Saturday, April 29, 2006

Israel reported to recognize ousted Greek Orthodox leader in Jerusalem

Patriarch Theofilos III of Jersualem

JERUSALEM (AP) - Israeli Cabinet minister Tzachi Hanegbi has written Irineos I, the deposed leader of the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate, confirming Israel's recognition of him as the continuing head despite the church's appointment of Theofilos III as his successor, the daily Haaretz reported Monday.

Hanegbi heads the committee that deals with Orthodox church issues.

Irineos was ousted after he allegedly signed a land deal leasing prime church properties to Jews who seek to increase their presence in prominently Arab east Jerusalem. He has refused to recognize his ouster.

Irineos loyalists had said the deposed leader would attend Easter ceremonies last weekend, which would have ignited tensions. But he stayed away at police request.

Theofilos has petitioned Israel's Supreme Court for state recognition. Church rules require approval from all three governments where his flock lives. Unlike Israel, Jordan and the Palestinian Authority affirmed Theofilos' election.

The Saving Power of the Word of God.

Metropolitan Anthony (Khrapovitsky)

Any established group has to meet, in order to hold conversations about the matter, which brings the members together. Our circle was gathered for the preaching and listening of the word of God. With the same aim it brought us together today in this room, full of light, making some people leave secular matters, depriving the others of rest after heavy daily work, reporting to all of us the unanimous spirit and filling everybody with thirst for the word of God, as the Psalmist said: "The law of thy mouth is better unto me than thousands of gold and silver…How sweet are thy words unto my taste! Yea, sweeter than honey to my mouth!" (Psalms 118:72,103).

But where exactly can be found this mysterious strength of the word of God, which brings us here? What qualities do turn out to be so powerful and effective? In what is, at last, the influence of the word of God upon the heart and life of man — all this we shall hear today, on the day of annual celebration, dedicated to the word of God. But who will clarify that to us? Can natural reason explain the action of the Divine word? — No, our soul only feels its life-giving power, but by itself will never be able to understand, where it comes from, as the Lord said: "The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh, and whither it goeth: so is every one that is born of the Spirit." (John 3:8). But if our mind is not able to define the laws of the word, then we shall be taught by the revelation. Let the very Word, Which had incarnated, reveal to us Its action, and teach us, first, what significance the word of God should have in Christian life, and secondly, what fruits it will bring for a believer in this and future life.

We have to discuss the first matter only because many consider the reading and preaching of the word of God almost unnecessary for salvation, hoping to earn it with good deeds and the fulfillment of the church orders, and the others, on the contrary, are ready to enclose the entire nature of salvation in studying the Bible and do not consider necessary to exercise their will in virtue. Despite these extremes, the Divine Scripture shows the perfect combination of how to perceive the word and strengthen it in Christian life. If we wish to search for the possibility of the sermon of the word of God, both for the beginning of Christian life, and for strengthening it, we shall learn that Christian faith itself, very Christianity is sometimes called the teaching of the word. This way, in the Acts it is said that after the baptism of Cornelius the Centurion, who was heathen, "the apostles and brethren that were in Judaea heard that the Gentiles had also received the word of God" (Acts 11:1), i.e. Christian faith. About it Apostle Paul said in Antiochia of Pisidia: "To you is the word of this salvation sent" (13:26). In the same chapter it is said that heathens "glorified the word of the Lord" (13:48). If the acceptance of Christianity is called in the Bible the acceptance of the word of God, then the process of perfection of people, taking place in Christian life, is called there as the development of the word of God, as it is mentioned many times in the Acts: "So mightily grew the word of God and prevailed" (19:20; 12:24, comp. Tim. 2:9 and the like).

Thus, if the goal of divine faith was understood like the assimilation of the word of God, then it is rather understandable that the preachers of this faith — the holy apostles — considered the preaching to be the main matter, called themselves the servants of the word and rejected external regulations, ordering to elect deacons and saying: "But we will give ourselves continually to prayer, and to the ministry of the word" (Acts 2:41; 1 Tim. 4:12; 5:17; 2 Tim. 4:2; Hebr. 13:7; Rev. 1:2,9; 20:4).

But how much is mistaken the one, who thinks that Christian life is limited by the process of listening to the word of God, that the word of God by itself, without our efforts, can sanctify us. On the contrary, in the parable about the sower the Lord clearly showed that the pure acceptance of the word through faith without a struggle is not more stable than that sprout of the seed on the stony ground, which dries in the heat of the sun; that only those souls can be suitable for the Divine Kingdom, which, having accepted the word, "bring forth fruit with patience," and only that one who, listening to the teaching of Christ, fulfills it, erects the building of salvation on the good ground (Luke 6:47). The disciple of God will be the one, who continues in His word (John 8:32), who keeps it (8;52), who, having received it in meekness (James 1:21), is the doer of the word (1:22), but not only a hearer (1:23), for the Jews as well heard the word, but it is said about them: "The word preached did not profit them, not being mixed with faith in them that heard it" (Hebr. 4:2). Then among Christians appeared talkative rebels, but the apostle threatened them to come and test "not the speech of them which are puffed up, but the power" (1 Cor. 4:19). About his sermon the apostle said that "our gospel came not unto you in word only, but also in power, and in the Holy Ghost, and in much assurance" (1 Thes. 1:5)

So, the word of God gets its saving significance only with the firm decision to change own sinful life and with the strife of man to accomplish, what he had decided, what is within his powers. Let the sectarians, who calmed their conscience in pure dead faith, and who are saying that the blissful word of God by Itself creates new life in them without any efforts of theirs, become silent. The very Word teaches us, the faithful, that the Evangelic teaching saves only on the condition that man struggles against his sin.

