Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for the ‘Truth of Our Faith’ Category

empros

The Athonite Monasteries of Koutloumousiou, Xeropotamou, Zographou, Kapakallou, Philtheou, and Gregoriou have all written letters to the Holy Community of Mt. Athos in reaction to the Pan-Orthodox draft documents prepared for the upcoming Council in Crete. In these letters the Holy Athonite Monasteries have responded to the draft documents and methodology of the Pan-Orthodox Council with sharp and pointed reactions. These letters have now been released to the public.

On account of the seriousness of the matter, it was unanimously decided that the texts prepared for approval by the Council be examined in a specially called Meeting of the Representatives and Abbots of the Holy Monasteries, scheduled to take place after the Bright Week of Pascha.

The Athonite Fathers call attention to the danger presented by the Pan-Orthodox Council, as it is being carried out. Namely, among other things, they see:

* The concilarity of the Church being undermined and a theology supportive of primacy being promoted (due to the limited participation of bishops and an excessive authority given to the primates of each Local Church);

*An unacceptable ambiguity in the pre-synodical texts, allowing for interpretations which divert from Orthodox dogma;

*A placing, as the basis of the dialogues, of “the faith and tradition of the ancient Church and the Seven Ecumenical Councils,” such that the subsequent history of the Orthodox Church appears to be somehow lacking or impaired;

*An attempt by some to gain pan-Orthodox confirmation of the scandalous and totally unacceptable texts approved within the World Council of Churches;

*And the unacceptable application of the term “church” to schisms and heresies.

To read the texts in the original Greek see here.

Excerpts and full translations of the letters into English will be forthcoming.

Read Full Post »

Read Full Post »

186719.pANOTHER HIERARCH APPEALS TO THE HOLY SYNOD CONCERNING THE PAN-ORTHODOX COUNCIL

Met. Seraphim of Piraeus has sent a letter to the Holy Synod of the Greek Orthodox Church concerning the upcoming Pan-Orthodox Council. The main propositions of the document were published on the site Agionoros.ru.

Vladyka styled the decision that every Local Church shall be represented by twenty-four hierarchs at the council “a never-before-seen innovation,” without precedent in two thousand years of Church history.

He noted that at every Ecumenical Council “as many bishops as possible” took part. In practice Churches did sometimes sent representatives, but only in the event that the bishop could not arrive to the Council for one reason or another.

“In accordance with Orthodox ecclesiology, every bishop, governing even the smallest diocese, represents his flock and is a living member of the Universal Church,” wrote the metropolitan in his letter. To not invite every bishop to the Pan-Orthodox Council, in his opinion, denies the opportunity for the fullness of the Church to express its opinion, “which, it seems, the organizers of the Council want.”

Vladyka recalls that in the sessions of the Ecumenical Councils heretofore taking part were representatives of the lower clergy, monastics, and laity. “It wouldn’t be an overstatement to call the impending council a Pan-Orthodox Council without the Orthodox. It is obvious that by the decision on representation at the council, running contrary to Tradition, the likelihood of some bishops speaking out against the decisions of the Council, should they represent a revision of Tradition, was avoided.”

“Completely unfounded,” Metropolitan Seraphim calls “the assertion of Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, by which the Orthodox Church can designate the upcoming council only ‘Pan-Orthodox,’ and not ‘Ecumenical,’ because the Roman Catholic ‘Church’ will not be taking part. The falling away of heretics from the Church in no way minimizes her universal character.”

Metropolitan Seraphim expresses his disagreement with the principle of “one Local Church—one vote.” In his opinion, every bishop taking part in the work of the Council should have the right to vote.

The metropolitan of Piraeus exposes the draft document of the Pan-Orthodox Council, “Relations of the Orthodox Church with the rest of the Christian world,” adopted at the Fifth Pan-Orthodox Pre-Conciliar Meeting in Chambesy, October 10-17, 2015, to detailed analysis and critique.

“In this text nothing is said of heresies and delusions, as if they stopped appearing in the history of the Church after the eighth century.” As the Ecumenical Councils of that time were occupied with analysis of and conciliar condemnation of various fallacies, the Pan-Orthodox Council is not taking up a similar principle, writes the bishop in his message.

The twenty-second paragraph of the document also undergoes Metropolitan Seraphim’s critique:The Orthodox Church considers that any effort to divide the unity of the Church, undertaken by individuals and groups under the pretense of preservation or protection of the truth of Orthodoxy, is subject to condemnation. As evidenced by the entire life of the Orthodox Church, preserving the true Orthodox faith is possible thanks only to the conciliar structure, which from ancient times has represented for the Church the competent and supreme criterion in questions of faith.

