Orthodox Outlet for Dogmatic Enquiries

Digital Books

Essays about Orthodoxy

Its Faith, Worship and Life
Rev. Antonios Alevizopoulos, Th.D., Ph.D
To my wife, Presvitera Antonia

Translated by Rev. Stephen Avramides

Taken from:  http://www.geocities.com/alevisop/orthodox/index.html

ATHENS 1994 DIALOGUE Publications, No. 7.
Published by the Information, Dialogue and Culture Services of the Archdiocese of Athens in collaboration with "The PanHellenic Parents Union for the Protection of Greek Orthodox Culture the Family and the Individual".
 Copyright 1994: Antonios Alevizopoulos, Iasiou 1, Athens Gr. 115 21.




Very Reverend Protopresbyter Antonios Alevizopoulos, our beloved son in Christ, Grace and Peace from God be with you.

It was with joy that we were informed through your letter of 15th February of the content and purpose of your book, "The Orthodox Church, its Faith, Worship and Life", as well as of your intention to publish it in other languages. For this purpose you have asked for the prayers and blessings of our Lowliness and those of the Mother Church.


We consider as completely justified your anxieties over the ideological confusion existing in the world and over the activity of various sects in Orthodox countries, which for some years now are becoming more and more systematic.


Our most Holy Orthodox Church constitutes, especially today, the Ark of Salvation for man and the world; her unadulterated theology, which is true knowledge about God, her saving anthropology made known to man through the incarnation of the Word, and her attestation to the value of the human person wrought through theosis by Grace, fully comfort man, and the presentation of the Church's ascetic spirit, expressed as it is in her daily Services and in the fulfilling of the divine commandments constitute in our ever increasingly secular society the necessary pastoral aids for the salvation of God's children, for whom Christ came into the world, died, and rose from the dead.


Assuredly, it is towards all these things that your Reverence aims in translating your book into other languages. We therefore paternally bless your labour and wholeheartedly congratulate you, invoking upon you and your co-workers all of God's strength in your most valuable ministry for His glory.


Your ardent intercessor before God




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Protocol No. 766 Athens, 20 February 1992

Dispatch No. 287


To: The Holy Archdiocese of Athens and the Sacred Metropolitanates of the Church of Greece.


By decision taken during its session of 4th February 1992 the Holy Synod of the Church of Greece hereby informs you that recently a work written by the Rev. Protopresbyter Antonios Alevizopoulos, Secretary of the Synodical Committee dealing with sects, and entitled: The Orthodox Church, its Faith, Worship and Life, has been published. It is dogmatic and liturgical in content, and we recommend it to you for wide distribution and

circulation, for the benefit of the holy clergy and the faithful of our Holy Orthodox Church.


By command of the Holy Synod



Archimandrite Damaskenos Karpathakis


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From the Prologue to the Romanian translation of this book


..."This book, as all the works of Father Antonios Alevizopoulos, betray a soul ablaze with zeal for Orthodoxy, for that part of Christianity which down through the ages - despite the fearful attacks of its enemies - remained holy and unblemished.


For a long time now, Father Alevizopoulos' name has been known to us, and we now rejoice since this book brings him near to us and reveals to us all the richness of his spiritual depth.


God has always preserved unto Himself a remnant, a holy portion, great men, in order to lead truth to its final and complete victory. Father Antonios is numbered among them and our hearts are filled with joy and hope, seeing that Holy Orthodoxy always has its champions. The value of this book will surely be incalculable, and we present it to our Orthodox faithful as a special blessing of God. We congratulate all who laboured: the author, the translator and the publisher."


Protopresbyter Dimitru Staniloae


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The plethora of ideological currents, the various theories regarding the cosmos and the multitude of religious groups that are active in our world today are a cause of confusion and uncertainty for many. This confusion is further multiplied by the fact that many of our Christian terms are used in a new context and with a different meaning.


Thus the need for a fixed point upon which one can depend in order to orientate himself, for a "standard" by which to correctly evaluate things, becomes apparent. This book was written to provide such a standard. In an age when syncretism dominates the ideological and religious spheres, the defining of our faith becomes an urgent necessity. With this book we have tried to offer a synopsis of the Orthodox faith in direct relationship with Orthodox worship and life. The basic motivation behind its authorship was to fill the lack of a concise text that seriously took into account the various currents of our time and provided Orthodox solutions to existential problems faced by people of today, and informed the interested reader, whether Orthodox or not, as to what Orthodoxy is and as to the solutions she offers to the impasses faced by our world today.


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Searching for the Truth

The problem of where the truth lies has occupied mankind down through the ages; it is a problem that is always contemporary and of its very nature leads man to seek an answer. The Philosophers, especially the ancient Greeks, posed the question: "What is the truth?" and most men have searched for it rationally. Some said that truth is an Idea, a "principle of all things", the "prime mover unmoved" and called it God.

But this "God", the God of the philosophers, cannot redeem. He touches only man's rational faculty, and not man as a whole; no one can come into personal commu­nion with him since he is not a person, but something impersonal; an universal Mind that acts blindly, or is so distant and so transcendental that he has no interest in man or in the world.

 There can be no doubt that anyone with a good disposition, upon observing creation and using his human potential, can discover evidence of God's existence. However, he will discover only the concept of God, but not God Himself, salvific truth.

Others, down through the ages, have created world idols and a multitude of deities. They established "divine" laws and rules and created systems of worship of human provenance. All these, however, are simply expressions of man himself; they do not transcend the created realm, created reality; they do not, in other words, reveal the one true God Who transcends the created world.

 Again, still others believe that man is by nature God. It remains simply for him to understand "his true self; nothing need change save his stance vis-a-vis his God-self, rejecting any thought that might differentiate him from his own divinity and recognize the existence of a God outside and beyond him.

 In the final analysis, such an approach to God cannot satisfy man. It leads to an infinite loneliness which is contrary to human nature. By nature, man seeks warmth, love, communion with others and not only with himself; Without these things, he cannot exist. That is why he continuously seeks them. He is not satisfied with man-made concepts concerning God. He desires to rise above created reality, above creation and seek the meaning of life in communion with the uncreated and eternal God.


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Christian Truth

This void which is created in man who seeks saving truth is filled by the Church. The Christian does not seek man-made truth; rational truth, an idea or some cosmic Mind, called God.

He seeks truth which transcends human limits and all of creation. Moreover, he seeks God who can enter into personal communion with him, into a communion of love, i.e. he seeks God who is a person.

For the Christian, the knowledge of God has a different significance. It is not simply an object of rational approaching or an impersonal delving into a Principle of the Universe which excludes every personal relationship. Christian knowledge of God is an event of personal communion between God and man, a commu­nion related to man's entire existence and not relegated simply to his rational faculty.

"Knowledge" therefore, according to the Christian concept, is not the product of rational activity, separated from love; indeed in the Holy Scriptures the term is used to express the consummation of interpersonal communion within marriage (Gen. 4,1). Such a communion does not abrogate man's person within some sort of "cosmic" principle; rather it protects it! Through this communion mortal man transcends the condition of creatureliness, that is, his createdness, and participates in the life of the uncreated and eternal God.

Man, however, cannot realize this transcendence through his own abilities and potential, which out of necessity are limited to the realm of created reality. Man's very nature is an insurmountable hindrance which makes his passing over or "ascent" to, and approaching God impossible. An ontological abyss, i.e. an impassable chasm related to God's and man's essence, separates man from God. Man cannot transcend this abyss.

But that which man cannot do, God does out of love for His creature: He "descends" or rather "condescends" i.e. He adapts to man's condition, transcends the abyss, reveals Himself to His creature and offers him the possibility of a real communion of love and life.

Christian knowledge of truth, i.e. eternal life, is and remains the great gift of our affectionate Heavenly Father. It is not the result of our human endeavours. That which God offers us is not conditioned by our strivings. It is the fruit of God's freedom and love. This gift is offered freely and ought to be accepted always with gratitude. No one can force the donor to offer his gifts.

Moreover, God does not violate man's will. He lets him make his own free choice. He allows him to respond with his love to God's love or to reject that love. Such a choice does not belong to man's rational domain, i.e. a rational turning towards God on man's part is not enough. Man must participate in totality. What is needed is tangible proof of man's holistic turning toward God that includes his struggle for spiritual catharsis, the carrying out of God's commandment. Without this basic presupposition it is impossible to find God:

"For perverse thoughts separate men from God, and when his power is tested, it convicts the foolish; because wisdom will not enter a deceitful soul, nor dwell in a body enslaved to sin. For a holy and disciplined spirit will flee from deceit, and will rise and depart from foolish thoughts, and will be ashamed at the approach of unrighteousness." (Wisdom of Solomon 1,3-5).

The free exercise of the divine virtues leads man away from autonomy. It functions within the realm of God's love. Man, through his obedience and through the carrying out of God's commandments humbles his body and his mind, recognizing that by himself he can neither embark nor continue upon the path of the true knowledge of God. His entire life becomes a cry unto God. God then condescends and offers to man the grace of the knowledge of Himself. Man becomes a partaker in this grace, which is God's gift, and which is called uncreated divine energy. Of course grace is not identical with God's essence. God' essence remains unapproachable and incomprehensible for man. Grace however, springs from God' essence which is its source. Hence it is not created but uncreated. This is why God's condescension signifies for man true knowledge of God, eternal life and salvation. This is the Christian concept concerning the knowledge of God.

For the faithful to reach this saving knowledge it is necessary that he "bow his head", that he submit in love to the merciful Lord. It is for this reason that the priest-celebrant of the divine services, after the command "bow your heads unto the Lord", prays:

"O Lord our God, Who didst bow the heavens and come down for the salvation of the race of men, look upon Thy servants and upon Thine inheritance. For unto Thee, the fearful and man-befriending Judge, have Thy servants inclined their heads and bowed their necks, looking for succour not from men, but abiding Thy mercy and awaiting Thy salvation..."

With the Christian concept of truth and its "knowl­edge", man's life acquires a deeper, a true meaning and eternal destiny. It sufficeth that man consider the "knowledge" of God as the most precious treasure in his life, and that he seek it out properly. Then will God's grace touch him and desire for God will become so great that nothing can stand between him and God or separate him from God's love:

"Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?...For thy sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered. No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us." (Romans 8, 35-39).

This is the path that the holy martyrs of our Church followed; Thus the hymn of the Church states:

"Neither tribulation, nor distress, nor famine, nor persecution, nor whip, nor anger of beasts, nor sword, nor fire, can threaten you, all-laudable Martyrs, with separation from God; for you have escaped nature in disdaining death by your yearning for Him and struggling as if in bodies foreign to you...".


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God in Trinity - A Communion of Persons


We Orthodox Christians believe in a Trinitarian God. God is not an isolated being, but communion and love. He is Father, Son and Holy Spirit; He is not one Person but three. Between the Father, Son and Holy Spirit there exists a pre-eternal communion of love. This does not imply, however, that we Christians believe in three Gods, but in One. There is but one divine essence and it is indivisible. This is why we speak of one God in Trinity. The unique source of the one divine essence is the Father. He it is who transmits pre-eternally, (ðñïáéùíßùòi.e. without beginning, existence to the Son through pre-eternal generation, and to the Holy Spirit, through pre-eternal procession.
Here we must note that in the Orthodox Church "procession" is contrasted to "sending". The Holy Spirit proceeds pre-eternally from the Father alone. "In time" (temporally) He is sent from the Son for the salvation of man. In other words a distinction is made between the pre-eternal transmission of the divine essence from the Father, and the Divine Economy, i.e. the mystery of man's salvation (John 15,26). The Orthodox Church does not accept the so-called "Filioque", the teaching that the Holy Spirit proceeds "and from the Son".
Our faith in the Triune God is not a man-made discovery, but revelation from God. He who is unapproachable for man, reveals Himself to man and becomes approachable.
Already in the Old Testament the Triune God appears as the Creator of man and the entire world. He is created not by the Father alone, but from the Father through the Son and is perfected "in the Holy Spirit", with one will and one energy. "In the beginning God created the Heaven and the earth...and the spirit of God was moving over the face of the water", the Old Testament tells us characteristically, using in Hebrew the word Elohim for God, which is a plural form. And for the creation of man God spoke and said: "let us make man according to our image and likeness" (Gen. 1,26).
We confess that there is only one will and one energy for the three Persons of the Holy Trinity. The Father wills and acts those things which the Son and the Holy Spirit will and act. Many passages in Holy Scripture manifest the unity of will and energy of the divine Persons which make up the One and Trinitarian God. That is why they are characterized as "Lord" (Kyrios), "The Lord God" or even " The Lord Pantocrator" (Almighty). These characteristics are at times attributed to the Father, at other times to the Son and at other times to the Holy Spirit. Thus, the "Lord" whom Isaiah saw (Isaiah 6,1-10) is, according to John 12,36-41, the Son, while according to Acts 28,25-27, the Holy Spirit.
This Trinitarian faith is expressed by Orthodox Christians by the manner in which they baptize and in the way they glorify God: they are baptized "in the Name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit" (Mtth. 28,19) and they glorify the Triune God: "glory to the Father, Son and Holy Spirit". Orthodox Christians then are baptized in the way that they believe and glorify God: in harmony with their Trinitarian faith. The three Persons of the Holy Trinity are not separated, neither are they confused; they exist one in the other (perichoresis); i.e. each one of the divine persons is always within each of the other two. There where the Father is, is also the Son and the Holy Spirit. And wherever the Son is, there also is the Father and the Holy Spirit. Where the Holy Spirit is, there also are the Father and the Son.
As we have mentioned, there is only one source which pre-eternally provides the divine essence: the Father. That which has been revealed to us concerning the distinction of the divine persons is the manner in which the divine essence is imparted: to the Son: through pre-eternal generation; the Father pre-eternally begets the Son; to the Holy Spirit: through pre-eternal procession; the Holy Spirit pre-eternally proceeds from the Father.
This divine revelation of the Triune God was given for man's salvation and not in order to satisfy his curiosity. According to the Christian teaching, man was created according to God's image. Knowing therefore that God is a communion of persons, man delves into the knowledge of his own nature; he realizes that he also is not condemned to isolation, but created for communion and love. If God, who is man's archetype, were not Triune, then man could never realize that which he so deeply desires: communion and love. His entire life would be without any release. This is why we declare that our faith in the Holy Trinity constitutes man's only hope: "we have found true faith in worshipping the Trinity undivided; for the Trinity has saved us" epigrammatically states one of the hymns of the Divine Liturgy.
In regard to this faith, the Orthodox Christian does not try to convince others with logical arguments so that they will accept it. For should he do so, he is obliged to move about in the field of purely human searching and not on the level of God's revelation.
Addressing himself to the Corinthians, St. Paul underlines: "God has revealed [these things] to us through the Spirit. For the Spirit searches everything, even the depths of God...So also no one comprehends God except the Spirit of God. Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit which is from God, that we might understand the gifts bestowed upon us by God. And we impart this in words not taught by human wisdom but taught by the Spirit, interpreting spiritual truths to those who possess the Spirit. The unspiritual man does not receive the gifts of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned. The spiritual man judges all things, but is himself to be judged by no one." (I Cor. 2, 10-15).
In unity with the Trinitarian faith the Orthodox Church chants:
"Come, Ï ye peoples, let us worship the Godhead of three Hypostases:
the Son in the Father, with the Holy Spirit; for the Father timelessly begat the Son,
Who is co-eternal and of one throne; and the Holy Spirit was in the Father,
glorified with the Son; one Might, one Essence, one Godhead, which we all worship saying:
Holy God,
Who didst create all things through the Son,
with the cooperation of the Holy Spirit.
Holy Mighty,
through Whom we have known the Father,
and through Whom the Holy Spirit came to the world.
Holy Immortal, the Comforting Spirit,
Who proceedest from the Father and resteth in the Son.
Ï Holy Trinity, glory be to Thee.
(the Doxastikon of Pentecost Vespers)


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Orthodox Christians believe that God is "the Creator of heaven and earth, and of all things visible and invisible". The world is not eternal; only God is eternal. He created the entire world out of nothing: "for he spoke, and it came to be; He commanded, and it stood forth" (Ps. 33,9).

Man cannot determine the manner in which the world came into being; for it is not an object of scientific examination, for it transcends man's "rational" ability (his logic). Man is part of created reality, he cannot become an "observer" of the manner in which he himself was created!

The world is not of the same nature with God; "by nature" it is entirely different. The world is not a creation from the essence of God, "light from light" but the fruit of God's volition and freedom; there is an insurmountable chasm separating God's essence from the essence of the created world.

God need not have created the world. The world, however, was pre-eternally in God's "thought". Thus the creation of the world does not mean a change in God's life. The world came into being according to God's plan and at a time which pre-eternally existed in God's will.

Before making visible creation, God created the spiritual world, i.e. the angels: "When the stars were created, all my angels with a loud voice praised me", says God to Job (Job 38,7). Neither angels nor men existed pre-eternally. Angels are spiritual persons. They were created in time and are limited by space; the swiftness, however, of the angelic nature allows them to act everywhere; only God is not limited by space.

Also, the angels, like men, were created mutable, but through God's grace and their own disposition, they became firm and unshakable in virtue and remain faithful in their original mission: to glorify God and to minister unto man's salvation (Isaiah, 6,3; Luke 2,14; Hebr. 1,14).

Man was from the beginning created as body and soul; man's soul did not pre-exist. Holy Scripture states: "And God created man, taking earth from the ground and breathed into his face the spirit of life, and man became a living being" (Gen. 2,7).

Underlining the distinction between the Creator and the creatures, the Orthodox Christian does not make an idol of nature or of himself. He does not hope that in "identifying" with nature, he will broaden his existence; he does not seek out certain apocryphal transcendental powers within nature, believing that by "activating" them he will solve the problems he faces. His hope has reference to God the Creator, for He has created us from the beginning "according to His image" with a purpose to achieve the "according to the Image" (Gen. 1,26); he does not refer to the created world or to his own self. The meaning of life is to be found in achieving the "according to the likeness", our Archetype, which is outside our own essence and not "within us".

All that exists was created by God "very good"; "And God saw everything that He had made, and behold, it was very good" (Gen. 1,31). The Orthodox Christian therefore evaluates all of material creation positively.

All things are the fruit of God's love, all things are sanctified in the Orthodox Church: not only man's soul, but his body as well, and all of material creation: all things contain within them the "seed" of perfection and are foreordained to life, free from corruption and death.



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Man "according to the image" of God

As we have already stated, man was created according to God's image; the Triune God is man's archetype. Consequently man is by nature not an isolated being but a communion of persons. It is impressive and moving to ponder upon the fact that God did not create individuals but a communion of persons. Holy Scripture observes: And God created man "according to the Image of God"; "male and female He created them" (Gen. 1,27). While Scripture refers to the creation of man, it underlines that God created man as a pair and not as two isolated individuals.

God created human nature, the "one man" who has myriads of persons. Thus to the mystery of the Triune God is added the mystery of man. Hence we cannot approach the mystery of man independently of faith in God, Who is his prototype, for without this faith we are unable to accept the unity and the simultaneous distinc­tion between men, and out of necessity are led either to the confusion of the persons or to isolation.

