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.

On Elder Philotheos and the Pious Priests

Elder PhilotheosBlessed Elder Philotheos of Paros 1884-1980

Now I come to you, the Priests of Greece and especially of Athens, and I beg you to hear me attentively. When 50 years ago—I do not remember precisely—Meletios Metaxakis of Kition…ascended to the Archepiscopal throne of Athens, he summoned a clergy congress in a hall in the offices of the Metropolis. Almost all the priests of Athens came enthusiastically to hear his paternal counsels. Instead of telling them, as Christ told His disciples, ‘Ye are the light of the world. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father Who is in heaven’ [St. Matthew 5:14,16]—to be ‘humble, merciful, meek, pure in heart, peacemakers, patient in afflictions, temptations, persecutions, accusations, and to rejoice when men persecute you, hate you and wrong you, to love God and every man, even your enemies, and to pray for them’ [St. Matthew, chapter 5]—he gave them the following advice. Listen, so that you may shudder and weep: ‘In Europe all the clergy shave, cut their hair, and go without rasa. We should imitate them, in case we should seem out of date and uncivilized.’ Then almost all the priests, with one mouth, with boldness and confidence, said to him: ‘Your Beatitude, we are Greek Orthodox; we will never become heretics, Protestants or Papists.’ Then, as a politician, not as a pastor, he told them: ‘I did not tell you to become Protestants and Papists. I told you that, because I am concerned for your health, since beards, uncut hair and rasa cause illness.’ A fair number of priests replied to him: ‘We are healthier than those who are shaven and woman-faced.’ Having given up hope because his aim and his advice had proved vain and fruitless, he turned to a doctor, whom he had brought along to assist his purpose, and said to him, ‘Doctor, talk to them, advise them, because they will not listen to me.’ When he was called upon to speak, the doctor began to give them advice, but some of the priests did not allow him to, saying to the Metropolitan: ‘Let the physician heal himself.’ Others said to the doctor, ‘Go and cure the sick who summon you. We are neither sick nor have we summoned you,’ and in this way the clergy congress dissolved into a shaming of Meletios Metaxakis, the modernist, the innovator, the scorner of Patristic Traditions, and redounded to the glory of God, the boast of Orthodoxy, and the praise of the priests of Athens. (Fourth Clarion Call to Salvation [Thessaloniki: “Orthodoxos Kypseli” Editions, 1981], p. 36)

On the Mystery of Lawlessness

1SR14__56007.1429296344.900.900Hieromonk Seraphim of Platina 1934-1982

St. Paul mentions the Apostasy, in 2 Thessalonians, he gives a second name for this movement or process. He calls it the “mystery of iniquity,” the “mystery of lawlessness.” He says the mystery of lawlessness is already at work, preparing for Antichrist, who is the “man of lawlessness.” As we look around in our twentieth century civilization, the word “lawlessness” or “anarchy” is perhaps the chief characteristic which identifies it.

…In the realm of moral teaching, it is quite noticeable, especially in the last twenty years or so, how lawlessness has become the norm. And even people in high positions within the clergy in various denominations of Catholics and Protestants, and so forth, are sometimes quite willing to justify all kinds of things which were previously considered immoral. Now there is considered something of a new morality, “situation ethics,” and so forth.

Solzhenitsyn mentions specifically in his Harvard lecture what happened in New York City three years ago when the electricity was cut off. He said: “The center of your culture is left without electric power for a few hours only, and all of a sudden crowds of American citizens start looting and creating havoc. The smooth surface film must be very thin. Your social system must be quite unstable and unhealthy”. . . . Forty years ago in America, if the lights went out, people would have helped each other out, lit candles, and so forth. Now, instead, they go and break windows, loot, take everything they can get for themselves, kill people and get away with whatever they think they can get away with. Something has changed in a short time.

All this is a sign of what St. Paul calls the “mystery of lawlessness.” It is a mystery because a mystery is something which is not fully revealed in this world; it is something which comes from the other world. And the “mystery of righteousness” is the whole story of how Christ came from heaven and tried to save us. The mystery of lawlessness is the opposite: it is some kind of mystery coming up from hell, which breaks into this world and changes this world. Therefore, this mystery of lawlessness or anarchy is preparing for the coming of the man of lawlessness, who is Antichrist.

Even in politics and government– which make no sense at all unless you have the idea of order-this idea of lawlessness is entering in… (Signs of the End Times)

On Partaking of the Mysteries During Lent

The Golden-MouthSt. John Chrysostom ca. 349-407

I observe many partaking of Christ’s Body lightly and just as it happens, and rather from custom and form, than consideration and understanding. When, says a man, the holy season of Lent sets in, whatever a man may be, he partakes of the Mysteries, or, when the day of the Lord’s Epiphany comes. And yet it is not the Epiphany, nor is it Lent, that makes a fit time for approaching, but it is sincerity and purity of soul. With this, approach at all times; without it, never. For as often, 1 Cor. 11:26 says he, as you do this, you proclaim the Lord’s death, i.e., you make a remembrance of the salvation that has been wrought for you, and of the benefits which I have bestowed. Consider those who partook of the sacrifices under the old Covenant, how great abstinence did they practice? How did they not conduct themselves? What did they not perform? They were always purifying themselves. And do you, when you draw near to a sacrifice, at which the very Angels tremble, do you measure the matter by the revolutions of seasons? And how shall you present yourself before the judgment-seat of Christ, thou who presumest upon His body with polluted hands and lips? You would not presume to kiss a king with an unclean mouth, and the King of Heaven do you kiss with an unclean soul? It is an outrage. Tell me, would you choose to come to the Sacrifice with unwashen hands? No, I suppose, not. But you would rather choose not to come at all than come with soiled hands. And then, thus scrupulous as you are in this little matter, do you come with soiled soul and thus dare to touch it? And yet the hands hold it but for a time, whereas into the soul it is dissolved entirely. What, do you not see the holy vessels so thoroughly cleansed all over, so resplendent? Our souls ought to be purer than they, more holy, more brilliant. And why so? Because those vessels are made so for our sakes. They partake not of Him that is in them, they perceive Him not. But we do—yes, verily. Now then, you would not choose to make use of a soiled vessel and do you approach with a soiled soul? Observe the vast inconsistency of the thing. At the other times you come not, no, not though often you are clean; but at Easter, however flagrant an act you may have committed, you come. Oh! The force of custom and of prejudice! (Homily 3 on Ephesians)

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 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 When People Speak Ill of You

0206barsanuphius.n.johnSs. Barsanuphius and John ca. 6th cent.

Q: A brother asked the Elder: “When I hear of someone that he is speaking ill of me, what should I do?”

A: Immediately stand at prayer and pray first for him, then for yourself, saying: “Lord Jesus Christ! Have mercy on this brother and me, Thy useless slave, and protect us from the evil one, by the prayers of Thy Saints.” Amen. (Answers to the Questions of Disciples, Question 556. Guidance Toward Spiritual Life, p. 125)

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 Being Saved Through Childbearing

image source: https://krishantheorthodoxsingh.wordpress.com/2014/07/18/astonishing-pictures-of-christian-palestine/

image source: https://krishantheorthodoxsingh.wordpress.com/2014/07/18/astonishing-pictures-of-christian-palestine/

Blessed Theophylact of Ochrid ca. 1055-1108

Not childbearing alone, but rearing them up… It is evident that a woman being virtuous is raising her children in virtue. Now if a virgin is being virtuous, doubtless she is being saved… Since the woman has been hindered from teaching… if she desires to be teaching, let her teach the children. But some say that the “childbearing” [1 Tim. 2:15] means that of the Theotokos. For she gave birth to the Savior, saving, they say, the women. (P.G. 125:364 BC [col. 40])

 

On Women in Christ

IMG_0983St. Paulinus of Nola ca. 354-431

The Apostle’s authority has allowed only women to have long hair, for though their faith like that of men removes the veil from their hearts, fitting modesty demands a covering for their heads and a veil for their brows… Hair is unbecoming for men because Christ, the Head of every man, cannot be concealed… She is no one’s head, but the embellishment of her husband by the adornment of her virtue. We might say that she is placed at the base to support that body’s chain which is linked to God by the head of Christ, to Christ by the head of man, and to man by the head of woman. But Christ makes woman also belong to the Head at the top by making her part of the body and of the structure of the limbs, for in Christ we are neither male or female (Gal. 3:28)…

Let them realize why Paul ordered their heads to be clothed with a more abundant covering: it is because of the angels, that is, the angels who are ready to seduce them and whom the saints will condemn… A woman ought to cover her head especially in prayer and prophecy. Then she becomes pregnant with the Spirit, and accordingly rouses the hatred of of the tempter all the more when she leaves behind the boundaries of her womanly weakness, and aspires to human perfection… So because a woman becomes spiritually pregnant,… she has a power over her head, so that the wiles and snares of the enemy may not confront her. Her hair shows that by this power she is both guided and defended. Strength is bestowed on her by that very humility of heart by which through the guidance of self-control she restrains the arrogance of knowledge. (Letter 23: To Severus)

On Our Present Circumstances

Fallen ChurchSt. Sophronius of Jerusalem ca. 560-638

[T]he present circumstances are forcing me to think differently about our way of life, for why are [so many] wars being fought among us? Why do barbarian raids abound? Why are the troops of the Saracens attacking us? Why has there been so much destruction and plunder? Why are there incessant outpourings of human blood? Why are the birds of the sky devouring human bodies?

…Why have churches been pulled down? Why is the cross mocked? Why is Christ, who is the dispenser of all good things and the provider of this joyousness of ours, blasphemed by pagan mouths (ethnikois tois stomasi) so that he justly cries out to us: “Because of you my name is

Why have churches been pulled down? Why is the cross mocked? Why is Christ, Who is the dispenser of all good things and the provider of this joyousness of ours, blasphemed by pagan mouths (ethnikois tois stomasi) so that He justly cries out to us: “Because of you My name is blasphemed among the pagans,” and this is the worst of all the terrible things that are happening to us…

egypt_bloody_jesus_AFPThat is why the vengeful and God-hating Saracens, the Abomination of Desolation clearly foretold to us by the Prophets, overrun the places which are not allowed to them, plunder cities, devastate fields, burn down villages, set on fire the holy churches, overturn the sacred monasteries, oppose the Byzantine armies arrayed against them, and in fighting raise up the trophies [of war] and add victory to victory. Moreover, they are raised up more and more against us and increase their blasphemy of Christ and the Church, and utter wicked blasphemies against God. Those God-fighters boast of prevailing over all, assiduously and unrestrainably imitating their leader, who is the devil, and emulating his vanity because of which he has been expelled from heaven and been assigned to the gloomy shades. Yet these vile ones would not have accomplished this nor seized such a degree of power as to do and utter lawlessly all these things, unless we had first insulted the gift [of baptism] and first defiled the purification, and in this way grieved Christ, the giver of gifts, and prompted Him to be angry with us, good though He is and though He takes no pleasure in evil, being the fount of kindness and not wishing to behold the ruin and destruction of men. We are ourselves, in truth, responsible for all these things and no word will be found for our defence. What word or place will be given us for our defence when we have taken all these gifts from Him, befouled them and defiled everything with our with our vile actions? (excerpted from Spencer, Robert. 2014-04-08. Did Muhammad Exist?: An Inquiry into Islam’s Obscure Origins. Kindle Locations 500-524. Intercollegiate Studies Institute. Kindle Edition)

On Living Orthodoxy and Spreading the Faith

1SR14__56007.1429296344.900.900Hieromonk Seraphim Rose 1934-1982

[O]ur attitude must be not self-centered but reaching out to those who are seeking for God and for a godly life. Nowadays, wherever there is a good-sized Orthodox community, the temptation is to make it into a society for self-congratulation and for taking delight in our Orthodox virtues and achievements: the beauty of our church buildings and furnishings, the splendor of our services, even the purity of our doctrine. But the true Christian life, even since the time of the Apostles, has always been inseparable from communicating it to others. An Orthodoxy that is alive by this very fact shines forth to others—and there is no need to open a “department of missions” to do this; the fire of true Christianity communicates itself without this. If our Orthodoxy is only something we keep for ourselves, and boast about it, then we are the dead burying the dead—which is precisely the state of many of our Orthodox parishes today, even those that have a large number of young people, if they are not going deeply into their Faith. It is not enough to say that the young people are going to church. We need to ask what they are getting in church, what they are taking away from church, and, if they are not making Orthodoxy a part of their whole life, then it really is not sufficient to say that they are going to church. (Living the Orthodox Worldview)

On the Biblico-Patristic Mindset II

St. Benedict of NursiaSt. Benedict of Nursia ca. 480-543

[F]or those who would hasten to the perfection of that life there are the teaching of the Holy Fathers, the observance of which leads to the height of perfection.  For what page or what utterance
of the divinely inspired books of the Old and New Testaments is not a most unerring rule for human life?  Or what book of the holy Catholic Fathers does not loudly proclaim how we may come by a straight course to our Creator?  Then the Conferences and the Institutes and the Lives of the Fathers,
as also the Rule of our holy Father Basil —  what else are they but tools of virtue for [the] right-living and obedient…?  But for us who are lazy and ill-living and negligent they are a source of shame and confusion. (The Rule, Chap. 73)

 

On Leading in the Church

three holy hierarchsBlessed Jerome of Stridonium ca. 347-420

Let bishops hear this, let priests, hear, let every rank of learning get this clear: In the Church, leaders are servants. Let them imitate the Apostle [Paul]. The difference between secular rulers and Christian leaders is that the former love to be lord over their subordinates whereas the latter serve them. (Epistle to the Ephesians, 3.5.21, P.L. 26:530 AC [653, 654], in ACC, VIII:194)

On Moral Purity

St. John Chrysostom: "Crowns are wont to be worn on the heads of bridegrooms, as a symbol of victory, betokening that they approach the marriage bed unconquered by pleasure."

St. John Chrysostom: “Crowns are wont to be worn on the heads of bridegrooms, as a symbol of victory, betokening that they approach the marriage bed unconquered by pleasure.”

Alexei Khomiakov 1804-1860

Many nations adhere to an opinion that is absurd and displeasing to God: that moral purity is more suitable for women than men! Women’s morals depend on those of men. For the stronger vessel, the head of God’s creation, to demand from a weaker vessel, the woman, virtues that he himself does not possess, is not only irrational but also dishonest. (Berdiaev, N. Aleksei Stepanovich Khomiakov. Westmead, England: Gregg International Publishers Limited, 1971. 46)

On Christian Marriage

St Nektary of OptinaSt. Nektary of Optina 1858-1928

For a woman, marriage is service to the Most Holy Trinity — see what a great honor it is to be a wife and a mother.

Happiness in married life is granted only to those who fulfill the Divine Commandments and treat marriage as a Mystery of the Christian Church. (Living Without Hypocrisy: Spiritual Counsels of the Holy Elders of Optina, p. 156)

On Safeguarding Christian Lands

Anti-christian thugSs. Cyril and Methodius ca. 9th cent.

Christ our God…ordered us to pray for our offenders and to do good to them. He also said that no one of us can show greater love in life than he who gives his life for his friends (Jn. 15:3). That is why we generously endure offenses caused us as private people. But in company we defend one another and give our lives in battle for our neighbors, so that you, having taken our fellows prisoners, could not imprison their souls together with their bodies by forcing them into renouncing their faith and into godless deeds. Our Christ-loving soldiers protect our holy Church with arms in their hands. They safeguard the sovereign in whose sacred person they respect the image of the rule of the Heavenly King. They safeguard their land because, with its fall, the home authority authority will inevitably fall too and evangelical faith will be shaken. These are precious pledges for which soldiers fight to the last. And if they give their lives in battlefield, the Church will include them in the community of the holy martyrs and call them intercessors before God. (Life of Sts. Cyril of Methodius. excerpted from For the Peace from Above: An Orthodox Resource Book on War, Peace and Nationalism, p. 118)

St. Philaret of Moscow on War

220px-Filaret,_Metropolitan_of_MoscowSt. Philaret of Moscow 1821-1867

God loves a peaceful world, and God blesses a righteous campaign. For as long as there are innocent people on earth, it is not possible to maintain peace without conflict. (Speech Before Russian Troops in 1843 During the Sebastopol Campaign)

Do not fear dangers, as you ally yourself with truth, for it better to die for her than to see her vanish. With your blood redeem the blessings that were purchased for you by your ancestors. Avoiding death for your faith or for the freedom of your homeland, you will die either as a criminal or a slave; die for your faith and for your homeland, and you will acquire life and a crown in heaven. (Spoken at the Meeting of the Members of “Conversations Among Lovers of the Russian Word”) (For the Peace From Above: An Orthodox Resource Book on War, Peace, Peace and Nationalism, p. 218)

St. Seraphim on Reading Holy Scripture

seraphim1St. Seraphim of Sarov 1759-1833

It is very profitable to occupy oneself with reading the word of God in solitude, and to read the whole Bible intelligently. For one such occupation alone, apart from good deeds, the Lord will not leave a person without His mercy, but will fill him with the gift of understanding. And when a man nourishes his soul with the word of God, there is realized in him an understanding of what is good and what is evil. The reading of the word of God should be performed in solitude, in order that the whole mind of the reader might be plunged into the truths of Holy Scripture, and that from this he might receive warmed and is filled with spiritual gifts, which rejoice the mind and heart more than any word. (Little Russian Philokalia, p. 41)

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)

St. Basil the Great on Headcoverings

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

[W]omen, who forget the fear of God and scorn the everlasting fire, on that day when they were supposed to be sitting in their homes in remembrance of the resurrection, reflecting on that day when the heavens will be opened and the Judge will appear to us out of the heavens, as well as the trumpets of God, and the resurrection of the dead, and the just judgment, and the repayment to each according to his deeds… instead of pondering these things in their mind, purifying their hearts of wicked thoughts, washing away their past sins with tears, and preparing themselves to meet Christ on that great Day of His Appearing, instead of doing these things they shook off their yoke of slavery to Christ, ripped the veils of modesty from their heads, despised God, despised His angels, acted shamelessly at the sight of every male, tousling their hair, dragging their garments in trains and at the same time tinkling with their feet… (Isa. 3:16 LXX) (On Fasting and Feasts [Popular Patristic Series Book 50, (Kindle Locations 1990-1998]. St Vladimir’s Seminary Press. Kindle Edition)

[N]o man ought to pray or prophesy with his head covered; and no woman with uncovered head. (Moralia, Rule 56)

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 Orthodoxy with Commitment

Hieromonk Seraphim of Platina (+ Sept. 2, 1982)

We must not artificially isolate ourselves from the reality of today’s world; rather, we must learn to use the best things the world has to offer, for everything good in the world—if we are only wise enough to see it—points to God, and we must make use of it. Too many people make the mistake of limiting Orthodoxy to church services, set prayers, and the occasional reading of a spiritual book. True Orthodoxy, however, requires a commitment that involves every aspect of our lives. One is Orthodox all the time every day, in every situation of life—or one is not really Orthodox at all. For this reason we must develop an Orthodox worldview and live it. (Living an Orthodox Worldview, Lecture Aug. 1980)

Blessed Fr. Seraphim, pray for us!

On Fr. Florovsky in Pop Culture

Tall and gaunt, he would appear in the long black cassock of an Orthodox priest on the Princeton campus. The erudite undergraduates, considerably more flexible in their dress, styled him“the Grand Inquisitor” —a fitting title, given his tendency to project a sense of doctrinal authority. At Princeton, the staff of the Firestone Library christened Florovsky a “patron saint of photocopying” for the countless hours he spent at the copy machine. Apparently his photocopying talent was so well known that he even became an inspiration for the 1976 Super Bowl commercial of the Xerox Corporation, featuring a monk busily copying medieval manuscripts (*). In this way, unawares, Florovsky contributed to raising the American advertising industry to a higher level of intellectual sophistication. (Gavrilyuk, Paul L. 2013-12-19. Georges Florovsky and the Russian Religious Renaissance [Changing Paradigms in Historical and Systematic Theology] pp. 8-9. Oxford University Press, USA. Kindle Edition)

(*) as reported by John W. Barker, “An Addendum”to John V. A. Fine, “Father Georges Florovsky in America,” in J. W. Barker (ed.), Pioneers of Byzantine Studies in America (Amsterdam: Adolf M. Hakkert, 2002), 123.

On Prayer and Smoking

In 1905 Father Silouan spent several months in Russia, often visiting monasteries. One one of his train journeys he sat opposite a shopkeeper, who in a friendly gesture opened his silver cigarette case and offered him a cigarette. Father Silouan thanked him but refused to take one. Then the shopkeeper began talking, asking, ‘Are you refusing, Father, because you think it is a sin? But smoking is often a help in life. It relaxes you, and makes a few minutes’ break. Smoking helps one to get on with one’s work or have a friendly chat, and in general…’ And so on, trying to persuade Father Silouan to have a cigarette. In the end Father Silouan made up his mind to say to him, ‘Before you light up a cigarette, pray and repeat one “Our Father…”‘ To this the shopkeeper replied, ‘Praying before having a smoke somehow doesn’t work.’ To this Silouan observed, ‘So better not start anything which cannot be preceded by untroubled prayer.’ (St. Silouan the Athonite by Archimandrite Sophrony, p. 70)

On the Death of Infants

Holy Innocents from Uncut Mountain Supply

Lenten Triodion

When baptized infants die, they enjoy the paradise of delight, whereas those not illumined by baptism and those born to pagans go neither to paradise nor to Gehenna. (Saturday before Meatfare; Matins. Synaxarion at the Sixth Ode of the Canon)

On That Which Restrains the Antichrist

St. Theophan the Recluse 1815-1894

The Tsar’s authority, having in its hands the means of restraining the movements of the people and relying on Christian principles itself, does not allow the people to fall away from them, but will restrain it. And since the main work of the Antichrist will be to turn everyone away from Christ, he will not appear as long as the Tsar is in power. The latter’s authority will not let him show himself, but will prevent him from acting in his own spirit. That is what “he that restraineth” is [2 Thes. 2:7]. When the Tsar’s authority falls, and the peoples everywhere acquire self-government (republics, democracies), then the Antichrist will have room to maneuver. It will not be difficult for Satan to train voices urging apostasy from Christ, as experience showed in the time of the French Revolution. Nobody will give a powerful ‘veto’ to this. A humble declaration of faith will not be tolerated. And so, when these arrangements have been made everywhere, arrangements which are favourable to the exposure of antichristian aims, then the Antichrist will also appear. Until that time he waits, and is restrained. (V. Moss, An Essay in Universal History – Part 4: The Age of Empire [1861-1914], p. 134)

On Church Preaching

Moscow Council of 1917 following the election of Patriarch St. Tikhon of Moscow

The Moscow Council December 1, 1917

Church preaching, in accordance with the Word of God (Matt. 28:19-20. Mk. 16:15, Acts 1:8, 1 Cor. 9:16, 2 Tim. 4:2, et al.), Church Canons (Apostolic Canons 36 and 58, Canon 19 of the Sixth Ecumenical Council, Canon 2 of the Seventh Ecumenical Council), and the directions of the typikon of the Church, is one of the major duties of the pastoral ministry and must be heard as often as possible at the public and private services, outside of services, but without exception at every Divine Liturgy celebrated on Sundays or Feast Days (Canon 19 of the Sixth Ecumenical Council), as well as in special circumstances that concern the life of the Church, society, or the State. As a reminder of this, Canon 58 of the Holy Apostles, Canon 19 of the Sixth Ecumenical Council, and Canon 2 of the Seventh Ecumenical Council shall be printed in the new editions of the Priest’s Service Book and of the Archieratikon, with the following commentary:

If a bishop or a presbyter celebrates the Divine Liturgy on a Sunday or Feast Day and does not preach the Word of God or commission the preaching to his concelebrants, and thus shows neglect for the clergy and the people, he commits a grave sin, for he saddens Christ, Who commanded to the shepherds of His Church to preach the Gospel. He disregards the word of the Apostle who says, “Take heed to yourself and to your teaching; hold to that, for by doing so you will save both yourself and your hearers” (1 Tim. 4:16), and forgets the injunctions of the Holy Fathers, shepherds, and teachers of the Universal Church. But, following the example of Christ the Chief Shepherd, of the Holy Apostles and of the Holy Fathers, may the bishops and presbyters of the Orthodox Church of Russia be divinely inspired preachers who console by the salvific teaching, denounce those who oppose it, and rather than only on Sundays or Feast Days, as was said above, but in every day may they preach the Word of God, and rather than only at the time of Divine Liturgy, may they also preach at other services and sacramental rites, if it is possible. So also may they at any other time call their flock to the hearing of the Word of God. (‘The Definition of the Sacred Council of the Orthodox Church of Russia on Church Preaching’. The Moscow Council [1917-1918] The Creation of the Conciliar Institutions of the Russian Orthodox Church by Hyacinthe Destivelle, O.P., p. 25-26)

On St. Columba and the Married Couple

St. Adamnan of Iona ca. 624-704

When the Saint [Columba of Iona] was living on the Rechrean island, a certain man of humble birth came to him and complained of his wife, who, as he said, so hated him, that she would on no account allow him to come near her for marriage rights. The saint on hearing this, sent for the wife, and, so far as he could, began to reprove her on that account, saying: “Why, O woman, dost thou endeavour to withdraw thy flesh from thyself, while the Lord says, ‘They shall be two in one flesh’? Wherefore the flesh of thy husband is thy flesh.” She answered and said, “Whatever thou shalt require of me I am ready to do, however hard it may be, with this single exception, that thou dost not urge me in any way to sleep in one bed with Lugne. I do not refuse to perform every duty at home, or, if thou dost.command me, even to pass over the seas, or to live in some monastery for women.” The saint then said, “What thou dost propose cannot be lawfully done, for thou art bound by the law of the husband as long as thy husband liveth, for it would be impious to separate those whom God has lawfully joined together.” Immediately after these words he added: “This day let us three, namely, the husband and his wife and myself, join in prayer to the Lord and in fasting.” But the woman replied: “I know it is not impossible for thee to obtain from God, when thou askest them, those things that seem to us either difficult, or even impossible.” It is unnecessary to say more. The husband and wife agreed to fast with the saint that day, and the following night the saint spent sleepless in prayer for them. Next day he thus addressed the wife in presence of her husband, and said to her: “O woman, art thou still ready to-day, as thou saidst yesterday, to go away to a convent of women?” “I know now,” she answered, “that thy prayer to God for me hath been heard; for that man whom I hated yesterday, I love today; for my heart hath been changed last night in some unknown way–from hatred to love.” Why need we linger over it? From that day to the hour of death, the soul of the wife was firmly cemented in affection to her husband, so that she no longer refused those mutual matrimonial rights which she was formerly unwilling to allow. (St. Adamnan, Life of St. Columba, Chap. 62)

On the Responsibility for the Scarcity of Preaching

St. Theophan the Recluse 1815-1894

I agree with you that the priests must speak with the faithful more often and converse with them both inside and outside the church. I do not agree, though, that, if this does not happen, the parishioners lack spiritual food. But even in that case, if I had to blame someone, I would blame the flock more than the pastors! For, which priest would overlook his parishioners’ quest for additional and more specialized teaching? You yourselves avoid the priests and, if you happen to meet one, you do not ask him about matters of the faith. This is why they also do not address such subjects and avoid teaching you in church, lest they become burdensome and alienate you.

