Fr. Victor Potapov
What is Orthodoxy. Western Theology. The Western Church and the Culture of Rome. The Great Schism of 1054. Orthodoxy and Heterodoxy — the Veneration of the Mother of God. Orthodoxy and Heterodoxy — Original Sin. Supererogatory Works. Purgatory and Indulgences. Primacy of the Roman Pope. The "Infallibility" of the Pope. The Roman Catholic Theory on the Development of Dogma. Differences in the Sacraments. The Spirituality of the Christian West and the Orthodox East. The Orthodox in the Eyes of the Vatican.
The Teaching on Justification Solely by Faith. The Teaching on Predestination and the Veneration of Saints. View on Life Beyond the Grave. The Source of Faith.
What is Orthodoxy.
First of all, Orthodoxy is right faith in God; it is that mighty power which makes each truly believing Orthodox Christian unwavering on the righteous and pious path of his life. To be Orthodox means to know correctly with the mind, to believe correctly with the heart, and to confess correctly with the lips all that God Himself has revealed to us about Himself, about the world and man, and about the tasks and aims of our life in the teaching on the attaining of our spiritual union with Him and our eternal salvation. Without such right faith, according to the word of the Apostle Paul, it is impossible to please God (Heb 11:6).
Orthodoxy is not only right faith and a right confession of the fundamental truths and dogmas of the Church of Christ, but also a right and virtuous life, founded on an unshakable law: the fulfilling of God’s commandments, the permeating of the heart with humility, meekness and love for one’s neighbor, the rendering of help to the needy and unfortunate, and the serving of one’s church. The Apostle James teaches: "Faith without works is dead" (James 2:26). The Lord Jesus Christ Himself, the future Judge of the whole world, promises to "reward every man according to his works" (Matt. 16:27). The Apostle Paul testifies that "every man shall receive his own reward according to his own labor" (1Cor. 3:8). Here is the Orthodox point of view. Right faith must be expressed in deeds, and deeds must serve as a manifestation of faith. One must be closely united with the other indissolubly, like soul and body. This only, then, is the Orthodox, the correct way leading us to God.
Orthodoxy is not only right faith and a life according to faith, but also correct service to God. Our Lord Jesus Christ expressed the essence of the right worship of God in these brief but profound words: "God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth" (John 4:24). Only the inspired divine service of the Holy Orthodox Church, which is permeated by prayer, has realized this sacred worship of God in truth. Moreover, Orthodoxy is strict proportionality and correctness in the manifestations of all the powers of soul and body. In Orthodoxy, a proper place is allotted to everything: to the intellect, to the wants and needs of the heart, to the manifestations of man’s free will, to labor and prayer, to abstinence and watchfulness, in a word, to everything of which man’s life consists.
Last time, in a condensed form, we attempted to respond to the question — what is Orthodoxy. Now it behooves us to begin our investigation of the doctrinal differences between the Christian East and the West.
First of all, it is essential for us to understand the main cultural and psychological peculiarities in which the theology of the West developed. This will help us to evaluate better the extent of the errors of the Roman Catholic and Protestant confessions in comparison with the Apostolic and patristic teaching of the Orthodox Church.
We shall call on the well-known Greek Church writer, Doctor Alexander Kalomiros, for help, and shall turn to his remarkable work, "The River of Fire."
At the beginning of his article, Kalomiros, poses such questions: "...what was the instrument of the devil's slandering of God? What means did he use in order to convince humanity, in order to pervert human thought?" The author answers: "He used 'theology.' He first introduced a slight alteration in theology which, once it was accepted, he managed to increase more and more to the degree that Christianity became completely unrecognizable. This is what we call 'Western theology.'"
Further on in the article, "The River of Fire," Doctor Kalomiros writes that Western theology's "principle characteristic is that it considers God as the real cause of all evil." The author notes that "all Roman Catholics and most Protestants consider death as a punishment from God." According to this teaching, "God considered all men guilty of Adam's sin and punished them by death, that is by cutting them away from Himself; depriving them of His life-giving energy, and so killing them spiritually at first and later bodily, by some sort of spiritual starvation."
Doctor Kalomiros writes further that "some Protestants consider death not as a punishment but as something natural. But is not God the creator of all natural things? So in both cases, God — for them — is the real cause of death. (... )
"The 'God' of the West is an offended and angry God, full of wrath for the disobedience of men, who desires in His destructive passion to torment all humanity unto eternity for their sins, unless He receives an infinite satisfaction for His offended pride.
'What is the Western dogma of salvation? Did not God kill God in order to satisfy His pride, which the Westerners euphemistically call justice?"
Western theology teaches that "salvation... is to be saved from the hands of God! (...)
"This juridical conception of God, this completely distorted interpretation of God's justice, was nothing else than the projection of human passions on theology. It was a return to the pagan process of humanizing God and deifying man. Men are vexed and angered when not taken seriously and consider it a humiliation which only vengeance can remove, whether it is by crime or by duel. This was the worldly, passionate conception of justice ...
"Western Christians thought about God's justice in the same way also; God, the infinite Being, was infinitely insulted by Adam's disobedience. He decided that the guilt of Adam's disobedience descended equally to all His children, and that all were to be sentenced to death for Adam's sin, which they did not commit. God's justice for Westerners operated like a vendetta. Not only the man who insulted you, but also all his family must die. And what was tragic for men, to the point of helplessness, was that no man, nor even all humanity, could appease God's insulted dignity, even if all men in history were to be sacrificed. God's dignity could be saved only if He could punish someone of the same dignity as He. So in order to save both God's dignity and mankind, there was no other solution than the incarnation of His Son, so that a man of godly dignity could be sacrificed to save God's honor."
Doctor Kalomiros considers that such a pagan concept of God's justice makes God the source of all our misfortunes. But such a justice is not at all justice, the author considers, since it punishes men who are completely innocent of the sin of their forefathers. "...what Westerners call justice ought rather to be called resentment and vengeance of the worst kind. Even Christ's love and sacrifice lose their significance and logic in this schizoid notion of a God who kills God in order to satisfy the so-called justice of God."
Further, Kalomiros turns to the understanding of the justice of God as it is set forth in Sacred Scripture and its interpretation by the Holy Fathers of the Church. In the Greek language, in which Ahe Bible has come down to us, justice is called dikaiosune. Dikaiosune is a translation of the Hebrew word, tsedaka. This means "the divine energy which accomplishes man's salvation." It corresponds "to the other Hebrew word, besed, which means Smercy,' ' compassion,' 'love,' and to the word, emeth, which means 'fidelity,' 'truth.' " This is a completely different concept than what we usually call justice. Kalomiros writes that in the West the word dikaiosune was understood the way the men of the pagan, humanistic Greek civilization of antiquity understood it -"human justice, the one which takes place in court."
Kalomiros writes that "God is not just, with the human meaning of this word. His justice means His goodness and love, which are given in an unjust manner, that is, God always gives without taking anything in return, and He gives to persons like us who are not worthy of receiving. (... )
"God is good, loving and kind toward those who disregard, disobey and ignore Him. He never returns evil for evil, He never takes vengeance. His punishments are loving means of correction, as long as anything can be corrected and healed in this life. (... ) The eternally evil has nothing to do with God. It comes rather from the will of His free, logical creatures, and this will he respects.
"Death was not inflicted upon us by God. We fell into it by our revolt. God is Life and Life is God. We revolted against God, we closed our gates to His live-giving grace. 'For as much as he departed from life,' wrote Saint Basil, 'by so much did he draw nearer to death. For God is Life, deprivation of life is death.' 'God did not create death,' continues Saint Basil, 'but we brought it upon ourselves.' (... ) As Saint Irenaeus puts it: 'Separation from God is death, separation from light is darkness... and it is not the light which brings upon them the punishment of blindness.'
"'Death,' says Saint Maximus the Confessor, 'is principally the separation from God, from which followed necessarily the death of the body. Life is principally He who said,"I am the Life." '
"And why did death come upon the whole of humanity? Why did those who did not sin with Adam die as did Adam?" The author replies with the words of Saint Anastasius the Sinaite: " 'We became the inheritors of the curse in Adam. We were not punished as if we had disobeyed that divine commandment along with Adam; but because Adam became mortal, he transmitted sin to his pos-terity. We became mortal since we were born from a mortal.' "
The author writes further that Blessed Augustine, Anselm of Canterbury, Thomas Aquinas and the other founders of Western theology are guilty of this calumny against God. Of course, they did not affirm "expressed and clearly that God is a wicked and passionate being. They rather consider God as being chained by a superior force, by a gloomy and implacable Necessity, like the one which governed the pagan gods. This necessity obliges Him to return evil for evil and does not permit Him to pardon and to forget the evil done against His will, unless an infinite satisfaction is offered to Him."
Further on in the article, "The River of Fire," the author writes of the influence of Greek paganism on western Christianity:
"The pagan mentality was in the foundation of all heresies. It was very strong in the East, because the east was the cross road of all philosophical and religious currents. But as we read in the New Testament, 'where sin abounded, grace did much more abound.' So when heresies flourished, Orthodoxy flourished also, and although it was persecuted by the mighty of this world, it always survived victorious. In the West, on the contrary, the pagan Greek mentality entered in unobtrusively, without taking the aspect of heresy. It entered in through the multitude of Latin texts dictated by Augustine, Bishop of Hippo. (... ) In the West, little by little knowledge of the Greek language vanished, and Augustine's texts were the only books available dating from ancient times in a language understood there. So the West received as Christian a teaching which was in many of its aspects pagan. Caesaro-papist developments in Rome did not permit any healthy reaction to this state of affairs, and so the West was drowned in the humanistic, pagan thought which prevails to this day.
"So we have the East on the one side which, speaking and writing Greek, remained essentially the New Israel with Israelitic thought and sacred tradition, and the West on the other side which having forgotten the Greek language and having been cut of from the Eastern state, inherited pagan Greek thought and its mentality, and formed with it an adulterated Christian teaching.
"In reality, the opposition between Orthodoxy and Eastern Christianity is nothing else but the perpetuation of the opposition between Israel and Hellas.
"We must never forget that the Fathers of the Church considered themselves to be the true spiritual children of Abraham, that the Church considered itself to be the New Israel, and that the Orthodox peoples, whether Greek, Russian, Bulgarian, Serbian, Romanian, etc., were conscious of being like Nathaniel, true Israelites, the People of God. And while this was the real consciousness of Eastern Christianity, the West became more and more a child of pagan, humanistic Greece and Rome."
The Western Church and the Culture of Rome.
The Roman Church was formed and developed on the foundations of Latin culture, which came out of the Roman pagan religion. The pagan religion of Rome was based on the worship of the souls of the dead, and fear before their supernatural power was the main motive for worship. This religious fear imparted a serious and even gloomy tint to Roman religion and led to the instilling of formalism into the Roman pagan cult.
The peculiarities of the Roman state system exerted an even greater influence on the Roman Church. The state had an enormous, overwhelming significance on the psyche and in the life of the Romans: the main virtue was patriotism. The Romans were able to subordinate all the forces of man to state discipline and to turn them toward one end the exaltation of the state. In the greatness and prosperity of the Roman state, the Roman citizen saw the pledge of the wellbeing and prosperity of Roman citizens and the peoples of the whole world. Hence, the conviction that the Romans ought to be the lords and masters of the world. All peoples ought to submit and enter into the makeup of the Roman state, in order to make use of the good things of the "Pax Romana" and Roman governance. The requirements for building a worldwide state and organization, a union of numerous peoples, led to the development of juridical thought in the Romans. The fusion of Roman religion and the Roman state system attained its highest degree when the Emperor Augustus and his successors were deified: divine honors were rendered to them during their life, temples were built in their honor and after their death they were numbered among the assembly of the gods.
The spirit of the Roman people, which was formed on the basis of the peculiarities of its religion and its state system, defined the character of the direction of Church life in the West after the acceptance of Christianity. Here they were little interested in dogmatic questions about the Holy Trinity and the Person of Jesus Christ which agitated the East. The Western Christian people, in conformity with the cast of its mind, was occupied with the practical and external the ritual and legislative side of Church life. It turned its attention to discipline and governance in the Church, to relations between Church and state. The representatives of the Western Church were not lofty theologians, but were good politicians and administrators. In particular, the national traditions bound up with the might of ancient Rome inevitably remained with the Romans even after the acceptance of Christianity. Under the influence of these traditions, the Romans came to think that mighty Rome ought to have the same significance in Church matters that it had in matters of state.
Especially powerful and vital in the Roman people was the idea of the monarchical absolutism of the Roman emperors, which went as far as their deification in the literal sense of this word. This idea of the unlimited supremacy of one person over the whole world became a Church idea in the West. It was transferred from the emperor to the Roman pope. Even the title "Pontifex Maximus" which the Roman emperors bore, was taken by the popes. Hence, in time, a striving for selfexaltation took possession of the Roman popes.
However, as regards the first eight centuries of the existence of the Universal Church, one may speak of all these phenomena in the Roman Church only as tendencies, as moods, as a psychological cast, as sporadic manifestations. In general, then, the differences in interests, strivings and psychological cast between the Churches of the East and West during the first eight centuries were for the Church as a whole beneficial rather than harmful, since they promoted the fullness of the elucidation and incarnation in life of the principles of Christianity, leaving the Church one. In actual fact, in conformity with their own national peculiarities, the Christians of the East, as was already mentioned, discovered in full one side of Christianity dogmatic teaching. And the Western Christians, in conformity with their own peculiarities, developed another side of Christianity ecclesiastical organization. It was required of the Churches of the East and the West only that they remain in mutual ecclesiastical communion between themselves and that they not leave the bosom of the one Universal Church.
Unfortunately, the Western Church broke this communion, and in this rift is contained the cause of its entry on the path of error.
Concerning how this took place, we shall recount next time.
The Great Schism of 1054.