In the bishop’s opinion, the given provision creates the impression that the forthcoming Pan-Orthodox Council seeks “to predetermine the infallibility of its resolutions.” The statement that “preserving the true Orthodox faith is possible thanks only to the conciliar structure, which from ancient times has represented for the Church the competent and supreme criterion in questions of faith,” is not mindful of the historical fact that in the Orthodox Church the final criterion of faith is the dogmatic self-consciousness of the members of the Church. That is precisely why some councils, undertaken to be ecumenical, were recognized to be robber councils and illegitimate.

Metropolitan Seraphim expresses his disagreement with the decision of the primates to invite to the Pan-Orthodox Council Catholic, Monophysite, and Protestant observers: “In the 2,000-year history of the Church there have never been non-Orthodox ‘observers’ at Local and Ecumenical Councils.” This practice occurred only at the First and Second Vatican Councils of the Catholic church, said Metroplitan Seraphim, specifiying. “Is it permissible for a Pan-Orthodox Council to take papal practices as its model?” asks Vladyka.

Metropolitan Seraphim recalls that in the past heretics were invited to Ecumenical Councils not as “observers,” but as defendants, to bring them to repentance. If they continued to persist in their delusions, they were excommunicated from the Church and driven out of the Council’s sessions. In his opinion, the attendance of non-Orthodox at the Pan-Orthodox Council “legitimizes delusions and heresy, and practically undermines the authority of the Council.”

Read Full Post »

The Church of Christ is not of this world but is founded by the Holy Trinity so that she might serve in the world; that she may be penetrated with the truth of Christ, that she may sanctify and lead one back again to God. In this sense, the Church coexists with all phenomena in different epochs of human history, including also that of the pluralism of opinion, one of the characteristic scars of the time in which we live. This pluralism, however, is not inherent in the Orthodox faith and in its dogmatics, just as diversity of opinion is not intrinsic to God, in Whom there is no variableness nor shadow of turning (John 1:17).

Certainly, the Holy Orthodox Church does not deny freedom of human thought, but attempts to direct this freedom in a salvific direction. This way, in connection with confirmed and true Church teaching, many personal theological opinions arise—for example, the teaching of St. Gregory of Nyssa on the “garments of skin,” the interpretation of St. Filaret (Drozdov) on the petition “For the peace of the whole world, the well-being of the Holy Churches of God and the union of all,” the position of Fr. Sergey Bulgakov on the “feminine principle” (“Sofia”) in God. Over time, mass heretical communities are also appearing and are frequently privileged through political protection. But this cannot, in some way, weaken or violate the holiness of the Church and her uniqueness, neither can it deny her creed, her sacred tradition, and her holy scripture.

Today the entire Orthodox world is excited about the upcoming Holy and Great Council, which is planned for June 2016 on the island of Crete. Various expectations and positions, apprehensions and hopes, are being expressed.

Right now the community of the Church is exchanging and discussing a host of letters, petitions, documents, and epistles. Everyone is expressing his view in accord with his internal feelings. But in as much as no person is infallible, and in as much as none of us is more great or wiser than the teachings of the Church that have been confirmed in the Ecumenical Councils throughout the centuries, personal bias should give priority to the true, eternal, ubiquitous, and unanimous confession of the Orthodox faith.

This is essential for all of us in as much as it is not theoretical theology, theological “diplomacy,” or the cultural and social activity in the Church that are the means for the eternal salvation of our souls, but our trueness before God, humility, faithful love, and life in His Spirit and His truth, in Him Himself, Who is absolute Truth. It is not possible for any of our particular, variable, and self-servingly adjustable “truths” to save our lives.

It has always been a gift of grace for the Church when heresies appear and intensify, in as much as she has thereupon formulated and reconfirmed the pure teachings of holy Orthodoxy. Such is the case today—different heresies and sects, including the heresy of ecumenism, allow the Church to express its unchanged and principled position through its archpastors, pastors, theologians, and laity, which is just as beneficial for us, Orthodox, as it is for the non-Orthodox.

