Paradise and hell according to the Holy Orthodox Christian Church . Fr John Romanides.

By Father John Romanides (Source: Empirical Dogmatics of the Orthodox Catholic Church. Author, Metropolitan of Nafpaktos HIEROTHEOS

Christ revealed to us that He will come at His Second Coming to judge the living and the dead. There is a well-known passage in Holy Scripture about the future Judgment, in which He will separate human beings, as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats, and after an exchange of words, the righteous will go “into eternal life” and the sinners “into everlasting punishment” (St. Matthew 25:46). In the Creed (Symbol of faith) we confess, “And He shall come again with glory to judge the living and the dead.”

Before the Second Judgment the bodies of human beings will be resurrected. The first and second resurrections were mentioned earlier. The first resurrection is experienced through Baptism and Holy Communion, and the second resurrection is after Christ’s Second Coming, so that the whole human being may live ‘eternal well-being‘ or ‘eternal distress.’

The iconography of the Second Coming of Christ shows what Paradise is and what Hell is.

“Please go and find the icon of the Second Coming, and you will see that around Christ are those who are in Paradise. They are in a golden light; the light surrounding them is golden. This same golden light, as it gets further away from Christ, begins to change color, and gradually, the further away it goes, it turns from gold to red; and in the red light are the damned. The saved see Christ in a golden color, and the damned also see Christ from a distance, but they see the Light of Christ as red, because for the former it is the glory of God and for the latter it is the eternal fire, outer darkness and ‘the consuming fire.‘”

From this point of view, therefore, we Orthodox Christians agree with the most liberal people in the world. No message can be more liberal than that of the Holy Fathers of the Church, who not only stress that, ‘Son, we’ll all go to the same place’, as an old lady told me, but also emphasize that God loves everyone equally: the damned and the saved, the glorified and the saints, Angels and devils, good and bad, prostitutes and chaste…God loves all human beings equally, He loves everyone without distinction. From God’s point of view, God saves everyone. He wants the salvation of all human beings, and he has preordained salvation for all.

How do we know this? Because even Hell is salvation (the human being is preserved) and Hell is a way of making perfect, but it is Hell and not Paradise. Because the one who is damned is incapable of progress, he is unable to accept progress towards perfection. Why? Because his conscience has been hardened, his heart has grown hard. He remains so egoistic and self-centered that his personality cannot develop from selfishness to unselfishness. Since he cannot develop anymore, he is perfected in his selfishness. Even Hell is evil for him. Although it is not punishment from God’s point of view, it is punishment from the human point of view.

In other words, the man has remained uncured. Why? Because his heart needed to be cured, his heart or his nous (soul) was sick, and they did not receive treatment. But where does this treatment begin, how does it take place and how a human being secure it? In the Orthodox Christian experience, treatment begins here in this world.”

In the Western (Roman Catholic and Protestant) tradition about Paradise and Hell, we see view that differ from the Orthodox Christian teaching.

Augustine’s teachings about absolute predestination Hell and Paradise were based on those perceptions that he had, his legalistic views about the Fall of man and sin, combined with his neoplatonic perception of Paradise. He introduced into Christianity the idea that Hell is the subterranean regions underneath the earth, where people go to be punished. Paradise is outer space.

In those days they believed that things that were immutable were beyond the heavenly bodies, where there is no movement and no development, and that here on earth is the place of testing. So if we are good boys and girls we shall go to Paradise above the stars and the sky; and if we are bad we shall go under the earth to be punished in the subterranean regions.”

Paradise in the Western (Latin or Roman Catholic) tradition was connected with the soul’s happiness and the satisfaction of its desires.

“In the Orthodox Christian Tradition there is nothing like this. Why? Because man’s destiny is not happiness; it is not satisfaction of his desires. The Holy Fathers do not teach that God will become man’s possession or that man can use God–let alone his fellow human being–for his own happiness.

The capitalistic foundations that exist within the philosophy of medieval feudalism originate from Augustine, but mainly from the ancient Greeks. The teaching about the pursuit of happiness (eudemonism) started from the ancient Greeks, from Plato and Aristotle, with some opposition from the Stoics and the Epicureans. In the Christian tradition of the West, however, Aristotle and Plato prevailed. These elements do not exist in patristic theology.”

In our own Holy Tradition, the human being is eternally advancing to higher stages of perfection. For us history never stops  There is the history of the saints and there is also the eternal history of man. The fact that Christ was Resurrected with His Body and that Christ is fully human until now and for ever and ever means that Christ, His Body and His human nature, is part of history. Has His Body not acted continually until this day? There has been a succession of actions; the energies of the Body of Christ have not ceased. So the Body of Christ is an inseparable part of history, which is a guarantee that history is eternal. History will not come to a halt; although a number of theologians who believe in Plato say nowadays that history will cease. No, history will not come to a halt. Why will history not cease? Because the Body with which Christ was resurrected will exist for ever, and we shall be resurrected with bodies. We shall not be merely souls in paradise. We shall be complete human beings.

Then Westerners speak about Paradise and Hell from the standpoint of justice. This is sociologicalinterpretation of eternal life…

“…Holy Scripture uses the words ‘light’ and ‘dark cloud’ to describe the state of the just, and the words ‘fire’ and ‘darkness’ to describe the state of sinners. We know, however, that the light is different from the dark cloud that covers the light. And fire is the opposite of darkness, because fire chases away darkness and illuminates the surroundings.

This shows that there are not created words to express uncreated reality absolutely. The Eternal Divine Light and the Eternal Life are uncreated. They are the energy of God that is experienced by human beings as illuminating or burning energy, depending on their spiritual state.

“All human beings will see the glory of God, and from this point of view they have the same end. Everyone will certainly see the glory of God, the difference being that, whereas the saved will see the glory of God as sweetest light without evening, the damned will see the same glory of God as consuming fire, as fire that will burn them. It is a true and predictable fact that we shall all see the glory of God. Seeing God, that is to say, His glory and His Light, is something that will happen whether we want it or not. The experience of this Light, however, will be different for the two categories.

The work of the Church and the priests is not to help us to see this glory, because that will happen in any case. The work of the Church centers on how each one will see God. Not on whether he will see God. In other words, the task of the Church is to preach to people that the true God exists, that God is revealed either as light or as consuming fire, and that at the Second Coming of Christ all of us will see God. And it must prepare its members so that they see God not as fire but as light.”

The Church does not send anyone to Paradise or to Hell, but it prepares the faithful for the vision of Christ in glory, which everyone will have. God loves the damned as much as the Saints. He wants all to be cured, but not all accept the cure that He offers.

Paradise and Hell do not exist from the point of view of God, but from the point of view of human beings. God will love everyone equally. He will send His grace to all, in the same way as He will send His grace to all, in the same way as He “makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust (Saint Matthew 5:45). But everyone will not accept God’s grace in the same way. Some will see God as Light and other as fire. The same will happen as with Holy Communion. For those who prepare themselves appropriately, Holy Communion is “for eternal life”, but for those who have “not been purified, Holy Communion is for judgment and condemnation…”

“…When someone reaches the point of seeing the glory of God after having gone through purification of the heart and reaching illumination, this illuminated human being sees the glory of God as light. But when someone who has not reached this Light, he sees it as consuming fire. Instead of seeing God as Light, he sees God as consuming fire.”

“We know that if an Orthodox Christian who does not prepare himself correctly and reaches the point that his heart is hardened, he will see God as a consuming fire.”

“Contrary to Augustine’s ideas about Paradise and Hell, according to the other Fathers of the Church in both East and West, Hell and Paradise are the same thing. There is no difference at all. When someone sees God’s glory with unselfish love, he sees God as paradise, and this is paradise…”

“The uncreated glory, which Christ has by nature from the Father, is paradise for those who self-centered and selfish love has been cured and transformed into unselfish love. However, the same glory is uncreated eternal fire and hell for those who have chosen to remain uncured in their selfishness.

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On the Church by Rev. Dr. John Romanides .

