Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Synaxis of the Twelve Holy Apostles: Peter, Andrew, James & John the sons of Zebedee, Phillip, Bartholomew, Thomas, Matthew, James the son of Alphaeus, Jude the brother of James, Simon & Matthias

June 30

The names of the Twelve Apostles are these: Simon, who was called Peter, and his brother Andrew, the First-called; James the son of Zebedee, and his brother John, who was also the Evangelist and Theologian; Philip, and Bartholomew (see also June 11); Thomas, and Matthew the publican, who was also called Levi and was an Evangelist; James the son of Alphaeus, and Jude (also called Lebbaeus, and surnamed Thaddaeus), the brother of James, the Brother of God; Simon the Cananite ("the Zealot"), and Matthias, who was elected to fill the place of Judas the traitor (see Aug. 9).

Apolytikion in the Third Tone
O Holy Apostles, intercede to our merciful God, that He may grant our souls forgiveness of sins.

Kontakion in the Second Tone
O Lord, receive the steadfast and divinely voiced preachers, the pinnacle of Your disciples, unto their rest and the enjoyment of Your blessings. You received, above every offering, their labors and their life. You alone know what the heart holds.


SAINT OR FEAST POSTED THIS DATE 2009(with 2008's link here also:

The Bishop of Syktyvkar and Vorkuta, Pitirim Volochkov says: “The purpose of Masonic ecumenism is building a global superstate”

NOTE:  This was sent to me via e-mail.  It is a translation of an article that appeared in Русская народная линия (Russian People’s Line).  The link to the original can be found here.

I also realize that this was posted on the "Voices from Russia" blog, which I do not endorse in any way.  The article has merit, however, regardless of it being posted on that site.

And I also understand this to be a canonical Orthodox Bishop serving in Russia who supports Patriarch Kirill, so these statements are not coming from a Bishop part of a schismatic group outside the Church. 
 These are the Bishop's thoughts:

“Masonic ecumenism promotes a ‘religion’ of ‘ecumenical meetings’, a ‘mere Christianity’, as it were. It’s a new ecumenical Baha’ism, seemingly quite innocuous, yet each of these religious practices has a goal and purpose. 

"They are to pave the way for a federal world government or world superstate, a Supreme Tribunal and an international executive body, with a future ‘deified’ leader, to suppress any country, community, or individual who dares to resist it”, according to a post of Vladyki Pitirim entitled Масонский экуменизм (Masonic ecumenism) on the official diocesan website.

“Misguided Christian ecumenists embrace outright enemies of the Church such as the Freemasons; they say ‘nice’ things rather than accuse their interlocutors of paganism and ignorant heresy. All of them parrot groundless expressions not found in Holy Scripture or the Fathers, such as, ‘As they are imprisoned in a ghetto, (Orthodox) society suffers from a lack of tolerance (relativism, etc)’… ‘Ecumenism is the spiritual foundation of tolerance’… ‘We suffer from spiritual illiteracy’. 

"For example, the ecumenist KK Ivanov (a PhD who has wormed his way into the Church) said, ‘Get out of here with that point of view’… ‘Diversity in confession is our treasure’… ‘The most poisonous sorts (those who call themselves Orthodox) say there is only one truth’… ‘Their faith is a dangerous addiction’… ‘Everything that they talk about is a catastrophe’… ‘Catholics and Protestants have achieved such success that we have even not dreamed of’…  ‘What unites us is greater than what divides us’… ‘I did not use reason when I came to Orthodoxy’… ‘The church is just a different kind of family’… ‘When we speak of our faith, we mustn’t put Christ at the centre of it all’ ”[!].

As another example of ecumenism, Vladyki Pitirim cited a statement of Archpriest Georgi Mitrofanov.  Fr Georgi said, “This is Christianity at its core … it’s a choice between godlessness and religiosity. When an Orthodox priest attacks sectarianism from the pulpit, he betrays the memory of the recent persecution of all Christians in our country. I do not understand the inferiority complex of the Orthodox who think that they are succeeding when they denounce non-believers”.

In response to these remarks, Vladyki Pitirim said, “Are they saying the Holy Great Martyr George the all-Victorious had an inferiority complex? Up to his death, he never ceased to denounce the pagans. Thus, ecumenists preach in all human sincerity, but not the truth. The only ecumenism that we can practice is one that stresses the oneness of Orthodoxy, for good reason, without any sort of common prayer. Heathens and heretics must repent of their separateness (this includes all the denominations), as the Holy Fathers of the Church taught us”.   

19 May 2010

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

The Holy Glorious and All-Praised Leader of the Apostles, Peter

Commemorated on June 29
The hymns for their Feast speak of Sts Peter and Paul as leaders (koryphaioi), and chiefs of the Apostles. They are, without a doubt, the foremost in the ranks of the Apostles.

The koryphaioi were leaders of the chorus in ancient Greek tragedy. They set the pattern for the singing, and also for the dance movements and gestures of the chorus. Before Sophocles, there were twelve members of the chorus, and Sts Peter and Paul were the leaders of the twelve Apostles.

Both St Peter and St Paul received new names, indicating a new relationship with God. Simon the fisherman became known as Cephas (John 1:42), or Peter after confessing Jesus as the Son of God (Mt.16:18).

St Peter, the brother of St Andrew, was a fisherman on the sea of Galilee. He was married, and Christ healed his mother-in-law of a fever (Mt.8:14). He, with James and John, witnessed the most important miracles of the Savior's earthly life.

Despite his earlier recognition of Christ as the Son of God, he denied Him three times on the night before the Crucifixion. Therefore, after His Resurrection, the Lord asked Peter three times if he loved Him. Then He told Peter to feed His sheep (John 21:15-17).

After the descent of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, St Peter addressed the crowd (Acts 2:14), and performed many miracles in Christ's name. He baptized Cornelius, the first Gentile convert (Acts 10:48). He was cast into prison, but escaped with the help of an angel (Acts 5:19). St Peter also traveled to many places in order to proclaim the Gospel message. He wrote two Epistles, which are part of the New Testament.

Sts Peter was put to death in Rome during the reign of Nero. According to Tradition, he asked to be crucified upside down, since he did not feel worthy to die in the same manner as his Lord.

Troparion - Tone 4

First-enthroned of the apostles,
teachers of the universe:
Entreat the Master of all
to grant peace to the world,
and to our souls great mercy!

Kontakion - Tone 2

O Lord, You have taken up to eternal rest
and to the enjoyment of Your blessings
the two divinely-inspired preachers, the leaders of the Apostles,
for You have accepted their labors and deaths as a sweet-smelling sacrifice,
for You alone know what lies in the hearts of men.

Kontakion - Tone 2

Today Christ the Rock glorifies with highest honor
The rock of Faith and leader of the Apostles,
Together with Paul and the company of the twelve,
Whose memory we celebrate with eagerness of faith,
Giving glory to the one who gave glory to them!

SAINT OR FEAST POSTED THIS DATE 2009(with 2008's link here also):

The Function of the Unity of the Church and the Fallacious Theological Presuppositions of Papal Primacy

A Talk Given by Mr. Dimitrios Tselengidis, Professor at the
University of Thessaloniki, at the Metropolis of Piraeus' Conference
on the Theme "‘Primacy,'" Synodicality and the Unity of the Church"
Peace and Friendship Stadium, 28 April 2010

From here.

NOTE:  I have been asked by the original translator, Moses, to bring to his attention any typos.  I will make those present in red.  Sorry if this detracts from the reading of this excellent article.  He as well asks forgiveness for the shortcomings in the translation.

The Function of the Unity of the Church and the
Fallacious Theological Presuppositions of
Papal Primacy
The unity of the Church in all its forms, either structural or charismatic[i], is clearly grounded in the Holy Spirit. It is extended mystically, but is maintained, cultivated and is apparent primarily through holy communion. 

To begin with, the unity of the Church, as one of its a[remove this "a"] fundamental traits, arises from its (the Church's) own ontology. In particular, it expresses the Church's self-consciousness, which was historically articulated more formally and conclusively in the definition of the Second Ecumenical Council (381), which formulated the Symbol of Faith (Creed) of the Church. 

Since then, we have solemnly confessed through the Symbol of Faith that we believe "in One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church." However, if the Church is one according to the Symbol of Faith, then keeping with the ecclesiological sense and strictly speaking, heterodox Churches cannot exist - not mother-churches, sister-churches, daughter or grandchild churches. The one and only Church, which we confess, is the spiritual mother of all her members. That is, the one Church mystically gives birth to her members "by water and Spirit;" it does  not give birth to other Churches. 

From the wording of the Creed it is clear, that unity, as a fundamental trait of something (for the case in point, as a trait of the one Church), is an established fact of our faith. And actually, in the conscience of the body of the Church its unity is an[add this "n"] ontological given, completely and irrevocably made certain by the Head of the Church, Christ, through the constant presence of the Comforter (His Spirit) in it, since the day of Pentecost. 

In spite of this, unity also remains an experiential objective for the specific and eponymous members of the Church of every age. As an experiential objective the unity of its members comprises a personal endeavor of cooperation for tried perseverance and sure fruitfulness in the living and life-giving theanthropic body of Christ, and through it with the Triune God - but also between ourselves, as members of the Church. It is the goal of the incarnate God for us, so that we not only become one body with Christ, but also one Spirit with the Triune God (see Eph. 4: 4-5: "one body, and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling, one Lord, one faith, one baptism"). This was explicitly expressed in the "hierarchical" prayer of Christ (His prayer at Gethsemane), as we will explain later in our talk. 

In particular, the unity of the Church exists and is apparent institutionally in the faith, worship and administration of the Church. In each case the aforementioned triple union is grounded in and drawn from the threefold office of Christ: that of Prophet, Archpriest, and King. Consequently, the three expressions of the unity of the Church must be considered as interdependent and indivisible forms of the one complete unity of the Church. 

Without the distinction of an ontological nature between the uncreated essence and the uncreated energies of the Triune God, the unity of the Church itself remains in practice essentially incomprehensible, but also theologically unsubstantial - as much as on an institutional as on experiential-charismatic level. The above distinction, which is a result of the charismatic and empirical nature of Orthodox theology, comprises the spiritual "key" of understanding the nature of the unity of the Church. For this reason, this distinction will be a necessary presupposition in the treatment of our topic; penetrating it and conceptually determining our so-called points.

