THE TRUE CHURCH IN THE LAST TIMES
© Vladimir Moss, 2005
1. Dialogue between an Orthodox Christian and a Genuine Seeker on the Orthodox Faith……………………………………………………...…...…………….5
2. On Forgiveness, or: Catholic and Orthodox Ecumenism……………...……..14
3. Memory and the Moscow Patriarchate…………………………………………27
4. 10 Reasons why the Ecumenical Patriarchate is not Orthodox….…………..39
5. A Letter to an Anglican Friend on Heresy……………………………………..59
6. On Mystery and Mystification, or: Anglican Ecumenism……….…………..64
7. Fr. Seraphim Rose: A Modern St. Augustine………..…………...……………68
8. A Review of “The Struggle Against Ecumenism”……………………………73
9. Quo Vadis, Science?……………….……………………………………………...76
10. Orthodoxy, Feminism and the Science of Man………..……..……………..103
11. Abortion, Personhood and the Origin of the Soul…………………………112
12. A Reply to David Bercot on the Mother of God……….……….…………..118
13. A Dialogue between an Orthodox Christian and a Rationalist on the Body and Blood of Christ……………………………..………………………………….126
14. Patristic Testimonies on the Body and Blood of Christ....…..…………….132
15. An Orthodox Approach to Art………….….………………………………….139
16. A Reply to David Bercot on the Holy Icons…………………………………155
17. The Icon of the Holy Trinity……..…………………………...……………….160
18. On Christian Marriage…………………………………………………………166
19. The Marriage in Cana of Galilee……………………………………………..174
20. A Dialogue between an Orthodox Christian and a Manichaean on Marriage……………..……………………………………………………………….178
21. Cultism Within: A Rejoinder…………………………………………………202
22. The Diana Myth and the Antichrist………………………………………….207
23. The Seal of the Antichrist in Soviet and Post-Soviet Russia……………..211
24. On Death, the Toll-Houses and the Judgement of Souls………………….232
25. Is Hell Just?……………………………………………………………………...243
26. God and Tsunamis……………………………………………………………..257
This book consists of a collection of articles and dialogues written in the last twelve years or so on various themes relating to Orthodox Christianity. Most of them reflect controversies that have divided Orthodox Christians in this period, such as: ecumenism, sergianism, the icon of the Holy Trinity, the relationship between faith, science and art, eldership in the Church, the nature of the sacrament of the Eucharist, feminism, cloning, marriage and sexuality, abortion and the soul, the seal of the Antichrist, the soul after death, the Last Judgement and the problem of evil. It is hoped that they will show that the Orthodox world-view based on the teaching of the Holy Fathers is consistent and able to answer all the perplexities posed by modern life.
Through the prayers of our Holy Fathers, Lord Jesus Christ, our God, have mercy on us! Amen.
January 24 / February 6, 2005.
The Holy New Martyrs and Confessors of Russia.
1. A DIALOGUE BETWEEN AN ORTHODOX CHRISTIAN AND A GENUINE SEEKER ON THE ORTHODOX FAITH
Seeker. What is Orthodoxy?
Orthodox. “Orthodoxy” means “right glory”, giving the right glory to God. For there is also a wrong glorification of God, a glorification in which He takes no pleasure. “Unto the sinner God hath said: Why declarest thou My statutes and takes up My covenant in they mouth?” (Psalm 49.17 (LXX)). Thus Orthodoxy is the giving of right glory to God through the right faith and right worship. In fact, “Orthodoxy” is often equivalent to “right faith”.
Seeker. Why is right faith necessary?
Orthodox. We cannot glorify that which we do not know, and right faith is the true knowledge of God. Those who do not have the right faith cannot glorify God rightly. To them the true believers say, not with arrogance but in humble recognition of the treasure they have received: “Ye know not what ye worship: we know what we worship” (John 4.22).
Seeker. What is the Orthodox Church?
Orthodox. The Orthodox Church is the Church which has Orthodoxy – “the faith once given to the saints”(Jude 9) and the “worship in spirit and in truth” (John 4.23) – that is, the worship of God the Father in the Son, Who is the Truth, and in the Holy Spirit, Who is the Spirit of truth. She is the Body of Christ, the Dwelling-place of the Holy Spirit, the Ark of salvation, the True Vine. By another definition She is the Church that is One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic – One in Her unity in faith and worship, Holy in Her sacraments and the multitude of holy men and women she has produced, Catholic in Her wholeness in each of Her constituent parts, Apostolic in Her origin and unbroken succession from the Apostles and in Her fidelity to the Apostolic teaching. St. Germanus of Constantinople defines the Church as “a divine house where the mystical living Sacrifice is celebrated,... and its precious stones are the divine dogmas taught by the Lord to His disciples.”
Seeker. What bigotry! What, then, are the other Churches – the Roman Catholic and the Protestant, for example?
Orthodox. They are branches that have been cut off from the True Vine in the course of the centuries. The Western Church was Orthodox for the first thousand years of Christian history. But in 1054, after a long period of decline, Rome broke away from the Orthodox East and introduced a whole series of heretical teachings: the infallibility and universal jurisdiction of the Pope, the procession of the Holy Spirit from the Father and the Son (the Filioque), indulgences, purgatory, created grace, etc. The Protestants broke away from Rome in the sixteenth century, but did not return to Orthodoxy and the True Church. Instead, they introduced still more heresies, rejecting Tradition, the Sacraments, praying for the dead, the veneration of Saints, etc.
Seeker. But are there not good people among the other Churches?
Orthodox. “Someone came and said unto Him, Good Master, what good thing shall I do, that I may have eternal life? And He said unto him, Why callest thou Me good? There is none good but One, that is, God. But I thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments” (Matt. 19.16-17).
Man in his present fallen state is not, and cannot be, good. “There is none that doeth good, no not one” (Psalm 13.4). Even the Apostles were called evil by the Lord (Luke 11.13). Man can become good only through union with the only Good One, God. And this union is possible only through keeping the commandments, of which the first is the command to repent and be baptized. Unless a man has repented and been baptized through the One Baptism of the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church, thereby receiving God’s goodness within himself, he cannot be said to be good in any real sense. For the “goodness” of the fallen, unbaptized man is not good in God’s eyes, but “filthy rags”, in the words of the Prophet Isaiah.
Seeker. So the Orthodox are good, and all the rest are bad? A pretty self-righteous religion, I should say, just the kind of Pharisaical faith the Lord condemned!
Orthodox. No, we do not say that all the Orthodox are good, because it is a sad fact that many, very many Orthodox Christians do not use the goodness, the grace that is given to them in Holy Baptism to do truly good works. And their condemnation will be greater than those who have never received Baptism. “For it had been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than, after they have known it, to turn from the holy commandment delivered unto them” (II Peter 2.21). “For if we sin deliberately after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a fearful prospect of judgement, and a fury of fire which will consume the adversaries. A man who has violated the law of Moses dies without mercy at the testimony of two or three witnesses. How much worse punishment do you think will be deserved by the man who has spurned the Son of God, and profaned the Blood of the Covenant by which he was sanctified, and outraged the Spirit of grace? For we know Him Who said, ‘Vengeance is Mine, I will repay.’ And again: ‘The Lord will judge His people.’ It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.” (Heb. 10.26-31).
Seeker. What a bleak picture you paint! The unbaptized cannot do good, and those who sin after baptism are destined for even worse condemnation!
Orthodox. Not quite. Although we cannot be baptized again for the remission of sins, we can receive remission of sins in other ways: through prayer and tears, through fasting and almsgiving, above all through the sacraments of Confession and Holy Communion. God does not reject those who repent with all their heart. As David says: “A heart that is broken and humbled God will not despise” (Psalm 50.17).
Seeker. But is not such repentance possible for all men? Did not David repent in the Psalm you have cited, and receive forgiveness from God?
Orthodox. Yes, but salvation does not consist only in the forgiveness of sins, but also in acquiring holiness, that holiness “without which no man shall see the Lord” (Heb. 12.14), that holiness which is given only in the sacraments of the Church and which can be lost unless we conduct an unremitting ascetic struggle against sin. Moreover, original sin can only be remitted in the baptismal font.
Seeker. So not even David was saved?
Orthodox. Not even David was saved before the Coming of Christ. Even the Patriarch Jacob anticipated going to Hades (Sheol) after his death together with his righteous son Joseph: “I shall go mourning down to my son in Hades” (Gen. 37.35). For “all these [Old Testament righteous], though well attested by their faith, did not receive what was promised, since God had foreseen something better for us [the New Testament Christians], that apart from us [outside the New Testament Church] they should not be made perfect” (Heb. 11.39-40).
Seeker. What is original sin?
Orthodox. A certain contagion that we receive by inheritance through our parents from Adam, who committed the original sin.
Seeker. How can we be responsible for Adam’s sin?
Orthodox. We are not responsible for it, but we are defiled by it.
Seeker. Even children?
Orthodox. Even children. For “even from the womb, sinners are estranged” (Psalm 57.3). And as Job says: “Who shall be pure from uncleanness? Not even one, even if his life should be but one day upon the earth” (Job 14.4 (LXX)). Again, St. Gregory of Nyssa writes: “Evil was mixed with our nature from the beginning… through those who by their disobedience introduced the disease. Just as in the natural propagation of the species each animal engenders its like, so man is born from man, a being subject to passions from a being subject to passions, a sinner from a sinner. Thus sin takes its rise in us as we are born; it grows with us and keep us company till life’s term”. That is why the Church has from the beginning practiced infant baptism “for the remission of sins”.
Seeker. It still seems unfair to me that anyone, let alone tiny children, should suffer for someone else’s sin.
Orthodox. God’s justice is not our justice. And remember: if it is unfair that we should suffer because of Adam’s sin, it is no less unfair that we should be redeemed because of Christ’s virtue. The two “injustices” are symmetrical and cancel each other out: “As by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so by one Man’s obedience many will be made righteous” (Romans 5.19).
Seeker. So it is impossible to be good outside the Church, because sin and the roots of sin are extirpated only in the Church?
Orthodox. More than that: only in the Church can sin be known. For only to the Church has the will of God been made known in its fullness. And if we do not know what the will of God is, we cannot repent properly of our transgression of His will. The Church is the only hospital in which we receive both the correct diagnosis of the disease and complete healing from it.
Seeker. Alright. But how, then, are miracles are done outside the Church, and even in non-Christian religions?
Orthodox. Miracles – if they are truly from God, and not from the evil one – are a proof, not (or not necessarily) of the goodness of the human miracle-worker, but of the mercy of God.
Seeker. So if a Catholic or an Anglican or a Hindu works a miracle, that is nothing, whereas if an Orthodox does it, it’s great!
Orthodox. I didn’t say that. What I said was that the working of a miracle, if it is of God, tells us first of all that God is merciful. Whether it also proves the goodness of the human miracle-worker (or of the recipient of the miracle) is quite another question, which requires careful examination.
I do not deny that true miracles can take place outside the Church. After all, God “maketh His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust” (Matt. 5.45). And when St. John forbade a man who was casting out demons in Christ’s name “because he followeth not us”, Christ did not approve of his action. “Forbid him not,” he said; “for there is no man which shall do a miracle in My name that can lightly speak evil of Me. For he that is not against us is on our side” (Mark 9.38-40).
On the other hand, the Lord also said: “Many will say to Me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Thy name? And in Thy name cast out demons? And in Thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them: I never knew you, Depart from Me, ye workers of iniquity!” (Matt. 7.22-23). So it is possible to work a miracle in Christ’s name, and yet be an evil man. And God may work the miracle through the evil man, not in order to testify to the man’s (non-existent) goodness, but purely out of compassion for the miracle’s recipient. After all, Judas worked miracles – but St. John the Baptist, the greatest born of woman, worked no miracles…
Nor must we forget that Christian-looking miracles and prophecies can be done through the evil one. Thus a girl spoke the truth about the Apostle Paul, exhorting people to follow him – but she spoke through a pythonic spirit which Paul exorcised (Acts 16.16-18). I believe that the vast majority of miracles worked in pagan religions such as Hinduism are from the evil one; for “all the gods of the heathen are demons” (Psalm 95.5).
Seeker. If even miracle-workers can be of the evil one, who can be saved?
Orthodox. One must always distinguish between the possession of spiritual gifts and salvation. “Do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you;” said the Lord, “but rejoice that your names are written in heaven” (Luke 10.20). “If I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing” (I Cor. 13.2).
Seeker. Ah now that’s where I agree with you! Love is the essential mark of the Christian. And I have to say that’s just what I find distinctly lacking in your exposition. Such pride to think that you Orthodox, and you alone, belong to the True Church! And such hatred to think that everyone except you is going to be damned!
Orthodox. But I didn’t say that!
Seeker. You did!
Orthodox. I said that the Church of Christ, by which I mean exclusively the Orthodox Church, is the only Ark of salvation. But I did not say that all those in the Ark will be saved, for they may cast themselves out of it by their evil deeds. And I did not say that those who are swimming towards the Ark but who were cut off from entering it before their death, cannot be saved. Who knows whether the Sovereign God, Who knows the hearts of all men, may not choose to stretch out His hand to those who, through ignorance or adverse circumstances, were not able to enter the Ark before the darkness of death descended upon them, but who in their hearts and minds were striving for the truth? “Charity hopeth all things” (I Cor. 13.7).
Seeker. [ironically] How charitable of you! But this is more a pious hope than an article of faith for you, isn’t it?
Orthodox. Of course. From the point of dogmatic faith, we can and must assert that, as St. Cyprian of Carthage said, “there is no salvation outside the Church”. For the Lord Himself says, with great emphasis: “Verily, verily, I say unto you, unless a man is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the Kingdom of God” (John 3.5). And again: “Verily, verily, I say unto you, unless you eat of the Flesh of the Son of Man, and drink His Blood, you have no life in you” (John 6.53). And the Apostle Peter says: “If the righteous man is scarcely saved, where will the impious and sinner appear?” (I Peter 4.18).
Moreover, if we, arrogantly presuming to be more “merciful” than the Merciful Lord Himself, take it upon ourselves to “absolve” those living in false religions or heresies, we sin not only against dogmatic faith, but also against love. For then we make ourselves guilty of misleading them and leading them further into error by giving them the false hope that they can stay in their falsehood without danger to their immortal souls. We take away from them the fear of God and the spur to search out the truth, which alone can save them.
Seeker. And yet you spoke earlier about “ignorance and adverse circumstances”. Surely God takes that into account!
Orthodox. Of course He does. But “taking into account” is not the same as “absolving of all guilt”. Remember the parable of the negligent servants: “That servant who knew His master’s will, but did not make ready or act according to His will, shall receive a severe beating. But he who did not know, and did what deserved a beating, shall receive a light beating” (Luke 12.47-48). In other words, ignorance of the Lord’s will and of His truth can mitigate His sentence, but it cannot remove it altogether.
Seeker. Why? Did not the same Lord say: “If ye were blind, ye would have no sin” (John 9.41)?
Orthodox. Because we are never totally blind, and, being rational sheep made in the image of the Good Shepherd, always have some access to that “Light that enlighteneth every man that cometh into the world” (John 1.9). Thus the Apostle Paul says plainly that pagans who do not believe in the One Creator of the universe are “without excuse”; “for what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. Ever since the creation of the world His invisible nature, namely, His eternal power and divinity, has been clearly perceived in the things that have been made” (Rom. 1.19-20). God “did not leave Himself without witness” even among the pagans, “for He did good and gave you rains from heaven and fruitful seasons, satisfying your hearts with food and gladness” (Acts 14.17).
The Holy Fathers say that every man has creation outside him and conscience within to lead him away from falsehood and towards the Church, which is the third great witness to the truth, “the pillar and ground of the truth”, as St. Paul calls it (I Tim. 3.15). Creation and conscience alone cannot reveal the whole truth to him; but if he follows that partial revelation which creation and conscience provide, God will help him to find the fullness of truth in the Church. Nor is there any situation in life, however remote from, and opposed to, the Church, from which the Lord, Who wishes that all be saved and come to a knowledge of the truth, cannot rescue the genuine seeker.
Seeker. But what if the pagan or the heretic has never met the truth in the Church, or has met only very sinful or ignorant representatives of the Church? Can he not then be said to be blind and ignorant, and therefore not sinning?
Orthodox. Everything depends on the nature and degree of the ignorance. There is voluntary ignorance and involuntary ignorance. If there were not such a thing as involuntary ignorance, the Lord would not have said on the Cross: “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do” (Luke 23.34). And His prayer was answered, for on the Day of Pentecost, Peter called on the Jews to repent, saying, “I know that you acted in ignorance” (Acts 3.17), after which thousands repented and were baptized. Again, the Apostle Paul “received mercy because I had acted ignorantly in unbelief” (I Tim. 1.13). But note that all these people responded to the truth when it was presented to them. This showed that their ignorance had been involuntary, and therefore excusable.
On the other hand, there is a hardness of heart that refuses to respond to the signs God gives of His truth, the signs from without and the promptings from within. This is voluntary ignorance. People who are hardened in this way do not know the truth because they do not want to know it. This stubborn refusal to accept the truth is what the Lord calls “the blasphemy against the Holy Spirit” (Matt. 12.32), which will not be forgiven in this world or the next.
Seeker. Why can it not be forgiven?
Orthodox. Because forgiveness is given only to the penitent, and penitence is a recognition of the truth about oneself. However, if a man refuses to face the truth, and actively fights against it in his soul, he cannot repent, and so cannot be forgiven. In fighting against truth, he is fighting against the Holy Spirit of truth, Who leads into all truth (John 16.13). It is possible for a man to be sincerely mistaken about Christ for a while, and this can be forgiven him, as it was forgiven to the Apostle Paul. But if such ignorance is compounded by a rejection of the promptings to truth placed in the soul by the Spirit of truth, there is no hope. So the pagan who stubbornly remains in His paganism in spite of the evidence of creation and conscience, and the heretic who stubbornly remains in his heresy in spite of the teaching of the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church, are both blaspheming against the Spirit of truth, and cannot be saved.
Seeker. So is there really no hope for the heretic?
Orthodox. While there is life there is hope. And there are many examples of people who have remained in heresy all their lives but have been converted to the truth just before their death. There is no hope only for those who do not love the truth. Such people the Lord will not lead to His truth, because they do not desire it. Rather, He will allow them to be deceived by the Antichrist “because they refused to love the truth and so be saved. Therefore God sendeth upon them a strong delusion, to make them believe what is false, so that all may be condemned who did not believe the truth but had pleasure in unrighteousness” (II Thess. 2.10-12).
Seeker. Alright. But I am still not convinced that only your Church is the True Church. In fact, I am not happy with the concept of “the One True Church” in general. It smacks of bigotry and intolerance to me.
Orthodox. You know, tolerance is not a Christian virtue. Love is.
Seeker. You amaze me! Is not tolerance a form of love? And is not all hatred forbidden for the Christian?
Orthodox. No. The Lord our God is a zealous God, and He expects zeal from us – zeal for the good, and hatred for the evil. “Ye that love the Lord, see to it that ye hate evil” (Psalm 96.11). What He hates most of all is lukewarmness: “I know your works: ye are neither cold nor hot. Would that ye were cold or hot! So, because ye are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spew you out of My mouth… So be zealous and repent” (Rev. 3.15-16, 19). St. Gregory of Nyssa wrote: “The Lawgiver of our life has enjoined upon us one single hatred. I mean that of the serpent, for no other purpose has He bidden us exercise this faculty of hatred, but as a resource against wickedness.”
Seeker. But that still means we are not allowed to hate human beings. Are we not meant to hate the sin and love the sinner? This is the kind of teaching that leads to burning heretics at the stake!
Orthodox. No. Neither St. Gregory nor any other saint of the Orthodox Church that I know of advocated persecuting people for their religious convictions. Christian love abhors using violence as a means of persuading people. But it does not go to the other extreme and ceases trying to persuade them. Nor, if they persist in their false teachings, does it hold back from protecting others from their influence! If we love the sinner and hate his sin, then we must do everything in our power both to deliver him from that sin and protect others from being contaminated by it.
Seeker. I think this is the kind of bigotry that comes from believing that one is in “the One True Church”. It is the source of religious persecution, the Inquisition, etc.
Orthodox. The cause of religious persecution is not the claim to possess the truth, which all rational people who have thought out their beliefs claim, but human passions.
Seeker. What about Ivan the Terrible? What about most of the Orthodox emperors? Did they not discriminate against heresy?
Orthodox. Ivan was excommunicated by the Church, and was rather a persecutor of the Orthodox than an instrument of their persecuting others. As for the emperors’ discriminating against heresy, I am all in favour of that. It is irrational to place truth and falsehood on an equal footing. St. Theodosius of the Kiev Caves, one of the greatest saints who ever lived, said that by honouring others’ faiths we dishonour our own. Do our schools give equal honour to the theories of Ptolemy and Newton? Of course not!
Seeker. But that’s different! There we’re talking about scientific facts!
Orthodox. I don’t see any difference in principle. Our principle is: speak the truth at all times, reject falsehood at all times. If scientists do that in their sphere, where there is no certainty and “facts” are constantly being disputed by later investigators, why should we not do it in the incomparably higher and more important sphere of religious faith, whose incontrovertible facts have been communicated to us by the Truth Himself? For as St. Paul says about the Gospel: “I did not receive it from man, nor was I taught it, but it came through a revelation of Jesus Christ” (Gal. 1.12).
Seeker. And if everyone claims to have received a revelation from God?
Orthodox. Then we must patiently investigate who is telling the truth and who has been deceived by “the father of lies”. Just as scientists have methods for comparing different hypotheses and determining which (if any) is the correct one, so do we Orthodox Christians have methods of determining what is truth and what is falsehood in the religious sphere. And just as scientists will never accept that there can be more than one true explanation of an empirical phenomenon, so we will never accept that there can be more than one religious truth.
Seeker. Cannot different religious faiths each reveal part of the truth?
Orthodox. No. The Truth is One, and has been revealed to us by the Truth Himself: “One Lord, One Faith, One Baptism” (Eph. 4.4).
Seeker. So there is no truth at all in any of the non-Christian religions?
Orthodox. I didn’t say that. Satan likes to appear as an angel of light (II Cor. 11.14); he mixes “truth with unrighteousness” (Rom. 1.18). Thus with the bait of such fair-seeming ideals as “love”, “peace” and “freedom”, which correctly interpreted are indeed goods from God, he lures them into an abyss of falsehood. There is only one religion which contains “the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth”. All the others, being parasitical on the One Truth, contain partial truths, but make even these partial truths false by association with falsehood, just as even a small dose of poison in a wholesome loaf makes the whole loaf poisonous.
Seeker. So there are partial truths in other religions, but no salvation?
Orthodox. Right. For as St. Peter said of Christ: “There is salvation in none other: for there is no other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved” (Acts 4.12).
Seeker. What about the Muslims and the Jews? Do they not believe in the same God as we – the God of Abraham, their common ancestor?
Orthodox. The Lord said to the Jews: “If ye were Abraham’s children, ye would do the works of Abraham” (John 8.39). And St. Paul said: “Know ye therefore that they which are of the faith” – that is, the faith in Christ – “are the children of Abraham” (Gal. 3.7). The God of Abraham is the God of our Lord Jesus Christ; Abraham himself looked forward to the Coming of Christ in the flesh – “Abraham saw My day and was glad” (John 8.56).
Seeker. Alright. But do not the Jews and Muslims also believe in the God of the Old Testament, Jehovah, Who is the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ?
Orthodox. We believe that the great majority of the Old Testament Theophanies were in fact appearances of God the Son, not God the Father. Contrary to the belief of the Jehovah’s witnesses, the “Jehovah” of the Old Testament is Christ Himself; Moses and Elijah appeared with Christ at the Transfiguration to show that it is He Who appeared to them in the cloud and the fire and the still, small voice; it is He Who is the God of the Law and the Prophets.
In any case, since God is a Trinity of Persons, it is impossible rightly to believe in One of the Persons and not in the Others. For “whosoever denieth the Son, the same hath not the Father” (I John 2.23).
Seeker. But do not the Muslims believe in Christ after their fashion?
Orthodox. They believe that He is a prophet who is coming again to judge the world. But they do not believe in His Divinity, nor in His Cross and Resurrection – the central dogmas of our Faith. Moreover, they believe in the false prophet Mohammed, who contradicts Christ’s teaching in many respects. If they truly believed in Christ, they would not follow Mohammed’s teaching instead of Christ’s.
Seeker. But the Jews are the chosen people, are they not?
Orthodox. They were the chosen people, but then God rejected them for their unbelief and scattered them across the face of the earth, choosing the believing Gentiles in their place.
Seeker. But the religion of the Old Testament was the true religion, was it not? And insofar as they practise that religion, they are true believers, are they not?
Orthodox. The religion of the Old Testament was a true foreshadowing of, and preparation for, the full revelation of the Truth in Jesus Christ. But once the fullness of the Truth has appeared, it is impious to remain with the shadow; indeed, to mistake the shadow of the Truth for the Truth Himself is a grievous delusion. In any case, the Jews do not practise the Old Testament religion.
Seeker. What are you talking about?! Of course they do!
Orthodox. Since the destruction of the Temple in 70 A.D., it has been impossible for the Jews to practise the main commandment of their religion, which was to worship God with sacrifices in the Temple three times a year – at Pascha, Pentecost and the Feast of Tabernacles. Thus has the prophecy of the Prophet Hosea been fulfilled: “The children of Israel shall dwell many days without king or prince, without sacrifice or pillar, without ephod or teraphim” (Hosea 3.4).
Seeker. What is their present religion then?
Orthodox. Not the religion of the Old Testament, but the religion of the Pharisees, which Christ rejected as being merely “the traditions of men”. Its relationship to the Old Testament is tenuous. Its real holy book is not the Holy Scriptures of the Old Testament, but the Talmud, a collection of the teachings of the Pharisees.
Seeker. And what does that teach?
Orthodox. The most extreme hatred of Christ and Christians. Not only does the Talmud deny the Divinity and Resurrection of Christ: it reviles Him as a sorcerer and a bastard, the son of a Roman soldier called Panthera and an unclean woman. Moreover, it teaches a double standard of morality: one for fellow Jews, quite another for the goyim, the Gentiles, who are not even accorded the dignity of fully human beings.
Seeker. But is this not anti-semitism?
Orthodox. Anti-semitism as a racist attitude of hatred for all Jews as such is of course contrary to the Christian Gospel. Nor can Christians approve of those cruelties that have been perpetrated against them (not the discrimination against their teaching, but the physical violence against their persons) down the centuries. But this in no way implies that Christians must participate in the campaign of whitewashing the Jews that has been continuing for nearly a century in both religious and non-religious circles. As the Gospels clearly indicate, the Jews killed Christ and brought His Blood upon themselves and upon their children. Nor has their hatred of Christ and Christians lessened down the centuries: anti-semitism is in large measure the reaction of Christians and Gentiles to the anti-Gentilism of the Talmud, which approves of all manner of crimes against Gentiles, including murder and extortion. In recent times, as Winston Churchill and many others have testified, the Jews were the leaders and inspirers of the anti-Christian and anti-monarchical revolutionary movement; they plotted the Russian revolution and put it into effect with the utmost ruthlessness – 95% of the leading Bolsheviks were Jews. (Of course, the Bolsheviks were atheist rather than Talmudic Jews. Nevertheless, the influence of the Talmud and the Rabbis on their hatred of Christian civilization cannot be denied.) The promise, in the same week of October, 1917, of a national homeland for the Jews in Palestine was a “coincidence” no discerning Christian can ignore, and whose significance for our times is immense. For the constant tradition of the Church has been that the Antichrist will be a Jew ruling from Jerusalem in a reclaimed State of Israel…
Seeker. But must we not love the Jews, even if they are our enemies?
Orthodox. Indeed, we must love our enemies and pray for them, as Christ commanded. In particular, we must pray that they will be converted and return to Christ, as St. Paul prophesied would happen in the last times. “For if the casting away of them be the reconciling of the world, what shall the receiving of them be, but life from the dead?” (Rom. 11.15).
Seeker. What you say makes sense, but I have one fundamental objection to everything you say.
Orthodox. What is that?
Seeker. You claim that this is Orthodoxy, but I know that it is not.
Orthodox. What do you mean?
Seeker. Your hierarchs participate in the ecumenical movement, which is based on principles completely contrary to the Orthodoxy you preach.
Orthodox. Actually, my hierarchs do not participate in the ecumenical movement. However, your mistake is understandable, because those large organizations and patriarchates which are associated in the public eye with Orthodoxy, such as the Ecumenical Patriarchate, the Moscow Patriarchate, the Serbian Patriarchate, etc., do take part in the ecumenical movement. But we have no communion with them, because they have betrayed Orthodoxy.
Seeker. How can the leaders of Orthodoxy be said to have betrayed Orthodoxy?! It’s like saying that the Pope has betrayed Catholicism!
Orthodox. But he did! It was the Popes who in the second half of the eleventh century betrayed Orthodox Catholicism and the Orthodox Catholic Church, making it – or rather, that part of it which submitted it to them – into something quite different: the Roman (pseudo-) Catholic Church. In the same way, in the twentieth century, it is the leaders of the official Orthodox Churches who have betrayed Orthodoxy, making it into something quite different: “World Orthodoxy” or “Ecumenist Orthodoxy”.
You must remember that just as “he is not a Jew who is one outwardly” (Rom. 2.28), but only he who belongs to “the Israel of God” (Gal. 6.16), that is, the Church of Christ, so he is not an Orthodox Christian who is one outwardly, but only he who confesses his Orthodoxy in word and deed. Fortunately, there are still Orthodox Christians who are so in truth, and not merely in appearance, and who have separated from the prevailing apostasy. And these, however few they are or will become, remain that Church against which the gates of hell will not prevail (Matt. 16.18), and of whom the Lord of the Church said: “Fear not, little flock; for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the Kingdom” (Luke 12.32).
Seeker. Well, I am relieved to hear that. For I was convinced by your words, but was beginning to think that nobody practised that truth which I have come to believe in.
Orthodox. Welcome to the true Faith of Christ, brother! And do not fear: however small the Church on earth becomes, the Church in heaven is growing all the time, until the very end of the world. For “you have come to Mount Zion and to the City of the Living God, the Heavenly Jerusalem, and to innumerable Angels in festal gathering, and to the Assembly of the Firstborn who are enrolled in heaven, and to a Judge Who is God of all, and to the spirits of just men made perfect, and to Jesus, the Mediator of the New Covenant, and to the sprinkled Blood that speaks more graciously than the blood of Abel…” (Heb. 12.22-24).
May 21 / June 3, 2004.
Holy Equals-to-the-Apostles Emperors Constantine and Helena.
2. ON FORGIVENESS, or:
CATHOLIC AND ORTHODOX ECUMENISM
Introduction. The Papal Initiative.
On Forgiveness Sunday, 2000, according to the Orthodox Church calendar, the Pope of Rome issued an appeal for pardon for the sins of Catholics over the ages. “As the successor of Peter,” he writes in his Bull of Indiction of the Great Jubilee of the Year 2000, Incarnationis Mysterium, “I ask that in this year of mercy the Church, strong in the holiness which she receives from her Lord, should kneel before God and implore forgiveness for the past and present sins of her sons and daughters…. Christians are invited to acknowledge, before God and before those offended by their actions, the faults which they have committed… Let them do so without seeking anything in return… All of us, though not personally responsible and without encroaching on the judgement of God, who alone knows every heart, bear the burden of the errors and faults of those who have gone before us.” Among the specific acts repented of by the Pope are the Crusades and the Spanish Inquisition. He also admitted that the Catholics had been unjust to ethnic and religious minorities, especially the Jews, women and natives of the Third World.
How are we Orthodox Christians to react to this declaration? Is it simply a political manoeuvre on the part of the world’s chief heretic, or is something deeper and more sincere contained in it? Can we refuse forgiveness to him who asks us for it? Must we forgive? These are some of the questions elicited by this declaration by the Pope.
1 Our Sins and the Sins of our Fathers.
First of all, it is necessary to say that if we are talking about personal sins committed against us personally, then we must not only forgive him who asks us for forgiveness, whoever he might be and whatever faith he might confess, but we must forgive him before he asks for forgiveness: the Christian must immediately and “from the heart” forgive every one who has offended him. For “if you will not forgive men their sins,” said the Lord, “then your Father will not forgive your sins” (Matt. 6.15).
But can we forgive personal sins not committed against ourselves personally, but against our ancestors? Can, for example, an Orthodox Englishman forgive the Pope blessing the Norman invasion of England in 1066, which resulted in the destruction of 20% of her population and the complete annihilation of English Orthodox culture? Can an Orthodox Greek forgive the destruction of Constantinople during the fourth crusade in 1204? Can an Orthodox Russian forgive the persecution of the Orthodox by the Catholics in the 16th and 17th centuries or the support given by the Pope to the revolution of 1917? Can an Orthodox Serb forgive the deaths of 750,000 Serbs at the hands of Catholic persecutors in Croatia in 1941?
This is a more complicated question, which demands a more detailed reply. On the one hand, insofar as it was our ancestors who perished first of all, it is up to them to forgive, not to us. And if amidst those who suffered there were some who died without forgiving their enemies, we can only pray for the forgiveness both of them and of their persecutors.
On the other hand, there is a definite sense in which we, being bound to our ancestors by bonds not only of blood but also of spiritual kinship, suffer together with them even to the present day. If the sins of the fathers affect their children, then exactly the same applies to their sufferings and offences: “The fathers have eaten a sour grape, and the children’s teeth are set on edge” (Jer. 31.29). In this sense, actions directed at the redemption of the guilt on the part of the heirs of the persecutors can significantly lighten the bitterness felt by the descendants of those who suffered.
But, leaving psychological considerations to one side, can we demand repentance for sins committed against our ancestors? The answer to this question depends on the answer to the following: what is the motive eliciting this demand for repentance? If it is a desire to humiliate an opponent or in some way take revenge on him, then the answer will be negative, for “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay, says the Lord” (Rom. 12.19).
But if we are moved by love for justice, then the answer must be positive, for the love of justice is natural for man, created as he is in the image of the righteous God. Indeed, according to St. John of the Ladder, “God is called love, and also justice.” Thus the desire for justice, if it is not mixed with any sinful passion, is good and worthy of honour. This is evident from the words which may at first sight appear a bloodthirsty cry from the souls under the altar depicted in the Apocalypse: How long, O Lord, holy and true, will you not judge and be avenged for our blood on those living on the earth?” (Rev. 6.10). For “they cry out these words,” according to the English Orthodox Father, the Venerable Bede, “not out of hatred for enemies, but out of love of justice”.
Moreover, if the heirs of the persecutors come to recognize the sins of their fathers, then they thereby come closer to the truth and to their own salvation. And this is precisely the aspect that should interest Orthodox Christians first of all in the Pope’s declaration. Are we witnessing the return, albeit partial and not completely conscious, of the western papist church to the faith of our fathers?
2. The Sins of the Papacy.
There are good grounds for adopting a sceptical and even cynical attitude to this. The Pope remains a potential threat to the salvation of millions of Orthodox Christians, having recently added to his many doctrinal sins the heresy of ecumenism. He promised his church a jubilee gift for the year 2000: reunion with the Orthodox, a gift which for the Orthodox would signify spiritual death and which, however painful it is to say it, the overwhelming majority of them have already accepted.
Moreover, the Pope’s repentance excludes that which is most important for the Orthodox: repentance not so much for the personal sins of the Roman Catholics as for the heresies of Roman Catholicism.
The Greek Old Calendarist Archimandrite Gregory of Dormition Skete, Colorado, U.S.A. has expounded those thoughts that in his opinion would constitute a more correct repentance on the part of the Pope:
“I, Pope John-Paul, would like to ask the forgiveness of the whole world for spreading my evil and destructive doctrine, which is called Roman Catholicism.
“Among the heresies I would like to renounce is the heresy of the Filioque, which destroys the theological understanding of the Trinity. I would also like to renounce the following heresies:
“our diabolical teaching on purgatory, which is similar to the teaching of Origen;
“the teaching on the immaculate conception which we have thought up;
“our use of statues, like the pagans and idol-worshippers;
“the ban on our clergy entering into marriage;
“our introduction of the papist calendar;
“our distortion of all the sacraments which we accepted when we were Orthodox – for example, our heretical practice of baptism by sprinkling, which is like the practice of the Protestants, and our use of unleavened bread, which is like the Jews;
“our teaching that I the Pope am infallible, a teaching that forms the foundation of all the above-mentioned sins, which thereby witness to the fact that I am not infallible.
“I would also like to repent of the fact that I have drawn the Orthodox patriarchs of our century into the new heresy of ecumenism.
“From all the above examples it is evident that I have fallen away from True Christianity, and therefore both my actions and those of my predecessors are like the actions of the pagans, like whom I in the name of ‘Christianity’ killed, burned and destroyed everything that I could and everyone that I could for the sake of spreading my false teachings.
“The list of such evil works includes the Inquisition, when innocent people were burned at the pillar of shame, which witnesses to my unchristian attitude to people; and the crusades, which ravaged the capital of Orthodox Byzantium, Constantinople; the invasion and conquest of America, as a result of which with my blessing the two main indigenous civilizations there were annihilated; the murder by dismemberment of the holy Martyr Peter the Aleut, an Orthodox Christian who suffered in San Francisco at the hands of my Jesuit monks because he did not want to convert to my disgusting faith; and in our century, my predecessor Pius XII’s blessing of forcible conversion in Croatia, during which 800,000 Orthodox were killed because they did not want to convert and be subject to my papal authority.
“From all the above it follows that I am in a wretched condition, and I intend to ask forgiveness. I intend to renounce this heretical teaching and accept Orthodox baptism…”
Approximately some such list of sins would be demanded from the Pope if his request for forgiveness were to correspond to the Orthodox world-view. But insofar as the present declaration of the Pope is far from this, it is difficult to quarrel with those who see in this act a purely political trap, yet another move in the ecumenical game, a new tactic in the papacy’s age-old attempts to draw the Orthodox into a false union with itself.
Some may object: but have not Pope Paul VI and Patriarch Athenagoras of Constantinople already forgiven each other by means of the lifting of the anathemas in 1965? If the Pope and the Patriarch no longer have anything against each other, why should we renew the quarrel between them? Can an act of mutual lifting of anathemas really be “invalid”, when anathematising someone is so obviously an act of hatred?
No: an anathematisation of that which is truly false is an act of love, not hatred. How can it be otherwise when the Apostle Paul himself anathematises (I Cor. 16.22, Gal. 1.8,9), and when the Church herself in her Seven Ecumenical Councils and on the Sunday of Orthodoxy anathematises all heretics?
It is necessary at this point to return to the distinction between personal sins and sins against the faith. We have the right and the duty to forgive personal sins committed against us, even if the offender does not ask for forgiveness. And if the original hurling of the anathemas in 1054 was caused by purely personal sins and passions, then the meeting of the hierarchs some 900 years later, could, if not remove that original sin, at any rate help to remove any residual bitterness passed down the generations. And it seems that this is how the hierarchs understood the act. Thus the epistle sent by the Pope to the Patriarch expressed his regret that the Church of Constantinople had been offended by the papal legates in 1054: “We deeply regret this, and all excommunications and anathemas that the legates placed upon Patriarch Michael Cerularius and upon the Holy Church of Constantinople we declare to be null and void”.
But if the “offence” is not (primarily, at any rate) a personal one, but a sin against the faith, then it can be healed only by repentance specifically for that dogmatic sin on the part of the sinner. But of such repentance there was not a trace in the meeting in 1965: dogmatic differences, the original and true cause of the schism, came into the discussion not at all. And yet sins against the faith remain unforgiven until the sinner has completely renounced them. For a sin against the faith is primarily a sin, not against man, but against God, since it is in essence blasphemy, an affirmation that God is a liar in His witness about Himself. In relation to such sins the words of David are especially applicable: “Against Thee only have I sinned” (Psalm 50.4). And if the heretic sins against God alone, then only God can forgive him. Or the Church of God, to which God has given the power to bind and to loose, that is, to discern whether a sinner has truly repented of his sin. That is why we, as individuals, cannot forgive a heretic his heresy, but only the Church - through baptism and anathematisation of his heresies if he was not a member of the Church in the first place, or confession if he is already baptised.
As regards anathemas against heresies, these can never be removed. For since God and His truth does not change, the sentence against that which contradicts this truth is also immutable. People can change; they can change from confessing heresy to confessing the truth; and so they can change from being under anathema to being freed from anathema. But the heresy itself remains under anathema unto the ages of ages.
3. False Forgiveness and Ecumenism.
It is significant that the papists began for the first time to ask for forgiveness from their “separated brethren” (the Orthodox), from the Jews and from others only when they accepted the heresy of ecumenism during the Second Vatican Council in the 1960s. This permits us to suppose that there is a close link between ecumenism and the false understanding of forgiveness.
It is often said that the essence of ecumenism consists not in some particular heretical teaching, but in a false understanding of heresy in general. One reviewer of a book on the Anglican Reformation in Church Times remarked that the real heresy consists in the idea that there exists such a thing as heresy! In other words, heresy does not exist! But if heresy does not exist, then neither does truth. For heresy is simply the denial of a particular truth about God.
The strange thing is that the same ecumenists who are so indifferent to religious truth and falsehood, even denying that the latter exists, can be extremely zealous for what they consider to be the truth in other, non-theological matters. Only when the matter concerns Divine truth do they suddenly become amazingly “tolerant”, thereby confirming the truth of the apostolic words: “they received not the love of the truth, that they might be saved” (II Thess. 2.10).
This is particularly obvious in the case of Patriarch Athenagoras – the man who supposedly “lifted the anathemas” against the papacy in 1965. Fr. Basil Lourié writes : « Athenagoras … did not consider [the Latins] to be heretics. But his denial of their hereticalness was not a manifestation of his special love for them: Athenagoras did not recognize the existence of heresy in general! Having heard of a certain man who saw heresies everywhere, Athenagoras said: ‘I don’t see them anywhere! I see only truths, partial, reduced, sometimes out of place…”
And so we can define the essence of ecumenism as indifference to religious truth, or, in its extreme manifestations, the absence of faith in the existence of objective truth generally. In the words of Metropolitan Philaret of New York in his Sorrowful Epistle to Patriarch Athenagoras, ecumenism “places a sign of equality between error and truth”. This is the same indifference that was manifested by Pontius Pilate, when, standing in front of Truth Incarnate, he wearily asked: “What is truth?” – and would not stay for an answer…
But this is only one side of the question. Ecumenism also displays a striking indifference to justice. Again, the ecumenists, like everyone else, can be zealous in relation to justice in non-theological, especially political, matters – for example, the injustice of Third World debt or racism or sexism or some other form of discrimination. Moreover, they do not fear to accuse God Himself of injustice, as when the Anglican Bishop of Durham (Northern England) declared that if God permitted Auschwitz, he was a devil… But when we are talking about injustices committed in relation to Christians because they are Christians – for example, the persecution of Christians in the Soviet Union, - then they become suddenly silent. Here again we see a similarity with Pilate, who washed his hands after committing the greatest of all injustices, while claiming to carry out the duties of an impartial judge.
The most important value for the ecumenist is peace – not peace with God or with the true people of God, but peace with the world and the rulers of this world. And if truth and justice have to be sacrificed for the sake of this worldly peace, then so be it. Thus Pilate betrayed Truth and Justice for the sake of peace with, and out of fear of, the Jews. And thus do the present-day leaders of the ecumenical movement, for fear of the non-ecumenical confessions (primarily, Judaism and Islam), strive first of all to establish peace amongst themselves so as to be able to present a united front in their pursuit of a general peace with – or rather, capitulation before – their enemies, whom they fear because of their secular power. But “there have they feared where there is no fear” (Psalm 13.6); for it is not fitting to fear the enemies of God, friendship with whom is enmity with God (James 4.4), Whom alone they have to fear as being able “to destroy both soul and body in gehenna” (Matt. 10.28).
Where there is no consciousness of sin, or a distorted understanding of sin, a request for forgiveness is seen to be in essence a request for something else – perhaps the conclusion of a non-aggression pact, or an agreement on cooperation for the attainment of some common goal. “And the same day Pilate and Herod were made friends together; for before they were at enmity between themselves” (Luke 23.12). Why? Because their mutual rivalry was less important than their mutual desire to placate the Jewish religious establishment, to whom Christ was to be thrown like meat to a hungry animal. In the same way the dogmatic differences between the Pope of Rome and the “Orthodox” ecumenists are less important to them than their retention of a place at the table of the world’s rulers – who are once again, as in the time of Christ, mainly Jewish.
4. Orthodox Herods and Catholic Pilates.
Let us continue for a time to draw out the parallels between Pilate and Herod, on the one hand, and Catholic and Orthodox ecumenism, on the other.
Were Pilate and Herod equally guilty in the eyes of God? Not at all. Christ spoke with Pilate, but refused to speak to Herod (Luke 23.9). Herod mocked Christ and arrayed Him in a gorgeous robe, thereby mocking His assertion that he was the king of the Jews (Luke 23.11). But Pilate wanted to know more about Christ’s claims to a kingdom, and, bringing Him out to the Jews, said, not without some genuine admiration: “Behold your King!” (John 19.14). And again he asked, not without some genuine fear: “Shall I crucify your King?” (John 19.15). Moreover, overcoming for once his fear of the Jews, he refused to remove the inscription on the Cross: “Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews”. We have no evidence that Herod had any gnawings of conscience in handing over Christ, Who was in Herod’s jurisdiction and Whom he could have released. But Pilate found no fault in Him and was searching for a way of releasing Him. To the end he retained a definite consciousness of his sin, and God had given him a further impulse to stand firm through his wife’s exhortation. And even after he had betrayed Him, his guilty conscience revealed itself in his washing his hands and saying: “I am innocent of the blood of this Righteous Man” (Matt. 27.24).
Just as Herod’s sin was greater than Pilate’s, so the crime of the Orthodox ecumenists is greater than that of the Catholic ecumenists. This assertion may shock many Orthodox zealots who are accustomed to see in Catholicism and the apostate West the root of all evil. But after some thought it becomes obvious that, in accordance with the principle: “to whom much is given, much is required”, greater responsibility is undoubtedly borne by those to whom the treasures of Orthodox Tradition have been entrusted than by those who have never been Orthodox.
The Orthodox ecumenists are like the Pharisees, who, having the keys to the Kingdom of Heaven, shut up that Kingdom against men; for they neither go in themselves, nor suffer those that are entering to go in (Matt. 23.13). One of the most shameful documents in the history of Christianity is the resolution accepted by the heads of the Local Orthodox Churches in Constantinople on the Sunday of Orthodoxy, 1992. On that day the Orthodox triumphantly declare about their faith: “This is the Apostolic Faith! This is the Orthodox Faith! This is the Faith that supports the world!”, and anathematize all the heresies, including those of the Catholics and Protestants. And yet in their 1992 council these so-called Orthodox leaders officially renounced proselytism among the heretical Christians of the West! It was as if they said to the westerners “Yes, ours is the Apostolic Faith, and yes, we have just anathematized your heresies. But these are only words. The world does not need our faith. And the world need not fear our anathematisms. Remain where you are. Remain in your heresy. We will not try and convert you.”
Nine years later, the Moscow Patriarchate’s Metropolitan Cyril (Gundiaev) of Smolensk put it as follows: “In practice we forbid our priests to seek to convert people. Of course it happens that people arrive and say: ‘You know, I would like, simply out of my own convictions, to become Orthodox.’ ‘Well, please do.’ But there is no strategy to convert people.”
And this at a time when the Christians of the West are undergoing the deepest crisis in their history, when thousands of Western Christians, and especially Catholics, are turning their eyes to the Orthodox in the hope that they will extract them from the terrible dead-end in which they find themselves. Thus traditional Catholics brought up in accordance with the decrees of their “infallible” first bishop, that their Church is the one saving Church, and that their faith is the one saving faith, were profoundly shaken, in some cases even to the extent of mental disorder, to learn, during the Second Vatican Council in the 1960s, that not only the Catholics, but also the Orthodox and even Protestants, Jews and Muslims belong to the People of God and can be saved, and that that which they considered to be heresy was no longer heresy, and that which they consider to be mortal sin was no longer mortal sin…
Is there a way out of this situation? One possibility is to declare, with the Swiss Cardinal Lefèbvre, that the Pope of Rome has fallen into heresy, that he is an anti-pope, and that the true Catholic Church is another place, among the Catholics who do not recognize the present Pope. But if the Pope is infallible, how can he fall into heresy? Of course, there were Popes who fell into heresy even before the rise of the papist heresy itself – Pope Honorius, for example, who was condemned by the Sixth Ecumenical Council. But the papists have always tried to explain away such examples because the idea of a heretical Pope actually undermines their faith at its very base. For if the Pope falls away from the truth, he is no longer Peter, no longer the rock on which the Church is built. And then the Catholics will have to look for their Catholic faith outside the (pseudo-) Catholic Church, which is an absurdity for them. For according to their papist faith, there can be no true faith, and no true Church, without the Pope. If the Pope falls, then the Universal Church falls with him, and the gates of hell, contrary to the promise of the Saviour, have prevailed against her (Matt. 16.18).
Another possibility is to declare that the Roman see is temporarily vacant. But again: can the Church exist without Peter according to papist doctrine? If the Church is founded on the rock, and that rock is Peter and his successors, the Popes of Rome, how can the Church continue to exist without the rock?
A third possibility is to declare, together with the True Orthodox Christians, that the Roman Catholic Church is not only in heresy, but has been in heresy ever since she fell away from her true Mother, the Orthodox Church, to which her children must return if they want to receive the grace and truth that is in Christ. And, glory to God, many in the West, both Catholics and Protestant, are doing just that – to the extent that the Orthodox ecumenists are allowing them. In England, for example, Orthodoxy has doubled in size during the last decade.
But this growth in converts to Orthodoxy from the Western confessions has taken place not thanks to, but in spite of, the preaching of the official Orthodox Churches. For how often have potential converts to Orthodoxy been dissuaded from joining by the Orthodox hierarchs themselves! Even when already Orthodox, these neophytes from the West have often been made to feel like second-class citizens who cannot really know the mystery of Orthodoxy because of their “western mentality”.
Thus one English Orthodox Christian, on arriving at a Greek church one Sunday morning, was politely but firmly directed to an Anglican church, in spite of his protests that he was Orthodox. The explanation: “Orthodoxy is for Greeks and Russians: for the English there is Anglicanism…” In this way do the heresies of ecumenism and phyletism grow into each other, combining to shut the door on those searching for, and even those who have already found, the truth!
Something similar to the present crisis in the Roman Catholic church took place in the 14th-15th centuries, when for many years there were two popes, and once even three! In reaction to this crisis there arose the conciliar movement, which strove to return to the Orthodox teaching on authority in the Church, declaring that the highest authority in the earthly Church was not the Pope, but the Ecumenical Councils. Here was a wonderful opportunity for the Orthodox to support this beginning of a return to Orthodoxy, if not in the papacy itself, at least in a large portion of its (former) followers), and direct it to its consummation in the bosom of the Orthodox Church.
But this opportunity was missed largely for the same reason as it is being missed today: because the Orthodox leaders of the time, having lost the salt of True Orthodoxy themselves, were seeking a union with Roman Catholicism for political motives. Thus in 1438-1439, when the most representative council of the Western Church was convening in Basle in Switzerland, so as to resolve the problems of the Western Church on the basis of conciliarity, the Orthodox leaders preferred to meet the Pope in Florence and conclude a false union with him, betraying the purity of the Orthodox Faith for a mess of pottage. The victory of the Pope signified not only the fall of the Patriarchate of Constantinople (fortunately, only temporarily), and of Constantinople itself a few years later, but also the crushing of the hopes of the conciliarists in Basle…
Of course, it could be argued that the conciliarists were not really ready for Orthodoxy, not really seeking it, which is why the Lord did not allow them to be united to it. That may be true. But it does not remove the responsibility of those Orthodox hierarchs then and now who put obstacles in the way of potential converts to the faith through their own lukewarmness about that faith.
Thus the Orthodox uniates of the fifteenth century, like the Orthodox ecumenists of the twentieth century, betrayed not only their Orthodox flock but also the potential flock to be gathered from those outside Orthodoxy. Through their refusal to carry out missionary work among the heterodox, in accordance with the Lord’s command to go out and make converts of all the nations (Matt. 28.19), they have in effect denied themselves the right to call themselves Orthodox. For as St. Theodosius of the Kiev Caves (+1054) said, he who honours the faith of another dishonours his own…
Since the “Orthodox” ecumenists refuse to carry out missionary work in view of their ecumenist convictions, why should they object if the True Orthodox take this burden upon themselves? But this is where the ecumenists show their true face. For while serving with and flatter the heretics, whose faith is far from Orthodoxy, they actively persecute the True Orthodox whose faith they supposedly share. They secretly kill their priests, send the secular powers to take away their churches and in the West deny their very existence. Like Herod, they claim that they, too, worship Christ in the true faith, but will not accompany the true seekers, the Magi, to Bethlehem, but will rather kill the innocents who bear witness to the existence of the True Body of Christ.
Thus in the 1970s, as reported in Church Times, an Australian journalist once asked Metropolitan Nicodemus of Leningrad about the existence of the Russian Catacomb Church. “Have they got a bank account?” asked the metropolitan (now exposed as KGB Agent “Sviatoslav” and a secret Catholic bishop!). The journalist had difficulty in replying. Nicodemus triumphantly concluded: “If it doesn’t have a bank account, then it doesn’t exist!”
Actually, from the point of view of the Orthodox Herods, this was a completely adequate answer. For to them the significance of a Church is defined, not by the strength of its Orthodox faith, but by its worldly strength – and worldly strength in the contemporary world is measured by the size of one’s bank account. From their point of view, a Church without a bank account is truly of no significance and can be swept off the face of the earth without the slightest torments of conscience.
On the other hand, if an unbeliever has a large bank account, then he is worthy of every honour and even of Orthodox baptism – as was granted, for example, to the mayor of Moscow Luzhkov. And what business is it of anyone’s that the mayor happens to be an unbeliever? For the sergianist concept of “economy”, this is a trivial problem. Did not Metropolitan Pitirim of Volokolamsk say, towards the end of the 1980s, that true ecumenism is the gathering together into one Church or religion “of all people of good will”, including even atheists?
In comparison with the cunning and spite of this “Orthodox Herodianism”, the “Pilatism” of the Catholics and Protestants looks almost innocent. At least they believe in their own faith, false though it is, with sufficient sincerity and conviction to want to convert others to it – and not in exchange for money, but at the cost of money. Thus the Vatican organization “Aid to the Church in Need” offered a yearly subsidy of $1000 to every priest in the Moscow Patriarchate!
Of course, such bribery cannot in any way be approved. But it is hardly worse than the sheer mercenariness of, for example, Archbishop Lev of Novgorod, who openly admits Protestants and Catholics to communion in his cathedral, his obvious motivation being, according to Liudmilla Perepiolkina, “the material benefit gained as a result of attracting foreign tourists, along with their dollars, pounds and marks, into the Patriarchate’s churches.”
The truth is that many educated Roman Catholics look with sincere respect at their “separated brethren”, the Orthodox, and long for reunion with them, hoping that an injection of eastern blood may reanimate, as it were, the ailing body of their own church. For they know that the Orthodox Church is no less traditional than their own (in fact, much more so), and that it occupies precisely those lands in Greece and the Middle East that are the birthplace of Christianity. They would really prefer to be on the side of the Orthodox, forming a “united front” of Traditional Christianity against the ravages of modern secularism and atheism. Indeed, in the subconsciousness of the Catholics a question arises concerning the Orthodox Church: could this really be our real Mother? In the same way, Pilate secretly respected Christ, was half-persuaded by his wife not to harm “that Righteous Man”, Who, he suspected, might truly be the Son of God, and betrayed him only because the respect he felt for Him was outweighed by his fear of the Jews.
It goes without saying that the above paragraph in no way represents a justification of Roman Catholicism, nor a denial that it remains a most dangerous heresy. Indeed, the corruption and heresy of Roman Catholicism grows deeper every year, especially now that it has absorbed all manner of Protestant ideas into itself. However, “the Spirit blows where It wills” (John 3.8), and God can make sons of Abraham even out of the stoniest of hearts (Matt. 3.9). Who could have foreseen, during the savage persecutions under Diocletian at the beginning of the fourth century, that the Roman Empire would very soon be converted to Christ and remain, in its Byzantine and Russian incarnations, the main support of Christianity right until the revolution of 1917? And if, as the famous novelist F. M. Dostoyevsky said, the heretical Roman papacy is the regeneration of the pagan Roman empire in a new form, who can be certain that the grace of God cannot again transfigure that organism, so that it suddenly, after centuries of cruel despotism and proud blindness, loses faith in itself, begins to investigate its past and beseech, albeit hesitantly and imperfectly at first, the forgiveness of its sins?
Conclusion. The Unforgivable Sin.
The Lord said on the Cross: “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do” (Luke 23.34). And many were forgiven and joined the Church after Pentecost, because “you did it through ignorance” (Acts 3.17). An important principle follows from this. To the extent that we remain in ignorance, to that degree we can hope for forgiveness from God, if we repent. Conversely, to the extent that we know that we are sinning, but still continue in that sin, to that degree we remain unforgiven, for forgiveness is given only to those who seek it through repentance.
Even the greatest sins can be forgiven if the sinner is truly, involuntarily ignorant. Thus the Apostle Paul wrote: “I obtained mercy, because I did it ignorantly, in unbelief” (I Tim. 1.13; Acts 17.30). For our Great High Priest is truly the One Who “can have compassion on the ignorant, and on those who are led astray” (Heb. 5.2).
However, there is such a phenomenon as voluntary, conscious ignorance. Thus the Apostle Paul says of those who do not believe in the One God, the Creator of heaven and earth, that they are “without excuse” (Rom. 1.20), for they reject that which is evident to all through contemplation of creation. Similarly, the Apostle Peter says: “This they are willingly ignorant of, that by the word of God the heavens were of old” (II Peter 3.5). Moreover, if someone says that he knows, when in fact he is ignorant, this is counted to him as conscious ignorance. For Christ said to the Pharisees: “If ye were blind, ye would have no sin; but now that ye say, We see, your sin abides” (John 9.41).
Voluntary ignorance is very close to conscious resistance to the truth, which, according to the word of God, will receive the greater condemnation. Thus those who will accept the Antichrist will accept him because “they received not the love of the truth, that they might be saved. For this reason God will send them the working of deception, that they should believe in a lie, that they all might be damned who believed not the truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness” (II Thess. 2.10-12).
And if it seems improbable that God should send someone the working of deception, let us recall that God allowed a lying spirit to enter into the lips of the prophets of King Ahab, because they prophesied to him only that which he wanted to hear (III Kings 22.19-24).
Voluntary, conscious resistance to the truth is “the sin unto death” (I John 5.16) or the blasphemy against the Holy Spirit, which, according to the Lord’s word, “will never be forgiven” (Matt. 12.31). Metropolitan Anthony (Khrapovitsky) writes: “The Seventh Ecumenical Council in its fifth canon explains what a sin unto death is. Here, in the Saviour’s well-known words about this sin, it is not blasphemy in the usual sense of the word that is meant, but a conscious opposition to the truth, to which one’s soul bears witness, as the Lord said: ‘If I had not come and spoken unto them, they had not had sin: but now they have no cloak for their sin’ (John 15.22). Here is an example of an unforgivable sin. The Lord first spoke about an unforgiven blasphemy in Mark 3.29, here the Evangelist explains: ‘Because they said, He hath an unclean spirit’ (Mark 3.30). As you see, there was no direct blasphemy against the Holy Spirit, but there was an opposition to evident truth.”
It is not that God does not want to forgive all, even the most terrible sins; he wishes that all should come to a knowledge of the truth and be saved (I Tim. 2.4). The point is that if a man stubbornly refuses to respond to the promptings of the Spirit of truth, Who “guides into all truth” (John 16.3) about God and man, he cannot come to repentance, which is based on a knowledge of the truth. And so he cannot receive forgiveness from the Truth. As Blessed Augustine said: “the first gift is that which concerns the forgiveness of sins… Against this free gift, against this grace of God speaks the impenitent heart. And so this impenitence is the blasphemy against the Holy Spirit.”
Voluntary ignorance can be of various degrees. There is the voluntary ignorance which refuses to believe even when the truth is staring at one in the face. This is the most serious form of ignorance, which was practiced by the Pharisees and heresiarchs. But the voluntarily ignorant can also be he who does not take the steps that are necessary to find the truth. This is less serious, but still worthy of punishment and is a characteristic of many of those who followed the Pharisees and heresiarchs.
Thus we read: “That servant who knew his lord’s will, and prepared not himself neither did according to his will, shall be beaten with many stripes. But he that knew not, and committed things worthy of stripes, shall be beaten with few stripes. For unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall much be required: and to whom men have committed much, of him they will ask the more” (Luke 12.47-48).
A fitting commentary on this is provided by Blessed Theophylact of Bulgaria: “Some ask: ‘Let us grant that the man who knew the will of his master and did not do it merited his punishment. But why was there punishment for the man who did not know the master’s will?’ He too was punished because he was able to learn the will of the master, but did not want to do so. Because of his laziness, he was the cause of his own ignorance, and he deserves punishment for this very reason, that of his own will he did not learn.” And St. Cyril of Alexandria writes: “’How can he who knew it not be guilty? The reason is, because he would not know it, although it was in his power to learn.”
And to whom does this distinction between different degrees of ignorance apply? According to St. Cyril, to false teachers and parents, on the one hand, and those who follow them, on the other. In other words, the blind leaders are subjected to a greater punishment than the blind who are led by them, but both the leaders and followers fall into a pit (Matt. 15.4).
In the light of this teaching, the greatest and least forgivable sinners in the present-day ecumenical movement are the Orthodox hierarchs. They know the truth; they know that the Orthodox Church, and only the Orthodox Church, is the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church, “the pillar and ground of the truth” (I Tim. 3.15) and the only ark of salvation. Those who follow these false hierarchs are also guilty, albeit to a lesser degree, because although, in many cases, they may not know the truth as clearly and fully as their leaders, they can easily take steps to learn the truth, by more attentively studying the Holy Scriptures and Divine Services of the Church.
As for the Western heretics who partake in the ecumenical movement, some may know as much as their Orthodox colleagues and are therefore as guilty as they. But generally speaking, the western heretics must be considered to be less guilty than the Orthodox ecumenists. For while they have the Holy Scriptures, they do not have the God-inspired interpretation of the Scriptures that is to be found in the Holy Fathers and Divine services of the Orthodox Church. Moreover, their striving for union with the Orthodox is natural insofar as they feel themselves spiritually unfulfilled in their own churches and seek to satisfy that hunger in union with Orthodoxy. The tragedy – and it is a great tragedy for all concerned – is that when they seek the truth from the Orthodox, the Orthodox usually push them back to their own spiritual desert, saying that they are already in the truth. They seek bread, but are given a stone…
And so when we seek the causes of the present-day ecumenical catastrophe, let us not accuse the western heretics first of all. Paradoxical as it may seem, the further away a person is from the truth, the more forgivable and his blind wanderings in the sphere of theology. That who “sit on Moses’ seat”, and call themselves Orthodox and successors of the Holy Fathers – they are the ones who bear the greatest responsibility. They build the tombs of the prophets, the holy elders and hierarchs of Orthodoxy, and adorn the monuments of the righteous, the shrines of the new martyrs and confessors, and say that they would not have taken part in the shedding of their blood. And yet by their betrayal of Holy Orthodoxy they witness against themselves that they are the sons of those who killed the martyrs (Matt. 23.29-31).
March 6/19, 2000; revised June 17/30, 2004.
Holy Monk-Martyr Nectan of Hartland.
3. MEMORY AND THE MOSCOW PATRIARCHATE
I will not assemble their assemblies of blood,
Nor will I make remembrance of their names through my lips.
The Holy Church has decreed the singing of “eternal memory” to all those who have died in the True Faith, and glorifies a number of them by enrolling them among the saints, specifying special days on which services are to be conducted in their honour. But she forbids the public commemoration of those who have died outside the faith, and even anathematizes certain of them – the heretics and heresiarchs. In this way she has a selective memory, a memory that reflects the memory of God Himself, who gives everlasting life to those who love Him but blots out those who betray Him from the book of life.
The false church, the “church of the evil-doers” (Psalm 21.16) also has a selective memory. She “forgets” the saints who have rebuked her, and casts out their name as evil. And she glorifies her own leaders, who have led her on the path to destruction. Sometimes, if the glory of the true saints cannot be hidden, she also “appropriates” them to herself – but carefully edits their words and deeds to ensure that their real message will not get through to the people. As for her own evil deeds and betrayals, these, too, are edited out…
Glasnost’ and Sergianism
Much of the past fifteen years in the history of the Russian Church has been a struggle between true memory and false memory. Fifteen years ago, Russia was in the throes of glasnost’, when Russians were learning, often with astonishment and horror, the full depth of the fall of their people and their official “church” in the Soviet period. The creation of such societies as Pamyat’ and Memorial symbolized the process that was taking place – the recovery of the people’s memory. But then, in June, 1990, the first major attempt to turn the clock back and the people back to the amnesiac state of Sovietism took place. Metropolitan Alexis (Ridiger) was elected as the new “patriarch” of Moscow. At a time when past cooperation with the KGB was being denounced in the newspapers and on the television, it was “forgotten” that this Alexis was a KGB agent whom the Furov report of 1974 had called the most pro-Soviet of all the bishops after the patriarch, and who had been prepared to report to the KGB even on his own patriarch!
As if to confirm that, yes, he was that most pro-Soviet of all bishops, and therefore probably the least suitable person to lead the Russian Church into the new era, on July 4/17, 1990, the day of the martyrdom of Tsar Nicholas II, Alexis announced publicly that he was praying for the preservation of the communist party!
But of course, “Patriarch” Alexis did not reach his lofty rank by being stupid. And so after this gaffe he quickly recovered his balance, his sense of which way the wind was blowing; and there was no further overt support of the communists. True, he did attach his signature, in December, 1990, to a letter by 53 well-known political, academic and literary figures who urged Gorbachev to take urgent measures to deal with the state of crisis in the country, speaking of “… the destructive dictatorship of people who are shameless in their striving to take ownership of territory, resources, the intellectual wealth and labour forces of the country whose name is the USSR”. But the patriarch quickly disavowed his signature; and a few weeks later, after the deaths in Vilnius, he declared that the killings were “a great political mistake – in church language a sin”.
Then, in May, 1991, he publicly disagreed with a member of the hardline Soiuz bloc, who had said that the resources of the army and the clergy should be drawn on extensively to save the people and the homeland. In Alexis’ view, these words could be perceived as a statement of preparedness to use the Church for political purposes. The patriarch recalled his words of the previous autumn: the Church and the Faith should not be used as a truncheon. By June, the patriarch had completed his remarkable transformation from dyed-in-the-wool communist to enthusiastic democrat, saying to Yeltsin: “May God help you win the election”.
Still more striking was his apparent rejection of Sergianism. Thus in an interview granted to Izvestia on June 6 he said: “This year has freed us from the state’s supervision. Now we have the moral right to say that the Declaration of Metropolitan Sergius has disappeared into the past and no longer guides us… The metropolitan cooperated with criminal usurpers. This was his tragedy…. Today we can say that falsehood is interspersed in his Declaration, which stated as its goal ‘placing the Church in a proper relationship with the Soviet government’. But this relationship – and in the Declaration it is clearly defined as being the submission of the Church to the interests of governmental politics – is exactly that which is incorrect from the point of view of the Church… Of the people, then, to whom these compromises, silence, forced passivity or expressions of loyalty that were permitted by the Church leadership in those days, have caused pain – of these people, not only before God, but also before them, I ask forgiveness, understanding and prayers.”
And yet, in an interview given to Komsomolskaia Pravda only two months earlier, he had said: “The most important thing for the Church is to preserve itself for the people, so that they should be able to have access to the Chalice of Christ, to the Chalice of Communion… There is a rule when a Christian has to take on himself a sin in order to avoid a greater sin… There are situations in which a person, a Christian must sacrifice his personal purity, his personal perfection, so as to defend something greater… Thus in relation to Metropolitan Sergius and his successors in the leadership of the Church under Soviet power, they had to tell lies, they had to say that everything was normal with us. And yet the Church was being persecuted. Declarations of political loyalty were being made. The fullness of Christian life, charity, almsgiving, the Reigning icon of the Mother of God were also renounced. Compromises were made.” In other words, Sergianism, though sinful, was justified. It may have “disappeared into the past”, but if similar circumstances arise again, the “sacrifice” of personal purity can and should be made again!…
The patriarch showed that the poison of sergianism was in him still during the attempted coup of August, 1991. When the Russian vice-president, Alexander Rutskoy, approached him on the morning of the 19th, the patriarch, like several other leading political figures, pleaded “illness” and refused to see him. When he eventually did issue a declaration – on the evening of the 20th, and again in the early hours of the 21st – the impression made was, in Fr. Gleb Yakunin’s words, “rather weak”. He called on all sides to avoid bloodshed, but did not specifically condemn the plotters.
As Jane Ellis comments: “Though Patriarch Alexis II issued statements during the coup, they were bland and unspecific, and he was widely thought to have waited to see which way the wind was blowing before committing himself to issuing them. It was rather the priests in the White House – the Russian Parliament building – itself, such as the veteran campaigner for religious freedom, Fr. Gleb Yakunin, as well as the Christians among those manning the barricades outside, who helped to overthrow the Communist Party, the KGB and the Soviet system.”
(During the 1993 attack on parliament he showed a similar indecisiveness. “He promised to excommunicate the first person to fire a shot, but when shooting… thundered around the ‘White House’, he forgot about his promise.”)
It was not until Wednesday morning that the patriarch sent his representative, Deacon Andrew Kurayev, to the Russian parliament building, by which time several dissident priests were already established there. And it was two priests of the Russian Church Abroad, Fr. Nicholas Artemov from Munich and Fr. Victor Usachev from Moscow, who celebrated the first supplicatory service to the New Martyrs of Russia on the balcony of the White House. Not to be outdone, the patriarchate immediately responded with its own prayer service, and at some time during the same day the patriarch anathematized all those who had taken part in organizing the coup.
By these actions the patriarch appeared to have secured his position vis-à-vis Yeltsin’s government, and on August 27, Yeltsin attended a memorial service in the Assumption cathedral of the Kremlin, at which the patriarch hailed the failure of the coup, saying that “the wrath of God falls upon the children of disobedience”. So in the space of thirteen months, the patriarch had passed from a pro-communist, anti-democratic to an anti-communist, pro-democratic stance. This lack of principle should have surprised nobody; for the essence of sergianism, the root heresy of the Moscow Patriarchate, is adaptation to the world, and to whatever the world believes and praises.
But while he was now a democrat, the patriarch still remained a sergianist – only in a more subtle way, appearing to distance himself from the sin of sergianism while still insisting that it had to be done. Thus in September, 1991, in an interview with 30 Dias, he said: “A church that has millions of faithful cannot go into the catacombs. The hierarchy of the church has taken the sin on their souls: the sin of silence and of lying for the good of the people in order that they not be completely removed from real life. In the government of the diocese and as head of the negotiations for the patriarchate of Moscow, I also had to cede one point in order to defend another. I ask pardon of God, I ask pardon, understanding and prayers of all those whom I harmed through the concessions, the silence, the forced passivity or the expressions of loyalty that the hierarchy may have manifested during that period”.
This is closer to self-justification than repentance. It is similar to the statement of Metropolitan Nicholas (Corneanu) of Banat of the Romanian Patriarchate, who confessed that he had collaborated with the Securitate and had defrocked the priest Fr. Calciu for false political reasons, but nevertheless declared that if he had not made such compromises he would have been forced to abandon his post, “which in the conditions of the time would not have been good for the Church”. In other words, as Vladimir Kozyrev writes: “It means: ‘I dishonoured the Church and my Episcopal responsibility, I betrayed those whom I had to protect, I scandalized my flock. But all this I had to do for the good of the Church!’”
KGB Agents in Cassocks
One of the biggest fruits of glasnost’ – which did not, however, lead to a real ecclesiastical perestroika – was the confirmation in January, 1992 by a Russian parliamentary commission investigating the activities of the KGB that for several decades at least the leaders of the Moscow Patriarchate had been KGB agents. The records of the fourth, Church department of the KGB’s Fifth Directorate revealed that Metropolitans Juvenal of Krutitsa, Pitirim of Volokolamsk, Philaret of Kiev and Philaret of Minsk were all KGB agents, with the codenames “Adamant”, “Abbat”, “Antonov” and “Ostrovsky” respectively.
This news was not, of course, unexpected. Konstantin Kharchev, Chairman of the Council for Religious Affairs from 1984 to 1989, confirmed in 1989 that the Russian Orthodox Church was rigorously controlled by the Central Committee of the Communist Party, especially its Ideological Department, and by the KGB. Again, Victor Sheimov, a former KGB major with responsibilities for upgrading the KGB’s communications security system until his defection in 1980, described the Fifth Directorate as being “responsible for suppressing ideological dissent, running the Soviet Orthodox Church and laying the groundwork for the First Chief Directorate’s subversive promotion of favourable opinion about the country’s position and policy.” One of Sheimov’s jobs was to draft agents to infiltrate the “Soviet Orthodox Church”. Again, in 1992 a former KGB agent, A. Shushpanov, described his experiences working in the Moscow Patriarchate’s Department of External Ecclesiastical Relations. He said that most of the people working there were in fact KGB agents.
But it was the revelations unearthed by the parliamentary commission that were the most shocking. They included:- (i) the words of the head of the KGB Yury Andropov to the Central Committee sometime in the 1970s: “The organs of state security keep the contacts of the Vatican with the Russian Orthodox Church under control…”; (ii) “At the 6th General Assembly of the World Council of Churches in Vancouver, the religious delegation from the USSR contained 47 (!) agents of the KGB, including religious authorities, clergy and technical personnel” (July, 1983); (iii) “The most important were the journeys of agents ‘Antonov’, ‘Ostrovsky’ and ‘Adamant’ to Italy for conversations with the Pope of Rome on the question of further relations between the Vatican and the Russian Orthodox Church, and in particular regarding the problems of the uniates” (1989).
The parliamentary commission also discovered that Patriarch Alexis himself was an agent with the codename “Drozdov”. It is now known that Alexis was recruited by the Estonian KGB on February 28, 1958; and in the 1974 Furov report to the Central Committee of the USSR he (together with his predecessor Patriarch Pimen) was placed in the category of those bishops who “affirm both in words and deeds not only loyalty but also patriotism towards the socialist society; strictly observe the laws on cults, and educate the parish clergy and believers in the same spirit; realistically understand that our state is not interested in proclaiming the role of religion and the church in society; and, realizing this, do not display any particular activeness in extending the influence of Orthodoxy among the population.”
Moreover, according to a KGB document of 1988, an order was drafted by the USSR KGB chairman to award an honorary citation to agent DROZDOV for unspecified services to state security. But these facts were not made public because, according to Fen Montaigne, “members of the parliamentary commission had told the patriarch that they would not name him as an agent if he began cleaning house in the church and acknowledging the breadth of cooperation between the church and the KGB. ‘So far, we have kept the silence because we wanted to give the patriarch a chance,’ said Alexander Nezhny, a journalist who said his comparison of the archives and church bulletins convinced him that Alexis II is indeed ‘Drozdov’…”
The parliamentary commission was almost immediately closed down by the President of the Supreme Soviet, Ruslan Khasbalutov, at the insistence, according to Ponomarev, of Patriarch Alexis himself and the head of the KGB, E. Primakov. One of the commission’s members, Fr. Gleb Yakunin, “was accused of betraying state secrets to the United States and threatened with a private persecution. Father Gleb remained defiant. He wrote to the Patriarch in 1994:
“’If the Church is not cleansed of the taint of the spy and informer, it cannot be reborn. Unfortunately, only one archbishop – Archbishop Chrysostom of Lithuania – has had the courage publicly to acknowledge that in the past he worked as an agent, and has revealed his codename: RESTAVRATOR. No other Church hierarch has followed his example, however.
“The most prominent agents of the past include DROZDOV – the only one of the churchmen to be officially honoured with an award by the KGB of the USSR, in 1988, for outstanding intelligence services – ADAMANT, OSTROVSKY, MIKHAILOV, TOPAZ AND ABBAT. It is obvious that none of these or the less exalted agents is preparing to repent. On the contrary, they deliver themselves of pastoral maxims on the allegedly neutral character of informing on the Church, and articles have appeared in the Church press justifying the role of the informer as essential for the survival of the Church in an anti-religious state.
“The codenames I discovered in the archives of the KGB belong to the top hierarchs of the Moscow Patriarchate.”
Keston News Service reviewed all the available documentary evidence from the various activities of the KGB and concluded that long-standing allegations that the Patriarch and other senior bishops of the Russian Orthodox Church collaborated with the KGB were based on fact. And, writing in 1995, John Dunlop concluded that “the overwhelming majority of the current one hundred and nineteen bishops of the Moscow Patriarchate were ordained to the episcopacy prior to August of 1991. This suggests that each of these bishops was carefully screened and vetted by both the ideological apparatus of the Communist Party and by the KGB.”
In 1992, Archbishop Chrysostom of Vilnius declared to the Council of Bishops of the MP: “In our Church there are genuine members of the KGB, who have made head-spinning careers; for example, Metropolitan Methodius of Voronezh. He is a KGB officer, an atheist, a liar, who is constantly advised by the KGB. The Synod was unanimously against such a bishop, but we had to take upon us such a sin. And then what a rise he had!”
At the same Council, a commission of eight MP bishops headed by Bishop Alexander of Kostroma was formed to investigate the charges of collaboration with the KGB. This commission has so far (12 years later) produced absolutely nothing! In view of the lack of a clear-out (chistka) of KGB hierarchs, it remains true that, as the saying went, “the MP is the last surviving department of the KGB” or “the second administration of the Soviet state”.
As the memory loss in church and society became greater and greater in the later 1990s, Patriarch Alexis felt ready to return to the theme of sergianism. In an interview in 1997 he, referring to the Church in the time of Patriarch Tikhon: “The Church could not, did not have the right, to go into the catacombs. She remained together with the people and drank to the dregs the cup of sufferings that fell to its lot.” Patriarch Alexis here forgot to mention that Patriarch Tikhon specifically blessed Michael Zhizhilenko, the future Hieromartyr Maximus of Serpukhov, to become a secret catacomb bishop if the pressure on the Church from the State became too great. As for his claim that the sergianists shared the cup of the people’s suffering, this must be counted as conscious hypocrisy. It is well known that the Soviet hierarchs lived a life of considerable luxury, while lifting not a finger for the Catacomb Christians and dissidents sent to torments and death in KGB prisons!
On November 9, 2001, the patriarch threw off the mask of repentance completely, stating in defence of Sergius’ declaration: “This was a clever step by which Metropolitan Sergius tried to save the church and clergy. In declaring that the members of the Church want to see themselves as part of the motherland and want to share her joys and sorrows, he tried to show to those who were persecuting the church and who were destroying it that we, the children of the church, want to be loyal citizens so that the affiliation of people with the church would not place them outside the law. So this is a far-fetched accusation…’
But it is not enough to justify betrayal: the traitor himself has to be canonized. And it is the canonization of “Patriarch” Sergius, the author of the notorious declaration, that is the goal of the MP. For such an act would complete the selective loss of memory that has been taking place since 1990 and complete the justification of the “Soviet” church and its cooperation with the KGB.
However, such an act needs a lengthy preparation. The opponents – those whose memory is not completely gone – have to be neutralised. A first step was taken by the patriarch already in 1991, when he wrote: “I believe that our martyrs and righteous ones, regardless of whether they followed Metropolitan Sergius or did not agree with his position, pray together for us.” Then, in 1993, he said: “Through the host of martyrs the Church of Russia bore witness to her faith and sowed the seed of her future rebirth. Among the confessors of Christ we can in full measure name… his Holiness Patriarch Sergius.”
It is as if he was contemplating a trade-off: if we recognize your martyrs, he is saying to the opponents of Sergius, then you must recognize ours – including Sergius himself.
Of course, Alexis still regarded the Catacomb martyrs as “uncanonical”. But he was prepared to canonize them, thus introducing the concept of “uncanonical martyrs” into the Church (!), so long as Sergius himself, their betrayer and persecutor, could also be canonized eventually. However, by the time of the MP’s hierarchical council in 2000, at which many Catacomb martyrs were canonized, the patriarchate still did not feel able to canonise Sergius – probably because it feared that it would prevent a union with the ROCOR. But neither did it canonise the leader of the Catacomb Church, Metropolitan Joseph of Petrograd. This suggested that a canonisation of the two leaders – the leader of the True Church, and the leader of the false - was in the offing, but depended on the success of the negotiations between the MP and the ROCOR.
Those negotiations were officially launched in May, 2004, during the visit of the leader of the ROCOR, Metropolitan Lavr, to Russia. And the manner in which they were launched is extremely significant. On May 15, the anniversary of “Patriarch” Sergius’ death, Alexis demonstratively served a panikhida for Sergius, and then, during a liturgy at Butovo, where thousands of Catacomb Christians were martyred and sergianists killed in 1937, he had this to say to his foreign guests:
“Today is the 60th anniversary since the death of the ever-memorable Patriarch Sergius. The time of the service of this archpastor coincided with the most terrible years of the struggle against God, when it was necessary to preserve the Russian Church. In those terrible years of repression and persecutions there were more sorrows. In 1937 both those who shared the position of Metropolitan Sergius and those who did not agree with him suffered for the faith of Christ, for belonging to the Russian Orthodox Church. We pay a tribute of respect and thankful remembrance to his Holiness Patriarch Sergius for the fact that he, in the most terrible and difficult of conditions of the Church’s existence in the 1930s of the 20th century led the ship of the Church and preserved the Russian Church amidst the stormy waves of the sea of life.”
And yet only the year before, in a book dedicated to the glorification of Sergius (and Stalin), Sergius Fomin wrote: “If Metropolitan Sergius, in agreeing in his name to publish the Declaration of 1927 composed by the authorities, hoping to buy some relief for the Church and the clergy, then his hopes not only were not fulfilled, but the persecutions after 1927 became still fiercer, reaching truly hurricane-force in 1937-38”.
Clearly, Patriarch Alexis, “forgetting” historical facts and ignoring even the MP’s panegyrists of Sergius, is determined to justify even his most shameful acts, claiming that the “ever-memorable” Sergus indeed “saved the Church” by his agreements with the God-haters. There can be no doubt, therefore, that he remains a dyed-in-the-wool sergianist – that is, an adherent of the heresy that the Church of God, “the pillar and ground of the truth” (I Timothy 3.15), can be saved by the lies of men. And there can similarly be no doubt that Metropolitan Lavr, in listening to this speech in respectful silence and without interjecting the slightest objection, is a sergianist, too.
The phenomenon of the loss of memory in the Moscow Patriarchate is inseparable from the loss of historical memory in Russia as a whole.
In a chapter entitled simply “Memory”, the American journalist and historian of the Soviet Gulag, Anne Applebaum, has written movingly and truthfully about this: “Ten years after the collapse of the Soviet Union, Russia, the country that has inherited the Soviet Union’s diplomatic and foreign policies, its embassies, its debts and its seat at the United Nations, continues to act as if it has not inherited the Soviet Union’s history. Russia does not have a national museum dedicated to the history of repression. Nor does Russia have a national place of mourning, a monument which officially recognizes the suffering of victims and their families. Throughout the 1980s, competitions were held to design such a monument, but they came to nothing. Memorial succeeded only in dragging a stone from the Solovetsky islands – where the Gulag began – and placing it in the centre of Dzerzhinsky Square, across from the Lubyanka.
“More notable than the missing monuments, however, is the missing public awareness. Sometimes, it seems as if the enormous emotions and passions raised by the wide-ranging discussions of the Gorbachev era simply vanished, along with the Soviet Union itself. The bitter debate about justice for the victims disappeared just as abruptly. Although there was much talk about it at the end of the 1980s, the Russian government never did examine or try the perpetrators of torture or mass murder, even those who were identifiable. In the early 1990s, one of the men who carried out the Katyn massacres of Polish officers was still alive. Before he died, the KGB conducted an interview with him, asking him to explain – from a technical point of view – how the murders were carried out. As a gesture of goodwill, a tape of the interview was handed to the Polish cultural attaché in Moscow. No one suggested at any time that the man be put on trial, in Moscow, Warsaw, or anywhere else.
“It is true, of course, that trials may not always be the best way to come to terms with the past. In the years after the Second World War, West Germany brought 85,000 Nazis to trial, but obtained fewer than 7,000 convictions. The tribunals were notoriously corrupt, and easily swayed by personal jealousies and disputes. The Nuremberg Trial itself was an example of ‘victors’ justice’ marred by dubious legality and oddities, not the least of which was the presence of Soviet judges who knew perfectly well that their own side was responsible for mass murder too.
“But there are other methods, aside from trials, of doing public justice to the crimes of the past. There are truth commissions, for example, of the sort implemented in South Africa, which allow victims to tell their stories in an official, public place, and make the crimes of the past a part of the public debate. There are official investigations, like the British Parliament’s 2002 inquiry into the Northern Irish ‘Bloody Sunday’ massacre, which had taken place thirty years earlier. There are government inquiries, government commission, public apologies – yet the Russian government has never considered any of these options. Other than the brief, inconclusive ‘trial’ of the Communist Party, there have in fact been no public truth-telling sessions in Russia, no parliamentary hearings, no official investigations of any kind into the murders or the massacres or the camps of the USSR.
“The result: half a century after the war’s end, the Germans still conduct regular public disputes about victims’ compensation, about memorials, about new interpretations of Nazi history, even about whether a younger generation of Germans ought to go on shouldering the guilt about the crimes of the Nazis. Half a century after Stalin’s death, there were no equivalent arguments taking place in Russia, because the memory of the past was not a living part of public discourse.
“The rehabilitation process did continue, very quietly, throughout the 1990s. By the end of 2001, about 4.5 million political prisoners had been rehabilitated in Russia, and the national rehabilitation commission reckoned it had a further half-million cases to examine. Those victims – hundreds of thousands, perhaps millions more – who were never sentenced will of course be exempt from the process. But while the commission itself is serious and well-intentioned, and while it is composed of camp survivors as well as bureaucrats, no one associated with it really feels that the politicians who created it were motivated by a real drive for ‘truth and reconciliation’, in the words of the British historian Catherine Merridale. Rather, the goal has been to end discussion of the past, to pacify the victims by throwing them a few extra roubles and free bus tickets, and to avoid any deeper examination of the causes of Stalinism and its legacy.
“There are some good, or at least some forgivable, explanations for this public silence. Most Russians really do spend all of their time coping with the complete transformation of their economy and society. The Stalinist era was a long time ago, and a great deal has happened since it ended. Post-communist Russia is not post-war Germany, where the memories of the worst atrocities were still fresh in people’s minds. In the twenty-first century, the events of the middle of the twentieth century seem like ancient history to much of the population.
“Perhaps more to the point, many Russians also feel that they have had their discussion of the past already, and that it produced very little. When one asks older Russians, at least, why the subject of the Gulag is so rarely mentioned nowadays, they wave away the issue: ‘In 1990 that was all we could talk about, now we don’t need to talk about it any more.’ To further complicate things, talk of the Gulag and of Stalinist repression has become confused, in the minds of many, with the ‘democratic reformers’ who originally promoted the debate about the Soviet past. Because that generation of political leaders is now seen to have failed – their rule is remembered for corruption and chaos – all talk of the Gulag is somehow tainted by association.
“The question of remembering or commemorating political repression is also confused…. by the presence of so many other victims of so many other Soviet tragedies. ‘To make matters more complicated,’ writes Catherine Merridale, ‘a great many people suffered repeatedly; they can describe themselves as war veterans, victims of repression, the children of the repressed and even as survivors of famine with equal facility. There are plenty of memorials to the wartime dead, some Russians seem to feel: Will that not suffice?
“But there are other reasons, less forgivable, for the profound silence. Many Russians experienced the collapse of the Soviet Union as a profound blow to their personal pride. Perhaps the old system was bad, they now feel – but at least we were powerful. And now that we are not powerful, we do not want to hear that it was bad. It is too painful, like speaking ill of the dead.
“Some – still – also fear what they might find out about the past, if they were to inquire too closely. In 1998, the Russian American journalist Masha Gessen described what it felt like to discover that one of her grandmothers, a nice old Jewish lady, had been a censor, responsible for altering the reports of foreign correspondents based in Moscow. She also discovered that her other grandmother, another nice old Jewish lady, had once applied for a job with the secret police. Both had made their choices out of desperation, not conviction. Now, she wrote, she knows why her generation had refrained from condemning their grandparents’ generation too harshly: ‘We did not expose them, we did not try them, we did not judge them… merely by asking such questions each one of us risks betraying someone we love.’
“Aleksandr Yakovlev, chairman of the Russian rehabilitation commission, put this problem somewhat more bluntly. ‘Society is indifferent to the crimes of the past,’ he told me, ‘because so many people participated in them.’ The Soviet system dragged millions and millions of its citizens into many forms of collaboration and compromise. Although many willingly participated, otherwise decent people were also forced to do terrible things. They, their children, and their grandchildren do not always want to remember that now.
“But the most important explanation for the lack of public debate does not involve the fears of the younger generation, or the inferiority complexes and leftover guilt of those now ruling not only Russia, but also most of the other ex-Soviet states and satellite states. In December 2001, on the tenth anniversary of the dissolution of the Soviet Union, thirteen of the fifteen former Soviet republics were run by former communists, as were many of the former satellite states, including Poland, the country which supplied so many hundreds of thousands of prisoners for Soviet camps and exile villages. Even the Communist Party, former communists and their children or fellow travellers also continued to figure largely in the intellectual, media and business elites. The President of Russia, Vladimir Putin, was a former KGB agent, who proudly identified himself as a ‘Chekist’. Earlier, when serving as the Russian Prime Minister, Putin had made a point of visiting the KGB headquarters at Lubyanka, on the anniversary of the Cheka’s founding, where he dedicated a plaque to the memory of Yuri Andropov.
“The dominance of former communists and the insufficient discussion of the past in the post-communist world is not coincidental. To put it bluntly, former communists have a clear interest in concealing the past: it tarnishes them, undermines them, hurts their claims to be carrying out ‘reforms’, even when they personally had nothing to do with past crimes. In Hungary, the ex-Communist Party, renamed the Socialist Party, fought bitterly against opening the museum to the victims of terror. When the ex-Communist Party, renamed the Social Democrats, was elected to power in Poland in 2001, it immediately cut the budget of the Polish Institute of National Memory, set up by its centre-right predecessors. Many, many excuses have been given for Russia’s failure to build a national monument to its millions of victims, but Aleksandr Yakovlev, again, gave me the most succint explanation, ‘The monument will be built,’ he said, ‘when we – the older generation – are all dead.’”
This quotation is long because every point it makes about the loss of memory and the corruption of memory in Russia as a whole can be paralleled in that microcosm of Russia today that is the Moscow Patriarchate.
If the Russian state and people want to keep silent about the past, then so does the MP – and for very similar reasons. If Putin the Chekist places a plaque to the memory of Yuri Andropov at the Lubyanka, then Alexis the Chekist goes one better by building a church inside the Lubyanka for the spiritual needs of the KGB agents who work in it. If Putin now raises a toast to Stalin, then priests of the MP write articles glorifying him (and Ivan the Terrible and Rasputin!). If Lenin still lies in his mausoleum, an object of veneration as before, the same is true of the founder of the Moscow Patriarchate, “Patriarch” Sergius. If a true and adequate monument to the victims of the Gulag will not be built until the older generation is dead, then the same is probably true about the holy martyrs and confessors of the Catacomb Church: not until the present rulers of the Church and State in Russia are dead or removed will they be given a fitting memorial...
A man is to a large extent constituted by his memory. If he forgets his past, he has to a large extent lost himself. The same applies to a nation. And to a Church. Therefore, lest the sleep of forgetfulness overtake us completely before that glorious day of the full restoration of memory comes, let us remember the words of the Lord: “Take heed to thyself, and keep thy soul diligently, lest thou forget the things which thine eyes have seen, and lest they depart from thy heart all the days of thy life: but teach them thy sons, and thy sons’ sons” (Deuteronomy 4.9).
For the sin of forgetfulness - both of the great deeds of God and His saints, and of the great iniquities of the devil and his followers - is indeed the sin unto death. And the path to life for those sitting by the waters of the Babylon of this world is the path of constant vigilance and memory: If I forget thee, O Jerusalem…
July 13 / August 13, 2004.
Forefeast of the Procession of the Honourable and Life-Giving Cross.
Hieromartyr Benjamin, Metropolitan of Petrograd, and those with him.
4. TEN REASONS WHY THE ECUMENICAL PATRIARCHATE IS NOT ORTHODOX
I. The Heretical Encyclical of 1920.
In January, 1920, Metropolitan Dorotheus, locum tenens of the patriarchal throne, and his Synod issued what was in effect a charter for Ecumenism. It was addressed “to all the Churches of Christ everywhere”, and declared that “the first essential is to revive and strengthen the love between the Churches, not considering each other as strangers and foreigners, but as kith and kin in Christ and united co-heirs of the promise of God in Christ.”
It went on: “This love and benevolent disposition towards each other can be expressed and proven especially, in our opinion, through:
“(a) the reception of a single calendar for the simultaneous celebration of the great Christian feasts by all the Churches;
“(b) the exchange of brotherly epistles on the great feasts of the single calendar..;
“(c) close inter-relations between the representatives of the different Churches;
“(d) intercourse between the Theological Schools and the representatives of Theological Science and the exchange of theological and ecclesiastical periodicals and writings published in each Church;
“(e) the sending of young people to study from the schools of one to another Church;
“(f) the convening of Pan-Christian conferences to examine questions of common interest to all the Churches;
“(g) the objective and historical study of dogmatic differences..;
“(h) mutual respect for the habits and customs prevailing in the different Churches;
“(I) the mutual provision of prayer houses and cemeteries for the funeral and burial of members of other confessions dying abroad;
“(j) the regulation of the question of mixed marriages between the different confessions;
“(k) mutual support in the strengthening of religion and philanthropy.”
The unprecedented nature of the encyclical consists in the fact: (1) that it was addressed not to the Orthodox Churches only, but to the Orthodox and heretics together, as if there were no important difference between them but all equally were “co-heirs of God in Christ”; (2) that the proposed rapprochement was seen as coming, not through the acceptance by the heretics of the Truth of Orthodoxy and their sincere repentance and rejection of their errors, but through various external measures and, by inference, the mutual accomodation of the Orthodox and the heretics; and (3) the proposal of a single universal calendar for concelebration of the feasts, in contravention of the canonical law of the Orthodox Church. There is no mention here of the only possible justification of Ecumenism from an Orthodox point of view – the opportunity it provides of conducting missionary work among the heretics. On the contrary, as we have seen, one of the first aims of the ecumenical movement was and is to prevent proselytism among the member-Churches.
II. The Uncanonical Election of Meletius Metaxakis.
In 1918 the traditionalist Archbishop Theocletus of Athens was uncanonically defrocked “for having instigated the anathema against [the Cretan Freemason] Eleutherios Venizelos”. Two years later, Theocletus was vindicated. But the damage was done. In his place another Cretan Freemason, Meletius Metaxakis, was enthroned as Archbishop of Athens in November, 1918. However, in November, 1920 he was defrocked “for uncanonical actions” and confined to a monastery on Zakynthos as a simple monk. But by December, 1921 he was Patriarch of Constantinople! How did this transformation of a defrocked monk into Patriarch of Constantinople take place?
Bishop Photius of Triaditsa writes: “Political circles around Venizelos and the Anglican Church had been involved in Meletius’ election as Patriarch. Metropolitan Germanus (Karavangelis) of the Holy Synod of Constantinople wrote of these events, ‘My election in 1921 to the Ecumenical Throne was unquestioned. Of the seventeen votes cast, sixteen were in my favour. Then one of my lay friends offered me 10,000 lira if I would forfeit my election in favour of Meletius Metaxakis. Naturally I refused his offer, displeased and disgusted. At the same time, one night a delegation of three men unexpectedly visited me from the “National Defence League” and began to earnestly entreat me to forfeit my candidacy in favour of Meletius Metaxakis. The delegates said that Meletius could bring in $100,000 for the Patriarchate and, since he had very friendly relations with Protestant bishops in England and America, could be useful in international causes. Therefore, international interests demanded that Meletius Metaxakis be elected Patriarch. Such was also the will of Eleutherius Venizelos. I thought over this proposal all night. Economic chaos reigned at the Patriarchate. The government in Athens had stopped sending subsidies, and there were no other sources of income. Regular salaries had not been paid for nine months. The charitable organizations of the Patriarchate were in a critical economic state. For these reasons and for the good of the people [or so thought the deceived hierarch] I accepted the offer…’ Thus, to everyone’s amazement, the next day, November 25, 1921, Meletius Metaxakis became the Patriarch of Constantinople.
“The uncanonical nature of his election became evident when, two days before the election, November 23, 1921, there was a proposal made by the Synod of Constantinople to postpone the election on canonical grounds. The majority of the members voted to accept this proposal. At the same time, on the very day of the election, the bishops who had voted to postpone the election were replaced by other bishops. This move allowed the election of Meletius as Patriarch. Consequently, the majority of bishops of the Patriarchate of Constantinople who had been circumvented met in Thessalonica. [This Council included seven out of the twelve members of the Constantinopolitan Holy Synod and about 60 patriarchal bishops from the New Regions of Greece under the presidency of Metropolitan Constantine of Cyzicus.] They announced that, ‘the election of Meletius Metaxakis was done in open violation of the holy canons,’ and proposed to undertake ‘a valid and canonical election for Patriarch of Constantinople.’ In spite of this, Meletius was confirmed on the Patriarchal Throne.” 
Two members of the Synod then went to Athens to report to the council of ministers. On December 12, 1921 they declared the election null and void. One of the prominent hierarchs who refused to accept this election was Metropolitan Chrysostom (Kavourides) of Florina, the future leader of the True Orthodox Church, who also tried to warn the then Prime Minister Gounaris about the dangers posed by the election of Meletius. The Sublime Porte also refused to recognize the election, first because Meletius was not an Ottoman citizen and therefore was not eligible for the patriarchate according to the Ottoman charter of 1856, and secondly because Meletius declared that he did not consider any such charters as binding insofar as they had been imposed by the Muslim conquerors.
On December 29, 1921, the Holy Synod of the Church of Greece deposed Metaxakis for a series of canonical transgressions and for creating a schism, declared both Metaxakis and Rodostolos Alexandros to be schismatics and threatened to declare all those who followed them as similarly schismatic.
In spite of this second condemnation, Meletius was enthroned as patriarch on January 22, 1922; and as a result of intense political pressure his deposition was uncanonically lifted on September 24, 1922!  Thus there arrived at the peak of power one of the men whom Metropolitan Chrysostom (Kavourides) called “these two Luthers of the Orthodox Church”. The other Orthodox Luther, Archbishop Chrysostom (Papadopoulos) of Athens, would come to power very shortly…
III. The EP’s uncanonical annexation of vast territories belonging to the Russian and Serbian Churches.
Meletius and his successor, Gregory VII, undertook what can only be described as a wholesale annexation of vast territories belonging to the jurisdiction of the Serbian and Russian Patriarchates. Basing his actions on a false interpretation of the 28th canon of the Fourth Ecumenical Council, which supposedly gives all the “barbarian lands” into the jurisdiction of Constantinople, he and his successor created the following uncanonical autonomous and autocephalous Churches on the model of the “Greek Archdiocese of North and South America”:-
1. Western Europe. On April 5, 1922, Meletius named an exarch for the whole of Western and Central Europe. By the time of Gregory VII’s death in November, 1924, there was an exarchate of Central Europe under Metropolitan Germanus of Berlin, an exarchate of Great Britain and Western Europe under Metropolitan Germanus of Thyateira, and a diocese of Bishop Gregory of Paris. In the late 1920s the Ecumenical Patriarch received into his jurisdiction the Russian Metropolitan Eulogius of Paris, who had created a schism in the Russian Church Abroad, and who sheltered a number of influential heretics, such as Nicholas Berdyaev and Fr. Sergius Bulgakov, in the theological institute of St. Sergius in Paris. 
2. Finland. In February, 1921 Patriarch Tikhon granted the Finnish Church autonomy within the Russian Church. On June 9, 1922, Meletius uncanonically received this autonomous Finnish Church into his jurisdiction. The excuse given here was that Patriarch Tikhon was no longer free, “therefore he could do as he pleased” (Metropolitan Anthony Khrapovitsky). This undermined the efforts of the Orthodox to maintain their position vis-à-vis the Lutherans. Thus under pressure from the Lutheran government, and in spite of the protests of Patriarch Tikhon, Patriarch Gregory allowed the Finnish Church to adopt the western paschalion. Then began the persecution of the confessors of the Old Calendar in the monastery of Valaam.
“Even more iniquitous and cruel,” continues Metropolitan Anthony, “was the relationship of the late Patriarch Gregory and his synod towards the diocese and the person of the Archbishop of Finland. The Ecumenical Patriarch consecrated a vicar bishop for Finland, the priest Aava, who was not only not tonsured, but not even a rasophore. Moreover, this was done not only without the agreement of the Archbishop of Finland, but in spite of his protest. By these actions the late Patriarch of Constantinople violated a fundamental canon of the Church – the sixth canon of the First Ecumenical Council [and many others], which states, ‘If anyone is consecrated bishop without the consent of his metropolitan, the Great Council declares him not to be a bishop.’ According to the twenty-eighth canon of the Fourth Ecumenical Council, the patriarch cannot even place a bishop in his diocese without the approval of the local metropolitan. Based on precisely this same canon, the predecessors of Gregory vainly attempted to realize his pretensions and legalize their claims to control. This uncanonical ‘bishop’ Aava, once consecrated as bishop, placed a monastic klobuk on his own head, and thus costumed, he appeared in the foreign diocese of Finland. There he instigated the Lutheran government to persecute the canonical Archbishop of Finland, Seraphim, who was respected by the people. The Finnish government previously had requested the Ecumenical Patriarch to confirm the most illegal of laws, namely that the secular government of Finland would have the right to retire the Archbishop. The government in fact followed through with the retirement, falsely claiming that Archbishop Seraphim had not learned enough Finnish in the allotted time. Heaven and earth were horrified at this illegal, tyrannical act of a non-Orthodox government. Even more horrifying was that an Orthodox patriarch had consented to such chicanery. To the scandal of the Orthodox and the evil delight of the heterodox, the highly dubious Bishop Germanus (the former Fr. Aava) strolled the streets of Finland in secular clothes, clean-shaven and hair cut short, while the most worthy of bishops, Seraphim, crudely betrayed by his false brother, languished in exile for the remainder of his life in a tiny hut of a monastery on a stormy isle on Lake Ladoga.” 
On November 14/27, 1923, Patriarch Tikhon and the Russian Holy Synod, after listening to a report by Archbishop Seraphim decreed that “since his Holiness Patriarch Tikhon has entered upon the administration of the Russian Orthodox Church, the reason for which the Patriarch of Constantinople considered it necessary temporarily to submit the Finnish Church to his jurisdiction has now fallen away, and the Finnish eparchy must return under the rule of the All-Russian Patriarch.” However, the Finns did not return to the Russians, and the Finnish Church remains to this day within the jurisdiction of the Ecumenical Patriarchate and the most modernist of all the Orthodox Churches.
3. Estonia. In February, 1921 Patriarch Tikhon granted a broad measure of autonomy to the parts of the former Pskov and Revel dioceses that entered into the boundaries of the newly formed Estonian state. On August 28, 1922, Meletius uncanonically received this Estonian diocese of the Russian Church into his jurisdiction, under Metropolitan Alexander. The recent renewal of this unlawful decision by the present Ecumenical Patriarch, Bartholomew, nearly led to a schism between the Ecumenical and Russian patriarchates.
4. Latvia. In June, 1921 Patriarch Tikhon granted the Latvian Church a large measure of autonomy under its Latvian archpastor, Archbishop John of Riga, who was burned to death by the communists in 1934. In March, 1936, the Ecumenical Patriarch accepted the Church of Latvia within his own jurisdiction.
5. Poland. In 1921 Patriarch Tikhon appointed Archbishop Seraphim (Chichagov) to the see of Warsaw, but the Poles, whose armies had defeated the Red Army the year before, did not grant him entry into the country. So the patriarch was forced to bow to the Poles’ suggestion that Archbishop George (Yaroshevsky) of Minsk be made metropolitan of Warsaw. However, he refused Archbishop George’s request for autocephaly on the grounds that very few members of the Polish Church were Poles and the Polish dioceses were historically indivisible parts of the Russian Church. 
Lyudmilla Koeller writes: “The Polish authorities restricted the Orthodox Church, which numbered more than 3 million believers (mainly Ukrainians and Byelorussians).  In 1922 a council was convoked in Pochayev which was to have declared autocephaly, but as the result of a protest by Bishop Eleutherius [Bogoyavlensky, of Vilnius] and Bishop Vladimir (Tikhonitsky), this decision was not made. But at the next council of bishops, which gathered in Warsaw in June, 1922, the majority voted for autocephaly, with only Bishops Eleutherius and Vladimir voting against. A council convoked in September of the same year ‘deprived Bishops Eleutherius and Vladimir of their sees. In December, 1922, Bishop Eleutherius was arrested and imprisoned in a strict regime prison in the monastery of the Camaldul Fathers near Krakow, from where he was transferred to Kovno in spring, 1923’.” 
Two other Russian bishops, Panteleimon (Rozhnovsky) and Sergius (Korolev), were also deprived of their sees. The three dissident bishops were expelled from Poland.
In November, 1923, Metropolitan George was killed by an opponent of his church politics, and was succeeded by Metropolitan Dionysius “with the agreement of the Polish government and the confirmation and blessing of his Holiness Meletius IV [Metaxakis]”. Patriarch Tikhon rejected this act as uncanonical, but was unable to do anything about it. In November, 1924, Patriarch Gregory VII uncanonically transferred the Polish Church from the jurisdiction of the Russian Church to his own.
5. Hungary and Czechoslovakia. According to the old Hungarian law of 1868, and confirmed by the government of the new Czechoslovak republic in 1918 and 1920, all Orthodox Christians living in the territory of the former Hungarian kingdom came within the jurisdiction of the Serbian Patriarchate, and were served directly by Bishops Gorazd of Moravia and Dositheus of Carpatho-Russia.
However, on September 3, 1921, the Orthodox parish in Prague elected Archimandrite Sabbatius to be their bishop, and then informed Bishop Dositheus, their canonical bishop about this. When the Serbian Synod refused to consecrate Sabbatius for Prague, he, without the knowledge of his community, set off for Constantinople, where on March 4, 1923, he was consecrated “archbishop” of the newly created Czechoslovakian branch of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, which included Carpatho-Russia. Then, on April 15, 1924, the Ecumenical Patriarch established a metropolia of Hungary and All Central Europe with its see in Budapest - although there was already a Serbian bishop there.
“The scandal caused by this confusion,” writes Z.G. Ashkenazy, “is easy to imagine. Bishop Sabbatius insisted on his rights in Carpatho-Russia, enthusiastically recruiting sympathizers from the Carpatho-Russian clergy and ordaining candidates indiscriminately. His followers requested that the authorities take administrative measures against priests not agreeing to submit to him. Bishop Dositheus placed a rebellious monk under ban – Bishop Sabbatius elevated him to igumen; Bishop Dositheus gathered the clergy in Husta and organized an Ecclesiastical Consistory – Bishop Sabbatius enticed priests to Bushtin and formed an Episcopal Council. Chaos reigned in church affairs. Malice and hatred spread among the clergy, who organized into ‘Sabbatiites’ and ‘Dositheiites’.
“A wonderful spiritual flowering which gave birth to so many martyrs for Orthodoxy degenerated into a shameful struggle for power, for a more lucrative parish and extra income. The Uniate press was gleeful, while bitterness settled in the Orthodox people against their clergy, who were not able to maintain that high standard of Orthodoxy which had been initiated by inspired simple folk.” 
In 1938 the great wonderworker Archbishop John Maximovich reported to the All-Diaspora Council of the Russian Church Abroad: “Increasing without limit their desires to submit to themselves parts of Russia, the Patriarchs of Constantinople have even begun to declare the uncanonicity of the annexation of Kiev to the Moscow Patriarchate, and to declare that the previously existing southern Russian Metropolia of Kiev should be subject to the Throne of Constantinople. Such a point of view is not only clearly expressed in the Tomos of November 13, 1924, in connection with the separation of the Polish Church, but is also quite thoroughly promoted by the Patriarchs. Thus, the Vicar of Metropolitan Eulogius in Paris, who was consecrated with the permission of the Ecumenical Patriarch, has assumed the title of Chersonese; that is to say, Chersonese, which is now in the territory of Russia, is subject to the Ecumenical Patriarch. The next logical step for the Ecumenical Patriarchate would be to declare the whole of Russia as being under the jurisdiction of Constantinople…
“In sum, the Ecumenical Patriarchate, in theory embracing almost the whole universe, and in fact extending its authority only over several dioceses, and in other places having only a superficial supervision and receiving certain revenues for this; persecuted by the government at home and not supported by any governmental authority abroad; having lost its significance as a pillar of truth and having itself become a source of division, and at the same time being possessed by an exorbitant love of power – represents a pitiful spectacle which recalls the worst periods in the history of the See of Constantinople.” 
IV. The EP’s communion with the Russian renovationist heretics and uncanonical deposition of ROCOR Bishops.
In 1922 the so-called “Living Church” came to power in Russia, deposed Patriarch Tikhon, and instituted a programme of modernistic reforms that was very close to those Meletius was to introduce. He promptly entered into communion with the schismatics. As the synod of the “Living Church” wrote to Meletius in 1925: “The Holy Synod [of the renovationists] recall with sincere best wishes the moral support which Your Beatitude showed us while you were yet Patriarch of Constantinople by entering into communion with us as the only rightfully ruling organ of the Russian Orthodox Church.” Moreover, his successors Gregory VII and Constantine VI remained in communion with the “Living Church”.
Patriarch Gregory first called for Patriarch Tikhon’s resignation, and then demanded “that the Russian Metropolitan Anthony and Archbishop Anastasius, who were residing Constantinople at the time, cease their activities against the Soviet regime and stop commemorating Patriarch Tikhon. Receiving no compliance from them, Patriarch Gregory organized an investigation and suspended the two bishops from serving. He asked Patriarch Demetrius [of Serbia] to close down the Russian Council of Bishops in Sremsky-Karlovtsy, but Demetrius refused…”
Gregory then decided to send a special mission to Russia to investigate the church situation there.
Patriarch Tikhon wrote to Gregory: “Attached to the letter of your Holiness’ representative in Russia, Archimandrite Basil Dimopoulo, of June 6, 1924, no. 226, I received the protocols of four sessions of the Holy Constantinopolitan Synod of January 1, April 17, April 30 and May 6 of this year, from which it is evident that your Holiness, wishing to provide help from the Mother Great Church of Christ of Constantinople, and ‘having exactly studied the course of Russian Church life and the differences and divisions that have taken place – in order to bring peace and end the present anomalies’, .. ‘having taken into consideration the exceptional circumstances and examples from the past’, have decided ‘to send us a special Commission, which is authorized to study and act on the spot on the basis and within the bounds of definite orders which are in agreement with the spirit and tradition of the Church’.
“In your Holiness’ instructions to the members of the Mission one of the main points is your desire that I, as the All-Russian Patriarch, ‘for the sake of the unification of those who have cut themselves off and for the sake of the flock, should sacrifice myself and immediately resign from the administration of the Church, as befits a true and love-filled pastor who cares for the salvation of many, and that at the same time the Patriarchate should be abolished, albeit temporarily, because it came into being in completely abnormal circumstances at the beginning of the civil war and because it is considered a major obstacle to the reestablishment of peace and unity’. Definite instructions are also given to the Commission regarding which tendencies [factions] they should rely on in their work.
“On reading the indicated protocols, we were in no small measure disturbed and surprised that the Representative of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, the head of the Constantinopolitan Church, should without prior contact with us, as the lawful representative and head of the whole of the Russian Orthodox Church, interfere in the inner life and affairs of the Autocephalous Russian Church. The Holy Councils... have always recognized the primacy in honour, but not in power, of the Bishop of Constantinople over the other Autocephalous Churches. Let us also remember the canon that ‘without being invited, bishops must not pass beyond the boundaries of their own jurisdiction for the sake of ordination or any other ecclesiastical affair.’ For that reason any attempt by any Commission without consulting me, the only lawful and Orthodox First-Hierarch of the Russian Orthodox Church, and without my knowledge, is unlawful and will not be accepted by the Russian Orthodox peoples, and will bring, not pacification, but still more disturbance and schism into the life of the Russian Orthodox Church, which has suffered much even without this. This will be to the advantage only of our schismatics – the renovationists, whose leaders now stand at the head of the so-called (self-called) Holy Synod, like the former archbishop of Nizhegorod Eudocimus and others, who have been defrocked by me and have been declared outside the communion of the Orthodox Church for causing disturbance, schism and unlawful seizure of ecclesiastical power.
“I, together with the whole mass of Russian Orthodox believers, and with all my flock, very much doubt that your Holiness has, as you declare, ‘studied exactly the course of Russian church life’. I doubt it because You have not once turned to me for documentary explanations of who is the true and real cause of disturbance and schism.
“The whole Russian Orthodox people long ago pronounced its righteous word concerning both the impious meeting which dared to call itself a Council in 1923, and the unhappy leaders of the renovationist schism… The people is not with the schismatics, but with their lawful Orthodox Patriarch. Allow me also to be sceptical about the measure your Holiness suggests for pacifying the Church – that is, my resignation from the administration of the Church and the abolition, albeit temporary, of the Patriarchate in Rus’. This would not pacify the Church, but cause a new disturbance and bring new sorrows to our faithful Archpastors and pastors who have suffered much even without this. It is not love of honour or power which has forced me to take up the cross of the patriarchy again, but the consciousness of my duty, submission to the will of God and the voice of the episcopate which is faithful to Orthodoxy and the Church. The latter, on receiving permission to assemble, in July last year, synodically condemned the renovationists as schismatics and asked me again to become head and rudder of the Russian Church until it pleases the Lord God to give peace to the Church by the voice of an All-Russian Local Council.” 
Relations between Constantinople and the Russian Church continued to be very frosty. Constantine’s successor, Basil III, broke communion with the Living Church in 1929 – but then entered into communion with the Sovietized Moscow Patriarchate of Metropolitan Sergius! When Metropolitan Peter came to power in Russia in April, 1925, he was presented a letter from Patriarch Basil III which called on the “Old Churchmen” to unite with the renovationists. His comment was: “We still have to check whether this Patriarch is Orthodox…” Metropolitan Sergius was also sceptical; he reacted to Constantinople’s recognition of the renovationists as follows: “Let them recognize them; the renovationists have not become Orthodox from this, only the Patriarchs have become renovationists!” 
V. The EP’s false “Pan-Orthodox” Council of 1923 and acceptance of the uncanonical papist calendar in 1924.
At the beginning of 1923, a Commission was set up on the initiative of the Greek government to see whether the Autocephalous Church of Greece could accept the new calendar – the first step towards union with the West in prayer. The Commission reported that “although the Church of Greece, like the other Autocephalous Orthodox Churches, is inherently independent, they are nevertheless firmly united and bound to each other through the principle of the spiritual unity of the Church, composing one and one only Church, the Orthodox Church. Consequently none of them can separate itself from the others and accept the new calendar without becoming schismatic in relation to them.”
On February 3, Meletius Metaxakis wrote to the Church of Greece, arguing for the change of calendar at his forthcoming Pan-Orthodox Council “so as to further the cause, in this part of the Pan-Christian unity, of the celebration of the Nativity and Resurrection of Christ on the same day by all those who are called by the name of the Lord.”
Shortly afterwards, on February 25, Archimandrite Chrysostom Papadopoulos, was elected Archbishop of Athens by three out of a specially chosen Synod of only five hierarchs – another ecclesiastical coup d’état. During his enthronement speech, Chrysostom said that for collaboration with the heterodox “it is not necessary to have common ground or dogmatic union, for the union of Christian love is sufficient”. 
As one of the members of the commission which had rejected the new calendar, Chrysostom might have been expected to resist Meletius’ call. But it seems that the two men had more in common than the fact that they had both been expelled from the Church of Jerusalem in their youth; for on March 6 Chrysostom and his Synod accepted Meletius’ proposal and agreed to send a representative to the forthcoming Council. Then, on April 16, he proposed to the Hierarchy that 13 days should be added to the calendar, “for reasons not only of convenience, but also of ecclesiastical, scientifically ratified accuracy”.
Five out of the thirty-two hierarchs – the metropolitans of Syros, Patras, Demetrias, Khalkis and Thera – voted against this proposal. Two days later, however, at the second meeting of the Hierarchy, it was announced that Chrysostom’s proposal had been “unanimously” approved, but “with absolutely no change to the Paschalion and Calendar of the Orthodox Church”. Moreover, it was decided that the Greek Church would approve of any decision regarding the celebration of Pascha made by the forthcoming Pan-Orthodox Council, provided it was in accordance with the Canons…
It was therefore with the knowledge that the Greek Church would support his proposed reforms that Meletius convened a “Pan-Orthodox Council” in Constantinople from May 10 to June 8, 1923, whose renovationist resolutions concerned the “correction” of the Julian calendar, a fixed date for Pascha, the second marriage of clergy, and various relaxations with regard to the clothing of clergy, the keeping of monastic vows, impediments to marriage, the transfer of Saints’ feasts from the middle of the week, and fasting.
However, hardly more than ten people, and no official representatives of the Patriarchates, turned up for the “Pan-Orthodox Council”, so discredited was its convener. And even Archbishop Chrysostom (Papadopoulos) had to admit: “Unfortunately, the Eastern Patriarchs who refused to take part in the Congress rejected all of its resolutions in toto from the very outset. If the Congress had restricted itself only to the issue of the calendar, perhaps it would not have encountered the kind of reaction that it did.” 
In his “Memorandum to the Holy Synod of the Hierarchy of Greece” (June 14, 1929), Metropolitan Irenaeus of Kassandreia wrote that the council was not “Pan-Orthodox” but “anti-Orthodox”: “It openly and impiously trampled on the 34th Apostolic Canon, which ordains: ‘It behoves the Bishops of every nation to know among them who is the first or chief, and to recognize him as their head, and to refrain from doing anything superfluous without his advice and approval… But let not even such a one do anything without the advice and consent and approval of all. For thus will there be concord, and God will be glorified through the Lord in the Holy Spirit: the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit’. He replaced the Julian calendar with the Gregorian in spite of all the prohibitions relating to it; he decided to supersede the Paschalion which had been eternally ordained for the Orthodox Church by the decision of the First Ecumenical Council, turning to the creation of an astronomically more perfect one in the observatories of Bucharest, Belgrade and Athens; he allowed clerics’ hair to be cut and their venerable dress to be replaced by that of the Anglican Pastors; he introduced the anticanonical marriage and second marriage of priests; he entrusted the shortening of the days of the fast and the manner of their observance to the judgement of the local Churches, thereby destroying the order and unity that prevailed in the Autocephalous Orthodox Churches of the East. Acting in this way, he opened wide the gates to every innovation, abolishing the distinctive characteristic of the Eastern Orthodox Church, which is its preservation, perfectly and without innovation, of everything that was handed down by the Lord, the Apostles, the Fathers, and the Local and Ecumenical Councils.” 
What made the council’s decisions still less acceptable was the reason it gave for its innovations, viz., that changing the Paschalion “would make a great moral impression on the whole civilized world by bringing the two Christian worlds of the East and West closer through the unforced initiative of this Orthodox Church…”
The council was rejected by the Alexandrian, Antiochian and Jerusalem Churches, and by the Russian Church Abroad and the Serbian Church. Metropolitan Anthony (Khrapovitsky) called the calendar innovation “this senseless and pointless concession to Masonry and Papism”.
That the adoption of the new calendar was an abomination in the sight of God was clearly indicated by the great miracle of the sign of the cross in the sky over the Old Calendarist monastery of St. John the Theologian in Athens in September, 1925. In fact the new calendar had been anathematised by the Eastern Patriarchs in three Councils, in 1583, 1587 and 1593, and synodically condemned again in 1722, 1827, 1848, 1895 and 1904. By adopting it, the EP, as the Commission of the Greek Church had rightly declared, became schismatic in relation to the Churches keeping the Church calendar.
VI. The participation of the EP in the World Council of Churches.
The Ecumenical Patriarchate was a founder-member of the WCC. It had participated in several ecumenical conferences with the Protestants since its official espousing of Ecumenism in 1920 and up to the founding congress of the WCC in Amsterdam in 1948. A.V. Soldatov has chronicled the progressive weakening in the Orthodox position during these years: “At the conference [of Faith and Order] in Geneva in 1920 the spirit of extreme Protestant liberalism gained the upper hand. It came to the point that when the Orthodox Metropolitan Stephen of Sophia noted in his report: ‘The Church is only there where the hierarchy has apostolic succession, and without such a hierarchy there are only religious communities’, the majority of the delegates of the conference left the hall as a sign of protest. At the next conference on Faith and Order [in Lausanne] in 1927, victory again went to the extreme left Protestants. The Orthodox delegation, experiencing psychological pressure at this conference, was forced to issue the following declaration: ‘in accordance with the views of the Orthodox Church, no compromises in relation to the teaching of the faith and religious convictions can be permitted. No Orthodox can hope that a reunion based on disputed formulae can be strong and positive… The Orthodox Church considers that any union must be based exclusively on the teaching of the faith and confession of the ancient undivided Church, on the seven Ecumenical Councils and other decisions of the first eight centuries.’ But the numerous speeches of the Orthodox explaining the teaching of the Church on the unity of the Church seemed only to still further increase the incomprehension or unwillingness to comprehend them on the part of the Protestant leaders of Ecumenism. This tendency was consistently pursued by the Protestants at the conferences in 1937 in Oxford and Edinburgh. Summing up this ‘dialogue’ at the beginning of the century, Fr. Metrophanes Znosko-Borovsky remarks: ‘The Orthodox delegates at Edinburgh were forced with sorrow to accept the existence of basic, irreconcilable differences in viewpoint on many subjects of faith between the Orthodox East and the Protestant West.’
“After the Second World War, the World Council of Churches was created. It is necessary to point out that the movements ‘Faith and Order’ and ‘the Christian Council of Life and Work’ were viewed by their organizers as preparatory stages in the seeking of possible modes of integration of ‘the Christian world’. The World Council of Churches differed from them in principle. It set out on the path of ‘practical Ecumenism’ for the first time in world history, declaring that it was the embryo of a new type of universal church. The first, so to speak founding conference of the WCC in Amsterdam chose as its motto the words: ‘Human disorder and God’s house-building’. At it, as Archbishop Vitaly remarks, ‘every effort was made to destroy the teaching on the One, True, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church’. “
Among the rules of the WCC which bind every member is the following: “A church must recognize the essential interdependence of the churches, particularly those of the same confession, and must practise constructive ecumenical relations with other churches within its country or region. This will normally mean that the church is a member of the national council of churches or similar body and of the regional ecumenical organisation."
Article I of the WCC Constitution reads: "The World Council of Churches is a fellowship of churches which confess the Lord Jesus Christ as God and Saviour according to the scriptures (sic) and therefore seek to fulfil together their common calling to the glory of the one God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit." And the Constitution also declares that the primary purpose of the fellowship of churches in the World Council of Churches is to call one another to “visible unity in one faith and in one eucharistic fellowship, expressed in worship and common life in Christ, through witness and service to the world, and to advance towards that unity in order that the world may believe”.
Further, according to Section II of the WCC Rules, entitled Responsibilities of Membership, "Membership in the World Council of Churches signifies faithfulness to the Basis of the Council, fellowship in the Council, participation in the life and work of the Council and commitment to the ecumenical movement as integral to the mission of the church.”
In accepting these terms the Orthodox churches that entered the WCC clearly accepted a Protestant ecclesiology.
VII. The Apostasy of Ecumenical Patriarch Athenagoras.
In 1949 there flew into Constantinople – on US President Truman’s plane – the second Meletius Metaxakis, the former Archbishop of North and South America Athenagoras, who in 1919 had been appointed secretary of the Holy Synod of the Church of Greece by Metaxakis himself.  By an extraordinary coincidence Athenagoras was a former spiritual son of Metropolitan Chrysostom of Florina, leader of the Greek Old Calendarists, so that the leaders of the opposing sides in the Church struggle in the early 1950s were, like David and Absalom, a holy father and his apostate son.
Patriarch Maximus was forced into retirement on grounds of mental illness and the 33rd degree Mason Athenagoras took his place. In his enthronement speech he went far beyond the bounds of the impious masonic encyclical of 1920 and proclaimed the dogma of ‘Pan-religion’, declaring: “We are in error and sin if we think that the Orthodox Faith came down from heaven and that the other dogmas [i.e. religions] are unworthy. Three hundred million men have chosen Mohammedanism as the way to God and further hundreds of millions are Protestants, Catholics and Buddhists. The aim of every religion is to make man better.”
In 1960 the Orthodox Churches in the WCC met on Rhodes to establish a catalogue of topics to be discussed at a future Pan-Orthodox Council. “In the course of the debate on the catalogue,” write Gordienko and Novikov, “the Moscow Patriarchate’s delegation suggested the removal of some of the subjects (The Development of Internal and External Missionary Work, The Methods of Fighting Atheism and False Doctrines Like Theosophy, Spiritism, Freemasonry, etc.) and the addition of some others (Cooperation between the Local Orthodox Churches in the Realisation of the Christian Ideas of Peace, Fraternity and Love among Peoples, Orthodoxy and Racial Discrimination, Orthodoxy and the Tasks of Christians in Regions of Rapid Social Change)… Besides working out the topics for the future Pre-Council, the First Conference passed the decision ‘On the Study of Ways for Achieving Closer Contacts and Unity of Churches in a Pan-Orthodox Perspective’, envisaging the search for contacts with Ancient Eastern (non-Chalcedonian) Churches (Monophysites), the Old Catholic, Anglican, Catholic, and Protestant Churches, as well as the World Council of Churches.” 
In other words, the Orthodox henceforth were to abandon the struggle against Atheism, Freemasonry and other false religions, and were to engage in dialogue towards union with all the Christian heretics – while at the same time persecuting the True Orthodox and using ecumenical forums to further the ends of Soviet foreign policy in its struggle with the Capitalist West!
It is not recorded that the EP objected to this programme…
Athenagoras’ apostate course received a boost from the WCC’s General Assembly in New Delhi in 1961, which marked the decisive dogmatic break between “World Orthodoxy” and True Orthodoxy. If, until then, it could be argued, albeit unconvincingly, that the new calendarists had not apostasised, and that only a few of their leaders were ecumenist heretics, this could no longer be maintained after the summary statement signed by all the delegates at New Delhi, which declared, among other things: “we consider that the work of creating the One, Universal Church must unfailingly be accompanied by the destruction and disappearance of certain outmoded, traditional forms of worship”.
This was an outright challenge delivered to the Holy Tradition of the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church! And, having delivered it, the Orthodox delegates seemed to lose all restraint. After the New Delhi congress, convened, appropriately enough, in the centre of the Hindu world, the ecumenical movement climbed into a higher gear, and even, within a decade or two, into the realm of “Super-ecumenism” – relations with non-Christian religions.
Already before the Delhi Assembly, in April, 1961, the Greek Archbishop James of North and South America (a Freemason of the 33rd degree) had said: “We have tried to rend the seamless robe of the Lord – and then we cast ‘arguments’ and ‘pseudo-documents’ to prove – that ours is the Christ, and ours is the Church… Living together and praying together without any walls of partition raised, either by racial or religious prejudices, is the only way that can lead surely to unity.” What could these “pseudo-documents” and “religious prejudices” have been if not the sacred Canons which forbid the Orthodox from praying together with heretics?
Then, in April, 1963, he said: “It would be utterly foolish for the true believer to pretend or to insist that the whole truth has been revealed only to them, and they alone possess it. Such a claim would be both unbiblical and untheological… Christ did not specify the date nor the place that the Church would suddenly take full possession of the truth.” This statement, which more or less denied that the Church is, as the Apostle Paul said, “the pillar and ground of the Truth” (I Timothy. 3.15), caused uproar in Greece and on Mount Athos. However, Athenagoras supported James, calling his position “Orthodox”. From this time on, the two Masons went steadily ahead making ever more flagrantly anti-Orthodox statements. As we shall see, there was some opposition from more conservative elements in the autocephalous Churches; but the opposition was never large or determined enough to stop them…
At a meeting of the Faith and Order movement in Montreal in 1963, a memorandum on “Councils of Churches in the Purpose of God” declared: “The Council [WCC] has provided a new sense of the fullness of the Church in its unity, holiness, catholicity and apostolicity. These marks of the Church can no longer be simply applied to our divided churches, therefore.”
Although this memorandum was not accepted in the end (Fr. George Florovsky objected to it in the plenary session), it showed how the WCC was encroaching on the Orthodox Church’s understanding of herself as the One Church. Indeed, it could be argued that the Orthodox participants had already abandoned this dogma. For as early as the Toronto, 1950 statement of the WCC’s Central Committee, it had been agreed that an underlying assumption of the WCC was that the member-churches “believe that the Church of Christ is more inclusive than the membership of their own body”. 
At the Second Pan-Orthodox Conference in Rhodes, in September, 1963, it was unanimously agreed that the Orthodox should enter into dialogue with the Catholics, provided it was “on equal terms”. In practice, this meant that the Catholics should abandon their eastern-rite missions in Orthodox territories. The Catholics have never shown much signs of wishing to oblige in this, but they did help to make a dialogue easier by redefining the Orthodox, in Vatican II’s decree on Ecumenism, as “separated brethren” rather than “schismatics”.
In 1968 the Fourth General Assembly of the WCC took place in Uppsala. It considerably furthered the ecumenical movement, with the Orthodox, as the new general secretary Carson Blake joyfully pointed out, taking full part in all the sections and committees and not, as often in the past, issuing separate statements disagreeing with the majority Protestant view. Archbishop Vitaly (Ustinov) of Canada said to the Synod of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia: “At the opening of the Assembly an ecumenical prayer was read in the name of all those assembles: ‘O God our Father, You can create everything anew. We entrust ourselves to You, help us to live for others, for Your love extends over all people, and to search for the Truth, which we have not known…’ How could the Orthodox listen to these last words? It would have been interesting to look at that moment at the faces of the Orthodox hierarchs who had declared for all to hear that they, too, did not know the Truth. Every batyushka of ours in the remotest little village knows the Truth by experience, as he stands before the throne of God and prays to God in spirit and in truth. Even The Journal of the Moscow Patriarchate, which is completely subject to the censorship of the communist party, in citing the words of the prayer in its account of this conference, did not dare to translate the English ‘truth’ by the word ‘istina’, but translated it as ‘pravda’ [‘righteousness’]. Of course, everyone very well understood that in the given case the text of the prayer was speaking without the slightest ambiguity about the Truth. Perhaps the Orthodox hierarchs have resorted, in the conference, to the old Jesuit practice of reservatio mentalis, but in that case if all these delegates do not repent of the sin of communion in prayer with heretics, then we must consider them to be on the completely false path of apostasy from the Truth of Orthodoxy… Ecumenism is the heresy of heresies because until now each heresy in the history of the Church has striven to take the place of the true Church, but the ecumenical movement, in uniting all the heresies, invites all of them together to consider themselves the one true Church.”
VIII. The EP’s “Lifting of the Anathemas” on the Roman Papacy.
On January 5 and 6, 1964, Pope Paul VI and Patriarch Athenagoras met in Jerusalem and prayed together. This was a clear transgression of the canons concerning relations with heretics (Apostolic canon 45). Archbishop Chrysostom of Athens was reported as saying that “while the Pope is going to the Holy Land to kneel before the Saviour’s sepulchre, you (Athenagoras) are going to kneel before the Pope and bury Orthodoxy.”
Further intense activity led, on December 7, 1965, to the “lifting of the anathemas” of 1054 between the Orthodox and Roman Catholic Churches. The announcement was made simultaneously in Rome and Constantinople. It included the following words: “Pope Paul VI and Patriarch Athenagoras I with his synod, in common agreement, declare that: a. They regret the offensive words, the reproaches without foundation, and the reprehensible gestures which, on both sides, have marked or accompanied the sad events of this period [viz. In the 11th century]. B. They likewise regret and remove both from memory and from the midst of the Church the sentences of excommunication which followed these events, the memory of which has influenced actions up to our day and has hindered closer relations in charity; and they commit these excommunications to oblivion.” 
It should be pointed out, first, that in saying that the schism of 1054 was based on “reproaches without foundation”, the Patriarch was in effect saying that the Papacy was not, or never had been, heretical – although the Papacy had renounced none of its heresies, and Pope Paul VI had reasserted papal infallibility as recently as Vatican II. Secondly, while relations with excommunicated individuals or Churches can be restored if those individuals or Churches repent, anathemas against heresies cannot be removed insofar as a heresy remains a heresy forever.
In the journal Ekklesia Archbishop Chrysostom of Athens denied that the Patriarch had the authority to act independently of the other Orthodox Churches. And he said: “I am convinced that no other Orthodox Church will copy the Ecumenical Patriarch’s action.” From this time, several monasteries and sketes on Mount Athos ceased to commemorate the Patriarch.
On December 15, 1965, Metropolitan Philaret, First-Hierarch of the ROCA, wrote to the Patriarch protesting against his action: “Your gesture puts a sign of equality between error and truth. For centuries all the Orthodox Churches believed with good reasons that it has violated no doctrine of the Holy Ecumenical Councils; whereas the Church of Rome has introduced a number of innovations in its dogmatic teaching. The more such innovations were introduced, the deeper was to become the separation between the East and the West. The doctrinal deviations of Rome in the eleventh century did not yet contain the errors that were added later. Therefore the cancellation of the mutual excommunication of 1054 could have been of meaning at that time, but now it is only evidence of indifference in regard to the most important errors, namely new doctrines foreign to the ancient Church, of which some, having been exposed by St. Mark of Ephesus, were the reason why the Church rejected the Union of Florence… No union of the Roman Church with us is possible until it renounces its new doctrines, and no communion in prayer can be restored with it without a decision of all the Churches, which, however, can hardly be possible before the liberation of the Church of Russia which at present has to live in the catacombs… A true dialogue implies an exchange of views with a possibility of persuading the participants to attain an agreement. As one can perceive from the Encyclical Ecclesiam Suam, Pope Paul VI understands the dialogue as a plan for our union with Rome with the help of some formula which would, however, leave unaltered its doctrines, and particularly its dogmatic doctrine about the position of the Pope in the Church. However, any compromise with error is foreign to the history of the Orthodox Church and to the essence of the Church. It could not bring a harmony in the confessions of the Faith, but only an illusory outward unity similar to the conciliation of dissident Protestant communities in the ecumenical movement.” 
IX. The EP’s Heretical “Thyateira Confession”.
In 1975, Archbishop Athenagoras of Thyateira and Great Britain published, with the explicit blessing and authorisation of Patriarch Demetrius, his Thyateira Confession, which expressed the novel idea that the Church is a house without walls which anyone can enter freely and receive “eucharistic hospitality”. And he wrote: “Orthodox Christians believe that the following Churches have valid and true Priesthood or Orders. The Orthodox, the Roman Catholic, the Ethiopian, the Copto-Armenian and the Anglican. The Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople, the Patriarchate of Alexandria, the Patriarchate of Jerusalem, the Patriarchate of Romania and the Church of Cyprus half a century ago declared officially that the Anglican Church has valid Orders by dispensation and that means that Anglican Bishops, Priests and Deacons can perform valid sacraments as can those of the Roman Catholic Church.” This heretical confession was condemned by Metropolitan Philaret and his Synod.
X. The EP’s Participation in “Super Ecumenism”.
In the early 1980s inter-Christian ecumenism was succeeded by inter-faith ecumenism, or “super ecumenism”, with the EP, as usual, taking a leading role. Already in the WCC’s General Assembly at Nairobi in 1975, the Orthodox delegates, having signed an agreement to recognize the sacraments of the non-Orthodox delegates, had declared that “the Orthodox do not expect the other Christians to be converted to Orthodoxy in its historic and cultural reality of the past and the present and to become members of the Orthodox Church” – which gave the lie to their excuse that they were participating in the ecumenical movement “to witness to the non-Orthodox”.
Again, in 1980, the Ecumenical Press Service declared that the WCC was working on plans to unify all Christian denominations into a single new religion.
Then, in 1982, an inter-denominational eucharistic service was composed at a conference in Lima, Peru, in which the Protestant and Orthodox representatives to the WCC agreed that the baptism, eucharist and ordinations of all denominations were valid and acceptable.
But the greatest shock came in 1983, at the Vancouver General Assembly of the WCC. This was attended by representatives of every existing religion and began with a pagan rite performed by local Indians. The participation of Orthodox hierarchs in religious services with representatives of all the world’s religions required a rebuke – and a rebuke was forthcoming.
First, the Greek Old Calendarist Metropolitan Gabriel of the Cyclades attempted to address the Vancouver Assembly. But he was not allowed to speak by the ecumenists, who thereby demonstrated that they are “tolerant” and “loving” to every kind of blasphemy, but not to the expression of True Christianity. Then the Synod of the ROCA, also meeting in Canada, anathematised ecumenism, declaring: “To those who attack the Church of Christ by teaching that Christ’s Church is divided into so-called ‘branches’ which differ in doctrine and way of life, or that the Church does not exist visibly, but will be formed in the future when all ‘branches’ or sects or denominations, and even religions will be united in one body; and who do not distinguish the priesthood and mysteries of the Church from those of the heretics, but say that the baptism and eucharist of heretics is effectual for salvation; therefore to those who knowingly have communion with these aforementioned heretics or advocate, disseminate , or defend their new heresy of Ecumenism under the pretext of brotherly love or the supposed unification of separated Christians, Anathema.”
The implication of this anathema was clear: since the EP was a fully participating member of the WCC, it was under anathema and deprived of the grace of sacraments. As I.M. has written: “There is no heresy without heretics and their practical activity. The WCC in its declarations says: The Church confesses, the Church teaches, the Church does this, the Church does that. In this way the WCC witnesses that it does not recognize itself to be simply a council of churches, but the one church. And all those who are members of the WCC are members of this one false church, this synagogue of satan. And by this participation in the WCC all the local Orthodox churches fall under the anathema of the ROCA of 1983 and fall away from the True Church.…” 
In 1990, a Declaration was agreed at Chambésy in Switzerland between a Joint Commission of theologians of the Orthodox (including the EP) and the Monophysites (called “Oriental Orthodox” in the documents), in which the Orthodox and Monophysites were called two “families of churches” (a phrase unknown to Orthodox ecclesiology).
Paragraph Four of the Declaration said: “The two families accept that the two natures [of Christ] with their own energies and wills are united hypostatically and naturally without confusion, without change, without division and without separation and that they are distinguished only in thought (en qewria).”
This is already completely unacceptable from an Orthodox point of view, and represents a heretical, Monophysite formulation. The two natures and wills of Christ are not distinguishable “only in thought”, but also in reality. Paragraph Seven also speaks of the two natures being distinguishable “only in thought”, which implies, as Ludmilla Perepiolkina points out “an absence of this distinction in reality”.
Paragraph Five states: “The two families accept that the One Who wills and acts is always the single Hypostasis of the incarnate Logos”. However, as Perepiolkina again correctly points out, according to the teaching of St. Maximus the Confessor, “the concept of energy (activity) of nature is attributable only to nature as a whole, and not to the hypostasis. This teaching was affirmed at the Sixth Ecumenical Council. In the Chambésy Declaration, as it is evident from Paragraph Five, natural wills and energies in Jesus Christ are attributed to His Hypostasis. In other words, this Paragraph is a purely Monothelite formula”.
Paragraph Eight states: “The two families accept the first three Ecumenical Councils which form our common heritage. With regard to the four later Councils of the Orthodox Church, the Orthodox affirm that, for them, points one through seven are also the teaching of these four later Councils, whereas the oriental Orthodox consider this affirmation of the Orthodox like their own interpretation. In this sense the oriental Orthodox respond positively to this affirmation.”
An unclear statement, about which one thing, however, is clear: the Monophysites do not commit themselves to accepting the Fourth, Fifth, Sixth and Seventh Ecumenical Councils in the way the Orthodox do, but only “positively respond to their affirmation”, which means nothing in dogmatic terms.
Paragraph Nine states: “In the light of our joint declaration on Christology and the joint affirmations mentioned above, we now clearly realize and understand that our two families have always loyally guarded the same and authentic Christological Orthodox Faith, and have maintained uninterrupted the apostolic tradition although they may have used the Christological terms in a different manner. It is that common faith and that continual loyalty to the apostolic tradition which must be the basis of our unity and communion.”
This is in flat contradiction to 1500 years of Orthodox Tradition. In this period all the Holy Fathers unambiguously affirmed that the Monophysites had not “loyally guarded the same and authentic Christological Orthodox Faith”, and were in fact heretics. But the modern ecumenists claim that all the six hundred and thirty holy Fathers of the Fourth Ecumenical Council, as well as all the Fathers of all the succeeding Council that condemned Monophytism, were wrong, and the whole controversy was simply based on some linguistic misunderstandings!
Paragraph Ten of the Declaration states: “The two families accept that all the anathemas and the condemnations of the past which kept us divided must be lifted by the Churches so that the last obstacle to full unity and communion of our two families can be removed by the grace and power of God. The two families accept that the lifting of the anathemas and the condemnations will be based on the fact that the Councils and the father previously anathematised or condemned were not heretics.”
So the Seven Ecumenical Councils need to be amended, say these “theologians”, and the anathemas against all the Monophysite councils and fathers, including the notorious heresiarchs Dioscurus, Timothy and Severus, lifted! This is a clear and explicit rejection of the Faith of the Seven Ecumenical Councils! Of course, the Autocephalous Orthodox Churches (with the exception of Jerusalem) have already implicitly rejected the Councils and the Fathers by their communion in prayer and the sacraments with all sorts of heretics, and even pagans, the WCC General Assembly in Canberra in 1991 being perhaps the most extreme example. Nevertheless, it is a further and important stage to say explicitly that the Ecumenical Councils were wrong, that the Monophysites should not have been condemned, that they were Orthodox all these centuries although the Holy Fathers and all the saints of the Orthodox Church considered them to be heretics. This is not simply a failure to come up to the standards of the Ecumenical Councils: it is a renunciation of the standards themselves.
In essence, the Local Orthodox Churches, led by the EP, here placed themselves under the anathemas against Monophysitism from the Fourth Ecumenical Council onwards, and must be considered to be “semi-Monophysites”.
The ROCOR and the Greek Old Calendarists quickly condemned the Chambésy agreement. Nevertheless, in 1992 the patriarchate of Antioch entered into full, official communion with the Monophysites. There is every indication that the Moscow Patriarchate wants to go along the same path. The MP’s relations with the Armenian Monophysites are especially close.
Chambésy was followed by the Seventh General Assembly of the WCC in Canberra in 1991, in which the Orthodox delegates blasphemed against the Faith still more blatantly. Thus aboriginal pagans invited the participants to pass through a “cleansing cloud of smoke” uniting Aboriginal spirituality to Christian spirituality!
In March, 1992, the heads of the Local Orthodox Churches met in Constantinople and official renounced proselytism among Western Christians. Of course, this renunciation had been implicit in the Ecumenical Patriarchate’s statements since the encyclical of 1920. But it still came as a shock to see the “Church” renounced the hope of conversion and therefore salvation for hundreds of millions of westerners.
Union with the Monophysites proceeded in parallel with moves for union with the Catholics. In 1994 the Local Orthodox churches signed the Balamand agreement with the Catholics, in which the Orthodox and the Catholics were declared to be sister-Churches in the full sense, “two lungs” of the same organism (with the Monophysites as a “third lung”?). The Balamand Agreement, which was signed on the Orthodox side by Moscow, Constantinople, Alexandria, Antioch, Romania, Cyprus, Poland and Finland, declared: “Catholics and Orthodox… are once again discovering each other as sister churches” and “recognizing each other as sister churches”. “On each side it is acknowledged that what Christ has entrusted to His Church – the profession of the apostolic faith, participation in the same sacraments, the apostolic succession of bishops, and, above all, the one priesthood celebrating the one Sacrifice of Christ – cannot be considered to be the exclusive property of one of our Churches.” The baptism of penitent papists into the Orthodox Church was prohibited: “All rebaptism (sic) is prohibited.” The Orthodox Church “recognizes the Catholic Church in her entirety as a sister Church, and indirectly recognizes also the Oriental Catholic Churches” (the Uniates). “Special attention should be given on both sides to the preparation and education of future priests with regard to the new ecclesiology, (that they may) be informed of the apostolic succession of the other Church and the authenticity of its sacramental life, (so that) the use of history in a polemical manner (may be avoided)”.
This was an official acceptance of the “branch theory” of the Church. There were protests in Greece and Mount Athos, but Patriarch Bartholomew forced the protestors to back down. This was the same Patriarch, the most senior in Orthodoxy, who said a few years later: “Orthodox Christian and modernist, Protestant and modernist, Jew and modernist, Catholic and modernist: however we worship, as long as we abide in our faith and unite it to our works in the world, we bring the living and always timely message of Divine wisdom into the modern world.” So the EP today combines the broadest welcome to almost all contemporary heresies and false religions while persecuting those who hold to the True Orthodox faith. To him and to those with him the Church proclaims: Anathema!
July 28 / August 10, 2004.
5. A LETTER TO AN ANGLICAN FRIEND ON HERESY
I think it’s a little unfortunate that this conversation centres on the calendar question, because we can’t profitably discuss this question until we have agreed on certain basic principles. But let me say this much before turning to the more basic issues. The calendar question is not about astronomical accuracy: it is about unity of worship. Unity of worship between the Heavenly and the Earthly Church, and between all parts of the Earthly Church, has always been of great importance to the Orthodox. That is why it occupied the heads of the Churches in the second century (Rome and the East), at the First Ecumenical Council (where the basic rules of our calendar were established), the Synod of Whitby in 664 (unity between the Celts and Saxons), many Synods in East and West in the 16th-18th centuries (England waited 169 years before adopting the Gregorian calendar, and even then there were riots in the streets), and in modern times. If unity of worship is unimportant to you, then the calendar question will be unimportant to you. But it is important to us, and has been important to most of the Christian world for most of Christian history.
But let’s get down to basic principles. You haven’t answered my question about how you interpret the Scriptural passages I cited. So let me take the first: “If he refuses to hear even the Church, let him be to you as a heathen and a tax collector” (Matthew 18.17). This passage indicates the great importance of the Divinely founded institution of the Church – that institution which St. Paul called “the pillar and ground of the Truth” (I Timothy 3.15). The Lord says that we must obey the Church; St. Paul - that we cannot be in the truth without being in the Church. Now we cannot obey the Church unless we know where it is. So what are the marks of the Church? True faith and true worship. (Using more technically theological language, the Creed says they are Unity (or Singleness), Holiness, Catholicity and Apostolicity.) When quarrels arose over what was the true faith and worship of the Church, the bishops got together in Councils to thrash the matter out. When the Councils had reached a decision, all the bishops were required to sign a confession of faith expressing that decision. Those who refused, insofar as they were refusing to obey the Church, were treated, in accordance with the Lord’s words, “as heathen and tax collectors”. Of course, there were some “robber councils” – that is, councils at which heresy, rather than Orthodoxy, triumphed. But over the years and centuries seven particularly important Councils were accepted in both East and West (excluding the Monophysite and Nestorian “Churches”) as having particular authority. These define both the dogmatic faith and the canonical discipline of the Orthodox Church to this day.
Unfortunately, however, in the West since the rise of the Papacy, and especially since the Reformation, the Ecumenical Councils have been increasingly ignored, even despised. The result is that the West has not only lost unity of faith and worship within itself: it has also lost it with the Church of the Seven Ecumenical Councils – that is, the Church of the first millenium of Christian history. Now anyone can proclaim just about any kind of teaching, however far removed from Christianity, label it “Christian” and pass muster as a “Christian” and a member of the “Church” (you can be a member of the Methodist “Church” in England, for example, without even believing in God!).
Until the early twentieth century the Orthodox Church retained both its internal unity and its unity with the Early Apostolic Church through its faithfulness to the teachings of the Seven Ecumenical Councils, “the seven pillars of wisdom”. However, under the twin hammer blows of Communism and Ecumenism (“Ecucommunism”, as I have called it), the major part of the Orthodox Church has also fallen away. This should not surprise us: the Lord called His Church a “little flock” and put the rhetorical question: “When I come again, shall I find faith on the earth?” (Luke 12.40, 18.8). (Answer: not much.) But He also said that “the gates of hell will not prevail against the Church” (Matthew 16.18). So even in the last, most terrible times, when the vast majority of mankind will fall into the abyss, there will still be the opportunity for the lover of truth to find the One True Church, Christ’s “little flock”; and even in our terrible times there have been literally millions of martyrs for the truth, and great wonderworkers whom God has glorified with great signs and miracles on the earth. However, to those who “did not receive the love of the truth, that they might be saved,… God will send a strong delusion, that they should believe the lie” (II Thessalonians 2.11-12). They will include the “believers” of the last, “Laodicean” period of Church history, of whom the Lord says: “Because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will vomit you out of My mouth” (Revelation 3.16).
Now the modern, lukewarm “believer” trots out a number of standard arguments against the view I have just propounded. I shall call them the “persecution” argument, the “linguistic” argument, the “doctrine doesn’t matter anyway” argument and the “God is merciful” argument.
1. The Persecution Argument. This may be stated as follows: If we become obsessed with doctrinal niceties, we’ll only end up killing each other without anyone coming any closer to the “truth”. This is the way to the Inquisition, to Auschwitz, etc.
Needless to say, arguments about fundamental truth do not always end in blood; and the fact that they do occasionally should not put us off from “the one thing necessary” – the search for the truth. In any case, as I have already indicated, the Orthodox Church believes that peaceful persuasion, not physical persecution, is the right method for bringing people to a knowledge of the truth. That has been the method employed by all Orthodox missionaries and preachers in all ages. The teaching that heretics should be killed was first officially proclaimed, not by any Orthodox saint or council, but by Thomas Aquinas and the Fourth Lateran Council of 1215, whence it entered the bloodstream of the Early Protestants and Anglicans. The Inquisition was a Catholic institution, and I know of no similar institution established by any Church authority in any Orthodox land.
Some physical persecution has been undertaken by secular authorities, it is true. For example, St. Constantine the Great exiled Arius and his followers after the First Ecumenical Council, and his example was followed by some other Orthodox emperors and kings. However, before condemning such an act, it would be worth asking why it was done.
Two possible answers suggest themselves. First, that, having failed with peaceful persuasion, the Emperor may have thought that a little physical and psychological suffering would humble the heretics and therefore dispose them to receive the truth, which always requires humility. This is an unlikely explanation in this case, but it should not be forgotten that “spare the rod and spoil the child” is a Biblical precept, and that God Himself often imposes physical sufferings on His people in order to bring them to their senses – there are many examples in the Bible from the Babylonian captivity to the plagues of the Book of Revelation.
More likely, the Emperor recognised that the Arians were beyond persuading, and that he exiled the heretics in order to protect those who were still Orthodox, but weak or immature in their thinking, from the corrupting influence of their teaching. Don’t forget that in the understanding of the Early Church, and of the Orthodox Church to this day, heresy is a disease which kills the soul, cuts it off from God; it is far worse in its effects than the worst of physical afflictions. That is why the apostles were so severe in relation to it. “If anyone preaches any other gospel to you that what you have received, let him be anathema” (Galatians 1.8). “A heretic after the first and second admonition reject” (Titus 3.10). “Whoever transgresses and does not abide in the doctrine of Christ does not have God… If anyone comes to you and does not bring this doctrine, do not receive him into your house nor greet him” (II John 9-10).
2. The Linguistic Argument. How often have I heard the argument, even from very intelligent people: “These disputes were just about words; we mustn’t quarrel just about words; the truth cannot be wrapped up in linguistic definitions.” Of course, the truth cannot be “wrapped up” in words. But words can point to a truth – or a falsehood. “You obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine to which you were delivered,” says St. Paul (Romans 6.17). Obviously he was talking about some teaching expressed in words. Again, “hold fast the form of sound words you have heard from me,” he says (II Timothy 1.13). What is he talking about if not about some verbally expressed teaching of the faith? Again: “With the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation” (Romans 10.10). So our words matter: with them we confess the truth or heresy, unto salvation or damnation. By what other way, besides “the form of sound words” and “confession with the mouth”, do we distinguish truth from falsehood?
