December 2, 2010

The Prophetic Letter of Fr. John Romanides to Fr. Theoklitos Dionysiatis

Written in late 1957 or early 1958.

Beloved brother in Christ Monk Theoklite,

I pray my letter finds you and our beloved Elder Gabriel [1] in physical and spiritual health and your Monastery fully in order.

I am very saddened that we will not be able to celebrate Pascha together this year. My mind is found to be constantly on the Holy Mountain and with every opportunity I try to enlighten my acquaintances about it. I emphatically believe that the revival of Orthodoxy will come only with the restoration of our monastic life. Precisely because the Church in the world is cut off from the monastic tradition, the collapse of spiritual life in our days is manifested. Satan has distorted so much the theology of the heretics and those supposed Orthodox influenced by the West, to the point where some think that salvation is not from the dominion and grasp of the enemy, but of God. God became man in order to save us from Himself!

Because of this the West has abandoned the ascetic life. They neither fast nor pray much. They only seek happiness. The manifestation of our monastic life does not benefit, as some think, the shortage of dedicated youth. There are many who devote themselves to the Church. However, because they have a distorted notion of salvation, predestination and sin, for this reason instead of going to Monasteries they go to "Zoe", [2] or they become monks of the world, that is worldly Archimandrites, and unfortunately today from these come our Bishops. When theology is false, then Christianity is reduced to activities.

Regarding the Ecclesiastical Theology of our current Theologians, the only proof that Orthodoxy hasn't died is the "Hellenic Christian Civilization" and the activities of "Zoe". "Zoe" is necessary for the Ecclesiastic Theology of Theologians who are inclined towards the West. For them the non-existence of "Zoe" is proof that Orthodoxy has completely lost its spirit. Now "Zoe" has begun to conquer territory here in America and will bear fruit, because all of life here is worldly activities and nothing more. The monastic life of the heterodox here is ripe with active orders and they engage in anything other than ascetic spirituality, as it has been received in the Orthodox Tradition. Therefore in this mold the "Zoe" movement fits in well.

Unfortunately we do not have one ascetic or monastery, and there is no living example of Orthodox life. Therefore, the pietism of "Zoe" conforms very much with the pietism of the heterodox, to the point where it will wreak havoc if ingrained.

I wanted to know your opinion about the possibility of establishing a monastic community of 5-10 monks in the land of America. If this does not happen, Orthodoxy will vanish here or will transform into something else, as it has already happened to a great degree.

I have tried in my book [3] to say these things which you also say in your book [4], but here nobody understands these things. You see, Greeks have assimilated with the happiness of the West and in their eyes happiness is the will of God. So why would he go to the top of the mountains and do vigils and so on?

I would like very much to correspond with you. [5] I believe the devil will be saddened that we do not like the Christianity he is promoting, but what's to be done? Nobody can be like him if they want to be like God. Saint Symeon the New Theologian beautifully describes how Satan assists in the prayers and good works of some.

With love in Christ,

+ J. Romanides

Read more about this letter at this link: Fr. John Romanides' Encounter With the Zoe Brotherhood


1. Elder Gabriel Dionysiatis (1886-1983) was for forty years Abbot of the Holy Monastery of Dionysiou at Mount Athos.

2. The Greek semi-monastic Brotherhood of Zoe was founded in 1907 and based heavily on the writings of the excommunicated 19th century theologian Apostolos Makrakis together with devotional writings of the West. By the 1950's it had brought pietism as a normal way of life and thought within Greek Orthodoxy. See more at this link:

3. "The Ancestral Sin", 1957.

4. "Between Heaven and Earth: Athonite Monasticism", 1956.

5. Elder Theoklitos Dionysiatis wrote of Fr. John Romanides in his book "Athonite Flowers" in 1962: "My good friend, the most pious Presbyter John Romanides, is not an ordinary theologian. He learned theology in two or three Universities and with the help of asceticism which illumined his soul. He knows four languages and is deeply educated. He is literally a monk, fed by the Holy Fathers and the holy liturgical life of the Orthodox Church, singing hymns to God 'seven times a day'."

Translation and Notes by John Sanidopoulos