Archive for the ‘Orthodox Theology’ Category

unnamedI know that many of you cannot read Modern Greek, but Athonite fathers have released a very important and timely document concerning ecumenism. I have translated the Greek description of the document (rather poorly, for which I apologize, but at least it will give you the gist of the important topics addressed by the document). If you can read Greek you can view the PDF below. If you can’t read Greek you may still want to look through the many photos of the world-wide ecumenical events the fathers have included in this document, as well as icons of confessor saints and Athonite martyrs or even the long list of Athonite signatures. Hopefully a proper English translation will be available in the future.

“With the grace of our All-holy Lady, the Athonite fathers take an opposing position to the impermissible ecumenical actions* of the Ecumenical Patriarchate. In a last conscious effort of the Holy Community of the Holy Mountain and the Orthodox group [of] abbots, coenobitic monastics, monks of kellis, monks of sketes and ascetics, they offer their testimony with boldness and a mindset of confession.”

*the Greek word used here literally means “openings”, but for the sake of clarity in the English language I’ve translated it “actions”.

UPDATE: the previous title of this post was “Athonite Fathers Release Important and Timely 70-page Document”. The document is 69 pages as a PDF but it is in fact 127 pages.


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Written for a Certain Layman As a Result of His Desire To Live A Vigilant Life In The World by St. Ignaty Brianchaninov

The soul of all practices in the Lord is vigilance. Without vigilance, all these practices are fruitless. He who is desirous of saving himself must so establish himself that he might remain continuously vigilant toward himself, not only in solitude, but also under conditions of distraction, into which he is sometimes unwillingly drawn by circumstances.

Let the fear of God outweigh all other sensations upon the scales of your heart; and then will it be convenient to for you to be vigilant toward yourself, both in the silence of your kellia [cell] and in the midst of the noise that surrounds you from all sides.

A well-reasoned moderation in food, diminishing the passionate heat of his blood, tends greatly to facilitate your being able to attend to yourself; while the impassioning of your blood, stemming, as it does, from an excessive consumption of foodstuffs, from extreme and intensified bodily movements, from the inflammation of wrath, from being heady with vanity, and by reason of other causes, gives rise to a multitude of thoughts and reveries—in other words, to distraction. The Holy Fathers, first of all, ascribe to such a one as is desirous of attending to himself a moderate, evenly-measured, constant abstention from food. (Dobrotoliubiye [Philokalia], Pt. II, Ch. of St. Filofei [Philotheus] of the Sinai)

Upon awakening from sleep—an image of the awakening from the dead, which awaits all men—direct your thoughts to God, offering up to Him the first-thoughts of your mind, which has not yet become imprinted with any vain impressions whatsoever.

Having carefully fulfilled all the needs of the flesh upon arising from sleep, quietly read your customary rule of prayer, taking care not so much for the quantity of your prayerful expression, as for the quality of it; i.e., do it attentively, so that, by reason of your attention, your heart might be enlightened and enlivened through prayerful feeling and consolation. Upon concluding your rule of prayer, do you again, direct all your strength to the attentive reading of the New Testament, primarily the Evangelists. In the course of this reading, intently take note of all the instructions and commandments of Christ, so that you might direct all your actions-both manifest and veiled-in accordance with them.

The quantity of the reading is determined by one’s strength and by one’s circumstances. It is unnecessary to weigh-down one’s mind with an excessive reading of prayers and Scripture; likewise, is it unnecessary to neglect one’s needs in order to practice immoderate prayer and reading. Just as the excessive use of foodstuffs disorders and weakens the belly, so too does the immoderate use of spiritual food weaken the mind and create in it a revulsion to pious practices, leading it to despair. ([St.] Isaak the Syrian, “Sermon 71″)

For the novice, the Holy Fathers suggest frequent—but brief—prayers. When one’s mind matures with spiritual age, becoming stronger and more manly, then shall one be in proper condition to pray without ceasing. It is to such Christians as have attained to maturity in the Lord that the words of the Apostle Paul pertain:

“I desire, therefore, that men pray everywhere, lifting up holy hands, without anger and reproach” (I Tim. II, 8) i.e., dispassionately, and without any distraction or inconstancy. For that which is natural to the man is not yet natural to the infant.

