be named; neither shall it be visited; nor shall this be done anymore.

Rev. 11:19-12:2 Then God’s temple in heaven was opened, and the Ark of His Covenant was seen within His temple. There were flashes of lightning, rumblings, peals of thunder, an earthquake, and heavy hail. And a great sign appeared in heaven: a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars. She was pregnant…

The Ark of the New Covenant is the Flesh of Christ

St. Hippolytus of Rome ca. 170-235

And, moreover, the ark made of imperishable wood was the Saviour Himself. For by this was signified the imperishable and incorruptible tabernacle of (the Lord) Himself, which gendered no corruption of sin. For the sinner, indeed, makes this confession: My wounds stank, and were corrupt, because of my foolishness. But the Lord was without sin, made of imperishable wood, as regards His humanity; that is, of the virgin and the Holy Ghost inwardly, and outwardly of the word of God, like an ark overlaid with purest gold. (Exegetical Fragments On Psalm 22 or 23)

The Ark of the New Covenant is the Theotokos

St. Athanasius the Great ca. 297-373

O noble Virgin, truly you are greater than any other greatness. For who is your equal in greatness, O dwelling place of God the Word? To whom among all creatures shall I compare you, O Virgin? You are greater than them all O Covenant, clothed with purity instead of gold! You are the Ark in which is found the golden vessel containing the true manna, that is, the flesh in which divinity resides. (Homily of the Papyrus of Turin, 71, 216; Gambero, 106)

St. Ephrem the Syrian ca. 306-373

The woman ministered before the man, because he is her head. Joseph rose to minister before His Lord, who was in Mary. The priest ministered before Thy Ark by reason of Thy holiness. Moses carried the tables of stone which the Lord wrote, and Joseph bare about the pure Tablet in whom the Son of the Creator was dwelling. The tables had ceased, because the world was filled with Thy doctrine. (Sermon 11, Natali Domini)

The Ark of the New Covenant is the Church

Blessed Jerome ca. 347-420

Like the Ark of the Covenant Christ’s spouse should be overlaid with gold within and without; Ex. 25:11 she should be the guardian of the law of the Lord. Just as the ark contained nothing but the tables of the covenant, 1 Kgs. 8:9 so in you there should be no thought of anything that is outside. For it pleases the Lord to sit in your mind as He once sat on the mercy-seat and the cherubims (Ex. 25:22). (Letter 22.24)

On Noah’s Ark and the Church

Blessed Jerome ca. 347-420

Noah’s ark was a type of the Church, as the Apostle Peter says— 1 Pet. 3:20 In Noah’s ark few, that is, eight souls, were saved through water: which also after a true likeness does now save us, even baptism. As in the ark there were all kinds of animals, so also in the Church there are men of all races and characters. As in the one there was the leopard with the kids, the wolf with the lambs, so in the other there are found the righteous and sinners, that is, 2 Tim. 2:20 vessels of gold and silver with those of wood and of earth. The ark had its rooms: the Church has many mansions. Eight souls were saved in Noah’s ark. And Eccl. 11:2 Ecclesiastes bids us give a portion to seven yea, even unto eight, that is to believe both Testaments. This is why some psalms bear the inscription for the octave, and why the one hundred and nineteenth psalm is divided into portions of eight verses each beginning with its own letter for the instruction of the righteous. The beatitudes which our Lord spoke to his disciples on the mountain, thereby delineating the Church, are eight. And Ezekiel for the building of the temple employs the number eight. And you will find many other things expressed in the same way in the Scriptures. The raven also is sent forth from the ark but does not return, and afterwards the dove announces peace to the earth. So also in the Church’s baptism, that most unclean bird the devil is expelled, and the dove of the Holy Spirit announces peace to our earth. The construction of the ark was such that it began with being thirty cubits broad and gradually narrowed to one. Similarly the Church, consisting of many grades, ends in deacons, presbyters, and bishops. The ark was in peril in the flood, the Church is in peril in the world. When Noah left the ark he planted a vineyard, drank thereof, and was drunken. Christ also, born in the flesh, planted the Church and suffered. The elder son made sport of his father’s nakedness, the younger covered it: and the Jews mocked God crucified, the Gentiles honoured Him. The daylight would fail me if I were to explain all the mysteries of the ark and compare them with the Church. Who are the eagles among us? Who the doves and lions, who the stags, who the worms and serpents? So far as our subject requires I will briefly show you. It is not the sheep only who abide in the Church, nor do clean birds only fly to and fro there; but amid the grain other seed is sown, amidst the neat grain-fields burrs and caltrops and barren oats lord it in the land. What is the husbandman to do? Root up the darnel? In that case the whole harvest is destroyed along with it. Every day the farmer diligently drives the birds away with strange noises, or frightens them with scarecrows: here he cracks a whip, there he spreads out some other object to terrify them. Nevertheless he suffers from the raids of nimble roes or the wantonness of the wild asses; here the mice convey the grain to their garners underground, there the ants crowd thickly in and ravage the grain-field. Thus the case stands. No one who has land is free from care. 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, 1 Jn. 2:19 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. 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? Prov. 14:12 There is a way which seems right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death. When our judgment is so prone to error, upon whose opinion can we rely? (Dialogue Against the Luciferians 22)