The breakaway of the Roman Church from the Church Universal occurred in the following manner.
In the year 752, Pope Zacharias anointed Pepin the Short, the chief steward of the Frankish kings, to be king, and by this gave, as it were, the Church's blessing to the overthrow carried out by Pepin in the Frankish kingdom that removed the lawful Frankish king from power. For this, Pepin, in the year 755, took away from the Germanic tribe of the Lombards the lands conquered by them in Italy and delivered into the pope's hands the keys to twentytwo cities and the Ravenna Exarchate, which had previously belonged to the Byzantine Empire. Thus, the Pope was transformed from a subject of the Eastern Roman (Constantinopolitan) emperor into an independent secular sovereign, not dependent on any other sovereign, with an independent territory and with possession of supreme state authority on this territory.
This rapidly demoralized the papacy. The inner contradiction between the ascetic ideal and secular authority appeared as a dangerous enemy of the moral purity of the popes. It entailed a radical change not only in the status, but also in the behavior, in the intentions, in the aspirations and in the modi-operandi of the Roman popes. Conceit, pride, lust for power and the aspiration to subordinate all the local churches to their authority, which had previously appeared in the behavior of the Roman popes only as tendencies, as sporadic phenomena now wholly take possession of the popes.
At first, the popes set themselves the task of strengthening their authority in those Western churches the African, Spanish and Gallic Churches which did not form a part of the Roman Church. Despite a certain resistance on the part of the African Church, the popes succeeded comparatively easily in securing the subordination to themselves of these churches: great was the authority of Rome in these its former provinces.
As for the churches in Britain, Germany and in the other countries of Western Europe that were newly founded by missionaries of the Roman bishop, the popes succeeded in subordinating them to their authority all the more easily, inasmuch as the idea of the supremacy of the pope in the Church was inculcated in them simultaneously with the preaching of Christianity.
While subordinating to themselves the Western churches, the popes were simultaneously taking measures in order to substantiate their authority, if not dogmatically, then at least juridically. For this, a collection of ecclesiastical juridical acts was compiled in the West at the beginning of the ninth century in the name of Isidore, an authoritative Spanish sacred minister. Since both the name of the compiler and the contents of the collection, as was established later on, were spurious, it received the name of the "PseudoIsidorian Decretals." The collection consists of three parts. In the first part, there are fifty Apostolic Canons and sixty decretals of the Roman popes. Of these sixty decretals, two are partly falsified, while fiftyeight are altogether spurious. In the second part, among other spurious material, there is the spurious donation of the city of Rome by the Emperor Constantine the Great to the Roman Pope Silvester.
The collection was first published only at the end of the sixteenth century, and then scholars proved without difficulty the spuriousness of the documents that were in it. At the present time, even Catholic scholars do not recognize their authenticity. But at that time, the collection served as an authoritative basis for the development of ecclesiastical relations in the West, inasmuch as it was accepted on faith, and in the course of all the Middle Ages enjoyed the authority of authenticity. The popes began categorically to cite the decretals of the collection in substantiation of their rights to supremacy in the whole Church.
Pope Nicholas the First (858876) began first to cite the "PseudoIsidorian Decretals," since he first formulated sharply and decisively the idea of papal omnipotence in the Church. But the East, naturally, did not recognize this omnipotence. Pope Nicholas the First tried to subordinate the East to himself in a swoop. But he did not succeed in this. As a consequence of this failure, the Church schism appeared: for the first time in the ninth century, and definitively in the eleventh century (1054).
The external history of the falling away of the Roman Church is such. Because of the minority of the Emperor Michael III, the Byzantine (Eastern) Empire was ruled from the year 842 by his mother, Theodora, and the Emperor's uncle, Bardas. The patriarch in Constantinople was Ignatius (from the year 847). At the instigation of Bardas, the Emperor confined his mother in a convent; but the Patriarch, who before this had reproached Bardas for cohabiting with his daughterinlaw, opposed this. Bardas secured the deposition of Ignatius (in the year 852) and the elevation of Photius a man learned and worthy to the patriarchal throne. Enmity between the partisans of Ignatius and Photius began. On the advice of Bardas, the Emperor Michael decided to convoke a great council, to which he also invited Pope Nicholas the First. The latter decided to make use of the occasion and come out as the judge of the Eastern Church. He dispatched two of his legates to the council with a letter to the Emperor.
In it, he wrote that the Emperor had acted incorrectly, contrary to the Church canons, by having appointed one patriarch and by having deposed another without the knowledge of the pope. The Constantinopolitan Council (in the year 861), recognized Ignatius as deposed, and Photius as lawfully installed as patriarch. Pope Nicholas the First might well have recognized Photius as patriarch, if he had not seen in him a firm opponent of his pretensions to supremacy in the Church. He wrote a letter to the Emperor that declared Photius deprived of the patriarchal rank, and Ignatius restored. In the year 862, the pope convoked a council in Rome, which declared Photius deposed. In Constantinople, this enactment was not recognized, and a breach between the churches began.
The question of the governance of the Bulgarian Church intensified the inimical relations between the churches. In response to the arbitrary actions of the pope and his clergy in Bulgaria, Photius assembled a Local Council, at which he condemned all the Roman errors. In the year 867, a new council assembled in Constantinople, with representatives of the Eastern patriarchs, which again condemned the Roman errors and the pretensions of Pope Nicholas the First in the East.
At this time, the Emperor Michael was killed through the intrigues of his coruler, Basil the Macedonian, who occupied the imperial throne and sought support from the pope. In Constantinople, in the year 869, in the presence of papal legates, a council took place, which deposed Photius and recognized the supremacy of the pope and the subordination of the Eastern Church to him. But in the year 879, Ignatius died, and the Emperor Basil, who at that time no longer needed the pope, restored Photius. In the same year of 879, a council assembled in Constantinople with legates from Pope John VIII. Not one of the pope's conditions did the council accept; and the pope did not recognize the enactments of the council.
From the middle of the ninth century to the middle of the eleventh century, relations between the churches were indeterminate, and contacts between them were wanting, except for rare instances of correspondence by the emperors with the popes. In the middle of the eleventh century, relations were renewed, but only to end in a definitive breach. Leo IX was the pope at that time, and Michael Cerularius was the patriarch in Constantinople. The pope bethought to subordinate to himself certain churches in southern Italy that were subordinate to the Patriarch of Constantinople, while the latter then closed the Latin monasteries and churches located in Constantinople. For the regularization of mutual relations, the pope sent his legates to Constantinople, who behaved rudely and haughtily towards the patriarch. Bishop Arsenius, in "The Chronicle of Church Events," describes the action of the papal legates thus:
"And so, the papal legates, 'having become bored by the opposition of the patriarch,' as they said, decided on a most insolent action. On the 15th of July, they entered the Church of Hagia Sophia, and, while the clergy were preparing for the service at the third hour of the day on Saturday, they laid a bull of excommunication on the main altar in full view of the clergy and people present. Going out thence, they shook off even the dust from their feet as a testimony against them, according to the words of the Gospel (Luke 9:5), exclaiming: 'Let God see and judge.'
Thus does Cardinal Humbert himself portray the deed. In the bull of excommunication, it was said incidentally: 'As for the pillars of the Empire and the honorable, wise citizens, the city (that is, Constantinople) is most Christian and Orthodox. But as for Michael, who is unlawfully called patriarch, and the champions of his stupidity, innumerable weeds of heresies are scattered in it=8A Let them be anathema, let them be anathema maranatha (I Corinthians 16:22). Amen.' After this, and in the presence of the emperor and his grandees, they orally pronounced: 'whoever obstinately begins to oppose the faith of the holy Roman and apostolic throne and its sacrificial offering, let him be anathema, let him be anathema maranatha (that is, let him be excommunicated and let him perish at the coming of the Lord) and let him not be considered a Catholic Christian, but a heretical Prozymite (that is, those who do not accept unleavened bread and prefer leavened bread). So be it, so be it, so be it.' The insolence of the papal legates stirred up the whole population of the capital against them; only thanks to the emperor, who esteemed their position as emissaries, were they able to freely depart."
In response, a Constantinopolitan council gave the papal legates over to anathema. From this time, the pope ceased to be commemorated in all the Eastern churches at the divine services.
Thus, the causes of the Church schism in the ninth and eleventh centuries were one and the same: the illegal pretensions of the popes to subordinate to their authority all the local churches, with the simultaneous, as we shall see below, deviations of the Roman popes from Orthodoxy in matters dogmatical, canonical and ritual. In this is the essence of the events, while those factual events that served as the concrete reason for the breach happened by simple chance. It was not a matter of individual facts, but the whole aggregate of the ideas and aspirations of the Romans popes of that time. The spirit of lust for power begat the idea of a great and dangerous untruth the unlimited sovereignty of the popes over the whole Universal Church.
This subordination of the papacy to a sinful principle occurred only from the ninth century. But when the Roman popes in the ninth century first formulated their pretensions, they did not present them as innovations, but, on the contrary, they naturally strove to prove that their authority was a right, everywhere and always recognized in the Universal Church.
So, from the ninth century, the Eastern and Western Churches have gone along different paths. The appellations which they themselves appropriated for themselves speak of the aims pursued by them: the Eastern Church began to call herself Orthodox, underscoring by this that her main aim is to preserve the Christian faith unharmed. The Western Church began to call herself Catholic (universal), underscoring by this that her main aim is the unification of the whole Christian world under the authority of the Roman pope.
Orthodoxy and Heterodoxy — the Veneration of the Mother of God.
Orthodoxy is the correct veneration of the Most Pure and Most Holy Virgin Mary, the Theotokos, who, with the assembly of the prophets, apostles, martyrs and all the saints, is our unsleeping mediatress before God. In regard to the veneration of the Mother of God, the Roman Catholic Church likewise diverges greatly from the ancient ecclesiastical Orthodox teaching. We have in mind the Catholic teaching known as the dogma of the "Immaculate Conception of the Mother of God."
In the official enactment of the Roman throne concerning this dogma, it is said: "The Most Blessed Virgin Mary, in the first moment of her conception, by a special grace of the omnipotent God and by a special privilege, for the sake of the future merits of Jesus Christ, the Saviour of the human race, was preserved free of all stain of original guilt" (Bull of Pope Pius IX on the new dogma, 1854). In other words, the Mother of God, at her conception, by a special act of Divine Providence, was freed from original sin, which by inheritance from our forefather has spread to all mankind.
The first Christian millennium did not know such a teaching. Beginning with the twelfth century, that is, already after the falling away of the Western church from the Universal Church, the idea of the Immaculate Conception began to spread among the clergy and laity. The new teaching provoked a multitude of disputes. Renowned theologians of the West, such as Thomas Aquinas, Bernard of Clairvaux and others rejected it.
The Orthodox Church acknowledges the birth of the Mother of God as holy, immaculate and blessed in the sense that this birth was from aged parents, that it was announced by an angel of God, that it served for the salvation of mankind, but it occurred within the usual laws of human life, both in a spiritual and physical regard. The Mother of God is also dear to us because she has the same nature as we all have; but she, by the ascetic struggle of her life, beginning from childhood, vanquished in herself her sinful nature and ascended on high as more honorable than the Cherubim and incomparably more glorious than the Seraphim. But if a different spiritual nature were given to her, apart from her will, then she is no longer ours and cannot constitute our glory. We cannot then say to God: "We have given her to Thee," as the Church says concerning this on the feast of Christ's Nativity.
Catholics, ostensibly desiring to magnify the Mother of God, separate her from mankind and ascribe to her different spiritual nature. The Roman Catholic dogma of the Immaculate Conception does not elevate, but demeans the Mother of God, since, if she were born free of sin and holy, then in the attainment of holiness there is no merit of her own. This dogma demeans also the work of men's redemption by Christ's death, since it allows the possibility — even though for only one person — to attain holiness apart from this redemption.
Orthodoxy and Heterodoxy — Original Sin.
The Roman Catholic dogma of the Immaculate Conception, whereof we spoke in the last discussion, contradicts the clear teaching of Sacred Scripture on the universality of original sin (Job 14:4-5, John 3:6 and many others).
The sin committed by our progenitors in paradise, with all its consequences, passed and passes from them to all their posterity. What the first people became after the Fall, such also till now are their descendants in the world. "Adam begat a son in his own likeness, after his image" (Genesis 5:3, KJV). Estrangement from God, the loss of grace, the distortion of God's image, the perversion and weakening of the bodily organism, which ends with death — here is Adam's sad legacy, received by each of us at our very appearance in the world. "As from an infected source there naturally flows an infected stream," teaches the Orthodox catechism, "so from an ancestor infected with sin, and hence mortal, there naturally proceeds a posterity infected with sin, and hence mortal."
Therefore, each of us can repeat after King David: "For behold, I was conceived in iniquities, and in sins did my mother bear me" (Psalm 50:7). The Apostle Paul expresses this thought still more clearly: "Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned" (Romans 5:12).
Inherited sin does not contradict either psychological or physiological laws, but, on the contrary, finds confirmation in those and other laws. The transmission of certain psychical and moral attributes, certain depraved inclinations and also physiological defects (for example, predisposition to certain diseases) from parents to children and later generations is a completely ordinary phenomenon. From a purely psychological point of view, it would have been unnatural if the damage to the moral nature of the progenitors of the human race through sin had remained only with them and had passed away without leaving a trace on their posterity, without touching it.
"Original sin is the damage to human nature [caused] by sin, which makes it incapable of fulfilling God's plan, God's design for man as the crown of the creation of the whole visible world," writes Archbishop Nathaniel ("Discussions on Sacred Scripture and on Faith," Volume 1, page 96 [in Russian]).
