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JULY, 2007  VOL. XLI, No. 7 (1574)


 1. WHAT IF?
      3. DONATIONS

We should be unyielding towards sin, because if it steals our consent even once, it becomes our true master. A suitable example, which exposes the deceitful and tyrannical character of sin, is the method with which Semiramis seized the kigdom and became an empress. Semiramis succeeded through various affectionate gestures to persuade her husband, Nino, king of Assyria, to step down from his reign for just one day and to hand over to her the scepter of the kingdom. But what was the empress' first action? She commanded that her husband Nino be executed in order to secure for herself life-long power.

St. Nektarios of Pentapolis V. I, Repentance and Confession.

    By Joseph Bragg

What if a boy grew up in the mountains of West Virginia and never knew of any Christian Faith except the various brands of Protestantism that permeated the West Virginia hills and hollows?
       And what if that boy, while growing up never heard of the Orthodox Church until he left home, moved to a big city and began to discover a whole new world that he never knew existed before?
       And what if his discovery of the Orthodox Faith was made entirely through reading church history and the writings of the Apostolic Fathers, the Ecumenical Councils, and other early Saints and he had no contact with any Orthodox people or any Orthodox Church? 
       And what if, having learned the Orthodox Faith entirely from reading the Saints and the Fathers, he now discovers there are Orthodox churches all across America and the world?
       Then, as he learns about these various Orthodox churches, he discovers that some are called Old Calendarists or Traditionalists and some are called New Calendarists or World Orthodoxy.  As he investigates further, he discovers that the faith and practices of the Old Calendarists look and sound just like the Orthodox Faith he read about in the Fathers and the Saints.   And he discovers that much of the faith and practices of the New Calendarists look and sound different from what he read in the Saints and the Fathers. 
       Now the question is, to which of the two should he go to find and embrace the Orthodox Faith?
       The one looks and sounds and feels like the Orthodoxy he read about.  The other, while appearing similar in some respects looks and sounds very different.  In the one, he senses something that he can’t understand or explain.  It is a certain spirit or atmosphere, a devotion to the Saints and Fathers and a zeal for piety, holy Tradition, and truth that he also discovered in the Saints and the Fathers.  In that which is called World Orthodoxy, he doesn’t sense this same spirit but in fact hears, and sees, and reads many things in their publications and from their bishops that contradict the spirit and teachings of the Fathers and the Saints and the Councils.
       In the course of his discoveries, he is told that the Old Calendarists are schismatics while World Orthodoxy is the official Orthodox Church.
       So how does he decide?  Does he choose that which is “official” or does he choose that which looks and sounds and feels like the Faith of the Saints and the Fathers?
      WHAT IF?
       What if the following correspondence took place between an Orthodox Christian and his Roman Catholic friend who is seeking for truth and is considering converting to the Orthodox Faith?
       Letter from the Roman Catholic seeker to his Orthodox friend.
       Dear _____________,
       I pray this letter finds you and your family in good health. 
       As you have encouraged me to do, I am continuing to explore the teachings of the Orthodox Faith and compare them with the teachings of my own Roman Catholic Faith.  Since our last conversation I have read a lot and learned quite a bit of Orthodox history, which has raised some questions in my mind, that I hope you will answer for me.  If I have misunderstood or misrepresented something, please let me know.
       In reading the history of the Church I see that there were some major disagreements between the East and Rome that lead up to what has been termed the Great Schism.  From my reading it appears that Rome had begun to teach some things that the East considered totally unacceptable and incompatible with the Orthodox teachings such as the authority of the pope over all of Christendom as the Vicar of Christ and all that this dogma implies for salvation, along with the addition of the Filioque in the Creed.  In time other differences surfaced, including the Immaculate Conception, salvation by the special merits of the saints, created vs. uncreated Grace, purgatory, and others. 
       From my reading I see that many whom the Orthodox now honor as fathers and confessors opposed these things as taught by Rome.  Eventually, East and West went their separate ways with each one condemning and excommunicating the other.  I have been trying with all sincerity to search out the truth to determine who really preserved the Apostolic Faith unchanged.
       The more I read, the more it becomes clear to me that the fathers, confessors and councils of the East preserved the Faith unchanged, while a number of things in the West were undergoing change and resulted in different and new dogmas, even the dogma of salvation, itself.  I find myself agreeing more and more with the Orthodox fathers and councils who condemned the new dogmas of Rome as heretical, pronounced anathemas against these teachings, and excommunicated anyone who held these teachings. 
       I have been amazed as I read the lives of such Eastern saints and fathers as Gregory Palamas, Photius, Germanos, Mark of Ephesus and others to see how they refused union with Rome and taught that the faithful should flee from any communion with the Latins and even the Orthodox who are Latin minded. 