St. Jerome on Sects and Holy Scripture

Blessed Jerome ca. 347-420

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

On Holy Wisdom

St. Nikolai Velimirovich 1880-1956

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

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

On Sola Scriptura and Churchless Christianity

St. Hilarion Troitsky 1886-1929

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

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

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

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

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

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

St. Tikhon on the Orthodox Faith

St. Tikhon of Moscow 1865-1925

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Prepare for the Catacombs

Hieromonk Seraphim Rose 1934-1982

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

To the Orthodox

St. Basil of Caesarea ca. 330-379

Truly nowadays it is hard to find, and extraordinary to see, a Church pure, unharmed by the troubles of the times, and preserving the apostolic doctrine in all its integrity and completeness. Such is your Church shown at this present time by Him who in every generation makes manifest them that are worthy of His calling. May the Lord grant to you the blessings of Jerusalem which is above… (Letter 251)

On the Golden Age of the Church

St. Basil of Caesarea ca. 330-379

To what then shall I liken our present condition? It may be compared, I think, to some naval battle which has arisen out of time old quarrels, and is fought by men who cherish a deadly hate against one another, of long experience in naval warfare, and eager for the fight. Look, I beg you, at the picture thus raised before your eyes. See the rival fleets rushing in dread array to the attack. With a burst of uncontrollable fury they engage and fight it out. Fancy, if you like, the ships driven to and fro by a raging tempest, while thick darkness falls from the clouds and blackens all the scenes so that watchwords are indistinguishable in the confusion, and all distinction between friend and foe is lost. To fill up the details of the imaginary picture, suppose the sea swollen with billows and whirled up from the deep, while a vehement torrent of rain pours down from the clouds and the terrible waves rise high. From every quarter of heaven the winds beat upon one point, where both the fleets are dashed one against the other. Of the combatants some are turning traitors; some are deserting in the very thick of the fight; some have at one and the same moment to urge on their boats, all beaten by the gale, and to advance against their assailants. Jealousy of authority and the lust of individual mastery splits the sailors into parties which deal mutual death to one another. Think, besides all this, of the confused and unmeaning roar sounding over all the sea, from howling winds, from crashing vessels, from boiling surf, from the yells of the combatants as they express their varying emotions in every kind of noise, so that not a word from admiral or pilot can be heard. The disorder and confusion is tremendous, for the extremity of misfortune, when life is despaired of, gives men license for every kind of wickedness. Suppose, too, that the men are all smitten with the incurable plague of mad love of glory, so that they do not cease from their struggle each to get the better of the other, while their ship is actually settling down into the deep.

Turn now I beg you from this figurative description to the unhappy reality. Did it not at one time appear that the Arian schism, after its separation into a sect opposed to the Church of God, stood itself alone in hostile array? But when the attitude of our foes against us was changed from one of long standing and bitter strife to one of open warfare, then, as is well known, the war was split up in more ways than I can tell into many subdivisions, so that all men were stirred to a state of inveterate hatred alike by common party spirit and individual suspicion. But what storm at sea was ever so fierce and wild as this tempest of the Churches? In it every landmark of the Fathers has been moved; every foundation, every bulwark of opinion has been shaken: everything buoyed up on the unsound is dashed about and shaken down. We attack one another. We are overthrown by one another. If our enemy is not the first to strike us, we are wounded by the comrade at our side. If a foeman is stricken and falls, his fellow soldier tramples him down. There is at least this bond of union between us that we hate our common foes, but no sooner have the enemy gone by than we find enemies in one another. And who could make a complete list of all the wrecks? Some have gone to the bottom on the attack of the enemy, some through the unsuspected treachery of their allies, some from the blundering of their own officers. We see, as it were, whole churches, crews and all, dashed and shattered upon the sunken reefs of disingenuous heresy, while others of the enemies of the Spirit of Salvation have seized the helm and made shipwreck of the faith. 1 Tim. 1:19 And then the disturbances wrought by the princes of the world 1 Cor. 2:6 have caused the downfall of the people with a violence unmatched by that of hurricane or whirlwind. The luminaries of the world, which God set to give light to the souls of the people, have been driven from their homes, and a darkness verily gloomy and disheartening has settled on the Churches. The terror of universal ruin is already imminent, and yet their mutual rivalry is so unbounded as to blunt all sense of danger. Individual hatred is of more importance than the general and common warfare, for men by whom the immediate gratification of ambition is esteemed more highly than the rewards that await us in a time to come, prefer the glory of getting the better of their opponents to securing the common welfare of mankind. So all men alike, each as best he can, lift the hand of murder against one another. Harsh rises the cry of the combatants encountering one another in dispute; already all the Church is almost full of the inarticulate screams, the unintelligible noises, rising from the ceaseless agitations that divert the right rule of the doctrine of true religion, now in the direction of excess, now in that of defect. On the one hand are they who confound the Persons and are carried away into Judaism; on the other hand are they that, through the opposition of the natures, pass into heathenism. Between these opposite parties inspired Scripture is powerless to mediate; the traditions of the apostles cannot suggest terms of arbitration. Plain speaking is fatal to friendship, and disagreement in opinion all the ground that is wanted for a quarrel. No oaths of confederacy are so efficacious in keeping men true to sedition as their likeness in error. Every one is a theologue though he have his soul branded with more spots than can be counted. The result is that innovators find a plentiful supply of men ripe for faction, while self-appointed scions of the house of place-hunters reject the government of the Holy Spirit and divide the chief dignities of the Churches. The institutions of the Gospel have now everywhere been thrown into confusion by want of discipline; there is an indescribable pushing for the chief places while every self-advertiser tries to force himself into high office. The result of this lust for ordering is that our people are in a state of wild confusion for lack of being ordered; the exhortations of those in authority are rendered wholly purposeless and void, because there is not a man but, out of his ignorant impudence, thinks that it is just as much his duty to give orders to other people, as it is to obey any one else.

