Sunday, March 30, 2014

TOC Serbia Comments on the Recent GOC Unification

The Greek Under Archbishop Kallinikos TOC Has United with the Family of'' Cyprian'' Synods   
by The editors of the blog SerbianTO

          With a majestic divine service on the Sunday of the Veneration of the Cross, 23 March, at the Monastery of St. Nicholas in Paiania on the outskirts of Athens, the argreement of union was confirmed between the Greek TOC on one side, presided over by the Archbishop of Athens and Greece, Kallinikos, and on the other side the now-defunct'' Synod in Resistance'' (Cyprianites), the Romanian TOC presided over by Met. Vlasía of Slatioara, the Bulgarian TOC presided over by Bishop Photios of Triadia, and the jurisdiction under Met. Agathangel which claims to be the sole inheritor of the canonical fallen Russian Church Abroad.

          This union is the result of long theological dialogues between the Kallinikites and the Cyprianites. As far as we understand at this point, based on the information we have, the Cyprianites have essentially renounced the heretical teaching of their teacher and founder, the reposed Metropolitan Cyprian Kotsumbas - that the ''healthy” (i.e. the Orthodox) and “ailing” (i.e., the heretics) co-exist in the Church - explaining that this teaching was their elder’s personal theological thinking – a mere theologumenon, which they have now put aside. On 21 March, the GOC and the bishops formerly of the "Synod in Resistance "signed a joint Orthodox Confession of Faith entitled   "The True Orthodox Church in Opposition to the Heresy of Ecumenism: Dogmatic and Canonical Issues" and made ​​the resolution to unite into one administrative structure, that is, the former SiR bishops have submitted to the authority of the Synod GOC under Abp. Kallinikos and have become members of the one, united GOC Synod.
The resolution of the bishops of the former SiR was supported by the Churches which until now have been in spiritual communion with them: the Churches of Romania and Bulgaria, along with the Russian group under Metropolitan Agathangel.

          This unquestionably historical event brought great joy to the majority of True Orthodox throughout the whole world (in Greece they called this event a Pascha before Pascha), and hope for the beginning of the process of unification of all True Orthodox, which after so many gloomy decades of the splintering and fragmenting of True Orthodoxy, in any case foreshadows a brighter future of the strengthening of the position of the True Orthodox on the battleground with apostate official Orthodoxy.

          Of course, there are those who are very sharply criticizing this move of the Greek TOC with Archbishpo Kallinikos at the head, accusing of Her lacking in principle, and that with this condescension to the Cyprianites they have abandoned the eccesiological position of their Confession of the Faith which they held until now, proclaimed in the documents of 1935, 1974, and in 1991.

          The "hard line" zealots perceive serious decadence of True Orthodoxy in this event and a fatal passing of oeconomia into paranomia (lawlessness). Furthermore, general suprise and various assumptions were especially caused by the ease with which Archbishop Kallinikos, until now the representative of the Matthew line in the Greek TOC, passed over his former convictions. Was it from a sincere desire for the attainment of this great unification of True Orthodox, or for the sake of his own glory as the great UNITER and protector of True Orthodoxy?

          The two most important and most numerous True Orthodox Churches, the Russian True Orthodox Church (RTOC) presided over by Archbishop Tikhon of Omsk and Siberia, and the Russian Orthodox Church autonomos (ROAC) - the Suzdal Synod - presided over by Met. Theodore, have still not made a statement about this event.

          We asked His Grace Bishop Acacius to make public his stance on the Kallinikos-Cyprian unification for our'' Serbian True Orthodox'' blog. In His Grace's words, though due to the rapidity of events his personal stance on this unification has not yet crystalised, in principle it is positive. He Considers that with this act, the extremes of Cyprianism and Matthewism which have brought great harm to True Orthodoxy until now have finally been abandoned.

He is especially pleasantly suprised by the change in stance of Archbishop Kallinikos on the matter of validity of the use of ecclesiastical oeconomia, his denial of which was once the main obstacle in the process of entry into the communion of the Greek TOC with TOC of the Russian Archbishop Tikhon. Bishop Acacius, on the other hand, does find fault with the questionable canonicity of the Synod of Metropolitan Agathangel in relation to the True Churches of Russian origin, the RTOC and ROAC. The hasty and unconsidered reception into communion of Agathangel, Bishop Acacius states, could complicate the future discussions concerning the Greek, Romanian, Bulagarian TOC's entering into communion with the Churches above mentioned, which will themselves sometime in the near future surely unite into a powerful unified Russian TOC, without which the Great Council of the True Orthodox Church would be incomplete, whose summoning was mentioned in the document referred to above, the joint ecclesiological statement of the newly united Churches, entitled "The True Orthodox Church in Opposition to the Heresy of Ecumenism: Dogmatic and Canonical Issues". Metropolitan Agathangel surely can not represent the Russian Church Abroad nor the True Orthodox Church in Russia. Bishop Acacius hopes that the Greek Hierarchs are keeping this in mind.

          The great unification of the True Orthodox into a strong and united front, Bishop Acacius continues, in any case demands concessions. Without concessions this complex and important process would never move forward, and it would be difficult to ever attain the unification of those who fight for the purity of Holy Orthodoxy against the heresy of ecumenism, thesergianism of apostasy, and the new calendar schism.

          The Hierarchs of the Greek Archbishop Kallinikos TOC with at their head understood this, Bishop Acacius concludes, and thus they should be supported.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

The Meaning Of The Great Fast

The True Nature of Fasting:
Fast (nhsteiva)- a balance must be kept between the outward and the inward. On the outward level fasting involves physical abstinence from food and drink, and without such exterior abstinence, a full and true fast cannot be kept. Yet, the rules about eating and drinking must never be treated as an end in themselves. Neither should we over-emphasize the external rules about food, nor should we scorn these rules as outdated. We are a unity of body and soul. But some, because of their heretical attitude towards human nature, create a false 'spiritualism' which rejects or ignores the body and view man solely in terms of his reasoning brain. This has caused a general decline in fasting. As to the argument that fasting rules are to difficult to follow in today's world, it can be said that fasting traditionally practiced in the Church has always been difficult and always involved hardship.