So, the first influence of the word of God onto our life is reflected in our spiritual revival. This way, Apostle James says that God "begat us with the word of truth" (1:18), and Apostle Peter explains that this birth through the word differs from ephemeral birth, for it leads us into eternal, non-ephemeral life. The people, born in the word, must be absolutely strange to any malice, flattery, hypocrisy, envy and slander, as newly-born babies; love only that verbal milk, which gives us the opportunity to taste "that the Lord is gracious" (1 Pet. 2:3).

Have you experienced this new birth through the word? Was there a moment in your life when you felt in yourself the beginning of new life, not the one, with which your body, your secular calculations live, but that gracious life, for which you need nothing, but God and the fulfillment of His commandments, for the sake of what man is about to agree for tortures and death, when he is ready to forget his former life and feels himself, on the word of the apostle, as a newly-born baby, free of any cunningness and envy? Can you say that you are revived by the word? — God gave you all, so that you could reach perfection of this birth within you: He cleansed you with water and the Spirit in the Holy baptism, but remember that this holy sacrament will bring its fruit within you only when you yourself will consciously be revived by the word, because the purification and sanctification of the church happens through baptism, but in no other way, than by the means of the word, as it is said in the Scripture: "Cleanse it with the washing of water by the word" (Eph. 5:26).

So, if in your life you had not experienced such decisiveness to set aside self-love and sin, and live for God, if you have not accepted the words of Christ, that one has to be born from above, if you have not experienced how new life’s spiritual strength comes onto you, and according to the teaching of the Savior, suddenly overwhelms our hearts (John 3:8) as an unexpected blowing of the wind, then pray and ask God to give you the opportunity to be revived by the word, for you received the principal element for revival in the holy baptism.

But if you were in that state, if the sermon of the word of God opened your eyes and you saw life and death, truth and lie and arose in decisiveness to live for God, then be careful and do not lose this life, nourish it and make it bring its fruits, so that it would not remain in you fruitless. How should one nourish it? It happens again through the word of God. This is what the New Testament says about the significance of the word of God for those, who had been revived by water and spirit, for Christians, whom God had already begotten by the word of truth.

For the maintenance of physical life one needs food and drinks: the same way spiritual life cannot be maintained without learning or listening to the word of God. About that the Lord says in the conversation with the Samaritan woman: "But whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him…shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life" (John 4:14). Having said about such drinking of His word, the Lord calls the fulfillment of His commandments as food. The way food and drinks maintain and strengthen the body, the same way the word of God and Christian virtues nourish newly revived, spiritual life. This life is begotten in us by God, as some plants, and the servants of the word "plant and water them" (1 Cor. 3:5).

The word of God is so necessary for supporting in us that glorious life, that it is even called as the gracious word in the Holy Bible (Luke 4:22; Acts 14:3; 20:35), or as the word of life (Acts 5:20; 7:38), or, finally, as life itself or light (John 1:4; 6:63). The life-giving power of the word of Christ was seen in the fact that the people, listening to it, at once decided that this was the word of God (Luke 5:1), and Christ was the preaching prophet (John 7:49). The Lord Himself called the listening to the word of God blissful and cleansed "through the word which I have spoken unto you" (John15:3). Then apostle Paul even more expressively describes the action of the word, saying: "For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any twoedged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart" (Hebr. 4:12). Why is it so? — It is because it meets with the same demands, with which human heart is filled, like the apostle explains in another epistle: "The word is nigh thee, even in thy mouth, and in thy heart: that is, the word of faith, which we preach" (Rom. 10:8).

O Christian! Does the word of God, which you hear or read, satiate you? Does it make you quench spiritual thirst; does it introduce light into your life and make your conscience open for the analysis of all intentions and actions? To fulfill this spiritual feeding by the word, the Lord gives to you His very Body and Blood in the image of bread and wine. Are you truly feeding yourself with the word of life; is it really the Evangelic sermon, which raises you over the world of flesh and passions and fills you with spiritual joy about God? If it is so, then thanks God!

But you should know that for this you will have to suffer from the world, which lies in the evil. We have heard that the word of God leads to the separation of the soul and spirit: it also divides emotional people and those spiritual and arms the first against the second, as righteous Simeon predicted, holding in his arms the incarnated Word (Luke 2:35). Already within the life of the Savior the prophesy about the sufferings on earth for the sake of the word of God started coming true, as He said about Himself to the enemies: "But ye seek to kill me, because my word hath no place in you…even because ye cannot hear my word" (John 8:37-43); and about the apostles in the prayer to the Father: "I have given them thy word; and the world hath hated them" (John 17:14). Therefore the Lord said to His disciples that they should "think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword. For I am come to set a man at variance against his father, and the daughter against her mother, and the daughter in law against her mother in law. And a man's foes shall be they of his own household" (Math. 10:34-36). And the observer of the mysteries of the further lot of the Church St. John saw in the Revelation multitudes of the righteous, slain for the word.

