Wednesday, 17 July 2013

Come and Experience the Majesty of Christ!

It is often said within Orthodoxy that modern heresy is simply ancient heresy repackaged. Those who refuse to unite with the One Holy and Apostolic Church in our day are most frequently engaging in the same heresies that separated groups from the Church in the ancient world: The hierarchy, the oral (relational) authority of revelation, the sacraments, icons, the mother of God; These are all real and genuine subjects that are crucial to our relationship with God as Orthodox Christians. Any attempt to publish doctrines against these teachings or attempt to establish a separated church in the spirit of condemning these things, is what we call heterodoxy (false teaching).
With that said, it is not of the Orthodox spirit to condemn non-Orthodox, as if God is not doing anything in their lives. We are ALL created in the image of God, and are capable of spiritual growth. Non-Orthodox will glean from our Canon (the Bible) as well as many other spiritual avenues of our faith, but to hold them up to be a part of the One Holy and Apostolic Church is simply not honest and can be harmful to the spiritual growth of all involved in the conversation.
St. Maximus the Confessor (580-662) says this regarding schismatics  - who were far closer to Orthodox standards than today’s modern Bible believers:
“I write these things not wishing to cause distress to the heretics or to rejoice in their ill-treatment — God forbid; but, rather, rejoicing and being gladdened at their return. For what is more pleasing to the faithful than to see the scattered children of God gathered again as one? Neither do I exhort you to place harshness above the love of men. May I not be so mad! I beseech you to do and to carry out good to all men with care and assiduity, becoming all things to all men, as the need of each is shown to you; I want and pray you to be wholly harsh and implacable with the heretics only in regard to cooperating with them or in any way whatever supporting their deranged belief. For I reckon it hatred towards man and a departure from divine love to lend support to error, so that those previously seized by it might be even more greatly corrupted.” (Patrologia Graeca, Vol. 91 col. 465c)
Why bother discussing such subjects? Because the very unity of our faith is at stake here, as St. Maximus demonstrates above. Protestants do indeed share the kingdom with Orthodox. They may not be at the center of it and they may not be able to manifest it in a holistic manner, but they nonetheless take part in what God has given humanity. And if we Orthodox think that we are not going to be affected by Protestantism, we are delusional and arrogant.
We are adopting converts from Bible groups faster than any other time in history, and many of these converts are bringing in their anti-materialistic/Gnostic leanings to the Church. Not only that, but it is our general calling in Christ that we evangelize the lost into the Church. This is not “proselytizing” as some might say; rather it is evangelizing and discipleship. We are not forcing our faith on anyone even when we speak of what the councils and fathers say about heresy. This is not hate; rather it is love, if done with charity; charity of person, that is: offering ourselves to them in any way that we can. Charity is not compromising our faith and pretending to agree with their doctrine or religion, charity is holistic, an offering of our whole life. We may have to cancel that trip to Disneyland in order to spend a more quality time with someone in need. We may have to take a drive, using our vacation days to help a struggling convert. Or, we may just need to listen to what they are about and offer a very basic friendship within the context of whatever the Lord provides.
Orthodoxy has always been very in tune with the harmony of community. Orthodoxy is a holistic faith that involves much more than doctrine on paper; it involves doctrine in deed, in culture. We model this first by our leadership: The monastics, the priesthood, and the monarchy, have always been the connectors of the faith. The monastics have never ceased to speak the prophetic voice; the deacons, priests and bishops have never ceased to teach the faith and “rebuke convince and exhort” with all longsuffering, as Saint Paul puts it; and the monarchy has never ceased to gather councils and administer protection from heresy and other sinful patterns that destroy her culture and threaten the unity of her Church.
Orthodoxy is unity of Christ! It is not a religion or a movement, Orthodoxy is the very manifestation of Christ within community. From the time that Saint Constantine began to protect the faith, in the fourth century, all the way up to the 20th century, Orthodoxy has been, in my opinion, the strongest community in the entire world, occupying an entire empire in the east until recent times.
In 1917 the last emperor of the Orthodox Church, Saint Nicholas II, was murdered along with his family, and the revolution within Russia gained enough momentum to take Russia for an entire generation (70 years, which is exactly what Saint Seraphim of Sarov prophesied). Since then, it has been very difficult to gather councils for the Orthodox Church, much less prosecute any heretical and barbaric action against Orthodox countries.
Through the past 100 years Orthodoxy has essentially survived without an established community.  Thankfully, Tsars within Russia, including Saint Nicholas II, began planting churches in America before the motherland collapsed to communists. From that, America has birthed about 2,000 Orthodox parishes, and she has survived the past generation with no Tsar, no monarchy. This is quite the blessing, to be able to stand without the monarchy, but it poses a threat to the Church. As Islam began to dominate the empire in Constantinople, and then Communism in Russia, so now Secularism and Liberalism is attempting to take dominion over the Church in America.  We simply no longer have the support of our countrymen and we are thus reverting back to a type  of pre-Constantinian era, taking shelter within the residual effects of the monarchy, which are quickly running out.
Secularism and Liberalism is taking over the leadership of our western counties, and we Orthodox are being reduced to a people that is merely ceremonial! We no longer have the ministries we had for the past 1500 years; ministries that involved the very shaping of our country. Rather, the secular and liberal government has assumed the leadership within those ministries (health care, welfare, judicial, etc.).
Why is Secularism and Liberalism attempting to dominate our Church? Because we live in a country that does not hold to the Orthodox worldview. The vast majority of our country has a Protestant worldview (even the Catholics). They do not believe in many of the things that we believe in, and it affects our Church!
Protestantism carries a philosophy that is antithetical to the Orthodox view of creation, for starters. I am not referring to the debates of six days of creation or even the fall of Adam, etc. What I am referring to is the nature in which God communicates to us; his incarnation and what that does to the entire cosmos. This particular subject deserves much more space than I am about to give it, but I think the just of what I am saying here is the fact that ‘matter’ matters in Orthodoxy. In Protestantism, matter does not really matter!
Orthodoxy believes God uses a bishop to guide us, as so plainly seen in the Scripture. We believe bread and wine can be blessed to nourish us, spiritually. We believe that art can be set apart from the world and exclusively blessed for theological and spiritual formation. We believe God wants us to build communities and establish relationships with our governance…formally and within the hospice of our sacraments, if possible! We believe that our earth produces our Church through the direction of our God!
The Protestant ethos of America does not believe in these things. The Protestant philosophy and doctrine of America has fostered and even encouraged Secular and Liberal thought since our country’a inception (our second president was a Unitarian, for instance). In the late 1800s Liberalism and Secularism was catapulted through the Protestant church in America right into the very culture that it resides in! It is now everywhere: our calendar, grocery, art, politics, etc. We Orthodox are surrounded by it. How do we mend this? We introduce Orthodoxy! We introduce how the Orthodox worldview involves real and genuine living, not just doctrine, not just a religious systems that keep itself separate from all matter and culture. Granted, doctrine is extremely important, as I will be showing you at the end of this article with quotes from the fathers. But what these fathers are speaking of, are not philosophical and psychological concepts, but they are speaking of Orthodox praxis. They are speaking just how we take what we believe in our minds and get that to manifest in our lives.
The hierarchy, the oral (relational) authority of revelation, the sacraments, the icons, the mother of God; these are all doorways to communion with both God and man, and not one without the other. The Orthodox Church is, again, a holistic Church that encompasses all of what God said is “good,” yet under the guidelines of the holy Prophets and Apostles. There is a complete theology behind this that some modern Orthodox Christians have forgotten. All throughout the Scripture we see how the earth is “groaning” for her redemption and how, according to the Psalmist, the entire earth praises God! Our Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew says this regarding the faith:
“Orthodox Christianity is a way of life in which there is profound and direct relationship between dogma and praxis, faith and life. This unity of faith and life means that the reality of the eternal truths lies in their experiential power, rather than in their codification into a set of ideological constructs.” (Encountering the Mystery, p. viii).
The existential aspect of our faith is extremely important. The very grace of God cooperates with all aspects that have been order by the Church. Even our fasting, which Christ commanded us to do, and the Church has practiced weekly (daily for the monastics), is a form of biological conduct that draws us closer to God and allows us to give what is left over to those in need.
Below we can see how the fathers are adamant about submission to these various aspects of the faith. This dedication has brought the Church through the harshest persecution and the most complex situations for two-thousand years.
If you are a Protestant/Evangelical, please, come and taste the goodness of the ancient Church, and experience the majesty of Christ! If you are Orthodox, please, do whatever you can to maintain our beloved tradition!