The primary aim of fasting is to make us conscious of our dependence upon God. The purpose of its difficulty and hardship is to lead us into a sense of inward brokeness and contrition. On the other hand, abstinence/fasting leads us to a sense of lightness, wakefulness, freedom and joy. Even though it might be debilitating at first, afterwards we find that it enables us to sleep less, to think more clearly, and to work more decisively. As many doctors acknowledge, periodical fasts contribute to bodily hygiene.
St. John Chrysostom says the fast is "abstinence not only from food but from sins. The fast should be kept not by the mouth alone but also by the eye, the ear, the feet, the hands and all members of the body."

Prayer, fasting and almsgiving are central to the Lenten season. Divorced from prayer and from the reception of the holy sacraments, unaccompanied by acts of compassion, our fasting becomes pharisaical or even demonic. Fasting, then, is valueless or even harmful when not combined with prayer. In the Gospels the devil is cast out, not by fasting alone, but by "prayer and fasting" (Matt. 17.21; Mark 9.29). Prayer and fasting should in turn be accompanied by almsgiving- the love for others expressed in practical form, by works of compassion and forgiveness.

Always in our acts of abstinence we should keep in mind St. Paul's admonition not to condemn others who fast less strictly.

Five misconceptions answered: 1) The Lenten fast is not intended only for monks and nuns, but is enjoined by all Orthodox Christians. 2) The Triodion should not be misconstrued in a Pelagian sense. Our progress in the fast does not depend solely upon the exertion of our own will. On the contrary, whatever we achieve is to be regarded as a free gift of God. 3) Our fasting should not be self-willed but obedient. Do not try to invent special rules for fasting, we should follow as faithfully as possible the accepted pattern set before us by Holy Tradition. If our fasting becomes willful and proud, it may assume a diabolical character, bringing us not closer to God, but to Satan. This is because fasting renders us sensitive to the realities of a spiritual world which can be dangerously ambivalent- for there are evil spirits as well as good. 4) Lent is a time for joyfulness, not gloom. John Climacus says it can bring us a "joy-creating sorrow." The season of Lent falls not in midwinter when the countryside is frozen and dead, but in spring when all things are returning to life. The English word "Lent" originally had the meaning "springtime." 5) Lenten abstinence does not imply a rejection of God's creation. During the fast we deny our bodily impulses- for example, our spontaneous appetite for food and drink- not because these impulses are in themselves evil, but because they have been disordered by sin and require purification through self-discipline. St. Paul's usage of the word "flesh" denotes the totality of man, soul and body together.

The Historical Development of the Great Fast:
Three main components to the Great Fast- 1) Holy and Great Week- preceded by the Saturday of Lazarus and Palm Sunday. Started in the 2nd and 3rd centuries by observing a brief fast of one or two days before Easter. By middle 3rd cent. the Paschal fast had in many places extended to embrace the entire week prior to Easter. The developed Holy Week ritual which we have today is not found until the late 4th cent.

2) The Forty Days of the Great Fast- beginning on Monday in the first week. No evidence of this in the pre-Nicean period. First evidence is from Canon 5 of the Council of Nicea (325) which probably recognized an existing practice. By the end of the 4th cent. the 40 Day Fast had become standard practice. Evidence strongly suggests that the 40 Day fast originated in the practice of the final preparation of catechumens for the sacrament of Baptism or 'illumination.' Candidates underwent intensive training and instruction, and existing members of the church community were encouraged to share in their prayer and abstinence, thus renewing their own baptismal dedication to Christ. Why choose Easter as the time for baptizing catechumens? This sacrament is precisely an initiation into the Lord's Cross and His Resurrection (see Rom. 6.3-4).

Biblical precedents for a 40 day fast: People of Israel in wilderness for 40 years (Ex. 16.35); Moses remained fasting forty days on Mt. Sinai (Ex. 34.28); Elijah abstained from all food for 40 days as he journeyed to Mt. Horeb (3 Kings 19.8); Most important of all, Christ fasted for forty days and forty nights in the wilderness tempted by the devil (Matt. 4.1).

Questions? Is Holy Week included in the 40 days, or treated as a distinct and additional period? Is Saturday regarded as a day of fasting? How are the 40 days calculated/reconciled? In the West, a six-week fast of six days each week (Sunday excluded) gives 36 days, add four days to start on Ash Wednesday. In the East, a seven-week fast of five days each week giving 35 days plus Holy Saturday = 36 days (Holy Week included). Or count continuously 40 days from Clean Monday to Friday of Sixth week, then Lazarus Saturday, Palm Sunday and Holy Week. Significance of 36 days? Just as the Israelites dedicated to God a tithe or tenth of their produce, so Christians dedicate the season of Lent to God as a tithe or tenth of the year.

3) Pre-Lenten Period- During the 6th - 11th centuries, the season of Pre-Lenten preparation was expanded to include three other Sundays (besides Cheese Week- Sunday of Forgiveness). These preparatory Sundays are: Publican and the Pharisee, Prodigal Son, and Last Judgment. They are followed by a preliminary week of partial fasting, ending with the Sunday of Forgiveness.

The Rules of Fasting:
Most Orthodox authorities agree on the following rules-

I.) During the week between the Sunday of the Publican and the Pharisee and that of the Prodigal Son, there is a general dispensation from all fasting. Meat and animal products may be eaten even on Wednesday and Friday.

II.) In the following week, often termed the 'Week of Carnival', the usual fast is kept on Wed. and Fri. Otherwise there is no special fasting.

III.) In the Week before Lent, meat is forbidden, but eggs, cheese and other dairy products may be eaten on all days, including Wed. and Fri.

