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 We should imitate them, in case we should seem out of date and uncivilized.’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 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 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 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 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.

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 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)

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)