Talk to Your Father

Snap the Whip by Winslow Homer, 1872

Snap the Whip by Winslow Homer,  1872

Snap the Whip by Winslow Homer, 1872


Editor’s Note: There is much wise advice in the essay below by Anthony Esolen. The only misgiving I have is that many young boys don’t have a father to approach, or if they do the father may not understand what to do or say. This is a statement about our culture, not the value of the essay but it points out that many young boys who are lost are not able to find the direction and counsel they need. —Fr. Johannes Jacobse

Source: Crisis Magazine

By Anthony Esolen

In a recent article for Crisis, I took to task Fr. James Martin, S.J., for calling it a cause for celebration, when a teenage boy declared to his father, on Thanksgiving, that he was a homosexual. I said that it would be the worst day of the father’s life, because he would know that he and his son had failed as a tandem to negotiate the rough rapids of the boy’s puberty, and he would also be quite sure that his son had already acted upon his confused feelings. The evil habit would already have reached its tentacles into the boy’s flesh and soul.

A good priest then wrote to me to warn me that my words might be misconstrued. He feared that some boy might read them and then be afraid to speak to his father about his sexual doubts and misgivings and confused feelings. The priest is quite correct.

Let me now reassure any boy or young man who may read these words. Talk to your father. Do not talk to a gay man or to your school counselor. If the counselor is a woman, she will know as much about your feelings as I know about being pregnant. If the counselor is a man, he likely has stock in the whole sexual breakdown of our time. Do not talk to your friends, whom you cannot trust to keep your words to themselves. They are, after all, young, as you are, and prone to give way to the impulse of the moment. Talk to your father.

 Think of how easily and stupidly your body is aroused. You may be sitting in an odd position. You may be horsing around with the dog on the floor. You may be wrestling with your kid brother. You may be taking a shower. Almost anything can trip the trigger. It means nothing.

But you are in the locker room and you steal a shy look at the kid with the muscles. Big deal. You think you are unusual? Every single boy in that locker room has done the same. They still do. You just don’t notice it, and there’s no reason why you should. You feel some misgivings, though. Let me try to explain what is going on.

Every single culture in the history of the world has been built upon three forms of love. The first is what we have in common with all the animals: it is the most powerful of our natural bonds. It is the love of a mother for her child. The second love gives the first love a haven, and is blessed by God in a special way; it is the love without which children themselves would not exist. That is the love of man and woman in marriage, raised to the height of glory in the marriage of the eternal bridegroom Christ, with his bride, the Church.

The third, we are apt to overlook and neglect. It is the bond of brother and brother. It is not foundational, as is that of mother and child; it is not an image of the eternal, as is that of bride and groom. It is, however, the bond without which no culture comes into existence in the first place, and then survives. It is the bond that builds bridges, tunnels through mountains, raises walls, drains swamps, clears fields, drills wells, fights for the homeland, erects churches and temples, strings the nerves of commerce and power across a continent, and makes a people into a people rather than a confusion of squabbling families.

Is it celebrated in Scripture? It hardly needed to be; it was so taken for granted everywhere. But the answer is yes. We have what a wise friend of mine long ago set before my attention, the “forgotten icon,” the band of brothers we know as Christ and the apostles. Jesus was under no illusions about male perfection. He calls Peter “Satan,” he expresses impatience with Philip for being so slow to understand him, he rebukes James and John—to whom he has given the jaunty and somewhat unflattering nickname, “Sons of Thunder”—for their ambition; and we need not bother to discuss the hard words he has for the important men of his time. Meanwhile his words to women, though they are frank, are always gentle, even when he tests the faith of the Canaanite woman. Yet Jesus chose men for his apostles.

You see, young man, that Jesus himself was a man, and was drawn to the band of brothers, just as he was drawn to every other good thing in our lives: to the flowers of the desert, to happy feasts, to the love of a kind father, to the sacred songs of his forefathers. Let us then pierce through the confusion of your adolescence and the treachery of our times, and see realities again. What Jesus experienced in his humanity—the boy’s attraction to the male band; recall how the boy Jesus remained behind in Jerusalem to trade questions and answers with the learned men?—every boy and young man experiences. Every one of them; it is as natural as breathing. You are not different from any boy or young man in this regard. We are all the same.

But your feelings are powerful. Well, flimsy bonds do not move mountains. Of course they are powerful. The football player you admire, he has those feelings too. But in his case, the feelings are satisfied by a powerful and normal and healthy object. He has his football squad, and that both affirms him as a man and clears up his confusions. The difference between you and him is not in the kind of feelings you have, but in his good fortune, to have had those feelings directed aright and satisfied in a way that builds up his identity as a man.

Take yourself out of your particular situation. Imagine that you’ve grown up in what people would have found normal at most times and in most places. Forget football, baseball, and other sports that require some special skill that you may not have. Imagine that you live on a farm. All your life long you have been out in the fields with boys and men, working, laughing, quarreling, sweating, eating, playing. You have never been in doubt for a moment about your sex and your belonging with others of your kind, because that’s all you have known. You would have the same ordinary feelings that other boys have, yet they wouldn’t be a source of pain or fear. They couldn’t be. Every day you will have been affirmed as a masculine being, just from the work you do. You could have been born with exactly the same genetic makeup, but in that world, a harsh but healthy world, you would have had no doubts about what you were.

Be assured. You are the same, you are one of us.

And your sexual feelings? Your arousal? Meaningless, and transitory, unless you put the feelings into action. Don’t do that. Think: “This feeling is stupid.” Do not take it too seriously. Some people cannot walk across a bridge without thinking of doing something stupid. Meaningless, and transitory. Your sexual feelings during the teenage years are on overdrive. A picture of Michelangelo’s David will set you off. Big deal. Be patient. Do not do anything sexual with anybody. By all means stay away from porn. On the whole matter of purity, see a good priest and take his advice. About your feelings, don’t let them preoccupy you. Consider it a part of growing up.

But if you are worried, talk to your father. If you have done something dumb, something you are ashamed of, by all means go to your father. You may be astounded by the old man’s wisdom. He will have seen a lot more than you will believe. Go to him. Do not go to the school counselor; do not go to any adult who has a vested interest in your failing. Talk to your father.

And remember what I say. Your real need is for masculine affirmation, so often expressed in a broadly physical way—think of a big bunch of coal miners showering after a day under the earth. This is ordinary. Friendship, that is the need. Your father can help you there too. Talk to him.

I will have advice for you too, father, and you, older brothers. More to come.

Editor’s note: Pictured above is “Snap the Whip” painted by Winslow Homer in 1872.

Professor Esolen is a teaching fellow and writer in residence at Thomas More College of the Liberal Arts, in Merrimack, New Hampshire. Dr. Esolen is a regular contributor to Crisis Magazine and the author of many books, including The Politically Incorrect Guide to Western Civilization (Regnery Press, 2008); Ten Ways to Destroy the Imagination of Your Child (ISI Books, 2010) and Reflections on the Christian Life (Sophia Institute Press, 2013). His most recent books are Reclaiming Catholic Social Teaching (Sophia Institute Press, 2014); Defending Marriage (Tan Books, 2014); Life Under Compulsion (ISI Books, 2015); and Out of the Ashes (Regnery, 2017).

The Role of the Bishop of Rome in the Communion of the Churches in the First Millenium

The Joint International Committee for the Orthodox-Roman Catholic Theological Dialogue (15-22.9.2016)

The Joint International Committee for the Orthodox-Roman Catholic Theological Dialogue (15-22.9.2016)

Source: Orthodox Ethos

By Protopresbyter Anastasios Gotsopoulos

The 14th Meeting of the Joint International Committee for the Orthodox-Roman Catholic Theological Dialogue in Chieti, Italy (15-22.9.2016). Were the Western Orthodox Fathers ignored in the committee’s search for a common understanding of the role of the Pope in the First Millenium?

FROM THE CAREFUL STUDY OF THE ACTS AND DECISIONS OF THE ECUMENICAL COUNCILS we can define with certainty the place of the Church of Rome and her bishop within the communion of all the local Churches during the era of the Ecumenical Synods:

A. The Church and Bishop of Rome

  1. The increased prestige and exceptional honor which was conferred upon the Church of Rome is clear. Consequently the Church also recognized a primacy of honor and as the first see in the order of that which was associated with the exceptional dignity of the Patriarchal Thrones. The reasons are clear: a) It was the Church of “glorious Rome”, the capital of the empire, b) it was active in spiritual life and carried out a pastoral care for the local Churches which surrounded it and c) it was the only city in the Latin west which had received the presence and preaching of the First Leaders of the Choir of the Apostles who had been martyred there and whose tombs were located in Rome.
  2. In particular, the Church of Rome could boast of its apostolic lineage from the “leaders of the Apostolic choir” [Sts. Peter and Paul] which came to later be limited to [a lineage from St. Peter alone] and expressed with the term “petrine”. It is necessary to note however that in none of the canons of the Ecumenical Councils is attribution of any dignity or rank of honor to the Church of Rome connected with her apostolic origins which otherwise is considered a given.
  3. In the East, the meaning of apostolicity was defined differently and thus acquired a different significance. At the same time, however, the entire Church accepted apostolicity not as the exclusive privilege of Rome, but as something belonging also to the thrones in the East which were accordingly honored with special privileges.
  4. The ancient Church —in both the East and the West— had recognized a primacy of honor and dignity; but not a primacy of authority (of superior jurisdiction) over the entire Church. The occasional attempts on the part of Roman agents to add to the pre-eminence of honor a primacy of authority, of “petrine” origin, was not even something undertaken by the majority of the bishops of Rome and it was certainly not the set and constant ecclesiological position of the whole Latin Church of the West during the time of the first [Eight] Ecumenical Councils.
  5. Whenever a major issue of faith and ecclesiastical order came to be disputed, every bishop, but even more so the bishop of “glorious Rome”, possessed not only the inalienable right but even had it as a duty incumbent upon him to intervene in the workings of another local Church. This practice was considered completely acceptable during the first eight centuries of Christianity. Indeed, in exceptional circumstances, ecclesiastical unity was not necessarily always preserved by him who possessed the leadership or the throne with seniority of rank, but by the one who in a particular circumstance expressed the true faith; he was considered the possessor of the “primacy of truth”. This is what happened with St. Cyril at the 3rd Ecumenical Synod as well as with St. Leo at the 4th. On the other hand, when the Bishop of Rome showed himself unworthy of his episcopal ministry, churches in the East but also in the West could and did sever communion with him.

B. The Bishop of Rome and the Ecumenical Synods

  1. The Ecumenical Synods constituted for the ancient Church the crowning moments of her history revealing her unity in the Truth. Similarly, the ancient Church established with the utmost clarity that the highest authority in the Church could not be a single person, but only the Ecumenical Synod, an institution whose decisions demanded universal respect.
  2. The power to convoke an Ecumenical Synod belonged exclusively to the emperor who was also responsible to set the agenda. Certainly, it was imperative that he consult with the first-hierarchs of the Churches and most importantly with the bishops of Rome and Constantinople. But the fact that the Bishop of Rome was the first see in Christendom gave him no right either to set the agenda of the Council, nor did he possess the power to veto its decisions.
  3. At none of the Ecumenical Councils was the reigning pope personally present, but in most cases he was represented by a delegation of clergy. In addition, at none of the Synods did his delegation preside. The fifth Ecumenical Synod has particular significance for the question of the role of Pope of Rome within the communion of the Church since in addition to the question of the Three Chapters, it pronounced [indirectly] on this question [by] condemning Pope Vigilius after his unjustified refusal to meet in council with the other Patriarchs. For the ancient Church in both the East and the West, the pope was subject to synodal judgment and authority in not only matters of faith but also in those regarding the canonical order of the Church.
  4. The main role of the Bishop of Rome in the Ecumenical Synods as first-throne among the Patriarchs was to formulate in his dogmatic epistle, which in a way operated as the central proposal for the Synod, the Orthodox faith and ecclesiastical tradition regarding the theological controversy at hand, and on the basis of which the synodal discussions were carried out. Consequently, the position of the pope of Rome in the time of the Ecumenical Synods was within the Synods and not above them. Only under the presupposition of his participation in the procedures of the synod was the pope recognized as “head and father and first” of the bishops and patriarchs gathered together; he does not simply make a pronouncement which the others then obey, but “he confers… together with all”.