This way, the word of God, together with spiritual life, promises us sufferings and even physical death. Shall we be scared of them and confounded by the mundane condemnation for the word of God? Let it not be so, for the Lord said: "Whosoever therefore shall be ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation; of him also shall the Son of man be ashamed, when he cometh in the glory of his Father with the holy angels" (Mark 8:38). But if it is so, with what should we fight, protecting the word? — The answer is: with the very word, for, on the statement of Apostle Paul, it is "the sword of the Spirit" (Eph. 6:17), it is invincible for "the word of God is not bound" (2 Tim. 2:9). It is not afraid of mundane contempt, mockery, mundane judgment, for it is not the world that judges the word of God, but the world is judged itself by this word, as the Lord told us: "And if any man hear my words, and believe not, I judge him not…He that rejecteth me, and receiveth not my words, hath one that judgeth him: the word that I have spoken, the same shall judge him in the last day" (John 12:47-48).

But why is the word of God the judge of the universe? — Because the commandments of Christ are not accidental resolutions, but represent the qualities of the heavenly Ruler, as it is said in the Scripture: "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life; and the life was the light of men. And the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not…And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth" (John 1:1-6, 14).

So, do you understand, why is the world judged by the word of God? Because those, who have accepted the word, accepted the One, Who had brought this word onto earth, received the One Who said: "If a man love me, he will keep my words: and my Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him" (John 14:23). This is why the person having accepted the word of God is not scared of the world: because he lives in the unity with God-the Father, Who is seen only by those believing eyes, as the constant Judge of the world, as John had seen him in the Revelation: "And I saw heaven opened, and behold a white horse; and he that sat upon him was called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he doth judge and make war. His eyes were as a flame of fire, and on his head were many crowns; and he had a name written, that no man knew, but he himself. And he was clothed with a vesture dipped in blood: and his name is called The Word of God. And the armies which were in heaven followed him upon white horses, clothed in fine linen, white and clean. And out of his mouth goeth a sharp sword, that with it he should smite the nations: and he shall rule them with a rod of iron: and he treadeth the winepress of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God. And he hath on his vesture and on his thigh a name written, King of Kings, and Lord of Lords" (Rev. 19:11-17). This is Him, with Whom the assimilation of the word of God connects us: with the pre-eternal and unchangeable Word, ruling the universe since the beginning.

In this unity with God is the fourth point of the Evangelic sermon, and the fifth is in the fact that because this divine life is unchangeable and eternal, as Christ (2 Cor. 1:18-21), then exactly through the word of the Gospel, received and fulfilled through faith, we step into eternal life, as the Lord promised: "Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that heareth my word, and believeth on him that sent me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death unto life" (John 5:24; 6:40-74 and 12:25).

Should we continue speaking about the use of the word of God, brothers? Shall we continue neglecting everything most precious on earth and in heaven? Shall we prefer fuss and decay to the word? Let it not be this way! And if we are weak and infirm to do good, then let us pray to the divine Word, so that It could strengthen within us love for listening to and proclaiming, for acceptance and fulfillment of the word here, on earth, and could award us with better understanding of it in heaven after we leave the body. "O great and holiest Pascha, Christ. O Wisdom and Word of God and Power, grant us truly to partake of thee in the day without evening of thy kingdom!"

Friday, April 28, 2006

Will the Russian Church Be United?

From Fr. Huneycutt's excellent blog Orthodixie. Kindly direct comments to Fr. Huneycutts blog.

In the remote past of the 1960's and 1970's, we knew little of the Russian Church Abroad, but what we did know was all good. Jordanville's publications reached us—prayer books, the works of the Holy Fathers… The very appearance of these books bore witness that over there, pre-Revolutionary Russian traditions were preserved.

Soon, the voice of the contemporary bishops and priests abroad also began to reach us. I can state unequivocally that this voice was heard as the voice of our conscience, the voice of the whole "silent Church." Who else spoke out so clearly on the New Martyrs, on the Royal Family, on fatal modern trends, on ecumenism, etc? The glorification of the New Martyrs in 1981 was a great event for us, and before that, the canonization of Fr John of Kronstadt and of Ksenia the Blessed. We were well aware of the existing divisions from official publications, but we did not lend it too much significance. We knew that above and beyond all boundaries, the unity of our grace-filled live in Christ was preserved.

This was openly witnessed by the hierarchies of both parts of the Russian Church, who accepted clergymen in their existing rank who came from the other side. One First Hierarch of the Church Abroad, Metropolitan Philaret, in fact, had been a clergyman of the Moscow Patriarchate. The canonical existence of the Church Abroad had as its foundation the ukase of Patriarch Tikhon and his Synod of November 7/20, 1920, issued after General Vrangel's defeat, and having as one of its goals the ecclesiastical accommodation of millions of Russians who found themselves outside the borders of Soviet Russia.

