St Paisios on true theology .

“There are some who take the dogmas and squeeze them into their own logic and subject them to mental processing and render them an intellectual Theology, and there are those who take the dogmas and use them with anger and their teeth, by grinding the dogmas with their teeth and thus generating fanaticism. True Theology however is life; it is the living Tradition that exists inside the Church, which expresses itself in the Holy Spirit without conservatism and fanaticism, but rather with strength and fervour of spirit, without remaining superficial (that is what conservatism is). Tradition is one thing, conservatism is another. Conservatism is to take the past and carry it into the future like a canned product – a conserve; THAT’S what conservatism is. Tradition is the fresh product, the living tradition that one savours inside the Church with repentance and the ecclesiastic way of life overall, and that is how conservatism as well as secularization are averted – both of which are problems within the Church.
We are therefore invited to be actual Orthodox, having repentance, prayer and Holy Communion as our basis and living charismatically within the space of our Church.”

The theological dialogues and their failure.

IMG_2859

THE THEOLOGICAL DIALOGUES AND THEIR FAILURE
By Protopresbyter Fr. George D. Metallinos

THE PRE-20TH CENTURY THEOLOGICAL DIALOGUES AND THEIR LEGACY
Faithful to Her identity and Her uninterrupted poemantic praxis towards the heretics and schismatics who left Her bosom, Orthodoxy had embarked on a series of theological dialogues with them1, immediately after the Schism of 1054 and through to the end of the 19th century, catering to their return to the in-Christ Truth. Her dialogues with Western Christianity (initially with Papism, and from the 16th century with the various branches of Protestantism) left an important legacy, which Orthodoxy cannot overlook even in Her current ecumenical relations, in order to preserve Her historical continuity.
Besides, “dialogue” is something that belongs to the essence of Christianity; it was introduced and sanctified by The Creator Himself in the life of mankind. «Come, let us discuss» says God (Isaiah1:18) to His creature. Moreover, our worship is a continuous discussion between Creator and creature, for the salvation of man.
After the time of the Schism (1054), Orthodox fidelity to the apostolic-patristic tradition is expressed positively, in its Orthodox dogmatic-symbolic texts and based on them, the heretical Western delusions are rebutted, with an undisturbed continuance and agreement. Orthodox self-awareness had thus remained vigorous, according to which, «our Orthodox Eastern and Apostolic Church not only does not embrace a heretical dogma, but repels even any suspicions thereof»2.
Also confessed bluntly is that «the Luther-Calvin and Papist dogmas are not consistent with our Orthodox faith, but rather oppose it and are far removed from the truth »3.
It therefore becomes obvious that the only acceptable basis for the reacceptance of any seceded ones whatsoever is the unfalsified identity of the upright Faith and its unreserved acceptance by the heterodox. This by no means comprises an arrogant stance by the Orthodox, inasmuch as the return and the repentance of the heterodox means that they are re-connecting with apostolic-patristic Orthodoxy, which they had deserted. The statement by Saint Mark of Ephesus (the Noble) has preserved its age-old validity, that: «in the divine dogmas there is no place whatsoever for providence or condescension»4.
However, these criteria became unactuated or disappeared, around the end of the 19th century, with the ecclesiastic Leadership tied down by the demands of international politics. Moreover, it was their political goals5 that had marginalized the in-Christ, salvific Truth, which were the main reason for the failure of the dialogues up until the Sacking of the City (1453). The “Reply to the Constantinople Synod of 1895 addressed to Pope Leo XIII” can be regarded as the turning point of this change in stance. According to this response, union can be achieved, “by expectoration of the heretical… innovations and return to the ancient status of the one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church of Christ»6. Consequently, every unification endeavour that does not move within the bounds of the orthodox-patristic tradition but instead aspires «to the passing enjoyment of sin» (Hebr.11:25) is condemned to fail.

«ECUMENICAL MOVEMENT AND ECUMENICAL DIALOGUE»

a) The official announcements
“Ecumenical Movement”7 was the name given from the beginning of the 20th century for the awareness of «the chasm and the differences» between the different Christian groups, especially in the space of the West, and the organizing of a course of friendly relations and contacts between them – the objective being their eventual re-unification8. More specifically, this Movement aspires – «by means of mutual theological, specialized office, as well as by means of meetings between the delegates of the various Churches and Christian groups – to the clarification of the dogmatic and other differences between them, in a spirit of mutual understanding» – in order to seek out the suitable means for an effective rapprochement between themselves, «thus smoothing out in advance the path to the union»9. These official or unofficial meetings were named «Ecumenical Dialogue», which, according to the honest statement by one of the pioneers of Ecumenism, the former Archibishop of America, Iakovos († 1996), «aspired to the unification or the rapprochement of the Churches and thereafter, of religions in general»10.
According to the official statement by the Ecumenical Patriarchate a few years ago: «the Orthodox Church, being fully aware of Her identity and Her responsibility, chose the constructive theological dialogue with the other Christian Churches and confessions… both for the trustworthy projection of Orthodoxy to the rest of the Christian world, but also for the re-connecting of the heterodox to the common theological tradition of the period of the Ecumenical Synods, in the obvious hope for their return to the Faith delivered by the Apostles»11. Furthermore, the Ecumenical Patriarchate had already stated that the purpose of its participation in the Ecumenical Movement was: «to familiarize and impart to the heterodox the wealth of the Faith, its (Orthodoxy’s) worship and its constitution, and its religious –along with its ascetic- experience, and also to be informed about their (the heterodox) new methods and their notions of ecclesiastic lifa and their activities»12. Especially stressed by our Ecumenists is the danger of «isolation» – something that is not reflected –as far as I know- in our pre-20th century ecclesiastic records. Moreover, it is an argument that relates to the impermanence of the present age and its menial objectives, in total antithesis to the words of our Christ to the “Twelve”, when «many of His disciples» abandoned Him, not having accepted His entire Truth. «Do you Too want to go away?» (John 6:66-67).

«Isolation» exists, wherever Christ is absent, as Orthodoxy. Besides, official reassurance is given by the Ecumenical Centre, that «no concerns regarding a supposed betrayal of the Orthodox faith or a weakening of the Orthodox conscience can be expressed, through a sincere dialogue with the other Christian traditions» 13.

However, the first concerns had appeared, even from the start. Fearing the relativization of the Faith, the dogmatologist professor John Karmiris – a collaborator “in principle” with the ecumenical endeavour – felt the need to underline that «the participation of the Orthodox … and their collaboration… has the meaning of a community of love and not a community per dogmatic teaching and Mysteries»14. Analogous criticism was also exercised by the renowned Professor Panayiotis Trembelas, who noted that: «We are assuredly facing the danger of a clime and atmosphere of indifference regarding the distinctions and the differences of the dogma being created, in the midst of which, the mightier and more numerous and the more composed and organized will calmly and imperceptibly absorb the fewer and the more feebly organized»15.

However, a revelatory and especially dynamic critique on the Ecumenical Movement overall was expressed by the blessed Fr. Justin (Popovitch): «Ecumenism –he notes– is a common name for pseudo-Christians, for the pseudo-churches of Western Europe. Inside it can be found the heart of all the European Humanisms, with Papism at the head. All of these pseudo-Christians, all of the pseudo-churches, are nothing more than one heresy side-by-side with another heresy. Their common evangelical name is pan-heresy»16. And he asks himself: «Was it really necessary for the Orthodox Church – that immaculate God-human body and organism of the Godman Christ – to be so monstrously humiliated, that Her representative Theologians, even Hierarchs, would seek organic participation and inclusion in the W.C.C.? Alas, it was an unheard of treason»17.

But the sacred Community of the Holy Mountain, when writing «On the Dialogue of Orthodox and Papists18 as early as 1967, had expressed its concerns, by expressing serious reservations as regards the possibility of “common prayers”, “participations in each others’ liturgical and worshipping synaxes and other acts, which might give the impression that our Orthodox Church accepts the Roman Catholics as a complete (whole) Church and the Pope as a canonical Bishop of Rome»19. A true prophecy, of the happenings of our time!
Furthermore, it has been rightly supported, that «Orthodoxy has no need to hasten towards any dialogue, when they have remained so tenacious and unbudging on the issues of infallibility, primacy, Unia, and the rest of their cacodoxies.
The precipitating of the dialogue under these conditions is equivalent to the spiritual suicide of Orthodoxy. Out of many indications, the impression is given that the Roman Catholics are preparing for a Uniate-style union. I wonder, are the Orthodox who are hastening to the dialogue aware of this?»20.And the confessional conclusion of the Hagiorite Fathers: «The Holy Mountain proclaims that it will not be accepting finished events; by the Grace of God it will remain faithful, as will the Orthodox people of the Lord, to the Faith of the Holy Apostles and the Holy Fathers, and out of love for the heterodox as well, who will essentially be helped, when the Orthodox – with their consistent stance – make evident the magnitude of their spiritual illness and how they can be healed»21.
b) The covert Plans
However, secret fermentations also exist in the Dialogue, which inspire even more concern about the sincerity of the official statements, when they are falsified by various methodical plans. It would have been very interesting, if we knew what had transpired on the 5th of January 1964 in Jerusalem, between Pope Paul VI (1963-1978) and Patriarch Athenagoras (1948-1972) when they met – according to Patriarch Athenagoras’ statement: «at 9 o’clock at night, at the Pope’s residence». Athenagoras’ description is particularly revealing: «The two of us went hand-in-hand to his room, and the two of us held a secret talk. What did we say? Who knows what two souls say, when they speak! […] we made a common program, with absolute parity, not with any difference…» 22.
Each one of us can give his own interpretation to those words; however, the course of events confirms the reference to «plans».
The entire pursuant course of the Dialogue confirms the contracting of agreements and programming, in Constantinople’s and Rome’s course23. Besides, in another statement of his, former Primate of America, Iakovos, admits that «the W.C.C. is moving towards the realization of its objective, through the mingling of civilizations, religions and Peoples»24. The purpose of the founding of the W.C.C. was, consequently, none other than the fulfilment of the New Age plans and of Pan-religion – something that is now obvious in our day and age. Prominent Hierarchs of the Ecumenical Throne such as Germanos (Strenopoulos) of Thyatira do not hesitate to provocatively admit what the true objectives of the inter-Christian dialogue are, by making a lengthy reference to the Decree of 1920, which he had composed together with other professors of the School of Halke: «It is imperative – he said – that, apart from unity (in the narrow sense of the word), the Churches must realize that there is also another, more comprehensive meaning to unity, according to which, all who admit the fundamental teaching of God’s revelation in Christ and who accept Him as Saviour and Lord, must regard each other as members of the same body, and not as strangers». «Without entering into an examination of dogmatic differences that divide the Churches», added the Primate of Thyateira, «we must cultivate precisely that idea of a broader unity…»25. What is obvious here is the theory of a «broader Church», which will demand the marginalization of the faith and the soteriological character of the dogma, as opposed to the apostolic and patristic tradition of all the ages.
But, whatever is happening in the space of the inter-Christian dialogue also applies in our inter-faith policy. And here, the “line” has been given long since, and is determinant. In his above address to the Orthodox Priests of emigrant Hellenism, Patriarch Athenagoras had expressed his conviction that «with the unification of the Churches, we are also walking towards a panhumanity»26.

It was the Vatican’s peremptory desire that the dialogue be conducted, not with theological criteria, but in the clime of a «dialogue of love», which «had to be continued and extended»27. Athenagoras had faithfully followed the desire of Pope Paul VI, and the theological dialogue or dialogue on the faith was subjugated to a dialogue of love – that is, of good relations, sentimentalisms and verbalisms of love. It was in this form of dialogue that the Patriarch also founded the «common Chalice» – the sacramental intercommunion – which, according to his public admission, was already a status quo in 197128. In 1986 the inter-faith meetings and common prayers29 began officially in Assisi of Italy, as synaxes of confessed union – with the Pope as the centre: a spiritual leader, and in practice «Planetary Leader No.2» of the entire world, as he is characterized internationally.

There is, consequently, a glaring coincidence with the dialogues of the Byzantine period30, which were used at the time for serving political expediencies; as such, the targeted union becomes a means, not an objective. It has quite correctly been observed that «the inter-faith dialogues appear to fully relate – in aspect and in practice – with the manner in which syndicalists, politicians and ideologies converse»31. But, according to Fr. Peter Heers, a Dr. of Theology, the method followed by Ecumenism has the following steps: Coexistence-Dialogue-Infiltration-Subversion. «Infiltration» relates to «the alteration of the Orthodox conscience», which is substituted by the «heterodox» one32. Per the «On Ecumenism» Decree of Vatican II, «the communion of all the individual Churches with the Church of Rome is a necessary prerequisite for unification»33. But, according to Athanasius the Great, «it is necessary to first excise every disagreement regarding the faith, and then attend to the examination of matters»34.

There is also, however, the official and public methodical planning of the Dialogue. With the 1920 Decree35, the Ecumenical Patriarchate provided the Charter containing the course of the Orthodox side within the Ecumenical Movement36.

Equally important is the question of who decides about the course of the Dialogue. As noted by Fr. Sarandis Sarandos: «For an important matter such as the Dialogue with the heretic papists, not once has there convened the quorum of universal Bishops, even if with just a few -at least- presbyters and deacons»37. This was a fair observation, because there are Hierarchs of ours who have been protesting about the absence of a proper update.

The ever-memorable professor Constantine Mouratides had accurately diagnosed – already in 1980 – the true objectives of the dialogue: «The supposedly theological dialogue is a papist plot for the disorientation and deception of the Orthodox flock, by subjugating as large a portion of it as possible to the heretic pope of Rome»38.
Furthermore, the disadvantages and the snares of the Ecumenical Dialogue have been very accurately described by the Very Reverend Metropolitan Seraphim of Piraeus: «Ecumenism adopts and legitimizes all the heresies as “Churches”, thus offending the dogma of the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church. It expounds, teaches and imposes a new dogma relating to “Church” and a new ecclesiology, according to which, no individual Church has the right to claim exclusively for itself the character of a catholic (universal) and true Church. Each one of them is a segment, a part, but not the whole Church; all of them together constitute “the Church”. But with this method, it is demolishing the borders between truth and delusion, Orthodoxy and heresy, and is applying itself excellently to the sport of demolishing Orthodoxy»39.

FAILURE AND «SUCCESS»!

a) A fruition painful for Orthodoxy
Every endeavour is judged by its fruits. This also applies to the “Ecumenical Dialogue” as a whole. So, what will its fruits be, especially in regard to Orthodoxy and the sacred matter of Christian unity? Because only thus can the success or the failure of every form of Ecumenical Dialogue be evaluated (see Matth. 7:20). The matter, however, of success or failure presupposes a reference to the sides involved in the dialogue, and to their objectives, because success in one case can function as failure in another. Given, therefore, that two magnitudes are involved in the ecumenical dialogue – Orthodoxy and Heterodoxy – will this be the gnomon that the question of ‘where the Ecumenical Dialogue has led to until now’ will initially be answered, so that one can speak of success or failure?

