Wednesday, February 3, 2010
In the area of Monastiraki in Athens, across from Hadrian's Library, lies hidden a small church named Agiou Elissaiou (St. Elisha).
It was in this church that St. Nicholas Planas (1851-1932) liturgized daily with the two famous Greek authors from Skiathos, Alexandros Papadiamantis (1851-1911) chanting in the right choir and Alexander Moraitidis (1850-1929) in the left choir.
You can see a video featuring this church here.
"This series is about how those in power have used Freud's theories to try and control the dangerous crowd in an age of mass democracy." - Adam Curtis
A Letter by the Blessed Elder Epiphanios Theodoropoulos on the Matter of Ecumenism and Schismatic Old Calendarist Zealotism
Athens, the 22nd July 1971
Dearest Fr. Nicodemos,
Rejoice in Christ Jesus, our Lord.
More than a month has passed since I received your letter. I delayed responding to it, due to an overload of obligations. I beg for your understanding.
I shall reply somewhat briefly, with my promise to revert, in the event that your holiness should require new clarifications.
First of all, dearest Fr. Nicodemos, I am obliged to tell you a bitter truth, which will seem more than absurd to you and will amaze you. Until this day, I have been avoiding, for the sake of oikonomia, to formulate this position, or have expressed it in shadowy terms; however, as things have already reached a point that can go no further and certain select persons, who unfortunately have a terror-stricken conscience, have gone over to the Old Calendarists and have become victims of a relentless propaganda against the Church, it is time that the truth be told, straightforwardly and unreservedly.
Well, Fr. Nicodemos, all those who, out of fear of Ecumenism, accede to the Old Calendarists gain nothing whatsoever, except that by fleeing from one heresy, they accede to another. Of course they themselves are not conscious that they have acceded to a heresy, but that does not change things in the least.
Do not think that I am unfair or immoderate. I will prove that my argument is absolutely true. Please take note.
What is a heresy, dear Fr. Nicodemos? It is an adulteration of the Faith! But what is an adulteration of the Faith? Is it the breaching of Dogmas? That too is an adulteration of the Faith, but it is not only that. An adulteration of the Faith is also the elevating to the status of a Dogma of the Faith those things that are not. That is to say, if someone were to render a secondary thing, even if a good one, as a Dogma of the Faith, as a condition for salvation, then that someone automatically becomes a he-re-tic!
Do you want an example? Well, you have the famous Eustathians! What did they do? Did they breach any Dogmas of the Faith? Which one? Perhaps the one pertaining to the Holy Trinity? Perhaps the one pertaining to the two natures of the Lord? Perhaps the one pertaining to Angels? Perhaps the one on the Devil, etc., etc.? No! They did not violate any Dogma.
But then what did they do? They "elevated" certain secondary things to the level of Dogmas of the Faith, to conditions for salvation: celibacy, and abstaining from meat. The Church had said that although these two things were good and holy and commendable, they were NOT conditions for salvation. They were NOT dogmas of the Faith. "NO!" said the outraged Eustathians! "Whoever does NOT abstain from marriage and meat, CANNOT be saved!"
What happened after this? During the Council of Gangra, the Church declared them as heretics and pronounced a string of anathemas against them.
Dear Fr. Nicodemos, the uniformity in dates of feasts may be a good and holy thing (even though it was never fully upheld in the Church), but it is NOT a Dogma of the Faith - it is NOT a condition for salvation.
"No!" the Old Calendarist remonstrators cry out! "The disruption of feastday uniformity (Question: When did the Church EVER have absolute uniformity in the dates of feast days?) has deprived the Church of God's Grace, and has rendered Her Sacraments VOID (listen, and shudder!) and that subsequently, the New Calendarists are also exempt of Grace - in other words, exempt of salvation. (!!!)
This hideous declaration, brother Nicodemos, constitutes a monstrous heresy and a blasphemy against the Holy Spirit. Those poor wretches have elevated into Dogmas of the Faith and conditions for salvation certain elements relating to....calendrical and feast days!
Of course, no one regards the existence of two calendars in the space of the worldwide Orthodox Catholic Church as a good thing. The change in the Calendar was unfortunate; very unfortunate. But from that point, up to the point of recognizing calendars as Dogmas of the Faith and hinging the authority of the Sacraments and the attainment of salvation from them, the distance became abysmal. The Old Calendarists could have continued to observe the old calendar, but at least continued to preserve their communion with the Church [like the majority of Mount Athos]. That would not have entailed any danger. Instead, they went as far as severing themselves from the Church, for fear of losing Grace and salvation!!!
I am not ignorant of the fact that there are Old Calendarists who do not accept such blasphemies, but what is the use, if there are others, and in fact leaders, who support those heretical views?
Now listen to a dialogue that I had with a choice young man, who had acceded to the Old Calendarists:
-Why did you depart from the Church of Greece?
-So that I wouldn't be in communion with heretic ecumenists.
-Are all the Bishops of Greece ecumenists?
-No! No! But they are in communion with the ecumenist Patriarch, so I don't want to be in communion with persons who are in communion with heretic ecumenists.
-Do you believe that the calendar is a Dogma of the Faith, and that the New Calendarists are exempt from Grace and are in need of re-Chrismation, like those who have returned from heretics?
-God forbid! I in no way believe that nonsense by the Old Calendarists. I acceded to them, for the sole purpose of avoiding even an indirect communion with heretic ecumenists!
-But in no way did you avoid communion with another heresy, because the assertion by the Old Calendarists (that the change in the calendar deprived the Church of Grace) is not a simple piece of nonsense, as you mentioned previously. It is a grave blasphemy and heresy.
-But I don't believe in those things!
-And yet, you are in communion with people who do believe those things!
-What else can I do? I am forced to tolerate them, for the sake of providence.
-Then why didn't you tolerate, likewise for the sake of oikonomia, those Bishops of Greece who were in communion with the Patriarch?
-Can you see what kind of quandary you were drawn into? You acknowledge that most of the Bishops of Greece are Orthodox, but you refuse every communion with them because they are in communion with the Patriarch. In this way, you are not accepting communion with ecumenists, even indirectly, but you are accepting a direct - a clearly direct - communion with people who preach another kind of heresy: one that claims salvation is dependent on...calendars!!! So, how exactly have you benefited??? But even so, you should not imagine that you have actually avoided indirect communion with ecumenists.
-And how is that?
-Listen, you poor victim of cunning propagandists: the Old Calendarists will yell until their lungs explode, that even common prayers with the Patriarch (and others who are similarly minded to him) will render us alike to them, even if we don't believe what they preach. Well, if they at least remained consistent to this position of theirs....but consistency is not one of their fine points!
Go dear friend to an Old Calendarist Hermitage, especially the one in Lykovrisi outside Athens [St. Irene Chrysovalantou], and you will see whole busloads of New Calendarists disembarking, all arriving there to attend the Liturgy! I have heard that the New Calendarist church-goers on Sundays by far outnumber the Old Calendarists! In fact, the periodical issued by the said Hermitage has occasionally expressed its request to the "pilgrims" who wish to attend services there to come dressed modestly - men, women and children. However, it makes no mention whatsoever that New Calendarists should not attend there at all; No! The only thing it stresses and is satisfied with is the avoidance of improper attire. This achieved, nothing else is examined. This achieved, the New Calendarists are most welcome to common attendance and common prayer!
I also know of many instances of Old Calendarist Priests who have unconditionally accepted New Calendarists into the Sacraments of Confession, and even of Holy Communion. In other words, we have here an offering of the Sacraments to persons who at other moments are characterized by the Old Calendarist leaders as being "far from the truth and salvation", simply because they belong to the Church of Greece, which is in communion with the Patriarch! What a mess, and what an anomaly!
So, if those who are like-minded to you are in common prayer and communion with us, who are in common prayer and communion with the Patriarch, then you are still in indirect communion with the Patriarch! So, what did you gain? You have not avoided indirect communion with ecumenists, and you have also been led into a direct communion with persons who preach another kind of heresy!
These are the things that were said with that young man at the time. I am repeating them, so that you can extrapolate certain conclusions, dear Fr. Nicodemos.
