Archive for the ‘Orthodox Theology’ Category
In Egypt, in whose ancient Christian past there had once been many grand monasteries, there once lived a monk who befriended an uneducated and simple peasant farmer. One day this peasant said to the monk, “I too respect God who created this world! Every evening I pour out a bowl of goat’s milk and leave it out under a palm tree. In the evening God comes and drinks up my milk! He is very fond of it! There’s never once been a time when even a drop of milk is left in the bowl.”
Hearing these words, the monk could not help smiling. He kindly and logically explained to his friend that God doesn’t need a bowl of goat’s milk. But the peasant so stubbornly insisted that he was right that the monk then suggested that the next night they secretly watch to see what happened after the bowl of milk was left under the palm tree.
No sooner said than done. When night fell, the monk and the peasant hid themselves some distance from the tree, and soon in the moonlight they saw how a little fox crept up to the bowl and lapped up all the milk till the bowl was empty.
“Indeed!” the peasant sighed disappointedly. “Now I can see that it wasn’t God!”
The monk tried to comfort the peasant and explained that God is a spirit, that God is something completely beyond our poor ability to comprehend in our world, and that people comprehend His presence each in their own unique way. But the peasant merely stood hanging his head sadly. Then he wept and went back home to his hovel.
The monk also went back to his cell, but when he got there he was amazed to see an angel blocking his path. Utterly terrified, the monk fell to his knees, but the angel said to him:
“That simple fellow had neither education nor wisdom nor book-learning enough to be able to comprehend God otherwise. Then you with your wisdom and book learning took away what little he had! You will say that doubtless you reasoned correctly. But there’s one thing that you don’t know, oh learned man: God, seeing the sincerity and true heart of this good peasant, every night sent the little fox to that palm tree to comfort him and accept his sacrifice.”
For Greek original see: http://www.impantokratoros.gr/42D5D1B1.el.aspx
Observations on the text: “Relations of the Orthodox Church with the Rest of the Christian World”
Professor of the Theological School at the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, Dr. Dimitrios Tselengidis has sent his first theological observations to the Orthodox hierarchs of several Local Orthodox Churches (including those of Greece, Russia, Serbia, Georgia, Bulgaria, Alexandria, and Antioch) concerning the text: “Relations of the Orthodox Church with the Rest of the Christian World.”
Thessaloniki, 03 Feb 2016
This text displays recurrent theological inconsistency and contradiction. Thus, in the first article it proclaims the ecclesiastical self-identity of the Orthodox Church, considering Her—and very rightly—as the “One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church.” In article six, however, there is a contradiction with respect to the formulation of the above article (1). It notes characteristically that the “the Orthodox Church recognizes the historic existence of other Christian Churches and Confessions not in communion with Her.”
Here the reasonable theological question arises: If the Church is “One” according to our Creed and the Orthodox Church’s own self-identity (art. 1), then how is there mention of other Christian Churches? It is clear that these other Churches are heterodox.
Heterodox “Churches”, though, cannot at all be called “Churches” by the Orthodox. Considering things from a dogmatic perspective it is not possible to speak about a plurality of “Churches” with different dogmas, and this, indeed, with regard to many different theological issues. Consequently, as long as these “Churches” remain firm in the erroneous beliefs of their faith, there is no theological justification to grant them ecclesial recognition —and this officially —outside of the “One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church.”
In the same article (6), there is another serious theological contradiction. At the beginning of the article the following is noted: “According to the ontological nature of the Church, it is impossible for [Her] unity to be shattered.” At the end of this same article, however, it is written that, by Her participation in the Ecumenical Movement, the Orthodox Church has as its “objective aim the paving of the way which leads toward unity.”
Here the question is put: Given that the unity of the Church is an acknowledged fact, what type of unity of Churches is being sought in the context of the Ecumenical Movement? Does it perhaps mean the return of Western Christians to the ONE and only Church? Such a meaning, though, does not emerge either in the letter or the spirit of the entire text. On the contrary, indeed, the impression is given that there exists a long-established division in the Church and that the prospects of the [Ecumenical] dialogues focus on the disrupted unity of the Church.