It has been expressed by eminent lips, that the Dialogue is conducted «in accordance with the canonical tradition and the perennial ecclesiastic praxis, on the relations of the Orthodox Church with the heterodox»40. But is that how things are? Unfortunately no! Each dialogue belongs to the core of Orthodoxy’s poemantic opus and has a missionary character. It is a call to an in-Christ (that is, in the upright faith) unity. If the purpose is not «the unity of faith and the communion of the Holy Spirit», but is deviated towards compromises of any kind, it cannot be characterized as an «in-the-truth Dialogue».

When the «outreach of love» towards the others is in practice the subjugation of Orthodoxy to the multi-faceted and polyonymous delusion, with salvation in jeopardy – not only for the interlocutors with Orthodoxy (as they perceive it in our persons), but also for us – then we cannot claim that our dialogue «is being conducted in accordance with the perennial ecclesiastical praxis». .

Reversely, instead of the Orthodox (that is, our ecclesiastic) Faith being the immovable point where the Orthodox should meet with Heterodoxy, it is becoming the «sought after» subject in the dialogue with them. But, it has been proven historically, that in the post-Schism dialogues, «the criterion of patristic tradition comprised the starting point or even the final objective in every theological discussion»41.

1) In today’s dialogues, not a word is spoken about the return of the Heterodox to the One and indivisible Church, which Orthodoxy has been perpetuating in the persons of our Saints. Hence, our current dialogues are leading us, de facto, to the awarding of the heretical delusion (since 1920) with the characterization of the various western heretical groups as “Churches of Christ” (1920 Decree of the Ecumenical Patriarchate).

2) The loudly touted claim that the dialogue –especially with the Latin “Church”– is being conducted «on equal terms» is actually discredited in practice, while simultaneously placing in doubt the truth of patristic tradition, by acknowledging proven heresies as ecclesiastical entities. Thus, the claim «on equal terms» becomes a pretext in order to cover our plight when our interlocutors are talking from a position of power. Besides, this phrase is also indicative of a weakness on our part, as well as of our doubts as to the truth of our tradition43.

3) In the Dialogue, our leaders have been acting as though the union has already taken place, judging by the terminology being used. Is it ever possible, for example, for «neo-Arianism» (Papism, that is) -according to the blessed Fr. Justin Popovic- to be referred to as a «sister and complete Church»? On this point, the former Pope was far more honest, when in 2007 he had denied Protestantism the character of “Church”… albeit having characterized Orthodoxy as «deficient» because it did not accept his primacy! In Balamand (1993), Papism was recognized the way it is, as a «sister Church», while in Porto Allegre (2005) Protestant ecclesiology was accepted, with no official reaction by any local hierarchy. Quite rightly, then, the Metropolitan of Nafpaktos posed the question: Given that «the Church is ONE, according to the Creed and the self-awareness of the Orthodox Church, then how can there be talk of other Christian Churches? It is obvious (he continues) that those other churches are heterodox ones»44.

4) Recognition of ecclesiasticity in heterodox groups signifies that the dialogue is perceived as a «mutual recognition» that approaches the boundaries of a Uniatising stance towards them. The inwardly directed – and «for popular consumption» – placatory reassurances will not save apostasy; only the unwavering patristic stance – which only then is truly a loving stance, also towards the Heterodox.
5) A sad symptom of the dialogue to this day is the broad use (on our part) of the terms «divided Church» and «extended Church» – for facilitating the course towards unification – but detrimental to the Truth. In other words, what is taking place is a dialogue of an academic character/nature, and not one between Orthodoxy, who is fully conscious of Her identity, and Heterodoxy, who is fully aware of its lapse. Thus, every sense of seriousness is lost, to say the least.

6) Such is the character of arbitrary actions; as was, for example, the «lifting of the anathemas» of 1054, but without Rome’s return to the pre-Schism (1054) Faith. The latter however had gone even further, by mentioning in the Latin text the «lifting of excommunication» (1009). Thereafter, the Vatican II (1962-65) imposed «sacramental intercommunion», thus promoting the unification in practice. But Patriarch Athenagoras had also recommended this, to the Orthodox clergy of Europe and the USA in 197245. According to the bold statement of the Metropolitan of Nafpaktos, «the acceptance of Vatican II Council on the part of Orthodox Theologians is a deviation from the Orthodox faith and the Theology of the Fathers».

7) Even if the recognition of heterodox baptism «after the completion of the theological dialogue»46 is supported, the awarding of «baptismal Theology» becomes a fact. In practice, situations are imposed that cannot later be doubted, because they generate behaviours that refute Orthodoxy.

8) We have reached the point of making improper use of the «two lungs» theory. And yes, the Ecumenists may be invoking Fr. G. Florovsky and his reference to the pre-Schism situation; however, in the circle of our Ecumenists, its use has been extended, through to post-Schism Christianity also. But, since Papism is regarded as a canonical “Church”, the use of the above expression in today’s situation is obvious.

9) We are silently accepting the papist machinations that aspire to the acceleration of the unification endeavour. Included in the devices of Papism is also the important and fundamental matter of the «Filioque». Its inclusion in the Creed may have been sidestepped by resorting to the «Athanasian Creed» of the 6th – 7th century (Pope John Paul II’s choice47), however, the fact remains that the sacred Symbol of Faith by the 2nd Ecumenical Synod (381) was tampered with.

10) Our Ecumenists resort to every kind of machination for the recognition and the imposition of Papal primacy, given that there is not the slightest interest on the part of the Vatican to sincerely abolish it, seeing that it is its most powerful foothold and the expression of papal absolutism. Papism’s stubborn insistence on its «Primacy of power», which comprises its identity and continues to prevail in practice (in spite of what our Ecumenists claim) within the Latin “Church”, is tragically obvious in the post-Vatican II authored “Catechesis”, with its trustee former Pope Benedict XVI (then Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger) 48.
Instead of the Orthodox side lovingly indicating that Papism’s obsession with the primacy – even within its own bosom – is an obsession with a heretical delusion and that it annuls every sense of dialogue with Orthodoxy, it strives with various comical manoeuvres to accept the idea of the primacy – but not as the «primacy of honour» – in Her own body also, in order to facilitate the recognition of the papal primacy. The Pope’s primacy is, after all, inextricably tied to his infallibility49, constituting whatever the term «papal institution» entails, making it the biggest obstacle in the in-truth meeting between Papism and (patristic) Orthodoxy.

11) In the official and unofficial language of our Ecumenists, the Pope is regarded as a canonical bishop, bearer of true priesthood, as if we are in the pre-Schism period. This notion prevailed, after the lifting of the anathemas (1965), but without the lifting of the delusion that had provoked them. So we wonder: where is the difference, between the terminology used for the Pope of Rome: «His Holiness and His Beatitude the Pope» (as chanted in the Orthodox “Pheme” – the Bishops’ Anthem) and the respective one used for the Orthodox Patriarchs of the East?

12) Analogous are the results of the Inter-faith Dialogue so far50; «Common» points are likewise sought in there, but in essence, the Christian truth is being relativized even more51, with the participation of Orthodox Hierarchs in pan-religious common prayers, or with the presence of other faiths in Orthodox liturgical synaxes.
Consequently, the Dialogues are systematically leading to a “surrender to the lowest bidder” with regard to the Orthodox faith – with the support of the monstrosity called «Meta-Patristic Theology» – so that the Ecumenical Dialogue has been rendered an ecclesiological heresy and syncretism.

13) And what can one say of the baleful retreat, at the Vatican’s insistence for Unia52 to also participate in the Dialogue, when it had already been condemned in Vienna and Freising (1990) by the Orthodox AND Roman Catholic sub-committee, but was triumphantly accepted at Balamand53? The protests of the Orthodox led to a (temporary) interruption of the Dialogue in 2000 (Baltimore), only, however, to later resume with Unia present.
The declaration by the Orthodox side that «the Orthodox… are upset by the very existence itself of Unia, which takes them back to grievous times»54, was unfortunately a pointless diplomatic manoeuvre, which only confirms our complete surrender to the dispositions of the Vatican. The appearance alone of the Uniates’ external (Orthodox!) attire in papal synods or liturgical synaxes creates confusion in the faithful of both sides, trapping the insufficiently informed.

14) It is unmistakably obvious by now, that with the ecumenistic hysteria, we are heading (if we haven’t already reached) towards a federal union with western heretical panspermia, robbed of all possibility to influence our interlocutors, while reversely, situations of secularization and de-Christianization are being experienced. We have actually reached the point where the argument that the Orthodox Church can no longer convene an Ecumenical Synod without the participation of the Westerners55 is being projected.
It is therefore justified to ask: How many heretics converted to Orthodoxy thanks to dialogues with them56 and not through missions in the heterodox world undertaken by humble Orthodox Priests and Elders? On the contrary, persistence in the delusion is encouraged, because of the stance of the Orthodox Ecumenistic Leadership.

15) In its every dimension and version, Ecumenism has become a true Babylonian captivity, for the Ecumenical Patriarchate as well as all for the local leaderships of the Orthodox Church. The only thing achieved by the Ecumenical DIalogue is the validation of a de-Christianized Western «Christianity» in its entirety.

We shall conclude these ascertainments with the words of the Very Reverend Metropolitan Seraphim of Piraeus, who very astutely summarizes the sorry state of the Ecumenical Dialogue:
«Ecumenism projects the modern, endless ecumenistic theological dialogues, which are governed by a lack of Orthodox confession, a lack of sincerity by the heterodox, an overstressing of love and an understressing of the truth, the practice of not discussing the things that divide, instead, only those that unite; the blunting of the Orthodox criteria, the mutual recognition of ecclesiasticity, of apostolic succession, priesthood, Grace, sacraments, dialogue on equal terms, the pardoning, the acquittal and the awarding of the Trojan Horse of Papism (the accursed and demonic Unia), participation in the pan-Protestant, so-called «World Council of Churches» (or rather, of heresies); the endorsement of mutual, anti-Orthodox announcements, statements and texts (for example Balamand, Porto Allegre, Ravenna e.a.); the common prayers and sacramental intercommunion».

And what can one say about the unacceptable ecumenistic understanding of the words of the Lord «…that all may be one…» (John 17:11, 21), which confirms the complete lack of any association whatsoever with patristic spirituality – and not only among the Heterodox 57.

Such are the sad results that Orthodoxy’s participation in the «Ecumenical Dialogue» has arrived at. The argument, that with our participation, help is being offered to the Heterodox to find their way back to the Truth, has proved itself to be unsubstantial one. It could have been regarded as valid, if the opposite hadn’t occurred, i.e., Orthodoxy entering into a mélange with every kind of delusion, and the spread of confusion in the conscience of the Orthodox flock.

b) Assessment of Ecumenical relations
After all of the above, how can Ecumenism be assessed? Is it possible for the Orthodox side to say that it was conducted successfully and that it had positive results? A successful Dialogue would have meant progress in an in-Truth meeting. And yet, the polyonymous heresy became accepted as a «Church», and not only at a personal level, but also by the local ecclesiastic Hierarchies and Synods.
This is expressed chiefly by the terminology used in the relative documents. With a series of scandalous actions, in a cadre of impermissible tolerance, the consciences of the faithful are being traumatized by the constant disregard of the sacred Canons and the Patristic Tradition.

The relativization of the Orthodox Faith is constantly increasing, while its uniqueness and exclusivity in the sacred matter of salvation is being overlooked. With the anti-patristic language being used, the anti-canonical common prayers58, the exchanged visits and contacts of a secular and political character by both sides, constantly increase the dulling of the differences in the Faith and the leveling of Orthodoxy, while this anti-Orthodox stance by our own people is characterized as an expression of love towards NON-Orthodoxy.

Is it therefore possible, for all of the above to be considered a success for the Orthodoxy of Christ and of the Saints, when Her permanent objective through the ages is the return of the Heterodox-Heretics and those of other faiths to the Flock of Christ, and Her steadfast eschatological objective the word of our Christ: «…and there will be ONE flock and ONE shepherd» (John 10:16), i.e., Christ? Of course not! Ecumenism and its Dialogues – in their current form and course – are a failure of Orthodoxy in Her patristic understanding. The «Orthodoxy» of our Ecumenists has proved itself a mockery and a rejection of the Orthodoxy of our Saints and Her Poemantics; even more so, given that with the Dialogues, not only was unity not promoted, but rather, our differences with the heterodox became more apparent – whom we are nevertheless acknowledging as members of Christ’s Church!

But there is also another aspect to the Dialogue. If, according to the Apostolic-Patristic Faith, the ongoing «Ecumenical Dialogue» as a whole is an uncontested failure, it is also (or at least is imagined) a «success», albeit a deadly one for our Ecumenists and the Heterodox, because it is promoting their aspirations and their objectives, while simultaneously aiding the plans of the New Age and its instruments – both overt and covert.
Pursuant to the stance of the Uniatizing pro-unionists, both before and after the Schism, a matter of spiritual death is being ministered to and promoted faithfully. Today also, as in the past, an enfeebled and heretizing «Orthodoxy» is being drawn and dragged by secular powers that are working for the detriment of man and his salvation, resulting in the elimination of Orthodoxy within a pan-religious, syncretistic mash.
One thing is for sure: The Patristic Orthodox, humble and bloodied by the attacks they have endured, especially in the electronic media, are being vindicated more and more, by having the honour of following in the footsteps of the Confessors and the Martyrs of our Faith – and of the important Leaders of our anti-heretic struggle such as Saints Photios the Great, Gregory Palamas and Mark of Ephesus (“the Noble”) – but also of the entire chorus of unanimously believing souls throughout History.

Indeed, «…there is laid up (for them) the crown of righteousness» (2 Tim.4:8), which the Leaders of Ecumenism have been working towards, by recently announcing the already finalized decision for the… quashing (!!!) of the patristic Orthodox who resist and react to the pseudo-union: «The Orthodox Church regards as condemnable every form of disruption of the Church’s unity by individuals or groups claiming that they are conforming with, or supposedly defending, genuine Orthodoxy»59.

We are inclined to believe that the Pan-Orthodox Synod is in danger of being used as a means by the Ecumenists, for a triumphant awarding of the «Ecumenical Dialogue» and of all its aforementioned juvenilities. Let the «guardian of the Orthodox Faith» stand vigilant – that is, the ecclesiastic body of Clergy and Laity and our monastic world – who have an age-old experience on how to confront those powers, which the Apostle Paul had already warned us about, in the Acts of the Apostles (20:29-30).

Consequently, if the course of the Unifying Dialogue is not revised – which would be equivalent to a massive miracle – and the downhill momentum that was initiated during the Patriarchy of Athenagoras (after 1964) is not intercepted, then the continuation of Ecumenical relations will be even more baleful for the Orthodox.