At the moment, revived Orthodox discussion is flowing freely about the nature of the Church and about what should be her relationship to other Christians—Roman Catholics and Protestants. The Georgian Orthodox Church under Patriarch Ilia II, metropolitans such as Athanasy of Limassol, Hierotheos (Vlahos) of Nafpaktos, and Seraphim of Piraeus, elders of the Holy Mountain such as Sava (from the Great Lavra) and Gabriel (from Koutloumousiou Monastery), professor and priest Theodore Zisis, professor Dimitrios Tselengidis, as well as many others, have over the past few months shared their position publicly, according to established patristic teaching, that the Church of Christ, that is, the Orthodox Church (ecclesia), is one and only she is holy, ecumenical, and apostolic. The remaining heretical communities are referred to (sometimes in the Orthodox lexicon as well) with the term “church”/”churches,” but for our part, this should be a provisional commemoration, that is, in the sense of an “assembly” (the old meaning of the Greek word ecclesia). The Orthodox Church is required to preach the truth to these communities, that it might be possible for each of them to be saved by turning to Orthodoxy.

The Bulgarian Orthodox Church is not a member of the ecumenist organization “World Council of Churches,” but in as much as it is a part of universal Orthodoxy and the world in which we live, there is no way to remain on the sidelines in light of all these issues—as much on the level of its hierarchy, the Holy Synod, as on the executive level of the clergy, monastics, and laity.

In light of this, the canonization and celebrations of St. Seraphim of Sofia, the Wonderworker, which took place on February 3 and February 26, 2016 respectively, have symbolic importance for the Bulgarian Orthodox Church, in as much as this enlightener of God very accurately has pointed out the shortcomings of ecumenism and the correct relationship that we Orthodox should manifest towards the rest of the Christian world, a relationship namely of active and not sentimental love, a relationship filled with missionary concern and dogmatic integrity.

In this regard, we recommend the following article by the Bulgarian Schema-Hieromonk Dmitry Sografskiy, in which valuable and sincere citations of the Holy Fathers of the Church are proffered. In these quotations breathe the universal voice of Orthodoxy in relation to the nature of the Church and our relationship to non-Orthodox Christians.

The contemporary challenges before our Orthodox conscience are a divine gift—a gift for the clarification of our Orthodox self-awareness, for a kindling of correct confession of the faith, and for living in sacrificial love towards all our neighbors.

Dr. Daniel Panayotova is the general editor of the official site of the Bulgarian Orthodox Church

Dr. Daniel Panayotova

Translated by Christopher Criswell

Read Full Post »

ναφπακτου

SACRED METROPOLIS OF NAFPAKTOS AND SAINT VLASIOS

Nafpaktos, February 17, 2016

To
the Holy and Sacred Synod
of the Church of Greece
Ioannou Gennadiou 14
115 21 Athens

Your Beatitude, President of the Synod,

The Synaxis of the Primates of the Orthodox Churches (March 6-9, 2014) decided to set up a Special Inter-Orthodox Commission, consisting of one bishop and one advisor from each autocephalous Church. This Commission would, among other things, review the texts: The Orthodox Church and the Ecumenical Movement; Relations of the Orthodox Church with the rest of the Christian world and The Contribution of the Orthodox Church to the promotion of Peace, Justice and Love between peoples and the eradication of racial and other forms of discrimination. This work was to begin in September 2014 and to finish by Holy Pascha in the year 2015.

Because each Autocephalous Church will “give one voice,” that is one vote, at the Holy and Great Council of the Orthodox Church, I was left with the impression that the reviewing of the texts was to be done by the representatives of our Church, who would receive instructions and guidance from the Holy Synod of the Church.

However, I was recently informed that the texts on these subjects were completed by the Special Inter-Orthodox Commission and were already submitted to the Holy and Great Synod, without the knowledge of the Hierarchy of our Church, and I do not know if they were seen by the Permanent Holy Synod.

I respectfully point out that H.E. Metropolitan Jeremiah of Switzerland, Secretary of Preparations for the Holy and Great Council, presented Your Beatitude, the draft texts On the Mission of the Orthodox Church as a witness of love in service and On the importance of fasting and its observance today and submitted the request that you, before the end of July (2015), send “any comments and suggestions of your most holy Church on the formation of the dossier and its submission to forthcoming, amended Fifth Pre-conciliar Pan-Orthodox Meeting, which will approve and submit them to the Holy and Great Synod in their final form.” However, from what we were informed at the Synod, the Sacred Synod did not send its observations.

As a member of the Permanent Holy Synod, I requested in December of 2015 that we be given the text, which they gave us in January of 2016. I thereafter studied the completed texts in conjunction with the texts drawn up [previously] by the four Pre-conciliar Pan-Orthodox Meetings and found that there were differences, due to the revisions and merging of the texts.