According to the teaching of the Roman Catholics, the essence of human nature did not change after the Fall; man remained such as he was created by God, only he was deprived of the supernatural gifts of grace (immortality of the body, the primordial righteousness and dominion over nature), in consequence of which he began to change for the worse in soul and body. In this deprivation of supernatural grace consisted the punishment of our progenitors, and after them of all men as well. Fallen man, according to the teaching of Catholic theologians, is a former courtier, who once was elevated and exalted by a special mercy of the king, and then for his fault was cast down from his high post and returned to his former condition.
Catholics exclude the Most Pure Virgin Mary from this notion. "According to the Roman Catholic notion," writes Vladyka Nathaniel, "original sin lies in the taking away by God from the first people, who had sinned, of the gift of 'original righteousness' (justitia originalis), which people had before the Fall, which was taken away from them after the commission of sin by them, but, by an exception to the general law, was given to the soul of the Virgin Mary at its introduction into the body. Therefore, the Virgin Mary is completely similar to Eve before the Fall, who had the gift of justitia originalis " ("Discussions on Sacred Scripture and on Faith," volume 1, page 98 [in Russian]).
According to the teaching of the Orthodox Church (from the first centuries and up to our days), all men are subject to original sin — all, including also the Mother of God. And all have to be redeemed by the sacrifice of the Son of God. The Most Holy Virgin herself numbers herself among the saved, calling God her Saviour: "Šand my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Saviour" (Luke 1:47). Sacred Scripture knows only one man who did not partake of original sin — the God-Man Christ Jesus, Who was conceived in a supernatural manner — by the Holy Spirit.
The Catholic view on original sin and on its consequences contradicts the clear testimonies of the word of God that point out the damage [caused] to man's very nature through the sin of our progenitors and the consequences of this sin, which show the violation of the natural order of human life. The Apostle Paul says: "For the good that I would I do not: but the evil which I would not, that I do. Now if I do that I would not, it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me. I find then a law that, when I would do good, evil is present with me. For I delight in the law of God after the inward man: but I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members" (Romans 7:19-23).
The infinite grandeur of the redeeming sacrifice of the Lord Jesus Christ is demeaned by the Catholic teaching on the Fall, and too great a significance is attributed to the participation of man himself in the work of salvation. Here the juridical approach characteristic of Catholics is again expressed: man not only receives salvation as something due and earned, but he can even perform more good works than he needs for acquiring eternal salvation.
Protestantism, in its teaching on original sin, as in many other points, fell into the opposite extreme. In its notion, man's Fall perverted human nature to such an extent that not even a trace of the powers and abilities bestowed by the Creator remained in him, and all his desires are directed solely toward what is evil and sinful. Man, according to Luther's expression, was turned, as it were, into a pillar of salt, like Lot's wife; he became a soulless block and even worse, because a block does not act and does not oppose, while man opposes the action of divine grace. It is true that many Protestants later acknowledged their extremeness in this teaching and some drew near even to the Orthodox view, but others, unfortunately, fell into rationalism and went as far as a complete rejection of original sin and even the very historical fact of the fall of our progenitors.
The Protestant view of original sin contradicts all those places in Sacred Scripture wherein an appeal to man's free will is contained for correction and salvation, and wherein, consequently, it is confirmed that man did not pervert his nature so much that he cannot take any part in the work of his salvation (see Matthew 16:24; 19:17-21).
From the Catholic teaching on the Fall, there issue some more erroneous teachings — the dogma on supererogatory works and the treasury of the saints. As we have already said, according to Roman Catholic teaching, the essence of the Fall lies not so much in the damage to man's spiritual and bodily powers, as in the fact that man offended God, incurred His righteous wrath and was deprived of the primordial righteousness. Thanks to the redemption accomplished by Jesus Christ, the primordial righteousness is returned to man, and, for justification and salvation, it only remains for men to assimilate the Saviour's merits and to make use of the grace given in the sacraments. And since man's natural powers have been preserved almost in an undamaged condition, he can himself, through faith and, in particular, through his good works, merit for himself from God and acquire for himself the right to receive a reward from God and eternal blessedness.
In this way, works in Catholicism are turned into something valuable in themselves, into merit in the sight of God; man expects to receive salvation not so much by God's mercy, but as the due of his labors. In this is expressed the legacy of ancient, pagan Rome, where all concepts and attitudes were based on the callous, soulless law. The Catholic looks on his attitudes toward God from an exclusively legal, external, judicial point of view as well. Good works for him are not the fruit of a certain disposition of soul, not an expression of love for Christ (John 14:15), not an indicator of a man's spiritual and moral growth, but simply a payment to God's justice; they are liable to an exact reckoning and measuring: the more good works a man performs, the greater the measure of blessedness he will receive in the future life, and the less he has of these works, the lesser his right to blessedness.
According to Catholic teaching, many of God's saints, especially the Most Holy Virgin Mary, in endeavoring to realize in their life not only God's law or the commandments (præcepta), offered superabundant and supererogatory satisfaction to the divine justice and performed supererogatory good works (opera supererogationis). From them, a certain quantity still remains, as it were, of excess, supererogatory good works. This excess makes up the so called treasury of supererogatory merits (thesaurus meritorium), which is at the full and unconditional disposal of the pope. Whoever does not have as many of his own deeds as are needed to satisfy God's justice for his sins, can, by the mercy of the pope, make use of the supererogatory merits of the saints in the church's treasury. This teaching was confirmed in 1343 by Pope Clement VI.
This absurd and even blasphemous teaching is explained exclusively by the avarice of the popes and the Catholic clergy and entirely contradicts the clear teaching of Sacred Scripture on man's salvation. The ideal of Christian perfection is so high, so unattainable that not only can man never perform anything supererogatory, but he cannot even attain this ideal. The Lord said to His disciples: "When ye shall have done all these things which are commanded you, say, We are unprofitable servants: we have done that which was our duty to do" (Luke 17:10). The Apostle Paul says: "For by grace are ye saved through faith; and not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: not of works, lest any man should boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them" (Ephesians 2:8-10).
Purgatory and Indulgences.
The teaching on purgatory is one of the characteristic differences that distinguish the Roman Catholic confession from the Orthodox Church. According to the teaching of the Catholics, the souls of Christians who have died, if the Lord deems them pure, are sent straight to paradise, while the souls of men who are weighed down by mortal sins are sent to Hades. But Catholics also believe that in the life beyond the grave there exists as well the so-called "purgatory" (from the Latin, purgatorium) — a special state between paradise and Hades, wherein are found the souls of those who died with repentance for their sins, but who did not succeed on earth in offering satisfaction to God for their sins, and also of those who for some reason or other did not repent of their sins of little importance, for which it would be cruel to send them to eternity in Hades, but impossible also to allow them straight into paradise. In purgatory, the souls burn in a purifying fire; when their sins are expiated, they can receive admittance to paradise. Here, in the course of a certain period, depending on the importance and quantity of their sins, the souls of the dead suffer various tortures, and by these torments they pay for their sins committed on earth, but not yet paid for. When the period of torments ends, when the debt to God's justice is paid in full, the soul passes from purgatory to paradise. Purgatory will exist until the Second Coming of Christ; but the souls of sinners that go thither will not await the Dread Judgement there. Each soul will stay in purgatory as much time as necessary to expiate its sins. The lot of the soul in purgatory depends not only on its repentance, but also on the prayers raised up for it on earth. With the help of masses, prayers and good works performed in memory of the dead by the faithful on earth, the lot of the soul in purgatory can be alleviated and the period of its stay there can be shortened.
As proof of the existence of purgatory and the possibility of forgiveness of some sins in the life beyond the grave, Catholics cite mainly two passages from Sacred Scripture: 1) "And whosoever speaketh a word against the Son of man, it shall be forgiven him: but whosoever speaketh against the Holy Ghost, it shall not be forgiven him, neither in this world, neither in the world to come" (Matthew 12:32); 2) "Every man's work shall be made manifest: for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall try every man's work of what sort it is (I Corinthians 3:13). In the first passage, Catholics see a distinction between sins forgiven during earthly life and sins forgiven in the life beyond the grave. They understand the second citation, about the fire that tries every man's works, in a literal and not in a figurative sense. The Orthodox Church understands the Apostle Paul's words, "the fire shall try," in that sense in which the Fathers of the Church of the post-apostolic age explain them, i.e., in the sense of experience or trial, but not in the sense of fiery torments (see, for example, "The Teaching of the Twelve Apostles").
The teaching on purgatory was elaborated and developed in detail by Thomas Acquinas and finally accepted as dogma at the Council of Florence in 1439.
Some confuse the Latin teaching on purgatory with the Orthodox teaching on the custom houses. The custom houses are only the figurative representations of the particular judgment, which is inescapable for each man; the way from purgatory is to paradise, while the way from the custom houses is both to paradise and to Hades. Nevertheless, in its basic idea, the Latin teaching on paradise has some similarity to the Orthodox teaching on the state of dead men's souls until the general resurrection. This similar-ity lies in the common teaching that the souls of some of the dead, having undergone torments for their sins, can, however, receive forgiveness of sins and alleviation of their torments or even full release from them. According to the teaching of the Orthodox Church, this alleviation of torments or even the complete release from them is received by the soul of one who has fallen asleep by virtue of the prayers and benefactions of members of Christ's Church, whereas, according to the Latin teaching, the souls of dead men receive forgiveness of sins in purgatory by virtue of the purgatorial torments themselves, by which they personally offer satisfaction to God's justice and through this purify their sins.
The period of torments in purgatory can be shortened, according to the teaching of the Catholics, by way of papal indulgences. An indulgence is the forgiveness or the reduction of the temporal punishment that a sinner must undergo for the satisfaction of God's righteousness, after his guilt and the eternal punishment for sins are absolved, through his assimilation, by means of the Roman bishop, of the Saviour's surplus merits and the supererogatory good works of the Theotokos and the saints, outside of the sacrament of repentance. These indulgences are given to living men, who are released by them from the obligation to offer satisfactions and to fulfill penances for certain sins, and to the dead, for whom the period of torment in purgatory is shortened. These indulgences, in accordance with God's great mercy and in accordance with the pope's condescension, can be given out gratis for some pious deed — a journey to holy places (to Rome, for example), for beneficial social undertakings, for some service and donation in the pope's behalf. Indulgences are plenary, which extend to one's whole life and to all one's sins, and partial — to several days or years. Additionally, there are great indulgences, which are given at a certain time to the whole Catholic world, or to a whole country, or to all Christians who are in Rome on some special occasions: for example, during the solemn celebration of jubilees in the Roman Church or during the election of a new pope. These indulgences are given personally by the pope himself, or through the cardinal penitentiary or through bishops and other members of the ecclesiastical hierarchy. In Catholic countries there are special, privileged churches, chapels, altars, icons and statues before which everyone who desires may pray and receive an indulgence for several days. The grace of indulgences may be acquired in certain types of medals, rosaries and crosses hallowed in Rome. 3
The profitableness of indulgences led to their greater and greater growth and to the search for new occasions for granting them. Not without the influence of financial motives was the theory of indulgences itself worked out as well — frankly, their advocates and sellers were guided by monetary interests. Already long ago, all this evoked a protest against indulgences themselves and against the papacy's trafficking in them. Attacks on indulgences were some of the first features of the reformation movement. It goes without saying that this mediæval teaching on indulgences was completely unknown in the ancient, undivided Church and is unacceptable to us, since it contradicts the whole spirit of Orthodoxy.
Primacy of the Roman Pope.
Orthodoxy is faith "in one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church." Outside of the Church, there is no salvation, just as there was no salvation outside of Noah’s ark in the days of the flood. Orthodoxy is firm faith in the fact that in the mysteries of the Church lies God’s saving grace.
The Orthodox Church, as "the pillar and ground of the truth" (I Timothy 3:15), as a living organism, against which even "the gates of hell shall not prevail" (Matthew 16:18), and which has Christ Himself as its Head, abiding with it "always, even to the end of the age" (Matthew 28:20, NKJV)
Such a Church as a whole cannot err; for the whole Church to err would be tantamount to her spiritual death, but, by virtue of the Saviour’s promise, she cannot die. But if the Orthodox Church as a whole cannot err, her individual members, individual gatherings and groups and even large parts of her can fall into error. And since the opinion of the whole Church is made manifest at Ecumenical Councils, the Ecumenical Councils are the infallible custodians and interpreters of Divine Revelation — not because the members of the councils are individually infallible, but because the decisions of the councils are the voice of the whole Church, which is directed by the grace of the Holy Spirit (the decisions of the councils always begin with the words: "It seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us" [see Acts 15:28]).
This view of the infallibility of the universal Church, which comes from Christ and His apostles, was common in Christianity during the course of the first centuries and remained unchanged in the Orthodox Church. But in the West, side by side with other deviations, this view of the infallibility of the Church also under-went distortion. The Roman bishop was always considered one of the members of the council, and he submitted to its decisions. But, in the course of time, the pope of Rome began to attribute the privilege of ecclesiastical infallibility to himself alone and, after long efforts, finally secured the recognition of his absurd pretension at the Vatican Council of 1870.
Besides the invisible Head, Jesus Christ, Catholics recognize yet a visible head, the Roman bishop, the pope, and they consider him, and not the universal Church, infallible.
The teaching on the supremacy of the pope arose in the ninth century and is the main dogma of the Roman confession and its main difference with Orthodoxy. Catholics assert that Christ made one of His disciples, namely the Apostle Peter, His vicar on earth, the prince of the apostles, the head of the visible Church with plenipotentiary authority over the apostles and over the whole Church, and that only through him did all the remaining apostles receive their grace-filled rights. Catholics also assert that the Roman pope became the successor of the Apostle Peter and received all rights and privileges from him as well. He, the pope, is the head of the whole Church, the vicar of Christ, the sole bearer for the whole visible Church of all her grace-filled rights; his voice in matters of faith, speaking ex cathedra — "from the chair," that is, officially — is infallible and obligatory for each member of the Church individually and for all together.