According to the Christian faith every human person possesses a specific, unique and unrepeatable being and this entity includes all of man. Thus the entity of the human species is not due to factors outside of human nature itself. It aims not at serving common goals nor is it based on common concerns and interests; it is not of a sociological, but rather of an ontological nature: it refers to man's essence. Man "is" man only in commu­nion with all of mankind. Without this communion he denies his very nature, i.e. he is alienated and lives the tragedy of hell.

According to the Christian faith this unity of the "one" man constitutes man's hope, which, as we shall now see, after the fall is realized in the person of Christ and in the body of Christ, the Church, where again every distinction is done away with and all become "one in Christ"; one man in Christ Jesus (Gal. 3,28). This is why Jesus Christ is also called "the last Adam", "the second man" (I Cor. 15,45,48).

This unity of human nature and multiplicity of human persons proves that man, just as his Archetype, is a community of persons. In this way the unity of mankind and the particularity of each man is preserved.

All these things give us a dimension of the image according to which man is created. We must however underline that the "according to the image' does not refer to the similarity of the essence. For God, according to His essence is unapproachable and incommunicable. The prayers and hymns of our Church, especially those that refer to our brothers who have fallen asleep in Christ, often speak of the "according to the image" and in general to the creation of man.

One of these hymns says that You created my body from the earth; my soul however You bestowed upon me with Your vivifying breath:

"From the earth Thou didst shape my body,
and didst give me a soul
by thy divine and quickening breath".
"Thou didst honour the creation of your hands,
Ï Saviour, with thine image,
by presenting in material form
the likeness of your noetic essence;
and you made me a partaker of it, Ï Word,
by placing me as master over the earth
with free will.
For this reason, Ï Saviour,
do thou grant rest to your servants
'in the land of the living'
and in the tents of the righteous".

The Orthodox Church especially puts forth another dimension of the "image", commenting on God's word to man: "and subdue the earth and have dominion..." (Gen. 1,28). A prayer states "...So that the honour might be distinguished from the life of the others, He planted a garden in Eden, graced with all types of plants, free from sadness and care, making me a partaker of divine life, and making me slightly lower than the angels upon the earth".

The Fathers of the Church say that the "according to the image",, refers to the similarity of authority. Man was placed as "having authority" over the rest of God's creation; he was raised to the level of becoming God's collaborator. This "authority" however should not be exercised in an arbitrary manner: contrary to man's nature and to his responsible place in God's world or contrary to the nature of the other creatures.

God determined a certain meaning for man's life. Likewise, all the other creatures came into existence with a specific purpose. All of creation constitutes an unique unity and harmony which in the Old Testament is expressed with the words: " And God saw all that He created, and behold it was very good" (Gen. 1,31). Man's authority over the rest of creation must be in harmony with God's will and His plan for all of cre­ation.

This dominion and authority is not infinite. God placed man in paradise "to till it and keep it" (Gen. 2,15). The fulfilment of man's mission required a deep knowledge of the creation. Man could have brought this task to a blessed conclusion. As the "according to the image" of the all-wise and almighty God, he could have developed science and knowledge to a wondrous degree and realized God's command to "subdue it and have dominion" (Gen. 1,28). This does not mean, as we have already said, that man has the right from God to make egoistic use of the world. Such a thing would shatter the unity and harmony which man was called, in accordance with God's plan, to serve.

But the personal God is also defined by freedom. And every man, being created "according to the image" of God Himself, has been created a free being.

This means that apostasy is not to be found in man's nature, but in his disposition. If man were by nature an apostate, i.e. a sinner, then apostasy would be a necessity in his life. No one could then choose the path of virtue and communion with God. This is why we mention that apostasy has its roots in man's free choice, i.e. his will.

Man therefore has the possibility of accepting a communion of love with God and serving creation in accordance with God's plan. Indeed, the Creator endowed man with His grace so as to easily be in a position to increase in virtue.

But one could ask, why didn't God create man virtuous without the possibility of apostasy? If apostasy did not exist as a possibility within man's will, then the exercise of virtue would be compulsory, something which would completely negate its value; because that which is done out of force is not virtue but necessity. If we now should want to correlate man's freedom with God's command "to subdue", we would say that man is able to enter into a communion of love with creation, serving it, or to proceed to an egoistic use of the environment with unforeseeable consequences for himself and for all of God's creation.

God therefore offers man the possibility of salvation without crushing him. He desires to have man's free consent. Even the most sacred of purposes which refers to the deeper meaning of man's life, i.e. his communion with God, does not move God to violate man's will, "for his own good". Here we are dealing with a communion of love which is possible only "in freedom". For that matter, what would paradise itself be if man were obliged to live there by force?


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The Fall

The Orthodox Church believes that man's fall was preceded by the fall of the spiritual world. The angels, being God's creatures, were good. They were not "immutable" towards evil however; i.e. their virtue was not the result of necessity but of free choice. After their free choice of the good, being sanctified by the Spirit, they would remain immovable towards evil, becoming divinized through their ascent towards the first Good. This is stressed by one of the hymns of our Church:

"Being sanctified by the Spirit, The multitude of the Angels Remain immovable towards evil, Being divinized through their Ascent to the prime Good."

This however was not the case with Lucifer and his angels, who moved towards evil, towards apostasy. According to the Christian faith, Lucifer is not a condition or a negative element in God's creation, but a distinct person. That is to say, we believe in the exist­ence of Lucifer, who after his fall was transformed into the Devil or Satan.

According to the Orthodox faith which is supported by divine Revelation, two eternal principles do not exist. Everything, all that came into existence, was created by God "very good" (Gen. 1,31). Lucifer's fall and that of his angels therefore was not due to their nature. The source of their fall is to be found in their evil disposition. Lucifer's choice aimed at his personal exaltation autonomously, i.e. cut off from God's love. The result was the exact opposite of the aim: " I shall ascend to heaven; above the stars of heaven shall I set my throne...I shall become similar to the Most High; Now, behold, you shall descend to Hades and to the founda­tions of the earth" (Is. 14,13-15).

The Devil, out of enmity for man, lured him to apostasy. He put into his mind the evil thought that he could achieve the purpose of his life, the likeness of God, autonomy. The Devil's aim was to detach man from his communion with God and in this way to set at nought God's plan for man. He certainly knew that man had been created according to God's image, i.e. free, and that God, out of love, would not violate man's freedom.

In order to help man make his conscientious choice, God instituted a prohibition: that of eating from the "tree of knowledge of good and evil", and forewarned man that if he transgressed this commandment, he would cut himself off from union with Him, i.e., he would die (Gen. 2,17).

The Devil appeared to man in disguise, and reversed God's word, maintaining that the transgressing of God's commandment would lead to theosis (Gen.3,5). Yet still man's fall would not have come about if he with his free will had not responded to the Devil's call. Man's act of eating of the forbidden fruit was an act of communion with the Devil, and not with God, Hence, it was an act that was aimed against man's very nature, since man was by nature a communion of love with God and with His works.

The consequences of the fall were fearful. The centre of man's life was moved from God to himself. He did not take into consideration the difference between created and uncreated, between creation and the Creator. He thought that he could, by himself, overcome the ontological chasm. The result was that he distanced himself from the only road that led to the fulfilment of his life's purpose, as it had been determined by the Creator Himself. This independence of man signified his being stripped of God's grace and being led to spiritual death. These fearful ramifications of the fall are outlined in the verses of the "Great Canon":

"I have lost the beauty with which I was created, and my propriety, And now I am naked and ashamed".

God, however, did not cease to love His creature. He allowed natural death as a consequence of the fall: not as a punishment but as a protection, so that man might not sin eternally and evil become immortal. Death then is a pedagogical measure from God with a purpose to restore the apostate to the communion of love and life with the eternal and immortal God.

This truth is especially underlined in the prayer of the Burial Service:

"O Lord our God, who in thine ineffable wisdom hast created man, fashioning him out of the dust, and adorning him with comeliness and goodness, as an honourable and heavenly acquisition, to the exaltation and magnificence of thy glory and kingdom, that thou mightest bring him into this image and likeness; but forasmuch as he sinned against the command of thy statute, having accepted the image but preserved it not, and because, also, evil, should not be eternal: Thou hast ordained remission unto the same, through thy love toward mankind; and that this destructible bond, which as the God of our fathers thou hadst sanctified by thy divine will, should be dissolved, and that his body should be dissolved from the elements of which it was fashioned, but that his soul should be translated to that place where it shall take up its abode until the final Resurrection....."

Death, however, remains for the mind of the faithful a fearful and unapproachable mystery. This is expressed in a unique way in the sacred texts of the Burial Service:

"I weep and I wail when I think upon death,
and behold our beauty, fashioned after the image of God,
lying in the tomb disfigured, dishonoured, bereft of form.
Ï marvel! What is this mystery which doth befall us?.."
"Indeed most fearful is the mystery of death:
how the soul is violently separated from its harmony with the body,
and how the most natural bond by which they grew together
is severed by the divine will.."

For the believer, however, this is not a dead-end: "Brethren, we would not have you ignorant concerning those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope. For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep...Therefore comfort one another with these words." (I Thessalonians 4, 13-18).

Another consequence of the breaking off of the love between God and man was the weakening of human nature itself. When Adam first saw his fellow—man, Eve, he said that she was not anything different from himself but bone from his bones and flesh from his flesh (Gen. 2,23). This attitude changed completely after the fall: Adam was not willing to share the blame for Eve's disobedience (Gen. 3,12). After the fall, man no longer saw himself in the face of his brother; he no longer understood the unity of human nature.

In the condition that came about after the fall, men lost the feeling that they constitute a communion of persons and acquired the self-awareness of particular individuals, which led to the severing of the one mankind that God had created. Even language, that instru­ment of communication between men, when apostasy reached its height on the tower of Babel, was trans­formed into an instrument hindering communication.

Man's autonomy had fearful consequences upon God's creation. Enmity and disharmony were also transferred to man's relations with the rest of creation. Man is no longer able to hold his sovereign position within creation, and be the centre of unity and harmony of all that God created. He began making egoistical use of the world and to drag with him everything into servitude to corruption. All of creation was thus subdued unto "futility", we are told by St. Paul, not willingly but because of "him who subjected it", because of man. (Rom. 8, 20-21).

Holy Scripture says: "And to Adam he [God] said, "Because you have listened to the voice of your wife and have eaten of the tree...cursed is the ground because of you; in toil you shall eat of it all the days of your life...in the sweat of your face you shall eat bread till you return to the ground, out of which you were taken..." (Gen. 3, 17-19).

This was a means of teaching man and aimed at his return, from within the state of corruption, to incorruption and to immortality for which God had predestined him: a new challenge for man's will.

Man, however, was not moved to repentance or nostalgia for God's paradise where he had freely submitted his personal will to God's will. Hence, the march along the path of separation and fall continued. But God never ceased loving man; He never ceased challenging afresh his predisposition or preparing his final restoration.


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After the fall, man, we are told by Holy Writ, was cast out of paradise (Gen. 3,24). God, however, through this expulsion, did not lead man to despair, for He simultaneously sowed within Him the hope of salvation.

The final outcome of his vicissitude would be accomplished with the coming of the offspring of the "woman", who would crush the "head" of the "serpent" (Gen. 3,15). Man had to prepare himself systematically for this advent, for his restoration was not the result of force but the fruit of God's love which man accepted. Man had to accept once again in freedom the saving action of God.

The Orthodox Church believes that God wanted to prepare mankind for His saving intervention through the election of the people of Israel and the preaching of the Old Testament Prophets. The prophetical message had as its centre the awaited offspring of the "woman".

This Saviour of mankind was Jesus Christ in whom God united Himself with man and in this way man became a partaker of God's life. Christ is not two persons, a human and a divine, but one: a theandric person. He was one Christ, not two.

God's union with man in the person of Christ did not shatter the human nature, because the union of the divine and the human nature in the One Christ took place "without confusion, without separation, without change, without division". The two natures are not confused between themselves in a mixture, nor does the one separate itself from the other. Moreover, the human nature does not change into the divine nature nor does the divine change into the human. In this way the Son and Word of God took on human nature and in His unique person He led him to communion with God. One of the hymns of the Church states:

" You assumed my corrupt and mortal nature,
You clothed me in incorruption,
and You raised me up to eternal and blessed life,
where, Ï compassionate Lord,
do thou give rest to those whom you assumed".

The Orthodox Christian does not attempt to approach the God-manhood of Christ rationally; he accepts it with humility as revelation from God, as a "great mystery" (I Timothy 3, 16), which identified with man's very salvation.

Salvation through Christ, then, is not to be found in the showing of some "way" outside his person, or in the keeping of certain commandments on man's part. No effort whatsoever on the part of the created could ever lead to the uncreated, i.e. to freedom from the bondage to corruption and death. The uncreated and eternal God, in the Person of Jesus Christ, transcends the ontological abyss separating the created from the uncreated. This is accomplished, not that God might live the life of the created, but that He might raise created man to divine life beyond corruption and death. This communion of mortal man with immortal and eternal God is commu­nion "according to energy" and not "according to essence"; this means that man does not partake of God's essence, that he is touched by God's energy, i.e. His Grace. And because the divine energy is from the essence of God, the communion between God and man is a real communion which grants life to man without doing away with him; it does not constitute a confusion or mixture of human nature in God's. God saves man while respecting his person; He attributes to it inesti­mable value.

All that we have mentioned shows that faith in Christ's God-manhood constitutes man's only hope, because he finds in this faith ë deeper meaning in life even beyond the grave. St. Paul calls salvation in Christ a great mystery of piety; "Truly great is the mystery of our piety: God was revealed in the flesh, vindicated through Spirit, appeared to the angels, proclaimed to the nations, believed in throughout the world, ascended in glory" (I Timothy 3,16).

Man's salvation therefore is identified with the event of God's incarnation. God through this manner assumes man and saves him. Belief that we will make this fact, this event, of our salvation our own possession is the great mystery of piety.

Christ is now the new head of the human race. Holy Scripture underlines the fact that He is the saviour of God's new people: the Church, which constitutes "His Body", having Him as its very head (Math. 1,21. Ephes. 5,23). In speaking about the Church He describes her as the "kingdom of God". For in the Body of Christ the heavenly and the earthly, i.e. angels and men, are to be "recapitulated" (Ephes. 1,10), so as to be under the one Head and to be ruled by Christ.

This is what Christ meant when He said that with His coming, the kingdom of heaven was at hand (Matth. 4,17. 10,7). Indeed, with the re-formation of the Church the mystery of the kingdom is now "within you" (Lk. 17,21); all of mankind is touched by the grace of God, is sanctified in its totality and ruled by the Head, which is Christ.

Man is inaugurated into the kingdom of God (into the Body of Christ) through Holy Baptism, and he is called to live the life of the Body, i.e. to become a partaker of salvation in Christ, of the life in Christ. In this sense, he can now say along with St. Paul, " I no longer live, but Christ lives in me" (Gal. 2,20). For this reason, Paul's task aimed at "...such time as Christ shall be formed within you" (Gal.4,19). The Lord Himself assures everyone who shall love him in truth, that he shall be loved by God the Father "and we will come to him and make our home with him"; we will dwell with Him! (Jn. 14,23).

It is important to underline that the body which Christ assumed was no different than our body. It was a created body and thus suscepitible to corruption and death. And indeed, Christ subjected Himself to these in order to meet death and destroy it through His death in the flesh on the Cross, and to liberate us from its bonds, thus becoming the first born from the dead (I Cor. 15, 55-58). In this way the believer, incorporated into the human flesh which Christ assumed, in the body of Christ, makes his own that communion which was brought about in the person of Christ and is led to theosis; In Christ the uncontained God becomes contained and in Christ man becomes a "partaker of the divine nature" (II Peter 1,4).

The path which God chose in order to save man is the path of love and honour towards His creature. God Himself undertook the task of man's salvation. In God's eyes apostate man did not cease to be something precious. For this reason He did not search him out and summon him back through "a representative or a messenger"; He Himself set out in search of him and "emptied Himself out, taking the form of a servant". He humbled Himself (Philp. 2,7-8), in order to raise man up from the state of dishonour to the heights of honour. He offered him the communion of His love without crushing him, without violating man's personality.

 That which now remains for man is his disposition. He is still free and can make his own choice; the believer knows that there is but one road to salvation: Christ, who said, "I am the way...no one cometh unto the Father except through me" (John 14,6). There is no other way to salvation outside the God-man Jesus Christ; neither can our brother save us. How then can someone else save us? No one can offer anything to God to atone for him. He does not have the price to pay for his soul, even if he were to labour all his life.

This is underlined by Holy Scripture: "No one can ransom a brother, there is no price one can give to God for it. For the ransom of life is costly and can never suffice" (Psalm 48, 8-9). In harmony with Holy Scripture one of the hymns of the Church emphasizes:

"Being crucified, ï Christ,
tyranny has been done away with;
the power of the enemy has been trampled upon;
for neither angel nor man,
but the Lord Himself has saved us.
Glory to Thee".

Here then every idea of self-development, self-realisation, self-discovery and self-salvation is overthrown and shown to be incompatible with the Christian faith. Man's participation is found in his free and total consent to the saving work of God in Jesus Christ.


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Evil in the World


[...]Holy Scripture emphasizes that everything, all that exists in the world, has a beginning; nothing is eternal, save God. Everything came into existence through God's creative act, as the fruit of freedom and love. St. John's Gospel begins by stating: "In the beginning was the Word...All through Him was made and without Him nothing was made that was made". And the Apostle St. Paul adds: "for in Him all that is in heaven and on earth were created, things visible and invisible...all things have been created through Him and for Him" (Col. 1,16). Nothing exists that has not been created "from the Father, through the Son and in the Holy Spirit". All of God's creation however, was created "very good" (Gen. 1,31); there is nothing evil among it.


The Orthodox Church preaches that evil does not exist as a spirit co-eternal with God, or that it has its source in Him. She also teaches that sin has its source in free will, and not in nature, and that this is true both in regard to the apostasy of the angelic order of Lucifer and to the fall of man. Of course Holy Scripture states that the Devil "has been sinning from the beginning" (I Jn 3,8), but this refers to Lucifer's fall and not to his creation. For Lucifer became the Devil through his free disposition and not from his nature (Is. 14,12-15). This is the reason why he will be punished together with his angels (Mtth. 25,41; Rev. 20,10).


The Devil is a real person; he is not a "condition" or "state" in man, nor a negative element which together with the divine element supposedly serve God's plan, as certain heresies proclaim. The Devil has no authority over man's nature. Through evil thoughts he provokes only man's disposition. Man's "co-operation" is not something compulsory. If he so desires, he can immediately reject the evil thought and refuse to give any further continuation to it. [...]


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The God-Man Redeemer


[...] We have already mentioned that the Son and Word is the Second Person of the one triune Godhead; He is born pre-eternally from the Father, Who is the source of divinity, and that in the one person of Jesus Christ the Word became flesh (Jn 1,14) and sought out apostate man and led him back to communion with the Triune God, i.e. to eternal life. The Creed states synoptically:


"And [I believe] in one Lord Jesus Christ,

the Son of God, the Only-begotten,

who was begotten of the Father before all ages.