The unity of the Church, as we have already suggested, does not constitute an autonomous and abstract dogmatic truth independent of the Church's life. It expresses its self-awareness and its experience in the Holy Spirit. The mystical body of Christ, the Church, becomes a charismatic sphere, where the unity of the faithful is constituted, lived, and revealed as an icon of the unity of the Triune God. The unity of the faithful consists of the fruit of their participation in the uncreated grace of the Triune God and establishes an expression of life of the one and ever-united Church, as an indivisible unity and perfect communion of persons. Consequently, the theological-ontological presuppositions for the allusion of the faithful to the Triadic unity are found in the creation and founding of the Church as the body of Christ, in which the faithful become organic members. 

The faithful as a dwelling of the divine persons, through grace, are called to live according to the model of Triadic unity and in this way are to express their communion and participation in the life of the Triune God. In addition, according to the Evangelist John, the treatment of the unity of the faithful according to the model of the the unity of the Divine Persons also constitutes their witness to the world: "that they may be one; as Thou, Father, art in me, and I in Thee, that they may also be one in Us; that the world may believe that Thou hast sent me" (John 17:21).

In the aforementioned hierarchical prayer Christ, according to Athanasios the Great, asks His Father for the unity of the faithful according to the model of Their own unity. Of course, here the unity of the faithful is not referring to the nature of the Triune God, because "in nature only all things are far from Him." (Against the Arians 3.26 ΒΕΠ 30, p.269). The unity of the faithful as members of the one and only Church is grounded not in nature, but in the uncreated deifying energy and glory of the Triune God. The significance of this position is unquestionable, since the hypostatic Truth Himself, in the immediate continuation of the hierarchical prayer, expresses this explicitly: "And the glory which Thou gavest Me I have given them; that they may be one, even as We are one, I in them and Thou in Me, that they may be made perfect in one; and that the world may know that Thou hast sent Me, and hast loved them, as Thou hast loved Me" (John 17: 22-23). In this passage one finds the concise hermeneutical "key" to understanding the foundation in the Holy Spirit of the unity of the Church. That which unites the faithful in the Church, or that which makes the Church one and indivisible, organic, a theanthropic body, is the uncreated sanctifying glory and grace itself of the Triune God. This uncreated divinity, which connects and perfects the body of Christ, is charismatically made familiar and, in a mystical way, forever remains in the Church liturgically by virtue of Christ, Who is also the Head of the one theanthropic body of the Church (see Eph. 1: 22-23). In this body the "I in them" of Christ is accomplished ontologically and charismatically. 

Consequently, the necessary prerequisite for our unity with the Triune God in Christ is the charismatic presence of the Holy Spirit active in us. In other words, we are not united with the Triune God on account of our nature, but because of the Holy Spirit (see Athanasios the Great, Against the Arians 3:25, ΒΕΠ 30, 271: "It is the Spirit then which is in God, and not we viewed in our own selves"). This charismatic unity of the Church is evident in our agreement in conviction and the existence of the united mind in us (see Against the Arians 3:23, ΒΕΠ 30, 269).

However, if the unity of the Church as a sacramental and theanthropic body, but also the unity of that the faithful as constituent members of the Church have between themselves, according to the model of the unity of the Triune God, is accomplished directly and personally by the Triune God Himself through the uncreated energy of the Holy Spirit, then it is easily understandable that the heterodox - Roman-Catholics and Protestants - who in no way comprise Churches but religious communities with an ecclesiastical name, having changed the Apostolic faith of the Church in the Triune God through the Filioque and basically not making the distinction between the uncreated essence and uncreated energy in God, set forth an impossible unity (of an ontological and charismatic nature) with the Triune God and with us in Christ. 

But also every other attempt at unity with the heterodox which skirts the above-mentioned theological presuppositions for the "faith once delivered (Jude 1:3)," is actually impossible. Nevertheless, the delegates of the local Orthodox Churches with their center of co-ordination (the Ecumenical Patriarchate) appear to have another opinion about the unity of the Church. This is why it is particularly typical that in the first paragraph of the submitted draft of the Joint International Commission for Theological Dialogue with the Roman-Catholics in Cyprus, in October of 2009, it is cited that in the agreed upon Joint Statement of Ravenna (2007) Roman-Catholics and Orthodox refer to "the age of the undivided Church," (See Statement of Ravenna 41). It is clear that this phrasing presupposes for the members of the Joint International Commission that today the undivided Church does not exist. Therefore, today the Church is divided, despite the faith of the Church, which we confess verbally in the Symbol of our Faith. However, this means the falling away from the Church of all those who consciously support all that the Statement of Ravenna contains about the identity of the Church, since it indirectly but clearly does not accept a part of the dogmatic teaching of the Second Ecumenical Council. 

However, already much earlier the Roman-Catholics had deviated from the dogmatic teaching of the Second Ecumenical Council with the addition of the Filioque. The Filioque was conceived and appeared in the West when the experience of the charismatic presence of the Holy Spirit in the ecclesiastical assembly of the Pope's see withdrew. Essentially, the Filioque was the crystallization of the estrangement from the living experience of the uncreated grace and energy of the Triune God, through which immediate and real communion with man is realized in the chief conveyor of the unity of God and man, that is, in the Church. 

Consequently, due to our dogmatic disparity from the Roman-Catholics there cannot be - neither actual nor formal - union with them. Nonetheless, the strange thing (dogmatically and ecclesiologically) is that the Statement of Ravenna, consistent with the previous Joint Statements of Munich, Bari, Valaam and Balamand, refers to a common apostolic faith, the common mysteries (sacraments) and the ecclesiastical character of the heterodox. Thus, the false and blasphemous impression is given that with the joint Statement of Ravenna Christ is deceived, Who assured us that branches cut from the vine cannot bear fruit. The members of the Joint International Commission affirm in their statements, that in spite of the heretical divergences, the Roman-Catholics constitute a Church and that they possess genuine sacraments. It is theologically and logically odd that the representatives of the local Orthodox Churches do not realize the enormous dogmatic error of the Roman-Catholics concerning the created nature of their sacraments, an error which literally invalidates the aforementioned claim of the Roman-Catholics, which Orthodox representatives also endorse. The Roman-Catholics themselves assure us with their dogmatic teaching about created grace, that they are empirically devoid of the experience in the Holy Spirit of the Church and of the theanthropic nature of its unity in the Holy Spirit. Consequently, with the existing presuppositions it is completely theologically unwise and pointless for unity of an ecclesiastical nature to be attempted with them. In addition, such unity is practically and completely impossible, since it goes against the theological presuppositions of the Church and the ontological content of its nature.

Any form of unity in the Church, without unity in liturgy and communion, is surely an imperfect union. Unity of the Church itself, as a united body, is mainly a sacramental event. With its sacraments, the Church imparts the mystical body of Christ to the people. It combines them and unifies them with the Head of the body but also with each other. Finally, it makes them one Spirit with the Triune God in Christ through the Holy Spirit, offering them deification (theosis) by grace according to their receptivity. This happens dynamically, progressively and endlessly in the uncreated kingdom of Christ, of the unwaning and unending eighth day of the eternal age to come. 

The unity of the Church as a whole and the unity of the faithful as members of the Church has its sensible (i.e. of the senses) and visual manifestation in the Eucharistic gathering during divine worship, and especially in the faithfuls' participation of Holy Communion. It is precisely then, in proportion to our purity and receptivity, that we commune as in a type of betrothal in the uncreated kingdom of Christ. Then we are actually united together, charismatically, through uncreated deifying grace and energy with the whole Triune God, with the Mother of God, with the bodiless and noetic beings, with those that have been found pleasing to God since the ages - reposed, righteous and saints - but also with all the faithful throughout the world, who are organic members of the body of Christ and receptive of His uncreated divine grace. That characteristic sensible experience - through word and sound - of the Eucharistic gathering comes from this, through the celebrant of the Holy Eucharist commemorating, not only the saints that have come before us, but also today's Church leadership during that great moment of the sanctification of the Holy Gifts.

Here, however, we must make a few necessary theological clarifications, since today we are in danger of a suspicious, watered-down, secretive (and I would say, audacious) idolatry. It is being promoted from all those who - on grounds of expediency - one-sidedly stress the structural expression of the sacraments of the Church, as as if they operate unconditionally, magically and mechanistically, even outside the Church. However, like this the Patristic theory of the sacraments is mistaken for expressions of the Church. The sacraments are the branches of the tree of the Church, the members of its heart, as Saint Nicholas Cabasilas says. They provide the uncreated unifying power of the Holy Spirit for the realization and experience of the ontological nature of the unity of the faithful members under clear presuppositions. 

The unity of the Church is accomplished mystically through uncreated deifying grace and specifically through Holy Communion, but not mechanistically and unconditionally. On the contrary, charismatic union presupposes the faithfuls' purity from sin, their free co-operation and this mindset towards the faith. Moreover, God is glorified correctly in the context of Divine Worship, only when the doxology (glorifying) takes place "with one mouth and one heart." This though presupposes not only one faith, but also one life in the Holy Spirit. This is theologically obvious, because God as self-glorified, can actually be glorified by us, only when He Himself acts in us through His Holy Spirit. However, this happens only when we have His Own Spirit working in us, which we received during our own personal Pentecost, through Holy Chrism. 

However, when the leadership of the Church happens to have another way of thinking, which is contrary to the dogmatic conscience of the Church as expressed in the decisions of the Ecumenical Councils, then clearly the unity of the leadership with the body and the Head of the Church appears to be functionally problematic. 