******************
Translation by A.N.
impantokratoros.gr

NOTES

1. See “Unifying attempts after the Schism and today’s dialogue of Orthodoxy with the Latin church” by Fr. G.Metallinos, in: «Minutes of the Theological Meeting» Primacy, Synodicity and Unity of the Church, Piraeus 2011, p.73-106. Idem: “From Patricity to Post-Patricity – The self-confuting of the Orthodox Leadership” in the “Combattant…..” by Fr. G.Metallinos, Thessaloinki 2012, p.39-61. See also the important (as fundamental) introduction by the memorable Fr. J.Romanides,The Theologian in the service of the Church, during the Ecumenical Dialogue, Athens 1981.
2. Responses…to Oathless Anglicans, in “The Dogmatic and Symbolic Monuments of the Orthodox Catholic Church” by J.Karmiris, vol.Α, Athens 1960-2, p. 791.
3. John N. Karmiris, “The Dogmatic and Symbolic …”, p. 793.
4. Ibid., p. 787.
5. See “Unifying attempts…….” By Fr. G.Metallinos, ibid., p.84 etc.
6. John N. Karmiris, ibid., p.942.
7. Appeared officially in the bosom of Protestantism and the participation of the Ecumenical Patriarchate began in 1920. See Georges Tarard, “Geschichte de Ökumenischen Bewegung”, Mainz 1964. Protopresbyter George Tsetsis: “The contribution of the Ecumenical Patriarchate in the founding of the W.C.C.”, Katerini 1988. Fr. G.D.Metallinos: “Ecumenical Patriarchate and Ecumenism”, in his book “On the paths of Romanity”, Athens 2008, p.119-140.
8. See “History of the Ecumenical Patriarchate” by Basil Th. Stavrides, Athens 1967, p.144.
9. Article by Basil Moustakis in the Religious and Moral Encyclopedia, 4 (1964), vs. 1175.
10. Interview with journalist Ms. Mary Pini, in magazine NEMESIS, November 1999.
11. Response by the Ecumenical Patriarchate to the Memorandum pertaining to the participation of the Orthodox Church in the W.C.C., by the Sacred Community of the Holy Mountain, in the magazine THEODROMIA, Jan-March 2009 issue, p.71-72.
12. John N. Karmiris , ibid., p.962.
13. Response by the Ecumenical Patriarchate …….. ibid., p.65.
14. John N. Karmiris , ibid., p.956.
15. P.N.Trembelas: “Our post-Vatican Synod obligations” (reprint from magazine ECCLESIA), Athens 1967, p.58.
16. Blessed Justin Popovic: “The Orthodox Church and Ecumenism”, Thessaloniki 1974, p.224. The much-touted argument by the Ecumenists that the dialogues are conducted “so that we don’t end up in isolation” is debunked, the way it was said by the words of our Lord to His Disciples when His audience had deserted Him: “Do you also want to go?” (John 6:53-67). The delusion of heresy isolates man, whereas Orthodoxy, as the incarnate all-Truth, fills everything with Light!
17. Ibid.
18. Magazine KOINONIA 1980, Issue No.3, p.125-128.
19. p.125-126.
20. p.128.
21. Ibid.
22. Fr. G.D.Metallinos: ”The Dialogues without the disguise” in his book “Testimonies and Spiritual and Social topics”, Thessaloniki 2010, p.63.
23. Ibid., p.65.
24. Interview in the Newspaper «ΤΟ ΒΗΜΑ», 22.8.1972.
25. “From Patricity to Post-Patricity…..” by Fr. G.D. Metallinos, ibid., p.57.
26. Fr. G.D.Metallinos: ”The Dialogues without…, ibid., p.69/70.
27. EPISKEPSIS, No.221/1 Dec. 1979, p.14/70.
28. Fr. G.D.Metallinos: ”The Dialogues without …….” Ibid.,p.63. See article titled “They are concealing the union with the Papists”, PARAKATATHEKE magazine, No. 105/2016. Cmp.Athanasios K. Sakarellos: “The Union of the Churches has been made”, Athens 2007 (especially p.63 etc.)
29. Ibid., p.71 etc.
30. “Unifying attempts after the Schism ……..” by Fr. G.Metallinos, ibid., p.84 etc.
31. Fr. G.D.Metallinos: ”The Dialogues without ……..”, ibid., p.72.
32. Protopresbyter Fr. Peter Heers: “The demonic method of Ecumenism” (Coexistence, Dialogue, Infiltration, Subversion), THEODROMIA magazine 2015/3, p.465-469.
33. Another expression of papist universal primacy.
34. Besides, it is already a known fact that in the ecumenist synods and the dialogues on the faith the Truth is not sought in the holy Fathers, but instead is confessed. Otherwise it is a dialogue of ideologies. (Saint Athanasius the Great, To Monks Everywhere…, ΡΟ 25, 736 Β)
35. “The Dogmatic and Symbolic Monuments of the Orthodox Catholic Church” by J.Karmiris, vol. Β’, p.957-960. (To the Churches of Christ everywhere). According to professor Christos Yannaras, the Encyclical «either substitutes or suppresses the truth of the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church and the existential mystery of salvation, for the sake of a sociable and pietistic notion of an ideological Christianity». Seeing how in it, «there is not even an hint of the truth» (Truth and unity of the Church, Athens 1997, p.196 etc.).
36. G.D.Metallinos: “Ecumenical Patriarchate and Ecumenism”, in his book “On the paths of Romanity”, Athens 2008, p.133.
37. Archimandrite Sarandis Sarandos: “Ecumenical Steps from Ravenna to Elounda”, THEODROMIA 2009/1, p.95.
38. The Truth about the “Theological” Dialogue between Orthodoxy and Papism, KOINONIA 1980/ Issue 2, p.148.39. Metropolitan Seraphim of Piraeus, “Convening a Local Synod of the Hierarchy of the Church of Greece for the examination and condemnation of the pan-heresy of Ecumenism”, THEODROMIA 2013/2, p.219.
40. “Response by the Ecumenical Patriarchate……” ibid., p.70.
41. Ecclesiastic History, Fr. Vlassios Feidas, Vol. Β’, Athens 1994, p.610.
42. “Unifying attempts after the Schism ……..” by Fr. G.Metallinos, ibid., p.90.
43. See Pan.Simatis: “The Patristic Stance in the theological dialogues and the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, Trikala, Athens 2008, p.30.
44. ORTHODOX TYPOS newspaper, Issue 16, Jan. 2015.
45. Fr. G.D.Metallinos: ”The Dialogues without ……..”, ibid., p.64.
46. “Response by the Ecumenical Patriarchate……” ibid., p.71.
47. Hieromonk Nilus of Vatopedion: “Papism and Ecumenism” in the Minutes of the Inter-Orthodox Scientific Conventionm re “Ecumenism-Creation-Expectations-Disprovals”, vol.Β’, Thessaloniki 2008, p.153.
48. Catechesis of the Catholic Church, Vatican. Cactos Publications, Athens 1996. See Fr.G.Metallinos “The Dialogue on the Papal Primacy” in his book, «Combattant…», Thessaloniki 2012, p.149-156.
49. According to the blessed Justin Popovic «the dogma regarding the Pope’s infallibility… is nothing more than the rebirth of idolatry and polytheism». And according to John Karmiris, «the two dogmas comprising the papal institution – Primacy and Infallibility – are unacceptable to the Orthodox Catholic Church» as is «the chief cause of the pitiful division of the Eastern and the Western Church» (Section 5 Dogmatics. Orthodox Ecclesiology, Athens 1973, p.621 and 645). According to the Vatican II Synod (1962-65), the Pope is infallible, «not only when he officially opining as Pope, but whenever he opines» [Fr. George, Abbott of the Holy Monastery of Hossios Grigorios, “Orthodoxy and Roman Catholicism” (Papism), Holy Mountain 2016].
50. See Protopresbyter Fr. Theodore Zisis: “Interfaith Meetings. Denial of the Gospel and an insult to the Holy Martyrs”, Thessaloniki 2003.
51. Characteristic is the statement by the person responsible for those dialogues (!) – the Very Reverend Metropolitan of Switzerland, Damascenos: «This approach, he writes, makes us suddenly acquire an awareness of the fact that –deep down- a church or a mosque… aspire to the same spiritual awarding of man».
52. Fr.Theodore Zisis: “Unia – Recent developments”, Thessaloniki 1994; Fr. G.Metallinos: “Unia: the Face and the Disguise” in the Section: “Unia yesterday and today”, Athens 1992, p.1149 and completed 1993 2.
53. See Fr. John Romanides: Orthodox and Vaticanian Agreement on Uniatism (Balamand, Lebanon, June 1993, in: KAIROS. Honorary Tome to Professor Emeritus Damianos Ath. Doikos, Thessaloniki 1995 (= Meeting of Thessaloniki School of Theology, Vol. 5, p.261-282).
54. Introduction by the Rev. Metropolitan Geron of Pergamos, Metropolitan John: To the synaxis of the Hierarchy of the Ecumenical Throne (30 August 2015) – typwritten (The problem of Unia).
55. Entirely correct and unanswerable is the observation by the Very Reverend Metropolitan of Piraeus, Seraphim: «The position of His Holiness that the Orthodox Church can no longer convene an Ecumenical Synod on account of the non-participation of the Westerners is entirely erroneous. In essence, he is proclaiming with this position of his that the Orthodox Church is a deficient, weak and incomplete Church, and that it will be a perfect Church, only when it is “united” with Papism and Protestantism, and can thus convene an Ecumenical Synod together with the Westerners. This position however is a far cry from Orthodox Ecclesiology» (Metropolitan Seraphim: Announcement regarding the Synaxis of the «Hierarchs of the Ecumenical Throne) (Commentary on the Introduction by the Ecumenical Patriarch), THEODROMIA, July-Sept. 2015, p.403.
56. ORTHODOX TYPOS newspaper, Issue dated 5th February 2016.
57. The word of our Lord does not have a socio-political character, but a spiritual one, with direct reference to theopty/theosis (cmp. «so that they may see My glory», v. 24).
58. See the detailed study by Fr. Anastasios Gotsopoulos: «One must not pray together with heretics or schismatics», Patrae 2008.
59. See the Text of the 5th Pre-Synod Pan-Orthodox Convention (Chambesy Geneva, 10-17 October 2015.) And this, without the slightest disposition for self critique by our Leadership, who is claiming papal infallibility and primacy.

Demetrios Tselengidis: On the Surpassing Value of the Spiritual Unity of the Church, Its Brutal Abuse in Crete and the Identification of the Church with its AdministrationLetter (Aug. 30, 2016) to the Archbishop and Hierarchy of the Church of Greece on the “Council” in Crete. Orthodoxethos.com