In this dogma of the Roman Catholic Church, three elements stand out: 1) the teaching on the supremacy of the Apostle Peter, 2) on the supremacy of the pope and 3) on his infallibility.
Today we shall touch on the first two parts of the teaching on the papacy. Catholics base the teaching on the supremacy of the Apostle Peter on two passages of Sacred Scripture. The first pertains to the sixteenth chapter of the Gospel according to Matthew (verses 13-19):
"When Jesus came into the coasts of Cæsarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, saying, Whom do men say that I the Son of man am? And they said, Some say that thou art John the Baptist: some, Elias; and others, Jeremias, or one of the prophets. He saith unto them, But whom say ye that I am? And Simon Peter answered and said, Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God. And Jesus answered and said unto him, Blessed art thou, Simon Bar-jona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven. And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. And I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven."
In the Saviour’s words quoted above, nothing is said about the supremacy of the Apostle Peter or in general about his relation-ship to the other apostles. Here, Christ is speaking about the founding of the Church. But the Church is founded not on Peter alone. In the Epistle to the Ephesians (2:20), the Apostle Paul, addressing the Christians, says: "[Ye] are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone"; while in the First Epistle to the Corinthians (3:10-11), the Apostle Paul, speaking about the creation of Christ’s Church, expresses it thus: "According to the grace of God which is given unto me, as a wise masterbuilder, I have laid the foundation, and another buildeth thereon. But let every man take heed how he buildeth thereupon. For other foun-dation can no may lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ." In the Apocalypse, where the Church is compared to a city, it says: "And the wall of the city had twelve foundations, and in them the names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb" (Revelation 21:14).
But let us return to the main passage of the Gospel according to Matthew, by which Catholics attempt to prove the supremacy of the Apostle Peter over the other apostles and, through him, of the pope of Rome over the whole Church. In this Gospel excerpt, the context clearly shows that the Apostle Peter’s confession of Christ as the Son of God did not contain his opinion alone, but that of all the apostles as well, and that is why, in actuality, the Saviour’s promise also pertains to them all. The Saviour’s question, "But whom say ye that I am?," was asked completely unexpectedly, and before the other disciples grasped it, the Apostle Peter, as the most impulsive, forestalled them, which happened not infrequently in other instances as well, and answered the Saviour first.
Further. In the Lord’s words, "Thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church," Catholics regard the words "Peter" and "rock" as identical and draw the conclusion that allegedly the Saviour wanted to found the Church on Peter himself, as on an individual, and on him alone. But here is a confusion of terms — the proper name is confused with the appellative. The proper name of this apostle in Hebrew is Simon. The Saviour, seeing the firmness of his faith, gives him a new name, or, more precisely, a nickname (as He also did with regard to James and John, calling them "Boanerges," that is, "sons of thunder" [Mark 3:17]) — Cephas in Hebrew, Petros in Greek. Here is a kind of play on words, which Catholic scholasticism also utilizes.
As for the mention of the keys of the Kingdom of Heaven and the right to bind and loose, here, in the person of the Apostle Peter, the Lord is giving a promise to all the apostles — especially since He repeats the very same promise and in the same expressions with regard to all the disciples in the same Gospel according to Matthew, slightly later (8:18); and after His resurrection, Christ fulfilled this promise, having said to all the disciples: "Receive ye the Holy Ghost: whose soever sins ye remit, they are remitted unto them; and whose soever sins ye retain, they are retained" (John 20:22-23).
Now, let us turn to that passage in the Gospel according to John, which Catholics cite, attempting to prove that the su-premacy of the Apostle Peter over the rest of the apostles was established by God. In the twenty-first chapter of this Gospel (verses 15-17) we read: Jesus saith to Simon Peter, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me more than these? He saith unto him, Yea, Lord; thou knowest that I love thee. He saith unto him, Feed my lambs. He saith to him again the second time, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me? He saith unto him, Yea, Lord; thou knowest that I love thee. He saith unto him, Feed my sheep. He saith unto him the third time, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me? Peter was grieved because he said unto him the third time, Lovest thou me? And he said unto him, Lord, thou knowest all things; thou knowest that I love thee. Jesus saith unto him, Feed my sheep."
In these words, Catholics see the fulfillment by the Lord of that promise which was given by Him before to the Apostle Peter, that is, the granting of authority and supremacy in the Church to Peter; moreover, by sheep they understand the apostles, while by lambs — the rest of the faithful.
The Saviour’s words, recorded in the Gospel according to John, were uttered shortly after the resurrection, that is, when the Apostle Peter was still found under the heavy oppression of his faintheartedness and renunciation of Christ. It was essential not only for him, but for the other disciples as well, to restore him to his previous apostolic dignity. This restoration was accomplished in this conversation. The words, "lovest thou me more than these?," serve as a reminder of Peter’s self-confident words, "Though all men shall be offended because of thee, yet will I never be offended" (Matthew 26:33-35), and, "Lord, I am ready to go with thee, both into prison, and to death" (Luke 22:33). The threefold question, "lovest thou me?," corresponds to the threefold renunciation by Peter, whom at this point the Lord no longer calls "Peter," but "Simon," his former name. The fact that Peter was grieved, was saddened after the Lord’s third question would be completely inexplicable if we are to allow that the discussion here is about granting the supremacy and vicariate to Peter. And, to the contrary, this sadness is fully under-standable if the Apostle Peter had seen in the Lord’s words a reminder of his renunciation. And it is hard to reconcile the Saviour’s further words with the supremacy of the Apostle Peter. While following after the Teacher, the Apostle Peter, having seen John, asked: "And what about this man?," and in reply he heard: "If I will that he tarry till I come, what is that to thee? follow thou me" (John 21:22). It is hard to suppose that the Saviour would speak thus to him whom He had assigned as His vicar and as the prince of the Apostles.
As for the Saviour’s words to Peter: "Feed my lambs; feed my sheep," the word "feed" does not at all signify the supreme authority of pastorship, as Catholic theologians assert, but simply the authority and responsibilities of pastorship proper to all the apostles and their successors. And there is no necessity to under-stand the words "sheep" and "lambs" in the sense of flock and pastors, understanding by the latter the very apostles themselves, as the Catholics would like, but more simply, following the Holy Fathers of the Church, to see in the sheep and the lambs two groups of the faithful — the less perfect and the more perfect, the infants in the faith and the adults.
The Orthodox Church teaches that the twelve apostles were completely equal among themselves according to their dignity, authority and grace. In a certain sense, it is possible to call the Apostle Peter the first, but the first among equals. This teaching is confirmed by the whole history of the apostles, as it is set forth in the books of the New Testament, where the full equality of the apostles among themselves is demonstrated indisputably (for example, Matthew 4:18-19; 10:1, 40; 19:28; 20:24-27; 23:8-11; Mark 10:35-37, 16:15; Luke 22:22-30 and many others); many passages demonstrate that the apostles received not only the grace of apostleship, but also the right to act by this grace in the Church, directly from Christ the Saviour, and not from the Apostle Peter (Matthew 4:18-22; Mark 1:16-20; Luke 9:1-6, John 20:21-23, and many others), and that all the apostles without exception are liable to a higher court — the Church (for example, Matthew 18:17).
The history of the Apostolic Council (Acts, Chapter 15) speaks especially clearly against the supremacy of the Apostle Peter. The Antiochian Christians appeal not to the Apostle Peter for the resolution of their perplexity, as should have occurred if we are to believe the Catholic dogma, but to all the apostles and pres-byters. We see in this excerpt from the book of the Acts of the Apostles that the question at the Council is subject to a general discussion by the Council and that the completion of the matter at the Council belongs to the Apostle James, and from his words the decision is written, and not from the words of the Apostle Peter.
The fact that Peter, according to the testimony of Sacred Scripture, is sent by the apostles (Acts 8:14), gives an account of his actions to the apostles and the faithful (Acts 11:4-18) and listens to their objections and even denunciations (Gal. 2:11-14), which of course, could not be if Peter were the prince of the apostles and head of the Church, also speaks against the Catholic teaching.
Orthodox theology strictly differentiates between the grace-filled service of the apostles and that of bishops. Bishop Alexander (Semenov-Tian-Shansky) writes of this: "The significance of the apostles was exceptional and in many ways exceeded the significance of bishops. Bishops head local churches, while the apostles were wandering preachers of the Gospel. An apostle, having founded a new local Church in some locale, would ordain a bishop for it and would himself go to another place to preach. In con-sequence of this, the Orthodox Church does not honor the Apostle Peter as the first bishop of Rome. Nonetheless, the Holy Church always allowed that among the bishops one is recognized as first in honor, but concerning his infallibility there is no discussion. "In the first ages, the primacy of honor belonged to the Roman bishop, while after his falling away into schism, it passed to the Patriarch of Constantinople" ("Orthodox Catechism," Paris, 181, page 160).
The "Infallibility" of the Pope.
The teaching on the infallibility of the pope, which was completely unknown to the ancient, undivided Church, appeared in the Middle Ages, just like the teaching on the supremacy of the pope; but for a long time it met opposition on the part of the more enlightened, honest and independent members of the Catholic Church. Only in the year 1870, at the First Vatican Council, did Pope Pius IX succeed in turning this teaching into a dogma, in spite of the protest of many Catholics, who even preferred to leave this church and found their own community (of the Old Catholics) than to accept so absurd a dogma. By virtue of the definition of the Vatican Council, the pope is infallible when he, as the pastor and teacher of all Christians, defines or proclaims the truths of the faith "ex cathedra," that is, officially, as the head of the Church. The nebulous expression "ex cathedra" is not understood in the same way by all Catholic theologians; but, no matter how one understands it, the Catholic dogma contradicts the whole spirit of Christ's teaching, which rejects the possibility of infallibility for an individual man, no matter what position he might occupy.
The dogma of the infallibility of the pope contradicts the whole history of the Church and of the papacy itself. History provides a whole series of indisputable facts concerning the errors of popes in dogmatic questions and the contradictions of popes among themselves in matters of faith. For example, Pope Sixtus V, in concert with the bishops, issued a Latin translation of the Bible corrected by him and, under threat of anathema, required it to be accepted as the most authentic. There proved to be major mistakes in this translation, and subsequent popes withdrew it from church use. Which of the popes was infallible, Sixtus or his successor? Pope Leo III not only refused to insert the "filioque," the addition "and the Son," into the Symbol of Faith, but even commanded that the intact Symbol be engraved on tablets and set up in church. Within two hundred years, Pope
Benedict VIII inserted this addition into the Symbol of Faith. Which of them was infallible? Out of the numerous instances of the dogmatic errors of the Roman bishops, it is sufficient to mention Pope Honorius (625-638), who fell into the Monothelite heresy (the false teaching, according to which Christ has only one will — the Divine) and was excommunicated from the Church by the Sixth Ecumenical Council. At this council, the delegates of the Roman bishop, Agathon, also were present and signed its decisions.
The Roman Catholic Theory on the Development of Dogma.
In view of the fact that those teachings which separate Catholicism from Orthodoxy — the filioque, the supremacy and infallibility of the pope, the immaculate conception of the Virgin Mary and others — were not known in the first centuries of Christianity, in confirmation of them an original theory appeared in the West, the so-called "theory of the development of dogmas" or the "theory of doctrinal progress," by virtue of which these teachings first existed "in embryo," and then gradually developed in the consciousness of the faithful and, finally, acquired their present-day form. It would be interesting to learn what new dogmas the Vatican will promulgate in the future?
The teaching on papal authority affected the whole Catholic teaching on the Church. In the first place, this erroneous teaching lessens the importance of bishops and diminishes the significance of the Ecumenical and other Church councils. The very ecclesiastical unity of Catholic doctrine is defined not so much by an organic community of faith and love, which are the inalienable components of that which we Orthodox call "catholicity" (sobornost'), as by an authority that stands outside and, in part, over the Church. Here is why, according to the thought of Father Alexander Elchaninov, "in Catholicism, the Church is mystically founded and experience by the faithful first of all as an organization and not as an Organism. An organization with the pope-monarch at its head" (The Notes of Priest A. Elchaninov, YMCA Press, Paris, 1962, page 150 [in Russian]).
Alexei Khomiakov notes that in Western Christian conscious-ness, "authority became external power" and "the knowledge of religious truths was removed from religious life." Truth defined by ecclesiastical authority became the property only of human reason, as the means "essential" or "beneficial" for salvation. Whereas Khomiakov writes, "Šthe Church is not an authority, just as God is not an authority, just as Christ is not an authority; for an authority is for us something external. Not an authority, I say, but truth, and at the same time the life of a Christian, his inner life; for God, Christ, the Church live in him by a life more real than the heart beating in his breast or the blood flowing in his veins; but they live, inasmuch as he himself lives by the universal life of love and unity, that is, by the life of the Church" (A Few Words of an Orthodox Christian on the Western Confessions).
The powerful organization of the Roman Catholic Church attracts many people, even Orthodox, and the jurisdictional chaos of the Orthodox Churches disturbs them. Concerning this, Father Alexander Elchaninov speaks well: "Of course, in the Orthodox Church we have many 'disorders', which are almost unthinkable in Catholicism, where the centralization of authority in the hands of the pope (over the heads of the bishops) makes such disorders almost impossible.
"But one ought not forget that there were also 'disorders' in the ancient Church and that they were vanquished not through submission to the authority of the Roman pontiff, but were overcome and are overcome from within. And such obedience to authority is often an external submission, not signifying inner unity. One must remark that many Catholics and even Catholic theologians often internally do not accept this formal juridical submission to the Church" (ibid., page 150).