This gives rise to different questions:

1. Which Permanent Holy Synod approved the revision of these specific texts of the Pre-conciliar Pan-Orthodox Meetings? 2. Which Permanent Holy Synod dealt with these subjects and which remarks were made? 3. Which and how many Hierarchs were aware of the parts which were revised? 4. Why were these texts not put forward for approval by the Hierarchy and referred to the Holy and Great Synod without the knowledge of the Hierarchs? 5. How many Hierarchs were aware of the revised texts, with the exception of us Metropolitans of the Synod, who were recently made aware of them, meanwhile they were approved by the representatives of the Autocephalous Churches and sent to the Holy and Great Synod?

Your Beatitude,

The questions I pose are serious and need answers, which must be sent to all the Hierarchs of our Church, because the present Permanent Synod is not able to take on such a great responsibility.

This is particularly important because at one point it was written: “The Orthodox Church believes that any attempts to shatter Church unity, undertaken by individuals or groups under the pretence of preserving or defending true Orthodoxy, must be condemned” (Relationship of the Orthodox Church with the rest of the Christian world §22). In other words, if decrees are made by the Holy and Great Synod of the Orthodox Church, which the hierarchs, monks and theologians ignore, and which are contradictory to the Patristic vision, will they be held responsible and subject to judgement and condemnation if they refuse to implement them?

Submitting this for the consideration of Your Beatitude and the Eminent Hierarchs, I remain,

Least among the brethren in Christ,
+ Hierotheos of Nafpaktos and Saint Vlasios

Read Full Post »

Letter by Dogmatic Theologian

τσελεγγίδηςBelow is a second letter written by my professor of Dogmatic Theology, Demetrios Tselingidis, to the Holy Synod of the Church of Greece regarding the upcoming council. You can read his first letter here.

(Source)

Your Beautitude, holy President of the Holy Synod,

Your Eminences, holy hierarchs,

In view of the imminent convocation of the Holy and Great Synod, I would respectfully once again like to put before you a few thoughts of a theological nature, which I hope might be of use.

From research I conducted, I was unpleasantly surprised to discover that the Church of Greece—from 1961, at which point the Pre-conciliar Pan-Orthodox Conferences for the aforementioned Great Synod began—has not addressed the decisions of these conferences on the level of the Hierarchical Synod. The consequence of this is our arrival at the unfortunate ecclesiastical situation of today.

We are, that is, about to make ecclesiastical decisions on critical issues of a Great Pan-Orthodox Synod, but for this there is a serious lack of synodical treatment from the Local Synod of Hierarchs, something which is, by the way, anticipated by the Pre-conciliar Conferences.

At this moment we find ourselves ecclesiastically at the penultimate stage of the final decisions of the Great Pan-Orthodox Synod. I believe that things—despite their exceptional severity—are still healable. As is well-known, the synodical system of our Orthodox Church comprises a Spirit-led ecclesiastical operation, not only with respect to matters of administration and Her life, but also to the precise expression of Her dogmatic teaching.

More precisely, I believe that the synodical shortcomings of the past fifty-five years most certainly can be corrected now, provided the decisions of the forthcoming Synod of Hierarchs, in connection with the subjects of the forthcoming Great Synod of Orthodoxy, will be in agreement with the self-awareness of the Church and the Spirit-led experience of Her sacred Tradition.

Also something else of relevance and exceptional severity. I carefully read the recently published, “Organization and Working Procedure of the Holy and Great Council” and have to put before you an observation of mine of a theological-dogmatic character.

In particular, Article 12, on the subject of “Voting and Approval of Texts,” makes the following important note:

The voting on the results of a discussion or review of a Council’s text on an agenda item:

1. shall be effected by autocephalous Orthodox Churches, not by each particular member of the delegations represented at the Council, in accordance with the unanimous decision of the Meeting of the Primates of Orthodox Churches;

2. the voting of a Church at the Council, not a member of a delegation, does not exclude the possibility for one or a few hierarchs in the delegation of a particular autocephalous Church to take a negative position towards introduced amendments or a text in general. The fact of disagreement shall be registered in the Minutes of the Council;

3. the evaluation of such disagreement is an internal affair of that Church to which the hierarchs belong. The Church may vote from the principle of internal majority expressed by its primate and for this reason it should be accorded the place and time necessary for considering this issue within the delegation.

We see in this article that the consensus of the Great Synod is limited to one vote for each Local Autocephalous Church. Individual disagreements—should it happen that these constituted a minority within the Local Churches—are left aside as “their internal affair,” something which is ecclesiologically unacceptable to the particular Pan-Orthodox Synod, when, indeed, the disagreement is over a subject of a doctrinal nature. And this is very likely to be the case. For example, the subject of the self-awareness and identity of the Church, which is dealt with in the document: “Relations of the Orthodox Church with the rest of the Christian World” is a matter of ecclesiology; in other words, eminently theological. Consequently, it is not theologically permissible for a document recommended for adoption to, on the one hand, essentially recommend the Protestant “branch theory”—legitimizing by the acceptance thereof the existence of many Churches with many different doctrines—while, on the other hand, the “Rules of Organiation and Operation of the Synod” in effect ignores the inevitable minority vote of hierarchs of individual Local Churches and does not take into account the theological concerns of their episcopal conscience.