The well-known and respected Professor of Dogmatic Theology at the Theological School of the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, Demetrios Tselengidis, has issued an important and timely three part analysis of the Cretan Council and the ecclesiological problems and issues surrounding it. The letter was sent to all of the hierarchs of the Church of Greece at the end of August and has been included in the recent publication dedicated to the “Council” of Crete, which we mentioned in an earlier post.
– –
Thessaloniki, 30/8/2016
To: The Holy Synod of the Church of Greece
I. Gennadios 14, 115 21 Athens
CC: To all of the Hierarchs of the Church of Greece
Your Beatitude and Holy President of the Synod,
Your Eminences, Holy Hierarchs,
In view of the upcoming convocation of the Holy Synod of the Hierarchy, I would like to lay before you my small “Trilogy”, for I believe that it may in some way aid in the support of the unity of our Church.
This “Trilogy” touches upon the surpassing value of the Spiritual unity of the Church, the brutal abuse of the unity of the Church, and the identification of the Church with its Administration.
I. The Surpassing Value of the Spiritual Unity of the Church
The so-called Holy and Great Council of the Crete was called, according to its originators and organizers, in order to express the unity of the Church. However, the convening of a Pan-Orthodox Council for the purpose of showcasing the unity of the Church is unknown and foreign to the history of the Councils of the Orthodox Church. The truth of the matter, as became apparent after the convening of the Council, is that not only was this ambitious aim not realized, but, rather, events revealed the veiled cunning of its organizers. However, let us examine just what the unity of the Church consists, and in what way this particular “Council” “proclaimed” it.
The unity of the Church, as its foundational attribute, is a given in the very nature of the Church and expresses the Church’s self-understanding, which was historically formulated in the Oros-Decision laid down by the Second Ecumenical Council (381), which then became the Church’s Symbol of Faith (or Creed).
In the Symbol of Faith we confess that we believe “in One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church.” If, however, the Church is “One” – according to our Creed – then, strictly speaking, there cannot be heterodox-heretical Churches.
The unity of the Church, as an attribute of the one body of the Church, is absolutely and irrevocably assured by Her Head, Christ, through the continual presence of the Holy Spirit in Her, already from Pentecost.
To begin with, we must state that the unity of men with the Triune God and between themselves – which constitutes the highest level of unity among men – is the main and essential aim of the entire Divine Economy, which was expressed through the incarnation of the Son and Word of God, but more particularly by the establishment of His Church.
The Church, as the mysteriological body of Christ, is the charismatic space where the unity of the faithful is established, lived and made visible as the image of the unity of the Triune God. Accordingly, then, the theological and ontological presuppositions for the relation of the faithful to the Triune unity are found in the establishment and composition of the Church as the theanthropic body of Christ, in which the faithful are befitted as His organic members. The unfailing unity of the Church is guaranteed by Christ Himself as Her theanthropic Head.
The unity of the Church, per se, is ontologically unbreakable and is institutionally revealed in the faith, worship and administration of the Church. This triple unity is grounded in the three-fold office of Christ and draws from it; namely, the offices of prophet, priest and king. Consequently, these three manifestations of the unity of the Church must be understood as organically inter-dependent, inter-penetrating and inseparably co-ordinated with the one and complete unity of the Church.
The unity of the Church, as a whole, while given mysteriologically, is preserved and cultivated through the observance of the divine commandments and is revealed, par excellence, eucharistically. Consequently, this unity does not exist as a quality of our nature, nor is it, much more, a result of an autonomous activity of men, but rather consists of the fruit and gift of the Holy Spirit, within the context of the mysteriological body of Christ alone, that is, within His one and only Church. This is the case because this unity presupposes the heavenly, uncreated and charismatic birth and therapy of human nature from the ontological illness of sin, through the mystery of Holy Baptism and the gift of uncreated divine grace and energy of the Holy Spirit in the mystery of Holy Chrismation.
Thus, the uncreated Reign of God within the faithful is established irrevocably, which, however, remains active only under the presupposition of the loving observance of the divine commandments, but also the blameless partaking of the divine-acting mysteries of the Church. It is precisely this Reign of God active within the faithful which constitutes their essential ontological unity, firstly with the Triune God and consequently between themselves, for then it is that the charismatic-mysteriological appropriation of the Grace of the Holy Spirit is manifest and the faithful are, in practice, made one Spirit with the Triune God and between themselves. Then, that which unites them – namely, the unifying power – is the uncreated divine love, given and active charismatically within them, the divine glory and Reign, as was lived historically by the elect disciples of Christ during His transfiguration, and later by all of His disciples from the day of Pentecost onward.
The way in which this ecclesiastical unity is brought about is not created but uncreated. This is confirmed for us by the incarnate Hypostatic Truth in His High-Priestly Prayer. The core of the High-Priestly Prayer is concerned with unity, both with regard to its ontological character and the way in which it is acquired and appropriated: “And the glory which thou gavest me, I have given them,” says Christ to God the Father, “that they may be one, even as we are one: I in them, and thou in me, that they may be made perfect in one; and that the world may know that thou hast sent me, and hast loved them, as thou hast loved me” (John 17: 22-23).
In other words, the uncreated Glory and Reign of the Triune God is not only the way in which this Theanthropic unity is realized, but it is also the unique spiritual “key” to the “unspeakable” experience and “incomprehensible” knowledge of this unity, as the manifestation of the uncreated love of God the Father which is imparted through Christ and made one’s own experientially in the Holy Spirit. The degree of the charismatic unity of the faithful, as created beings, is comparable – always analogously – to the degree of the natural uncreated unity which God the Father has with His Son in the Holy Spirit.
From the Scriptural passage above, it follows that the aim of the Triune God for the faithful – clergy, monks, laymen, unmarried and married – is the exactly the same, without exception, for all and to the same degree. The aim is for all to become one Spirit with the Triune God and between themselves, in order for them to reach “unreachably” uncreated perfection and to taste it in this present life, for only in this way can they experientially witness to His perfect and uncreated love and to offer, in obedience to God, their missionary service to a world alienated from God.
Consequently, only in the Holy Spirit, that is, only uncreatedly, can we become one in the Church, for the Holy Spirit, which we receive charismatically through Her, is an uncreated reality. Through this uncreated unity the present life, but also the future eternal life of the faithful, obtains value to the highest degree as the aim of the Triune God in His one and only Church. Within the context of this charismatic unity of the Church, neither the refined idolizations of the married (both spouses and children), nor of the unmarried (clergy or monastic), of any person or institution, have any existential place whatsoever. Thus, if some form of ecclesiastical unity happens to be idolized and clergy of all ranks and laity appear as worshippers, this means that this form of unity is created and autonomous from the Church itself, and, therefore, clearly to be rejected, as foreign to its character.
The perfect and charismatic unity of the Church is, according to St. John Chrysostom, understood and revealed in practice as harmony as to the phronema (mindset) – faith -, but also as harmony as to the internal disposition – love. First of all, however, unity presupposes the same-uniform phronema. Indeed, it is the oneness of mind that, in practice, guarantees unity, whereas love – according to the same Father- derives from the right faith (PG 62, 509). That is precisely the reason that the “ἐν ἑνί στόματι καί μιᾷ καρδίᾳ” [with one mouth and one heart] doxology of the Triune God in the divine worship presupposes not only the faith, but necessarily also a life in the Holy Spirit, which is, most essentially, a life of genuine and uncreated love. With these experiential presuppositions, both the unity of the Church, as a whole, and the unity of the faithful, as members of the Church, have their visual manifestation in the Eucharistic Assembly, within the context of Divine Worship.
From all that has been stated above, we believe that it is clear and absolutely understandable, that, both ontologically and practically, unity with heretics condemned by Ecumenical Councils is totally impossible without their repentance and entry – in accordance with the Holy Canons – into the One and only, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church, the Orthodox Church.
It is, therefore, also obvious that the unconditional and arbitrary “ecclesiasticalization” of heretics by the so-called “Holy and Great Council of Crete” is ecclesiastically unacceptable, void and ineffectual, and constitutes spiritual adultery, which, according to the Old Testament, is an abomination to God, Who is a “zealous” God. This anti-canonical “ecclesiasticalization” in no way binds, ecclesiastically, any Orthodox believer who wants to remain – being truly faithful – true to the decisions of the Ecumenical Councils, “a follower” – in this particular way – “of the holy fathers.”
II. The Brutal Abuse of the Unity of the Church
Over the past few decades, those among the ecumenists – whether they be Patriarchs, Bishops, Priests or lay theologians – have often referred to the unity of the Church in an entirely misleading way, extensively misusing the High Priestly Prayer of Christ and especially its central phrase: «ἵνα ὦσιν ἕν», or “that they all may be one”.
The systematic effort to carry out the brutal abuse of the unity of the Church began as early as 1961, fifty-five years ago, with the Pre-Synodical Conferences. Hence, the conclusions of the “Council” of Crete, which are of a dogmatic character, do not simply represent a sudden and serious theological misstep, but rather a pre-planned, systematically promoted and decades-old objective of the advocates of Ecumenism within the Orthodox Church. This “Council” chose whatever was most exalted, most sacred in the Church – Her unbreakable unity, grounded in the Holy Spirit – and profaned it all the while claiming to defend and promote it. At the same time, with the pre-synodical and synodical proceedings – based upon the Organization and Working Procedure of the “Council” of Crete – and all of the accompanying activity, the Spirit-inspired, conciliar way of our Most Holy Church was terribly misrepresented.
In particular, during both the Synaxis of the Primates and representatives of the Autocephalous Churches in Chambésy, Switzerland and the “Council” of Crete, there dominated a deceptive promotion, in a misleading manner, as a frontispiece, of the supreme value of the unity of the Church without, however, the meaning of “the unity of the Church” having been previously determined with all theological exactitude, just as Orthodox ecumenists had previously done with reference to the term “love”.
An unspecified theological unity was systematically projected, and, simultaneously, unity having been made absolute, autonomous and an idol, the bugaboo of division was cultivated psychologically, with the slogan: “we must not be divided.” The result was that the papal view of the “protos” ruled the day and pre-planned, unacceptable concessions and dogmatic discounts were advanced, so that the “phil-adelphi” (love of one’s brother) ecumenist theory of unity was blindly adopted by its admirers as a panacea, and “phil-theia” (love of God) set aside. They promoted the supreme and surpassing value of the High Priestly Prayer, aiming, in an autonomous and unconditional manner, at the condensing of the content of ecclesiastical unity, which the Biblical phrase “that they all may be one” expresses, and they abused it, just as was done by the heterodox Roman Catholics and Protestants. They promoted, in other words, a unity, essentially unspecified, theologically baseless and primarily without presuppositions. Thus, the Hierarchs which gathered in Crete, as ones not walking “in the Holy Spirit and Truth,” did not “rightly divide the word of Truth,” for, in the name of a unity wrongly conceived they made compromises in terms of dogma.
To be even more precise, at the “Council” of Crete, after the theoretically always accepted ontological unity of the Church, as the unity of Her fullness in Christ and in the Holy Spirit with God the Father, was essentially set aside, an attempt was made to synodically ratify a new, strange, two-fold ecclesiology.
The result of the vote of the “unequally yoked” Primates in favor of the council’s 6th text was a heterogeneous “fabrication,” a “grotesque distortion,” a “monstrosity.” This came to pass because of the commingling of Orthodox and heterodox ecclesiology, since the heterodox, those condemned by Ecumenical Councils as heretics, were reckoned to be Churches.
Without considerable theological or spiritual scrutiny, those Hierarchs voting in favor of the text accepted heretics as Churches. They appeared to accepted – theoretically – the ontological unity of the Church while simultaneously recognizing “ecclesiality” among the heretics. Thus, they introduced a new teaching – a cacodox ecclesiology. In practice, they have adopted post-Patristic theology and theological double-mindedness. Instead of the scriptural, “yea, yea,” and “nay, nay” (Mat. 5:37), they accepted the “yea” and “nay” of syncretistic Ecumenism, the theologically and spiritually unacceptable and abominable communion of “light” with “darkness” (see: 2 Cor. 6:14).
However, with the theologically and spiritually repugnant double-mindedness and two-fold ecclesiology introduced by those Hierarchs voting in favor of the 6th text, the character of the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church is undermined and distorted, the “door” to every Christian heresy is flung open, the pan-heresy of Ecumenism is legitimized synodically and, practically speaking, Orthodox Ecclesiology – defined with great theological precision in the Oros and Symbol of Faith of the Second Ecumenical Council – is distorted.
The Hierarchs which gathered in Crete approved – light-heartedly and without much scrutiny, motivated by a perverted and diabolical “brotherly love” and desire to please men – a counterfeit ecclesiastical unity, which is understood to be a synthesis of the diachronic Spiritual, charismatic experience of the Orthodox Church with a unity of an heretical character, introduced by the deceptive spirits of delusion.
Thus, at the “Council” of Crete the already existing, serious absence of criteria for deceit-free, orthodox theologizing was made apparent. The Spiritual gift of discerning the spirits, foundational for the spiritual leader, was experientially shown to be absent in those who voted in favor of the disputed text. This is so for they confused the Holy Spirit with the unclean spirits, not discerning – in practice – the Holy Spirit, which vivifies the Theanthropic body of the Church, from the unclean spirits, which dominate within the heresies.
Carefully considering the “conciliar” process and the results of the voting, we come to see clearly, but with pain of heart, that those Hierarchs which voted in favor were not looking to Christ but to the “Protos.” Consequently, they were unable to labor as συν-οδικοί [members of the synod, lit. together on the way], literally speaking, since they were not – practically – “following the Holy Fathers,” both in terms of the process of the Way and with respect to the content of the Hypostatic Way. This is apparent, beyond all doubt and most especially, by the results of the vote.
The ecclesiastical responsibility of those Hierarchs who were Synodical Representatives of the Church of Greece in Crete and accepted – passively and in writing – the proposal of their Primate, is immense. And, yet, likewise those Hierarchs who, although not in attendance, have nonetheless passively accepted the mistaken decisions and, moreover, the breech of the synodical decision of the Hierarchy of the Church of Greece, also carry a great weight of responsibility.
In practice, those Hierarchs who voted “yea” seemed to seek to please their supposed heads (the Primates) and not Him (the Comforter) Who ordained them as Hierarchs with equal honor. In this way, then, the underlying papism of these Hierarchs was revealed. If we were to speak with academic precision, we could say that here we have a “mutation” of Papal Primacy under the guise of conciliarity, given that this conciliarity was not functioning according to Orthodox presuppositions. During the “Council” there appeared a collective Primacy of the Primates of the Autocephalous Churches. Each group of 24 Hierarchs from each Local Church was effectively immobilized, not having the right to vote. Of course, this papal-type of mutation of the functioning of the “Protos” had already made its practical appearance at the pre-synodical Conferences for the sake of the falsely considered unity of the Church.
That which is scandalously provocative and simultaneously tragic is that even today certain of those Hierarchs who did not participate in the “Council” of Crete, while having a burning interest to avoid divisions between themselves and their Primate, in the name of brotherly love, but maintaining a mistaken understanding of the unity of the Church, are not in the least interested, for the sake of the love of God, in the grave wound caused to the Spiritual unity of the Church – a wound caused by the adoption of their two-fold Ecclesiology, including the inadmissable “ecclesialization” of condemned and unrepentant heretics.
The “Council” of Crete, not only did not work toward the expression of the unity of the Church, as it was supposed to have done, it demolished the existing unity between the Autocephalous Churches and the bishops who represented them. This was made clear by the absence of the four Patriarchates (Antioch, Russia, Bulgaria and Georgia), numbering an overwhelming majority of faithful compared to the ten Autocephalous Churches which were represented at the “Council.” The demolishing of the sought-for ecclesiastical unity also happened in practice and was expressed by those Hierarchs who refused to sign the 6th text.
A double standard was accepted at the “Council” of Crete, as a way of serving the wrongly perceived ecclesiastical unity, as it was applied in the cases of the Autocephalous Churches of Serbia and Greece. In particular, the Primate of the Serbian Church voted in favor of the 6th text, supposedly expressing the decision of the Synod of his Hierarchy, but, in fact, coming into direct opposition with the majority of his synodal bishops (17 out of 24), while the Primate of the Church of Greece ignored the unanimous decision of the Hierarchy of his Church and voted against it for the sake of the falsely understood unity of the Church. In other words, he voted in favor of a unity, independent from the synodical decision of his Church. In this move of his he was supported by the inconsistency shown toward the unanimous synodical decision of the Hierarchy by those 23 other Hierarchs in Crete who signed the text, with the bright exception of the 24th bishop of the retinue.
Likewise, in the case of the Church of Cyprus things were not much better. After the “Council” of Crete had finished, the Primate of the Church spoke ill of the stance taken by four Hierarchs of his Church which did not sign the 6th text and, entirely arbitrarily and in violation of every administrative and spiritual code of conduct, signed on their behalf, for the sake of the falsely considered unity, an action which not only constitutes a papal mentality and a lack of integrity for a man of the Church, but is likewise punishable as a crime.
Thus, the triumphal refutation of the aim of expressing ecclesiastical unity, which was presented as the purpose for which the “Holy and Great Council” of Crete was called, was accomplished – in practice – with the abstention of four Patriarchates, the glaring break in communion of two Patriarchates (Jerusalem and Antioch), the synodically negligent vote in favor of the 6th text by a Primate of an Autocephalous Church (Greece), the refusal of a large number of participating Hierarchs to sign the controversial dogmatic text, and finally, the lack of participation of all of the bishops of the Church.
For all of the above-mentioned theological reasons, the ecclesiastical responsibility of the Hierarchy of our Church, but also of the entire body of the Church, is exceptionally grave and extensive. Fortunately, the devout ecclesiastical body of believers remains faithful to the ecclesiology of the Second Ecumenical Council – ἑπόμενο τοῖς ἁγίοις Πατράσι [following the Holy Fathers] – and rejects outright the two-fold ecclesiology which was introduced and passed by the “Council” of Crete, thus legitimizing “institutionally” the cancer of Ecumenism in the “spotless” body of the Church.
In particular, the Hierarchs of the Church of Greece are obliged to make a responsible decision, first of all personally, but afterwards as a collective body during the next meeting of the Hierarchy, mainly with respect to the 6th text, by which heretics were recognized as Churches at the “Council” of Crete. The devout body of the faithful, as guardians of the faith of the Church (Council of 1848), likewise await an explanation as to why the Primate of their Church did not stand up for the unanimous decision of the Hierarchy. Even more importantly, the faithful await from the Hierarchy a condemnation of the two-fold, heretical, syncretistic and ecumenistic ecclesiology of the “Council” of Crete.
As faithful, we also await, in due time, for initiatives to be undertaken, in cooperation with the four Patriarchates which did not take part in the “Council” of Crete, to convene in the near future a Pan-Orthodox Council which will, with its broader authority, restore – officially and synodically – the shaken ecclesiastical unity, condemn the two-fold ecclesiology of the “Council” of Crete and publish the minutes of the questionable “Council”.

