Justification by Faith Alone?                                                                                                           

The Reply of Patriarch Jeremiah II to the Lutheran Tübingen Theologians,
Concerning the Augsburg Confession (16th cent.)
“… The same also do the ancient writers of the Church teach; for Ambrose saith: ‘This is ordained of God, that he that believeth in Christ shall be saved, without works, by faith alone, freely receiving remission of sins.” —Article VI of the Augsburg Confession
From the First Reply of Constantinople to Tübingen…
[6. The New Obedience]
The sixth [article] gives the assurance that it is necessary to do good works but not to be dependent on them according to the passage: “Enter not into judgment with thy servant” [Ps 143:2]. With regard to this we say that faith precedes, and then the works follow and are necessary according to the commandment of God. The one who fulfills them, as he must, receives reward and honor in everlasting life. Indeed, good works are not separate from, but necessary for, true faith. One should not trust in works nor be boastful in a Pharisaic manner. And even if we have fulfilled everything, according to the word of the Lord, “we are unworthy servants” [Lk 17:10]. All things should be referred to the righteousness of God because those things which have been offered by us are small or nothing at all. According to Chrysostom, it has been established that God does not lead those of us who are idle into His kingdom. The Lord “opposes the proud, but he gives grace to the humble” [1 Pet 5:5; see Jas 4:6; Pr 3:24]. One should not boast about works. But to do and fulfill them is most necessary. For without divine works it is impossible to be saved. If, then, we will be convinced by the Lord who says, “If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them” [Jn 13:17], it shall be to our benefit.
It is necessary to join our good works together with the mercy from above. If we excuse ourselves because of our weakness or the goodness of God and do not add something of our own, there will be no benefit to us. How can we invoke mercy for the cure of our iniquities if it, no way have we done anything to appease the Divine One? Let us hear how Chrysostom explained [the words of] Psalm 129, “Out of the depths I cry to thee, O Lord. Lord, hear my voice” [1-2]:
‘From this we learn two things: that one cannot simply expect something from God if nothing from us is forthcoming,’ because first it says, ‘I cry,’ and then follows, ‘hear my voice.’ Furthermore, lengthy prayer, full of tears, has more power to convince God to hearken to that which has been asked. But so no one may say that, since he is a sinner and full of thousands of evils, ‘I cannot come before and pray, and call upon God, ‘He takes away all doubt by saying: ‘If thou, O Lord, shouldst mark iniquities, Lord, who could stand?’ [Ps 129:3]. Here the word ‘who’ should be replaced by the word ‘no one,’ because there is no one, no one who, according to a strict account of his works, could ever attain mercy and benevolence. If you withdraw mercy and God justly imposes the penalty of the sentence and metes out punishments for sins, who will be able to bear the judgment? Of necessity all would have to submit to destruction. And we say these things not to draw down souls into carelessness, but rather to console those who have fallen into despair. Because who can boast that he has a pure heart? Or who can proclaim that he is free from sins? And what can I say of others? For if I bring Saint Paul into our midst and wish to ask of him to give an accurate account of what happened [in his case], he cannot hold his ground. For what can he say? He read the Prophets. He was a zealot with regard to the strictness of the law of the forefathers. He saw signs. Nevertheless, he had not yet
ascended to that awesome sight which he enjoyed, nor had he heard that awesome voice. Before that he was, in all things, confused.
Furthermore, was not Peter, the chief [Apostle], who after thousands of miracles and such, reproved in council for his grievous fall? If, then, He shall not judge by mercy and compassion but will pronounce an accurate judgment, then [the Lord] will find all of us guilty. Therefore, the Apostle Paul said: ‘I am not aware of anything against myself, but I am not thereby acquitted. It is the Lord who judges me’ [I Cor 4:4]. And the Prophet said: ‘If thou, O Lord, shouldst mark iniquities, Lord, who could stand?’ [Ps 129:3]. And the doubling [of the word Lord,] is not simply said, but [the Prophet] was amazed at, and surprised by, the greatness of God’s mercy, His boundless majesty, and the fathomless sea of His goodness. He knew, and knew clearly, that we are responsible to God for many debts, and that even the smallest of sins are deserving of great punishment. ‘For with thee is forgiveness’ [Ps 129:3]. This means that escape from eternal punishment does not depend on our achievements but on Thy goodness… If we do not enjoy Thy mercy, our achievements alone do not suffice to snatch us from the future wrath. But now You have mercy and justice united together, and You prefer to use the former rather than the latter. And the Lord has plainly said this through the Prophet: I am He who blots out your transgressions’ [Is 43:25], that is, this is of me, it is of my goodness because those things which are yours, even though they are good, will never be sufficient to free you
from punishment if the work of my mercy were not added. And [the Lord] also [said]: ‘I will carry you’ [Is 46:4]. Indeed atonement rightfully belongs to God, He who is truly merciful. Therefore, He examines sparingly. ‘For Thy name’s sake I have waited for Thee, O Lord’ [Ps 129:5]. Because of Thy name, which is merciful, I have waited for
salvation. When I was looking to matters of myself, I would again despair as in former times; but now, attending to Thy law and fulfilling Thy words, I have high expectations. Thou are He who said, ‘as the heaven is distant from the earth’ [Is 55:9], ‘so my counsels are not as your counsels, nor are my ways as your ways’ [Is 55:8]. And again: ‘As the heaven is high above the earth, so the Lord has increased His mercy toward those who fear Him’ [Ps 102:11]; that is, not only have I [God] saved those who accomplish [good] things, but I also have spared the sinners, and amid your iniquities I have demonstrated my guardianship.
In Ezekiel He says: ‘I do not do this, except for the sake of my holy name, which you have profaned among the nations’ [Ezek 36:22]. [This passage] says that we are not worthy to be saved, nor did we have any hope because of what we had done, but we look forward to being saved for His name’s sake. This is the hope of salvation and the sacred anchor which has been left for us, who repent in order to be granted His mercy. If we are obedient, we shall eat the good of the land [cf. Is 1:19] and we shall inherit the promise. It is necessary, therefore, to hope in God, even if myriads oppress us and drive us to despair and threaten [us with] death. For Him all things are easy; and for the impossible, He can find a way. For with Him is the fountain of redemption, the sea of salvation, the treasure of mercy which springs up eternally [see Ps 36:910; Mt 18:21 f]. Where there is mercy, there also is redemption, and not only a little, but much, for the sea of mercy knows no bounds. If, then, we are bound up by our sins, it is not necessary to fall again, nor to be despondent. For wherever there is mercy and charity, there is no strict reckoning of iniquities by the one who judges. Because of His great mercy and inclination toward charity, many sins are overlooked. Being such a judge, God grants mercy without ceasing and grants pardon; He is compassionate and loves mankind and imparts salvation to all who have repented and who, according to their ability, perform the good. For truly He is good and abundantly pours forth everywhere the greatness of His mercy, and from Him is that which is truly mercy; it is very clear that He will save His own people, not punish them. Let us then offer those things we have done with all exactitude and wisdom, and let us cherish everything that is from Him, who possesses untold mercy. [12]
Wisdom comes first [to indicate] that a praiseworthy life is one that is cleansed by God rather than one that is deposed. The persons who are without remorse, walking in sin, inclining toward the baser things and are gluttonous, wallowing in the slime, never look to heaven, do not wish to be pitied; for they do not realize how greviously they suffer. It is better for someone to be polluted with unclean mud than with sins. Those who have fallen in the pit of sin will perish utterly unless they cleanse their defilement not with water, but with great toil and time and sincere repentance, with tears, with wailings, and with the customary spiritual cleansing. These are the true satisfactions, and not those made through bribes, which arouse the anger of God against those who take them. And, thus, they are subject to myriads of evil things; and every misfortune sent by God comes to them. There is no forgiveness of sins possible for such persons because zeal is directed toward their own personal gain. External filth can be dusted off very rapidly, but that which is carried around within is not readily washed away. “For out of the heart come evil thoughts, fornication, adultery,” [Mt 15:19] and the like. For this reason the Prophet also said: “Create in me a clean heart, O God” [Ps 50:10]. And another: “Cleanse your heart from wickedness, O Jerusalem” [Jer 4:14]. And do you see here what pertains to us and what pertains to God? And again: “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God” [Mt 5:8].
Let us become cleansed as far as our minds can comprehend and as much as we are capable of becoming. How can this be done? “Wash yourselves; make yourselves clean; remove your evils from your souls before my eyes” [Is 1:16]. He says: “Do not become like whitewashed tombs” [Mt 23:27], appearing to be guiltless; but, thus, remove [evils from your souls] as being seen by God. “Though your sins are like purple, I will make them white as snow” [Is 1:18]. Do you not see that we have to clean ourselves first, and then God will make us white as snow? For this reason no one, not even those who sink down to the lowest evil, should despair. Even if it becomes a habit for someone and he has almost arrived to the nature of evil in itself, let him not be afraid. For even colors which do not fade and have almost become one with the material, nevertheless, are transformed into the opposite condition and become white as snow. Thus, He grants us good hope. Let us seriously try as much as we can to become clean.
Let us pursue good works. Let us not seek the speck that is in the eye of another, but let us see the log that is in our own [cf. Mt 7:3]. And, thus, with the grace of God, we shall be able to attain worthily the good things to come. Therefore, the power of works is great; and even when they commit sins, God cleanses them through repentance. One should not boast of them nor depend on them, for that would be sinful; but as much as you are able, fulfill the works which are the result of faith and are necessary. For if those who have cast out demons and who have prophesied are rejected, and have not lived a comparable life, how much more [shall we be rejected] if we are negligent and do not fulfill the commandments? Christ will say to such persons: “I never knew you” [Mt 7:23; cf. Lk 13:27].
We believe correctly to glorify Him and we live the good life to glorify Him, for there is no benefit of one without the other. And furthermore, when, perchance, we praise Him rightly but do not live properly according to the commandment, then we greatly insult Him. And although we give Him the title of Master and Teacher, we, nevertheless, scorn Him and do not fear His awesome judgment. The fact that the pagan Greeks lived an impure life is no surprise, nor are they deserving of such great condemnation. However, being Christians, who participate in so many sacraments, [and] who enjoy such glory yet live impurely is much worse and intolerable and beyond all compassion.
If, as the saying goes, we were to look earnestly toward the great and infinite compassion of God and His extraordinarily great gifts, and imagine that we will be saved by grace alone in the manner of the ingrates, we cannot hope to benefit. And besides, our own deeds, even if they may approach perfection, are nothing in comparison, except that they are supplementary and demonstrate our disposition—namely, that we are thankful, that we obey
the commandments and perform good and virtuous deeds so that we may not be placed into paradise like insensible creatures, which absolutely is not done but, by our preference, through the grace of God. If we prefer to incline toward sin, we shall appear insensible as paying attention to non-existing things. Indeed, we must avoid it [sin] and detest it since it places us far away from God. And when we intend to commit a sin, then we must conjecture and imagine the dread and intolerable court of Christ in which the judge is sitting on a high and elevated throne to judge those who have lived. All creation is present and trembling at His glorious appearance.
12. St. Basil, On Baptism, 2.4, PG 31.1589; cf. St. Basil, Ascetical Works, vol. 9, 399. From the Second Reply of Constantinople to Tübingen…

