Fr Andrew Orthodox England on the Tollhouses

On the Aerial Toll-Houses

Q:  I recently received a link from someone about the controversy in the USA within the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese (now close to bankruptcy), relating to the 21 monasteries close to Elder Ephraim. A discussion about the toll-houses then ensued. Personally I don’t have any clear idea about what the correct teaching is on toll-houses. To me the idea often presented sounds a bit legalistic and more like a Roman Catholic or Calvinist approach to salvation. I mean, if almost everyone goes to hell then what’s the point of even trying? Could you please comment on the whole toll-house “issue”?

A: The Church teaching on the twenty Aerial Toll-Houses concerns life after death, what happens to the soul after it leaves the body. After death the demons attempt to take the soul towards hell, while the angels attempt to take it towards heaven. After an examination of the soul, lasting the equivalent of forty earthly days, comes the Particular Judgement, when the soul is appointed a place of rest. This place of rest can ‘improve’, ‘floating’ upwards, depending on the prayers of the living for the soul, i. e. depending on how much that soul is loved on earth. In this place of rest it awaits the Last Judgement.

This teaching is found in virtually every Church Father and dates back as such to the fourth century, though there are references to it in the Apostle Paul (Ephesians 6, 1-13). The most detailed account of the twenty toll-houses occurs in the Life of St Gregory of Thrace, dating from the 10th century, which describes how at each toll-house the soul is tested for each type of sin. This is the teaching and that is that. It is all so simple really. However, in our sad human reality, this teaching has been distorted, pulled in different directions by impure souls. The first problems arose in the USA among converts to ROCOR 1970s. Today, they have come back, for exactly the same reasons, again in the USA, but now in the highly Americanized Greek Orthodox Archdiocese.

I think you put your finger on the problem with your words: ‘To me the idea often presented sounds a bit legalistic and more like a Roman Catholic or Calvinist approach to salvation’. And that is exactly it: converts from strict Catholicism (Augustinianism) and strict Protestantism (Calvinism) do present the teaching as legalistic, frighteningly so. There is no surprise at all that the same problem has come up twice within forty years, each time in the USA. The USA was founded on intolerant, witch-hunting Calvinists who refused to live in Protestant England because it was not strict enough for them! Ever since the USA has been the land of extreme and  aggressive intolerance, of Creationism, fundamentalism, phariseeism and racism and also of virulent liberalism and intolerant atheism (political correctness), where you can be sacked for saying that you believe that the practice of homosexuality is a sin.

Of course, the teaching on the toll-houses can be presented by the contemporary scribes and pharisees (literalists and ritualists in modern English – and woe unto them) as a cause for despair. Why bother when we are all doomed anyway? (As the Calvinists say). This is because they see everything literally, without God’s Mercy. Such fundamentalists, always aggressive, create depression and despair because they have no love.

On the other hand, there are also today’s liberals and ecumenists, the modern saducees (like the very Protestant and very aggressive anti-monastic lay activists in the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese in the USA), who will tell you that this teaching does not exist! These are the sort of people who have painted a fresco (as there exists in one Greek ‘Orthodox’ monastery in England), where they show the Last Judgement without showing hell, only heaven. When I asked one of the monks why this was, I was told that it was because we shall probably all be saved! Here again, why bother? Origen triumphs in the Paris School.

The teaching on the toll-houses is clear and balanced. After death our souls will be tested and we shall find out whether we are closer to angels or closer to demons. But even this is not our last chance. If people on earth loved us and so still remember us and pray for us, we can been drawn far away from hell and brought to the gates of heaven by their prayers.


Unseen Warfare chap 19 by St Nicodemus of the holy mountain and St Theophan the recluse.

Cap 19.

How to struggle against bodily passions

In struggling against bodily passions, my brother, a different method should be used than in struggling against the others. If you want things to proceed in the right order, know that you should do one thing before you are tempted by these passions, another thing during temptation and yet another when it is over.

Before temptation, attention should be concentrated on the causes, which habitually give birth to temptation or which excite passion. The rule here is to use every means to avoid all occasions, which may upset the calm of your body, especially meeting people of the other sex. If you are forced to converse with such a person, let the conversation be short, and preserve not only modesty but a certain sternness of countenance; let your words be friendly, but reserved rather than forthcoming.

‘ Never trust thine enemy’ (Ecclesiasticus xii. 10) says the wise Sirach. So never trust your body; for as iron produces rust by itself, so the corrupted nature of the body produces evil stirrings of lust. “For like as iron rusteth, so is his wickedness’ (Ecclesiasticus xii. 10). I repeat again, do not trust yourself in this respect, even if you no longer feel and have not felt for some time this sting of your flesh. For this thrice-cursed wickedness sometimes achieves in one hour or one moment what it has not done for many years, and always makes its preparations for attack silently. Know that the more the flesh pretends to be your friend and gives no cause for suspicion, the greater the harm it inflicts later, and often strikes to death.