The Church is the body of Christ, which is comprised of all those faithful in Christ; of those who participate in the first resurrection and who bear the betrothal of the Spirit or even those who have foretasted theosis (deification).

The Church has existed even before Creation, as the kingdom and the glory that is hidden within God and in which God resides, along with His Logos and His Spirit. By a volition of God, the aeons were created, as were the celestial powers and the incorporeal spirits or angels therein, and thereafter, time and the world within it, in which man was also created, who unites within himself the noetic energy of the angels with the logos-reason and the human body.

The Church is both invisible and visible; in other words, She is comprised of those who are enlisted (in active duty) on earth and those who are in the heavens, that is, those who have triumphed in the glory of God.

Among the Protestants there prevails the opinion that the Church is invisible only – where the sacraments of Baptism and the Divine Eucharist are merely symbolic acts – and that only God knows who the true members of the Church are. The Orthodox Church, on the other hand, also stresses the visible aspect of the Church. Outside the Church, there is no salvation.

The Church, as the body of Christ, is the residence of God’s uncreated glory. It is impossible for us to separate Christ from the Church, as it is to separate the Church from Christ. In Papism and Protestantism there is a clear distinction between the body of Christ and the Church; that is, one can participate in the body of Christ, without being a member of the Papist church. This is impossible for Orthodoxy.

According to the Calvinists, after His ascension, Christ resides in heaven, and consequently the transformation of bread and wine into the actual Body and Blood of Christ is impossible. A complete absence of Christ. Approximately the same thing is highlighted in the Papist church, because Christ is regarded as absent, and through the minister’s prayer, He descends from the heavens and becomes present. This implies that Christ is absent from the Church. Members of the Church are – as mentioned previously – those who have received the betrothal of the Spirit and the deified ones.

When the ancient Church referred to the body of Christ as the Church, and Christ as the Head of the Church, they of course did not mean that Christ was spread out bodily all over the world and that He – for example – had His Head in Rome, the one hand in the East and the other in the West, but that the whole of Christ exists in every individual church with all its members, that is, the Saints and the faithful of the universe. In this way, according to the teaching of the Fathers, when we perform the Divine Eucharist, not only is Christ present, but all His Saints and the Christians of the Universe are present, in Christ. When we receive a tiny morsel of the Holy Bread, we receive all of Christ inside us. When Christians gather together for the same reason, the whole Church is gathering together, and not just a fraction of it. This is the reason that it has become predominant in Patristic Tradition to refer to the church of a monastery as the “Katholikon”.

The destination of all the faithful is theosis (deification). This is everyone’s ultimate objective. This is why a Christian must proceed “from glory to glory”; in other words, the slave must first become a salaried worker, then a son of God and a faithful member of Christ. There cannot be salvation outside the Church. Christ offers redemptive grace to all people. When one is saved outside the visible Church, it means that Christ Himself has saved him. If he is a heterodox member then he is saved because it was Christ who saved him, and not the religious “offshoot” that he belongs to. His salvation therefore is not effected by the ‘church’ he belongs to, because One is the Church that saves – and that is Christ.

Wherever the Orthodox dogma does not exist, the Church is in no position to opine on the authority of the sacraments. According to the Fathers, the Orthodox Dogma never separates itself from spirituality. Wherever there is an erroneous dogma, there is an erroneous spirituality and vice-versa. There are many who separate the dogma from piety. That is a mistake. When Christ says “become ye perfect, as the Father is perfect” it implies that one must be familiar with the meaning of perfection. The criterion for the authority of the sacraments for us Orthodox is the Orthodox dogma, whereas for the heterodox, it is Apostolic Succession. For the Orthodox Tradition, it is not enough to trace one’s ordination back to the Apostles, but to possess the Orthodox dogma. Piety and dogma are one identity and cannot be separated. Wherever there is upright teaching, there will be upright action. “Orthodox” means:

a) upright glory

b) upright action

The terrestrial, actively engaged Church is the Orthodox Church. “Orthodox dogma” and “Scriptural teaching” are one and the same thing, because the dogma exists, and it comes from within the Holy Bible.

Taken from a student’s audiotaped notes on Dogmatics, recorded during the lessons delivered by Professor Fr. John Romanides, Thessaloniki, 1972.

Saint Theophan the Recluse . Quotes

“Every Christian has the power to heal infirmities-not of others, but his own, and not of the body, but of the soul-that is, sins and sinful habits-and to cast out devils, rejecting evil thoughts sown by them, and extinguishing the excitement of passions enflamed by them.

“Remember that each of us has his own cross. The Golgotha of this cross is our heart: it is being lifted or implanted through a zealous determination to live according to the Spirit of God. Just as salvation of the world is by the Cross of God, so our salvation is by our crucifixion on our own cross.

“As it is not possible to walk without feet or fly without wings, so it is impossible to attain the Kingdom of Heaven without the fulfillment of the commandments.”

If you want to attain salvation, learn and keep in your heart all that the holy Church teaches and, receiving heavenly power from the mysteries of the Church, walk the path of Christ’s commandments, under the direction of lawful pastors, and you will undoubtedly attain the Heavenly Kingdom and be saved. All of this is naturally necessary in the matter of salvation, necessary in it entirety and for all. Whoever rejects or neglects any part of it has no salvation.

Refuse to listen to the devil when he whispers to you: give me now, and you will give tomorrow to God. No, no! Spend all the hours of your life in a way pleasing to God; keep in your mind the thought that after the present hour you will not be given another and that you will have to render a strict account for every minute of this present hour.

“But if this is the hardest of all wars… victory in it is the most glorious of all …. If you really desire to be victorious in this unseen warfare and be rewarded with a crown, you must plant in your heart the following four dispositions and spiritual activities, as it were arming yourself with invisible weapons, the most trustworthy and unconquerable of all, namely:

a) never rely on yourself in anything;

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

c) strive without ceasing; and

d) remain constantly in prayer.”

“Always collect your mind within yourself, with all the concentration you can, and keep it free of thoughts about all worldy things.”

Saint Theophan the Recluse .

Saint John of Kronstadt .

“Faith in God’s existence is closely connected with faith in the existence of our own souls, as a part of the spiritual world. God’s existence is as evident to the pious mind as its own being, because every thought, good or bad, every desire, every intention, word or act of such a mind is followed by a corresponding change in the state of the heart, peace or trouble, joy or grief, and this is the result of the action upon it of the God of spirits and bodies, Who is reflected in the pious mind as the sun is reflected in a drop of water; the purer the drop is, the better, the clearer will be the reflection; the more turbid the drop, the dimmer will be the reflection; so that in the soul’s state of extreme impurity or darkness, the reflection entirely ceases and the soul is left in a state of spiritual darkness, in a state of insensibility. In this state the man having eyes, sees not, and having ears, hears not. Again, in relation to our souls, God may be likened to the outer air in relation to the mercury of the thermometer-with this difference, that the expansion and rest, rise and fall of the mercury proceed from the change in the state of the atmosphere; whilst, in the first case, God remains unchangeable, everlasting and eternally good and just. Whilst the soul, changeable in its relation to God, suffers changes in itself, thus it unavoidably expands and obtains peace of heart when it draws nearer to God by faith and good works, and unavoidably contracts, becomes restless and wearied, when it withdraws itself from God by unlawful acts, want of faith, and unbelief in God’s Truth.

Saint John of Kronstadt .

From My life in Christ.

st john of Kronstadt

Having Christ in your heart, fear that you may lose Him, and with Him the peace of your heart; it is hard to begin again; efforts to attach oneself afresh to Him after falling away will be very grievous, and will cost bitter tears to many. Cling to Christ with all your might, gain Him, and do not lose boldness in approaching Him.”

Attributes of the Church. By St Justin Popovic.

