As you may have noticed I have not been updating this blog for a while. The reason is simple, I have not got the time and other things have rapidly filled up my spare time. I am loathe to take the blog down altogether but am at a loss what to do with it otherwise. I don't know if there is anyway I can transfer it to someone who is interested in taking it over? So I am open to suggestions. Whatever the outcome I have thoroughly enjoyed writing it and learnt so very much about the wonderful Eastern Orthodox Church.
Every blessing. Mark
Monday, 6 May 2013
"Perfection... is clearly not achieved simply by being naked, by the lack of wealth or by the rejection of honors, unless there is also that love whose ingredients the apostle described (cf. I Cor. 13) and which is to be found solely in purity of heart. Not to be jealous, not to be puffed up, not to act heedlessly, not to seek what does not belong to one, not to rejoice over some injustice, not to plan evil - what is this and its like if not the continuous offering to God of the heart that is perfect and truly pure, a heart kept free of all disturbance?"
St. John Cassian Conferences
Monday, 29 April 2013
Speaking in regards to the Jesus Prayer the late 13th-14th century saint Theoliptos, Metropolitan of Philadelphia writes about the practice of prostration:
"Do not neglect prostration. It provides an image of man's fall into sin and expresses the confession of our sinfulness. Getting up, on the other hand, signifies repentance and the promise to lead a life of virtue. Let each prostration be accompanied by a noetic invocation of Christ, so that by falling before the Lord in soul and body you may gain the grace of the God of souls and bodies."
"On the Inner work of Christ and the Monastic Profession." (quoted in Philokalia: The Eastern Christian Spiritual Texts.")
Monday, 22 April 2013
Tuesday, 26 March 2013
Thursday, 14 March 2013
In reciting the Nicene Creed, Orthodox Christians regularly affirm the historic faith concerning Jesus as they say:
"I believe...in one Lord Jesus Christ,
begotten of the Father before all ages,
Light of Light, Very God of Very God,
begotten, not made, of one essence with the Father,
by whom all things were made,
who for us men and for our salvation came down from heaven,
and was incarnate of the Holy Spirit and the Virgin Mary,
and was made man; and was crucified also for us under Pontius Pilate,
and suffered and was buried;
and the third day He rose again from the dead, according to the Scriptures;
and ascended into heaven, and sits at the right hand of the Father;
and He shall come again with glory to judge the living and the dead,
whose Kingdom shall have no end."
Monday, 11 March 2013
The talks include offerings by Metropolitan Kallistos of Diokleia speaking about the Lord's Prayer and Fr John Jillions on the Prophetic Bible. If you want to listen to them and others, please click here.
GOD THE FATHER.
God the Father is the fountainhead of the Holy Trinity. The Scriptures reveal that the one God is Three Persons - Father, Son and Holy Spirit - eternally sharing the one divine nature. From the Father the Son is begotten before all ages and all time (Psalm 2:7; 2 Corinthians 11:31). It is also from the Father that the Holy Spirit eternally proceeds (John 15:26). Through Jesus Christ, and in the Holy Spirit, we come to know the Father (Matthew 11:27). God the Father created all things through the Son, in the Holy Spirit (Genesis 1; 2; John 1:3; Job 33:4), and we are called to worship Him (John 4:23). The Father loves us and sent His Son to give us everlasting life (John 3:16).
In threefold lights the one nature is established,
not a numberless unity, since it subsists in three excellencies,
nor a Threesome worshipped severally, since the nature is inseparable.
In the Godhead is the unity, but they whose Godhead it is are three in number.
Each is the one God, if you should talk of them singly.
Again, there is is one God, without beginning, whence comes the wealth of Godhead
whenever the word refers to all three, so that, on the one hand,
it might reverently proclaim to men the threefold lights, and
on the other hand, that by it we might extol the strong-shining Monarchy,
and not content ourselves with a pluralist marketplace of Gods.