I am not justifying the priests who do not teach and preach. It is their duty to be burning with divine aspirations and talk to the faithful, while the duty of the faithful is to eagerly embrace the teaching. I am only pointing out that you also bear responsibility for the scarcity of preaching. (Preaching Another Christ: An Orthodox View of Evangelicalism, p. 41)

On Secular Takeovers of the Church

St. Vladimir the Great ca. 958-1015

If anyone breaks my rule, whether he be my son or a servant, or anyone of my race or one of the boyars, and interferes in the ecclesiastical affairs of the Metropolitan, which I gave into the hands of the Metropolitan, and of the Church, and of the bishops in all the cities in accordance with the Canons, he will be judged and punished. If anyone tries to seize the judgment of the Church, he will be deprived of the name of Christian, and may all such be cursed by the Holy Fathers. (quoted V. Moss, “Church and State in Kievan Rus’. excerpted from Archbishop Seraphim (Sobolev), Russkaia Ideologia (The Russian Ideology), St. Petersburg, 1992, pp. 83-84)

On Orthodoxy and Black Americans

“The United States of America, after many years of union and peace, after gigantic material and moral development, are separated into two hostile camps. The Northern States, guided by true reason and evangelical principles, persistently seek the abolition of the slavery of the blacks. The Southern States, blinded by a badly understood material interest, obstinately and anti-Christianly seek the perpetuation of slavery. This war of ideas and physical interests is prosecuted to desperation. Bloody battles are delivered, but victory until the present is doubtful, and the return of peace does not seem near. But if we cast a careful eye upon the wonderful events of this age, we shall be inclined to believe that those who contend so nobly for the most unquestionable and humane rights, will, God helping them, reach the object of their desires.” (The Oriental Star)

Morgan traveled to Constantinople with a letter from the Philadelphia Greek community, which supported his ordination and also said that if he failed to establish a Black Orthodox parish, he was welcome to serve as their assistant pastor. So Morgan arrived in Istanbul, and he was interviewed by Metropolitan Joachim of Pelagoneia, one of the few bishops of the Patriarchate who knew English. Metropolitan Joachim recommended that Morgan be baptized, chrismated, ordained, and then sent back to America to “carry the light of the Orthodox faith among his racial brothers.” And so, in August, Morgan was baptized in front of three thousand people, and on the Feast of the Dormition, he was ordained a priest. He took the name “Father Raphael” in place of Robert. The Ecumenical Patriarchate sent him back to America with vestments, liturgical books, a cross, and twenty pounds sterling. He was given the right to hear confessions, but the Holy Synod denied his request for an antimension and Holy Chrism.

  • St. Nikolai Velimirovich preached in English at a Black church in Harlem in the 1920’s:

Metropolitan Amphilochius (Radovich):His sense of apostolic responsibility for all people and all nations can be explained. It is a fact that he was nearly the first [Orthodox] Christian bishop who preached Christ, in English, in the 20s of the twentieth century, to African Americans in Manhattan, New York [at St.Phillip’s Church in Harlem]. (The Theanthropic Ethos of Holy Bishop Nikolai Velimirovich. [kindle version])

Archbishop Iakovos would later explain that it was an obligation to speak up that led him to Selma: “We have fought oppressive and repressive political regimes, based on Christian principles, for centuries… A Christian must cry out in indignation against all persecution. That’s what made me walk with Martin Luther King Jr. in Selma. We are all responsible, and must continue to speak out.”

On Third Marriages

The Unequal Marriage (1862) by Pukirev

Patriarch Theodore Balsamon ca. 12th

If a rural priest might perform a benediction of a third marriage, while knowing that it was a third marriage, may he be punished, or as a peasant shall he be deemed worthy of pardon?

The one ignorant of the fact, whoever he may be, is worthy of pardon in accordance with the laws. The one who is ignorant of the law is not pardoned. Since by the new legislation of the celebrated emperor Lord Konstantinos Porphyrogennetos, the third marriage is sometimes permitted, and sometimes not permitted (for those who have children from the first or second marriage, and those who exceed forty years of age, are not able to contract a third union), we say that the priest who had performed a benediction of such an impeded third marriage is to be defrocked, because he was ignorant of the law’s main points. However, peasants, who are ignorant of the law’s fine points, are pardoned sometimes, since legal matters are not clear to all men. (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. excerpted from Viscuso, “A Guide to the Church Under Islam” p. 133)

Hieromonk Matthew Blastares ca. 14th century

Basil the Great in his fourth canon states, “We hold the custom of five years’ excommunication for trigamists when the marriage is clearly not dissolved. However, we no longer call such an affair marriage, but polygamy, or rather fornication that has been tempered, i.e., not dissolved, but reduced; limited to one woman. Wherefore, the Lord also said to the Samaritan woman, who had five husbands in turn, “He whom you have now is not your husband,” because they that go beyond the limit of digamy are no longer worthy to be called by the name of husband or wife.” However, he states that “it is not altogether necessary to bar them from the Church, but only for their punishment to be spent in the places of the hearers and of those that stand, not however, in that of the weepers.”

But also, again in canon fifty, he states, “There is clearly no ecclesiastical law of third marriage. Nevertheless, we view such things as defilements of the Church. However, we do not submit them to public condemnations because they are more preferable than unrestrained fornication.” Thus, we do not condemn the practice so as to also dissolve them, but according to the Tomos of Union which will be discussed shortly, by its decisions and command, we accept these marriages.

Gregory the Great, who is surnamed the Theologian, stated, “The first marriage is legal, the second is a concession, the third is a transgression of law, and one beyond this, the life of a swine, which does not have many examples of its evil.” (Homily 37.8)

Concerning the Tomos of Union

At this time, three marriages were recognized by ancient laws. Emperor Leo the Wise, who entered into a fourth marriage, was subjected to anathema by Patriarch Nicholas [I Mystikos], who required the emperor to quit himself of this union. Because the patriarch was absolutely inflexible, the emperor expelled Nicholas from the Church, and appointed as patriarch Euthymios Synkellos, a holy man. However, Euthymios, with a majority of hierarchs, contending not only tetragamy, but also trigamy to be illegal, with all zeal hindered the emperor who wished to decree that marriage be extended as far as the fourth for those who so desired. On account of this, a schism arose in the Church, which also sustained the dispute over the throne between Leo VI’s son Constantine Porphryogennetos and the latter’s father-in-law Romanos. At this time, in the year 6428 [920 AD], the so-called Tomos of Union was brought forth, which determined when it is fitting to concede a third marriage for some, excellently places reins on shameless desires of the passions, and it is annually read during July on the ambon. Thus, it states the following toward the end:

“Men who have reached forty years of age, and who cast themselves into a third marriage, inasmuch as they are defilements of the Church, we rule that they are to be excommunicated for five years, and after this expires, they are to approach for Communion once a year, on the venerable day of saving Pascha, after purifying themselves as much as possible by the fast for Pascha. The priest who dares, contrary to the decision, to deem some of these worthy of Holy Communion, will be risking his own rank. We command these things when there are no children from previous marriages. But if in fact there are children, the third marriage will be forbidden. But if a man is thirty and has received a succession of offspring from previous marriages, and nevertheless now joins himself to a third woman on account of the licentiousness of fleshly desire, let him be excommunicated for four years. Afterward, let him partake of Communion three times a year: on the Resurrection Day of Pascha, the Dormition of the undefiled Theotokos, and the feast day of the Lord’s Nativity because the fasts before these days are believed to purify most of the stain absorbed by him. However, if he is childless, this man is worthy of pardon if he chooses a third marriage on account of a desire to procreate children; and, excluded from Communion for three years, he should be treated with customary penalty.” (An Alphabetical Collection of All Subjects That are Contained in the Sacred and Divine Canons, prepared and at the same time organized by Matthew, the least among Hieromonks. excerpted from Viscuso, “Sexuality, Marriage, and Celibacy in Byzantine Law” pp. 97-99)

On the Riches We Can Keep

Elder Barsanuphius of Optina 1845-1913

Everyone knows the story about the young man in the Gospels. He approaches Christ and asks how he can inherit eternal life. The Lord replies, do thus and thus. “All this I have fulfilled,” says the young man. “Then if you wish to be perfect,” says Christ, “sell your possessions and give everything to the poor.” This commandment of Christ has profound meaning. The possessions which it necessary for us to give away are those things which we have received from the world. We must take them out of our heart and give them away, so that there will be nothing worldly there, so that Christ alone will be there. I earnestly entreat you — preserve your heart; let it belong entirely to the Lord. Don’t let anyone within it besides your spiritual father, and perhaps also a friend in the Lord.

There are possessions which one need not give away. The well-known and comprehensively educated physician, Professor Prigorov, was possessed of great erudition, and made use of it to the glory of God. When he was asked how he could combine the fulfillment of all the rites and dictates of the Orthodox Church with his enormous practice, he replied, “The Lord helps me, since I use my knowledge to the glory of my Lord Jesus Christ.” Such riches, that is, such knowledge, one need not renounce. (Elder Barsanuphius of Optina, p. 648)

On the Relevance of the Holy Fathers

Fr. Georges Florovsky 1893-1979

I have often a strange feeling. When I read the ancient classics of Christian theology, the Fathers of the Church, I find them more relevant to the troubles and problems of my own time than the production of modern theologians. The Fathers were wrestling with existential problems, with revelations of the eternal issues which were described and recorded in Holy Scripture. I would risk a suggestion that St. Athanasius and St. Augustine are much more up to date than many of our theological contemporaries. (The Lost Scriptural Mind, CW I:16)

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

 

On Burdening One’s Ancestors

St. Paisios the Athonite 1924-1994

It is a very sad thing those people who live a sinful life constantly adding more weight to the souls of their departed ancestors. For, these souls are burdened with guilt for having been the cause of their birth and of them living estranged from God and the fact that eternal hell awaits them after the small hell of their present life, which they live in sin. (Epistles p. 196, Fourth Epistle)

On Marriage and Procreation

St. Methodius of Olympus died ca. 311

For I think I have perceived clearly from the Scriptures that, after He had brought in virginity, the Word did not altogether abolish the generation of children; for although the moon may be greater than the stars, the light of the other stars is not destroyed by the moonlight.

Let us begin with Genesis, that we may give its place of antiquity and supremacy to this Scripture. Now the sentence and ordinance of God respecting the begetting of children Gen. 1:28 is confessedly being fulfilled to this day, the Creator still fashioning man. For this is quite manifest, that God, like a painter, is at this very time working at the world, as the Lord also taught, “My Father works hitherto.” But when the rivers shall cease to flow and fall into the reservoir of the sea, and the light shall be perfectly separated from the darkness,—for the separation is still going on,—and the dry land shall henceforth cease to bring forth its fruits with creeping things and four-footed beasts, and the predestined number of men shall be fulfilled; then from henceforth shall men abstain from the generation of children. But at present man must cooperate in the forming of the image of God, while the world exists and is still being formed; for it is said, “Increase and multiply.” Gen. 1:28 And we must not be offended at the ordinance of the Creator, from which, moreover, we ourselves have our being. For the casting of seed into the furrows of the matrix is the beginning of the generation of men, so that bone taken from bone, and flesh from flesh, by an invisible power, are fashioned into another man. And in this way we must consider that the saying is fulfilled, “This is now bone of my bone, and flesh of my flesh.” Gen. 2:23

And this perhaps is what was shadowed forth by the sleep and trance of the first man, which prefigured the embraces of connubial love. When thirsting for children a man falls into a kind of trance,  softened and subdued by the pleasures of generation as by sleep, so that again something drawn from his flesh and from his bones is, as I said, fashioned into another man. For the harmony of the bodies being disturbed in the embraces of love, as those tell us who have experience of the marriage state, all the marrow-like and generative part of the blood, like a kind of liquid bone, coming together from all the members, worked into foam and curdled, is projected through the organs of generation into the living body of the female. And probably it is for this reason that a man is said to leave his father and his mother, since he is then suddenly unmindful of all things when united to his wife in the embraces of love, he is overcome by the desire of generation, offering his side to the divine Creator to take away from it, so that the father may again appear in the son.

Wherefore, if God still forms man, shall we not be guilty of audacity if we think of the generation of children as something offensive, which the Almighty Himself is not ashamed to make use of in working with His undefiled hands; for He says to Jeremiah, “Before I formed you in the belly I knew you; ” Jeremiah 1:5 and to Job, “Did you take clay and form a living creature, and make it speak upon the earth? ” and Job draws near to Him in supplication, saying, “Your hands have made me and fashioned me.” Job 10:8 Would it not, then, be absurd to forbid marriage unions, seeing that we expect that after us there will be martyrs, and those who shall oppose the evil one, for whose sake also the Word promised that He would shorten those days? Mat. 24:22 For if the generation of children henceforth had seemed evil to God… for what reason will those who have come into existence in opposition to the divine decree and will be able to appear well-pleasing to God? And must not that which is begotten be something spurious, and not a creature of God, if, like a counterfeit coin, it is moulded apart from the intention and ordinance of the lawful authority? And so we concede to men the power of forming men. (Banquet of Ten Virgins, Discourse 2.1-2)

On Priests and the Powerful of the World

St. John of Kronstadt 1829-1908

The priest must be higher than the lordly haughtiness of well-born and coddled and not cringe before or fawn upon this haughtiness; he must not lower himself, not be cowardly before the powerful of this world, but hold himself with an awareness of his clerical dignity, gravely, evenly, in a pastoral manner — and serve unhurriedly, not so as to please people. He must denounce caprices, lordly arrogance, and any coldness to matters concerning the faith. (A Prodigal Saint, pp. 89-90)

On the Dikerion and the Trikerion

Met. Hilarion of Volokolamsk

Special items of the hierarchical service are the dikerion and the trikerion. These are two hand-held, ornamental candlesticks in which two (dikerion) or three (trikerion) candles are placed. The use of the dikerion and trikerion at the patriarchal liturgy began in the twelfth century. [1] Originally these candlesticks were ascribed only to kings and patriarchs (and not to all bishops) as they were perceived as attributes reflecting the dignity of teaching. This is mentioned in the twelfth century by Theodore Balsamon, the patriarch of Antioch, who insisted that the right to bless the faithful with candlesticks belonged to kings, patriarchs, autocephalous archbishops of Bulgaria and Cyprus, and also a few metropolitans to whom the kings had given this right. [2]

Later the dikerion and trikerion came to be used by all hierarchs at church services. The trikerion is interpreted symbolically as an indication of the three Persons of the Holy Trinity, while dikerion indicates the two natures of Jesus Christ. [3] Candles placed in the trikerion and dikerion may be connected at the top in such a way that a single flame is formed. A more common style has crossing candles whose top ends are directed in different directions. [4]

[1] Jacob, “Le chandelier a trois branches de l’eveque Pantoleon: A propos de l’inscription de Geroges de Gallipoli,” Bolletino della Badia greca di Grottaferata 53 (1999), 187-199.

[2]Theodore Balsamon Reflections, PG 138, 1016D-11017C.

[3]Simeon of Thessalonica Concerning the Holy Temple 59, 61. PG 155, 721BC.

[4] Deacon Mikhail Zheltov, “Dikirion” in Orthodox Encyclopedia, vol. 14, 693.

On the Origin of Priestly Pectoral Crosses

Metropolitan Hilarion of Volokolamsk

In the ancient Church priests did not wear crosses on the breast. The four-ended, gold breast cross was introduced in the Russian Orthodox Church as an award for deserving priests by the decree of Emperor Paul I on December 18, 1797. On February 24, 1820, by decree of the Holy Synod, priests who had served abroad received the right to wear a cross “from his Majesty’s Cabinet” — these crosses were known as “Cabinet crosses”. Beginning in the nineteenth century, deserving priests were awarded jeweled crosses and some archimandrites even received the right to wear the panagia [1]. Finally, by the decree of Emperor Nicholas II on May 14, 1896, the silver cross came to be awarded as a mark of distinction to every priest. At the present time, the silver cross is given to every priest at his ordination while the gold cross (the cross described above as dating from the year 1797) and the jeweled cross may be awarded as a mark of special distinction or many years of service [2].

Several rules exist concerning the wearing of crosses by priests in the local autonomous Orthodox Churches. In the Greek tradition only archimandrites and distinguished archpriests (Gr. protosygkelos) have the right to wear a cross, while the majority of priests do not wear a cross. In the churches of Slavic tradition the practice was adopted from the Russian Church of the Synodal period to allow all priests to wear crosses. In the Romanian Church, not only all priests but archdeacons wear crosses as well. They wear the cross over their sticharion during the divine services. (Orthodox Christianity Vol. III, The Architecture, Icons, and Music of the Orthodox Church, p. 104)

[1] In particular, the future Metropolitan of Moscow Philaret received this right while he was an archimandrite. Also, the famous church composer and theologian of the nineteenth century Archimandrite Theophan (Alexandrov) received this right.

[2] Until the year 2004 some clergymen in the Russian Orthodox Church received the right to wear two or three crosses, but that custom has since been eliminated.

On Sitting and Orthodox Services

Metropolitan Hilarion Alfeyev

Some people think that a characteristic difference between Orthodox churches and their Catholic and Protestant counterparts is the absence of seats. Actually, all ancient directives for serving in the church presupposed that seats were to be present in church because it is in fact proper to sit during certain parts of the services. In particular, the psalms and also the readings of the Old Testament and Epistle were heard while sitting. So were readings from the writings of the Church Fathers and also certain Christian hymns, such as kathisma hymns, whose name itself indicates that they were listened to while sitting. Standing was considered necessary only at the most important moments of the divine service, such as during the reading of the Gospel and during the eucharistic canon. Certain liturgical exclamations passed down to the present day, such as “Wisdom, aright!” [1] and “Let us stand aright, let us stand with fear!” were originally the deacon’s call to the faithful, inviting them to stand up for certain prayers, as they were sitting during the previous prayers.

The absence of seats in the church is a custom of the Russian Church but by no means is characteristic of Greek churches, where, as a rule, benches are provided for all who participate in the divine services. The absence of seats in the Russian churches surprised Greeks who visited Russia even in the seventeenth century. Paul of Aleppo was a deacon and one of the pilgrims who accompanied the Antiochian Patriarch Macarius in his travels in Russia. After attending a very long Russian service, he shared his impressions:

“On Saturday we listened to their liturgy, from which we departed no sooner than our legs were useless from standing so long, since in the churches there are no seats… You could imagine then, reader, standing in church without moving, like stones. We suffered much from tiredness, as the soul was torn apart by exhaustion and longing… Being among them, we were in amazement. We left the church, hardly feeling our legs from tiredness and ceaseless standing… Knowledgeable people told us that if someone wishes to shorten his life by fifteen years, let him go to the land of the Muscovites and live among them as an ascetic.” [2]

The author’s feelings are likewise familiar to people today who often complain about the absence of benches. But some Russian Orthodox churches have places around the periphery of the church designated for sitting. These places are intended for elderly and infirm parishioners. The custom of sitting during readings and standing only for the most important moments of the service, however, is not characteristic of most Russian Orthodox churches. It is preserved only in the monasteries where stasidi — high wooden chairs with collapsable seats and high elbow-rests and having one’s back lean against the wall. There would be nothing dishonorable if stasidi or another type of chair were to be installed in parish churches. It would make Orthodox services not only more “humane” in relation to the faithful, but it would also give rebirth to one of the elements of ancient ceremony. (Orthodox Christianity Vol. III The Architecture, Icons, and Music of the Orthodox Church, pp. 77-79)

[1] “Wisdom, aright!” is a most ancient liturgical exclamation meaning, “Wisdom, stand aright!” (that is, stand upright, for that which will be read is wisdom).

[2] Paul of Aleppo, Travels of Patriarch Macarius to Moscow in the Middle of the 17th Century (St. Petersburg, 1898, 13-14, 57-58.

On Walking in Accordance with the World

St. Makarios of Corinth 1731-1805

If we walk according to the custom of the world and in accordance with the desire of each person, we Christians will be no different from the unbelieving heathens who do not possess either law or Scriptures; nor will we differ from those men who lived in the time of anarchy, as it is written in the Book Judges: “Each man did what was right in his own eyes, because there was no king in those days”. (Judges 17:6) For this reason, when the Hebrews wanted to put our Lord to death out of envy, Pilate wanted to release Him, since he did not find in Him any cause for death. But they replied and said: “We have a law, and by our He ought to die, because He made Himself the son of God.” (Jn. 19:7) In saying this, they were lying. For, where in the Law does it say that whoever calls himself the son of God must die, when, in fact, Divine Scripture says that men are gods and sons of God? “I said: Ye are gods, and all of you sons of the Most High.” (Ps. 81:6 LXX) Hence, in saying, “We have a law,” they are lying, because no such law exists. (Concerning Frequent Communion, Ch. 2: Exposition of the Lord’s Prayer, IV)

On Loving All People

I was born to love people. It doesn’t concern me if he is a Turk, black or white. I see in the face of each person the image of God. And for this image of God I am willing to sacrifice everything. (Precious Vessels p. 45)

On Virginity and Godly Marriage According to the Fathers

 Ancient Faith Today interview with Fr. Josiah Trenham on Sexuality, Virginity and Marriage

An outstanding talk with Q & A on Godly Marriage also by Fr. Josiah Trenham

On How Christians Should Be in Church

St. Nikodemos the Hagiorite 1749-1809

Therefore, since the Church is an earthly Heaven, as we have demonstrated, it follows that, just as the Angels and the Saints stand in Heaven, so too should Christians stand in the Church of Christ. The Angels and the Saints stand in Heaven with fear and trembling; Christians should stand in Church with fear and trembling. The Angels and the Saints do not think about any earthly or worldly thing in Heaven; so also Christians should not think about any earthly or worldly thing when they are in Church. The Angels and the Saints have great peace in Heaven; such peace, of body and soul, of the senses and the mind, should Christians have when standing in Church. The Angels and the Saints have love, unanimity, and concord with each other in Heaven; such love and unanimity should Christians have when in Church. The Angels and the Saints in Heaven do not chat with each other, laugh, or gaze heard and there, but look with great attentiveness and reverence only at God Who is present before them. Thus does it behoove Christians, when in Church, not to chat with one another, laugh, or gaze here and there; they should look only and solely in front of them and listen to the Divine Scriptures with attentiveness and reverence, bearing mind that they are standing before God, the Heavenly King. (On Christian Morality, p. 485)

On the Image of the Image of God

St. Theophan the Recluse 1815-1894

The husband, as the image and glory of God amongst creatures, must not cover his head in church, while the wife was taken from the husband later, created, as it were, in accordance with his image, and is therefore the image of the image, or the reflection of the glory of the husband, and must therefore cover herself in church as a sign of subjection to her husband. (Tolkovanie Poslanij sv. Apostola Pavla (Interpretation of the Epistles of the Holy Apostle Paul), Moscow, 2002, p. 179)

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)

Elder Paisios on Cassocks

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

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

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

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

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

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

On How to Help the Poor

Blessed Jerome ca. 347-420

And so I will respond to you with the words of our Lord: if you want to be perfect, to carry your cross, to follow the Saviour, and imitate Peter who said, “You see, Lord, that we have left everything to follow you,” (Matt.10:28) go, sell all that you have and give it to the poor, and follow the Saviour.