Such a situation is particularly problematic for the unity of the Church in worship, when certain leaders, who are commemorated in the Holy Eucharist, happen to believe, to live and to behave in a way incompatible with the letter and the spirit of the holy canons of the Ecumenical Councils. When it happens that the leadership of the Church prays with the heterodox and accepts, be it even tacitly, the joint statements that the their representatives sign with the heterodox, that is when they indirectly, but clearly, consider the heterodox to comprise churches - in the ecclesiological sense of the word - and therefore to have genuine sacraments, in spite of the fact that the heterodox themselves dogmatically deny the uncreated nature of the grace and the energy of the sacraments, and in this way literally emptying the sacrament of the Church and its theanthropic nature reducing it to a purely human organism, then surely the unity of certain leaders with the Church itself is compromised to some degree. Then the aspired unity of this leadership is basically spent on the created and human level. Then this unity does not actually include the Triune God, since the Roman-Catholics, with whom they are trying to unite, continue to dogmatically deny the uncreated nature of divine grace, which being divine ontologically bridges the chasm between the uncreated Triune God and created man. Thus, holy communion between the uncreated God and created man is  basically done away with. But when it happens that our life as members of the Church is not compatible with the mindset of the faith of the Church, then our apparent structural unity during divine worship is external and superficial. Clearly, it is not that which Christ asked for from the God the Father in His hierarchical prayer, since this unity does not[add this "not"] take into serious consideration the theological presuppositions and those inspired by Holy Spirit for its experience in all judgement. 

Unfortunately, the calendar change, along with the theologically problematic ecumenical initiatives within the Orthodox Church, have become a cause of turmoil for unity in worship and administration between the new-calendarists and the Orthodox old-calendarists zealots. 

We are of the opinion that this problem should be taken up theologically and lovingly by the leadership of our Church, as long as the Orthodox faith is common among us. Recorded history after 1920 can mutually help in self-assessment regarding the problem of ecumenism with the goal of regaining complete unity and communion between us.

This refers specifically to the canonical and organizational unity of the Church and essentially has its theological foundation in the royal-pastoral office of Christ. In particular, the unity in the administration of the Church is immediately connected to its traditional structure, to its ontology of an eschatological nature, but also its identity of a charismatic nature. The established heresies and the established ecclesiastical schisms are proof of a departure from its (the Church's) institutional acceptance. 

The visible unity of the Church itself is expressed, as we have already said, mystically during Divine Worship and more specifically in Holy Communion. However, the visible unity of the Church is unquestionably, equally and timelessly apparent in the eminent administrative expression of the Church, according to the Ecumenical Councils. In them, the mindset of the theanthropic Head of the Church is articulated synodically and infallibly - in all exactitude. The Head expresses the whole Triune God, since the will of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit is one. It is exactly this nature of the content of the synodal expression of the whole Church which is preserved in the distinct formulation of these councils, as is e.g. the expression of the Apostolic Council in Jerusalem: "it seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us" (Acts 15:28) or as in the Ecumenical Councils: "following the Holy Fathers till now...." Thus, the one mindset of the leadership of the Church is safeguarded by the mindset of the Holy Spirit, which is active in the many members of the hierarchy of the Church and this is objectively attested to, provided the hierarchs expressed themselves humbly, that is "following the Holy Fathers." This means that each council of bishops is obligated to agree with and "follow the Holy Fathers." Otherwise, whatever decision it makes is not only institutionally but essentially in abeyance. 

A "key" for ensuring the genuineness of the mind of the Church, which the administration of the constituent local Churches or whole Church expresses, is the dogmatic conscience of the members of the Church. In this way the dogmatic conscience of the members of the whole Church proves to be an ultimate criterion of the truth. In the final analysis the ecumenicity of a pan-Orthodox council is judged unerringly by the conscience of the members of the Church. From what was stated above, it is clear that the unity of the administration of the Church is assured institutionally, not mechanistically and democratically. It is assured only in the Holy Spirit. This basically means that unity in Church administration has ontological presuppositions, and more specifically, presuppositions set down by the Holy Spirit. Namely, it presupposes the ontological unity of the faithful in the mystical body of Christ and [presupposes] the experience of the presence of the Holy Spirit in all judgement, which as an uncreated deifying grace unites the mystical body and bridges the created members with the uncreated divinity of the theanthropic Head of the mystical body of the Church, charismatically and existentially (ontologically). This means it is theologically legitimate and spiritually incumbent for any of the faithful to question the institutionally expressed synodal decision of the highest administration of the Church, as long as with certainty he finds that the particular decision is not in "keeping with the Holy Fathers." It should be noted that while holding such a position, a person remains united with the Head of the mystical body, and also with the whole Church.

The unity of the Church in its administration is not ensured mechanistically through the institution of Synodicality which is inspired by the Holy Spirit. It most certainly presupposes that the hierarchs participating in the synod have a mindset according to the Holy Spirit. Moreover, a true member of a council (synod), in the strict sense and mainly according to the spirit of the word[ii], is he who is following the Way, which in this case is the hypostatic Way, Christ. He is with Him, not simply out of custom or institutionally, but chiefly in an essential and active way only in the Holy Spirit, only when he truly has the "mind of Christ." 

From what was said above it is clear that the unity of the Church, especially in its administration, is not secured by the president and "first" at whatever council. 

If, however, we think about each first or presiding bishop in the administrative hierarchy of the Church as an expresser and guarantor of its unity - as much in the first millennium (e.g. the Pope, as the Roman-Catholics would like) as in the second millennium (in the sphere of Orthodoxy, the Ecumenical Patriarch, as it seems from some of his statements as of late) - then inevitably we will have to accept that even some leaders having been condemned as heretics, just as much in the West as in the East, secured the unity of the Church with their heresy, while they were institutionally in their administrative position. However, this would mean that unity was secured mechanistically, by default of the unsound personal faith of those leaders. But it would mean still that the unity of the Church does not have an ontological nature confirmed by the Holy Spirit, or that the Church can exist divided or in heresy. Something like this comes in complete conflict with the dogmatically defined faith, which we express in the Symbol of Faith with "one Church." 

The Joint Statement of Ravenna (2007, &41) appears to indirectly support, though it is clear[should this read "unclear"?  Also, is the "it" referring to the Joint Statement document itself or to primacy?  This section is a bit ambiguous  and perhaps the author himself and not the translator is not specific enough here?], the institution of primacy over the whole Church, despite its different understanding in the East and the West during the first millennium. As far as we know, in the relevant canons of the Ecumenical Councils there is mention of "place of honor" and not of primacy in administrative authority on a global level. This reference to "first" (see 34th Apostolic canon, 2nd and 3rd canon of the Second Ecumenical Council and 28th canon of the 4th Ecumenical Council) restricts his administrative responsibilities to a strictly local and eparchial level. 

We are of the opinion that it is not theologically or patristically permissible (see Athanasios the Great and St. Gregory Palamas) to have a theological dialogue with the Roman-Catholics about the primacy of the Pope over the whole Church, even during the first millennium, while the Roman-Catholics are not members of the Church, as they firmly hold to their heretical stances till this day about the Filioque and created divine grace, along with the primacy and infallibility of the Pope.


If we approach papal primacy and the Filioque in a historical-dogmatic manner, we see that their appearance and development are concurrent. Both of these dogmatic deviations go together historically. 

The historical starting point of papal primacy is found in the 4th century, both in the West and in the East. Already in the Western Council of 371 it is supported that councils without the consent of the Pope are invalid. In the East, St. Basil the Great mentions the "arrogant papal brow," while the records of the Ecumenical Councils inform us about the papal claims the papist representatives conveyed until the 8th Ecumenical Council (879/880) under Patriarch Photius. It is internationally confirmed by history that the Orthodox East never recognized the primacy of the bishop of Rome in administrative jurisdiction and authority, neither in theory nor in practice, but only a "position of honor." This means that he was the first among equals, "primus inter paris" (see 28th canon of the 4th Ecumenical Council). Finally, the Orthodox East's refusal to submit to the claims of the West concerning a primacy of authority over the whole Church became the reason the papists broke away from the Church in 1054. 

In the attempts for union which followed, the West always tried to impose its monarchal type of ecclesiology on the East, based on the idea that the Pope should always be considered the only visible head of the Church. 

The dogmatic safeguarding of papal primacy formally happened at the First Vatican Council (1870). At this council, along with the infallibility of the Pope, the exact substance of primacy was defined, which is understood as an administrative authority over the whole Church, with a view to preserve the true faith. Therefore, it is clear that papal primacy comprises a structural element of papism and part of its dogmatic teaching. This means that without this, full ecclesiastical communion is not possible. The dogmatic inception of papal primacy goes back through the Apostle Peter to Christ Himself. 

The Second Vatican Council (1962-1964) attempted to modify the above monarchal ecclesiology of the First Vatican Council with the introduction of a peculiar ecclesiology of communion (communio), which refers to the gathering of bishops ["Lumen Gentium" (Light of the Nations) article 22]. Based on the Second Vatican Council  there truly seems to be a double supreme authority: On the one hand, the assembled bishops with the Pope as the head, and on the other hand, only the head. [Any episcopal body's ability of action is impossible without its head, for it acts only when assembled and in communion with the bishop of Rome. The Pope is somehow placed "above the episcopal body" in a capacity of vicar of Christ (vicarius Christi).] However, it is particularly important that the Council often restates that the Pope can administer the office "alone." 

So it is clear that harmony was essentially not achieved between papism and the episcopal office. The two ecclesiologies were placed next to each other in a problematic articulation. History has proved the total inconsistency of the two ecclesiologies of the West. In any case, the prediction of the Western theologians is that, in theory and practice, we will probably again see a clearly monarchal ecclesiology imposed, which will push back the forms of collectiveness and synodicality, which recently came to the foreground again (see concerning K. Schatz).

As is easily understandable from what was said before, papal primacy - which is connected to papal infallibility - in theory and in practice, completely renders the disapproval of the pope powerless on account of his dogmatic errors. This alone confirms the distortion (on an ecclesiological level) of the synodicality of bishops, and clearly goes against the experience (led by the Holy Spirit) of the Church, as was institutionally expressed at the Apostolic Council and Ecumenical Councils. Primacy, as it came to mean in the West, not only did not accommodate the unity of the Church, but contrarily gave birth to tendencies of division and ultimately caused papism to fall away from the Church. Of course, all this was combined with other deviations from the dogmatic teaching of the Church. 

