Friday, 21 April 2017

The new Greek-English Holy Week book from Holy Transfiguration Monastery

In terms of the physical appearance of the two books, the HTM's Holy Week and Pascha is slightly bulkier than Papadeas' Holy Week - Easter – about 1/3 thicker, 880 pages to Papadeas’ 500 – but same height and width. The paper quality in the HTM version seems better, and fonts and layout more attractive. For the English text, Papadeas has the benefit of slightly larger font, but when it comes to the Greek, the font used in HTM makes it easier to see and read despite being slightly smaller.

The best argument for getting the HTM rather than Papadeas, and also the reason this is a bulkier volume, is that there is far more content. While Papadeas starts with the Matins of Holy Monday on Palm Sunday evening, HTM begins two days earlier with the Vespers, Compline, Matins and Liturgy for both Lazarus Saturday and Palm Sunday. It also provides texts for Vespers for every day in Holy Week, while Papadeas only includes Vespers for Holy Friday, Saturday, Sunday, and the so-called “Agape Vespers” on the eve of Renewal Monday. What always disappointed me about Papadeas was that it includes no services for Holy Thursday at all, providing only the text of the Unction service on the basis that this tends to replace Holy Thursday Matins in most North American parishes. The HTM, however, includes both the service of Holy Unction, and the Matins and Vespers of Holy Thursday. HTM also includes the full set of Biblical readings for the various services: for the Vesperal Liturgy on Holy Saturday Morning, Papadeas has three readings from the Old Testament, while the HTM has the full fifteen.

Another benefit of the HTM version is that the English translation of Biblical material actually corresponds to the Greek text on the adjacent page, while the readings in Papadeas follow the Hebrew MT even where it differs significantly from the Greek Septuagint. Compare, for example, in Papadeas the Greek and English reading from Job in the Vespers of the Apokathelosis: the English ends with Job dying “an old man and full of days”, while the Greek continues with another 5 verses showing Job’s genealogical connection to the Patriarch Abraham. I haven’t yet had time to look closely at the HTM translation of the hymns to see how it compares to Papadeas linguistically and in terms of accuracy, although I can imagine you will find some of the awkward wording HTM are occasionally criticised for. As with many of their other liturgical books, the HTM translation of the Lamentations sung during the Matins of Holy Saturday is designed to fit the Byzantine melodies – and fit it does, hand in glove – which means various adjectives not found in the original text are added to make up for the lack of syllables. At least when it comes to the much-loved Lamentations, where it is not uncommon for the congregation to join in, this is a plus in my opinion.

All things considered, (if it is the Lord’s will and we live) I will most definitely be taking the HTM version with me to church next time Holy Week comes around. However, if I was recommending or buying copies to distribute to parishioners, I would probably still have to go with Papadeas, because it is a book designed to follow along with: 1) Papadeas tries to provide the entire text of each service, from the first “Blessed” to the final “Amen”. Nothing is abbreviated. While the service of Matins for each day is relatively complete in the HTM version, some familiarity with the structure of services is still assumed: things such as the Great Litany, the ‘dialogue’ between the priest and choir before Scripture readings, the Trisagion prayers, etc. are omitted or abbreviated, and there is some cross-referencing to avoid repetition. I can therefore see people getting lost if trying to follow along. 2) Papadeas provides detailed rubrics, such as “This Psalm is chanted in a monotone, while the priest censes…with the…small hand-censer”, where HTM has none. Granted, some of these rubrics are wrong and even inappropriate (telling the congregation to sit during the reading of the Hexapsalm, for example, while the HTM instead stresses the need for them to “listen in all silence and with compunction”), but these are relatively few. The big exception is the prayer of St. Ephrem the Syrian, where Papadeas says nothing about prostrations (the Greek is not even broken up into three lines, suggesting it should be read straight through), when in fact it is the prayer which is there to accompany the prostrations, not the other way around. 3) Generally speaking, Papadeas presents the services as they are commonly done in parishes, while HTM presents the services as they should be done. I am happy HTM has all fifteen OT readings for the Vespers on Holy Saturday morning, but if most people using the book are only ever going to hear three read in church, this is going to cause confusion. With Papadeas, what the reader sees on the page is what s/he is likely to see in church. 4) I am personally quite fond of “traditional English” in liturgical texts, particularly because it retains the second person singular pronouns, but it can take some getting used to, and if Holy Week is the only time of year you hold a liturgical book in your hands (as is the case with many), it might be needlessly difficult or off-putting.

To conclude, Papadeas has certainly been surpassed by HTM’s new volume, but not necessarily superseded.

Friday, 10 June 2016

Met Hierotheos: Essential Problems with the Great Council

Intervention addressed to the Hierarchs of the Church, May 2016
His Eminence Metropolitan Hierotheos of Nafpaktos and St. Vlasios

The Great and Holy Council, which is due to gather in June of 2016 in Crete, was “the expectation” of many whose vision it was, and who tired in order to prepare for it, and now the Council finally moves towards its convocation. The question here put forth is whether the Holy and Great Council really is the one awaited by those who originally envisioned it.

Much has been written and said about this subject. Some express their joy, because the longed for hour has finally come. Others express deep concern, deep hesitation, and others feel complete disappointment. I will in this short piece limit myself to a few remarks.

1. Primates of the Synod

The soon to be convened Council has been termed the Holy and Great Council of the Orthodox Church, but will in reality be a Council of Primates of the Orthodox Churches.

I base this view on the fact that all important decisions were taken by the Primates of the Orthodox Churches. On the 6th – 9th of March 2014 in Constantinople, the Primates decided that the Holy and Great Council was to be convened in July of 2016 and determined which themes were to be discussed. In Chambesy, Geneva, the Primates (except for the Patriarchate of Antioch) voted on the 27th and 28th of January 2016 on the Working Procedure and the prepared texts from the Committees, with the exception of one subject not signed by two patriarchates (Antioch and Georgia). Prior to the opening of the Holy and Great Council, the Primates will sign the message of the Sacred Council, which will be drawn up by one representative from all the Orthodox Churches.

The programme of acts of the Holy and Great Council will be decided by the Primates.

Finally, the texts in their final form will be voted on and signed by the Primates of the Orthodox Church. Thus, as seen from the above, this Council is primarily a Council of the Primates of the Orthodox Churches. And this is not completely accurate, because the presence of Patriarch John of Antioch has until now been incomplete or non-existent, and thus his presence is for the time being disputed with regards to the work of the Holy and Great Council.

Thus, this is not even a Council of all the Primates. Theoretically, of course, it is assumed that the Primates expressed or express the decisions of their respective Synods. But this is only theoretical. Although the system of the Orthodox Church is synodical, many subjects are not decided by the Synods.