Lastly, we would like to end on a realistically optimistic note. We hold that, with all that we have written above, we remain – as followers of the Holy Fathers – with Christ and His Church, and, consequently, we remain with the present and eschatological Victor. To be sure, having in mind the indisputable Biblical and Patristic Truth that the instigator of all heresy is the devil, it is certain that the deceiver thought that, for the time being, he had won an exceptionally great victory against the Church of Christ with the “Council” of Crete – since all of the Christian heresies were “recognized” as Churches in the 6th text of the Council. It is apparent that he does have every reason to celebrate to the detriment of the Church, for there has never been, in the history of the Church, such a “Council” as this, which legitimized synodically all of the heresies in one text. This reality brings deep anguish and pain to those faithful who are able to become informed and properly understand what is now happening in their Church.
Nevertheless, it is absolutely certain that his joy is already being turned to profound sorrow. This is so because, the devout faithful of the Church, motived by mindful obedience to the Church, diachronically and not undiscerningly to its administration, on account of the experientially lived repentance, ascetic stillness and prayer, will never accept this “Council.” This is how, in practice, the theologically and spiritually shameful decision in favor of the “ecclesiasticalization” of the heresies is overturned.
The “Council” of Crete, for the conscience of the devout body of the faithful of the Church, is as never having occurred.
III. THE IDENTIFICATION OF THE CHURCH WITH HER ADMINISTRATION
The “Council” of Crete, as is well known, neither made reference – diachronically – to previous Ecumenical or Pan-Orthodox Councils, nor condemned any of the heresies already condemned by earlier Councils, nor, of course, any of the contemporary heresies – a state of affairs which constitutes an “innovative” dissonance within the history of Orthodox Church Councils.
Astonishingly, however, this “Council” threatens those Orthodox who will take issue with its decisions.
Furthermore, the above “Council” unwittingly confuses the Church, per se, – as the Theanthropic, mysteriological body of Christ – with her administration.
With regard to this most crucial issue we will point out – as succinctly as is possible – the following important points, from the perspective of Orthodox ecclesiology.
Τhe recent ecclesiological aberration of the “Council” of Crete demonstrated, once again, that which is already recorded in the history of our Church. Namely, the Council demonstrated that the synodical system of itself does not mechanically assure the authenticity of the Orthodox Faith. This happens only when the conciliar bishops have active within them the Holy Spirit and the Hypostatic Way, that is, Christ, and so as “syn-odikoi” [Συν-Οδικοί] (which in Greek means, those who go on the Way which is Christ, together with Christ) they are also in practice “followers of the Holy Fathers” [ἑπόμενοι τοῖς ἁγίοις Πατράσι].
Αs was made clear, unfortunately this is not at all obvious in our days. Hence, the argument which is often put forward by both believers and priests and bishops is erroneous, namely, that we will do “whatever the Church says” or “we wait for the Church’s decision”, by which is usually meant, unwisely so, any decision of the Church administration, thus ignoring that there is a clear distinction between the Church, per se, as the Theanthropic, mysteriological Body of Christ and the Church administration, which indeed expresses the Church, but only under certain and clear presuppositions.

The Bishops in their diocese and the Councils of the Bishops on a Local or Pan-Orthodox level constitute the Church administration. These bishops, along with their priests of the Local Churches and the faithful people of God form the Church of Christ. Consequently, the Bishop cannot ignore the priests and the fullness of the Church. This is also shown historically. At the First Apostolic Council – where the “Protos” and President was not the Apostle Peter but James the Brother of the Lord – the Synodical Truth was expressed along “with the whole Church” (Acts 15:22): “It seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us.” The “us” referred not only to the Apostles, but also to “those along with them” («οἱ σύν αὐτοῖς»), namely the presbyters, “along with the whole Church” («σύν ὅλῃ τῇ Ἐκκλησίᾳ»). The whole Church is also the faithful people. Likewise, in the case of First Ecumenical Council, the whole Church expressed Herself in the theological position of a young deacon, Athanasius the Great.
Accordingly, the correctness and universality of a Pan-Orthodox Council is judged infallibly by the fullness of the members of the Church and specifically by the vigilant dogmatic consciousness of the devout body of the Church. This [dogmatic] consciousness [of the pious faithful] constitutes the only interpretative “key” for the ascertainment of the authenticity of Her phronema.
And by dogmatic consciousness we mean the spiritual knowledge which is born – charismatically – in the heart of the faithful by the uncreated Spiritual Grace of their activated Holy Chrismation. It is the condensed spiritual experience within the Church, i.e. the Holy Spirit, which we received, acting within us. This is the only equality between men within the Body of Christ. For this reason also the dogmatic consciousness of the faithful is entirely independent of their worldly learning and their possible intellectual or non-intellectual occupation. So, when this dogmatic consciousness of the members of the Church is activated, it is shown to be the supreme criterion of truth.
It is a fact, arising from the very nature of the Church and witnessed to irrefutably in our ecclesiastical history, that there have been not only patriarchs, metropolitans, and bishops that were heretics but even Pan-Orthodox Councils, which – although they constitute the supreme Administrative organs of the Church – were rejected by the conscience of the body of the Church and were characterized as False or Robber Councils.
And this was because in dogmatic matters the truth does not lie with the majority of the Synodical Hierarchs. The truth, per se, is preponderant. Even when one man expresses it, the truth is the majority over the millions and billions of opposing votes. For the Truth in the Church is not an idea, it is not an opinion. It is Hypostatic. It is Christ himself. For this reason, too, whoever stands opposed to the Truth is cut off from the Church, after having been defrocked and excommunicated, depending on the circumstances.
The truth is the very Spirit of Truth, Which acts and is expressed even by isolated individuals. History has shown this characteristically in the person of Saint Maximus the Confessor, as well as St Mark (Evgenikos), Metropolitan of Ephesus, at the false Council of Florence, who stood as one against the reign of the majority.
Here it is clearly shown that one man gave voice to the mind of the Church and he was justified by Church History, and, moreover, he was sanctified in relation to all the others – the Emperor, the Patriarch and all other participants – who did not expound the truth. Therefore, it is not a matter of numbers, but a matter of Truth or non-Truth. We must not forget this, for it is the qualitative difference between Orthodoxy and heterodoxy in practice. The Orthodox Church does not function in a papal manner. In the Church the Pope does not stand above the Ecumenical Councils, as he does among the papists, nor, of course, is there any individual Pope in our Church who is placed above the Hierarchy of our Church.
Therefore, the criterion in the Church is not that the whole Orthodox Church came together and decided something by majority. It is possible, theoretically, that all the bishops could be present with one, two, three, or just a few of them holding something to the contrary. It does not hold that what the vast majority of the bishops say constitutes a guarantee of Truth and that the body [of the Church] must necessarily accept this. No, this is not how things are in the Church. The criterion of Truth is whether what is said at the Ecclesiastical Councils is “following the Holy Fathers”.

The decisions of this Hierarchal “Conference” of Crete are a matter which the entire Church must evaluate, in Council, in the future, both theologically and definitively. Until this happens, however, every faithful member of the Church can and ought to take a position on the unconfirmed decisions of this “Conference” based upon the criteria of the dogmatic, diachronic consciousness of the Church. The unassailable criteria of this dogmatic consciousness are summed up in the patristic saying: “following the holy Fathers”. This saying is crucial as it pertains as much to the organization and way of the Councils as to their dogmatic teaching.
In other words, if the devout body of the faithful of the Church – as the bearer of Her dogmatic consciousness – either confirms the correctness of the decisions of Church Councils or nullifies decisions of Pan-Orthodox Councils, considering them to be false councils, then it is obvious that it also has the right and the duty to express itself, with fear of God and divine zeal, with respect to the decisions of the “Council” of Crete (cf. Fr. George Florovsky, The Body of Living God; An Orthodox Interpretation of the Church, Armos, Athens, 1999, pp. 80-83).
With the deepest respect,
I kiss your right hand,
Demetrios Tselengidis
Professor of the Theological School
of the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki

Translation Fr Peter Heers.

A SECOND SAINT JOHN OF KRONSTADT, PRIEST JONAH ATAMANSKY OF ODESSA

9AF86775-8938-4FF1-AC46-55AD0A2C4F64-1180-000003249DF87DDB
Fr. Jonah Atamansky of Odessa
Saint John of Kronstadt often said to those from the south: “Why have you bothered to come all this way to see me when you have a man of prayer in Father Jonah?”
Fr. Jonah Atamansky was born September 14, 1852, in the city of Odessa, in the family of a deacon. His father died when the boy was only three years old, and not long afterwards his mother also died, leaving the young boy an orphan. Having nowhere to go, the child spent many days and nights at the cemetery; he picked flowers and wove garlands for his parents’ graves. But the hard-hearted custodian beat him and kicked him out of even this poor refuge.

The boy wandered through the streets, along the seashore, feeding on scraps which he found in dustbins; at night he would curl up in a pile of refuse on the outskirts of the city. He found a temporary shelter in a church bell tower, but it was not long before some unkind people chased him out. Eventually his uncle took pity on him, and then his old nanny. They took him in and sent him to school, but the feeling of being an orphan never left him.

He studied at a parochial school, where teachers recognized his superior aptitudes. Possessing a good voice, he took part in the church choir. His mother frequently appeared to him in his sleep, watching over him. Once she forbade him to sail from Odessa, and the very day the boy had planned to leave, the boat he would have boarded capsized.

The boy grew up as a God-fearing, pious youth; he never stopped praying. His piety and exemplary way of life prompted his ordination at a young age to the diaconate and two years later to the priesthood.

For eight years he served in the village of Kardashov. The peasants there loved their young priest, and wept bitterly when they had to part with him. They sensed that here was no ordinary pastor. It was not in vain that Archbishop Nicanor, when ordaining Fr. Jonah to the priesthood, said of him,”I sense a special grace upon him; his soul is burning with a holy flame; he will be a renowned pastor.”

 

In 1897 Fr. Jonah began serving in Odessa’s Church of the Dormition. There, too, his flock loved him; people made every effort to be at the early liturgy, which he usually served. The parishioners strained to catch his every word. He inspired everyone both in the manner in which he served and in his sermons. Here, people felt, was a genuine man of prayer. To them he was a father, a friend and a consoler. His home was open to all those in misfortune, all who were homeless; no one left him without being comforted. He had an amazing gift for understanding people; he read their thoughts, penetrated their souls. He knew all his spiritual children by name. In each person he found something positive, some merit which others didn’t even suspect. He was particularly protective of orphans, feeding and clothing many of them. With everyone he was affectionate and attentive. He served tirelessly in the church; at every service he would give a sermon. At home he prayed constantly. He dearly loved his own children and his spiritual children. At midnight he would get up and pray for everyone. Whenever there was a storm, he remained in church praying for those at sea. At night he served the midnight service and read akathists. No one who attended these night-time services could ever forget them; they were extremely moving.
In 1901 Fr. Jonah became rector of St. Nicholas Church-by-the-Sea. By his prayers thousands received healing, both of physical and spiritual ills. At heart Fr. Jonah was an artist; he had a great appreciation for beauty everywhere. His services, besides being spiritually uplifting, were marked by outward beauty. He read the Gospel in such a way that each word fell deeply into the soul. Even after he became ill, he continued to serve. Eventually, however, a fatal illness forced him to bed. He reposed May 17, 1924.
Hundreds of thousands crowded to his funeral. The entire route to the cemetery was strewn with flowers and wreaths. The burial service lasted six hours. Those present sang paschal hymns. One eulogy followed another. The church procession during the funeral was remembered in Odessa as a triumphant day of religious fervor, which no one could spoil. The animated crowd was full of determination to overcome all obstacles, and moved along the route it chose and not the one mapped out by the Soviet authorities. The latter ordered the funeral to be over by four o’clock, but it lasted until after midnight. Such was the power of the people in 1924.

Fr. Jonah is buried on Slobodka Romanova. His grave is always decorated. Thousands of believers visit it; they pray for him and ask his prayers. The memory of this good shepherd is alive, and so it will remain.

A man from Moscow described his impression of Fr. Jonah’s services: “… During the Divine Liturgy there was absolute silence in the church, as if the whole congregation had frozen. Standing in the altar it seemed to me that there heaven had united itself with the earth. During the singing of ‘To Thee we sing,’ at the consecration of the Holy Gifts, my soul filled with holy trepidation and a torrent of repentant tears streamed down my face.

“One Athonite monk told me the following about Fr. Jonah: ‘I was fortunate once to be together with Fr. Jonah. In his presence my heart filled with indescribable peace and inexplicable joy.’ Like this monk, everyone who has reached a certain maturity in spiritual life is greatly uplifted by coming in contact with a person overshadowed by the grace of the Holy Spirit. Fr. Jonah acquired the grace of the Holy Spirit, and this was why it was such a joy to pray with him.

“Fr. Jonah always had many communicants: he communicated his people frequently. During Holy Communion I saw possessed people, who during the Liturgy would burst out with the most frightful and blasphemous language, led to the chalice. Epileptics were often brought to Fr. Jonah. A sick woman was led to the chalice; her legs buckled and she couldn’t walk, so she was carried. After receiving communion she calmly walked away, like a normal person. Then a possessed man was led up; he didn’t want to go and was uttering all kinds of nonsense. When he approached the chalice he calmed down and partook of the Holy Gifts.

“In the church yard there was often a crowd of barefoot men, waiting for alms. To them, Fr. Jonah was a real father. He not only assisted them materially- he always gave them meal tickets for the city’s cafeterias-but he also taught them to fast and saved many from unbelief. He was generous with the poor, and his resources were never depleted: the more Fr. Jonah gave away in charity, the more he received.”

The service of the blessing of the water, which Fr. Jonah performed every Sunday and even on weekdays, was very moving. After the moleben, Fr. Jonah immersed the cross into the water and poured the water into the mouth and onto the head of a possessed woman who had been yelling insane and blasphemous words. And what a wonder! The woman calmed down and walked quietly to the side. Fr. Jonah had a cross of cypress wood, plated on the sides with a gold-colored metal. At the base of the Crucifixion was embedded a particle of the Life-Giving Cross of the Lord. A hollow space in the center of the cross filled with water which then sprayed out through small holes in the bottom. The worshippers would open their mouths and Fr. Jonah would pour water from the cross into their mouths and over their faces.

 

In Fr. Jonah’s parish there was no one who was indifferent to the Faith, no unbelievers.. Fr. Jonah himself said about his parishioners, “I am grateful to God that I have never encountered unbelief and indifference to religion; in recent times this has become a frequent lament among pastors of the Church, and this is very grievous. Here, both rich and poor, educated and simple have always prayed with deep faith, reverently, with great attention, and they always listen to what I have to say.”