The fallacious theological presuppositions of papal primacy go hand in hand with the historically concurrent Filioque, whose institutionalization chronologically came first, since it had already been adopted in the West by the 6th century in the Council of Toledo (547) and was added with local validation to the Creed of Nicaea-Constantinople (589). The fallacious theological presuppositions of primacy should be re-discussed first and foremost in the pneumatology of the West. In the life and practice of the Church in the West, the pneumatological factor has fallen into disuse, resulting in the adoption of the Filioque, which belittles the Holy Spirit on a dogmatic-theoretical level. Something similar happened at the same time with papal primacy, which theologically reveals the reduction of the charismatic dimension of the Church and the reduction of the meaning of the Holy Spirit in it. In a condensed way, this reveals the manner of organization of Roman-Catholicism with its centralized and hierocratic character and its governing power over the clergy and laity. 

Even more specifically, the fallacious theological presuppositions of papal primacy are  clearly of a pneumatological nature for the following reasons.[-should this be plural?  I'm unsure] Those in the West, very early on and progressively in any case, were alienated from the living experience of the Orthodox East, which has to do with the charismatic presence of the Holy Spirit, which according to the promise of Christ will lead the Church after Pentecost "into every truth," and will truly guarantee the unity of the Church through His invisible presence and in all judgement, according to the hierarchical prayer of Christ. That is, Western Christianity lost the living experience of unity with the uncreated divine glory and sanctifying grace of the Holy Spirit. The ecclesiological structure of Roman-Catholicism, which we mentioned, confirms as much. This structure, with primacy as the fundamental element, does not allow the charismatic functioning of the Spirit of Truth, since the hypostatic Truth and theanthropic Head of the Church is substituted with the created presence of its vicar, the Pope, while at the same time the reference to the presence the Holy Spirit was defiantly ignored. In other words, since the Roman-Catholics do not make a distinction between the uncreated essence and the uncreated energy of God, due to the fact that they do not have the living experience of the charismatic presence of the uncreated energy and grace of the Holy Spirit - and hence their dogmatic teaching concerning created grace - they are not able to theologically understand the invisible presence of the Holy Spirit in the Church ontologically, in accordance with His uncreated and sanctifying energy, as a guarantor of the truth till the end of time. Because of the lack of the aforementioned theological presuppositions, the Roman-Catholics cannot theologically understand how Christ reveals Himself invisibly to the living members of His mystical body and not only[should there be an "only here?]in the world to come, but also how His uncreated kingdom within the faithful is invisibly present, not coming "with observation" (see Luke 17:20-21), for those that do not have active spiritual senses. [as well, I have read and re-read this entire italicized section trying to determine exactly what the Professor is trying to say here and the meaning is seemingly obscured to me.  Perhaps it has to do with the "only" I bold faced above? or can the translation need here more specificity?]

However, here the theological question understandably arises: "What is the primary reason for this theological confusion and disorder, which immediately comes out in  ecclesiology and in practice, in the life of the Church and with soteriological consequences?" 

Papal primacy, either with its open sense of authority or under the guise of service (see the Statement of Ravenna) in the administration of the Church, has as its primary cause egoism, vainglory, and pride. These in their very nature are - in any form - evil disrupters of unity. Multiform egoism is the primary cause of any heterodox teaching, according to the testimony of Holy Scripture (see 1 Tim. 6: 3-6). It inflates and corrupts the mind and leads it to a falling away from the one and ever-united Church. This same primary cause also tore Lucifer and his like-minded angels away from the primordial Church of the Triune God with His holy angels, just as it did with the first created couple. The egoistic mindset is irreconcilable with the living experience of the charismatic presence of the Spirit of Truth in the Church. This living experience has always had humility as its fundamental characteristic feature, which is mainly apparent in obedience only to the will of the one theanthropic Head of the Church, in accordance with the example of His obedience to the will of God the Father. 

Christ Himself, during His historic presence on earth, explicitly spurned every vainglorious desire for superiority among the Apostles (see Matt. 20: 20-28 and 23: 8-11; Mark 10: 35-45), saying to two of His chosen disciples: "Ye know not what ye ask" (Matt. 20:22). Still, it is particularly important that the Apostles, after receiving the Holy Spirit at Pentecost and from then on having It [should this read "Him" and not "It"?]in them experientially "in all judgement" and active to the greatest degree, asserted no primacy, nor administrative authority or service, as is attested to in the Acts of the Apostles. Thus, we see for example that in the Apostolic Council the preeminent Apostle Peter did not preside, but James the brother of our Lord. And the Apostle Peter's position did not prevail, but that of the Apostle Paul (see Acts 15). There, for the first time it was proven in a real way that no institutional figure is infallible, but the whole Church, when it expresses itself institutionally through an Ecumenical Council. But all the things testified to in the book of Acts are enlightening for our subject at hand, from the selection of the Apostle Matthias, to the selection of the seven deacons, and particularly everything that has to do with the way they were elected and the criteria coming from the Holy Spirit (see Acts 6: 2-3). A main criterion of election was the active presence of the Holy Spirit in the candidate deacons ("among you seven men of honest report, full of the Holy Spirit and wisdom" - Acts 6:3).

It is also a historical truth that never did one Apostle govern the Church. All the Apostles equally administered it, as is obvious from the Apostolic Council. But even after the Apostles, the successors, as equal bishops, governed the Church coming together in councils under the presidency of an equal bishop, as is witnessed to in the Ecumenical Councils. The "position of honor" of the "first" (or one presiding) does not do away with equality. And he who has the "position of honor" has one vote and is subject to the criticism of his fellow equal bishops. This is why some leaders among the hierarchy both in the East and in the West were condemned as heretics during the first millennium. 

Consequently, papal primacy has no theological foundation, no legitimacy from the Holy Spirit and no ecclesiological legitimacy. It is clearly based on a worldly understanding of authority and ministry. It does not[add this "not"]permit the structure inspired by the Holy Spirit of the mystical body of the Church. It relativizes and in practice, does away with synodicality as a function of the Holy Spirit in the body of the Church, and introduces to it the worldly mindset. It annuls the equality of bishops, it appropriates the total administrative authority of the whole Church, essentially pushing aside the God-Man and placing a man as a visible head and in this way institutionally repeats the ancestral sin. And, just as the equality of the persons of the Holy Trinity was institutionally abolished with the Filioque in the West, especially that of the Holy Spirit, which according to St. Gregory Palamas was belittled in the ontological category of created things, thus with papal primacy, the absence of the charismatic presence of the Holy Spirit in the body of the ecclesiastical body is institutionally confirmed. And the ecclesiastical body is basically converted from a theanthropocentric to a anthropocentric one. Lastly, the cure to this ecclesiological deviation of the papists can only be obtained through their humble return to the traditional ecclesiology of the Orthodox East.

[i] Trans. note: The term "charismatic" in this paper is to be understood in the Orthodox theological sense, coming from the Greek word "charisma," that is relating to God's grace through His Holy Spirit.
[ii] Trans. note: The word for "council" in Greek is "synod." Someone taking part in an ecclesiastical council is called a "synodikos," which means one who accompanies or goes along with.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Translation of the relics of the Holy and Wonderworking Unmercenaries Cyrus and John

St. Cyrus

                                                                                           St. John                                                                                                                                                 

Commemorated on June 28
The Transfer of the Relics of the Holy Martyrs, Unmercenaries and Wonderworkers, Cyrus and John from the city of Konopa, near Alexandria (where they suffered in the year 311) to the nearby village of Manuphin, took place in the year 412. This Egyptian village prompted fear in everyone, since in a former time there was a pagan temple inhabited by evil spirits. Patriarch Theophilus (385-412) wanted to cleanse this place of demons, but he died. His wish was fulfilled by his successor in the See of Alexandria, the holy Patriarch Cyril (412-444). He prayed fervently in carrying out this project. An angel of the Lord appeared in a vision to the hierarch and commanded the venerable relics of Sts Cyrus and John be transferred to Manuphin. His Holiness Patriarch Cyril did the angel's bidding and built a church at Manuphin in the name of the holy martyrs.

From that time this place was purified of the Enemy's influence, and by the prayers of the holy Martyrs Cyrus and John there began to occur many miracles, healings of the sick and infirm. An account Sts Cyrus and John is located under January 31.(Go to this post here.)

Troparion - Tone 5

O Christ God,
You have given us the miracles of Your martyrs, Cyrus and John,
as an invincible rampart;
through their prayers, frustrate the plans of the heathens,
and strengthen the faith of the Orthodox Christians,
for You alone are good and love mankind.

Kontakion - Tone 3

Podoben: "Today the Virgin..."
Having received the gift of miracles through divine grace, O saints,
you work wonders in the world unceasingly.
You remove all of our passions through your invisible surgery,
divinely-wise Cyrus and glorious John,
for you are truly divine physicians.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Venerable George of Mt. Athos, Georgian

Commemorated on June 27

Saint George’s family had its roots in the region of Samtskhe in southern Georgia. George was born in Trialeti to the pious Jacob and Mariam.

When George reached the age of seven, the God-fearing and wise Abbess Sabiana of Tadzrisi Monastery in Samtskhe took him under her care. George spent three years at Tadzrisi, and when he was ten his father sent him to Khakhuli Monastery, to his own brothers Sts. George the Scribe and Saba.

Soon after, Prince Peris Jojikisdze of Trialeti invited George’s uncle, George the Scribe, to stay with him, and George’s uncle took his young nephew with him. But the Byzantine emperor Basil II subsequently summoned Peris and his family to Constantinople, accused him of conspiring against the throne, and had him beheaded. (At that time Trialeti was under the jurisdiction of Byzantium.) Peris’ faithful wife remained in Constantinople for twelve years and sent the young George to study with the finest philosophers and rhetoricians of that time.

Eventually Emperor Basil was moved with compassion for the prince’s family and permitted them to return to Georgia. The twenty-five-year-old George returned to Khakhuli Monastery and “bowed his neck to the sweet yoke of monastic life.”

