The Patriarchal Encyclical of 1895. From OCIC Web site, 

A Reply to the Papal Encyclical of Pope Leo XIII, on ReunionTo the most Sacred and Most Divinely-beloved Brethren in Christ the Metropolitans and Bishops, and their sacred and venerable Clergy, and all the godly and orthodox Laity of the Most Holy Apostolic and Patriarchal Throne of Constantinople.
“Remember them which have the rule over you, who have spoken unto you the word of God: whose faith follow, considering the end of their own conversation:
“Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and today, and for ever. Be not carried about with divers and strange doctrines.” (Heb. xiii. 7, 8).
I. Every godly and orthodox soul, which has a sincere zeal for the glory of God, is deeply afflicted and weighed down with great pain upon seeing that he, who detests that which is good and is a murderer from the beginning, impelled by envy of man’s salvation, never ceases continually to sow divers tares in the field of the Lord, in order to sift the wheat. From this source indeed, even from the earliest times, there sprang up in the Church of God heretical tares, which have in many ways made havoc, and do still make havoc, of the salvation of mankind by Christ; which moreover, as bad seeds and corrupted members, are rightly cut off from the sound body of the orthodox catholic Church of Christ. But in these last times the evil one has rent from the orthodox Church of Christ even whole nations in the West, having inflated the bishops of Rome with thoughts of excessive arrogance, which has given birth to divers lawless and anti-evangelical innovations. And not only so, but furthermore the Popes of Rome from time to time, pursuing absolutely and without examination modes of union according to their own fancy, strive by every means to reduce to their own errors the catholic Church of Christ, which throughout the world walks unshaken in the orthodoxy of faith transmitted to her by the Fathers.
II. Accordingly the Pope of Rome, Leo XIII, on the occasion of his episcopal jubilee, published in the month of June of the year of grace 1895 an encyclical letter, addressed to the leaders and peoples of the world, by which he also at the same time invites our orthodox Catholic and Apostolic Church of Christ to unite with the papal throne, thinking that such union can only be obtained by acknowledging him as supreme pontiff and the highest spiritual and temporal ruler of the universal Church, as the only representative of Christ upon earth and the dispenser of all grace.
III. No doubt every Christian heart ought to be filled with longing for union of the Churches, and especially the whole orthodox world, being inspired by a true spirit of piety, according to the divine purpose of the establishment of the church by the God-man our Savior Christ, ardently longs for the unity of the Churches in the one rule of faith, and on the foundation of the apostolic doctrine handed down to us through the Fathers, ‘Jesus Christ Himself being the chief corner stone.’ [1] Wherefore she also every day, in her public prayers to the Lord, prays for the gathering together of the scattered and for the return of those who have gone astray to the right way of the truth, which alone leads to the Life of all, the only-begotten Son and Word of God, our Lord Jesus Christ. [2] Agreeably, therefore, to this sacred longing, our orthodox Church of Christ is always ready to accept any proposal of union, if only the Bishop of Rome would shake off once for all the whole series of the many and divers anti-evangelical novelties that have been ‘privily brought in’ to his Church, and have provoked the sad division of the Churches of the East and West, and would return to the basis of the seven holy Ecumenical Councils, which, having been assembled in the Holy Spirit, of representatives of all the holy Churches of God, for the determination of the right teaching of the faith against heretics, have a universal and perpetual supremacy in the Church of Christ. And this, both by her writings and encyclical letters, the Orthodox Church has never ceased to intimate to the Papal Church, having clearly and explicitly set forth that so long as the latter perseveres in her innovations, and the orthodox Church adheres to the divine and apostolic traditions of Christianity, during which the Western Churches were of the same mind and were united with the Churches of the East, so long is it a vain and empty thing to talk of union. For which cause we have remained silent until now, and have declined to take into consideration the papal encyclical in question, esteeming it unprofitable to speak to the ears of those who do not hear. Since, however, from a certain period the Papal Church, having abandoned the method of persuasion and discussion, began, to our general astonishment and perplexity, to lay traps for the conscience of the more simple orthodox Christians by means of deceitful workers transformed into apostles of Christ, [3] sending into the East clerics with the dress and headcovering of orthodox priests, inventing also divers and other artful means to obtain her proselytizing objects; for this reason, as in sacred duty bound, we issue this patriarchal and synodical encyclical, for a safeguard of the orthodox faith and piety, knowing ‘that the observance of the true canons is a duty for every good man, and much more for those who have been thought worthy by Providence to direct the affairs of others.’ [4]
IV. The union of the separated Churches with herself in one rule of faith is, as has been said before, a sacred and inward desire of the holy, catholic and orthodox apostolic Church of Christ; but without such unity in the faith, the desired union of the Churches becomes impossible. This being the case, we wonder in truth how Pope Leo XIII, though he himself also acknowledges this truth, falls into a plain self-contradiction, declaring, on the one hand, that true union lies in the unity of faith, and, on the other hand, that every Church, even after the union, can hold her own dogmatic and canonical definitions, even when they differ from those of the Papal Church, as the Pope declares in a previous encyclical, dated November 30, 1894. For there is an evident contradiction when in one and the same Church one believes that the Holy Ghost proceeds from the Father, and another that He proceeds from the Father and the Son; when one sprinkles, and another baptizes (immerses) thrice in the water; one uses leavened bread in the sacrament of the Holy Eucharist, and another unleavened; one imparts to the people of the chalice as well as of the bread, and the other only of the holy bread; and other things like these. But what this contradiction signifies, whether respect for the evangelical truths of the holy Church of Christ and an indirect concession and acknowledgment of them, or something else, we cannot say.
V. But however that may be, for the practical realization of the pious longing for the union of the Churches, a common principle and basis must be settled first of all; and there can be no such safe common principle and basis other than the teaching of the Gospel and of the seven holy Ecumenical Councils. Reverting, then, to that teaching which was common to the Churches of the East and of the West until the separation, we ought, with a sincere desire to know the truth, to search what the one holy, catholic and orthodox apostolic Church of Christ, being then ‘of the same body,’ throughout the East and West believed, and to hold this fact, entire, and unaltered. But whatsoever has in later times been added or taken away, every one has a sacred and indispensable duty, if he sincerely seeks for the glory of God more than for his own glory, that in a spirit of piety he should correct it, considering that by arrogantly continuing in the perversion of the truth he is liable to a heavy account before the impartial judgment-seat of Christ. In saying this we do not at all refer to the differences regarding the ritual of the sacred services and the hymns, or the sacred vestments, and the like, which matters, even though they still vary, as they did of old, do not in the least injure the substance and unity of the faith; but we refer to those essential differences which have reference to the divinely transmitted doctrines of the faith, and the divinely instituted canonical constitution of the administration of the Churches. ‘In cases where the thing disregarded is not the faith (says also the holy Photius), [5] and is no falling away from any general and catholic decree, different rites and customs being observed among different people, a man who knows how to judge rightly would decide that neither do those who observe them act wrongly, nor do those who have not received them break the law.’ [6]
VI. And indeed for the holy purpose of union, the Eastern orthodox and catholic Church of Christ is ready heartily to accept all that which both the Eastern and Western Churches unanimously professed before the ninth century, if she has perchance perverted or does not hold it. And if the Westerns prove from the teaching of the holy Fathers and the divinely assembled Ecumenical Councils that the then orthodox Roman Church, which was throughout the West, even before the ninth century read the Creed with the addition, or used unleavened bread, or accepted the doctrine of a purgatorial fire, or sprinkling instead of baptism, or the immaculate conception of the ever-Virgin, or the temporal power, or the infallibility and absolutism of the Bishop of Rome, we have no more to say. But if, on the contrary, it is plainly demonstrated, as those of the Latins themselves, who love the truth, also acknowledge, that the Eastern and orthodox catholic Church of Christ holds fast the anciently transmitted doctrines which were at that time professed in common both in the East and the West, and that the Western Church perverted them by divers innovations, then it is clear, even to children, that the more natural way to union is the return of the Western Church to the ancient doctrinal and administrative condition of things; for the faith does not change in any way with time or circumstances, but remains the same always and everywhere, for ‘there is one body and one Spirit,’ it is said, ‘even as ye are called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all.” [7]
VII. So then the one holy, catholic and apostolic Church of the seven Ecumenical Councils believed and taught in accordance with the words of the Gospel that the Holy Ghost proceeds from the Father; but in the West, even from the ninth century, the holy Creed, which was composed and sanctioned by Ecumenical Councils, began to be falsified, and the idea that the Holy Ghost proceeds ‘also from the Son’ to be arbitrarily promulgated. And certainly Pope Leo XIII is not ignorant that his orthodox predecessor and namesake, the defender of orthodoxy, Leo III, in the year 809 denounced synodically this anti-evangelical and utterly lawless addition, ‘and from the Son’ (filioque); and engraved on two silver plates, in Greek and Latin, the holy Creed of the first and second Ecumenical Councils, entire and without any addition; having written moreover, ‘These words I, Leo, have set down for love and as a safeguard of the orthodox faith’ (Haec Leo posui amore et cautela fidei orthodoxa’). [8]
Likewise he is by no means ignorant that during the tenth century, or at the beginning of the eleventh, this anti-evangelical and lawless addition was with difficulty inserted officially into the holy Creed at Rome also, and that consequently the Roman Church, in insisting on her innovations, and not coming back to the dogma of the Ecumenical Councils, renders herself fully responsible before the one holy, catholic and apostolic Church of Christ, which holds fast that which has been received from the Fathers, and keeps the deposit of the faith which was delivered to it unadulterated in all things, in obedience to the Apostolic injunction: ‘That good thing which was committed unto thee keep by the Holy Ghost which dwelleth in us’; ‘avoiding profane and vain babblings, and oppositions of science falsely so called: which some professing have erred concerning the faith.” [9]
VIII. The one holy, catholic and apostolic Church of the first seven Ecumenical Councils baptized by three immersions in the water, and the Pope Pelagius speaks of the triple immersion as a command of the Lord, and in the thirteenth century baptism by immersions still prevailed in the West; and the sacred fonts themselves, preserved in the more ancient churches in Italy, are eloquent witnesses on this point; but in later times sprinkling or effusion, being privily brought in, came to be accepted by the Papal Church, which still holds fast the innovation, thus also widening the gulf which she has opened; but we Orthodox, remaining faithful to the apostolic tradition and the practice of the seven Ecumenical Councils, ‘stand fast, contending for the common profession, the paternal treasure of the sound faith.’ [10]
IX. The one holy, catholic and apostolic Church of the seven Ecumenical Councils, according to the example of our Savior, celebrated the divine Eucharist for more than a thousand years throughout the East and West with leavened bread, as the truth-loving papal theologians themselves also bear witness; but the Papal Church from the eleventh century made an innovation also in the sacrament of the divine Eucharist by introducing unleavened bread.
X. The one holy, catholic and apostolic Church of the seven Ecumenical Councils held that the precious gifts are consecrated after the prayer of the invocation of the Holy Ghost by the blessing of the priest, as the ancient rituals of Rome and Gaul testify; nevertheless afterwards the Papal Church made an innovation in this also, by arbitrarily accepting the consecration of the precious gifts as taking place along with the utterance of the Lord’s words: ‘Take, eat; this is my body’: and ‘Drink ye all of it; for this is my blood.’ [11]
XI. The one holy, catholic and apostolic Church of the seven Ecumenical Councils, following the Lord’s command, ‘Drink ye all of it,’ [12] imparted also of the holy chalice to all; but the Papal Church from the ninth century downwards has made an innovation in this rite also, by depriving the laity of the holy chalice, contrary to the Lord’s command and the universal practice of the ancient Church, as well as the express prohibition of many ancient orthodox bishops of Rome.
XII. The one holy, catholic and apostolic Church of the seven Ecumenical Councils, walking according to the divinely inspired teaching of the Holy Scripture and the old apostolic tradition, prays and invokes the mercy of God for the forgiveness and rest of those ‘which have fallen asleep in the Lord’; [13] but the Papal Church from the twelfth century downwards has invented and heaped together in the person of the Pope, as one singularly privileged, a multitude of innovations concerning purgatorial fire, a superabundance of the virtues of the saints, and the distribution of them to those who need them, and the like, setting forth also a full reward for the just before the universal resurrection and judgment.
XIII. The one holy, catholic and apostolic Church of the seven Ecumenical Councils teaches that the supernatural incarnation of the only-begotten Son and Word of God, of the Holy Ghost and the Virgin Mary, is alone pure and immaculate; but the Papal Church scarcely forty years ago again made an innovation by laying down a novel dogma concerning the immaculate conception of the Mother of God and ever-Virgin Mary, which was unknown to the ancient Church (and strongly opposed at different times even by the more distinguished among the papal theologians).
XIV. Passing over, then, these serious and substantial differences between the two churches respecting the faith, which differences, as has been said before, were created in the West, the Pope in his encyclical represents the question of the primacy of the Roman Pontiff as the principal and, so to speak, only cause of the dissension, and sends us to the sources, that we may make diligent search as to what our forefathers believed and what the first age of Christianity delivered to us. But having recourse to the fathers and the Ecumenical Councils of the Church of the first nine centuries, we are fully persuaded that the Bishop of Rome was never considered as the supreme authority and infallible head of the Church, and that every bishop is head and president of his own particular Church, subject only to the synodical ordinances and decisions of the Church universal as being alone infallible, the Bishop of Rome being in no wise excepted from this rule, as Church history shows. Our Lord Jesus Christ alone is the eternal Prince and immortal Head of the Church, for ‘He is the Head of the body, the Church,” [14] who said also to His divine disciples and apostles at His ascension into heaven, ‘Lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world.’ [15] In the Holy Scripture the Apostle Peter, whom the Papists, relying on apocryphal books of the second century, the pseudo-Clementines, imagine with a purpose to be the founder of the Roman Church and their first bishop, discusses matters as an equal among equals in the apostolic synod of Jerusalem, and at another time is sharply rebuked by the Apostle Paul, as is evident from the Epistle to the Galatians. [16] Moreover, the Papists themselves know well that the very passage of the Gospel to which the Pontiff refers, ‘Thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my Church,’ [17] is in the first centuries of the Church interpreted quite differently, in a spirit of orthodoxy, both by tradition and by all the divine and sacred Fathers without exception; the fundamental and unshaken rock upon which the Lord has built His own Church, against which the gates of hell shall not prevail, being understood metaphorically of Peter’s true confession concerning the Lord, that ‘He is Christ, the Son of the living God.’ [18] Upon this confession and faith the saving preaching of the Gospel by all the apostles and their successors rests unshaken. Whence also the Apostle Paul, who had been caught up into heaven, evidently interpreting this divine passage, declares the divine inspiration, saying: ‘According to the grace of God which is given unto me, as a wise master-builder, I have laid the foundation, and another buildeth thereon. For other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ.’ [19] But it is in another sense that Paul calls all the apostles and prophets together the foundation of the building up in Christ of the faithful; that is to say, the members of the body of Christ, which is the Church; [20] when he writes to the Ephesians: ‘Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellow-citizens with the saints and of the house hold of God; and are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief corner stone.’ [21] Such, then, being the divinely inspired teaching of the apostles respecting the foundation and Prince of the Church of God, of course the sacred Fathers, who held firmly to the apostolic traditions, could not have or conceive any idea of an absolute primacy of the Apostle Peter and the bishops of Rome; nor could they give any other interpretation, totally unknown to the Church, to that passage of the Gospel, but that which was true and right; nor could they arbitrarily and by themselves invent a novel doctrine respecting excessive privileges of the Bishop of Rome as successor, if so be, of Peter; especially whilst the Church of Rome was chiefly founded, not by Peter, whose apostolic action at Rome is totally unknown to history, but by the heaven-caught apostle of the Gentiles, Paul, through his disciples, whose apostolic ministry in Rome is well known to all. [22]
XV. The divine Fathers, honoring the Bishop of Rome only as the bishop of the capital city of the Empire, gave him the honorary prerogative of presidency, considering him simply as the bishop first in order, that is, first among equals; which prerogative they also assigned afterwards to the Bishop of Constantinople, when that city became the capital of the Roman Empire, as the twenty-eighth canon of the fourth Ecumenical Council of Chalcedon bears witness, saying, among other things, as follows: ‘We do also determine and decree the same things respecting the prerogatives of the most holy Church of the said Constantinople, which is New Rome. For the Fathers have rightly given the prerogative to the throne of the elder Rome, because that was the imperial city. And the hundred and fifty most religious bishops, moved by the same consideration, assigned an equal prerogative to the most holy throne of New Rome.’ From this canon it is very evident that the Bishop of Rome is equal in honor to the Bishop of the Church of Constantinople and to those other Churches, and there is no hint given in any canon or by any of the Fathers that the Bishop of Rome alone has ever been prince of the universal Church and the infallible judge of the bishops of the other independent and self-governing Churches, or the successor of the Apostle Peter and vicar of Jesus Christ on earth.
XVI. Each particular self-governing Church, both in the East and West, was totally independent and self-administered in the time of the Seven Ecumenical Councils. And just as the bishops of the self-governing Churches of the East, so also those of Africa, Spain, Gaul, Germany and Britain managed the affairs of their own Churches, each by their local synods, the Bishop of Rome having no right to interfere, and he himself also was equally subject and obedient to the decrees of synods. But on important questions which needed the sanction of the universal Church an appeal was made to an Ecumenical Council, which alone was and is the supreme tribunal in the universal Church. Such was the ancient constitution of the Church; but the bishops were independent of each other and each entirely free within his own bounds, obeying only the syndical decrees, and they sat as equal one to another in synods. Moreover, none of them ever laid claim to monarchical rights over the universal Church; and ii sometimes certain ambitious bishops of Rome raised excessive claims to an absolutism unknown to the Church, such were duly reproved and rebuked The assertion therefore of Leo XIII, when he says in his Encyclical that before the period of the great Photius the name of the Roman throne was holy among all the peoples of the Christian world, and that the East, like the West, with one accord and without opposition, was subject to the Roman pontiff as lawful successor, so to say, of the Apostle Peter, and consequently vicar of Jesus Christ on earth is proved to be inaccurate and a manifest error.
XVII. During the nine centuries of the Ecumenical Councils the Eastern Orthodox Church never recognized the excessive claims of primacy on the part of the bishops of Rome, nor consequently did she ever submit herself to them, as Church history plainly bears witness. The independent relation of the East to the West is clearly and manifestly shown also by those few and most significant words of Basil the Great, which he writes in a letter to the holy Eusebius, Bishop of Samosata: ‘For when haughty characters are courted, it is their nature to become still more disdainful. For if the Lord be merciful to us, what other assistance do we need? But if the wrath of God abide on us, what help is there for us from Western superciliousness? Men who neither know the truth nor can bear to learn it, but being prejudiced by false suspicions, they act now as they did before in the case of Marcellus.’ [23] The celebrated Photius, therefore, the sacred Prelate and luminary of Constantinople, defending this independence of the Church of Constantinople after the middle of the ninth century, and foreseeing the impending perversion of the ecclesiastical constitution in the West, and its defection from the orthodox East, at first endeavored in a peaceful manner to avert the danger; but the Bishop of Rome, Nicholas 1, by his uncanonical interference with the East, beyond the bounds of his diocese, and by the attempt which he made to subdue the Church of Constantinople to himself, pushed maners to the verge of the grievous separation of the Churches. The first seeds of these claims of a papal absolutism were scattered abroad in the pseudo-Clementines, and were cultivated, exactly at the epoch of this Nicholas, in the so-called pseudo-lsidorian decrees, which are a farrago of spurious and forged royal decrees and letters of ancient bishops of Rome, by which, contrary to the truth of history and the established constitution of the Church, it was purposely promulgated that, as they said, Christian antiquity assigned to the bishops of Rome an unbounded authority over the universal Church.
XVIII. These facts we recall with sorrow of heart, inasmuch as the Papal Church, though she now acknowledges the spuriousness and forged character of those decrees on which her excessive claims are grounded, not only stubbornly refuses to come back to the canons and decrees of the Ecumenical Councils, but even in the expiring years of the nineteenth century has widened the existing gulf by officially proclaiming, to the astonishment of the Christian world, that the Bishop of Rome is even infallible. The orthodox Eastern and catholic Church of Christ, with the exception of the Son and Word of God, who was ineffably made man, knows no one infallible upon earth. Even the Apostle Peter himself, whose successor the Pope thinks himself to be, thrice denied the Lord, and was twice rebuked by the Apostle Paul, as not walking uprightly according to the truth of the Gospel. [24] Afterwards the Pope Liberius, in the fourth century, subscribed an Arian confession; and likewise Zosimus, in the fifth century, approved an heretical confession, denying original sin. Virgilius, in the sixth century, was condemned for wrong opinions by the fifth Council; and Honorius, having fallen into the Monothelite heresy, was condemned in the seventh century by the sixth Ecumenical Council as a heretic, and the popes who succeeded him acknowledged and accepted his condemnation.
XIX. With these and such facts in view, the peoples of the West, becoming gradually civilized by the diffusion of letters, began to protest against innovations, and to demand (as was done in the fifteenth century at the Councils of Constance and Basle) the return to the ecclesiastical constitution of the first centuries, to which, by the grace of God, the orthodox Churches throughout the East and North, which alone now form the one holy, catholic and apostolic Church of Christ, the pillar and ground of the truth, remain, and will always remain, faithful. The same was done in the seventeenth century by the learned Gallican theologians, and in the eighteenth by the bishops of Germany; and in this present century of science and criticism, the Christian conscience rose up in one body in the year 1870, in the persons of the celebrated clerics and theologians of Germany, on account of the novel dogma of the infallibility of the Popes, issued by the Vatican Council, a consequence of which rising is seen in the formation of the separate religious communities of the old Catholics, who, having disowned the papacy, are quite independent of it.
XX. In vain, therefore, does the Bishop of Rome send us to the sources that we may seek diligently for what our forefathers believed and what the first period of Christianity delivered to us. In these sources we, the orthodox, find the old and divinely-transmitted doctrines, to which we carefully hold fast to the present time, and nowhere do we find the innovations which later times of empty mindedness brought forth in the West, and which the Papal Church having adopted retains till this very day. The orthodox Eastern Church then justly glories in Christ as being the Church of the seven Ecumenical Councils and of the first nine centuries of Christianity, and therefore the one holy, catholic and apostolic Church of Christ, ‘the pillar and ground of the truth’; [25] but the present Roman Church is the Church of innovations, of the falsification of the writings of the Church Fathers, and of the misinterpretation of the Holy Scripture and of the decrees of the holy councils, for which she has reasonably and justly been disowned, and is still disowned, so far as she remains in her error. ‘For better is a praiseworthy war than a peace which separates from God,’ as Gregory of Nazianzus also says.
XXI. Such are, briefly, the serious and arbitrary innovations concerning the faith and the administrative constitution of the Church, which the Papal Church has introduced and which, it is evident, the Papal Encyclical purposely passes over in silence. These innovations, which have reference to essential points of the faith and of the administrative system of the Church, and which are manifestly opposed to the ecclesiastical condition of the first nine centuries, make the longed-for union of the Churches impossible: and every pious and orthodox heart is filled with inexpressible sorrow on seeing the Papal Church disdainfully persisting in them, and not in the least contributing to the sacred purpose of union by rejecting those heretical innovations and coming back to the ancient condition of the one holy, catholic and apostolic Church of Christ, of which she also at that time formed a part.
XXII. But what are we to say of all that the Roman Pontiff writes when he addresses the glorious Slavonic nations? No one, indeed, has ever denied that by the virtue and the apostolic toils of SS. Cyril and Methodius the grace of salvation was vouchsafed to not a few of the Slavonic peoples: but history testifies that at the period of the great Photius those Greek apostles to the Slavs and intimate friends of that divine Father, setting out from Thessalonica, were sent to convert the Slavonic tribes not from Rome but from Constantinople, where moreover they had been trained, living as monks in the monastery of St. Polychronius. It is therefore utterly incoherent which is proclaimed in the Roman Pontiff’s Encyclical, that, as he says, a kindly relation and mutual sympathy was brought about between the Slavonic tribes and the pontiffs of the Roman Church; for even if the Pope is ignorant of it, history nevertheless explicitly proclaims that these sacred apostles to the Slavs of whom we speak, encountered greater difficulties in their work from the bishops of Rome through their excommunications and opposition, and were more cruelly persecuted by the Frankish papal bishops than by the heathen inhabitants of those countries. Certainly the Pope knows well that the blessed Methodius having departed to the Lord, two hundred of the most distinguished of his disciples’ after many struggles against the opposition of the Roman Pontiffs, were driven out of Moravia and led away by military force beyond its boundaries, from whence afterwards they were dispersed into Bulgaria and elsewhere. And he knows also that with the expulsion of the more erudite Slavonic clergy, the ritual of the East, as well as the Slavonic language then in use, were also driven out, and in process of time all vestige of orthodoxy was effaced from those provinces, and all these things done with the official cooperation of the bishops of Rome m a manner not the least honorable to the holiness of the episcopal dignity. But notwithstanding all this despiteful treatment, the orthodox Slavonic Churches, the beloved daughters of the orthodox East, and especially the great and glorious Church of divinely preserved Russia, having been preserved harmless by the grace of God, have kept, and will keep till the end of the ages, the orthodox faith, and stand forth conspicuous testimonies of the liberty that is in Christ. In vain, therefore, does the Papal Encyclical promise to the Slavonic Churches prosperity and greatness, because by the goodwill of the most gracious God they already possess these blessings, and such as these, standing firm m the orthodoxy of their fathers and glorifying in it in Christ.
XXIII. These things being so, and being indisputably proved by ecclesiastical history, we, anxious as it is our duty to be, address ourselves to the peoples of the West, who through ignorance of the true and impartial history of ecclesiastical matters, being credulously led away, follow the anti-evangelical and utterly lawless innovations of the papacy, having been separated and continuing far from the one holy, catholic and apostolic orthodox Church of Christ, which is ‘the Church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth, [26] in which also their gracious ancestors and forefathers shone by their piety and orthodoxy of faith, having been faithful and precious members of it during nine whole centuries, obediently following and walking according to the decrees of the divinely assembled Ecumenical Councils.
XXIV. Christ-loving peoples of the glorious countries of the West! We rejoice on the one hand seeing that you have a zeal for Christ, being led by this right persuasion, ‘that without faith in Christ it is impossible to please God’; [27] but on the other hand it is self-evident to every right-thinking person that the salutary faith in Christ ought by all means to be right in everything, and in agreement with the Holy Scripture and the apostolic traditions, upon which the teaching of the divine Fathers and the seven holy, divinely assembled Ecumenical Councils is based. It is moreover manifest that the universal Church of God, which holds fast in its bosom unique unadulterated and entire this salutary faith as a divine deposit, just as it was of old delivered and unfolded by the God-bearing Fathers moved by the Spirit, and formulated by them during the first nine centuries, is one and the same for ever, and not manifold and varying with the process of time: because the gospel truths are never susceptible to alteration or progress in course of time, like the various philosophical systems; ‘for Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, and to day, and for ever.’ [28] Wherefore also the holy Vincent, who was brought up on the milk of the piety received from the fathers in the monastery of Lérins in Gaul, and flourished about the middle of the fifth century, with great wisdom and orthodoxy characterizes the true catholicity of the faith and of the Church, saying: ‘In the catholic Church we must especially take heed to hold that which has been believed everywhere at all times, and by all. For this is truly and properly catholic, as the very force and meaning of the word signifies, which moreover comprehends almost everything universally. And that we shall do, if we walk following universality, antiquity, and consent.’ [29] But, as has been said before, the Western Church, from the tenth century downwards, has privily brought into herself through the papacy various and strange and heretical doctrines and innovations, and so she has been torn away and removed far from the true and orthodox Church of Christ. How necessary, then, it is for you to come back and return to the ancient and unadulterated doctrines of the Church in order to attain the salvation in Christ after which you press, you can easily understand if you intelligently consider the command of the heaven-ascended Apostle Paul to the Thessalonians, saying: ‘Therefore, brethren, stand fast, and hold the traditions which ye have been taught, whether by word, or our epistle’; [30] and also what the same divine apostle writes to the Galatians saying: ‘I marvel that ye are so soon removed from him that called you into the grace of Christ unto another gospel: which is not another; but there be some that trouble you, and would pervert the gospel of Christ.’ [31] But avoid such perverters of the evangelical truth, ‘For they that are such serve not our Lord Jesus Christ, but their own belly; and by good words and fair speeches deceive the hearts of the simple;[32] and come back for the future into the bosom of the holy, catholic and apostolic Church of God, which consists of all the particular holy Churches of God, which being divinely planted, like luxuriant vines throughout the orthodox world, are inseparably united to each other in the unity of the one saving faith in Christ, and in the bond of peace and of the Spirit, that you may obtain the highly-to-be-praised and most glorious name of our Lord and God and Savior Jesus Christ, who suffered for the salvation of the world, may be glorified among you also.
XXV. But let us, who by the grace and goodwill of the most gracious God are precious members of the body of Christ, that is to say of His one holy, catholic and apostolic Church, hold fast to the piety of our fathers, handed down to us from the apostles. Let us all beware of false apostles, who, coming to us in sheep’s clothing, attempt to entice the more simple among us by various deceptive promises, regarding all things as lawful and allowing them for the sake of union, provided only that the Pope of Rome be recognized as supreme and infallible ruler and absolute sovereign of the universal Church, and only representative of Christ on earth, and the source of all grace. And especially let us, who by the grace and mercy of God have been appointed bishops, pastors, and teachers of the holy Churches of God, ‘take heed unto ourselves,—and to all the flock, over which the Holy Ghost hath made us overseers, to feed the Church of God, which He hath purchased with His own blood,’ [33] as they that must give account. ‘Wherefore let us comfort ourselves together, and edify one another.’ [34] ‘And the God of all grace, who hath called us unto His eternal glory by Christ Jesus … make us perfect, stablish, strengthen, settle us,’ [35] and grant that all those who are without and far away from the one holy, catholic and orthodox fold of His reasonable sheep may be enlightened with the light of His grace and the acknowledging of the truth. To Him be glory and dominion for ever and ever.
Amen.
In the Patriarchal Palace of Constantinople, in the month of August of the year of grace MDCCCXCV.
+ ANTHIMOS of Constantinople, beloved brother and intercessor in Christ our God.
+ NICODEMOS of Cyzicos, beloved brother and intercessor in Christ our God.
+ PHILOTHEOS of Nicomedia, beloved brother and intercessor in Christ our God.
+ JEROME of Nicea, beloved brother and intercessor in Christ our God.
+ NATHANAEL of Prusa, beloved brother and intercessor of Christ our God.
+ BASIL of Smyrna, beloved brother and intercessor in Christ our God.
+ STEPHEN of Philadelphia, beloved brother and intercessor in Christ our God.
+ ATHANASIOS of Lemnos, beloved brother and intercessor in Christ our God.
+ BESSARION of Dyrrachium, beloved brother and intercessor in Christ our God.
+ DOROTHEOS of Belgrade, beloved brother and intercessor in Christ our God.
+ NICODEMOS of Elasson, beloved brother and intercessor in Christ our God.
+ SOPHRONIOS of Carpathos and Cassos, beloved brother and intercessor in Christ our God.
+ DIONYSIOS of Eleutheropolis, beloved brother and intercessor in Christ our God.
Endnotes