       Seeing how things did change in the West and how the fathers of the East fought and gave their lives to oppose what they saw as the “heresies of the Latins,” I have been moving more towards the feeling that I should leave the Roman Catholic Church and start attending the Orthodox Church.
       But just this week, I ran across some things that raised a whole new set of questions for me and have me perplexed.  This is where I hope you can help me.
       I was reading about Orthodox participation in dialogue with the pope and his representatives.  I have learned a number of things that I wonder about, such as:
       - An Orthodox bishop has lifted the anathemas against Rome that were once imposed by those who are still honored by the Orthodox as saints, fathers and Ecumenical councils;
       - An Orthodox bishop has announced that the pope of Rome is recognized as the bishop of Christendom while the Patriarch of Constantinople is perceived more as the bishop of the East.
       - Many Orthodox now seem to accept Rome as your “sister Church” and have announced that the sacraments of the Roman Catholic Church are just as valid as those of the Orthodox.  Now Roman Catholics do not need to be baptized to be received into the Orthodox Church.  In fact the hierarchy on both sides have agreed to cease from trying to win people from one side to the other since both sides are recognized as the “two lungs” of the Church.
       - Orthodox bishops have announced that Orthodox Christians can receive the Eucharist in Roman Catholic Churches and vice versa under certain circumstances.  This is clearly an acknowledgement of the Roman Catholic priesthood, baptism, chrismation and Eucharist.
       - I read about your Orthodox Patriarch, who was presented as the leader and spokesperson for all of Orthodoxy, and how he participated in the Mass with our pope and how they exchanged the Kiss of Peace, which indicates full Eucharistic union.  I have heard that joint prayers and Mass between Orthodox and Roman Catholics take place quite often.
       - I have read about recent meetings between East and West dealing with the Filioque.  My understanding is that they have essentially concluded that the uproar over the Filioque in the past was due to misunderstandings and they agreed that we all mean essentially the same thing whether we insert the Filioque or not.  (I was glad to see that they have come to the same conclusions about the differences between the Orthodox and the Monophysites as well.)
       What I am getting at is this.  All of these new developments are very encouraging but they also raise some questions for which I need answers.
       They are encouraging because I think it would be wonderful if we could just all be one and stop the bickering and divisions.  I really don’t want to leave my Roman Catholic parish.  I love our priest and all my family attends there.  Our priest is really wonderful and he sounds very Orthodox in what he says and believes. 
       In view of all these recent developments and agreements, why should I leave the Roman Catholic Church to become Orthodox?  It seems that we are practically one already and if our bishops can worship together and share the Kiss of Peace, and if our sacraments are all the same what really is the difference? 
       I recently talked with a Roman Catholic priest who was going through the same questions I was going through and was considering becoming Orthodox.  He visited an Orthodox monastery in the Northeast and was amazed to find that they venerate Roman Catholic saints there and the monks told him there was no reason for him to leave the Roman Catholic Church to become Orthodox.  I assume all of this is known and approved by their bishop.
       On the other hand, when I think about it, I am perplexed about what the Orthodox fathers, confessors and councils said about all of this.  I know that our Roman Catholic Church still holds to the idea of the supremacy and infallibility of the pope as the Vicar of Christ on earth.  I know we still use the Filioque, baptize by sprinkling or pouring, believe in the Immaculate Conception, purgatory, and other things that have been points of disagreement in the past.  I really have not seen anything to indicate that we have changed any of the dogmas that once separated us from the Orthodox.  It seems that the agreements and unions are now being accomplished on the basis that the disagreements of the past were due to misunderstandings.  I am reading things that suggest that the fathers of the past were blinded by the culture of their day, a culture that was more barbaric and less loving.  Our leaders today seem to have better insights into some of these issues than the saints of the past did.
       My only concern here is this.  If the saints, fathers, confessors and councils of the past acted out of ignorance, blindness, lovelessness or lack of understanding, where was the Holy Spirit guiding the Church in all of this?  And if the fathers were wrong concerning the Monophysites and Latins, how can we trust anything they taught?  Maybe they were also wrong or in darkness about the Arians, the Iconoclasts, the dogmas of the Trinity, the Sacraments, the Church and even salvation itself.  And if they were wrong and caused all these years of division and conflict needlessly, how can we still honor them as bearers of the Grace of God?
       I hope you can help me out of my dilemma by answering two questions for me.  Why should I leave the Roman Catholic Church to become Orthodox and how can we trust anything the Fathers taught if we now know they misunderstood many of these issues?
       I hope we can get together soon for some more discussions.
       Yours truly,

