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A Hierarch’s “Theological” Tragedy

by the monk Paisios Kareotis, Professor of the Athonias School

In January, Orthodox Ethos offered the article On Bishops and Catascops which was an explanation by St. Andrew of Ufa on how we recognize bishops who do not live up to the high calling of their office. Now we offer this translation of "A Hierarch’s 'Theological' Tragedy" which explains the liturgical chaos a bishop makes when he not only fails to realize but fails to even live up to his high calling. In addition to this, the below article does a superb job of explaining what the spiritual standards are for bishops and the full expectations we Orthodox Christians ought to have for them. This article is a very valuable and clarifying piece I hope our readers appreciate.

-- Editor.

A Hierarch’s "Theological" Tragedy

We were deeply saddened by the publication a few days ago of the encyclical from the Metropolis of Florina, under protocol number 1151, on the 27th of October, 2016. The Metropolitan of Florina, accused by one of his clergymen over Ecumenism and his recognition of the decisions of the “synod” of Kolymbarion (and consequently no longer being commemorated by the said clergyman), issued this circular to the preachers, priests, monks, and to the entirety of the Christian flock in his Metropolis.[1]

In this encyclical, the Metropolitan tries to argue his position theologically, but ends up, unfortunately, in what is a “theological” tragedy, a “theological” shipwreck. While invoking vaguely what will be a careful study [2] of the “apostolic and other holy fathers,” he makes these the equals and peers of the “modern teachers of dogmatic theology,” who are university teachers and are, in the main, problematic for the Church, because they import alien teachings. The pre-eminent “modern teacher of dogmatic theology,” whom the encyclical copies verbatim without naming him, is the Metropolitan of Pergamon, Ioannes Zizioulas, who himself ought to be standing trial before the Orthodox General Synod for introducing an heretical Triadology and Ecclesiology. A special study on this will be published soon.

First, the Metropolitan of Florina defends the ecclesiastical order, which, however, with the arguments he presents, he does not base on the Apostolic and other Holy Fathers, but on the novel ecclesiology of the Metropolitan of Pergamon.

Then he distinguishes the ministry of the word, from the performance of the sacrament of the divine Eucharist. In the Orthodox tradition these are not distinguished; it is the Papists and the Protestants who distinguish between them. For example, the wealth that is St. John Chrysostom’s speeches took place in the Holy Temple, during the divine worship, not in classrooms and conferences.

One of the highlights of the “theological” tragedy, in this encyclical by the Metropolitan of Florina, is his fervent support for the “Fermentum.” “The presbyters would celebrate [the liturgy], but they would await a fragment of the consecrated Lamb to be sent, as an assurance, from the liturgy where their bishop was officiating, before the faithful would commune.” At this point he is copying, verbatim, from pp. 180-181 of the monograph of the doctoral dissertation of the Metropolitan of Pergamon [3]. However, the Metropolitan of Florina undermines his title of careful studier[4]. One wonders how he did not notice that all the citations in these pages are to Western and alien theologians. Did the Metropolitan of Florina not observe that there is only one citation from a saint there, and this a misquote? The Metropolitan of Pergamon makes reference (p. 181, note 14) to the First Apology of St. Justin. But, there, the Saint is referring to those “not present” (τοῖς οὐ παρούσι), i.e. to the sick and the elderly, who could not go to the Divine Liturgy. He makes no mention at all of sending holy fragments to the other parishes, because, supposedly, the Divine Liturgy of the presbyter was deficient and made complete only by the fragment from the episcopal Divine Liturgy. For the Orthodox Tradition, these are bizarre monstrosities and blasphemies. This is the theological speculation of the Second Vatican Council, on deficient and complete Divine Liturgies and Churches. Does not the shepherd of Florina know this? These “experts” he invokes are “experts” in spreading heresies.

We would like the Metropolitan of Florina to tell us when, historically, this “concession” he invokes occurred, by which the ordained bishop “gave” the right (Is the Divine Liturgy one’s “right” that he can assign?) “to the ordained presbyter to perform the sacrament of divine Eucharist, as we do today.” He suggests that it did not happen right from the start, but much later. So let him tell us when it happened. Because this means that the relationship between a bishop and a presbyter is subject to change. Thus, it can still change today, in accordance with the wishes of this “expert,” who would like to transform the presbyter from the responsible pastor, who will give answer to Christ for his flock, to a representative of the representative. That is, to a representative of the bishop (vicarius episcopus), who (in turn) is the representative of the one who has the Primacy, this Primus being the “vicarius Christi” on earth. I hope it is becoming clear what level of falsification we arrive at with the theories of this “expert.”

