Tuesday, March 16, 2010

A Follow Up to the Previous Post on the Manhattan Declaration

*I think this excerpt below is a good further explanation on why Orthodoxy should not participate in joint statements and declarations which can be misconstrued as being part of the same church. Although not the purpose of the excerpt it hits on many key points -Fr. Maximos
What is Orthodoxy? (From the book What is Orthodoxy? by Peter A. Botsis)

According to Saint Anastasios the Sinaite, one of the earliest Fathers of the Church, “Orthodoxy is a true conception about God and creation.” Orthodoxy, i.e. right belief, is the truth itself. According to the confession of Christ Himself (“I am the way, the truth, and the life”), He is the truth incarnate. We can find and can know the truth only in the person of Christ; therefore we can be saved only in Christ.

According to the aforesaid, Orthodoxy – Truth – is identified with Christ, Who is the Eternal Truth. And due to the fact that God the Trinity is the source of truth, His mode of existence is also truth, the fundamental and eternal Orthodoxy, which men have been called to follow in their own lives.

After man’s fall, he lost God’s Grace, i.e. he fell from communion with God, the Truth. The descendants of the first Adam, in order to restore communion with God, must come into communion with the new Adam, i.e. Christ. Man’s salvation is possible only in Christ.

Orthodoxy is the holy tradition of our Church, the truth about God, man, and the world that was delivered to us by God Incarnate Himself. Orthodoxy is the right faith and right worship of God. Orthodoxy is the pure Christianity, the real Church established and preserved by Christ for the salvation of mankind.

But what is the truth that Christ offered us? And where does this truth remain unadulterated, pure, and unconfused?

The answer is found in the Holy Bible, where the Church itself is called “the pillar and ground of the truth” (I Tim. 3.15).

Man comes to truth, i.e. to Christ (incarnate Orthodoxy) only in His body, the Church. Man’s redemption, his return to and union with God and his final salvation take place only in the Church. The Church was founded in the world because only in it can man find again his real existence and communion with God and the rest of the world. Man thus finds in the Church the meaning of life, his destiny, and moreover real communion with other men and the rest of creation. According to the apostle Paul, the Church is “His body, the fullness of him that filleth all in all” (Eph. 1.23).

The salvation that Christ granted to us through His Crucifixion and Resurrection, is continued in the Church. That is why Blessed Augustine called the Church “Christ extended into the ages”. That means that the Church is Christ, Who, even after His Resurrection and Ascension, continues saving the world through the Holy Spirit. Humanity continuously finds God in the body of Christ, in the Church. “That is why we cannot separate Christ from the Church. There can be no Church without Christ and there can be no Christ outside the Church, i.e. there can be no truth and consequently no salvation. The truth that exists outside the body of Christ, the Church, is like gold dust in the mud. It is nothing else than sporadic beams of divine presence within the condition of fallen man and his inability to rise and be saved”[1].

Christ as entire truth – Orthodoxy – leads us to our salvation through His Church. Therefore, the Church is the foundation of the truth. If one wants to know Christ authentically, in His catholicity and fullness, one must necessarily resort to the Church. “Outside the Church, even in the so-called “Christian” heresies, the inability to find the whole Christ excludes the possibility of salvation”.[2] The utterance, therefore, of Saint Cyprian, the bishop of Carthage, that “outside the Church there is no salvation,” is not an exaggeration. “Without the Church we cannot know Christ. Likewise, without the Church we cannot understand the Holy Scriptures, that is her Bible, her own possession and tradition. But it is also true that, in order to know Christ in the Church, the Church existing here and now must express the true Christ in His fullness. Otherwise the true Christ remains unknown and inaccessible and man remains outside salvation, which is the exact condition found in the various heresies. Only in the true Church does man authentically meet Christ and is saved”.[3]

The Church, according to one of the Holy Fathers, is “the gathering of the Orthodox people.” It is impossible to think of the Church without Orthodoxy; and within this framework we can understand the Church as tradition, which is a divine process and dynamic movement of God in history. The Romanian theologian Dimitri Staniloae says that, “Orthodoxy is a living condition, the ceaseless life of the Church.”