I am not sufficiently aware of what happens in other Orthodox Churches, but I know well what happens in our own Church. The opinions of the Hierarchs of the Church of Greece were not sought with regards to the decision to hold the Holy and Great Council, which was taken in March 2014, or the with regards to the texts signed in January of 2016, nor were these discussed during meetings. As for the rest, such as the message which is to be published by the Holy and Great Council, I do not know whether it will have the consent and decision of our Hierarchy. Thus, the soon to be convened Sacred Council is a Council of Primates and not a Holy and Great Council of the Orthodox Churches.

Furthermore, it must be stressed that I have complete respect for His Beatitude, Archbishop Hieronymos of Athens and All Greece, who leads the Church of Greece with respect for the Synodical system, listens to the views of the Hierarchs, and always accepts the decisions of the Hierarchy without seeking to manipulate it.

However, there is a Patriarchal Letter, which was sent to the Church of Greece on the 30th of September 1999, according to which the Church of Greece does not have a Primate, but rather it is the Sacred Synod which acts as Primate. Could this, perhaps be interpreted as a retraction, or otherwise? In any case, whatsoever the outcome of this Sacred Council, in the final analysis all pronouncements will be decisions of the Primates of the Orthodox Churches.

2. The sidelining of Great Councils

This Council was planned and prepared as an Ecumenical Council and plans were first formulated in 1923, on the 1600th anniversary of the 1st Ecumenical Council. About a hundred (100) issues were put forth, which had arisen throughout the period of the second millennium, with the schism of the western part of the Roman Empire (8th to 11th century), the division also of western Christianity (15th century), the development of various ideological currents, such as the Enlightenment, Romanticism, German idealism, existentialism, as well as the secularization of Christianity itself.

Eventually, all of the dreams of the “Fathers” of this idea resulted in it becoming, not an Ecumenical Council, but a Holy and Great Council which is still unable to find its identity, tackling just six issues that are vague, untimely, without a clear cut goal, and some of which are detached from the tradition of the Fathers. I have heard and read many claim that a Holy and Great Council has not been held for about 1,200 years and that it will now be held for the first time after such a large period of time. This claim raises serious concerns to all who are familiar with theological literature and the tradition of the Church.

This assertion gives the impression that there exists an ecclesiastical breach after the 7th Ecumenical Council which had to be covered, despite the fact that great and important Councils have been held, such as that of Photios the Great (879-80), of St. Gregory Palamas (1341-1351), as well as other important Councils which took place between the 15th and 18th century and made key decisions.

This assertion, consequently, gives the impression that all of these important Councils have been overlooked and marginalised.

I regard this on our part as an “insult” to our saints, Photios the Great, St. Symeon the New Theologian, St. Gregory Palamas, St. Kallistos and Philotheos Kokkinos the Patriarchs of Constantinople, St. Mark of Ephesus and all the Orthodox Patriarchs of the East during the 15th to 18th centuries.

These saints are naturally not slighted, since their teachings have reached ecumenical acceptance - the decision of the 9th Ecumenical Council (1351) has been included in the Synodikon of Orthodoxy, which is read every 1st Sunday of the Fast - but it is an insult and a fall on our part from Orthodox Tradition.

It seems that with this Synod an attempt is being made to mark a new age in our ecclesiastical withdrawal from the theology and terminology of the Ecumenical and Pan-orthodox Councils from the 7th Ecumenical Council onwards.

Thus, it will appear that the Orthodox Church will be marked by a “blank memory,” a “spiritual Alzheimer’s.” Certain points in the texts they have prepared cannot be explained otherwise, which is also true of the interpretative analyses of their supporters. It seems to be a pale imitation of the 2nd Vatican Council. The Holy and Great Council as an idea began in earnest with the attempt to convene the 2nd Vatican Council. Just as the 2nd Vatican Council developed a “new ecclesiology”, which passed from a concept of “exclusivity” over to “inclusivity” or “baptismal theology”, so do some points of the texts prepared for the Holy and Great Council in an analogous way call for a “new ecclesiology” also in the Orthodox Church, to the extent that Mysteries outside the Orthodox Church are also recognised.

3. Lack of preparation

If we turn to our own house [i.e. the Church of Greece – trans.], we find that our Church was not adequately prepared for this Council. And this is a Church which has a high level of theology, vibrant monasticism and a well organised ecclesiastical life. Using all this, our Church trains, through its theological schools, theologians and clergy of other local Churches, and has global influence, through theological and pastoral texts and many other things. When it came to the treatment of the texts to be signed at the Holy and Great Council, however, there was insufficient preparation and synodical decision.

In March 2014, at the Synaxis of Primates of the Orthodox Churches in Constantinople, it was decided that the convocation of the Holy and Great Synod would take place in June 2016. It was also decided by committee that the already prepared texts should be updated. From that time until now, these should have been discussed at the meetings of the Hierarchy, to give our representatives guidance which would result in decisive texts, in order for there to be discussions in the theological schools and gatherings of clergy and laity, so that the proposals of our Church be published and make their way into the final texts.

On the contrary, all of us Hierarchs were kept in the dark and only received the texts in their final form after they had already been signed by the Primates of the autocephalous Orthodox Churches in January, in Chambesy of Geneva, and were referred on to the Holy and Great Council.

Now that we come to debate these texts, there is little possibility to amend them. I have in my hand the reports of the representatives of our Church to the Special Inter-Orthodox Committee tasked with reviewing said texts, which were sent to the Permenant Holy Synod in the year 2014-2015. I also have the excerpts of the minutes of the meetings of the Permenant Holy Synod.

The representatives assured us with their reports that the texts were without problems. Furthermore, the Permanent Holy Synod distributed reports and texts to the Hierarchs for their consideration, without the minutes showing that there were discussions held or suggestions given for possible modifications or additions, except for one instance where a decision was taken with regards to a few lexical corrections. At the Meeting of Hierarchs in 2009 regarding the dialogue with the Roman Catholics, it was decided that: “1. It was necessary to more fully inform the Holy Synod of Hierarchs on issues of such importance. It was thus declared that the Hierarchy will henceforth be informed of all stages of the dialogue, and that no text will otherwise be binding on the Church. In any case, this constitutes the Synodical Governance of the Church.”

The text of Ravenna, and the text which is to be discussed in Cyprus, are, synodically speaking, both in the same category with respect to their reference to, and need for confirmation by, the local Autocephalous Churches, and therefore also the Church of Greece. In practice, this means that nothing can be considered final without the synodical decision of the Hierarchy.

“The Hierarchs are the guardians of the Orthodox Tradition, as they confessed at their ordination to the episcopate” (Announcement by the Hierarchy, October, 16, 2009). If this applies to the Ravenna text, then it should apply all the more in this case, when texts are to be signed which are binding on the entire Orthodox Church. The hierarchy of our Church should therefore have convened immediately last year, in order for the texts to be studied by all of the hierarchs, that they might make specific recommendations and make decisions accordingly. This happened in other Orthodox Churches, from what I understand.