And here arises the very appropriate theological-dogmatic question: How will the one faith of the Church, “with one mouth and with one heart” be confessed in this case? How will the fathers of the Synod be able to say, “it seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us?” How will they demonstrate that they have “the mind of Christ,” as did the God-bearing Fathers of the Ecumenical Councils of the Church?

Your Beatitude,

When it comes to matters of dogma, as is well known, the truth is not found in the majority vote of the hierarchs of the Synod. The truth is in itself a majority, for in the Church the truth is a Hypostatic reality. For this reason, whoever disagrees with it is cut off from the Church, and are deposed and excommunicated as appropriate. The Holy and Great Synod is not permitted to leave to lesser synodical bodies a subject of such exceptional severity as the inevitable disagreement of the minority vote of bishops over matters of dogma. As the highest synodical body, it is required to address this issue directly, otherwise there is a real danger of schism in the Church, precisely at the moment when this Great Synod aspires to reaffirm the visible unity of our Church.

With deepest respect,
I kiss your right hand,
Demetrios Tselengides
Professor of the School of Theology of Aristotle University of Thessaloniki

(Translation by: Fr. Kristian Akselberg)

Read Full Post »

2var_6932-1200I just received the below translation via email. As of yet I do not have an original source of the clergy’s declaration to cease commemoration. I will update the post if/when I learn more.

________________________________________________________________

The Defense of the Moldovan Clergy’s Cessation of Commemoration

A Defense of the cessation of commemoration of the local Bishop, the Metropolitan of Chișinău and all Moldova, Vladimir, and of his beatitude Patriarch of Moscow and all Russia, Kyrill in the Divine Liturgy and in all other services of the Church

Translated by Vincent DeWeese

Modern Greek quotations by John Phares

On the 20th of February 2016 on the official webpage of the Metropolis of Moldova, an article was published with the title “A Declaration of Canonical Disobedience,”[1] a response to the declaration which the undersigned clerics addressed to the Metropolis of Moldova, where we announced that we are ceasing commemoration of the local bishop, the Metropolitan of Chișinău and all Moldova, Vladimir, and of his Beatitude Patriarch of Moscow and all Russia, Kyrill, due to recent ecclesiastical events related to the preparation for the Holy and Great Pan-Orthodox Synod, but also because of the meeting in Cuba of the Pope of Rome, Francis, with the Patriarch of Moscow, Kyrill, and the text of their joint declaration.

We [desire and] wait with anticipation to commemorate once again our Hierarch and our Patriarch. We are not transgressors, nor do we desire schism, we are for the Church and within the Church, but the cessation of commemoration is our sign and protest within the Church because something is not right.[2] We do not intend to organize “parallel Synods,” but to implement the 15th canon of the First-Second Synod, precisely because we wish to be first of all in full communion with the Orthodox Faith.

We, the undersigned clergymen of the present declaration, who are mentioned in the article in question, reject all of the accusations against us, especially the accusations concerning the creation of a schism, because these have no canonical basis. Our action is based strictly in the teaching of the Orthodox Church concerning schism and heresy, as it is expressed in the 13th, 14th, και 15th Canons of the First-Second Synod of Constantinople in 861. The second part of the 15th Canon, according to the interpretation of the Holy Confessor Nikodemos[3], is a completion of the preceding canons, because it places the canonical terms of their implementation and identifies the unique case for the cessation of the commemoration of the local hierarch, which is to say, the proclaiming of heresy bareheaded [γυμν τ κεφαλ]. As St. John Chrysostom teaches us, obedience and subjection to the priest, to the hierarch, or to the Synod no longer hold when the issue concerns heresy: “For if one has perverted doctrines, even if he be an angel, do not obey [him]. But if he teaches correctly, pay no heed to his way of life, but to his words.” (John Chrysostom, Homily 2 on 2 Tim., PG 62, 610).