Later George secretly left the monastery and, clad in beggars’ rags, journeyed to Jerusalem. After enduring many deprivations and overcoming a great number of obstacles, he reached the Black Mountains near Antioch and, after venerating the holy places and visiting several elders, began to search for a spiritual father and guide. He found the great Georgian elder St. George the Recluse (the God-bearer) in an isolated cave and remained there with him for three years.

Then St. George the Recluse tonsured his disciple, “who had reached perfection of age, wisdom and understanding,” into the great schema and sent him to Jerusalem on a pilgrimage. According to his teacher’s counsel, George then moved from Jerusalem to the Iveron Monastery on Mt. Athos to continue the work of St. Ekvtime—the translation of theological texts from the Greek to the Georgian language. George considered himself unworthy and unqualified to continue St. Ekvtime’s great work, but St. George the Recluse was insistent, so he set off for the Holy Mountain in humble obedience.

The monks of the Iveron Monastery received St. George with great joy. But instead of translating the patristic texts as his spiritual father had advised him, George soon grew slothful and for seven years performed only the work of a novice. When St. George the Recluse heard this, he sent his disciple Tevdore to Mt. Athos to rebuke him and remind him of the reason he had been sent there. Finally George of the Holy Mountain obeyed the will of his teacher, and soon he was enthroned as abbot of the monastery.

From that time on St. George of the Holy Mountain pursued his work with great earnestness. He gathered information on Sts. Ekvtime and John, compiled their Lives, translated their holy relics to ornate burial vaults covered in precious jewels, and enhanced the life of the monastery in many other ways.

During a visit to the Byzantine emperor Constantine Monomachus, the Georgian king Bagrat IV Kuropalates offered George the opportunity to return to Georgia to be consecrated bishop of Chqondidi and serve as his own spiritual adviser. But George declined, having already been drawn far from the vanity of the world.

Leadership of the monastery was demanding, and George was forced to choose between his literary work and the life of the monastery.

He resigned as abbot and returned to St. George the Recluse for counsel. But his teacher blessed him to return to the Iveron Monastery, so George set off again for Mt. Athos.

The God-fearing king Bagrat IV Kuropalates continued to ask St. George to return to Georgia, and he finally consented to the will of the king and the catholicos. In accordance with their request, the pious father instituted general guidelines for the qualifications and conduct of the clergy and wisely administered the affairs of the Church. Five years later St. George returned to the Iveron Monastery. Before he departed, King Bagrat bestowed upon him much of his own wealth and saw him off with great respect.

Departing for Mt. Athos, Blessed George took with him eighty orphans. En route he stopped in Constantinople, and sensing that the day of his repose was near, he arranged for the orphans to be received in the emperor’s court. He personally requested that the emperor make provision for the orphaned children.

Venerable George of the Holy Mountain reposed peacefully the next day, the Feast of the Holy Apostles Peter and Paul. His Athonite brothers buried him on the monastery grounds with great reverence.

SAINT OR FEAST POSTED THIS DATE 2009(with 2008's link here also):

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Icon of the Mother of God of Seven Lakes

Commemorated on June 26

The "Seven Lakes" Icon of the Most Holy Theotokos shone forth with many miracles in the seventeenth century in the area of Kazan. It is similar to the Smolensk Icon (July 28).

"The Seven Lakes" Icon is also commemorated on July 28 and October 13.

SAINT OR FEAST POSTED THIS DATE 2009(with 2008's link here also):

Friday, June 25, 2010

St Peter, Tonsured David, the Wonderworker of Murom and Holy Princess Febronia, Tonsured Euphrosyne

Commemorated on June 25

Holy Prince Peter (David in monasticism) and Holy Princess Febronia (Euphrosyne in monasticism), Wonderworkers of Murom. Prince Peter was the second son of the Murom prince Yuri Vladimirovich. He entered upon the throne of Murom in the year 1203. Several years before this St Peter had fallen ill with leprosy, from which no one was able to heal him. In a vision it was revealed to the prince that the daughter of a bee-keeper would be able to heal him: the pious maiden Febronia, a peasant of Laskova village in Ryazan gubernia. St Peter sent his emissaries to this village.

When the prince saw St Febronia, he fell in love with her because of her piety, wisdom and virtue, and vowed to marry her after being healed. St Febronia healed the prince and became his wife. The holy couple loved each other through all their ordeals. The haughty boyars did not wish to have a princess of common origin, and they urged that the prince leave her. St Peter refused, and so they banished the couple. They sailed off on a boat from their native city along the River Oka, and St Febronia continued to console St Peter. Soon the wrath of God fell upon the city of Murom, and the people begged the prince return together with St Febronia.

The holy couple was famous for their piety and charity. They died on the same day and hour, June 25, 1228, having received the monastic tonsure with the names David and Evphrosyne. The bodies of the saints were put in the same grave.

Sts Peter and Febronia showed themselves exemplary models of Christian marriage, and are considered as the patron saints of newly-weds.

SAINT OR FEAST POSTED THIS DATE 2009(with 2008's link here also):

Thursday, June 24, 2010

The Righteous Youths James and John of Meniugi, Novgorod

Commemorated on June 24

The Righteous Youths James and John of Meniugi were brothers by birth, children of the pious couple Isidore and Barbara. They were killed by miscreants (James at three years of age, and John at five years of age).

Between the years 1682-1689 their relics were found incorrupt and were placed in a reliquary at the Trinity church in Meniugi village, Novgorod diocese, on the site of the former Trinity monastery.

SAINT OR FEAST POSTED THIS DATE 2009(with 2008's link here also):

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Second Translation of the relics of St Herman the Archbishop of Kazan

Commemorated on June 23
Today we commemorate the second translation of the relics of Saint Herman, Archbishop of Kazan, in 1714.

St Herman is also commemorated on November 6 (his repose) and on September 25 (transfer of his relics in 1595).

SAINT OR FEAST POSTED THIS DATE 2009(with 2008's link here also):

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Martyr Juliana of Constantinople(with the Holy Martyrs Galacteon and Saturninus)

Commemorated on June 22

The Holy Martyrs Galacteon, Juliana and Saturninus. St Juliana was burned together with her son Saturninus because she was a Christian.


SAINT OR FEAST POSTED THIS DATE 2009(with 2008's link here also):

Monday, June 21, 2010

Finding of the relics of the Venerable Maximus the Greek

Commemorated on June 21

[For some great information about this saint, visit Aaron Scott Taylor's excellent site, Logismoi where in this post he has linked many other sources for learning about this saint.  As well, in this article he provides the link for the previous post he did on Saint Maximus the Greek.]


SAINT OR FEAST POSTED THIS DATE 2009(with 2008's link here also):

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Martyrs Inna, Pinna and Rimma the Disciples of Apostle Andrew in Scythia

Martyr Rimma
Martyr Inna 

Commemorated on June 20
The transfer of the relics of Sts Inna, Pinna, and Rimma to Alushta took place during the first-second centuries. These holy martyrs are also commemorated on January 20.


SAINT OR FEAST POSTED THIS DATE 2009(with 2009's link here also):

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Venerable Paisius of Hilandar, Bulgaria

Commemorated on June 19

Saint Paisius of Hilandar was born in the year 1722 in Bansko into a pious family. One of his brothers, Laurence, was igumen of Hilandar Monastery, and another was noted as a generous benefactor of Orthodox temples and monasteries. St Paisius himself went through his obedience at Rila Monastery.

In 1745 at age twenty-three, St Paisius went to his brother in the Hilandar Monastery on Mount Athos, where he received monastic tonsure. The ascetic matured spiritually on the Holy Mountain. He studied Holy Scripture and he was found worthy of ordination to the holy priesthood.

In the year 1762 St Paisius wrote The History of the Slavo-Bulgarians, a book upholding the Christian Faith and awakening the national self-awareness of the subjugated Bulgarian nation.

Amid the darkness of foreign oppression the saint rekindled the lamp of Orthodoxy, lit formerly by Sts Cyril and Methodius (May 11). The time and place of the saint's blessed end is unknown.

On June 26, 1962 the Holy Synod of the Bulgarian Orthodox Church under the presidency of His Holiness Patriarch Cyril, and with the participation of all the Metropolitans, expressed the indebtedness of the Church and country to St Paisius. They decreed that Paisius of Hilandar and Bulgaria be glorified as a saint, and directed that his memory be celebrated on June 19, "when, according to the Orthodox calendar, St Paisius the Great is commemorated."

The name of St Paisius is borne by a state university in Plovdiv, and by many institutes and schools in other cities and villages of Bulgaria. This testifies to the deep veneration of the saint by the Bulgarian nation.

SAINT OR FEAST POSTED THIS DATE 2009(with 2008's link here also):

Blooming in the Desert – Episode 10-Orthodoxy & Ecology

Listen to the podcast.
(you will be downloading the file here which may take a little time)


The link to this particular post
(and you can scroll down the sidebar on the left under "Podcasts" and listen there.  Much quicker.

Blooming in the Desert Homepage.

Father George Elliot, who has been the Associate Priest to St. Paul's parish, where I attend, joined us for this episode to speak on a subject dear to his heart, Ecology.

We had a varied and lively conversation in which many subjects were broached, including St. Symeon the New Theologian, Ecology, Theosis, The Fall of Man, the Creation and many others.

This is from Blooming in the Desert on this particular show:

Orthodoxy and Ecology
As the humanistic movement continues to grow in our dying world and putting man at the center of the universe, independent from God, it is our attitude which is responsible for the rape of the natural world. It is our exploitation of Creation.

In the Lives of the Saints, we see that all Creation is only possible through God. The Saints, in their writings and teachings, are aware of their position in Creation and have a compassion and love for all Creation. They teach us that men and women who recognize the dominion of God, can have the same love for His Creation.

On this episode of Blooming in the Desert, we are blessed to have Fr. George Elliot, associate Priest of St. Paul’s Orthodox Church in Las Vegas, Nevada, to discuss Orthodox Christian Ecology and help us all understand how our treatment of the world and Creation effects each and every one of us. Please note this episode is longer then most of our episodes and if you have trouble listening to the entire thing, please email us and we will split it up for you.