St. Gregory the Theologian Oration 31
Saturday, 16 February 2013
It's this difference between word and experience that marks the new life of a Christian. He or she hears - perhaps many times - about the love of God in Christ and how when one becomes a Christian it brings a deep sense of joy and peace. But it is only when that is experienced for oneself - when it is truly ours - does it really make sense and become fully understood.
There are several saints called Theodore. One of them was Theodore of Amasea known as a Warrior Saint. Not much is known about him except that he was martyred in the early 4th century. According to what has been passed down about him he was a recruit serving in the Roman army at Amasea, which is the modern Amasya in Northern Turkey. When he refused to join his fellow soldiers in pagan rites of worship, he was arrested, but then (perhaps on account of his youth) set free after a warning. However, he again protested paganism by setting fire to the temple of Cybele (the local mother-goddess) at Amasea. He was then condemned to death and, after tortures, was executed by being thrown into a furnace.
His remains were said to have been obtained by a woman from Eusebia and interred at Euchaita, where he had been born. This was a Byzantine city which no longer exists but is thought to correspond to the modern Avkhat, which is about 30 miles from Amasea. A shrine was erected there, which became an important place of pilgrimage.
Gregory of Nyssa preached in honour of St Theodore in his sanctuary in the late 4th century, and this is the earliest source for any information about him.
Looking at our Theodore (above) you wonder what his saintly counterpart looked like when he was newly born and whether his mother ever thought that his future lay in martyrdom? God alone know what is ahead of us - thank God (literally) but its good to know that our Theo's namesake was so faithful and our hope and prayer is that he will follow his example when he is older.
Monday, 4 February 2013
St. Ambrose of Milan (quoted in "A beginner's Guide to Prayer by Michael Keiser page 31)
Friday, 1 February 2013
So we are well warned by the Lord's command: "Be on guard so that your hearts are not weighed down with dissipation and drunkenness and the worries of life." (Luke 21:34) If we want our prayers to reach not only the sky but what is beyond the sky, let us be careful to reduce the soul, purged from all earthly faults and purified from every stain, to its natural lightness. Then our prayers may rise to God unchecked by the weight of any sin."
John Cassian: "Making Life a Prayer
Thursday, 31 January 2013
Blessed are you, O Lord,
who have fed me from my youth,
and given all flesh their food.
Fill our hearts with joy and gladness,
that having all we need,
we might abound in all good works
in Christ Jesus our Lord;
with whom to you be glory, honour and dominion,
unto the Ages. Amen.
From "At the lighting of the lamps" by John McGuckin
The Fathers understood this well. Here is a quote from the Divine Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom:
"You brought us out of non-existence into being, and when we had fallen you raised us up again, and left nothing undone until you had brought us up to heaven and had granted us your Kingdom that is to come. For all these things we give thanks to you, and to your only-begotten Son and your Holy Spirit; for all the benefits that we have received, known and unknown, manifest and hidden."
Wednesday, 23 January 2013
Pambo said to Antony, "What shall I do?"
Antony said, "Do not trust in your own righteousness. Do not go on sorrowing over a deed that is past.
Keep your tongue and your belly under control."
1. "Do not trust in your own righteousness." The Gospel clearly reminds us that because all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23) and no one can save themselves but must throw themselves, in humility, on the grace of God (Ephesians 2:8).
2. "Do not go sorrowing over a deed that is past." Jesus said "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand."
Matthew 4:17) We enter the kingdom repenting and then accepting the forgiveness that Jesus gives. This means that "as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us." Psalm 103:12
3. "Keep your tongue and your belly under control." We then have to go on from there and "work out
(y)our salvation in fear and trembling." (Philippians 2:12)
However there is another mistake that can also be made at the other extreme, and that is becoming so immersed in the world that, as Paul warns, we can become "squeezed into its mould." (Romans 12:2 J.B.Phillips). As usual the desert Fathers had some wise advice on this matter as we read here from St. Antony of Egypt:
Antony said, "Fish die if they stay on dry land, and in the same way monks who stay outside their cell or remain with secular people fall away from their vow of quiet. As a fish must return to the sea, so we must to our cell, in case by staying outside, we forget to watch inside."