So, since no human voice is strong enough to be heard in such a disturbance, I reckon silence more profitable than speech, for if there is any truth in the words of the Preacher, The words of wise men are heard in quiet, Eccl.s 9:17 in the present condition of things any discussion of them must be anything but becoming. I am moreover restrained by the Prophet’s saying, Therefore the prudent shall keep silence in that time, for it is an evil time, Amos 5:13 a time when some trip up their neighbours’ heels, some stamp on a man when he is down, and others clap their hands with joy, but there is not one to feel for the fallen and hold out a helping hand, although according to the ancient law he is not uncondemned, who passes by even his enemy’s beast of burden fallen under his load. Ezek. 23:5 This is not the state of things now. Why not? The love of many has waxed cold; Mat. 24:12 brotherly concord is destroyed, the very name of unity is ignored, brotherly admonitions are heard no more, nowhere is there Christian pity, nowhere falls the tear of sympathy. Now there is no one to receive the weak in faith, Rom. 14:1 but mutual hatred has blazed so high among fellow clansmen that they are more delighted at a neighbour’s fall than at their own success. Just as in a plague, men of the most regular lives suffer from the same sickness as the rest, because they catch the disease by communication with the infected, so nowadays by the evil rivalry which possesses our souls we are carried away to an emulation in wickedness, and are all of us each as bad as the others. Hence merciless and sour sit the judges of the erring; unfeeling and hostile are the critics of the well disposed. And to such a depth is this evil rooted among us that we have become more brutish than the brutes; they do at least herd with their fellows, but our most savage warfare is with our own people.

For all these reasons I ought to have kept silence, but I was drawn in the other direction by love, which seeks not her own, 1 Cor. 13:5 and desires to overcome every difficulty put in her way by time and circumstance. I was taught too by the children at Babylon, that, when there is no one to support the cause of true religion, we ought alone and all unaided to do our duty. They from out of the midst of the flame lifted up their voices in hymns and praise to God, reeking not of the host that set the truth at naught, but sufficient, three only that they were, with one another. Wherefore we too are undismayed at the cloud of our enemies, and, resting our hope on the aid of the Spirit, have, with all boldness, proclaimed the truth. Had I not so done, it would truly have been terrible that the blasphemers of the Spirit should so easily be emboldened in their attack upon true religion, and that we, with so mighty an ally and supporter at our side, should shrink from the service of that doctrine, which by the tradition of the Fathers has been preserved by an unbroken sequence of memory to our own day. A further powerful incentive to my undertaking was the warm fervour of your love unfeigned, and the seriousness and taciturnity of your disposition; a guarantee that you would not publish what I was about to say to all the world—not because it would not be worth making known, but to avoid casting pearls before swine. Mat. 7:6 My task is now done. If you find what I have said satisfactory, let this make an end to our discussion of these matters. If you think any point requires further elucidation, pray do not hesitate to pursue the investigation with all diligence, and to add to your information by putting any uncontroversial question. Either through me or through others the Lord will grant full explanation on matters which have yet to be made clear, according to the knowledge supplied to the worthy by the Holy Spirit. Amen. (On the Holy Spirit 30)

On the Wheat and Tares

1 Cor. 4:5 Therefore do not pronounce judgment before the time, before the Lord comes, who will bring to light the things now hidden in darkness and will disclose the purposes of the heart. Then each one will receive his commendation from God.

St. Cyprian of Carthage died ca. 258

For although there seem to be tares in the Church, yet neither our faith nor our charity ought to be hindered, so that because we see that there are tares in the Church we ourselves should withdraw from the Church: we ought only to labour that we may be wheat, that when the wheat shall begin to be gathered into the Lord’s barns, we may receive fruit for our labour and work. The Apostle in his epistle says, In a great house there are not only vessels of gold and silver, but also of wood and of earth, and some to honor and some to dishonour. 2 Tim. 2:20 Let us strive, dearest brethren, and labour as much as we possibly can, that we may be vessels of gold or silver. But to the Lord alone it is granted to break the vessels of earth, to whom also is given the rod of iron. The servant cannot be greater than his lord, nor may any one claim to himself what the Father has given to the Son alone, so as to think that he can take the fan for winnowing and purging the threshing-floor, or can separate by human judgment all the tares from the wheat. That is a proud obstinacy and a sacrilegious presumption which a depraved madness assumes to itself. And while some are always assuming to themselves more dominion than meek justice demands, they perish from the Church; and while they insolently extol themselves, blinded by their own swelling, they lose the light of truth. For which reason we also, keeping moderation, and considering the Lord’s balances, and thinking of the love and mercy of God the Father, have long and carefully pondered with ourselves, and have weighed what was to be done with due moderation. (Epistle 50)

On the Pre-eternal Church

Eph. 1:4 …even as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before Him.