C.] CONCERNING JUSTIFICATION AND GOOD WORKS [I. The Distinction between Law and Spiritual Law]
Following is the third section concerning justification by faith and good works, which shall be further explained. We do not merely say that those who obey the law shall be justified, but those who obey the spiritual law, which is understood spiritually and according to the inner man. Indeed, by “fulfilling the law of the spirit as much as we are able, we will be justified and we will not fall from grace because the Cleansing Word has passed into the depths of the soul. However, those who serve the law according to its outward expression fall totally from divine grace, for they do not know” that the completion by grace of the spiritual law cleanses the mind from every spot; nor do they know the end of the law, which is Christ. He, as the maker of all, is also the maker of the law of nature, and as He who preconceived the law, is giver both of that which is written in the letter and also of that which is in spirit or in grace. “For Christ is the end of the law” [Rom 10:4], that is to say, of the written law understood spiritually. Therefore, in Christ the Creator, who preconceived the law as lawgiver and redeemer, the law of nature, the written law, and that of grace are drawn together. The Apostle [Paul] speaks the truth when he says: “according to my gospel, God judges the secrets of men” [Rom 2:16]. That is to say, just as he preached through Jesus Christ in all laws, he rebuked some and accepted others in a fitting way, giving to each his due. If, then, one is judged according to the law, he will be judged in Christ; or if he is judged outside the law, again he will be judged in Him [Christ]. The Logos, as creator, is the beginning and the mediator and the end of all that exists. Having been begotten without sin, He had stripped himself of all rule and authority [cf. Col 2:10] even though in some way He also put them on. For He, the Logos of God, who became perfect man without sin, had the characteristics of the first Adam, as at the beginning, being free from corruption and sin. For when Adam transgressed the commandment, he was condemned to give birth through suffering and in sin from which [transgression] no one is [born] without sin. And since sin thus came because of the transgression, and nature was bound by an evil bond on account of the decision, while the evil spirits invisibly are at work, because of this the Logos of God, out of merciful compassion, has set us free by becoming man. He also has commanded that one should not contemplate that which is against nature, nor work evil, but avoid it as much as possible and hold fast only to the virtues and commandments. If something evil chances to come in a human way, we must throw it off and hasten to subordinate the more wicked to the stronger good, and subject the flesh to the spirit by exercising virtue and doing good works. For as we know, human nature has been bereft of the good works, having become barren through transgression. Indeed, the voice of the crying word became the voice according to the conscience of each one who transgressed, as it were crying out of the secret recesses of the heart: prepare the way of the Lord [cf. Jer 43:3; Mk 1:3]. Therefore, the explicit and clear preparation of the divine way constituted change and correction of living and reasoning for the better, and for the cleansing of the polluted former living and reasoning. Indeed, the way of the Lord, the good, royal and glorious way, is the life of virtue. In such a life in which the Word [Logos] works the way of salvation in each one, He dwells in us through faith and tarries among us
through the various laws and teachings pertaining to both virtue and knowledge [cf. Eph 3:17]. Indeed, the paths of the word are the various kinds of virtues, the various ways of life according to God, and the pursuits of living according to God. The people who honestly pursue virtue according to God’s will, make these paths straight. For the divine Word does not proceed in the paths which are not straight, even if the divine Word would find the way to some degree prepared. For instance, were one to fast and thus avoid the inflammatory diet of the passions and do other things which are able to contribute to the expulsion of wickedness, he would have prepared the way. But if he practices these things for the sake of vanity, or greed, or to please men, he has not provided for God to walk in his paths. For the way of the Lord is virtue, and the way of the straight path is without guile. Furthermore, as Scripture says: “the valley shall be filled.” The flesh of each one, which has been inundated by the strong current of passions, is to be set right and lifted up through good works. Therefore, let us with great joy send far off every vice which rises up against virtue, “and every proud obstacle to the knowledge of God” [2 Cor 10:5]. Being converted by the Holy Spirit, let us journey on the way of the Lord by directing the members of the body by His divine commandments and freed from passions of every sort, desiring the true life. Thus, surely, we shall see the salvation of God by becoming “pure in heart” [Mt 5:8]. Through true faith and works which proclaim faith, we prepare the divine ascent [reign] of
the Word.   [2. Concerning Grace and Works]
Moreover, we should especially know that grace not only of itself works in the saints the knowledge of the mysteries, but also that grace works in the worthy ones, who have powers by nature, the capability of receiving the knowledge. The one, then, needs the other; grace needs works, and works need grace. As light needs sight and sight needs light, the soul needs the body and the body needs the soul. Then, clearly, both [grace and works] are those things which lead to salvation; it is unambiguously necessary for one to have both—correct faith with [good] works, and works of virtue by faith. One must believe without hesitation. For with doubt and hesitation in faith, faith is not complete. Also, if faith has once been accepted, it is further deepened by searching to investigate it. For simplicity of the faith is stronger than rational proofs. Also, simple faith is stronger than the faith which is not simple— immeasurably stronger. For when one searches the depths of faith, it rises in waves, but it becomes tranquil when considered with a simple disposition.
[3. Idle Faith and Faithless Work]
Therefore, since it is undoubtedly and completely sure that we must believe without doubt, only this remains, that which it is necessary to seek with all one’s might and is to be found by every means. What in reality is this? It is this: that we may attain salvation with all that we do. For idle faith and works without faith are both rejected in the sight of God. Let us consider what has been said in the light of the following: for God, who has shown himself to us as being of three hypostases, has also shown this most evident way to us. And, indeed, know also that faith, hope, and love [cf. I Cor 13:13], the golden threefold rainbow, when kept by us, effects salvation for us.
[4. Faith in Hope and Love]
And now we will elaborate at length: “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen” [Heb 11:1]. In faith, the impossible is possible; weakness becomes strength; suffering is painless; and the perishable, imperishable; and the mortal, immortal. Indeed, “this is a great mystery” [Eph 5-32]. Hope is a wealth of unthinkable riches, and without doubt it is a treasure beyond treasures. Love is the source of faith, a depth of mercy, a sea of humility, and exaltation of holy souls, a likeness to God, as far as is possible for humans. Apart from these three it is impossible to find salvation. The three greatest witnesses of the past in our midst are sufficient to confirm the matter.
[5. The Apostles on the Means of Justification]
Come thou, Peter, leader of the venerable Apostles, and thou, John, the most beloved in Christ, and thou, James the Just, the first bishop of Jerusalem, bear witness concerning what has been said. Peter in the first chapter of his Second Epistle cries out in this manner and solemnly testifies thus:
for this very reason make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love. For if these things are yours, and abound, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. For whoever lacks these things is blind and shortsighted [2 Pet 1:5-9].
Moreover, the Son of Thunder (the Evangelist John] in the first chapter of his First Epistle says:
‘that God is light and in him is no darkness at all. If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not live according to the truth; but if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin’ [I
   Jn 1:5-7]. ‘He who says he is the light and hates his brother is in the darkness still. He who loves his brother abides in the light, and in it there is no cause for stumbling’ [I Jn 2:9-10]. ‘He who does not love [his brother] remains in death. Any one who hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him’ [I Jn 3:14-15].
Also, in the third chapter of the same Epistle: “but if any one has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need” [I Jn 3:17], etc., and [John says] many other things concerning love.
[6. Saint James on the Relation of Faith and Works]
Also, the brother of God [James] in the 2nd chapter of his Epistle agrees saying:
What does it profit, my brethren, if a man says he has faith but has not works? Can his faith save him? If a brother or sister is ill-clad and in lack of daily food, and one of you says to them, ‘Go in peace, be warmed and filled,’ without giving them the things needed for the body, what does it profit? So faith by itself, if it has not works, is dead. But someone will say: ‘You have faith and I have works. Show me your faith apart from your works, and I by my works will show you my faith.’ You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe—and shudder. Do you want to be shown, you foolish fellow, that faith apart from works is barren? Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered his son, Isaac, upon the altar? You see that faith was active along with his works, and faith was completed by works, and the scripture was fulfilled which says, ‘Abraham believed God and it was reckoned to him as righteousness’; and he was called the friend of God. You see that a man is justified by works and not by faith alone, as we said a short time ago. For as the body apart from the spirit is dead, so faith apart from works is dead [cf. Jas 2:14-24, 26].
[7. Intercorrelation of Faith, Hope, and Love for Salvation]
Let us consider whether it has not been said in vain, that apart from faith, hope, and love, it is impossible to be saved. For as we, indeed, need the eyes of our body for viewing visible things, so doubtless we have need of faith for the study of the divine things. For as knowledge of the matters comes according to the proportion of the accomplishments of the commandments, so also the knowledge of the truth comes according to the measure of the hope in Christ [cf. Jn 7:17]. And as, indeed, it is meet to worship nothing else than God, so one should not hope in any other than God alone who is the One who cares for all [cf. Mt 4: 10]. As he who has hope in man is accursed, so blessed is he who rests in God. And just as the memory of the flame does not warm the body, in the same manner faith without love does not effect the light of knowledge in the soul. Indeed, it is impossible for love to be found apart from hope. Hence, the Holy Fathers say one thing is permanent: the hope in God. All other things are not in reality, but merely thought. He who has fastened his heart on the power of faith has nothing without works. And when one has nothing, he limits everything to faith. Indeed, the power of faith is in good works. And he who has been deprived of love, has been deprived of God himself. One ought to strive in such works and also hope in Him. For if you ask yourself or another true Christian on what ground the ones being saved have hope of salvation, he would by all means say that we hope only in the mercy of God. But this is the forbearance of God. For if He would not endure evil for us, no one would be saved, since no one among men is without sin. “If even his life on the earth should be but one day on the earth” [Job 14:4-5]. Therefore, if we have the hope of salvation in the forbearance of God, this hope of salvation, indeed, is given only to those who endure the evil and not to those who bear malice. Let us then, as far as possible, be patient, piously forgiving others who have trespassed against us; and then the Heavenly Father will not only forgive us, but He will bestow upon us life everlasting in Christ.
[8. Religious Awe and Obedience Presupposed for Good Works]

 Therefore, wherever religious awe of divine things and obedience to the words of the Holy Fathers are abandoned, there no good works can be built up, nor the true faith which proves itself by good works. In other words, how would we be worthy of the beatitudes, which are laid up hidden in the faith if we are persuaded only by evidence according to human reason. Why did the Gentiles “become futile in their thinking and their senseless minds darkened; and claiming to be wise, became fools?” [Rom 1:21]. Is it not because they had refused obedience to the preaching of faith and followed the dictates of this reasoning? Isaiah lamented bitterly concerning such men as being condemned. “Woe unto those who are wise in their own eyes and shrewd in their own sight!” [cf. Is 5:21]. For the Godhead, as it seems to the illustrious Athanasios, is not delivered to us by demonstration in words, but by faith and by pious and reverent use of reason. [66] And the Apostle Paul preached concerning the redemptive cross “not with eloquent wisdom” [I Cor 1:17], “but in demonstration of the spirit and power” [I Cor 2:4]; and, thus, he [Paul] tells of the “man caught up into Paradise” who heard powers “that cannot be told, [67] which man may not utter” [2 Cor 12:4]. How will one believe by reasoning the truth of the Holy Trinity, who has not simply believed?
Do you see how all the divine teachers repudiate curious reasoning and throw it all out of the household of God? For anyone who has lost what he had before seeks to find it. Yet he who has lost nothing but has kept in completeness that which he possessed from the beginning does not seek it anymore, but merely keeps well that which he possesses. We, then, have learned to keep the faith and not be seeking after many things. We, by the grace of the Holy Spirit, have lost nothing, and we seek nothing; the search after a faith [that has not been lost] is self-defeating. Therefore, just as the one who believes does not seek, likewise neither does the one who seeks believe. The one who continues to seek has not yet found, nor has he truly and steadfastly believed as he should. Where there is seeking, there is no faith; and there where faith exists, there is no need for seeking, but there is a need of the fruits of faith, which are good works. For he who is convinced by words can also be induced to adopt a different opinion. But he who is convinced by faith fortifies himself and is a confirmed believer. Therefore, we do not seek to hear the polluted words and those that are sought in faith but which do not refer to the common meanings to see if they [hearing] agree, but only to prove if they are in accord with the enunciated dogmas of the Church—even if it happens that they negate all the doctrines of philosophy. For we have not been guided to the truth by words of wisdom, nor have we been initiated to any discernable degree into the mystery of the Trinity, nor, indeed, have we learned any other doctrine from it [philosophy] than the dogmas of the faith. For the matter of philosophy, as you well know, is ontological. But the end purpose of theology is He, who is above all beings and creator of everything. It is, then, neither necessary to think of the faith as an art, nor subject to criticism that which has been approved by theologians, but to continue in those matters which the spiritual preachers have made clear. For if we would rely upon our own reasoning, we would be in danger of sinking in the chaos in which Anaxagoras fell. May Christ the King preserve us from it. [68]
[9. Saint John Chrysostom—Works Are Indispensable]
In addition, Saint Chrysostom, also, in interpreting the six days of creation in his fourth homily [On Genesis], proves that works are indispensable:
Therefore, I ask, let us not become careless about keeping the commandments, but let us control our thoughts, First, then, let us try to win over our neighbor with love [brotherly affection] [cf. Rom 12:9f] and according to the blessed Paul, ‘outdo one another in showing honor’ [Rom 12:10]. For this is, indeed, what holds together and preserves our life; and in this we are distinguished from the animals and the beasts, that we can, if we will, keep the appropriate order in us, and show great concord with our fellow men, and restrain our thoughts, and crush anger, that untamed beast, and always have before it the struggle of the awesome judgement. For it is not fitting for us to simply spend the time without purpose; but every day and hour we should have before our eyes the judgement of the Lord, and also those things which can give great assurance, and those things which emphasize punishment. And thus recalling these things in our minds, let us overcome our base passions. Let us restrain the temptations of our flesh and ‘put to death,’ in the words of blessed Paul, ‘What is earthly
in you’ [Col 3:5] that we may be able to receive the ‘fruit of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, etc.’ [Gal 5:22]. For the grace of God makes us more sturdy than a diamond and in every way invincible, if we would will it. Let this be the difference between a Christian and the ungodly person: that he [the Christian] wishes to bring forth the fruit of the Spirit. Let us not pride ourselves in name only, nor be conceited on account of external appearance. But even if we would possess the things, we should not be greatly conceited, but rather should we humble ourselves even more. Scripture says: ‘when you have done all, say we are unworthy servants’ [Lk 17:10]. If we would think thus and be concerned about our own salvation, we will be able to benefit ourselves and also rescue from the future hell those who have us for their teachers, so that when we accomplish with strictness this course of life, we may be deemed worthy of God’s love for mankind in the future age. [69]
Therefore, one cannot find consolation in that [future] life, who has not in the present life cleansed himself of sins. ‘For in Hades,’ Scripture says, ‘who will give to thee praise?’ [Ps 6:5; cf. Sir 17:25]. And rightly so! For this [life] is the time of toil and of contests and of wrestling, and the future life is the time of wreaths and of rewards and of prizes [cf. I Cor 9:24]. Therefore, let us struggle as we still continue in the stadium so that in time, when it is proper, we may receive the wreath and accept the rewards of the toils with assurance. This is not merely said … but we wish to remind you each day to remember to carry out good works so that when you have been perfected and accomplished and shine in the virtue of the manners of fife, ‘that you may be blameless and innocent children of God without blemish’ [Phil 2:15; Mt 5:14] and ‘shine as lights in the world, holding fast the word of life, so that in the day of Christ’ [Phil 2:16] we may be proud, that even when you are merely manifest, you have benefited those who associate with you and those who communicate with you in conversation by sharing in a spiritual fragrance and excellent manner of life which are characteristic of you. For just as it happens that keeping company with bad persons is injurious to those who associate with them, it is as the blessed Paul says: ‘bad company ruins good morals’ [I Cor 15:33].
In like manner, also, keeping company with good persons greatly benefits those who associate with them. Therefore, our Master who loves mankind has allowed the good to associate with the wicked, so that the latter will benefit some from this association and not remain continually in wickedness; but having before them a constant reminder, they will reap more benefits from their association with the good Persons. For such is the power of virtue, that even those who abandon it do greatly respect it and render great praise for it [virtue] as also do those who are evil. Let us give heed concerning matters of virtue before it is too late, and we unwittingly punish ourselves. May it not be so. Do you see that there is need for works and, indeed, for vigorous works and most excellent? Now, indeed, the discussion concerning these matters is sufficient. [70]
Endnotes. 66. St. Athanasios, To Serapion, Epistle I, PG 25.530-676; cf. Shapland, Letters, p. 114. 67. Arreton dynameon instead of the biblical arreta remata (2 Cor. 12:4)
68. Anaxagoras (500-428 B.C.) in 432 B.C. was condemned to death for undermining religion by teaching theories of astonomy.
69. Genesis, Homily 4, PG 53.47-48. 70. Genesis, Homily 5, PG 53.49-50.
From Augsburg and Constantinople, The Correspondence between the [Lutheran] Tübingen Theologians and Patriarch Jeremiah II of Constantinople on the Augsburg Confession, by Fr. George Mastrontonis (Brookline, MA: Holy Cross Orthodox Press, 1982), pp. 42-46, 178-186. See also “The Ascetic Ideal and the New Testament,” by Father Georges Florovsky, Salvation in Christ: A Lutheran-Orthodox Dialogue , eds. [Fr.] John Meyendorff and Robert Tobias (Minneapolis, MN: Augsburg Fortress Press, 1992), “Justification and Sanctification: A Conversation Between Lutheranism and Orthodoxy”, by Ross [now Father Basil] Aden (St. Vladimir’s Theological Quarterly, v.38, #1).
“My most merciful and all-merciful God and Lord Jesus Christ, Who of thy great love didst come down and take flesh to save all: Again, O Savior, save me by thy grace, I pray Thee. For if Thou shouldst save me for my works, this would not be a grace, but rather an obligation, not a grace or a gift. Yea, my Christ who art abundant in generosity and ineffable in mercy, Thou hast said: He that believeth in Me shall live and shall never see death. If, then, faith in Thee saveth the desperate, lo, I believe; save me, for Thou art my God and my Creator. Let my faith be reckonded in place of works, and seek not deeds which would justify me. But may my faith alone suffice instead of my deeds; may it answer for me, may it justify me, may it make me a partaker of Thine eternal glory” (“Canon to Jesus”, from The Old Orthodox Prayer Book).