Attributes of the Church

by St. Justin Popovich

The attributes of the Church are innumerable because her attributes are actually the attributes of the Lord Christ, the God-man, and, through Him, those of the Triune Godhead. However, the holy and divinely wise fathers of the Second Ecumenical Council, guided and instructed by the Holy Spirit, reduced them in the ninth article of the Symbol of Faith to four—I believe in one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church. These attributes of the Church—unity, holiness, catholicity (sobornost), and apostolicity—are derived from the very nature of the Church and of her purpose. They clearly and accurately define the character of the Orthodox Church of Christ whereby, as a theanthropic institution and community, she is distinguishable from any institution or community of the human sort.

I. The Unity and Uniqueness of the Church

Just as the Person of Christ the God-man is one and unique, so is the Church founded by Him, in Him, and upon Him. The unity of the Church follows necessarily from the unity of the Person of the Lord Christ, the God-man. Being an organically integral and theanthropic organism unique in all the worlds, the Church, according to all the laws of Heaven and earth, is indivisible. Any division would signify her death. Immersed in the God-man, she is first and foremost a theanthropic organism, and only then a theanthropic organization. In her, everything is theanthropic: nature, faith, love, baptism, the Eucharist, all the holy mysteries and all the holy virtues, her teaching, her entire life, her immortality, her eternity, and her structure. Yes, yes, yes; in her, everything is theanthropically integral and indivisible Christification, sanctification, deification, Trinitarianism, salvation. In her everything is fused organically and by grace into a single theanthropic body, under a single Head—the God-man, the Lord Christ. All her members, though as persons always whole and inviolate, yet united by the same grace of the Holy Spirit through the holy mysteries and the holy virtues into an organic unity, comprise one body and confess the one faith, which unites them to each other and to the Lord Christ.

The Christ-bearing apostles are divinely inspired as they announce the unity and the uniqueness of the Church, based upon the unity and uniqueness of her Founder—the God-man, the Lord Christ, and His theanthropic personality: “For other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ” (I Cor. 3:11).

Like the holy apostles, the holy fathers and the teachers of the Church confess the unity and uniqueness of the Orthodox Church with the divine wisdom of the cherubim and the zeal of the seraphim. Understandable, therefore, is the fiery zeal which animated the holy fathers of the Church in all cases of division and falling away and the stern attitude toward heresies and schisms. In that regard, the holy ecumenical and holy local councils are preeminently important. According to their spirit and attitude, wise in those things pertaining to Christ, the Church is not only one but also unique. Just as the Lord Christ cannot have several bodies, so He cannot have several Churches. According to her theanthropic nature, the Church is one and unique, just as Christ the God-man is one and unique.

Hence, a division, a splitting up of the Church is ontologically and essentially impossible. A division within the Church has never occurred, nor indeed can one take place, while apostasy from the Church has and will continue to occur after the manner of those voluntarily fruitless branches which, having withered, fall away from the eternally living theanthropic Vine—the Lord Christ (Jn. 15:1-6). From time to time, heretics and schismatics have cut themselves offend have fallen away from the one and indivisible Church of Christ, whereby they ceased to be members of the Church and parts of her theanthropic body. The first to fall away thus were the gnostics, then the Arians, then the Macedonians, then the Monophysites, then the Iconoclasts, then the Roman Catholics, then the Protestants, then the Uniates, and so on—all the other members of the legion of heretics and schismatics.

1/5 II. The Holiness of the Church

By her theanthropic nature, the Church is undoubtedly a unique organization in the world. All her holiness resides in her nature. Actually, she is the theanthropic workshop of human sanctification and, through men, of the sanctification of the rest of creation. She is holy as the theanthropic Body of Christ, whose eternal head is the Lord Christ Himself; and Whose immortal soul is the Holy Spirit. Wherefore everything in her is holy: her teaching, her grace, her mysteries, her virtues, all her powers, and all her instruments have been deposited in her for the sanctification of men and of all created things. Having become the Church by His incarnation out of an unparalleled love for man, our God and Lord Jesus Christ sanctified the Church by His sufferings, Resurrection, Ascension, teaching, wonderworking, prayer, fasting, mysteries, and virtues; in a word, by His entire theanthropic life. Wherefore the divinely inspired pronouncement has been rendered: “… Christ also loved the Church, and gave Himself for it; that He might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word, that He might present it to Himself a glorious Church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish” (Eph. 5:25-27).

The flow of history confirms the reality of the Gospel: the Church is filled to overflowing with sinners. Does their presence in the Church reduce, violate, or destroy her sanctity? Not in the least! For her Head—the Lord Christ, and her Soul—the Holy Spirit, and her divine teaching, her mysteries, and her virtues, are indissolubly and immutably holy. The Church tolerates sinners, shelters them, and instructs them, that they may be awakened and roused to repentance and spiritual recovery and transfiguration; but they do not hinder the Church from being holy. Only unrepentant sinners, persistent in evil and godless malice, are cut off from the Church either by the visible action of the theanthropic authority of the Church or by the invisible action of divine judgment, so that thus also the holiness of the Church may be preserved. “Put away from among yourselves that wicked person” (I Cor. 5:13).

In their writings and at the Councils, the holy fathers confessed the holiness of the church as her essential and immutable quality. The fathers of the Second Ecumenical Council defined it dogmatically in the ninth article of the Symbol of Faith. And the succeeding ecumenical councils confirmed it by the seal of their assent.

III. The Catholicity (Sobornost) of the Church

The theanthropic nature of the Church is inherently and all-encompassingly universal and catholic: it is theanthropically universal and theanthropically catholic. The Lord Christ, the God-man, has by Himself and in Himself most perfectly and integrally united God and Man and, through man, all the worlds and all created things to God. The fate of creation is essentially linked to that of man (cf. Romans 8:19-24). In her theanthropic organism, the Church encompasses: “all things created, that are in Heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers” (Col. 1:16). Everything is in the God-man; He is the Head of the Body of the Church (Col. 1:17-18).

In the theanthropic organism of the Church everyone lives in the fullness of his personality as a living, godlike cell. The law of theanthropic catholicity encompasses all and acts through all. All the while, the theanthropic equilibrium between the divine and the human is always duly preserved. Being members of her body, we in the Church experience the fullness of our being in all its godlike dimensions. Furthermore: in the Church of the God-man, man experiences his own being as all-encompassing, as theanthropically all-encompassing; he experiences himself not only as complete, but also as the totality of creation. In a word: he experiences himself as a god-man by grace.

The theanthropic catholicity of the Church is actually an unceasing christification of many by grace and virtue: all is gathered in Christ the God-man, and everything is experienced through Him as one’s own, as a single indivisible theanthropic organism. For life in the Church is a theanthropic catholicization, the struggle of acquiring by grace and virtue the likeness of the God-man, christification, theosis, life in the Trinity, sanctification, transfiguration, salvation, immortality, and churchliness. Theanthropic catholicity in the Church is reflected in and achieved by the eternally living Person of Christ, the God-man Who in the most perfect way has united God to man and to all creation, which has been cleansed of sin, evil, and death by the Savior’s precious Blood (cf. Col. 1:19-22). The theanthropic Person

2/5 of the Lord Christ is the very soul of the Church’s catholicity. It is the God-man Who always preserves the theanthropic balance between the divine and the human in the catholic life of the Church. The Church is filled to overflowing with the Lord Christ, for she is “the fullness of Him that filleth all in all” (Eph. 1:23). Wherefore, she is universal in every person that is found within her, in each of her tiny cells. That universality, that catholicity resounds like thunder particularly through the holy apostles, through the holy fathers, through the holy ecumenical and local councils.

IV. The Apostolicity of the Church

The holy apostles were the first god-men by grace. Like the Apostle Paul each of them, by his integral life, could have said of himself: “I live, yet not I, but Christ liveth in me” (Gal. 2:20). Each of them is a Christ repeated; or, to be more exact, a continuation of Christ. Everything in them is theanthropic because everything was recieved from the God-man. Apostolicity is nothing other than the God-manhood of the Lord Christ, freely assimilated through the holy struggles of the holy virtues: faith, love, hope, prayer, fasting, etc. This means that everything that is of man lives in them freely through the God-man, thinks through the God-man, feels through the God-man, acts through the Godman and wills through the God-man. For them, the historical God-man, the Lord Jesus Christ, is the supreme value and the supreme criterion. Everything in them is of the God-man, for the sake of the God-man, and in the God-man. And it is always and everywhere thus. That for them is immortality in the time and space of this world. Thereby are they even on this earth partakers of the theanthropic eternity of Christ.