Pope St. Clement fl. ca. 80-102

And I do not suppose ye are ignorant that the living Church is the body of Christ: for the scripture saith, God made man, male and female. The male is Christ and the female is the Church. And the Books and the Apostles plainly declare that the Church existeth not now for the first time, but hath been from the beginning: for she was spiritual, as our Jesus also was spiritual, but was manifested in the last days that He might save us. (2nd Clement 14.2)

Hermas ca. 90

Now a revelation was given to me, my brethren, while I slept, by a young man of comely appearance, who said to me, Who do you think that old woman is from whom you received the book? And I said, The Sibyl. You are in a mistake, says he; it is not the Sibyl. Who is it then? say I. And he said, It is the Church. And I said to him, Why then is she an old woman? Because, said he, she was created first of all. On this account is she old. And for her sake was the world made. (The Shepherd of Hermas Bk. 1:Vision 2.4)

On Angels and Angles

Bede the Venerable ca. 673-735

Nor is the account of St. Gregory, which has been handed down to us by the tradition of our ancestors, to be passed by in silence, in relation to his motives for taking such interest in the salvation of our nation. It is reported, that some merchants, having just arrived at Rome on a certain day, exposed many things for sale in the marketplace, and abundance of people resorted thither to buy: Gregory himself went with the rest, and, among other things, some boys were set to sale, their bodies white, their countenances beautiful, and their hair very fine. Having viewed them, he asked, as is said, from what country or nation they were brought? and was told, from the island of Britain, whose inhabitants were of such personal appearance. He again inquired whether those islanders were Christians, or still involved in the errors of paganism? and was informed that they were pagans. Then fetching a deep sigh from the bottom of his heart, “Alas! what pity,” said he, “that the author of darkness is possessed of men of such fair countenances; and that being remarkable for such graceful aspects, their minds should be void of inward grace.” He therefore again asked, what was the name of that nation? and was answered, that they were called Angles. “Right,” said he, for they have an Angelic face, and it becomes such to be co-heirs with the Angels in heaven. What is the name,” proceeded he, “of the province from which they are brought?” It was replied, that the natives of that province were called Deiri. “Truly are they De ira,” said he, “withdrawn from wrath, and called to the mercy of Christ. How is the king of that province called?” They told him his name was Ælla: and he, alluding to the name said, “Hallelujah, the praise of God the Creator must be sung in those parts.”

Then repairing to the bishop of the Roman apostolical see (for he was not himself then made pope), he entreated him to send some ministers of the word into Britain to the nation of the English, by whom it might be converted to Christ; declaring himself ready to undertake that work, by the assistance of God, if the apostolic pope should think fit to have it so done. Which not being then able to perform, because, though the pope was willing to grant his request, yet the citizens of Rome could not be brought to consent that so noble, so renowned, and so learned a man should depart the city; as soon as he was himself made pope, he perfected the long-desired work, sending other preachers, but himself by his prayers and exhortations assisting the preaching, that it might be successful. This account, as we have received it from the ancients, we have thought fit to insert in our Ecclesiastical History. (Ecclesiastical History Bk. 2.1)

St. Athanasius on Church Unity

St. Athanasius the Great ca. 297-373

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

On the Clergy

Apostolic Constitutions ca. 1st-4th cent.

The bishop, he is the minister of the word, the keeper of knowledge, the mediator between God and you in the several parts of your divine worship. He is the teacher of piety; and, next after God, he is your father, who has begotten you again to the adoption of sons by water and the Spirit. He is your ruler and governor; he is your king and potentate; he is, next after God, your earthly god, who has a right to be honoured by you. For concerning him, and such as he, it is that God pronounces, I have said, You are gods; and you are all children of the Most High. And, You shall not speak evil of the gods. Exo. 22:28 For let the bishop preside over you as one honoured with the authority of God, which he is to exercise over the clergy, and by which he is to govern all the people. But let the deacon minister to him, as Christ does to His Father; and let him serve him unblameably in all things, as Christ does nothing of Himself, but does always those things that please His Father. Let also the deaconess be honoured by you in the place of the Holy Ghost, and not do or say anything without the deacon; as neither does the Comforter say or do anything of Himself, but gives glory to Christ by waiting for His pleasure. And as we cannot believe in Christ without the teaching of the Spirit, so let not any woman address herself to the deacon or bishop without the deaconess. Let the presbyters be esteemed by you to represent us the apostles, and let them be the teachers of divine knowledge; since our Lord, when He sent us, said, Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you. Mat. 28:19 Let the widows and orphans be esteemed as representing the altar of burnt-offering; and let the virgins be honoured as representing the altar of incense, and the incense itself.

As, therefore, it was not lawful for one of another tribe, that was not a Levite, to offer anything, or to approach the altar without the priest, so also do you do nothing without the bishop; for if any one does anything without the bishop, he does it to no purpose. For it will not be esteemed as of any avail to him. For as Saul, when he had offered without Samuel, was told, It will not avail for you; 1 Sam. 13:13 so every person among the laity, doing anything without the priest, labours in vain. And as Uzziah the king, who was not a priest, and yet would exercise the functions of the priests, was smitten with leprosy for his transgression; so every lay person shall not be unpunished who despises God, and is so mad as to affront His priests, and unjustly to snatch that honour to himself: not imitating Christ, who glorified not Himself to be made an high priest; Heb. 5:5 but waited till He heard from His Father, The Lord swore, and will not repent, You are a priest for ever, after the order of Melchizedek. If, therefore, Christ did not glorify Himself without the Father, how dare any man thrust himself into the priesthood who has not received that dignity from his superior, and do such things which it is lawful only for the priests to do? Were not the followers of Corah, even though they were of the tribe of Levi, consumed with fire, because they rose up against Moses and Aaron, and meddled with such things as did not belong to them? And Dathan and Abiram went down quick into hell; and the rod that budded put a stop to the readiness of the multitude, and demonstrated who was the high priest ordained by God. You ought therefore, brethren, to bring your sacrifices and your oblations to the bishop, as to your high priest, either by yourselves or by the deacons; and do you bring not those only, but also your first-fruits, and your tithes, and your free-will offerings to him. For he knows who they are that are in affliction, and gives to every one as is convenient, that so one may not receive alms twice or oftener the same day, or the same week, while another has nothing at all. For it is reasonable rather to supply the wants of those who really are in distress, than of those who only appear to be so. (Apostolic Constitutions Bk. 2:26-27)

On the Duty of All Orthodox Christians

St. Vincent of Lerins died ca. 445

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

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

Nicea II 7th Ecumenical Council 787

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

Encyclical of the Eastern Patriarchs 1848

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

 

On Scripture, Tradition and the Church

St. Hilarion Troitsky 1886-1929

In defining the essence of Holy Scripture, we can now formulate the following proposition:

Holy Scripture is one of the aspects of the common grace-filled life of the Church, and outside the Church there cannot be any Holy Scripture in the true sense of the word.