Those who deny the Episcopate and its Authority
St. Ignatius of Antioch ca. 50-117
Let that be deemed a proper Eucharist, which is [administered] either by the bishop, or by one to whom he has entrusted it. Wherever the bishop shall appear, there let the multitude [of the people] also be; even as, wherever Jesus Christ is, there is the Catholic Church. It is not lawful without the bishop either to baptize or to celebrate a love-feast; but whatsoever he shall approve of, that is also pleasing to God, so that everything that is done may be secure and valid.
Moreover, it is in accordance with reason that we should return to soberness [of conduct], and, while yet we have opportunity, exercise repentance towards God. It is well to reverence both God and the bishop. He who honours the bishop has been honoured by God; he who does anything without the knowledge of the bishop, does [in reality] serve the devil. (To the Smyrnaeans)
St. Athanasius ca. 297-37
But if the organising of the Churches is distasteful to you, and you do not think the ministry of the episcopate has its reward, why, then you have brought yourself to despise the Saviour that ordered these things? I beseech you, dismiss such ideas, nor tolerate those who advise you in such a sense, for this is not worthy of Dracontius. For the order the Lord has established by the Apostles abides fair and firm; but the cowardice of the brethren shall cease. For if all were of the same mind as your present advisers, how would you have become a Christian, since there would be no bishops? Or if our successors are to inherit this state of mind, how will the Churches be able to hold together? Or do your advisers think that you have received nothing, that they despise it? If so surely they are wrong. For it is time for them to think that the grace of the Font is nothing, if some are found to despise it. But you have received it, beloved Dracontius; do not tolerate your advisers nor deceive yourself. (Letter 49.3-4)
Synod of Jerusalem 1672
But forasmuch as among their other impieties, the Calvinists have fancied this also, that the simple Priest and the High Priest are perhaps the same; and that there is no necessity for High Priests, and that the Church may be governed by some Priests; and that not a High Priest [only], but a Priest also is able to ordain a Priest, and a number of Priests to ordain a High Priest; …we explicitly declare according to the mind which hath obtained from the beginning in the Eastern Church: That the dignity of the Bishop is so necessary in the Church, that without him, neither Church nor Christian could either be or be spoken of. For he, as a successor of the Apostles, having received in continued succession by the imposition of hands and the invocation of the All-holy Spirit the grace that is given him of the Lord of binding and loosing, is a living image of God upon the earth, and by a most ample participation of the operation of the Holy Spirit, who is the chief functionary, is a fountain of all the Mysteries of the Catholic Church, through which we obtain salvation…And that this great mystery and dignity of the Episcopate hath descended unto us by a continued succession is manifest. For since the Lord hath promised to be with us always, although He be with us by other means of grace and Divine operations, yet in a more eminent manner doth He, through the Bishop as chief functionary make us His own and dwell with us, and through the divine Mysteries is united with us; of which the Bishop is the first minister, and chief functionary, through the Holy Spirit, and suffereth us not to fall into heresy. (Acts and Decrees of the Synod of Jerusalem, Confession of Dositheus: Article X)
Those who deny the Priesthood
St. John Chrysostom ca. 347-407
For indeed what is it but all manner of heavenly authority which He has given them when He says, “Whose sins ye remit they are remitted, and whose sins ye retain they are retained?” What authority could be greater than this? “The Father hath committed all judgment to the Son?”
But I see it all put into the hands of these men by the Son. For they have been conducted to this dignity as if they were y translated to Heaven, and had transcended human nature, and were released from the passions to which we are liable. Moreover, if a king should bestow this honor upon any of his subjects, authorizing him to cast into prison whom he pleased and to release them again, he becomes an object of envy and respect to all men; but he who has received from God an authority as much greater as heaven is more precious than earth, and souls more precious than bodies, seems to some to have received so small an honor that they are actually able to imagine that one of those who have been entrusted with these things will despise the gift. Away with such madness! For transparent madness it is to despise so great a dignity, without which it is not possible to obtain either our own salvation, or the good things which have been promised to us. For if no one can enter into the kingdom of Heaven except he be regenerate through water and the Spirit, and he who does not eat the flesh of the Lord and drink His blood is excluded from eternal life, and if all these things are accomplished only by means of those holy hands, I mean the hands of the priest, how will any one, without these, be able to escape the fire of hell, or to win those crowns which are reserved for the victorious?(Treatise on the Priesthood)
St. Ambrose of Milan ca. 337-397
Rightly, therefore, does the Church claim it, which has true priests; heresy, which has not the priests of God, cannot claim it. And by not claiming this power heresy pronounces its own sentence, that not possessing priests it cannot claim priestly power. And so in their shameless obstinacy a shamefaced acknowledgment meets our view. (On Repentance Bk. 1.2.7)
St. Jerome ca. 347-420
Under the old law he who disobeyed the priests was put outside the camp and stoned by the people, or else he was beheaded and expiated his contempt with his blood. Deut. 17:5, 12 But now the disobedient person is cut down with the  spiritual sword, or he is expelled from the church and torn to pieces by ravening demons. (Letter 14.8)
Those who deny the Three-fold Hierarchy
St. Ignatius of Antioch ca. 50-117
I therefore, yet not I, but the love of Jesus Christ, entreat you that you use Christian nourishment only, and abstain from herbage of a different kind; I mean heresy. For those [that are given to this] mix up Jesus Christ with their own poison, speaking things which are unworthy of credit, like those who administer a deadly drug in sweet wine, which he who is ignorant of does greedily take, with a fatal pleasure leading to his own death. Be on your guard, therefore, against such persons. And this will be the case with you if you are not puffed up, and continue in intimate union with Jesus Christ our God, and the bishop, and the enactments of the apostles. He that is within the altar is pure, but he that is without is not pure; that is, he who does anything apart from the bishop, and presbytery, and deacons, such a man is not pure in his conscience.(To the Trallians)
St. Epiphanius of Salamis ca. 320-403
To those who have any intelligence it is clear that to say that bishop and priest are equal is the utter fullness of stupidity. And how should this be possible? This order [of episcopate] is a begetting of fathers; for it begets fathers to the Church; but the other, not able to beget fathers, begets children for the Church, through the rebirth of Baptism, but not fathers or teachers. And how were it possible for someone to ordain a priest, if he did not himself have hands laid on him for the laying on of hands, or to say that he is equal to the bishop?(Panarion 75.4)
Those that Deny Baptismal Regeneration
St. Irenaeus of Lyons  ca. 2nd cent.-202
And when we come to refute them [i.e. those heretics], we shall show in its fitting-place, that this class of men have been instigated by Satan to a denial of that baptism which is regeneration to God, and thus to a renunciation of the whole [Christian] faith.(Against Heresies Book I.21)
Happy is our sacrament of water, in that, by washing away the sins of our early blindness, we are set free and admitted into eternal life! A treatise on this matter will not be superfluous; instructing not only such as are just becoming formed (in the faith), but them who, content with having simply believed, without full examination of the grounds of the traditions, carry (in mind), through ignorance, an untried though probable faith. The consequence is, that a viper of the Cainite heresy, lately conversant in this quarter, has carried away a great number with her most venomous doctrine, making it her first aim to destroy baptism. Which is quite in accordance with nature; for vipers and asps and basilisks themselves generally do affect arid and waterless places. But we, little fishes, after the example of our ΙΧΘΥΣ Jesus Christ, are born in water, nor have we safety in any other way than by permanently abiding in water; so that most monstrous creature, who had no right to teach even sound doctrine, knew full well how to kill the little fishes, by taking them away from the water! (On Baptism, Chap. 1)
St. Cyril of Jerusalem ca. 313-386
Jesus sanctified Baptism by being Himself baptized. If the Son of God was baptized, what godly man is he that despises Baptism? (Catechetical Lectures 3.11)
Those who deny the real Presence in the Eucharist
St. Ignatius of Antioch ca. 50-117
They abstain from the Eucharist and from prayer, because they confess not the Eucharist to be the flesh of our Saviour Jesus Christ, which suffered for our sins, and which the Father, of His goodness, raised up again. Those, therefore, who speak against this gift of God, incur death in the midst of their disputes. But it were better for them to treat it with respect, that they also might rise again. It is fitting, therefore, that you should keep aloof from such persons, and not to speak of them either in private or in public, but to give heed to the prophets, and above all, to the Gospel, in which the passion [of Christ] has been revealed to us, and the resurrection has been fully proved. But avoid all divisions, as the beginning of evils. (To the Smyrnaeans)
St. Hilary of Poitiers ca. 300-36
For He says Himself, My flesh is meat indeed, and My blood is drink indeed. He that eats My flesh and drinks My blood abides in Me, and I in him. (Jn. 6:55-56) As to the verity of the flesh and blood there is no room left for doubt. For now both from the declaration of the Lord Himself and our own faith, it is verily flesh and verily blood. And these when eaten and drunk, bring it to pass that both we are in Christ and Christ in us. Is not this true? Yet they who affirm that Christ Jesus is not truly God are welcome to find it false. He therefore Himself is in us through the flesh and we in Him, while together with Him our own selves are in God. (On the Trinity Bk. 8.14)
St. Epiphanius of Salamis ca. 320-403
We see that the Saviour took [something] in His hands, as it is in the Gospel, when He was reclining at the supper; and He took this, and giving thanks, He said: ‘This is really Me.’ And He gave to His disciples and said: ‘This is really Me.’ And we see that it is not equal nor similar, not to the incarnate image, not to the invisible divinity, not to the outline of His limbs. For it is round of shape, and devoid of feeling. As to its power, He means to say even of its grace, ‘This is really Me.’; and none disbelieves His word. For anyone who does not believe the truth in what He says is deprived of grace and of a Saviour. (The Man Well-Anchored, 57)
St. Gregory the Dialogist ca. 540-604
Wherefore let us hereby meditate what manner of sacrifice this is, ordained for us, which for our absolution doth always represent the passion of the only Son of God: for what right believing Christian can doubt, that in the very hour of the sacrifice, at the words of the Priest, the heavens be opened, and the choirs of Angels are present in that mystery of Jesus Christ; that high things are accompanied with low, and earthly joined to heavenly, and that one thing is made of visible and invisible? (The Dialogues Bk. 4 Chap. 58)
Those who do not admit that Mary is the Theotokos (God-bearer)
St. Gregory Nazianzus ca. 329-389
If anyone does not believe that Holy Mary is the Mother of God, he is severed from the Godhead. (To Cledonius the Priest)
St. Cyril of Alexandria ca. 376-444
If anyone will not confess that the Emmanuel is very God, and that therefore the Holy Virgin is the Mother of God, inasmuch as in the flesh she bore the Word of God made flesh [as it is written, “The Word was made flesh”] let him be anathema. (The Twelve Anathemas, 1)
Those Who Hold Solely to Written Tradition
St. Basil of Caesarea ca. 330-379
Of the beliefs and practices whether generally accepted or publicly enjoined which are preserved in the Church some we possess derived from written teaching; others we have received delivered to us “in a mystery” by the tradition of the apostles; and both of these m relation to true religion have the same force. And these no one will gainsay;–no one, at all events, who is even moderately versed in the institutions of the Church. For were we to attempt to reject such customs as have no written authority, on the ground that the importance they possess is small, we should unintentionally injure the Gospel in its very vitals; or, rather, should make our public definition a mere phrase and nothing more. (On the Holy Spirit, 27)
Nicea II 7th Ecumenical Council 787 a.d.
Anathema to those who spurn the teachings of the holy Fathers and the tradition of the Catholic Church, taking as a pretext and making their own the arguments of Arius, Nestorius, Eutyches, and Dioscorus, that unless we were evidently taught by the Old and New Testaments, we should not follow the teachings of the holy Fathers and of the holy Ecumenical Synods, and the tradition of the Catholic Church. (Session 1)
Those Who Say that the Son was Cut Off From the Father
St. Athanasius of Alexandria ca. 297-373
Whence neither can the Lord be forsaken by the Father, who is ever in the Father, both before He spoke, and when He uttered this cry. Nor is it lawful to say that the Lord was in terror, at whom the keepers of hell’s gates shuddered and set open hell, and the graves did gape, and many bodies of the saints arose and appeared to their own people. Therefore be every heretic dumb, nor dare to ascribe terror to the Lord whom death, as a serpent, flees, at whom demons tremble, and the sea is in alarm; for whom the heavens are rent and all the powers are shaken. For behold when He says, ‘Why have You forsaken Me?’ the Father showed that He was ever and even then in Him; for the earth knowing its Lord who spoke, straightway trembled, and the veil was rent, and the sun was hidden, and the rocks were torn asunder, and the graves, as I have said, did gape, and the dead in them arose; and, what is wonderful, they who were then present and had before denied Him, then seeing these signs, confessed that ‘truly He was the Son of God. (Four Discourses Against the Arians, Discourse III)
St. Hilary of Poitiers ca. 300-368
You allow that He suffered willingly: would it not be more reverent to confess that you had misunderstood this passage, than to rush with blasphemous and headlong folly to the assertion that He prayed to escape suffering, though you allow that He suffered willingly? Yet, I suppose, you will arm yourself also for your godless contention with these words of the Lord, My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me ? Perhaps you think that after the disgrace of the cross, the favour of His Father’s help departed from Him, and hence His cry that He was left alone in His weakness. But if you regard the contempt, the weakness, the cross of Christ as a disgrace, you should remember His words, Verily I say unto you, From henceforth you shall see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of power, and coming with the clouds of Heaven…Your irreverence blinds you to the natural relations of cause and event: not only does the spirit of godlessness and error, with which you are filled, hide from your understanding the mystery of faith, but the obtuseness of heresy drags you below the level of ordinary human intelligence… But perhaps you think your impiety has still an opportunity left to see in the words, Father, into Your hands I commend My Spirit Lk. 23:46, a proof that He feared the descent into the lower world, and even the necessity of death. But when you read these words and could not understand them, would it not have been better to say nothing, or to pray devoutly to be shown their meaning, than to go astray with such barefaced assertions, too mad with your own folly to perceive the truth? Could you believe that He feared the depths of the abyss, the scorching flames, or the pit of avenging punishment, when you listen to His words to the thief on the cross, Verily, I say unto you, Today shall you be with Me in Paradise? Such a nature with such power could not be shut up within the confines of the nether world, nor even subjected to fear of it. When He descended to Hades, He was never absent from Paradise (just as He was always in Heaven when He was preaching on earth as the Son of Man), but promised His martyr a home there, and held out to him the transports of perfect happiness. (On the Trinity Bk. 10, 30-34)
Those who Despise Holy Images
Nicea II 787 a.d., 7th Ecumenical Council
These things thus I confess and to these I assent, and therefore in simplicity of heart and in uprightness of mind, in the presence of God, I have made the subjoined anathematisms.
Anathema to the calumniators of the Christians, that is to the image breakers.
Anathema to those who apply the words of Holy Scripture which were spoken against idols, to the venerable images.
Anathema to those who do not salute the holy and venerable images.
Anathema to those who say that Christians have recourse to the images as to gods.
Anathema to those who call the sacred images idols.
Anathema to those who knowingly communicate with those who revile and dishonour the venerable images.
Anathema to those who say that another than Christ our Lord has delivered us from idols.
Anathema to those who dare to say that the Catholic Church has at any time sanctioned idols.
Anathema to those who say that the making of images is a diabolical invention and not a tradition of our holy Fathers.
This is my confession [of faith] and to these propositions I give my assent. And I pronounce this with my whole heart, and soul, and mind.
Those who believe in Denominationalism

