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Motto: “The line of demarcation separating good and evil runs through the middle of every human heart”

(Alexander Solzenitsyn in The Gulag Archipelago)

Saint Gregory Palamas, Archbishop of Thessalonica

A link with:

The life of St. Gregory (video) of the Monastery of Pantokrator website

This divine Father, who was from Asia Minor, was from childhood reared in the royal court of Constantinople, where he was instructed in both religious and secular wisdom. Later, while still a youth, he left the imperial court and struggled in asceticism on Mount Athos, and in the Skete at Beroea. He spent some time in Thessalonica being treated for an illness that came from his harsh manner of life. He was present in Constantinople at the Council that was con¬vened in 1341 against Barlaam of Calabria, and at the Council of 1347 against Acindynus, who was of like mind with Barlaam; Barlaam and Acindynus claimed that the grace of God is created. At both these Councils, the Saint contended courageously for the true dogmas of the Church of Christ, teaching in particular that divine grace is not created, but is the uncreated energies of God which are poured forth throughout creation: otherwise it would be impossi¬ble, if grace were created, for man to have genuine communion with the uncreated God. In 1347 he was appointed Metropolitan of Thessalonica. He tended his flock in an apostolic man¬ner for some twelve years, and wrote many books and treatises on the most exalted doctrines of our Faith; and having lived for a total of sixty-three years, he reposed in the Lord in 1359. His holy relics are kept in the Cathedral of Thessalonica. A full service was composed for his feast day by the Patriarch Philotheus in 1368, when it was, established that his feast be cele¬brated on this day. Since works without right faith avail nothing, we set Orthodoxy of faith as the foundation of all that we accomplish during the Fast, by celebrating the Triumph of Ortho¬doxy the Sunday before, and the great defender of the teachings of the holy Fathers today.  His Feast day is celebrated November 27 / 14 and on the Second Sunday of Great Lent.

Excerpt from the book:  “Lives of the Three Pillars of Orthodoxy: Saint Gregory Palamas, Archbishop of Thessalonica; Saint Photius the Great, Patriarch of Constantinople and Saint Mark Eugenicus, Metropolitan of Ephesus”

Pillars of Orthodoxy Church

Troparia for Saint Gregory Palamas:

O light of Orthodoxy, pillar and teacher of the Church,
ideal of monastics and invincible champion theologian,
O wonder-working Gregory, boast of Thessalonica and herald of grace,
Forever pray to the Lord that our souls be saved.

Please also see: A Sermon on the Sunday of St. Gregory Palamas By Archbishop Chrysostomos of Etna

Fr. Bassam A. Nassif: St. Gregory – a Light to the World

On the second Sunday of Great Lent, there is a great feast in the blessed city of Thessalonika, Greece. It is the feast of St. Gregory Palamas. On this day, the holy relics of the saint are taken from the Church of St. Gregory in a procession throughout the city, escorted by bishops, priests, sailors, policemen, and thousands of faithful. One wonders why his earthly remains are still held in such great veneration. How could his bones remain incorruptible more than six hundred years after his death? Indeed, St. Gregory’s life clearly explains these wondrous facts. It illustrates the inspired words of the apostles that our bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit (see 1 Corinthians 6:19) and that we are “partakers of the divine nature” (2 Peter 1:4).

A Childhood Passion for the Eternal

St. Gregory Palamas was born in the year 1296. He grew up in Constantinople (now Istanbul, Turkey) in a critical time of political and religious unrest. Constantinople was slowly recovering from the devastating invasion of the Crusades. It was a city under attack from all sides. From the west, it was infiltrated by Western philosophies of rationalism and scholasticism and by many attempts at Latinization. From the east, it was threatened by Muslim Turkish military invaders. The peace and faith of its citizens were at stake.

Gregory’s family was wealthy. His father was a member of the senate. Upon his father’s sudden death, Byzantine Emperor Andronikos II Paleologos (1282–1328), who was a close friend of the family, gave it his full financial support. He especially admired Gregory for his fine abilities and talents, hoping that the brilliant young man would one day become a fine assistant. However, instead of accepting a high office in the secular world, Gregory sought “that good part, which will not be taken away” from him (Luke 10:42).

Upon finishing his studies in Greek philosophy, rhetoric, poetry, and grammar, Gregory, at only twenty or twenty-two years of age, followed a burning passion in his heart. Like a lover who strives to stay alone forever with his loved one, Gregory was thirsty for this living water (see Revelation 22:17). Therefore, no created thing could separate him from the love of God (see Romans 8:39). He simply withdrew to Mount Athos, an already established community of monasticism. He first stayed at the Vatopedi Monastery, and then moved to the Great Lavra.

Gregory’s departure was not a surprise to the rest of his family. Many priests and monks, friends of the family, frequently visited the family home. The parents were careful to pass on to their children the “pearl of great price” (Matthew 13:46). Great wealth and high education were not a hindrance, but an excellent tool in their pursuit of salvation. As a result of their way of life and belief, Gregory’s mother, two brothers, and two sisters soon distributed all their earthly possessions to the poor and entered different monasteries.

On St Gregory Palamas and the Divine Energies


Living the Spiritual Experience of the Church

In Athos, the novice Gregory took as his spiritual guide St. Nicodemos of Vatopedi Monastery. This holy man of prayer guided Gregory on the path of ascetic labor: prayers, vigils, fasting, continuous repentance, and monastic obedience. The young novice Gregory was especially attached to the prayer of the heart, also known as the Jesus Prayer: “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner” (see Luke 18:38).

The experienced practice of the Jesus Prayer, requiring solitude and silence combined with physical exercises and breathing methods, is called “hesychasm” (from the Greek hesychos, meaning inner stillness, peace, or silence). Those practicing it are called “hesychasts.” Inner silence of this kind makes us capable of listening to the whispers of the divine within us. “The kingdom of God is within you” (Luke 17:21). Therefore, the Jesus Prayer is the prayer of the whole person, involving the human body, mind, soul, and heart.