If we establish this view of Holy Scripture, then we ought to express our disapproval of the outlook which prevails even in our [Orthodox] academic theology, according to which Holy Scripture is first and foremost a source of Church doctrine. It must be admitted that the question of the sources of doctrine is in an almost hopeless state in our philosophizing dogmatics. Two sources of doctrine are usually spoken of: Holy Scripture and Holy Tradition. Both of these sources are necessary, although preference is often given to Holy Scripture. In disputes with sectarians and Protestants, much effort is made to prove that Holy Scripture alone is insufficient, that besides Scripture Holy Tradition is also needed. But if Holy Scripture is a source of doctrine, how do we extract the doctrine contained within this source? It is enough to remember Arianism and the First Ecumenical Council in order to realize that every heresy is based on Scripture. The question clearly arises: “How are we to understand Scripture so as to obtain from it true doctrine?” “It has to be understood in accordance with Tradition,” they respond to us. “Wonderful! And what sort of tradition should we accept?” “That which does not contradict Scripture.” What do we end up with? Scripture must be interpreted in accordance with Tradition, and Tradition must be verified by Scripture. We end up with circular logic, idem per idem, or, translated somewhat loosely into Russian, the story of the white calf. *

Church doctrine has but one Source: the Holy Spirit, Who lives within the Church, Whom Christ promised would guide the Church into all truth ( John 16:13). Thus, the Church possesses true doctrine not because she draws it from Holy Scripture and Holy Tradition, but only because she is in fact the Church of the Living God, the Pillar and Ground of Truth, guided by the Holy Spirit. It is necessary to speak only about the Church. Both Holy Scripture and Holy Tradition stand or fall together with the Church. A. S. Khomiakov wrote well in his Treatise on the Catechetical Exposition of the Teaching on the Church: “The Spirit of God, alive in the Church, guiding her and making her wise, is manifested in her in multiple forms: in Scripture, in Tradition, and in works; for the Church, performing the works of God, is the Church that preserves Tradition and wrote the Scripture. It is neither individuals nor a multitude of individuals in the Church that preserves Tradition and wrote Scripture, but the Spirit of God, alive in the sum of the Church. Therefore it is impossible and improper to search for the foundations of Tradition in Scripture, or for proofs of Scripture in Tradition, or for justifications of Scripture and Tradition in works. To one who lives outside of the Church neither Scripture, nor Tradition, nor works are comprehensible. To one, however, who remains within the Church and who is in communion with the Spirit of the Church, their unity is evident by the grace that lives in her.” (Holy Scripture and the Church)

* “Story of the white calf “: A Russian saying that usually designates the impossibility of drawing a logical conclusion from something.

On the Meaning of “Without Spot or Wrinkle”

St. Gregory of Tours ca. 538-594

In the beginning the Lord shaped the heaven and the earth in His Christ, Who is the beginning of all things, that is, in His Son; and after creating the elements of the whole universe, taking a frail clod He formed man after His own image and likeness, and breathed upon his face the breath of life and he was made into a living soul. And while he slept a rib was taken from him and the woman, Eve, was created. There is no doubt that this first man Adam before he sinned typified the Redeemer. For as the Redeemer slept in the stupor of suffering and caused water and blood to issue from His side, He brought into existence the virgin and unspotted Church, redeemed by blood, purified by water, having no spot or wrinkle, that is, washed with water to avoid a spot, stretched on the cross to avoid a wrinkle. (History of the Franks Bk. 1.1)

Faith in the Church is Mental Asceticism

St. Hilarion Troitsky 1886-1929

Faith in the Church is a podvig [spiritual struggle; an ascetic feat], and not an easy one, and sometimes it is beyond the strength of our contemporaries. Living within the Church means, first of all, to love, to live by love; and to live by love means to struggle against sinful self-love, from which people suffer a great deal. In particular, faith in the Church is a podvig for the mind, because the Church demands its submission. To make one’s reason submit to the Church is especially difficult, because this submission unfailingly affects one’s whole life. With regard to the Church, the podvig of the mind is connected with the podvig of the will. Imagine for a moment that people completely submit to the Church. How many idols, how many gods and graven images must they cast down? Not only the Dnieper, but an entire sea would be needed to sink all those idols. And yet, not even one podvig of the mind comes easily to a man whose reason makes him proud. Bishop Theophan the Recluse says: “It is remarkable how Wisdom calls to herself the foolish: Whoso is foolish, let him turn aside to me (Prov. 9:4). Accordingly, the clever are barred from entering into the House of Wisdom, or the Holy Church. One must lay aside every kind of cleverness at the very entrance of this House. On the other hand, if all wisdom and knowledge are to be found within the House of Wisdom, then outside this House, outside the Holy Church, only foolishness, ignorance and blindness prevail. How wondrous is that which God has established! When you enter the Church, put aside your own mind, and you will become truly wise; cast away your self-centered activity, and you will become truly active; renounce your own self, and you will truly become master over yourself. Ah, if only the world could grasp this wisdom! But this is hidden from it. Not understanding the wisdom of God, the world clamors against it, and the world keeps these senseless sensible ones in their blindness.” (Holy Scripture and the Church)

On Confessing

St. John of Kronstadt 1829-1908

“The longer we remain without confessing, the worse it is for us, the more entangled we become in the bonds of sin, and therefore the more difficult it is to give an account.”