C. The Bishop of Rome in the Decisions of the Ecumenical Synods

  1. The Church sought by means of the Ecumenical Synods to confront the distortion of the Orthodox faith and the disturbance of ecclesiastical unity produced by heresy. It is obvious that the participation, agreement, and presence of the Bishop of Rome and consequently of the Church “until the climes of the ocean” in the synodal decisions was required in order to maintain unity and to prevent the creation of schisms. In this way, when it was successful, the Fathers of the synod would express their joy and enthusiasm with great intensity.
  2. The Ecumenical Synod pronounced from a place of absolute authority without depending on the will or decisions of any individual persons. And this practice was universally accepted by the ancient Church of both East and West. Thus decisions were made in the absence of the Bishop of Rome or even in spite of his outright opposition. Moreover, even in cases where his suggestions were accepted, they were first examined by the Synod, compared to the ecclesiastical tradition and only when synodal agreement was secured would they be accepted. 
    The position of the ancient Church has been recorded in an official and categorical manner in the “synodal decree”, the “Horos” of the 5th Ecumenical Synod: “During the common deliberations, the light of truth dissipates the darkness of falsehood, once teach of the things suggested for discussion are placed under judgment. Because in matters of faith, no one has the right to go forward on behalf of the entire Church since all of us have need of our neighbor”. It would be no exaggeration for us to say that the 5th Ecumenical Synod, in the Holy Spirit, foresaw the development of the West and censured dogmatically in an explicit and forthright manner Vatican I’s dogma of papal infallibility. According to the Synod, the pope cannot be infallible, either ex sese or ex consensus Ecclesia.
  3. The primacy of the Bishop of Rome but similarly the equality of the five Patriarchs is testified to historically by the “stamps of signature” on the synodal decisions. All of the patriarchs as well as the bishop sign stamp or seal and in a unified fashion in agreement with the ranking of honor among the patriarchal Thrones. Certainly, the Bishop of Rome signed first as the first-throne of the Ecumene [the empire or civilized world]. The pope never contested that he should be granted a special type of signature.

D. The Bishop of Rome and the Sacred Canons

  1. The holy Canons as decisions of the Ecumenical Synods reflect as well as formulate the ethos and practice of the Catholic Church. Consequently, disdain for their ecumenical authority and validity is unacceptable.
  2. The basic canons which refer to the seniority of honor of the primates of the patriarchal Churches are the 6th and 7th canon of Nicaea I, the 3rd canon of Constantinople I, the 28th canon of Chalcedon and the 36th canon of Constantinople III (Penthekti). The defining canon concerning the position of the Bishop of Rome in the ancient Church is the 28th canon of Chalcedon which interprets the 3rd canon of Constantinople I and constitutes the basis for the 36th canon of Constantinople III. The importance of the 28th canon of Chalcedon is guaranteed by its content but also in its means of promulgation a.) Regarding the content: it gives canonical weight to the seniority of rank of Rome, granting to Constantinople “the same rank” as that of Rome, but at the same time, it places under contention the most crucial point upon which the supremacy of the papal throne over against the other patriarchal thrones rests—-according to Rome: petrine apostolicity and the granting of petrine authority by divine law over the entire Church. b.) As regards the means of promulgation: The categorical opposition and the intense reaction of Leo the Great in Rome not only did not invalidate this canon, nor did it even take away from its canonical weight, strength, or ecumenical character. This is self-evident in ecclesiastical order since it was unthinkable to the ancient Church that decision of a synod, and especially that of an Ecumenical Synod, could be invalidated by a local Church or by a single person. Not even the pope of Rome was recognized as having the right to approve or reject synodal decisions. On the contrary, he too was obligated to comply.
  3. The Roman understanding which pope Leo the Great firmly supported concerning the “petrine” and apostolic character of the Churches of Rome, Alexandria, and Antioch, and the supposed conferral of an exceptional dignity upon these sees never obtained any canonical foundation nor did it exercise any effect upon the life of the ancient Church. Even in Rome these ideas were never put into practice and were quickly abandoned.

E. The Bishop of Rome in the East and West: “The Principle of Unity in Diversity?”

In the official Theological Dialogue of the Orthodox Church and Rome, it has been suggested that the “principle of unity in diversity” can provide a means of overcoming the impasse which the papal dogmas have created. This suggestion, according to its proponents, is based on the decision of the Synod of Constantinople in 879-8801, but as it is currently formulated, it in essence merely carries out the program of the Decree “concerning Ecumenism”2 from the Second Vatican Council3 and seeks the unity of the Churches in spite of differences in dogma. In the other words, the Western Christians will accept their dogma concerning St. Peter and the dogmas of papal primacy and infallibility as they have been formulated by the first and second Vatican Councils, without however demanding their imposition upon the Eastern Church, so that the Orthodox are not required to accept them as long as they do not characterize them as an heretical falling away from the ancient faith and practice of the Church. This was Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, later Pope Benedict XVI came to formulate this proposal.4 According to this view, the ancient Church governed itself this way: the West accepted the papal primacy of authority without imposing it upon the East and the East tolerated this difference of Western practice without condemning it as an ecclesiological aberration; East and West believed differently but in spite of this, we remained in full ecclesiastical communion5. Put another way, “legitimate diversity is in no way opposed to the Church’s unity, but rather enhances her splendor and contributes greatly to the fulfillment of her mission6.

Before we proceed to our necessary and brief critique of this suggestion it is necessary to understand its true implications. Particularly revealing on this point is the speech which Pope John Paul II gave to the Eastern Catholic Patriarchs (Uniates) in 29/9/1998.

Among other things, he said to the Uniate Patriarchs: “I ask you to give the Pope your help in the name of that responsibility for re-establishing full communion with the Orthodox Churches (cf. Orientalium Ecclesiarum, n. 24) which belongs to you as Patriarchs of Churches that share so much of the theological, liturgical, spiritual and canonical patrimony with Orthodoxy. In this same spirit and for the same reason, I would like your Churches to be fully associated with the ecumenical dialogues of charity and of doctrine at both the local and universal levels”. And the pope continues, “The particular role of the Eastern Catholic Churches [he means here the Uniates] corresponds to the one left unfilled by the lack of full communion with the Orthodox Churches. Both the Second Vatican Council’s Decree Orientalium Ecclesiarum and the Apostolic Constitution Sacri canones (pp. IX-X) which accompanied the publication of the Code of Canons of the Eastern Churches have pointed out how the present situation, and the rules governing it, look towards the full communion we desire between the Catholic and Orthodox Churches. Your collaboration with the Pope and with one another will show the Orthodox Churches that the tradition of ‘synergy’ between Rome and the Patriarchates has been maintained — although limited and wounded — and perhaps also strengthened for the good of the one Church of God present throughout the world7.

The above texts shows clearly how Rome desires and seeks—despite its assurances to the contrary8—full communion obtained with Orthodoxy on the basis of an enhanced version of the Unia9 which can also include the Orthodox10. Toward this aim, the contribution of the principle “diversity in unity” is formative11, despite the fact that is it neither historically proven nor theologically acceptable as presented here.

The study of the acts and decisions of the Ecumenical Synods demonstrates as historically fabricated the contention that in the ancient Church of the first millennium the East and West held different beliefs about the position of the Bishop of Rome. On the contrary, we see clearly that in spite of the fact that Church of Rome’s lineage from St. Peter was recognized, even the Western-Latin Church never accepted any form of papal supremacy of jurisdiction (primacy of authority) over the entire Church, nor did it recognize the pope as possessor of an exclusive right to articulate the faith, never mind any form of infallibility. We remind the reader succinctly of:

  1. The papal legates accepted the synodal vetting of the papal dogmatic epistles of Leo the Great, St. Agathon, and St. Adrian to determine if they were in accord with the ecclesiastical tradition.
  2. The views of St Leo the Great against canon 28 of Chalcedon were not even accepted by his [immediate] successors and were abandoned in the West until the time of the Schism.
  3. The refusal of the latin bishops of the west to accept pope Vigillius’ decisions concerning the faith and consequently his repeated condemnations by Western Synods (both before and after the 5th Ecumenical Synod).
  4. The expressed self-understanding of the same pope Vigilius who did not once claim to possess some alleged superior authority derived from divine right or ‘petrine’ authority which meant that the Church and the rest of the Patriarchs ought to be subject to him. Additionally, pope Vigilius never accused the Synod of being contrary to the canons or invalid simply because of his disagreement or absence. On the contrary, he explicitly promised that he would conform to the decision of the Synod concerning the faith and considered its decision to censure him as just.
  5. The convocation of the Synod of 125 bishops from all of the regions of the jurisdiction of the Patriarchate of Rome under the presidency of pope St. Agatho in order to refute and pronounce on the heresy of monothelitism shows in practice the firm ecclesiological ethos of the ancient Church of Rome. It is indicative how the Synod of Rome mentions that they came to together with great labor “from the climes of the ocean” in order to consult in Synod so that “that our humble suggestion might proceed from a council of wide-spread influence, lest if only a part were cognizant of what was being done, it might escape the notice of a part12.
  6. The cooperation of Rome in the condemnation of Pope Honorius at the 6th Ecumenical Synod.
  7. The West accepted the decisive role of the emperor in the procedures of the Synod and never insisted on presiding through the papal “apocrisarii” at the Ecumenical Synods or at the local Synods in the West [tr.: a greek term for a high ranking ecclesiastical deputy or similar official]
  8. A series of canons from local Synods and the Holy Fathers approved by the 2nd canon of Constantinople III and the 1st canon of Nicaea II show that that ancient Latin Church of the West recognized, just like the East, that the Church of Rome and her bishop were to be given great reverence and possessed a primacy of honor, but not a primacy of jurisdiction or an infallibility in defining matters of faith: for example, the Acts of the Synods of Carthage in Latin-speaking north Africa as well as their decisions to forbid final appeals to Rome, or the dispute between pope St. Stephen and St. Cyprian about the baptism of heretics all demonstrate this.
  9. Finally, the conclusion of the letter of the Synod of Carthage already expresses the danger which the Latin Fathers of North Africa foresaw in the first demands of Rome to extend her jurisdiction in judging the bishops of Africa: “As for executors, therefore, though they have been demanded by some for our Clerics, do not send us any, nor grant us any, lest we seem to be introducing a cloud of smoke from the world into the Church of Christ, which offers the light of simplicity and the day of humility to those who desire to see God13.

All of the above demonstrate that in the Western Church in the time of the Ecumenical Synods recognized no “petrine primacy” or “petrine function of unity” nor any supreme authority over the entire Church or the ability to pronounce infallibly on matters of faith. The occasional expressions of papal representatives or of certain papal epistles which explicitly demand some kind of primacy of authority were never representative of the understanding of the whole Western Church nor did they reflect western theology within the patriarchate of Rome during the time of the Ecumenical Synods. Hence, we can see that during the first eight centuries of the life of the Church, East and West held to identical views concerning the basic ecclesiological principles which governed the role of the patriarchal Churches including that of the Bishop of Rome.

Neverthless, even if we did suppose that there existed an important difference in views between East and West during the first eight centuries regarding the essence and role of the primacy of honor of the Bishop of Rome — a fact which as we have demonstrated cannot be proven from the acts and decisions of the Ecumenical Synods—we would stress that the reality we live today is completely different. After the First and Second Vatican Councils we have —according to Rome— fundamental dogmas of faith which belong to the “essential and unchanging structure of the Church14 and those who deny them are anathematized by the “ecumenical” Synod of Vatican I and this remains the case with the “ecumenical” Synod of Vatican II.

Consequently, the attempt on the part of certain theologians to present the papal dogmas of Vatican I as having the same intended meanings as some declarations of papal legates or papal epistles in the early Church are clearly misleading.

