William (aka Bill the Godfather)

William (aka Bill the Godfather)

Wednesday, May 31, 2006

The Gift of Grace

Archpriest Nikolai Deputatov

Only through the action of the Holy Spirit the inner person grows stronger and renews each day, but the outer, physical person, i.e. the human flesh, the sensual, does the opposite. It decays and falls away (2 Cor. 4:16). How can the strengthening by the Holy Spirit of the inner person be observed? By the entering of Christ in the heart, by the establishing of Him in the inner person — preparing the person as a dwelling for Christ. Christians have received the Holy Spirit and have received Christ into their hearts (Heb.1:13). It is not thought or motive, demanded by Christ, which penetrates us, but Christ Himself, like a Living Entity, enters us. How Christ dwells in the human heart, listen to what He Himself says: "If anyone loves me, he will obey my teaching. My Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him" (John14:23). Christ enters the heart in the presence of grace found in the Holy Spirit, through faith. And the more our faith grows and strengthens, the more concentrated, more profound, more life-involving our communion with the Lord is. Christians become stronger in their inner being through the power of the Holy Spirit, and this is the preparation of the dwelling place for Christ in us. With the unfailing presence of Christ in our hearts, we will be powerful in the foundations and strong in our love, like a plant that has firmly rooted itself in the ground or a building with a sound foundation. These comparisons exemplify the stability, steadfastness and affirmation of Christian love. Christian understandings are supported by a Christian life. The strengthening of the inner person, receiving Christ into our hearts and having love abide in us-these are the necessary prerequisites for Christ’s indwelling. This is not an abstract concept, but a concept based on Christian experience. Having received the power, we become competent to comprehend the truth of Christianity. To comprehend the truth is to master it, to acquire it. It is essential to understand the truth of Christianity in accordance with all the saints. The comprehension of Christianity is acquired not "in some unusual way, set apart from others, but it matures and becomes absolute under the conditions of communion with all other Christians" (Bishop Theophan). An immeasurable element of understanding Christianity is Christ’s love, shown on the Cross, and consequently the love of God, Who sent His Son for the salvation of the world (John 3:16; Rom. 5:6-8).

Christ’s love surpasses the ordinary mind, the ordinary rational reasoning. But that, which is hidden from the natural human understanding, is revealed to the Christian, not fully though, but through the power of the Holy Spirit, through the indwelling of Christ, and through a true life in Christ’s love. That which cannot be comprehended in the normal way, is understood by the inner being, through life in the spirit. "Even though Christ’s love is above all human understanding, you will understand it through the indwelling of Christ in you" (St. John Chrysostom).

Perfection is infinite, but its ultimate limit and highest goal for Christians is the fullness of God’s blessings or blessed strengths from God, given to us in Christ. The highest virtue is humility — a modest perception of oneself, admitting one’s weakness, feebleness, poverty of spirit, meekness in thoughts and feelings. Christian humility rests on a most living understanding that everything a Christian has, he received through grace. The humble person recognizes his great Christian, spiritual treasure, but knows that he did not earn it, for it is given to him by the grace of God, because he, on his own, is powerless and weak. In the words of St. John Chrysostom: "Humility is seen when whoever is great, humbles himself; in recognizing his greatness he does not become vain." Humility is bound with wisdom, for whoever admits his own weakness, will then relate to others without anger and annoyance. After humility and meekness comes patience. On the one hand there is firmness, steadfastness and on the other generosity, patience, no harboring of ill feeling and the absence of revenge. Christian patience is not cold and heartless, but is full of love. If you do not have patience with your fellow human beings, how then is God going to show you patience? Where there is love, all can be endured. That is why the Holy Spirit is given, to reconcile people who differ in many ways. Just as there is our spirit within us, working in all parts of the body and is all unifying, so the Holy Spirit is given to us, the children of the Church, binding and forming us into one body, even though we are different in numerous ways. This unity is expressed in one common hope, emanating from the very calling of Christians. All are enlivened with the one hope, to be eternally in Christ’s Kingdom.

Those who have received the one Spirit and drink from the one source should not be divided. God enters and lives in us through the Holy Spirit, but works in us, reconciles and saves us through the Son. Christ the Savior gives to the faithful blessed gifts of the Holy Spirit by His own measure, so that they do not remain infants in faith, inexperienced youth, wavering and capable of digressing into all kinds of non-Christian ways, where Satan’s deceit entices the inexperienced by various means of guile and perfidy. All believers should be permeated by Christ, by His Spirit and be constantly striving towards Him and be enlivened by Him. Christ is the unchangeable goal in growth and maturity of all that is good within us. Everything is directed towards Him, as all emanates from Him and is perfected by Him…

How sweet it is to be with Christ and how unbearable is life without Him. He is our joy and comfort.

Saturday, May 27, 2006

The Ecumenical Patriarchate Today

By Peter Marudas

When His All Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, 51, was enthroned in Constantinople (present-day Istanbul) on November 2, 1991 there was great hope in Orthodox circles that this relatively young, well-educated and energetic hierarch would restore the Ecumenical Patriarchate's role and lead world Orthodoxy to a new era of spiritual rebirth and secular status.

Nearly 15 years have elapsed since that event, and this expectation has evaporated like wisps of smoke from a flickering church candle.

Many political and ecclesiastical factors have contributed to this development, but a major influence has been a series of missteps and miscalculations by the Ecumenical Patriarch - serious mistakes in judgment which have alienated the Patriarchate from longtime supporters, as well as from important segments of world Orthodoxy.

The Patriarch is certainly not responsible for all these many contentious issues - although he has done his share - but he and his agents are culpable for handling them in a heavy-handed and counter-productive manner, responses and decisions which have steadily undercut the Ecumenical Patriarchate's international prestige and status. A brief listing is instructive:

Read the rest here.

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NOTE: I am not endorsing the above linked editorial in its entirety. But some of the points made in it strike me as valid. Ad Orientem

Friday, May 26, 2006

Bp. + Tikhon to Retire

Bp. +Tikhon & Met. +Herman

Those who have been following the somewhat unfortunate events in the OCA over the last several months may not be terribly surprised by this development. The very public differences between +Tikhon and Met. +Herman probably moved this along. It is also worth noting that the minutes confirmed that Bp. Tikhon will forward the funds owed by the Diocese of the West to the central administration within the next week or so. They had been held back in protest of Met. +Herman's actions in response to the recent scandals. No mention of the ongoing audits or other investigations were contained in the minutes, which were rather vague, to put it kindly. Still this is an important development in the affairs of the church.. From the minutes of the meeting of the Synod of Bishops of the OCA posted on their website:

Bishop TIKHON Announces His Plan to Retire

HEARD: After a statement about the overall nature of his life and service, about his health and recent service, Bishop TIKHON of San Francisco, Los Angeles and the West, reflecting on the content of a recent meeting with his Deans, announced his retirement, effective 14 November, 2006. This decision had been taken prior to the most recent meeting of the Lesser Synod.

MEMORY ETERNAL!

It is with sadness that I note the passing of a young priest (and blogger) of the Roman Catholic Church. Fr. Todd Reitmeyer unexpectedly reposed in the Lord while on vacation the 24th of May, the feast of St. Simeon Stylites the Younger. His life was an inspiration for many both in and out of his religious confession. He will be sorely missed by those who loved him. His family is accepting notes of condolence on their son's blog. Memory Eternal!

Thursday, May 25, 2006

My Reply to Questions on the Western Rite

Below is the reply which I posted (in several parts) over at Orthodoxie. I would refer the reader to that page for the discussion and comments on the Western Rite. On a side note my answer to the question about communion in the hand was innacurate. I have since learned that many of the WRV parishes follow the Anglican custom of giving communion in the hand at the altar rail. I am not very comfortable with this, but it has been presumably approved by their hierarchy.

Lots of questions. Instead of asking more or repeating ones already asked, I thought I might try to answer a few. I am not going to answer all of them. Some are redundant and a few are polemic in nature. But I will give a shot at the more common ones.

Q: Why Western Rite?

A: Because there are more than a few people who are or might become theologically Orthodox, but for whom the Byzantine Rite is so culturally alien, that it would be an impediment to conversion. Also the West was Orthodox for a thousand years and remained steadfastly so during long periods throughout the first millennium when the East was wracked by heresy. The second millennium has seen the situation reversed with the West being largely subsumed by heresy and the East remaining Orthodox. However Western Rite worship and spirituality are part of the patrimony of the Church. We do not have the moral right to abandon it to heretics even if we were so inclined.

Q: Which calendar?

A: That would depend on the jurisdiction. Either is acceptable from my point of view.

Q: When will you celebrate Pascha? Will you celebrate Ash Wednesday, Forgiveness Vespers, or both?

A: Pascha is always celebrated on the same date for all Orthodox Christians. I know of no Orthodox jurisdiction that celebrates it using the calendar of Pope Gregory. Yes, Ash Wednesday would be observed. It’s a Western Christian tradition. Forgiveness Vespers is a largely Byzantine tradition. I would be uncomfortable trying to introduce too much Byzantine Rite tradition into a Western Rite parish. That said it would be the decision of the responsible hierarchs.

Q: What is your source of hymns?

A: That would be up to the responsible jurisdiction and its hierarchy. Obviously any hymns would have to be consistent with the Orthodox Christian Faith.

Q: Will the language of the people be used?

A: The traditional Lingua Franca of the Western Church has always been Latin. However there is also a tradition in favor of using the vernacular. I would think that both would be acceptable. In many parishes of the Byzantine Rite, Greek and Slavonic are still used. Sometimes they are mixed with English. The issue of language is not terribly important to me personally but I would probably lean in favor of English with maybe some Latin thrown in and the occasional High Mass in Latin on special occasions.

Q: Will you have priestesses?

A: No. We are Orthodox.

Q: What role will women play?

A: Probably the same roles they play in Byzantine Rite parishes.

Q: Is this truly Orthodox?

A: "Never, never, never let anyone tell you that, in order to be Orthodox, you must also be eastern. The West was Orthodox for a thousand years, and her venerable liturgy is far older than any of her heresies." - St. John of Shanghai and San Francisco

Q: Do you say filioque?

A: No. We are Orthodox.

Q: Is Western Rite accepted by all of the canonical Orthodox jurisdictions?

A: The Western Rite is employed by some though not all of the canonical jurisdictions. However it is recognized as valid by all jurisdictions that are in communion with a jurisdiction which does employ Western Rite. Hence any jurisdiction in communion with the Antiochian Orthodox Church accepts the validity of the sacraments and orders of its Western Rite parishes. This is not an endorsement of the concept. But even the late Bp. +Anthony of the GOA (a harsh critic of the Western Rite) did not deny its validity.

Q: What kind of groups or individuals are attracted to Western Rite and why?

A: Most (though not all) persons attracted to the Western Rite, are converts who while desiring to embrace Orthodoxy do not wish to abandon the unique spiritual heritage of the west. Others, are people who though Orthodox in faith are not comfortable in the Byzantine Rite which can be quite alien to those raised in the Roman Catholic or Protestant traditions. In some cases this can be an impediment to conversion. A smaller number are Byzantine Rite Orthodox who for one reason or another discover the rich spiritual tradition of the west and desire to practice their Orthodox Christian Faith in that context and environment.

Q: Describe some of the most notable differences between Western and Eastern Rites.

