October 8, 2014

Abba Isaac the Syrian, the "Unjustly Accused" Saint (7 of 7)

Fr. John Photopoulos

(The letter below refers to only two volumes of the works of Pseudo-Isaac that were published by the Monastery, as the third had not yet been published. Instead of a response to this letter, the third volume was published.)

March 15, 2006

To the Abbot of the Sacred Monastery of the Prophet Elias in Thera,
the Reverend Archimandrite Damaskinos Gavalas

I do not know you, but I take courage to bother you about a serious issue, in my opinion. This is in regards to the publication by your Monastery of The Ascetic Discourses of Saint Isaac the Syrian vols. B1 (Discourse 1 - 3) and B3 (Discourse 12 - 41), which were translated by Nestor Kavvadas.

My beloved Father Damaskinos, by reading these texts, which were recently discovered and supposedly belong to Saint Isaac, I was troubled and saddened, because I realized that inside they contain heretical teachings, especially the terrible cacodoxy regarding the apokatastasis of all. In vol. B1 on p. 58 we read: "All the brethren of our Savior in the end will reach His likeness. Both those who will be found on His right and those who will be found on His left... All will be exalted in His likeness, and from their earthly state they will reach a form of existence full of glory." To support this text, the translator refers to Matt. 25:33 in footnote 37! The difference is that the gospel of the Judgment, from which this passage is taken, as we know, includes the passage: "Then they will go away to eternal hell, but the righteous to eternal life" (Matt. 25:46).

However, the worst is found in vol. B3 on pages 137-166 (Discourses 33 - 41) where there is a systematic exposition of the Origenist delusion regarding the apokatastasis of all with ridiculous legalistic arguments alleging retaliation, hatred, love, etc. At one point the text goes beyond "love" and Origen. Behold: "It is clear that God does not abandon the fallen, and he will never allow the demons to remain in their demonic state. Rather, He will lead them to a singular state of unaltered perfection... Perhaps they will reach a perfection even greater than the present existence of the angels" (B3, pp. 159-160). Not even Origen imagined that demons would become superior to the angels! Perhaps not even Satan imagined that he would find such an advocate supporting his primitive dreams by placing himself "above the clouds"!

Let us not fool ourselves, my Father. These texts have nothing to do with the genuine works of Abba Isaac the Syrian, in which the Saint not only never expresses such cacodoxies, but instead he speaks of the most dreadful, eternal fire, which all may be able to escape through contrite repentance. Behold how the genuine Abba Isaac is diametrically opposed to such pseudo-texts:

"Scripture has not taught us the existence of three realms, but, 'When the Son of Man shall come in His glory, He shall set the sheep on His right hand, but the goats on the left.' He did not speak of three orders, but two: one on the right and one on the left. And he definitely separated the distinctions of their dwelling places, saying, 'The righteous shall shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father, but sinners shall depart into everlasting fire.' And again, 'Many shall come from the east and west, and shall sit down with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in the Kingdom of Heaven. But the sons of the kingdom shall be cast out into the outer darkness; there shall be the weeping and the gnashing of teeth,' a thing more dreadful than any fire."

On pages 146-151 the heretics Theodore of Mopsuestia and Diodorus of Tarsus are praised, although they were anathematized by the Fifth Ecumenical Synod, and they are called "pillars of the Church", while the translator in his footnotes does not comment on this. An impression is made over the fact that in footnote 85 on page 146 he puts in quotes the word "Nestorian" when writing about the "Church of the East", as if he doesn't recognize the heretical character of this "Church" that honors Nestorius as a Saint and commemorates him in their diptychs!

Finally, scattered throughout the book you published are heretical (Nestorian) Christological views. But these are clearly and provocatively formulated in two primary Discourses of Pseudo-Isaac (the 5th and 11th), which you have not yet published. As we read in the recently published book by AKRITAS written by Bishop Hilarion Alfeyev that bears the title The Spiritual World of Isaac the Syrian, these Discourses reveal the Nestorian deviations of the new texts. Behold a small example of the Nestorian schizophrenia where not only two natures (divine and human) are accepted for Jesus Christ, but also two persons! "He granted to him to be worshipped with himself indistinguishably, with a single act of worship for the Man who became Lord and for the Divinity equally, while the two natures are preserved with their properties, without there being any difference in honor" (p. 73 of the above book).

Beloved Elder,

Consider that as pastors of the Church of Christ we have great responsibility for our reasonable flock entrusted to us by Christ. I do not know whether, among your multiple tasks, you found the time to carefully analyze these books. However, I think we should not allow our people, and even the monks, first to create within them a false image in regards to the holiness and the Orthodoxy of our Venerable Father Isaac the Syrian, and second to feed anti-Orthodox teachings that have been condemned by our Orthodox Church.

I apologize for the boldness I have taken, but these books must be withdrawn immediately from being marketed and if possible for some explanation to be given.

I kiss your right hand, and if you will, I would like to speak with you by telephone.

Protopresbyter John Photopoulos,
Parish Priest of the Sacred Church of Saint Paraskevi in Attica

Source: Translated by John Sanidopoulos.