Although Antony was speaking to monks his advice can apply to anyone who neglects prayer or the company of Christians (i.e.Church).
Theodora said that neither asceticism, nor vigils, nor any kind of suffering are able to save. Only true humility can do that. There was a hermit who was able to banish the demons. And he asked them: "What makes you go away? Is it fasting?" They replied: "We do not eat or drink." "Is it vigils?" They said: "We do not sleep." "Then what power sends you away?" They replied: "Nothing can overcome us except humility alone." Amma Theodora said: "Do you see how humility is victorious over the demons."
Thursday, 17 January 2013
A brother asked one of the elders, "What shall I do? My thoughts are always turned to lust without allowing me an hour's respite, and my soul is tormented by it." He said to him, "Every time the demons suggest these thoughts to you, do not argue with them. For the activity of demons always is to suggest, and suggestions are not sins, for they cannot compel. But it rests with you to welcome them, or not to welcome them. Do you know what the Midianites did? They adorned their daughters and presented them to the Israelites. They did not compel anyone, but those who consented, sinned with them, while the others were enraged and put them to death. It is the same with thoughts." The brother answered the old man, "What shall I do, then, for I am weak and passion overcomes me?" He said to him, "Watch your thoughts, and every time they begin to say something to you, do not answer them but rise and pray; kneel down, saying, 'Son of God, have mercy on me.'"
Tuesday, 15 January 2013
St. Theophan the Recluse: Sermon on Prayer
Tuesday, 8 January 2013
First, a simple 'no' as I strongly believe that God led me into the church in the first place. So until he leads me out I am not authorised to make that decision myself. It's a case of spiritual integrity I guess. There is the argument that, from an Orthodox perspective, the Anglican Church is not really a true church, having broken away from Roman Catholic Church which itself broke away in the Great Schism of the 11th Century. But that does not mean that God has abandoned it. Otherwise why call me to serve Him there in the first place?
Second, although my wife shares my concerns with regards to the direction our church is headed, she is not convinced that Orthodoxy is the option we should take. That she would leave for the same reasons as me is certain. But at the moment she finds Orthodoxy rather 'odd' and alien, so unlike any church she has known. True neither of us has as yet attended an Orthodox service but there are no established ones in this part of the world and the one that is here has moved several times in recent years and currently meets - we think - in the Chapel of a local hospital. Also she still hopes that Anglicanism can change.
Third, I still have questions about Orthodoxy which have more to do with practice rather than doctrine. For example I take very seriously the command of Jesus to" make disciples of all nations" (Matthew 28:19 ff) and I am not convinced that Orthodoxy takes this seriously enough. Also I noted the other day that it is haemorrhaging young people as fast as any of the other mainline denominations an so you have got to worry how in touch it is in the way it presents the message of the Gospel.
So financial considerations are actually lower down the list of reasons than I may have led some to believe. In fact if God led us to leave I am sure He would sort that out.
So thanks for the question and kindly reading my blog.
Monday, 7 January 2013
In a statement issued by the House of Bishops it said: "The House has confirmed that clergy in civil partnerships, and living in accordance with the teaching of the Church on human sexuality, can be considered as candidates for the episcopate."
There had been a moratorium on clergy in civil partnerships being considered as candidates for the episcopate over the past year and a half while the working party undertook a review of the issue.
The statement from the House of Bishops continued: "The House believed it would be unjust to exclude from consideration for the episcopate anyone seeking to live fully in conformity with the Church's teaching on sexual ethics or other areas of personal life and discipline.
"All candidates for the episcopate undergo a searching examination of personal and family circumstances, given the level of public scrutiny associated with being a bishop in the Church of England."
From an article on Chrisianity Today online here.
As an Anglican - albeit in the Church in Wales - I am really concerned that the Church of England is about to open yet another Pandora's box of problems and further fracture a very troubled Church. As with issues raised by the ordination of women to the priesthood this has put under further strain my relationship with the Church I have been part of now for 57 years and which i have served in as a priest for 25. But what of the future for people like me if things further deteriorate?
