Archive for the ‘Truth of Our Faith’ Category

Who is so great as our God? Thou who art God; Who alone workest wonders!

To finish our week of the Truth of Our Faith series I wanted to post my favourite hymn. This is in Arabic, English and Greek. For me this hymn represents all the greatness God has given us in our Orthodox faith (including the Byzantine chant melody!). May we always treasure and protect it as our most prized possession!


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(From the Chapter entitled “Defender of Tradition” of Elder Paisios of Mount Athos by Hieromonk Isaac)

The elder had an innate love and deep respect for the ecclesiastical traditions instituted by the holy fathers. He was – in the proper way – a zealot for the traditions of the Fathers. He rejected and condemned every modernistic proposal, such as doing away with the cassock, translating the liturgical texts into modern Greek, and modifying the fasts. Holy tradition in general was a matter of dear concern to the elder… (p. 644).

The elder’s stance on tradition wasn’t strict, rigid, and unyielding – he sensed the value of tradition, he lived it, and he foresaw the fruits it would produce in the long term. He had the discernment to condescend to human weakness, though without going too far, “For someone to add a spoonful of oil when they feel weak [during a fast], I can understand that… But we’ve overdone it…” (p. 653).

“The Church,” he would say, “isn’t the ship of each bishop to do with as he pleases.” These reactions of his were accompanied by much prayer and love, not only for the Church, but also for those who were deviating from the faith; and all was the fruit of dispassion, discernment and enlightenment from above (p. 661).

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(Image retrieved from here)

There is a close relationship between Orthodoxy, the Church and the Divine Eucharist. Orthodoxy is the true faith of the Church and the Divine Eucharist is the true act of the Church. If there is a Church without Orthodoxy and the Eucharist, it is not a Church. If there is Orthodoxy outside the Church and the Divine Eucharist, it is not Orthodoxy. Moreover, if there is Divine Eucharist, without Orthodoxy and the Church, it is not the Divine Eucharist. This is why we maintain that outside the Orthodox Church there is no other Church, only heresies. Thus, the return of the heretics to the only true Church, the Orthodox Church, is needed.

-Metropolitan Hierotheos of Nafpaktos, Entering the Orthodox Church: The Catechism and Baptism of Adults, pp. 138-139.

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AncientFaithTodayI listened to this interview last year and found it very enlightening. In a respectful manner the heresies of Mormonism (and even its links to Freemasonry) are explained in detail. I thought it would make a great edition to the Truth of Our Faith series.

Listen here.

Chris Ionna Holland, an ex-Evangelical who was drawn to Mormonism as a teenager and (later) returned to her traditional Christian roots before becoming an Orthodox Christian (and taught how to evangelize Mormons), and Andrew Gusty (M.D.), a cradle Mormon, Temple worthy, an LDS High Priest, and Second Counselor to the Bishop, discuss their unique perspectives with Kevin Allen about Mormon theology, doctrines, and practices, as well as why they left the Mormon faith and became Eastern Orthodox Christians.

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Elder Joseph the Hesychast (seated) with his brotherhood.

(Excerpt from My Elder Joseph the Hesychast, Archimandrite Ephraim of Philotheiou,  pp. 348-349)

Once, when Geronda was still at St. Basil’s Skete, he met a layman near the skete’s main church. Geronda approached him and said, “You are making some serious mistake.”

“What mistake?” the layman asked.

“I don’t know,” Geronda replied, “but you are definitely marking some serious mistake.”

“Can’t we figure out what it is?”

“Right now in the daytime we can’t figure it out. But if you like, come down to my place at night.” [Presumably after Geronda finished his vigil.]

“All right, Geronda; I’ll come after midnight.”

After midnight, the layman went and met with Geronda. They began discussing things, and it turned out that this layman, even though he had a degree in theology, had written an entire book supporting Darwin’s theory of evolution!

Geronda said to him: “When you present a theory or an opinion, why don’t you draw from the writings of the holy Fathers and Orthodox theologians rather than heretics who aren’t even Christian! A theory or viewpoint becomes fortified when it is confirmed by the Bible or the holy Fathers of the Church. You will not be welcome here in my hut until you renounce that theory.”

The theologian acknowledged that he had an incorrect viewpoint with this theory, and he asked Geronda to tell him how he had recognized it. Geronda answered, “When I approached you yesterday, a stench was coming out of you, and this made me realize that you have made some grave error.” When it came to matters of the faith, Geronda tolerated no deviations.

