January 19, 2014

Saint Mark of Ephesus as a Model for our Lives

St. Mark the Eugenikos (Feast Day - January 19)

By Protopresbyter Fr. George Papavarnavas

Saint Mark the Eugenikos and Bishop of Ephesus is known and loved in the Orthodox world for his zeal and struggles for the Orthodox faith. In the Robber Pseudo-Synod of Ferrara-Florence, where the Orthodox were dragged against their will as we will analyze below, he wrestled with all his strength alone against all, not only by the Latins, but also by the Latin-minded. The latter, instead of standing by his side as Orthodox and supporting him, rather they pressed him with various plausible arguments to withdraw. But he stood steadfast as a rock due to his faith, so that the Pope was forced to confess, when he was informed that Mark had not signed the union document: "Then we accomplished nothing."

The Bishop of Ephesus was not fanatical and stubborn, as the Latins and Latin-minded say, but he had the experience of God and knew very well the true faith as it was revealed and handed down from Christ and His Holy Apostles and as interpreted by the deified Saints "in the Church", and he could not tolerate its counterfeit or alteration by the Franks. Moreover, for the first eight centuries after the birth of Christ, in the western part of Romiosini, or the so-called Byzantine Empire, the faith of the Orthodox was genuine, just like in the eastern part, which is why we have in the List of Saints of the Orthodox Church even Orthodox Popes. But after the occupation of the western part of the Empire by the Franks, they expelled the Orthodox clergy, they replaced them with their own, and worst of all they adulterated the Orthodox faith with various alterations and additions. They altered the Symbol of Faith (the Creed) which was drafted by the First and Second Ecumenical Synods and confirmed by the Third, which anathematized all those who would attempt to alter it by either removing or adding something to it. The Franks, however, despite the explicit and strict prohibition, added to the Creed the "Filioque", which means "and from the Son". That is, that the Holy Spirit does not only proceed from the Father, but also from the Son, despite the fact that in the New Testament Christ says clearly that the Holy Spirit "proceeds from the Father". This addition creates huge problems, as it introduces a diarchy in the Divinity and underestimates the Holy Spirit who is equal to the Father and the Son. Unfortunately, narrowness of space does not allow for more detail on this. It also introduced the "primacy" of the Pope, the teaching regarding "purgatorial fire", etc. The Orthodox, as is natural, reacted in the early eleventh century and we arrived at a definitive schism.

In the fifteenth century, shortly before the fall of Constantinople, the Romans requested the help of the Franks in order to face the Turks. They thought they were given the chance they always sought, which was to subjugate Orthodoxy. So to offer their assistance it was conditional on the two Churches uniting. Thus the Orthodox came into a dialogue and an unequal struggle, since the Franks were pressuring them to accept their innovations in every which way. They would keep them hungry, they forbade them to leave and go back to their homeland and flock, and the Clergy that were able to escape they defrocked and tortured. In the writing of Hieromonk Athanasios of Paros (18th cent.) titled Antipope, which would be desirable for all Orthodox to study, he refers to the shocking facts about this Pseudo-Synod and the superhuman struggles of Saint Mark, whom he names the "Atlas of Orthodoxy". Among other things he writes: "To all the Orthodox faithful systems I present today the most-holy Mark of Ephesus. I call Mark he who arose in the East, but shuddered the West. Mark, that luminary of the Eastern Church and the lightning of the imperious West. Mark, he who is the mouth of theologians, the glory of Orthodoxy, the most wondrous athlete, the only unconquerable and unbreakable man."

Dialogue with the Latins, as with other Christian denominations, can bear fruit, if it takes place, of course, in a climate of love and freedom, but especially by persons integrated in the climate of Orthodox Tradition. By true theologians who experience God and follow the teaching of the God-seeing Holy Fathers, who know very well the truths of the Gospel as it has been interpreted and experienced in the Orthodox Church. Fanaticism is foreign to the spirit of the Gospel, as is the relinquishment of the true faith for the sake of some false love. Authentic love cannot exist outside of the true faith. The return to the "One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church", which belongs to the Orthodox faith, is the true way of union "in love and truth".

Source: Ekklesiastiki Paremvasi, "Ο ΑΤΛΑΣ ΤΗΣ ΟΡΘΟΔΟΞΙΑΣ: ΑΓΙΟΣ ΜΑΡΚΟΣ Ο ΕΥΓΕΝΙΚΟΣ" ("The Atlas of Orthodoxy: Saint Mark the Eugenikos"), January 1998. Translated by John Sanidopoulos.