“He who is accustomed to give account of his life at confession here will not fear to give an answer at the terrible judgment-seat of Christ. It is for this purpose that the mild tribunal of penitence was here initiated, in order that we, being cleansed and amended through penitence here below, may give an answer without shame at the terrible judgment-seat of Christ.”

My Life in Christ: Part II, Holy Trinity Monastery pg.280

 

St. John Cassian 360-435 

“All the corners of our heart must… be examined thoroughly and the marks of all that rise up into them must be investigated with the utmost wisdom. And all this must be done in case some beast of mind, some lion or serpent, has passed through and has left its dangerous hidden marks there, marks by which, as a result of the way we neglect our thoughts, a way into the sanctuary of our heart may be made available to others. Every hour and every moment working over the earth of our heart with the plough of Scripture, that is, with the memory of the Lord’s cross, we shall manage to destroy the lairs of the wild beasts within us and the hiding places of the venomous serpents.” Conferences, Conf. One sect. 22; Paulist Press pg. 57

Wisdom Hath Builded Her House

St. Hippolytus of Rome ca. 170-235

On Prov. IX. 1, “Wisdom Hath Builded Her House.”

Christ, he means, the wisdom and power of God the Father, has built His house, i.e., His nature in the flesh derived from the Virgin, even as he (John) has said beforetime, The Word became flesh, and dwelt among us. As likewise the wise prophet testifies: Wisdom that was before the world, and is the source of life, the infinite Wisdom of God, has built her house by a mother who knew no man—to wit, as He assumed the temple of the body. And has raised her seven pillars; that is, the fragrant grace of the all-holy Spirit, as Isaiah says: And the seven spirits of God shall rest upon Him, But others say that the seven pillars are the seven divine orders which sustain the creation by His holy and inspired teaching; to wit, the prophets, the apostles, the martyrs, the hierarchs, the hermits, the saints, and the righteous. And the phrase, She has killed her beasts, denotes the prophets and martyrs who in every city and country are slain like sheep every day by the unbelieving, in behalf of the truth, and cry aloud, For your sake we are killed all the day long, we were counted as sheep for the slaughter. And again, She has mingled her wine in the bowl, by which is meant, that the Saviour, uniting his Godhead, like pure wine, with the flesh in the Virgin, was born of her at once God and man without confusion of the one in the other. And she has furnished her table: that denotes the promised knowledge of the Holy Trinity; it also refers to His honoured and undefiled body and blood, which day by day are administered and offered sacrificially at the spiritual divine table, as a memorial of that first and ever-memorable table of the spiritual divine supper. And again, She bath sent forth her servants: Wisdom, that is to say, has done so— Christ, to wit— summoning them with lofty announcement. Whoever is simple, Let him turn to me, she says, alluding manifestly to the Holy Apostles, who traversed the whole world, and called the nations to the knowledge of Him in truth, with their lofty and divine preaching. And again, And to those that want understanding she said— that is, to those who have not yet obtained the power of the Holy Ghost— Come, eat of my bread, and drink of the wine which I have mingled for you; by which is meant, that He gave His divine flesh and honoured blood to us, to eat and to drink it for the remission of sins. (Second Fragment on Proverbs 9:1)

On Zeal for the Truth

Metropolitan Philaret (Voznesensky) of New York 1903-1985

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

St. Ephrem on the Sects

St. Ephrem the Syrian ca. 306-373

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

On the Four Races of Mankind

St. Aristedes the Athenian died ca. 134

The Christians, then, reckon the beginning of their religion from Jesus Christ, who is named the Son of God most High; and it is said that God came down from heaven, and from a Hebrew virgin took and clad Himself with flesh, and in a daughter of man there dwelt the Son of God. This is taught from that Gospel which a little while ago was spoken among them as being preached; wherein if ye also will read, ye will comprehend the power that is upon it. This Jesus, then, was born of the tribe of the Hebrews; and He had twelve disciples, in order that a certain dispensation of His might be fulfilled. He was pierced by the Jews; and He died and was buried; and they say that after three days He rose and ascended to heaven; and then these twelve disciples went forth into the known parts of the world, and taught concerning His greatness with all humility and sobriety; and on this account those also who to-day believe in this preaching are called Christians, who are well known. There are then four races of mankind, as I said before, Barbarians and Greeks, Jews and Christians. (The Apology of Aristedes)

