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 We should imitate them, in case we should seem out of date and uncivilized.’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

IMG_4180Protopresbyter Peter Heers

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

[3] Ware, Communion and Intercommunion, 20.

[4] Ware, Communion and Intercommunion, 23.

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

On 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 Deathbed Repentance

St. John of KronstadtSt. John of Kronstadt 1829-1908

Many of us live as if we don’t have to die and give an account of our lives. What does this mean? Doesn’t this happen because such people think that all they have to do is to repent just before they die and they will receive a full pardon? Of course, God does not turn away those who come to Him even at the eleventh hour, that is, if they turn to Him with all their hearts. However, if your heart was far away from God for the longest part of your life, do you think that you will be able to move it toward God, to arouse in you a feeling of repentance before you die? Oh, brothers! It will be exactly then that your heart will be set against you, for your perdition. Many times have I seen how difficult it is for some to listen to an exhortation to repentance, and how those who never thought about correcting themselves, and were not able to repent during their lives, how they are lost during Confession before their departure from this life. No, brothers! A Christian ending is a reward for true Christians. Repent as much as you can during your lifetime, and then you will meet a peaceful death with sincere repentance. (Sergiev, Ivan Ilyich. 2015-03-01. Season of Repentance: Lenten Homilies of Saint John of Kronstadt [Kindle Locations 443-451]. Holy Trinity Publications. Kindle Edition)

On the Dead in Christ in Comparison to the Living

whatwouldjesusdoSt. Nicholas Cabasilas ca. 1323-1391

As far as sanctification is concerned, those souls which are free of the body have an advantage over those still living in the flesh. It is true that they receive, through the prayers of the priest and the intercession of the holy offerings, purification and remission of their sin, and do not add new wrongdoing to the old, as most of the living do; they are either entirely absolved from all blame, or at least freed forever from the possibility of further sin. Because of this, they are better disposed for communion with the Savior, not only than the majority of the living, but also than they themselves would have been if they were still in the flesh. The very fact of being free from the bonds of the flesh makes them far more worthy to receive the holy Mysteries than they could possible have been if they were still housed in their bodies.

We know that in the next world there are many mansions, so that every degree of goodness may be glorified, and none may go unrewarded by the most just and loving Judge. Thus, those worthy of the greatest rewards, who are perfect, and who inherit perfect blessedness, such as St. Paul, enjoy this happiness more purely after death than they did while still in this life. So also those who are called to a lower position in this place of rest naturally gain more fruit from the Mysteries than they did while they were alive.

We have shown that all peace of soul and the entire reward of virtue, be it great or small, consists only in this Bread and this Chalice, which is partaken of by both the living and the dead. That is why our Lord Himself describes the future happiness of the Saints as a banquet; it is in order to show that in the next life there will be nothing save the Holy Table. Thus, the holy sacrifice of the Eucharist is for the dead as well as the living, and just as the latter, as we have said, receive a two-fold sanctification, so do the former. The dead are in no way inferior to the living; rather, they possess certain advantages over them. (A Commentary on the Divine Liturgy, 45: A Theological Parenthesis)

 

On How Grace Operates in the Mysteries

http://damascenegallery.com/shop/icon/classic-icons/st-nicholas-cabasilas/

http://damascenegallery.com/shop/icon/classic-icons/st-nicholas-cabasilas/

St. Nicholas Cabasilas 1323-1391

The Holy Spirit grants to those who partake of the sacred offerings the remission of sins of their sins. “Let not this grace be removed from these offerings because of my sins.” There are two ways in which grace operates in the precious offerings; first, by grace they are sanctified, and secondly, by grace we are sanctified through them.

The working of grace upon the offerings — the first of which we spoke — cannot be invalidated by any human evil. Since the consecration of the offerings is not the work of human virtue, it cannot be hindered in any way by the wickedness of men.

But the second, the working of grace within us, demands our co-operation, and as a result, our negligence can impede it. In other words, grace will sanctify us through the sacred offerings if it finds us ready and fit for sanctification; if it should, on the other hand, find us unprepared, not only do we reap no benefit, but we suffer grave harm and loss. (A Commentary on the Divine Liturgy, 34)

On Akribeia and Oikonomia

Ss. Cyprian and Augustine

                   Ss. Cyprian and Augustine

Protopresbyter George Dion Dragas

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

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

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

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

On Why the Priest Invokes the Father at the Eucharistic Consecration

Christ the Great High-Priest 15th cent. icon from skete.com

Christ the Great High-Priest 15th cent. icon from skete.com

St. Nicholas Cabasilas 1323-1391

Why is it that for the consecration of the Offerings the Celebrant does not invoke the Son, Who is the Priest and Sanctifier, as we have said, but rather the Father?

It is to teach us that the Savior possess this power of sanctification not in His quality as a man, but because He is God, and because of the Divine power which He shares with His Father. This is what our Lord Himself wished to show us when, while instituting the Sacrament, He lifted His eyes up to heaven and offered the Bread to His Father. For the same reason, He performed many of His miracles in an attitude of prayer to God; He wished to show that this was not the work of His human nature, according to which He had a mother on earth, but of His Divinity, according to which God was His Father. In the same way, when He was about to ascend the Cross, wishing to show that He had two wills, the Divine and the Human, He attributed to His Father His divine will, keeping to Himself His human one. “Not as I will but as Thou will but as Thou wilt”, and again: “Not my will but Thine be done.” Yet the very words in which He seems to separate His own will from that of His Father show that He Himself willed that will of the Father which He fulfilled. For the phrase “Not my will but Thine be done” implies agreement and a unity of wills. He demonstrates this also when He reproaches Peter for shrinking from the idea of His Cross and death and again when He says: “I have greatly longed to eat this Passover with you before I suffer.” I have desired this Passover before My Passion, he says — as if to say: I have desired to reach the threshold of that Passion. (A Commentary on the Divine Liturgy, 31.)

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 Initiation into the Church via Baptism and the Eucharist

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

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

Protopresbyter Peter Heers D. Th.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

[519]. Zizioulas, ibid., 12.

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

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

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

[523]. Ibid., 20.

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

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

[526]. Ibid., 117– 18.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

On How the Theotokos Taught the Church

St.-PhilaretSt. Philaret of Moscow 1821-1867

[A]lthough she, by the height of grace, presides invisibly and in spirit over the assembly of the Apostles,— by lowliness of heart, in the body, she suffered not herself to be visibly the object of any glory, accepted no pre-eminence, and placed herself on the same rank with the other women, teaching them by her example, the same that the Apostle Paul taught them afterwards by his word: “Let your women keep silence in the churches.”; “Let the women learn in silence with all subjection. But I suffer not a woman to teach.” I should desire, I would say in passing, that our alienated brethren should take this example into serious consideration, they, who before the Judgment of Christ, having condemned without discrimination the whole hierarchy, and thereby punished themselves by a wilful renunciation of the Priesthood, do as the maximum of disorder, intrust the conduct of their divine service to virgins, who are undoubtedly not wise but foolish. For what virgin if not a foolish one, would dare to accept in the Church that which the holy Virgin the Mother of God dared not to undertake? (Select Sermons, Elibron Classics. Kindle Locations 4829-4837. Adegi Graphics LLC. Kindle Edition)

On Moths and Rust

MothSt. Ambrose of Milan ca. 338-397

[T]he Gospel was written to Theophilos, i.e., to him whom God loves. If ye love God, it was written to you, discharge the duty of an Evangelist. Diligently preserve the pledge of a friend in the secrets of the Spirit. Frequently consider, often discuss the good things committed to thy trust by the Holy Spirit Who is given to us (2 Tim. 1:14). Faith is due first to a pledge; diligence follows faith, lest moth or rust consume (cf. Mat. 6:19-20) pledges committed to you; for what is committed to you can be consumed. The Gospel is a fine pledge, but see neither moth nor rust consume it in your spirit. Moths consume if ye poorly believe what ye have well read. A moth is a heretic… a moth… tears the garment… A moth is to know Christ without faith in His Godhead or in the Sacrament of His Body… But those who are of God keep the faith and therefore cannot suffer from the moth which divides the garment. For everything which is divided within itself, like the kingdom of Satan, cannot be everlasting (cf. Mat. 12:25). Moreover, it is the rust of the spirit when the keenness of religious intention is dulled by the defilements of worldly desires or the purity of the faith is stained by a cloud of unbelief. Rust of the mind is a desire for the familiar; rust of the mind is carelessness; rust of the mind is longing for honors, if the greatest hope of the present life is set thereon. And, therefore, let us turn toward the Divine, and let us sharpen our character; let us drill our disposition, so that we may have that sword which the Lord bade us sell our garment and buy (Lk. 22:36), always ready and shining, as if sheathed in the scabbard of our mind. For the soldiers of Christ must always have strong spiritual weapons for the destruction of fortifications against God (2 Cor. 10:4), lest when He come, the Leader of the Heavenly Host (cf. Josh. 5:13; Lk. 2:13), offended by the dullness of our weapons, separate us from the company of legions. (Exposition of St. Luke, Bk. 1: 12-14)

On the Pyramid of Being

upside -down pyramidBlessed Elder Sophrony of Essex 1896-1993

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

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

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

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

Let us see how Christ resolved the dilemma.

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

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

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

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

St. Mark of Ephesus on Eucharistic Consecration

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

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

St. Basil the Great on [re]Baptism

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

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

On the Full Knowledge of God II

St. Symeon the New Theologian ca. 949-1022

Brothers, if full knowledge of the true wisdom and knowledge of God were going to be given us through letters and formal study, what need would there be then for faith, or for divine Baptism, or even communion in the Mysteries? Obviously, none whatever. (On the Mystical Life, The Ethical Discourses. Vol. 3: Life, Times, and Theology, p. 117)

On the Heads of the Church

The Great High Priest by Damascene Gallery

The Eastern Patriarchs to the English Non-Jurors 1721

[O]ur Lord Jesus Christ is the only Head of the Church both in earth and heaven, militant and triumphant; but since He has set over His own creatures Apostles and High-priests, Heads and Governors, Heads not original but derivative and secondary; containing and giving life to the whole earthly body of the Faithful, through the first and universal Head, in whom we live and move and have our being, to be mediators between God and men in performing the ministrations our Lord has commanded them; namely, in teaching and baptizing and administering all the Divine Mysteries; giving them as is confessed, the power of binding and loosing; therefore every one of our Bishops both is, and is esteemed, a particular head of the churches of each city, subject to the first and universal Head. Upon this account, the 34th Canon of the Holy Apostles calls the Primus among the Bishops, a Head, saying, “The Bishops of every nation ought to know their Primus, and esteem him as their Head”. For the Holy Spirit has placed the Bishops and Priests for Shepherds to the Church of God, administering the word of Life to the perfecting of the Saints. We don’t therefore improperly call them Heads and fountains of Sanctity among us: and we believe that from the Bishops we receive the sacred Mysteries and charismata of the Spirit, as from Christ our Supreme Head. And as the Angels, taking upon them the form and person of God, as when it is said, “I am the Lord thy God, (for, ‘the Law of God was delivered by Angels’,) did not thereby assume to themselves the nature of the Deity ; so the genuine Governors of the Church, being called Heads, derive that appellation from the real Head, and perform His part, and refer all their ministrations to Him as the immediate Head, and not unto themselves; as Moses also was by God constituted a God unto Pharaoh, without any injury to the Divine Majesty; and the Apostles as well as the Lord, were said to be the Light of the World. For, though Christ be the Foundation of the Faith, yet the Prophets and Apostles both are, and are said to be so in Scripture. (The Answers of the Orthodox of the East to the Proposals sent from Britain for and Union and Agreement with the Oriental Church: Answer to Proposal Eight)

On the Augustinian View of the Sacraments

Metropolitan Hilarion of Volokolamsk

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

On Church, Orthodoxy and the Eucharist

Metropolitan Hierotheos of Nafpaktos and St. Vlasios

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

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

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

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

On the Ancient Method of Infant Baptism in the English Church

The Second Council of Calcuith, England AD 816

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

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

by Hieromonk Enoch

Introduction

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

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

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

Further he said:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Testimony of Ancient and Medieval Irish Orthodox On the Bloodless Sacrifice

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

Draw night, and take the Body of the Lord,

 

And drink the Holy Blood for you outpoured.

Saved by That Body, Hallowed by That Blood,

Whereby refreshed, we render thanks to God.

[By the Sacrament of the Body and the Blood,

All are delivered from the infernal chasm.]

Salvation’s Giver, Christ the Only Son,

By that His Cross and Blood the Victory Won.

Offered was He for greatest and for least,

Himself the Victim, and Himself the Priest.

Victims were offered by the law of old,

That, in a type, Celestial Mysteries told.

He, Ransomer from death, and Light from shade,

Giveth His Holy Grace His Saints to aid.

Approach ye, then, with faithful hearts sincere,

And take the safeguard of salvation here.

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

To all believers Life Eternal yeids.

With Heavenly Bread makes them hunger whole,

Gives Living Waters to the thirsty soul.

Alpha and Omega, to Whom shall bow,

All nations at the Doom, is with us now.

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

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

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

 

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

             

A Translation of the Oldest Irish Tract on the Mass

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

On Communion Participation

Elder Philotheos Zervakos 1884-1980

Some people don’t partake of Holy Communion at all due to impiety and an absence of faith. Others, out of ignorance, weakness of faith, carelessness, and an absence of true and pure love for God, partake one or two times a year as a habit, without fear, faith, and love. It is sad and worthy of great lamentation for the priest to stand at the Beautiful Gate and invite Christians to commune, and for not one person to come forward. (Middleton, Dr. Herman A. 2013-08-05. Precious Vessels of the Holy Spirit: The Lives and Counsels of Contemporary Elders of Greece (Kindle Locations 1856-1859). Protecting Veil. Kindle Edition)

On Baptism and the Holy Spirit

St. Athanasius the Great ca. 297-373

For as the faith in the Triad, which has been delivered to us, joins us to God; and as he who takes anything away from the Triad, and is baptized in the name of the Father alone, or in the name of the Son alone, or in the Father and the Son without the Holy Spirit, receives nothing, but remains ineffective and uninitiated, both himself and he who is supposed to initiate him (for the rite of initiation is in the Triad); so he who divides the Son from the Father, or who reduces the Spirit to the level of the creatures, has neither the Son nor the Father, but is without God, worse than an unbeliever, and anything rather than a Christian. And justly so. For as baptism, which is given in Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, is one; and as there is one faith in the Triad (as the Apostle said); so the holy Triad, being identical with Itself and united within Itself, has in It nothing which belongs to things originate. This is the indivisible unity of the Triad; and faith therein is one. But if, from the new discovery you Tropici have made, it is not so; if you have dreamed dreams of calling the Holy Spirit a creature — then you no longer have one faith and one baptism, but two, one in the Father and the Son, another in an angel who is a creature. There is no security or truth left you. For what communion can there be between that which is originate and that which creates ? What unity between the lower creatures and the Word who created them? Knowing this, the blessed Paul does not divide the Triad as you do; but, teaching Its unity, when he wrote to the Corinthians concerning things spiritual, he finds the source of all things in one God, the Father, saying: ‘There are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit. And there are diversities of ministrations, but the same Lord. And there are diversities of workings, but the same God who worketh all things in all.’ The gifts which the Spirit divides to each are bestowed from the Father through the Word. (Letters to Serration, Epistle 1.30)

On Female Deacons in the Ancient Church

Hieromonk Matthew Blastares ca. 14th cent. 

[W]omen deacons…fulfilled a certain ministry in the clergy. At present, they are almost entirely unknown. Except there are some who say that they served in the baptizing of women because it was not proper for these naked women who were baptized after puberty to be seen by the eyes of men. Others say that it was permissible for them to even enter the holy altar and to share the things of male deacons nearly equally with them. However, women deacons were later forbidden by the Fathers both to enter the altar and to practice the things of their ministry on account of the involuntary monthly flow. That the holy altar was formerly accessible to women is to be inferred from many other authorities and especially the funeral oration that the great Gregory the Theologian had made upon his sister (Homily 8). However, it does not appear plausible to me that a woman became a deacon of the Sacred and Bloodless Sacrifice, as there is no sound reason why women, who are not permitted to teach in public, should be raised to the rank of diaconate, whose work is to purify orally those unbelievers, that come forward for baptism.

Furthermore, the most ancient of the books in which the rites of all ordinations have been accurately recorded, also indicate that the age of a deaconess must be forty; that her schema must be monastic and perfect; that during her life, she must contend for virtue with the most excellent of men; and that as much as is solemnized in her ordination, short of a little, is also celebrated in the case of male deacons. Thus, she who draws herself to the sacred table, before its uplifted heights, is covered with a veil. After the exclamation, “The Divine Grace which heals infirmities,” she does not kneel, but only bows her head. The archpriest, who places his hand upon her, prays that she who seeks a chaste and seemly way of life fulfills the work of deaconess blamelessly, and in this way devotes herself to the holy temples. Indeed, the books do not permit her to minister the Undefiled Mysteries or to be entrusted with a fan as in the manner of male deacon. Next, the the diaconal orarion is placed around her neck under the veil by the archpriest, who brings its two ends together in front. During the time of Communion, she partakes of the Divine Mysteries after the male deacons. Then, she who receives the chalice from the hands of the archpriest distributes nothing, but immediately places it on the holy table. (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. 110-112)

Fr. Florovsky on Intercommunion

Andrew Blane

The issue on which Bulgakov and Florovsky diverged most widely at the Fellowship [of St. Alban and St. Sergius] meetings was introduced by Father Bulgakov in 1933. Noting with regret that the members of the Fellowship had for six years shared in each other’s liturgy and eucharistic celebrations, but had refrained from partaking of communion together because of the differing views and practices of their Churches, he made the rather daring proposal “that the Fellowship should take what he called ‘molecular action,’ and proceed with a plan of intercommunion for its own members, without waiting for the two Churches as a whole to act officially.” Bulgakov then offered such a plan. In order to safeguard the principle of Church order his plan called for “a special sacramental blessing to be bestowed upon the Anglicans by an Orthodox hierarch, and the Anglicans should submit to it and accept it as an ‘act of sacrifice’.” This dramatic proposal was discussed for some two years, with discord at times so acute that it threatened to destroy the new Fellowship. It was not simply a matter of Anglicans versus Orthodox, but rather that each side experienced deep fissures. The rift among the Russian participants has been concisely described by Roger Lloyd, the Anglican historian:

“Bulgakov knew from the beginning that he would find opposition from his own side, but he had not realized how strong this opposition would be. Florovsky, for example, spoke for many Russians when he said that the sacramental blessing could not absolve schismatics from the duty and obligation of submitting to the sacrament of penance before admission to the Church, for this essential rite for the reception of schismatics “in their existing orders”. It seemed to him that under the proposals inter-communion was to be had too cheaply by the Anglicans…’ (Georges Florovsky: Russian Intellectual, Orthodox Churchman, ed. by A. Blane, p. 65)

On the Fountain of Immortality

The Fountain of Immortality

Other beautiful recordings and videos from Dn. Alexander Koranda here

On Satisfying Divine Righteousness

St. Nektarios of Pentapolis 1846-1920

[B]oth the Holy Synods as well as the Holy Fathers — St. Athanasios the Great and Peter Patriarchs of Alexandria, St. Dionysios, St. Gregory Thaumaturgos, St. Basil, the divine Chrysostom, and others — precisely designate the satisfaction required of sinners according to the quantity and degree of sin; because the person who does not obey [these canons] will be sent to the future courthouses to give an account of the improprieties that he has committed, as having rejected the laws of the Church. Therefore, the satisfaction of the insulted Divine Justice is an unavoidable requirement. So then, an urgent need obligates us to hasten towards propitiation of God, especially since we do not know what tomorrow will bring. We should hasten with tears. We should appear before the sympathetic judge and therapist, the affectionate spiritual father, with contrition of heart and compunction. We should pour out our heart wile confessing our sins, so that we may be acquitted from the condemnation of the future tribunal — where everyone who did not give an account of the deeds they committed to the earthly courthouses will be sent — so that we may reconcile with God and become communicants of eternal life. (Repentance and Confession, Part 2: Confession, 4. The Person who has Sinned is Obligated to Satisfy the Divine Righteousness, pp. 48-49)

Note by the translators: They who reject the idea of the necessity of satisfying/compensating Divine Righteousness as a denial of the satisfaction made by our Savior Christ to God the Father, these people neglect that this is in reference to sinful Christians and not to unbelievers. Yes, reconciliation has already been made through Jesus Christ. St. Nicodemos says that “the satisfaction and payment made by our Lord on behalf of our sins was so bountiful and rich that this satisfaction resembles a boundless ocean, while all the sins of humanity — past, present, and future — represent a drop of water.” (Unseen Warfare, p. 207) However, having sinned after baptism, we have “saddened” the Savior Himself, and it is Him Who we are seeking to please through repentance, confession and good works. This is what St. Nektarios is calling “satisfaction of Divine Righteousness”. This is what all the saints have spoken about in their own manner. St. Mark the Ascetic says: “A sinner cannot escape retribution except through repentance appropriate to his offense.” (Philokalia, Vol. 1, p. 130) St. Maximos the Confessor says: “No sinner can escape future judgment without experiencing in this life either voluntary hardships or afflictions he has not chosen.” (Philokalia, Vol. 2, p. 76) (ibid., p. 44) 

On “Valid” Sacraments Outside the Church

Pope Paul VI and Pat. Athenagoras

Protopresbyter John Romanides 1927-2001

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

On Self-Deification

Christopher Veniamin

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

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

St. Justinian on Heterodoxy

St. Justinian the Emperor ca. 483-565

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

On the Mystery of Monasticism

From the Gerontikon

There was once a great clairvoyant elder who maintained that the power of Grace which he saw, during a Baptism, near at hand to the person being baptized, he also saw at the time that a monk was receiving the Angelic Schema. (Hypothesis XXXI, The Evergetinos Vol. III of First Book)

On Catechumens and Those Accepted by Oikonomia

St. Cyprian of Carthage ca. 200-258

On which place some, as if by human reasoning they were able to make void the truth of the Gospel declaration, object to us the case of catechumens; asking if any one of these, before he is baptized in the Church, should be apprehended and slain on confession of the name, whether he would lose the hope of salvation and the reward of confession, because he had not previously been born again of water? Let men of this kind, who are aiders and favorers of heretics, know therefore, first, that those catechumens hold the sound faith and truth of the Church, and advance from the divine camp to do battle with the devil, with a full and sincere acknowledgment of God the Father, and of Christ, and of the Holy Ghost; then, that they certainly are not deprived of the sacrament of baptism who are baptized with the most glorious and greatest baptism of blood, concerning which the Lord also said that He had another baptism to be baptized with. But the same Lord declares in the Gospel, that those who are baptized in their own blood, and sanctified by suffering, are perfected, and obtain the grace of the divine promise, when He speaks to the thief believing and confessing in His very passion, and promises that he should be with Himself in paradise. Wherefore we who are set over the faith and truth ought not to deceive and mislead those who come to the faith and truth, and repent, and beg that their sins should be remitted to them; but to instruct them when corrected by us, and reformed for the kingdom of heaven by celestial discipline.