Additionally, the implementation of the “principle of diversity in unity” not merely in ecclesiastical customs of minor importance, but in the realm of basic ecclesiological dogmas which touch upon the very structure and being of the Church ecclesiologically unacceptable. If, according to the papal ecclesiology of Vatican I, the denial of the papal dogmas is evidence of a serious ecclesiological deficiency15 then we do not have a Church of Christ, because a Church with ecclesiological deficiencies is completely unthinkable! Moreover, it is unthinkable that the western part of this “united Church” being established (?) can consider as ecclesiologically fundamental the dogmas concerning St. Peter and papal primacy and infallibility (as articulated by Vatican I and II) while the eastern portion denies them. Never in the life of the Church of Christ were dogmas considered obligatory for the faithful of a particular region (or ritual) while another region was given the ability to deny them. It is not comprehensible how we can belong to the same “united Church” where the Westerners must accept as a dogma of the faith necessary for salvation that the pope is infallible when he pronounces ex cathedra while the rest of the faithful are free to categorically deny this.

It is obviously unthinkable that the Orthodox Church could accept the principle of “diversity in unity” as it has been articulated recently and equally so the proposal stemming from it formulated by the then-Cardinal Ratzinger, later pope Benedict XVI.

Hence if the “principle of diversity in unity” as it has been presented in recent years, cannot be implemented to achieve the much-desired union of East and West, what would a suitable proposal look like for the overcoming of the division among Christians? I think the only hope for the restoration of ecclesiastical unity lies exclusively honest repentance alone; an honest repentance which presupposes and at the same time is realized only by a return in humility to the basic theological principles and presuppositions with the which the Church lived by in the time of the Ecumenical Synods. Humility will draw divine Grace and then unity will be achieved not by an untried, diplomatic compromise that relies on ambiguity of dogmatic expression which will only contribute to further bitterness and problems, but instead divine Grace will achieve the real and genuine “unity of faith and communion of the Holy Spirit”.

* This article is the conclusions of the master’s thesis entitled “The Church of Rome and its bishop in the minutes and decisions of the Ecumenical Councils“, 2016, p. 400.

American Orthodox Institute


1 MANSI 17, 489B : “The holy synod said, each throne has ancient traditional customs, and concerning these there should be no disputation or quarreling one with another. The Church of the Romans guards her customs and this is fitting, while the Church of Constantinople guards her own customs which she has received from above and all of the sees of the East do in like manner”. The Synod however, as it mentions later, speaks about mass ordinations and not about the crucial theological issues which have implications for the very structure and essence of the Church and the faith such as the papal doctrines about Rome.

2 For a detailed analysis from an Orthodox perspective of UR, see Fr. Peter Alban Heers, The Ecclesiological Renovation of Vatican II: An Orthodox Examination of Rome’s Ecumenical Theology Regarding Baptism and the Church, Uncut Mountain Press. Simpsonville, 2015.

3We can say without reservation that at the heart of the Decree we encounter the issue of unity and diversity. And even though the issue is raised explicitly in the three chapters of the text, nevertheless it emerges as mean of reading and comprehending the entire text”, See W. Henn, “At the Heart of Unitatis Redintegratio. Unity in Diversity”, Gregorianum 88(2007) 2, 330. “Decree on Ecumenism”, §16-18, found online at <…>: “16. Already from the earliest times the Eastern Churches followed their own forms of ecclesiastical law and custom, which were sanctioned by the approval of the Fathers of the Church, of synods, and even of ecumenical councils. Far from being an obstacle to the Church’s unity, a certain diversity of customs and observances only adds to her splendor, and is of great help in carrying out her mission, as has already been stated. To remove, then, all shadow of doubt, this holy Council solemnly declares that the Churches of the East, while remembering the necessary unity of the whole Church, have the power to govern themselves according to the disciplines proper to them, since these are better suited to the character of their faithful, and more for the good of their souls. The perfect observance of this traditional principle not always indeed carried out in practice, is one of the essential prerequisites for any restoration of unity. 17. What has just been said about the lawful variety that can exist in the Church must also be taken to apply to the differences in theological expression of doctrine”, See also Ut Unum Sint § 57. The proposal of “unity in diversity” is put forth as the basis for the union of all Christians by Pope Leo XIII. The Synod of Constantinople answer him in 1895 in a letter contained in Karmiris’ collection of dogmatic documents, vol. 2, p. 934. [tr. An English translation is available online at the “Orthodox Christian Information Center <>].

4 According to J. Ratzinger : “Rome must not require more from the East with respect to the doctrine of primacy than what had been formulated and was lived in the first millennium . . . Rome need not ask for more. Reunion could take place in this context if, on the one hand, the East would cease to oppose as heretical the developments that took place in the West in the second millennium and would accept the Catholic Church as legitimate and orthodox in the form she had acquired in the course of that development, while, on the other hand, the West would recognize the Church of the East as orthodox and legitimate in the form she has always had”, From his Principles of Catholic Theology, San Francisco, Ignatius, 1987, p. 199. The suggestion of the then-Metropolitan Damaskinos of Switzerland is in the same vein («Τί τὸ μόνιμον καὶ τί τὸ μεταβλητὸν εἰς τὴν πετρίνειον διακονίαν. Σκέψεις ἐξ Ὀρθοδόξου ἐπόψεως»[“What is permanent and what is changeable in the petrine ministry. Thoughts from an Orthodox perspective”], Στάχυς, 52-67(1977-1981) 508, D. Papandreou, “Ein Beitrag zur Uberwindung der Trennung zwischen der romisch-katholischen und der orthdoxen Kirche” found in Vasilios von Aristi, Das Papsamt: Dienst oder Hindernis für die Ökumene? Regensburg 1985, p. 162, 166-167), τοῦ H. Scutte, in Chr. Savvatos (now Metropolitan of Messinia), Τὸ παπικὸ πρωτεῖο στὸ διάλογο μεταξὺ Ὀρθοδόξων καὶ Ρωμαιοκαθολικῶν [The papal primacy in the dialogue between Orthodox Christians and Roman Catholics], Athens 2006, p. 14 καὶ τοῦ E. Lanne, in Damaskinos’ article, «Τί τὸ μόνιμον καὶ τί τὸ μεταβλητὸν εἰς τὴν πετρίνειον διακονίαν. Σκέψεις ἐξ Ὀρθοδόξου ἐπόψεως», Στάχυς, 52-67(1977-1981) 516-517

With much pain we must say some things about what Ratzinger has written: It is very tragic for an entire local Church, the greatest, most glorious and the most famous of the first millennium to have fallen into such confusion so that:

  • It considers as positive theological developments and progress what occurred in the second millennium regarding papal primacy.
  • It considers as theological progress the denial of the God-inspired, canonical, ecclesiastical order and tradition of the Ecumenical Synods.
  • It considers as theological progress a papal institution based on forgeries from the Dark Ages (such as the false “Donation of Constantine” and the Pseudo-Decretals of Isidore) (Cretan Draft on the Role of the Pope, § 15) ! [Tr.: This refers to this document on the role of the papacy produced by the Joint Coordinating Committee for the Theological Dialogue between the Roman Catholic Church and the Orthodox Church in Aghios Nikolaos, Crete, Greece, September 27 – October 4, 2008:…]

I ask that these observations not be taken as hostile or polemical against Roman Catholics, but only as an expression of grief as well as concern and vigilance for us Orthodox.

5 The position is explicitly formulated in “Cretan Draft on the Role of the Pope” in §§ 15, 22 and especially in § 32 : “The experience of the first millennium profoundly influenced the course of relations between the Churches of the East and the West. Despite growing divergence and temporary schisms during this period, communion was still maintained between West and East. The principle of diversity-in-unity, which was explicitly accepted at the council of Constantinople held in 879-80, has particular significance for the theme of this present stage of our dialogue. Distinct divergences of understanding and interpretation did not prevent East and West from remaining in communion. There was a strong sense of being one Church, and a determination to remain in unity, as one flock with one shepherd (cf. Jn 10:16). The first millennium, which has been examined in this stage of our dialogue, is the common tradition of both our Churches. In its basic theological and ecclesiological principles which have been identified here, this common tradition should serve as the model for the restoration of our full communion“. Metropolitan Damaskinos Papandreou takes a similar position in «Τί τὸ μόνιμον καὶ τί τὸ μεταβλητὸν εἰς τὴν πετρίνειον διακονίαν. Σκέψεις ἐξ Ὀρθοδόξου ἐπόψεως», Στάχυς, 52-67(1977-1981) 508.

6 Encyclical Letter “Ut Unum Sint: On Committment to Ecumenism“ of Pope John Paul II, 25 May 1995, § 50, found online at <…>

7 “Address of the Holy Father Pope John Paull II To the Eastern Catholic Patriarchs,” Tuesday, 29 September 1998 <…>

8The Sacred Council feels great joy in the fruitful zealous collaboration of the Eastern and the Western Catholic Churches and at the same time declares: All these directives of law are laid down in view of the present situation until such time as the Catholic Church and the separated Eastern Churches come together into complete unity”, ?rientalium Ecclesiarum, § 30 available online The Synod “feels great” at the present work of the Unia…

9 Concerning the Unia in the theological dialogue with Rome see Th. Zisis, Οὐνία, Ἡ καταδίκη καὶ ἡ ἀθώωση [Unia, Condemnation or Acquittal ], publ. Vryennios, Thessaloniki 2002, G. Kapsanis, «Οὐνία, Ἡ μέθοδος τοῦ παποκεντρικοῦ Οἰκουμενισμοῦ» [“Unia, The Method of Papal-centric Ecumenism”], Παρακαταθήκη [Heritage], 60(2008), 3-10. For an historical approach to the Unia, see G. Metallinos, D. Gonis, I. Fratseas, Eu. Morarou, Bishop Athanasios (Yevtits), Ἡ Οὐνία, χθὲς καὶ σήμερα [The Unia, yesterday and today] publ. Armos, Athens 1992. For a more extensive bibliography regarding the Unia, cf. K. Kotsiopoulos, Ἡ Οὐνία στὴν Ἑλληνικὴ θεολογικὴ βιβλιογραφία [The Unia in Greek theological literature], publ. Vryennios, Thessaloniki 1993.

10 It is characteristic that Rome issued its decree “Decree on the Catholic Churches of the Eastern Rite” as “a kind of ‘insurance’ that the restoration of communion with Rome will not be carried out with any renunciation of elements of the non-Latin ecclesiastical traditions”.

11 Th. Zisis, «Ἡ οὐνία ὡς πρότυπο ψευδοῦς ἑνότητος. Τὰ ὅρια τῆς ποικιλομορφίας ἐν σχέσει πρὸς τὴν ἑνότητα» [“The Unia as a model of false unity. The limits of diversity in relation to unity”], – «Πρωτεῖον» Συνοδικότης καὶ ἑνότης τῆς Ἐκκλησίας, Πρακτικὰ Θεολογικῆς Ἡμερίδος [“Primacy” of Synodality and Unity of the Church, Acts of a Theological Conference], publ. The Holy Metropolis of Piraeus, Piraeus 2011, p. 107-114.

12 From the letter of Pope Agatho read at the Third Synod of Constantinople, available here, <>

13 Tr. Translation taken from the English edition of the Rudder available online: < /books/english/councils_local_rudder.htm>

14 Congregatio pro Doctrina Fidei, Letter Communionis notio, § 17. 3 (28.5.1992), available online at

15 “Unitatis Redintegratio: Decree on Ecumenism” from the Second Vatican Council §3 found online here <…>. I. Maragou, Οἰκουμενικὰ Α΄ [Ecumenical Topics, vol. 1], Athens 1986, p.33, as well as the 29/6/2007 response of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (Congregatio pro Doctrina Fidei) of the Roman Curia, found online at < cfaith/documents/rc_con_cfaith_doc_200 70629_responsa-quaestiones_en.html>.

