By Elder Ephraim of Arizona
(transcribed and translated from an audio lecture)
(transcribed and translated from an audio lecture)
Years ago there was a spiritual father who was Cypriot that was a very good man. Initially he was at Stavrovouni, a monastery in Cyprus, when he was younger, but still a hieromonk. When he was at this monastery, he himself told me, a certain Athonite zealot father who followed the Old Calendar fled there. By "zealot" I mean a fanatical Old Calendarist, who condemn the Church as heretical and schismatic.
His name was Father John. I knew him. He had fled from Mount Athos, from the Skete of Saint Anna, and he went to Cyprus. There in Cyprus he tried to create an Old Calendarist branch and then went to Stavrovouni Monastery, as the hieromonk himself told me, and he began to speak on behalf of the Old Calendar to the fathers of the monastery there. He also spoke with this hieromonk, that the liturgies he was doing were not liturgies, and the mysteries he was doing were not mysteries, that they do not have grace, blessing, and so on.
This hieromonk therefore began to swing back and forth in his thoughts, saying: "I wonder if this man is right in what he says? I wonder, if perhaps I am not doing a liturgy and mystery, but just a theatrical function within the liturgy for the people to see?" With these things in his thoughts, one day he began to do the Divine Liturgy.
Well, the Divine Liturgy proceeded, he blessed the Holy Gifts, and when the time came he kneeled to do the elevation of the Holy Bread and said: "Let us be attentive. The Holy for the holy ones." He then saw on the diskos that the bread had become flesh, it became meat red, and his conscience began to rebuke him, saying: "Due to the unbelief of your thoughts, because you doubted this and that, God has now allowed the bread to become flesh, to become meat, and now how will you commune, and how will you commune the monks, all this being done due to your sinful thoughts?" and these things made him weep. Then he knelt where he was and he began to weep again, unable to look at the diskos of meat.
"My father," he told me, "it was meat like this thigh, which has no fat, and red. And as I was weeping and supplicating and beseeching God to change the situation, that it would once again become bread, and that He would forgive me of my unbelief in the Mystery, suddenly the ecclesiarch came and said to me, 'Father, did something happen to you, should I help you?' 'No my child, go away, it was my sins, I am weeping for my sins, so go away, I don't need you.' So I beseeched once more, and having cried much, I slowly lifted my eyes to look on the Holy Altar, and I looked at the diskos, and there was no more meat, but bread, which had become white like the prosphoron! I got up, cut it in pieces, communed with joy and thanksgiving, and calmed down knowing that my liturgy was correct in the Holy Spirit, and that what the zealot father, the fanatic, said was not correct, saying that we New Calendarists do not have sacramental grace and are outside Grace and outside the Church, and that we are damned."
This is what happened. Let me tell you another. Last year, if I remember right, I was at the monastery at Portaria, and just as we are here now, so also I was with the nuns speaking. As I was speaking to them, the telephone rang. I picked it up, and it was a spiritual child of mine, a woman from Crete, a graceful woman, who was very virtuous and very loyal to me, and she was in Volos at one point where she would attend the Divine Liturgy and commune, and then because of her husband's work they moved to Kozani, from where she had now called me with a feeling of uneasiness.
"Elder, I want to tell you about something, and I am very distressed. What is this that is happening to me? It is my sins that contributed to me feeling like this."
"What, my child? What happened, Eutychoula?" I asked.
"My Father," she said, "when I was at the monastery there, I communed, and as I communed a piece of the Holy Bread became meat in my mouth and I was unable to chew it; it was raw meat, so I swallowed it. And a crazy fragrance came from my mouth. I came here to Kozani and I communed again with the New Calendar at the Cathedral (here at our monastery we followed the Old Calendar), and the portion again became meat and there was such a fragrance, that for a week I did not take (...), so that I would not lose the fragrance of the Holy Communion, that I had, that I felt. Why? Is this taking place because I have so many sins?"
I said to her: "It's not that, my child, but it happened because God loves you and He showed you this mystery, that you may strongly believe that we Orthodox Christians believe the Holy Bread and Wine become, through the blessing of the Church, with the prayers of the Church, with the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, that they are changed into flesh and blood and we commune of our God with flesh and blood, and we become one with Christ, sanctifying our flesh and spirit."