A: This is a very broad question and my answer is necessarily going to be short. That said the Western Rite typically follows the forms of worship used by High Church Anglicans, or Roman Catholics before Vatican II, with some minor modifications to ensure theological Orthodoxy. There is no Filioque and a stronger epiclesis has been added. Leavened bread is used for communion. The Liturgy (Mass) is not sung or chanted except during High Mass. It is shorter and more direct than almost any of the liturgies used in the Byzantine Tradition. The altar is almost always against the wall of the church (preferably facing east). Communion is received while kneeling at the altar rail. Pews are normal in Western Rite parishes as are statues although icons are also common. Kneeling in church is common and prostrations such as are common in the Byzantine tradition are rare. Some jurisdictions employ liturgical rites which are much older, predating the schism. This however is not the norm in the United States. There are minor differences in the fasting rules (Western Rite are slightly less severe than those of the Byzantine Rite). Chant in the Western Tradition usually follows the pattern laid down by Pope St. Gregory the Great and commonly known as Gregorian chant. This is obviously different from the forms of chant in most Byzantine churches. Western Rite monastics follow the rule of St. Benedict, a rule that was unique to the Western Church. This is not an all inclusive list, but I think it covers some of the highlights.

Q: What is the fasting rule in Western Rite?

A: The fasting rules for the Western Rite parishes of the Antiochian Archdiocese are those used by the schismatic Western Church in 1950. The handful of Western Rite parishes under the Russian Church Abroad employ fasting rules that were more common to the West at the turn of the previous millennium and are quite strict. The fasting rules for the Western Rite Vicarate can be found here. http://www.allmercifulsavior.com/Liturgy/AWRV%20Fast%20Rules.pdf

Q: Is the rosary an accepted devotion in Western Rite and how or does it differ from the Roman Catholic devotion?

A: Although very rare in the Byzantine tradition some Western Rite Orthodox do say the rosary. It has neither been approved nor condemned by any council that I am aware of. As such it is a private devotion and a pious custom. An interesting article on the subject may be found here. http://www.westernorthodox.com/rosary

Q: Is Western Rite just the Anglican Book of Common Prayer with the objectionable parts removed and some required parts added? What is the basis of the Western Rite liturgy and how did it develop?

A: No. There are several liturgical rites which are western and used by the Orthodox Church. The oldest is the liturgy of St. Peter. This is the basis of almost all western liturgical traditions and has been consistently used in Russia by some communities even after the schism up to the present day. The core or “canon” of the Mass is generally agreed to have been fixed by Pope St. Gregory the Great. However, many different liturgical rites and “uses” developed in the west in the period predating the schism. This is largely due to the different circumstances that the West found itself in as opposed to the East in the first millennium. While in the East the Roman Empire did not fall until the 15th century in the west it fell in the 5th. The social and political chaos that followed the collapse of the western empire created a totally different situation. In the East the Byzantine Empire provided a force for political and religious unity that was largely absent in the west. This allowed for a more orderly development in liturgy that was mostly uniform throughout the empire. No such conditions existed in the west. Consequently there were many different “western rites” that predated the schism though most were to a large degree patterned around the canon of Pope St. Gregory. Indeed it would not be until the Tridentine reforms of the 16th century that the Roman Church (now long in schism) made a serious attempt to curb the seemingly endless number of different missals then in use. Even then exceptions were made for missals and rites that were more then 200 yrs old. Slowly over the next four centuries most of the western liturgical rites were eroded or subsumed by the Roman Rite promulgated by Pope Pius V in 1570 (Quo Primum Tempore). This was a by product of the continuing rise of the papal monarchy and its effort to Romanize the entire Western Church.

It should be noted that most of the developments during this period although perhaps undesirable were not heretical per se. The Roman Rite of the Mass that predated Vatican II was in most respects the Mass of Pope St. Gregory the Great. The developments were generally slow and minor. In a word they were organic. What has followed is something that has given serious pause to many Orthodox liturgists and theologians. I know of no Orthodox jurisdiction which uses the reformed rite of the Mass commonly called Novus Ordo by Roman Catholics. The reason for this is that it constitutes a serious departure from the organic development of the west’s liturgical rites. And it contains prayers and rites which are theologically suspect. A detailed discussion of this subject is however beyond the scope of my reply here.

Today there are two schools of thought among those who support the concept of Western Rite Orthodoxy. They may be referred to as the antiquinarians and the moderates.

The former believe that all legitimate development within the west’s liturgical traditions ceased in or around 1054. They reject the use of any rite or western church discipline that post dates the schism (though when the schism began is an interesting topic for another time). Most of these support a corrected form of worship commonly called the use of Sarum. Sarum was the pre-reformation liturgical rite used in England. The ROCOR and the Milan Synod (Old Calendarist) both employ forms of worship which they call Sarum. In fairness neither is a true use of Sarum Rite but both are based on pre schism English Missals. They also observe fasting rules and other disciplines common to at least some parts of the Orthodox west ante-schism.

In contrast the Western Rite Vicarate (WRV) of the Antiochian Archdiocese has adopted a more moderate position. They permit two forms of liturgy in their parishes. The first and most common is the so called Liturgy of St. Tikhon who submitted a corrected form of Anglican High Church worship based on the 1892 BCP to the Holy Synod of the Church in Russia for approval This approval with some minor changes was eventually granted. The WRV liturgy currently used is actually more heavily based on the 1928 BCP but the differences are not significant. This liturgy is almost always celebrated in English.

The other less common liturgy is the so called liturgy of Pope St. Gregory the Great. This is in most respects the Tridentine Rite of Mass or more correctly the Missal of Pius V. Like the Liturgy of St. Tikhon minor corrections have been made to ensure theological orthodoxy. This Mass is celebrated in both Latin and English.

The above is a very short and general history of the western rite liturgies. It is NOT all inclusive. A more detailed discussion of western rite liturgical history may be found here. http://www.westernorthodox.com/Lux-Occidentalis

Q: Is it true that key figures in the Orthodox Church, past and present, are opposed to Western Rite? How do proponents of Western Rite respond? (I am thinking here specifically of Father Alexander Schmemann and other like minded Orthodox notables.)

A: The Western Rite has been and remains controversial among some Orthodox. Though few deny its validity there are more than a few who have questioned the need for it or the wisdom of it. A proper discussion of this subject would turn an already long post into a short book. However, for those interested a brief discussion of this topic can be found here. http://www.orthodoxwiki.org/Western_Rite_Criticism

Q: What sort of vestments do the priests/ Deacons wear?

A: Most Western Rite clergy where the soutain or cassock with a roman collar and biretta. The Liturgical Vestments are…

• Alb - linen overgarment, worn with a cincture (belt or rope) over the cassock and for clergy, beneath liturgical vestments. The baroque Roman form has lace cuffs and from hips down. In the medieval or English forms, worn with square apparels on the front and back lower hem, and on the cuffs.
• Amice - square of linen with ties, originally worn on the head as a hood, now worn thrown back over the alb purportedly to protect vestments from sweat and oil. In medieval or English use it often has a rectangular apparel forming a collar when thrown back.
• Apparels - pieces of brocade worn on the amice and alb in English or Medieval style as decorations.
• Chasuble - the Eucharistic vestment, worn only by the celebrating priest (and at certain services in Lent, folded up at the shoulders, by Deacon and Subdeacon). Original form is the Conical, being a half-circle of cloth joined in the front. The medieval chasubles were cut away at the sides and called Gothic. In the Counter-Reformation, the form was abbreviated extremely and stiffened to the 'Fiddleback' shape, particularly for use in hot climes. The Gothic revival style is based upon the look of the Gothic (cutaway conical) when worn.
• Cincture - a belt, most commonly of rope, anciently a band of silk and decorated with jewels.
• Clavis - the gilded and embroidered bands of decoration found on the Western dalmatic and tunicle.
• Cope - a half-circle of cloth with a functional or non-functional hood, highly decorated. Clasped at the neck with a chain or rectangle of cloth called a 'morse'. Worn in processions, and by non-celebrating clergy during liturgy. Essentially identical in form to the Syriac 'phayno'.
• Crosier and Crook - pastoral staff in the form of a shepherd's crook, bears a cross. Normally used by bishops and abbots.
• Dalmatic - a wide sleeved tunic, slit up the sides. the normal eucharistic garment of the Deacon. Decorated with two vertical bands connected by two horizontal bands (see Clavis.)
• Maniple - a small thin band of cloth worn on the left wrist by clergy (subdeacon, deacon, priest, and bishop) at liturgy. Its purpose was originally to wipe the chalice with.
• Mitre- pointed cap with two peaks: front and back. Classified by three levels of decoration and costliness. Worn by bishops and abbots. English or Medieval style very short, Roman style much taller.
• Orphrey - the gilded and embroidered bands of decoration on Western vestments, particularly the chasuble.
• Rochet - in the traditional style, refers to a floor length linen garment with a round yoke similar to an alb, but with close fitting sleeves, often tied at the cuffs. Also a flowing floor length linen garment with slits at the sides and sometimes over sleeves, worn by servers. In baroque Roman form a thigh length linen garment, more fitting than a surplice, similar to alb but worn un-belted. Is generally gathered close around the neck and wrists. Lace around cuffs and bottom third.
• Stole - a narrow band of cloth worn about the neck hanging down. The method of wear denotes the office: straight down for bishop, crossed at the breast for priest, crossed at the side for deacon.
• Tunicle - a wide sleeved tunic, slit up the sides, generally smaller in scale than the Dalmatic. Decorated with two vertical vertical bands (clavis) - normally worn by Subdeacons at liturgy, can also be worn by the crucifer, thurifer, and clerk.

From http://www.orthodoxwiki.org/Vestments#Liturgical_2

Q: Do the Priests face the alter or the congregations?

A: The priest faces the altar for the Mass.

Q: What is changed in the consecration of elements to make the rite a valid one?

A: The only significant change in the rite of consecration has been the addition of a stronger epiclesis.

Q: Do the Western rite use Commmunion wafers like their western conterparts, or do they use a whole loaf, as in the east?

A: In the WRV wafers are used. However they are made of leavened bread that have been mashed down.

Q: Is Communion taken in the hand?

A: I am not aware of communion being given in the hand and would be opposed to the practice of it exists.

Q: Do they follow the guidelines for kneeling/ not kneeling durring Pascha as their Byzantine rite Brethren?

A: The western customs regarding kneeling are different from those of the Byzantine tradition.

Q: What is the proceedure for confession (priest-in-the-box or infront of an icon, prayers of absolution, ect)? How often is it taken? Is it offered on a weekly basis?

A: I am not certain if Holy Confession is done in a confessional or in person. There may be variation on that. The WRV rite used is very similar to that used by the Roman Church pre-Vatican II. It may be read here. http://www.allmercifulsavior.com/Liturgy/AWRV%20Confession%20Rite.pdf
Confession is taken as often as necessary as preparation for receiving Holy Communion and must be taken at least once a year at a minimum. All Western Rite parishes that I am aware of offer confession at least weekly. The Milan Synod has a more elaborate rite of confession that is pre-schism. It may be read here… http://www.allmercifulsavior.com/Liturgy/SHP%20Confession%20Rite.pdf

Q: Does marriage take the same form as in the byzentine rite, or do they use the CBCP?

A: The rites of Holy Matrimony are different from the Byzantine Rite. The WRV is…
http://www.allmercifulsavior.com/Liturgy/AWRV%20Wedding.pdf

The Sarum is http://www.allmercifulsavior.com/Liturgy/SHP%20Wedding.pdf

Q: Is an infant baptized by sprinkling or by full immersion? Adult baptism?

A: Holy baptism is performed by full immersion unless there is an emergency or some compelling reason that precludes that.

Q: What is kept on the alter table?

A: The items typically kept on the altar are …
• Tabernacle: Where the holy sacrament is reserved.
• Crucifix : Often suspended or mounted above the altar.
• Altar cards: Three cards that contain the common prayers of the Mass in Latin (usually) that are said during parts of the Mass. Basically que cards for the priest.
• The sacred vessels.
• Alter Missal & Stand.: Containing the ordinary and propers for the Mass along with the readings.
• Candles which are lit during Mass and other services.
• Relics of saints

Q: Is the reserve sacrament kept in a tabernacle on the table or do they keep it in a tabernacle behind the alter (or somewhere off to the side? My Roman Catholic friend says that in some churches, you have to play "Find the Jesus")?

A; Yes. The sacrament is kept reserved for emergencies.

Q: "Do you anticipate/hope/intend that the Western Rite church will draw Episcopalians and other Main line Protestants who have gotten fed up with the shenanigans of their hierarchs?"

A: This has already happened and is continuing to happen.

Q: Is a process of conversion, baptism, eucharist, and chrismation required or do people just come in?

A: Conversion follows much the same pattern as in the Byzantine Rite although the rites may be different. Baptism Confession and Chrismation are the sacraments by which converts are received.

Q: How do you de-Anglicanize the Anglicans?

A: Carefully

Q: Icons?

A: Yes

Q: Will your mission have statues?

A: Most Western Rite parishes have statues. The West never acquired the negative view of them that the East did. However they are not usually venerated in the way icons are.

Q: Considering that most mainline western denominations have modernised their liturgy and introduced new innovations such as extraodinary ministers of the communion, altar girls, and *gasp* women priests, wouldn't a transition to a traditional western rite mission be just as difficult as a transition to an eastern rite parish?

A: In some cases this may be true. However those who are converting to Orthodoxy are unlikely to be happy with those things anyways. The Traditional Western Rites of worship are still far more easily distinguishable from the Byzantine Rite.

Q: This is a very hypothetical question....Are you concerned that the western rite movement could attract converts for all the wrong reasons? For example, liberal catholics may be attracted because they do not want follow their own church's teaching on divorce and contraception. Could this open a new can of worms by creating a powerful liberal movement in the Orthodox Church that has already ravaged the western denominations since the 1960s?

A: The process for receiving converts should weed out those who may be converting for the wrong reasons. I have a hard time imagining liberal anybodies who would be comfortable in an Orthodox parish of either rite. Theological liberals do not become Orthodox unless they are abandoning their liberalism. I would be more concerned with the possibility of conservative Catholics coming over because they don’t like all the happy clappy things going on in the Roman Church, but who are basically still Roman in their theology. They would be somewhat harder to weed out.

Q: Given the existence of the Liturgies of St. John Chrysostom and St. Basil, and the beauty and purity contained there, why would someone seek out a "Western Rite?"

A: I am guessing you have never been to a High Mass by Palestrina or Mozart. No?

Q: Would they not be concerned that a "Western Rite" might separate them in custom and practice from many of their Orthodox brethren?

A: How so? Because the west fell into heresy? Would you have argued for the suppression of the Byzantine Rite had you lived in the west during the Arian heresy?

Q: Would this mission be under a SCOBA bishop, if not, then what jurisdiction is it? (Why can't I think of Orthodoxy without thinking about jurisdictions?)

A: The jurisdictional soup we have here in N. America and indeed throughout the world tends to color our thinking. Currently the two jurisdictions in N. America that support the Western Rite are the Antiochian Archdiocese and the ROCOR. The former is a member in good standing in SCOBA. The latter is emerging from a painful period of isolation from much of the Orthodox world (Deo Gratias!).

Q: Also, will it be "open" or "closed" communion, and what do they understand that to mean, anyway? I.e. who will the communicants be?

A: No. Western Rite are Orthodox. Western Rite Orthodox are in communion with whomever their jurisdiction is in communion with. Open communion is not allowed.

Q: How might the Western-Rite Orthodox parishes redeem the word "Western." The term seems to be often used pejoratively to refer to Roman Catholics and Protestants, as opposed to "Eastern" Orthodox.

A: “Western” has indeed become a pejorative for some Orthodox. I have spoken to some who I seriously suspect have an imaginary line in their head on one side of which all things are suspect and on the other Orthodoxy is presumed. The same can be said of the term “scholastic theology.” Within limits scholasticism compliments the mystical theology of the east in many ways. The monks of Mt. Athos were among the first to translate into Greek the writing of Thomas Aquinas whom some thought to be among the greatest of theologians (though they obviously had reservations about some of his more Augustinian views). There are far too many areas where the east has been positively influenced by the western scholastic approach. It was not really until the 19th century that the very serious knee jerk hostility to this school of theology began to take deep root in the Orthodox East. Like all forms of theology it is subject to abuse by the unwary as much as by the malicious.

In this sense the slow revival of Western Orthodoxy can help to remind people that the west has a rich and very Orthodox heritage that has been ignored or maligned for too long.

Q: Will you teach the people about the antiquity of the Western Rite, the writings of the Venerable Bede,the Orthodoxy of ancient Celtic Christianity,the consecration prayers used in the catacombs, etc.

A: Yes. The preservation and restoration of the West’s Orthodox heritage and history is an important part of the Western Rite’s mission. We are reclaiming a part of the Church’s patrimony.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Questions for the Western Rite

Fr. Joseph Hunnycutte has posted this at Orthodoxie: "If you could ask questions of someone who is starting a Western Rite Mission ... what would you ask?"

Read the questions and post your comments here.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Baptist Dog

Hat tip to sionnsar over at Free Republic:

Ever mindful of the congregation, the Baptist preacher and his wife decided to get a new dog, and knew that the dog also had to be a Baptist.

They visited kennel after kennel and explained their needs. Finally, they found a kennel whose owner assured them he had just the dog they wanted.

The owner brought the dog to meet the pastor and his wife. Fetch the Bible,” he commanded. The dog bounded to the bookshelf, scrutinized the books, located the Bible, and brought it to the owner.

“Now find Psalm 23,” he commanded.

The dog dropped the Bible to the floor, and showing marvelous dexterity with his paws, leafed through and finding the correct passage, pointed to it with his paw. The pastor and his wife were very impressed and purchased the dog.

That evening, a group of church members came to visit.

The pastor and his wife began to show off the dog, having him locate several Bible verses. The visitors were very impressed.

One man asked, “Can he do regular dog tricks, too?”

“I haven’t tried yet” the pastor replied. He pointed his finger at the dog. “HEEL!” the pastor commanded. The dog immediately jumped on a chair, placed one paw on the pastor’s forehead and began to howl.

The pastor looked at his wife in shock and said, “Good Lord! He’s Pentecostal!

Works or Faith

Bishop Alexander (Mileant) ROCOR

The Two Extremes


The age-old dispute still; each of the warring sides has dug itself deeply into its position and will not give even an inch. The Roman Catholic Church asserts that salvation is based on man's merits. Not only can a man make up for his sins by his acts and works, he can even acquire a surplus of merit, which can be used by others. In support of the correctness of their position, Roman Catholics advance those passages of Scripture which speak of the necessity of good works; for example: "We are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them" (Eph. 2:10). "I will ... that they which have believed in God might be careful to maintain good works. These things are good and profitable unto men" (Tit. 3:8). And there are other such citations.

Rejecting this doctrine, Protestants teach that all are saved by the merits of the Savior alone. The gifts of forgiveness of sins and eternal life are obtained by faith alone, which is fully sufficient for salvation. There is no need for good works, ascetic labors or moral perfection: Only believe, and you are saved.

To support the correctness of their idea, they cite, among other texts, the following words of the Apostle Paul: "By the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in His sight: for by the law is the knowledge of sin. But now the righteousness of God without the law is manifested, being witnessed by the law and the prophets; even the righteousness of God which is by faith of Jesus Christ unto all and upon all them that believe; for there is no difference: for all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God; being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus: Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in His blood, to declare His righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God; to declare, I say, at this time His righteousness: that He might be just, and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus. Where is boasting then? It is excluded. By what law? Of works? Nay; but by the law of faith. Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law" (Rom. 3:20-28). Furthermore, "Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law: for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified" (Gal. 2:16).

Since both sides find support in Holy Scripture, which is right? It is sad to see that sometimes even Orthodox theologians get caught up in this argument about how man is saved. In their polemics with Catholics they use Protestant arguments, while in polemics with Protestants they use Catholic arguments. This creates the impression that perhaps Orthodoxy does not have its own clear teaching about salvation, and that it stands for something midway between Catholicism and Protestantism. An ordinary Christian who listens to the arguments of both sides might even be led to doubt the truthfulness of Sacred Scripture. He might think that perhaps the Apostles did not fully understand Christ's teaching, or that they had been unable to express His teaching with sufficient clarity, or even that the content of the Scriptures had been distorted by later additions made by heretics. Such an opinion was held by Martin Luther and other Protestant theologians, who disputed the authenticity of the Epistle of St. James the Apostle and the Epistle to the Hebrews, on the grounds that they speak more definitely about the necessity of good works than do the other books of the New Testament.

An Explanation of Terms

In reality, there are no contradictions in the Scriptures, nor could there be any. The whole dispute among non-Orthodox theologians rests on a misunderstanding. The question of salvation is reduced from the spiritual and moral sphere to the level of formal juridical categories. Salvation came to be understood not as the renewal of a sinful soul, or as the acquisition of righteousness, but rather as the result of a man's satisfying certain conditions, whether good works (as with the Roman Catholics) or faith (as with the Protestants). Then, if a man violates the required conditions, he cannot be saved.

In fact, the salvation or perdition of a man is the result of the moral state of his soul. Paradise is not simply a place, but also the state or condition of a soul that has been renewed. Christ came to earth not to move us into better living conditions, but rather to give us spiritual rebirth, to heal us of the corruption of sin, to restore to us the beauty of the image of God, and to make us children of God. "If any man be in Christ, he is a new creature" (2 Cor. 5:17).

Since the moral condition of the soul depends on the inclination of the will, a man must use force to fix his heart (cf. Luke 17:20; Matt. 11:12). This is why our doctrine of salvation cannot be considered on the level of what we have done or not done. Salvation has to be regarded as a spiritual process, carried out by the grace of Christ with the active participation of the one who is being saved. In some people this process is completed quite quickly, as with the wise thief who repented on the cross, while in others it takes place slowly and indirectly. Besides, what is spiritually required of one man or another varies with the individual, as does the level of spiritual perfection which he may reach; this is evident from the parables of the seed and the talents (cf. Matt. 13:1-23; 25:14-30).

In order to be convinced that Holy Scripture is free from any internal contradictions, we must first be clear about its terminology: specifically, what it means by works, and what it means by faith.

In those texts concerning justification by faith which are cited by Protestants, the Apostle Paul's words are directed not against good works, as such, but against the works of the law. "The works of the law" is a very specific term, by which St. Paul refers to the ritual and ceremonial aspect of the Mosaic Law: its sabbaths and feasts, circumcision, washing and rites of purification, its scrupulous distinction between clean and unclean food, and finally its whole ponderous structure of ethnic religious customs which had been built up over the ages. Imbibing "the works of the law" with their mother's milk, the Jews regarded their religion not as a force for moral regeneration, but rather as the sum total of all the requirements which had to be strictly observed in order to merit justification in the sight of God. The more one fulfilled the works of the law, the greater his reward, in purely arithmetical proportions. Thus there arose that utilitarian and mercantile mentality against which St. Paul constantly battled.

When it comes to good works as the expression of a lively faith in God, St. Paul not only did not reject them, but positively exhorted Christians to perform them diligently. For example, he writes: "With the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation" (Rom. 10:10). "As we have therefore opportunity, let us do good unto all men" (Gal. 6:10). "We are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them" (Eph. 2:10). "I will ... that they which have believed in God might be careful to maintain good works. These things are good and profitable unto men" (Tit. 3:8). "Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God" (1 Cor. 10:31). The Apostle James states it more categorically: "To him that knoweth to do good, and doeth it not, to him it is sin" (Jas. 4:17).