Next, he makes reference to the “umbilical cord” in the sacred link between the ordainer and the ordained. This is, according to the Metropolitan of Florina, the commemoration of the name of the local bishop during any sanctifying actions. These he enumerates, mentioning characteristically, “from the blessing of the new football season” to the very “apex of the mysteries: ordination and the Divine Eucharist.” We see here clearly how both football and the Divine Eucharist are placed, irreverently, in the same sacramental context.

Using the term “umbilical cord” between the ordainer and the ordained, he clearly means that the ordained presbyter has a direct and binding relationship with the bishop who ordained him, like the fetus in its mother’s womb, at the level of natural dependency. But in the prayers of ordination to presbyter, the ordaining bishop does not display such a relationship. On the contrary, he positions him (the presbyter) before God Himself. Indeed, when he places the holy Arton in the hands of the newly ordained, he says to him: “Receive this Divine Pledge, and guard it until the Second Coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, at which time HE WILL demand It from you.” We can see clearly that the presbyter’s relationship with Christ is direct and alive. This is why he will also give account over whether he “proclaimed the Gospel of His Kingdom” correctly and if he “ministered the word of His truth” correctly, as the ordination prayers state, among other things.

The ordained bishop does not enter in as mediator, as an intermediate “deity,” from whom all things spring. Neither does the priest become for the parish the representative (vicarius) of the bishop, who (in turn) is the representative of the Primus over the entire local church. This is a papal conception of the priesthood, which today is cultivated in the Orthodox practice by “experts.” The correct and proper commemoration of the bishop does not express such a relationship. Unfortunately, in many matters of Orthodox practice, due to ignorance, indifference, and many other passions, we have lost the fruit, the pith, the kernel, and we are left with the “husk,” and it is moldy.

The commemoration of the bishop—and, let me repeat, it is correct, proper, and necessary that this be done—is interpreted ONLY in the context of Orthodox theology, which refers to purification, illumination, and deification. Outside of this interpretive framework, it becomes an administrative, disciplinary, and, ultimately, a papal arrangement. Only in this context do the Holy Fathers interpret the commemoration of the name of the local bishop. If the bishop is not the authentic teacher of Orthodox doctrine in his local Church—this is what the dikerotrikera [5] that he holds declare, with which he blesses and illumines his flock—if he is not the mystagogue to the true knowledge of God, which he strives to possess by his own labor in the garden of virtues, and if he is not the living Gospel, which the people of God can read in the very life of their bishop, then a number of internal problems will constantly arise, one of which the Metropolitan of Florina is already facing.

“The crucial point of the Divine Liturgy is the consecration of the Holy Gifts and the commemoration of the bishop’s name as an assurance for what is being done.” This is mentioned in his encyclical, but the Metropolitan of Florina forgets that assurances are made before a thing is done, not after. The commemoration of the bishop occurs when the consecration of the Holy Gifts has already taken place. It follows, therefore, that the Holy Fathers, who placed the commemoration of the bishop at this point, wanted to express something different. The assurance the Metropolitan of Florina refers to really does exist in the Divine Liturgy, but it is located in its proper place before the consecration. This assurance is the confession of the Orthodox faith, which takes place shortly before the consecration. The Orthodox Faith gives validity to the Mystery, and the exponents and mystagogues of this Faith are the priests and local hierarch. What happens with the Divine Liturgy if there is no Orthodoxy there? When there is no Orthodoxy, the so-called Divine Liturgy becomes a theatrical performance, a dead symbol.