I have read a lot about Orthodoxy that has inspired and interested me - as this blog demonstrates - and it is certainly a serious option if I feel I can no longer remain an Anglican. But is that the right reason for joining orthodoxy? Shouldn't I join for more positive reasons rather than negative ones?
My problem is that after 57 years in one church it sort of gets into your DNA and your religious habits, tastes, and routines etc. are almost inextricably connected to a way of religious life that is hard to break as I am sure many other converts have found. The fact that the Church I was brought up in has now changed so significantly to the one I have known all my life does not make things much easier.
On top of that, of course, there is my pension and the financial security of my family. I have 8 years left in ministry. As long as I remain 'orthodox' in my theology and ministry shouldn't I stay and fight it out. When will I reach the stage when enough is enough? Have I gone past that already?
I remember at one time when relations between Anglicanism and Orthodoxy were more than cordial and there was some talk of even closer ties. Those days are long gone and unless something radically changes I cannot foresee a greater rapport any time soon.
So it only remains for me - while 'Rome' burns - to keep on trying to put out the little fires in my Parish while I wait prayerfully on God. One thing I am sure of and that is that God is already on the case and I will only jump when He nudges me.
Tuesday, 4 December 2012
It is appropriate to recall here the words of His Holiness Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia at the Bishops’ Conference in February 2010. Concerning the liberal novelties introduced by some Protestant communities, he stated: ‘What has happened reveals only too clearly a fundamental difference between Orthodoxy and Protestantism. The principal problem lying at the basis of this difference is that Orthodoxy safeguards the norm of apostolic faith and order as fixed in the Holy Tradition of the Church and sees as its task to actualize this norm continually for the fulfilment of pastoral and missionary tasks. On the other hand, in Protestantism the same task allows for a theological development that can remodel this same norm. Clearly, the search for doctrinal consensus, as was the case with regard to Baptism, Eucharist and Ministry in the multilateral dialogue initiated by the World Council of Churches, has lost its meaning precisely because any consensus may come under threat or may be destroyed by innovation or interpretation that will challenge the very meaning of these agreements’.
Regrettably, what His Holiness the Patriarch says about Protestantism can be applied equally to many Anglican communities. In the 19th and 20th centuries, Orthodox communities discussed seriously the recognition of Anglican priesthood based on its recognized apostolic continuity. Now we are very far from this. And the gap between the liberal Anglicans and the Orthodox keeps growing.
One of the priorities in the work of the Russian Church today is to bear witness to the eternal significance of Christian spiritual and moral values in the life of modern society. In 2000 our Church already made a considerable contribution to the systematization of Orthodox tradition in this area by adopting a Basic Social Concept and, in 2008, a Basic Teaching on Human Dignity, Freedom and Rights. Today the Church is engaged in major work to compile a Catechesis which will give a clear exposition of Christian doctrine, on the one hand, and will respond to the burning problems of today on the other.
We are not alone in our concern for the preservation of Christian values. Liberal tendencies in Protestant and Anglican communities present a challenge to those Christians and churches that have remained faithful to Gospel principles in doctrine, church order and morality. Certainly, we seek and find allies in opposing the destruction of the very essence of Christianity. One of the major tasks in our inter-Christian work today is to unite the efforts of Christians for building a system of solidarity on the basis of Gospel morality in Europe and throughout the world. Our positions are shared by the Roman Catholic Church, with which we have held numerous meetings and conferences. Together we are considering the possibility of establishing an Orthodox-Catholic alliance in Europe for defending the traditional values of Christianity. The primary aim of this alliance would be to restore a Christian soul to Europe. We should be engaged in common defence of Christian values against secularism and relativism.
Today, European countries as never before need to reinforce moral education, since its absence leads to dire consequences such as accelerating extremism, a decline in the birth rate, environmental pollution and violence. The principles of moral responsibility and of freedom should be consistently implemented in all spheres of human life – politics, economics, education, science, culture and the mass media.