But since the word Ecclesia is applied to different things (as also it is written of the multitude in the theatre of the Ephesians, And when he had thus spoken, he dismissed the Assembly), and since one might properly and truly say that there is a Church of evil doers, I mean the meetings of the heretics, the Marcionists and Manichees, and the rest, for this cause the Faith has securely delivered to thee now the Article, “And in one Holy Catholic Church;” that thou mayest avoid their wretched meetings, and ever abide with the Holy Church Catholic in which thou wast regenerated. And if ever thou art sojourning in cities, inquire not simply where the Lord’s House is (for the other sects of the profane also attempt to call their own dens houses of the Lord), nor merely where the Church is, but where is the Catholic Church. For this is the peculiar name of this Holy Church, the mother of us all, which is the spouse of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Only-begotten Son of God (for it is written, As Christ also loved the Church and gave Himself for it, and all the rest,) and is a figure and copy of Jerusalem which is above, which is free, and the mother of us all; which before was barren, but now has many children.(Cathechetical Lectures, 18)
St. Theodosius of the Kiev Caves ca. 1000-1074
If someone says to you: “Both your and our faith are from God”, you, my child, must reply to him as follows: “O crooked in faith! Or do you think that God, too, is two-faithed? Have you not heard what the Scripture says: ‘There is one God, one faith, one baptism’ (Ephesians 4.5)? How many years have you kept the right, Apostolic faith, and now through Satan’s insinuation you have been corrupted into evil belief. Have you not heard the teaching of the Apostle Paul: ‘Even if an angel should come from heaven and preach to you a Gospel that we have not preached to you, let him be anathema’ (Galatians 1.8)? But you have rejected the apostolic teaching and the decrees of the Holy Fathers and accepted a wrong and corrupted faith, filled with all destruction. Therefore you are rejected by us. You are dead, and the sacrifice you offer [i.e., the Eucharist] is dead. But we offer a living sacrifice to the living God, a pure and undefiled sacrifice, so as to obtain eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. To Him be glory. Amen. (Testament of St. Theodosius of the Kiev Caves to the Great-Prince Iziaslav on the Orthodox Christian Faith)
New Martyr Hilarion Troitsky 1886-1929
It is Protestantism that openly proclaimed the greatest lie of all: that one can be a Christian while denying the Church. Nevertheless, by tying its members by some obligatory authorities and church laws, Protestantism entangles itself in hopeless contradiction: having itself separated the individual from the Church, it nevertheless places limits on that freedom. From this stems the constant mutiny of Protestants against those few and pitiful remnants of the Church consciousness which are still preserved by the official representatives of their denominations. (Christianity or the Church)

