"By Nick Stamatakis
Helleniscope’s audience has been reacting for many weeks to the infamous statement by AB Elpidophoros at the “Religious Freedom Summit” in Washington DC on July 16, 2021: “When you elevate one religion above all others, it is as if you decide there is only one path leading to the top of the mountain. But the truth is you simply cannot see the myriads of paths that lead to the same destination…” We have published our response and the responses of others who are largely in agreement that this statement, (given Elpidophoros “ecumenist” past and actions, including his geopolitical adventures), constitutes pure heresy.
So when I received the message (through an intermediary) from Archimandrite Father Makarios (Mannos) of St.Katherine’s Monastery at Sinai, Egypt, responding to this heretical statement (following below), a friend of Fr. Makarios suggested an even shorter response to AB Elpidophoros, a response in the form of a question:
“Your Eminence, can you name one Orthodox saint who has prayed with or participated in liturgies with priests of other Christian dogmas?” There is NONE. We have had several heretic Patriarchs and other hierarchs who were excommunicated. But none of our Saints shares these “ecumenist” views. And this is a short answer to this heresy.
Below is the little longer – but filled with wisdom – answer by Father Makarios of Sinai:
“Many of the adventurers starting out to climb Mount Everest don’t make it to the summit. Many die trying. Study the twelfth-century icon depicting the book, The Ladder of Divine Ascent, by Saint John Klimakos:
There are far more people who start out on the challenge of Spiritual Perfection, with very, very few who make it to the top of the Spiritual Mountain, even though there is visible help (prayerful people, and angels) directing their support to those who are trying to make the ascent. Also present are the devil’s playmates who are depicted pulling strugglers off the Ladder. One will notice, as well, that as the steps get higher, so also the ascent becomes steeper. Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ is Himself at the top of the ladder, reaching out a welcoming hand to those who reach the top of the Ladder. Of course, the person on the top rung is Saint John of the Ladder.
In days gone by, Orthodox Christian pilgrims would come to Saint Katherine’s monastery and as a spiritual exercise, climb the Holy Mountain, Mount Moses, Mount Sinai, Mount Horeb, (All these names for the same mountain but very affectionately and correctly called “The God-walking Mountain” by the monks of Saint Katherine’s monastery). How so? The Prophet Moses ascended the mountain and experienced the presence of God there (Exodus 19). Five hundred years later, the Prophet Elias came to the same mountain and also found God there, not in the noise of this world, but in a “still small voice”. (I Kings 19).
A stairway numbering over 3000 steps was built by the monks to make it easier for people to ascend the mountain. At a certain time in the history of the monastery, a monk named Stephen came to dwell as a hermit on Mount Sinai. When he saw pilgrims ascending the stairway he would stop them and ask them questions about the nature of Orthodox Christianity. If their answers were not satisfactory, Saint Stephen would not allow the pilgrims to continue their climb. He would send them back to the monastery where they were given guidance on matters of the faith. Then, they would climb the mountain to where Saint Stephen was located, to explain to him what they had learned. He would then allow them to continue the climb. Such was the spiritual exercise related to the ascent of the God-walking Mountain. That sense of spirituality has, for the most part, disappeared. Nowadays, people of all religions or no religion climb this mountain, not to share the ethos of its holiness but rather to experience the glorious sunrise, not to be experienced in any other place in the world.
Yes, there is only one path to the summit of this mountain. We who are here now at this holy monastery pray that we, and those who come to us, whoever they may be, also experience the presence of God in this holy place.
Respectfully, in the Service of Christ,
Saint Katherine’s Monastery