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Thursday, April 27, 2006

THE SIGNIFICANCE OF APOSTOLIC SUCCESSION IN HETERODOXY

Journal of the Moscow Patriarchate, October 1961
[This essay was written by Metropolitan, later Patriarch, Sergii (Stragorodsky) and first published in the JMP in 1935 (No. 23-24). The importance of the subject, the authority of the author and the unavailability of this essay to the wide circle of our readers convinced us to reprint Metropolitan Sergii's essay. Editors]

I.

The prestige of our contemporary Church hierarchy, its Divinely established rights and authority, rests on the historical fact of its Apostolic succession. This is the present teaching of the Orthodox Church, and such was its ancient teaching during the period of the "undivided" Church as is customarily expressed in the theological literature of the West. It is not surprising that the heterodox groups separated from the Church who wish, unlike the Protestants, not to sever themselves from their past, preserve this teaching and value the Apostolic succession of its hierarchy, if they are able to prove it. The question of Apostolic succession inevitably comes up in any attempt of union of heterodox groups with the Orthodox Church or, as the subject is posed, again in the West, in conjunction with judging the rights of one or another self-established "Church" (Old Catholics, etc.) with respect to their being a part of the Church Universal. For example, there is a mass of theological literature on the Anglican hierarchy with both those who oppose and those who support its recognition, resting their case on Apostolic succession; with the former rejecting it and the latter proving it.

The question is raised: how does the Orthodox Church look upon the preservation of Apostolic succession among heterodox hierarchs? Do these circumstances have, in her eyes, any significance other than historical? In other words, does the substantial presence of succession have any bearing on the judgement by our Church of a particular heterodox group and specifically of its clergy?

There is a view which would respond to this question with a definite NO. Christ's Church, say those who side with this view, sees itself as the sole earthly treasury of redemptive grace ("I believe in one Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church"). She alone has the authentic Apostolic hierarchy which distributes the Mysteries of salvation. The heterodox groups separated from the Church, no matter how they may differ among themselves: whether they apparently have an Apostolic hierarchy or not, those who desire to have a priesthood and those who do not recognize it, all form, as far as the Church is concerned, one common homogenous mass which is lacking in grace, Christians only by the inaccurate application of that term.

It is true that the Church has three orders for the reception of heterodox: one is through baptism, as if they were pagans, the other through chrismation and the third through repentance, with clerics, in the latter case, received in their present order. These three orders for reception in no way presuppose some kind of a three tier heterodoxy: in the one instance the Church would recognize no sacraments, with others a recognition of baptism and with the third not only baptism but chrismation and ordination, and in each appropriate order for reception, completing that which is lacking.

Applying a stricter order for reception to one heterodox group and a more liberal order to another

The correctness of the above view is demonstrated, it is said, not only by its faithfulness to dogma but by its continuous development and especially in the radical change in the Church's practice in relation to the heterodox. For example, the Russian Church at first received Catholics through the third form and in existing orders. Later it started to re-baptize and then again returned to the former practice, which it presently maintains. The Greek Church, on the other hand, at first received Catholics as we do, but since the XVIII C. began to re-baptize. At the same time the Greek Church not only avoids criticizing our practice but under certain circumstances is ready to make an exception to their strict rule. In recognizing Anglican orders the Greek Church logically must liberalize and perhaps already has liberalized its practice with respect to Catholics (a reminder that this was written in 1935. Ed.) This inconsistency is found in the practice of the ancient Church with respect to various groups (e.g. Donatists and others). It is futile to try to find some kind of a system in this variety and to find appropriate dogmatic foundations for the practices of the Church. There is no system here and the Church does not need any dogmatic basis to apply, instead of the first form, the second or the third. The Church can act here in complete freedom, choosing at its own discretion that which is more appropriate under given circumstances and what is more beneficial in a given time.

The above view expresses a dogmatic consistency and by immediately dispelling any doubt and lack of clarity in relation to the heterodox. It is sufficient for an heterodox to come into the Church's vineyard and whatever he brings with him, the Church will reward him equally as with her own faithful sons. Thus the late Archbishop Hilarion answered an Anglican professor: "Stop wrestling with the question whether you have (sviaschenstvo) valid orders or not. Come directly to the Church. She will receive you without any humiliation, without re-baptism, without re-ordination, and will give you, from her plenitude, a place in the bosom of the Universal Church of Christ, valid (blagodatnoye) priesthood, and everything".

We do not however, have the Catholic principle by which a dogma determines history. We Orthodox cannot close our eyes to the witness of the latter. Seeing a conflict between dogma and history we must first ask ourselves whether we correctly understand the Church's dogma. In the present instance what history shows is not in favor of the present understanding. The Church's practice with respect to heterodox is truly extremely inconsistent and unstable.The importance of ecclesiastical economy in the case of the reception of heterodox is very great. In all this however, there is a firm line which the Church, in its practice, does not cross. This line is the absence of proper Apostolic succession in the episcopal ordination of a given group (along with the Apostolic teaching on the priesthood). No matter how persistent be the conclusions of ecclesiastical economy, the Church does not receive such members into its bosom by the third form (without chrismation) and in no way would receive a cleric without an Orthodox ordination. For example a Lutheran pastor, a Scottish presbyter, an Old Believer preceptor, and such others, can be exemplary individuals and worthy of Orthodox priesthood but they cannot be admitted to Orders without ordination since they would not receive implicite the grace of priesthood through repentance (in the third form).

