Tuesday, September 17, 2019

Monastery of Saint Herakleides in Cyprus

Saint Herakleides, commemorated on September 17th, was the son of a pagan priest and lived in the village Lambadistos, in Cyprus. His father, although a pagan, was hospitable and did not hesitate to accommodate the Apostle Paul together with Barnabas and Mark when they came to Cyprus. The Apostles however refused to dine with one who sacrificed to idols, but instead asked for a guide around the island. Herakleides' father gladly volunteered his son. The Apostles led Herakleides to the faith of Christ, since he was eager to learn, and he in turn, led his parents. It is said that his name was first Herakleon but changed by Saint Paul upon his baptism to Herakleides. Saint Barnabas on his second trip to Cyprus appointed him Bishop of Cyprus and placed him in Tamassos. He is said to have built churches, cured diseases, raised the dead, cast out demons, and worked innumerable wonders. Herakleides worked with great zeal along with his disciple Myron, his successor as Bishop of Tamassos, for the dissemination of Christianity with impressive results, and many pagans believed in Christ. His successes however agitated the unbelievers, who killed them by burning them alive.

A Unique Icon of Saint Sophia in Mantzavinata on the Island of Kefallonia

In the village of Mantzavinata on the island of Kefallonia is the Church of Hagia Sophia dated to 1693. Over the years the church has been destroyed by earthquakes and restored again, especially after the devastating earthquake that hit the island in 1953, after which it was built to be earthquake-proof.

Though the Church of Hagia Sophia was probably originally dedicated to the Wisdom of God, like Hagia Sophia in Constantinople and many others prior to modern times, today it is dedicated to Saint Sophia the Martyr and her Three Daughters named Faith, Hope and Love. These Saints suffered martyrdom during the reign of Emperor Hadrian (117-138).

Synaxis of the Makariev Icon of the Mother of God

Synaxis of the Makariev Icon of the Mother of God
(Feast Day - September 17)

The Makariev Icon of the Mother of God, painted in the style of the Odegetria, appeared during the reign of Prince Basil the Dark (1425-1462) to Saint Macarius the Wonderworker, who labored in asceticism on the desolate shores of the River Unzha.

On September 17, 1442 at about the third hour of the morning, when Saint Macarius was finishing his usual morning Akathist to the Most Holy Theotokos, his cell was illumined suddenly by an unknown light. The monk became confused in spirit and fervently began to pray.

Monday, September 16, 2019

Church of Saint Euphemia at the Hippodrome in Constantinople

The Church of Saint Euphemia in the Hippodrome (also known as lying in "ta Antiochou", i.e. "the quarters/palaces of Antiochos") was established in the hexagonal hall of the Palace of Antiochos next to the Hippodrome probably sometime in the early seventh century (615 or 626), when the original church at Chalcedon was destroyed during the Sassanid Persian invasions, and the relics moved for safety to Constantinople.

During Iconoclasm, the building was secularized and allegedly converted into a store of arms and manure, while the relics of the Saint were ordered thrown into the sea by Emperor Leo III the Isaurian (717–741) or by his son, Constantine V (741–775). They were however saved by two pious brothers and brought to the island of Lemnos, from where they were brought back in 796, after the end of the first Iconoclasm period, by Empress Irene (797–802).

Holy Hieromartyr Cyprian, Bishop of Carthage (+ 258)

St. Cyprian of Carthage (Feast Day - September 16)

The Hieromartyr Cyprian, Bishop of Carthage,* was born in about the year 200 in the city of Carthage (Northern Africa), where all his life and work took place. Thascius Cyprianus was the son of a rich pagan senator, and received a fine secular education becoming a splendid orator, and a teacher of rhetoric and philosophy in the school of Carthage. He often appeared in the courts to defend his fellow citizens.

Cyprian afterwards recalled that for a long time “he remained in a deep dark mist.., far from the light of Truth.” His fortune, received from his parents and from his work, was spent on sumptuous banquets, but they were not able to quench in him the thirst for truth. He became acquainted with the writings of the Apologist Tertullian, and became convinced of the truth of Christianity. The holy bishop later wrote that he thought it was impossible for him to attain to the regeneration promised by the Savior, because of his habits.

Holy Martyrs Isaac and Joseph of Georgia (+ 808)

The Holy New Martyrs Isaac and Joseph the Georgians were born into a Muslim family, but their Georgian mother, a Christian, secretly raised them and an older unknown brother according to the Christian tradition.

The brothers were so firmly dedicated to the Christian faith that they sent a letter to Byzantium to request that Emperor Nikephoros I Phokas (802-811) permit them to settle in his capital. The pious ruler extended a warm welcome to the brothers, who were already well known and respected by the nobility of Theodosiopolis, or Karnu (now Erzerum).

Holy Martyr Ludmilla, Princess of the Czechs and Grandmother of Saint Wenceslaus (+ 921)

St. Ludmilla of Bohemia (Feast Day - September 16)

The Holy Martyr Ludmilla, a Czech (Bohemian) princess, was married to the Czech prince Borivoy. Both spouses received holy Baptism from Saint Methodios, the Enlightener of the Slavs (May 11).

As Christians, they showed concern for the enlightening of their subjects with the light of the Christian faith. They built churches and invited priests to celebrate the divine services. Their efforts to convert Bohemia to Christianity were initially not well received, and they were driven from their country for a time by the pagans. Eventually the couple returned, and ruled for several years before retiring to Techin, near Beroun.

Saint Cyprian, Metropolitan of Kiev and All Russia (+ 1406)

St. Cyprian the Metropolitan of Kiev and All Russia (Feast Day - September 16)

Saint Cyprian was a Serbian born around 1330 in the city of Tarnovo, the capital of the Second Bulgarian Kingdom. The year of Cyprian's tonsure is unknown. It is believed that he began his monastic path at the Kilifarevo Monastery. Apparently, Cyprian left Bulgaria quite early and went first to Constantinople, and then to Mount Athos, where he worked in one of the Athos monasteries.

In line with its unification policy, Emperor John Kantakouzenos and Patriarch Philotheos of Constantinople sought to preserve a single Russian metropolis. The main danger threatening the unity of the metropolis was the rivalry of two Russian states, Lithuania and Moscow, for the right to unite under their supremacy all the Russian lands, some of which also belonged to Poland, Hungary, and Moldova. This confrontation was directly reflected in the state of the vast Kiev metropolis, which turned out to be practically divided along the border of these states. The situation was aggravated by the fact that Metropolitan Alexis of All Russia was essentially the head of the Moscow state. As a result, he lost the opportunity to visit his western dioceses, and the Grand Duke of Lithuania Olgerd demanded the placement of Alexis in the titular city of the Metropolitanate of Kiev, which was under the control of Olgerd. Another option acceptable to Lithuania was the creation of a separate Lithuanian metropolis. In Moscow, they also thought about “their” metropolis. Constantinople initially consistently pursued pro-Moscow politics, but this led to the discontent of Olgerd, who wrote complaints about the Metropolitan and threatened to transfer to the Latin Church under the Pope of Rome. This idea was supported by the allies of Olgerd, the Tver princes. On this path, it was very difficult to maintain the unity of the Russian metropolis and the entire Russian Orthodox world. A correction of the pro-Moscow politics was required. And to begin with, Patriarch Philotheos sent to Lithuania a trusted person who could reconcile Olgerd and Metropolitan Alexis. Cyprian became that person, and was appointed the patriarchal ambassador.

Holy Martyr Maximos

St. Maximos the Martyr (Feast Day - September 15)


You saw Christ offer you a crown,
You Maximos offered your head by the sword.

The Holy Martyr Maximos met his end by the sword.

Sunday, September 15, 2019

Finding of the Relics of Saint Akakios the Confessor and Bishop of Meletine

Finding of the Relics of St. Akakios of Meletine (Feast Day - September 15)


Honoring the finding of your relics,
We find Akakios our release from wickedness.

We commemorate Saint Akakios the Confessor and Bishop of Meletine on March 31st, while today we commemorate the finding of his relics.

Holy Two Maidens

Holy Two Madens (Feast Day - September 15)


One in thought and eagerness,
The two maidens bent their necks to the sword.

The Holy Two Maidens met their end by the sword.

Homily on the Resurrection Apolytikion in the Fourth Tone

By Metropolitan Hierotheos of Nafpaktos and Agiou Vlasiou

Every Sunday is a weekly Pascha, because we celebrate the great event of the Resurrection of Christ. The Church does not want to forget this important event because it is our greatest hope.

In the Resurrection Apolytikion of the fourth tone that we chanted today we sang a hymn to the Resurrection of Christ. It says:

Having learned the joyful proclamation of the Resurrection from the angel, and having cast off the ancestral condemnation, the women disciples of the Lord spake to the apostles exultantly: Death is despoiled and Christ God is risen, granting to the world great mercy.

Sunday After the Holy Cross: Gospel and Epistle Reading

Sunday After the Exaltation of the Holy Cross

Prokeimenon. Mode 4.
Psalm 103.24,1
O Lord, how manifold are your works. 
You have made all things in wisdom.
Verse: Bless the Lord, O my soul.

St. Paul's Letter to the Galatians 2:16-20


Brethren, knowing that a man is not justified by works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Christ Jesus, in order to be justified by faith in Christ, and not by works of the law, because by works of the law shall no one be justified. But if, in our endeavor to be justified in Christ, we ourselves were found to be sinners, is Christ then an agent of sin? Certainly not! But if I build up again those things which I tore down, then I prove myself a transgressor. For I through the law died to the law, that I might live to God. I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me; and the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.

Thirteenth Sunday of Pentecost: Gospel and Epistle Reading

Thirteenth Sunday of Pentecost
Thirteenth Sunday of Matthew

Parable of the Wicked Vinedressers

St. Paul's First Letter to the Corinthians 16:13-24


Brethren, be watchful, stand firm in your faith, be courageous, be strong. Let all that you do be done in love. Now, brethren, you know that the household of Stephanas were the first converts in Achaia, and they have devoted themselves to the service of the saints; I urge you to be subject to such men and to every fellow worker and laborer. I rejoice at the coming of Stephanas and Fortunatus and Achaicos, because they have made up for your absence; for they refreshed my spirit as well as yours. Give recognition to such men. The churches of Asia send greetings. Aquila and Prisca, together with the church in their house, send you hearty greetings in the Lord. All the brethren send greetings. Greet one another with a holy kiss. I, Paul, write this greeting with my own hand. If any one has no love for the Lord, let him be accursed. Our Lord, come! The grace of the Lord Jesus be with you. My love be with you all in Christ Jesus. Amen.

Saturday, September 14, 2019

Did the Cross of Christ Expose and Kill Arius?

According to the historian Socrates, when Helen the mother of Emperor Constantine discovered the True Cross, she left a portion of the Cross in Jerusalem, enclosed in a silver case, as a memorial to those who might wish to see it. "The other part she sent to the emperor, who being persuaded that the city would be perfectly secure where that relic should be preserved, privately enclosed it in his own statue, which stands on a large column of porphyry in the forum called Constantine's at Constantinople. I have written this from report indeed; but almost all the inhabitants of Constantinople affirm that it is true" (Eccl. Hist. 1, 17). From this report therefore we are informed that a portion of the True Cross was placed by Emperor Constantine in the Porphyry Column in the Forum of Constantinople for the protection of the city.

What Happened to the Two Crosses of the Thieves Crucified Next to Christ?

According to early Christian historians, the two crosses of the thieves crucified next to Christ were discovered at the same time Saint Helen discovered the True Cross. Some say the True Cross was distinguished from the other two crosses by the sign with the inscription that read "Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews," also known in Latin as the "titulus," placed over the head of Jesus on the True Cross at the orders of Pontius Pilate. Others say this inscription was tossed away from the three crosses upon their discovery and that the True Cross was distinguished, or perhaps confirmed, by one or two miracles. According to one source, a dead man was placed on the True Cross, which restored him to life, while another source says that a woman of rank in Jerusalem with an incurable disease was cured when the True Cross touched her.

Friday, September 13, 2019

The Relationship and Correspondence Between Fr. George Florovsky and Fr. John Romanides

By Metropolitan Hierotheos of Nafpaktos and Agiou Vlasiou

On the occasion of the 40th anniversary of the repose of the great theologian Fr. George Florovsky, various conferences and lectures will be organized to study his work. For such a conference being organized by the Panhellenic Association of Theologians I am preparing a proposal, in which I will demonstrate the great relationship between Fr. George Florovsky and Fr. John Romanides. In fact, Florovsky considered Romanides the most sharp-witted of his students.

In a book I wrote in the past titled Fr. John Romanides: A Leading Dogmatic Theologian of the Orthodox Catholic Church (published by the Sacred Monastery of the Nativity of the Theotokos - Pelagia, Holy Metropolis of Thebes and Levadeia), I published twenty-five (25) letters Romanides wrote to Florovsky, which I discovered and analyzed to reveal this continuous relationship and communication between them.

Life of Saint Maurilius, Bishop of Angers

St. Maurilius of Angers (Feast Day - September 13)

Saint Maurilius (French: Maurille) was a follower of Saint Martin of Tours and a priest originally from Milan, who served as the Bishop of Angers in 423 till his death in either 426 or 453. He played an early role in the Christianization of Gaul. In the seventh century, a devotion to Saint Maurilius began. A biography of him was written by Bishop Magnobodus of Angers around 620 (which can be read below), and, in 873, his body was transferred to the Cathedral of Angers, which had already been dedicated to Saint Maurice. Two hundred years later, Saint Maurilius was frequently mentioned together with Saint Maurice as the patron saints of the Cathedral but eventually Saint Maurice became the primary patron of the Cathedral. Nevertheless, on 16 August 1239, the remains of Saint Maurilius were placed in a new urn but they were scattered in 1791, when the Cathedral was vandalized during the French Revolution. Only a few small parts were recovered and they are now kept at the Cathedral.

Thursday, September 12, 2019

A Relic of Saint Polycarp Returns to Nafpaktos (Update on the 2013 Theft)

The relic of the right hand of Saint Polycarp of Smyrna adorned for the last over 500 years the Monastery of the Dormition of the Theotokos - Saint Polycarp in Ambelakiotissa outside Nafpaktos, where the faithful would go to receive his blessing, and many miracles took place through the grace of the sacred relic.

In 2010 I wrote an online post here at the Mystagogy Resource Center about the relic of the right hand of Saint Polycarp, and many people who read about it informed me that it was the first time that they ever heard of a relic of Saint Polycarp that still existed.

Vespers in the Ruins of a Church Dedicated to the Virgin Mary in a Deserted Albanian Village

17 kilometers from Berat in Albania, on the outskirts of Mount Tomor, in the uninhabited village of Melisova, there is a ruined church dedicated to the Nativity of the Theotokos, where yesterday evening, for the Leavetaking of the feast of the Nativity of the Theotokos, a priest and three laymen celebrated Great Vespers.

At Least 124 Churches Destroyed in Syria Since 2011, Only 10 Were by ISIS

At least 124 churches have been partially or completely destroyed as a result of the wars and violent conflicts in Syria since 2011, according to the Syrian Network for Human Rights (SNHR).

75 of these were at the hands of Syrian Regime forces, 10 at the hands of ISIS, while Hay’at Tahrir al Sham was responsible for another two attacks. According to the report, 33 attacks occurred at the hands of factions of the Armed Opposition, and four others at the hands of other parties. Six were attacked by various parties.

Commemoration of the Muting and Vision of Zechariah

According to the seventh century Jerusalem Canonarion, on the 12th of September is the Commemoration of the Muting and Vision of Zechariah, who is known as the Prophet and served as High Priest of the Temple in Jerusalem. It was while serving in the Temple on the Day of Atonement that he received the announcement from the Archangel Gabriel that his wife Elizabeth would bear a son in her old age, who would prepare the way for the coming of the Lord. Because Zechariah doubted this announcement, since he thought he and his wife were too old to have a child, Gabriel struck him mute for the entire duration of her pregnancy. Finally, at the circumcision of the new-born child, eight days after his birth, those present asked him what he would like to name the child, and on a writing tablet he wrote down the name indicated to him by the Archangel Gabriel, saying: "His name is John." Immediately after this he was finally allowed to speak, and being filled with the Holy Spirit, he prophesied about the child in song. This commemoration falls in between the feast of the Prophet Zechariah on September 5th and the feast of the Conception of Saint John the Baptist on September 23.

Wednesday, September 11, 2019

What Saint Nektarios Was Doing on September 11, 2001

Elder Ambrose is pictured hugging the blessed Metropolitan of Sisaniou, Anthony

Towards the end of August 2001, someone asked Elder Ambrose of Dadiou to pray to Saint Nektarios to help him, and the Elder said:

“Let the Saint be, my child. He is now in America running to save lives.”

On September 11th, the disaster at the Twin Towers took place. Some months earlier Elder Ambrose had seen what was going to happen and had warned that it was going to change history.

Synaxis of the Kaplunovka Icon of the Kazan Mother of God

Synaxis of the Kaplunovka Icon of the Kazan Mother of God
(Feast Day - September 11)

In 1688, Colonel Ivan Ivanovich Perekrest built a church in Kaplunovka in honor of the Nativity of the Theotokos, and the first priest in it was John Ilyich Umanov († 1713), a native of Poland. One night, during a wondrous appearance in a dream of the Mother of God to the priest John Umanov, she told him: "Three days from now, three icon painters will come to you from Moscow, one 60 years old, another 80 years old, and the third 90 years old; remove the seven icons from the eldest of them and take the eighth - the Kazan icon of the Mother of God, and behold the grace." According to legend, this happened on September 8, 1689, the feast day of the church - the Nativity of the Theotokos.

Translation of the Relics of Saints Sergius and Herman of Valaam

Translation of the Relics of St. Sergius and Herman of Valaam (Feast Day - September 11)

Not much is known of the life of Saints Sergius and Herman, who were the founders of Valaam Monastery in Karelia in northwestern Russia on the island of Valaam in Lake Ladoga. Especially in the 12th and 17th centuries, the monastery experienced devastation, and monastic service was interrupted for many decades. During the invasions, church monuments and monastery shrines were destroyed, and the rich monastery library and manuscript repository were burned and plundered more than once. For this reason, records of the history of the monastery are scarce, and what we know today comes mainly from 18th century sources.

Tuesday, September 10, 2019

Holy New Martyr Tatiana Grimblit (+ 1937)

St. Tatiana Grimblit (Feast Day - September 10)

That we live in an increasingly secularized society, as contemporary Christians so often lament, is undeniable. Yet how many of us can honestly claim that we have suffered anything beyond the slightest inconvenience or embarrassment for our beliefs? While it is true that displays of explicit religiosity in public settings have become increasingly frowned upon, personal faith continues to be valued. Works of charity and philanthropy, whether performed by individual believers or religious organizations, are universally praised. As much as the tide may be changing, few of us need to worry about being carried away by it so long as we stand firm. In this, we are very fortunate.

Not so very long ago – indeed, within living memory – the situation was very different in the Soviet Union. A young woman named Tatiana Nikolaevna Grimblit, unexceptional in any way apart from her virtue, was repeatedly arrested and exiled, and finally executed, for doing no more than helping and supporting others who had likewise been arrested and exiled. Such was the nature of the militantly atheist regime of the twenties and thirties of the last century that these simple acts of Christian charity, performed by an ordinary young woman with no political allegiance, were regarded as anti-revolutionary agitation deserving of capital punishment. One cannot help but recall the prophecy of St. Anthony the Great recorded in The Sayings of the Desert Fathers: “A time is coming when men will go mad, and when they see someone who is not mad, they will attack him saying, ‘You are mad, you are not like us.’”

Saint Finnian of Movilla (+ 589)

St. Finnian of Movilla (Feast Day - September 10)

Saint Finnian was one of the Twelve Apostles of Ireland. He apparently studied under Colman of Dromore and Mochaoi of Nendrum, and subsequently at Candida Casa (Whithorn), after which he proceeded to Rome to complete his studies. Legend has it that whilst at Candida Casa, he played a prank (nature unknown) on Princess Drustice, the daughter of a Pictish king, who was in the ladies' section of the monastery, and perhaps had he not been so well connected, his clerical career could have been in ruins. However after spending seven years in Rome, he was ordained a priest, and returned to Ireland with a copy of Saint Jerome's Vulgate. He returned to found a monastery of his own and, at a time when books were rare, this text brought honor and prestige to the establishment.

Saint Autbert, Bishop of Avranches, Founder of the Monastery of Mont-St-Michel on the Normandy Coast (+ 720)

St. Aubert of Avranches (Feast Day - September 10)

Saint Aubert lived in Gaul during the reign of Childebert III (695-711) and died about 720. He was born of a noble family from Genetas, and received an extensive education. When the See of Avranches became vacant, Aubert, known for his wisdom and piety, was chosen bishop.

According to the accounts of the foundation of Mont-Saint-Michel, in 708 Aubert had retreated to Mont Tombe to pray. There he had a vision in which the Archangel Michael instructed him to build an oratory on the rocky tidal island at the mouth of the Couesnon. Aubert did not pay attention to this vision at first, doubting it was a true vision. The archangel appeared a second time, but still Aubert hesitated. In view of the condition of this rocky point, scarcely attached to the continent, covered with bushes and brambles, and only inhabited, besides the wild beasts, by some hermits, he judged it impossible, and at first thought of it as a trick of the devil. At last in exasperation Michael appeared to him again, this time poking him in his head and ordered him to complete the task. Upon awaking and feeling the hole in his head, it was confirmed for him that the vision was truly from God. After this the oratory was built, many miracles taking place in the process, and henceforth Mont Tombe came to be called Mont-Saint-Michel. It was dedicated on 16 October 709. Here Bishop Aubert at first established a chapter of twelve canons; then the Benedictines. Aubert's body was first buried in the oratory, then translated to the abbey on June 18, c. 1009.

Saint Salvius, Bishop of Albi in Gaul (+ 584)

St. Salvius of Albi (Feast Day - September 10);
St. Gregory and Salvius in front of King Chilperic I,
from the Grandes Chroniques de France de Charles V
(14th-century illumination)

Saint Salvius came from a powerful family within the Church, which contributed many bishops in the south of France. He was a distant relation of Gregory of Tours who wrote his life, and was also a relative of Saint Didier of Cahors. He was educated in law and humanities, before becoming a lawyer in Albi. Later he became a monk and a hermit and was made bishop in 574.

As bishop he intervened with the powerful Chilperic I and stayed in Albi to take care of his flock during a famine and a plague epidemic to which he succumbed in 584.

Monday, September 9, 2019

Synaxarion of the Holy Great Martyr Severian of Sebaste

St. Severian the Great Martyr (Feast Day - September 9)


Severian suffered by the weight of the stones,
Hanging he rejoiced, tearing his feet from earth.

This Saint was from Sebaste during the reign Licinius the emperor and Lysias the duke in the year 315, famous everywhere for his virtue, and his faith in Christ. By his office he belonged to the so-called senate: namely the imperial counselors and senators. When the duke Lysias came to Sebaste and put to death with a bitter death the Holy Forty Martyrs, he was informed also at that time of Saint Severian: that he was teaching many Greeks to become Christians, and that he was the cause through his teachings for the Forty Martyrs shortly beforehand to have shown such bravery during the contest of their martyrdom. He was also informed that, because he was wealthy, he took care of the needs of Christians who were in prison with rich handouts, and in this way he made them disobedient to imperial decrees. For this reason he immediately sent men to bring him before him. But the Saint managed to arrive there before the men were sent out, and he stood before Lysias by his own will, speaking freely of the faith of Christ with great courage.

Saint Omer, Bishop of Therouanne († 670)

St. Omer of Therouanne (Feast Day - September 9)

Saint Omer (Audomar) was born toward the close of the sixth century in the territory of Constance. His parents, who were noble and wealthy, paid great attention to his education, but, above all, strove to inspire him with a love for virtue. Upon the death of his mother he entered the Monastery of Luxeuil and persuaded his father to accompany him, which he did after they sold their worldly goods and distributed the proceeds among the poor. The father and son made their monastic profession together, being tonsured by Saint Eustasius (Mar. 29). The humility, obedience, mildness and devotion, together with the admirable purity of intention which shone forth in every action of Saint Omer, distinguished him even among his holy brethren.

Saint Joseph of Volokolamsk (+ 1515)

St. Joseph of Volokolamsk (Feast Day - September 9)

Saint Joseph of Volokolamsk, in the world John Sanin, was born on November 14, 1440 (1439 according to another source) in the village of Yazvisch-Pokrov, not far from the city of Volokolamsk. He was born into a pious family with his father named John (in monasticism Joannicius) and his mother Marina (in schema Maria). The seven-year-old boy John was sent to the pious and enlightened Elder Arsenius of the Volokolamsk-Exaltation of the Cross Monastery to be educated.

Distinguished by rare qualities and extraordinary aptitude for church service, for one year the talented youth studied the Psalter, and, the following year, the entire Holy Scripture. He became a reader and singer in the monastery church. Contemporaries were astonished at his exceptional memory. Often, without having a single book in his cell, he would do the monastic rule, reciting from memory from the Psalter, the Gospel, the Epistles, and all that was required.

Saint Kieran of Clonmacnoise (+ 549)

St. Kieran of Clonmacnoise (Feast Day - September 9)

Saint Kieran (Ciaran), who has been described as a lamp shining with the light of knowledge, was born in 512 and raised in Connacht, Ireland. His father was a builder of chariots. He was one of eight children, at least two of whom also embraced the monastic life.

Kieran had a special affinity for animals, and even had a fox for a pet. The Saint left home as a boy, driving a cow before him to pay for his keep. He went to study with Saint Finnian of Clonard (Dec. 12), and became one of the so-called Twelve Apostles of Ireland. Some of the others were Saint Columba of Iona (June 9), Ninnidh (Nennius) of Lough Erne (Jan. 16), and Saint Brendan the Voyager (May 16).

Interpreting the Icon of the Nativity of the Theotokos

Together, the Great Feasts serve to tell us the story of the Incarnation, which has its climax in the centre of the year with the celebration of the “Feast of Feasts” – Pascha. It is therefore fitting that the first Great Feast of the Church year, which begins in September, is that of the Nativity of the Theotokos.

The early life of Mary, the Mother of God, up to the occasion of the Annunciation is described in the ancient Protoevangelium of James. Hymnography and iconography for the feasts celebrating Mary’s conception, birth, and dedication to the Temple as a child, all borrow from this early (c. 2nd century) account.

Sunday, September 8, 2019

Homily on the Resurrection Apolytikion in the Third Tone

By Metropolitan Hierotheos of Nafpaktos and Agiou Vlasiou

In the Resurrection Apolytikion we chanted today in the Divine Liturgy, which is an Apolytikion in the third tone, we sang a hymn to the Risen Christ who is described as the "first-born of the dead." The hymn is as follows:

Let the heavens be glad; let earthly things rejoice; for the Lord hath wrought might with His arm. He hath trampled down death by death; the first-born of the dead hath He become. From the belly of Hades hath He delivered us and hath granted to the world great mercy.

Sunday Before the Holy Cross: Gospel and Epistle Reading

Sunday Before the Exaltation of the Holy Cross

Prokeimenon. Mode Plagal 2.
Psalm 27.9,1
O Lord, save your people and bless your inheritance.
Verse: To you, O Lord, I have cried, O my God.

St. Paul's Letter to the Galatians 6:11-18


Brethren, see with what large letters I am writing to you with my own hand. It is those who want to make a good showing in the flesh that would compel you to be circumcised, and only in order that they may not be persecuted for the cross of Christ. For even those who receive circumcision do not themselves keep the law, but they desire to have you circumcised that they may glory in your flesh. But far be it from me to glory except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world. For neither circumcision counts for anything, nor uncircumcision, but a new creation. Peace and mercy be upon all who walk by this rule, upon the Israel of God. Henceforth let no man trouble me; for I bear on my body the marks of Jesus. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit, brethren. Amen.

Nativity of the Theotokos: Gospel and Epistle Reading

The Nativity of Our Most Holy Lady 
the Theotokos and Ever-Virgin Mary

Matins Gospel Reading

Gospel According to Luke 1:39-49, 56


In those days, Mary arose and went with haste into the hill country, to a city of Judah, and she entered the house of Zacharias and greeted Elizabeth. And when Elizabeth heard the greeting of Mary, the babe leaped in her womb; and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit and she exclaimed with a loud cry, "Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb! And why is this granted me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? For behold, when the voice of your greeting came to my ears, the babe in my womb leaped for joy. And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her from the Lord." And Mary said, "My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has regarded the low estate of his handmaiden. For behold, henceforth all generations will call me blessed; for he who is mighty has done great things for me, and holy is his name." And Mary remained with her about three months, and returned to her home.

Twelfth Sunday of Pentecost: Gospel and Epistle Reading

Twelfth Sunday of Pentecost
Twelfth Sunday of Matthew

The Rich Young Man

St. Paul's First Letter to the Corinthians 15:1-11


Brethren, I would remind you in what terms I preached to you the gospel, which you received, in which you stand, by which you are saved, if you hold it fast -- unless you believed in vain. For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. Then he appeared to more than five hundred brethren at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me. For I am the least of the apostles, unfit to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me was not in vain. On the contrary, I worked harder than any of them, though it was not I, but the grace of God which is with me. Whether then it was I or they, so we preach and so you believed.

Saturday, September 7, 2019

Who Is Saint Sostis?

Throughout Greece, especially on the islands and anywhere near the sea, there are chapels, islands, villages and beaches named after Saint Sostis (Άγιος Σώστης). However, in the Synaxarion of the Church, there is no Saint that goes by the name "Sostis." This leaves us with the question: Who is Saint Sostis?

Did the Apostle Paul Pray for the Dead? The Case of Onesiphoros

St. Onesiphoros the Apostle

Saint Onesiphoros (Sept. 7) is listed among the Seventy Apostles of the Lord, and is mentioned by the Apostle Paul with gratitude in his second epistle to Timothy: "May the Lord show mercy to the household of Onesiphoros, because he often refreshed me and was not ashamed of my chains. On the contrary, when he was in Rome, he searched hard for me until he found me. May the Lord grant that he will find mercy from the Lord on that day. You know very well in how many ways he helped me in Ephesus" (2 Timothy 1:16-18).

Saint Peter the Pious, Abbot of Vatheos Ryakos

Saint Peter the Pious of Vatheos Ryakos (Feast Day - September 7);
Pictured are ruins of Vatheos Ryakos Monastery

Our Venerable Father Peter the Pious was from Cappadocia and lived in the tenth century. He was the second abbot of the Monastery of Vatheos Ryakos (Deep Stream) in Trigleia of Bithynia, succeeding Basil (July 1) the founder of the monastery. He is not only known for his piety but also for his love for God and strict asceticism. He reposed in peace.

Friday, September 6, 2019

Proposal for Dealing with the Ukrainian Issue

By Metropolitan Hierotheos of Nafpaktos and Agiou Vlassiou

The Ukrainian issue has preoccupied the Orthodox Church in recent times, from 1990 until today, a period of about thirty years. When the Ukrainians formed a state, they too wanted to acquire an autocephalous Church and Patriarchate. The Church of Russia did not give its consent, but only granted increased autonomy. For this reason it also punished those who proclaimed the Ukrainian Church to be an Autocephalous Patriarchate by deposing them. From that time onwards in Ukraine there was a Church that comes under the Church of Russia and another two groups that were schismatic.

I have written twenty articles on this subject. The first was written in 2008, the second in 2014, and the others in the two years 2018 and 2019. In these articles my main concern was the deeper cause of the issue, from which various other issues have arisen from time to time.

In the articles I have written I have tried to accentuate six serious topics. Firstly, the regime of the Church is synodical, but also hierarchical. Synodality cannot be emphasised on its own, without the hierarchical system, because this is a Protestant way of thinking. Secondly, the Autocephalous Church cannot function independently of all the other Churches, as ‘autocephalism’; rather, it is self-administering, but not completely independent. Thirdly, Apostolic Succession is inseparably linked with the Apostolic life and tradition within the mystery of Pentecost. Fourthly, the Church resolves the issues that arise with strictness and economy, and economy is used subject to certain conditions and essential prerequisites. Fifthly, from time to time various ecclesiastical illnesses appear, which I would describe as dysfunctions of the synodical and hierarchal regime of the Church, such as the theory of “the Third Rome”, which aim to overturn the decisions of the Ecumenical Councils. Sixthly, the document for granting the Tomos of autocephaly to a Church had been agreed at the Pan-Orthodox conferences, but there was a disagreement, for which the Church of Moscow is responsible, about who would sign this Tomos.

It is mainly these six points that concerned me in the articles that I wrote as a Hierarch of a Local Church, but also as a Hierarch of the Church as a whole.

Strictness and Economy with Regard to Ordinations of Those Outside the Orthodox Church

By Metropolitan Hierotheos of Nafpaktos and Agiou Vlassiou

An important subject that recurs from time to time in our discussions is how the ‘clergy’ of schismatic and heretical groups should be received when they come into the Orthodox Church. This is, of course, connected with the Apostolic Tradition and the Apostolic Succession. However, since there are many detailed circumstances, on each occasion there is an investigation of the specific case and of the preconditions under which the clerical ‘ordinations’ took place.

In an article published under the title "Apostolic Tradition and Apostolic Succession in the Mystery of the Church," I have already touched on this serious issue, from the perspective of Orthodox theology and ecclesiology.

However, in my search for more information on this subject, I found three texts that put in perspective how the Church throughout the ages has dealt with the ordinations of schismatics and heretics, and how the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church receives such ‘members of the clergy’ who come to her.

The Ecclesiastical Ebbs and Flows of the Moscow Patriarchate

By Metropolitan Hierotheos of Nafpaktos and Agiou Vlassiou

Ecumenism is associated with relativism, that is, everything is relative and thus there is a confusion in the theological and ecclesiological issues.

Ecumenicalism, of course, differs from Ecumenism, which is distinguished for confusing true and false, true and sect.

I note, however, that anti-ecumenists in Greece strongly judge and criticize the Ecumenical Patriarchate, and in particular Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, while pardoning the other Orthodox Churches, and in particular the Russian Orhodox Church.

I think this is neither fair nor objective.

That is why I will address the attitude of the Moscow Patriarchate from time to time, especially towards the Roman Catholics. Basically, I will present its transitions to ecclesiological issues, which are tailored to the external influences at the time.

I have to make clear from the outset that what follows is not about the Russian Orthodox people and the saints who lived and live in Russia, but about the leadership that has been influenced by other factors from time to time.

New views of the Russian Church on Roman Catholics and other Christian confessions appear from various statements made by representatives of the Moscow Patriarchate, which reverse basic orthodox ecclesiological principles.

For example, the Moscow Patriarchate accepts Roman Catholics in Orthodoxy without baptism and without new ordination, because it accepts their Apostolic succession. They are also involved in co-prayers and intercommunion.

It is characteristic that, according to Fr. Peter Hirsch, the Metropolitan of Volokolamsk, Hilarion (Alfeyev), “openly declared that he does not believe there are fundamental differences between Orthodoxy and Roman Catholicism.”

He states: “Virtually and in practice there is already a mutual recognition of our Mysteries. If a Roman Catholic priest converts to Orthodoxy (in Russia) we accept him as a priest and we do not re-ordinate him… so, that means we de facto recognize the Sacred Mysteries of the Roman Catholic Church.”

Russian theology has turned aside the Orthodox Tradition, as shown in the views expressed by Orthodox Russian theologians on the exceedance of the Patristic Tradition, which is the basis of the Post-Patristic theology on “the human face” with the misbelieving extensions overturning the basic decisions of the Ecumenical Councils on eucharistic ecclesiology, etc.

The “Joint Declaration” of the Pope and the Patriarch of Moscow in Havana

Although in the end of January 2016 it was decided in Geneva by all Orthodox Churches and the Moscow Patriarchate to convene the Holy and Great Synod of the Orthodox Church in the Orthodox Academy of Crete in June of the same year, however after a few days, and in particular on February 12, 2016, Patriarch Kirill of Moscow met with Pope Francis in Havana, Cuba.

During this meeting Pope Francis and Patriarch Kirill of Moscow signed a “Joint Declaration” which abounds with ecumenistic views and is, actually, moving beyond the decisions taken by the Synod of the ten Orthodox Churches that took place in the Orthodox Academy of Crete, at Kolympari, Chania. While the “Holy and Great Synod” in Crete mentioned that “the Orthodox Church accepts the historic name of other heterodox Christian Churches and Confessions that are not in communion with her,” however, the “Joint Declaration” between Pope Francis and Patriarch Kirill of Moscow has gone even further.

Surprisingly, the several antipatriarchal circles in Greece, although they have been highly critical of the Ecumenical Patriarchate for ecclesiological issues, not only they do not critisize this “Joint Declaration” between Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and Pope Francis, but they also take a stand for the Moscow Patriarchate at the expense of the Ecumenical Patriarchate. At the same time, they consider ecumenistic issues to be secondary, which is a tampering of the doctrine!

However, at the meeting between the Patriarch of Moscow and Pope Francis “which is the first in history,” as it is written in the “Joint Statement,” all these things have been forgotten, and they talk about a Church, about “mutual relations among the Churches,” about “Brethren in the Christian faith”, about “key issues of our flock” etc.

The “Joint Declaration” in Havana, Cuba, refers to the common tradition of the first millennium. “We share the common tradition of the first millennium of Christianity”, “We want to unite our efforts to bear witness to the Gospel of Christ and to the common inheritance of the Church of the first millennium,” as if this same inheritance still exists.

Admittedly, there was once a “common inheritance of the first millennium”, which today does not exist, because Old Rome was removed from the Church and added new sects. So, we cannnot say that we share the “common tradition of the first millennium,” but we did share it in the past.

The “Joint Declaration” mentions that “despite the common tradition of the first ten centuries, for almost a millennium Roman Catholic and Orthodox people have been deprived of the Eucharistic communion.” The deprivation of the “Eucharistic communion” stems from the fact that “the wounds of conflict between distant and recent past, and the differences between our understanding and interpretation of our faith in God, One God in three persons, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, divide us.” But we must point out that it is not only the “wounds of conflict” for the Trinitarian doctrine that divide us, but also for other theological matters, which are sects, such as the actus purus, the primacy, the Papal infallibility, the unleavened bread in the Divine Liturgy, and other things, which, deliberately, are not mentioned in the “Joint Statement”.

Despite the “disagreements” between the two “Churches” and despite the common inheritance of the first millennium and the lack of unity, efforts are still being made to unite the “Churches”. The “Joint Declaration” speaks of the fact that “we must, with our determination, make every effort to tackle the dispute we have inherited from history.” That is, no significant theological differences seem to exist, but “disagreements”, for which we are not responsible, but history has given them to us abstractly!

The fact that some heterodox Christians shed their blood for Christ does not mean that the sects of their Confession can be pardoned. And this is because there are Christians in all Christian Confessions, who observe Christ’s commands, believe in God, without accepting the teaching of their Confession as it is being expressed through its “dogmatic” texts. As there are also Orthodox Christians who do not live according to the decisions of the Ecumenical Councils.

It is therefore not possible to invoke the martyrdom of some Orthodox Christians for ecumenistic purposes and to correlate the martyrdom with the pardoning of the ecclesiological theological principles and by referring to the achievement of unity of the Christians. It is as if one might argue that because in the period of Persecution some idolaters believed in Christ and martyred, without first being baptized, since this act constitutes the “baptism of blood”, there is no need to be orthodox baptized, when they return to the Church.

This means that the “union of the Churches” is not valid, without invoking the Dogmatic facts and correcting the sects just because of the “martyrdom of blood,” and it is not possible to speak of the “union of the Churches” through the “ecumenism of the blood”, when, at the same time, we violate the decisions of the Ecumenical Councils.

The “Joint Declaration” between the Patriarch of Moscow and the Pope also dealt with the issue of Unia. Although there are unambiguous views of the Orthodox people regarding Unia, saying that we do not accept this way to “unite the Churches”, but this could be achieved by addressing the theological differences between the Orthodox and the Catholic, however, in the “Joint Statement” different views are being adopted.

Throughout the “Joint Declaration” there is one common finding. In its headline it says, “Joint Declaration signed by Pope Francis and Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and all Rus’.” However, in all its content it seems that the contracting parties are two “world” leaders, the Pope for the Roman Catholics and the Patriarch of Moscow for the Orthodox people, that is, the ecclesiastical Leaders of the “First Rome” and of the “Third Rome” are making the decisions; although I do not accept the terms “First”, “Second” and “Third Rome”.

The Patriarch of Moscow does not decide with the Pope on issues that concern the Patriarchate of Moscow, but they decide on issues that concern the entire Christian world; all the Orthodox Churches, in the East, the West, the North and the South, that is, in the Middle East, in Africa, in Latin America, in “other continents”, as well as the “faithful” of other religions too, and generally all mankind.

This shows that the Patriarch of Moscow, during his discussions with the Pope and by making this decision, really considers himself as the “Primate” of Orthodoxy, overriding in this way the Ecumenical Patriarch. This is also obvious both in inter-orthodox and inter-ecclesiastical issues, such as the issue of Ukraine. Which means that the Patriarch of Moscow discusses with the Pope about the Ukrainian issue, possibly in order to prejudice the decisions of the Ecumenical Patriarchate.

It is obvious that Patriarch Kirill of Moscow signed the “Joint Declaration” as a religious and political superpower, as a spokesman for other Orthodox Churches, but without receiving any authorization and by substituting for the Ecumenical Patriarch. It seems as if the so-called “Second Rome” (or New Rome) has been lost and now the “Third Rome” is talking with the “First Rome,” the two World Christian Leaders and two political Organizations.

From this brief and comprehensive analysis of the “Joint Declaration” between Pope Francis and Patriarch Kirill of Moscow it seems that the positions of the “Joint Declaration” are a very bad form of the decisions taken by the “Holy and Great Synod”, where the Patriarch of Moscow did not attend, that took place in Kolympari, Chania, a few months after the “Joint Declaration” in Havana, Cuba, in June 2016.

And how could he attend, since a few months before (February 2016) he had already made his own desicions, and in particular along with the Pope, the other World Leader, representing all the Orthodox Churches without authorization whatsoever and substituting for the Ecumenical Patriarch? And how, after this summit with Pope Francis and their “Joint Declaration”, could he attend the Synod in Kolympari, Crete, and occupy the fifth place?

The Patriarch of Moscow moves freely as a Church and Political Leader and expresses his ecumenistic positions, reversing the decision of the “Conference of Heads and Representatives of Orthodox Autocephalous Churches” that took place in Moscow in 1948.

It seems that the Patriarchate of Moscow has occasionally made various decisions on ecclesiastical matters, according to the circumstances of each era. The problem, however, is that the anti-ecumenist theologians who criticize Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew and the Synod of Crete, not only pardon the worst views of the Patriarch of Moscow, but they also support him at the expense of the Ecumenical Patriarchate.

This is a matter of interpretation on every side.

The History of the Church of Russia: The Theory of the Third Rome

By Metropolitan Hierotheos of Nafpaktos and Agiou Vlassiou

Prompted by the Ukrainian issue which has concerned us in recent years, I wanted to read some academic texts, in order to learn something more about the history of the Church of Russia and the renowned theory of the ‘Third Rome”.

In the course of my search, I found a postgraduate dissertation by Anastasius John Lallos in Greek entitled ‘History of the Church of Russia: the Theory of the Third Rome’ (Thessaloniki 2016), which was submitted to the University of Macedonia in Thessaloniki, to the Department of Balkan, Slavic and Oriental Studies, in the wider context of ‘Studies in the languages and culture of the countries of South-Eastern Europe’.

This dissertation is the result of research and investigation of the sources and the existing literature, from which it draws important material and presents information about the history of Russia, as well as about the ‘Third Rome’ theory, which began in the fifteenth century and developed mainly from the sixteenth century onwards, up until our own day.

Professor Constantine Nichoritis supervised this postgraduate study, and it was evaluated by Associate Professor Stavros Kamaroudis and Assistant Professor Cyprian Soutsiou.

I shall briefly present this study, because I do not know if it has been published yet. This will enable readers to form a picture of this issue, precisely because it is very relevant in view of past and present events relating to the autocephaly granted by the Ecumenical Patriarchate to Ukraine, against which the Church of Moscow is reacting.

The Term "Autocephalous Church"

By Metropolitan Hierotheos of Nafpaktos and Agiou Vlassiou

At the end of an earlier article I said that in a future article I would deal with the term Autocephalous Church, which is misinterpreted. I am undertaking this task with this present study, in which I expand on the views that I have expressed briefly in the past.

When we refer to local Churches we call them Autocephalous, and the Tomos, the synodical document by which metropolises are emancipated from the Ecumenical Patriarchate and they are granted self-administration, refers to an Autocephalous Church.

I consider that the meaning of the term Autocephalous Church ought to be clarified ecclesiologically. This is important because the problem that has arisen with Ukraine is a symptom, but the cause of the illness lies in how the so-called Autocephalous Church is regarded today by some local Churches. This will become clear in what follows.

The Autocephalous Churches and the Institution of the ‘Pentarchy’

By Metropolitan Hierotheos of Nafpaktos and Agiou Vlassiou

Much has been written recently as a result of the Ukrainian issue, both positively and negatively, from whichever side one looks at it. In particular, there has been very harsh criticism of the Ecumenical Patriarchate.

Prompted by this, it has been necessary for me to write articles so as to explain some aspects of the subject as a whole, without dealing with it exhaustively. In particular, I have clarified that the regime of the Church is not papal, neither is it a Protestant confederation, but it is synodical and hierarchical at the same time [‘The Regime of the Orthodox Church’]. I insist on this subject, because I consider that it is the basis of the problem that has arisen.

There are certainly many sides to the Ukrainian ecclesiastical issue. The most fundamental aspect, however, is that many people have not understood what ‘autocephaly’ means in the Orthodox Church; what ‘Autocephalous Churches’ are; how the sacred institution of the Church functions; to what extent ‘Autocephalous Churches’ can function independently of the Ecumenical Throne, which is the first throne and presides over all the Orthodox Churches, and has many powers and responsibilities; and also how the Ecumenical Throne operates in relation to the ‘Autocephalous Churches’.

Unless someone has an adequate understanding of the way in which ‘Autocephalous Churches’ function, the way in which the Pentarchy worked in the first millennium, but also of the role of the Ecumenical Patriarch during the second millennium in relation to the more recent Patriarchates and the new Autocephalous Churches, he will not grasp the essence of this issue. He will become involved in other matters, which also have their importance, but he will be ignorant of the root of the issue.

It is, therefore, necessary to identify how the so-called Autocephalous Churches were created, and how the institution of the Pentarchy functioned in the first millennium. We see this very clearly when we read the Acts of the Ecumenical Councils carefully, as well as what applies to the more recent Patriarchates and the more recent Autocephalous Churches.

I boldly stated my views of mine in the past, at a very difficult period for the relations of the Church of Greece with the Ecumenical Patriarchate.

To be specific, in 2002, seventeen years ago, I published a book in Greek entitled The Ecumenical Patriarchate and the Church of Greece. This book includes a chapter called ‘The Autocephalous Churches and the Institution of the Pentarchy’, in which I set out my views on this serious issue, which continues to be of current concern.

I am therefore publishing this text again, to show that my views on this matter have been the same for many years.

I have absolute respect for the canonical institutions; I respect the synodical system of the Church and the position and role of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, because all these things were established by Ecumenical Councils. The Ecumenical Patriarchate, in particular, has been sanctified by great Fathers of the Church, and played a significant role in the history of the Church. Also, when the need arises, I express my views respectfully on theological issues as well, without undermining the sacred canonical institution of the Church.

I shall now publish again the text I mentioned above, which, I repeat, was written seventeen years ago, because it seems that nowadays the basic principles of canon law are overlooked or forgotten, all for the sake of geopolitical expediencies.

* * *

1. The First Churches

Professor George Mantzaridis has described vividly, in a specific study of his, the way in which the original form of the Church was transferred to the worldwide Church, once Christianity had prevailed in the world. We shall now set out some of Professor Mantzaridis’ interesting views, because they are important for the subject that we are analysing here.

The first Christian communities were formed on the basis of the synagogues of the Jews of the diaspora. For this reason, they had a certain independence, but “they retained some particular reference to the mother community in Jerusalem.” The Christian communities were, of course, different from the Jewish ones, because Christianity appeared in history as the “new race” (Epistle to Diognetus) or the “third race” (Aristides Apology). The basis and sign of unity of the faithful, “as well as the centre, around which the life and the organisation of the Church developed”, was Eucharistic worship. It should also be said that “this Eucharistic basis gives a charismatic and eschatological character to the ecclesiastical structure and fabric.” This means that spiritual gifts were expressed in the course of liturgical and Eucharistic life, and also that the Christians lived in an intensely eschatological perspective, as they were waiting for the Last Things, the end of history. The Divine Eucharist, therefore, “was the centre, around which the organisation of the Church basically took shape.”

The first Churches had been founded by the Apostles, who were their true charismatic leaders. Because they were continually on the move, however, they appointed permanent ministers. When the Apostles departed, that is to say, when they died, these permanent ministers took the place of the Apostles, and the institution of the prophets and those with spiritual gifts was restricted. The Teaching of the Twelve Apostles refers to this: “Ordain, therefore, for yourselves bishops and deacons… for they also perform for you the ministry of prophets and teachers. Do not despise them, therefore, for they are your honoured ones, together with the prophets and teachers.”

Consequently, from a charismatic situation we were brought to the institutionalisation of ecclesiastical life, without this charismatic structure of the Church being lost.

With the passage of time, particularly after the departure of the Apostles, and on account of the fact that various Gnostics appeared, who claimed that they had received mystical knowledge from the Apostles, the order of bishop was further developed. Thus, “the bishop is put forward as a symbol of God’s presence. Subjection to the bishop is regarded as subjection to God.” It is in this light that we should look at all the relevant texts and the exhortations of St Ignatius the God-bearer.

The spread of Christianity to the whole inhabited world at that time, as well as the recognition of Christianity by the Roman authority, helped to bring about a change in the administrative structure of ecclesiastical life, without it losing its sacramental and charismatic character, as it adopted the administrative structure of the Roman Empire. In this way, “bishops who were located in the same civil provinces formed larger ecclesiastical units, the metropolises, in order to deal with problems of common concern. The bishops who were in the principal cities of the provinces were in charge of the metropolises, and they were called metropolitans. For the same reason, the metropolitans who were in the same geographical or administrative units, formed Patriarchates or Autocephalous Churches, led by the metropolitans of the biggest or most important cities, and they were called patriarchs or archbishops respectively.”

It is clear from this analysis that the Church in its original form was linked with the Divine Eucharist, which was its basis, and there was certainly a charismatic structure, according to the Apostle Paul’s words: “And God has appointed these in the church: first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, after that miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, administrations, varieties of tongues” (1 Cor. 12:28).

This means that the Apostles come first, followed by the prophets and teachers, and then those with spiritual gifts, administrations and the charismata of speaking in tongues. After the departure of the holy Apostles, however, the bishops came before the prophets, and they remained in the type and place of Christ, as successors to the Holy Apostles, precisely because they celebrated the Divine Eucharist, which was the centre of ecclesiastical life. Subsequently the metropolitan system developed, which had as Protos (the one in first place) the bishop of the seat of the civil administration of a province, who was called the metropolitan. Later the patriarchal system developed, when the metropolitan of a large city was called the patriarch and was the Protos of the metropolitans of that province.

Professor George Mantzaridis notes: “Institutionalisation in the Christian life should not be regarded as a fall away from the original state, but as its organic development and evolution. In fact, the creation or even the increase of institutions does not necessarily mean the disappearance of the area that has not been institutionalised, because it too can co-exist in an excellent way with the institutions.”

2. The Autocephaly of the Church

The term Autocephalous Church was introduced as time passed, not in the sense that it constitutes an independent Church that has no connection with the universal Church, but in the sense that it constitutes a unified ecclesiastical administration that determines matters connected with the election, ordination and trial of bishops, and deals with all the ecclesiastical issues of the local Church. However, it certainly has a connection with the whole Church, especially with the Mother of the Churches, the Ecumenical Patriarchate. It is not an autonomous and independent head, which is separated from the one single head of the Church. Rather, it has administrative freedom within the one Body of Christ, according to the model of the division of the Eucharistic bread.

Metropolitan Maximus of Sardis, calling Alexander Schmemann to witness, writes that the concept of “autocephaly” does not belong to the “ontology” of the Church, but rather to its historical “hypostasis”. This distinction between the ontological and the hierarchical order of the universal Church is necessary and indispensable if we are to avoid both the danger of Roman Catholicism and the temptation of Protestantism. Consequently, we not deny the ontological unity of the Church as the Body of Christ, but neither do we deny the hierarchy among the local Churches.

Metropolitan Maximus of Sardis observes: “The history and longstanding tradition of the Church have created and safeguarded the practice of the ‘hierarchy of honour’. Denial of this in the name of a badly conceived ‘equality of honour’ is a premeditated and biased replacement of genuine catholicity by some kind of ‘democratic’ equality.”

We know from various studies that the term autocephaly originally appeared in connection with the title of the archbishop. At that time, of course, ‘archbishop’ did not denote the leader of a Local Church, but rather the bishop who was dependent on, and answerable to, the patriarch, and not to the metropolitan of the province. Thus, the ‘autocephalous archbishop’ was dependent on the patriarch, from whom he received ordination, and whom, to be sure, he commemorated in church services.

From the ninth century onwards, as Professor John Tarnanidis points out, the significance of autocephaly was upgraded, when ecclesiastical independence was among the political and ethnic ambitions of the Slavs.

However, even in this case, when the definition and role of the autocephalous archbishop were upgraded, as happened with the independence of the Bulgarian Church, the Ecumenical Patriarchate could at any moment intervene in the Church’s internal affairs, extend his powers in the realm of its ecclesiastical administration, and ordain the archbishop. All this is connected, of course, with the obligation on the part of the archbishop to commemorate the Patriarch of Constantinople. For this reason, throughout the centuries the term autocephalous archbishop never meant ecclesiastical independence, just as it did not mean absolute independence.

Professor Panagiotis Trembelas, in his article in Greek entitled ‘Terms and Factors in the Declaration of Autocephaly’, and subtitled ‘Autocephaly and the Sacred Canons’, analyses in detail, on the basis of the sacred Canons and Church history, how the Autocephalous Churches functioned, as well as examining thoroughly the terms and factors that made a Church autocephalous.

It is not possible to refer to all the arguments used by the writer of the article, but some of his conclusions will be recorded.

Speaking about the terms on which autocephaly is declared, Panagiotis Trembelas asserts that neither the apostolic character of the see nor the political significance of a city contributed to this. In any case, St Photius the Great’s statement, “It is customary for jurisdictions with regard to districts to change together with the civil provinces and dioceses”, “does not constitute an inviolable principle that has been strictly observed, as the words ‘it is customary’ also imply.” As the basic principle and the essential condition for the emancipation of a Church, “emphasis must be placed on elements that facilitate and guarantee the smooth and effective functioning of the synodical authority, through the canonical and regular convocation of synods, according to the fundamental provisions, which were preserved very early on in the thirty-fourth and thirty-seventh Apostolic Canons, and in general through maintaining contact, and the mutual surveillance, supervision and guardianship of the Churches united under one Protos.”

Consequently, the autocephaly of Churches is connected with the synodical structure of the Church as a whole, and the preservation of the unity of the Churches under the supervision and guardianship of the Protos, who is the Ecumenical Patriarch, at the top of the ecclesiastical pyramid. On no account can autocephaly serve schismatic efforts and tendencies. On this point, Trembelas observes:

“Finally, it must on no account be forgotten that such mutual contact between the bishops under the one Protos aimed at strengthening unity in Christ. Quite clearly, therefore, it cannot on any account be allowed to lead to the creation of ‘fiefdoms’ or ecclesiastical provinces that are strangers to each other, but rather it must aim at easier communication among all the bishops everywhere, through their centres, the archbishops. Hence, even early on, as we have seen, a tendency is expressed to extend the boundaries of ecclesiastical regions by the subordination of various metropolitans or protoi to the exarchs or patriarchs, whose number is ultimately limited to just five.”

Analysing the factors that contributed to the autocephaly of Churches – an autocephaly that functioned as self-administration without, however, the relationship of the Local Church to the Ecumenical Patriarch being interrupted – Professor Trembelas observes that the principle of “self-determination of the peoples” played an important role in autocephaly, and “the opinion expressed by the members of the Church”, in other words, by the peoples, “is taken seriously into consideration.” The same also applies to the withdrawal of autocephaly, as took place in the case of the Archbishop of Ochrid. Certainly, even in this case, “the desires of the members of the Church were indisputably accepted only insofar as they did not contravene well-thought-out ecclesiastical interests. Hence, the synodical factor appears to be equal, or even superior, to the popular factor. Without the consent of this synodical factor, the movement of the popular factor, or of the governing factor representing it, can only produce insurrections, which approach, or even cross, the very boundaries of schism. The synodical factor, for this reason, has always been presented as determining, regulating and approving the movements of the popular factor.”

The process for granting autocephaly is also upheld.

The first synod that is competent to pronounce on the request for the emancipation of a Church is the synod around the Protos upon which the provinces to be emancipated depend, and afterwards “the body that finally and categorically pronounces on autocephaly or autonomy is the more general synod, in which all the Churches are represented, especially the Ecumenical Council.” Between these two bodies, the maturity of the Churches is examined, so it is possible that autocephaly may be withdrawn.

In fact, Trembelas asserts that temporary emancipation means that the maturity of the Church must be investigated. He writes:

“In order to give the Church that is to emancipated time to prove its maturity in practice, and to give the other Autocephalous Churches time to decide, with full information and appraisal of the circumstances, on whether it is advisable for a certain Church to be proclaimed autocephalous, the Churches asking for emancipation must initially only be autonomous under the ecclesiastical centre on which they are dependent, which reserves the right to proclaim autocephaly in all the Autocephalous Churches alike. The ruling Church can only regulate the position of the new Church in relation to itself, but not its position among the other Churches. This is determined for the new Church by all the other Churches at a synod, as is clear from Canon 17 of the Council of Carthage.”

The view that the temporary recognition of autocephaly ought to be given by the Church from which it is detaching itself is a personal opinion of the writer of the article. However, the practice that has prevailed is that the first declaration of a Church as Autocephalous is made by the Ecumenical Patriarchate, and the final recognition is given by the Ecumenical Council. The Ecumenical Patriarchate has this honour and rank, that it not only presides at Pan-Orthodox Synods, but it also takes substantial initiatives for the unity of the Church.

It becomes clear that autocephaly is not granted for the independence of a Local Church, but for the preservation of the unity of all the Local Churches under the supervision of the Ecumenical Patriarch. Moreover, despite the self-administration of certain Churches, such a Church is not separated from the Ecumenical Patriarch. In particular, the Acts of the Fourth Ecumenical Council mention that the bishops from the diocese of Asia and Pontus declared their dependency on the Ecumenical Patriarch. For example, Bishop Romanos of Myra, said: “I have not been forced; I am glad to be under the throne of Constantinople, since it was he who honoured me and ordained me.” This means that there was interdependence between the self-governed dioceses and the Ecumenical Patriarch.

The conclusion of these analyses is that self-administration or autocephaly is given, first and foremost, for the unity of the Churches and not so that ‘fiefdoms’ can operate; and that the bodies that grant autocephaly are, in the first place, the Synod around the Protos, particularly the Ecumenical Patriarchate, and subsequently the Ecumenical Council, while in the meantime it judges the maturity of the Autocephalous Church. It is possible that autocephaly may be withdrawn before its recognition by an Ecumenical Council. Panayiotis Trembelas notes:

“Through such a declaration by the Ecumenical Councils, the autocephaly, on which they pronounced, was securely confirmed, as is shown the fact that Autocephalous Churches not possessing such ratification and confirmation were abolished over time and dissolved (Carthage, Lugdunum [Lyons], Mediolanum [Milan], Justiniana Prima, Ochrid, Trnovo, Ipekios, and so on), while conversely, Autocephalous Churches possessing this recognition, although they fell into dire circumstances or passed their prime, continued to exist and gradually revived (the Cypriot emigration, and the submission, according to Canon 39 of the Quinisext Ecumenical Council, of Cyzicus and the province of Hellespont to the bishop of the island of Cyprus; the Patriarchates of Antioch, of Alexandria, and of Jerusalem).”

3. The Institution of the ‘Pentarchy’

It is in the context of this development that the Local and Ecumenical Councils and the sacred Canons, which they formulated to preserve the unity of Church life, should be interpreted. The complexities of ecclesiastical life and all the different kinds of organisation demanded a specially structured ecclesiastical hierarchy, which would comply with and obey particular Canons. In reality, it was the Holy Spirit Who preserved the unity of the Church through the Canons.

This is how the institution of the Ancient Patriarchates, the ‘Pentarchy’, together with the Autocephalous Church of Cyprus developed. We shall look briefly at this development, in order to interpret a subtle aspect that is connected with the autocephaly of the Church of Greece.

Professor John Karmiris and Nicodemus Milas, both of blessed memory, refer in detail to the subject of the creation of Autocephalous Churches in earlier times, and the subject of the Pentarchy.

Canon 6 of the First Ecumenical Council appoints the Bishop of Alexandria as Protos of the bishops in Egypt, Libya and Pentapolis. And this would be exactly as is customary in the case of the Bishop of Rome. It appoints the Bishop of Antioch to preside over all the provinces that are subject to him, namely, Syria, Coele-Syria, Cilicia and Mesopotamia, and to have the prerogatives (presbeia ‘seniority’) among the Churches. Canon 7 of the First Ecumenical Council also named the Bishop of the city of Aelia, as Jerusalem was called at that time, as a Patriarch, according to the commentary of Aristenus.

Canons 2 and 3 of the Second Ecumenical Council set up the division of the Churches of the East, based on the division of the state by St Constantine the Great. Canon 3 of the Second Ecumenical Council determines the prerogatives of honour of the throne of Constantinople. “The Bishop of Constantinople, however, shall have the prerogatives of honour after the Bishop of Rome, because it [Constantinople] is New Rome.”

Canon 8 of the Third Ecumenical Council ratifies, together with the previous ecclesiastical districts, the autocephaly of the Church of Cyprus: “The rulers of the holy Churches in Cyprus shall enjoy, without dispute or injury, according to the Canons of the blessed Fathers and ancient custom, the right of performing for themselves the ordination of their most pious bishops. The same rule shall be observed in the other dioceses and provinces everywhere.”

By Canon 28 of the Fourth Ecumenical Council, the holy Fathers laid down equal prerogatives of honour for the throne of New Rome, with the following reasoning: “And the 150 bishops most dear to God, motivated by the same consideration, gave equal prerogatives to the most holy throne of New Rome, justly judging that the city which is honoured with the Sovereignty and the Senate, and enjoys equal prerogatives with the old imperial Rome, should in ecclesiastical matters also be magnified as Rome is, and be second after it.”

Finally, the Quinisext Ecumenical Council confirmed the division of ecclesiastical districts, and also determined the hierarchical order and prerogatives of the thrones by its Canon 36. “Renewing the enactments by the 150 Fathers assembled in this God-protected and imperial city, and those of the 630 Fathers who met at Chalcedon, we decree that the throne of Constantinople shall have equal prerogatives with the throne of Old Rome, and shall be highly regarded in ecclesiastical matters as that is, and shall be second after it. After Constantinople shall be ranked the throne of the great city of Alexandria, then that of Antioch, and after this the throne of Jerusalem.”

The Canons of the Ecumenical Councils to which we have referred, particularly the Canon of the Quinisext Ecumenical Council in Trullo, regulated finally and irrevocably what are called the Ancient Patriarchates and the autocephaly of the Church of Cyprus.

There are abundant references in Church tradition to the existence of the Pentarchy, which welds together the unity of the Church. St Theodore the Studite considered that all the Patriarchs constituted “the five-headed dominion of the Church”, “the five-headed body of the Church”, or the “five-headed ecclesiastical body”. Theodore Balsamon draws a parallel between the existence of the Pentarchy and the five senses in the body of Christ. That is to say, the five Patriarchs “are like the senses of one head, five in number and indivisible, and are regarded by the Christian faithful as having equal honour in all things. They are rightly called the heads of the holy Churches of God throughout the world, and they can be subject to no human difference.”

This whole ecclesiastical structure imposed order on the Church, in accordance with her synodical regime. Every ecclesiastical diocese had autonomy. It was restricted within its own boundaries, and it could administer the Churches in accordance with the same faith and revelatory truth. In fact, Canon 8 of the Third Ecumenical Council lays down that “that every province shall retain the rights which have always belonged to it from the beginning, according to the old prevailing custom, unchanged and uninjured: every metropolitan having permission to take, for his own security, a copy of these Acts.” And Canon 2 of the Second Ecumenical Synod, which lays down the prerogatives of the thrones, states: “The aforesaid Canon concerning dioceses being observed, it is evident that the synod of every province will administer the affairs of that particular province, as was decreed at Nice.”

Professor Vlassios Pheidas, in his two excellent studies in Greek entitled The Institution of the Pentarchy of the Patriarchs (volumes 1 and 2), refers in detail to how the local Churches, the metropolitan system, and subsequently the supra-metropolitan administrative system and the supra-exarchal authority took shape, culminating eventually in the patriarchal system and, of course, to the development of the institution of the Pentarchy.
According to his analysis, “prerogatives of honour” was granted in the first centuries of ecclesiastical life to one Church, and these prerogatives were directly related to the unity of the Church “in apostolic Orthodoxy, the Divine Eucharist and love”, and were free from any sense of administrative procedure. The “prerogatives of honour” were connected with the Mother Church’s witness to the faith, the apostolicity of the thrones, the political significance of the cities, missionary activity, and ecclesiastical prestige.

Through its decisions, the First Ecumenical Council turned “prerogatives of honour” into “metropolitan status”, and so the metropolitan system developed, centred on the capital city of the civil provinces. Dealing with the Arian heresy also played an important role with regard to the Church of Egypt, and gave powers to the throne of Alexandria, which became a centre of unity for the Church of Egypt in the Orthodox faith. Thus, the First Ecumenical Council introduced the metropolitan system into ecclesiastical administration, and this system made a province “like an autonomous administrative unit.”

The introduction of the metropolitan system certainly had negative repercussions as well, because “Arian-minded bishops, taking advantage of the administrative autonomy of each province, which had be adopted on account of the metropolitan system, quickly succeeded in becoming dominant in the East, and in displacing the Orthodox even from the most eminent thrones.”

It was precisely this problem, the tendency for Arian-minded bishops to take possession of the most eminent thrones in the East, that created another problem of who would judge “the bishops of the most eminent thrones.” As time passed, the tendencies “towards polyarchy, mass-rule, and sole supremacy among the bishops led to anarchy, which found expression particularly in the synods.”

This fact led the Fathers of the Second Ecumenical Council to adopt “supra-metropolitan prerogatives” and “they appointed as the highest administrative power the Great Synod of the diocese”, as a body. Thus, “the decisions of the Second Ecumenical Council prepared the ground for the formation of the patriarchal organisation of ecclesiastical administration.

Professor Vlassios Pheidas’s studies show, therefore, that in the post-Apostolic Church, ecclesiastical administration was based on the synodical system of the relationship between the prerogatives of honour of the Mother Churches and the right to ordain. The First Ecumenical Council laid down the metropolitan system of administration. Immediately afterwards, however, the lack of a supra-metropolitan authority was ascertained, with regard to both the trial and the ordination of bishops. For this precise reason, from the Second Ecumenical Council until the Fourth there was a struggle to subject the metropolitan polyarchy to the supra-metropolitan authority of the thrones of Rome, Constantinople, Alexandria, Antioch and Jerusalem. In this way the thrones of these Churches acquired power to judge bishops in law and to ordain, within the boundaries of their jurisdictions.

Before the Fourth Ecumenical Council the institution of the Pentarchy had taken shape “through the canonical order, in order to link the ecumenical canonical prerogatives of honour (preference being given a throne’s witness in the matter of faith) with the right to ordain and try bishops”, and it functioned as a supra-exarchal authority. After the decisions of the Fourth Ecumenical Council, however, the institution of the Pentarchy functioned as a supra-metropolitan system based on the connection between the special prerogatives of honour and the supra-metropolitan right to ordain.

This means that, just as in the metropolitan system the authority of the metropolitan was associated with the provincial synod, so in the supra-metropolitan system the authority of the most eminent thrones of Rome, Constantinople, Alexandria, Antioch and Jerusalem was associated with the patriarchal synods under them, which were made up of metropolitans and bishops from each ecclesiastical district. Thus, the metropolitan provincial synod elected the bishops and its own metropolitan, but the elected metropolitan was ordained by the appropriate archbishop or patriarch, or his representative.

From then on, the institution of the Pentarchy remained as it was until the departure of Old Rome from the Catholic Church. Every attempt to increase or decrease the number of the five patriarchal thrones was condemned to failure. Even the Church of Cyprus, although it possessed administrative autonomy, was not able to claim patriarchal rights, and its autonomy was regarded “as simply an administrative prerogative in the right of ordinations and judging bishops, which was exercised under the immediate supervision of the patriarchal thrones of the East, especially by the throne of Constantinople.”

It is not possible here to undertake wider-ranging analyses of the institution of the Pentarchy, but readers can, if they are looking for something more, refer to the two academic studies by Vlassios Phidas that have been mentioned, in order to become more fully informed about these issues.

It should only be emphasised that the Church, led by the Holy Spirit, Who illumined the deified Fathers, was organised, as time passed, into a system of interdependence, not of independence, to serve her unity as the Body of Christ and the salvation of Christians. This structure originally consisted of the arrangement of Churches into mothers and daughters, and according to how significantly the thrones had preserved the Orthodox faith and tradition. However, the administrative structure of the Roman state also contributed.

The Roman (Byzantine) Empire was actually divided into prefectures, dioceses and provinces. The prefectures were large administrative areas, which were further divided into individual parts called dioceses, and, of course, each diocese was made up of provinces. From time to time various changes were made to the demarcation of these areas. We therefore have the division of the Roman state in the early fourth century, after the administrative reforms of Diocletian; the division of the Roman state after the death of Constantine the Great; and the administrative division of the Roman state after the date of Theodosius the Great.

According to the administrative division of the Roman state after the death of Constantine the Great, there were three prefectures: the prefecture of Gaul, the prefecture of Italy, Africa and Illyricum, and the prefecture of the East.

The Church adopted the administrative structure of the Roman state, so the bishop of the principal city of the diocese was called the exarch of the diocese, and the bishop of the principal city of the province was called the metropolitan. Every province, of course, was divide into individual districts (enories ‘parishes’). In the light of this analysis, we can understand the provincial synods, with the metropolitan as protos, and the dioceses, with the exarch of the diocese as protos.

It is clear from the foregoing analysis that the ancient Orthodox Patriarchates of Old Rome, New Rome – Constantinople, Alexandria, Antioch and Jerusalem, as well as the Autocephalous Church of Cyprus, were a development of the metropolitan systems, and were recognised by the Ecumenical Councils, on condition that they were administered on the basis of the sacred Canons of the Local and Ecumenical Councils. Consequently, in their case the thirty-fourth Apostolic Canon, and everything that refers to the Protos, is implemented. The Protos is the head of the metropolitans, and the metropolitans make up the synod around the Protos. The administrative system, therefore, is episcopal and synodical.

In the eleventh century (1099 AD), after various events, Old Rome was cut off from the Pentarchy of the Patriarchs of the East, and the throne of New Rome – Constantinople, the Ecumenical Patriarch, was left as Protos, without Old Rome.

From the sixteenth century onwards, the Ecumenical Patriarchate, on its own, gave patriarchal dignity and honour to various local Churches, which were to be ratified by a future Ecumenical Council. The Patriarchate of Moscow was an exception, because the patriarchal dignity and honour that was initially given by the Ecumenical Patriarch was recognised by the Patriarchs of the East. Also, the Ecumenical Patriarchate on its own granted other autocephalies.

* * *

The above words were written seventeen years ago! I want to point out here that these are my ecclesiological convictions, which do not alter or change with the passage of time, because they are basic ecclesiological principles.

What conclusions can be drawn from the text cited above?

Firstly. The Fathers of the Church at the Ecumenical Councils, through the sacred Canons, organised the visible unity of the Church, so that she would be One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic.

In this way, starting from the first Apostolic Churches, there was an organic development and evolution of the organisation of the ecclesiastical system, such that the Fathers advanced from the metropolitan system to “supra-metropolitan prerogatives”, then to the patriarchal system, and finally to the institution of the Pentarchy of thrones.

Secondly. The sacred institution of the Pentarchy did not function in the first millennium as five independent heads, like “fiefdoms or ecclesiastical states foreign to one another” (Panagiotis Trembelas), nor as “individual authorities [kephalarchies]”, but “like the senses of one head, five in number and indivisible” (Balsamon), because there is one head of the Church, Christ. The term Autocephalous Churches should be understood as self-administering Churches, and not as Churches that are independent of the Church as a whole. The first throne was that of Old Rome, and the throne of New Rome – Constantinople had equal prerogatives of honour with it.

Thirdly. Since the eleventh century (1009), when the Church of Old Rome departed from the Pentarchy, the Church has functioned as a Tetrarchy. The Church of New Rome – Constantinople, therefore, became the first-throne Church and had all the powers of the Church of Old Rome.

The Bishop of New Rome, the Ecumenical Patriarch, acquired special dignity and honour in the time of the Roman (Byzantine) Empire, but also under Turkish domination, through the system of ethnarchy instituted by Mehmed the Conqueror. This also influenced the manner in which the Tetrarchy of the thrones of the East functioned, together with the Autocephalous Church of Cyprus.

Fourthly. In the sixteenth century (1589) the Ecumenical Patriarch gave patriarchal dignity and honour to the Metropolitan of Moscow, and this was recognised by the other Patriarchs of the East (in 1590 and 1593). Later, the Ecumenical Patriarch, on his own, also granted autocephalies and patriarchal dignities and honours to various local Churches, and these, of course, have been recognised in practice by all the Churches, because all the Primates take part in Divine Liturgies and synods, with some exceptions.

Fifthly. The Church of Moscow, with the theory of the ‘Third Rome’, which it has cultivated and since the fifteenth century until today, not only undermines the position of the Ecumenical Patriarchate as Protos in the canonical system of organisation in the Orthodox Church, but in practice promotes itself as the first Church with power and strength, as is clear on the issue of Ukraine.

If one adds that, from the nineteenth century onwards, a particular theology has developed, according to which Russian theology is superior both to patristic theology up until the eighth century, and to the scholastic theology of the eleventh to thirteenth centuries, one sees clearly that the ‘Third Rome’ issue not only has a geopolitical foundation, but also a post-patristic theological basis.

To take an objective view of things, it must, of course, be pointed out that the theories of some contemporary theologians are also invalid, when they find an analogy for the Protos of the Church within the mystery of the Holy Trinity, into Which, contrary to Orthodox belief, they introduce a hierarchy!! The canonical institution of the Church, which has a Protos within the synodical and hierarchical regime of the Church, is not the same as the mystery of the Holy Trinity, which is utterly inaccessible to human beings.

We ought, therefore, to respect the canonical institution of the Church, as it was laid down by the Fathers of the Ecumenical Councils, and we should not undermine it. What is more, we should respect the first-throne Church, the Ecumenical Patriarchate.

Even when it makes some mistakes, we ought to express our thoughts with respect, discretion and honour, without demolishing and undermining the sacred institution of the Church, which was established by the Holy Spirit, Who enlightened the Fathers of the Ecumenical Councils to define it.
It is impossible in ecclesiastical issues, as in other matters, to apply the principle of drastic over-reaction – “cutting of your head because you have a headache”, as the Greeks say. In that case, we would become matricides and patricides, and undermine the work of the holy Fathers.

In a future article I shall refer particularly to the term Autocephalous Church, because I believe that it is misinterpreted by many people.

June 2019

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