IV.) On weekdays during the seven weeks of Lent, there are restrictions both on the number of meals taken daily and on the types of food permitted; but when a meal is allowed, there is no fixed limitation on the quantity of food to be eaten.

a.) On weekdays of the first week, fasting is particularly severe. According to the strict observance, in the course of the five initial days of Lent, only two meals are eaten, one on Wednesday and the other on Friday, in both cases after the Presanctified Liturgy. On the other three days, those who have the strength are encouraged to keep an absolute fast; those for whom this proves impracticable may eat on Tuesday and Thursday (but not, if possible, on Monday), in the evening after Vespers, when they may take bread and water, or perhaps tea or fruit-juice, but not a cooked meal. It should be added at once that in practice today these rules are commonly relaxed. At the meals on Wednesday and Friday xerophagy is prescribed. Literally this means 'dry eating'. Strictly interpreted, it signifies that we may eat only vegetables cooked with water and salt, and also such things as fruit, nuts, bread and honey. In practice, octopus and shell-fish are also allowed on days of xerophagy; likewise vegetable margarine and corn or other vegetable oil, not made from olives. but the following categories of food are definitely excluded: i) meat; ii) animal products (cheese, milk, butter, eggs, lard, dripping); iii) fish w/ backbones; iv) vegetable oil and wine (i.e. all alcoholic drinks).

b.) On weekdays in the second, third, fourth, fifth and sixth weeks, one meal a day is permitted, to be taken in the afternoon following Vespers, and at this one meal xerophagy is to be observed.

c.) Holy Week. On the first three days there is one meal each day, with xerophagy; but some try to keep a complete fast on these days, or else they eat only uncooked food, as on the opening days of the first week. On Holy Thursday one meal is eaten, with wine and oil. On Great Friday those who have the strength follow the practice of the early Church and keep the total fast. Those unable to do this may eat bread, with a little water, tea or fruit-juice, but not until sunset, or at any rate not until after the veneration of the Epitaphion at Vespers. On Holy Saturday there is in principle no meal, since according to the ancient practice after the end of the Liturgy of St. Basil the faithful remained in church for the reading of the Acts of the Apostles, and for their sustenance were given a little bread and dried fruit, with a cup of wine. If, as usually happens now, they return home for a meal, they may use wine but not oil; for on this one Saturday, alone among the Saturdays of the year, olive oil is not permitted.

d.) The rule of xerophagy is relaxed on the following days: i) On Saturdays and Sundays of Lent, with the exception of Holy Saturday, two main meals may be taken in the usual way, around mid-day and in the evening, with wine and olive oil; but meat, animal products and fish are not allowed. ii) On the Feast of the Annunciation (March 25) and Palm Sunday, fish is permitted as well as wine and oil, but meat and animal products are not allowed. If the Feast of the Annunciation falls on the first four days of Holy Week, wine and oil are permitted but not fish. If it falls on Great Friday or Holy Saturday, wine is permitted, but not fish or oil. iii) Wine and oil are permitted on the following days, if they fall on a weekday in the second, third, fourth, fifth or sixth week: First and Second Finding of the Head of St. John the Baptist (February 24), Holy Forty Martyrs of Sebaste (March 9), Forefeast of the Annunciation (March 24), Synaxis of the Archangel Gabriel (March 26), Patronal festival of the Church or Monastery. iv) Wine and oil are also allowed on Wednesday and Thursday in the fifth week, because of the vigil for the Great Canon. Wine is allowed - and, according to some authorities, oil as well - on Friday in the same week, because of the vigil for the Akathistos Hymn.

It has always been held that these rules of fasting should be relaxed in the case of anyone elderly or in poor health. In present-day practice, even for those in good health, the full strictness of the fast is usually mitigated. Only a few Orthodox today attempt to keep a total fast on Monday, Tuesday and Thursday in the first week, or on the first three days of Holy Week. On weekdays- except perhaps during the first week or Holy Week- it is now common to eat two cooked meals daily instead of one. From the second until the sixth week, many Orthodox use wine, and perhaps oil also, on Tuesdays and Thursdays, and less commonly on Mondays as well. Permission is often given to eat fish in these weeks. Personal factors need to be taken into account, as for example the situation isolated Orthodox living in the same household as non-Orthodox, or obliged to take factory or school canteen. In cases of uncertainty each should seek the advice of his or her spiritual father. At all times it is essential to bear in mind that 'you are not under the law but under grace' (Rom. 6.14), and that 'the letter kills, but the spirit gives life' (2Cor. 3.6) The rules of fasting, while they need to be taken seriously, are not to be interpreted with dour and pedantic legalism; 'for the kingdom of God is not food and drink, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit' (Rom. 14.17).

from The Lenten Triodion by Mother Mary and Kallistos Ware, 1977, pp.13-37

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Great Lent
The Lenten Observance begins Ash Wednesday (or Shrove Monday).

Abstinence is: no meat, fowl, dairy, or eggs, that is, nothing made from animal products.

Fasting (i.e. quantity of food) is: one full meal in the day and that not before noon and a small meal or collation in the evening.

•        From Ash Wednesday until after Paschal Liturgy: Lenten abstinence.
•        Monday through Friday: fasting and abstinence.
•        Saturday and Sunday: no fasting, only abstinence (except Holy Saturday forenoon is fasting and abstinence).
•        All Wednesdays and Fridays: Great Lent Abstinence mandatory (minimum standard).
•        Ash Wednesday and Good Friday: strict fasting, no food (or at most bread and water or fruit juice) until after evening service.

The Four Canonical Fasting Seasons
Great Lent – Ash Wednesday until Pascha morning.
Apostles’ Fast – Monday after Trinity Sunday through June 28th.
Dormition Fast – August 1-14
Advent Fast – First Sunday of Advent through Christmas morning.

Outside of Fasting Seasons
All Wednesdays (fasting) and Fridays (fasting and abstinence) throughout the year except:

December 25 through January 5
Bright Week
Week following Pentecost

Eucharistic Fast
From Midnight until communion for morning communion, and from breakfast until communion for evening Eucharist.