“The Church always considered it her highest responsibility and obligation to maintain, in the Holy Spirit, the apostolic faith unadulterated and unfalsified. If the Church had not remained faithful to the truth of her existence, she could not have remained faithful to herself and retained her identity. The contents and the substance of the Church is Orthodoxy.”[4]

This responsibility of the Church to maintain the truth through tradition is not something abstract. The Church takes care that each of her children remains in the truth, in “orthodoxy” and “orthopraxis” (right-faith and right-works).

“Every Christian within the Church must not only simply believe, but believe in one God; not only believe in a supreme and invisible power, but in God the Trinity, Who revealed Himself in Christ. Likewise, he must not simply love, but love his God by loving his fellow man. The Church is obliged to maintain this orthodoxy of faith and life and to communicate it to the world through her mission and witness.”[5]

Having the above in mind, we can easily understand why the Church rejected all those who tried to falsify or refused to accept the truth of the Church, those who tried to add to or omit something from the Truth, which is Christ Himself. The Church rejected them as heretics not because she lacked love for men, but, on the contrary, because of excessive love for them, for those outside the Church, far off from the truth, there is no salvation. The Church cannot compromise or sacrifice the truth and the Orthodox faith, because she will lose her identity and catholicity. “The Christian of every age must accept everything that Christ revealed and that His body (the Church) delivers. He must accept the whole truth and not a “minimum” of it. The Catholicity and Orthodoxy of the Church are preserved only in the fullness and wholeness of faith. The Church is Catholic inasmuch as it is Orthodox, because only then does she preserve the fullness of the truth in Christ.”[6]

Nowadays, of course, we are used to simplifying things and to being indifferent to the Truth of the Church. Being superficial and frivolous, we give attention to outer forms and we claim that it is enough if there is a common acceptance of a basic faith, and everything more is useless. Doctrines and Canons are made by men and they must be put aside “for love’s sake”.

“Doctrines, however, as rules of faith do not destroy the unity of the Truth. They create the boundaries of Orthodoxy, of the Church, so that the Church, as Orthodoxy, can be distinguished from heresy…. For the Church, the foundation of faith is one: the fullness of truth in Christ.”[7]

For the Church, therefore, one thing is needful: to retain the truth unadulterated, as she received it. For this purpose the Church mobilized all her powers to fight against heresy, which was her most threatening enemy. The persecutions never threatened the Church’s unity or maintenance of the truth. On the contrary, they sometimes helped her gather her powers. However, heresy many times caused her trouble. For heresy, which is nothing but removal from the truth, threatens the Church’s own hypostasis and existence, it threatens the Truth, by threatening to sever the Truth and to divide Christ. But a Christ Who is not entire and undivided, Who is not the whole, “incarnate truth”, is not the Christ that saves. Heretics did not reject the whole truth, they did not refuse Christ, but they did not accept Him entire, but only a part of Him. Arius e.g., did not refuse Christ’s humanity but he refused His divinity. Others accepted His divinity and refused His humanity. But none of them accepted Christ entire and undivided.

“The truth of the Church is fullness, a unity that must always remain undivided and unsevered. Heresy, however, tries to subject the truth of the ecclesiastical tradition to the criteria of fallen man. For the heretic renders himself judge and criterion of the revealed truth. For this reason, most heretics of every era are rationalists. A heretic (who becomes a heretic because previously he has been affected by pride, which fills him with confidence in his own reason and thought) cuts himself off from the life-giving, Divine Grace and attempts to be saved by his own power, by his own self-made “truth”, not by the God-given Truth. Heresy unavoidably leads to a humanistic religiousness.”[8]