The hesychasts spoke and wrote about their unique experience. They taught people to pray without ceasing, as the Apostle Paul commands all Christians to do (1 Thessalonians 5:17). They explained that in prayer, man is filled from within with the eternal glory, with the divine light beheld at the Transfiguration of Christ on Mount Tabor. The hesychast Gregory explains:

For, on the day of the Transfiguration, that Body, source of the light of grace, was not yet united with our bodies; it illuminated from outside those who worthily approached it, and sent the illumination into the soul by the intermediary of the physical eyes; but now, since it is mingled with us and exists in us, it illuminates the soul from within. (Triads I. 3.38)

The Jesus Prayer is not a mantra, as in Eastern religions, and it cannot be taken as such. The prayer’s call for “mercy” involves inner repentance and change. It is also a prayer practiced within the sacramental life of the Church, a prayer combined with Holy Communion, confession, reading the Word of God, fasting, loving one’s neighbor, and so forth. Finally, it is not a prayer using “vain repetitions” or babble, but a prayer recited again and again, in persistence (Luke 18:1), from the inner heart of man reaching the divine heights of glory, confessing Christ as the Lord and Savior, in sincerity, humility, and faith.


For that prayer (the Jesus Prayer) is true and perfect. It fills the soul with Divine grace and spiritual gifts. As chrism perfumes the jar the more strongly the tighter it is closed, so prayer, the more fast it is imprisoned in the heart, abounds the more in Divine grace. . . . By this prayer the dew of the Holy Spirit is brought down upon the heart, as Elijah brought down rain on Mount Carmel. This mental prayer reaches to the very throne of God and is preserved in golden vials. . . . This mental prayer is the light which illumines man’s soul and inflames his heart with the fire of love of God. It is the chain linking God with man and man with God. (Palamas, “Homily on how all Christians in general must pray without ceasing,” in E. Kadloubovsky and G. E. H. Palmer, Early Fathers of the Philokalia, London: Faber and Faber, 1981, pp. 412–415)


See also: Knowledge of God according to St. Gregory Palamas


Such prayer was practiced from the early Christian period. The hesychasts were drawn by God’s unconditional graceful love (Romans 5:15) to fill a certain human need around them. Many hesychasts abandoned their solitude to serve their brothers, “since he who loves God must love his brother also” (1 John 4:21). Some cared for the sick in hospitals, like St. Basil the Great in Caesarea; others helped the poor, like St. John the Almsgiver in Alexandria; and yet others welcomed the faithful for confession. Nevertheless, they did not abandon the Jesus Prayer and their inner silence. In this sense, all Christians are called to follow this hesychast way leading to salvation.

Let no one think, my brother Christians, that it is the duty only of priests and monks to pray without ceasing, and not of laymen. No, no; it is the duty of all of us Christians to remain always in prayer . . . every Christian in general should strive to pray always, and to pray without ceasing . . . this very name of our Lord Jesus Christ, constantly invoked by you, will help you to overcome all difficulties, and in the course of time you will become used to this practice and will taste how sweet is the name of the Lord. . . . For when we sit down to work with our hands, when we walk, when we eat, when we drink we can always pray mentally and practice this mental prayer—the true prayer pleasing to God. (“Homily on how all Christians in general must pray without ceasing”)

In addition to his spiritual practice and daily scriptural readings, St. Gregory studied the works of the great Fathers, theologians, and ascetics of the Church. Just as a scientist builds on the evidence and data provided to him by his predecessors, Gregory made a fascinating synthesis of the scriptural and patristic teaching on the prayer of the heart, combined with his personal experience.

Although the monk Gregory in his youth had diligently studied Greek philosophy, he was not influenced by its views on matter. Ancient Greek philosophy believes that the body imprisons the soul, and thus it detests matter. Christians respect the body, since Christ made the flesh a source of sanctification, and matter (water, oil, etc.) a channel of divine grace. In his writings, St. Gregory affirmed that man, united in body and soul, is sanctified by Jesus Christ, who took a human body at the Incarnation. “When God is said to have made man according to His image,” wrote St. Gregory, “the word man means neither the soul by itself nor the body by itself, but the two together.” In another place, he added:


Also see: Two brilliant and lengthy articles on the “Palamite Controversy” and the big differences between the Orthodox and Latin understanding of the spiritual life


Thus the Word of God took up His dwelling in the Theotokos in an inexpressible manner and proceeded from her, bearing flesh. He appeared upon the earth and lived among men, deifying our nature and granting us, after the words of the divine Apostle, “things which angels desire to look into” (1 Peter 1:12). (A Homily on the Dormition of the Theotokos and Ever-Virgin Mary)

Father Gregory, Teacher

His unquenched thirst for God’s sweetness experienced in prayer moved the righteous Gregory to live as a hermit in a cell outside the monastery. In the year 1326, the threat of Turkish invasions forced him, along with his Athonite brothers, to retreat to Thessalonika. There he was ordained to the holy priesthood.

As a priest, Gregory did not abandon his spiritual labor and hesychasm. He spent most of the week alone in prayer. On the weekends, he celebrated divine services and preached sermons. He cared for the youth, calling them to discuss religious issues with him. Father Gregory was not concerned about abstract problems of philosophy, but about Christian faith experienced in prayer. He wanted to preach solely about problems of Christian existence, which are more attractive and meaningful to the young.

Soon, many of his spiritual sons expressed their desire to live in a monastic setting. So in the serene area of Vereia, near Thessalonika, he established a small community of monks, which he guided for five years. In 1331 the saint withdrew to Mt. Athos and lived in solitude at the Skete of St. Sabbas. In 1333 he was appointed abbot of the Esphigmenou Monastery in the northern part of the Holy Mountain. In 1336 he returned to the Skete of St. Sabbas, where he devoted himself to theological writing, continuing with this work until the end of his life.

But amidst all this, in the 1330s events took place in the life of the Eastern Church that placed St. Gregory among the most prominent teachers of Orthodox spirituality.