And here are some brief answers to your questions:
1. It was a huge "blunder" on the part of Philaretos, when he recognized the Old Calendarists in Greece. He most probably fell victim to bad counsel. Some information has reached my ears that he has regretted doing what he did, after having met the Old Calendarists in Greece. But time will tell. I believe that there will be developments.
At any rate, in my opinion the Church of Greece is anything but heretical; the decision reached by Philaretos' Synod is not only lacking in authority, but also, inasmuch as it is an entirely anti-canonical intervention in the internal affairs of another co-believing Church, it has triggered canonical responsibilities for the said Synod.
2. If Philaretos had believed that the Church of Greece had fallen into heresy, then he could have intervened. However, it was his duty not to recognize the Old Calendarists (who, although not ecumenists, nevertheless preach another kind of heresy as I mentioned earlier, ie., that salvation is dependent on calendars), but instead, to ordain Priests (or even Bishops) anew, to man the Church of Greece. Those Priests could follow the old calendar, but not preach the aforementioned heretical view, and they would also accept communion with those faithful who followed the new calendar, exactly as Philaretos does.
3. The present situation (common prayers, innovations, etc.) does not justify the "crossing of boundaries". Only a Church that falls into heresy can give the right to "extra-territorial" Bishops to intervene.
4. If an Orthodox Synod condemns someone, it is not permitted for the Synod of any other Local Church to acquit him. If this should happen, the second decision is void. In other words, if a Clergyman of the Church of Greece is condemned by it and he appeals to another Church - for example, the Church of Serbia - and asks to be judged by it, the Church of Serbia will reject his demand, stating that it is entirely unauthorized to respond and that only the Church of Greece has such jurisdiction. However, if the Church of Serbia were to respond to that demand and judge the Clergyman in question, then its decision - for having been issued in spite of Canons - is void in every way and also incurs canonical responsibilities.
If the misdemeanours of that Clergyman do not constitute an impediment to Priesthood and he later repents for them, then the only one who is authorized to reinstate him is again the Church of Greece. It has never been permitted to an Orthodox Church to intervene in the internal affairs of another.
Of course it is an entirely different matter, if one Local Orthodox Church requests assistance from another Local Church or Churches in order to solve an internal problem that it may have. In that case, it is not considered an arbitrary intervention, but rather solidarity support.
Only an Ecumenical Synod - as the supreme Authority - is entitled to intervene in the internal affairs of a Local Orthodox Church and regulate them according to its discernment. For instance, if a Clergyman of a Local Church (in fact its Primate) believes he has been unjustly condemned, it is possible for him to resort to petitions towards other Local Orthodox Churches, and after narrating his undeserved adventure, ask for justice to be rendered. In the event that the other Churches find his complaints valid, they can go as far as convening a Great Synod, whose decision will be binding for everyone. Unilateral intervention by one Local Church into the internal affairs of another one is inadmissible.
But it is understood that all of the above apply to Local Orthodox Churches, and not to heretics.
5. The word "void" - when in reference to Sacraments - at times characterizes the entirely unsubstantial (that is, nonexistent) Sacraments, and elsewhere, the existent ones which however have been performed anti-canonically. This depends on what inference we give to the word "void".
6. A returning "zealot" can, through lenience, become re-accepted, even with a simple Confession before a Spiritual Father. If that zealot is a Clergyman, he must ask his proper Bishop for his reinstatement, through the canonical procedure. Changing posts (going from one Old Calendar group to another) "from time to time" indicates an obvious inconstancy; unfortunately, this is a customary tendency with Old Calendarists.
7. Undoubtedly, one cannot be dedicated to "both the one side and the other" simultaneously. It is an entirely different matter if, by resorting to oikonomia, the one side shows tolerance to the other, in the hope of finally drawing them towards the straight path.
8. If someone is very simpleminded and cannot perceive certain things, but does not persist in his fallacious positions by being opinionated, stubborn etc., and is merely simpleminded, it is quite possible for him to acquire bounteous Grace from God. God's judgments are unfathomable.
There have been cases in which wise persons of the Church had fallen into fallacies; and yet, the God Who examines the heart and not the appearance, did not judge them as undeserving of His favour. The great Gregory, the Bishop of Nyssa, was not without certain dogmatic fallacies. And yet, he is a saint and a Father of the Church. Likewise, the divine Dionysios of Alexandria, when theologizing on the Son, had not expressed himself with dogmatic accuracy, which is why he had, inadvertently, given many footholds to the Arians who thereafter invoked him. Because of this, Athanasius the Great was compelled to write an entire treatise on Saint Dionysios, in order to elucidate his dogmatically pointless expressions.
9. We can of course have congenial relations with "zealots"; but we are not permitted to receive Sacraments from them. However, if they are, as you write, in communion with our Church, then the situation is different. But, honestly, are there "zealots" who are in communion with our Church?
10. Unfortunately, the return to the old calendar is not an easy thing in the Church of Greece. It may even be impossible. But even if it were possible, do not ever imagine that all the Old Calendarists would then submit themselves to the Church. Most of the Old Calendarist Clergymen prefer to be unrestrained and would never acquiesce to be under a yoke and under control. They would find a thousand and one "arguments" to justify their persevering in mutiny. They would say for example that the Bishops are Masons, and the suchlike. I am well acquainted with many Clergymen of the Old Calendarists. One of the leaders of an Old Calendarist group had said to me several years ago: "I dare not impose even ten days of restricted duty to any of my clerics. They will 'go to the others', they tell me..." (he meant to another Old Calendarist group). From this, you can get an idea of what kind of willingness for canonical discipline exists among the Old Calendarist Clergy - with the exclusion of a few exceptions.
11. The positions outlined in the "Epistolary Diatribe" apply only if our Church is Orthodox, and not heretic. To "wish it health" is a very broad statement. We cannot ask for absolute health (canonical, administrative, moral, etc.) of the Church, since it is comprised of imperfect and sinful people. It would be ideal if it could enjoy health in all its aspects, but is that possible? So, as long as it is Orthodox and not heretic, we can consider this as being sufficient. Far be it for me to characterize the Church of Greece as...heretic!!! If others are so comfortable in undertaking such a scary responsibility (that is, to characterize an Orthodox, Local Church as "heretic"), let them do so.
12-13. The Orthodox should undoubtedly NOT pray together or have any other religious ties with heretics (Papists, Protestants, etc. - The same applies in the case of schismatics). But if one were to pray together, or be otherwise in communion with, heretics, they would of course be violators of the Holy Canons and deserving of ecclesiastical penalties; however, they would not be considered as heretics automatically. It is quite possible that in such cases, one can believe in an Orthodox manner, disapprove of all other teachings, and yet, not consider religious contacts with heterodox as something bad. This kind of person is, I repeat, a formidable violator of sacred Canons, but he is NOT a heretic. However, if this is not enough for him, and he also preaches heretic beliefs, then the whole issue is entirely different. This behaviour would render him a heretic. He is a heretic, because he is preaching heretical beliefs - even if he has no communion whatsoever with other heretics.
However, there are two kinds of heretics: Those whom the Church has put on trial and has convicted and excised from Her Body, and those who have neither been convicted as yet by the Church, nor have left the Church of their own volition, but instead have remained in the Body of the Church. One such case is the case of the Patriarch. Patriarch Athenagoras has preached heretical beliefs. But he has not been convicted yet by the Church, nor has he renounced the Church and removed himself from Her. He has remained inside the Church and continues to minister inside the Church and consequently, he is still a channel of Grace; He performs Sacraments.
What can we do?
a) Pray for him to recover and repent.
b) Protest against him and keep struggling. If someone's conscience cannot tolerate the commemoration of his name, he has the right, by proceeding even further, to cease commemorating him, in compliance with Canon 15 of the 1st-2nd Synod. However, this is the furthermost step that he can take, if he does not want to reach the point of schism or mutiny. In other words, when ceasing to commemorate him, he will not commemorate another Bishop; instead, he will wait, as mentioned earlier in my "Epistolary Diatribe", with a calm conscience, for the judgment of a Synod.