So the struggle of all the Holy Fathers against the different heresies aimed at retaining the truth completely – which is an indispensable presupposition for salvation – in order to keep every man in the Ark of the Church, which is the Body of Christ. We could say that this struggle is their greatest offering to the Church. That is why they never consented to co-exist with heretics in a “minimum” of faith and to be satisfied with holding a part of the truth, but they struggled to keep it whole and undivided, for only then could they stay within Truth and obtain their salvation. The method, nowadays, in which differences are not mentioned and common points are emphasized, was never accepted by the Fathers as a starting-point for theological disputes with heresies. On the contrary, they constituted Ecumenical Synods and they struggled not for a “minimum” of faith, not to find out what is common between them and the heretics, but rather to mark out what separates, what teachings of the heretics sever the truth and, consequently, the unity of faith. Otherwise, if the Church were indifferent to retaining the faith and the tradition, as she received them, pure and unadulterated, then it would not be the Church of Christ, His Body, but a human organization or a political ideology, striving for political or humanistic purposes, and not in anyway related to Christ, His sacrifice on the Cross, and to salvation.

1) G. Metallinos. "What is Orthodoxy?”, Athens, 1980, p.19.
2) G. Metallinos. Ibid, p.19.
3) G. Metallinos. Ibid, p.19.
4) G. Metallinos. Ibid, p.19.
5) G. Metallinos. Ibid, p.20 – 21.
6) G. Metallinos. Ibid, p.21.
7) G. Metallinos. Ibid, p.21.
8) G. Metallinos. Ibid, p.23.

Monday, March 15, 2010

The Manhattan Deception: A Call to the Orthodox Christian Conscience

“A secularized Church is completely unable and weak to transform the world. And secularized Christians have failed at all levels.” - Metropolitan Hierotheos of Nafpaktos

Ok some ranting…not really an article so to speak but some thoughts thrown together.

I must state beforehand I am not a theologian or a scholastic. I am a simple priest and write this of my own volition. This is just a post in response to some of the nonsense I personally have to listen to in my ministry and what we are exposed to by all the hoopla surrounding “The Manhattan Declaration”, all the talk of the “social gospel” due to Glen Beck’s recent rants and many other reasons.

Also what goes on in other faiths is their business and we should pray for them in love and peace. Judgment is left to God and we cannot judge another’s heart. However we can condemn the heresy, falsehood and deception and expose it for what it is especially if it is deceiving our own people.

We, for the most part, have all at this point probably at least heard about the document entitled the “Manhattan Declaration: A Call of Christian Conscience”. This document has been signed by numerous religious leaders in response to a real perceived need to the issues of the sanctity of life, marriage, religious freedom and states to” act in defense of these truths”. It also must be stated that those participants who have signed it often have done so on their own personal will and not as official church representation from each of their respective ecclesiastical communities.

I am not going to tout accusations of apostasy of certain individuals, attack various people’s consciences or degrade anyone’s free will. Let’s face it, this document does appeal to those who claim to be Christians in one form or another and to those who are tired, and rightfully so, of the moral degradation we see in all aspects of life in this country and the entire world. I agree with the premise of the document and support those key issues which it addresses.

With that being said I personally cannot entertain the possibility of signing or formally supporting the Manhattan Declaration. I feel this is yet another ecumenical landmine set up to deceive, to minimize the real gospel and distort Christ. Although I agree with the principles of the declaration, but the way it is offered is not necessarily transparent. Also I am not stating that the formulation was done with such intent or the authors are conspirators of some sort. I am not making such accusations. However, to deem all varying sects and branches as part of the same faith is misleading and unfortunately the false theology which permeates the West. As if differing branches can be considered the “global church”.

I feel that the declaration is a subtle attack on the apostolic church, as if it can be divided, preach diametrically opposed theologies, contradictions, and embrace schism, heresy, and ambiguities all in the name of “the gospel” and yet come together as one for a statement. Instead of one Lord, one faith, one baptism the underlining theme here is many Lords, many differing faiths and many baptisms(in some cases not required). It is deceptive, a coercion, a blatant distortion, and a play on emotion all in the name of Christian truth.

While the document insinuates that all signers are Christian, labeling all denominations in conjunction with the declaration as “Christian” whether apostate or not is a misnomer. Although there may be many mansions, heresy and truth cannot dwell together. We, as Orthodox Christians, cannot exchange of the gospel of Christ for some western notion of the social gospel. If all these groups who signed the declaration are truly Christian then how can they stand together as one if they are a house divided? There are momentous obstacles towards any real union as each group certainly preaches a different Christ.