The three answers of Patriarch Jeremiah II to the Lutheran scholars in Tubingen (1576-1581)

A Commentary on Modern Ecumenical Dialogue With the Heterodox
What follows after these introductory remarks are excerpts from the famous correspondence between Jeremiah II, Patriarch of Constantinople, and the Lutheran scholars in Tübingen, Germany regarding their “Augsburg Confession.” The The Three Answers of Patriarch Jeremiah II to the Lutheran Scholars in Tübingen (1576-1581) enjoy the status of “symbolic books” in the Orthodox Church. That is, they are not of the same authority as the Symbols, esp. that of the Nicene-Constantinopolitan Creed. However, they are, with many other symbolic texts, “pending probable acceptance and ratification by an Orthodox Ecumenical Synod” (Mastrantonis, xvii). Thus, they are of great value and importance to the Church.
I have chosen these excerpts because they show how Orthodox “ecumenical dialogue” has proceeded in the past. What you will read is in sharp contrast to much of what passes for “Orthodox dialogue” with the heterodox today. There are many lessons to be learned herein. Note especially the continual appeal of this wise and venerable Patriarch to the Tradition of the Church as expressed by the Scriptures, the God-bearing Fathers, and the Ecumenical Synods. Note the clarity of thought, the firmness regarding the truth, yet also the kindness and condescension which he shows towards these Lutheran scholars. And finally, note in contrast to today’s endless “dialogues of love,” that the Patriarch cut off the correspondence after the third reply when it became clear that the issues had been exhausted and the heretics were unrepentant. In this he was faithful to the Scriptures: “A man that is a heretic, after the first and second admonition, abandon” (Titus 3:10).
Introductory Remarks. Numerous Orthodox traditionalists have written on the modern ecumenical problem of “dialogue with the heterodox.” Constantine Cavarnos gives a penetrating critical analysis of the fruit of this type of dialogue in his outstanding book Ecumenism Examined (Belmont, MA: Institute for Byzantine and Modern Greek Studies, 1996, emphases his):
The question arises: Why such a strenuous opposition to participation [in ecumenical dialogue]? A major part of the answer is briefly this: participation involved repeated “dialogues” with the heterodox, especially with Roman Catholic prelates; and history has taught the Orthodox, especially the Greeks, that such dialogues end for the Orthodox disastrously. (p. 44)
Those Orthodox who know well the history of their Church and the origin and evolution of the other forms of Christianity, and it diachronic relations with them, are quite aware of the great dangers in which Orthodox hierarchs involve the Church when they engage in “Ecumenical dialogues.” (p. 45)
Further, so far as dialogues with various Protestant denominations are concerned, history teaches us that they are destined to failure. The Orthodox Church has had many contacts with the Protestants through the centuries. But these have not resulted in Protestant denominations becoming Orthodox. The chances of success of dialogues with Protestant denominations were small in the past; today they appear to be nil. Conversion is a matter of individual spiritual maturation and choice, not a product of Ecumenical dialogues. (p. 46)
A very important fact to be noted … is that exposure again and again through dialogues to this minimalistic, relativistic mentality [of typical modern dialogue] has a blunting effect on the Orthodox phronema or mindset. One becomes infected by the virus—or venom (ois) as the Orthodox Church
   Fathers call it—of heresy. (p. 47-48)
The reason why St. Paul and the other holy men whom I have mentioned advise avoiding repeated religious dialogues with the heterodox is clearly the danger of being infected spiritually by heretical ideas—it is not to teach hatred towards the heterodox. Such ideas are compared to poison, the venom of snakes, causing spiritual death. (p. 52).
Also, in Orthodoxy and the Ecumenical Movement (Etna: Center for Traditionalist Orthodox Studies, 1997, forthcoming), Archimandrite Cyprian offers these brilliant and penetrating insights:
6. The [WCC] “Commentary” from Geneva also asserts that “ecumenism is not an entirely new phenomenon,” because it has, supposedly, “always been part of the Church’s life” ( 3).
This position of Father George Tsetsis is generally accepted by the entire spectrum of Orthodox ecumenists, and, indeed, was given collective expression at the so-called Third Pan-Orthodox Pre- Synodal Consultation (Chambesy, Geneva, 1986). [1] The attitude of this Consultation was certainly influenced directly by the findings of a “Symposium” of some thirty Orthodox ecumenists at the Valamo Monastery in Finland, which was organized by the WCC’s “Orthodox Working Group,” under the presidency of Father Tsetsis. [2]
a. The confusion here, however, is obvious, when we take into consideration the fundamental truth that the ecumenical movement is not just a question of “dialogues”; it quite simply includes “dialogues” which, conducted as they are in the context of the ecclesiological presuppositions of the ecumenical movement, are totally unacceptable from an Orthodox standpoint. Let us explain this in more detail.
The Holy Fathers, with purely Orthodox presuppositions, conducted dialogues with the heterodox— certainly not, as Father Tsetsis writes, “in order to achieve Christian unity,” or “to achieve their visible unity,” or “to give a common witness to the world” ( 3 and 4), but in order to return those outside the Orthodox Church to the “Unity of the Faith.” It is dialogues of precisely this kind that have truly always existed “at the epicenter of the pastoral concerns of the One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church from the very first days of her formation” ( 3).
On this account, it is inconceivable that the charismatic dialogues of the Saints of the Orthodox Church should be equated with the “dialogues” of the ecumenical movement:
It would undoubtedly be rash to assert that dialogue between the churches today has the same characteristics as it did in times past…. The external features of contemporary inter-church dialogue are completely new, since contemporary reality presents new characteristics in a revolutionary way…[and]…, consequently, of necessity today’s dialogue has not only a different form, but also different theological content. [3]
But there is an additional reason why the dialogues of old differ from the “dialogues” of our day:
Contemporary ecumenical dialogue, perhaps for the first time in the history of Christianity, is adopting almost the same principles as Greek dialogue, in terms of     both method and goals…. [4]
That is to say, it has adopted the principles of Socratic dialectic and Platonic dialogue; and in this way, contemporary ecumenical “dialogues” are clearly differentiated from the preaching and mission of the Fathers, that is, their charismatic, pastoral dialogue. (pp. 34-36)
Finally, I include these wise words from Metropolitan PHILARET’s “Protest to Patriarch Athenagoras on the Lifting of the Anathemas of 1054”:
The Tradition of the Church and the example of the Holy Fathers teach us that the Church holds no dialogue with those who have separated themselves from Orthodoxy. Rather than that, the Church addresses to them a monologue inviting them to return to its fold through rejection of any dissenting doctrines.
A true dialogue implies an exchange of views with a possibility of persuading the participants to attain an agreement. As one can perceive from the Encyclical “Ecclesiam Suam,” Pope Paul Vl understands the dialogue as a plan for our union with Rome with the help of some formula which would, however, leave unaltered its doctrines, and particularly its dogmatic doctrine about the position of the Pope in the Church. However, any compromise with error is foreign to the history of the Orthodox Church and to the essence of the Church. It could not bring a harmony in the confessions of the Faith, but only an illusory outward unity similar to the conciliation of dissident Protestant communities in the ecumenical movement.
1. “Completed Texts—Resolutions of the Third Pre-Synodal Pan-Orthodox Consultation (October 28-November 6, 1986)” [in Greek], Episkepsis, No. 369 (December 15, 1986), p. 14 (4. The Orthodox Church and the Ecumenical Movement [ 3]).
2. See Episkepsis, No. 176 (October 15, 1977), p. 4 [in Greek]: “Symposium of Orthodox Theologians in Valamo, Finland”; and pp. 9-15: “’The Ecumenical Nature of the Orthodox Witness’: Findings of the Orthodox Symposium in Valamo, Finland.”
Apart from other things, the “Symposium” approached the question of “the way in which the ecclesiology” of the Orthodox “is being accommodated to the context of this [i.e., the ecumenical] movement, both in the programs and in the activities which the WCC has undertaken.” In its reply, the “Symposium” emphasized that “participation…does not in principle constitute a revolution in the history of Orthodoxy,” but essentially contradicted itself by advocating the following idea: “What is, in some way, new today is the fact that this endeavor [viz., of applying the Apostolic Faith to new historical circumstances] is taking place jointly with other Christian bodies, with which there is not full communion”! (op.cit., p. 12).
3. Nicholas A. Matsoukas, The Ecumenical Movement: History and Theology [in Greek] ( Philosophical and Theological Library, No. 4; Thessaloniki: P. Pournaras Publications, 1991), pp. 11-12 (Introduction).
4. Ibid., p. 16. +++

 The excerpts that now follow are from Augsburg and Constantinople, by Fr. George Mastrantonis (Brookline, MA: Holy Cross Press, 1982). Though most of the theological discussion centers around the filioque, there were many other subjects covered. The book is highly recommended, and costs only $5.00.
The First Answer of Patriarch Jeremiah II of Constantinople, Concerning the Augsburg Confession, Sent to Tübingen [May 15] 1576
[p. 31] We received the letters which your love sent us and the booklet which contains the articles of your faith. We accept your love, and in compliance with your request we shall endeavor to clear the issues in which we agree and those in which we disagree. The expression of love is the fulfillment of the Law and Prophets [cf. Rom 13:10]. Indeed, it is fulfilled, we may say, not only by mere words, but proven by the very facts themselves and by deeds. Even as the most precious stones that need no words of praise, yet they are looked upon with admiration because of their own intrinsic worth by those who know their value. You have displayed such a love, most wise German men, bereft of pride in those matters which you have communicated to us.
In responding, then, we shall say nothing originating of ourselves, but (what is pertinent) from the holy seven Ecumenical Synods with which, as you write, you acquiesce and you accept. We shall further speak in accordance with the opinion of the divine teachers and exegetes of the divinely inspired Scripture, whom the catholic Church of Christ has received in common accord, for their words and miracles illuminated the universe like another sun [cf. Mt 13:43]. Because the Holy Spirit breathed on them and spoke through them. Indeed, their statements shall remain unshaken forever because they are founded on the Word of the Lord.
The Church of Christ, according to Saint Paul, is the “pillar and bulwark of the truth” [I Tim 3:15]. And according to the divine promise of the Lord, the gates of Hades “shall not prevail against it” [Mt 16:18]. And although some are carried away by portentous thoughts nevertheless, this Church stands secure and steadfast, solidly supported on the rock and on those other teachings on which the truth has been established [cf. Eph 2:20]. For those who are of the Church of Christ, are wholly of the truth; but those who are not wholly of the truth, are also not of the Church of Christ. Therefore, we follow in the path of truth and offer the sound word for the upbuilding of the true faith. And with this we beseech the prayers of those who love the Lord, so that our mind may be guided by His divine grace in the path of peace [cf. Lk 1:79]…
[29. An Invitation To Follow the Holy Synods, pp. 102-3]
All these things which we have spoken, beloved, are founded, as you very well know, upon the inspired Scriptures, according to the interpretation and the sound teaching and explanation of our wise and holy theologians [the Fathers of the Church]. For we may not rely upon our own interpretation and understand and interpret any of the words of the inspired Scripture except in accord with the theologizing Fathers who have been approved by the Holy Synods, [inspired] by the Holy Spirit for a pious purpose, lest our thought, like that of Proteus move around here and there, deviating from the correct evangelical teaching, from true wisdom and from prudence. But someone will say, how can these things be corrected? In this way: with the help of God.
Let no one undertake or think anything contrary to the decisions of the Holy Apostles and the Holy Synods. He who uprightly keeps this principle will be a partner with us in our rejoicing, a member of our community and one who holds the same faith. But what communion would one have with us, who rejects the aforementioned canons and opposes the Apostles and shamelessly turns himself against the Holy Apostles? What part could he have with us? Somewhere one of the teachers [of the Church] says to those who strive to be pious: “One who speaks contrary to the things which have been decided—even though he is trustworthy [cf. l Cor 4:2; 9:1], lives as a virgin, does wonders, and prophesies—is a wolf in sheep’s clothing, who causes the ruin of the sheep.” Another teacher says: “It shakes loose something that seemed good to the God-bearing Fathers, that cannot be called administration, but violation and betrayal of the dogma.” Still another teacher [Saint Basil] says:
   One who has the judgment of Christ before his eyes, who has seen the great danger that threatens those who dare to subtract from or add to those things which have been handed down by the Spirit, must not be ambitious to innovate, but must content himself with those things which have been proclaimed by the saints. [Against Eunomius 2, PG 29.573-652]
Therefore, since so many and such important of our theologizing Fathers forbid thinking otherwise, there is only one correction: conform to the Holy Synod and follow the canons of the Apostles and, thus, follow Christ in all things.
[30. Closing Salutations]
O most wise German men and beloved children of our humble self, since, as sensible men, you wish with your whole heart to enter our most Holy Church, we, as affectionate fathers, willingly accept your love and friendliness, if you will follow the Apostolic and Synodal decrees in harmony with us and will submit to them. For then you will indeed be in communion with us, and having openly submitted to our holy and catholic church of Christ, you will be praised by all prudent men. ln this way the two churches will become one by the grace of God, we shall live together hereafter and we will exist together in a God-pleasing way until we attain the heavenly kingdom. May all of us attain it in Christ Jesus, to whom belongs glory unto the ages. Amen.
Written with the help of God, in Constantinople, in the year of the Incarnation of our Lord Jesus Christ 1576, 15 May, at the venerable Patriarchal Monastery of the Pammakaristos [All-Blessed Ever-Virgin Mary].
Jeremiah, by the mercy of God, Archbishop of Constantinople, New Rome, and Ecumenical Patriarch
The Second Answer of Patriarch Jeremiah II of Constantinople to Tübingen, 1579, Sent to the Most Wise Theologians, Residents of the Famous City of Tübingen
[pp. 151-4] Jeremiah, by the mercy of God, Archbishop of Constantinople, New Rome, and Ecumenical Patriarch.
Our Humble Self received your sagacious second letters which you have sent concerning the procession of the Holy Spirit and other theological questions. We might have answered earlier had we not been traveling in the West and the Peloponnesos. We, therefore, thank God, the giver of all good things, and rejoice over the many other benefits, not the least of which is that you, for the most part, agree with our Church. So may it be also in the matters in which we disagree, that we may piously agree, by the will of God, who perfects all things for what is most beneficial.
Concerning the Procession of the Holy Spirit
The first matter, then, in which we disagree is the procession of the Holy Spirit. Wherefore, my beloved [spiritual] sons, although this matter was brought to the fore many times, and accurately examined by every related canon of the Church, and by every spiritual Lydian stone, it was obviously analyzed and clarified so much so that it has no further need of research.
And yet, even though we are preoccupied with many and continuing responsibilities, we are condescending to you in [Christian] love, no less than a father would, and abundantly as in the myth of [armed] Athena, who will deliberate still further with you for your edification, supporting our position with holy testimonies as the God-inspired Fathers received them.
For it is a stipulation of the holy and Sixth Ecumenical Synod directing that the Holy Scriptures be understood as the tried and proved teachers of the Church have interpreted them and not as those who, by their own sophistry, wish to  interpret such matters superfluously. Read also the stipulation of the 19th canon:
And if any controversy in regard to Scripture shall have been raised, let them not interpret it otherwise than as the luminaries and doctors of the Church have expounded it. And in these let them glory rather than in composing things out of their own heads lest, through their lack of skill, they may depart from what is fitting.
[1. Distinction between Procession and Sending]
Let us hearken, I entreat you, to what will be said with good will and in the fear of God. The procession of the Holy Spirit is one thing, while the sending is another. For on the one hand, the procession is the natural existence of the Holy Spirit, directly alone from the Father, who is the cause. On the other hand, the sending is a sending forth on a mission in time in which the Son also sends the Spirit, as is the case here, and the Spirit also sends the Son, as it is said, “the Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because the Lord hath anointed me; he has sent me to preach glad tidings to the poor” [Is 61:1; cf. Lk 4:181. How then and why do you innovate and say that the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father and from the son? If the Spirit did not proceed from the Father alone, then the Lord would have said concerning the Paraclete, whom I and the Father sent forth just as He frequently said “whom I shall send” [Jn 15:26]. To begin with, then, the undeceiving mouth of Christ declares that the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father [cf. Jn 15:26]. Second, even Paul himself in the Epistle to Titus reiterates: “Not because of deeds done by us in righteousness, but in virtue of his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal in the Holy Spirit, which he poured out upon us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior” [3:5-6]. What is more explicit than this? The Lord has said, “Behold, I send the promise of my Father upon you” [Lk 24:49; cf. Acts 2:14; Jn 14:26; 20:21-23]. Paul subsequently asserts: “which he poured out upon us richly” [Tit 3:6]…
[4. Difference between ‘Ek’ and ‘Dia’]
… Moreover, we have previously mentioned that here is a very great difference between the sending to the created world and the procession which is timeless and eternal, in which He alone directly proceeds from the Father, as we said, and as we will more fully explain with the help of God in the course of our exposition. Consequently, the great Athanasios, whom you presented as your advocate, does not help you. Instead, he argues against you for he allies himself with the Lord and with all the God-filled and wise theologians of the Church. Therefore, he ridicules those of contrary opinion, that is, against these pneumatomachs [adverseries of the Spirit], by directing this jest at them: “If the Holy Spirit is not a creature, then He is a son; thus, there will be found to be two sons and brothers, or rather, the Logos will be a son, the Spirit will be a grandson, and the Father will be a grandfather.” These are their nonsensical prattlings, and that is why he ridicules them.
[5. The Interpretation by the Theologians of ‘Ek’ and ‘Dia’ Is Incorrect]
In spite of these things, our humble self is greatly astonished at your sagacity. When you write in your second reply, and we quote: “If there is one who believes that the Holy Spirit alone is from the Father, and through the Son, but does not proceed from the Son, let him know that he believes the impossible; for these are contradictory to each other, and cancel one the other.” However, those things which we profess are not impossible, nor do they contradict each other, nor do they cancel one the other, as you say. For the truth never conflicts with the truth. And although not fully treated, this much is sufficient for the present concerning these matters. However, I diligently researched the matter and found but two main differences between us on the subject. First, that you understand the sending and the procession to be one and the same things. And for this reason you say incorrectly: “If the Spirit is sent by the Son, then it follows that He also proceeds from him.” …

 [13. Irrational Results from the Filioque, pp. 162-4]
See how many absurd conclusions from every side trail those who say that the Spirit proceeds both from the Father and the Son! Do not desire to think incorrectly concerning the Lord. For if the Latins, that is, the Church of Rome, and others can produce witnesses who are acceptable such as Augustine, Ambrose, Jerome, and some others, we also can produce many more and even more trustworthy Fathers to speak up for the truth. Who are they? They are the God-bearing Fathers who distinguished themselves in the holy Synods, who deified the earth, and who through miracles and good works shined brighter than the sun and declared that the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father alone. They ordered heavy penalties against those who might think otherwise following the anathema of the Apostle Paul who explicitly declared: “If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to that which you received, let him be accursed” [Gal 1:9].
[14. The Ecumenical Synods Would Not Remain Silent]
If the Son was the emitter and the cause of the Spirit, how could the Ecumenical Synods have remained silent concerning such a most necessary dogma? It is very clear, therefore, from this that some persons gave way to their own wills and affixed this addition after the holy synods had made their definition. For if this had not happened, there would not have been a consensus of all present, since the most reverend primates of Rome were present in the seven holy Synods.
[15. Scriptural Proofs and Not Human Wisdom]
Even though those who spoke before us had devised some manner in which to overthrow sophisms, as we said, by resounding a wooden peg on wooden pegs, nevertheless, we cannot order our own thinking by persuasion of human wisdom. But rather we would hold to the consistency of scriptural proofs. For Paul says: “Let no one make a prey of you by philosophy and empty deceit” [Col 2:8]. From this truly divine saying we are taught that true philosophy never contradicts theology. For truth can never contradict truth. This is obvious from the following: “and empty deceit” [Col 2:8]. Consequently, the wisdom which is not empty serves, rather than opposes, theology. And you, then, O my beloved children in Christ, by the grace of God, having no empty wisdom, are constrained to advocate a theology whose leader is not an angel nor a man but totally the Lord himself. And, as a consequence, [leaders are] the divine shepherds and teachers of the Church who are in agreement with Him [the Lord]. Of these [Fathers], among others, the Fathers, also, of the holy Seventh Ecumenical Synod have declared this, too: “we anathematize those who add or eliminate anything.”‘
Again, neither should this be overlooked, beloved, that from the time of the Seventh Ecumenical Synod seventy-five years had passed when, during the sovereignty of Basil the Macedonian, a local synod had convened in Constantinople. The reason this holy synod was summoned at that particular time was, for which everything was wrought by the will of the pope and the urging of the emperor: [1] to install the most holy Photios on the throne of the Queen City [of Constantinople], and [2] to banish those who under some kind of guile dared to claim that the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Son, also. At least, then, in this synod the most holy Pope John, through a bishop and cardinal named Peter, and also Paul and Eugene, his bishops and locum tenens [authorized representatives mutually agreed and pronounced anathema on those who would dare in the future to add to or delete [anything from the Creed]. But further, this same Pope John, following this, sent a letter to Photios himself saying:
Again I make this clear to Your Reverence in reference to this article, concerning which the scandals took place among the churches of Christ; be on notice from us that we do not simply say this, but we also say that those who originally took courage by their own folly to do this, we pronounce as being transgressors of the divine words and perverters of the theology of the Master Christ and of the Holy Fathers, and we rank them together with Judas.”
Furthermore, we are reassured by the fact that from that time up to the time of Christopher, 130 years have passed
 during which all the most reverend primates of Rome have agreed with us.
[16. The Utterances of the Ecumenical Synods]
But why would anyone repeat these things if the concept of the truth which is sought concerning the Spirit is made admirably clearer: [1] by the utterances of the holy Seven Ecumenical Synods in which the Holy Fathers, who numbered about two thousand, struggled which is more than sufficient evidence; and [2] by the utterances of the Lord himself. Indeed, it is right to respect the doctrines and the laws of those saints, to marvel at and cleave unto them. For no less were they [the Fathers] renowned for their illustrious lives or the power of their preaching than as shining stars who enkindled the piety not only of one nation, but, indeed, of as many nations as the visible sun entirely illuminates… .
[37. Filioque Not Decreed by Synods, pp. 172-4]
This, however, is a fact, as we have said, that the two thousand participants of the seven [Ecumenical] Synods did not formulate the opinion that the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Son, also. Among these, indeed, were the primates and luminaries of the Roman Church, who without contradiction voted in support of the definition of the faith [i.e., that the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father alone]. And I believe that the three, whom we mentioned above, had also truly acquiesced. But also, a mutual doctrinaire agreement was adopted by them to neither eliminate from the definitions of the faith, nor, indeed, to add to them And this definition, that is, the Creed proclaims: [I believe] “and in the Holy Ghost, the Lord, the giver of life, who proceedeth from the Father,” etc.
[38. Pope Gregory the Great Author of the Dialogues as Pope (A.D. 590-604)]
Also, Saint Gregory [the Great], the Dialogos [A.D. 590-604], who lived not long after the Sixth [Ecumenical] Synod,
theologized in the Latin language and in writings that the Holy Spirit proceeds alone from the Father.
[39. Pope Zacharias (A.D. 741-752) Stressed the Procession from the Father]
Also, Pope Zacharias one hundred fifteen years later, translating this Gregory’s writings into the Greek language, says: “the Paraclete Spirit proceeds from the Father and abides in the Son,” having learned this from [John] the Forerunner, who [at the time of our Lord’s baptism] saw the Spirit descend as a dove and rest on Him.
[40. Popes Leo III (A.D. 795-816) and Benedict III (A.D. 855-858) Decreed That Creed Should Be Recited in Greek—without the Filioque]
Moreover, Leo and Benedict, who later became great hierarchs of Rome, decreed that the Symbol of Faith should be recited in Greek during the Divine Liturgy in Rome and in other churches under their jurisdiction, so that the limitations of dialect, as it is claimed, furnishes no pretext for error. Indeed, it was the creed of the Second Ecumenical Synod [A.D. 381] in which this belief was clarified by the Holy Fathers:
And [I believe] in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life, who proceedeth from the Father, who with the Father and the Son together is worshipped and glorified, who spake by the prophets; in one holy catholic and apostolic Church;… I look for the resurrection of the dead and the life of the ages to come. Amen.
Moreover, this same [Pope] Leo opened the treasury of the apostolic church of the Romans and drew forth two
  plaques which were stored in the treasury together with the sacred “treasures. These plaques have inscribed on them the holy edition of faith [Creed] in Greek letters and words. Pope Leo sanctioned them to be recited before the Roman multitude.
[41. Newly Elected Popes Reaffirm Creed without Filioque]
Moreover, up to the time of the pious Sergios I, Patriarch of Constantinople [A.D. 610-638], the hierarchs of Rome, upon assuming their hierarchical ministry when they sent forth enthronement letters of introduction expressing their own religious beliefs to all the patriarchs, also included in them the Symbol of Faith [Creed] without any change in its original form. Is it necessary to further say more?
The Son and Master, Christ, rules and mystically ordains that the Holy Spirit will proceed from the Father, but absolutely not from himself [Son]. I deem it worthy that no one, then will seek another more excellent teacher unless he desires to offend and to pursue the argument to no useful purpose; for he will never come to a definite conclusion even if he will invent many other subtleties expressing, perhaps, these and similar sayings from the Holy Gospels, such as: “but when the Counselor comes” [Jn l5:26], “he will take what is mine” [Jn 16:14]; “He breathed on them, and said to them” [Jn 20:22]; “God has sent the Spirit of his Son” [Gal 4:6]; and “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me” [Lk 4:18]. For they are far from attaining such an aim, having been interpreted differently by the great and divine Ecumenical Teachers, as we have witnesses and have been informed. And all these, to state it briefly, express association and relationships, but are not manifestations of procession. Therefore, it follows that the unity and the equality among the three hypostases is proven.
[42. Plea to Theologians To Keep the Truths of the Creed Undefiled]
Therefore, for the sake of God let it be; cease to utter words about that which are remote from the truth, and accept the holy doctrine, as we have made clear knowing full well that the Spirit proceeds from the Father. And, thus, concerning this subject, let us continue to be friends and brothers in Christ, abiding in Orthodoxy together, keeping the Confession of Faith unfragmented, unshakable, and steadfast, respecting the Holy Fathers and [keeping] in respectful awe of Christ himself, who has, thus, specifically dogmatized concerning the Holy Spirit, as we have said. Do not, for the sake of human glory, perhaps as pious persons, betray piety and your salvation after being taught by the preaching of so many and great saints concerning the truth of this doctrine. Indeed, we have reminded your esteemed selves of these matters not in the spirit of argument and not with ambiguity, but in a devout manner with the help of God. Indeed, may the Paraclete himself, the Spirit who proceeds from the Father, strengthen the thoughts according to His will in hope and in faith for the fulfillment of the commandments of Christ, and lead us to think correctly about this matter of procession of the Holy Spirit and about all other matters. Thus, by pleasing the Trinity, the cause of all things, through upright thinking and good deeds, you may achieve the blessedness which is reserved for the Orthodox faithful by the grace of Christ to whom belong all glory, power and majesty forever and ever, amen.
[E, 14. Hold the Traditions of the Church, pp. 197-8]
Therefore, brethren, let us stand on the rock of faith and on the tradition of the Church, and not remove the boundaries which our Holy Fathers have set. Thus, we will not give the opportunity to those who wish to innovate and destroy the edifice of the holy, catholic and apostolic Church of God. For if permission is granted to everyone who wants it, little by little the whole body of the Church will be destroyed. Do not, brethren, do not, oh Christ-loving children of the Church of God; rather let us worship and adore the founder and creator, God, who due to His nature alone is to be worshipped. Let us venerate the Holy Theotokos not as God, but as the Mother of God, according to the flesh. And let us also venerate the saints as the chosen friends of God who have greater access to Him [God]. For if men venerate mortal kinds who frequently are impious as well as sinners, also rulers and others, and
  according to the Divine Apostle: “Remind them to be submissive to rulers and authorities, to be obedient” [Tit 3:1], “pay all of them their dues,” etc. [Rom 13:7], how much more is it necessary to worship the King of Kings who alone is master over nature and also over the passions of His servants and kings? David, also, in Ps 44 says: “Thou didst make [me] them head of nations” [17:43; cf. Ps 18:43 RSV]. They [the saints] were given power over demons and sicknesses, and they shall reign together with Christ. Even their shadow alone drove away demons and sicknesses [cf. Acts 5:l5-16]. Therefore, we should not consider the icon weaker and less honored than the shadow. For [the icon] truly is a sketch of the original. Brethren, the Christian is a person of faith. He who comes in faith gains much. But he who separates himself [from faith] is like a raging sea churned by the wind and blown about and who will receive nothing. All the saints by faith have pleased God: they who confirm it [faith] and prove it to everyone by good works.
[15. Accept Traditions of Church with Sincerity of Heart]
Let us accept, then, the tradition of the Church with a sincere heart and not a multitude of rationalizations. For God created man to be [morally] upright; instead they [humans] sought after diverse ways of rationalizing. Let us not allow ourselves to learn a new kind of faith which is condemned by the tradition of the Holy Fathers. For the Divine Apostle says, “if anyone is preaching to you a Gospel contrary to that which you received, let him be accursed” [Gal 1:9].
[G. CONCLUSION: 1. Invitation to Accept Orthodox Faith without Innovations, p. 210]
Finally, having understood [Greek] Orthodoxy from the Holy Scriptures, come enter into it with all your souls, O wise and sagacious men, and put far away from you every irrational innovation, which the host of Ecumenical Teachers and of the Church has not accepted. For thus, both you and we will be worthy of blessings. You, as obeying your leaders and submitting to them [cf. Heb 13:17] and not “disputing about words which does no good” [2 Tim 2:14]. And we, as having spoken in the ears of those who have listened and sowing in the good soil [cf. Lk 8:8]. And since we have agreed on almost all of the main subjects, it is not necessary for you to interpret and understand some of the passages of the Scripture in any other way than that in which the luminaries of the Church and Ecumenical Teachers have interpreted. They themselves interpreted Scripture according to Christ our God, who is truth itself. And we, that is, our Church, keep these truths and uphold them. For nothing else is the cause of dissension than this and only this, which when you correct it, we will be, with the grace of God, in agreement; and we will become one in the Faith, the glory of God. For having researched diligently some of the passages of Holy Scripture, which you referred to in your first and second letters which you sent to us, we saw clearly that you had misinterpreted them, perhaps in following your new teachers. For this reason we again entreat you to understand the passages as the Ecumenical Teachers of the Church have interpreted them and which interpretations the seven ecumenical synods and the other regional ones have ratified. For as we have already said, it is not necessary to rise up and remove everlasting boundaries which the Fathers have established, so that we will not violate the definition which was mentioned at the beginning of the Sixth Synod and be subject to penalties. Therefore, if up to the present something has been violated, you who are prudent may correct it from now, and you will be worthy of praise by God, as well as by men and by us. For to err is human, but the correction is angelic and salvific. May you take care of this, also, so that the grace and the mercy of God be with you.
In the month of May, Indiction 7, 1579. Jeremiah [Archbishop of Constantinople]
The Third Answer of Patriarch Jeremiah II of Constantinople to Tübingen, 1581
Jeremiah, by the mercy of God, Archbishop of Constantinople, New Rome, and Ecumenical Patriarch…  

pp. 289-90] 0 most wise German men, the book you sent to us has arrived. In it you again set forth supposedly plausible reasons and evidence, saying that you have not completely received satisfaction from our answers sent in response to your previous letters. You also say that somehow not even your thinking has been set straight not only from Holy Scripture, but neither from the Holy Fathers of the Church each after having been taught the truer and the better.
But after saying this you bring in Saint Augustine in book 2, On the Trinity, and you strongly maintain that the Holy Spirit proceeds not only from the Father, but also from the Son himself. And you decide that the Holy Greek Fathers agree with you in the matter of the procession of the Holy Spirit from the Son, even though they differ in literal expressions. They are Athanasios in his treatise, The Incarnation of the Word; Cyril [of Alexandria] in his First Treatise to Palladios, Epiphanios in the Homily Ancoratos; Basil the Great in his fifteenth epistle Against Eunomios, who agrees with them; [Gregory] Nazianzos in the Fourth Theological Oration, which is the Second Concerning the Son; Cyril [of Alexandria] again in Thesaurus, and Athanasios again in his Letters to Serapion. We wonder, then, if indeed by abandoning the obvious and explicit passages of Scripture and the Fathers, which distinctly state and submit that the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father alone, which may have another meaning and have been understood by them [the Fathers] in another way, you might have changed to serve your own purpose! Accordingly, indeed, is also the matter of sending forth, which according to Augustine, as well as to the truth of the matter, has nothing in common with the procession. And the same is true concerning the many other passages which these Fathers have of necessity and fittingly used in speaking against those who alienated the Spirit from the essence of the Son. They surely did not use them with the intention of showing that the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Son also. For this reason we had purposed to remain absolutely silent in response to your replies and give no answer to you. For you have quite plainly altered Holy Scripture as well as the interpretation of the above-mentioned holy men according to your own will. We have Paul to exhort us: “a man who is factitious, after admonishing him once or twice, have nothing more to do with him” [Titus 3:10]. However, since by silence it might appear that we agree with you and that perhaps you correctly hold and understand these matters, we run the risk of having it thought that Holy Scripture and these holy men [Fathers] agree with you on this subject. By defending them we reiterate these matters again, although we have been well informed by your letters that you will never be able to agree with us or rather, we should say, with the truth… .
But since you are content with some of the sacraments, even though you have dangerously distorted and changed the written teachings of the Old and New [Testament] to your own purpose, you further say that some of them are not sacraments, but only traditions, not having been established in Holy [scriptural] Texts. But you oppose them in every way, just as chrismation, which was accepted even by Saint John Chrysostom. Some others you drag along as does a torrent. And then you call yourself theologians!
[Confession and the Monastic Life]
You reckon the invocation of the saints, their icons, and their sacred relics as futile. You reject their veneration, taking as a pretext the Hebrew source. Moreover, you also reject confession to one another. In addition, you reject the angelic, monastic life. And about these matters we say that the Holy [Scripture] passages concerning them have not been interpreted by such theologians as you are, for neither Saint Chrysostom nor any other of the blessed and true theologians interpreted as if they were dragged along by a torrent. But, indeed, he [Chrysostom] and the holy man after him, being full of the Holy Spirit who performed supernatural miracles while they were living and after they died, interpreted [the Holy Scriptures] as they did; and they received such traditions, and they handed them down successively and gave them to us as indispensable and pious [sacraments]. Some of these even Old Rome also keeps and acquiesces with us. From whence have you reckoned better than Old and New Rome? Indeed, have you forsaken the interpretations of the true theologians and considered your own as more preferable? From the source of the Hebrew tradition we learn from history that contempt for the holy icons and sacred relics had its origin from
the Hebrews. The schisms of the Lutherans there, which are many and various, were indeed caused and spread by some Hebrews, as it has been broached abroad feigning piety. And already, as you see, they have taken root and have opened the way for more evil as day by day they grow worse. Being completely not in communion with them [the Hebrews], we covet and, indeed, unshakably, the sacraments of our Church. We closely adhere to the teachings which have been uttered by the successors of the God-preaching Holy Apostles. We consider their interpretations as more precious than all the gold and gems. Indeed, we invoke the all-holy saints not as saviors and redeemers, God forbid, for only One is the Savior and Redeemer, the Christ; but we who are sinners and in the midst of evils hold them forth as intermediaries who have completed the journey of life in a holy and satisfactory manner and have departed to God, and who richly intercede for us. And of course, we are not committing sin by continually pursuing this aim. For by venerating their holy icons and their relics which cause thousands of healings to those who on occasion approach in faith, we reap extraordinary beneficences from them, and we are illumined in soul and body. We confess also to one another, according to the Holy Scriptures. We revere the monastic and angelic life. We pray that those who lift up these burdens do not turn back at all, if indeed they would choose to be properly prepared for the kingdom of heaven.
Therefore, we request that from henceforth you do not cause us more grief, nor write to us on the same subject if you should wish to treat these luminaries and theologians of the Church in a different manner. You honor and exalt them in words, but you reject them in deeds. For you try to prove our weapons which are their holy and divine discourses as unsuitable. And it is with these documents that we would have to write and contradict you. Thus, as for you, please release us from these cares. Therefore, going about your own ways, write no longer concerning dogmas; but if you do, write only for friendship’s sake. Farewell.
Jeremiah, Patriarch of Constantinople Issued in the year 1581, June 6 Protonotarios Theodosios
The following is from “Let Not Your Heart Be Troubled,” by Igumen Luke. Orthodox Life, vol. 42., no. 4, July-August, 1992, pp. 9-10:
Speaking to a large group of Orthodox hierarchy gathered at the Phanar in 1992, the Patriarch of Jerusalem, Diodoros I, said the following: “Likewise, we must also make a decision about cutting off the Theological Dialogue with the Roman Catholics and the heterodox in general. Otherwise, the Orthodox people will have doubts about the assumptions and aims of the present Assembly. With good reason the Orthodox faithful will say: ‘Why do we condemn certain Orthodox groups [those in resistance to ecumenism] bluntly and make no mention at all of a dialogue of love with them, at the same time that the Orthodox Church engages in dialogues with the heretics?’ How do we justify the expression that we must abstain from communion with such groups, when we embrace the heterodox, whether opportunely or inopportunely?”




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Moscow, May 3, 2017


Met. Ambrose of Kalavryta of the Greek Orthodox Church has sent an open letter to Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew concerning last year’s council on Crete, the main points of which have been published on AgionOros.
The metropolitan opens the letter reporting on “the deep sorrow and astonishment” he felt when he learned that the patriarch had called him out in a letter to Greek primate Archbishop Ieronymos, calling for him to “protect” the Church from “the radical opinions of the metropolitans of Kalavryta and Piraeus.”
The prelate stressed that such a letter could be considered a canonical violation and an “attempt to implement a primacy of authority in relation to the brother Local Churches,” although, in fact, the patriarch of Constantinople has the “primacy of honor, not of authority and worth.”
In his view, the main result of the “notorious” Crete Council, which was neither holy nor great in his estimation, is that the Orthodox Church has divided into factions, and the Christian flock has been brought to confusion and turmoil. “In fact, a new schism is developing,” Met. Ambrose writes.
In his view, especially erroneous was the recognition of the title “Church” for other non-Orthodox Christian confessions in an Orthodox dogmatic statement, which should aim to express the Church’s own self-understanding. “So now there are many Churches? Then why do we confess ‘One Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church’ in the Creed? Isn’t this an ecclesiological contradiction, or even a serious dogmatic distortion?” he asks. What is the purpose of the ecumenical dialogues promoted by the patriarch, and justifying calling non-Orthodox communities “Churches,” he wonders.
The metropolitan goes on to stress that he will never agree with such an “ecclesiological deviation.”
“We will not renounce you, beloved Orthodoxy!” he exclaims.
In the final section of his letter, Met. Ambrose calls upon Pat. Bartholomew “not to insist upon the heretical and blasphemous position that the papists and Protestants make up the ‘CHURCH.’ They are simply branches, which have fallen from the Church tree. Today the Church is only the Orthodox Church!”
He further calls for the document “Relations of the Orthodox Church With the Rest of the Christian World” to be revised in order to avoid a schism, and for the patriarch to cease persecuting those who disagree with the decisions of the Cretan council, and to hold a new council that would re-consider the question of the relation of the various Christian confession to the true Orthodox Church of Christ.
03 / 05 / 2017

Excerpts from The Soul After Death


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 (1896), 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 me. I beg you also, when you will serve the Liturgy, to commemorate my parents”—and be 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 and prayer a home for the dead are beneficial for 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.”
St. Gregory the Great, in answering in his Dialogues 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 during life 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 this 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” (Dialogues IV: 57, 60, pp. 266, 272-3).
St. Gregory gives several examples of the dead appearing to the living and asking for or thanking them for the celebration of the Liturgy for their repose; once, also, a captive whom his wife believed dead and for whom she had the Liturgy celebrated on certain days, returned from captivity and told her how he had been released from his chains on some days—the very days when the Liturgy had been offered for him. (Dialogues IV: 57, 59, pp. 267, 270).
Protestants generally find the Church’s prayer for the dead to be somehow incompatible with the necessity of finding salvation first of all in this life: “If you can be saved by the Church after death, then why bother to struggle or find faith in this Life? Let us eat, drink, and be merry…” Of course, no one holding such a philosophy has ever attained salvation by the Church’s prayer, and it is evident that such an argument is quite artificial and even hypocritical. The Church’s prayer cannot save anyone who does not wish salvation, or who never offered any struggle for it himself during his lifetime. In a sense, one might say that the prayer of the Church or of individual Christians for a dead person is but another result of that person’s life: he would not be prayed for unless he had done something during his lifetime to inspire such prayer after his death.
St. Mark of Ephesus also discusses this question of the Church’s prayer for the dead and the improvement it brings in their state, citing the example of the prayer of St. Gregory the Dialogist for the Roman Emperor Trajan—a prayer inspired by a good deed of this pagan Emperor.
*These names had been unknown before this vision. Several years after the canonization, St. Theodosius’ own Book of Commemoration was found in the monastery where he had once been abbot, which confirmed these names and corroborated the vision. See the Life of Elder Alexis in Pravoslavny Blagovestnik, San Francisco, 1967, no.I (in Russian).
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 in particular 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, 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 whe 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 what it 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 for their souls. Before us all stands that same path, and how we shall then wish that we would he 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 on the Departure of the Soul,” which are 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. The funeral need not be performed elaborately, but most definitely it should be complete, without abbreviations; think at this time not of yourself and your convenience, but of the deceased, with whom you are parting forever. If there are several of the deceased in church at the same time, don’t refuse if it be proposed to serve the funeral for all together. It is better for a funeral to be served for two or more of the deceased at the same time, when the prayer of the close ones who have gathered will be all the more fervent, than for several funerals to be served in succession and the services, owing to lack of time and energy, abbreviated; because each word of prayer for the reposed is like a drop of water to a thirsty man. 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. Usually, in churches where there are daily services, the deceased whose funerals have been served there are commemorated for forty days and longer. But if the funeral is in a church where there are no daily services, the relatives themselves 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. But the forty-day memorial must he begun immediately after death, when the soul is especially in need of help in prayer, and therefore one should begin commemoration in the nearest place where there are daily services.
Let us take care for those who have departed into the other world before as, in order to do for them all that we can, remembering that “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy.”
One day this whole corruptible world will come to an end, and the everlasting Kingdom of Heaven will dawn, where the souls of the redeemed, joined to their resurrected bodies, will dwell forever with Christ, immortal and incorruptible. Then the partial joy and glory which souls know even now in heaven will be replaced by the fullness of joy of the new creation for which man was made; but those who did not accept the salvation which Christ came to earth to offer mankind will be tormented forever-together with their resurrected bodies—in hell. St. John Damascene, in the final chapter of his Exact Exposition of the Orthodox Faith, well describes this final state of the soul after death:
“We also believe in the resurrection of the dead, for there really will be one, there will be a resurrection of the dead. Now, when we say resurrection, we mean a resurrection of bodies. For resurrection is a raising up again of one who has fallen. But, since souls are immortal, how shall they rise again? Well, if death is defined as a separation of soul from body, the resurrection is the perfect rejoining of soul and body, and the raising up again of the dissolved and fallen living being. Therefore, the very body which is corrupted and dissolved will itself rise up incorruptible. For He Who formed it in the beginning from the dust of the earth is not incapable of raising it up again after it has again been dissolved and returned to the earth whence it was taken by the decision of its Creator …
“Now, if the soul had engaged alone in the contest for virtue, then it would also be crowned alone; and if It alone had indulged in pleasures, then it alone could be justly punished. However, since the soul followed neither virtue nor vice without the body, it will be just for them to receive their recompense together …
“And so, with our souls again united to our bodies. which will have become incorrupt and put off corruption, we shall rise again and stand before the terrible judgment seat of Christ. And the devil and his demons, and his man, which is to say, the Antichrist, and the impious and sinners will be given over to everlasting fire, which will not be a material fire such as we are accustomed to, but a fire such as God might know. And those who have done good will shine like the sun together with the angels unto eternal life with our Lord Jesus Christ, ever seeing Him and being seen, enjoying the unending bliss which is from Him, and praising Him together with the Father and the Holy Spirit unto the endless ages of ages. Amen.”*
*Exact Exposition, Book Four, ch. 27, in The Fathers of the Church vol. 37, 1958, pp. 401, 402, 406.
From Fr. Seraphim Rose, The Soul After Death (Platina, CA: St. Herman of Alaska Brotherhood, 1980), pp. 197-203.

A Christian’s Responsibility to Acquire Knowledge of God.

A Christian’s Responsibility to Acquire Knowledge of God

A Christian’s Responsibility to Acquire Knowledge of God

      As Christians, our first and basic obligation to God is to love Him. Man, however, will not and cannot love those whom he does not know. It follows that we must therefore know God. Sadly, this responsibility is one of the least observed today. It was different in earlier times when there was a marked interest in theological questions, and the thirst for religious knowledge deeply seized Christian souls. St. Gregory the Theologian testifies that in his time even tradeswomen at the market, instead of selling their wares preferred to argue about the consubstantiality and seeming substantiality’ of the Son of God. Now, many intellectuals, even among those writing and speaking about various purely religious topics, are positively afraid of any kind of theology. They consider all its questions and clarifications as rather scholastic and far removed from life.

 From here stems the dreadful religious ignorance of so many of us in not knowing the basic truths of our faith. A majority of educated Russians are able to enumerate without a mistake all the rulers of the House of Romanoff, the principal Russian writers, etc. It is considered shameful for an intelligent person not to know this. But ask them to name the most important dogmas of the Christian faith or the names of Christ’s twelve Apostles (who did immeasurably more for man than any tsar or writer), in nine out of ten cases the results will be sad indeed. What is worse, ignorance in this area is not still considered shameful, and people admit to it with a light heart.

One cannot deny that it is of utmost importance for each Christian to know the basic content of his faith and its fundamental truths, about the dogma of the Trinity, Divine Love, the Incarnation, the redemptive death and resurrection of the Saviour, about the future fate of the world and of man, etc. These questions are neither alien nor wearisome for man, but full of life and significance, insofar as the very meaning and destiny of his life are decided by them.

    All these questions, of course, connect to one: does God exist and Who is He? These questions are of exceptional importance even for people with little faith. But for true believers, to know God is to know what He means for us and, furthermore, to know what His will is in regard to us. This knowledge is the basic, most important and most valuable there is. Christian life itself is determined first of all precisely by the knowledge of God. The Lord Himself, while praying to His Father before His suffering, said that “this is life eternal, that they might know Thee, the only True God and Jesus Christ Whom Thou hast sent” (John 18:3).

     From all this we see that our immediate Christian obligation is to know God. The way to this knowledge, in addition to spiritual reading, is by means of reflection upon God, purposefully bringing into one’s consciousness and then dwelling upon an image of God, His highest characteristics, the work of our salvation, our eternal future, etc. Such thoughts about God were cherished by our righteous forebears in the Faith, but for many, very many of us, they are unfortunately altogether unfamiliar.

The knowledge of God spoken of here is, of course, not a purely intellectual knowledge received through the faculty of memory. Christianity is life; it rests upon the experience of the heart and is therefore received by different people in different ways. The more a Christian shapes his personal life to accord with the truths and commandments of his faith, a task admitting great internal struggle, the deeper he assimilates Christianity. And on the contrary, if a man relates to his faith dryly, only outwardly and formally, and is not directed in his personal life by the calls from Christ’s Holy Gospel, then he does not accept Christianity into his soul and heart, and the deep content of the truths of the Christian faith remain alien to him.




Professor of the Theological School at the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, Dr. Demetrios Tselengidis has sent his first theological observations to the Orthodox hierarchs of several Local Orthodox Churches (including those of Greece, Russia, Serbia, Georgia, Bulgaria, Alexandria, and Antioch) concerning the text: “Relations of the Orthodox Church with the Rest of the Christian World.”
* * *
This text displays recurrent theological inconsistency and contradiction. Thus, in the first article it proclaims the ecclesiastical self-identity of the Orthodox Church, considering Her—and very rightly—as the “One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church.” In article six, however, there is a contradiction with respect to the formulation of the above article (1). It notes characteristically that the “the Orthodox Church recognizes the historic existence of other Christian Churches and Confessions not in communion with Her.”
Here the reasonable theological question arises: If the Church is “One” according to our Creed and the Orthodox Church’s own self-identity (art. 1), then how is there mention of other Christian Churches? It is clear that these other Churches are heterodox.
Heterodox “Churches”, though, cannot at all be called “Churches” by the Orthodox. Considering things from a dogmatic perspective it is not possible to speak about a plurality of “Churches” with different dogmas, and this, indeed, with regard to many different theological issues. Consequently, as long as these “Churches” remain firm in the erroneous beliefs of their faith, there is no theological justification to grant them ecclesial recognition —and this officially —outside of the “One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church.”
In the same article (6), there is another serious theological contradiction. At the beginning of the article the following is noted: “According to the ontological nature of the Church, it is impossible for [Her] unity to be shattered.” At the end of this same article, however, it is written that, by Her participation in the Ecumenical Movement, the Orthodox Church has as its “objective aim the paving of the way which leads toward unity.”
Here the question is put: Given that the unity of the Church is an acknowledged fact, what type of unity of Churches is being sought in the context of the Ecumenical Movement? Does it perhaps mean the return of Western Christians to the ONE and only Church? Such a meaning, though, does not emerge either in the letter or the spirit of the entire text. On the contrary, indeed, the impression is given that there exists a long-established division in the Church and that the prospects of the [Ecumenical] dialogues focus on the disrupted unity of the Church.
Theological confusion is also caused by the ambiguity in article 20, which reads: “The prospects of the theological dialogues of the Orthodox Church with the other Christian Churches and Confessions shall always be determined on the basis of Her canonical criteria of the already established ecclesiastical tradition (canon seven of the Second Ecumenical Council and canon 95 of the Quinisext Council).”
But, canon seven of the Second Ecumenical Council and canon 95 of the Quinisext address the reception of specific heretics that had demonstrated their desire to join the Orthodox Church. However, it is apparent from the letter and spirit of the text, as judged from a theological perspective, that there is no discussion whatsoever of the return of the heterodox to the Orthodox Church, the only Church. Rather, in the text, the baptism of the heterodox is considered an accepted fact from the outset—and this without a Pan-Orthodox decision. In other words, the text endorses “Baptismal Theology.” Simultaneously, the text deliberately ignores the historic fact that the contemporary heterodox of the West (RC & Protestant) have not one, but heaps of dogmas that differ from the Orthodox Church (besides the filioque, created grace in the sacraments, the primacy of the pope, papal infallibility, the rejection of icons, and the rejection of the decisions of the Ecumenical Councils, etc.).
Article 21 also raises appropriate questions, where it notes that, “the Orthodox Church … has a favorable view of the documents adopted by the Commission [referring to the Committee for ‘Faith & Order’] . . . for the rapprochement of the Churches.” Here it must be observed that these documents [of the Committee] have never been adjudged by the Hierarchs of the Local Orthodox Churches.
Finally, in article 22 the impression is given that the Upcoming Holy and Great Council is prejudging the infallibility of its decisions, since it considers that, “the preservation of the authentic orthodox faith is ensured only through the synodical system, which has always rested in the Church and which constitutes the appropriate and final judge on all matters of faith.” In this article, the historic fact is ignored that in the Orthodox Church the final criteria is always the living dogmatic consciousness of the fullness of the Church, which in the past confirmed even Ecumenical Councils considered robber councils. The synodical system by itself does not mechanically ensure the correctness of orthodox faith. This only happens when the Synod of Bishops has the Holy Spirit and the Hypostatic Way—Christ—working within it, and thus as “syn”—“odikoi” [i.e., “traversing together on the way”] they are, in practice, “following the Holy Fathers.”
General Assessment of the Text
With all that is written and what is clearly implied in the text above, it is clear that its initiators and authors are attempting the institutional and official ratification of Christian Syncretistism-Ecumenism by means of a Pan-Orthodox Synod. This, however, would be catastrophic for the Orthodox Church. For this reason I humbly propose the text’s total withdrawal.
* * *
In closing, one theological observation on the text, “The Sacrament of Marriage and its Impediments.” In article 5.i, it notes: “The marriage of an Orthodox person with a heterodox person is not permitted according to canonical akrivia [the ‘rule’] (canon 72 of the Quinisext Council in Trullo). However, it is possible to be blessed through condescension and love for man under the express condition that the children of this marriage will be baptized and raised in the Orthodox Church.”
Here, the express condition that, “the children of this marriage will be baptized and raised in the Orthodox Church” clashes with the theological guarantee of marriage as a sacrament of the Orthodox Church. The reason for this: because child-bearing shows itself—in connection with the baptism of children in the Orthodox Church—to legitimize the service of mixed marriage, something clearly forbidden by a Canon of the Ecumenical Councils (canon 72 of the Quinisext). In other words, a synod that is not Ecumenical, such as is the upcoming Holy and Great Council, explicitly turns a decision of an Ecumenical Council into something relative. This is unacceptable.
And finally this: If the blessed marriage does not provide children, is this marriage theologically legitimized simply on account of the intention of the heterodox spouse to place any possible children in the Orthodox Church?
For the sake of theological consistency, article 5.i, needs to be removed.
Dr. Demetrios Tselengidis, Translated by Rev. Fr. Matthew Penney, and Fr. C. A.
09 / 02 / 2016

Heresies and Counsils

By Metropolitan Hierotheos of Nafpaktos, “Empirical Dogmatics”