Another problem: How will those who cease a commemoration behave towards the Patriarch? Because those who are in communion with the Patriarch are two categories: (a) those that have the same views as him (as do Iakovos of America, Meliton of Chalcedon etc.) and (b) those that disagree with his views (as do almost all the Hierarchs of the Church of Greece). They will behave towards the former (category a) the way they behave towards the Patriarch, but to the others (category b), even if this category is in communion with the Patriarch, they cannot behave similarly; in other words, they cannot go as far as ceasing to commemorate them (category b). According to the sacred Canons, it is not permitted to avoid communion with them. The Holy Canons give the right to cease commemoration, only of a Bishop or Patriarch who preaches heretic teachings. They do not give the right to also cease the commemoration of those who - albeit Orthodox - tolerate him.
This point is to be observed very carefully! We have a duty to discern between the two situations: There is a difference between one who preaches heretical beliefs, and one who believes and teaches in an Orthodox manner but for the sake of dispensation (oikonomia) tolerates and maintains communion with him.
Also, there is a difference between one who preaches heretical beliefs but does not remove himself from the Church (nor is excised by the Church), and one who leaves the Church on his own initiative (and founds his own "church" or accedes to another, heretical or schismatic one), or who has been excised by the Church, pursuant to a trial and conviction. It is with the second kind that every Orthodox must have no communion whatsoever. However, communion with the first kind (until he has been convicted) is left, by the sacred Canons, to the discretion of each Orthodox faithful.
In other words, we have the right, that has been provided by the sacred Canons, to cease a commemoration, but we are not bound to do so. As a consequence, if one were to utilize this right and cease a commemoration, he has the right to do so, and should not be censured by the others. If, upon weighing various factors, another were to deem preferable to not utilize this right, but instead await a "Synodic diagnosis", he will not be reprehensible, let alone be regarded as deserving excommunication! One could apply here, adjusted accordingly, the words by the Apostle Paul: "Let not the one who commemorates debilitate the one who does not commemorate, nor the one who does not commemorate judge the one who commemorates" (Rom.14:3).
Then, you might ask, what do we gain by avoiding commemoration of the Patriarch, if we are going to be in communion with, say, the Bishop of Druinoupolis, who does commemorate the Patriarch? Will we not be thus "polluted", by being in indirect communion with the one who preaches heretic beliefs?
However, the cessation of commemoration "prior to a Synodic diagnosis" and conviction was not intended for averting "pollution" (by the heresy that is being preached)! No, my brother! If that were its meaning, then the Canons would not have merely provided the right to cease a commemoration (for reasons of heresy) "prior to a Synodic diagnosis"; they would have instituted an explicit and clear prohibition, at the risk of very severe penalties if it is not observed.
The cessation of commemoration for reasons of heresy "prior to a Synodic diagnosis" has a different meaning. It is a strong, but also a last resort protest of the Orthodox conscience; it provides an outlet for those who become scandalized, and at the same time aspires to creating a disturbance, so that the Church might hasten to settle the matter.
There is no danger of becoming polluted, either by commemorating the Patriarch (if he has not yet been convicted), or, even more so, if we accept to be in communion with those who commemorate him. Statements to the contrary are nothing more than foolish "zealotisms".
Saint Cyril of Jerusalem was not polluted, even though he had been ordained a Bishop by the Metropolitan Akakios of Caesaria, who, albeit a self-declared Arian (and in fact the leader of a portion of Arians), continued to remain and to minister in the Church. Saint Anatolius had also been ordained a Bishop (and as a matter of fact, Patriarch of Constantinople), by the Patriarch Dioscorus of Alexandria, who was a Monophysite and a mighty protector of the heresy leader Eutyches, but who had not yet been convicted by the Fourth Ecumenical Synod. So, if an ordination by Bishops preaching heretical beliefs (but not convicted Synodically and still remaining in the Church) does not pollute, then neither does the commemoration of them pollute, and even less so does communion with persons who tolerate them for the sake of oikonomia and who continue to uphold the commemoration thereof.
The Old Calendarists, albeit "not comprehending, either those things that are said, or what they are reassuring", assert completely opposite things. (see also the book by Theodoretus Mavros). This being the case, those poor wretches must also be "polluted". Why? Because, as mentioned previously, they too (despite their theoretical proclamations - or, more correctly, in a vociferous and tragic contradiction to them), have in practice accepted communion (through common prayers and the administering of Sacraments) with persons who belong to the Church of Greece, which is in communion with the Patriarch! Hence?????
If they wanted to be consistent, they should not be accepting church attendance by even one single member of the Greek Church (let alone accept them for Confession or Holy Communion), if they haven't previously declared that they have departed from the Church of Greece and have acceded with repentance to their "church". Instead, these groups fearlessly and unhesitatingly attend church together, pray together, and participate together in Sacraments, with entire crowds of "New Calendarists" in their Old Calendarist Temples, and even in their monastic Retreats.
Do all these things sound like moral consistency? Are they morally permissible? Are they canonically acceptable things? Are they, finally, actions of honesty? They may quite possibly say that they are doing this "for the sake of dispensation" (oikonomia). But then why create schisms and divisions and partitions and wounds in the Body of the Church? If, by going to the Old Calendarists, they will be again praying together with those who are in communion with the Patriarch, why not remain in the Church of Greece and tolerate "for the sake of dispensation" the Patriarch and those who are aligned with his beliefs? In this way, they would be "dispensationally" tolerating only one heresy: Ecumenism; but, by going over to the Old Calendarists, they would be tolerating two: Ecumenism (given that Old Calendarists pray together with New Calendarists who are in communion with the Patriarch), and Greek Old Calendarism, which preaches the heresy that calendars and feast-dates are conditions for one's Salvation!
I am specifically saying "Greek Old Calendarism", because I have no intention of condemning the per se old calendar which so many Orthodox Churches observe, but the heretical exaggerations that the Greek Old Calendarists have mindlessly embraced. Apart from the other reasons, this is why I am so afraid and terrified of mutinies and schisms - their lot is unavoidably this: they finally end up supporting positions that are entirely heretical!
These, most beloved Fr.Nicodemos, are the things that I wanted to write to you and your sacred and God-loving Escorts. And I have written to you "out of much grief and a restrained heart" (2 Cor.2:4). The entire state of the Orthodox Church is currently a very grievous one. Perhaps, in the end, certain serious adventures will not be avoided.
Let us be attentive! With humility, with prayer, with fasting, with solemnity, let us ask for enlightenment by the Lord, on how we must tread during the oncoming developments. The Church is faced with double trouble: on the one hand, there is satanically-driven Ecumenism, and on the other hand, there is soul-devastating Fanaticism, which eventually leads to horrific blasphemies and heresies and obscures the truth. Let us be fearful of both and flee from both. We must not deviate to the right or to the left. Let us walk along the middle and "royal" path, which is the path of unadulterated Orthodoxy that knows how to safeguard precision (akrivia) and is also aware of the displays of dispensation (oikonomia).
Rejoice, brother! And I shall again say "rejoice!" Rejoice, in the midst of every grief and every affliction. For Jesus "surrendered Himself for our sins, and was risen for our vindication" (Rom.4:25).
I beg you all to beseech the Lord to have mercy on my wretchedness also, for I am in a diverse struggle. I grieve about everything. "On the outside, battles; on the inside, fears." (2 Cor. 7:5 - interpretation by P.Trembelas).
Always willing for every kind of assistance, and invoking prayers by you all, I remain, with profound love and honour, in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Source: Taken from the book: The Two Extremes - Ecumenism and Zealotism.
First, he threw himself wholeheartedly into understanding the language and culture. When he was found reading non-Japanese books, his Archbishop rebuked him, and he resolved to only read Japanese literature. He got out into the community and listened to Buddhist and Shinto storytellers and preachers. He researched the history of Japan. He knew it better than most Japanese.
Second, he took the long view. He spent eight years researching the Japanese language and culture. His first convert came after four years of study. Taking the long view also means delegation. In 1869 - five years after the first convert! - he handed over his congregation to another missioner. Having established one congregation, he moved to Tokyo to set up another. This pattern of establishing, delegating and moving on marked his ministry.