1. Eph. 2:20.
2. John 14:6.
3. II Cor. 11:13.
4. Phot. Epist. iii. 10.
5. Patriarch of Constantinople; c. 800.
6. Phot. Epist iii. 6.
7. Eph. 4:5-6.
8. See life of Leo 111 by Athanasius, presbyter and librarian at Rome, in his Lives of the Popes. The holy Photius also, making mention of this invective of the orthodox Pope of Rome, Leo III, against the holders of the erroneous doctrine, in his renowned letter to the Metropolitan of Acquileia, expresses himself as follows: ‘For (not to mention those who were before him) Leo the elder, prelate of Rome, as well as Leo the younger after him, shew themselves to be of the same mind with the catholic and apostolic Church, with the holy prelates their predecessors, and with the apostolic commands; the one having contributed much to the assembling of the fourth holy Ecumenical Council, both by the sacred men who were sent to represent him, and by his letter, through which both Nestorius and Eutyches were overthrown; by which letter he moreover, in accordance with previous synodical decrees, declared the Holy Ghost to proceed from the Father, but not also “from the Son.” And in like manner Leo the younger, his counterpart in faith as well as in name. This latter indeed, who was ardently zealous for true piety, in order that the unspotted pattern of true piety might not in any way whatever be falsified by a barbarous language, published it in Greek, as has already been said in the beginning, to the people of the West, that they might thereby glorify and preach aright the Holy Trinity. And not only by word and command, but also, having inscribed and exposed it to the sight of all on certain shields specially made, as on certain monuments, he fixed it at the gates of the Church, in order that every person might easily learn the uncontaminated faith, and in order that no chance whatever might be left to secret forgers and innovators of adulterating the piety of us Christians, and of bringing in the Son besides the Father as a second cause of the Holy Spirit, who proceeds from the Father with honor equal to that of the begotten Son. And it was not these two holy men alone, who shone brightly in the West, who preserved the faith free from innovation; for the Church is not in such want as that of Western preachers; but there is also a host of them not easily counted who did likewise.’—Epist. v. 53.
9. III Tim. 1:14; 1 Tim. 6:20-21.
10. St. Basil the Great, Ep. 243, To the Bishops of Italy and Gaul.
11. Matt. 26:26, 28
12. Matt. 26:28.
13. Matt. 26:31; Heb. 11:39-40; II Tim. 4:8; II Macc. 12:45.
14. Col. 1:18.
15. Matt. 28:20.
16. Gal. 2:11.
17. Matt. 16:18.
18. Matt. 16:16.
19. 1 Cor. 3:10, 11.
20. Col. 1:24.
21. Eph. 2:19, 20. Cp. 1 Pet. 2:4; Rev. 21:14.
22. See Acts of the Apostles 28:15, Rom. 15:15-16; Phil. 1:13.
23. Epist. 239.
24. Gal. 2:11.
25. I Tim. 3:15.
26. I Tim. 3:15.
27. Heb. 11:6.
28. Heb. 13:8.
29. ‘In ipsa item Catholica Ecclesia magnopere curandum est, ut teneamus, quod ubique quod semper ab omnibus creditum est. Hoc est enim vere proprieque Catholicum (quod ipsa vis nominis ratioque declarat), quod omnia fere universaliter comprehendit. Sed hoc fiet si sequimur universalitatem, antiquitatem, consensionem’ (Vincentii Lirinensis Commonitorium pro CatholicEe fidei antiquitate et universalitate cap. iii, cf. cap. viii and xiv).
30. 1Thess.2:15.
31. Gal. 1:6-7.
32. Rom. 16:18.
33. Acts 20:28.
34. I Thess. 5:11.
35. I Pet. 5:10.qq

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To be Christian Means to Belong to the Church . St Ilarion Troitsky

According to the words of Saint Cyprian, to be a Christian means to belong to the visible Church and to submit to the hierarchy which God has placed in it. The Church is the realization of Christ’s love and any separation from the Church is a violation of this love, in which both heretics and schismatics sin equally. This is the basic thought of his treatise “On the Unity of the Catholic Church.”

This same idea is constantly repeated in the letters of the same holy father. “Christ granted us peace; He commanded us to be in harmony and unanimity; He commanded that we preserve, inviolably and firmly, the bond of affection and love. Whoever violates the love of Christ by faithless dissent will no longer belong to Christ: he who does not possess this love does not possess God either. Those who do not desire to be unanimous, in God’s Church cannot abide with God.

Heretics and schismatics do not have this love, i.e., the basic Christian virtue and, thus, they are Christian in name only. “Heretics and schismatics preserve neither the unity of the Church nor brotherly love.”“They act against the love of Christ.”“Marcian who joined with Novatian, became an enemy of charity and love.”“It is well known that the heretics have deviated from the love and unity of the universal Church.”“What unity is observed, what love is preserved or what love is dreamt about by one who, having given himself up to fits of dissension, cleaves the Church, destroys faith, troubles the peace, eradicates love and profanes the sacraments?”

Saint Cyprian even expressed the decisive thought that, not only can there be no Christian life outside the Church, but there can be no Christian teaching either. The pure faith exists only in the Church. Saint Cyprian also calls the Church by the name “Truth,”and teaches that the unity of the faith cannot be separated from the unity of the Church, for truth is one even as the Church is one.

He who does not adhere to the unity of the Church cannot think that he is preserving the Faith. Any separation from the Church is, without fail, connected with the distortion of the Faith. “The enemy has contrived heresies and schisms in order to overthrow the faith, distort the truth, and dissolve unity. His servants proclaim the treachery under the pretense of faith, herald the antichrist in the name of Christ and, concealing the lie by means of imitation righteousness, subtly and guilefully destroy the truth.”

“Just as Satan is not Christ although he deceives in His name, so one cannot be a Christian if he does not abide in the truth of His gospel and faith.”“A heretic cleaves the Church and destroys faith . . . he arms himself against the Church. In relation to the faith, he is a traitor; in relation to piety, he is a defiler, a recalcitrant servant, a lawless son, a hostile brother.”

If one examines the faith of those who believe outside the Church, it would be found that all heretics have a completely different faith; as a matter of fact they have only a wild fanaticism, blasphemy, and a decay which is fighting against holiness and truth.”According to Saint Cyprian, to be outside the Church and yet remain a Christian is impossible, for to be outside the Church is to be outside Christ’s camp.

Those who separate themselves from the Church and those who act against the Church are antichrists and heathens. Here, for example, is what Saint Cyprian writes to Antonius concerning Novatian: “You have desired, most beloved brother, that I write you concerning Novatian, what heresy he has introduced. Know that, first of all, we must not be curious about what he teaches when he is teaching outside the Church.”“No matter who or what he is, he is not a Christian as soon as he is not in the Church of Christ.”“How can anyone be with Christ if he does not dwell within the Bride of Christ, if he is not found in His Church?”

Finally, in the treatise, “On the Unity of the Catholic Church,”we read the famous words, “He who does not have the Church as his mother cannot have God as his Father.”Saint Cyprian completely refuses the name “Christian”to all those who stand outside the Church, as if repeating the decisive exclamation of his teacher Tertullian: “haeretici christiani esse non possunt!”- heretics cannot be Christians!