The Vision of Theophanes

St. John Moschos ca. 550-619

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

On Christian Conduct in the Second Century

St. Aristedes the Athenian died ca. 134

Now the Christians, O king, by going about and seeking have found the truth, and as we have comprehended from their writings they are nearer to the truth and to exact knowledge than the rest of the peoples. For they know and believe in God, the Maker of heaven and earth, in whom are all things and from whom are all things: He who has no other god as His fellow: from whom they have received those commandments which they have engraved on their minds, which they keep in the hope and expectation of the world to come; so that on this account they do not commit adultery nor fornication, they do not bear false witness, they do not deny a deposit, nor covet what is not theirs: they honour father and mother; they do good to those who are their neighbours, and when they are judges they judge uprightly; and they do not worship idols in the form of man; and whatever they do not wish that others should do to them, they do not practise towards any one, and they do not eat of the meats of idol sacrifices, for they are undefiled: and those who grieve them they comfort, and make them their friends; and they do good to their enemies: and their wives, O king, are pure as virgins, and their daughters modest: and their men abstain from all unlawful wedlock and from all impurity, in the hope of the recompense that is to come in another world: but as for their servants or handmaids, or their children if any of them have any, they persuade them to become Christians for the love that they have towards them; and when they have become so, they call them without distinction brethren: they do not worship strange gods: and they walk in all humility and kindness, and falsehood is not found among them, and they love one another: and from the widows they do not turn away their countenance: and they rescue the orphan from him who does him violence: and he who has gives to him who has not, without grudging; and when they see the stranger they bring him to their dwellings, and rejoice over him as over a true brother; for they do not call brothers those who are after the flesh, but those who are in the spirit and in God: but when one of their poor passes away from the world, and any of them sees him, then he provides for his burial according to his ability; and if they hear that any of their number is imprisoned or oppressed for the name of their Messiah, all of them provide for his needs, and if it is possible that he may be delivered, they deliver him.

And if there is among them a man that is poor or needy, and they have not an abundance of necessaries, they fast two or three days that they may supply the needy with their necessary food. And they observe scrupulously the commandments of their Messiah: they live honestly and soberly, as the Lord their God commanded them: every morning and at all hours on account of the goodnesses of God toward them they praise and laud Him: and over their food and over their drink they render Him thanks. And if any righteous person of their number passes away from the world they rejoice and give thanks to God, and they follow his body, as if he were moving from one place to another: and when a child is born to any one of them, they praise God, and if again it chance to die in its infancy, they praise God mightily, as for one who has passed through the world without sins. And if again they see that one of their number has died in his iniquity or in his sins, over this one they weep bitterly and sigh, as over one who is about to go to punishment: such is the ordinance of the law of the Christians, O king, and such their conduct. (Apology of Aristedes XV)

On Catholicity

St. Optatus of Milevis ca. 4th cent.

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

St. Ambrose on Binding and Loosing

St. Ambrose of Milan ca. 337-397

The Church holds fast its obedience on either side, by both retaining and remitting sin; heresy is on the one side cruel, and on the other disobedient; wishes to bind what it will not loosen, and will not loosen what it has bound, whereby it condemns itself by its own sentence. For the Lord willed that the power of binding and of loosing should be alike, and sanctioned each by a similar condition. So he who has not the power to loose has not the power to bind. For as, according to the Lord’s word, he who has the power to bind has also the power to loose, their teaching destroys itself, inasmuch as they who deny that they have the power of loosing ought also to deny that of binding. For how can the one be allowed and the other disallowed? It is plain and evident that either each is allowed or each is disallowed in the case of those to whom each has been given. Each is allowed to the Church, neither to heresy, for this power has been entrusted to priests alone. Rightly, therefore, does the Church claim it, which has true priests; heresy, which has not the priests of God, cannot claim it. And by not claiming this power heresy pronounces its own sentence, that not possessing priests it cannot claim priestly power. And so in their shameless obstinacy a shamefaced acknowledgment meets our view. (On Repentance Bk. 1.2.7)

A Prophetic Exhortation from St. Ignatius

St. Ignatius of Antioch ca. 50-117

For, when I was among you, I cried, I spoke with a loud voice: Give heed to the bishop, and to the presbytery and deacons. Now, some suspected me of having spoken thus, as knowing beforehand the division caused by some among you. But He is my witness, for whose sake I am in bonds, that I got no intelligence from any man. But the Spirit proclaimed these words: Do nothing without the bishop; keep your bodies as the temples of God; love unity; avoid divisions; be the followers of Jesus Christ, even as He is of His Father. (To the Philadelphians, 7)

Evangel-ization in the Early Church

St. Ignatius of Antioch ca. 50-117

When I heard some saying, If I do not find it in the ancient Scriptures, I will not believe the Gospel; on my saying to them, It is written, they answered me, That remains to be proved. But to me Jesus Christ is in the place of all that is ancient: His cross, and death, and resurrection, and the faith which is by Him, are undefiled monuments of antiquity; by which I desire, through your prayers, to be justified. (Epistle to the Philadelphians 8)

Blessed Augustine of Hippo ca. 354-430

But should you meet with a person not yet believing the gospel, how would you reply to him were he to say, I do not believe? For my part, I should not believe the gospel except as moved by the authority of the Catholic Church. (Against the Fundamental Epistle of Manichaeus)

On Orthodox Ecclesiology

Synod of Nicea ca. 382

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

On Christ’s Death and the Unity of the Church

St. Athanasius the Great ca. 293-373

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

The Lasting Legacy of the Church in Antioch

The first Church to be called “Christian”:
 
So Barnabas went to Tarsus to look for Saul, and when he had found him, he brought him to Antioch. For a whole year they met with the church and taught a great many people. And in Antioch the disciples were first called Christians. Acts 11:25-26 
 
The oldest extant use of the phrase “Catholic Church”: 

St. Ignatius of Antioch ca. 50-117

Wherever the bishop shall appear, there let the multitude [of the people] also be; even as, wherever Jesus Christ is, there is the Catholic Church. (Smyrnaeans 8)

The first Church to use antiphonal hymns:

We must now however make some allusion to the origin of this custom in the church of responsive singing. Ignatius third bishop of Antioch in Syria from the Apostle Peter, who also had held intercourse with the Apostles themselves, saw a vision of angels hymning in alternate chants the Holy Trinity. Accordingly he introduced the mode of singing he had observed in the vision into the Antiochian church; whence it was transmitted by Tradition to all the other churches. Such is the account [we have received] in relation to these responsive hymns. (Socrates Scholasticus, Church History Bk. 6.8)

That excellent pair Flavianus and Diodorus, though not yet admitted to the priesthood and still ranked with the laity, worked night and day to stimulate men’s zeal for truth. They were the first to divide choirs into two parts, and to teach them to sing the psalms of David antiphonally. Introduced first at Antioch, the practice spread in all directions, and penetrated to the ends of the earth. Its originators now collected the lovers of the Divine word and work into the Churches of the Martyrs, and with them spent the night in singing psalms to God. (Blessed Theodoret, Ecclesiastical History Bk.2.19)

The first recorded use of the Greek word “Trinity” in Christian theology:

Theophilus of Antioch died ca. 185

For the sun is a type of God, and the moon of man. And as the sun far surpasses the moon in power and glory, so far does God surpass man. And as the sun remains ever full, never becoming less, so does God always abide perfect, being full of all power, and understanding, and wisdom, and immortality, and all good. But the moon wanes monthly, and in a manner dies, being a type of man; then it is born again, and is crescent, for a pattern of the future resurrection. In like manner also the three days which were before the luminaries, are types of the Trinity, of God, and His Word, and His wisdom. (To Autolycus Bk. 2.15)

St. Nectarios on Sacred Tradition

St. Nectarios of Aegina 1846-1920

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

Christian Life is Impossible Outside the Church

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

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

The Greatest Lie of All

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

I Can Just “Pray at Home”

St. John Chrysostom:

They say: ‘We can pray at home.’ Thou art deceiving thyself, O man! Of course, one can pray at home. But it is impossible to pray there as in church, where such a multitude of hearts are uplifted to God, merging into one unanimous cry. Thou wilt not be so quickly heard while praying to the Master by thyself, as when praying together with thy brethren, for here in church there is something greater than in thy room: Agreement, unanimity, the bond of love, and finally here are the prayers of the priests. The priests stand before us, then, so that the prayers of the people, being weak, would be united to their more powerful prayers and together with them ascend to heaven. The Apostle Peter was freed from prison, thanks to the common prayers offered for him…. If the Church’s prayer was so beneficial for the Apostle Peter and delivered such a pillar of the faith from prison, why, tell me, dost thou disdain its power and what kind of justification canst thou have for this. Hearken unto God Himself, Who says that the multitude of people who pray to him with fervor moves Him to have mercy. He says to the Prophet Jonah: ‘Shall I not spare Nineveh, that great city, in which dwell more than 120 thousand people.’ He did not simply mention the multitude of people but that thou mightest know that prayer together has great power.

St. John of Kronstadt adds:

Here in church is the one thing needful; here is a refuge from vanity and the storms of life; here is the calm harbor for souls seeking salvation; here is incorrupt food and drink for souls; here is the light, which enlightens every man who comes into the world; here is pure spiritual air; here is the well of living water springing up into everlasting life (John 4:14); here the gifts of the Holy Spirit are distributed; here is the cleansing of souls. The reading and singing in church are performed in a sacred language; all Orthodox Christians must learn it, in order to comprehend the sweet sayings of their mother, who is preparing her children for heaven, for eternal life…. Here in church, a man will come to know the true nobility of his soul, the value of life and its aim or his assigned path; here he dispels the fascination of worldly vanity and worldly passions by acquiring sobriety in his soul; here he comes to know his destiny, both temporal and eternal; here he comes to know his bitter, profound fall and seduction by sin; here the Savior is to be found, ;particularly in His holy and life, creating Mysteries, and His salvation; here a man comes to know his true relationship with God and his neighbor or with his family and the society in which he lives. The church is an earthly heaven, the place where the closest union with the Divinity occurs; it is a heavenly school which prepares Christians for heavenly citizenship, teaching them about the ways of heaven, about the dwellings of heaven; it is the threshold of heaven; it is the place for common prayer, for thanksgiving, for glorifying the Triune God, Who created and preserves everything; it is unity with the angels. What is more precious and more honorable that the church? Nothing. During the divine service, as on a chart, the whole destiny of the human race is depicted, from beginning to end. The divine service is the alpha and omega of the destiny of the world and of men.

Taken from http://www.johnsanidopoulos.com/

On Heresy

Gal 5:19-21

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

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

St. Ignatius of Antioch ca.45-107

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

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

St. Irenaeus of Lyons died ca. 202

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

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

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

Clement of Alexandria ca. 150-215

Accordingly it is added: “For he hath forsaken the ways of his own vineyard, and wandered in the tracks of his own husbandry.” Such are the sects which deserted the primitive Church. Now he who has fallen into heresy passes through an arid wilderness, abandoning the only true God, destitute of God, seeking waterless water, reaching an uninhabited and thirsty land, collecting sterility with his hands. And those destitute of prudence, that is, those involved in heresies, “I enjoin,” remarks Wisdom, saying, “Touch sweetly stolen bread and the sweet water of theft;” the Scripture manifestly applying the terms bread and water to nothing else but to those heresies, which employ bread and water in the oblation, not according to the canon of the Church. For there are those who celebrate the Eucharist with mere water. “But begone, stay not in her place:” place is the synagogue, not the Church. He calls it by the equivocal name, place. Then He subjoins: “For so shalt th