He did not say, Give it to your children, your brothers, your parents — by this rule, the Lord must come first — but “Give it to the poor,” or rather to  Christ, whom you help in the person of the poor; he, being rich, made himself poor for the love of us, and who says in the 39th psalm, “For me, I was poor and destitute, and the Lord took care of me.” (Ps. 40:17) And immediately at the beginning of the 40th psalm, “Happy is he who understands the needs of the poor and indigent.” (Ps.41:1)

He does not mean those who live in beggary and squalor and at the same time in their vices; but those of whom the apostle Paul spoke when he said, “They only asked us not to forget the poor.” (Gal. 2:10) It was for the relief of these poor that Paul and Barnabas undertook to collect money on the first day of the week in the congregations of (believing) gentiles, and that they hurried themselves, not sending others, to take it to those who had been stripped of their goods for Christ, who were suffering persecution and who had said to their father and mother, to their wife and children, “We do not know you.” (Deut. 33:9) These carry out the wish of the Father and of whom the Lord Saviour said, “These are my mother and my brothers, those who carry out the will of my father.” (Matt. 12:50, Luke 8:21)

I say this, not because we should not be charitable to Jews, gentiles, and to all the other poor, of whatever nation they may be; but we must always prefer Christians to unbelievers, and even among the Christians we should put a great distance between a man who is a sinner and one who is holy. This is why the apostle, who exhorts charity to all in  many places, recommends them to do so mainly towards fellow believers (Gal. 6:10). This is one with whom we are linked by religion, and who is not separated by sin from the brotherhood. If we are called to give food to our enemies when they are hungry, to give them drink when they are thirsty, and so to pour coals of fire on their head (Rom. 12:10), how much more towards those who are not our enemies, and who are Christians and holy? (Letter 120)

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)

St. John Cassian on Frequent Communion

St. John Cassian ca. 360-435
Yet we ought not to suspend ourselves from the Lord’s Communion because we confess ourselves sinners, but should more and more eagerly hasten to it for the healing of our soul, and purifying of our spirit, and seek the rather a remedy for our wounds with humility of mind and faith, as considering ourselves unworthy to receive so great grace. Otherwise we cannot worthily receive the Communion even once a year, as some do, who live in monasteries and so regard the dignity and holiness and value of the heavenly sacraments, as to think that none but saints and spotless persons should venture to receive them, and not rather that they would make us saints and pure by taking them. And these thereby fall into greater presumption and arrogance than what they seem to themselves to avoid, because at the time when they do receive them, they consider that they are worthy to receive them. But it is much better to receive them every Sunday for the healing of our infirmities, with that humility of heart, whereby we believe and confess that we can never touch those holy mysteries worthily, than to be puffed up by a foolish persuasion of heart, and believe that at the year’s end we are worthy to receive them. Wherefore that we may be able to grasp this and hold it fruitfully, let us the more earnestly implore the Lord’s mercy to help us to perform this, which is learnt not like other human arts, by some previous verbal explanation, but rather by experience and action leading the way; and which also unless it is often considered and hammered out in the Conferences of spiritual persons, and anxiously sifted by daily experience and trial of it, will either become obsolete through carelessness or perish by idle forgetfulness. (Conferences, 23.21:Third Conference of Abbot Theonas on Sinlessness)

On Monogamy and Continence

Tertullian ca. 160-220

Turning now to the law, which is properly ours— that is, to the Gospel— by what kind of examples are we met, until we come to definite dogmas? Behold, there immediately present themselves to us, on the threshold as it were, the two priestesses of Christian sanctity, Monogamy and Continence: one modest, in Zechariah the priest; one absolute, in John the forerunner: one appeasing God; one preaching Christ: one proclaiming a perfect priest; one exhibiting more than a prophet, — him, namely, who has not only preached or personally pointed out, but even baptized Christ. For who was more worthily to perform the initiatory rite on the body of the Lord, than flesh similar in kind to that which conceived and gave birth to that (body)? And indeed it was a virgin, about to marry once for all after her delivery, who gave birth to Christ, in order that each title of sanctity might be fulfilled in Christ’s parentage, by means of a mother who was both virgin, and wife of one husband. Again, when He is presented as an infant in the temple, who is it who receives Him into his hands? Who is the first to recognize Him in spirit? A man just and circumspect, and of course no digamist, (which is plain) even (from this consideration), lest (otherwise) Christ should presently be more worthily preached by a woman, an aged widow, and the wife of one man; who, living devoted to the temple, was (already) giving in her own person a sufficient token what sort of persons ought to be the adherents to the spiritual temple,— that is, the Church. Such eye-witnesses the Lord in infancy found; no different ones had He in adult age. Peter alone do I find— through (the mention of) his mother-in-law —to have been married. Monogamist I am led to presume him by consideration of the Church, which, built upon him, was destined to appoint every grade of her Order from monogamists. (On Monogamy, 8)

On Teaching Theosis Falsely

Met. Anthony Khrapovitsky 1863-1936

Not long ago many people of little faith in society at least respected the moral teachings of Christianity, but were dubious of the teaching about miracles. Today, however, the opposite is the case. Those same people who have little faith in the reality of miracles are ready to accept every fabricated miracle of swindlers and tricksters, provided that it weakens the significance of the commandments of God about prayer, obedience, and self restraint. They greedily fall upon everything that departs from the strict teaching of the Church, accepting all that promises growing close to the divinity without Orthodox Christian piety and without being adorned with morality. This is why so many have seized upon [this] teaching: one from blind zeal and stubbornness, another from laziness, delighted by the idea they will soon reach such a level of perfection that they will not have to stand through church services or read any prayers or the Holy Scripture, but will only “bear in their heart the name of Jesus.” (On the New False Teaching)

On Birth Control and Abstinence

Hieromonk Seraphim Rose 1934-1982

On the subject of birth control, the Orthodox Church is certainly no more “liberal” than the Catholic, and any kind of interference with the natural object and result of intercourse, i.e., the begetting of children, is strictly condemned as a severe sin. Certainly the “pill” falls into this category. The “wisdom” of man is one thing, the law of God another. As to abstinence [from sex] on fast days, this is part of the same asceticism or self-denial that decrees fasting from foods. Married love is not regarded as evil any more than meat or eggs are, but our life here is a preparation for an eternal life where there is neither marriage nor giving in marriage, where there is an endless feast not of earthly foods, and a part of the discipline on the way to this Kingdom is through taming the flesh to the Spirit. St. Paul speaks of husbands and wives denying each other (1Cor. 7:5), and this is interpreted as referring especially to preparation for Holy Communion, but also to other fasting periods.(Letters from Father Seraphim: Letter May 5/18, 1970)

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”.)

St. Athanasius on War

St. Athanasius the Great ca. 297-373

[I]t is not right to kill, yet in war it is lawful and praiseworthy to destroy the enemy; accordingly not only are they who have distinguished themselves in the field held worthy of great honors , but monuments are put up proclaiming their achievements. So that the same act is at one time and  under some circumstances unlawful, while under others, and at the right time, it is lawful and permissible. (Letter 48)

On Holy Virginity and Holy Matrimony

St. Philaret of Moscow 1821-1867

Marriage could but bring forth men, — virginity alone was worthy of giving birth to the God-Man… if you wish to learn from the Lord Himself the angelic dignity of virginity, listen to His own word: “for in the resurrection they neither marry, nor are given in marriage, but are as the angels of God in Heaven” (Mat. 22:30); or as another Evangelist paraphrases the same thing, “for they are equal unto the angels.” (Lk. 20:36) The state in which they neither marry nor are given in marriage, consequently, that of perpetual virginity, is then called by the Lord equal unto that of angels.

…[A]m I not speaking too much of a subject, which many may think, does not concern them? Indeed the Lord Himself has forewarned us, that not all are able to be virgins, saying: “All men cannot receive this saying, save they to whom it was given.” (Mat. 19:11) He Himself has called unto virginity not all men, but only those who are able, to whom it is given: “He that is able to receive it, let him receive it.” (Mat. 19:12)  And as virginity is not for all, therefore you may even ask, why then do I speak of it at all? I accept this question. It will lead me to the aim and end of my discourse. We speak of virginity to all, because among all there are those “that are able to receive it”; and my word is seeking out from amongst all those whom God calls to hear and fulfill it, and who are often unknown to men.

We speak to all men of virginity that those who are married might know that there is a state higher than marriage; and that honoring virginity in others, and thinking humbly of marriage, they might obtain for marriage a blessing near to the blessing of appointed virginity.

We speak of true virginity unto all men, that, knowing it, they may guard themselves from mistaken ways of the foolish virgins, who with the unlit lamps of their minds, wanting the oil of love, are roaming far from the heavenly abode, and, instead of love for the Bridegroom, they are but breeding hate against the holy state of marriage. For, already, since the time of the Apostles, “the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of demons, speaking lies in hypocrisy, having their consciences seared with a hot iron, forbidding to marry. (1 Tim. 4:1-3)

Finally, we speak of virginity to all men, that they who are married as well as they who are not, may vigilantly and carefully distinguish the bright beauty of virginity, the comeliness of pure and honorable marriage, from the state of those who have neither been faithful in the use of the golden talent of virginity, nor of the silver talent of marriage, entered upon by the will of the Lord of all talents and gifts. Virginity and marriage are not for all men, but chastity is for all men: “For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men, teaching us that, denying ungodliness and wordly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world.” (Tit. 2:11-12) What does it mean to live soberly? It means either in the purity of virginity or in the honorableness of marriage, in both cases, “in the abstinence from worldly lusts,” and above all, “from fleshly lusts, which war against the soul.” (1 Pet. 2:11) They alone who live thus in this present world, may “look for that blessed hope” (Tit. 2:13) to come. Amen. (Sermon XX, On Holy Virginity)

On the Purpose of Working

St. Basil the Great ca. 330-379

[I]n labor the purpose set before everyone, is the support of the needy, not one’s own necessity. (Regulae Fusius Tractatae, 4.2 ) 

On the Laity

St. John Chrysostom ca. 349-407

Certain it is at least that the prayer of the churches loosed Peter from his chains, opened the mouth of Paul; their voice in no slight degree equips those that arrive unto spiritual rule. Therefore indeed it is that both he who is going to ordain calls at that time for their prayers also, and that they add their votes and assent by acclamations which the initiated know: for it is not lawful before the uninitiated to unbare all things. But there are occasions in which there is no difference at all between the priest and those under him; for instance, when we are to partake of the awful mysteries; for we are all alike counted worthy of the same things: not as under the Old Testament [when] the priest ate some things and those under him others, and it was not lawful for the people to partake of those things whereof the priest partook. But not so now, but before all one body is set and one cup. And in the prayers also, one may observe the people contributing much. For in behalf of the possessed, in behalf of those under penance, the prayers are made in common both by the priest and by them; and all say one prayer, the prayer replete with pity. Again when we exclude from the holy precincts those who are unable to partake of the holy table, it behooves that another prayer be offered, and we all alike fall upon the ground, and all alike rise up. Again, in the most awful mysteries themselves, the priest prays for the people and the people also pray for the priest; for the words, with your spirit, are nothing else than this. The offering of thanksgiving again is common: for neither does he give thanks alone, but also all the people. For having first taken their voices, next when they assent that it is meet and right so to do, then he begins the thanksgiving. And why do you marvel that the people anywhere utter anything with the priest, when indeed even with the very Cherubim, and the powers above, they send up in common those sacred hymns? Now I have said all this in order that each one of the laity also may be wary, that we may understand that we are all one body, having such difference among ourselves as members with members; and may not throw the whole upon the priests but ourselves also so care for the whole Church as for a body common to us. For this course will provide for our greater safety, and for your greater growth unto virtue. Here, at least, in the case of the Apostles, how frequently they admitted the laity to share in their decisions. For when they ordained the seven, Acts 6:2-3 they first communicated with the people; and when Peter ordained Matthias, with all that were then present, both men and women, etc. For here is no pride of rulers nor slavishness in the ruled; but a spiritual rule, in this particular usurping most, in taking on itself the greater share of the labor and of the care which is on your behalf, not in seeking larger honors. For so ought the Church to dwell as one house; as one body so to be all disposed; just as therefore there is both one Baptism, and one table, and one fountain, and one creation, and one Father. Why then are we divided, when so great things unite us; why are we torn asunder? For we are compelled again to bewail the same things, which I have lamented often. The state in which we are calls for lamentation; so widely are we severed from each other, when we ought to image the conjunction of one body. For in this way will he that is greater, be able to gain even from him that is less. For if Moses learned from his father-in-law somewhat expedient which himself had not perceived, much more in the Church may this happen. And how then came it that what he that was an unbeliever perceived, he that was spiritual perceived not? That all those of that time might understand that he was a man; and though he divide the sea, though he cleave the rock, he needs the influence of God, and that those acts were not of man’s nature, but of God’s power. And so let another rise up and speak; and so now, if such and such an one does not say expedient things, let another rise up and speak; though he be an inferior, yet if he say somewhat to the purpose, confirm his opinion; and even if he be of the very meanest, do not show him disrespect. For no one of these is at so great a distance from his neighbor, as Moses’ father-in-law was from him, yet he disdained not to listen to him, but even admitted his opinion, and was persuaded, and recorded it; and was not ashamed to hand down the circumstances to history; casting down [so] the pride of the many. Wherefore also he left this story to the world engraven as it were on a pillar, for he knew that it would be useful to many. Let us then not overlook those who give us behooveful counsel, even though they be of the meaner sort, nor insist that those counsels prevail which we have ourselves introduced; but whatever shall appear to be best, let that be approved by all. For many of duller sight have perceived things sooner than those of acute vision, by means of diligence and attention. And say not, “why do you call me to council, if you hearken not to what I say?” These accusations are not a counsellor’s, but a despot’s. For the counsellor has only power to speak his own opinion; but if something else appear more profitable, and yet he will carry his own opinion into effect, he is no longer a counsellor but a despot, as I said. Let us not, then, act in this manner; but having freed our souls from all arrogancy and pride, let us consider, not how our counsels only may stand, but how that opinion which is best may prevail, even though it may not have been brought forward by us. For no light gain will be ours, even though we should not have discovered what behooves, if ourselves accepted what has been pointed out by others; and abundant is the reward we shall receive from God, and so too shall we best attain to glory. For as he is wise that speaks that which is behooveful, so shall we that have accepted it, ourselves also reap the praise of prudence and of candor. Thus if both houses and states, thus too if the Church be ordered, she will receive a larger increase ; and so too shall we ourselves, having thus best ordered our present lives, receive the good things to come: whereunto may we all attain, through the grace and love towards men of our Lord Jesus Christ, to Whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen. (Homilies on 2 Cor.: Homily 18.3)

 

On the Origin of Troubles in the Church

St. John Chrysostom ca. 349-407

For, tell me, whence do you think such great troubles are generated in the churches? I, for my part, believe the only source of them to be the inconsiderate and random way in which prelates are chosen and appointed. For the head ought to be the strongest part, that it may be able to regulate and control the evil exhalations which arise from the rest of the body below; but when it happens to be weak in itself, and unable to repel those pestiferous attacks, it becomes feebler itself than it really is, and ruins the rest of the body as well. (On the Priesthood Bk. 3.10)

On Remarriage

St. Gregory the Theologian ca. 329-389

Paul legislates for chastity by His example. How, and in what way? This Sacrament is great, he says, But I speak concerning Christ and the Church. Eph. 5:32 It is well for the wife to reverence Christ through her husband: and it is well for the husband not to dishonor the Church through his wife. Let the wife, he says, see that she reverence her husband, for so she does Christ; but also he bids the husband cherish his wife, for so Christ does the Church. Let us, then, give further consideration to this saying.

Churn milk and it will be butter; Prov. 30:33 examine this and perhaps you may find something more nourishing in it. For I think that the Word here seems to deprecate second marriage. For, if there were two Christs, there may be two husbands or two wives; but if Christ is One, one Head of the Church, let there be also one flesh, and let a second be rejected; and if it hinder the second what is to be said for a third? The first is law, the second is indulgence, the third is transgression, and anything beyond this is swinish, such as has not even many examples of its wickedness. Now the Law grants divorce for every cause; but Christ not for every cause; but He allows only separation from the whore; and in all other things He commands patience. He allows to put away the fornicatress, because she corrupts the offspring; but in all other matters let us be patient and endure; or rather be enduring and patient, as many as have received the yoke of matrimony. (Oration 37.7-8)

Upbringing Commences at Conception

Elder Porphyrios 1906-1991

A child’s upbringing commences at the moment of its conception. The embryo hears and feels in it’s mothers womb. Yes, it hears and it sees with it’s mother’s eyes. It is aware of her movements and her emotions, even though it’s mind has not developed. If the mother’s face darkens, it darkens too. If the mother is irritated, then it becomes also. Whatever the mother experiences — sorrow, pain, fear, anxiety, etc — is also experienced by the embryo.

If the mother doesn’t want the child, if she doesn’t love it, then the embryo senses this and traumas are created in it’s little soul that accompany it all it’s life. The opposite occurs through the mother’s holy emotions. When she is filled with joy, peace and love for the embryo, she transmits these things to it mystically, just as happens to children that have been born.

For this reason a mother must pray a lot during her pregnancy and love the child growing within her, caressing her abdomen, reading psalms, singing hymns and living a holy life. This is also for her own benefit. But she makes sacrifices for the sake of the embryo so that the child will become more holy and will acquire from the very outset holy foundations.

Do you see how delicate a matter it is for a woman to go through a pregnancy? Such a responsibility and such an honor! (Wounded by Love: The Life and the Wisdom of Elder Porphyrios pg. 195)

 

On Why Sin Reigns in the World Today

St. Nikodemos the Hagiorite 1749-1809

[I]n truth, the entire reason for the perdition of sinners today and the entire reason why sin and the devil have waxed so much in our day, to the point that they reign in the world, is none other than we. For although we see our brothers and sisters sinning openly and committing so many vices, we are not all sedulous to go and correct them, at times with fraternal advice and at times with words of reproof; no, every one of us puts forward a different excuse, and all of us remain silent and leave each person to do those evils that he wishes and desires. This is confirmed by St. John the Golden-Tongued, who says:

“Therefore, let us not say these things, but let us display proper solicitude for our brethren. This I promise with all exactitude, and I guarantee you all, that if all of you who are present here desire to procure the salvation of all who inhabit this city, we will speedily put the entire city right… Let us, then, effect the the salvation of our brothers and sisters. One man, inflamed with zeal, is sufficient to set an entire city aright. Yet when not one, or two, or three, but so great a multitude is capable of taking in hand the correction of the careless, it is from no other source than our own laziness, and not our weakness, that the majority are persishing and falling. For how is it not absurd if, seeing a dispute in the marketplace, we intervene to reconcile the disputants or — not to mention disputes — seeing a donkey that has fallen, we hasten to lend a hand and help raise it up, yet we neglect brothers and sisters who are perishing?” (Homily 1 On the Statues)

Thus, whichever of you Christians, knowing his brother is sinning or is going to sin, and does not either go in person to offer him fraternal counsel so as deter him from sinning or, failing that, disclose it discreetly to his hierarch, priest, or spiritual father, so that he might counsel him and hinder him from sinning, but keeps silent, let such a person know that he likewise has the same sin and is liable to the same penitential disciline. For, though he was able to impede his brother from sin and death, he kept silent and, by his silence, allowed him to die and go to perdition, according to that much-vaunted maxim, which says: “He who is able to prevent it and fails to do so is the one that is doing it.”

Thus, St. Basil the Great, in his Seventy-first Canon penalizes for as many years as he penalizes the fornicator, the adulterer, and the murderer also those who know that they are sinning and do not report it to hierarch or spiritual father, so that they might correct them, but remain silent. (Ralles and Potles, Syntagma, Vol. iv, pp. 230-231) Elsewhere, the same Father says: “To collaborate in concelaing a sin is to contribute to causing the death [of the sinner].” (cf. Long Rules, Resp. 46) And again: “If the sting of death is sin (1 Cor. 15:56)…the heartless person is he who leaves poison in one who has been bitten… is heartless, not he who removes it” (Short Rules, Resp. 4). (Christian Morality: Discourse XI)

 

On the Benefit of Being Mocked by the World

St. Nikon of Optina 1888-1931

At the present time, people in the world consider us believers to be foolish and stupid. They do not approve of our Orthodox faith, or ecclesiastical rules, laws and customs. They scornfully laugh at everything that is holy to us. You can often hear from believers, who are forced to live in a hostile environment, how difficult it is to endure constant mockery and derision. You should consider such treatment an honor: If ye be reproached for the name of Christ, happy are ye; for the Spirit of glory and God resteth upon you. (1 Pet. 4:14) If people laugh at us, if they do not love us, it means we are not of this world. We should not be grieved or upset over such treatment… Persecution and oppression are beneficial for us, for they strengthen us in our faith. (Living Without Hypocrisy pg. 32)

On Essentials for Contemporary Orthodox

Hieromonk Seraphim Rose 1934-1982

Orthodox Christians, surrounded by and already swimming in a sea of humanist-worldly philosophy and practice, must do everything possible to create their own islands, in that sea, of other-worldly, God-oriented thought and practice, and then tell some of the ways how: reading, services, etc. (Letter May 29/June 11, 1973)

Do you have a notebook for taking down quotes from Holy Fathers in your reading? Do you always have a book of Holy Fathers that you are reading and can turn to in a moment of gloom? Start now – this is essential. (Letter Oct. 2/15, 1975)

On Silent Shepherds

St. Gregory the Dialogist ca. 540-604

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

On War

St. Basil the Great ca. 330-379

Homicide in war is not reckoned by our Fathers as homicide; I presume from their wish to make concession to men fighting on behalf of chastity and true religion. Perhaps, however, it is well to counsel that those whose hands are not clean only abstain from communion for three years. (Letter 188, Canon 13)

On Victorious Bridegrooms

St. John Chrysostom ca. 349-407

Hear this, you fathers, bring your children up with great care in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. Eph. 6:4 Youth is wild, and requires many governors, teachers, directors, attendants, and tutors… Let us take wives for them early, so that their brides may receive their bodies pure and unpolluted, so their loves will be more ardent. He that is chaste before marriage, much more will he be chaste after it; and he that practiced fornication before, will practice it after marriage. All bread, it is said, is sweet to the fornicator. Sirach 23:17 Crowns are wont to be worn on the heads of bridegrooms, as a symbol of victory, betokening that they approach the marriage bed unconquered by pleasure. But if captivated by pleasure he has given himself up to harlots, why does he wear the crown, since he has been subdued? (Homily 9 on 1st Timothy)

A Brief History on Bearded and Shaven Clergy

Henry Chadwick

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

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

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

On Christian Marriage

Tertullian ca. 160-220

Whence are we to find (words) enough fully to tell the happiness of that marriage which the Church cements, and the oblation confirms, and the benediction signs and seals; (which) angels carry back the news of (to heaven), (which) the Father holds for ratified? For even on earth children do not rightly and lawfully wed without their fathers’ consent. What kind of yoke is that of two believers, (partakers) of one hope, one desire, one discipline, one and the same service? Both (are) brethren, both fellow servants, no difference of spirit or of flesh; nay, (they are) truly two in one flesh. Where the flesh is one, one is the spirit too. Together they pray, together prostrate themselves, together perform their fasts; mutually teaching, mutually exhorting, mutually sustaining. Equally (are they) both (found) in the Church of God; equally at the banquet of God; equally in straits, in persecutions, in refreshments. Neither hides (ought) from the other; neither shuns the other; neither is troublesome to the other. The sick is visited, the indigent relieved, with freedom. Alms (are given) without (danger of ensuing) torment; sacrifices (attended) without scruple; daily diligence (discharged) without impediment: (there is) no stealthy signing, no trembling greeting, no mute benediction. Between the two echo psalms and hymns; and they mutually challenge each other which shall better chant to their Lord. Such things when Christ sees and hears, He joys. To these He sends His own peace. Where two (are), there withal (is) He Himself. Where He (is), there the Evil One is not. (To His Wife)

On Virginity and Marriage

St. John Damascene ca. 676-749

Virginity is the rule of life among the angels, the property of all incorporeal nature. This we say without speaking ill of marriage: God forbid! (for we know that the Lord blessed marriage by His presence Jn. 2:1, and we know him who said, Marriage is honourable and the bed undefiled Hebr. 13:4), but knowing that virginity is better than marriage, however good. For among the virtues, equally as among the vices, there are higher and lower grades. We know that all mortals after the first parents of the race are the offspring of marriage. For the first parents were the work of virginity and not of marriage. But celibacy is, as we said, an imitation of the angels. Wherefore virginity is as much more honourable than marriage, as the angel is higher than man. But why do I say angel? Christ Himself is the glory of virginity, who was not only-begotten of the Father without beginning or emission or connection, but also became man in our image, being made flesh for our sakes of the Virgin without connection, and manifesting in Himself the true and perfect virginity. Wherefore, although He did not enjoin that on us by law (for as He said, all men cannot receive this saying Mat. 19:11), yet in actual fact He taught us that and gave us strength for it. For it is surely clear to every one that virginity now is flourishing among men.