The Challenge of Rationalism

Around the year 1330, a certain monk Barlaam arrived in Constantinople from Calabria, Italy. He was a famous scholar, a skilled orator, and an acclaimed Christian teacher. Barlaam visited Mt. Athos and became acquainted with hesychasm.

Barlaam valued education and learning much more than contemplative prayer. Therefore, he believed the monks on Mount Athos were wasting their time in contemplative prayer when they should be studying. He ridiculed the ascetic labor and life of the monks, their methods of prayer, and their teachings about the uncreated light experienced by the hesychasts. Countering the traditional stance of the Church that “the theologian is the one who prays,” Barlaam asked: “How can an intimate communion of man with the Divine be achievable through prayer, since the Divine is transcendent and ‘dwelling in unapproachable light’ (1 Timothy 5:16)? No one can apprehend the essential being of God!” Barlaam was convinced that God can be reached only through philosophical, mental knowledge—in other words, through rationalism.

The words of Barlaam were not merely a challenge to a few monks. They defied the experience of the Church as a whole. The West, with its rationalistic tendencies, has associated the image of God with man’s intellect. Barlaam’s mind was full of rational arguments, but his heart was cold. Certainly, life with God is not just information, but also experience. Our living God cannot be conceived and described only by study, but must be spoken about from experience. “Did not our heart burn within us while He talked with us on the road, and while He opened the Scriptures to us?” (Luke 24:32).

Journeying from Mt. Athos to Thessalonika and Constantinople, Barlaam clashed with the monks, refusing to test their way of vigils, prayer, and fasting, or to accept their spiritual experience. Unfortunately, many monks were swayed by his arguments and stood by his side. Deceived by considering the living faith as mere rational knowledge, Barlaam waged a war against the ascetics.

At the request of the Athonite monks, St. Gregory countered at first with verbal admonitions. But seeing the futility of such efforts, he put his theological arguments in writing. Thus appeared the Triads in Defense of the Holy Hesychasts in the year 1338.

St Gregory Palamas spoke strongly against the Pope of Rome and the heresy of the Filioque. In his work \’Triads\’, St. Gregory presents the Orthodox Dogmatic basis for ascetical life and Hesychasm – a concept foreign to the latin doctrins and scholasticsm

The Presence of God in Prayer

In his Triads, Palamas interpreted the experience of the Church by presenting logical arguments, based on the Scripture and the writings of the Fathers. Addressing the question of how it is possible for humans to have knowledge of a transcendent and unknowable God, he drew a distinction between knowing God in His essence, or nature, and knowing God in His energies, actions, or the means by which He acts.

To elaborate more, he made a comparison between God and the sun. The sun has its rays, God has His energies (among them, grace and light). By His energies, God creates, sustains, and governs the universe. By His energies, He transforms creation and deifies it, that is, He fills the new creation with His energies as water fills a sponge. These actions or energies of God are the true revelation of God Himself to humanity. So God is incomprehensible and unknowable in His nature or essence, but knowable in His energies. It is through His actions out of His love to the whole creation that God enters into a direct and immediate relationship with mankind, a personal confrontation between creature and Creator.

Towards the year 1340 the Athonite ascetics, with St. Gregory’s assistance, compiled a general reply to the attacks of Barlaam, the so-called Hagiorite Tome. Since the heated arguments flared everywhere in the churches, a general council was held at Constantinople in the year 1341. In front of hundreds of bishops and monastics, St. Gregory Palamas held an open debate with Barlaam in the halls of the Great Church of Hagia Sophia. On May 27, 1341, the council accepted the position of St. Gregory Palamas that God, unapproachable in His essence, reveals Himself through His energies, which are directed towards the world and are able to be perceived, like the light of Tabor, but which are neither material nor created. The teachings of Barlaam were condemned as heresy, and he himself was anathematized and returned to Calabria.

Second Triumph of Orthodoxy

But the dispute between the Palamites and the Barlaamites was far from finished. Politics came into play, and the politicians used the disputed religious issue as a threatening tool against those who supported Palamas. The great turmoil led to five consecutive church councils. One of the many scholars who advocated Barlaam’s position was the Bulgarian monk Akyndinos, who wrote a series of tracts against St. Gregory. Emperor Andronikos III Paleologos (1328–1341) was Akyndinos’s friend. Fearing the emperor, Patriarch John XIV Kalekos (1341–1347) backed Akyndinos, calling St. Gregory the cause of all disorders and disturbances in the Church (1344). He had St. Gregory locked up in prison for four years. In 1347, John XIV was replaced on the patriarchal throne by Isidore (1347–1349), a friend of St. Gregory. He set St. Gregory free and ordained him archbishop of Thessalonika.

In 1351, a sixth and final council was held to settle the heated controversial issues in the church. The Council of Blachernae solemnly upheld the orthodoxy of Palamas’ teachings and anathematized and excommunicated those who refused them. The anathemas of the council of 1351 were included in the rite for the Sunday of Orthodoxy in the Triodion. This council was considered the second triumph of Orthodoxy (the first being the restoration of icons). Later on, the memory of St. Gregory Palamas came to be celebrated in the Church on the second Sunday of Great Lent.

Imprisoned by Muslims

Gregory’s suffering for Christ did not end here. Again, because of the political influence of the West in Thessalonika, its citizens were divided upon the issue proclaimed by the councils. They did not immediately accept St. Gregory as archbishop, so that he was compelled to live in various places. On one of his travels to Constantinople, the Byzantine ship on which he was sailing fell into the hands of the Turkish Muslims. They took Archbishop Gregory as a prisoner, but displayed tolerance toward him. Even in captivity, St. Gregory preached to Christian prisoners and even held many debates with his Moslem captors. His love and respect for all men made his captors admire him and treat him with reverence. A year later, St. Gregory was ransomed and returned to Thessalonika.

