One more question I forgot to include in my previous query.
Which Russian literary novels reflect on and discuss orthodoxy. I have read Dr Zhivago several times and realise that that novel is a discussion of the loss of orthodoxy in a society. Are there any others? What was Tolstoy's attitude to orthodoxy?
JJ, Münster, Germany
There are many others, all those of Turgenev and Gogol for example, not including the poets. I would especially read the poems of Dr Zhivago - they are very Orthodox, quite profound. The stories and plays of Chekhov also reflect the loss of Orthodoxy among the westernised elite.
Tolstoy was a very, very proud man, a real tyrant for his poor wife and family. As a genius, which of course he was, he thought that he was higher than the Christ, the Church and the Bible and so he invented his own religion, 'Tolstoyanism', which was a sect. Sadly, he never came to public repentance (only God knows what happened in private in his heart and conscience on his death-bed) before the end. In this, he is a very tragic figure - like so many geniuses. His novel Anna Karenina shows the loss of Orthdooxy and subsequent decadence among aristocrats (which is what led directly to the Revolution). His War and Peace reflects more of Orthodoxy.
The following are questions which have been puzzling ever since I was received into the orthodox church. I began attending the orthodox Church about 17 years ago and then converted a few years ago. Since I haven't lived in an English speaking country for 17 years, and have only attended Arabic, Greek, and Russian churches, I am addressing my question to you.
question=What is the difference between the Apostle's creed and the Nicene creed. I left the Anglican Church for the Orthodox Church and remember that in the Anglican Church we recited both creeds. Which creed do we recite in the Orthodox Liturgy?
Why do the orthodox say "unto the ages of ages" instead of "forever and forever".
The rhythms of the English Orthodox prayers are much harder to commit to memory than those I learnt as an Anglican. This also goes for the language of the Orthodox study bible in comparison with the old King James. What is your advice, should I concentrate on the language which has rhythm and is easier to memorise, or is there a reason for the structures, and vocabulary chosen in the Orthodox Study Bible and in the Orthodox Prayer books (from St Vladimir's Seminary Press and the Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese)?
JJ, Münster, Germany
The Apostles' Creed is a much shorter version of the Nicene Creed. In the Orthodox Churches we use the more detailed Niceo-Constantinopolitan (Nicene, for short) Creed.
There were many 'Creeds' (that is to say, 'symbols', which is the Greek for 'summaries') of the faith in use before the Councils of the 4th century, The Nicene Creed is more detailed and also definitive, as it has the backing of the Ecumenical Councils. The others had the authority only of local Churches, for example, in Alexandria. Having said that, there is nothing wrong with the Apostles' Creed in itself, it is just short.
The C of E also uses the Nicene Creed but in the Roman Catholic version which was accepted in Rome in the 11th century. This does not have the authority of the Ecumenical Councils, but only of the papacy.
As for unto the ages of ages and not forever and forever, this is more a question of translation and ancient use. 'Unto the ages of ages' was always the form used in the first centuries, and to this day by the Orthodox Churches (in Latin it was in saecula saeculorum). But in any case, it all means the same - unto eternity.
We use King James language in our churches in England, but in the USA some Orthodox groups, composed of immigrants who do not know English so well (OCA/Antioch), use more modern language. It is a choice. You will find King James language in the translations on our website and that is what we all use in all the Russian churches in England. i would use that - as you say the rhythm is easier on the ear.
Two questions for you which I cannot answer to my satisfaction. Why are Nativity plays and Passion plays so unconvincing for an Orthodox to watch? …Mel Gibson's Passion of Christ was a ghoulish preoccupation with, and a bloody portrayal of, crucifixion, no doubt inspired by his Roman Catholicism. The same applies to Jesus Christ Superstar and the Protestant fascination with Mary Magdalene. The icons of the above, on the other hand, have profundity and we see Christ's Divinity, undivorced from His Humanity. And yet would Christ's Divinity and Humanity as a unity only have been visible to the disciples on special occasions?
The second question concerns the First Resurrection of Christ on Great Saturday morning. What is the First Resurrection? Is it the same as what I knew as the 'Harrowing of Hell?' And did Christ enter Hades in spirit or bodily; in other words, was His body in the sepulchre as He broke open the doors of Hades?
1. It is simply impossible for any actor to take the role of Christ, precisely because He was not only a human being, but also the Second Person of the Holy Trinity. No actor, however talented, can play God.
The concept of passion plays or mystery plays comes from the Non-Orthodox Middle Ages, which had the humanistic cult of Christ's humanity, divorced from His Divinity (The Five Wounds, the bleeding crucifixes, the man of sorrows, the bleeding heart etc etc).
Throughout the Gospel, there are cases of Christ showing His Divinity and His humanity. A classic case is the Samaritan Woman, where Christ shows His thirst as a man, but His supernatural/Divine knowledge of the woman's life ('I see that thou art a prophet indeed').
2. Christ died as man and went down to hades. But there He took death captive, because He was sinless. He could not die even as a man, let alone as God. The Holy Saturday service (in the morning, but actually vespers with 15 OT readings) and liturgy (with the Greek tradition of making noise and rattling at the Gospel) represent His victory over hades. This is called the Harrowing of Hell.
The Sunday morning (= the third day) matins and liturgy represent the discovery by the myrrhbearers of His Resurrection. Hence the procession of the myrrhbearers, who we are, and the banging on the doors of the Church, that is, of His tomb, and the opening of the Church/tomb doors.
Christ went down to hades in His soul, the Resurrection came afterwards, when His soul returned to earth to collect His incorrupt body. In the Gospels, it says that 'He gave up the ghost' on the Cross. He had to endure everything that we do, including separation of body and soul. Hence His cry of 'Eli,Eli, lama sabachthani?' (My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?) at the unnaturalness of death.
The priest prays:
In the tomb bodily, in hell in the soul, in paradise with the thief, Thou, O Christ God, wast on the throne...
I read somewhere in Fr John Romanides's Patristic Theology lectures that there is no such a thing as an inherent moral sense and that what we call morality is conditioned by culture and convention. I must confess that this statement has made me think very carefully. I need your advice.
An atheist friend with whom I was having lunch last week reckoned that I was to him a very moral person and defined morals as behaviour conditioned by what we read or watch or see; it doesn't matter to him what century or culture we derive our thoughts or values from - whether it be Socrates or Plato, Lao Tsu or the Sermon on ther Mount - but these thinkers/writers fill the mind with edifying or unedifying sentiments. The corollary of this is - to him - the more we read, the more moral we will be. Hence it was clear to him that I, being well-read, was also moral! I said that it seemed to me that since he accepted Darwinism and its emphasis of Man as ascended from the 'apes', no writer, religious or irreligious, was relevant but that we should derive our 'morality' from observing the behaviour of the higher primates, who can feel pain and loss and can even murder members of rival troops.
Since I became Orthodox, I have had to subject my thoughts to far different criteria than I was used to doing previously. I had learnt that conscience was 'the voice of God' within - I think Newman is the first to use the exact wording - but is it? Does St. Paul's morality spring from his theosis? Yet the Apostle says:
'When outsiders who have never heard of God's law follow it more or less by instinct, they confirm its truth by their obedience. They show that God's law is not something alien, imposed on us from without, but woven into the very fabric of our creation. There is something deep within them that echoes God's yes and no, right and wrong. (Romans 2:14,15).
Did Moses's Commandments derive directly from his vision on Sinai of Christ? Whence the Sermon on the Mount?
I would say simply that absolute morality, moral sense, the sense of right and wrong, is the result of spiritual awareness which leads to spiritual sensitivity. This is the only living morality. You can use a technical term like 'theosis' as the cause of spiritual awareness, but there is no need to do so. Spiritual awareness is what lies behind the revelation to Moses, the Apostle Paul and the Sermon on the Mount.
Spiritual awareness can be defined as simply as belief in the existence of the immortal soul. Amorality can be defined as lack of spiritual awareness, immorality as a spiritual awareness so weak that there is no inner strength to resist wrong.
Of course, there are all sorts of relativistic humanistic moralities ('ethics') - and these are the results of culture and convention, including reading, intellectuality etc, and can be studied. They lead to hypocrisy because these forms of morality do not possess or give the spiritual power which is necessary to live by them. Protestantism, which is based on a lack of spiritual awareness, on mere moralism, always ends up as being hypocritical.
As for Cardinal Newman, as you know, he studied and appreciated the Church Fathers and it is from them that he learned that the conscience is the voice of God in us.
One more question:
I've been reading Karen Armstrong's autobiography and am appalled at the abuses that passed under the name of a Roman Catholic nunnery. The psychology of her superiors was primitive, even more so than the shallow Freudian psychology to which she was subject later after her breakdown and subsequent enrolment at Oxford as an undergraduate - a fate which also subjected her in the sixties to 'scholarship' and the demands of academic life which left her anorexic, Godless and lost.
Can you tell me the contrast between the Roman Catholic monastics and ours? Miss Armstrong's subjection to the exercises of Ignatius Loyola and their blatant ineffectiveness seems to be distant as if by a gulf from anything I know about our monks and sisters and their (unchanged) way of life. Vatican II was clearly welcomed with its guitar-strumming nuns acting like pop stars when the Roman church fell in with the Zeitgeist of those calamitous and disastrous times! Why was it so welcomed? Because of the total inadequacy of Counter-Reformation thinking?
Please elucidate this question for me, for I seem to breathe a wholly different air in Orthodoxy, which I know and feel but cannot describe at all adequately. I often had panic attacks, weight problems neurotic illnesses before and I can't say why, except that things have become much, much better when I became an Orthodox Christian.
It is difficult to answer this question fairly, because you are taking a view of the worst of Catholic monasticism. So we should remember that there are many fine and sincere individuals there. But I think that you refer to the negative, but nonetheless real aspect, of 'Catholic' 'spirituality'. This relies on psychic manipulation through guilt, resulting from an unhealthy introspective self-examination. This is a psychological manipulation which means that some Catholic monastics have the ability to produce the stigmata on their own body. In fact this is not spiritual at all, merely psychic, and is akin to the mind over matter techniques to be found in Islam, Hinduism and Buddhism.
Such manipulation of something so delicate as the human psyche can indeed create psychological and psychosomatic trauma. Exactly the same trauma can be found among the adepts of 'Orthodox' false elders (gurus) who suffer from the spiritual illness called in Greek plani, in Latin illusio and in Slavonic prelest, that is to say, spiritual delusion. So what is obviously an illness in Orthodoxy is passed off as normal 'spirituality' in much of pre-Vatican II monasticism - as for example in so many Irish monasteries and convents up until the 1960s, with all their brutality and child abuse.
After Vatican II, by reaction, the prevailing ideology seems to have become 'let it all hang out'. The result, of course, was massive defection from Catholicism and the marriages of so many former Catholic monks and nuns (sometimes with one another). Thus, the old psychic fraud was revealed for what it was. But many middle-aged and old Catholics still suffer from the psychic traumas and guilt complexes (including resulting alcoholism) induced from that time. They deserve our compassion, for they are victims.
Orthodox monasticism is free, voluntary. There is no obligation, no guilt imposed. One of the greatest struggles of many Orthodox monastics is against heterosexual desires, for they are heterosexuals. What strikes me most about most real Orthodox monastics is their total psychic normality and balance.
I think it is to this contrast that you refer.
I have two more questions to ask you about:
1) Why does the Creed not say 'suffered and was buried’? The new trendy Anglican creed in addition to its several heretical items of vocabulary says: 'suffered death and was buried.'
2) My second question is to ask the significance of the so-called Vignon marks on the Shroud of Turin. Are they really the source of the icon marks on the face of Christ Pantocrator (e.g. as at Dafni) or is it the other way round? Put differently, do the facial marks and the curl of hair have a spiritual significance before their apparent randomness on the fabric of the disputably later Shroud or do they have the same significance on both?
Here is the list of Vignon marks:
A square U-shape between the eyebrows. A downward pointing triangle or V-shape just below the U-shape, on the bridge of the nose. Two wisps of hair going downward and then to the right. A raised right eyebrow. Large, seemingly "owlish" eyes. This may be the result of coins placed over the eyes [or rather the all-seeing gaze of the Pantocrator]. An accent on the left cheek and an accent on the right cheek that is somewhat lower. A forked beard. It has been suggested that this may the result of a chin band tied around the head to keep the mouth closed. An enlarged left nostril [doesn't this emphasise the odour of sweetness in a saint's nose? Do we not see in the iconic face the face of another in which the “reality” of the person expands and grows greater rather than shrinking away from us. An accent line below the nose and a dark line just below the lower lip. A gap in the beard below the lower lip. Hair on one side of the head that is shorter than on the other side.
The first question is fairly simple, I think. Christ suffered because we could only be redeemed by His suffering. That's what His Passion is - His lifelong suffering. The culmination of his suffering, death, was known to everyone. In any case, he was buried, so He must have been dead. From the Gospels it was clear that He had died. He died on the cross, his limbs were not broken. Why else bury Him in the Tomb? This is obvious.
I dislike the addition of the word death. The danger here is that modern Anglicanism may be trying to make out that He had a life of sweetness and light until He died. (I once saw part of an American Evangelical film about the Life of Christ, in which He played basketball with His disciples....it goes to show that the Protestants simply do not read or understand the Bible).
Suffering is greater than death. Is there here a touch of humanism? - that the only real suffering is death - whereas we know that death is Resurrection. The worst fate is not death, but death in unbelief, without repentance. As you say, death was the end of Christ's suffering.
As for the second question, it all depends on what the Turin Shroud is. Some Orthodox believe it to be really the Burial Shroud of Christ, others not. I have an open mind on it. The scientific world is divided. Books pour out about it, for and against. Perhaps it is the Shroud, perhaps it is a later forgery taken from the Image not made by hands. The argument goes on. Personally, it makes no difference to my faith, one way or the other. Either it is the Burial Shroud of Christ or else it is a copy from an icon, perhaps the Icon not made by hands.
I am no expert on iconography, but most of these marks, if not all of them, were definitely on Christ's face, notably the forked beard, as can clearly be seen on icons, especially on the Image not made by hands.
Firstly: What is our attitude to transexuals, transvestites and so-called sex-change operations?