Thus we can understand Saint Cyprian’s demand that even Novatians, who were only schismatics, should be re-baptized when being received into the Church. For Saint Cyprian, the baptism of schismatics upon being received into the Church was not re-baptism at all, but precisely baptism. “We maintain,”he wrote to Quintus, “that we do not rebaptize those who come from there, but we baptize; for they have received nothing there where there is nothing.”He adds that baptism outside the Church is only “an empty and impure immersing.”“There, people are not washed, but are only profaned more; sins are not cleansed, but are only redoubled. Such a birth promotes children to the devil and not to God.”

Saint Cyprian’s conviction about the invalidity of any baptism outside the Church, and about the necessity of once again baptizing converts to the Church, was confirmed by a local council of the Church which met at Carthage in 256 A.D. with Cyprian himself presiding. In his closing address, summing up the council’s decisions, the Saint says: “Heretics must be baptized by a baptism solely of the Church so that they can change from enemies to friends and from antichrists to Christians.”

The above-stated views of Saint Cyprian which, evidently, the entire Carthagenian Council shared, clearly and profoundly witness how totally fused the Church was with Christianity and vice versa, in the third century.

Not all the views of Saint Cyprian were completely accepted by the Church. In particular, his teaching about the necessity to re-baptize even schismatics upon their conversion to the Church was modified. On this point, the views of Blessed Augustine differ somewhat, although his view of the relationship of Christianity to the Church remains exactly the same.

Blessed Augustine held that the Christian teaching, understood theoretically, can be preserved outside the Church. Truth remains truth even though an evil person might express it. For even the demons confessed Christ just as did the Apostle Peter. Gold is doubtlessly good and it remains gold even when taken by a thief, even though it serves different aims for him. Christ once said to his disciples, “he that is not against us is for us”(Luke 9:50). From this it is concluded that one who stands outside the Church on some things is not against the Church and has something of the Church’s wealth. Athenians, however, “honored the Unknown God”(Acts 17:23) and the Apostle James testified that even the demons believe (James 2:19), and they, of course, are outside of the Church. In his works against the Donatists, Blessed Augustine argues in detail for the validity of schismatic baptism. If, however, it is possible to preserve true teaching outside the Church and if even the sacraments performed in schism from the Church are valid, then is the Church really necessary? Is salvation not possible outside the Church? Does not Blessed Augustine make a distinction between Christianity and the Church? To all these questions a negative reply is given in the system of Blessed Augustine. He ascribes Christian life, which leads to salvation, only to the Church. Outside the Church this life cannot exist.

All the wealth of the Church which is possessed by those who have separated themselves from the Church brings them absolutely no benefit, but only harm. Why is this so? Because, answers Blessed Augustine, all those who have separated from the Church do not possess love. Christ gave a sign by which it is possible to recognize His disciples. This sign is not Christian teaching, not even the sacraments, but only love. Thus, He told His followers, “By this shall all men know that ye are My disciples, if ye have love one to another”(John 13:35). The Mysteries will not save if the one receiving them has no love. The Apostle says: “If I know all the mysteries (sacraments) and do not possess love, I am nothing.”Even Caiaphas prophesied, but he was condemned. The act of separation from the Church is itself the greatest sin, which proves that schismatics do not have love. One who is reborn in baptism, but does not unite with the Church receives no benefit from baptism because he possesses no love; baptism can be beneficial for him only when he unites with the Church. The Grace of baptism cannot cleanse from sin one who does not belong to the Church; its actions are as if paralyzed by the obstinacy of a schismatic heart in the evil of schism. Since one who is baptized outside the Church displays his sinfulness and the absence of love in him immediately after baptism by entering into the darkness of schism, the sins quickly return upon him. The fact that forgiven sins return if there is no brotherly love is clearly pointed out by the Lord when He spoke of the servant whom the master forgave ten thousand talents. When this same servant did not take pity upon his fellow who owed him only one hundred dinars, the master demanded the payment of all that was owed him. Just as this servant had received forgiveness of the debt for a time, so one who is baptized outside the Church is also freed from his sins for a time. Since, however, he remains outside the Church even after baptism, all the sins which he committed before being baptized are again imposed upon him. His sins are forgiven only when he, through love, unites with the Church.

Schismatics are deprived of the hope of salvation not only because their baptism is invalid, but also because they are outside the Church and in enmity with it. The grace of the Holy Spirit can be received and preserved only by one who is united in love with the Church. He who has separated from the Church does not have love. He who does not love the unity of the Church does not have God’s love, it is in vain that he declares that he has the love of Christ. Love can be preserved only in the presence of unity with the Church, because the Holy Spirit revives only the body of the Church. There can be no lawful and sufficient reason to separate from the Church; he who separates from the Church does not possess the Holy Spirit, just as a severed member of the body does not possess the spirit of life, even though it preserves its former identity for some time. Thus, while all those who have separated from the Church oppose it, they cannot be good; although their behavior might appear to be praiseworthy – the very fact of their separation from the Church makes them evil.

Thus, according to the teaching of Blessed Augustine, the Church is a concept narrower than Christianity which is understood only in the sense of abstract theses. It is possible to be in accord with these abstract theses while still remaining outside the Church; but for unity with the Church, the accord of will is indispensible (consensio voluntatum). It is evident that without this latter, abstract accord with Christian teaching alone is completely useless and that there is no salvation outside the Church.

The points of view of Saint Cyprian and Blessed Augustine can be seen to differ somewhat, but they both arrive at exactly the same conclusion: outside the Church there is no salvation! People are saved by their love which is the grace of the New Testament. Outside the Church it is impossible to preserve love, because it is impossible to receive the Holy Spirit.

What have we discovered in these representative examples of Church thought from the third to the fifth centuries? We have found that they coincide with the conclusions we reached earlier while examining the New Testament teaching about the Church, and the facts of early Christianity. Christianity and the Church are the same thing only when we do not regard Christianity as the sum of a sort of abstract thesis, not obliging anyone to anything. Such an understanding of Christianity can only be called demonic.

It would follow that such Christians also acknowledge in the way of demons who also believe and tremble. Does to know the system really mean to be a true Christian? A servant who knows the will of the master and who does not fulfill it, will be dismissed and rejected and, of course, justly so.

“Christianity is not in the silent conviction, but in the grandeur of the deed,”says Saint Ignatius.

No, Christ is not only a great teacher; He is the Savior of the world, Who gave mankind new strength, Who renewed mankind. It is not a teaching only that we have received from our Christ the Savior, but life. If one is to understand Christianity as a new life, not according to the elements of the world which knows only the principles of egoism and self-love, but according to Christ with His teaching and model of self-denial and love, then Christianity will necessarily coincide completely with the Church. To be a Christian means to belong to the Church, for Christianity is precisely the Church. Outside the Church there is no life and there cannot be.

Finally, in order to understand how important the concept of the Church is, it is sufficient to look attentively at the Symbol of Faith (the Creed), for the various articles were introduced into the Symbol of Faith after the appearance of various heretics who distorted one or another truth. Thus the whole Symbol of Faith can be called polemical. Its history reveals that its contents were enlarged as the result of the struggle with one heresy or another.

Such is not the case, however, with the ninth article, which concerns the Church. This article was found in the Symbol of Faith from the very beginning. It was introduced independently of the appearance of any sort of false doctrine. At that time there were still no Protestants who dreamt of some sort of churchless Christianity.

It is clear that, from the very beginning, the concept of the Church lay at the head of Christian beliefs and that this truth, that Christianity is specifically the Church, can be considered to have been given from the Lord Jesus Christ Himself.

Having risen to this height of Church consciousness, it will be of great benefit to look at contemporary life, at the trends and opinions which are widespread in it and to give them an appraisal from the point of view of the Church.

 

Metropolitan Hierotheos Vlachos on emotions.

A conversation  with Metropolitan Hierotheos of Nafpaktos 

Father what you have been saying has been a continuous surprise for me, from which I cannot yet recover. How can it be that emotion is also a result of the Fall, or rather that emotion itself is an ill condition?

 

-Emotion is mixed up with the passions of pleasure-loving. It is not completely identified with them, but is imbued by them to a great degree. A healthy man spiritually is a balanced man in all his manifestations. I said earlier that when man’s nous is illumined -when man is at the illumination of the nous- he is not moved by God simply psychologically and emotionally, but has true communion with God. Moreover, he sees in all creation the “causes of beings” -the uncreated governing energy of God. He is not moved emotionally by nature and its beauty, but sees the energy of God in it. As St. Isaac the Syrian says, faith based on theoria -which man attains when he is at the illumination of the nous- “is a gate to the mysteries of God”.

 

I will mention a simple example. St.Diadochos of Photiki says that the introductory joy is one thing and the perfecting joy is another. The first one, being strongly emotional, is mixed with fantasy, “is not devoid of fantasy”, while perfecting joy is associated with humility. Between emotional joy and perfecting joy there is “god-loving sorrow and painless tears”. Emotional joy, which is called introductory, is not entirely rejected, yet we must be led to the perfecting joy. This perfection and cure is achieved through the cross. “By the cross gladness prevails to all world”. Thus within the Church we struggle to transform all emotions as well as everything mundane. The transformation of emotions to genuine and authentic experiences is accomplished by repentance. Repentance leads us from a painful and tragic monologue to a dialogue with the living God. Through repentance, self-condemnation and humility, we transform emotions to spiritual experiences. In this case also holds true what we mentioned about fantasy. The more a person is emotionally ill, the more he reveals the death and darkness of his nous. And the more a person’s emotions are transformed, the more his nous is illumined; he is at the state of illumination. Can you see that the movement of the nous is very important? Can you see that it plays an important role whether the nous follows the movement according to nature or contrary to nature?

 

-Allow me, continued Irene, to ask you to explain even further how the emotions are transformed to spiritual experiences.

 

-I think I referred to the basic points. But since you wish I can expand more on the subject. The Fathers say that in the woman’s soul psychological experiences are connected more with spiritual ones. In other words, many women consider the so-called psychological conditions to be spiritual experiences. They may for example feel an emotional sweetness, while praying, and think that it is the coming of the grace of God. A lot of attention is needed, because at this point many images of fantasy intervene and create the preconditions for serious psychological anomalies.

 

I give you an example. A small girl expresses motherhood by playing with dolls. She feeds them, washes them, puts them to sleep, etc. When, however, she grows up and becomes a real mother, she does all these things undergoing pain. She feels pain to give birth to the child and pain and toil to bring it up. The little girl expresses motherhood, and, I could say, enjoys it emotionally, without pain and suffering, whereas becoming a mother for a woman is connected with pain and suffering; it is a “cross”. It is in this way somehow that we distinguish emotional joy from spiritual joy, emotions from spiritual experiences. Only true and complete repentance can cleanse all these psychological states and make them spiritual. And, naturally, it is our spiritual father who helps us with this; it is he who has the responsibility of distinguishing and curing this condition. In this way and with the help of our spiritual guide our nous is cured; it is led from the movement contrary to nature to that according to nature and, even more, above nature; the nous then is illumined and united with God and it is cured from fantasies and emotions. This is why the realisation of the real problem, and also the cure of the darkened nous are absolutely necessary.

 

Source-The illness and cure of the soul in the Orthodox Tradition

By Metropolitan Hierotheos of Nafpaktos

On the “Great and Holy Council” of Crete: A Response to E. SotiropoulosBy Protopresbyters Fr. Peter Heers D.Th. and Fr. Anastasios Gotsopoulos