Fr. George Florovsky on The Boundaries of the Church

Fr. George Florovsky
Fr. George Florovsky

Fr. George Florovsky

By Athanasius Yevtich, bishop of Zahumlje and Herzegovina

Source: Orthodox Ethos

Note by Fr. Peter Heers, editor of Orthodox Ethos:

It is with gratefulness to God and relief that Orthodox Ethos is finally able to publish in the English language the following exceptional lecture by Bishop Athanasius Yevtich on the well-known and well-utilized article “On the Limits of the Church” by the ever-memorable patristic scholar and Orthodox Theologian, Fr. George Florovsky. For years, since shortly after its publication in the Greek Journal Theologia, we had seen the importance and need for a translation of this lecture for our English-speaking brethren. We are indebted to our friend and associate Nicholas Pantelopoulos for this excellent translation, which we know will be of great interest to many who have been confused or misled as to the Orthodox teaching on the nature and boundaries of the Church. Bishop Athanasius’ contribution to the inter-Orthodox exchange on the proper understanding of the nature of the unity and boundaries of the Church is sure to be received with gratefulness by many and anguish by a few, but with interest by all.

It will be difficult for me to duly expound on the magnitude and importance of Fr. George Florovsky, the “ecumenical first-priest”, as he was referred to by his student, bishop Daniel (Krstich).1 Nonetheless, with great love and gratitude to God and to Fr. George, I will always remember when as a Priestmonk I served Divine Liturgy with this great father, celebrant and theologian, in a 9th C Byzantine church, in the monastery of Saint Nicodemus in Athens, which later became known in the 19th C as the “Russian Church”. Afterwards, with the providence and grace of God, I had the honor to succeed him for three years (1970-1972) at the Orthodox Theological Institute of Saints Sergius in Paris, as chair of Patristics, along with Fr. Andrew Fyrilla. Before I met him, however, and got acquainted with him on a personal level, Fr. Justin Popovich spoke frequently about Fr. George Florovsky, with whom he spent years together during the German invasion in Serbia, when they would meet and discuss. Fr. Justin Popovich would call Fr. George Florovsky an “icon on the iconostasis of orthodox theology of the modern age”.

The organizers of this present colloquium asked me to speak on the subject, “Fr. George Florovsky on the Boundaries of the Church”. It concerns a very difficult subject and I will try to speak as objectively as I can, with complete respect towards Fr. George Florovsky, but with a critical approach towards the position that he formulated in his article. In previous sessions, there were already some presentations about Fr. Florovsky’s ecclesiology, which happens to be rich and multi-dimensional. His article on the “Boundaries of the Church”2, in my opinion constitutes an early phase in Fr. George Florovsky’s evolution. It was written in Paris on the feast day of Saint Sergius in 1933. It was published in English, then in Russian, and even then, in French and Serbian. There exists a translation in Greek3. Without a doubt, the article of Fr. Florovsky is written within the framework of the ecumenical movement, which also is a leading subject for his time as well as in our own. This fact is highlighted by the author himself, as he refers to an article of his, “On the Reunification of Christians”, which was published in a volume collection in 1933 in Paris, just as another older article of his, “The Problems of Christian Unification”4.

Fr. George Florovsky

Fr. George Florovsky

We will not continue the exhaustive analysis of this article by Fr. George Florovsky. The author briefly mentions in the text the apostolic and patristic events concerning the unity of the Church, by giving special emphasis on Saint Cyprian of Carthage. He presents and exercises criticism on the positions of Cyprian, and then goes to Saint Augustine and the practice of the Church in relation to the acceptance of heretics. Subsequently, the author refers to modern Russian theologians. Thus, on the one hand there is a mention of Metropolitan Anthony (Khrapovitsky) and of Archbishop Hilarion (Troitsky) who considered that the charismatic boundaries of the Church coincide with the canonical. On the other hand, he refers to (Aleksey) Khomyakov and Philaret (Drozdov), the Metropolitan of Moscow, who considered that the charismatic and canonical borders of the Church did not coincide. I also remember Fr. Justin Popovich, who would say that the more correct and theologically orthodox position was held by Metropolitan Anthony and Archbishop Hilarion, that in other words, the charismatic and canonical boundaries of the Church coincide. It is interesting that in the same year, of 1933, an article was published, written by bishop Sergius (Stragorodski), the later Patriarch of Russia, which Fr. George Florovsky most likely did not have a chance to consider. These two theologians [Metropolitan Anthony and Archbishop Hilarion], although they wrote independently from each other, almost echo the same views word for word, resulting in concurring opinions on the limits of the Church. Fr. George Florovsky elicits the Greek theologians, [Christos] Androutsos and [Konstantinos] Diovouniotis, – rather old and conservative theologians, and mostly refers to them in relation to a commentary of his concerning economy of the Church. We must note that this commentary in particular was also weak. Fr. Florovsky does not proceed to analyze the great Fathers of the Church, although in approximately the same period he writes some of his greatest and famous works on Patristics, such as, “The Eastern Fathers of the 4th C”5, and “The Byzantine Fathers of the 6th-8th Cs”.6

In his article, Fr. George Florovsky is not particularly preoccupied with an analysis of what he calls, and what is truly, the practice of the Church in the reception of heretics, but rather how this practice was formed. In my opinion, this is an important shortcoming of this particular article, since faith and theology is revealed in the practice of the Church, and it must be taken into serious consideration when we speak about the boundaries of the Church.

Recently, professor [Constantine] Zaitsev of the Academy of Holy Trinity in Moscow wrote a substantial and expansive work on the boundaries of the Church in his 12th volume of the New Orthodox Encyclopedia (published by the Patriarchate of Moscow with the blessing of the Patriarch). There, he mentions the opinions of many Fathers of the Church and contemporary Russian theologians. At the end of this reference, he briefly refers to the “Basic Principles of the Attitude of the Russian Orthodox Church Toward the Other Christian Confessions” (““Основные принципы отношения Русской Церкби к инославию”), an official text which was published recently in Moscow in 2000, by the Holy Synod of the Russian Church. In a very curious way, Zaitsev summarizes the opinions of the Council expressed by this official text. Without having to refer to his opinions in length, we will only mention that he repeats the views of Fr. Florovsky. In the end of his text, professor Zaitsev arrives to the same assumption as the one reached by Fr. Florovsky, that the canonical and charismatic limits of the Church do not coincide, and adds:

Starting from the position which is expressed in the text, ‘Basic Principles of the Attitude of the Russian Orthodox Church Toward the Other Christian Confessions’, it seems more defensible from an ecclesiastical and also historical and theological point of view the position held by Metropolitan Philaret of Moscow, Patriarch Sergius, and Fr. Florovsky. As it pertained to other points of view, which he characterizes as “rigid akriveia“[exactitude] [referring primarily to Saint Cyprian] although these positions are founded upon correct theological foundations, they require, however, much better definition.

In other words, Zaitsev equated the position of the Russian Church with that of Florovsky and almost presents the same opinion.

We must point out, nonetheless, after several readings of Fr. Florovsky’s article, we have the impression that this text was written at a young age, when he was a priest no more than a year, and that this text does not represent a complete expression of his ecclesiological view. Florovsky presents the position of Saint Cyprian, then quickly passes over to the opinion of Saint Augustine and accepts his ecclesiological views without adequate critical thought. In particular, it seems he adopts the views on ex opera operato and opera operantis, and recommends that the Orthodox accept Augustine’s opinion concerning the limits of the Church, where the charismatic and canonical boundaries do not coincide. On the other hand, the analysis of Saint Cyprian which Fr. Florovsky provides is one-sided7. Fr. George Florovsky did not carefully examine, in parallel to the texts of Cyprian, his very important letter to Saint Firmilianus of Caesarea (230-268), the predecessor of Saint Basil, and also the letter to Saint Dionysius of Alexandria. These two Fathers, both contemporaries of Saint Cyprian, do not accept the opinion of Augustine and Pope Stephen of Rome. For without a doubt they speak about coinciding charismatic and canonical limits of the Church even if they do not refer to them in this manner.

Fr. George Florovsky

Fr. George Florovsky

When Florovsky examines the works of Cyprian, and especially those of Metropolitan Anthony Khrapovitsky, (who as we said, considers the canonical and charismatic limits of the Church to be the same), sometimes we have the impression that he exaggerates. Likewise, it appears, when he talks about the practice of the Church in relation to the reception of heretics. For example, the then young theologian and priest George Florovsky observes, “One may ask who gave the Church this right…” to accept heretics in the manner, meaning here the application of ecclesiastical economy instead of the exactitude supported by Cyprian. In other words, the practice of the Church does not impose on all heretics to be re-baptized, as Saint Cyprian demanded. To such a question, we dare juxtapose the following counter-question: Who gave the right to Fr. Florovsky to put such questions to the Church? Or in other words, to direct this question to Basil the Great, the great hierarch, theologian and canonist of the Church, whose opinion on the application of economy in the acceptance of heretics is what the Church ultimately applies. This position of his concerning the use of economy does not indicate an acceptance of a “Church outside the limits of the Church” (a phrase belonging to Fr. Florovsky), because economy of the Church, the act of acceptance of heretics to the Church in three different phases or in three different modes, was conveyed perfectly in the canonical letter of Basil the Great to Amphilochios of Iconium (Epistle no. 188). It is apparent that ecclesiastical economy has been taken into consideration in a much greater degree than Fr. Florovsky assumes. Florovsky concludes that the economy of the Church is simply a pedagogical – pastoral measure, related simply to the philanthropy of the Church. As if philanthropy is something arbitrary, an unimportant detail! Yet, for Basil the Great and the Fathers of the Church, economy in the Church becomes apparent and must be applied as a demonstration and revelation of the Divine Economy of Salvation, as an expression of Divine philanthropy. For the Church, this is not simply a word, but a reality with a profound theological and ecclesiological context. It is not simply a dispensation – dispensatio as it is rendered by Hieronymus in Latin and in other western languages. Economy is Divine Economy. The great Fathers like Chrysostom or Evlogios of Alexandria (6th C) and many others speak in detail about what is Divine Economy.8 Firstly, this economy means that God became flesh, condescending towards us without leaving His Godhead and His throne. Christ “emptied himself” (Philip. 2:8) through the incarnation and inhomination; this emptying of Divine love is recognized as economy, the Divine Economy of Grace, the work of the philanthropy of the Holy Trinity.9

We believe that the article on the Limits of the Church by Fr. George Florovsky, without diminishing it, was “unseasoned”, even though it was not exactly pioneering or a first of its kind. Since, this path was followed by Khomyakov and Metropolitan Philaret of Moscow, on whom Florovsky is grounded and to whom he refers. But we will point out two essential elements, or shall we say, “occurrences” (Fr. Florovsky points out exactly that the theology of the Fathers, like Saint Gregory Palamas, is a “theology of occurrences”), two facts that constitute the essence of Orthodox ecclesiology and the practice of the Church for the admission of heretics which Florovsky did not take into consideration.

First, the limits of the Church of God in Christ Jesus the Theanthropos are the “Boundaries” of his boundless Divine Economy of salvation, the limits of the boundless philanthropy of God, and these limits should not be separated from the limits of Grace of the all-holy Spirit, the Comforter, in the Church. These limits cannot be narrower than the narrowest limits of the Cross and the Resurrection of the Incarnated Christ, in body and as Body, as the Church, as fullness, revealing the “fullness of Him who fills all in all.” (Ephesians 1:22-23)10

Second, these economic – charismatic limits of the Church, in a paradoxical way, cannot and should not exclude the exceedingly important consequence of the liturgical – canonical limits of the Church. Without expanding further, I will simply summarize that this consequence is derived from the event of Liturgy as Communion, as participation in what we call the Church, which is communion and participation of the members of the Church in the Holy Eucharist, in Liturgy. For this reason, we Orthodox cannot accept intercommunion. Not for some anti-ecumenist stance11, but exactly because in the Holy Eucharist, as a gathering of the Church in Christ through the Holy Spirit, the charismatic limits of the Economy of salvation of the Holy Trinity and the canonical-charismatic limits of the Church coincide. In this sense Saint Ireneaus of Lyons wrote, when he expressed this view clearly and with theological precision, “But our opinion is in accordance with the Eucharist, and the Eucharist in turn establishes our opinion” (Against Heresies, Book 4, Chapt. 18:5) 12. This exactly coincides with what even Fr. George Florovsky, Fr. Alexander Schmemann and many other theologians emphasize, when they say, lex orandi est lex credenda, or in other words, the canon of worship is the canon of faith and the visa-versa.