This theanthropic apostolicity is integrally continued in the earthly successors of the Christ-bearing apostles: in the holy fathers. Among them, in essence, there is no difference: the same God-man Christ lives, acts, enlivens and makes them all eternal in equal measure, He Who is the same yesterday, and today, and forever (Heb. 13:8). Through the holy fathers, the holy apostles live on with all their theanthropic riches, theanthropic worlds, theanthropic holy things, theanthropic mysteries, and theanthropic virtues. The holy fathers in fact are continuously apostolizing, whether as distinct godlike personalities, or as bishops of the local churches, or as members of the holy ecumenical and holy local councils. For all of them there is but one Truth, one Transcendent Truth: the Godman, the Lord Jesus Christ. Behold, the holy ecumenical councils, from the first to the last, confess, defend, believe, announce, and vigilantly preserve but a single supreme value: the God-man, the Lord Jesus Christ.

The principal Tradition, the transcendent Tradition, of the Orthodox Church is the living God-man Christ, entire in the theanthropic Body of the Church of which He is the immortal, eternal Head. This is not merely the message, but the transcendent message of the holy apostles and the holy fathers. They know Christ crucified, Christ resurrected, Christ ascended. They all, by their integral lives and teachings, with a single soul and a single voice, confess that Christ the God-man is wholly in His Church, as in His Body. Each of the holy fathers could rightly repeat with St. Maximus the Confessor: “In no wise am I expounding my own opinion, but that which I have been taught by the fathers, without changing aught in their teaching.”

And from the immortal proclamation of St. John of Damascus there resounds the universal confession of all the holy fathers who were glorified by God: “Whatever has been transmitted to us through the Law, and the prophets, and the apostles, and the evangelists, we receive and know and esteem highly, and beyond that we ask nothing more… Let us be fully satisfied with it, and rest therein, removing not the ancient landmarks (Prov. 22:28), nor violating the divine Tradition.” And then, the touching, fatherly admonition of the holy Damascene, directed to all Orthodox Christians: “Wherefore, brethren, let us plant ourselves upon the rock of faith and the Tradition of the Church, removing not the landmarks set by our holy fathers, nor giving room to those who are anxious to introduce novelties and to undermine the structure of God’s holy ecumenical and apostolic Church. For if everyone were allowed a free hand, little by little the entire Body of the Church would be destroyed.”

The holy Tradition is wholly of the God-man, wholly of the holy apostles, wholly of the holy fathers, wholly of the Church, in the Church, and by the Church. The holy fathers are nothing other than the “guardians of the apostolic tradition. ” All of them, like the holy apostles themselves, are but “witnesses” of a single and unique Truth: the

3/5 transcendent Truth of Christ, the God-man. They preach and confess it without rest, they, the “golden mouths of the Word.” The God-man, the Lord Christ is one, unique, and indivisible. So also is the Church unique and indivisible, for she is the incarnation of the Theanthropos Christ, continuing through the ages and through all eternity. Being such by her nature and in her earthly history, the Church may not be divided. It is only possible to fall away from her. That unity and uniqueness of the Church is theanthropic from the very beginning and through all the ages and all eternity.

Apostolic succession, the apostolic heritage, is theanthropic from first to last. What is it that the holy apostles are transmitting to their successors as their heritage? The Lord Christ, the God-man Himself, with all the imperishable riches of His wondrous theanthropic Personality, Christ—the Head of the Church, her sole Head. If it does not transmit that, apostolic succession ceases to be apostolic, and the apostolic Tradition is lost, for there is no longer an apostolic hierarchy and an apostolic Church.

The holy Tradition is the Gospel of the Lord Christ, and the Lord Christ Himself, Whom the Holy Spirit instills in each and every believing soul, in the entire Church. Whatever is Christ’s, by the power of the Holy Spirit becomes ours, human; but only within the body of the Church. The Holy Spirit—the soul of the Church, incorporates each believer, as a tiny cell, into the body of the Church and makes him a “co-heir” of the God-man (Eph. 3:6). In reality the Holy Spirit makes every believer into a God-man by grace. For what is life in the Church? Nothing other than the transfiguration of each believer into a God-man by grace through his personal, evangelical virtues; it is his growth in Christ, the putting on of Christ by growing in the Church and being a member of the Church. A Christian’s life is a ceaseless, Christ-centered theophany: the Holy Spirit, through the holy mysteries and the holy virtues, transmits Christ the Savior to each believer, renders him a living tradition, a living life: “Christ who is our life” (Col. 3:4). Everything Christ’s thereby becomes ours, ours for all eternity: His truth, His righteousness, His love, His life, and His entire divine Hypostasis.

Holy Tradition? It is the Lord Jesus Christ, the God-man Himself, with all the riches of his divine Hypostasis and, through Him and for His sake, those of the Holy Trinity. That is most fully given and articulated in the Holy Eucharist, wherein, for our sake and for our salvation, the Savior’s entire theanthropic economy of salvation is performed and repeated. Therein wholly resides the God-man with all His wondrous and miraculous gifts; He is there, and in the Church’s life of prayer and liturgy. Through all this, the Savior’s philanthropic proclamation ceaselessly resounds: “And, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world” (Mt. 28 20): He is with the apostles and, through the apostles, with all the faithful, world without end. This is the whole of the holy Tradition of the Orthodox Church of the apostles: life in Christ = life in the Holy Trinity; growth in Christ = growth in the Trinity (cf. Mt. 28: 19-20).

Of extraordinary importance is the following: in Christ’s Orthodox Church, the Holy Tradition, ever living and life-giving, comprises: the holy liturgy, all the divine services, all the holy mysteries, all the holy virtues, the totality of eternal truth and eternal righteousness, all love, all eternal life, the whole of the God-man, the Lord Christ, the entire Holy Trinity, and the entire theanthropic life of the Church in its theanthropic fullness, with the All-holy Theotokos and all the saints.

The personality of the Lord Christ the God-man, transfigured within the Church, immersed in the prayerful, liturgical, and boundless sea of grace, wholly contained in the Eucharist, and wholly in the Church—this is holy Tradition. This authentic good news is confessed by the holy fathers and the holy ecumenical councils. By prayer and piety holy Tradition is preserved from all human demonism and devilish humanism, and in it is preserved the entire Lord Christ, He Who is the eternal Tradition of the Church. “Great is the mystery of godliness: God was manifest in the flesh” (I Tim. 3 16): He was manifest as a man, as a God-man, as the Church, and by His philanthropic act of salvation and deification of humanity He magnified and exalted man above the holy cherubim and the most holy seraphim.

Originally published in Orthodox Life, vol. 31, no. 1 (Jan.-Feb., 1981), pp. 28-33. Translated by Stephen Karganovic from: The Orthodox Church & Ecumenism (in Serbian) by Archimandrite Justin (Popovich) (Thessalonica: Chilandar Monastery, 1974), pp. 64-74.

The Church of Christ. By Fr Nikita Grigoriev.

The Church is One. This is the first definition that the Church gave Herself in the Creed. One God, One Faith and One Church. In our current days for many people, this initial self-definition by the Church has become incomprehensible and even forgotten.

The Church is one, but it has two parts: on earth its counterpart is the church militant (because its members are struggling each with their own sins and passions, due to the fallen nature of man and in-bred tendency to sin), in heaven it is the church triumphant (because God has delivered, or saved those members, who were worthy, of their sins and iniquities). These two parts are integrally linked for they are in close communion and accord, as Christ said: “and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” (Matt. 16:19), (Matt. 19:18).

The Church is connected not only by love and unanimity of thought, but by such love that Her members become one whole body. This one whole body is the Body of Christ in which the Holy Spirit lives. This very cohesion is what Christ prayed for in His prayer as High Priest , where He likens it even to the Unity and Indivisibility of the Most Holy Trinity! Therefore all false teachings, heresies, distortions in teaching and schisms which violate the Holy Oneness of the Church place the instigators and participants of such things outside the Church.

The Church is Holy

The Church is Holy because the Holy Spirit lives in Her and animates Her. The Holy Spirit can manifest Himself wherever and whenever He pleases and is never restricted by anything. But the Church of Christ is the house of God and the Holy Spirit lives in the Church as in His Own home.

This is why the Church alone has been granted the power to bless and sanctify, i.e., to not only make its members holy but even sanctify the entire surrounding world and the numerous objects in it, ranging from icons to homes and even vehicles. The bishops of the Church are called “sviatiteli” (luminaries, edifiers in sanctity), while the priests are called “ministers of sacredness” (“sviaschennik” – Russian). “God is Holy and His Church is Holy. Holiness is a power which causes hell to tremble and which the godless world cannot endure. This power and this light is poured forth abundantly by the Church onto each of its members who strive to acquire it. It is indispensable in order to acquire godliness, i.e., holiness, to which each of Her members, without exception, is called.

The Lifting of Restrictions

The Church is the reinstatement of fallen man. Just as all mankind fell in the person of Adam, likewise it rose up again in Christ. In the Church, the curse of God which man acquired in Paradise when he fell is lifted and in the Church those punishments and restrictions which God gradually placed on man in order to preserve and educate him are loosed.

But primarily it is death which is abolished in the Church. In the beginning Christ said to Adam that he would die a death; now He Himself says: “Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that heareth my word, and believeth on him that sent me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death unto life.” (John 5:24). And Apostle Paul asks the rhetorical question: “O death, where is thy sting?” (1 Cor.15:55).”

Excerpt From

Faith and Delusion

Father Nikita Grigoriev

Copyright 2011 Nikita Grigoriev.

Archbishop Averky : The gates of hell shall not prevail.

The Gates of Hell Shall Not Prevail

Orthodox Life, 1961

Archbishop Averky

“I will build My Church and the gates of hell shall not prevail against It”

Matthew XVI, 18

We have just recently celebrated a great holy day.  every year on June 29th our Holy Church commemorates the glorious martyrdom of two of the greatest Apostles, who more than all others have laboured in spreading the Gospel, – Saints Peter and Paul.  In the church services songs of that day the Holy Church can hardly find words with which to worthily give honour to their apostolic zeal, to bring to remembrance their self-sacrificial deeds.

“Apostles nearest to the Heavenly Throne”, “Universal Teachers”, “First witnesses for God’s Truth”, “the hands of Gospel’s Grace”, “the feet of true preaching”, “rivers of wisdom”, “the frightful swords of the spirit”, “Universal Nurturers”, “The tables of God’s written New Testament”, “the foundation of the Church, true pillars and walls”, “intercessors for the whole world” – it is with such lofty names and expressions that the Church exalts these her own loyal servants, both equal – this let us note – not giving preference either to one or the other, but equally naming them both as “primary” and first sentinels.

Great should be the joy and spiritual rejoicing of the faithful, whom not in vain the Holy Church prepares to meet this day by means of a special, so-called “apostolic” St. Peter’s lent as it occurs before only a few other important holy days, and it would seem that in this celebration of faith all Christians who consider themselves to be followers of the leading apostles should unite.

But, alas! – powerful is the enemy, and that which should serve as an incentive toward stronger inner unity, it cunningly transformed into cause for separation.  Even as far as the inspiring and most exalted teaching of the Lord Jesus Christ concerning His founding of His Church and of Her firmness, and of her invincibility before the gate of hell, spoken to Apostle Peter in reward for his utterance of confession of faith in the Lord as the Son of God, – the enemy gas contrived to make this an object of argument and dissension among Christians, and thereby brought a great schism in the Church of Christ as a result of which the whole Western half fell away from Her.  The heart of every true Christian contracts with pain at the thought of the ruinous consequences of this schism, and one fears for the ones who are guilty of it.  The severe words of the great pillar of the Church, St. John Chrysostom, involuntarily come to mind: “Nothing so arouses the wrath of God as division in the Church: Even if we were to do the most perfect of deed – in disrupting unity, we are to be punished the same as though we were to have torn asunder the Body of Christ … even the blood of martyrs does not expiate such a sin” …

Where are the basic causes of this schism?

The fundamental cause of all divisions is always one and the same.  Division arises when anyone, forgetting his lawful and direct designation, begins to exalt and pride oneself in his calling, abandoning humility taught by Christ the Savior, taking a stand on the path of allurement by soul-destroying pride.

“… Not to think of himself more highly than he ought to …”, the holy Apostle teaches (Romans 12:3).  This profound warning was abandoned during their time without worthy consideration by some of he Bishops of ancient Rome, bedewed with the martyr blood of the first rank apostles.  Not being content with the high honour and glory of he Bishop’s calling even without this, they began to think of themselves more highly than they ought to have, and being supported by human flattery they finally went so far as to declare themselves to be infallible vicars of God the Son on earth.  Having forgotten about the true nature of pastoral service, which has to be carried out in the spirit of humility, and with the acknowledgment of one’s unworthiness, sinfulness and worthlessness before God, the One Lord of all living creatures, both pastors and flocks, they boldly usurped unto themselves the honor that belongs to God alone and began to demand that all Christians the world over should pay almost divine homage before them and that they should obey them in all things, not only as Bishops of the Church of Christ, but also as absolute rulers in whose hands all authority on earth was to reside, not only spiritual, but also worldly, as “substitutes” of God Himself on earth.

In support of their incredible pretension, they invented a teaching about the person of St. Peter unknown to the ancient Church, that on his individuality as on a foundation the Church of Christ has been established and for that reason the Roman Bishops, or Popes, as successors to St. Peter’s chair, belongs all higher extraordinary authority and right from God over the whole Church of Christ.

Apostle Peter himself, as is plainly seen from his Epistle (I Peter 2:4–8), knew nothing of such a fanatical teaching.  And the Lord Jesus Christ Himself, his first rank Apostles and the Holy Fathers witness with full understanding and intelligence that the corner stone on which the Church has been founded is our Lord Jesus Christ Himself, or to be more accurate, – faith in Him as The Son of God (Matthew 21:42; Acts 4:2; Romans 9:33; I Cor. 10:4).

“Thou are Christ, the Son of the Living God” – that is the great truth confessed by Apostle Peter on behalf of all the Apostles, – a Truth that is firm and immovable as a rock, upon which the Church of Christ is founded (Matthew 21:16) which for that reason will remain invincible before the gates of hell.

Only where this pure and uncorrupted faith, maintained in sacredness and unchangeability and openly confessed without any fear, is confessed in the Deity of the Incarnate Son of God here for the sake of us human beings and for our salvation, this namely is the True Church of Christ.  All else where this clearly expressed faith does not exist, or where this faith in one way or another is altered or perverted, is not the True Church.  She is, of course, also not where hiding behind the name of Christ He is not served, but some one “else”, where “other” lords are pleased entirely “different” aims are served, “different” strivings are satisfied, not having anything in common with the matter of salvation, for which purpose the Church has been funded.

And this latter condition now is very, very widespread.  For “Satan himself”, according to the teaching of St. Paul, “will transform himself into an angel of light” and for that reason “it is not a great work”, as it is said further by the Apostle, “if his servants take on the appearance of servants of truth (II Cor. 11:14–15).

That is why it is in no way astounding that during our evil time there arose so many self-styled “churches” of all kinds, or rather, as they are called here, “denominations”, pretending to be churches, and which have nothing in common with the true Church.

But it becomes very frightful when representatives and leaders of separate local churches which are part of the One True Church of Christ, forgetting their high calling to be servants of the task of Christ here on earth, enter into affiliation and cooperate most friendly with the enemies of the Church and give themselves over to Satan, and already thinking not of serving Christ the Saviour,but only about pleasing their new lords.  The worst and most dangerous idea of modern times is the idea of reconciliation, of “coexistence” with evil.  And very many servants subjugate themselves to this idea, the servants of the Church are not to be excluded.

But is it possible for the True Church of Christ to reconcile Herself somehow with evil, which comes from the enemy of mankind’s salvation – the devil?  Is it possible for Her to coexist with it, without carrying on a most decisive struggle with it?

Of course not, for, according to the words of Christ the Saviour, no one can serve two masters (Matthew 6:24).  And it is namely for this reason that they who broke away from the True Church, the so-called movement of the living Church, the movement for reform which wanted to compromise Christianity with their world, that lies in sin, and “Sergianism” which preaches “co-existence” with the godless power of Communism, and participation in the so-called “ecumenical movement” that recognizes the equality in rights and dignity of all groups and “denominations”, all this is in essence already a departure from the true Church.

Can that organization be called a Church which calls for “loyalty” to the servants of Satan?

This of course already is not The Church, but a false church, or according to the word of God “the congregation of evil-doers”, and to remain in such a Church is not only not helpful toward salvation, but, on the contrary – it is ruinous.

It may be asked why do we speak and write about this so often?

For the reason that it is our sacred pastoral duty – to warn our believers about those countless numbers of subtle temptations which now have been abundantly sown about everywhere.  We are obligated to teach them to discern the True Church – to be able to distinguish it from the false church and the “congregation of evil-doers”.  Christ our Saviour gave us the great promise that the gates of hell shall not prevail over His Church, that is to say all the forces of hell in all their maximum endeavor.  But believers, separately, and pastors individually, and even separate hierarchs and whole local churches headed by them, can fall away from the One True Church, preparing for themselves and their followers eternal perdition in the depths of hell.

It was not in vain that the Lord named the members of His Church as “the little flock”, and foretold that when He would come back to earth again the second time, He hardly shall find faith on earth (Luke 12:32; 18;8).  The circle of true believers in Christ shunning all compromises with the evils of the devil, at the time of the end of the world and the Second Coming of Christ will be contracted to an ever greater extent, and corresponding to this, the diapason of the True Church of Christ will lessen more and more.  But the True Church of Christ, which did not involve itself in “co-existence” with the evil one and did not bow before the Antichrist, will not end its own existence, in spite of all the difficult hardships, shocks and persecution, to which it will be subjected to up to the very end of the world.  It will exist to the very Second Coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, even if only one bishop exists who retained and kept loyalty to Christ the Saviour with a most insignificant group of clergy and laymen.

Our age doubly intensified in materialism is characterized very much by its almost complete loss of the most valuable and important in the life of people – this being a correct conception of the Church of Christ, as a God-man organism – as the Body of Christ, the Head of Which is Christ Himself.  The Church in complete agreement with the accepted course of “democracy” has begun to be considered as only one of many among common human organizations.  From here proceeds all evil, all the disorder, conflicts, schisms in this most important branch of human existence on earth – in church life, which in fact should serve as a threshold, as a preparation towards future eternal life.  And this, of course, results from the lessening of faith in this future life to come.

Much has been done and continues to be done in this direction by the enemy of mankind’s salvation – the devil, through the people who sold themselves to him in exchange for earthly goods.  It is he who through sowing of animosity and schisms amongst people has been able to convince modern man, that Christ’s words: “I will build My Church and the gates of hell will not prevail against Her” turned out to be false and in reality unattainable: that the True Church of Christ has ceased to exist long ago on earth, and that now in the twentieth century of the Christian era we only need to strive toward founding her through the so-called “Ecumenical Movement”, with which already many of the hierarchy of the contemporary Orthodox Church have come into union, having dreams of an arrival of some “new era”, the “third cosmogeny” (words of Patriarch Athenagoras).

In reality this “new era” will be nothing else but the brief period of rule of the Antichrist on Earth, who will “unite” all under his blasphemous authority.

Save us, Oh Lord, from such “unity”, from any kind of participation in the establishment of such an ecumenical false-church!

For us Russian Orthodox people, there is no other way or salvation beside the way outlined for us by the great Enlightener of Russia, co-equal to the Apostles St. Vladimir, the St. Vladimir way, the bright exponent and ideologist of whom was our recently departed Abba Archbishop Vitaly, having built here in far off America for the edification of Russian people who found here for themselves a shelter, the St. Vladimir Monument Church, and made it the place of his eternal repose.  It was not by accident that he wanted to have in all parishes St. Vladimir societies of youth, realizing that only by training in the spirit of the principles of St. Vladimir, can our youth be saved from assimilation and complete loss of identity, – the loss of one’s faith and nationality.  That is why the enemy arms himself against this clean, healthy and idealistic organization, striving to vulgarize it and draw it away from the right path, toward the wide and open spaces of this world that lies in evil.

The frightful and sanguine misery of the Revolution that convulsed our unfortunate Homeland Russia, and achieved its apotheosis in the horrible evil deed committed of the enemy of mankind’s salvation upon our Homeland, because for a period of almost a thousand years she bridled and restrained its godless efforts, being a firm defense of the one true, saving faith and Church of Christ on earth.  And along with this also the allowance of God’s punishment for the Russian people’s not maintaining unto the end their in truth exalted and honorable calling.

Let us keep in mind: the striving toward knowing God, firmness in sacred Orthodoxy, decisive irreconcilability towards the devil’s evil – this is what is written on our St. Vladimir banner!  And for this reason let us not surrender to any kind of evil modernism no matter how alluring it may appear to us.  Let us firmly hold on to that True Church of Christ, which has been founded already 2000 years ago by Christ the Saviour Himself, and to which is given the great promise, that the gates of hell will not prevail against Her!

†Bishop Averky.

Archbishop Averky :Without Repentance, there is no Salvation .

Without Repentance, there is no Salvation 

Ever-Memorable Archbishop Averky, + 1976 A.D. 

DO WE ALL sufficiently understand the meaning and power of this remarkable saying, which has long since become proverbial? In our times, do we all continue to remain capable of such genuine and saving repentance, in the same way as even the most hardened sinners were capable of it? And, generally, is there with- in us a consciousness of our sinfulness or any desire to repent? 

These and like questions are naturally bound to enter our heads, especially now, at the very onset of Great Lent, in so far as that, while living in the diaspora, we have not completely lost a feel for churchliness, and in so far as we are not yet completely alienated from our Holy Church and her salvific prescribed orders. 

If we go to church, and if we pay attention to what is read and chanted during the Divine services, then we cannot but turn our attention to the following particularities of the services. The lofty festive and joyous days of the Great Feasts of the Nativity of Christ and the Theophany had only just passed, when in our churches there was given a call from the Lord Himself Who, set- ting out after Baptism on His public ministry, in a sermon to the people sitting in darkness and the shadow of death, naturally ad- dressed us as well: Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand (Matt. 4:17). 

And just two weeks afterwards (sometimes this comes even earlier, and sometimes later, depending on the date of the celebration of Pascha), we hear in our churches a request to God offered in the name of every one of us, a tender yet mournful cry from the soul: Open unto me the doors of repentance, O Giver of life. 

What does all this mean? And why is it that days of joy, days of festive celebration, are so quickly and so unexpectedly turned to days with a resolute call to grieving over our sins, to days of lamentation, of penitential affliction and sorrow? 

Of course, all this is not accidental, because in our wondrous and incomparable Divine services everything is filled with the most profound meaning and significance, with edification for our souls. It is thus instilled in us that not to participate in the feasts much means not to give oneself over much to joy, exultation and rejoicing, even if it be on the occasion of the feasts of Christ which are truly lofty and joyous. One must make one’s own the grace- lled fruits of these feasts; one must join in with one’s whole soul, with all one’s being and its saving, spiritual powers. Only then will our keeping of the feasts be meaningful, rational and redeeming. To keep the feasts in any other way – this means, to be just like a light-minded lover of drunkenness, who senselessly squanders and wastes the riches of the inheritance which has come down to him, instead of drawing from it what would actually be to his benefit.  Regarding such fruitless celebration, already in the Old Testament the Lord has spoken through the lips of the prophet: Your new moons and your appointed feasts my soul hateth (Esaias 1:14). 