Point number 2 states: "In the event a diocese, in consequence of the movement of the war front, changes of state borders, etc., finds itself completely out of contact with the Supreme Church Administration, or if the Supreme Church Administration itself, headed by His Holiness the Patriarch, for any reason whatsoever ceases its activity, the Diocesan Bishop immediately enters into relations with the bishops of neighboring dioceses for the purpose of organizing a higher instance of ecclesiastical authority for several dioceses in similar conditions (in the form either of a temporary Supreme Church administration or a Metropolitan district, or other)."

Of course, the ukase was issued under extreme circumstances, but these extreme circumstances, specifically the unprecedented persecution of the Church, describes the entire Soviet period of our history. We believed that as soon as this period ended, the unity of the Russian Church, split by the Revolution, would immediately be restored. The basis for these hopes was offered by the Church Abroad herself, which called herself, under the first two First Hierarchs at least, the part of the Russian Church that was abroad.

But as soon as the "iron curtain" was lifted, our hopes were replaced with disappointment. For Orthodox Russians who thought in traditional terms—and this is the overwhelming majority of our believers—the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia had the highest authority, but this began to change when in 1990, she began to open parishes, then dioceses, in Russia. This was an erroneous decision in principle, but this activity on the territory of Russia was also littered with many mistakes. People who had just converted to the faith were drawn to the Church Abroad, having no roots in ecclesiastical or national traditions. They denounced the "Moscow Patriarchate" with such nauseating haughtiness, bundling under this name the hierarchy—which they did not, and could not, know—the many millions of people of the Church, and all our priests and monastics.

In addition to inexperienced neophytes, gathering under the Church Abroad were the corrupt and the careerists, who were reared under the Soviet system, such as Valentin of Suzdal. Unfortunately, the schism inflicted by the latter within the Church Abroad was inspired by the Church Abroad herself, in the person of her most renowned figure, the famous expert in canon law, Bishop Gregory (Grabbe), who proved himself to be a genuine ideologue of schism.

The canonical defects in the views of Bishop Gregory were, alas, not his alone. Many clergymen and laypersons abroad have a sense that the Russian Church Abroad is completely self-contained, even that she is unique in her dogmatic and canonical faithfulness to Orthodoxy. With such a world view, the catholic breadth of Orthodoxy is completely discarded.

How stark is the contrast between this and true Orthodoxy, from the pillars of the Church Abroad herself under Metropolitans Anthony and Anastassy! It is one thing when external, mostly political reasons led the Church Abroad to greater isolation in the Orthodox world. It is an entirely different matter when the Church Abroad herself provokes canonical battles with the Local Churches. Look at the wonderful words of Metropolitan Anthony on the matter of the church calendar in his correspondence with the monks of Mt Athos. Blessing them to struggle for the old calendar, he also very sternly warned them against ecclesiastical divisions and schisms on the calendar issue, considering that only dogmatic apostasy is grounds enough to cease church communion.

Canonical firmness of this sort was shared by Metropolitan Anastassy. Only in the last years of his life, without the knowledge of Metropolitan Anastassy, or the blessing of the Synod, individual bishops of the Church Abroad participated in the consecration of bishops for the schismatic Greek groups. When one asks clergymen of the Church Abroad about the canonical foundations for these consecrations, nothing revealing is heard, except phrases about the candidates having been good, pious men who suffered from the Greek authorities for the old calendar.

This is symptomatic of the serious atrophy of canonical awareness. The results of these consecrations lead one to tears. The Greek Churches, earlier maintaining a calm and even loyal attitude towards the Church Abroad, began to see her as a canonical opponent, and besides, the Church Abroad found herself drawn into the chaos of the Greek Old Calendar movement with its baker's dozen of "synods" and "jurisdictions," which declare as uncanonical not only the "new calendarists" but each other as well.

In recent years even the Serbian Church, which always preserved the closest bonds with the Church Abroad, became subject to rebuke for its alleged "ecumenism." When Western bombs containing depleted uranium fell on Serbia, our Patriarch hurried to Belgrade to pray together with Patriarch Pavle of Serbia for the salvation of the Serbian people. At the same time, voices emanated from the Church Abroad calling for the need to suspend relations with the Serbian Church.

Today, a crucial question is posed not to the Russian Church alone, but to the Universal Orthodox Church, a question of life or death. Where are we heading? Will we continue on the path of division, of fragmentation into newer and newer ecclesiastical institutions, which is inevitable down this road?

Not only recent events in the Church Abroad but matters in other Orthodox Churches speak of this real danger. But in order to abandon this road, we must recognize its faults, we must stop justifying divisions, as some ideologues of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia do. If we widen the ecclesiastical horizon, the system of foundations and precedents for today's zealots of divisions comes crashing down.