Here, of course, I would say that there appears to be an antinomy; for it must be said that an antinomy befits more with the theological view of Fr. Florovsky, because of his position which he took in his article on the limits of the Church. And this is how it should be, since there is an organic unity between the Christological – pneumatological, and the soteriological – ecclesiological substance, life, and salvation in the Church. This is what is revealed in the mysteries [sacraments] of the Church – Baptism, Chrismation, Eucharist, Priesthood – which constitute the Mystery of the Fullness of the Church. The Mysteries of the Church cannot be above or outside the Church, because the Church is the fundamental Mystery, the Mystery of Christ, per Apostle Paul and Saint Maximus, from which spring all the other mysteries [sacraments] which project onto Him. All these things are revealed and are experienced in the Mystery of the gathering of the Church in the Holy Eucharist, and as a unity of faith and communion in the Holy Spirit, which we confess, glorify and live every time we proclaim together the “Our Father” during Holy Eucharist, and partake together in Holy Communion. These are the elements which elude to and constitute the core and the essence of Saint Cyprian’s view. This is what Saint Cyprian expresses in his known letter: All heretics do not have the power and the right to baptize (…) because as enemies of the Lord, they apostatized from the love and unity of the Catholic Church (…). The Church is one, and being one, cannot be in and outside (que et intus esse et foris non potest) (…) The Church cannot be outside Herself (fortis autem non esse Ecclesiam), nor can She be broken and divided into something opposite to herself, because She is unity in the house of the God”. Cyprian, therefore, theologically and ecclesiologically connects the unity of Baptism with the unity of the Church which reveals the “unity of Eucharist”. He closely connects the “grace of one ecclesiastical baptism” (unici ecclesiastici baptismi gratiam), with “the unity of the Church” (Ecclesiae unitatem) and the “inseparable Mystery of unity” (inseparabile unitatis sacramentum) with the Eucharist, as Body and Blood of Christ, where “Christian concord is connected with the inseparable love, as it is shown in the Sacrifice of the Lord” (unianimitatem christianam firma sibi adque inseparabilio caritatem conexam etiam ipsa Dominica sacrificial declarant) (Epistle 69, 1.3-5). Thus, for Cyprian, the “one baptism” is inseparable from the unity of the Church in the Eucharist, which is the unity of all in faith, hope and love. In one word, unity of all in the Holy Trinity, per the Apostle: “endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all.” (Ephesians 4:1-6).

St. Cyprian

St. Cyprian

The Fathers of the Church, and contemporaries of Saint Cyprian, and the consequent practice of the Church, bear witness to the position of Cyprian, since the non-recognition of the baptism of heretics outside the Church was never rejected by the Church of the East.13 This is recognized in their own way by Fr. George Florovsky and his student Metropolitan John (Zizioulas) of Pergamon. In the Christian east and in Africa, just as Saint Cyprian, they acknowledge that there is no salvific Baptism among heretics and schismatics (as it is confirmed by several Ecclesiastical Synods: Carthage of 220, Iconium of Asia Minor of 235, followed by Antioch of Syria and others14), because the Holy Spirit is not imparted outside the Church. She is the one that contains the fullness of the faith in the Holy Trinity and in Christ, and the fullness of Grace and communion in Church, which is the fullness of salvation, and the fullness of communion with the Holy Trinity.

Saint Firmilianus, bishop of Caesarea in Cappadocia (230-268)15 and a contemporary of Cyprian, was against Stephen who as bishop of Rome recognized the baptism of heretics. He wrote like Cyprian and supported the same theology on the One Baptism. Firmilianus writes about One Baptism in the Church as a “bond of unity”, and as “divine unity(divina unitate). For as he points out, “For as even the Lord who dwells in us is one and the same. He everywhere joins His own people in the bond of unity (vincula unitatis)(…). Those souls however, who have departed from the unity of God cannot come into the unity of the Holy Trinity”, – and he refers to the Lord’s prayer for this unity with the Father (John 17:21). “Whence it appears that this tradition (of Stephane) is of men which maintains heretics, and asserts that they have baptism, which belongs to the Church alone (…). Those who do not recognize and do not confess the True God the Father, can neither know the truth for the Son and the Holy Spirit (…). Moreover, all other heretics, if they have separated themselves from the Church of God, can have nothing of power or of grace, since all power and grace are established in the Church where the presbyters preside”, who possess both the power of baptizing, “and of imposition of hands, and of ordaining (ordinandi). For as a heretic may not lawfully ordain nor lay on hands, so neither may he baptize, nor do anything holily or spiritually. For heretics are “alien from spiritual and deifying sanctity” (aliens sit a spirtali et deifica sanctitate) (…) Spiritual birth cannot be without the Spirit (spiritualem nativitatem). Thus, Apostle Paul baptized anew with a spiritual baptism those who had already been baptized by John before the Holy Spirit had been sent by the Lord, and so laid hands on them that they might receive the Holy Spirit. (Acts 19: 2-6) (…). But if it is spiritual, how can baptism be spiritual among those among whom there is no Holy Spirit? (…) The spouse of Christ is one, which is the (Catholic) Church, it is she herself who alone bears sons of God. (…). If therefore, Christ is with us, then Christ is not with the heretics. Then it is obvious they are opponents of Christ and if we gather with Christ, they disperse (Matt. 12:30)(…) But we join custom to truth, and to the Romans’ custom (of Pope Stephan) we oppose custom, but the custom of truth. We accept that which Christ and the Apostles delivered to us from the beginning. We that knew none but one Church of God and accounted no baptism holy except that of the holy Church (…). When they (i.e. the heretics) come baptized to us, they are then baptized with the only and true baptism of the Catholic Church (unico et vero Ecclesiae Catholicae baptism) and obtain the regeneration of the layer of life (Epistle 75,

Consequently, Saint Firmilianus stresses that he who is separated from the Church is foreign to the spiritual grace; foreign to the gift and deifying grace of the Holy Spirit. It is not enough, says Saint Firmilianus, to offer names (i.e.: the type of the baptism) in order that sanctification and salvation is truly offered through baptism. These thoughts are repeated by Saint Athanasius of Alexandria in his known work, “Contra Arianos”: “And these too hazard the fullness of the mystery, I mean Baptism; for if the consecration is given to us into the Name of Father and Son, and they do not confess a true Father, because they deny what is from Him and like His Essence, and deny also the true Son, and name another of their own framing as created out of nothing, is not the rite administered by them altogether empty and unprofitable, making a show, but in reality being no help towards religion?” (…) For not he who simply says, ‘O Lord,’ gives Baptism; but he who with the Name has also the right faith. On this account, therefore our Saviour also did not simply command to baptize, but first says, ‘Teach;’ then thus: ‘Baptize into the Name of Father, and Son, and Holy Ghost;’ that the right faith might follow upon learning, and together with faith might come the consecration of Baptism.” (42: 4-11 and 15-21).17 There are many other heresies too, which use the words only, but not in a right sense, as I have said, nor with sound faith, and in consequence the water which they administer is unprofitable, as deficient in piety, so that he who is sprinkled by them is rather polluted by irreligion than redeemed (43: 22-26).

This is a very important position by Athanasius the Great and must be taken seriously into account today when we meet people in the framework of the ecumenical movement who claim that “the limits of the Church is Baptism”.18 By not taking into account the correct – orthodox faith and confession of doctrines, which if some do not possess, they are not Orthodox. They are schismatics, separated from the fullness of the God-given gifts, charismas and operations, grace and unity in the Eucharist which is the identity of the Church in Christ, through the grace of the Holy Spirit, for the glory of God and Father and the salvation of the world.

Let us refer to the opinions of another contemporary of Cyprian, Saint Dionysius the Great, Archbishop of Alexandria (247-264). In his letter to Philemon, a priest of Pope Sextus, he writes: “I received this rule and ordinance from our blessed father, Heraclas. For those who came over from heresies, although they had apostatized from the Church, – or rather had not apostatized, but seemed to meet with them, yet were charged with resorting to some false teacher, – when he had expelled them from the Church he did not receive them back, though they entreated for it, until they had publicly reported all things which they had heard from their adversaries; but then he received them without requiring of them another baptism. For they had formerly received the Holy Spirit from him.”19 Hence, according to Dionysius, we should not rebaptize those who were once baptized in the Church, even if they have consequently lapsed. Jerome confesses that Dionysius “agreed with Cyprian and with the decisions of the Council of Africa, and wrote many letters in relation to this subject.” (De viris illustribus, 69)20. In a not very well-known epistle to Dionysius, “Epistle to Dionysius, Stephen and the presbyters of the Church of Rome”21, he notes: “Those who are baptized in the name of the three persons (of the Holy Trinity), – of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, should not be rebaptized, even if they were baptized by heretics, but only when these heretics do not confess the three persons. Those who come to the Church from other heresies, we baptize.

As we can see, Saint Dionysius the Great expresses the same opinion with Cyprian and later with Athanasius the Great. But as we shall subsequently show, as Saint Dionysius confessed, Basil the Great expressed the opinion which he also applied in practice that it is not necessary to rebaptize just anyone who comes to the Church from various heresies and schisms. In Epistle II to Pope Sextus, Dionysius refers to the case when a believer “came to me weeping, and bewailing himself; and falling at my feet he acknowledged and protested that the baptism with which he had been baptized among the heretics was not of this character, nor in any respect like this, because it was full of impiety and blasphemy. And he said that his soul was now pierced with sorrow, and that he had not confidence to lift his eyes to God, because he had set out from those impious words and deeds. And on this account, he besought that he might receive this most perfect purification, and reception and grace. But I did not dare to do this; and said that his long communion was sufficient for this. For I should not dare to renew from the beginning one who had heard the giving of thanks and joined in repeating the Amen; who had stood by the table and had stretched forth his hands to receive the blessed food; and who had received it, and partaken for a long while of the body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ. But I exhorted him to be of good courage, and to approach the partaking of the saints with firm faith and good hope.”22

This example shows that this practice of the Church to accept certain groups of heretics into the Church without rebaptizing had already begun from that time, and continues until today. This practice is already witnessed in the 3rd and 4th C and is expounded by Basil the Great, as will see further. At the same time, however, it is stressed that for the practice of admission of heretics and schismatics into the Church what was basic and fundamental was their unification with the oneness and communion of the Church and not any “objective” recognition of the sacraments of heretics. Thus, it appears that the principle which is in force is the one of Cyprian. That canonical and charismatic boundaries of the Church coincide, and are especially revealed in practice in the One Eucharist of the real Church, in which those who approach partake in communion, and in this manner, belong to the Church. For there is no Church outside the Eucharist, outside the Liturgical communion. This is the content and meaning of the canonical tradition of the Church. When unity of the Church has been sundered, at exactly that moment, the canons are applied, such as economy, to protect and rebuild unity.