Theological confusion is also caused by the ambiguity in article 20, which reads: “The prospects of the theological dialogues of the Orthodox Church with the other Christian Churches and Confessions shall always be determined on the basis of Her canonical criteria of the already established ecclesiastical tradition (canon seven of the Second Ecumenical Council and canon 95 of the Quinisext Council).”
But, canon seven of the Second Ecumenical Council and canon 95 of the Quinisext address the reception of specific heretics that had demonstrated their desire to join the Orthodox Church. However, it is apparent from the letter and spirit of the text, as judged from a theological perspective, that there is no discussion whatsoever of the return of the heterodox to the Orthodox Church, the only Church. Rather, in the text, the baptism of the heterodox is considered an accepted fact from the outset—and this without a Pan-Orthodox decision. In other words, the text endorses “Baptismal Theology.” Simultaneously, the text deliberately ignores the historic fact that the contemporary heterodox of the West (RC & Protestant) have not one, but heaps of dogmas that differ from the Orthodox Church (besides the filioque, created grace in the sacraments, the primacy of the pope, papal infallibility, the rejection of icons, and the rejection of the decisions of the Ecumenical Councils, etc.).
Article 21 also raises appropriate questions, where it notes that, “the Orthodox Church … has a favorable view of the documents adopted by the Commission [referring to the Committee for ‘Faith & Order’] . . . for the rapprochement of the Churches.” Here it must be observed that these documents [of the Committee] have never been adjudged by the Hierarchs of the Local Orthodox Churches.
Finally, in article 22 the impression is given that the Upcoming Holy and Great Council is prejudging the infallibility of its decisions, since it considers that, “the preservation of the authentic orthodox faith is ensured only through the synodical system, which has always rested in the Church and which constitutes the appropriate and final judge on all matters of faith.” In this article, the historic fact is ignored that in the Orthodox Church the final criteria is always the living dogmatic consciousness of the fullness of the Church, which in the past confirmed even Ecumenical Councils considered robber councils. The synodical system by itself does not mechanically ensure the correctness of orthodox faith. This only happens when the Synod of Bishops has the Holy Spirit and the Hypostatic Way—Christ—working within it, and thus as “syn”—“odikoi” [i.e., “traversing together on the way”] they are, in practice, “following the Holy Fathers.”
General Assessment of the Text
With all that is written and what is clearly implied in the text above, it is clear that its initiators and authors are attempting the institutional and official ratification of Christian Syncretistism-Ecumenism by means of a Pan-Orthodox Synod. This, however, would be catastrophic for the Orthodox Church. For this reason I humbly propose the text’s total withdrawal.
In closing, one theological observation on the text, “The Sacrament of Marriage and its Impediments” (See: https://mospat.ru/en/2016/01/28/news127389/). In article 5.i, it notes: “The marriage of an Orthodox person with a heterodox person is not permitted according to canonical akrivia [the ‘rule’] (canon 72 of the Quinisext Council in Trullo). However, it is possible to be blessed through condescension and love for man under the express condition that the children of this marriage will be baptized and raised in the Orthodox Church.”
Here, the express condition that, “the children of this marriage will be baptized and raised in the Orthodox Church” clashes with the theological guarantee of marriage as a sacrament of the Orthodox Church. The reason for this: because child-bearing shows itself—in connection with the baptism of children in the Orthodox Church—to legitimize the service of mixed marriage, something clearly forbidden by a Canon of the Ecumenical Councils (canon 72 of the Quinisext). In other words, a synod that is not Ecumenical, such as is the upcoming Holy and Great Council, explicitly turns a decision of an Ecumenical Council into something relative. This is unacceptable.
And finally this: If the blessed marriage does not provide children, is this marriage theologically legitimized simply on account of the intention of the heterodox spouse to place any possible children in the Orthodox Church?
For the sake of theological consistency, article 5.i, needs to be removed.
+ Translation by: Rev. Fr. Matthew Penney, Feb. 7th, 2016, with assistance by Fr. C. A, and edited by Fr. Peter Heers.
Fr. Theodoros Zisis – the speaker in the below video – is Emeritus Professor of Patrology and former Chair of the Department of Pastoral and Social Theology at Aristotle University of Thessaloniki. At one time he was personally involved in the preparations for this Council, and thus brings first-hand knowledge and experience to his critical insight on the preparations and themes of the upcoming Council. It was originally uploaded in Greek a few months ago, and thus addresses the proposed themes that have since been agreed upon.
Fr. John translated the below homily by Bishop Augoustinos Kantiotes last year. It is so good I just had to share it again this year.
Beloved in Christ, I would like to ask you a question; I ask it of myself and I ask it of you. Are we prepared to celebrate the great feast of Christmas?
There are two kinds of preparation; material and spiritual. Our material preparation is more or less finished. Housewives have cleaned their houses, husbands have finished – or have almost finished – their shopping, and children await their presents. Everyone has written their Christmas cards, signing them with the customary, ‘Merry Christmas’ and ‘Happy New Year’. This is worldly preparation; I am not interested in this. What I am interested in is spiritual preparation, the kind of preparation which makes us ready to celebrate the great event of the Incarnation of the Divine Word as is proper. Only a small number have properly prepared themselves. Of one thousand Christians, I doubt if even one celebrates Christmas truly. Does my estimate seem exaggerated? Let us see.
How is Christmas celebrated today? A portion of Christians will celebrate it ‘typically’, let us say. Hearing the bells on Christmas Eve, they will go and take part in the service out of habit. This is certainly better than being absent altogether; it is something at least.
Others will imitate foreign customs and practices, forgetting the ecclesiastical celebration altogether; in other words, they will pass Christmas Eve without the scent of Christ. For Orthodox Christians, Christmas is meaningless if it is celebrated without church services, without prayer, without confession, without Holy Communion, without forgiveness, without almsgiving. Indeed, the devil has sown a new seed in our homeland, and it is sprouting up everywhere like mushrooms grow in manure. On Christmas Eve people put on these reveillon – a foreign custom and a foreign word – they put on parties in luxurious hotels and other such places, far from the Church, far from hymns, far from the Divine Liturgy, where people gather and amuse themselves with worldly music, with food, with drink and whatever follows from these things. Such a practice is a thorn in the field of our homeland. If it continues to spread, the spirit of secularization will overtake the Christian feast altogether.
Some, then, celebrate Christmas ‘typically’, others put on these reveillon and trade in the Church feast for something altogether worldly. And still others, what do they do? They leave. They are not satisfied here. Greece is not enough for them. They have money to spare so they take trips and go on tours. On Christmas Eve when the bells are ringing, these people will be far from their homes in different places, and not only in our country. They aren’t satisfied here, so they hop on an airplane and go celebrate Christmas in Rome, in London, in Paris, in different places.
These, beloved, and anyone else who has openly denied the faith, have cast Christmas out of their hearts. For a large number of people, then, Christmas is nothing but another chance to dull their boredom; the actual content of the feast holds no appeal for them. Yes! That day you will have it all! You will have your great salons, your ornate rugs, your curtains, your fancy cutlery, your drinks, your meals, your music, your trips. You will have everything! You will be missing one thing, however. Your will be missing the most valuable thing; the thing which gives the feast meaning! Lacking this thing, what kind of Christmas can you expect to have? Your Christmas will be a Christmas without Christ!
But why? How did this happen? How did things get to this point? This is the age which the Prophet Isaiah foresaw. There will come a day, he said, when men will be drunk without wine. This day has arrived. Contemporary man is, “…drunk, but not with wine.” (Isaiah 29:9) For one to be drunk with wine during these days in undoubtedly a sin, for, drunkards shall not inherit the kingdom of God. (1 Cor 6:10) There is, however, a worse kind of drunkenness: woe to those who are drunk without wine, says Isaiah.
What, then, is contemporary man drunk on? One is drunk on the love of glory. Another is drunk on the love of money; another is drunk on women and indecent sights; another is drunk on card playing, on games of chance; another on an obsession with sports teams; another on plays and films; another on enjoyments and luxuries. I have particularly noticed that a good many are drunk on politics, something which has become a passion only for us in Greece alone. I say this as one who keeps himself out of party politics. Were you to open my heart you would find nothing but my homeland and my Christ. Here in Greece there is a pathological attachment to politics. Even on Christmas Eve, the feast will be overshadowed by discussions of politics. Nowhere else can one find such a phenomenon.
I have also noticed of late that many have become drunk on that strong wine described in the Apocalypse; that wine which the noetic Babylon will give the rulers and the people to drink. This wine, the commentators say, is the pagan spirit, the moral depravity of the world. This wine is so strong that if you were to drink just a few drops, it will cause you to lose your faith, you will forget everything. The strongest wine, then, is not money, or women, or shameful lusts, or other sensual pleasures; it is the cosmopolitan spirit of modern life, it is the emancipation from devotion, knowledge infused with pride, the science of the atheist, the atheistic rebellion, the denial of God and the divinization of man. It is this wine which has made many in our age drunk.
Men are drunk, then, on various wines offered to him by the ruler of this age in his golden cup. Do you know what these men are like? I will show you by means of an example.
I try, with God’s help, to be a teacher. So I travel to a village where I find someone and try to teach him something about Christ, about the faith, about the mysteries. He listens, but the others tell me, “Don’t waste your time, he’s drunk! Don’t bother sitting with him and taking to him!” This is how the world is today…it is drunk without wine! Is it worth speaking to such men?
But I appeal to you, my brothers. I am not speaking to drunks, to those made dizzy by the idols. It is my hope that I speak to the faithful who know but one kind of drunkenness, that holy drunkenness described by the Psalmist who exhorts us to, “…taste and see that the Lord is good.” (Psalm 33:8) I hope that you have you ears open for, “Blessed is he that speaketh in the ears of them that will hear.” (Sirach 25:9)
 From the book Εμπνευσμένα Κηρύγματα Ορθοδόξου Ομολογίας και Αγιοπατερικής Πνοής (Orthodoxos Kypseli: Thessaloniki, 2011), 27-31. Translated by Rev Dr John Palmer.
While only three of the four talks were recorded, they have also shared the recording of the panel discussion that featured all four speakers.
To the left is a photo of Archimandrite Gerasim; he was the Keynote speaker and I was delighted to meet him and hear him speak. You can hear his talk, entitled “Now You Are the Body of Christ and Members in Particular” here.
You can find Ashley-Veronika’s talk entitled “How Our Ancient Tradition Speaks to Modern Ecology” here.
I’m sorry to say that Joshua’s talk was not recorded. It was fabulous, but you’ll just have to take my word it.
Below is a photo of all the speakers during the panel discussion. You can hear this discussion here.
If you wish you can hear my talk “Work as Prayer: Uniting our Divided Selves” here. Hearing the recordings I am reminded of why people tell me to slow down when I speak. However, in defense of ‘speaking quickly’ I will share the following: :)
“I have heard criticism against Fr. Daniel [Sysoev] that he hurries, talks too fast, and people can’t keep up. But he was in a hurry to pour the source of living waters out upon people, to make all of us partakers of Divine truth, to lead us from the darkness of ignorance to the light of knowledge. For me, Fr. Daniel’s trait of “speaking quickly” was a great plus, because I myself was in a hurry to know everything.” (Source)
Elder Simeon Kragiopoulos passed away at 6:00 a.m. on September 30, 2015. He was the Abbot of the Holy Trinity Monastery in Panorama, Thessaloniki and known throughout as a true elder and teacher. I had the opportunity to hear him speak once, after years of keeping silent on account of his failing health, he gave a homily in the summer of 2012. I was blessed to be in attendance. (Actually the above photo was taken that very day).
Here is just one of the many spiritual gems he has offered us through his wise teachings:
(Source) Spiritual work happens secretly in the heart. Externally, let everything else threaten us. Like the sea: The wind blows, waves rise. But deep down it’s all quiet, peaceful, serene.
This is how a man who trusts in God lives. There might be a wild rage out there, but deep down nothing hinders the soul from having a mystical communion with God, a mystical love for God. Quietly and mystically, in a special way that the heart perceives, the Lord is whispering: “Don’t be afraid. I am here. Keep walking this path. Keep loving me, keep believing in me, keep following me”.
It’s not enough to suffer myriad things in life. When, though, you believe in God and accept all these –whatever it is that happens to you- gladly, for the love of God, God will make a saint out of you.
To read more of Elder Symeon’s God-inspired words check out this link.