Light of light; true God of true God;

begotten, not made; consubstantial with the Father,

through whom all things were made.

Who for us men and for our salvation

came down from heaven,

and was incarnate of the Holy Spirit

and Mary the Virgin; and became man.

And was crucified also for us under Pontius Pilate,

and suffered and was buried.

And rose on the third day,

according to the Scriptures.

And ascended into heaven and sitteth at the right

hand of the Father.

And He shall come again with glory

to judge both the living and the dead;

Whose kingdom shall have no end".


In this text one finds inscribed the mystery of our salvation "in Christ". He who "became man" isn't an angel or some other creature but the Son and Word of God who is consubstantial with the Father, the "one Lord" (I Cor. 8,7).


"Fearful, indeed and ineffable, O Immaculate One,

is the mystery which took place in Thee",


chants our Church to the Virgin Mary, and states:


"Surpassing reason and logic,

you did give birth to the Word,

the cause of all things, who was incarnate.

Through the Holy Spirit

He received flesh from thee

while maintaining His own nature without change;

and since both collaborated

in a self-existing hypostasis,

He is born dual in nature: total God and total man,

manifesting with active characteristics [idiomata]

the union of the two."




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The Mission of the Holy Spirit


The Holy Spirit was not revealed in the same manner in which the Son was revealed; He remains unapproachable to man. He is however recognized in His divine energies, through the gifts which He bestows upon the faithful. He is "the treasury of good things and the bestower of life", according to the prayer of the Church.

Many texts in our liturgical books ascribe the work of our salvation to the Holy Spirit:


"The Holy Spirit hath ever been and is,

and shall be, neither beginning nor ending;

but He is ever ranked and numbered

together with the Father and the Son.

He is Life, and life-creating;

Light and light-bestowing;

by nature good, and the source of goodness;

through Him the Father is known,

and the Son is glorified;

and thereby all men acknowledge

a single sovereignty, single covenant, one adoration

of the Holy Trinity."


The Orthodox Church rejects the false doctrine of heretics who maintain that the Holy Spirit is an imper­sonal power or "state" within us. The Holy Spirit has self-awareness (Acts 10,19-20. 13,2), will (Jn 16,8. Acts 2,4. I Cor. 12,11) and acts as a person; He is the third person of the Holy Trinity (Mtth. 28,19. Jn 15,26. II Cor. 13,13) and is distinguished from the power of God (II Cor. 6,6-7. Rm. 15,13. I Cor.1,5).

The Holy Spirit participated in the creation of the world (Gen. 1,2) which was accomplished from the Father, through the Son and "in the Holy Spirit". Then, when man was created the "first putting-on of the Spirit" (ðíåõìáôïöïñßá) took place (Gen. 1,26-27. 7,7). During the new creation, the Holy Spirit was restored to man. A beautiful hymn of the Church states:


"In the Holy Spirit

is all creation renewed,

and doth return to its pristine state,

for He is of equal power

with the Father and the Word".


In the restoration and recreation of man, the Holy Spirit is "the active principle": From the Holy Spirit, through the Son to the Father; this is the road to salva­tion. There is no other; "no one can say Lord Jesus except in the Holy Spirit (I Cor. 12,3), no one can recognize Christ as Lord, i.e. to enroll in the Church under one Head, Christ, save "in the Holy Spirit" alone; and "no one cometh unto the Father, save through me" (Jn 14,6). No one comes unto the Father save through Jesus Christ!

In order to reach the Father through the Son, we must be "in the Holy Spirit". The Holy Spirit reveals Christ to each and every believer personally and individ­ually (Jn 15,25-26. 16,13-14). He "plants" him through the Holy Spirit into Christ's body, and man regains that from which he fell, a unity in the one human nature, i.e. to be "one in Christ" this is man's rebirth (Jn 3,5. Titus 3,5. Gal. 3,26-28). Through Baptism and Holy Commu­nion the believer becomes "one in body" {óýóóùìïò) and "one in blood"(óýíáéìïò) with Christ and the relationship which exists between Jesus Christ and God the Father is conveyed and given to him through the grace of the Holy Spirit. This is why the Holy Spirit is also called "The Spirit of Christ" and "the Spirit of Adoption" (Rom.8,10. 15-16).

Christ kept His promise: during Pentecost He "sent" the Holy Spirit to the disciples in a personal manner:

The Spirit "rested upon each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages, as the Holy Spirit gave them ability" (Acts 2,3-4).

Language is a means of communication. At the Tower of Babel, as the result of man's apostasy from God and his autonomy, language became a means of non-communion and non-communication. And now during Pentecost, the restoration of unity, the gathering of the scattered children of God "into one" (Jn 11,52) was declared to those outside the circle of the disciples through a sermon preached in the tongue of the Holy Spirit which was comprehensible to all and is an instru­ment of man's unity (Acts 2,4).

This unity and return of man to the "one nature", to the "one man", i.e. to "one in Christ" does not do away with the special personality of each believer. The Holy Spirit offers His charismata (gifts) to every believer.


"The Holy Spirit provideth all things;

He gusheth forth prophecy;

He perfecteth the priesthood;

He hath taught wisdom to the illiterate.

He hath shown forth the fishermen as theologians.

He holdeth together

the whole institution of the Church.

Wherefore, Ï Comforter, one in essence and throne

with the Father and the Son, glory to Thee".


Within the unity of the one Body, each believer continues to be the concrete person that he is; he is not absorbed by the whole. This is why both in divine worship and in the sacramental life each individual is commemorated by name. He received from the Holy Spirit his own gift, and he is called to use it not egotisti­cally, but for the edification of the other members and for the growth of the overall body, together with his own growth "in Christ". The Apostle St. Paul states: " To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. To me is given through the Spirit the utterance of wisdom, to another the utterance of knowl­edge according to the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit, to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another the discernment of spirits, to another various kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues. All these are advocated by one and the same Spirit, who allows to each one individually just as the Spirit chooses. For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members are the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. For in the one Spirit we were all baptized into one body...You are the body of Christ and individually members of it ( I Cor. 12,7-27).

"Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Do all work miracles? Do all have gifts of healing. Do all speak in tongues? Do all interpret?", St Paul asks with emphasis (I Cor. 12, 29-30) and shows that the mystery of the human personality is not abrogated through the presence of the Holy Spirit, but that it is broadened, for as a member of the overall body he becomes a partaker of the great mystery of the unity "in Christ".

The Holy Spirit does not act independently of the personality and body of Christ, which is the Church. Concerning the Holy Spirit, Christ assured us that" He [the Paraclete-Comforter] will glorify me because He will take what is mine and declare it to you. All that the Father has is mine. For this reason I said that He will take what is mine and declare it to you" (Jn 16,14-15). No one can possess the charismata of the Holy Spirit apart from the unity with Jesus Christ, i.e. outside the Church.

Furthermore, the gifts of the Holy Spirit do not constrain; they are offered on the basis of the divine will (John 3,8. I Cor. 12,12. Heb. 2,4) and not by human methods. If these gifts were the result of human efforts, they would belong to the "created order" and would not constitute true communion with God. This helps us to understand why the Orthodox Church gives special significance to the teaching concerning "uncreated grace" while at the same time discerning divine grace from the divine essence.

If grace were created, then it could not lead us to salvation since communion with something which is created cannot lead man to overcome his created reality and to union with the uncreated God. If again, there is no difference between the essence and the grace of God, then communion with the Divine essence would do away with man's personality. There is then a distinction between God's essence and His grace which is uncreated. (It [grace] does not have its source outside of the divine essence), for this reason in the Orthodox Church both are preserved: both the true communion with God and the human person.

Divine Grace however is not offered without man's active participation. The holy Mysteries of the Church are not magical acts; they presuppose the participation of each individual believer. The Angel of the Lord announced to the Virgin Mary: "The Holy Spirit will come upon you and the power of the Most High will overshadow you". But she, however, had to say, "Let it be!" (Lk. 1,35-38).

The believer receives the gift of the Holy Spirit, "the panoply of God" and he is strengthened to begin his spiritual struggle and to victoriously resist "the wiles of the Devil" (Eph. 116,10-20). Man must, however, want to carry on this struggle. The believer has the feeling that he is not struggling alone, but that he is being "strengthened in the Lord and in the strength of His power!".


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Spiritual Experiences


Man can have the feeling of the presence of Divine Grace in his life, i.e. he can have spiritual experiences. Holy Scripture, however, recommends to the faithful: "Beloved, do not believe in every spirit, but test the spirits to see if they are from God". It further underlines that many false prophets have come into the world and it further shows ways in which one can judge and discern the spirit of truth from the spirit of error, i.e. the genuine from the counterfeit experiences (I Jn 4, 1-6).

It must be emphasized at the outset, that Holy Scripture does not place experience at the centre of our interests, nor does it elevate it to something absolute. Faith in Jesus Christ, and not personal experience, is placed at the centre of the Christian confession. This confession differentiates the Christian Church from the Hebrew Synagogue; whosoever confessed Christ was thought to have denied the Jewish Synagogue; and was declared an outcast from it (Jn 2, 22. 12,42). The Christian's experience is modified by this confession [of Jesus Christ] and is not independent of it (Rom. 10,9). The confession of faith is not the result of experience, but exactly the opposite: experience is acquired in unity with the confession and the life of the Church; these two factors also modify and determine the genuineness of the spiritual experience. In this way the Orthodox Christian is not in danger of falling into subjectivity and error, through personal experience.

The Apostle Paul does not base the gospel which he preaches on his own individual experience, but on the experiences of others: Peter's, that of the twelve, that of the five hundred, James' and the rest of the Apostles. He refers to himself as the last of all; he says, "last of all, as one untimely born, he appeared also to me", in order to add further along that he is what he is through the Grace of God. " Whether, then it was I, or they," he concludes, "so we proclaim and so you come to believe" (I Cor. 15 1-11). He does not severe himself from the Church, nor does he base himself on his own personal experience, which he does not even emphasize.

The content of the faith, then, is neither conditioned nor shaped by each one's personal experience, but is handed down and is received in the Church (I Tim. 6,20. II Tim. 1,14. 2,2. Jude 3). " As the prophets saw, as the apostles taught, as the Church received, as the teachers dogmatized...as the truth was proven.. .so do we believe, so do we speak, so do we declare" (the Seventh Ecumenical Council).

That the content of the faith constitutes the norm and standard by which the genuineness of the experience is measured, can be seen in the example of St. Thomas for whom, like the Jews, "the sign", the experience of the miracle, had paramount significance. This, however, is overcome by the words of Christ: "Blessed are those who do not see and yet believe", i.e. blessed are those who do not base themselves on their own personal experience (Jn 20, 28-29).

Another "measure and standard" for determining the authenticity of experience is the obedience to Christ's teachings; the Apostle underlines that he who violates and does not abide in the teachings of Christ "does not have God" (II Jn.,9). The entire spiritual life of the believer is understood of course as life in the Holy Spirit, as a gift of the Holy Spirit which is the fruit of God's love. As we have already mentioned, gifts of God which are an offering of love, presuppose the complete acceptance of this love on man's part. Man proves his deep desire to accept God's love by offering to Him his complete love; he must humble his mind, his flesh, together with his passions and desires and offer his entire self to God (Matth. 22,37. Rom. 5, 1-2. Gal. 5,24). God accepts this offering and with His Grace He sanctifies and transforms the labours of humble man into gifts of the Holy Spirit which are joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control and above all, love (Gal. 5, 22-23), the greatest gift of the Holy Spirit. Without this total humility on man's part, spiritual experiences are not granted; and if they do exist, the do not come from the spirit of God (James 4, 6. I Peter 5,5).

The experiences of the saints in Jesus Christ have all the characteristics which we have mentioned. They were experiences of the Church and not of individuals. Consequently, all those who put forth spiritual experiences and "signs" without the characteristics that we have mentioned accompanying them have been deceived by the spirit of error. Such false experiences are already known from the Old Testament, and indeed appear outwardly as being similar to the genuine experiences (Ex. 7, 10-11; 20-22. 8, 18). Christ Himself informed us that false messiahs, false teachers and false prophets would work "signs" in order to bring about confusion and to deceive even the elect, if possible (Matth. 24, 24-25. cf. Rev. 13, 12-18).

The Apostle Paul informs the Christians of Corinth that the reference here is to false apostles and "deceitful workers" who disguise themselves as Apostles of Christ, just as Satan "transforms himself into an Angel of Light". It is not surprising then, the Apostle concludes, if the Devil's servants also disguise themselves as ministers of righteousness. Their end will match their deeds! (II Cor. 11, 13-15).


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The Church


The Church as the Body of Christ is a Divine-human (theanthropic) organism, i.e. an invisible and visible reality. The invisible dimension of the Church refers to the communion between God and man having as its model the communion between the three Persons of the Holy Trinity. With the creation of the angels the heaven­ly Church was constituted; to this Church man was added: " but ye are come unto mount Zion, and unto the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to an innumerable company of angels, to the general assembly and Church of the firstborn, which are written in heaven, and to God the Judge of all, and to the spirits of the just men made perfect" (Heb. 12, 22-23).

Man's fall broke off his communion with the heavenly Church. God, however, did not abandon His creature, but had already pre-eternally planned man's salvation. In order to prepare man's return to communion with God He chose "the chosen people of Israel" who were the prefiguration of the new Israel, i.e. the Church (Rom. 9,7-8. Gal. 3,29).

The Apostle Paul speaks of the pre-eternal mystery of God which was revealed to man and to the angels with the incarnation of the Son and Word of God. It was the economy of the mystery that was hidden for centuries by God... for the multifaceted wisdom of God according to the eternal purpose which was revealed through Jesus Christ our Lord to be recognized now ...through the Church (Eph. 3,9-11. cf. Col. 1,26).

In Christ Jesus the Church has been reconstituted; angels and men united in order once again to constitute the Church:


"Through Your Cross, Ï Christ,

One fold has come into being;

Of Angels and men, and One Church.

Heaven and Earth rejoice.

Lord, glory to Thee".


The unity of the Body of the Church is realized from the one Head, Christ; "man is the head of the woman, just a Christ is the head of the Church and He is the saviour of the Body" (Eph. 5,23). This communion between God and man has an absolute character: this is why in the Old Testament God is called a jealous God (Ex.1 20,5. Deut. 5,9). Every apostasy on the part of God's people is characterized as fornication and adultery (Judges 2.17. Iez. 6,9).

In the Church the "regathering" i.e. the gathering of the scattered children of God (Jn 11,52) was accomplished - the structuring of the one body under the head: Christ; He is the savior of the body". Christ "loved the Church and gave Himself for her in order to make her holy by cleansing her with the washing of water by the word, so as to present the Church to Himself in splendour without a spot, or wrinkle or anything of the kind - so that she might be holy and without blemish" (Eph. 5, 23-27).

"With the washing of water by the word" ("in the Name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit" (Matth. 28,19) we are sanctified and incorporated into the body under the one Head, Christ; we become "one in Christ" (Gal. 3,26-28). Therefore, when we speak about the Church, we do not mean simply the people of God, without Christ, nor the Lord, the Head, without the body. We mean both together, the Head of the Church together with all its other members, the Christians. The Holy Spirit Who descended upon the Church on the day of Pentecost abides in her, renews the faithful and incorporates them into the one Body of Christ. Christ is "the firstborn among many brothers" (Rom. 8,29); in Himself He reconciled all unto God (II Cor. 5,18. Col. 1, 18-20).

In this way we understand that the Church as the Body of Christ is equated with salvation. In her, the relationship of Christ with the Father is transferred to each one of us: "I in them and you in me, so that they may become completely one" (John 17, 23). The Church is not the workshop of man's salvation but salvation itself. The "gathering" of the scattered children of God and their incorporation into the "unity" of Christ is not a fact of secondary importance, but the very event of salvation (Jn 11, 52). One can neither be a Christian nor call himself a Christian apart from his incorporation into the Body of Christ, which at the same time is also communion with the brethren ( I Cor. 12, 12-28). The salvation of each man cannot constitute the separate concern of each individual, independent of his incorpor­ation into, and his life within, the Church. He who in "self-love" retreats and immerses into himself, hoping thereby to find salvation within himself without reference to the person of Jesus Christ and without incorporation into His Body, cannot be considered a Christian.

The Church, being the Body of Christ, is one (Eph.4,4) and Christ is not "divided" (I Cor. 1, 13); one cannot be Christ's if he is not at the same time with the brethren in Christ. This is why division or schism is a crime.

The Christian synaxis or gathering is not simply a congregation of Christian people but a gathering in which the unity of the one Body of Christ is expressed: the unity of the body with the Head. This is why wher­ever two or three are gathered there is Christ, the entire Catholic Church. They must, however, gather in Christ's name (Matth. 18,20).

This means that this synaxis must be carried out in the spirit of Christ in order that the work of Christ be performed, and not to serve human goals in the name of Christ. The work of Christ was the gathering of the scattered children of God "into one"; it is accomplished wherever the Holy Eucharist is performed as an act of unity and not division. The Apostle Paul, referring to these gatherings "in Christ's name" declares: "For I received from the Lord what also I handed on to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took bread...as said, 'take, eat..."(I Cor. 11,23). " For we the many are one loaf, one body", St. Paul elsewhere affirms, thereby identifying the Holy Eucharist with the return of men to the unity of "the one nature", to the "one in Christ".

The synaxis or gathering, then, "in Christ's name", even if it is a synaxis "of two or three" must realize and express the unity of the Catholic Church and not its division into small groups and fragments that have no communion amongst themselves. This unity in the Apostolic Church extended even to the point of possessing all things in common: "now the whole group of those who believed were of one heart and soul, and no one claimed private ownership of any possessions, but everything they owned was held in common...and great grace was upon them all" (Acts 4, 32-33. 2, 42). In such a gathering "in the name of Christ" schisms and divi­sions had no place. For this reason the Apostle repri­mands the Corinthians, because in their synaxes which gathered the Church together there were divisions" "...I hear that when you come together as a Church, there are divisions among you..." (I Cor. 11, 18). A synaxis then "of two or three" cannot take place in Christ's name" when it constitutes a schism or conventicle — even when those who gather together contend that their gathering is done "in Christ's name".

The Church, moreover, has its visible dimension. Jesus Christ Himself chose His twelve disciples and called them Apostles. Before His glorious Ascension He promised them "power from on High" (Luke 24 49. Acts 1,8) and He sent them forth to proclaim the Kingdom of God and to make disciples of those who would believe, incorporating them into the Church through Holy Baptism (Matth. 28,19). This promise was fulfilled on the day of Pentecost on which three thousand souls were added to the Church (Acts 2, 41).