Third, he understood the people. His first convert was a samurai called Sawabe. Takuma Sawabe was an ultra-nationalist - one of the kinds of people in the black minivans that we would shy away from these days - who regarded the Russian Consulate as symbolic of all of the problems of opening up the country to foreigners. When Sawabe came to the Consulate, sword drawn, ready to kill Nikolai, Nikolai knew to appeal to his samurai nature:
"Why are you angry at me?" Fr. Nicholas asked Sawabe.
"All you foreigners must die. You have come here to spy on our country and even worse, you are harming Japan with your preaching," answered Sawabe.
"But do you know what I preach?" Nicholas replied.
"No, I don't," he answered.
"Then how can you judge, much less condemn something you know nothing about? Is it just to defame something you do not know? First listen to me, and then judge. If what you hear is bad, then throw us out."
Sawabe did listen to him, and was persuaded through his words and through the Holy Spirit working in him. Nikolai knew how to make Sawabe listen. How many of us today can honestly say that we know how to make Japanese people listen to us and our message?
|Fr. Paul Sawabe|
by St. Nikolai Velimirovich
How great a glory in heaven befitted St. Symeon the Receiver of God, who held the Savior of the world in his hands, which the following incident clearly shows as, related in the hagiography of St. Peter the Athonite (June 12).
As a commander during a battle, Peter was enslaved, chained and cast into prison in the town of Samara on the shores of the Euphrates River. Languishing in prison for along time Peter, in tears, prayed to St. Nicholas to beseech God on his behalf to liberate him from prison, promising that he will completely dedicate himself to God. St. Nicholas appeared to him in a dream and told him that although he [St. Nicholas] prays to God on his behalf, God delays his deliverance because he [Peter] earlier made a similar vow to God and did not keep it. And further, St. Nicholas counseled Peter that he ought to pray to St. Symeon the God-Receiver "who is very mighty before God and stands close to the Throne of God together with the All-Holy Virgin and St. John the Forerunner."
Peter heeded the counsel of St. Nicholas and proceeded to pray to St. Symeon. Again St. Nicholas appeared to him, together with St. Symeon, not in a dream but in reality. Peter saw Symeon glorious in appearance, face glowing, and attired in the vestments of an Old Testament priest with a golden staff in his hand. St. Symeon said to Peter: "Do you want to fulfill the vow and become a monk?" To that, Peter replied: "Yes master, with God's help." Symeon then touched Peter's chains with his staff and the chains melted like wax. Opening the doors of the dungeon, the saint led Peter from prison.
Apolytikion in the First Tone
Hail Virgin Theotokos full of Grace, for Christ our God, the Sun of Righteousness, has dawned from you, granting light to those in darkness. And you, O Righteous Elder, rejoice, taking in your arms, the Deliverance of our souls, who grants us Resurrection.
Kontakion in the First Tone
Your birth sanctified a Virgin's womb and properly blessed the hands of Symeon. Having now come and saved us O Christ our God, give peace to Your commonwealth in troubled times and strengthen those in authority, whom You love, as only the loving One.
Parole Hearing Stirs Memories of the Murder of the Santa Cruz Greek Orthodox Church's First Priest
Santa Cruz Sentinel
February 1, 2010
By Jennifer Squires
SANTA CRUZ -- It's been nearly 25 years since Foti Karastamatis found his father bludgeoned and stabbed to death outside the office of The Prophet Elias Greek Orthodox Church in downtown.
Now in his 40s with children of his own and living thousands of miles away, the son of priest John Karastamatis, who was instrumental in establishing the Greek Orthodox community in Santa Cruz, only returns to the Central Coast every four or five years so he can speak at the parole hearing of the parishioner who killed his dad.
He'll make that trip again next week.
Edward Bowman, now 62, pleaded no contest to first-degree murder and is serving a sentence of 25 years to life for the brutal slaying of the 47-year-old priest. His third opportunity for parole is Feb. 8.
The victim's son and other relatives plan to be at the hearing to advocate against Bowman's release.
"I wouldn't miss it for the world," Foti Karastamatis said during a phone interview last week from his home in the Southeast. "I certainly don't think the world's going to be a better place if he's released. I know he has no remorse. ... He's still making up stories as to why he did it."
He built the church
Sentinel articles from the mid-1980s describe Karastamatis as exuberant, ever-smiling and the heart of the local Greek community.
The cleric, born on the Greek island of Andros in 1937, came to Santa Cruz as a visiting priest, back when Prophet Elias Greek Orthodox Church borrowed chapel space at other churches for its services.
"My father put his blood, sweat and tears in. You've got all of that there and more," said Foti Karastamatis. "With the help of some parishioners and myself, he literally built the whole inside of the that church."
In 1982, Prophet Elias moved into an old mortuary at Church and Center streets and Karastamatis was appointed as its presbyter.
Karastamatis recited mass in Greek and English. He gave services in area parks, filling the open air with the sound of Byzantine chants, and welcomed newcomers -- from street people to college students -- into the church, according to Sentinel archives and the publication The Orthodox Word.
A quarter-century after his death at age 47, Karastamatis' memory remains dear to many, and his widow, Anastasia, remains active at Prophet Elias.
"Some would say she's the driving force behind the church," Foti Karastamatis said.
There is an international campaign to keep his killer behind bars.
Karastamatis' two grandsons, who never met their grandfather, have used Facebook to build support. Their group, "Justice for Father John Karastamatis," has drawn more than 1,200 members since it was launched in January and dozens have posted that they sent statements to the Parole Board advocating against Bowman's release.
Assistant District Attorney Jeff Rosell, who will represent the Santa Cruz County District Attorney's Office at the parole hearing, said he's received letters from friends, relatives and police who worked the case.
"I think he's a dangerous person who could easily come out and commit violence and do horrible things to whoever crosses his path," Rosell said.
Bowman and his wife, Anna, were accused of beating the priest with a fish whacker, a club used by fishermen, and stabbing him several times late on May 19, 1985. Then the couple went home and welcomed Karastamatis' son into their house.
"I was at their house 10 minutes after they butchered my father and I didn't even know it," said Foti Karastamatis, who was 17 at the time.
"I was their perfect alibi."
He returned to the church -- where he, his father and mother lived -- to find his father's bloody body in the hallway.
"That was the most horrific crime scene in the history of Santa Cruz, if you ask the officers who were there," Foti Karastamatis said. "That was, literally, the fight of his life."
The murder confounded detectives for months. One later described it as "a real, real murder mystery," according to Sentinel archives.
The priest's son said he suspected the Bowmans early on.
The investigation homed in on the couple in December 1985, and a Santa Cruz police detective went to their River Street home to speak with Anna Bowman, who had been Karastamatis' volunteer secretary. But the case took a bizarre twist when she shot at the officers through the door. During the six-hour standoff -- with nearly every Santa Cruz police officer surrounding the house -- the 43-year-old fatally shot herself, according to Sentinel archives.
From that point, Edward Bowman, a former taxi driver, was the prime suspect. He was arrested in January 1986.
While the district attorney contended Karastamatis was murdered because he interrupted the Bowmans as they burglarized the church, the defense made allegations of sexual misconduct against the priest.
"It was all lies. It was all smoke screens," said Foti Karastamatis, adding that the sensational reports from court hurt his family even more.
Weeks before his trial was set to begin, Bowman pleaded no contest to first-degree murder, sparing him the possibility of being sentenced to death or life without parole.
"Who would have ever thought this would have happened to my father? Who could have ever imagined this?" the priest's son said. "We did everything right for these people. We befriended them and it destroyed a huge part of our family."
Moscow, February 3, Interfax - The Russian Orthodox Church will appoint about 400 priests for service as armed forces chaplains in fulfillment of a directive of the chief of the General Staff late last year that instituted chaplaincy positions in the military, the website of Patriarch Kirill cited the Primate as saying.
There is a plan to set up centers to provide clergy with three-month training for chaplaincy service, the Patriarch told a Bishops' Meeting in Moscow.
The clergy to be sent to the military will include both clerics with experience of service in the armed forces and young priests who are fit to serve in field conditions.
Under a directive by the chief of the General Staff effective from December 1, 2009, the commander of an armed forces unit is to have a civilian aide who is a cleric and ministers to religious servicemen.