Father Alexander Elchaninov's last thought, expressed in the twenties, is confirmed in our time. Each day the statements of Catholics against one or another aspect of their church's doctrine are reported. This criticism took on large-scale dimensions shortly after the Second Vatican Council (1965), when attempts were made to introduce some elements of catholicity (sobornost'). Professor Protopriest John Meyendorff considers that this step pushed Western Christianity into a state of crisis:
"The movement to reinforce Roman authority, which constantly expanded from the time of the early Middle Ages until the pontificate of Pius XII inclusive, was reversed by Pope John XXIII and his Council... The Catholic intelligentsia, unaccustomed to freedom, began to be attracted by various forms of modernism, while skepticism and simple rebelliousness... triumphed in their minds. (...)
"...The question of "authority" continues to be the most obvious defect of Western Christianity. In the West, they have forgotten that which was fully evident for the ancient Church (and for contemporary Orthodoxy): it is not authority that makes the Church the Church, but the Holy Spirit acting in her, as in the Body of Christ, making real the sacramental Presence of Christ Himself among men and in men. Authority — bishops, Councils, Sacred Scripture, Tradition — is only an expression of this Presence" ("Is there External Authority in the Church," in the collection, Orthodoxy in the Contemporary World, New York, 1981, pages 66-67 [in Russian]).
Historically, too sharp a line between the clergy and laity has been drawn by the Catholic hierarchy with the pope at its head. The clergy elevated itself too much over the people and, abusing its position, oppressed them. An artificial division into the Church of those that teach and the Church of those that are taught appeared, while in the sacramental life, the significance of the prayerful participation of the people of the Church has been diminished.
Differences in the Sacraments.
Roman Catholics defend the idea that it is sufficient for a lawfully ordained sacred minister to perform a certain sacrament according to the established rite in order for it to affect a man. In this understanding, the sacraments approximate almost magical actions, which produce one or another change in man's nature without any particular participation on his part.
As a counterweight to the Latin view, Protestants attribute the whole force and significance of the sacrament exclusively to the inner disposition and faith of the man receiving this sacrament. Here, faith is everything. The absence of faith turns the sacrament into an empty formality, deprived of any meaning. Therefore, they reject the transubstantiation of the bread and wine into the true body and blood of Christ in the most important of the Christian sacraments — the sacrament of the Eucharist. The bread remains bread, and the wine remains wine; but "in the bread, with the bread and under the bread, Christ is invisibly present," and he who approaches the sacrament with faith — through communicating of the bread and wine — really takes into himself the body and blood of Christ, whereas he who does not have a corresponding disposition tastes ordinary bread and wine. Of the other sacraments, Protestants accept only baptism. They reject all the rest of the sacraments or equate them to simple ceremonies — on the grounds that there are allegedly no clear testimonies in Sacred Scripture touching their divine institution.
BAPTISM. Roman Catholics and Protestants (Baptists and Pentecostals constitute an exception) perform baptism not through immersion, but through pouring and sprinkling. The whole of Christian antiquity speaks in favor of the practice of the Orthodox Church — full, three-fold immersion in water. Through immersion, Christ Himself was baptized; through immersion, the first preachers of Christianity baptized (see Acts 8:37-38); special baptistries adapted for this purpose, which have been preserved till now at certain ancient churches in Rome and other places in the West, testify to immersion; immersion corresponds to the main idea of the sacrament: by being immersed thrice in the font, he who is being baptized is buried with Christ unto death and then rises together with Him unto life eternal (Romans 6:4). At an Orthodox baptism, these words are pronounced: "The servant of God (name) is baptized in the name of the Father, Amen. And of the Son, Amen. And of the Holy Spirit, Amen." In the fifteenth century, the Catholics changed this formula, and from that time Catholic priests, while pouring water on those being baptized, say: "I baptize thee..."
Sectarians consider the baptism of infants as an addition to the teaching of Jesus Christ that is in no way justified.
The Holy Spirit, Who directs the life of the Church, does not err in His actions. So then, the practice of baptizing infants was also instituted precisely by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. The assertion of the Baptists that the original practice of the Christian Church consisted in the baptism only of adults that had consciously accepted the faith is an argument that holds little weight, not having confirmation in Church history. If the practice of bap-tizing children were an innovation, how then did it spread everywhere and become confirmed in both the Christian East and West, without having evoked any opposition on the part of Christians? After all, the believers of the first centuries were incomparably more zealous and strict as regards both religious questions and Church practice than present-day members of the Church. If the baptism of infants were a new matter, it could have been confirmed only after great disputes, as the result of struggle and, perhaps, even divisions. However, the history of the Church does not inform us of anything concerning disputes among Christians regarding the baptism of infants. The first objections to the baptism of infants appeared in Germany in the sixteenth century on the part of the Anabaptists. What then happened during all these fifteen centuries after the Nativity of Christ? Can one really think seriously that the whole Ecumenical Church tore itself away from Jesus Christ because of the baptism of children?
The baptism of children was known everywhere from apostolic times. In the book of the Acts of the Apostles, it is recounted repeatedly that the Apostles baptized entire families, and consequently also children. In order to deny the baptism of children by the Apostles, it is necessary to assume that in all of these instances, in the given households of those baptized by the Apostles, there were no children, which would be a very strained interpretation, especially if one takes into consideration that childless families in those times were a rare occurrence. After all, Christianity was intended to be the soul not only of the life of the individual person, but also of the life common to the whole family. The baptism of children is also an expression of this. Christ Himself says that only they that are born of water and the Spirit will be able to enter into the Kingdom of God (John 3:5), and by this He obliges us to bring children also into His Kingdom. This means that we can and must be fully assured of the expediency of the custom to baptize infants instituted by the Apostles, according to the testimony of Origen, the great scholar of Christian antiquity, who wrote: "The Church received from the Apostles the tradition to baptize children."
During the first centuries of Christianity, the Church was still in the stage of missionary activity. With her word, preaching and the sacrament of Baptism, she first of all addressed herself to adults. But, having secured the ground under her, she looks upon the children born in her bosom as upon her own children. Protopresbyter Alexander Schmemann writes about this in his book on baptism, "By Water and the Spirit":
"The newborn child belongs to a family. It does not have any autonomous existence; its life is determined and formed in full — both in the present and in the near future — by this belonging. And the family — if it is a Christian family — belongs to the Church and finds in the Church the source, the content and the transcendental aim of its existence in its capacity as a family. Therefore, the child who belongs to the family and, in a more concrete, biological sense, to the mother, by this very means belongs to the Church and is truly her child, already brought and commended to God."
Some sectarians, objecting to the baptism of children, assert that infants, the children of Christians, are already washed and cleansed by the Blood of Christ; therefore, there is no need to cleanse them in baptism from the sin of Adam: their sins are forgiven them for the sake of the merits and the name of Jesus Christ. Moreover, the opponents of child baptism cite Christ's commandment, given to His disciples: "Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost" (Matthew 28:19), considering that from these words it is allegedly clear that it was commanded the Apostles to baptize only those who are taught and who believe, but in nowise infants.
But, after all, Scripture clearly teaches, according to the word of the Apostle Paul, that in Adam all have sinned (Romans 5:12). Consequently, even children, not having personal sins, are all the same not free from original sin, from the legacy of Adam, and in order to be delivered from this legacy, they must be united with Christ; and this union, as we have already said, is accomplished in the sacrament of Holy Baptism. "For behold, I was conceived in iniquities, and in sins did my mother bear me," exclaims King David with sorrow in the Fiftieth Psalm. In order to cleanse a child from original sin, in order to sanctify it and by this very means bring it into the Kingdom of Heaven, whither, as it says in the book of the Apocalypse (Revelation 21:27), "no unclean thing will enter," now already for two thousand years children have been brought through this cleansing in the sacrament of Holy Baptism. People that deny children the sacrament of Baptism subject them to danger, for if children die before baptism, not having been born of water and the Spirit (John 3:5), how will they be able to inherit life eternal? Of course, we believe in God's mercy, and also in the fact that Christ said that what is impossible for men is possible for God; but why tempt the Lord?
The reference to the Saviour's words in the Evangelists Matthew and Mark in favor of the opinion that Christ supposedly commanded to baptize only adults who have a conscious faith is unfounded also because these words bear no relation to the question of the baptism of infants. Just as the Gospel paralytic received forgiveness of sins and healing according to the faith of those who brought him to Christ, just as the daughter of the Canaanite woman received healing according to the faith of her mother, so too children receive cleansing from original sin according to the faith of those who bring them to the baptismal font to unite the infant with Christ in the sacrament of Baptism. One should also not forget that the sacrament of Baptism instituted in the New Testament replaced the Old Testament rite of circumcision, which was a prototype of Holy Baptism, and that children underwent this rite. And to this day, the Jews perform this rite on their children. As by way of circumcision, he who underwent it became a member of the Old Testament chosen people and entered into the covenant with God, so too all the baptized become members of the New Testament people of God, members of the body of Christ — His Church. Why then should children remain outside the Body of Christ?
CHRISMATION. With Catholics, the sacrament of Chrisma-tion (Confirmation) can be performed only by a bishop, who lays his hand on the believer, impresses on his forehead the Cross with holy myron and says: "I sign thee with the sign of the Cross, and I confirm thee with the myron of salvation in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen." In remov-ing priests from this sacrament, Catholics cite the fact that Philip, having baptized the Samaritans, could not impart the Holy Spirit to them, and for this the Apostles Peter and John were purposely sent from Jerusalem (Acts 8:14-17); but Philip was a deacon, and not a priest, and hence it is still not evident that priests are unable to perform Chrismation. Inasmuch as in antiquity, as now also in Orthodoxy, Chrismation was united with Holy Baptism, one may rather conclude that it was performed not only by bishops, but also by priests, because the number of bishops was too limited. One deviation in Catholicism inevitably led to another. Since a bishop did not have the possibility of being present physically at the baptism of each infant within the boundaries of his diocese, the sacrament of Chrismation was then performed separately from Baptism in adolescence (from seven to twelve years); a bishop, traveling around his diocese, usually stops at one or another settlement or town and there confirms all the baptized children at one time. And since many children can die without waiting for Confirmation, Catholic theologians, to soothe the faithful, resorted to a new teaching — that the sacrament of Chrismation was allegedly not unconditionally necessary for salvation.
In addition to absolution of sins in the sacrament of repentance, with Roman Catholics the so-called "indulgences" are allowed as well (on the origin of indulgences, see "Parish Life" for November 1996). Catholics teach that, for the satisfaction of God's justice, a man, even though forgiven in repentance, must bear temporal punishments for his sins — here on earth, in various misfortunes, while after death, in purgatory. But since man is weak and infirm, in condescension to him, it is possible to free him from these temporal punishments by virtue of the superabundant merits of the Saviour and the saints, which constitute the treasury of the Church. The right to give indulgences belongs to the pope as the vicar of Christ on earth. At confession, the priests diligently investigate the faults of the penitent and then impart to him such a quantity of supererogatory good works performed by the saints as is necessary in order to expiate the sins of the penitent.
In this way, the great sacrament of the spiritual cleansing and grace-filled curing of the sinful soul took on in Catholicism the character of a judicial interrogation and a mechanical reckoning of the actions of one man to another. Indulgences are not usually given out gratis, but are often sold for money — under the pretence, of course, of performing good works with this money. The mercenary distribution of indulgences served as the main occasion for the separation of the Lutherans and the reformers from the Roman Catholic confession.
Some confuse the Orthodox and Catholic approaches to epitimias [penances] (the Greek word "epitimia" means punishment), which are completely different from one another, and the Roman Church's practice of giving out indulgences with penances.
In the language of the Church canons, an epitimia signifies the voluntary performance of certain works of piety (prolonged prayer, alms, intensified fasting, pilgrimage, and such like) by the one who has confessed, as designated by the confessor. An epitimia does not have the significance of a punishment, a punitive measure, a deprivation of the rights of a member of the Church; it is only a "spiritual treatment." A canon of the Sixth Ecumenical Council says: "They who have received from God authority to bind and loose sins must consider the quality of the sin and the readiness of the sinner for conversion, and thus make use of a treatment appropriate to the disease, lest, by not maintaining moderation in the one and the other, they lose the salvation of the diseased one. For the disease of sin is not always the same, but various and multiform, and produces many forms of harm, from which evil develops abundantly and spreads further, until it is checked by the power of the one treating it."
'From this is apparent the unacceptability of the Roman Catholic view of penances,' writes Protopresbyter Michael Pomazansky, 'which proceeds from juridical concepts according to which: a) every sin or sum of sins must have an ecclesiastical punishment (apart from the fact that often misfortunes, for example, illnesses [as Catholics think — V.P.], are natural retributions for sin, so that often even the sinner himself can see God's punishment for sins in his fate); b) this punishment can be removed by an "indulgence," given out even in advance, for example, on the occasion of jubilee solemnities; c) the Church, that is, its head, the Bishop of Rome (the Pope), in giving indulgences, imparts to persons liable to penances the "merits of the saints," withdrawn from the so-called "treasury of good works."
'If by certain Western teachers of the ancient Church penances were called "satisfactions," they were called such only in a moral sense, as a means of deepening the consciousness of sinfulness in the sinner, being "satisfactory" for an educational purpose, and not juridical justification' (Orthodox Dogmatic Theology [in Russian], Jordanville, 1963, page 193 [pages 293-294 in the English edition, published by the Brotherhood of Saint Herman of Alaska, Platina, 1984]).
With Catholics, this sacrament is performed, in essence, by the priest alone, in accordance with the right belonging to him, at the time when he, all but becoming identified with the Lord Himself, pronounces the "words of institution." In the Orthodox understanding, these words also have a great significance, but the sacrament of the changing of the bread and wine into the Lord's Body and Blood is performed by the prayer of the whole Church, in the course of the whole Liturgy, and is only completed by the invocation of the Holy Spirit.
With the help of scholastic concepts, Catholic doctrine also attempts to explain the eucharistic miracle itself too rationalistically. According to this explanation, only the appearance of bread and wine remains unchanged, but their essence (substantia) is changed into the Body and Blood of Christ.