Many would argue that this is not a “faith document” so coming together in regards to morality is quite different. However, Chuck Colson, one of the three authors of the Manhattan Declaration, said that the Manhattan Declaration is "a form of catechism for the foundational truths of the faith." (From “Just the Beginning” by Chuck Colson, a commentary from his blog on the topic of the Manhattan Declaration, http://www.breakpoint.org/commentaries/13626-just-the-beginning)

For more just listen to this 2 minute talk by Chuck Colson. http://www.colsoncenter.org/the-center/the-chuck-colson-center/two-minute-warning/13619-chuck-colson-sign-the-manhattan-declaration-today

I am not trying to be a conspiracy theorist or over emphasize picayune points but the above statement by one of the declarations authors shows how far apart we are. The Orthodox Church has always declared to have the fullness of the faith. Why should we subscribe to some “foundational truth” being laid out by someone who has no tie to the historical Church?

As an Orthodox Christian I do not want to sign or embrace something based on good will, morals or emotion on such important topics. The gospel I subscribe to is the one offered by Christ, maintained by his apostles and which remains visibly and mystically present in His abiding presence within His mystical body the Church. Outside this the fullness and undistorted gospel cannot exist. Many have glimpses and seek but must unite the one, holy, catholic and apostolic church.

The declaration states that Christianity has been “seeking justice in our societies, resisting tyranny, and reaching out with compassion to the poor, oppressed and suffering.” What baptism unto remission of sin? Repentance? Spiritual transformation? The Social Gospel is not the Gospel of Christ. It reminds me of the nonsense in Latin America known as “liberation theology”. Liberation theology or liberation from unjust political regimes, economic injustices, and social conditions in life are certainly areas of which the Christian should be concerned. But this is yet another gospel and not the gospel of salvation. Although as the gospels describe the needs of humans are to be addessed, when these needs are expolited or the message of salvation is placed on the backburner then the whole notion of the gosepl falls apart. When the the gospel falls into politics instead of Truth in Christ it is a sham.

What about the Church? It is through her that salvation enters the world. She is the Divine-human salvific institution that is the mystical body of Christ. To think that Truth can take an effective stand blatant heresy is the product of so-called worldy “theologians”, a misnomer as a theologian is one who truly prays, not one who merely rationalizes who God is or theorizes what His will is. Such “theological” conclusions are utterly bankrupt, pretentious and the work of a darkened mind and complete spiritual deception.

When one actively studies the words of the Holy fathers of the church, the ecumenical councils, the testimony of early Christian mysticism the wisdom they receive runs contrary to the assumptions, dogmatic and doctrinal errors of modern sects who have splintered from the Orthodox Church. When one reads the lives of the saints, the testimony of the fathers of the church, the ecumenical church councils, the scriptures and the apostolic witness I would argue they will cease to be Roman Catholic. When one objectively looks at church history, the actual scriptures(not watered down, doctored or incomplete manuscripts) and what the early church believed they will cease to be Protestant. Truth cannot be trampled on. In history fewer may accept it than other times, many may be deceived but it is always there as the gates of Hades cannot triumph over it.

Today, however, we have many “churches” claiming to be the one, true Church. Only the Holy Orthodox Church can legitimately claim this title. Some possess “mechanical” apostolic succession, but succession in this form, removed from adhering to the true faith is deficient and viewed as null and void, being outside the boundaries of the Holy Orthodox Church. The Church has always existed and is traceable by the apostolic succession of a valid bishop who teaches apostolic truth. This is essential for the spiritual and historic continuity of the true apostolic church. Paul urges us in Holy Writ: "Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus" (Phil. 2. 5). The Church is not just a human organization of brick and mortar and the material world, but the holy and blessed mystical Body and cosmic reality of Christ Jesus, the Logos.

As Orthodox Christians is not the Manhattan Declaration another entrapment blurring the lines between the Church and heresy? This is nothing new to Orthodox Christians. The so-called “lifting of anathemas” in 1965 by the Patriarch Athengoras of sorrowful memory even though the chasm of differences have grown consistently since the Great Schism. More recent events and various “statements” such as Balamand, Canberra, the agreement in New York, and the Toronto statement are all a threat to Orthodoxy.