We should not remain silent and look with indifference at a world that is gradually deteriorating. Rather, we should proclaim Christian morality and teach it openly not only in our churches, but also in public spaces including secular schools, universities and in the arena of the mass media. We do not presume to impose our views on anybody but we wish that our voice be heard by those who want to hear it. Unfortunately, we cannot convert the whole world to God, but we should at least make people think about the meaning of life and the existence of absolute spiritual and moral values. We are obliged to bear witness to the true faith always and everywhere so that at least some may be saved (1 Cor. 9:22).
Summing up, I wish to assert that today we have new divisions in Christendom, not only theological but also ethical. Regrettably, many Christian communities, which once maintained fraternal relations with the Orthodox Church for many years and were in dialogue with it, have shown themselves to be incapable or unwilling to assume obligations stemming from our dialogue. We accompany our reactions to these developments with assurances of respect for the right of all churches and communities to make decisions which they deem to be necessary. Yet, at the same time, we state with sadness that neither the official dialogue nor the most valuable relations and contacts in the past have kept some of our Anglican brothers and sisters from steps which have taken them even farther away from our common Christian Church Tradition.
On behalf of the Russian Orthodox Church I would like to stress that we continue to be fully committed to the dialogue with the Anglican Church and will do our utmost to keep this dialogue going. We do not betray our commitment to the dialogue. However, we feel that many of our Anglican brothers and sisters betray our common witness by departing from traditional Christian values and replacing them by contemporary secular standards. I very much hope that the official position of the Anglican Church on theological, ecclesiological and moral issues will be in tune with the tradition of the Ancient Undivided Church and that the Anglican leadership will not surrender to the pressure coming from liberals.
Our faithful cherish the memory of the visit made by the Church of England’s delegation led by Archbishop Cyril Garbett to Moscow in 1943. Then Patriarch Sergiy, who had been enthroned a few days earlier, remarked, ‘The English have come defying the dangers of travelling at a time of war and the entire insidiousness of the enemy’. Addressing himself to Archbishop Garbett, he said, ‘The old archbishop teaches us by his example to forget one’s own interests and conveniences and one’s own life when the truth of Christ and the welfare of our neighbours… call us to serve higher values’.
Today, too, we do not abandon Christian love for our Anglican brothers and sisters. We do not abandon the hope that they, who once defied every danger during the hard years of war, will share with us that trust in our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, which rests on the solid foundation of the faith of holy apostles, the Fathers of the Nicean Council and the tradition of the Undivided Church.
In 1868, the first Lambeth Conference was held. Acting on behalf of Archbishop Tait of Canterbury, this Conference sent a message, written in a spirit of Christian love and friendship, to the patriarchs and bishops of the Orthodox Church. That same year, at the request of the Archbishop of Canterbury, Patriarch Gregory VI of Constantinople permitted the Orthodox clergy to administer the rite of burial to Anglicans if a priest of the Church of England were not available.
The second such agreement was made in 1874 when Patriarch Joachim II of Constantinople gave permission to the Orthodox clergy to baptize and marry Anglicans. These agreements were exceptional developments in the history of relations between the Churches of East and West.
Between 1874 and 1875, representatives of the Orthodox Church, Anglicans and Old Catholics met for the first time at the Bonn Conferences to discuss issues such as the Filioque, the authority of the Ecumenical Councils and the validity of Anglican priesthood. In 1898, Bishop Wordsworth of Salisbury, in pursuance of a resolution of the 4th Lambeth Conference in 1887 on the need to intensify relations with the Orthodox Church and to set up a special committee for it, visited Patriarch Constantine V of Constantinople and other hierarchs. Patriarch Constantine appointed a special commission for studying the Anglican confession. In the years that followed, Frederick Temple and Constantine V initiated regular correspondence.
At the 1930 Lambeth Conference, after the Anglicans essentially agreed to the Orthodox affirmation that communion in the Sacraments should be preceded by unity in doctrine, it was decided to set up an Anglican-Orthodox Joint Doctrinal Commission, which included representatives of the Patriarchate of Constantinople and the Church of England. The commission began working in 1931. The 1948 Lambeth Conference gave unanimous support to the further development of relations with the Orthodox.