Other Days of Fasting and Abstinence
Ember Days
Rogation Days
Vigils of Feasts:
St. Andrew – Nov. 29th
St. Matthew – September 20th
Sts. Simon and Jude – October 27th
All Saints – Oct 31st

As Observed at St. Michael The Archangel Orthodox Church, Wichita, Kansas

Saturday, November 30, 2013

We Must Pray for All: The Salvation of the World According to St Silouan

by Metropolitan Kallistos of Diokleia

Metropolitan Kallistos of Diokleia analyses the soteriological theology of St Silouan the Athonite. Identifying the similar sense of cosmic unity found both in Dostoevsky and St Silouan, the Metropolitan discusses the influence of St Isaac the Syrian on both men, moving on to examine St Silouan's burning desire and constant prayer for the salvation of the whole world and its theological implications.
Members of one another
‘Love all creation’, says Starets Zosima in Fyodor Dostoevsky’s novel The Brothers Karamazov:
Love all creation, the whole of it and every grain of sand within it. Love every leaf, every ray of God’s light. Love the animals, love the plants, love everything. If you love everything, you will perceive the divine mystery in things.
This ‘divine mystery’ of which Starets Zosima speaks is precisely the interdependence, the reciprocal coinherence, of all created things in God.
Everything, like the ocean, flows and enters into contact with everything else: touch one place, and you set up a movement at the other end of the world.[1]
Such is Dostoevsky’s vision of cosmic unity. The created world constitutes an individual whole, and so the salvation of each individual person is inextricably bound up with the salvation of all humankind and, yet more widely, with the salvation of the entire universe. ‘We are members of one another’ (Ephesians 4:25) needs to be given the broadest possible application. It is not only we humans who depend on each other as the limbs of a single body; but we have bonds of kinship with the animals as well, and also with trees and plants, rocks and earth, air and water. We live in them, and they in us.
Precisely the same sense of cosmic unity is expressed by St Silouan the Athonite:
He who has the Holy Spirit in him, to however slight a degree, sorrows day and night for all mankind. His heart is filled with pity for all God’s creatures, more especially for those who do not know God, or who resist Him and therefore are bound for torment. For them, more than for himself, he prays day and night, that all may repent and know the Lord (352).[2]
The Lord bestows such rich grace on His chosen that they embrace the whole earth, the whole world, with that love (367). 
Archimandrite Sophrony, in his book on Starets Silouan, sums up the teaching of the Starets on cosmic coinherence in these words:
The life of the spiritual world, the Staretz recognized as one life and because of this unity every spiritual phenomenon inevitably reacts on the state of the whole spiritual world (101).
We shall not be distorting the meaning of the Starets – or that of Fr Sophrony – if we give to these words an all-inclusive scope: instead of saying ‘the spiritual world’ and ‘every spiritual phenomenon’, we can correctly say ‘the createdworld’ and ‘every phenomenon’. As Fr Sophrony states elsewhere, St Silouan believed that each person who truly prays to God ‘integrates everyone into his own eternal life whatever the geographical distance or the historical time between them’ (233). Indeed, he integrates not only every person but every thing. Nothing is alien to him. In Dostoevsky’s words, ‘Everything, like the ocean, flows and enters into contact with everything else.’
Despite the striking parallels between the Russian novelist and the Athonite monk, it is highly unlikely that St Silouan had ever read Dostoevsky. More probably, the similarities arise because both are shaped by the same living tradition, and both are drawing on the same sources. St Silouan (almost certainly) and Dostoevsky (possibly) have been influenced by a Mesopotamian hermit of the seventh century, St Isaac the Syrian, who writes in a famous passage of his Ascetical Homilies:
What is a merciful heart? It is a heart on fire for the whole of creation, for humanity, for the birds, for the animals, for demons, and for every created thing. At the recollection and at the sight of them such a person’s eyes overflow with tears owing to the vehemence of the compassion which grips his heart; as a result of his deep mercy his heart shrinks and cannot bear to hear or look on any injury or the slightest suffering of anything in creation. This is why he constantly offers up prayer full of tears, even for the irrational animals and for enemies of truth, even for those who harm him, so that they may be protected and find mercy.[3]
What exactly does Starets Silouan mean when, faithful to the teaching of St Isaac, he affirms that the saints ‘embrace the whole earth, the whole world, with their love’? Let us note the all-embracing love and prayer that constitute our true vocation as human persons. There is first his firm conviction that God calls every human being to salvation. Secondly, there is his conception of the ‘total Adam’ and, linked with this, his insistence that my neighbour is myself. Thirdly, there is his firm assurance that in God’s total plan it is not only human beings but the entire cosmos that is to be redeemed and transfigured.
‘Divine love desires salvation for all’
‘It was particularly characteristic of Staretz Silouan to pray for the dead suffering in the hell of separation from God’, writes Fr Sophrony, and he goes on to recall an exchange that he overheard between the Starets and a somewhat dour hermit:
I remember a conversation between him and a certain hermit, who declared with evident satisfaction, ‘God will punish all atheists. They will burn in everlasting fire.’
Obviously upset, The Staretz said:
‘Tell me, supposing you went to paradise and there looked down and saw somebody burning in hell-fire - would you feel happy?’
‘It can’t be helped. It would be their own fault,’ said the hermit.
The Staretz answered him with a sorrowful countenance:
‘Love could not bear that,’ he said. ‘We must pray for all’ (48).
This universal intercession commended by St Silouan, so far from being sentimental or Utopian, has on the contrary a clear Scriptural foundation: ‘God desires everyone to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth’ (1 Timothy 2:4). This is the key text that the seventeenth-century Arminians invoked when opposing the strict Calvinist doctrine of double predestination; this is the text that inspired the dynamic missionary preaching of John Wesley in the eighteenth century; and this is equally a saying that the twentieth-century Athonite keeps steadfastly in view:
My soul longs for the whole world to be saved (291).... Divine love desires the salvation of all (328).... The Lord’s is such that He would have all men to be saved (368).... Our one thought must be that all should be saved (379).... The merciful Lord sometimes gives the soul peace in God but sometimes makes the heart ache for the whole universe, that all men might repent and enter paradise (426).
According to St Silouan, this burning desire for the salvation of all humankind is to be found to a supreme degree in the Mother of God, the Blessed Virgin Mary:
She, like her beloved Son, desired with her whole heart the salvation of all (406).... She loved mankind and prayed ardently... for the whole world that all might be saved (365).