Therfore, what is happening today should have happened before these texts were signed by the Primates of the Orthodox Churches in Chambesy, Geneva, in January of 2016. We should have listened to the views of the Theological Schools and Ecclesiastical Academies, as well as those of the priests, monastics and laity. The seriousness of each Council depends on the seriousness with which the subjects are treated.

Unfortunately, we Bishops have limited ourselves only to a pastoral ministry with sociological relevance, while we have left the theological issues to a few people who are considered “experts.” At least now at the “final hour”, the “twelfth hour”, let us demonstrate a high sense of responsibility in terms of ecclesiastical mindset and theological terminology, and distance ourselves from emotional “sensitivities” and various forms of ecclesiastical expediency. It does not matter who will represent our Church at this Council, but rather what our Church will be supporting with the positions which will be presented.

Today’s convocation of the Hierarchy is therefore very important, because we have to accept the decision of the Permanent Sacred Synod and in reality decides whether we will accept positions which are defined by our tradition or will be affected by modern perceptions which distance themselves from the language and spirit of all the Ecumenical and Pan-Orthodox Councils of the second millennium. This is the challenge. We must also realize that it is not only the texts of the six subjects under discussion which are of major importance, but also the message which is to be formulated and read at the oprning session of the Holy and Great Council.

It has been said that, even if the Holy and Great Council does not discuss or come to a decision on various issues, the main thing is the message which will be sent out to the whole world. Thus, we have chosen a Metropolitan to represent us at the drafting of the message. We should have already known its content, or its primary and central themes, in order for us to make any decision accordingly. From what I know, this text is already being prepared, and will be completed by the Special Committee which will gather in Crete a week before the convocation of the Holy and Great Council. It will be signed by the Primates of the autocephalous Orthodox Churches and will constitute the core message of this Council.

The question which arises is: Will the Hierarchy of the Church of Greece ignore this text and fail to familiarize itself with its content, when it is going to be of such great importance?

I, at least, and I hope also many other brothers, do not and will not give anyone the authority to write and sign such a text in my name unless I first read it.

With regard to this message, I suggest the following paragraph be added:

«The Holy and Great Council is the continuation of the Ecumenical Councils of the first eight centuries and the Great Councils of Photios the Great, St. Gregory Palamas, and the subsequent Councils of the Eastern Patriarchs.”

These are the crucial and important subjects, not who will attend this Council and who will refuse to attend for alleged “reasons of conscience.”

4. Ecclesiastical double-speak

When one reads some of these texts, they will notice that they breathe a spirit of double-speak.

The term double-speak might offend, but it expresses a reality when we are aware of the whole spirit which surrounds the relevant subjects. In another text of mine, I have pointed out the ambiguous subjects present in certain texts, as have many others – Bishops, clergy, monastics, theologians, laypeople – and for that reason no one should be offended by this. This label is necessary if we consider that it concerns Pan-Orthodox Conciliar documents, which need to be precise. In our everyday communication and occasionally in our documents, certain words might be used which can give rise to concern. For example, we might write or say “Roman Catholic Church” or “Protestant Church”, etc., but when confessional documents are being put together, texts which will remain as a decision of the Holy and Great Council, then we must exercise greater care. St. Gregory Palamas, during his theological struggle in the hesychast controversy, established the following basic principle: «ἕτερον ἐστιν ἡ ὑπέρ τῆς εὐσεβείας ἀντιλογία καί ἕτερον ἡ τῆς πίστεως ὁµολογία» (“a response for the sake piety is one thing, confession of faith another”).

This means that with respect to ἀντιλογία (response, contradiction), someone may use any type of argument, but when one writes confessional documents, then the words have to be pithy and dogmatically precise, as did the holy Fathers who dogmatized “few words and great wisdom.” Therefore, the texts which are put before us and are to be signed also by our Church, must be dogmatically clear, and not characterised by imprecision and confusion. Otherwise they will not be orthodox texts.

If one carefully observes the words used in the text is it clear that the aim is to conceal certain issues, as is unfortunately often the case with the laws passed in Parliaments, which are custom made for particular objectives. The aim is to shield beneath words of the text, which speaks of other churches, a particular yet ambiguous way of operating regarding certain eccleasticial issues. I will mention three past examples of this methodology [in order to better understand it and put it into proper context]. The first is the matter of the actions taken in 1965, which took place at Constantinople and the Vatican, which conventionally have been refered to as the lifting of anathemas.

Allow me to remind you that Patriarch Sergius II of Constantinople, the nephew of Photios the Great, struck from the dyptichs of the Church the name of Pope Sergius IV of Rome by conciliar decision in 1009, because he had in his enthronement letter included the Creed with the filioque clause, and since then the name of a single Pope has not been included in the diptychs. Hence, there is excommunication. Later, in 1054, Cardinal Humbert anathemised Patriarch Keroularios and two others, and they in turn anathemised him.

This means that excommunication took place even before the anathemas, and naturally the lifting of anathemas does not then repeal the act of excommunication.

The question which arises is: In 1965, was there a lifting of anathemas or a lifting of excommunication?

It is a crucial question, because in the Acts of the Ecumenical Patriarchate on the 7th December 1965 it is written that that there took place a lifting of anathemas, and thus the excommunication still stands, whereas in the statement signed in French between the Ecumenical Patriarch and the Pope, and which the Pope read on the final day (7th of December) and act of the 2nd Vatican Council, it is written that a lifting of excommunication took place. I have this document in my possession in both French and English.

The second is a continuation of the former in that the ecclesiastical practice, unfortunately, not only acknowledges the Heterodox as Churches, but also that there exists ecclesiastical and Eucharistic communion! There is here therefore an ecclesiastical double-speak, ambiguity and confusion. I refer to a text of a Church, a text characterized as a “Confession” and officially adopted, in which there is a great depth of double-speak and confusion. While it speaks of One Church, at the same time it also refers to other confessions as Churches, which “make up the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church.” Furthermore, it evens speaks of all Christians receiving holy Communion from the same holy Chalice “for reasons of necessity and Christian Sacramental hospitality,” as well stating that “through the same baptism, all Christians became members of the Body of Christ, which is the Church.”

The third example is that I recently read the book of professor Anthony Papadopoulos, called “Theological dialogue between Orthodox and Roman Catholics (history – texts – problems),” and found yet again that, during this dialogue and the declarations and joint texts between the Ecumenical Patriarchate and the Pope, as well as their representatives, there prevails a language and a spirit of “brotherhood made apparent by the sole baptism and the participation in the sacred mysteries” and that “our Churches acknowledge one another as sister Churches jontly preserving the faith of the one Church of Christ in the divine plan, wholly special in sight of unity.”

The use of double-speak in official ecclesiastical documents is a painful reality which shows a movement away from the official ecclesiastical texts of two millennia. This should not happen with the texts of the Holy and Great Council.

