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.
+ Ephraim, metropolitan.