Thus the presence of Apostolic succession prominently identifies a particular group of heterodox out of the whole mass. Only those who preserved that succession will be received by the Church among its clergy without ordination. Does the Church recognize such ordinations valid (blagodantnye)?

The defenders of the view under discussion explain things differently. The Church, they say, holds precious the Apostolic succession as such, and in this case does not want to violate the external forms, preserved since the Apostles, even if these forms outside the Church became empty, having lost the content of Apostolic grace.

The evidence of the Church's practice again do not present the Church's teaching in that light. For example our rule for receiving Catholic priests in their order is extended to such a point that if such a priest for example, wishing to get married, does not want to be admitted in his order, nevertheless after being received into the bosom of the Orthodox Church, will be considered not simply a layman but a laicized priest and as such he would never be eligible to receive Orthodox ordination. It is difficult to concede that this is only because of the Church's respect for an empty form, she would deprive an otherwise worthy person of becoming an Orthodox cleric especially since her laws permit the married state for its clerics.

If it can be said that the Church in this instance punishes a moral instability undesirable in a cleric, a rejection of a burden (cross) once accepted, why then should the Church not punish a Lutheran pastor, an Old Believer leader and such others who, at the time of admission into the Church do not immediately enter the Orthodox clergy and who later will seek this?

The Church understands Apostolic succession not merely as an external mechanical transfer of the very act of ordination but also the faith connected with this act namely the preservation of the Apostolic teaching on the grace of priesthood within a given group.

This doesn't tie in too well with the view being analyzed. To receive an empty form lacking in grace, and at the same time to believe, in accordance with the Apostolic teaching, that one is receiving Divine grace, and to experience with this the appropriate thoughts and feelings, would be a self-delusion or, in theological language, a novelty. Novelties are not to be indulged in but should be fought with all available means. It would appear that in this case the Church somehow is attempting to keep the person undisturbed in his novelty, as if it is afraid to disturb the person's false convictions that he received effective grace in his heterodox ordination. Leaving aside the need for an Orthodox ordination the Church invents a special order for reception, that through the Mystery of repentance to convey implicite, and imperceptibly to the recipient, the grace of priesthood. Thus it would be closer to the truth and to the teaching of the Church to assume that where, outside the Church, the Apostolic succession, i.e. the Apostolic form of ordination and the Apostolic teaching about the grace of the priesthood has been preserved, there in the mind of the Church, ordination is not simply a form without grace and thus is not repeated in receiving such clerics into the Orthodox priesthood.

It is more correct to understand the Church's teaching in this manner than to invent some kind of imposition of sacraments implicite, for which no evidence can be found in the Church's canons or in Patristic literature and in fact there are sources which oppose this.

We must admit that this subtle invention simplifies pastoral and missionary practice and dispels all doubt. For example, a person considering himself Orthodox, receives Communion and then discovers that he has not been baptized. What to do? Answer: inasmuch as he has received communion he received the plenitude of grace and is not in need of baptism. Or: upon the reception of whole Renovationist parishes, what to do with infants chrismated by the Renovationists? Answer: Administer communion to everyone during the first Liturgy and the problem is over. But these advisors are in effect throwing out the baby with the bathwater. Wishing to avoid unnecessary noise and embarrassment which is inevitable in the performance of sacraments for those who considered themselves or were considered by others as having received the sacraments, the advisors conclude "what if ?" and leave open to doubt a more important problem: are the sacraments of any benefit for those who have not formally entered the Church? Is this not food for the dead? In any case, Canon 1 of Timothy of Alexandria states: a catechumen who receives communion by mistake is not relieved from being baptized as if he has already received the plenitude of grace without baptism, but he must be baptized without completing the catechumenate. ["Let him be illumined i.e. baptized, for he is called by God"]

In general, Church canons are completely against "what if" [conditional] conclusions in such important cases where the matter is a re-birth in grace and sanctification even of a single person. According to Carthage 83 [72] an infant whose baptism is questionable should not be brought to communion, thinking that he will receive everything. The canon states " . . .all such children should be baptized without scruple, lest a hesitation should deprive them of the cleansing of the sacraments." This was considered of such importance that the Trullo Council (E.C. VI:84) found it necessary to reiterate the Carthage canon for the ecumenical practice. Thus the Church in its canons prefers to risk the repetition of the non-repetitious sacrament (Apost. 47) rather than teach of the possibility of this sacrament implicite. Evidently, the reason for such a teaching appears to be most appropriate.

One can be certain that if the Church of Christ had any doubt about the authenticity of heterodox sacraments, it would have in all sincerity expressed this doubt, directing that the essential ones be repeated and it would not try to hide these doubts, the more so of its certainty in the ineffectiveness of the mysteries, by granting them implicite.

I think (as I proposed in my essay in JMP '' 2-4 for 1931) that many things in the relations of the Church with the heterodox will be understood if we do not overlook the fact that the heterodox do not think of the Church as something independent and completely foreign to them, as adhering to a different creed, that the heterodox fall into the category of the fallen or penitents: the fallen excluded from participating in the mysteries, some excluded from prayers, but somehow they still remain in the Church and under its influence. The heterodox are separated from the Church more so than the fallen; they not only sin but they do not recognize the Church and fight against it. However the Church's relation to them is as if they were fallen. This is clearly condemned "...hating even the garment spotted by the flesh" (Jude 1:23), but by no means malevolently and not with enmity "saving with fear". The Church " hands them over to Satan so that their spirit may be saved" (I Cor. 5:5). In other words the Church's relations with heterodoxy is one of the functions of the Church's judgement broadly understood to be a corrective measure for the fallen. It is natural that this relationship reflects the general functions of judgement.