5. The term “sister Churches”.

In the text, “Relation of the Orthodox Church to the rest of the Christian world,” although there is talk of the Orthodox Church as “the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church”, it simultaneously states that the Orthodox Church “recognizes the historical existence of other Christian Churches and Confessions,” whence arises a confusion as to the self-understanding of the Orthodox Church, for which reason a correction to this text has been proposed. This is a most serious issue, beause in various theological dialogues between the Orthodox and Roman Catholics, as well as in official texts, there is talk of “sister Churches,” between Orthodox and Roman Catholics, and this term “sister Churches” has unfortunately developed a particular theology and ecclesiology.

This is not, then, a technical term, but a modern ecclesiological theology, which prevailed in the context of the ecumenical movement.

Regarding the term “sister Churches” and the origins of its use, a reference is made in the text issued by the Vatican’s Office of the Committee for the teaching of the faith (30th June 2000), which was chaired by Cardinal Joseph Razinger, later Pope Benedict. According to this text, this term appeared in the 12th and 13th centuries, and was in later years used by Patriarch Athenagoras of Constantinople. It was adopted by the Second Vatican Council and has since been used in papal documents, addresses, letters, encyclicals, etc. Furthermore, a theological analysis is made of this term in the text which was adopted by the Committee for the teaching of the faith, which shows how it is understood by the “Roman Catholics”, namely that “the one holy, catholic and apostolic Church,” by which is meant the Papal one, “is not a sister, but the mother of all particular Churches.” This is the reason “one must avoid, as a cause of misunderstanding and theological confusion, use of expressions such as “our two Churches”, which refers to the Catholic Church and all the Orthodox Churches (or one Orthodox Church).” However, the term “sister Churches,” in this text, “may be used only for those church communities which have retained valid episcopal succession and eucharist.”

It is obvious that the term “sister Churches” is used by the Papists with the theological and ecclesiological meaning of having valid sacraments and episcopal succession, and that it is not a technical term, adding that the mother Church of all Churches is the “Catholic Church.” It is interesting that Pope John Paul II, in the speech he gave on the 5th of June 1991 in Bialystok, Poland, said concerning this issue: “Today we see more clearly and better understand that our Churches are sister Churches, not just as a form of polite expression, but in the sense of a fundamental ecumenical ecclesiological category.” This stems not only from the Second Vatican Council, but also from the texts which were signed during the theological dialogues between the Orthodox and Roman Catholics in Monaco (1982), Bari (1987), New Valaam in Finland (1988) and later in Ravenna (2007).

I recall that in Munich a text was drafted on the subject of “The Sacrament of the Church and the Eucharist in Light of the Mystery of the Holy Trinity”. In Bari a text was drafted on the subject of “Faith, Sacraments and the Unity of the Church.” In New Valaam a text was drafted on the subject of “The Sacrament of the Priesthood in the Sacramental Structure of the Church and the Importance of Apostolic Succession for the Sanctity and Unity of God’s People.” And in Ravenna a text was drafted on the subject of “The Ecclesiological and Canonical Consequences of the Sacramental Nature of the Church: Ecclesiastical Communion, Conciliarity and Authority.”

These four documents were drafted and approved by the representatives of the Orthodox Chuches, with the intention that these would be approved by the local autocephalous Churches upon the completion of the theological dialogue. Two important conclusions can be drawn from this. The first conclusion is that the term “sister Churches” and the term “Church” are not technical terms for the Roman Catholics, but signify a granting of ecclesiality to these Christian communities. The second conclusion is that the aforementioned texts were signed also by the representatives of the Church of Greece, but on the condition that it would eventually be submitted for approval by the hierarchy of the Church of Greece, that is, on the condition of ad referendum.

If, however, there remains within the text to be voted on by the Holy and Great Council in Crete the statement that “the Orthodox Church acknowledges the historical existence of other Christian Churches and Confessions” and other similar expressions, then the documents already signed by the representatives will be implicitly acknowledged, despite being problematic, without having been subject to the approval of our Hierarchy.

This is the reason the four documents must be approved, or disgarded, by the hierarchy of the Church of Greece. 12 Therfore, it is essential that the document which will be discussed and voted on at the Holy and Great Council does not refer to other Christian communities and confessions as Churches.

6. The “validity” and “reality” of Baptism

Following on from the previous point is that many claim that the baptism of the heterodox is “valid” and “real”, that is, that the charismatic boundaries of the Church do not correspond to its canonical boundaries. The older hierarchs of the Ecumenical Patriarchate made use of the canonical order with regards to the reception of heterodox into the Orthodox Church by strictness or by economy. They made a distinction, saying that for there to be sacraments outside the Church – which there aren’t – is one thing, and the manner in which a heterodox is received into the Church, is another.

Strictly speaking, mysteries do not exist outside the Church, however, we may receive someone by economy through chrismation or confession, when their baptism was performed in the name of the Triune God, as understood in an orthodox manner, and by three-fold immersions in water. This is sits well with us. The view of some that economy should be transformed from a temporary lowering of strictness to something permanent is unacceptable. In this way many argue that the baptism of the heterodox-heretics is “valid” and “real”, something which the 7th canon of the 2nd Ecumenical Council and the 95th canon of the Quinisext Ecumenical Council do not support.

However, apart from these two Ecumenical Councils, we must not overlook the fact that the Latin tradition has introduced the heresy of the filioque, the heresy of actus purus, other heretical deviations, as well as baptism by the sprinkling or pouring of water, avoiding the immersion in water of the one being baptized. Then one wonders, with this mentality, why Chrismation or the Eucharist of the heterodox is not “valid” or “real”? And why is the baptism of the heterodox “valid” and “real”, when they are denied communion in the Spotless Mysteries, which is the underlying purpose of baptism?

In other words, according to certain theologians, is the baptism of the heterodox “valid” and “real,” but without producing ecclesiastical results because it is inactive, as argued by Augustine, bishop of Hippo?

This view of “valid” and “real” baptism is connected to the question of Apostolic Succession, that is to say, a “valid” and “real” Priesthood. This position is paradoxical, because Apostolic succession is not a “magical” and mechanical act, it is not only a question of a chain, albeit unbroken, of ordinations, but primarily and above all a transmission of the apostolic way, as this apolytikion says: «By sharing in the ways of the Apostles, you became a successor to their throne. Through the practice of virtue, you found the way to divine contemplation, O inspired one of God; by teaching the word of truth without error, you defended the Faith, even to the shedding of your blood. Hieromartyr Ignatius, entreat Christ God to save our souls.”

The loss of Orthodox revelatory faith, the introduction of scholastic theology as superior to apostolic and patristic theology, does not allow for Apostolic succession.

The words of St. Basil the Great are telling: “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” (1st Canon). The following passage from the Canon of the Council of Carthage is also well known: “Among the heretics, where the Church is not, it is impossible to receive forgiveness of sins”. Besides this dogmatic matter, the question of succession of ordinations is also of serious concern from a historical point of view, given that history tells us that Charlemagne and his successors appointed laymen to the bishopric without concecration, seeing them as administrative organs in the imposesd feudal system. This resulted in protests, prior to 1009, even by the Pope of Rome against the German rulers. History has shown that, prior to the schism of Old Rome from New Rome, there was a schism of the provinces ruled by Charlemagne from Old Rome.