After World War II, dialogue between our Churches was resumed in 1965. The modern stage in the Anglican-Orthodox Dialogue was opened by a visit of Archbishop Michael Ramsey to Patriarch Athenagoras (Spirou) of Constantinople in 1962. The heads of the two Churches came to an agreement on the need to restore the Joint Theological Commission for studying the doctrinal differences which blocked progress towards unity that had begun in the 19th and the first half of the 20th centuries.
In November 1964, the 3rd Pan-Orthodox Conference on Rhodes discussed, among other things, relations with Western Churches. The question of establishing relations with Canterbury did not raise any difficulties. It was unanimously agreed that ‘an inter-Orthodox theological commission be established immediately, consisting of theological experts from each Orthodox Church’. After preliminary meetings and talks, a dialogue began in 1976. A regular session of the dialogue completed its work only a few days ago.
We are concerned about the fate of this dialogue. We appreciate the proposal Archbishop Rowan Williams made this year to exclude from the dialogue those Anglican churches which failed to observe the moratorium on the ordination of open homosexuals. But we regard this proposal as not quite sufficient to save the dialogue from an approaching collapse. The dialogue is doomed to closure if the unrestrained liberalization of Christian values continues in many communities of the Anglican world.
We are equally concerned about the fate of bilateral relations between the Russian Orthodox Church and the Church of England. Contacts between the Russian Church and the Anglican Church began as far back as the 19th century. In 1912, the Sacred Governing Synod adopted the statute of a Society of Zealots of Unity between the Eastern Orthodox and the Anglican Churches. In 1914, a Synodal Commission was established for considering interrelations with the Anglican Church. In May 1922, when Patriarch Tikhon was imprisoned, Archbishop Randall Davidson of Canterbury protested to the Soviet government against the persecution of the Church. The archbishop raised this matter twice in the parliament and urged the British government to apply pressure on the Soviet authorities (Kerson’s Note).
The relations between the Russian Church and the Church of England were strengthened by the visit of the Archbishop Cyril Garbett of York to Moscow in 1943. After the end of World War II relations between our Churches intensified and contacts became regular.
The first difficulties in relation to the Church of England emerged in 1992 when its General Synod agreed to ordain women to the priesthood. The Department for External Church Relations of the Russian Orthodox Church came out with an official statement expressing regret and concern over this decision as contradicting the tradition of the Early Church.
One might ask why our Church should have concerned itself at all with this matter? By the early 90s the Protestant world had already ordained many women pastors and even women bishops. But the unique point here was that the Anglican Community had long sought rapprochement with the Orthodox Church. Many Orthodox Christians recognized the existence of apostolic continuity in Anglicanism. From the 19th century, Anglican members of the Association of Eastern Churches sought ‘mutual recognition’ with the Orthodox Church and its members believed that ‘both Churches preserved the apostolic continuity and true faith in the Saviour and should accept each other in the full communion of prayers and sacraments’.
Much has changed since. The introduction of the female priesthood in the Church of England was followed by discussions on the female episcopate. In response to the positive decision made by the Church of England’s General Synod on this issue, the Department for External Church Relations published a new statement saying that this decision ‘has considerably complicated dialogue with the Anglicans for Orthodox Christians’ and ‘has taken Anglicanism farther away from the Orthodox Church and contributed to further division in Christendom as a whole’.
We have studied the preparatory documents for the decision on female episcopate and were struck by the conviction expressed in them that even if the female episcopate were introduced, ecumenical contacts with the Roman Catholic and the Orthodox Churches would not come to an end. What made the authors of these documents so certain? There was a second controversial statement. The same document argued that despite a possible cooling down in relations with Catholics and Orthodox, the Church of England would strengthen and broaden its relations with the Methodist Church and the Lutheran Churches in Norway and Sweden. In other words, the introduction of the female episcopate ‘will bring both gains and losses’. The question arises: Is not the cost of these losses too high? I can say with certainty that the introduction of the female episcopate excludes even a theoretical possibility for the Orthodox to recognize the apostolic continuity of the Anglican hierarchy.