If words are vitally important to scientists and writers and lawyers, why should they be any the less important to theologians? To say that Christ is “of one substance” with the Father is to express a radically different idea from saying that Christ is “of a similar substance” to the Father, yet this enormous difference in ideas is expressed by the difference of only one letter (iota) in Greek (“homoousios” as opposed to “homoiousios”). As the Lord Himself said, “not one iota shall pass away…” In the fourth century, both learned people and simple people, both Orthodox and heretics, understood both the difference in these words and the enormous importance of the difference. Not now! Why? The answer to this question brings me to:
3. The “Doctrine Doesn’t Matter Anyway” Argument. For nearly nineteen centuries, Christians and heretics argued about truth and heresy, but they had this in common: they agreed that there was a difference, and that the difference was vitally important. What distinguishes 20th-century heretics from almost all previous ones is that they don’t even believe in the existence of heresy – or, if they do, they don’t believe it’s important. I once read a review in Church Times of a book on the wars between Anglicans and Catholics in sixteenth-century England. The reviewer said that both sides were equally right, and the “martyrs” on both sides were martyrs, even though they died for completely contradictory “truths”, because the only real heresy is the idea that there is such a thing as heresy. This is essentially the doctrine of ecumenism, which would unite every conceivable truth and heresy in a pan-cosmic religious stew in which everyone can believe as they like “because all paths lead to God”. But this is simply the abandonment of reason and objectivity in favour of complete subjectivism. And the Orthodox Church has officially defined it as “the heresy of heresies” because it combines all heresies in itself while denying the very existence of objective truth.
For if heresy doesn’t exist, then truth doesn’t exist either. And if the difference between truth and heresy is unimportant, then Christianity and religion in general are unimportant. Because if Christianity is anything at all, it is TRUTH. “Father, sanctify them by Thy truth”, said the Lord. But if anything goes, if anything is accepted as the truth, then where is the possibility of sanctification?
Or of salvation? Until our inglorious twentieth century, all those who called themselves Christians, heretics as well as true believers, accepted that in Christ alone is salvation, and that the way to salvation is through true, correct faith in Him – faith that is then expressed and confirmed by good works. Faith without works is dead, and works without true faith, as the Venerable Bede says, is also dead. It does not lead to salvation. Heretics are not saved themselves, and lead others to perdition.
Let us hear some apostolic testimonies on this subject. “Their message will spread like cancer. Hymenaeus and Philetus are of this sort, who have strayed concerning the faith, saying that the resurrection is already past; and they overthrow the faith of some” (II Timothy 2.17-18). “As Jannes and Jambres resisted Moses, so do these also resist the truth: men of corrupt minds, disapproved concerning the faith” (II Timothy 3.8). “Rebuke them sharply, that they be sound in the faith” (Titus 1.13). “Heresies… and the like: of which I tell you beforehand, just as I also told you in time past, that those who practise such things will not inherit the Kingdom of God“ (Galatians 5.20-21). “There will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Lord Who bought them, and bring on themselves swift destruction” (II Peter 2.1).
Do we need any more testimonies to the undeniable fact that heretics destroy themselves and those who listen to them, and that, as St. Paul said, “their mouths must be stopped” – by persuasion if they will listen, by expulsion from the Church if they will not. For they are blind leaders of the blind, as the Lord said – and both leaders and followers fall into a pit. They are dry branches who will be cut off from the True Vine and thrown into the fire, as the Lord again said.
But all this is too terrifying for some tender (St. Paul calls them “itching”) ears, and they want to change the Gospel to make it “nicer”. So we come to the following very nice “argument”:
4. The “God Is Merciful” Argument. God will not condemn heretics, goes the argument, for the simple reason that He is merciful. He is too compassionate to send His creature to hell. The very idea is so uncivilized!
“Civilized” or not, it happens to be what we read in the Word of God – and what we read in the word of God inscribed on our hearts, our conscience, if only we read it honestly. Yes, God is merciful – to the merciful. But He is also just, and rewards every man according to his works. Yes, He gives the Truth – Himself – to those who love the truth. But the corollary is also true: those who do not love the truth He gives over to the father of lies, Satan. Sometimes this happens even in this life. Thus about one sinner St. Paul said: “In the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, when you are gathered together, along with my spirit, with the power of our Lord Jesus Christ, deliver such a one to Satan for the destruction of the flesh” (I Corinthians 5.4-5). And St. Peter wasn’t exactly merciful to Ananias and Sapphira… As David says in the Psalms: “With the holy man wilt Thou be holy, and with the innocent man wilt Thou be innocent. And with the elect man wilt Thou be elect, and with the perverse wilt Thou be perverse…” (Psalm 17.25-26 (LXX)).
Any careful reader of the Gospel will agree that it is both the most comforting, and the most terrifying book ever written. “Many are called, but few are chosen.” “There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” “Depart from Me, ye cursed, into the everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels.” “Whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit, it will not be forgiven him, either in this age or in the age to come.” “It is more difficult for a rich man to enter the Kingdom of heaven than…” “Depart from Me, I never knew you…” “You, Capernaum,… will be brought down to hell.” “Better were it for that man if he had never been born…”
Yes, God is merciful, because He gives us every opportunity to be saved, and warns us in every way against the path that leads to damnation. But we are unutterably foolish, because we want to rewrite the rules, as if we were the Judge and not the man standing in the dock. “Wait a minute, you can’t really mean that all who… will be damned!” “Okay, let Hitler and Stalin rot in hell, but we’re such nice people, I’m such a nice person…!”
What a shock death will be for the vast majority of mankind! And all because we do not want to believe what Christ has written with such clarity in His Gospel. We want dispensations for our lusts and passions, for our criminal indifference to the truth. We want to rewrite the Gospel, make it the Gospel according to Luther, or John-Paul II, or George Carey, which absolves all manner of heretics, all manner of evil perversions, all manner of betrayals of the One Saviour of mankind. But St. Paul consigns all those who preach a different Gospel to the terrible sentence of anathema. And what does the Apostle of love and mercy say in the very last chapter of God’s Word? “I testify to anyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: If anyone adds to these things, God will add to him the plagues that are written in this book; and if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part from the Book of Life, from the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book….” (Revelation 22.18).
September 3/16, 1999.
St. Edward the Martyr, King of England.
6. ON MYSTERY AND MYSTIFICATION, or: ANGLICAN ECUMENISM
"None of the mysteries," writes Metropolitan Philaret of Moscow, "of the most secret wisdom of God ought to appear alien or altogether transcendent to us, but in all humility we must apply our spirit to the contemplation of divine things." And so, in the Divine services of the Orthodox Church, we are constantly being drawn to contemplate the mysteries of our salvation - especially the mystery of the Incarnation of Christ, but also those of the Holy Trinity, the creation of the world out of nothing, the Cross and the Resurrection, the Church, the Second Coming and the Terrible Judgement, man made in the image of God, eternal life and eternal damnation. By contemplating these mysteries, our faith is strengthened and deepened, we draw closer to God and His saints and further away from the abyss of unbelief and heresy.
However, there is a trend in contemporary heretical thought that seeks to use the concept of "mystery" to overturn faith in the mysteries and replace it by a false religious mysticism and a pseudo-intellectual mystification. This current of thought does not openly deny any of the mysteries of the faith - with the exception of the mystery of the Church, upon whose denial the whole of Protestantism is based. Rather, it loves to talk about "the eternal Christ" of St. John's Gospel (their favourite because it is so "mystical"), about "parousia" and "eternal life", about "transfiguration" and "deification" and "resurrection" - but in senses that are so alien to the Orthodox understanding that we have to use these terms in quotation marks. Characteristic of this current of thought is its blurring of the boundaries between psychology and religion, between experiences of the soul and dogmas of the faith. Characteristic, too, is its syncretism, its willingness, indeed determination, to identify Christian concepts with pagan (especially Buddhist) ones, and the Christian world-view with the scientific world-view - even those elements of the scientific world-view, such as evolutionism, which are most contrary to traditional, Orthodox Christianity.
When one asks the "mystifiers", as I shall call them, whether they believe, for example, that Jesus Christ is God, the Creator of the universe, one rarely gets a straight answer. Thus they may admit that Christ is "divine" - but not that He is "God", that "God is uniquely expressed in Christ" - but not that He created the universe. And then if one shows some dissatisfaction by this lack of clarity, one is told that one must not try to "analyze the mystery", that "words cannot express the mystery", with more than a hint that one is not "deep" or "mystical" or "apophatic" enough. And if one counters that the Apostles and Fathers of the Church, who invented the term "apophatic" and knew a great deal more about mysticism than any of us, were nevertheless quite prepared to make the clear and categorical statements of faith which the mystifiers are not prepared to make, one is gently chided for being too "dogmatic" and "rationalist". The unspoken assumption behind the mystifiers' "argument" is that they, as educated people of the twentieth century, do not need the Apostles or Fathers to guide them any more; like the gnostics of all ages, they know better, they have a special insight into religious truth which does not need words and definitions, because "whereof one cannot speak, thereof one must keep silent"...
The leaders in this heretical trend are the Anglicans. Beginning from the 1960s and the infamous book Honest to God, the Anglican Church has undergone a most astonishing doctrinal degeneration. All the basic truths of the faith have been denied, with astounding arrogance, from the highest pulpits in the land, and with minimal resistance from the so-called believers. The only issue which has produced any real rebellion has been the ordination of women as priests - and this drew from the archbishop of Canterbury the amazing reaction that those who believed in an exclusively male priesthood (that is, 99.9% of all Christians, Orthodox and heretical, before our present "enlightened" age) were "heretics"! In 1995, after an Anglican priest was (very belatedly) defrocked for saying that God "has no objective existence", 65 priests wrote an open letter to The Times protesting the decision on the grounds that it was a “violation of human rights”! It is in this "Church" of rampant liberalism, if not outright atheism, that the mystifiers have flourished and prospered.
But the roots of Anglican mystification go much deeper; we see it already in that issue which was at the heart of the Anglican Reformation - the Eucharist. The early Anglican Reformers, being true Protestants, denied that the sacrament of the Eucharist is the Sacrifice of Christ on the Cross and truly His Body and Blood - and they were prepared to be burned at the stake for this denial. However, since King Henry VIII remained a Catholic at heart, the first Anglican archbishop of Canterbury, Cranmer, was forced to conceal his Protestant tendencies and devise a form of words which could be interpreted in either a Catholic or Protestant sense. Thus was invented the first mystification of modern times - the doctrine of the "Real Presence" of Christ in the Eucharist. The Anglo-Catholic wing of the Church could take it to mean that Christ is “truly present” in His Body and Blood in the Eucharist. The Low Church wing could take it to mean that Christ is not present literally and physically, but only spiritually and symbolically. And the broad mass of believers in the middle could take refuge from the necessity of choosing between the two, mutually incompatible doctrines by saying simply that it was an inexplicable mystery.
Of course, the Eucharist is a great mystery. Of course, one cannot say how this, or any of the other great mysteries of the faith takes place, nor subject them to scientific analysis. But that is no reason for deliberate doctrinal ambiguity, for making a mystification out of the mystery. The Apostles and the Fathers of the Church were so conscious of the mystery of the Eucharist that it was the one doctrine of the Church which was not proclaimed from the rooftops, and which was hidden even from catechumens until after they had actually partaken of it. But this is no way preventing them, when necessity (in the form of the appearance of heresy) presented itself, of proclaiming the mystery clearly and unambiguously - and of making the acceptance of the definitions of the Seven Ecumenical Councils the touchstone of true belief in, and passport to participation of, the mysteries.
That is why the Orthodox Church chants: "The preaching of the Apostles and the doctrines of the Fathers confirmed the one Faith of the Church. And wearing the garment of truth woven from the theology on high, she rightly divideth and glorifieth the great mystery of piety." And again: "The choir of the holy Fathers, which hath gathered from the ends of the earth, hath taught the single essence of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, and hath carefully committed to the Church the mystery of theology." The Church "rightly divides" the great mystery of piety from the mystery of iniquity by uttering God-inspired definitions of the faith which are immediately recognized by those who truly believe as expressing their own faith. But those who are outside the Church, to whom the mystery of theology has not been committed, instinctively feel that this definition does not express what they believe; and so, if they are honest, they openly reject it, and if they are dishonest, they resort to mystification.
Mystification like the following, which is to be found in the theological novel Mystical Paths by the Anglican writer Susan Howatch: "He paused again, and in that silence I heard the sentence resonate as the footsteps of mysticism and Gnosticism echoed and re-echoed in the classic Christian corridor. Then I saw Truth as a multi-sided diamond with the themes of heresy and orthodoxy all glittering facets of a single reality, and beyond the facets I glimpsed that mysterious Christ of St. John's Gospel, not the Jesus of history but the Christ of Eternity who is turn pointed beyond himself to the Truth no human mind could wholly grasp..." As if Truth were on a par with heresy, or Gnosticism could co-exist with "classic" Christianity, or "the Christ of Eternity" were not at the same time "the Jesus of history"!
This passage comes in the middle of a "healing" session conducted by an Anglican priest, which actually describes a psychic seance. And this leads us to another important fact concerning the mystifiers: that in rejecting the mystery of theology as defined by the Seven Ecumenical Councils, they lay themselves open to a false and demonic mysticism. Hence the speaking in tongues and emotional outpourings and "healings", the inter-faith services and homosexual marriages and calling up of dead spirits by women "priests". For just as Orthodox faith and obedience to all the teachings of the Orthodox Church is the only entrance to true mysticism, so heresy and mystification is the immediate passport to false mysticism, to spiritual deception and, ultimately, to possession by demonic spirits. And such possession can spread from individuals and groups of individuals to whole churches and nations, as we see in the Russian revolution (which was preceded by the spread, not only of Marxism, but also of Theosophy) and in the rise of Nazism in Germany in the 1930s (which was preceded by the widespread practice of occultism).
But the true mystics, such as St. John and St. Paul, were the sworn enemies of all kinds of heresy, mystification and pseudo-mysticism. Thus St. John says: "If there come any unto you, and bring not this doctrine, receive him not into your house, neither bid him God speed, for he that biddeth him God speed is partaker of his evil deeds" (II John, 10-11). And St. Paul says: "Examine yourselves whether ye be in the faith" (II Corinthians13.5), and: "God is not the author of confusion, but of peace" (I Corinthians 14.33), and: "The Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits and doctrines of demons" (I Timothy 4.1).
The Greek word for "mystery" means literally that which is shut or closed or hidden. Thus St. Paul was speaking of a mystery when he said that he was "caught up into paradise and heard unspeakable words, which it is not lawful for a man to utter" (II Corinthians 12.4). These words are hidden from us because we are not worthy, we are not in a spiritual condition to receive them.
But this is not to say that mysteries cannot, in any circumstances, be understood. On the contrary, that which is hidden from some in some circumstances can be opened and revealed to others. Such was the mystery of the Divinity of Christ, which was revealed to the Apostle Peter, as the Lord Himself declared: "Blessed art Thou, Peter, Bar Jona, for flesh and blood hath not revealed it [the mystery] unto thee, but My Father Which is in heaven" (Matthew 16.18). As Blessed Theophylact, archbishop of Bulgaria, comments: "He calls Peter blessed for having received knowledge by divine grace. And by commending Peter, He thereby shows the opinion of other men to be false. For He calls Him 'Bar Jona', that is, 'son of Jona', as if saying, 'Just as you are the son of Jona, so am I the Son of My Father in heaven, and of one essence with Him.' He calls this knowledge 'revelation', speaking of hidden and unknown things that were disclosed by the Father."
In this sense, all true believers in the Divinity of Christ are "mystics"; for to them has been made known "the mystery of His will", they have been given "the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him" (Ephesians1.9,17). And indeed, "all men" are called "to see what is the fellowship of the mystery, which from the beginning of the world hath been hid in God, Who created all things by Jesus Christ, to the intent that now unto the principalities and powers in heavenly places might by known by the Church the manifold wisdom of God" (Ephesians 3.9-10). Thus the mystery is made known by the Father to the Church, which in turn makes it known both to men and to the ranks of the angels.
From this it should be clear that the mysteries of God are neither radically unknowable, nor is it impossible to express them in words - although the understanding of the words, and the communication of the mystery, is impossible without grace, the sending of the Holy Spirit from the Father. Without grace the mystery will remain hidden; for faith is a gift of grace (Ephesians 2.8).
But words, too, are important; for they show us whether a man has truly received the mystery or not. Just as Christ is called the Word of God because He reveals to us the mystery of the Father, so the words of our confession of faith reveal the presence of the mystery of Christ in us. For "I believed, and therefore I spoke" (Psalm 115.1). And "with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation" (Romans 10.10).
And that is why the words and definitions of the Seven Ecumenical Councils must be accepted by all true Christians. For they are not foolish attempts to express the inexpressible, as the mystifiers would have it, but living words from the Word, "the garment of truth woven from the theology on high." Therefore St. Paul says: "Hold fast the form of sound words which thou hast heard of me, in faith and love which is in Christ Jesus" (II Timothy 1.13).
It follows that those who refuse to give a clear and unambiguous confession of faith, but rather resort to mystification on the basis of a supposed reverence for "the mystery", are in fact strangers to the mystery of Christ and partakers of “the mystery of iniquity” (II Thessalonians 2.7). They will not express the right confession because they do not have it - although they are not slow to express their judgement of those who do have it. To them, therefore, we can with justice say: whereof you cannot speak - because you do not believe it - thereof you should keep silent...
7. FR. SERAPHIM ROSE: A MODERN ST. AUGUSTINE
A Review of Monk Damascene’s book, “Not of this World”
This is an instructive and moving book, big both in its length (over 1000 pages) and in its significance. The subject is the life of the American-born member of the Russian Church Abroad, Hieromonk Seraphim Rose, who died in 1982 at the age of 48 after an amazingly productive life as a missionary and church writer. A man of Fr. Seraphim’s stature would be worthy of a biography whatever age he lived in or country he came from. But his life is of particular significance for our particular age and our particular culture.
First, he represents one of the few, very few westerners who, having brought up in our spiritual Babylon, have not only converted to the True Faith of Orthodoxy, but have brought forth much spiritual fruit. This should lead us westerners to study his life with particular attention; for, as Fr. Damascene points out, Fr. Seraphim vaulted many of the hurdles that present such difficulties to the Orthodox western convert, and his life and writings offer many valuable “tips” for the convert. Coming from a typical White Protestant background, he seemed set for a brilliant academic career as a Chinese expert. But his agonized striving for the truth led him to reject the vanities of academe, and after a brief descent into the hell of nihilism and the self-indulgent life-style of the San Francisco hippie culture, his soul was resurrected in the light of Orthodox Christianity.
Secondly, Fr. Seraphim’s brilliant and cultured mind, illumined by true faith and honed on the writings of the Holy Fathers, produced book-length studies of various theological topics that have deservedly acquired “classic” status. Fr. Damascene quotes at length from his works on the soul after death, the western saints, eastern religions, Blessed Augustine, evolution and other topics, in which Fr. Seraphim’s contribution is second to none. However, on one topic – the “jurisdictional issue” and the Soviet Moscow Patriarchate in particular – Fr. Seraphim’s opinions do not reflect the consensus of the Holy Fathers of our time, and Fr. Damascene’s uncritical acceptance of Fr. Seraphim’s position here shows a certain bias.
Thirdly, Fr. Seraphim did not only speak and write about the faith: he also put it into practice: as a monk and co-founder of the Brotherhood of St. Herman of Alaska in Platina, California, as a missionary, and as a priest and spiritual father. Much of the value of this book resides in the accounts given by his spiritual children and his co-struggler, Fr. Herman, that witness to his quiet wisdom and warm charity. And this reviewer, for one, has no difficulty in believing the accounts at the end of this book of his appearances to, and intercession for, his spiritual children after his death.
So in turning now to the opinions of Fr. Seraphim which are likely to prove less enduring and solidly based, we are in no way disputing his reputation as one of the truly righteous men of his century. Like Blessed Augustine, whom he so ably defended, he made errors while remaining Orthodox. And so of him we say, as St. Photius said of St. Augustine: “We embrace the man, while rejecting his errors.”
The one major question on which, in the reviewer’s opinion, Fr. Seraphim was wrong was the jurisdictional issue, or, if we accept that “there are no such things as jurisdictions, only the Church”, the question: Where is the True Church? While accepting that inter-faith and inter-Christian ecumenism were heresies, as also the policy of submitting to atheist political power that is called sergianism, Fr. Seraphim did not accept that the Orthodox Churches which practiced these heresies officially were heretical and deprived of the grace of true sacraments. Again, there is a remarkable similarity here to St. Augustine, who rejected the Donatists as schismatics while accepting their sacraments.
Fr. Seraphim had not always been a “liberal” on this question, as early issues of his monastery’s publication, The Orthodox Word, demonstrate. However, from the mid-1970s another influence began to bear on his views on the subject: the “zealot” rejection of the sacraments of the ecumenist Orthodox on the part of the “Hartford” monastery, a pseudonym for the Greek-American Monastery of the Holy Transfiguration in Boston. Finding the Boston monastery and its “super-correct” followers lacking in charity and the true warmth of Orthodox piety, and quite rightly rejecting their views on other subjects such as the soul after death, Fr. Seraphim over-reacted, in the present reviewer’s opinion, by adopting the “liberal” position rejected by Boston.
Another factor that influenced his conversion to the liberal position on this matter was the so-called “rebaptism” controversy. Boston, with the blessing of Metropolitan Philaret, first-hierarch of the Russian Church Abroad, had baptized several converts to Orthodoxy who had been received into the Russian Church Abroad without baptism. Fr. Seraphim considered this practice over-zealous and harmful (he himself had been received from Protestantism by chrismation only).
Now since the “rebaptism” controversy started, as Fr. Damascene says, in England in 1976, and since the present reviewer was the first to be “rebaptised” there, it may not be out of place for him to correct Fr. Damascene on certain points of fact in this connection.
First, the English converts were not “rebaptised” since they had never received baptism in any Orthodox jurisdiction (Anglican sprinkling is not baptism in any sense). Secondly, in asking for baptism, they had not acted at the instigation of the Boston monastery, but at the promptings of their own conscience; nor, contrary to what Fr. Damascene writes, was Archbishop Nicodemus of Great Britain, who granted the converts’ request, in any way influenced by Boston. Thirdly, neither Archbishop Nicodemus nor the converts insisted that everyone else in a similar situation to theirs should be baptized, or that they had been outside the Church before their baptism (for they had previously been received into the ROCOR by confession). Now it may be that Fr. Seraphim felt that he and others who had been received into the ROCOR by “economy”, i.e. without baptism, would now be forced to accept “rebaptism”, which would explain Fr. Damascene’s vehemence against the “rebaptism” in England. However, we can only reaffirm that neither Archbishop Nicodemus nor the priest who baptized us nor we ourselves had any such ideas.
What is true is that we asserted that when we moved from the Moscow Patriarchate to the ROCOR, we moved from a heretical “church” into a true one, and that the chrismation we received in the MP was graceless. This opinion Fr. Seraphim contested on several grounds: (1) Hieromartyr Cyril of Kazan had accepted the sacraments of the MP in 1934; (2) the ROCOR had not made any declaration on the subject, and (3) there were still supposedly great confessors in the MP – for example, Fr. Demetrius Dudko. Let us look briefly at each of these arguments.
1. Metropolitan Cyril expressed his opinion with great caution and admitted that he might be being over-cautious. Moreover, he asserted – this is an important point always passed over by the “liberal” tendency – that those who partook of the sacraments of the MP knowing of its evil partook to their condemnation. In any case, Metropolitan Cyril’s opinion was expressed in 1934, when the schism of the MP was incomplete, since both sides still commemorated Metropolitan Peter of Krutitsa. It is extremely unlikely that Metropolitan Cyril would have continued to maintain what he admitted might be an over-cautious position after the death of Metropolitan Peter and the completion of the schism in October, 1937. Moreover, already in March, 1937 he wrote a letter in which, while not expressly saying that the MP was graceless, he noted that it was “renovationist in essence” and that enough time had passed for people to evaluate its nature and leave it. And by his death in November, 1937, according to Catacomb sources, he had come to full agreement with the “zealot” position of Metropolitan Joseph of Petrograd on this point before they were shot together in Chimkent. Can there be any doubt what his opinion would be now, when the MP has added, among many other crimes, the “heresy of heresies”, ecumenism, to its original sin of sergianism?
2. It is true that the whole ROCOR Synod made no declaration on this subject. But individual leaders did – and they were not speaking only for themselves. For example, in his encyclical of 1928 Metropolitan Anthony (Khrapovitsky) of Kiev declared in the name of his whole Synod that the leaders of the MP were schismatics and apostates. This declaration was quoted by Metropolitan Philaret in his 1969 encyclical on the American Metropolia, and in 1977 the same Metropolitan Philaret told the present writer in the presence of witnesses that he should remain faithful to the anathema of the Catacomb Church against the MP. Other members of the ROCOR Synod who adopted this zealot position were Archbishop Averky of Jordanville, Archbishop Nicodemus of Great Britain, Archbishop Anthony of Los Angeles, Archbishop Andrew of Rockland, Protopresbyter Michael Polsky and Professor Andreyev, the last three of whom had all been members of the Catacomb Church. Even Fr. Seraphim himself once compared the sergianists and ecumenists to the iconoclasts, who were graceless heretics.
The position of the Catacomb confessors on this question is critical, since they knew the MP at first-hand and were in the best position, canonically speaking, to judge it. Among the martyr-hierarchs about whose zealot views there can be no doubt we can mention Bishop Maximus of Serpukhov (who said that the Catacomb Church had formally anathematized the MP), Archbishop Demetrius of Gdov, Metropolitan Joseph of Petrograd, Archbishop Andrew of Ufa, Archbishop Theodore of Volokolamsk and the four bishops who attended the Ust-Kut Council of 1937. Again, Fr. Ishmael Rozhdestvensky, whose life was translated by Fr. Seraphim, forbade his spiritual children even to look at churches of the MP.
3. Fr. Seraphim defended Fr. Demetrius out of a sense of deep compassion. Now compassion, when purified, is a great virtue. But it should not be allowed to hinder sober and dispassionate judgement, and there is no doubt that Fr. Seraphim allowed his heart (“the heart is deceitful above all things” (Jer. 17.9) to cloud his judgement in this matter.
Let us consider the facts. Fr. Demetrius was a priest of the Soviet church who refused the invitation of the Catacomb Church to join it. He was an ecumenist – he revered the Pope and asked his blessing on his work, and those who published the English edition of Our Hope told the present reviewer that they had had to edit out large amounts of ecumenist material from the work. And he was a sergianist – under pressure from the authorities, he once told a 15-year-old spiritual son of his to return to the Komsomol. In 1980 he publicly recanted of his anti-Soviet activities on Soviet television. When the ROCOR first accepted parishes on Russian soil in 1990, he stubbornly refused to join it, although there was now far less danger in doing so. And towards the end of his life (he died in June, 2004) he became an ardent advocate of the canonization of – Stalin!
When speaking about Fr. Demetrius, Fr. Seraphim’s usual discernment seems to have deserted him. Thus he wrote that Fr. Demetrius’ “fiery, urgent preaching hasn’t been heard in Russia and probably the whole Orthodox world since the days of St. John of Kronstadt” (p. 859) – an amazing exaggeration which placed Fr. Demetrius above Patriarch Tikhon and other great preachers among the true martyrs and confessors of Russia. Again, he often said that he was in the same Church as Fr. Demetrius, quoting his words: “The unity of the Church at the present time consists in division” (p. 863), as if to assert that the obvious division between the MP and the ROCOR either did not exist or was of little significance.
When Fr. Demetrius “repented” before Soviet power in 1980, thereby fulfilling the prediction of Metropolitan Philaret, who stated quite bluntly that he would fall because he was not in the True Church, there was much talk about the danger of “gloating”. But nobody gloated. Fr. Demetrius’ fall was clearly a matter of profound sorrow, not triumphalism. But neither Fr. Demetrius nor anyone else was served by denying that it was a fall – which is what many liberals tried to assert. The present reviewer heard from a spiritual son of Fr. Demetrius, now a priest of the True Church inside Russia, that he was never the same after his public recantation. And, as was noted above, in his later years he actually became an ardent supporter of the worst aspect of the MP, its worship of Stalin. For the fact is that his house was built on sand, the sand of Soviet communism, and this alone is the reason why he fell (Matt. 7.27).
However much compassion he felt for Fr. Demetrius, Fr. Seraphim was wrong to hold him up as a role model and “confessor”. First, because he did not belong to the True Church and did not confess the True Faith (which is not to say, of course, that he did not sometimes write, good things). And secondly, because to glorify a priest of the Soviet church, however courageous, is to undervalue the podvig of the true confessors of the Catacomb Church. If it is possible to be a “martyr” and “confessor” while belonging to a false church and confessing heresy, why should anyone take the trouble and undergo the danger of joining the True Church? But many thousands, even millions, did just that, preferring death to doing what Fr. Demetrius did; and we must recognize that their position was not only canonically “correct”, but the only Christian way.
To take just one example: in the 1970s, at precisely the time that Fr. Demetrius was preaching his fiery sermons, the Catacomb hierarch Gennadius (Sekach) was living near Novy Afon in the Caucasus. The Soviet hierarch Ilia of Sukhumi (a KGB agent since 1962 and now “patriarch” of the official Georgian church), hearing of his whereabouts through spies, offered Gennadius a comfortable place in the Soviet church organization. Gennadius refused, saying that if he accepted the offer he “would lose everything”. Ilia then denounced him to the KGB, who put him prison in Georgia and tortured him till the blood flowed…
Gennadius was a true confessor – and Fr. Seraphim devoted a chapter to him in his book Russia’s Catacomb Saints. But then why did he devote another chapter to Dudko, who did everything Gennadius refused to do? How could they both be confessors?!
The present reviewer’s position may perhaps be criticized as being “over-logical” and “super-correct”, demonstrating typically convert pride and lack of compassion. Certainly, he can recognize many of the traits Fr. Seraphim identifies as being typical of the convert mentality in himself. But God forbid that we should ever devalue the podvig of the true confessors by glorifying false ones – that is not the path of true humility and compassion. For let us make no mistake: if we glorify pseudo-confessors, we both injure them (by confirming them in their heresy or schism), and may end up falling away from the truth ourselves. Which is precisely what happened, tragically, to some of Fr. Seraphim’s fellow strugglers after his repose…
Fr. Seraphim himself, in spite of his errors, remained in the True Church until his death, and deserves to be remembered among the true confessors. Indeed, the present reviewer believes that if he had lived to witness the ROCOR’s Anathema against Ecumenism in 1983, and the extraordinary pagan festivals of the ecumenists in Vancouver in 1983, Assisi in 1986 and Canberra in 1991, not to mention the unias of the Orthodox ecumenists with the Monophysites at Chambesy in 1990 and with the Roman Catholics at Balamand in 1994, he would have returned to his earlier, more zealous position and the common mind of the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church on this question. For there is only One Church, just as there is only one true confession of the Faith; and all those who deny that fact, such as the present-day Moscow and Ecumenical Patriarchates, have no part in that Faith and that Church, according to the sacred canons and dogmas.
To recognize this in a humble and obedient spirit is not to be “super-correct” or pharisaical, but correct and Orthodox; for “Orthodoxy” means “correct belief”. Moreover, it is to be truly compassionate; for “the greatest act of charity,” as St. Photius the Great says, “is to tell the truth”. It follows that if we arrogantly mock the need for such correctness while glorying in our “Orthodoxy of the heart” – which none of the Holy Fathers did – we run the risk of condemnation. For, as the Lord Himself said: “Whosoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the Kingdom of Heaven…” (Matt. 5.19).
Revised June 19 / July 2, 2004.
St. John Maximovich.
8. A REVIEW OF “THE STRUGGLE AGAINST ECUMENISM”
The Struggle against Ecumenism by the Holy Orthodox Church in North America (Boston, Mass., 1998) has two aims, the first explicitly stated and the second implicit. The first is to provide a history of the True Orthodox Church of Greece, the so-called “Old Calendarists”, in its struggle against the heresy of Ecumenism from 1924 to 1994. The second is to provide an apologia on behalf of the “Auxentiite” branch of the Greek Old Calendarist Church, and in particular of its North American affiliate centred in Boston and calling itself the Holy Orthodox Church in North America. In its first, major aim this book must be judged to have succeeded; it is probably the best book on its subject to have appeared in English, and quite possibly in any language. With regard to its second aim, however, the present reviewer remains unconvinced that the book has proved its case.
The heresy of Ecumenism was first officially proclaimed by the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople in its Encyclical, “To the Churches of Christ wheresoever they may be”, dated 1920. In addition to recognizing the Catholics and Protestants as “fellow-heirs” of Christ with the Orthodox, this Encyclical made a number of proposals of a renovationist character, including the introduction of the new, papal or Gregorian calendar, all with the aim of bringing union between the Orthodox and the western heretics closer. That is why the introduction of the new calendar is regarded as the first concrete step (apart from the 1920 Encyclical itself) in the introduction of the heresy of Ecumenism.
In 1924, the new calendar was introduced into the State Church of Greece, and later in the same year into the Ecumenical Patriarchate and the Church of Romania. This provoked the emergence of the Old Calendarist movement in Greece, Romania and some other places where the Ecumenical Patriarchate had jurisdiction (e.g. the Russian monastery of Valaam, which was on the territory of the Finnish Church, which had been granted autonomy by Constantinople). From 1924 to 1935 the movement had a predominantly lay character, consisting of several hundred thousand Greek laymen and women with only a few priests (mainly hieromonks from Mount Athos) and no bishops. In 1935, however, three bishops from the new calendar State Church of Greece (two of them consecrated before 1924) returned to the Old Calendar and consecrated four new bishops. They then proclaimed that the State Church had fallen into schism and was deprived of the grace of sacraments.
The years 1935 to 1937 probably represented the peak of the Greek Old Calendarist Church, with a united and rapidly expanding membership that posed a serious threat to the official church. In 1937, however, after persecution from the State Church had reduced the number of Old Calendarist bishops to four, a tragic schism took place between two factions that came to be called the “Florinites” (after their leader, Metropolitan Chrysostomos of Florina) and the “Matthewites” (after Bishop Matthew of Bresthena) respectively. The “Florinites” declared that the new calendarists were only “potentially” and not “actually” schismatics, and still retained the grace of sacraments. The “Matthewites” considered that this was a betrayal of the 1935 confession and broke communion with the “Florinites”.
By the late 1940s the Florinites had only one bishop (Metropolitan Chrysostomos) but the majority of the clergy and laity, while the Matthewites had two bishops (Matthew and Germanos, the latter of whom was in prison). Attempts at union between the two factions foundered not only on the question of grace, but also on Metropolitan Chrysostomos’ refusal to consecrate any more bishops (even after Bishop Germanos had rejoined him). So in 1948, fearing that the Old Calendarist Church would again find itself without bishops, Bishop Matthew was persuaded (not immediately, but only after several years of pressure from his supporters) to consecrate some bishops on his own, the first of whom was Bishop Spyridon of Trimythus (Cyprus).
At this point the authors of The Struggle against Ecumenism make their first error of fact. On page 64 they write: “The saintly Spyridon of Trimithus spent the last years of his life in seclusion, refusing to celebrate as a hierarch because he had repented of being consecrated in this completely uncanonical way [that is, by one bishop alone].” This is not true. In 1981 Bishop Spyridon's closest disciple, Abbot Chrysostomos of Galactotrophousa monastery, near Larnaca, Cyprus, told the present reviewer a very different story – which is supported by the letters to him of Bishop Spyridon himself. He said that shortly after starting to serve as the only Old Calendarist bishop in Cyprus in 1949, Bishop Spyridon was exiled from the island to Greece by the British acting at the behest of the new calendarists. After some years, the Matthewite Synod decided to replace Spyridon as bishop in Cyprus. They invited Monk Epiphanius to Greece and ordained him to the priesthood. Then, in 1957 an election took place in Cyprus at which Fr. Epiphanius was elected to the episcopate, which was followed by his consecration in Greece. All this took place, however, without the blessing of the still-living Bishop of Cyprus, Spyridon, who refused to recognize Bishop Epiphanius. And he told his disciples on Cyprus, including Abbot Chrysostomos (who had been his candidate for the episcopate), not to serve with Bishop Epiphanius. Meanwhile, he entered into seclusion in Greece and did not serve with the Matthewites as a protest. After some time Abbot Chrysostomos entered into communion with Bishop Epiphanius, for which he was punished by his spiritual father, Bishop Spyridon. So he again broke communion with Epiphanius. The Matthewites responded by defrocking Abbot Chrysostomos (although he was simply following the command of his spiritual father), but did not touch Bishop Spyridon until his death in 1963. A few years ago, shortly before his death, Abbot Chrysostomos' defrocking was rescinded by the Matthewite Synod. When his remains were exhumed they were discovered to be partially incorrupt...
In spite of this error the schism between the Florinites and the Matthewites is in general treated with admirable fairness by the authors of “The Struggle against Ecumenism”. This is important, not only because the schism still exists (and has now been transposed onto Russian, American and West European soil), but also because existing accounts in English are heavily biassed in favour of the Florinites. But the Boston authors, while in general inclining towards the Florinites (as does the present writer), not only note that “Bishop Matthew’s integrity, personal virtue, and asceticism were admitted by all” (his relics are very fragrant, and he was a wonderworker both before and after his death in 1950), but also give reasons for supposing that a union between Chrysostomos and Matthew could have been effected if it had not been for the zeal without knowledge of certain of Matthew’s supporters. They also do not conceal the fact that in 1950 Metropolitan Chrysostomos repented of his confession of 1937 and returned to his confession of 1935, declaring that the new calendarists were deprived of sacraments. In fact, this remained the official confession of faith of all factions of the Greek Old Calendarist Church until the appearance of the “Synod of Resistors” led by Metropolitan Cyprian of Fili and Oropos in 1984…
The Boston authors continue their history of the Old Calendarist movement by relating how the Florinites, after the death of Metropolitan Chrysostomos in 1955, eventually received a renewal of their hierarchy through the Russian Church Abroad in the 1960s, and how the Matthewites also achieved recognition by the Russian Church Abroad in 1971. Again, the treatment of this phase in the history is objective and fair. Especially valuable is the translation of all the relevant documents in full and with a helpful commentary.
The rest of the book is mainly devoted to a defence of the Florinite Archbishop Auxentius of Athens, who was defrocked by a Synod composed of the majority of the Florinite bishops in 1985. The Boston authors do not hide the fact that Auxentius made many mistakes; but their account of these mistakes, and especially of his trial in 1985, is sketchy and biassed. They write: “Some of His Beatitude’s mistake were notable, while others were debatable… His errors were often mistakes made in good faith, often on the advice of clergy who wittingly or unwittingly misled him.” (pp. 125, 129). However, it is one thing for the Boston authors to try and see extenuating factors alleviating the guilt of their archpastor – charity (and the canonicity of their own ecclesiastical position) demanded that. But it is another to slander those other Orthodox bishops who tried to introduce canonical order into the Church in the only canonical way open to them – by a hierarchical trial conducted according to the holy canons. Whatever the personal virtues of Auxentius, in the opinion of the present reviewer the Boston authors have not succeeded in demonstrating that his defrocking in 1985 was not canonical and just.
The second half of the book consists of a number of useful appendices on various topics related to Ecumenism.
In conclusion, this book can be recommended both as a history of the Greek Old Calendarist Church and as a good introduction to the ecclesiological issues surrounding the great heresy of our time, Ecumenism. However, for those seeking to find a clear answer to the question: which of the many Greek Old Calendarist jurisdictions is the most canonical and true?, this book will provide a mixture of light and darkness. Such seekers will have to conduct further research, and investigate other points of view.
9. QUO VADIS, SCIENCE?
I am Thy slave and the son of Thy handmaid, a man who is weak and short-lived, with little understanding of judgement and laws; for even if one is perfect among the sons of men, yet without the wisdom that comes from Thee he will be regarded as nothing... For a perishable body weighs down the soul, and this earthly tent burdens the thoughtful mind. We can hardly guess at what is on earth, and what is at hand we find with labour; but who has traced out what is in the heavens, and who has learned Thy counsel, unless Thou give him wisdom, and send Thy Holy Spirit from on high?
Wisdom of Solomon 9.5-6, 15-17.
Only Christianity is a reliable and useful philosophy. Only thus and for this reason can I be a philosopher.
St. Justin the Philosopher.
What is the truth about science? Is it, as its worshippers claim, the whole truth and nothing but the truth? Or are there other truths that both stand independent of science and contradict it, both in its general assumptions and in some of its most cherished and universally accepted hypotheses? To what extent can we trust scientists? What is the relationship between science and faith, and can we expect any change in that relationship in the future?
Such questions cannot be avoided by any Orthodox Christian who has a conscious attitude towards his faith. For science is now more powerful than ever; it transforms the external conditions of man’s existence at an ever-accelerating rate, and generates an ever-growing army of servants with ever-increasing demands for money and resources. So unquestioned is the dogma that the well-being of mankind depends on scientific progress more than anything else that science may be said to rule governments and their budgets rather than being ruled by them. One of the two greatest powers of the twentieth century, the Soviet Union, fell in the 1980s largely because it bankrupted itself in the arms race, which was a struggle for scientific and technological superiority. The one that survived, the United States, retains its military, political and cultural power largely because it is able to attract more top-grade scientists from all over the world, and do more scientific research in every field, than any other state – at the price of the largest federal deficit in history.
But these material and external effects of science pale into insignificance beside its spiritual, internal effects: the corrosive effect of the scientific world-view on all traditional religions, and its self-exaltation above all other faiths as their ultimate arbiter and judge.
Bertrand Russell once wrote: "Almost everything that distinguishes the modern world from earlier centuries is attributable to science, which achieved its most spectacular triumphs in the seventeenth century." Michael Polanyi confirms this judgement: "Just as the three centuries following on the calling of the Apostles sufficed to establish Christianity as the state religion of the Roman Empire, so the three centuries after the founding of the Royal Society sufficed for science to establish itself as the supreme intellectual authority of the post-Christian age. 'It is contrary to religion!' - the objection ruled supreme in the seventeenth century. 'It is unscientific!' is its equivalent in the twentieth."
At first, from the seventeenth to the late nineteenth centuries, the scientific world-view coexisted in an increasingly uncomfortable and schizoid manner with various forms of the Christian and other traditional religious world-views. But it has ended, in the twentieth century, by more or less completely banishing Christianity from the minds of "educated" men, whether or not they still call themselves "Christian". Science has indeed become the god of our age, worshipped both by scientists and by non-scientists, both in the democratic West and in the non-democratic East. Indeed, one of the most powerful arguments for the superiority of democracy and the market economy over other forms of politico-economic organization is that it promotes science, which in turn promotes peace, prosperity and democracy: authoritarian forms of government are rejected because they undermine the flee flow of ideas and criticism that fosters the scientific enterprise. There is no getting away from the influence of science: even the power of prayer to produce healings is now subject to controlled scientific experiments.
The cult of science was described in dark, almost apocalyptic colours by Dostoyevsky: "Half-science," says one of his characters, "is that most terrible scourge of mankind, worse than pestilence, famine, or war, and quite unknown till our present century. Half-science is a despot such as has never been known before, a despot that has its own priests and slaves, a despot before whom everybody prostrates himself with love and superstitious dread, such as has been inconceivable till now, before whom science trembles and surrenders in a shameful way."
Dostoyevsky was careful to distinguish between science and "half-science", or what we would now call "scientism". This implies that he saw science as a legitimate pursuit, but one in danger of subjection to its parasite or counterfeit, “half-science”.
How can this be?
The Foundations of Science
Science obviously contains some measure or kind of truth, otherwise it would not have such formidable predictive power or generate such wonderful technologies. It has therefore been a natural and laudable quest on the part of educated Christians to try and find some way of resolving the apparent contradictions between science and Christianity. Indeed, this is a necessity of our faith. For if the universe is one and created by one God, we must believe that the truths of the faith and the final conclusions of science (if such there can ever be) are compatible. To believe otherwise leads to a kind of epistemological Manichaeism postulating two kinds of mutually impenetrable universes which cannot be comprehended from a single viewpoint, or, alternatively, to a kind of solipsistic Buddhism according to which one of the two realms is considered to be illusory.
Thus Fr. Seraphim Rose writes: “Even though revealed knowledge is higher than natural knowledge, still we know that there can be no conflict between true revelation and true natural knowledge. But there can be conflict between revelation and human philosophy, which is often in error. There is thus no conflict between the knowledge of creation contained in Genesis, as interpreted for us by the Holy Fathers, and the true knowledge of creatures which modern science has acquired by observation; but there most certainly is an irreconcilable conflict between the knowledge contained in Genesis and the vain philosophical speculation of modern scientists, unenlightened by faith, about the state of the world in the Six Days of Creation.”
That human philosophy (philosophy as the world knows it) and natural philosophy (science) are often in error and in conflict with the revealed truth of the Scriptures is not surprising if we consider the different origins of the two kinds of knowledge.
The knowledge that science gives can be compared to the light of the sun that we know, which was created on the fourth day of creation; whereas the knowledge contained in the Scriptures and Tradition of the Church can be compared to that original light which flooded the universe on the very first day at the Lord’s word: “Let there be light!” The light of the sun lights up only one planet among the millions of planets in the universe; it is itself only one out of millions of stars in millions of galaxies. Moreover, the knowledge it gives us only illumines a part of the planet’s surface; for much of the time it is covered with clouds or completely obscured by night. As for what is under or beyond the earth, that remains completely unillumined by it. However, the light created at the beginning of creation, though we can only guess at its nature, was certainly such as to reveal the whole of material reality without casting any shadows or leaving any nook or cranny unillumined.
Science became useful only with the fall of man; it is a method of reasoning carried out by fallen men with fallen faculties and with strictly limited and earthly aims. As we shall see in more detail later, it cannot give real knowledge of the unfallen world, neither the world of unfallen spirits nor the world that will be after the restoration at the Second Coming of Christ. It is of limited use for limited men – that is, men who use only their fallen faculties; and when the true light of knowledge comes, as we see it come in the lives of the saints, the truly enlightened ones, it ceases to have any use at all.
Bishop Ignatius Brianchaninov, who had a thorough training in physics, mathematics and engineering, writes: “You ask what is my opinion of the human sciences? After the fall men began to need clothing and numerous other things that accompany our earthly wanderings; in a word, they began to need material development, the striving for which has become the distinguishing feature of our age. The sciences are the fruit of our fall, the production of our damaged fallen reason. Scholarship is the acquisition and retention of impressions and knowledge that have been stored up by men during the time of the life of the fallen world. Scholarship is a lamp by which ‘the gloom of darkness is guarded to the ages’. The Redeemer returned to men that lamp which was given to them at creation by the Creator, of which they were deprived because of their sinfulness. This lamp is the Holy Spirit, He is the Spirit of Truth, who teaches every truth, searches out the deep things of God, opens and explains mysteries, and also bestows material knowledge when that is necessary for the spiritual benefit of man. Scholarship is not properly speaking wisdom, but an opinion about wisdom. The knowledge of the Truth that was revealed to men by the Lord, access to which is only by faith, which is inaccessible for the fallen mind of man, is replaced in scholarship by guesses and presuppositions. The wisdom of this world, in which many pagans and atheists occupy honoured positions, is directly contrary according to its very origins with spiritual, Divine wisdom: it is impossible to be a follower of the one and the other at the same time; one must unfailingly be renounced. The fallen man is ‘falsehood’, and from his reasonings ‘science falsely so-called’ is composed, that form and collection of false concepts and knowledge that has only the appearance of reasons, but is in essence vacillation, madness, the raving of the mind infected with the deadly plague of sin and the fall. This infirmity of the mind is revealed in special fullness in the philosophical sciences.” And again he writes: “The holy faith at which the materialists laughed and laugh, is so subtle and exalted that it can be attained and taught only by spiritual reason. The reason of the world is opposed to it and rejects it. But when for some material necessity it finds it necessary and tolerates it, then it understands it falsely and interprets it wrongly; because the blindness ascribed by it to faith is its own characteristic.”
St. Basil the Great said: “At all events let us prefer the simplicity of faith to the demonstrations of reason.” These words should be our guide whenever science – or, as happens more often, philosophy clothed in “half-scientific” arguments - appears to contradict faith. That science could ever really refute faith is the opinion only of those who do not know what faith is, who have not tasted of that knowledge which comes, not from the fallen faculties of fallen men applied to the most limited and circumscribed of objects, but from God Himself.
The scientific world-view proclaims that the only reliable way of attaining non-mathematical truth is by inferences from the evidence of the senses. This principle, the principle of empiricism, was first proclaimed by Francis Bacon in his Advancement of Learning (1605). It rejects the witness of non-empirical sources – for example, God or intuition or so-called “innate ideas”. The reverse process – that is, inferences about God and other non-empirical realities from the evidence of the senses – was admitted by the early empiricists, but rejected by most later ones.
Thus in time empiricism became not only a methodological or epistemological, but also an ontological principle, the principle, namely, that reality not only is best discovered by empirical means, but also is, solely and exclusively, that which can be investigated by empirical means, and that non-empirical reality simply does not exist.
By contrast, the Christian Faith makes no radical cleavage between empirical and non-empirical truth, accepting evidence of the senses with regard to the existence and activity of God and the witness of God Himself with regard to the nature of empirically perceived events.
In accordance with this difference in the kinds of truth they seek, there is a difference in spirit between science (in its more “advanced”, materialist form) and faith. The spirit of true religion is the spirit of the humble receiving of the truth by revelation from God; it does not preclude active seeking for truth, but recognizes that it will never succeed in this search if God on His part does not reveal it. For Wisdom “goes about seeking those worthy of her, and She graciously appears to them in their paths, and meets them in every thought” (Wisdom 6.16). Science, on the other hand, is supremely self-reliant…
Moreover, there is a Faustian spirit in science, a striving for power over nature, rather than simply knowledge of it, which is incompatible with the true religious spirit. Thus Bacon thought that the “pure knowledge of nature and universality” would lead to power - “knowledge is power”, in his famous phrase - and to “the effecting of all things possible”. This is even more true of modern scientists, who place no limits to the powers of science.
Bacon compared science to the knowledge Adam had before the fall – “the pure knowledge of nature and universality, a knowledge by the light whereof man did give names unto other creatures in Paradise, as they were brought to him”. “This light should in its very rising touch and illuminate all the border-regions that confine upon the circle of our present knowledge; and so, spreading further and further should presently disclose and bring into sight all that is most hidden and secret in the world.” “God forbid,” he wrote, “that we should give out a dream of our own imagination for a pattern of the world: rather may He graciously grant to us to write an apocalypse or true vision of the footsteps of the Creator imprinted on His creatures.”
As J.M. Roberts writes, Bacon “seems to have been a visionary, glimpsing not so much what science would discover as what it would become: a faith. ‘The true and lawful end of the sciences’, he wrote, ‘is that human life be enriched by new discoveries and powers.’ Through them could be achieved ‘a restitution and reinvigorating (in great part) of man to the sovereignty and power… which he had in his first creation.’ This was ambitious indeed – nothing less than the redemption of mankind through organised research; he was here, too, a prophetic figure, precursor of later scientific societies and institutes.”
