Going Deeper: Part III


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Topic of the Week – Going Deeper Lecture – Part III

“…the humble soul is always looking to do good. If you ever read… Elder Paisios’ discourses… You’ve heard the word ‘philotimo’ is there, it’s used very often. Philotimo is a good word to understand and to try to put into practice. What is it? It’s doing good for the sake of God. For no other reason. Wanting nothing in return and outdoing the other if you’re in a relationship of hospitality, you’re in a relationship of brotherhood. Doing it for the sake of the other without anything in return. This is the kind of disposition you have to have.
And….  part of this is also in prayer. When we go to pray… we’re not looking for anything in return…. Now, you’re praying for others, and things go well? Attribute it to God, not to yourself. And if it’s something that you need, God will show you fifteen times if he needs to. And then you’ll always be far from delusion, if you have this stance….”

Question: …We’ve generally become uncomfortable with saying things like ‘only in the Orthodox Church do we have the fullness…’ this little spirit of ecumenism.

Fr. Peter: It’s an identity problem, it’s an identity complex… we’re afraid to say ‘we are this’.  We’re beginning to doubt our own identity as Orthodox Christians, that’s a fruit of ecumenism.

Q: What does the word ecumenism come from?

The word ecumenism comes from the word ‘οικουμενισμός in Greek so you have… universality would be another translation. Ecumenical means something universal. The ecumenical movement was the movement that was designed historically to bring all of these Christians together. Oikoumenoi is the whole world, in Greek.

This is the idea that we’re trying to unite worldwide all the Christians into one thing. It started with the Protestants in the 19th century. Actually it started long before the World Council of Churches was founded, it started among Protestants in the mission field in Africa, Asia. How did it start? Well, they were sent by their various denominations and they’re in Africa and there’s a Methodist over here and about 5 miles down the road there’s an Episcopalian or Baptist and they’re making converts, they’re making progress. They did make MUCH progress in the 19th century. Amazing progress, the Protestants made in the 19th Century in mission. But what happens is that the people who have been missionized who are of one tribe or one nation, they start to look around and say ‘well, you’re not with me, we’re not unified’ and yet they’re both Christians. And they start to say to the missionaries, ‘well, what’s wrong with you people, you’re not united? You should be united. I don’t want to be separated from my cousin down the road or my friend over here.’

So the Protestant missionaries turn around and say ‘this is a disgrace we don’t have unity’ and they go back and send letters back to Edinburgh and Scotland and to London and to New York, and to the various headquarters and they say ‘you have to start doing something. We can’t do mission work this way. It won’t work. Ultimately it’s going to crumble. There’s no unity, it’s a disgrace and it’s a bad witness.’

That’s how ecumenism started, in the 1840’s, ‘50’s, ‘60’s, ‘70’s. It also started after that with the student union movements; the YMCA, and these other groups. These were also attempts probably initiated through the missionaries, I don’t know the exact origin of all these groups, but it was this idea that ‘We can’t do mission. We can’t do the work of the church if we’re not united.’ So it was all about witness. It wasn’t about truth. It was all about how are we going to witness. Truth was a secondary question among the Protestants because doctrinally they actually say it straight out, some prominent missionaries in the 1840’s, ‘80’s, ‘90’s, they say ‘Doctrine is an obstacle to unity…. Doctrine divides.’

So here we are 1910 the first student youth union movement… I think it was called student unions YMCA…. First time in Constantinople. They go to the Orthodox and they get the Orthodox involved. And they come back and they’re just glowing. ‘The Orthodox are with us. The Orthodox want to partake’ And it was the Ecumenical Patriarchate. And in 1920 we have the first Comity agreement. What does that mean? It’s an agreement NOT to proselytize one another, between the Ecumenical Patriarchate and Protestant missionaries. And a prominent theologian from Athens… that is one of the pillars of ecumenism, don’t proselytize the others; we’re all one.

You can already see the problem here in terms of Orthodox doctrine of the church. 1920 we have the famous encyclical to all the Christians on the earth, all the churches of Christ, it’s actually entitled. Encyclical of the Ecumenical Patriarchate to All the Churches of Christ in the World. And in there, the author Metropolitan Germanos is believed to be the author. He was one of the Orthodox bishops who were doing a lot of work in the West, he’s the main author, I think. He writes that using St. Paul’s description of the body, there being many parts of the body. I’m not sure I’m quoting it correctly, but the idea here is that he likens every local church to a part of the church. He implies that all these local churches, not the Orthodox Churches, he’s writing to every… Protestant, Roman Catholic… are ALL a part of the churchThat’s the first time in an encyclical that it’s implied that the Orthodox Church is not the catholic [meaning it has all the truth and contains all the revelation, NOT meaning Roman Catholic] Church.