Although a tome can be written on the subject I think the modern heresy of our times is ecumenism. I am not referring to proper dialogue which is good, but bad ecumenism where Truth is reduced to be almost meaninglessness for the sake of superficial outward unity and so-called peace. It is in this false ecumenical spirit that all previous hereises are accepted. Since anything goes so to speak one can have superficial unity externally with Arianists, those who deny the Eucharist, Gnostic tendencies and every other heresy made manifest in history under the guise of love, acceptance and a fraternal embrace. It is through this that I truly feel that our desire for love, unity and brotherhood are exploited, making us like Judas and creating a "Christ" we want and not the One who has been revealed in the flesh.

I think the pronouncement of the Council of Bishops of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia, 1983, signed by all the Bishops, to be permanently added at the end of the Anathemas listed in the "Rite of Orthodoxy," celebrated on the First Sunday of the Great Fast, the Sunday of Orthodoxy sums it up best:

"To those who attack the Church of Christ by teaching that Christ's Church is divided into so-called "branches" which differ in doctrine and way of life, or that the Church does not exist visibly, but will be formed in the future when all "branches" or sects or denominations, and even religions will be united into one body; and who do not distinguish the Priesthood and Mysteries of the Church from those of the heretics, but say that the baptism and Eucharist of heretics is effectual for salvation; therefore, to those who knowingly have communion with these aforementioned heretics or who advocate, disseminate, or defend their heresy of ecumenism under the pretext of brotherly love or the supposed unification of separated Christians, Anathema!"

But we as Orthodox are not be lunatic fanatics and must realize what heresy implies; a willful denial of Truth after one has been exposed to it.

Metropolitan Philaret, former First Hierarch of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia, expressed the same views. He wrote: “It is self-evident... that sincere Christians who are Roman Catholics, or Lutherans, or members of other non-Orthodox confessions, cannot be termed renegades or heretics — that is, those who knowingly pervert the truth.... They have been born and raised and are living according to the creed which they have inherited, just as do the majority of you who are Orthodox; in their lives there has not been a moment of personal and conscious renunciation of Orthodoxy. The Lord, “Who will have all men to be saved” (1 Tim. 2:4) and “Who enlightens every man born into the world” (Jn 1:9), undoubtedly is leading them also towards salvation in His own way.” [From the pamphlet “Will the Heterodox Be Saved?” (Leaflet #213 published by the St. John of Kronstadt Press)].

Metropolitan Philaret has a Christian sober view of not being overly judgmental. We do not know the state of anyone’s particular soul especially due to personal, historical and other personal circumstances. Also being in the Orthodox Church is not a guarantee of salvation lest we fall into a mentality like the “once and for all salvation” in some Protestant circles or the heretical belief of the simple “born again” philosophy where once salvation is obtained it cannot be lost.

Ecumenism is a deceitful, syncretistic movement seeking false intercommunion between all Christian denominations and eventually all religions. Despite doctrinal differences, heretical innovations and scandal, ecumenism tries to unite Truth with falsehoods. It exploits man’s need for acceptance and worldly peace and recognition under the pretenses of "love" and "peace," to slowly and ambiguously nullify the teachings of Christ into a one world religion created by the minds of men.

Archbishop Averky stated “We are living in a strange time, when all the true and healthy Christian concepts are being replaced by false and deceitful concepts, discovered often with an evil intention with the undoubted intention, naturally, of drawing people away from the right path of a truly Christian life. In all of this there can be discerned some kind of rationally acting black hand which is working to bind people as tightly as possible to this temporary, earthly life by forcing them to forget the future life, the eternal life assuredly awaiting us all.” We need to realize that deception is real and can happen to the Church thus tearing many innocent souls from her bosom.