The Orthodox ecclesiastical consciousness reverently refrains from such a rationalistic penetration into the mystery. In it, the conviction prevails that the bread and wine, remaining themselves in appearance, at the same time become the Body and Blood of the Lord, just as red-hot iron becomes fire, and just as the Lord Jesus Christ is simultaneously God and man.
Concerning this, Father Michael Pomazansky, in his Orthodox Dogmatic Theology (page 183 [pages 279-280 in the English edition]) writes thus:
'...the consecrated Gifts 1) are not only signs or symbols, reminding the faithful of redemption, as the reformer Zwingli taught; and equally, 2) Jesus Christ is present in them not only by His "activity and power" ("dynamically"), as Calvin taught; finally, 3) He is present not in the sense only of "penetration," as the Lutherans teach (recognizing the co-presence of Christ "with the bread, under the bread, in the bread"); but the consecrated Gifts in the sacrament are changed or (a later term) transubstantiated into the true Body and true Blood of Christ, as the Saviour said: "For my flesh is meat indeed, and my blood is drink indeed" (John 6:55).'
Further, Father Michael Pomazansky cites words from the "Epistle of the Eastern Patriarchs" (eighteenth century):
'We believe that in this sacred rite our Lord Jesus Christ is present not symbolically (typikos), not figuratively (eikonikos), not by a superabundance of grace, as in the other sacraments, not by a descent alone, as certain Fathers say about baptism, and not through a "penetration" of the bread, so that the divinity of the Word would "enter" into the bread offered for the Eucharist essentially, as the followers of Luther rather artlessly and unworthily explain: but truly and actually, so that after the consecration of the bread and wine, the bread is changed, transubstantiated, converted, transformed into the actual true Body of the Lord, which was born in Bethlehem of the Ever-Virgin, was baptized in the Jordan, suffered, was buried, resurrected, ascended, sits at the right hand of the God the Father, and is to appear on the clouds of heaven; and the wine is converted and transubstantiated into the actual true Blood of the Lord, which, at the time of His suffering on the Cross was shed for the life of the world. Again we believe that after the consecration of the bread and wine, the very bread and wine no longer remain, but the very Body and Blood of the Lord, under the appearance and form of bread and wine'
(Orthodox Dogmatic Theology, page 183 [page 280 in the English edition]).
With Roman Catholics, the Mass, in which the bloodless sacrifice is offered, is performed in a two-fold manner: either it is served aloud, with singing and playing on an organ, or it is read through in a whisper, secretly. And since there can be several altars in Catholic churches at the same time, so-called "low" Masses are often performed simultaneously with that which is served aloud on the main altar. There were no "low" Liturgies in Christian antiquity whatsoever, and the simultaneous serving of several liturgies in one church was not allowed.
The very transubstantiation of the Holy Gifts, according to Catholic teaching, takes place not during the blessing of them and the invocation of the Holy Spirit, as the Orthodox Church teaches and as the ancient copies of the liturgies testify (in the Catholic Mass, in general, there is no priest's prayer concerning the invocation of the Holy Spirit), but during the pronunciation of the words: "take, eat," "drink ye all of it."
At the Mystical Supper, as the evangelists recount, the Lord at first rendered thanks, then blessed the offered bread and wine and only afterwards pronounced the words, "take, eatŠ" From this, it becomes clear that the transubstantiation was performed by prayer and blessing, while the words "take, eatŠ" signify a simple invitation to the apostles to approach and receive the Holy Gifts and indicates the mystical significance of the Eucharist.
A substantial deviation from Orthodoxy lies also in the fact that the laity are deprived of the holy Chalice, that is, they are deprived of communion of the immaculate Blood of Christ, contrary to the Lord's direct words: "drink ye ALL of it." This innovation was first allowed in the West in the twelfth century, with the aim of showing the superiority of the clergy over the laity in the very communion; later it was confirmed at the Council of Trent. In justification of their deviation, Roman Catholic theologians thought up some pretexts, such as, "there is no necessity for the laity to commune of the Holy Blood separately because where the Body is given, there the Blood is given," or "when there is a multitude of communicants, it is easy to jostle and spill the Chalice."
The Lord's words,"Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink his blood, ye have no life in you" (John 6:53), confirm the correctness of the Orthodox method of performing the sacrament — under both species. The teaching on the necessity for everyone to commune under two species is also clearly expressed in the apostolic epistles (see, for example, I Corinthians 10:16-17 and 11:26-30). And the patristic works testify against the Roman practice. Saint John Chrysostom (fourth century) says, "we are all equally counted worthy of the Body and Blood of Christ — not as happened in the Old Testament: the priest would eat some parts of the sacrifice and the people would eat other parts. Now it is not so, but one Body and one Cup is offered to everyone.."
Since little children cannot receive solid food, Catholics, hav-ing taken the Chalice away from the laity, by this very thing have altogether deprived infants of holy communion. This deviation appeared no earlier than the twelfth century. Roman theologians adduce the following grounds: One ought to approach communion with a consciousness of the importance and significance of this sacrament and after proper preparation; in Sacred Scripture there is no command to commune infants; for the salvation of children, baptism alone is sufficient. But communion of the Body and Blood of Christ serves for us as a means to union with Christ, the Source of our spiritual life, received in the sacrament of Baptism. Catholics bar the way for infants to the closest intercourse with Him, Who once said "Suffer the little children to come unto me, and forbid them not" (Mark 10:14).
With Catholics, the Eucharist is performed not on leavened bread, as with us, but on unleavened, despite the fact that the very word "artos," which is used in the Greek text of the Gospel in the narration on the institution of the sacrament, signifies precisely leavened, fermented, risen bread. Catholics cite the fact that the Saviour allegedly performed the Mystical Supper on the first day of unleavened bread, and consequently on the unleavened bread (wafers) used by virtue of the prescriptions of Judaic law. However, from the Evangelist John's narration, it follows that Christ performed the Mystical Supper a day before the onset of the Judaic feast of Pascha (John, Chapter 13); otherwise, how then on the next day could the Sanhedrin have judged Him, Joseph of Arimathæa have bought the winding sheet and the myrrh-bearers have bought the aromatics? Since unleavened bread had a ritual significance with the Jews, Christ, having performed the Mystical Supper on leavened bread, underscores by this that He is abro-gating the Judaic ritual law.
The use of unleavened bread, which was confirmed in the West in the eleventh century, led it as well to certain other deviations from the tradition of the ancient Church. Since unleavened bread does not require special preparation at the Liturgy, its whole first part — the proskomedia — was lost. In this way, Western Christians are deprived of the ancient church custom of commemorating before Christ's Sacrifice all the members of the Church, living and dead, and of praying that their sins would also be washed away by the true Blood of Christ, just as the particles of the prosphoras taken out for them are washed in the holy eucharistic Chalice. And when the communion of the laity takes place at the Catholic Mass, the priest, besides the main unleavened bread, from which he himself communes, consecrates others as well, little ones, one for each communicant. This custom contradicts the very concept of the unity of the eucharistic Sacrifice; communion from one bread has, according to the teaching of the Word of God, a profound dogmatic and moral significance: "For we being many are one bread, and one body: for we are all partakers of that one bread" (I Corinthians 10:17).
PRIESTHOOD. With Catholics, the bishop of Rome is honored not only as a bishop and as patriarch of the Western Church, but also as the visible head of the whole Christian Church.
Besides the well-known degrees of the priesthood, there exist with Catholics the so-called "cardinals" as well. Originally, the bishops of the churches nearest to Rome were so named, as friends and counsellors of the pope, but then this distinction began to be given to the most deserving persons in the Catholic clergy, and not only to bishops, but also to presbyters, and even to deacons. The rank of cardinal has been particularly elevated since the eleventh century, when the exclusive right was granted to the cardinals to elect the pope from their midst.
In the Roman Church, celibacy has been instituted for all persons of priestly rank; it was introduced in the eleventh century under Pope Gregory VII. The main reason for the institution of obligatory celibacy by this pope lay in the following thesis — "the Church cannot become free of subordination to laymen if clerics do not become free of their wives."
With the elevation of papal authority, a striving to break those ties whereby the clergy is united with the family, and through it with the state, naturally had to be born; only a priest completely free of all familial and civil bonds and obligations could serve as a reliable instrument in the hands of the Roman pontiffs for the achievement of their ambitious political plans.
The institution of a celibate clergy, which at least had as its apparent aim the raising of the whole clergy to the height of the Christian ideal of virginity, in reality had to lead to concubinage. To a significant extent, one should seek in this unnatural demand of the Roman throne the beginning of that terrible dissoluteness and decline of morals, into which the Catholic clergy fell in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries. Desiring to put an end to such dissoluteness, representatives of some Western churches proposed openly to institute concubinage for priests deprived of the possibility of entering into lawful marriage. Rome could not agree with these proposals and silently endured that which it did not have the power to impede, all the more so because some of the popes of the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries not infrequently surpassed in immorality the bishops and priests subordinate to them, which gave occasion to Savonarola to preach the correction of the whole Church's morals, both of its head and of all its members.
In our time, Catholics are losing a multitude of priests who cannot sustain a celibate way of life.
As for Protestants, they do not have and cannot have a lawfully ordained priesthood, since the apostolic succession ceased with them already with the beginning of the Reformation — not one bishop followed either Luther or the other reformers. From the Orthodox Church's point of view, Protestant pastors are laymen.
MARRIAGE. With Catholics, the dissolution of marriage is not allowed under any conditions, even in the case of the violation of marital fidelity by either of the spouses, which contradicts the direct and clear teaching on this of Jesus Christ Himself, Who said: "Šwhosoever shall put away his wife, saving for the cause of fornication, causeth her to commit adultery" (Matthew 5:32) and "Whosoever shall put away his wife, except it be for fornication, and shall marry another, committeth adultery" (Matthew 19:9).
In those cases where the spouses do not desire to live together or cannot, the Catholic Church tries to replace divorce either with the separation of the spouses or — if by all means the spouses want to enter into a new marriage — by recognizing the first marriage as invalid.
UNCTION. With Catholics, Unction is performed only on the dying and is, therefore, called "extreme unction." Moreover, according to the teaching of Catholics, the oil for the sacrament can be consecrated only by a bishop. The one and the other teaching contradict the teaching of the Apostle James — "Is any sick among you? let him call for the elders [presbyters] of the church: and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer of faith shall save the sick, and the Lord shall raise him up; and if he have committed sins, they shall be forgiven him" (James 5:14-15) — so too was the practice of the ancient Church. Recently, Catholics have changed their attitude somewhat toward "extreme unction" and under the influence of Orthodox theology have drawn nearer to our understanding of this great sacrament.
The Spirituality of the Christian West and the Orthodox East.
All the deviations of the Roman Catholic confession from the ideals of the ancient, undivided Church could not but affect its spiritual life. M.V. Lodyzhensky, in the second volume of his "Mystical Trilogy," compares the spirituality of the Eastern and Western Churches using the examples of Venerable Seraphim of Sarov and Francis of Assisi. This is not by chance, since in the West the sanctity of Venerable Seraphim is thought to resemble the righteousness of the friar of Assisi. Here are the main conclusions at which Lodyzhensky arrives in his comparison:
"In the mystic of the East, in the person of Saint Seraphim of Sarov, we see an example of man's complete regeneration... ...that the super-consciousness of the ascetic of the East is concentrated in his flaming heart. There — within himself — he perceives the fire of the Godhead, he perceives Christ. This feeling of his inner unity with God descends upon him naturally and freely, as a direct result of growth, as a result of work on himself on the path of humility and repentance. According to the mysticism of the East, all these descents of higher perceptions are for the humble man beyond expectation, for the ascetic, in accordance with his humility, does not even feel himself worthy of this"
(Mystical Trilogy, v. 2 — "Light Unseen," Petrograd, 1915, pages 156-157 [in Russian]).
The spiritual vision of the ascetic of the East is turned toward his inner world, according to Christ's word, "the Kingdom of God is within you" (Luke 17:21). The source of the spirituality of the western saints is different. Again Lodyzhensky:
"St. Francis, in his notion of Christ, was struck most of all by the earthly life of Christ, by His image of suffering. This impression came to Francis from without, and Francis thirsted for visions of the suffering Christ. Proceeding from an external impression, from an image of Christ and His sufferings, the mysticism of St. Francis developed. This resulted in the mysticism of Francis having to deviate toward the imagination and sensuality, for, if Christ was for Francis an object, if he came to a notion of Christ from an external impression, one of the means for developing this mysticism was the stimulation of the imagination toward this external impression. And if the imagination was stimulated, then sensuality also had to be affected" (ibid., page 157).
The spirituality of Francis of Assisi is characteristic of the spirituality of the whole Roman Catholic Church. It is all sensual and oriented toward the Saviour's external feat. This does not mean that the Orthodox Church does not impart significance to this feat; but she always seeks the inner meaning of this feat, its inner light and repose. It is not superfluous here to touch upon the question of hesychasm and the place of Saint Gregory Palamas in confirming this Orthodox teaching.
The Greek word "hesychia" signifies peace, repose. The hesy-chast monks, besides various other spiritual exercises, uninter-ruptedly practiced the Jesus Prayer, that is, they continually repeated the words: "Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner." Such praying not infrequently was accompanied by special bodily techniques, for example, by prostrations, by a bent over posture of the body while sitting, by rhythmical breathing.
Monks who had long practised such prayer attained a lofty state of spirit, perceived the manifest grace-filled presence of God in their hearts and in a radical manner eliminated from their consciousness not only sinful, but all involuntary notions and feelings; they were wholly absorbed in contemplating God. The hesychast monks who were successful in this prayer not infre-quently received gifts of prophetical clairvoyance, and they promoted the enlightenment of the people surrounding them and of those who resorted to their spiritual help. In a word, the influ-ence of these monks, who lived mainly on Athos, was very powerful during the epoch of Gregory Palamas.