Secondly: there is this fourteen year old girl. Typical of the comments she makes are: ‘I liked the Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, until I found out that C. S. Lewis was heavily into that Christian stuff'. Do I correct her? Or do I pray for her without saying anything, realising that her anti-Christian comments merely reflect parental prejudice?
Question 1: The word sex comes from the Latin cut ('sectus'). There is a clear-cut difference between the sexes ('male and female He made them'). All traditional human cultures have made the differences even greater, stereoptyping them and emphasising them. This emphasis of sex differences is for their own cultural safety, protection and longevity. However, modern 'culture', which is in fact in so many ways an anti-culture, has fused and confused the differences. Male and female are merging. through cultural conditioning, as prophesied in the Epistles at the end of time (2 Tim 3).
Apart from a few very rare genetic accidents (caused by ancestral sin), we are male or female. These genetic accidents seemed to have become more common today, perhaps through pollution and the use of hormones in modern meat production. All other confusions between male and female, the vast majority, are due to cultural conditioning (the Oscar Wilde syndrome). This is now so strong that homosexuality, as in pagan Greece, is not only not seen as the illness that it is, but its representatives are even presented as role models for the young.
In other words, these are all diseases, firstly of the soul, then of the mind, then of the body. We do not encourage disease, we encourage healing.
Question 2: I think that C. S. Lewis is somewhat afflicted with 'ram it down their throats' Protestantism. Frankly, I have a similar reaction to the girl. However, I would say to her, ‘Forget Lewis’ personal views and enjoy it for what it is – as you did before. We all have prejudices, just like him’. And pray for her, that she might get over the pagan conditioning that she has undergone so far in her life.
If she learns to enjoy Lewis’ writing for itself, who knows, perhaps something will rub off on her, which is the way Lewis should have influenced the young, rather than through his unsubtle and heavy-handed recalling of the Gospels in his myths. Tolkien’s sophisticated Christian subtlety would be much better than Lewis’ Bible-thumping for a fourteen year old. She should have outgrown Lewis by now anyway.
Why is there a small man carrying a water vessel on the back of the horse in certain icons of St George?
I had no idea as to the answer to this question. However a friend did finally manage to find the answer:
In the city of Paphlagonia in Pontus, many churches had been dedicated to Saint George. Many families named their children George or Georgia in honour of this great martyr. The following, miracle concerns one particularly pious couple who had named their son George.
The boy had been raised with great faith. As was the law, when he became twenty years old, he served in the army. During a battle with a barbaric tribe, many Christian soldiers were either murdered, imprisoned or enslaved. George became a personal slave to one of the barbarian officers. His parents, giving him up for dead, had mourned him for a year. They went to one of the churches dedicated to Saint George and asked that he tell them what had happened to their son.
The Feast Day of Saint George was being celebrated on the anniversary of the boy's disappearance. The parents invited their relatives to dinner since they hoped that Saint George would give them a sign concerning their son. That same evening, the barbarian master was preparing for a dinner and ordered George to draw some water with which to wash his master's feet. As he drew the water he cried and prayed to Saint George to reunite him with his family. As he prepared to return to his master, a horseman appeared before him on a white horse. It was Saint George. The Saint put him on the horse and the boy found himself in the house of his parents while they were eating. One may imagine the happiness that filled that house. It is from this miracle that an icon of Saint George is based. It depicts a boy on the back of the horse with Saint George. This icon first appeared in the early centuries of the existence of Constantinople.
It came up on discussion forum (a place I should avoid!)...if a parent has not been a communicant for awhile (I know this is ambiguous) could a priest refuse to baptize a child or infant? The circumstance was presented as such, unclear, not many details but I thought you could perhaps shed some light...
To refuse to baptise the child because the parents do not take communion or do not know the catechism is a viewpoint now extremely common in Roman Catholicism all over Europe. I believe Episcopalians (and perhaps some Episcopalians who claim to be Orthodox) are following. I come across this viewpoint regularly - people come and complain to me - and I utterly reject it for three reasons. First of all:
It punishes the child. He/she is innocent. To deprive a child of grace because of the parents' negligence is spiritual cruelty to children. The devil triumphs.
It prejudges the parents. I know dozens of couples who did not come to church until I had baptised their child. Then they began coming.
It reduces the sacraments, in typical heterodox fashion, to a matter of intellectual knowledge, not to spiritual revelation. They make the same mistake with confirmation and communion - not giving it till age 10-12.
(Here I am presuming that there is some spiritual benefit in heterodox sacramental forms. Obviously they cannot be likened to the sacraments of the Church, but even so, surely God has mercy and confers some spiritual benefit on those who make the sacrifices to take them. Although they are only sacramental forms, to deny any gift of God seems astonishingly ungenerous and prejudgemental to me).
Do you know the origin of the "Roman collar" that Roman Catholic priests wear and why some modernist Orthodox clergy wear the same attire?
The origin is in the secular European dress of round about the 16th century. It seems to have been Roman Catholic (hence perhaps the name 'Roman' collar), but the present form definitely evolved from Protestantism in the 19th century (the Lutherans wore a much more elaborate collar originally).
So-called 'Orthodox' who imitate this secular dress are imitating secularism. I can only think that this mentality comes from an inferiority complex - a wish to be the same as the world, in other words - from a lack of faith,
Starting from January this year a new passport has been introduced in Romania which contains a chip. Elder Justin Parvu, martyr of the Communist jails, has launched an appeal to the clergy and faithful, asking the refusal of this passport, which would contain the number 666. This was the start of several debates and speculations, which have not been solved yet.
Elder Arsenie Papacioc said at the beginning that it was too soon to start worrying about this subject, but his statement was considered to be contradictory to that of Elder Justin and, probably wanting to avoid confusion, he changed his mind and said that these passports should be rejected and that he had not thought that these times would come so soon. Another confessor of the Communist jails, Elder Adrian Fagetean (96) also advised the faithful to reject these documents.
The synod of the Metropolitanate of Cluj, lead by the elderly Metropolitan Bartholomew, stated two weeks ago, that these passports were an offence to human dignity.
On the other hand the Holy Synod of the Romanian Orthodox Church decided that the new passports had no spiritual influence on Christians and the spokesman of the Patriachate even said, that he would be one of the first to have such a passport!!! I mention that Metropolitan Bartholomew did not take part in the meeting of the Holy Synod and rumours say that police confined him at his residence in order to prevent him from taking part in the meeting of the synod. Asked by a journalist in a phone call about the decision of the synod he said: "I don't know anything. I'm isolated in my resindence and no information has reached me."
What is the situation in the UK? I cannot imagine that Romania is the only country to introduce electronic documents.
On the other hand, what should we do about these documents? The government even plans to introduce new ID cards with this chip starting from 2011. In the book of Revelation it is written that apostasy will take place through accepting the number of the beast on the right hand or on the forehead. I myself have a banking card with a chip, but honestly I do not feel like being sealed. I'm aware that this is just the beginning of the process of introducing the chips under the skin, as has been broadcast on CNN, but how far can we go?
This same question has been posed in all Orthodox countries and it has always been divisive. On the one hand, we can see that all this is leading to Antichrist, as is prophesied in the Book of Revelation. On the other hand, can it be resisted? I think that we should try to resist PEACEFULLY and at least try to delay its introduction, but we should know that sooner or later it will be introduced, as prophesied.
At present, at least, these chips will not stop us practising our Faith and saving our souls.
There is a subtle trap of the devil here; some who resist these chips turn to violence and leave the Church, saying that the Synod has been completely corrupted by the Romanian State and EU money. This is a great mistake. We should not let this question take over our lives, making it into an obsession.
I have recently been reading about the Old Catholic Church, which I find very interesting. Please could you tell me something about the relationships between the Old Catholics and Orthodox, such as what we have in common and where we differ.
I am not at all an expert on this question, though many years ago I did meet an Old Catholic priest. They then seemed to be more numerous in Holland and Poland than elsewhere.
They mostly broke away from Catholicism after the promulgation of papal infallibility. At first sight they should be close to Orthodoxy. However, in reality, they are ultimately, like all those who break away from Catholicism, Protestants. Literally they are protesting against it, which is negative, not positive. Sadly, in the 20th century it seems that the Old Catholics began to lose their sacramental sense - like the earlier Protestants - and they are now generally considered by Orthodox much as Anglicans - Protestants with a Roman Catholic facade.
But I am sure that you can get a lot more facts by googling them. As I understand it, the movement is now very much in decline, as it is a 19th century phenomenon.
I have a triple question now to ask you: first, how reliable is Paul Evdokimov? I have just read his Ages of Spiritual Life and despite its attractive analyses it seems to me to be deficient in its full Orthodoxy--too much concerned with the spirit of the times.
Second, I have found in the past the writings of the lately reposed Olivier Clément a source of great inspiration. Am I wrong? In his obituary the anonymous writer praised his ecumenism and particularly his ability to attract the attention of non-Christians. Also 'Pope John Paul II asked him to compose a Stations of the Cross text for the Good Friday service in Rome(!)... When the Pope invited the non-Catholic Churches to say how they regarded the Papacy, in his encyclical Ut Unum Sint (That They May Be One), Clément responded with You are Peter (2003). This argued that the Western Church had become centralised and the Pope so authoritarian as not to allow for the autonomy of local churches. Clément recognised, however, that the Papacy had had a positive role during the first millennium, when it was often referred to for decisions on matters of doctrine.' Is he like the curate's egg--good in parts?
Lastly, what is the clear Orthodox teaching on the so-called atonement? There are very many viewpoints, it seems, among the Fathers: I particularly found suspect or even heretical(?) Dr Kalomiros's 1980 'River of Fire' address at the Orthodox Youth Conference in July 1980. An example is his attempt to argue that dikaiosune is a 'translation' of the original Hebrew tsedhakhah-a clear error among others, for he accepts that that the LXX postdates the current Massoretic OT.
You may have answered this question elsewhere but I urgently need clarification of the Orthodox teaching on this crucial means to our salvation.
V. Lossky suggests (?) that the Incarnation was the Son of God's 'einai' (i.e. being as we are), His obedience from birth to death and the trampling of Hades His bringing us 'eu einai' (salvation of our fallen nature) and His resurrection His bringing to us our 'aien einai' (our deification in Him). Is this a correct understanding?
When we were in Paris we knew the Evdokimov family, including Paul’s sister-in-law, very well. We also knew the recently deceased Olivier Clement and his whole family well and my wife was brought up with Sophie Clement, his daughter.
What can I say? Olivier also took communion in the Catholic Church and wrote speeches for the Patriarch of Constantinople and the Pope. He was adored by middle-aged Catholic women and Catholic nuns. But I never met an Orthodox, except converts, who read what he wrote. The same goes for Paul Evdokimov. I think they are both excellent writers for people outside, or on the edges of, or completely new to, the Church. But Church people do not read their writings.
In this way they are the same as the other Paris Russians, including the late Metr Antony Bloom and others of that ilk. They represent what can be called the hors d’ouevre of Orthodoxy. They can be helpful to those new to the Church, but do not dwell on them too long, for if you spend too long on the hors d’oeuvre, you will vomit, and also miss the meaty main course and above all the sweet. The main problem with all these people is their dreaminess, their confusion of the emotional with the spiritual, their lack of focus, their total impracticality, because it is all intellectual, not rooted.
I am not sure if I am answering your question, but I would put an answer very simply: Here we are talking about the Redemption ( I am not keen on the word atonement). Christ redeemed us through all the sufferings of His life, His Incarnation, from conception, birth, the flight into Egypt, childhood, His baptism, the tempting by satan, the three years of public preaching and persecution, his hunger and thirst, Gethsemane, followed by the high point, which was the Crucifixion, the fruit of which was the Resurrection, followed by the Ascension (which took our human natire into paradise) and Pentecost (whoch opened the path of deification – theosis). Why did He do this – out of Love and Compassion for mankind.
All scholastic and feudal theories of satisfaction, and Kalomiros, like other very conservative writers (and conservative by no means signifies traditional) is prone to these Roman Catholic errors, do not explain adequately the Redemption – indeed, they even seem heretical.
The Procession of the Holy Spirit from the Father through the Son
In what sense can the above phrase be acceptable to Orthodoxy, in spite of the fact that several Fathers and many ecumenically-minded Orthodox use the expression as evidence that East and West are really saying the same thing?
I note that X is now revising his position on the filioque and, whereas in the original edition of his book, he gave a fairly straightforward explanation of the filioque and the Orthodox objections thereto, in the latest new edition he leaves the reader with the impression that the Orthodox Church does not know how to deal with this issue. Now he divides Orthodox theologians into two camps: the "hawks" and the "doves." The "hawks" are those who follow such Fathers as St. Photios and St. Mark of Ephesus, "in regarding the doctrine of the Double Procession as a heresy that produces a fatal distortion in the western doctrine of God as Trinity". Vladimir Lossky is cited as a leading "hawk" in our century. By contrast, the "doves," who do not consider the Filioque to be a heresy, although they "deplore" Romes unilateral insertion of this phrase in the Symbol of Faith. They maintain, instead, that it is a theologoumenon, that is, a theological opinion, which "is capable of being interpreted in an Orthodox way" (ibid.). He is now a "dove", believing the filioque is purely a question of semantics. This seems to be influenced by his ongoing dialogues with the Roman Church.
Can you help me? Can we really say 'proceeding from the Father through the Son?' Some Fathers do use these words but in what sense?
Thank you for all your past help. I am at present reading St Photius the Great's Mystagogy of the Holy Spirit. It is written in a clearer and different way from the present Orthodox-Roman discussions. Are we in danger of muddying the issue in the interests of a pseudo-harmony?
The Holy Spirit came through (dia) Christ as part of His temporal mission during his 33 years on earth. There is a whole literature on this in the Patristic interpretations of the Scriptures, for example: ‘Receive ye the Holy Spirit’ (Jn 20, 22).
In a broader sense it can be said that the Holy Spirit Who comes to us through the Church (the Body of Christ) comes to us ‘through’ Christ – that is that if it had not been for the Incarnation, the Holy Spirit would not be among us in the sacraments, there would be no Church. Of course, the Holy Spirit was among us in a direct sense even before the Incarnation, for He ‘spake by the Prophets’ and even before this, at the beginning of the world, ‘the Spirit of God moved on the face of the waters’ (Genesis 1, 2). But despite these epiphanies of the Spirit, until Christ there was no Resurrection and all went down to hades, for it is Christ Alone Who brings salvation.