Thus, when we speak about works, we make a very important distinction between good works and the works of the law, which have indeed lost all their importance in Christianity. Good works are not quantities that can be weighed and measured. Their value lies not in their number but in the dedication with which they are done. For example, the small coin of a poor widow was worth more in God's eyes than the large sums which the wealthy were donating to the treasury of the Temple; "for all they did cast in of their abundance; but she of her want did cast in all that she had, even all her living" (Mark 12:44).

Furthermore, the very same work can be accounted as good or bad, depending on the intention with which it is performed. The Pharisee of the Gospel parable spent much time in fasting and prayer, but he derived no benefit from them, because he acted to show off his good works to others; yet Anna the prophetess acquired the Holy Spirit by her fasting and prayer (cf. Luke 2:36). Those sectarian Protestants who reject the fasts and prayers of the Church as being unnecessary should note the fact that this righteous woman, by her works of abstinence and prayer, obtained God's grace even at a time when grace was not yet accessible to men, since the Holy Spirit had not yet descended upon the Apostles (cf. John 7:39).

Finally, the worth of good works lies not so much in the deeds themselves as in their manifestation of man's good qualities, his virtues. There is a definite correspondence to be noted here. Every "work" or act that a man does leaves a discernible trace in his soul, whether positive or negative. If these acts are continued more or less consistently, they gradually render a man virtuous or base. Thus, it is important to practice good works in order to acquire good habits (cf. Rom. 12:12; 1 Tim. 4:16). For this reason the Gospel says, "Blessed are they that mourn .... Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness .... Blessed are the merciful .... Blessed are the peacemakers," meaning that happy will be the lot of those who constantly and consistently do good.

Now let us try to clarify the essence of the concept of faith. When the Sacred Scriptures speak of the necessity of faith, they mean by this word not only an abstract, theoretical acknowledgement of certain truths of religion, but the consent of man's will in submitting to God. In other words, faith contains an active element, one of definite, positive actions. In all the places where saving faith is spoken of in the Holy Scriptures, we always encounter definite acts. In our ordinary, everyday life, an engineer is not valued so much for his theoretical knowledge as for his ability to apply that knowledge in practice. In the same way, God expects of us not an abstract faith, but one that is living and active. It is interesting to note that the mere knowledge of religious truth, without a corresponding way of life, not only does not profit a man, but incurs for him even greater condemnation; as Christ said, "That servant which knew his lord's will, and prepared not himself, neither did according to his will, shall be beaten with many stripes" (Luke 12:47; cf. Rom 2:13).

And so, a Christian's faith must include a sincere desire to become a different and better man. This demands interior effort, self-examination, repentance, a change in one's way of life, so that our faith may shine like a bright light. "Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven" (Matt. 5:16).

What Should We Strive Towards?

The question of whether man is saved by faith or by works is framed in the wrong way, because the soul's salvation cannot be separated from its moral and spiritual condition. The Son of God came to earth in order to restore to man a harmony among his thoughts, feelings and acts, and thus to reunite man with Himself. Faith cannot be set up in opposition to works; they should be united, as are the soul and body of a living human being. The more a man practices virtue, the stronger his faith grows, and the stronger his faith, the more virtuous his life will be. The two support each other.

God does not need either the bare acceptance of His existence or the mechanical performance of certain acts. He loves us so much that He offered His Only-begotten Son as a sacrifice for our redemption. What could be greater than such love? It follows that we ought to respond to God not with half-hearted love, but with a whole-hearted love which encompasses our hearts and our lives.

To sum up the essence of Christianity, St. Peter the Apostle writes to believers: "According as His divine power [i.e., God's grace] hath given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness ... giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue; and to virtue, knowledge; and to knowledge, temperance; and to temperance, patience; and to patience, godliness; and to godliness, brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness, charity. For if these things be in you, and abound, they make you that ye shall neither be barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ." How can one become temperate without fasting? How can one become kind and charitable without giving aid to the needy? Clearly, to be virtuous in soul requires a life of practicing virtue. As St. Peter further writes, "He that lacketh these things is blind, and cannot see afar off, and hath forgotten that he was purged from his old sins" (2 Pet. 1:3, 5-9). This brief instructive passage is noteworthy in that it combines the most important elements of Christianity: personal effort and the assistance of God's grace, a virtuous life and progressive improvement of the soul.

Of course, all this requires time and patience, as the Apostle Paul teaches: "Let us not be weary in well-doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not. As we have therefore opportunity, let us do good unto all men" (Gal. 6:9-10). "Never flag in zeal, be aglow with the Spirit, serve the Lord" (Rom. 12:11, RSV).

In vain have non-Orthodox writers argued about how a man is saved. "For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision availeth any thing, nor uncircumcision; but faith which worketh by love" (Gal. 5:6). Any Christian who does not work to better his soul is wasting the grace which he has received, without any profit. As our Lord said, "He that gathereth not with Me, scattereth abroad" (Matt. 12:30).

St. Paul beautifully summed up the disposition which we should constantly strive to maintain in ourselves. "Rejoice in the Lord always: and again I say, Rejoice. ... Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your request be made known unto God. ... Whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things. Those things, which ye have both learned, and received, and heard, and seen in me, do: and the God of peace shall be with you" (Phil. 4:4, 6, 8-9).

Appendix:

The Holy Fathers on Good Works

"Let every good work that we undertake be done for the glory of God, and then it will be for our glory also. The fulfillment of the commandments is holy and pure only when it is done with the Lord in mind, with the fear of God and with love for Him. The enemy of the human race (the devil) tries in every way to lead us away from such a disposition. He uses various earthly lures to make our hearts become attached to the things we consider good in this world, instead of that which is truly good, the love of God. The evil one attempts to defile and disfigure whatever good a man may do; into our fulfillment of the commandments he scatters the seeds of vainglory, doubt, murmuring or something of that sort, to turn our good work into something that is no longer good. A good work becomes truly good only when it is done for God, with humility and diligence. In such a state, all things prescribed by the commandments become easy for us, because our love for God removes all difficulties in keeping His commandments" (St. Ephrem the Syrian).

"Everyone who desires to be saved must not only avoid evil, but must also do good; as it says in the Psalms, 'Turn away from evil, and do good' (Ps. 33:14 - LXX). For example, if someone is prone to anger, not only must he stop getting angry, but he must also become meek. If someone is proud, not only must he not be proud, but he must also become humble. Every passion has an opposing virtue: pride - humility; miserliness - generosity; lechery - chastity; faint-heartedness - patience; wrath - meekness; hatred - love" (Abba Dorotheus).

"Not every good deed is reckoned a good work, but only that good deed which is done for God. The external aspects of the deed do not constitute its substance; God looks at the heart. We should be greatly humbled when we see that some passion attaches itself to every good work. What is most profitable is abstinence in moderation. It is better for us to be dishonored and to suffer, but let God's will be done in everything; you should not give yourself over to afflictions of your own will. That would be a brazen act of pride, and it may turn out that you will not be able to endure what you have taken upon yourself of your own will. A sin which is covered by a mask of goodness stealthily enters and harms the souls of those who do not test themselves against the Gospels. Gospel goodness requires self-renunciation, the renunciation of one's own will and mind" (Starets Nikon).

The Subject of Prayer

Archpriest Nikolai Deputatov

Philosophizing is by far easier than praying. Satan is self — opinionated and encourages those who rely on their own wisdom. On self-willed theorizing and the grasping of "the great mysteries" he traps, confuses and destroys human souls. The greatest advantage of prayer is that it replaces all that we have. This is the most profound content that is hidden in prayer: faith, devotion, salvation. Whoever strives to pray with one’s whole heart is already saved. Prayer — is a half-way to God. Through prayer, a blessed power by way of a harmony of sacred words, pours into our hearts. Prayer brings divine joy.

If philosophers, rationalists and materialists do not believe and do not pray, this does not mean that they have advanced very far, or soared very high, "but it means they have stepped away from human nature, distorted and disfigured themselves, as though they have gouged their eyes out or cut off their noses" (Bishop Theophan). The Apostles regarded prayer, together with the teaching of the word of God, their main concern. "Prayer is the highest of virtues, the root and foundation of a life striving for salvation" (St. John Chrysostom).

Christians, in prayer, find solace and help in all difficulties of life, in every need and misfortune. And thus-perish self pity! Let us compel ourselves to prayer. If we continue to pray, even under duress, then idleness and our negative attitude to prayer will begin to dissipate and with God’s help, will completely disappear and could be replaced by a strong spiritual inspiration. "One monk was constantly overcome by the devil before prayer. He would feel hot and cold, begin to feel ill — he was ready to die. What did he do? Well, my soul, he said! The time has come to die. Let us pray for the last time, and shed our tears before God.’ Forcing himself, he stood to pray. His head was aching, but he continued… He finished reading the typica, and the pain disappeared… The next day, the same happened. Then he understood from where the temptation comes, and from then on he never left the reading of prayers — no matter what the distraction was" (Bishop Theophan).

The soul, just like the weather, experiences sunny days and dull days. It is within our power to attune our soul so that unceasingly, the sweetest heavenly melodies will be heard. Unconsciously the words of the poet come to mind: "The sounds of the heavens could not be replaced by the sorrowful songs of earth." True prayer cannot exist without the assistance of the Holy Spirit. The impact of the Spirit, the Comforter on the heart — therein creates touching sighs, sacred strivings and desired prayer. This kind of birth process of prayer, heartfelt and sweet, is a unique, heavenly joy… If fervent intercessors cease to exist, then the world will perish through great disasters. "The world is upheld by the prayers of holy people," attests starets (spiritual elder) Siluan, "from the time I came to know God, my soul longs for Him, and nothing makes me more joyous on earth than this. There is only one joy for me — God. He — is my joy, my strength; He is my wisdom, my wealth... From the sweetness of God’s love, the soul forgets all earthly things, regarding these as debris and ash…"

The Jesus prayer holds a pre-eminent place... It is directed to place us into God’s presence without any thoughts, only the understanding of that miracle that we are here and God is present with us. With the Jesus prayer there is nothing and no-one, except God and us. It is a good companion, friendly, always close and totally personal, in spite of the seeming monotony when repeated. In joy or in sorrow, when it becomes habitual, the Jesus prayer becomes a strength, revitalizing the soul, always a ready answer to any call from God. Without prayers and hope, the world will suffocate in its own hatred and will become weary from suffering. In vain the voices cry out, the weeping eyes await the light. The night grows darker… And without Christ, the day will not come to replace the night…

One Athonite starets pleaded the Theotokos for two years to grant him a prayerful flame in his heart, and this was granted. Starets Ambrose of Optina was transfigured during noetic prayer. His face lit up and it gave out an unusual radiance. From the writings of St. Isaac Syrian, one starets was only conscious of himself at prayer, up to the first Glory (of the 3rd psalm), and then immersed himself in the contemplation of God, and very noetically, in silence, prayed to God at some length, standing motionless and not feeling any drudgery. This blessed gift the starets received after 30 years of feats, sorrows and deprivations. In this way the feats of martyrs, saints and the righteous with the help of the grace of God, are higher than exceed the natural powers of people.

A fellow countryman, visiting St. Seraphim asked if he wanted to send anything to his family. St. Seraphim answered, pointing to the icons of the Savior and the Virgin Mary: "This is my family." True prayer filled with humility and love of God and other people, together with the partaking of the Holy Mystery of the Eucharist, makes the communicant a dweller of the spiritual, heavenly world. True, heartfelt prayer banishes in us loneliness, despondency, hopelessness. It invigorates our spirit, arouses energy, makes us forget insults and disappointments, even in great misfortunes. It develops patience, endurance and consoles with hope in God. The devout are always full of vitality and are cheerful. There is no sorrow that prayer cannot allay. Prayer — is a key that opens the doors to God’s mercy, and is a proven means of obtaining temporary and eternal joy.