It is important to point out in this case a general negative trait which characterizes the Church's court, that while it can take away (permanently or temporarily) what was given in the mysteries, it cannot on its own authority grant that which can only be received through the mysteries: the court cannot recognize one who is not baptized to be baptized; a layman to be a priest, etc. This is especially so with the heterodox: those whom the Church does not find to be properly baptized cannot be received without baptism; those who do not have proper priesthood are not taken into its clergy without its own ordination.

II

If the Orthodox Church receives heterodox clerics in their order because it recognizes their priesthood, how can we reconcile the accepted historical fact of changes in treating these grpups by the Church, for example Roman Catholics?

It should not be overlooked that the Church does not treat uncritically ordinations performed within its bosom. There are any number of Orthodox ordinations which are declared to be invalid.
"Concerning Maximus the Cynic . . it is decreed that Maximus never was and is not now a Bishop . . since all which has been done concerning him or by him is declared to be invalid" [E.C. II:4],
even though he was an outstanding Orthodox and received his ordination from proper Orthodox bishops. This includes all those canons which proclaim invalid those Orthodox ordinations performed with substantial deviations from the canons such as without the approval of the Metropolitan [EC I:6], by a bishop from another diocese [AC 14:, 35] and on a strange cleric [E.C.I:16; Sard. 15, Carth. 91, and others].

At the same time the practice established by these canons is found not to be immutable. History regularly shows examples of exceptions from the canons. This because the Church's canons are not dogmatic definitions in matters of faith, deciding the question once and for all, and they do not act automatically. They are first of all given as a guide for Church courts and consequently, every departure from them assumes a special decision by the court. Specifically when speaking about the invalidity of orders under certain conditions, the canons speak only about the power of the Church court to find these ordinations invalid. This means that in case of need and considering the circumstances of the matter at hand or simply in applying Church economy the court can withhold its chastising sword and leave the ordination in question as valid. Church history knows of events when Orthodox bishops forced by extraordinary conditions or extraordinary malfeasance, held court and passed judgement beyond the boundaries of their territories, deposed bishops and clerics, replacing them with others. These acts were justified in the Church's consciousness and remained in force (e.g. acts of St. John Chrysostom, and others).

In making similar exceptions to the canons the Church never established precedents by this for the future and does not give anyone the right to justify their violation of the canons based on such precedents. Church economy does not repeal nor even dilute the force of the canon. It has in mind the specific situation and its unique nature and in this way restricts its action. The canon remains in force for all and the Church court can pass judgement on the guilty, unless it finds a need to apply the principle of economy.

This more or less is the basis for relations between the Church and heterodox organizations. The substantial difference is only in that in the sphere of the Church court the dealings are with individual transgressors of Church canons whereas in the other instance the relations are with whole groups of transgressors, more or less organized and united in each case with some kind of a particular deviation. The judgement of one individual representing the group inevitably is based on the judgement of the whole group.

As the sole earthly possessor of the power to bind and loose and the sole treasury of saving grace, Christ's Church has the opportunity and the right to declare all ordinations outside the Church to be invalid. However, guided by the argument of Church economy, the desire to bring about the salvation of a greater number of people, the Church does not implement its power in all places and at all times. The ordinations in heterodox organizations which retained both the Apostolic teaching and the form of ordination, the Church retains this in force, it in some way recognizes these as valid, because from this it makes proper conclusions: for example it does not repeat baptism or chrismation performed by those clerics. In all this the non-implementation by the Church of its basic right with respect to a particular group of heterodox organizations by no means indicates a refusal of the Church to do so forever. When conditions of Church life change and the leniency towards a given heterodox group no longer provides for the salvation of a greater number of people and even more so results in a direct hinderance to this, the Church returns to its basic right and rescinds the dispensation and again binds what was loosened. This explains the apparent non-systematic and changing relations of the Church towards heterodox organizations.

For example the Old Catholic and the Belakrinitza hierarchies both base their origin on individual ordinations. The Orthodox Church unconditionally rejects the latter hierarchy and declares all of its acts as invalid, and those who enter the Church are received through chrismation. Our Church likewise does not recognize Old Catholic hierarchy. At this time no one knows how they are treated in the Greek East. However the relations of ruling Church circles towards the Old Catholics (at least in the past) has been most sympathetic both from our part and in the East. Particularly, individual consecration was not an unconditional impediment for the recognition of the Old Catholic hierarchy. In justification, reference was made to the acceptance by Western practice of individual consecration (one bishop and two specially empowered abbots). Perhaps this departure became established because the bishop's office, in view of the development of Papal authority, does not differ much from that of the presbyter. Be that as it may, but if the Old Catholics truly adopted for themselves the teaching of the ancient undivided Church, and would not resort to dogmatism, analysis and arguments about details of teaching and ritual, and if the leaders would be less imitative of Protestants, it is very possible that Old Catholics would have by now received in communion with the recognition of their hierarchy.