All must fear people of the other sex, communion with whom is regarded as good in ordinary life, either because they are relatives, or because they are pious and virtuous, or because they have done you a favour and you fee] under the obligation to express your gratitude as often AS possible. You should fear this because, without fear and attention to yourself, such communion is practically always mixed with the pernicious sensory lust which, gradually .”and insensibly, steals into the soul to its very depths and so obscures the mind that a man thus infected begins to disregard all the dangerous causes of sin, such as passionate glances, sweet words on both sides, seductive movements and postures of the body and the pressing of hands. Thus he finally succumbs to the sin itself and to other snares of the devil, from which at times he never manages to extricate himself completely.

So, my brother, flee this fire, for you are gunpowder, and never dare to think in your conceit that you are damp gunpowder, moistened with the water of a good and firm will. No, no! Better think that you are as dry as dry and will catch fire as soon as you are touched by that flame. Never rely on the firmness of your resolve and your readiness to die rather than to offend God by sin. For, although it can be assumed that this resolve makes your gunpowder damp, frequent communication and sitting together in private will gradually dry the moisture of your righteous will by bodily fire, and you will never notice how you are set aflame with bodily love to such an extent, that you will cease to be ashamed of men and to fear God,- and will disregard honour, life and all the tortures of hell in your longing to commit sin. So avoid in all possible ways:

(a) Communion with people, who can be a temptation to you, if you sincerely desire to escape the captivity of sin and paying its wages, which is death of the soul. The wise Solomon calls a man wise, who fears and avoids the causes of sin; and he calls foolish a man who, with great self-reliance, confidently neglects to avoid them, saying: ‘A wise man feareth, and departeth from evil: but the fool rageth, and is confident” (in his actions) (Prov. xiv. 16). Did not the Apostle point this out when he advised the CORINTHIANS: “Flee fornication” (I Cor. vi. 18).

(b) Flee idleness and laziness; stand on guard watchfully, in all things peering closely at your thoughts, and wisely arranging and conducting the activities, demanded by your position.

(c) Never disobey your spiritual teachers and fathers, but obey them willingly in everything, executing their orders quickly and readily, and especially those which can teach you humility and go against your own will and inclination.

(d) Never allow yourself boldly to judge your neighbour; judge and condemn, no. one, especially for the particular bodily sin of which we are speaking. If someone has manifestly fallen into it, rather have compassion and pity for him. Do not be indignant with him or laugh at him, but let his example be a lesson in humility to you; realising that you too are extremely weak and as easily, moved to sin as dust on the road, say to yourself: ‘He fell today, but tomorrow I shall fall.’ Know that, if you are quick to blame and despise others, God will mete out a painful punishment to you by letting you fall into the same sin for which you blame others. ‘Judge not, that ye be not judged” (Matt. vii. 1); you will be condemned to the same punishment, in order to learn from it the perniciousness of your pride and, thus humbled, to seek a cure from two evils: pride and fornication. Even if in His mercy God protects you from downfall and you keep the chastity of your thought inviolate, stop blaming others if you were blaming them, and instead of relying on yourself, be still more afraid and do not trust your own steadfastness.

(e) Pay attention to yourself and watch over yourself. If .you have gained some gift or another from God, or find yourself in a good spiritual state, do not in your vainglory accept vain illusions. about yourself, thinking that you are something and .imagining that your enemies would not dare to attack you that you abhor and despise them so much that you will immediately repulse them., if they dare to come near you. As soon as you think thus, you will fall as easily as an autumn leaf from a tree.

That is what you must do before the temptation of bodily passion assails you.

At a time of actual temptation, do as follows: hasten to discover the cause which provoked the attack and sweep it away immediately. This cause may be internal or external. External causes may be: undisciplined eyes, words sweet to the hearing, songs which delight your ears by their content or melody, fine garments made of soft materials, perfumes pleasing to the nose, free behaviour and conversations, physical touch and pressing of hands, dances and many other things. Remedies against these are: simple and humble attire, the will not to see, hear, smell, say or touch anything which may produce this shameful impulse, and especially avoidance of all intercourse with people of the other sex, as has been already said above. Inner causes are, on the one hand, ease and comfort of the body, when all bodily desires find full satisfaction; on the other—shameful thoughts, which either come of themselves brought by memories of things seen, heard and experienced, or which are excited by evil spirits.

As regards a life of physical ease and comfort, it should be hardened by fasts, vigils, sleeping rough, and especially by a great number of bowings and prostrations to exhaust the body, and by various other voluntary mortifications of the flesh, as advised and counseled by our wise and experienced holy fathers. The remedy against thoughts, no matter whence they come, is various spiritual exercises, compatible with your present state and dictated by it, such as: reading of holy and salutary books, especially of St. Ephrem the Syrian, St. John of the Ladder, the Philokalia and others of the same kind, devout meditations and prayer.

When shameful thoughts begin to assail you, pray thus: immediately raise your mind to our Lord, crucified for us, and call on Him from the bottom of your heart: ‘ My Lord Jesus! My sweetest Jesus! Hasten to help me and do not let my enemy ensnare me!’ At the same time embrace mentally (and also physically if there is one near you) the life-giving cross upon which your Lord was crucified, kiss often His wounds and say to Him with love: ‘Most beautiful wounds, most holy wounds, immaculate wounds! Wound my wretched and impure heart and do not let me offend and shame Thee by my uncleanness.” During the time when shameful thoughts of bodily lust multiply in you, your reflections must not be directed straight against them, though many advise this. Do not attempt to picture in your mind the uncleanness and shame of the sins of bodily lust, nor the remorse of conscience which follows upon them, nor the corruption of your nature and loss of your pure virginity, nor the besmirching of your honour, and other similar things. Do not attempt, I say, to think of these things, for such reflections are not always a reliable means of overcoming bodily temptations and may only give strength to the attacks and, at times, lead to your downfall. For, although your mind remonstrates with the lust and mentally upbraids it, yet the thought dwells on its objects, to which the heart feels such predilection. So it is not surprising that while the mind is lavishly pouring out severe condemnations of these things, the heart delights in them and consents to them—which means inner downfall. No, you must think of such subjects as would screen off these shameful things and completely distract your attention from them, things which, by their nature, would have a sobering effect on your heart. Such subjects are the life and passion of our Lord Jesus, Who took on flesh for our sakes, the inevitable hour of our death, the terrible day of judgment and the various aspects of torment in hell.

If, as often happens, shameful thoughts should persist in spite of this, and should attack you with special force and impetuosity, fear not, do not stop reflecting as we have said, and do not attempt a direct attack on them to expose their shameful nature, Refrain from this, but continue to direct your whole attention to reflections upon the sobering and awe-inspiring subjects indicated above, without bothering about the shameful thoughts, as though they were not your own. Know that no better means exists of driving them away than disregarding and neglecting them. As often as possible, interrupt your meditation by this or a similar prayer: ‘ Deliver me, my Creator and Saviour, from my enemies, to the glory of your passion and your infinite mercy.” Conclude your meditation by a similar prayer,

Take care not to cast the eye of your mind upon this bodily uncleanness, since merely visualising it is not without danger; and do not pause to converse with these temptations or about them, in order to find out whether consent to them had occurred in you or not. Although such analysis may appear good, in actual fact it is a trick of the devil, who strives by this means to weigh you down, to cast you into faintheartedness and despair, or to make you dwell on these thoughts as long as possible, in order thus to drive you to sinful action, of this kind, or some other.

Instead of all such investigations of the thoughts which trouble you, go, confess all in detail to your spiritual father, and thereupon remain undisturbed in your heart and thought, untroubled by any questions, but content with the ruling of your father. Only, you must reveal to him everything, which has troubled and is troubling your mind and feeling in this temptation, concealing nothing and not letting your tongue be tied by shame, but humbling yourself in self-abasement. For if, to gain victory, we need profound humility in all struggle with our enemies, how much more so at moments of warfare of the flesh? For in this case the very temptation is mostly either born of pride or is a reproof and punishment for it. Therefore St. John of the Ladder says that he who has fallen into fornication or some other sin of the flesh, had previously fallen into pride; and that his fall into sin was allowed, to humble him. ‘ Where a downfall has happened, there pride has dwelt before it; for pride comes before a fall.’ And again, ‘Punishment for the proud is to fall’ (Chapter 23). When shameful thoughts are at last subdued and temptation ceases, you must do the following: however much you are convinced that you are now free from attacks of the flesh, and however sure you are of yourself, take every care to keep your mind and attention away from things and people, who were the cause of this upsurging of temptation. Do not satisfy the impulse to see them, under the pretext that they are your relatives, or that they are devout and your benefactors. Admonish yourself with the thought that this too is a sinful blandishment of our corrupt nature and a net of our cunning enemy the devil, who assumes here the form of an Angel of light, in order to cast us into the darkness of which St. Paul speaks (II Cor. xi. 14).

copright St Vladimir seminary press .


Unseen Warfare Ch 17-18

Cap 17.

In what order should you fight your passions?

It would be very useful fur you, my brother, to know well the order in which YOU Should fight your passions, so as to do this work as it should be done, instead of simply haphazardly,, as some people do, without great success, and at times even with harm to themselves. The order in which it is necessary to fight your enemies and struggle with your bad desires and passions, is the following: enter with attention into the heart and examine carefully with what thoughts, dispositions and passionate attachments it is specially occupied, and which passion is most predominant and tyranically rules there. Then against this passion first of all take up arms and struggle to overcome it. On this one concentrate all your attention and care, except only at the times when some other.. passion happens to arise in you. In that case you should deal with this one without delay and drive it away, after which you must once more turn your weapons against your chief passion, which constantly manifests its presence and power. For as in every kind of warfare, so in our unseen battle, we must fight first what is actually attacking us at the present moment.

Cap 18.

How to fight sudden impulses of passions

If, my beloved, you are not yet accustomed to overcome sudden impulses and the excitement of passions, roused, for example, by insults or by other clashes, I advise you to do this: make it a rule every morning, while you still sit at home, to review in your mind all the occasions you may meet with in the course of the day, both favourable and unfavourable, and visualise the passionate impulses, lusts and irritations they may provoke; then prepare in yourself beforehand how to stifle them at the very inception, without allowing them to develop. If you do this, you will never be taken unawares by any movements of passions, but will always be ready to resist them, without being troubled with anger or enticed by lust. This review of what may happen should be practised especially when you have to go out and visit places where you are bound to meet people, who can either attract or irritate you. Being prepared, you will easily avoid the one and the other. If a wave of passion arises, it will roll over your head or will break against you as against a rock, instead of carrying you with it like a flimsy boat. Let the holy prophet David convince you of this as regards anger, when he says: ‘I made haste, and delayed not to keep thy commandments” (Ps. cxix. 60).

But this preparation is not yet everything. Passion can still be excited, and excited suddenly. In such a case act as follows: as soon as you feel a passionate impulse, whether of lust or irritation, hasten to curb it by an effort of will, descend into your heart with the attention of your mind, and try in every possible way not to let the passion enter the heart. Watch to prevent the heart being irritated by what irritates, or attracted by what attracts. If, however, either the one or the other happens suddenly to be born in your heart, to begin .with try to prevent it from coming out; do not express it either by word look or gesture.

Further, compel your mind and heart to rise to God on high and, having produced in yourself a clear consciousness and feeling of God’s boundless love and of His impartial truth, try through this to thrust out the passionate movement and to replace it by its opposing good.. If it is a question of meeting someone, it may be difficult to do all this fully and successfully; still do not abandon your good intention and try to do what you can. Even if for the moment your effort is unsuccessful, you will achieve your end when the meeting, which rouses your passion, is over. But take great care not to show the passion roused within. This effort will prevent its developing. And, as soon as you are free from the inflow of evil impressions, hasten to enter your heart and strive to throw out the reptile which has found its way there.

But the best and most efficient protection against a sudden uprising of passions is getting rid of the causes which are always giving birth to such movements. These causes are twofold; like and dislike. If you, my beloved, are caught and made captive by a liking for some person, or by attachment to some thing, whether great or small, it is natural that if you meet them and see them insulted or harmed, or someone wishes to entice them away or steal them from you, you immediately become indignant, grieve, become agitated and rise up in arms against those who do it. Therefore if you wish to be free of such sudden disturbances, take care to overcome and uproot from your heart this wrong attraction or wrong attachment. And the further it has gone, the more care you should use to have an equable mind and acquire a sensible attitude to things and people. For the stronger your attraction or passionate attachment, the more tempestuous the sudden uprising of passion in all the cases I have indicated.

In the same way, if you feel dislike towards some person or aversion from some thing, it is equally natural for indignation or disgust to rise up suddenly in you if you meet them, and especially if you hear someone praise them. Therefore if you wish to preserve the peace of your heart in such cases, urge yourself to stifle these bad feelings on this occasion, and later to annihilate them altogether.

You will be helped in this by reasoning as follows (in relation to people)—that they too are God’s creatures, fashioned, as you are, in God’s image and likeness and by the all-powerful hand of the living God, that they are redeemed and regenerated by the priceless blood of Christ our Lord’ . that they too are your brothers and co-members, whom it is wrong for you to hate even in thought, as it is written: ‘Thou shalt not hate thy brother in thine heart’ (Lev. xix. 17). Especially you must remember that, even supposing they are worthy of dislike and hostility, if you conceive friendship and love towards them, you will, in so doing, be likening yourself to God, Who loves all His creatures and despises none of them, as the wise Solomon says in praising the Lord: “Thou lovest all the things that are, and abhorrest nothing which thou hast made: for never wouldest thou have made any thing, if thou hadst hated it’ (Wisdom of Solomon xi. 24). With no regard for human sins He “maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust” (Matt. v. 45)

Copyright St Vladimir’s seminary press

Cap 16. How a warrior of Christ should prepare for battle in the morning From Unseen Warfare by St Nicodemus the Hagiorite and St Theophan the Recluse.

As soon as you wake up in the morning, pray for a while, saying: Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy upon me. Then your first work should be to shut yourself in your own heart, as if taking up position in an arena. Having established yourself there, bring yourself to the consciousness and feeling that your enemy and the passionate urge against which you struggle at the moment are already there, on your left ready for immediate attack; therefore rouse against them a firm resolve to conquer or die, but never to submit. Realise also that on your right there stands, invisibly present, your Commander, our Lord Jesus Christ, with His Holy Mother and a host of holy Angels, with Archangel Michael at their head, ready to come to your aid; So take heart and be of good cheer.

Lo, the prince of the nether world, the devil, rises against you with his host of demons and begins to fan the flame of passionate attraction, trying to persuade you with various promises flattering to your self-indulgence, to cease struggling against that passion and to submit to it, assuring you that this submission would be better and less troublesome, but you must keep attention in yourself—and at the same time you should hear from the right the warning and inspiring voice of your guardian angel who, speaking for all those standing on your right, will assuredly say to you: ‘ You are now faced with a battle against your passion and your other enemies. Fear not and be not afraid; let not this fear drive you to run from your post on the battlefield. For our Lord Jesus Christ, the Commander, is near you, surrounded by the commanders and centurions of His incorporeal armies and all the hosts of holy Angels, ready to fight with you against your enemies and not let them overcome and conquer you, as is promised: “ The Lord shall fight for you” (Exodus xiv. 14).’ Therefore stand firm, compel yourself not to give ground and strive by all possible means to stand up to the trial which has assailed you, calling from the bottom of your heart: ‘ Deliver me not over unto the will of mine enemies’ (Ps. xxvii. 12). Appeal to your Lord, to the Holy Virgin, to all the Angels and saints. Help will come, and you will be victorious, for it is written: ‘ I write unto you, young men ‘ (emboldened and intrepid warriors), ‘because ye have overcome the wicked one’ (I John ii. 18). You may be weak and tied by bad habits, while your enemies are strong and numerous; but much more powerful help is ready for you from Him, Who has created and redeemed you/God your Protector is incomparably /stronger than all others in this battle. As it is written: ‘The Lord strong and mighty, the Lord mighty in battle’ (Ps. xxiv. 8). Moreover His desire to save you is greater than that of your enemy to destroy you. So fight and never weary of the labours of ~this warfare. For victory is won by these labours, by forcing yourself and mercilessly tearing yourself from vicious habits despite the pain; and thus a great treasure is gained, whereby the kingdom of heaven is purchased and the soul for ever united with God.

Thus every morning begin in God’s name your struggle with the enemies,, armed with distrust of yourself and a daring hope in God, with prayer and a merciless self-compelling to fitting labours and spiritual tasks, and above all, armed with prayer of the mind in the heart. ‘Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy upon me!’ Wielded in the heart like a two-edged sword, this terrible name strikes down both demons and passions, and drives them away. This is why John of the Ladder says: ‘ Flog the foes with the name of our Lord Jesus.’ We shall speak further of this prayer in a separate chapter. So, I repeat, with these weapons smite that enemy, that passion and that evil tendency which assails you, in the order indicated in the thirteenth chapter. Namely, first, oppose the passion, then hate it, and finally practise the particular virtue opposed to it, doing all this, if we can so say—in an atmosphere of prayer. If you do this, your activity will be pleasing to your God, Who,, together with the Church triumphant in the heavens, stands by invisibly and watches your struggles.

Such struggles are extremely hard and arduous; but grieve not,, nor drop your task, bearing in. mind that, on the one hand, it is our duty to work and to please our God, and on the other, as has been said already, to fight is unavoidable if we want to live; for once we stop fighting, we shall straightway be stricken to death. Do not let the enemy seduce you by the suggestion: ‘Let go just for an hour.” Very well, just for an hour. But what will become of you, if you relinquish your life in God, and abandon yourself to the world and its comforts, and to bodily enjoyments? You will be a renegade from God; which is terrible for a single moment, let alone for an hour. And is it likely to be but an hour? Is it not more probable that hour after hour will pass in this ungodly life, then day after day, and year after year? And beyond this, what? Even if the Lord takes pity on you and gives you time to come to yourself, to get free of this net of the devil and awake from your sinful sleep, you will still have to rejoin the same battle, from which you flee now to seek an easy life, with the only difference that then the fight will be incomparably harder, more acute, more painful and, in addition, less successful.

But if the Lord leaves you in the hands of your enemies and of your own will? What then? I shall not repeat it, I shall say only: remember; for who is there who does not know it? After a life spent in the wearisome bonds of evil passions, at times intoxicated by sensuality, but always deprived of true joys, the hour of death will suddenly come—a terribly painful state of the soul, which even the word of God could not describe, but merely said: then they will cry to the mountains: ‘Fall on us” (Rev. vi. 16). This cry, beginning at the hour of death, will go on ceaselessly for all time after death, till the end of the world, and will be heard at the moment when the last judgment comes—and always in vain. Then be not so unmindful as to cast yourself knowingly into the eternal torment of hell, for the sake of avoiding the momentary struggles and labours of spiritual training. If you are intelligent and, I would say, prudent, it is better for you to undertake now the temporary labours and hardships of spiritual struggle so as to overcome your foes, receive a crown and be united with God both here and beyond—in the kingdom of heaven.

Copyright St Vladimir Seminary Press


Sweden is a beautiful country .But when it comes to religion the people there seems to lack in knowledge .

Therefore I will share an article by the Reverend Metropolitan of Nafpaktos, His Eminence IEROTHEOS Vlachos , one of the most important theologians of our time ;

Basic Points of Difference between the Orthodox Church and Papism .

The bishops of Old Rome, beside small and non-essential differences, always held communion with the bishops of New Rome(Constantinople) and the bishops of the East until the years 1009-1014, when, for the first time, the Frankish bishops seized the throne of Old Rome. Until the year 1009 the Popes of Rome and the Patriarchs of Constantinople were unified in a common struggle against the Frankish princes and bishops, already even at that time heretics.

The Franks at the Synod of Frankfurt in 794 condemned the decrees of the Seventh Ecumenical Synod and the honorable veneration of the holy icons. Likewise in 809 the Franks introduced into the Symbol of the Faith the “Filioque” (Latin: “and the Son”); namely, the doctrine concerning the procession of the Holy Spirit both from the Father and from the Son. Now at that time the Orthodox Pope of Rome condemned this imposition. At the Synod of Constantinople presided over by Photios the Great, at which also representatives of the Orthodox Pope of Rome participated, they condemned as many as had condemned the decrees of the Seventh Ecumenical Synod and as many as had added the Filioque to the Symbol of Faith. However, the Frankish Pope Sergius IV, in the year 1009, in his enthronement encyclical for the first time added the Filioque to the Symbol of Faith. Then Pope Benedict VIII introduced the Creed with the Filioque into the worship service of the Church, at which time the Pope was stricken out from the diptychs of the Orthodox Church.

The basic distinction between the Orthodox Church and Papism is found in the doctrine concerning the uncreated nature and uncreated energy of God. Whereas we Orthodox believe that God possesses an uncreated nature and uncreated energy and that God comes into communion with the creation and with man by means of His uncreated energy, the Papists believe that in God the uncreated nature is identified with His uncreated energy (acrus purus) and that God holds communion with the creation and with man through His created energies, even asserting that in God there exist also created energies. So then the grace of God through which man is sanctified is seen as created energy. But given this, one cannot be sanctified.

From this basic doctrine proceeds the teaching concerning the procession of the Holy Spirit from the Father and from the Son, the cleansing fire, the primacy of the Pope, etc.

Beside the fundamental difference between the Orthodox Church and Papism, in the theme of the nature and energy of God, there are other great differences which have given rise to topics of theological dispute, namely:

–the Filioque, that the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father and from the Son with the result that the monarchy of the Father is diminished, the final equality of the Persons of the Holy Trinity is compromised, the Son is diminished in His own character in having been born, if there exists a oneness between Father and Son then the Holy Spirit is subordinated as not equal in power and of the same glory with the other Persons of the Holy Trinity, with the result that He is shown as the “unproductive (steiro) Person,”

–the utilization of unleavened bread in the Divine Eucharist which transgresses the manner with which Christ accomplished the Mystical Supper,

–the consecration of the “precious Gifts” which takes place not with the epiclesis, but rather with the proclamation of Christ’s words of institution, “Take, eat . . . drink of it, all of you . . .,”

–the view that the sacrifice of Christ on the Cross satisfied the Divine justice, which presents God the Father as a feudal lord and which overlooks the resurrection,

–the view about the “merits” of Christ which the Pope dispenses, along with the “superabundant” grace of the saints, – the alienation and segmentation placed between the mysteries of Baptism, Chrismation, and the Divine Eucharist,

–the doctrine concerning the inheritance of guilt from the ancestral sin,

–the liturgical innovations in all of the mysteries of the Church (Baptism, Chrismation, Ordination, Confession, Marriage, Anointing),

–the practice of not communing the laity in the “Blood” of Christ,

–the primacy of the Pope, according to which the Pope is “episcopus episcoporum (Latin: the bishop of bishops) and the origin of the priesthood and of ecclesiastical authority, that he is the infallible head and the principle leader of the Church, governing it in monarchical fashion as the vicar of Christ on the earth” (I. Karmires). With this concept the Pope views himself as the successor of the Apostle Peter, to whom the other Apostles submit themselves, even the Apostle Paul,

–the non-existence of concelebration in the praxis of worship services,

–the infallibility of the Pope,

–the dogma of the immaculate conception of the Theotokos and the development of the worship of Mary (mariolatria), according to which the All-Holy Virgin is elevated to Triune Deity and even becomes a concept leading to a Holy Quaternity (!),

–the views of analogia entis (analogy of being) and analogia fidei (analogy of faith) which hold sway in the West,

–the unceasing progress of the Church in the discovery of the recesses of revelatory truth,

–the concept concerning the single methodology for the knowledge of God and of creatures, which leads to a blending of theology and epistemology.

Moreover, the great difference in practice, which points out the manner of theology, is found also in the difference between Scholasticism and Hesychastic theology. In the West Scholasticism was expounded as an endeavor to search out the meaning of all the mysteries of the faith by means of logic (Anselm of Canterbury, Thomas Aquinas). However, in the Orthodox Church hesychasm prevails; namely, the purification of the heart and the illumination of the mind (nous), towards the acquisition of the knowledge of God. The dialogue between St. Gregory Palamas and Barlaam the scholastic and uniate is characteristic and shows the difference.

A consequence of all the foregoing is that we have in Papism a decline from Orthodox ecclesiology. Whereas in the Orthodox Church great significance is given to theosis which consists in communion with God, through the vision of the Uncreated Light, then those who behold the Light gather in an Ecumenical Synod and accurately define revelatory truth under conditions of confusion. But in Papism great significance is given to the edict of the Pope; indeed, the Pope even stands over these Ecumenical Synods. Consistent with Latin theology, “the authority of the Church exists only when it is established and put in good order by the will of the Pope. Under a contrary condition it is annihilated.” The Ecumenical Synods are seen as “councils of Christianity that are summoned under the authenticity, the authority, and the presidency of the Pope.” Whenever the Pope leaves the meeting hall of the Ecumenical Synod, it ceases to have power. Bishop Mare has written, “There would be no Roman Catholics more accurate as those exclaiming, “I believe also in one Pope” than who say “I believe also in one . . . Church.”

Furthermore, “the significance and role of the bishops within the Roman church is no more than a simple personification of the papal authority, to which also the bishops themselves submit just as also do the simple faithful.” Towards this papal ecclesiology it is essentially maintained that “the apostolic authority left off with the apostles and was not passed on to their successors, the bishops. Only the papal authority of Peter, under which all of the others are found, was passed on to the successors of Peter; namely, the popes.” Along with the foregoing it is maintained by the papal “church” that all the churches of the East are secessionist and have deficiencies. It receives us as sister churches into communion by dispensation (kat’ oikonomian), since she sees herself as the mother church and sees ourselves as daughter churches.

The Vatican is an earthly power (kratos) and each pope is the wielder of the power of the Vatican. It is a matter of a man-centered organization, a worldly, indeed an especially legalistic and worldly organization. The earthly power of the Vatican was instituted in the year 755 by Pepin the Short, the father of Charlemagne –even in our own time he was recognized by Mussolini, in 1929. The source of the proclamation of papal worldly power is significant, as Pope Pius XI maintained, “the one who stands in God’s stead on earth cannot be obedient to earthly power.” Christ was obedient to earthly power, the pope cannot be! The papal authority establishes a theocracy, since theocracy is defined as subsuming both worldly and ecclesiastical authority into one concept. Today we can see theocratic- worldly power in the Vatican and in Iran.

Pope Innocent IV (1198-1216) maintained the characteristic nature of these things in his enthronement speech, “He who has the bride has the bridegroom. However the bride herself (the church) has not been coupled with empty hands, but brings therein an incomparably rich dowry, the fullness of spiritual goods and the expanses of the world’s things, the largesse and abundance of both. . . . Your contributions of the worldly things has given me the diadem, the mitre over the priesthood, the diadem for kingdom and it has established me as His representative (antiprosopo), in the garment and on the knee of which it is written: the King of kings and Lord of lords.”

Consequently great theological differences exist, which have been condemned by the Synod of Photios the Great and at the Synod of Gregory Palamas, just as it appears in the “Synodikon of Orthodoxy.” In addition also the Fathers of the Church and the local synods down to the 19th century condemn all the deceits of papism. The issue is not mollified or improved by a certain typical excuse which the pope would give for an historical error, whenever his theological views were outside of the revelation and the eccesiology is moved into an enclosed course, since of course the pope presents himself as leader of the Christian world, as successor of the Apostle Peter and the Vicar-representative of Christ over the earth, as if Christ would give His authority to the pope and He cease ruling in blessing in the heavens.

Breaking my rules !

This is a blog about Orthodox theology and shall so be .

But occasionally things happens that I must say something about .

I don’t know the whole truth about the Swedish citizen who have been kidnapped by the dictator’s in China , but I know that it is a regim that not respect the human and Christian values . Therefore I write this protest against the dark rulers of China and give thanks to Anna Dahlberg at the Swedish news paper Expressen who bravely have written against the rulers of China . And my prayers go to the Swedish citizen and his dear ones.

May Jesus Christ and the Theotokos help him .

Micke Stensson.

St John Climacus on Repentance

Step 5

On painstaking and true repentance which constitute the life of the holy convicts; and about the prison.

Once John outran Peter; 1 and now obedience precedes repentance. For the one who came first is a symbol of obedience, and the other of repentance.

1. Repentance is the renewal of baptism. Repentance is a contract with God for a second life. A penitent is a buyer 2 of humility. Repentance is constant distrust of bodily comfort. Repentance is self-condemning reflection, and carefree self-care. Repentance is the daughter of hope and the renunciation of despair. A penitent is an undisgraced convict. Repentance is reconciliation with the Lord by the practice of good deeds contrary to the sins. Repentance is purification of conscience. Repentance is the voluntary endurance of all afflictions. A penitent is the inflicter of his own punishments. Repentance is a mighty persecution of the stomach, and a striking of the soul into vigorous awareness.

2. Gather together and come near, all you who have angered God; come and listen to what I expound to you; assemble and see what He has revealed to my soul for your edification. Let us give first place and first honour to the story of the dishonoured yet honoured workers. Let all of us who have suffered an unexpected and inglorious fall listen, watch and act. Rise and be seated, you who through your falls are lying prostrate. Attend, my brothers, attend to my word. Incline your ears, you who wish to be reconciled afresh with God by a true conversion.

3. Weak as I am, I heard that there was a certain powerful and strange way of life and humility for those living in a separate monastic establishment called ‘The Prison’ which was under the authority of the above-mentioned man, that light of lights. So when I was still staying there I asked the good man to allow me to visit it. And the great man, never wishing to grieve a soul in any way, agreed to my request.

4. And so, coming to this abode of penitents and to this true land of mourners, I actually saw (if it is not audacious to say so) what is most cases the eye of a careless person never saw, and what the ear of a slothful and easy-going person never heard, and what never entered the heart of a timid person 3 that is, I saw such deeds and words as can incline God to mercy; such activities and postures as speedily attract His love for men.

5. I saw some of those guilty yet guiltless men standing in the open air, all night till morning and never moving their feet, by force of nature pitifully dazed by sleep; yet they allowed themselves no rest, but reproached themselves, and drove away sleep with dishonours and insults.

6. Others lifted up their eyes to heaven, and with wailings and outcries, implored help from there.

7. Others stood in prayer with their hands tied behind their backs like criminals, their faces, darkened by sorrow, bent to the earth. They regarded themselves as unworthy to look up to heaven. Overwhelmed by the embarrassment of their thoughts and conscience they could not find anything to say or pray about to God, how or with what to begin their prayers. But as if filled with darkness and a blank despair, they offered to God nothing but a speechless soul and a voiceless mind.

8. Others sat on the ground in sackcloth and ashes, hiding their faces between their knees, and striking the earth with their foreheads.

9. Others were continually beating their breasts and recalling their past life and state of soul. Some of them watered the ground with their tears; others, incapable of tears, struck themselves. Some loudly lamented over their souls as over the dead, not having the strength to bear the anguish of their heart.

How to Save the Soul

How to Save the Soul

by St. Theophan the Recluse

What does one say to the person who asks: “How can I save my soul?”

This: Repent, and being strengthened by the power of grace in the Holy Mysteries, walk in the path of God’s commandments, under the direction which the Holy Church gives you through its God-given priesthood. All of this must be done in a spirit of sincere faith which has no reservations.

What then is faith?

Faith is the sincere confession that God, Who is worshipped in, the Trinity, Who created all things and provides for all, saves us who are fallen, through the power of the death on the Cross of the incarnate Son of God, by the grace of the Most Holy Spirit in His Holy Church. The beginnings of renewal, which are established in this. life, will appear in all their glory in the future age, in a way that the mind cannot comprehend nor the tongue express.

O our God, how great are Thy promises!

How then does one walk in the path of the commandments unswervingly?

This cannot be answered in one word, for life is a complex matter. Here is what is necessary:

a) Repent, and turn to the Lord, admit your sins, weep for them, with heartfelt contrition, and confess them before your spiritual father. Vow in word and in your heart before the face of the Lord not to offend Him further with your sins.

b) Then by abiding in God in mind and heart, endeavour to, fulfil in body the duties and affairs which your station in life imposes upon you.

c) In this labor most of all guard your heart from evil thoughts and feelings—pride, vainglory, anger, judging of others, hatred, envy, scorn, despondency, attachment to things and people, scattered thoughts, anxiety, all sensual pleasures and everything that separates the mind and heart from God.

d) In order to stand firm in this labor, resolve beforehand not to: withdraw from what you recognize to be necessary, even if it may, mean death. To achieve this, when you first resolve to do so, offer your life to God in order to live not for your own sake, but for God alone.

e) A support for life in this manner is a humble offering of one’s self to the will of God, and not depending on one’s self; the spiritual arena in which this life is accomplished is patience or an unswerving stand in the ranks of redeemed life, with a cheerful endurance of all the labors and unpleasantness that are linked with this.

f) A support for patience is faith, or the assurance that, working in this way for God, you are His servant and He is your Master, Who sees your efforts, is gladdened by them and values them; hope that the help of God which is ever protecting you, is always ready and waiting for you, and will descend upon you in your time of need, that God will not forsake you to the end of your life, and preserving you as one faithful to His commandments here, among all temptations, He will lead you through death to His eternal Kingdom; love, which meditates day and night upon the beloved Lord, In every way strives to do only what is pleasing to Him, and avoids everything that might offend Him in thought, word or deed.

g) The weapons of such a life are: prayers in church and at home, especially mental prayer, fasting according to one’s strength and the rules of the Church, vigilance, solitude, physical labors, frequent confession of sins, Holy Communion, reading of the Word of God and the writings of the Holy Fathers, conversations with God-fearing people, frequent consultation with one’s spiritual father about all the events of one’s internal and external life. The foundation of all these labors in measure, time and place is wisdom, with the counsel of those who are experienced.

h) Guard yourself with fear. For this remember the end—death, judgment, hell, the heavenly Kingdom.

Most of all be attentive to yourself: preserve a sober mind and an untroubled heart.

i) Set as a final goal the kindling of the fire of the spirit, so that the spiritual fire will burn in your heart and, gathering up all your strength into one, will begin to build your inner man and finally burn up the tares of your sins and passions.

Arrange your life in this manner, and with God’s grace you will be saved.

From Orthodox Life, Vol. 27., No. 6 (Nov.-Dec., 1977), pp. 37-38. Translated by Subdeacon Alexander Bohush from Trinity Leaflets, VoI. I, pp. 263-265, Jordanville, N.Y., 1972.