When God is in our hearts, then within us, we have the Kingdom of God and there is joy and peace. Prayer not only brings joy and serenity, but even changes misfortunes to good and brings salvation of our soul. "All who call upon the name of Jesus Christ will be saved" (Rom.10:13). God fulfills our requests, if they come from the heart. He bestows on us His blessed help.

A young boy wants to draw a picture and give it to his father on his Name Day, but he cannot draw it by himself, and the father with all his love helps him, putting his hand over his son’s and makes correct outlines. And when the picture is ready the son presents it to his father with great delight, who accepts it, even though, in reality, it was drawn by the father who was guiding the son’s hand. This is analogous to how our Heavenly Father helps us, who pray to Him. We are weak, but the Almighty Lord, not only helps, but gives strength to strive towards good. At certain times, the Lord gives the opportunity to experience the joy of being with Him and the enjoyment of life. "Wherever Christ the Lord may be, there you will find the Kingdom of God and His divine blessedness" (St. Tihon of Zadonsk). "O Jesus, joy and sweetness of angels and all the saints! Draw me to follow You! — By what means? By Your beautiful and salvific way which You have followed from birth to death, for my sake, an unworthy being. Where did You go? To Your eternal Kingdom. That is where we will hasten and here, on earth, and there, in Your Kingdom, we will live in Your likeness (St. Tihon of Zadonsk).

Choose a concise prayer with forceful words. Repeating it often and over a period of time, you will find in it a great strength. There is no need for wordiness, but with a short prayer pound out of the heart, as if out of flint, blessed sparks. This comes from personal experience. The Church also has lengthy services and prayers. They are all according to the Order (Typica). However, even lengthy services become short through heartfelt, concentrated prayer. The Kingdom of God is there, Paradise is there. There is no concept of time or measuring in Paradise. Our goal is to stand before God, to attend to His presence, to open up our heart and accept from Him, strength and power, so that His will can be effected in us. This is the purpose and object of prayer. When God is central, everything else pales in comparison. Everything that is outside God, has no value or meaning…

A priest was serving in the church. Before Him was a very old icon. Suddenly he felt as if the Virgin Mary on the icon was drawing him to prayer, acting upon his mind and heart. He experienced a real power emanating from the icon. This power filled the whole church with prayer; gathered scattered thoughts, as if the Virgin Mary was physical present. She stands with authority, demanding a response… Thus grows and invisibly comes to fruition, love and closeness to the living God and to the Queen of the Heavens. Therein lies our work of salvation. And in the work of salvation the content of prayer is formed.

Sunday, May 21, 2006

A New Life

Archpriest Nikolai Deputatov

Without faith in Christ we cannot even come close to the threshold of a new life. Faith is rooted in the heart, not from the words of human wisdom, but from the Word of God. (Rom.10:17) In the beginning, the will of the Creator was revealed through the patriarchs and the prophets, and then through the Son of God.

Now we must look for the source of the true faith in the teaching of our Lord Jesus Christ. With His own words, it was Christ Himself who revealed the will of God. By the power of the Holy Spirit (John14:26) He put it in the minds and hearts of His apostles whom He sent to preach the Gospel (Mark16:15). Those who listen to them, listen to Christ, Himself (Luke 10:16).

The main purpose of the Savior’s coming on Earth, however, was not to teach, but to redeem. Humankind could not have been saved by teaching alone. Teaching in itself does not deliver from sins and to radically change anyone’s life. Changing their life was necessary for those people in whom sin had become deep rooted. Christ is the Savior of mankind. Through His incarnation He brought to human existence the beginning of a new, blessed life. Christianity is not a teaching, but a new life. One can study and become an expert in the Holy Scriptures, but not be a Christian. This blessed life, in accordance with the Savior’s promise, is found in the Church, which is vivified by the Holy Spirit. The Church of Christ predates the Sacred Scriptures. The Scriptures are not independent, but are only a stream in the current of the blessed church life. "We would not need the help of the Holy Scriptures, if we led a life so pure, that instead of books, the grace of the Holy Spirit would serve us instead" (St. John Chrysostom).

The fact that we rely on the guidance of the Scriptures is indicative of our imperfection. "When the power of the Holy Spirit enters a person’s soul, then instead of the law of the Scriptures, the commandments of the Holy Spirit take hold, and he who achieves perfection learns in secret from the Holy Spirit, and has no need of help from things of feeling" (St. Isaac Syrian).

The teachings of St. John Chrysostom and St. Isaac Syrian are understood by those who have gained correct understanding of the fact that the strength of the Church is not in teaching, but in a new blessed life.

Protestantism, having rejected the authority of the Church, has made the Bible a sort of fetish. Outside the Church there are only books, but there is no true Word of God. All heretics (and even Satan — Matt 4:6) found their basis from Biblical texts, because isolated excerpts can have different and even contradictory interpretations and misinterpretations. The true interpretation of the Bible is only found in the Church, guided by the Holy Spirit Who is the source of both the Church and the Holy Scriptures. Heretics, when interpreting the Holy Scriptures, want to replace the authority of the Church with logical reasoning, but reasoning can only be objective in mathematics. The actual structure of the Bible is determined by the Church. It is inconceivable to consider the teachings of the Holy Scriptures outside the Church. Any rationalistic criticisms of the origins and contents of the Holy Books unequivocally lead to contradictory conclusions.

Biased study of the Holy Scriptures outside the guidance of the Church, results in a single disputable choice of only one teaching, even to the rejection of all others. Thus from arbitrary interpretations of the Holy Scriptures many heresies arise. Such exponents of the Scriptures, consider themselves intelligent only because they do not believe and doubt many things. They are prepared to consider themselves "the chosen," only because they do not take part in the lives of ordinary parishioners and critically look at their lives. Conceit, envy, vanity, an improper heart — this is a well trodden path to any heresy…

The Orthodox Church is called to preserve and bring into life untainted, the teaching of the Gospel. We are the remnant, and the treasure of the Truth is guarded by our Church. Woe to the one, and God’s wrath upon anyone, who betrays the beloved Holy Tradition and joins those with emptiness of faith for the sake of self-gain. In his own folly a person scorns the inherited treasure delivered from the Heavens. St. Irinaeus exhorted: "Truth, which is only found in the holy Orthodox Church, should not be sought from others." St. John of Kronstadt wrote: "Christ came to renew the fallen nature of humanity, which fell through sin. The Holy Spirit, having come into the world and acting in the Church through the clergy, divine church services, sermons, the mysteries, still unceasingly continues this renewal. This renewing power remains only in the Church; it cannot be found outside the Church and it can never exist outside the Church." St. Nil of Sorsk expounds similar notions, saying that "the success of a person’s inner growth is the fruit of the grace of the Holy Spirit, which lives in the Church."

Joyous is the person who embraced the spirit of the church, a spirit of sacredness and theology. This person is in a state of bliss. With all his heart he yearns for the Church, to this source of living water, flowing into eternal life. Here one finds great joy, joy in a new life in Jesus Christ. This joy is real, being the foretaste of the eternal bliss. And no-one can deprive one of this joy, as long as one is in the Church.

A RETRACTION

It now appears fairly certain that reports in the Associated Press which I quoted in an earlier post were in fact false. No one normally likes to be wrong. But this is one time I am overjoyed as should the AP be. I remain no fan of the Islamic Republic. But at least this craziness does not seem to have come to pass.

For All You Yankee Fans....

Saturday, May 20, 2006

Salvation

Archpriest Nikolai Deputatov

The soul needs spiritual food and only the Word of God and the writings of the Holy Church Fathers can nourish it. Worldly knowledge dulls the mind and creates instability of thought. There is no restraining of the searching thoughts.

We are in our right to regard the works of Bishop Theophan the Recluse as being close to those of the Holy Fathers. He draws the reader to himself with sincere exposition, clarity and heavenly simplicity. From his writings, as from a deep spring we draw sweet and living water, flowing into eternal life. He spent his whole life examining the question of salvation and for us he is a unique teacher on the subject at hand. May he help us, to expound, if but briefly, this major theme troubling humanity….

For the Christian salvation presupposes an active life, in constant communion with God and with the help of His grace, fulfillment of His will. The zeal to please God is very similar to fire. During a fire, the flames engulf the whole building, so the flames of zeal fill the whole being of a person. Salt preserves food from spoiling and the zeal permeates our whole being, drives out sin, which corrupts the body and soul and in this way saves people from moral and spiritual decay. Martyrs eagerly went to their death because an inner fire was burning within them. Pleasing God is a joyous procession to God, giving wings to the spirit. Everything should be done to the glory of God, contrary to the sin living in us. Without zeal, a Christian is a bad Christian, impoverished, wilting, weak, lifeless, neither warm nor cold. Such a life, is not a life. A Godly life awakens, when the Holy Spirit enters the heart and initiates life in the Spirit; cleans and gathers into one, the darkened and broken features of the image of God. The fire of zeal — is God’s grace. God’s Spirit descending into the heart begins to work as zeal. The power of God’s grace penetrates the inner being and restores order in all its beauty.

Those who turn away from God put themselves as a foundation of their life and work. Recoiling from God and the fullness of His Grace, they hasten to fill the created void. The falling away from God evokes in them an unquenchable thirst, undefinable, but never-ending. In a word, they become a bottomless pit. They spend a whole life in sweat and toil and great tribulations. From this we understand that a person can never be in himself, but always outside himself in worldly, troubling things. He has fallen away from God Who is the plenitude of all. He is empty in himself and immerses himself in various interests and lives for them. This is how a sinner constantly thirsts, and is concerned about things outside himself, outside God.

Thus, a characteristic feature of the sinful life is undue worries without concern for salvation (Luke 10:41).

Differences and distinctions of tribulations depend on the type of emptiness that has formed in the soul. The vacuous state of the mind, which has forgotten the One, Who is all, gives rise to searching concerns of the heart, to increasing knowledge, probing. The lack of direction of the will creates many desires, a striving towards ownership of material possessions, so that everything is done according to our will and is within our power: that is indulgence in worldly pleasures. The emptiness of the heart creates a craving for worldly pleasures, searching for innumerable things in which he wants to satisfy both, his inner and outer self. Thus a sinner is constantly concerned about increasing his knowledge and possessions, and indulging in worldly pleasures. This is the cycle in which one’s whole life is spent — in constant agitation. Satan has only one concern, and that is, whatever a person does, wherever his heart, consciousness and attention are, that they do not come from God, but are attached somehow, outside God. Here, not only the passions, but education, artistic creativity and social activity could serve as ways by which Satan holds the blinded sinners in his power, not giving any opportunity to recover one’s senses…

The soul knows how powerless it is on its own. Let it prostrate itself in its own heart before God and change into naught. Then the all-powerful grace will transform the "naught" into "All." Whoever in the ultimate self-humbling gives oneself into God’s hands, draws Him Who is benevolent and by His strength becomes strong himself. Expecting everything to come from God and nothing from the self, one has to force oneself to effect change and act within one’s capabilities, so that the divine assistance has something to relate itself to, and bless with Its power. The spiritual life is a prudent life. It consists of a transition from an intellectual state of communication with God to a realistic, living, tangible and visible one. In the mystery of Confession, grace descends and is perceived by the Spirit, and then vanishes from consciousness. "It settles in the depths of the mind. Initially, grace illuminates the soul with its light, so that it can fully feel it" (St. Diodoh). Then grace hides itself from the one being saved, and though it is still in him and is still dynamic, it hides in such a way that one does not notice it, and a person quite often feels abandoned by God and that he is perishing. That is why God conceals the preciousness of this vivifying gift for a prolonged period of time so that we, even if we fulfill all the virtues, that we consider ourselves totally worthless, while we still have not accepted sacred love as a permanent disposition.