There is a lot in common with the beginnings of Anglicanism and our Renovationists. Here as there the beginning was a rupture from their Patriarch and the legitimate hierarchy united under him (as much as this can be said about Catholic hierarchy). There as here the legitimate diocesan hierarchs declined to participate in the first episcopal consecration. Here as there the first consecration was performed by some kind of incidental bishops, in part vicars, and in part completely retired, their authority being defined it appears, by the fact that the legitimate Church had not in a timely manner placed them under a ban.

The Anglican hierarchy did not receive universal recognition from the Orthodox Church. However if the notorious "rapprochement of the Anglican Church with the Orthodox" would move along a normal ecclesiastical way, if the Anglicans as an organization truly struggled to look for the true Church and valid priesthood, if their quest would not at times be obscured with the thought of first attaining the recognition of their hierarchy (which in its time was so rudely rejected by the Roman pope) and in the event of that to remain with all that which is theirs, then the reunion of the Anglicans with the Orthodox Church could very well have taken place and the question of the hierarchy, most likely, would have been resolved in the positive sense.

On the other hand the Renovationists have been judged by our Church in the full strictness of the canons, although gradually. Declaring that Revisionism is a schism the Holy Patriarch with the bishops gathered in council, could have immediately deposed or at most suspended all disobedient bishops and clerics which would have required that the return of the Revisionists to the Church be by the second rite (through chrismation). But the Patriarch in 1923 exercised his authority only partially with respect to ordinations which in addition to being unauthorized, had other canonical defects. The Patriarch proclaimed as invalid the episcopal status of married bishops and ordinations performed by them, as well as the ordination to clerical status of digamists or those married to widows, etc. Only in April 2, 1924 was a prohibition placed upon the Renovationist leaders ( thus extending to all in communion with them). From that date we do not recognize Revisionist ordinations as valid as well as other sacraments including chrismation even though the old Myro, appropriated from the Church, may have been used. This is because the Holy Myro is not some kind of a self-acting matter which can be applied by anyone and would result in a "sacrament". The Church teaches that the sacrament of chrismation is performed by a bishop and is only delegated to the presbyter (meaning one who is not suspended). Chrismation, performed by a deacon or a layman, would not be a sacrament.

Such an inconsistent approach to circumstances seemingly of equal standing can be explained precisely by the consciousness of the Church's benefit from a practical pastoral point of view. Old Catholics and Anglicans fell away from Rome at the time the latter was in schism. Their departure was substantially out of the schism, although to this time they have not been united with the Church. They should not be criticized for their separation but for taking so long to bring it about. Their separation certainly weakened the Roman schism and in this way partially strengthened the position of the Orthodox Church. It is natural for them to look upon our Church as an ally and to look to it with interest and sympathy, and for our Church to engender the hope that concessions toward them would serve for the salvation of the greater number of people. On the other hand the Belokrinitza and the Renovationist hierarchy are aiming to strengthen the schism by their antipathy to the Church and to stifle the desire of the faithful to unite with valid priesthood by false imitations of it and in this way to push aside Orthodox hierarchs and to step in their place. The aim of such organizations [bodies] is not to strengthen but to weaken the Body of the Church. This is why the approach to the first two bodies is by way of Church economy whereas in relations with the latter the Church sees no basis for departure from the strictness of the canons, in any case until such time as the position of these two, and others like them, does not change for the better.

Incidentally, do we not violate Apostolic Canon 68 by re-ordaining clerics returning from certain schismatic groups? It is pointed out that the canon prescribes reordination only if the ordination was performed by heretics but in this case we are not dealing with heretics but with schismatics. However, in the first place the word "heretic" in canonical language has two meanings: the broad (a literal meaning of the word heretic), which defines anyone who is separated from the Church, and the specific, which defines anyone separated from the Church on the basis of belief. In the second place, heretical ordinations are repeated precisely because they are ineffective ("for those who have been . . . ordained by such persons cannot be either of the faithful, or of the clergy") that is, they give nothing. However any improper ordination can be declared invalid as seen from the above-cited Church rules, including that of the schismatics. The difference in the process of annulling a valid or an invalid ordination is very much a significant matter. Someone receiving a valid ordination can only be "deposed from office", that is, he is deprived of what was valid. He not only is deprived of the order which he attained but of the whole clerical status. Thus a bishop deprived of his office cannot remain a presbyter (E.C. IV:29). A deposed individual cannot be ordained anew. On the other hand an improper ordination is looked upon as ineffective, as if it never took place and he who received it, can remain in his former office which he had at the time of the invalid ordination, provided that as a result of obtaining an irregular ordination he is not subject to deposition from his previous office, according to Apostolic Canon 35. For example, according to researches by Bishop Li'l of Arrive (see c. VII, Alexandria and Egypt; '17 Cellophane Movement), the Alexandrian presbyter Calif, among others, received an invalid episcopal consecration from Meletuis (Meletian schism during the time of Bishop Alexander, predecessor of St. Athanasius of Alexandria). After the Meletian ordinations were declared invalid, "Kalif died a presbyter" (according to St. Athanasius) which would not have been the case if he (Kalif) had been "deposed" from his episcopal office. Having remained a presbyter he undoubtedly preserved, if not the moral, but the formal eligibility to be a candidate for a bishopric. The possibility of this second (in reality the first) consecration cannot be disputed.