Good indeed is the procreation of children enjoined by the law, and good is marriage on account of fornications, for it does away with these 1 Cor. 7:2, and by lawful intercourse does not permit the madness of desire to be enflamed into unlawful acts. Good is marriage for those who have no continence: but that virginity is better which increases the fruitfulness of the soul and offers to God the seasonable fruit of prayer. Marriage is honourable and the bed undefiled, but whoremongers and adulterers God will judge Heb. 13:4. (An Exposition of the Orthodox Faith Bk. 4.24)

On Missing Church Services

Council in Trullo 692

If any bishop, or presbyter, or deacon, or any of those who are enumerated in the list of the clergy, or a layman, has no very grave necessity nor difficult business so as to keep him from church for a very long time, but being in town does not go to church on three consecutive Sundays— three weeks— if he is a cleric let him be deposed, but if a layman let him be cut off. (Canon 80)

St. Paphnutius on Clerical Celibacy

Socrates Scholasticus ca. 4th cent.

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

On Avoiding Church Services

St. Barsanuphius of Optina 1845-1913

St. John Climacus was asked if there are reliable signs by which it’s possible to know whether a soul is drawing near to God or moving away from Him. After all, regarding ordinary things there are clear signs as to whether they’re good or not. When, for instance, cabbage, meat or fish begins to rot, it’s easy to notice it, since the rotting object begins to give off a foul odor, the color and taste change, and its external appearance witnesses to its deterioration. Well, and what about the soul? After all, it’s bodiless and can’t give off a bad smell or change its appearance. To this question the Holy Father replies, “A sure sign of the deadening of the soul is the avoidance of church services.”

A man who is growing cold towards God begins first of all to flee attending church. At first he tries to come to services later, and then he ceases altogether to visit God’s temple. Therefore it’s mandatory for monks to attend church services. True, it’s sometimes permitted, due to urgent matters, not to go to all the services, but when possible, it’s regarded as a necessary duty. Here in the Skete we even make the rounds of the cells on feast days, so that no one evades church services. (Letter 04/12/1911)

On Clerical Attire

Blessed Elder Epiphanios Theodoropoulos (+1989)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

One could, at this point, tell us:

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

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

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

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

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

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

St. Seraphim of Sarov on the Fasts

Once there came to him a mother who was concerned about how she might arrange the best possible marriage for her young daughter. When she came to Saint Seraphim for advice, he said to her: “Before all else, ensure that he, whom your daughter chooses as her companion for life, keeps the fasts. If he does not, then he is not a Christian, whatever he may consider himself to be.” (From a sermon of Metropolitan Philaret, quoted in The Ladder of Divine Ascent, pub. Holy Trinity Monastery, Pg. xxxiii.)

Source: http://www.abbamoses.com/fasting.html

St. Cosmas on Wives

St. Cosmas the Aetolian 1700-1779

[M]an, don’t treat your wife like a slave, because she is God’s creature as you are. God was crucified for you as He was for her. You call God “Father”; she calls him “Father” too. You have one faith, one baptism. God does not consider her inferior. This is why He made her from man’s middle, so man would be like the head and woman the body. But he didn’t make her from the head, so she wouldn’t have contempt for man. Similarly, he didn’t make her from the feet, so that man wouldn’t have contempt for woman. (Father Kosmas: Apostle to the Poor, First Teaching)

Icon Source

On an Orthodox Education

St. Justin Popovich 1894-1979

A thoughtless faith in the omnipotence of humanistic science and education, of culture and the applied arts, as well as in the omnipotence of humanistic civilization, borders on insanity. Through the tragic influence of this thoughtless faith, European education has also created among us the confrontation between the Church and the School, or rather has exceedingly applied its principles in Orthodox countries having officially expelled God from School. This has been disastrous for our Orthodox people. Our intellectuals who have been cut off from their roots are already carrying from these centuries “the lights” of this humanism in order to “rehabilitate” the Orthodox people. The result has been to transform Orthodox countries into slaughter-houses of souls.

…There is only one way to escape final destruction. What is this way? To accept theanthropic education and to apply it completely in all schools, from the greatest to the smallest, and in all state and national institutions. Theanthropic education radiates, illuminates, enlightens with the only inextinguishable and true Light in the entire world, namely with the God-man Christ. Darkness cannot extinguish or hide this Light, not even the darkness of Europe. Only this is capable of expelling all darkness from man, from society, from the people, and from the state. This, the only true Light, illuminates every man in the nucleus of his being and reveals to each one of us our immortality, our own divine and eternal brother. It teaches us that only then can the problems of man and the problems of society, the problems of the nation and the problems of humanity, be easily understood and solved when they are examined through the God-man Christ.

The main guidelines and characteristics of theanthropic education can be formulated as follows:

1)      Man is a being who can be perfected and completed in the most ideal and real way by the God-man and in the God-man.

2)      The perfection of man by the God-man takes place with the help of the evangelical witnesses.

3)      The illuminated and educated man sees in every man his immortal and eternal brother.

4)      Every human work and action – philosophy, science, geography, art, education, culture, manual labor, etc. – receives its eternal value when it is sanctified and receives meaning from the God-man.

5)      True enlightenment and education is accomplished through a holy life according to the Gospel of Christ.

6)      The saints are the most perfect illuminators and educators; the more holy a man is the better an educator and illuminator he becomes.

7)      School is the second half of the heart of the God-man; the first is the Church.

8)      At the center of all centers and of all ideas and labors stands the God-man Christ and His theanthropic society, the Church. (Orthodox Faith and Life in Christ pp. 62-64)

On the Priesthood and Marriage

Apostolic Canons ca. 1st cent.

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

Council of Gangra ca. 4th cent.

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

Council of Carthage ca. 419

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

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

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

Council in Trullo ca. 692

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

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

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

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

St. Theodore of Canterbury on Marriage

St. Theodore of Canterbury ca. 602-690

Of Marriages: that nothing be allowed but lawful wedlock; that none commit incest; no man quit his true wife, unless, as the Gospel teaches, on account of fornication. And if any man shall put away his own wife, lawfully joined to him in matrimony, that he take no other, if he wishes to be a good Christian, but continue as he is, or else be reconciled to his own wife. (Synod of Hertford ca. 673, Canon 10.  St. Bede’s Ecclesiastical History of the English Nation Bk. 4.5)

On Educating Children

St. Tikhon of Zadonsk 1724-1783

God will not ask you Whether you taught your children French, German or Italian or the politics of society life – but you will not escape divine reprobation for not having instilled goodness into them. I speak plainly but I tell the truth: if your children are bad, your grandchildren will be worse…and the evil will thus increase…and the root of all this is our thoroughly bad education. (On The Duty of Christian Parents to Their Children and of Children to Their Parents)

On Why Vigil Lamps are Lit Before Icons

St. Nikolai Velimirovich 1880-1956

First-because our faith is light.  Christ said: I am the light of the world (John 8:12).  The light of the vigil lamp reminds us of that light by which Christ illumines our souls.

Second-in order to remind us of the radiant character of the saint before whose icon we light the vigil lamp, for saints are called sons of light (John 12:36, Luke 16:8).

Third-in order to serve as a reproach to us for our dark deeds, for our evil thoughts and desires, and in order to call us to the path of evangelical light; and so that we would more zealously try to fulfill the commandments of the Saviour: “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works” (Matt. 5:16).

Fourth-so that the vigil lamp would be our small sacrifice to God, Who gave Himself completely as a sacrifice for us, and as a small sign of our great gratitude and radiant love for Him from Whom we ask in prayer for life, and health, and salvation and everything that only boundless heavenly love can bestow.

Fifth-so that terror would strike the evil powers who sometimes assail us even at the time of prayer and lead away our thoughts from the Creator. The evil powers love the darkness and tremble at every light, especially at that which belongs to God and to those who please Him.

Sixth-so that this light would rouse us to selflessness. Just as the oil and wick burn in the vigil lamp, submissive to our will, so let our souls also burn with the flame of love in all our sufferings, always being submissive to God’s will.

Seventh-in order to teach us that just as the vigil lamp cannot be lit without our hand, so too, our heart, our inward vigil lamp, cannot be lit without the holy fire of God’s grace, even if it were to be filled with all the virtues.  All these virtues of ours are, after all, like combustible material, but the fire which ignites them proceeds from God.

Eighth-in order to remind us that before anything else the Creator of the world created light, and after that everything else in order: And God said, let there be light: and there was light (Genesis 1:3).  And it must be so also at the beginning of our spiritual life, so that before anything else the light of Christ’s truth would shine within us.  From this light of Christ’s truth subsequently every good is created, springs up and grows in us.

May the Light of Christ illumine you as well!

(Translated by R.D. On-line article from Orthodox America.)

On Children Participating in the Holy Mysteries

St. Dionysius the Areopagite ca. 1st cent.

Now the fact that even children, not yet able to understand the things Divine, become recipients of the holy Birth in God, and of the most holy symbols of the supremely Divine Communion, seems, as you say, to the profane, a fit subject for reasonable laughter, if the Hierarchs teach things Divine to those not able to hear, and vainly transmit the sacred traditions to those who do not understand. And this is still more laughable — that others, on their behalf, repeat the abjurations and the sacred compacts. But thy Hierarchical judgment must not be too hard upon those who are led astray, but, persuasively, and for the purpose of leading them to the light, reply affectionately to the objections alleged by them, bringing forward this fact, in accordance with sacred rule, that not all things Divine are comprehended in our knowledge, but many of the things, unknown by us, have causes beseeming God, unknown to us indeed, but well known to the Ranks above us. Many things also escape even the most exalted Beings, and are known distinctly by the All-Wise and Wise-making Godhead alone. Further, also, concerning this, we affirm the same things which our Godlike initiators conveyed to us, after initiations from the early tradition. For they say, what is also a fact, that infants, being brought up according to a Divine institution, will attain a religious disposition, exempt from every error, and inexperienced in an unholy life. When our Divine leaders came to this conclusion, it was determined to admit infants upon the following conditions, viz.: that the natural parents of the child presented, should transfer the child to some one of the initiated, — a good teacher of children in Divine things, — and that the child should lead the rest of his life under him, as under a godfather and sponsor, for his religious safe-keeping. The Hierarch then requires him, when he has promised to bring up the child according to the religious life, to pronounce the renunciations and the religious professions, not, as they would jokingly say, by instructing one instead of another in Divine things; for he does not say this, “that on behalf of this child I make, myself, the renunciations and the sacred professions,” but, that the child is set apart and enlisted; i.e. I promise to persuade the child, when he has come to a religious mind, through my godly instructions, to bid adieu wholly to things contrary, and to profess and perform the Divine professions. There is here, then, nothing absurd, in my judgment, provided the child is brought up as beseems a godlike training, in having a guide and religious surety, who implants in him a disposition for Divine things, and keeps him inexperienced in things contrary. (The Ecclesiastical Hierarchy Chap. 7.11)

On the Thrifty Monk

Blessed Jerome ca. 347-420

I will relate what took place not very many years ago at Nitria. A brother, more thrifty than covetous, and ignorant that the Lord had been sold for thirty pieces of silver, Mat. 26:15 left behind him at his death a hundred pieces of money which he had earned by weaving linen. As there were about five thousand monks in the neighborhood, living in as many separate cells, a council was held as to what should be done. Some said that the coins should be distributed among the poor; others that they should be given to the church, while others were for sending them back to the relatives of the deceased. However, Macarius, Pambo, Isidore and the rest of those called fathers, speaking by the Spirit, decided that they should be interred with their owner, with the words: Your money perish with you. Acts 8:20 Nor was this too harsh a decision; for so great fear has fallen upon all throughout Egypt, that it is now a crime to leave after one a single shilling. (Letter 22.33)

Elder Paisios on Young People

Blessed Elder Paisios of Mount Athos 1924-1994

You should know that young people today who remain pure will be counted among the martyrs of our Church on the Day of Judgment. (Elder Paisios of Mount Athos by Hieromonk Isaac pg. 294)

St. Ambrose on Marriage and Monasticism

St. Ambrose of Milan ca. 338-397

A careful guide points out many paths, that each may walk along the one which he prefers and considers suitable to himself, so long as he comes upon one by which he can reach the camp. The path of virginity is good, but being high and steep requires the stronger wayfarers. Good also is that of widowhood, not so difficult as the former, but being rocky and rough, it requires more cautious travellers. Good too is that of marriage; being smooth and even it reaches the camp of the saints by a longer circuit. This way is taken by most. There are then the rewards of virginity, there are the merits of widowhood, there is also a place for conjugal modesty. There are steps and advances in each and every virtue. (Letter 63:40)

How to Discharge Original Sin

St. Basil of Caesarea ca. 330-379

Little given, much gotten; by the donation of food the original sin is discharged. Just as Adam transmitted the sin by his wicked eating, we destroy that treacherous food when we cure the need and hunger of our brother. (At a Time of Famine and Drought 8.7)

On the Incarnation and the Mystery of Marriage

St. Pacian of Barcelona ca. 310-391

In these last days Christ took a soul with the flesh from Mary. This He came to save. This He left not in hell. This He joined to His Spirit and made His own. And this is the marriage of the Lord, joined together to one flesh, that according to that great sacrament, might be these two in one flesh, Christ and the Church. From this marriage is born the Christian people, the Spirit of the Lord coming from above; and straightway the heavenly seed being poured upon and mingled with the substance of our souls, we grow in the bowels of our mother, and coming forth from her womb are made alive in Christ. (Discourse on Baptism 7)

On Phyletism

Synod of Constantinople 1872

We renounce, censure and condemn racism, that is racial discrimination, ethnic feuds, hatreds and dissensions within the Church of Christ, as contrary to the teaching of the Gospel and the holy canons of our blessed fathers which “support the holy Church and the entire Christian world, embellish it and lead it to divine godliness.”

Fr. Peter Alban Heers excellent two-part podcast on Phyletism:

http://ancientfaith.com/podcasts/postcards/phyletism

http://ancientfaith.com/podcasts/postcards/phyletism_-_part_two

Older Women to Disciple Younger for Godliness

The older women likewise, that they be reverent in behavior, not slanderers, not given to much wine, teachers of good things— that they admonish the young women to love their husbands, to love their children, to be discreet, chaste, homemakers, good, obedient to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be blasphemed. –  Saint Paul, Titus 2:3-5

St. Gregory the Theologian on Infant Baptism

St. Gregory the Theologian ca. 329-389

Have you an infant child? Do not let sin get any opportunity, but let him be sanctified from his childhood; from his very tenderest age let him be consecrated by the Spirit. Fearest thou the Seal on account of the weakness of nature? O what a small-souled mother, and of how little faith! Why, Anna even before Samuel was born 1 Sam. 1:10 promised him to God, and after his birth consecrated him at once, and brought him up in the priestly habit, not fearing anything in human nature, but trusting in God. You have no need of amulets or incantations, with which the Devil also comes in, stealing worship from God for himself in the minds of vainer men. Give your child the Trinity, that great and noble Guard.

Be it so, some will say, in the case of those who ask for Baptism; what have you to say about those who are still children, and conscious neither of the loss nor of the grace? Are we to baptize them too? Certainly, if any danger presses. For it is better that they should be unconsciously sanctified than that they should depart unsealedand uninitiated.

A proof of this is found in the Circumcision on the eighth day, which was a sort of typical seal, and was conferred on children before they had the use of reason. And so is the anointing of the doorposts, Ex. 12:22 which preserved the firstborn, though applied to things which had no consciousness. But in respect of others I give my advice to wait till the end of the third year, or a little more or less, when they may be able to listen and to answer something about the Sacrament; that, even though they do not perfectly understand it, yet at any rate they may know the outlines; and then to sanctify them in soul and body with the great sacrament of our consecration. For this is how the matter stands; at that time they begin to be responsible for their lives, when reason is matured, and they learn the mystery of life (for of sins of ignorance owing to their tender years they have no account to give), and it is far more profitable on all accounts to be fortified by the Font, because of the sudden assaults of danger that befall us, stronger than our helpers.

But, one says, Christ was thirty years old when He was baptized, Lk. 3:23 and that although He was God; and do you bid us hurry our Baptism?— You have solved the difficulty when you say He was God. For He was absolute cleansing; He had no need of cleansing; but it was for you that He was purified, just as it was for you that, though He had not flesh, yet He is clothed with flesh. Nor was there any danger to Him from putting off Baptism, for He had the ordering of His own Passion as of His own Birth. But in your case the danger is to no small interests, if you were to depart after a birth to corruption alone, and without being clothed with incorruption. And there is this further point for me to consider, that that particular time of baptism was a necessity for Him, but your case is not the same. He manifested Himself in the thirtieth year after His birth and not before; first, in order that He might not appear ostentatious, which is a condition belonging to vulgar minds; and next, because that age tests virtue thoroughly, and is the right time to teach. And since it was needful for Him to undergo the passion which saves the world, it was needful also that all things which belong to the passion should fit into the passion; the Manifestation, the Baptism, the Witness from Heaven, the Proclamation, the concourse of the multitude, the Miracles; and that they should be as it were one body, not torn asunder, nor broken apart by intervals. (Oration 40.17, 28-29)

St. Athanasius on Marriage and Monasticism

St. Athanasius of Alexandria ca. 297-373

For, there being two roads in life as regards these matters, the one a more moderate and helpful road conducive to life, that of marriage, I mean; the other one being angelic and unsurpassable, that of virginity; but if anyone should choose the mundane life – that is to say, the way of marriage, though he is not liable to censure or blame, he will not receive so many gracious gifts. For what he will receive when he bears fruit will be thirty. But if he embraces the chaste and supra-mundane life, though the road is rough in comparison with the first and difficult to achieve, yet it has more wonderful features in the way of gracious gifts: for it has produced the perf1ect fruit, the hundred. (The Rudder: Canons of the Holy Fathers, First Epistle to the Monk Amun)

St. John Cassian on the Origin of Lent

St. John Cassian ca. 360-435

Howbeit you should know that as long as the primitive church retained its perfection unbroken, this observance of Lent did not exist. For they were not bound by the requirements of this order, or by any legal enactments, nor confined in the very narrow limits of the fast, as the fast embraced equally the whole year round. But when the multitude of believers began day by day to decline from that apostolic fervour, and to look after their own wealth, and not to portion it out for the good of all the faithful in accordance with the arrangement of the Apostles, but having an eye to their own private expenses, tried not only to keep it but actually to increase it, not content with following the example of Ananias and Sapphira, then it seemed good to all the priests that men who were hampered by worldly cares, and almost ignorant, if I may say so, of abstinence and contrition, should be recalled to the pious duty by a fast canonically enjoined, and be constrained by the necessity of paying the legal tithes, as this certainly would be good for the weak brethren and could not do any harm to the perfect who were living under the grace of the Gospel and by their voluntary devotion going beyond the law, so as to succeed in attaining to the blessedness which the Apostle speaks of: For sin shall not have dominion over you; for you are not under the law but under grace. Rom.6:14 For of a truth sin cannot exercise dominion over one who lives faithfully under the liberty of grace. (Conference 12.30)

On the Definitions of Rich and Poor

St. Ephrem the Syrian ca. 306-373

No one in creation is rich but he that fears God; no one is truly poor but he that lacks the truth. (Homily on Admonition and Repentance 21)

On the Relation of Christians to the World

Mathetes ca. 150

To sum up all in one word— what the soul is in the body, Christians are in the world. The soul is dispersed through all the members of the body, and Christians are scattered through all the cities of the world. The soul dwells in the body, yet is not of the body; and Christians dwell in the world, yet are not of the world. The invisible soul is guarded by the visible body, and Christians are known indeed to be in the world, but their godliness remains invisible. The flesh hates the soul, and wars against it, 1 Pet. 2:11 though itself suffering no injury, because it is prevented from enjoying pleasures; the world also hates the Christians, though in nowise injured, because they abjure pleasures. The soul loves the flesh that hates it, and [loves also] the members; Christians likewise love those that hate them. The soul is imprisoned in the body, yet preserves that very body; and Christians are confined in the world as in a prison, and yet they are the preservers of the world. The immortal soul dwells in a mortal tabernacle; and Christians dwell as sojourners in corruptible [bodies], looking for an incorruptible dwelling in the heavens. The soul, when but ill-provided with food and drink, becomes better; in like manner, the Christians, though subjected day by day to punishment, increase the more in number. God has assigned them this illustrious position, which it were unlawful for them to forsake. (Epistle to Diognetus 6)

On Peace

Archbishop Averky (Taushev) 1906- 1976

[B]y no means is all peace pleasing to God, nor is it necessary to cherish all peace. The Holy Fathers, instructors in the spiritual life, say that there can be “glorious discord” as well as most disastrous unanimity”. We should love only good peace, one that has a good purpose that unites with God. The Teacher of Love Himself, our Lord Jesus Christ, says that not all peace is pleasing to God and that it is not necessary to value all peace: Think not that I am come to send peace on the earth; I came not to send peace but a sword. (Matt. 10:34) At the same time, the Lord constantly taught His disciples peace, meekness and humility, and in parting at the Last Supper bestowed upon them His peace saying, Peace I leave with you, My peace I give unto you (Jn. 14:27). This “peace of Christ” which surpasses all understanding, according to the expression of the apostle, is a particular peace that does not have anything in common with any other human peace. This is precisely that “good peace” which, according to the expression of the fathers, “has a good purpose and connects us with God.” Every other type of peace, however attractive it may seem, should be rejected as satanic delusion. Thus, according to the Holy Fathers, where explicit impiety is concerned, we should resort to fire and the sword, and not “partake of bad leaven and be added to the number of the infected.” Therefore, a Christian cannot be at peace with Satan, with patent atheists, with apostates, with theomachists, nor with malicious heretics. There can be no peace with persecutors of the faith and the Church, with defamers and defilers of holy things, nor with sowers of atheism and impiety.

A Christian cannot be at peace and have friendship with thieves, murderers, rapists, nor perverts. In principle, a Christian cannot live in peace and friendship with all the people who clearly and boldly break the Law of God, harm the peace and welfare of human society, who prevent people from drawing close to God, and introduce discord and disorder into the soul. It is necessary to steadfastly remember that when the Gospel speaks of forgiveness of sins and offenses, it has in mind personal sins and personal offenses.  However, we usually understand and do everything the other way around. Self-assertive human pride forgives everything except personal offenses. You can be both an atheist and a blasphemer and that is fine, only don’t touch me. You can be a thief and a murderer, just leave me alone. You can be any type of scoundrel, but if you don’t do anything bad to me personally, especially if you do something pleasing to me, then you are already a good person. The opposite is also true: if the best possible person in some way, even unintentionally, wounds our pride, then there’s trouble: enmity between us is unavoidable, and he immediately becomes our mortal enemy. This is how everything is distorted. Our law is such: the one who indulges our self-assertive human pride, the one who pleases our passions is good and our best friend, but the one who speaks to us even one word of reproach, even if it contains salvific truth, immediately becomes our enemy.