In the thirteenth century, when rationalism, emanating from the Latin West, began to spread, certain theologians raised their voices against the hesychasts.
The main thing against which the rationalists rose up was the faith of the ascetics that they could be deemed worthy of true divine communion and that that spiritual light which illumined them interiorly was that very same light that transfigured Christ on Mount Tabor.
The opponents of the hesychasts asserted that the Essence of God is unapproachable for man, and that God, only as it were from afar, illumines chiefly the thoughts of men and in this way directs human behavior.
Hierarch Gregory Palamas, Archbishop of Thessalonica, came out in defense of the hesychasts. He declared that the practice of the hesychasts was an ancient Christian phenomenon, that there were no innovations here whatsoever and that drawing near to God in prayer had its basis in the mysteries of the Church, through which man receives the seed of true grace.
But Palamas' main contribution to theology was his teaching on the divine energies. He demonstrated that if communion with the Divine Essence Itself is unattainable, all the same, man has the possibility of genuine divine communion and contact with God, since God, out of love for man, communes with him through His special energies or powers.
According to the teaching of Gregory Palamas, God has, as it were, two forms of existence: one form is the proper life of the Godhead, which is inaccessible to us, and His Essence; the other is God's constant advertence toward His creation. Thus, we can commune with God, Who is turned toward us through his energies, and obtain from Him various grace-filled gifts.
The teaching of Gregory Palamas, expounded by him in the fourteenth century, explained and consolidated the teaching of the ancient Fathers of the Church, who had written that man is created for transfiguration, for deification. By this teaching, faith in the efficacy, in the reality of the whole sacramental life of the Church and of prayers was strengthened.
The sensuality of Roman Catholic spirituality is particularly striking in its prayers and ecclesiastical art. Let us compare the well-known prayer of Ignatius of Loyola, which is revered in the Catholic Church to the same degree that the Lenten prayer of Venerable Ephraim the Syrian, "O Lord and Master of my life...," is revered by us. Here is the prayer of Ignatius of Loyola:
Soul of Jesus, sanctify me,
Body of Jesus, save me,
Blood of Jesus, grant me rest,
Water from the side of Jesus, cleanse me,
Sufferings of Jesus, strengthen me,
O good Jesus, hear me.
Let us compare an Orthodox prayer, taken from the Akathist for Communion of the Holy Mysteries (First Ekos), analogous to this Catholic prayer:
Jesus, burn up the thorns of my many transgressions.
Jesus, create in me a clean heart and renew a right spirit within me.
Jesus, bring my poor soul out of the prison of the passions.
Jesus, destroy in me unclean thoughts and evil lusts.
Jesus, direct my feeble steps on the path of Thy command-ments.
Jesus, God of my heart, come and unite me with Thee forever.
The manifest spiritual difference, which is noticed in these prayers, strikes one to an equal degree while examining the sacred art of the West and East.
In the Orthodox notion, the icon depicts the world glorified; in it there ought not be anything earthly or worldly. Therefore, the techniques of depiction are altogether different from those that are used in realistic painting.
Rome has completely departed from classical Byzantine fundamentals. This was expressed particularly forcefully during the epoch of the Renaissance. The very philosophical direction of this period hymns man's egoism and powerfulness, his self-perception in the surrounding and material environment. As a result, the ecclesiastical art of the West also headed along this path — along the path of free creativity, independent of the Church and its enactments. A free attitude toward Church ideas and the mixing of Church traditions with contemporary reality resulted in Western religious art allowing, by striving toward human earthly beauty and sensuality, the distortion of the sacred image.
That which the ancient Church so painstakingly avoided — the influence of antique pagan painting and realism — was in full measure reborn in Western Christianity and has covered the walls of the largest Catholic churches and cathedrals. Naked bodies, contemporary dress and decor became the norm, while spiritual beauty was brought down to something worldly and everyday.
The Orthodox in the Eyes of the Vatican.
It is appropriate also to say a few words about the attitude of the Vatican toward us Orthodox. In the eighth volume of the Reference Book for Sacred Ministers, published by the Moscow Patriarchate, we read: "Inasmuch as the churchliness of the Orthodox Churches is incomplete, and these Churches do not give to their children of the whole plenitude of the means of salvation established by Christ, this justifies, from the Roman Catholic point of view, the maintenance of Uniate Churches and a Latin hierarchy in Orthodox countries.
"None the less, inasmuch as most of the Orthodox, in view of their special historical and cultural situation, are ignorant of (or misunderstand) the dogma of Roman primacy and the other dogmas enacted by the Roman Church after the separation, this ignorance being unwilling and therefore not imputed to them as fault, such an absence among them of the means of salvation all the same does not deprive them of the grace of the Holy Spirit, although it does produce in them, from the Roman Catholic point of view, a multitude of evils. ...Baptism is considered as always fully effectual, even in heretical and schismatical groups... Hence, according to classical Roman theology, every baptized person is by right subject to the jurisdiction of the pope.... In its relations with the Orthodox Church, the Roman Church has a tendency to reduce to a minimum the seriousness of the disagreements separating them; they are either interpreted as different expressions of the faith that do not violate its 'substantial core' or are viewed as formulж corresponding to different stages of 'doctrinal progress'...” (Reference Book for Sacred Ministers, Moscow, 1988, v. 8, pages 669-670).
The Calendar Question. Let us begin with the difference in the celebration of the Resurrection of Christ. The celebration of Pascha goes back to the first Christian generation, to the Apostolic Church. But in the first centuries of the Christian era, there was still no definite unity regarding precisely on which day Pascha — the Resurrection of Christ — ought to be celebrated. In the Christian churches of Asia Minor, where there were many Jews who had come to believe in Christ, the feast of Pascha was performed on the day of the Jewish Passover, that is, on the fourteenth day of the first spring month, Nisan. Western Christians, whose center the capital of the empire — Rome — had become already in the apostolic epoch, consisted primarily of pagans who had come to believe in Christ. To them, it seemed inadmissible to celebrate the Christian Pascha simultaneously with the Jewish Passover, because Christ resurrected after the Jewish Passover, and that is why in the Western Church, already in the early epoch, the tradition arose of performing the celebration of Pascha on the first Sunday after the vernal full moon. These two different customs of celebrating Pascha — eastern and western — existed until the First Ecumenical Council in the year 325, in the city of Nicжa, in Asia Minor. This Council, at which all the local Christian Churches, both of the East and of the West, were represented, took a decision concerning the day of the celebration of Pascha. According to the Council's decision, the Christian Pascha must be performed on the first Sunday of the vernal full moon, but always after the Jewish Passover. The Orthodox Church till now strictly adheres to this rule enacted by the
First Ecumenical Council. But the Western confessions, in their historical development preserved only the first part of this decision — to celebrate Pascha on the first Sunday of the vernal full moon, and they ceased to attach significance to whether or not Pascha is celebrated after the Jewish feast or simultaneously with it.
In the year 1582, Pope Gregory XIII, in an attempt to equate the astronomical year with the ecclesiastical, commanded that ten days be skipped from the 4th to the 14th of October (the bull Inter gravissimas), and the "Gregorian" Calendar introduced by him was accepted by all the states of Western Europe.
It should be noted that in ecclesiastical questions, astronomical accuracy does not have that significance which the internal unity of believers has. And to make this unity dependent on astronomical accuracy, is, at the very least, strange.
A.N. Zelinsky, the well-known investigator of the calendar problem, writes that "astronomical accuracy even in the calendar (which has purely practical tasks) is a thing unattainable and un-necessary" ("Constructive Principles of the Ancient Russian Calendar" in the collection, Context 1978, "Science" Publishing House, Moscow, 1978, page 84 [in Russian]). The contemporary ecumenical movement seeks solutions that can resolve the calendar problem. Thus, from the 5th through the 10th of March this year, representatives of Christian confessions belonging to the World Council of Churches, together with the Council of Churches of the Near East, conducted a conference in Syria with the aim of establishing a common date for the celebration of Pascha. Ten years before this conference, Professor L. Perepoilkina foresaw that ecumenical circles will concretely attempt to work out a common approach to the Paschalia ("The Julian Calendar — a Thousand-Year Icon of Time in Rus'," Orthodox Way, Holy Trinity Monastery, Jordanville, NY, 1988, [in Russian]; English translation is found under the title, "The Julian Calendar," in The Orthodox Church Calendar, Holy Trinity Monastery, Jordanville, NY, 1996). She writes: "Among other proposals regarding this question are two of the most discussed: 1) To appoint the feast of Holy Pascha on one fixed day according to the Gregorian Calendar (first or second Sunday of April). This proposal, which totally breaks with the decision of the Nicжan Council, was supported by the Second Vatican Council. 2) To determine the date of the celebration of Pascha by imparting a literal astronomical meaning to the concepts of 'equinox' and 'full moon'.
"According to A. Zelinsky's opinion, both of these proposals are unacceptable. The first — in connection with the astronomical and canonical deficiencies of the Gregorian Calendar and its modification; the second — in connection with the fact that 'astronomical accuracy', understood literally, would place the Church in constant dependence on the progress of astronomical knowledge. Besides that, this solution would be uncanonical, since it allows the coincidence of the Christian Pascha with the Jewish Passover, that is, it leads to a complete break with the tradition of the Holy Fathers.
"'If the Christian confessions are destined to unite sometime,' writes Zelinsky, 'this union, in the sphere of the liturgical ecclesiastical calendar, ought to rest on a solid, unshakable foundation. Only the sacred calendrical-cosmological system of the Great Cycle of Creation — the brilliant collective creation of nameless devotees of science and faith — can become this foundation.'"
Having declared himself the infallible head of the Universal Church, the pope demanded from all Christians unquestioning sub-mission to him as the vicar of Christ and the sole transmitter of the grace of Christ. Unfortunately, the striving of the Protestants to restore ecclesiastical truth in the West did not return them to Orthodoxy, but drew them into errors sometimes more grave than those present in the Roman church. On the question of the Church, as on other questions also, the Protestants fell into the opposite extreme.
THE UNIVERSALITY OF THE PRIESTHOOD. Justifiably denying the Roman bishop the significance of infallible vicar of Christ and immediate head of all Christians, many Protestants simply rejected hierarchy and proclaimed the teaching of the universal priesthood. Incorrectly interpreting certain passages of Sacred Scripture, they began to assert that all Christians are equal before God, that all enjoy the same right to turn to Him directly, personally, without any hierarchal mediation. The Church is the invisible society of believing hearts enlightened by grace through faith in Jesus Christ. The Church is holy and infallible because it is governed by the Spirit of grace, Who cleanses her from defilement and invisibly cuts off unworthy members. The Apostle Peter writes to Christians: "We are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood" (I Peter 2:9). The Apostle John says that Christ "made us kings and priests unto God and his Father" (Revelation 1:6). But here the priesthood is spoken of not in the hierarchal sense, but in the sense that Christians, as regenerated and sanctified by the Holy Spirit, ought to be amid others — unbelievers — as if they were God's special sacred inheritance. That hierarchy is a divine institution, is a truth so clearly confirmed by numerous passages of Sacred Scripture and Sacred Tradition that it could not be disputed, and Protestants themselves subsequently introduced among themselves a kind of hierarchy. The denial of hierarchy by the first Protestants is explained — besides their hatred for the Roman Catholic clergy — as well by the fact that not one bishop came over to Luther's side, and for this reason the Protestants could not have a lawfully ordained priesthood.
In this connection, it should be noted that the Protestants cannot have a lawful priesthood since the apostolic succession ceased among them already at the beginning of the Reformation.
The denial of hierarchy brought in its wake other denials as well, including the denial of all the sacraments, with the exception of Baptism. For some Protestant confessions, the Eucharist too is only a rite instituted in remembrance of the Mystical Supper and the Lord's Passion. But others, reckoning that the eucharistic bread and wine always remain only bread and wine, affirm that communicants, by virtue of their faith, all the same commune of the Body and Blood of the Lord.
The Teaching on Justification Solely by Faith.
As a counterweight to the exaggerated significance in Catholicism of a man's personal merits before God, the followers of Luther teach that good works do not constitute an essential condition for a man's salvation, that they can even be harmful, since they develop self-conceit and pharisaical pride. God's grace, acting on a man, instills in him faith in Jesus Christ, and this faith, which places a man in an immediate relationship to the Redeemer, also affords a man salvation and makes him righteous.
Lutherans, as proof of their teaching on justification by faith alone, cite the words of the Apostle Paul: "Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law" (Romans 3:28), and further: "...a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ" (Galatians 2:16). But in these and similar expressions, the Apostle Paul does not at all deny the significance of good words for salvation, but only rejects the false view of the Jews, who in proud self-assurance hoped to attain salvation by an exact, formal fulfillment of the outward prescriptions of the law, apart from heartfelt faith in Jesus Christ. This faith, according to the Apostle Paul, ought to be alive and active, that is, united with good works. It ought to be that "which worketh by love" (Galatians 5:6); "and though," he says, "I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing" (I Corinthians 13:2). The Saviour Himself says, "Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven: but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven" (Matthew 7:21). But the idea of the necessity of good works for salvation is especially clearly set forth in the Epistle of the Apostle James, which the Protestants so dislike that they even reject its authenticity: "What doth it profit, my brethren, though a man say he hath faith, and have not works? can faith save him? ...as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also" (James 2:14, 26).
The Teaching on Predestination and the Veneration of Saints.
Luther and his followers could not bring themselves to draw the extreme conclusions that logically flowed from their false teaching on man's salvation. Calvin and Zwingli and their reformer-followers proved to be more consis-tent. If good works have no significance whatsoever in the matter of salvation, if man through sin has lost every capacity for good, and if even faith — the sole condition for salvation — is God's gift, the question naturally arises: why then are not all men saved, why do some receive grace, while others believe and perish? There can be only one answer to this question, and the reformers give it: "From eternity, God predestined some for salvation, others for perdition, and this predestination depends not at all on a man's personal freedom and life."