In the year 794, in Frankfurt, the 7th Ecumenical Council was condemned as heretical, and in the year 809 in Aachen, the filioque was introduced, and all this also made its way into the Church of Old Rome when it was taken over by the Franks. In reading the Dialogues of Pope Gregory of Rome, also called Dialogos, one sees the Orthodox Church of Rome prior to the 7th century A.D., its theology and its hesychasm, the common points it had with the Fathers of the Church, the struggle of the Orthodox Popes, Bishops and monks against the heretical Goths, Visigoths, Vandals, Lombards and even the Franks, as well as the martyrdoms, the slaughter suffered by the Old Rome at the hands of the Germanic tribes. And all of this happened from the beginning of the 7th century to the 14th century. Of what apostolic tradition and succession are we then speaking, when it is all theologically, ecclesiastically and historically problematic?

7. The un-orthodox teaching of the ontology of the person

The issue of the person is not “frivolous”, in other words, not scholastic. It is of the greatest importance.

Something that has made its way into our terminology, and which we use often, is to speak about the “human person” and its “sacredness”, about the difference between “person and individual” and many other things which constitute a rejection of the theology of our Fathers. I have read the joint communiqué signed in Mytilini by the Pope, the Patriarch and the Archbishop of Athens and All Greece. It speaks of the “protection of human life”, of “humanitarian crisis,” of the “violation of human dignity and fundamental human rights and freedom”, but not of the “human person.”

Unfortunately, the most beautiful and theological word “man” has today been replaced by the term person, human person, which reminds me of the older expression “socialism with a human face [the Greek word ‘prosopo’ can mean both person and face – trans.],”, and in this sense we have moved from theology to a sociology of human rights. Of course, we respect human rights, but the theology of the Orthodox Church cannot be limited to just this. The words person and individual for humans and in relation to the “ontology of the person” have come from Thomas Aquinas via Kant, German idealism (Fichte, Selig, Hegel), Russian theology and existentialism, and is primarly used by certain Orthodox.

It is a form of “theological virus”, which has infected our Orthodox theology. And perhaps it is possible for us to use this term in our daily speech, without realizing it, but when you enter this term into official conciliar and ecclesiastical documents, it constitutes a theological aberration. Modern theologians who use the term “human person”, “necessity of nature,” “will or freedom of the person” clearly violate Orthodox theology, which holds that nature is good, and not forced, that will-desire is an apetite of nature and not the person, and that the person is identified with the individual, etc.

The connection between will and person removes the Trinitarian God, brings in tritheism, and the connection between nature and necessity attach blame to God for the creation of man. The word ‘person’ therefore has to be replaced by the word ‘man’ in the text. How wonderful this word is, with its Orthodox content in image and likeness! Of course, we must naturally respect every man as a creature of God, and it need not be that we call him person in order to show respect for him. Because certain people cite Elder Sophrony, who spoke about the person, I want to point out that all that the Elder wrote bears absolutely no relation to that of the modern theologizing personalists.

The Elder identifies the person-hypostasis with the movement from image to likeness, and in reality “painted” St. Silouan with the term person.


The texts which have been written and signed by the Primates of the Orthodox Churches, and which will be discussed at the Holy and Great Council, give rise [to objections] in certain instances, because in our days we see, even within the Church, a confusion between the teaching of St. Gregory of Palamas and his detractors.

The texts were drawn up without public dialogue and theological “open discussion”, and for this reason caused negative theological reaction, and rightly so. However, some “clever” people speak harshly against those who rightly react with theological arguments and call them a “militant faction”, “an ideological Orthodoxy” of “Orthodox ayatollahs.” They address the “synaxis of enlightened and deified elders and spiritual fathers”, and write: “The time has come for the responsible church leaders and all of us, to finish with this caricature of supposed fidelity to Tradition, with these orthodox ‘ayatollahs’, which are regarded as being responsible for worldwide Orthodoxy…”.

The problem, then, is that there is an attempt at “emancipation” from the tradition of the Church, beginning after the Seventh Ecumenical Council right up until today, and a weakening and distancing from the teaching of our deified holy fathers, particularly St. Photios the Great, St. Symeon the New Theologian, St. Gregory Palamas, St. Mark of Ephesus and all the other Philokalic Fathers.

If this is not the case, let them, in the message they are set to publish, confess their faithfulness to the Great Councils held after the 7th Ecumenical Council, namely the Councils of St. Photios the Great and St. Gregory Palamas, and the Councils of the Patriarchs of the East held thereafter during the time of Ottoman rule.

It’s that simple!

At the Sacred Metropolis of Nafpaktos and St. Vlasios

Translation: Fr. Kristian Akselberg

Tuesday, 8 March 2016

Met. Hierotheos: Third letter on the Holy and Great Council


Nafpaktos, 5th of March 2016

the Holy and Sacred Synod
of the Church of Greece
Ioannou Gennadiou 14
115 21 Athens

Your Beatitude the President [of the Holy Synod],

Bearing in mind the Synodical document numbered 755/351/16-02-2016, with which we are called to submit our views on the text due to be discussed at the Holy and Great Council, I have the following to say:

In the texts unanimously adopted by the Synaxis of Primates of the Orthodox Churches (Chambesy-Geneva 21st-28th January 2016) there are a few points in need of further revision and correction.

Of course, in agreement with the Regulations of Organisation and Working Procedure of the Holy and Great Council of the Orthodox Church (article 11), amendments, corrections and additions to the texts in question may be made during discussions on each subject at the plenary session of the Council, following the formulation of proposed amendments, corrections or additions.

This means that every Church, and also our Church, has the right to have opinions and a vote on each subject addressed in the texts and which will be discussed. It thus gives freedom for each view to be expressed, and we as Hierarchs are obliged to do so. 

Primarily, I think that two texts are in need of necessary corrections:

1. “Relations of the Orthodox Church with the rest of the Christian world”

We notice in this text a confusion of terminology, which likely derives from the consolidation of two texts, namely the text on “Relations of the Orthodox Church with the rest of the Christian world” and the text “Orthodoxy and the Ecumenical Movement.”

However, if the necessary changes are not made, a theological and ecclesiological double-speak will prevail in this particular text, one which is inappropriate for synodical texts and thus also for texts of the Holy and Great Council.

In particular:

a) Terminology

The title of the text, “Relations of the Orthodox Church with the rest of the Christian world,” is correct because it uses precise terminology, with “the Orthodox Church” on one hand and “the rest of the Christian world” on the other. Furthermore, many expressions in the content of the text confirm the title, such as “The Orthodox Church, being the One, Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church, in her profound ecclesiastical consciousness” (article 1), “with those separated from her, both far and near” (article 4), “those who are external to her” (article 6).

