Wednesday, November 24, 2010

A Personal Reflection of the Branch Theory Part 4

Overt Ecumenism:
Saint Cyprian tells us: “Not only must we beware of what is open and manifest, but also what deceives by the craft of subtle fraud. And what can be more crafty, or what more subtle, than for this enemy...to devise a new fraud, and under the very title of the Christian name to deceive the incautious.”

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.

Under the false pretenses of "love" and "peace," the Ecumenists even promote the union of Christianity with non-Christian religions. As a gesture of "love" the Ecumenists have forsaken the truth of Christ, forgetting that love without truth is false love. The fundamental belief of Ecumenism is that the whole truth does not exist in any single denomination or religion, but that all sects and cults contain a portion of the truth, and that the whole truth can only be found when all denominations, cults, sects and even religions unite. Since external unity cannot be achieved due to the sense of power each religion desires to retain, the Ecumenists have sought to form a union of all religions through compromising matters of the faith. Thereby all religions may keep their individual doctrines and traditions, but all should unite under the banner of a common belief in a divine power, whether this be God, Buddha or the numerous deities of Hinduism and other pagan faiths.

Many ecumenists promote the union of Christianity with non-Christian religions, recognizing false gods as equal to Christ. This so-called "love" the Ecumenists have forsaken the truth of Christ, forgetting that love without truth is false love indeed. The philosophy of Ecumenism is that there is no whole truth and the whole truth does not exist in any single visible denomination or any religion, but that all sects can contain a portion of the truth, even if their beliefs differ considerably. A false union of all religions through compromising matters of the faith is a disgrace to the cross of Christ. Ecumenism allows all religions to keep their individual doctrines, traditions, and teachings, forcing a sort of pseudo-unity unite under the banner of a common “god”. God can be “mother earth, Buddha or the numerous deities of Hinduism and other pagan beliefs in stark contrast to our knowledge of the Holy Trinity.

It is only in Christ and in His Church that I will be redeemed and experience the fullness of His abiding grace. Christ further told His followers, “Lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world.” (Matt. 28:20). This promise was made not specifically to the world, but to the Church, the sacrament of His presence. And yet, it is precisely Christ's abiding presence in the Church that is His saving presence in the world. When Christ comes in glory, He will come as a Bridegroom to receive not the kingdoms of this world, but His spotless Bride, the Church (cf. Eph. 5:25-27)…..the gates of hell would not prevail against the Church (cf. Matthew 16:18). The Church, therefore, is a divine-human Mystery. But more than that, She is the Mystery of Trinitarian Life: that they all may be one, as Thou, Father, art in Me, and I in Thee . . . that they may be one, even as We are one (John 17:21-22). Jesus promised His abiding presence to His Body, the Church, which is the fullness of Him Who filleth all in all (Eph. 1:23). He promised to send the Holy Spirit Who would guide the Church into all truth (John 16:13).

The Church is of the living God, the pillar and the ground of the truth. (1 Tim 3:15) The nature of the Church instated by Christ and ultimately established at Pentecost is one of love, truth and is directly attached to Christ, its head. The Church is the “Bride of Christ” based on this truth. Christ and His Church are one, Christ as the giver of life to each member. All people are called to be the branches, extending from Christ, the head of the universal Church. The Church is one, holy, catholic and apostolic. It is the only spiritual and true body, divinely initiated, universal and timeless and stems from Christ to His apostles and continues through her bishops. The Church is undoubtedly the living Christ.

The Holy Spirit directs the Church and accomplishes that incomprehensible identification in which our incarnate Lord Jesus, and the Holy Eucharist, and the assembly of the Church are one and the same and are called the Body of Christ. To use a quote that I seem to use constantly due to its effectiveness from the mouth of the great exiled and persecuted Saint Athanasius, “You are the ones who are happy; you who remain within the Church by your Faith, who hold firmly to the foundations of the Faith which has come down to you from Apostolic Tradition. And if an execrable jealousy has tried to shake it on a number of occasions, it has not succeeded. They are the ones who have broken away from it in the present crisis. No one, ever, will prevail against your Faith, beloved Brothers. And we believe that God will give us our churches back some day. Thus, the more violently they try to occupy the places of worship, the more they separate themselves from the Church. They claim that they represent the Church; but in reality, they are the ones who are expelling themselves from it and going astray. Even if Catholics faithful to Tradition are reduced to a handful, they are the ones who are the true Church of Jesus Christ.”

The ever-memorable Metropolitan Philaret in his First Sorrowful Epistle stated unto the Church, "Can any one of us be silent if he sees that many of his brethren simultaneously are walking along a path that leads them and their flock to a disastrous precipice through their unwitting loss of Orthodoxy?"…of course not. “For there must be also heresies among you” (I Cor. 11:19). This is true to distinguish the authentic followers of Christ from those heretics who attempt to deceive the elect with their satanic entrapments.

