There Is None That Watcheth Out For My Soul

This is Archbishop Chrysostomos' answer to some of Dr. Moss' criticism. It can help the super-correct to understand us and helps to explain the Royal Path.

Evlogeite. As usual, [Dr. Moss' writing is] externally compelling and intelligent, and not without some valid points (albeit validity in a typically curious and questionable context). From under the covers of theology and history, I must point out that there peep the following:

1) I have heard this refrain too often: "How dare the Church act without doing what I want. It must do so because it is motivated to reject the Royal Priesthood." Unfortunately, the idea of universalism in the priesthood deteriorates into Protestant-like chaos, when abused. It is as dangerous as it is essential and important. When Father Florovsky was asked about his claim that the people could even remove a Bishop, for example, he quickly said: "Only in times of intense piety and not without the final approval of the Church." This is a very important rejoinder.

2) World Orthodoxy is heretical because it is "clear" to the writer. He has no need for a Synod to declare this. Had such views prevailed in the Oecumenical Synods, the spirit of love and forgiveness, as well as extreme economy in some cases, would have impeded the unity that the Fathers of these Synods, guided by the Holy Spirit, sought to restore.

3) The claim is made that ecumenism is a heresy and is a hundred years old. Thus we do not need the judgment of the Church against it. This is a dangerous view, and especially since ecumenism, which is in fact older than that, was nonetheless not always as deviant as it is today. In its virulent form, it is still developing. We should not look at it as monolithic thing, even in opposing it.

As well, religious toleration is not a heresy. Too many of these firebrands, as demonstrated even more lucidly by what they say in private, lack tolerance and love and have confused ecclesiological opposition to religious syncretism with bigotry and self-elevation. As one woman told me recently, "Orthodoxy began its decline when the Emperor of Byzantium whom you criticize burned the last heretic in the Orthodox East. Our fires should be ready." (This is a reference to Alexios I Comnenos, the Byzantine Emperor who burned Basil the Physician, the Bogomil heretic, around 1118, if I recall correctly. This was one of only four or five instances of violence against heretics in Byzantium, which is something that St. Maximos the Confessor and other Fathers flatly condemn. It is vile transgression of the teachings of Christ.)

This is not an "orthodoxy" in which I believe.

4) We are considered heretics since our ecclesiology is never honestly presented and is reduced to simplistic ideas such as "sick" and "healthy" Churches, without providing our larger Patristic context. We are accused of giving the Mysteries to New Calendarists (which is not our policy), whom we consider to have valid Mysteries and Grace, by those who in fact give the Mysteries to New Calendarists, whom they consider to lack Grace! Nor do these people ever present a justification for their "judgments without synodal authority" from a Patristic standpoint. If they cite the Fathers, they do so by ignoring historical context and with a theological naivete covered by the fact that they can cite something. This is not thinking discourse.

5) Did St. Mark of Ephesus, in his day, act as though he constituted a synod and unilaterally condemn the unionists as heretics without Grace, or did he wall himself off and resist the unionists with the aim of restoring unity? And did he not do just that? The answer from history is quite clear. Moreover, he was dealing in the fifteenth century with a unionist illness that dated back to the thirteenth century.

6) Sectarian thinking is ultimately not compatible with order and with patience and trust in the Church. Ad hoc lay committees do not have the approbation of the Church. The Bishops, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, must act in a synod to adjudicate matters in the end. They constitute the authority of the Church.

That there are false synods and true ones has never impeded us from waiting for God's action. We have the right to protest, to cut ourselves off temporarily, and to organize a temporary ecclesiastical structure; however, we do not have the right to assume we that WE are the whole Church, whether in the name of the Royal Priesthood or some tiny group of people with putative "universal jurisdiction."

Our egos have to suffer, we must act humbly, and we must not make of a short time, in the scheme of things ecclesiastical, an irreversible ill in the Church and create an "Orthodoxy" of our liking and according to an authority that we do not have, whether as laymen or Churchmen.

And let me ask where, in any of this, one finds love for those in error and an expressed desire to restore them? This is all talk about "those who are correct" at the cost of those who are ill, whom these same super-correct radicals disdain. What is missing here is Christianity.

If I am in heresy for writing any of this, so, then, must be many of the great Fathers of the Church. Ego and the desire for power do not trump the power of the Church, the primacy of love, and God, however. So, I am not a heretic.

Least Among Your Brothers,

+ AC


Further to the comments by Dr. Moss
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An exchange with Bishop Ambrose of Methone


Theophilestate. Evlogeite. Chronia polla kai kalo to neon etos me to neo!
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2) World Orthodoxy is heretical because it is "clear" to the writer. He has no need for a Synod to declare this. Had such views prevailed in the Oecumenical Synods, the spirit of love and forgiveness, as well as extreme economy in some cases, would have impeded the unity that the Fathers of these Synods, guided by the Holy Spirit, sought to restore.

But his Synod has declared this - otherwise he would not be with them.

