Friday, November 30, 2012

Letter from Metropolitan Ephraim

October 25 /November 12, 2012

St. Symeon the New Theologian

My beloved Orthodox Christians,

Education is the key to success if one is seeking a profitable life.  The same is true also in the spiritual life.  How can one lead a profitable life if one has not availed himself of the necessary information; if one has not read, or heard, or learned what all the relevant sources have to teach him?

Yet, many of us can testify that we have observed people making important decisions based on faulty information, disinformation, outright misinformation, or even hearsay and rumors.

For example, in the recent tempest that troubled our Church, individuals were heard making dogmatic statements with the tone and authority of an Ecumenical Council, even though their knowledge of the subject matter was virtually non-existent.  Teachings that have been condemned and anathematized by ancient Church Councils were paraded about as authentic Orthodox Christian doctrines.
As a consequence, many simple souls were led astray, and even those who could have – but who had not – studied matters more seriously became confused.  By way of example, we saw people quoting and citing modern-day writers as if they were of equal authority with the ancient Church Fathers or Church Councils.  As if the opinion of one man could overturn the consensus of the Holy Fathers and the Tradition of the Church!  One wonders: as far as these people are concerned, what has happened to the teaching of the Fourth Ecumenical Council: “We follow in the footsteps of the Holy Fathers”?

At our recent Clergy Synaxis we discussed this sorry state of affairs that has arisen among us. Specifically, the clergy were concerned that papers were issued over the internet denouncing us for heresy, when, in fact, it was our opponents who had fallen under the condemnations and anathemas of ancient Church Councils.  Furthermore, when we cited many time-honored Saints and Fathers to demonstrate our fidelity to the Orthodox Christian faith, they, on their part, quoted modern sources, or gave us their private opinions.  For example, as much as we love and respect Metropolitan Anthony Khrapovitsky, he certainly does not by any means attain to the stature of our Father among the Saints, Gregory Palamas, the Archbishop of Thessalonica.  Who could insist on such a thing? Especially, when Metropolitan Anthony misquotes St. Gregory Palamas! Certainly, such a human error is understandable, but to insist that such an error be endorsed and perpetuated is not acceptable or permissible. Yet, this is precisely what your hierarchs were asked to do. On our part, we will persist in following what the Saints teach us, and not what the philosophies or the musings of men have to say. We are not interested in personal opinions, but in the guidance and wisdom of the Saints.

Nonetheless, a problem has arisen.  How should we deal with the faithful who are yet confused and ask us about receiving Communion in parishes that have left us; or, with people who belong to parishes that have left us, but who still want to received Holy Communion in our churches?

For those who clearly understand the issues, the matter is resolved.  Our opponents are calling us heretics, whereas it is they that are the ones who have fallen under the anathemas of the Synodicon of Orthodoxy, so obviously, there can be no “inter-communion.” But what of those faithful who do not understand yet?
Do they understand, at least, that the ones who left us now have a hierarchy that almost universally gives Communion to New Calendarists and Ecumenists? Are these faithful indifferent about these matters? Then why should we impart the Holy Mysteries to them? Are we not thereby rewarding their indifference? Or being indifferent ourselves?

But there are also those who are genuinely ignorant about these issues because of their simplicity.

This is why our bishops have decided presently to leave this matter to the discretion of our local clergy. They, and they alone, understand the strengths and weaknesses of their parish faithful.  If our clergy know that they have a “grace-period” to resolve this issue with their faithful, then they know that they will have some time to appropriately educate and inform each of their people.  This approach will give our clergy the needed pastoral flexibility, because some clergy will need virtually no time to do this, whereas others may require more time to instruct their people.

In this matter, no one must judge our clergy about how quickly or slowly they proceed. Each parish, like each individual, is unique. As St. Paul, the Apostle of the Nations, asks, “Who art thou that judgest another man’s servant?”

This is clearly an instance where the “two-hands” – strictness and economia – will be needed by the spiritual physician.

With these thoughts, my beloved, let us go forward with caution and discretion, that we all may attain to the Heavenly Kingdom, in Christ Jesus our Lord, to Whom be glory, honor and dominion, now and ever, and unto the ages of ages. Amen.

In Christ,

+ Ephraim, metropolitan.