However, other expressions present in the text, that “the Orthodox Church acknowledges the existence in history of other Christian Churches and confessions which are not in communion with her” (article 6) need to be brought into harmony with the title in order for this double-speak not to remain.

The phrase “the Orthodox Church acknowledges the existence in history of other Christian Churches and confessions” should therefore be replaced by the phrase: “the Orthodox Church knows that her charismatic limits correspond to her canonical boundaries, as she also knows that there exist other Christian Confessions, which are cut off from her and do not find themselves in communion with her.”

The same should also happen with respect to other passages.

b) The unity of the Church

The passage which speaks on the unity of the One, Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church is right to state that “the Unity of the Church” (Orthodox Church should be added here) “is impossible to shatter” (article 6), because as it again rightly stresses “the responsibility of the Orthodox Church and her ecumenical mission with regard to the unity were expressed by the Ecumenical Councils,” which “in particular, stressed the indissoluble link existing between true faith and the sacramental communion” (article 3).

However, other passages in the text, which imply that the unity of the Church has been broken and that there are attempts to recover it, need to be corrected.

In particular:

The statement that the Orthodox Church participates in theological dialogues “are aimed at seeking the lost Christian unity on the basis of the faith and tradition of the ancient Church of the Seven Ecumenical Councils” (article 5), indicates that what is said elsewhere, that the unity of the Church “is impossible to shatter” (article 6), is not true.

This passage therefore needs to be corrected lest the decisions of the Holy and Great Council appear to contain double-speak, that it does not provide clear teaching, but leaves “open windows” for other interpretations.

It will have to read: “the Orthodox Church participates in dialogues with Christians belonging to various Christian Confessions, for the sake of their restoration to her faith, tradition and life.

c) Theological dialogues, in relation to Baptism

There is in the text one paragraph which appeals to “baptismal theology”, which is the basic position of the 2nd Vatican Council. The paragraph follows:

“The prospects for conducting theological dialogues between the Orthodox Church and other Christian Churches and confessions shall always be derived from the canonical criteria of established Church Tradition (canon 7 of the Second Ecumenical Council and canon 95 of the Quinisext Ecumenical Council)” (article 20).

Canons 7 of the 2nd Ecumenical Synod and 95 of the Quinisext Ecumenical Council are concerned with the manner in which heretical parties at that time were to be received into the Orthodox Church, by exactness and by economy.

The 95th Canon of the Quinisext Ecumenical Council, which repeats the 7th Canon of the 2nd Ecumenical Council, stipulates that the Eunomians “who were baptised with one immersion” should be rebaptised. Montanists and Sabellians “who consider the Son to be the same as the Father, and are guilty in certain other grave matters, and all the other heresies” are also to be rebaptised. There is clearly cause for rebaptism whenever there is baptism by single immersion, identification of the Father with the Son and other heresies.

It is important that the Three Patriarchs of the East, (Cyril V of Constantinople, Matthew of Alexandria, Parthenios of Jerusalem) in the year 1756 issued an edict by which they interpret these Canons in relation to the Westerners who come to Orthodoxy. By this stipulation, Western heretics are received into Orthodoxy as “profane and unbaptised,” seemingly due to there being variations both with regards to the doctrine of the Trinity, due to the teachings on the Filioque and the created divine energies (actus purus), and because there is also a difference in form, since baptism is not performed by immersion, but by “pouring” or “sprinkling” following the Council of Trent. The edict of the Three Patriarchs thus contains a very clear interpretation of the canons in question with regard to contemporary reality. We cite the following excerpt:

The Second and the Quinisext Ecumenical Councils prescribe that those turning to Orthodoxy be considered as unbaptized who were not baptized by triple immersion, at each of which the name of one of the Divine Hypostases is pronounced, but were baptized by some other means. Adhering to these Holy and Divine decrees we consider heretical baptism to be worthy of judgement and repudiation inasmuch as it does not conform with but contradicts the Apostolic and Divine formation and is nothing more than a useless washing, according to the words of St. Ambrose and St. Athanasius the Great, neither sanctifying the catechumen nor cleanse him from sin. This is why we receive all heretics turning to Orthodoxy as those who were not baptized properly as not having been baptized and without any hesitation baptize them according to the apostolic and conciliar canons upon which the Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church of Christ — the common mother of us all — firmly rests. We affirm this, our unanimous decision which is in conformance with the apostolic and conciliar canons, with a written testament subscribed with our signatures.”[1]

It is obvious that what is written in Article 20 of the text prepared for adoption by the Holy and Great Council, is an effort to implicitly withdraw this edict of the Three Patriarchs, which rests on the entirety of ecclesiastical tradition. As mentioned above, from the 8th century onwards, there were introduced into Christian Confessions the heresies of the Filioque and actus pursus, as well as the improper baptism of the “Roman Catholics” by pouring and sprinkling following the Council of Trent, as well as various heretical views in other Confessions.

Thus, in order for there to be a unity of thought throughout the entire text were it is written that the Orthodox Church is the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church, that its unity “is impossible to shatter”, that there exist “those who are external to her”, it is necessary that this paragraph is amended as follows:

“The theological dialogues of the Orthodox Church with the other Christian Confessions take place on the basis of the faith and praxis of the Orthodox Church, as determined by the decisions of the Ecumenical Councils. The reception of the heterodox into the Orthodox Church takes place by both exactness and economy. Use of economy is observed when a Christian Confession perform baptisms by three immersions and emersions, according to the apostolic and patristic form, and the confession of the Holy, consubstantial and indivisible Trinity.”

2. “The mission of the Orthodox Church in the modern world”

In this text there are a few expressions which, although widely used by Orthodox, come from modern existentialist philosophy and German idealism.

It regards the expressions “value of the human person” and “communion of persons,”which should be replaced by the terms “value of the human being” and “unity among human beings.”

In the final text signed at Chambesy-Geneva (21st – 28th January 2016), some improvements were made to the text produced by the 5th Pre-conciliar Pan-Orthodox Meeting (10th – 17th October 2015), but there nonetheless remained a few expressions which speak of the “value of the human person” and are in need of further improvement.

In particular:

a) Human being and not human person

The text rightly makes reference to St. Gregory the Theologian, Eusebius and St. Cyril of Alexandria who speak about the value of the human being and not the human person. Likewise, mention is made of the “protection of the value of the human being” (1, article 2), “God’s plan for man” (1, article 1).

But there remains in the final text a few expressions from the older text, such as “the value of the human person” (1, article 1), “the general recognition of the lofty value of the human person” (1, article 3), “the notion of the human person” (2, article 3).

The text therefore needs to be made uniform so that wherever mention is made of “human person” this is replaced by the word “human being”, which is understood by all.

b) Communion of persons

In the text there is a paragraph which is problematic from an Orthodox point of view. It says:

“One of the loftiest gifts of God to the human person both as a concrete bearer of the image of a personal God and as a member of a community of persons in the unity of the human race by grace reflecting the life and communion of the Divine Persons in the Holy trinity, is the gift of freedom” (2, article 1).