Now he might say that’s not how we interpreted it, but that’s certainly how the Protestants interpreted it. And that begins the Orthodox involvement essentially in the 1920’s you have Orthodox theologians going to the Life and Works, and Faith and Order meetings in Europe. They’re the precursor to the World Council of Churches which is the worldwide ecumenical body and they begin to dialogue with the Protestants and in the beginning for about 20-30 years most of the statements remain true to Orthodox ecclesiology except the main statement in 1948 which has a serious problematic aspect to it which seems to be very much akin with ecumenism.

So you see, I don’t want to get too much into it because it goes on and on but the key here is that this movement that pre-existed among the Protestants, WE entered in on THEIR basis, their basis they had already created. We didn’t re-create, we didn’t say ‘change it and then we’ll enter’. We enter in on their presuppositions which are Protestant presuppositions of a divided church and we work within those.

And it’s not at all surprising that after all these years we have a lot of problems and serious, serious problems created by our involvement in the ecumenical movement. Because from the beginning it was not on an Orthodox basis that we were involved. So the origins of ecumenism is among the Protestants and it’s a movement not seeking first of all Truth, but unity for the sake of witness. And of course this basis and these presuppositions are not Orthodox. We can’t work within that context….


Transcript here
Middle School:

“…What is the heresy* of ecumenism?… a distortion of the nature of the church as a (theanthropic) God-human organism…. We make it into a human organism or we distort it in a variety of ways….

It’s essentially an attack on Christ…. The Church is… the way to the Father, so if he can nullify this in the world and make it a part of the world or he can make it something that’s been defeated because it’s been divided, and the minute the Church is divided, it’s defeated. Christ cannot be divided Saint Paul says. Is Christ divided? No, obviously – He never can be divided.

…the other thing that it does is it blurs or denies or overturns the boundaries of the Church. That’s another way that it overcomes or overturns this reality of the Church. We use the term boundaries. You probably don’t know that this term is the same term used when we talk about the decisions of the Ecumenical Councils. In Greek it’s called όρος. It means ‘boundary’.

So what were the Fathers doing in the Ecumenical Councils? They were laying the boundaries and they were saying ‘outside of these boundaries salvation is not possible.’ You have to be within these boundaries.
What are the boundaries? One God and three persons… mainly the divine-human nature of Christ. Well, the boundaries in terms of the Church are that the Church is One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic. All of those together. Not: One, but not Holy. Not: Catholic, but not One. All four characteristics together. Where do we find that? Only in the Orthodox Church. That IS the Orthodox Church.

So the minute you deny one of those things, you’ve denied the boundaries… you’re blocking the way to salvation for humanity. This is the temptation in the Book of Revelation that will come upon all the Earth. They will no longer be believing in the divine-human nature of Christ, in His Church. It’s one in the same. The Church is not anything but Christ Himself. Christ is the head, and it’s his body, the Church is Christ. So if you’re denying the oneness of the Church, the catholicity meaning it has all the truth and contains all the revelation, there’s nothing missing, nothing lacking, that it’s apostolic. That means the preaching and the teaching and the life of the Apostles is the life of the Church. It’s one, it’s not divided. If you deny any of that, you’re actually overturning the… person of Christ. You’re overturning access to the person of Christ.

So the boundaries that were laid down, were laid down precisely so that you know and I know in those is where I work out my salvation. And there I’m in communion with God. That’s where you find Christ. That IS Christ, the true Church.

So how is it overturned in the parish life? Well… the extreme example would be communing the non-Orthodox. Obviously you’re overturning the boundaries because you’re saying that you don’t have to be initiated into this reality, you could hold doctrines that are not of this faith. You could not be initiated into the mystery of baptism and you could be a member of the Church.
So you’re… overturning in different ways the catholicity of the Church, that it has the whole truth because you’re saying the person who’s outside the Church is also a part it, but he doesn’t believe the Orthodox faith. You’re overturning the Orthodox faith as a presupposition for being a member of the Church. So that’s the most extreme example.
You’re admitting that beyond the Orthodox Church there’s also “church” and therefore it’s divided. Because usually what we mean in contemporary context is Roman Catholicism and Orthodoxy, the various theories are what, that we have 2 lungs and one body, or we have incomplete communion but mysteries that exist among the Roman Catholics. These are all expressions of this delusion that the Church is not one, or the Church does not have the whole truth or you can be a part of the Church without confessing the whole truth. I mean, it’s dizzying the variations of denial of this truth. And so it’s hard for a lot of people to get their head around it. What exactly is this?
That’s why St. Justin Popovich called it the heresy of heresies, or pan-heresy because in one fell swoop it essentially destroys the Church and the path to salvation for the people. So the extremist example would be communion….”
*heresy – a religious opinion contrary to Church doctrines
High School:
[Fr. Peter]:”…another expression of ecumenism on the parish level would be not requiring even the faithful to recognize and struggle at fulfilling the presuppositions of fasting, prayer, repentance, confession – that’s a kind of ecumenism. Why? Because we’re not recognizing that there is this need for initiation into the spirit of the Church and have to go fully and deeper. It’s not a disintegration of the Church doctrinally, but it’s the kind of spirit that is behind the same thing. I mean it’s… if you applied that to others outside the Church, you’d have the same kind of spirit. It’s a continuum. We do it, we think of it as for those outside, that they don’t have to do much to participate in the mysteries… the mysteries of the Church is kind of just given to anyone.