        Another Letter from the Roman Catholic seeker to his Orthodox friend.

       Dear _____________,
       Thanks for your quick reply to my last rambling letter and my questions.  I’m leaving tomorrow on my trip but wanted to get this off before I left, hopefully to have a reply from you when I return
       The comments from various ones in the chat group that you copied and shared with me are both helpful and hard to understand.  If I understand them correctly, several seem to be saying that they don’t agree with what the Ecumenical Patriarch and others involved in Ecumenism are saying and doing.  It even sounded as though they were saying that they consider many of the ecumenical statements and activities by ecumenical bishops to be un-Orthodox.  Some of these comments seemed to say you should just ignore these bishops who are teaching contrary to the Orthodox Faith.  It doesn’t seem to matter if you are in communion with bishops who say and teach and do things that are un-Orthodox.  Maybe I’m misunderstanding them.  
       If what they are saying is true, I am wondering why I couldn’t just remain a Roman Catholic and say that I disagree with my bishop and even the pope, so long as I hold the Orthodox Faith in my own heart and if my priest is Orthodox.  I could even say the Orthodox version of the Creed in my own heart during Mass and ignore what the bishops say or do.  How would this be any different from them being in communion with bishops who call themselves Orthodox but teach contrary to the Orthodox Faith?   It seems that I remember from my reading that some of the Orthodox fathers taught that even if your faith is true that you are still in error if you are in communion with others who are in heresy.  Maybe I misunderstood but I think this is also what you have been telling me. 
       So if what some in the chat group are saying is true, my question remains.   Why do I need to leave my Roman Catholic parish since it seems permissible to be in communion with those who hold false or un-Orthodox teachings so long as you don’t hold those teachings yourself?
       Let’s plan a visit when I return.
       Yours truly,
      WHAT IF?
       We often debate the pros and cons of whether the Orthodox should be a part of the efforts of the WCC and dialogue with Rome.  Some say yes and some say no. 
       But I have never heard anyone talk about what would happen if the efforts of ecumenism actually succeeded.  Has anyone even thought about it?  What if the World Council of Churches actually succeeded in an agreed union between all the participating groups?
       Imagine that on January 15, 2008 an announcement is made that the participants of the WCC have all agreed to accept the Orthodox Faith and will now be called Orthodox.  In addition, Rome has agreed to set aside the Filioque and the Supremacy of the Pope and will now be under the Orthodox umbrella.  (Does anyone really expect such a thing to happen?  If not, what are the expectations of the ecumenical movement?)
       So now the WCC Protestants and the Roman Catholics have all agreed to be Orthodox.  What now.  Who is it that we are talking about?  In addition to the Romans, it is primarily the most liberal of all Protestants – The United Presbyterians, the United Methodists, the Episcopalians, United Church of Christ and the most liberal of the Lutherans.  So now we have a union with these groups.  Who is our union with?  Groups that are spiritually and morally bankrupt.  Groups that are filled with people who deny the divinity of Christ, the Virgin Birth, the Resurrection, heaven, hell, and the very concept of Salvation except as social reform.  Many in these groups do not accept the Bible as the inspired Word of God.   Some approve gay marriages and have gay and women clergy.  We are now in union with all of this?  Now what?  Does anyone really think all of this would be cleared out and everyone would become Orthodox as the saints and fathers taught it?  What would such a union mean?
       Can we not see from this simple illustration that the very idea of the WCC concepts of ecumenism is absolutely absurd, totally unrealistic and completely un-Orthodox?  It should enable us to see clearly that such a union would not mean the conversion of anyone to True Orthodoxy but only to a false and contrived external form of union.  It should make it clear that the very idea and concept of union as sought after in the WCC and in dialogue with Rome could not possibly lead to the conversion of their millions of members to the Orthodox Faith.  And if this is so, then what would it lead to?   
       At best, it would be a mere organizational or jurisdictional union.  What would this accomplish?  Of course, we all know that even this kind of union will not happen.  We all know that it is only the Orthodox who are changing and compromising and moving more towards the spiritual and moral bankruptcy of the rest.  We all know that any union will be the result of the Orthodox agreeing to a watered down and compromised version of Orthodoxy.  So why do the ecumenists keep pushing for union?  Is it not because they themselves no longer hold the Orthodox Faith as it was held by the saints and the fathers?  Which of the saints and the fathers would have desired such a union as is possible within the WCC and with the Latins? 
       Why is it that none of the Ecumenists, Orthodox or otherwise, are interested in seeking union with those Evangelical Protestants who sincerely believe in the Virgin Birth, the deity of Christ, the Resurrection and the hope of eternal life and who sincerely with all their hearts seek to know, love and obey God but who refuse to have anything to do with the spiritual and moral bankruptcy of the WCC?
       These things alone should be enough to end all debates about whether or not we should participate in efforts for union with the WCC and the Latins.  What if we actually got it?