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The following excerpt is from the book The Orthodox Church and Ecumenism by St. Justin Popovich

(Source) In the European West, Christianity has gradually transformed into humanism. For a long time and arduously, the God-Man diminished, and has been changed, narrowed, and finally reduced to a man: to the infallible man in Rome and the equally “infallible” man in London and Berlin. Thus did papism come into being, taking everything from Christ, along with Protestantism, which asks the least from Christ, and often nothing. Both in papism and in Protestantism, man has been put in the place of the God-Man, both as the highest value and as the highest criterion. A painful and sad correction of the God-Man’s work and teaching has been accomplished. Steadily and stubbornly papism has tried to substitute the God-Man with man, until in the dogma about the infallibility of the pope—a man, the God-Man was once and for all replaced with ephemeral, “infallible” man; because with this dogma, the pope was decisively and clearly declared as something higher than not only man, but the holy Apostles, the holy Fathers, and the holy Ecumenical councils. With this kind of a departure from the God-Man, from the ecumenical Church as the God-Man organism, papism surpassed Luther, the founder of Protestantism. Thus, the first radical protest in the name of humanism against the God-Man Christ, and his God-Man organism—the Church—should be looked for in papism, not in Lutheranism. Papism is actually the first and the oldest Protestantism.

We should not do this ourselves. Papism indeed is the most radical Protestantism, because it has transferred the foundation of Christianity from the eternal God-Man to ephemeral man. And it has proclaimed this as the paramount dogma, which means: the paramount value, the paramount measure of all beings and things in the world. And the Protestants merely accepted this dogma in its essence, and worked it out in terrifying magnitude and detail. Essentially, Protestantism is nothing other than a generally applied papism. For in Protestantism, the fundamental principle of papism is brought to life by each man individually. After the example of the infallible man in Rome, each Protestant is a cloned infallible man, because he pretends to personal infallibility in matters of faith. It can be said: Protestantism is a vulgarized papism, only stripped of mystery (i.e., sacramentality), authority and power.

Through the reduction of Christianity, with all its eternal God-Man qualities, to man, Western Christianity has been turned into humanism. This may seem paradoxical, but it is true in its irresistible and unerasable historical reality. Because Western Christianity is, in its essence, the most decisive humanism; and because it has proclaimed man as infallible, and has turned the God-Man religion into a humanist religion. And that this is so is shown by the fact that the God-Man has been driven to the heavens, while his place on earth has been filled with his replacement, Vicarius Christi—the pope. What a tragic piece of illogic: to establish a replacement for the everywhere-present God and the Lord Christ! But this piece of illogic has been incarnated in Western Christianity: the Church has been transformed into a state, the pope has become a ruler, bishops have been proclaimed princes, priests have become leaders of clerical parties, the faithful have been proclaimed papal subjects. The Gospel has been replaced with the Vatican’s compilation of canon law; Evangelical ethic and methods of love have been replaced with casuistry, Jesuitry and the “holy” Inquisition. What does all this mean? With the systematic removal and destruction of everything that does not bow to the pope, even with forced conversions to the papal faith, and the burning of sinners for the glory of the meek and the mild Lord Jesus!

There is no doubt that all these facts converge into one irresistibly logical conclusion: in the West there is no Church and no God-Man, which is why there is no true God-Man society in which men are mortal brothers and immortal fellows. Humanistic Christianity is actually the most decisive protest and uprising against the God-Man Christ and all the Evangelical, God-Man values and norms. And even here is evident European man’s favored tendency, to reduce everything to man as the fundamental value and the fundamental measure. And behind that stands one idol: Menschliches Allzumenschliches. With the reduction of Christianity to humanism, Christianity has been no doubt, simplified, but also at the same time—destroyed! Now that the “gleischaltung” of Christianity with humanism has been accomplished, some in Europe are seeking a return to the God-Man Christ. However, the cries of individuals in the Protestant world—”Zuruck zum Jesus! Back to Jesus!”—are empty cries in the dark night of humanistic Christianity, which has abandoned the values and the measures of God-Man and is now suffocating in desperation and impotence. While from the depths of centuries past reverberate the bitter words of the melancholic prophet of God, Jeremiah: “Accursed is the man who puts his confidence in man!…”

In a broader historical perspective, the Western dogma about man’s infallibility is nothing other than an attempt to revive and immortalize dying humanism. It is the last transformation and final glorification of humanism. After the rationalistic Enlightenment of the 18th century and the shortsighted positivism of the 19th century, nothing else was left to European humanism than to fall apart in its own impotence and contradictions. But in that tragic moment, religious humanism came to its aid with its dogma about the infallibility of man saved European humanism from imminent death. And, although dogmatized, Western Christian humanism could not help absorbing all the fatal contradictions of European humanism, which are united in one single desire: to exile God-Man from the earth. Because the most important thing for humanism is for man to be the highest value and the highest measure. Man, not God-Man.