These canonical conditions are articulated chiefly in St. Nikodemos’s interpretation of the first Canon of the Third Ecumenical Synod:

“Putting forth this condition, the Synod of Ephesus intends that legal-ecclesiastical canon, the basis of which the hierarchical structure possesses the full legal authority only when it acts within the boundaries which the law places and when the wielders of this authority are strictly subject to the laws and the teaching of the Orthodox Church. Conversely, when they are distant from these laws and they violate the strictly defined lawful terms, this [ecclesiastical] authority loses all of its rights. Let us interpret further the canons of the Synod which was gathered together in Constantinople in 861, and we will understand what power this canon has always had in the Church.”[4]

Thus, acting within the strict requirements of the Canon Law of the Orthodox Church, we state that the unique cause of our own cessation of commemoration of our local Bishop, and of his Beatitude the Patriarch of Moscow and all of Russia, Kyrill, is the public and open preaching of heresy on their part.

Within the aforementioned text which was published on the official webpage of the Metropolis of Moldova, it is underlined that his Eminence, Vladimir, “never promoted or preached ecumenism publicly or under any other form.” With deep sorrow and grief, we find this assertion to be false, because for anyone to sign or to vote positively or to not resist or to not state publicly his opposition to a public document which is un-Orthodox and was received by a synodal body of the hierarchy to which he belongs, is the same as to express agreement and for the same man to proclaim heresy bareheaded [γυμν τ κεφαλ]. Saint Maximus the Confessor broke communion with the Patriarch of Constantinople, because he had signed a heretical monothelite and monergist document.

Thus, from the 2nd-3rd of February 2016, the Hierarchy of the Russian Orthodox Church, with the immediate participation of His Eminence Metropolitan of Chișinău and All Moldova, Vladimir, approved the preliminary texts for the Holy and Great Pan-Orthodox Synod, which the Synaxis of the Primates of the Orthodox Churches drafted in Chambesy, which had gathered from the 21st until the 28th of January, 2016. In particular, in the fourth paragraph of the “Decision of the Holy Synod of the Russian Orthodox Church from 2nd -3rd of February,” it is claimed: “The members of the Hierarchy confess that in their present form, the preliminary documents of the Holy and Great Synod do not violate the authenticity of the Orthodox faith and they do not come into opposition with the canonical tradition of the Church.”[5]

One of these entitled “Relations of the Orthodox Church toward the rest of the Christian world,” contains a series of ecclesiological heresies, for which reason we ended up ceasing commemoration of the local bishop and of Patriarch Kyrill.

The specific reasons for ceasing commemoration are the following:

[The claim concerning the] lost unity of Christians

In the fifth paragraph of this particular text, there is talk about “the restoration of the unity of Christians” and “for the lost unity of Christians.”[6] However, having in our view all these things, we wonder together with the Apostle Paul: “Can Christ be divided?” (1 Cor 1:13). The use of such terms is an immediate denial of dogma concerning the One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church, because, according to St. Justin Popovic: “The Godman Christ united in His Church ‘the things in heaven and the things on earth, in Him’ (Eph 1:10). All of the mysteries of heaven and earth are united in a unique mystery, in a “great mystery”, in the hyper-mystery of the Church.”[7] And again, “The True Godman Christ, in the perfect fullness of evangelical and theanthropic reality, is completely present in His theanthropic Body, the Church, as it was in the time of the Apostles, as it is today, and will be in eternity.”[8] The Church is One, as Christ is One, and the unity of “Christians” outside the Church cannot be anything but a unity in sin and heresy. The text of the fifth paragraph does not make clear what it means by “unity of Christians,” leaving room for each to interpret it as he wishes.

The recognition of the existence of other Christian churches

In the sixth paragraph, the aforementioned document declares that “The Orthodox Church recognizes the historical existence of other Christian Churches and Confessions not found in communion with her.”[9] If the Orthodox Church is the One Church, then how can there be talk about the existence “of other Christian Churches?” The religious organizations to which the document refers are in no way able to be named “Churches,” especially since this is a synodal document which was approved by an archiepiscopal synod. We ask the Synod to clarify the term “Christian Churches” in relation to the “Orthodox Church” because these formulations are contradictory. In the one, we start from the idea that the Church is One, and in the other, we speak about “Christian Churches.”

What kind of ecclesiology emerges here? We, however, give witness together with Photios the Great that “There is only one Church of Christ, apostolic and catholic. No more, not even two. And the others are synagogues [gatherings] of the wicked and a synod of trespassers.”[10] And the claim that there exist other Christian churches is against the foundational teaching of the Orthodox Church, because it constitutes an heretical ecclesiology. Furthermore—since the matter concerns public documents of the Orthodox Church which were voted and ratified by the members of the upper hierarchy at the synodal level, “the terminology of the decisions must be strictly theological and ecclesiological. The decisions must be in harmony with the entire tradition of the Church which is not conservative, but traditional; it is not constituted by idleness but by movement, by means, however, of theological and ecclesiological thought. In this way, in the authoring of the texts, it will be necessary for the Bishops and theologians to participate which select the terminology which will be used, so that it does not express neo-scholastic, “existential” and post-patristic theology, with a double meaning, which was not delineated conceptually by the Holy Fathers and the ecclesiastical Tradition.

“It is well-known that the Fathers of the Church in the Ecumenical Synods struggled with vigor, and by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, they used suitable terminology (“with few words and much understanding”) which expresses the orthodox faith securely and in a God-inspired way. A choice of erroneous terminology creates a falling away from orthodox teaching. Special attention is necessary in this and suitable Clergymen are required who know sufficiently the history and content of the terms and phrases.”[11]

The World Council of Churches

Further on in the text which we are analyzing, it is claimed that “the local Orthodox Churches-members of the W.C.C. participate fully and on equal footing in the organization of the World Council of Churches,”[12] which in essence is the source of ecclesiological heresies. Thus, in the 13th article it is claimed that the statues of the organization in question constitute the basis for the participation of the Orthodox Church in the W.C.C. such as the State of Toronto in 1950.[13] In the first of these documents, in the statutes of the World Council of Churches, it is defined that “the churches through the Council will […] facilitate common witness in each place and in all places, and support each other in their work for mission and evangelism.”[14] However, the Orthodox Church, since she is the One Church is unable to be connected to heretical organizations in common declarations and cannot support them in their missionary work and preaching of the gospel, because these do not guide men to Christ, according to the witness of St. John Chrysostom:

“And knowing this, we know that the salvation of the entire world crosses [into the world] not by those under the Law but by Christ, and we do not apportion for the godless heresies anything to do with hope, but we place them absolutely beyond hope, because they, in fact, have not even the least participation in Christ.[15]

And the Declaration of Toronto (1951) which is highlighted in the text “Relations of the Orthodox Church toward the Christian world,” contains the following claim:

“The member Churches recognize that the character of membership in the Church of Christ includes more than those included in their own church body […] All Christian churches, including the Church of Rome, believe that there is no full identity between membership in their own church and membership in the Catholic Church. They recognize that there exist members of the church outside of the walls [extra muros], that these belong equally [aliquot modo] to the Church or even that the church exists outside of the church [ecclesia extra ecclesiam].”[16]

We consider these heresies and blasphemies to be irreconcilable with Orthodoxy, because we confess that there is a complete identity between the Orthodox Church and the Church of Christ.

Continuing, the document “Relations of the Orthodox Church toward the rest of the Christian world” claims that “The Orthodox Church […] evaluates positively those texts issued by them” ]by the Commission “Faith and Order”].[17] One of the theological texts which was composed in Lima in 1982, with the title, “Baptism, Eucharist, and Ministry” claims chiefly that “The Churches must avoid attributing their special form of the priesthood immediately to the will and institution of Jesus Christ.”[18] We confess that such a claim is absolutely irreconcilable with the teaching of the Orthodox Church whose priesthood we believe to have been found by Jesus Christ Himself.

At the same time, in the text approved at Chambesy, it is claimed that “the Orthodox Church has reservations concerning fundamental questions of faith and order.”[19] However, concerning the text “Baptism, Eucharist, and Ministry, such reservations were not expressed, a thing which the Patriarch of Moscow, Kyrill, stresses, the same who claimed that the text in question is the result of “Orthodox participation and witness at the W.C.C.”[20]

The above demonstrations which do not even exhaust the series of heresies of the W.C.C. where the Orthodox Churches participate “fully and on equal terms” are more than sufficient to claim that this organization, the W.C.C., is heretical. And when the same participation of the Orthodox Churches in the W.C.C. is unacceptable, how much more condemnable is the validation of the values of this organization at the level of the Hierarchy of the Russian Orthodox Church, and [im]possible to be acceptable to the Orthodox faithful.

The Synodal System

Further in the text put forth by the Synaxis of the Primates of the Orthodox Churches, it is claimed that “the preservation of the authentic orthodox faith is secured only by the synodal system which has always constituted the guarantee and final judge in the Church concerning matters of faith.”[21] The synodal system is very important for the Church because it constitutes an expression of her Catholicity, but in no case is it ever able to be named “guarantee and final judge concerning matters of faith,” a thing which has been proved so many times in the History of the Church. Let us only remember the robber Synod of Ephesus in 449, in which 600 bishops participated and approved the monophysite heresy.