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Yes, you are quite correct. This is true (even if his present affiliation is one of many over the years). However, I am speaking of a General Synod, not an administrative body of a local kind, the authority of which to declare the majority of Orthodox in the world heretical is at the very least open to serious theological question.

But then, if a such a local synod of Bishops considers itself to constitute THE CHURCH and the only competent body to judge the Orthodox world, as his apparently does, perhaps it and its few tens of thousands of followers also consider themselves to constitute a Standing Oecumenical Synod Urbi et Orbi (for Athens and the Whole World): a kind of collegial papacy. If so, they have clearly deviated from collegiality as it has always typified by Orthodox ecclesiology.

I may indeed be in error. However, my view is obviously shared by others, as this kind of sectarian extremism loses ground daily among balanced individuals. Of course, the extremists would claim some eschatological explanation for this, and I would respond again with my fears of their sectarianism.

God, the grave, and history, I suspect, will settle these matters.
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3) The claim is made that ecumenism is a heresy and is a hundred years old. Thus we do not need the judgment of the Church against it. This is a dangerous view, and especially since ecumenism, which is in fact older than that, was nonetheless not always as deviant as it is today. In its virulent form, it is still developing. We should not look at it as monolithic thing, even in opposing it.

This is a valuable point.

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I think that it is very important. Imagine if, considering ecumenism a monolithic thing, we were to go back in history and begin condemning anyone who associated with it either naively or in its more innocent and mild form, when it was not claiming an ecclesial character (a very significant point). We would have to condemn, among others, St. Nikolai (Velimirovich), a good deal of the pre-Soviet Russian Hierarchy, Father Georges Florovsky, et alii. Of course, while the thought shocks me (condemning Saints and eminent theological voices), perhaps the extremists would find no difficulty in doing that. If so, extremism is not their only problem.

When I mention this, I am always told, "Well, can heresy be half-heresy or can error be less than error?" I always smile, thinking that there really is some great value in reading the Fathers and history and in listening to those enlightened by God and not their personal opinions and mere logic (indeed, logic that is not always logic, in fact). I wonder what the extremists would do with "semi-Arianism"? And what about St. Basil's nuanced First Canon and its attention to degrees of heresy, applying economy in less severe cases of heresy and not in more severe instances? And how about St. Nicodemos who suggests using exactitude in applying the Canons in one case and economy in another, i.e., to those ailing in heresy and those dead in heresy?

As for error, do not the Canons themselves make very acute distinctions between the forms that certain sins take, some leading to dire consequences, others considered less debilitating? (In the case of sins of the flesh, the distinctions are VERY literal and very precise!) And does not the First-Second Synod use medical terminology to point out that even serious offenses "that have brought blasphemy on the name of Christ" should be subjected to "proper medical treatment," giving whatever strength we can to those who have gone astray by their rehabilitation? In other words, is it not the case that some errors can be treated and that we leave the errant to judgment only after trying to correct them?

The extremists would tell me that ecumenists are all willful heretics. I beg to differ. I know some very fine Christians who have fallen to the error of ecumenism simply because they are outraged at the religious intolerance and hatred of those who defend sectarian views with a vehemence that vitiates the Church's teaching on love and forgiveness. Is their ecumenism the same as that of a Church Hierarch, sworn at his Consecration to pronounce and preserve and defend the primacy of Orthodoxy, begins teaching religious syncretism, questioning the primacy of Orthodoxy and of Christ? I think not. So, there are many who are ailing in their Faith but who can be cured. But they will not be cured by those who preach with such vehemence that they seem to advocate hatred and wish the premature judgment and spiritual death of sinners.
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As well, religious toleration is not a heresy. Too many of these firebrands, as demonstrated even more lucidly by what they say in private, lack tolerance and love and have confused ecclesiological opposition to religious syncretism with bigotry and self-elevation. As one woman told me recently, "Orthodoxy began its decline when the Emperor of Byzantium whom you criticize burned the last heretic in the Orthodox East. Our fires should be ready." (This is a reference to Alexios I Comnenos, the Byzantine Emperor who burned Basil the Physician, the Bogomil heretic, around 1118, if I recall correctly. This was one of only four or five instances of violence against heretics in Byzantium, which is something that St. Maximos the Confessor and other Fathers flatly condemn. It is vile transgression of the teachings of Christ.)

Do you remember the extremely interesting event from the life of St. Martin of Tours, when he he cut off communion with all the other bishops of Gaul becuse they had consented to the burning of Priscillian? In the Eastern Empire, so far as I know, the event described (with some relish!) by Anna Komninou is fortunately unique, though there were occasional pursuits of the Jews, sometimes ending in bloodshed.

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It is quite unique. It was the only case of such an action by imperial decree, to the best of my knowledge. The story is that, in order to carry it out, the Emperor himself had to prepare the stake for the burning. There were actions by mobs, but these were not sanctioned by the Church. Indeed, I am always appalled at the slander against St. John Chrysostomos as an anti-Semite on the basis of misstating his opposition to the Judaizers (heretics), which consistently fails to mention his condemnation of mob action against the Jews (or the fact that Jewish animosity against Christians was not unknown at the time). Thus, those who justify their hateful attack on heretics have little support in the Patristic consensus.
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However, after the fall of the City, the fourth Rome was quite bloody in its putting down of the Judaizers and the Old Believers; and they, to be fair, were no more fond of non-violence themselves!