The paragraph speaks about “communion of Divine Persons,” in that the human race are a “communion of persons” which reflect “by grace… the life and communion of the Divine Persons in the Holy Trinity” and that this “constitutes the gift of freedom”, which is theologically inadmissible because it creates a confusion of the created and uncreated, between the unity of man and the unity of the Triune God.

This paragraph needs to be replaced by the following paragraph:

God created man in His image and likeness and gave him intellect and autonomy: “He Who created the human person in the beginning made him free and autonomous, limiting him solely by the laws of the commandment” (Gregory the Theologian, 14, On Love for the Poor, 25. PG 35, 892A). Freedom was granted to man in order for him to be capable of progressing towards spiritual perfection, but at the same time entails the risk of disobedience, of estrangement from God and, through this, of the fall, from which come all the tragic consequences of evil in the world.”

Justification for the replacement of terms

In order to justify why it is proposed that the term “value of the human person” be replaced by the term “value of the human being” and that the phrase “communion of persons reflecting the communion of Divine Persons” be deleted, the following theological positions will be pointed out:

1. The Fathers of the fourth century determined that the Triune God is Three Persons, having the same essence-nature-energy and particular hypostatic properties (unbegotten, begotten, proceeding). Person is defined as essence with hypostatic properties.

2. In the Triune God there is a distinction of divine Persons, not a communion of persons. In other words, the Father communicates His essence to the Son through begetting, and to the Holy Spirit through procession. The Father thus communicates His essence to the other Persons, but not His Person or His hypostatic property. There is thus a communion of nature-essence, an indwelling and interpenetration of Persons, and not a communion of persons.

3. “The holy Fathers used hypostasis, person and individual to refer to the same thing” (St. John of Damascus). Christ is one person who has two natures which were united in His person without confusion, without alteration, without division, without separation. Thus, the person is one and the individual is one. The word individual (atomo) consists of the negative a the word tome, and means “not intersecting nor shared” (St. John of Damascus). This means that although Christ has two natures, they do not intersect in the one Person of Christ the Word. The distinction between person and individual comes from Western philosophy.

4. For man, the Fathers primarily used the term man. And there is a chasmic difference between created and uncreated. Whatever happens with the Triune God, does not happen with man. The theological concept of man is expressed by the term “in the image” and “according to the likeness”, which mean that he is lead towards deification.
In certain patristic texts man is spoken of as hypostasis, but always with the theological meaning of in the image and according to the image of God, with the principle of hypostasis (Heb. 3:14). And it is from this understanding that Elder Sophrony also writes, not from the perspective of modern philosophy.

5. Vladimir Lossky, who introduces to the orthodox vocabulary the term person in relation to man, remarks with regards to this: “As for me, I have to confess that I until now have not encountered in patristic theology any complete theoretical treatment of the human person, to go alongside the very clear teachings on the divine Persons or Hypostases.”

6. The problem, however, is not just the term person used in relation to man, but that the modern theories regarding the “human person” and even the “sanctity” and “dignity of the human person” associate nature with necessity and sin, and person with freedom, desire-will and love. Such ideas are reminiscent of Arianism and Monothelitism, which have been condemned by Ecumenical Councils.

7. Will and self-rule do not belong to the person, but to nature. The person is the one who desires, while desire is an appetite of nature and will is a result of the desire of the one who desires. When will-desire are seen as hypostatic, that is to say, belonging to the person, then each divine Person has its own desire, will, freedom, something which results in tri-theism. The 6th Ecumenical Council orders the deposition of bishops and clergy, and the excommunication of monks and lay people, who accept the notion of hypostatic will.

8. Thus, while scholastic theology identify energy with essence, modern personalist theories associate the energy-will with the person and introduce a voluntarist personalism.

Since there are all these problems in the text, the term “value of the human person” must be replaced by the term “value of the human being” and all the related expressions need to be corrected. If this does not happen, the entire text will be affected and, more importantly, the probable decision of the Holy and Great Council will be divergent and opposed to those of the Ecumenical Synod from the 4th onwards.

Submitting this for the consideration of Your Beatitude and the Eminent Hierarchs, I remain,

Least among the brethren in Christ,
+ Hierotheos of Nafpaktos and Saint Vlasios

Translation: Fr. Kristian Akselberg

[1] Translation of excerpt: Alvian N. Smirensky (2000).

Monday, 22 February 2016

Metropolitan Hierotheos Vlachos on the Holy and Great Council

Letter of Metropolitan Hierotheos of Nafpaktos
to the Holy Synod of the Church of Greece
on the texts proposed for approval by the upcoming
Great and Holy Council of the Orthodox Church


Nafpaktos, 18th of January 2016
To the Holy and Sacred Synod
of the Church of Greece
Ioannou Gennadiou 14
115 21 Athens

Your Beatitude, President of the Synod,

Following the Session of the Sacred Synod in the month of January, we were given the texts which were prepared and prepare for the future convening of the Holy and Great Synod on the day of Pentecost this year, barring any unforeseen developments.

Among these are also the texts prepared by the 5th Pre-conciliar Pan-Orthodox Meeting, which took place in Geneva from the 10th to the 17th of October of the previous year (2015), during the time period of our own Synod.

The texts-decisions were: 1. “Autonomy and the manner in which it is granted,” 2. “Relations of the Orthodox Church with the rest of the Christian world,” 3. “The mission of the Orthodox Church in the modern world,” 4. “The importance of fasting and its application today.”

In the accompanying letter addressed to Your Beatitude, signed by Metropolitan Jeremiah of Switzerland, Secretary of Preparations for the Holy and Great Council, and dated 5-11-2015, it states: “For certification of the decisions of your representatives, which have been hand delivered, the proposed texts have been attached in order that Your Church be informed, give due consideration and make pertinent decisions.”

Thus, besides the ratification of the decisions by the representatives of our Church and to inform the Church, these texts were also sent in order to obtain relevant views and decisions from our Church, namely from the Eminent Metropolitans of the Hierarchy of the Church of Greece. It is understood, then, that these texts-decisions are to be given to the Members of our Hierarchy for discussion, because the Church will make decisions to accept and to vote on them, with the one vote it has, at the Session of the Holy and Great Synod of the Orthodox Church.

Two of these subjects, namely “autonomy and the manner in which it is granted” and “the importance of fasting and its application today” do involve any serious problems. However, I have serious reservations about theological, ecclesiological and anthropological subjects in the other prepared texts.

Here it will suffice simply to outline a few subjects, which I shall analyse in greater detail at the appropriate time. Specifically:

1. The text-decision “Relations of the Orthodox Church with the rest of the Christian world” speaks of the self-understanding and union of the “One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church” (article 1) and, as it says, “according to the ontological nature of the Church this unity cannot be broken” (article 6). Yet at the same time it speaks of the “theological dialogues between the different Christian Churches and Confessions” and the participation of the Orthodox Church in the Ecumenical movement “in the belief that through dialogue she thus bears her active witness to the plenitude of Christ’s truth and her spiritual treasures before those who are external to her, and pursuing an objective goal – to tread the path to unity” (article 6).