The point of Blooming in the Desert is summed up thus:

Blooming in the Desert is a new and unique Podcast & Blog, that does not just explore the Orthodox Church, Her Faith, and a journey to be closer to God through love and prayer, but creates an open atmosphere of conversation and discussion for Orthodox Christians and general inquirers.

We're slowly working into a groove.  We hope to have all the Las Vegas clergy be guests on our show at one time or another. We have had ArchPriest Eric Tosi, Secretary of the OCA, on our show as well.  Father Eric is our former parish priest.  At some point we will also ask His Grace Bishop Benjamin to join us and hopefully also His Eminence Metropolitan Jonah.  We intend to also have many lay people on our show.  I would also like to interview many of my favorite bloggers.  Some of the topics will be "controversial" ones, so stay tuned.

We are hoping for feedback to let us know your thoughts, whether good, bad, indifferent or whatever.

You may visit the sidebar on this blog under "Blooming in the Desert" as well to see the catalog of shows so far.

Blooming in the Desert – Episode 10 – Pillars of Piety Series Part 4 – Forgiveness,third part

Listen to the podcast.

Blooming in the Desert homepage.

This the third and final part of our "Forgiveness" shows.  Subdeacon Jon Failla joins us for this final segment.  It turned out rather long but we did not want to do a fourth part so we went with it.  After listening, I was surprisingly pleased with this show, however.  Please do give a listen and provide a comment or two.

Forgivneness Outline used for the Blooming in the Desert podcast

This is the outline used for our podcast shows on forgiveness.

To listen to the shows, follow the links below.  Each part linked will have that portion of the outline which corresponds to it.

Part I.

Part II.

Part III.

Here is the entire outline, however, in one place.


Matthew 6:14-15

"For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you.  But if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses."  

I.  Forgiveness is central to our Faith.  So central, in fact, that it is spoken of in the strongest terms possible in Holy Scripture as a necessity to live the Life in Christ.  As we see in the text above , this comes from the mouth of the Lord Jesus Christ Himself during His teaching recorded in the Holy Gospel according to St. Matthew in the section which is known as the Sermon on the Mount. The Lord had just given those listening to Him instruction on prayer, that is, in what manner they(and we) ought to pray in.  The prayer He gave them we know as "The Lord's Prayer".

The Lord, in this Prayer, tells us in its midst to pray:

"And forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors."

After He finishes giving them the whole Prayer, He then adds what we have as our opening text to emphasize in no uncertain terms the need to forgive wrongs, debts, resentments or whatever it is that others have done to us.  It seems very certain that He is telling us there is no way around this necessary and salvific act.

Being that Forgiveness is so central, we then should ask, "What then is forgiveness?"

II.  Definition of  Forgiveness

This is taken from Webster's Ninth New Collegiate Dictionary.

1.  To cease to feel resentment against (an offender): PARDON  2 a :  to give up resentment of or claim to requital b :  to grant relief from payment of

To understand forgiveness more fully, equally important is to understand what resentment consists of.

The word, resent, is from a French word, sentir, which means, "to feel", and so our English word, resent is in the French "re + sentir", that is, to "re-feel".

So when I resent, or re-feel,  what I am doing is living in the present something that has taken place in the past.  How long past may be for an indeterminate amount of time, that is until I "let go" of the resentment. 

What characterizes resentment is that in the present, when I remember a wrong or evil, whether in truth or even an imaginary affront, I am able to bring to my recollection not only the real or imagined act against myself, but I also bring with the act the very same emotions of hurt, rejection, humiliation, etc. which accompanied the initial wrongdoing.  In other words, attached to every act that I perceive as wrong against myself are the emotions, memories and impressions that are part and parcel with it and these can be very vivid;  so vivid, in fact, that when I resent, or re-feel,  it is as if the act is fresh, occurring at that very moment in my psyche.

III.  What Forgiveness Is-More Exactly

The "principle" of forgiveness is to forgive as God does.  To forgive is not to overlook transgressions, hurts, rejections, snubs, etc. or pretend they're not there or real.  Forgiveness as well does not involve taking a wrong against oneself and suppressing it to forget the wrong.

Forgiveness is something very much a positive act in that it fully acknowledges an evil act and in spite of the evil act against oneself, one chooses to act in a way that realizes the affront is an affront and is not something else.  Forgiveness involves an understanding that those who affront us are debtors to us.  They "owe" us something. They have "transgressed us".  But we, instead of seeking payment for the debt, forgive it or cancel it.  It is to longer exist for us.  It is gone forever.  This is what the Lord has set before us.  This is what He gives us in  relation to our innumerable sins and affronts against Him personally and as well against all His creation especially our fellow human beings whose  image and likeness they bear and in whom we fail to see Him.

IV.  Why Forgive?

As mentioned, we forgive because God forgives.  Very simple and to the point.  We are to imitate Him in all His work and His forgiveness is intricately tied to His mercy and He calls us to forgive and be merciful always.

Now we should quickly mention that in the Holy Scriptures, the teaching we receive from the Lord is most often in the context of His teaching to His disciples.  Hence, when Peter asks Him in The Gospel of St. Matthew, Chapter 18 verses 21-22,  "Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him?  Up to seven times?"  Jesus said to him,  "I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven",  we see here that Peter has a legalistic mindset that has set a "limit" on forgiveness.  There is a threshold for Peter that if one crosses over through repeated offenses, he may withhold forgiveness having done what was "reasonable". The Lord smashes this mindset and tells him seventy times seven, in other words, giving in this number a value which implies forgiveness which is infinite or without end.

In many other examples we see the Lord teach forgiveness in the context of those who are following Him, in the Church.  He understands, of course that in the course of normal everyday life together, people will often sin against one another, be irritated and prone to acts of unkindness and the like.  So He speaks most often in the context that a group of people are involved who to one degree or another are following Him and are familiar with His commandments to forgive.

This often involves those who recognize their sin against us and will seek our forgiveness to right themselves before God.

But we must also recognize that forgiveness and mercy extends to those outside the Church as well. We are called to forgive and have mercy even on those who are not seeking a relationship with God at all.  This teaching of the Lord comes out so well in the Parable of the Good Samaritan in The Gospel of St. Luke in Chapter 10 when "a certain lawyer" tested Him and asked:

25  "Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?"

26  He said to him, "What is written in the law? What is your reading of it?" 

27  So he answered and said, "'You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind,' and 'your neighbor as yourself.' "

28 And He said to him, "You have answered rightly; do this and you will live."  

29  But he, wanting to justify himself, said to Jesus, "And who is my neighbor?"

30  Then Jesus answered and said: "A certain man went down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell among thieves, who stripped him of his clothing, wounded him, and departed, leaving him half dead.      

31  Now by chance a certain priest came down that road. And when he saw him, he passed by on the other side. 

32  Likewise a Levite, when he arrived at the place, came and looked, and passed by on the other side.

33  But a certain Samaritan, as he journeyed, came where he was. And when he saw him, he had compassion.

34  So he went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine; and he set him on his own animal, brought him to an inn, and took care of him.

35  On the next day, when he departed,he took out two denarii, gave them to the innkeeper, and said to him, 'Take care of him; and whatever more you spend, when I come again, I will repay you.'

36  So which of these three do you think was neighbor to him who fell among the thieves?" 

37  And he said, "He who showed mercy on him." Then Jesus said to him, "Go and do likewise." 

V.  A Brief Note on Salvation as understood by the Orthodox Church
The following is taken from Orthodox Wiki, "Soteriology":


Salvation is the goal of Christianity, and the purpose of the Church. The theology of salvation is called soteriology. Orthodox Christianity strongly believes that God became man, so that man may become like God. This concept of theosis, rejects that salvation is a positive result to a legalistic dilemma, but is instead a healing process. Orthodoxy views our inclination to sin as a symptom of a malady that needs treatment, not just a transgression that requires retribution. One of the distinctive characteristics of Orthodox Christian thinking is that it sees the Gospel message not as law, but as relationship. It speaks of the mystery of the Holy Trinity in terms of the relationship of love that exists among them. To join in that love is the work that will lead to salvation.

God created man in his own image and likeness

Man, according to the scriptures, is created in the "likeness" and "image" of God (Gen 1:26-27).
To be like God, through the gift of God, is the essence of man's being and life. In the scriptures it says that God breathed into man, the "breath (or spirit) of life" (Gen 2:7). This teaching has given rise to the understanding in the Orthodox Church that man cannot be truly human, truly himself, without the Spirit of God.

The image of God signifies man's free will, his reason, his sense of moral responsibility, everything, which marks man out from the animal creation and makes him a person. But the image means more than that. It means that we are God's 'offspring' (Acts 27:28), his kin; it means that between us and him there is a point of contact, an essential similarity. The gulf between creature and Creator is not impassable, for because we are in God's image we can know God and have communion with him.

Fall of man

The story of creation, and specifically of Adam and Eve, tells of the goodness of all things that exist, and the superiority of man over other beings. It shows how the origin of evil does not lie in God but in his most perfect creature whose free act of sin brought wickedness and death to the world, how man lost the "likeness" of God, his response to God's love.
The Church teaches that when we do not respond to God's love, we are diminished as human beings. The act of faith that he asks of us is not so very different from the faith and trust we place in those people who surround us. When we do not respond to the love given us by the people who love us, we become shallow and hardened individuals.


Since man still was of God's image, the search for meaning was as critical for human existence as are air and water. Creation itself, as the handiwork of God pointed to him. Yet, before the coming of Christ, the meaning of the world and our place in it remained difficult to understand. People created stories to help themselves explain the great mystery of their own existence, the world around them, and the one who was responsible for bringing them into being. Yet, knowledge of the true God eluded them. The Holy Scriptures speak of this lack of knowledge as darkness. So God sent messengers to speak for him, holy men and women through whom he worked wonders, prophets to announce the coming salvation. Finally, God sent his own Son, Jesus Christ. When he came, the very one who had created the world was now clearly made known to the world, giving light to those who had been sitting in darkness.


But because man fell, the Incarnation is not only an act of love but an act of salvation. Jesus Christ, by uniting man and God in his own person, reopened for man the path to union with God. In his own person Christ showed what the true 'likeness of God' is, and through his redeeming and victorious sacrifice he set that likeness once again within man's reach. Christ, the Second Adam, came to earth and reversed the effects of the first Adam's disobedience.