The fact that God desires the salvation of all does not of course mean that our salvation is automatic and inevitable. As the Letter to Diognetus states, ‘God persuades, He does not compel, for violence is foreign to Him.’[4] God’s call to salvation comes in the form of an invitation, which we on the human side are free to accept or to reject. But, although the response varies, the call is universal.
St Silouan’s belief that God does indeed desire the universal salvation of the human race can be summed up in four short injunctions: love all; pray for all; weep for all; repent for all.
(1) Love all. When as a young monk, attending a service in the Church of the Holy Prophet Elijah, St Silouan received a vision of Christ (26), the effect of this vision was to flood his soul with ‘a rare feeling of love for God and for man, for every man’ (34). This all-embracing love remained with him throughout his life: ‘Love cannot suffer a single soul to perish’, he wrote many years later (272). Comprehensive love of this kind he saw as par excellence the characteristic of the saints (not that he would have made any claim to be himself numbered among them):
The holy saints have attained the Kingdom of Heaven, and there they look upon the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ; but by the Holy Spirit they see, too, the sufferings of men on earth. The Lord gave them such great grace that they embrace the whole world with their love (396).
This ardent love, as the Starets envisages it, extends beyond the living to the dead and to those not yet born. In Fr Sophrony’s words:
In seeking salvation for all men love feels impelled to embrace not only the world of the living but also the world of the dead, the underworld and the world of the as yet unborn – that is, the whole race of Adam (108).
For St Silouan, as we have seen from his conversation with the dour hermit, this love for our fellow-humans includes even hell within its scope. Expounding the teaching of the Starets, Fr Sophrony writes:
Dwelling in heaven, the Saints behold hell and embrace it too in their love (116).
This is possible for them, because the love that is at work in their hearts is nothing else than the love of God Himself; and God’s love is present everywhere - even in hell:
God is present in hell, too, as love (115).... Even in hell Divine love will embrace all men, but, while this love is joy and life for them that love God, it is torment for those who hate Him (148).
In the words of Vladimir Lossky, ‘The love of God will be an intolerable torment for those who have not acquired it within themselves.’[5]
In thus teaching that the power of love extends even to hell, the Starets is once more following St Isaac the Syrian:
Even those who are punished in Gehenna are tormented with the scourging of love. The scourges that result from love – that is, the scourges of those who realize that they have sinned against love – are harder and more bitter than the torments which result from fear.... The power of love works in two ways: it torments those who have sinned, just as happens here on earth; but those who have observed its duties, love gives delight. So it is in Gehenna: the contrition that comes from love is the harsh torment; but in the case of the sons of heaven, delight in this love inebriates their souls.[6]
‘The power of love works in two ways’: what the saints in heaven feel as joy, those under condemnation in hell experience as intense pain. But it is the same divine love that is present in them both.
If those in hell are not deprived of God’s love, if they are embraced also by the love of the saints, may it not still be possible for them to respond to this love that surrounds them on every side? Is there not still a hope that they may ultimately be saved? St Isaac certainly seems to have believed in universal salvation:[7] as a member of the Church of the East, dwelling safely beyond the confines of the Byzantine Empire, he had no reason to fear the anti-Origenist anathemas of the Fifth Ecumenical Council (553).
What of St Silouan? Fr Sophrony maintains that the Starets was no Origenist (109),[8] and I agree with him. St Silouan insists that our loving intercession should extend even to those in hell, we are to sorrow ‘over those who are not saved’ (377) and to weep for those ‘who do not know God’ (386). Further than this, however, he does not go. With characteristic reticence, he avoids all speculation about a final apocatastasis. He does not attempt to specify who can be saved and who cannot; that is a mystery known at present only to God. For his part he answers only with the words, ‘ I do not know’:
Father Cassian used to say that all heretics would perish. I do not know about this – my trust is only in the Orthodox Church (483).
When reflecting on the possibility that in the Age to Come there may be some who remain for ever unreconciled, burning in hell-fire, the Starets says simply, ‘Love could not bear that.’ Further than this he does not go.
What of the demons? Might they also be saved, and in that case should we not pray also for them? St Isaac the Syrian, as already noted, affirms that the merciful heart is ‘on fire’ with compassion for the demons, but he does not actually say that we should pray for them. St Silouan speaks in similar terms. We are to ‘pity’ the demons, but nothing is stated about intercession on their behalf:
The Spirit of God teaches love towards all, and the soul feels compassion for every being, loves her enemies and pities even devils because they have fallen away from God (469).
The Starets was emphatically a man of the Church; and so, if asked whether we may legitimately pray for the demons – Fr Sophrony does not in fact record any occasion when he was so asked – surely his answer would have been that the Church has no such practice; and in all such matters we must follow the Church’s rule of prayer. But at the same time it is not for us to set limits to the divine mercy.
(2) Pray for all. Love and prayer go together; if, then, we are to love all human persons, this signifies that we are also to pray for them. So the Starets writes:
I pray Thee, O Merciful Lord, let all mankind, from Adam to the end of time, come to know Thee (319).... I will pray for the whole human race, that all people may turn to the Lord and find rest in Him (328).... I beseech Thee, O Lord, let all peoples come to know Thee (332).
The Starets quotes with approval the words of an ascetic monk with whom he once talked:
Were it possible I would pray everyone out of hell, and only then would my soul be easy and rejoice (468).
‘Were it possible’: the Starets does not say that it actually is possible. The Starets sees this all-inclusive intercession as the proper and characteristic vocation of the monk.
The constant prayer for others constitutes the monk’s way of serving society as a whole:
Thanks to monks, prayer continues unceasing on earth, for through prayer the world continues to exist.... When there are no men of prayer on the earth, the world will come to an end.... The world is supported by the prayers of the saints (407-8). 
