Monday, October 31, 2016

Extracts from Articles and Conversations on Orthodox Baptismal Theology

Introduction
“The argument is not whether economy can be used in receiving converts. We are concerned with how the exception (economy and Chrismation) became the assumed or would-be standard, as it has today.” – C.E.

The Canons
Canon VII of the Second Ecumenical Council, Constantinople, 381 A.D.:
“As for heretics who convert to Orthodoxy and join the portion of the saved, we receive them in accordance with the following procedure and custom: We receive Arians, and Macedonians, and Sabbatians, and Novatians who call themselves Catharoi and Aristeroi, and Tessareskaidekatitæ otherwise known as Tetraditæ, and Apollinarists, when they submit written statements, and anathematize every heresy that does not believe as the holy, catholic, and Apostolic Church of God believes, and are first sealed with holy Myron on the forehead, and the eyes, and the nose, and the mouth, and the ears; and in sealing them we say: ‘Seal of the gift of the Holy Spirit.’

“Eunomians, on the other hand, who are baptized with one immersion, and Montanists who in this [City] are called Phrygians, and Sabellians who teach the son-fatherhood [of Christ], and who do other evil things as well; and all other heresies (for there are many hereabout, especially those hailing from the region of the Galatians), all of them that wish to join Orthodoxy we receive as pagans. And on the first day we make them Christians; on the second, catechumens. Then on the third day we exorcise them with the threefold blowing into their face and ears. And then we catechize them, and oblige them to spend sufficient time in the church and to listen to the Scriptures. And then we baptize them.”

+The Rudder (St. Nikodimos), footnote to Ap.c. XLVII, p.69:
St. Basil- “In a word we baptize all Novations and Encratites and Sarcophores [these are all schismatics – F.J.C.+ note]. Even if rebaptism is prohibited with you for the sake of some economy, as it is with the Romans, nevertheless, let our word have the power of rejecting, to put it plainly, the baptism of such.”
St. Nikodemos: “If Basil the Great rejects the baptism of schismatics because of their having lost perfective grace, then it is needless for us to ask whether we ought to baptize heretics”!
“St. Basil says two sentences above this statement that if for some reason of economy some Fathers accepted such baptisms let them do as they will.”
– F.J.C.+

+The Rudder (St. Nikodimos), Canons of St. Basil, c. I, p. 774:
St. Basil: After stating again that it is according to the exactness of the canons that we must accept both schismatics and heretics [that is by baptism] he says that if they cannot accept this, it is better to receive them economically than to see them prevented “from being saved because of their being too indolent in regard to baptism” [They just cannot accept that their baptism is nothing – F.J.C.+].

St. Basil: “But if they keep our baptism [“Notwithstanding they themselves do not rebaptize those who join them from our Orthodox members... – St.Nikodimos] let this not deter us [“...this fact ought not deter us from baptizing them when they join our Church upon returning to the True Faith – St. Nikodimos]. For we are not obliged to return thanks to them (to offer them favor for favor) but to serve the canons with exactitude.”

“Canon 95 of the Quinisext Ecumenical Council, which repeats Canon 7 of the Second Ecumenical Council, stipulates that the Eunomians “who were baptized with one immersion” should be rebaptized. Montanists and Sabellians “who consider the Son to be the same as the Father, and are guilty in certain other grave matters, and all the other heresies” are also to be rebaptized. There is clearly cause for rebaptism whenever there is baptism by single immersion, identification of the Father with the Son… variations both with regards to the doctrine of the Trinity, due to the teachings on the Filioque and the created divine energies (actus purus), and because there is also a difference in form, since baptism is not performed by immersion, but by “pouring” or “sprinkling” following the Council of Trent.” – M.H.V.+

Contemporary Questions after reading these Canons:
“Does this not state rather boldly that those coming from schism and heresy who are willing or even request baptism should be given baptism? St. Basil says we MUST baptize them!”
 – F.J.C.+

“This gets to my question about what do the bishops mean when they say it does not matter what the catechumen wants?” – F.J.C.+

“If, for good reason, a catechumen should say, ‘If you will not baptize me, I will find a priest who will’, should that be offensive?” – F.J.C.+

About the Canons pertaining to Baptism:
“The canons which deal with the relation of bishops, and in general of all the children of the Church, to those outside her, are the following: Apostolic, Nos. 10, 12, 45, 46 and 65; Conciliar, 1st Ecumenical, Nos. 8 and 19; 2nd Ecumenical, No. 7; 6th Ecumenical, No. 95; Laodicea, Nos. 7, 8 and 33; Carthage, Nos. 68 and 79; and the Canonical Rules of St. Basil the Great, Nos. 1 and 47.” – M.A.K.+

“Naturally, these canons do not lessen the necessity of baptism by water for every man, although it must not be forgotten that very ancient instances in the Church give us examples of the descent of the Holy Spirit upon the yet unbaptized, so that the subsequent baptism had a supplementary and chiefly disciplinary significance, as uniting them to the earthly Church of Christ [cf. Acts 10:44-48 and Acts 11 :15-17]… we must, of course, also notice that the descent of the Holy Spirit, referred to in the words of the Acts [referenced above]… did not release the believers from the obligation of baptism by water, and this obligation many who converted from heresy had to fulfill in accordance with the 46th canon of the Holy Apostles, although they already had heretical baptism.” – M.A.K.+

“…Note the following characteristics of conciliar legislation on this subject:
   1. These canons were changed a) according to time, and b) according to locality.
   2. Their strictness or relaxation depended not so much on the character of the heresy or schism, as on the varying relationship of the heretics or schismatics to the Church; and they varied in one direction or the other, according to changes in this relationship of the schismatics to the Church.
   3. Sometimes the Ecumenical authorities declared their decisions not to be final, and sometimes even deferred their decisions while awaiting new Church Councils.”
 – M.A.K.+

Acrivia and Economia
“Remaining faithful to the principle set by Sts. Cyprian and Basil the Great, they [Ecumenical Patriarch Cyril V and the Kollyvades Fathers] side in favor of applying acrivia in receiving the various heretics; in other words, their (re)baptism. Of course, they do not deny the possible use of economia. But, in the spirit of the Second (and Penthekte) Ecumenical Council, this is done ‘when it does not vitally harm’ the Church, according to Oikonomos; in other words, when the irrevocable stipulation set by these Ecumenical Councils is fulfilled: namely, that the sacrament of baptism has been administered in accordance with the Apostolic form. The use of economia, having a provisional and local character, does not do away with acrivia which constitutes the Church’s canonical order. Therefore, ‘the one, holy, catholic and Apostolic Church of the Orthodox, having their salvation in view, both preserves the acrivia of the divine Canons, and also at various times and places apostolically resorts to economia, so as to receive those infirm in the faith, and to take care of incidental needs and difficulties, while avoiding incursions by the adversaries of Orthodoxy, until such time as she again restores acrivia.” – F.G.M.+