This first Church was a concrete community and society; it included the exercise of the holy virtues of Christ (I Cor. 11.1) and had as its centre the performance of the Holy Eucharist on the Lord's day and included a common confession which was the Apostolic teaching (didache), common prayer and the communion of love, which as we have already mentioned, reached to the point of common possession of all things (Acts2,42. 4,42). Whoever participated in this synaxis was included among the Christians. Whoever did not participate was not considered a Christian. In the Apostolic Church there existed specific structures: the Apostles, the Presbyters, the Deacons and other cadres, such as Timothy, Titus, et al. Whenever serious problems concerning the faith arose, they were solved in broader councils under the guidance of the Holy Spirit as was the case with the Apostolic Council which was in some way "the mouth" or voice of the Church (Acts 15,22-29. cf. I Tim. 3,15). The Church about which Holy Scripture speaks was visible and concrete. Among its members were num­bered individuals who were very weak and even gravely ill spiritually; who were called to repentance so as not to be cast out (Matth. 13,30. 47. I Cor. 5,1; 11. Jude 12, 23).

The Orthodox Church has condemned any notion whatsoever concerning a supposed "Church of the pure" (catharoi), and declares that the "separation of the clean from the unclean" will take place "at the time of the harvest", during the Second Coming of Christ and certainly not by man; no one is to attempt such a separation before the Lord's coming, for in such a case the criteria and standard of judgment would be human and the evaluation subject to error (Matth. 13, 29-30).

The fact that in the Church there are weak members does not mean that the entire Church has fallen into apostasy. When Moses was on the mountain and speak­ing to God nearly the entire "chosen people" fell into apostasy; and yet for God it still remained His people; He did not reject them (Exodus 32,1-8).

The Church of the New Testament, the new people of God, are not simply an episode in history which took place during the time of the Apostles, but a continuous event, extending to the time of Christ's Second Coming. The Holy Spirit remains eternally in the Church and leads to the truth (John 14, 16); Christ is Head of the Church, and as the Head, He is and ever remains united with the body. He leads the body and is not led by it. This is also why the Church, the Body of Christ, can never fall into apostasy — only individual members can become independent and separate themselves from the body, fall into apostasy and be led to spiritual death. Even pastors of the Church and "stars from heaven" can fall into apostasy, but never the Church (Acts 20,30. II Thessal. 2,3. Rev. 9,1.1 Tim. 3, 15). There will always be a small "remnant" and remainder of the faithful people, united with the Head and that will be the Church, because according to Christ's promise even " the gates of Hell" will not prevail against her (Matth. 16,18).

 The Church then, is unique and invisible (Matth. 16,18). It exists throughout the ages and is the "pillar and foundation of Truth"; the truth is founded upon the Church and not the Church on the truth. The Church is the Truth, because its Head is Christ, i.e. the Truth (I Tim 3, 15, Jn 6). Without Christ there is no Church (Matth. 16,18) and without the Church there is no truth (I Tim. 3,15).

Since the Church is also a visible reality, it exists throughout the centuries and is discerned by visible signs or marks. These outward signs modify and determine the identity of Christ's Church and distinguish it from self-styled "churches" and heresies.

These marks are the continuous and unbroken continuity of the Church in the faith, organization and life in accordance with the will of Christ and the praxis of the Apostles. The most visible focus of the Church's continuity is the Apostolic Succession. Here we do not have an arbitrary act which was decided upon and later enforced. Apostolic Succession has its source in the Divine will as it is expressed in Holy Scripture. Already before the day of Pentecost the ministry of the Apostle is distinguished from the specific person. The Apostles proceed to elect Matthias to assume the "episcope" of Judas, this in accordance with the prophecy of the Old Testament (Acts 1, 26. Ps. 108,8). This proves that in the Church there exists the ministry of the "episcope", for which the Apostles chose suitable believers, and conveyed to them through ordination, the gift of the Priesthood (I Tim. 4,14. II Tim. 1,6), and gave to them the commandment to undertake the pasturing of the local Church and to ordain in every city presbyters and deacons in the manner which was shown unto them (Acts 14,23. II Tim. 2,2. I Tim. 3, 8-12).

All these pastors of the Church were in an unbroken Apostolic succession, which was the guarantee and assurance of the preservation of the purity of the Apostolic teaching and of the one accord ("make my joy complete: be of the same mind, having the same love, being of full accord and of one mind" (Philip. 2,2). The Orthodox Church has all these marks and characteristics of the Apostolic Church: the Apostolic teaching and the entire hierarchic structure of the first Church, the Apostolic teaching and the Apostolic mind.

The Orthodox Church knows two different expressions of the Catholic Church in a given place: the monastic coenobium and the parish. In the Orthodox monastic coenobium the primitive form of the Church is preserved inviolate, as it is described in the Acts of the Apostles and includes holding all possessions in common (Acts 2, 42-47).

The Holy Eucharist in the parish, transforms the parish synaxis into the Catholic Church (I Cor. 10, 16-17) and gives to the term "parish" a deeper meaning extending beyond its purely geographical significance. Because the synaxis "in the Church" (I Cor. 10, 16-17) is Christ and hence, there one finds the Church Catholic. This means inner - not external or geographical -catholicity; the Apostle Paul implies this in I Cor. 11, 18-23, which we have already mentioned, when he writes: "When, therefore, you gather as the Church, I hear that there are divisions among you... or that you disdain the Church of God... for I have received from the Lord that which I handed on to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night that he was betrayed took bread and having given thanks, broke it and said: Take eat..."

The term Church is used here in a dynamic sense and is identified with the gatherings of the Christians of Corinth in order to perform the Holy Eucharist. Each time that the Christian of an area (parish) gather with this purpose, the gathering becomes the Church; here the entire Church - and not just part of it - is to be found (cf. Rom. 16,23).

The catholicity of a parish is manifest also from the fact that the entire life of the faithful transpires within its boundaries. There are priests who belong to the canoni­cal Orthodox bishop of the area, who guarantees the presence of Christ in the liturgical life and the unity of the faithful among themselves and with the Head of the Church. In the parish, Holy Baptism, Holy Myrrh and all the Sacred Mysteries are solemnly performed. Here the parishioners gather together "in Church" (ei>âêêëç-óßòÏ; each member, through the parish belongs to the Catholic Church. The parish, just as a monastic coenobi­um, is not part of the Church but the entire Church, since its catholicity is inwardly determined.

The parishioners are called to realize in their daily life the experience of the one body through their partici­pation in the Holy Eucharist; this is also implied in the exhortation at the end of the Divine Liturgy: "let us depart in peace". The deep unity and peace of the one body and the one Spirit, of the one hope, of the one Lord, the one faith, the one Baptism and the one God and Father of all (Eph. 4,4-6) must be put into practice in the everyday life of the faithful. To each one of them various charismata have been granted. Thus each one has his own function within the one Body of the Church and uses his charisma for the edification of the other members and of the entire body. They were not given to be used egotistically (I Cor. 12, 7- 27. 14, 12,26). They must not be isolated from the brethren; they must use their gifts for the benefit and edification of the body (Matth. 24,45-51. 25, 14-30. I Peter 4, 10-11). This possibility of offering becomes a reality when the entire spiritual life of each believer is exercised with the specific liturgical synaxis as its centre into which it is incorporated harmoniously.

Unfortunately, in the larger cities, the large parishes with a great number of parishioners no longer function within the framework of "one in Christ" and "members of each other". It is a matter with which the Church must deal, and seek other structures. But regardless of whatever structures are to be sought, they must safeguard the basic Apostolic organizational elements of the Church, and must not be creations of man's conception, nor human methods, and especially must not imply criteria and models "of this world" - something which would mean the secularization of the Church.

The entire organizational structure of the Apostolic Church has as its centre the Divine Eucharist and ensures the continuity of the authenticity of the Church, the continuous communion and unity with the Head, Christ, because He it is "Who is ever eaten and never consumed" as it says in one of the prayers of the Divine Liturgy. This means that the new structures are not allowed to be severed from the communion with the bishop and must have as shepherds presbyters who are in unity with the bishop. For the bishop stands in the image and in the place of Christ, and the presbyters who receive their ordinal ion from the bishop stand in the place of the council of the Apostles.

St. Ignatius of Antioch, a bishop of the primitive Christian Church, who makes the above statements, underlines the unity of the Church by saying that wher­ever the bishop is, there the multitude of the faithful must be; one cannot perform the Holy Eucharist outside the unity with the bishop.

In the communion with the bishop the unity of the entire Church is preserved. Each bishop must belong to the local synod of bishops which is recognized by all other synods of bishops of the Orthodox Church throughout the world. In this way, through the local synod each bishop is in unity with all the bishops throughout the world.

According to early Christian Tradition the local synods were presided over by the bishops of the capital of a nation and in this way the self-governing Orthodox Churches were created (Patriarchates, Archdioceses, Metropolitanates) through a more general decision and recognition in the Orthodox Church, the Patriarchate that has the "primacy" of honour among the self-governing Orthodox Churches, and serves the unity and the cooperation of all the Orthodox Churches is the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople. All the Orthodox Churches are in unity of faith and worship and preserve the primitive Christian hierarchic structures. If extremely serious matters should arise that threaten the faith and the life of the Church, they are dealt with by local or more general synods or councils.

The entire organizational structure of the Church is based upon the Eucharisticsynaxis. For this reason there is no "pyrammidical" hierachal structure. The Ecumenical Patriarch is in relationship with the other presidents of the local Churches, and in general with all the bishops, the first among equals, primus inter pares.



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The Preservation of Christ's Teachings throughout the Ages


As we have already mentioned, the Apostolic Succession ensures us the purity of the Apostolic teaching. The Apostles intrusted the teaching of Christ to the Pastors of the Church who find themselves in continuous and unbroken Apostolic Succession and ensure the safe transmission of the Apostolic teaching to the coming generations.

This "tradition" or "deposit" (I Tim. 6, 20) which was transmitted "once and for all times" to the saints (Jude 3) is transmitted throughout the ages "without gaps" or "disruption" in the Church. It is not made up of the "commandments of men" but is the result of the continuous presence of the Holy Spirit in the Church, which has Christ as its Head (John 14,16. 26,15, 16, 16,13) The Pastors of the Church fulfil their mission, inasmuch as they remain united with the Body of Christ and do not express personal points of view.

The "deposit" about which the Apostle speaks is not a book, but, as we have said, the result of the presence of the Holy Spirit within the Church and of life within the Church, which is the "pillar and ground of Truth" (I Tim. 3, 15); of the life of communion with the Head of the Church and with all the saints. Outside of this communion one finds only heresy, which leads to perdition (II Peter 2,1). Christ did not come to write books but to lead the scattered children of God to unity under Himself as Head. Neither did He give to His disciples a commandment to write books, but to preach and assured them that He would always be with them (Matth. 28,20).

Christ did not, however, abrogate or do away with the Old Testament but fulfilled and completed its law. The true meaning of the Holy Scriptures is not found in the letter but in the spirit, which gives life to the letter (II Cor. 3,6) and reveals the Person of Christ, leading to a personal union with Him in the Church. The entire Old Testament prepares the calling of the new people of God, that will walk within the desert of this present life, with the sure direction towards "the promised land" i.e. the Kingdom of God (cf. I Peter 1,10-11. II Peter 1,21).

At the centre of the Old Testament are the events which were realized during the age of the New Testa­ment. For this reason one can understand the Old Testament only "in Christ" (II Cor. 3, 14), i.e. in the light of the New Testament (cf. also John 5, 88-89). In the New Testament God no longer speaks through the prophets but "in the Son" (Heb. 1,2). This means that the word of the Holy Scriptures is not separate from the person of Christ. God's revelation does not only refer to what Christ said, but chiefly to what Christ is. The Holy Scriptures when separated from the person of Christ and from His Body, the Church, are without foundation (I Tim. 3, 15) and are changed into a dead letter which cannot transmit life; those who study it without basing themselves on this foundation are not led to salvation but to perdition, because, as the Apostle Peter says, there is in Holy Scripture things which are difficult to under­stand, and which those who are not firmly grounded in them distort to their destruction (II Peter 3, 16). Apart from the Church, anyone can interpret the Scriptures any way he wants to. This is precisely why so many Christian heresies and self-styled "churches" have come into being.

The Apostles did not have as the centre of their interest the purpose of writing sacred texts. Whatever they wrote had a circumstantial character. " I write you these things, trusting to come quickly near you" (I Tim. 3, 14). All the sacred texts were later collected by the Church and thus the New Testament was formed. Undoubtedly, the New Testament constitutes a part of the evangelical message but not however the entire deposit of the faith.

For one to attempt to interpret Holy Scripture outside of and apart from the Church is impermissible. This, at times, however, is done and consequently, as we have said, endless separate groups, schisms and heresies are thereby created which "amputate" or cut off members from the Body of Christ and jeopardize the salvation of the faithful.

That which the Church calls Tradition constitutes the sacred memory of the Church, the experience " of all the saints" and not human injunctions. It is expressed as the common conscience of the Church, its "mouth" being the Ecumenical Councils.

These Ecumenical Councils are convoked whenever certain individuals within the Church, chiefly pastors, preach heretical teachings which disturb the entire Church. In these Councils the bishops responsible for the shepherding of the Local Churches participate. This means that the bishops express in the Councils the faith and common conscience of the Church - not their own personal opinions. The Dogmatic texts of the Ecumenical Councils are called "horoi" (decrees) [literally terms, limits] boundaries "horia" beyond which if anyone were to proceed, he would become a heretic; for this reason all who disagree are cut off from the Church.

The presence of the bishops therefore and their unbroken succession from the Apostles' times up to the present as well as the Synodical system of the Church guarantee the purity of the teaching of the Church, the safeguarding of it from the danger of heresy and error and its transmission, whole and unadulterated, to the succeeding generations.


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The Mysteries or Sacraments of the Church


In the Church man is completely sanctified and saved. Not only is man's soul sanctified, but his body is sanctified as well. All of God's creation acquires an incalculable value, and redemption from corruption awaits it (Rom. 8,19- 21). In the life of the Church, with the sacred Mysteries and the liturgical acts, this hope of the entire creation is prefigured and pre-announced.

God uses the water, oil, etc. - material and sensate things - in order to transmit His invisible Grace. This is certainly an expression of God's love for man: in order to transmit His Grace to us, He uses in His condescen­sion for our salvation material things, adapting the Holy Mysteries to our reality. At the same time however, it also constitutes proof of the worth and honor to be accorded to material creation.

God condescends to human weakness and uses for the Mystery [Sacrament] of Confession, men who have the same imperfections with us, without this weakness of theirs hindering Grace, for Grace comes from God and not from the holiness of the confessor. God could regenerate man only in and from the Spirit, in contra­diction, that is to say, of John 3, 3-5, which states that in order for one to enter the Kingdom of God he must be reborn "of water and the Spirit". But He does not do so; He condescends to our weakness and He offers us tangible elements, in order to free us from uncertainty and to eliminate subjectivity.

All the sacred Mysteries constitute the expression of God's love for His people and the Church's care. They are not "individual services" of the Church to her individual members, independent of their relationship to the entire body. They are ecclesiastical acts which serve the sanctification and growth of the members in relation­ship with the entire body. This is why in the sacred Mysteries there is no private element.

If the Church is indeed salvation, then it is not possible for the Christian to participate in the life of God, that is in salvation, outside of the Church. His entire spiritual life is carried on within the framework of the life of the body of the Church. This is where the sacred Mysteries have their true place. Hence the sacred Mysteries do not separate the individual faithful from the body of the Church nor do they single him out. On the contrary, they initiate him into the body so that he can thus experience salvation, i.e., live the life of the body and not a private spiritual life.


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Holy Baptism, with three immersions in water, in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, is the Mystery with which the Church acquires its new mem­bers (Gal. 3, 26-29) and in this way the entire body grows through the "birth" ("rebirth") of new members (Jn 3,5-7, Tit. 3,5). The incorporation into the body of Christ of a new member is not simply a great event in his personal life or in the life of his family, but also a celebration of the entire Church, which receives him into her bosom.

When he who is baptized is immersed three times in water, he participates in Christ's three-day sojourn in Hades. And when he rises from the water the old nature of Adam has died within him, and he has made the new and resurrected nature of Christ his own. This new reality in Christ, who destroyed death and rose unto life eternal and incorruptible, is granted to every believer through Baptism. Thus his name is enrolled in the catalogue of the citizens of heaven, and he is numbered among the living (Rom. 6,3-9; Heb. 12, 23). Baptism then is not a simple symbol or a "confession" but spiritual rebirth, salvation (Cf also Mark 16,16; Acts 2, 37-38).

Baptism cannot be administered to individuals who are conscientiously unbelievers, for where it to be administered, it would violate their personal volition; they must believe in order to be baptized (Mark 16,16). This faith, however, is not something abstract, or an emotional state, but something essential. It must include the individual's free will for complete change of life. For this reason, in the Orthodox Church Baptism is preceded by the renunciation of Satan, i.e., man's distancing from every satanical throught and deed, the joining of one's self unto Christ, the confession of the Orthodox faith, and the worship and adoration of Christ, that is to say, the complete and unreserved recognition of Christ as the unique Lord of our life.

The Orthodox Church, through Holy Baptism, incorporates even babies into the body of Christ. She does not hinder the children to come unto Christ; she does not shut the door of salvation unto them. In this she follows the command of Christ (Matth. 19, 14-15; Mark 10, 13-16; Lk. 18 15-17). Indeed, Christ underlines that adults must imitate children in their sanctity, and not children imitate the adults. Thus, the Orthodox Church in no way hinders the baptism of children. Moreover, Baptism was prefigured in the Old Testament through circumcision which was performed during the infant age (Gen. 17,12; Lev. 12,3; Col. 2, 11-12). The child accepts the Grace of God without putting forth any conscious resistance. When however he becomes an adult, he must conscientiously accept his new situation and grow in faith and in his new life. He may, however, freely choose to reject God's Grace. Baptism does not signify the suspension of man's freedom. The child must gradually be introduced to the "atmosphere" of spiritual life, so that with the Grace of God, he can be assisted in his spiritual growth and accept it conscientiously upon reaching the proper age.

Moreover, in order for a man to conscientiously decide his induction into the Body of Christ, his will must have been enlightened by God's Grace. This Grace is offered by the Church through child-baptism.

 In this is also focused the parents' great responsibility and that of the Godparent who receives the child from the font. This means that they must care with love and affection for the instruction and Christian upbringing of the child so that the Grace which he received may be preserved and bring forth abundant spiritual fruit.


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Holy Chrism


The Orthodox Church relates Holy Baptism to the sacred Mystery of Chrism, with which our induction into the body of the Church is completed, and the faithful, armed with the charismata of God can now grow spiritually, and conscientiously live the life in Christ; the life of the entire body.

With Holy Baptism the neophyte is "edified" and "planted" into the Body of Christ, the Church, and becomes "one in Christ". This means a return to the "one man", i.e. man's rebirth into the one integral human nature from which he was cut off through the fall (Jn 3-6). The faithful, however, after Baptism is on the one hand sanctified and justified in Christ, yet he finds himself in the spiritual condition of a child. He has to be protected from external threats and to grow spiritually "unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the full stature of Christ" (Eph. 4,13).