We remember Saint Cyprian of Carthage, but we forget that in the quarrel over the baptism of schismatics he was opposed by Stephan of Rome, also a martyr and also a saint. We also forget that the Church resolved this quarrel—but not in favor of Saint Cyprian (see rule 95 of the VI Ecumenical Council). We are taken with the logical acrivia of Saint Theodore the Studite, but we forget that he dared to condemn the great defenders of Orthodoxy Saints Tarasius and Nicipherous of Constantinople, and that the Church in the end anathematized "all written or spoken" against these bishops (the Synodic on the Triumph of Orthodoxy). Even the uncompromising acrivia of Saint Maxim the Confessor, who refused to receive communion with all five patriarchs and with "the whole Universal Church," was not without an alternative. Saint Maxim accused of the monothelitistic heresy even those who had rejected the monothelitic Ecthesis and did not follow it. The IV Ecumenical Council, condemning the heresy of monothelitism, remained silent about Saint Maxim. Even when the heretic Macarius, Patriarch of Antioch, spewed slander and lies against Saint Maxim, the Council did not utter one word in his defense.

If we allow ourselves to take church history out of context, picking and choosing what we like and ignoring all the rest, we fall into genuine Protestantism, the only difference being that we subject not only Holy Scripture to the whims of our personal judgment, but everything that we call Tradition. We must first answer of ourselves what we seek: to curl up into a small, isolated "jurisdiction," or to participate in the life of Universal Orthodoxy, supporting all that is good and healthy and struggling against all untruth.

Time is heading catastrophically fast. Tomorrow may be too late. "Tomorrow," in fact, may not even arrive.

We wait with baited breath that the forthcoming All-Diaspora Council will make a decision in principle on the reestablishment of communion with the Martyr-Church in the Homeland. All other questions will decide themselves. The current structure of the Russian Church allows all levels of autonomy, beginning with the Autonomous Japanese Church, which in fact is entirely independent, and the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, also completely independent and yet having influence over the life of the entire Russian Church through its First Hierarch, Metropolitan Vladimir, who is a permanent member of our Holy Synod.

It would be easier to achieve unity if we think carefully and with all seriousness ask of our conscience what the following individuals would do in our present circumstances: Metropolitan Anthony of blessed memory, Metropolitan Anastassy of blessed memory, St John of Shanghai ...

We should at least not forget that it was through the efforts of His Holiness Patriarch Varnava of Serbia, whose heart bled for the divisions in the Russian Church, that Metropolitan Anthony renewed communion with Metropolitan Eulogius, without even demanding that he withdraw from the jurisdiction of Constantinople, even while considering it uncanonical. Later, the American Metropoliate was accepted into communion by the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia, while still retaining its autonomy. This triumph of the love of Christ must inspire the zealots of the memory of Vladyka Anthony.

Protopriest Valentin Asmus of the Moscow Patriarchate

You Might Be Orthodox If...

By ‘Dmitri Letterman’

• On Wednesdays and Fridays you eat Japanese food.

• You’re used to skipping breakfast on Sundays.

• You can automatically subtract 13 days from today’s date.

• On your first encounter with long words, you pronounce them stressing the ‘next to the next to last’ syllable.

• You wonder why the Pope crosses himself backwards when you see him on TV.

• You wear comfortable shoes to church, because you know you’ll be standing a long, long time.

• To you, a ‘topless’ gal is one without a headscarf.

• You get great deals on Christmas trees and Easter candy.

• You spend time figuring out the best way to remove smoke stains from your ceiling.

• When you see a shopping-mall Santa, your first instinct is to hold out your hands to get his blessing.


• Before you pray, you say a prayer.

• You don’t flinch when someone throws water at you.

• When you first tell people who ask what religion you are, at first they think you’re Jewish. Oy!

• You’re experienced at removing wax from clothing.

• When you go to the movies, you and your spouse sit on different sides of the theatre (and you both feel uncomfortable sitting down in public).

• The service routinely starts at least 15 minutes late and lasts 2 ½ hours — and nobody around you complains.

• You know you’re in an Orthodox church when the priest says, ‘Let us complete our prayer to the Lord’, and there’s still half an hour to go.

• (Slavic) Every woman in church is called Mary, Irene or Helen.

• (Convert) There’s somebody in your church called Barsanuphius and you think nothing of it.

• You find yourself instinctively drawn to jurisdictional chaos. ‘I don’t believe in organized religion; I’m Orthodox!’

• At the end of Holy Week, you have rug burns on your forehead.

• Your Easter isn’t Easter without an all-night party (featuring vodka and 10 dishes of sausage with cheese).

Hat tip to The Young Fogey

Non Violence and Peace Traditions in Early & Eastern Christianity

For the record I am not a pacifist and for a variety of reasons which I am not going to go into now, I do not agree with those who advocate a Christian doctrine of pacifism. However this article is so extremely detailed I can not but recommend it. The article is not short. But its well worth the read. Only the first two paragraphs are posted here.