“Up to now the Orthodox Churches usually accepted into their membership individuals or Churches by means of either exactitude [Akrivia]… or economy [Economia]...
(a) By Exactitude one is accepted by baptism, chrismation and profession of the Orthodox Faith accompanied by rejection of former errors.
(b) By Economy one is accepted by chrismation and profession of the Orthodox faith and the rejection of former errors…
“Neither of these two means of entry into the Church is in itself a judgment on the validity or non-validity of the sacraments of the Church of origin, since there are no mysteries outside of the Body of Christ… It is up to each Synod of Orthodox bishops to decide the status of each group of those who are seeking communion within the Body of Christ.” – F.J.R.+

…the issue here is not ‘economy,’ but the desire by many ecumenists to exploit the pastoral dimensions of Orthodoxy in the service of their religious syncretism. [Some redefine] ‘economy’ in such a way as to dismiss its traditional definition, he has created a new theology of openness. [They] misuses St. Basil’s famous First Canon (avoiding the Saint’s own interpretation of the matters contained therein) so as to make of Orthodoxy a religion which is all-inclusive—subtly suggesting that ‘traditionalists’ [or fundamentalists] consider it ‘exclusive.’ By twisting the teachings of the Fathers, separating the Canons from spiritual life, ignoring the Patristic consensus, and redefining issues in a language that is unknown to the Church (the antipodes of ‘inclusive’ and ‘exclusive,’ for example, are a set-up for those who properly argue for Orthodox primacy), they have made of Orthodoxy something that it is not. To paraphrase a well-known Serbian theologian, ‘They are creating within the confines of Orthodoxy a religion which lacks its content.’ Hence, the exception becomes the standard, if simply because we have redefined the meaning of exactitude in the Orthodox Faith.’ – C.E.

“To exercise proper ‘economy’ is not to argue for historical precedent or from the statistical mean or median. Exactitude expresses the consensus of the Church, which is not an intellectual belief, but a manifestation in word and directive of the ineffable: revelation ‘operationalized.’ Those who apply this standard attempt, in all ways, to achieve perfection and to adhere to what is exact. They are guided in such attempts by spiritual discretion (pneumatike diakrisis), not by the preoccupations of a given age (‘inclusiveness,’ ‘communion ecclesiology,’ ‘shared love’), inspired by an inner knowledge of the spiritual state and condition of those entrusted to them. Acting together, such spiritual individuals always reflect the consensus of the Church, since they exist, through Apostolic Succession, forever in the unity of Apostolic Truth. In one case, they apply the exact standard. In another, they apply ‘economy.’ They are guided not by a mere intellectual grasp of the Canons, but by a communion with the wholeness of Apostolic Tradition. Thus, what St. John of San Francisco did by ‘economy’ is valid; what an ecumenist does in the name of ‘economy’ to further his ecumenistic agenda—this is not only wrong, but it does violence to the spiritual Truth of Orthodoxy. Like it or not, this is the real issue. And no spiritual Father who truly communes with the Church…would ever call the ‘economy’ of the reception of converts by Chrismation into the Orthodox Church its ‘standard.’ To do so would be to cut himself off from the subtle golden chain of Holy Tradition that links contradiction to contradiction in perfect harmony through the spirit of pastoral love. It would also separate contemporary Orthodoxy from its roots in Scripture and the Early Church.” – C.E.

“I strongly suspect that, since so many converts in America have been received by Chrismation, it is THEY who have much to prove in the argument over ‘economy.’ Applied for good reason by a spiritually sober clergyman in rare instances, I see nothing wrong with ‘economy.’ But we have now come to the point that converts want Baptism to be the exception and find everything wrong with applying this standard of canonical exactitude. This is because, in the artificial Orthodoxy of the SCOBA and the ‘mainstream,’ there are many who feel the spiritual consequences of the abuse of ‘economy.’ They see the minimalism in their spiritual lives; they recognize what is missing; and they react, not with humility (in which case they would be covered), but with fury.” – C.E.

“These ecumenists are not adequately facile in the Fathers, in Orthodox spiritual life, and in the language of the Church, even if they hold forth as theologians and academics in institutions that their public relations czars have made more than they actually are. Their thinking and nomenclature should be avoided by all of us… since they lead to misunderstanding and the folly of ecumenism.” – C.E.

Timeline
Pan Orthodox Councils in Constantinople in 1484: condemned the Latins as heretics and would be received by chrismation only after a written rejection their heresies, in response to difficult relations between Rome and Constantinople following the Council of Florence.

We should also note that the Latins were not at the time [1000] years into heresy and separation from Orthodoxy, as they are now… If one reads with care such pertinent documents as St. Basil’s First Canon, St. Nikodemos’ complex commentary thereon, and the acts of the Seventh Ecumenical Synod, in particular, we see quite clearly that heresy does involve a temporal element. A single generation of heresy takes a lesser spiritual toll than longer periods of heresy. Moreover, Churches may fall "ill" from the influence of heresy (as did Rome long before the Schism) and yet not find themselves deprived of Grace, according to St. John Chrysostomos. When illness passes to morbidity, the process of separation becomes final. The question is not simply one of being "in" or "out" of the Church (such a thing is decided not by decrees and administrative decisions, but in the spiritual realm—after all, Grace did not cease in
the Latin Church on a certain day in 1054), but involves the gradual loss of Grace and its therapeutic efficacy over time. This is not to say that the gravity of heresy is not an issue, but even here one can persuasively argue, as the Blessed Justin Popovich does, that the heresy of the Latins has indeed become more pronounced over time: the effects of spiritual disease—heresy—intensify as time passes. Hence, there were Latin Christians, even long after the Great Schism and even through the union councils, who were still Baptized in the Orthodox manner. That is not something that can be argued today, except in the most isolated of instances. Likewise, Papal infallibility is a dogma today. It was not in the fifteenth century.” – C.E.

Synod of Moscow in 1620-1621: Receive converts by baptism only.
Synod of Moscow in 1667: Reversed decision of 1620-1621 and decided converts would be received by chrismation.

Jerusalem in 1672: Patriarch Dositheos of Jerusalem had been arguing that the Latins needed to receive baptism if joining the Orthodox Church. He wrote "Those who are without good cause Baptized without three emersions and immersions risk being unbaptized. Therefore, Latins who perform baptism by aspersion commit mortal sin" (Dodekabiblos in The Writings of the Presbyter Constantine the Economos, Vol. I, p. 93 (Athens, 1862). This council provided dispensation of “economy” for this rule not only held by this Patriarch.

1718: “Patriarch Jeremiah of Constantinople also supported the use of economy in the Russian Church because of certain political realities and because of the difficult situation presented by incipient Uniatism.” – C.E.

Oros of 1755(6): called for baptism of the heterodox and signed by Constantinople, Alexandria, and Jerusalem. Endorsed by Antioch.