And “the preservation of the authentic orthodox faith” is a function of the Catholicity of the Church because the Church “is called, therefore, Catholic, on account of being according to all of the ecumene, from the ends of the earth to the ends [of the earth]; and on account of completely and universally teaching the entirety of the dogmas which ought to come to the knowledge of men, concerning both things visible and invisible, heavenly and earthly; and on account of subjecting every generation of men to piety.”[22] This faith, however, is not safeguarded only by the synodical system [of hierarchs]—which should not be considered infallible—but is safeguarded by the whole body of the Church.

The apostle Paul tells us the same thing:

“But if even we or an angel from heaven preach a gospel which is contrary to the gospel which we have preached to you, let him be anathema. As we have said before, even now we say again: if anyone preach to you a gospel which is contrary to that which you have received, let him be anathema.”

St. Theophylact of Bulgaria interprets these words as follows:

“By anathematizing the angels, he casts out all authority; and through himself, all familiarity. […] But he does not say this as if condemning the apostles, but wishing to sew shut the mouths of deceivers, and to show forth that when what is spoken of concerns dogmas one does not submit to authority.” [23]

Therefore, a synod is an authentic expression of the Catholicity of the Church only when it is found to be of one voice and mind with the Holy Scripture, the Holy Synods, and the Holy Fathers of the Orthodox Church, and not exclusively by means of the mechanical expression of the synodal system, as St. Basil the Great claims:

“That there is need of hearers, who have been educated in the scriptures, to test the things which are spoken by their teachers, and to accept whatever is consonant with the scriptures, but to reject whatever is foreign, and most vehemently to turn oneself away from those who persist in such teachings.”[24]

The claim of the proposed text tends to replace the Catholicity of the Church with the synodal system as the absolute point of reference in matters of faith, something which is alien to the teaching of the Church.

Conclusions

We consider the adoption (even through the following assertion: “The members of the hierarchy confess that in their present form, the preliminary texts of the Great and Holy Synod do not violate the authenticity of the orthodox faith and do not come into opposition with the canonical tradition of the Church”) of the text “Relations of the Orthodox Church with the rest of the Christian world” as a proclamation of heresy bareheaded [γυμν τ κεφαλ] and an enactment at the level of the local Synod of the abovementioned heretical teachings, something for which, following the teaching of the Orthodox Church articulated in the 15th Canon of the First-Second Synod from Constantinople in 861, as well as in the entire tradition of the Church, in the lives and writings of the Holy Fathers of the Orthodox Church, we cease the commemoration of the local bishop and of his Beatitude, Patriarch of Moscow and all Russia, who participated and voted for the document in question and we act in this way until the repudiation and condemnation of the heresy which is expressed in the aforementioned text.

 


[1] www.mitropolia.md, 20.02.2016

[2] The relevant arguments will be presented further on.

[3] St. Nikodemos Milas – Правила Святой Православной Церкви с толкованиями Никодима, Епископа Далматинско-Истрийского (The Canons of the Orthodox Church, interpretation of the 15th canon of the First-Second Synod).

[4] St. Nikodemos Milas – Правила Святой Православной Церкви с толкованиями Никодима, Епископа Далматинско-Истрийского (The Canons of the Orthodox Church, interpretation of the first canon of the Third Ecumenical Synod).

[5] Постановления Освященного Архиерейского Собора Русской Православной Церкви, 3rd paragraph.

[7] St. Justin Popovic, Ecclesiological Chapters, 34.

[8] Ibid.

[10] Photios the Great, Epistle to Pope Nicholas.

[11] Ierotheos, Metropolitan of Nafpaktos, “The Meeting of the Primates of the Orthodox Church,” Ecclesiastical Intervention 212, March 2014.

[15]  John Chrysostom, On holy Pascha (sermon 1), 14, PG 59, 725.

[16] And continuing, “…This recognition finds expression in the fact that with very few exceptions the Christian churches accept the baptism administered by other churches as valid”http://www.oikoumene.org/en/resources/documents/central-committee/1950/toronto-statement.

[18]  “Baptism, Eucharist, Ministry”, 1982, cap. 3, II.11, apud oikoumene.org

[20] Metropolitan Kiril (Gundeaev) – Православие и экуменизм: Документы и материалы 1902-1998 (Orthodoxy and Ecumenism: Texts and Materials 1902-1998), p. 44.

[22] Cyril of Jersualem. Catechesis 18, chapter 23, PG 33, 1044A.

[23] Theophylact, Archbishop of Bulgaria, Interpretation of the Epistle to the Galatians, PG 124, 960-961.

[24] Basil the Great, Principle of Ethics, 72, 1, PG 31, 845D, 848A.

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 531 other followers