After the services the people didn’t disperse. In spite of the fact that it was already half past twelve (sometimes the service ended much later), no one wanted to leave. Many made their way to the right side of the church, into a reception room where a dinner was prepared. Tables were set up the length of the room, with seating for several hundred faithful. Crosswise, at the front, stood a table where Fr. Jonah usually sat together with the choir. During the meal they sang religious cantatas. At these dinners, which were arranged every Sunday and Feastday, one could see priests and hieromonks, merchants and ordinary workers.

After the dinner Fr. Jonah would be surrounded by worshippers with various requests. People who had come from afar stood with letters. Batiushka heard everyone out, no one was left without a comforting word. His spiritual children undertook nothing important without his blessing. What was the Soviets’ attitude towards Fr. Jonah?

They knew that in the port church people were being healed through the prayers of Fr. Jonah, and they waited for an appropriate occasion to expose these “miracles”. The following opportunity presented itself. A peasant women came to Odessa bringing her two-year-old son who was blind from birth. She had heard of a certain Professor Filatov whose eye operations had restored sight to many, and she approached him. After examining the boy in his clinic, Filatov informed the mother that he could not help him, that his case was incurable. The grieving mother went to Fr. Jonah and asked his prayers; Batiushka promised. For nine nights he stood in prayer; he conducted services of intercession, akathists. On the tenth day the child received his sight.

073E40BA-D4B8-4D33-8EF1-44B759F435A1-1180-00000329A2E3D19A
Reliquary with relics of the righteous St. Jonah Atamansky

The incident created quite a stir in the city. Professor Filatov was astounded by the news. The Soviet authorities demanded an investigation and set up a show trial. Filatov was called in. Fr. Jonah was accused of being a charlatan, a blackmailer, but Professor Filatov testified that the boy was the very one whom he had examined and he called the case a miracle. The judges discredited the professor, they shamed him. “How can you concede this to be a miracle?” But the professor stood by his statement and the case was dropped: no one was sentenced, no one was punished, and religious faith was not destroyed; on the contrary, it was strengthened.

For the first few years the Soviet authorities didn’t touch Fr. Jonah. Then they began searching his home, the church, and called him in for interrogation. When the church valuables were appropriated, many things were taken from him. Then they tried to arrest him, but this caused such a furor among the workers and peasants, and such a crowd of his defenders rushed to Marazlyevsky that they made quick to release him. He was too popular, the people’s love for him was too great, and this stayed the hand of the Soviet authority. But soon Fr. Jonah fell grievously ill, and in 1924 he died.

Fr. Jonah did not permit his relatives to arrange his burial by the church. He foresaw the fate of this church, its destruction. He asked to be buried near the grave of his parents, in the Slobodskoy cemetery. His grave became a place where the faithful would gather. Here a vigil lamp burns before an icon, and those who venerate Fr. Jonah come together here on his nameday, the anniversary of his repose and on feastdays; they ask his prayers and kiss his portrait.

(Translated from Russkiy Pastyr, where it was adapted from an article by V. Chemena in the Church-parish newsletter of Ss Cyril and Methodius Church, No. 9 24-9-43)

No one familiar with this extraordinary man of God can be satisfied with a Life that does not include the following memorable incident:

44F40E81-0CDC-41D8-8EF4-042362DEB65C-1180-00000329943A4A8F
Fr. Jonah Atamansky of Odessa
An extraordinary thing happened to Batiushka one summer in Kishinev; it was even reported in the local newspaper. The article appeared under the title: “What is this-a dream or reality?” One day in the month of June, a certain woman went to the cemetery to visit the grave of her mother. There she suddenly became aware of a marvelous, peaceful singing. Turning towards the voice, she saw a tall, pale priest who was chanting “Holy God…” She drew closer, but the priest moved farther away. Try as she might, she could not get any closer to him. The priest was not walking, but rather floated above the graves, praying and conversing with the departed. She pursued the strange priest for quite some time, but finally gave up, exhausted. Suddenly the priest sat down on a grave, pulled a prosphora from his pocket and crumbled it up for the ants; he then raised his head and said to her: “Well, you’re all worn out from chasing after me, poor Natasha. Here’s a prosphora for you!” With these words he handed her a piece of prosphora and added: “Wretched woman, you haven’t prepared to receive Communion for fifteen years!” And he vanished… Astounded by his words and at a loss as to how he could have known about her, the woman began to run about the cemetery, searching for the priest; but she could find him nowhere. Tired, exhausted, she returned home, but was unable to sleep, so amazed was she by the pale priest with the gentle eyes and quiet voice.
Early the next morning, after a sleepless night, she left her home and went to the cathedral square. Near the cathedral she saw two night watchmen disputing among themselves. One said, “It was John of Kronstadt!” The other maintained, “No! Fr. John was of medium stature; this priest was tall!” When she approached them, the watchmen related to her the following. At dawn of the morning of the previous day they had seen in the sky a dark spot moving towards the city. They thought it was an airplane, but when the spot drew closer, they saw that it was in fact a huge flock of crows, and in their midst was a man whom the crows were carrying; he in turn was fending them off with his cane. The crows settled on the cathedral square and again took flight, soaring over the trees and the domes of the cathedral. The man, who had also descended to the earth, shook his cane at them, saying, “Cursed ones! Have you flown off?!” The man, it seems, was a priest with a pale face, tall of stature. He then began to wipe the blood and sweat from his face, and afterwards went up the doors of the cathedral, entered, and began to pray, making prostrations. Matins and the Liturgy came to an end, and the strange priest approached to kiss the cross. The local priest gave him a prosphora and asked him who he was and where he was from, but the stranger, making no reply, left the cathedral. On the porch he began to distribute money amongst the poor, but to some of them he said, “You are drunkards; you’ll just waste it on drink!” and to such he gave nothing. To one old woman he gave some money, saying, “You are a struggler! Pray for the world!” And he vanished… On hearing all this, the woman concluded that this was the same priest that she had seen in the cemetery. She had not been dreaming! Then she had but one desire: to find that priest. She began to travel from one city to another, going around from church to church in search of him. When she arrived in Odessa, she stopped at the church of St. Nicholas. On seeing Fr. Jonah, she cried out, “It’s him!” and fainted dead away. Regaining consciousness, she related everything to Batiushka and presented him with a copy of the Kishinev newspaper.
One of Fr. Jonah’s spiritual daughters…related this incident to a certain starets when she was in Moscow. The elder had this to say by way of explanation: “Angels used to carry Fr. Jonah to various places. The demons saw this, waylaid him and carried him off to Kishinev. The angels then bore him home again.”

(An excerpt from “The Life and Repose of Fr. Jonah Atamansky” in Orthodox Life, 1979, No. 2, translated from Nadezhda, Vol. 1, Possev, Frankfurt.)
Orthodox America.

What happens when you die ?

St. John Chrysostom:
“Then [after death] we will need many prayers, many helpers, many good deeds, a greater intercession from angels on the journey through the spaces of the air. If when traveling in a strange land or a strange city we are in need of a guide, how much more necessary for us are guides and helpers to guide us past the invisible dignities and powers and world- rulers of this air, who are called persecutors and publicans and tax-collectors.”

Life After Death
by St. John Maximovitch
A description of the first 40 days after death.
Limitless and without consolation would have been our sorrow for close ones who are dying, if the Lord had not given us eternal life. Our life would be pointless if it ended with death. What benefit would there then be from virtue and good deed? Then they would be correct who say: “Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die!”
But man was created for immortality, and by His resurrection Christ opened the gates of the Heavenly Kingdom, of eternal blessedness for those who have believed in Him and have lived righteously. Our earthly life is a preparation for the future life, and this preparation ends with our death. “It is appointed unto man once to die, but after this the judgment” (Heb 9:27). Then a man leaves all his earthly cares; the body disintegrates, in order to rise anew at the General Resurrection. Often this spiritual vision begins in the dying even before death, and while still seeing those around them and even speaking with them, they see what others do not see. [1]
But when it leaves the body, the soul finds itself among other spirits, good and bad. Usually it inclines toward those which are more akin to it in spirit, and if while in the body it was under the influence of certain ones, it will remain in dependence upon them when it leaves the body, however unpleasant they may turn out to be upon encountering them. [2]
For the course of two days the soul enjoys relative freedom and can visit places on earth which were dear to it, but on the third day it moves into other spheres. [3] At this time (the third day), it passes through legions of evil spirits which obstruct its path and accuse it of various sins, to which they themselves had tempted it.
According to various revelations there are twenty such obstacles, the so-called “toll-houses,” at each of which one or another form of sin is tested; after passing through one the soul comes upon the next one, and only after successfully passing through all of them can the soul continue its path without being immediately cast into gehenna. How terrible these demons and their toll-houses are may be seen in the fact that Mother of God Herself, when informed by the Archangel Gabriel of Her approaching death, answering her prayer, the Lord Jesus Christ Himself appeared from heaven to receive the soul of His Most Pure Mother and conduct it to heaven. Terrible indeed is the third day for the soul of the departed, and for this reason it especially needs prayers then for itself. [4]
Then, having successfully passed through the toll-houses and bowed down before God, the soul for the course of 37 more days visits the heavenly habitations and the abysses of hell, not knowing yet where it will remain, and only on the fortieth day is its place appointed until the resurrection of the dead. [5] Some souls find themselves (after the forty days) in a condition of foretasting eternal joy and blessedness, and others in fear of the eternal torments which will come in full after the Last Judgment. Until then changes are possible in the condition of souls, especially through offering for them the Bloodless Sacrifice (commemoration at the Liturgy), and likewise by other prayers. [6]
How important commemoration at the Liturgy is may be seen in the following occurrence: Before the uncovering of the relics of St. Theodosius of Chernigov [7], the priest-monk (the renowned Starets Alexis of Goloseyevsky Hermitage, of the Kiev-Caves Lavra, who died in 1916) who was conducting the re-vesting of the relics, becoming weary while sitting by the relics, dozed off and saw before him the Saint, who told him: “I thank you for laboring with me. I beg you also, when you will serve the Liturgy, to commemorate my parents” — and he gave their names (Priest Nikita and Maria). “How can you, O Saint, ask my prayers, when you yourself stand at the heavenly Throne and grant to people God’s mercy?” the priest-monk asked. “Yes, that is true,” replied St. Theodosius, “but the offering at the Liturgy is more powerful than my prayer.”
Therefore, panikhidas (i.e., Trisagion Prayers for the Dead) and prayer at home for the dead are beneficial to them, as are good deeds done in their memory, such as alms or contributions to the church. But especially beneficial for them is commemoration at the Divine Liturgy. There have been many appearances of the dead and other occurrences which confirm how beneficial is the commemoration of the dead. Many who died in repentance, but who were unable to manifest this while they were alive, have been freed from tortures and have obtained repose. In the Church prayers are ever offered for the repose of the dead, and on the day of the Descent of the Holy Spirit, in the kneeling prayers at vespers, there is even a special petition “for those in hell.”
Every one of us who desires to manifest his love for the dead and give them real help, can do this best of all through prayer for them, and particularly by commemorating them at the Liturgy, when the particles which are cut out for the living and the dead are let fall into the Blood of the Lord with the words: “Wash away, O Lord, the sins of those here commemorated by Thy Precious Blood and by the prayers of Thy saints.”
We can do nothing better or greater for the dead than to pray for them, offering commemoration for them at the Liturgy. Of this they are always in need, and especially during those forty days when the soul of the deceased is proceeding on its path to the eternal habitations. The body feels nothing then: it does not see its close ones who have assembled, does not smell the fragrance of the flowers, does not hear the funeral orations. But the soul senses the prayers offered for it and is grateful to those who make them and is spiritually close to them.
O relatives and close ones of the dead! Do for them what is needful for them and within your power. Use your money not for outward adornment of the coffin and grave, but in order to help those in need, in memory of your close ones who have died, for churches, where prayers for them are offered. Show mercy to the dead, take care of their souls. [8]
Before us all stands the same path, and how we shall then wish that we would be remembered in prayer! Let us therefore be ourselves merciful to the dead.
As soon as someone has reposed, immediately call or inform a priest, so he can read the Prayers appointed to be read over all Orthodox Christians after death.
Try, if it be possible, to have the funeral in Church and to have the Psalter read over the deceased until the funeral.
Most definitely arrange at once for the serving of the forty-day memorial, that is, daily commemoration at the Liturgy for the course of forty days. (NOTE: If the funeral is in a church where there are no daily services, the relatives should take care to order the forty-day memorial wherever there are daily services.) It is likewise good to send contributions for commemoration to monasteries, as well as to Jerusalem, where there is constant prayer at the holy places.
Let us take care for those who have departed into the other world before us, in order to do for them all that we can, remembering that “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy.”
Footnotes:
[1] But his soul continues to live. Not for an instant does it cease to exist. Our external, biological and earthly life ends with death, but the soul continues to live on. The soul is our very existence, the center of all our energies and our thoughts. The soul moves and gives life to the body. After its separation from the body it continues to live, to exist, to have awareness.
St. Theophan the Recluse, in a message to a dying woman, writes: “You will not die. Your body will die, but you will over to a different world, being alive, remembering yourself and recognizing the whole world that surrounds you.”
St. Dorotheos (6th century) summarizes the teaching of the early Fathers in this way: “For as the Fathers tell us, the souls of the dead remember everything that happened here — thoughts, words, desires — and nothing can be forgotten. But, as it says in the Psalm, ‘In that day all their thoughts shall perish’ (Psalm 145:5).
The thoughts he speaks of are those of this world, about houses and possessions, parents and children, and business transactions. All these things are destroyed immediately when the soul passes out of the body. But what he did against virtue or against his evil passions, he remembers and none of this is lost. In fact, the soul loses nothing that it did in the world but remembers everything at its exit from this body.”
St. John Cassian (5th century) likewise teaches: “Souls after the separation from this body are not idle, do not remain without consciousness; this is proved by the Gospel parable of the rich man and Lazarus (Luke 16:22-28). The souls of the dead do not lose their consciousness, they do not even lose their dispositions — that is, hope and fear, joy and grief, and something of that which they expect for themselves at the Universal Judgment they begin already to foretaste.”
[2] He who departs from this world experiences much consolation when he sees friendly people surrounding his dead body. Such a person discerns in his beloved friends’ tears of pain their love and sincere dedication. The greatest earthly joy is undoubtedly the realization that we die honored and appreciated by all who knew us.
But just as at the hour of death the dead body is surrounded by relatives and friends, so also is the soul, which abandons the body and is directed towards its heavenly homeland, accompanied by the spiritual beings related to it.
The virtuous soul is surrounded by bright angels of light, while the sinful soul is surrounded by dark and evil beings, that is, the demons.
St. Basil The Great (4th century) explains it this way: “Let no one deceive you with empty words; for destruction will come suddenly upon you; it will come like a storm. A grim angel (i.e., a demon) will come to take and drag violently the soul that has been tied to sins; and your soul will turn toward here and will suffer silently, having already been excluded from the organ of mourning (the body). O how you will be troubled at the hour of death for yourself! How you will sigh!”
St. Macarius Of Egypt writes of this: “When you hear that there are rivers of dragons and mouths of lions (cf. Heb 11:33, Ps 22:21) and dark powers under the sky and burning fire (Jer 20:9) that crackles in the members of the body, you must know this: unless you receive the earnest of the Holy Spirit (2 Cor 1:22; 5:5), at the hour when your soul is separated from the body, the evil demons hold fast to your soul and do not suffer you to rise up to heaven.”
This same Father also teaches us: “When the soul abandons the body a certain great mystery is enacted. If the deceased has departed unrepentant, a host of demons and rejected angels and dark powers receive that soul and keep it with them. The completely opposite happens with those who have repented: for near the holy servants of God there are now angels and good spirits standing by, surrounding and protecting them, and when they depart from the body, the choir of angels receive their souls to themselves, to the pure aeon.”
The champion of Orthodoxy against the Nestorian heresy, St. Cyril Of Alexandria likewise teaches: “When the soul is separated from the body it sees the fearful, wild, merciless and fierce demons standing by. The soul of the righteous is taken by the holy angels, passed through the air and is raised up.”
St. Gregory The Dialogist writes: “One must reflect deeply on how frightful the hour of death will be for us, what terror the soul will then experience, what remembrance of all the evils, what forgetfulness of past happiness, what fear, and what apprehension of the Judge. Then the evil spirits will seek out in the departing soul its deeds; then they will present before its view the sins towards which they had disposed it, so as to draw their accomplice to torment. But why do we speak only of the sinful soul, when they come even to the chosen among the dying and seek out their own in them, if they have succeeded with them? Among men there was only One Who before His suffering fearlessly said: ‘Hereafter I talk not much with you: For the prince of this world cometh, and hath nothing in Me (John 14:30).”
This truth is confirmed by various liturgical services. For example, in Small Compline we ask THE MOTHER OF GOD to “be merciful to me not only in this miserable life, but also at the time of my death; take care of my miserable soul and banish far from it the dark and sinister faces of the evil demons.”
In a prayer of the Midnight Service of Saturday (addressed to THE SAVIOUR) we pray: “Master, be merciful to me and let not my soul see the dark and gloomy sight of the evil spirits, but let bright and joyous angels receive it.”
Again, in another hymn to THE THEOTOKOS (from the Monday Matins service) we pray: “At the fearful hour of death free us from the horrible decision of the demons seeking to condemn us.” Similar prayers, addressed to the Lord and to the Holy Angels, are found throughout the service for the Repose of the Dying.
[3] Here, St. John is simply repeating a teaching common to the Church. St. Macarius Of Alexandria (having received the teaching not from men but from an angel) explains: “When an offering (i.e., the Eucharist) is made in Church on the third day, the soul of the departed receives from its guardian angel relief from the sorrow it feels as a result of the separation from the body.
In the course of two days the soul is permitted to roam the earth, wherever it wills, in the company of the angels that are with it. Therefore, the soul loving the body, sometimes wanders about the house in which its body has been laid out, and thus spends two days like a bird seeking its nest.
But the virtuous soul goes about those places in which it was wont to do good deeds.
On the third day, He Who Himself rose from the dead on the third day, commands the Christian soul, in imitation of His Resurrection, to ascend to the Heavens to worship the God of all.”
St. John Of Damascus vividly describes the state of the soul, parted from the body but still on earth, helpless to contact the loved ones whom it can see, in the Orthodox Funeral Service: “Woe is me! What manner of ordeal doth the soul endure when it is parted from the body! Alas! How many then are its tears, and there is none to show compassion! It raiseth its eyes to the angels; all unavailing is its prayer. It stretcheth out its hands to men, and findeth none to succor. Wherefore, my beloved brethren, meditating on the brevity of our life, let us beseech of Christ rest for him who hath departed hence, and for our souls great mercy.”
St. Theophan, in writing to the brother of a dying woman, says: “Your sister will not die; the body dies, but the personality of the dying one remains. It only goes over to another order of life. It is not she whom they will put in the grave. She is in another place. She will be just as alive as you are now. In the first hours and days she will be around you. Only she will not say anything, and you won’t be able to see her; but she will be right here. Have this in mind.”
[4] There is absolutely no doubt that the teaching of the toll-houses is the teaching of the Orthodox Church. We find this teaching in Holy Scripture (cf. Eph 6:12), the writings of all the Church Fathers (both ancient and modern) and throughout the prayers of the Church.
St. ATHANASIUS THE GREAT, in his famous life of St. Antony, describes the following:
“At the approach of the ninth hour, after beginning to pray before eating food, Antony was suddenly seized by the Spirit and raised up by angels into the heights. The aerial demons opposed his progress: the angels disputing with them, demanded that the reason of their opposition be set forth, because Antony had no sins at all. The demons strove to set forth the sins committed by him from his very birth; but the angels closed the mouths of the slanderers, telling them that they should not count the sins from his birth which had already been blotted out by the grace of Christ; but let them present — if they have any — the sins he committed after he entered monasticism and dedicated himself to God.