"Even though grace conceals its presence from the soul, yet helps it in a secret way to show adversaries, that victory belongs only to the soul. That is why, then, the soul is despondent in sorrow, in shame and even in moderate despair" (St. Diodoh). The work of grace after many trials is to show its presence, and thereafter, the soul is joyfully adopted by the Spirit. God commits Himself to the heart and a person becomes worthy to be one in spirit with the Lord. "Whoever has been tested, becomes a dwelling place of the Holy Spirit. Grace illuminates one’s whole being in some sort of state of deep emotion" (St. Diodoh). The Kingdom of God is joy in the Holy Spirit. "The light shining in the person, so pierces the inner being, that, one becomes immersed in this bliss, finding experiences outside of oneself because of the abundant love and mysteries that one is able to contemplate" (St. Macarius).

God is drawn near either by toil and deeds or by the calling upon the name of Jesus Christ. Among the greatest feats, pre-eminence was given to the Jesus prayer. It enlightens, strengthens, vivifies and conquers all visible and invisible adversaries and lifts one to God. It is all-powerful and all-enacting. The name of the Lord Jesus Christ is a treasury of goodness and life in the Spirit. This is a living union, life in God, affirmation in Him with one’s whole being: thought, heart and will… Like one who is tied up. I will go where you lead me. This is the action of being resolutely faithful to God. The Lord can see what troubles our heart and feels (speaking in human terms) this pain, but what needs to be done about this pain, only He knows. Hasten Lord, show us Your help. Grant us salvation, for the soul is becoming weary. You alone I seek. Do not deprive me of Your grace, Beloved of my soul.

Florovsky on Synergy & the Reformation

The Pontificator has posted an excellent essay on some Protestant approaches to Synergy and Paul. You can read it here.

Friday, May 19, 2006

On the Filioque

This is of course one of the great bugaboos between Rome and Orthodoxy. For those interested the linked article is an excellent examination of the subject. A word of caution though; this is NOT light reading. Hat tip to Danial (Photious) Jones

Read it here.

The Gospel

Archpriest Nikolai Deputatov.

Knowledge of God is only possible through experience of Him. But there is no necessity to prove that the sun shines and the stars twinkle at night. So it is with God — His being and perfection is felt by all, except those who are spiritually blind. It is a great joy to the whole world that "the Father has sent His Son to be the Savior of the world" (1 John 4:14).

The Gospel contains the joyous news of the coming into the world of God the Word, Jesus Christ, for the salvation of all, even the most ingrained sinners. Apostle Paul called his preaching "the Gospel" because it promises to give many blessings, reconciliation with God, defeat of the devil, forgiveness of sins, resurrection from the dead, eternal life and the attainment of the Kingdom of Heaven (St. Theodorite).

There have been many religious and philosophical teachings, but not a single one of them could have been called ‘the Gospel’ because it did not renew human life, it did not give healing to humbled hearts and it did not create a true freedom — freedom from sin. In the wider understanding, the name ‘Gospel’ can be used for all the books of the New Testament. Clement of Rome calls Apostle Paul’s first Letter to the Corinthians a Gospel. Apostle Paul writes: "according to my gospel." If the letters of Apostle Paul are gospels, then the same could be said of the letters of Apostle Peter. Origen clearly explains why all the books of the New Testament can be called gospels.

"The gospel is that which confirms and strengthens faith in the coming of Christ and His second coming and brings Him into our souls, that desire to accept the divine Word of God, Which is before the doors, knocking and wanting to come in" (exegesis on the Gospel of John).

The Gospel of Christ (Rom1:16), the Gospel of God (2 Cor. 9:7; Thess. 2:2-9) the Gospel of the Kingdom of God (Mark 1:14) salvation (Ephes. 6:15) or reconciliation with God, the Gospel of God’s blessing (Acts 20:24). Whoever rejects the authenticity of the Gospels openly rejects the evident truth and does not give credence to the historical Church Tradition which attests to their apostolic origin. With regard to the heralds of the Gospel, the faithful are not slaves: "We" says the Apostle- "do not have your faith" (2 Cor. 1:24). Faith is a matter of free will, if you want to believe, do so, if not, then one is free to disbelieve (Bishop Theophan). The heralds of the Gospel are only partakers of the joy of believers. Their task is to maintain steadfastness of the faith and in this way, contribute to the joy that faith brings.

Christ’s teaching is straightforward and clear to all. It is only hidden from those who are blinded by their own wisdom and have become spiritually dead (2 Corinth 3:4). Similar to a fragrance, Christ’s teaching spreads everywhere. To some it gives life, others it mortifies as it reveals their inner decay, their total religious and moral perversion (2 Cor. 2:15-16). "The doors to God’s mysteries do not open to non-believers, and their light does not illuminate them. It keeps them in darkness, ‘the god of this age’ (the devil) does not allow God’s light to shine within them" (Bishop Theophan).

The Gospel is only a part of the wider oral apostolic tradition. Misled are those who regard the Holy Scriptures as the only source of the Christian faith and reject the Tradition of the Church. The Church, under the grace of the Holy Spirit, primarily and unfalteringly preserves even the apostolic tradition that did not become part of the Holy Scriptures. The purpose of the Gospel is not to present the Lord’s life and works in complete entirety and in a strict chronological order, as is the function of historical works. "It is written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God and that by believing, you may have life in His name" (John 20:31). The purpose of the Gospels is not so much a historical one, but rather a salvific one — to show that Christ is the Son of God, Savior and Redeemer of the world. In keeping with this purpose, the Gospel writers, enlightened by the Holy Spirit, relate only those aspects of the Lord’s life that are most revealing of Him as the Savior, Who reconciles us with God.

Christianity gave new meaning to our being and radically changed our relationship with God, gave us a new blessed life, and has led us into the Church — into this paradise and heavenly realm on earth. The Law did not renew or give rebirth to man, although it in itself was holy and just (Rom 7:12) but it revives the grace in him. Nothing can be more comforting than the words: "You are no longer a slave, but a son, and since you are a son, you are God’s heir in Jesus Christ" (Gal 4:7). Being adopted by God to sonship is the highest blessing bestowed by Christianity. We are led by Christ into a new blessed life and have become with Him, newly created creatures (2 Corinth 5:17).

The message of the Gospel attracts everyone with its divine power and simplicity. Correct understanding of the Gospel, universal and of pan-ecclesiastical oneness, is imperative and deviating from this understanding, inevitably goes hand-in-hand with illogical reasoning. In the Gospel we can find answers to all the questions of our spiritual nature. It is the beginning that transforms our life, transforms our innermost being, gradually, without catastrophes or breaks. It gives a true freedom — freedom of the spirit. It gives a true wealth — spiritual wealth. It lifts our thoughts and feelings to the eternal, the heavenly, the divine and teaches us how to act, so that God’s heavenly Kingdom can descend upon us. Life according to the Gospel, is life in Christ, full of the joy of the Holy Spirit. This joy, is a joy that calls us to do good works, to toil and labor and accept a spiritual challenge. This is unceasing service to God and one’s fellow human beings in the Church. As a reward, the Gospel promises that we shall be eternally with Christ God our Savior in His eternal Kingdom.

Unbelievable

Anyone familiar with the infamous Nuremburg Laws should find this very scary. To be honest I can't believe it. It boggles the mind. I hope this is an elaborate hoax.. Stay tuned....



Associated Press
Published: Friday, May 19, 2006

OTTAWA -- Prime Minister Stephen Harper says news reports that Iran could require Jews and Christians to wear coloured labels in public might be true.

He says Iran's hardline Islamist government has proven itself capable of such extremism.

"Unfortunately, we've seen enough already from the Iranian regime to suggest that it is very capable of this kind of action," Harper said.

"We've seen a number of things from the Iranian regime that are along these lines.

"And the fact that such a measure could even be contemplated is absolutely abhorrent."

The National Post newspaper reported Friday that Iran's parliament has passed a law that would require Jews to wear yellow labels, and Christians red ones, on their clothing.

The law must still be approved by Iran's "Supreme Guide," Ali Khamenehi, to come into effect, the newspaper said.

Harper said he could not vouch for the accuracy of the report. But if true, he said it would be a throwback to one of the most odious chapters in human history.

"It boggles the mind that any regime on the face of the Earth would want to do anything that could remind people of Nazi Germany," he said.

The report is a reminder that Iran must never be allowed to gain nuclear weapons, Harper said.

He made the remarks during a news conference with Australian Prime Minister John Howard. Both leaders said they could not confirm the reports.

"I haven't previously heard of that," Howard said in response to a question about the report.

"If that is true I would find that totally repugnant. It obviously echoes the most horrible period of genocide in the world's history -- the marking of Jewish people with a mark on their clothing by the Nazis."

Nazi Germany began requiring Jews to wear yellow stars on their clothing in the buildup to the Holocaust. Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has described the Holocaust as a myth and has called for the destruction of the state of Israel.

----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
UPDATE: 19 MAY 2006 1941 PDT
The latest reports in the media have the Iranians heatedly denying the reports such as the one posted above. This is one situation where I would be overjoyed to post a retraction. Still waiting for something definitive.

Fr. Huneycutt on the Da Vinci Code

I am not giong to preview this one. You will have to go read it at his blog. But it's worth it. You can find it here...

The Holy Spirit: An Orthodox Exposition

AN ORTHODOX PERSPECTIVE ON VOLUME THREE OF YVES CONGAR’S BOOK "I BELIEVE IN THE HOLY SPIRIT."

BY THE V. REV. MICHEL NAJIM

This short paper seeks to address the third volume of Yves Congar's book: "I believe in the Holy Trinity," and to demonstrate the doctrine of the Holy Spirit from an Eastern Perspective.

In reading this book it was immediately apparent that Congar's view on doctrine of the unknowability of God is very essential to Trinitarian theology. The trinity in itself is also the Trinity of economy. He repeatedly stated that the Trinity is a mystery of salvation. If it were not, it would not have been revealed to us. Congar also correctly emphasizes that the theology and worship of Eastern Christianity continue to be saturated with trinitarian categories.

Since the goal of Congar's book is ecumenical, that is to uncover the common ground of both the Eastern and Western Trinitarian Tradition, it is appropriate that we offer an Orthodox critique of some aspects of his Trinitarian theology as well as his analysis of some Eastern Fathers.

I-POSITIVE ASPECTS OF CONGAR'S BOOK

The positive points of the book can be summed up as follows:

1-Congar underlines the fact that faith was not only professed in the doxology but also was lived fundamentally both in the East and the West. This is a characterization of the early centuries of Christianity, especially the first eight.

2-Congar considers the East and the West as two sisters who love one another. By quoting what Pope Paul VI said on his return from a journey to Constantinople, Congar reveals the good intention of his book. He also mentions the meeting of Pope John Paul II with the Ecumenical Patriarch Dimitrios I where they discussed serious theological problems contained in essential chapters of the Christian faith. This is a great ecumenical endeavor to reconcile the two Churches.

3-His emphasis on an apophatic theology is in fact a rejuvenation of the Patristic Tradition. Thus he stresses that God is beyond all existence because existence as we know it in Creation is entirely contingent -- and God is certainly not contingent on anything. This leads us to speak of God in negative terms, of what God is not rather than positive statements of what God is. This apophaticism is also found in the Latin speaking West, as Tertullian bears witness: "He is invisible, though He is seen; incomprehensible, though by grace revealed; beyond our conceiving, though conceived by human senses. . . . The infinite is known only to itself. Because this is so, it allows us to conceive of God -- though He is beyond our conceiving."

4-Congar also examines the issue of the eighth Council which solemnly annulled the measures against Photius. It is certain that the creed was proclaimed at this council without the Filioque.