The Church

Salvation means that the world is not an end in and of itself. It is a reality that points to the larger reality of God's love for us and all that surrounds us. The world, time, history, our very lives are "an epiphany of God, a means of his revelation, presence and power."
God did not abandon his people after Christ's ascension into heaven. His Church, starting on Pentecost, is still with us today.

Final Judgment

Christ will judge all people exclusively on the basis of how they have served him by serving each other, the least of the brethren. This will show how each person loved God and each other. The love for God and the love for man, becoming one and the same love. It is accomplished in Christ and is Christ. To love with this love is to love with the love of Christ and to fulfill his "new commandment" to "love one another even as I have loved you." (John 13:34-35, 15:12) In this is the whole of spiritual life. In this, and this alone, man will be finally judged. It is the crown of all virtue and prayer, the ultimate and most perfect fruit of God's Spirit in man.
The final coming of Christ will be the judgment of all men. His very presence will be the judgment. For those who love the Lord, his presence will be infinite joy, paradise and eternal life. For those who hate the Lord, the same presence will be infinite torture, hell and eternal death.

May they all be one

'May they all be one,' Christ prayed at the Last Supper; "As Thou, Father, art in me and I in Thee, so also may they be in us" (John 17:21). Just as the three persons of the Trinity 'dwell' in one another in an unceasing movement of love, so man, made in the image of the Trinity, is called to 'dwell' in the Trinitarian God.

Outside the Church there is no salvation

Saint Cyprian wrote, 'A man cannot have God as his Father if he does not have the Church as his Mother'. God is salvation, and God's saving power is mediated to man in His Body, the Church. This stated the other way around by Georges Florovsky: 'Outside the Church there is no salvation, because salvation is the Church'.
The Church is the unity of those united with the Trinity. The One Church united as the three persons of Trinity are united. If one in the Church makes proper use of this Church, for communion with God, then he will become 'like' God, he will acquire the divine likeness; in the words of John Damascene, he will be 'assimilated to God through virtue.' To acquire the likeness is to be deified, it is to become a 'god by grace,' [not by nature or essence].

The following is taken from "Orthodox Church-Wikipedia": 

Sin, salvation and the incarnation

At some point in the beginnings of human existence man was faced with a choice, to learn the difference between good and evil through observation or through participation. The biblical story of Adam and Eve represents this choice by mankind to participate in evil. This event is commonly referred to as “the fall of man” and it represents a fundamental change in human nature. When Orthodox Christians refer to Original Sin what they mean is this adoption of evil into human nature. As a result of this sin, mankind was doomed to be separated from God. This was mankind’s ultimate dilemma. The solution to this problem was for God to effect another change in human nature. Orthodox Christians believe that Christ Jesus was both God and Man absolutely. He was born, lived and died. Through God’s participation in humanity, human nature is changed thus saving us from the fate of hell. The effective change included all those who had died from the beginning of time – saving everyone including Adam and Eve. This process, to Orthodox Christians is what is meant by “Salvation”. The ultimate goal is theosis – an even closer union with God and closer likeness to God than existed in the Garden of Eden.


Briefly, what we are to understand is that human nature was created by God as "good", without defect or mar.  When Man sinned, to this "good" nature was attached corruption or evil, separating Man from God.  With the Incarnation, God in Christ, the God-Man, restored humanity, but even more than this, He "recreated" human nature  making it other than what it was before the Fall because the Son of God, The Second Person of the Holy Trinity, Very God of Very God(as the Creed states),"entered into the creation deifying it.

Salvation as it was understood in the beginning, and as it is understood to this day in the Orthodox Church, is not only the payment of a debt by Christ at the Cross but involves something more than this.  We bring this out in order to help those who are not Orthodox Christians listening to our program the difference in the views of salvation as offered on one hand by Roman Catholic teaching and which Protestant teaching follows, and that of the Orthodox Catholic Church.

The following is from here from a person called Herman.  He was asked the following question by someone:

"Could you please explain to me, how a Protestant's (Evangelical /Charismatic)view on Salvation is different to Russian Orthodox?"

To which he replied,

"One major difference is that Protestants tend to view "salvation" as an event. It is the moment you "accept Jesus into your heart". Orthodoxy teaches that salvation is the journey itself, not the destination. Protestants tend to accept the Catholic teaching, that sin is a crime to be punished, rather than the Orthodox position, that sin is a disease to be healed. They do not understand that the Church is the spiritual hospital, ordained by the Divine Physician, Jesus Christ. Protestants, by and large, do not understand the efficacy of the sacraments, how they serve as medicine in the healing process, or how fasting helps build up our resistance to the disease of sin."

We mention all this to better make sense of why we forgive. When we forgive, we are acting as God and when we act as God, we are partaking in His Energies and when we partake of His Energies we are deified which means we take part in the Very Life of God Himself and are thereby healed.

So to forgive for the sake of the Gospel is to obey Christ's commandment and to find and know Life Himself.

VI.  What Happens When I Forgive?

We have spoken on what forgiveness is and why we forgive.  We have seen that to forgive is to participate in the Gospel in the very real way that as God forgives us, we are to forgive others, all others.

Further, forgiveness brings healing to the one who wronged but as well and just as importantly, forgiveness brings healing to the one wronged who is doing the forgiving.

I used to have a person in my life who was a spiritual guide of sorts.  It so happened that one time, when I used to work for a man whom I felt superior to, that I developed an extreme dislike of him and also a disdain because I felt I was better at the work of which he was my boss.

I steamed and stewed for days over this and that.  Not being able to bear the fact that I knew I shouldn't be feeling this way and entertaining such thoughts, I finally went to my "spiritual guide" for help.  I related to him all the bad things this person had done to me and I explained how justified I was to feel such feelings and the like.

He listened to me patiently for some time and then finally, I had said all that I felt needed saying to him.  I then looked for resolution to my problem from him and I guess I sort of expected him to see how right I was after all and how justified I was to be feeling what I was feeling.

He gave me none of that but instead asked me a simple question:  "Do you want to be free or do you want to be right?".

That question took me back and made me realize that as I held on to all the anger, hurt, injustice I felt I had endured at my boss' hands(in truth, looking back, I was very wrong in my estimation of my boss of this time),  I was a slave and in bondage to a certain condition of soul and mind that I could only be free of if I chose to simply forgive him and let go of any and all of my "rights" in the given situation.

Another very important thing to understand about forgiveness is how important it is to us that God indeed forgives.  If we believed that God did not forgive, we would give up on the spiritual life and despair.  But His forgiveness spurs us on to keep trying, to keep getting back up after our falls.  His forgiveness towards us teaches us to keep trusting Him.  His forgiveness of us extends as often as we turn to Him and seek His friendship once again.  When we sin, what we are doing is breaking our friendship with Him.  We turn on Him and follow after our own lusts and pursuits and shun Him. When we confess before Him and each other, we restore this friendship and once again the communion which happens between persons who are friends takes place and heals us.  And God forever seeks out this restoration between Himself and us.  It is we who choose to stay separated from Him and not He from us.

VII.  More passages from the Holy Scripture on Forgiveness

The Lord Jesus Christ in the Gospels

Mark 11:25-26:  "And whenever you stand praying, if you have anything against anyone, forgive him, that your Father in heaven may also forgive you your trespasses.  But if you do not forgive, neither will your Father in heaven forgive your trespasses."

Luke 6:37: "Judge not, and you shall not be judged.  Condemn not, and you shall not be condemned.  Forgive, and you will be forgiven."

Luke 17:3-4:  "Take heed to yourselves. If your brother sins against you,  rebuke him; and if he repents, forgive him. And if he sins against you seven times in a day, and seven times in a day returns to you, saying, 'I repent,' you shall forgive him." 

Luke 23:34:  "Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do."

The Book of Acts- Stephen the Proto Martyr

Chapter 7:60:  Then he knelt down and cried out with a loud voice, "Lord, do not charge them with this sin."  And when he had said this, he fell asleep.

The Epistles of Paul and the other Epistles

There are numerous references to forgiveness but in a bit of a different context.  They are not spoken of in the Epistles for the most part as we have discussed thus far where we are commanded to forgive to receive salvation.  Forgiveness here is more often spoken of in the context of how God has forgiven us or is willing to forgive us when we confess our sins.

VIII.  Further thoughts on forgiveness

There is another definition in Webster's Ninth New Collegiate Dictionary for "forgiving".  The definition is as follows:  1.  willing or able to forgive  2.  allowing room for error or weakness.

This definition goes a little further in that it brings to our attention another aspect of forgiveness.  So far we have been discussing the need to forgive on a case by case basis, so to speak.  In other words, when someone affronts us, then we are to forgive.  And we are to do this over and over again, imitating how God has mercy on us.

What is unique to the definition of "forgiving" compared to the definition we have been working with thus far is that with this word we are called on to adopt prior to any wrong committed by others a recognition of the very propensity in them that they cannot help but sin, fallen as they are.  This recognition is further aided when in fact we recognize in ourselves this very same propensity for sin and error and the need for forgiveness for ourselves.

This type of forgiveness speaks of a spirit which "rushes ahead" of any given person or situation and lays the groundwork for the humility necessary to forgive the expected sin and affront that will happen.  This type of forgiveness takes into account the expected trespasses because one knows that all are struggling in some way under their own particular burdens that God in His goodness has provided for them to help them turn to Him and repent.

This is brought out for us wonderfully by St. Paul in two particular passages.

Ephesians 4:32:  And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you.

Colossians 3:12-14:   Therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, put on tender mercies, kindness, humility, meekness, longsuffering;  bearing with one another, and forgiving one another, if anyone has a complaint against another; even as Christ forgave you, so you also must do.But above all these things put on love, which is the bond of perfection.

VIII.  A Reminder 

We should always bear in mind when learning on these matters that we cannot isolate one teaching unto itself.  We spoke about this on previous shows and noted that with the "Pillars of Piety", one feeds into the others and the others encapsulate the whole of each and of all the others within themselves.