Yes, everyone needs to come and fulfill the presuppositions of faith and repentance, to participate… you can participate but you’re not going to have any fruit. So that’s the difference between one who is in the Church and one who is outside the Church. It’s impossible outside the Church to participate in the mystery of Eucharist and the incarnation. Whereas in the Church, of course, you can participate, but the fruits will be not forthcoming without this repentance and this faith. So it’s different. I don’t want to imply that in the Church there is any kind of doctrinal relativism. But it’s a kind of laxity that does along with the spirit of ecumenism generally.

Mixed marriages would be a problematic… possibly, possibly. There is an extreme economia and it has existed in the Church for about 100 years for mixed marriages. However, there’s no theological, dogmatic basis for mixed marriages. Any time I’ve asked anyone who’s a theologian in Greece, please give me the basis for mixed marriages, there is none. It is simply economia. That. Can’t. Be.

Now, I’m going to tell you the akrivia of the Church and I’m not going to call into question any practice of your priest or your bishop, that’s their callEconomia is in their hands. They have to wield it and they will account for it and I’m not accusing any of them. But as a theologian, I’m telling you in a theoretical way, what is going on with this question of mixed marriages.

Mixed marriages are really problematic from a doctrinal standpoint because to be married in the Church, and it’s obvious in the very sacrament of marriage, the implication is that they’re communing, right? You are united in Christ. How are you united in Christ if you are not communing? How are you united in Christ if you are not both of the [inaudible] communion of the Church?
… the mystery of marriage like all the mysteries took place at one time IN THE EUCHARIST. When that was happening nobody could say ‘let’s have a mixed marriage’ could they? Because they would have communed together. When it was taken out of that context, suddenly it’s possible to have a mixed marriage because they’re not communing in the mystery of marriage. So there it’s obvious that it doesn’t work. No mystery can be separated out from the other mysteries. All the mysteries are one: the mystery of the incarnation. They’re all expressions of the one mystery of the Church. So doctrinally there is no answer to the question ‘on what basis do we do mixed marriages?’ They don’t exist.


Now, whether that economy, extreme economy is profitable… God will judge. I would be very reticent to tread that path without any kind of doctrinal basis, any kind of theological explanation. The fruits, generally, may be good for one or two or five or ten cases but you know what’s happening? We’re missing the forest for the tree and the end of it is, as one theologian came to our diocese said, ‘Look, prayer with heretics…’ (which is forbidden by the holy canons, it happens all the time – it’s another example of prayer with heretics and I’ll explain why that’s not possible. It’s a kind of communion, there’s presuppositions to communion.) But he came and he said to us, ‘Well, we have mixed marriages and in mixed marriages we pray together so what’s the problem if our hierarchs pray together?’
You see what happens? We open this door, we begin this path, and then the dissolution begins. Because there is no basis for mixed marriages, it becomes a precedent and it justifies other things that have no basis, and they become a precedent and the disintegration continues in terms of the identity of the Church.

Q: One of the major dioceses in North America did a study on mixed marriages and they proved that almost, in the vast majority, that the Orthodox person ends up leaving the Church.

FP: Really?

Q: Typically, statistically, the majority of people who are marrying an Orthodox person and didn’t want to become Orthodox had a strong religious orientation. Well, we extend economia to them, well, who’s the spiritual center in the household? It’s the person that stood for their faith.

FP: And didn’t want to become Orthodox.

Q: And didn’t want to become Orthodox, and their spirit ends up dominating the house and eventually the Orthodox….”

People generally don’t consider these things because we’re looking at it on a human, personal level; we have friends, we have relatives, we might even be in the situation and we don’t consider the larger picture on the basis of the dogmas of the church…. It doesn’t lead to salvation

Excerpted from

Do you fast, pray, repent and confess? In order to partake of communion, the Church presupposes that we are doing those 4 things. If you are not doing them, speak to the priest and ask him how you can start doing these things in order to properly prepare.
Have you thought about whether you will get married in the future? Have you thought about who the person you marry will be? What kind of person will you be looking for? Someone who is smart? Good-looking? Has a good job? What qualities are truly essential for this person to have, and why is that important?



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