St. Nektarios of Aegina said the following:“Neither the Papist nor the Protestant church can be considered the True church of Christ. The first was altered by a number of innovations and the accursed despotism (Primacy) due to which resulted the schism from the Orthodox. The same goes for the Protestants whose innumerable innovations lead to total anarchy and chaos. Only the Orthodox Church maintained the teaching of Christ flawlessly without a single innovation. Only in the Orthodox Church does unity exist. The unity which the Savior was petitioning from the Father saying, ‘Holy Father keep them in your Name those that you gave me so they can be one just like we are one. (John 17:11…)”

“In the last days all will claim to be Orthodox Christians, and that Orthodoxy is as they understand it to be. But in spite of all this, those who have a pure heart and a mind enlightened by divine grace will recognize the Orthodox Church despite the apparent divisions and utter lack of external splendor. They will gather around the true priests, and they will become the pillars of the Church. Let the people of the world do whatever they will. Let there be ecumenical conferences; let the churches be united; let Christianity be adulterated; let the Tradition and life be changed; let the religions be united. The Church of Christ will remain unaltered, as Chrysostom says, because if even one of her pillars remains standing, the Church will not fall. "Nothing is stronger than the Church. She is higher than the heavens and broader than the earth. She never grows old; she always flourishes." - Against False Union, by Dr. Alexander Kalomiros (Seattle, WA: St. Nectarios Press, 1990 [1967]),

So what are we to do?

Saint Basil the Great instructs us: “Be attentive to yourself (Deut. 15:9). That is, observe yourself carefully from every side. Let the eye of your soul be sleepless to guard you. You walk in the midst of snares (cf. Sirach 9:13). Hidden traps have been set by the enemy in many places. therefore observe everything, that you may be saved like a gazelle from traps and like a bird from snares (Prov. 6:5)”

Let us take heed to the following: For in the last days the false prophets and corrupters shall be multiplied, and the sheep shall be turned into wolves, and love shall be turned into hate. – Didiche 16:3 (The Teachings of the Apostles)

The erection of parasynogogues, extreme zealotry, hatred, overt personal opinions will not suffice. Love, truth and humility are needed in such a discussion and in preserving and battling for truth. We must fight the good fight and refute any and all nonsense, not losing sight of our goal; the Truth of Christ. Saint John Damascene tells us, “If someone is teaching you outside of the things which the holy Catholic Church received from the Holy Apostles, Fathers and Synods and preserved up till now, do not listen to him..., close your ears."

Saint Theophan the Recluse stated, “Be encouraged! Take up prayer more readily and continue without interruptions—and you will soon achieve your desired goal. Soon a reverent attention to the One God will be established, and with it, inner peace. It may take a lifetime. Ask the Lord and He will help.” "Do not labor for the food which perishes, but for the food which endures to eternal life." (John 6:27)

Fr. Seraphim Rose promoted the acquisition of the mind of the fathers. Not mere academic theology, a superficial pondering of the fathers, but understanding them and the salvation in the faith they acquired. This is the mindset we need to acquire to fight temptation in these dark days. Further St. Theodore Studite states: "The Church of Christ is not comprised of the many, but of those who keep the correct and saving confession of faith, even if they are few." How true and sober this is! All who appear in the “physical” boundaries of the Church do not always have the mind of the fathers. We are forewarned. "Even if we or an angel from heaven preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed." (Gal. 1:8) If they do not teach what has been taught by the Holy Church then we know they cannot be of God. "By their fruits ye shall know them." Matthew 7:15-20.

St. John of Kronstadt – “Outside of Orthodoxy there is no other confession which can lead man to the fullness of the Christian life, to sanctification, to the cleansing from sin or to eternity, because the other ones, the non-Orthodox confessions, suppress ‘the truth in wickedness’ (Rom 1:18). They confuse the truth with sophistries and lies and in this way they don’t maintain the means of Grace necessary for man’s renewal. These only belong to the Orthodox Church the only ‘Holy and Spotless’.”(Eph 5:27)

Saint John of Shanghai and San-Francisco once stated, "There will be a mass falling away from faith, moreover many bishops will betray faith justifying themselves by pointing at the splendid state of the Church. People will be disposed to search for compromise. A forthright confession of faith will disappear. People will excel in justifying their fall, and tender evil will contribute to such general disposition, and people will become accustomed to apostasy and to sweetness of compromise and sin."

As I stated earlier this is not an attack on anyone, but this is an airing of some real concerns in the confusing times we live in. The point is we cannot compromise in matters of truth, but need not be filled with animosity. We all have a God that wills our salvation and our God is ultimate love and knows our hearts. Let us hold on to the faith of our fathers, which was given unto us preserved in its fullness. May we safeguard the Truth even unto death since we know this is where our hearts true home is.

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