There is, in fact, no reason to question the validity of the decree of 1755, since this Oros was issued in response to the condemnation, earlier, by Patriarch Cyril’s Metropolitans of the anti-Latin treatise of Christopher the Aitolian (which has, at times, been wrongly attributed to Eustratios Argenti). The Patriarch’s opponents (who were anti-Papist themselves), were, according to Father [George] Metallinos, seeking to avoid antagonizing the Latins, for which reason the Patriarch dissolved the Synod. Cyril’s decree and his bold actions, however, were vindicated, subsequently, by the Patriarchs of Alexandria and Jerusalem, who signed the Oros, and which would have been signed by Sylvester of Antioch, too, according to Runciman, were it not for the fact that he was traveling in Russia; and this, again, because he was opposed to the schism caused by the Latin-minded in his own Church. Indeed, one might say that it was the Oros of 1755 which was Pan-Orthodox in nature, not the Council of 1484, the policy of which Cyril’s decree reversed… The conclusion that Metallinos rightly draws here, in our opinion, is that 1484 was not normative, for which reason prevailing practice dictated Cyril’s directive, which was enormously popular among the Faithful and clergy. It reflected the conscience of the Church. – C.E.

Archimandrite Ambrosius (Pogodin) has commentary on this which is simply historically false.

1888: Constantinople did not revoked Oros of 1755. It created a policy for receiving converts by chrismation should the circumstances demand it.

1903: Church of Greece, under the influence of one particular Archbishop, allowed the clergy in the diaspora to receive by chrismation. Directive was ambiguous but not adopted by Greece itself nor Mt. Athos.

1933: "As recently as 1933 the Holy Synod of Antioch laid down that all converts to Orthodoxy received by clergy in its jurisdiction should be baptized, save in cases where a dispensation had been granted. Thus while the application of economy is not excluded by this decision, it is not envisaged as a normal practice." [Eustratios Argenti: A Study of the Greek Church Under Turkish Rule, by Timothy [Bishop Kallistos] Ware (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1964), 106-107.]

“First, we are not dealing with mere policies, but with the realities of history and pastoral demands. Dealing with Uniates in Russia, some of whom were Baptized by Orthodox Priests and some of whom were for generations part of the Latin Church (Uniatism), involves condescension of one kind. The unique years of Orthodox immigration present condescension of another kind. But in no manner whatsoever can one argue that these circumstances set a new "standard." How could this be possible, given the apparently contradictory outline of "policies" that I have presented only in brief above? Is the Orthodox Church incapable of a consistent policy? Again, the matter is not one of policy, but of pastoral condescension to the needs of the People of God. The standard of threefold immersion in the name of the Holy Trinity remains; only human weakness and the trials of history change.” – C.E.

One should also keep in mind that this looks at the activity of the upper clergy of the Church during this time. It has been a common historical that the monastics and village clergy when encouraged to perform a reception by chrismation continued following the canons to baptize their converts following St. Basil and the exactitude of canonical application.” – C.E.

A common argument goes: “In Pan-Orthodox Councils in Constantinople in 1848, Moscow in 1667 and Jerusalem in 1672 as well as decrees by Constantinople in 1888, the Church of Greece in 1903, and SCOBA, responsible Orthodox authorities have decided that economy should be used when receiving converts.” To which one responds: “ The consensus of the Church as it is derived from the whole of Church history and the synodal witness determines what is authoritative. And this authority is expressed in the witness of the Holy Fathers, which is the Holy Tradition of the Church and which begets that which makes a decree viable. This is not determined by simply citing the synods which agree with what we or SCOBA handbooks decide to consider binding and "normative," while ignoring or dismissing all else. We must seek that continuity which holds together various sources. There have always been opposing views in the Church. However, there also exists a consensus, once more, that is drawn from the perfect standard of the Church (exactitude—in this case the reception of converts by Baptism) and which transcends the apparent vicissitudes of pastoral economy. – C.E.

Testimony of Saints and Respected Orthodox Clergymen
“[The Kollyvades Fathers are] contemporaries of the dispute over the baptism of non-Orthodox, these very capable theologians lived it from up close, and they took a position on it in their writings, offering a solution to the problem that was in accordance with their own theological principles. Neophytos Kafsokalyvitis the leader of the Kollyvades movement, St. Nikodemos of the Holy Mountain, and Athanasios Parios, in absolute agreement with each other, unreservedly sided in favor of Patriarch Cyril’s decision and the theology of Eustratios Argentis (1687-1757), who defined the theological and canonical frame of reference of the problem in a systematic and decisive way. The above-mentioned Kollyvades, each in his own peculiar way, affirm and reiterate Argentis’ view and solution of the problem, and thus uphold the Church’s early practice as canonically formulated by Sts. Cyprian of Carthage and Basil the Great. Also, the fact that the Priestmonk Jonas, one of Patriarch Cyril V’s most active co-workers in Constantinople and himself a ‘rebaptizer,’ was also a Kafsokalyvitis, i.e. a fellow monastic of Neophytos, should not, in my opinion, remain unnoticed.” – F.G.M.+

Sister Saints Elizabeth and Alexandra received only by Chrismation but during a time when this ecumenist mentality of today was not present in the Church. Fr. George Florovsky allegedly wrote in favor of a “standard” use of economy; yet, if true, this is at odds with his practice and later views. Fr. Seraphim Rose was received by chrismation but made clear that he regretted this and only baptized converts. Fr. Seraphim’s chrismation had the blessing of St. John Maximovich but St. John received many by baptism also.

Conclusion:
there are no Mysteries outside Orthodoxy and that the exercise of economy in no way suggests [ecumenical leanings]. [We address in this conflict] the abuse of economy in the very name of ecumenism… The synodal record is not a simple one and that it must, once more, submit to the pronouncements of prophecy over the parameters of the mere judicial.” – C.E.

What about the Orthodox that were received into the Church without baptism? “Saint Basil the Great refused to baptize a man who doubted the validity of his baptism, precisely because he had already received communion for many years and it was too late to doubt then that he was a member of Christ’s Church!” – F.S.R.+

“The Patristic Orthodox teaching on this subject is that the Church is the Theanthropic Body of Christ, in which revealed truth—the Orthodox Faith—is preserved and the mystery of deification is accomplished through the Mysteries of the Church (Baptism, Chrismation, and the Divine Eucharist). The essential precondition for this is that we participate in the purifying, illuminating, and deifying energy of God. Baptism is the initiatory Mystery of the Church. The Church does not rest upon the Mystery of Baptism; rather, the Baptism of water, in conjunction with the Baptism of the Spirit, operates within the Church and makes one a member of the Body of Christ. There are no Mysteries outside the Church, the living Body of Christ, just as there are no senses outside the human body.” – M.H.V.+



Recommended Readings:
I Confess One Baptism… – Fr. George D. Metallinos
The Ecclesiological Renovation of Vatican II – Fr. Peter Heers

Initials:
C.E. (Old Calendarist Archbishop Chrysostomos of Etna)
M.H.V.+ (Met. Hierotheos (Vlachos) of Navpaktos and Hagios Vlasios)
M.A.K.+ (Met. Anthony Khrapovitsky)
F.J.R.+ (Fr. John S. Romanides)
F.G.M.+ (Fr. George D. Metallinos, Athens, Greece)
F.S.R.+ (Fr. Seraphim Rose)
F.J.C.+ (Fr. Joseph Copeland in Holy Cross, Yakima, WA)



Baptismal Theology
by Metropolitan Hierotheos (Vlachos) of Navpaktos and Hagios Vlasios

THERE HAS BEEN in the past, and there is in our own day, a good deal of discussion about the Baptism of heretics (the heterodox [1]); that is, whether heretics who have deviated from the Orthodox Faith and who seek to return to it should be Baptized anew or simply Chrismated after making a profession of faith. Decisions have been issued on this matter by both local and OEcumenical Synods.