But some one says, What, then, shall become of those who in past times, coming from heresy to the Church, were received without baptism? The Lord is able by His mercy to give indulgence, and not to separate from the gifts of His Church those who by simplicity were admitted into the Church, and in the Church have fallen asleep. Nevertheless it does not follow that, because there was error at one time, there must always be error; since it is more fitting for wise and God-fearing men, gladly and without delay to obey the truth when laid open and perceived, than pertinaciously and obstinately to struggle against brethren and fellow priests on behalf of heretics. (Letter 72.22-23)

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

Fr. Dumitru Staniloae on Heterodox Sacraments

Fr. Dumitru Staniloae 1903-1993

In the case of one who is entering into full communion of faith with the members of the Orthodox Church and is becoming a member, economia [dispensation] is understood to give validity to a Mystery previously performed outside of the Church. (“Towards an Orthodox Ecumenism” excerpted from a Letter to Patriarch Bartholomew Concerning the Balamand Agreement)

St. Dionysius on the Reception of Heretics

St. Dionysius the Great died ca. 265

…[I]ndeed, (Pope Stephen of Rome) had written letters about Helanus and Firmilianus, and about all who were established throughout Cilicia and Cappadocia, and all the neighboring provinces, giving them to understand that for that same reason he would depart from their communion, because they rebaptized heretics. And consider the seriousness of the matter. For, indeed, in the most considerable councils of the bishops, as I hear, it has been decreed that they who come from heresy should first be trained in Catholic doctrine, and then should be cleansed by baptism from the filth of the old and impure leaven.Asking and  calling him to witness on all these matters, I sent letters. (Fragments: Epistle 6)

St. Gregory the Dialogist on Heterodox Sacraments

Pope St. Gregory the Dialogist ca. 540-604

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

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

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

On the Reception of Heretics

Ecumenical Patriarch Cyril V

Metropolitan Kallistos Ware

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

On the Awesome Responsibility of Ordaining

St. John Moschos ca. 550-619

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

On Holy Communion and Death

St. Anthony of Optina 1795-1865

It is very salutary to nourish your soul with the Eternal and Holy Bread. If a person should die on the very day when he has communed of the Holy Mysteries, the Holy Angels will receive his soul into their hands, for the sake of the communion, and he will pass safely through the heavenly toll-gates. (Living Without Hypocrisy: Spiritual Counsels of the Holy Elders of Optina, p. 134)

On Communing Frequently or Infrequently

St. Nikon of Optina 1888-1931

It is difficult to say whether it is better to partake of the Holy Mysteries of Christ occasionally, or more often. Zaccheus received his dear Guest, the Lord, into his home with joy, and he did well. While the Centurion, in humility recognizing his unworthiness, decided not receive Him, and he also did well. Their actions, although completely opposite, according to their motives are the same, and before the Lord they appeared equally virtuous. The essence of the matter is that one must worthily prepare himself for this great Mystery. (Living Without Hypocrisy: Spiritual Counsel of the Holy Elders of Optina, p. 135)

St. Pacian on Confession and Eternal Judgment

St. Pacian of Barcelona 310-391

Remember that confession (exomologesis) extinguishes hell (gehennan) for you. And you may guess the intensity of hell from what is visible. Some of its chimneys boil away the greatest mountains by its subterranean fires. Etna in Sicily and Vesuvius in the Campania burn with unflagging balls of fire; and they will test us, sear us, devour us in an eternity of judgment, nor will they be finished after any number of ages. (Sermon Exhorting to Penance, 11)

St. Ambrose of Milan on the Unbaptized

St. Ambrose of Milan ca. 338-397

Unless a man be born again of water and the Holy Spirit, he cannot enter the Kingdom of God (cf. Jn. 3:5). No one is excepted: not the infant, not the one prevented by some necessity. They may however, have an undisclosed exemption from punishments; but I do not know whether they have the honor of the Kingdom. (On Abraham, 2.11.84)

But I hear you lamenting because he had not received the sacrament of Baptism. Tell me, what else could we have, except the will to it, the asking for it? He too had just now this desire; and after he came into Italy it was begun, and a short time ago he signified that he wished to be baptized by me. Did he, then, not have the grace which he desired? Did he not have what he eagerly sought? Certainly, because he already sought it, he received it. What else does it mean: Whatever just man shall be overtaken by death, his soul shall be at rest (Wisdom of Solomon 4:7). (Sympathy at the Death of Valentinian, 51)

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 the Words of Institution and the Epiklesis

St. Nicholas Cabasilas ca. 1323-1391

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

From the Catholic Encyclopedia – Epiklesis 

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

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

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

On Cyprianic and Augustinian Theories and Heterodox Sacraments

Met. Kallistos Ware

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

St. Tikhon of Moscow on Heterodox Sacraments

St. Tikhon of Moscow 1865-1925

They have separated themselves from the unity of the Ecumenical Church and are deprived of God’s grace, which abides in Christ’s Church… And all the actions and sacraments performed by the bishops and priests who have fallen away from the Church are without grace; while the faithful who take part with them in prayer and sacraments not only do not receive sanctification, they are subject to condemnation for taking part in sin. (Acts of His Holiness Patriarch Tikhon and the Latest Documents about the Succession of the Highest Church Authority: 1917-1943, editor Archpriest Vladimir Vorobiov et al., compiled by M.E. Gubonin [Moscow, 1994], 291)

http://www.pravoslavie.ru/english/70565.htm

On the Reception of the Heterodox

Archimandrite Placide Deseille

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

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

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

The Question of Baptism

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

On Pseudo-Confessors and Those Who Follow Them

St. Nektarios of Aegina 1846-1920

[C]onfession…demands the discovery of a proficient and experienced physician… Therefore, we must be careful to search for experienced physicians who are capable of healing the wounds of the heart that has been injured by sins. This is an urgent matter due to the sharp character of the wounds and the various passions. It is a pressing concern due to the impending danger. Just as the unskillful physician sends many people to the gates of Hades, similarly, the incompetent and imprudent spiritual father sends many souls to Hades. Oh, what a terrible evil it is for someone to find death while seeking treatment. Who can calculate the magnitude of this great misfortune? Who is capable of mourning this type of loss? It is necessary for one’s eyes to be transformed into faucets of tears in order to weep for this misfortune worthily. Woe! Woe to them who claim to be spiritual fathers and who assasinate the souls of those whom they confess. Woe unto them who demand money for the forgiveness of sins, instead of contrition, humility, and the propitiation of God through a true and virtuous lifestyle. Woe to them who seek to sell the forgiveness of evil deeds in return for recompense. Woe to the hypocrites who feign piety in order to decieve others and profit, they who preach piety in order to make money. Woe to them who promise prayers and suplications on behalf of those who sinned in order to receive silver. Woe to the soul merchants who sell the souls of Christians to the demons in return for a few coins! Woe to them who teach the lie! Their portion will be with their father the devil, the father of lies.

Have you sinned? Do you feel the burden of sin? Does your conscience reproach you? See to it that you extinguish the reproach of your conscience. The spiritual father is the only physician. Request the medication rather than prayers and supplications. But even if you ask for these, still, do not overlook the medication. Just as when we fall ill, as the Apostle James teaches, we ask for the prayers but we are also anointed with the oil (cf. Jas. 5:14). Similarly in this case, seek the medication, and if you are wealthy, then give to holy men to pray on your behalf, while also praying with them. The prayers of them who pray with you should be an expression of your fervent desire to propitiate God. However, the payment and the prayers of others will be of no benefit to you if you are negligent, because you have in no way improved yourself morally.

Beloved, we are speaking about ethical rebirth. We are speaking about Christian conduct. We are speaking about a virtuous and modest way of life. This is about intimacy with God. We are talking about perfection and holiness. Because having become such persons, we become participants of eternal life. Therefore, if we do not struggle, we have accomplished nothing. Then, the prayers of spiritual fathers are useless, the supplicatory canons of the salaried are useless, the forty-day Liturgies are also useless, when they are performed on behalf of an unrepentant person who has not propitiated God and who still lives in sin. We are saved through contrition of heart and true confession. (Repentance and Confession, pp. 31-33)

On Voluntary Excommunication

Fr. John Romanides 1928-2001

When a Christian does not commune at all with the Body and Blood of Christ in every Eucharist, he is spiritually dead… The approval that our clergy today gives our sacramental practice is even more unacceptable! If the Christian was excommunicated for having denied Christ after hours of physical torture, those who week after week excommunicate themselves are all the more condemnable. (“The Life in Christ”, first published in French in Synaxe, 21, pp. 26-28 and 22, pp. 23-26, and then in English by Romanity Press, Norman, OK, 2008)

On Those Who Should Not Commune

St. Symeon the New Theologian ca. 949-1022

We should know that there are five classes of people for whom, according to the holy fathers, it is forbidden to approach Holy Communion. The first are the catechumens, as they are not yet baptized. The second are those baptized, but who fell in love with shameful and unrighteous ways, such as apostates from the holy life for which they were baptized: fornicators, murderers, usurers, extortioners, slanderers, proud persons, jealous persons, those who harbor grudges, all those who being in such a state do not feel that they are enemies of God and are in a tragic situation, because they do not repent… The third are those possessed by demons, if they blaspheme and mock this Divine Mystery. The fourth are those who have come to their senses and have repented, but are fulfilling the penance (epitimia) laid on them to stand outside the church for a certain period of time. The fifth are those who have not yet the ripened fruit of repentance, i.e. those who have not yet come to the final decision to consecrate their entire life to God and to live the rest of their life in Christ in purity and without reproach. These five classes are clearly unworthy of Holy Communion. He is worthy to commune the precious Mysteries who is pure and has no part with sin, of whom we have spoken above. But when anyone of these worthy persons is corrupted by any corruption, as a man, then, of course, he also communes unworthily, if he does not wash away by repentance that which corrupted him. And so he eats and drinks unworthily who, although he is worthy, unworthily approaches the Holy Mysteries. May we, then, be worthy and commune worthily the most pure Mysteries in Christ Jesus our Lord, to Whom be glory for endless ages of ages. Amen. (“Concerning Communicants and those who Partake of the Holy Mysteries Unworthily”, Orthodox Life, July-August, 1975, p. 11.)

On Closed Communion in the Early Church

St. Justin the Philosopher ca. 103-165

And this food is called among us Εὐχαριστία [the Eucharist], of which no one is allowed to partake but the man who believes that the things which we teach are true, and who has been washed with the washing that is for the remission of sins, and unto regeneration, and who is so living as Christ has enjoined. (First Apology 66)

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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 the Mysteries as Sources for Orthodox Doctrine

St. Irenaeus of Lyons died ca. 202

[O]ur opinion is in accordance with the Eucharist, and the Eucharist in turn establishes our opinion. (Against Heresies 4.18.5)

St. Basil the Great ca. 330-379

We believe as we were baptized, and we worship as we have believed. (De Ascetica Disciplina 1, PG 31, 649C)

St. Proper of Aquitaine ca. 390-455

Let us consider the sacraments of priestly prayers, which having been handed down by the Apostles are celebrated uniformly throughout the whole world and in every Catholic Church so that the law of praying might establish the law of believing. (Patrologia Latina 51:209-210)

On the Bread of the New Covenant

St. Ephrem the Syrian ca. 306-373

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

On the Baptism of the Martyrs

St. Basil the Great ca. 330-379

And ere now there have been some who in their championship of true religion have undergone the death for Christ’s sake, not in mere similitude, but in actual fact, and so have needed none of the outward signs of water for their salvation, because they were baptized in their own blood. Thus I write not to disparage the baptism by water, but to overthrow the arguments of those who exalt themselves against the Spirit; who confound things that are distinct from one another, and compare those which admit of no comparison. (On the Holy Spirit 15.36)

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)

On Communing With the Heterodox

St. John the Almsgiver ca. 7th cent.

[T]he blessed man taught and insisted upon with all was never on any occasion whatsoever to associate with heretics and, above all, never to take the Holy Communion with them, ‘even if’, the blessed man said, ‘you remain without communicating all your life, if through stress of circumstances you cannot find a community of the Catholic Church. For if, having legally married a wife in this world of the flesh, we are forbidden by God and by the laws to desert her and be united to another woman, even though we have to spend a long time separated from her in a distant country, and shall incur punishment if we violate our vows, how then shall we, who have been joined to God through the Orthodox faith and the Catholic Church-as the apostle says: “I espoused you to one husband that I might present you as a pure virgin to Christ” [2 Cor 11:2]-how shall we escape from sharing in that punishment which in the world to come awaits heretics, if we defile the Orthodox and holy faith by adulterous communion with heretics?’

For ‘communion’ he said, ‘has been so called because he who has “communion” has things in common and agrees with those with whom he has “communion”. Therefore I implore you earnestly, children, never to go near the oratories of the heretics in order to communicate there.’ (Leontius of Neapolis, Life of St. John the Almsgiver, 42)

On a Baptism of Blood

St. Cyril of Jerusalem ca. 313-386

If any man receive not Baptism, he has not salvation; except only Martyrs, who even without the water receive the kingdom. For when the Saviour, in redeeming the world by His Cross, was pierced in the side, He shed forth blood and water; that men, living in times of peace, might be baptized in water, and, in times of persecution, in their own blood. For martyrdom also the Saviour is wont to call a baptism, saying, Can you drink the cup which I drink, and be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with? (Mk. 10:38) And the Martyrs confess, by being made a spectacle unto the world, and to Angels, and to men (1 Cor. 4:9); and you will soon confess:— but it is not yet the time for you to hear of this. (Catechetical Lectures 3.10)

On the Holy Mystery of the Divine Commandments

Jn. 14:23 Jesus answered him, “If anyone loves me, he will keep My word, and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our home with him.”

1 Jn. 3:24 Whoever keeps His commandments abides in God, and God in him. And by this we know that he abides in us, by the Spirit whom He has given us.

St. Maximus the Confessor ca. 580-662

God the Word of God the Father is mystically present in each of His own commandments. God the Father is by nature completely inseparable in the whole of His Word. Therefore the one who receives the divine commandment and acclomplishes it receives in it the Word of God. The one who has received the Word through the commandments has received along with Him the Father Who is in Him by nature. For the Scripture says, “Amen I say to you, the one who receives the one who sent me.” Therefore the one who has accepted a commandment and performed it has received in mystical possession the Holy Trinity. (Chapters on Knowledge, Second Century 71)

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 the Mysteries and Asceticism

Metropolitan Hierotheos Vlachos of Nafpaktos

The cure and deification of man is achieved, on the one hand, by the sacramental life, and on the other hand by the ascetic life which we live in the Church. I want to particularly emphasize that the Holy Fathers of the Church teach that man’s salvation is a combination of sacraments and asceticism. We cannot understand the sacraments without asceticism in Christ, and we cannot live a real ascetic life without the sacraments of the Church… In our time a great deal is being said about the sacramental life, the eucharistological life is being much emphasized.  This is very good. But, unfortunately, the ascetic tradition of the Church is being overlooked. (The Mind of the Orthodox Church, pp. 147-148)

On Strictness and Economy in the Church

St. Nikodemos the Hagiorite 1749-1809

…[T]wo kinds of administration and correction are kept in the Church of Christ, the one is called “akribeia” and the other “oikonomia” and “condescension”; it is by these two that the ministers (oikonomoi) of the Spirit regulate the salvation of the souls, using sometimes the one and sometimes the other. (Pêdalion [The Rudder]… Agapiou kai Nikodêmou, ekd. 2, Athens 1841, s. 30)

On the Ascension and the Holy Mysteries

Bede the Venerable ca. 673-735

When Elijah was raised up to the heavens, he let the cloak with which he had been clothed fall to Elisha.

When our Lord ascended into heaven, He left the mysteries of the humanity He had assumed to his disciples, to the entire Church in fact, so that it could be sanctified by them, and warmed by the power of His love.

Elisha took up Elijah’s cloak and struck the waters of the river Jordan with it; and when he called upon the God of Elijah, the waters were divided and he crossed over.

The Apostles and the entire Church took up the Sacraments of their Redeemer that had been instituted through the Apostles, so that, spiritually guided by them, and cleansed and consecrated by them, they too learned to overcome death’s assault by calling upon the name of God the Father, and to cross over to undying life, spurning the obstacle of death.

Let us the, with all devotion, dearly beloved brothers, venerate this glory of the Lord’s Ascension, which was first expressed by the words and deeds of the prophets, and was afterward brought to fulfilment in our Mediator himself.

And that we ourselves may become worthy of following in his footsteps and ascending to heaven, let us in the meantime become humble on earth for our own good, always mindful that, as Solomon says, Humiliation follows the proud, and honor follows the humble in spirit (Prov. 29:23).

Behold we have learned in our Redeemer’s Ascension whither all our effort should be directed; behold we have recognized that the entry to the heavenly fatherland has been opened up to human beings by the ascension into heaven of the Mediator between God and human beings.

Let us hurry, with all eagerness, to the perpetual bliss of this fatherland; since we are not yet able to be there in our bodies, let us at least always dwell there by the desire of our minds.

In accord with the words of the great preacher, let us seek the things that are above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God; let us savor the things that are above and not those that are upon the earth (Col. 3:1-2).

Let us seek him and be strengthened; let us seek Him by works of charity, and be strengthened by the hope of finding Him.

Let us seek His face always, so that when He who ascended peacefully returns terrifying, He may find us prepared, and take us with him into the feasts of the city on high. (Homilies on the Gospels, 2:8)

St. Mark of Ephesus on the Reception of Roman Catholics

St. Mark of Ephesus ca. 1392-1444

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

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St. Basil Concerning Communion

St. Basil the Great ca. 330-379

It is good and beneficial to communicate every day, and to partake of the holy body and blood of Christ. For He distinctly says, He that eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life (Jn. 6:54). And who doubts that to share frequently in life, is the same thing as to have manifold life. I, indeed, communicate four times a week, on the Lord’s Day, on Wednesday, on Friday, and on the Sabbath, and on the other days if there is a commemoration of any Saint. It is needless to point out that for anyone in times of persecution to be compelled to take the communion in his own hand without the presence of a priest or minister is not a serious offense, as long custom sanctions this practice from the facts themselves. All the solitaries in the desert, where there is no priest, take the communion themselves, keeping communion at home. And at Alexandria and in Egypt, each one of the laity, for the most part, keeps the communion, at his own house, and participates in it when he likes. For when once the priest has completed the offering, and given it, the recipient, participating in it each time as entire, is bound to believe that he properly takes and receives it from the giver. And even in the church, when the priest gives the portion, the recipient takes it with complete power over it, and so lifts it to his lips with his own hand. It has the same validity whether one portion or several portions are received from the priest at the same time. (Letter 93)

St. Gregory the Dialogist on Single Immersion Baptisms

St. Gregory the Dialogist ca. 540-604

But with respect to trine immersion in baptism, no truer answer can be given than what you have yourself felt to be right; namely that, where there is one faith, a diversity of usage does no harm to holy Church. Now we, in immersing thrice, signify the sacraments of the three days’ sepulcher; so that, when the infant is a third time lifted out of the water, the resurrection after a space of three days may be expressed. Or, if any one should perhaps think that this is done out of veneration for the supreme Trinity, neither so is there any objection to immersing the person to be baptized in the water once, since, there being one substance in three subsistence, it cannot be in any way reprehensible to immerse the infant in baptism either thrice or once, seeing that by three immersions the Trinity of persons, and in one the singleness of the Divinity may be denoted. But, inasmuch as up to this time it has been the custom of heretics to immerse infants in baptism thrice, I am of opinion that this ought not to be done among you; lest, while they number the immersions, they should divide the Divinity, and while they continue to do as they have been used to do, they should boast of having got the better of our custom. (Letters, 1.43)

see alsohere and here

 

On Aspersion for the Sick

St. Cyprian of Carthage died ca. 258

You have asked also, dearest son, what I thought of those who obtain God’s grace in sickness and weakness, whether they are to be accounted legitimate Christians, for that they are not to be washed, but sprinkled, with the saving water. In this point, my diffidence and modesty prejudges none, so as to prevent any from feeling what he thinks right, and from doing what he feels to be right. As far as my poor understanding conceives it, I think that the divine benefits can in no respect be mutilated and weakened; nor can anything less occur in that case, where, with full and entire faith both of the giver and receiver, is accepted what is drawn from the divine gifts. For in the sacrament of salvation the contagion of sins is not in such wise washed away, as the filth of the skin and of the body is washed away in the carnal and ordinary washing, as that there should be need of saltpetre and other appliances also, and a bath and a basin wherewith this vile body must be washed and purified. Otherwise is the breast of the believer washed; otherwise is the mind of man purified by the merit of faith. In the sacraments of salvation, when necessity compels, and God bestows His mercy, the divine methods confer the whole benefit on believers; nor ought it to trouble any one that sick people seem to be sprinkled or affused, when they obtain the Lord’s grace, when Holy Scripture speaks by the mouth of the prophet Ezekiel, and says, Then will I sprinkle clean water upon you, and you shall be clean: from all your filthiness and from all your idols will I cleanse you. And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit will I put within you. Eze. 36:25-26 Also in Numbers: And the man that shall be unclean until the evening shall be purified on the third day, and on the seventh day shall be clean: but if he shall not be purified on the third day, on the seventh day he shall not be clean. And that soul shall be cut off from Israel: because the water of sprinkling has not been sprinkled upon him. And again: And the Lord spoke unto Moses saying, Take the Levites from among the children of Israel, and cleanse them. And thus shall you do unto them, to cleanse them: you shall sprinkle them with the water of purification. Num. 8:5-7 And again: The water of sprinkling is a purification. Num. 19:9 Whence it appears that the sprinkling also of water prevails equally with the washing of salvation; and that when this is done in the Church, where the faith both of receiver and giver is sound, all things hold and may be consummated and perfected by the majesty of the Lord and by the truth of faith. (Letter 75.12)

On the Sacrament of Repentance

Pope St. Leo the Great ca. 400-461
The manifold mercy of God so assists men when they fall, that not only by the grace of baptism but also by the remedy of penitence is the hope of eternal life revived, in order that they who have violated the gifts of the second birth, condemning themselves by their own judgment, may attain to remission of their crimes, the provisions of the Divine Goodness having so ordained that God’sindulgence cannot be obtained without the supplications of priests. For the Mediator between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus, has transmitted this power to those that are set over the Church that they should both grant a course of penitence to those who confess, and, when they are cleansed by wholesome correction admit them through the door of reconciliation to communion in the sacraments. In which work assuredly the Saviour Himself unceasingly takes part and is never absent from those things, the carrying out of which He has committed to His ministers, saying: Lo, I am with you all the days even to the completion of the age (Mat. 28:20): so that whatever is accomplished through our service in due order and with satisfactory results we doubt not to have been vouchsafed through the Holy Spirit
But to those who in time of need and in urgent danger implore the aid first of penitence, then of reconciliation, must neither means of amendment nor reconciliation be forbidden: because we cannot place limits to God’s mercy nor fix times for Him with whom true conversion suffers no delay of forgiveness, as says God’s Spirit by the prophet, when you have turned and lamented, then shall you be saved ; and elsewhere, Declare your iniquities beforehand, that you may’st be justified; and again, For with the Lord there is mercy, and with Him is plenteous redemption.  And so in dispensing God’s gifts we must not be hard, nor neglect the tears and groans of self-accusers, seeing that we believe the very feeling of penitence springs from the inspiration of God, as says the Apostle, lest perchance God will give them repentance that they may recover themselves from the snares of the devil, by whom they are held captive at his will (2 Tim. 2:25-26).
Hence it behooves each individual Christian to listen to the judgment of his own conscience, lest he put off the turning to God from day to day and fix the time of his amendment at the end of his life; for it is most perilous for human frailty and ignorance to confine itself to such conditions as to be reduced to the uncertainty of a few hours, and instead of winning indulgence by fuller amendment, to choose the narrow limits of that time when space is scarcely found even for the penitent’s confession or the priest’s absolution. But, as I have said, even such men’s needs must be so assisted that the free action of penitence and the grace of communion be not denied them, if they demand it even when their voice is gone, by the signs of a still clear intellect. And if they be so overcome by the stress of their malady that they cannot signify in the priest’s presence what just before they were asking for, the testimony of believers standing by must prevail for them, that they may obtain the benefit of penitence and reconciliation simultaneously, so long as the regulations of the father’s canons be observed in reference to those persons who have sinned against God by forsaking the Faith. (Letter 108.3-5)

On Various Rites of Reception

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

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

On the Effects of Frequent Communion

Patriarch Kallistos Xanthopolous of Constantinople fl. ca. 1320

The cleansing of the soul and the illumination of the mind, aimed at union and contact between man and God, are aided and effected by frequent partaking and communion of the holy, immaculate, immortal and life-giving mysteries. (Manna from Athos pg. 90)

On the Word and the Cup

St. Ambrose of Milan ca. 338-397

Cleanse thoroughly, then, our ears, not with water of well, river, or rippling and purling brook, but with words cleansing like water, clearer than any water, and purer than any snow— even the words You have spoken— Though your sins be as scarlet, I will make them white as snow. (Isa. 1:18)

Moreover, there is a Cup, which You use to purify the hidden chambers of the soul, a Cup not of the old order,nor filled from a common Vine,— a new Cup, brought down from heaven to earth, filled with wine pressed from the wondrous cluster, which hung in fleshly form upon the tree of the Cross, even as the grape hangs upon the Vine. From this Cluster, then, is the Wine that makes glad the heart of man, (Jdgs. 9:13) uplifts the sorrowful, is fragrant with, pours into us, the ecstasy of faith, true devotion, and purity. (De Fide Bk. 1:134-135)

St. Theophan on the Holy Mysteries

St. Theophan the Recluse 1815-1894

Learn then, and believe deeply that Divine Grace is offered and received in no other way than through the Divine Mysteries that are performed by the Apostles and their successors, as the Lord Himself ordained in the Church. And so that you may be more assured of this, I will bring to you some examples from the Holy Scriptures. Our Lord Himself, talking to Nicodemus, said: “You must be born from above” (Jn. 3:7), meaning spiritual rebirth by Divine Grace. But by what means would it come and operate? Did He say perhaps, “Believe, open your mouth, and Divine Grace will come into you and give you new birth?” Of course not. He did not say anything like that. What did He say? “Unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God” (Jn. 3:5). What else is this birth “by water and the Spirit,” other than holy baptism, the first Christian Mystery?

An incident that happened at Ephesus during a journey of the Apostle Paul verifies this point. When the Apostle came to Ephesus, he met twelve believers and asked them: “When you believed, did you receive the Holy Spirit?” And they answered, “We have heard nothing about the Holy Spirit.” “How then were you baptized?” the Apostle asked. “In John’s baptism,” they replied.

Then the Aposlte explained to them that the baptism of St. John the Forerunner was only a preparation for the faith in Christ. And after he completed the evangelical teaching to them, he baptized them with the Christain baptism. After the baptism, he laid his hands on them, and they received the Holy Spirit.

Do you see that baptism is one thing and the “laying on of hands” another? Divine Grace is given to the believer only through the “laying on of hands”. The Apostles later replaced this visible action with Chrismation and thus Chrismation was established as one of the Divine Mysteries of our Church.

These two incidents, with St. Nicodemus and with the faithful in Ephesus, are enough to assure you that Divine Grace is given through visible means, through the Divne Mysteries, and not through mental belief alone.

This is how Christ Himself established things. I will mention here the other Divine Mysteries:

The forgiveness of sins, into which one falls after baptism, is not done with simple, mental confession to God, but with confession that takes place before a spiritual father, in deep contrition and determination not to repeat the same sins.

The Mystery of Divine Eucharist creates a living union of the believer with our Lord Jesus Christ.

The power of Divine Grace for the continuation of the sanctifying work of the Church is delivered through the Mystery of ordination.

Two persons unite in one and create a blessed Christian family through the Mystery of Marriage.

The sick are cured through the Mystery of Holy Unction.

The Divine Mysteries are rivers of Divine Grace that provide life-giving water to the faithful. There is no other way, no other means for one to receive Divine Grace. Whoever proclaims another way is in error and deception! (Preaching Another Christ: An Orthodox View of Evangelicalism pp. 26-28)

I am Dark and Comely

Bede the Venerable ca. 673-735

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

On the Purpose of the Liturgy

St. Nicholas Cabasilas ca. 1323-1391

The essential act in the celebration of the holy mysteries is the transformation of the elements in the Divine Body and Blood; its aim is the sanctification of the faithful, who through these mysteries receive the remission of their sins and the inheritance of the kingdom of heaven. As a preparation for, and contribution to, this act and this purpose we have prayers, psalms, and readings from the Holy Scripture; in short, all the sacred acts and forms which are said and done before and after the consecration of the elements. While it is true that God freely gives us all holy things and that we bring him nothing, but that they are absolute graces, he does nevertheless necessarily require that we should be fit to receive and or preserve them; and he would not permit those who were not so disposed to be thus sanctified. It is in this way that He admits us to Baptism and Confirmation; in this way He receives us at the divine banquet and allows us to participate at the solemn table. Christ, in His parable of the sower, has illustrated this way that God has of dealing with us. “A sower went forth,” he says, “to sow” (Mat. 13:3) — not to plough the earth, but to sow: thus showing that the work of preparation must be done by us. Therefore, since in order to obtain the effects of the divine mysteries we must approach them in a state of grace and properly prepared, it was necessary that these preparations should find a place in the order of the sacred rite: and, in fact, they are found there. There, indeed, we see what the prayers and psalms, as well as the sacred actions and forms which the liturgy contains, can achieve in us. They purify us and make us able fittingly to receive and to preserve holiness, and to remain possessed of it. (Commentary on the Divine Liturgy, Introduction and the Prothesis 1)

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 Functions of the Priesthood

St. Macarius of Jerusalem died ca. 335

And how are the (hierarchical) orders of the holy Church regulated?

Let overseers at established posts be given authority to guide into goodness those for whose supervision they have been called. And let those receiving (guidance) from them be not puffed up with haughtiness, holding themselves to be wise while lapsing into foolishness, lapsing into wickedness. For although the spiritual gifts are commonly given to believers, still, they are not all of equal honor. And although the Infinite made Himself little, yet He lost not the glory of the Deity thereby; and (although) the Giver of Life manifested Himself to all the Apostles after His resurrection, yet some He ranks above the rest. And the same principle has been established among us. Accordingly, Paul does not allow (us) to climb over one another, saying: “Let each one to whatever calling he was called, abide in the same” (I Cor 7:20).

And how is each to be commanded to be content with his assigned rank?

Now, in meeting together with the clergy, we bishops and priests and deacons, I, Macarius, Archbishop of the holy city Jerusalem, hand down to you these regulations that have been learned from the accounts of the Apostles and firmly established for us through the tradition of the Fathers, namely, as we said above, the laying on of hands in the holy baptism is for bishops and priests alone to administer, and the chief-bishop (alone) shall bless the oil of holiness. But by reason of distance and weighty circumstances, at the command of the archbishop, two or three bishops may meet together (to bless it). As for deacons, they are attendants to the Sacrament. And the oil of anointing for the dead and the sick and for those to be baptized, the priests and the bishops shall individually bless. This our holy Fathers ruled, and let no one decree to change the rule rightly laid down, lest the binding of their anathemas be upon him, which shall be determined by God. (Canonical Letter to the Armenians)

https://sites.google.com/site/stmacapologetics/about-st-macarius/canonical-letter-to-the-armenians

St. Cyprian on Confession

St. Cyprian of Carthage died ca. 258

I entreat you, beloved brethren, that each one should confess his own sin, while he who has sinned is still in this world, while his confession may be received, while the satisfaction and remission made by the priests are pleasing to the Lord. Let us turn to the Lord with our whole heart, and, expressing our repentance for our sin with true grief, let us entreat God’s mercy. Let our soul lie low before Him. Let our mourning atone to Him. Let all our hope lean upon Him. He Himself tells us in what manner we ought to ask. Turn to me, He says, with all your heart, and at the same time with fasting, and with weeping, and with mourning; and rend your hearts, and not your garments. Joel 2:12 Let us return to the Lord with our whole heart. Let us appease His wrath and indignation with fastings, with weeping, with mourning, as He Himself admonishes us. (Treatise 3.29)

On the Church Temple

Archbishop Averky Taushev 1906-1976

Sincere prayer unites man and God. But nowhere can prayer be as fervent and effective as in God’s temple, for there the Awesome Bloodless Sacrifice is constantly offered “for all people and all things,” there ceaseless prayer is made on behalf of all the faithful, there “the very air is holy,” in the words of one our devoutly wise bishops. It was not in vain that our God-bearing Fathers from of old called the Temple a “school of virtue.” (Stand Fast in the Truth from the writings of Archbishop Averky of Blessed Memory pg. 21)

On the Sacrifice of Bread and Wine

St. Fulgentius of Ruspe ca. 465-533

Hold most firmly and never doubt in the least that the Only-Begotten God the Word Himself become flesh offered Himself in an odor of sweetness as a Sacrifice and Victim to God on our behalf; to whom, with the Father and the Holy Spirit, in the time of the Old Testament animals were sacrificed by the patriarchs and prophets and priests; and to whom now, I mean in the time of the New Testament, with the Father and the Holy Spirit, with whom He has one Godhead, the Holy Catholic Church does not cease in faith and love to offer throughout all the lands of the world a sacrifice of Bread and Wine… In those former sacrifices what would be given us in the future was signified figuratively; but in this sacrifice which has now been given us, it is shown plainly. In those former sacrifices it was fore-announced that the Son of God would be killed for the impious; but in this present sacrifice it is announced that He has been killed for the impious. (The Rule of Faith 62)

On the Episcopate

The Confession of Dositheus 1672

The dignity of the Bishop is so necessary in the Church, that without him, neither Church nor Christian could either be or be spoken of. For he, as a successor of the Apostles, having received in continued succession by the imposition of hands and the invocation of the All-holy Spirit the grace that is given him of the Lord of binding and loosing, is a living image of God upon the earth, and by a most ample participation of the operation of the Holy Spirit, who is the chief functionary, is a fountain of all the Mysteries [Sacraments] of the Catholic Church, through which we obtain salvation.

And he is, we suppose, as necessary to the Church as breath is to man, or the sun to the world. It has also been elegantly said by some in commendation of the dignity of the High Priesthood, “What God is in the heavenly Church of the first-born, (cf. Hebrews 12:23) and the sun in the world, that every High Priest is in his own particular Church, as through him the flock is enlightened, and nourished, and becomes the temple of God.” (cf. Ephesians 2:21)

It is obvious that this great mystery and dignity of the Episcopate has come down to us by a continued succession. For since the Lord has promised to be with us always, although He is with us by other means of grace and Divine operations, yet in a more eminent manner does He make us His own and dwell with us through the Bishop as chief functionary and through the divine Mysteries [sacraments] is united with us.  The Bishop is the first minister, and chief functionary, through the Holy Spirit, and does not allow us to fall into heresy. And, therefore [John] of Damascus, in his Fourth Epistle to the Africans, said that the Catholic Church is everywhere committed to the  care of the Bishops.  Clement, the first Bishop of the Romans, and Evodius at Antioch, and Mark at Alexandria, were acknowledged successors of Peter. Also [acknowledged] is that the divine Andrew seated Stachys on the Throne of Constantinople, in his own stead; and that in this great holy city of Jerusalem our Lord Himself appointed James, and that after James another succeeded, and then another, until our own times. And, therefore, Tertullian in his Epistle to Papianus called all Bishops the Apostles’ successors. To their succession to the Apostles’ dignity and authority Eusebius, the [friend] of Pamphilus, testifies, and all the Fathers testify, of whom it is needless to give a list. The common and most ancient custom of the Catholic Church confirms this .

And that the dignity of the Episcopate differs from that of the simple Priest, is obvious. For the Priest is ordained by the Bishop, but a Bishop is not ordained by a Priest, but by two or three High Priests, as the Apostolic Canon directs. And the Priest is chosen by the Bishop, but the High Priest is not chosen by the Priests or Presbyters, nor is he chosen by secular Princes, but by the Synod of the Primatial Church of that country, in which is situated the city that is to receive the ordinand, or at least by the Synod of the Province in which he is to become a Bishop. Or, if the city should choose him, it does not do so absolutely, but the election is referred to the Synod. And if it appear that he has [been chosen] agreeably to the Canons, the [Bishop] Elect  is advanced by ordination by the Bishops, with the invocation of the All-holy Spirit.  But if not, he whom the Synod chooses is advanced .

The [simple] Priest, indeed, retains to himself the authority and grace of the Priesthood, which he has received; but the Bishop imparts it to others also. And the one having received the dignity of the Priesthood from the Bishop, can only perform Holy Baptism, and Prayer-oil, minister sacrificially the unbloody Sacrifice, and impart to the people the All-holy Body and Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ, anoint the baptized with the Holy Myron [Chrism oil], crown the Faithful legally marrying, pray for the sick, and that all men may be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth, (cf. 1 Timothy 2:4) and especially for the remission and forgiveness of the sins of the Faithful, living and dead. And if he be eminent for experience and virtue, receiving his authority from the Bishop, he directs those Faithful that come unto him, and guides them into the way of possessing the heavenly kingdom, and is appointed a preacher of the sacred Gospel.

The High Priest is also the minister of all these, since he is in fact, as has been said before, the fountain of the Divine Mysteries and graces, through the Holy Spirit, and he alone consecrates the Holy Myron [Chrism oil]. And the ordinations of all orders and degrees in the Church are proper to him; and in a primary and highest sense he binds and looses, and his sentence is approved by God, as the Lord hath promised. (Matthew 16:19) And he preaches the Sacred Gospel, and contends for the Orthodox faith, and those that refuse to hear he casts out of the Church as heathens and publicans, (cf. Matthew 18:17) and he puts heretics under excommunication and anathema, and lays down his own life for the sheep. (cf. John 10:11) From which it is apparent, that without contradiction the Bishop differs from the simple Priest, and that without him all the Priests in the world could not exercise the pastorate in the Church of God, or govern it at all.

But it is well said by one of the Fathers, that it is not easy to find a heretic that has understanding. For when these forsake the Church, they are forsaken by the Holy Spirit, and there remains in them neither understanding nor light, but only darkness and blindness. For if that had not happened to them, they would not have opposed things that are most plain; among which is the truly great mystery of Episcopacy, which is taught by Scripture, written of, and witnessed to, both by all ecclesiastical history and the writings of holy men, and always held and acknowledged by the Catholic Church. (Decree 10)

St. Pacian on Baptism

St. Pacian of Barcelona ca. 310-391

Freed therefore from our bonds,  when through the Sacrament of Baptism we come unto the Sign of the Lord, we renounce the Devil and all his angels, whom before we served, that we should now serve them no longer, being delivered by the Blood and Name of Christ. But if after this any one forgetful of himself and ignorant of his redemption, return again to the serving of Angels, and to the weak and beggarly elements of the world; he shall be bound again by his old fetters and chains, that is, by the bonds of sin, and his last state shall be worse than his first. For the Devil shall bind him more strongly, as if overtaken in flight, and Christ shall not now be able to suffer for him; for, Christ being raised from the dead dieth no more. Therefore, dearly beloved, we are washed once, once are set free, are once admitted into the kingdom of heaven; once is that, blessed is he whose unrighteousness is forgiven, and whose sin is covered. Hold mightily what ye have received; keep it. blessedly, sin no more. Preserve yourselves pure and unspotted from that time even to the Day of the Lord. Great and boundless are the rewards granted unto the faithful, which eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have they entered into the heart of man. These rewards that ye may receive, obtain by the labours of righteousness and spiritual vows! Amen. (Discourse on Baptism 7)

On Apostles, Bishops and Presbyters

Blessed Theodoret of Cyr ca. 393-457

[Paul] yokes together bishops and deacons, making no mention of presbyters (Tit. 1:7); certainly it was not possible thatmany bishops should be shepherds in one city, so it is clear that he calls the presbyters bishops. Indeed, in the same Epistle he called the Blessed Epaphroditus their apostle: “Your apostle,” he says, “and the co-worker of my necessity (Phil. 2:25).” Clearly, therefore, Epaphroditus, since Paul gives him the title of apostle, has been entrusted with the episcopal office. (Commentary on the Epistle’s of Paul: Phil. 1:1)

At that time they called the same persons “presbyters” and “bishops”; and those we now call bishops they designated “apostles”. In the course of time, however, they abandoned the name of “apostle” to those who truly were Apostles; and the title of bishop they accorded to those who had of old been called “apostles”. Thus Epaphroditus was apostle of the Philippians: “Your apostle,” he says, “and the co-worker of my necessity (Phil. 2:25).” Thus in Crete Titus and in Asia Timothy were apostles. Thus too the apostles and the presbyters wrote from Jerusalem to those in Antioch. (Commentary on the Epistle’s of Paul 1 Tim. 3:1)

Pope St. Gregory on the Eucharist

St. Gregory the Dialogist ca. 540-604

This Victim alone saves the soul from eternal ruin, the sacrificing of which presents to us in a mystical way the death of the Only-begotten, who,—though He is now risen from the dead and dies no more, and death will no longer have dominion over Him, for He lives immortally and incorruptibly in Himself,—is immolated for us again in this mystery of the sacred oblation. For His body is eaten there, His flesh is distributed among the people unto salvation, His blood is poured out, no longer in the hands of the faithless but in the mouth of the faithful. Let us take thought, therefore, of what this sacrifice means for us, which is in constant representation of the suffering of the Only-begotten Son, for the sake of our forgiveness. (Dialogues Bk. 4.60)

St. Nektarios on the Priesthood

St. Nektarios of Aegina 1846-1920

What can we say concerning the priesthood, this exalted divine order and ministry? Through this mystery, one is chosen amongst men and elevated above them in relation to God. As a sacrament, ordination renders the priest an initiator of Divine Grace, a minister of the divine mysteries, a teacher of piety, and a welcome mediator between God and men; so that, as an angel of God, he may send up to God the prayers and supplicaton of the faithful and bring down from heaven the Divine Gifts. St. Dionysios the Areopagite calls the priesthood a holy ministry, a typology of the supernatural hierarchy, and a holy and sacred kingdom, for it takes place on the earth but lies within the order of the heavenly ranks. Our holy father Chrysostom also advises us concerning the effective power of the priesthood: “Take note how much power priests possess. Consider baptism, the forgiveness of sins, sonship the sacraments, and thousands of other good things that you receive through the invocation and laying of these priests’ hands. Through the priesthood God is worshipped, and things of the earth are adorned as if in heaven.” (Saint Nektarios the Wonderworker, Bishop of Pentapolis: Christology pg. 258)

Chrysostom on the Priesthood

St. John Chrysostom ca. 349-407

For the priestly office is indeed discharged on earth, but it ranks among heavenly ordinances; and very naturally so: for neither man, nor angel, nor archangel, nor any other created power, but the Paraclete Himself, instituted this vocation, and persuaded men while still abiding in the flesh to represent the ministry of angels. Wherefore the consecrated priest ought to be as pure as if he were standing in the heavens themselves in the midst of those powers. Fearful, indeed, and of most awful import, were the things which were used before the dispensation of grace, as the bells, the pomegranates, the stones on the breastplate and on the ephod, the girdle, the mitre, the long robe, the plate of gold, the holy of holies, the deep silence within. But if any one should examine the things which belong to the dispensation of grace, he will find that, small as they are, yet are they fearful and full of awe, and that what was spoken concerning the law is true in this case also, that what has been made glorious has no glory in this respect by reason of the glory which excels. 2 Corinthians 3:10 For when you see the Lord sacrificed, and laid upon the altar, and the priest standing and praying over the victim, and all the worshippers empurpled with that precious blood, can you then think that you are still among men, and standing upon the earth? Are you not, on the contrary, straightway translated to Heaven, and casting out every carnal thought from the soul, do you not with disembodied spirit and pure reason contemplate the things which are in Heaven? Oh! What a marvel! What love of God to man! He who sits on high with the Father is at that hour held in the hands of all, and gives Himself to those who are willing to embrace and grasp Him. And this all do through the eyes of faith! Do these things seem to you fit to be despised, or such as to make it possible for any one to be uplifted against them?

Would you also learn from another miracle the exceeding sanctity of this office? Picture Elijah and the vast multitude standing around him, and the sacrifice laid upon the altar of stones, and all the rest of the people hushed into a deep silence while the prophet alone offers up prayer: then the sudden rush of fire from Heaven upon the sacrifice:— these are marvellous things, charged with terror. Now then pass from this scene to the rites which are celebrated in the present day; they are not only marvellous to behold, but transcendent in terror. There stands the priest, not bringing down fire from Heaven, but the Holy Spirit: and he makes prolonged supplication, not that some flame sent down from on high may consume the offerings, but that grace descending on the sacrifice may thereby enlighten the souls of all, and render them more refulgent than silver purified by fire. Who can despise this most awful mystery, unless he is stark mad and senseless? Or do you not know that no human soul could have endured that fire in the sacrifice, but all would have been utterly consumed, had not the assistance of God’s grace been great.

For if any one will consider how great a thing it is for one, being a man, and compassed with flesh and blood, to be enabled to draw near to that blessed and pure nature, he will then clearly see what great honor the grace of the Spirit has vouchsafed to priests; since by their agency these rites are celebrated, and others nowise inferior to these both in respect of our dignity and our salvation. For they who inhabit the earth and make their abode there are entrusted with the administration of things which are in Heaven, and have received an authority which God has not given to angels or archangels. For it has not been said to them, Whatsoever you shall bind on earth shall be bound in Heaven, and whatsoever you shall loose on earth shall be loosed in Heaven. Matt. 18:18 They who rule on earth have indeed authority to bind, but only the body: whereas this binding lays hold of the soul and penetrates the heavens; and what priests do here below God ratifies above, and the Master confirms the sentence of his servants. For indeed what is it but all manner of heavenly authority which He has given them when He says, Whose sins ye remit they are remitted, and whose sins ye retain they are retained? John 20:23 What authority could be greater than this? The Father has committed all judgment to the Son? John 5:22 But I see it all put into the hands of these men by the Son. For they have been conducted to this dignity as if they were already translated to Heaven, and had transcended human nature, and were released from the passions to which we are liable. Moreover, if a king should bestow this honor upon any of his subjects, authorizing him to cast into prison whom he pleased and to release them again, he becomes an object of envy and respect to all men; but he who has received from God an authority as much greater as heaven is more precious than earth, and souls more precious than bodies, seems to some to have received so small an honor that they are actually able to imagine that one of those who have been entrusted with these things will despise the gift. Away with such madness! For transparent madness it is to despise so great a dignity, without which it is not possible to obtain either our own salvation, or the good things which have been promised to us. For if no one can enter into the kingdom of Heaven except he be regenerate through water and the Spirit, and he who does not eat the flesh of the Lord and drink His blood is excluded from eternal life, and if all these things are accomplished only by means of those holy hands, I mean the hands of the priest, how will any one, without these, be able to escape the fire of hell, or to win those crowns which are reserved for the victorious?

These verily are they who are entrusted with the pangs of spiritual travail and the birth which comes through baptism: by their means we put on Christ, and are buried with the Son of God and become members of that blessed Head. Wherefore they might not only be more justly feared by us than rulers and kings, but also be more honored than parents; since these begot us of blood and the will of the flesh, but the others are the authors of our birth from God, even that blessed regeneration which is the true freedom and the sonship according to grace. The Jewish priests had authority to release the body from leprosy, or, rather, not to release it but only to examine those who were already released, and you know how much the office of priest was contended for at that time. But our priests have received authority to deal, not with bodily leprosy, but spiritual uncleanness— not to pronounce it removed after examination, but actually and absolutely to take it away. Wherefore they who despise these priests would be far more accursed than Dathan and his company, and deserve more severe punishment. For the latter, although they laid claim to the dignity which did not belong to them, nevertheless had an excellent opinion concerning it, and this they evinced by the great eagerness with which they pursued it; but these men, when the office has been better regulated, and has received so great a development, have displayed an audacity which exceeds that of the others, although manifested in a contrary way. For there is not an equal amount of contempt involved in aiming at an honor which does not pertain to one, and in despising such great advantages, but the latter exceeds the former as much as scorn differs from admiration. What soul then is so sordid as to despise such great advantages? None whatever, I should say, unless it were one subject to some demoniacal impulse. (On the Priesthood Bk. 3.4-6)

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 Fear and Certainty When Approaching the Eucharist

St. Basil of Caesarea ca. 330-379

Question: What is the fear with which the Body and Blood of Christ are to be received by us? A kind of certainty, or a kind of feeling?

Answer: The Apostle teaches us this fear when he says, “Anyone who eats and drinks unworthily eats and drinks judgment on himself.” Certainty is effected by faith in the words of the Lord, when He says, “This is My Body, which is given for you; do this in remembrance of me.” (On Rules Briefly Treated 74)

St. Pacian on the Priesthood

St. Pacian of Barcelona ca. 310-391

Thus Christ begetteth in the Church by His Priests, as says the same Apostle, For in Christ Jesus have I begotten you. And so the seed of Christ, that is, the Spirit of God produces, by the hands of the Priests, the new man conceived in the womb of our Mother, and received at the birth of the font, faith presiding over the marriage rite. For neither will he seem to be engrafted into the Church, who hath not believed, nor he to be born again of Christ, who hath not himself received the Spirit. We must believe therefore that we can be born. For so saith Philip, If thou believest…thou mayest. Christ therefore must be received that He may beget, for thus saith the Apostle John, As many as received Him, to them gave He power to become the sons of God. But these things cannot otherwise be fulfilled except by the Sacrament of the Laver, and of the Chrism, and of the Bishop. For by the Laver sins are washed away, by Chrism the Holy Spirit is poured out, but both these we obtain at the hand and the mouth of the Bishop. (Discourse on Baptism 7)

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. Leo on the Priesthood

Pope St. Leo the Great ca. 400-461

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

On the Reality of the Sacraments

Blessed Augustine of Hippo ca. 354-430

You know that in ordinary parlance we often say, when Easter is approaching, “Tomorrow or the day after is the Lord’s Passion”, although He suffered so many years ago, and His passion was endured once for all time. In like manner, on Easter Sunday, we say, This day the Lord rose from the dead, although so many years have passed since His resurrection. But no one is so foolish as to accuse us of falsehood when we use these phrases, for this reason, that we give such names to these days on the ground of a likeness between them and the days on which the events referred to actually transpired, the day being called the day of that event, although it is not the very day on which the event took place, but one corresponding to it by the revolution of the same time of the year, and the event itself being said to take place on that day, because, although it really took place long before, it is on that day sacramentally celebrated. Was not Christ once for all offered up in His own person as a sacrifice? And yet, is He not likewise offered up in the sacrament as a sacrifice, not only in the special solemnities of Easter, but also daily among our congregations; so that the man who, being questioned, answers that He is offered as a sacrifice in that ordinance, declares what is strictly true? For if sacraments had not some points of real resemblance to the things of which they are the sacraments, they would not be sacraments at all. In most cases, moreover, they do in virtue of this likeness bear the names of the realities which they resemble. As, therefore, in a certain manner the sacrament of Christ’s body is Christ’s body, and the sacrament of Christ’s blood is Christ’s blood, in the same manner the sacrament of faith is faith. (Letter 98.9)

St. Pacian on Binding and Loosing

St. Pacian of Barcelona ca. 310-391

Certainly God never threatens the repentant; rather, He pardons the penitent. You will say that it is God alone who can do this. True enough; but it is likewise true that He does it through His priests, who exercise His power. What else can it mean when He says to His Apostles: “Whatever you shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; and whatever you shall loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven?” Why should he say this if He were not permitting men to bind and to loose? Why, if He were permitting this to the Apostles alone? Were that the case, He would likewise be permitting them alone to baptize, them alone to confer the Holy Spirit, them alone to cleanse the pagans of their sins; for all of these things are commissioned not to others but to the Apostles. But if the loosing of bonds and the power of the Sacrament is given to anyone in that place, either the whole is passed on to us from the form and power of the Apostles, or nothing of it can be imparted to us by whatever decrees…If, then, the power both of Baptism and Confirmation, greater by far than charisms, is passed on to the bishops, so too is the right of binding and of loosing. (Three Letters to the Novationist Sympronian)

St. Prosper on the Mysteries

St. Prosper of Aquitaine ca. 390-455

Like ointment on the head, which ran down upon the beard, upon the beard of Aaron…(Ps. 133.2) By the priest Aaron, that Priest is indicated who alone fulfills the sacrament of the true High Priest, not with a victim of another kind, but in the oblation of His own body and blood: same Priest, same Victim, Propitiator and Propitiation, the One who effects all the mysteries for which He was announced. Who died, was buried, and rose again, He ascended into heaven, exalting human nature above every other name, and sending the Holy Spirit, whose unction would penetrate every Church. (Explanation of the Psalms)

On Perfect Baptism

St. Gregory the Theologian ca. 329-389

Remember your confession. Into what were you baptised? The Father? Good but Jewish still. The Son?…good…but not yet perfect. The Holy Ghost?…Very good…this is perfect. (Oration 33.17)

On Trinitarian Baptism

St. Basil of Caesarea ca. 330-379

Let no one be misled by the fact of the Apostle’s frequently omitting the name of the Father and of the Holy Spirit when making mention of baptism, or on this account imagine that the invocation of the names is not observed (cf. Acts 8:16, 10:48, 19:5). As many of you, he says, as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ; and again, As many of you as were baptized into Christ were baptized into his death. For the naming of Christ is the confession of the whole, showing forth as it does the God who gave, the Son who received, and the Spirit who is, the unction. So we have learned from Peter, in the Acts, of Jesus of Nazareth whom God anointed with the Holy Ghost; Acts 10:38 and in Isaiah, The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me; Isa. 60:1 and the Psalmist, Therefore God, even your God, has anointed you with the oil of gladness above your fellows. Scripture, however, in the case of baptism, sometimes plainly mentions the Spirit alone.

For into one Spirit, it says, we were all baptized in one body. And in harmony with this are the passages: You shall be baptized with the Holy Ghost, Acts 1:5 and He shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost. Lk. 3:16 But no one on this account would be justified in calling that baptism a perfect baptism wherein only the name of the Spirit was invoked. For the tradition that has been given us by the quickening grace must remain for ever inviolate. He who redeemed our life from destruction gave us power of renewal, whereof the cause is ineffable and hidden in mystery, but bringing great salvation to our souls, so that to add or to take away anything involves manifestly a falling away from the life everlasting. If then in baptism the separation of the Spirit from the Father and the Son is perilous to the baptizer, and of no advantage to the baptized, how can the rending asunder of the Spirit from Father and from Son be safe for us? Faith and baptism are two kindred and inseparable ways of salvation: faith is perfected through baptism, baptism is established through faith, and both are completed by the same names. For as we believe in the Father and the Son and the Holy Ghost, so are we also baptized in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost; first comes the confession, introducing us to salvation, and baptism follows, setting the seal upon our assent. (On the Holy Spirit 12.28)

On the Indelible Mark of the Priesthood

St. Cyprian of Carthage died ca. 258

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

St. Basil of Caesarea ca. 330-379

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

St. Maximus the Confessor 580-662

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

“Still,” he answered.

They asked, “Why so?”

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

St. Theognostos on the Priesthood

St. Theognostos ca. 14th cent.?

If you have been found worthy of divine and venerable priesthood, you have committed yourself sacrificially to die to the passions and to sensual pleasure. Only then dare you approach the awesome, living sacrifice; otherwise you will be consumed by the divine fire like dry tinder. If the seraphim did not dare to touch the divine coal without tongs (cf. Isa. 6:6), how can you do so unless you have attained dispassion? You must through dispassion have a consecrated tongue, purified lips, and a chaste soul and body; and your very hands, as ministers of the fiery, supraessential sacrifice, must be more burnished than any gold.

When your tears have washed you whiter than snow and your conscience is spotless in its purity, and when the angel-like white-ness of your outer garments reveals your soul’s inner beauty – then, and only then, you may in holiness touch holy things. Make sure that you do not rely only on human traditions-in celebrating the divine mysteries, but let God’s grace inwardly and invisibly fill you with the knowledge of higher things. (On the Practice of the Virtues, Contemplation and Priesthood 13, 18)

On Communion with the Heterodox

St. Athanasius of Alexandria ca. 297-373

I have been compelled, at the instance of certain most sincere brethren, to write at once in order that keeping faithfully and without guile the pious faith which God’s grace works in you, you may not give occasion of scandal to the brethren. For when any sees you, the faithful in Christ, associate and communicate with such people, [or worshipping along with them], certainly they will think it a matter of indifference and will fall into the mire of irreligion. Lest, then, this should happen, be pleased, beloved, to shun those who hold the impiety [of Arius], and moreover to avoid those who, while they pretend not to hold with Arius, yet worship with the impious. And we are specially bound to fly from the communion of men whose opinions we hold in execration. [If then any come to you, and, as blessed John 2 Jn. 10 says, brings with him right doctrine, say to him, All hail, and receive such an one as a brother.] But if any pretend that he confesses the right faith, but appear to communicate with those others, exhort him to abstain from such communion, and if he promise to do so, treat him as a brother, but if he persist in a contentious spirit, him avoid. (Letter 53)

On Justification by Faith and Baptism

It was as a gift they were justified, not from the works of the Law but rather by faith and holy baptism — hence, to be sure, his saying, Wash, make yourselves clean. (Isa. 1:16)

While the Law achieved bodily cleansing through the water of purification, then, Christ removes every stain of our souls through holy baptism. We were baptized through the Holy Spirit and water, remember, and every form of wickedness in us, as it were, disappeared and was consumed like some useless rubbish, which is what fire does, after all. Blessed Paul also makes this clear in the words, “By faith Noah was warned and built an ark for the safety of his household,” (Heb. 11:7) which consisted of a few. In other words, “Eight people were saved through water, and baptism which prefigures now saves us, not as a removal of dirt from the body, but as an appeal to God for a good conscience. (1 Pet. 3:21) (Commentary on Isaiah, Chap. 1)

On Baptism and Free-will

St. Symeon the New Theologian ca. 949-1022

Baptism does not take away our free will or freedom of choice, but gives us the freedom no longer to be tyrannized by the devil unless we choose to be. After baptism it is in our power either to persist willingly in the practice of the commandments of Christ, into whom we were baptized, and to advance in the path of His ordinances, or to deviate from this straight way and to fall again into the hands of our enemy, the devil.

Whoever after baptism deliberately submits to the will of the devil and carries out his wishes, estranges himself – to adapt David’s words – from the holy womb of baptism (cf. Ps. 58:3). None of us can be estranged or alienated from the nature with which we are created. We are created good by God – for God creates nothing evil – and we remain unchanging in our nature and essence as created. But we do what we choose and want, whether good or bad, of our own free will. Just as a knife does not change its nature, but remains iron whether used for good or for evil, so we, as has been said, act and do what we want without departing from our own nature. (One Hundred and Fifty Three Practical and Theological Texts 109-110)

On Receiving Communion from Unworthy Priests

St. Nicodemus the Hagiorite 1749-1809

St. Isidoros of Pelusium often reproves unworthy Zosimos, by telling him: “Keep out of the divine altar lest at any time a stroke of lightning hit your head” (his Letter No. 570). Yet Christians ought to receive the divine Mysteries indiscriminately even from unworthy priests, since the unworthiness of the priests does not affect them just as the same Isidoros in some of his letters tells whose who were scandalized and refused to receive communion from lascivious Zosimos. As examples he cites Balaam and Caiaphas, who though unworthy prophesied, and Elijah, who received food by means of an unclean raven (I Kings 17:4-6) (The Rudder: Footnotes to the Five Holy Canons of St. Cyril of Alexandria)

Pope St. Gregory on the Reception of Converts

St. Gregory the Dialogist ca. 540-604

Gregory to Quiricus, Bishop, and the other Catholic bishops in Hiberia .

Since to charity nothing is afar off, let those who are divided in place be joined by letter. The bearer of these presents, coming to the Church of the blessed Peter, Prince of the apostles, asserted that he had received letters for us from your Fraternity, and had lost them, with other things also, in the city of Jerusalem. In them, as he says, you were desirous of enquiring with regard to priests and people who have been bewildered in the error of Nestorian heresy, when they return to the Catholic Church which is the mother of all the elect, whether they should be baptized, or joined to the bowels of the same mother Church by confession only of the one true faith.

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

 

The Incredible Story of a Baptism with Sand

St. John Moschos ca. 550-619

Abba Palladios told us he had heard one of the fathers whose name was Andrew (whom we also met) say:

When we were in Alexandria, Abba Andrew at the eighteenth mile post told us saying:

As a young man I was very undisciplined. A war broke out and confusion reigned so, together with nine others, I fled to Palestine. One of the nine was a fellow with iniative (Grk. philoponos, strictly, one who likes hard work, an industrious fellow) and another was a Hebrew. When we came into the wilderness, the Hebrew became mortally sick, so we were in great distress, for we did not know what to do for him. But we did not abandon him. Each of us carried him as far as he was able. We wanted to get him to a city or to a market town so that he should not die in the wilderness. But when the young man was completely worn out and was brought to the point of death by hunger and a burning fever, by utter exhaustion and a raging thirst from the heat (in fact he was about to expire), he could no longer bear to be carried. With many tears, we decided to abandon him in the wilderness and go our way. We could see death from thirst lying in store for us. We were in tears when we set him down in the sand. When he saw that we were going to leave him, he began to adjure us, saying: ‘By the God who is going to judge both the quick and the dead, leave me not to die as a Jew, but as a Christian. Have mercy on me and baptise me so that I too may depart this life as a Christian and go to the Lord.’ We said to him: ‘Truly brother, it is impossible for us to do anything of the sort. We are laymen and baptizing is bishops’ work and priests.’ Besides, there is no water here.’ But he continued to adjure us in the same terms and with tears, saying: ‘Oh, Christians, please do not deprive me of this benefit.’ While we were most unsure of what to do next, the fellow with initiative among us, inspired by God, said to us: ‘Stand him up and take off his clothes.’ We got him to his feet and with great difficulty and stripped him. The one with initiative filled both his hands with sand and poured it three times over the sick man’s head saying: ‘Theodore is baptised in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit’, and we all answered amen to each one of the names of the holy, consubstantial and worshipful Trinity. The Lord is my witness, brethren, that Christ, the Son of the living God, thus cured and reinvigorated him so that not a trace of illness remained in him. In health and vigour he ran before us for the rest of our journey through the wilderness. When we observed so great and so sudden a transformation, we all praised and glorified the ineffable majesty and lovingkindness of Christ our God. When we arrived at Ascalon, we took this matter to the blessed and saintly Dionysios, who was bishop there, and told him what had happened to the brother on the journey. When the truly holy Dionysios heard of these things, he was stupefied by so extraordinary a miracle. He assembled all the clergy and put to them the question of whether he should recognize the effusion of sand as a baptism or not. Some said that, in view of the extraordinary miracle, he should allow it as a valid baptism; others said he should not. Gregory the Theologian enumerates all the kinds of baptism. He speaks of the Mosaic baptism, baptism in water, that is, but before that of baptism in a cloud and in the sea. ‘The baptism of John was no longer Judaic baptism, for it was not only a baptism in water, but also unto repentance. Jesus also baptised, but in the Spirit, and this is perfection. I know also a fourth baptism: that of martyrdom and of blood. And I know a fifth: the baptism of tears.’ ‘Which of these baptisms did he undergo?’, asked some, ‘so that we might pronounce on its validity? For indeed the Lord said to Nicodemus: Except a man be born again of water and of the Spirit, he shall not enter into the Kingdom of heaven (Jn. 3:5).’ To this, others replied: ‘But indeed they were baptised, as Clement, the author of the Stromates, testifies in the fifth book of Hypotyposes. In commenting on the saying of the Apostle Paul, he opines: I thank God that I baptised none of you (1 Cor. 1:14) that Jesus is said to have baptised none but Peter; Peter to have baptised Andrew; Andrew, James and John, and they the others.’ When they had said all this and much more beside, it seemed good to the blessed Bishop Dionysios to send the brother to the Holy Jordan and for him to be baptised there. The fellow with iniative he ordained a deacon. (The Spiritual Meadow 176)

St. Bede on Confession

Bede the Venerable ca. 673-735

Jas. 5:16-17 Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for each other, that you may be saved. However, in this statement there ought to be this distinction, that we confess our daily and minor sins to one another as peers and believe that we are saved by their daily prayer; in turn, according to the law (Lev. 13:49, 14:2-3), let us make known the uncleanness of more serious leprosy to the priest and take care to be purified in the manner and for the length of time his judgment has decreed. For the continuous prayer of the righteous person can accomplish much. Elijah was a man like us, subject to suffering, and he prayed assiduously that it would not rain upon the earth, and it did not rain for three years and six months. He illustrates by an appropiate example how much the unremitting prayer of a righteous person can accomplish, when Elijah by praying only once closed up the heavens for such a long time (1 Kgs. 17:8-11), kept showers away from the earth, denied fruits to mortals, and again, when he wished, when he ascertained that it was time, when he saw that the heart of the proud king of an idolatrous people was inclined to repentance because of the prolonged ill results of famine, he prayed only once (1 Kgs. 18:41-45) and restored the fruits of water which he had denied to the earth. (Commentary on the Seven Catholic Epistles)

St. Cyril on Binding and Loosing

St. Cyril of Alexandria ca. 376-444

In what way, then, and by what reason does the Savior bestow upon His own disciples the dignity which belongs to the divine nature alone? Certainly the Word, who is in the Father, would not err in what is seemly, and what He does is right and proper. He considered that those who already had in themselves the Divine and Lordly Spirit ought to be lords also of forgiving the sins of some, and of retaining those of others if they wished, the Holy Spirit indwelling in them forgiving or retaining according to their own will, even though the matter is executed directly through men. Bearers of the Spirit, they forgive sins or retain them, or so it seems to me, in two ways: for either they call to Baptism those who are worthy, men already tested for the faith by the sobriety and constancy of their lives, or they prohibit and exclude from divine grace those who are not yet worthy; or in still another way they forgive and retain sins when sons of the Church conquer their sins and, confessing them, reform their lives. (Commentary on John: Jn. 20:23)

On Baptisms Outside the Church

Apostolic Canons ca. 1st cent.

Let a bishop or presbyter who shall baptize again one who has rightly received baptism, or who shall not baptize one who has been polluted by the ungodly, be deposed, as despising the cross and death of the Lord, and not making a distinction between the true priests and the false. (Canon 47)

Clement of Alexandria ca. 150-215

Now he who has fallen into heresy passes through an arid wilderness, abandoning the only true God, destitute of God, seeking waterless water, reaching an uninhabited and thirsty land, collecting sterility with his hands. And those destitute of prudence, that is, those involved in heresies, I enjoin, remarks Wisdom, saying, Touch sweetly stolen bread and the sweet water of theft; (Prov. 9:17) the Scripture manifestly applying the terms bread and water to nothing else but to those heresies, which employ bread and water in the oblation, not according to the canon of the Church. For there are those who celebrate the Eucharist with mere water. But begone, stay not in her place: place is the synagogue, not the Church. He calls it by the equivocal name, place. Then He subjoins: For so shall you pass through the water of another; reckoning heretical baptism not proper and true water. And you shall pass over another’s river, that rushes along and sweeps down to the sea; into which he is cast who, having diverged from the stability which is according to truth, rushes back into the heathenish and tumultous waves of life. (Stromata 1.19)

St. Cyprian of Carthage died ca. 258

For if the Church is not with heretics, therefore, because it is one, and cannot be divided; and if thus the Holy Spirit is not there, because He is one, and cannot be among profane persons, and those who are without; certainly also baptism, which consists in the same unity, cannot be among heretics, because it can neither be separated from the Church nor from the Holy Spirit. (Epistle 73.4)

St. Firmilian of Caesarea died ca. 269

Moreover, all other heretics, if they have separated themselves from the Church of God, can have nothing of power or of grace, since all power and grace are established in the Church where the elders preside, who possess the power both of baptizing, and of imposition of hands, and of ordaining. For as a heretic may not lawfully ordain nor lay on hands, so neither may he baptize, nor do any thing holily or spiritually, since he is an alien from spiritual and deifying sanctity.

not all who call on the name of Christ are heard, and that their invocation cannot obtain any grace, the Lord Himself manifests, saying, Many shall come in my name, saying, I am Christ, and shall deceieve many Mk. 13:6 Because there is no difference between a false prophet and a heretic. For as the former deceives in the name of God or Christ, so the latter deceives in the sacrament of baptism. Both strive by falsehood to deceive men’s wills. (Epistles of Cyprian 74.7-9)

St. Dionysius of Alexandria died ca. 265

Previously, indeed, (Stephen) had written letters about Helanus and Firmilianus, and about all who were established throughout Cilicia and Cappadocia, and all the neighbouring provinces, giving them to understand that for that same reason he would depart from their communion, because they rebaptized heretics. And consider the seriousness of the matter. For, indeed, in the most considerable councils of the bishops, as I hear, it has been decreed that they who come from heresy should first be trained in Catholic doctrine, and then should be cleansed by baptism from the filth of the old and impure leaven. Asking and calling him to witness on all these matters, I sent letters. (Epistle 6 to Sixtus, Bishop)

For truly, brother, I have need of advice, and I crave your judgment, lest perchance I should be mistaken upon the matters which in such wise happen to me. One of the brethren who come together to the church, who for some time has been esteemed as a believer, and who before my ordination, and, if I am not deceived, before even the episcopate of Heraclas himself, had been a partaker of the assembly of the faithful, when he had been concerned in the baptism of those who were lately baptized, and had heard the interrogatories and their answers, came to me in tears, and bewailing his lot. And throwing himself at my feet, he began to confess and to protest that this baptism by which he had been initiated among heretics was not of this kind, nor had it anything whatever in common with this of ours, because that it was full of blasphemy and impiety. And he said that his soul was pierced with a very bitter sense of sorrow, and that he did not dare even to lift up his eyes to God, because he had been initiated by those wicked words and things. Wherefore he besought that, by this purest laver, he might be endowed with adoption and grace. And I, indeed, have not dared to do this; but I have said that the long course of communion had been sufficient for this. For I should not dare to renew afresh, after all, one who had heard the giving of thanks, and who had answered with others Amen; who had stood at the holy table, and had stretched forth his hands to receive the blessed food, and had received it, and for a very long time had been a partaker of the body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ. Henceforth I bade him be of good courage, and approach to the sacred elements with a firm faith and a good conscience, and become a partaker of them. But he makes no end of his wailing, and shrinks from approaching to the table; and scarcely, when entreated, can he bear to be present at the prayers. (Epistle 9 to Sixtus)

St. Athanasius the Great ca. 297-373

For not he who simply says, ‘O Lord,’ gives Baptism; but he who with the Name has also the right faith. On this account therefore our Saviour also did not simply command to baptize, but first says, ‘Teach;’ then thus: ‘Baptize into the Name of Father, and Son, and Holy Ghost;’ that the right faith might follow upon learning, and together with faith might come the consecration of Baptism.

There are many other heresies too, which use the words only, but not in a right sense, as I have said, nor with sound faith, and in consequence the water which they administer is unprofitable, as deficient in piety, so that he who is sprinkled by them is rather polluted by irreligion than redeemed. (Four Discourses Against the Arians Bk. 2.18.42-43)

St. Optatus of Milevis ca. 4th cent.

Now there is another question: For what purpose have you mentioned those who have not the Sacraments which you and we alike possess? Sound health does not clamor for medicine; strength which is secure in itself does not need outside help; truth has no lack of arguments; it is the mark of a sick man to seek remedies; it is the sign of a sluggard and a weakling to run in search of auxiliaries; it belongs to a liar to rake up arguments. To return to your book, you have said that the Endowments of the Church cannot be with heretics, and in this you have said rightly, for we know that the churches of each of the heretics have no lawful Sacraments, since they are adulteresses, without the rights of honest wedlock, and are rejected by Christ, who is the Bridegroom of One Church, as strangers.  This He Himself makes clear in the Canticle of Canticles. When He praises One, He condemns the others because, besides the One which is the true Catholic Church, the others amongst the heretics are thought to be churches, but are not such. Thus He declares in the Canticle of Canticles (as we have already pointed out) that His Dove is One, and that she is also the chosen Spouse, and again a garden enclosed, and a fountain sealed up.

Therefore none of the heretics possess either the Keys, which Peter alone received, or the Ring,  with which we read that the Fountain has been sealed; nor is any heretic one of those to whom that Garden belongs in which God plants His young trees. (Against the Donatists Bk. 1.10)

You see, then, my brother Parmenian, that none but heretics only—-who are cut off from the home of truth—-possess ‘various kinds of false Baptisms with which he, who is stained, cannot wash, nor the unclean cleanse, nor the destroyer raise, nor he, who is lost, free, nor the guilty man give pardon, nor the condemned man absolve.’ (ibid. Bk. 1.12)

St. Cyril of Jerusalem ca. 313-386

We may not receive Baptism twice or thrice; else it might be said, Though I have failed once, I shall set it right a second time: whereas if you fail once, the thing cannot be set right; for there is one Lord, and one faith, and one baptism : for only the heretics are re-baptized , because the former was no baptism. (Procatechesis 7)

St. Basil of Caesarea ca. 330-379

The old authorities decided to accept that baptism which in nowise errs from the faith. Thus they used the names of heresies, of schisms, and of unlawful congregations. By heresies they meant men who were altogether broken off and alienated in matters relating to the actual faith; by schisms men who had separated for some ecclesiastical reasons and questions capable of mutual solution; by unlawful congregations gatherings held by disorderly presbyters or bishops or by uninstructed laymen.  As, for instance, if a man be convicted of crime, and prohibited from discharging ministerial functions, and then refuses to submit to the canons, but arrogates to himself episcopal and ministerial rights, and persons leave the Catholic Church and join him, this is unlawful assembly. To disagree with members of the Church about repentance, is schism. Instances of heresy are those of the Manichæans, of the Valentinians, of the Marcionites, and of these Pepuzenes; for with them there comes in at once their disagreement concerning the actual faith in God. So it seemed good to the ancient authorities to reject the baptism of heretics altogether, but to admit that of schismatics, on the ground that they still belonged to the Church.

…For those who have not been baptized into the names delivered to us have not been baptized at all.

…[I]t seemed good to the ancient authorities, I mean Cyprian and our own Firmilianus, to reject all these, Cathari, Encratites, and Hydroparastatæ;, by one common condemnation, because the origin of separation arose through schism, and those who had apostatized from the Church had no longer on them the grace of the Holy Spirit, for it ceased to be imparted when the continuity was broken. The first separatists had received their ordination from the Fathers, and possessed the spiritual gift by the laying on of their hands. But they who were broken off had become laymen, and, because they are no longer able to confer on others that grace of the Holy Spirit from which they themselves are fallen away, they had no authority either to baptize or to ordain. And therefore those who were from time to time baptized by them, were ordered, as though baptized by laymen, to come to the church to be purified by the Church’s true baptism. (Epistle 188: 1st Canonical Epistle, Canon 1)

St. Ambrose of Milan ca. 338-397

…now all are made whole; or more exactly, the Christian people alone, for in some even the water is deceitful. Jer. 15:18 The baptism of unbelievers heals not but pollutes. (On the Mysteries 4.23)

Blessed Jerome ca. 347-420

Cyprian of blessed memory tried to avoid broken cisterns and not to drink of strange waters: and therefore, rejecting heretical baptism, he summoned his African synod in opposition to Stephen, who was the blessed Peter’s twenty-second successor in the see of Rome. They met to discuss this matter; but the attempt failed. At last those very bishops who had together with him determined that heretics must be re-baptized, reverted to the old custom and published a fresh decree. Do you ask what course we must pursue? What we do our forefathers handed down to us as their forefathers to them. But why speak of later times? When the blood of Christ was but lately shed and the apostles were still in Judæa, the Lord’s body was asserted to be a phantom; the Galatians had been led away to the observance of the law, and the Apostle was a second time in travail with them; the Corinthians did not believe the resurrection of the flesh, and he endeavoured by many arguments to bring them back to the right path. Then came Simon Magus and his disciple Menander. They asserted themselves to be powers of God. Then Basilides invented the most high god Abraxas and the three hundred and sixty-five manifestations of him. Then Nicolas, one of the seven Deacons, and one whose lechery knew no rest by night or day, indulged in his filthy dreams. I say nothing of the Jewish heretics who before the coming of Christ destroyed the law delivered to them: of Dositheus, the leader of the Samaritans who rejected the prophets: of the Sadducees who sprang from his root and denied even the resurrection of the flesh: of the Pharisees who separated themselves from the Jews on account of certain superfluous observances, and took their name from the fact of their dissent: of the Herodians who accepted Herod as the Christ. I come to those heretics who have mangled the Gospels, Saturninus, and the Ophites, the Cainites and Sethites, and Carpocrates, and Cerinthus, and his successor Ebion, and the other pests, the most of which broke out while the apostle John was still alive, and yet we do not read that any of these men were re-baptized.

As we have made mention of that distinguished saint, let us show also from his Apocalypse that repentance unaccompanied by baptism ought to be allowed valid in the case of heretics. It is imputed Rev. 2:4 to the angel of Ephesus that he has forsaken his first love. In the angel of the Church of Pergamum the eating of idol-sacrifices is censured Rev. 2:14, and the doctrine of the Nicolaitans Rev. 2:15. Likewise the angel of Thyatira is rebuked Rev. 2:20 on account of Jezebel the prophetess, and the idol meats, and fornication. And yet the Lord encourages all these to repent, and adds a threat, moreover, of future punishment if they do not turn. Now he would not urge them to repent unless he intended to grant pardon to the penitents. Is there any indication of his having said, Let them be re-baptized who have been baptized in the faith of the Nicolaitans? Or let hands be laid upon those of the people of Pergamum who at that time believed, having held the doctrine of Balaam? Nay, rather, Repent therefore, Rev. 2:16 he says, or else I come to you quickly, and I will make war against them with the sword of my mouth.

If, however, those men who were ordained by Hilary, and who have lately become sheep without a shepherd, are disposed to allege Scripture in support of what the blessed Cyprian left in his letters advocating the re-baptization of heretics, I beg them to remember that he did not anathematize those who refused to follow him. At all events, he remained in communion with such as opposed his views. He was content with exhorting them, on account of Novatus and the numerous other heretics then springing up, to receive no one who did not condemn his previous error. In fact, he thus concludes the discussion of the subject with Stephen, the Roman Pontiff: These things, dearest brother, I have brought to your knowledge on account of our mutual respect and love unfeigned, believing, as I do, that from the sincerity of your piety and your faith you will approve such things as are alike consonant with piety and true in themselves. But I know that some persons are unwilling to abandon views which they have once entertained, and are averse to a change of purpose; they would rather, without breaking the bond of peace and concord between colleagues, adhere to their own plans, when once they have been adopted. This is a matter in which we do not force anyone, or lay down a law for anyone; let each follow his own free choice in the administration of the Church: let each be ruler in his own sphere since he must give account of his action to the Lord. In the letter also to Jubaianus on the re-baptization of heretics, towards the end, he says this: I have written these few remarks, my dearest brother, to the best of my poor ability, without dictating to anyone, or prejudicing the case of anyone: I would not hinder a single bishop from doing what he thinks right with the full exercise of his own judgment. So far as is possible, we avoid disputes with colleagues and fellow bishops about the heretics, and maintain with them a divine harmony and the Lord’s peace, particularly since the Apostle says: 1 Cor. 11:16 ‘But if any man seem to be contentious, we have no such custom, neither the churches of God.’ With patience and gentleness we preserve charity at heart, the honour of our order, the bond of faith, the harmony of the episcopate.

There is another argument which I shall adduce, and against that not even Hilary, the modern Deucalion, will venture to mutter a syllable. If heretics are not baptized and must be re-baptized because they were not in the Church, Hilary himself also is not a Christian. For he was baptized in that Church which always allowed heretical baptism. Before the Synod of Ariminum was held, before Lucifer went into exile, Hilary when a deacon of the Roman Church welcomed those who came over from the heretics on account of the baptism which they had previously received. It can hardly be that Arians are the only heretics, and that we are to accept all but those whom they have baptized. You were a deacon, Hilary (the Church may say), and received those whom the Manichæans had baptized. You were a deacon, and acknowledged Ebion’s baptism. All at once after Arius arose you began to be quite out of conceit with yourself. You and your household separated from us, and opened a new laver of your own. If some angel or apostle has re-baptized you, I will not disparage your procedure. But since you who raise your sword against me are the son of my womb, and nourished on the milk of my breasts, return to me what I gave you, and be, if you can, a Christian in some other way. Suppose I am a harlot, still I am your mother. You say, I do not keep the marriage bed undefiled: still what I am now I was when you were conceived. If I commit adultery with Arius, I did the same before with Praxias, with Ebion, with Cerinthus, and Novatus. You think much of them and welcome them, adulterers as they are, to your mother’s home. I don’t know why one adulterer more than others should offend you.

But if anyone thinks it open to question whether heretics were always welcomed by our ancestors, let him read the letters of the blessed Cyprian in which he applies the lash to Stephen, bishop of Rome, and his errors which had grown inveterate by usage. Let him also read the pamphlets of Hilary on the re-baptization of heretics which he published against us, and he will there find Hilary himself confessing that Julius, Marcus, Sylvester, and the other bishops of old alike welcomed all heretics to repentance; and, further, to show that he could not justly claim possession of the true custom; the Council of Nicæa also, to which we referred not long ago, welcomed all heretics with the exception of the disciples of Paul of Samosata. And, what is more, it allows a Novatian bishop on conversion to have the rank of presbyter, a decision which condemns both Lucifer and Hilary, since the same person who is ordained is also baptized. (Dialogue Against the Luciferians 23-27) 

Blessed Augustine of Hippo ca. 354-430

…so let them understand that men may be baptized in communions severed from the Church, in which Christ’s baptism is given and received in the said celebration of the sacrament, but that it will only then be of avail for the remission of sins, when the recipient, being reconciled to the unity of the Church, is purged from the sacrilege of deceit, by which his sins were retained, and their remission prevented. For, as in the case of him who had approached the sacrament in deceit there is no second baptism, but he is purged by faithful discipline and truthful confession, which he could not be without baptism, so that what was given before becomes then powerful to work his salvation, when the former deceit is done away by the truthful confession; so also in the case of the man who, while an enemy to the peace and love of Christ, received in any heresy or schism the baptism of Christ, which the schismatics in question had not lost from among them, though by his sacrilege his sins were not remitted, yet, when he corrects his error, and comes over to the communion and unity of the Church, he ought not to be again baptized: because by his very reconciliation to the peace of the Church he receives this benefit, that the sacrament now begins in unity to be of avail for the remission of his sins, which could not so avail him as received in schism.

But if they should say that in the man who has approached the sacrament in deceit, his sins are indeed removed by the holy power of so great a sacrament at the moment when he received it, but return immediately in consequence of his deceit: so that the Holy Spirit has both been present with him at his baptism for the removal of his sins, and has also fled before his perseverance in deceit so that they should return: so that both declarations prove true—both, “As many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ;” and also, “The holy spirit of discipline will flee deceit;”— that is to say, that both the holiness of baptism clothes him with Christ, and the sinfulness of deceit strips him of Christ; like the case of a man who passes from darkness through light into darkness again, his eyes being always directed towards darkness, though the light cannot but penetrate them as he passes—if they should say this, let them understand that this is also the case with those who are baptized without the pale of the Church, but yet with the baptism of the Church, which is holy in itself, wherever it may be; and which therefore belongs not to those who separate themselves, but to the body from which they are separated; while yet it avails even among them so far, that they pass through its light back to their own darkness, their sins, which in that moment had been dispelled by the holiness of baptism, returning immediately upon them, as though it were the darkness returning which the light had dispelled while they were passing through it. (On Baptism Bk. 1 Chap. 12.18-19)

It is to no purpose, then, that they say to us, “If you acknowledge our baptism, what do we lack that should make you suppose that we ought to think seriously of joining your communion?” For we reply, We do not acknowledge any baptism of yours; for it is not the baptism of schismatics or heretics, but of God and of the Church, wheresoever it may be found, and wherever it may be transferred. But it is in no sense yours, except because you entertain false opinions, and do sacrilegious acts, and have impiously separated yourselves from the Church. For if everything else in your practice and opinions were true, and still you were to persist in this same separation, contrary to the bond of brotherly peace, contrary to the union of all the brethren, who have been manifest, according to the promise, in all the world; the particulars of whose history, and the secrets of whose hearts, you never could have known or considered in every case, so as to have a right to condemn them; who, moreover, cannot be liable to condemnation for submitting themselves to the judges of the Church rather than to one of the parties to the dispute—in this one thing, at least, in such a case, you are deficient, in which he is deficient who lacks charity. Why should we go over our argument again? Look and see yourselves in the apostle, how much there is that you lack. For what does it matter to him who lacks charity, whether he be carried away outside the Church at once by some blast of temptation, or remain within the Lord’s harvest, so as to be separated only at the final winnowing? And yet even such, if they have once been born in baptism, need not be born again. (On Baptism Bk. 1 Chap. 14.22)

St. Vincent of Lerins died ca. 445

Once on a time then, Agripinnus, bishop of Carthage, of venerable memory, held the doctrine— and he was the first who held it— that Baptism ought to be repeated, contrary to the divine canon, contrary to the rule of the universal Church, contrary to the customs and institutions of our ancestors. This innovation drew after it such an amount of evil, that it not only gave an example of sacrilege to heretics of all sorts, but proved an occasion of error to certain Catholics even.

When then all men protested against the novelty, and the priesthood everywhere, each as his zeal prompted him, opposed it, Pope Stephen of blessed memory, Prelate of the Apostolic See, in conjunction indeed with his colleagues but yet himself the foremost, withstood it, thinking it right, I doubt not, that as he exceeded all others in the authority of his place, so he should also in the devotion of his faith. In fine, in an epistle sent at the time to Africa, he laid down this rule: Let there be no innovation— nothing but what has been handed down. For that holy and prudent man well knew that true piety admits no other rule than that whatsoever things have been faithfully received from our fathers the same are to be faithfully consigned to our children; and that it is our duty, not to lead religion whither we would, but rather to follow religion whither it leads; and that it is the part of Christian modesty and gravity not to hand down our own beliefs or observances to those who come after us, but to preserve and keep what we have received from those who went before us. What then was the issue of the whole matter? What but the usual and customary one? Antiquity was retained, novelty was rejected.

But it may be, the cause of innovation at that time lacked patronage. On the contrary, it had in its favor such powerful talent, such copious eloquence, such a number of partisans, so much resemblance to truth, such weighty support in Scripture (only interpreted in a novel and perverse sense), that it seems to me that that whole conspiracy could not possibly have been defeated, unless the sole cause of this extraordinary stir, the very novelty of what was so undertaken, so defended, so belauded, had proved wanting to it. In the end, what result, under God, had that same African Council or decree? None whatever. The whole affair, as though a dream, a fable, a thing of no possible account, was annulled, cancelled, and trodden underfoot.

And O marvellous revolution! The authors of this same doctrine are judged Catholics, the followers heretics; the teachers are absolved, the disciples condemned; the writers of the books will be children of the Kingdom, the defenders of them will have their portion in Hell. For who is so demented as to doubt that that blessed light among all holy bishops and martyrs, Cyprian, together with the rest of his colleagues, will reign with Christ; or, who on the other hand so sacrilegious as to deny that the Donatists and those other pests, who boast the authority of that council for their iteration of baptism, will be consigned to eternal fire with the devil? (The Commonitory 6.16-18)

Pope St. Leo the Great ca. 400-461

For they who have received baptism from heretics, not having been previously baptized, are to be confirmed by imposition of hands with only the invocation of the Holy Ghost, because they have received the bare form of baptism without the power of sanctification. And this regulation, as you know, we require to be kept in all the churches, that the font once entered may not be defiled by repetition, as the Lord says, One Lord, one faith, one baptism. And that washing may not be polluted by repetition, but, as we have said, only the sanctification of the Holy Ghost invoked, that what no one can receive from heretics may be obtained from Catholic priests. (Letter 159.8)

Concerning those who have come from Africa or Mauretania and know not in what sect they were baptized, what ought to be done in their case ?

Reply. These persons are not doubtful of their baptism, but profess ignorance as to the faith of those who baptized them: and hence since they have received the form of baptism in some way or other, they are not to be baptized but are to be united to the Catholics by imposition of hands, after the invocation of the Holy Spirit’s power, which they could not receive from heretics. (Letter 167: Question 18)

St. Fulgentius of Ruspe 467-533

Anyone who receives the sacrament of baptism, whether in the Catholic Church or in a heretical or schismatic one, receives the whole sacrament; but salvation, which is the strength of the sacrament, he will not have, if he has had the sacrament outside the Catholic Church [and remains in deliberate schism]. He must therefore return to the Church, not so that he might receive again the sacrament of baptism, which no one dare repeat in any baptized person, but so that he may receive eternal life in Catholic society, for the obtaining of which no one is suited who, even with the sacrament of baptism, remains estranged from the Catholic Church. (The Rule of Faith 43)

St. Gregory the Dialogist ca. 540-604

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

Bede the Venerable ca. 673-735

For where is a good conscience except where there is a sincere faith? For the Apostle Paul teaches that the purpose of the commandment is charity from a pure heart and a good conscience and unfeigned faith. (1 Tim. 1:5) The fact, therefore, that the water of the flood did not save thouse outside the ark but slew them without doubt prefigured every heretic who, although having the sacrament of baptism, is to be plunged into the lower world not by other waters but by those very waters by which the ark is raised up to the heavens. (Commentary on 1st Peter)

St. John Damascene ca. 676-749

We confess one baptism for the remission of sins and for life eternal. For baptism declares the Lord’s death. We are indeed buried with the Lord through baptism Col. 2:12, as says the divine Apostle. So then, as our Lord died once for all, we also must be baptized once for all, and baptized according to the Word of the Lord, In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit Mat. 28:19, being taught the confession in Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Those , then, who, after having been baptized into Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, and having been taught that there is one divine nature in three subsistences, are rebaptized, these, as the divine Apostle says, crucify the Christ afresh. For it is impossible, he says, for those who were once enlightened, etc., to renew them again unto repentance: seeing they crucify to themselves the Christ afresh, and put Him to an open shame. Heb. 6:4 But those who were not baptized into the Holy Trinity, these must be baptized again. For although the divine Apostle says: Into Christ and into His death were we baptized Rom. 6:3, he does not mean that the invocation of baptism must be in these words, but that baptism is an image of the death of Christ. For by the three immersions , baptism signifies the three days of our Lord’s entombment. The baptism then into Christ means that believers are baptized into Him. We could not believe in Christ if we were not taught confession in Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. For Christ is the Son of the Living God Mat. 16:16, Whom the Father anointed with the Holy Spirit Acts 10:38: in the words of the divine David, Therefore God, your God, has anointed you with the oil of gladness above your fellows. And Isaiah also speaking in the person of the Lord says,  The Spirit of the Lord is upon me because He has anointed me. Isa. 61:1 Christ, however, taught His own disciples the invocation and said, Baptizing them in the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Mat. 28:19 (Exact Exposition of the Orthodox Faith Bk. 4.9)

Chrysostom on Creation and Baptism

St. John Chrysostom ca. 349-407

The first creation then, that of Adam, was from earth; the next, that of the woman, from his rib; the next, that of Abel, from seed; yet we cannot arrive at the comprehension of any one of these, nor prove the circumstances by argument, though they are of a most earthly nature; how then shall we be able to give account of the unseen generation by Baptism, which is far more exalted than these, or to require arguments for that strange and marvelous Birth? Since even Angels stand by while that Generation takes place, but they could not tell the manner of that marvelous working, they stand by only, not performing anything, but beholding what takes place. The Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost, works all. Let us then believe the declaration of God; that is more trustworthy than actual seeing. The sight often is in error, it is impossible that God’s Word should fail; let us then believe it; that which called the things that were not into existence may well be trusted when it speaks of their nature. What then says it? That what is effected is a Generation. If any ask, How, stop his mouth with the declaration of God, which is the strongest and a plain proof. If any enquire, Why is water included? let us also in return ask, Wherefore was earth employed at the beginning in the creation of man? for that it was possible for God to make man without earth, is quite plain to every one. Be not then over-curious. (Homily 25 on the Gospel of John)

A Eucharistic Prophecy

St. Nikolai Velimirovich 1880-1956

The Eucharist does not mean a memory only but also a prophecy. The prophecy of it is, that the whole earth will become Christ’s body, Christ’s flesh and blood, so that whatever we eat or drink we eat and drink Him. (The Works of Rev. Nicholai Velimirovic: Introductory Thoughts)

St. Hippolytus on Baptism and Theosis

St. Hippolytus of Rome ca. 170-235

But give me now your best attention, I pray you, for I wish to go back to the fountain of life, and to view the fountain that gushes with healing. The Father of immortality sent the immortal Son and Word into the world, who came to man in order to wash him with water and the Spirit; and He, begetting us again to incorruption of soul and body, breathed into us the breath (spirit) of life, and endued us with an incorruptible panoply. If, therefore, man has become immortal, he will also be god. And if he is made god by water and the Holy Spirit after the regeneration of the laver he is found to be also joint-heir with Christ after the resurrection from the dead. Wherefore I preach to this effect: Come, all you kindreds of the nations, to the immortality of the baptism. I bring good tidings of life to you who tarry in the darkness of ignorance. Come into liberty from slavery, into a kingdom from tyranny, into incorruption from corruption. And how, says one, shall we come? How? By water and the Holy Ghost. This is the water in conjunction with the Spirit, by which paradise is watered, by which the earth is enriched, by which plants grow, by which animals multiply, and (to sum up the whole in a single word) by which man is begotten again and endued with life, in which also Christ was baptized, and in which the Spirit descended in the form of a dove. (Discourse on the Holy Theophany 8)

On Female Ordinations

Apostolic Constitutions compiled ca. 1st-4th cent.

For if the man be the head of the woman, and he be originally ordained for the priesthood, it is not just to abrogate the order of the creation, and leave the principal to come to the extreme part of the body. For the woman is the body of the man, taken from his side, and subject to him, from whom she was separated for the procreation of children. For says He, He shall rule over you. Gen. 3:16 For the principal part of the woman is the man, as being her head. But if in the foregoing constitutions we have not permitted them to teach, how will any one allow them, contrary to nature, to perform the office of a priest? For this is one of the ignorant practices of the Gentile atheism, to ordain women priests to the female deities, not one of the constitutions of Christ. For if baptism were to be administered by women, certainly our Lord would have been baptized by His own mother, and not by John; or when He sent us to baptize, He would have sent along with us women also for this purpose. But now He has nowhere, either by constitution or by writing, delivered to us any such thing; as knowing the order of nature, and the decency of the action; as being the Creator of nature, and the Legislator of the constitution. (Bk 3.1.9)

For which reason, O bishop, ordain your fellow-workers, the labourers for life and for righteousness, such deacons as are pleasing to God, such whom you prove to be worthy among all the people, and such as shall be ready for the necessities of their ministration. Ordain also a deaconess who is faithful and holy, for the ministrations towards women. For sometimes he cannot send a deacon, who is a man, to the women, on account of unbelievers. You shall therefore send a woman, a deaconess, on account of the imaginations of the bad. For we stand in need of a woman, a deaconess, for many necessities; and first in the baptism of women, the deacon shall anoint only their forehead with the holy oil, and after him the deaconess shall anoint them: for there is no necessity that the women should be seen by the men; but only in the laying on of hands the bishop shall anoint her head, as the priests and kings were formerly anointed, not because those which are now baptized are ordained priests, but as being Christians, or anointed, from Christ the Anointed, a royal priesthood, and an holy nation, the Church of God, the pillar and ground of the marriage-chamber, 1 Pet. 2:9; 1 Tim. 3:15 who formerly were not a people, but now are beloved and chosen, upon whom is called His new name as Isaiah the prophet witnesses, saying: And they shall call the people by His new name, which the Lord shall name for them. (Bk. 3.2.15)

A deaconess does not bless, nor perform anything belonging to the office of presbyters or deacons, but only is to keep the doors, and to minister to the presbyters in the baptizing of women, on account of decency. (Bk. 8.3.28)

Tertullian of Carthage ca. 160-220

Simplicity they will have to consist in the overthrow of discipline, attention to which on our part they call brothelry. Peace also they huddle up anyhow with all comers; for it matters not to them, however different be their treatment of subjects, provided only they can conspire together to storm the citadel of the one only Truth. All are puffed up, all offer you knowledge. Their catechumens are perfect before they are full-taught. The very women of these heretics, how wanton they are! For they are bold enough to teach, to dispute, to enact exorcisms, to undertake cures— it may be even to baptize. Their ordinations, are carelessly administered, capricious, changeable. (Prescription Against Heretics 41)

St. Hippolytus of Rome ca. 170-235

When a widow is appointed, she is not ordained, but is chosen by name. If her husband has been dead a long time, she is appointed. If it has not been a long time since her husband died, she may not be trusted. If, however, she is old, let her be tested for a time. For often the passions grow old with those who give them a place in themselves. The widow is appointed by word alone, and then may join the rest of the widows. Do not lay hands upon her, for she does not offer the oblation, nor does she have a liturgical duty. Ordination is for the clergy because of liturgical duty. The widow is appointed because of prayer, which is a duty for all. (Apostolic Tradition 10)

Didascalia ca. 200-250

It is neither right nor necessary therefore that women should be teachers, and especially concerning the name of Christ and the redemption of His passion. For you have not been appointed to this, 0 women, and especially widows, that you should teach, but that you should pray and entreat the Lord God. For He the Lord God, Jesus Christ our Teacher, sent us the Twelve to instruct the People and the Gentiles; and there were with us women disciples, Mary Magdalene and Mary the daughter of James and the other Mary; but He did not send them to instruct the people with us. For if it were required that women should teach, our Master Himself would have commanded these to give instruction with us. (Bk. 3.6.1-2)

Council of Nicea I 325

Concerning the Paulianists who have flown for refuge to the Catholic Church, it has been decreed that they must by all means be rebaptized; and if any of them who in past time have been numbered among their clergy should be found blameless and without reproach, let them be rebaptized and ordained by the Bishop of the Catholic Church; but if the examination should discover them to be unfit, they ought to be deposed. Likewise in the case of their deaconesses, and generally in the case of those who have been enrolled among their clergy, let the same form be observed. And we mean by deaconesses such as have assumed the habit, but who, since they have no imposition of hands, are to be numbered only among the laity. (Canon 19)

St. John Chrysostom ca. 349-407

For those things which I have already mentioned might easily be performed by many even of those who are under authority, women as well as men; but when one is required to preside over the Church, and to be entrusted with the care of so many souls, the whole female sex must retire before the magnitude of the task, and the majority of men also; and we must bring forward those who to a large extent surpass all others, and soar as much above them in excellence of spirit as Saul overtopped the whole Hebrew nation in bodily stature: or rather far more. 1 Sam. 10:23 (On the Priesthood 2.2)

Let the Eucharist Change You

St. John Climacus ca. 7th cent.

A body changes in its activity as a result of contact with another body. How therefore could there be no change in someone who with innocent hands has touched the Body of God? (The Ladder of Divine Ascent, Step 28: On Prayer)

On the Power of God in the Mysteries

St. Ambrose of Milan ca. 338-397

Damasus did not cleanse, Peter did not cleanse, Ambrose did not cleanse, Gregory did not cleanse; for the ministries are ours but the Sacraments are Yours. No, it belongs not to human powers to confer things that are divine. That, Lord, is Your function and the Father’s. (On the Holy Spirit Bk. 1: Prol. 18)

Note well that it is through the Holy Spirit that sins are forgiven. Men make use of their ministry in the forgiveness of sins, but they are not exercising any power that is theirs by right. It is not in their own name, but in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit that they forgive sins. They ask and the divinity forgives. The ministration is of man, but the gift bestowed is from the Power on high. (ibid., Bk. 3:18. 137)

St. Leo on the Eucharist

Pope St. Leo the Great ca. 400-461

In what density of ignorance, in what utter sloth must they hitherto have lain, not to have learned from hearing, nor understood from reading, that which in God’s Church is so constantly in men’s mouths, that even the tongues of infants do not keep silence upon the truth of Christ’s Body and Blood at the rite of Holy Communion ? For in that mystic distribution of spiritual nourishment, that which is given and taken is of such a kind that receiving the virtue of the celestial food we pass into the flesh of Him, Who became our flesh. (Letter 59)

On Triple Immersion Baptism

Apostolic Canons ca. 1st cent.

If any bishop or presbyter does not perform the one initiation with three immersions, but with giving one immersion only, into the death of the Lord, let him be deposed. For the Lord said not, Baptize into my death, but, “Go, make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.(Canon 50)

The Didache ca. 70-120

And concerning baptism, baptize this way: Having first said all these things, baptize into the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, in living water. But if you have no living water, baptize into other water; and if you cannot do so in cold water, do so in warm. But if you have neither, pour out water three times upon the head into the name of Father and Son and Holy Spirit. (Chapter 7)

Tertullian ca. 160-220

After His resurrection He promises in a pledge to His disciples that He will send them the promise of His Father; Lk. 24:49 and lastly, He commands them to baptize into the Father and the Son and the Holy Ghost, not into a unipersonal God. And indeed it is not once only, but three times, that we are immersed into the Three Persons, at each several mention of Their names. (Against Praxeas 26)

St. Cyril of Jerusalem ca. 313-386

…[Y]ou were led to the holy pool of Divine Baptism, as Christ was carried from the Cross to the Sepulchre which is before our eyes. And each of you was asked, whether he believed in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, and you made that saving confession, and descended three times into the water, and ascended again; here also hinting by a symbol at the three days burial of Christ. For as our Saviour passed three days and three nights in the heart of the earth, so you also in your first ascent out of the water, represented the first day of Christ in the earth, and by your descent, the night; for as he who is in the night, no longer sees, but he who is in the day, remains in the light, so in the descent, as in the night, you saw nothing, but in ascending again you were as in the day. And at the self-same moment you were both dying and being born; and that Water of salvation was at once your grave and your mother. (Catechetical Lecture 20: On the Mysteries 2.4)

St. Basil of Caesarea ca. 330-379

This then is what it is to be born again of water and of the Spirit, the being made dead being effected in the water, while our life is wrought in us through the Spirit. In three immersions, then, and with three invocations, the great mystery of baptism is performed, to the end that the type of death may be fully figured, and that by the tradition of the divine knowledge the baptized may have their souls enlightened. It follows that if there is any grace in the water, it is not of the nature of the water, but of the presence of the Spirit. For baptism is not the putting away of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience towards God. (1 Pet. 3:21) (On the Holy Spirit 15.35)

Blessed Jerome ca. 347-420

For many other observances of the Churches, which are due to tradition, have acquired the authority of the written law, as for instance the practice of dipping the head three times in the laver, and then, after leaving the water, of tasting mingled milk and honey in representation of infancy; and, again, the practices of standing up in worship on the Lord’s day, and ceasing from fasting every Pentecost; and there are many other unwritten practices which have won their place through reason and custom. (The Dialogue Against the Luciferians 8)

St. John Chrysostom ca. 349-407

In Baptism are fulfilled the pledges of our covenant with God; burial and death, resurrection and life; and these take place all at once. For when we immerse our heads in the water, the old man is buried as in a tomb below, and wholly sunk forever; then as we raise them again, the new man rises in its stead. As it is easy for us to dip and to lift our heads again, so it is easy for God to bury the old man, and to show forth the new. And this is done thrice, that you may learn that the power of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost fulfills all this. (Homily 25 on the Gospel of John)

Constantinople I Second Ecumenical Council 381

But Eunomians, who are baptized with only one immersion, and Montanists, who are here called Phrygians, and Sabellians, who teach the identity of Father and Son, and do sundry other mischievous things, and [the partisans of] all other heresies— for there are many such here, particularly among those who come from the country of the Galatians:— all these, when they desire to turn to orthodoxy, we receive as heathen. On the first day we make them Christians; on the second, catechumens; on the third, we exorcise them by breathing thrice in their face and ears; and thus we instruct them and oblige them to spend some time in the Church, and to hear the Scriptures; and then we baptize them. (Canon 5)

Blessed Theodoret of Cyr ca. 393-457

He (Eunomius) subverted the law of Holy Baptism, which had been handed down from the beginning from the Lord and the Apostles, and made a contrary law, asserting that it is not necessary to immerse the candidate for baptism thrice, nor to mention the name of the Trinity, but to immerse once only into the death of Christ. (Haeret. Fabul. Bk. 4.3)

Sozomen ca. 400-450

Eunomius, who had held the church in Cyzicus in place of Eleusius, and who presided over the Arian heresy, devised another heresy besides this, which some have called by his name, but which is sometimes denominated the Anomian heresy. Some assert that Eunomius was the first who ventured to maintain that divine baptism ought to be performed by one immersion, and to corrupt, in this manner, the tradition which has been carefully handed down to the present day. He invented, it is said, a mode of discipline contrary to that of the Church, and disguised the innovation under gravity and greater severity. (Ecclesiastical History Bk. 6.26)

Pope St. Leo the Great ca. 400-461

For the Apostle Paul says, ‘Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into His death? Therefore, we are buried with Him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we should also walk in newness of life. For is we were planted together in the likeness of Hid death, we shall be also in the likeness of His resurrection.’ And the teacher of the Gentiles stated this idea in other and fuller language, when he wished to recommend the sacrament of baptism. So that it appears from the spirit of his doctrine, that that day and that time has been chosen for baptizing the sons of men, and for making them the sons of God, in which, by a likeness and by the mode of administering the sacrament, those things which are performed upon the members may correspond to those which have been performed upon the Head; for while, in accordance with the rule of baptism, death intervenes by the dying unto sin, and while the trine immersion is an imitation of the three days’ burial, the rising again out the water is an image of Christ rising from the grave. (Letter 16.4)

Pope Gelasius I died ca. 496

Then let the priest baptize by trine immersion alone, invoking but once the Holy Trinity, and saying thus: And I baptize thee in the name of the Father, and let him immerse once, and of the Son, and let him immerse a second time, and of the Holy Ghost, and let him immerse a third time. (Gelasian Sacramentary or “Book of Sacraments of the Church of Rome”)

St. Dionysius the Areopagite ca. 5th cent.

When the Deacons have entirely unclothed him, the Priests bring the holy oil of the anointing. Then he begins the anointing, through the threefold sealing, and for the rest assigns the man to the Priests, for the anointing of his whole body, while himself advances to the mother of filial adoption, and when he has purified the water within it by the holy invocations, and perfected it by three cruciform effusions of the altogether most pure Myron, and by the same number of injections of the all holy Muron, and has invoked the sacred melody of the inspiration of the God-rapt Prophets, he orders the man to be brought forward; and when one of the Priests, from the register, has announced him and his surety, he is conducted by the Priests near the water to the hand of the Hierarch, being led by the hand to him. Then the Hierarch, standing above, when the Priests have again called aloud near the Hierarch within the water the name of the initiated, the Hierarch dips him three times, invoking the threefold Subsistence of the Divine Blessedness, at the three immersions and emersions of the initiated. The Priests then take him, and entrust him to the Sponsor and guide of his introduction; and when they, in conjunction with him, have cast over the initiated appropriate clothing, they lead him again to the Hierarch, who, when he has sealed the man with the most Divinely operating Myron, pronounces him to be henceforward partaker of the most Divinely initiating Eucharist. (Ecclesiastical Hierarchy 2.2.7)

Pope Pelagius of Rome died ca. 561

There are many who say that they baptize in the name of Christ alone, and by a single immersion. But the Gospel command, which was given by God Himself, and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, reminds us that we should administer holy baptism to every one, in the name of the Trinity and by trine immersion, for our Lord said to His disciples, ‘Go, baptize all nations in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. (Epist. ad. Gaudent.)

St. Martin of Braga ca. 6th cent.

Now you say: “The triple invocation of the name and the triple immersion is certainly Arian.” Here is my answer: to be immersed thrice in the single name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost is an ancient and apostolic tradition, which the priests of this province possess in written form on the authority of the Bishop of Rome. This same custom was observed at Pascha by the Bishop of Constantinople in the presence of delegates appointed from this kingdom to the imperial court. We have also read the letter of blessed Paul the Apostle, in which it is written: “one Lord, one Faith, one Baptism:” and the exposition of blessed Jerome, in which he confirms that they are to be immersed thrice with the invocation of the single name. If yuou wish to see it, you will find the book itself, written on papyrus and very old, in the possession of our venerable and holy brothe the priest, Ausentius. Likewise, in the “Acts of Saint Silvester” warning was given to Constantine in a vision and he was commanded to be immersed three times. Many, hearing the words of the Apostle: “one baptism,” have tried to understand this as referring to a single immersion rather than to the unity of the Catholic Faith in this, that baptism everywhere should be celebrated in a single manner. Then, in attempting to avoid approaching the custom of the Arians, who also immerse three times but in a single name, as we do, they cahnged the formula of the ancient tradition so that there should be a single immersion under a single name, not realizing that the unity of the substance is revealed in the single Name, but the distinction of the Three Persons in the triple immersion, so that–just as we believe in all truth–we demonstrate the Single Substance but the Three Persons of the Godhead. for if there is a single immersion under a single name, then only the Unity of the Deity in the Father and the Son and the Holy Ghost is demonstrated, but no difference of Persons is shown.

The result is that while they try to avoid approaching the Arians, they unknowingly come near to the Sabellian heresy, which, in retaining single immersion under a single name, claims that the Father is the same as the Son and the Holy Ghost and that the Holy Ghost is the same as the Father. While not revealing in the sacrament of baptism any distinction of the Three Persons, it supposes, contrary to true faith, that there is a single person in the three words. Consequently some of the Spaniards, understanding, as it is written: “neither what they say nor the things about which they make assertion,” in trying to avoid approaching the Arians, as we have said, fell unawares into another heresy. The Arians make use of the Psalms, the Apostle, the Gospels, and many other things, just as the Catholics (Orthodox) do–do we, for that reason, reject all these things in order not to approach their error? Far from it; rather it is they who have departed from us, as it is writtn, for they retain everything that we observe exept for lessening the Divinity of the Son of God and of the Holy Ghost. (Epistle Bishop Boniface)

St. John Damascene ca. 676-749

For although the divine Apostle says: Into Christ and into His death were we baptized Rom. 6:3, he does not mean that the invocation of baptism must be in these words, but that baptism is an image of the death of Christ. For by the three immersions , baptism signifies the three days of our Lord’s entombment. The baptism then into Christ means that believers are baptized into Him. We could not believe in Christ if we were not taught confession in Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. (An Exact Exposition of the Orthodox Faith Bk. 4.9)

On the Manifold Benefits of Baptism

St. Cyril of Jerusalem ca. 313-386

Let no one then suppose that Baptism is merely the grace of remission of sins, or further, that of adoption; as John’s was a baptism conferring only remission of sins: whereas we know full well, that as it purges our sins, and ministers to us the gift of the Holy Ghost, so also it is the counterpart of the sufferings of Christ. For this cause Paul just now cried aloud and said, Or are you ignorant that all we who were baptized into Christ Jesus, were baptized into His death? We were buried therefore with Him by baptism into His death. These words he spoke to some who were disposed to think that Baptism ministers to us the remission of sins, and adoption, but has not further the fellowship also, by representation, of Christ’s true sufferings. (Catechetical Lectures 20.6)

St. Basil of Caesarea ca. 330-379

For prisoners, baptism is ransom, forgiveness of debts, the death of sin, regeneration of the soul, a resplendent garment, an unbreakable seal, a chariot to heaven, a royal protector, a gift of adoption. (Sermons on Moral and Practical Subjects 13:5)

St. John Chrysostom ca. 349-407

You see how many are the benefits of baptism, and some think its heavenly grace consists only in the remission of sins, but we have enumerated ten honors [it bestows]! For this reason we baptize even infants, though they are not defiled by [personal] sins, so that there may be given to them holiness, righteousness, adoption, inheritance, brotherhood with Christ, and that they may be his [Christ’s] members. (Baptismal Catecheses in Augustine, Against Julian 1:6:21)

A Question and Answer on the Eucharist

Ss. Barsanuphius and John ca. 6th cent.

Q: A certain Christ-loving man asked the same Elder: Should one be curious about the Mysteries? And is a sinner who approaches them condemned as unworthy?

A: When coming into the holy temple to receive the Body and Blood of Christ, and when receiving Them, pay heed to yourself that you unfailingly believe the truth of this [Sacrament]. But as to how this happens, do not be curious, as it has been said: “Take, eat, this My Body and Blood.” The Lord gave them to us for the remission of sins (cf. Matt. 26:26-28 and Mk. 14:22-24). We have hope that he who believes thus will not be condemned, but he who does not believe is already condemned. And thus, do not forbid yourself to approach, condemning yourself a sinner, but recognize that a sinner who approaches the Savior is vouchsafed the remission of sins. (Guidance Toward Spiritual Life 460)

On the Super-substantial Bread and Wine

St. Ambrose of Milan ca. 339-397

Perhaps you will say, I see something else, how is it that you assert that I receive the Body of Christ? And this is the point which remains for us to prove. And what evidence shall we make use of? Let us prove that this is not what nature made, but what the blessing consecrated, and the power of blessing is greater than that of nature, because by blessing nature itself is changed.

Moses was holding a rod, he cast it down and it became a serpent. Exo. 4:3-4 Again, he took hold of the tail of the serpent and it returned to the nature of a rod. You see that by virtue of the prophetic office there were two changes, of the nature both of the serpent and of the rod. The streams of Egypt were running with a pure flow of water; of a sudden from the veins of the sources blood began to burst forth, and none could drink of the river. Again, at the prophet’s prayer the blood ceased, and the nature of water returned. The people of the Hebrews were shut in on every side, hemmed in on the one hand by the Egyptians, on the other by the sea; Moses lifted up his rod, the water divided and hardened like walls, and a way for the feet appeared between the waves. Jordan being turned back, returned, contrary to nature, to the source of its stream. Jos. 3:16 Is it not clear that the nature of the waves of the sea and of the river stream was changed? The people of the fathers thirsted, Moses touched the rock, and water flowed out of the rock. Exo. 17:6 Did not grace work a result contrary to nature, so that the rock poured forth water, which by nature it did not contain? Marah was a most bitter stream, so that the thirsting people could not drink. Moses cast wood into the water, and the water lost its bitterness, which grace of a sudden tempered. Exo. 15:25 In the time of Elisha the prophet one of the sons of the prophets lost the head from his axe, which sank. He who had lost the iron asked Elisha, who cast in a piece of wood and the iron swam. This, too, we clearly recognize as having happened contrary to nature, for iron is of heavier nature than water.

We observe, then, that grace has more power than nature, and yet so far we have only spoken of the grace of a prophet’s blessing. But if the blessing of man had such power as to change nature, what are we to say of that divine consecration where the very words of the Lord and Saviour operate? For that sacrament which you receive is made what it is by the word of Christ. But if the word of Elijah had such power as to bring down fire from heaven, shall not the word of Christ have power to change the nature of the elements? You read concerning the making of the whole world: He spoke and they were made, He commanded and they were created. Shall not the word of Christ, which was able to make out of nothing that which was not, be able to change things which already are into what they were not? For it is not less to give a new nature to things than to change them.

But why make use of arguments? Let us use the examples He gives, and by the example of the Incarnation prove the truth of the mystery. Did the course of nature proceed as usual when the Lord Jesus was born of Mary? If we look to the usual course, a woman ordinarily conceives after connection with a man. And this body which we make is that which was born of the Virgin. Why do you seek the order of nature in the Body of Christ, seeing that the Lord Jesus Himself was born of a Virgin, not according to nature? It is the true Flesh of Christ which crucified and buried, this is then truly the Sacrament of His Body.

The Lord Jesus Himself proclaims: This is My Body. Mat. 26:26 Before the blessing of the heavenly words another nature is spoken of, after the consecration the Body is signified. He Himself speaks of His Blood. Before the consecration it has another name, after it is called Blood. And you say, Amen, that is, It is true. Let the heart within confess what the mouth utters, let the soul feel what the voice speaks.

Christ, then, feeds His Church with these sacraments, by means of which the substance of the soul is strengthened, and seeing the continual progress of her grace, He rightly says to her: How comely are your breasts, my sister, my spouse, how comely they are made by wine, and the smell of your garments is above all spices. A dropping honeycomb are your lips, my spouse, honey and milk are under your tongue, and the smell of your garments is as the smell of Lebanon. A garden enclosed is my sister, my spouse, a garden enclosed, a fountain sealed. By which He signifies that the mystery ought to remain sealed up with you, that it be not violated by the deeds of an evil life, and pollution of chastity, that it be not made known to thou, for whom it is not fitting, nor by garrulous talkativeness it be spread abroad among unbelievers. Your guardianship of the faith ought therefore to be good, that integrity of life and silence may endure unblemished. (On the Mysteries 9.50-55)

The Christian Mysteries are Older than the Jewish Sacrifices

St. Ambrose of Milan ca. 339-397

We must now pay attention, lest perchance any one seeing that what is visible (for things which are invisible cannot be seen nor comprehended by human eyes), should say, God rained down manna and rained down quails upon the Jews, Exo. 16:13 but for the Church beloved of Him the things which He has prepared are those of which it is said: That eye has not seen, nor ear heard, neither has it entered into the heart of man, what things God has prepared for them that love Him. 1 Cor.2:9 So, lest any one should say this, we will take great pains to prove that the sacraments of the Church are both more ancient than those of the synagogue, and more excellent than the manna.

The lesson of Genesis just read shows that they are more ancient, for the synagogue took its origin from the law of Moses. But Abraham was far earlier, who, after conquering the enemy, and recovering his own nephew, as he was enjoying his victory, was met by Melchisedech, who brought forth those things which Abraham reverently received. It was not Abraham who brought them forth, but Melchisedech, who is introduced without father, without mother, having neither beginning of days, nor ending, but like the Son of God, of Whom Paul says to the Hebrews: that He remains a priest for ever, Who in the Latin version is called King of righteousness and King of peace.

Do you recognize Who that is? Can a man be king of righteousness, when himself he can hardly be righteous? Can he be king of peace, when he can hardly be peaceable? He it is Who is without mother according to His Godhead, for He was begotten of God the Father, of one substance with the Father; without a father according to His Incarnation, for He was born of a Virgin; having neither beginning nor end, for He is the beginning and end of all things, the first and the last. The sacrament, then, which you received is the gift not of man but of God, brought forth by Him Who blessed Abraham the father of faith, whose grace and deeds we admire.

We have proved the sacraments of the Church to be the more ancient, now recognize that they are superior. In very truth it is a marvellous thing that God rained manna on the fathers, and fed them with daily food from heaven; so that it is said, So man ate angels’ food. But yet all those who ate that food died in the wilderness, but that food which you receive, that living Bread which came down from heaven, furnishes the substance of eternal life; and whosoever shall eat of this Bread shall never die, and it is the Body of Christ.

Now consider whether the bread of angels be more excellent or the Flesh of Christ, which is indeed the body of life. That manna came from heaven, this is above the heavens; that was of heaven, this is of the Lord of the heavens; that was liable to corruption, if kept a second day, this is far from all corruption, for whosoever shall taste it holily shall not be able to feel corruption. For them water flowed from the rock, for you Blood flowed from Christ; water satisfied them for a time, the Blood satiates you for eternity. The Jew drinks and thirsts again, you after drinking will be beyond the power of thirsting; that was in a shadow, this is in truth.

If that which you so wonder at is but shadow, how great must that be whose very shadow you wonder at. See now what happened in the case of the fathers was shadow: They drank, it is said, of that Rock that followed them, and that Rock was Christ. But with many of them God was not well pleased, for they were overthrown in the wilderness. Now these things were done in a figure concerning us. 1 Cor. 10:4 You recognize now which are the more excellent, for light is better than shadow, truth than a figure, the Body of its Giver than the manna from heaven. (On the Mysteries 8)

On Union With Christ by Holy Communion

St. Cyril of Alexandria ca. 376-444

The Savior Himself declares, “Whoever eats My Flesh and drinks My Blood abides in Me and I in him.” By this statement it is to be seen that Christ does not say He will be in us only after the fashion of some relation that is solely intellectual, but also through a participation truly according to nature. Just as if someone were to entwine two pieces of wax together and melt them with a fire, so that both are made one, so too through participation in the Body of Christ and in His Precious Blood, He is united in us and we too in Him. In no other way can that corruptible nature be vivified except by being united bodily to the Body of Him who is, by His very nature, life: that is, the Only-begotten. (Commentary on John, on 15:1) 

 

 

On Fasting Before the Eucharist

Blessed Augustine of Hippo ca. 354-430

As to the question whether upon that day it is right to partake of food before either offering or partaking of the Eucharist, these words in the Gospel might go far to decide our minds, “As they were eating, Jesus took bread and blessed it;” taken in connection with the words in the preceding context, “When the even was come, He sat down with the twelve: and as they did eat, He said, Verily I say unto you, that one of you shall betray Me.” For it was after that that He instituted the sacrament; and it is clear that when the disciples first received the body and blood of the Lord, they had not been fasting.

Must we therefore censure the universal Church because the sacrament is everywhere partaken of by persons fasting? Nay, verily, for from that time it pleased the Holy Spirit to appoint, for the honour of so great a sacrament, that the body of the Lord should take the precedence of all other food entering the mouth of a Christian; and it is for this reason that the custom referred to is universally observed. For the fact that the Lord instituted the sacrament after other food had been partaken of, does not prove that brethren should come together to partake of that sacrament after having dined or supped, or imitate those whom the apostle reproved and corrected for not distinguishing between the Lord’s Supper and an ordinary meal. The Saviour, indeed, in order to commend the depth of that mystery more affectingly to His disciples, was pleased to impress it on their hearts and memories by making its institution His last act before going from them to His Passion. And therefore He did not prescribe the order in which it was to be observed, reserving this to be done by the apostles, through whom He intended to arrange all things pertaining to the Churches. Had He appointed that the sacrament should be always partaken of after other food, I believe that no one would have departed from that practice. But when the apostle, speaking of this sacrament, says, “Wherefore, my brethren, when ye come together to eat, tarry one for another: and if any man hunger, let him eat at home; that ye come not together unto condemnation,” he immediately adds, “and the rest will I set in order when I come.” Whence we are given to understand that, since it was too much for him to prescribe completely in an epistle the method observed by the universal Church throughout the world, it was one of the things set in order by him in person, for we find its observance uniform amid all the variety of other customs. (Letter to Januarius)

On the Salvation of Water

St. Cyril of Jerusalem ca. 313-386

He washed in the river Jordan, and having imparted of the fragrance of His Godhead to the waters, He came up from them; and the Holy Ghost in the fullness of His being lighted on Him, like resting upon like. And to you in like manner, after you had come up from the pool of the sacred streams, there was given an Unction, the anti-type of that wherewith Christ was anointed; and this is the Holy Ghost… (Catechetical Lectures 21.1)

Jacob of Serugh ca. 451-521

Christ came to baptism; He went down and placed in the baptismal water the robe of glory, to be there for Adam who had lost it. (Jacob of Serugh, [ed] P. Bedjan, III, p. 593)

On the Body and Blood of Christ

1 Cor. 11:23 I received of the Lord that which also I delivered unto you, how that the Lord Jesus, in the night in which He was betrayed, took bread, etc.

St. Cyril of Jerusalem ca. 313-386

Even of itself the teaching of the Blessed Paul is sufficient to give you a full assurance concerning those Divine Mysteries, of which having been deemed worthy, you have become of the same body and blood with Christ. For you have just heard him say distinctly, That our Lord Jesus Christ in the night in which He was betrayed, took bread, and when He had given thanks He broke it, and gave to His disciples, saying, Take, eat, this is My Body: and having taken the cup and given thanks, He said, Take, drink, this is My Blood. Since then He Himself declared and said of the Bread, This is My Body, who shall dare to doubt any longer? And since He has Himself affirmed and said, This is My Blood, who shall ever hesitate, saying, that it is not His blood?

He once in Cana of Galilee, turned the water into wine, akin to blood , and is it incredible that He should have turned wine into blood? When called to a bodily marriage, He miraculously wrought that wonderful work; and on the children of the bride-chamber Matt. 9:15, shall He not much rather be acknowledged to have bestowed the fruition of His Body and Blood ?

Wherefore with full assurance let us partake as of the Body and Blood of Christ: for in the figure of Bread is given to you His Body, and in the figure of Wine His Blood; that you by partaking of the Body and Blood of Christ, may be made of the same body and the same blood with Him. For thus we come to bear Christ in us, because His Body and Blood are distributed through our members; thus it is that, according to the blessed Peter, we become partakers of the divine nature 2 Pet. 1:4 .

Christ on a certain occasion discoursing with the Jews said, Except you eat My flesh and drink My blood, you have no life in you. Jn. 6:53 They not having heard His saying in a spiritual sense were offended, and went back, supposing that He was inviting them to eat flesh.

In the Old Testament also there was show-bread; but this, as it belonged to the Old Testament, has come to an end; but in the New Testament there is Bread of heaven, and a Cup of salvation, sanctifying soul and body; for as the Bread corresponds to our body, so is the Word appropriate to our soul.

Consider therefore the Bread and the Wine not as bare elements, for they are, according to the Lord’s declaration, the Body and Blood of Christ; for even though sense suggests this to you, yet let faith establish you. Judge not the matter from the taste, but from faith be fully assured without misgiving, that the Body and Blood of Christ have been vouchsafed to you.

Also the blessed David shall advise you the meaning of this, saying, You have prepared a table before me in the presence of them that afflict me. What he says, is to this effect: Before Your coming, the evil spirits prepared a table for men , polluted and defiled and full of devilish influence ; but since Your coming. O Lord, You have prepared a table before me. When the man says to God, You have prepared before me a table, what other does he indicate but that mystical and spiritual Table, which God has prepared for us over against, that is, contrary and in opposition to the evil spirits? And very truly; for that had communion with devils, but this, with God. You have anointed my head with oil. With oil He anointed your head upon your forehead, for the seal which you have of God; that you may be made the engraving of the signet, Holiness unto God. And your cup intoxicates me, as very strong. You see that cup here spoken of, which Jesus took in His hands, and gave thanks, and said, This is My blood, which is shed for many for the remission of sins Matt. 26:28 .

Therefore Solomon also, hinting at this grace, says in Ecclesiastes, Come hither, eat your bread with joy (that is, the spiritual bread; Come hither, he calls with the call to salvation and blessing), and drink your wine with a merry heart (that is, the spiritual wine); and let oil be poured out upon your head you see he alludes even to the mystic Chrism); and let your garments be always white, for the Lord is well pleased with your works Eccl.9:7-8; for before you came to Baptism, your works were vanity of vanities. But now, having put off your old garments, and put on those which are spiritually white, you must be continually robed in white: of course we mean not this, that you are always to wear white raiment; but you must be clad in the garments that are truly white and shining and spiritual, that you may say with the blessed Esaias, My soul shall be joyful in my God; for He has clothed me with a garment of salvation, and put a robe of gladness around me Isa. 61:10 .

Having learned these things, and been fully assured that the seeming bread is not bread, though sensible to taste, but the Body of Christ; and that the seeming wine is not wine, though the taste will have it so, but the Blood of Christ ; and that of this David sung of old, saying, And bread strengthens man’s heart, to make his face to shine with oil , strengthen your heart, by partaking thereof as spiritual, and make the face of your soul to shine. And so having it unveiled with a pure conscience, may you reflect as a mirror the glory of the Lord 2 Cor. 3:18, and proceed from glory to glory, in Christ Jesus our Lord:— To whom be honour, and might, and glory, for ever and ever. Amen. (Catchetical Lectures 22: On the Mysteries IV)

The Eucharist is the Body and Blood of Christ

Abba Daniel ca. 3rd-4th cent.
 
This is what Abba Daniel the Pharanite said, ‘Our father Abba Arsenius told us of an inhabitant of Scetis, of notable life and simple faith; through his naivete he was deceived and said, ‘The bread which we receive is not really the body of Christ, but a symbol.” Two old men having learnt that he uttered this saying, knowing that he was outstanding in his way of life, knew that he had not spoken through malice, but through simplicity. So they came to find him and said ‘Father, we have heard a proposition contrary to the faith on the part of someone who says that the bread which we receive is not really the body of Christ, but a symbol.’ The old man said, ‘It is I who have said that.’ Then the old men exhorted him saying, ‘Do not hold this position, Father, but hold one in conformity with that which the Catholic Church has given us. We believe, for our part, that the bread itself is the body of Christ and that the cup itself is His blood and this in all truth and not a symbol. But as in the beginning, God formd man is His image, taking dust from the earth, without anyone being able to say that it is not the image of God, even though it is not seen to be so; thus it is with the bread of which He said that it is His body; and so we believe that it is really the body of Christ.’ The old man said to them, ‘As long as I have not been persuaded by the thing itself, I shall not be fully convinced.’ So they said, ‘Let us pray God about this mystery throughout the whole of this week and we believe that God will reveal it to us.’ The old man received this saying with joy and he prayed these words, ‘Lord, you know that it is not through malice that I do not believe and so that I may not err through ignorance, reveal this mystery to me, Lord Jesus Christ.’ The old men returned to their cells and they also prayed to God, saying, ‘Lord Jesus Christ, reveal this mystery to the old man, that he may believe and not lose his reward.’ God heard both the prayers. At the end of the week they came to church on Sunday and sat all three on the same mat, the old man in the middle. Then their eyes were opened and when the bread was placed on the holy table, there appeared as it were a little child to these three alone. And when the priest put out his hand to break the bread, behold an angel descended from heaven with a sword and poured the child’s blood into a chalice. When the priest cut the bread into small pieces, the angel cut the child in pieces. When they drew near to receive the sacred elements the old man alone received a morsel of bloody flesh. Seeing this he was afraid and cried out, ‘Lord, I believe that this bread is your flesh and this chalice your blood.’ Immediately the flesh which he held in his hand became bread, according to the mystery and he took it, giving thanks to God. Then the old men said to him, ‘God knows human nature and that man cannot eat raw flesh and that is why he has changed his body into bread and his blood into wine, for those who receive it in faith.’ Then they gave thanks to God for the old man, because he had allowed him not to lose the reward of his labor. So all three returned with joy to their own cells. (The Sayings of the Desert Fathers: The Alphabetical Collection trans. by Benedicta Ward. Daniel 7)

On Confessing

St. John of Kronstadt 1829-1908

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

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

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

 

St. John Cassian 360-435 

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

Wisdom Hath Builded Her House

St. Hippolytus of Rome ca. 170-235

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

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

On Eating Fire and Spirit

St. Ephrem the Syrian ca. 306-373

Our Lord Jesus took in His hands what in the beginning was only bread; and He blessed it, and signed it, and made it holy in the name of the Father and in the name of the Spirit; and He broke it and in His gracious kindness He distributed it to all His disciples one by one. He called the bread His living Body, and did Himself fill it with Himself and the Spirit.

And extending His hand, He gave them the Bread which His right hand had made holy: “Take, all of you eat of this, which My word has made holy. Do not now regard as bread that which I have given you; but take, eat this Bread, and do not scatter the crumbs; for what I have called My Body, that it is indeed. One particle from its crumbs is able to sanctify thousands and thousands, and is sufficient to afford life to those who eat of it. Take, eat, entertaining no doubt of faith, because this is My Body, and whoever eats it in belief eats in it Fire and Spirit. But if any doubter eat of it, for him it will be only bread. And whoever eats in belief the Bread made holy in My name, if he be pure, he will be preserved in his purity; and if he be a sinner, he will be forgiven.” But if anyone despise it or reject it or treat it with ignominy, it may be taken as a certainty that he treats with ignominy the Son, who called it and actually made it to be His Body. (Songs of Praise 4.4)

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 the Origin of Single Immersion Baptism

Constantinople I 381, 2nd Ecumenical Council 
 
Those who from heresy turn to orthodoxy, and to the portion of those who are being saved, we receive according to the following method and custom: Arians, and Macedonians, and Sabbatians, and Novatians, who call themselves Cathari or Aristori, and Quarto-decimans or Tetradites, and Apollinarians, we receive, upon their giving a written renunciation [of their errors] and anathematize every heresy which is not in accordance with the Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church of God. Thereupon, they are first sealed or anointed with the holy oil upon the forehead, eyes, nostrils, mouth, and ears; and when we seal them, we say, The Seal of the gift of the Holy Ghost. But Eunomians, who are baptized with only one immersion, and Montanists, who are here called Phrygians, and Sabellians, who teach the identity of Father and Son, and do sundry other mischievous things, and [the partisans of] all other heresies— for there are many such here, particularly among those who come from the country of the Galatians:— all these, when they desire to turn to orthodoxy, we receive as heathen. On the first day we make them Christians; on the second, catechumens; on the third, we exorcise them by breathing thrice in their face and ears; and thus we instruct them and oblige them to spend some time in the Church, and to hear the Scriptures; and then we baptize them. (Canon 5)
 
International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (ISBE): Trine (Triune) Immersion 

Eunomius (circa 360) introduced single immersion “into the death of Christ.” This innovation was condemned. Apostolical Constitutions, 50, says, “If any presbyter or bishop does not perform the one initiation with three immersions, but with giving one immersion only into the death of the Lord, let him be deposed.” Single immersion was allowed by Gregory the Great (circa 691) to the church in Spain in opposition to the Arians who used a trine (not triune) immersion (Epis., i. 43). This was exceptional.  

 

 

On Gaining Love Through Confession

1 Jn 4:18 There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love.

St. Diadochos of Photiki ca. 5th cent.

If we do not confess our involuntary sins as we should, we shall discover an ill-defined fear in ourselves at the hour of our death. We who love the Lord should pray that we should be without fear at that time; for if we are afraid then, we will not be able to freely pass the rulers of the nether-world.  They will have as their advocate to plead against us the fear which our soul experiences because of its own wickedness. But the soul which experiences the love of God, at the hour of its departure, is lifted with the angels of peace above all the hosts of darkness. (Philokalia Vol. 1, pg. 295: On Spiritual Knowledge, 100)

St. Cyril On Water

St. Cyril of Jerusalem ca. 313-386

But if any one wishes to know why the grace is given by water and not by a different element, let him take up the Divine Scriptures and he shall learn. For water is a grand thing, and the noblest of the four visible elements of the world. Heaven is the dwelling-place of Angels, but the heavens are from the waters : the earth is the place of men, but the earth is from the waters: and before the whole six days’ formation of the things that were made, the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the water. Gen. 1:2 The water was the beginning of the world, and Jordan the beginning of the Gospel tidings: for Israel deliverance from Pharaoh was through the sea, and for the world deliverance from sins by the washing of water with the word Eph. 5:26 of God. Where a covenant is made with any, there is water also. After the flood, a covenant was made with Noah: a covenant for Israel from Mount Sinai, but with water, and scarlet wool, and hyssop. Heb. 9:19 Elias is taken up, but not apart from water: for first he crosses the Jordan, then in a chariot mounts the heaven. The high-priest is first washed, then offers incense; for Aaron first washed, then was made high-priest: for how could one who had not yet been purified by water pray for the rest? Also as a symbol of Baptism there was a laver set apart within the Tabernacle. (Catechetical Lectures, 3.5) 

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On Infant Baptism

Council of Carthage ca. 419

Likewise it seemed good that whosoever denies that infants newly from their mother’s wombs should be baptized, or says that baptism is for remission of sins, but that they derive from Adam no original sin, which needs to be removed by the laver of regeneration, from whence the conclusion follows, that in them the form of baptism for the remission of sins, is to be understood as false and not true, let him be anathema.

For no otherwise can be understood what the Apostle says, By one man sin has come into the world, and death through sin, and so death passed upon all men in that all have sinned, than the Catholic Church everywhere diffused has always understood it. For on account of this rule of faith (regulam fidei) even infants, who could have committed as yet no sin themselves, therefore are truly baptized for the remission of sins, in order that what in them is the result of generation may be cleansed by regeneration. (Canon 110)

St. Gregory on the Mysteries

St. Gregory of Nyssa ca. 335-394

Despise not, therefore, the Divine laver, nor think lightly of it, as a common thing, on account of the use of water. For the power that operates is mighty, and wonderful are the things that are wrought thereby. For this holy altar, too, by which I stand, is stone, ordinary in its nature, nowise different from the other slabs of stone that build our houses and adorn our pavements; but seeing that it was consecrated to the service of God, and received the benediction, it is a holy table, an altar undefiled, no longer touched by the hands of all, but of the priests alone, and that with reverence. The bread again is at first common bread, but when the sacramental action consecrates it, it is called, and becomes, the Body of Christ. So with the sacramental oil; so with the wine: though before the benediction they are of little value, each of them, after the sanctification bestowed by the Spirit, has its several operation. The same power of the word, again, also makes the priest venerable and honourable, separated, by the new blessing bestowed upon him, from his community with the mass of men. While but yesterday he was one of the mass, one of the people, he is suddenly rendered a guide, a president, a teacher of righteousness, an instructor in hidden mysteries; and this he does without being at all changed in body or in form; but, while continuing to be in all appearance the man he was before, being, by some unseen power and grace, transformed in respect of his unseen soul to the higher condition. (On the Baptism of Christ)

St. Epiphanius on Bishops and Priests

St. Epiphanius of Salamis ca. 315-403
 
To those who have any intelligence it is clear that to say that bishop and priest are equal is the utter fullness of stupidity. And how should this be possible? This order [of episcopate] is a begetting of fathers; for it begets fathers to the Church; but the other, not able to beget fathers, begets children for the Church, through the rebirth of Baptism, but not fathers or teachers. And how were it possible for someone to ordain a priest, if he did not himself have hands laid on him for the laying on of hands, or to say that he is equal to the bishop? (Panarion 75.4)

 

 

The Mystery of Mysteries

St. Nectarios of Aegina 1846-1920

The Mysterion of the Divine Eucharist that has been handed down by the Lord is the hightest of all the Mysteria; it is the most wondrous of all the miracles which the power of God has performed; it is the highest which the wisdom of God has conceived; it is the most precious of all the gifts which the love of God has bestowed upon men. For all the other miracles result through a transcendence of certain laws of Nature, but the Mysterion of the Divine Eucharist transcends all these laws. Hence it may justly be called, and be viewed as, the miracle of miracles and the Mysterion of Mysteria.  (“Modern Orthodox Saints, St. Nectarios of Aegina”, by Dr. Constantine Cavarnos)

Source: http://www.serfes.org/writtings/stnectarios.htm

St. Diadochos on Baptism

SAINT DIADOCHOS

“We share in the image of God by virtue of the intellectual activity of our soul; for the body is, as it were, the soul’s dwelling-place. Now as a result of Adam’s fall, not only were the lineaments of the form imprinted on the soul befouled, but our body also became subject to corruption. It was because of this that the holy Logos of God took flesh and, being God, He bestowed on us through His own baptism the water of salvation, so that we might be reborn. We are reborn through water by the action of the holy and life-creating Spirit, so that if we commit ourselves totally to God, we are immediately purified in soul and body by the Holy Spirit who now dwells in us and drives out sin. Since the form imprinted on the soul is single and simple, it is not possible, as some have thought, for two contrary powers to be present in the soul simultaneously. For when through holy baptism divine grace in its infinite love permeates the lineaments of God’s image – thereby renewing in the soul the capacity for attaining the divine likeness – what place is there for the devil? For light has nothing in common with darkness (cf. 2 Cor. 6:14). We who are pursuing the spiritual way believe that the protean serpent is expelled from the shrine of the intellect through the waters of baptism; but we must not be surprised if after baptism we still have wicked as well as good thoughts. For although baptism removes from us the stain resulting from sin, it does not thereby heal the duality of our will immediately, neither does it prevent the demons from attacking us or speaking deceitful words to us. In this way we are led to take up the weapons of righteousness, and to preserve through the power of God what we could not keep safe through the efforts of our soul alone. (AD 451) On Spiritual Knowledge and Discrimination

On Christ Being Sacrificed Once and For All

St. John Chrysostom ca. 349-407

What then? Do not we offer every day? We offer indeed, but making a remembrance of His death, and this [remembrance] is one and not many. How is it one, and not many? Inasmuch as that [Sacrifice] was once for all offered, [and] carried into the Holy of Holies. This is a figure of that [sacrifice] and this remembrance of that. For we always offer the same, not one sheep now and tomorrow another, but always the same thing: so that the sacrifice is one. And yet by this reasoning, since the offering is made in many places, are there many Christs? But Christ is one everywhere, being complete here and complete there also, one Body.  As then while offered in many places, He is one body and not many bodies; so also [He is] one sacrifice. He is our High Priest, who offered the sacrifice that cleanses us. That we offer now also, which was then offered, which cannot be exhausted. (Homily 17 On Hebrews, 6)

St. Nicholas on The Mysteries and Works

St. Nicholas Cabasilas ca. 1323-1391

Now that the Sun has risen and diffused His light everywhere by means of the Mysteries there must be no delay of human works and efforts. We must feed on our Bread “in the sweat of our face” (Gen. 3:19) since it is “broken for us” (1 Cor. 11:24), for it is appointed only for those who are endowed with reason. Since it is the Lord who says, “Labor for the food which endures” (Jn. 6:27), He commands us not to be idle and inactive, but to come to His banquet as those who have been working. If, then, Paul’s injunction bans the lazy even from the transitory table of this life, saying, “if anyone is idle, let him not even eat” (2 Thess. 3:10), what works are needed on the part of those who are called to this table! (The Life in Christ, Fourth Book: 11)

St. Hilary on the Eucharist

St. Hilary of Poitiers ca. 300-368

The words in which we speak of the things of God must be used in no mere human and worldly sense, nor must the perverseness of an alien and impious interpretation be extorted from the soundness of heavenly words by any violent and headstrong preaching. Let us read what is written, let us understand what we read, and then fulfil the demands of a perfect faith. For as to what we say concerning the reality of Christ’s nature within us, unless we have been taught by Him, our words are foolish and impious. For He says Himself, My flesh is meat indeed, and My blood is drink indeed. He that eats My flesh and drinks My blood abides in Me, and I in him. (Jn. 6:55-56) As to the verity of the flesh and blood there is no room left for doubt. For now both from the declaration of the Lord Himself and our own faith, it is verily flesh and verily blood. And these when eaten and drunk, bring it to pass that both we are in Christ and Christ in us. Is not this true? Yet they who affirm that Christ Jesus is not truly God are welcome to find it false. He therefore Himself is in us through the flesh and we in Him, while together with Him our own selves are in God. (On the Trinity Bk. 8.14)

St. Aphrahat on the Eucharist

St. Aphrahat the Persian ca. 270-345

But the Lord was not yet arrested. After having spoken thus, the Lord rose up from the place where He had made the Passover and had given His Body as food and His Blood as drink, and He went with His disciples to the place where He was to be arrested. But He ate His own Body and drank of His own Blood, while He was pondering on the dead. With His own hands the Lord presented His own Body to be eaten, and before He was crucified He gave His Blood as drink; and He was taken at night on the fourteenth, and was judged until the sixth hour; and at the sixth hour they condemned Him and raised Him on the Cross. (Treatises, 12, 6; JR, v. 1, 689. Excerpted from R. Sungenis “Not By Bread Alone” by pg. 205)

Blessed Jerome on the Priesthood

Blessed Jerome ca. 347-420

Driven from this line of defence you will appeal to the example of the clergy. These, you will say, remain in their cities, and yet they are surely above criticism. Far be it from me to censure the successors of the Apostles, who with holy words consecrate the body of Christ, and who make us Christians. Having the keys of the kingdom of heaven, they judge men to some extent before the day of judgment, and guard the chastity of the bride of Christ. But, as I have before hinted, the case of monks is different from that of the clergy. The clergy feed Christ’s sheep; I as a monk am fed by them. They live of the altar: 1 Cor. 9:13-14 I, if I bring no gift to it, have the axe laid to my root as to that of a barren tree. Mat. 3:10 Nor can I plead poverty as an excuse, for the Lord in the Gospel has praised an aged widow for casting into the treasury the last two coins that she had. Lk. 21:1-4 I may not sit in the presence of a presbyter; he, if I sin, may deliver me to Satan, for the destruction of the flesh that the spirit may be saved. 1 Cor. 5:5 Under the old law he who disobeyed the priests was put outside the camp and stoned by the people, or else he was beheaded and expiated his contempt with his blood. Deut. 17:5, 12 But now the disobedient person is cut down with the  spiritual sword, or he is expelled from the church and torn to pieces by ravening demons. (Letter 14.8)

St. Epiphanius on the Eucharist

St. Epiphanius of Salamis ca. 315-403

We see that the Saviour took [something] in His hands, as it is in the Gospel, when He was reclining at the supper; and He took this, and giving thanks, He said: ‘This is really Me.’ And He gave to His disciples and said: ‘This is really Me.’ And we see that it is not equal nor similar, not to the incarnate image, not to the invisible divinity, not to the outline of His limbs. For it is round of shape, and devoid of feeling. As to its power, He means to say even of its grace, ‘This is really Me.’; and none disbelieves His word. For anyone who does not believe the truth in what He says is deprived of grace and of a Saviour. (The Man Well-Anchored, 57)

The Efficacy of Holy Water

Bede the Venerable ca. 673-735

WHEN Cuthbert, the man of God, after having been elected to the bishopric, had returned to his island, and for some time had served God in secret with his accustomed devotion, the venerable Bishop Eata called him and requested him to come to an interview with him at Melrose. The conversation being finished, and Cuthbert having commenced his journey homewards, a certain attendant of King Egfrid met him, and besought him that he would turn aside and give a benediction at his house. When he had arrived there, and had received the grateful salutations of all, the man pointed out to him one of his servants who was infirm, saying, ” I thank God, most holy father, that you have thought worthy to enter our house to see us, and, indeed, we believe that your arrival will afford us the greatest profit both of mind and body. For there is one of our servants tormented with the worst infirmity, and is this day afflicted with such great pain that he appears more like a man dying than sick. For his extremities being dead, he seems only to breathe a little through his mouth and nostrils.” Cuthbert immediately blessed some water, and gave it to a servant whose name was Baldhelm, who is still alive and filling the office of presbyter in the bishopric of Lindisfarne, which he adorns by his good qualities. He also has the faculty of relating in the sweetest manner the virtues of the man of God to all who are desirous of knowing, and it was he that told me the miracle which I relate. The man of God, then, giving him the holy water, said, ” Go and give it to the sick man to drink.” In obedience to these words he brought the water to the sick man, and when he poured it into his mouth the third time, the sick man, contrary to his usual custom, fell asleep. It was now evening, and he passed the night in silence, and in the morning appeared quite well when his master visited him. (St. Bede, The Life and Miracles of St. Cuthbert of Lindisfarne Chap. XXV)

WHEN he was one day going round his parish to give spiritual admonitions throughout the rural districts, cottages, and villages, and to lay his hand on all the lately baptized, that they might receive the Holy Spirit, he came to the mansion of a certain earl, whose wife lay sick almost unto death. The earl himself, meeting him as he entered, thanked the Lord on his knees for his arrival, and received him with kind hospitality. When his feet and hands were washed, according to the custom of hospitality, and the bishop had sat down, the man began to tell him about the sickness of his wife, who was despaired of, and besought him to consecrate some water to sprinkle on her. ” I believe,” said he, ” that by-and-by she will either, by the grace of God, be restored to health, or else she will pass by death to life eternal, and soon receive a recompense for so heavy and long-continued trouble.” The man of God assented to his prayers, and having blessed the water which was brought to him, gave it to the priest, directing him to sprinkle it on the patient. He entered the bedroom in which she lay, as if dead, and sprinkled her and the bed, and poured some of the healing draught down her throat. Oh, wonderful and extraordinary circumstance ! the holy water had scarcely touched the patient, who was wholly ignorant what was brought her, than she was so restored to health, both of mind and body, that being come to her senses she blessed the Lord and returned thanks to Him, that He thought her worthy to be visited and healed by such exalted guests. She got up without delay, and being now well, ministered to those who had been instrumental in curing her; and it was extraordinary to see her, who had escaped the bitter cup of death by the bishop’s benediction, now the first of the nobleman’s family to offer him refreshment, following the example of the mother-in-law of the Apostle Peter, who, being cured of a fever by the Lord, arose forthwith and ministered unto Him and his disciples. (ibid., Chap. XXIX)

Nature as Sacramental

SAINT CLEMENT

“Let us consider, beloved, how the Master is continually proving to us that there will be a future resurrection, of which He has made the Lord Jesus Christ the firstling, by raising Him from the dead. Let us look, beloved, at the resurrection which is taking place seasonally. Day and night make known the resurrection to us. The night sleeps, the day arises. Consider the plants that grow. How and in what manner does the sowing take place? The sower went forth and cast each of the seeds onto the ground; and they fall to the ground, parched and bare, where they decay. Then from their decay the greatness of the Master’s providence raises them up, and from the one grain more grow, and bring forth fruit.”

LETTER TO THE CORINTHIANS [ca. A. D. 80 (96/98?)]

On the Types of Baptisms

St. Gregory the Theologian ca. 329-389
 
Now, since our Festival is of Baptism, and we must endure a little hardness with Him Who for our sake took form, and was baptized, and was crucified; let us speak about the different kinds of Baptism, that we may come out thence purified. Moses baptized Lev. 11 but it was in water, and before that in the cloud and in the sea. 1 Cor. 10:2 This was typical as Paul says; the Sea of the water, and the Cloud of the Spirit; the Manna, of the Bread of Life; the Drink, of the Divine Drink. John also baptized; but this was not like the baptism of the Jews, for it was not only in water, but also unto repentance. Still it was not wholly spiritual, for he does not add And in the Spirit. Jesus also baptized, but in the Spirit. This is the perfect Baptism. And how is He not God, if I may digress a little, by whom you too are made God? I know also a Fourth Baptism— that by Martyrdom and blood, which also Christ himself underwent:— and this one is far more august than all the others, inasmuch as it cannot be defiled by after-stains. Yes, and I know of a Fifth also, which is that of tears, and is much more laborious, received by him who washes his bed every night and his couch with tears; whose bruises stink through his wickedness; and who goes mourning and of a sad countenance; who imitates the repentance of Manasseh 2 Chronicles 38:12 and the humiliation of the Ninevites Jonah 3:7-10 upon which God had mercy; who utters the words of the Publican in the Temple, and is justified rather than the stiff-necked Pharisee; Lk. 18:13 who like the Canaanite woman bends down and asks for mercy and crumbs, the food of a dog that is very hungry. Mat. 15:27 (Oration 39, 17)
 
St. John Damascene ca. 676-749

The first baptism was that of the flood for the eradication of sin.

The second Gen. 7:17 was through the sea and the cloud: for the cloud is the symbol of the Spirit and the sea of the water. 1 Cor. 10:1
 
The third baptism was that of the Law: for every impure person washed himself with water, and even washed his garments, and so entered into the camp. Lev. 14:8
 
The fourth was that of John , being preliminary and leading those who were baptized to repentance, that they might believe in Christ: I, indeed, he said, baptize you with water; but He that comes after me, He will baptize you in the Holy Spirit and in fire. Matt. 3:11 Thus John’s purification with water was preliminary to receiving the Spirit.
 
The fifth was the baptism of our Lord, whereby He Himself was baptized. Now He is baptized not as Himself requiring purification but as making my purification His own, that He may break the heads of the dragons on the water, that He may wash away sin and bury all the old Adam in water, that He may sanctify the Baptist, that He may fulfill the Law, that He may reveal the mystery of the Trinity, that He may become the type and ensample to us of baptism. But we, too, are baptized in the perfect baptism of our Lord, the baptism by water and the Spirit. Moreover, Christ is said to baptize with fire: because in the form of flaming tongues He poured forth on His holy disciples the grace of the Spirit: as the Lord Himself says, John truly baptized with water: but you shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit and with fire, not many days hence: Acts 1:5 or else it is because of the baptism of future fire wherewith we are to be chastised.
 
The sixth is that by repentance and tears, which baptism is truly grievous.
 
The seventh is baptism by blood and martyrdom, which baptism Christ Himself underwent in our behalf, Lk. 12:50 He Who was too august and blessed to be defiled with any later stains.
 
The eighth is the last, which is not saving, but which destroys evil: for evil and sin no longer have sway: yet it punishes without end. (An Exact Exposition of the Orthodox Faith, Bk. IV.9)

On Eucharistic Deification

St. John Chrysostom ca. 349-407

Wherefore it is necessary to understand the marvel of the Mysteries, what it is, why it was given, and what is the profit of the action. We become one Body, and members of His flesh and of His bones. Ephesians 5:30 Let the initiated follow what I say. In order then that we may become this not by love only, but in very deed, let us be blended into that flesh. This is effected by the food which He has freely given us, desiring to show the love which He has for us. On this account He has mixed up Himself with us; He has kneaded up His body with ours, that we might be a certain One Thing, like a body joined to a head. For this belongs to them who love strongly; this, for instance, Job implied, speaking of his servants, by whom he was beloved so exceedingly, that they desired to cleave unto his flesh. For they said, to show the strong love which they felt, Who would give us to be satisfied with his flesh? Job 31:31 Wherefore this also Christ has done, to lead us to a closer friendship, and to show His love for us; He has given to those who desire Him not only to see Him, but even to touch, and eat Him, and fix their teeth in His flesh, and to embrace Him, and satisfy all their love. Let us then return from that table like lions breathing fire, having become terrible to the devil; thinking on our Head, and on the love which He has shown for us. (Homily 46 On the Gospel of John, 3)

Beloved, see how we are honored! Yet some are so unreasonable and so ungrateful as to say, Why are we endowed with free will? But how in all the particulars which we have mentioned could we have imitated God, if there had been no free will? I rule Angels, He says, and so do you, through Him who is the First-fruits. 1 Cor. 15:23 I sit on a royal throne, and you are seated with Me in Him who is the First-fruits. As it is said, He has raised us up together and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus. Eph. 2:6 Through Him who is the First-fruits, Cherubim and Seraphim adore you, with all the heavenly host, principalities and powers, thrones and dominions. Disparage not your body, to which such high honors appertain, that the unbodied Powers tremble at it.

But what shall I say? It is not in this way only that I have shown My love to you, but by what I have suffered. For you I was spit upon, I was scourged. I emptied myself of glory, I left My Father and came to you, who dost hate Me, and turn from Me, and art loath to hear My Name. I pursued you, I ran after you, that I might overtake you. I united and joined you to myself, eat Me, drink Me, I said. Above I hold you, and below I embrace you. Is it not enough for you that I have your First-fruits above? Does not this satisfy your affection? I descended below: I not only am mingled with you, I am entwined in you. I am masticated, broken into minute particles, that the interspersion, and commixture, and union may be more complete. Things united remain yet in their own limits, but I am interwoven with you. I would have no more any division between us. I will that we both be one. (Homily 15 On 1st Timothy)

On Holy Chrism

In the Orthodox Church, the Holy Chrism is sanctified for use in the celebration of the sacrament of Chrismation. It is a visible sign of the transmission of gifts of the Holy Spirit to those who are baptized.

During the early years of Christianity, the transmission of the gifts of the Holy Spirit to the baptized were given by the Apostles through the “laying of hands.” It is stated in the Scriptures that, “Now when the Apostles at Jerusalem heard that Samaria had received the word of God, they sent to them Peter and John, who came down and prayed for them that they might receive the Holy Spirit, for it had not yet fallen on any of them, but they had only been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. Then they laid their hands upon them and they received the Holy Spirit.” (Acts 8:14‑17, R.S.V.)

When the Church spread throughout the world and the number of the baptized was greatly increased, it was not possible to continue the practice of Samaria. Consequently, the Apostles introduced the use of the sanctified Chrism. The Holy Chrism was sanctified by the Apostles and was continued thereafter by the bishops through the Apostolic Succession. The “laying on of hands” was completely replaced by the Holy Chrism to transmit gifts of the Holy Spirit.

The use of the Holy Chrism was introduced to the Christian Church from the existing Old Testament practice. It is stated that, “The Lord said to Moses, ‘Take the finest spices ‑‑ 12 pounds of liquid myrrh, 6 pounds of sweet‑smelling cinnamon, 6 pounds of sweet cane, and 12 pounds of cassia (all weighted according to official standard). Add one gallon of olive oil, and make a sacred anointing oil, mixed like perfume.”’ (Exodus 30:22‑25) (Excerpted from “The Sanctification of the Holy Chrism” by Pavlos Menesoglou)

Deut. 34:9 Now Joshua son of Nun was filled with the spirit of wisdom because Moses had laid his hands on him. So the Israelites listened to him and did what the Lord had commanded Moses.
 
1Sam. 16:12-13 And he sent, and brought him in. Now he was ruddy, and withal of a beautiful countenance, and goodly to look to. And the LORD said, Arise, anoint him: for this is he. Then Samuel took the horn of oil, and anointed him in the midst of his brethren: and the Spirit of the LORD came upon David from that day forward…
 
Acts 8:14-19 When the apostles in Jerusalem heard that Samaria had accepted the word of God, they sent Peter and John to them. When they arrived, they prayed for them that they might receive the Holy Spirit, because the Holy Spirit had not yet come upon any of them; they had simply been baptized into the name of the Lord Jesus. Then Peter and John placed their hands on them, and they received the Holy Spirit. When Simon saw that the Spirit was given at the laying on of the apostles’ hands, he offered them money and said, “Give me also this ability so that everyone on whom I lay my hands may receive the Holy Spirit.”
 
Acts 9:17 Then Ananias went to the house and entered it. Placing his hands on Saul, he said, “Brother Saul, the Lord-Jesus, who appeared to you on the road as you were coming here-has sent me so that you may see again and be filled with the Holy Spirit.”
 
Acts 19:1-6 While Apollos was at Corinth, Paul took the road through the interior and arrived at Ephesus. There he found some disciples and asked them, “Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?” They answered, “No, we have not even heard that there is a Holy Spirit.” So Paul asked, “Then what baptism did you receive?” “John’s baptism,” they replied. Paul said, “John’s baptism was a baptism of repentance. He told the people to believe in the one coming after him, that is, in Jesus.” On hearing this, they were baptized into the name of the Lord Jesus. When Paul placed his hands on them, the Holy Spirit came on them, and they spoke in tongues and prophesied.
 
Theophilus of Antioch fl. ca. 170

And about your laughing at me and calling me “Christian,” you know not what you are saying. First, because that which is anointed is sweet and serviceable, and far from contemptible. For what ship can be serviceable and seaworthy, unless it be first caulked [anointed]? Or what castle or house is beautiful and serviceable when it has not been anointed? And what man, when he enters into this life or into the gymnasium, is not anointed with oil? And what work has either ornament or beauty unless it be anointed and burnished? Then the air and all that is under heaven is in a certain sort anointed by light and spirit; and are you unwilling to be anointed with the oil of God? Wherefore we are called Christians on this account, because we are anointed with the oil of God. (To Autolycus 1.12)

Tertullian ca. 160-220

After this, when we have issued from the font, we are thoroughly anointed with a blessed unction,–a practice derived from the old discipline, wherein on entering the priesthood, then were wont to be anointed with oil from a horn, ever since Aaron was anointed by Moses. Whence Aaron is called “Christ,’ from the ‘chrism, ‘which is ‘the unction;’ which, when made spiritual, furnished an appropriate name to the Lord, because He was ‘anointed’ with the Spirit by God the Father; as written in the Acts: ‘For truly they were gathered together in this city against Thy Holy Son whom Thou hast anointed.’ Thus, too, in our case, the unction runs cornally, (on the body,) but profits spiritually; in the same way as the act of baptism itself too is carnal, in that we are plunged in water, but the effect spiritual, in that we are freed from sins. (On Baptism 7)

St. Hippolytus of Rome ca. 170-235

‘And she said to her maids, Bring me oil.’ For faith and love prepare oil and unguents to those who are washed. But what were these unguents, but the commandments of the holy Word? And what was the oil, but the power of the Holy Spirit, with which believers are anointed as with ointment after the layer of washing? All these things were figuratively represented in the blessed Susannah, for our sakes, that we who now believe on God might not regard the things that are done now in the Church as strange, but believe them all to have been set forth in figure by the patriarchs of old, as the apostle also says: ‘Now these things happened unto them for ensamples: and they were written for our instruction, on whom the ends of the world are come.’ (Commentary on Daniel)

St. Cyprian of Carthage died ca. 258

It is also necessary that he should be anointed who is baptized; so that, having received the chrism, that is, the anointing, he may be anointed of God, and have in him the grace of Christ. Further, it is the Eucharist whence the baptized are anointed with the oil sanctified on the altar. But he cannot sanctify the creature of oil, who has neither an altar nor a church; whence also there can be no spiritual anointing among heretics, since it is manifest that the oil cannot be sanctified nor the Eucharist celebrated at all among them. But we ought to know and remember that it is written, ‘Let not the oil of a sinner anoint my head,’ which the Holy Spirit before forewarned in the Psalms, lest any one going out of the way and wandering from the path of truth should be anointed by heretics and adversaries of Christ. (To Januarius, Epistle 70/69:2)

Council of Carthage VII ca. 256

[I]n the Gospel our Lord Jesus Christ spoke with his divine voice, saying, ‘Except a man be born again of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God’ [John 3:5]. This is the Spirit which from the beginning was borne over the waters; for neither can the Spirit operate without the water, nor the water without the Spirit. Certain people therefore interpret [this passage] for themselves wrongly, when they say that by imposition of the hand they receive the Holy Ghost, and are thus received, when it is manifest that they ought to be born again [initiated] in the Catholic Church by both sacraments. (Seventh Council of Carthage)

St. Aphrahat the Persian ca. 270-345

But a gate has been opened for seeking peace, whereby the mist has lifted from the reason of the multitude; and light has dawned in the mind; and from the glistening olive, fruits are put forth, in which there is a sign of the sacrament of life, by which Christians are perfected, as well as priests and kings and prophets. It illuminates the darkness, anoints the sick, and leads back penitents in its secret sacrament.  (Treatises, 23:3)

Council of Laodicea ca. 364

They who are baptized must after Baptism be anointed with the heavenly chrism, and be partakers of the Kingdom of Christ. (Canon 48)

St. Ephrem the Syrian ca. 306-373

That oil is a friend

of the Holy Spirit, and His servant.

Like a disciple, it accompanies Him,

that with which the priests and the anointed are sealed.

By means of the oil, the Holy Spirit impresses

His seal upon the sheep;

Like a signet pressed in wax,

He impresses His seal.

So also the invisible eal of the Spirit

is impressed on our bodies with the oil

With which we are anointed in Baptism,

whereby we bear His seal.

(Hymns on Virginity 7.6)

St. Cyril of Jerusalem ca. 313-386

…[B]eware of supposing this to be plain ointment. For as the Bread of the Eucharist. after the invocation of the Holy Ghost, is mere bread no longer, but the Body of Christ, so also this holy ointment is no more simple ointment, nor so to say common, after invocation, but it is Christ’s gift of grace, and, by the advent of the Holy Ghost, is made fit to impart His Divine Nature. Which ointment is symbolically applied to thy forehead and thy other senses; and while thy body is anointed with the visible ointment, thy soul is sanctified by the Holy and life-giving Spirit. (Catechetical Lectures 21.3)

St. Serapion of Thmuis fl. ca. 330 to 360

You may effect in this chrism a divine and heavenly operation, so that those baptized and anointed in tracing with it of the sign of the saving cross of the Only-begotten, through which cross Satan and every adverse power is turned aside and conquered, as if reborn and renewed through the bath of regeneration, may be made participants in the gift of the Holy Spirit, and confirmed by this seal, may remain firm and immovable, unharmed and inviolate. (Prayer over the Chrism)

St. Basil of Caesarea ca. 330-379

Moreover we bless the water of baptism and the oil of the chrism, and besides this the catechumen who is being baptized. On what written authority do we do this? Is not our authority silent and mystical tradition? Nay, by what written word is the anointing of oil itself taught? And whence comes the custom of baptizing thrice? And as to the other customs of baptism from what Scripture do we derive the renunciation of Satan and his angels? Does not this come from that unpublished and secret teaching which our fathers guarded in a silence out of the reach of curious meddling and inquisitive investigation? (On the Holy Spirit 27.66)

St. Gregory the Theologian ca. 329-389

But if you would fortify yourself beforehand with the Seal, and secure yourself for the future with the best and strongest of all aids, being signed both in body and in soul with the unction, as Israel was of old with that blood and unction of the firstborn at night that guarded him, Exo. 12:22 what then can happen to you, and what has been wrought out for you? Listen to the Proverbs. If you sit, he says, you shall be without fear; and if you sleep, your sleep shall be sweet. Prov. 3:24 And listen to David giving you the good news, You shall not be afraid for the terror by night, for mischance or noonday demon. This, even while you live, will greatly contribute to your sense of safety (for a sheep that is sealed is not easily snared, but that which is unmarked is an easy prey to thieves), and at your death a fortunate shroud, more precious than gold, more magnificent than a sepulchre, more reverent than fruitless libations, more seasonable than ripe firstfruits, which the dead bestow on the dead, making a law out of custom. Nay, if all things forsake you, Lk. 9:60 or be taken violently away from you; money, possessions, thrones, distinctions, and everything that belongs to this early turmoil, yet you will be able to lay down your life in safety, having suffered no loss of the helps which God gave you unto salvation. (Oration 40 On Holy Baptism 15)

St. Ambrose of Milan ca. 339-397

After this, you went up to the priest, consider what followed. Was it not that of which David speaks: Like the ointment upon the head, which went down to the beard, even Aaron’s beard? This is the ointment of which Solomon, too, says: Your Name is ointment poured out, therefore have the maidens loved You and drawn You. Songs 1:2 How many souls regenerated this day have loved You, Lord Jesus, and have said: Draw us after You, we are running after the odour of Your garments, Songs 1:3 that they might drink in the odour of Your resurrection.

Consider now why this is done, for the eyes of a wise man are in his head; Eccl. 2:14 therefore the ointment flows down to the beard, that is to say, to the beauty of youth; and therefore, Aaron’s beard, that we, too, may become a chosen race, priestly and precious, for we are all anointed with spiritual grace for a share in the kingdom of God and in the priesthood. (On the Mysteries 6.29-30)

Blessed Jerome ca. 347-420

Don’t you know that the laying on of hands after baptism and then the invocation of the Holy Spirit is a custom of the Churches? Do you demand Scripture proof? You may find it in the Acts of the Apostles. And even if it did not rest on the authority of Scripture the consensus of the whole world in this respect would have the force of a command. For many other observances of the Churches, which are due to tradition, have acquired the authority of the written law, as for instance the practice of dipping the head three times in the layer, and then, after leaving the water, of tasting mingled milk and honey in representation of infancy; and, again, the practices of standing up in worship on the Lord’s day, and ceasing from fasting every Pentecost; and there are many other unwritten practices which have won their place through reason and custom. So you see we follow the practice of the Church, although it may be clear that a person was baptized before the Spirit was invoked. (Against the Luciferians 8)

Blessed Augustine of Hippo ca. 354-430

Why, therefore, is the Head itself, whence that ointment of unity descended, that is, the spiritual fragrance of brotherly love,–why, I say, is the Head itself exposed to your resistance, while it testifies and declares that “repentance and remission of sins should be preached in His name among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem”? And by this ointment you wish the sacrament of chrism to be understood, which is indeed holy as among the class of visible signs, like baptism itself… (Letters of Petilian the Donatist, Bk. 2,104:239)

Apostolic Constitutions compiled ca. 375

But thou shalt beforehand anoint the person with the holy oil, and afterward baptize him with the water, and in the conclusion shall seal him with the ointment; that the anointing with oil may be the participation of the Holy Spirit, and the water the symbol of the death of Christ, and the ointment the seal of the covenants. But if there be neither oil nor ointment, water is sufficient both for the anointing, and for the seal, and for the confession of Him that is dead, or indeed is dying together with Christ. (Apostolic Constitutions, 7,2:22)

St. Cyril of Alexandria ca. 376-444

The living water of holy Baptism is given to us as if in rain, and the Bread of Life as if in wheat, and the Blood as if in wine. In Addition to this there is also the use of oil, reckoned as perfecting those who have been justified in Christ through holy baptism.(Commentary on the Minor Prophets, 32)

St. Patrick of Ireland ca. 387-493

The day after the newly baptized, anointed with chrism, in white garments (had been slain) – the fragrance was still on their foreheads when they were butchered and slaughtered with the sword by the above-mentioned people – I sent a letter with a holy presbyter whom I had taught from his childhood, clerics accompanying him, asking them to let us have some of the booty, and of the baptized they had made captives. They only jeered at them. (Letter to Coroticus)

Pope St. Leo the Great ca. 400-461

Today’s festival, dearly-beloved, hallowed by the descent of the Holy Ghost, is followed, as you know by a solemn fast, which being a salutary institution for the healing of soul and body, we must keep with devout observance. For when the Apostles had been filled with the promised power, and the Spirit of Truth had entered their hearts, we doubt not that among the other mysteries of heavenly doctrine this discipline of spiritual self-restraint was first thought of at the prompting of the Paraclete in order that minds sanctified by fasting might be fitter for the chrism to be bestowed on them. The disciples of Christ had the protection of the Almighty aid, and the chiefs of the infant Church were guarded by the whole Godhead of the Father and the Son through the presence of the Holy Ghost. (Sermon 78)

St. Dionysius the Areopagite ca. 5th cent.

…[T]he priests guide the man to the water and there he is handed over to the hierarch who, standing on a more elevated spot, immerses three times the initiate whose name is called out across the water by the priests to the hierarch with each immersion. Each time the initiate is plunged into the water and emerges, the hierarch invokes the three Persons of the divine blessedness. The priests then bring the man back to his sponsor, to the one who had brought him for introduction, and together with him they reclothe the man and bring him back once more to the hierarch. Using the most potently divine ointment he makes the sign of the cross on him and proclaims him ready to participate in the sacredly initiating Eucharist. (The Ecclesiastical Hierarchy Chap. 2)

Pope St. Gregory the Dialogist ca. 540-604

It has also come to our ears that some have been offended by our having forbidden presbyters to touch with chrism those who are to be baptized. And we indeed acted according to the ancient use of our Church: but, if any are in fact hereby distressed, we allow that, where there is a lack of bishops, presbyters may touch with chrism, even on their foreheads, those who are to be baptized. (Letters Bk. 4.26)

Bede the Venerable ca. 673-735

The spiritual anointing is the Holy Spirit Himself, whose sacrament is the visible anointing. He says that all who have this anointing of Christ perceive good and evil and do not need to be taught, because the anointing it self teaches them.(Commentary on 1st John)

St. John Damascene ca. 676-749

Olive oil is employed in baptism as a significant of our anointing, and as making us anointed, and as announcing to us through the Holy Spirit God’s pity: for it was the fruit of the olive that the dove brought to those who were saved from the flood. (An Exposition of the Orthodox Faith Bk. 4.9)

Council of Trullo ca. 692

Those who from the heretics come over to orthodoxy, and to the number of those who should be saved, we receive according to the following order and custom. Arians, Macedonians, Novatians, who call themselves Cathari, Aristeri, and Testareskaidecatitæ, or Tetraditæ, and Apollinarians, we receive on their presentation of certificates and on their anathematizing every heresy which does not hold as does the holy Apostolic Church of God: then first of all we anoint them with the holy chrism on their foreheads, eyes, nostrils, mouth and ears; and as we seal them we say— The seal of the gift of the Holy Ghost. (Canon 95)

On the Holy Sacrifice

Pope St. Gregory the Dialogist ca. 540-604

And here also we have diligently to consider, that it is far more secure and safe that every man should do that for himself while he is yet alive, which he desireth that others should do for him after his death. For far more blessed it is, to depart free out of this world, than being in prison to seek for release: and therefore reason teacheth us, that we should with our whole soul contemn this present world, at least because we see that it is now gone and past: and to offer unto God the daily sacrifice of tears, and the daily sacrifice of His body and blood. For this sacrifice doth especially save our souls from everlasting damnation, which in mystery doth renew unto us the death of the Son of God: who although being risen from death, doth not now die any more, nor death shall not any further prevail against Him: yet living in Himself immortally, and without all corruption, He is again sacrificed for us in this mystery of the holy oblation: for there His body is received, there His flesh is distributed for the salvation of the people: there His blood is not now shed betwixt the hands of infidels, but poured into the mouths of the faithful. Wherefore let us hereby meditate what manner of sacrifice this is, ordained for us, which for our absolution doth always represent the passion of the only Son of God: for what right believing Christian can doubt, that in the very hour of the sacrifice, at the words of the Priest, the heavens be opened, and the choirs of Angels are present in that mystery of Jesus Christ; that high things are accompanied with low, and earthly joined to heavenly, and that one thing is made of visible and invisible? (The Dialogues Bk. 4 Chap. 58)

On Christ and Chrism

St. Nicholas Cabasilas ca. 1323-1391

Christ the Lord was Himself anointed, not by receiving chrism poured on the head, but by receivng the Holy Spirit. For the sake of the flesh which He had assumed He became the treasury of all spiritual energy. He is not only Christ [the Anointed One] but also Chrism [anointing], for it says, “Your name is ointment poured forth” (Cant. 1:3) The latter He is from the beginning, the other He became afterwards. As long as that by which God would impart His own did not exist, He was the Chrism and remained in Himself. Afterwards the blessed flesh was created which received the entire fulness of the Godhead (Col. 1:19). To it, as John says, “God did not give the Spirit by measure” (Jn. 3:34), but He infused into Him His entire living riches. It was then that the Chrism was poured forth into that flesh, so it is now called the Christ. By being imparted to the flesh the divine Chrism Himself was poured forth.

He did not change place, nor did He penetrate or pass over a wall, but as He Himself showed, He left no barrier standing which could seperate us from Him. Since God occupies every place He was not seperated from man by place, but by man’s variance with Him. Our nature seperated itself from God by being contrary to Him in everything that it possessed and by having nothing in common with Him. God remained Himself alone; our nature was man, and no more.

When, however, flesh was deified and human nature gained possession of God Himself by hypostatic union, the former barrier opposed to God became joined to the Chrism. The difference gave way when God became man, thus removing the seperation between Godhead and manhood. So chrism represents Christ as the point of contact between both natures; there could be no point of contact were they still seperate. (The Life in Christ, The Third Book 2)

On Salvation and the Flesh

Tertullian ca. 160-220

Let us now consider its special relation to Christianity, and see how vast a privilege before God has been conferred on this poor and worthless substance. It would suffice to say, indeed, that there is not a soul that can at all procure salvation, except it believe while it is in the flesh, so true is it that the flesh is the very condition on which salvation hinges. And since the soul is, in consequence of its salvation, chosen to the service of God, it is the flesh which actually renders it capable of such service. The flesh, indeed, is washed, in order that the soul may be cleansed; the flesh is anointed, that the soul may be consecrated; the flesh is signed (with the cross), that the soul too may be fortified; the flesh is shadowed with the imposition of hands, that the soul also maybe illuminated by the Spirit; the flesh feeds on the Body and Blood of Christ, that the soul likewise may fatten on its God. (On the Resurrection of the Flesh 8)

St. Ephrem on the Sign of Salvation

Eze 9:4 And the Lord said to him: Go through the midst of the city, through the midst of Jerusalem: and mark Tau upon the foreheads of the men that sigh, and mourn for all the abominations that are committed in the midst thereof.

St. Ephrem of Syria ca. 306-373

“And mark a sign upon the foreheads of the men that sigh”, he says, for the circumcision of the flesh sufficed not unto salvation, and therefore has it been set aside, and the sign of the cross is substituted in its place” (T. ii. Syr. Comm. in Ezek.

St. Cyril on the Purpose of the Eucharist

St. Cyril of Alexandria ca. 376-444

Let them then, who of their folly have not yet admitted the faith in Christ, hear, Except ye eat the Flesh of the Son of Man and drink His Blood, ye have no life in you. For wholly destitute of all share and taste of that life which is in sanctification and bliss, do they abide who do not through the mystical Blessing receive Jesus. For He is Life by Nature, inasmuch as He was begotten of a Living Father: no less quickening is His Holy Body also, being in a manner gathered and ineffably united with the all-quickening Word. Wherefore It is accounted His, and is conceived of as One with Him. For, since the Incarnation, it is inseparable; except as regards the knowledge that the Word Which came from God the Father, and the temple from the Virgin, are not indeed the same in nature (for the Body is not consubstantial with the Word from God), yet are they One by that coming-together and ineffable concurrence. And since the Flesh of the Saviour hath become life-giving (as being united to That which is by Nature Life, the Word from God), when we taste It, then have we life in ourselves, we too united to It, as It to the indwelling Word. For this cause also, when He raised the dead, the Saviour is found to have operated, not by word only, or God-befitting commands, but He laid a stress on employing His Holy Flesh as a sort of co-operator unto this, that He might shew that It had the power to give life, and was already made one with Him. For it was in truth His Own Body, and not another’s. And verily when He was raising the little daughter of the chief of the Synagogue saying, Maid, arise, He laid hold of her hand, as it is written, giving life, as God, by His All-Powerful command, and again, giving life through the touch of His Holy Flesh, He shews that there was one kindred operation through both. Yea and when He went into the city called Nain, and one was being carried out dead, the only son of his mother, again He touched the bier, saying, Young man, to thee I say, Arise. And not only to His Word gives He power to give life to the dead, but that He might shew that His Own Body was life-giving (as I have said already), He touches the dead, thereby also infusing life into those already decayed. And if by the touch alone of His Holy Flesh, He giveth life to that which is decayed, how shall we not profit yet more richly by the life-giving Blessing when we also taste It? For It will surely transform into Its own good, i. e., immortality, those who partake of It. (Commentary on John Bk. 4 Chap. II)

For we are made one with each other after the manner already indicated, and we are also made one with God. And in what sense we are made one with Him, the Lord very clearly explained, and to make the benefit of His teaching plain, added the words: I in them, and Thou in Me, that they may be made perfected into one. For the Son dwells in us in a corporeal sense as Man, commingled and united with us by the mystery of the Eucharist; and also in a spiritual sense as God, by the effectual working and grace of His own Spirit, building up our spirit into newness of life, and making us partakers of His Divine Nature. Christ, then, is seen to be the bond of union between us and God the Father; as Man making us, as it were, His branches, and as God by Nature inherent in His own Father. For no otherwise could that nature which is subject to corruption be uplifted into incorruption, but by the coming down to it of That Nature Which is high above all corruption and variableness, lightening the burthen of ever sinking humanity, so that it can attain its own good; and by drawing it into fellowship and intercourse with Itself, well-nigh extricating it from the limitations which suit the creature, and fashioning into conformity with Itself that which is of itself contrary to It. We have, therefore, been made perfect in unity with God the Father, through the mediation of Christ. For by receiving in ourselves, both in a corporeal and spiritual sense, as I said just now, Him that is the Son by Nature, and Who has essential union with the Father, we have been glorified and become partakers in the Nature of the Most High. (ibid., Bk. 10 Chap. XII)

St. John Damascene on the Holy Eucharist

St. John Damascene ca. 676-749

The bread and the wine are not merely figures of the body and blood of Christ (God forbid!) but the deified body of the Lord itself: for the Lord has said, “This is My body,” not, this is a figure of My body: and “My blood,” not, a figure of My blood. And on a previous occasion He had said to the Jews, Except you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in you. For My flesh is meat indeed and My blood is drink indeed. And again, He that eats Me, shall live John 6:51-55.

Wherefore with all fear and a pure conscience and certain faith let us draw near and it will assuredly be to us as we believe, doubting nothing. Let us pay homage to it in all purity both of soul and body: for it is twofold. Let us draw near to it with an ardent desire, and with our hands held in the form of the cross let us receive the body of the Crucified One: and let us apply our eyes and lips and brows and partake of the divine coal, in order that the fire of the longing, that is in us, with the additional heat derived from the coal may utterly consume our sins and illumine our hearts, and that we may be inflamed and deified by the participation in the divine fire. Isaiah saw the coal. Isaiah 6:6 But coal is not plain wood but wood united with fire: in like manner also the bread of the communion is not plain bread but bread united with divinity. But a body which is united with divinity is not one nature, but has one nature belonging to the body and another belonging to the divinity that is united to it, so that the compound is not one nature but two.

With bread and wine Melchisedek, the priest of the most high God, received Abraham on his return from the slaughter of the Gentiles. Genesis 14:18 That table pre-imaged this mystical table, just as that priest was a type and image of Christ, the true high-priest. Leviticus xiv For you are a priest for ever after the order of Melchisedek. Of this bread the show-bread was an image. This surely is that pure and bloodless sacrifice which the Lord through the prophet said is offered to Him from the rising to the setting of the sun Malachi 1:11 .

The body and blood of Christ are making for the support of our soul and body, without being consumed or suffering corruption, not making for the draught (God forbid!) but for our being and preservation, a protection against all kinds of injury, a purging from all uncleanness: should one receive base gold, they purify it by the critical burning lest in the future we be condemned with this world. They purify from diseases and all kinds of calamities; according to the words of the divineApostle 1 Corinthians 11:31-32, For if we would judge ourselves, we should not be judged. But when we are judged, we are chastened of the Lord, that we should not be condemned with the world. This too is what he says, So that he that partakes of the body and blood of Christ unworthily, eats and drinks damnation to himself. Being purified by this, we are united to the body of Christ and to His Spirit and become the body of Christ.

This bread is the first-fruits of the future bread which is ἐπιούσιος, i.e. necessary for existence. For the word ἐπιούσιον signifies either the future, that is Him Who is for a future age, or else Him of Whom we partake for the preservation of our essence. Whether then it is in this sense or that, it is fitting to speak so of the Lord’s body. For the Lord’s flesh is life-giving spirit because it was conceived of the life-giving Spirit. For what is born of the Spirit is spirit. But I do not say this to take away the nature of the body, but I wish to make clear its life-giving and divine power John 6:63 .

But if some persons called the bread and the wine antitypes of the body and blood of the Lord, as did the divinely inspired Basil, they said so not after the consecration but before the consecration, so calling the offering itself.

Participation is spoken of; for through it we partake of the divinity of Jesus. Communion, too, is spoken of, and it is an actual communion, because through it we have communion with Christ and share in His flesh and His divinity: yea, we have communion and are united with one another through it. For since we partake of one bread, we all become one body of Christ and one blood, and members one of another, being of one body with Christ.

With all our strength, therefore, let us beware lest we receive communion from or grant it to heretics; Give not that which is holy unto the dogs, says the Lord, neither cast ye your pearls before swine Matthew 7:6, lest we become partakers in their dishonour and condemnation. For if union is in truth with Christ and with one another, we are assuredly voluntarily united also with all those who partake with us. For this union is effected voluntarily and not against our inclination. For we are all one body because we partake of the one bread, as the divine Apostle says 1 Corinthians 10:17 . (The Fount of Knowledge 3.4)

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.

St. Athanasius on the Eucharist

St. Athanasius the Great ca. 293-373

You shall see the Levites bringing loaves and a cup of wine, and placing them on the table. So long as the prayers of supplication and entreaties have not been made, there is only bread and wine. But after the great and wonderful prayers have been completed, then the bread is become the Body, and the wine the Blood, of our Lord Jesus Christ. ‘And again:’ Let us approach the celebration of the mysteries. This bread and this wine, so long as the prayers and supplications have not taken place, remain simply what they are. But after the great prayers and holy supplications have been sent forth, the Word comes down into the bread and wine – and thus His Body is confected. (Sermon to the Newly Baptized)