A purely philological reading of the prayers after the consecration shows us that the celebrant priest, now before the consecrated Holy Artos, that is, the living presence of Christ, begins to commemorate and pray—as an ambassador and mediator of the people, who have put him to the front [of the congregation] and appointed him to prayer—for all the Saints, in their order, for all those fallen asleep, for all the living, in their order, i.e. the bishops, the presbyters, the deacons, the monks, the kings, and the lords. In this context, it ends, “Among the first remember, O Lord, our archbishop…”. If, as the Metropolitan of Florina says, the name of the local bishop gives the assurance, then all the other names, i.e. of the Saints, the dead and the living, which precede it in the same prayer, would also be guarantors of the sacrament. The, “Remember, O Lord,” or the, “Again we offer Thee this rational worship in behalf of...,” are optative, supplicatory, and not guarantory. It is very reasonable for God’s people, the flock, to pray before Christ for their shepherd, for their father. With these interpretations of the “experts” we will lose the meaning of the words and eventually our entire language and faith.

The polity of our Church is hierarchical and analogous with the Heavenly Hierarchy. The hierarch presides over the priests, as he is potentially godly and full of Divine Grace, and illuminates his flock, as the higher angelic order illuminates the lower. Every hierarchical operation has two aspects: participation and transmission; first he participates, then he transmits. Of course, many hierarchs today have lost sight of what is being participated in and what is being transmitted. “If the hierarch is not, in his habitual state, enlightened from above, he will not work enlightenment in others” [6]. The commemoration of the bishop, therefore, is done for the institution of the right ordered hierarchy and not, as the encyclical claims, for the validity of the sacrament. The priest, “is appointed to prayer and for this reason has been placed at the front [of the congregation], as their ambassador and mediator, so that his prayer be very efficacious” [7], after commemorating all the saints before the holy Artos, that is, the living Christ, begins the commemoration of the living with prayers for the hierarch of the local church.

On the third page, in the second paragraph, the reasoning of the Metropolitan of Florina is found lacking, because he identifies the self-ordained layman (i.e. a non-existent sacrament) with the priest who has been ordained properly and in accordance with the ecclesiastical order, but who does not commemorate his bishop. Also, the Metropolitan of course does not offer a canonical examination of the reasons behind the non-commemoration.

Toward the end of the encyclical, he regurgitates the same old ecumenist chestnut about unity, ignoring that, in the Church, unity is a fact, not a thing sought for. Because he gives an ecumenist interpretation to the words of our Lord, “That they be one.” We will refer him, if he accepts as authoritative the word of the Holy Fathers, to Saint Dionysios the Areopagite, who expresses the Orthodox Church: “The holy and blessed Trinity is both a monad and an henad (unity): a monad, because it is simplex an uncompounded; an henad, because it is united in itself naturally, and unites all who approach it, in accordance with what is said in the Gospels, “That they be one, even as We are one.”[8] The saint says clearly that as long as one participates, through virtues, in the holiness of the triune God, one also participates by the grace of God in His unity too. Unity is a given in the Church when we live in a churchly manner and participate in the Great Ecclesiarch Christ. If one seeks unity, it means he is outside the Church.

Wanting to solve the problem he has with his clergyman, the Metropolitan of Florina has created bigger problems with what he has written and said. He has presented a mindset that is alien to the Orthodox Church. We grieve because, instead of having as their foundation the Prophets, the Apostles, and the Ecumenical teachers, our hierarchs, unfortunately, have as their foundation the university professors, and, in fact, the most un-Orthodox ones.

KARYAI, 28 NOVEMBER (O.S.), St. Stephanos the Hosiomartyr


[1] See https://aktines.blogspot.com/2016/12/blog-post_22.html. Note that the page at this web address still has the title introducing the Metropolitan’s encyclical, but no longer the images of the encyclical itself.

[2] See n. 3.

[3] The Unity of the Church in the Divine Eucharist and the Bishop during the First Three Centuries, Grigoris Publications, Athens 1990, 2nd edition.

[4] See n. 2.

[5] Bishops’ liturgical candles.

[6] Saint Dionysios Areopagite, On the Heavenly Hierarchy, PG 3:169. This citation is actually from the Paraphrasis of Dionysios’ CH by Georgios Pachymeres, which PG calls the Paraphrasis Pachymerae.

[7] St. Nicholas Cabasilas, On the Divine Liturgy, ΕΠΕ vol. 22, p. 80

[8] St. Dionysios Areopagite, On the Celestial Hierarchy, PG 3:237. Again, this is from the Paraphrasis of Dionysios’ CH by Georgios Pachymeres.


Published in "Orthodox Typos" on December 27, 2016

Posted on May 25th, 2022

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