In no way can we speak of the eternal procession of the Holy Spirit through, still less from, the Son. Yet this is clearly what Roman Catholicism since Anselm has said. It is a heresy and requires clear and categorical renunciation and denunciation as a heresy by the Roman Catholics (and others issued from them). Until then all theological dialogue is a waste of time.
Now you come to the ecumenical nonsense and X’s fall from grace when he was sucked up into politics – not the first and , alas, not the last.
It is a classic piece of self-flattery to say that one is the dove, that the others are hawks. Notice the purely secular language – this is from politics.
In Church terms there are the saints, St Mark of Ephesus, St Photius etc. They follow the Tradition – we follow them.
To the right of the saints there are secular people, called ‘conservatives’ or ‘traditionalists’. They are indeed tainted with secular isms - moralism, donatism, phariseeism, fanaticism, judgementalism, sectarianism. These could legitimately be called hawks.
To the left of the saints there are secular people who conform themselves to the world, swimming with the tide, wherever politics, fame and money take them. They are also tainted with secular isms – ecumenism, syncretism, relativism, intellectualism, Roman Catholicism, Protestantism, secularism.
The doves, and the hawks, always shift the centre, the royal path, the golden way from the centre towards themselves.
In the twentieth century the self-appointed ‘doves’ always condemn the Orthodox, making out that the filioque is purely cultural etc. Thus, one who did his doctorate at St Serge on the above subject, relativising the filioque, even served a liturgy nearly 40 years ago in a Catholic convent, inserting the filioque, ‘so that the nuns would not be offended’!!!
A fall is a warning to us all. We could easily go the same way – or alternatively slip the other way into a sort of old calendarism, which is hawkish. The extreme case of this is Arius who was so brilliant (and intellectually proud) that he became a byword for heresy.
We must follow the Tradition, follow the saints. Leave the secularists to their secularism.
What are the Orthodox objections to 'Gothic' architecture and the layout of western churches generally?
A second question came up from an Anglican priest(ess) who is fascinated with the above Rublev icon but she claims it is heretical because it portrays the Father and the Spirit and is therefore against Orthodox dogma.
My reply was that it is not an icon of the Trinity but an icon denoting 'The Hospitality of Abraham'. The Father is uncircumscribable as is the Spirit and the Son only so by virtue of the Incarnation. Also I challenged her to say which Person is supposed to be which and all she did was to enter into the various arguments in support of the various identifications--which I told her was a misguided activity from the outset as she had missed the point anyhow. In the Genesis story two of the so-called Persons of the Trinity disappear to Sodom and Gomorrah, leaving just one. Does that mean to a literal minded Anglican that the Holy Trinity evaporates?
This icon, with others like it, is, as you say, an icon of the three angels who visited Abraham, merely a prefiguration of the Holy Trinity, Who cannot be represented, since the Father is not Incarnate and the Spirit can only be represented symbolically as fire or a dove. It is an icon, as you rightly say, from the Old Testament, not the New. Not an image of the Holy Trinity (= impossible), but a prefiguration of New Testament understanding.
Gothic architecture grew up outside the Church, after the schism, not before it. It was influenced by Muslim architecture (pointed arches) and the ‘new’ (in fact Godless and ancient pagan Roman) humanistic technological thought which grew up just before the schism and indeed caused it. This man-centred architecture (anthropismos in Greek - and the Greek philosopher Christos Yannaras is one of the best critics of Gothic architecture) pushes God away to a distant heaven (hence spires), so that man can represent his own religious imagination in stone. It is all about the representation in stone of the human philosophical speculations known as Scholasticism, the summit and summa of which is in the religious philosophy of Thomas Aquinas. Gothic is about the human ability to build temples, not the inspiration of God to man to build to His glory. It is not heaven on earth (the Incarnation), but human technology on earth, the inspiration of man to build to his own glory. The ultimate form of Gothic architecture is the sky-scraper, which is but the modern form of the Tower of Babel.
Gothic is also quite ugly to most Orthodox. Little wonder that the Enlightenment called it 'Gothic'. i.e. barbarian.
As for the layout of Western churches, these vary enormously today. However, traditionally they tend to be long and thin, Orthodox churches are squarer, indicating that we are together in our common goal of salvation. The elongation of Western churches in the Middle Ages can be related to medieval clericalism, pushing the people back to second-class status.
I have been discussing with a number of Orthodox theologians including yourself how we are to understand God's acts of wrath in the Old Testament. One theologian told me, "It's significant that God has never employed such acts of destruction in the New Testament era." If this is so how are we to understand the deaths of Ananias and Sapphira in Acts 5:1-11 and many plagues and sufferings which God sends upon the earth throughout Revelation as well as accounts of destruction of places or people who have offended God in the lives of the saints? Could you please help me to understand? It is a matter of some urgency.
First of all I am not an Orthodox theologian or a theologian of any sort (in the Orthodox understanding), because I am not a saint. Theologians are all saints and St John the Theologian is the greatest of them.
There is no such thing as 'an act of wrath by God'. It has never existed. God is Love.The Old and New Testaments are, however, unanimous in describing cases where people punished themselves (that is, suffered through their own devil-inspired actions) as a result of their sins. There are no contradictions between the two Testaments, for God is One. Of course, it is true that the level of understanding of God in the NT is much higher than in the OT,
This question is a follow up to your excellent response regarding prayer rules.
I felt compelled after reading a teaching made by a contemporary monastic on the Jesus Prayer which made references to "supressed memories" that should be brought to Confession. I would also note that there seemed to be at least in my reading a kind of technique towards stillness.
What also motivates this request for your clarification for my sake and that of your readers, is that I find none of this flavor in the writings of St. Ignaty Brianchaninov, Elder Paisios the Athonite, or Elder Joseph.
In short, could you provide your readers with necessary cautions regarding the Jesus Prayer and necessary clarifications?
My own sense, put bluntly, is that there is a strong temptation towards the heights and the depths for which most contemporary Orthodox are not really ready.
The so-called 'Jesus' Prayer (a non-traditional name - in Orthodoxy it is called noetic prayer or the prayer of the heart) should be practised wthin the context of Church life, with the discipline of morning and evening prayers, fasting, regular confession and communion, a certain level of humility and obedience.
This prayer is carried out outside public services, as part of personal and domestic life, part of our 'cell-rule'. In other words, prayer-knots or beads should not be seen by anyone else and should certainly not be tied around the wrist decoratively. The prayer is not practised at public Church services. We do not put private prayer above public prayer.
During the prayer, as any prayer, certain forgotten sins may be recalled to the memory. These should be confessed - but do not dwell on them, because they can become diabolical distractions.
All prayer is easier if we can find calm conditions, 'stillness', in other words, a quiet corner, to practise it.
Ignore all emotions that may come as a result of practising the prayer. The greatest danger here is a feeling of self-satisfaction, self-indulgent, narcissistic feelings. These come from pride: 'Look at me, I am praying'. In this way we can become a plaything of the devil who provides us with all sorts of self-delusions and so mocks us.
What would be an Orthodox response to the Euthyphro Dilemma: "Is something good because God commands it or does God command it because it is good?" Any help you can give would be very very much appreciated.
I don't think that much can come from such syllogistic arguments, because they try to restrict God to fallen human logic, limiting the Creator to the fallen creation. Such sayings preclude the right answer by their very formulation.
I would say: God is the source of Good. Without Him there is no good.
My question concerns an 'atheistic' female student of mine who has been reared by her parents and some teachers on the notion that 'the cult of the BVM' arose in Egypt as a result of a Christian 'takeover and makeover' of the cult of the goddess Isis, the ancient preChristian mother and Virgin goddess, in an attempt by the new religion to win popularity. She has to do a dissertation on Greek sculpture and wants to conclude with a identification of Isis and the Theotokos. She has asked for my guidance. I tentatively pointed out the very early evidence from the Virgin's house in Nazareth of devotion to her as the godbearer and also the consistent ikons of her in Syrian Tradition, which are totally different from those of Isis except for the baby on her knee in the statuary--hardly significant as a comparison! There seem to be no sculptures of the Theotokos at all in Orthodoxy. Is this true or does it have a significance that eludes me?
I told her that I would mark such work as truthfully as I could but she went on to argue that there was no 'cult of the Virgin' in the Gospels. Again I explained that the gospels postdated the already high veneration in which the Virgin was held. They merely assumed that the Virgin was as Christ's Mother the highest created being, 'more glorious than the Cherubim...' as the liturgy puts it.
She is clearly showing signs of interest in the different perspective I am trying to give her as a novice Orthodox Christian but I would much value your point of view to guide me further.
All primitive peoples, (both ancient and modern) have a cult of a father figure (god) and that of a mother figure (goddess). This is an instinctive, racial memory from Eden, of the perfection and primal beauty of the first created Adam and then Eve.
The more primitive the people the more primitive their understanding of the god and the goddess. For example, the god may be Thor the sky-god, the goddess Freia, Mother-Earth. These primitive understandings of the real god may be so deformed that they involve blood sacrifices.
In this way, the more primitive ancient (and modern) Hindus have an understanding of the Trinity, but it is a destructive trinity. The slightly more sophisticated ancient (and modern) Greeks had an understanding of the Trinity, but as Goodness, Beauty and Truth.
Isis is a typically primitive understanding of the mother-goddess figure, like hundreds of others.
All these understandings are primitive, because the created mind can never understand the Creator. Therefore, the need for revelation, which alone does away with primitiveness.
If your student had not come from a Protestant background, she would have read the Bible and, for instance, understood the magnificat ('All generations shall call me blessed...'). Because she comes from a Protestant background, she is full of 16th century cultural prejudice and therefore cannot understand the Scriptures.
In the Church, we do not have statues, because they invite idolatry. For we know that the Mother of God is not a goddess, but she is the Mother of the Incarnate God and therefore worthy of veneration (though not worship, which is due to God alone).
Can you explain to me how the filioque clause locks the Trinity within itself, prohibits further revelation and thus was used to increase the power of the Papacy? I was trying to argue the point with an 'evangelical' friend who maintained that, no matter what the Church taught, God's action could not be limited and God could work if so he wished even through secular artists or philosophers. When I countered the point by stating that apart from revelation and Holy Tradition we can have no knowledge of how to identify such action, her answer was that it did not matter what I thought for my argument implied that the Holy Spirit within Orthodoxy itself is limited by tradition and I was confining the unconfined God within the straitjacket of a branch of the Church (!). Have I missed the point? I find works of art like Holbein's 'Christ Entombed' and Grunewald's 'Crucifixion' completely anti-Orthodox, bearing no relation to the Orthodox understanding of the death and burial of Christ. Having just celebrated the Veneration of the Cross on Sunday, these pieces of art are a parody of our belief. Compare the Western traditional hymn by Venantius Fortunatus for this feast:
The royal banners forward go,
The cross shines forth in mystic glow;
Where He in flesh, our flesh who made,
Our sentence bore, our ransom paid.
Where deep for us the spear was dyed,
Life’s torrent rushing from His side,
To wash us in that precious flood,
Where mingled water flowed, and blood.
Fulfilled is all that David told
In true prophetic song of old:
Amidst the nations, God, saith he,
Hath reigned and triumphed from the Tree.
O Tree of beauty! Tree of light!
O Tree with royal purple dight!
Elect on whose triumphal breast
Those holy limbs should find their rest:
On whose dear arms, so widely flung,
The weight of this world's ransom hung,
The price of humankind to pay,
And spoil the spoiler of his prey.
O cross, our one reliance, hail!
Still may thy power with us avail
To give new virtue to the saint,
And pardon to the penitent.
To thee eternal Three in One,
Let homage meet by all be done:
Whom by the Cross thou dost restore,
Preserve and govern evermore. Amen.
There are three understandings of the Holy Spirit in human life.
In the Orthodox understanding, the Holy Spirit comes to us from God the Father (as a free gift following repentance, prayer and the seeking of God – ‘the Spirit bloweth where it listeth’) and then comes to us through the Body of Christ (the Orthodox Church) in the sacraments and the disciplines of Church life, prayer, fasting and almsgiving. The coming of the Spirit from the Father can be seen among those who, though outside the Church, are freely drawn towards Her. The coming of the Spirit through the Church can be seen among those who keep the Faith and remain within the Church despite the temptations of this world. The history of the coming of the Spirit through the Church is known as 'The Tradition'.
In the Roman Catholic institutional understanding, the Holy Spirit comes to us from Christ, but since Christ is absent, in their reality the Spirit comes to us from His Vicars (the Popes). This is the filioque, which makes the double procession of the Spirit from the Father and from the Son as from one principle, thus confusing the Persons of the Holy Trinity. To some limited extent the Pope delegates this granting of the Spirit to clergy who are loyal to him. Therefore, grace is locked up in the depository of merits, controlled by the papacy (hence indulgences).
In the Protestant understanding, where they have no understanding at all of what the Church is (whereas the Roman Catholics do have a deformed understanding of it) the Holy Spirit comes to anyone who confesses that his personal Saviour is Christ. (They have little understanding of the Holy Trinity, of the Father and the Spirit, since they inherited the confused quasi-monistic understanding of the Trinity from Roman Catholicism, and only have some understanding of the revealed human nature of Christ ('Jesus')). Obviously, in such a case, which lacks all sense of spiritual sobriety, grace is confused with human emotions. This leads directly to emotionalist revivalism ('charismatics') and spiritual impurity (worldiness/secularism). Thus your friend's 'praise of secular artists/philosophers', instead of saints, whom the Protestants do not have - by their own admission. This is because they do not have the concept of holiness - one of the four signs of the Church.
It is man who confines God (through his lack of repentance), not God. God freely gives to those who seek the Church and then wish to live within Her. But He does not give to those who are unrepentant and even justify their lack of repentance.
I hoped you could clear up some of my possible misconceptions about the afterlife.
Could you please explain what heaven and hell are. How does a person get to them? Is there more to it than reward or punishment. What happens to the people that go to heaven or hell (if people do go there) and what do they do.
I know these may sound very simple questions but I feel my understanding of them is more a misunderstanding and I hope you could clear it all up with the Orthodox understaning of heaven and hell.