In their accusation the demons uttered many brazen lies; but since their slanders were wanting in proof, a free path opened for Antony. Immediately he came to himself and saw that he was standing in the same place where he had stood for prayer. Forgetting about food, he spent the night in prayer with tears and groanings, reflecting on the multitude of man’s enemies, on the battle against such an army, on the difficultly of the path to heaven through the air, and on the words of the Apostle who said: ‘Our wrestling is not against flesh and blood, but against the principalities and powers of the air’ (Eph 6:12; Eph 2:2).
The Apostle, knowing that the aerial powers are seeking only one thing, are concerned over it with all fervor, exert themselves and strive to deprive us of a free passage to heaven, exhorts: ‘Take up the whole armor of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day (Eph 6:13), that the adversary may be put to shame, having no evil thing to say of us (Tit 2:8).”
St. John Chrysostom, describing the hour of death, teaches:
“Then we will need many prayers, many helpers, many good deeds, a great intercession from angels on the journey through the spaces of the air. If when traveling in a foreign land or a strange city we are in need of a guide, how much more necessary for us are guides and helpers to guide us past the invisible dignities and powers and world-rulers of this air, who are called persecutors and publicans and tax-collectors.”

St. Isaiah The Recluse (6th century) teaches that Christians should
“daily have death before our eyes and take care how to accomplish the departure from the body and how to pass by the powers of darkness who are to meet us in the air.”

St. Hesychius, Presbyter of Jerusalem (5th century) teaches:
“The hour of death will find us, it will come, and it will be impossible to escape it. Oh, if only the prince of the world and the air who is then to meet us might find our iniquities as nothing and insignificant and might not be able to accuse us justly.”

St. EPHRAIM THE SYRIAN (4th century) thus describes the hour of death and the hour of judgment at the toll-houses:
“When the fearful hour comes, when the divine takers-away command the soul to be translated from the body, when they draw us away by force and lead us away to the unavoidable judgment place — then, seeing them, the poor man comes all into a shaking as if from an earthquake, is all in trembling. The divine takers-away, taking the soul, ascend in the air where stand the chiefs, the authorities and world-rulers of the opposing powers. These are our accusers, the fearful publicans, registrars, tax-collectors; they meet it on the way, register, examine and count all the sins and debts of this man — the sins of youth and old age, voluntary and involuntary, committed in deed, word and thought. Great is the fear here, great the trembling of the poor soul, indescribable the want which it suffers then from the incalculable multitudes of its enemies surrounding it there in myriads, slandering it so as not to allow it to ascend to heaven, to dwell in the light of the living, to enter the land of life. But the holy angels, taking the soul, lead it away.”

St Cyril of Alexandria explains this further:
“As the soul ascends, it finds tax officials guarding the ascent, holding and preventing the souls from ascending. Each one of these custom stations presents its own particular sins of the souls.

But, by the same token, the good angels do not abandon the soul to these evil stations. At the time of its accounting the angels offer in turn the soul’s good works.
In fact, the holy angelic powers enumerate to the evil spirits the good acts of the soul that were done by word, deed, thought and imagination. If the soul is found to have lived piously and in a way pleasing to God, it is received by the holy angels and transferred to that ineffable joy of the blessed and eternal life.
But, if it is found to have lived carelessly and prodigally, it hears the most harsh word: ‘Let the ungodly be taken away, that he not see the glory of the Lord’ (Isa 26:10).
Then the holy angels with profound regret abandon the soul and it is received by those dark demons so that may fling it with much malevolence into the prisons of Hades.”
An early Church catchiest, referring to custom officials who collected taxes, relays to us the common Church teaching:
“I know of other tax collectors who after our departure from this present life inspect us and hold us to see if we have something that belongs to them.” The same catchiest goes on to say: “I wonder how much we must suffer at the hands of those evil angels, who inspect everything and who, when someone is found unrepentant, demand not only the payment of taxes simply, but also seize and hold us completely captive” (Origen).

This view is upheld by our great Father, St. Basil. Speaking about the courageous athletes of the faith, he teaches that they too will be scrutinized by the “revenue officials,” that is, by the evil spirits. The same Father also says that the evil spirits observe the departure of the soul with so much more vigilant attention than do enemies over a besieged city or thieves over a treasury house. St. John Chrysostom likewise calls demons “revenue officials” who threaten us and who are “overbearing powers with a fearful countenance that horrifies the soul that looks upon them.”
In another place St. John says that these evil spirits are called “persecutors and revenue officials and collectors of taxes in the Sacred Scripture.” According to St. John, even the souls of innocent infants must pass through these toll-houses, for the all-evil devil seeks to snatch their souls, too. However, the infants make the following confession (according to St. John): “We have passed by the evil spirits without suffering any harm. For the dark custom officials saw our spotless body and were put to shame; they saw the soul good and pure and were embarrassed; they say the tongue immaculate and pure and blameless and they were silenced; we passed by and humiliated them. This is why the holy angles of God who met and received us rejoiced, the righteous greeted us with joy and the saints with delight said, ‘Welcome, the lambs of Christ!'”
Probably the clearest and most comprehensive account of the toll-houses is that given by an angel of the Lord to St. Macarius Of Egypt:
“From the earth to heaven there is a ladder and a each rung has a cohort of demons. These are called toll-houses and the evil spirits meet the soul and bring its handwritten accounts and show these to the angels, saying: on this day and such and such of the month this soul did that: either it stole or fornicated or committed adultery or engaged in sodomy or lied or encouraged someone to an evil deed. And everything else evil which it has done, they show to the angels.

The angels then show whatever good the soul has done, charity or prayer or liturgies or fasting or anything else.
And the angels and the demons reckon up, and if they find the good greater than the evil, the angels seize the soul and take it up the next rung, while the demons gnash their teeth like wild dogs and make haste the snatch that pitiable soul from the hands of the Angels. The soul, meanwhile, cowers and terror encompasses it, and it makes as if to hide in the bosom of the Angels and there is a great discussion and must turmoil until that soul is delivered from the hands of the demons.
And they come again to another rung and there find another toll-house, fiercer and more horrible. And in this too, there is much uproar and great and indescribable turbulence as to who shall take that wretched soul. And shouting out aloud, the demons examine the soul, causing terror and saying: ‘Where are you going? Aren’t you the one who fornicated and thoroughly polluted Holy Baptism? Aren’t you the one who polluted the angelic habit? Get back. Get down. Get yourself to dark Hell. Get yourself to the outer fire. Get going to that worm that never sleeps.’
Then if it be that that soul is condemned, the demons bear it off to below the earth, to a dark and distressing spot. And woe to that soul in which that person was born. And who shall tell, holy Father, the straits in which the condemned souls will find themselves in that place!
But if the soul is found clean and sinless, it goes up the Heaven with such joy.”
Descriptions of the aerial toll-houses may also be found in the following Saints’ lives:
St. EUSTRATIUS THE GREAT MARTYR (4th century)

St. NIPHON OF CONSTANTIA in Cyprus (4th century)

St. SYMEON THE FOOL FOR CHRIST (6th century)

St. JOHN THE MERCIFUL (7th century)

St SYMEON OF THE WONDROUS MOUNTAIN (7th century)

St. MACARIUS THE GREAT (4th century)

St. COLUMBA (6th century)

St. ADAMNAN (8th century)

St. BONIFACE (8th century)

St. BASIL THE NEW (10th century)

The Soldier TAXIOTES

St. JOHN OF THE LADDER (6th century)

This very ancient teaching of the early Church Fathers and ascetic Saints is confirmed by the experience and teaching of saints more modern.

St. Seraphim Of Sarov relates:
“Two nuns passed on. Both had been abbesses. The Lord revealed to me that their souls were having difficulty getting through the aerial toll-houses. Three days and nights, I, a lowly sinner, prayed and begged the Mother Of God for their salvation. The goodness of the Lord, through the prayers of the Most Holy Mother Of God, finally had mercy upon them. They passed the aerial toll-houses and received forgiveness of sins.”

Likewise, St. Theophan The Recluse writes:
“No matter how absurd the idea of the toll-houses may seem to our ‘wise men,’ they will not escape passing through them.

What do these toll-gatherers seek in those who pass through? They seek whether people might have some of their goods. What kind of goods?
Passions.
Therefore, in the person whose heart is pure and a stranger to passion, they cannot find anything to wrangle over; on the contrary, the opposing quality will strike them like arrows of lightning.
To this someone who has a little education expressed the following thought: The toll-houses are something frightful. But it is quite possible that the demons, instead of something frightful, might present something seductive. They might present something deceptive and seductive, according to the kinds of passions, to the soul as it passes through one after the other.
When, during the course of life, the passions have been banished from the heart and the virtues opposed to them have been planted, then no matter what seductive thing you might present, the soul, having no kind of sympathy for it, passes by it, turning away from it with disgust. But when the heart has not been cleansed, the soul will rush to whatever passion the heart has most sympathy for; and the demons will take it like a friend, and then they know where to put it.
Therefore, it is very doubtful that a soul, as long as there remain in it sympathies for the objects of any passion, will not be put to shame at the toll-houses. Being put to shame here means that the soul itself is thrown into hell.”
In another place, St. Theophan (continuing his letter to the brother of the woman who was about to die) writes:
“In the departed there soon begins the struggle of going through the toll-houses. Here she needs help! Stand then in thought, and you will hear her cry to you: Help! This is where you should direct all your attention and all your love for her. Immerse yourself in prayer for her in her new condition and her new, unexpected needs.