According to our own Orthodox feeling: Christianity is only Christianity through the God-Man, through His God-Man ideology and God-Man methods. That is the fundamental truth for the sake of which no compromises can be made. Only as the God-Man is Christ the highest value and the highest measure. One should be truthful and consistent to the end: if Christ is not the God-Man, then he is the most impudent fraud, because he proclaimed himself as God and the Lord. But the Evangelical historical reality irrefutably shows and proves that Jesus Christ is in everything and in all things the perfect God-Man. Therefore, one cannot be a Christian without a belief in Christ as God-Man and in the Church as His God-Man Body, in which He left His entire Miraculous Person. The saving and life-giving power of Christ’s Church lays in the eternally-living and all-present personality of the God-Man. Any substitution of the God-Man with a man, and any winnowing of Christianity in order to pick out only that which pleases a man’s individual preference and reason, turns Christianity into shallow and impotent humanism.

The outstanding importance of Christianity for making lies in its life-giving and unchangeable God-Manhood, by which it models humanity as a whole, bringing it from the darkness of non-being to the light of Pan-being. Only by its God-Man power is Christianity the salt of the earth, the salt that saves man from rotting in sin and evil. If it dissolves into various humanisms, Christianity becomes bland, becomes salt that has turned flat, useless, fit to be tossed out and trod on.

Any tendency or attempt at a “gleischaltung” of Christianity with the spirit of the times, with ephemeral movements and regimes of certain historical periods, takes away from Christianity that specific worth which makes it the singular God-Man religion in the world. In the Orthodox philosophy of society, the rule above all rules is this: do not accommodate the God-Man Christ to the spirit of the times, but rather accommodate the spirit of the times to the spirit of Christ’s eternity—Christ’s God-Manhood. Only in this way can the Church preserve the life-giving and irreplaceable personality of the God-Man Christ and remain a God-Man society, in which people fraternize and live with the help of Divine love and justice, prayer and fasting, meekness and humbleness, goodness and wisdom, charity and faith, love of God and love of one’s brother, and all the other Evangelical virtues.

According to the God-Man philosophy of life and the world, man, society, nation, and state are to accommodate themselves to the Church as the eternal ideal, but the Church must never accommodate itself to them—much less submit to them. A nation has true worth only inasmuch as it lives the Evangelical virtues and incarnates in its history the God-Man values. What applies to the nation, applies to the state as well. The goal of the nation as a whole is the same as the goal of the individual: to incarnate in one’s self Evangelical justice, love, sanctity; to become a “holy people”—”God’s people”—which in its history proclaims the Divine values and virtues (1 Peter 2:9-10; 1:15-16).

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As a part of the Truth of Our Faith series in honour of the Sunday of Orthodoxy, I am linking to a two-part critique (four posts) on Protopresbyter Thomas Hopko’s Christology and Mariology by Priestmonk Gregory of St. Arsenios Hermitage in Decatur, Texas. I had my own concerns about certain theological statements made by Fr. Hopko, but I did not know many of things Fr. Gregory takes to task on his blog Panagia Quick to Hear. Here is a list of Fr. Hopko’s teachings (not necessarily in order) which Fr. Gregory addresses in his series entitled The Theology of Protopresbyter Thomas Hopko: Orthodox or Opinion?:

1. That the Virgin required Purification;

2. That the Christ child opened the Virgin’s womb and broke the seal of her virginity (which, for the record, is refuted even by the most basic icon by depicting the three stars on the Virgin’s garment which represent her ever-virginity: before, during and after childbirth);

3. That the human soul is not eternal but dies when the body dies;

4. That Christ’s divinity is circumscribed by His humanity, rendering Him not omnipresent;

5. That Christ was ignorant of “many things”.

And here are the posts in order: First; Second; Third; and Fourth.