Therefore,  all the liberals of our time, beginning with Lev Tolstoy, themselves being quite evil and prideful by nature and completely unable to forgive personal offenses, nevertheless love to speak eloquently about Christian “forgiveness of all”, altogether incorrectly understanding such forgiveness. Furthermore, they attack all civil and governmental conventions and regulations that are intended to suppress evil in society and render harmless those who bring evil to their neighbors. Such people completely ignore the whole series of places in Holy Scripture where it clearly speaks of the necessity to take decisive measures for the suppression of evil that has impudently raised its head in human society. Christ Himself, the Humble Teacher of Love, took up a whip and drove those selling n the Templeand turned over the moneychangers’ tables and scattered their money. (On Resisting Evil, Orthodox Life Vol. 63, No. 1)

Headcoverings Symbolic to Godly Marriage

CANON XVII

If any woman for the sake of supposedly ascetic exercise cuts off her hair, which God gave her to remind her of the fact that she is subject to the will of her husband, let her be anathema, on the ground that she has disobeyed the injunction to be obedient.

Interpretation

In writing to the Corinthians St. Paul says: “The head of the wife is the husband,” (1 Cor. 1 1 3) and because Eve was taken out of Adam, and he became the cause of her becoming a woman). And further below he goes on to say that if a woman does not cover her head, let her cut off her hair. But if it is shameful for a woman to cut off her hair or to shave herself, why, then let her cover her head. (ihd. 116) And again: “But if a woman have long hair, it is a glory and an honor to her” (paraphrasing ibid. 11:1 5). But Eustathius and his disciples used to teach women to cut off their hair on the alleged ground that they would thus be doing something godly and virtuous; the dolts failing to understand that this doctrine of theirs is opposed even to nature herself; seeing that she has never produced a woman that was bald-headed and without hair, as she has some men. For this reason the present Canon anathematizes any woman who cuts off her hair for the sake of appearing and feigning to be engaged in ascetic exercise; which hair God gave her to remind her of the fact that she is under the rulership and subject to the will of her husband, since by so doing she is disregarding and transgressing the commandment, or injunction, to be submissive.’ And the Fathers took this from St. Paul, who says that a wife must have an authority upon her head, or, more explicitly speaking, a sign of her husband’s authority, and of her subjection to her husband, which is the natural cover of hair, and the external cover of headkerchiefs.

 The Twenty-five canons of the Holy Regional Council held in Ancrya  (The Rudder, p. 529) 

St. John of Kronstadt on Worldliness/Consumerism

Saint John of Kronstadt 1829-1908

People say that it is not a matter of importance if you eat meat during Lent, for Lent does not consist in food; that it is not a matter of importance if you wear costly, fine clothes, frequent theatres, evening parties, masquerades; if you provide yourself with expensive plate, china, furniture, costly equipages, spirited horses; if you amass and hoard money, etc. But what is it that turns away our heart from God, the Source of life; through what do we lose eternal life? Is it not through gluttony, through expensive dress, like the rich man in the Gospel! Is it not through theatres and masquerades? What is it that makes us hard-hearted to the poor, and even to our own relatives? Is it not our attachment to carnal pleasures in general, to our belly, to dress, plate, furniture, carriages, money, etc.? Can a man serve God and mammon; (Matthew 6:24) be a friend of God and a friend of the world, work for Christ and for the Devil? It is impossible. Through what did Adam and Eve lose Paradise, through what did they fall into sin and death? Was it not through food alone? Let us consider well what makes us careless about the salvation of our soul, which cost the Son of God so dear; what makes us add one sin to another; what makes us fall continually into opposition against God, into a life of vanity. Is it not attachment to earthly things, and especially to earthly delights? What makes our heart gross ? What makes us become flesh, and not spirit, perverting our moral nature? Is it not attachment to food and drink and other earthly goods ? How after this can it be said that to eat meat during Lent is unimportant? To say so is nothing but pride, sophism, disobedience, want of submission to God, and estrangement from Him. My Life in Christ, p. 290, Jordanville 2000

On Almsgiving

Tob 4:7-12 Give alms out of thy substance, and turn not away thy face from any poor person: for so it shall come to pass that the face of the Lord shall not be turned from thee. According to thy ability be merciful. If thou have much give abundantly: if thou have little, take care even so to bestow willingly a little. For thus thou storest up to thyself a good reward for the day of necessity. For alms deliver from all sin, and from death, and will not suffer the soul to go into darkness. Alms shall be a great confidence before the most high God, to all them that give it.

Prov. 19:17 Whoever is generous to the poor lends to the LORD, and he will repay him for his deed.

Php 4:18 I have received full payment, and more. I am well supplied, having received from Epaphroditus the gifts you sent, a fragrant offering, a sacrifice acceptable and pleasing to God.

Jas 1:27 Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.

St. John Moschos ca. 550-619

[Y]ou are to strive for almsgiving and orthodoxy. By such sacrifices you will be well-pleasing to God. (The Spiritual Meadow 37)

Elder Cleopa Ilie 1912-1998

Do not let anyone depart from you without alms! If you don’t have money, give him a potato, a piece of bread, a hankerchief, or give him a little something. If you give a little and you are sorry that you can’t give more, your acts of mercy will reach God like lightning. Why? Two great virtues are met: almsgiving and humility. (Shepherd of Souls pg. 138)

Prophetic Quote on Modesty

We are quoting a heterodox teacher of the 16th century Reformation because this particular quote is  prophetic to our society. Yes,  heterodox can be prophetic. Christ goes as far as saying that actually anyone can obtain spiritual giftedness (Matthew 7:22-23).

“So if women are thus permitted to have their heads uncovered and to show their hair, they will eventually be allowed to expose their entire breasts, and they will come to make their exhibitions as if it were a tavern show; they will become so brazen that modesty and shame will be no more; in short they will forget the duty of nature…Further, we know that the world takes everything to its own advantage. So, if one has liberty in lesser things, why not do the same with this the same way as with that? And in making such comparisons they will make such a mess that there will be utter chaos. So, when it is permissible for the women to uncover their heads, one will say, ‘Well, what harm in uncovering the stomach also?’ And then after that one will plead [for] something else; ‘Now if the women go bareheaded, why not also [bare] this and [bare] that?’ Then the men, for their part, will break loose too. In short, there will be no decency left, unless people contain themselves and respect what is proper and fitting, so as not to go headlong overboard.” (John Calvin, Sermon on 1 Cor 11:2-3 , trans Seth Skolnitsky, Presbyterian Heritage Publications, pp. 12-13).

Apostolic Constitution on Female Modesty

Section 3 of the Apostolic Constitutions 4th Century

“If thou desirest to be one of the faithful, and to please the Lord, O wife, do not superadd ornaments to thy beauty, in order to please other men; neither affect to wear fine broidering, garments, or shoes, to entice those who are allured by such things. For although thou dost not these wicked things with design of sinning thyself, but only for the sake of ornament and beauty, yet wilt thou not so escape future punishment, as having compelled another to look so hard at thee as to lust after thee, and as not having taken care both to avoid sin thyself, and the affording scandal to others. But if thou yield thyself up, and commit the crime, thou art both guilty of thy own sin, and the cause of the ruin of the other’s soul also. Besides, when thou hast committed lewdness with one man, and beginnest to despair, thou wilt again turn away from thy duty, and follow others, and grow past feeling; as says the divine word: “When a wicked man comes into the depth of evil, he becomes a scorner, and then disgrace and reproach come upon him.” Prov. xviii. 3. For such a woman afterward being wounded, ensnares without restraint the souls of the foolish. Let us learn, therefore, how the divine word triumphs over such women, saying: “I hated a woman who is a snare and net to the heart of men worse than death; her hands are fetters.” Eccles. vii. 26. And in another passage: “As a jewel of gold in a swine’s snout, so is beauty in a wicked woman.” Prov. xi. 22. And again: “As a worm in wood, so does a wicked woman destroy her husband.” Prov. xii. 4 in LXX. And again: “It is better to dwell in the corner of the house-top, than with a contentious and an angry woman.” Prov. xxi. 9, 19 You, therefore, who are Christian women, do not imitate such as these. But thou who designest to be faithful to thine own husband, take care to please him alone. And when thou art in the streets, cover thy head; for by such a covering thou wilt avoid being viewed of idle persons. Do not paint thy face, which is God’s workmanship; for there is no part of thee which wants ornament, inasmuch as all things which God has made are very good. But the lascivious additional adorning of what is already good is an affront to the bounty of the Creator. Look downward when thou walkest abroad, veiling thyself as becomes women.”

Chrysostom on the Purposes of Marriage

St. John Chrysostom ca. 347-407

Marriage, then, was given for childbearing also, but even more so in order to quench nature’s burning. Paul himself bears witness to this, saying, ‘Nevertheless, to avoid fornication, let every man have his own wife,’ – not for childbearing. And again, he commands that couples should come together, not that they might become the parents of many children, but what? ‘Lest Satan tempt you,’ he says. Indeed, after this, he did not say, ‘but if they desire to have children,’ but what? ‘If they cannot abstain, let them marry’ (1 Cor. 7:9). For at the beginning, as I have said, this matter [marriage] had two intentions, but subsequently, when the earth, and sea, and the whole world have been filled [with the human race], one reason alone remains for this bond: the banishment of licentiousness and intemperance. [Emphasis added]. (On Virginity, PG 48:547)

These are the two purposes for which marriage was instituted: to make us chaste and to make us parents. Of these two, the reason of chastity takes precedence. When desire began, then marriage also began. It sets a limit to desire by teaching us to keep to one wife. Marriage does not always lead to procreation, although there is the word of God which says, ‘Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth’ (Gen. 1:28). We have as witnesses all those who are married but are childless. So the purpose of chastity takes precedence, especially now, when the whole world is filled with our kind. At the beginning, the procreation of children was desirable, so that each person might leave a memorial of his life. Since there was not yet any hope of resurrection, but death held sway, and those who died thought that they would perish after this life, God gave the comfort of children, so as to leave living images of the departed and to preserve our species. For those who were about to die and for their relatives, the greatest consolation was their offspring. To understand that this was the chief reason for desiring children, listen to the complaint of Job’s wife: ‘See,’ she says, ‘your memory has perished from the earth, your sons and your daughters’ (cf. Job 18:17). Likewise Saul says to David, ‘Swear to me that you will not destroy my seed, and my name along with me’ (I Kings 24:22). But now that the resurrection is at our gates, and we do not speak of death, but advance toward another life better than the present, the desire for posterity is superfluous. If you desire children, you can get much better children now, a nobler childbirth and better help in your old age, if you give birth by spiritual labor. So there remains only one reason for marriage, to avoid fornication, and the remedy is offered for this very purpose. (On the Sacred Institution of Marriage, Homily One)

 

On The Importance of Godly Upbringing

St. Gregory the Dialogist ca. 540-604

Neither must that be forgotten, which the servant of God before mentioned, called Probus, used to tell of a little sister which he had, called Musa: for he said that one night our blessed Lady appeared unto her in vision, shewing her sundry young maids of her own years, clothed all in white: whose company she much desiring, but yet not presuming to go amongst them, the Blessed Virgin asked her whether she had any mind to remain with them, and to live in her service: to whom she answered that willingly she would. Then our blessed Lady gave her in charge, not to behave herself lightly, nor to live any more like a girl, to abstain also from laughing and pastime, telling her that after thirty days she should, amongst those virgins which she then saw, be admitted to her service. After this vision, the young maid forsook all her former behaviour: and with great gravity reformed the levity of her childish years: which thing her parents perceiving, and demanding from whence that change proceeded, she told them what the blessed Mother of God had given her in commandment, and upon what day she was to go unto her service. Five and twenty days after, she fell sick of an ague; and upon the thirtieth day, when the hour of her departure was come, she’ beheld our blessed Lady, accompanied with those virgins which before in vision she saw to come unto her, and being called to come away, she answered with her eyes modestly cast downward, and very distinctly spake in this manner: “Behold, blessed Lady, I come, behold, blessed Lady, I come”: in speaking of which words she gave up the ghost, and her soul departed her virgin’s body, to dwell for ever with the holy virgins in heaven.

PETER. Seeing mankind is subject to many and innumerable vices, I think that the greatest part of heaven is replenished with little children and infants.

GREGORY. Although we ought not to doubt, but believe that all infants which be baptized, and die in their infancy, go to heaven; yet no point of our belief it is, that all little ones which can speak do come unto that holy place: because some little children are kept from heaven by their parents, which bring them up wickedly and in lewd life. For a certain man in this city, well known to all, some three years since had a child, as I think five years old, which upon too much carnal affection he brought up very carelessly: in such sort that the little one (a lamentable case to speak of) so soon as anything went contrary to his mind, straightways used to blaspheme the name of God.

This child, in that great mortality which happened three years since, fell sick, and came to the point of death: and his father holding him at that time in his arms, the child (as they say, which were then present) beheld with trembling eyes certain wicked spirits coming towards him: at which sight he began to cry out in this manner: “Keep them away, father, keep them away”: and crying so out, he turned away his face, and would have hid himself in his father’s bosom: who demanding why he was so afraid, and what he saw: “O father,” quoth he, “there be blackamoors come to carry me away “: after which words straightways he blasphemed God, and so gave up the ghost. For to the end God might make it known to the world for what sin he was delivered to such terrible executioners, he permitted him at his very death to iterate that sin, for which his father, whiles he lived, would not correct him: so that he which through God’s patience had long lived a blasphemer, did at length, by his just judgment, blaspheming end his life, that the father might both know his own sin, and also how, by neglecting the soul of his little son, he nourished and brought up not a little sinner for hell fire. But now to surcease from further speech of this sad and melancholy matter, let us prosecute, as we have begun, our former joyful narration. (Dialogues Bk. IV:17-18)

Building The New City: St. Basil’s Social Vision

By Paul Schroeder

In St. Gregory the Theologian’s funeral oration for St. Basil the Great, St. Gregory describes the legacy of St. Basil’s philanthropic endeavors in this way: “Go forth a little way from the city, and behold the New City, the storehouse of piety, the common treasury of the wealthy … where disease is regarded in a religious light, and disaster is thought a blessing, and sympathy is put to the test.”

St. Gregory is referring to the Basiliad, the great philanthropic foundation established by St. Basil where the poor, the diseased, orphans and the aged could receive food, shelter, and medical care free of charge from monks and nuns who lived out their monastic vocation through a life of service, working with physicians and other lay people. The New City was in many ways the culmination of St. Basil’s social vision, the fruit of a lifetime of effort to develop a more just and humane social order within the region of Caesarea, where he grew up and later served as a priest and a bishop.

The story of Basil’s life centers around two profound shifts. The first, a spiritual awakening so decisive as to be called a conversion, occurred shortly after he completed his studies at the great university at Athens. As a result of this experience, Basil chose to be baptized, a decision that in his day was often postponed until late in life. He then sold his inheritance, distributed the funds to the poor, and embarked upon a journey to see the monastic communities that were flourishing throughout Palestine, Syria, and Egypt.

[Read more…]

What does true repentance demand?

True repentance demands that a man turn away from sins and from the vanity of this world and turn toward God with all his heart, that he be changed within, and that he become different from what he was before, and so work out his salvation with fear and trembling (cf. Phil. 2:12), and so endeavor to do nothing else but only to please God and so be saved. For if you wish to be in true repentance and so be saved, change yourself and be renewed, and become different from what you were before, and take care for nothing else but only to please God and be saved, and so shall you be a new creature in Christ. For every Christian that wishes to be a true Christian, and not false, ought to be a new or renewed man or a new creature. Do not, then, indulge your flesh, and do not do everything it may desire. It must be crucified with its affections and lusts (Gal. 5:24) when you wish to be a Christian, that is, Christ’s. Much effort and labor is needed, for a man to be changed and to be the good tree that brings forth good fruit. Strive, then, for nothing else but to change, renew, and correct yourself. And pray for this, and sigh often and with all zeal to Christ the Lord, that He Himself might renew you and make you good, for without Him our renewal and correction cannot take place. And when you are renewed inwardly and good, then your outward life and works shall also be good.

– St. Tikhon the Wonderworker of Voronezh and Zadonsk (1724-1783), Journey to Heaven 

Know Thyself

This is the knowledge of the perfect saints: (it is not as some people explain it, but it has its own special power) to put it simply, one must confess that even when one is at the heavenly height of virtue, it is possible– if God abandons him– for him to fall into the abyss of corruption and debauchery! It is not a matter of just saying this with empty words, but one must really feel this way. But one cannot say this with conviction if one does not first pass through the Babylonian furnace of temptations, and if one’s human nature does not slip by God’s permission, so that he realizes his weak constitution. He then sees with whom he has to wrestle, what the wickedness and malice of his adversary (the devil) is, and how difficult it is to rise after a fall! In brief, this is what “know thyself” means.
– Elder Ephraim of Philotheou, (Counsels from the Holy Mountain)

St. Paisy Velichkovsky on Demonic Activity

There is a crucial aspect of Orthodox theology that we, as “modern folk” need to concern ourselves with: the study and nature of demonic influence. All throughout the Scripture we see how Christ and the Apostles speak of us battling demons. We see Christ cast them out of people. We see Saint Paul insist, in Ephesians 6:12, that our battle is not against earthly things but against rulers of darkness (demons). He also warns us to avoid the “fiery darts” of the wicked one. Saint James warns us in James 3:14-16 that even bitterness is from demonic forces.

Our baptismal rite speaks of casting out demons through the baptism. The fathers spoke often of demonic activity. Saint Chrysostom mentions them in many of his sermons, and Saint Paisy Velichkovsky gives us a wonderful breakdown of demonic forces, as we have posted below.

We battle against demonic activity. As we will see from Saint Paisy Velichkovsky, the demons are standing by, waiting for an opportunity to pull the right puppet string, the string that we first raised up to them through our partaking with secularism and other demonic avenues. America is full of these avenues! Just turn on the TV or the radio and you will certainly be able to begin “shooting strings” up for the demons to grab hold of.

Demons need to be fed! They thrive on a symbolic life of paganism and other anti-Christ philosophies such as secularism, but they also fall by the symbolic. The fathers tell us that the simple sign of the cross wards them off. But certainly we cannot live an “unequally yoked” (as St. Paul says) anti-Christ life and expect our symbols to work on their own. That, I think, is a problem that we have in this modern society! Church on Sunday, and then secularism throughout every other day. Our rich symbolic Traditions are not just for Sunday worship, they should encompass our entire lives: How we decorate our houses, what we listen to and watch, and what we wear on our bodies.

Our iconic and festive avenues give us much to grasp on to! Other ways to conquer demonic force is to be closely connected to a spiritual father, confessing to him on a frequent basis, at least once a month. Confessing, fasting, prayer, worship, alms-giving, and giving your ear to a spiritual father scare the demons away due to the strong dose of humility it takes to accomplish this.

We will be posting more on demonic influence on the site in the future, under the Demonic Activity tab, under Early Fathers. We think you will be somewhat jolted (in a good way, of course) on how much the fathers support this reality and also how relative it is to our lives.

 

St. Paisy Velichkovsky  1722–1794

Pay heed to yourself, O monk, sensibly and diligently, with a vigilant mind, as to when the demons come, by what means they catch one, and by what means they themselves are vanquished. Guard yourself with great caution, because every hour you walk in the midst of passions and nets. Everywhere the passions surround one. Everywhere are set out their traps. Pay heed lest you be attracted by the enemy into his will through passions and traps. There is a great need for us, even essential for us men of flesh, to fight with the fleshless ones—one man with ten thousand enemies. Many tears, much patience, much suffering and caution, and a thousand eyes everywhere are required, for the evil spirits rise up maliciously against us like a lion. They would destroy us if we did not have the Lord with us. They have been very skilled in the art of catching men for more than seven thousand years. Without sleep, food, and rest, constantly, every hour, and by all means, they seek our perdition with every trick and with great effort. Having turned out to be powerless in one way, they think up something else. They start one thing, and contemplate yet another. And they roar about everywhere looking where they might find doors to enter and from where they might begin the battle, and, as it were, trick us into doing evil. Do you not know with whom you battle? How legions of invisible enemies surround you, and every one of them wages his own battle? They sound numberless voices, and desire to swallow up your soul. Should you not be cautious? Is it possible that having drunk your fill and given yourself over to sleep, lying down and constantly consoling yourself, that you can with all this receive salvation? If you will not be attentive to this, you will not escape their traps. We have come to struggle, as it were, stepping into the fire. If we desire to be true warriors of the King of Heaven and not false participants, then let us put far away from us every passion or other. And according to our desire and fervor they tighten their traps, for the occasion to sin belongs to us ourselves, our attachment, weakness; and let us put away from ourselves every negligence and faintheartedness and effeminate weakness, and thus we shall stand against the cunningness of the demons. Let us labor in prayers and other virtues with all fervor and power, with soul, heart, and mind, just as someone might run swiftly on a road without looking around, or as a stingy man might fast, for such is the cunningness of the evil demons. They are constantly occupied with us. Like watchmen they notice our inclinations and our desires, what we are thinking about and what we love, what we are occupied with besides these. Whatever passion they notice in us, they arouse this in us, and thus they place their nets for us. In this way, we ourselves, first of all, arouse against ourselves every passion, being ourselves the cause of it. Therefore the demons seek in us occasion that through our own inclination and desire we might the sooner be caught. They do not compel us to do what we do not desire, to do that from which our mind inclines away and our will does not agree, knowing that we will not obey them. Rather, they test us some, whether we will accept some passion or other, And according to our desire and fervor they tighten their traps, for the occasion to sin belongs to us ourselves, our attachment, weakness, and negligence. We do not cut off the beginning of every passion, but the final cause of every evil is the demons. Through the demons we fall into every sin, and no kind of evil comes to us apart from them.

Thus the demons cast us into every passion. They compel us to fall to every sin, and we are tangled in every net. By nets I mean the first thought of desires and various foul thoughts through which we bind ourselves with every passion, and fall into every sin. This is the door of demons and passions, by which they enter into us and rob our spiritual treasury. Immoderate sleep, laziness, eating not at the proper time are a cause of the entrance of demons. And having come, they first of all knock on the doors of the heart secretly, like thieves. They introduce a thought, and they notice whether there is a watchman or not, that is, they see if the thought will be received or not. If it will be received, then they begin to cause passion and arouse us to it, and they steal our spiritual treasure. If they find a watchman at the doors of the heart who is accustomed to belittle and banish their suggestions, if one turns away in mind from the first mental impulse and has one’s mind deaf and dumb to their barking and directed towards the depths of the heart and so does not at all agree with them, then to such a one they cannot do any evil, since his mind is sober. Then they begin to scheme and place various nets to catch us in passion, for example: forgetfulness, anger, foolishness, self-love, pride, love of glory, love of pleasure, overeating, gluttony, fornication, unmercifulness, anger, remembrance of wrongs, blasphemy, sorrow, brazenness, vainglory, much speaking, despondency, fearfulness, sleep, laziness, heaviness, fright, jealousy, envy, hatred, hypocrisy, deception, murmuring, unbelief, disobedience, covetousness, love of things, egotism, faintheartedness, duplicity, bitterness, ambition, and laughter. then they arouse a great storm of thoughts of fornication and blasphemy so that the ascetic might become frightened and despondent, or so that he might leave off his struggle and prayer. But if the enemies after raising all this cannot hold and take away from his struggle a firm soul and an unwavering soldier of Christ who, like a passion-bearer, has placed his foundation on the rock of faith, so that the rivers of sorrows do not cause him to waver, then they try to rob him by some seeming good, considering it more convenient under the appearance of good to introduce something of their own and in this way to deprive one of perfect virtue and struggle. Thus they try to compel us to make spiritual conversations for the sake of love, to teach men, or to sweeten the food a little for the sake of a friend or for the Feast, for they know, the deceptive ones, that Adam fell for the love of sweet things. First they begin to darken the purity of the mind and heedfulness to oneself, and by this path they suddenly throw us into the pit of sexual sins or into some other passion. If even by this way they do not cause one to waver who is sober in mind, then they arm themselves with false visions and offend and disturb him by various afflictions. A most skillful warrior lets all this go by him and regards it as nothing, as if it has no relation to him, for he knows that all this is the device of the devil.