In the text that follows, I should like to discuss, by way of example, the agreement reached between the Standing Conference of Canonical Orthodox Bishops of America and the National Conference of Catholic Bishops in America [2] on June 3, 1999. The Greek translation of the original text was made by Protopresbyter George Dragas, a professor at the Holy Cross Greek Orthodox School of Theology in Boston [Brookline—Trans.], who also provided a summary and critique of this agreed statement between Orthodox and Roman Catholics in America.

The basis of this document is the Balamand Agreement [3] of 1993, “Uniatism, Method of Union of the Past and the Present Search for Full Communion,” which it evidently wishes to uphold. The text on which we are commenting, that is, the agreement signed by Orthodox and Roman Catholics in America and entitled “Baptism and ‘Sacramental Economy,’” is based on several points, in my observation, that are very typical of the contemporary ecumenical movement and indicative of its entire substance.

The first point is that “Baptism rests upon and derives its reality from the faith of Christ Himself, the faith of the Church, and the faith of the believer” (p. 13). At first sight, one is struck by the absence, here, of any reference to the Triune God—perhaps in order to justify this flexible interpretation of Baptism. Faith, then, becomes the fundamental mark and element of Baptism.

The second point is that Baptism is not a practice required by the Church, but is, “rather, the Church’s foundation. It establishes the Church” (p. 26). Here, the notion that Baptism is not the “initiatory” Mystery whereby we are introduced into the Church, but the foundation of the Church, is presented as the truth.

The third point is that “Baptism was never understood as a private ceremony, but rather as a corporate event” (p. 13). This means that the Baptism of catechumens was “the occasion for the whole community’s repentance and renewal” (p. 13). One who is Baptized “is obliged to make his own the community’s common faith in the Savior’s person and promises” (p. 14).

The fourth point is a continuation and consequence of the foregoing points. Since Baptism rests upon faith in Christ, since it is the basis of the Church, and since, moreover, it is the work of the community, this means that any recognition of Baptism entails recognition of the Church in which the Baptism is performed. In the Agreed Statement we read: “The Orthodox and Catholic members of our Consultation acknowledge, in both of our traditions, a common teaching and a common faith in one baptism, despite some variations in practice which, we believe, do not affect the substance of the mystery” (p. 17).

According to this text, there is a common faith and teaching concerning Baptism in the two “Churches,” and the differences that exist do not affect the substance of the Mystery. The two sides each acknowledge an ecclesial reality “in the other, however much they may regard their way of living the Church’s reality as flawed or incomplete” (p. 17). “The certain basis for the modern use of the phrase ‘sister churches’” (p. 17) is to be found in this point. The Orthodox Church and the Latin Church are these two “sister Churches,” because they have the same Tradition, the same Faith, and the same Baptism, even though there are certain differences between them. Hence, the following opinion is repeatedly affirmed in the text: “We find that this mutual recognition of the ecclesial reality of baptism, in spite of our divisions, is fully consistent with the perennial teaching of both churches” (p. 26). Misinterpreting the teaching of St. Basil the Great, the signers of this document aver that the two “Churches,” in spite of the “imperfections” that exist, constitute the same ecclesial reality: “By God’s gift we are each, in St. Basil’s words, ‘of the Church’” (p. 26).

The fifth point is that the authors of the Agreed Statement find fault with St. Nicodemos the Hagiorite, who, in interpreting the views of St. Cyprian of Carthage, St. Basil the Great, and the Second OEcumenical Synod, talks—as do all of the Kollyvades Fathers of the eighteenth century—about exactitude (akribia) and economy (oikonomia) with regard to the way in which heretics are received into the Orthodox Church. That is to say, the Fathers have at times received heretics by exactitude—namely, by Baptism—and at times by economy—namely, by Chrismation. However, even when the Church does receive someone by economy, this means that She effects the mystery of salvation at that very time, precisely because the Church is superior to the Canons, and not the Canons to the Church, and because the Church is the source of the Mysteries and, eo ipso, of Baptism, whereas Baptism is not the basis of the Church. The Church can receive this or that heretic by the principle of economy, without any implication that She recognizes as a Church the community that previously baptized him. This is the context within which St. Nicodemos interprets the relevant decision of the Second OEcumenical Synod.

Confusion is certainly heightened by the fact that one of the recommendations of the Agreed Statement is subject to many different interpretations. According to this recommendation, the two Churches should make it clear that “the mutual recognition of baptism does not of itself resolve the issues that divide them, or reëstablish full ecclesial communion between the Orthodox and Catholic Churches, but that it does remove a fundamental obstacle on the path towards full communion” (p. 28).

From this brief analysis, it is obvious how much confusion prevails in ecumenist circles regarding these issues. It is also obvious that [Orthodox] ecumenists understand the acceptance of the baptism of heretics (Catholics and Protestants, who have altered the dogma of the Holy Trinity and other dogmas) to mean accepting the ecclesial status of heretical bodies and, worse still, that the two “Churches,” Latin and Orthodox, are united in spite of “small” differences, or that we derive from the same Church and should seek to return to it, thereby forming the one and only Church. This is a blatant expression of the branch theory.

When there is such confusion, it is necessary to adopt an attitude of strictness, which preserves the truth: that all who fall into heresy are outside the Church and that the Holy Spirit does not work to bring about their deification.

In any event, baptismal theology creates immense problems for the Orthodox. From the standpoint of ecclesiology, the text under consideration is riddled with errors. The Patristic Orthodox teaching on this subject is that the Church is the Theanthropic Body of Christ, in which revealed truth—the Orthodox Faith—is preserved and the mystery of deification is accomplished through the Mysteries of the Church (Baptism, Chrismation, and the Divine Eucharist). The essential precondition for this is that we participate in the purifying, illuminating, and deifying energy of God. Baptism is the initiatory Mystery of the Church. The Church does not rest upon the Mystery of Baptism; rather, the Baptism of water, in conjunction with the Baptism of the Spirit, operates within the Church and makes one a member of the Body of Christ. There are no Mysteries outside the Church, the living Body of Christ, just as there are no senses outside the human body.

In closing, I should like to cite the conclusion of Father George Dragas, which he appends to his “Summary and Critique”:
These recommendations will not win the agreement of all Orthodox, and certainly not of those who are Greek-speaking (or Greek-minded), and consequently they are, by their very nature, divisive. My primary reason for coming to such a negative conclusion is that this inquiry into sacramental theology is devoid of any ecclesiological basis and that it one-sidedly interprets—or rather, misinterprets—the facts of Orthodox sacramental practice, and particularly vis-à-vis the heterodox at different periods in the history of the Church. These recommendations and conclusions and, indeed, the entire Agreed Statement are the epitome of Western skepticism. Their acceptance by Orthodox theologians signals a deliberate betrayal of Orthodox views and a capitulation to the outlook of Western ecumenism. This is something that we should reject.