This does not mean that his personality is confused or done away with through his union "in Christ"; he continues to constitute a separate personality. For this reason the neophyte who enters the spiritual palaestra in order to struggle and grow in virtue, needs his personal spiritual armor. This is given him through Holy Chrism, which in the ancient Church was transmitted through the laying on of hands by the Apostles. (Acts 8, 15-17) and constituted the engagement or earnest of our inheritance (Eph. 1, 13-14; cmp also II Cor. 1,22 and I Jn 2,20).

Through Holy Chrism the Church receives and accepts the entire man and sustains the human person; it is for this reason that the entire person is anointed, sanctified and armed in order to progress victoriously in his spiritual struggles, in which he participates with all his being. In this way the personal character of the gift of the Holy Spirit shows us that the human personality is not done away with by the induction of each and every believer into the Body of Christ. This union takes place without confusion of the various persons, who remain distinct and different; their unity in the one Body of Christ does not abrogate them, but to the contrary, shows them forth and elevates them.

All the members of the body of the newly-illuminated are anointed and sealed with the "seal of the gift of the Holy Spirit" and with the visible sign of Holy myrrh, and the entire man becomes God's property "God's dwelling-place" and "temple of the Holy Spirit" (I Cor. 3,16-17; 6, 19). The gifts of the Holy Spirit are transmitted to the newly-illuminated and he becomes in his entirety charismatic, putting on the the panoply of God, ready for spiritual battle (Eph. 6,10-18).

This struggle can become very arduous (Eph. 6. 10-13). A Christian must labor in order to acquire the evangelical virtues. God accepts man's efforts and pains, He sanctifies him and offers him His Grace and mercy abundantly, showing him forth to be a victor (Rom. 9,16; I Cor. 3,7; Eph. 2,8).


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The Holy Eucharist


The Holy Eucharist is the central event in the life of the Church. Through it the faithful become partakers of the Body and Blood of Christ (Matth. 26, 26-28; Mark 14,22-24; Luke 22, 15-20; Jn 6, 51-56; I Cor. 11, 24-26).

How can Christ offer us His Body to eat and His Blood to drink? This was also a question which the Jews raised, and even some who followed Christ and were His disciples. Christ, however, insisted that they must do so, and explained that He was not referring to dead flesh but to His Body, which was united with the Holy Spirit, which vivifies (John 6, 52; 60- 63). In the Holy Euchar­ist bread and wine are offered and God accepts this oblation of man. He changes these elements and in turn offers them to man as His Body and Blood, as participa­tion in the sacrifice which Christ offered on Golgotha "once and for all". (Heb. 7,27; 9,12,28). Before His sacrifice on the Cross, Christ celebrated this "Supper" and commanded His disciples to do the same until His Second Coming, declaring that the "food" of His Body and the "drink" of His Blood were necessary for salva­tion (Jn 6, 31-50; I Cor. 11,23-29).

This "Supper" as "food" and "drink" of the Body and Blood of Christ is not understood apart from, and independent of, the sacrifice on Golgotha; it constitutes "participation" in this unique sacrifice. The fact that the Holy Eucharist was celebrated before Christ's sacrifice demonstrates that its identity with the sacrifice celebrated "once and for all" cannot be comprehended by human logic; it can be understood only "in mystery". The same holds true with the Holy Eucharist celebrated today within the Church.

Of course the Holy Eucharist also constitutes a remembrance of Christ's passion (Lk 22,19; I Cor. 11,24-25), but it is not only a remembrance. Already in the Old Testament it was prophesied concerning the messianic age, i.e. the Church, that "a pure sacrifice" would be celebrated (Malachi 1,11). Here is meant the sacrifice which according to the New Testament is offered on the Christian "altar" from which the Jews cannot eat (Heb. 13,10).

St. Paul proceeds to a comparison of the Christian altar (the "table of the Lord"), with that of Israel of the flesh, and that of the idolaters. He underlines that participation in the Christian altar makes Christians partakers of the Body and Blood of the Lord. On the contrary the participation in the altar of the idols makes the idolaters "partakers of demons". The "Lord's table" then, is according to St. Paul, the only true altar of the living God.

The Holy Eucharist constitutes the expression of God's great love for man. In the person of Christ He Himself sought out apostate man. Now he feeds us with His own Body and Blood, just as a mother, full of tenderness and compassion, feeds her child, not with other food, but with her very own milk, which is her very blood. He condescends to our weakness and employs basic elements from our daily fare, bread and wine, which He changes into His Body and Blood.

Through the Holy Eucharist the purpose of the divine dispensation is realized in the person of Christ, for it is the synaxis or gathering "into one" of God's scattered children (Jn 11,52), into one Body (I Cor. 10,17), and the constituting of His Church. It is for this reason that the gathering <>r synaxis for the celebration of the Holy Eucharist is call a gathering "in Church" [ç Åêêëçóßá] I Cor. 11, 18) and "Kingdom of God". This is why the Liturgy begins with the phrase: "Blessed is the Kingdom of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit". A beautiful prayer of one of the early Christian liturgies expresses precisely this: "Just as this particle from the bread was as sheaves of wheat scattered on the mountains and became one bread, thus let Your Church be gathered from the ends of the earth into Your Kingdom".

The Holy Eucharist is presided over by the bishop or by a presbyter. It is not he, however, who performs the Eucharist: Christ is He "who offers and is offered"; the priests are Christ's ministers, stewards of His Mysteries (I Cor. 4,1). The laity also actively participate in what takes place; they are not passive witnesses. Liturgy means the "work or task of the people" [in Greek, ëáïý Ýñãïí], that of God's entire people, not only the clergy, for the latter are included within God's people and do not stand above them.

Each member has his ministry, in accordance with the gift he has received. The laity do not have as their own the special priesthood of the clergy, but neither do the clergy understand the lay element to be passive recipients of "what is being performed." Such a distinction between "performers" and "witnesses" in the Orthodox Liturgy is unacceptable.

The active participation of the faithful in the Holy Eucharist, the communicating of the Body and Blood of Christ is essential for salvation, for by it the faithful are kept alive spiritually. This is why the Orthodox Church offers Holy Communion to infants as well, in obedience to Christ's commandment (Matth. 18,2-5. 19, 13-15). The Orthodox Christian does not consider Holy Commu­nion to be common food. He thus properly prepares for its reception through prayer and fasting. He follows the injunction of St. Paul who assures us that Holy Communion is indeed true communion of Christ's Body and Blood, and declares: "Let each man examine himself, and thus eat of this Bread and drink from this cup" (I Cor. 10, 16-21. 11, 26-28).

But how can a believer realize that a specific Eucharistic gathering belongs in truth to the Orthodox Church? How can he discern whether or not a Divine Liturgy is in all its aspects orthodox? In this, it is not enough that there be certain external similarities, or even that the orthodox text of the Divine Liturgy is followed.

St. Ignatius of Antioch gives us the answer to this question: Orthodox is that liturgy which is performed by the bishop, or by a presbyter in communion with the bishop and has the necessary authorization. The bishop is the guarantor of Christ's presence, because he has his priesthood from Christ Himself, through Apostolic succession, which is a continuous and unbroken chain of unity proceeding back to the Apostles.

It is thus necessary that the priest who performs the Holy Eucharist possess a valid ordination and be in union with the bishop of the local Church. The bishop's presence at every orthodox liturgy is manifested in that the Divine Liturgy is performed upon an antimension which bears the bishop's signature, and that during the Liturgy the bishop's name is commemorated. Indicative is the fact that the priest who performs the liturgy does not commemorate the name of the bishop who ordained him but that of the bishop in whose diocese the liturgy is being performed.

For a Divine Liturgy to be Orthodox, the bishop whose name is commemorated during it, must be in union with the Orthodox Church in that country. But even this is not sufficient. The Synod of bishops of that country must be recognized by, and in communion with, the other Orthodox Churches throughout the world. If these presuppositions exist, then the Divine Liturgy is orthodox and every orthodox faithful can freely participate in the Holy Eucharist.


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The Priesthood

Through Holy Baptism all are incorporated into the "royal" and "priestly" nation which is the people of God (Ex. i9,5-6. Is. 61,6. I Peter 2,5. Rev. 6,5). They are summoned to offer to God their bodies as "a living sacrifice, pleasing unto God"; their entire selves and God's entire creation. In this way the faithful regain the royal priestly ministry which they possessed before the fall (Rom. 12, 1. Gen. 1, 28- 30).

The Christian also offers his love and the fruit of his labor to God through the brethren (Prov. 29,17. Matth. 25, 40). Without this offering, no other offering is acceptable to God. When, however, man offers his labor to the Lord, through the brethren: "Then shall he call, and God shall hear him, and when he prays, He shall say to him, Behold, here I am", I am present, I am near you (Is. 58, 7-9).

Whatever a Christian does, he does it with his heart, as the Lord's work (Col. 3, 23-24). Everything in man's life, even the fruits of his labor, are God's gifts. This is why he must offer his works that they may be blessed, and he must never make egoistical use of them. He must always be mindful of, and exercise his "royal and priestly" ministry.

Within the framework of this ministry he is called to become a proclaimer of God's rule or kingdom, not only through his words, but also by the manner of his life (Matth. 5, 16, Lk. 9, 60). The fact that during the Baptismal Service the Evangelical lesson containing the phrase: "Go ye forth and teach all nations" (Matth. 28, 19) is read, demonstrates that this mandate is addressed to every baptized Christian. Every one must be ready "to give account" - when it shall be demanded of him - "for the hope that is within us", "with meekness and fear" (I Peter 3, 15-16).

But the existence of a general priesthood within the Church does not exclude the simultaneous existence of a special priesthood. We see this in the Old Testament: along with the "royal priesthood" there exists simulta­neously the Aaronite priesthood (Ex. 28, 1, 37-38. 29, 9. 30,30. 40, 11- 13. Lev. 8, 1-13), which was indeed inviolate; those who usurped it were severely punished (Num. 16, 31-33. II Chron. 26, 16-21).

Christ was not a priest according to the order of Aaron; it was not necessary that He offer up each time new sacrifices; His priesthood and His sacrifice were unique (Heb. 7, 23-27). It is for this reason that the priesthood of the bishops and the other clergy of the Church is considered as ministry of the Mysteries [Sacraments] which Christ performs and is not independent of Christ's priesthood Bui In this sense, however, it is a real priesthood, just as the Eucharist is a real sacrifice.

The priesthood in the Church, in the new Israel, was already prophesied in the Old Testament (Is. 66, 21). In the New Testament the Holy Eucharist, which is charac­terized as a sacrifice, is contrasted with the Jewish and idolatrous sacrifices, and it is underlined that the Chris­tians possess an altar from which "those who worship the tent [of witness]" do not have the right to eat (I Cor. 10, 16-21. Heb. 13, 10). It is at this altar that the Christian priests serve.

Only the bishop, who is "in the image" [âßò ôýôïí] of Christ and who holds "the place"[top ôïßãïñ] of Christ, has the fullness of the priesthood. Just as Christ was sent by the Father, in like manner He Himself sent forth His disciples; whoever listens to them listens to Christ Himself, and whoever receives them, receives Christ (Jn 20,21. 13, 20. Matth. 10, 40. Lk. 10, 16). The Apostles were shepherds, yet they were at the same time "sheep", who had Christ as their shepherd. A hymn of the Church states:

"Apostles who saw God, true,
reason-endowed shepherds,
and sheep and grazing animals of the Lamb,
our Redeemer and God,
unceasingly intercede
that I be redeemed from the noetic wolf [Satan]
and from the painful lot of the goats [the damned]".

The work of the Apostles is today carried on by the bishops of the Church. They are in continuous and direct Apostolic Succession and are surrounded by the presby­ters and deacons. The bishop ordains the deacons and the presbyters and he instates them into the Church's ministry. However, he has the feeling that he acts as God's servant and not of his own authority. This is why when he lays his hand on the head of the candidate who is to be ordained to the diaconate he says: "...for it is not in the laying on of my hands that grace is given to those who are worthy of You, but in the visitation of Your rich mercies".

The task of the presbyter is thus defined by the prayer read at his ordination: "Fill with the gift of thy Holy Spirit this man whom it hath pleased Thee to advance to the degree of Priest; that he may be worthy to stand in innocency before Thine Altar; to proclaim the Gospel of Thy kingdom; to minister the word of Thy truth; to offer unto Thee spiritual gifts and sacrifices; to renew Thy people through the laver of regeneration..."

During the bishop's ordination, his responsibility to preserve "the unity of the faith in the bond of peace" is underlined. This is why he who is to be ordained a bishop confesses belief in the dogmas of the Church and promises neither to add nor subtract from them in any way "adding nothing, subtracting nothing, changing nothing, neither in the dogmas, nor the traditions but remaining steadfast in these, and with fear of God and a good conscience teaching and proclaiming them; and all that She [the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church] has condemned and rejected as foreign teachings, these do I also condemn and reject once and for all".

The ordaining bishop prays for the ordinand; "...Do Thou, Ï Christ, make this man to be an imitator of Thee, the true Shephered, who didst lay down Thy life for Thy sheep; to be a leader of the blind, a light to those who are in darkness, a reprover of the unwise, a teacher of the young, a lamp to the world; that, having perfected the souls entrusted unto him in this present life he may stand unashamed before Thy throne..."

This position of responsibility which the bishop holds helps us to understand the words of St. Ignatius of Antioch: " Look to the Bishop, the presbyterate and the deacons ...become imitators of Jesus Christ as He was imitator of His Father". The bishop, St Ignatius adds, possesses the "mind of Christ", i.e. his teaching and his actions must reveal the mind of Jesus Christ. And St. Ignatius continues, "Wherever the Bishop appears, let the multitude be there, just as wherever Christ is, there too is the Catholic Church". And of course the Holy Eucharist performed by the bishop or by him whom the bishop has authorized, i.e. a presbyter from the "presbyterate" is genuine.

The priests therefore in the Church are stewards of Christ's Holy Mysteries, and in this sense participate in the unique and "inviolate" priesthood of the one "Priest", Jesus Christ (Heb. 7,27); The Holy Eucharist performed in Church by the Christian priests is a sacrifice "according to participation" in the sacrifice of Golgotha. Thus all Christians throughout the ages become partakers of the Body and Blood of Christ and partake of His life. This is the work of the Christian priests.


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Repentance – Confession


After Baptism and Holy Chrism, the faithful is called to struggle so as to preserve God's grace active within himself and to produce spiritual fruit. Towards this aim, the faithful must, with all his being, turn to Christ, the Head of the body. This means that he must relinquish his autonomy and humble himself.

If on life's journey, the believer misses his mark, changes path, or orientation, he must repent, that is change his mind [metanoia=repentance in Greek and means change (meta) of mind or noetic faculty (nous)], he must turn once again to the Lord,and follow the life of the Church.

Man with his autonomy insults the life of the entire body of the Church; his sin is the result of his own, individual, choice, which breaks and "amputates" the body, for it does not accept and participate in the one mind (öñüíçìá), the mind of Christ. Those acts charac­terized as sin are not acts which stem from a communion of love with the Head and with the entire body, but only from a communion with ourselves. This is why sin insults both God's love and the love of the brethren who constitute the one Body. It is an affliction and harms the entire Body of the Church.

The Church's reaction is not one of revenge and retaliation. She does not look to the punishment of its weak member but rather to its cure. She does not, however, coerce the sinner's free disposition, she does not violate his personal free will. The paedogogical measures which she employs constitute a new challange to the disposition of him who has deviated. If in the end he chooses to remain in his autonomy and does not desire to restore it within the unity of the Body of the Church, he cuts himself off from the life of the Body. This is why until he decides to change direction, he is not allowed to participate in the Holy Eucharist. If however he desires to return, forgiveness is granted him; he is once again received with love and he once again assumes his former place at the Lord's Table. Forgiveness is not granted by men, but by God Himself (Is. 43,25). Christ, however, sent forth His disciples, just as the Father had sent Him; He gave them the Holy Spirit and the authority to forgive sins (Matth. 18,18. Jn. 20, 21-23.

The Spiritual Father is Christ's instrument and the steward of His grace (I Cor. 4,1.1 Peter 4,10). It is not he who forgives sins but God who uses him as a steward of divine grace; it is not his grace but God's (I Jn 1,9-2,2). That God uses men as instruments of his grace is an act of his philanthropy [love for man]. The confes­sion of one's sin is an act of humility on the part of the sinner; such would not be the case if this confession was made "directly" to God and not before at least one man who represents the entire Church and is the servant of God's grace. This is what differentiates Confession from "an interview" by a psychologist or psychiatrist, from which one leaves without the feeling that his trans­gressions and omissions have been forgiven and that he has reestablished his bonds of love with God and the brethren. He does not have the feeling that he has received God's grace in order to begin a new life. The help provided by a psychologist belongs to the human order. The psychologist has as a prototype fallen man whom he sets up as an absolute model. He does not take into consideration the factor of sin, nor is he concerned with reconciliation with God. Thus man essentially leaves the psychologist without redemption, and takes away with him all of the guilt that ways upon him and deprives him of the freedom "in Christ".

The conviction that grace does not come from the man-Confessor but from God Himself relieves the sinful man and boosts his morale, for it provides him with the certainty that he is not alone but has as his supporter God the Merciful Father Himself. This can be seen from the Church's prayers of absolution. The Spiritual Father asks the Lord in His great mercy to receive the penitent, to overlook and to forgive all his sins, for only He alone is free of all iniquity and only He can forgive sins. The Spiritual Father expresses the awareness that he serves as God's instrument and that forgiveness does not come from him. Regardless of whether he who has confessed has done something voluntarily or involuntarily, in word, deed or thought, the Spiritual Father asks God to grant forgiveness, since only He has the authority to forgive sins and hence to Him belongs the glory.

"O God, our Saviour...receive in you usual love for man [Thy servant] overlooking all that he has com­mitted, Thou who forgives injustices and overcomes iniquities"; "May that same God forgive thee, through me a sinner, all..." "Thou, Ï Lord, all-good and all-merciful, forgive all that my spiritual child has confessed with a contrite heart before Thee to my unworthiness..." "and if he has committed any voluntary or involuntary sin, in word, deed, or in thought, do Thou forgive as a good God who lovest mankind. For Thou art He who alone hath authority to forgive sins and unto Thee do we ascribe Glory, together with thine eternal Father and thine all-holy, good,- and life-bestowing Spirit..."

The confession of one's sins before the Confessor constitutes proof in action of the humble mind of the penitent, with which he inaugurates his new life. This humility at the same time also constitutes the proof of his apostasy and of the expression of his repentance, which is a necessary requisite for the presence of God's grace (James 4,6. I Peter 5,5). In this way the believer once again restores his relationship with the body of the Church, and once again enters the spiritual palaestra and is called to a continuous effort to overcome the passions, which through sin have been strengthened and exercise greater force upon him. In order that he be helped in this struggle, the Spiritual Father recommends certain pedagogical means, in accordance with each particular case (the epitimia). These are not punishments or penalties but the necessary medicine needed to face the dangers which arise from the passions.