Enlightened, through prayer and reading, by our Lord, Jesus Christ, the Sun of Righteousness, one may then go forth to carry out the affairs of one’s daily course, vigilantly taking care that in all one’s deeds and words, in one’s entire being, the All-holy will of God might prevail, as it was revealed and explained to men in the Commandments of the Evangelist.

Should there be any free moments during the course of the day, use them to read attentively some chosen prayers, or some chosen portions of Scripture; and, by means of these, fortify the powers of your soul, which have become exhausted through activity in the midst of a world of vanities.

Should there not be any such golden moments, it is necessary to regret their loss, as though it were the loss of a valuable treasure. What is wasted today should not be lost on the day following, because our heart conveniently gives itself up to negligence and forgetfulness, which lead to that dismal ignorance, so ruinous of Divine activity, of the activity of man’s salvation.

Should you chance to say or to do something that is contrary to God’s commandments, immediately treat your fault with repentance; and, by means of sincere contrition, return to the Way of God, from which you stepped aside through your violation of God’s will. Do not linger outside the Way of God! Respond with faith and humility to sinful thoughts, reveries and sensations by opposing to them the Gospel commandments, and saying, along with the holy patriarch Joseph:

“How shall I speak this evil word and sin before God?” (Gen. XXX, 9)

One who is vigilant toward oneself must refuse himself all reverie, in general—regardless of how attractive and well-appearing it might seem, for all reverie is the wandering of the mind, which flatters and deceives it, while being outside the truth, in the land of non-existent phantoms, and incapable of realization. The consequences of reverie are: loss of vigilance toward oneself, dissipation of the mind, and hardness of heart during prayer, whence comes distress of the soul.

In the evening, departing into slumber—which, in relation to the day just past, is death—examine your actions during the course of that day. Such [self-] examination is not difficult, since, in leading an attentive life, that forgetfulness which is so natural to a distracted man is destroyed through vigilance toward oneself. And so, having recollected all your sins, whether through act, or word, or thought, or sensation, offer your repentance to God for them, with both the disposition and the heart-felt pledge of self-amendment. Later, having read the rule of prayer, conclude the day which was begun by meditating upon God by meditating, once again, upon God. Whither do they depart—all the thoughts and feelings of a sleeping man? What mysterious state of being is this sleep, during which the soul and body are both alive and yet not alive, being alienated from the awareness of their life, as though dead? Sleep is as incomprehensible as death. In the course of it, one’s soul reposes, forgetting the most-cruel earthly afflictions and calamities that have beset it, while it images its eternal repose; while one’s body … if it rises from sleep will also arise, inevitably, from the dead.

The great Agafon said: “It is impossible to succeed in virtue without exerting vigilance toward oneself.” (The Patericon of Skete)



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Icon of the Holy Fathers of Seventh Ecumenical Council. “[W]e keep unchanged all the ecclesiastical traditions handed down to us, whether in writing or verbally.” – The Decree of the Holy, Great, Ecumenical Synod, the Second of Nicaea (7th Ecumenical Council).

Synaxis of ORTHODOX
Clergy and Monastics
Thessaloniki, November 19, 2014

Beloved Brethren,

Below you will find a text prepared by the Synaxis of Orthodox Clergy and Monastics and signed by all its members which presents and examines the novel ecclesiological views recently expressed by Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew. You will note that six of the Church of Greece’s hierarchs—Andrew of Dryinoupolis, Seraphim of Piraeus, Paul of Glyfada, Seraphim of Kythira, Kosmas of Aetolia and Akarnanias, and Jeremiah of Gortynos—have already added their signatures to this document and it will certainly be signed by a broader segment of the clergy and laity in the coming days.

The effect of this text will be greatly increased if you, and any other clergyman, monastic or layman whom you may know, add your signatures to the following document and then digitally sign it, below. Your personal information will not be used for any other purposes than for this petition.