I believe in one God, the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and
earth and of all things, visible and invisible.
        The Creed sets forth the Faith of the Church in the one true God revealed through the Prophets and Apostles as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, one God in three Persons, one in essence, unconfused and undivided – a profound mystery. In particular this first article of the Creed confesses God the Father as the Godhead of the Holy Trinity, Who is the creator and source of all things, visible and invisible. In this article, the Church rejects any idea of the possibility of any other God, or that the world is the result of blind fate or evolutionary chance without divine creation, order, and purpose.
        And in one Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, the Only-Begotten, begotten of the Father before all ages; Light of Light, true God of true God; begotten, not made; being of one essence with the Father; by Whom all things were made.
        Some began to teach that Christ was not fully and truly God but a creation of God the Father. The Church used the words of this article to leave no doubt as to the Church’s teaching that Christ is begotten, not made, and eternally exists as the second person of the Holy Trinity. He is of the same essence as God the Father, and with the Father and the Holy Spirit created all things in the beginning.
        Who for us men, and for our salvation, came down from the Heavens, and was incarnate of the Holy Spirit and the Virgin Mary, and became man.
        In this article the meaning and nature of Christ’s mission to earth is confessed. He came to save or rescue humanity from sin, death, and the devil. God the eternal WORD became incarnate, i.e., took on human flesh and became truly and fully man in order to partake of our nature, bear our sins, and destroy death so that we could become partakers of His divine and eternal nature. The Incarnation was the result of the conception by the Holy Spirit in the womb of the Virgin Mary. Thus, Christ is confessed to be the God-Man. He is God by the Holy Spirit, and man by the flesh of Mary. Anything less than this God-Man cannot be our Savior. The Church honors the Virgin Mary as one who is “blessed among women” because she bore God in the flesh. The Church does not worship her as God but venerates her as the first of the Redeemed and the example of how we must receive Christ in humility, faith, and obedience in order for Him to be born in us. Holding firmly to the Virgin Birth, the Church calls Mary by the Greek term Theotokos, meaning God-bearer, and in this way guards the teaching that the Christ born in the flesh of the Virgin was and is truly God enfleshed or incarnate.
And was crucified for us under Pontius Pilate, suffered and was buried.
        Here the historical reality of Christ is confessed. The Church teaches that Christ is not just a nice story but that He really existed in time and place as recorded in the Gospels and as confirmed also in secular history. Furthermore, he died a real death. He truly died and was buried, having suffered on the Cross as the Lamb of God. In Him our sins were nailed to the Cross, and humanity and all of creation was redeemed. By this love and mercy He draws us to be reconciled with God the Father and makes it possible for us to be reunited with God both now and in eternity. In the Orthodox Faith, this is the essence of the meaning of the Incarnation and our salvation.
And arose again on the third day according to the Scriptures.
        The Church believes in a real bodily resurrection. As man, Christ died. As God, Christ’s body did not suffer corruption in the grave but arose by His own will and power on the third day, opening heaven for humanity. Through union with Christ’s death and resurrection, we have the hope of resurrection to eternal life. As the Church chants many times each year at Pascha (the Feast of the Resurrection), Christ is risen from the dead, by death hath He trampled down death, and on those in the graves hath He bestowed life.
And ascended into the Heavens, and sitteth at the right hand of God the Father.
        The Church teaches that Christ, in His glorified and resurrected body, ascended back to the right hand of God the Father where He reigns as our Mediator and High Priest. As God, He is omnipresent and therefore is never absent from His Church on earth, even as He reigns in the Heavens.
And shall come again, with glory, to judge both the living and the dead; Whose Kingdom shall have no end.
        The Church teaches that Christ will come again at the end of this age, at a time known only to God, and that everyone will stand before Him to be judged. Those who have been united to His death and resurrection will enter eternal life; those who have rejected His Mercy and lived in opposition to it will suffer the eternal pain and consequence of sin.
        And in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the Giver of life; Who proceedeth from the Father; Who with the Father and the Son together is worshipped and glorified; Who spake by the Prophets.
        The Church teaches that the Holy Spirit is the third Person of the Holy Trinity Who proceeds from the Father and is also worshipped and glorified as God. As the Lord and Giver of life, the Holy Spirit creates and sanctifies (makes holy) the Body of Christ – the Church, through the means God has appointed.