Endnotes
1. We have retained, here, for the sake of faithful translation, the word “heretic,” though with  some concern that many readers may assume that it carries with it the vitriol that has been attached to it in Western Christianity—and especially since the Inquisition—or by some of the more irresponsible and less reflective and spiritually-enlightened Orthodox traditionalists, today. We could have justifiably used the word “heterodox,” which is not frequently used as an ad hominem epithet, as the word “heretic” so frequently is, but which simply indicates what both words actually mean: a person who holds to views that deviate from established belief and, in the Orthodox Church, who accepts an opinion held in opposition to the Patristic consensus and the conscience of the Church. The word takes on wholly pejorative meanings, in the Orthodox Church, only when applied to those who, in their absolute intransigence, fail to succumb to the entreaties of the Church (and to spiritual sobriety), in the face their of error, and thus cause harm to the harmonious ethos of Orthodoxy and lead others into error and delusion—Trans.

2. To be precise, the agreement in question was signed by members of the North American Orthodox-Catholic Theological Consultation, meeting at St. Vladimir’s Orthodox Theological Seminary in Crestwood, New York—Trans.

3. For a response on this Agreement, see:
http://orthodoxinfo.com/ecumenism/frjr_balamand.aspx

Translated from the Greek original in Ekklesiastike Parembase, No. 71 (December 2001), p. 12.


Reprinted from Orthodox Tradition, Vol XX, No 2, pp. 40-43.

Friday, October 28, 2016

Central Points in the Teaching of Protopresbyter John S. Romanides

by Metropolitan Hierotheos of Nafpaktos

From Empirical Dogmatics: Volume II

The teaching of Fr. John Romanides is in accord with the teaching of the Fathers of the Church, which he presented in a contemporary way to his students, his audiences and those to whom he spoke, as well as through his writings. Anyone who met him and conversed with him for a few minutes could go away with some concentrated teaching. He had the ability to convey the essence of his teaching concisely and simply in a very short time.

The ten central points of his teaching, as I perceive them, are set out below.

1. The God of the Orthodox Church is the God of revelation, the God Who revealed Himself to the Prophets, Apostles and saints of every age, who are described as glorified and are friends of God. The God of the Church is not the God of philosophers and speculative thinkers, but the God of our Fathers. He is revealed to the glorified, to those in a high enough spiritual state to be aware of communion with Him.

This spiritual state is called theoria; those who behold God see Him in the Light of His glory. This vision is communion, communion offers knowledge, and this knowledge is above human knowledge. During theoria, the one who is glorified has no concepts and participates in the Light. After theoria, however, he records his experience in words and images that he takes from his surroundings. God is Light, the saints live within the Light, and subsequently they describe this uncreated reality in terms of created reality. The word ‘uncreated’ means ‘not made’, ‘not created’. There is a great difference between what is uncreated and what is created, and the glorified perceive this in the course of their experience of seeing God.

The knowledge of God, which is given with uncreated words, is passed on with created words, concepts and images in order, on the one hand, to instruct the faithful to travel the path to glorification and, on the other hand, to confront heretics. Thus the dogmas of the Local and Ecumenical Councils were drawn up. The dogma of the Holy Trinity is not the same thing as the mystery of the Holy Trinity.

Consequently the God of the Church is not the God of speculative thinkers or philosophers, but the God of our Fathers.

2. Both the Old Testament and the New Testament refer to the Triune God: the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Not only does the New Testament speak of God the Holy Trinity, but so does the Old Testament. The Persons of the Holy Trinity have a common essence-nature and particular hypostatic properties, which are the ‘unbegotten-ness’ of the Father, the ‘begottenness’ of the Son and the ‘procession’ of the Holy Spirit.

God transcends all the categories of human and created existence. He is visible and invisible, known and unknown, describable and indescribable, so personalistic categories cannot be applied to Him.

Thus God reveals Himself to man while concealing Himself, but also hides while manifesting Himself. God is a mystery. He is not merely a ‘person’, in the sense that we assign to the concept of ‘person’ in our anthropomorphic expressions; He is something beyond this. In the state of divine vision, all concepts cease and God is partaken of as hypostatic Light.

Within the Holy Trinity there are things that are common and others that are incommunicable. The essence, nature, energy and glory are common, whereas unbegottenness, begottenness and procession are incommunicable. The Father shares His essence with the Son by generation and He shares His essence with the Holy Spirit (through the Word) by procession. Thus within the Triune God there is communion of nature-essence and energy, but not communion of Persons. There is mutual interpenetration between the Persons, but not communion of Persons, as the incommunicable properties are not shared.

Knowledge of the Triune God comes about during the experience of beholding God, when God is seen as Light, through the Light and in the Light. The Light is God’s uncreated energy.

3. The God Who reveals Himself to the Prophets of the Old Testament is the unincarnate Word, the Angel of Great Counsel, the Second Person of the Holy Trinity. A clear distinction is made in the Old Testament between the Angel of Great Counsel (the uncreated Word) and created angels. The Prophets in the Old Testament see the Father through the unincarnate Word in the Holy Spirit. In this sense the Triune God is revealed in the Old Testament.

In the New Testament the uncreated Word is revealed in the flesh, as He takes human nature from His All-Holy Mother. The unincarnate word becomes incarnate; the Angel of Great Counsel becomes Christ, which means Messiah in Hebrew. The word ‘Christ’ signifies that the human nature was anointed by God. God Himself (Father, Son and Holy Spirit) anointed the human nature. In the New Testament we see the Father through Christ in the Holy Spirit. When Philip said to Christ, “Lord, show us the Father, and it is sufficient for us”, Christ replied, “Have I been with you so long, and yet you have not known Me, Philip? He who has seen Me has seen the Father; so how can you say, ‘Show us the Father’?” (John 14:8-9).

4. God created the world and man is His most perfect creation. God is uncreated, whereas the world is created. This means that it has a specific beginning, it is subject to corruption and it has an end. The human soul is a creation of God, and as it is created it ought to have an end. However, the soul does not have an end because God willed differently. Man’s soul is immortal according to grace and not according to nature. So there is no distinction in man between a soul that is immortal by nature and a body that is mortal by nature. The whole human being, consisting of soul and body, is a positive creation of God and is called to live eternally with Him.

Adam and Eve had souls and bodies, but also the grace of God. This does not mean that they were made up of three parts, because human beings have a body and a soul, but that real human beings also have God’s grace. Adam and Eve in Paradise were the most natural human beings.

God made man in His image and likeness. The actual image of the invisible God is the Word, the Second Person of the Holy Trinity. Man is not the image of God but is in the image of God, that is to say, in the image of the Word. Man is in the likeness of God when he attains to participation in the glory of God. The original state of man, when he was created in God’s image and in His likeness, also included communion with the Holy Spirit, as “the Spirit Who renders incorruptible makes man in God’s image and likeness”. Thus the authentic human being is someone who lives in Christ and in the Holy Spirit, within the Light and glory of God.

This is why man is not a person in the image of the Triune God, but is the image of the Word, because there is no analogy between God and man, between what is uncreated and what is created. The only bridge between created and uncreated is the God-man Christ and His friends. The Fathers did not develop particularly the theory of man as person, because they knew that man is in the image of God and he must attain to being in his likeness, to glorification-theosis. For that reason they did not say that man is a person, but that all human beings have a noetic faculty, which ought to be activated, so that they reach glorification and become glorified.