With all due respect and honor,
On behalf of the Synaxis of Orthodox Clergy and Monastics

Archimandrite Athanasios Anastasio
Former Abbot of Great Meteora Monastery

Archimandrite Sarantis Saranto
Rector of the Church of the Dormition of the Theotokos, Marousi, Attica, Greece

Archimandrite Gregory Hadjinicolao
Abbot of Holy Trinity Monastery, Ano Gatzeas, Volos, Greece

Elder Efstratios, Priestmonk
Great Lavra Monastery, Mount Athos

Protopresbyter. George Metallinos
Professor Emeritus of the Theological Academy at the University of Athens, Greece

Protopresbyter. Theodore Zissis
Professor Emeritus of the Theological Academy at the University of Thessaloniki, Greece


It was with great sorrow that we all witnessed the events which unfolded in the Holy Land, now a few months ago. Within the context of his meeting with Pope Francis in Jerusalem on 25 May of the present year, Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew expressed, amongst other things, a novel ecclesiology, entirely foreign to Orthodoxy. The culmination of years of deviation within the sphere of ecclesiology, and indeed its worst manifestation, this new ecclesiology denies the indissolubility and incorruptibility of the Church, despite the fact that it is, according to the Fathers, “…the Theanthropos (the God-Man) Christ, extended through that ages and unto all eternity. It is for this reason that the Church is without, “…spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing.” Conversely, according to the Patriarch, the Church has been divided, contrary to the will of the Almighty Christ:

1. Various formulations of ‘Divided Church’ ecclesiology.

The One, Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church, founded by the “Word who was in the beginning,” who was “truly with God,” and who “truly was God”, according to the Evangelist of Love, sadly, on account of the dominance of human weakness and of impermanence of the will of the human intellect, was divided in time in the course of her earthly campaign. This brought about a variety of conditions and groups, each of which claiming “authenticity” and “truth” for itself. The Truth is One, however; Christ, and the One Church founded by Him”.

Unfortunately, the human element prevailed, as a result of a build up of “theological,” “practical,” and “social” additions, the Local Churches were led into a division of the unity of the Faith, into isolation, which at times gave rise to hostile polemics.

This position is not entirely new: much earlier, the Ecumenical Patriarch expressed his view in favour of the equality of the Orthodox Church and the Papal heresy:

A common sacramental conception of the Church has emerged, sustained and passed on in time by the apostolic succession…the Joint Commission has been able to declare that our Churches recognize one another as Sister Churches, jointly responsible for safeguarding the one Church of God, in faithfulness to the divine plan, and in an altogether special way with regard to unity… In this perspective we urge our faithful, Catholics and Orthodox, to reinforce the spirit of brotherhood which stems from the one Baptism and from participation in the sacramental life.

Dialogue is most beneficial, for by means of it we come to recognize the harmful elements of the old leaven, which is a presupposition of true and salvific repentance…Inasmuch as one Church recognizes another Church to be a storehouse of holy grace and a guide leading to salvation, efforts aimed at tearing faithful away from one church in order that they may join another are unacceptable, being inconsistent with the aforementioned recognition. Each local Church is not a competitor of the other local Churches, but rather is one body with them and desires the life of unity in Christ, the restoration of what was disturbed in the past, and not the absorption of the other.

This strange broadening of the Church did not leave the heretical Protestants outside of its bounds. Patriarch Bartholomew had the following to say in 2008 about the 9th General Assembly of the World Council of Churches which took place in Porto Alegre of Brazil in February of 2006:

And so, freed from the tensions of the past and determined to stay together and act together, two years ago at the Ninth Assembly at Porto Alegre, Brazil, we laid down markers for a new stage in the life of the Council, taking account of the present situation in inter-church relations and the changes that are gradually taking place in ecumenical life.

To general astonishment, the final text of that Assembly proclaims about the “churches” of the W.C.C:

Each church is the Church catholic, but not the whole of it. Each church fulfils its catholicity when it is in communion with the other churches…apart from one another we are impoverished.

The Patriarch’s theological advisor, Metropolitan John (Zizioulas) of Pergamon, also considers any heretical or schismatic group that employs “baptism” of any kind to be within the church.

Baptism creates a limit to the Church. Now, within this baptismal limit it is conceivable that there may be divisions, but any division within those limits is not the same as the division between the Church and those outside the baptismal limit … within baptism, even if there is a division, one may still speak of the Church.

By arbitrarily widening the boundaries of the Church, Metropolitan John limits the field of heresy. According to him, every heresy that does not expressly contradict Symbol of Faith [the Creed], such as Monophysitism-Monothelitsm (the so-called Pre-Chalcedonians), Iconoclasm, anti-hesychasm, nationalism, etc. is part of the church:

Heresy, meaning the divergence from that which is believed and confessed in the Creed by the Church, automatically sets one outside of the Church. The problem arises, however, from the moment this point of view becomes absolute.