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Prayer Oil or Holy Unction


The Church is concerned not only for the curing of the soul but also for the curing of man's entire being. The Apostle James orders that the presbyters must pray over the sick and anoint them with oil in the name of the Lord; the prayer said in faith will cure the sick: "the Lord will forgive him and if he has committed sins they will be forgiven him: (James 5, 13-15).

The chief significance of this Mystery is the prayer for the health of the body. It does not replace the Mystery of Confession. The Church connects these two sacraments in the same manner that the Apostle St. James does when he exhorts: "Confess your transgression one to another and pray for one another that you may be forgiven" (James 5, 16). This confession must not be considered as something apart from the gathering or synaxis of the Church. In the Church synaxis, within the framework of the Sacrament of Holy Unction, the prayer of the entire Church is united with that of the presbyters.

The sacrament of Holy Unction expresses and reveals the love and affection of the entire Church for that member of hers who is bodily sick. During the Holy Mystery the Church prays for complete cure, so that the sick member may be given back to her "unharmed and whole" so that he may please God and execute His holy will, as it is stated in one of the prayers of the sacrament that states:

"...We beseech thee, Ï our God, that thou wilt direct thy mercy upon this Oil, and upon all who shall be anointed therewith in thy Name; that it may be effectual unto the healing of their souls and bodies, and unto cleansing, and unto the putting away of every infirmity, and disease, and malady, and every defilement both of body and spirit. Yea, Lord, send down from heaven thy healing might; touch the body, quench the fever: soothe the pangs, and banish every hidden ailment. Be thou the physician of thy servant, N. Raise him up from his bed of sickness, and from his couch of suffering, and from his bed of wasting disease, whole and perfectly restored to health, grant him to thy Church working those thing pleasing unto thee and executing thy will. For thy property it is to show mercy and to save us, Ï our God; and unto thee do we ascribe glory, to the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, now and ever, and unto ages of ages. Amen".

Also most moving is that prayer that asks: "...fill his mouth with praise; open his lips that he may glorify thy holy Name; stretch forth his hand to the performance of thy statutes. Guide his feet aright in the way of thy Gospel, strengthening all his members and his thoughts, by thy grace..."

The result of the intercession is not due to men but to divine love and divine will. And this love is not always expressed in accordance with man's subjective thought or his limited will. This means that the faithful, cannot force God's grace to work cures according to their own desires, instead of according to the depth of the richness of God's love. All those who promise healing in the name of Christ, and indeed put forth these healings as proof of the "truths" that they teach, prove that they do not possess God's spirit. The "signs" which they produce have another source and must be inter­preted differently. The Apostle Paul, who sought from Christ the healing of his body, received the answer: "My grace is sufficient for you; for my power is made perfect in weakness" (2 Cor. 12,9).


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Man was created as a communion of persons, male and female, according to the image of the Holy Trinity, which is a communion of persons; "and God created man, according to the image of God he created him, male and female He made them"; "and He took one of his ribs and closed up its place with flesh. And the rib that the Lord God had taken from the man He made into a woman and brought her to the man. Then the man said, 'This at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called woman, for out of man she was taken'"(Gen. 1,27. 2, 21-23).

Here we have two persons who constitute "one flesh". About this unity God prophesies: "For this cause shall a man foresake his father and mother and shall cleave unto his wife and the two shall be one flesh" (Gen. 2,24).

In the New Testament marriage is realized "in the Lord" (I Cor. 7,39) and is received in the Body of Christ, the Church. Just as Christ is the head of the Church, in like manner the husband is the head of his wife. We are all "members of His body, from His flesh and from His bones" (Eph. 5, 22-32).

The conjunction of the "one flesh" is strengthened within the unity of the Body of Christ, since the Chris­tian marriage has its reference "to Christ and to the Church". It is for this reason that the sacrament of Marriage, which is performed within the Church, is not a private or family matter of the couple, but an event in the life of the Church; it is to this event that the hymn of the Church refers when it states:

"Rejoice, Ï Isaiah!

A Virgin is with child,

and shall bear a Son, Emmanuel,

both God and man;

and Orient is his name; whom magnifying

we call the Virgin blessed".



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The Purpose of Marriage


According to St. John Chrysostom, Marriage is "a great compensation for man's mortality", because through Marriage the "succession of offspring" is accomplished. With the gift of Marriage God sought to "soothe" the harshness of the penalty of death and "to remove the fierce mask of death", and thus prefigure the victory over death, i.e. the resurrection.

Undoubtedly Marriage is also a "haven of prudence" for those who want to make good use of it, because as this same Holy Father of the Church points out, it does not allow nature to become bestial. Marriage is the "breakwater" of desire for in marriage is to be found "lawful sexual contact" i.e. "blessed union". In this sense Marriage grants serenity to man (cf. I Cor. 7, 1-2). Here, according to St. John Chrysostom, conjugal communion does not have as its purpose only the bringing of children into the world, but also the combatting of the temptation of the Devil (I Cor. 7,5,9).

Further in Marriage we have the mutual fulfilment of the spouses. The exclusive place that each of the spouses has in the life of the other and the bond of love create unique and unrepeatable presuppositons of mutual influence and edification.

Marriage, however, has yet a deeper meaning. In Marriage the spouses overcome the separation brought about among men because of the fall (Gen. 3, 12) and they return to the awareness of the one nature (Gen. 2, 23). Out of love, God ordained Marriage so as to have love as its goal and purpose. In the beginning love exists between the two spouses and as Marriage progresses love continually widens so that man can overcome all the more his egocentrism and embrace with his love his fellow men. Love continuously grows and widens but "never fails" (I Cor. 13,8).

Of course in the Kingdom of heaven there are no carnal bonds, or any "helps" for love (Matth. 22,30).

However, in this life Marriage constitutes a way for man to be taught love. This way is characterized by Holy Scripture as a "gift" or "charisma". But it is not the only way. There is also the gift of celibacy:

"But each has a particular gift from God, one having one kind and another a different kind" (I Cor. 7,7). Yet the two gifts have the same purpose: the denial of one's own will and the "inner opening up" to love for God and for one's neighbor; the way of marriage however is more philanthropic and is helped by the natural bond that it entails.

In the Church everything is sanctified and trans­formed into spirit, even bodily union; "those things which you do according to the flesh, these are spiritual; for you do all things in Christ", says St. Ignatius and thereby characterizes as spiritual all the reality of conjugal life.

Already from early Christian times, the Christian Marriage was blessed by the Church. St. Ignatius ( +110) instructed those about to enter into Marriage "to enter into the union with the consent of the bishop, so that the Marriage may be in accordance with the Lord, and not in accordance with desire. Let all things be done in honor of God". Without the Marriage's being blessed by the bishop or the presbyter who is in union with the bishop, the Marriage is not according to the Lord but according to desire, for it does not refer "to Christ and to the Church" and was not taken up by the Church.

"How can we describe the success of that Marriage which the Church concludes, and which is strengthened by the offering of the Holy Eucharist and which is sealed by a blessing and which angels proclaim and the Father certifies?" writes Tertullian concerning the Marriage that was performed in the primitive Church within the framework of the Holy Eucharist.

The Orthodox Church condemns extra-marital relations. As St. Paul also states, our bodies are mem­bers of Christ and no one is allowed to make them "members of a harlot" (I Cor. 6,16). Extra-marital relations do not simply violate the love between the two spouses, but also destroy the unity of the "one Body"; they rend it asunder and constitute an insult extending to the Body of Christ. Extra-marital relations destroy the Marriage; there no longer exists a structured body; it has broken up, and the Marriage has already dissolved even before the formal issuance of a divorce.

Save for death and adultery, there is no separation for the truly Christian married couple. Just as in the Church there is but one Head, Christ, so too in Marriage the husband is the head. Marriage is a "Mystery and a type or image of the love that Christ showed to the Church", says St. Gregory the Theologian. He adds: " For this reason then the husband as the head, is obliged to know how to heal the body; even if there are count­less wounds, the head never cuts itself off from the body: "Do not, therefore, sever your wife, for she holds the place of the body. This is why blessed Paul used to say: 'husbands ought to love their wives as their bo­dies'". "Just as it is an abominable thing for one to inflict cuts upon his body, so it is an abominable thing for one to separate his wife".

If the Church acquiesces to the granting of a divorce or to a second marriage, it does so to avoid even greater evils.

Indicative is the fact that the Church has a special Service "for a Second Marriage". The prayers of this service are exhortations to repentance, and the service is carried out "without pomp". One of these prayers states: "O Master, Lord our God...vouchsafe unto them the contrition of the Publican, the tears of the Harlot, the confession of the Thief; that repenting with all their heart, and doing all Thy commandments in peace and oneness of mind, they may be deemed worthy also of Thy heavenly kingdom...".

In the same service there is yet another prayer that clearly underlines the fact that the purpose of the second Marriage is the aversion of worse evils and the avoid­ance of a complete moral derailment due to human weakness: "O Lord Jesus Christ...forgive the iniquities of Thy servants; because they, being unable to bear the heat and burden of the day and the hot desires of the flesh, are now entering into the bond of a second Marriage..."

The Church does not teach in favor of the separation of the spouses, nor does it urge the faithful to divorce or to enter into a second Marriage. Before every "dissol­ution" of a Marriage, the bishop and his collaborators make every effort and exercise their spiritual influence to reconcile and reunite the couple.

Finally, it should be noted that the Orthodox Church condemns pre-marital relations, even in those instance where marriage follows. According to the Fathers of the Church, these pre-marital bonds which have not been assumed by the Church and hence have not been blessed, should be dissolved. Pre-marital relations do not constitute a preparation for marriage; they divide the Body of Christ and pollute the Church.

St. Basil says that fornication is not marriage, and he adds that such a licentious relationship can never by the "beginning of Marriage"- "Therefore," the Holy Father concludes, "if possible those united in the bond of fornication, ought to be separated - this is the best possible thing. If, however, they desire in every way to cohabit, then they are to be given the penance for fornication. Let them be allowed to cohabit, lest something worse occur".




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In our times many people and especially young people desire to see their ideas and the content of their faith embodied. To have people who live their faith and the hope in Christ with all its consequences is a great contribution to our society which, today, has an horizon­tal orientation. A contemporary Orthodox hierarch, referring to the three monastic vows of celibacy, poverty and obedience, quite aptly points out: "the evangelical exhortations of purity dedicated to God, poverty and obedience are based upon the word and example of our Lord and are recommended by the Apostles and the Fathers, as well as by the teachers and pastors of the Church, and are a divine gift which the Church received from the Lord, and which she preserves through His Grace".

Specifically, monks are not part of the Church's hierarchic structure: they do however belong to her life and participate in her sanctity. The monk is not sepa­rated from communion with his brothers nor is he indifferent to the world and its problems.

The true monk does not live inwardly, separated from the world, nor has he abandoned his responsibility for the world. He lives for the entire world with which he feels deeply united. His vocation and his charisma is to be a prophet and a preacher of the coming Kingdom, a living icon and proof of the future life.

In the life of the world the monk constitutes the indicator, the finger pointing towards heaven and reveals to the world another reality, the reality of heaven.

He deeply believes in the new creation "in Christ"; by his life he proclaims the superiority of the Kingdom of heaven vis-a-vis this life, and by his actions confesses: " I look forward to the resurrection of the dead and to the life of the future age".

This contribution is great, especially in today's world where everything is orientated towards the earth and runs the risk of being condemned unto death.



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The Saints


The Church's catholicity, i.e. its universality, refers not only to all its faithful throughout the world, but also to the communion "with all the saints who throughout the ages were pleasing unto the Lord". Orthodox Christians believe that which St. Paul declares: "Love never ends" (I Cor. 13,8); it will never cease to join with a close bond all the members of the Body of Christ, i.e. the entire Church Militant with all the saints, i.e. the Church Triumphant. For the Orthodox Church both the Christians who carry on their spiritual struggle on earth (the Church Militant), as well as those who with God's grace completed this struggle victoriously (the Church Triumphant), belong to, and together constitute, along with the angels, the One Catholic Church.
 The Orthodox Christians sense the presence of the saints in their lives, and are bound to them in the bond of mutual love. Through the sacred Memorial Services we entrust both our brothers who have reposed and ourselves to God's mercy and love. One of the Church's prayers states:
"O Christ, those who were devoured by wild beasts,
and those torn asunder by fish,
and those who were buried by earthquakes,
by chasms and precipices,
Do Thou, Ï Savior, have mercy on them
and save them, Most Merciful,
from every threat there"
And another prayer states:
"Receive therefore, Ï Master, our petitions and intercessions, and grant rest unto all the fathers, mothers, brothers, sisters and children of each of us, and to any others of our kinsmen and people, and all the souls of them that have gone to rest before us in the hope of the resurrection of life everlasting;...and raise up our bodies on the day that Thou has appointed, according to Thy holy and unfailing promise".
And the prayer continues:
"For there is no death, Ï Lord, for us, Thy servants, when we have departed from the body and come unto Thee, Ï God, but rather a translation from things sorrowful unto things better and more delightful, and unto repose and joy. And if we have sinned in anything against Thee, be Thou merciful unto us and unto them; for there is none pure of stain before Thee, even though his life be but for a day...and grant unto them that have preceded us, freedom and rest, and bless us who are here present, granting a good and peaceful end unto us and all Thy people."
The first among all in the Church Triumphant is, according to our Orthodox faith, the Virgin Mary. In her person all of mankind gave its consent for the realization of the plan of Divine Economy for the salvation of the world. This came about when she declared: "Behold the Handmaid of the Lord. Let it be unto me according to thy word" (Luke 1, 38). In this way the Virgin Mary became an instrument and collaborator with God in the salvation of man.
With the consent of the Virgin, the Holy Spirit overshadowed her, purified her and made her to be the suitable "receptacle" of His grace, for the creation of the human nature of the Son and Word of God (Luke 1,35). This is why that which was born of her was not a god-bearing man but "God incarnate".
The Church does not attempt to approach the Mystery of God's becoming man (I Tim. 3,16), intellectually; for it is beyond reason. Thus, the Orthodox Christian remains ecstatic before it and glorifies God for His inexpressible love. This is to be seen in many of the Church's hymns.
"Hear Ï heaven, strange things,
And thou, Ï earth, lend thine ear,
for a daughter of man, of fallen Adam, 
has become the Mother of God, her Creator,
 for our salvation and re-creation".
 Another hymn says:
"Thou does give birth without intercourse,
to Him to Whom the Father gave birth before all ages, 
and thou dost nourish Him Who nourishes us!
Ï strange Wonder! Ï newly seen Miracle,
thou Ï full of God's Grace!
Wherefore every faithful soul doth glorify thee".
The Virgin Mary gave birth to Christ's human nature, not to His Divinity. The human nature, however belongs to Jesus Christ, i.e. to the one and unique person; thus she is, and is rightly called the "Mother of God" i.e. Theotokos (Luke 1, 43. Man's salvation is founded upon this basic truth; whoever denies it, rejects salvation in Christ. As St. John Damascene says, "He who does not confess the Holy Virgin to be Theotokos, is separated from God".
Christ is the new "root" (Rev. 22,16); He is not descended from the root of Adam, because He was born of the Holy Spirit and from a Virgin Mother (Matth. 1, 20, 23. Luke 1, 35), who even after His birth remained a Virgin. And this because that which was used by Christ is unique in its use for it has been sanctified. A new use of course would have been sacrilegious. Through His birth, Christ did not violate His Mother's virginity; she remains a virgin after her birth-giving and Jesus is her only-begotten Son (Prov.4,3). In Holy Scripture, before the birth of Jesus, the Virgin Mary is called the wife of Joseph (Matth. 1, 20), just as Joseph is called the husband of Mary (Matth. 1, 16). Indeed, in accordance with the Mosaic Law, this was the case, for the "child" had to be protected. In this "legal" sense, Joseph is also characterized as the father of Jesus (Luke 2, 48), just as Joseph's children are called Jesus' brothers.
The Church honors the Virgin Mary as Theotokos and Ever-Virgin and chants:
"O Virgin, You without experience of man,
did conceive for us men, The Logos,
Who boundless in His Divinity, did become man".
In the Virgin's womb man's nature was renewed and man became a partaker of divine life. She is the "bridge" which united the earth with heaven. That is why she is depicted in the Sanctuary of the Churches in the apse behind the Holy Table as she who is "wider than the heavens", uniting heaven and earth.
We honor the Virgin Mary because God Himself was the first to honor her; He made her "full of Grace", "blessed" and "mother of the Lord". The Virgin Mary herself prophesies that "all generations shall call her blessed" (Luke 1, 28. 30. 35. 41. 45).
Orthodox Christians do not place the Virgin Mary above the Church but within it. They believe that she also inherited our sickly nature and was a genuine child of this world, which she represented and gave her consent to the realization of God's plan. She is con­sidered "All-Holy" [Panagia], not in relation to God, but in relation to God's creatures. She is "more honorable than the Cherubim" who "in a circle" surround God's Throne (Is. 6,2. Iez. 1, 26-28), while the Virgin Mary became herself the Throne of God.
The Lord's holy flesh was also the flesh of the Virgin. All we Christians who are incorporated in the Body of Christ are "brothers of the Lord"; hence the Virgin Mary becomes the mother of all mankind.
The Virgin Mary is not honored independently of her relationship to Christ, but always as the "Lord's Mother". In other words, the honor which we bestow upon her is always in relationship to our salvation in Jesus Christ. The mystery of our salvation is expressed with the term "Theotokos", and the honor which we accord to the Holy Virgin stems from this title. This term proclaims the reality of the union of the two natures of Christ which took place within the Virgin Mary's womb and it confirms the fact of our salvation.
The Orthodox Church also honors all the saints and bases their sanctity on the fact that they are partakers of Christ's sanctity (Heb. 12, 10), and "members the same body" [syssomoi] with Christ (Eph. 3. 6). The saints are "the faithful martyrs of Christ" (Rev. 2, 12) and stand "before the throne and before the Lamb" (Rev. 7.9); they lived "through the Spirit" and walked "according to the Spirit" (Gal. 5, 25); they are "a new creation in Christ" (II Cor. 5,7) and reveal man's true nature.
The glory that surrounds the saints is the glory of God (II Cor. 3, 18), the uncreated divine energy which in Scripture and in the life of the saints is revealed as light. When we read the lives of the saints we see examples of man's reconciliation with all of creation, even with the wild and dangerous beasts. Abba Isaac characteristically states: "the humble man approaches the destructive animals and as soon as they see him, their wildness is calmed, and they approach him as their master and they wag their heads and lick his hands and feet, because they sense that he has upon himself that fragrance which Adam gave off before the fall. And that which was taken away from us at that time, Jesus Christ gave back to us anew through His presence on earth, granting a sweet-smelling fragrance to mankind".
The glory of the saints is not yet their final state; it will be completed at the Lord's Second Coming when they shall shine "as the sun" (Matth. 13,43. cf. Rev. 21, 9 - 22, 5). They will be reunited with their bodies which shall be raised up and will be "conformed to the body of His glory" (Philip.3,21. cf. I Cor. 6,20).
Orthodox Christians believe that Christ is the unique Savior. He took upon Himself created man and He brought him to a true communion with the "uncreated God"; there is no other way for us to reach God the Father (John 14, 13-14. I Tim. 2,5. Acts 4, 12.1 Pet. 1, 18-19).
Yet Holy Scripture informs us that God saves even entire cities because of the love of those who love Him (Gen. 18, 23-33. 20,7. Acts. 32, 11-14. Hos. 11, 8-9). In the Revelation of St. John we see angels bringing the prayers of the saints up to the throne of God, and God hearkening unto the prayers of the saints (Rev. 8, 3-5). The saints care for their brothers on earth and rejoice at their spiritual progress (Luke 15, 7).
When, therefore, we honor the saints and we ask them to intercede for us before God, we do not make our salvation dependent upon them, but only upon our Savior Jesus Christ, whom the saints also beseech on our behalf. It is for this reason that every sacred service in the Orthodox Church closes with the so-called "dismissal":
"Glory to Thee, Ï Christ our God and our Hope,
Glory to Thee...May Christ our true God,
through the intercessions of His All-Immaculate and All-Holy Mother...
through the petitions of the honorable and glorious Forerunner and Baptist John.. .
and all the saints, have mercy upon us and save us,
as a good and merciful God Who loves mankind".
The glory and honor is not rendered unto the saints but to Him Who glorifies His saints and grants them the gift of healing. This is why on the feast days of the ascetic saints the Church chants:
"O our God-bearing Father *******,
you showed forth to be a dweller of the desert,
a body-bearing angel and a worker of miracles.
You heal the sick and the souls
of those who recourse unto you in faith.
Glory to Him that giveth you strength;
Glory to Him that hath crowned you;
Glory to Him, Who through you, grants healing unto all".
The saints are not everywhere present. This is a characteristic that belongs only to God. The saints however, like the angels, are united with us through love in the one Body of Christ. Through the Grace of the Holy spirit, nature's limits are done away with in the life of the saints, and they know about us without having to be omnipresent (Luke 15,7).
The honor accorded to the saints cannot be compared with that which God Himself has granted to them. Nor can it be adoration. As the Seventh Ecumenical Council states, Christians render unto Christ, divine honor, i.e. adoration and worship; the saints however they honor because of their relationship to God, and they render unto them relative and not absolute veneration, as genuine servants of God: "[and we worship Christ] as God and Master, while [the saints] we honor and respect and render to them relative veneration because of the common Master, as His genuine servants...(The Seventh Ecumenical Council).
Already during the early Christian period the day on which a saint reposed was considered "his birthday". In "the Martyrdom of St. Polycarp" we observe the Christians gathering up the bones of the martyr which are "more precious than valuable jewels and more noble than gold", and burying them in a suitable place, so that they might be able to assemble there and celebrate his memory. During this feast the early Christians used to celebrate the Holy Eucharist upon the tombs of the martyrs. This is why the bishop, when consecrating a church, places upon the Holy Table on which the Holy Eucharist will be celebrated sacred relics.
The unity of the entire Church is expressed in a most realistic way in the Divine Liturgy. During the proskomide or preparation of the Eucharistic elements, the priest places upon the paten that piece of bread which is to become the Body of Christ, a "particle" in honor and commemoration of the Virgin Mary, to the left of the host, and on the right he places separate "particles" for the Holy angelic powers, the prophets, the Apostles, the Great Hierarchs and Teachers, the Martyrs, the Ascetic saints, the Holy Unmercenary Healing saints, the Forefathers of God, Saints Joachim and Anna, and all the saints. Below he places particles for the bishop and the living brethren. Then he places in particles for those who have reposed, and finally one for himself. Thus the entire Church is represented upon the sacred paten. After the bread and wine have been changed into the Body and Blood of Christ, and after clergy and laity have communicated, the priest unites all these "particles" with the Body and Blood of Christ in the sacred chalice and thus declares in a very real way the unity of the entire body of the Church.
The Divine Liturgy therefore is celebrated for the entire Church, not only for the Church Militant but also for the Virgin Mary and the entire Church Triumphant in heaven. The prayer of the Divine Liturgy is characteristic:
"Again we offer unto Thee this reasonable worship for those who have fallen asleep in the Faith, Fore­fathers, Fathers, Patriarchs, Prophets, Apostles, Preachers, Evangelists, Martyrs, Confessors, Ascetics, and every righteous spirit in faith made perfect; especial­ly for our most holy, pure, blessed and glorified Lady, Mother of God and Ever-Virgin Mary...".