5. The Fall of man is the loss of God’s glory, according to the words of the Apostle Paul: ‘All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Rom. 3:23). Death was not created by God, but came by the advice of the devil, and as a result of man’s departure from the glory of God. The inheritance of ancestral sin is not the inheritance of guilt, but the inheritance of the results of man’s departure from God, which are death.

What exactly happened with regard to ancestral sin is clear from the teaching of the Fathers about man. According to this, the human soul has two parallel energies: the noetic faculty and the rational faculty. The noetic faculty (nous) was darkened by sin and ceased to be in communication with God. Through sin the ‘wild beast’ of death entered fallen man and threatens his life. There is spiritual and physical death. Thus man lost the remembrance of God and lives by his rational faculty and imagination.

The Prophets and the righteous in the Old Testament cleansed their heart from passions and their nous was illuminated by the grace of God. They reached theoria and saw the glory of God. We see this clearly in the Prophet Moses. For that reason, when St Gregory of Nyssa was going to present the model of the perfect human being, he described Moses.

The Prophets and the righteous in the Old Testament are friends of God. They were reconciled with God and arrived at participation in His glory; but they could not overcome death, so they went down into Hades. Through the vision of God that they experienced, they overcame spiritual death, though only temporarily, but they could not conquer physical death. Through Christ’s descent into Hades, He liberated His friends from the dominion of death.

6. The unincarnate Word of the Old Testament took flesh. He assumed the passible and mortal aspects of human nature, without sin, in order to conquer death in His body and thus to deliver human beings from the power of death – not from the wrath of God, as the Franco-Latins assert.

Christ taught the people in parables and He revealed the mysteries of the glory and rule (vasileia) of God to the Disciples, who had forsaken everything and followed Him. Some of these He led into the glory and rule of God, the uncreated Light of the divinity, as happened on Mount Tabor.

The mystery of the Cross and Resurrection of Christ frees the glorified from sin, the devil and death. The mystery of the Cross was also active in the Old Testament, because through it the Prophets and the righteous became His friends. However, it did not release them from the domination of death. This came about through the historical event of the Crucifixion and the Resurrection of Christ, and their life in the Church.

The stages of spiritual perfection – purification, illumination and glorification – are a common characteristic of both the Old and New Testaments. Because the Protestants rejected monasticism and adopted Calvin’s theories of absolute predestination and Luther’s teaching on man’s salvation through faith alone, and because they also rejected the Franco-Latins’ theories about merits and purifying fire, they inveighed against purification, illumination and glorification as allegedly originating from the idolaters.

However, the teaching about purification, illumination and glorification, in a different sense from that given by the Neoplatonists to these terms, is the common tradition of the Prophets, Apostles and saints as a therapeutic method and a method of knowing God. This is Orthodox asceticism.

7. The Church also existed in the Old Testament as communion of the righteous and the Prophets with the Angel of Great Counsel. With the incarnation of Christ, however, the Church becomes His body and He becomes its Head. This is “all truth”, which the Holy Spirit revealed to the Apostles on the day of Pentecost. Beyond this there is no other truth.

In the Old Testament the uncreated grace of God is “indivisibly divided among divided beings” and “is multiplied without becoming many”. In the New Testament this also happens with the theanthropic body of Christ, which He assumed from the All-Holy Virgin, and it became a source of God’s uncreated grace. Thus in the life of the Church the Body of Christ is also divided indivisibly among divided beings and multiplied without becoming many. This is the fullness of truth and there is nothing else beyond this. Within the Church we know and live the truth and Christ.

The Church in the New Testament is the Body of Christ, which is united with Christ, the Head. It does not symbolise the Holy Trinity. Of course, the glorified know the Father through Christ and have communion with the Holy Spirit. They participate in the uncreated energy of God, but they do not share in the Persons of the Holy Trinity.

Through Holy Baptism and Holy Chrismation the Christian becomes the temple of the Holy Spirit, once the noetic faculty of the soul is activated and noetic prayer begins, and through the Divine Eucharist he partakes of the Body and Blood of Christ. Then he tastes the first resurrection. The Divine Eucharist, prayer and reading Holy Scripture, which is analysed by Prophets, are central to ecclesiastical life. Thus we have the Divine Eucharist and the rule of prayer and services, as found in the Great Prayer Book and the decisions of the Ecumenical and Local Councils. The Divine Eucharist is inseparably linked with the other Mysteries and the divine services, but also with the Orthodox dogmas and the Orthodox hesychasm that they presuppose.

The Church, as the Body of Christ, cures man through the Mysteries and the therapeutic method of the hesychastic tradition. It brings him back to Adam’s state in Paradise and lifts him even higher, as it unites him with the God-man Christ and conquers death. In Paradise Adam was in the state of illumination of the nous and glorification. After the Fall he lost contact with God and his nous was darkened. As a consequence, the nous was identified with the rational faculty, the passions and the surroundings. The restoration of human nature should take place within the Church. The heart must be cleansed from passions, the nous must be illuminated, and man should reach glorification. This is what is meant by being cured. In this sense the Church is the spiritual therapeutic centre, the spiritual hospital.

Noetic prayer indicates that someone is a temple of the Holy Spirit and shares in Christ. Within the Church there is both rational worship and noetic worship. Noetic worship is offered without ceasing. The nous must be purified of every thought and in it only the ‘single-thought prayer’ should remain. One word should be there: the remembrance of God.

The Church has two aspects – one negative and one positive. The positive aspect is Christology: that it is the Body of Christ and a communion of glorification, as human nature was united with the divine nature in the Person of the Word and was glorified, “at the same time as it was assumed” “from the earliest moment of conception”. The negative aspect is demonology, as it battles against the devil, sin and death, and cures man by delivering him from “him who had the power of death, that is, the devil” (Heb. 2:14). This is also clear from the work of Christ, Who came into the world “that He might destroy the works of the devil” (1 John 3:8), as the Gospels show. What is strange and surprising is that the more a Christian is aware of and experiences the negative aspect of the Church – in other words, the more he fights against the devil and conquers him in Christ – the more he experiences the positive aspect of the Church, Christology. He senses the love of Christ and is united with Him. This is essentially what is implied by the degrees of the spiritual life: purification, illumination and glorification. The struggle against the devil, of course, is waged in Christ.

Warfare against the devil is continuous at every stage of the spiritual life. The devil fights each one according to his spiritual level. The glorified, however, discern his wiles, because their nous is illumined by the grace of God. Even when the devil appears “as an angel of light” (cf. 2 Cor. 11:14), the glorified realise that this light is not experienced through union, as happens with the uncreated Light, but in conjunction, as the created light of the devil is alongside man and outside him.

As the Christian strives in Christ and lives within the Church, he progresses from being in God’s image to being in His likeness, from selfish love to unselfish love. He is changed from a servant into a hired worker, and into a friend of Christ. He lives the mystery of Christ’s Cross and Resurrection as the mystery of his reconciliation with God, and becomes a temple of the Holy Spirit. Then he becomes a true theologian and can carry out the work of a spiritual father.