All the above seem to be the extension of an earlier suggestion of Patriarch Athenagoras, the mentor of the subsequent leaders of the pan-heresy of Ecumenism, who said:

The movement toward unity it is not a matter of one Church moving toward the other, but rather let us all re-found the One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church together, coexisting in the East and the West as we lived up to 1054 in spite of the theological differences that existed then.


Please read the complete document, see the footnotes and sign the petition here.

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Our dear friend Peter has graciously shared these beautiful videos of Elder Zacharias speaking at St. John the Compassionate Mission in Toronto in February, 2014. The theme is The Enlargement of the Heart. Enjoy.

Part 1

Part 2

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My mum was the one who directed me to this video, telling me it’s amazing. She’s right. It is amazing. Enjoy!

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The Creator of All [1]

Metropolitan Avgoustinos (Kantiotes) of Florina

             All things were made by him; and without him was not anything made that was made. (John 1:3)

             Who is Christ? We hear one, two thousand different opinions. One person says he is a philosopher, another that he is a sociologist, and yet another that he is a poet. Others say still other things. Today’s Gospel reading gives us the correct answer: it says that Christ is God. You believe this? Then you are a Christian. You don’t believe this? Then you are not. You may well belong to one school of philosophy or another, but you are not a Christian!

Christ is God, then. He is not just a man; he is the God-man Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified and who is God. In this passage, we hear that there was never a time when the Son and Word of God did not exist. There was indeed a time when man did not exist – science even concedes this – but there was never a time when Christ, the second person of the Triune God, did not exist. The Holy Trinity; Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Three suns in one sun; three-sunned Divinity. All Holy Trinity, have mercy on your world!

Further on, the Gospel says that Jesus Christ, the second person of the Holy Trinity, is he through whom all things were made – all things both seen and unseen. “All things,” it says, “were made by him; and without him was not anything made that was made.” (John 1:3). This requires analysis.

These God-inspired words speak of the world’s ontology, of the creation of things in other words. One of humanity’s ten greatest spiritual men, Blessed Augustine (whose name I unworthily bear), says that all the created things around us, from those we see through a telescope to those which may only be seen through a microscope, belong to the following four categories.

To the first category belong those things which are endowed with ‘being’ and being alone. In other words, they simply exist. What are these? They are the dust of the earth, the water, stones, the hills, priceless and useless metals, minerals, but also the heavenly bodies – the stars and even the galaxies.

To the second category belong those things which have something beyond being: they grow. What are these? They are the plants and the trees. Beyond existence, these things grow. Where does a tree begin? As a small seed. This seed then falls to the earth and grows. It is watered and it grows. It sprouts; it grows and develops, becoming a great tree.

On to the third category. According to Blessed Augustine, those things which belong to this category have something beyond existence and growth: they feel. Which things are these? These are the animals. A cute little lamb, for example, exists, grows and feels. It feels pain. O how it suffers these very days at the hands of men who slaughter it for their Paschal feast! Animals feel. Some of them even have senses which are stronger than those of other beings. The eagle, for example, has a sharp eye, he has crystal-clear vision, or what we call an ‘eagle-eye’, which allows him to soar as high as the sun and yet from this height he is able to discern the most miniscule thing on the earth below. The dog has both a very keen sense of smell and excellent hearing. I have read somewhere that in London the police have special dogs, as well as officers equipped with whistles which, when blown, cannot be heard by man. Only the dogs can hear these whistles. When the dogs hear these whistles they run immediately to find the officer calling them. The dog is also the first animal to sense an earthquake; he senses it even before the seismograph.