INTRODUCTION
On the one year anniversary of the “Council” of Crete, the following article was published in Greek on the website romfea.gr. The intent of the article was twofold: both to commemorate the anniversary of the gathering and to provide a response to a misleading article written by Evangelos Sotiropoulos, a journalist at the Huffington Post. The translation and editing of the article has been greatly delayed, for which we apologize to the many subscribers to this site and others who have written asking for a response in English to Mr. Sotiropoulos’ article. In spite of the delay, we believe our readers will still find the article quite timely, informative and helpful.
There is another reason for the delay in publishing the text, first in Greek and then in English. Responding to critics, especially those who reach a wide, but uninformed audience, is a venture doomed to bring mixed results.
On the one hand, a response will assist those confused or mislead by the critic’s distortions to see the entire picture and put each aspect of the problem in context, hopefully thus dispelling the cloud of misinformation which has been created. On the other hand, a response will give credence and legitimacy to the critic and the appearance that he is qualified to speak on these matters. This is all the more true when responding to non-academics or theologically uninformed journalists who write for highly politicized newspapers.
In spite of our reservations, we offer this analsysis and response for the sake of the faithful and good-willed readers and pray that it will serve to establish them on the rock of faith.
– – –
The Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia (ROCOR) invited the Protopresbyter Fr. Peter Heers, Professor of the Holy Trinity Seminary in Jordanville, New York, to speak on the Council of Crete at the yearly clergy gathering of the Diocese of Eastern America (3/21/2017),2 in the presence of His Eminence, Archbishop Hilarion, and several hierarchs.
Mr. Evangelos Sotiropoulos criticized Fr. Heers’s homily in a text that was published originally on the website “The Huffington Post” and in Greek translation on ROMFEA. Calling upon the fact that he had traveled to Crete, Mr. Sotiropoulos characterizes Fr. Peter’s criticism as “malicious words” containing “erroneous declarations, misleading statements, false equivalents and omissions”! Since, however, he has not offered sufficient support to his criticism, he is in danger of fulfilling the words of the psalm: “upon his own pate shall his unrighteousness come down…”
In more detail:
1. The number of participants in the Pan-Orthodox Council. Mr. Sotiropoulos takes issue with the speaker for his reference to the small number of bishops that participated in the Council (about 160 bishops). He did not, however, rightly perceive the blame of the Council with regard to the number of bishops nor the comparison to certain of the Ecumenical Councils! Of course the problem is not the number of participants itself, but why we have arrived at this number. Why should the number of bishop-members have been so limited when today there is no technical obstacle for a gathering together in one place, in Council, all Orthodox bishops in the world, the number of which does not surpass 900. If in 325, 451, or 787 AD, 318, 630, or 350 bishops respectively could and did come together, it is incomprehensible that 800 or 900 bishops could not come together in our day for such an event! Is it not?
Let us be sincere, dear ones! The limitation of the number of participating bishops has nothing to do with ecclesiological or theological criteria but with matters of phyletism, tactics, and political balances, or, to put it more simply, some of the organizers feared that if the participation of all Orthodox bishops was allowed the votes in their favor would not add up! Let us reflect on the number of bishops of the Church of Russia (368) and it will become clear why the participation of all the bishops in the Council of Crete was not allowed (One of the supporters of the Council, the hieromonk Dositheos, of the Holy Monastery of Tatarna, suggests the same thing, indirectly but clearly!) The criteria that decreed the non-participation of all the bishops were not based on ecclesiology but on phyletistic opportunism.
Yet we cannot pass over the serious ecclesiological issue that is raised, according to the Ecumenical Patriarchate’s leading theologian-bishop, Metropolitan of Pergamus John (Zizioulas), by the intentional exclusion of a portion of the bishops. The Metropolitan writes: “A Synod, therefore, is not an institution that lies above the local Church; it is an institution that expresses the unity, the coincidence, the consent and the reciprocation of local Churches. Something like this is secured – by way of structure and organization – by the rightful participation in Synods by all of the bishops… This is why – from an ecclesiological aspect – every kind of Synod that excludes the presence of bishops (unless there is an unavoidable historical necessity) from participating in a Synod, is considered a serious deviation. There have been – and there still are – such ecclesiologically unjustified deviations…But when a Synod can be comprised of all participants, and yet certain participants among them are chosen and are rendered masters over the remaining bishops – [it is] an act that corrodes very dangerously the foundations of Ecclesiology and creates anomalies and digressions. . .Naturally, the ideal situation is the assembling of all bishops.”3
2. “Great and Holy” or broadened “Council of Primates”? The phrase in Fr. Peter’s lecture, that the Council of Crete was a “Council of the Primates with their companies”, was borrowed from the Metropolitan of Nafpaktos, who justifies it fully in his well-documented intervention in the meeting of the Hierarchy of the Church of Greece (November, 2016),4 to which we refer Mr. Sotiropoulos. Of course, it is not we who belittle the bishops but the manner in which the Council operated, which compelled a moderate bishop of the Church of Greece to deny his participation in the representation because he does not want to be a “decoration”! Furthermore, the fact that on the official website of the Council all the bishop-members are shown as having signed the texts when in fact a significant number of them, more than 40, did not accept and did not sign the text on the “Relations of the Orthodox Church with the rest of the Christian World” shows no respect to the episcopal office! Finally, no respect is shown to the episcopal office when the Council’s organizers tolerated the Archbishop of Cyprus signing “in their stead” on behalf of those bishops who, in fact, refused to sign the above-mentioned text (see further down § 4 d).
3. The voting. On the topic of voting, Fr. Heers’s lecture noted that the vote of the Primates had decisive value and it alone was really considered, independently of the will of their local Churches (see further down § 4 a, b, c).
4. The Conciliar abolition of conciliarity. Mr. Sotiropoulos accuses Fr. Peter because the latter claimed the Council leads to an “abolition of conciliarity” in the Orthodox Church. In fact, to support his criticism Mr. Sotiopoulos reproves the conciliar decision (May 2016) of the Hierarchy of the Church of Greece as being foreign to the conciliar practice of the Church. Mr. Sotiropoulos shows his ignorance of conciliar norms and history when he writes: “The Church of Greece arrived in Crete with specific demands to change the Pre-conciliar documents; this positioning, especially in advance of a Council, is questionable at best. Why? Well, for one, a rigid, pre-determined approach removes the Holy Spirit from working amongst the bishops when they assemble in Council.”
Mr. Sotiropoulos’ criticisms are baseless, both from an historical and a theological standpoint:
a) According to the essence of the conciliar institution and the conciliar practice of our Church, the bishop-members of a Council, even of an Ecumenical one, participate in the discussion on matters of faith expressing not their personal opinions but carrying the ecclesiastical mindset of their local Church, which, of course, is also their own mindset. Basically they function as mandataries of their local Church. And if this holds true for every bishop-member of a local Council, it holds much truer when a local Church has conciliarly named a specific representation, which will participate in a Pan-Orthodox or Ecumenical Council and has bound it conciliarly to a specific theological position. It is inconceivable for the mandataries to act spurning the will of the commander whom they represent.
By conciliar decision, the Hierarchy of the Church of Greece elected particular members as representatives to the Council of Crete and by a unanimous conciliar decision bound the representation to express and support a specific theological position regarding the larger theological and ecclesiological issue. The unanimous conciliar decision was not the result of a hurried and careless judgment but the fruit of discussions and reflection of several months that were carried out not only in the Church of Greece but in almost all of Orthodoxy. The unanimous conciliar decision of the hierarchy of the Church of Greece did not leave open the possibility of adjustment of its decisions by the members of the representation. Indeed, how could the alteration of a dogmatic position be allowed? The representation was obliged to express and support the specific theological and ecclesiological position and only this position.
Furthermore, this decision of the hierarchy before the Pan-Orthodox Council is neither foreign to the conciliar practice of our Church nor “questionable”, as Mr. Sotiropoulos claims. We bring to mind:
i) The Council of Rome, composed of 125 bishops, which was represented at the Sixth Ecumenical Council by its delegation, in addition to the papal legates. The representation brought to the Sixth Ecumenical the written decision of the Council of Rome.5
ii) The papal legates-representatives of pope St. Leo the Great at the Robber Council of Ephesus (449), who, upon seeing that the Council was veering into a Christological teaching opposite to that of the pope, St. Leo, whom they represented and to whom they were bound, said the “contradicitur” and departed from the Council.6
iii) The legates of the pope, St. Leo, at the Fourth Ecumenical Council (451), who brought to the Council the renowned “Tome of Leo” and required that its Christology be accepted. It is noteworthy that, while they refused to negotiate in the least with respect to St. Leo’s Christological teachings, which the Council finally accepted, they were accommodating on issues of a technical nature, which are of lesser importance (e.g. they discussed and finally accepted the composition of another text and not the “Tome” itself as the oros of faith).
iv) The representatives of the Pope and of the Eastern Patriarchates under Arab occupation at the other Ecumenical Councils, who brought epistles from their Patriarchs in which they confessed the dogmatic faith of the Church.
It is therefore clear that, for the conciliar practice of the Church, the obligation of the representatives to the Patriarch (and, of course, it follows, to the local Church) which it represents and whose mindset it brings to the Council was customary and assumed. The representation of a local Church is bound to express with exactitude the ecclesiological mindset of the local Church, which cannot but be non-negotiable. It is entrusted to its discretional competence to negotiate on issues of lesser importance or matters of a technical nature only, always, however, within the theological bounds of the direction that it has received from its Church.
In the particular case, the representation of the Church of Greece was bound by the unanimous conciliar decision of the hierarchy not to accept the designation of the heretical communities as “Churches”. We repeat that this decision was the fruit of theological discussions several months long. Mr. Sotiropoulos wonders fearfully what would have happened if the Greek representation had kept the obligation that it had received and some other Church insisted on an opposite view. We cannot understand this fear! Very simply, the Council would not have decided upon that point but would have referred the matter to a serious and thorough re-examination, as did happen with many other vital matters in the pre-conciliar preparation. The deferment of the decision would have been preferable to what we now live through with a supposedly Pan-Orthodox decision at such a level, which can be anything but flattering for the Church and Her theological production.
b) Disregard for the fundamental 34th Apostolic Canon
According to the 34th Apostolic, the bishops of each local Church ought, in matters that concern “the common state of the Church,” to confer and co-decide with their Primate in Council: “do nothing of consequence without his consent; but each may do those things only which concern his own parish, and the country places which belong to it.” This fundamental canon stipulates and binds not only the bishops but the Primate as well to act always within the bounds of the Council and to be bound by the conciliar decision: “But neither let him (who is the first) do anything without the consent of all.” When we have a unanimous conciliar decision of the hierarchy, by what canonical right did the Archbishop of Athens sign on behalf of the Church of Greece, contrary to “with the consent of all”? Is this not violation and disregard of the fundamental 34th Apostolic Canon?
c) Violation of the Council’s Procedure itself
According to the Working Procedure of the Great and Holy Council (article 12 § 3), each Autocephalous Church, independently of the dissent of certain hierarchs (“one or more hierarchs” according to §2) in its representation, “may cast an affirmative vote on the basis of the principle of internal majority, which is expressed by its Primate.” That is, the vote of the Primate of each Church is legitimized “on the basis of the principle of internal majority” of the representation and thus it is supposed to express his local Church.
What does this mean for the Orthodox Church, which boasts not to be ruled papally but has a conciliar form of rule? It means that the representatives of each Church, if there was no explicit obligation from the Church that they represent, would decide together whether to accept the texts, and Her Primate, as a representative of each Autocephalous Church, “on the basis of the principle of internal majority,” would vote not according to his own opinion but according to the collective decision of his Church’s representation.
Yet the Council of Crete violated its very own Working Procedure! The representation of the Church of Serbia was constituted of the Patriarch and 24 bishops. Only 7 Serbian bishops accepted and signed the controversial 6th text (“Relations of the Orthodox Church with the Rest of the Christian World”), while 17 would not approve or sign it (see Appendix Ι). What was the result? Because their Patriarch signed it the Church of Serbia is considered as being in agreement! Is this not a dissolution of conciliarity? Is it not a violation of the 34th Apostolic Canon? Is it not a violation and dissolution of the Council’s Working Procedure (article 12 §3)? Was there an “internal majority” in the representation of Serbia, when 17 out of 24 hierarchs did not agree with the text and did not sign it? Was this violation not perceived by the “President of the Holy and Great Council which assembled in Crete, [the] guardian of the dogmatic and canonical order of the Eastern Church”?7 We would very much like an answer to this question.
The irony is that, although we the Orthodox emphasize the need for the Vatican to base the relations between Primate and Local Church on the 34th Apostolic Canon, the Pan-Orthodox Council itself plainly transgressed it.
d) Primate or Pope?8
The things that took place with respect to the voting of the Church of Cyprus are unthinkable, concerning which Mr. Sotiropoulos is silent: 4 or 5 of the 17 bishops of the Cypriot ecclesiastical representation would not sign the controversial text. What happened thereafter? The Archbishop of Cyprus signed for each one «on his behalf» (see Appendix I). In fact in an interview with a Greek-American newspaper he characterized the disagreeing bishops of his Church as a “fifth column … in the Council”! He is the same one that insultingly attacked the Church of Greece, forcing Archbishop Ieronymos to respond to him heatedly.
It is clear from the aforementioned examples that at the Council of Crete there was not only disregard and dissolution of the conciliar spirit of the Orthodox Church but also an disdain for the episcopal office by the “Protos”. Unfortunately, this was all tolerated and accepted by the “Pan Orthodox Council” and the “President of the Holy and Great Council which assembled in Crete, [the] guardian of the dogmatic and canonical order of the Eastern Church.” Or, rather, upon this very basis the “Council” was “successfully” carried out, without which it would have disintegrated entirely.
We accuse the pope of disregarding the conciliar institution yet we do not see that the so-called “Pan-Orthodox Council” was founded upon the papal mentality of the supposed superiority of the “First”, disregarding and dissolving any sense of Orthodox conciliarity and canonical order. The “First” acts in a papal manner opposite to the opinion of his synod and this is acceptable to the “Council”!
It is grievous and a sign of the decline of the canonical order that there is, on such a high level, a “conciliar” dissolution of the conciliarity of the Local Churches and the imposition of the “First” of each Church with papal powers.
5. The Absence of the four Patriarchates. Let us focus a bit on the absence of the four Patriarchates from Crete. The ancient Patriarchate of Antioch, the Patriarchate of Russia, the Patriarchate of Bulgaria, and the Patriarchate of Georgia, declined to participate in the Council of Crete and, what is most important, they declined to accept either its decisions or the gathering itself as a “Great and Holy Council” of Orthodoxy.
a) Mr. Sotiropoulos considers the reasons to which the four Patriarchates appeal for their non-participation in Crete as “wholly inadequate.” In fact, aligning himself with the defenders of Crete, he proposes or more rightly limits the four Patriarchates’ motivations for their non-participation only to geopolitical interests and phyletism. Ιt is tragic for churchmen to see everything through geopolitical lens and not to be able to comprehend that it is possible for a Church to differentiate itself for spiritual, theological, or ecclesiological reasons! Of course, not to do them an injustice, this is what the people experience: they lead their lives on the basis of political, diplomatic, geopolitical, and public-oriented interests, they move on the basis of these “principles,” and thus they think that the others must act on these presuppositions as well. How could they suspect that some may act on the basis of their faith and not with political interests? It is apparent that they judge others on the basis of their own mindset.
Of course, it is obvious that political parameters exist as well, as they have existed always throughout Church history. Nevertheless, it is also unquestionable that while the Churches of Bulgaria and Georgia may not have a number of outstanding theological personalities, they have still remained strict adherents to Orthodox ecclesiology, (as is apparent in their stances on marriage, relations with the heterodox, etc.).
It was, after all, the representation of the Church of Georgia which, by its presence and positions, overturned the ecumenists’ aims at the 13th Meeting of the Mixed Committee of the Theological Dialogue of the Roman Catholics and the Orthodox in Aman of Jordan (15-23/9/2014). What manipulation did those in charge not use to catch the Orthodox representations by surprise and make them accept the outrageous text which they had prepared. Yet, the small Church of Georgia upset their plans at the last minute, only being joined afterward by the Church of Russia and others.
Also, it is no small detail that the Churches of Bulgaria and Georgia, discerning the counter-productive nature of involvement, have abstained from the World Council of Churches for decades now. One cannot but stand the greatest respect before this, their choice, for it well known what the WCC offers: funding of projects, scholarships to executives of Churches and theological schools, travel grants, conferences, special gifts, etc. And this sacrifice is coming not from the poorest of the Local Orthodox Churches, which, nonetheless, have the “backbone” to reject funding and other “benefits” of membership in the WCC. How can we then, with a light heart, insult them saying that the main criterion of their behavior is political opportunism? Is it possible for one who gives priority to politics to disregard the generous funding and the other “offers” of the WCC and the related ecumenical organizations?
Closing this paragraph, let us remember an extract from the statement of the Metropolitan of Bachka (Serbia) Irenaeus (Bulovich), who was referring to the text “Relations of the Orthodox Church with the Rest of the Christian World”:
“The Council of Crete, however, through the text in question, ought to have borne witness to its ecclesiological identity and self-consciousness more clearly, consistently, and exactly. Unfortunately this was not possible, since in the numerous preliminary sessions in Geneva, in spite of the disapproval of many and the sharp criticism exacted, the text – for reasons never divulged – was not seriously re-evaluated, as was the desire and suggestion of the Primates of the autocephalous Churches, but it was sent on as is, essentially untouched, to the Council, where, due to a lack of time and consensus, only cosmetic changes were made, with the exception of the amendment of the Church of Greece upon its most controversial and easily misunderstood point. Let us not hide or deceive ourselves. This problematic text is the first and foremost cause of the four Orthodox Patriarchates’ refusal to participate in the Council, while the Church of Serbia struggled and wavered regarding its participation until the last minute”!
Let Mr. Sotiropoulos, who exalts himself on the fact of his journalistic presence on the outskirts of the “Council,” pay close attention to these words from a bishop who actually took part in the Council.
b) According to article 8 (§ 1-2) and article 11 of the Council’s Working Procedure, the conciliar work is carried out with regard to the texts that have been unanimously accepted by the Pan-Orthodox Pre-conciliar Committees.9
Yet the text “The Mystery of Marriage and Its Impediments” had not been approved and signed by the Patriarchate of Antioch nor by the Patriarchate of Georgia in the pre-conciliar period! And yet, in violation of the Procedure, the text was introduced, discussed, and approved in Crete!
c) Also, Mr. Sotiropoulos does not serve the truth when he says that Antioch agreed to the Council and then withdrew, since:
i. The Patriarchate of Antioch from very early had many times stated – whether for well or ill is not of the moment – that, if the issue of Qatar was not solved, it would not take part in the Council. How then does Mr. Sotiropoulos falsely claim that Antioch agreed and then the last minute did not participate?
ii. The Patriarchate of Antioch did not agree and did not sign the Council’s Working Procedure either! Truly, Mr. Sotiropoulos, what sort of a “Pan-Orthodox Council” is this, when not even its Working Procedure had been approved by all the Orthodox?
iii. Most importantly: the Patriarchate of Antioch did not sign the decisions of the Synaxis of the Primates that was the most decisive for the Council (Chambessy 27/1/2016) either. At this Synaxis it was decided where and when the Great and Holy Council would be convened (Crete, 16-27/6/2017), its Working Procedure, its Daily Agenda, the constitution of the Inter-Orthodox Secretariat, the funding, the invitation of heterodox as Observers, that is, all the important issues of the Council. The Patriarchate of Antioch did not agree and did not sign this decision, noting in the space for the signature: “The Church of Antioch has an opposing view and for this reason does not sign” (see Appendix II)!10 Consequently, the Council was not convened by the agreement of all the Local Churches, in violation of the Working Procedure and the pan-Orthodox practice up to that point.