Thus in spite of the obviously negative views of heterodox ordinations described above, it is more correct to think that the Church does not repeat heterodox ordinations (when it finds Apostolic succession maintained by the body in question) not because of the value placed on Apostolic forms but because it considers such ordinations as valid. However this does in no way mean that outside the Church there can be valid (blagodatnyie) sacraments: the Church recognizes grace among heterodox only because it finds it "not alien" to the Church "ek tis ekklesias" (Basil Canon I {see text in Milash II, p.367}), and only as long they remain as such. Preserving a "certain degree of relations" with them (even though officially eucharistic and prayerful relations have been broken) the Church somehow gives them the opportunity to partake of the crumbs of grace from the plentiful table from which it nourishes its faithful children. Grace outside the Church does not exist and the Church, having the power to "bind and loose" can continue to preserve this "certain degree of relations" with heterodox when it coincides with its own mission (the salvation of people), as well as to discontinue this relationship, that is to break the flow of grace and to turn that organization into a condition without grace, which in effect should be the case with all those outside the Church. On the other hand local Orthodox Churches, separated from each other by distance and acting within its own environment could become estranged from a heterodox organization (e.g. Roman Catholics) on its own, while others remain in its present status. This is the reason for differences in inter-Church practices. But these are temporary occurrences which will last only until there a universal agreement.

In contrast to the total rejection of any significance of Apostolic succession among the heterodox there are those, primarily among the heterodox who exaggerate this significance to an extreme. An ordination within the Apostolic succession is treated as an entity in itself, which can exist within and outside the Church, even contrary to its will. Such an exaggerated concept of Apostolic succession is common primarily in the whole Catholic West and corresponds to the general characteristic of its religious views, in particular with the somewhat spiritually weak understanding of Divine grace. The basic differences here between Orthodoxy and Catholicism on this point were clearly in evidence during the well-known debates of the Palamites and the Barlaamites. The Orthodox Palamites understood energies (the action of God on creation and upon man in particular) as a direct or a personal act of God. Thus they referred to energy simply as God. The Barlaamites (Westerners), seeing the Godhead as inscrutable, looked upon energy as a manifestation of the created world and saw it as a creation separate from God. Reflecting this basic understanding in the teaching on sacraments the result is that grace is Divine energy. For an Orthodox, to say that "grace is given by sacraments" means that "God acts upon man in the sacraments." Here it is extremely difficult to formulate the Orthodox teaching with precision. The form of the sacrament is essential and it is impossible to connect the free creative act of God with a particular symbolic act or a material sign and to make it, so to say, dependent on the celebrant of the symbolic act. The form, for an Orthodox, becomes not so much as a source of grace but a sign or a witness that the Divine act has taken place. Thus the minister of the sacrament is not the empowered grantor of grace but a petitioner for the Divine act to take place and a guarantor that the Divine act will take place. The priest's prayer and assurance thus receives its power from the prayer and assurance of the Church, the "fulfillment of Christ" upon the earth. Thus the sacraments are effective as long as the sacred minister is in communion with the Church and ministers on her behalf.

On the other hand everything is clear and well-defined for the Catholic. Divine grace is a power emanating from God, granted by Him to the hierarchy and as such, having a separate existence from God. It is convenient to attach this impersonal power to a specific form (opus operatum) and to make it depend directly on the will of the minister-celebrant.

It must be admitted that we Orthodox, not infrequently are reduced to such a diminished material understanding of grace and sacraments. This takes place under Catholic influence. Mainly it is easier for the material man, the man "of this world" to operate with material, "mental" ( )
rather than "spiritual" ( ) concepts. But in any case, this is inconsistent with the purely spiritual Orthodox point of view.

The Western understanding of grace which leads logically to an exaggerated view upon the person of the priest to the diminishment of his significance as a minister of the Church is especially prevalent in Catholicism. Having received grace through a valid ordination the priest becomes to some degree personally as a source of grace, even though as a successor to others. Adding to this the teaching on the indelibility of grace results in the fact that a [Roman] priest can be cut off from his ecclesiastical authorities, become suspended, completely reject Christianity and become for example, a cultist or a declared atheist, nonetheless he remains a [Roman] priest, preserving his apostolic ordination and all his acts as a priest remain valid, even though he celebrates a so-called "black mass". Along the same line a bishop, performing an ordination, acts with the power of hierarchal grace given to him personally and thus, to put it crudely, transmits his own and not the Church's grace and as such it is not essential whether he is acting with the consent of his Church or after he has left the Church. and, inasmuch as the grace of ordination is received not from the Church but from him who ordains, who in turn received it from the one who ordained him, etc. up to the Apostles, so does it matter whether they are Orthodox, whether they belong to the Universal Church or to some heterodox organization? So long as there is Apostolic succession in the given organization, the ordinations will be valid. The one who is so ordained will in his turn, be a personal carrier of grace which he can exercise at his discretion, with no concern about the teaching or the wishes of those who ordained him .

The basic fallacy of such a distorted concept of grace, priesthood and spiritual life in general is clearly exposed by those extreme, distorted conclusions reached by those straightforward and unceremonious seekers of ordination having Apostolic succession. If the grace of the priesthood consists of some unconscious thing indifferent to its fate (as if a piece of merchandise), then there should be no reason why anyone who has the desire could not take advantage of it no matter by what means.