Creation of Eve

In summary; rocks have ‘being’, they just ‘are'; the trees both ‘are’ and ‘grow'; the animals ‘are’, ‘grow’ and ‘feel’. And now we have arrived at the peak of the ladder of beings; we have arrived at man. Man is matter, he is earth – we do not deny it! – and thus he has ‘being’. He grows, since from an embryo, from a little child, he grows into a full-grown man. He also feels, for he too experiences pain. He does not have these things alone, however; he also has something beyond these. What does he have beyond these? It is that he thinks; he has a mind. O, the human mind! Let them say, let them shout, that man comes from the ape, from the orangutan! This is a grave error. What separates us from the animals is the ability to think. The mind is a great thing. Next to it, the computer is nothing. The computer is nothing – a toy – next to that incomprehensible piece of equipment which we call the human intellect. It is this which separates us from all other beings. It is by means of the intellect that man understands, that he plans, that he invents, that he creates. Take an ape. Put him in school for ten years. He will not learn the alphabet; he will only grunt! From the time he is a young student, man grows in knowledge, eventually becoming a wise researcher or inventor. He is capable of progress on account of his intellect.

There are, then, four categories of beings. First, those things that ‘are'; second those things that ‘are’ and ‘grow'; third, those things that ‘are’, ‘grow’ and ‘feel'; and fourth, those things that ‘think’. Have we finished with the ladder of beings, I wonder? No! Because there exist not only those being that we see, but also those we cannot see. Those things that we see are few in comparison with those we cannot see. Beyond the world we see is found the invisible world which is infinite and wondrous. It is in this world that the bodiless hosts, the heavenly powers, the angels and archangels, are found, as well as the souls of men which have passed from the earth, and the demons who of their own will fell away from the aim for which they were created.

My brothers, this is the pyramid of beings, “of all things visible and invisible,” and at the peak of this pyramid is the Creator, the Triune God. As the Fathers and teachers of our Church teach, all things are made by the Father, through the Son, in the Holy Spirit. This dogma, this truth of our faith, is affirmed in today’s Gospel which says concerning the Son and Word of the Father: “All things were made by him; and without him was not anything made that was made.” The Son and Word of God, who humbled himself and came down to the earth, was incarnate, was crucified, and who arose from the dead and whose resurrection we celebrate today, is he, “by whom all things were made”.

All things, everything, from the smallest to the greatest, from the grass which we walk on to the huge trees, from the mite to the elephant, and from the atom to the planets and galaxies which swirl in outer space, all things were made by Christ. Do you believe this? Then you are a Christian. You don’t believe this? That is your right. Christ and the Church do not need followers. I am in favour of a Church of quality, not a Church of quantity. Thousands of faithless people are not worth one faithful Christian. He who believes does not say, “I have my opinion”. What is your opinion, sir? What God says here in the Gospel: “All things were made by him; and without him was not anything made that was made.”

To Christ himself, the eternal God – in spite of the atheists and unbelievers of all ages – to him be glory, honour and worship unto the ages of ages. Amen.

[1] From the book Εμπνευσμένα Κηρύγματα Ορθοδόξου Ομολογίας και Αγιοπατερικής Πνοής (Orthodoxos Kypseli: Thessaloniki, 2011), 22-26. Translated by Fr John Palmer.

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orthodoxpathAs quite a few readers of Lessons from a Monastery are from various countries and know various languages, I wanted to introduce you to a new website called The Orthodox Path, a multilingual Orthodox website. It is a great resource and has made spiritual articles available in many languages, including Greek, English, German, Albanian, Romanian, Turkish, as well as others. Below is just one of the website’s many jewels. It is a translation of a talk given by the renowned Elder Symeon of Panorama. Enjoy!

People today are complicated, multi-faceted, confused, and in one way or another, their souls are layered: layer upon layer of blindness, layer upon layer of callousness, layer upon layer of pride. For this reason they are never healed once and for all. As soon as you take a humble attitude, though, Grace intervenes and works a miracle: you are freed. But the work does not end here. This Grace, this light, this healing that comes proceeds also to the next layer further down. And here the sin is more unyielding, is more strongly rooted, the resistance is uncompromising. If you say, “May it be blessed, My God. I will look even deeper and I will acknowledge my stubbornness and my sin, and will humble myself”, then another miracle takes place. And in some incomprehensible way, the second and the third, the fourth and the fifth layers of the soul are put right. But some people will not accept this. They remain at the superficial layers, and spend their life like this and are never healed.” 

Transcribed talks by Arch. Symeon Kragiopoulos (trans. by Fr. Matthew Penney)

Through the prayers of the Holy Fathers, may we have the courage to continually look deep within ourselves and receive the grace of healing!

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