The erroneousness of the reformers'teaching is obvious. It perverts the truly Christian understanding of God's justice and mercy, of man's worth and purpose as a free and rational being. God appears here not as a loving, merciful Father, "Who will have all men to be saved, and to come to the knowledge of the truth" (I Timothy 2:4), but as a cruel, unjust despot, who saves some without any merit and dooms others without fault to perdition.
The Orthodox Church also recognizes predestination, but does not consider it unconditional, that is, independent of men's free well and based on a groundless decision of the divine will. Accord-ing to Orthodox teaching, God, as omniscient, knows, foresees the moral state of men and, on the basis of this foresight, preordains, predetermines for them a certain fate.
But He does not preordain for anyone a definite moral state; He does not preordain either a virtuous or a sinful life and does not at all inhibit our freedom. Therefore, even the Apostle Paul, whom the reformers cite, very closely connects the teaching on predestination with the teaching on God's foresight. In the Epistle to the Romans, he explains this thought in detail, and, incidentally, says concerning predestina-tion: "For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son? Moreover whom he did pre-destinate, them he also called: and whom he called, them he also justified: and whom he justified, them he also glorified" (Romans 8:29-30). In this way, God predestinates to glory not according to His groundless arbitrariness, as the reformers think, but according to His foreknowledge of a man's merits accomplished through his free will.
Protestants do not recognize the veneration of saints, since it, in their opinion, debases the worth of the Saviour, as "the one mediator between God and men," and contradicts those passages of Sacred Scripture where it says that one should worship God alone. Protestants consider the veneration of saints as useless, since the saints cannot hear our prayers.
In the Orthodox teaching on the veneration of saints there is no belittling of the Lord's redemptive sacrifice, since we ask of the saints not that which is not within their power — the forgiveness of sins, the granting of grace and the future blessed life — but we pray to the saints, as members of the Church who have been redeemed by the most pure blood of Jesus Christ and are nearer to God than we, that they mediate for us before the one Mediator, the Lord Jesus Christ.
In the passages of Sacred Scripture cited by the Protestants (Deuteronomy 6:13, I Timothy 1:17), the rendering of divine honor to God alone is spoken of; but we do not render such honor to the saints. We venerate God's grace, which resides in them; we venerate God, Who is, according to the words of the Psalmist, "wondrous in His saints."
As for the hearing of our prayers by the saints, for this there is no necessity to possess omniscience, which really is proper to God alone. It is sufficient to have that gift of clairvoyance which the Lord deemed many of his saints worthy of while still on earth, and which they, one must suppose, possess to a higher degree in heaven.
The Protestants object also to the veneration of relics, saying that by worshiping them, we Orthodox are venerating dead matter. But in relics we venerate not matter itself, but the living and life-creating power of the Holy Spirit, which makes them not only incorrupt, but also healing. From Sacred Scripture, it is known that from the touch of the bones of the Prophet Elisseus a dead man resurrected (IV Kings 13:21); a woman with an issue of blood received healing from touching the hem of the Saviour's garment (Matthew 9:20-22); the sick and the possessed were healed by laying on them the Apostle Paul's handkerchiefs and aprons (Acts 19:12). The same divine power that was inherent in the bones of the Prophet Elisseus, the garment of the Saviour and the handkerchiefs of the Apostle Paul also grants incorruption and miracle-working power to the bodies of the saints to strengthen the faith of Christians.
View on Life Beyond the Grave.
The Orthodox confession of faith is completed by a lively expectation of the resurrection of the dead and the life of the age to come. Whoever does not believe in the future life, whoever does not believe in the future last righteous judgement of God, whoever does not believe in a recompense for the righteous and punishment for the evil is not Orthodox, is not a Christian.
Whereas we Orthodox believe in the efficacious power of prayer for the dead, sectarians reject prayers for the dead on the grounds that there is no direct commandment in Sacred Scripture concerning prayer for the dead and because a man's fate beyond the grave supposedly depends exclusively on what he was himself personally during his earthly life and, finally, because believers have one Mediator — the Saviour Jesus Christ Himself.
But if prayer for the dead is really not spoken of directly in the Word of God, this our duty with regard to them follows of itself from the obligation of Christians to support the communion of love between themselves, which with regard to the dead is expressed in prayers for them.
The Apostle James persuades us to pray for one another (James 5:16) and adds that "the effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much"; the Apostle Paul exhorts to pray for all men (I Timothy 2:1); Saint John the Theologian — especially for sinners (I John 5:16). One must not presuppose that these exhortations related only to the living, since the dead are also members of Christ's Church, just as we are, and a man's death, from the Christian point of view, ought not to break communion between him and those remaining among the living. "For he is not a God of the dead, but of the living: for all live unto Him," says the Lord Jesus Christ (Luke 20:38). "Šwhether we live therefore or die, we are the Lord's," teaches the Apostle Paul (Romans 14:8).
As for the citation by Protestants of passages in Sacred Scripture where the matter concerns the recompense to each man according to his works (Psalm 6:6, Galatians 6:7, II Corinthians 5:10 and others), either the fact that the dead themselves cannot change their fate or the condition of the dead after the Dread Judgment is spoken of in these passages; but the benefit of prayers for the dead is not denied.
Finally, it is completely true that our Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ, is the "one mediator between God and men." Thus the Orthodox Church teaches, and thus is it said repeatedly in Sacred Scripture, especially often in the epistles of the Apostle Paul. But, after all, we Orthodox, in our requiem prayers, do turn precisely to Him, our Saviour, as children of His Church.
Commemoration of the dead and church prayers for them are a primordial apostolic tradition of the Church, preserved holily by her throughout all the centuries. Already in the fifth century, Saint Cyril of Jerusalem, a participant in the Second Ecumenical Council, in explaining the structure of the divine services and mysteries to the catechumens that had entered the Church in his time, wrote apropos the church's commemoration of the dead at the Liturgy: "Very great will be the benefit to the souls for whom supplication is offered at the time when the holy and dread sacrifice is set forth" (Mystagogic Instruction 5, Chapter 9). Particles taken out from the prosphoras in commemoration of the living and the dead are placed on the discos at the foot of the Lamb, where they remain until that moment when they are put into the chalice with the words: "By Thy precious Blood, O Lord, wash away the sins of those commemorated here, through the prayers of Thy saints."
The Source of Faith.
All of Protestantism's erroneous repudiations have as a basis the no less erroneous repudiation of Sacred Tradition by Protestants. They strive to lean only on Sacred Scripture, not realizing to what extent both constitute one undivided whole. Protestants arbitrarily limit the action of the Holy Spirit in the Church to apostolic times, and that is why they consider all church enactments that have appeared definitively after the Apostles as purely human. They forget at the same time that even the very composition
of the books comprising Sacred Scripture was determined considerably after the death of the Apostles. Protestants forget also, or prefer not to remember, that the oral preaching of Christianity (that is, the oral Tradition) preceded the inscription of the sacred books of the New Testament.
Or, recognizing Sacred Tradition until the time of the definitive composition of the books of the New Testament in the second century, Protestants have difficulty agreeing that the Holy Spirit, abiding in the Church as in the Body of Christ, did not cease to safeguard and vivify the true meaning of Sacred Scripture in the following centuries as well.
According to Orthodox teaching, Sacred Scripture is the fundamental monument of Sacred Tradition and contains the fullness of the divine revelation. But the Holy Spirit, Who inspired the Apostles and Evangelists in their oral and written evangelism, guides the Holy Church even now, promoting the understanding and assimilation of Christ's truth.
The ecumenical movement takes the Protestant vision of the Church for its guiding principle. Protestants consider that there is no one truth and one Church, but that every one of the numerous Christian denominations possesses a particle of truth, thanks to which fact it is possible, by way of dialog, to lead these relative truths to one truth and one Church. One of the methods of attaining this unity, in the understanding of the ideologues of the ecumenical movement, is the conducting of joint prayers and divine services with a view toward achieving communion from one chalice (inter-communion) with time.
Orthodoxy cannot in any way accept such an ecclesiology, for it believes and testifies that it is not in need of collecting particles of the truth, for the Orthodox Church is precisely the guardian of the fullness of the Truth given Her on the day of Holy Pentecost.
Nevertheless, the Orthodox Church does not forbid prayer for those who are outside communion with Her. By the prayers of the holy, righteous John of Kronstadt and the blessed Archbishop John (Maximovich), both Catholics and Protestants, Jews and Muslims, and even pagans received healing. But, in acting in accordance with their faith and request, these and our other righteous ones taught them at the same time that the saving Truth is only in Orthodoxy.
For the Orthodox, joint prayer and communion at the Liturgy are the expression of an already existing unity within the confines of the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church. Saint Irenæus of Lyons (second century), laconically formulated this thus: "Our faith is in concordance with the Eucharist, and the Eucharist confirms our faith." The Holy Fathers of the Church teach that the members of the Church build up the Church — the Body of Christ — by the fact that they commune of the Body and Blood of Christ in the Eucharist. Outside the Eucharist and Communion there is no Church. Joint communion would appear to be a recognition that all who are communing belong to the One, Apostolic Church, whereas the realities of Christian history and of our time, unfortunately, point out the profound doctrinal and ecclesiological division of the Christian world.
The representatives of the contemporary ecumenical move-ment not only do not promote unity, but aggravate the division of the Christian world. They issue a call to go not by the narrow path of salvation in the confession of the one truth, but by the wide path of unification with those who confess various errors, about whom the holy Apostle Peter said that "by reason of whom the way of truth shall be evil spoken of."
Until recently, the basically Protestant World Council of Churches called the Christians of the whole world to unity. Now this organization calls them to unity with pagans. In this sense, the World Council of Churches increasingly approaches the positions of religious syncretism. This position leads to an obliteration of the distinctions between religious confessions with the aim of founding one universal world religion, which would contain in itself something from each religion. A universal world religion implies also a universal world government with one economic order and one world nation — a mixture of all existing nations — with one leader.
If this occurs, the soil will be prepared realistically for the enthronement of Antichrist.
Let us recall the sadly notorious ecumenical prayer assembly, organized a few years ago in Assisi by the Pope of Rome, in which non-Christians participated. To which divinity did the religious figures who had assembled at that time pray? At that assembly, the Pope of Rome said to the non-Christians that "they believe in the true God." The True God is the Lord Jesus Christ, worshipped in the Triune Trinity. Do the non-Christians believe in the Holy Trinity? May a Christian pray to an indefinite divinity? According to Orthodox teaching, such prayer is heresy. According to the expression of the eminent Orthodox theologian, Archimandrite Justin Pópovich, it is "pan-heresy."
Orthodox participants in the ecumenical movement assert that, by their formal membership in the World Council of Churches, they are witnessing to the truth that lives in the Orthodox Church. But the open violation of the canonical rules witnesses not to a confession of the Truth, but to a trampling of the Church's Sacred Tradition.
How would the pillars of Orthodoxy, the Holy Fathers of the Church, Saints Athanasius the Great, Basil the Great, Gregory the Theologian, John Chrysostom, Mark of Ephesus and others react to the participation of Orthodox in the contemporary ecumenical movement?
Let us turn to hoary antiquity, to the life of Venerable Maximus the Confessor. Shown in it is how an Orthodox Christian ought to behave in the face of apostasy — mass desertion from Christ's truth.
"Wilt thou not enter into communion with the Throne of Constantinople?" the patricians Troilus and Sergius Euphrastes, the chief of the imperial table, asked Venerable Maximus the Confessor.
"No," replied the saint.
"But why?" they asked.
"Because," replied the saint, "the leaders of this church have rejected the enactments of the four Councils...they themselves have excommunicated themselves from the Church many times over and have convicted themselves of incorrect thinking."
"Then thou alone wilt be saved," they retorted to him, "while all others will perish?"
The Saint replied to this:
"When all men were worshipping the golden idol in Babylon, the three holy youths did not condemn anyone to perdition. They were not concerned about what others did, but only about them-selves, lest they fall away from true piety. And Daniel, when cast into the den, in precisely the same way did not condemn any of those who, in fulfilling the law of Darius, did not want to pray to God, but he kept his duty in mind and desired rather to die than to sin and be punished by his conscience for transgressing the Law of God. And may God forbid that I should condemn anyone or say that I alone shall be saved. However, I shall sooner agree to die than, having apostatized in some way from the right faith, endure torments of conscience."
"But what wilt thou do," the emissaries said to him, "when the Romans unite with the Byzantines? After all, two apocrisiaries arrived yesterday from Rome, and tomorrow, on the Lord's day, they will commune of the Immaculate Mysteries with the patriarch."
The Venerable one replied:
"If even the whole universe will begin to commune with the patriarch, I will not commune with him. For I know from the writings of the holy Apostle Paul that the Holy Spirit gives even the angels over to anathema, if they begin to preach a different Gospel, introducing something new."
In confessing ourselves to be Orthodox, we should remember that Orthodoxy is not at all a privilege, not a personal merit and not an occasion for the proud condemnation of others. We ought in every way to spurn such a path. We ought to be open with every-one, in order to help the multitude of heterodox, who are dissatisfied with the spiritual state of their confessions, to find the way to the truth. This means to associate with them, to invite them in, to give them an opportunity to see the unearthly beauty of the ancient Church that is preserved in Orthodoxy.
To confess Orthodoxy means to manifest humbly by one's life the fullness of the Truth in love and righteousness. Orthodoxy ought to conquer only by its radiance, as the Lord Himself, and by no means in arguments and by force. Orthodoxy is darkened by whomever is proud of it.
The truth of Orthodoxy is open for the sake of men's salvation, and not for their condemnation and chastisement. Orthodoxy is the sunlight that falls upon the earth. It shines for all who want to be warmed by its rays.