If even thus they do not conquer, then they battle by means of highmindedness. They introduce they thought that the man is holy, saying to him secretly, “How many afflictions you have endured!” The demons, like a clever hunter, when their first means turns out to be powerless, abandon it, go away, hide themselves, and pretend to be conquered. But beware, O man, pay heed, do not be lax, for they will not depart from you until the grave. But they will prepare a great sedge and will look attentively by what means they can again begin to rise up against you, for they do not rest. When the warmth of fervor grows cold in a struggler, they then secretly, having prepared some net, come again and lay them out and try to catch him. In all the paths of virtue, the devils establish their nets and hindrances when we fulfill heedfully every deed for our salvation and not out of pleasing men, or from some other idea. But if in virtue there is hidden some kind of impurity, pride, vainglory, and highmindedness, then in such a matter the devils do not hinder us, but they even inspire us, so that we might labor without benefit. The demons strive for nothing so much as by every crafty means to steal time and make it idle. In everything that the demons do, they strive to dig three pits for us. First of all, they act against us and hinder us so that there will be no good in all our acts of virtue. In the second place, they strive so that the good will not be for the sake of God. That is, having no opportunity to bring us away from good, they make efforts through vainglory to destroy all our labors. In the third place, they praise us as if we turn out in everything to be God-pleasing. That is, being unable to confuse us by vainglory, they strive by highmindedness to destroy our labors and deprive us of rewards. Every demonic battle against us is in three forms. First, the devils darken our mind and a man becomes forgetful and dispersed in all his works. Then they introduce an idle thought, so that through it we might lose time. Finally, they bring various temptations and afflictions. Therefore, of us it is demanded that at all times we should be very sober of mind, for the enemies ceaselessly are making tricks and acting against us. If one struggles for many years, the enemy seeks a convenient time, so as in a single hour to destroy his labors. Not many men see the numberless traps, devices, and tricks of the demons. As a fleshless spirit the demon does not require rest, and through a long life he has learned to catch men. Therefore, no one can escape the tricks, the ruinous nets, and pitfalls of them, except one who remains in bodily infirmity from constant struggle, and who lives in spiritual poverty, that is, with a contrite heart and in humble thoughts. Such a one will conquer them.

Most of all, the Divine Help cooperates with us. However, in us, as we have said previously, is the beginning of all passions, attachment, weakness, and negligence, because we do not renounce in soul and thought and do not cut off the first impulse of every passion that comes. And the demons add yet more. Seek within yourself the reason for every passion, and finding it, arm yourself and dig out its root with the sword of suffering. And if you do not uproot it, again it will push out sprouts and grow. Without this means you cannot conquer passions, come to purity, and be saved. Therefore, if we desire to be saved, we must cut off the first impulse of the thought and desire of every passion. Conquer small things so as not to fall into big ones. It is evident that God allows one to be overthrown in battle by the demons or some stubborn passion because of our pride and highmindedness, when one considers himself to be holy, or strong, and trusts in himself, and exalts himself above those who are weak. Let such a one acknowledge his own infirmity, acknowledge the Help of God, and be enlightened. Let him understand that without God’s Help he can do nothing, and thus he will humble his thought. Or again, this is allowed as a chastisement for sins, so that we might repent and be more experienced in struggle. Or it is allowed for the sake of crowns of victory. However, in that in which you are conquered and from which you suffer, before all other passions you must arm yourself against it and for this use all your fervor. Every passion and suffering is conquered by undoubting faith, by labor of heart and tears, by warm fervor and quick striving to oppose the present passion. This is a high and praiseworthy struggle, as taught by the Holy Fathers. Every warfare of the demons against us comes from and is reinforced by four causes: from negligence and laziness, from self-love, from love of pleasure, and from the envy of the demons. May the Lord preserve us by His Grace from all nets of the enemy and passionate works, unto the ages of ages. Amen.

Ch. XXXV from Field Flowers.

St. John of Kronstadt’s Preparation for Confession

I, a sinful soul, confess to our Lord God and Savior Jesus Christ, all of my evil acts which I have done, said or thought from baptism even unto this present day.

I have not kept the vows of my baptism, but have made myself unwanted before the face of God.

I have sinned before the Lord by lack of faith and by doubts concerning the Orthodox Faith and the Holy Church; by ungratefulness for all of God’s great and unceasing gifts; His long-suffering and His providence for me, a sinner; by lack of love for the Lord, as well as fear, through not fulfilling the Holy Commandments of God and the canons and rules of the Church.

I have not preserved a love for God and for my neighbor nor have I made enough efforts, because of laziness and lack of care, to learn the Commandments of God and the precepts of the Holy Fathers.

I have sinned: by not praying in the morning and in the evening and in the course of the day; by not attending the services or by coming to Church only half-heartedly, lazily and carelessly; by conversing during the services, by not paying attention, letting my mind wander and by departure from the Church before the dismissal and blessing.

I have sinned by judging members of the clergy.

I have sinned by not respecting the Feasts, breaking the Fasts, and by immoderation in food and drink.

I have sinned by self-importance, disobedience, willfulness, self-righteousness, and the seeking of approval and praise.

I have sinned by unbelief, lack of faith, doubts, despair, despondency, abusive thoughts, blasphemy and swearing.

I have sinned by pride, a high opinion of my self, narcissism, vanity, conceit, envy, love of praise, love of honors, and by putting on airs.

I have sinned: by judging, malicious gossip, anger, remembering of offenses done to me, hatred and returning evil for evil; by slander, reproaches, lies, slyness, deception and hypocrisy; by prejudices, arguments, stubbornness, and an unwillingness to give way to my neighbor; by gloating, spitefulness, taunting, insults and mocking; by gossip, by speaking too much and by empty speech.

I have sinned by unnecessary and excessive laughter, by reviling and dwelling upon my previous sins, by arrogant behavior, insolence and lack of respect.

I have sinned by not keeping my physical and spiritual passions in check, by my enjoyment of impure thoughts, licentiousness and unchastity in thoughts, words and deeds.

I have sinned by lack of endurance towards my illnesses and sorrows, a devotion to the comforts of life and by being too attached to my parents, children, relatives and friends.

I have sinned by hardening my heart, having a weak will and by not forcing myself to do good.

I have sinned by miserliness, a love of money, the acquisition of unnecessary things and immoderate attachment to things.

I have sinned by self-justification, a disregard for the admonitions of my conscience and failing to confess my sins through negligence or false pride.

I have sinned many times by my Confession: belittling, justifying and keeping silent about sins.

I have sinned against the Most-holy and Life-creating Mysteries of the Body and Blood of our Lord by coming to Holy Communion without humility or the fear of God.

I have sinned in deed, word and thought, knowingly and unknowingly, willingly and unwillingly, thoughtfully and thoughtlessly, and it is impossible to enumerate all of my sins because of their multitude. But I truly repent of these and all others not mentioned by me because of my forgetfulness and I ask that they be forgiven through the abundance of the Mercy of God.

Doctors and Medicine Come from God

“Honor a physician with the honor due unto him for the uses which ye may have of him: for the Lord hath created him. For of the most High cometh healing, and he shall receive honor of the king. The skill of the physician shall lift up his head: and in the sight of great men he shall be in admiration. The Lord hath created medicines out of the earth; and he that is wise will not abhor them. Was not the water made sweet with wood, that the virtue thereof might be known? And he hath given men skill, that he might be honoured in his marvelous works.With such doth he heal men, and taketh away their pains. Of such doth the apothecary make a confection; and of his works there is no end; and from him is peace over all the earth. My son, in thy sickness be not negligent: but pray unto the Lord, and he will make thee whole. Leave off from sin, and order thine hands aright, and cleanse thy heart from all wickedness. Give a sweet savour, and a memorial of fine flour; and make a fat offering, as not being. Then give place to the physician, for the Lord hath created him: let him not go from thee, for thou hast need of him. There is a time when in their hands there is good success. For they shall also pray unto the Lord, that he would prosper that which they give for ease and remedy to prolong life. He that sinneth before his Maker, let him fall into the hand of the physician.”
–  Ecclesiasticus (or The Wisdom of Jesus, Son of Sirach)

St. John Chrysostom on Abortion and Birth Control

“[I]n truth, all men know that they who are under the power of this disease [the sin of covetousness] are wearied even of their father’s old age [wishing him to die so they can inherit]; and that which is sweet, and universally desirable, the having of children, they esteem grievous and unwelcome. Many at least with this view have even paid money to be childless, and have mutilated nature, not only killing the newborn, but even acting to prevent their beginning to live” (Homilies on Matthew 28:5 [A.D. 391]). – John Chrysostom

The so-called “birth control” pill – shown above – is indeed an abortifacient. It actually performs an embryonic abortion. This has been proven by medical doctors across the world. Randy Alcorn has a short article on it here.

There is what some in the west call Natural Family Planing, which is perfectly ethical and godly. It has to do with identifying the signs of a woman’s fertility. Here is information on that.

Regarding how Chrysostom ties receiving inheritances to abortion, I would say that the same thing is happening in our day but from a different angle. Many couples now would rather NOT have children so that they can enjoy the inheritance of their culture – hobbies and luxury. There are legitimate reasons for not having children but I think that the “we cannot afford them” clause is grossly abused today. What I think many people mean to say when they refer to not affording children is that they cannot afford the lifestyle of their choice if they have children.

 

Marriage and Monasticism

Metropolitan of Nafpakos, Hierotheos

“Indeed we know very well that the Church praises both ways of life, both the monastic life and the married life. But this does not mean that one is praised at the expense of the other. And at this point we must say that the interpretation of the Parable of the Talents applies, which we mentioned before.

It can be maintained that in the Church the people are not divided simply into unmarried and married, but into people who live in Christ and people who do not live in Christ. Thus on the one hand we have people who have the Holy Spirit and on the other hand people who do not have the Holy Spirit. Moreover, in the early Church, as it seems in the Epistles of the Apostle Paul, all the Christians, unmarried and married, lived like monks, because even marriage has its asceticism. Therefore, if some monk criticises marriage in Christ, he shows that he has a problem with the monastic life, and if a married person criticises and looks askance at the monastic life, it means that he has a problem with the way in which he is living his life. A good monk never criticises what God praises and a good married person never criticises anything that God praises, such as the monastic life.”

The Mind of the Orthodox Church, p.157

Incarnation Proven by the Eucharist and Almsgiving

Pope St. Leo the Great ca. 400-461

Dearly-beloved, utter this confession with all your heart and reject the wicked lies of heretics, that your fasting and almsgiving may not be polluted by any contagion with error: for then is our offering of the sacrifice clean and our gifts of mercy holy, when those who perform them understand that which they do. For when the Lord says, unless you have eaten the flesh of the Son of Man, and drunk His blood, you will not have life in you Jn. 6:53, you ought so to be partakers at the Holy Table, as to have no doubt whatever concerning the reality of Christ’s Body and Blood. For that is taken in the mouth which is believed in Faith, and it is vain for them to respond “Amen” who dispute that which is taken. But when the Prophet says, Blessed is he, who considers the poor and needy, he is the praiseworthy distributor of clothes and food among the poor, who knows he is clothing and feeding Christ in the poor: for He Himself says, as long as you have done it to one of My brethren, you have done it to Me Mat. 25:40. And so Christ is One, True God and True Man, rich in what is His own, poor in what is ours, receiving gifts and distributing gifts, Partner with mortals, and the Quickener of the dead, so that in the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, of things on earth, and of things under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that the Lord Jesus Christ is in the glory of God the Father Philippians 2:10-11, living and reigning with the Holy Spirit for ever and ever. Amen. (Sermon 91.3)

On Money

St. Cyril of Jerusalem ca. 313-386

Riches, and gold, and silver are not, as some think, the devil’s: for the whole world of riches is for the faithful man, but for the faithless not even a penny. Now nothing is more faithless than the devil; and God says plainly by the Prophet, The gold is Mine, and the silver is Mine, and to whomsoever I will I give it. Do thou but use it well, and there is no fault to be found with money: but whenever you have made a bad use of that which is good, then being unwilling to blame your own management, thou impiously throwest back the blame upon the Creator. A man may even be justified by money: I was hungry, and you gave Me meat Mat. 25:35-36: that certainly was from money. I was naked, and you clothed Me: that certainly was by money. And would you learn that money may become a door of the kingdom of heaven? Sell, says He, that you have, and give to the poor, and you shall have treasure in heaven.

Now I have made these remarks because of those heretics who count possessions, and money, and men’s bodies accursed. For I neither wish you to be a slave of money, nor to treat as enemies the things which God has given you for use. Never say then that riches are the devil’s: for though he say, All these will I give you, for they are delivered unto me , one may indeed even reject his assertion; for we need not believe the liar: and yet perhaps he spoke the truth, being compelled by the power of His presence: for he said not, All these will I give you, for they are mine, but, for they are delivered unto me. He grasped not the dominion of them, but confessed that he had been entrusted with them, and was for a time dispensing them. But at a proper time interpreters should inquire whether his statement is false or true. (Catechetical Lectures 8:6-7)

On Storing Up Faith In Our Age!

” [In this apocalyptic age] Here in the West we’re living in a fool’s paradise which can and prob­ably will soon be lost. Let’s start to prepare—not by storing food or such outward things that some are already doing in America, but with the inward preparation of Orthodox Christians.” ~ Blessed Fr. Seraphim Rose, Not Of This World, P. 877.

I don’t think Fr. Seraphim Rose was opposed to  “storing food,” but I do think he was trying to make a point to his readers at the time; and that is, if we do not guard our faith from the heresies and secular philosophies of our time and begin to experience the ascetic nature of Orthodoxy, as it was lived in previous times, we will lose much more than any amount of financial preparation can handle. God will always provide for our needs, but it will always be through the nature of faith! Anything else will  fail us.

St. Martin of Tours

Sulpitius Severus ca. 363-425

Accordingly, at a certain period, when he had nothing except his arms and his simple military dress, in the middle of winter, a winter which had shown itself more severe than ordinary, so that the extreme cold was proving fatal to many, he happened to meet at the gate of the city of Amiens a poor man destitute of clothing. He was entreating those that passed by to have compassion upon him, but all passed the wretched man without notice, when Martin, that man full of God, recognized that a being to whom others showed no pity, was, in that respect, left to him. Yet, what should he do? He had nothing except the cloak in which he was clad, for he had already parted with the rest of his garments for similar purposes. Taking, therefore, his sword with which he was girt, he divided his cloak into two equal parts, and gave one part to the poor man, while he again clothed himself with the remainder. Upon this, some of the by-standers laughed, because he was now an unsightly object, and stood out as but partly dressed. Many, however, who were of sounder understanding, groaned deeply because they themselves had done nothing similar. They especially felt this, because, being possessed of more than Martin, they could have clothed the poor man without reducing themselves to nakedness. In the following night, when Martin had resigned himself to sleep, he had a vision of Christ arrayed in that part of his cloak with which he had clothed the poor man. He contemplated the Lord with the greatest attention, and was told to own as his the robe which he had given. Ere long, he heard Jesus saying with a clear voice to the multitude of angels standing round — “Martin, who is still but a catechumen, clothed Me with this robe.” The Lord, truly mindful of His own words (who had said when on earth — “Inasmuch as ye have done these things to one of the least of these, ye have done them unto Me”), declared that He himself had been clothed in that poor man; and to confirm the testimony He bore to so good a deed, He condescended to show him Himself in that very dress which the poor man had received. After this vision the sainted man was not puffed up with human glory, but, acknowledging the goodness of God in what had been done, and being now of the age of twenty years, he hastened to receive baptism. (The Life of St. Martin of Tours, 3)

A Snapshot Of Our Declining Western Culture

A World Split Apart — Commencement Address Delivered At Harvard University, June 8, 1978

Alexander I. Solzhenitsyn

Solzhenitsyn’s warning of Western decline is as relevant today as it was twenty-five years ago. [In some ways  it is even more relevant today!]

Iam sincerely happy to be here with you on the occasion of the 327th commencement of this old and illustrious university. My congratulations and best wishes to all of today’s graduates.

Harvard’s motto is “VERITAS.” Many of you have already found out and others will find out in the course of their lives that truth eludes us as soon as our concentration begins to flag, all the while leaving the illusion that we are continuing to pursue it. This is the source of much discord. Also, truth seldom is sweet; it is almost invariably bitter. A measure of truth is included in my speech today, but I offer it as a friend, not as an adversary.

Three years ago in the United States I said certain things that were rejected and appeared unacceptable. Today, however, many people agree with what I said . . .

[Read more…]

Fr. Seraphim Rose’s Orthodox World-View

The Orthodox World-View

by Father Seraphim Rose of Platina

Before beginning my talk, a word or two on why it is important to have an Orthodox world-view, and why it is more difficult to build one today than in past centuries.

 

In past centuries—for example, in 19th century Russia—the Orthodox world-view was an important part of Orthodox life and was supported by the life around it. There was no need even to speak of it as a separate thing—you lived Orthodoxy in harmony with the Orthodox society around you, and you had an Orthodox world-view provided by the Church and society. In many countries the government itself confessed Orthodoxy; it was the center of public functions and the king or ruler himself was historically the first Orthodox layman with a responsibility to give a Christian example to all his subjects. Every city had Orthodox churches, and many of them had services every day, morning and evening. There were monasteries in all the great cities, in many cities, outside the cities, and in the countryside, in deserts and wildernesses. In Russia there were more than 1000 officially organized monasteries, in addition to other more unofficial groups. Monasticism was an accepted part of life. Most families, in fact, had somewhere in them a sister or brother, uncle, grandfather, cousin or someone who was a monk or a nun, in addition to all the other examples of Orthodox life: people who wandered from monastery to monastery, and fools for Christ. The whole way of life was permeated with Orthodox kinds of people, of which, of course, monasticism is the center. Orthodox customs were a part of daily life. Most books that were commonly read were Orthodox. Daily life itself was difficult for most people: they had to work hard to survive, life expectancy was not great, death was a frequent reality—all of which reinforced the Church’s teaching on the reality and nearness of the other world. Living an Orthodox life in such circumstances was really the same thing as having an Orthodox world-view, and there was little need to talk of such a thing.

[Read more…]

The Effects of Heresy and Schism on Morality

Alexander of Lycopolis fl. 4th cent.

The philosophy of the Christians is termed simple. But it bestows very great attention to the formation of manners, enigmatically insinuating words of more certain truth respecting God; the principal of which, so far as any earnest serious purpose in those matters is concerned, all will have received when they assume an efficient cause, very noble and very ancient, as the originator of all things that have existence. For Christians leaving to ethical students matters more toilsome and difficult, as, for instance, what is virtue, moral and intellectual; and to those who employ their time in forming hypotheses respecting morals, and the passions and affections, without marking out any element by which each virtue is to be attained, and heaping up, as it were, at random precepts less subtle— the common people, hearing these, even as we learn by experience, make great progress in modesty, and a character of piety is imprinted on their manners, quickening the moral disposition which from such usages is formed, and leading them by degrees to the desire of what is honourable and good.

But this being divided into many questions by the number of those who come after, there arise many, just as is the case with those who are devoted to dialectics, some more skilful than others, and, so to speak, more sagacious in handling nice and subtle questions; so that now they come forward as parents and originators of sects and heresies. And by these the formation of morals is hindered and rendered obscure; for those do not attain unto certain verity of discourse who wish to become the heads of the sects, and the common people is to a greater degree excited to strife and contention. And there being no rule nor law by which a solution may be obtained of the things which are called in question, but, as in other matters, this ambitious rivalry running out into excess, there is nothing to which it does not cause damage and injury. (Of the Manichaens)

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)

Come and Experience the Majesty of Christ!

It is often said within Orthodoxy that modern heresy is simply ancient heresy repackaged. Those who refuse to unite with the One Holy and Apostolic Church in our day are most frequently engaging in the same heresies that separated groups from the Church in the ancient world: The hierarchy, the oral (relational) authority of revelation, the sacraments, icons, the mother of God; These are all real and genuine subjects that are crucial to our relationship with God as Orthodox Christians. Any attempt to publish doctrines against these teachings or attempt to establish a separated church in the spirit of condemning these things, is what we call heterodoxy (false teaching).

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Orthodox Marriage as Ascetic Calling

“Fill their houses with wheat, wine and oil and with every good thing, so that they may give in turn to those in need…”

The above quote is taken from the Orthodox marriage service. The calling of marriage within Orthodoxy does not contrast the ascetic calling of monasticism, rather it is a compliment to monasticism. There is no dichotomy between marriage and monasticism. We are all called to adhere to the words of Christ regarding the ascetic life, to sacrifice what God has given us in order to serve those in need. This will look different in most every household, but we can each know how to accomplish this through our spiritual convictions, after listening to the words of Christ in the Gospel accounts, as well as his witness throughout the Bible. We are called to serve the poor and the needy, whether it be within our own family or both our family and people throughout the community. Marriage is not a call to hedonism, rather, it is a call to serve the Kingdom!

 

On the “American Dream”

“Some people see the houses in which they live as their kingdom; and although in their minds they know that death will one day force them to leave, in their hearts they feel they will stay forever. They take pride in the size of their houses and the fine materials with which they are built. They take pleasure in decorating their houses with bright colors, and in obtaining the best and most solid furniture to fill the rooms. They imagine that they can find peace and security by owning a house whose walls and roof will last for many generations. We, by con­trast, know that we are only temporary guests on earth. We recognize that the houses in which we live serve only as hostels on the road to eternal life. We do not seek peace or security from the material walls around us or the roof above our heads. Rather, we want to surround ourselves with a wall of divine grace; and we look upward to heaven as our roof. And the furniture of our lives should be good works, performed in a spirit of love.”

~ Saint John Chrysostom, On Living Simply

“Orthodoxy is foreign to rationalism and juridicism, as well as to all kinds of normatism. The Orthodox Church cannot be defined in rational concepts: it is understandable only for those who live in her, for those who partake of her spiritual experience.”

~ Nicholas Berdyaev

http://classicalchristianity.com/2011/09/06/5016/

An Orthodox Vs. Reformed Perspective of The Church

This article – originally a paper, presented to the 1996 session of the Orthodox-Reformed dialogue – deals with the relation between the Churches today and the ‘Church of the Creed’.

More than the Roman Catholic tradition, the Orthodox tradition emphasizes the spiritual, mystical character of the Church. Its desire is not so much the “return” of other Christians to “the Orthodox Church” (as an institution) as their return to the undivided Tradition of the first centuries (as lived within the Orthodox Church). Reformed may feel at home with this position, insofar as they too plead in favour of return to the origin of Christianity. Only, to them (like to the Lutherans) this origin is to be found in the testimony of Scripture, to be distinguished from the Early Church Tradition. While Orthodox (and Roman Catholic) ecclesiology is ‘from above’, Reformed ecclesiology is ‘from below’: here, the Church is basically defined as “the congregation of the believers”. In its later development, the Reformed tradition shows a strong tendency of spiritualism (ecclesial docetism), drawing a sharp dividing-line between the “visible church” and the “invisible Church” (the “congregation of the elect”) and identifying the Church of the Creed with the latter, not with the former. The original Reformation, however, was different, aiming at renewal of the Church in its visibility…

Good thoughts!

Bishop Jonah on Consumerism and Orthodoxy

His Beatitude’s remarks were delivered at the Acton University plenary session on Thursday, June 16, in Grand Rapids, Mich. AU is a “four-day exploration of the intellectual foundations of a free society” with the aim of deepening students’ knowledge of philosophy, Christian theology and “sound economics.” This year’s event attracted more than 600 people from 70 countries across a broadly ecumenical spectrum that included Catholic, Protestant, Orthodox, Jewish and Muslim lecturers, students, clergy and business people.

by Metropolitan Jonah

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To Be Creedal is to Be Unified!

Many Protestant churches such as the Anglican, Reformed and Lutheran, recite the Creeds within their liturgy. But are they casting judgment on themselves for doing such a thing? Perhaps the reason why every one of these ‘unions’ of sort have fallen into the hands of liberalism is because they are indeed casting themselves into the hands of the living God…Which is grace for them, since God seems to be trying to get their attention by not allowing such movements to survive.  

What is meant by the term “Catholic” and “Universal” church within the Creed? To some in our day the term is used for describing any church that is a true church according to basic Christian standards, regardless of authority and the posture they have to the rest of the Church and her history. These groups attempt to take lingusitic authority of the words but not patristic authority. If we look at the history of the Church we find that these terms are used exclusively to describe non-schismatic churches.