In One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church.
        The Church teaches in accordance with Holy Scripture that there is one Church or Body of Christ. This Church is understood not merely as an invisible or hoped for dream but as something that is real, visible, and present wherever the Apostolic Faith is held and lived. This one Church is made holy by its union with Christ. It is Catholic, meaning the Church possesses the fullness of the Faith in all places and at all times. It is Apostolic, in that the Church holds the Apostolic Faith and is one in Spirit, truth, and life with the Church throughout the ages and the Church in Heaven. The bond of love with the Church in heaven moves us to ask for their intercessions, even as we ask members of the Church on earth to pray for us.
        We believe that the saints in heaven continually behold the face of God and intercede for the Church on earth.
        I confess one baptism for the remission of sins.
        The Church teaches that we are made members of the Body of Christ by the New Birth in the washing of regeneration and the renewal of the Holy Spirit given  in Holy Baptism by triple immersion.
        Since Baptism is God’s gift of grace to us rather than our work, obedience, or mere profession of faith, this gift of grace is given also to infants. After Baptism, the Gift of the Holy Spirit is given in the Church through Divine Anointing even as it was done at the hands of the Apostles in the Acts of the Apostles. This Divine life and union with God is then nourished and maintained in the Church through a personal love, faith, and participation in repentance, Confession, and the Eucharist, together with a struggle to overcome sin and to acquire the virtues of being like Christ through prayer, fasting, and good works. The Church believes that the Eucharist is the true Body and Blood of Christ given for the forgiveness and healing of sins and for union with Christ’s death and resurrection.
I look for the resurrection of the dead and the life of the age to come.
        Here the Church confesses Her faith and hope in the eternal promises that Christ has given to His Church – the outcome of our union with Him in His Church.
        As can be seen from this summary of the Creed, various Christian denominations hold much in common with the Orthodox Church but differ in many important ways. In addition to what has already been summarized, here are some further explanations of these differences.
        The Orthodox Church does not make a distinction between the Orthodox Faith and the Christian Faith, believing them to be one and the same. The Church does not make a separation between Christ and the Church, believing that the Church is the Body of Christ, that Christ is the Head of the Body, and the two cannot be separated.
        The Orthodox Church does not consider itself to be one of many  denominations but rather the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church of Christ. This is not a statement of pride but a confession of faith and an historical reality. The Church does not make judgments about the eternal destiny of anyone since God alone knows and judges the heart of each individual. The Church does, however, make judgments about truth and error, as the Apostles and the Church have done from the beginning.
        For the first 1,000 years of Church history, there were five major centers of Christianity: Jerusalem, Antioch, Alexandria, Constantinople and Rome. The first four were in the East, Rome was in the West. In the year 1054, after many years of conflict and growing apart, the bishop of Rome parted ways with the remaining bishops in the East; thus, the Eastern Orthodox Church and the Roman Catholic Church. All the bishops of the East rejected the papal teaching that the Pope was the head of the Church on earth.
        The Church had always held that each bishop presides only in his own diocese, that no one bishop can rule over all the other bishops, and that Christ alone is the head of the Church.
        The Church at Rome also changed some of the words and meaning of the Nicene Creed. The Eastern Church said the teachings of the Church cannot be changed. Over the years, the bishop of Rome introduced numerous other changes and alterations to the Faith including adding the doctrines of the infallibility of the pope, the immaculate conception, the merit of works and indulgences for salvation, purgatory and others. Rome was greatly affected by the Western philosophical  systems of rationalism and scholasticism introduced by Aquinas, Anselm, Augustine, and others, resulting in a different understanding about the Church and the doctrine of salvation, itself.
        Some five hundred years after Rome’s break with the East, Martin Luther, a German monk, rebelled against many of Rome’s abuses. But instead of returning to the Orthodox Faith that had never changed, he gave birth to the Protestant reformation that also introduced numerous other changes to the Apostolic Faith. The Lutheran Reformers did communicate with the Orthodox Church at the time but then decided to follow their own interpretations of Scripture.

Taken from the new publication of the same name by the Holy Orthodox Church in North America. The entire pamphlet is available from St. Nectarios Press
The Kaschkadajews, St. Petersburg, FL; Anonymous, LIC, NY; Christos Daskalakis, Burlingame, CA; Patricia Gregoroff, Erie, PA;  Mr. & Mrs. James Vlachos, Roslindale, MA;  James & Barbara Jackson, Midlothian, VA; Evanthia Vardal, Wethersfield, CT; Mr. & Mrs. G. Kent, Thousand Oaks, CA (2); Pantaleon Kolchev, Sacramento, CA; Eleni Bizoukas, Calumet City, IL; Pantaleon Kolchev, Sacramento, CA; Anna Reishman, Central Point, OR; Anonymous, Portland, OR; Anastasia McIntyre, Roslindal,e MA; Joseph Bragg, Smyrna, TN; Patrick & Daniele Battstone, Roslindale, MA; Lakis Boulougouris, Mississauga, Canada; William Anagnostopulos, Johnstown, NY; Patricia Gregoroff, Erie, PA; Anonymous, Albuquerque, NM; John Alexon, Pittstown, PA; Theodorea Geokezas, Seattle, WA;  Pantaleon Kolchev, Sacramento, CA;  Anonymous, Pennsylvania

Oregon(4), California (2), Erie, PA (Memorial), Oregon (3); San Gabriel, CA (2); Little Rock, AR; Albuquerque, NM (2)

Anonymous, Seattle, WA; Zoe Papayiannis, Santa Monica, CA

(CRE) THE CREED  Several articles from The True Vine including “The Historical Setting of the Creed” and ”The First Ecumenical Council” by Holy Transfiguration Monastery, and “The Creed” by the Rt. Rev. Michael Gelsinger. A valuable compilation in one booklet.  52pp.  Paper  d$3.00 
(JPM) THE JESUS PRAYER AND ME  by Vasiliki Tisgas-Fotinis, illus. By Joanne Venetos Dallis.  The first book written for young children about the Jesus Prayer, this full color book has a simple text about ways children can remember God and say the Jesus Prayer throughout the day. With helpful notes for parents.   Hard cover  28pp.  e$13.00
(AWB) SAINT BASIL  ASCETICAL WORKS trans. by Sr. M. Monica Wagner. Contains several ascetical discourses, the Morals, the Long Rules, Concerning Faith, Concerning Baptism and similar works.  Vol. 9 of The Fathers of the Church series.  Subject and scriptural index, 525 pp.  Paper  f$40.00

St. Nectarios Press