In general, heresy is a deviation from the teaching of the Prophets, Apostles and Fathers; a deviation from the decisions of the Local and Ecumenical Councils, but also a change in the presuppositions of Orthodox dogma, which are holy hesychasm and the degrees of spiritual perfection, namely, purification, illumination and glorification, or praxis and theoria.
Councils of the Church
Councils were convened to deal with heresies, because the Church makes decisions through Councils. The model for this conciliar structure, as we have already mentioned, was the first Apostolic Council. It is also clear from the Epistles of St Paul, in which he makes mention of his co-workers.
In Volume 1, in the chapter ‘The Divinely Inspired Theology of the Fathers’ it was particularly emphasised that the glorified Fathers validated the Ecumenical Councils, not the other way round. Here we shall examine the subject of Local and Ecumenical Councils and their necessity for the Church.
It needs to be understood that the Church functions and does its work in a specific place and time, and uses for its form and its canonical structure the external circumstances that it finds. In this manner, and for the sake of its unity, it adopted the same way of working as the society of that time.
“Something strange can be observed in history: the criteria by which the Church adapts to its surroundings can be traced back to Canon Law. The Church adjusts to the environment.
We see this very clearly from the development of the conciliar system in the early Church. The Church was adapting itself to the Roman environment. We see that the metropolitan is the bishop of a metropolis of a Roman province. All the other bishops in the Council are in small villages or towns. And the metropolitan is automatically the president of the Council. Translations from one see to another were never permitted in the early Church, so the bishops never contended for higher positions.”
This is how the metropolitan system and later the patriarchal system of ecclesiastical administration were created. Local Councils were convened on the basis of this administrative system, and later the Ecumenical Councils were convened, which defined the administrative system of the Church more thoroughly.
Local and Ecumenical Councils
Councils are divided into Local Councils, which are made up of bishops of particular provinces, and Ecumenical Councils, in which all the bishops of the Roman Empire take part. First of all, the decisions of the Councils have great significance, like the texts of Holy Scripture. In the Orthodox Church we speak of Holy Scripture and Holy Tradition, and Holy Tradition also includes the decisions of the Ecumenical Councils. These texts are medicines so that one can be led to purification, illumination and glorification. It is only when someone reaches glorification, in the experience of ineffable words, that all created words and concepts are transcended, without being abolished.
Local Councils, which were convened in the various provinces, were more ancient and more ecclesiastical conciliar institutions.
“If no Ecumenical Council had taken place, if the Church had not prevailed in the Roman Empire, and if the Emperors had not decided that the Orthodox Church would be the official Church of the state, what institution would there be? Would the institution be what it always had been? The bishops were organised into Local Councils, which were the Councils that supervised the ordination of bishops. They supervised the ordination, and then the Councils would send each other letters of commendation. In particular, when the leader of a Council was chosen, they would send letters to other Councils announcing the election and the ordination. And they would send representatives to take part in the ordination. So when a heresy appeared in a Church, it was condemned by the Church itself, and then the decisions were sent to other Churches and everyone agreed that the one who had been condemned was a heretic.”
Arius was condemned as a heretic by the Local Council in Alexandria, where he was serving as a priest, when he asserted that the Word was created.
Before the First Ecumenical Council was convened, many heresies had appeared in the Church and all had been dealt with by Local Councils. The First Ecumenical Council was convened by the Roman Emperor Constantine to ascertain what the faith of the Church was. Other Emperors wanted to establish Christianity as the official religion of the state. Exactly the same happened with later Ecumenical Councils.
“There are some foolish people who believe that Arianism was condemned at the First Ecumenical Council. This is nonsense. It was first condemned in Alexandria, and the condemnation of Arianism in Alexandria was accepted by all the Local Councils of the Orthodox Church, in the West and the East. The condemnation starts from Alexandria and afterwards the condemnation is communicated to all the other Churches. The condemnation of Arius is accepted by all the Orthodox.
In other words, there was uniformity in faith before the First Ecumenical Council was convened. Afterwards the First Ecumenical Council was called and the bishops, who had already condemned him in Local Councils, condemned Arius. Arianism was not condemned for the first time at the First Ecumenical Council.
Now, if there had not been a Christian Emperor, and if certain leaders of the Roman state had not wished to establish Christianity as the religion of the Roman state, we would not have had the First Ecumenical Council, nor the Second, Third, Eighth and so on. We would have had Local Councils of bishops, which dealt with heresy and communicated their decision to all the other Councils of the Church. These other Councils immediately recognised that this man was a heretic and had been rightly condemned.
Before the First Ecumenical Council the first heresy in the Church was not that of Arius. There were other heresies as well. The most striking heresies were those of the Sabellians and the Samosatenes. We have two heresies, that of Paul of Samosata and that of Sabellius, which seem to be opposite extremes, but are not opposite extremes.”
The Ecumenical Councils are actually ‘an extension and amalgamation’ of all the Local Councils. They were the result of the need of the state to introduce the decisions of the Ecumenical Councils into its legislation, so that unity would prevail in the Roman Empire.
“Why did the First Ecumenical Council take place? Because we have the Arian dispute. Arianism had broken out as a heresy within the bosom of the Church, and the state had recognised the Church as the religion of the Empire. We have a Church recognised by the state. And now the bishops are quarreling among themselves.
One party is Arian and the other is Orthodox. Given that it is the official religion of the state, the state ought to know what the faith of the Church is. So the Emperor is obliged to convene representatives of all the Orthodox Councils of the Church to assemble somewhere and deal with all the issues. They must deal with the issue of Pascha – because the Empire wants all Christians, at least within the Empire, to celebrate Pascha together. Christians in Asia Minor celebrated on the equinox, the fourteenth; they celebrated Pascha when the Jews celebrated Passover, on any day of the week. All the others celebrated Easter on the Sunday after the Jewish Passover. This was the practice of the Church.
So this was another issue that concerned the Council, perhaps even more than the dogma of Arius. Arius was immediately condemned, because they all knew that he was a heretic. There was not much discussion at the Council about Arius’s teaching. So Arius had already been condemned by all the Local Councils, apart from the Councils where there was no Orthodox Archbishop, for there were certain Churches that had an Arian tendency.
In general it is easy to conclude from studying the acts of the Ecumenical Councils, at least those that survive, that the Council is an extension and amalgamation of all the Local Councils, and that the Council was not convened for the needs of the Church, for the Church had no need of any Ecumenical Council. All the heresies that were condemned in Ecumenical Councils had already been condemned in Local Councils. The Church, therefore, had no need for this Council. The state needed the Council so that it could decree Orthodoxy and the Canon Law of the Orthodox Churches as laws of the state.”
The Church knew that Arius was a heretic. The First Ecumenical Council confirmed and ratified that Arius was a heretic. Some people, however, treat the Councils as though the Fathers argued with Arius rationally in a quest for the truth.
“How did the First Ecumenical Council spend its time? Our own people reply speculatively. There was a philosophy of the Fathers about God, and the Christian philosophers argued among themselves about God – Arius with Athanasios, and with this one and the other. Then the Holy Spirit came to say what was Orthodox and what was heretical.
So they did not know what was heretical until the Council came and condemned the heresy. They found out at the Council what was heretical. Didn’t they know that Arius was a heretic before the Council? Was it necessary for the Council to be convened to tell us that Arius was a heretic? This is like saying today that a charlatan, a butcher-surgeon, appears and two other doctors do not know that he is a butcher until they gather at a meeting and decide that he is a butcher. And they don’t know that he is a butcher because he kills people. It is not enough that he kills patients and they have to make a decision that he is a butcher.
Something similar happens. Perhaps we not know that Arius is a heretic, as he is a good man and teaches fine, philosophical things, and the Council has to be convened to show us that Arius is a heretic?”
Whenever a heresy appeared, the Council countered it using theological and ecclesiastical criteria. However, when the state wanted to enact ecclesiastical laws for the unity of the Empire, it wanted to be informed officially by the bishops of all the provinces of their decision. The Ecumenical Councils operated in this context.
“We have the Second Ecumenical Council. Well, did the Churches wait for the Second Ecumenical Council to be convened for the Pneumatomachians and Eunomians to be condemned? The bishops themselves had already well and truly sorted out the Pneumatomachians and Eunomians before the Second Ecumenical Council was convened, and their teachings had already been condemned by Local Councils. Then the Second Ecumenical Council assembles and condemns them. It repeats the condemnation.
The same happens with the Third Ecumenical Council. There Nestorius had already been officially condemned by the Council of Alexandria. The decision had been communicated to other Churches. The two Churches which did not accept the decision made in Alexandria were the Church of Constantinople, because Nestorius himself was the Patriarch, and then the Church of Antioch, which was divided, because all the followers of Theodore of Mopsuestia were in Antioch. So there was a difficulty; radical disagreement existed on the issue of Nestorius. The Church of Rome immediately condemned Nestorius.”
“Then we have the Fourth Ecumenical Council. Once again, Eutyches was not condemned by the Fourth Ecumenical Council. He had been condemned in the Local Councils of Constantinople. These decisions were accepted by Rome and Antioch, whereas Alexandria was in two minds, as it was uncertain what the teaching of Eutyches was. What is certain, however, is that they condemned the heresy of Eutyches, without referring to Eutyches himself, because they were not sure whether Eutyches was teaching the things of which he was accused.”
Ecumenical Councils were instituted by the Roman Empire in order to solve ecclesiastical problems that involved all the provinces, so that their decisions would become laws of the state and there would be peace in the Empire. This means that the Ecumenical Councils did not supersede or replace the Local Councils, but they validated them on a universal basis. As the state was aiming for political unity, it was also interested in its religious unity.
“The Ecumenical Councils are an assembly of Local Councils on an Imperial scale. In other words, the Emperor calls the Ecumenical Council, so that the Local Councils could inform the state, the Empire, about the faith and practice of the Church. Then it was an opportunity for the Church as a whole, or the local Churches, to come together and inform the state about the faith of the Church, as well as about the practice of the Church, so that the decisions they took would be the same throughout the Empire.
For that reason, the Canons of the Ecumenical Councils were not meant to supplant the Canons of the Local Councils. The Local Councils had Canons; there were Canons enacted by Local Councils, Canons about the functioning of the Council or of the various Churches within the Council. It was an opportunity to formalise the common practice of the Church and to draw up Canons of Ecumenical Councils, which would be recognised by the state as the laws of the Church. And the formulation of the faith and everything concerning the faith.”
“When one studies carefully the historical foundations, the historical context and the tradition of the Church that existed up until the First Ecumenical Council, it becomes clear that this major conflict between the Arians and the Orthodox broke out and the state wanted to take a view on this issue. The idea was that, while the state was always divided on the subject of religion, and unity was based mainly on weapons and the police – there was also national identity among the Romans, particularly after Caracalla’s legislation of 212, when all free citizens within the Empire acquired Roman nationality and the rights of a Roman citizen, from 212 until 313. A hundred and one years later the idea was that, in order for this Empire to survive, grow, expand and increase in strength, religious unity was also required in the state.”
Although the Ecumenical Councils were created by the Roman state, they still have theological significance, because bishops took part in them who discussed theological and dogmatic issues, and they extended the work of Local Councils. Local Councils are also divinely inspired, if they are convened according to Orthodox preconditions.
“The institution of Ecumenical Councils is purely and solely Roman. If the Church had not been recognised by the Roman Empire, I doubt whether we would have had Ecumenical Councils, because they were essentially the work of the Emperors.
Since the fall of Constantinople, therefore, some of our own people hold the view that we cannot have Ecumenical Councils now, as we do not have an Emperor. You know, professors of Canon Law are now attempting to replace the Emperor with the Patriarch of Constantinople.
Be that as it may, we have, on the one hand, the historical issue and, on the other, the theological and dogmatic issue. Even before the fall of Constantinople the same idea occurred to us, that the supreme authority in the Church is the Ecumenical Council, and that only the Ecumenical Council can authoritatively enact things that the Hierarchy will perform during the historical development of the Church. This is connected, at least today, with the subject of divine inspiration.
Everyone usually agrees that Holy Scripture is divinely inspired. The writers of Holy Scripture have divine inspiration. Then there are those who believe that there is also divine inspiration at the Ecumenical Council. Few of those who hold this view accept that a Local Council can be divinely inspired. It is the Ecumenical Council that has divine inspiration, which is also expressed through the Hierarchy, when the Hierarchy agrees on an issue.”
At the Ecumenical Councils the Fathers did not take part only as individuals, but as representatives of entire local Churches. No distinction was made between Local and Ecumenical Councils on the grounds that the former were inferior and the latter superior; the clue to the difference was that Ecumenical Councils were an extension of Local Councils.
“So we have the Roman Senate, the assembly of Roman elders and the Senate of the Romans, and we have the Emperor, who enacted the laws. The Senate accepted the decrees of the Emperor and placed the seal upon them. When the Emperor signed a law, it became the law of the state and was included in Roman law from then onwards. The state used the same legislative method in religious matters. The Emperor was not able to decide what the dogma of the Church was. The Church had to decide. Constantine the Great, as a result of an inspiration, I don’t know if it was divine inspiration or not, convened the First Ecumenical Council, not only to find out what the faith of the Church was, but in order to lay down the faith of the Church.
So the Church gathered at the Ecumenical Council. All the Churches sent representatives, and it is extremely significant that the Local Councils are represented at the Ecumenical Council. The bishops do not attend as bishops. The bishops always go to Ecumenical Councils as members of the Church to which they belong. The leader of every delegation is the metropolitan or the archbishop of every Church, and then there is the patriarch or the patriarch’s representative.
At all the Ecumenical Councils, the bishops do not speak as individuals, as members of the Pan-Orthodox Church. They speak as representatives of their Local Council. As happens today at the Pan-Orthodox Conference. No one goes to the Pan-Orthodox Conference to represent himself. They all go as representatives of their Church, and every Church has the same representation, the same vote, and so on. So in the Acts of the Councils that are preserved, the bishops do not speak at the Councils; the metropolitans speak. The leader of each Council speaks, or someone whom he assigns to state the opinion of the Council. In this way, the view of the local Church is expressed at every Ecumenical Council
The classic example can be seen at the Fourth Ecumenical Council. When the bishops of Egypt were called upon to sign the Acts, they said, ‘We cannot sign the Acts, because we do not have an archbishop.’ In other words, in order to sign the Acts, the Church of Egypt had to meet as a Church, with its president as chairman, and the Council of Egypt had to decide to sign the Acts. However they did not have a president, because Dioscorus had been condemned by the Fourth Ecumenical Council.
This excuse is a clear indication of how the Local Councils saw the Ecumenical Council. They did not regard the Ecumenical Council as superior to the Local Council, though also not as inferior. It is neither higher nor lower, but is simply an extension of the Local Council. Another very significant point is that the Second Ecumenical Council did not add to the Creed, but corrected the Creed on the basis of new terminology, which did not exist at the time of the First Ecumenical Council. There is a correction from the point of view of terminology, but not with regard to teaching; nothing was added from the point of view of teaching. Some adjustments were made to the terminology, which had now prevailed in all the Churches. Because the Churches had a common faith, but they wanted to have a common terminology as well. It was no longer sufficient to have a common faith; they also had to have a common terminology.
They lay down Canons in order that all the Churches will share the same practice. It was a good opportunity to co-ordinate Canon Law as well. They took the opportunity to do so. But why did they do this? Because the decisions of the Ecumenical Councils and the Canons of the Ecumenical Councils, as long as they are signed by the Emperor, become the law of the state. So this practice of the Local Church had to enter Canon Law, which now for the first time is made on the basis of the united Empire, so that it can be recorded in Roman law. Thus every judge, every Roman official, is obliged to implement this decision, which now becomes the law of the state. So we have the First Ecumenical Council, the Second – a whole series of Ecumenical Councils with canonical and dogmatic decisions that become laws of the land.
Ecumenical Councils should be seen in this context. The modern ‘Orthodox’ view, that the Council is convened in order for the Church to find out what it is teaching, or to decide what it should teach, is nonsense. Absolute nonsense. It bears no relation at all to the reality.”
The Emperors who convoked Ecumenical Councils not only wanted to know the views of local Churches, so that there would be common legislation, but had also discerned the therapeutic character of the Orthodox Church. They wanted to impose the Orthodox faith as a therapeutic system for the inhabitants of the Empire. In other words, they wanted the cohesion of their citizens to be based on a true therapeutic method.
“The basic criterion of the Emperor and the state was that they knew that the Church cured the noetic faculty through purification and illumination. Everyone knew that; there was no one who didn’t know that. In the Acts of the Councils one sees the Emperor saying: ‘Let everyone judge with his nous.’ ‘Everyone…with his nous’ does not mean ‘with his reason’. It means with the spirit that he has in his heart.”
The prevailing view today is that an Ecumenical Council cannot be convened as there is no Emperor to convene it. For that reason there is talk of a Pan-Orthodox Council, or a Holy and Great Council. Pan-Orthodox Councils are convened by the Ecumenical Patriarch, whereas the familiar Ecumenical Councils were called by the Roman Emperor.
“The [an Orthodox] Patriarch of Constantinople has the right to call an Ecumenical Council, with the consent of all the other Churches. Well, there is no doubt that such a right exists. If the Orthodox Churches want to consult one another and to gather at a Council, that is their right.
This must not be confused, however, with the tradition of the Ecumenical Councils. The tradition of the Ecumenical Councils means the tradition of the Imperial Councils. When the Romans referred to the oikoumene (the inhabited world) they meant what is called in Latin the universa Romano,, the Roman Universe, the Ecumenical (Universal) Empire. They did not mean the whole world: they meant the Empire.
For that reason in Constantinople there was an ecumenical teacher, an ecumenical this, that and the other. There was an ‘ecumenical’ version of everything. The top man in the Empire in any post had the title ‘ecumenical’, not just the Ecumenical Patriarch. The word ‘ecumenical’ in Constantinople was used in the sense of ‘imperial’, as we would refer today to a governmental official.”
Orthodox Preconditions for Councils
The historical background to Ecumenical Councils that we looked at above does not alter their great value and significance, as they acquired great importance in the life of the Church. Why they were convened and who convoked them does not matter. Their value lies in the theological and theological preconditions on which they were convened.
“The basic precondition, not only for Ecumenical Councils but for Local Councils as well, is that those who attend a Local or Ecumenical Council should be at least in the state of illumination. But the state of illumination does not begin when they say the prayer at the start of an Ecumenical Council. That is not when illumination begins.
Certain fundamentalist Orthodox – I don’t know how to describe it – imagine that the historical bishops were like bishops today, who have no idea about dogmas, but have dogmatic experts at their side, advisers who advise them about dogmas. The bishop is a good man who is involved with orphanages, homes for elderly people, hospitals, good works, building churches, and goodness knows what else. He collects funds to help the poor earthquake victims. That is the bishop: a man of action, or perhaps a man on the boil. Because a mutual friend, a metropolitan, says that his spiritual father used to say: ‘Toil, toil, toil then boil, boil and steam away’. In other words, at the end nothing is left.
Some people imagine that all these bishops gathered, who as theology students gained only five marks in their examinations and understood nothing. And when they met, the Holy Spirit came like an axe and struck them a blow on the head. The head opened up, in went the Holy Spirit, and then words of wisdom came out of their mouths. He intervened at the Ecumenical Council or at a Local Council and illuminated the bishops in this manner, so that they reached correct decisions.”
What determines that a Local or Ecumenical Council is Orthodox is whether the majority of the bishops who take part in it are in the state of illumination of the nous. Studying the Orthodox Local and Ecumenical Councils reveals that their decisions are Orthodox because they were based on Fathers who not only had theoretical knowledge of the theology of the Church, but were bearers of the revelation. Thus the glorified Fathers gave validity to the Council, not the Council to the Fathers.

“Christians Face a Genocide That Is Without Precedence”

Source: The Morning Offering


“Christians Face a Genocide That Is Without Precedence”

It’s a pity there is virtually no meaningful or informative conversation taking place in the United States about the widespread persecution of Christians throughout the Middle East. Muslims in America scream and howl at the slightest provocations, yet in the face of the tragic genocide against Christians throughout the Islamic world and the ‘final solution’ for the Christians of the Middle East, we hear nothing. Prominent Muslim leaders in the United States and Western Europe remain silent, while Christian Churches in the Middle East are attacked and burned, and Christians are murdered in the streets.
Assyrian, Coptic, and Antiochian Christians are suffering some of the worst persecution in history. Christians are leaving the Middle East by the hundreds of thousands, and those who can not leave are facing a genocide that is without precedence, yet the West continues in a state of denial. Linked to the above is the growing problem of Muslim youth engaging in jihadist terror activity that is being brushed off in the West. Anyone who dares speak out is accused of being “Islamophobic”, forgetting what the root word, “phobic” means. We dare not speak the fact that the root of the problem resides within Islam itself.
It is time we speak out in defense of our fellow Christians in the Middle East, as that which is happening in Islamic countries is now becoming standard fare for the West. The jihadist attacks taking place in the cities of Western Europe, are not happening because Westerners have failed to demonstrate the superiority of their Western culture, but because the Quran is filled with directives to kill “unbelievers”.
The West will not be safe simply because we refuse to keep our collective heads out of the sand. We must pray for our brothers and sisters throughout the Middle East, and we must speak out in truth, and with courage, lest we be responsible for a genocide that threatens the entire Christian populations in the lands that saw the rise of Christianity in the very beginning. We must not be like the silent German citizens, who refused to speak out when their Jewish neighbors were being rounded up, and sent to the death camps.