We ask Mr. Sotiropoulos to read the Conciliar decision of the Patriarchate of Antioch of the 27th of June, 2016,11 and he will realize that he has fallen a victim to misinformation and consequently he does an injustice to both himself and the truth.
6. Church and churches. Mr. Sotiropoulos attempts to refute the claim that only in the 20th century, in the context of the Ecumenical Movement, was western Christianity characterized a Church with the theological meaning of the term, and he refers to Orthodox statements since the Seventh Ecumenical Council in 787: the Encyclical Letter of St. Mark of Ephesus (1440); the Replies of Patriarch Jeremiah II to the Lutherans (16th-century); and, the Reply of the Orthodox Patriarchs to Pope Pius IX (1848), among others.
Unfortunately for Mr. Sotiropoulos, the texts to which he refers all but support his views. These texts have nothing to do with the theological production of Crete! For the invalidation of Mr. Sotiropoulos’s claim we refer to a text of the Metropolitan Hierotheos of Nafpaktos.12 As for us, very summarily we point out:
• The Encyclical of St. Mark of Ephesus (1440): St. Mark does not characterize Rome as a Church. He always refers to the “Latins”, whom he characterizes as heretics and he speaks with the harshest words about the Latins’ delusions! Among many other things the Saint wonders: “So whence did they suddenly appear to us as Orthodox, who were judged as heretics for so many years and by so many Fathers? Who has made them so easily Orthodox? Gold and your profit [have made them], if you wanted to say the truth. Rather they have not made them Orthodox, but, having made you similar to them, they have thrust you away into the lot of the heretics”!13
Truly, what connection has the Saint’s text with Crete?
• The responses of the Patriarch Jeremiah II to the Lutherans: The way in which the Patriarch writes to the Lutherans is truly worthy of imitation: with politeness, refinement, and love but also with absolute clarity he expounds upon the Orthodox faith, refuting their delusions one by one in three long responses and he calls them to deny the delusions and draw nigh to Orthodoxy! Would that the Council of Crete expose with such clarity and fullness the Orthodox teaching regarding the heterodox Christians and call them to become integrated into the One, Holy Catholic, and Apostolic Church of Christ! The Patriarch Jeremiah writes in his second epistle:
“Finally, having understood Orthodoxy from the Holy Scriptures, come enter into it with all your souls, O wise and sagacious men, and put far away from you every irrational innovation, which the host of Ecumenical Teachers and of the Church has not accepted. … Therefore, if up to the present something has been violated, you who are prudent may correct it from now, and you will be worthy of praise by God, as well as by men and by us. For to err is human, but correction is angelic and salvific. May you take care of this, also, so that the grace and the mercy of God may be with you.”14
Yet when the Lutherans in the reply insisted on their views, the patriarch concludes his third long epistle thus:
“Therefore, we request that from henceforth you do not cause us more grief, nor write to us on the same subject if you should wish to treat these luminaries and theologians of the Church in a different manner. You honor and exalt them in words, but you reject them in deeds. … Therefore, going about your own ways, write no longer concerning dogmas; but if you do, write only for friendship’s sake!”15
Truly, what connection have these texts of the Patriarch Jeremiah with the decisions of Crete?
• The response of the Orthodox Patriarchs to Pope Pius IX (1848): In their epistle the Patriarchs refer to Rome mainly by the terms “Papism” and “papists”, which are characterized as a heresy. They note word for word: “Of these heresies diffused … over a great part of the world, was formerly Arianism, and at present is the Papacy.” (§ 4). Certainly, they refer to Papism also as a “Church”, but it is clear from the context that the term is not meant in its ecclesiological meaning. So, the Patriarchs write, referring to the invitation of the Pope: “Until there be this desired returning of the apostate Churches to the body of the One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church, of which Christ is the Head (Eph. iv. 15), and each of us ‘members in particular,’ all advice proceeding from them, and every officious exhortation tending to the dissolution of our pure faith handed down from the Fathers is condemned, as it ought to be, synodically, not only as suspicious and to be eschewed, but as impious and soul-destroying» (§ 17).
Would that the Council of Crete refer to Papism and the Protestants with this mindset and let it have used the term “Church”. Certainly, no one would have any objection to the “Council” in Crete in this case.
Really, Mr. Sotiropoulos, what connection have these texts that you invoke with Crete?! These texts refer to heresies and heretics, whom they invite to become integrated into the Church of Christ! Where did Crete talk about heresies and heretics? When did Crete invite the heterodox to become integrated into the One Church of Christ?
7. Distortion of the words of St. Porphyrios. Mr. Sotiropoulos concludes his article by quoting Saint Porphyrios of Kafsokalyvia, supposing that his words are applicable to our critique of the “Council” and its texts. Unfortunately, he “caps off” his confused and undiscerning article with yet another misinterpretation and misrepresentation. The words of the Saint which are quoted and placed in bold at end the article are: “Those who censure the Church for the errors of her representatives with the alleged aim of helping to correct her make a great mistake. They do not love the Church. Neither, needless to say, do they love Christ.”
The implication is clear: all who reject the “Council” of Crete and reject its decisions as not expressive of the Orthodox Faith do not love Christ or the Church! This is a remarkable statement, for, of course, he is not implicating Fr. Peter alone in this, but indeed four Local Orthodox Churches, representing more than half of the Orthodox world, which refused to recognize the “Council” as pan-Orthodox. Beyond this, however, and more importantly, with his use (and abuse) of the Saint’s words, the author shows how undiscerning he his and how the words of the Saint are a closed book for him.
Firstly, the Saint clearly has in mind criticism which is directed against the Church “for the errors of her representatives,” not criticism directed against those who, although charged with representing the Church, have abandoned the Faith of the Church or undermined Her conciliar nature. Ironically, the Saint is, in fact, criticizing the very thing that Mr. Sotiropoulos is doing: identifying the Church with the behavior of Her clergy.
Secondly, the Saint clearly is not referring to matters of Faith, but rather is speaking of the ethical or social falls of the clergy, as when he says earlier: “Even if with our own eyes we see a priest doing something we judge negatively, we should not believe it, nor think about it, nor talk about it to others.” This is, of course, quite consistent with both Holy Scripture and the Gerontikon where we are charged to cover the sins of others and not to judge them. However, this does not apply to errors in the Faith, especially those committed publicly, for our Lord, the entire Patristic witness and relevant canons charge us to “judge righteously,” “discern the times,” and “confess the faith.”
Thirdly, and most egregiously, Mr. Sotiopoulos errs in implying that the “Council” is to be identified with “the Church.” He is rebuking us when we criticize the carrying out and decisions of the “Council” for “censuring the Church.” If this were so, he would also need to criticize dozens of our greatest Saints who stood against the false councils of bishops (some of them much larger than the “Council” in Crete) that have occurred in the past, such as the false councils of Ephesus, Hieria, Lyon or Florence. He would be standing not only against particular Saints, such as the Patriarchs of Constantinople, Ss. Flavian the Confessor and Tarasius, St. Gregory Palamas, and St. Mark of Ephesus, for example, but also against the Ecumenical Councils, such as the Fourth and Seventh Ecumenical Councils which overturned and condemned the decisions of the false councils of Ephesus and Hieria.
Fourthly, and finally on this point, it is necessary to declare to Mr. Sotiropoulos and all those with him, who from time to time like to quote St. Porphyrios wrongly in order to support their ecumenistic sympathies: the Saint was not an ecumenist and does not support you in your disregard of the Faith of our Fathers and the Holy Canons! As with this quote above, not a few others have been presented as if in support of the ecumenist path and methodology, always, however, misinterpreting and misrepresenting the meaning of his words. Not every Saint wrote theological treatises or spoke boldly against heresy and the spirit of antichrist behind it, but every Saint’s life, including St. Porphyrios’, being in the Spirit of God, was a living witness that the Orthodox Church is the Body of Christ, the continuation of the Incarnation and not a part of or in communion with an ecumenical “work in progress.” Thus, please cease abusing the Saint’s words and twisting them to support the delusion of a “church divided in time”, according to the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew’s eccleciologically unacceptable expression.16
8. Today, more than a year after the convocation of the so-called “Great and Holy Council” – evaluating it we cannot but realize with sincere grief:
• It was being prepared for 60 years as “Pan-Orthodox”, but 60% of the Orthodox were not represented at it.
• It was characterized as “Pan-Orthodox”, but the ecclesiastical conscience of more than 60% of the Orthodox has not accepted it, as this conscience has been appropriately and canonically expressed through the Councils of the Local Churches.
• Its theological production is widely and intensely doubted by bishops and Local Churches, even by some of those which participated.
And how can it not be doubted when:
• It accepted Ecumenism, which all contemporary Saints without exception have condemned. The spirit-bearing Elder Ephraim of Katounakia stated, after much prayer, that God revealed to him that Ecumenism is dominated by an demonic spirit.17 This Movement was accepted by the Council of Crete…
• It ruled that the Orthodox Church “views favorably” the unorthodox texts of the WCC.18
• Instead of becoming the occasion for the forging of inter-Orthodox unity, it caused wounds hard to heal in the Body of the Church, because of the manipulation used by those in charge.
• It was convened to express the unity of Orthodoxy to the outsiders, yet it proclaimed the intra-Orthodox problems urbi et orbi.
• It was aimed to raise the prestige of the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, but it rather devalued it – most unfortunately for the Ecumenical Patriarchate.
• It created very serious problems of the theological and pastoral responsibility of the bishops, with unforeseeable consequences for the unity of the Local Churches.
• It failed to conclusively answer any of the pressing theological or pastoral needs. It has been supported shamelessly that “the Council had to happen…in order to happen.”
• We cannot but realize with grief that in the Council of Crete the great loser is the Conciliar Institution itself.
9. In conclusion. The following would not recognize it as a Great and Holy Pan-Orthodox Council:
i. The Patriarchate of Antioch, in the decision of 27/6/16:
a. “Consider[s] the meeting in Crete as a preliminary meeting towards the Pan-Orthodox Council …
b. Refuse[s] to assign a conciliar character to any Orthodox meeting that does not involve all the Orthodox Autocephalous Churches, … Thus, the Church of Antioch refuses that the meeting in Crete be called a “Great Orthodox Council” or a “Great Holy Council.”
c. Affirm[s] that whatever was issued in the meeting in Crete, of decisions and other things, is non-binding, by any means, to the Patriarchate of Antioch.”
ii. The Patriarchate of Russia (Decision of the Holy Council, 15/7/16) comments:
a. “The Council which took place in Crete cannot be considered Pan-Orthodox, nor can the documents which it ratified constitute an expression of Pan-Orthodox consensus.” It reserves its decision on the theological commentary on the decisions of Crete. The Council is characterized as a “forum of ten Churches”!
iii. The Patriarchate of Bulgaria comments in the conciliar decision of 15/11/16:
a. The Council of Crete is neither great, nor holy, nor Pan-Orthodox.
i. This is due to the non-participation of a number of Local autocephalous Churches, as well as the accepted organizational and theological mistakes.
ii. Careful study of the documents adopted at the Council in Crete leads us to the conclusion that some of them contain discrepancies with Orthodox Church teaching, with the dogmatic and canonical Tradition of the Church, and with the spirit and letter of the Ecumenical and Local Councils.
iii. The documents adopted in Crete are to be subject to further theological consideration for the purpose of amending, editing and correcting, or being replaced by other (new documents) in the spirit and Tradition of the Church.”
iv. The Patriarchate of Georgia, by a justified decision of the Holy Synod (10/6/16), did not participate because of intense disagreement with the pre-conciliar texts on Marriage, the Mission of the Church, and mainly the Relations with the Heterodox.19
v. Even the Patriarchate of Romania, which participated in the Council, ruled that:
a. “the texts can be explained, nuanced in part or further developed by a future Great and Holy Council of the Orthodox Church. However, their interpretation and the drafting of new texts on a variety of issues must not be made hastily or without Pan-Orthodox agreement, otherwise they must be delayed and perfected until agreement can be reached.”
vi. The Church of Greece (at the council of the Hierarchy 24/11/16). A proposal was made and accepted that the Church of Greece “appoint a qualified or a specific Conciliar Committee to study deeply and theologically and ecclesiologically evaluate the texts which have already been written and which contain either positive or even cautious positions concerning the decisions of the Great and Holy Council. As responsible and caring Shepherds, we ought to listen to all serious and constructive positions with the greatest attention and pastoral sensitivity. Τhe result of this study, which I [the presenter to the synod] believe strongly expresses a conciliar ethos and quality, if it is utilized appropriately, may also substantially help our most holy Church and all of Orthodoxy as a whole.”
vii. Even many of the bishops who participated in the gathering question it. For example, His Grace Irenaeus (Bulovich), bishop of Bachka (Serbia), spoke “Concerning the recently concluded, triumphantly yet not entirely persuasively, ‘Great and Holy Council’ of our Church in Columbari of Crete: it is already not recognized as such by the Churches that were absent, indeed even characterized by them as a “gathering in Crete”, and also disputed by most of the attending Orthodox hierarchs!”
There is no precedent of an Orthodox Council that is so intensely disputed by so many Local Churches. If we wish to be elementally serious the fairy-tale being told about a “Pan-Orthodox” Council should cease.
We wonder, therefore, along with St. Tarasius (Seventh Ecumenical Council), adjusting his words concerning the Robber Council of Hieria to the contemporary reality of the supposedly Pan-Orthodox Council:
“Furthermore, how [is it] great and holy, which the presidents of the other churches neither accepted nor agreed but sent past with anathema? It did not secure the agreement of the patriarchs of the East, of Antioch, Russia, Bulgaria, and Georgia, nor of those mystagogues and hierarchs with them.”20
10. Yet, it must not be forgotten that Christ Himself is Lord, Leader, and Head of the Church and the Holy Spirit leads Her, and It leads Her indeed “into all truth.” It was Christ Himself Who overturned the cunning manipulations of those who were working for decades to promote their plans through the Council.
Nor only that, but the Council of Crete had two positive elements that were brought out:
Firstly, the Orthodox have awakened! Simple faithful, monks, clergy, even Councils of Churches concerned themselves, showed interest, worried, and made significant decisions. They came to see the manipulations of some against the Faith and they resisted and managed largely to foil the lawless plans. Indicative of this is that the Conference of the five Dioceses that was organized in Piraeus (23/3/2016) was viewed by people around the world (more than 100,000 through intv.gr, while the number of those through Youtube and other websites and weblogs is indefinite and the views of the texts uploaded on hundreds of websites and weblogs, translated into many languages, number in the thousands). This alone demonstrates the concern and interest of the People of God on a pan-Orthodox level.
Secondly, the “Council” of Crete occasioned significant inter-Orthodox communication. There is no such precedent: with simplicity and sincerity, without manipulations, supportive mechanisms and managers, some persons surpassed the borders of their Local Churches and were distinguished on a pan-Orthodox level as the conveyors through whom the pan-Orthodox ecclesiastical consciousness was expressed. Three persons stand out in this regard: the V. Rev. Metropolitan Hierotheos of Nafpaktos, the Protopresbyter Theodore Zisis, Emeritus Professor of Patrology, and the Professor of Dogmatics, Demetrios Tselengides. Each one, from his particular position from which he serves the Body of Christ, in his own manner, in his own style, but with a single ecclesiastical ethos, love for our Church and speech well-documented in the ecclesiastical tradition, testified by his theological contribution. It is moving and at the same time astonishing, for it is reminiscent of past critical moments of our Church. God chose them mainly in this most critical moment to carry the weight of the defense of the conciliar institution and of the Orthodox Faith on a Pan-Orthodox level, at considerable personal cost.
Thus their texts, founded in the patristic and conciliar Orthodox tradition and in the contemporary saints’ experience of the Holy Spirit, surpassed the borders of Greek-speaking Orthodoxy, were translated and utilized on a pan-Orthodox level, and constituted the base of inter-Orthodox concern, even for Synods of Autocephalous Churches and Patriarchates.
The “Council”, therefore, helped the communication, co-operation, and exchange of opinions among the People of God on a Pan-Orthodox level. The interest and concern – “for the most part understandable”, as the hierarchy of the Church of Greece characterized it – of the People of God on a Pan-Orthodox level for an ecclesiastical event was exceptional in the ecclesiastical records of many past decades.
This displays or rather confirms also the timeless experience of the Church, which was expressed by the Patriarchs of the East in their famous proclamation:
“Neither Patriarchs nor Councils could have introduced novelties amongst us, because the protector of religion is the very body of the Church, even the people themselves, who desire their religious worship to be ever unchanged and of the same kind as that of their Fathers.”
This defender or religion, the people of God, that is, clergy, monks, and laity, are called to assist, according to each one’s gift, position, and service in the Body of Christ, in the correction of the many errors of Crete having the certainty that in the end Truth will shine, for Truth is Christ Himself.
To Him belongs the glory, power, honor, and worship unto the ages of ages. Amen.
~ Protopresbyters Fr. Peter Heers and Fr. Anastasios Gotsopoulos
21.6.2017
1 Originally published in Greek on the website romfea.gr: http://www.romfea.gr/katigories/10-apopseis/15500-….
2 The lecture “The Council of Crete and the New Emerging Ecclesiology: An Orthodox Examination,” has appeared on the official website of Holy Trinity Orthodox Seminary (http://hts.edu/news_170329_1.html), on the Greek news website, romfea.gr (http://www.romfea.gr/diafora/14558-i-sunodos-tis-k…), and on the website Orthodox Ethos (https://orthodoxethos.com/post/the-council-of-cret…), including both the text and video of the lecture. Likewise, Fr. Peter Heers has given two other lectures on the “Council” of Crete: 1) The Recognition of the Baptism of the Heterodox as the Basis for a New Ecclesiology (In Step with Vatican II) (available at http://orthochristian.com/92066.html), and 2) From the Second Vatican Council (1965) to the Pan Orthodox Council (2016): Signposts on the Way to Crete (available at http://orthochristian.com/93786.html).
3 Ζιζιούλα, Ι., Θέματα Εκκλησιολογίας, Πανεπιστημιακές Παραδόσεις, Θεσσαλονίκη 1991, pp. 71-71. In English translation, see: http://oodegr.com/english/dogmatiki1/F2f.htm
4 This text can be found online: http://parembasis.gr/index.php/holy-great-council-… or https://orthodoxethos.com/post/intervention-and-te….
5 Σπ. Μήλιας, Πρακτικὰ τῶν Ἁγίων καὶ Οἰκουμενικῶν Συνόδων, ἔκδ. Καλύβης Τ. Προδρόμου Ἱ. Σκήτης Ἁγ. Ἄννης, Ἃγ. Ὅρος, τ. Γ΄ (1986), σ. 46, Mansi 11, 285, ACO 2,2,1,12210
6 Σπ. Μήλιας, Πρακτικὰ τῶν Ἁγίων καὶ Οἰκουμενικῶν Συνόδων, ἔκδ. Καλύβης Τ. Προδρόμου Ἱ. Σκήτης Ἁγ. Ἄννης, Ἃγ. Ὅρος, τ. Β΄ (1982), σ. 121, Mansi 6, 908D, ACO 2,1,1,19130
7 This is how Patriarch Bartholomew referred to himself in a letter to the Archbishop of Athens. See: “Patriarch of Constantinople’s Letter to the Archbishop of Greece: Defrock and Sever Communion with Those Opposed to our Council in Crete,” http://www.pravoslavie.ru/english/99398.htm.
8 See: π. Ἀναστ. Γκοτσοπούλου, «Προκαθήμενοι ἢ πάπες;» (10.6.16), στό http://www.impantokratoros.gr/CF5A8EE9.el.aspx.
9 Article 8, paragraph 1: “According to the daily agenda, the texts unanimously approved at Pan-Orthodox Preconciliar Meetings and at Synaxes of the Primates of the autocephalous Orthodox Churches shall be considered in Plenary sessions and/or in Synodal Committees.”
Article 11: “Proposals to amend, correct, or append the Synodal texts that were unanimously approved by the Pan-Orthodox Preconciliar Meetings and by Synaxes of the Primates, or to the Council’s Message…”
10 See: http://www.romfea.gr/patriarxeia-ts/patriarxeio-an….
11 In Greek: http://www.romfea.gr/patriarxeia-ts/patriarxeio-an…, and in English: https://orthodoxethos.com/post/the-patriarchate-of….
12 In Greek: http://parembasis.gr/images/anakoinoseis/2016/NAYP… and in English: http://parembasis.gr/index.php/holy-great-council-….
13 Ἰ. Καρμίρη, Τὰ δογματικὰ καὶ συμβολικὰ μνημεῖα τῆς Ὀρθοδόξου Καθολικῆς Ἐκκλησίας, ἐν Ἀθήναις 1952, τ. Ι, σ. 359.
14 Ἰ. Καρμίρη, Τὰ δογματικὰ καὶ συμβολικὰ μνημεῖα τῆς Ὀρθοδόξου Καθολικῆς Ἐκκλησίας, ἐν Ἀθήναις 1953, τ. ΙΙ, σ. 475.
15 Ἰ. Καρμίρη, Τὰ δογματικὰ καὶ συμβολικὰ μνημεῖα τῆς Ὀρθοδόξου Καθολικῆς Ἐκκλησίας, ἐν Ἀθήναις 1953, τ. ΙΙ, σ. 489.
16 With these words the Patriarch of Constantinople, Bartholomew, referred to the One, Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church, during his speech at the All-holy Tomb of our Lord in Jerusalem, in 2014. See our lecture (reference in note 2 above) where we analyze in detail the new ecclesiology being presented by the Patriarch – an analysis which Mr. Sotiropoulos neglected to address.
17 For more detail, see the article by Fr. Anastasios Gotsopoulos, “Ecumenism, the Impure Spirits and the Council of Crete” (in Greek): http://www.impantokratoros.gr/43815419.el.aspx.
18 For more details, see the article by Fr. Anastasios Gotsopoulos, “The Council of Crete and the World Council of Churches” (in Greek): https://www.impantokratoros.gr/F99804D6.el.aspx.
19 http://www.romfea.gr/images/apofaseis_georgia.pdf.
20 «πῶς δ’ αὖ ἁγία καὶ μεγάλη ἥν οὔτε ἐδέξαντο, οὔτε συνεφώνησαν οἱ τῶν λοιπῶν ἐκκλησιῶν πρόεδροι, ἀλλ’ ἀναθέματι ταύτην παρέπεμψαν; Οὐκ ἔσχεν … συμφρονοῦντας αὐτὴ τοὺς πατριάρχας τῆς Ἔω, Ἀντιοχείας, Ρωσίας, Βουλγαρίας καὶ τῆς Γεωργίας, ἢ τοὺς σὺν αὐτοῖς μύστας καὶ Ἀρχιερεῖς».

On the “Great and Holy Council” of Crete: A Response to E. SotiropoulosBy Protopresbyters Fr. Peter Heers D.Th. and Fr. Anastasios Gotsopoulos

INTRODUCTION
On the one year anniversary of the “Council” of Crete, the following article was published in Greek on the website romfea.gr. The intent of the article was twofold: both to commemorate the anniversary of the gathering and to provide a response to a misleading article written by Evangelos Sotiropoulos, a journalist at the Huffington Post. The translation and editing of the article has been greatly delayed, for which we apologize to the many subscribers to this site and others who have written asking for a response in English to Mr. Sotiropoulos’ article. In spite of the delay, we believe our readers will still find the article quite timely, informative and helpful.
There is another reason for the delay in publishing the text, first in Greek and then in English. Responding to critics, especially those who reach a wide, but uninformed audience, is a venture doomed to bring mixed results.
On the one hand, a response will assist those confused or mislead by the critic’s distortions to see the entire picture and put each aspect of the problem in context, hopefully thus dispelling the cloud of misinformation which has been created. On the other hand, a response will give credence and legitimacy to the critic and the appearance that he is qualified to speak on these matters. This is all the more true when responding to non-academics or theologically uninformed journalists who write for highly politicized newspapers.
In spite of our reservations, we offer this analsysis and response for the sake of the faithful and good-willed readers and pray that it will serve to establish them on the rock of faith.
– – –
The Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia (ROCOR) invited the Protopresbyter Fr. Peter Heers, Professor of the Holy Trinity Seminary in Jordanville, New York, to speak on the Council of Crete at the yearly clergy gathering of the Diocese of Eastern America (3/21/2017),2 in the presence of His Eminence, Archbishop Hilarion, and several hierarchs.
Mr. Evangelos Sotiropoulos criticized Fr. Heers’s homily in a text that was published originally on the website “The Huffington Post” and in Greek translation on ROMFEA. Calling upon the fact that he had traveled to Crete, Mr. Sotiropoulos characterizes Fr. Peter’s criticism as “malicious words” containing “erroneous declarations, misleading statements, false equivalents and omissions”! Since, however, he has not offered sufficient support to his criticism, he is in danger of fulfilling the words of the psalm: “upon his own pate shall his unrighteousness come down…”
In more detail:
1. The number of participants in the Pan-Orthodox Council. Mr. Sotiropoulos takes issue with the speaker for his reference to the small number of bishops that participated in the Council (about 160 bishops). He did not, however, rightly perceive the blame of the Council with regard to the number of bishops nor the comparison to certain of the Ecumenical Councils! Of course the problem is not the number of participants itself, but why we have arrived at this number. Why should the number of bishop-members have been so limited when today there is no technical obstacle for a gathering together in one place, in Council, all Orthodox bishops in the world, the number of which does not surpass 900. If in 325, 451, or 787 AD, 318, 630, or 350 bishops respectively could and did come together, it is incomprehensible that 800 or 900 bishops could not come together in our day for such an event! Is it not?
Let us be sincere, dear ones! The limitation of the number of participating bishops has nothing to do with ecclesiological or theological criteria but with matters of phyletism, tactics, and political balances, or, to put it more simply, some of the organizers feared that if the participation of all Orthodox bishops was allowed the votes in their favor would not add up! Let us reflect on the number of bishops of the Church of Russia (368) and it will become clear why the participation of all the bishops in the Council of Crete was not allowed (One of the supporters of the Council, the hieromonk Dositheos, of the Holy Monastery of Tatarna, suggests the same thing, indirectly but clearly!) The criteria that decreed the non-participation of all the bishops were not based on ecclesiology but on phyletistic opportunism.
Yet we cannot pass over the serious ecclesiological issue that is raised, according to the Ecumenical Patriarchate’s leading theologian-bishop, Metropolitan of Pergamus John (Zizioulas), by the intentional exclusion of a portion of the bishops. The Metropolitan writes: “A Synod, therefore, is not an institution that lies above the local Church; it is an institution that expresses the unity, the coincidence, the consent and the reciprocation of local Churches. Something like this is secured – by way of structure and organization – by the rightful participation in Synods by all of the bishops… This is why – from an ecclesiological aspect – every kind of Synod that excludes the presence of bishops (unless there is an unavoidable historical necessity) from participating in a Synod, is considered a serious deviation. There have been – and there still are – such ecclesiologically unjustified deviations…But when a Synod can be comprised of all participants, and yet certain participants among them are chosen and are rendered masters over the remaining bishops – [it is] an act that corrodes very dangerously the foundations of Ecclesiology and creates anomalies and digressions. . .Naturally, the ideal situation is the assembling of all bishops.”3
2. “Great and Holy” or broadened “Council of Primates”? The phrase in Fr. Peter’s lecture, that the Council of Crete was a “Council of the Primates with their companies”, was borrowed from the Metropolitan of Nafpaktos, who justifies it fully in his well-documented intervention in the meeting of the Hierarchy of the Church of Greece (November, 2016),4 to which we refer Mr. Sotiropoulos. Of course, it is not we who belittle the bishops but the manner in which the Council operated, which compelled a moderate bishop of the Church of Greece to deny his participation in the representation because he does not want to be a “decoration”! Furthermore, the fact that on the official website of the Council all the bishop-members are shown as having signed the texts when in fact a significant number of them, more than 40, did not accept and did not sign the text on the “Relations of the Orthodox Church with the rest of the Christian World” shows no respect to the episcopal office! Finally, no respect is shown to the episcopal office when the Council’s organizers tolerated the Archbishop of Cyprus signing “in their stead” on behalf of those bishops who, in fact, refused to sign the above-mentioned text (see further down § 4 d).
3. The voting. On the topic of voting, Fr. Heers’s lecture noted that the vote of the Primates had decisive value and it alone was really considered, independently of the will of their local Churches (see further down § 4 a, b, c).
4. The Conciliar abolition of conciliarity. Mr. Sotiropoulos accuses Fr. Peter because the latter claimed the Council leads to an “abolition of conciliarity” in the Orthodox Church. In fact, to support his criticism Mr. Sotiopoulos reproves the conciliar decision (May 2016) of the Hierarchy of the Church of Greece as being foreign to the conciliar practice of the Church. Mr. Sotiropoulos shows his ignorance of conciliar norms and history when he writes: “The Church of Greece arrived in Crete with specific demands to change the Pre-conciliar documents; this positioning, especially in advance of a Council, is questionable at best. Why? Well, for one, a rigid, pre-determined approach removes the Holy Spirit from working amongst the bishops when they assemble in Council.”
Mr. Sotiropoulos’ criticisms are baseless, both from an historical and a theological standpoint:
a) According to the essence of the conciliar institution and the conciliar practice of our Church, the bishop-members of a Council, even of an Ecumenical one, participate in the discussion on matters of faith expressing not their personal opinions but carrying the ecclesiastical mindset of their local Church, which, of course, is also their own mindset. Basically they function as mandataries of their local Church. And if this holds true for every bishop-member of a local Council, it holds much truer when a local Church has conciliarly named a specific representation, which will participate in a Pan-Orthodox or Ecumenical Council and has bound it conciliarly to a specific theological position. It is inconceivable for the mandataries to act spurning the will of the commander whom they represent.
By conciliar decision, the Hierarchy of the Church of Greece elected particular members as representatives to the Council of Crete and by a unanimous conciliar decision bound the representation to express and support a specific theological position regarding the larger theological and ecclesiological issue. The unanimous conciliar decision was not the result of a hurried and careless judgment but the fruit of discussions and reflection of several months that were carried out not only in the Church of Greece but in almost all of Orthodoxy. The unanimous conciliar decision of the hierarchy of the Church of Greece did not leave open the possibility of adjustment of its decisions by the members of the representation. Indeed, how could the alteration of a dogmatic position be allowed? The representation was obliged to express and support the specific theological and ecclesiological position and only this position.
Furthermore, this decision of the hierarchy before the Pan-Orthodox Council is neither foreign to the conciliar practice of our Church nor “questionable”, as Mr. Sotiropoulos claims. We bring to mind:
i) The Council of Rome, composed of 125 bishops, which was represented at the Sixth Ecumenical Council by its delegation, in addition to the papal legates. The representation brought to the Sixth Ecumenical the written decision of the Council of Rome.5
ii) The papal legates-representatives of pope St. Leo the Great at the Robber Council of Ephesus (449), who, upon seeing that the Council was veering into a Christological teaching opposite to that of the pope, St. Leo, whom they represented and to whom they were bound, said the “contradicitur” and departed from the Council.6
iii) The legates of the pope, St. Leo, at the Fourth Ecumenical Council (451), who brought to the Council the renowned “Tome of Leo” and required that its Christology be accepted. It is noteworthy that, while they refused to negotiate in the least with respect to St. Leo’s Christological teachings, which the Council finally accepted, they were accommodating on issues of a technical nature, which are of lesser importance (e.g. they discussed and finally accepted the composition of another text and not the “Tome” itself as the oros of faith).
iv) The representatives of the Pope and of the Eastern Patriarchates under Arab occupation at the other Ecumenical Councils, who brought epistles from their Patriarchs in which they confessed the dogmatic faith of the Church.
It is therefore clear that, for the conciliar practice of the Church, the obligation of the representatives to the Patriarch (and, of course, it follows, to the local Church) which it represents and whose mindset it brings to the Council was customary and assumed. The representation of a local Church is bound to express with exactitude the ecclesiological mindset of the local Church, which cannot but be non-negotiable. It is entrusted to its discretional competence to negotiate on issues of lesser importance or matters of a technical nature only, always, however, within the theological bounds of the direction that it has received from its Church.
In the particular case, the representation of the Church of Greece was bound by the unanimous conciliar decision of the hierarchy not to accept the designation of the heretical communities as “Churches”. We repeat that this decision was the fruit of theological discussions several months long. Mr. Sotiropoulos wonders fearfully what would have happened if the Greek representation had kept the obligation that it had received and some other Church insisted on an opposite view. We cannot understand this fear! Very simply, the Council would not have decided upon that point but would have referred the matter to a serious and thorough re-examination, as did happen with many other vital matters in the pre-conciliar preparation. The deferment of the decision would have been preferable to what we now live through with a supposedly Pan-Orthodox decision at such a level, which can be anything but flattering for the Church and Her theological production.
b) Disregard for the fundamental 34th Apostolic Canon
According to the 34th Apostolic, the bishops of each local Church ought, in matters that concern “the common state of the Church,” to confer and co-decide with their Primate in Council: “do nothing of consequence without his consent; but each may do those things only which concern his own parish, and the country places which belong to it.” This fundamental canon stipulates and binds not only the bishops but the Primate as well to act always within the bounds of the Council and to be bound by the conciliar decision: “But neither let him (who is the first) do anything without the consent of all.” When we have a unanimous conciliar decision of the hierarchy, by what canonical right did the Archbishop of Athens sign on behalf of the Church of Greece, contrary to “with the consent of all”? Is this not violation and disregard of the fundamental 34th Apostolic Canon?
c) Violation of the Council’s Procedure itself
According to the Working Procedure of the Great and Holy Council (article 12 § 3), each Autocephalous Church, independently of the dissent of certain hierarchs (“one or more hierarchs” according to §2) in its representation, “may cast an affirmative vote on the basis of the principle of internal majority, which is expressed by its Primate.” That is, the vote of the Primate of each Church is legitimized “on the basis of the principle of internal majority” of the representation and thus it is supposed to express his local Church.
What does this mean for the Orthodox Church, which boasts not to be ruled papally but has a conciliar form of rule? It means that the representatives of each Church, if there was no explicit obligation from the Church that they represent, would decide together whether to accept the texts, and Her Primate, as a representative of each Autocephalous Church, “on the basis of the principle of internal majority,” would vote not according to his own opinion but according to the collective decision of his Church’s representation.
Yet the Council of Crete violated its very own Working Procedure! The representation of the Church of Serbia was constituted of the Patriarch and 24 bishops. Only 7 Serbian bishops accepted and signed the controversial 6th text (“Relations of the Orthodox Church with the Rest of the Christian World”), while 17 would not approve or sign it (see Appendix Ι). What was the result? Because their Patriarch signed it the Church of Serbia is considered as being in agreement! Is this not a dissolution of conciliarity? Is it not a violation of the 34th Apostolic Canon? Is it not a violation and dissolution of the Council’s Working Procedure (article 12 §3)? Was there an “internal majority” in the representation of Serbia, when 17 out of 24 hierarchs did not agree with the text and did not sign it? Was this violation not perceived by the “President of the Holy and Great Council which assembled in Crete, [the] guardian of the dogmatic and canonical order of the Eastern Church”?7 We would very much like an answer to this question.
The irony is that, although we the Orthodox emphasize the need for the Vatican to base the relations between Primate and Local Church on the 34th Apostolic Canon, the Pan-Orthodox Council itself plainly transgressed it.
d) Primate or Pope?8
The things that took place with respect to the voting of the Church of Cyprus are unthinkable, concerning which Mr. Sotiropoulos is silent: 4 or 5 of the 17 bishops of the Cypriot ecclesiastical representation would not sign the controversial text. What happened thereafter? The Archbishop of Cyprus signed for each one «on his behalf» (see Appendix I). In fact in an interview with a Greek-American newspaper he characterized the disagreeing bishops of his Church as a “fifth column … in the Council”! He is the same one that insultingly attacked the Church of Greece, forcing Archbishop Ieronymos to respond to him heatedly.
It is clear from the aforementioned examples that at the Council of Crete there was not only disregard and dissolution of the conciliar spirit of the Orthodox Church but also a disdain for the episcopal office by the “Protos”. Unfortunately, this was all tolerated and accepted by the “Pan Orthodox Council” and the “President of the Holy and Great Council which assembled in Crete, [the] guardian of the dogmatic and canonical order of the Eastern Church.” Or, rather, upon this very basis the “Council” was “successfully” carried out, without which it would have disintegrated entirely.
We accuse the pope of disregarding the conciliar institution yet we do not see that the so-called “Pan-Orthodox Council” was founded upon the papal mentality of the supposed superiority of the “First”, disregarding and dissolving any sense of Orthodox conciliarity and canonical order. The “First” acts in a papal manner opposite to the opinion of his synod and this is acceptable to the “Council”!
It is grievous and a sign of the decline of the canonical order that there is, on such a high level, a “conciliar” dissolution of the conciliarity of the Local Churches and the imposition of the “First” of each Church with papal powers.
5. The Absence of the four Patriarchates. Let us focus a bit on the absence of the four Patriarchates from Crete. The ancient Patriarchate of Antioch, the Patriarchate of Russia, the Patriarchate of Bulgaria, and the Patriarchate of Georgia, declined to participate in the Council of Crete and, what is most important, they declined to accept either its decisions or the gathering itself as a “Great and Holy Council” of Orthodoxy.
a) Mr. Sotiropoulos considers the reasons to which the four Patriarchates appeal for their non-participation in Crete as “wholly inadequate.” In fact, aligning himself with the defenders of Crete, he proposes or more rightly limits the four Patriarchates’ motivations for their non-participation only to geopolitical interests and phyletism. Ιt is tragic for churchmen to see everything through geopolitical lens and not to be able to comprehend that it is possible for a Church to differentiate itself for spiritual, theological, or ecclesiological reasons! Of course, not to do them an injustice, this is what the people experience: they lead their lives on the basis of political, diplomatic, geopolitical, and public-oriented interests, they move on the basis of these “principles,” and thus they think that the others must act on these presuppositions as well. How could they suspect that some may act on the basis of their faith and not with political interests? It is apparent that they judge others on the basis of their own mindset.
Of course, it is obvious that political parameters exist as well, as they have existed always throughout Church history. Nevertheless, it is also unquestionable that while the Churches of Bulgaria and Georgia may not have a number of outstanding theological personalities, they have still remained strict adherents to Orthodox ecclesiology, (as is apparent in their stances on marriage, relations with the heterodox, etc.).
It was, after all, the representation of the Church of Georgia which, by its presence and positions, overturned the ecumenists’ aims at the 13th Meeting of the Mixed Committee of the Theological Dialogue of the Roman Catholics and the Orthodox in Aman of Jordan (15-23/9/2014). What manipulation did those in charge not use to catch the Orthodox representations by surprise and make them accept the outrageous text which they had prepared! Yet, the small Church of Georgia upset their plans at the last minute, only being joined afterward by the Church of Russia and others.
Also, it is no small detail that the Churches of Bulgaria and Georgia, discerning the counter-productive nature of involvement, have abstained from the World Council of Churches for decades now. One cannot but stand with the greatest respect before this, their choice, for it is well known what the WCC offers: funding of projects, scholarships to executives of Churches and theological schools, travel grants, conferences, special gifts, etc. And this sacrifice is coming from the poorest of the Local Orthodox Churches, which, nonetheless, have the “backbone” to reject funding and other “benefits” of membership in the WCC. How can we then, with a light heart, insult them saying that the main criterion of their behavior is political opportunism? Is it possible for one who gives priority to politics to disregard the generous funding and the other “offers” of the WCC and the related ecumenical organizations?
Closing this paragraph, let us remember an extract from the statement of the Metropolitan of Bachka (Serbia) Irenaeus (Bulovich), who was referring to the text “Relations of the Orthodox Church with the Rest of the Christian World”:
“The Council of Crete, however, through the text in question, ought to have borne witness to its ecclesiological identity and self-consciousness more clearly, consistently, and exactly. Unfortunately this was not possible, since in the numerous preliminary sessions in Geneva, in spite of the disapproval of many and the sharp criticism exacted, the text – for reasons never divulged – was not seriously re-evaluated, as was the desire and suggestion of the Primates of the autocephalous Churches, but it was sent on as is, essentially untouched, to the Council, where, due to a lack of time and consensus, only cosmetic changes were made, with the exception of the amendment of the Church of Greece upon its most controversial and easily misunderstood point. Let us not hide or deceive ourselves. This problematic text is the first and foremost cause of the four Orthodox Patriarchates’ refusal to participate in the Council, while the Church of Serbia struggled and wavered regarding its participation until the last minute”!
Let Mr. Sotiropoulos, who exalts himself on the fact of his journalistic presence on the outskirts of the “Council,” pay close attention to these words from a bishop who actually took part in the Council.
b) According to article 8 (§ 1-2) and article 11 of the Council’s Working Procedure, the conciliar work is carried out with regard to the texts that have been unanimously accepted by the Pan-Orthodox Pre-conciliar Committees.9
Yet the text “The Mystery of Marriage and Its Impediments” had not been approved and signed by the Patriarchate of Antioch nor by the Patriarchate of Georgia in the pre-conciliar period! And yet, in violation of the Procedure, the text was introduced, discussed, and approved in Crete!
c) Also, Mr. Sotiropoulos does not serve the truth when he says that Antioch agreed to the Council and then withdrew, since:
i. The Patriarchate of Antioch from very early had many times stated – whether for well or ill is not of the moment – that, if the issue of Qatar was not solved, it would not take part in the Council. How then does Mr. Sotiropoulos falsely claim that Antioch agreed and then the last minute did not participate?
ii. The Patriarchate of Antioch did not agree and did not sign the Council’s Working Procedure either! Truly, Mr. Sotiropoulos, what sort of a “Pan-Orthodox Council” is this, when not even its Working Procedure had been approved by all the Orthodox?
iii. Most importantly: the Patriarchate of Antioch did not sign the decisions of the Synaxis of the Primates that was the most decisive for the Council (Chambessy 27/1/2016) either. At this Synaxis it was decided where and when the Great and Holy Council would be convened (Crete, 16-27/6/2017), its Working Procedure, its Daily Agenda, the constitution of the Inter-Orthodox Secretariat, the funding, the invitation of heterodox as Observers, that is, all the important issues of the Council. The Patriarchate of Antioch did not agree and did not sign this decision, noting in the space for the signature: “The Church of Antioch has an opposing view and for this reason does not sign” (see Appendix II)!10 Consequently, the Council was not convened by the agreement of all the Local Churches, in violation of the Working Procedure and the pan-Orthodox practice up to that point.
We ask Mr. Sotiropoulos to read the Conciliar decision of the Patriarchate of Antioch of the 27th of June, 2016,11 and he will realize that he has fallen a victim to misinformation and consequently he does an injustice to both himself and the truth.
6. Church and churches. Mr. Sotiropoulos attempts to refute the claim that only in the 20th century, in the context of the Ecumenical Movement, was western Christianity characterized a Church with the theological meaning of the term, and he refers to Orthodox statements since the Seventh Ecumenical Council in 787: the Encyclical Letter of St. Mark of Ephesus (1440); the Replies of Patriarch Jeremiah II to the Lutherans (16th-century); and, the Reply of the Orthodox Patriarchs to Pope Pius IX (1848), among others.
Unfortunately for Mr. Sotiropoulos, the texts to which he refers all but support his views. These texts have nothing to do with the theological production of Crete! For the invalidation of Mr. Sotiropoulos’s claim we refer to a text of the Metropolitan Hierotheos of Nafpaktos.12 As for us, very summarily we point out:
• The Encyclical of St. Mark of Ephesus (1440): St. Mark does not characterize Rome as a Church. He always refers to the “Latins”, whom he characterizes as heretics and he speaks with the harshest words about the Latins’ delusions! Among many other things the Saint wonders: “So whence did they suddenly appear to us as Orthodox, who were judged as heretics for so many years and by so many Fathers? Who has made them so easily Orthodox? Gold and your profit [have made them], if you wanted to say the truth. Rather they have not made them Orthodox, but, having made you similar to them, they have thrust you away into the lot of the heretics”!13
Truly, what connection has the Saint’s text with Crete?
• The responses of the Patriarch Jeremiah II to the Lutherans: The way in which the Patriarch writes to the Lutherans is truly worthy of imitation: with politeness, refinement, and love but also with absolute clarity he expounds upon the Orthodox faith, refuting their delusions one by one in three long responses and he calls them to deny the delusions and draw nigh to Orthodoxy! Would that the Council of Crete expose with such clarity and fullness the Orthodox teaching regarding the heterodox Christians and call them to become integrated into the One, Holy Catholic, and Apostolic Church of Christ! The Patriarch Jeremiah writes in his second epistle:
“Finally, having understood Orthodoxy from the Holy Scriptures, come enter into it with all your souls, O wise and sagacious men, and put far away from you every irrational innovation, which the host of Ecumenical Teachers and of the Church has not accepted. … Therefore, if up to the present something has been violated, you who are prudent may correct it from now, and you will be worthy of praise by God, as well as by men and by us. For to err is human, but correction is angelic and salvific. May you take care of this, also, so that the grace and the mercy of God may be with you.”14
Yet when the Lutherans in the reply insisted on their views, the patriarch concludes his third long epistle thus:
“Therefore, we request that from henceforth you do not cause us more grief, nor write to us on the same subject if you should wish to treat these luminaries and theologians of the Church in a different manner. You honor and exalt them in words, but you reject them in deeds. … Therefore, going about your own ways, write no longer concerning dogmas; but if you do, write only for friendship’s sake!”15
Truly, what connection have these texts of the Patriarch Jeremiah with the decisions of Crete?
• The response of the Orthodox Patriarchs to Pope Pius IX (1848): In their epistle the Patriarchs refer to Rome mainly by the terms “Papism” and “papists”, which are characterized as a heresy. They note word for word: “Of these heresies diffused … over a great part of the world, was formerly Arianism, and at present is the Papacy.” (§ 4). Certainly, they refer to Papism also as a “Church”, but it is clear from the context that the term is not meant in its ecclesiological meaning. So, the Patriarchs write, referring to the invitation of the Pope: “Until there be this desired returning of the apostate Churches to the body of the One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church, of which Christ is the Head (Eph. iv. 15), and each of us ‘members in particular,’ all advice proceeding from them, and every officious exhortation tending to the dissolution of our pure faith handed down from the Fathers is condemned, as it ought to be, synodically, not only as suspicious and to be eschewed, but as impious and soul-destroying» (§ 17).
Would that the Council of Crete refer to Papism and the Protestants with this mindset and let it have used the term “Church”. Certainly, no one would have any objection to the “Council” in Crete in this case.
Really, Mr. Sotiropoulos, what connection have these texts that you invoke with Crete?! These texts refer to heresies and heretics, whom they invite to become integrated into the Church of Christ! Where did Crete talk about heresies and heretics? When did Crete invite the heterodox to become integrated into the One Church of Christ?
7. Distortion of the words of St. Porphyrios. Mr. Sotiropoulos concludes his article by quoting Saint Porphyrios of Kafsokalyvia, supposing that his words are applicable to our critique of the “Council” and its texts. Unfortunately, he “caps off” his confused and undiscerning article with yet another misinterpretation and misrepresentation. The words of the Saint which are quoted and placed in bold at end the article are: “Those who censure the Church for the errors of her representatives with the alleged aim of helping to correct her make a great mistake. They do not love the Church. Neither, needless to say, do they love Christ.”
The implication is clear: all who reject the “Council” of Crete and reject its decisions as not expressive of the Orthodox Faith do not love Christ or the Church! This is a remarkable statement, for, of course, he is not implicating Fr. Peter alone in this, but indeed four Local Orthodox Churches, representing more than half of the Orthodox world, which refused to recognize the “Council” as pan-Orthodox. Beyond this, however, and more importantly, with his use (and abuse) of the Saint’s words, the author shows how undiscerning he his and how the words of the Saint are a closed book for him.
Firstly, the Saint clearly has in mind criticism which is directed against the Church “for the errors of her representatives,” not criticism directed against those who, although charged with representing the Church, have abandoned the Faith of the Church or undermined Her conciliar nature. Ironically, the Saint is, in fact, criticizing the very thing that Mr. Sotiropoulos is doing: identifying the Church with the behavior of Her clergy.
Secondly, the Saint clearly is not referring to matters of Faith, but rather is speaking of the ethical or social falls of the clergy, as when he says earlier: “Even if with our own eyes we see a priest doing something we judge negatively, we should not believe it, nor think about it, nor talk about it to others.” This is, of course, quite consistent with both Holy Scripture and the Gerontikon where we are charged to cover the sins of others and not to judge them. However, this does not apply to errors in the Faith, especially those committed publicly, for our Lord, the entire Patristic witness and relevant canons charge us to “judge righteously,” “discern the times,” and “confess the faith.”
Thirdly, and most egregiously, Mr. Sotiopoulos errs in implying that the “Council” is to be identified with “the Church.” He is rebuking us when we criticize the carrying out and decisions of the “Council” for “censuring the Church.” If this were so, he would also need to criticize dozens of our greatest Saints who stood against the false councils of bishops (some of them much larger than the “Council” in Crete) that have occurred in the past, such as the false councils of Ephesus, Hieria, Lyon or Florence. He would be standing not only against particular Saints, such as the Patriarchs of Constantinople, Ss. Flavian the Confessor and Tarasius, St. Gregory Palamas, and St. Mark of Ephesus, for example, but also against the Ecumenical Councils, such as the Fourth and Seventh Ecumenical Councils which overturned and condemned the decisions of the false councils of Ephesus and Hieria.
Fourthly, and finally on this point, it is necessary to declare to Mr. Sotiropoulos and all those with him, who from time to time like to quote St. Porphyrios wrongly in order to support their ecumenistic sympathies: the Saint was not an ecumenist and does not support you in your disregard of the Faith of our Fathers and the Holy Canons! As with this quote above, not a few others have been presented as if in support of the ecumenist path and methodology, always, however, misinterpreting and misrepresenting the meaning of his words. Not every Saint wrote theological treatises or spoke boldly against heresy and the spirit of antichrist behind it, but every Saint’s life, including St. Porphyrios’, being in the Spirit of God, was a living witness that the Orthodox Church is the Body of Christ, the continuation of the Incarnation and not a part of or in communion with an ecumenical “work in progress.” Thus, please cease abusing the Saint’s words and twisting them to support the delusion of a “church divided in time”, according to the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew’s eccleciologically unacceptable expression.16
8. Today, more than a year after the convocation of the so-called “Great and Holy Council” – evaluating it we cannot but realize with sincere grief:
• It was being prepared for 60 years as “Pan-Orthodox”, but 60% of the Orthodox were not represented at it.
• It was characterized as “Pan-Orthodox”, but the ecclesiastical conscience of more than 60% of the Orthodox has not accepted it, as this conscience has been appropriately and canonically expressed through the Councils of the Local Churches.
• Its theological production is widely and intensely doubted by bishops and Local Churches, even by some of those which participated.
And how can it not be doubted when:
• It accepted Ecumenism, which all contemporary Saints without exception have condemned. The spirit-bearing Elder Ephraim of Katounakia stated, after much prayer, that God revealed to him that Ecumenism is dominated by an demonic spirit.17 This Movement was accepted by the Council of Crete…
• It ruled that the Orthodox Church “views favorably” the unorthodox texts of the WCC.18
• Instead of becoming the occasion for the forging of inter-Orthodox unity, it caused wounds hard to heal in the Body of the Church, because of the manipulation used by those in charge.
• It was convened to express the unity of Orthodoxy to the outsiders, yet it proclaimed the intra-Orthodox problems urbi et orbi.
• It was aimed to raise the prestige of the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, but it rather devalued it – most unfortunately for the Ecumenical Patriarchate.
• It created very serious problems of the theological and pastoral responsibility of the bishops, with unforeseeable consequences for the unity of the Local Churches.
• It failed to conclusively answer any of the pressing theological or pastoral needs. It has been supported shamelessly that “the Council had to happen…in order to happen.”
• We cannot but realize with grief that in the Council of Crete the great loser is the Conciliar Institution itself.
9. In conclusion. The following would not recognize it as a Great and Holy Pan-Orthodox Council:
i. The Patriarchate of Antioch, in the decision of 27/6/16:
a. “Consider[s] the meeting in Crete as a preliminary meeting towards the Pan-Orthodox Council …
b. Refuse[s] to assign a conciliar character to any Orthodox meeting that does not involve all the Orthodox Autocephalous Churches, … Thus, the Church of Antioch refuses that the meeting in Crete be called a “Great Orthodox Council” or a “Great Holy Council.”
c. Affirm[s] that whatever was issued in the meeting in Crete, of decisions and other things, is non-binding, by any means, to the Patriarchate of Antioch.”
ii. The Patriarchate of Russia (Decision of the Holy Council, 15/7/16) comments:
a. “The Council which took place in Crete cannot be considered Pan-Orthodox, nor can the documents which it ratified constitute an expression of Pan-Orthodox consensus.” It reserves its decision on the theological commentary on the decisions of Crete. The Council is characterized as a “forum of ten Churches”!
iii. The Patriarchate of Bulgaria comments in the conciliar decision of 15/11/16:
a. The Council of Crete is neither great, nor holy, nor Pan-Orthodox.
i. This is due to the non-participation of a number of Local autocephalous Churches, as well as the accepted organizational and theological mistakes.
ii. Careful study of the documents adopted at the Council in Crete leads us to the conclusion that some of them contain discrepancies with Orthodox Church teaching, with the dogmatic and canonical Tradition of the Church, and with the spirit and letter of the Ecumenical and Local Councils.
iii. The documents adopted in Crete are to be subject to further theological consideration for the purpose of amending, editing and correcting, or being replaced by other (new documents) in the spirit and Tradition of the Church.”
iv. The Patriarchate of Georgia, by a justified decision of the Holy Synod (10/6/16), did not participate because of intense disagreement with the pre-conciliar texts on Marriage, the Mission of the Church, and mainly the Relations with the Heterodox.19
v. Even the Patriarchate of Romania, which participated in the Council, ruled that:
a. “the texts can be explained, nuanced in part or further developed by a future Great and Holy Council of the Orthodox Church. However, their interpretation and the drafting of new texts on a variety of issues must not be made hastily or without Pan-Orthodox agreement, otherwise they must be delayed and perfected until agreement can be reached.”
vi. The Church of Greece (at the council of the Hierarchy 24/11/16). A proposal was made and accepted that the Church of Greece “appoint a qualified or a specific Conciliar Committee to study deeply and theologically and ecclesiologically evaluate the texts which have already been written and which contain either positive or even cautious positions concerning the decisions of the Great and Holy Council. As responsible and caring Shepherds, we ought to listen to all serious and constructive positions with the greatest attention and pastoral sensitivity. Τhe result of this study, which I [the presenter to the synod] believe strongly expresses a conciliar ethos and quality, if it is utilized appropriately, may also substantially help our most holy Church and all of Orthodoxy as a whole.”
vii. Even many of the bishops who participated in the gathering question it. For example, His Grace Irenaeus (Bulovich), bishop of Bachka (Serbia), spoke “Concerning the recently concluded, triumphantly yet not entirely persuasively, ‘Great and Holy Council’ of our Church in Columbari of Crete: it is already not recognized as such by the Churches that were absent, indeed even characterized by them as a “gathering in Crete”, and also disputed by most of the attending Orthodox hierarchs!”
There is no precedent of an Orthodox Council that is so intensely disputed by so many Local Churches. If we wish to be elementally serious the fairy-tale being told about a “Pan-Orthodox” Council should cease.
We wonder, therefore, along with St. Tarasius (Seventh Ecumenical Council), adjusting his words concerning the Robber Council of Hieria to the contemporary reality of the supposedly Pan-Orthodox Council:
“Furthermore, how [is it] great and holy, which the presidents of the other churches neither accepted nor agreed but sent past with anathema? It did not secure the agreement of the patriarchs of the East, of Antioch, Russia, Bulgaria, and Georgia, nor of those mystagogues and hierarchs with them.”20
10. Yet, it must not be forgotten that Christ Himself is Lord, Leader, and Head of the Church and the Holy Spirit leads Her, and It leads Her indeed “into all truth.” It was Christ Himself Who overturned the cunning manipulations of those who were working for decades to promote their plans through the Council.
Nor only that, but the Council of Crete had two positive elements that were brought out:
Firstly, the Orthodox have awakened! Simple faithful, monks, clergy, even Councils of Churches concerned themselves, showed interest, worried, and made significant decisions. They came to see the manipulations of some against the Faith and they resisted and managed largely to foil the lawless plans. Indicative of this is that the Conference of the five Dioceses that was organized in Piraeus (23/3/2016) was viewed by people around the world (more than 100,000 through intv.gr, while the number of those through Youtube and other websites and weblogs is indefinite and the views of the texts uploaded on hundreds of websites and weblogs, translated into many languages, number in the thousands). This alone demonstrates the concern and interest of the People of God on a pan-Orthodox level.
Secondly, the “Council” of Crete occasioned significant inter-Orthodox communication. There is no such precedent: with simplicity and sincerity, without manipulations, supportive mechanisms and managers, some persons surpassed the borders of their Local Churches and were distinguished on a pan-Orthodox level as the conveyors through whom the pan-Orthodox ecclesiastical consciousness was expressed. Three persons stand out in this regard: the V. Rev. Metropolitan Hierotheos of Nafpaktos, the Protopresbyter Theodore Zisis, Emeritus Professor of Patrology, and the Professor of Dogmatics, Demetrios Tselengides. Each one, from his particular position from which he serves the Body of Christ, in his own manner, in his own style, but with a single ecclesiastical ethos, love for our Church and speech well-documented in the ecclesiastical tradition, testified by his theological contribution. It is moving and at the same time astonishing, for it is reminiscent of past critical moments of our Church. God chose them mainly in this most critical moment to carry the weight of the defense of the conciliar institution and of the Orthodox Faith on a Pan-Orthodox level, at considerable personal cost.
Thus their texts, founded in the patristic and conciliar Orthodox tradition and in the contemporary saints’ experience of the Holy Spirit, surpassed the borders of Greek-speaking Orthodoxy, were translated and utilized on a pan-Orthodox level, and constituted the base of inter-Orthodox concern, even for Synods of Autocephalous Churches and Patriarchates.
The “Council”, therefore, helped the communication, co-operation, and exchange of opinions among the People of God on a Pan-Orthodox level. The interest and concern – “for the most part understandable”, as the hierarchy of the Church of Greece characterized it – of the People of God on a Pan-Orthodox level for an ecclesiastical event was exceptional in the ecclesiastical records of many past decades.
This displays or rather confirms also the timeless experience of the Church, which was expressed by the Patriarchs of the East in their famous proclamation:
“Neither Patriarchs nor Councils could have introduced novelties amongst us, because the protector of religion is the very body of the Church, even the people themselves, who desire their religious worship to be ever unchanged and of the same kind as that of their Fathers.”
This defender or religion, the people of God, that is, clergy, monks, and laity, are called to assist, according to each one’s gift, position, and service in the Body of Christ, in the correction of the many errors of Crete having the certainty that in the end Truth will shine, for Truth is Christ Himself.
To Him belongs the glory, power, honor, and worship unto the ages of ages. Amen.
~ Protopresbyters Fr. Peter Heers and Fr. Anastasios Gotsopoulos
21.6.2017

1 Originally published in Greek on the website romfea.gr: http://www.romfea.gr/katigories/10-apopseis/15500-sumboli-problimatismou-sto-etisio-mnimosuno-tis-agias-kai-megalis-sunodou

2 The lecture “The Council of Crete and the New Emerging Ecclesiology: An Orthodox Examination,” has appeared on the official website of Holy Trinity Orthodox Seminary (http://hts.edu/news_170329_1.html), on the Greek news website, romfea.gr (http://www.romfea.gr/diafora/14558-i-sunodos-tis-k…), and on the website Orthodox Ethos (https://orthodoxethos.com/post/the-council-of-cret…), including both the text and video of the lecture. Likewise, Fr. Peter Heers has given two other lectures on the “Council” of Crete: 1) The Recognition of the Baptism of the Heterodox as the Basis for a New Ecclesiology (In Step with Vatican II) (available at http://orthochristian.com/92066.html), and 2) From the Second Vatican Council (1965) to the Pan Orthodox Council (2016): Signposts on the Way to Crete (available at http://orthochristian.com/93786.html).

3 Ζιζιούλα, Ι., Θέματα Εκκλησιολογίας, Πανεπιστημιακές Παραδόσεις, Θεσσαλονίκη 1991, pp. 71-71. In English translation, see: http://oodegr.com/english/dogmatiki1/F2f.htm

4 This text can be found online: http://parembasis.gr/index.php/holy-great-council-… or https://orthodoxethos.com/post/intervention-and-te….

5 Σπ. Μήλιας, Πρακτικὰ τῶν Ἁγίων καὶ Οἰκουμενικῶν Συνόδων, ἔκδ. Καλύβης Τ. Προδρόμου Ἱ. Σκήτης Ἁγ. Ἄννης, Ἃγ. Ὅρος, τ. Γ΄ (1986), σ. 46, Mansi 11, 285, ACO 2,2,1,12210

6 Σπ. Μήλιας, Πρακτικὰ τῶν Ἁγίων καὶ Οἰκουμενικῶν Συνόδων, ἔκδ. Καλύβης Τ. Προδρόμου Ἱ. Σκήτης Ἁγ. Ἄννης, Ἃγ. Ὅρος, τ. Β΄ (1982), σ. 121, Mansi 6, 908D, ACO 2,1,1,19130

7 This is how Patriarch Bartholomew referred to himself in a letter to the Archbishop of Athens. See: “Patriarch of Constantinople’s Letter to the Archbishop of Greece: Defrock and Sever Communion with Those Opposed to our Council in Crete,” http://www.pravoslavie.ru/english/99398.htm.

8 See: π. Ἀναστ. Γκοτσοπούλου, «Προκαθήμενοι ἢ πάπες;» (10.6.16), στό http://www.impantokratoros.gr/CF5A8EE9.el.aspx.

9 Article 8, paragraph 1: “According to the daily agenda, the texts unanimously approved at Pan-Orthodox Preconciliar Meetings and at Synaxes of the Primates of the autocephalous Orthodox Churches shall be considered in Plenary sessions and/or in Synodal Committees.”

Article 11: “Proposals to amend, correct, or append the Synodal texts that were unanimously approved by the Pan-Orthodox Preconciliar Meetings and by Synaxes of the Primates, or to the Council’s Message…”

10 See: http://www.romfea.gr/patriarxeia-ts/patriarxeio-an….

11 In Greek: http://www.romfea.gr/patriarxeia-ts/patriarxeio-an…, and in English: https://orthodoxethos.com/post/the-patriarchate-of….

12 In Greek: http://parembasis.gr/images/anakoinoseis/2016/NAYP… and in English: http://parembasis.gr/index.php/holy-great-council-….

13 Ἰ. Καρμίρη, Τὰ δογματικὰ καὶ συμβολικὰ μνημεῖα τῆς Ὀρθοδόξου Καθολικῆς Ἐκκλησίας, ἐν Ἀθήναις 1952, τ. Ι, σ. 359.

14 Ἰ. Καρμίρη, Τὰ δογματικὰ καὶ συμβολικὰ μνημεῖα τῆς Ὀρθοδόξου Καθολικῆς Ἐκκλησίας, ἐν Ἀθήναις 1953, τ. ΙΙ, σ. 475.

15 Ἰ. Καρμίρη, Τὰ δογματικὰ καὶ συμβολικὰ μνημεῖα τῆς Ὀρθοδόξου Καθολικῆς Ἐκκλησίας, ἐν Ἀθήναις 1953, τ. ΙΙ, σ. 489.

16 With these words the Patriarch of Constantinople, Bartholomew, referred to the One, Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church, during his speech at the All-holy Tomb of our Lord in Jerusalem, in 2014. See our lecture (reference in note 2 above) where we analyze in detail the new ecclesiology being presented by the Patriarch – an analysis which Mr. Sotiropoulos neglected to address.

17 For more detail, see the article by Fr. Anastasios Gotsopoulos, “Ecumenism, the Impure Spirits and the Council of Crete” (in Greek): http://www.impantokratoros.gr/43815419.el.aspx.

18 For more details, see the article by Fr. Anastasios Gotsopoulos, “The Council of Crete and the World Council of Churches” (in Greek): https://www.impantokratoros.gr/F99804D6.el.aspx.

19 http://www.romfea.gr/images/apofaseis_georgia.pdf.

20 «πῶς δ’ αὖ ἁγία καὶ μεγάλη ἥν οὔτε ἐδέξαντο, οὔτε συνεφώνησαν οἱ τῶν λοιπῶν ἐκκλησιῶν πρόεδροι, ἀλλ’ ἀναθέματι ταύτην παρέπεμψαν; Οὐκ ἔσχεν … συμφρονοῦντας αὐτὴ τοὺς πατριάρχας τῆς Ἔω, Ἀντιοχείας, Ρωσίας, Βουλγαρίας καὶ τῆς Γεωργίας, ἢ τοὺς σὺν αὐτοῖς μύστας καὶ Ἀρχιερεῖς».


Appendices A & B, showing the absence of signatures of the hierarchs and also the Patriarchate of Antioch
The “signatures” of the Patriarch of Cyprus “in the stead” of this fellow hierarchs.The Patriarchate of Antioch’s refusal to agree to the Working Procedure of the “Council.”

Unseen Warfare by St Nicodimos the Hagiorite :Intro and Chap 1.

Introduction
Article from “Orthodox America”, Nov 1980 – http://www.roca.org/oa/5/5d.htm
In 1729 the word “Methodist” was first used; 90 years before, American Baptists had gathered for the first time. This was t still 100 years before the world would hear t the name of Joseph Smith, and many disillusioned Protestants in both Europe and America were beginning to seek a revival of faith, As opposed to the comparatively recent birth of these new sects, the long line of Holy Fathers and teachers of the Orthodox Church had at that time already spanned 17 centuries, and it was in this year of 1729 that Almighty God raised up yet another who was to be numbered among the ranks of bright luminaries of the Church. Born on the island of Naxos, Greece, and educated at Smyrna, this Father and Saint went to the Holy Mountain of Athos at the age of 27, where he became a monk and received the name of Nicedemos.
St. Nicedemos undertook the struggle of writing about divine things. As one biographer said, “it is impossible to keep account of his fatigue and sweat in the labors which enabled him to beautify his’ soul and capture in his books the fragrance of the Holy Spirit.”
His most famous labour was helping St. Makarios of Corinth to select, edit, and prepare for publication the Philokalia, a collection of writings of Holy Fathers On what St. Nikodemos Called the “mystical school of inward prayer. The. word Philokalia means “love of good”, a fitting title for Writings that speak of how to live in Jesus Christ. The Philokalia appeared at the very time the French Revolution had begun to flood the world with hatred for anything godly.
Large parts of the Philokalia have been translated into English; however, it must be said that these writings are not for the beginner, nor even for the average Orthodox Christian. There is even a danger in their being read “out of season” and without proper guidance. More appropriate, and wonderfully useful, is the Saint’s superb work, Unseen Warfare. This book, originally published in Italy in 1589, was translated and many times enlarged by the Saint. The present English translation* is from the edition of the great 19th century Russian Holy Father, Theophan the Recluse.
The whole purpose of Unseen Warfare is to give the Orthodox Christian teaching concerning perfection in virtue and the “unseen warfare” necessary to accomplish this: “I will tell you plainly: the greatest and most perfect thing a man may desire to attain is to come near to God and dwell in union with Him.
“There are many who say that the perfection of Christian life consists in fasts, vigils, genuflexions, sleeping on bare earth and other similar austerities of the body. Others say that it consists in saying many prayers at home and in attending long services in church. And there are others who think that our perfection consists entirely in mental prayer, solitude, seclusion and silence. But the majority limit perfection to a strict observance of all the rules and practices laid down by the statutes, falling into no excess or deficiency, but preserving a golden moderation. Yet all these virtues do not by themselves constitute the Christian perfection we are seeking, but are only a means and a method for acquiring it.
“You must learn that perfection consists in nothing but coming near to God and union with Him, as was said in the beginning. With this is connected a heartfelt realization of the goodness and greatness of God, together with the consciousness of our own nothingness and our proneness to every evil …. This is the law of love, inscribed by the finger of God Himself in the hearts of His true servants ! This is the renunciation of ourselves that God demands of us! This is the blessed yoke of Jesus Christ and His burden that is light! This is the submission to God’s will, which our Redeemer and Teacher demands from us both by His word and by His example !
“Do you now see what all this mean s, brother? I presume that you are longing to reach the height of such perfection. Blessed be your zeal! But prepare yourself also for labor, sweat and struggle from your first steps on the path. You must sacrifice everything to God and do only His will. Yet you will meet in yourself as many wills as you have powers and wants. Therefore, to reach your desired aim, it is first of all necessary to stifle your own wills and finally to extinguish and kill them altogether. And in order to succeed in this, you must constantly oppose all evil in yourself and urge yourself towards good. In other words, you must ceaselessly fight against yourself and against everything that panders to your own wills, that incites and supports them. So prepare yourself for this struggle and this warfare and know that the crown–attainment of your desired aim–is given to none except to the valiant among warriors and wrestlers.
“But if this is the hardest of all wars… victory in it is the most glorious of all …. If you really desire to be victorious in this unseen warfare and be rewarded with a crown, you must plant in your heart the following four dispositions and spiritual activities, as it were arming yourself with invisible weapons, the most trustworthy and unconquerable of all, namely:
a) never rely on yourself in anything;

b) bear always in your heart a perfect and all-daring trust in God alone;

c) strive without ceasing; and

d) remain constantly in prayer.
“You must know that progress on the path of spiritual life differs greatly from an ordinary journey on earth. If a traveler stops on his ordinary journey, he loses nothing of the way already covered; but if a traveler on the path of virtue stops in his spiritual progress, he loses much of the virtues previously acquired …. In an ordinary journey, the further the traveler proceeds, the more tired he becomes; but on the way of spiritual life the longer a man travels, reaching forth unto those things which are before, the greater the strength and power he acquires for his further progress.”
During the night in which he died, July 14, 1809, St. Nicodemos received Holy Communion and, sinking into holy tranquility, prayed constantly. The monks approached and asked: “Teacher, are you resting?” The Saint replied: “I have placed Christ within me, how is it possible for me not to be at rest?”
In the Foreword to his translation, St. Nicodemos wrote:
“This book teaches that the warriors who take part in this unseen war are all who are Christians; and their commander is our Lord Jesus Christ, surrounded and accompanied by His marshals and generals, that is, by all the hierarchies of angels and saints. The arena, the field of battle, the site where the fight actually takes place is our own heart and all our inner man. The time of battle is our Whole life.,
For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but…against spiritual wickedness in high places. (Eph. 6:12)
“So this spiritual warfare of ours must be constant and never ceasing, and should be conducted with alertness and courage in the soul; they can easily be attained, if you seek these gifts from God. So advance into battle without hesitation. Should you be visited by the troubling thought of the hatred and undying malice, which the enemies harbour against you, and of the innumerable hosts of the demons, think on the other hand of the infinitely greater power of God and of His love for you, as well as of the incomparable greater hosts of heavenly angels and the prayers of saints. They all fight secretly for us and with us against our enemies, as it is written, The Lord wil1 have war with Amalek from generation to generation (Ex. 17:16). How many weak women and small children were incited to fight by the thought of this powerful and ever ready help! And they got the upper hand and gained victory over all the wisdom of the world, all the wiles of the devil and all the malice of hell.”

Part One
Cap 1. What is Christian perfection?—Warfare is necessary to acquire it — Four things indispensable to success in this warfare
We all naturally wish, and are commanded to be perfect. The Lord commands: “Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect” (Matt v. 48). And St. Paul admonishes: ‘In malice be ye children, but in understanding be men” (I Cor. xiv. 20). In another place he says: ‘Stand perfect and complete in all the will of God” (Col. iv. 12); and again: ‘Let us go on unto perfection’ (Heb. vi. 1). The same commandment is also found in the Old Testament. Thus God says to Israel in Deuteronomy: ‘Thou shalt be perfect with the Lord thy God’ (Deut. xviii. 13). And David advises his son Solomon: ‘And thou, Solomon my son, know thou the God of thy father, and serve him with a perfect heart and with a willing mind’ (I Chron. xxviii. 9). After all this we cannot fail to see that God demands from Christians the fullness of perfection, that is, that we should be perfect in all virtues.
But if you, my reader beloved in Christ, wish to attain to such heights, you must first learn in what Christian perfection consists. For if you have not learnt this, you may turn off the right path and go in a totally different direction, while thinking that you make progress towards perfection.
I will tell you plainly: the greatest and most perfect thing a man may desire to attain is to come near to God and dwell, in union with Him.
There are many who say that the perfection of Christian life consists in fasts, vigils, genuflexions, sleeping on bare earth and other similar austerities of the body. Others say that it consists in saying many prayers at home and in attending long services in Church. And there are others who think that our perfection consists entirely in mental prayer, solitude, seclusion and silence. But the majority limit perfection to a strict observance of all the rules and practices laid down by the statutes, falling into no excess or deficiency, but preserving a golden moderation. Yet all these virtues do not by themselves constitute the Christian perfection we are seeking, but are only means and methods for acquiring it.
There is no doubt whatever that they do represent means and effective means for attaining perfection in Christian life. For we see very many virtuous men, who practise these virtues as they should, to acquire strength and power against their own sinful and evil nature,—to gain, through these practices, courage to withstand the temptations and seductions of our three main enemies: the flesh, the world and the devil; and in and by these means to obtain the spiritual supports, so necessary to all servants of God, and especially to beginners. They fast, to subdue their unruly flesh; they practise vigils to sharpen their inner vision; they sleep on bare earth, lest they become soft through sleep; they bind their tongue by silence and go into solitude to avoid the slightest inducement to offend against the All-Holy God; they recite prayers, attend Church services and perform other acts of devotion, to keep their mind on heavenly things; they read of the life and passion of our Lord, for the sole purpose of realising more clearly their own deficiency and the merciful loving-kindness of God,—to learn and to desire to follow the Lord Jesus Christ, bearing their cross with self-denial, and to make more and more ardent their love of God and their dislike of themselves.
On the other hand, these same virtues may do more harm than their open omission, to those who take them as the sole basis of their life and their hope; not from their nature, since they are righteous and holy, but through the fault of those, who use them not as they should be used; that is, when they pay attention only to the external practice of those virtues, and leave their heart to be moved by their own volitions and the volitions of the devil. For the latter, seeing that they have left the right path, gleefully refrains from interfering with their physical endeavours and even allows them to increase and multiply their efforts, in obedience to their own vain thought. Experiencing with this certain spiritual stirrings and consolations, such people begin to imagine that they have already reached the state of angels and feel that God Himself is present in them. And at times, engrossed in the contemplation of some abstract and unearthly things, they imagine that they have completely transcended the sphere of this world and have been ravished to the third heaven.
However, anyone can see clearly how sinfully such people behave and how far they are from true perfection, if he looks at their life and character. As a rule they always wish to be preferred to others; they love to live according to their own will and are always stubborn in their decisions; they are blind in everything relating to themselves, but are very clear-sighted and officious in examining the words and actions of others. If another man is held by others in the same esteem, which in their opinion they enjoy, they cannot bear it and become manifestly hostile towards him; if anyone interferes with them in their pious occupations and works of asceticism, especially in the presence of others,—God forbid! —they immediately become indignant, boil over with wrath and become quite unlike themselves.
If, desirous of bringing them to self-knowledge and of leading them to the right path of perfection, God sends them afflictions and sickness, or allows them to be persecuted, by which means He habitually tests His true and real servants, this test immediately shows what is hidden in their hearts, and how deeply they are corrupted by pride. For whatever affliction may visit them, they refuse to bend their necks to the yoke of God’s will and to trust in His righteous and secret judgments. They do not want to follow the example of our Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, Who humbled Himself and suffered for our sakes, and they refuse to be humble, to consider themselves the lowest of all creatures, and to regard their persecutors as their good friends, the tools of the divine bounty shown to them and helpers in their salvation.
Thus it is clear that they are in great danger. Their inner eye, that is their mind, being darkened, they see themselves with this and see wrongly. Thinking of their external pious works and deeming them good, they imagine that they have already reached perfection and, puffing themselves up, begin to judge others. After this it is impossible for any man to turn such people, except through God’s special influence. An evident sinner will turn to-wards good more easily than a secret sinner, hiding under the cloak of visible virtues.
Now, having seen clearly and definitely that spiritual life and perfection do not only consist in these visible virtues, of which we have spoken, you must also learn that it consists in nothing but coming near to God and union with Him, as was said in the beginning. With this is connected a heartfelt realisation of the goodness and greatness of God, together with consciousness of our own nothingness and our proneness to every evil ; love of God and dislike of ourselves; submission not only to God but also to all creatures, for the sake of our love of God; renunciation of all will of our own and perfect obedience to the will of God; and moreover desire for all this and its practice with a pure heart to the glory of God. (I Cor. x. 31), from sheer desire to please God and only because He Himself wishes it and because we should so love Him and work for Him.
This is the law of love, inscribed by the finger of God Himself in the hearts of His true servants! This is the renunciation of ourselves that God demands of us! This is the blessed yoke of Jesus Christ and His burden that is light! This is the submission to God’s will, which our Redeemer and Teacher demands from us both by His word and by His example! For did not our Master and the Author of our salvation, our Lord Jesus Christ, tell us to say when praying to the heavenly Father: ‘ Our Father . . . Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven” (Matt. vi. 10)? And did not He Himself exclaim on the eve of His passion: ‘Not my will, but thine, be done” (Luke xxii. 42)! And did not He say of His whole work: ‘For I came down from heaven, not to do mine own will, but the will of him that sent me’ (John vi. 38)?
Do you now see what this all means, brother? I presume that you express your readiness and are longing to reach the height of such perfection. Blessed be your zeal! But prepare yourself also for labour, sweat and struggle from your first steps on the path. You must sacrifice everything to God and do only His will. Yet you will meet in yourself as many wills as you have powers and wants, which all clamour for satisfaction, irrespective of whether it is in accordance with the will of God or not. Therefore, to reach your desired aim, it is first of all necessary to stifle your own wills and finally to extinguish and kill them altogether. And in order to succeed in this, you must constantly oppose all evil in yourself and urge yourself towards good. In other words, you must ceaselessly fight against yourself and against everything that panders to your own wills, that incites and supports them. So prepare “yourself for this struggle and this warfare and know that the crown—attainment of your desired aim—is given to none except to the valiant among warriors and wrestlers. But if this is the hardest of all wars—since in fighting against ourselves it is in ourselves that we meet opposition—victory in it is the most glorious of all; and, what is the main thing, it is most pleasing to God. For if, inspired by fervour, you overcome and put to death your unruly passions, your lusts and wills, you will please God more, and will work for Him more beautifully, than if you flog yourself till you draw blood or exhaust yourself by fasts more than any ancient hermit of the desert. Even if you redeem hundreds of Christian slaves from the infidels and give them freedom, it will not save you, if with this you remain yourself a slave to your own passions. And whatever work you may undertake, however glorious, and with whatever effort and sacrifice you may accomplish it, it will not lead you to your desired aim, if you leave your passions without attention, giving them freedom to live and act in you.
Finally, after learning what constitutes Christian perfection and realising that to achieve it you must wage a constant cruel war with yourself, if you really desire to be victorious in this un-seen warfare and be rewarded with a crown, you must plant in your heart the following four dispositions and spiritual activities, as it were arming yourself with invisible weapons, the most trustworthy and unconquerable of all, namely: (a) never rely on your-self in anything; (b) bear always in your heart a perfect and all-daring trust in God alone; (c) strive without ceasing; and (d) remain constantly in prayer.

The Church as a Therapeutic Center 1: The Therapy of the Soul.                             Metropolitan Hierotheos Vlachos .

1 June 2015

The subject of the therapy of the soul is extremely important for the Orthodox Church because it expresses the essence of spiritual life. Before elaborating on this crucial topic, I would like to give some introductory explanations.

First, when discussing the therapy of the soul, we do not believe in dualism, which makes a clear distinction between soul and body, as is the case in ancient Greek philosophy or some present Eastern religions. Man has two hypostases[1], since he consists of soul and body. The soul is not the whole man but just the soul of man; the body is not the whole man but just the body of man. The body is tightly connected to the soul and takes part in all its states. The body receives both the fall of the soul as well as its resurrection. Thus we speak about the death of the body, which is an outcome of the death of the soul, and about the deification of the body, which comes as a result of the deification of the soul. Saint Gregory Palamas teaches that the nous[2] is man’s first physical intelligent organ and also teaches that the Grace of God is ferried through the soul to the body, which is attached to the soul.

Second, the teaching that the Church is a spiritual Hospital and that true theology is related to the therapy of the soul is not an isolated part of the teaching about the Church, but rather the way and requirement for the experiencing of church life and the acquisition of the Orthodox church spirit. Of course, the basis of church life is the holy Eucharist, in which man partakes of the Body and Blood of Christ. But the entire teaching of the holy Fathers for the therapy of man is a prerequisite for the correct partaking of the holy Eucharist. It is well known that the communion of the Body and Blood of Christ is light, Kingdom of God, and Paradise for those in the proper spiritual condition for the holy Communion to act. At the same time, it is Hell and “condemnation” for all those not cleansed. The teaching of the Fathers of the Church on this point is telling indeed. Furthermore, the sacrament of Baptism is, and is called, an introductory sacrament that makes us members of the Body of Christ. But, in the ancient Church, Catechism, which aimed at man’s therapy, preceded Baptism, and asceticism followed Baptism. Christ said: “Go and teach all nations baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to do what I have given to you” (Matt. 28:16–20).

Third, when speaking about the therapy of the soul and, more generally, the therapy of man, we mean nothing else but Orthodox hesychasm. As it is known, Orthodox hesychasm forms the basis of all Ecumenical and Local Synods, because through hesychasm we obtain the experience of Revelation through which we know that Christ is the true God, that the Holy Spirit is God, that the natures are united inseparably, unchangeably, and undividedly. For this reason, the fourteenth-century Synods that confirmed Orthodox hesychasm, in the presence of the great Church theologian and Father Saint Gregory Palamas, in reality presented the method through which man can be saved, deified, and go from the image to the likeness. Orthodox hesychasm consists of the transformation of the powers of the soul, of man’s deliverance and liberation from the evil one who rules over man with the spiritual and bodily passions, of the deification of soul and body. In fact, the fourteenth-century Synods state that if a Christian does not accept the teaching of Saint Gregory Palamas and of the monks who speak about Orthodox hesychia as a method for the cleansing of the soul, he should be expelled from the Church.

The Church offers the true life; it transforms biological life, sanctifies and transforms societies. Orthodoxy, if experienced properly and functioning according to the holy Fathers, is a communion of God and man, heaven and earth, living and deceased. In this communion all problems emerging in our life are truly solved.

Other religions, particularly those originating from the East, are indeed the opiate of the people, because they transfer the problem to the transcendental world, they alienate men from society, they tear apart interpersonal relationships and destroy man. The Orthodox Church is true precisely because it heals man; it functions as a therapeutic center, an infirmary of souls, a Hospital. This is why it is very modern to be an Orthodox Christian.
NOTES:

1. Hypostases are persons, or essential natures.

2. Nous: The word has various uses in Patristic teaching. It indicates either the soul or the heart or even the energy of the soul. Yet, the nous is mainly the eye of the soul, the purest part of the soul, the highest attention. It is also called noetic energy, and it is not identified with reason.

Metr. Hierotheos Vlachos .

This article was originally published by the Monastery of St. John, http://www.monasteryofstjohn.org, in The Divine Ascent Vol. 3/4.
This and other publications can be found on their bookstore website, http://www.stjohnsbookstore.com.  This article was posted here with permission.

Unseen Warfare by Saint Nikodemos the Hagiorite

”But if this is the hardest of all wars… victory in it is the most glorious of all …. If you really desire to be victorious in this unseen warfare and be rewarded with a crown, you must plant in your heart the following four dispositions and spiritual activities, as it were arming yourself with invisible weapons, the most trustworthy and unconquerable of all, namely:
a) never rely on yourself in anything;

b) bear always in your heart a perfect and all-daring trust in God alone;
c) strive without ceasing; and
d) remain constantly in prayer.”