The Christian faith is founded in the Creeds in that the Creeds protect the very nature of Christ and His Church. Formed out of the early Church and Councils, the Creeds were created to help ward off various heresies that were common in that day. 

The heresies that the Creeds (Nicene, Apostle’s and Athanasius) were created to protect us from are still prevalent in our day! The Creeds set forth vital dogmas of the faith that if compromised by any people, determines them to be a sect or all together heretical. The Creeds include the dogma of God as our Creator, The Trinity, the Virgin birth, the Crucifixion and Resurrection of Christ, the resurrection of believers and the return of Christ for his Church. Each of these dogmatic pronouncements within the Creeds have protected us from the modern heresies such as liberalism and cults such as the Jehovah’s Witnesses.

But there is a section in the Nicene Creed that distinguishes modern heterodox movements of today that is very important to point out:

“And I believe in one Catholic and Apostolic Church”

What was the understanding of the “Catholic and Apostolic Church” at the time the Creeds were constructed?  You will find below a number of bishops from the early church (pre and post Nicene) describing what is meant by the term catholic. There is more than what, say, Augustine wraps up in the term, that can be found in the Athanasius Creed, as well as other patristic writings. This does not mean that each bishop is giving their personal definition of the term, but rather it means that there is much to be said about the term. It is a term that is very complex.

Augustine of Hippo

“We believe in the holy Church, that is, the Catholic Church; for heretics and schismatics call their own congregations churches. But heretics violate the faith itself by a false opinion about God; schismatics, however, withdraw from fraternal love by hostile separations, although they believe the same things we do. Consequently, neither heretics nor schismatics belong to the Catholic Church; not heretics, because the Church loves God, and not schismatics, because the Church loves neighbor” (Faith and Creed 10:21 [A.D. 393]).

Cyprian of Carthage

“You ought to know, then, that the bishop is in the Church and the Church in the bishops; and if someone is not with the bishop, he is not in the Church. They vainly flatter themselves who creep up, not having peace with the priest of God, believing that they are secretly in communion with certain individuals. For the Church, which is one and catholic, is not split or divided, but is indeed united and joined by the cement of priests who adhere to one another” (Letters 66[67]:8 [A.D. 253]).

Ignatius of Antioch

“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.” (Epistle to the Smyrnaeans, Chap 8 [A.D. 110]) 

St. Irenaeus

“It is possible, then, for everyone in every church, who may wish to know the truth, to contemplate the tradition of the apostles which has been made known to us throughout the whole world. And we are in a position to enumerate those who were instituted bishops by the apostles and their successors down to our own times, men who neither knew nor taught anything like what these heretics rave about” (Against Heresies 3:3:1 [A.D. 189]).

A church does not adhere to the Creeds if they are not under apostolic succession, which is clearly proven in just how the term “catholic and apostolic” Church is patristically defined. “Apostolic” never meant to refer to those that have similar doctrines as the Apostles, even the doctrine of the Trinity; rather, the term Apostolic was used in patristic times when referring to proper apostolic succession of the episcopate. No Protestant Church has apostolic succession! They are not in communion with the Orthodox Church or even the Roman Church, for that matter. Orthodoxy teaches that once a bishop breaks from the unified Church he no longer has succession and is not in communion with the Body of Christ! Christ commanded that we be unified (John 17) and that we be under the authority of the apostolic lineage (Matthew 16). Splinter groups off of Rome (who is already splintered from the Orthodox Church) are not even being considered for future disucssions of union with the Church. The reason for this, is, again, they are not connected to the authority of the apostles in any way. They may have some similar doctrines, but the Church is a living organism that only operates properly if they are unified under the same spiritual authority. Doctrines here and there are not a spiritual authority. There must be relationship! The Trinity represents God as communal. The Church is to be communal and relational. The Holy Spirit Himself works through this communal effort. As Saint Paul said in 1 Corinthians 1:13, Christ is not divided and so we cannot be divided. Division over doctrine that is not Creedal is schismatic and sinful, and the only way that we will ever get back to the miracles that the first millennium Church experienced is if we become united again. Schismatics distract our unity and withhold their gifts from the Church. We need those people in the Church both for our sake as well as theirs!

Orthodoxy and Culture

“State, society, culture, nature itself, are real objects of mission and not a neutral milieu in which the only task of the Church is to preserve its own inner freedom, to maintain its religious life.”

~ Fr. Alexander Schmemann, The Missionary Imperative in the Orthodox Tradition

There are some very serious disconnects between the Church and the culture in our modern times. In fact, there seems to be mass confusion just as to what the Gospel does to us as ‘mere mortals’ and how these mortal bodies become victorious bodies while on earth. How do we know that we are living out a life of worship, that our ceremony is affecting our lives and that our lives are affecting others to further the Kingdom? What does this look like when it begins to happen?

From the early Church’s conviction of sharing their property and “having all things in common,” as we see in Acts Chapter Two, to our modern struggles of regaining this sense of unity in a very confused society, the goal of this article will be to attempt to sort out the rubble and bring light to this subject of Christian purpose.

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On Hedonism

he·don·ism/ˈhēdnˌizəm/Noun

1. The pursuit of pleasure.
2. The ethical theory that pleasure is the highest good and proper aim of human life
Hedonism is a Greek term stemming from hedonistic philosophers such as Epicurus (341–270 BC). This philosophy is part of the very antithesis of the Christian life…Although there is what one Protestant pastor calls “Christian Hedonism,” which is really just finding pleasure in a sacrificial life, something quite foreign to Protestantism. Stay tuned for a comprehensive argument for the ascetic life of Orthodoxy and how it compares to hedonism. The article will embrace the meaning of culture and how Orthodox Christians are to pursue the culture but on a completely different level from the Hedonists and other non-believing and self-pursuing peoples. I hope to have the article done sometime this week, Lord willing!

THE SYNODICON: THE AFFIRMATION OF THE ORTHODOX FAITH

THE SYNODICON: THE AFFIRMATION OF THE ORTHODOX FAITH

As the Prophets beheld, as the Apostles have taught, as the Church has received, as the Teachers have dogmatized, as the universe has agreed, as Grace has shown forth, as Truth has revealed, as falsehood has been dissolved, as Wisdom has presented, as Christ has awarded: thus we declare, thus we assert, thus we preach Christ our true God, and honor His Saints in words, in writings, in thoughts, in sacrifices, in churches, in Holy Icons; on the one hand worshiping and reverencing Christ as God and Lord; and on the other hand honoring as true servants of the same Lord of all, and accordingly offering them veneration.

This is the Faith of the Apostles; this is the Faith of the Fathers; this is the Faith of the Orthodox; this is the Faith which has established the universe!

Orthodox Repentance and Confessing to a Priest

It is common amongst modern Christians today to believe that our sins do not affect others within the body of Christ unless we directly interact with them when sinning, as if the change – or lack there of – in our spiritual state does not have a negative consequence on the rest of the Church. As Bishop Kallistos says, “There are no entirely private sins. All sins are sins against my neighbor, as well as against God and against myself. Even my most secret thoughts are, in fact, making it more difficult for those around me to follow Christ (Orthodox Peace Fellowship retreat in Vézelay, April 1999 / third lecture by Bishop Kallistos).”

Because we are living beings amongst the rest of creation; that is, because nearly everything we do has an affect on someone else, we must begin to realize that our sin is not private. Every choice we make, from the stores we choose to shop at to the words we choose to speak, our actions create environments. When we chose to act sinfully we begin to create environments of pain and suffering. And unless we live secluded lives, away from any interaction with people at all, then these painful environments begin to infect people.

Because sin has always been a public matter, the early Church confessed their sins publically, within the assembly of worship. For a variety of practical reasons, the Church stopped confessing amongst the entire congregation, choosing to confess primarily before the pastor of their particular church. The pastor is able to make the matter much more discrete yet still “public” in that the confessor is confessing their sin to someone that represents the Church. Counsel can be given to the confessor and people who are from the “outside” (or even within the church) are not able to spread gossip around the community, as the priest is forbidden to reveal any confessed sins to anyone.

The arrangement of the Orthodox confession is not like that or Roman Catholicism. The Romans have a screen between the priest and the confessor, but in Orthodoxy the priest and the confessor stand or kneel before a representation of God such as an icon or Cross, many times in front of the iconostasis, visible to others but not within distance of actually hearing the confession. This arrangement, with the both of them before the representation of God, demonstrates the fact that in Orthodoxy, confession is to God, but alongside the witness of the priest. This can be best illustrated in the Russian tradition of the Church, where the priest says to the penitent at the beginning:

“Behold, my child, Christ stands here invisibly receiving your confession. Do not be ashamed and do not fear, and do not withhold anything from me; but without doubt tell all you have done and receive forgiveness from the Lord Jesus Christ. Lo, His holy image is before us, and I am only a witness, bearing testimony before Him of all things which you say to me. But if you conceal anything from me, you shall have the greater sin. Take heed, therefore, lest having come to the physician, you depart unhealed.”

Confession is one of the sacraments in the Orthodox Church. A sacrament is a means in which God personally gives grace to the individual Christian. In Confession, grace is given to the Christian in the way of forgiveness. This does not make Christ’s forgiveness on the Cross ineffectual; on the contrary, it actually makes it effectual. The work of forgiveness has indeed already been done on the Cross, but like all Christian traditions teach, there must be repentance for this to become a reality within the Christian’s life. In fact, the word “repentance” is synonymous for “confession” within the Orthodox faith. As we repent of our sin we draw closer to Christ and become more like him and the image that he originally created us in. The Greek word for repentance in the New Testament is metanoia, which translates “change of mind and heart”, or, “change of consciousness”. In order to confess our sins, especially to another Christian, we must embrace humility, and humility is the very key to sanctification in Christ, a changed psyche.

In the Orthodox faith there are various avenues to embrace humility, to conquer the flesh! Admitting that we need each other within this journey of crucifying the flesh and taking up the “divine nature,” as St. Peter calls it, is an important aspect of the faith. When we embrace repentance, we must consider this. God gave us His Church, guided by His ministers so that we can have a life of repentance and help one another on this journey of repentance. Many modern traditions teach that there is no need for a priest to intercede for the confessing Christian. In fact, most go as far as stating that there is no need for any type of public confession and that the confession that we do in our personal prayer to God is sufficient and will absolve us and heal us of our sins. There are multiple problems with this teaching. The first is that we see public confession in the Holy Scriptures:   

 “Confessing their sins, they were baptized by him in the Jordan River.” Matthew 3:6

“And there went out unto him all the land of Judaea, and they of Jerusalem, and were all baptized of him in the river of Jordan, confessing their sins.” Mark 1:5

“Also many of those who were now believers came, confessing and divulging their practices.” Acts 19:18

“Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called when you made your good confession in the presence of many witnesses.” 1 Timothy 6:12

“Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.” James 5:16

We also see that other first century documents of the Church verify that these Scriptures indeed mean what the Orthodox Church says they mean, and that this tradition of confession practiced within the first century was passed down through the centuries to follow:
“Confess your sins in church, and do not go up to your prayer with an evil conscience. This is the way of life. . . On the Lord’s Day gather together, break bread, and give thanks, after confessing your transgressions so that your sacrifice may be pure.” (Didache 4:14,14:1 — A.D.70)

“You shall judge righteously. You shall not make a schism, but you shall pacify those that contend by bringing them together. You shall confess your sins. You shall not go to prayer with an evil conscience. This is the way of light.” (Letter of Barnabas 19 — A.D. 74)

“For as many as are of God and of Jesus Christ are also with the bishop. And as many as shall, in the exercise of penance, return into the unity of the Church, these, too, shall belong to God, that they may live according to Jesus Christ.” (Letter to the Philadelphians 3 — A.D. 110)

“[A filial method of forgiveness], albeit hard and laborious [is] the remission of sins through penance, when the sinner . . . does not shrink from declaring his sin to a priest of the Lord and from seeking medicine, after the manner of him who say, “I said, to the Lord, I will accuse myself of my iniquity.” ” (Homilies in Leviticus 2:4 — A.D. 248)

“It is necessary to confess our sins to those to whom the dispensation of God’s mysteries is entrusted. Those doing penance of old are found to have done it before the saints. It is written in the Gospel that they confessed their sins to John the Baptist [Matt. 3:6], but in Acts [19:18] they confessed to the apostles.” (Rules Briefly Treated 288 — A.D. 374)

“Priests have received a power which God has given neither to angels nor to archangels. It was said to them: “Whatsoever you shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; and whatsoever you shall loose, shall be loosed.” Temporal rulers have indeed the power of binding: but they can only bind the body. Priests, in contrast, can bind with a bond which pertains to the soul itself and transcends the very heavens. Did [God] not give them all the powers of heaven? “Whose sins you shall forgive,” he says, “they are forgiven them; whose sins you shall retain, they are retained.” The Father has given all judgment to the Son. And now I see the Son placing all this power in the hands of men [Matt. 10:40; John 20:21-23]. They are raised to this dignity as if they were already gathered up to heaven.” (The Priesthood 3:5 — A.D. 387)

“For those to whom [the right of binding and loosing] has been given, it is plain that either both are allowed, or it is clear that neither is allowed. Both are allowed to the Church, neither is allowed to heresy. For this right has been granted to priests only.” (Ambrose of Milan, Penance 1:1 — A.D. 388)

The notion that confessing our sin in a public manner is not necessary is quite a harmful teaching; this teaching is in fact heterodox. To withhold confessing our sin to the Church is to harbor our sin within our personal psyche. There is no liberty, as liberty is given to us when we confess our sins to another. There is no easing of the conscience when we harbor those sins amongst ourselves. One of the very reasons why Saint James calls us to “confess our sins to one another” is because we live amongst one another and we are connected to one another in so very many ways.

When we confess to a priest, we ultimately confess that we have sinned against God’s Church. If you were to cause some sort of catastrophe within a company, who would you go to apologize to? The owner or person who represents the owner of the company! In one sense, this is what you are doing when you confess your sins to a priest. You are confessing to him that you have sinned against the “company” of the faithful. You are confessing to the one that represents the owner of the kingdom; that is, God the Almighty! The priest holds this authority to be able to grant a pardon or not to grant a pardon. We can see this in Matthew 16:18,19, that the keys of the kingdom were given to the apostles and that decisions that are made in this Church are made for heaven also (binding and loosing). If a Christian cannot humble themselves to ask the representative of the Church for forgiveness, then how could they possibly be repentive? It is as if every man that refuses to confess to the Church, creates his own church by insisting on only confessing to himself. In fact, with this type of philosophy a man could just start his own church whenever he is wrong and does not want to repent. He could make up his own doctrine and ethical standard as time moves along. This is essentially what is happening within the western Churches. The number of fragmented Bible organizations continues to grow every day because of this.

God’s grace is accessed through the Logos of God, through the very Word of God. The Church has been given the authority to assemble (declare letters to be a part of the Logos or not) and to bind and loose sins according to this Logos, this revelation of Christ. The Holy Scripture contains the basis for all moral law and this is what we confess, our breaking of the moral law of God. How can one confess breaking the law of God if they do not even believe in the Church that sets the standard of this morality to be broken in the first place? It is the Church that set forth ethical standards and it is the Church that one needs to confess to when breaking these standards. Repentance is a family exercise! We repent with the help of the body of Christ. The Holy Spirit operates through each other for the sake of each other.

About Orthodoxy

Orthodox Doctrine

In the years after Jesus’ Resurrection, apostles and missionaries traveled throughout the known world spreading the gospel. Soon, five major locations were established as centers for the faith: Jerusalem, Antioch, Rome, Alexandra, and Constantinople. In the year 1054 the Roman church broke from this united Church and five hundred years later protestant churches began breaking away from Rome. But the original church has remained united in the apostolic faith since the first century. This is Orthodoxy.

One of the tasks of the early Church was defining, and defending, an orthodox theology against the battering waves of heresies. These heresies often appeared in disputes over the nature of the Trinity, or how Jesus could be both God and Man. Church Councils were called to search the Scriptures and put into words the common faith, forming a bedrock of certainty that could stand for all ages. From this time, the Church has been called “Orthodox,” which means “right belief.” The Nicene Creed originated at the council of Nicea in A.D. 325, and is the central Orthodox statement of faith, a preeminent example of the work of the Councils. Built on the foundation of Christ and His Apostles, nothing has been added to our faith, and nothing can be added. It is complete.

Orthodox Worship

Orthodox churches still use forms of worship that were practiced in the first centuries. Our worship is based to a great extent on passages from Scriptures. We sing most of the service, joining our voices in simple harmony to ancient melodies.

Our worship is focused on God, not on our own enjoyment, fulfillment, or fellowship. We come into the presence of God with awe, aware of our fallenness and His great mercy. We seek forgiveness and rejoice in the great gift of salvation so freely giving. Orthodox worship is filled with repentance, gratitude, and unending praise.

We try, as best as we can, to make our worship beautiful. The example of Scripture shows us that God’s design for tabernacle worship (Exodus 25, 26) included gold, silver, precious stones, blue and purple cloth, embroidery, incense, bells, and anointing oil. Likewise, in Saint John’s version of heavenly worship (Revelation 4) there are precious stones, gold, thrones, crowns, white robes, crystal, and incense. From the beginning to the end of Scripture, worship is offered with as much beauty as possible. While new mission’s finances may call for simple appointments, our hearts come to worship seeking to pour out at the feet of Christ all the precious ointment we posses.

A common misconception is that awe-filled beautiful worship must be rigid, formal, and cold. Orthodox worship shatters that stereotype. The liturgy is not a performance, but an opportunity to come together as a family of faith before our beloved Father. True Orthodox worship is comfortable, warm, and joyful. It could be nothing less in His heavenly presence.

Orthodox Values

Values that are usually termed “Judeo-Christian” have never left Orthodoxy. We believe that sexual expression is a treasured gift one to be exercised only within marriage. Persons with homosexual or other extramarital sexual impulses are welcomed as fellow servants of God, receiving loving support as they make an offering to God of their chastity.

Marriage is a commitment  for life. Divorce is a very grave action, and remarriage after divorce a concession to human weakness, undertaken with repentance.

Orthodoxy has stood against abortion since the earliest days of the church. The Didache (circa A.D. 110) states, “Do not murder a child by abortion or kill a newborn infant.” In the midst of culture which freely practiced abortion, infanticide, and the exposure of infants, early Christians were a constant voice against violence, as the Orthodox Church continues to be today.

Caring for the poor and disadvantaged has always been a concern for the Orthodox. The strong sermons of Saint John Chrysostom, written in the forth century, bear witness to the importance of this Christian responsibility. The Church continues to see its mission in light of the whole person, body and soul.

Orthodox believers are right, left and center on many issues. But where the Scripture and witness of the early Church guide us, there is no controversy. We uphold and obey God’s will.

By Fredrica Mathewes-Green

Video Killed the Radio Star

Modernity is both an enemy as well as an ally of the Church. I would say that it is first the enemy, though, since Christianity is an ancient faith ruled by an ancient way of life (succession of authority – Scriptures/Church), where as modernity is the very progression of society apart from spirituality.

How is modernity the enemy of the Church? Well, this is a great question and deserves at least an entire 200 page book, but in a nutshell modernity throughout history has not ceased to knock and even ram on the doors of the Church’s ceremony, her liturgy. This is how the Church is captured, first by its liturgy, hence the popular Latin phrase Lex orandi, lex credendi (“the law of prayer is the law of belief”). The way we worship dictates the way we think on theological terms. If the worship changes, so will the overall culture of the Church. The Jews have been aware of breaching of modernity into the Covenant since the very establishment of Israel.

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Patristic Quote of the Week

“I am often criticised for my continual attacks on the rich. Yes, that’s because the rich continually attack the poor.”

– St John Chrysostom

My Conversion to the Orthodox Church Part II

There are a number of things that have really discouraged me over the years within the Christian faith; things that I later found out to be modern in nature; Christians limiting how close one could get to the Church of the early fathers before barring them from leadership or fellowship. I have found that the path of leadership within these modern churches is filled with sinful compromise.

Many leaders in the modern church are the biggest liars I have ever seen! I have witnessed it and in some sense done it myself. It’s bred at ordination exams. These men lie about their beliefs in order to be ordained. It happens in the Evangelical faith as well as the Roman. I know right now that there are many Anglicans that are willing to lie their tails off in order to be ordained in the Roman ordinariate that they are now creating for Anglicans (these guys know that the Vatican II catechism speaks lies all over the place about Mary and about Islam).

As these people grow in the faith they will slam on the brakes if it means having to face rebuke or the loss of their leadership position. They will begin to learn the truths of the Ancient Church but will cease from embracing it fully in order to keep their flock or please their superiors. Of course they will philosophize their position of teaching within their mind, creating an apologetic, a defense for when they meet opposition. It’s really quite easy: they will take a hard turn toward rationalism in order to discredit the ancient faith. This is of course how liberalism manifests, and I would argue that liberalism began at the Reformation when men began to reject the mystical aspects of grace for scholastic constructs of rhetoric, notwithstanding Roman heresy that strayed from the early fathers; but more on that another time.

It’s never healthy to lie to yourself in order to remain “comfortable.” Some people – mainly men, but I have seen a number of women do this as well – would much rather become the popular prophet in their church affiliation than actually grow and arrive at a place of spirituality where they belong. What I mean by this is what I say frequently on this site, that Christianity is fragmented from the whole into a type of linked economy. The Church can be represented by a ladder where each denomination represents a rung in the ladder, from the least sacramental at the bottom to the most sacramental and apostolic on the top. One does not have to climb the entire ladder, of course. One can get to the top right away if they look past the disaster of much of modern history and see the “truth of the ancient.” But as modernity saturates western society through the years, more and more denominations are created…from breaking off of older denominations, thus creating these stepping-stone/rungs.

I have met a number of people that seek to climb this ladder by conversing with Christians that are on the “top rungs” and buying books from the top-rung churches, but they cease to make the move to the top, rather they hoard the information they have received in order to become a type of leader within the lower rung. Is this a noble thing to do? I often ask myself this question as I work out my own salvation. In fact, I have wrestled with that question far too often. Rather than just jumping right up to the Orthodox Church with my family, I chose to wrestle with God as Jacob wrestled, always insisting that God bless me for working so hard for Him but never really sitting back and listening to God as I should have. I kept seeking the theology of the more ancient churches and then relating it back to my family and those who I was leading in the Church. It was exciting in many ways. I could go on these theological journeys and return with a few beautiful jewels to share with my people. But it caught up to me several times.

It seems like each time I moved from one denomination to the next it was because I had feared my camp leaders catching me and saying “Hey, I know where you are getting those doctrines.” Sure, some have actually followed me on my path but the wrestling of this Prodigal Son has been way too harsh. Again, you could say that I have a hip out of joint from wrestling with God over all this. I knew it was happening. I knew I was wrestling with God each time I attempted to mesh theologies, but when you have this kind of prideful momentum it is hard to hear what God is really saying.

Some will say that it is perfectly godly for an Evangelical type to “borrow” from higher, older, denominations and churches. I disagree! You know who you are. I know some of these people personally and I know some that are popular theologians. I know of one extremely popular Anglican theologian who is constantly bringing back jewels from the Eastern Orthodox Church, rarely to give credit to them at all. I know people personally that have learned about the higher moral standards of the older more established churches such as the Eastern Orthodox and refuse to submit to them because they will lose their collar permanently (or may never get the collar they do not have but desire to have). This is sinful! God is not going to bless that kind of stubbornness. Come home! You will be blessed without the collar. Better to gain salvation than gain the whole world and lose your soul, right? Or maybe you will not lose your soul completely. Maybe you will just suffer all your life. Is that truly what you want?

What is really quite interesting about the fragmentation of Christianity is that it is so very western-driven, mainly by the supposed freedom fighters of modern America who insist on freedom to do whatever one pleases, including the capitalization of heresy, which is what modern Protestantism has come to: a big business for clergy. If there is a crack in an existing group, you had better believe that some cleaver weasel will cram him or herself into that crack and push until it opens up to a few other weasels to help begin another denomination, another rung in the already crowded ladder of western schism.

Am I wrong? Do I have my history and my theology wrong? Have I not come home by converting to Orthodoxy? I know that my moving from Anglicanism to Orthodoxy while actually explaining it as a part of growth may actually offend some, but so far I have heard no decent arguments at all. Character assassinations and name calling will always be the norm for this type of dialog. But I think there is one thing that you will notice: Eastern Orthodoxy is growing, and it is growing without your help. Maybe your crafty style of discipleship is being outmoded by the evangelistic momentum of Orthodoxy. Maybe your creative theological journeys to feed your family or church can finally come to an end and you can let your people finally get the medicine they need.