We are also extremely concerned and disappointed by other processes that are manifesting themselves in churches of the Anglican Communion. Some Protestant and Anglican churches have repudiated basic Christian moral values by giving a public blessing to same-sex unions and ordaining homosexuals as priests and bishops. Many Protestant and Anglican communities refuse to preach Christian moral values in secular society and prefer to adjust to worldly standards.
Our Church must sever its relations with those churches and communities that trample on the principles of Christian ethics and traditional morals. Here we uphold a firm stand based on Holy Scripture.
In 2003, the Russian Orthodox Church had to suspend contact with the Episcopal Church in the USA due to the fact that this Church consecrated a self-acclaimed homosexual, Jim Robertson, as bishop. The Department for External Church Relations made a special statement deploring this fact as anti-Christian and blasphemous. Moreover, the Holy Synod of our Church decided to suspend the work of the Joint Coordinating Committee for Cooperation between the Russian Orthodox Church and the Episcopal Church in the USA, which had worked very successfully for many years. The situation was aggravated when a woman bishop was installed as head of the Episcopal Church in the USA in 2006 and a lesbian was placed on the bishop’s chair of Los Angeles in 2010.
Similar reasons were behind the rupture of our relations with the Church of Sweden in 2005 when this Church made a decision to bless same-sex “marriages”. And recently the lesbian Eva Brunne has become the “bishop” of Stockholm.
What can these churches say to their faithful and to secular society? What kind of light do they shine upon the world (cf. Mt. 5:14)? What is their ‘salt’? I am afraid the words of Christ can be applied to them: If the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled by men (Mt. 5:13).
We are aware of the arguments used by proponents of the above-mentioned liberal innovations. Tradition is no authority for them. They believe that to make the words of Holy Scripture applicable to modernity they have to be ‘actualized’, that is, reviewed and interpreted in an appropriate, ‘modern’ spirit. Holy Tradition is understood as an opportunity for the Church to be continually reformed and renewed and to think critically.
The Orthodox, however, have a different understanding of Holy Tradition. It is aptly expressed in the words of Vladimir Lossky: ‘Tradition is the life of the Holy Spirit in the Church – the life giving to every member of the Body of Christ the ability to hear, accept and know the Truth in its inherent shining, not in the natural light of human reason’.
So here is his inspiring address in several parts. This is part one:
Your Grace, ladies and gentlemen, distinguished guests,
At the outset, I would like to express my heartfelt thanks to His Grace Archbishop Rowan Williams for inviting me to address the members of the Nicean Club. Your Grace, we highly value your personal contribution to inter-Christian dialogue and your commitment to keep the Anglican Communion unified. We know your love of the Russian Orthodox Church, of its saints and great theologians, of its spiritual tradition. We assure you of our continual support and prayers.
We also highly appreciate the work of the Nicean Club which aims to strengthen relations and to stimulate beneficial co-operation between the churches of the Anglican Communion and other Christian confessions.
The name of the Club – Nicean – takes us back to that blessed era when Christians throughout the world, both in the East and in the West, were united. At the same time, however, that was a period of bitter struggle with heresies and many church schisms. Thanks to the unanimity both of the Western and Eastern Fathers in understanding Church teaching and in standing together with steadfast faith, the Universal Church at its Council in 325 renounced and condemned a heresy that undermined the very foundations of Christian doctrine. At the same time the Church was able to formulate that faith in the Holy Trinity which has survived throughout subsequent centuries. Archbishop Rowan Williams, in his Arius: Heresy and Tradition, has provided us with a profound analysis of Arianism from historical, theological and philosophical perspectives. He describes Arianism as an ‘archetypal Christian deviation’, which tends to rise again and again under various names.