5-Congar frankly admits that the Latin vocabulary fails to express the value that the Greeks rightly place on the term "ekporeutai" of John 15:26.

6-He recognizes the fact that Eastern Christians have never spoken of the Father and the Son as forming a single principle of active spiration.

7-Examining the theology of John of Damascus, Congar clearly states that his per filium is not the Filioque. John's trinitarian theology denies the procession of the Spirit "from the Father and from the Son as from a single principle."

8-Congar's call to suppress the Filioque is an ecumenical gesture of humility and brotherhood. He asserted that the Roman Catholic Church could, under the conditions that he has outlined, suppress the Filioque in the creed, which in any event was introduced in a canonically irregular way.

9-In spite of a general inconsistency on the issue of the eternal procession of the Spirit, it is refreshing to see a noted Catholic theologian like Congar concede that the standard Catholic proof-texts from the Bible concerning the supposed procession of the Spirit "from the Son" only concerns the Spirit’s temporal sending by the Son.

10-Explaining the theology of Gregory Palamas, he stresses that God' energies must be available for us to share in, and they must be uncreated or else we could never be deified.

This last point is important in Eastern theology. Orthodoxy differentiates between God’s essence and his activities, his self-manifestation to the world. It is axiomatic in Orthodoxy that we can not know God in his essence, for to know fully the nature of God is to be God. God in his essence is complete mystery; we can only know God in his activities, his love, his mercy, and so forth. Yet even God’s activities are mysterious: "How unsearchable are His judgements and His ways past finding out." Essence without energy is inconceivable. As Basil the Great says: "There is no natural essence without energy, nor energy without essence. Rather, we recognize the essence by virtue of the energy, this energy manifesting and testifying to the essence. For no one has ever seen God’s essence; but we come to believe in the essence by virtue of the energy."

II-NEGATIVE ASPECTS OF CONGAR'S BOOK

1-WAYS OF DOING THEOLOGY

Quoting Saint Augustine, Congar explains the Western way of doing theology: "Augustine made it a rule in Latin theology that an intellectus fidei or an understanding of faith should be sought through reasoning and meditation and therefore, if necessary, outside Scripture."

On the one hand, it seems that Congar accepts that the first source of knowledge is revelation itself. On the other hand, he says that God should be sought through reasoning and meditation and that he is revealed above all in images, and metaphors.

From an Eastern point of view, revelation is not merely a communication of concepts that can be searched out by reason for a fuller understanding. God in his revelation did not simply communicate through images, metaphors and written words. Rather, He manifested Himself in person. The Eastern Tradition is based on the direct revelation of God and on direct participation in the uncreated glory. However, Eastern Tradition agrees with Congar that the expression of the revelation can be transmitted through images.

2-ETERNAL AND ECONOMIC PROCESSION

Although Congar reiterates the Eastern differentiation between the eternal and temporal procession, he tries to identify the temporal with the eternal missions, arguing:

A-If all the data of the incarnation were transposed into the eternity of the Logos, it would be necessary to say that the Son proceeds from the Father and the Holy Spirit.

B-All the New testament texts that speak of a relationship between the Spirit and the Son are concerned with the economy.

C-Christ's sonship is eternal and the Spirit must be eternally from the Son.

Eastern Christianity, on the other hand, distinguishes between the eternal procession and the mission of the Holy Spirit in the world. God may be partially revealed in the economy by his activity, but he remains absolutely hidden in his essential being.

Congar asserts that even John 15:26, which most of the Fathers believed refers to the Spirit’s eternal procession from the Father, is actually only concerned with the temporal sending as well! In this Congar is not only in contradiction with Orthodox theologians, but many Catholic ones as well.

3-THE SPIRIT OF THE FATHER

Congar characterizes the Holy Spirit as the Spirit of the Father and the Son.

The consensus of the Eastern Tradition is that the Holy Spirit is of the Father, and is called the Father's Spirit.

On the other hand, the Eastern Fathers profess that the Holy Spirit was revealed to us and given to us through the Son. The Holy Spirit is the force of the Father who proclaims the hidden Godhead.

In the temporal sense, however, he is called in the Eastern Tradition, the Spirit of the Son. According to Saint Paul, the Holy Spirit is called the Spirit and the mind of Christ. As Basil the Great says about the Holy Spirit, writing in his treatises to the Eunomians: "That the Spirit is from God, the Apostle proclaimed clearly, saying that we have obtained the Spirit from God, and making it clear that he came through the Son, calling him the Spirit of the Son as God, and also calling him the mind of Christ, as well as the Spirit of God, just as if it were the spirit of a human being."

4-PER FILIUM

"Through the Son" had - as early as St. Augustine - a causative nuance, suggestive of the Son's co-causality. Thus, Congar states: "It is, however, impossible to deny that there are numerous indications in the writings of the fourth and fifth century Greek Fathers of the Church of a dependance on the part of the Spirit with regard to the Son in the life of the eternal Trinity."

In the East, however, theologians always emphasized the complete singleness of "beginning" or "cause" in the Holy Trinity. This is the Father's hypostasis, "the begetting and projecting source." While we confess the invariableness of the (divine) nature we do not deny the distinction of cause and caused, by which alone we perceive that one Person is distinguished from another. It is one thing to be the cause i.e., the Father and another to be from the cause i.e., the Son and the Holy Spirit.

Even when we recite the Creed: "I BELIEVE in one God, the Father, Almighty. . . And in one Lord, Jesus Christ, the Only-begotten Son of God, begotten of the Father before all ages," we comprehend that the Son was begotten alone of the Father, even if the word "alone" is left unsaid. In the same way when the Symbol says, "The Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father," we understand immediately and of necessity that he proceeds from the Father alone.

Similarly Athanasius says: "Who is God? He is the origin of every thing according to the Apostle, who said: ‘There is one God, the Father, from whom are all things,' because from him is the Word by generation and from him the Spirit by procession." Note the way in which he uses the expression "from him" in relation to the two Persons -- nowhere is the word "alone" added. In like manner we admit that the term "alone" is implied in both.

Basil explains, "Above all, the Son is from God and the Spirit is from God, for the Son came out from the Father and the Spirit proceeds from the Father. The first, however, by generation from the Father and the second inexpressibly from God." Here the expression "from the Father" is used in a similar fashion. Thus, we understand that the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father alone even when the word "alone" is left unstated.

Gregory the theologian says "To us there is One God, for the Godhead is One, and all that proceeds from him is referred to One, though we believe in three Persons." The word "alone" clearly is understood.

The Lord himself spoke to the Jews: "If God were your Father, you would love me, for I came from the Father and now I am here," and, "Not that any one has seen the Father except the one who is from God; he has seen the Father." Jesus never used the term "alone," saying, "I came from the Father alone," or, "the one who is from the Father alone?" The word "alone" is understood.

5-THE SPIRIT PROCEEDS FROM THE HYPOSTASIS OF THE FATHER

There is no clear indication in Congar's book of whether the Spirit proceeds from the essence of the Father or from the hypostasis of the Father. The Eastern Tradition believes that the Son is from the Father, meaning the Son is begotten of the hypostasis of the Father. For the essence is one among the three hypostases, so that the generation of the Son is attributed to the hypostasis of the Father; consequently, it is impossible for the Son to be from the Spirit. Being from the Father, the Holy Spirit proceeds from the divine essence, also according to the hypostasis of the Father. For the essence of the three is absolutely one in every way, therefore the procession of the Spirit belongs to the hypostasis of the Father. Thus it is not possible for the Spirit to also come from the Son, for the Son does not have the characteristic properties of the hypostasis of the Father.

According to John of Damascus, "We recognize the difference of the Persons in three properties only; of being uncaused and Father, of being caused and Son, and of being caused and proceeding." The hypostasis of the Son is not the "cause" but the "caused," for John says that he has only this property. The same can be said of the Holy Spirit. We notice also that the property of the Father includes both generation and procession. Therefore, if the Holy Spirit comes forth from the Son also, then the Son will be a cause with the Father.

Gregory the theologian says: "What can not be addressed to the Spirit from the [attributes] of the Son, except the generation?" "All that the Son has the Holy Spirit has, except the sonship." And the divine John of Damascus says: "Because of the Father, the Son and the Spirit have everything they have, that is to say, because of the fact that the Father has them, except the being unbegotten, the begetting and the procession."

Thus, neither the Son nor the Spirit has the attributes of generation and procession. And as the Spirit doesn't have the attribute of generation at all, so neither does the Son have the attribute of procession at all.

6-THE HOLY SPIRIT IS GOD:

Congar claims that Athanasius and Basil and even the first Ecumenical Council of 381 avoided giving the title "God" to the Spirit. He also stated that in the creed, the Holy Spirit was not called God or said to be consubstantial with the Father.

In response to this, I would like to say:

A-Athanasius does not speak about the economy of Salvation without the Holy Spirit. When he speaks about the eternal existence of the Trinity, he explains John 15:26 not only in the context of the economy of salvation, but in the Eternal existence of God. He emphasizes that the Holy Spirit is not created and is consubstantial with the Father. As the Son comes forth from the Father, so the Spirit comes forth from the Father. Athanasius' theology is revealed in the following summary of his letter to Serapion.

(a) The Spirit Uncreated

If the heretics refuse to class the Son with created things, because of the unity of the Word with the Father. . . how can they dare to call the Spirit a created thing, when he as the same unity with the Son as the Son with the Father?

(b) Yet not Begotten

If, they say, `the Spirit is not a created being nor one of the angels, but proceeds from the Father; then he is a Son also, and there are two Sons, the Spirit and the Word, and if so, how is the Word the only-begotten? The Word and the Spirit must be equal. . . Why is the Spirit not said to be begotten if he is "from the Father"? Why is he not called Son, but simply Holy Spirit? But if he is "of the Son" then the Father is the grandfather of the Spirit.'

(c) The Trinity Indivisible and Consubstantial

In Scripture the Spirit is nowhere called Son (of God) nor the Son's son. But the Son is the Father's Son; the Spirit, the Father's Spirit; and thus there is one godhead of the Holy Trinity, and one faith in the Holy Trinity.

B-Basil the Great, in his polemical work against the Eunomians, writes: "All that is common to the Father and to the Son is common to the Spirit." If the procession is common to the Father and the Son, then it must also be common to the Spirit, and the Trinity is then a quaternity, for from the Spirit will proceed yet another Spirit. Basil did not identify the common love of the Trinity with the common divine essence of the Trinity.

C-In the Creed the term Lord (Kyrios) is a rendering of the Hebrew term Jahweh, which means God.

7: THE SPECIAL INDIVIDUALITIES:

JUSTIN THE MARTYR:

Congar claims that Justin the Martyr made no distinction between the Logos and the Spirit. Here are some quotations from Justin the Martyr proving that he did distinguish between them:

"The most true God, the Father of righteousness... both Him, the Son, and the prophetic Spirit we worship..."

"He is the Son of the true God Himself, and holding Him in the second place, and the prophetic spirit in the third."

"He foretells by the Spirit of prophecy that he will bestow meet rewards according to the merits of actions."

According to Pseudo-Justin, "As the Son is from the Father, thus the Holy Spirit is from the Father, except for the way of existence, for the one shines forth from the light by generation, the other, even though he is light of light, did not come forth by generation, but by procession."

8-THE MONARCHY OF THE FATHER IN THE PHOTIAN TRINITY

Congar states that he is in agreement with T. de Regnon in believing that "the Western and the Eastern Church share the same faith, although they have approached the mystery from different points and along different ways". Yet when writing of Photius, whom the Orthodox follow in their attitude toward the Filioque, Congar seems to believe that Photius’ theology as inconsistent with the Greek Fathers. "We must, however, take Photius’ arguments seriously without at the same time losing sight of those Fathers whose work Photius himself tended to leave aside". Congar apparently believes that barely three pages of analysis is sufficient to "take Photius’ arguments seriously." Congar points out that the Orthodox Church has "taken over Photius’ theology", and this theology puts "out of the question an agreement with the West".