Having begun thus, remain in unceasing crying out to God to help her, for the course of six weeks, and indeed for longer than that.
In the account of Theodora, the bag from which the angels took in order to be separated from the tax-collectors was the prayers of her elder. Your prayers will do the same; do not forget to do this. This is love!”
Significantly, all of this testimony is confirmed by the liturgical prayers of the Church. St. Ignatius Brianchaninov cites over 20 examples of references to the Toll-houses in the Divine service books and this is not a complete list!
[5] According to the revelation of the angel to St. Macarius, the Church’s special commemoration of the departed on the 9th day after death (apart from the general significance of the ranks of angels) occurs because up to then the soul is shown the beauties of Paradise, and only after this, for the remainder of the forty days, is sown the torments and horrors of hell, before being assigned on the fortieth day to the place where it will await the resurrection of the dead and the Last Judgment.
[6] The Church’s teaching on the state of souls in heaven and hell before the Last Judgment is set forth in its clearest fashion by St. Mark Of Ephesus in his dialogue with the Roman Catholics over the Roman doctrine of Purgatory (which the Orthodox reject as false). It is an extensive collection of writings, and much of it is beyond the focus of this limited study. The following should suffice, however, to illustrate the Orthodoxy of St. John Maximovitch’s words:
“Those reposed in faith are without doubt helped by the Liturgies and prayers and almsgiving performed for them, and that this custom has been in force from antiquity, there is the testimony of many and various utterances of the Teachers, both Latin and Greek, spoken and written at various times and in various places.

But that souls are delivered thanks to a certain purgatorial suffering and temporal fire which possesses such (a purgatorial) power and has the character of a help — this we do not find in either Scripture or in the prayers and hymns for the dead, or in the words of the Teachers.
But we have received that even the souls which are held in hell and are already given over to eternal torments, whether in actual fact and experience or in hopeless expectation of such, although not in the sense of completely loosing them from torment or giving hope for final deliverance.
And this is shown by the words of the great Macarius the Egyptian ascetic who, finding a skull in the desert, was instructed by it concerning this by the action of Divine Power.
And Basil The Great, in the prayers read at Pentecost, writes literally the following:
‘Who also, on this all-perfect and saving feast, are graciously pleased to accept propitiatory prayers for those who are imprisoned in hell, granting us a great hope of improvement for those who are imprisoned from the defilements which have imprisoned them, and that Thou wilt send down Thy consolation’ (Third Kneeling Prayer at Vespers).

But if souls have departed this life in faith and love, while nevertheless carrying with themselves certain faults, whether small ones over which they have not repented at all, or great ones for which — even though have repented over them — they did not undertake to show fruits of repentance: such souls, we believe, must be cleansed from this kind of sins, but not by means of some purgatorial fire or a definitive punishment in some place (for this, as we have said, has not at all been handed down to us).
But some must be cleansed in the very departure from the body (as St. Gregory The Dialogist literally shows); while others must be cleansed after the departure from the body, before they come to worship God and are honored with the lot of the blessed, or — if their sins were more serious and bind them for a longer duration — they are kept in hell, but not in order to remain forever in fire and torment, but as it were in prison and confinement under guard.
All such ones, we affirm, are helped by the prayers and Liturgies performed for them, with the cooperation of the Divine Goodness and Love for mankind.
And so, we entreat God and believe to deliver the departed (from eternal torment), and not from any other torment or fire apart from those torments and that fire which have been proclaimed to be forever.”
St. MARK further explains the state of the departed in this way:
“We affirm that neither the righteous have as yet received the fullness of their lot and that blessed condition for which they have prepared themselves here through works, nor have sinners, after death, been led away into the eternal punishment in which they shall be tormented eternally.

Rather, both the one and the other must necessarily take place after the Judgment of that last day and the resurrection of all.
Now, however, both the one and the other are in places proper to them: the first, in absolute repose and free, are in heaven with the angels and before God Himself, and already as if in Paradise from which Adam fell and often visit us in those temples where they are venerated, and hear those who call on them and pray for them to God, having received from Him this surpassing gift, and through their relics perform miracles and take delight in the vision of God and the illumination sent from Him more perfectly and purely than before, when they were alive;
while the second, in their turn, being confined to hell, remain in ‘the lowest pit, in darkness and in the shadow of death’ (Ps 87:7), as David says, and then Job: ‘to the land where the light is darkness’ (Job 10:21-22).
And the first remain in every joy and rejoicing, already expecting and only not having in their hands the Kingdom and the unutterable good things promised them;
and the second, on the contrary, remain in all confinement and inconsolable suffering, like condemned men awaiting the Judge’s sentence and foreseeing the torments.
Neither have the first yet received the inheritance of the Kingdom and those good things ‘which eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, nor have entered into the heart of man’ (1 Cor 2:9); nor have the second part yet been given over to eternal torments nor to burning in the unquenchable fire. And this teaching we have as handed down from our Fathers in antiquity and we can easily present it from the Divine Scriptures themselves.”
St. GREGORY THE GREAT, in answering the question, “Is there anything at all that can possibly benefit souls after death?” teaches:
“The Holy Sacrifice of Christ, our saving Victim, brings great benefits to souls even after death, provided their sins (are such as) can be pardoned in the life to come. For this reason the souls of the dead sometimes beg to have Liturgies offered for them. The safer course, naturally, is to do for ourselves what we hope others will do for us after death. It is better to make one’s exit a free man than to seek liberty after one is in chains. We should, therefore, despise the world with all our hearts as though its glory were already spent, and offer our sacrifice of tears to God each day as we immolate His sacred Flesh and Blood. This Sacrifice alone has the power of saving the soul from eternal death, for it presents to us mystically the death of the Only-begotten Son.”

Many incidents from the Lives of Orthodox saints and ascetics confirm this teaching.

[7] The Apostolic Constitutions (1st/2nd century) teach that Memorials for the dead be served with “psalms and readings and prayers” on the third day after the death of our beloved one, on account of the Lord Jesus “who rose after three days.”
They prescribe Memorials on the ninth day “as a reminder of the living and the dead,” as well as “on the fortieth day after death according to ancient practice.”
This is how the people of Israel mourned for the great Moses. In addition to these we must have annual Memorials in remembrance of the deceased. This teaching is also given by St. Isidoros Of Pelusium, St. Symeon The New Theolgian and St. Gregory The Theologian.
In addition to these Memorials, our holy Church has ordained that the Sabbath (Saturday) be a day of commemoration of the Holy Martyrs and of all the deceased. For the Sabbath, as the seventh day from the beginning of creation, is the day which saw bodily death, imposed upon man by the righteous God. This day is continued, in as much as the death of man is also continued at the same time, Sunday, however, is the “day of the Resurrection, the eighth day, which symbolizes the anticipated age of eternity, the resurrection of the dead and the endless kingdom of God.”
Our Mother Church has also ordained common Memorials twice a year: on the Saturday before Meatfare Sunday and on the Saturday before the great feast of Holy Pentecost.
St. John Of Damascus adds: “the Apostles who speak for God and the spirit-bearing Fathers have decreed this with inspiration and in a manner pleasing to God.”

Fr John Romanides and Metrpolitan Hierotheos Vlachos on St John 17.

That John 17 can be applied to Churches which have not the slightest understanding of glorification (theosis) and how to arrive at this cure in this life is very interesting, to say the least… In John 17 Christ prays for the cure of the glorification of His disciples and their disciples, not for divided Churches, indeed not for traditions which have not the slightest idea of what the cure of glorification is.” Fr John Romanides

Metr. Hierotheos Vlachos ,from The mind of the Orthodox Church.

The Nature of Sin. Saint Philaret of New York .

All Orthodox Christians know from the Holy Scripture, and believe, that God created man in His own image and likeness. Therefore, in the creation man received a sinless nature, but not even the first man, Adam, remained sinless. He lost his original purity in the first fall into sin in paradise. The toxin of this sinfulness contaminated the entire human race, which descended from its forbears who had sinned – just as poison water flows from a poisoned spring. Acting upon the inclination to sin inherited from our ancestors, each person commits their own personal sins, as the Scriptural indictment says, “There is no one who will live for a single day and not sin.” Only our Lord Jesus Christ is absolutely free from sin. Even the righteous, God’s saints, bore sin within themselves and, although with God’s help they struggled with it, yet they humbly acknowledged themselves to be sinners. So, without exception, all people are sinners, tainted with sin.
Sin is a spiritual leprosy, an illness and an ulcer which has stricken all mankind, both in his soul and his body. Sin has damaged all three of the basic abilities and powers of the soul; the mind, the heart and the will. Man’s mind became darkened and inclined toward error, thus, man constantly errs – in science, in philosophy and in his practical activity.
What is even more harmed by sin is man’s heart – the center of his experience of good and evil, as well as feelings of sorrow and joy. We see that our heart has been bound in the mire of sin; it has lost the ability to be pure, spiritual and Christian, to possess truly elevated feelings. Instead of this, it has become inclined toward pleasures of sensuality and earthly attachments. It is tainted with vainglory and often startles one with a complete absence of love and of the desire to do good toward one’s neighbor.
What is harmed most of all, however, is the capability of our will to effect our intentions. Man proves to be without strength of will particularly when it is necessary to practice true Christian good – even though he might desire this good. The holy apostle Paul speaks of this weakness of will when he says: “For I fail to practice the good deeds I desire to do, but the evil deeds which I do not desire to do are what I am always doing.” That is why Christ the Savior said of man the sinner, “Whoever practices sin is the slave of sin,” although to the sinner, alas, serving sin often seems to be freedom while struggling to escape its net appears to be slavery.
How does a sin develop in one’s soul? The holy fathers, strugglers of Christian asceticism and piety, knowing the sinful human soul, explain it far better than all the learned psychiatrists. They distinguish the following stages in sin: The first moment in sin is the suggestion, when some temptation becomes identified in a person’s conscience – a sinful impression, an unclean thought or some other temptation. If, in this first moment, a person decisively and at once rejects the sin, he does not sin, but defeats sin and his soul will experience progress rather than degeneration. It is in the suggestion stage of sin that it is easiest of all to remove it. If the suggestion is not rejected, it passes over first into an ill-defined striving and then into a clear, conscious desire to sin. At this point, one already begins to be inclined to sin of a given type. Even at this point, however, without an especially difficult struggle, one can avoid giving in to sin and refrain from sinning. One will be helped by the clear voice of conscience and by God’s aid if one will only turn to it.
Beyond this point, one has fallen into sin. The reproaches of the conscience sound loudly and clearly, eliciting a revulsion to the sin. The former self-assurance disappears and the man is humbled (compare Apostle Peter before and after his denial of Christ). But even at this point, known the Truth and who has stubbornly refused and hated it? This horrible condition is similar to the condition of the devil himself who believes in God and trembles but who nevertheless hates Him, blasphemes Him and is in adversity to Him.
When a seduction, a temptation to sin, appears in man, it usually comes from three sources: from man’s own flesh, from the world and from Satan.
Concerning man’s flesh, there is absolutely no doubt that in many respects it is a den and source of anti-moral predisposition’s, strivings and inclinations. The ancestral sin – this inclination towards sin, a heritage from the sin of our progenitors and our own personal sinful experiences: all this added up and each (experience) strengthening one another, creates in our flesh a source of temptations, sinful moods and acts.
More often, though, the source of seduction for us is the world around us which, according to the Apostle John the Theologian, “is under the power of the Evil-One” and friendship with which, according to another Apostle, is enmity with God. The milieu around us seduces us, the people around us do likewise (especially the willful, conscious seducers and corrupters of youth about whom the Lord said: “Whoever causes one of these little ones to stumble and sin, it were better for that man that a millstone be tied around his neck and he be cast into the sea.”
The enticers are also external goods, riches, comforts, immoral dances, dirty literature, shameless attire, etc. – all of this is undoubtedly a fetid source of sin and seduction.
But the main and root source of sin is, of course, the devil, as the Apostle John the Theologian says, “He who practices sin is of the devil; for the devil has sinned from the beginning.” In struggling with God and His Truth, the devil struggles with people, striving to destroy each of us. He struggles most intensely and with the most malice with the saints as we see in the Gospel and in the lives of the saints. We, sick and infirm, are specially defended by Christ against those fierce temptations to which God’s saints, strong in spirit, are subjected. Nevertheless, Satan does not ignore us, acting through the enticements of the world and the flesh, making them stronger and more deceptive, and also tempting us by sinful suggestions of all kinds. It is because of this, that the Apostle Peter compares Satan with a “raging lion which stalks about seeking whom he might devour.”

St John Chrysostom commentary on Saint Paul :The epistle to the Galatians 1:8-9 .

 “But though we, or an angel from heaven, should preach unto you any Gospel other than that which we preached unto you, let him be anathema.”
See the Apostle’s wisdom; to obviate the objection that he was prompted by vainglory to applaud his own doctrine, he includes himself also in his anathema; and as they betook themselves to authority, that of James and John, he mentions angels also saying, “Tell me not of James and John; if one of the most exalted angels of heaven corrupt the Gospel, let him be anathema.” The phrase “of heaven” is purposely added, because priests are also called angels. “For the priest’s lips should keep knowledge, and they should seek the law at his mouth: for he is the messenger [angel] of the Lord of hosts.” (Mal. ii: 7.) Lest therefore it should be thought that priests are here meant, by the term “angels,” he points out the celestial intelligences by the addition, “from heaven.” And he says not, if they preach a contrary Gospel, or subvert the whole of the true one, let them be anathema; but, if they even slightly vary, or incidentally disturb, my doctrine. “As we have said before, so say I now again.” That his words might not seem to be spoken in anger, or with exaggeration, or with recklessness he now repeats them. Sentiments may perhaps change, when an expression has been called forth by anger, but to repeat it a second time proves that it is spoken advisedly, and was previously approved by the judgment. When Abraham was requested to send Lazarus, he replied, “They have Moses and the Prophets; let them hear them: if they hear them not, neither will they be persuaded, if one rise from the dead.” ( Luke xvi: 31.) And Christ introduces Abraham thus speaking, to show that He would have the Scriptures accounted more worthy of credence, even than one raised from the dead: Paul too, (and when I say Paul, I mean Christ, who directed his mind,)prefers them before an angel come down from heaven. And justly, for the angels, though mighty, are but servants and ministers, but the Scriptures were all written and sent, not by servants, but by God the Lord of all. He says, if “any man” preach another Gospel to you than that which we have preached,–not “if this or that man:” and herein appears his prudence, and care of giving offence, for what needed there still any mention of names, when he had used such extensive terms as to embrace all, both in heaven and earth? In that he anathemized evangelists and angels, he included every dignity, and his mention of himself included every intimacy and affinity. “Tell me not,” he exclaims, “that my fellow-apostles and colleagues have so spoken; I spare not myself if I preach such doctrine.” And he says this not as condemning the Apostles for swerving from the message they were commissioned to deliver; far from it, (for he says, whether we or they thus preach; ) but to show, that in the discussion of truth the dignity of persons is not to be considered.”