The Proclamation of His Sainthood

St. Gregory was a living Gospel. God gave him the gift of healing, especially in the last three years before his death. On the eve of his repose, St. John Chrysostom appeared to him in a vision. St. Gregory Palamas fell asleep in the Lord on November 14, 1359. The Virgin Mary, the Apostle John, St. Dimitrios, St. Antony the Great, St. John Chrysostom, and angels of God all appeared to him at different times. Nine years after his repose, a council in Constantinople headed by Patriarch Philotheos (1354–1355, 1362–1376) proclaimed the sainthood of Gregory Palamas. Patriarch Philotheos himself compiled the life and services for the saint.

When we hear in the Lenten Liturgy of the Presanctified Gifts, “The Light of Christ illumines all,” may we remember the call of the illumined Gregory for unceasing prayer and ascetic labor, that we be truly illumined by the light of the Resurrection.

This article originally appeared in AGAIN Vol. 27 No. 1.

Bishop Kallistos Ware speaks about St Gregory to a non-orthodox audience


A beautiful piece to watch (re-watch) this Great Lent

Somewhere in Northern Russia in a small Russian Orthodox monastery lives an unusual man whose bizarre conduct confuses his fellow monks, while others who visit the island believe that the man has the power to heal, exorcise demons and foretell the future.

2006 — best film at the Moscow Premiere festival.
2007 — Six awards at the fifth national Golden Eagle Awards – “Best film”, “Best male support role” (Viktor Suhorukov), “Best male role” (Petr Mamonov), “Best director” (Pavel Lungin), “Best scenario” (Dmitry Sobolev), “Best operator work” (Andrei Zhegalov).
2007 – Nika Awards for Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor, Best Supporting Actor, etc.

(© Pavel Lungin Studio, 2006).

Copyright Disclaimer Under Section 107 of the Copyright Act 1976, allowance is made for “fair use” for purposes such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching, scholarship, and research. Fair use is a use permitted by copyright statute that might otherwise be infringing. Non-profit, educational or personal use tips the balance in favor of fair use.


“Intercommunion, that is to say participating with heretics in the Holy Sacraments, and especially of our Holy Eucharist, is the most shameful betrayal of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

(From the book Orthodox Faith and Life in Christ by St. Justin Popovich)

Ecumenism and the Ecclesiology of Saint Cyprian of Carthage

by Fr. Daniel Degyansky

Saint Cyprian of Carthage developed with fearless consistency a doctrine of the complete absence of Grace in every sect which had separated itself from the True Church. His doctrine is one of the basic foundation blocks of Orthodox ecclesiology and it stands in direct opposition to the presuppositions of the ecumenical movement. Moreover, his warnings about the enemies of the Church have traditionally guided Orthodox in their response to those outside Her fold:

Not only must we beware of what is open and manifest, but also what deceives by the craft of subtle fraud. And what can be more crafty, or what more subtle, than for this enemy…to devise a new fraud, and under the very title of the Christian name to deceive the incautious. [139]

Saint Cyprian’s warnings about enemies of the Church who call themselves “Christians” in order to destroy the Faith can be applied to many of those who support unity through the contemporary ecumenical movement. The fact that such application is seldom made gives us evidence of just how far contemporary ecumenism has removed some Orthodox from the criterion of truth that is their Faith.

The essence of Saint Cyprian’s reasoning lay “in the conviction that the sacraments are established in the Church.” That is to say, they are effected and can be effected only in the Church, in communion and in communality. Therefore, every violation of communality and unity in itself leads immediately beyond the last barrier into some decisive outside. To Saint Cyprian every schism was a departure out of the Church, out of that sanctified and holy land “where alone rises the baptismal spring, the waters of salvation.” [140] Saint Cyprian was adamant in his position with regard to the Church’s rejection of the validity of an heretical sacrament:

For it is no small and insignificant matter which is conceded to heretics, when their baptism is recognized by us; since thence springs the whole origin of faith and the saving access to the hope of life eternal. And the divine condescension for purifying and quickening the servants of God. For if any one could be baptized among heretics, certainly he could also obtain remission of sins. If he attained remission of sins, he was also sanctified.[141]

Saint Cyprian felt that if the True Church recognizes the sacraments of those outside of Her realm, She gives credibility to heretics and schismatics:

For if they shall see that it is determined and decreed by our judgement and sentence, that the baptism wherewith they are there baptized is considered just and legitimately in possession of the Church also, and the other gifts of the Church; nor will there be any reason for their coming to us, when, as they have baptism, they seem also to have the rest. But further, when they know that there is no baptism without, and that no remission of sins can be given outside of the Church, they more eagerly and readily hasten to us, and implore the gifts and benefits of the Church, our Mother, assured that they can in no wise attain to the true promise of divine grace unless they first come to the Truth of the Church.[142]

The teaching of Saint Cyprian on the Gracelessness of those outside the True Church is directly related to his teaching on unity and communality: “Therefore, we ought to consider their faith who believe without, whether in respect of the same faith they can obtain by grace, for if we and the heretics have one faith, we may also have one grace.” [143] Strictly speaking, the theological premises of Saint Cyprian’s teaching have never been rejected. At the same time, neither has the Orthodox Church ever unequivocally applied Saint Cyprian’s conclusions. In fact, the First Canon of Saint Basil, if carefully analyzed, suggests that the issue of schism and heresy is more complex, in practical terms, than the theory of Saint Cyprian would suggest. Thus the canonical norms of the Orthodox Church do not state that schismatics are in all circumstances without Grace. Ecumenists have used Saint Basil’s position, at times, to defend their activities (though in the course of deviation from correct Orthodox teaching, it must be noted, many Orthodox ecumenists have come to believe that “schism” and “heresy” are terms without meaning, except when they can be used to berate those Orthodox who oppose the ecumenical movement). In fact, however, the ecclesiological teachings of Saint Cyprian complement and stand side by side with those of Saint Basil, since they are unified by the function of “economy,” by which the theoretical exactness of Saint Cyprian’s teaching is rendered effective in the oikonomia of practical application.