St. Basil the Great

St. Basil the Great

This same canonical practice and theological confession is clearly what Basil the Great employs and expresses in his first canonical epistle to Amphilochius of Iconium (Epistle 183). We will not refer to it entirely. Nevertheless, it has been summarized in all the collections on Canon Law of the Orthodox Church as Canon I of Basil the Great, based on the First Ecumenical Council and reiterated in a special manner in Canon VII of the Second Ecumenical Council, as in the case of Canon XCV (95) of the Council in Trullo. Basil the Great observes in the beginning of this (letter) canon: “As to your enquiry about the Cathari, a statement has already been made, and you have properly reminded me that it is right to follow the custom obtaining in each region, because those, who at the time gave decision on these points, held different opinions concerning their baptism. But the baptism of the Pepuzeni (i.e.: Montanists) seems to me to have no authority; and I am astonished how this can have escaped Dionysius, acquainted as he was with the canons. The old authorities decided to accept that baptism which in nowise errs from the faith. Thus, they used the names of heresies, of schisms, and of unlawful congregations. By heresies, they meant men who were altogether broken off and alienated in matters relating to the actual faith; by schisms, men who had separated for some ecclesiastical reasons and questions capable of mutual solution; by unlawful congregations, gatherings held by disorderly presbyters or bishops or by uninstructed laymen.”23 Saint Basil refers to examples of unlawful congregations and schisms, but refers to the Manichæans, of the Valentinians, of the Marcionites, and “Pepuzeni” (Montanists) as heresies, which have substantial differences in faith from the Church. And Saint Basil continues saying, “So it seemed good to the ancient authorities to reject the baptism of heretics altogether, but to admit that of schismatics, on the ground that they still belonged to the Church. As to those who assembled in unlawful congregations, their decision was to join them again to the Church, after they had been brought to a better state by proper repentance and rebuke, and so, in many cases, when men in orders2620 had rebelled with the disorderly, to receive them on their repentance, into the same rank.” Then, concerning the Montanists, Saint Basil says, “What ground is there, then, for the acceptance of the baptism of men who baptize into the Father and the Son and Montanus or Priscilla? For those who have not been baptized into the names delivered to us have not been baptized at all. So that, although this escaped the vigilance of the great Dionysius, we must by no means imitate his error. The absurdity of the position is obvious in a moment, and evident to all who are gifted with even a small share of reasoning capacity.”24 Consequently, the baptism of heretics cannot be accepted.

More specifically, Basil continues to expound the practice (praxis) of the Church: “The Cathari are schismatics; but it seemed good to the ancient authorities, I mean Cyprian and our own Firmilian, to reject all these, Cathari, Encratites, and Hydroparastatæ, by one common condemnation, because the origin of separation arose through schism, and those who had apostatized from the Church had no longer on them the grace of the Holy Spirit, for it ceased to be imparted when the continuity was broken. The first separatists had received their ordination from the Fathers, and possessed the spiritual gift by the laying on of their hands. But they who were broken off had become laymen, and, because they are no longer able to confer on others that grace of the Holy Spirit from which they themselves are fallen away, they had no authority either to baptize or to ordain. And therefore, those who were from time to time baptized by them, were ordered, as though baptized by laymen, to come to the church to be purified by the Church’s true baptism. Nevertheless, since it has seemed to some of those of Asia that, for the sake of management of the majority, their baptism should be accepted, let it be accepted.”25

These last words of Basil the Great show that economy in the Church is applied differently each time, in accordance to the local traditions and customs. Saint Basil respected this practice, even though he believed that we should employ akriveia [exactitude]. Basil recalls the same for the Encratites, in canon 57 (fn.26), for whom he literally notes: “We re-baptize them all. If it be forbidden with you, (as it is at Rome)27 for prudential causes, yet let reason prevail.” This freedom of Basil the Great, a freedom in the Holy Spirit, and his greatness of heart with a fullness of pastoral duty of a hierarch and theologian, pastor, and canonist, was not only particular to him, but also characterized all the other Fathers before and after him. This rule was followed as canonical and liturgical wisdom for the edification of the Church. This is why the authority of Basil the Great is so great. Basil concludes at the end of Canon I, “On every ground let it be enjoined that those who come to us from their baptism be anointed in the presence of the faithful, and only on these terms approach the mysteries.”

This practice is expressed by Basil the Great in Canons I and XLVII(47) and shows that ecclesiastical economy can transcend lawful exactitude [akriveia]. In this case, an unfulfilled baptism of schismatics is not repeated, but received with the Holy Oil of the Holy Spirit, especially bishops accompanied by their flock, so that they may be united to the fullness (pleroma) of the Church, where the Holy Spirit revivifies and completes all that is dead and lacking in them.28 Thus we can say with confidence that the Holy Mysteries do not exist outside or above the Church and their forms are not the criterion of ecclesiality and salvation. However, the Church is the criterion and the seal of all those who come to the Church. Consequently, the Church as a summarized salvation of Christ is the only path of salvation, the Mother of all of us (Galatians 4:26, Hebrews 12:22-24, and Methodius of Mount Olympus, Symposium 8: 5-8).

The position and practice of the Church is traced in the Holy Canons of the Fathers and the Synods (and we already mentioned Canon VIII of Nicaea, Canon VII of Constantinople, and Canon XCV (95) of the Council in Trullo), as well as the Offices of the Church for the reception of heretics. We have as examples Timotheos of Constantinople, 6th C, repeated by George the Priestmonk, and John of Damascus, Methodius of Constantinople, the Book of Prayers (Euchologion) of the Patriarchate of Constantinople, the “Interpretation of the commandments of the Lord” (Discourse LXIII, Pandekti) of Nikon Mavroreitis29, and others. All these [views and practices] were later introduced as canonical collections of the Orthodox Church and were translated into Slavonic – “The Rudder” of Ephraim and the “Nomokanon” of Saint Sava – as in other languages.

However, it is characteristic that Canon VII of the Second Ecumenical Council begins with the words of the Acts of the Apostles, with the well-known verse 2:46-47, which expresses the ecclesiological-Eucharistic truth: “And the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved.” The same canon restates the Epistle of Patriarch Gennadius of Constantinople (5th C) to Martyrius of Antioch and is literally repeated in Canon XCV (95) of the Council in Trullo, where it uses the words from Acts: “THOSE who from the heretics come over to orthodoxy, and to the number of those who should be saved, we receive according to the following order and custom.”30 This expresses the attitude of the Acts of the Apostles. These sacred canons and the practice of the Church add that those who come to the Church in repentance with their rejection of heresy or schism are received with the laying of hands and with Holy Oil, with the phonation, “Seal of the gift of the Holy Spirit”, and thereafter they receive Holy Communion. The same happens as mentioned in Canon I of Basil the Great. This means that only through entry into the Church, those who were not yet [received] are incorporated in the unity and communion of the Church – in the fellowship of the saved.

To not expound further, we could make the following conclusions: the most significant is not what we recognize when we admit heretics, whom we are obligated to baptize, or others who should receive chrismation with Holy Oil. Rejection of heresy and repentance on their part is obviously preconditional, but the most important is their entrance and union with the Church.31 Thus unfortunately Fr. George Florovsky fails to relate communion and union with the Church, in this essay about the “Boundaries of the Church”.

Archbishop Hilarion (Troitsky)

Archbishop Hilarion (Troitsky)

Hilarion (Troitsky)32 speaks about the admission of heretics in the Church for their gathering in the unity of the Church, in his Epistle on 18 of January 1917 to the American Robert Gardiner, the secretary of “Faith and Order” committee and responsible to organize the Worldwide Conference of Christians (it was at the beginning of the Ecumenical movement). We will not go through the entire epistle33. We will only note the basic formulations of Archbishop Hilarion: the meaning of salvation in the Church is the coming of a person into Her unity, whereas the manner of admission is a secondary matter. Sacramental-charismatic and salvific significance is at the level of the very same communion in the Church, by which one is received into the unity of the Church (repentance, laying of hands, Chrismation), and consequently, with participation in the Holy Eucharist, the sacramental and ecclesiological Body of Christ.

Therefore, the most important is the Mystery of Christ, which is the Church. For this reason, admission to the Church, union with Her, signifies the entry into the fullness of the Church, the fullness of Grace, the fullness of salvation, the fullness of the incorporation into the Body Christ. It is truly an incorporation, an embodiment and a churchification in the Body of the Theanthropos (as Saint Justin Popovich would say). This means entry into the full communion of the Holy Trinity, which is revealed and in which we participate in the gathering of the Church, in Liturgy as the sacrament of the Supper of the Kingdom, here and now, and a foretaste and participation in the eschatological Kingdom.

Fr. Florovsky, as we know, referred to the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church, the Church that unites us all, and which is the “House of God” (in his well-known essay, “The House of the Father”34), the dwelling of the Holy Spirit, the pillar and ground of the Truth. The Faith of the Church, the great Mystery of Faith, is not simply a “confession”, as some uphold today, but is the selfsame Church. The correct faith – Orthodoxy – is an action of entry into the fullness of the Church, even if it alone does not constitute a sufficient provision for salvation. For it must always express the deeper entry into the unity of the Church.35 Thus, prior to Holy Communion, in the fullness of liturgical language and practice, we petition, “The unity of faith and the communion of the Holy Spirit…”.

Concluding this brief study, we will cite two fragments from the same work of Fr. George Florovsky: “In the ancient Church the ceremony of initiation was not differentiated. The three sacraments go together: Baptism, Holy Chrismation and Divine Liturgy. The initiation described by Saint Cyril and later by Cavasilas is comprised by all three. (…) The sacramental life of believers is the edification of the Church. Through sacraments and in them, the new life of Christ is extended and conferred to the members of His Body”.36

In this context, it is valuable to note what can be considered as a confession of the very same Fr. George Florovsky: “As a member and a priest of the Orthodox Church, I believe that the Church in which I was baptized and raised ‘is’ in very truth ‘the Church’, i.e. ‘the true’ Church and the ‘only’ true Church. And I believe this for many reasons: owing to personal conviction and to internal confirmation of the Spirit, who breathes into the Sacraments of the Church. Therefore, I am compelled to regard all other Christian Churches as defective, and in many cases I can define the deficiencies of these other Churches accurately enough. Therefore, for me, Christian reunion is simply universal conversion to Orthodoxy. (…) “Judgement” has been given to the Son. No one has been appointed to pre-empt His judgement. Of course, the Church has Her command inside history. The command firstly to preach and preserve the word of truth. There is some rule of faith and order which must be considered as a canon. Whatever exists beyond is an “abnormality”. But this “abnormality” must be healed, and not simply be condemned. This is what justifies an Orthodox to participate in ecumenical dialogue, with the hope that with his witness the Truth of God makes possible to win human beings”.37

This is the ecumenical protopresbyter George Florovsky. We consider the essay on “The Boundaries of the Church” as a product of a young Florovsky, fragmented and lacking clarity. However, he remains a theologian that contemplates, unafraid to theologize and to speak about the Church, because he feels like a son in the house of his Father, and has the freedom in Christ, with which we become “fellow citizens with the saints, and of the household of God” (Ephesians 2:19). This freedom liberates us with the Holy Spirit, the Comforter, the Church of the Living and Philanthropos God, who became man for us men and for our salvation –and the entire world.

Consequently, we cannot separate the boundaries of the economy of God from the limits of the Eucharist. And thus, we cannot expand the charismatic limits beyond the canonical, nor can we restrict the canonical so much so that we exclude the practice of the Church in the reception of heretics. The moment that admission and participation in the unity of the Church is realized, meaning in the Eucharist, then we judge those who come; and moreover, not in an objective manner otherwise we would be objectifying the Sacraments above the Church. This constitutes a paradox, a type of antinomy, yet, in the end, this is the truth.


1 This Essay was published in the quarterly journal of the Church of Greece, “THEOLOGIA” («Θεολογία), 2010. Volume 4 was dedicated to the important works of Fr. George Florovsky. This address was first introduced in French at the International Conference “Fr. George Florovsky and renewal of Orthodox theology in the 20th C, which took place in Paris, 27-29 November, 2009. This article was translated by Nicholas Pantelopoulos. Translator’s note: The title of Fr. George Florovsky’s work, as it is published in the Collected Works, Vol. XIII, is “The Boundaries of the Church” (FLOROVSKY, George, The Collected Works, Vol. XIII, Ecumenism I: A Doctrinal Approach”, Büchervertriebsansalt, Vaduz, Europa, Liechtenstein, 1989, pp. 36-45.

2 “О границах Церкви”, Путь 44 (July-September 1934), pg. 15-26, and in Greek translation of Florovsky’s “The Limits of the Church”, The Body of the Living Christ (An orthodox understanding of the Church), published, Patriarchal Institute of Patristic Studies, Thessaloniki, 1972, pg. 127-148.