"Oh, so that is the case," she said.
"Yes, my child, that is the case."
When I was in Sinai in 1972, at Saint Katherine's Monastery, as we were sitting there, we said that we would liturgize the next day, for the faithful to commune, and since I was in Sinai for the first time, at Saint Katherine's, I thought it would be a blessed work to liturgize, since we had her Holy Relic there. The others went to the peak of the mountain, but I prepared for the Divine Liturgy. I liturgized, it was very beautiful, the Holy Relics came out and were greeted by the Christians, and the place was fragrant with Saint Katherine. The night before, as we were discussing Divine Communion, such as who would receive, and we discussed the Old Calendar, whether the New Calendar had grace, and so on. A certain lady quickly got up, who had as a spiritual father Fr. Angelo Nisiotis, if you know him, who is a very spiritual man. So this woman had him as a spiritual father, and wanting to support the truth, she said:
"Once, Father, we were about to do a Divine Liturgy, and the Elder had us in the habit, wherever we went, he told us to be ready to commune. We went somewhere for an excursion, and in a certain chapel did a Divine Liturgy. When our spiritual father came out of the Beautiful Gate with the Holy Chalice, he said, 'My children, what can I commune you with? See what happened here!' And he showed us, Father, and I saw with my own eyes, in the Holy Chalice there was meat and blood. 'I can't commune you,' he said. 'I will only commune you with the Holy Blood.' And he only gave us the Holy Blood, because he said he could not give us the flesh."
How he divided into pieces, what prayers he did to change it back into bread and divided it up, he and God alone know. But the woman who saw this with her eyes, told us this herself. And how many other testimonies do we have from the Holy Fathers.
I want to say that without people of the Old Calendar knowing, although it is the Orthodox and most correct calendar and most blessed, however, because over time people were not catechized well in things and the truth, when they were returning to the Old Calendar because they said the calendar should be kept with exactitude, and as a rebuke to the Church of Greece, they arrived at the point where they made it a dogmatic and ecclesiastical offense. So when they heard it was a dogmatic error in the Church, they shrunk back and began to look at the matter differently. But it is not a dogmatic issue, but an ecclesiastical matter that simply deals with the calendar.
Now we are in a situation, especially in Greece, where we have two, three, four Synods of Old Calendar Bishops, where one Synod is different from another. And each Synod has its own Archbishop. Think about it, within one Athens, where there should be one Archbishop, there are five or six Archbishops.
Well, all these things mean that we are not going well, that the matter was not initiated right. The Bishops who initiated the Old Calendar movement, of course they were correct, and even the Bishop of Florina was a holy man and very educated. It is said that on his death-bed, he sighed and said: "Lord, do not plant this sin." What he meant was that by starting and initiating the Old Calendar movement, they saw that they strayed from the right path, making the calendar into a dogma (...), yet now it can't be stopped. And when the Bishop of Dimitriados, and two others, Christophoros and Polykarpos (...), both of them were young Bishops who returned to the New Calendar, because they understood they were wrong to break away from it. When the leadership realized the people were also separating themselves, they united again with the Church in order that there may not be an Old Calendar issue and create a schism. So they left the Old Calendar, they returned to the New Calendar, and only the Bishop of Florina was left as the last one. So they told him: "Make a Bishop, make a Bishop." He replied: "No, no, no." His intention was to die so the whole matter would vanish. And he died without leaving a successor, which left the Old Calendarists without a Bishop, without a head, falling somewhat into a heresy, although it is not a heresy, but they are in a heretical position, not having a head.
They were a people, but they had no Bishop. The Orthodox Church has never been without a Bishop. Wherever there is a Bishop, there is a head, there is the Church. But for many years they had no Bishop. Because they knew they would be accused of being headless, and it is unthinkable for a Church to exist without a Bishop, certain Archimandrites rushed to America to be ordained Bishops by the Russian Synod of the Diaspora under Anastasius. But the Synod didn't ordain anyone! Because the young Bishops didn't want to continue what they saw with the Old Calendarists not going well. However, their persistance to have a Bishop, to make two Bishops the head, to not be accused of being without a head, showed they were not in a good situation. So they found Seraphim, and if I'm not mistaken, Leontius, who were both Bishops of the Russian Synod of the Diaspora, although the Synod did not give them permission, you understand? These two, secretly without the Synod knowing, one of them being a New Calendarist and the other an Old Calendarist of this Synod, secretly ordained Akakios and made him Archbishop.
I remember when he came to Greece, he said he was ordained Bishop. Where are your ordination papers, Father? There were no ordination papers. How could we believe he became a Bishop? "I am a Bishop and my ordination papers will come in time." Which Bishops made you one? He wouldn't say, so it wouldn't be revealed, because then they would go to the Russian Synod, which these two Bishops were under, and they would have been put on trial.
And according to the Canons of the Church, whatever Bishop ordains secretly - like these two Bishops - without the permission of ecclesiastical authority, such ordinations are invalid and they are to be deposed. Do you understand? This is an explicit Canon of a Synod. Therefore, according to the Canons, this ordination of Akakios should have been invalid which was done by the two Russian Bishops, and these two Bishops should have been deposed. This is why he didn't show any ordination papers! He didn't have any. How could he show them? Therefore, some said they would not accept him as a Bishop, and others, out of necessity, to cover up their situation, accepted him as a Bishop, and that in time he would show his ordination papers. And his ordination papers were done by a lawyer, and he showed them like a contract. When it became known that his ordination was done secretly, the matter went to the Russian Synod. The Synod thought about it this way and that way, how they would be made out to be a laughing stock, so they forgave the error of the two Bishops, and somehow the error of Akakios, and they relatively endorsed the ordination by oikonomia.
As it turned out, one Bishop could not ordain other Bishops, because if he ordained he would have taken the place of Matthew, because Matthew had ordained an entire Synod by himself and his ordinations are entirely invalid. This is why he invited Leontius secretly from America, and he came to Athens secretly, and in monasteries they did ordinations of Bishops and suddenly they appeared ordained. And people would say: "How did these ordinations take place? They were not done in the presence of the people? Should we adopt them?" So they said they could not distinguish truth from falsehood, because everything was done secretly, covering up that they made Auxentios and Gerontios and (...) Bishops, as well as others, and they formed a Synod.
Then, as we said yesterday, at one point they came together and sought to unite, to become a large body, a large Church, that they may line up against the New Calendarists. But they agreed to believe and have a common "creed" that the Church, the entire Church whether of the Old or New Calendar, if they do not belong to them, such as the Bulgarians, Serbians, Albanians and all the Autocephalous Churches of the Old and New Calendars; all these Churches they declared heretical and schismatic and their Mysteries are invalid, and only theirs are valid and correct.
But when they met and made this Synod, they disagreed as to who would be the Archbishop! From which faction would the Archbishop come from? That is where they disagreed. One faction said "ours" while another said "ours", so they remained separate factions, each having their own Archbishops, but they agreed in the same "creed", that there was no Grace or Sanctification in the Mysteries of the Churches, the entire Church, and only they had Sanctification.
This is why today they say, as I have learned, having come here, that when they go to that monastery, the father says that they should attend church here, but not receive the Mysteries. But he's speaking from the side of his mouth, because he wants to say they are invalid, however because there is no church here with the Old Calendar for the people to attend church, and so they would not remain without church services, he says let them go to church so they think they are going to church, but he says they should not receive the Mysteries because they are invalid. He is not speaking straight, but from the side of his mouth, and in a very smart yet oblique way is saying don't receive communion, but commune only with me, because his only is valid while here they are invalid. He shouldn't say it this way. He must be asked: "Should we go to church, my Father, but why don't you allow us to receive? Tell us, yes or no, are they valid or not? Do they have the Holy Spirit or not? If they do, allow us to commune. If not, then tell us this is the reason we are not allowed." This is the truth of God. Do you understand? They must realize this.
And I, with Father Panteleimon, who is in America, in Boston, we are like brothers. I mean that Father Arsenios, the elder we have today, who followed Elder Joseph, elevated him to the Great Schema, and I read over him as a Priest, in the Skete we were in. Father Panteleimon receives his ordination to the diaconate by Athenagoras of Thyateira, who first was Bishop in Boston and then in Thyateira of England, who was an ecumenist and died in London. Father Panteleimon would come as a Deacon and we would celebrate liturgy together. He also did it with the New Calendar with the Bishop of Boston then later Thyateira, in the Church of Iakovos. Then he became a Priest in Jerusalem, by the Church of Jerusalem, which is in communion with the entire Church, and not with the Old Calendarists. There he rightly received ordination. But now he believes there is no salvation (...), but to us it is clear what we believe.
When I asked him, "Are you with the Old Calendarists, Father?" he told me, "No, neither with the Old Calendarists nor with the New Calendarists." Anyway, he has his own fixed line and says there is no salvation, except from his own side, and neither communes or confesses people with the New Calendar. Of course, this happened in front of me, and no one can say I am wrong; when I went to Boston and went to his monastery, it took place in front of me and I know. Of course we are spiritual brothers and we have love, but we utterly disagree in our views. My elder told him, among other things, as he believes him to be a saint and have his holy relic and works miracles with the relic of the Elder; however the Elder reposed in the Church, we were ordained by the Bishop who was in the Church, and when we were ordained we commemorated the Ecumenical Patriarch - who was Athenagoras - and he was sanctified in the Church, so how can you say that this Church which sanctified the Elder is heretical? It is terrible!
When the Mysteries sanctify in the Holy Spirit, and I the Old Calendarist, the fanatic, say they are not sanctified but just bread and wine, do I not blaspheme the Holy Spirit? When I say they are common and do not sanctify, am I not going against the Holy Spirit, who sanctified them? When they are the flesh and blood of Christ, and I say "they are not", am I not going against the Holy Spirit? I want to say that this is a very delicate matter. Saint John Chrysostom says that it is better to be in error within the Church, than to be exact and orthodox outside the Church. What does he mean? It is better to be in the Church with the error of the calendar, than to pretend I am Orthodox, or even Super Orthodox, and be found outside the Church, dogmatizing that the Mysteries are invalid and the people are not saved.
Years ago I was in Athens, and for some work I went to the office of the Old Calendarist Bishops with another man, and Archbishop Auxentios was there, with two or three other Bishops. As soon as Archbishop Auxentios saw me, because he knew me, he said directly: "Father Ephraim, do not preach that the New Calendarists can be saved." I said: "Forgive me, Your Beatutude, I will never preach as blasphemous (...)." He said: "No (...)." "I do not believe the Mysteries of the Church are invalid." So he left and the younger Akakios took over, the nephew of Akakios who was ordained in America and became Archbishop, and he began to say a bunch of things, accusing various people. I didn't speak. He said: "I, Father Ephraim, will rechrismate them - I don't know if he also said 'rebaptize' - because they are a schismatic power and energy."
As an aside, I will explain what he meant by "power and energy". By power he meant the power of the Canon or situation which is schismatic. By energy he meant the action of this Canon. In other words, people who are in error with this Canon will then put it into action. He was basically telling me they have no Holy Spirit. I told him: "Your Eminence, you are wrong." He got angry, slammed his hand down, and said: "How am I wrong?" I replied: "I will tell you how you are wrong: You must first know that as a Bishop, to rechrismate someone, they must have denied Christ, such as when they become a Chiliast, an American Evangelical, or a Catholic and they return to the Orthodox Church, then they receive the Holy Chrism from the Church, which denotes that they again receive the Holy Spirit, which they lost with their denial and followed their heresy. Here we have neither a heresy nor a denial of Christ so that you should give Holy Chrism." Nothing. He slammed his hand down again: "I, Father, will not commune from the Holy Chalice with Athenagoras." "I'm not talking about communion with Catholics or something like that, but when you tell me that you will rechrismate baptized Orthodox Christians, you make a terrible error." He was yelling, but I responded calmly, then the Archbishop came in. "What's going on, Father Ephraim? Did you agree with the Bishop?" He asked the Bishop if we agreed. "In time," he responded. He said nothing else. We said our good-bye's and I left.
I want to say that the movement began quite Orthodox and correct, but then it slowly took another turn, leading in dangerous areas and positions, which today is a serious wound in the Orthodox Church, because they shattered into many fractions. And before I left Mount Athos, a pamphlet came to us from America, that said the Old Calendarists of Matthew, who have reached even America, now even have an Ecumenical Patriarch! It had his picture that said "Ecumenical Patriarch so and so, Genuine Orthodox Church".
Source: Transcribed from the mps recording, which can be heard here. Translated by John Sanidopoulos.