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The Sacred Icons and the Holy Cross

God is the unique Being, the absolute existence; nothing can be compared with Him and the honor which is due Him, i.e. worship and adoration, is rendered unto none other; neither to some nonexistent god nor to some idol.
But God's grace is transmitted in every way in accordance with His will; even through material objects or even through the shadow of holy men, as was the case with the shadow of the Apostles, which is their imprint, a type of image (Acts 5, 12-16. 19,11-12).
In the Old Testament some of the objects which transmitted the miraculous grace of God were the bronze snake of Moses, the Ark of the Covenant, the sheepskin coat of the Prophet Elias, et al. Every desecration of the sacred objects was severely punished by God (see Num. 10,15-20. I Kings 5, 2-4).
The teaching of the Orthodox Church concerning the holy icons has a Christological foundation. God is by essence unapproachable; He can neither be expressed by words nor depicted. The Son and Word of God, however, became man and we beheld His glory (Jn 1, 14). Thus we can depict the person of Christ which constitutes the visible sign of the invisible presence of God, an "image of the invisible God" (Col. 1, 15). In the Orthodox Church that which is seen can be depicted; we express the same confession of faith either by written or oral word and even by depiction. The icon of Christ constitutes the confirmation of the incarnation of the Son and Word of God, which was a totally real, and not a docetic or imaginary, one.
Through the sacred icons we express our internal desire to grow in the love of Christ and the saints, to attain to the "new creation in Christ" and to become "conformed to His image" (Rom. 8,29). Just as the word sanctifies our lips, in a like way the icon, which trans­mits the same meaning as does the word, sanctifies our eyes and our mind.
The icons of the saints refer to "the new man" and are a declaration of our belief in our transformation in Christ and in the incorruption of man and the entire world. They do not refer to the "beauty" of this world, but rather symbolize the beauty and the glory of the "future age". This is why the holy icons lack the dimen­sion of "depth" and are two-dimensional. They proclaim a transfigured world which however we observe "as through a mirror" (I Cor. 13, 12). The holy icons give us the feeling that there exists a new world that is being transformed, and they constitute the assurance of our hope, expressed in the words of our Lord: "Behold I make all things new" (Rev. 21,5).
The honor rendered to the holy icons is placed within the framework established by the Seventh Ecumenical Council. According to the Holy Fathers of this council, the honor shown towards the holy icons refers back to the ancient Church and confirms the belief in the real incarnation of God the Word. This council ordains that along with the Holy Cross icons be made for the Churches, to be placed on the sacred vessels and the vestments of the priests, in the homes and in the roads; icons of Christ, the Theotokos and all the saints. It further underlines:
"For the more frequently they [the sacred icons] are seen, all the more those who see them are moved to remembrance and desire of those depicted; to them [the icons] they render greetings and a veneration of honor, but not true worship, which in accordance with our faith, is due only unto the divine nature...for the honor rendered to the icon is transferred to the prototype, and he who venerates the icon venerates the person depicted thereon".
Orthodox Christians believe that the Holy Cross is their only pride (Gal. 6,14). It is the instrument through which sin, the source of death, was set at naught (Rom. 5,12. 8,3). The Cross is thus no longer a symbol of death and of shame (Deut. 21,23), but a source of eternal life. Through the Cross the curse is done away with, conciliation "in Christ" is brought about, and "the new man" is created (Eph. 2, 15- 16). These truths are expressed in many of the hymns of the Church:
"You spread out Your hands on the Cross, Ï Merciful One, 
and You gathered together the Nations that were far from You
so that they might glorify Your great goodness".
"By spreading out Your divine hands upon the Cross, Ï Jesus,
You brought unto Yourself the work of Your hands,
and You freed all from the hands of the Evil One
and subjected them [unto You], for which cause
let us faithful hymn Your majesty, for indeed it is glorified".
The Cross of Christ is thus characterized by the Lord Himself as glory, as the judgment of this world, as the casting out of the Devil and as exaltation (Jn 12, 24-33). Our Church characterizes the Cross as "a weapon against the Devil", because he trembles and shudders at the sight of the Cross, not being able to bear its power.
"Lord, You have given us Your Cross as a weapon against the Devil;
for he shudders and trembles, not being able to gaze upon its might.
For its resurrects the dead,and abrogated death;
for which cause we venerate
Your entombment and Your Resurrection".
The Holy Cross of Christ becomes a standard and a measure of either man's triumph or his condemnation, depending upon the position he takes vis-a-vis it. Whoever equates Christ's Cross with that of the thieves, is equated with the unrepentant thief and is condemned. On the contrary, whoever differentiates the Cross of Christ and considers it to be a royal scepter, and invokes the mercy of Christ, is likened unto the good thief, and the road leading to Paradise is opened up before him. In this way the Holy Cross becomes the measure of the judg­ment of the world, "the scales of justice" as it is called by the hymn of the Church:
"Your Cross stood between two thieves
as a scale of justice.
The one is led down to hell
by the weight of his blasphemy,
the other is lightened from the burden of his sins
unto the knowledge of things divine.
Ï Christ-God, glory to You".
When we speak of the Holy Cross we do not mean only Christ's crucifixion, but also the wood of the Cross. For this, too, is sanctified by its contact with the Body of Christ, and that is why it, too, is venerated: "The wood of Your Cross do we venerate, Ï Lover of man, for on it was nailed the Life of all things", states one of the Church's hymns. The sign of the Cross is also "divine and venerable", says St. Gregory Palamas, for it is "a venerable seal, sanctifying and perfecting all the marvelous and ineffable good things that come from God". It is an image of the crucified Christ and it draws its power and grace from His passion. This is why the sealing with the sign of the Cross is the external sign of all of the Church's Mysteries through which man's salvation is wrought.
The Cross of Christ expresses the ineffable love of God, but at the same time it also expresses man's infinite value in God's sight. A contemporary theologian says that Christ put sin to death without slaying the sinner; He did away with guilt and yet saved the guilty one. This is the great difference between Christ and human justice which crushes guilt by deriding and disgracing the guilty one. However, Christ did not simply conquer sin but also the consequence of sin which is death, and restored man to his pristine purity. Thus He led man to a surpassing of death, to the life of immortality and incorruption. Thus we do not have here a lifting of some type of Augustinian inherited guilt, nor room for any type of "payment" or "ransom" - save only in the patristic sense - and certainly not an Anselmian satisfaction of Divine justice. Rather the weight rests on Christ's love, Who achieved the most extreme limits of sacrifice in behalf of those whom He loves. And it is in precisely this that we see man's infinite value.
Making the sign of the Cross is an early Christian Tradition testified to by St. Justin the Martyr (150) and by Tertullian (200). The latter writes: " We Christians in all our travels and in all our movements about, at every departure and upon every arrival, when we put on our clothes and shoes, in the bath and at the table, when we light our lamp, when we sit or sleep, in all the acts of our everyday life in general, we make the sign of the Cross".
" This custom," Tertullian concludes, "has its beginnings in the Church's Tradition, it is strengthened through habit and should be preserved in faith".
Orthodox Christians unite the three fingers of their right hand and place them first on their forehead, then on their stomach and finally bring them to their two shoulders from right to left. All of the Church's theology is depicted in the sign of the Cross. By uniting our three fingers we depict and confess our belief in the One Triune God. From the forehead we bring our fingers to the stomach, and by so doing "typify the Son" Who was pre-eternally born of the Father and came down to earth by His birth from the Virgin Mary. When we place our united fingers on our shoulders we do so to "typify the Holy Spirit", Who is characterized as being the "arm" and the "might" of God. By uniting the remaining two fingers we depict Christ's incarnation and the inseparable union of the two natures, through which human nature was cured and exalted to the height of theosis.
We must not make the sign of the Cross in a mechanical way, but conscientiously, with inner participation. We should make the sign of the Cross upon our bodies distinctly and not carelessly, but in accordance with the order of the Church: with our three fingers joined together and as if the Cross itself were touching us. It is understood that the sign of the Cross must be accompanied by analogous faith in that which it depicts and by the unwavering decision to crucify and do away with our sinful selves and our passions; to put on the new man and ever be orientated towards the Cross and the Resurrection of Christ.
Orthodox Christians therefore render respect and honorary veneration to the Cross just as they do to the holy icons, in relation always to the personage of Christ. This also holds true for the honor rendered to the saints. This honor is not adoration and worship, but an expression of respect and love towards persons and things which God Himself honored by abundantly bestowing upon them His grace. This veneration would be transformed into worship only in such case where one were to render it by identifying in his conscience that which he venerated with God. No Orthodox Christian, however, ever identifies the Holy Cross, the sacred icons or the saints with God, nor does he differentiate the honor accorded them from their relationship to the person of our Lord.

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The Liturgical Year

Already by ancient Tradition, the Church honored the day on which the saints reposed as their day of birth, and celebrated the great events in the lives of the saints by celebrating the Holy Liturgy. But apart from these festivals, the Church also established the great feasts of the year which were associated with the great mystery of divine dispensation.
The liturgical year of the Church is not a measure for calculating time but for the living and experiencing of the entire mystery of the world's salvation, and is a prefiguring of the eternity to which the Christian looks. Liturgical time moves within the dimension of the eternal present; there is no separation between past, present and future. Thus it is that the hymns of the Church which refer to the great events of salvation in Christ use the word "today".
"Today does the Virgin give birth to the Superessential..."
"Today, He who hung the earth in the waters, hangs upon the Cross..." Here we have a new dimension of time, the time of transfiguration and incorruption bathed in the unwaning light of the "eighth day", the day of the Resurrection. In liturgical place and time everything finds its harmonious unity; angels and men are "reconciled" in Christ; they are united under the one Head of the body, Christ, and men are thus able to practice their "royal" and priestly ministry within creation and thereby bring it [creation] back to its doxological relationship with the Triune God.
In liturgical time we do not simply recall or simply refer back to the events of the divine dispensation; rather we mystically experience and live these events and sacramentally participate in the life of Christ and of all the saints; we become partakers of Christ's legacy and commune in His sanctity; partakers of the salvation which is the spiritual experience of the Church through­out the ages; we do not simply celebrate the sacred memory of God's works.
The festal cycle of Christmas puts forth God's entry into the world of faith, an entry which is God's condescension for man's restoration. The "child" that "was born unto us and given unto us", according to the hymn of the Church is the super-essential and unapproachable God, Who becomes approachable for fallen man. Through this act God accepts His creation, and leads it from its fallen state to restoration, from death to life, from corruption to incorruption. For this reason all of creation co-celebrates this event. The earth offers the cave, the angels glorify together with the shepherds and the magi follow together with the Star:
"Today the Virgin brings forth the Super-essential, and the earth offers the cave to the Unapproachable, Angels together with the shepherds sing praises; The Wise Men journey on with the Star. For, for our sakes, God, Who is before all the ages, is born a little Child".
The festal cycle of Easter leads the believer through a long preparation of repentance and asceticism, which culminates, during Holy Week, in the night of the Resurrection, in the beginning of the "other life" where we celebrate the death of Death and the annihilation of Hades.
"We celebrate the death of Death,
the annihilation of Hell,
the beginning of a life new and everlasting.
And in ecstasy we sing praises
unto the author thereof,
the only God of our Fathers,
blessed and exceedingly glorious".
"Now are all things filled with light;
heaven, and earth and the places under the earth.
All creation doth celebrate
the Resurrection of Christ,
on Whom also it is founded."
Man, in the person of Christ, was assumed by Divinity; thus, through Christ's death, man crushed Death and rose to a life of incorruption and immortality, he ascended in glory and was exalted to the height of the glory of God the Father (I Tim. 3, 16. Philip. 2, 9-11). This is the significance of the feast of Christ's Ascension. Before this "strange miracle" the hosts of angels remain voiceless; all of creation engulfs the mystery with silence:
"The Angelic Hosts...beholding our nature and marvelling at its strange ascension, wondered amongst themselves: Who is this here present? But as they discerned that this was their own Master, they commanded the Heavenly Gates to open..."
Our Lord's bodily Resurrection and Ascension, in accordance with the message of the angels (Acts 1,11) also pre-announces His bodily return. The Lord, however, prior to His Ascension promised to "send" the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit revealed to the Apostles on the day of Pentecost the entire mystery of divine love, and gave to them power and divine charismata so as to become zealous preachers and defy all dangers. With Pentecost, the period of confusion which began with Babel ends, and man enters into a period of unity and returns to the one nature, to "the one in Christ":
"When the Most High confounded the tongues, He dispersed the nations: but when He distributed the tongues of fire, He called all men unto unity. Wherefore, with one accord, we glorify the All-holy Spirit." (Kontakion of Pentecost).
This deep unity is experienced by every Christian in liturgical place, not only during the feast of Pentecost but at every Eucharistic gathering, especially on the Lord's Day, Sunday, during which the weekly festal cycle reaches its climax.
The celebration of Sunday is not a replacement for the keeping of the Jewish Sabbath. By establishing Saturday as a day of rest, God desired to limit Israel's insensitivity and carnality as well as its love for material things. The Command was given to the spiritually weak Israelites and was based on the fear of punishment, within the framework of a relationship of Lord and servant between God and man that was regulated by the Mosaic Law.
The Christian, however, finds himself in a relationship of "adoption"; his place vis-a-vis God is not governed by the Law, but by God's grace; that is, he is under grace (Rom. 6,14). He is called to direct all his desire towards God and to do His will out of love - not out of fear - continuously, and not only one day a week.
Sunday is the day of the new creation, the birthday of God's children and depicts not one day's rest but the eternal rest of the faithful. It is outside the weekly cycle of the Jews and is characterized as the eighth day. That which the believer lives in liturgical time and place, he is called to continue throughout all his life, which should be enlightened by the unwaning light of Christ's Resurrection and of Pentecost.
This, however, is not easy for man in this life. Thus, he has need to return often to liturgical place, to relive the joy of the Resurrection and the Transfiguration, in order to set out once again in the world. This he must do until such time as the second Coming of Christ becomes a reality. Then shall all of man's life and all of creation acquire the experience of a continuous Divine Liturgy within the continuous glory of the Resurrection and Pentecost (cf. Is. 60, 1-22. Rev. 12,22-25).