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Dimitry Pospeilovsky, in his book on the Church in Russian history (I cannot recall the name of it) says, in fact, that St. Joseph of Volotsk favored the Spanish Inquisition and advocated the burning of heretics. And, as you say, violence was not unilateral. Pospeilovsky, however, also points out that the advocacy of the use of violence against heretics by the Church was "atypical."
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This is not an "orthodoxy" in which I believe.

4) We are considered heretics since our ecclesiology is never honestly presented and is reduced to simplistic ideas such as "sick" and "healthy" Churches, without providing our larger Patristic context. We are accused of giving the Mysteries to New Calendarists (which is not our policy), whom we consider to have valid Mysteries and Grace, by those who in fact give the Mysteries to New Calendarists, whom they consider to lack Grace! Nor do these people ever present a justification for their "judgments without synodal authority" from a Patristic standpoint. If they cite the Fathers, they do so by ignoring historical context and with a theological naivete covered by the fact that they can cite something. This is not thinking discourse.

5) Did St. Mark of Ephesus, in his day, act as though he constituted a synod and unilaterally condemn the unionists as heretics without Grace, or did he wall himself off and resist the unionists with the aim of restoring unity? And did he not do just that? The answer from history is quite clear. Moreover, he was dealing in the fifteenth century with a unionist illness that dated back to the thirteenth century.

Indeed, this is an example to be emphasised.

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The more I read about him, the more I see our own ecclesiology reflected in his pronouncements, his life, and his work after the False Union. He was a man of immense moderation, which is lost on those who, reading his words as epithets and without placing them in historical and personal context, create an entirely false picture of him. How sad.
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+A. (off to Crete in a moment)

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Aklo Taxidi. Asking for your prayers,

Least Among Your Brothers,

+ AC

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To: Exarchate List
From: Archbishop Chrysostomos

Evlogia Kyriou. Happy secular New Year!



AN EXCHANGE FROM THIS MORNING'S MAIL


Comment:

SIR! One of the sickos that defends your heresy just gave me your newest attack on the TRUE Orthodox Christians. Cut through the bull, I want your confession of faith. Do you agree that nonOrthodox and nonChristians can't be saved? or do you think other religions save people? If you think ecumenism is a heresy don't you also believe all ecumenists will suffer eternal damnation? Answer these things and get the whole matter over with!

Answer:

A few points of my own:

        1) I am not God. It is not religion that saves people. God saves people. Therefore, I do not determine who goes to Hell and who does not. Nor, if such were in my purview, would I wish to. If God does not wish the death of any sinner, I, desiring to emulate what is ultimately good (God), also do not, as a sinner myself, wish the death of any sinner.

        Thus, your question about salvation and damnation is a malevolent temptation. I do not consider questions of the type that occasion such temptation virtuous or according to Godliness.

        In the Orthodox Church, enlightenment is salvation, while darkness separates one from God. If you think that you are enlightened by Christ, I rather suspect that your dark desire to see others condemned is at odds with that thought. If so, you should be worrying about the state of your own soul, not the state of the soul of others (let alone my opinion about the souls of my fellow men and women).

        Christ and His "Good News" are the source of joy and hope, not hateful condemnation. Those who evangelize for the purpose of spreading fear, judgment, and wrath have, in my view, lost any sense of what Christianity is about. Christ is the antidote for fear, judgmentalism, and wrath.

        2) My hope for salvation rests on the purity of my own confession and my love of my fellow man. The first concern leads me to leave the relationship between God and others to them and God, unless they ask my advice.

        The second concern leads me to set as good an example as I can for others, to regret deeply my own sins and instances in which I have not set a good example, and to hope and pray for others, whatever their religion or the state of their souls.

        3) Religious toleration and a respect for other religions, as well as actual love for heretics and those whom we consider to be in error, are virtues. Diagnosing fatal spiritual diseases (heresy) in others for the purpose of condemning them to Hell is very much like a doctor seeking a terminal disease in a patient for the purpose of gloating and rejoicing over his or her impending death.

        4) Let us get the whole matter over: I reject your vision of religion, consider it pathological and wholly perverse, and indeed pity you. If what I have written makes me a heretic in your mind (and I am no such thing), so be it.

        Please do not share your views with me again, unless you rehabilitate them and wish to ask me about my own failures in showing love and my regrets about my own imperfections.

        You have my poor prayers.

2 comments:

Joanna Higginbotham said...

In the "Further added..." is this:

"Cut through the bull, I want your confession of faith."

I see this over and over again with the super-correct- demanding a black and white answer to an inappropriate question. And when we try to steer them onto the royal path, they take it as double-talk, or uncooperativeness, or worse, as an insult.

mmcxristidis said...

Right back at ya, Vladimir