This is exactly why the Holy Church, in giving us to taste of the banquet of faith, in giving us to delight in the solemn great events, immediately thereafter forcefully calls us to repentance, for it is only through repentance that we might make our own the saving power of the great events, which have been commemorated during the days of the feasts of Christ’s Nativity and Theophany. 

Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand. The Lord has already come. Through our noetic and reverential gaze we have seen how He was born of the Virgin in a poor cave; we have seen how He was baptized in the waters of Jordan that He might crush the head of the ancient serpent and wash us in the laver of re-birth, clothing us with the vesture of incorruption. All this was 

done by the Lord, for the sake of us men and for the sake of our salvation. He brought close to us sinners His Heavenly Kingdom, and He granted us entry therein. What is required from our side, that we might enter therein? Repentance. 

Repent, the Lord calls to us, which means change. Be- come something other than what you have been until now, fundamentally change your way of life for the better, and not only your outward way of life, your behaviour, but all your inward disposition, your thoughts, your feelings, your tastes, your aspirations – be renewed spiritually! Everyone who crosses the borders into some earthly kingdom or state is obliged to abide by the laws of that country, otherwise he would not be granted permission to reside there. If the laws of that state are contrary to his customs and habits, then he has himself to adapt and force himself to lay aside those customs and habits, and it is exactly the same with everyone who desires to enter the Kingdom of Heaven: he must forcefully divorce himself from everything that is contrary to the laws of that Heavenly Kingdom, he must root out of himself his former sinful habits and usages and voluntarily submit himself to all the demands of the law of God. 

It is precisely in this that repentance consists, and without it there is no salvation. Repentance is the renewal of Baptism, says the great preacher of repentance and of the ascetic life, John of the Ladder. Repentance is a contract with God for a new life. Repentance is reconciliation with the Lord by the practice of good deeds contrary to the former sins. Repentance is purification of the conscience (Step 5:1). Repentance is a second rebirth from God, says an- other great exponent of repentance, the venerable Isaac the Syrian. From these words we see that one who has repented is like one who has been born anew, he has become as it were something other, a new man, unable to carry on with his former sinful life and resolved to adopt a life of virtue, in every way in accord with the law of God. 

Alas! Many people in our times not only make themselves incapable of such repentance, but they are even far estranged from any right understanding of repentance. Almost the majority of contemporary Christians sincerely think that to repent means to go to confession before the priest, recount to him your sins, and hear the prayer of absolution, and then afterwards to leave the church and again continue your previous shameless and heedless sinful life, almost without even a twinge of conscience and without any self-correction. And some do not even recount their sins, but simply hear the priest and consider themselves to be alright having received from him the absolution of their sins, sins of which they have not repented. There are even numbers of obstinate, unreasonable people among us, who to every call to full repentance such as requires correction of life, persistently reiterate one thing: “No, leave off! I cannot change myself. As I was born, so will I die!” And some in justifying their stony lack of feeling (which is what the holy Church calls such a destructive condition) even dare to ex- press blasphemous abuse against God Himself. “This is how God made me,” they say, audaciously laying the blame for their sinfulness on God, and manifesting thereby their complete ignorance, their alienation from even the most elementary understanding of the truths of their Faith, which so clearly instruct us concerning ancestral sin, concerning the inheritance of the corruption of sin, and concerning our redemption from the oppressive powers of sin through the suffering on the Cross of the incarnate Son of God. 

But, may it be that such a complete rebirth for a man immersed in the sinful life is actually impossible? Indeed! With men it is impossible, but not with God: for with God all things are possible (Mark 10:27). And we know that the power of the grace of God, drawn by sincere tears of repentance, has worked great and wondrous miracles unto the complete inner rebirth of the souls of people which seemed hopelessly begrimed by the deepest forces of sin. How many striking examples of such renewal through repentance do we  find in the lives of the saints, 

which inform us of the fact that many greatly sinful men and sinful women became great righteous men and women like the angels. 

And to draw to oneself that all-powerful grace of God, which grants re-birth, depends wholly upon us; it only requires that one desire it. But it is in this very thing that the misfortune of contemporary man consists, that he does not have that desire, does not wish to repent, does not feel his need of the grace of God which would grant him rebirth. He is content with himself and does not see that he has any need to repent. And even if he comes to confession to a priest, then that is just because of habit, just from established tradition. He comes and has nothing to say, and waits until the priest reads over him the absolution of sins. He does not apprehend how harmful the situation he is in is for him, even when, with the most exaggerated degree of condescension, he does acknowledge some sins. “I am sinful with all the usual sins of mankind,” many say when they come to confession, considering that thus the very “usualness” of their sins gives them full justification to be excused. Their absolution is a light thing, without any struggle, without any need of forcing their will upon themselves, which would commit them to a radical change of their whole life and of their inner disposition. And we are not yet even talking of the fact that a greater and greater number of people in our times are starting to consider that confession is superfluous for them, and therefore never participate in it. 

Is it not because of this that there is more and more confirmed in the people a stony lack of feeling? Such is the natural consequence of the ever-strengthening grip of a satanic pride upon the souls of people, to heal which, by His Divine humility, our Lord Jesus Christ, Who humbled Himself unto death, even the death of the Cross, came upon earth. In the process of the “falling away” which is allowed by God (2 Thess. 2:3), contemporary man, guided in the world by the agents and forerunners of the Antichrist who is coming, will depart further and further from the true teaching of the Church, will forget his Creator and Provider God and, relying 

upon his own “cultural achievements,” will begin to consider him- self to be like a god, making every sacrifice for himself, for his own fancies, his own sinful desires, for his own wanton passions. Be- sides this, in order to render God’s glory to the image of God which he himself bears, to all his strengths and abilities, which made him a king over creation, a lord over what was created by God and over nature wisely made by Him, the man who has departed from the Church puffs himself up with all this, taking the path of diabolical delusion, by which the Morning Star (Satan) who had fallen in love with his own perfections also fell, and they break the commandments of God, tempted, as were our forefathers in Paradise, by the serpent. 

Egoism, self-opinion, self-love, self-admiration, contentedness with one’s self, self-praise, self-direction, and sometimes even shamelessness, are manifest in all their passions and vices which emerge from a deeply fundamental demonic pride in their hearts – all these characterize the governing disposition of contemporary mankind, who is animated by the process of the “falling away” itself. “Why must I repent and change myself, when I am just as good, and in many instances, better than many others?” Thus many contemporary false Christians, even if they do not ex- press it aloud, think, displaying in this a pharisaical disposition of soul, one which is decisively denounced by the Holy Church before the approach of Great Lent, when She calls us to “humble ourselves with the sighings of the publican.” The position of the Christian pastor, when many of his ock now dispute his natural right to “reprove, rebuke and exhort” (2 Tim. 4:2) is now endlessly difficult. They bear malice against him and are indignant with regard to him, when he, carrying out his pastoral duties, points out to them their sins, their breaking of God’s commandments and the precepts of the Church. And many make so bold as to require of the pastor praise and to be extolled for the lawless things they have committed. Woe to that pastor, who submits his God-grant- ed standing to such examples of man-pleasing, ruining his ock thereby and himself as well! (see Esaias 5:20, Ezekiel 33:7-9). 

Now pay heed: Great Lent is upon us again, the time purposely set aside by the Church for repentance, for the cleansing of our souls from the sinful defilements which have nestled in our souls, for the correction of our lives, for grace- lled re-birth. Let us use this “acceptable time;” let us reflect upon the disgusting power of foul sin which inevitably draws us to perdition; let us come to know ourselves as prodigal sons; let us hasten to God’s churches, for it is good that they are still open and the Divine services are still freely served therein; let us do so with profound attention to the instruction and teachings of the Church, which call us to repentance and to offer sincere contrition for all our sins before the spiritual father appointed by God, and with a rm resolve not to repeat those sins. 