A good but simple question deserves a simple answer!
Heaven and hell most certainly exist.
Heaven means closeness to God. Hell is distance from God.
We get to them by being close or far from God. When we are there we feel either comfort or else torment.
Therefore heaven and hell already begin on earth, it is only their intensity that increases after we lose our earthly bodies.
In earthly terms to try and understand this we use images. For hell it may be the image of fire or else darkness. For heaven we use the image of a garden, or pleasant warmth or softness etc
Images of reward and punishment are not very helpful because people interpret them literally. However, it is true that when we distance ourselves from God, we can say that we punish ourselves, in that we suffer from our passions, pride, selfishness, jealousy, despair, depression. When we are near God, we can also say that we 'reward ourselves' through having faith, consolation, the warmth of His presence etc.
Perhaps these questions could be also useful for your readers? I raise them because of possible misinterpretations I myself have made when reading spiritual teachers (ex. St. Theophan the Recluse) as well issues related to those who may present themselves as a "spiritual father."
For laypeople, what prayer rule do you most commonly recommend? The prescribed morning and evening prayers?
Are prayer rules such as those of St. Seraphim of Sarov for "busy people" applicable in only a limited context?
As a Confessor, what has been your experience in helping laypeople establish a prayer rule?
It is very simple. Follow the prayer book. That belongs to the Church, not to individuals, who set themselves up as 'spiritual fathers'. Morning and evening prayers, and force yourselves to do them day in, day out.
If in a hurry in the morning, read them on the way to work or substitute with the Jesus Prayer, said secretly and without any display of prayer knots (which are to be kept in the pocket), not showily wound around wrists as decoration). Alternatively get up earlier!
Prayer rules are for monasteries. Folow the Church. It is simple, do not invent things that the Church has not appointed.
I have some confusion concerning the Old Testament Mosaic Law. What was the real purpose of the Law? How much was the Law from God, and how much is human anthropomorphisms? How much of the Mosaic Law are we expected to follow as Orthodox Christians today? and why does St. Paul refer to the Law as a "curse" (Galatians 3:13) and something that brings "wrath" (Romans 4:1 yet at the same time Paul states that rather than nullifying the law "we uphold the law" (Romans 3:21)? I'm sure it will all sound very obvious when I hear your answer but could you please help me to understand the purpose of the Law.
The New Testament was written by the Holy Spirit. To understand it, we need the Holy Spirit, that is the help of those who lived by the Spirit, that is, the saints. We try to read their writings as much as possible in order to understand the Scriptures.
As for the Old Testament, we can only understand it in the light of the New Testament.
In the New Testament Christ replaced the (Jewish/Mosaic) Law by Grace (the Holy Spirit), Who in the Old Testament 'spoke by the Prophets'. That is why we value above all the writings of the Prophets in the Old Testament, such as those of the Prophet David in the Psalms.
There is much else in the Old Testament, not of the Prophets, which is purely human. For example, the prohibition about not eating pork made good sense in the Middle East before the days of refrigeration, for it is well known how pork goes bad very quickly in the heat and can cause serious food poisoning.
The Law became a curse fand wrath for those very many who were not able to fulfil the ritualistic complexities of its presciptions as interpreted by the pharisees, who looked at the shallow ritual externals and forgot all about the much more important internals (See Psalm 50 - God does not want burnt sacrifices, but a contrite heart).. As Galatians 3, 23-25 explains, the Law was simply to help us reach Christ and His faith, like a schoolmaster. Now we have Christ we no longer need the schoolmaster of the Jewish Law. Once we were like babies and needed our food mashed and spoonfed. With the revelation of Christ, this is no longer necessary.
The purpose of the law was to bring people from barbarism to become hired servants of God. The purpose of Christ was to make us free and loving sons and daughters of God, heirs of the Kingdom.
Romans 3 is all about how none is justified by the law, but only by grace. See Romans 3, 20-24
I and many other Christians I know are troubled about the violence in the Bible. In the Old Testament especially God regularly orders His people to go to war and the defeated armies are killed to the last man. Along with this there a strict death penalties for those who break laws against adultery and idolatry.
It is verses in the Bible of this nature which anti-Christians such as Richard Dawkins regularly use to attack Christianity and religion in general. Could you please help me to understand what the Orthodox understanding is of such passages and whether it is true that God is the bloodthirsty tyrant that atheists like to paint from them.
The Old Testament is not a Christian text in the strict sense of the word. It was written before Christ became Incarnate and so is full of 'anthropomorphisms', that is, with an all too human (=fallen) understanding of God. This means that God is understood to be angry, jealous, violent, bloodthirsty imbued with all sorts of unworthy human emotions and thoughts. It means that human evil and violence (wars, vengeance etc) is attrributed in self-justification to God, because of a very crude and unworthy understanding of God. It was only in the NT that God was revealed to be Love - an extraordinary revelation at that time. No person in his right (spiritual) mind would interpret such expressions about 'God smiting' others literally. We can only understand the OT in the light of the New Testament. The NT is like a key which opens the door to the OT. Without the NT, the OT is a very strange book indeed. The problem with Mr Dawkins etc is that he interprets without understanding (understanding only comes with faith - and he lost his long ago).
It is great news to hear that we secured the sale. I was taken by my sister to see both Garrison churches and was particularly impressed by the sheer size of the church we have now bought.
What are your views on the disestablishment of the Orthodox Church in Greece ? Perhaps such corruption is a symptom of human sin and not an excuse for secularists to support their shoddy liberalism under the guise of moral outrage (you may remember secular moralists like A J Ayer and Bertrand Russell, who felt no moral compunction in betraying their close friends by having clandestine affairs with their wives!). Bishop Chrysostom of Zakynthos has been a shining (if perhaps too liberal?) example of Orthodoxy, like his illustrious predecessor in WWII who together with the island’s Mayor refused to give the Nazis a list of Jews, instead merely submitting their own names: a grand list of two! Do you approve of the fact that the Greek State pays its clergy?
Should the Anglican Church be disestablished? My younger sister and eldest brother feel that for all its seeming irrelevance the Anglican Church in England at least by its ties with the state maintains vestiges of the Christian faith in an increasingly secular or Islamic state, unless of course we Orthodox resume our rightful place as the true Church in England. Perhaps the fate of the Church of England is of no interest to you?
It is laughable however that Parliament today has removed the remaining obstacles to women bishops—shades of the tarot card The High Priestess aka The Female Pope!
Thank you for the message. As I understand it, you have been in Colchester. I have not myself seen the new garrison church. What is it like? At present we are waiting for the solicitors, so we can sign the contracts, get the keys and start work. The Church will not belong to us until about 30 June. Updates on progress are appearing on the site. When I contacted our solicitor, he said: 'That's a lot of church for 50 grand'. That's a secular way of saying that this is a Godsend and that all Orthodox should rejoice because it makes Orthodoxy more visible here. We have no doubt that this is St John's work - it is a clear miracle. How can anyone be against a miracle?
As for disestablishment, I am 100% against anywhere, in Greece or England. The Church is Incarnate and only becomes disincarnate when the State rejects it (as in Soviet Russia). The Church is either Incarnate or else persecuted. Disestablishment, operated by Christians themselves, is a temptation of disincarnate intellectuals. The devil says: Look, the Church is established and so politically compromised. You must disestablish it so it is pure again'. In fact, what the devil wants is for the Church to be weakened and lose influence in any way possible. A good way is for the Church to become a ghetto for the private few, the pure, the sect, like the old calendarists in Greece, who, in the illusion that they are 'guarding the truth', in fact fall into becoming a tool to further the aims of secularism.
Of course, this does not excuse compromises (State-appointed bishops, political statements by them, as happens in the Church of England), but Established Churches do not have to make compromises, we do not have to sin. It is the same with the State paying the clergy. In itself, there is nothing wrong with it. Of course, if then the State corrupts its clergy as its paymaster and the clergy agree to become corrupt, that is another story. The problem is not in what we do, it is in how we do it.
The real tragedy of the Church of England is that it was founded as a branch of the (Tudor) State. This is different from the Russian Church, which the Russian State began to persecute in the late seventeenth century, creating a weakening schism in her, and then tried to turn into a Department of State, which led to the Revolution. The 'Stateness' of the Church of England is integral to it, inherent. The Stateness of the pre-Revolutionary Church was a result of persecution of mainly foreign monarchs and German and Dutch Protestant ideologies. In that sense the C of E is not even a Church, but just part of an ephemeral political settlement.
I particularly find it strange that some Anglican male clergy feel that cannot stay in a Church which allows female clergy. Apart from the fact that other branches of the Anglican Communion have had female clergy for 60 years and many female bishops for at least 15 years, their Church was founded by a woman, Elizabeth I, and its head is a woman, Elizabeth II! This is the result of burying you head in the sand for 450 years. Similarly, recently an Anglican layman told me that he saw no problem with homosexual clergy, it was just that they should not talk about it openly! How hypocritical can you get!
On the other hand, as a Christian inhabitant of this country, with English blood in my veins, I can in no way say that the fate of the Church of England is indifferent to me. The active membership of the C of E is 2% of the population of England. That may sound pathetically few to some, but the active membership of all the Orthodox Churches in England is 100 times less. Orthodox should be careful. When the Church of England is attacked, it may actually be an attack on all Christian faith, Orthodoxy too.
I understand that we are not to make prostrations during the services on Sundays, feast days, or any days between Pascha and Pentecost (please correct me if I'm wrong). During such days when it is not appropriate to make prostrations in Church, does the same apply to one's personal prayers on the same days at home? Is one supposed to make bows instead of prostrations on such days?
This is correct, though of course if it is Pentecost, the Sunday of the Cross or the Feast of the Exaltation falls on a Sunday, then we do make prostrations. The same applies to home as to Church - we should only make bows. This is inn honour of the Resurrection, at which we stand.
However, we should not fall into the sin of proudly judging those many Orthodox who, through simple piety, do make prostrations and kneel on the fifty days after Easter or on Sundays. This is very, very common. Since the intention of those who do so is pious, we should rather admire their piety and prostrate ourselves in oiur souls together with them.
Another question - do you know why Theophylact of Bulgaria is called "Blessed" rather than "Saint." Someone once told me that "Blessed" is not a term traditionally used in Orthodoxy. Do you have any comment on this?
If you read Fr Seraphim Rose's work on Blessed Augustine (see the review in the latest number of Orthodox England), you will find a review of the term. Blessed is used by Orthodox, but in a small number of cases. The understanding is more 'minor saint' rather than St itself. (This is still different from the Catholic usage, as the person you spoke to meant).
I just read your recent posting on the Pope and the Patriarch of Constantinople. What do you think is an appropriate response by the Russian Orthodox Church (MP & ROCOR) to the Patriarch of Constantinople's promotion of the ecumenist heresies and the open and eager distortion of Orthodox ecclesiology? Do you think breaking communion temporarily is advisable or would be helpful to send the proper message or would this just lead to a hardening of the other side and a disasterous schism? I am at the same time thinking of the agreement that the Patriarch of Antioch has with the non-Chalcedonians, which also seems to ridicule 4 Ecumenical Councils and many of our Fathers. By remaining in communion and continuing to call these patriarchs and patriarchates Orthodox, are the other patriarchates just encouraging such overtures? It is hard for me to say, "This patriarch is teaching heresy, but I remain in communion with him." Please advise.
The recent posting is the translation of an article by a journalist of the Russian Church. It is unofficial. I think breaking communion would be totally wrong and lead to sectarianism.
Everybody knows that these present erroneous and political policies are the result of one person. When that person dies, the policies may change completely, back to Orthodoxy. For example every priest I know under Antioch refuses to give communion to Non-Chalcedonians. In other words these heretical policies are all personal opinion, not something promulgated in a whole Church Council.
Such articles are useful because they serve as warnings - also to individuals inside the Russian Church who may tend to such errors also.
I have heard that the Orthodox Church rejects the Protestant doctrine of total depravity (that humans are by nature ensalved to sin and unable to follow God). Could you please explain what the Orthodox Church's response to the doctrine is, backed up by scripture in the face of the scripture verses used to support the idea of total depravity (see below). I want to believe the Orthodox understanding but I find the scriptures to be contrary. Could you please help me to understand.
Now to the NT:
Clearly the Church is not Calvinist, because that was an invention of Calvin's age, pre-dated by the Church.
Christ has proved that human nature can be redeemed, which was the purpose of His Incarnation. The saints are living proof of this. (Of course, the Protestants have no saints, which is proof of the Orthodox teaching that there can be no holiness outside Holy Church).
Forgive me for saying this, but the this question illustrates the problem of taking a large number of Scriptural quotations out of context. For example, it is clear that the condemnatory tone of the OT, true in its time, is irrelevant in the light of Christ's Redemption. In the OT, all were condemned to hades (hell), which is why after His soul left His body, Christ went there first to preach to the captive Adam and Eve and all others. The quotes from the NT, especially from the Epistles, also have to be put into their context.
What is our response to the Papal claims? Since the Eastern schism began, we Orthodox have generally claimed that the pope has only a primacy of honour in the episcopate ('first among equals'), not a primacy of authority. But the Papists always argue that whenever Christ speaks of Peter’s relation to the other apostles, he emphasizes Peter’s special mission to them and not simply his place of honour among them.
In St Matthew 16:19, He gives Peter "the keys to the kingdom" and the power to bind and loose. While the latter is later given to the other apostles (Matt. 18:18), the former is not. In St Luke 22:28–32, He assures the apostles that they all have authority, but then he singles out Peter, conferring upon him a special pastoral authority over the other disciples which he is to exercise by strengthening their faith (22:31–32).
In John 21:15–17, with only the other disciples present, Christ asks Peter, "Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?"—in other words, is Peter more devoted to him than the other disciples? When Peter responds that he is, Christ instructs him: "Feed my lambs" (22:15). Thus we see Him describing the other disciples, the only other people who are present, the ones whom Jesus refers to as "these," as part of the lambs that He instructs Peter to feed, giving him the role of shepherd over them. Again, there is a reference to Peter having more than merely a primacy of honour with respect to the other apostles, but a primacy of pastoral control as well.