This striving for power by wresting the secrets of nature indicates a kinship between science and magic, if not in their methods, at any rate in their aims. And while Erasmus’ humorous critique of scientists in the early fifteenth century could not be applied to their early twenty-first century successors without qualification, he unerringly pointed to a common spirit between science of all ages and magic: “Near these march the scientists, reverenced for their beards and the fur on their gowns, who teach that they alone are wise while the rest of mortal men flit about as shadows. How pleasantly they dote, indeed, while they construct their numberless worlds, and measure the sun, moon, stars, and spheres as with thumb and line. They assign causes for lightning, winds, eclipses, and other inexplicable things, never hesitating a whit, as if they were privy to the secrets of nature, artificer of things, or as if they visited us fresh from the council of the gods. Yet all the while nature is laughing grandly at them and their conjectures. For to prove that they have good intelligence of nothing, this is a sufficient argument: they can never explain why they disagree with each other on every subject. Thus knowing nothing in general, they profess to know all things in particular; though they are ignorant even of themselves, and on occasion do not see the ditch or the stone lying across their path, because many of them are blear-eyed or absent-minded; yet they proclaim that they perceive ideas, universals, forms without matter, primary substances, quiddities, and ecceities – things so tenuous, I fear, that Lynceus himself could not see them. When they especially disdain the vulgar crowd is when they bring out their triangles, quadrangles, circles, and mathematical pictures of the sort, lay one upon the other, intertwine them into a maze, then deploy – and all to involve the unitiated in darkness. Their fraternity does not lack those who predict future events by consulting the stars, and promise wonders even more magical; and these lucky scientists find people to believe them.”
C.S. Lewis writes: “There is something which unites magic and applied science while separating both from the wisdom of earlier ages. For the wise men of old the cardinal problem had been how to conform the soul to reality, and the solution had been knowledge, self-discipline, and virtue. For magic and applied science alike the problem is how to subdue reality to the wishes of men: the solution is a technique; and both, in the practice of this technique, are ready to do things hitherto regarded as disgusting and impious – such as digging up and mutilating the dead.”
Fr. Seraphim Rose writes: “Modern science was born [in the Renaissance] out of the experiments of the Platonic alchemists, the astrologers and magicians. The underlying spirit of the new scientific world view was the spirit of Faustianism, the spirit of magic, which is retained as a definite undertone of contemporary science. The discovery, in fact, of atomic energy would have delighted the Renaissance alchemists very much: they were looking for just such power. The aim of modern science is power over nature. Descartes, who formulated the mechanistic scientific world view, said that man was to become the master and possessor of nature. It should be noted that this is a religious faith that takes the place of Christian faith.”
Faith, on the other hand, does not seek power over nature, but obedience to God. It relies on no other ultimate authority than the Word of God Himself as communicated either directly to an individual or, collectively, to the Church, “the pillar and ground of the Truth” (I Timothy 3.15), which preserves and nurtures the individual revelations.
The Fallibility Principle
Science is in principle fallible, not only because scientists are fallen human beings, but also because the only way in which they progress in their work is by showing that the work of earlier scientists is fallible. It is not simply that they add to the work of earlier scientists, discovering facts that were concealed from their predecessors: they actively try and disprove the currently reigning hypotheses. No hypothesis can ever be proved beyond any possible doubt, and science advances by the systematic application of doubt to what are thought to be weak points in its hypothetical structure. This was seen already by John Donne, who said: “the new philosophy [science] calls all in doubt”. And in the twentieth century it was confirmed by Karl Popper, Thomas Kuhn and others: verifiability equals disprovability.
Now this is a paradox if ever there was one: that truth is truth only if it can, in principle, be proved to be not true! And yet this is the very corner-stone of the scientific method and the scientific world-view! Of course, scientists try and soften the force of this paradox. Even if we cannot be certain about the truth of any scientific hypothesis, they say, we can be sure that our present hypotheses are closer to the truth than those of our predecessors. And the proof of that is that science works: our science is truer than Aristotle’s because we can fly to the moon and explode atomic bombs, whereas he couldn’t.
And yet the paradox is not so easily disposed of, nor the destructive effects of the scientific world-view so easily forgiven. And by “destructive” here I do not mean the obviously destructive effects of atomic bombs, or of the pollution of the atmosphere caused by space flights, carbon gas emissions, etc. Science can defend itself against the charge of this kind of destructiveness by arguing, with greater or lesser plausibility, that it is not responsible for the use that is made of its discoveries. Knowledge is good in itself, or at least not evil: it is the use made of knowledge by irresponsible men that is evil. However, much more serious and fundamental than this is the charge that the principle of systematic and universal doubt that lies at the foundation of the modern scientific world-view is simply false, that there are certain very important truths we can be completely certain of, which we cannot and must not doubt, and that the enthroning of the scientific world-view in the heart of man actually makes it impossible for man to acquire these truths.
Faith is the opposite of doubt; it is defined by the apostle as “the certainty of things not seen” (Hebrews 11.1). Doubt has no place within the true religion, but only when one is still outside it, in the process of seeking it, when different religious systems are being approached as possible truths, that is, as hypotheses. Having cleaved to the true religion by faith, the religious believer advances, not by subjecting his faith to doubt, but by deepening that faith, by ever deeper immersion in the undoubted truths of religion.
When the differences between science and faith are viewed from this perspective, the perspective of Orthodox Christianity, there are seen to be important differences between Catholicism and Protestantism. For from this perspective, Catholicism is more “religious”, and Protestantism – more “scientific”. For Protestantism arose as a protest against, and a doubting of, the revealed truths of the Catholic religion. From an Orthodox point of view, some of these doubts were justified, and some not. But that is not the essential point here. The essential point is that Protestantism arose out of doubt rather than faith, out of negation rather than assertion, and, like Descartes in philosophy, placed doubt at the head of the corner of its new theology.
How? First, by doubting that there is any organization that is “the pillar and ground of the truth”, any collective vessel of God’s revelation. So where is God’s revelation to be sought? In the visions and words of individual men, the Prophets and Apostles, the Saints and Fathers? Yes; but – and here the corrosive power of doubt enters again – not all that the Church has passed down about these men can be trusted, according to the Protestants. In particular, the inspiration of the post-apostolic Saints and Fathers is to be doubted, as is much of what we are told of the lives even of the Prophets and Apostles. In fact, we can only rely on the Bible – Sola Scriptura. After all, the Bible is objective; everybody can have access to it, can touch it and read it; can analyse and interpret it. In other words, it corresponds to what we would call scientific evidence.
But can we be sure even of the Bible? After all, the text comes to us from the Church, that supposedly untrustworthy organization. Can we be sure that Moses wrote Genesis, or Isaiah Isaiah, or John John, or Paul Hebrews? To answer these questions we have to analyze the text, subject it to scientific verification. Then we will find the real text, the text we can really trust, because it is the text of the real author. But suppose we cannot find this real text? Or the real author? And suppose we come to the conclusion that the “real” text of a certain book was written by tens of authors, none of whom was the “inspired” author, spread over hundreds of years? Can we then be sure that it is the Word of God? But if we cannot be sure that the Bible is not the Word of God, how can we be sure of anything?
Thus Protestantism, which begins with the doubting of authority, ends with the loss of truth itself. Or rather, it ends with a scientific truth that accepts religious truth only to the extent that it is “confirmed by the findings of science”. It ends by being a branch of the scientific endeavour of systematic doubt, and not a species of religious faith at all.
If we go back to the original error of Protestantism, we will find that it consists in what we may call a false reductionist attitude to Divine Revelation. Revelation is given to us in the Church, “the pillar and ground of the truth”, and consists of two indivisible and mutually interdependent parts – Holy Scripture and Holy Tradition. Scripture and Tradition support each other, and are in turn supported by the Church, which herself rests on the rock of truth witnessed to in Scripture and Tradition. Any attempt to reduce Divine Revelation to one of these elements, any attempt to make one element essential and the other inessential, is doomed to end with the loss of Revelation altogether. The Truth is one irreducible whole.
Where does the false reductionist attitude come from? Vladimir Trostnikov has shown that it goes back as far as the 11th century, to the nominalist thinker Roscelin. Nominalism, which had triumphed over its philosophical rival, universalism, by the 14th century, “gives priority to the particular over the general, the lower over the higher”. As such, it is in essence the forerunner of reductionism, which insists that the simple precedes the complex, and that the complex can always be reduced, both logically and ontologically, to the simple.
Thus the Catholic heresy of nominalism gave birth to the Protestant heresy of reductionism, which reduced the complex spiritual process of the absorption of God’s revelation in the life of the Church to the unaided rationalist dissection of a single element in that life, the book of the Holy Scriptures. As Trostnikov explains, the assumption – against all the evidence – that reductionism is true has led to a series of concepts which taken together represent a summation of the contemporary world-view: that matter consists of elementary particles which themselves do not consist of anything; that the planets and all the larger objects of the universe arose through the gradual condensation of simple gas; that all living creatures arose out of inorganic matter; that the later forms of social organization and politics arose out of earlier, simpler and less efficient ones; that human consciousness arose from lower phenomena, drives and archetypes; that political rulers must be guided, not from above, but from below, by their own subjects...
We see, then, why science, like capitalism, flourished especially in the Protestant countries. Protestantism, according to Landes, “gave a big boost to literacy, spawned dissent and heresies, and promoted the skepticism and refusal of authority that is at the heart of the scientific endeavor. The Catholic countries, instead of meeting the challenge, responded by closure and censure.”
However, it is misleading to make too great a contrast between science-loving, democratic religion and science-hating authoritarian religion. Much confusion has been generated in this respect by Galileo’s trial, in which, so it is said, a Pope who falsely believed that the earth was flat and that the sun circled the earth persecuted Galileo, who believed on empirical evidence that the earth circled the sun. Other scientists persecuted by the Catholics, it is said, were Copernicus and Bruno.
But the truth, as Jay Wesley Richards explains, was different. “First of all, some claim Copernicus was persecuted, but history shows he wasn’t; in fact, he died of natural causes the same year his ideas were published. As for Galileo, his case can’t be reduced to a simple conflict between scientific truth and religious superstition. He insisted the church immediately endorse his views rather than allow them to gradually gain acceptance, he mocked the Pope, and so forth. Yes, he was censured, but the church kept giving him his pension for the rest of his life.”
“Indeed,” writes Lee Strobel, “historian William R. Shea said, ‘Galileo’s condemnation was the result of the complex interplay of untoward political circumstances, political ambitions, and wounded prides.’ Historical researcher Philip J. Sampson noted that Galileo himself was convinced that the ‘major cause’ of his troubles was that he had made ‘fun of his Holiness’ – that is, Pope Urban VIII – in a 1632 treatise. As for his punishment, Alfred North Whitehead put it this way: ‘Galileo suffered an honorable detention and a mild reproof, before dying peacefully in his bed.’”
“Bruno’s case was very sad,” Richards continues. “He was executed in Rome in 1600. Certainly this is a stain on [Roman Catholic] church history. But again, this was a complicated case. His Copernican views were incidental. He defended pantheism and was actually executed for his heretical views on the Trinity, the Incarnation, and other doctrines that had nothing to do with Copernicanism.”
In fact, neither Holy Scripture, nor the Holy Fathers, nor even the Roman church as a whole denied the idea of a spherical earth. “The truth is,” writes David Lindberg, “that it’s almost impossible to find an educated person after Aristotle who doubts that the Earth is a sphere. In the Middle Ages, you couldn’t emerge from any kind of education, cathedral school or university, without being perfectly clear about the Earth’s sphericity and even its approximate circumference.”
The Fallibility of Science: (1) The New Physics
Let us now turn to some of the ways in which the scientific enterprise has run aground in modern times, beginning with the new physics.
Since the time of Galileo a certain degree of counter-intuitiveness has come to be seen as an essential ingredient of "real" science; for science progresses by challenging accepted assumptions. And yet there is a very large difference between the counter-intuitiveness (to some in the 16th century) of an earth circling the sun and the plain nonsensicality of, for example, a universe in which time can go backwards! But this is one of things that some modern physicists are saying: since physics expresses all its laws in time-reversible equations, there is no reason in principle why time should not go backwards – and so no reason in principle (according to some of the more melodramatic writers) why one should not be able to go back in time and kill one’s own father!
To these writers we are tempted to say: you can't be serious! But many of them are being perfectly serious – and the idea of time-travel has now entered, through Hollywood, into the consciousness of a whole younger generation. So we have to take this phenomenon, if not these ideas, seriously.
Humility is required here, as in all spheres of knowledge. If our knowledge of physics and mathematics is as limited as the present writer's, then we are not in a position to argue with the scientists on their own ground. So should we retire from the fray hurt and simply bow down before the scientists' superior knowledge?
Many Christians have been prepared to do just that. But, bearing in mind Dostoyevsky's warning about “half-science”, we should be more careful. After all, if these scientists are right, we shall have to change, not only our ideas about the physical universe, but also our ideas about just about everything else, including God, freewill, morality and the human person. And since we have "many infallible proofs" (Acts 1.3) of our traditional beliefs in these spheres, we have good reason to pause.
For it would be false humility, even irrational, to abandon well-established beliefs out of respect for a tiny group of men, whose work extremely few understand (it is said that only about six people in the world fully understand “string theory”, for example, with its eleven dimensions of reality), and who are themselves far from agreed about how their results should be interpreted. If Einstein could not believe that God plays with dice, why should we? We know that these scientists are wrong in some of their wilder judgements - they must be wrong; the problem is discerning why, or rather how they are wrong.
But we are being too alarmist, we are told. These problems are simply temporary inconsistencies in the scientific picture of the world that will eventually be removed as science progresses and new theories are constructed. Thus the problems relating to the nature of time, we are told, will eventually be overcome in the unified field theory, the so-called TOE or "Theory of Everything".
This touching faith in the new physics is reminiscent of those biologists who say: although nobody has actually seen the evolution of a new species, “it is only a matter of time”; eventually (perhaps in a few million years) we shall see it. Thus time is the great healer of the wounds of modern science. And yet that is simply to place a non-religious faith and hope (in the eventual omniscience of science) in place of solid hypotheses based on firm evidence.
The problem is that physics, far from gradually removing all anomalies and contradictions in our understanding of the world, seems to be throwing up still more intractable ones. Thus quantum physics undermines not only the category of time, but also the category of substance; in fact, it undermines the very notion of objective reality. For the quantum wave function that is the fundamental unit of the modern physicist's universe is not a thing or an event, but a spectrum of possible things or events. Moreover, it exists as such only while it is not being observed. When the wave function is observed (by a physical screen or living being), it collapses into one and one only of the possibilities that define it. Thus the price of the birth of reality in this way is the destruction of the fundamental unity of reality!
But still more mind-bending anomalies are to come. Thus according to Everett, "the universe itself is described by a wave-function which contains the ingredients of any outcome. His interpretation carries with it a bizarre implication - that innumerable 'parallel' universes, each as real as our own, all exist independently. Your wildest dreams may be fulfilled within these other worlds. With every measurement made by an observer, who is by definition within a universe, the entire universe buds off an uncountable multitude of new universes (the 'many worlds'), each of which represents a different possible outcome of the observation (for example, a living or a dead cat)."
Some people optimistically think that the new physics vindicates belief in God. Thus, after believing for decades in the (quasi-Hindu) “steady state” theory, physicists now believe in the (quasi-Christian) “big bang” theory, which appears to admit the possibility, not only that the universe had a beginning, but that its beginning was God, “the Beginning of every beginning” (I Chron. 29.12). For it is only natural to ask: What caused the Big Bang? And since a material cause of the whole material universe is excluded, and since every beginning in time must have a cause, it follows that the cause of the universe must be immaterial – that is, God.
Again, scientists have discovered that there are about 10 constant physical and chemical values – for example, the distance of the earth from the sun – which, if altered even to the slightest degree, would immediately make life on earth impossible. The combination of these 10 values in one place at one time would seem to be an enormous – in fact, unbelievable - coincidence. The most natural explanation is that it is in fact no coincidence, but that these 10 values have been precisely calibrated by a Creator in order that there should be life – and specifically, human life - on earth (the anthropic principle).
Of course, these facts do point to the existence of a Creator God. However, we must never underestimate the ability of scientists to refuse to accept the obvious conclusion if that conclusion involves the existence of a Being higher than themselves. Thus when we point out the extraordinary non-coincidence of the 10 constant physical and chemical values that make life on earth possible, the scientists resort to the innumerable parallel universes argument. It probably is a coincidence, they say, if we suppose that our universe is just one out of billions and billions of other universes, in one of which the values of these 10 constants as we find them in our universe is bound to occur by chance. And yet there is no reason whatsoever for believing that there are billions and billions of other universes other than the scientists’ need to reject the hypothesis of God…
Again, if we say that God must have caused the Big Bang, they reply: “And who caused God? (and who caused the Creator of God?, etc., etc.)” If we say: “But God has no cause”, then they reply: “Why not? Everything has a cause”. However, those who reply in this way are making what the linguistic philosophers call a “category mistake”. Empirical causality, as Kant pointed out in his Critique of Pure Reason, is one of the basic categories (the others are substance and time) by which we order the flux of sensory experience. The category of empirical causality can be applied to any segment of space-time. But it cannot be applied to space-time as a whole, because, while the effect here will be spatiotemporal, the cause will be outside space-time. And a fortiori it cannot be applied to a supposed Creator of the Creator of space-time.
But are we not contradicting ourselves here? Did we not agree that God, Who is immaterial and outside space-time, is the Cause of the spatiotemporal universe? There is no contradiction here if we carefully distinguish between three types of causality: empirical, human and Divine.
Let us begin with empirical causality, which is the weakest, most insubstantial form of causality. For, strange as it may seem, we never actually see an empirical causal bond. What we see is events of class A being regularly followed by events of class B. We then infer that there is something forcing this sequence of events, or making it happen; and this we call causality. But, as David Hume pointed out, we never actually see this force, this bond uniting A and B: we only see regular sequences of events. We say that A causes B, but all we actually ever see is events of classes A and B in regular, predictable succession to one another, not the force that joins A to B.
In fact, our only direct experience of causality is when we cause our own actions. Thus when I decide to open the door, I have a direct experience of myself making my hand go towards the door-knob and turn it. This experience of causality is quite different from watching events of class A “causing” events of class B in empirical nature. I do not see the exercise of my will being constantly followed by the opening of doors. I know by direct, irrefutable, non-sensory (what the philosophers call phenomenological) experience that the cause of that door opening was I. This is the second type of causality, human causality; and our knowledge of it, unlike our knowledge of any empirical causality, is both direct and certain.
Moreover, - and this, as we shall see, is a very significant point for the so-called science of psychology – I know that my decision to open the door was uncaused in the scientific, empirical sense. Even if a man were standing behind me with a gun and ordering me to open the door, this would not take away from the uncaused nature of my action. It might explain why I decided to open the door at that moment; but, as the philosophers have demonstrated, to give the reasons for an action is not the same as describing the causes of an event; to confuse reasons with causes is another “category mistake”. Only if the man with a gun took away my power of decision – that is, hypnotized me to open the door, or took hold of my hand and placed it on the door-knob and then turned my hand, would it be true to say that my action was caused. Or rather, then it would no longer be my action, for my action can only be the free result of my will: it would be the action of another person, he would be the cause (the uncaused cause) of the action.
Both human and empirical causality are caused by God, Who brings all things into being out of nothing. Thus it is the Divine Causality which causes events of type A to be followed always (or almost always – the exception is what we perceive to be miracles) by events of type B: He is the Cause of all empirical causation. But Divine Causality is closer to human causality, in Whose image it was made, insofar as It, too, is (a) empirically uncaused, and (b) personal, whereas every empirical cause is (a) empirically caused (because God has caused it to be so), and (b) impersonal.
We experience Divine Causality in moments of grace. It has this effect on human causality that it does not violate the latter’s free and uncaused nature; It informs it without compelling it. Thus when a saint speaks under the influence of God’s grace, he retains complete control over his own words while submitting to the influence of God’s Word. This is incomprehensible within the scientific world-view. But since the scientists cannot see even the empirical causes they postulate, why should this concern us?…
The Fallibility of Science: (2) The New Biology
Let us take as another example of the radical fallibility of science Darwin’s theory of evolution. One of the few encouraging developments in the modern world is the gradual undermining, from many directions, of the hitherto unchallenged pseudo-dogma of Darwinism. However, long before modern scientists began to doubt it (and it is still only a minority that doubts), it was considered false by the saints both on empirical grounds and, much more importantly, because it conflicted with the dogmas of the Christian faith and morality.
It is sometimes supposed that the saints disdained to speak of science as being a lower form of knowledge irrelevant to questions of faith. But this is not so. That they were not afraid to discuss science on its own terms, the terms of empirical evidence, is indicated by the following conversation between Elder Nectarius of Optina (+1928) and one of his spiritual children, who sorrowfully remarked to her friend in his reception room:
"I don't know, perhaps education is altogether unnecessary and only brings harm. How can it be reconciled with Orthodoxy?"
The elder, coming out of his cell, rejoined: "Once a man came to me who simply couldn't believe that there had been a flood. Then I told him that on very high mountains in the sand are found shells and other remains from the ocean floor, and how geology testifies to the flood, and he came to believe. You see how necessary learning is at times." And again the elder said: “God not only permits, but demands of man that he grow in knowledge. However, it is necessary to live and learn so that not only does knowledge not ruin morality, but that morality not ruin knowledge."
Thus in answer to the question how Orthodox could be reconciled with “education”, i.e. modern science, the elder pointed, on the one hand, to the geological evidence for the flood of Noah - the fossil evidence on which Darwinism rests can much more easily be explained by the flood than by Darwinism itself. However, he did not linger on this evidence. More important, in his view, was the effect that scientific hypotheses like Darwinism had on morality. For, as St. Nectarius’ fellow-elder at Optina, St. Barsanuphius (+1912) said: “The English philosopher Darwin created an entire system according to which life is a struggle for existence, a struggle of the strong against the weak, where those that are conquered are doomed to destruction and the conquerors are triumphant. This is already the beginning of a bestial philosophy…”
More important still is the incompatibility of Darwinism with certain cardinal dogmas of the Christian faith. Thus the consistent Darwinist must believe: (i) that God did not create the heavens and the earth, or that if He did, He did it through death, the destructive forces of mutation and natural selection (but “God did not create death” (Wisdom 1.13); (ii) that the species came into being through chance (St. Basil says that anyone who believes in chance is an atheist); (iii) that death was not the result of sin, as Scripture says (Romans 5.19), but existed even before sin was possible; (iv) that man, being only matter, does not have free will, and therefore cannot be judged; and (v) that man does not have an immortal soul, but is wholly the product of chance forces operating on matter.
St. Nectarios of Aegina wrote: “The followers of pithecogeny [the derivation of man from the apes] are ignorant of man and of his lofty destiny, because they have denied him his soul and Divine revelation. They have rejected the Spirit, and the Spirit has abandoned them. They withdrew from God, and God withdrew from them; for, thinking they were wise, they became fools… If they had acted with knowledge, they would not have lowered themselves so much, nor would they have taken pride in tracing the origin of the human race to the most shameless of animals. Rightly did the Prophet say of them: ‘Man being in honour, did not understand; he is compared to the dumb beasts, and is become like unto them.”
It is amazing how many so many Christians fail to see the incompatibility of Darwinism with Christian dogma and morality. Or perhaps they see it, but suppress this perception because of the choice it will then place before them: to accept the modern world-view and reject Christianity, or vice-versa. They prefer the muddled and impossible compromise of “theistic evolution”, choosing to believe that God somehow works through death and chance, that He could not or would not make His creation perfect from the beginning, but had to go through billions of years of bloody experiments before He “hit upon” the world as it is now! Or perhaps they are seduced by the perspective of infinite progress through unending evolution that Darwinism offers, as one Masonic writer puts it: “First a mollusc, then a fish then a bird, then a mammal, then a man, then a Master, then a God”. In any case, it must be firmly understood: it is impossible to be a Christian and a Darwinist.
It is important to remind ourselves at this point that science is hypothetical in essence; it proclaims no certainties; what is declared to be a self-evident law of nature in one generation is denounced as false in the next. Moreover, several of the major hypotheses of science appear to contradict each other, at least in the opinion of significant sections of the scientific community - for example, the time-reversible laws of quantum physics and the Second Law of Thermodynamics. Darwinism also contradicts this latter law, since evolution involves the build-up of complexity and information rather than its inexorable loss, as the Second Law says.
In fact, Darwinism is essentially a fairy-tale dressed up in scientific language. As A. N. Field writes: ‘With oaks to be seen sprouting from acorns, grubs turning into butterflies, and chickens pecking their way out of eggs, it is not surprising that human fancy from an early date toyed with the notion of one kind of living thing being transformed into some other kind. This idea has been the stock-in-trade of folk-lore and fairy tales in all ages and all lands. It was the achievement of Charles Darwin to make it the foundation of modern biological science.”
However, as Field goes on to say, a major difficulty is encountered by the Darwinists at the very outset of their argument: “There is… not a shred of evidence of any living thing ever evolving into some different kind of living thing capable of breeding but infertile with its parent stock. All that breeding experiments have produced is mere varieties fertile with their parent stock, or else sterile hybrids, incapable of breeding, such as the mule produced by a cross between horse and donkey.”
Darwin admitted as much in a private letter to Dr. Bentham on May 22, 1863: “In fact belief in Natural Selection must at present be grounded entirely on general considerations… When we descend to details, we can prove that no one species has changed (i.e. we cannot prove that a single species has changed); nor can we prove that the supposed changes are beneficial, which is the groundwork of the theory.” Nearly 150 years, this statement is still true. Moreover, developments in genetics and molecular biology have placed further vast obstacles in the way of the possibility of natural selection. It seems that the “ignorant” St. Basil was right after all: “Nothing is truer than that each plant produces its seed or contains some seminal virtue; this is what is meant by ‘after its kind’. So that the shoot of a reed does not produce an olive tree, but from a reed grows another reed, and from one sort of seed a plant of the same sort always germinates. Thus all that has sprung from the earth in its first bringing forth is kept the same to our time, thanks to the constant reproduction of kind.”
Since this is the case, there is no need to concede to the scientific world-view more than it claims for itself (in the mouths of its more honest and intelligent spokesmen). Otherwise we fall into the trap which so many non-scientific Christians have fallen into of immediately accepting the latest scientific fashion and adapting one's faith to it, only to find that science has moved on and left their "modernised faith" as an out-of-date relic. This has been the fate of the "Christian Marxists" and "theist evolutionists", who in trying slavishly to adapt Christianity to the latest and least credible fashion in science show themselves to be neither Christians nor scientists. What we must always remember is that, whatever its many and undoubted achievements, science is a fallible enterprise conducted by sinful men. Therefore scientists individually and collectively are not immune from deception, and we Christians should not be cowed by their supposedly superior knowledge from subjecting their conclusions to criticism.
This is especially the case with regard to the new biology, because in this field, at any rate, there is a growing minority of fully qualified scientists who reject the Darwinist myth. They point to a vast number of facts that contradict Darwinism: not only the familiar one of the missing links in human evolution, but such facts as the impossibility of generating even a single-cell organism out of a primitive biochemical soup, the impossibility of assembling the elements of a cell into working order one by one (they all have to be present simultaneously and in exactly the right relationship to each other), the impossibility of understanding the evolution of sexually differentiated species from asexual ones (since the vastly complicated differences between the male and the female of the new species have to be emerge, in perfect working order, in a single generation), the circularity and radical unreliability of the Darwinist methods of dating rocks and fossils, the fact of the universal flood as witnessed in the folk lore of all peoples, etc., etc. “Creationism” is not, as many suppose, the imposition of Protestant fundamentalism into the realm of pure science, but simply honest science.
And if elements of heretical Protestantism have crept into some creationist work, these are easily separated from the science, like wheat from the chaff. There is no reason why the great bulk of creationist work – as well as all conventional science that does not rest on Darwinist assumptions - could not be absorbed into a new project of “Orthodox creationism”, which will be honest both to God and to science, being interested in truth alone…
The Fallibility of Science: (3) The New Psychology
The modern scientific project of encompassing the whole universe from the primal matter of the Big Bang to all the planets and galaxies and all the species of plants and animals in a single explanatory framework, that is, in a single causal nexus, would surely be judged to have failed if it stopped short at man. After all, while earlier generations of men wished to demonstrate that man is a “fifth essence” separate from the four natural essences of fire, earth, water and air, and not included in the causal nexus of the material universe, modern scientists think just the opposite. They have an enormous respect for matter as the origin of all things, and the fount of the evolutionary ascent of man; and they wish to be included in that evolutionary ascent at all costs – even at the cost of denying the existence of their own souls!
The hub of the scientific project in its application to man is what is sometimes called the Artificial Intelligence or "AI" hypothesis. According to this hypothesis, mental states are to be identified with brain states, which in turn can be described exclusively in terms of computer states. The crucial test of this hypothesis would be to build a robot whose behaviour would simulate the behaviour of a man in every way. If the behaviour of the robot were indistinguishable from what we recognize as the behaviour of a man, then we would be forced to admit that the robot is a man. And then we would be forced to the further conclusion that man is the product of evolution: the last link in the chain would be complete.
However, the philosopher John Searle has argued that however accurately a machine could mimic the behaviour of an intelligent human being, it cannot be said to understand what it is doing. And he proves his contention by describing an imaginary "Chinese room" experiment. Suppose a person is locked in a room and is given a large amount of Chinese writing. Suppose, further, that he understands not a word of Chinese, but is given a set of instructions in a language he does understand which teaches him to correlate one set of Chinese symbols with another. If the rules correlating input and output are sufficiently complex and sophisticated, and if the man becomes sufficiently skilled in manipulating them, then it is possible to envisage a situation in which, for any question given him in Chinese, the man will be able to give an appropriate answer also in Chinese in such a way that no-one would guess from his answers that he knows not a word of Chinese!
Thus scientists will never be able to explain their own thought processes by purely scientific means - by building a model of the brain on a computer. For such functions as "understanding meaning" and "intending" cannot be simulated on a machine, no matter how sophisticated. As Michael Polanyi writes: "These personal powers include the capacity for understanding a meaning, for believing a factual statement, for interpreting a mechanism in relation to its purpose, and on a higher level, for reflecting on problems and exercising originality in solving them. They include, indeed, every manner of reaching convictions by an act of personal judgement. The neurologist exercises these powers to the highest degree in constructing the neurological model of a man - to whom he denies in this very act any similar powers."
This conclusion reached by philosophical thought is confirmed by the findings of mathematicians. Thus the Oxford professor Roger Penrose, relying on the work of other mathematicians such as Godel and Turing, has given some excellent reasons for not believing that minds are algorithmic, i.e. mechanistic entities. For example, there are certain necessary mathematical truths which are seen to be true but cannot be logically deduced from the axioms of the system to which they belong; that is, although we know that they are true, we cannot prove them to be true. This suggests that the seeing of mathematical truths is a spontaneous, uncaused, yet completely rational act. Penrose believes that mathematical truths are like Platonic ideas, which exist independently both of the mind and of the physical world. Whether or not he is right in this, he has clearly demonstrated that mathematical thinking cannot be described or explained in deterministic terms. And if mathematical thinking, the most rigorous and logical of all kinds of thought, is free and not determined, the same must be true of scientific thought in general.
It follows that if psychologists try to deny that thinking is free, they cut the ground from under their own feet and deprive their own thought of any credibility. For let us suppose that the thinking of psychologists is in fact determined by certain natural laws. The question then arises: if that is so, what reason do we have for believing that their reasoning is rational and true? For if a man speaks under some kind of compulsion, we conclude either that he does not understand what he is saying, or that he is lying, or that he is telling the truth "by accident", as it were. In any case, we attach no significance to his words; for free and rational men believe only the words of free and rational men.
Now just as rational thought presupposes freedom, so does responsible action. The whole of morality and law is based on the premise that the actions of men can be free, although they are not always so. If a man is judged to have committed a criminal offence freely, then he is blamed and punished accordingly. If, on the other hand, he is judged to have been "not in his sound mind", he is not blamed and is sent to a psychiatric hospital rather than a prison. If we could not make such distinctions between various degrees of freedom, civilized society would soon collapse.
Now, as we have seen, free will is a completely different kind of causality from empirical causality. Unlike empirical causality, it is not inferred, but directly perceived by the cause himself. As such, we can be certain about our human causality, whereas empirical causality can never be more than a subject of conjecture or hypothesis.
Free will is only faintly discerned at the subconscious level of human life, where we feel that we are being pushed and pulled in a dark sea of desires and aversions, of attractions and repulsions, over which we have little control. In this context we can see that it was no accident that psychology should have begun its section of the scientific enterprise at the beginning of the twentieth century with the psychoanalytical study of the subconscious and of those pathological states in which free will and rationality appear to be suspended. For, with his freewill and rationality removed, man can be more easily treated as if he were just a biological organism, subject to the same empirical laws as other biological organisms.
However, even psychoanalysis was forced to introduce the concept of the ego – that is, the person, the seat of free will and rationality. For insofar as a man feels himself to be the victim of subconscious forces that he cannot yet conceptualize or control, he also feels himself to be distinct from them, and therefore potentially able to resist them. Moreover, at the higher level of consciousness, this feeling of passive "victimization" is translated into active attention to objects and resistance to (some) desires; Prometheus bound becomes Prometheus unbound, at least in relation to some elements of his mental life.
The phenomenon of attention is of particular interest here because it is at the same time the sine qua non of all perception and thought and the first real manifestion of freedom of the will, the will being bound at the lower, subconscious level. As the Russian religious philosopher S.L. Frank points out, some element of will is present in all perception and thought insofar as it is not imposed by either the environment or the subconscious. Even if our attention is involuntarily drawn to an object, the perception of it as occupying a definite place in the objective world requires an effort of will directing our cognitive faculties upon it. Thus my attention may be involuntarily drawn by a bright light or a pretty face - at this moment I am under the control of subconsciously registered images, sensations and desires. But immediately I try to perceive where and what it is that has attracted my attention, I am displaying freedom of will.
However, it is above in all in the experience of resisting one or other of our desires that we become conscious that our will is free. This freedom is only relative insofar as the resistance to one desire is conditioned by submission to another, stronger one. But introspection reveals that in any struggle between two desires at the conscious level there is always a third element, the ego, that chooses between them, however under pressure by one of the desires the ego may feel itself to be. It is in the hesitation before choice that we become conscious of our freedom. And it is in the consciousness that we could have chosen differently that we become conscious of our responsibility.
Empirical psychology cannot provide us with knowledge of the workings of our free will insofar as it is dominated by the dogma of scientism, which excludes specifically human, as opposed to empirical causality. In the most extreme manifestation of psychological scientism, behaviourism, even the word "action" is removed from the scientific vocabulary and replaced by the word "behaviour", which has fewer connotations of free will and choice. According to the behaviourists, our “behaviour” is exclusively determined by biological drives and learned conditional reflexes. Fortunately, behaviourism is now generally admitted to have been a mistake; but we must not underestimate the continued influence of scientistic modes of thought in psychology. If the mechanistic model of the behaviourists is simply replaced by the computer models of the cognitive scientists, then we are no nearer the truth now than we were in the 1950s.
It is not only free will and rationality that empirical psychology cannot comprehend. Consider, for example, the important phenomenon of falling in love. Frank writes: "What can so-called empirical psychology observe in it? First of all it will fall on the external, physical symptoms of this phenomenon - it will point out the changes in blood circulation, feeding and sleep in the person under observation. But remembering that it is, first of all, psychology, it will pass over to the observation of 'mental phenomena', it will record changes in self-image, sharp alterations in mental exaltation and depression, the stormy emotions of a pleasant and repulsive nature through which the life of a lover usually passes, the dominance in his consciousness of images relating to the beloved person, etc. Insofar as psychology thinks that in these observations it has expressed, albeit incompletely, the very essence of being in love - then this is a mockery of the lover, a denial of the mental phenomenon under the guise of a description of it. For for the lover himself all these are just symptoms or consequences of his feeling, not the feeling itself. Its essence consists, roughly, in a living consciousness of the exceptional value of the beloved person, in an aesthetic delight in him, in the experience of his central significance for the life of the beloved - in a word, in a series of phenomena characterizing the inner meaning of life. To elucidate these phenomena means to understand them compassionately from within, to recreate them sympathetically in oneself. The beloved will find an echo of himself in artistic descriptions of love in novels, he will find understanding in a friend, as a living person who has himself experienced something similar and is able to enter the soul of his friend; but the judgements of the psychologist will seem to him to be simply misunderstandings of his condition - and he will be right."
A description of love in terms of drives, stimuli and learning will invariably miss out the most important element, the element that makes love love – the perception of another person as a person. Nor is it simply the one-way perception of another as a person that is important: it is the mutual perception that the other is perceiving oneself in the same way. This is the fact of inter-personal communion, which enables two people to relate to each other not as subjects and objects but as inter-penetrating subjects whose knowledge of each other, though from different points of view, is identical, and though taking place in space and time seems to transcend space and time. Heron has described this fact as follows: "My awareness of myself is in part constituted by my awareness of his awareness of me, and my awareness of him is in part constituted by my awareness of his awareness of me."
I am not here talking simply about empathy, which is another basic psychological phenomenon that transcends empirical science. Empathy lies at the root of art, and has been described by one Russian scientist as "a necessary and most important, although not the only condition of creativity in any sphere of human activity". But empathy is a one-way relationship, like art itself: here we are talking rather about mutual and simultaneous empathy which creates a new content as well as form of consciousness.
Thus two people in relation to each other as people are like two mirrors placed opposite each other. That which is reflected in mirror A is mirror B, and that which is reflected in mirror B is mirror A. The "knowledge" that each has is therefore objective and subjective at the same time; in fact, the objectivity and subjectivity of the vision or visions are logically and chronologically inseparable. But this amounts to a radically different kind of knowledge from that of scientific, empirical knowledge, which Frank calls "object consciousness". For whereas object consciousness entails a radical separation between a spaceless and timeless subject and a spatial (if material) or temporal (if mental) object, person consciousness entails an equally radical identity-in-diversity of subject and object which we may simply call communion.
Frank describes communion as follows: "When we speak to a person, or even when our eyes meet in silence, that person ceases to be an 'object' for us and is no longer a 'he' but a 'thou'. That means he no longer fits into the frame-work of 'the world of objects': he ceases to be a passive something upon which our cognitive gaze is directed for the purposes of perception without in any way affecting it. Such one-sided relation is replaced by a two-sided one, by an interchange of spiritual activities. We attend to him and he to us, and this attitude is different from - though it may co-exist with - the purely ideal direction of attention which we call objective knowledge: it is real spiritual interaction. Communion is both our link with that which is external to us, and a part of our inner life, and indeed a most essential part of it. From an abstract logical point of view this is a paradoxical case of something external not merely coexisting with the 'inward' but of actually merging into it. Communion is at one and the same time both something 'external' to us and something 'inward' - in other words it cannot in the strict sense be called either external or internal.
"This can still more clearly be seen from the fact that all communion between 'I' and 'thou' leads to the formation of a new reality designated by the word 'we' - or rather, coincides with it."
The fact is that human beings can relate to themselves and each other not only in the scientific, "I-it" mode, but also in the artistic "I-thou" mode, and in what we may call the religious "I-we" mode. It follows that if psychologists are to truly understand their subject, and not dehumanize man by pretending that he exists only on the "I-it" mode of our limited scientific understanding, then they must be prepared to ascend to the "I-thou" and "I-we" modes, and understand him in these, more intimate and at the same time more comprehensive and universal modes. For how can we understand the humanity of another man if we do not exert our own humanity to its fullest extent?
In the Steven Spielberg film Artificial Intelligence a boy who is in fact a robot is rejected by his human “parents” because the son whom they lost is brought to life and begins to be jealous of the “brother” robot who had been constructed to replace him. The robot makes it his life’s mission to find his “mother” again and prove to himself that she loves him just as much as her “real”, human son. In the course of the film, humanity destroys itself, and only the robots are left “alive”. With the help of some fellow-robots, and some DNA preserved from a wisp of his mother’s hair, the robots are able to bring the mother to life again for a single day. And so the boy-robot is at last able to enjoy the supreme pleasure of hearing her say that she loves him…
The “message” of the film (for this writer, if not for Spielberg) is by no means that robots will one day be just as human as real human beings. It is rather that scientific advances in artificial intelligence, and in the knowledge of man’s genetic and physiological make-up, will never penetrate to the heart of man’s mystery, which is the capacity to love, freely and not in order to fulfil a biological desire, but simply because an object worthy of love exists. For, as Hamlet says:
You would play upon me;
You would seem to know my stops;
You would pluck out the heart of my mystery;
You would sound me from my lowest
note to the top of my compass.
And there is much music, excellent voice,
in this little organ.
Yet cannot you make it speak...
Science and the Word of God
The study of science gives us many reasons for believing in God. After all, “since the creation of the world”, says St. Paul, “His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead”; which is why those who do not believe in the Creator God “are without excuse” (Rom. 1.20). This leads many to believe that science and the Word of God must be compatible.
If they mean by “science” real science, science unaffected and unpolluted by scientism and “half-science”, then they are right. But modern science has long ago been hijacked, as it were, by a project that actually has nothing to do with real science: the project, namely, to prove that empirical reality, the reality studied by the scientists, is the only reality, and that scientific truth is the only truth. It is therefore naïve to expect that science as it is presently practised in most universities and laboratories will be found to be compatible with the Word of God. In the end, in spite of all attempts to reconcile the one with the other, glaring contradictions will remain, because it is not only in theological science that the truth is unattainable without the help of God. In every sphere the full truth can be found only with the help of the Truth Himself, that is, God, and will remain hidden unless the Truth Himself is invoked.
Thus one fact clearly proclaimed by the Word of God is that the sun and all the heavenly bodies were created after the earth. This fact is in no way compatible with any modern hypothesis put forward by godless science about the origin of the solar system. And it would dishonest of us to try to “reinterpret” that fact to make it “fit” with modern physics in the way that the theistic evolutionists try to make Genesis’s seven days of creation somehow “fit” with the million-year epochs of Darwinist time.
Instead of trying to reinterpret or allegorise the Word of God to make it fit with godless science, we should heed the words of St. Basil the Great: “I know the laws of allegory, though less by myself than from the works of others. There are those truly who do not admit the common sense of the Scriptures, for whom water is not water, but some other nature, who see in a plant, in a fish, what their fancy wishes, who change the nature of reptiles and of wild beasts to suit their allegories, like the interpreters of dreams who explain visions in sleep to make them serve their own ends. For me grass is grass; plant, fish, wild beast, domestic animal, I take all in a literal sense. For I am not ashamed of the Gospel. Those who have written about the nature of the universe have discussed at length the shape of the earth. If it be spherical or cylindrical, if it resemble a disc and is equally rounded in all parts, or if it has the form of a winnowing basket and is hollow in the middle; all those conjectures have been suggested by cosmographers, each one upsetting that of his predecessor. It will not lead me to give less importance to the creation of the universe that the servant of God Moses is silent as to shapes; he has not said that the earth is a hundred and eighty thousand furlongs in circumference; he has not measured into what extent of air its shadow projects itself while the sun revolves around it, nor state how its shadow, casting itself upon the moon, produces eclipses. He has passed over in silence, as useless, all that is unimportant for us. Shall I then prefer foolish wisdom to the oracles of the Holy Spirit? Shall I not rather exalt Him Who, not wishing to fill our minds with these vanities, has regulated all the economy of Scripture in view of the edification and the making perfect of our souls? It is this that those seem to me not to have understood, who, giving themselves up to the distorted meaning of allegory, have undertaken to give a majesty of their own invention to Scripture. It is to believe themselves wiser than the Holy Spirit, and to bring forth their own ideas under a pretext of exegesis. Let us hear Scripture as it has been written…”
One may object that the book of Genesis was not written as a scientific textbook, so it is useless to cite anything from it as if it contradicted any scientific hypothesis. Now it is, of course, true that Genesis is not a scientific textbook – as St. Basil himself points out. But at the same time, as the same saint pointed out, it is not allegory, and it does describe facts. And if these facts, whether expressed in scientific language or not, contradict the hypotheses of modern science, such as the fact that the earth was created before the sun, or that man was created separately from the other species, or that there was once a universal flood which destroyed the old world and laid down the fossils that we see now, then there is no way of getting round this for the honest, truly believing Christian. We either believe the Word of God, or we believe modern godless science.
The problem with trying to reconcile the Word of God with modern godless science is that in our joy at finding certain points of concord, or apparent concord, between the two, we may subconsciously accept certain ideas of science which are definitely heretical. Thus the anthropic principle in physics can be interpreted to imply that God created the universe in precisely such a way that man should be able to study and understand it, which is clearly what Christians believe. However, it may also be interpreted in a quite different way more in accordance with Hindu ideas about the divinity of man; for according to Marek Kohn, the principle "seems to be on the verge of substituting man for God, by hinting that consciousness, unbound by time's arrow, causes creation"! In fact, the eastern idea that every man is by nature a god gains credence from both from the Darwinist idea that we are evolving into gods, and from the physicists’ idea that our consciousness causes creation.
These parallels between ideas in modern science and eastern religions suggest that the strange path that science is treading may be connected with the general penetration of western civilisation by these religions. For centuries, Christians have believed that there are clear and important differences between the Creator and creation, matter and spirit, time and eternity, freedom and determinism, man and animal, soul and body, life and death. But in the twentieth century, the age of relativity and relativism, all these terms have melted into each other; under the combined onslaught of modern science and eastern religion, the distinctions which are so basic to our understanding of ourselves and the world we live in have tended to disappear in a pantheist, panpsychic or panmaterialist soup.
However, the recognition that all these alarming intellectual and spiritual trends are related makes the task of resisting them only a little easier. For even if we reject eastern religion as false and satanic, and suspect that the god of this world has also had a hand in blinding some scientists, we cannot say the same about science in general. We have to explain both how science has gone wrong and why it still manages to get so many things right...
One obvious way in which science has gone wrong is by drastically narrowing a priori the range of date it examines, eliminating from its field of observation the vast sphere of phenomena that we call religious. Concealment of data which conflicts with one's hypothesis is usually considered dishonest science. And yet in relation to religion it has been practised on a massive scale by most of the scientific community for centuries. Even when scientists do deign to study religion, their methods and conclusions are often blatantly biassed and unscientific. This was obvious with regard to the "achievements" of Soviet "scientists" as they tried to explain, for example, the incorruption of the relics of the Russian saints: but western scientists have been hardly less biassed, if usually more sophisticated than their Soviet counterparts.
Of course, some "miracles" are contrived, just as some religious beliefs are superstitious; and science can do a genuine service to the truth by exposing these frauds. But the existence of some frauds does not undermine religion in general, any more than the existence of quack doctors undermines genuine medicine. Moreover, science itself has not been immune from quackery of its own in its eagerness to explain away the phenomena of religion. Particularly useful to it in this respect has been the concept of psychosomatic illness and psychology in general. But psychology is the least developed of the sciences; and, as we have seen, there are strong reasons for disputing whether it can ever be a genuinely empirical science.
We must also remember that, as Sir Peter Medawar writes, "it is logically outside the competence of science to answer questions to do with first and last things." For any such answers must be in principle unverifiable insofar as no man observed the beginning of the universe and no man can see its end. As the Lord said to Job: “Where wast thou when I laid the foundations of the earth? Declare, if thou hast understanding” (Job 38.4). Science, however, - or rather, false science - denies any such limits to its competence; and so, by the just judgement of God, it proceeds further and further away from the knowledge of the greater mysteries of the universe - of God, of the soul, of the origins and destiny of creation, - while puffing itself up by its knowledge of the lesser mystery of how to build a rocket to the moon.
To understand the first and last things we have to resort to another method, that of faith; for, as St. Paul says, "we walk by faith, not by sight" (II Corinthians 5.7). In this sphere we cannot walk by sight, because, as Fr. Seraphim Rose writes, “the state of Adam and the first-created world has been placed forever beyond the knowledge of science by the barrier of Adam’s transgression, which changed the very nature of Adam and creation, and indeed the very nature of knowledge itself. Modern science knows only what it observes and what can be reasonably inferred from observation… The true knowledge of Adam and the first-created world – as much as is useful for us to know – is accessible only in God’s revelation and in the Divine vision of the saints.”
Walking by faith does not mean ignoring the evidence of our senses or the methods of logical reasoning. Thus the central truth of our Faith, the Resurrection of Christ, was verified by the Apostle Thomas in a simple scientific experiment involving the sense of touch. And the main physical evidence of the Resurrection, the Turin Shroud, has been subjected to analysis by scientists from practically every discipline from botany to astrophysics - and remains inexplicable by any other hypothesis (a recent carbon-14 analysis of its age conducted with the aim of refuting its authenticity turned out to be based on false presuppositions.
And yet millions of people confronted by these "many infallible proofs" do not believe; they cannot make the for us eminently logical deduction that the man who fulfils so many prophecies in His own life must be "my Lord and my God" (John 20.28). They cannot do this because, while science and logic confirm the Resurrection of Christ, the Person they point to is an unseen reality Who cannot be contained within the confines of the senses and logic and therefore represents a challenge to their carnal nature. Thus their seeing and reasoning are not mixed with faith, which is, in St. Paul's words, "the reality (Greek hypostasis: literally "substance") of things hoped for, the proof of things not seen" (Hebrews 11.1).
When a man, following the evidence of his senses and the reasoning of his logical mind, penetrates, through faith, beyond the veil of the senses to the Logos Himself, He receives further revelations about things not seen in accordance with his spiritual level. He learns about the creation of the world in the beginning, and its judgement at the end, about angels and demons, the souls of men and the logoi of all created beings. Nature becomes for him, in the words of St. Anthony the Great, "a book in which we read the thoughts of God". Only those "thoughts" are not mathematical formulae describing the structure of matter or space-time. Rather, they express the essential nature and purpose for which each thing was created, its place in the structure of the universe as a whole and in eternity.
Conclusion: Two Approaches to Nature
The scientific approach to nature may be described as analytic and reductionist; the Christian approach as analogical and symbolic. The essence of the one approach is mathematical and quantitative; of the other - spiritual and qualitative.
The two approaches are compatible; there is no reason why one cannot go up the great ladder of Being at one moment and go down it at another. At the same time, they are not on a par with each other; for while the analogical approach ascends from one level of reality to a higher one which is closer to Absolute Reality, the analytical approach sheds, as it were, dimensions of reality, as it descends lower. Thus by reducing psychology and the social sciences to neurophysiology analytical science loses the reality of freewill and consciousness; by reducing biology to chemistry it loses the élan vital; and by reducing chemistry to quanta it loses, time, substance and causality.
Indeed, the analytical approach reduces itself to absurdity by claiming that there is nothing else than these "no-things" - the ultimate statement of nihilism. This is what happens when qualities are redefined as quantities, when the analytical approach is adopted on its own without any reference to the truths and dimensions of reality revealed by the analogical approach. That is how we come to have theories which deny the arrow of time while trying to describe its supposed beginning (the Big Bang) and end (the Big Crunch); and theories about the origin of life which are based on destruction (mutation) and death (natural selection); and theories about the neurological nature of mind which, if they were true, would deprive us of any reason for believing in the truth of any theories whatsoever - for why should I believe that the chance product of one set of neuronal firings is "truer" than any other?