Thus, there are those who quite wrongly think that the Church has in some instances acknowledged that the sacraments of   sectarians, and even of heretics, are valid. They wrongly assume that the Church admits that sacraments can be celebrated outside of the strict canonical limits of the Church—a perilous assumption, indeed. The Church, for example, may under extraordinary circumstances accept adherents from sects, and even from heresies, not by way of Baptism, but rather by Chrismation or even by their simple profession of our Orthodox Faith. But in so doing, She does not recognize, as some theologians incorrectly assert, what is outside Her domain; rather, by “economy,” the Church, being the Pan–Mystery, as Archimandrite Justin expresses it, creates Grace where there was no Grace, filling the empty form of a mystery (sacrament) unknown to Her. At the same time, before the emergence of whole bodies of Christians separated from the historical Orthodox Church, there were times when those who had lapsed in their Faith even for a generation were received back into the Church without being Baptized. But here, too, it was the correct form of their empty mysteries which the Church accepted, not the validity of their sacraments. By “economy,” then, the primacy of the Church was extended beyond Herself to create Grace in what was done outside Her boundaries. But in so doing, in no way whatsoever did She accept what was beyond Her boundaries. She acted beyond the Canons, but not in violation of them:

As a mystical organism, as the sacramental Body of Christ, the Church cannot be adequately described in canonical terms or categories alone. It is impossible to state or discern the true limits of the Church simply by canonical signs or marks…. In her sacramental, mysterious existence the Church surpasses canonical measurements. For that reason a canonical cleavage does not immediately signify mystical impoverishment and desolation. All that Saint Cyprian said about the unity of the Church and the sacraments can be and must be accepted. But it is not necessary, as he did, to draw the final boundary around the body of the Church by canonical points alone.[144 ]

Saint Augustine of Hippo, espousing opinions clearly outside the consensus of the Church Fathers, wrote that within the sects and divisions of Christianity the “union of peace” had been broken and torn asunder, but in their mysteries the “unity of the Spirit” had not been terminated. This shows, as Father Florovsky observes, “the unique paradox of sectarian existence: the sect remains united with the Church in the grace of the sacraments, and this becomes a condemnation once love and communal mutuality have withered.” [145] Thus, Saint Augustine directly affirmed “that in the sacraments of sectarians, the Church is active; some she engenders of herself, others she engenders outside, of her maid–servant, and schismatic baptism is valid for this very reason, that it is performed by the Church.” [146] According to Saint Augustine, then, “the Holy and Sanctifying Spirit still breathes in the sects, but in the stubbornness and powerlessness of schism healing is not accomplished.” [147]

Ecumenists have used Saint Augustine’s thought to confirm that there are valid sacraments outside the Orthodox Church. By the same token, those opposed to ecumenism have concluded from the same thought that the rites of the schismatics are not sacraments, but a blasphemous caricature thereof. Some Orthodox conservatives affirm, indeed, that salvation can be found only within the confines of the Orthodox Church, thus arguing that all schismatics are condemned to damnation. The conclusions of the ecumenists are absolutely incorrect. The Orthodox Church accepts no sacrament outside of Her boundaries except, again, as empty forms. Moreover, Saint Augustine is writing about the undivided Christianity of an age which knew nothing of the hundreds of sects which constitute the Christian world of our day, many of them so far removed from the historical Church and Her rich doctrines that only by their belief in Christ can they be defined as Christians. It is an act of intellectual dishonesty to use his  words about sects and heresies in the ancient Church as though they applied clearly to contemporary times. Nor, as we have pointed out, is the thinking of Saint Augustine about the validity of the sacraments of heretics and sectarians in agreement with the Patristic consensus or internally consistent.

At the same time, it is wrong for “conservatives” to interpret the words of Saint Augustine in such a way as to suggest that the Orthodox Church compromises the Providence of God. The Church has always affirmed the dominance of love within the confines of Her exclusive claims that  only in Her bosom does salvation rest. Because of God’s love, the Orthodox Church can at once proclaim that salvation is possible only for Orthodox Christians and, at the same time, refuse to compromise Divine Providence by condemning all others to damnation. And because of the love which prompts the Church in Her mission, She at times reaches out in the spirit of “economy” to fill with Her exclusive Grace the empty forms of non–Orthodox religious acts. In so doing, however, the Orthodox Church never, until the advent of ecumenism, acknowledged the validity of any sacrament outside Her boundaries.

In many ways, the Orthodox Church cannot accept the precepts of modern ecumenism because they also violate the spiritual teachings of the Fathers about personal integrity as a foundation for ecclesiastical validity. In the fourth century, Saint Ephraim the Syrian said, “Pride does not permit a man to accept the teachings handed down by Tradition.” [148] The Orthodox tend to see separation and disunity in Christianity not as the result of a tragic process of mutual alienation, but of pride and sin. Thus, the second major schism in Christianity, the Great Schism of 1054, can be seen in the following way:

By the anathema against papism the Church proclaimed that the pope and his followers abandoned the Church, lost the Truth (which is Christ), and were submerged in the depths of error from which Christ came to free them. Their teachings were declared a delusion of the Evil One, and a poison to the souls of men, and any communication with them makes us like them by cutting us off from the Grace of God, from His Holy Church, and estranges us from the path of salvation, placing us rather on the road to perdition.[149]

The root causes of heresy and schism, then, are the intransigence and sin of prideful men. Heresy and schism do not just happen; they are caused. They rise out of spiritual delusion, spiritual disease, and alienation from the ways of God and His Church. Deviation from Orthodox Truth in the form of ecumenical activities has had a negative effect on the Church, as though to prove that schism and heresy are not the products of misunderstanding, but of the willful deviation of wrong believers from the True Church. For instance, Orthodox theologians have come to reject the Canons of the Church, so that they can justify their ecumenism. Thus the late Archpriest John Meyendorff, a well–known spokesman for Orthodox in America, dismisses the Canons which forbid joint prayer with heretics as archaic and no longer applicable to the Church. He claims that these Canons were intended to apply to prayer with conscious apostates from the True Church, “and not sincere Christians who never personally left it.” [150] Thus individual responsibility for wrong belief becomes an inessential part of Christian confession—a novel idea, indeed. By the same token, not a few Orthodox theologians and Hierarchs are beginning to see a place for Orthodoxy in the ecumenical “branch theory.”

While claiming to love the Orthodox Faith, they violate their promises at Ordination to defend the Truth and instead openly state that the Orthodox Church is just as guilty of divisiveness as the heretics and schismatics who separated themselves from the Church of their own free will. Again, to hold such views or to participate in ecumenical activities which champion such ideas is to deny the existence of the True Church and Christ’s earthly presence. Thus one who participates in such ecumenism perforce denies Christ.[151] Ecumenism, in short, has led many Orthodox to deny the very existence of Christ as we Orthodox understand Him.


139. St. Cyprian of Carthage, The Unity of the Church (Mahopac, NY: Kursk–Root Icon Hermitage, n.d.), p. 3.

140. Florovsky, Ecumenism I , p. 36.

141. St. Cyprian of Carthage, “Epistle to Jubianus,” in Vol. 5 of The Ante–Nicene Fathers, ed. Alexander Roberts and James Donaldson (Grand Rapids, MI:Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1986), p. 382.

142. Ibid., p. 385.

143. Ibid., p. 380.

144. Florovsky, Ecumenism I , p. 37.

145. Ibid., p. 42.

146. Ibid., p. 41–42.

147. Ibid., p. 42.

148. “Stolen Doctrines,” The Orthodox Christian Witness, Vol. 19, No. 29 (17/30 March 1986), p. 3.

149. Alexander Kalomiros, “The Anathema of 1054” (Seattle: St. Nectarios Educational Series, No. 69).

150. Meyendorff, Witness, p. 46.

151. Lev [Archbishop Lazar] Puhalo, “Can One be an Ecumenist without Denying Christ?,” Orthodox Life, Vol. 24, No. 3 (May–June 1974), p. 33.

From Orthodox Christianity and the Spirit of Contemporary Ecumenism, by Fr. Daniel Degyansky. (Etna: CA, The Center for Traditionalist Orthodox Studies, 1997 [1992]), pp. 76-83. Fr. Daniel is a Priest in the Orthodox Church in America (OCA).

Saint John (Ioan) Cassian – the Roman


 His Life: The West gave very few Church fathers. St John Cassian was only technically one of them. He was born in the south of Romania, in a region that had been visited by the Apostle Andrew, in about 360 AD. As a son of a wealthy family, St John was given a very good education. While he was still in his teens, however, he and his friend Germain heard of the monks in the deserts who gave their lives to Christ our Saviour. These two friends love the Lord and His Holy Church and they longed t go to a monastery and give their lives to Christ also. The two youths set out for the Holy Land. After a long and difficult journey by sea and by land, they came at last to Bethlehem. Here the two entered a monastery and began to struggle for their salvation. Saint John and Germain spent several years in the monastery of Bethlehem and they heard many stories about the wondrous monks of Egypt. The monks in Egypt were the most spiritual and wisest of all monks, and the two young men desired to visit them and learn from them. The abbot of their monastery gave them a blessing and they set out. After a long boat trip from the city of Joppa, the friends arrived in the town of Thennesus, on the Nile River. From there, they began to visit all the famous monasteries of Egypt. Most important, Saint John Cassian wrote down whatever the great elders and fathers of Egypt told him. These teachings he later put into a book which he called “Conferences” and this book is one of those works we call “Patristic Writings”.

    Saint John and his friend Germain spent seven years in Egypt, not only learning from the monks, but also living their life with them. The two learn the true monastic life and loved the desert, but at the end of seven years, they had to return to their monastery in Bethlehem. They stayed in Bethlehem for only two more years and then, with the blessing of their abbot, they returned to Egypt for two more years. After this, the two monks went to Constantinople, where the great saint and father of the church John Chrysostom, was patriarch     

    Saint John Cassian and Germain stayed in Constantinople for about 5 years. 

Saint Germain (Gherman the Romanian)   

Saint John Chrysostom ordained them both – he made Germain a presbyter and Saint John Cassian a deacon, and he appointed both of them to the duties of his cathedral. The two learn much from our holy father John Chrysostom.

    When Saint John Chrysostom was slandered and driven into exile in 405, Saint John Cassian and Germain went to Rome to try to get support from Chrysostom. Here, Saint John Cassian was ordained a presbyter. The saint then returned to France (Gaul) and built a monastery in the forest near the town of Marseille. His monastery was very much like those in Egypt and the Holy Land and soon monks came to him. Other monasteries began to grow up in the West, and most of them followed the example of Saint John Cassian’s monastery.

    Those were the days when the West was still Orthodox and Saint John Cassian was a great Orthodox father who helped to defend the Orthodox Faith against false teachings. In his time, the two great falls teachings of the West were those of Pelagius of Britain and Augustine of Hippo. In addition to these, the heresy of Nestorius was harming the faithful and Saint John wrote a very important work against the teachings of this heretic. Saint John Cassian’s other famous work is called “The Institutes” and it gave the rules and teachings for the monasteries.

    Our holy father John Cassian was the true founder of Orthodox monasticism in the West. He was a great teacher and defender of our Saviour’s Holy Orthodox Faith. This Holy Father reposed in the Lord at the age of 75, in the year 435. His sacred relics were buried in his own Monastery of Saint Victor. John Cassian’s relics are kept in an underground chapel in the Monastery of St Victor in Marseilles. His head and right hand are in the main church there.


(Life Taken from the book “Great Fathers of the Church” by Archbishop Lazar Puhalo)

Saint John Cassian: On The EIGHT PRINCIPAL VICES (Philokalia)


(Precious Head of St John)

The Cave of St. John Cassian and the Monastery dedicated to the Saint in Southern Romania

    Hidden from sight, through the rough forms of the Hill of St. John Cassian, the cave opens into a rocky wall, above the valley of Casimcea. A narrow path, with steps carved in limestone, arranged recently, is leading to the entrance of the cave. The cave is spacious and without the usual moisture.

 The central space of the cave continues laterally with narrow and long galleries. From the left side of the cave one can get to a room not to big known among locals for centuries, as the Holy Cell of Saint John Cassian.

    The ancient monks used the cave as a dwelling place but also for liturgical services, the inner part of the cave resembles much with a church.  On the cave walls, incised in limestone, one can distinguish signs of crosses, traces of inscriptions, scattered Cyrillic letters and the word “Aghios “= Holy (Greek).

Monastery dedicated to St John from Romania

(Old inscriptions in stones, the cave of St John Cassian)


Metropolitan Jonah of OCA


Confessors of Christ from the Gulag: Valeriu Gafencu

Taken from the book: “The Saint of the Prisons”

(Translated by Monk Sava)

“When he was feeling better,” continues his friend – Ianolide, “Valeriu spoke beautifully and with fervor, focusing mainly on his favorite subject: interior purification and union with Christ. “’Through baptism, we received purifying grace, while being anointed with Holy Chrism, we have been adorned with all the gifts of the Holy Spirit. But this blessed internal state is ineffective within us; we are Christians in name only.

We live in a world of confusion, of loose morals, of sin. It’s considered shameful to be a believer and old-fashioned to be moral. The baptized man, in order to be saved, has to live all his life in the Holy Spirit, but we haven’t succeeded in doing this. We have believed, we have prayed, we have kept the faith, we have suffered, but in order to be united with Christ, one must purify oneself inwardly through confession and renew oneself through Holy Communion. Therefore unite yourself to Christ conscientiously and with great steadfastness, making yourself a bearer of His holiness, His power, His love, His light, His immortality. You must oppose sin mercilessly. Then you will be reborn. There is no path of compromise.’

“Another time he said to us, ‘The teaching of Christ is so wonderful, so consummate, that if we understand it, we have the most powerful argument possible for the existence of God. When I had this revelation, I wept from pain and from happiness! Those who believe in Him must bear witness to this truth even if it means being martyred. Wasn’t the Son of God killed as an enemy of His people?’

“The seed that he scattered brought forth fruit. Day by day, people drew ever closer and ever more sincerely to Christ, Who became the source and guide of their lives and their thoughts. “One day Valeriu was feeling so bad that we thought he was going to die. In addition to all the other illnesses he suffered from, he also developed acute appendicitis. He could have been left to die, but that would not have been ‘humanitarian.’ Humanitarianism is the hypocrisy of cruelty, it brings to light the poisonous and lamentable domain of the Communist revolution, with its slogans and beautiful vestments.

So the doctor sent a report to prison administration so that he could be transported to the hospital in town for an operation. The penitentiary agent came to him and said: “’Your life is in my hands. If you don’t have this operation, you will die.’ “Valeriu smiled indulgently and answered: “‘If one man’s life depends on another, then this man indeed has great responsibility! But if everyone would realize that their lives depend on God, then everyone would value the life of his neighbor!’ “’You’re crazy,’ the agent said to him, and sent him to the operating room under strict guard. “When he came back to the sanatorium, the agent said to him: “ ‘Look, you were face to face with death! You see, we wanted to show you that your life is in our hands. Maybe now you’ve changed your mind and you’ll cooperate with us. We’ll give you streptomycin. (Streptomycin was the first antibiotic remedy for tuberculosis).

You’ll also get packages from your family. And you know what might happen later?… You’re an intelligent man and you could be useful to us. We know 

that you’re not interested in politics, but in religion, but isn’t the patriarch and all of his priests on our side now? Why don’t you join our side too? You have a lot to gain!’“

’I thank you for allowing me to have an operation. From now on, my torments will go on even longer…. As for the rest, between you and me, there is a matter of conscience. For the sake of my spiritual freedom I have decided to die. It is good that the truth be told plainly, and I serve the truth. I am not the judge of others, but a confessor of God.

There is nothing under the sun that can survive without God. You cannot accept Christ. I cannot accept spiritual death.’

“’I told you already that you are crazy!’ shouted the agent. ‘I’m going to file a report. You are a reactionary, a fascist, an enemy of the people, in the service of American bandits! We know how to deal with people like you! You’re only fit to die! Go and die with your Christ! I won’t try to stop either Him or somebody like you!’

’You can kill me now, but no one can kill Him any longer. He is a stumbling block for all kinds of pride. Understand well that Christ is the only power that can deliver mankind from suffering and sin.’

“’Give up all this nonsense. The truth is on our side!’“

 ’The truth is love that sacrifices itself for the poor and the persecuted!’

“’Look here, you’re staring death straight in the face and you’re giving me mystical sermons?! You want to convince me too? See, now you’ve gone too far! You’ve spread yourself too thin.’

 “Valeriu struggled to keep looking at him, because his eyelids had grown heavy. He felt worn out physically, but an internal joy compelled him to speak about faith in order to leave an eternal testimony. The smile of his measureless love blossomed on his cheeks. He prayed in secret for this unhappy man and for God to deliver the world from leaders like him.

“The agent was confused, muddled. He swore a blue streak and then ordered that Valeriu be taken back to his room. “’You can’t say that I didn’t behave decently with you’, the agent later added. ‘I offered you life, but you want death. The devil understands all this!’ “And then they parted company. After that, the agent never bothered him again, but came back into the room many times to take a long look at him.

“Valeriu realized that he would never get anything from the agents, but he took it upon himself to say to them, ‘There are very valuable people here who can be of use to the country, but they are dying because they have neither streptomycin nor news from their families. You can save them!’

“But the agents didn’t want to save them. In their belief system, the individual didn’t count, any man could be replaced with another. What counted was the system. The ideas of these prisoners undermined the system, therefore their prison sentences were definitive. “

Valeriu had a discussion regarding this issue only one additional time, with an inspector from Bucharest. The inspector stopped at Valeriu’s bed and asked him: “ ‘What’s your name, prisoner?’

–         Mr. Inspector. I am the prisoner Valeriu Gafencu,’ he responded, using the required greeting. “’Aha,’ said the inspector, looking at him sternly. “’

–         Mr. Inspector, we ask that you grant us the same rights the Communist prisoners had here!’

–          “’We will not repeat the mistakes of the past,’ answered the inspector drily. ‘Our humanism does not apply to reactionaries.’

–         ’Mr. Inspector,’ continued Valeriu, ‘the men here are sick, powerless. Every day, one of us dies. Besides we are subjected to threats of terror and torture.’

–         “’How dare you speak to me that way?! We don’t want to turn you into heroes! At best, we’ll make you informers, and your wives and sisters prostitutes!’ “

–         Valeriu was deeply pained and answered, ‘The sins of this world have to be atoned for. We, prisoners here, we are atoning for many sins. All of us, however, are in the hands of God.’

–         “’You are a mystic bandit! You will die here! Don’t think for one moment that you will get out alive! Even the sickly way you are now, you too will be forced to undergo re-education!’ “

–         ’The way I am is an advantage,’ answered Valeriu, ‘because I won’t be able to last for long. A few blows will be enough to finish me.’

–         “’Go to hell!’ shouted the inspector. ‘We’ll make sure that you die slowly, painfully, until you give up that Christ that you‘re trying to scare us with. We hate Him, and you, and all of you! We’re going to destroy you all! Here there is no more Christ, dead or resurrected. We’ll see to it that future generations don’t know His lies or yours! We ourselves are the christs of this world!’

–         ’May God forgive you,’ answered Valeriu and lowered his head in prayer, expecting to hear an order that he be crushed to pieces. “But he wasn’t killed then. His toil continued for a while longer.”


I Saw the Mother of God

During the night of his last Christmas, toward dawn, Valeriu testified to his friend – Ioan Ianolide:

“This night, I kept vigil. I was waiting for my carol to come. I wanted it to be very beautiful. I sang it in my head. I heard it in the high heavens, from where it descended. Rather difficult for me, since I don’t know musical notes and I have to sing by ear. So I was awake, lucid and serene, when, all of a sudden, I noticed a photograph of Seta – the girl he had loved – in my hand. Amazed by this, I lifted my gaze and at the head of my bed I saw the Mother of God, clothed in white, vivid, real. She was without her child. Her presence seemed material to me. The Mother of God was actually beside me. I was happy. I forgot everything. Time seemed endless. Then she said to me:

“’I am your love! Dont be afraid. Dont doubt. My Son will be victorious. He has sanctified this place now for future life. The powers of darkness are growing and will frighten the world still more, but they will be scattered. My Son is waiting for people to return to the faith. Today, the sons of darkness are bolder than the sons of light. Even though it may seem to you that there is no more faith left on earth, nevertheless, know that deliverance will come, albeit through fire and devastation. The world still has to suffer. Here, however, there is still much faith and I have come to encourage you. Be bold, the world belongs to Christ!

“Then the Mother of God disappeared and I remained overwhelmed with happiness. I looked at my hand, but the photograph was no longer there.”



My eyes are sad and my forehead tired

From so much vigil and waiting.

My heart is sick, worn out

From difficult and prolonged running

And cries like a wounded bird.

When my eyes close and I seek within myself

The power to climb Golgotha to the top,

A voice, an echo from the depths

Says to me meekly, “Life is Jesus!

The precious pearl is within you.”

I look at the wondrous morning

Of the Resurrection from the grave,

With Magdalene, as if another time,

I kneel before Thee, weeping.

And I am happy and weep with Thee in thought.

(Delivered Feb 21, 2010.)



Dr. Harry Boosalis speaks about the inner crises of contemporary man: despair, depression, delusion due to lack of faith and the answer to it, which is neither found in humanism nor in the falls doctrines or aspirations for a New World Order – but in simply returning to Christ and the Truth: Orthodoxy.



MP3 with Fr. Seraphim Rose:

On The Ecumenical Movement_Signs of the Times I

On the Apostasy of the Church_Signs of the Times II

On the Antichrist


Metropolitan Cyprian (from the Holy Synod of Ressistance)’ sermon (fragments) on The Sunday of Orthodoxy, Greece, 1995

“You see that apostasy, as it goes on and advances, as we read in the books of our church, must reach its peak – the Antichrist to come. From the signs of the time, we see how Christ is approaching, Christ is coming, and we MUST be prepared! – as Christians that we are called and named, if we want to go forth and meet Him, if we want to be united with Him and rejoice with Him eternally.

We SHOULD hold two things dearer than our sight, dearer than our eyes.

First  – the genuineness of Orthodoxy, and I stress this word genuineness because today even the ecumenists want to be called Orthodox!

But this along is not sufficient, just as a bird does not fly with one wing but with two wings. The second wing is Ortho-practcy – correct practice. The first then, is the correct faith, and the second is the correct life so we might be able to say to men who are far removed from the church, what Philip said to Nathaniel: “Come and see”.

I pray that in this difficult time we are passing through, I stress, I repeat, and the difficult times that are await us, Christ may maintain us to the end of our lives, to the final heartbeat, in the correct faith, in the correct life. Amen!”

Please sign:

A CONFESSION OF FAITH Against Ecumenism (English)

 ΟΜΟΛΟΓΙΑ ΠΙΣΤΕΩΣ Κατά του Οικουμενισμού (Greek)


Mărturisirea de credinţă împotriva ecumenismului (Romanian)


The following lecture was given by Metropolitan Kallistos at the beginning of the Great Lent 2010

(St Mark Orthodox Church, Washington DC)


Please note:

This video is for viewing purpose only! Not to be reproduced (Copyright)! If you’d like to own any of his eminence talks (in the professional format) on the Eastern Spirituality, please go to or

The following lecture was given by Metropolitan Kallistos at the beginning of the Great Lent 2010.

Please note:

This video is for viewing purpose only! Not to be reproduced (Copyright)! If you’d like to own any of his eminence talks (in the professional format) on the Eastern Spirituality, please go to or

May the Lord Jesus Christ our God grant you a bless lenten journey

(Blog author) 



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