3 With the help of our dear Michel Stavrou, I had the opportunity to read other articles on this subject by Fr. George Florovsky. They are as follows: FAMEREE Joseph, « Les limites de l’ Église: l’apport de Georges Florovsky au dialogue catholique-orthodoxe », Revue théologique de Louvain, 34/ 2 (2003), pp. 137-154. MARENGO Marco, I confine della Chiesa nel pensiero di Georges Florovsky, Tesi di Dottorato, (Firenze 2006). For this subject, there are two very important studies by Metropolitan of Pergamon, John Zizioulas, a dedication to Fr. George Florovsky («Πατήρ Γεώργιος Φλωρόβσκυ: ὁ οἰκουμενικός δάσκαλος», Σύναξη 64/1977, pp. 13-26 (see the current volume of Theologia, pg. 31-48) and the other on the subject of the limits (“Orthodox Ecclesiology and the Ecumenical Movement”, Sourozh 21/1985, pg. 16-27). It is about the lecture which was delivered on 13-02-1985, at Ladbroke Grove, London.

4 See, “Провлематика христианского воссоединенеия”, Путь 37 (February, 1934 -supplement), pg. 1-15, [Translator’s notes, and a Greek translation in this article in THEOLOGIA, pg. 119-136].

5 FLOROVSKY, G. “Οι Ανατολικοί Πατέρες του δ’ αιώνα”, translated by P. Ralli, published by P. Pournara, Thessaloniki 2006.

6 FLOROVSKY, G. “Οι βυζαντινοί Πατέρες των στ’-?’-η’ αιώνων”, translated by P. Ralli, published by P. Pournara, Thessaloniki 1993.

7 An analysis of the ecclesiological positions of Saint Cyprian was made, before Fr. George, by B. A. Troitsky (the afterwards archbishop and saint, Ilarion, Confessor of Christ, +1929) in his post- graduate study: “Очеркц цз из ицсмориицц о Церквицц, Сергиев Посад”, 1912 (it was republished on Творения, tome 1, Moscow 2004, pp. 253-308). Also, the then layman John Zizioulas (currently Metropolitan of Pergamon) in his doctoral thesis, “On the Unity of the Church in the Holy Eucharist and the Bishop during the first three centuries”, Gregory, Athens 1990, pp. 121-134, mentions Saint Cyprian. Soon, we will publish our own study on the teaching of Saint Cyprian on Baptism and his positions concerning the canonical and charismatic limits of the Church, which he considers identical.

8 Many Fathers of the Church speak about economy. See Gregory the Theologian, Homily 21, 34, PG 35, 1124Z, Homily 21, 13, PG 35, 1096, etc. The position of Saint Evlogios of Alexandria concerning, see Photius the Great, Bibliotheca, 227, publ. by R. Henry, Les Belles Lettres, Paris 1964, v. IV, pp. 113-114.

9 Concerning Trinitarian economy of grace of the salvation by Apostle Paul and the Fathers, see more in my doctoral thesis, “The ecclesiology of Apostle Paul”, publ. Gregory, Athens 1967, especially chapter 1.

10 This is exactly what Florovsky means when he speaks about the faith in the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church, which reveals her nature, which is not of this world, and consequently is primarily the object of faith. By expressing the Symbol of Faith in the Church, we position it together with God Himself and confess Her divinity and holiness. In the Church, we believe and can only believe, because it is the Body of Christ, the fullness of Him who fills all in all” (Ephesians 1:22-23). The name of the Church as the Body of Christ links Her being with the Mystery of Divine Incarnation, with the sacrament of Holy Eucharist, – and is perpetually alive, and the irrevocable basis of the visibility of the Church comprising the realization of that event that the “Word became flesh” (John 1:14). The teaching about the Church as being visible and simultaneously invisible, historically given and Divine at the same time, is the continuation and unfolding of the Christological doctrine in the spirit of the definition of the faith of Chalcedon. Only from Her profound ecclesiastical experience of the doctrine of Chalcedon can we understand the Church in Her fullness. Or, in reverse, through the doctrine of Chalcedon we can know the Theanthropic nature of the Church, [this is a paraphrase from the article of Florovsky, “The House of the Father”, published in Путь 7 (April 1926), pp. 63-85, see the Greek translation, of Arch. Meletius Kalamara, on FLOROVSKY, G. An Anatomy of Problems of Faith”, Rigopoulos, Thessaloniki 1977, pp. 100-146]. This article proves the view, with which we agree, that the boundaries of the Church coincide, on the one hand with the boundless limits of Divine Economy, consequently including all, and on the other with the specific canonical limits of the Church revealed in the Holy Eucharist.

11 See the important text of FLOROVSKY, George, “Confessional Loyalty in the Ecumenical Movement”, in Intercommunion, D. Baillie, -J. Mash (ed.) (Harper and Bros, New York 1952), pp. 196-205, and the Greek translation as “Inter-communion: Ὁμολογιακὴ πιστότης ἐντός τῆς οἰκουμενικῆς κινήσεως», in FLOROVSKY, George, “Θέματα Ορθοδόξου Ὁρθοδόξου Θεολογίας”, Artos Zois, Athens 1973, pp. 211-220.

12 Translated by Alexander Roberts and William Rambaut. From Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol. 1. Edited by Alexander Roberts, James Donaldson, and A. Cleveland Coxe. (Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Publishing Co., 1885.) Revised and edited for New Advent by Kevin Knight. .

13 The position of Cyprian is found in summary in his own Synodical epistle 50 (since it was written by the Synod), which is included as a special Canon in the canonical collections of the Church. Concerning Saint Cyprian and his canon, the Fathers of the Synod in Trullo (in Canon II, where in the end the canon of Cyprian is referenced) say: “It has also seemed good to this holy Council, that the eighty-five canons, received and ratified by the holy and blessed Fathers before us, (…) Moreover the Canon set forth by Cyprian, Archbishop of the country of the Africans and Martyr, and by the Synod under him, which has been kept only in the country of the aforesaid Bishops, according to the custom delivered down to them.” [Alivizatos, A., “The sacred canons and the Ecclesiastical laws”, Apostoliki Diakonia, Athens 1949, pp. 75-76]. The underlined words were possibly the reason for the particular history of this canon, which is ecclesiastically correct. For in the East, as in the case of Cyprian, it was understood that among heretics, even schismatics, there is no salvific baptism, because the Holy Spirit does not impart itself outside of the Church. However, when the Church received schismatics and heretics who confessed the Holy Trinity, in the East and in Rome, by economy they would not rebaptize (see. Canon VIII of the Council of Arelate in 314, canon VIII of the Council of Nicaea, the Council of Carthage in 348, Canon VII of the Second Ecumenical Council, Canon XCV in Trullo, which repeats the former canon, and Canon I of Basil the Great).

14 See ZIZIOULA, John, “Ἡ ἑνότης τῆς Ἐκκλησίας” [The Unity of the Church”], pp. 127 and 186.

15 This is the known Epistle no. 75, which was preserved in Latin alongside with the Epistles of Saint Cyprian (Bayard, Correspondence, v. 2, pp. 280-308). In this epistle, Saint Firmilian writes to Cyprian a very severe critique about Pope Stephen and his view, as well as his threats that anyone who disagrees with him will be excommunicated. These have resulted in many… Disagreements with all the Churches and to cut himself off from the unity of love, and to make himself a stranger in all respects from his flock, and to rebel against the sacrament of faith” (75, 4, 2). Concerning the limits of the Church, it is noteworthy that Basil the Great valued Saint Firmilian, whom he consequently succeeded, having before him the ecclesiastical tradition which he inherited from him. Although later he would accept certain heretics without baptism, Basil the Great preserved the theological core which Saint Firmilian upheld. For what is most important is the reintegration of heretics into the unity of the Church and not an “objectified” acceptance of Baptism outside the Church.

16 Translated by Robert Ernest Wallis. From Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol. 5. Edited by Alexander Roberts, James Donaldson, and A. Cleveland Coxe. (Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Publishing Co., 1886.) Revised and edited for New Advent by Kevin Knight. .

17 ATHANASIUS, “Contra Arianos” Discourse II (42 :14, 15-21) (Translation Philip Schaff).

18 ZIZIOULAS, John, “Ἡ ἑνότης τῆς Ἐκκλησίας” [The Unity of the Church], ex. pp. 127, 126, 129. Although John Zizioulas correctly comments when discussing Saint Cyprian that the faith and Orthodoxy of Cyprian is an ecclesiological given. The correct faith cannot be, surely, a means of salvation as a self-existing means, but is dependent on the entire devotion of the faithful to the Catholic Church (…) The Catholic Church is the one which incarnates the fullness of Orthodoxy, the Holy Eucharist and all the means of salvation, every sacrament: Ordination and Baptism. Due to the ecclesiological content of the Eucharist, schismatics and heretics who do not partake in Her, cannot perform valid sacraments. For Cyprian, the basis of “validity” of baptism of heretics is: if they had partaken in the unity of Holy Eucharist, they would have partaken in the charismatic and salvific life of the Church. Cyprian expresses this position clearly, that Eucharistic unity reveals the pleroma (fullness) of the unity of the Church. See Cyprian, Epistle 69:5-6.

19 EUSEBIUS, “Church History”, Book VII, Section 4. Translation Philip Schaff.

20 The English translation of Saint Jerome’s account in De viris iIllustribus, Chapter 69, reads, “Consenting to the doctrine of Cyprian and the African synod, on the rebaptizing of heretics, he sent many letters to different people, which are yet extant;” (Translated by Ernest Cushing Richardson. From Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Second Series, Vol. 3. Edited by Philip Schaff and Henry Wace. (Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Publishing Co., 1892.) Revised and edited for New Advent by Kevin Knight. .

21 The original epistle has been preserved in Syrian translation only (See Cardinal PITRA, Analecta Sancta, Vol. IV, p. 170).

22 EUSEBIUS, “Church History” Book VII, Section 9. Translation Philip Schaff.

23 BASIL the Great, Concerning the Canons (Canonica Prima), Epistle CLXXXVIII to Amphilochius, Paragraph I. Translation by Philip Schaff.

24 BASIL the Great, Ibid.

25 BASIL the Great, Ibid.

26 This canon addresses Enratites, Saccophorians, and Apotactites.

27 Translator’s note: This text is taken directly from the Canons and it is slightly worded differently in the English translation of the Epistle. The phrase “as it is at Rome” was most likely added as a clarification to the Canon XLVII. The actual Epistle reads, “All these I re-baptize on the same principle. If among you their re-baptism is forbidden, for the sake of some arrangement, nevertheless let my principle prevail.” (Translation by Philip Schaff).

28 The prayer of ordination is very characteristic: “Divine Grace always heals the sick and completes what is lacking”. This is not random, such a prayer of ordination; it demonstrates that in the Church the Holy Spirit completes with its Grace, through Chrismation, whatever is lacking during the reception of those with an unfulfilled baptism.

29 11th C.

30 The Seven Ecumenical Councils, Philip Schaff.

31 The importance of unity with the Church is shown in the ancient confessions of Faith: “Lord Jesus Christ, Shepherd and Lamb, receive me your penitent servant, and join me and unite me in your Holy Church”.

32 Fr. George Florovsky mentions him in only one Footnote, but it seems that he had not read his works, which were not widely known moreover in the Russian diaspora.