In this connection Fr Sophrony refers appropriately to the sixth-century elder St Barsanuphius of Gaza, who asserts that in his day there were three men who through their prayers were preserving the whole human race from catastrophe (223).[9] Barsanuphius mentions the names of the first two, who significantly are otherwise unknown to the annals of history. He does not say who the third was, presumably because God had revealed to him that it was Barsanuphius himself.[10]
By thus praying for the world, the monk not only helps the Church and human society at large, but he also helps himself. Here the Starets describes his own experience as a monastery steward. Most monks consider that this particular ‘obedience’ renders it impossible to preserve continual prayer and inner peace, for it involves contact with large numbers of people throughout the day. Starets Silouan disagrees. If the steward will only intercede constantly for those under his charge, saying ‘The Lord loves His creation’, all will be well: he will find that he is freed from distractions and can maintain an uninterrupted remembrance of God (418).
In the monk’s relationship with the world, St Silouan distinguishes a double movement. First, through prayer the monk withdraws into himself, shutting out the world, gradually liberating himself from visual imagery and discursive thinking, and so entering into the image-free stillness of the heart. But then, within the depths of his own heart, he rediscovers his solidarity with all humankind and with the whole creation. So the monk’s flight from the world turns out to be not world-denying but world-affirming. In the words of Fr Sophrony:
In his longing for God he ‘hates’ the world and retires totally into the depths of his own heart. And when he does so totally, in order there to do battle against Satan, in order to cleanse his heart from every single passion, in the depths of this heart of his he meets with God, and in God begins to see himself indissolubly linked with the whole of cosmic existence; and then there is nothing alien, nothing that is extraneous to them. 
As St Silouan observes, ‘True, Arsenius the Great was bidden to “shun” people but in the desert, too, the Spirit of God teaches us to pray for people and for all the world (296).
(3) Weep for all. True prayer cannot but be costly; loving intercession involves an inner martyrdom, a willingness on our part to accept suffering. As St Silouan says, ‘Praying for people means shedding blood (236); ‘The greater the love, the greater the suffering’ (338). It is not enough simply to read lists of names; we are required to intercede with tears of sorrow. ‘Pray for all’ means ‘Weep for all’:
My heart aches for the whole world, and I pray and shed tears fro the whole world, that all may repent (341).... My soul weeps for the whole world (371).... O Lord, grant me tears to shed for myself, and for the whole universe’ (385). 
(4) Repent for all. St Silouan would have us go yet further on the path of mutual coinherence. Not only are we required to weep for all, but we should also repent for all. In his view this is part of what St Paul meant when he said, ‘Bear one another’s burdens, and in this way fulfil the law of Christ’ (Galatians 6:2). As Fr Sophrony points out, if viewed in purely juridical terms the notion of vicarious repentance – of laying one person’s guilt upon another – makes no sense; it is simply ‘not fair’. But the love of Christ is not limited to juridical norms:
The spirit of Christian love speaks otherwise, seeing nothing strange but something rather natural in sharing the guilt of those we love – even in assuming full responsibility for their wrong-doing. Indeed, it is only in this bearing of another’s guilt that the authenticity of love is made manifest and develops into full awareness of self (120).
Adam’s fall consisted precisely in his refusal to accept that he too was involved in the guilt of Eve’s sin. ‘Adam denied responsibility, laying all the blame on Eve and on God who had given him this wife’, and so he shattered the unity of the human race. If only, instead of justifying himself, he ‘had taken upon his shoulders the responsibility for their joint sin, the destinies of the world might have been different’ (121). We in our turn, when we refuse to repent for others, are repeating Adam’s sin, thus making his fall our own.
Strange though this concept of vicarious repentance may seem to most modern readers, it has in fact an excellent Patristic pedigree. One author who expresses this idea in strong terms is St Mark the Monk (?early fifth century):
The saints are required to offer repentance not only on their own behalf but also on behalf of their neighbour, for without active love they cannot be made perfect.... In this way the whole universe is held together in unity, and through God’s providence we are each of us assisted by one another.[11]
‘Adam, our father’
St Silouan’s consuming desire for the salvation of all stands out in yet sharper relief when we take into account his teaching about what may be termed the ‘total Adam’. This is not, I think, a phrase that he himself employs, but it accurately sums up his point of view.
For St Silouan, Adam is ‘our father’ (451), the ‘father of all mankind’ (448). Following St Paul (1 Corinthians 15:22, 45), the Starets sees Adam the first-formed man as the collective head of the human race, containing and recapitulating within himself the whole of humankind. There are obvious parallels here between St Silouan and St Irenaeus of Lyon, even though the Starets was probably unfamiliar with the Irenaean writings. This solidarity and recapitulation in Adam renders all human persons ‘consubstantial’ and ‘ontologically one’, as Fr Sophrony puts it (123, 51, 217). This ontological unity is not merely abstract and theoretical but specific and actual, ‘for the whole Adam is not an abstraction but the most concrete fullness of the human being’, to quote Fr Sophrony once more (222). It was the denial of this ‘consubstantiality’ that constituted, as we saw earlier, the essence of Adam’s fall.
This unity in the ‘total Adam’ is movingly expressed in the best-known of all St Silouan’s writings, ‘Adam’s Lament’ (448-56). Here the Starets takes up and develops in his own way the liturgical texts for the Sunday before Lent, the ‘Sunday of Forgiveness’, on which the Orthodox Church commemorates the expulsion of Adam from paradise. In particular he has used the ikos appointed for that day:
Banished from the joys of paradise, Adam sat outside and wept, and beating his hands upon his face, he said: ‘I am fallen, in Thy compassion have mercy on me.’...
O paradise, share in the sorrow of thy master who is brought to poverty, and with the sound of thy leaves pray to the Creator that he may not keep thy gate closed for ever. I am fallen, in Thy compassion have mercy on me.[12]
As we read St Silouan’s prose-poem ‘Adam’s Lament’, it becomes clear that this is the lament not just of Adam but of Silouan himself, and not of him alone but of the whole human race. Adam’s sorrowful repentance is our repentance also:
The soul that has lost grace yearns after the Lord, and weeps as Adam wept when he was driven from paradise (326).... O Lord, grant unto us the repentance of Adam (271).
Nor is this all. It is the lament not of humankind alone but of the entire creation, for all created things are involved in Adam’s fall:
Thus did Adam lament,
And the tears streamed down his face onto his beard,
onto the ground beneath his feet,
And the whole desert heard the sound of his mourning.
The beasts and the birds were hushed in grief (449).