One can recall incidents from the history of our Old Believer schism which were almost childish (for example, a priest would be immersed in a baptismal font, fully vested, so as not to "remove the ordination"), which took place, to recruit someone with Apostolic succession to their camp and still avoid being contaminated by "Nikonian heresy". To the honor of the Old Believers none of them were tempted by blasphemy: to join the Orthodox Church falsely to obtain valid ordination and return to the fold. They did not go beyond attempts to recruit and enlist Orthodox bishops and priests to their cause.

Such is not the case in the West. There people did not limit themselves to the enticement of alien bishops and priests but went ahead to obtain Apostolic succession for themselves from an alien and even a heretical organization in order to make use of the ordination in their own group, passing themselves off as valid orthodox. An example is Vilatte, who made enough noise in his time. He went as far as India for his Apostolic ordination, to the Jacobites, in order to pass ordinations around to anyone desiring them, including Anglicans (in America), among Old Catholics (for example in France) and more precisely to everyone and anywhere wherever there was a desire to take advantage of the services of a hierarch. Imitators of Vilatte keep cropping up even today. For example in Germany there are several religious groups (not including Old Catholics) who strut about proclaiming their theological erudition and who pretend to be recognized by the Orthodox. One is the "Evangelical Catholic Brotherhood" consisting of several thousand followers. It is headed by a Lutheran pastor Herzog who was ordained bishop by Monophysites. He continues to be a pastor for the Lutherans and carries out the functions of an Orthodox bishop among the "orthodox" Brotherhood. It is said that Bishop Tikhon (Karlovitz group) admits the members of the Brotherhood to prayerful and even Eucharistic communion. There is also a "High Church Society" with more than half a million followers. The group is led by a professor of Lutheran theology Heile, who was consecrated bishop also by Monophysites and by "hundreds" of Lutheran pastors ordained (probably by Heile) to Orthodox priesthood. All of them continue in their Lutheran responsibilities, some as professors some as pastors, and at the same time serve as "orthodox" hierarchs in the "orthodox" societies.

There is also in Germany a "German Orthodox Diaspora" or at best "Spiridon" who styles himself a "Metropolitan" of the diaspora, a rather prominent personality for those seeking Apostolic ordination. According to him he is 33 years old and has been a hierarch for more than seven years. He is a German, baptized and confirmed a Catholic. He completed a course in theology in Belgian and Luxembourg monasteries. At age 19 he left Catholicism for the Old Catholics. He married. Soon became disenchanted with the Old Catholics and from 1926 "firmly stood on the Orthodox foundation". This did not prevent Spiridon, in October 1927, to approach some (apparently a vagans) married Armenian bishop Gregory Guzik who, in about five days ordained him (likewise married) a deacon, presbyter and finally a bishop of the "Armenian Orthodox Church" (without a designated diocese). Having received such an ordination Spiridon considered himself within his rights to proclaim himself a Metropolitan of the German Orthodox Diaspora, a society consisting of 200 adherents with seven priests and he now seeks to be recognized in that title, specifically in a black cowl with a (none other) garnet pectoral cross. Who is this Guzik and where did he get his ordination is apparently a mystery to Spiridon. In any event at first he (Spiridon) said that he cannot correctly determine where Guzik's orders came from because all the participants (and apparently including Guzik) in Spiridon's consecration returned to Rome. Spiridon at first called Guzik an Orthodox bishop of the Renovationist camp but who was not installed by them but by Armenian uniats namely, that Armenian group which in the seventies of the last century broke with Rome along with their bishop Kipellian. Thus having broken with Rome these Armenians did not unite with the Monophysites and Spiridon is quick to call them Orthodox. This "Orthodox Armenian Patriarch" (as Spiridon calls him) Kipellian along with his bishop Kasangian apparently installed the Renovationist bishop Gregory Guzik. It should be noted that Kipellian returned to Rome in 1879 and thus Guzik's consecration must have been earlier. Furthermore, Spiridon reveals that Guzik's second consecrator Kasangian was not a bishop but a chorbishop in the order of presbyters. In subsequent correspondence from Spiridon it is stated that Guzik was not consecrated by Kipelian and Kasangian but by an Anglican Bishop Gore and Kasangian's connection to the consecration was limited to a recognition of Guzik's consecration as valid by his Armenian uniat group. This revelation somehow favors Spiridon inasmuch as Anglican orders are now recognized by some of the Eastern Orthodox patriarchs thus it becomes easier to validate his orders. In this way an Anglican consecration, recognized by an Armenian uniat group separated from Rome, produces a Renovationist bishop (somewhat before the establishment of the Renovationists) who in turn becomes competent to install an Orthodox hierarch for the Germano-Orthodox Diaspora!

These back-door searches for Orthodox ordinations become more curious since, in Western Europe, there always were and still are close at hand, a number of legitimate Orthodox hierarchs: Greeks, Serbs Romanians and others, not to mention His Eminence Metropolitan Elevferii who oversees our churches in Western Europe. Obviously the wandering Armenians and their kind were more compliant and looked upon the distribution of ordinations to anyone who wanted one regardless of who they were, as something casual and did not set up any serious restrictions or qualifications on the recipients.

These monstrous events are obviously extremes and are judged accordingly by serious people even in the West. Nonetheless the motivation for them is based on completely sincere attempts, by any means possible, to arrive at ecumenical unity (e.g. by Anglicans, Old Catholics, etc.). Exaggerating the significance of Apostolic succession, these seekers for unity assume that a heterodox organization, even if separated from the Church, constitutes a Local Church within the Church Universal if it has preserved Apostolic succession among its clergy. To be sure, the acceptance of erroneous dogmas or the violation of fundamental canonical principles etc., deprived this Local Church of Eucharistic communion with the local Orthodox Churches. But even if removed from communion, that organization as long as it has not completely departed from the Christian faith, continues to exist as a Church, performs sacraments and saves people. Eucharistic communion with the Orthodox is highly desirable for such a local Church, and would be beneficial in the mutual support of Church ministry. In all this, it is a moral obligation (according to Christ's command "That all may be one") perhaps more of a fascinating remote ideal, rather than a practical necessity: having lost communion, the heterodox organization nonetheless believes that it does not cease to be a local Church, part of the Church Universal.

In order to establish itself in communion, the heterodox "Church" must at least recognize its dogmatical and canonical defects and correct them, which it can do on its own initiative and then by that fact of correction it becomes a full member of the union of local Orthodox Churches, joined together by mutual communion in the Eucharist and prayer. In such a case there is no need of an official reception or a union with one of the existing Orthodox Churches. The Westerners, knowing only about unions with Rome which requires the suppression of any local customs or independence, are afraid that an invitation to unite with the Eastern Orthodox Church would result in the same attempt to subject them to the East with a loss of their own originality. This fear of course, chills any already lukewarm thoughts about Church union. In point of fact, if the Eucharistic communion with the Orthodox Church is merely a desirable embellishment of Church life and not life itself, then is it not reasonable from the point of an abstract idea, perhaps one which is fascinating and edifying, but practically not very beneficial, to risk some very precious realities? This leads to an exchange of many sweet words, much erudition, many arguments over secondary matters, much persistence in vindicating principles, but there is not that thirst which forces one "...to come to the waters" (Is. 55:1), there is no spiritual effort with which one can "accomplish great things" (G. Canon).

IV

An understanding of the Ecumenical Church as a conglomerate of heterogenous parts
But this very attractive, broad and most pleasing to all theory cannot be attributed to the Church. The Church of Christ always understood its unity in the one Eucharist: "all commune from the one bread and the one cup". The hierarchy may be present; it can trace its orders directly to the Apostles; but having broken the Eucharistic communion with the Church, that hierarchy loses the power which remains with the Church, to bind and loose and particularly, to celebrate the true Eucharist. Therefore, the only viable members of the Universal Church of Christ can be only those local churches which have not lost their participation in that one universal Eucharist. The number of such participants can at times be reduced to an absolute minimum; but this does not change the situation for the fallen-away majority and does not permit it to call itself a Church. The most that it can be: the heterodox are in a darkened porch or a courtyard of the Church where sinners and those deprived of communion had to stand, although they were not completely cut off from the Church. The way to restoration of communion and through this to eternal salvation is the same for fallen away organizations as it is for any fallen individual. It is necessary not only to recognize one's sins before the Church but to receive admission to the Eucharist from the Church which has the power to bind and loose, which takes place through the rite of reconciliation. Only such a reception opens the way for the fallen to the full membership in the Church.

That this was the original teaching of the Church about itself and that this is the teaching of the ancient "undivided" Church, so dear to the Old Catholics and their types, can be seen not only from written sources from those times but from living witnesses, namely the still viable groups of Nestorians, Monophysites, Armenians and Copts, Maronites, etc. All these organizations split away from the yet "undivided" Church, and when they left her, each of them believed (and continues to believe) that they are the true Orthodox Church of Christ, and that others (including our own Orthodox) are schismatics or heretics. They by no means see themselves merely a part of the Church alongside other independent parts, although superior to them. The Church for them was and is not a sum total of various parts of a whole of one degree or another, but a single monolithic organization united by one Eucharist. Outside that organizations are ecclesiastical splinters which do not have an independent meaning. These organizations learned to believe this from the "undivided" Church.

As for the previously described attempts to obtain the grace of priesthood somehow apart from the Church, that is outside from her or within her but without her consent, all these attempts are in themselves under judgement. They are unacceptable to the Church and for the seekers themselves, without any value: they do not give them the desired grace of priesthood.

In the first place all such attempts are based on a crudely sensual, superstitious understanding of the Mystery of the priesthood, as if it were some magic talisman which is so powerful that it can perform miracles and at the same time helpless as any inanimate thing. It can somehow be captured from the magician and then used as a talisman according to one's wishes. Such spiritual blindness reflects internal unbelief a "petrified sensation" towards the life of spiritual grace, a general condition of the soul standing in the way of receiving the desired grace. Let us recall that Simon Magus did not receive hierarchal grace precisely because he contemplated about God's gift blasphemously, which showed that "his heart was not right before God" (Acts 8:18, 23). Yes, there are priests in the Church with such a spiritual condition. But as long as the priest is in the Church and acts in her name, his defects are covered by the Church's plenitude. Leaving the Church, what can he offer to his new flock?

In the second place, the above attempts in fact are accompanied with canonical transgressions, which bring about ejection, frequently by way of bribery, especially with the enticement of priests and bishops, as was the case with Amvrosii of Belokrinitza (and here not only those who ordain and were ordained for a reward are deprived of grace, but all those who were with them, laymen and monastics, subject to anathema. E.C. IV:2), or almost always accompanied by fraud in one way or another which is equivalent to bribery and likewise results in the deprivation of grace (Cf E.C.VII:8).