I am also perturbed by the universal (mis?)translation of St. Matthew in chapter 16 vs.19, which appears to give St Peter the power to forbid (bind) and permit (loose) on earth, thus having all his personal decisions subsequently endorsed in heaven. The Greek original has a periphrastic future perfect: 'whatever you permit on earth will have been permitted in heaven and whatever you bind on earth will have been bound in heaven.’ This would mean that, so far from St Peter’s decisions automatically being ratified in heaven, they would be in accordance with the divine dispensation—that they would, in effect, be right. What would then the keys to heaven’s kingdom be?
I am confused, since it is a key text for Papal authority and written in huge gold lettering around the base of the dome in St Peter’s in Rome . Anyway, wasn’t St Paul the founder of the Roman Church?
Old chestnuts all! Read the book on 'The Primacy of Peter in the Orthodox Church' for explanations and there are things in q and as in the past. But just a few points:
There is no such thing as 'an Eastern Schism', only a Western Schism.
St Paul founded the Church in Rome - the epistle to the Romans was written by him, not St Peter. Peter founded Antioch.
St Peter was asked to 'feed my lambs' three times, because he alone had denied Christ three times, having lost his faith.
On this rock (petra), of course is the rock of faith, as all the Fathers universally interpreted it. Why else does Christ tell him after; 'Get thee behind me, satan'.
St Peter's misison is a mission of Faith, as St Gregory the Great clearly explained, prophetically calling all medieval and modern Popes antichrists for their claims. If Popes lose the faith, then they lose St Peter's charisma. The weirdest thing of all is the concept that St Peter's spiritual authority (charisma) can be inherited automatically by any fallible bishop of Rome, from Borgia to all the others.
If Orthodox followed this worldly nonsense, we should have a 'Pope' in Antioch. But we don't, because it is the Church (= the Body of Christ) that is infallible, not the worldly human institution, which depends on the capital of a long vanished pagan Empire. Roman Catholicism is by definition Christianity + inbuilt secularism. That is why it is called 'Roman' and 'Catholicism'.
I'm very concerned about the decline of Anglo-Saxon civilization. One obvious symptom of that problem is the Third World invasion of every "Anglo-Saxon country." Opposition to mass immigration led me to racial realism and sociobiology. Dissatisfaction with the sociobiological tendency to examine religion solely in terms of its relative "secular utility" then led me by a convoluted route to discover a new tendency in theology known as Radical Orthodoxy. This emergent "sensibility" is associated with the work of several English academic theologians, in particular John Millbank and Catherine Pickstock.
I have immersed myself for several months in RO theology and found much there to interest and inspire me. They, of course, being left-leaning academics, are largely silent on issues of race, ethnicity, and Third World immigration-although they do occasionally toss out the usual boilerplate denunciations of "racism" in passing.
Nevertheless, I am convinced that their efforts to go "beyond secular reason" in order to re-assert an incarnational theology provide a solid grounding for a rebirth of Anglo-Saxon Christian patriotism manifesting itself in and through the Church. The logic of their position seems to call for an Anglo-Saxon (rather than abstractly ecumenical "radical") Orthodoxy.
I began to think that it is far more important for Anglo-Saxons (in England and throughout the diaspora) to wrest control of the Anglican Church away from the neo-communists who currently control it than to engage in political action. The original mandate of the Church of England was to minister to the spiritual needs of the Angles. The contemporary Anglican Church appears to have abandoned that mission.
Having reached that point, I came across your book on "Orthodox Christianity and the English Tradition." In fact, I just received a copy of that work in the mail today and look forward to reading it. But already I have several questions that I would like to ask:
1. Why isn't the title of your book: Orthodox Christianity and the Anglo-Saxon Tradition? Shouldn't there be an Anglo-Saxon(rather than narrowly English) Orthodox Church? What is the role of Orthodoxy in the spiritual life of the Anglo-Saxon diaspora?
2. Are you familiar with the RO theologians? If so, how would you characterise your reaction to their work. I notice that your book is critical of Bulgakov's Sophiology. Millbank, on the other hand, seems to be a fan of his. How significant is that in your take on RO?
3. I take your point that to be Orthodox is to be Christian first and only then Anglo-Saxon. But would it be wrong to believe that the Christian message one addressed to the whole of mankind but also one which must be translated (incarnated?) into the local language and, more broadly still, the ethnoculture of every people, including Anglo-Saxons? In other words, is Anglo-Saxon Orthodoxy, like Russian, Greek, Serbian etc Orthodoxy, necessarily and by definition, an ethno-theology?
If you can find the time to address the issues raised here I would be very grateful
The book which was written between 74 and 95 (you must have one of the last copies of the 2nd edition) was called English Tradition, because that is what the English called (and call) ourselves. 'Anglo-Saxon' was a term coined by academics in the 17th century. I believe in calling people by the names that they call themselves, not those invented by academics 1,000 years afterwards. Of course, ‘Anglo-Saxon’ has a modern sense, the English-speaking peoples of the ‘Anglosphere’, but that is not what the book is about.
I have heard of Millbank etc. They are simply one of the last gasps of liberal Anglicanism. This is intellectualism (hence the jargon in it), in other words gnosticism (the disease of Bulgakov's heresies, for which he was condemned). They are radical, only inasmuch as they are at the very end of the degeneration and disintegration of this particular brand of Protestantism. They have little interest in real Orthodoxy (though lots in fantasy Orthodoxy a la Bulgakov), though they can be very inspiring to those who are on their way to Orthodoxy, trying to find a way out of the maze of Anglican disintegration. They have little concept of the Church, because they are outside the Church, in a Protestant sect. And anyone outside the Church cannot have a real concept of the Incarnation, since the Church is the Body of Christ. These are just intellectual constructs, however fascinating intellectually. The Church is a way of life, not a philosophy.
In fairness to Anglicanism, if it has abandoned its mission to the English race, it is because most of the English race are in a situation of apostasy. Nothing would bring the majority back to any form of practising Christianity. Therefore they turn to Africans, who actually have faith. The English world lost its faith in the 1960s. The process of loss of faith ('the death of God' - Who was killed by the faithless in their hearts, obviously not in reality) has gone too far and the 16th century Anglican Compromise is all but dead. This is spiritual (and therefore moral and cultural) suicide. A race that is spiritually living does not allow its own extinction by mass immigration. It is not a case of 'rivers of blood', but one of 'rivers of spiritual suicide'. Blame not the immigrants, blame the people who stopped believing in themselves. This is a spiritual disease, not a racial one.
Christianity is incarnate, therefore we have Orthodox Russia, Orthodox Australia, Orthodox England. I would not call this 'ethno-theology' (I have never heard this term), but incarnational theology.
I have a woman friend at school who asked me about the Holy Mount and wanted to know why women and even female animals are excluded from anywhere on it (article 186). She asked in a spirit of inquiry and not as a strident feminist, supporting EU legislation in favour of female access. I pointed out that, tradition and legislation apart, no monastery in the west or east would welcome a crowd of the opposite sex invading the privacy of the monks or nuns. I said I would ask you since I realise that my answer smacked of pragmatism rather than Orthodoxy. I know that the Mount has been gate-crashed on a number of occasions by disguised feminists, indeed one of them-Alexia Amvrazi-being the most notorious by getting a helicopter to airlift and drop her in disguise on the Mount, just as the monks were leaving the Divine Liturgy. This is typical feminism but my friend is not one such. How do I explain to her the correct Orthodox view, treating as negligible conventional feminist propaganda?
The reason why women are not allowed is the same as why men are not allowed in strict convents - of course priests are male, but their contact with the nuns is minimal and then they prefer elderly priests. (See the life of St Cuthbert for the same attitude towards contact between the sexes).
Female animals are not allowed because then the animals would breed and they would have large numbers of animals (especially cats and dogs), that would create problems.
The reasons are indeed pragmatic, but of course pragmatic for Orthodox also means spiritual. These two things are not exclusive, as they are in heterodox thought. That is why we do not distinguish between active and contemplative. We need both together.
Based on what I read in the financial press, I confess I tend to get caught up in fearing what might happen in the future, i.e. economic collapse, food/fuel shortages, etc., especially the way our country (US) has been running unsustainable debts. I confess, being 29 years old & having lived through stable & prosperous times, I have not dealt with these issues so common to man, both today and throughout history. Personally, I feel inadequate to face these challenges in the future and as a husband and father have the desire to provide and protect my family. As a father and husband, what is your mindset as you contemplate the future? How can we prepare ourselves and our families? Part of me wants to stash away a bunch of food and supplies and part of me feels like that just “feeds the beast”. Anyway, I would appreciate your thoughts.
It is remarkable how the world wants to depress us. There was a time when the world 'reassured' us that nuclear war was inevitable and people foolishly built bunkers (foolishly, because if there was a nuclear war, you would not want to survive. What is so bad about dying? – if, that is, you are an Orthodox Christian). Then they took to threatening us with Islamic terrorism and 'dirty' bombs, then they started 'global warming'. In between they assured us that asteroids were about to hit the earth, a new ice age or tsunamis were coming etc etc. In other words, the media, and they are controlled by devilish forces, want us to despair, which is what the devil wants.
But if the media had an ounce of faith, they would be saying, 'Yes, there are many threats and we must do what we can to ensure peace and justice, but, at the end, God alone is Supreme and Almighty. If people want to stop the 'inevitable' consequences of global warming, then all they have to do is pray and repent. In other words, there is nothing inevitable about any of this. If the world had faith, then the world would know better!
Let us declare war on terror – on the only terror that is real, the terror of not having faith in the mercy, providence and love for mankind of Almighty God!
We were wondering why in the Orthodox Church the celebration of the Baptism of the Lord (Theophany) is not celebrated just before Lent as is done in the West, and instead is celebrated on Jan 6/19 at the time Western Christians celebrate Epiphany? Any light you can shed upon this would be gratefully appreciated.
The Feast of the Baptism of the Lord is celebrated 12 days after Christmas and has been since at least the fourth century. In the Orthodox Church it is known as Theophany (= the Appearance of God) and the service often uses the word 'epiphany' (= the ultimate revelation) to describe the events of the Feast. It is this Greek word that was very early taken on in the West for the name of the feast.
As regards Lent, its beginning is purely dependent on the Paschalia (the dating of Easter). The Orthodox Church (and the heterodox denominations until relatively recently) uses the dating system developed by the First Universal Council in Nicea (325) to date this. It falls on the first Sunday after the first full moon after the spring equinox, as dated according to the Church or Julian calendar. However, if this should coincide with the Jewish Passover, the Church delays Easter by one week. This is in order to follow the events in the Gospel (that year the Passover fell on Saturday, which is why Christ's body was removed from the cross before sunset on Friday, the Resurrection of course fell on Sunday), and to clearly mark the difference between the Jews and the Christians regarding the Resurrection.
This year, the Roman Catholic Easter (followed by the whole Protestant world - they always follow Rome) - falls nearly one month before the full moon of the Julian spring equinox and before the Jewish Passover. In other words, it is very early and come not long after their Epiphany. All of this si strictly forbidden by the canons of the Church. However, the Roman Catholics consider the Pope of Rome to be higher in authority than the Universal Church Councils, so they do whatever they want.
What evidence is there that 'The Lord has reigned from the wood' is original in the above psalm? Several of your readers may wish to see this question answered on your Q&A page. This reading of the psalm is quoted by Justin Martyr and in the epistle of Barnabas and- hence is clearly earlier than either- as well as being found in the Itala and the Coptic Old Testament but not in the Vulgate (but St Jerome was strongly influenced by the rabbis?) or the LXX. Besides what would 'apo tou xylou' mean in Greek or in Hebrew in its original Jewish context. If we discount the Massoretic text for its obvious lateness and anti-Christian bias, can it mean the Tree in Genesis or the wood or the oppressor's staff and prophetically the wood of the Cross? It is as odd-sounding in Greek as in English and the idiom would usually necessitate 'ek tou xulou' like 'ek Sion', but it is possible that it could conceivably mean 'because of / away from the wood', but, in any case, that too makes unsatisfactory sense. I would value your always instructive comments and any light shed on this text by the Holy Fathers.
A second quick question. An Anglican chaplain (formerly a colleague, whom I met again recently) took me to task about Orthodoxy, saying that it was quite obvious that St John Chrysostom was an anti-Semite. I corrected him by saying that when he refers to the Jews, St John means the Judaizers or Judaizing Christians, who had returned to pre-Christian habits of thought. I was not too sure of my ground and perhaps still am not. Could you enlighten me on this subject?
I am not really qualified to answer your question, because this is not in the received text of the Psalms and that is all I can go by. The issue is that there are several textual variants in the Scriptures (New and Old Testaments, and well before the Massoretes), which were not received by the catholic consciousness of the Church. Blessed Jerome was a very good scholar - and above all a holy man through repentance - and I think his text, as far as I know, is a very good one, but ultimately it is not the work of individuals that counts in the Scriptures, it is the text received by the whole Church that counts.
I am not aware of any Patristic commentary on this variant, but I am sure that there are clever people and Professors of the Old Testament or of Patristics somewhere in the Orthodox world, who could tell you much more. Having said that, it is true that many of these textual variants are of interest (for instance, some apocryphal sayings of Christ in apocryphal texts), but we do have to be careful with them - some of these are directly and obviously heretical!
'Apo tou xylou' means 'away from the wood', as you say, not 'ek tou xylou', that would sound like a prophecy. 'Apo' makes it sound like an interpolation, but I am no expert.
As regards the old chestnut about St John Chrysostom being anti-semitic (!!!), that is typical of the PC lobby. The people who say such things are those who also censor the texts of the Gospels because they denounce the Jews very clearly and are therefore 'anti-semitic' ('Woe unto you, scribes and pharisees, hypocrites...'). These people are so ill-informed that they do not even know what anti-semitic means - sometimes these people say that Arabs are 'anti-semitic!' , not knowing that the Arabs are themselves Semites.
Of course, St John, like Christ, opposed those who were against the Good News and had Him killed. If that is what anti-semitic means, that is anti-Christian, then we are all 'anti-semitic'. But if 'anti-semitic' means against the Semites, then no Christian is anti-semitic, because our Lord Himself was a Semite! This is all secular PC nonsense and unworthy of Christians. I know many Jews who have received the Gospel and become Orthodox - are we supposed to think therefore that they are anti-semitic too?! This is just secularism.
Yes, of course, St John denounces Jews in his sermons, but only those who persecute Christians. He does not denounce the Jews who have been baptised or the Jews who have not been baptised, but at least do not spend their time persecuting Christians, but live their lives as pious Jews, honestly waiting for the Messiah, having been deceived by rabbis who say that He has not already come. Your chaplain confuses the evil Nazi persecution of the Jews with the fourth century history of persecution by Jews.
On the pre-communion fast, what age do you expect the fast to be kept from? How much discretion can be used? What did you find worked well when your children were younger? What are the rules for evening Liturgies, in common practice?
What about married couples, with mutual consent, is it usual to abstain from conjugal relations on Wednesdays and Fridays? Does the from 'midnight fast' apply any earlier in this respect?
Father, on another subject, is it permitted for Orthodox to attend R.C. Masses occasionally for special reasons or circumstances, i.e. visiting Catholic family members or if living in a Catholic country etc...But not to participate or receive Communion of course. What is your experience in this respect?
The fast before communion begins at about age 7 or at the first confession. Some may need a drink of water in the morning even after a little this age. Children should be prepared for this fast from about 5 on, gradually eating less, so that the fast is not a shock to them and they do not give up taking communion very regularly. This works well. It is important to understand that these are not rigid rules. Flexibility is vital in all these matters. It is called pastoral discretion.
We do not have evening liturgies, but only after midnight (Easter and sometimes Christmas). Then the fast should begin at 6.00 pm.
Older couples who feel able, abstain, but ONLY BY MUTUAL CONSENT (NEVER, NEVER WITH ONE IMPOSING IT ON THE OTHER) on fast days, midnight to midnight. This is a very delicate matter and again rigidity is very dangerous. Couples should do what they can and not feel guilt if they cannot manage this. We are not saints!
Of course we should show charity to members of our family and attend family occasions (masses, weddings etc). We should try and say the Jesus Prayer while we are present at these occasions, so that we do not participate in errors.
Thank you for your response to my inquiry. I have read in several Orthodox sources that the Church Fathers teach that the Antichrist would be manifested seven or perhaps it is three and a half years before our Lord's Second Coming. Is this a dogma of the Church or a theological opinion shared by only some of the Fathers? I would find it very helpful to know which Fathers this teaching is attributed to. Your observations about this eschatological matter are much appreciated.
I have found the historical and Scriptural observations that you have shared on your website to be exceptionally insightful. I also find your sermons to be truly reflective of our Lord's gift of knowledge and understanding to you that you are able to share with us because of your own cultivation through the means you have noted.
Thank you Father for your love of our Lord and for those of us who constitute His Body, the Church. May our Lord God and Savior Jesus Christ continue to bless you, your family, and your ministry.
Seven years is completely unknown. Always three and a half (see Daniel 7.25).
These are not dogmas (those are on the Holy Trinity and the two natures of Christ), but they are revealed truths, found in the Tradition, including in the Holy Scriptures and the works of many Church Fathers.
Many Fathers have commented on all this, for example:
St John Chrysostom - Fourth Homily on 2 Thess
St Hippolytus of Rome (On Christ and Antichrist)
Blessed Theodoret (Works, Part 4)
Blesed Jerome (Commentary on Daniel)
St Ephraim the Syrian (Homily on the Coming of Antichrist)
St Cyril of Jerusalem (Fifteenth Catechitical Homily)
St Andrew of Caesarea (Commentary on Revelation)
All of this has been affirmed by near-contemporary Fathers like St Theophan the Recluse, St Ignatius of the Caucasus, St John of Kronstadt.
As a Christian who came to the Orthodox Church because I believe that the fullness of truth is to be found in Her, I am troubled by an apparent inconsistency that you might be able to clarify for me. The prevailing teaching of the Orthodox Church that the Antichrist will usher in the great tribulation seven years prior to our Lord’s Second Coming is a direct contradiction to the Church’s teaching that we cannot know for certain when our Lord Jesus Christ will return. As one called to a teaching ministry and endowed with the gifts of knowledge and understanding, please help me to understand how this prevailing teaching is not a contradiction.
There are many confusions here, hence the apparent contradiction. (In the Church as the Body of Christ there are no contradictions; contradictions only happen in the Fall, that is, in our fallen nature and therefore in the human aspects of Church life).
First of all, the gift of knowledge and understanding depends on our cultivation of the gift. That gift can easily remain no more than a mere potential, depending on our repentance, or lack of repentance.
In answer to your question: As our Lord said in the Gospels, nobody but His Heavenly Father knows when the end will come. So even He did not know. This knowledge is therefore part of the prerogative of the Person (Hypostasis) of the Father.
True, we are told that Antichrist will make his appearance three and a half years (not seven) before the end. Of course, the question is will we recognise who Antichrist is? For if we do not recognise him, it will be the end before we realise it. Similarly, in the Gospel, our Lord gives us signs of the end. The trouble is we are not sufficiently wise to recognise them. The history is full of false alarms in this respect, for only the Father knows this mystery, we can only know the signs surrounding it.
Since you mentioned the Ethiopians and non-Chalcedonians in general, what are your thoughts about a future reunion? This perhaps is a loaded question. First the Chalcedonian Orthodox need to work out their issues, as Patriarch Alexey stated with regard to a future dialogue with the Pope, and a genuine pan-Orthodox council would need to convene to discuss such a thing. The topic of union with the non-Chalcedonians is a hot one in these times though I cannot imagine how any union could occur without the non-Chalcedonians accepting Chalcedon and the subsequent 3 Ecumenical Councils. I cannot foresee either the Chalcedonians or the non-Chalcedonians retracting anathemas or accepting former heretics as saints. Some say there was a misunderstanding at Chalcedon but were not the Councils guided by the Holy Spirit. Does the Spirit guide the Church into confusion? Anyway, I would appreciate any thoughts you have on this topic as well.
On the one hand, the Non-Chalcedonians are very close to Orthodoxy. But on the other, they refuse the Church. The real problem is their nationalism; their error is part of their national identity. That was the basic reason for their schism and that is the basic reason why they cannot renounce that schism now and return. (Although some Armenians are now returning, but only a small number so far).
The Holy Spirit never guides the Church into confusion. Human-beings are very good at that already!
I was wondering if you could tell me why we do not read from the Law or the Prophets during the Sunday liturgy as it appears was done at least in the first several centuries. Also, we no longer see the kiss of peace observed. Do you know why?
The readings from the Old Testament were dropped as the New Testament developed. The readings were replaced with hymns to the new saints, the martyrs and others who were the seed of the Church. This runs parallel to the gradual dropping of circumcision and other Jewish rituals, including animal sacrifices (though the Ethiopians never got to the stage of dropping circumcision - they fell away before that). As the Holy Spirit has been revealed, so the Church (the Tradition of the Church) has evolved. The Law and the Prophets have been fulfilled (Characteristically, the ancient Jerusalem Liturgy of St James does keep an Old Testament reading)
As for the kiss of peace, it was originally carried out only in the tiny communities of the Catacomb Church and disappeared as the Church became a mass phenomenon. As the Church grew, so it was dropped, because it caused chaos among the crowds. It became impractical. (Other abuses also occurred - like men deleibratetly standing next to young girls, so they could give them a not so innocent kiss, when the moment came!). Now only the clergy in the altar give each other the kiss of peace.
Anglicans have told me that the one thing they resent most in their new rite is the obligatory kiss of peace/handshake, which they have to give to total strangers! It is an empty ritual.
I wonder if you could give me a brief note on the Synod of Whitby. Presumably both parties were loyal to the see of St Peter and it was a matter of which was the correct date of Easter. St Colman is said to have claimed that the Ionan church adhered to St John's dating while St Wilfrid supported that of the rest of the Church. I cannot but believe that Christendom at this time had one dating and Iona another. Besides what has St John to do with the matter. The Celtic Church seems clearly to have been an invention of Scottish Protestant 'divines' in the 16th century in their claim that they were following a native tradition opposite to that of Papal Rome. I should like you to shed a proper light on the significance of the Synod. It is no doubt also of interest to many of your readers. An RC colleague was trying to maintain to me that the Synod was a proof of the primacy of St Peter over that of the Greco-Celtic Church of St John of Ephesus. His Ruth Gledhill History of the Christian Church (!) is a wonderful illustration of the knowledge of the faith of those who call themselves Christian.
I find so much inspiration in your writings: 'the Angel faces which I loved long since and lost awhile' are smiling on me again.
All English Orthodox owe you an incalculable debt.
I have written about this before. Somewhere you will find something already.
Basically, 'the Celtic Church' was the nonsensical invention of 19th century Protestants, with historic help from the Calvinist John Knox and the Lutheran Elizabethan divines in England.
The 'Celtic Church' had the wrong dating of Easter, (this was Rome's old and also wrong dating), which had been dropped in Rome in about 450. The Celts, including Iona, only adhered to it because of their isolation. Rome took the correct date from the astronomical centre in Alexandria (and the rest of the East). Unfortunately, the wrong dating became a kind of nationalist flag for many Celts, including some contemporary ones (and an anti-English flag for the Welsh).
St John has of course nothing to do with it. The Celts were in fact more Roman than the Romans, in keeping the old Roman date (so much for Victorian Protestant nonsense). A 'Greco-Celtic' Church never existed. Your RC colleague has simply never heard of the Primacy of Christ over everyone else, Apostles and popes included.
The Synod of Whitby came to an Orthodox decision and simply tied the Celts down to the pactices of the rest of the Orthodox world, of which Rome was then a small and actually rather insignificant part. In other words, Whitby was just another provinical council integrating the practices of the local Church into the universal Orthodox ecumene of the age. Its decisions would certainly have been approved of in the Imperial Capital, Constantinople, at the time, being seen as the local Western Patriarchate at last putting its house in order.
Could I again include this q and a on the site? As you say, it might be of interest to others.
I suspect that Ruth Gledhill, and I have spoken to her in the past, has written 'A Protestant History of the Church' rather than 'A History of the Christian Church',
Please can you answer the following enquiries. Why does frequency of confession vary so much between Jurisdictions? Can us Orthodox go to another priest for confession when on holiday, or do we have to go only to our regular confessor? In the Sacrament of Penance, is the Orthodox seal of secrecy the same as in the Catholic Church? If a priest divulged anything revealed in Confession to his wife would that count as breaking the seal of the 'confessional'?
In your opinion what should children be taught in regards to the Catechism, should they memorize it and be tested? What age etc.
Can you suggest any suitable retreats/pilgrimages in the south of England, of Orthodox interest/spiritual benefit?
On Liturgy, is the Russian Liturgy similar in style to the Romanian one? And how has the Russian Church been spared from the influences of freemasonry and modernism etc.
I hope that isn't too much bother for you Father to answer these questions, it's great that you've got such an interesting and informative web-site. Look forward to a reply....
I did not know that frequency of confession varies. In all the Orthodox Churches, it should be the same. Confesson is when you need it. Confession is also before communion, or if communion is frequent (with the blessing of an experienced confessor), then confession every month or six weeks. Anything else is simply laxity.
You can go to any priest of any diocese (jurisdiction) for confession. No priest has the right to forbid this.
The seal of secrecy is absolute. A priest who reveals this (to his wife or anyone else) should be defrocked.
The question about children depends on the children. Above all, they should know how to behave in relation to others and lead a virtuous life. They should go to communion as often as possible. They should know Our Father and Mother of God, Rejoice at about aged 7. The Ten Commandments and the Creed they should learn by heart later, at about 12 or 13. But children are all different. These are only general guidelines.
Orthodox do not have retreats. I know of no pilgrimages at present. What is useful is to visit other parishes and see the wider picture. Every such visit can be made into a 'retreat' or pilgrimage.
The liturgy is worldwide very similar, Russian, Romanian or whatever. Russia was spared freemasonry etc through Communism. Orthodox outside 1917 Communism have not been spared freemasonry and modernism. Such is Providence. There are many blessings in disguise.
What is the precise meaning of 'nous' in the Holy Fathers'? Furthermore, I cannot grasp exactly what the Heart is in Orthodoxy, as in the Prayer of the Heart. How in prayer is one able to move the prayer from the head to the Heart or to place the mind in the Heart? I feel at a loss although I know that something of inestimable importance is being described.
Is this the Orthodox form of contemplative prayer instead of 'meditatio'? I find modern Roman Catholic versions of contemplative prayer more Buddhist or Hindu than Christian, as for example Fr Keating's much practised method of contemplation. Is there any difference here between saying 'Peace' or 'Love' repetitively (or even 'Christ' !) as saying 'Om' or 'Ram'? The Incarnation seems to have no relevance to this so-called Western method. My prayers seem arid but perhaps that is a necessary preliminary to any form of apophasis. I need help.
I wrote an article on this in Orthodox England some years back.
Nous is translated variously. I think the translation of 'intellect' in the Philoklaia is by far the most misleading.
The nous is the eye of the heart. Noetic is the adjective. The nous is then the divine spark, that part that links us to God and communicates with him. Noetic prayer is therefore pure prayer. The heart (in the Biblical and Patristic sense) is not the seat of the emotions (that is the soul), but the centre of man and the centre of that centre is the nous.
The 'prayer of the heart' (a very poor translation) is actually noetic prayer ('noera evkhi' in Greek; 'umnaya molitva' in Slavonic). It is achieved by the prayer of the Incarnation, that is noetic prayer (known in the West - another misleading translation) as 'the Jesus Prayer' (This term is not found in the Fathers).
We think consciously with our heads. Therefore all prayer begins in our heads. It can only descend to our hearts when the heads (minds) are purified. This can take a lifetime. Few achieve it nowadays.
Noetic prayer (to use the correct term) has nothing at all to do with mediation, which is by its nature disincarnate and encourages speculation and imagination, leading to illusio (in Latin), plani (in Greek) or prelest (in Slavonic), in other words, to spiritual delusions, with emotional swings, exaltation and levitation or else 'dark nights of the soul' and feelings of abandonment.
Saying words like Peace, Love or even Christ has no meaning, they are disincarnate. The important thing is the confession of the dogma (and in Orthodoxy 'dogma' means spiritual revelation) that Christ is the Son of God and that we need His mercy, which alone saves us.
Aridity of prayer is the surest sign that we are progressing. Distrust any feeling of warmth or sweetness. That is highly dangerous. Many have fallen in this way. Remain vigilant and sober. Expect no reward until the end of your life. Remember what St Symeon said: 'Theology without love is the theology of demons'.
Two things are deeply troubling me, I hope you can put my mind at rest.
The first is what happens after death. I recently read an essay by St. John of Shanghai in which he described the souls movement after death in great detail, after so many days the soul does something, after so many more days it does something else, unless people a really praying for this soul then it has little hope of reaching God. I don't know where this teaching could have come from for as far as I know the Bible says nothing about it. I am very confused and worried both for myself and my non-Orthodox but Christian friends and family who must go through death.
Another worry is, "Are Christians who are not part of the Orthodox Church still true Christians and do they go to heaven when they die". I was mostly worried about this when I started reading Fr. Seraphim Rose's Orthodoxy and the Religion of the Future. Again I fear for my non-Orthodox but Christian friends and family.
Please put my mind at rest.
The simple answer to your question is that 'God is merciful and loves mankind'. Only those who consciously reject God can fall away from His Love completely.
If you have doubts for your own salvation or that of others, pray silently every day for a while, until this prayer becomes a reflex.
For those who have discovered Orthodoxy in this world, there is a greater responsibility not to fall away.
Feelings of worry, anxiety and guilt about such things are always negative, always put there by the demon. Simply pray, with the knowledge that God is Love.
If you wish for a more detailed answer, contact me again,
I am a recent convert to Orthodoxy from Roman Catholicism, and am slightly overwhelmed by Orthodoxy's jurisdictional messiness. As a Roman Catholic, the bounds of the Church were relatively clear-cut, but this doesn't seem to be the case in Orthodoxy.
Whilst studying Orthodoxy, I came across a quote by Metropolitan Bishop Ware in which he asserted that one is Eastern Orthodox if one is in communion with the Ecumenical Patriarch. However, having seen the overtures which the EP and the Bishop of Rome seem to be making to each other is there not the distinct possibiilty that the EP might go into schism? And what then?
Could you give me some guidelines about how to tell whether a particular jurisdiction is inside or outside the Church. For example, am I just as much inside the Church if I am worshipping with Greek Old Calendarists or Russian Old Believers as with New Calendar Constantinopolitans?
Just as in Roman Catholicism, there are orders and tertiary groups - Opus Dei, for exampe, so too in the Orthodox Church there is a lot of variety.
Just as you can find all sorts of vagantes who call themselves Catholics, so on the margins of the Orthodox Church, you will find uncanonical groups who use the word Orthodox.
Very simply, Canonical Orthodox Churches in the UK are listed in the Annual Directory of the Fellowship of St John the Baptist. See also our website under Resources for Directory.
As regards Metr Kallistos' words about Constantinople, they are at the present moment true, but in history, and recently, that Patriarchate has often fallen into schism and heresy. it could happen again, as I have written on the orthodoxengland website recently.
A famous Romanian actor passed away recently, who turned out to have been a very high-ranking freemason, although he is said to have received the Orthodox last rites. Both Orthodox priests and masonic "brothers" were present at the wake, and the Orthodox burial was officiated in parallel with masonic rituals - a ritual chain of "brothers" and so on. The occult, deistic doctrines and practices of freemasonry are clearly in contradiction to Orthodox belief. Was it fitting for Orthodox priests to have been present alongside freemasons in such circumstances?
A B Bucharest, Romania
None of this surprises me. This spirit is even stronger in Constantinople. We have to know that since the 1930s and Patriarch Myron, there has been the same worldly, new calendarist tendency at a certain level in the Romanian Church as in the Greek Churches, especually in Constantinople, and since the 1960s, in the Bulgarian Church. It all began with Patr Meliton Metaksakis - see our site.
This is why we must ally ourselves with the many healthy forces, the startsy and others, in Romania, Greece and Bulgaria. We must fight against this Balkanization. Pray especially that the right Patriarch will be chosen in Romania on 12 September. This is all the more difficult now with the EU.
I have a friend who is a Jehovah's Witness. On and off we discuss religion. Our discussion has opened up again. My friend sent me this question "For example, when you consider the Hebrew Scriptures, God often sent prophets to preach to the people, and some of them were killed. But why did he send his Son to the Jews in the first century, why not just another prophet as before? What difference did it make?"
I don't really know the answer to this question and I am worried that he is leading me into some sort of trap. Could you please give me something with which to answer him with?
Here are some points to consider:
1) In general I think there is little point in talking about religion with people whose convictions are based either on psychological complexes or else sociological needs, and not spiritual experience or knowledge of the 2,000 year history of the Christian Church, - people like Jehovah's Witnesses.
2) Jehovah's Witnesses (Russellites, to give them their real name) do not believe that Christ is the Son of God - they are Arians. This is the essence of the trap your friend has set you. He wants to try and prove to you that Christ is not the Son of God
3) Faith in the Resurrection is also very defective among them. Again, this is a trap for you.
4) They also inherit the medieval papist theory of the Redemption, which makes out that a cruel God the Father slaughtered Christ in order to obtain satisfaction for human sin. This is of course nonsense.
5) Why did God send His Son?
a) Out of love for His suffering creation.
b) Because only if God became man, could man come to know God and so find the way to salvation, because that way had been trodden by Christ. The prophets could not do this, because they died also.
c) Because only the sinless God-man could defeat death, because death could not contain the sinlessness of the divino-human nature.
d) Only so, through following Christ and asking for forgiveness, could humanity be redeemed, saved, from sin and the wages of sin, death.
6) We do not regard the Hebrew Scriptures. They were written down by anti-Christian rabbis in the tenth century. We regard the Greek Scriptures, written down in the second century BC, and which alone were quoted by Christ in the first century.
7) As regards the prophets, Christ himself describes in the Scriptures how they were killed by the Jews. He knew perfectly well how they were treated. It was clear therefore that He also knew that He could do something they could not do, i.e. overcome death through the Crucifixion and the Resurrection.
I hope this is of help to you,
Im sure that you will be happy to know that this weekend I am going on a pilgrimage to Bury Saint Edmunds, this is mostly the result of what your website has taught me. My pilgrimage though is not part of any organized group; I am going on my own with my family. Could you give me any guidance on what I could to make my visit special and make me a true pilgrim and not just a tourist? Anything you can say would also help me greatly in the future when I visit other places connected with Orthodox saints when I am not with an organized group. It would be much appreciated.
I wonder if you will make it to Felixstowe; the church is only 40 minutes further from Bury St Edmunds? Vigil is at 5.30, Hours and Liturgy at 10.00. This is the Sunday of the Saints of the Isles.
Before you leave, read the Gospel and the Epistle of the day, together with morning prayers.
Print off the service to St Edmund and read it through in a low voice or silently while you stand in the ruins of the church there.
There are three places to visit, preferably in this order: the ruins of the monastery known as 'the Abbey Gardens', where you can read the service.
The second place is the Catholic church nearby, where there is a tiny relic of St Edmund.
The third place is Moyse's Hall museum in the town centre, which tells you of the history of St Edmund's town.
Before you go you should do a little reading and explain to the family a little about St Edmund and sing the troparion and kontakion of the saint. Again, when you get home afterwards, do the same.
Perhaps the most moving site for a pilgrimage to St Edmund is the place of his martyrdom in Hoxne. I was there last week. It is about forty minutes to the north of Bury St Edmunds. You could read through the service to him there again.
Could you please advise me which English translation of the Bible is the best to use as an Orthodox Christian?
For the New Testament, the liturgical form is the King James. If you wish for study purposes, especially of the Epistles, something a little clearer, then the Revised Version is good.
As for the Old Testament, most Orthodox actually use the King James, or Revised Version, but we know that that is the corrupt Hebrew text, written by rabbis about 1200 years after the Septuagint. Some Orthodox therefore use the pre-Protestant Roman Catholic translation of the OT, which is much, much closer to the Septuagint. However, in the next year or so, there will be appearing an Orthodox OT in English. The Psalter appeared on our website two years ago and is downloadable, but it will be published in about six months time. 23 other OT books have been translated so far.
But I have heard of two men with the name "Florensky". Paul Florensky? Is he a heretic?
There is only one. Fr Paul Florensky was a religious philosopher. Many of his thoughts were not Orthodox. However, since the Communists killed him and he may have repented for his earlier thoughts, he may have become a martyr for Orthodoxy. We simply lack information about what happened to him later.
Thanks for the akathist, I know Russian, not perfectly, but enough I think to understand. I have in Serbian the text of St. Seraphim of Vyritsa, which he wrote for one of his spiritual children. The main idea in this text is God's word "All comes from Me".
Yes, that text is well-known. I also attach the akathist in Russian.
I know about the Love of God, but I think often that I will betray Him, because I often feel shame because I believe and I hide my faith from others. In my childhood I think that I had not experience love from people who were around me, so I think that I can't receive love as it should be. I have often asked myself why would God love me? But, glory to God for all!
Many of the Church Fathers did not have this experience in their childhoods. But they were baptized in their 20s and then became saints. Think of the Apostle Paul.
And one more question. It is about Redemption. I know of the attitude of Metr. Antony Khrapovitsky. Some theologians say that this is modernistic attitude. I have respect for this man, God knows.
Metr Antony was a great patristic figure, not at all a modernist. He simply wanted to restore the Patristic understanding of the Redemption in Russia, where at that time they had completely adopted the Roman Catholic satisfaction theory. Metr Antony wrote his book in prison and did not always express himself so clearly. It is also true that he exaggerated the importance of Gethsemane in the Redemption, in order to cure the then Russian obsession with the Roman Catholic approach. When some ten-fifteen years later, some objected to his views on the Redemption, he withdrew them, seeing that they upset some people, who were attached to the old satisfaction theory. His intentions were completely Orthodox and a careful reading of his Redemption proves that his thoughts were also completely Orthodox..
Metr Antony's views have been very well defended, above all by Fr Justin Popovich. Anyone who reads his views with goodwill, will see this. The only reservation one can have is that Metr Antony sometimes expressed himself in ways that can be misinterpreted by people of ill-will.
And he quotes Fathers, (I have read this long ago and I write this from memory), St Ephraim the Syrian and St Simeon the New Theologian. But, I am not sure. One of my favourite Fathers is St Ignatius Brianchaninov. In his works he speak about redemption, and that Son was on the Cross to redeem people from eternal punishment.
Metr Antony never denied this. He merely pointed out that the whole of Christ's life, His Incarnation, as an act of mercy, was redemptive. The high point of it was of course the Cross.
What do You think about that? I think about the opinion of Metr. Antony and what is the right attitude. What is the right teaching of the Church about the Redemption? Many people now speak about the influence of "Latin theology" and speak that this was strong in Orthodoxy in the 18th and 19th centuries when lived the great Ignatius. I don't know what to think. I am not daring to say that St Ignatius was wrong. Do you know where I can find on the internet a book by some Church Father who speak about this problem?
St Ignatius was fully Orthodox, though of course he too expressed himself in the language of the time - as we all do.
Some years ago I wrote a long article on this subject of Metr Antony and the Redemption in Orthodox Christianity and the English Tradition. I think it is on the website. It may help you.
And what about the children who were killed in the wombs of their "mothers". They can't enter Paradise because they are not born again in Baptism, but neither do they go to a place of eternal punishment.
Like the Holy Innocents of Bethlehem, killed by Herod, they were baptized in their blood. Salvation is surely theirs by the mercy of God.
In the Life of St Basil the New, I think, his disciple, St Gregory had a vision where, at the end, Christ looked at one side and said to one group of souls that they were spiritually blind and had not lived as the Law of God commanded. On them there was no evil and they were almost like righteous souls. The Lord looked at them and then at their parents and He was angry with the parents, because they did not enlighten their children with Baptism. The Lord gave them the last place in the west, and gave them some small part of eternal life, but without looking at the Face of God. I have read that St Gregory the Theologian in his sermon on Baptism (Sermon II, I think) says something similar, but to be honest, I have not read this sermon. And that St Athanasius the Great and St Cyril of Alexandria have the same opinion.
These are good works, but they must not be interpreted outside their contexts.
Many great saints of the Church were not baptized - all the prophets of the Old Testament. The Mother of God was not baptized when she conceived Christ. We have to look at things in their context. Many martyrs of the Church were not baptized in water, but in blood, think of the thief on the cross. Others were baptized in their tears (of repentance).
In the Bible, the apostle says that we have to rejoice for everything. How to rejoice when so much young people are taking drugs, drink and get sexual diseases? If they die in such condition, they will go to hell. That is very, very sad. How many people don't believe? How many don't know Christ and because of that, they will not enter in His Kingdom? How to rejoice when all this is happening? If Christ allow me to enter in His Kingdom, I will be alone there. Don't get me wrong, I know that in Paradise everybody knows everyone, but I hardly will know someone, who I know in this life (my friends, my relatives, my sister, my ex-girl friends, my grandfather...) How to rejoice with all of that?
Something more. In my country (Serbia) very soon will start to give biometrical documents (which will be obligation for everyone). Sinod of Serbian Church has invited serbian government and authorities to abolish the law about biometrical cards. Goverment never answer. That will start from january 2007. Very, very soon. I know what about this cards speaks Elder Pasious from the Athos. He said that Christians who reject these cards will be Martyrs and Confessors. How to concentrate on everyday responsibilities when I know that this will be very soon. And in my family will be big problems from the side of my parents. I know that I need to listen God more than anything, but how to rejoice with all of this, which I have wrote to you.
Thinking back to your last e-mail, were you asking about Florovsky or Florensky? Florensky was definitively one of the heretics, whereas Florovsky was really quite Orthodox, although, as I said, only an academic.
We rejoice because by the Providence (=Love) of God, even from bad, good can come. Thus, illness is allowed by God so that we can repent. For example, many AIDS victims have repented and died in a state of repentance - but the media never speak about them. If they had not caught AIDS, they would never have repented. The Fathers said: 'Man proposes, but God disposes'.
As regards paradise, we do not know who will enter there. The thief on the cross was the first to get into paradise, and he repented only minutes or hours before his death. We must not judge because we cannot judge, because we have no idea of how rich God's mercy is.
Can you read Russian? if so I will send you an akathist of thanksgiving, written by one of the most persecuted men in the twentieth century. If not, I will send it to you in English.
The biometric cards are not the end, though they may be the beginning of the end. But have faith in God. He loves you in ways that you and I cannot even begin to understand,
I would like to ask You about the books of Fr Florovski, Fr Schmeman, and Metr. Ziziulas. I know that now in the Orthodox world there are many people who have oposite opinions about these writers.
Some people defend them and some attack them, saying that they are "modernists", they go against Tradition of our Church, that they are ecumenists. I have similar opinion. I have not read their books but I know some things about their books, and I do not agree with them. (I heard that Fr Florovski has criticized eclisiology of St.Cyprian of Carthage) - that is very "brave" from him. Can you in short tell, where they are, if they are, mistaken?
Fr Alexander Schmemann and Metr John Zizioulas are modernists. The former was very Protestant, anti-Tradition and anti-monastic in his thinking. He wanted to 'reform' the Church! The latter is more influenced by the Catholics and is much more of a politician and ecumenist in the pro-Unia way of Constantinople, ever since the Council of Florence. In that way he is more dangerous. He has a very high opinion of himself.
I met them both. Fr Alexander was a nice man, just very confused by his mind.
Fr George Florovsky was much more Orthodox, but he was still only an academic theologian. In other words, he was an intellectual, not someone who lived theology. But his books can be read with interest.
The problem with all such people is that they live in their heads, they do not live Orthodoxy in their hearts, or at least the faith in their hearts is not reflected in their theology. So it is just another intellectual game for them. In Russian we say gore ot uma - sorrow comes from the mind.
If you would like more specific details, please contact me again,
As a member of the Russian church I was interested to find an article (in French) about an attempt at union with the Egyptian Coptic church.
I have been impressed by the piety and organisation of present day Copts.
What is your take on the accusations of 'Monophysitism' laid against them (they maintain they are fully Orthodox)?
Since the union between the Russian Church Abroad and the Patriarchal church seems close, how long will it take for us to achieve intercommunion with the 'Oriental Orthodox'?
We must compare like with like! The division between the MP and ROCOR was never a schism. In other words, it was never doctrinal, but purely administrative, caused by government persecution inside Russia. We all knew that one day unity would come, the only question was when. The answer to that we more or less know now.
The Monophysite (and Nestorian) question was a mixture of doctrine together with anti-Greek nationalism, both grave. Indeed, I think in the case of the Nestorians it was far more about nationalism than anything else. A new article about secualrism and nationalism will shortly be appearing on the site under The Orthodox Life, which will make this clear.
Basically, the Monophysites (I think they are semi-Monophysites in fact) still refuse to accept Chalcedon in its fullness. Until they do, there can be no unity. In practical life this would mean their stopping venerating their Monophysite heroes like Shenuda, whom they consider a saint. I don't think 'organization' is a guarantee of Orthodoxy, though their piety is definitely impressive.
I have a question concerning the icon of Christ:
Why is it that the nailprints upon his hands and feet are not shown ? The Bible tells us that after his resurrection he still had them.
Do you think that a real worhip is possible without the use of icons ?
Some say, that the icons have their origin in the 8th century, others think that St. Luke the Apostle manufactured the first icon of Christ, others believe that the Lord himself created the first icon. What is your position in this ?
Thank you very much for answering.
There are many different icons of Christ. Some show Him crucified, showing his wounds, which of course His human nature had after His Resurrection, as the Gospel says. Other icons show Him as the Almighty (Pantokrator), or as the Eternal Logos. These latter icons emphasize His Divine nature or show Him as the Eternal Son that He is. So it all depends on which icons you are thinking of.
Of course, it is possible to pray and worship without icons. It is possible to pray anywhere at any time. But icons make it easier. And it is also important dogmatically, for there are those 'spiritualists', who deny the Incarnation of Christ and they would destroy all icons. Not only do they destroy holy images (icons) on wood, but also the image of God in man. Cromwell, Napoleon, Lenin, Hitler, Stalin, Mao and all the others were all iconoclasts.
Our Lord created the first icon by sending His image on a cloth to Abgar of Edessa. The first icon-painter was St Luke. We still have some of his icons of the Mother of God, though they have been overpainted down the centuries. There are only a few icons left from before the iconoclastic heresy in the 8th and 9th centuries, some are on Mt Sinai. But any text-book on Christian art history will show you pictures of other early icons, still in the catacombs in Rome etc. Of course their style is not very evolved and they still have strong 'classical overtones'. Icon-painting only developed in full after the brutal attacks of the iconoclasts. At that point it became fixed, just as all the dogmas of the Church only became fixed after the attacks of heretics on Church Truth.
In the Canons a women is forbidden to enter Church or to touch any Holy thing when menstruating. What is the "common" practice today within the Orthodox Church concerning this, as there are a lot of Canons not fully adhered to now?
The practice of not coming to church refers to a time when there were not the possibilities of feminine hygiene which exist today. Although there are still some women, especially in the Balkan countries, who do not come to church during menstruation, this is their personal decision, and this is not something imposed on them by the Church. Nowadays, with modern feminine hygiene, there is no longer any reason for this. Indeed, a few years ago. Patriarch Pavle of Serbia wrote an article on this question and urged women to come to church, including when they are menstruating.
On the other hand, it is also true that women's menstruation is the result of the Fall (Genesis 3, 16), therefore women do not take communion during menstruation. For them it seems a natural reflex to refrain at these moments. In the same way, men can suffer the problem of loss of semen during the night (nocturnal emissions), in which case they too should refrain from communion. Although both problems are involuntary, part of our fallen nature, nevertheless they are the results of ancestral sin, that is, the fact that sin is in the world causes these problems. Adam was not created to suffer in this way, nor was Eve. Sin came into the world, and so also did these problems. Had the Fall not happened, men and women would not suffer these problems.
However, we must also understand that in extreme cases, a priest will make exceptions. Thus a man who had been in a car crash and was about to die would not be refused communion because the night before he had suffered a loss of semen. Obviously, a woman in the same situation and menstruating would not be refused communion either. We have to use discernment, always asking what is the best thing for salvation.
I am still confused about the exact nature of the toll-houses, and how they differ from Roman concepts of purgatory (not necessarily the medieval ones, modern ones too). I've read Protopresybter Pomazansky's explanation, and also those of Hieromonk Seraphim. Is the only objectionable thing about the Roman doctrine of purgatory its emphasis on legalism and indulgences? Does the Orthodox Church believe that after death the Christian endures purification by the prayers of the Church on earth, and by the Uncreated Light of God? Are the stories of the toll-house experience symbolic of something greater?
This is indeed confusing.
As you probably realize, Roman Catholicism is the Orthodox Church, as seen through a distorting mirror, like you can find in fairgrounds. If therefore you start off from the distorting mirror perspective, obviously you will be confused, you will only see a fuzzy blur of the original. The image is so distorted that you can no longer see the purity and clarity of the original.
Thus, Orthodox, like Roman Catholics, use words like Trinity, Christ, dogma, priest, angel, incense, Pope, Mother of God, marriage, Easter, Christmas, saints, sacrament, heaven, hell, bishop, canon, Church etc etc, but we mean quite different things. (This is some Orthodox like to use other words like Pascha, the Nativity, the mysteries etc etc for these things).
The early Orthodox Church in the West had the same theology as the early Orthodox Church in the East. Purgatory is simply the twelfth century (i.e. post-Schism) Roman distortion of the Orthodox Church's teaching on the after-life. From that distortion there grew up indulgences and all the rest which led directly to the Protestant schisms from the Roman schism.
In Orthodox (i.e. Christian) teaching, after death comes the particular judgement and at the end of the world the Last Judgement. The particular judgement comes forty days after the separation of the soul from the body. During those forty days, the soul is examined for its faults (if they have not been repented for).
The symbolic illustration of this is the 'toll-houses'. Obviously, this has to be understood as an illustration or symbol. Just as at the Last Judgement, although there is a 'Judgement', there is no court-room, no attorneys etc etc, so there are no physical toll-houses either. The toll-houses illustrate the examination of the soul, after it has lost its body.
After the particular judgement, the soul is allocated a place, where it 'sleeps' or 'rests'. From then on until the Last Judgement, the soul can move upwards, or heavenwards, thanks to the prayers of those on earth, who do not sleep or rest, but are active in the Church Militant on earth. These prayers are the fruit of love - not of legalism, papal power or money paid for bits of paper called indulgences.
This is quite different from purgatory ('cleansing fire') and the payment of indulgences. However, one can still just see in indulgences the medieval distortion of the original Orthodox Church's teaching on prayer for the departed - that is the distorting mirror created by the filioque, which is why the Protestants, as usual, ended up throwing out the baby with the bath-water.
Those who are saints go straight to heaven. That is why we no longer sing the words of memorial services for them: 'Give rest, O Lord...'. Theirs is not the rest or sleep of us others between the particular judgement and the Last Judgement, but the active life of the Church Triumphant (in heaven) interceding for the Church Militant.
'Sleep' is the rest or repose of the souls that await the prayers of the Church Militant and then the Last Judgement. 'Disembodied' is a good term for this, but consciousness perhaps less so. Their souls rise heavenwards as the prayer of love of the Church Militant raises them up. I would not call this state 'bliss' or otherwise, and neither the prisons of hell. Hell is the absolute self-exclusion from God, and that can only come to pass after the Last Judgement. Simply 'sleep' is the best word for this state. Only the saints do not experience this and go straight to heaven. As regards those who commit great evil, perhaps we could say that their sleep is 'disturbed', like that of ghosts, 'unquiet spirits'.
We pass through the toll-houses, i.e, we all have our sins weighed up. We cannot atone for them at that point, as we are bodiless. Only the love of those on earth for us and later the Mercy of God at the Last Judgement can save us from here on. We are never 'confident' of the Mercy of Christ, because our sins are so heavy. But the Mercy of Christ does keep us from despair.
I don't think anyone of us can 'understand' this in a rationalistic sense. It is all in images - 'seen in a glass darkly'.
What is the canonically required fast for Sunday morning communion?
So far I have heard that we fast on Saturday and can eat oil on Saturday till midday only, then we fast from midnight till communion on Sunday. Is this correct - as I thought Saturday was canonically a non-fasting day? Why then do we fast on Saturday for Sunday communion without meat and fish, but only oil is allowed?
Taken from the 85 Canons of the Apostles: Canon LXVI.
If any of the clergy be found fasting on the Lord's day, or on the Sabbath, excepting the one only, let him be deposed. If a layman, let him be excommunicated.
The fast is clear: it is from midnight (and not before) on Saturday and it is total abstinence from food, water, cigarettes etc.
As regards the customs of the Local Churches, for example a three-day fast or fasting on the Saturday before communion, these are customs, not canons, and they were introduced because of infrequent communion. For example, if someone only takes communion two or three times a year, it is not a bad thing for them to observe such a fast. But it is not the norm. As you say, the canons forbid fasting on Saturdays. However, we should remember that the canons are guides to piety and that the Church is higher than the canons.
Personally, as a priest, I avoid eating much on Saturday evenings and avoid eating meat. However, this is purely personal and not a canonical requirement. The key is: moderation in all things.
In orthodoxy to what extent do we believe in destiny and to what extent do we believe in our own will to change things. I know for example when something wrong happens people often say it was "gods will" but then again we make the decision to sin (sometimes unconsciously). I often think that my sins could be connected to something going wrong, often times people (at least in my culture) say "god will punish you".
Also what is the difference between being tempted by the devil and being tested by god.
In the eternal mind of God there is no time, so He knows past, present and future. But since He gives us complete freedom, He forces nothing on us, although He does know all things. Therefore there is no such thing as predestination, but there is God's foreknowledge. The prophets and the clairvoyant are allowed to see some small parts of the past, present or future through God's grace, but no more.
There is therefore no such thing as destiny or fate in the deterministic sense, they are pagan ideas. We are completely free. (Though, of course, we can talk in the loose sense from a future perspective that someone's 'destiny was to...', when talking about their life story). We are free to live our lives, that is to do God's will or not to do it.
When something happens because we have prayed about it, we can say that it is God's will (even though the result may not at all be what we would have wished) through the prayers of such and such a person. If we do not pray for God's will to be done, then of course we cannot say that something is necessarily God's will, only that God has allowed it through our sins (= lack of prayers). If we do not pray, then all sorts of things can happen to us which are not God's will, though God allows them to happen. For example, sometimes God allows us to be tempted by the devil in order to show us that we need to pray. Some people call this being tested by God.
The term 'God will punish you' is a common expression used by people on the fringes of the Church (and also therefore in the Old Testament). God as a God of love never punishes us, we punish ourselves. But God does allow such things to happen and work out paradoxically for our benefit (we can learn, grow and mature through suffering). Thus teh negative can become good.
All this is known as the Providence (= foresight) of God (The Greek word 'economy' or the Latin word 'dispensation' are also used in this sense of Providence).
I hope this is of help to you,
Could you tell me who the patron saint of Australia (and New Zealand) is, according to the Orthodox tradition. My superficial search on the internet did not give me any clues.
I have never heard of any patron saint for these countries, according to any tradition. As far as I know, these countries have never produced a saint - so far.My suggestion is that, with the blessing of Archbishop Hilarion, a group of people who feel strongly about this, have a large (say three feet by five feet) icon painted of the Mother of God (perhaps have it done on Mt Athos, if possible). She is a universal emblem to unite all Orthodox. In her icons she wears three stars, and in her Akathist she is called 'the star that gave birth to the Sun' (zvezda rozhdshaya Solntse). There are also stars on the Australian flag. Since you live in the New World, the feast day of this Icon could be fixed on one of the Australian national holidays. (Is there a joint Australian and New Zealand holiday??). This would give sense to that holiday. This would also avoid problems of calendar among Orthodox. All Orthodox would feast this Icon on that day. The Icon could be called 'The Mother of God of the South', for example. She would be the Patroness of all Australasia. Someone could write an Akathist especially to this Icon, expressing the hope for salvation for all your countries and peoples through her prayers. Maybe even if some notion of this could appear on the Icon, with different peoples bowing before her in the forground of the Icon? All these are thoughts. I am sure if you showed this to Archbp Hilarion, he could improve on them, Fr Andrew