33 This letter was published many times. Here we use the Russian edition of 1995, of the Meeting of the Lord Monastery in Moscow, in a collection volume with title: “Единство Церкви и Всемирная конференция Христианста”, pp. 52-105. This last edition in Творения. Т. 3, Стеренский монастыр.ыр, (Москва 2004), pp. 495-540. In this text, Saint Hilarion recalls the Metropolitans Anthony (Khrapovitsky) and Philaret (Drozdov) of Moscow, with whom he agrees on the question of the limits of the Church. He critiques the position of Saint Augustine and the distinction he makes between “having sacraments” and “having sacraments with benefit”, considering this as the start of the scholastic distinction between the reality and activity of the Sacrament. “In Augustine the principle of the Roman Catholic teaching on opus operatum (which Florovsky seems to adopt) is evident, and it signifies that the sacrament is independent from the Church, but only dependent upon some expressed forms”. We saw that Saint Firmilianus of Cappadocia protested this opinion, whom Hilarion references, as well as Dionysius of Alexandria (pp. 65, 69, 76). In the end, he characteristically concludes: “the position of the opponents of Pope Stephen about the possibility of the existence of certain acts in the reception of heretics and schismatics in the Church is explained only with the condition that these Fathers of the Church found that sometimes for the peace and benefit of the Church it was best not to ask to rebaptize, believing in the sacramental and charismatic power of the very same union with the Church” (pp. 76).

34 See “The House of the Father”, published in Russian in Путь 7 (April 1926), pp. 63-85, see the greek translation of Archbishop Meletios Kalamaras on Florovsky, G. Ἀνατομία Προβλημάτων Πίστεως, Rigopoulos, Thessaloniki 1977, pp. 100-146.

35 ZIZIOULAS, John, “ ἑνότης τῆς Ἐκκλησίας” [The Unity of the Church], p. 126.

36 FLOROVSKY, G., «Ἀπολύτρωση» στὴ Δημιουργία καὶ Ἀπολύτρωση», Ἔργα 3, translated by Palli, Pournara, Thessaloniki 1983, pp. 176, 179.

37 FLOROVSKY, G., “Inter-communion: Confessional loyalty in the ecumenical movement”, from the Greek translated by A. Koumantos, ΦΛΩΡΟΒΣΚΥ Γ., Θέματα Όρθόδοξης Θεολογίας, Artos Zois, Athens 1973, pp. 211-220.

St. Vladimir’s Seminary Reacts to Amsterdam Conference, OCA Bishops Remain Silent

Orthodox priests who undermine the tradition undermine the Church

Orthodox priests who undermine the tradition undermine the Church

By Fr. Johannes L. Jacobse

The meeting in Amsterdam held several months ago to discuss Orthodoxy and sexuality raised serious questions, some of which have been answered. Thankfully, several attendees withdrew their support of the conference once the questions were raised. Also contributing to their withdrawal was the publication of an essay on the Public Orthodoxy Blog by Peter J. (Giacomo) SanFilippo that argued that a renowned theologian of the Russian Orthodox Church was a sodomite (read the refutation here). The conference was poorly conceived and should have never been held.

One troubling question raised was that many of the attendees cited their affiliation with St. Vladimir’s Seminary (SVS), presumably to give the conference a patina of authority it obviously did not have. This fact was not lost on SVS leadership, including the President and the Board of Trustees. Does the seminary want to be associated with a group that by all appearances considers the moral tradition up for grabs, subject to the deconstruction of Orthodox culture of the kind we see in the SanFilippo essay? Clearly not it turns out.

Several weeks ago St. Vladimir’s Seminary leadership, evidently troubled by the promiscuous use of the seminary’s name and reputation, reaffirmed its fidelity to Orthodox tradition. They wrote:

At their meeting on July 24, 2017, the Executive Committee of the Board of Trustees of St. Vladimir’s Seminary affirmed that the Seminary, in its teaching of theology on the issues of marriage and human sexuality, is guided by the document titled, “Synodal Affirmations on Marriage, Family, Sexuality, and the Sanctity of Life,” originally issued by the Holy Synod of the Orthodox Church in America (OCA) in 1992.

Additionally, during their Semi-Annual meeting on May 19, 2017, the full Board of the Seminary unanimously adopted another statement titled, “Sincerely Held Religious Beliefs Regarding Marriage,” which was also adopted by the Holy Synod in June 2016. The first paragraph of that document states that “The Orthodox Church in America teaches and maintains as a sincerely held religious belief that God has established marriage as a lifelong, exclusive relationship between one man and one woman, and that all intimate sexual activity outside the marriage relationship, whether heterosexual, homosexual, or otherwise, is immoral, and therefore sin,” and then goes on to cite several scriptural passages upholding that stated belief.

“These two statements, originally issued and adopted by the Holy Synod, provide the public with a clear articulation of the fundamental Orthodox Christian teaching regarding marriage and human sexuality, as well as a recognizable moral guideline,” said Archpriest Chad Hatfield, president of the Seminary.

“And our Board’s recent actions regarding them assure that theological education at our school remains in alignment with the teachings of the Holy Orthodox Church,” he continued.

“Moreover,” Fr. Chad concluded, “our Board’s consistent adherence to the Holy Synod’s statements regarding marriage and human sexuality serves as a legal bulwark for the Seminary in matters of religious liberty.”

This is a strong clarification of what might otherwise have resulted in corrosive confusion. Culture arises from faith; religion is the ground of culture. What one believes is how one lives. Cultural deconstruction begins when faith erodes because the weakening of religious faith weakens the foundations of culture. As the erosion increases, cultural forms grow feeble as the traditions that once informed and upheld them fade from consciousness and eventually from memory. Oftentimes this process is aided and abetted through direct attacks on the core teachings that make up the traditions that in turn shape and give content to the cultural forms.

Orthodox culture arises from the Orthodox faith, the teachings that direct us how to live our lives that have been forged in centuries of a human experience guided by men of deep faith and a profound understanding of human nature and the workings of God. They are our teachers. They include the Fathers, Saints, Martyrs, the pantheon of exemplars — a great cloud of witnesses — whom we revere and honor but should also understand and follow.

SanFilippo’s essay is a clumsy but dangerous broadside against Orthodox tradition. Implicitly imputing the sin of sodomy to a preeminent Russian Orthodox theologian weakens the prohibition against sodomy among the Orthodox faithful if his broadside is believed. Change the tradition and eventually you change the culture which is precisely what SanFilippo aims to do. His essay is deadly serious because the sin of sodomy is deadly serious. St. John Chrysostom teaches that sodomy is worse than murder because sodomy kills the soul.

It is not yet clear if the folks at Public Orthodoxy are aggressive deconstructionists of Orthodox culture like SanFilippo. They have not yet clarified why they even published such a sloppy essay (polemics disguised as scholarship) and have yet to comment on the refutation. The most we can conclude at this point is that Public Orthodoxy cannot be considered a serious enterprise.

St. Vladimir’s Seminary is to be commended for their clarification. They understand the cultural implications of the conference and refuse to let the authority of the institution be used in ways that undermine its mission. This is leadership.

Left unanswered however is where the Synod of Bishops of the Orthodox Church in America (OCA) stand on this misuse of ecclesiastical authority. OCA Chancellor Fr. John Jillions participated in the conference and listed SVS seminary as his affiliation where he serves as an adjunct professor, but clearly his position in the OCA bureaucracy is of greater importance. Does he agree with the implicit presupposition of the conference that Orthodox teachings regarding sexuality are malleable? Does he hold to the soft deconstruction of Orthodox culture that Public Orthodoxy’s silence on the SanFilippo essay implicitly advocates?

Moreover, why are the OCA Bishops silent about some of its priests who openly advocate for the normalization of homosexual activity? Why aren’t those priests reprimanded? Fr. Robert Arida is the most notorious because of his essay written several years back that advocated a retooling of the tradition similar to SanFilippo. It’s disingenuous for Fr. Arida and his cohorts to surreptitiously deconstruct Orthodox culture when they could easily join the Episcopal Church since it already believes and practices what they want the Orthodox Church to become.

The OCA Bishops need to clean house. They need to take their place on the shoulders of the courageous men who shaped Orthodox teaching and forged Orthodox culture. All it takes is a modicum of courage punctuated with manly virtue. The SVS leadership provides an example.

Free Download: Atlas of American Orthodox Christian Monasteries

Atlas of American Orthodox Christian Monasteries

 Atlas of American Orthodox Christian Monasteries

The electronic version of the widely popular Atlas of American Orthodox Christian Monasteries has been released by the Assembly of Canonical Orthodox Bishops of the USA and made available FREE OF CHARGE to everyone. The PDF file with the Atlas can be downloaded by following this link.

The hard copy of the Atlas can be purchased directly from Amazon.

Drawing on extensive research, as well as fascinating stories and “insider” anecdotes, the Atlas offers to readers: an introduction into traditions of Eastern Christian monasticism and a history of Orthodox monasteries in America; a comprehensive directory of American Orthodox Christian monasteries; and an enticing travel guide for those seeking to visit American monasteries and to “sample” monastic life. In addition, 23 selected monasteries share their “personal stories” and offer a glimpse into the surprising spiritual appeal of monastic life in 21st century America. Edited by Alexei Krindatch, 150 pages of text are accompanied by 4 maps and more than 100 photographs depicting the everyday lives of US Orthodox monasteries. (Book trim size is 8.5 x 11 inches)

This is a fascinating and comprehensive guide to a small but important sector of American religious life. Whether you want to know about the history and theology of Orthodox monasticism or you just want to know what to expect if you visit, the stories, maps, and directories here are invaluable. — Nancy T. Ammerman, Ph.D., Professor of Sociology of Religion, Boston University

Table of Contents

Message from Archbishop Demetrios, Chairman, Assembly of Canonical Orthodox Bishops of the USA

Editor’s Note: About This Book

Acknowledgments and Contributing Authors

Inclusiveness of the Atlas and Terminology Used

Some Interesting Facts about Orthodox Christian Monasteries in the United States

Chapter 1. Traditions of Orthodox Monasticism

Chapter 2. The Historical Development of Orthodox Monasteries in the United States: An Overview

Chapter 3. Directory of American Orthodox Christian Monasteries by State


Overview of Orthodox Christian Monasteries in the United States

Orthodox Christian Monasteries: Size of Monastic Community

Orthodox Christian Monasteries: Primary Language Used in Worship Services and Church Calendar Followed

Orthodox Christian Monasteries: Overnight Accommodations Offered to Visitors

Directory of American Orthodox Christian Monasteries by State

Chapter 4. The Way They Live: the Stories of Some American Orthodox Monasteries

The Alaskan Monastic Communities: St. Michael Skete on Spruce Island and St. Nilus Skete on St. Nilus Island (Serbian Orthodox Church in the USA)

All-Merciful Saviour Monastery, Vashon Island, Washington (Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia)

Annunciation of the Theotokos and Panagia Vlahernon Greek Orthodox Monasteries, Reddick and Williston, Florida (Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America)

Dormition of the Mother of God Monastery, Rives Junction, Michigan (Orthodox Church in America)

Hermitage of the Holy Cross, Wayne, West Virginia (Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia)

Holy Archangels Greek Orthodox Monastery, Kendalia, Texas (Greek Orthodox Archdiocese)

Holy Cross Monastery, Castro Valley, California (Orthodox Church in America)

Holy Monastery of St. Paisius, Safford, Arizona (Serbian Orthodox Church in the USA)

Holy Myrrhbearers Monastery, Otego, New York (Orthodox Church in America)

Holy Protection Orthodox Monastery, White Haven, Pennsylvania (Greek Orthodox Archdiocese)

Holy Trinity Orthodox Monastery, Jordanville, New York (Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia)

Monks of New Skete and Nuns of New Skete, Cambridge, New York (Orthodox Church in America)

Protection of the Most Holy Mother of God (“New Gracanica”) Monastery, Third Lake, Illinois (Serbian Orthodox Church in the USA)

St. Anthony’s Greek Orthodox Monastery, Florence, Arizona (Greek Orthodox Archdiocese)

St. John the Forerunner Greek Orthodox Monastery, Goldendale, Washington (Greek Orthodox Archdiocese)

St. John of San Francisco Orthodox Monastery, Manton, California (Orthodox Church in America)

St. Herman of Alaska Monastery, Platina, California (Serbian Orthodox Church)

St. Sabbas the Sanctified Orthodox Monastery, Harper Woods, Michigan (Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia)

St. Tikhon’s Orthodox Monastery, South Canaan, Pennsylvania (Orthodox Church in America)

If You Decide, to Go: a Few Simple Rules to Follow When Visiting an Orthodox Christian Monastery

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