Heresy is a denial of the methodology for knowing God. It replaces purification, illumination and glorification with speculation and moralism, so it produces distorted results. Anyone who speculates about God will necessarily end up with mistaken ideas about God and construct his own God in accordance with his conjectures and imagination. Such a god is non-existent.

The glorified do not accept speculation in Orthodox theology or moralism in practical life. Instead of Western speculation and moralism they accept hesychasm. Dogma is the formulation of the revelation and is connected with asceticism, which leads man to the revelation.

8. Eschatological life is not life after death and after the Second Coming of Christ. It is life in Christ, as Christ, Who is “the first and the last”, has come into the world. The glory and rule (vasileia) of God has entered the world and history, and man can share in it. This means that those who behold God share from now in the glory and rule of God and are not simply waiting for the future. This is the first resurrection and the second resurrection will follow after the resurrection of bodies, when God’s glory and rule will be experienced by the whole human being, soul and body.

Participation in the glory and rule (vasileia) of God is participation in God’s uncreated glory in the Light in the Person of the Word. The glory and rule of God is not a created reality but glorification, the vision of the divinity of Christ in His glorified flesh.

Everyone who sees God in the New Testament is a member of the Body of Christ. When he sees the uncreated Light invisibly and knows it without knowledge, he participates in the uncreated energy of God.

The vision of the Light comes from within him through glorification, but also from within the theanthropic Body of Christ, as he is a member of the Body of Christ.

9. Paradise and Hell exist from man’s point of view but not from God’s point of view. God will appear to all human beings. Some will see God as Light, since they have cleansed the noetic aspect of their souls and have acquired a self-revealing eye; this is Paradise. Others will see God as fire, and this is Hell. If someone sits in the sun and opens his eyes, which are unable to endure this sight, he will be blinded. This is Hell. In this sense God is said to be both light and fire, because He brings light to some and burns others.

When Christ spoke about Hell in His teaching, He used the words “darkness” and “fire”. However, darkness perceptible to the senses is not the same as fire, which gives light, and when there is fire there is no darkness. Thus Hell is neither fire nor darkness as we know them in created reality. Rather, it is the experience of uncreated Light as darkness, on account of man’s infirmity. God did not make Hell, but man experiences God as Hell. Hell is not a created reality; it is God’s uncreated grace that is experienced as consuming fire. God will love all human beings, the just and the unjust, but the unjust will not be able to understand God’s love.

The saints in the glory and rule (vasileia) of God will continuously advance in participation in God’s glory; there will not be a static state of happiness. The damned will be hardened and will participate in God as fire. There is no repentance after death, but there is progress in repentance. This means that, if someone begins to repent in this life, his repentance will be completed in the next life.

10. Through His incarnation Christ became man and entered his tory. The Church, as the Body of Christ, lives within history and sanctifies it. The saints, too, live in history, even after their death, as their relics prove.

History will not be abolished at the Second Coming of Christ, but it will be transformed. Christ has human nature always united with the divinity in His Person, “unconfusedly, immutably, indivisibly and inseparably”. After the resurrection, human beings will have their own bodies, but they will be transformed. Thus history is not abolished, nor is there a post-historic era, but history is transformed.

The Church lives within time and history, and through the Fathers it adopted some elements from its surroundings to express revealed truth. It took elements from Jewish and Greek thought and from Roman culture and transformed them. In this way a particular culture was created, which is the spiritual garment of revealed truth. This is the Roman tradition. The basis of the Roman tradition is purification, illumination and glorification. This was expressed in a particular area through its cultural tradition, and is called Christian Roman theology, Christian Roman culture.

The early Church in both the West and the East had one single tradition and, most importantly, a single methodology for arriving at participation in God, which was expressed by purification, illumination and glorification. Augustine was different from the other Western Fathers, because of his Neoplatonic and Manichaean background, and because he did not know Greek. The Frankish theologians in the court of Charlemagne made excessive use of the views of Augustine; in fact, it is thought likely that they were pushed to do this by Alcuin, Charlemagne’s royal theologian.

On the basis of these theories, at the Council of Frankfurt in 794 the Franks condemned the decisions of the Seventh Ecumenical Council, introduced the theory of eternal happiness in God, the methodology of conjecture to attain knowledge of God, and, by inference, rejected the method of purification, illumination and glorification. They abolished the distinction between essence and energy in God (actus purus) and brought in the theory of the knowledge of God’s essence, the filioque, and so on.

These views were further analysed by theologians in the West: Anselm of Canterbury, Thomas Aquinas and other scholastic theologians, such as Barlaam. As a result another cultural tradition took shape, a different culture, which is the opposite of the Orthodox Roman tradition. The Western theologians actually reached the point of thinking that the Eastern Fathers had introduced various heresies into their theology, as they did not agree with their own views; the writings called Contra Errores Graecorum (Against the Errors of the Greeks) are well known.

The discussion and conflict between St Gregory Palamas, who represented the Orthodox Roman tradition, and Barlaam, who represented Western scholastic theology, should be seen in this context. The Orthodox Church upheld the teaching of St Gregory Palamas through Councils, and condemned Barlaam and those like him.

These were the ten central views of Fr. John Romanides. It is significant that Fr. John arrived at this entire theology for many different reasons. The first is that he had inherited an oral Roman tradition from his parents. The second reason is that in America, where he lived, he knew the Western tradition, as expressed by Papal Christians and Protestants. In the dialogues in which he took part he became familiar with the spirit of Western Christianity. As a result, he looked for the core of Orthodox teaching in the Apostolic Fathers, the Prayer Book of the Church and its hesychastic tradition. Later he extended his search to include the Fathers of the Ecumenical Councils, St Symeon the New Theologian, St Gregory Palamas and the Philokalia. The third reason is that he studied in major academic centres of the Western world, such as the Holy Cross School of Theology in Boston, Yale University, Columbia University, St Vladimir’s Theological Seminary in New York, the Theological Institute of St Sergios in Paris, Munich University, the Theological School in Athens and Harvard University, and he was acquainted with all the theological, social and cultural trends. At the same time, he taught the subject of dogmatics at the Holy Cross School of Theology in Boston, the Theological School in Thessaloniki, and the Balamand Theological School in Lebanon. The fourth reason is that he had an investigative spirit, and his first and subsequent theological articles, as well as his classic thesis on ancestral sin, should be seen in this perspective. The fifth reason is that he had exceptional intellectual qualities and a capacious nous – which is why he also received, as St Maximos says, the spiritual gift of theology – and also that he met Fathers who practised noetic prayer and had theoria of God, and humbly learnt from them.

The theology of Fr. John Romanides is prophetic, apostolic, patristic, in other words, ecclesiastical. He was very insistent on the subject of purification, illumination and glorification, which is the method of Orthodox theology. This method was used by the Prophets, Apostles and Fathers and produces results, as the holy relics show. At the same time, he was also insistent with regard to the Roman tradition, which preserves the essence of revealed truth. This Roman tradition was altered by the Franco-Latin tradition.

Everything that has been mentioned is a brief reference to the memory of this great theologian of our era. As time passes he will take his rightful place in the spiritual firmament of our Church, because he was in accord with the spirit of the Orthodox patristic tradition and expressed its core.