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Our Place in the World and the Hope of the World

The entire world is God's creation and therefore it is by nature good; evil does not have an ontological existence. Natural evil is the result of discord which was created after man's fall; even death is a means of educating man in order to lead him back to communion with God. Moral evil, sin, does not have its cause in man's nature, but in man's disposition.
Through man's fall, all of nature was dragged into servitude to corruption. God, however, in the person of His Incarnate Word or Logos entered into the reality of the world and renewed it. By His death, Resurrection and Ascension, He led man, whom He had assumed, to the life of incorruption and immortality; and He exalted him to the height of the glory of God the Father.
This glory, which during the second coming of our Lord shall become our possession, is prefigured in the life of the Church, and especially in the life of the saints. The bodies of the saints, the sacred relics, are surrounded by the sanctifying grace of God and become a source of divine blessings and miracles (IV Kings 13,21. Wisdom of Sirach 18,14). The grace, honor and glory which God grants to the relics of the saints constitute a foretaste and predepiction of man's transfiguration and that of all creation. This same grace surrounds the saints even during this life and can be discerned in some as warmth, in others as light, or through various miracu­lous energies, which are blessings for man. Even material objects in the life of the Church bear God's grace.
The presence of God's grace and glory in man and in material creation prefigures the liberation of all of creation from servitude to corruption and guarantees the certainty of our hope in life and incorruption. The world's sanctification was also wrought in the Jordan River during our Lord's Baptism. The hymns of our Church on the day of Epiphany and the prayers of the Great Sanctification of the Waters reveal the new reality of the world: "Today the earth and the sea share in the world's joy and the world is filled with gladness", states the prayer of St. Sophronios of Jerusalem.
Christ hallowed the waters of the Jordan, the banks of the river and all of creation: " You, Ï Lord, being baptized in the Jordan did sanctify its waters"; "having hallowed the waters of the Jordan You did crush the power of sin"; " Today creation is enlightened; today all things rejoice, the heavenly together with the earthly", states the hymnology of our Church.
Through the participation of the material creation in the divine worship of the Church and in the praise and doxology of God the hope of incorruption is expressed. In the Divine Liturgy all of creation is taken on and becomes a new creation in Christ. It is the bread and wine that becomes the Body and Blood of Christ, the candles, the icons, the Holy Cross; and all the material objects participate in some way in the Divine Liturgy. The water, the oil, the incense, the palms, the flowers, and even the new harvest of the crops of the earth are blessed, and the whole world regains that which it lost through man's fall: internal unity, the correct relation­ship with God, which is an eucharistic relationship, a relationship of offering in which all things are referred up and offered to God, Who becomes once again the centre of the world.
The unity of the entire creation which offers up "with one mouth" doxology to the Triune God is expressed at the end of the prayer for the Great Blessing of the Waters: "...that with the elements, and men, and Angels and with all things visible and invisible they may magnify Thy most holy Name, together with the Father, and the Holy Spirit, now and ever and unto ages of ages. Amen." Man thus forsakes his autonomy and his egoistic use of God's creation; he once again finds his correct place in the world and his "royal" and "priestly" ministry (Gen. 1, 28. 2, 15).
The Christian does not reject this world, nor does he consider it to be something negative. He is not called to abandon the world, but to serve or liturgize in it. Christ wants his faithful to be in the world; to be "the salt oi the earth" and "the light of the world" (Matth. 5, 13-14). If our world is "tasteless and unsalted" and in darkness, if it follows a process of disintegration, then this means that Christians do not serve "as the salt of the earth" and the "light of the world". We must not then look for the cause of the world's misfortune in others.
This place that the Christians hold in the world implies responsibility for the preservation and the sanctification of God's creation, a task which stems from the service which God entrusted to man in Paradise ("...to cultivate and preserve", Gen. 2, 15). A Christian cannot be indifferent to the world's problems; he must labor to bring the world once again back to its doxological relationship with God. This means that the use of the world cannot have as its centre the satisfaction of man's ego and the "needs" which man constantly creates.
The true believer does not attribute absolute and exclusive value to the needs of this life nor to man's abilities. He does not intervene in God's creation in an autonomous way, independent of God's will, and egocentrically; he feels that he is responsible for cre­ation. He does not seek knowledge and use of God's creation "unconditionally". The faithful does not use the powers of the world in a manner not blessed by God and contrary to the balance and harmony in creation and to the unity of God's world.
The Orthodox believer knows that man after the fall ceased to offer creation up to God as a doxology, i.e. to practice his priestly duties vis-a-vis creation; it was he who led creation into servitude to corruption. Within the Church however, he acquires the experience of freedom from this servitude. With this experience he is now called to return to the world with the assurity of the transfiguration and salvation of the entire creation. Having once again acquired within the liturgical place his correct relationship with creation and his correct place within it, he is called to practice his service as priest of the world.
This transfiguration of man and creation in the Church is still not yet the "new heavens" and the "new earth". These will become a reality during Christ's Second Coming. Thus it is that the Christian hope is "not of this world". Every chiliastic-messianic concept which looks to an establishment of an earthly kingdom and the creation of Paradise on earth, is foreign to the spirit of Christ.
Christians respect the authorities of the world and submit themselves to human laws which do not go against their Christian hope (Rom. 13, 1-8. Acts 3, 30). They do not preach a "gospel" conforming to the aspirations and the aims of this world. This is the saving message of the Church to a world which has an exclusively intersecular character and can discern no other vertical dimension in its life. It is for this reason that Orthodox Monasticism with its ascetical character and heavenly orientation offers to our society a great service. It shows to contemporary man, who is exclusively orientated towards the horizontal dimension, the vertical dimension which is at the centre of monastic life.
The monks thus constitute the indicators of the reality of heaven, which man who lives in the world cannot easily grasp. Monasticism opens the way to the absolute experience of life in Christ: a way of asceticism and obedience which is followed throughout one's life without ending; a way which is at the same time danger­ous for those who fail to remain humble and steadfast in love that "seeks not its own". This life of the monastics constitutes a continuous vocation to contemporary man's disposition and an excellent prefiguration of the future life.
This anticipation of a new life creates in the Christians the conviction that here on earth they are strangers and sojourners, and that in traversing this life they walk towards their true homeland (Hebrews 11, 13-16). The believer has his eyes always fixed upon heaven and considers death to be the last stop in his journey, his "passing on" or birth into the next life.
We believe that after their separation from the body the souls of the righteous are in the hands of God (Wisdom of Solomon, 3,1) and they await the resurrection of the bodies, so that they may "totally" become partakers in God's love and glory. On the contrary, the souls of the unrighteous who in their lives rejected God's love and communion with Him and with the brethren, and who had as the only centre of reference their "ego", are deprived of this love, for their egoism does not allow them to accept it.
Christ's Second Coming will signal the general resurrection; our bodies will be clothed with incorruption and immortality. The righteous shall be raised unto life, the unrighteous unto condemnation. This will be the general judgment of the world; God's love will judge man in accordance with the position he assumes towards it, i.e. whether he accepts it or rejects it.
The Lord desires the salvation of all men, and their return to their true homeland: to the love and commu­nion with the Triune God. This we call Paradise. By this word we do not mean a material but a spiritual reality. Holy Scripture compares this communion to the relationship between the Bridegroom and the Bride, and their union is compared to marriage (Rev. 19,7).
 The sons of the Kingdom shall be eternally united with Christ and shall henceforth absolutely live the condition of being "one in Christ"; then shall we be in Him participators by grace of His unity with the Father ("I in my Father and you in me" Jn 14,20). All who live in this life closed up within themselves, all those who do not rejoice in seeing the face of their brother shall be deprived of this joy. They of their own accord have chosen their eternal torment.
Christ's Second Coming is for the faithful the fulfilment of their hope, just as is the arrival of the Bridegroom for the Bride. This is why the preparation for the reception of the coming Christ constitutes the chief concern of this life.
But when shall the Lord come? Christians do not concern themselves in pinpointing a specific date. They are vigilant and take care to be ready at every moment, for the Lord shall come suddenly, when we do not expect Him (Matth. 24, 13. 33. Acts 1, 7). The Lord Himself warns us to protect ourselves from false prophets who will be workers of guile and treachery. Outwardly they shall appear in the guise of Christ or in the form of an angel (Matth. 24, 4-5. 23-27. II Cor. 11, 13-15). Their teaching shall not be identical with that of Christ; thus the knowledge of the only real truth oi Christ is necessary in order to avoid error and deceit.



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The Orthodox Mind or Spirit

All that we have mentioned define the faith of Orthodoxy and protect the Mystery of man's salvation. They also establish the position of every believer vis-a-vis God, the world and his fellow man and constitute the Orthodox mind (öñüíçìá) or spirit. We do not have here the result of an attempt on man's part to develop a type of self-salvation, but the result of a cooperation between God and man.
Man, through his fall, was deprived of God's Grace and depending upon his own powers, followed his own path. He was not able to prevail over his passions and was subdued by the spirit or mind of the flesh. In the person of Jesus Christ, God reached out to man and brought him back to the communion of His Grace. In Christ Jesus, man becomes a partaker of the life of God, he overcomes his carnally-mindedness and embraces spiritually-mindedness which is "life and peace" (Rom. 8,6), the mind of Christ (Philip. 2, 5. I Cor. 2, 16). He no longer "minds" [sets his affection on] "things on the earth" but "things in heaven" (Col. 3,2).
An essential change has come about in the man who is "in Christ": he has become a "new man", and new creation; he is completely Christified. This is the result of man's embodiment into the Body of Christ and of his partaking of the divine Eucharist. St. Symeon the New Theologian expresses this in the most moving way:
"We become members of Christ, and Christ our members,
and Christ becomes the hand and Christ the foot of me the wretched one;
I move my hand, and Christ is my entire hand. for you must understand the holy Divinity
as being inseparable from me".
This Christification of all of man leads the faithful to respect his body. The words of the St. Symeon are most moving. When we understand ourselves, who we are and who we have become in Christ, we will discern the miracle. We will respect and be timid before our very selves and will respect ourselves as we respect Christ:
"And I marvel, understanding myself,
from Whom I have become as such; Ï Miracle.
And I respect myself and am timid
And as You I honor and respect myself
And I wonder being bashful all over,
Where to sit, and whom to approach.
And where to rest Your members.
For what works, and for what actions
Should I employ Your fearful and divine members?"
All of man becomes Christified and feels infinite respect for his members which have become "members of Christ". This leads man to a completely new behavior towards his own body. His body no longer belongs to him but to Christ; it becomes a "temple of the Holy Spirit". Man cannot do whatever he wants with his body or with that of his neighbour. He must approach it with the same devotion and respect which he attributes to God's temple. Any other behaviour is a desecration.
His entire position vis-a-vis God, the world, his fellow man and his entire self becomes analogous to the height of the glory of Christified man. His life henceforth responds once again to his nature, to creation "according to the image" of God. He forsakes his autonomy and freely chooses the communion of love.
Love is undoubtedly the gift of God, the fruit of the Holy Spirit (Gal. 5, 22). But a necessary prerequisite for one to accept the Grace of the Holy Spirit is that it be his wholehearted choice, a reception on the part of the mind and the heart, which leads to obedience of God's commandments (Jn 14, 23). God loves man and gives him the possibility, if he himself so desires, to respond with his love to God's love and thus be changed into "an habitation of God through the Spirit" (Eph. 2, 22).
But this for the believer implies a way of life. It presupposes his decision and firm desire to "crucify his flesh together with his passions and desires" and to struggle with all his being to acquire the virtues of God, making this his aim with absolute priority.
But again, that which man shall attain to with his own attempts will not be the saving virtues which are God's gifts, but only the fruits of man's labour. Yet in this manner he demonstrates in deed, with all its per­sonal consequences, his personal choice and wholehearted turning towards God; his desire to acquire the gifts of God. Then can he ask God to give him His grace, and God "takes into consideration" man's struggles, accepts the fruits of these labours and He transforms them into the gifts of the Holy Spirit, into love, joy, peace, long-suffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness and temperance" (Gal. 5, 22).
This new "mind", this new way of thinking, presupposes that the believer will forsake his autonomy and accept his insufficiency and inability to achieve the meaning of life, i.e. that he will repent "metanoia": change his way of thinking. An autonomous man is also he who seeks to justify his life with good deeds or by any type of "technical" processes, outside the realm of God's Grace in Christ Jesus. The Orthodox "mind" or way of thinking is free from all concepts of self-justification (Rom. 3, 20. Gal. 5,4). The true believer looks his sinfulness and insufficiency in the face and looks to Christ with complete trust. It is for this reason that "the publicans and harlots enter the Kingdom of God before those who are convinced of their righteousness and depend upon it" (Matth. 21,31).
The Fathers of the Church talk about the "convul­sions of the heart" which at the same time constitute the "opening up" for the Grace of God to enter into man's soul. The hymns of the Great Canon express this reality in the life of the faithful.
Through true repentance the faithful has the feeling that he finds himself in an ocean bed: " for no child of Adam has sinned as I have sinned unto You". He is convinced that this great distance separating him from God springs only from his disposition, "by myself have I sinned unto You"; and further, he expresses his inability to weep in repentance: "neither tears, nor repentance, not even contrition do I have". However man's impasse is set at naught by his crying unto God the Savior:
"Do, Thou, Ï God my Savior grant them to me.
Grant me thoughts of repentance,
Give to my wretched soul the desire for contrition,
Lift me from the sleep of fearful hardheartedness,
Dispel the darkness of sloth,
Dissolve the blackness of despair;
So that I, the most wretched one,
may lift up my head,
And attach myself to You, Ï Logos,
And walk in accordance with Your will".
Deep humility constitutes the beginning of spiritual life, the foundation of the Orthodox "mind" or way of thinking. Here we do not have a cry of hopelessness but a turning about by man that leads to hope, despite all impasses that he may have been led to by his own volition.
The believer is henceforth called to a lifelong spiritual struggle in which he is never abandoned by God, except in such instance where he were to consider himself able of his own and self-sufficient. For then he becomes autonomous and distances himself from the Grace of God. The faithful realizes that not only God but the Devil also calls to his disposition and threatens his "mind in Christ" through deceptive means (Jn 8,44. I Peter 5,8).
The demonic element is a reality; this why our Lord urges us to "be sober, to be vigilant" (I Peter 5, 7), "be strong in the Lord, and in the power of His might. Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the Devil" (Eph. 6, 10-12).
This means that the Devil does not have authority over the believer, unless the latter cooperates with him through his disposition. Spiritual warfare, especially "prayer and fasting" i.e. ascesis in Christ crushes every intrigue of the Devil (cf. Matth 17,21. Mark 9, 29). Through asceticism or ascesis the believer does not aim at degrading the body, but at neutralizing the passions. It is a preparation of the body to receive God's grace and sanctification; "If you want to be saved, become as if you were dead", say the Desert Fathers in reference to the deadening of the passions. When one reaches such sanctity, he acquires that real humility which attracts to itself all of God's Grace, and he becomes "full of Grace" (Matth. 5, 3. I Peter 5,5); the machinations of the Devil cannot harm him.
Yet, it is possible that he may fall since man remains changeable, i.e. he can turn towards virtue or towards sin, on the basis of his free will, depending on what he chooses.
We can understand the term "freedom" either relatively or in an absolute sense. Absolute freedom places man's "ego" in the centre of the universe. The exercise of absolute freedom distances man from his very own nature, it alienates him, for man, according to the Christian faith, is not an egoistic being but a communion of persons. This idea means that our neighbour is a partaker and sharer of the very same nature in which we partake; he is relevant to us; he is not something separate from us, someone other; This means that he constitutes together with us and all our fellow men the one humanity, the one humankind, the one man with myriads of hypostases, i.e. persons.
The one nature is expressed in the daily life of the Christians through the existence of the one "mind" or accord, the mind or spirit of Christ, Who "emptied Himself, taking on the form of a servant" and "humbled Himself" becoming obedient unto death..." (Philip. 2, 7-8). This is the most extreme limit of humility and sacrifice on behalf of communion and love with apostate man. When one acquires this mind of Christ, he returns once again to living according to his nature, he possesses that "mind" which corresponds to man's true nature.
On the contrary, the man who has as his supreme law the imposition of his will, regardless of what this could mean for others, for human communion or society in general, and for all of creation, follows a path which alienates him from his very own nature. This type of behaviour constitutes communion only with himself, i.e. hell. This egocentric "mind" can constitute a real threat when man, in the name of freedom, considers it his right to impose his will in any way; in the name of freedom, he becomes destructive.
There is of course freedom "from something", e.g. freedom from oppression; there is also, however, freedom "for something", for a purpose. Absolute freedom from every kind of limitation, as we have said, goes against man's nature and alienates him; it transforms him into a tyrant or a monster. This is why true freedom is sought for in relation with the purpose, which of course is the edification, the building up, and not the destruction of man's personality.
In our times this question is especially contemporary, because many speak of freedom and liberation, negatively evaluating man's personality and aiming at its total abrogation. Others again speak about liberation, underlining that man has within him an unlimited power. Through their techniques they promise to liberate this power and to transform man into a superman, equal with God. And this concept presupposes absolute freedom and the right of autonomous man to impose his will upon the less powerful.
According to the Christian "mind" or way of think­ing, true freedom, which is in harmony with man's nature, ministers unto human nature; it does not destroy it. It serves the unity, the harmony, the love of all of God's creation. It thus becomes apparent that the question of freedom is directly related to the concept that we have concerning man. Christian anthropology does not lead to impasses, nor to a concept of freedom catastrophic for man's personality. The Christian's concept of freedom is a blessing for man and for all of creation.
When, therefore, we speak of freedom "for something" we mean the realization of man's nature, i.e. the fulfilment of the meaning of his life. God created man to progress from creation "according to the image" to the achievement of "the likeness"; i.e. to that fullness of communion and love by grace which has as its model the love of the Three Persons of the Holy Trinity.
It is indicative that Christ, speaking about the "limits" of love, which is the love for our enemies, characterizes them as "perfection" and puts forth as a model the love of the Heavenly Father: "But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you: that ye may be the children of your Father which is in 'heaven" (Matth. 5,44). The "mind" of love which includes one's enemies is the mind "according to the likeness" of the heavenly Father. It is not offered forcibly or out of necessity, but freely.
The idea that to love our enemies, to bless those who curse us, and to do good to those who hate us, and indeed with all the strength of our souls, goes against human nature, is a warped and distorted idea. For that which goes against man's true nature is not loving one's enemies, but to hate them. Not to bless, but to curse.
God loves, blesses, does good. This is why the believer who loves God desires to be like Him; this moreover is the meaning of his life. In this way man overcomes his apostasy and returns to the mind of Adam before the fall. Adam was possessed by the conviction that Eve, the other person, was not something strange, but his very self; "this is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh". In Christ Jesus we are no longer egoistical beings, "a thousand pieces"; we regain the feeling and awareness of the oneness of mankind, of the one man, and we understand the meaning of divine dispensation in Christ; Christ came to gather God's scattered children "into one" and He desires to incorpor­ate all into this unity of "one in Christ". In this sense does the believer understand the words of Scripture:
"Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself (Matth. 22, 37-38).
Referring to this love, Christ emphasized that on this the fulfilment of the entire Law depends; this constitutes the Orthodox "mind". Do not differentiate the other; understand him to be your member, and consider yourself and all others as one body and members of one another.



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ATHENS 1994 DIALOGUE Publications, No. 7. Published by the Information,

Dialogue and Culture Services of the Archdiocese of Athens in

collaboration with "The PanHellenic Parents Union for the

Protection of Greek Orthodox Culture the Family and the


Copyright 1994: Antonios Alevizopoulos, Iasiou 1, Athens Gr. 115 21

Article published in English on: 31-8-2005.

Last update: 11-2-2008.