According to Photius, the procession of the Holy Spirit comes not from the common nature but from the hypostasis of the Father, and is therefore unique to the Father alone. He said: "The Father is the origin [of the Son and of the Holy Spirit] not by nature, but in virtue of His hypostatic character." For the Son to participate in the procession of the Spirit would suggest a confusion of the Father and the Son, of the two melting into a compound hypostasis. Thus the Filioque leads to a merging and blurring of the distinctive characteristics of the hypostases, provoking the charge of Sabellianism. Moreover, if the procession of the Spirit is proper to the common divine nature, then not only would the Son participate in the procession of the Spirit, but the Holy Spirit would participate in his own procession as well!

Photius stressed that the Father, being the only "cause" of the Trinity, safeguards both the unity and the distinctiveness of the three Persons of the Godhead. Contrary to the assertion of critics, Photius never taught a "monopatrism" which isolated the Father from the Son and the Spirit. Rather, Photius was concerned to defend the Cappadocian theology of the Symbol against the "joint-cause" of the Filioque, asserting that the Father alone is the "cause" (of the being, attributes and powers) and the two other hypostases are "divinely caused." To Photius, two hypostases being the "cause" of a third hypostasis meant either ditheism, two gods, or a monstrous compound Father-Son hypostasis.

Photius questions the very basis of Augustinian Trinitarianism: the notion of simplicity. This philosophical concept is really an inadequate definition for the biblical God. Simplicity acts as an acid, dissolving all the personal features of the Father into the abyss of the impersonal and utterly simple essence where they are in turn distributed to the other persons. When distinctions which characterize each of the hypostases merge and collapse into the essence in this fashion, there is ultimately nothing to prevent one from asserting that any hypostasis causes another: "For if, according to the reasonings of the ungodly, the specific properties of the persons are opposed and transferred to one another, then the Father -- O depth of impiety! -- comes under the property of being begotten and the Son will beget the Father."

9-HETERODOXY OF FILIOQUE IN THE PALAMITE THEOLOGY

Rivaling his ignorance of Photius must be Congar’s grasp of Gregory Palamas. At least here, though, there isn't the degree of hostility that there is for Photius. Oblivious that Palamas has been studied by the Orthodox since the fourteenth century, especially by those who practice the hesychastic tradition like the monks on Mount Athos, Congar writes: "Palamas was almost completely forgotten for several centuries . . . In the nineteen-thirties and forties, however, there was a wonderful revival of interest in him and his theology. Broadly speaking, Eastern theologians have come to recognize in Palamism a clear expression of the genius and the tradition of their Church."

What little Congar knows of Palamas comes from the Russian expatriate tradition, like Sergey Bulgakov, Vladimir Lossky and John Meyendorff. Congar of course knows nothing of Palamas’ works on the Filioque which should be translated to modern languages. It is refreshing, however, to at least see Congar admit that he is somewhat out of his depth on Palamas: "It may be because I am not sufficiently well informed, but I have to admit that I am not quite clear what Palamas thinks about his attribution to the energies or to the Person of the Holy Spirit. . . . "

In his polemical books, Palamas clearly accused the Western theologians of his time of heterodoxy and doctrinal innovation. Palamas emphasized that the disagreement is not only a question of words, but mainly a doctrinal disagreement. He said that the Orthodox do not accept that the existence of the Holy Spirit comes from the hypostasis of the Son, while those whom he met from the West did. To him it is impossible for the East and the West to agree in their conception of God.

While struggling to express the oneness of nature, that is, the equality of the Son with the Father, Palamas maintained that those who wrote the Creed believed that it was sufficient without the addition of the Filioque: "Therefore, it is neither right nor proper to introduce this addition into the Creed, which the venerable Fathers in their meeting wrote and delivered to us, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. To this Creed no one has been allowed to add or subtract anything since the Second Council of the saints. According to this council, whoever dares to add or subtract anything is put under an anathema and is excommunicated from the Church."

He said that the one who declares that the Son also is the cause of divinity rejects the Son himself, who said clearly in the Gospel, "The Father is greater than I," not only as man, but as God as well since the Father is the Originator of divinity. The Father is not more God than the Son. None of the Eastern Fathers ever asserted that the Son is equal to the Father according to the origin of divinity. However, Palamas confessed the equality of the Father and the Son according to nature and the superiority of the Father according to the origin of divinity, which consists of both generation and procession.

Thus it is not possible for the Son to share the attributes of the hypostasis of the Father. If he should share in the procession of the Spirit, then there are either two causes in that the procession will be found in two hypostasis (the causes are two since what is "caused" is understood to be derived from two hypostases), or we will combine the Father and the Son into a single [compound] hypostasis. Accordingly, the Holy Spirit must proceed from the Father alone immediately and instantaneously in the same manner as the Son is begotten of the Father.

For this reason, Gregory the divine leader of Nyssa, says: "Not all persons have their existence immediately from the same person, for the cause and the caused are many and varied. In the Holy Spirit, however, this thing does not happen, for the Person of the Father is one and the same, from whom the Son is begotten, and Holy Spirit proceeds. Thus we have the courage to say authoritatively that there is one God, one cause with his caused."

If the causes are many, then there is no longer only one God: just as we are not one human being though all of us are of the same essence, so God would be no longer One.

10- THE HOLY SPIRIT IS THE COMMON ENERGY OF THE FATHER AND SON IN THE AUGUSTINIAN THEOLOGY



On page XVIII, Congar states that Augustine "Spoke of the Filioque because the New Testament attributes the Spirit both to the Father and the Son." Again Congar stresses that Augustine's point of departure is the fact that the Spirit is said to be both of the Father and Spirit of the Son. From this it is concluded that "the Spirit then is from the Father and the Son." This has been the basis of Western theology since the Middle Ages.

It is true that Augustine insisted that the Spirit is the Spirit of both the Father and the Son: "Scripture enables us to know in the Father the principle, auctoritas, in the Son being begotten and born, nativitas, and in the Spirit the union of the Father and the Son, Patris Filiique communitas...The Spirit is the Spirit of the two."

"The Spirit is distinguished relationally from the two in the unity of the divine essence only by proceeding from the two as their common Spirit."

To Augustine it seemed better to begin with the unity of the divine nature, since this is a truth which is demonstrated by reason. . . The logic of this arrangement is today commonly recognized, and in the textbooks of dogma the treatise De Deo Uno precedes that of De Deo Trino.'

Augustine therefore analyzed a series of triads, moving from more external ones to more intimate ones and from simple psychological analysis to an expression of supernatural experience. According to Augustine, "As for the Son to be born is to be from the Father, so for the Son is to be sent is to be known in his origin from the Father. In the same way, as for the Holy Spirit to be the gift of God is to proceed from the Father, so to be sent is to be known in his procession from the Father. What is more, we cannot deny that the Spirit also proceeds from the Son. . . I cannot see what he could otherwise meant when breathing on the faces of the disciples, the Lord declared: "Receive the Holy Spirit." (Jn 20:20) Yet John 20:20 clearly deals with Christ's temporal sending of the Spirit to the Apostles. Thus it is on the basis of the economy that Augustine constructs his theology of the eternal procession of the Spirit from the Father and the Son, that is not as Father and as Son but as giver.

According to Augustinian theology, there can be no accidents in God. Therefore, only the substance of God, or the essence of God, is unchangeable.

Augustine illustrated the nature of the Trinity by comparing it to the individual human mind. To this end, Augustine created the Triad of "memory," "understanding" and "will" to mirror the Trinity. The analogy is between the inner structure of the human mind and the inner being of God, because it is in the former that the latter is made known. While "memory" is the rough equivalent of the Father in this model, nevertheless, he argues that memory belongs to all three and not just to the Father. Augustine establishes the difference between Son and Spirit, as we have already seen, by appeal to the distinction. But they are three inasmuch as they are related to one another between understanding and will.

Augustine's concept of the Spirit as the love which unites Father and Son is among the most perverted of theological ideas. All Eastern Fathers reject the idea that the Holy Spirit can be equated with the common energies of the Father and the Son like love. The Holy Spirit is an hypostasis, not an energy. The Fathers of the Second Ecumenical Council specified that the Holy Spirit is not to be identified with any common energy of the Father and the Son. The Holy Spirit is an individuality who is not what is common between the Father and Son, but has in common everything the Father and Son have in common.

This notion of love centers on the unitive function of love in relating Father to Son and thus obscures the specific hypostatic uniqueness of the Holy Spirit. Augustine was unable to conceive true otherness within the Trinity, the result of too strong an emphasis upon the unity of God. Consequently, Augustine rejected the distinction between what the persons of the Trinity are and what they have identifying what God is with what God has.

Augustine failed to understand:

A-The distinction between the common essence and the energies of the Holy Trinity.

B-The incommunicable individualities of the divine Hypostases.

CONCLUSION

At issue in the dispute on the Filioque are two incompatible concepts of the Trinity:

1-The Eastern approach where the Hypostasis of the Father is the starting point of the Trinitarian theology.

2-The Augustinian approach where God is viewed as a simple essence within which a Trinity of Persons can be understood only in terms of internal relations. In this approach, it is characteristic to begin with contemplation of the general "nature" of the Godhead.

The Eastern Tradition adopted the first concept which emphasizes the Father as the origin of the other two hypostasis. Another distinctive feature of this approach to Trinitarian theology is that there is a distinction between the nature and will of God. This distinction does not negate the simplicity of God. Indeed, if one does not accept this distinction, then it would be impossible to discern clearly between the generation of the Son and the Creation of the world. As a result, creation is deified and God arrayed among the creatures.

Everything that the Father has, the Son and the Spirit also have. The Divine Hypostases are not distinguished from one another by anything other than their correlative "peculiarities." The hypostases abide, and are firmly established in one another. They are permanent and not interchangeable.

The Divine Hypostases does not differ from one another in essence, for, all of the Divine Nature is completely found in all of the hypostases - all of it is in the Father, all of it is in the Son, all of it is in the Holy Spirit. The names of the Father, the Son, and the Spirit signify the form of existence and the form of the reciprocal relationship of the hypostases. The procession is the manner of existence of the Holy Spirit from the Father which constitutes the Spirit's special individuality. The Trinitarian Mystery started from the First Hypostasis as the single beginning and source of the Godhead. The Holy Spirit is not the Son of the Father, but the Spirit of the Father, proceeding from the Father.

As Logos and Breath, the Son and the Holy Spirit originate from the Father. The Father is the cause, the Son and the Holy Spirit are the caused. The Orthodox would not accept the path followed at the council Florence. The Son's consubstantiality with the Father is safeguarded without the Filioque.

Also the mysterious "mediation" of the Holy Spirit by the Son is equivalent in no way to that "causing" by the Father which is the beginning of the Holy Spirit's hypostatic existence. So any notion about some "co-causing" by the Son is unquestionably excluded. The Logos is revealed in the Holy Spirit as the Father is revealed in the Logos. For the Logos is the herald of the Mind, and the Holy Spirit is the disclosure of the Logos. The Holy Spirit, who proceeds from the Father, rests in the Son as his power of manifestation.

There must be a clear distinction between the Father and the Son sending the Holy Spirit, and the Father alone causing the existence of the Holy Spirit. Generation and procession should not be confused with the divine powers and energies. God is related to the creation only by will and not by nature. The hypostatic properties are incommunicable manners of existence.


Hat tip to Photius (Daniel) Jones.