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This is an amazing insight into the fearless courage shown by our martyred Father Daniel Sysoyev. It needs no preface or introduction, but I just wanted to point out that the vision Fr. Daniel had before his death reminds me a great deal of the visions experienced by St. Perpetua and her companions before their own martyrdom. Let it never be said that the Holy Spirit, who inspired the martyrs of the first centuries, is no longer operative! No, even today the blood of the martyrs waters the “tree” of Orthodoxy and strengthens the faithful!

“Shining As A Star”: A few words about Father Daniel Sysoyev from Yuri Maximov                                                                                                         (from the blog Incendiary – thank your for this translation!)

Very many, even among those who were not in agreement with him about some issues, were surprised at and admired his courage. Not long ago, after the funeral, an acquaintance priest called me and said that he saw a video in which Fr. Daniel stands in an auditorium full of Muslims and from the podium he joyfully tells them about Christ and about how Islam, rejecting the God-Man Christ, cannot be true religion. “I just can’t comprehend,” he said to me, “What a heart one must have to simply go and stand among them and speak.”

The video about which he spoke was filmed at the first debate with Muslims. Some Orthodox were not happy with the fact that Fr. Daniel took part in those debates; however, the initiative was not his. Muslims had publicly invited him, and how could a witness of Christ refuse to give an answer for his hope? [1 Peter 3:15] His refusal would have been for them an argument in their propaganda for Islam.

Father Daniel later told me that he was sure that after that first debate he would be killed, and the evening before he felt great fear and worry. During the night he had a vision: He saw himself standing before a labyrinth made up of pebbles, the kind that there are in the north. Walking through the labyrinth in a circle he came to the center where there was an altar, on which laid a sacrifice which had just been killed. He understood that is was an altar of Satan and a sacrifice to him. Father Daniel was gripped with anger and knocked over the altar with his foot. Immediately appeared Satan himself in the form of a joker in a fool’s cap such as is on playing cards. His eyes were filled with wild hatred and he jumped on Fr. Daniel. Batushka started to pray, “Most Holy Mother of God, protect me!,” “Saint Nicholas, help me!,” as well as to other saints, and then something like an invisible wall appeared so that Satan jumped at him but was not able to reach him and bounced back time after time. Seeing this, Batushka allowed in a vain thought and at that very moment Satan broke through the invisible wall and grabbed him by the throat. Father Daniel cried out, “Most Holy Mother of God, forgive me, I’ve sinned, save me from him!” Satan then disapearred and Fr. Daniel heard, “You will not lose but neither will you win,” concerning the upcoming debate.

“And that’s how it happened,” Fr. Daniel said to me. He added that after this vision he completely stopped fearing Muslims and their threats, as, after seeing Satan himself and his powerlessness before God, it is impossible to be impacted by any human evil which is always inferior to Satan’s evil.

During the second debate I, together with Fr. Oleg Stenyaev, was an aide to Fr. Daniel. It seemed to me that the debate went well (although, of course, it could have gone better). It is noteworthy that after this debate several Muslims who had helped organize the debates converted to Orthodoxy.

Being himself half Tatar (on his mother’s side), Fr. Daniel paid particular attention to spreading and strengthening Orthodoxy among the Tatar people. He was the first and, it seems, only priest who, with the blessing of his bishop, began to regularly serve molebens partially in the Tatar language for Orthodox Tatars. He also, with his own money, published a prayerbook in Tatar. Together with his aides, he preached at Sabantuy (a Tatar national festival) and at the Tatar cultural center. In Egypt, he preached for hours to his Muslim guide and on television he argued with mufftis about faith.

He acquired a scandalous fame among Muslims, which alarmed and discomforted some Orthodox but not Fr. Daniel. He said that his fame helped in his mission and that was the truth. For, those Muslims who had even a small interest in Christianity learned just who to go to, and they did not err as they were always met by Fr. Daniel with love and had all their questions answered. There were a few Muslims who, having come to him in order to convert him to Islam, as a result were baptized by him.