Saint John of Kronstadt stated, “A Christian must always be kind, gracious and wise in order to conquer evil by good.” We must start with ourselves. We cannot always change the world. We are not of the world and it hates us. However in this world we can do much if it is done in Christ Jesus our Lord and Savior. Yes it is true a house divided cannot stand, but the church of Christ is not divided. Those who are in opposition to her are outside of her. All things can be accomplished in Christ, especially when His true salvific gospel is preached.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Considering helping us in Worcester, MA

So Matushka and I have resurrected the outreach ministry in Worcester, MA.
Goals are to distribute pre-packaged meals, donated clothing, be an attentive ear to those who need one and as blessed by Metropolitan Hilarion a specific outreach to those ensnared in the nets of addiction. We also have pamphlets that provide contact information for local agencies pertaining to medical/housing/food/other assistance.

Consider volunteering, donating clothing or food and certainly pray for us! Email me for further details at frmaximosmcintyre@gmail.com or call me anytime at 508-641-5672

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

The Theraputic Nature of Orthodoxy

From Fr. John Romanides' Patristic Theology (Lecture 58, On Councils)

Some people are convinced that sacred tradition is guarded by episcopal synods. But contemporary synods in the Orthodox Church are not like the local or ecumenical councils of bishops in the age of the early Christians, because the early councils were composed of bishops who had mastered the Church’s therapeutic method. Their aim in coming together as a council was not merely to safeguard the Church’s doctrine and liturgical order, as is the case today. No, their aim was to preserve and protect the Church’s therapeutic method. So a proper bishop is a master of the therapeutic method of the Church. During those early years, the work of a bishops’ synod was absolutely vital, more so than today. Their task was to preserve and protect the Church’s therapeutic method and curative treatment.
But when the bishops’ synod would safeguard this method, they would struggle along two fronts. The inner front involved taking care to safeguard sound ascetic culture and practices within the Church. The outer front consisted in safeguarding doctrinal teachings for the cure of the soul. Another aspect of the inner front was protecting dogmas from heresies, which always have their source in people who have not mastered the proper therapeutic method. Whenever an innovation appears within the Church, it always means, from the very moment it appears, that the person introducing the innovation not only fails to view doctrine properly, but he also fails to be in a healthy spiritual state.
Some of the greatest Fathers of the Church were systematizers who situated their understanding of doctrine in the context of the therapeutic method. The include St. John of Damascus, St. Maximos the Confessor, St. Symeon the New Theologian, and St. Dionysius the Areopagite, among others. We should also mention the disciples of St. Gregory Palamas. Moreover, we also find all these basic principles present and organized in the works of St. Ignatios the God-bearer, because this is an unbroken tradition dating back to the first century. The same basic principles are also present throughout St. Paul's epistles, as well as throughout the entire Old and New Testaments. If we have the proper criteria, we can discover the presence of these basic principles and locate them in texts that contain them.
St. Makarios of Egypt carefully explains these issues by setting forth a coherent body of principles. He claims that Christians who do not have noetic prayer are not intrinsically different from believers in other religions. The only factor that makes such Christians different from believers of other religions is that these Christians intellectually believe in Christ and merely accept Christian doctrine, while the believers in other religions do not accept Christian doctrine. But such Christians do not gain anything from this kind of intellectual faith, because it does not heal them or purify their hearts from the passions. In terms of healing the human personality, they remain without benefit and with behavior that does not differ from that of non-Christians. This can be seen in their way of life.
Consider an Orthodox Christian whose soul is sick, but who not only fails to struggle to be healed, but does not even imagine that the Church has an effective therapeutic strategy for curing his sickness. What is the difference between such a nominal Orthodox Christian and a Muslim, for example? Does doctrine make him different? But what good is doctrine when it is not used as a pathway towards healing? What good is doctrine when it is merely kept hung up in the closet so that it can be worshiped? In other words, what is the point of worshiping the letter of the law and ignoring the spirit, hidden within the letter?

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Lenten Retreat

Greetings! Just back from a Lenten retreat and clergy conference that was held in PA. It was really awesome, both informative and spiritually a recharge. Also Matushka and I were able to make new friends that will be everlasting. Many pictures, some video and descriptions of activities and proceddeings can be found here: