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January 2, 2016

The Theological Crisis and Its Impact on Daily Ecclesiastical Life (6 of 6)

f) "The Prophetic, Royal and High Priestly Office of Christ"

In the Old Testament there are three different types of bearers of grace through whom God led His people, namely the Prophets, Kings and High Priests. Christ with His incarnation has the fullness of Grace as the Son of God in bodily form, as the Apostle Paul says: "For God was pleased to have all His fullness dwell in Him" (Col. 1:19), and "in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form" (Col. 2:9). Therefore He is a Prophet through His preaching, a King through His guidance, and a High Priest with His sacrifice and offering. This means that Christ has these three qualities/features, and they are united between them.

St. John Chrysostom, interpreting the Psalm "Great is the Lord, and most worthy of praise" [47:2 (48:1)], writes: "For great is God, great is the Lord, great is the King, great is the Prophet, great is the Priest, great is the Light, great He is in all." Christ gave His entire life to the Church, and He taught the people (prophet), performed the work of worship (high priest), and He directs its members to their destination (king). Christians are shareholders in this threefold dignity, according to the words of St. John Chrysostom: "You also are made king, priest and prophet in the laver; a king, having dashed to earth all the deeds of wickedness, and slain your sins; a priest, in that you offer yourself to God, and having sacrificed your body, and being slain also, 'for if we died with Him,' he says, 'we shall also live with Him' (2 Tim. 2:11); a prophet, knowing what shall be, and being inspired of God, and sealed."

Obviously, this is for the personal life of every believer, with Baptism-Chrismation, for the struggle for ones purification, for the keeping of the commandments of Christ, for the inheritance of the Kingdom of God. However, in a special sense these charisms/gifts are given to Clerics, especially Bishops, in order to officiate the Divine Mysteries, to teach the people, and to direct them towards salvation.

But what especially troubles me is the phrase "three-fold office of Christ" and that the Bishop is the shareholder of the "three-fold office of Christ". What is an office? How can it be understood? What is this office of Christ? Why aren't the terms "Grace" or "Charism" or any other word used other than office?

Researching the subject I noticed that this expression, namely the word "office", has a Protestant origin, and it comes from a friend of Luther, named Johannes Oecolampadius, a follower of the Reformation. And because this phrase is repeated continuously in Encyclicals by the Holy Synod, which is sent to the flock of every Metropolis upon the election and consecration of a new Prelate and is read at the ceremony of the enthronement, it is good that we replace it with a better term that reflects the same reality.

On this occasion I would like to point out that the phrase that the Bishop be "in the form and place of Christ" ("τύπον καί τόπον Χριστοῦ"), which is specified as coming from St. Ignatius the God-bearer, I noticed that in fact that this phrase does not exist in St. Ignatius, since in his writings the Bishop is characterized as being in the form of the Father and the deacon in the form of Christ, and I cannot find which Father uses this phrase. Of course, there is a correlation of the Bishop to Christ, but there is no phrase "in the form and place of Christ." I am still researching this issue.

The fact is that the Bishop is neither the representative of God to people, nor the representative of the people to God, but he is the "mystery of the sensible presence of Christ" by the Grace of the Pontificate, that would be good to be accompanied with its own Pentecost.

g) "The Pontificate and Pentecost"

In the ordinations of Prelates, both the one who ordains and the ordained, the phrase "personal Pentecost" is used, thereby identifying their ordination as a Bishop with their participation in Pentecost.

Of course, Bishops are the successors of the Holy Apostles, they are the "lit lamps of Pentecost" who carry the light of Pentecost, which is the Grace of God, to the Diocese/Metropolis for which they are ordained, according to St. Gregory Palamas.

However, this does not mean that the experience of Pentecost can be fully identified with the Grace of the Pontificate. It would be good for them to be identical but in practice there is a difference.

Pentecost is the day on which the Holy Spirit descended on the Disciples and united them with Christ, thereby becoming members of the Body of Christ. Before Pentecost the Disciples saw and heard Christ, even at the Transfiguration the Disciples were "transformed and only in this way did they see the transformation" (St. Gregory Palamas, Homily 34, "On the Transfiguration"), because the Body of Christ was external to the Disciples. But on the Day of Pentecost the Disciples became members of the Body of Christ in the Holy Spirit.

Pentecost was "unique" in history, and those who follow the same path, namely, as St. Maximus the Confessor says, they who journey from "practical philosophy" or purification, to "natural theoria" or illumination to "secret theology" or theosis, will reach the summit of Pentecost and participate in the experience of Pentecost as a personal Pentecost. Thus, the remission of sins through the energy of the Holy Spirit is one thing, and another is communion with the Holy Spirit through theoria (Pentecost). The Grace of the Pontificate given to someone through the Holy Spirit is one thing, and the gift of the theosis of a person through the theoria of God, which is Pentecost, is another thing.

A typical example is the Protomartyr and Archdeacon Stephen, who was "full of faith and the Holy Spirit," which is why he was chosen to be ordained a Deacon (Acts 6:6). Here it speaks of the communion of the Holy Spirit, which is the communion of Pentecost, which exuded from his body, and that is why the Sanhedrin "saw his face like the face of an angel" (Acts 6:15). Shortly after it says: "But Stephen, full of the Holy Spirit, looked up to heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. 'Look,' he said, 'I see heaven open and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.'" This was different from the Grace of the Diaconate.

A layman, monk or cleric can attain the experience of Pentecost, the vision of God, by partaking of His deifying energy, and a cleric can have the Grace of the Pontificate without participating in the experience of theosis/Pentecost. We can partake of the Grace of God in various ways, and depending on the condition of people it produces different results. This is why we speak of a creative, privileged and conservative energy of God, or a purifying, illuminating and deifying energy of God, or a diaconal, priestly and hierarchical energy of God.

The dismissal hymn used for the feast of St. Polycarp says the following in this regard: "As a sharer of the ways and a successor to the throne of the Apostles, O inspired of God, you found discipline to be a means of ascent to divine vision. Wherefore, having rightly divided the word of truth, you did also contest for the faith even unto blood, O Hieromartyr...."

In this hymn, which expresses the theology of the Church, it says that the Holy Bishop was "a successor to the throne of the Apostles" as well "as a sharer of the ways" of the Apostles. The "ways" of the Apostles is praxis and theoria, which means that theoria is based on praxis. This is how he becomes "inspired" and is able to "rightly divide the word of truth", even unto martyrdom of blood.

Therefore, it is an innacurate phrase for someone to be ordained to say "today I will experience the mystery of my own personal Pentecost."

In one of his texts Fr. George Florovsky analyzes the "Mystery of Pentecost" in its relationship with Apostolic Succession and the Apostolic Tradition. He writes that "on the Day of Pentecost the Spirit descends not only on the Apostles, but also on those who were present with them; not only on the Twelve but on the entire multitude. This means that the Spirit descended on the whole of the Primitive Church then present in Jerusalem. But though the Spirit is one, the gifts and ministrations in the Church are very varied, so that while in the mystery of Pentecost the Spirit descends on all, it is on the Twelve alone that He bestows the power and the rank of priesthood promised to them by Our Lord in the days of His flesh."

He continues: "Pentecost, therefore, is the fullness and the source of all mysteries and sacramental actions, the one and inexhaustible spring of all of the mysterious and spiritual life of the Church. To abide or to live in the Church implies a participation in Pentecost." Hence, "Pentecost becomes eternal in the Apostolic Succession" and the "peculiar function of bishops is to be the organ of Apostolic Succession," which means that "through its bishop (the Church) is linked up with the past and with antiquity," and "through its bishop (the Church) forms a part of the living organism of the Body of the Church Universal. However, "Apostolic Succession is not so much the canonical as the mystical foundation of Church unity," is is a participation with Apostolic Tradition, which is "an uninterrupted current of spiritual life proceeding from the Upper Room." For someone to be faithful to tradition it means that they partake in Pentecost, and tradition means "the fullness of Pentecost."

This is what "Pentecost is the participation in theosis" means, which is the essence of Orthodox tradition, to which any member of the Church can attain. It is not a privilege of the Bishops, but Bishops are "organs of Apostolic Succession", who is a successor to the throne of the Apostles and sharer in the ways of the Apostles, it is an experience of the mystery of Pentecost, and as instruments of Apostolic Succession they lead Christians in their participation of Pentecost.

The Apostle Paul clearly writes: "Christ Himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, to equip His people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ" (Eph. 4:11-13).

The phrase "personal Pentecost" may come from the Russian theologians who spoke of "every Mystery is Pentecost" confusing and identifying Pentecost, which was "unique" in history, with the sanctification of material objects and the sanctification of people to accomplish a task.


From the above we can see that we are indeed in a theological crisis. The other crises - economic, ethical, social, political - come and go, and are of the eternal present, which concern the human body and temporary material things, while the theological crisis concerns the spirit, the soul, and it has eternal dimensions, which is why, especially Hierarchs, must be careful of such. Our treatment for healing depends on our theology. When a physician uses a wrong medical treatment, a failed theory, he will fail to cure.

I will repeat what I said in the beginning with my introduction, that the theological crisis and its effect on daily ecclesiastical life is not only about certain changes in terminology, even though the terms and concepts defined by the Fathers and adopted by Local and Ecumenical Synods is part of Tradition, and it deconstructs this Orthodox Tradition, because we depart from it. It is in fact a theological disease.

I apologize for the fatigue I may have brought, and I ask for your indulgence. As I mentioned at the beginning with my introduction, these issues will be developed adequately in my study which is to be published shortly.

Source: Ekklesiastiki Paremvasi, "Ἡ θεολογική κρίση καί οἱ ἐπιπτώσεις της στήν καθημερινότητα τῆς ἐκκλησιαστικῆς ζωῆς". November 2015. Translated by John Sanidopoulos.