Therefore to forgive more perfectly, we should remember that it is an effort and an "art" given into our hands to practice just like all the other virtues. We are working to more fully reflect God and this requires us to cleanse our hearts.  As we spoke of earlier, we were created with a "good" nature but because of the Fall and our own subsequent sin, corruption attached itself to our good nature and hid the image.

To not forgive is part of the corruption and we are to struggle, by God's grace, to learn to perform all of Christ's commandments for the aid of our healing or salvation.

Saint Paul, in his Second Epistle to the Corinthians says in Chapter 7, verse 1:

Therefore, having these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God.

Now we must recognize that the power to forgive does not lie with us but with God.  And in order to commune with Him to receive this grace, we pray.  We more fully learn how to pray when we give alms and fast.  We also can reverse any of these or interchange them and recognize that they all tie into and lead into each other.

We would like to offer this one section from "The Way of the Pilgrim and the Pilgrim Continues His Way".  It is from the section titled On the Power of Prayer.  In this section the character in the book, The Skhimnik, reads from an article to his friends and talks about how prayer itself is the path and that when one undertakes this path, the path itself will direct the Christian.  In other words, the one who practices prayer thus will do what he wills but as he does whatever he is doing, by praying ceaselessly, what he does will be purified over time and with the effort of praying in all that he does.

In  Point 5 of the article he says:

Pray somehow or other, only pray always and be disturbed by nothing. Be light in spirit and peaceful. Prayer will arrange everything and teach you. Remember what the Saints—John Chrysostom and Mark the Ascetic—say about the power of prayer. The first declares that prayer, even though it be offered by us who are full of sin, yet cleanses us at once. The latter says, "To pray somehow is within our power, but to pray purely is the gift of grace." So offer to God what it is within your power to offer. Bring to Him at first just quantity (which is within your power), and God will pour upon you strength in your weakness. "Prayer, dry and distracted maybe, but continuous, will establish a habit and become second nature and turn itself into prayer that is pure, luminous, flaming, and worthy."

So if we do not know how to forgive very well, we should not despair but understand with prayer and the other efforts given to us by the Church we may learn to forgive more perfectly over time, by God's grace.

IX.  The Saint of Forgiveness, Dionysius of Zakynthos 

From here.

(In the midst of a description of this particular Saint and other details from his life, we have this following story preserved for us)

A certain stranger murdered the saint's brother Constantine, an illustrious nobleman. Fearing his victim's relatives, the stranger, by chance or by God's will, sought refuge in the monastery where St Dionysius was the abbot. When the saint asked the fugitive why he was so frightened, he confessed his sin and revealed the name of the man he had murdered, asking to be protected from the family's vengeance. St Dionysius wept for his only brother, as was natural. Then he comforted the murderer and hid him, showing him great compassion and love.

Soon the saint's relatives came to the monastery with a group of armed men and told him what had happened. He pretended to know nothing about it. After weeping with them and trying to console them, he sent them off in the wrong direction. Then he told the murderer that he was the brother of the man he had killed. He admonished him as a father, and brought him to repentance. After forgiving him, St Dionysius brought him down to the shore and helped him to escape to another place in order to save his life. Because of the saint's Christ-like virtue, he was granted the gift of working miracles.

X.  Sayings from various Holy Fathers and other Orthodox writers on Forgiveness

'And forgive us our debts as we also forgive our debtors.' For we have many sins. For we offend both in word and in thought, and very many things we do worthy of condemnation; and 'if we say that we have no sin' (I Jn. 1:8), we lie, as John says...The offenses committed against us are slight and trivial, and easily settled; but those which we have committed against God are great, and need such mercy as His only is. Take heed, therefore, lest for the slight and trivial sins against you, you shut out for yourself forgiveness from God for your very grievous sins. St. Cyril of Jerusalem (Catechetical Lectures: Lecture 23 no. 16)

Abba Poemen also said this about Abba Isidore that whenever he addressed the brothers in church he said only one thing, "Forgive your brother, so that you also may be forgiven." The Desert Fathers

Do we forgive our neighbors their trespasses? God also forgives us in His mercy. Do we refuse to forgive? God, too, will refuse to forgive us. As we treat our neighbors, so also does God treat us. The forgiveness, then, of your sins or unforgiveness, and hence also your salvation or destruction, depend on you yourself, man. For without forgiveness of sins there is no salvation. You can see for yourself how terrible it is. (I was not able to ascertain the source of this saying as it is ascribed to both St. Philotheos of Sinai and to St. Tikhon of Zadonsk, Journey to Heaven)

Forgive and pray, in order to live your life serenely. And do not do to others that which you do not want them to do to you, or return the evil which they have done to you. Modern Orthodox Saints Saints Raphael, Nicholas and Irene of Lesvos., by Constantine Cavarnos., INSTITUTE FOR BYZANTINE AND MODERN STUDIES., Belmont, Massachusetts., 1990., pp. 145-155

Forgiveness is better than revenge. St. Tikhon of Zadonsk

Hence, in whatever state a person is, he sometimes finds himself making pure and intense prayers. For even from that first and lowest sort, which has to do with recalling the future judgment, the one who is still subject to the punishment of terror and the fear of judgment is occasionally so struck with compunction that he is filled with no less joy of spirit from the richness of his supplication than the one who, examining the kindnesses of God and going over them in the purity of his heart, dissolves into unspeakable gladness and delight. For, according to the words of the Lord, the one who realizes that more has been forgiven him begins to love more. St. John Cassian, The Conferences

If you want cure your soul, you need four things. The first is to forgive your enemies. The second is to confess thoroughly. The third is to blame yourself. The fourth is to resolve to sin no more. If we wish to be saved, we must always blame ourselves and not attribute our wrong acts to others. And God, Who is most compassionate, will forgive us. Modern Orthodox Saints I, St. Cosmas Aitolos).Dr. Constantine Cavarnos., INSTITUTE FOR BYZANTINE AND MODERN GREEK STUDIES., Belmont, Massachusetts., pp.81-94

No one is as good and kind as the Lord is; but He does not forgive one who does not repent. St. Mark the Ascetic

Sincere repentance is a gift of God such that, although we may not have committed any severe fall into sin or evil deed, we still see ourselves in our true light, see how weak we are, how much we sin in the mind, in our feelings, and especially in our imagination. Looking honestly at ourselves, we have nothing left to say except "Lord God have mercy on me, help me, and forgive, forgive, forgive me!" Then forgiveness will come into our souls like Pascha, and we are as it were born anew. And if the Lord should forgive, who will condemn us? Metropolitan Vitaly, Paschal Encyclical, 2001 (

The deeper the contrition, the better. But however deep the contrition, never admit a shadow of doubt about forgiveness. Forgiveness is already fully prepared and the record of all sins has been torn up on the Cross. Repentance and contrition alone are expected of every man, before he too can participate in the power of the redemption of the sins of the world through the Crucifixion. Lorenzo Scupoli (Unseen Warfare: Chapter 28)

The drunkard, the fornicator, the proud - he will receive God's mercy. But he who does not want to forgive, to excuse, to justify consciously, intentionally... ...that person closes himself to eternal life before God, and even more so in the present life. He is turned away and not heard. Elder Sampson of Russia

Thou dost not so much desire thy sins to be forgiven, as He desires to forgive thee thy sins. In proof that thou dost not so desire it, consider that thou hast no mind either to practice vigils, or to give thy money freely: but He, that He might forgive our sins, spared not His Only-Begotten and True Son, the partner of His throne St. John Chrysostom

Thus should we weep for the forgiveness of our sins. The words of the bearer of the purple should convince us of this: 'Going they went and wept, casting their seed; but coming they shall come with joyfulness, carrying their sheaves (Ps. 125:6);' as well as the words of St. Isaac the Syrian: 'Moisten your cheeks with the tears of your eyes, that the Holy Spirit may abide in you, and cleanse the filth of your malice. Move your lord with your tears, that He may help you' (homily 68). St. Seraphim of Sarov
---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- is impossible for a man to be freed from the habit of sin before he hates it, just as it is impossible to receive forgiveness before confessing his trespasses... Monks Callistus and Ignatius (Directions to Hesychasts no. 28, Writings from the Philokalia on Prayer of the Heart; Faber and Faber pg. 199)
 (And the following story illustrates very well the powerful effect of mercy and compassion)

In 1944, the Russian poet Yevgeny Yevtushenko's mother took him from Siberia to Moscow. They were among those who witnessed a procession of twenty-thousand German war prisoners marching through the streets of Moscow:

The pavements swarmed with onlookers, cordoned off by soldiers and police. The crowd was mostly women -- Russian women with hands roughened by hard work, lips untouched by lipstick, and with thin hunched shoulders which had borne half of the burden of the war. Every one of them must have had a father or a husband, a brother or a son killed by the Germans. They gazed with hatred in the direction from which the column was to appear.

At last we saw it. The generals marched at the head, massive chins stuck out, lips folded disdainfully, their whole demeanor meant to show superiority over their plebian victors.

"'They smell of perfume, the bastards," someone in the crowd said with hatred. The women were clenching their fists. The soldiers and policemen had all they could do to hold them back.

All at once something happened to them. They saw German soldiers, thin, unshaven, wearing dirty blood-stained bandages, hobbling on crutches or leaning on the shoulders of their comrades; the soldiers walked with their heads down. The street became dead silent -- the only sound was the shuffling of boots and the thumping of crutches.
Then I saw an elderly women in broken-down boots push herself forward and touch a policeman's shoulder, saying, "Let me through." There must have been something about her that made him step aside. She went up to the column, took from inside her coat something wrapped in a colored handkerchief and unfolded it. It was a crust of black bread. She pushed it awkwardly into the pocket of a soldier, so exhausted that he was tottering on his feet. And now from every side women were running toward the soldiers, pushing into their hands bread, cigarettes, whatever they had. The soldiers were no longer enemies. They were people. A Precocious Autobiography, Yevgeny Yevtushenko, Collins, London

XI.   Further Reading on Resentment and Forgiveness

We highly recommend the  article written by Hieromonk Damascene, Resentment and Forgiveness which you can click on the link to access.