Ideals of Peace in a Violent World.
Christianity has had a very chequered history in terms of its peace tradition. It is often to images of Inquisition and Crusade that the popular imagination turns when considering the darker side of the church’s imposition of control over the personal and political worlds it has inhabited over long centuries. The figure of a pacific Jesus (the poet of the lilies of the fields, and the advocator of peaceful resistance to evil, who so inspired Tolstoy and Gandhi among others) is often contrasted with a church of more brutish disciples who, when occasion presented itself, turned willingly, and quickly enough, to tactics of oppression and coercion, policies which they themselves had lamented, as being against both divine and natural justice, when applied to them in the earlier centuries of the Roman persecutions. The common version among Church Historians of this generic tale of a progressive sinking into the ‘brutal ways of the world’, also points to regular cycles of renewal and repentance, when Christians are said to reappropriate the ‘real’ meaning of their past, and renounce violent resistance in the cause of a ‘truly Christian’ non resistance. This, of course, is usually a matter of occasional academic protest from the sidelines, or the wisdom of the aftermath, since in times of war the ranks of those who rush to defend the Christian defensibility of hostilities are rarely short of representatives, it would seem. The key academic studies of the Early Church’s peace tradition, for example, had to wait until the 20th century. They appeared in two clusters, both of them the immediate aftermath of the great conflicts of 1914-18, and 1939-45, followed by a longer ‘tail’ which was overshadowed by the Cold War’s generic fears of nuclear holocaust, and which produced a more thorough-going tenor of the ‘suspicion of war’ in academic circles. Both the main-clusters of post-war re-assessments of Christian peace tradition in antiquity, witnessed a conflicted product in the tone of the literature. All lamented the fact and experience of war, from a Christian perspective, but some justified the concept of limited war engagement (usually Catholic scholars defending the then dominant Augustine-Aquinas theory of the Just War) while others were evidently more pacifist in tone (generally Protestant scholars calling for a ‘reform’ of defective medievalist views). The more recent work, inspired by the public sight of several disastrously ‘failed’ military interventions (such as Vietnam, and Afghanistan) and the horrific record of genocidally-tinged conflict at the end of the 20th century ( one of the bloodiest and nastiest on human record, though we still like to regard the ancients as less civilised than us) have, again understandably, caused the Christian witness on war and violence to come under renewed scrutiny. Today the literature on war in early Christian tradition is extensive 2 , and a synopsis of the primary sources has recently been collated in a useful ready-reference volume, with a good contextualising discussion 3.

While the common image of a militaristic Church is still, perhaps, prevalent in popular estimation, there are nevertheless, a multitude of pacific figures who feature in the Church’s exemplary stories of the lives of the saints. One such hagiography was the narrative on Abba Moses the Ethiopian in the Tales of the Desert Fathers who, when warned in advance of the impending attack of marauding Blemmyes tribesmen in 5th century Lower Egypt, refused to leave his cell, and ( though famed as a strong man of previously violent temper) stayed quietly in prayer waiting for the fatal assault of the invading brigands. This story of his election of pacific martyrdom was celebrated as most unusual; a heroic and highly individualist spiritual act of a master ( and thus not normative). All the other monks of Scete in his time were either slaughtered because they were surprised, or else had much earlier fled before the face of the storm of invasion.

Read the rest here.

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Spiritual Health

"It is not possible to correct yourself rightly if you do not recognize the evil hidden in your heart and the calamities that proceed from it. An unrecognized disease remains untreated. The beginning of health is to know your disease, and the beginning of blessedness is to know your misfortune and wretchedness. For who having recognized his illness does not seek healing, and who knowing his misfortune does not seek deliverance from it?"

St. Tikhon of Zadonsk.


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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Translated by Alvian N. Smirensky
October 26, 1995

The Latin Orthodox Church?

A very insightful post appeared overnight at The New Liturgical Movement web site as part of a discussion of my recent comments on the Tridentine Mass on this blog. I thought I would share that comment. The original and responses to it can be found here.

If we want to earn the respect of the Orthodox, it will not be by using their customs as a justification to neglect our own customs, nor by showing a general peppy enthusiasm for iconography (while rejecting its most important principles).

If we want their respect (and if we want to do what is best for our Church, regardless of its oecumenical effect), we need to adopt a more Orthodox attitude - that is, to make a pious deference to tradition in all things, and to treasure the customs particular to our own rite.

Really, this is what will make us more like the undivided Church of the early centuries - too many Roman Catholics think that Catholic liturgy is defined by rubrics and Vatican congregations.

But the Latin Church survived for most of its history with far less regulation - rubrics and Roman oversight are Counterreformational measures to protect the liturgy, not the Liturgy itself. They are part of the armor, not part of the knight.

Yet when Roman Catholics criticize some awful practice, they are more likely to condemn it as "unrubrical" than "untraditional". I have to imagine that the Orthodox think our obsession with rubrics and the pronouncements of the CDF are somewhat ridiculous - after all, they have no comparable mechanisms to safeguard their liturgy. And yet theirs has not been ruined, has not been discontinuous, has not lost its unity throughout the Orthodox world.

Why is this? Because the Orthodox have a natural traditionalism - which is the normal means for the liturgy to be preserved. It is what preserved the Western liturgy for fifteen centuries. It is what is necessary for the Latin Church to regain.

When Roman Catholics hear that the Orthodox have a canonized system of iconogrpahy, they imagine some big dusty book filled with instructions as to what angle Mary's head should be tilted. It doesn't exist - there are no rules of the sort that Borromeo and Molanus tried (unsucessfully, thank God)to impose on the Roman Church after Trent. Iconography is canonized because its creators make a pious deference to tradition and possess the humility not to apply their own fool notions to sacred art. And that is how it is in Orthodoxy, with everything.

That isn't to say that rubrics and Vatican instructions are bad - they provided a necessary corrective to Medieval excesses, and could provide a necessary corrective to certain flaws of Orthodoxy. But ultimately, they are patching the armor, not healing the wounded knight.

Until we regain a natural traditionalism of the sort the Orthodox have, all the rubrics and instructions in the world will not fix our liturgy.

[Imagine a Church that has a liturgy in natural continuity since the apostolic age, of the most extraordinary beauty and profundity, that is unquestionably deep in history; with a rich tradition of didactic iconography that lends great symbolic significance to every detail of Church building and ornamentation. Then imagine that the liturgy and iconography are Western, not Eastern.

That is an idealized vision of the late Medieval Catholic Church. Call it the Latin Orthodox Church. And then do everything possible to make sure that that Church and the Roman Catholic Church are one and the same.]

-Daniel Mitsui

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Hospital to 'kill' sick woman?

An ill woman in Houston could die within days because a hospital ethics committee has voted to take her off life support – this despite the fact the 54-year-old is not in a coma, is not brain dead and wants to go on living, her family says.

On April 30, Andrea Clark is scheduled to be on the receiving end of a Texas law that allows a hospital ethics committee to terminate care with 10 days' notice, giving the patient's family that length of time to find a different facility.

"They just say, 'Well she's miserable.' Well, to me that's a quality of life decision that is up to her and her family," Lanore Dixon told KHOU-TV. "That is not a medical decision."

Dixon recently protested at the St. Luke's Hospital on behalf of Clark, her sister, who has been hospitalized there since November.

In January, Clark underwent open-heart surgery and later developed bleeding on the brain. A ventilator, which the committee voted to remove Sunday, helps her breathe.

Talking about the Texas law, Dixon told KHOU: ""If their ethics committee makes a decision, it doesn't matter what the patient wants. It doesn't even apparently matter what the patient's condition is, because our sister is not in a coma; she's not brain dead."

Clark's family says though she cannot speak, they are able to communicate with her by moving her lips and blinking her eyes.

Columnist and attorney Wesley J. Smith, who wrote extensively on the Terri Schiavo case in Florida, chimed in on his blog:

"Note that the treatment is apparently being removed because it works, not because it doesn't – which means, in effect, that the hospital ethics committee has declared the patient's life to be futile."

Noting that the family wants Clark to live, Smith noted, "It is as if Michael Schiavo and the Schindlers wanted Terri's care continued but the hospital said no."

Smith described the Texas law as allowing "private decision-making that will result in death without even the right to a public hearing, to cross examine witnesses or a formal appeal."

Some have charged the law is meant to benefit insurance companies who want hospitals to get critical patients "off the books."

According to the TV station report, Clark's family is doing all it can to find another facility that will treat Andrea.

Dunno Much Scientology

by Regis Nicoll

Tom’s Cruise-ade

With all the trigonometry and biology you’ve forgotten since school, are you also having trouble recollecting anything about Scientology? If so, you’re not alone.

For most people, scientology didn’t become a blip on the radar until the "Cruise strike" on Access Hollywood. It was there that Tom Cruise criticized Brooke Shields for using Paxil to treat post-partum depression. That was followed by the soiree with Matt Lauer, in which Cruise counseled Lauer about the evils of psychiatry and the dangers of therapeutic drugs.

But the real shocker came when Cruise—in punch-drunk love over Katie Holmes—buzzed the Oprah Winfrey Show, pounding the floor, jumping on the couch, and wrestling his hostess in an unbridled display of puerile euphoria.

Where did Tom get all this medical sapience and uncontained passion? From Scientology, of course, which Cruise also credits with helping him think and make decisions, not to mention curing his dyslexia. Ever since Cruise appointed his sister (and fellow Scientologist) as his publicist, Tom has become Scientology’s top-gun crusader.

Why is he doing this? As Cruise told the Access Hollywood audience, "Because I care, man. I care. I care about you . . . every one of you. And I mean it. That is not just words to me."

Other celebs coming out in praise of Scientology include Kirstie Alley, who claims it helped her kick drug addiction, and John Travolta, who says it helped make him what he is today. With that kind of star power, you’ve got a potent gospel. After all, isn’t that what we all want—to be better people, freed from our addictions? At least one young woman thinks so.

When asked about Tom’s Cruise-ade, a young admirer commented that if scientology has helped him to become a more effective, more caring person, she would like to learn more about it. If she’s reading, maybe this will help.

The making of a religion

In 1950, sci-fi writer L. Ron Hubbard published Dianetics: The Modern Science of Mental Health, debunking traditional psychotherapy. According to Hubbard, all man’s ills, from wrinkles to cancer, are due to past traumatic experiences called engrams.

The dianetic technique involves "clearing" embedded engrams through an "auditing" process. Once "clear," a person is liberated to experience increased levels of self-actualization. The whole process is both long (decades to a lifetime) and expensive (hundreds of thousands of dollars).

Dianetics quickly became a bestseller. Yet, by 1954, Hubbard’s funds began drying up. It was around that time Hubbard founded the Church of Scientology. In a candid interview in 1983, Hubbard’s son admitted that his father’s motive was money: "He told me and a lot of other people that the way to make a million was to start a religion." Hubbard manufactured his religion by taking the principles of Dianetics and expanding them from the physical and psychological to the spiritual.

One important insight is though Hubbard publicly, and in his teachings, denounced the use of drugs—therapeutic, as well as, recreational—privately, Hubbard was a drug user from an early age. High levels of therapeutic drugs found in his post-mortem autopsy revealed that Hubbard’s drug use extended throughout his life.

Despite such incongruity, Hubbard’s brainchild now claims 700 churches in 65 countries with a worldwide membership of 8 million, though critics believe that number is highly inflated, being more like 50,000.

While many take issue with its religious designation, Scientology, like all other religions, has its spin on the great questions of life: How did it all begin? What went wrong? Is there a solution? And how will it end? The same themes of Creation, Fall, Redemption, and Restoration found within the more familiar Christian tradition.

Although Hubbard’s account of these themes is irreconcilably at odds with Christianity, Tom Cruise insists that one "could be a Christian and a Scientologist." In fact, Mike Klagenberg, a Scientology director in Sacramento, describes himself as a Christian. So is Scientology compatible with Christianity or not? Let’s take a look.

How did it all begin?

The biblical narrative says that "the universe was formed at God's command, so that what is seen was not made out of what was visible." Everything that exists is a product of the non-contingent, eternal Word who spoke the cosmos into being ex nihilo (from nothing). Included in his creative act is man, a being with physical existence created Imago Dei (in the image of God).

To understand the creation narrative of Scientology, one must first understand the nature of man. Scientology teaches that man is a "thetan," an inherently good being that is both eternal and spiritual. Like the Hindu Atman, a thetan passes from life to life through death and re-birth. Collectively, thetans comprise a pantheistic version of God.

Hubbard’s account tells of restless thetans who, some gazillion years ago, began mentally emanating a plethora of universes to fight boredom. The universe we inhabit—a mental projection with no objective existence—is but one of those creations.

What went wrong?

The biblical narrative continues with the story of the Fall. Man is given the powers of reason, creativity, and self-awareness with knowledge of transcendence and finitude. But he is also given the dignity of moral accountability through the exercise of free will.

Man’s exercise of choice soon leads to a chasm between God and man. In an original act of rebellion, a contagion was introduced into God’s universe and, like a spiritual AIDS, began infecting everything it touched. The corruption in man inclines him to exalt self above God, his fellow man, and all else, leaving the whole creation groaning for relief and repair.

In Hubbard’s narrative, thetans eventually became so enamored with their creations that they forgot their true nature and became enslaved into the material existence they had projected. Add to that the countless engrams accumulated over eons, and their once omnipotent, spiritual essence was reduced to that of physical response mechanisms. This "fall," through pandemic memory loss, is responsible for all human suffering and misery.

Is there a solution?

For the Christian, the pressing effects of evil like war, poverty, crime, and environmental pollution are rooted not as much in the mind of man or his institutions as in his heart.

Therefore, the solution to evil is not information, technique, or improved social programs, but re-creation—an extreme makeover initiated by a graceful God through the redemptive act of Jesus Christ and the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. Only through inside-out re-creation can evil be overcome by good.

Scientology, on the other hand, says that because man is basically good and evil is the product of universal amnesia, we don’t need redemption; rather, we need remembrance. It is not the grace of a merciful God but the work of enlightened "auditors," that enables us to rediscover our divine identity and apply our omnipotence to make evil obsolete.

How will it all end?

The end of the story is Christ’s physical return to Earth, his final victory over the powers of evil, and the restoration of all things. With all enemies removed, Christ receives his church into a world made new—where joys await that “no eye has seen nor ear heard, or mind conceived what God has prepared for them who love him.”

In Scientology, the end comes not by the hand of God but by the power of man. And, for a movement that claims to be Christian-friendly, the source of that power comes from our ultimate adversary.

According to Ron Jr., his father was a friend and admirer of the famous occultist Aleister Crowley. Crowley’s plunge into the occult was so deep that he identified himself as the Antichrist. After Crowley’s death, Hubbard assumed the mantle of his mentor, writing in reference to the end times " . . . the anti-Christ, will reign and his opinions will have sway . . . My mission could be said to fulfill the Biblical promise represented by this brief anti-Christ period."

The whole of the law

Gizmos and gadgets come with operating instructions. Manufacturers understand that their devices work best when run in accordance with their design. The same is true for us. We work best when we operate in a manner consistent with our make-up.

The gospel writer, Luke, tells of a hotshot lawyer who asked Jesus how he could gain eternal life. In their familiar exchange we learn that it is by loving God and loving neighbor. That is a laser point of light on our design. By putting God first, others next, and self last, we are in harmony with our design, and aligned to experience the true joy for which we were created.

L. Ron Hubbard, in co-opting the code of Aleister Crowley, inverts the designed order placing self first, others next, and God across the chasm. Such has been the tendency of man since the Fall.

Regis Nicoll is a freelance writer and a Centurion of the Wilberforce Forum.

This article was originally published at The Crux Project