And so, brethren! Let us remember that neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor sodomites, nor thieves, nor usurers, nor drunkards, nor those who speak evil, nor extortioners shall inherit the Kingdom of God (1 Cor. 6:9-10). For all those who persist in these and in similar sins there awaits an inescapable, dreadful, eternal perdition, for without repentance there is no salvation. 

Translated from the Russian, published by the Holy Trinity Monastery, Jordanville in 1975. 

The meanning of Repentance and the Reign of God within us . A Homily given on the Sunday after Theophany by Archpriest Peter Alban Heers , January 2018 .

In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit Amen.

The Sunday after The Theophany , the great feast of the revelation of the Holy Trinity .

And immediately after passing forty days in the desert and the temptations of the evil one , our Lord begins His Divine mission to save humanity , and everything and every word that He speaks is for us and for our salvation , and we heard today in the Gospel . The Lords words which are the foundation of our life in Christ : “ Repent for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand “.

This is the foundation , the ground in which our spiritual life will grow . And yet we hear the word in English ,and unfortunately we have not a clear understanding of what The Lord said , because of the translation , and the word , the understanding of the word in English has been distorted over time , because of heterodox piety and theology . The word in Greek , Metanoite, Metania is to change ones mind.

But not the rational mind, the Diania in Greek , but the “ nous “of men . Metania . And this is not a change simply of thoughts . But it’s a change of stands of the whole being , it’s a ontolgical change . It’s a change of perspective , a change of the entire positioning of the soul before God .

Change your way of being the Lord is saying , change your way of thinking , but in the sense of: about God , and about this world and about salvation , these higher things .

He is not asking us to change the way we think about this life . But about the way we are relating to God . Change , and this kind of change is not happen simply because we will it , but because God wills it and we say “yes”.

So this ground in which the spiritual life is going to take root and flourish is Repentance ,it’s a lifelong state of being , it’s not a momentary feeling of remorse . We see in other part of scripture , a great injustice to the text is done when there speaking of Judas , and they say in English : “ He repented of what he did “. No he did not ! For if he had repented he would have followed the later example of Peter , who once again joined the choir of the apostles . He did not repent he had remorse . Remorse : feeling bad about yourself about the things you’ve done is not salvific , does not save , does not transfigure ,does not restore one to the communion with God . One has to change the way they think and live and stand , all our thought’s come from our stands before God !!

When we stand with pride the thought’s are proud , when we stand with judgementleness to our brother and sister we judge , before the mind thinks the thought’s the soul feels them , the heart expresses them .

This deep man needs to change , the deeper heart , the whole process of the spiritual life is to take this nous , this organ of the soul which communes with God and put it in the heart , and that heart be broken .And it have a sense of , not just remorse, but a sense of need to return to God . So another way to understand Repentance is return .

And the Lord teaches us that with the parable of the prodigal son . What is the prodigal son do ? You remember the parable , he is in with the pigs in the pigsty , eating the food of the animals , far from his Father . And he comes to himself , he has a change of heart a change of mind , he has ”αυτογνωσία” in Greek , selfknowledge , He comes to himself , he realises who he is , made in the image and likeness of God and who his Father is , and what he has lost .

This is the beginning but not the end of Repentance for the Prodigal son, what is he do ? he gets up and leaves the pigsty of sin and apostacy and separation and he begins the road of return , this is Repentance . And it doesn’t end intil the last breath leaves us . It is a stance of our entire life .

And in this ground , on this foundation then builds the spiritual life . Repentance is not feeling bad and going and saying to the Priest : – I did it again . No this is remorse . Repentance is going to the Priest and then returning to the battlefield and not going back to the pigsty ! Not going back to the sin ! This is Repentance , repentance is essentially our offering to God , our Yes with the Mother of God, when the Angel came to the Mother of God and announced the good news of salvation, it was a gift , an entire divine act it was no human ,at that moment …. The Mother of God said YES !

And that was the human synergy with the Divine will and then the incarnation took place , the same thing has to happen in each one of us . The Lord has given us salvation in baptism , the seed is there why is it not growing within us ? Because the Yes is hiddenness . Yes today ! no tomorrow !. It has to be a continous yes . This is the ascetic life . Without ascetisism there is no christianity , no Church , no christian life . Because asceticism is Love , asceticism is yes to God , continually yes to God . Fasting , prayer , this is our response to His love . When we do it for Him , and in Him then we are on the path of repentance . When we do it because we believe in religion and we do it for the sake of being a good person , and not for the person of Christ ,the Prodigal got up and went back to his Father , he embraced the person of God ,and then union happend and salvation was achived , was realized . If we are doing it for any other reason , if we are here today, are we going to confession tomorrow or last night , for any other reason besides wanted to be united to the person of Christ , then we are still not quite on the road of repentance . Our mind is not united to the purpose of our struggle , why we are doing this , we are here for one reason : to be united to Christ . Repentance brothers and sisters is to take our intellect , the higher part of our soul and put it in our heart and not leaves there intil we die . There where there is love for the person of Christ . And He says : ”Repent , for the Kingdom of God is at hand”. What is this Kingdom of God ? We have been confused again by heterodox thinking and heterodox theology , who thinks that there will be a Kingdom on earth , a millenium of rule of Christ like the Jews who awaited the Messiah who would give them a political solution to their problems with the Romans . How sad and how pathetic and how poor , and how limited is this vision of the Kingdom of God .

The Kingdom of God in Greek is Vasilia and it could be translated , and is better translated as : reign of God , the rule of God; in our hearts ! ! The Kingdom of God is within you the Lord says , it is not an external Kingdom , it’s not a restoration of the great days o King David , it’s not a restoration of Holy Russia with the great emperor over our land ,this is not the Kingdom of God , this is a blessed thing a wonderful thing , it can help many on the path to the Kingdom of God , but it is not the Kingdom of God .

The piece of earth that needs to be reigned over is our heart our body our soul , this is where the King wants to reign .

”The Kingdom of God is at hand ” meaning : I am at hand , I have come , The Lord Himself , the incarnation is before you .

The King of Heaven is now on earth, it is at hand , the Kingdom is within, it’s a spiritual Kingdom .

It’s when truth reigns in our heart and the evil one , the liar is far from us .

The Kingdom of God is Christ Himself , the Reign of God is Christ Himself when He sits of the throne of our heart , when we offer a continually Divine Liturgy in our heart and we say ”Lord Jesus Christ have mercy on me ” continually . And He reigns in that heart ,and that heart then is free from the kingdom of the enemy , and He reigns and rules and guides us .

So repent , change your whole way of being and seeing and doing . See as God sees , obtain the Divine perspective . And where is that happen ? And how does it happen ?

In the Church ! When we say it’s in Christ and for Christ , we mean in the Church and in the holy mysteries . It’s where the reign of God takes place . When we enter and submit to Christ , St Paul says : The Church of God submit to Christ , so that submission is a prerequisition for the reign of God in us .That submissuon again is not a one-time -yes but a continual stands before God , and then He reigns and rules within us. And it is at hand and it is near , Egis is the greek word and it means near, it’s close to us . Well after the death and resurrection of our Lord and the ascension then came pentecost and that Kingdom which was near to us ,came within us , with the descent of the Holy Spirit .

And the Kingdom the reign the rule of God comes , as we said with the descent of the Holy Spirit in the mysteries of baptism ,chrismation and when we commune continually , it’s a continual process of regeneration and transfiguration . So this reign, brothers and sisters , was not deceived in a think that it’s going to be achived with sentimentality , or a good disposition only , but with much blood and sweat and tears to the people who enter the Kingdom of God enter there in .

Pray that I repent , and that we all may progress on the path of repentance , purification , illumination of our nous our mind our heart , and that God may be all in all within us . Amen .

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