My Conversion to Eastern Orthodoxy

In case you are new here or have not noticed the change in this site, I am converting to Eastern Orthodoxy. It was not the easiest jump but as the first month has passed I can say with confidence that it is awesome!

I first made the decision to be confirmed as an Anglican based on a number of things, but what I was most interested in was the fact that I could become closer to God through the very means that Christ had described in the Holy Scriptures. I felt like I would finally be able to worship within the thrust of reverence and rich theological content, to do what Christ said to the woman at the well in John 4, “to worship in spirit and truth.” But as I grew within the Anglican faith I began to realize that worshiping in spirit and truth involves much more than just reverence and rich theology. I found my soul begging for more of something, but was not sure what it was.

As I continued to worship and study within the church, the Holy Spirit began to show me just what it was that I was lacking – the very nature of the Church and the way that the Holy Spirit Himself operates. I began to see that the Spirit operates through unity and humility of the very body of Christ, the Church. But I have not seen this within the Anglican faith. As much as I have tried, through various Anglican jurisdictions, I cannot see the unity that Christ speaks of.

Christ says in John 17 that He desires that we be unified, and the early fathers say that without unity in the Church the spirit simply cannot operate properly. In the beginning of the Church as we see in the book of Acts and all the way through the first millennium, the Church was one. The churches varied a bit in their culture but they were unified under the bishopric through the Ecumenical Councils.

As I embrace the Orthodox faith I can see and feel how God is blessing me through this act of unity, a unity not only of those in the local church now but a unity of the Church, past, present and future. There is something very powerful about worshiping under the same liturgy that some of the most godly priests and bishops in all history worshiped with; direct successors of the Apostles. It really gives new meaning to be a disciple of Christ! The liturgy itself resonates with the early Christian within you, something that I think we all need to get in touch with while living in a very modernistic and secular society. Learning Orthodox theology and worshiping with them allows one to be enraptured with the great saints of the first millennium; the surrounding icons, the incense, the majestic vestments, the people relaxed within the congregation – but not so relaxed as to become irreverent – and the unaccompanied voices of the people of God chanting praise, brings one into the entire body of Christ – past, present and future. Orthodox worship also gives one a sense of belonging throughout the week…like no other manifestation of Christianity can give. We see that in Revelation the Church triumphant is constantly worshiping. Orthodoxy finds a place in this realm. Not only is there always – due to the parishes as well as the monastics – an Orthodox worship going on somewhere within the world, like the Church triumphant, but the worship itself is “open ended.” It does not have an entrance or closing of a precession. You walk into it as if it has always been going on, because it has been. This helps create a spiritual foundation within your soul that “extends” worship to every day past Sunday. Some Protestant churches teach a concept like this but they do not put it into practice within the worship service, the very manifestation (and cause) of our theology. The Orthodox Church puts wheels on the Western term Lex orandi, lex credendi (Latin for the law of prayer is the law of belief).     

And the fact that the Orthodox can worship so majestically and sacramentally while also under a bishopric that has proven itself up to our day and has not wavered gives much confidence in Christ!

Worshiping under a “blameless” bishopric (1 Timothy 3:2) is important not only for worshipful reasons but for evangelistic reasons. My view of evangelism is to teach about how one needs to be a part of the bishopric, and how the bishopric is the very founder and keeper of the Bible (Canon). But this seems difficult to do while in the Anglican faith because the history of the Anglican bishopric leads to the apostasy of the Episcopal Church and Church of England – quite the embarrassment.

After a considerable amount of study, conversations with a local Orthodox priest, prayer, and the chance to bring my son Steffen with me to see if this unity is at work within a local Orthodox church, I came to the realization that this is it! Steffen (my son) gave me his approval ;) I know that within the Orthodox Church I can receive spiritual support for my teaching. This means that I will no longer be that guy that just doesn’t seem to fit in, the guy that teaches that “Catholic” stuff. I willingly accept being tagged as an Anglo-catholic within the Anglican Church only because I am unable to say that I am Orthodox (there really is no “Anglo-Orthodox” camp within the Anglican Church).

The Eastern Orthodox is the Church that has not wavered since the faith was handed over from the Apostles. Not everyone in the Orthodox Church is perfect but the Orthodox Church is indeed the direct historical successor of what Christ first instituted in Matthew 16, and by the grace of God I have found myself being pulled right in to it.

The Eastern Orthodox Church contains what we believe to be the most beautiful worship known to all Christendom. It is indeed different from western worship. It is much more challenging to learn and it certainly does not set a tone of entertainment (although I must admit that the incense and other liturgical acts are quite mesmerizing). The worship is sacred and holy, set apart from modernity! It is not organized like western liturgy, to have that grand entrance and escalating tone (western worship seems to have a schizophrenic tone with the overwhelming theology of ‘depravity/penitential but accompanied with an overly victorious organ or band) with a certain sense of closer at the end. The Orthodox liturgy, again, is “open ended” to demonstrate that our weekly living is to blend right in to its timeless nature. It also contains more prayers and in general much more theology than western liturgy. It is said to take several Sundays for a soul to completely absorb what it both offers and demands.

There are many other theological positions that also drew me in to the Orthodox faith, one of which is the Orthodox teaching of atonement. I have wrestled with so many different views of Christ’s atonement over the past ten years and now I feel like I have come home to the truth of the matter. The Orthodox Church teaches an atonement of victory and love, an atonement that actually deals with good and evil, the devil included. You can see more about this theology under the Salvation tab on this site.

The Bible! Yes, the Orthodox Church has the complete Bible. That’s right! The Protestant faith has stripped God’s word of many Old Testament books. Take a look at the Sola Scriptura video on the right side of the website, and look at the Bible tab of the site. After I studied the canon in Anglican seminary (funny thing is that I previously studied it in an Evangelical seminary – shows how they hide things from us) I became convinced that the Protestants were lying to me and that a large piece of God’s grace was being withheld from me!

There is one more very important theological reason for converting to Orthodoxy that I must mention, and that is the anchor of monasticism that is given to the Orthodox Church. Neither the Anglican nor the Catholic churches have such a strong influence of monasticism. This is a good thing because it models the very law of Christ and prevents the Church from swaying to a rules-based ethic and culture. Some may think that it does just the opposite but it really does not.

The monastic way is a way of solitude and peace. It is a calling that is not after seeking crowns here on earth or even in heaven, but it is a calling that gives the church substance and vigor. From the time of Constantine to our modern day, the monks of the church have kept people sober, showing Christians that God does indeed call modern day John the Baptists and Paul the Apostles. God calls these monks to live a life of purity, not for themselves, but for the greater health of the entire church – men and women praying for the church and the world, serving the Church and the world, and sacrificing for the Church and the world.  Monasticism is not just a way of life, but it is a very theology – in particular, a theology of humility within the spiritual realm, and a theology of liturgy within the earthly realm. The monastic Christian lives a life of liturgy for the purpose of humility. Upon being cultivated to this humility, the Christian begins to serve his fellow man. When Christ says that in order to enter the Kingdom of heaven, one must become “like a child,” he means that one must be humbled. This, of course, is what the law does, in part; it humbles a man to repentance. But preaching the law in all its worth is simply not enough for the church to embrace. The church must embrace a lifestyle; a calling of humility; a calling that Christ partook of. Christ was not only a “man of sorrows acquainted with grief,” (Isaiah 53:3) but he was also a man that had nowhere to “lay his head” (Luke 9:58). He fellowshipped with the downcast, he owned nothing that we know of and he remained a celibate man all his life. This is a life of utter humility. To model a life after this lifestyle and create a calling/vocation and even a theology after it must certainly be the will of our Lord!

I feel that I have come home! I also feel that I can now “come home” to the Lord; not that I want to die, of course, but I now feel like I have left the ranting and raving for a faith of healing and solitude, a faith that prepares me for heaven. I know now that after I die my five children will be as safe and secure as they can possibly be within the One Holy and Apostolic Church. I now feel confident that they can live a life for Christ without struggling with their “denomination” or group. And they can hand that faith down to their children. There will be challenges for them (and I) within the Orthodox faith, I’m sure (we are all sinners) but the challenges will be worth any pain that may seem to be upon us.

I hope this article was a blessing to you. It was certainly a blessing to write. It has been a long journey for my family and I within the ministry and we are glad to have made it this far so that our children can still benefit from the conversion and worship with us in Spirit and Truth. Please let me know if you have any questions about Orthodoxy, and if I cannot answer them for you I will find someone that can.

With Love,

Mike

Turning Points Of The Church

A primary reason why we named this site “Classical Christianity” is so that we could publish the richness of the first millennium of the Church, when both the eastern and western hemispheres were united in fsith. The Classical concept of the Church is to become ingrained into the teachings of these saints that the first millennium produced. There are many “modern” saints to learn from as well, but as we will discuss below, the pre- medieval era is indeed quite special to Orthodoxy. If we can understand some of the pitfalls that were encountered within the Middle Ages, perhaps we will be able to grow in Christ in a much more sustainable way, a way that involves the unity of the faith that Christ speaks of.

A lot of radical over-correction took place in the Middle Ages when many men of the Church finally got their hands on a variety of books, including the Bible. After “the Church went off its rails” in 1054 A.D. (the Church split and formed Eastern Orthodox and Roman Catholic), as Protestant pastor Martin Luther said, the Church began to quickly embrace a very scholastic path of spirituality. Writers such as Peter Lombard, in the 12th century and later Thomas Aquinas, in the 13th century, capitalized on the simple yet foundational aspects of Christianity such as Holy Communion, marriage, ordination, healing, baptism, reconciliation with Christ, as well as reconciliation with the Church. These subjects were thought to be of great importance since they had been practiced since the very inception of the New Testament Church.

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Marcion, Law Verses Gospel, and Christian Fragmentation

I recently had the opportunity to discuss with a former partner in ministry why Orthodoxy has remained whole throughout the ages, since the call of the Apostles by Christ. This friend continued to mention that all Christianity has been fragmented from the beginning and that the Orthodox Church is not exempt from this.

I have two things to say about this. The first is that although the Orthodox Church has had people break off, it has not been in modern times over modern heresy, unlike the West which has been fragmenting since the break of Rome from the East in the 11th century into tiny fragments to this day. The second thing is that both St. Paul and Christ himself said that there would be many that would fall away – it is a prophetic aspect of the Church…not that the Church would fragment into many churches but that many would fall away from the Church.

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K(no)w Bishop, K(no)w Bible

Here is a link that helps us understand the fact that the bishopric is the arbitrator of truth and that the Bible, our primary repository of truth, belongs only to the Church that is under this bishopric.

From the link above we can see that there are dozens of early writings that are not in the Bible. In the first few hundred years of the New Testament Church the authority of revelation was verbally transpired by the bishops, to the priests and then to the rest of the Church. In the fourth century the bishops decided which books out of these many would be “canonized.” This Canon of early letters began to be called the Bible.

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The Word Manifests both Phonetically and Existentially

Hebrews 13:10

“We have an altar from which those who serve the tabernacle have no right to eat.”

After taking this verse into proper context as well as examining the Greek, you will find the meaning of the word “altar” to have a very literal meaning. Orthodox churches continue the pre-modern practice of Christianity of having altars in their sanctuaries, altars that – as the Scripture above speaks – do not allow non-believers to eat from.

This topic deserves much more attention than what I am about to give it here, but this can certainly be a fine spot to launch off of: The altar’s relation to the Word (revelation).

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Why Charismatics Should become Eastern Orthodox!

There are a number of reasons why Charismatics should become eastern Orthodox; reasons such as apostolic succession, liturgical renewal and a general expansion of theology. But there are a few things about Eastern Orthodxy that are extremely “charismatic” that charismatics surprisingly have not yet embraced.

Here is how Theopedia describes the term Charismatic.

Charismatic is an umbrella term used to describe those Christians who believe that the manifestations of the Holy Spirit seen in the first century Christian Church, such as healing, miracles and “speaking in tongues,” are available to contemporary Christians and ought to be experienced and practiced today.

The word charismatic is derived from the Greek word charisma (meaning a grace or a gift) which is the term used in the Bible to describe a wide range of supernatural experiences (especially in 1 Corinthians 12-14).

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On Liturgical Collars and Vestments

There is no neutrality within the spiritual realm, and this includes the use of clerical attire and liturgical vestments. If one does not choose to wear vestments to minister in, why does he choose a suit or a polo shirt? A modern pastor may say that he is attempting to “become all things to all people,” but modern clothing simply does not do this because it does not speak theologically. And where does this philosophy end? If the majority of the culture is, for instance, wearing bathing suits, does this mean that the pastor should do the same? Or is there an actual moral standard to be met? If there is, then what should this standard be? Has the all-things-to-all-people concept really done the Church much good?

Jesus Wore Clerical Attire

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On Christians Feeling Empty

Perhaps you have thought at one time that there is something missing in your life, a type of longing, but you have been unable to place your finger on it. You think that, as a Christian, this longing should eventually disappear and be filled with “knowing God” or maybe that it should be filled with some sort of ministry success, be it family, job, church or just personal accomplishments that you believe Christ has called and is calling you to.

You might have been told that this “God shaped hole” is awaiting this personal relationship with Christ via your “justification” in Christ. Or, maybe your leaders are less systematic and they choose different wording such as: “you are now guilt free.”

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Unity Within Christendom Hinges on the Bishopric!

 In Ephesians 4:10-13 we see that St. Paul the Apostle declares that a primary reason for the establishment of the clergy is for the eventual unity of the Church.  He says in verses 12 and 13 that the ministry is given for the “equipping of the saints…till we all come to the unity of the faith…” We also see in John 17:20-23 that Christ actually prays for unity of the Church. This is very serious! We cannot disregard what Christ is saying here in a very clear and concise manner.

Rev. Peter Toon on Unity:

The third approach is that episcopacy is of the plene esse (fullness of being) of the Church. This view affirms that it is God’s perfect will for the Church that it be led by bishops, and takes its inspiration from Ephesians 4:10–13. The historic episcopate has important pastoral functions (as the bene esse view allows) as well as theological importance (as the esseview overstates). It provides the full embodiment of the Gospel in church order. First of all the historic episcopate provides the effectual sign of unity and, therefore, it embodies in church order the Biblical proclamation that Christ’s Church is truly one. Secondly, it embodies in practical church order the principle of apostolicity. The episcopally ordained ministry is both sent by God to represent Christ to his Church and functions as representative of that Church. It acts as guardian of the Word and Sacraments, of the faith, and the flock of Christ. The historical order of bishops is, therefore, an effectual sign of the relation of Christ to his Church: for it manifests his authority within and care for the Church. As long as the one Church of God is divided on earth the historic Episcopate can never be a full expression and effective sign of the principles of unity and apostolicity. So the plene esse view points us to the future when, in the union of the present churches, the order of bishops will function as God wills that it should. Meanwhile Anglicans should highly value the historic episcopate without claiming too much or too little for it. And they should remember that to present the historic episcopate as belonging to the plene esse of the Church is the view to which the Anglican commitment to Scripture, tradition and reason points us.”

On So-called “Justification”

baptism

The term “justification” that is found in the writings of St. Paul does not have to do with ones conversion, but rather it is simply a word that Paul used to described how God’s Covenant people as a whole are justified in being the new people of God, the New Covenant people of God. One is justified for not partaking any longer with the Jews or any other religious group; he is no longer bound to the Old Covenant Law. It is really that simple! The term justification is more polemical to the Jews than it is a dogma-term that is to be used to describe a conversion or a sanctifying element in ones conversion.

We must recognize that there is a difference between the doctrine of justification via medieval scholasticism and the doctrine of justification according to St. Paul. One could easily blame the Reformers, such as Calvin and Luther, for capitalizing on the doctrine, but prior to them was the 13th century scholastics St. Duns Scotus and Thomas Aquinas. These four medieval men certainly gave scholastic momentum for the doctrine. Before them, St. Augustine as well as St. Ambrose were keen on using philosophy to promote certain doctrines but neither of them capitalized on the word “justification” like the medieval theologians.

Now here is where it gets sticky! Prior to the medieval period, salvation was described in terms of  receiving Christ through baptism and repentance and moving from there into catechizing where one would become rooted in the faith and then become confirmed and begin to receive communion. Salvation was more about leaving one thing for another; not works based but “proof based.” As a person began to live the life within the Church and submit to her teachings and standards, that person became more and more widely recognized as a true and faithful Christian.

But then came scholasticism, where, in many ways, the Gospel changed from the good news about changing lives to the good news about changing thought. As time progressed through the ages much of the Church that was separated (Protestants, etc.) from the historic Church began to embrace a one time conversion scheme where they simply had to recite a “sinners prayer.”

Where did this sinner’s prayer notion come from? It came from the understanding that salvation itself is all wrapped up in one term and concept: Justification! Conversion began to be equated with the term justification, which became the dogma-term for God declaring an individual saved.

What modernism has done is taken these terms that St. Paul used in his writings and capitalized on them via scholasticism. So now the word justification becomes much more than just a word that St. Paul used a few times to help explain the situation of the Gospel, it becomes the sum of the Gospel itself. As Luther stated, justification is “the doctrine by which the church either stands or falls.” Calvin declared justification to be the “hinge of the Reformation.” The reason they were saying these things is because St. Paul’s word “justification” had been built up within the scholastic circles to become the all in all.

First of all, we need to remember that Jesus never used the term justification! Second, justification was not used by St. Paul as a propositional term. St. Paul did not even imply that we should use that term when evangelizing or teaching. Paul was using the term to ensure the Jews, and those associated with the Jews, that they were in the right place with God, covenantally speaking. Paul brought the Gospel into the law-court scenario so that the Gentiles could be comfortable becoming one with the Jews and that Jews could be confident that they could completely leave the part of Judaism they needed to leave to be one with the Gentiles.

St. Paul seemed to be paving a path for both Jew and Gentile. As an Evangelist, Paul’s writings were always written with the Jewish audience in mind, even when addressing the Gentiles. He did not use the term dogmatically for all situations. St. Paul was an evangelist, a polemicist. He said himself in his letter to the Corinthians that he “became all things to all people” in order to win the Jews over. In the book of Romans, where Paul uses the term, he is carefully mapping out, yes, a systematic theology, but for the particular situation at hand. The Jews were constantly interfering with the Gospel work within the Roman Empire and St. Paul, being called to heal this relational gap (1 Cor. 9:20), began writing his best proposition for the given problem.

So in one sense, St. Paul was the very first scholastic teacher. He used philosophy to promote the Gospel. But the philosophy that he used to heal the Jews to the Church and help the Church understand their relationship with the Jews is now, in our day, being used as a Church dogma to describe the Gospel itself. Many in the Church have taken the word out of context and are abusing it and even in some ways worshiping it!

When St. Paul says that we are justified by faith, he is not saying that we are to have an instantaneous experience by faith, he is saying that we justly reside within the New Covenant people of God. He says this because the Jews were uneasy about being a part of the Church because they thought they had to be a part of the Nation of Israel instead. The people that Paul was ministering to also thought that they were to maintain their covenantal status by their works, but St. Paul says in Romans, chapter 4, that our covenantal status is through faith; not that we practice ‘faithing’ but that God recognizes our faith as a mark of justice, a sign of the Covenant people. St. Paul is not giving a psychological solution that we should become converted through justification by faith; he is saying something completely different.

It is not justification that we are after, but it is Christ that we are after. A person can sit well with believing that justification is because of faith and still not become saved. To summarize what Bishop N.T. Wright says, Justification is not about how one gets into the Covenant, it is about how one is viewed by God within the Covenant.

Today’s debate on justification presupposes medieval thought. It does not take into consideration what the early church taught about salvation and ironically, it does not take into consideration the skill of philosophy and debate, the very thing that the doctrine was derived from: St. Paul’s philosophy (but not to be turned into something else). Again, Paul’s intent was for the term justification to heal Jews from their notions of covenantal standing, their personal issues that they had about the Gospel and its doctrine that insisted they leave one Covenant people for another.

What justification really is is the promise of the Covenant. In Romans, chapter 4, Paul begins by stating that not even Abraham was “justified” by works, but by faith. Paul goes on, beginning in verse 13, to describe what this justification is:

“It was not through law that Abraham and his offspring received the promise that he would be heir of the world, but through the righteousness that comes by faith. For if those who live by law are heirs, faith has no value and the promise is worthless, because law brings wrath. And where there is no law there is no transgression. Therefore, the promise comes by faith, so that it may be by grace and may be guaranteed to all Abraham’s offspring—not only to those who are of the law but also to those who are of the faith of Abraham. He is the father of us all. As it is written: “I have made you a father of many nations.”He is our father in the sight of God, in whom he believed—the God who gives life to the dead and calls things that are not as though they were.”

When St. Paul speaks of justification he is speaking of the promise of the Covenant people. He is not speaking of a conversion experience, a point at which God says, YOU ARE NOW JUSTIFIED. As mentioned earlier, Paul is communicating to all people – because of the Jewish notion that the New Covenant Church was not in the right – that the Church is in the right. He even goes as far as saying that Abraham was indeed in the right also, but he too was in the right by faith; not because he did a work of faith (that would mean that we are saved by works) but that he simply was reckoned as faithful. Abraham was a man of the faith, again, not intellectually and physiologically speaking but more literally speaking: Abraham was a man of faith! And to reiterate, Abraham was not faithing his way to heaven but God counted him as the faithful, a man whose path was a faithful one within the Covenant; loyal not to ceremonial works as many thought but a man loyal to works bathed in faith! St. Paul needed to make this clear to the Jews so that the Jews would recognize the patriots as the true fathers of Christianity.

So when one says we are saved by faith “alone” they are missing the point of faith. We are saved “through” faith, as Paul says, not “by” faith. There is a big difference. Take away the notion that salvation is something that goes on within your head and realize that salvation, in Pauline terms, is something that happens within the Covenant and that we must live a life of faith in Christ within this Covenant.

In Romans 5:9, Paul says that we are justified by Christ’s blood. So now we are somewhat out of the intellectual formula but more clearly within the covenantal formula, because the shedding of His blood is an historical event. It does not happen again when someone converts thus calling it the point of one’s experience of justification. His blood sacrifice created a New Covenant for people to be saved. So again, Paul is speaking covenantally. Paul is not saying that we all at one point in our life become justified. He is saying that within the kingdom of Christ one is justified and from there their life is worked out; their salvation is worked out by God (Philippians 2:12).

I think a question could arise out of all this, and that would be: “If St. Paul was referring to justification as God’s declaration of one being a covenant member, then is one justified when they are baptized since baptism initiates membership to the Covenant?” The following is an interesting article by Dr. Peter Liethart as he argues that, yes, one is justified when baptized. This does not equate to salvation but it does open the door to such.

“Does baptism justify? Justification is, of course, an act of God. But that puts the question differently without deflecting it: Does baptism declare a justification for the person baptized?

At least twice, Paul makes a direction connection between baptism and justification. Having reminded the Corinthians that they had been the kind of people who do not inherit the kingdom, he goes on to remind them that they are no longer such people: “but you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, and in the Spirit of God” (6:11). Is Paul talking about water baptism when he refers to “washing” or to some spiritual and invisible washing? I believe the former; the phrase “in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ” echoes the baptismal formula of Matthew 28 and Acts, and the reference to the Spirit also links with baptismal passages (Acts 2; 1 Cor 12:12-13). This whole passage is in fact embedded in a baptismal formula: “you were washed . . . in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ.” Note too that Paul marks the shift from what the Corinthians “were” to what they “are” by a reference to their baptism. They have become different folk by being baptized. What, though, is the relationship between the baptism and sanctification and justification? The connection here is not absolutely clear, but I suggest that sanctification and justification are two implications of the event of baptism. The pagan Corinthians have been washed-sanctified-justified by their baptism into the name of Jesus and the concommitant action of the Spirit.

Romans 6:7 is another passage where Paul links baptism and justification. He who has died, Paul writes, is “justified from sin.” And when, in context, does one die? “Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus have been baptized into His death? Therefore we have been buried with Him through baptism into death, in order that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life” (vv. 3-4). Baptism into Christ means baptism into death; those who have been baptized have been crucified with Jesus; and those who are dead in and with Jesus have been justified from sin. Here, “justify” carries the connotation of deliverance from the power of sin. Through baptism, we die to our natural solidarity and society with Adam and brought into solidarity with and the society of Jesus.”