Russian military units abroad have become the first to acquire chaplains - 13 priests went to serve there in December.
The command of the North Caucasus Military District had a military clergy department set up in October 2009. Patriarch Kirill asked the bishops of the Southern Federal District to name candidates to fill 30 chaplaincy positions in the district's military units.
The Armed Forces Sociological Center says more than 70% of Russia's military personnel consider themselves religious. About 80% of them identify themselves as Orthodox Christians, about 13% as Muslims, about 3% as Buddhists, and 4% as followers of other faiths. There are 530 churches on the premises of military units.
Russian Church, Pope Agree On Many Contemporary Issues
Moscow, February 2, Interfax - When it comes to fighting today's challenges, the Catholic Church and the Russian Orthodox Church stand side-by-side on a number of issues, said Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia.
"We [together with the Roman Catholic Church] have similar positions on many problems facing Christians in the modern world. They include aggressive secularization, globalization, and the erosion of the traditional moral principles. It should be noted that on these issues Pope Benedict XVI has taken a stance close to the Orthodox one," the Patriarch said at the Bishops' Meeting in Moscow on Tuesday.
There are growing differences with Protestant denominations, he said. Over the recent years, "the Russian Church has seen less protestant communities cooperating in the cause of preserving the Christian legacy" due to "the relentless liberalization of the Protestant world," the Patriarch said.
"Alas, not only have they failed to conduct a real propagation of the Christian values among the secular society, many Protestant communities prefer to adjust to its standards," said Patriarch Kirill, recalling, in particular, the recent election of female bishop Margot Kassmann as head of the Evangelical Church in Germany.
In a dialog with Protestants, the Orthodox Church should search for the very possibility of overcoming fundamental differences, and if that proves impossible, "there remains many other important issues, not directly related with achieving unity in faith and the ecumenical structure, but important in terms of cooperating for the sake of peace, justice, preserving the Divine Creation and in solving other problems that require joint efforts from the people who believe in the Holy Trinity," the Patriarch said.
Moscow, February 2, Interfax – For the recent year, the Moscow Patriarchate has opened 900 new parishes, while total number of clerics has grown to more than 1.5 thousand.
Patriarch Kirill voiced the statistical data on the Russian Orthodox Church on Tuesday at a Bishops’ Meeting in the Cathedral of Christ the Savior.
Today the Russian Church has 30,142 parishes (in December 2008 their number equaled to 29,263), 160 dioceses (compared to 157 last year), 207 bishops (compared to 203), total number of clerics is 32,266 people (compared to 30,670.)
When the 1000th anniversary of Russia’s Baptism was celebrated in 1988, the Moscow Patriarchate had 6893 parishes, 76 dioceses, 74 hierarchs and total number of clerics made 7397 people.
The segments of this guide have included:
I. Science and Religion: Is Evolution “Random and Undirected”?
II. Misrepresenting the Definition of Intelligent Design
III. Confusing Evidence for Common Ancestry With Evidence for Darwinian Evolution
IV. The Name-Dropping Approach to Transitional Fossils
V. Spinning Tales About the Bacterial Flagellum
VI. Misrepresenting Michael Behe’s Arguments for Irreducible Complexity of the Blood Clotting Cascade
VII. Ken Miller and the Evolution of the Immune System: “Not Good Enough”?
Truth or Dare with Dr. Ken Miller: A Lecture Guide to the Anti-Intelligent Design Claims by Dr. Kenneth Miller (Full Text: PDF)
by Casey Luskin
The Darwinian educational establishment doesn’t make it easy for you to become objectively informed on the topic of evolution and intelligent design, but with a little work on your own, it can be done. If you want to base your views on a full and complete understanding of the scientific evidence, you will need to pro-actively research and investigate the pro-ID arguments that many of your faculty may be opposing, misrepresenting, or perhaps even outright censoring. Yes, take courses advocating evolution. But also read material from credible Darwin skeptics to learn about other viewpoints. Only then can you truly make up your mind in an informed fashion.
With a little proactive self-education, critical thinking, and patience, you can keep yourself informed in this debate. Many of the websites listed below contain helpful information and resources about evolution and intelligent design.
I hope this guide is helpful and wish you the best as you explore this exciting and challenging debate.
Tuesday, February 2, 2010
[This is a response to the following piece titled The Real Islam, Ctd which made the following statement: "You could argue, in fact, that Constantine’s adoption of Christianity as a state religion was an original sin from which Christianity has still not recovered." - J.S.]
Constantine And Christianity
February 1st, 2010
by Daniel Larison
The American Conservative
You could argue this, but it would have no basis in fact. This may seem a minor point, but the misunderstanding of Constantine’s relationship to Christianity is a common and very frustrating one. Regardless of what one thinks Constantine’s reasons for becoming first a patron of Christianity and then a convert may have been, it is very important to understand what his patronage and involvement did not entail. First of all, Christianity did not become a state religion under Constantine. Christianity became the emperor’s favored religion, and this meant a diversion of wealth away from pagan cults and towards the Church, but the religion did not achieve a distinct and higher legal status until considerably later.
The establishment of Christianity (and a particular form of Christianity at that) as the official, state religion occurred later closer to the end of the century under Theodosios I, when it first became illegal to engage in public pagan religious practices. Even after this, especially in the eastern empire, secular law and ecclesiastical canons remained largely distinct and separate until fairly late in Byzantine history, and the involvement of the emperor in the Church was mostly limited to adjudicating intra-Christian doctrinal disputes. Non-Christians and heretics were under legal disadvantages because of their beliefs, but in most cases they were left in peace.
What more than a few historians and theologians have dubbed Constantinianism had nothing to do with Constantine. For that matter, it had very little to do with Byzantium later on. Like the equally mythical concept of Caesaropapism, the picture of a church intertwined with and directed by the imperial government is the product of modern historiography reacting against church-state relations that prevailed in the Reformation and Counter-Reformation. The phenomenon of state churches in which the secular power ruled over the church directly began with Henry VIII and repeated itself throughout northern Europe. This particular fusion of politics and religion was a decidedly modern phenomenon, and had little to do with ancient or medieval practices in Byzantium.
In the Orthodox Christian ceremony for "A Woman on the Fortieth Day", the mother, having been cleansed and washed, stands at the church entrance with her infant. On this fortieth day of life the infant, whether it be a firstborn or not [Ex. 13:2], is brought to the temple to be churched, that is, to make a beginning of being taken into the Church. A prayer is made on behalf of the mother too that her bodily defilement and the stains of her soul be washed away, and that she be made worthy of the Communion of the holy body and blood of Christ.
According to the Law of Moses in the Old Testament, the loss of blood (for women) or seed (for men) required ritual purification since it was looked upon as a diminution of the life principle and involved exclusion from Israel's religious life prior to purification. According to the law: "...the life of flesh is in its blood..." [Lev. 17:11; Deut. 12:23]; thus the uncleanness came from neither conception nor childbirth. It was in delivery that the mother's vitality (linked with her blood) was diminished. Hence, she was "separated" from the Lord, the Source of Life, until her integrity was restored by purification.
The flux, being a natural process instituted by God, and having been permitted to occur thus after the transgression, is neither a sin nor an uncleanness; "for these things are not truly sin nor uncleanness", according to Saint John Chrysostom (+ 407). The Apostolic Constitutions (Bk. IV, Ch. 26) assert that childbirth cannot pollute a woman's nature or separate her from the Holy Spirit; but only impiety and an unlawful act can do so. If actions that occur naturally and without exercise of human will are unclean, how much more unclean are sins, which we do with the exercise of our will? If God has pronounced these fluxes as "unclean", it was done in order to prevent the husband from having sexual relations with the new mother as a means to protect her in this time of weakness and possible embarrassment. This promotes the modesty of men and the honor of women, according to Isidore; and awe of the law of nature, according to Philo. Both the ancients and medical science today know that children conceived during the time of flux are often weaker in nature. So, for all these reasons, reverence and fear were instilled not only into women, but much more into the impetuous vehemence of the natural instinct of men.
More important, these laws reminded the Israelites that sex was not part of their worship, for men could not worship until they cleansed themselves. All this was done so that they might be set apart from the other ancient cultures and their idolatrous neighbors, for whom fertility rites and temple prostitutes formed an important part of worship.
(Holy Apostles Convent, The Great Synaxaristes of the Orthodox Church, pp. 72-73.)
The original Greek of Luke 2:22 reads:
"Kαι οτε επλησθησαν αι ημεραι του καθαρισμου αυτων κατα τον νομον μωυσεως ανηγαγον αυτον εις ιεροσολυμα παραστησαι τω κυριω...."
The King James Version translates this verse as follows:
"And when the days of her purification according to the law of Moses were accomplished, they brought him to Jerusalem, to present him to the Lord;..."
We see here that the KJV erroneously translates this verse to read "days of her purification". However, a puristic translation of the text would be translated as "days of their purification".
It is well known that the KJV makes these "errors" often whenever references to doctrines about Mary are conveyed in the Gospels, but this is one of those verses that if mistranslated has tremendous implications; the Theotokos has no need of purification. Rather this passage refers to the Jews and what the Law of Moses prescribed for them.
The Venerable Bede commenting on this passage writes:
"The firstborn of all the male sex was to be called holy to the Lord (Lev. 12:1-6). The Virgin did not receive seed, but even as our Lord willed to be under the Law, so that He might redeem us (Gal. 4:4-5), so too did the blessed Mother, who by a singular privilege was above the Law; nevertheless, she did not shun being made subject to the principles of the Law for the sake of showing us an example of humility" (Homily on the Feast of the Purification).
A feast and litany procession in honor of Jesus' Presentation in the Temple was celebrated by Jerusalem Christians at least as early as the late 4th century. It took place 40 days after the feast of the Lord's birth since the Jewish law required a mother to undergo a rite of purification 40 days following childbirth. In Luke's account of the Presentation, Simeon is recorded as proclaiming Jesus "a light of revelation to the Gentiles." And so at the beginning of the eighth century, Pope Sergius inaugurated a candlelight procession on this day; several years later the blessing and distribution of candles was added to the celebration. Hence this day came to be known as Candlemas. From the sermon below, delivered in the 7th century, it seems the tradition of holding candles on this feast may be earlier than thought and may have originated in the East.
By St. Sophronius of Jerusalem
Our lighted candles are a sign of the divine splendor of the one who comes to expel the dark shadows of evil and to make the whole universe radiant with the brilliance of his eternal light. Our candles also show how bright our souls should be when we go to meet Christ.
The Mother of God, the most pure Virgin, carried the true light in her arms and brought him to those who lay in darkness. We too should carry a light for all to see and reflect the radiance of the true light as we hasten to meet him.
The light has come and has shone upon a world enveloped in shadows; the Dayspring from on high has visited us and given light to those who lived in darkness. This, then, is our feast, and we join in procession with lighted candles to reveal the light that has shone upon us and the glory that is yet to come to us through him. So let us hasten all together to meet our God.
The true light has come, the light that enlightens every man who is born into this world. Let all of us, my brethren, be enlightened and made radiant by this light. Let all of us share in its splendor, and be so filled with it that no one remains in the darkness. Let us be shining ourselves as we go together to meet and to receive with the aged Simeon the light whose brilliance is eternal.
Rejoicing with Symeon, let us sing a hymn of thanksgiving to God, the Father of the light, who sent the true light to dispel the darkness and to give us all a share in his splendor.
Through Symeon’s eyes we too have seen the salvation of God which he prepared for all the nations and revealed as the glory of the new Israel, which is ourselves. As Simeon was released from the bonds of this life when he had seen Christ, so we too were at once freed from our old state of sinfulness.
By faith we, too embraced, Christ, the salvation of God the Father, as he came to us from Bethlehem. Gentiles before, we have now become the people of God. Our eyes have seen God incarnate, and because we have seen him present among us and have mentally received him into our arms, we are called the new Israel.
Never shall we forget this presence; every year we keep a feast in his honor.
("Orat. 3 de Hypapante" 6.7: PG 87, 3, 3291-3293)
by St. Nikolai Velimirovich
Speaking about the spread and celebration of Christmas, St. John Chrysostom says: "Magnificent and noble trees when planted in the ground shortly attain great heights and become heavily laden with fruit; so it is with this day." So it is with the day of the Meeting of our Lord in the Temple.
In the beginning this day was discussed among Christians but the solemn celebration began from the period of the great Emperor Justinian. During the reign of this emperor, a great pestilence afflicted the people in Constantinople and vicinity so that about five-thousand or more people died daily. At the same time a terrible earthquake occurred in Antioch. Seeing the weakness of man's ability to prevent these misfortunes the emperor, in consultation with the patriarch, ordered a period of fasting and prayer throughout the entire empire. And, on the day of the Meeting [The Presentation] itself, arranged great processions throughout the towns and villages that the Lord might show compassion on His people. And truly, the Lord did show compassion; for the epidemic and earthquake ceased at once.
This occurred in the year 544 A.D. Following this and from that time on, the Feast of the Presentation [Meeting] began to be celebrated as a major feast of the Lord. The tree, in time, grew and began to bring forth-abundant fruit.
Apolytikion in the First Tone
Hail Virgin Theotokos full of Grace, for Christ our God, the Sun of Righteousness, has dawned from you, granting light to those in darkness. And you, O Righteous Elder, rejoice, taking in your arms, the Deliverance of our souls, who grants us Resurrection.
Kontakion in the First Tone
Your birth sanctified a Virgin's womb and properly blessed the hands of Symeon. Having now come and saved us O Christ our God, give peace to Your commonwealth in troubled times and strengthen those in authority, whom You love, as only the loving One.
"It is impossible to recall peace without dissolving the cause of the schism — the primacy of the Pope exalting himself equal to God." - St. Mark of Ephesus
This is a Serbian icon of St Mark of Ephesus trampling the Pope. Much thanks to Aaron Taylor at Logismoi for making me aware of this icon, which may seem extreme to some and humorous to others. I take the latter view of it. The scroll of St. Mark reads: "Flee from a papist as you would from a snake."
1. Introductory Remarks
Following the totally unexpected escalation in provocations from the Vatican, under BENEDICT XVI, towards other Christians (especially the Orthodox, as we shall see below!), it is as plain as the sun that we are unfortunately entering a period of complete uncertainty, to mention nothing of strange ‘obscurity’.
The medieval audacity of ‘Papism’, which we all believed was a thing of the past – in spite of the highly controversial dogmatism of the ‘doctrine of papal infallibility’ at Vatican Council I (1870) – is making a surprising return, and indeed in a manner that is completely incompatible with the deeper cultivation of persons, and the sincere efforts towards ‘purification’ which the Western Christian world in general has presented during the past two centuries.
Therefore, given the general tendency of the ‘Ecumenical Movement’ on the one hand towards revitalization and reconstitution, coupled with the official decision of the Roman Church expressed through Vatican Council II concerning a substantial purification of ‘institutions’, ‘functions’ and ‘persons’ on the basis of the genuine sources of the common first Christian millennium, the terrible impression may be given that all these things are not only doubted, but in fact ridiculed.
We should then say bluntly: that it appears that the approach of the hard-line cardinals of the Roman Curia has prevailed, which establishes ‘Papism’ (not as the ‘Primacy of one Bishop’, but as an unbearably totalitarian ‘ideology’) as the truly INSURMOUNTABLE OBSTACLE, firstly for the ‘reunification’ of divided Christians, but also simply for peaceful ‘unity’ among themselves. Not to mention with non-Christians and ‘atheists’.
For this reason we are obliged today to make several brief comments and observations in simplified language (as much as this is possible, for the benefit mainly of the everyday Christians of East and West), in relation to the very recent revival of Papal Primacy and Infallibility, under the most unexpected circumstances, and at the expense of Christianity as a whole.
The observations presented here become even more urgent in order to prevent possibly greater problems between the Christian Churches and Denominations, but also in terms of the Churches’ imperative creative relations with the rest of the world, which finds itself before enormous impasses, and for which Christianity still claims to ‘maintain’ unchanged the only saving truth of Revelation for all.
2. Brief overview of the historical evolution of Papism in the Church
Whoever has happened to study Church history seriously, i.e. without prejudices, would no doubt have observed (sometimes with astonishment, but on most occasions with justifiable indignation) an almost incredible fact: Before the Roman Emperors’ frightful persecutions of Christians had ceased on an institutional level (312-313AD), their Bishops – who were considered to be the immediate Successors of the Apostles – began to show signs of an unhealthy ‘ambition’ which was incompatible with the teaching of Christ.
What was initially a reserved rivalry between them for ‘Primacy’, ‘Seniority’ and ‘Presidency’, very soon developed almost into a war of ‘fratricide’, when Christianity became under Constantine the Great the ‘legal’, and later the ‘official’ religion of the State.
The insatiable thirst of the Bishops was for Primacy and Seniority, in cases where their ‘Sees’ were in large cities and therefore acquired secular prestige and glory. First in this regard, and without compare for a considerable time, was Rome.
Just as the pagan Roman Emperor of the day was called Augustus (‘worthy of respect’, an epithet of the gods!), and Ancient Rome was characterized as Roma aeterna (‘the eternal city’!), so it happened that the Bishop of Rome did not delay to gradually claim, first for his local Church and then for his person, analogously impious titles, and indeed to a superlative degree.
The Vicarius Christi (‘representative of Christ’) we could say was the approximate translation, in Christian vocabulary, of Pontifex Maximus (‘Supreme Bridge-Maker’).
There is perhaps no other issue which has occupied so intensely and continually the Synods of the ancient Church (whether Regional or Ecumenical) during the common first millennium as the order of ‘Seniority’ between the Episcopal Thrones, especially of ‘Rome’ and ‘New Rome’ (Constantinople), before the formation of the well-known Pentarchy of Patriarchs (of Rome, Constantinople, Alexandria, Antioch and Jerusalem).
However it must be stated that the problem is not as simple as it may at first appear to be. It did not only arise out of the practical need for the ‘First among Equals’ (Primus inter pares) to preside, according to the spirit of the 34th Apostolic Canon. There also intervened difficult historical circumstances, according to which the ‘more practical solution’ was a great temptation, with the price in terms of ‘ethical deontology’ being not only heavy, but utterly devastating.
Yet if the 34th Canon, which is relatively old and very ‘Apostolic’ in spirit (although its date is not in fact from the time of the Apostles!), was respected, it is certain that historical Christianity as a whole would have avoided many perils.
An equal number of perils, if not more, would have been avoided also by the non-Christian populations which, for centuries now, have undergone the colonial callousness and invasive exploitation by so-called Christian leaders of the West, accompanied and assisted by so-called missionaries who equally saw material aspirations and interests (look at the peoples of what we call the ‘Third World’ today!).
The concise text of the 34th Apostolic Canon must be quoted here in full, so as to make clear to all the unimaginable ‘renewal of the world’ (!) that might have been achieved over the centuries, had this golden Canon been fundamentally applied by those considered to be ’spiritual’ Fathers and Leaders of Christianity.
This astonishing text is as follows:
“It behooves the Bishops of every nation to know the one among them who is the premier or chief, and to recognize them as their head, and to refrain from doing anything superfluous without his advice and approval; but, instead, each of them should do only whatever is necessitated by his own eparchy and by the territories under him. But let not even such a one do anything without the advice and consent and approval of all. For thus there will be concord, and God will be glorified through the Lord in the Holy Spirit, the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit.”
(“The Rudder”, by Priest-Monk Agapios and Monk Nicodemus, translated by D. Cummins, Chicago, 1957)
Already from a first glance, the careful reader of this Canon can see where its theological weight is to be found. The ‘mutuality’ of honour and confidence which is established as an inviolable ‘condition of peace’ in the Church, also safeguards a much higher good. This is the true doxology or glorification of the Trinitarian God, which can only be achieved through ‘concord’ among the Bishops.
In this way, we have vividly before us an Ecclesiology.
Following the mystagogical vision of the “primordial Mystery of the Church”, as described with astonishing theological consistency in the 34th Apostolic Canon, it would be a terribly backward step and vain endeavour to comment here on the ‘pseudo-Clementine’ and ‘pseudo-Isidorian’ textual claims concerning primacy, which have long ago been refuted by objective historians and theologians.
These and other manipulations or casuistic interpretations were employed by Rome on more than a few occasions, so as to ‘support’ the ‘primacy’ of the Apostle Peter initially, and of the Bishop of Rome subsequently, who was considered to be the only Successor of Peter.
An exhaustive and systematic negation of what was dared by the Papists of the West was presented in our doctoral thesis (The Infallibility of the Church in Orthodox Theology, Athens, 1965), the English translation of which shall, God willing, soon be published.
We will therefore restrict ourselves to presenting concisely, and directly to the current Pope Benedict XVI, just a few fundamental questions.
These questions should – in spite of his high office – be answered by the Pope himself, as they concern him directly. At any rate, in the dialogue between Christians, and especially Bishops, avoidances are impermissible, in accordance with Christ’s command to say either ‘yes’ or ‘no’.
We consider it just for Benedict XVI to answer personally the questions we present below, for two main reasons:
Firstly, because they bear directly upon the whole of Christianity, as a single body in world history.
Secondly, because a host of the current Pope’s earlier writings, as Professor Ratzinger, had contributed greatly to the intended ‘renewal’ and ‘purification’ of the Western Church, through the Second Vatican Council.
Can he who made his mark as the Theologian Joseph Ratzinger deny that the function of the ‘First’ in the Church – regardless of whether it refers to the Apostle Peter, or to any other of the sacred group of ‘The Twelve’, or even to the Bishops who are their Successors – had from the outset an absolutely soteriological character, with the corresponding and consequent administrative implications upon the entire ecclesiastical life of the ‘Church militant’ in each local area?
Is it possible for the soteriological character of the ‘First’, in general, to be ‘bound’ and indeed ‘predetermined’ by a particular geographic region or city?
If the continually changing underlying historical and geographical conditions, which sometimes lead to decay or disuse, were of such decisive significance for SALVATION, would not the Primacy of Jerusalem have from the very beginning prevailed upon world Christianity, since this is where the saving drama of the divine economy had unfolded historically and geographically, with Christ at the very centre?
Yet in such a case, how are we to understand the radically contrary statements of Christ to the Samaritan woman at the well of Jacob? What is the meaning of those striking messages: “neither on this mountain, nor in Jerusalem” (John 4:21)?
From when was it possible, and with which theological arguments, for Rome to be ‘differentiated’ so radically from the common teaching of the Christian Church of both East and West, concerning ‘Apostolic Succession’ (succesio Apostolica), making the succession of the Bishop of Rome such a weighty matter? Would it ever be possible to seriously claim that the local Bishop is the successor of only one specific Apostle (eg. Peter by the Bishop of Rome, Mark by the Bishop of Alexandria, Andrew by the Bishop of New Rome, and so on)?
If this was the meaning of Apostolic Succession, would it not follow that the number of Bishops throughout the entire Church would never be more than 12 in number? And then should not Rome, as a result, be speaking specifically about successio Petrina, rather than insisting on the more comprehensive term Apostolica?
On the contrary, the correct conviction and teaching of Scripture and Tradition concerning succession is that all Bishops succeed the eschatologically significant Group of Twelve, and this is why the Church always essentially included in the meaning of Apostolic Succession not only the Bishops, but also the Presbyters, as differing very little from them in terms of the ‘saving’ mission of the Church.
Can the current Pope state responsibly as a theologian that the Bishops of the Roman Catholic Church – who as all know are appointed directly by the Bishop of Rome without being elected by the Synod of their local Church – are to be considered as equal in authority to the Orthodox Bishops ‘elected’ by a canonical Synod?
Does the holy Father recall that, as the official Theological Dialogue’s Co-Chair on behalf of the Orthodox delegation for 20 years, I had personally protested to him because the Vatican had still not restored its Bishops in general to their most sacred office, just as the undivided Church [of the first millennium] knew it, and that the Orthodox justly demand it so that we may consider the election of Roman Catholic Bishops ‘valid’? Is it not then highly ‘lenient’ and ‘tolerant’ on the part of Orthodox Bishops that we still – while officially dialoguing with Roman Catholic Bishops – silently accept them as our ‘counterparts’?
If the non-acceptance by Orthodox of the ‘primacy’ and ‘infallibility’ of the Bishop of Rome constitutes for Pope Benedict XVI a “deficit of Orthodoxy”, in order to be considered by Rome a complete and true Church, then what was the point of the axiomatic common statement concerning the official Theological Dialogue, that it is being conducted “on equal terms”?
The characterization of the Church militant as a “perfect society” (societas perfecta), which became prevalent among Roman Catholics through the influence of Augustine (civitas Dei) was justly and most correctly replaced in the texts of the Second Vatican Council by the terms “People of God” (populus Dei), to express as a journey of pilgrimage (peregrinatio) the dynamic and evolving character of all categories of faithful (Clergy, Monks, Lay) in the present world. No theologian who has studied the Second Vatican Council can ignore that the Professor of Dogmatic Theology Joseph Ratzinger had also contributed in no small measure to the formulation of the mentioned renewed texts.
How is it that today the same Dogmatic Theologian, now as Pope, proclaims indirectly the reviled theory of societas perfecta which, even if unwittingly, competes with the most secular forms of narcissism in modern globalization?
In closing with the symbolic number of seven (7) questions arising from today’s ‘isolation’ of Pope benedict XVI (both from his deeper self, as well as from his most sincere friends and admirers which he had acquired by his tranquil and ever-modest presence), we would wish to know the position the theologizing Pope takes at this time on two of his better known works, which also showed the broadest horizons that the name Ratzinger represented for many decades.
We refer to the following enthusiastic and enthusing studies:
The Influence of the Order of Beggars in the Middle Ages upon the Development of the Worldwide Primacy of the Pope (Munich, 1957). Therein it is admitted that, in spite of the invoked spirituality of the ascetic Bonaventura, artificial means were employed to achieve the purely strategic goal of Rome.
In Christian Brotherhood, which was originally delivered as a lecture in Vienna in 1958 and soon became the first book of the young Professor Ratzinger (which was also translated into Greek with a special prologue written by the author), it is emphasized that, in contrast to the various modern groupings which constitute ‘closed societies’, i.e. ‘exclusive’ clubs, Christian Brotherhood remains ‘open’ so as to include all.
Today, unfortunately, it sounds like a tragic irony to hear the praise offered by the Archdiocese of Freiburg, on the occasion of the new edition of that book, and in particular the assertion that “according precisely to this spirit the current Pope still acts and wishes to be understood”!
If only that were the case; nothing indicates that it is.
Source: July and August 2007 issues of the newspaper "VOICE OF ORTHODOXY"
The Ottoman empire was home to many nationalities and religions - a cultural mosaic that was splintered by nationalism and war in the 20th Century. But a new spirit of tolerance may be emerging in modern Turkey, albeit slowly and unsteadily, reports Thomas de Waal.
For almost 90 years, the monastery of Soumela, situated at eagle-height in a gorge in eastern Turkey, has been an echoing ruin.
Worship ended here in 1923 when modern Greece and Turkey exchanged their Christian and Muslim populations and the local Christian Greeks from this region left en masse.
But in the last decade, Greek pilgrims, calling themselves tourists, have started coming back here on the old feast-day of the Virgin Mary.
Last August I was at the monastery, officially a state museum, as a Greek Orthodox service sounded out again outside its walls — but it lasted just 30 seconds.
A black-cassocked monk began to sing the liturgy in deep tones before a Turkish museum curator broke up the service. A fight threatened to break out. The gathering broke up in recriminations and grandstanding speeches.
One step forward, one step back. The story of the-service-that-wasn't at Soumela is a suitably Byzantine tale that takes in Turks, Greeks and Russians and plenty of different factions amongst them.
The background to it is that the government of the moderately Islamic AK Party is challenging tenets of the modern secular Turkish state and reviving memories of the multi-ethnic Ottoman era.
The new foreign policy of "zero problems with neighbours" is building bridges with old enemies, including Armenians and Greeks and that has been welcome for curious Black Sea Greeks who want to revisit the old homeland which they call the Pontus.
Musicians have led the way. Both the Black Sea Turks and the Pontic Greeks play an instrument they call the kemenje or lyra and in English you might call a lyre.
It is small, light and three-stringed, made of cherry-wood, played with a bow and held against the knee. Its visceral music sets the rhythm for the round dances that both Greeks and Turks seem to know instinctively.
Two musicians in particular, the Greek anthropologist and lyre-player Nikos Mikhailides and Adem Erdem, a local Turkish player, have blazed a trail.
The album they recorded together in the Pontic Greek dialect has become a smash hit with Pontic Greeks from Thessaloniki to Tashkent. Although not on sale in Turkey, it has been a hit too in Trabzon in thousands of pirate copies.
One of the secrets of this part of Turkey is that tens of thousands of local Muslims, whose ancestors were once Christian, still speak and understand this archaic version of the Greek language.
Trabzon is more famous to English ears as Trebizond, the city of Rose Macaulay's novel The Towers of Trebizond.
Nowadays Macaulay's magical city is a functional Turkish Black Sea port. But last August its past stirred into life again. The day before the feast-day of 15 August, half the valley seemed to be talking Greek.
At a Turkish wedding feast we watched a middle-aged blonde woman with a string of pearls round her neck step smoothly into the dance. It turned out she was a professor of law at Athens University. We were the strangers here, not her.
The next morning we ascended the valley to Soumela.
It was a heady Alpine summer's day. From a distance it could be a Tibetan monastery, a yellowing beehive high above the gorge. Hundreds of people toiled up the path.
The atmosphere was both excited and tense, with watchful Turkish policemen at every corner. Outside the monastery gate, a Greek lyre-player with a fine set of pointed moustaches was whipping a crowd of dancers into a festive frenzy.
The beaming Sotiria Liliopoulos had come from Earlwood, New South Wales - her father, now aged 98, was born in Maçka and came here as a child. In an accent veering from Greek to Australian, Sotiria said, "This is the happiest day of my life."
But politics was humming in the background.
A wealthy member of the Russian parliament of Greek descent named Ivan Savvidi, who is making a pitch to be the leader of the Pontic Greek community, had chartered a ferry to ship Russian Greeks here across the Black Sea.
The nationalist local authorities in Trabzon were nervous of his intentions. When Savvidi's Russian party made it to the top of the path, they were an incongruous mix - there were attractive young women in yellow T-shirts and baseball caps with Byzantine eagles on them, and a bearded man dressed in white shirtsleeves and shades (a priest ordered to remove his cassock) carrying a large icon, which Greeks stopped to venerate and kiss.
The politician himself waved to the crowd and persuaded a Greek priest to start a service.
The priest began to sing, but the Turkish museum curator had orders to stop any religious ceremony on her territory. She pushed out of her ticket booth into the crowd, shouting in Turkish, and tried to wrest a lighted candle out of Savvidi's hands.
Greek and Turkish television cameras whirred. The divides between the Greeks came to the surface. Some of them, the radicals, started a provocative rendition of the Greek national anthem. Others shushed them.
There seemed to be only two winners here, the Turkish curator and the Russian MP, both of whom had played heroes to the cameras.
Standing on a wall, Savvidi told the Greek crowd that the Turks had offended civilisation and he would complain in Brussels.
He said that he had informed the Russian foreign ministry of his plans, but failed to mention if he had permission from the Turkish government.
As Savvidi spoke, other Greeks - ones who have spent years quietly building bridges with the locals - were drifting away, angry at the way the feast day was being taken from them.
At the bottom of the valley, my mood lifted again. The lyra-musicians were performing and a couple were dancing in extravagant rhythms. The crowd clapped and whooped.
Music is irrepressible and it draws people together, even when the politicians cannot manage it.
Tom de Waal presented Songs of Trebizond on BBC Radio 3 on Sunday, 31 January. He is a specialist on the Caucasus with the Carnegie Endowment in Washington. Photos by staff photographer at Swarthmore College, Pennsylvania, USA.