This raises the questions: Does the above phrase: “to tread the path of unity” mean that those outside of Her (the Orthodox Church) will return to unity? If so, how can it state elsewhere that the bilateral theological dialogues of the Orthodox Church, with its participation in the Ecumenical Movement, take place “with the aim of seeking, on the basis of the ancient Church of the Seven Ecumenical Councils, the lost unity of Christians” (article 5)? In other towards, is the unity of the Orthodox Church taken for granted or is it sought because it was lost?

This is also connected with the subject of the relationship of the Orthodox Church with the other Christian Confessions. While “The Orthodox Church, being the One, Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church, in her profound ecclesiastical consciousness firmly believes that she occupies a central place in matters relating to the promotion of Christian unity within the contemporary world” (article 1), it is simultaneously stated that “The Orthodox Church acknowledges the existence in history of other Christian Churches and confessions which are not in communion with her…” and believes in a speedy, more accurate elucidation “of all ecclesiological topics, especially the teaching on Sacraments, grace, priesthood, and apostolic succession” (article 6).

This means that the Orthodox Church acknowledges the other Christian Churches and Confessions, and within this perspective the relations of the Orthodox Church with the other Churches is determined, in agreement with the 7th canon of the 2nd Ecumenical Council and the 95th of the Quinisext Ecumenical Council (article 20).

Question: Why does the opening phrase “with the rest of the Christian world” close with the phrase “existence of other Christian Churches and Confessions”? Are there Christian Churches besides the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church? Furthermore, does the calling to mind of particular Canons of the Ecumenical Councils [7th of the Second Oecumenical Council and 95th of the Quinisext Council] suggest “baptismal theology” as the basis of the unity of the Orthodox Churches with the other “Churches and Confessions”? After the Quinisext Ecumenical Council, did not other doctrines also slip in among Roman Catholics, as well as other canonical traditions of worship? Is it possible that the decision of the Patriarchs in 1756, by which we receive the heterodox into the Orthodox Church by baptism, is being indirectly revoked? And will those who continue to believe according to the teaching of the Holy Fathers shatter the unity of the Church and be “condemned”? (article 22).

It is necessary, therefore, that the content of this text be further clarified in relation to the title, lest it create confusion and ambiguity. Although the title is clear: “Relations of the Orthodox Church with the rest of the Christian world”, there are some ambiguities in the content, such as the “recognition” of other Churches besides the One Orthodox Church, and the establishment of unity from [within] the existing division. It is possible that this confusion came from the merging of two subjects for discussion at the Holy and Great Council into one text. Nevertheless, the content of the two texts need to be brought into harmony.

2. The text “The mission of the Orthodox Church in the modern world” generally presents the orthodox teaching on the prevalence of peace, righteousness, freedom, brotherhood and love between peoples, and on the rejection of racial and other forms of discrimination. Surely, the Holy and Great Synod has to take such a decision, since we live in a divided, fragmented, and intolerant world and in an environment that is steadily polluted to the detriment of man and the creation of God.
I notice, however, that all of this is based on a flawed anthropology. Instead of the text making reference to the value of man, it refers to the “value of the human person” (Title and chapter 1, article 4), the “sacredness of the human person” (chapter 1, article 3), the “lofty value of the human person” (chapter 1, article 5), and elsewhere.

Of course, in the beginning it is noted that “in the term ‘person’ is condensed the content of the creation of man according to the image and likeness of God” (chapter 1, article 1). However, it continues by stating that “the sacredness of the human person”, which derives from the creation of man as the image of God, and from his mission in God’s plan for man and the world “was the source of inspiration for the Church Fathers” (chapter 1, article 3).

The Fathers, however, constantly insist on emphasising the meaning of “man”, while “person” is attributed to God. I am not aware of patristic texts that speak of the “sacredness” and the “value of the human person”, something which is the product of Roman theology, as Lossky clearly attests, and which in reality is a view pertaining to post-patristic theology.

The wording “value and sacredness of the human person” in the text is associated with the cacodox correlation between the human person and the communion of the Divine Persons. It says, “One of the loftiest gifts of God to the human person both as a concrete bearer of the image of a personal God and as a member of a community of persons in the unity of the human race by grace reflecting the life and communion of the Divine Persons in the Holy Τrinity, is the gift of freedom” (2, article 1).

This article makes reference to the “communion of the Divine Persons,” while the correct terminology would be the unity and distinction of the Divine Persons. In the Triune God, there is a communion of nature and not a communion of persons, since the persons also have their incommunicable hypostatic properties. Also problematic is the statement that “the human person” is “concrete bearer of the image of a personal God” and “a member of a community of persons in the unity of the human race by grace reflecting the life and communion of the Divine Persons in the Holy Trinity” (Chapter 2, article 1). Furthermore, the statement that “the person is associated with freedom and uniqueness, which express relationship and communion” (Chapter 1, 1) and that freedom is “an ontological component of the person” (Chapter 2, 3). If this were the case, then in God each person would have their own freedom, and hence the unity of the Holy Trinity would be broken. If “the human person” is associated with the “divine Persons” in the text, then the freedom of the person results in a cacodox viewpoint. Moreover, τό αὐτεξούσιον, the will is an appetite of nature and not of the person.

I gave an explanation on this subject to the Hierarchy last October, and showed the problems relating to the term person in regards to man, and the Hierarchs did not object further on the subject.

I maintain that these passages should be removed from this important text, and that the word “man” be substituted for the word “person.” There is no better expression, which is both biblical and patristic and which is perceived also by western theologians and Christians of other Confessions, who are not used to the meaning of person with regards to man.

Your Beatitude,
With respect I submit these few, but fundamental remarks of mine, which I consider to be important. If these passages which express a modern theological direction of certain newer theologians, and which differ from Orthodox patristic teaching, remain, then the texts issued by the Holy and Great Synod will create various theological problems, because together with everything else, they will support a theology which is foreign to the tradition of the Church, they will support the so-called post-patristic theology and it will be shown that this was the aim of those who arranged these texts.

In closing, I opine that the text “Relations of the Orthodox Church with the rest of the Christian world” must be altered to clearly express that it is the Orthodox Church which is the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church, and that theological dialogue with the Christian world is done in order for the Christian Communities outside of her to return to this unity.

Furthermore, with regards to the text “The mission of the Orthodox Church in the modern world,” the expression “value and sacredness of the human person” should be replaced by the expression “the value of man,” and what is written about the communion of persons, “the unity of the human race by grace reflecting the life and communion of the Divine Persons in the Holy Τrinity,” should be removed.

Writing the above, I remain,
Least among the brethren in Christ,

+ Hierotheos of Nafpaktos and Saint Vlasios

Translation by Fr Kristian Akselberg