Among those who call themselves Orthodox, I have met such strange people who say that Fr. Daniel should not preach to Muslims, that one must respect their religion, and that there is no benefit from his preaching. But Fr. Daniel thought, as did the Lord, the Apostles, and all the saints, that one must respect mistaken people but not their mistakes. Truth is one, that which contradicts and negates truth is a lie, and respect for a lie is contempt for the truth. Those who are indifferent to truth cannot understand this simple fact, and, therefore, they did not understand Fr. Daniel, although they might have been obliged to him for their life. Batushka managed to turn to Christ a number of Wahhabi’s, including one Pakistani, who planned on becoming a suicide-bomber, and one woman who had the same plan. Would it really have been better if Fr. Daniel had not preached to those people and they, continuing their previous plans, had blown up an airplane, building, or subway car, maybe even one in which one of Fr. Daniel’s critics had been in?

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Our Orthodox faith,

our wealth, and our glory,

our stock, our crown,

our pride.

We will never deny you, O beloved Orthodoxy,

nor lie to you, O time-honoured reverence,

nor walk away from you, O mother piety.

We have been born in you, we live in you,

and we will die in you.

If time asks for it,

we will sacrifice ten thousand times our lives for you.

-Joseph Vriennios (Spiritual Father o f St. Mark of Ephesus)

Once again I will publishing a series of posts entitled Truth of Our Faith for this Lenten week of the Sunday of Orthodoxy. It is a week of posts both honouring the confessors of Orthodoxy who did/do not shy away from preaching the truth of our faith, as well as writings that enlighten the darkness of ignorance by addressing the fruitlessness of heresy.  I hope and pray that we all have the courage and conviction to live the words of this poem. If we lack the courage, may we strive to acquire it during this time of prayer and fasting.

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One of the first icons I ever painted – not great, but I do love St. Euphemia! (The border is taken from a poem about St. Euphemia by St. Nikolai Velimirovitch.)


In the year 451 in the city of Chalcedon, in the very church where the glorified relics of the holy Great Martyr Euphemia rested, the sessions of the Fourth Ecumenical Council (July 16) took place. The Council was convened for determining the precise dogmatic formulate of the Orthodox Church concerning the nature of the God-Man Jesus Christ. This was necessary because of the widespread heresy of the Monophysites [“mono-physis” meaning “one nature”], who opposed the Orthodox teaching of the two natures in Jesus Christ, the Divine and the Human natures (in one Divine Person). The Monophysites falsely affirmed that in Christ was only one nature, the Divine [i.e. that Jesus is God but not man, by nature], causing discord and unrest within the Church. At the Council were present 630 representatives from all the local Christian Churches. On the Orthodox side Anatolius, Patriarch of Constantinople (July 3), Juvenal, Patriarch of Jerusalem (July 2), and representatives of St Leo, Pope of Rome (February 18) participated in the conciliar deliberations. The Monophysites were present in large numbers, headed by Dioscorus, the Patriarch of Alexandria, and the Constantinople archimandrite Eutychius.

After prolonged discussions the two sides could not come to a decisive agreement.

The holy Patriarch Anatolius of Constantinople proposed that the Council submit the decision of the Church dispute to the Holy Spirit, through His undoubted bearer St Euphemia the All-Praised, whose wonderworking relics had been discovered during the Council’s discussions. The Orthodox hierarchs and their opponents wrote down their confessions of faith on separate scrolls and sealed them with their seals. They opened the tomb of the holy Great Martyr Euphemia and placed both scrolls upon her bosom. Then, in the presence of the emperor Marcian (450-457), the participants of the Council sealed the tomb, putting on it the imperial seal and setting a guard to watch over it for three days. During these days both sides imposed upon themselves strict fast and made intense prayer. After three days the patriarch and the emperor in the presence of the Council opened the tomb with its relics: the scroll with the Orthodox confession was held by St Euphemia in her right hand, and the scroll of the heretics lay at her feet. St Euphemia, as though alive, raised her hand and gave the scroll to the patriarch. After this miracle many of the hesitant accepted the Orthodox confession, while those remaining obstinate in the heresy were consigned to the Council’s condemnation and excommunication.amma saraIn my opinion this miracle of St. Euphemia is a great reminder for our times that there are reasons the Orthodox Church is not in communion with those who follow the teachings of Dioschorus and/or Eutychius. The division between the Orthodox tradition and that of the monophysites, or Anti-Chalcedonians, was not the result of a misunderstanding, but of divine revelation. God revealed which of the two theologies was divinely inspired through His handmaiden Euphemia the All-Praised.

For more on this topic see this excerpt from the book The Life of Elder Paisios of Mount Athos by Hieromonk Isaac.

Pray for us Holy Euphemia!

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