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After my death our beloved Church abroad will break three ways ... first the Greeks will leave us as they were never a part of us ... then those who live for this world and its glory will go to Moscow ... what will remain will be those souls faithful to Christ and His Church. ~St. Philaret of NY

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Help in discerning true shepherds

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Thursday, February 2, 2017
Some characteristics of clergy not to trust… 

The lives of saints provide lessons for all aspects of our lives. Therefore we should be reading them daily. Not only do we learn what kinds of trials face Orthodox Christians on their path through life, but we are also educated in the nature and practice of love, and are given examples of how to pray, be obedient, discern falsehood or demonic activity, how to be humble, forgiving, and patient, while strictly maintaining the Orthodox faith in all fullness. 

After the 2007 union with Moscow, people of the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad, due to understandable and profound disappointment, have become cautious in trusting clergy. It has been a difficult time for us all. However, it is important for us to continue to learn traditional Orthodoxy, and direct our lives accordingly. A “modern approach” will eventually will lead us away from the Church. For example, we should be aware that the valuable accounts from the lives of saints in fact give hundreds, if not thousands of examples of what kinds of clergymen (and lay people!) not to trust.

For example, in the life of St Athanasius the Great, archbishop of Alexandria (296-373), we read about the heretic Arius:

  • …spurred on by ambition, he sided at first with Meletios, a schismatic, and then with Archbishop Peter of Alexandria, who ordained him a deacon. He was reconciled with another schismatic, Achillas, who raised him to the presbyterate…

Today, the Church unfortunately sees many “adventurers” among the clergy, who will join one jurisdiction after the other, often due to ambition. This kind of personal-ecclesiastical history is a ‘warning flag’ for us. 

At the same time, there exist many laymen and clergy who have turned away from the falsehood of ‘world orthodoxy’ or heterodox faith, and embraced true Orthodoxy. These are distinguished by their humble and consistent work for the Church of Christ, which is often not very spectacular. Arius, on the other hand:

  • …was not so well versed in understanding Scripture as he was crafty and a vessel of the devil, skilled at instigating scandals…a popular teacher…his teachings began to incite controversy…he made many disciples…his beliefs circulated in the mouths of many….he filled Egypt with tumult and confusion…his ideas we widely accepted…

Moreover, Arius and his followers were great publicists:
  • …they did not cease, on a daily basis, creating stumbling blocks, with the intention of not only having the saint exiled from his throne, but also from the city, and if possible even to deprive him of life itself…they enlisted whomever they could in Alexandria to defame the bishop…

The righteous very often endure unjust and false slanders. This is a sign to take note of:
  • …they accused him of crimes…compelling the bishops and priests to hand over a tax…plotting treachery against the Emperor…that Athanasius was avaricious…against the holy archbishop every charge that could be contrived was laid at his door…primarily harshness and violence in dealing with those who took up Ischyras’ case (a man who posed as a priest without ordination, who vacillated between two schismatic groups and the Orthodox church)…reports circulated that Athanasius contracted to have killed [Arsenios, Bishop of Hypsele, who had been bribed to go along with the following plot]…it was alleged that one of the victim’s hands was severed for use in magic ceremonies…this ridiculous rumour was bruited about…threatening, insulting and reviling him, saying, “Magician, swindler, charlatan, hypocrite, mischief-maker!”

The Church of Christ has lived through many confusing moments, when people were unsure what to believe and whom to trust. Let us make these vital decisions with sobriety, based on Scripture, the writings of the Holy Fathers, and the history of the Church, including the lives of the Saints. 

  • Evsevios of Nikomedia and Theognos of Nicaea, filled with notions of their own importance, used all their influence against the advocates of homoousion. On account of the maneuvering and sophistry of Evsevios of Caesarea, many were swayed who went on thinking that they were in accord with the Orthodox view and the Nicene Creed. The substance of the mischievous controversy was, to many, misrepresented and never fully explained.

St Athanasius governed the Church of Alexandria for 46 years. Seventeen of these years, he was exiled from the city, and most his reign passed under the shadow of continuous troubles. But the Church recognises him as one of the greatest saints and confessors of Orthodoxy in Her history.

1 comment:

Joanna said...

With the Mountain View schism we have all the elements mentioned above:
• Ambition: in the form of an agenda – their determination to create a schism by any means.
• Heresy: ecumenism (saying all the R-fragments are valid parts of ROCOR)
• unjust accusations (against Vl. Agafangel: "neo-Sergainist", "papist dictator", etc.)

Looking back to the 2007 ROCOR-MP union... something present in both the ROCOR-MP union and the Mountain View schism is the ignoring of our Sister Churches.

Just before the ROCOR-MP union it was disturbing news that all three of our Sister Churches broke from us over our pending union with the MP. Unionite advocates brushed it off saying that the Sister Churches, (being non-Russian), could not understand our joy, they were still too suspicious, not seeing the recent spiritual developments in Russia, etc. But this was an undoubtable statement by the Sister Churches against the ROCOR-MP union, a statement that should not have been dismissed.

With the Mountain View schism we also have an ignoring of our Sister Churches. GOC Metropolitan Demetrius oversaw and arranged a compromise to prevent the schism. There was no way the schismatics could not accept the compromise at the time without appearing unreasonable. So Abp. Andronik signed the agreement. But then later, after leaving the negotiation table, Abp. Andronik rescinded his signature. This was an act in defiance of our Sister Church, of our Sisterhood –– and a serious mistake, just as it was a serious mistake in 2007 to disregard our Sister Churches.

Our Sister Churches, acknowledging and perceiving our "sisterhood" is most valuable and most important in our discernment of the Church, in having a clear concept of the Church.

The fact that our Sister Churches do not recognize the Mountain View schism as anything more than a schism should be the bottom line, –– no need for further discussion.

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