In 325, the Christian Church, which had latterly emerged from a three-century-long period of persecution, proved itself to be strong and mature enough to discern in Arianism a dangerous digression from Orthodox doctrine. By adopting the Nicean Creed the Church did not introduce anything new to her teaching but rather formulated with clarity what she had believed in from the very beginning of her existence. Subsequent Ecumenical Councils continued to clarify church truth without introducing anything fundamentally new to that confession of faith which sprouted from Christ himself and from his apostles.
Why do the Churches, both East and West, still remember the Fathers of the Nicean and later Ecumenical Councils with such gratitude? Why are the great theologians of the past, the opponents of heresy, revered in the East as ‘great universal teachers and saints’ and in the West as ‘Doctors of the Church’? Because throughout the ages the Church believed it to be her principal task to safeguard the truth. Her foremost heroes were those confessors of the faith who asserted Orthodox doctrine and countered heresies in the face of new trends and theological and political innovations.
Almost 1700 years have elapsed since the Council of Nicaea, but the criteria that were used by the Church to distinguish truth from heresy have not changed. And the notion of church truth remains as relevant today as it did seventeen centuries ago. Today the notion of heresy, while present in church vocabulary, is manifestly absent from the vocabulary of contemporary politically-correct theology – a theology that prefers to refer to “pluralism” and to speak of admissible and legitimate differences.
Indeed, St Paul himself wrote that ‘there have to be differences among you to show which of you have God’s approval’ (1 Cor. 11:19). But what kind of differences was he referring to? Certainly not those which concerned the essence of faith, church order or Christian morals. For, in these matters, there is only one truth and any deviation from it is none other than heresy.
At the time of the Council of Nicaea, the Church was united in East and West. But at the present time, there is a multitude of communities each of which claims to be a church even though approaches to doctrinal, ecclesiological and ethical issues among them often differ radically.
Nowadays it is increasingly difficult to speak of ‘Christianity’ as a unified scale of spiritual and moral values, universally adopted by all Christians. It is more appropriate, rather, to speak of ‘Christianities’, that is, different versions of Christianity espoused by diverse communities.
All current versions of Christianity can be very conditionally divided into two major groups – traditional and liberal. The abyss that exists today divides not so much the Orthodox from the Catholics or the Catholics from the Protestants as it does the ‘traditionalists’ from the ‘liberals’. Some Christian leaders, for example, tell us that marriage between a man and a woman is no longer the only way of building a Christian family: there are other models and the Church should become appropriately ‘inclusive’ to recognize alternative behavioural standards and give them official blessing. Some try to persuade us that human life is no longer an absolute value; that it can be terminated in a mother’s womb or that one can terminate one’s life at will. Christian ‘traditionalists’ are being asked to reconsider their views under the slogan of keeping abreast with modernity.
Regrettably, it has to be admitted that the Orthodox Church and many in the Anglican Church have today found themselves on the opposite sides of the abyss that divides traditional Christians from Christians of liberal trend. Certainly, inside the Anglican Community there remain many “traditionalists”, especially in the South and the East, but the liberal trend is also quite noticeable, especially in the West and in the North. Protests against liberalism continue to be heard among Anglicans, as at the 2nd All African Bishops’ Conference held in late August. The Conference’s final document stated in particular, ‘We affirm the Biblical standard of the family as having marriage between a man and a woman as its foundation. One of the purposes of marriage is procreation of children some of whom grow to become the leaders of tomorrow’.
Among the vivid indications of disagreement within the Anglican Community (I am reluctant to say ‘schism’) is the fact that almost 200 Anglican bishops refused to attend the 2008 Lambeth Conference. I was there as an observer from the Russian Orthodox Church and could see various manifestations of deep and painful differences among the Anglicans.
Monday, 26 November 2012
St. John Chrysostom
One must always strive to not give oneself up to dispersion of thoughts: for through this the soul turns away from remembrance of God and love of Him... This is how we get the benefit from prayer, by controlling our thoughts. And it is by regular prayer where we learn to concentrate on God that we learn to control our thoughts........
When the mind and the heart are united in prayer and the soul's thoughts are not dispersed, the heart is warmed by spiritual warmth in which the light of Christ shines, making the whole inner man peaceful.
This is our aim, to be united with God.