Letter from the Holy Synod

Holy Martyr Callistratus September 27 /October 10, 2012

Our beloved clergy and faithful,

St. Photios the Great writes the following concerning the divisions in the Church in his times:

“Let God consign previous events to oblivion. As for us, let us find strength in forgiveness and not call wrongs to mind. It will be best to remain silent about these affairs, or at least to speak about them only briefly and with restraint. Since we are sinful and insignificant people, it will be best to stay quiet about the enmity we caused; only in the case of great need should we speak about it at all”
It is with these words in mind that over two years ago, our Synod initiated the first steps in order to start a dialogue with an Old-Calendar synod in Greece under Chrysostomos Kiousis. Our good will and desire to forget the old animosity and to work together for the reconciliation and unity of the Church was strengthened by the fact that Archbishop Auxentius of blessed memory had been partially exonerated by that synod and also, because the reports that we had heard concerning the new generation of their bishops indicated that they were of more reasonable mindset, as opposed to their predecessors who had participated in the infamous schism of 1985.
Our major gestures of friendship were: the lifting of the depositions that were placed by Archbishop Auxentius in 1985 on the schismatic bishops now belonging to the Kiousis/Kallinikos group, the termination of the locum tenency of the see of Athens held by Metropolitan Makarios of Toronto, and the recognition of the Kousis/Kallinikos synod as thede facto Church of Greece. However, as our Synod explained, one must remember that:

The HOCNA synodal decision of 2010, which recognized the Kallinikos Synod as the Traditional Orthodox Church of Greece, was not exclusionist, for we are well aware of other traditional, Orthodox groups in Greece. Rather, this recognition should be viewed in the same light as the ROCOR’s recognition of the Florinite and Matthewite groups back in the 1960’s and 1970’s ― an attempt, that is, to bring reconciliation among all the differing factions in Greece and elsewhere.

A Historical Clarification, October 2011.

Furthermore, our Synod proceeded to initiate formal communication with that synod in Greece and were happy to host their bishops at our monastery in Boston on three occasions. We had hopes that these friendly gestures would eventually lead to a formal dialogue between the two synods. However, the last two years of dealing with this group has shown us that we were gravely mistaken. Our actions were not answered in kind and the recognitions never became mutual. By accepting, on four occasions, the breakaway bishops and the clergy from HOCNA, by calling us schismatics (schismatics from whom? we never belonged to the Kiousis group) and now by adding the false accusation of heresy against us, we have come to the sad conclusion that nothing has changed in that group since its uncanonical inception in 1985. The cunning tactics and arrogance that they used against the blessed Archbishop Auxentius, not only have not been abandoned, but are fully implemented even now.

In retrospect, our Synod finds that despite our best intentions and despite the admonition of St. Photios, it was a mistake to begin unilateral gestures of friendship with a group that has its origins in a schism and that has not repented of it.  In our desire for reconciliation, we overlooked too many canonical infractions and practices that exist in that group.

Bearing all this in mind, our Synod came to the conclusion that until the group now headed by Kallinikos fully repents of its uncanonical actions committed against Archbishop Auxentius of blessed memory, until it answers the questions concerning various laudatory statements that its bishops have made with regard to the ecumenistic jurisdictions, and until it eradicates the practice of giving Communion to the ecumenists that is prevalent in that group, we return to the position that Archbishop Auxentius held with regard to them and annul the decisions of our Synod of October 2010, whereby we had lifted the depositions of 1985 that had been placed upon them by the Archbishop and had recognized them as the de facto Church of Greece.
God is our witness, that our desire was the unity of the Church and that we have sincerely tried all we could to encourage the relations with the above-mentioned synod. However, the sad events of the past two years have convinced us, that there can never be a reconciliation with people who do not want unity, but domination, who do not want friendship, but mastery. If they have treated our father, blessed Archbishop Auxentius, the way they did, why should we expect them to act with any honor in other instances?

May our Saviour grant His Church genuine unity, for things that are impossible for us, sinful humans, are possible for Him, our Living God.

Your fervent supplicants unto the Lord,

+ Ephraim, Metropolitan of Boston
+ Makarios, Metropolitan of Toronto
+ Gregory, Auxiliary Bishop of Brookline