May the memory of the reposed Protopresbyter John Romanides, the teacher of hesychasm and the empirical dogmatic theology of the Orthodox Catholic Church be eternal.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Best Political Ad Ever.

I would think any man of Faith would see the message in this video hits the nail right on the head for how one should approach the ballot box.

A Pascha of Incorruption - Hieromartyr Hilarion (Troitsky)


Listen to the triumphant hymns of the Church! Not on the day of Holy Pascha alone, but on all the great fests you will frequently hear the word “incorruption.” The entire matter of the salvation of the human race is expressed in the Church’s living theology as the gift of incorruption. This means that we lacked incorruption. We were in a condition of corruption. The Synaxarion for the Holy and Great Sunday of Pascha is read only in monasteries, of course, and not even in all of them. Here is how the theological significance of the event we celebrate is defined: “It was on this day that He came down from heaven and dwelt in the womb of the Virgin. And now He has snatched the whole of humanity from the vaults of Hell and made it pass upwards to heaven and brought it to its ancient dignity of incorruption.” Two details are significant here: Pascha is placed next to the event of the Nativity of Christ, and incorruption is called the ancient dignity.

Listening to the Church’s hymns, one grows increasingly convinced of what rich treasures of ideas they are, of how important they are for an authentic Orthodox understanding of life. Our school courses on dogmatics, taught from the cathedras of seminaries and academies, stand much lower in relation to that theology that our readers and singers teach the faithful from the church kliros.

A Pascha of incorruption… The return to the ancient dignity… Our school theology speaks of some sort of juridical accounts between God and man. Sin is called primarily a crime against God, an affront to God, for which the righteousness of God must avenge the paltry offender. But the Church calls sin first of all corruption, the loss of the ancient dignity of incorruption. Here there are no juridical accounts with the Lord God. Man fell away from God, and his spiritual and corporal corruption began. Self-rule in the spiritual life led to slavery to sin and the passions. Man began to decay in seductive lusts. The soul rots, the soul decays. This sounds awful, but it is indeed the case. The process of spiritual corruption can be compared to any other kind of rotting. When any organism rots everything in it breaks down, and in time it produces poisonous and malodorous gases. The spiritual nature, damaged and contaminated by sin, will also rot in the same way. The soul loses its chastity [whole-mindedness], its integrity, and decomposes; the will within it weakens, which connects everything, and to which everything is subordinate. Constant passionate thoughts and evil deeds escape from the sinful soul. Anyone who pays close attention to his spiritual life can not but be surprised by how difficult it is to instill any good and beautiful thing in the soul, and how easily and quickly any dark and evil thing is strengthened. Do we not therefore say that something bad is living in our soul; that it is unhealthy, ill? Corruption reigns in our soul, and it is especially evident that our body is subject to corruption. Many can live without being aware of spiritual illness, they can muffle the soul’s inner moaning and cries with the noise of life. But the corruption of the body in death is irrefutable. All the colors of life pale before this corruption. The works of the ascetics about spiritual death can be rejected and perhaps even ridiculed. But try to find a nihilist who would not understand the service of burial and the graveside mourning of St John of Damascus!

Mankind has always seen the inner corruption of its spiritual nature and has always seen firsthand the destruction of the temple of the body. The realization that you are rotting spiritually and the knowledge that your body is the domain of worms – there is the lot of sinful man! Where is the joy here? What hope is there for the future? Sin is bound up with unhappiness and suffering by its very nature. A sinful consciousness and a future painted in somber, cheerless colors. The Sheol of the Jews, the kingdom of shadows in the somber Hades of the Hellenes and Romans – this is a cheerless future.

Salvation is healing. Salvation is freedom from corruption. Salvation is the return to the original goodness of incorruption, for man was created for incorruption. Man’s nature needed to be restored to health. This restoration to health was given in the Incarnation of the Son of God. “We could not have become incorrupt and immortal if the Incorruptand Immortal One had not done so before us.” The Incorrupt and Immortal One took “my nature, held by corruption and death,” into the unity of His Person. Corrupt nature received the vaccination of incorruption, and the process of the renewal of nature began, the process of the deification of man, the formation of divine-manhood began. The sting of death was blunted. Corruption was defeated, for the antidote against the disease of corruption was given. The Pascha of incorruption brings to mind the mystery of the Incarnation. The gates of death had been impassable. All of earthly creation invariably approached these gates, hiding behind them in trepidation and horror. But now Christ is Risen! What does this mean? It means that salvation has indeed been wrought. For human nature has been united with the Divine nature in the Person of Christ, “inconfusedly, unchangeably, indivisibly, inseparably.” It was not God that passed through the gates of death, it was not before God that “the bridal chamber of eternity was thrown open,” it was not for the sake of God that the stone was rolled away from the door of the grave, but for the sake of the God-Man. Our human nature passed through the mysterious gates of death along with Christ. Death reigns, but not for eternity!

Death was terrible to the human race before the death of Christ, but after Christ’s Resurrection man became terrible to death, for one of us conquered death, did not remain in the grave, and did not see corruption. Pascha was the liberation of Israel from Egypt. Our Pascha is the liberation from the slavery of death and corruption. Christ is Risen! I now know that my salvation has indeed been wrought. I know that God did indeed appear on earth. There have been great men, conquerors of the elements, conquerors of nature, but death equalized all and revealed our common nothingness. Who is this who has passed through the gates of death? He can only be God. This means that God was indeed incarnate on earth, has indeed brought the healing medicine against that which consumes me and the corruption that tortures me. The Incarnation and the Resurrection are combined into one. The Incarnation gives the meaning of the Resurrection, and the Resurrection irrefutably confirms that the Incarnation is truth and reality, and not illusion or dream.

Now death is not frightening to me, for I have seen the victory over corruption. I still see in myself a different law than the law of life. I see the law of death and corruption. I see how sin at times reigns over me. But I know that this is an unstable reign, that my position is not without hope. I can now hope for victory, for overcoming sin; I can hope for liberation from the bondage of corruption. Now I can look joyfully at the fight with sin and the passions that lies before me, for the enemy has already been defeated many times by selfless ascetics. On the heaven of the church shine like light the saints of God, who, living on earth, defeated death, attained purity and chastity [whole-mindedness], that is, incorruption, and therefore, rejoicing, went the way of all the earth. Incorruption, that is, purity and chastity [whole-mindedness], gives joy. Blessedness is not an external reward, as unfortunate mercenary Catholics philosophize. Blessedness is the inner consequence of the virtues. Virtue is the health of the soul, and a healthy man is always happier than a sick one. My sinful illness is curable – of this Christ’s Resurrection convinces me. The blessedness of heaven is open to me. Let no one cry from infirmity, for the common Kingdom has been revealed! A common joy has been revealed, for hope of incorruption has been revealed, of redemption from sinful corruption. Christ God has led us from death to life. Egypt has been left behind, Pharaoh has perished, ahead us are the promised land and the incorrupt Kingdom, where there are many mansions, where there is eternal joy! A Pascha of incorruption! Salvation of the world!

Christ is Risen!