A classic example of an attempt to fool each other in the transmission of the grace of priesthood from the Orthodox Church to the dissidents is the "rite" developed in September of 1925 in Ashkhabad by Bishop Andrey Ukhtomsky and Archimandrite Kliment, who left the Church. Upon instruction from the Old Believers, Kliment came to Bp. Andrey inviting him to go over to the Old Believers. Bp. Andrey knew very well that the Old Believers would receive him only by way of the Second Rite, that is with the renunciation of Nikoniasm and by chrismation and he still agreed. But, in renouncing Nikoniasm he took advantage of a sophism: Nikon's reforms served as an impetus for Church reforms of Peter I and on the basis of the latter a new direction in Church life came about, bringing on the Renovationists. Thus to renounce Renovationism would mean a renunciation of Nikonism. Anointing himself with Holy Chrism, he thought that he is not performing the rite of chrismation but a simple anointing as a sign of spiritual joy on the occasion of the event. Kliment, who was to receive consecration to the episcopate from Bp. Andrey, quickly closed his eyes to these small details. Bp. Andrey became an Old Believer bishop and Kliment was consecrated. However such quid pro quo did not satisfy the Old Believers and they did not recognize Andrey as one of theirs nor Kliment as a bishop.

The Old Believers not infrequently resort to such trickery themselves. For example they make sure that someone leaving the Church to join them, so to say jumps the fence, that is he goes through the rite of reception as an Old Believer before there is time for the Church court to suspend him or deprive him of Orders. They forget that in addition to the earthly court there is the judgement of God from which no one, no where, can hide. "Though they dig into Sheol, from there shall my hand take them" (Amos 9:2). Even the earthly Church court can reach the one who ran away, wherever he may have gone: according to the canons a vagrant cleric remains a cleric of his former diocese and as such is subject to judgement by his bishop, likewise a vagrant bishop is still subject to his superior. Joining a dissident organization does not shield one from a Church court but merely an additional reason to deprive the vagrant from his Orders or at least to suspend him and declare all his ministrations after leaving the Church to be ineffective.

Even more questionable and hopeless is the attempt to obtain ordination from some heterodox organization. For example, one Archimandrite, who was not really a bad sort, lost his patience in waiting for an Orthodox bishopric and decided to get what he wanted by indirect means: he went over to the Renovationists, obtained a consecration and soon after that came to me with repentance and with a request to be taken back to the Church. An even better case: a young Hieromonk who was very active and received awards from his bishop for among other things his struggles against Renovationists and Gregorievites, all of a sudden becomes a Gregorievite bishop and writes to me requesting admission to the Church, promising to bring over the whole episcopate. Their logic is understandable: "To be sure, it is a sin to go over to the Dissidents; the Church court will impose a penance; I will repent of my sin, perform the penance but nonetheless I will remain a bishop". Certainly, it is not possible to receive those two in their present rank even if we recognized Gregoriavite ordinations and (after 2 April 1924) those of the Renovationists. A considerable condescension in both cases would be not to deprive them of Orders for their blasphemous fraud but to retain the one as an Archimandrite and the other as a Hieromonk.

Such are the voyages of the learned German professors to the Monophysites for ordinations. The candidate for ordination is obviously lying: he reads the Monophysite confession, he promises loyalty to the Monophysite hierarchy and he knows very well in his soul that he doesn't want to nor will he be a Monophysite, that he will immediately cut all ties with the Monophysite hierarchy because he wants the bishopric for himself alone and for his organization. If those who ordain are not fooled by the true intentions of the candidate, then they are acting dishonestly with respect to their Monophysite organization. It is no wonder that suspicions arise that the alertness of the guardians of the Monophysite integrity in such cases is made dormant by some unspiritual means. Even if those who ordain are motivated by self-imagined benevolence that is, to provide hierarchs for the wandering organization, having left the Lutherans or Roman Catholics but who did not join the Church, then the Church has the right to view such an ordination as an act directed towards harming the Orthodox mission and to apply all the strictness and force of canons to such an extraterritorial ordination (Ap. 14; E.C.I:16; Sard. 15, etc.).

With respect to the above mentioned Gregory Guzik and his candidate Spiridon, neither one nor the other can be recognized as bishops even if both of them were not married. Guzik received his Orders from Anglicans, whose orders are not recognized by the Russian Church. The recognition of that ordination by Kasangian, who broke away from Rome, an Armenian Uniate, is not binding on anyone. One must wonder about Spiridon, why did a person with a theological formation, allow himself to be ordained by some wandering bishop with questionable orders, and then proclaimed himself an Orthodox bishop.

By the same token those who reject all signs of Apostolic succession in heterodoxy are likewise wrong, as is the case of extreme protectors of Orthodox dogma, but those are even more in error who see that succession as some value in itself which can be utilized without and outside of the Orthodox Universal Church. The heterodox group have a great advantage who have preserved Apostolic succession in that the Church still considers them "of the Church" (ek tis ekklisias), "not yet foreign to the Church". She still preserves "a certain order of communion" with them, on the same level as she has with the sinners and those under penance. However if this impaired and hopeless communion does not lead to full unity with the Church in the one Eucharist, then all the advantages of such heterodox organizations fall away without any benefit. (Rom 9:4-5; 10:4).

Translated by Alvian N. Smirensky
October 26, 1995

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