Reductionism leads to nihilism and absurdity: the opposite process reveals an ever-increasing fullness of reality leading to God Himself. “In nature, in this visible world, various forces function, and the lowest of them yield to the higher: the physical yields to the chemical, the chemical to the organic, and finally, all of them together to the highest of all, the spiritual. Without the intervention of the higher forces, the lower forces would function in a homogeneous, immutable order. But the higher forces alter, and sometimes even suspend the actions of the lower. In such a natural subordination of the lower forces to the higher, not one of the laws of nature is changed. Thus, for example, a physician changes the progression of a disease, a man changes the face of the earth by digging of canals, and so on. Cannot God cause the same thing to a boundlessly greater extent?”
Orthodox Christianity is not against science that stays humbly within its limits, which recognises that the universe is not an isolated system, but one that is open to the God Who created it, Who preserves it and all its parts in existence, and Who sustains every one of its laws by His Providence until the day when He will come to judge it, when "the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up" (II Peter 3.10).
Orthodoxy declares that there is nothing more real than God, that all things "live and move and have their being in Him" (Acts 17.28), and that things lose reality when they begin to move away from Him and cease to reflect His light. Some things reflect God more fully and therefore partake in more dimensions of His reality. Christ is His perfect, consubstantial Image and Name; for He "reflects the glory of God and bears the very stamp of His nature, upholding the universe by the word of His power" (Hebrews 1.3). Men are also images of God, though not consubstantial ones; and their ability to use the word in science, art and religion in order to describe and understand the universe is a true reflection of the power of the Word of God.
Indeed, Adam's "naming" of the animals in Paradise may be seen as the beginning of true, analogical science; for through it, in St. Ambrose's words, "God granted [us] the power of being able to discern by the application of sober logic the species of each and every object, in order that [we] may be induced to form a judgement on all of them." Again, Nicetas Stethatos writes, God made man “king of creation”, enabling him “to possess within himself the inward essences, the natures and the knowledge of all beings”.
Lower levels of being do not have the power of the word and can therefore symbolise higher levels less fully and deeply. And yet in Christ and the Church, "the fullness of Him that filleth all in all" (Ephesians 1.22), even the lowliest wave-function acquires reality and meaning and the ability to partake in some measure in the Providence of God.
The proof of the primordial unity of the universe, and the guarantee of its eternal unity, is the Incarnation of Christ. For when the Word became flesh, He that is absolutely immaterial and unquantifiable took on matter and was as it were "quantised". Thus in His one and indivisible Person was united the Godhead, mind, soul, body, atoms and quanta.
We might call this the First Law of Analogical Thermodynamics. It is the Law of the conservation of matter and life and meaning in the Light and Life and Logos of the universe, the Lord Jesus Christ.
However, the unity of the universe has been threatened by man, who, misusing the freedom and rationality given him in the image of God's absolute Freedom and Rationality, has turned away from God to the lower levels of reality. Thus instead of contemplating all things in symbolic and symbiotic relation to the Word and Wisdom of the universe, he has considered them only in relation to himself, the observer and user; instead of offering nature up to God in eucharistic thanksgiving, he has dragged it down to the level of his own self-centred desires. As a result, both he and nature have disintegrated, and not only abstractly, in the systems of scientists and philosophers, but concretely, in history; for there has been a progressive seepage or dissipation of reality and meaning from the universe separating man from God, then man from woman, the soul from the body, and all the elements of nature from their original moorings.
In scientific terms, this seepage or disintegration or expanding chaos is expressed in the second law of thermodynamics, the best verified law in the whole of science. We might call it the Second Law of Analogical Thermodynamics. In theological language it is known as original sin or, in St. Paul's words, "the bondage of corruption", under which the whole of creation has been groaning to the present day (Romans 8.21-22).
The thesis of the First Law, and the antithesis of the Second Law, require a Third Law which restores or recreates the order that was in the beginning. This Third Law began to operate at the Incarnation of Christ, when human nature was recreated in the image and likeness of God, but with a new energy that took it onto a higher plane, the plane of deification. This Third Law is in fact no law at all, in the sense of a constraint upon nature, but rather "the law of liberty" (James 2.12), "the glorious liberty of the sons of God" (Romans 8.22), the law of grace...
We fell through partaking of the tree of knowledge prematurely, before partaking of the tree of life. We began to analyse and reduce and kill and consume before we had acquired real, stable life in Christ. God did not say that knowledge was evil, nor that Adam and Eve would not acquire a certain kind of knowledge by partaking of the forbidden tree; but since this knowledge was not a knowledge of life grounded in life it became a knowledge of death that brought in death.
Science has repeated this original fall, coming to the bitter and senseless and deadly conclusion that all life has evolved through a struggle to the death, being constructed out of ghostly spectra of possibilities that disappear on encountering the first dawn of knowledge. The universe, according to science, is indeed, as Macbeth said, "a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing". Science can only come to life again by coming into contact with the true Light, Christ, "in Whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge" (Colossians 2.3).
Science and faith can come to a single, mutually consistent understanding of the universe. But only if science takes the absolute truths revealed by faith as its starting point, and not the fallen mind of man. Scientific method that does not attempt to compete with faith but is grounded in faith will lead to the truth, the whole truth. Let us hope and pray that, grounded in this way in absolute truth, a resurrection of science will take place.
But in the meantime let us not be deceived by "antitheses of science falsely so called" (I Timothy 6.20). Let us "continue in the faith grounded and settled", taking care lest any man rob us "through philosophy and vain deceit, according to the traditions of men, according to the elements of the world, and not according to Christ" (Colossians 1.23, 2.8). For the words of St. Basil the Great about the "half-scientists" of his day are no less relevant in our own: "Have not those who give themselves up to vain science the eyes of owls? The sight of the owl, piercing during the night time, is dazzled by the splendour of the sun. Thus the intelligence of these men, so keen to contemplate vanities, is blind in the presence of the true Light..."
January 1/14, 2005.
St. Basil the Great.
(Revised and greatly expanded from the article, “An Orthodox Approach to Science”, in Orthodox America, vol. XV, no. 5 (137), January, 1996, pp. 6-7, 10; and in Russian in Pravoslavnaia Tver’ (Orthodox Tver), ¹¹ 5-6-7 (54-55-56), May-June-July, 1998, pp. 20-21)
10. ORTHODOXY, FEMINISM AND THE NEW SCIENCE OF MAN
"There is nothing new under the sun," said the wise Solomon (Ecclesiastes 1.9). And truly, there is nothing new either in the sexual so-called revolution of the 1960s, or in the horrific scientific experiments on the human reproductive system of the 1990s (whether performed by humans or "aliens"). The former was foreshadowed by the depravity of Sodom and Gomorrah, and the latter - by the giants born from the unnatural unions of the sons of God (perhaps fallen angels) with the daughters of men. Orthodox Christians will not have been seduced by either, knowing that their end is the same - wholesale destruction from the face of the Lord.
However, there is something at least relatively new, and potentially much more seductive, in the new theory of man that has been built up on the basis of these sexual and scientific "revolutions". This new humanism is much more radical than the humanism of the early modern period, although it shares the same basic presuppositions. The basic tenet of humanism in all its periods is that man is autonomous and can control his own destiny without recourse to God, Who either does not interfere in human affairs (Deism) or does not in fact exist (atheism).
From the sixteenth to the early twentieth centuries humanism asserted that man could control his own destiny, and ultimately human nature itself, by controlling his environment. The genetic inheritance of man was assumed to be relatively immutable; but that did not matter, because education and environmental manipulation were thought to be capable of producing all the changes necessary to make man as an individual, and society as a whole, "without spot or wrinkle". The most characteristic result of this old-style humanism in the theoretical field was the American B.F. Skinner's behaviourist psychology, which reduced most of human life to operant conditioning; and in the practical sphere - the Soviet Gulag and Homo Sovieticus.
This first, what we might call masculine phase of humanism ended in 1953 with the death of Stalin and the discovery of DNA by Watson and Crick. This discovery meant that now not only the environment, but also the genes of man could be in principle manipulated and controlled. However, neither science nor the moral climate of the humanist world was yet prepared to see the path to total control which, according to the humanist model of man, this discovery opened up. For if man is the interaction of his genes and his environment, with no "intervening variables" such as human freewill or Divine grace, then the possibility of manipulating both genes and environment is equivalent to the possibility of a control of man and society far more totalitarian in principle even than the Soviet experiment that was just beginning to run out of steam.
The event which began to change the moral climate in the desired direction was the discovery of the female contraceptive pill and the subsequent revolution in the role of women in society, which is why we might call this the feminine phase of humanism. If the driving force of the earlier, masculine phase had been the will to power, then the driving force of this later, more radical, feminine phase has been the lust for pleasure. For the discovery of the pill opened up a new prospect - that of maximising sexual pleasure while minimising any unpleasant consequences in the shape of pregnancies.
But democracy demanded that the fruits of this revolution should not be enjoyed only by heterosexuals, and so homosexuals, too, won that recognition of their activities as natural and moral which all monotheist, and even many pagan societies have always refused them.
The feminization of western civilization continued apace with the rise of feminism, and the appearance of women priests. Perhaps this was the fulfilment of the vision of St. John of Kronstadt, which though considered by some to be inauthentic, is nevertheless full of profoundly prophetic images: "O Lord, how awful! Just then there jumped onto the altar some sort of abominable, vile, disgusting black woman, all in red with a star on her forehead. She spun round on the altar, then cried out in a terrible voice like a night owl through the whole cathedral: 'Freedom!' and stood up. And the people, as if out of their minds, began to run round the altar, rejoicing and clapping and shouting and whistling."
With the last vestiges of tradition in Christian thought and worship swept aside, the stage was set for a really new, really radical stage in the revolution: the abolition of sexuality. The Soviets, to the applause of western liberals, had tried, and to a large extent succeeded, in abolishing religion, the nation, the law and the family. But sexuality remained as one of the last bastions of normal human life, and therefore a potential nest of counter-revolution, as was recognized by Zamyatin in his novel We and by Orwell in 1984.
And so it has been left to the capitalism of the 1990s to carry through this, one of the last steps of the revolution. Its executors, appropriately enough, have been the scientists, the high priests of humanism. What they appear to be saying is that: (i) sexuality, and sexual orientation, is largely in the genes; therefore (ii) sexuality, and sexual orientation, can be predicted and, if necessary, changed before birth through genetic therapy; (iii) men can become women, and women can become men; (iv) hybrid species can be created, and (v) sexuality is unnecessary from a reproductive point of view, because human beings can be cloned from a single adult cell.
Of course, the latter statement has not yet been experimentally proved (and, as I shall argue, it could never in fact be proved). Nor is there any lack of voices warning against the dangers of such an experiment. But in spite of all these warnings there seems to be an implicit acceptance, not only that the cloning of human beings is possible, but that it must come sometime.
If (and it is a very big "if", as we shall see) the cloning of human beings were possible, then man would potentially be master of his destiny in a quite new sense. Although the original building blocks of human nature, the cell and its components, would still come to him ready-made (creation ex nihilo remains the only feat which man still feels compelled to concede to God alone), he would then be able to manipulate the building blocks in such a way as to make human beings to order, having whatever physical or psychological characteristics he chose. Frankenstein already seems crude compared to what scientists can theoretically do comparatively soon.
It has often been observed that science, far from being the domain of the purely disinterested observation of nature, is often closely connected with moral or religious impulses - more often than not, immoral and irreligious ones. Thus the scientific revolution of the seventeenth century was closely linked to a falling away of faith in Divine Revelation and a corresponding increase of faith in man's ability to discover the truth by means of his own intellect, unaided by the Divine Logos. The Darwinian revolution of the nineteenth century was likewise closely linked to the desire to prove the autonomy of man and his ineluctable progress to ever great moral and spiritual heights - again, by his own (or rather, Blind Chance's) efforts alone. Now the genetic revolution of the late twentieth century has raised man's autonomy to godlike status; for having reduced all life to "the selfish gene" it has claimed mastery of the gene itself - all for the sake of the lowest and most selfish of aims. In this way has the native heresy of the British Isles, Pelagianism, which denies original sin and over-emphasizes the power of man's unaided freewill, come to find its most developed and dangerous expression in the worship of science in the Anglo-Saxon countries, and from there - throughout the world.
Each stage of the scientific-humanist revolution has seemed to justify one part of man's fallen nature as being in fact unfallen. The Newtonian physics of the seventeenth century established the credentials of science as such, and therefore of the power of the mind, which since Thomas Aquinas had been declared to be unfallen. The Darwinian biology of the nineteenth century justified man's aggression at the individual level and cut-throat competition at the level of corporations and nations; for did not the law of the survival of the fittest demonstrate that only the aggressive and merciless survive, and that the meek not only do not inherit the earth but are exterminated from it? Finally, the Watsonian genetics of the twentieth century has justified even the basest of man's desires by demonstrating to him that he can't help it, there's nothing to be ashamed of, because it's all in our genes anyway. And if for some hedonistic reason (it couldn't be a moral reason, for how can one moralize about Mother Nature?) he doesn't like the inherited pattern of his own desiring, he can modify it by a mixture of surgery and gene and hormone therapy.
The immediate reaction of Orthodox Christians to this is, of course, one of horror that human beings should seek to play God and seriously contemplate such experiments in the re-creation of human nature as make Hitler's eugenics look like child's play by comparison. An intellectual response might proceed from two cardinal tenets of Orthodox anthropology: (1) the immortality and relative immateriality of the soul; and (2) the immorality of any attempt to change the nature of sexuality insofar as the latter symbolizes immutable and eternal relationships in the Divine order of things.
Let us briefly consider each of these. (1) Whereas the body was made from the earth, the soul was made from God's inbreathing and therefore does not perish with the body. As Solomon says: "The dust returneth to the earth, as it was, and the soul returneth to God Who gave it" (Ecclesiastes 12.7). The soul thus freed from the body is fully conscious. This is shown by the Prophet Samuel's speaking to King Saul from beyond the grave (I Kings 28.11-19). For "even after he had died he prophesied and revealed to the king his death" (Sirach 46.20).
This being so, the cloning of a human being, assuming it were possible, would be a cloning only of his physical nature, his body, and not of his soul. Souls cannot be cloned, for they are not material. Even if the clone spoke and acted just like a human being, it or he would be at best a different human being, with a different soul, just as twins born from the same fertilized egg are nevertheless two different human beings with two different souls. At worst it might not be a human being at all, but a demon inhabiting a human body that had no human soul. And if this seems fantastic, we may recall the opinion of the well-known Lutheran researcher into the occult, Dr. Kurt Koch, who in the 1970s claimed that so-called "resurrections from the dead" in Indonesia were in fact cases of demons entering into corpses and "resurrecting" them.
For true resurrection from the dead, and therefore also true cloning, can be accomplished only by God, because while men have a certain power over flesh alone, God is the Lord both of spirits and of flesh, and only He can either send a spirit into a newly-formed body or reunite it with a dead one.
This point is well illustrated in one of the homilies of St. Ephraim the Syrian on the last days, in which the one thing which the Antichrist is shown to be incapable of doing is raising the dead: "And when 'the son of perdition' has drawn to his purpose the whole world, Enoch and Elias shall be sent that they may confute the evil one by a question filled with mildness. Coming to him, these holy men, that they may expose 'the son of perdition' before the multitudes round about him, will say: 'If you are God, show us what we now ask of you. In what place do the men of old, Enoch and Elias, lie hidden?' Then the evil one will at once answer the holy men: 'If I wish to seek for them in heaven, in the depths of the sea, every abode lies open to me. There is no other God but me; and I can do all things in heaven and on earth.' They shall answer the son of perdition: 'If you are God, call the dead, and they will rise up. For it is written in the books of the Prophets, and also by the Apostles, that Christ, when He shall appear, will raise the dead from their tombs. If you do not show us this, we shall conclude that He Who was crucified is greater than you; for He raised the dead, and was Himself raised to heaven in great glory.' In that moment the most abominable evil one, angered against the saints, seizing the sword, will sever the heads of the just men."
We may rest assured, therefore, that no man, not even the Antichrist, will ever be able to create a new human being possessed of both soul and body from one cell of another human being - although he may well be able to create what seems to be a true clone; for in those days "by great signs and wonders he will lead astray, if it were possible, even the elect" (Matt. 24.24).
(2) It is striking that so many of the "advances" in the modern science of man have been made in connection with experiments on sexuality. We have seen one reason for this - the sudden general slackening of morals in the western world in the 1960s, which gave science the task of pandering to the newly liberated desires of the people. But there is another and profounder reason connected with the fact that, from an early age, sexuality is felt to be at the deepest, most intimate core of the child's personality.
Thus the greatest, most wounding insult you can give to a young boy is to say that he is a "sissy" or like a girl. A boy would rather be dead than be seen wearing pink or having a close friendship with a girl. And similarly with girls. And although psychologists and educators have had some success in bringing dating down to an unnatually early age, they have failed completely to make boys play with dolls or make girls like typically boyish pursuits. For boys will be boys, and girls - girls.
Why should this be? After all, is it not the case that in Christ there is "neither male nor female" (Gal. 3.28), which would seem to imply that sexual differentiation is not a fundamental, eternal category? And did the Lord not say that there would be no marrying or giving in marriage in heaven, but that the saved would be like the sexless angels?
On the other hand, is it conceivable that Christ should ever be anything other than male in His humanity? Or the Mother of God female? And is not the very idea of a change of sex repugnant to us, which implies that there is something deeper to sexuality than meets the eye, something more than merely a set of biological differences.
Let us then consider the question: what is the significance of sexual differentiation?
Genetics tells us that the essential difference between men and women consists in the possession by men of one X and one Y chromosome, whereas women possess two X chromosomes. This might at first suggest that men have something "extra" which women do not have. However, neither biology nor theology has ever pinpointed what that something "extra" might be. Nor is it at all clear that the interaction of one X and one Y chromosome makes for a superior creature to the product of the interaction of two X chromosomes. In any case, genetics, like all the sciences, studies nature after the Fall, and cannot tell us anything directly about nature before the Fall, still less what the deeper purpose of sexual differences might be in Divine Providence.
Nevertheless, it can provide some intriguing pointers; and the biological evidence suggests that sexual differences are deep in some respects and superficial in others. Thus chromosomal masculinity or femininity appears to be present at birth and relatively immutable. On the other hand, many sexual differences, including the external genitalia, can be changed and even reversed from one gender to the other by hormone therapy and surgery - but without changing the patient's feeling of who, sexually speaking, he or she really is.
Could this contrast between "deep" and "superficial" sexual differences reflect a contrast between sexual differences before the Fall and sexual differences after the Fall?
Before the Fall there was Adam and Eve, male and female; and this difference was "deep" in the sense that it existed from the beginning and will continue to exist, presumably, into eternity. But after the Fall further, more "superficial" differences were added to enable mankind to reproduce in a fallen world. In the same way, the eye was refashioned after the Fall, according to St. John Chrysostom, to enable it to weep.
This means that sexuality was there from the beginning, and that the essence of the relationship between the sexes is an essential part of human nature, but that human reproductive anatomy and physiology as we them know today - including the painfulness of childbirth itself - were superimposed upon the unfallen image. This idea of the "superimposition" of sexual differences upon the original image was developed by, among others, St. Gregory of Nyssa and St. Maximus the Confessor. It may also be that some of the particularities of women that Holy Scripture refers to - their domination by men (Gen. 3.16) and their being "the weaker vessel" in terms of emotional control (I Peter 3.7) - belong to these more superficial characteristics that were added only after the Fall and can therefore be overcome in Christ.
This brings us to the complaints of the feminists. First, there is the complaint that women are not treated as equal to men. Now Holy Scripture and Tradition agrees with the feminists that women are essentially equal to men, being made, like them, in the image of God, and to that extent should be treated equally. However, if "equal treatment" means "same treatment", then Orthodoxy disagrees. For men and women have always been different, both before and after the Fall, and these differences entail that women should have a different place in society from men.
The "deep", antelapsarian differences between men and women cannot be changed, and the attempt to change them is disastrous, both for men and for women. The "superficial", postlapsarian differences between men and women can be changed, not in the sense that sex-change operations are permissible (the Church forbids self-mutilation), but in the sense that the fallen character of relationships between men and women can be overcome in Christ. Marriage in Christ is one of the ways in which sexuality is stripped of its superficiality, going from the Fall to Paradise: the other is monasticism, in which a man becomes a eunuch, spiritually speaking, for the Kingdom of heaven's sake (Matt. 19.12).
Let us try and define this "deeper", antelapsarian nature of sexuality.
St. Paul gives us the clue: "I want you to understand," he writes, "that the head of every man is Christ, the head of a woman is her husband, and the head of Christ is God... A man ought not to cover his head, since he is the image and glory of God; but the woman is the glory of the man. For man was not made from woman, but woman from man; neither was man created for woman, but woman for man. That is why a woman ought to have a veil on her head" (I Cor. 11.3.7-10).
In other words, the relationship between man and woman in some respect reflects and symbolizes the relationship between God the Father and God the Son, on the one hand, and God the Son and mankind, on the other. Each of these is a hierarchical relationship, which is compared to that between the head and the body. Thus while God the Father is equal to God the Son in essence, which is why He says: "The Father and I are one" (John 10.30), the Son nevertheless obeys the Father, the Origin of the Godhead, in all things, which is why He says: "My Father is greater than all" (John 10.29). In the same way, man and woman are equal in essence, but the woman must "be subject to her husband in all things" (Eph. 5.24). By contrast, the relationship between God the Son and mankind would at first sight appear to be different from these insofar as the Divinity is not equal in essence to humanity. However, the Incarnation of the Son and the Descent of the Holy Spirit has effected an "interchange of qualities", whereby God the Son has assumed humanity, and humanity has become "a partaker of the Divine nature" (II Peter 1.4) - as the Fathers put it, "God became man so that men should become gods". Therefore the originally unequal relationship between God and man has been in a certain sense levelled by its transformation into the new relationship between Christ and the Church, which can now be described, similarly, in terms of the relationship between head and body.
Now we can see that the very "primitive", very human relationship between head and body, or between male and female, has within itself the capacity to mirror and illumine for us, not only the supremely important, and more-than-merely-human, relationship between Christ and the Church, but also - albeit faintly, "as through a glass darkly" - the more-than-Divine, intra-Trinitarian relationship between the Father and the Son. Thus the male-female relationship, and even the basic structure of the human body, is an icon, a material likeness, of the most spiritual and ineffable mysteries of the universe. For just as the head (the man) is lifted above the body (the woman) and rules her, but is completely devoted to caring for her, so does Christ love the Church, His Body, and give His life for her - all in obedience to His Head, the Father, Who "so loved the world that He gave His only Son, that whoever believeth on Him should not perish but have eternal life" (John 3.16). That is why the relationship between man and woman is not accidental or superficial, still less fallen, but holy - and the entrance into the Holy of Holies. And that is why, according to the holy canons, the sacrament of marriage can only be celebrated on a Sunday, the eighth day, which symbolizes eternity; for even if there will be no marrying or giving in marriage in eternity, marriage will forever symbolize that eternal relationship of love between Christ and the Church which underpins the whole of reality, both temporal and eternal.
From this perspective we can see that the psychological differences between man and woman correspond precisely to the differences in spiritual function between Christ and the Church, and that these differences were implanted in human nature from the beginning precisely in order to mirror the spiritual relationships. The man is more intellectual, because he, like Christ, must lead and take the initiative; the woman is more emotional, because she, like the Church, must respond to him in love. The man is more aggressive, because he, like Christ, must wage war on the devil; the woman is more sensitive and intuitive, because she, like the Church, must be sensitive to the will of her husband.
Of course, these natural, unfallen differences have been corrupted by the Fall: men tend to be crude and boastful, women - weak-willed and easily led by all kinds of influences. If the man must still lead the woman in the Fall, this is not because he is less fallen than her, or less in need of being led by his Head, but because obedience to the hierarchical principle at all levels is the only way out of the Fall. For only if the woman obeys the man, and the man obeys Christ, as Christ obeyed the Father, can grace work to heal the fallen nature of mankind. This is not to say that the woman must obey the man in any circumstances; for if he disobeys Christ, and demands that she follow him in his disobedience, she must disobey him out of obedience to Christ. In this case the hierarchical principle has been violated at one level (the level of the man), but remains intact at another (the level of the woman).
It should be obvious - but needs saying, in view of the blasphemous things that are being said by today's modernist theologians - that the fact that the relationship between man and woman mirrors the relationships between Christ and the Church in no way implies that God is subject to sexual passion, or that He is masculine (or feminine) in essence. We are not projecting human sexuality onto God. The point is rather the reverse: that sexuality was created by God in order that man should understand, even in the depths of his physical being, the fundamental pattern and dynamic that holds the universe together in God. This pattern is unity-in-hierarchy, and the dynamic is the attraction of complementaries on one level of hierarchy into unity on a higher level. The initiative in the attraction of complementaries comes from the male pole. The male seeks out the female, and the female responds to the male. Having united they become "a new creature" on a higher plane of existence, that of Christ, Who in relation to the newly formed dyad is Himself the male partner and the initiator of the whole process on the lower plane, so that the human monads become a dyad only in the third, Divine Monad. That is why Christ, on becoming man, had to become male. For, as the fairy-tales of all lands testify, it is the man who saves, the woman who is saved; it is the man whose masculine strength and courage destroys the destroyer, it is the woman whose extraordinary beauty and grace inspires him to such feats. So when God came to save mankind from the power of the devil, he necessarily came as a man to save His woman...
Of course, when we speak of "necessity" here, we are not speaking of physical necessity; nor are we placing any limitations on God, for Whom all things are possible. We are simply responding to the clues God has given us in the universe to show why it had to be so; we are recognising that there is a spiritual necessity in what actually took place. We are recognising that a drama reflects the mind of a dramatist, and that the Divine Actor of the Drama of our salvation would never allow Himself to give a performance in life which did not exactly match the conception of the Divine Dramatist, which did not perfectly embody the canons of Divine Beauty.
Now there is another sacrament that, like marriage, almost precisely mirrors the relationship between Christ and the Church - that of priesthood. The priest (and especially the bishop) is the head of his flock as Christ is the Head of the Church, and the priest must lay down his life for his flock as Christ laid down His life for the Church. There is even a sense in which the priest may be said to be the husband of his flock, which may be the reason why there is a canon (unfortunately, very often violated today) forbidding bishops to move from one diocese to another.
Just as Christ had to be born a male, so the icon of Christ, the bishop, and his representative, the priest, must be a male. For "since the beginning of time," as St. Epiphanius of Cyprus says, "a woman has never served God as a priest". If the priest is a woman, the iconic relationship between Christ the Saviour and Great High Priest and the priesthood is destroyed.
As Bishop Kallistos (Ware) writes: "The priest is an icon of Christ; and since the incarnate Christ became not only man but a male - since, furthermore, in the order of nature the roles of male and female are not interchangeable - it is necessary that a priest should be male. Those Western Christians who do not in fact regard the priest as an icon of Christ are of course free to ordain women as ministers; they are not, however, creating women priests but dispensing with priesthood altogether...
"It is one of the chief glories of human nature that men and women, although equal, are not interchangeable. Together they exercise a common ministry which neither could exercise alone; for within that shared ministry each has a particular role. There exists between them a certain order or hierarchy, with man as the 'head' and woman as the partner or 'helper' (Gen. 2.18); yet this differentiation does not imply any fundamental inequality between them. Within the Trinity, God the Father is the source and 'head' of Christ (I Cor. 11.3), and yet the three Persons are essentially equal; and the same is true of the relationship of man and woman. The Greek Fathers, although often negative in their opinion of the female sex, were on the whole absolutely clear about the basic human equality of man and woman. Both alike are created in God's image; the subordination of woman to man and her exploitation reflect not the order of nature created by God, but the contra-natural conditions resulting from original sin. Equal yet different according to the order of nature, man and woman complete each other through their free co-operation; and this complementarity is to be respected on every level - when at home in the circle of the family, when out at work, and not least in the life of the Church, which blesses and transforms the natural order but does not obliterate it...
"Men and women are not interchangeable, like counters, or identical machines. The difference between them… extends far more deeply than the physical act of procreation. The sexuality of human beings is not an accident, but affects them in their very identity and in their deepest mystery. Unlike the differentiation between Jew and Greek or between slave and free - which reflects man's fallen state and are due to social convention, not to nature - the differentiation between male and female is an aspect of humanity's natural state before the Fall. The life of grace in the Church is not bound by social convention or the conditions produced by the Fall; but it does conform to the order of nature, in the sense of the unfallen nature as created by God. Thus the distinction between male and female is not abolished in the Church."
The perverseness of female "priesthood" is somewhat similar to the perverseness of homosexual "marriage". In both cases, the "innate preaching" of Christ's Incarnation that is implanted in our sexual nature, instead of being reinforced and deepened by the sacraments of the Church, is contradicted and in effect destroyed by a blasphemous parody of them.
That is why such things are felt to be unnatural by men and condemned as abominations by God. And if scientific humanism seeks to redefine what is natural, let us recall that such humanism, according to Fr. Seraphim Rose, is subhumanism. It is "a rebellion against the true nature of man and the world, a flight from God the center of man's existence, clothed in the language of the opposite of all these."
(Published in Orthodox America, vol.
XVI, ¹¹ 7-8
(147-148), March-June, 1997, pp. 13-15).
11. ABORTION, PERSONHOOD AND THE ORIGIN OF THE SOUL
The origin of the soul has never been a subject of major controversy in Orthodoxy as it has been in Catholicism. Thus the argument between creationists and traducianists, which was the subject of several papal bulls, has not received a final resolution in Orthodox dogmatics. The creationist view is that each individual soul is separately created by God; while the traducianist view, in the words of Protopresbyter Michael Pomazansky, is that it “is created from the souls of a man’s parents and only in this general sense constitutes a new creation of God”. But "how the soul of each individual man originates is not fully revealed in the word of God; it is 'a mystery known to God alone' (St. Cyril of Alexandria), and the Church does not give us a strictly defined teaching on this subject. She decisively rejected only Origen's view, which had been inherited from the philosophy of Plato, concerning the pre-existence of souls, according to which souls come to earth from a higher world. This teaching of Origen and the Origenists was condemned by the Fifth Ecumenical Council."
However, the dramatic changes that modern science has created in man's image of himself have elicited attempts to define the Church's teaching on the soul more precisely. Darwinism, in particular, has elicited some development in the thinking of Orthodox theologians. Thus when the Russian Bishop Theophan the Recluse (+1894) was suspected of coming close to Darwinism because he said that the soul of man is like the soul of the animal, he replied: "We have in us the body, then the soul, whose origin is in natural generation, and finally the spirit, which is breathed in by God. It is said that man is a rational animal. To be an animal means not only to have flesh, but also the whole animal life. Only man possesses in himself the nouV, that is, the spirit. So man is a spiritualized animal.”
Other, especially Greek theologians, reacted still more strongly against Darwinism, pointing out that Darwinism is incompatible with the Church's teaching on the purposiveness of creation and the immortality of the soul (first and fifth anathemas of the Order of the Week of Orthodoxy). Thus in the works of St. Nectarios of Aegina (+1920), the most recent canonized saint of the Greek Orthodox Church, we find twenty arguments for the immortality and rationality of the soul, and a very robust rejection of Darwinism: "The followers of pithecogeny [the derivation of man from the apes] are ignorant of man and of his lofty destiny, because they have denied him his soul and Divine revelation. They have rejected the Spirit, and the Spirit has abandoned them. They withdrew from God, and God withdrew from them; for, thinking that they were wise, they became fools... If they had acted with knowledge, they would not have lowered themselves so much, nor would they have taken pride in tracing the origin of the human race to the most shameless of animals. Rightly did the Prophet say of them: 'Man, being in honour, did not understand; he is compared to the mindless cattle, and is become like unto them' (Psalm 48.21 (LXX))."
In the twentieth century it is especially the debate over abortion that has elicited further thinking on this subject. The abortionists try to justify the murder of human foetuses by arguing that the foetus is not fully a person at the moment of conception or for some time thereafter. In response to this, Orthodox apologists have shown, on the basis of the Holy Scriptures, that life and “personhood” begin at conception.
Thus Presbytera Valerie Brockman writes: “Human life, personhood, development begin at conception and continue until death. There are no magic humanizing events, such as quickening or passage through the birth canal. There are no trimester milestones, no criteria for independence.”
Now a compromise between the pro- and anti-abortion positions is sometimes sought in the gradualist argument that there is no definite time when the foetus has personhood and when it does not, but personhood develops gradually, so that in early stages of pregnancy the foetus is less personal and in later stages more personal. This viewpoint is sometimes expressed by saying that foetuses are “potential persons”. Thus “according to this viewpoint,” writes Gareth D. Jones, “there is no point in development, no matter how early on, when the embryo or foetus does not display some elements of personhood – no matter how rudimentary. The potential is there, and it is because of this that both the embryo and the foetus have a claim to life and respect. This claim, however, becomes stronger as foetal development proceeds, so that by some time during the third trimester the claim is so strong that the consequences of killing a foetus are the same as those of killing an actual person – whether child or adult.”
However, all gradualist arguments run up against the powerful moral argument concerning the injustice of abortion, which is the same regardless when the abortion takes place. Thus in his Second Canon, St. Basil the Great states that a woman who deliberately aborts her child is a murderess, “for here there is involved the question of providing justice for the infant”. For insofar as the foetus would have developed into a full-grown man in normal circumstances, he must be considered to have been deprived of life whether the abortion took place early or late in pregnancy.
To this the gradualist may reply: “Even though the deprivation is the same in the two cases, the ‘patient’ is not the same. For in the case of early abortion, the foetus is, say, a ‘half-person’, whereas in the other it is, say, a ‘quarter-person’. So the injustice is not the same, just as it is not the same injustice to deprive a dog of life as it is to deprive a man.”
In order to counter this argument, we have to demonstrate that personhood cannot be quantified or divided. In other words, we have to show that the whole concept of a young foetus being a lower form of life than an older foetus is invalid. There is no such thing, therefore, as a ‘half-person’ or ‘quarter-person’.
One approach to this problem is to identify personhood with the image of God in man, as is done by the Russian Orthodox theologian Vladimir Lossky.
Now the image of God has been identified with various faculties of man’s spiritual nature, such as mind, reason and free will. However, St. Gregory of Nyssa asserts that “the image is not in part of our nature, nor is the grace in any one of the things found in that nature”. This idea has been taken up in our time by Lossky and others, who assert that the image of God is not to be identified exclusively with any single faculty or ability. Still less, a fortiori, can it be identified with properties or faculties that can be physically observed and measured by doctors or scientists.
Thus Lossky writes: “The image cannot be objectified, ‘naturalized’ we might say, by being attributed to some part or other of the human being. To be in the image of God, the Fathers affirm, in the last analysis is to be a personal being, that is to say, a free, responsible being. Why, one might ask, did God make man free and responsible? Precisely because He wanted to call him to a supreme vocation: deification; that is to say, to become by grace, in a movement as boundless as God, that which God is by nature. And this call demands a free response; God wishes that this movement be a movement of love…
“A personal being is capable of loving someone more than his own nature, more than his own life. The person, that is to say, the image of God in man, is then man’s freedom with regard to his nature, ‘the fact of being freed from necessity and not being subject to the dominion of nature, but able to determine oneself freely’ (St. Gregory of Nyssa). Man acts most often under natural impulses. He is conditioned by his temperament, his character, his heredity, cosmic or psycho-social conditioning; and his dignity consists in being able to liberate himself from his nature, not by consuming it or abandoning it to itself.”
But, the gradualist may object: “It is precisely the foetus that least shows this ability to liberate oneself from one’s nature; it is completely dominated by natural impulses.”
However, in Jeremiah we read: “The word of the Lord came to him, saying, ‘Before I formed thee in the belly I knew thee, and before thou camest forth from the womb I sanctified thee. I appointed thee to be a prophet to the nations” (1.4-5). On which Brockman comments: “Jeremiah is treated by God as a personal being and was sanctified before birth. Surely this indicates that the sanctity of human life and personhood extend back to the time in the womb.”
Again, in Luke we read the words of St. Elizabeth, the mother of St. John the Baptist, when the Virgin Mary visited her: “As soon as the voice of your greeting sounded in my ears, the babe leaped in my womb for joy” (1.44). St. John, even as a foetus, felt joy, an emotion very close to love, at the presence of the incarnate God. The fact that we cannot imagine the mental and spiritual processes of a foetus, still less of fetuses in relation to each other, should not prevent us, as Christians, from accepting the evidence of Holy Scripture. Let us not forget, moreover, that Christ Himself was a Divine Person from before eternity, and did not cease to be that Person when He Himself became a foetus in the Virgin’s womb. Thus the encounter between the Lord and St. John the Baptist in Elizabeth’s house was a fully personal meeting between two “whole persons”, in spite of the fact that neither had yet been born…
We may compare a foetus to a comatose or sleeping person, to whom we do not refuse the status of personhood just because he is not exhibiting the signs of sentient and/or conscious life at that moment. Thus a person who is asleep or in a coma is still a person, and to kill a person in such a state is still considered murder. Even in those cases when permission is given to kill a person who is in an irreversible coma by turning off his life-support machine, the usual justification given is not that the patient is no longer a person and can therefore be disposed of as being sub-human, but that he cannot now “enjoy” his personhood.
Of course, an adult who becomes comatose is different from a foetus in that he has already shown signs of a fully personal life over a long period. However, from the materialist point of view, leaving aside the differences in levels of brain and autonomic nervous system activity between a foetus and a comatose adult, it is difficult to see how a fundamental, qualitative distinction between the two can be made. Both would appear – again, from a materialist point of view - to be lacking certain fundamental features of personhood, such as consciousness and the ability to communicate with other persons.
And if the materialist says that the foetus is only a “potential person”, whereas the comatose adult is an “actual person” who has temporarily lost, or is failing to display, some elements of his nature, then we may justifiably challenge him to give an operational definition of this distinction. How can something be “actual” when it is not being actualized? Cannot we say that a foetus, too, is an “actual person” who is temporarily failing to display certain elements of his nature?
Another approach to the problem is from the direction of the soul/body distinction. Now most pro-abortionists explicitly or implicitly deny the existence of the soul except in the Aristotlean-Aquinean-evolutionist sense of an “emergent function” of the body. This allows them to look on the unborn as on people whose “souls” have not fully emerged, and so can be treated as if they were just bodies, matter which has not reached its full degree of development or evolution. The Orthodox, however, while not going to the opposite, Platonist-Origenist extreme of identifying the person exclusively with the soul, nevertheless assert that man is, in St. Maximus’ words, a “composite” being made up of two separate and distinct natures from the beginning.
Thus St. Basil the Great writes: “I recognize two men, one of which is invisible and one which is hidden within the same – the inner, invisible man. We have therefore an inner man, and we are of dual make-up. Indeed, it is true to say that we exist inwardly. The self is the inner man. The outer parts are not the self, but belongings of it. For the self not the hand, but rather the rational faculty of the soul, while the hand is a part of man. Thus while the body is an instrument of man, an instrument of the soul, man, strictly speaking, is chiefly the soul.”
Again, St. John of Damascus writes: “Every man is a combination of soul and body… The soul is a living substance, simple and without body, invisible to the bodily eyes by virtue of its peculiar nature, immortal, rational, spiritual, without form, making use of an organized body, and being the source of its powers of life and growth and sensation and generation… The soul is independent, with a will and energy of its own.”
Since the soul is distinct from the body, the Orthodox have no difficulty conceiving of it as existent, active and conscious even while the body is an undeveloped foetus or showing few signs of life; for, as Solomon says, “I sleep, but my heart waketh” (Song of Solomon 5.2). Moreover, since the soul is not a function of the body, but the cause of its activity, the death or comatose state of the body is no reason for believing that the soul, too, is comatose or dead. For “the dust shall return to the earth as it was, but the spirit to God Who gave it” (Ecclesiastes 12.7).
As for the question when the soul is joined to the body, this is answered by St. Maximus the Confessor in the context of a discussion of Origenism as follows: “Neither [soul nor body] exists in separation from the other before their joining together which is destined to create one form. They are, in effect, simultaneously created and joined together, as is the realization of the form created by their joining together.” “For if,” he writes in another place, “the body and the soul are parts of man, and if the parts necessarily refer to something (for it is the whole which has the full significance), and if the things which are said to ‘refer’ are everywhere perfectly simultaneous, in conformity with their genesis – for the parts by their reunion make up the whole form, and the only thing that separates them is the thought which seeks to discern the essence of each being, - then it is impossible that the soul and the body, insofar as they are parts of man, should exist chronologically one before the other or one after the other, for then the logos (of man), in relation to which each of them exists, would be destroyed.”
Another argument put forward by St. Maximus is that if nothing prevented the soul and body from changing partners, one would be force to admit the possibility of metempsychosis, or reincarnation. However, the fact of their creation simultaneously and for each other, thereby forming a single logos, rules out the possibility; for created beings cannot violate their logoi – that is, their essential nature in the creative plan of God. Even the separation of the soul from the body at death, and the dissolution of the body into its constituent elements, does not destroy this logical unity; for the soul is always the soul “of such-and-such a man”, and the body is always the body “of such-and-such a man”.
St. John of Damascus sums up the matter: “Body and soul were formed at the same time, not first the one and then the other, as Origen so senselessly supposes.”
The above conclusion is not affected by the view one may take on the traducianist versus creationist controversy. Whether the soul of an individual man comes from the souls of his parents (the traducianist view), or is created by God independently of his parents (the creationist view), it remains true that it comes into existence as a new, independent soul at the same time as his body, that is, at conception. And since the new soul is already in existence at the time of conception, abortion is the killing of a complete human being made up of both soul and body, and therefore must be called murder.
12. A REPLY TO DAVID BERCOT ON THE MOTHER OF GOD
David Bercot is a continuing Anglican who has produced a number of cassettes on spiritual themes. In several of these, he criticizes the position of the Orthodox Church from the point of view of what he considers the classical Anglican via media – that is, a position midway between Protestantism, on the one hand, and Orthodoxy and Catholicism, on the other. Bercot claims that he was very sympathetic to Orthodoxy, but was put off by the attitude of the Orthodox to the Mother of God, which he considers to be clearly contrary to the teaching of the Pre-Nicene Church. The following is a reply to Bercot in defense of the Orthodox teaching.
I come now to Bercot’s third tape, on Mary, the Mother of God. I find this the most interesting of Bercot’s tapes so far, not because it is correct – I think it contains the same mixture of true and demonstrably false statements as in the earlier tapes – but because it points to a certain mystery of Divine Providence which has been little inquired into. This is the mystery of why the veneration of the Mother of God, though present in the Early Church, acquired, relatively suddenly, such a great impetus and development in the fifth century.
For I accept that there is little written evidence for the veneration of Mary in the Early Church. I do not accept that there is absolutely no evidence, as Bercot claims, even in the writings of the early Fathers. For example, St. Gregory the Wonderworker, a pupil of Origen and the apostle of Cappadocia, composed hymns in praise of the Holy Virgin which are just as “extravagant” as those of later Byzantine Fathers. Moreover, Bercot completely ignores the evidence from unwritten Tradition – the iconography of the early Church (in the Roman catacombs, for example), and liturgical tradition – which does, in a quiet way, point to the great honour in which Mary was held by the early Christians. And I firmly reject Bercot’s rejection of the oral traditions concerning Mary’s earthly life and assumption to heaven, which, while committed to writing only in the fifth century, witness to a strong oral tradition in the Church of Jerusalem since the first century. This points to a characteristically Protestant flaw in all of Bercot’s reasoning: his reliance only on written evidence – the Holy Scriptures, or the writings of the Pre-Nicene Fathers, while completely ignoring all the evidence from art and oral tradition.
Having said that, I accept that the veneration of Mary takes a huge leap – not in dogmatic development, but in sheer volume and extravagance of expression – in the fifth century. Why? Bercot offers a typically modernist, psychologising explanation: the post-Nicene Christians felt a need for a more feminine, less wrathful God, so they elevated Mary to divine status on the analogy of the Great Earth Mother. I find this explanation absurd. Does he mean to say that the whole Church, from the Celts of Britain to the Copts of Egypt, suddenly and without external pressure, abandoned its belief in the Trinitarian God and went back to paganism?! Let us remember that, to my knowledge, nobody throughout the whole Christian world objected to the post-Nicene veneration of Mary except a few western heretics who denied the virginity of Mary and were refuted in Blessed Jerome’s two books against Jovinian already in the fourth century. It follows that if Bercot is right, the Saviour’s promise that the Church would prevail against the gates of hell even to the end of the world is wrong, and the whole Church fell away from the truth in the fifth century, only to be recreated by a few continuing Anglicans 1500 years later!
I offer another explanation. It is only a hypothesis, and I may well be wrong. But I think it fits the fact much better than Bercot’s explanation, while removing the necessity of concluding that the whole Church apostasised in the fifth century – a conclusion that Bercot does not draw explicitly, but which must be drawn if his argument is correct.
The first point that needs to be made is that the growth in the public veneration of Mary coincided with the debates over the term “Theotokos” (Birth-Giver of God) at the Third Ecumenical Council in Ephesus in 431. That Council decreed that henceforth hymns to Christ and the Saints should always conclude with a hymn to the Mother of God, a rule that is followed to this day in the liturgical practice of the Orthodox Church. The Council’s decree naturally stimulated a great deal of hymnography and iconography glorifying the Mother of God. This does not mean that the cult of Mary became more important than that of Christ, as Bercot quite wrongly asserts – a cursory examination of the liturgical texts of the Orthodox Church demonstrates that all services begin with prayers to one or other of the Persons of the Holy Trinity (Vespers and Mattins, for example, begin with a prayer to the Holy Spirit), and that prayers to God are far more frequent than prayers to the Mother of God and the Saints, especially in the central service of the Divine Liturgy. But it is certainly true that the veneration of the Mother of God became more prominent, in the sense of more public, after the Third Ecumenical Council.
However, the decrees of the Third Council provide only a partial explanation of the facts. We still need to explain why the pre-Nicene Fathers said so little about the Mother of God, and in language that was so restrained by comparison with what came later. I think that the explanation is to be found in a principle that we find exemplified throughout the history of Divine Revelation: the principle, namely, that while the whole truth has been committed to God’s people from the time of the apostles, certain aspects of that truth are concealed from the outside world at certain times because a premature revelation of them would be harmful to the acceptance of the Christian Gospel as a whole.
Let us take as an example the most cardinal doctrine of the Church, the doctrine of the Holy Trinity. The doctrine of the Trinity is implicit even in the first chapter of Genesis, where we read of the Father creating the material and noetic worlds through His Son, the Word of God, and with the cooperation of the Holy Spirit, Who broods like a bird over the waters of the abyss. And in the creation of man the multi-Personed nature of God is clearly hinted at in the words: “Let Us make man in Our image…” (Gen. 1.27). And yet the mystery is only gradually revealed in the course of the Old Testament, and becomes fully explicit only on the Day of Pentecost in the New.
Let us take another example: the doctrine of the Divinity of Christ. In the Synoptic Gospels this mystery is only partially revealed, more emphasis being attaché to the full Humanity of Christ. In the Gospel of John, however, the veil is lifted with the words: “In the beginning was the Word. And the Word was with God. And the Word was God… And the Word was made flesh” (John 1.1, 14), and it is clearly explicit in the Epistles and in Revelation. So why did the Synoptic Evangelists not declare the mystery openly? Because they did not know it, as the Arians and modern heretics such as the Jehovah’s Witnesses would have us believe? Of course not! The mystery is there, in Matthew, Mark and Luke, for all those with ears to hear and eyes to see. So why is it not made explicit in them as it is in John?
As always, the Holy Fathers provide us with the answer. They explain that John wrote his Gospel later, after the fall of Jerusalem in 70 A.D., not in order to correct the earlier Gospels, which were flawless in themselves, but in order to “fill in the gaps” which they had left unfilled under the influence of the Holy Spirit. The first three Evangelists faithfully reflect the general sequence of Christ’s teaching in not immediately and explicitly proclaiming His Divinity, for which the people (and even the apostles themselves) were not yet ready. Another reason was that, as St. Paul says, “none of the princes of this world knew [this], for had they known [it], they would not have crucified the Lord of glory” (I Cor. 2.8). This is confirmed by St. Ignatius the God-bearer, a disciple of St. John, who says that certain facts were concealed from the devil, such as the virginity of Mary, because, had he known them, he would not have stirred up the Jews to kill Christ and so bring about the salvation of the world. Moreover, we see from Acts that the earliest sermons of St. Peter and St. Stephen also did not emphasize the Divinity of Christ, but rather concentrated on His being the Messiah. One step at a time: for the Jews, it was necessary to demonstrate that Christ was the Messiah before going on (in private, perhaps) to the deeper mystery of His Divinity. St. Matthew, who wrote in Hebrew for the Jews, undoubtedly followed this method under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. And the same applies to Saints Mark and Luke, who, though not writing exclusively for the Jews, had to take the Jewish religious education of many of their readers into account. After the fall of Jerusalem, however, when the power of the Jews had been broken, and when Christian heretics such as Cerinthus arose, openly denying the Divinity of Christ, a more explicit affirmation of the mystery became necessary. And that was what St. John – who fled from a bath-house in which he was washing in order not to remain under the same roof as Cerinthus - provided in his writings.
Now let us turn to the mystery of Mary, the Mother of God. As St. John of Damascus points out, the mystery of Mary is the mystery of the Incarnation, and the glory of Mary derives wholly from the glory of her being chosen to be the Mother of God. All the titles and honour we ascribe to her do not add to, but express that original glory; they are a direct consequence of her being, in the words of St. Photius the Great, “the minister of the mystery”. For only a being of surpassing holiness could have given her flesh to the All-Holy Word of God, becoming the new Eve, as Saints Justin and Irenaeus point out, to Christ’s new Adam.
But just as the glory of Christ Himself was temporarily concealed for the sake of the more effective long-term propagation of the Gospel, so the glory of Mary was concealed – from the world, but not from the Church – until the time when it was safe to reveal it, that is, when idolatry had been destroyed and the dogmas of the Divinity of Christ and of the Mother of God had been defined in theologically precise terms. Until that time, however, such a revelation would have been dangerous, for in a world in which paganism was still strong, and female goddesses, as Bercot points out, were common, many would have seen Christ and His Mother as two gods – the Christian equivalent of Jupiter and Juno. And indeed, as Bercot again rightly points out on the basis of the writings of St. Epiphanius of Cyprus, in the fourth century there existed a heresy which consisted in the worship of the Mother of God and the offering of sacrifices to her. That is why the apostles and their successors preached to the truths of the faith to the pagan world in a definite order, with each successive stage beginning only when the previous stage was firmly established in the minds of their hearers. First came the teaching about God, then about the Incarnation of the Word and the Redemption through Christ; then about the Church and the sacraments; and then about the Mother of God.
The Church displayed a similar reticence with regard to another of her cardinal doctrines – that of the Body and Blood of Christ in the Eucharist. When the Lord first expounded this mystery, many even of His disciples left Him (John 6.66). It is not surprising, therefore, that the Church should have refrained from preaching this doctrine from the roof-tops, and kept it even from the catechumens, or learners, until after they had actually partaken of the sacrament. And as with the Divinity of Christ, so with the sacraments, the Church’s teaching is only sketchily outlined in the Synoptic Evangelists, but more fully expounded later, in the Gospel of John. In both cases, the Church’s early reticence was not the product of some kind of esotericism in the Gnostic sense, but a prudent desire to give her children the meat of the Word only after they have been strengthened on the milk, the rudiments of the Gospel. For to entrust people with the holy mysteries before they are ready for them is like giving pearls to “swine” – they will trample on them by interpreting them in their own swinish, carnal way. Thus the doctrine of the Mother of God, while always known to the Church, was not preached openly until the world had become solidly Christian.
An illustration of the wisdom of this principle is found in the life of St. Dionysius the Areopagite, the disciple of St. Paul and first bishop of Athens. When he first met the Mother of God, as he confesses in a letter, he was so struck by her extraordinary, other-worldly beauty, that he was tempted to think that she was in fact a goddess. It was not until the apostles took him aside and explained that she was not herself Divine by nature, but the created Mother of the pre-eternal Creator, that he abandoned his error. If such a holy man as Dionysius was tempted to make such an error, we can imagine what would have been the consequences if the apostles had openly preached the Mother of God to the pagan world! And we see in modern Roman Catholic Mariolatry what happens to the understanding of Mary even among Christians when those Christians have lost the salt of the grace of God.
If the Catholics have become like the pagan Greeks in their Mariolatry, the Protestants have embraced the opposite, Jewish error in refusing to see anything special in the Holy Virgin, even denying her holiness and virginity. To be fair to Bercot, he never descends to such blasphemy, and is willing to accept both her virginity and her exceptional blessedness. He does not even object to the term Theotokos, or Mother of God, although, revealingly, he never uses it himself.
But Bercot displays a definite Protestant bias and superficiality in his interpretation of those passages in the Gospel in which Christ speaks to or about His Mother. In all these passages (Matt. 12.46-50; Luke 2.48-49, 8.19-21; John 2.4, 19.26-27), Bercot sees Christ as “putting down” His Mother, as if He needed to suppress an incipient rebellion on her part, an attempt to impose her will upon Him. Nothing could be further from the truth. Although the Orthodox do not believe in the absolute sinlessness of the Mother of God, at any rate before Pentecost, and admit that she may have had moments of doubt, hesitation or imperfect comprehension, there can be no question of any conflict between her and her Son. Christ was not so much rebuking His Mother in these passages, as teaching a general truth which the carnally and racially-minded Jews very much needed to absorb: the truth, namely, that closeness to God depends, not on racial affiliation, but on spiritual kinship. Moreover, when He said, “My Mother and My brethren are those who hear the word of God and keep it” (Luke 8.21), He was not excluding His physical Mother from the category of those close to Him. On the contrary, it was precisely because she, more than anyone, knew the word of God and kept it, thereby acquiring spiritual kinship with God, that Mary was counted worthy to give birth to God in the flesh.
That is also why Christ entrusted the Holy Virgin to St. John at the foot of the Cross. This was actually a very surprising thing for the Lord to do, for the Virgin did have a family – the sons of Joseph referred to above – and the normal custom in the East would have been for them to take her into their care. But here again, as often in the Gospel, the Lord indicates that spiritual kinship, kinship in the Church, is higher and deeper than kinship after the flesh or in law.
Bercot makes another error of interpretation when he says that Mary was not one of the first witnesses of the Resurrection. The oral tradition of the Church, confirmed in the writings of St. Gregory Palamas, affirms that Mary was in fact the very first person to see the Risen Christ, being none other than the person whom the Evangelists call “Mary, the mother of James and Joses” (Matt. 27.56) and “the other Mary” (Matt. 27.81, 28.1). For the sons of Joseph, the Betrothed of Mary, were James, the first bishop of Jerusalem, Simon, the second bishop of Jerusalem, Jude, one of the twelve apostles, and Joses; which meant that Mary was in law, if not by blood, their mother, “the mother of James and Joses”. St. Matthew conceals her identity in this way for the same reason that the inner greatness Mother of God is concealed throughout the first centuries of the Christian preaching: because it was dangerous to reveal her great glory and pre-eminent closeness to Christ before the doctrine of Christ Himself, perfect God and perfect Man, had been firmly established in the world through the Ecumenical Councils. Moreover, if it had been said that the first witness of Christ’s Resurrection had been His Mother, the Jews would have seized on this to pour scorn on the fact, saying: “What trust can we place in the visions of an hysterical woman, crazed with grief over the death of her only son?”
Bercot is again wrong in asserting that the Lord was rebuking Mary at the marriage of Cana, when He said: “Woman, what have I to do with thee?” (John 2.4). If Mary was really sinning by asking the Lord to intercede for the married couple, why did He then fulfil her request and change the water into wine? According to St. Gaudentius of Breschia, the Lord was not rebuking the Virgin, but drawing her mind forward to the mystery of the Cross: “This answer of His does not seem to me to accord with Mary’s suggestion, if we take it literally in its first apparent sense, and do not suppose our Lord to have spoken in a mystery, meaning thereby that the wine of the Holy Spirit could not be given to the Gentiles before His Passion and Resurrection, as the Evangelist attests: ‘As yet the Spirit was not yet given, because Jesus was not yet glorified’ (John 7.39). With reason, then, at the beginning of His miracles, did He thus answer His Mother, as though He said: ‘Why this thy hasty suggestion, O Woman? Since the hour of My Passion and Resurrection is not yet come, when, - all powers whether of teaching or of divine operations being then completed – I have determined to die for the life of believers. After My Passion and Resurrection, when I shall return to My Father, there shall be given to them the wine of the Holy Spirit.’ Whereupon she too, that most blessed one, knowing the profound mystery of this answer, understood that the suggestion she had just made was not slighted or spurned, but, in accordance with that spiritual reason, was for a time delayed. Otherwise, she would never have said to the waiters, Whatsoever He saith unto you, do it.”
Bercot displays a similar obtuseness when discussing the fact that Mary was not present at the Last Supper. Since the Passover meal was a family occasion, he says, Mary’s absence shows that the Lord was “putting her in her place” and placing his bonds with the apostles above all carnal bonds. Well, it is true, as we have seen, that the Lord often emphasizes the superiority of spiritual bonds to carnal ones. But Mary was most closely related to Him, as has already been said, both spiritually and by blood.
In any case, the Last Supper did not require the presence of Mary for a quite different reason. At this Supper the Lord introduced the fundamental sacrament of the New Testament Church, the Eucharist, and Himself performed the sacrament as the eternal High Priest of the New Testament, being a priest not after the order of Levi, but of Melchizedek. He as the Priest offered Himself as the Victim to Himself and the Father and the Holy Spirit as the Receivers of the Sacrifice. And He wished the apostles to be present because they also were to be priests according to this new and higher order, and would themselves offer the same Sacrifice of Christ’s Body and Blood, saying: “Thine own of Thine own we offer unto Thee…” But Mary, being a woman, was not and could not be a priest.
Not that Mary’s ministry was any less important than the apostles’. On the contrary: without the ministry of the Virgin at the Incarnation neither Christ’s ministry at the Cross and Resurrection, nor that of the apostles after Pentecost, would have been possible. For if the apostles, through the priestly gift bestowed on them, multiplied the Church to the ends of the earth, the Virgin, having given birth to the High Priest Himself, and having been made the Mother of His closest disciple at the Cross, may be said to have given birth to the Church as a whole, to be the Mother of the Body of which He is the Head to all generations. Indeed, in a deeper sense the Virgin is not only the Mother of the Church but the Church herself; for if Christ is the New Adam and the Head of the Church, and Mary is the New Eve and “flesh of His flesh”, then through the mystery of marriage the Virgin (i.e. the New Eve or the Church) is the Body and Bride of Christ…
It is in the context of this mystical relationship between Christ and the Holy Virgin that we must understand the extraordinary epithets that the Church bestows on her, such as mediatress and Queen of Heaven.
At this point, however, it is important to distinguish the Orthodox position from that of the Roman Catholics and from that of certain Orthodox who have been infected by the Romanist point of view. Contrary to the Romanist teaching, the Holy Virgin was conceived in original sin, and therefore was as much in need of salvation as any other mortal. Moreover, as St. John Chrysostom says, it is possible that she committed some actual sins, although these could only have been minor ones resulting from her less that perfect knowledge of the ministry of her Son before she received complete enlightenment at Pentecost. The salvation of the world was effected by Christ alone, the only Mediator between God and man, for He alone is both God and man. At the same time, Christ could not have become man without the cooperation of a human being who was both humble enough to receive the Word of God into her flesh without being destroyed by Him, and believing enough to consent to the mystery without doubting: “Be it unto me according to they word” (Luke 1.38). For, as Metropolitan Philaret of Moscow says, “In the days of the creation of the world, when God was uttering His living and mighty ‘Let there be’, the word of the Creator brought creatures into the world. But on that day, unparalleled in the life of the world, when divine Miriam uttered her brief and obedient: ‘Be it unto me’, I hardly dare to say what happened then – the word of the creature brought the Creator into the world.” In this sense, the Virgin, too, can be called a mediatress insofar as she mediated our salvation. To say, as Bercot does, that Christ could have effected the salvation of the world in some other way if the Virgin had refused is to indulge in idle hypothesizing which illumines nothing. For the fact is that the Virgin did not refuse and God did not choose another person or another method.
Now, having entered into such an extraordinarily intimate union with God, and with such enormous consequences for the whole of created being, who can doubt that the Virgin has become deified, “a partaker of the Divine nature”, as St. Peter puts it (II Peter 1.4), “on the border between the created and uncreated natures”, as St. Gregory Palamas puts it? And, this being so, who can doubt that all her petitions are granted by God, that her “mediation” before God, in the sense of intercession for mankind, is always heard? It is not that what she demands she always gets, as the Romanists blasphemously say; for that would imply that the creature can dictate to the Creator, the pot to the Potter. No: the Virgin is always heard by God because, being in complete harmony with His will, she never asks for anything that is contrary to His will. Like the perfect wife, she both knows the will of her Husband and wills it herself, so that she neither compels Him nor is herself compelled by Him “Whose service is perfect freedom”. For “where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty” (II Cor. 3.17).
Where there is such perfect spiritual union and freedom, the distinctions between Master and servant, even Creator and creature, become, if not less real than before, at any rate less prominent. The Protestants are very jealous to preserve God’s rights and sovereignty; but they forget that God Himself “emptied Himself” of His Divine rights, and became a servant to His own creatures, so that they should acquire His rights and privileges. As the Fathers say: “God became man, so that men should become gods.” And the word “gods” means what it says – the saints truly become gods by grace: “I said: ye are gods, and all of your sons of the Most High” (Psalm 81.6; John 10.34). For if the Holy Scripture calls Christians now, before they have become completely freed from sin, “brothers” and “friends” and “sons of God”, of what great “weight of glory” will they not be accounted worthy when they are completely freed from sin, in the life of the age to come? And if this is true of all the saints, how can it be denied of the Virgin Mother of God, she who even at the beginning of her ministry was already “full of grace”, and who by offering herself as “the minister of the mystery” made it possible for all men to become gods? And if, as St. Paul says, the saints shall judge angels (I Cor. 6.3), how can it be hyperbole to say that she, the mother of all the saints in the spiritual sense, is “more honourable than the Cherubim and beyond compare more glorious than the Seraphim”? Indeed, if Christ, the New Adam, is the King of Heaven, how can she, the New Eve, be denied her rightful side at His side as the Queen of Heaven? For it is of her that the Prophet David spoke: “At Thy right hand stood the queen, arrayed in a vesture of inwoven gold, adorned in varied colours” (Psalm 45.8).
The mystery of Mary is the mystery of the deification of man. The path she traversed from humility on earth to glory in the heavens is the path that all Christians hope to traverse. And while it was God’s will that she should remain in the background until the ministry of her Son should be completed and firmly established in the world through the teaching of the Fathers, so it is God’s will now that her glory should be revealed and all generations call her blessed (Luke 1.48); that all men should see the hope that is set before them and strive for it with redoubled zeal. And to that end God has bestowed on her the grace of miracles and the fulfillment of all the godly petitions that men address to her, as is witnessed by thousands upon thousands of Christians in all countries and generations. Only the blindest bigot could deny all these witnesses, or ascribe them all to the workings of Satan. Or rather, only one who is blind to the true depth of the mystery of which she was the minister, would seek to detract from the glory of the Virgin...
Let me end, then, with a witness from the Early, Pre-Nicene Church, that of St. Gregory the Wonderworker: “Thy praise, O most holy Virgin, surpasses all laudation, be reason of the God Who took flesh and was born of three. To thee every creature, of things in heaven, and things on earth, and things under the earth, offers the meet offering of honour. For thou has indeed been shown forth to be the true cherubic throne, thou shinest as the very brightness of light in the high places of the kingdoms of intelligence, where the Father, Who is without beginning, and Whose power thou hadst overshadowing thee, is glorified; where also the Son is worshipped, Whom thou didst bear according to the flesh; and where the Holy Spirit is praised, Who effected in thy womb the generation of the Mighty King. Though thee, O thou who art full of grace, is the Holy and Consubstantial Trinity known in the world. Together with thyself deem us also worthy to be made partakers of thy perfect grace in Jesus Christ, our Lord, with Whom and with the Holy Spirit, be glory to the Father, now and ever and unto the ages of ages. Amen.”
(Published in Living Orthodoxy, May-June, 1996, pp. 8-14; revised June 18 / July 1, 2004)
13. A DIALOGUE BETWEEN AND ORTHODOX CHRISTIAN AND A RATIONALIST ON THE BODY AND BLOOD OF CHRIST
Orthodox. My friend, I would like to ask you a question: what do you understand by the words: “We are saved by the Blood of Christ”?
Rationalist. That we are saved by the Sacrifice of Christ Crucified, whereby He washed away our sins in His Blood shed on the Cross.
Orthodox. I agree. And how precisely are our sins washed away?
Rationalist. By true faith, and by partaking of the Holy Mysteries of the Church with faith and love, and especially the Mystery of the Body and Blood of Christ in the Eucharist.
Orthodox. Excellent! So you agree that in the Mystery of the Body and Blood of Christ we partake of the very same Body that was nailed to the Cross and the very same Blood that was shed from the side of the Saviour?
Rationalist. Er, yes…
Orthodox. I see that you hesitate, my friend. Is there something wrong in what I have said.
Rationalist. Not exactly… However, you must be careful not to understand the Mystery in a cannibalistic sense.
Orthodox. Cannibalistic? What do you mean, my friend? What is cannibalistic here?
Rationalist. Well, I mean that we must not understand the Body of Christ in the Eucharist to be a hunk of meat. That would be close to cannibalism – to paganism.
Orthodox. You know, the early Christians were accused of being cannibals by their enemies. However, cannibals eat dead meat. In the Mystery we do not partake of dead meat, but of living flesh, the Flesh of the God-Man. It is alive not only through Its union with His human Soul, but also through Its union with the Divine Spirit. And that makes It not only alive, but Life-giving.
Rationalist. Still, you mustn’t understand this in too literal a way. Did not the Lord say: “The flesh is of little use; it is the spirit that gives life”(John 6.63)?
Orthodox. Yes indeed, but you must understand this passage as the Holy Fathers understand it. St. John Chrysostom says that in these words the Lord was not referring to His own Flesh (God forbid!), but to a carnal understanding of His words. And “this is what carnal understanding means – looking on things in a simple manner without representing anything more. We should not judge in this manner about the visible, but we must look into all its mysteries with internal eyes.” If you think about the Flesh of Christ carnally, you are thinking about It as if it were just flesh, separate from the Divine Spirit. But we must have spiritual eyes to look beyond – to the invisible reality.
Rationalist. But this is just what I mean! You are reducing a spiritual Mystery to something carnal, material. But we are not saved by matter!
Orthodox. St. John of Damascus did not agree with you. “I do not worship matter,” he said, “but I worship the Creator of matter Who became matter for my sake and Who, through matter, accomplished my salvation!”
Rationalist. But “flesh and blood cannot inherit the Kingdom of God” (I Cor. 15.50).
Orthodox. Fallen flesh and blood is what the Apostle means. But if our fallen flesh and blood is purified and transfigured by the incorrupt Body and Blood of Christ, then our bodies will be raised in glory at the Second Coming and we will be able to enter the Kingdom – in our bodies. Indeed, the Lord makes precisely this link between eating His Flesh and the resurrection of the body: “He who eats My Flesh and drinks My Blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day” (John 6.54).
Rationalist. Nevertheless, the Lord’s Body in the Sacrament is different from ours…
Orthodox. In purity – yes, in essence – no. For, as St. John of the Ladder says, “The blood of God and the blood of His servants are quite different – but I am thinking here of the dignity and not of the actual physical substance.”… But let me understand precisely what you mean. Are you saying that when we speak of the Body and Blood of Christ in the Eucharist, we are speaking not literally, but metaphorically or symbolically?
Rationalist. No, of course not! I believe that the Consecrated Gifts are the True Body and Blood of Christ!
Orthodox. I am glad to hear that. For you know, of course, that the metaphorical or symbolical understanding of the Mystery is a Protestant doctrine that has been condemned by the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church. Thus St. John of Damascus writes that “the Lord has said, ‘This is My Body’, not ‘this is a figure of My Body’; and ‘My Blood’, not ‘a figure of My Blood’.”… So are you saying that the bread and wine are in some sense transfigured or “spiritualized” at the consecration through their union with the Divine Spirit of Christ, “penetrated” by the Spirit, as it were, so that we can then call them the Body and Blood of Christ, although they do not cease to be bread and wine?…
Rationalist. Er, let me think about that…
Orthodox. Well, while you’re thinking let me remind you that the Eastern Patriarchs in their Encyclical of 1848 also condemned this teaching, which is essentially that of the Lutherans. It is also very close to the Anglican idea of the “Real Presence” of Christ in the Eucharist – although it is notoriously difficult to say precisely what the Anglicans believe. And you will remember that the Anglicans and Catholics killed each other during the Anglican Reformation precisely because the Catholics had a realistic understanding of the sacrament, whereas the Anglicans, being Protestants, did not. A recent Anglican biography of the first Anglican archbishop, Cranmer, has demonstrated that he was a Zwinglian in his eucharistic theology.
Rationalist. You know, I think that you are misrepresenting the Anglican position. Fr. X of the Moscow Theological Academy has told me that the Orthodox teaching coincides with that of the Anglicans, but not with that of the Catholics.
Orthodox. Really, you do surprise me! I knew that your Moscow theologians were close to the Anglicans, the spiritual fathers of the ecumenical movement and masters of doctrinal double-think, but I did not know that they had actually embraced their doctrines! As for the Catholics – what do you find wrong with their eucharistic theology?
Rationalist. Don’t you know? The Orthodox reject the Catholic doctrine of transubstantiation!
Orthodox. I do not believe that the Orthodox reject transubstantiation. We dislike the word “transubstantiation” because of its connotations of Aristotlean philosophy and medieval scholasticism, but very few people today – even Catholics – use the word in the technically Aristotlean sense. Most people mean by “transubstantiation” simply the doctrine that the substances of bread and wine are changed into the substances of Body and Blood in the Eucharist, which is Orthodox. The Eastern Patriarchs in their Encyclical write that “the bread is changed, transubstantiated, converted, transformed, into the actual Body of the Lord.” They use four words here, including “transubstantiated”, to show that they are equivalent in meaning. In any case, is not the Russian word “presuschestvlenie” a translation of “transubstantiation”? It is important not to quarrel over words if the doctrine the words express is the same.
Rationalist. Nevertheless, the doctrine of transubstantiation is Catholic and heretical.
Orthodox. If that is so, why has the Orthodox Church never condemned it as heretical? The Orthodox Church has on many occasions condemned the Catholic heresies of the Filioque, papal infallibility, created grace, etc., but never the Catholic doctrine of the Eucharist.
Rationalist. It’s still heretical. And I have to say that I find your thinking very western, scholastic, primitive and materialist!
Orthodox. Perhaps you’ll find these words of the Lord also “primitive and materialist”: “Unless you eat of My Flesh and drink of My Blood, you have no life in you” (John 6.53). And these words of St. John Chrysostom written in his commentary on the Lord’s words: “He hath given to those who desire Him not only to see Him, but even to touch, and eat Him, and fix their teeth in His Flesh, and to embrace Him, and satisfy their love…” Was St. John Chrysostom, the composer of our Liturgy, a western Catholic in his thinking?
Rationalist. Don’t be absurd!
Orthodox. Well then… Let’s leave the Catholics and Protestants and get back to the Orthodox position. And let me put my understanding of the Orthodox doctrine as concisely as possible: at the moment of consecration the bread and wine are changed into the Body and Blood of Christ in such a way that there is no longer the substances of bread and wine, but only of Body and Blood.
Rationalist. I accept that so long as you do not mean that there is a physico-chemical change in the constitution of the bread and wine?
Orthodox. But can there not be a physico-chemical change?! Are not bread and wine physical substances?
Orthodox. And are not human flesh and blood physico-chemical substances?
Orthodox. And is not a change from one physico-chemical substance into another physico-chemical substance a physico-chemical change?
Rationalist. Here you are demonstrating your western, legalistic, primitive mentality! All Aristotlean syllogisms and empty logic! The Orthodox mind is quite different: it is mystical. You forget that we are talking about a Mystery!
Orthodox. Forgive me for offending you. I quite accept that we are talking about a Mystery. But there is a difference between mystery and mystification. If we are going to speak at all, we must speak clearly, with as precise a definition of terms as human speech will allow. The Fathers were not opposed to logic or clarity. Illogicality is no virtue!
Rationalist. Alright… But the fact remains that the change is not a physico-chemical one, but a supernatural one. It says so in the Liturgy itself!
Orthodox. I agree that the change is supernatural in two senses. First, the instantaneous change of one physical substance into another is obviously not something that we find in the ordinary course of nature. Of course, bread and wine are naturally changed into flesh and blood through the process of eating and digestion. But in this case the change is effected, not by eating, but by the word of prayer – and it’s instantaneous. For, as St. Gregory of Nyssa points out, “it is not a matter of the bread becoming the Body of the Word through the natural process of eating: rather it is transmuted immediately into the Body of the Word.” Secondly, the change is effected by a supernatural Agent – God. So what we have is the change of one physico-chemical substance into another through a non-physical, supernatural Agent, the Spirit of God.
Rationalist. But if I were to accept your western logic, I should have to believe that the Body of Christ is composed of proteins and enzymes and such things, and that the Blood of Christ contains haemoglobin!
Orthodox. Well, and what is impious about that?
Rationalist. It is the height of impiety! My faith is not based on scientific molecular analysis!
Orthodox. Nor is mine.
Rationalist. But you have just admitted that the Body and Blood of Christ contain proteins and enzymes and haemoglobin!
Orthodox. Well, does not human flesh and blood contain such elements?
Rationalist. Yes, but these words are scientific terms that were unknown to the Fathers. You don’t seriously think that in order to understand the Mystery, you have to have a degree in biology?!
Orthodox. Not at all.
Rationalist. So you accept that the Blood of Christ does not contain haemoglobin…
Orthodox. No I don’t. Your argument is a non-sequitur. I believe by faith alone – not by molecular analysis, nor by any evidence of the senses – that the consecrated Gifts are human Flesh and Blood united to the Divine Spirit. Biologists tell me – and no one, as far as I know, disputes this – that human blood contains haemoglobin. So it seems eminently reasonable to believe that the Blood of Christ also contains haemoglobin. Of course, this fact was discovered, not by faith, but by scientific research, so it does not have the certainty – or the importance – attaching to revelations of faith. But if we suppose that human blood contains haemoglobin, and if we accept that Christ’s Blood is human, then it follows that Christ’s Blood also contains haemoglobin. Or do you think that Christ is not fully human and does not have fully human flesh and blood like ours?
Rationalist. There you go with your syllogisms and empty logic again! Always trying to catch me out! I never said that Christ’s Blood was not human!
Orthodox. Nevertheless, you seem to have great trouble accepting the consequences of that statement.
Rationalist. They are consequences for you, but not for me. Thus you, but not I, are committed to the consequence that a molecular analysis of the Blood of Christ would reveal haemoglobin.
Orthodox. Not so… I think it was Vladimir Lossky who said that hypothetical situations are not a fitting subject of theological discourse, which deals only in absolute realities. However, let us follow your thought experiment through for a moment. I do not know, of course, what would happen if anyone – God forbid! – were so blasphemous as to perform such a molecular analysis. Nevertheless, if God allowed him to do it, and to analyze the results, I expect that they would indicate that the consecrated Gifts are bread and wine, not flesh and blood, and so contain no haemoglobin.
Rationalist. Now you’re the one who’s being illogical! One moment you say that Christ’s Blood contains haemoglobin, and the next you say that a physico-chemical analysis would reveal no haemoglobin!
Orthodox. Precisely, because the reality revealed by faith is not the appearance revealed to the fallen senses, of which science is simply the organized extension. Faith, as St. Paul says, “is the certainty of things unseen” (Heb. 11.1); science is an uncertain apprehension of things seen. In the case of the Mystery we see and taste one thing; but the reality is something quite different. God veils the reality from our senses; and no amount of scientific observation can discern the reality if God chooses to hide it.
Rationalist. Why should he do that?
Orthodox. He does this in order that we should not be repelled by the sight and taste of human flesh and so refrain from partaking of the Saving Mystery. As Blessed Theophylact says, “Since we are weak and could not endure raw meat, much less human flesh, it appears as bread to us although it is in fact flesh”. It is absolutely essential to realize that we cannot understand our senses here – even if aided by a microscope. In fact, when it comes to the Mystery, all sense-perception, of any kind, must be discarded; it can be seen by faith alone.
Rationalist. Of course, I agree with that.
Orthodox. So what’s your problem?
Rationalist. I don’t have a problem. You have a problem, a very serious one.
Orthodox. What’s that?
Rationalist. A diseased imagination, what the Greeks call “plani” and the Russians – “prelest”. Instead of simply receiving the sacrament in faith, you are imagining that it is composed of all sorts of things – molecules, proteins, haemoglobin, etc. This is western rationalism!
Orthodox. No, I can sincerely assure you that I don’t use my imagination in any way when approaching the Mystery. And forgive me, but I think it is you who are infected with rationalism, insofar as you have such difficulty in accepting what the Church plainly teaches.
Rationalist. My advice to you is: when you approach the Mystery, just believe the words of the priest that this is the True Body and Blood of Christ, and don’t feel or think or imagine anything else.
Orthodox. Thank you for your advice. I shall try to follow it in the future, as I have followed it in the past.
Rationalist. You are not being honest. You do use your imagination, the intellectual imagination of the scientist; you think of haemoglobin, proteins, molecules, etc.
Orthodox. There’s no point arguing about this. How can I convince you? You know, I think the difference between us is not that I use imagination and you don’t, but that I rely on faith alone and entirely reject the evidence of my senses while you waver between what the Church teaches and what your senses tell you. I believe, contrary to the evidence of my senses, that the Body and Blood of Christ in the Eucharist is exactly the same Body and Blood as that which He received from the Virgin, in which He walked on this earth, and in which He was crucified on the Cross. You, on the other hand, whether you admit it or not, think that it is in some sense the same Body and Blood but in another not the same, because it looks and tastes different.
Rationalist. You’ll have difficulty proving that!
Orthodox. Will I? Well, just let me try by putting a few questions to you.
Rationalist. Go ahead.
Orthodox. Now I am going to talk about blood with haemoglobin in it, not because I think that blood having haemoglobin is such an important fact, but simply because it enables me to identify whether you are referring to the same kind of blood as I. Agreed?
Orthodox. Right then. First question: Did the Holy Virgin have human blood with haemoglobin in it?
Rationalist. Very likely.
Orthodox. Second question: Was the Blood which the Lord Jesus Christ receive from the Virgin blood with haemoglobin in it?
Rationalist. If the Virgin had that blood, then the Lord had the same blood.
Orthodox. Good. Now the third question: Did the Lord on the Cross shed human Blood with haemoglobin in it?
Rationalist. I think I see what you’re leading to…
Orthodox. Please answer the question: yes or no?
Rationalist. Yes, of course.
Orthodox. Fourth question: Bearing in mind that, as St. John Chrysostom says, “that which is in the chalice is the same as that which flowed from Christ’s side”, is that which is in the chalice human blood with haemoglobin in it?
Rationalist. You have convinced me! I did see them as different, but now I agree with you!
Orthodox. Not just with me, brother: with the Church, which is the Body of Christ insofar as it is composed of members who have partaken of the Body of Christ. For, as a recently canonized saint of the Church, St. John Maximovich, wrote: “Bread and wine are made into the Body and Blood of Christ during the Divine Liturgy… How is the Body and Blood of Christ at the same time both the Church and the Holy Mystery? Are the faithful both members of the Body of Christ, the Church, and also communicants of the Body of Christ in the Holy Mystery? In neither instance is this name ‘Body of Christ’ used metaphorically, but rather in the most basic sense of the word. We believe that the Holy Mysteries which keep the form of bread and wine are the very Body and the very Blood of Christ… Christ, invisible to the bodily eye, manifests Himself on earth clearly through His Church, just as the unseen human spirit manifests itself through the body. The Church is the Body of Christ both because its parts are united to Christ through His Divine Mysteries and because through her Christ works in the world. We partake of the Body and Blood of Christ, in the Holy Mysteries, so that we ourselves may be members of Christ’s Body, the Church.”
Rationalist. Yes, I agree with the Body about the Body, I agree with the Church!
Orthodox. Glory to God! “What is so good or so joyous as for brethren to dwell together in unity!” (Psalm 132.1).
(Pentecost, 1998; revised Pentecost, 2004)
14. PATRISTIC TESTIMONIES ON THE BODY AND BLOOD OF CHRIST
St. Ignatius of Antioch. “They abstain from the Eucharist and prayer, because they do not confess that the Eucharist is the flesh of our Saviour, Jesus Christ.” (To the Smyrnaeans, 8).
St. Justin the Martyr. “As Jesus Christ our Saviour was made flesh through the word of God, and took flesh and blood for our salvation; in the same way the food over which thanksgiving has been offered by the prayer of the word which came from Him – the food by which our blood and flesh are nourished through its transformation – is, we are taught, the Flesh and Blood of Jesus Christ Who was made flesh.” (First Apology, 65-66).
St. Irenaeus of Lyons. “As the bread, which comes from the earth, receives the invocation of God, and then it is no longer common bread but Eucharist, consisting of two things, an earthly and a heavenly; so our bodies, after partaking of the Eucharist, are no longer corruptible, having the hope of the eternal resurrection.” (Against Heresies, IV, 18).
St. Irenaeus of Lyons. “If this flesh is not saved, then the Lord has not redeemed us by His Blood, and the bread which we break is not a sharing in His Body. For there is no blood except from veins, and from flesh, and from the rest of the substance of human nature which the Word of God came to be, and redeemed by His Blood, as His Apostles also says: ‘In Him we have redemption through His Blood, and the forgiveness of sins’ (Col. 1.14). And since we are His members, and are nourished through creation – the creation He furnishes for us, causing the sun to rise and rain to fall as He pleases – He declared that the cup, which comes from His creation, is His own Blood, from which He strengthens our blood; and He affirmed that the bread, which is from creation, is His very own Body, from which He strengthens our bodies. Since, therefore, both the mixed cup and the prepared bread receive the Word of God, and become the eucharist of Christ’s Body and Blood, from which the substance of our flesh is strengthened and established, how, then, can they say that the flesh, which is fed on the Body and Blood of the Lord, and is one of His members, is incapable of receiving the gift of God which is everlasting life? As the blessed Paul also says in the Letter to the Ephesians: ‘We are members of His Body, from His Flesh and from His Bones’ (Eph. 5.30), saying this not about some kind of spiritual and invisible human nature, for a spirit has neither flesh nor bones, but about that arrangement which is authentic human nature, which consists of flesh and sinews and bones, and is fed from the cup, which is His Blood, and is strengthened by the bread, which is His Body” (Against Heresies, V, 2, 3).
St. Cyril of Jerusalem. “Once, in Cana of Galilee, He changed water into wine (and wine is akin to blood); is it incredible that He should change wine into blood?… Therefore with complete assurance let us partake of those elements as being the Body and Blood of Christ… so that by partaking of the Body and Blood of Christ you may be made of the same Body and Blood with Him. For in this way we become Christ-bearers, since His Body and Blood is distributed in the parts of our body. Thus, as blessed Peters says, we ‘become partakers of the Divine nature’… Do not think, then, of the elements as mere bread and wine. They are, according to the Lord’s declaration, body and blood. Though the perception suggests the contrary, let faith be your stay. Instead of judging the matter by taste, let faith give you an unwavering confidence that you have been privileged to receive the Body and Blood of Christ” (Catechetical Discourses, IV, 6).
St. Hilary of Poitiers. “Christ gives evidence of this natural unity in us: ‘He who eats My Flesh, and drinks My Blood, dwells in Me, and I in him’. For no one will be in Christ, unless Christ is in him, unless he has taken into himself the Flesh of Christ, Who took man’s flesh… He ‘lives through the Father’: and as He lives through the Father, so we live through His Flesh… This is the cause of our life, that we have Christ dwelling in our fleshly nature, in virtue of His Flesh, and we shall live through Him in the same way as He lives through the Father. We live through Him by nature, according to the flesh, that is, having acquired the nature of the flesh. Then surely He has the Father in Himself according to the Spirit, since He lives through the Father. The mystery of the real and natural unity is to be proclaimed in terms of the honour granted to us by the Son, and the Son’s dwelling in us through His Flesh, while we are united to Him bodily and inseparably.” (On the Trinity, 8.16,17).
St. Gregory the Theologian. “Do not hesitate to pray for me, to be my ambassador, when by your word you draw down the Word, when with a stroke that draws no blood you sever the Body and Blood of the Lord, using your voice as a sword.” (Letter 171).
St. Gregory of Nyssa. “The subsistence of every body depends on nourishment… and the Word of God coalesced with human nature and did not invent some different constitution for man’s nature when He came in a Body like ours. It was by the usual and appropriate means that He ensured the Body’s continuance, maintaining its subsistence by food and drink, the food being bread. Now in our case one may say that when anyone looks at bread he is looking at a human body, for when the bread gets into the body it becomes the body. Similarly in the case of the Word of God, the Body which received the Godhead, when it partook of nourishment in the form of bread, was in a manner of speaking identical with that bread, since the nourishment was transformed into the natural qualities of the body…the Body which by the indwelling of the God the Word was transmuted to the dignity of Godhead. If this is so, we are right in believing that now also the bread which is consecrated by the Word of God is transmuted into the Body of God the Word… It is not a matter of the bread’s becoming the Body of the Word through the natural process of eating: rather it is transmuted immediately into the Body through the Word, just as the Word Himself said, ‘This is My Body’… The God Who was manifested mingled Himself with the nature that was doomed to death, in order that by communion with the Divinity human nature may be deified together with Him. It is for this purpose that by the Divine plan of His grace He plants Himself in the believers by means of that Flesh.” (The Great Catechism, 37).
St. Ambrose of Milan. “Whenever we take the sacraments, which through the mystery of the sacred prayer are transfigured into His Flesh and Blood, we ‘proclaim the Lord’s death’.” (On the Faith, 4.125).
St. Ambrose of Milan. “First of all, I told you about the saying of Christ, whose effect is to change and convert the established kinds of nature. Then came the saying of Christ, that He gave His Flesh to be eaten, and His Blood to be drunk. His disciples could not stand this, and they turned away from Him. Only Peter said: ‘You have the words of eternal life; how I take myself away from you?’ And so, to prevent others from saying that they are going away, because of a horror of actual blood, and so that the grace of redemption should continue, for that reason you receive the sacrament in a similitude, to be sure, but you obtain the grace and virtue of the reality. ‘I am,’ He says, ‘the living Bread Who came down from heaven.’ But the Flesh did not come down from heaven; that is to say, He took flesh from a virgin. How, then, did bread come down from heaven – and bread that is ‘living bread’. Because our Lord Jesus Christ shares in both Divinity and body: and you, who receive the Flesh, partake of His Divine substance in that food.” (On the Sacraments 6.3,4).
St. Ambrose of Milan. “It is clear, then, that the Virgin gave birth outside the order of nature. And this Body which we bring about by consecration is from the Virgin. Why do you look for the order of nature here, in the case of the Body of Christ, when the Lord Jesus Himself was born of a virgin outside the natural order? It was certainly the genuine Flesh of Christ that was crucified, that was buried: then surely the sacrament is the sacrament of that Flesh. The Lord Jesus Himself proclaims, ‘This is My Body’. Before the blessing of the heavenly words something of another character [alia species] is spoken of; after consecration it is designated ‘Body’. He Himself speaks of His Blood. Before consecration it is spoken of as something else; after consecration it is named ‘Blood’.” (On the Mysteries, 54).
St. Ephraim the Syrian. “He stretched forth His hand and gave them the bread which His right hand had sanctified: ‘Take, eat, all of you of this bread which My word has sanctified. Do not regard as bread what I have given you now… Eat it, and do not disdain its crumbs. For this bread which I have sanctified is My Body. Its least crumb sanctifies thousands of thousands, and it is capable of giving life to all that eat it. Take, eat in faith, doubting not at all that this is My Body. And he who eats it in faith eats in it fire and the Spirit. If anyone doubts and eats it, it is plain bread to him. He who believes and eats the bread sanctified in My name, if he is pure, it will keep him pure, if he is a sinner, he will be forgiven. He, however, who despises it, or spurns it, or insults it, he may be sure that he is insulting the Son Who has called the bread His Body, and truly made it so.” (Station of the Night of the Fifth of Passion Week)
St. John Chrysostom. “Because the earlier nature of flesh, that which had been formed from the earth, had become dead through sin and was devoid of life, He brought in an another sort of dough and leaven, so to speak, His own Flesh, by nature the same, but free from sin and full of life… What the Lord did not endure on the cross [the breaking of His legs] He now submits to in His Sacrifice for His love of you: He permits Himself to be broken in pieces that all may be filled… What is in the chalice is the same as that which flowed from Christ’s side. What is the bread? Christ’s Body.” (Homily 24 on I Corinthians).
St. John Chrysostom. “Not only ought we to see the Lord: we ought to take him in our hands, put out teeth into His Flesh, and unite ourselves with Him in the closest union. ‘I shared in flesh and blood for your sake. I have given back again to you the very flesh and blood through which I became your kinsman.” (Homily 46 on John).
St. John Chrysostom. “Moses in his account of the first man has Adam say: ‘Bone of my bone and flesh of my flesh’, hinting to us of the Master’s side. Just as at that time God took the rib of Adam and formed a woman, so Christ gave us blood and water from His side and formed the Church… Have you seen how Christ unites to Himself His Bride? Have you seen with what food He nurtures us all? It is by the same food that we have been formed and are fed. Just as a woman nurtures her offspring with her own blood and milk, so also Christ continuously nurtures with His own Blood those whom He has begotten” (Baptismal Instructions, III, 18,19).
St. Augustine of Hippo. “How was He ‘carried in His own hands’? When He gave His own Body and Blood, He took in His own hands what the faithful recognize; and, in a manner, He carried Himself when He said, ‘This is My Body’.” (On Psalm 32, 2.2).
The Anaphora of St. Mark. “This is in truth the Body and Blood of Emmanuel our God, Amen. I believe, I believe, I believe and I confess unto the last breath that this is the vivifying Flesh which Thine Only-Begotten son our Lord and God and Saviour Jesus Christ took of the Lady of us all, the holy Theotokos Mary.”
St. Cyril of Alexandria. “We shall see that the flesh united with Him has life-giving power; it is not alien flesh, but flesh which belonged to Him Who can life to all things. Fire, in this world of the senses, can transmit the power of its natural energy to any materials with which it comes into contact; so that it can change even water, which is in its own nature a cold substance, to an unnatural condition of heat. This being so, is it strange or in any way incredible that the very Word from God the Father, Who is in His own nature life, should give to the Flesh united to Himself this life-giving property? For this Flesh belongs to the Word; it does not belong to some other being than Himself Who may be thought of separately as another member of the human race. If you remove the life-giving Word of God from this mystical and real union with the body, if you completely set Him apart, how are you to show that Body as still life-giving? Who was it Who said, ‘He who eats My Flesh, and drinks My Blood, remains in Me, and I remain in Him’? If it was a man who was born in his own separate nature; if the Word of God did not come to be in our condition; then indeed what is performed is an act of cannibalism, and participation in it is of no value at all. I hear Christ Himself saying, ‘The flesh is of no value; it is the Spirit that gives life.’” (Against Nestorius, 4.5).
St. Cyril of Alexandria. “We approach the consecrated Gifts of the sacrament, and are sanctified by partaking of the holy Flesh and the precious Blood of Christ, the Saviour of us all. We do not receive it as common flesh (God forbid!), nor as the flesh of a mere man...; we receive it as truly life-giving, as the Flesh that belongs to the Word Himself. For as being God He is in His own nature Life, and when He became one with the Flesh which is His own, He rendered it life-giving.” (Epistle 17).
St. Cyril of Alexandria. “He said quite plainly This is My Body, and This is My Blood, so that you may not suppose that the things you see are a type; rather, in some ineffable way they are changed by God, Who is able to do all things, into the Body and Blood of Christ truly offered. Partaking of them, we take into us the life-giving and sanctifying power of Christ. For it was necessary for Him to be present in us in a Divine manner through the Holy Spirit: to be mixed, as it were, with our bodies by means of His holy Flesh and precious Blood, for us to have Him in reality as a sacramental gift which gives life, in the form of bread and wine. And so that we should not be struck down with horror at seeing flesh and blood displayed on the holy tables of our churches, God adapts Himself to our weakness and infuses the power of life into the oblations and changes them into the effective power of His own Flesh, so that we may have them for life-giving reception, and that the Body of Life may prove to be in us a life-giving seed.” (On Luke 22.19).
St. Cyril of Alexandria. “It was necessary that not only the soul be recreated into the newness of life through the Holy Spirit, but that this gross and earthly body be sanctified and called to incorruptibility by a grosser and kindred participation” (On John 6.54).
St. Cyril of Alexandria. “We have Him in us sensibly and mentally and intellectually. He dwells in our hearts through the Holy Spirit, and we share in His holy Flesh, and are sanctified in a double manner” (On I Corinthians 6.15).
St. John of the Ladder. “The blood of God and the blood of His servants are quite different – but I am thinking here of the dignity and not of the actual physical substance” (The Ladder, 23.20).
St. John of Damascus. “The bread and wine are not merely figures of the Body and Blood of Christ (God forbid!) but the deified Body of the Lord itself: for the Lord has said, ‘This is My Body’, not ‘this is a figure of My Body’; and ‘My Blood’, not ‘a figure of My Blood’. And on a previous occasion He had said to the Jews, ‘Except ye eat the Flesh of the Son of Man and drink His Blood ye have no life in you. For My Flesh is meat indeed and My Blood is drink indeed’.” (On the Orthodox Faith 4.13).
The Synodicon of Orthodoxy. To those who do not partake of His holy and immortal Mysteries with fear, since they consider them to be mere bread and common wine rather than the very flesh of the Master and His holy and precious blood shed for the life of the world; to such men be Anathema.
St. Nicetas Stethatos. Those who accept unleavened wafers remain under the shadow of the law and eat the Jewish meal, and not the rational and living God, [which is] superessential (epiousion) and consubstantial with us, the faithful. We have received the superessential bread from the heaven, for what is that which is superessential if not that which is consubstantial with us? But there is no bread that is consubstantial with us besides the Body of Christ, which is consubstantial with us according to His human flesh.” (Dialexis (1054), to Cardinal Humbert).
St. Nicetas Stethatos. “Performing on Himself the sacred mystery of our re-creation, the Word offered up Himself on our behalf on the Cross, and He continually offers Himself up, giving His immaculate Body to us daily as a soul-nourishing banquet, so that by eating it and by drinking His precious Blood we may through this participation consciously grow in spiritual stature. Communicating in His Body and Blood and refashioned in purer form, we are united to the twofold Divine-human Word in two ways, in our body and in our soul; for He is God incarnate Whose flesh is the same in essence as our own. Thus we do not belong to ourselves, but to Him Who has united us to Himself through this immortal meal and has made us by adoption what He Himself is by nature.”
St. Theophylact of Bulgaria. “By saying, ‘This is My Body’, He shows that the bread which is sanctified on the altar is the Lord’s Body Itself, and not a symbolic type. For He did not say, ‘This is a type’, but ‘This is My Body’. By an ineffable action it is changed, although it may appear to us as bread. Since we are weak and could not endure raw meat, much less human flesh, it appears as bread to us although it is indeed flesh” (On Matthew 26.26).
St. Nicholas Cabasilas. “If we speak of re-creation, it is from Himself and from His own Flesh that He restored what is necessary, and He substituted Himself for that which had been destroyed.” (The Life in Christ, 17).
St. Nicholas Cabasilas. “So precisely does He conform to the things which He assumed, that, in giving these things to us which He has received from us, He gives Himself to us. Partaking of the body and blood of His humanity, we receive God Himself in our souls – the body and blood of God and the soul, mind and will of God – not less than His humanity.” (The Life of Christ, 4)
St. Gregory Palamas. “The Body of Christ is truly the Body of God and not a symbol.” (Against Akindynos, VII, 15).
St. Gregory Palamas. “In His incomparable love for men, the Son of God did not merely unite His Divine Hypostasis to our nature, clothing Himself with a living body and an intelligent soul, ‘to appear on earth and live with men’, but, O incomparable and magnificent miracle! He unites Himself also to human hypostases, joining Himself to each of the faithful by communion in His holy Body. For he becomes one Body with us, making us a temple of the whole Godhead – for in the very Body of Christ ‘the whole fulness of the Godhead dwells corporeally’. How then would He not illuminate those who share worthily in the Divine radiance of His Body within us, shining upon their souls as he once shone on the bodies of the apostles on Tabor? For as this Body, the source of the light of grace, was at that time not yet united to our body, it shone exteriorly on those who came near it worthily, transmitting light to the soul through the eyes of sense. But today, since it is united to us and dwells within us, it illumines the soul interiorly.” (Triads I, 3, 38).
Encyclical of the Eastern Patriarchs (1848). “We believe that in this sacred rite our Lord Jesus Christ is present not symbolically [typikos], not figuratively [eikonikos], not by an abundance of grace, as in the other Mysteries, not by a simple descent, as certain Fathers say about Baptism, and not through a ‘penetration’ of the bread, so that the Divinity of the Word should ‘enter’ into the bread offered for the Eucharist, as the followers of Luther explain it rather awkwardly and unworthily – but truly and actually, so that after the sanctification of the bread and wine, the bread is changed, transubstantiated, converted, transformed, into the actual true Body of the Lord, Which was born in Bethlehem of the Ever-Virgin, was baptized in the Jordan, suffered, was buried, resurrected, ascended, sits at the right hand of God the Father, and is to appear in the clouds of heaven; and the wine is changed and transubstantiated into the actual true Blood of the Lord, which at the time of His suffering on the Cross was shed for the life of the world. Yet again, we believe that after the sanctification of the bread and wine there remains no longer the bread and wine themselves, but the very Body and Blood of the Lord, under the appearance and form of bread and wine.”
St. John of Kronstadt. "What a wonderful creation of God is man! God has wonderfully placed in the dust His image, the immortal spirit. But marvel, Christian, still more at the wisdom, omnipotence and mercy of the Creator: He changes and transforms the bread and wine into His most pure Body and into His most pure Blood, and takes up His abode in them Himself, by His most pure and Life-giving Spirit, so that His Body and Blood are together Spirit and Life. And wherefore is this? In order to cleanse you, a sinner, from your sins, to sanctify you and to unite you, thus sanctified, to Himself, and thus united to give you blessedness and immortality. 'O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God!' (Rom. 11:33)." (My Life in Christ: Part 1, Holy Trinity Monastery, p. 100)
St. John Maximovich. “Bread and wine are made into the Body and Blood of Christ during the Divine Liturgy… How is the Body of Christ at the same time both the Church and the Holy Mystery? Are the faithful both members of the Body of Christ, the Church, and also communicants of the Body of Christ in the Holy Mysteries? In neither instance is this name ‘Body of Christ’ used metaphorically, but rather in the most basic sense of the word. We believe that the Holy Mysteries which keep the form of bread and wine are the very Body and the very Blood of Christ… For the full sanctification of man, the body of the servant of the Lord must be united with the Body of Christ, and this is accomplished in the mystery of Holy Communion. The true Body and the true Blood of Christ which we receive, becomes a part of the great Body of Christ… Christ, invisible to the bodily eye, manifests Himself on earth clearly through His Church just as the unseen human spirit manifests itself through the body. The Church is the Body of Christ both because its parts are united to Christ through His Divine Mysteries and because through her Christ works in the world. We partake of the Body and Blood of Christ in the Holy Mysteries, so that we ourselves may be members of Christ’s Body: the Church.” (“The Church as the Body of Christ”, Orthodox Life, no. 5, 1981).
Archbishop Averky of Jordanville. “’It is the Spirit that gives life, the flesh profiteth little. The words that I speak to you, they are spirit and life.’ This means that the words of Christ must be understood spiritually, and not in a crudely sensual way, that is, as if He offered His Flesh for eating like the meat of animals, being consumed for the satisfaction of a carnal hunger. It is as if the Lord says, ‘My teaching is not of meats, nor of meals that nourish the bodily life, but of the Divine Spirit, of grace and eternal life, which are established in people by grace-filled means.’ ‘The flesh profiteth little’ – He by no means said this of His own Flesh, but about those who understand His words in a carnal manner. What does understanding carnally mean? ‘To look on things in a simple manner without representing anything more – that is what understanding carnally means. We should not judge in this manner about the visible, but we must look into all its mysteries with internal eyes. That is what understanding spiritually means’ (Chrysostom). The Flesh of Christ separated from His Spirit could not give life, but it is understood, of course, that in the words of Christ He is not talking about His soulless, lifeless Flesh, but about His Flesh, indivisibly united with His Divine Spirit… All three Synoptics describe this in approximately the same way. The Lord ‘received’ that is, ‘took’ bread and blessed and broke it, and distributed it to the disciples, saying: ‘Take, eat; this is My Body’. ‘Bread’ here is ‘artos’ in Greek, which means ‘risen bread’, leavened with yeast, as opposed to ‘aksimon’, which is the name for the unleavened bread used by the Jews for Pascha. One must suppose that such bread was deliberately prepared at the command of the Lord for the institution of the new mystery. The significance of this bread lies in the fact that it is as it were alive, symbolizing life, as opposed to unleavened bread, which is dead bread. ‘He blessed’, ‘He gave thanks’, refer to the verbal expression of gratitude to God the Father, as it was, for example, at the moment of the resurrection of Lazarus: that which was asked was fulfilled at the very moment of asking, which is why at that same moment it became an object of thanksgiving. What the Lord said here is exceptionally important: ‘This is My Body’: He did not say ‘this’ [in the masculine gender], that is: ‘this bread’, but ‘this [in the neuter gender], because at that moment the bread had already ceased to be bread, and had become the genuine Body of Christ, having only the appearance of bread. The Lord did not say: ‘This is an image of My Body’, but ‘This is My Body’ (St. Chrysostom, St. Theophylact). In consequence of the prayer of Christ, the bread acquired the substance of Body, preserving only the external appearance of bread. ‘Since we are weak,’ says Blessed Theophylact, ‘and could not endure raw meat, much less human flesh, it appears as bread to us although it is indeed flesh’. ‘Why,’ asks St. Chrysostom, ‘were the disciples not disturbed on hearing this? Because before that Christ had told them much that was important about this mystery (we recall His conversation about the bread that comes down from heaven) (John 6).’ By the ‘Body of Christ’ is understood the whole physical substance of the God-man, inseparably united with His soul and Divinity.” (Guide to the Study of the Sacred Scriptures of the New Testament, vol. I, 1954, pp. 156, 275).
15. AN ORTHODOX APPROACH TO ART
To those who, like the present writer, have derived such pleasure and benefit from the great classics of world art and literature, such as Bach and Beethoven, Rembrandt, Shakespeare and Dostoyevsky, it would seem obvious that art, and the artistic faculty, are implanted in man by God to bring him closer to Himself. At the same time, it is no less evident that the great mass of contemporary “culture” not only does not bring anyone closer to God, but is in fact an instrument – a very powerful instrument - of the devil. How are to understand these antipodes of the artistic spirit? Under what conditions does art ascend to God, and under what – descend to the devil? How, and to what extent, can a Christian take part in the cultural life of his age?
Man the Artist
God reveals Himself first of all as the Creator – in the words of the Symbol of faith, the “Maker” or “Poet” (PoihthV) of all things visible and invisible. In a sense, therefore, man, as being in the image of God, is also a poet, a creator – not as an incidental or minor aspect of his being, not as a mere “talent”, but essentially, by virtue of the image of God that is in him. And he makes things both visible and invisible. The visible things are the works of his own hands, and his own visible actions. The invisible things are his inner thoughts and feelings. His aim is to bring all that is his, visible and invisible, into one harmonious whole which will be a beautiful likeness of his Creator. It is, with the help of God, to make himself into what the Russians call a prepodobnij, a being “very like” his Creator – in other words, a saint. Thus man is a work of art created by God in order to mirror Himself. But with this difference from “ordinary” art, that the Artist has given to His creature a share in that artistic work, enabling him to correct the faults that the fall has introduced into it, to shape himself into a truly beautiful likeness of God.
The image of God, according to Christian thought, is man's rationality and freewill, which is made in the image of God's absolute Reason and Freedom. The likeness of God is the virtuous life, which makes us like God in His perfect Goodness. We all have the image of God - that is, we are all free and rational; but sin has destroyed the likeness of God in us. The aim of the Christian life, therefore, is to restore the original likeness. This process of restoring the likeness is compared to a painter's restoration of an old portrait whose original features have become overlaid by dirt.
As St. Gregory of Nyssa writes: "Just as painters transfer human forms to their pictures by means of certain colours, laying on their copy the proper and corresponding tints, so that the beauty of the original may be accurately transferred to the likeness, so… also our Maker also, painting the portrait to resemble His own beauty, by the addition of virtues, as it were with colours shows in us His own sovereignty."
That is why prayer, the Christian's main path to Godlikeness, is called "the science of sciences and art of arts". For, as Colliander writes, "the artist works in clay or colours, in words or tones; according to his ability he gives them pregnancy and beauty. The working material of the praying person is living humanity. By his prayer he shapes it, gives it pregnancy and beauty: first himself and thereby many others."
Artists themselves, even secular ones, have often sensed this truth. Thus when the poet W.B. Yeats wrote:
Gather my soul
Into the artifice of eternity,
the word “artifice” was highly appropriate, insofar as the poet was hoping that his soul would be worked upon by God in such a way as to make a truly artistic offering, fit for entrance into eternity.
The Russian religious philosopher S. L. Frank writes: “Man is in one respect a creature in exactly the same sense as the rest of the world: as a purely natural being, he is part of the cosmos, a part of organic nature; in man’s inner life this fact finds expression in the domain of involuntary mental processes, strivings and appetites, and in the blind interplay of elemental forces. But as a personality, as a spiritual being and ‘an image of God’ man differs from all other creatures. While all other creatures are expressions and embodiments of God’s particular creative ideas, man is a creature in and through which God seeks to express His own nature as spirit, personality and holiness. An analogy with human artistic creativeness will make the point clearer.
“In poetry (and to some extent, by analogy with it, in other arts) we distinguish between epic and lyric works, between the artist’s intention to embody some idea referring to the objective content of being, and his intention to express his own self, to tell of his own inner world, and as it were to make his confession. The difference, of course, is merely relative. The poet’s creative personality involuntarily makes itself felt in the style of an ‘objective’ epic; on the other hand, a lyric outpouring is not simply a revelation of the poet’s inner life as it actually is, but an artistic transfiguration of it, and therefore inevitably contains an element of ‘objectivisation’. With this proviso, however, the difference between the two kinds of poetry holds good.
“Using this analogy we may say that man is, as it were, God’s ‘lyric’ creation in which He wants ‘to express’ Himself, while the rest of creation, though involuntarily bearing the impress of its Creator, is the expression of God’s special ‘objective’ ideas, of His creative will to produce entities other than Himself. The fundamental point of difference is the presence or absence of the personal principle with all that it involves, i.e. self-consciousness, autonomy, and the power of controlling and directing one’s actions in accordance with the supreme principle of the Good or Holiness…”
Man as a work of art is like an unfinished symphony. All the essential elements or content are there, implanted by God at conception; but the development and elucidation of that content into a perfect form remains incomplete – and God calls on us to complete it. Without that development and completion man is a still-born embryo. But man as an artist works on this unfinished material and brings it to perfection, to a true likeness of God, “unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ” (Ephesians 4.13). Thus man as artist works on himself as work of art in order to reveal the harmony latent in God’s original design.
The Motives of the Artist
Why do artists create? There are broadly three answers to this question: the classical, the romantic and the pornographic. The classical answer is: “to create a thing of beauty” – and, if the artist is religious, he may add: “to the glory of God”. The romantic answer is: “to express myself”. It is highly unlikely that he will add: “to the glory of God”, because it is not at all obvious, whether he is religious or not, how expressing himself will contribute to the glory of God. The pornographic “artist” works for commercial gain, and nothing else. His aim is neither to create a work of beauty, nor to express himself, but to elicit certain reactions in his clientèle – reactions for which they are prepared to pay him.
The classical artist is the least self-centred, the least influenced by fallen emotions and purposes, and the most open to the workings of grace; which is why the works of classical artists such as Bach and Handel are recommended by spiritual fathers for people living in the world. It is a different matter with what we may loosely call “the romantic artist”. The question arises: is the romantic artist condemned to express either his own fallen self or even the demonic forces that express themselves in his fallen nature? Regrettably, the answer must be: yes, to the extent that he subscribes to the romantic ideology of self-expression. Some romantic artists, such as Beethoven and Bruckner, were nevertheless able to “classicise” their work, making it capable of being to the glory of God and not of the artist himself; but they were the exceptions.
For if the artist is honestly expressing his own nature, since that nature is fallen, he will undoubtedly be expressing its fallenness. As Metropolitan Anastasy (Gribanovsky) of New York writes: “If you want to look deeper into the soul of this or that writer, read his works more attentively. In them, as in a mirror, is clearly reflected his own spiritual character. He almost always creates his heroes according to his own image and likeness, often putting into their mouths the confession of his heart.” But since even the best impulses of the fallen man are more or less corrupted, such corruption cannot fail to be perceived by the sensitive listener, viewer or reader.
That is why romantic art is so much better at expressing evil in all its forms than good. “Out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaketh” – and the heart is corrupt in man from his youth, being “deceitful above all things”. As Bishop Ignatius Brianchaninov wrote, speaking of the romantic artists of his day: “People who are endowed with talent by nature do not understand why they have been given this gift, and there is nobody who can explain this to them. Evil in nature, and especially in man, is so masked that the morbid enjoyment of it entices the young man, and with the whole warmth of his heart he gives himself to lies hidden by a mask of truth… Most talents have striven to represent human passions extravagantly. Evil in every possible variation is represented by singers, by painters, by music. Human talent in all its power and unfortunate beauty has developed in the representation of evil; in the representation of good it is generally weak, pale, strained…”
Nevertheless, writes Metropolitan Anastasy, “the word has its ethics: the latter demands that it be pure, honourable and chaste. Where this rule is not observed, where language is the plaything of passions or chance moods, where it is bought or sold or people simply lightmindedly take their pleasure in it, there begins the adultery of the word, that is, the betrayal of its direct and lofty purpose.” But where the rule is observed, it follows that the verbal expression even of one’s fallen emotions has value if it is done precisely and honestly, without any attempt to embellish or glorify them.
Exact expression has a moral value in itself, because it is telling the truth about oneself. Moreover, the process of expressing an emotion in art changes it, “objectivising” and in a sense transfiguring it. For example: if I feel angry, and then write a poem about my anger, the process of trying to analyze and express my anger in words actually changes the nature of that anger, masters or controls it in a certain sense. As Shakespeare put it in Sonnet 77:
Commit to these waste blanks, and thou shalt find
Those children nurs'd, deliver'd from thy brain,
To take a new acquaintance of thy mind.
In this sense the process of artistic creation is a little like the confession of sins. Only in confession we do not simply express or control our sins; confession is not just psychotherapy. We also sorrow over them and judge them in the sight of God, so that He may destroy them and therefore change the content of our souls.
Thus one can create good, if not great art from base materials. By objectifying that baseness and conveying it exactly to his audience, the artist to a certain degree “takes the sting” out of the baseness. It is in this context that we can see how the imaginative faculty, which in the ascetic life is invariably associated with deception, can be used in the service of truth. Shakespeare described this process in A Midsummer Night’s Dream as follows:
The poet's eye, in a fine frenzy rolling,
Doth glance from heaven to earth, from earth to heaven;
And as imagination bodies forth
The forms of things unknown, the poet's pen
Turns them to shapes, and gives to airy nothing
A local habitation and a name.
Before the imagination has produced its work, the content of the artist’s mind is “unknown”. But as his work comes into being, so does the content of his mind become known to him, for now it has “shape” and “a local habitation and a name”. Thus by giving an objective, sensual correlate to his emotions, the artist is enabled to know them and judge them.
This is the paradox of good art, that in creating images that do not exist in nature it puts up “a mirror to nature”, in Hamlet’s words. But such good, truthful art can become great only if the fallen content of the art is not only accurately expressed but also correct judged, so that a revulsion from it and a striving for something higher is also conveyed to the listener. If that is achieved, then the material is no longer base and the work is like David’s 50th Psalm, being not merely the expression of emotion, and not even psychotherapy, but confession and repentance.
An example of art that is striving towards confession and repentance, but does not quite reach it, is Shakespeare’s Sonnet 144:
Two loves I have, of comfort and despair,
Which like two angels do suggest me still;
The better angel is a man right fair,
The worser spirit a woman colour'd ill.
To win me soon to hell, my female evil
Tempteth my better angel from my side,
And would corrupt my saint to be a devil,
Wooing his purity with her foul pride.
And whether that my angel be turn'd fiend,
Suspect I may, yet not directly tell;
But being both from me, both to each friend,
I guess one angel in another's hell.
Yet this shall I ne'er know, but live in doubt,
Till my bad angel fire my good one out.
The artist is here struggling to evaluate his feelings for two people – and theirs for each other. He recognizes the fallenness of his emotions, and theirs, which is why he describes in terms of angels and demons, purity and pride. And yet he fails to evaluate precisely what is going on, and so the sonnet suffers from a certain obscurity. It is obscure to him, and therefore also to us. Fallen passion has not yet been mastered sufficiently to produce great art.
As St. Nectarius of Optina says, in addition to ordinary art, "there is also greater art - the word of life and death (the Psalms of David, for example). But the way to this art lies in the personal struggle of the artist. This is the path of sacrifice, and only one out of many thousands reach the goal.”
The true artist seeks the truth about himself. He is like Sophocles’ Oedipus:
Born as I am, I shall be none other than
I am, and I shall know me who I am.
However, in seeking the truth about himself, the true artist will inevitably, again like Oedipus, come up against the truth about the higher powers that rule his nature and his destiny. In other words, artistic truth, consistently pursued, leads to religious truth.
And so “in the soul of the artist,” says St. Barsanuphius of Optina, “there is always a streak of monasticism, and the more lofty the artist, the more brightly that fire of religious mysticism burns in him”.
We see this progression in several of the greatest artists. Thus Shakespeare’s last play, The Tempest, is also his most religious, in which he seeks to “drown” his “so potent art”, in the far subtler, deeper and more lawful art of the Creator:
But this rough magic
I here abjure; and, when I have required
Some heavenly music (which even now I do),
To work mine end upon their senses, that
This airy charm is for, I’ll break my staff,
Bury it certain fathoms in the earth,
And, deeper than did ever plummet sound,
I’ll drown the book.
And the very last words he wrote before his voluntary retirement were words on the ultimate impotence of “pure” art, and the need for God’s mercy:
Spirits to enforce, art to enchant;
And my ending is despair,
Unless I be relieved by prayer,
Which pierces so, that it assaults
Mercy itself, and frees all faults.
As you from crimes would pardon’d be,
Let your indulgence set me free.
The Case of Gogol
This trend is most marked, as we would expect, in Orthodox Christian writers – in Pushkin, for example, in Gogol, and in Dostoyevsky.
In his later years, under the influence of such men as Metropolitan Philaret of Moscow, Pushkin came closer to the Orthodox Faith. And both his poetry and his ideal of art became deeper as a result. Ivan Andreev writes: “The essence of the ‘theory’ of Pushkin and Zhukovsky (it was not formally clothed into a system, but but practically and unerringly carried forward in life and creativity) consisted in the following. The poet had to be completely free in the process of his creativity. No social or moral or even religious ‘orders’ could be presented to him. But the poet as a person had spiritually to grow without ceasing, that is, become perfect in a religio-moral sense, remembering the ideal of Christian morality: ‘Be ye perfect, even as your Heavenly Father is perfect’. And if he were to grow himself, his creativity would grow with him.”
The case of Gogol is particularly interesting. The last part of his life, which was carried out under the influence of the Rzhev Protopriest Fr. Matthew and then Elder Macarius of Optina, saw him gradually turn away from writing altogether. He came to believe that his work would be harmful because of the imperfection of its creator; as he put it, “One should not write about a holy shrine without first having consecrated one’s soul”; and in 1845 he burned the second half of his masterpiece, Dead Souls.
But he could not keep away from writing, which was his life, and in 1851 he began again the second part of Dead Souls, which was highly praised by those friends to whom he read it… Then, at the end of 1851, he wrote his Reflections on the Divine Liturgy. However, on the night of 11th to 12th February, 1852, he burned the manuscript of the second part of Dead Souls for the second time. Then he made the sign of the cross, lay down on the sofa and wept…
The next day he wrote to Count A.N. Tolstoy: “Imagine, how powerful the evil spirit is! I wanted to burn some papers which had already long ago been marked out for that, but I burned the chapters of Dead Souls which I wanted to leave to my friends as a keepsake after my death.”
“What were the true motives,” asks Andreev, “for the burning of the completed work which Gogol had carefully kept, accurately putting together the written notebooks and lovingly rebinding them with ribbon? Why did Gogol burn this work, with which he was himself satisfied, and which received an objective and very high evaluation from very competent people who had great artistic taste? Let us try to answer this complex and difficult question.
“In his fourth letter with regard to Dead Souls, which was dated ‘1846’ and published in his Correspondence, Gogol gives an explanation why he for the first time (in 1845) burned the chapters of the second part of his poem that he had written.
“’The second volume of Dead Souls was burned because it was necessary. ‘That will not come alive again which does not die’, says the Apostle. It is necessary first of all to die in order to rise again. It was not easy to burn the work of five years, which had been produced with some painful tension, in which every line was obtained only with a shudder, in which there was much that constituted my best thoughts and occupied my soul. But all this was burned, and moreover at that moment when, seeing death before me, I very much wanted to leave at any rate something after me which would remind people of me. I thank God that He gave me strength to do this. Immediately the flame bore away the last pages of my book, its content was suddenly resurrected in a purified and radiant form, like a phoenix from the ashes, and I suddenly saw in what a mess was everything that I had previously considered to be in good order. The appearance of the second volume in that form in which it was would have been harmful rather than useful.’… ‘I was not born in order to create an epoch in the sphere of literature. My work is simpler and closer: my work is that about which every person must think first of all, and not only I. My work is my soul and the firm work of life.’…
“Such was the motivation for the first burning of Dead Souls in 1845.
“But this motivation also lay at the root of the second burning of the already completed work – but now much deeper, depending on the spiritual growth of Gogol.
“In his Confession of an Author written after Correspondence, Gogol for the first time seriously began to speak about the possibility of rejecting his writer’s path in the name of a higher exploit. With striking sincerity he writes (how much it would have cost him!): ‘It was probably harder for me than for anybody else to reject writing, for this constituted the single object of all my thoughts, I had abandoned everything else, all the best enticements of life, and, like a monk, had broken my ties with everything that is dear to man on earth, in order to think of nothing except my work. It was not easy for me to renounce writing: some of the best minutes in my life were those when I finally put on paper that which had been flying around for a long time in my thoughts; when I am certain to this day that almost the highest of all pleasures is the pleasure of creation. But, I repeat again, as an honourable man, I would have to lay down my pen even then, if I felt the impulse to do so.
“I don’t know whether I have had enough honour to do it, if I were not deprived of the ability to write: because – I say this sincerely – life would then have lost for me all value, and not to write for me would have meant precisely the same as not to live. But there are no deprivations that are not followed by the sending of a substitute to us, as a witness to the fact that the Creator does not leave man even for the smallest moment.’…
“From the last thought, as from a small seed, during the years of Gogol’s unswerving spiritual growth, there grew the decision to burn his last finish work and fall silent.
“The burning before his death of the second part of Dead Souls was Gogol’s greatest exploit, which he wanted to hide not only from men, but also from himself.
“Three weeks before his death Gogol wrote to his friend Zhukovsky: ‘Pray for me, that my work may be truly virtuous and that I may be counted worthy, albeit to some degree, to sing a hymn to the heavenly Beauty’. The heavenly Beauty cannot be compared with earthly beauty and is inexpressible in earthly words. That is why ‘silence is the mystery of the age to come’.
“Before his death Gogol understood this to the end: he burned what he had written and fell silent, and then died.
“Gogol died on 21 February, 1852.”
Shortly before he died, Gogol expressed the attitude of the truly godly writer to his work in a letter to Optina: “For Christ’s sake, pray for me. Ask your respected Abbot and all the brothers, and ask all who pray more diligently there, to pray for me. My path is hard. My work is of such a kind that without the obvious help of God each minute and in each hour, my pen cannot move. My power is not only minimal but it does not even exist without refreshment from Above…”
The Inspiration of the Artist: (1) The Demonic
So is an artist unable to depict any but dead souls, until his own soul has come to life under the influence of grace? And does the artist, if he is fully consistent in the pursuit of his calling, inevitably end up in a monastery? Before answering these questions, it is necessary to inquire more deeply into the inspiration of the artist.
It has been the conviction of artists since earliest times that in creating their works they are not merely expressing the contents of their own souls, but are under the influence of some super-human “muse”. “People often try,” writes Metropolitan Anastasy, “to approximate genius to holiness as ‘two phenomena’ which, in the words of one thinker, ‘go beyond the bounds of the canonical norms of culture’. The kinship between them is based on the fact that the genius is usually given wings by inspiration that Plato called ‘divine’: this is the true breathing of the Divinity in man, which distributes its gifts to each, where and to the degree that it wants. The ancient pagan philosophers, poets and artists, beginning with Socrates and Phidias, vividly felt within themselves the presence of this or that higher power overshadowing them during the time of their creativity. Not in vain did the latter fall face down before one of his best compositions in reverent emotion. The same feeling was given also to other highly gifted people in recent times.”
At the same time it must not be forgotten that the “divinity” involved may be evil as well as good. Therefore the following words of the Moscow Patriarchal theologian Igumen Ioann (Ekonomtsev) must be taken with a great deal of caution: “Creativity in essence… is our likeness… to God”. He calls on us to reject our superstitious fear of the possibly demonic nature of creativity, for “true creation is always from God, even if the author himself does not recognize this and even if we are times find it seductive and dishonourable… The condition of creative ecstasy is a condition of deification, and in this state it is no longer man who creates, but the God-man”.
Ekonomtsev is here reiterating the false “dogma” of the Romantic era – the moral and spiritual superiority of the artist. Imagination for the Romantics was much more than the ability to fantasise, as Jacques Barzun writes: “Out of the known or knowable, Imagination connects the remote, interprets the familiar, or discovers hidden realities. Being a means of discovery, it must be called ‘Imagination of the real’. Scientific hypotheses perform that same office; they are products of imagination.
“This view of the matter explains why to the Romanticists the arts no longer figured as a refined pleasure of the senses, an ornament of civilized existence, but as one form of the deepest possible reflection on life. Shelley, defending his art, declares poets to be the ‘unacknowledged legislators of the world’. The arts convey truths; they are imagination crystallized; and as they transport the soul they reshape the perceptions and possibly the life of the beholder. To perform this feat requires genius, because it is not a mechanical act. To be sure, all art makes use of conventions, but to obey traditional rules and follow set patterns will not achieve that fusion of idea and form which is properly creation. It was Romanticist discussion that made the word creation regularly apply to works of art…
“Those Romanticist words, recharged with meaning, helped to establish the religion of art. That faith served those who could and those could not partake of the revived creeds. To call the passion for art a religion is not a figure of speech or a way of praise. Since the beginning of the 19C, art has been defined again and again by its devotees as ‘the highest spiritual expression of man’. The dictum leaves no room for anything higher and this highest level is that which, for other human beings, is occupied by religion. To 19C worshippers the arts form a treasury of revelations, a body of scriptures, the makers of this spiritual testament are prophets and seers. And to this day the fortunate among them are treated as demigods…”
The word “creation” was understood by the Romantics almost literally, as the activity of God creating ex nihilo. This meant, however, that Romantic art was not only a path to truth: it created truth. Thus, as Sir Isaiah Berlin writes, “whatever the differences between the leading romantic thinkers – the early Schiller and the later Fichte, Schelling and Jacobi, Tieck and the Schlegels when they were young, Chateaubriand and Byron, Coleridge and Carlyle, Kierkegaard, Stirner, Nietzsche, Baudelaire – there runs through their writings a common notion, held with varying degrees of consciousness and depth, that truth is not an objective structure, independent of those who seek it, the hidden treasure waiting to be found, but is itself in all its guises created by the seeker. It is not to be brought into being necessarily by the finite individual: according to some it is created by a greater power, a universal spirit, personal or impersonal, in which the individual is an element, or of which he is an aspect, an emanation, an imperfect reflection. But the common assumption of the romantics runs counter to the philosophia perennis in that the answers to the great questions are not to be discovered so much as to be invented. They are not something found, they are something literally made. In its extreme Idealistic form it is a vision of the entire world. In its more familiar conduct – aesthetics, religious, social, moral, political – a realm seen not as a natural or supernatural order capable of being investigated, described and explained by the appropriate method – rational examination or some more mysterious procedure – but as something that man creates, as he creates works of art; not by imitating, or even obtaining illumination from, pre-existent models or truths, or by applying pre-existent truths that are objective universal, eternal unalterable; but by an act of creation, the introduction into the world of something literally novel – the unique expression of an individual and therefore unique creative activity, natural or supernatural, human or in part divine, owing nothing to anything outside it (in some versions because nothing can be conceived as being outside it), self-subsistent, self-justified, self-fulfilling. Hence that new emphasis on the subjective and ideal rather than the objective and the real, on the process of creation rather than its effects, on motives rather than consequences; and, as a necessary corollary of this, on the quality of the vision, the state of mind or soul of the acting agent – purity of heart, innocence of intention, sincerity of purpose rather than getting the answer right, that is, accurate correspondence to the ‘given’. Hence the emphasis on activity, movement that cannot be reduced to static segments, the flow that cannot be arrested, frozen, analysed without being thereby fatally distorted; hence the constant protest against the reduction of ‘life’ to dead fragments, of organism to ‘mere’ mechanical or uniform units; and the corresponding tendency towards similes and metaphors drawn from ‘dynamic’ sciences – biology, physiology, introspective psychology – and the worship of music, which, of all the arts, appears to have the least relation to universally observable, uniform natural order. Hence, too, celebration of all forms of defiance directed against the ‘given’ – the impersonal, the ‘brute fact’ in morals or in politics – or against the static and the accepted, and the value placed on minorities and martyrs as such, no matter what the ideal for which they suffer.”
By virtue of this common desire to defy the “given”, the identification of the revolution with romantic art, as Adam Zamoyski notes, was almost complete. This was especially obvious during the “July Days” revolution in France in 1830. “’People and poets are marching together,’ wrote the French critic Charles Augustin Sainte-Beuve in 1830. ‘Art is henceforth on a popular footing, in the arena with the masses.’ There was something in this. Never before or since had poetry been so widely and so urgently read, so taken to heart and so closely studied for hidden meaning. And it was not only in search of aesthetic or emotional uplift that people did so, for the poet had assumed a new role over the past two decades. Art was no longer an amenity but a great truth that had to be revealed to mankind, and the artist was one who had been called to interpret this truth, a kind of seer. In Russia, Pushkin solemnly declared the poet’s status as a prophet uttering the burning words of truth. The American Ralph Waldo Emerson saw poets as ‘liberating gods’ because they had achieved freedom themselves, and could therefore free others. The pianist and composer Franz Liszt wanted to recapture the ‘political, philosophical and religious power’ that he believed music had in ancient times. William Blake claimed that Jesus and his disciples were all artists, and that he himself was following Jesus through his art. ‘God was, perhaps only the first poet of the universe,’ Théophile Gauthier reflected. By the 1820s artists regularly referred to their craft as a religion, and Victor Hugo represented himself alternately as Zoroaster, Moses and Christ, somewhere between prophet and God.”
The close affinity of romantic art with the revolution permits us to speculate whether some of the more famous and powerful works of romantic art were actually inspired by the devil.
For example, let us take the operas of Wagner, or Stravinsky's The Rite of Spring. Very fine music, the products of real genius, of that there can be no doubt. But extremely dangerous spiritually. Speaking very schematically, we could say that Wagner’s Ring cycle is Nazism in music (which is why Hitler loved it so), just as The Rite of Spring is Bolshevism in music (Lenin's favourite music was Beethoven's Appassionata sonata, but he thought it was not useful, because it made one want to stroke people's heads!).
Much of modern pop music is satanic in origin. Fortunately, however, it is also bad art, so it has less influence on those who love good art - which is one very good reason for educating people in good art. However, bad art of this kind can still influence people at a subconscious level, because it introduces the demons. We are seeing terrifying examples of this in the West today.
The children of an American missionary in Africa were once playing pop music with the window open. Soon the local witch doctor visited the missionary and asked him: "I did not know that you had renounced your God, Christ." "But I haven't." "But the music you are playing is the music we use to call up our gods..." The missionary immediately went and destroyed the records his children were playing…
Sometimes even the most "spiritual" and classical of music can be corrupting. For example, Mozart's Requiem. Everyone agrees that this is beautiful, profound music. But the emotion it conveys is that of a soul in despair, a soul facing death and hell - and Mozart died while composing it. We know that Mozart did not live a good life, and that his last opera, The Magic Flute, which was composed just before his Requiem, was actually a Masonic opera. So he had good reason to fear death and what awaited him after death. So the emotion is deep, and the expression of it perfect, as we would expect from such a master. But is it good for our souls to experience feelings of despair, even if they are artistically controlled and mastered?
Sometimes even “Orthodox” music may fall short insofar as it elicits fallen emotions in the listener. Thus St. Barsanuphius of Optina said of one setting of the Paschal Canon of St. John of Damascus, “that kind of melody can evoke only tears of despair, rather than a joyful state. No, sing it the ancient way.”
As we have seen, art is good as art (if not in any other way) if it is the exact, truthful expression of the emotional contents of the artist's mind, whether the content itself is good or bad, profound or superficial. It is great if the expression, or form, is accurate, and the content is good rather than bad, profound rather than superficial. But there is also art that is bad as art in that it fails to express its content clearly. And there is art that is good as art but evil in every other way because its content is evil, and its inspiration – from the devil.
The Inspiration of the Artist: (2) The Divine
The Holy Scriptures tell us that David was able to drive away the evil spirit from Saul by playing his harp (I Kings (I Samuel) 16.23). Again, when King Joaram of Israel, King Joasaphat of Judah and the king of Edom were undertaking a common expedition against the Moabites, they asked the Prophet Elisha to reveal to them the will of God concerning the outcome of the war. “Bring me a minstrel,” said the prophet. “And it came to pass that when the minstrel played, the hand of the Lord came upon him” (IV Kings (II Kings) 3.15). Again, “one of the greatest contemplative minds of Christianity, St. Gregory the Theologian, was at the same time a religious poet. His verses are mainly filled with a lyrical mood. ‘Exhausted by illness,’ he writes, ‘I found in poetry joy, like an old swan talking to himself in the sounds of his wings.’ At the same time he wanted through his poetic compositions to give ‘young people’ and all those who most of all love ‘the art of words as it were a pleasant remedy, something attractive and useful in persuasion’.”
These examples show art can be mixed with grace; it expresses not simply the contents of a fallen soul, but a soul striving for God and placing everything “under God’s gaze”. For, as St. Nectarius of Optina said: "One can practise art like anything else, but everything must be done as under God's gaze.”
Now this would seem to contradict the word of St. Barsanuphius of Optina: “Some say that science and art, especially music, regenerate a man, granting him lofty aesthetic delight, but this is not true. Under the influence of art, music, singing, etc., a man does indeed experience delight, but it is powerless to regenerate him.” Again, replying to the composer Paschalov who said that music tore him away from everything earthly and he experienced great sweetness listening to the great classical composers, the elder said: “Nevertheless, this aesthetic sweetness cannot take the place of religion.”
But there is no real contradiction here. Art in and of itself, as simply the expression in words or colours or sounds of a mental content that produces aesthetic delight, cannot regenerate the soul, and cannot take the place of religion. But if that art is the expression of confession and praise, of prayer and thanksgiving, then it is no longer merely art, but religious art, and partakes of the regenerative grace of God.
Even in the writings of secular poets we find inspired works whose inspiration is godly.
Consider, for example, Shakespeare’s famous Sonnet 116:
Let me not to the marriage of true minds
Admit impediments. Love is not love
Which alters when it alteration finds,
Or bends with the remover to remove:
O, no! it is an ever-fixed mark,
That looks on tempests and is never shaken;
It is the star to every wandering bark,
Whose worth’s unknown, although his height be taken.
Love’s not Time’s fool, though rosy lips and cheeks
Within his bending sickle’s compass come;
Love alters not with his brief hours and weeks,
But bears it out even to the edge of doom.
If this be error, and upon me proved,
I never writ, nor no man ever loved.
It is not certain whether Shakespeare is writing here from a personal experience of the true, undying love he describes, or his imagination of it. In any case, his sympathy for this ideal is clearly unfeigned, and gives to the whole sonnet a note of clarity, profundity and truth.
Or consider Fyodor Tiutchev’s “Our Age”, in which he describes the unbelief of the intelligentsia contemporary to him from the point of view of a true believer:
Not flesh, but spirit is today corrupt,
And man just pines away despairingly.
He strives for light, while sitting in the dark,
And having found it, moans rebelliously.
From lack of faith dried up, in fire tossed,
The unendurable he suffers now.
He knows right well his soul is lost, and thirsts
For faith – but ask for it he knows not how.
Ne’er will he say, with prayers and tears combined,
However deep before the closed door his grief:
“O let me in, my God, O hear my cry!
Lord, I believe! Help Thou mine unbelief!”
A famous example of secular artistic inspiration bordering on the sacred and Divine is Dostoyevky’s “Pushkin Speech”, which took place exactly fifty years after the “July Days” and represented the Divine opposite of that demonic manifestation. Metropolitan Anastasy writes: “However accustomed people are to crawling in the dust, they will be grateful to every one who tears them away from the world below and bears them up on his powerful wings to the heavens. A man is ready to give up everything for a moment of pure spiritual joy and bless the name of him who is able to strike on the best strings of his heart. Here it is necessary to search out the secret of the amazing success which the famous speech of Dostoyevsky at the Pushkin festival in Moscow one had. The genius writer himself later described the impression produced by him upon his listeners in a letter to his wife: ‘I read,’ he writes, ‘loudly, with fire. Everything that I wrote about Tatiana was received with enthusiasm. But when I gave forth at the end about the universal union of men, the hall was as it were in hysterics. When I had finished, I will not tell you about the roars and sobs of joy: people who did not know each other wept, sobbed, embraced each other and swore to be better, not to hate each other from then on, but to love each other. The order of the session was broken: grandes dames, students, state secretaries – they all embraced and kissed me.’ How is one to call this mood in the auditorium, which included in itself the best flower of the whole of educated society, if not as a condition of spiritual ecstasy, to which, as it seemed, our cold intelligentsia was least of all capable? By what power did the great writer and knower of hearts accomplish this miracle, forcing all his listeners without distinction of age or social position to feel themselves brothers and pour together in one sacred and great upsurge? He attained it, of course, not by the formal beauty of his speech, which Dostoyevsky usually did not attain, but the greatness of the proclaimed idea of the universal brotherhood, instilled by the fire of great inspiration. This truly prophetic word regenerated the hearts of people, forcing them to recognize the true meaning of life; the truth made them if only for one second not only free, but also happy in their freedom.”
Here we see the transition from aesthetic to religious emotion. The difference between the two is similar to the difference between a concert-hall and a church. Religious emotion unites one man with everyone else in the church in a way that never happens in the concert-hall. In the concert-hall, you may be deeply moved, and your neighbour may be moved, too, so that you both communicate in a certain sense with the soul of the composer. But the communication with the composer is one-way; you do not communicate with other listeners; and, of course, God may or may not be in the emotion communicated. Orthodox art, however, - and we may call Dostoyevsky’s “Pushkin Speech” a special kind of Orthodox art - is much more than one-way communication; it is living communion, making the hearts of the listeners one both with each other and with the Divine Composer.
The word “culture” comes from “cult”, reminding us that the original context of cultural productions was religious worship. And it is in religious worship that art, music, architecture, poetry all find their true home and most potent expression. And most of all, of course, in the worship of the true religion, Orthodox Christianity. Thus “when the holy Equal-to-the-Apostles Prince Vladimir is likened to ‘a merchant seeking the good pearl’, this comparison in relation to him acquires an especially deep meaning. Like a wise inventor, he searched for a long time for the true and pure and valuable pearl, trying out various religions until he found it in Eastern Orthodoxy. He determined the value of this pearl by the sign of its beauty. In the latter was revealed for him and for his ambassadors the superiority of the Orthodox Faith, and this, of course, was not only the perception of external aesthetics, in which Byzantium was so rich, giving in its art a synthesis of the best artistic achievements of East and West, but above all of the spiritual beauty which shone from under the external forms of the majestic ecclesiastical art of Byzantium. Both in the church singing, and in the iconography, and in the architecture of the Orthodox Church there is a special rhythm which serves to reflect the eternal heavenly harmony. The Church masters not only had to sharpen their work, but also their very spirit, in order rise to the heights, to hear there the heavenly music and bring it down to earth. Impressed upon all of our ecclesiastical splendour, to this day it serves as an immediate revelation of the truth of Orthodoxy. Its language is much more understandable for everyone than the language of abstract theological concepts, and through it first of all the Orthodox Church realizes her mission in the world.”
Conclusion: The Music of the Soul
Only God is a true Creator, in that only He can create out of nothing. Man is a creator only derivatively, in that he creates out of something already there, rearranging and reforming elements that have already been created by God. And yet in that rearranging and reforming of his nature, a nature distorted and disturbed by sin, lies the whole meaning of his existence. For to the extent that he succeeds in reforming his created nature in accordance with the Divine Archetype, man allows the Uncreated Light of God Himself to shine through his nature. Man the artist becomes man the supreme work of art, man the likeness of God.
The purpose of art in its original, true context and designation is to help man in the work of harmonising the warring elements of his soul, to find “the music of the soul”. For “rest for the soul,” says St. Barsanuphius of Optina, “equals blessedness, which equals music, the harmony of all the powers of the soul.” “The instrument [of the soul] is there, the piano is open and ready, a row of white keys is before us, but there is no piano player. Who is the Player? God. We must labor ascetically, and the Lord will act according to His promise: ‘We will come unto him, and make Our abode with him’ (John 14.23). He will come unto us and play our instrument (Batiushka tapped me lightly on the chest).”
Since the Renaissance, and especially since the Romantic movement in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, art has been abstracted from its original function and context in religion. This has allowed a new, often demonic content to enter into it. Nevertheless, insofar as secular art strives towards harmony (which, unfortunately, cannot be said of much modern art), it can help the soul that is sunk in disharmony and spiritual warfare to a limited extent.
However, at a certain point, when the soul is already beginning to hear the sounds of the Divine Harmony consistently, it will lose its need and taste for the harmonies of secular art. Thus St. Brendan the Navigator was once seen putting cotton into his ears at a concert of the Irish bards. When asked why he did this, he said: “If you had heard the music of the angels, you would not delight in this music.” Again, St. Barsanuphius said of himself: “When I was in the world, I loved opera. Good, serious music gave me pleasure and I always had a subscription – a seat in the orchestra. Later on, when I learned of different, spiritual consolations, the opera ceased to interest me. When a valve of the heart closes the receptivity of worldly enjoyments, another valve opens for the reception of spiritual joys...”
For the man for whom this other valve has opened, only the art of the Orthodox Church, and the music of prayer, will be delightful. “This music [of prayer],” says St. Barsanuphius of Optina, “is often spoken of in the Psalms: ‘The Lord is my strength and my song…’ (Ps. 117.14); I will sing and I will chant unto the Lord’ (Ps. 26.7); ‘I will chant to my God as long as I have my being’ (Ps. 103.35). This singing is inexpressible. In order to receive it people go to monasteries, and they do receive it: one after five years, another after ten, a third after fifteen, and a fourth after forty. May God grant you, too, to receive it; at least you’re on the road to it.” 
However, on the path to this consistent dwelling in the music of the soul, there will be days when even the music and words of the Orthodox Church fail to move us. For, as Shakespeare put it in The Merchant of Venice:
Such harmony is in immortal souls,
But whilst this muddy vesture of decay
Doth grossly close it in, we cannot hear it.
And so we have to work ascetically on ourselves in order to feel the grace of the words or music in our souls deeply and constantly.
The Lord said to the Pharisees: "Why do ye not understand my speech? Because ye cannot hear My word... He that is of God heareth God's words" (John 8.43, 47). God's artistic word works on the soul only if the soul itself has been made receptive to it, refashioned in accordance with His likeness, the likeness of Him Who is the Maker-"Poet" of heaven and earth. We have to have the word in us if we are to hear the Word coming from outside us; we have to have harmony in our souls if we are to hear the Harmony of the heavens.
(August 1/14, 2004; adapted and expanded from "Letter to a Nun on Music", published in Orthodox America, November-December, 1996)
16. A REPLY TO DAVID BERCOT ON THE HOLY ICONS
David Bercot is a continuing Anglican who has produced a number of cassettes on spiritual themes. In several of these, he criticizes the position of the Orthodox Church from the point of view of what he considers to be the classical Anglican via media – that is, a position halfway between Protestantism, on the one hand, and Orthodoxy and Catholicism, on the other. Bercot claims that he was very sympathetic to Orthodoxy, and was even preparing to join the Orthodox Church, but was put off by the attitude of the Orthodox to the Mother of God and the holy icons, which he considers to be clearly contrary to the teaching of the Pre-Nicene Church. The following is a reply to Bercot in defence of the Orthodox teaching on icons.
My reaction to Bercot’s fourth tape, on icons, is similar to my reaction to his lecture on the Mother of God. He fails to understand that in the first three centuries of the Church’s life, paganism was still the dominant religion, so that certain doctrines which were part of the apostolic tradition, but which the pagans would almost inevitably misinterpret if presented to them before they had acquired a firm faith in Christ, had to be “played down” or “kept under wraps” in the public teaching of the Church until paganism was finally defeated in the fourth century. One such doctrine was the Orthodox veneration of the Mother of God; another was the Orthodox veneration of icons, which pagans clearly were likely to confuse with their own worship of idols.
Let me begin with Bercot’s argument that since the distinction between proskynesis (veneration, obeisance, bowing) and latreia (worship) is not found in the Greek translation of the Old Testament known as the Septuagint, and since the prohibition of idol-worship in the Second Commandment uses the word proskynesis rather than latreia, the distinction cannot be used to justify the veneration, as opposed to the worship, of icons.
It is true that the verbal distinction between proskynesis and latreia is not clearly made in either the Old or the New Testaments. But this in no way proves that the real distinction between the honour and veneration shown to holy people and objects, on the one hand, and the absolute worship given to God alone, on the other, does not exist and is not implicit in the sacred text. Thus in the last book of the Bible, Revelation, while the words latreia and prokynesis are used, as always, indiscriminately to refer to the worship of God and the veneration of holy people, the angel is careful to admonish John not to treat him, the angel, as he would God, Whom alone he is commanded to worship (22.9).
Holy Apostles Convent writes: “The proskynesis given by a Christian to an icon is ontologically the same reverence he ought to give his fellow Christians, who are images of Christ; but it is ontologically different from the latreia which is due to God alone. It was St. John of Damascus who developed the word latreia to indicate the absolute worship of which only God is worthy. He describes the relative veneration given to the Theotokos, saints, or sacred objects (the Cross, relics, icons, books) by the word proskynesis. At the writing of the Septuagint such distinctions were not strictly observed. Latreia was seldom used and proskynesis was used to describe everything from worship of God to paying respect to a friend. Although modern usage of these terms (worship and veneration, etc.) are often interchanged as synonyms, it has been critical to maintain their exact Orthodox use, consistent with the explanation of St. John of Damascus, since the iconoclast controversy. Although St. John the Theologian freely uses both ‘worship’ (latreia) and ‘make obeisance’ (proskynesis) with relation to God, he never speaks of offering ‘worship’ (latreia) for anyone or anything outside of the Deity (cf. Rev. 7.15, 22.3). Note that the KJV translates the Greek word prokynesis with ‘worship’ and latreia with ‘serve’. (Cf. St. John of Damascus, On the Divine Images, 9-11).”
It quite often takes time for real theological distinctions to acquire precise verbal equivalents. Thus the early Fathers made little distinction between ousia (essence) and hypostasis (person); but from the later fourth century such a distinction became essential to the development of precision in Trinitarian and Christological theology. In the same way, the Fathers of the Seventh Ecumenical Council made use of the clear distinction made by St. John of Damascus between proskynesis and latreia in order to expose the falsehood of the iconoclast heresy. As Bercot rightly says, we must not become prisoners of words, but penetrate to the realities behind the words. And the fact is that, whatever imprecisions of terminology may have existed at that time, the Old Testament Jews most certainly did make a practical distinction between veneration and worship. They venerated and bowed down to certain physical objects and people, while worshipping God alone. And they neither venerated nor worshipped the idols of the pagans.
The Jews’ veneration of certain holy objects was central to their spiritual life, and was never at any time confused with idolatry. Was not the ark considered to be holy and the dwelling-place of God? And did not God confirm the veneration in which it was held by striking dead Uzzah, who had handled it without sufficient reverence? Again, did not Abraham and David bow down to men and angels? And did not God command Solomon to build a temple with images in it, so that “he overlaid the cherubim with gold and carved all the walls of the house round about with carved figures of cherubim and palm trees and open flowers, in the inner and outer rooms” (I Kings 6.28-29)? And yet, if Bercot is right, and we cannot make any distinction between worship and veneration, this must be counted as impious idol-worship!
God not only blessed sacred art – that is, art whose products were deemed to be sacred – in the Old Testament. He clearly attached great importance to it by sending down grace upon the artist. Thus of Belzalel He said: “I have filled him with the Spirit of God with ability and intelligence, with knowledge and all craftsmanship to devise artistic designs, to work in gold, silver and bronze, in cutting stones for setting and in carving wood, for work in every craft” (Exodus 31.2-4). According to tradition, Christ Himself sent an image of Himself to King Abgar of Edessa, who treated it with great reverence. In the early Church, grace was given to specially commissioned artists, such as the Evangelist Luke, who painted several icons that have survived to the present day. According to British tradition, St. Joseph of Arimathaea brought an icon of the Mother of God to Glastonbury, where it remained until it was destroyed by Protestant iconoclasts in the 1520s. We know from Eusebius’ History of the Church that the woman with an issue of blood whom Christ healed built a statue of Him which worked miracles for many years and was never condemned as idolatry by the Church. Archaeological excavations have unearthed Christian iconography from very early times. And of course the Roman catacombs are full of icons.
This evidence shows that in the early Church the tradition of iconography was present in embryo. What prevented the embryo from growing quickly into the fully mature adult of later Byzantine iconography was not any theological objection to sacred art as such, but, as we have said, the still living tradition of pagan idolatry. If we read the Wisdom of Solomon, chapters 12 to 15, we see that pagan idolatry involved: (i) the worship of inanimate objects as gods; (ii) the rejection of the true and living God; and (iii) various kinds of immorality (child sacrifice, temple prostitution) associated with the cult of the false gods. On all three counts, the veneration of icons must be sharply distinguished from pagan idolatry: (i) icons are neither gods, nor worshipped. (ii) they lead us closer to, rather than away from, the true God; and (iii) they have no connection with immoral practices, but rather stimulate purity and chastity. And yet there is no doubt that if the iconoclasts of the 8th and 9th centuries, and the Protestants of the 16th century, failed to understand the distinction between icon-veneration and idol-worship, there must have been a similar temptation for pagan converts to the Faith in the early centuries.
“Just because the pagans used [images] in a foul way,” writes St. John of Damascus, “that is no reason to object to our pious practices. Sorcerers and magicians use incantations and the Church prays over catechumens, the former conjure up demons while the Church calls upon God to exorcise the demons. Pagans make images of demons which they address as gods, but we make images of God incarnate, and of His servants and friends, and with them we drive away the demonic hosts.”
On one point, however, the Orthodox Christians and the pagans are, paradoxically, closer to each other than either are to the iconoclasts and Protestants. For both agree, contrary to the latter, that matter can become spirit-bearing. An image can become a channel of the Holy Spirit, as in Christian iconography, or a channel of the evil spirit, as in witchcraft. The spittle of Christ, the shadow of Peter and the handkerchief of Paul all worked miracles because the Holy Spirit was in them; and all the sacraments involve material objects – water, oil, bread and wine. Similarly, the objects used by Satanists and witches also work “miracles” through the evil spirit that is in them; and their “sacraments”, too, always have a material element. The Protestants, on the other hand, while not rejecting sacraments altogether, diminish their significance and the material element in them. Thus whereas the Lord clearly decrees that baptism is “through water and the spirit”, “born again Christians” usually dispense with the “water” part altogether, thinking they can receive the Spirit without it.
Since we are made of soul and body, the Word took on a soul and a body in order to save the whole of us – soul and body. Therefore the flesh and matter are no barrier to worship in the Spirit: rather, flesh and matter must become spiritualized, filled with the Spirit, in order to commune with the immaterial. And to this end the Flesh of the incarnate of God is given to us in the Eucharist.
It follows that it is not the materiality of icons as such that is critical, but the use to which they are put. The pagans, as St. John of Damascus said, use material images for evil uses, to commune with evil spirits. The Orthodox, however, use them for good uses, to commune with the One True God.
Bercot is guilty of serious distortion in his discussion of the Seventh Ecumenical Council. He says, for example, that almost all the Christians in the eighth century were Christians in name only. What an astonishingly sweeping and unjust judgement! Since he is an Anglican, let me point out that the seventh and eighth centuries were the golden age of the English Church, an age of the most abundant sanctity which has not been equaled English history since then. And as the Venerable Bede witnesses, icons were definitely used her worship. Thus when St. Augustine and his fellow missionaries set foot for the first time on English soil, they were preceded by an icon of Christ; and St. Benedict Biscop imported icons from Rome to Northumbria.
Again, Bercot claims that the Church at that time was completely dominated by the emperors – a false cliché which is proved by the simple fact that vast numbers of Christians, bishops, priests, monks and laypeople, were driven into exile or tortured precisely because they refused to accept the emperor’s iconoclasm. Let him read the bold language St. Theodore the Studite used to the emperor of his time – a boldness not, sadly, employed by the Anglicans against that other iconoclast “emperor” and founder of the Anglican church, Henry VIII.
Again, he claims that the icon-venerators were just as cruel to their opponents as the iconoclasts to them. In fact, an unprejudiced reading of the history of the time makes it clear that the persecutions were directed exclusively against the icon-venerators, and were every bit as cruel as those of the pagan Roman emperors. This shows that an evil spirit possessed the iconoclasts, just as an evil spirit possessed the Protestant Anglicans who destroyed the monasteries and images and relics of the saints in sixteenth-century England.
The veneration of icons was the common practice of the whole Church in both East and West for the first millennium of Christian history at least. Consider, for example, the thoroughly Orthodox reasoning of the English Abbot Aelfric, who lived in about 1000: “Truly Christians should bow down to the holy cross in the Saviour’s name, because we do not possess the cross on which He suffered. However, its likeness is holy, and we always bow down to it when we pray, to the mighty Lord Who suffered for men. And that cross is a memorial of His great Passion, holy through Him, even though it grew in a forest. We always honour it, to honour Christ, Who freed us by it with His love. We always thank Him for that in this life.”]
Iconoclasm is a recurrent temptation in the history of the Church. Since the devil hates God, he hates all those who are filled with the grace of God, and all those holy things which are channels of His grace. That is why he inspired the Muslims and the iconoclasts, the Bogomils and the Albigensians, the Protestants and the Masons and the Soviets, to destroy icons and crosses and relics and churches. And that is why the Church anathematizes the iconoclasts and iconoclasm as a most dangerous heresy. For let us not think that we do God service while destroying those things in which God dwells and through which He helps us to come close to Him. If we think that God cannot dwell in material things, or work miracles through holy icons and relics, then by implication we are denying the reality of the Incarnation, in which God not only worked through matter, but became flesh. That is why the main argument in defence of icons is based on the reality of the Incarnation. If the immaterial Word was made flesh, and seen and touched, why cannot we make images of His human body, and touch and kiss them? And if the burning of the national flag is considered treason by those who love their country, why should not the destroying or dishonouring of the holy icons be considered blasphemy by those who love their Lord?
As St. Basil the Great says, “the honour accorded to the image passes to its prototype”, so that the icon is a kind of door (St. Stephen the Younger) opening up into the world of the Spirit. This is not a pagan principle, as Bercot claims; and if the pagans have something analogous, it only goes to show that in this, as in many other ways, false religion simply apes the true. To put it in a more philosophical way, we may say that this is the principle of the symbolical or analogical nature of reality, whereby lower-order realities reflect and participate in higher-order realities, as the light of the moon reflects and participates in the light of the sun. The Catholic West began to lose this symbolical understanding of reality when Charlemagne rejected the veneration of icons at the council of Frankfurt in 794; and the Protestant West lost it entirely when it replaced symbolic truth with scientific truth, the appreciation of qualities with the analysis of quantities. In this respect, the Protestant-scientific revolution represents not so much the triumph of reason over superstition as the beginning of a descent into something even lower than paganism, as Dostoyevsky pointed out -