Η μεγάλη πλάνη: “Εγώ πάτερ μου είμαι πολύ καλός χριστιανός​,ταπεινός και δίκαιος”

 Του π. Στεφάνου Αναγνωστοπούλου

Πριν από τέσσερα χρόνια, ή πέντε, δεν ενθυμούμαι καλά, σας είχα αναφέρει ένα γεγονός, δεν ξέρω πόσοι από σας το είχατε ακούσει, το ξαναεπαναλαμβάνω, διότι έχει άμεση σχέση με το σημερινό Ευαγγελικό Ανάγνωσμα.

Ήρθε κάποιος χριστιανός, επαναλαμβάνω πριν από τέσσερα χρόνια, πέντε, δεν θυμούμαι, μου είπε το όνομά του, και ήλθε σε μένα επειδή είχε πεθάνει ο πνευματικός του, – γνωστός, από το Λοιμωδών, – και αμέσως μετά μου είπε: «Εγώ πάτερ μου, για να ξέρεις είμαι πολύ καλός χριστιανός, είμαι και ταπεινός, είμαι και δίκαιος», και τον ρώτησα από πού αυτό το συμπέρασμα.

Και μου απαντάει: «Έχω πολύτεκνη οικογένεια, είμαι τμηματάρχης στη Άλφα Δημόσια Υπηρεσία, πηγαίνω κάθε Κυριακή και γιορτή στην Εκκλησία, κάνω την προσευχή μου πρωί και βράδυ, δίνω πολλές ελεημοσύνες, και μάλιστα φτάνω μέχρι και την εντολή που δίνει ο Θεός, να δίνουμε μέχρι και το δέκατο από το μισθό μας, επισκέπτομαι τους αρρώστους στα νοσοκομεία, κατάκοιτους στα σπίτια, νηστεύω Τετάρτες και Παρασκευές και όλες τις Σαρακοστές, εξομολογούμαι τακτικά, κοινωνώ επίσης …»

Όλα αυτά μου θύμισαν αμέσως τον Φαρισαίο, διότι τίποτε περισσότερο από το Φαρισαίο δεν είπε, όχι ο Φαρισαίος όλα τα έκαμεν,«Διαβάζω την Καινή Διαθήκη», κι ο Φαρισαίος ήξερε τον Νόμον του Θεού,«Και μάλιστα πολύ καλά, και πολλά όλα ωραία βιβλία, όπου κι αν πάω, όπου κι αν σταθώ, μιλάω για τον Αντίχριστο, για το φοβερό ΕΚΑΜ, για το εξακόσια εξήντα έξι, και καυτηριάζω το κακό, κάνω αυστηρές παρατηρήσεις στο όνομα του δικαίου, και καυτηριάζω το κακό, και του Ευαγγελίου, σε όλους, στη γυναίκα μου, στα παιδιά μου, στους συγγενείς μου, στους υφισταμένους μου, στους γειτόνους μου, στους εργάτες μου, στους συγκάτοικούς μου, σ’ αυτούς που είναι στο δρόμο, παντού, σε όλους, σε όλους, …» δεν τον άφησα να, συνεχίσει βέβαια, διότι είχα καταλάβει αρκετά, και κείνη τη στιγμή, με φώτισε ο Θεός, αν και είμαι αμαρτωλός, όντως αμαρτωλός είμαι, αμαρτωλός και άθλιος και του είπα τα εξής :

«Αν θέλεις να μάθεις συ ο ίδιος, πόσο καλός άνθρωπος είσαι, και τι είδους χριστιανός είσαι, και αν αυτό που νομίζεις ότι είσαι, αρέσει στο Θεό, θα πας αμέσως τώρα μόλις φύγεις από δω, στη γυναίκα σου, και στα παιδιά σου, και αύριο μεθαύριο στους συγκατοίκους της πολυκατοικίας, στους συγγενείς, στους συναδέλφους και λοιπά, και θα τους ρωτήσεις να σου πουν με απόλυτη ειλικρίνεια, τι γνώμη έχουν για σένα. Και μάλιστα τι μουρμουρίζουν πίσω από την πλάτη σου, και τι γνώμη έχουν για τον Χριστιανισμό που εσύ αντιπροσωπεύεις. Αυτός είναι ο κανόνας που σου βάζω. Και θα ’ρθείς ύστερα από μερικές μέρες να μου απαντήσεις. Μέχρι τότε δεν έχει Θεία Κοινωνία. Και μόνον την αλήθεια, και όσοι διστάζουν να σου την γράψουν ανώνυμα, να την τυπώσουν στην γραφομηχανή, και στα κομπιούτερς που υπήρχαν τότε, και να στα παραδώσουν μέσε σε κλειστά φάκελλα για να ξέρεις. Και όταν βέβαια θα ακούσεις και θα διαβάσεις τις γνώμες των συνανθρώπων σου, να σταθείς, να πάς στην Εκκλησία και να σταθείς μπροστά στην εικόνα του Χριστού, και να Τον ρωτήσεις, ύστερα από όσα μου είπαν, και από όσα διάβασα, αν πεθάνω σήμερα Χριστέ μου, κληρονομώ την Βασιλεία Σου;»

Βέβαια, έφυγε θιγμένος, θυμωμένος, στεναχωρημένος και προβληματισμένος. Γύρισε όμως ύστερα από τρεις εβδομάδες. Έπεσε στα γόνατα και ομολόγησε φωνάζοντας:

«Πάτερ μου είμαι αμαρτωλός, είμαι εγωιστής, μού ’παν ότι είμαι σκληρόκαρδος, θυμώδης, καβγατζής, γκρινιάρης, άδικος, κουτσομπόλης, υπερήφανος, καινοδοξής, λαίμαργος, φιλάργυρος, άπιστος, άθεος, και όλοι μηδενός εξαιρουμένου μου είπαν ότι είμαι υποκριτής, υποκριτής. Και αν πεθάνω σήμερα, δεν έχω κανένα ίχνος μετανοίας, διότι έρχεται η εβδομάδα της Κυριακής των Απόκρεω, και ξέρω ότι εκείνη την Κυριακή διαβάζεται το Ευαγγέλιον της Κρίσεως. Αν πεθάνω που θα πάω;»

Δυστυχώς αδελφοί μου οι πιο πολλοί από μας, άλλος λιγότερο και άλλος περισσότερο του μοιάζουν. Πιστεύουμε ότι είμαστε καλοί άνθρωποι και καλοί χριστιανοί αλλά κάνουμε μεγάλο λάθος. Η πορεία μας στη ζωή μας, όπως αυτή αποκαλύπτεται μέσα στην οικογένειά μας, και στον εργασιακό χώρο και στο κοινωνικό περιβάλλον, είναι απορία που ικανοποιεί τα πάθη, και δεν είναι πορεία για την κάθαρση, για τον αγιασμό, για την θέωση, για τη σωτηρία.

Όσο μας ξέρει ο σύντροφος της ζωής μας, δεν μας ξέρει κανένας άλλος. Και καμιά φορά όσο μας ξέρουν τα παιδιά μας, και όσο μας ξέρουν συνεργάτες, υφιστάμενοι και προϊστάμενοι, και τόσοι άλλοι, που γνωρίζουν και βλέπουν τα στραβά μας και τα λάθη μας και τις κακίες μας, τόσο καλά ώστε να ’μαστε εμείς τυφλοί και να μη τις βλέπουμε. Μόνον βέβαια ο Θεός γνωρίζει καλύτερα από όλους, ποιοι είμεθα στο βάθος του είναι μας, διότι Αυτός βλέπει μέσα στις καρδιές μας.

Μέσα μας βλέπει ο Θεός, δε βλέπει από έξω. Και δυστυχώς αν κρατήσουμε αυτήν την στάση, θα ακούσομε αυτό που είπε ο Κύριος: «Υπάγετε απ’ εμού κατηραμένοι, εις το πυρ το αιώνιον, το ητοιμασμένω τω διαβόλω και τοις αγγέλοις αυτού».

Γι’ αυτό και χρειάζεται η καθημερινή μετάνοια και η αλλαγή της ζωής μας, να μάθουμε από τώρα να ζούμε την αιώνια ζωή, ή μάλλον την ίδια ζωή που έζησε ο Χριστός πάνω στη γη. Να παλεύουμε λοιπόν και να αγωνιζόμαστε κάθε μέρα, για την κάθαρση, τον φωτισμό και τον αγιασμό. Και αν δεν τα καταφέρνουμε, άνθρωποι είμαστε, κι αν λυγίζουμε, και αν κάθε μέρα πέφτουμε, να σηκωνόμεθα, να ομολογούμε ότι είμεθα αμαρτωλοί, ότι είμεθα ένα τίποτα, μπροστά στον αγιασμό των αγίων και μπροστά στην Παναγιότητα και Παναγαθότητα του Αγίου μας Θεού. Πρέπει να μάθουμε να ζούμε όπως έζησε ο Χριστός, και πρέπει να μάθουμε να τρεφόμεθα καθημερινά από τον άρτον της ζωής, απ’ τον άρτον της δικαιοσύνης, απ’ τον καθημερινό άρτο της κάθε αρετής που πρέπει να καλλιεργούμε.

«Μακάριοι οι πεινώντες και διψώντες» είπε ο Κύριος, «ότι αυτοί χορτασθήσονται.» Και δεν είναι δικός μας μόνον χορτασμός. Είναι και χορτασμός του Χριστού, αλλά είναι και χορτασμός του πλησίον. Αν εγώ χορτάσω από αγάπη, θα την προσφέρω πρώτα στον Θεόν, και ύστερα θα την προσφέρω στον πλησίον. Θα αναπαυθεί ο Θεός, και θα πολλαπλασιάσει τις δωρεές Του μέσα μου. Και έτσι, δι’ αυτών των δωρεών, και δι’ αυτών των χαρισμάτων, θα χορτάσω με τον Άρτον του Χριστού, της δικαιοσύνης και της κάθε αρετής. Και τον πλησίον μου θα Τον ξεδιψάσω με τον λόγον του Θεού, τον αληθινόν λόγον, που θα βγαίνει μέσα από την πείρα της ζωής μου και της ζωής σου. Όχι μόνο από αυτά που διαβάζουμε, καλά είναι αυτά που διαβάζουμε, και καλώς πολύ καλά κάνουμε να τα μεταφέρουμε συχνά πυκνά στους δικούς μας, στα παιδιά μας, στις συντροφιές μας. Αλλά όμως πέρα από τις πείνες και τις δίψες τις υλικές που υπάρχουν γύρω μας, και τις οποίες κατά τον άλφα ή βήτα τρόπο ας πούμε ότι καλύπτονται είτε από μας, είτε από την κοινωνική πρόνοια, αυτό είναι καθήκον όμως, υπάρχει πείνα και δίψα για αληθινό λόγο Θεού, και τον λόγον του Θεού ΔΕΝ τον συζητάμε στα σπίτια μας, δεν τον συζητάμε μεταξύ μας στις συντροφιές μας, δεν τον συζητάμε τον λόγον του Θεού και τους βίους των Αγίων και τα γεγονότα που περιγράφονται στα γεροντικά όταν συναντόμεθα μεταξύ μας, φιλικά απ’ το ένα σπίτι στο άλλο. Θα πείς, μας κοροϊδεύουν. Να μας κοροϊδέψουν αλλά εμείς να πούμε τον λόγον του Θεού.

Και ο αγώνας ο δικός μας, και των κληρικών και των λαϊκών, είναι να ομοιάσουμε τον Χριστό. Όλες οι ευχές της Θείας Λειτουργίας, αν τις προσέξτε καλά, γιατί σαν εδώθησαν προς μελέτη, οι ευχές αυτές της Θείας Λειτουργίας, με πάρα πολύ καλή ανάλυση και μέσα από την πράξη της ζωής, αγίων ανθρώπων, αγίων πιστών, αγίων απλών εφημερίων, κληρικών και ασκητών, σας εδόθη η ερμηνεία της Θείας Λειτουργίας. Αν λοιπόν προσέξουμε καλά, θα δούμε ότι ο σκοπός είναι ο αγιασμός της ψυχής μας, είναι να χορταίνουμε από τον ίδιο τον Χριστό, και αυτό που περισσεύει, να το δίνουμε στους άλλους.

Έχω αγάπη; Θα σας δώσω.

Δεν έχω; Δε θα σας δώσω.

Έχετε αγάπη; Θα τη δώσετε.

Έχετε υπομονή; Θα τη δώσετε, κάνοντάς την.

Έχετε πραότητα και ειρήνη; Θα τη δώσετε!

Δηλαδή έχετε χάρη Θεού; Θα δώσετε.

Έχουμε Χάρη; Θα δώσουμε.

Δεν έχουμε; Δεν θα δώσουμε.

Μας παρασέρνουν πότε το ένα πάθος και πότε το άλλο, και έτσι λοιπόν αντί να προσφέρουμε την ταπείνωση και την πραότητα που ζητάει ο Θεός από μας, εμείς προσφέρουμε αγριότητα, θυμό, νεύρα, αντιλογία, αντιρρήσεις, και χαλάμε την ειρήνη του σπιτιού μας. Και ξεχνάμε αυτό που μας είπε ο Πανάγιος Θεός «μάθετε απ’ εμού, ότι πράος ειμί και ταπεινός τη καρδία και ευρήσετε ανάπαυσιν ταις ψυχαίς ημών». Δεν έχουμε ειρήνη μέσα μας. Δεν έχουμε ανάπαυση. Δεν έχουμε γαλήνη, όχι επειδή είμαστε άρρωστοι, – οι αρρώστιες βέβαια είναι αλήθεια ότι προσφέρουν ταραχή, δεν αφήνουν ήσυχο και το σώμα, οι πολλές και ποικίλες που έχουμε – αλλά όμως όταν υπάρχει μέσα μας ειρήνη, η ειρήνη του Θεού που υπερέχει, κάθε σκέψη και κάθε νουν που φτάνει μέχρι τον ουρανό, αυτή η ειρήνη ειρηνεύει και το σώμα, ειρηνεύει τις αισθήσεις, ειρηνεύει τους λογισμούς και άμα αυτή η ειρήνη πλημμυρίσει την ψυχή μας ύστερα από προσευχή, η ειρήνη επικρατεί και στο σπίτι. Η ειρήνη επικρατεί και στο περιβάλλον. Η ειρήνη επικρατεί και την ώρα που οδηγείς το αυτοκίνητο. «Μάθετε απ’ εμού λοιπόν ότι πράος ειμί και ταπεινός τη καρδία».

“Γυμνός και δε με ντύσατε ή με ντύσατε”; Και κανένας ντύνεται με αρετές, δεν ντύνεται κανένας μονάχα δίνοντας κάλτσες και παπούτσια και ρούχα, χρειάζονται και αυτά, διότι όπως μας λένε οι στατιστικές και οι πολιτικοί μας, ένα πολύ μεγάλο μέρος του Ελληνικού λαού ζει κάτω από τα όρια της φτώχειας, και αυτοί έχουν τις ανάγκες μας, αλλά όμως μαζί με το φαγητό, μαζί με το ψωμί και το νερό, μαζί με τη θέρμανση, μαζί με τον ρουχισμό και μαζί με τα πρώτα είδη ανάγκης, τα φάρμακα και τα λοιπά, χρειάζεται να του προσφέρουμε την αγάπη της καρδιάς μας. Να του προσφέρουμε τον λόγον του Θεού, να του προσφέρουμε αυτό το μάννα, που έθρεψε εμάς, να το βγάλουμε απ’ την καρδιά μας, για να του δώσουμε και αυτόν να χορτάσει. Αυτό το δίνουμε; Αυτό είναι το ερωτηματικό.

Το να τηρούμε πέντε δέκα εντολές και να νομίζουμε ότι είμαστε κάτι επειδή πηγαίνουμε στην Εκκλησία, δεν λέει πολλά πράγματα. Πρέπει να έχουμε αληθινή μετάνοια, και να την διδάσκουμε και έμπρακτα στους άλλους. Και την αληθινή μετάνοια δεν την βλέπω ούτε στον εαυτόν μου, αλλά ούτε και στους περισσοτέρους απ’ αυτούς που έρχονται να εξομολογηθούν.

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