Lo, the whole earth is in travail (452).
The sin of Adam is cosmic in its effects, destroying as it does the primal harmony that prevailed between humans and the rest of creation. So Adam exclaims in his ‘Lament’:
In paradise was I joyful and glad:
the Spirit of God rejoiced me,
and suffering was a stranger to me.
But when I was driven forth from paradise
cold and hunger began to torment me.
The beasts and the birds that were gentle
  and had loved me turned into wild things,
and were afraid and ran from me (455).

Friday, November 29, 2013

The Fast: Nine Beneficial and Ten Harmful Things

by  [ROC-MP]

What is important for us to bear in mind during the fast? The fast, by definition, is a time of abstinence. Therefore, let us strive to abstain from everything that is unprofitable for our souls:

1. Television. It seems to me that television is first on the list of unprofitable
things. Television shows compel viewers to squander a part of their lives “for someone else.” There was a case of a mother who refused to emigrate to be with her children because the country to which they had invited her had stopped showing “Santa Barbara.” When it comes time to say that television viewing should be limited during the fast, you will hear that people are ready to give up watching the news and to fast very strictly with regard to food, but they cannot give up watching television shows.

It is precisely this harmful obsession – one that teaches us to live an imaginary life and to sympathize with vice and passion, as dictated by directors and screenwriters ­­– that we need to give up, at least during the fast. I also advise watching fewer movies: nearly everything said about television can be applied to the average film. The news is also unlikely to bring a calm and prayerful disposition to someone who is fasting. Therefore, if you have not yet disconnected the antenna from your television, now is the time to do so.

2. Unlimited cell phone service. Unless your work requires you to have unlimited phone service, it would be better to give it up during the fast. Unlimited communication is very unprofitable during the time the Church has allocated for prayer and spiritual reading; it greatly weakens the soul. Let us also be careful with our land line phones.

3. The Internet. The best thing is to draw up a precise list of websites that you can visit during the fast. Everything not related to work or obedience should be strictly regulated. Even a familiar website that is completely innocuous at regular times might provide information that is unprofitable during the fast. Therefore, before you follow a link, give some thought to what the consequences will be for your soul that is fasting.

4. Personal communication. It goes without saying that someone fasting should not put his abstinence on display. Nonetheless, it is very important for the sake of spiritual benefit to limit communication. This should be done carefully, so as not to offend anyone by our refusal. Sometimes it is necessary for the sake of a neighbor to neglect our silence. Sometimes our engagement can save a neighbor’s soul, or even his life. However, gossip, tittle-tattling, and empty chatter can cause harm not only to the person who is fasting, but also to those around him. Let us be careful with our words, those double-edged swords capable of both healing and destroying.

5. Excessive rest. Just as immoderate labor is bad for one’s health, and even for one’s soul, so too is excessive rest permissible only for the ill. By resting excessively during a fasting period we deprive ourselves of the benefits of spiritual struggle.

6. Other amusements. Here it is extremely important to determine for oneself what is and is not acceptable during this time, when the soul is like a bee gathering honey. Just as a bee labors during flowering season, so should someone who is fasting not be distracted by anything that interferes with the primary purpose of the fast. This applies to music, games, the celebration of various anniversaries, and much else. Nevertheless, all things in moderation: your guests will be puzzled if a celebration turns into an edifying conversation over dry cabbage.

7. Travel. One can welcome going on pilgrimage, but even this needs to be done within limits. It is better yet to spend the fast in the quiet of one’s own home if possible. One cannot always postpone a vacation to a holiday spot, but in that case one needs to remember that one has already broken the fast to some extent. Therefore, in such cases it is important to decide on one’s priorities. After all, children sometimes need a break from the city. Moreover, vacation schedules do not always depend on us.

 8. Food. Someone who is fasting should know what he is capable of abstaining from during the fast, so that he will not undermine his health. Meat, of course, should be permitted only to those with a serious illness; as for everyone else, their fasting should be within reason. A steelworker should not give up milk, just as a student should not give up fish. The many church calendars that include the monastic rules of fasting are not, generally speaking, suitable for the laity. It is more important to give up foods that feed the passions than those that feed the body: for example, sweets and gourmet foods are more harmful to the soul than a glass of milk is to someone who engages in a great deal of physical labor.

Abstinence from food is nothing more than a mean towards maintaining soul and body in a disciplined state – it is not an end in itself. This is extremely important. Therefore, if you are invited to be someone’s guest, there is no point traumatizing your hosts with your display of abstinence. It would be better to increase the strictness of your fasting later, so that the fast might be profitable to your soul and body without alienating non-church-goers from Orthodoxy.

9. Alcohol. It should be borne in mind that any amount of alcohol consumed during the fast should be considered to some degree non-fasting, since any alcoholic drink weakens the soul to a greater or lesser extent, rendering it incapable of the labors of the fast. Wine is permissible only on feast days, and even then strictly in moderation.

10. Marital relations. Regardless of the wide-ranging discussions that have taken place in recent years regarding this question, I am certain that marital relations during the fast cannot but affect the quality of fasting. But in order to engage in such strictness of fasting, when spouses are abstinent for the entire fast – BY MUTUAL CONSENT and without harming their marriage – one has to acquire spiritual maturity. Therefore, in the given case it is important to act reasonably and prudently.  The most important thing to remember is that, although you might be able to cook for one in a single pot, in the case of marital relations – and especially in bed – the question must be considered mutually. It is better to violate the fast than to inflict pain on one’s “second half” by refusing them.

Of course, abstinence is fine and good – but only if done for some purpose. Therefore, it is worth thinking not only about what one needs to give up, but more generally about what one should pay more attention to when fasting. 

1. Prayer. Without any doubt, there is nothing more important during the fast than strengthened prayer. It is prayer and abstinence that strengthen faith; therefore, it would be good to add one or two canons or several additional prayers to one’s prayer rule. Reading the Psalter is very beneficial. We should also strengthen our prayer for our neighbors, since they are no less needful than we are – and sometimes more needful – of prayerful support.

2. Confession and Communion. Be sure to have Confession and Communion several times – or, at the very least, once – during the fast. Nothing is better for the discipline of the soul than having a thorough and sincere Confession; and nothing nourishes the soul as does the Bread of Life.

3. Acts of charity. St. Seraphim of Sarov tells us: “True fasting does not consist simply in exhausting the flesh, but in taking that very piece of bread you had wanted to eat yourself and giving it to a hungry person.” Therefore, diligently helping your neighbor should be an important part of the fast. Let us not forget that, by helping our neighbors, we are above all helping Christ Himself.

4. The Jesus Prayer. It is worth giving special attention to the Jesus Prayer. The Apostle exhorts us to pray without ceasing (1 Thessalonians 5:17). Although even outside the fast no small amount of time in a Christian’s life should be devoted to acquiring the Jesus Prayer, the best time for laboring in this field is the fast. By devoting all our free time to the Jesus Prayer, we will undoubtedly gain profit for our souls during the fast.

5. Spiritual Reading. One chapter of the Gospel and two chapters from the other books of the New Testament should be required reading for everyone who is fasting. The Bible is an inexhaustible source of divine wisdom, a gift of God that should never be neglected. The neophyte should certainly consult a commentary at least once, to which he can return as questions arise. It is difficult to offer general advice about reading other spiritual literature, but, as a general rule, one could read the sayings of the Desert Fathers and the lives of saints, as well as the works of the Optina Elders, St. Ignatius (Brianchaninov), and St. Theophan the Recluse. Creating a list of books for everyone, however, would be difficult. It is important that spiritual literature be for edification, leading one to a state of spiritual vigor, and not for amusement.

6. Pilgrimage. This has already been mentioned above, but it is worth adding that disheartened souls in need of comfort and reinforcement would do well to have recourse to going on a pilgrimage.

7. Sleep. It is a marvelous thing to spend part of the night in prayer. But not everyone is capable of this. Nonetheless, it is worth noting that nighttime prayer harmonizes the condition of one’s soul, bringing into it peace and tranquility and strengthening it in its fight against temptation.

8. Humility. Let us not forget that humility is not a matter of prideful self-derision. The recognition of our spiritual infirmity and our incapability of doing anything without God’s help – and, consequently, of asking for God’s blessing for every activity and of praying during these activities – should be the norm for Christians. Such a condition is the easiest to acquire during the fast.

9. Love. We live in a time when love has grown almost entirely cold. Therefore, let us ask the Lord for love towards everyone without exception. The Lord will, of course, send us this love – we simply need to learn how to accept it. By observing the rules above – and especially by recognizing our own unworthiness – we will gradually become vessels capable of holding the wine of God’s love. But without love it will all come to nothing. A fast without love will bring us only harm.

That is everything I had wanted to say at the beginning of this fast. Times are not easy for either the Church as a whole or for each one of us Christians. Therefore, let us accept the duration of the Apostles’ Fast that lies before us as a gift towards living in abstinence and spiritual perfection. Watch and pray, that ye enter not into temptation: the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak (Matthew 26:41).

Beloved brothers and sisters, I greet you with the beginning of the fast!

Translated from the Russian.

Monday, November 18, 2013

It is perhaps our usual assumption that we exist first, and then that we love. But
let us imagine that our existence depends on our relationship with those we love. The more we love, or the more we are loved, the more existence or reality we acquire. Our being derives from the company of those who love us, and if they begin to love us less, we begin to disappear. Love is not a passion or emotion. Love is communion, made up of those relationships that give us our existence. Only love can continue to sustain us when all the material threads of life are broken and we are without any other support. If these threads are not reconnected we cease to exist; death is the snapping of the last thread. Love, or communion with other persons, is stronger than death and is the source of our existence. That ‘God is love‘ means that God is the communion of this holy trinity. God the Father would lose his identity and being if he did not have the Son. If we took away the communion of the trinity to make God a unit, God would not be communion and therefore would not be love.

John Zizioulas Lectures in Christian Dogmatics

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

A Response

A Response to the Purported Letter of Former Bishops
of the Metropolia of Western Europe Addressed to
Our Holy Synod

Nearly thirty years ago, Father Archimandrite Evloghios (Hessler) was ordained a
Bishop of the Greek Old Calendar Synod then under the omophor of the then Metropolitan Gabriel of Lisbon, in communion with Archbishop Auxentios, Archbishop of Athens and Primate of the Greek Old Calendar Church that had been recognized as canonical by Metropolitan St. Philaret and the Synod of Bishops of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia. Bishop Evloghios later became Metropolitan of Milan and First Hierarch of the canonically mandated Autonomous Orthodox Church of Western Europe and the Americas. In this capacity, Metropolitan Evloghios had a long and dynamic role of leadership in maintaining the True Orthodox Church and thus preserving the Church that was established by the Holy Apostles and preserved through twenty centuries of persecution and strengthening.

Unfortunately, in 2011, Metropolitan Evloghios resigned his position and embarked on a
scandalous course of ecclesiastical adventure that greatly disappointed those who had looked up to him and respected him for his previous leadership. This adventure on his part only developed, however, to leading nowhere for him personally, and, at the same time, gave great sadness to those who cared about him personally and who have been very grateful for all that he had done for the preservation of the Church up to that time. Now that adventure has for him resulted only in ruin and personal discredit despite all the good that he had previously done in his life. Recently he has tried to ignore these unfortunate decisions that have placed him beyond the pale of the Church’s grace and protection, and has attempted together with his disgraced associates to return to his former status within the Church as if they had in fact never actually undertaken these irretractable steps. Those who have known him and still very much care for him and for the state of his soul, however, still keep him in their prayers and pray that he will repent of these perilous actions that endanger his very salvation. May God grant him the grace and insight to realize the need in his life for a full repentance. Thus, with sadness the Commission for External Affairs for the Autonomous Orthodox Metropolia of North and South America and the British Isles has found that it is compelled to issue to our sister Churches and to all true believing Orthodox Christians the following statement and analysis of the situation that addresses the present status of the former Metropolitan Evloghios. 

To the Orthodox in Italy who have sadly been seeking recognition from the Kremlin-based Patriarchate in Moscow: