Posted by: oldbelieving | January 26, 2022

Akathist to Hieromartyr Daniel Sysoev

Akathist to Hieromartyr Daniel Sysoev

Translated by Jesse Dominick from

Kontakion 1

Thou didst follow Christ in all things, O holy Hieromartyr Daniel, spreading His word to all peoples; thou didst preserve pure His teachings, bestowing them upon all; thou wast vouchsafed a martyr’s death, which thou didst praise, and now, having received rest from God in Paradise for thy labors, cease not to pray for us who sing to thee: Rejoice, holy Hieromartyr Daniel!

Ikos 1

Thou who didst preach the Gospel of Christ unceasingly in thy life and wast granted the gift of the priesthood, fearing not those who can kill the body, but confessing Christ unto thy death, pray for us who glorify thy confession and sing to thee:

Rejoice, divinely eloquent speaker
Rejoice, tireless preacher
Rejoice, lover of Christ above all else
Rejoice, thou who didst love men, leading them to Christ
Rejoice, laborer against delusions
Rejoice, thou who didst put thy hope in God
Rejoice, destroyer of the works of the enemies of Orthodoxy
Rejoice, servant of Christ like unto the Apostle Thomas
Rejoice, confessor of God like unto the Prophet Daniel
Rejoice, guide of hosts of men to the Church of God
Rejoice, thou who didst find joy in Christ
Rejoice, thou who didst confess Him with thy life
Rejoice, holy Hieromartyr Daniel!

Kontakion 2

From thy very youth thou didst strive for God, seeking the meaning of life in nothing other than His word, hearkening to the Scriptures above all, ever desiring to serve Christ; and Christ didst grant thee the gift of the priesthood, which thou didst covet with thy whole soul, and thou didst prove thyself a good shepherd of thy flock, for whose sake thou didst lay down thy life, glorying God: Alleluia!

Ikos 2

Thy mind wast protected in thy youth, O holy one, untouched by the malicious teachings of the godless communists, and thou didst ceaselessly serve among the people, spreading the word of God and helping all, on the streets, in schools and churches, longing for the salvation of thy brethren; therefore, those whom thou didst bring to Christ now sing to thee:

Rejoice, thou who didst find joy in Christ
Rejoice, light of Christ not hidden under a bushel
Rejoice, true citizen of Heaven
Rejoice, preacher unto the farthest ends of the Earth
Rejoice, thou who dost call children to Christ
Rejoice, tireless worker among men
Rejoice, thou who didst follow the example of the Savior, not turning away sinners
Rejoice, thou whose love for men hath shown forth fruit
Rejoice, thou who didst walk before the face of God
Rejoice, thou whom God has shown the way
Rejoice, thou who didst not stray from His path
Rejoice, for thy love was recompensed with Divine grace
Rejoice, holy Hieromartyr Daniel!

Kontakion 3

Following St. Basil the Great, thou didst understand, O Hieromartyr Daniel, that true philosophy is the remembrance of death; and with this thought, seeking a good end before Christ, and teaching children to be mindful of death and the Judgment of God even in their youth, thou didst ever sing: Alleluia!

Ikos 3

Thou wast a good teacher, O holy one, lovingly preaching the Gospel of Christ to children and all those deprived of the Word of God, in word and in letter, helping many turn back from every heresy and schism to the One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church; and thanking God for thy labors, we Christians sing to thee, O Hieromartyr:

Rejoice, good shepherd
Rejoice, O teacher
Rejoice, preacher of the Truth
Rejoice, gatherer of men in Christ
Rejoice, fighter against heresies
Rejoice, thou who didst guide the lost to the Church
Rejoice, destroyer of false philosophies
Rejoice, gatherer of treasure in Heaven
Rejoice, follower of Christ on earth
Rejoice, in the sweet love of Christ
Rejoice, true offering to men
Rejoice, tireless spiritual seeker
Rejoice, holy Hieromartyr Daniel!

Kontakion 4

Thou didst understand, O holy one, that the Church of Christ is renewed through the preaching to heathen nations, and with love and the living word breathed by God, thou didst preach among those deprived of Truth, leading many to renewal through the washing of Baptism; together with those enlightened by thee, we sing to God: Alleluia!

Ikos 4

Thou didst tirelessly oppose the evil teaching of the false prophet Muhammed, O holy father, and the pagan delusion of the Buddhists, and didst support those who had slipped into the demonic snare of occultism, loving all the brethren in Christ and desiring that all might come to knowledge of the truth; wherefore thou art now everywhere hymned:

Rejoice, preacher to many nations
Rejoice, propagator of the Gospel of Christ
Rejoice, thou who didst serve for the Tatars in their native tongue
Rejoice, converter of hosts of Kyrgyz
Rejoice, bearer of the word of God in Central Asia
Rejoice, thou who didst turn to the people of the Caucasus with love
Rejoice, thou who didst bring Wahhabi fanatics to Christ
Rejoice, thou who didst overcome mullahs
Rejoice, generous benefactor of Africa
Rejoice, zealousstriver for Thailand
Rejoice, thou who didst save many from the worship of Satan
Rejoice, baptizer of many unbelievers
Rejoice, holy Hieromartyr Daniel!

Kontakion 5

Thou didst serve Christ with thy whole soul, and didst not bow under thy bodily infirmities, O holy one; and taking no account of thy sufferings, thou didst always serve with love, united with others in the name of the Savior, Whom thou didst ever bear in they soul, chanting to Him: Alleluia!

Ikos 5

With spiritual love in thy soul, O holy Fr. Daniel, thou didst erect a church to the holy Apostle Thomas in Moscow, and there thou not only didst celebrate the Divine services, but also didst conduct catechetical talks, and thou didst take care for those crushed by misfortunes and spiritual sufferings, directing them towards Christ, Who dost grant comfort to all those who labor and are burdened, and we sing to thee:

Rejoice, builder of a church to the holy Apostle Thomas
Rejoice, designer of the cathedral of the holy Prophet Daniel
Rejoice, beloved of the Moscow people
Rejoice, thou who couldst ever be found among them
Rejoice, firm support for the wayward
Rejoice, helper of the poor
Rejoice, caretaker of thy family
Rejoice, thou who didst raise thy children in a Christian manner
Rejoice, interpreter of the Holy Scriptures
Rejoice, thou who didst lead the sorceress to repentance
Rejoice, thou who didst reveal Christ to the young Buddhist
Rejoice, loving embrace of all
Rejoice, holy Hieromartyr Daniel!

Kontakion 6

Falsehoods may penetrate even into the Church in times of confusion from false doctrines, but thou, O holy one, didst zealously withstand all dogmatic errors, and shining with the grace of God, didst remove the delusions of many and didst preach the true Christ, singing: Alleluia!

Ikos 6

Being not deceived by the delusions that shook the Church, O holy one, and with unshakeable faith in the Gospel truth, thou didst show them forth as nothing, and as thou didst look to none but Christ and didst protect thy flock from false prophets and ravenous wolves, we sing to thee:

Rejoice, faithful shepherd
Rejoice, thou who didst hope in God
Rejoice, thou who didst not yield to deception
Rejoice, thou who didst forsake false humility
Rejoice, thou who didst put to shame the fear of the end times
Rejoice, rejecter of ecumenistic delusions
Rejoice, exposer of evolution as blasphemy against God
Rejoice, fighter against numerology
Rejoice, preacher of frequent Communion
Rejoice, worshiper of Christ in spirit and in truth
Rejoice, thou who didst show forth Christian courage
Rejoice, true inspiration for many
Rejoice, holy Hieromartyr Daniel!

Kontakion 7

“In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world,” saith Christ the Savior, and thou, Hieromartyr Daniel, following this word, didst not capitulate in the face of threats and pains and tribulations, but didst boldly wage battle against temptations, seeking assistance from God, the Theotokos, and the saints, and joyously glorifying God: Alleluia!

Ikos 7

Thou didst bear the cross of sickness and pain, O holy one, allowing none to see how thou didst suffer, ever seeking joy and strength in Christ, and waging incessant warfare with the attacks of invisible enemies, knowing that man is not alone, but with God, and that only by His grace can he repel the enemy. As thou didst overcome temptations with the help of Christ and the prayers of the Theotokos, we sing to thee:

Rejoice, thou who didst hope in Christ
Rejoice, thou who didst take shelter under the veil of the Mother of God
Rejoice, thou who didst bridle the tempter by true humility
Rejoice, thou who didst not renounce the sufferings of the cross
Rejoice, thou whose pains were known by few
Rejoice, thou who didst sacrifice a worldly peace
thou who didst thereby attain to Divine peace
Rejoice, thou who didst not retreat before deadly threats
Rejoice, thouwhom no false slanders could bring down
Rejoice, thou who didst convert the indifference of men to zeal
Rejoice, thou who didst patiently endure attacks of malevolence
Rejoice, thou who didst endure all things with joy in God
Rejoice, holy Hieromartyr Daniel!

Kontakion 8

Having been called by God to be honored with a martyr’s death, thou didst come out to thy murderer with openness and love, knowing that thy true home and treasure awaited thee in Heaven, which thou didst ceaselessly seek and desire all thy life, until the hour of thy death praising Christ: Alleluia!

Ikos 8

He who didst come to take thy earthly life, Hieromartyr Daniel, didst find thee vigilant and praying in the altar, and having passed into eternal life among those crowned by Christ, thou dost ever pray with the flock of the martyrs, glorifying God and invoking His gifts upon men, therefore we sing to thee:

Rejoice, thou who didst accept death for the sake of Christ
Rejoice, thou who didst not turn away from the malefactor’s bullets
Rejoice, conqueror of the enemy of salvation
Rejoice, fearless confessor
Rejoice, selfless lover of Christ
Rejoice, thou who didst confess Him by thy death
Rejoice, thou who dost now glorify Him in the Church Triumphant
Rejoice, true citizen of Heaven
Rejoice, thou who didst receive a crown from the hand of the Savior
Rejoice, thou who didst strengthen the Church by thy sacrifice
Rejoice, thou who dost repose in the immortal Light
Rejoice, shining star among the Righteous
Rejoice, holy Hieromartyr Daniel!

Kontakion 9

Thy martyrdom is confirmed, O holy one, by thine own executioners, for they testify of thee as an enemy of their false teaching, and confess that thou wast killed for thy zeal, with which thou didst fight against the Muslims’ deceit by preaching Christ, fearlessly chanting to him: Alleluia!

Ikos 9

God hast lovingly showed men the honor which He vouchsafed thee, O Hieromartyr, and thy sacrifice for Him Who didst sacrifice Himself on the Cross, for at thy burial thy hands were as though alive, clenching the holy cross, and thy blood, poured out upon thy pectoral cross, remained red; therefore, those who rejoice in their new defender in Heaven sing to thee:

Rejoice, thou who hast shown thyself a true friend of God
Rejoice, thou who didst make the good seed to bear fruit
Rejoice, thou who hast attained unto eternal blessedness
Rejoice, thou who dost ever pray for mankind
Rejoice, those whom thou hast brought to Christ do sing to thee
Rejoice, Alexander of Chechnya doth cry to thee
Rejoice, the woman who contemplated suicide doth sing to thee
Rejoice, the Orthodox Tatars and Kyrgyz do proclaim to thee
Rejoice, faithful servant of Christ
Rejoice, thou who didst multiply thy talents
Rejoice, thou who didst strengthen the weak in Christ
Rejoice, thou who, being with Christ, didst not fear the powerful
Rejoice, holy Hieromartyr Daniel!

Kontakion 10

Through you, O holy one, all who seek to be baptized or return to Orthodoxy do receive help, for having found boldness before the face of God through thy holy life and martyric end, for spreading the Gospel, thou dost offer up God-pleasing prayer, chanting: Alleluia!

Ikos 10

Thy help has been revealed, O Hieromartyr Daniel, for even after thy death thou hast led hosts of men to the true faith, again conquering the false teachings of pagans, atheists, and heretics by thy martyrdom, but those grateful ones who didst come to know Christ with thy help sing to thee:

Rejoice, loving friend of those in need
Rejoice, unwavering support of Orthodox missionaries
Rejoice, gentle guide of the lost
Rejoice, thou who dost lay waste to demonic despair
Rejoice, enlightener of those who seek to know the dogmas of Orthodoxy
Rejoice, for through thy writings seekers are enlightened
Rejoice, for the example of thy martyrdom doth strengthen the weak
Rejoice, thou who dost come to the aid of all through thy prayers
Rejoice, O speedy intercessor before God
Rejoice, fragrant flower of Russia
Rejoice, pride of the Tatar people
Rejoice, precious gem of the Church universal
Rejoice, holy Hieromartyr Daniel!

Kontakion 11

Wondrous is God in His saints, through whom He doth grant aid to mankind at all times; in like manner, through the holy martyr Daniel Sysoev was God’s mercy revealed to us who oppressed by a multitude of sins, for through His prophet God didst say: “I desire not the death of the sinner, but that the sinner should turn from his ways and live.” And grateful for this inestimable gift, we sing to God: Alleluia!

Ikos 11

Laboring together with Thee, O Lord, Thy saints are deified and testify of the boundless riches of Thy love for mankind to the world. In like manner, the Hieromartyr Daniel didst receive Thy grace, and not being careless with it, didst labor to bring Thee, O Lord, to men and to lead them to Thee; and glorifying Thee, we sing to him who wast sanctified in Thee:

Rejoice, rightly glorifying martyr
Rejoice, adornment of priests
Rejoice, thou who art wise in Christ
Rejoice, for thy zeal awaited not old age
Rejoice, thou who didst lay down thy life for Christ
Rejoice, for thou hast taken up abode in the eternal Light
Rejoice, thou who dost ever share joy in the Lord
Rejoice, thou through whom Orthodoxy is strengthened
Rejoice, thou through whom wicked teachings are brought to ruin
Rejoice, victor by the grace of God
Rejoice, light of Orthodox preaching
Rejoice, exemplar of the fullness of spiritual riches in Christ
Rejoice, holy Hieromartyr Daniel!

Kontakion 12

Uniting with God, man doth acquire power to overcome all the evil works of the devil; likewise, O Hieromartyr, with humility, but with boldness and daring, thou didst use the gifts of God, wholly bringing to ruin the machinations of the enemy of salvation, and now the fallen angels fear thee yet more, as thou dost sing to the All-Holy Trinity in the Heavens: Alleluia!

Ikos 12

Thou wast blessed by God, O Hieromartyr Daniel, laboring to bring to the true faith those who did truly desire such for themselves, purifying the Church from pernicious teachings and futile phenomena; and having crowned this holy labor with a martyr’s crown, thou didst enter into eternal life together with Christ; and we hymn thee with love:

Rejoice, thou who hast boldness before Him Who hast overcome the world
Rejoice, laborer with Christ
Rejoice, for Divine love for man hast enlightened thee
Rejoice, destroyer of devilish deeds
help and correction of Christians
Rejoice, rebuke of evil thoughts and idle talk
Rejoice, thou who didst fill God’s house with hosts of men
Rejoice, pure voice of true theology
Rejoice, thou who didst live among men united to Christ
Rejoice, warrior for the Kingdom of Heaven who didst lay down thy life for Christ
Rejoice, offeror of hymns of glorification before the Lord of all
Rejoice, thou who dost give us joy and unite us with Christ
Rejoice, holy Hieromartyr Daniel!

Kontakion 13

O holy Hieromartyr Daniel, who didst labor without respite for the sake of the salvation of men, who didst unshakably accept death for Christ, hear now our meager prayer which we offer unto thee, honoring thy martyrdom and glorifying God, Who didst strengthen and receive thee into the Heavenly abodes. By thy fervent prayers to Almighty God, entreat for us the forgiveness of our sins and help in overcoming temptations, that we might be strengthened and enlightened to labor for the sake of our salvation and the salvation of men, that having completed our earthly pilgrimage, we might thereby be vouchsafed eternal life in Christ together with thee, that with all the saints and righteous ones we might glorify God unto the ages of ages: Alleluia!


At a time when people turn to videos for information, the documentary What is Orthodox Christianity? An Answer in Three Parts aims to employ the aesthetics and resources of the Orthodox Church in order to reinforce the content of the message. Rather than conventional movie-making techniques like interviewed subjects, the use of actors, or narrator, this documentary uses still images, readable text, and other aesthetic elements to explain He Who came as both Word (Logos) and Image (Icon).

The documentary (running time 125 minutes) intends to:

1. Answer the question “What is Orthodox Christianity?” for a contemporary American audience with some familiarity of Christianity.

2. Offer a basic orientation for those who may be exploring Orthodox Christianity by emphasizing the prayer of the heart, watchfulness, and the Holy Mysteries that set Orthodox Christianity apart from other Christian confessions.

It features 363 icons, 162 photographs, 68 other pictures, and 92 explicit references to Scripture.

The movie was written and assembled by Fr. Daniel Mackay, priest of St. John the Wonderworker Serbian Orthodox Church in Eugene, Oregon. Fr. Daniel is a professor of English literature and spent three years making the film in order to answer questions that commonly arise when discussing Orthodox Christianity.

* * *

Part One: The Teachings of Christ

The first part of this three-part slideshow that answers the question, “What is Orthodox Christianity?” by emphasizing the prayer of the heart, watchfulness, and the Holy Mysteries that set Orthodox Christianity apart from other Christian confessions. This first part emphasizes what Jesus Christ taught His Apostles and what and where the Church is.

Part Two: Falling Away from Christ

The second part the slideshow that answers the question, “What is Orthodox Christianity?” by emphasizing the prayer of the heart, watchfulness, and the Holy Mysteries that set Orthodox Christianity apart from other Christian confessions. The second part begins a consideration of the spiritual consequences of departure from the Church, first through establishing an historical timeline of the schism and then beginning to consider the prayer of the heart, experience of uncreated light, and the difference between spirit and soul that have been preserved in the Orthodox Church.

Part Three: The Life in Christ

The third and final part of the slideshow that answers the question, “What is Orthodox Christianity?” by emphasizing the prayer of the heart, watchfulness, and the Holy Mysteries that set Orthodox Christianity apart from other Christian confessions. The third part focuses on elements of the spiritual life: baptism, repentance, watchfulness, and Holy Communion.

Posted by: oldbelieving | July 17, 2015


see this article originally posted on

Jesse Dominick

The holy Royal Martyrs are a bulwark, a firm wall of protection for the Russian people and land. Their icons adorn temples everywhere throughout Orthodox Russia and beyond, shining forth with the light of victory. Their people supplicate them, and they are quick to hear. Those who bore the crown are now borne as brilliant jewels on the crown of the Orthodox Church. The Moscow Patriarchate’s 2000 glorification of Tsar Nicholas II and his family—the Tsarina Alexandra, the Tsarevich Alexei, and the Grand Duchesses Olga, Tatiana, Maria and Anastasia— along with all the new martyrs and confessors of Russia was a necessary act of repentance from the preceding century, guiding the Church through its continuing resurgence, and one which led to the reunification of the mother Russian Church with its body abroad.

In this sense, in glorifying the Royal Martyrs the Church is simply following in the example that they had offered to us with their lives and in their holy deaths, humbly laying down their throne, and lives, in hopes of preserving the unity of the nation. In the words of Fr. Seraphim Rose, the Tsar was “the first Orthodox layman with a responsibility to give a Christian example to all his subjects,”[1] and in honoring their earthly king the people were led to honor their Heavenly King. Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it (Eph. 5:25), and in this image, as heaven’s representative on earth, the Tsar also went meekly to his fate as a faithful servant of Christ and of his people. The last Russian Tsar had been born on the day of the Church’s commemoration of the Prophet Job the Much-Suffering, and thereby through God’s providence sensed that his life would likewise know profound suffering—a suffering which he dutifully embraced: “Perhaps an expiatory sacrifice is needed for Russia’s salvation. I will be that sacrifice. May God’s will be done!”[2]

While the memory, glory, and splendor of the noble Tsar and his immediate family are famed throughout the world, there are those amongst his extended family who can also capture our attention.[3] While not a saint, also intriguing is the life of the Grand Duchess Olga Alexandrovna, the younger sister of Tsar Nicholas, memorialized in Ian Vorres’ The Last Grand Duchess (1965). The book was born out of a neighborly friendship: the Grand Duchess, spending her final twelve years in simplicity in Toronto, was wont to invite her neighbor, Ian Vorres, to tea. Vorres just happened to be a writer, and upon learning that his unassuming neighbor was in fact the last surviving Grand Duchess of the Russian royal house he convinced her to grant her blessing to capture her life in writing.

Her Imperial Majesty, Grand Duchess Olga Alexandrovna

Told largely through her own words, the book offers an endearing picture of a girl, who although raised as the youngest child in one of the most powerful families on earth always cherished the traditional values, simplicity, and love of nature which her father, Tsar Alexander III, had instilled in her. She was especially close to her father, and was devastated when he unexpectedly died in 1894 when she was but twelve years old. She felt less close to her mother, Empress Marie Fedorovna, who expected her to take full part in the palace pageantry which was of little interest to Olga. Inspired by her desire for some measure of freedom from her mother she accepted the marriage proposal of her distant cousin Prince Peter of Oldenburg in 1901.She soon regretted her hasty decision when in 1903 she met Colonel Nikolai Kulikovsky, the true love of her life. It was not until 1916 that her brother, Tsar Nicholas II, granted an annulment, and in the intervening years her marriage to Prince Peter remained unconsummated. During this time the Grand Duchess loved to paint and tend to the garden and she enjoyed an especially close relationship with her brother’s family. While her life, and the book The Last Grand Duchess, can stand on its own as a fascinating tale, Orthodox Christians can especially find much of note stemming from her closeness to the royal family—our Royal Martyrs. Although they have been officially glorified by both the Russian Church Abroad and the Moscow Patriarchate, many unfortunate rumors, lies, and slanders concerning their lives, their martyrdom, and the role of sacred monarchy continue to be perpetuated and sometimes deceive even our own Orthodox Christians.

The simple apartment in Toronto’s east end, where Grand Duchess Olga died on November 24th, 1960.

Grand Duchess Olga was elated to marry Colonel Kulikovsky in 1916, but politics soon forced the happy couple to flee Russia to Denmark in 1919, and again to Canada in 1948 where they spent years tending to a farm, delighting in the simple life their situation afforded them, and becoming active and beloved members of the local Christ the Savior Cathedral. Vorres also writes of the Grand Duchess’ repose in a simple Toronto apartment on November 24, 1960, and, having been given a generous first-hand glimpse into Her Imperial Majesty’s life, the reader feels as if he has lost a friend. It is from these final years that the Grand Duchess vividly and often warmly recalled to her neighbor the events of her life, and she offers to the reader many invaluable first-hand accounts and analyses of the life and rule of her brother, Tsar Nicholas II, and his family, which stand in stark contrast to conventional “wisdom” concerning the Romanov dynasty.

Sacred Monarchy

Tsar Nicholas II, bearing the Imperial coat of arms of the double-headed eagle, representing the “Byzantine Symphony” of Church and State

Recalling how Russian troops responded to her father Tsar Alexander III, the Grand Duchess offers a beautiful statement of the Orthodox understanding of the anointed Emperor, which, as she notes, is beyond the comprehension of western religious and political systems:It is all but forgotten today that to the Russian masses of my youth the Tsar was chosen by God to rule the country. Their devotion to him embraced their feelings for God and their country. Believe me, I have seen many examples of that truly dedicated affection. It was the main support of the Romanov sovereigns in their unrewarding task of wielding absolute power. Between the crown and the people was a relationship hardly ever understood in the West. That relationship had nothing to do with government or with petty officialdom. The Tsar and the people were bound together by the solemn vows of the Tsar’s coronation oath when he pledged himself to rule, judge, and serve his people. In a Tsar the people and the office were joined together.[4]

This lofty statement should not be simply dismissed as from one biased by familial relations, as her words also adhere to the teachings of the God-bearing saints of the Church. Pondering why Tsar Nicholas II was maligned and finally martyred, St. John Maximovitch answered:

Because he was Tsar, Tsar by the Grace of God. He was the bearer and incarnation of the Orthodox world-view that the Tsar is the servant of God, the Anointed of God, and that to Him he must give an account for the people entrusted to him by destiny, for all his deeds and actions, not only those done personally, but also as Tsar … he was the bearer of the consciousness that the Supreme authority should be obedient to God, should receive sanctification and strength from Him to follow God’s commandments. He was a living incarnation of faith in the Divine Providence that works in the destinies of nations and peoples and directs Rulers faithful to God into good and useful actions. Therefore he was intolerable for the enemies of faith and for those who strive to place human reason and human faculties above everything. [5]

Nor must this be simply dismissed as Russian romanticism about the pre-revolutionary age, for we also find such words enshrined in the Church’s authoritative Seventh Ecumenical Council: “God gave the greatest gift to men: the Priesthood and the Imperial power; the first preserves and watches over the heavenly, while the second rules earthly things by means of just laws,” and again: “The priest is the sanctification and strengthening of the Imperial power, while the Imperial power is the strength and firmness of the priesthood.”[6] Indeed, the Church has traditionally understood the person of the Emperor to be he who now restrains of whom St. Paul wrote, who holds back the mystery of iniquity (2 Thess. 2:7).[7]

And recalling the coronation of Sts. Nicholas and Alexandra the Grand Duchess further stated:

From that very moment Nicky’s responsibility was to God only. I admit that the very idea may sound unreal today, when the absolute power of sovereigns has been so discredited. Yet it will always retain its place in history. The coronation of a Tsar of Russia was a most solemn and binding contract between God and the sovereign, His servant. That is why, after sixty-four years, the memory of it has a special sanctity for me.[8]

Tsar Nicholas II’s Personal Qualities

Taking up the yoke of servitude to God and the people was a serious and heavy responsibility. Upheld by God, the personal circumstances, characteristics and actions of each Emperor yet played a significant role in his reign. It is common enough to hear bewailing of the reign of the sainted last Tsar, supposedly one altogether weak and ineffectual.

While not denying her brother’s imperfections, Grand Duchess Olga offers some explanatory insight into Tsar Nicholas’ imperial formation, and the gravity with which he approached the situation. She recalled her brother approaching her on the verandah, putting his arms around her and sobbing: “Even Alicky [the Empress Alexandra] could not help him. He was in despair. He kept saying that he did not know what would become of us all, that he was wholly unfit to reign. Even at that time I felt instinctively that sensitivity and kindness on their own were not enough for a sovereign to have. And yet Nicky’s unfitness was by no means his fault.” Recalling some of the Sovereign’s finer qualities she noted, “He had intelligence, he had faith and courage” and yet “he was wholly ignorant about governmental matters.” Her brother had been trained as a soldier but insufficiently as a statesman.

She continued:

It was my father’s fault. He would not even have Nicky sit in Council of State until 1893. I can’t tell you why. The mistake was there. I know how my father disliked the mere idea of state matters encroaching on our family life—but, after all, Nicky was his heir. And what a ghastly price was later paid for the mistake. Of course, my father, who had always enjoyed an athlete’s health, could not have foreseen such an early end to his life … But the mistake was there.[9]

In addition to his sensitivity, kindness, intelligence, faith and courage, Nicholas had also internalized his father’s strong emphasis on family life. Summarizing the testimony of the Grand Duchess, Vorres writes of the Tsar as a man of simple habit and a family life “above reproach,”[10] and the deep, abiding love between the Tsar and his Tsarina is widely known and serves as an encouraging example to modern Orthodox Christians weathering the storm of the rapid breakdown of marriage and family life. In one letter addressed to his “Darling Sunny” Nicholas wrote lovingly to Alexandra during a time of war: “My dear, I am longing for you … Just here, away from Ministers and strangers, we would have plenty of time to talk quietly about various questions, and spend a few cosy hours together.”

A letter of the Tsarina Alexandra to her husband, Tsar Nicholas II

But recalling his royal duty he continued: “But what is to be done? You have said very justly, in one of your last letters, that our separation is our own personal sacrifice, which we are making for our country in this sorrowful time. And this thought makes it easier for me to bear it.”[11] The Tsar was always a man of such deep feeling, but it seems this went largely unknown in his own lifetime. His calm and reserved public appearance left the lasting impression that he was cold and aloof, but he did not want to reveal with what depth he felt every twist and turn of his rule, and the people could not see their Tsar break down in public.A story persisted that when the Tsar learned by telegram of the decimation of the Russian navy at Tsusima in May 1905 he crumpled up the telegram and callously returned to his game of tennis. Vorres questioned his royal neighbor on the veracity of this story: “It is a lie – on par with thousands of others!” she cried; “And I know because I was at the palace when the telegram arrived. Both Alicky and I were with him in the room. He turned ashen pale, he trembled and clutched at a chair for support. Alicky broke down and sobbed. The whole palace was plunged into mourning that day.”[12]

Speaking of such times, the Grand Duchess stated, “Perhaps only Alicky and I knew how deeply he suffered and worried. He was always handicapped by the dearth of experienced and disinterested ministers, and all the intellectuals could talk about was revolution and assassination, and didn’t they pay for it?”[13]

Unfortunately, the Tsar’s rule began with such a situation, when, following his coronation, rumor spread that there were not enough gifts for the gathered peasants and a stampede left behind trampled bodies. With his deep sensitivity and his deep faith Nicholas hoped to cancel the evening’s ball and retreat instead to a monastery for a time of prayer and repentance, but his ministers insisted he and Alexandra attend the gala as it had been arranged by the French government. Olga stated: “I know for a fact that neither of them wanted to go. It was done under great pressure from his advisers.” But the newly-crowned gave their day to the people: “I know that both Nicky and Alicky spent the whole of that day in visiting one hospital after another. So did my mother, Aunt Ella, Uncle Serge’s wife, and several others.”[14] And referring to her brother’s generosity in the wake of the tragedy, she asked exasperatedly:

How many people know or care today that Nicky spent thousands and thousands of roubles to provide pensions for those disabled at Khodynka and for the widows and orphans? Later I learned from him that it was not very easy to do at the time—he did not want to embarrass the Treasury and all the coronation expenses were paid out of the privy purse. He had it done so unobtrusively that none of us knew of it at the time—except for Alicky, of course.[15]Throughout his reign the Tsar remained no stranger to generosity, and even austerity. He was strict with his own expenses but liberal elsewise. Speaking of the family’s fiscal situation, Nicholas’ sister puts forth a surprising claim: “It sounds tremendous, but it was not. The fiscal year began on 1 January. Often enough Nicky would be broke by autumn.” He had inherited the expense of the upkeep of seven palaces, imperial yachts and trains, the imperial theaters and ballet school, as well as the wage of thousands of court officials who also received presents on Nativity and St. Nicholas’ day, and the allowance for each Grand Duke and Duchess, of which there were many by the time Nicholas ascended the throne. The crown also supported the Academy of Arts and the Academy of Science nearly every year of his reign, and the bulk of orphanages, institutions for the blind, poorhouses, and hospitals depended on the imperial purse.

Vorres continues:

In addition the Tsar’s private chancery was inundated with individual petitions for financial help. A policeman’s widow asking to have her children educated, a brilliant university student requiring a grant to finish his course, a peasant asking for a cow, a fisherman needing a new boat, a clerk’s widow asking for a sum needed to buy a pair of spectacles. The private chancery staff were strictly forbidden to leave a petition unanswered. Once certain inquiries were made, and the case proved to be genuine, the petition was satisfied.

And the Grand Duchess concludes: “Compared with some of the American magnates my brother was a poor man.”[16]

Faith and Self-Sacrifice

The Great Blessing of the Waters at the Neva River on Theophany, 1905

The Tsar was undoubtedly a man of deep faith. As we have seen he was keenly sensitive to the lives of his people, and especially in times of disaster and suffering his first instinct was to find solace in the stillness of a monastery. His was the role of the “first Orthodox layman” and he fulfilled it well. A stirring example of his faith in God and fidelity to his responsibility to the people occurred on the great feast of Theophany, 1905. The royal family was in attendance at the service of the blessing of the waters, positioned ceremoniously upon a dais. Terrorists had snuck live rounds into guns to be used for a salute and several actual shots were fired, leaving windows smashed and people injured. As the Grand Duchess described it, the scene was one of utter confusion. In the maze of police and military running in every direction the Emperor could not be seen. Finally he was spotted, still and erect on the dais where he had begun the ceremony. Once he returned to the palace he told his sister Grand Duchess Olga that he had heard the shells whizzing around him. “I knew that somebody was trying to kill me,” he told her. He continued: “I just crossed myself. What else could I do?”[17]Our Lord taught us saying This is my commandment, That ye love one another, as I have loved you. Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends (Jn. 15:12-13). Tsar Nicholas and his family would be called upon to show forth this love, and they answered to the call. Although he had an opportunity to flee Russia with his family in the time of the revolution, he chose to stay amongst his people and face whatever awaited him. The time of Russia’s expiatory sacrifice was upon them.

Tsar-Martyr Nicholas II with an icon of St. Seraphim of Sarov

St. Seraphim of Sarov, whose glorification had been realized in 1903 with the help of the Tsar, had prophesied that God would allow for the overthrow of the Tsar that the people might understand the difference between rule by God’s anointed and rule by lawless men. He wrote a letter to be delivered to the Tsar himself on the day of his canonization, and it was widely believed that this letter foretold of the bloodshed coming to Russia. The Sovereign’s nobility, determination, and sense of self-sacrifice are further verified:In 1917 Metropolitan Macarius of Moscow saw in a vision the Saviour speaking to Tsar Nicholas: “You see,” said the Lord, “two cups in my hands: one is bitter for your people, and the other is sweet for you.” In the vision the Tsar begged for the bitter cup. The Saviour then took a large glowing coal from the cup and put it in the Tsar’s hands. The Tsar’s whole body then began to grow light, until he was shining like a radiant spirit. Then the vision changed to a field of flowers, in the middle of which Nicholas was distributing manna to a multitude of people. A voice spoke: “The Tsar has taken the guilt of the Russian people upon himself and the Russian people is forgiven.”[18]

The Tsar, spiritually united at birth to the righteous and long-suffering Prophet Job laid down his life for his friends, and what’s more—even for his enemies, showing the greatest of love. Upon the Cross our Lord called out Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do (Lk. 23:34). From house arrest in Tobolsk in 1918, Grand Duchess Olga, the daughter of the Tsar, passed along the words of her father:

Father asks to have it passed on to all who have remained loyal to him and to those on whom they might have influence, that they not avenge him; he has forgiven and prays for everyone; and not to avenge themselves, but to remember that the evil which is now in the world will become yet more powerful, and that it is not evil which conquers evil, but only love.[19]

The deep faith of the God-crowned Emperor was instilled as well in his family. Such grace-filled words of the Tsar are echoed in his daughter Olga’s own words. A poem copied into one of her notebooks during the family’s time of captivity reads:

Send us, Lord, the patience, in this year of stormy, gloom-filled days, to suffer popular oppression, and the tortures of our hangmen. Give us strength, oh Lord of justice, Our neighbor’s evil to forgive, And the Cross so heavy and bloody, with Your humility to meet, In days when enemies rob us, To bear the shame and humiliation, Christ our Savior, help us. Ruler of the world, God of the universe, Bless us with prayer and give our humble soul rest in this unbearable, dreadful hour. At the threshold of the grave, breathe into the lips of Your slaves inhuman strength—to pray meekly for our enemies.

The Empress Alexandra

Grand Duchess Olga Alexandrova seated with the Emphress Alexandra

Grand Duchess Olga Alexandrovna, as we have seen, enjoyed a close relationship with her brother’s family, including with the Tsarina Alexandra, about whom to this day persists much unfortunate mythology. Responding to claims made about the Empress, Olga responded with pain of heart: “She is the most maligned Romanov of us all. She has gone down in history so calumniated that I cannot bear reading any more of the lies and insinuations people have written about her.” Most of the family never tried to understand her or to make her feel welcome. Just as the Tsar’s public appearance often left him misunderstood, so too with his beloved wife who faced a particularly difficult time with the Dowager Empress, Marie Fedorovna:

She could do nothing right so far as my mother’s court was concerned. Once I knew she had a dreadful headache; she looked pale when she appeared at dinner, and I heard them say that she was in a bad humour because my mother happened to talk to Nicky about some ministerial appointments. Even in that first year—I remember so well—if Alicky smiled they called it mockery. If she looked grave they said she was angry.[20]

The Tsar was constantly inundated by the domineering demands of those surrounding him, but his oath to the Lord and to his people protected him from falling into despair under the sheer weight of the throne. The Empress Alexandra also stood ever by his side as a firm support in times of joy and in times of sorrow and struggle, although, only a handful, including Grand Duchess Olga, understood this dynamic of their relationship. She recalls:

She was absolutely wonderful to Nicky, especially in those first days when he was crushed by his responsibilities. Her courage undoubtedly saved him. No wonder Nicky always called her Sunny, her childhood name. She undoubtedly remained the only sunshine in the ever-growing darkness of his life. I had tea with them often enough. I remember Nicky coming in—tired, sometimes irritable, his mind in a maze after a day crowded with audiences.

And expressing her deep and enduring admiration for her Empress she continued: “Alicky never said a wrong word or did a wrong thing. I loved to watch her tranquil movements. She never resented my being there.”[21]

The Final Generation

The Tsar was a man of great conviction. His sense of duty and faith was unwavering, his family values impeccable. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for the greater Romanov family of the last generation. While not denying what faults her brother did possess, the Grand Duchess did not hesitate to proclaim, “It is certainly the last generation that helped to bring about the disintegration of the Empire, it is a fact that all through those critical years, the Romanovs, who should have been the staunchest supporters of the throne, did not live up to their standards or to the traditions of the family.” And with the humility of her brother she added incisively, “And that includes myself as well.”[22]

Whereas Nicholas’ father, Alexander III, governed the immense extended family with an iron fist, protecting the throne from any scandalous gossip, his early death saw the demise of this family cohesion. Nicholas, so unjustly styled the “bloody,” ruled with the gentlest hand of all the sovereigns of the great Romanov dynasty. Unruly uncles and cousins did as they pleased and various factions were formed within the family, each with its own egotistical agenda, although united in their disdain for Tsarina Alexandra, who conversely faithfully fulfilled her duty before God, nation, and family.

The lives of the Royal Martyrs, defined by service, familial bonds, and a great love for Russia stand in stark contrast to those of the extended Romanov clan:

As I look back on it all I can see that too many of us Romanovs had, as it were, gone to live in a world of self-interest where little mattered except the unending gratification of personal desire and ambition. Nothing proved it better than the appalling marital mess in which the last generation of my family involved themselves. That chain of domestic scandals could not but shock the nation—but did any of them care for the impression they created? Never. A few of them actually did not mind being banished abroad.[23]


Of course, to attempt to speak accurately of the legacy of the holy Royal Martyrs it is necessary to speak also of Grigori Yefimovich Rasputin, a man of legend whose memory is forever bound up with that of the sainted last family of the house of Romanov, fueled by wild and unfounded myths and accusations. Rasputin was neither a monk nor a priest and he made no claims to be so. He was a father from Siberia who spent little time away from his family and who always sent money to them when he was away. He was not a member of any heretical sect. As so often happens, history speaks to us in extremes. To be sure, Rasputin is not a saint as perhaps some fringe Orthodox or sectarians believe, but neither is he evil incarnate, single-handedly responsible for bringing about the fall of the great Russian empire. As with all things Orthodox, the truth lies in the middle, on the royal path.

Photo taken in 1909 at Verkhotursky monastery of Elder Macarius, Bishop Theophan of Poltava and Grigori E. Rasputin

Of Rasputin the Grand Duchess noted the delirium surrounding his legacy: “[He] Rasputin has become the central figure of a story the world has long since accepted as true. Anything I might have to say about him would either fall on deaf ears or else be dismissed as a fable. Anything written about the man is so coloured and twisted that it is virtually impossible for the public to sift fact from fiction.”[24]While the memories of the Grand Duchess stand as invaluable first-hand testimony, the canon of Rasputin studies has been authored largely from a position of speculation and hearsay. The French Ambassador, Paléologue, author of a famous set of memoirs, for instance, set himself up as an authority on the inner-workings of the Romanov family, and the literary world accepted his claim unquestionably. His information stemmed merely from the gossip of St. Petersburg salons and scant contact with Grand Duchess Marie Pavlovna, the wife of Grand Duke Vladimir. As an ambassador he visited Tsarskoe Selo only for official audiences—hardly the time for private confidences as Olga noted.[25]Myths about Rasputin as an evil genius began even in his own lifetime, and undoubtedly as a revolutionary attempt to besmirch the throne. However, Sts. Nicholas and Alexandra were aware of who the man really was:

I think it is high time the man was reduced to his proper size and standing. To Nicky and Alicky he remained what he was—a peasant with a profound faith in God and a gift of healing. There was no mystery whatever about his meetings with the Empress. All those elements were born in the imagination of people who had never met Rasputin at the palace. Someone turned him into a member of the staff. Many others made him monk or priest. He had no position either at court or in the Church. And apart from his undoubted gift of healing, Rasputin was neither as impressive nor as exciting as people think.[26]

While he held no ecclesial position, his faith was genuine. He was first heard of in St. Petersburg in 1904 where St. John of Kronstadt saw him at prayer and was greatly moved by his faith and repentance. According to Olga all who met him considered him a man of God. Thousands of commoners and also bishops believed in the power of his prayer, and his ability to heal the gravely ill Tsarevich is undoubted by the Grand Duchess and all who knew him and the family. He asked favors of the Tsar on behalf of others who petitioned him, but never for himself. Though he could have easily become rich, he chose instead to help the poor and keep only the necessary provisions for his family. He died owning but a Bible, some clothes and a few personal items.[27]

While it is commonly believed that Rasputin enjoyed unchecked influence over the crown, and especially over the Empress who was eternally grateful for the health he several times restored to her son, Olga counters: “Yes, not only did I know Nicky and Alicky far too well to believe any of the ugly rumours, but I also knew the Siberiak [literally ‘man from Siberia’] and knew too the limits of his influence at the palace.”[28] The Sovereign was aware of the rumors and slanders surrounding his family’s relationship to Rasputin and thus banned him from the palace and several times ordered his return to Siberia. His toleration of the man stemmed solely from the help he gave to the inheritor to the throne, Alexei. In her talks with Vorres, the Grand Duchess was quite insistent even that Rasputin had “not a particle of influence” over the Tsar, pointing to some of his letters to Alexandra as proof. True, she admits, while Nicholas was away at Moguilev and Alexandra was alone at Tsarskoe Selo she came to trust more in the counsel of Rasputin, but the Tsar’s appraisal of him remained his own, and for all his devotion to his wife, he appointed and dismissed men against her wishes.[29]

And regarding the vicious and shameful allegations that the Empress Alexandra took part in spiritualist séances arranged by Rasputin, the Grand Duchess answered succinctly: “That would be laughable if it were not wicked. Alicky’s piety may well have been exaggerated, but she was staunchly orthodox and our Church bans all such activities.”[30]

Notions of spiritualism were further fueled by the murder of Rasputin. Referring again to the extended family’s decadence and betrayal of the throne, Olga insisted:

There was just nothing heroic about Rasputin’s murder … It was a murder premeditated most vilely … The murder was so staged as to present Rasputin in the guise of a devil incarnate and his killers as some fairy-tale heroes. That foul murder was the greatest disservice to the one man they had sworn to serve—I mean Nicky. The involvement of two members of the family did nothing but reveal the appalling decadence in the upper social strata. It did more. It created a panic among the peasants. Rasputin was flesh of their flesh and bone of their bone. They felt proud when they heard of him being the Tsarina’s friend. When they heard of his murder they said: “There, let one of us get near the Tsar and the Tsarina, and Princes and Counts must needs kill him out of jealousy. It is always they who will stand between the Tsar and ourselves.”[31]

The Rasputin of popular culture—a sex and power-crazed madman who was nearly unkillable— was largely created by disloyal Russians, eager for revolution to bring down the throne, and in the end the real Rasputin—a simple and faithful peasant who, yes, was not beyond reproach, as Nicholas and Alexandra themselves were aware—was gruesomely brought down.

“The Tsar is a saint and, moreover, one of the greatest saints.”

Grounded in her Orthodox faith, the Grand Duchess Olga Alexandrovna regarded her brother as God’s anointed Sovereign on earth. His power was not of men, but of God. On one occasion Vorres asked her if she ever prayed for him. She gave the only reply a faithful Orthodox Christian can give:

           “Not for him—but to him. He is a martyr.”[32]

The Ipatiev House cellar room where the royal family was martyred

Indeed, Tsar Nicholas and his beloved family— the Tsarina Alexandra, the Tsarevich Alexei, and the Grand Duchesses Olga, Tatiana, Maria and Anastasia—along with their faithful servants were eventually to go to their deaths in a dank basement in Ekaterinburg. In their lives they stood for family, humility, nobility, duty, the Russian people, and above all for the holy Orthodox faith. And in the end they gave their lives for their nation and for that holy Orthodox faith, prevailing as the early martyrs before the lions. Having given their lives for Christ, they now intercede for us before Christ. In the words of Fr. Dimitry Dudko who bravely spoke out against the betrayal of the Church in Russia:“The Tsar is a saint and, moreover, one of the greatest saints. O great saint of Russia, Great-Martyr Nicholas, pray to God for us!”[33]

Verily, and may the prayers of all the Royal Martyrs—Nicholas, Alexandra, Alexei, Olga, Tatiania, Maria and Anastasia be with us.

Jesse Dominick

16 / 07 / 2015

[1] From his “Living the Orthodox Worldview” lecture, available on CD from St. Herman’s Press.

[2] Illustrated Russian History, as quoted in Orthodox America, Oct.-Nov. 1981, p. 5.

[3] Most notably the new-martyr Elizabeth, elder sister of the Tsarina Alexandra and wife of Tsar Nicholas’ uncle Grand Duke Sergei Alexandrovich, who glorified Christ in the monastic life and finally in her own triumphal martyrdom.

[4] Vorres, The Last Grand Duchess, pp. 62-63.

[5] “Tsar-Martyr Nicholas II,” Orthodox Word vol. 4, no. 4 (21), July-Aug. 1968, p. 137, back cover.

[6] See the essay of V. Rev. Presbyter Nemanja S. Mrdjenovic “What is the Role of a Monarch in the Orthodox Church” at

[7] See for instance Tertullian, Apology 32; St. John Chrysostom Homily 4 on 2 Thess.; St. Augustine, City of God 20.19. St. Theophan the Recluse states: “When the monarchy falls and everywhere nations institute self-government (republics, democracies), then the Antichrist will be able to act freely” (as quoted in Archimandrite Panteleimon (Nizhnik), A Ray of Light: Instructions in Piety and the State of the World at the End of Time, p. 38).

[8] Vorres, p. 75.

[9] Ibid., pp. 67-68.

[10] Ibid., p. 108.

[11] January 4, 1916.

[12] Ibid., p. 119.

[13] Vorres, p. 108.

[14] Ibid., pp 78-79.

[15] Ibid., p. 79.

[16] Ibid., pp. 95-96.

[17] Ibid., pp. 119-120.

[18] Illustrated Russian History, as quoted in Orthodox America, Oct.-Nov. 1981, p. 5.

[19] Letters from the Royal Family in Confinement, Jordanville: 1974

[20] Vorres, p. 73.

[21] Ibid., pp. 73-74.

[22] Ibid., p. 114.

[23] Ibid., p. 115.

[24] Ibid., p. 134.

[25] Ibid., p. 135.

[26] Ibid.

[27] Ibid., p. 136.

[28] Ibid., p. 134.

[29] Ibid., p. 144.

[30] Ibid., p. 141.

[31] Ibid., pp. 145-146.

[32] Ibid., p. 204.

[33] Orthodox America, Oct.-Nov. 1981, p. 5.

Fr. Rossi is the only person I know of that has addressed evolution in light of the doctrine of the logoi. This is an incredibly important article.

Clash of Paradigms – Fr. Rossi article

            The fourth century was one of great Christological and Trinitarian controversy for the holy Orthodox Church. The Ecumenical Council at Nicea in 325 proclaimed the condemnation of the theology and person of the Alexandrian presbyter Arius who taught that the Son and Word of God was but an exalted creature, created ex nihilo by the will of God, and that, therefore, there was a time when He was not. The Synod declared that the Logos is indeed of the same essence (ομοούσιος, homoousios), or consubstantial with the Father, but the controversy continued for many decades, in which St. Athanasius the Great rose up as a defender of Orthodoxy. In his efforts against the Arians he made many important theological contributions, including his able defense of the homoousion, drawing a line of demarcation between the Creator and the creation,[1] distinguishing between the essence and will of God, and therefore properly distinguishing between terms that speak to the inner life of God (θεολογία, theologia) and those that speak to His outer life, in relation to His creation (οἰκονομία, economia), which had been conflated by Arius. And, as Fr. Florovsky demonstrates, St. Athanasius made the classic Orthodox distinction between the essence and energies of God, as will is on the level of the energies.[2]

His important contributions were picked up by, and expanded on by the great Cappadocian Fathers – Sts. Basil the Great, Gregory the Theologian, and Gregory of Nyssa, and also by St. John Chrysostom, in their struggles with the later Arians, who went beyond the position of Arius to proclaim that the Son is unlike (ανόμοιος, anomoios) or dissimilar to the essence of the Father. According to St. Basil, the first to openly teach that the Son is unlike the Father in essence was Aetius the Syrian[3], whose theology was championed by his secretary Eunomius, who was enthroned as the bishop of Cyzicus in 360. While the early Arians confessed that “the Father cannot be described by the Son, for the Word does not know the Father perfectly and accurately, neither can He see Him perfectly. Moreover, the Son knows not His own essence as it really is,”[4] the later Arians, known as the Anomoeans or Eunomians, pronounced that the Son does know the essence of the Father, and moreover, “God knows no more of his own substance than we do . . . whatever he knows, the same also you will find without any difference in us,”[5] arguing that to know the essence of God does not indicate consubstantiality with God.

In the Eunomian understanding of language, applied terms or names reveal the very essence of a being, and in this case, of God Himself. St. Basil summarizes the Syntagmation of Aetius as: “We believe that unbegottenness is the substance of the God of the universe,” and therefore, “We believe that the Only-Begotten is unlike the Father in substance.”[6] If the Father’s unbegottenness is identified with His essence, then the Son’s begottenness reveals His essence to be unlike and below that of the Father. Accordingly, the Holy Spirit, Who is neither begotten nor unbegotten, but proceeds from the Father, is relegated to a yet lower, third rank of nature.  Eunomius writes: “Since from [the saints] we learn that he is third in both dignity and order, we believe that he is third in nature as well.”[7] This particular use of language is explained by Eunomius in his Apology, which thereby also reveals his theology:

We call the Son ‘offspring’, therefore, in accordance with the teaching of the Scriptures. We do not understand his essence to be one thing and the meaning of the word which designates it to be something else. Rather, we take it that his substance is the very same as that which is signified by his name, granted that the designation applies properly to the essence. We assert, therefore, that his essence was begotten – not having been in existence prior to its own coming to be – and that it exists, having been begotten before all things by the will of its God and Father.[8]

Against both his linguistic premise and his conclusions the holy Fathers of the Church rose up in defense of the homoousion of the Nicene Council, as well as the transcendence and unknowability of the essence of God. The Orthodox-Eunomian debate was between not only two different theologies – variant Christologies and Triadologies which necessarily lead to variant soteriologies – but between two different methods of doing theology.

It is important to note that these Fathers of the Church had no interest in controversy for controversy’s sake. These Saints were keenly aware of the ever-present danger of forsaking revelatory theology for the prideful attraction of philosophy, and they understood that Eunomius had fallen into precisely this trap. However, they were not interested in mere philosophical debates, but rather were fighting for the very life-giving faith of the Church, that the “pernicious heresy” of Eunomius might not “do harm to [the] guileless faith” of the simple believers entrusted to their care.[9] St. Basil declares that he only dared to dig into this mystery, which until him was honored in silence because Eunomius’ heresy demanded an Orthodox reply[10], and St. Gregory of Nyssa only took up the fight on behalf of his brother Basil after his repose, for he too had “learned to honour in silence what transcends speech and thought,”[11] for as St. John states, God is angered by inquisitiveness, but to refrain from meddling into His mysteries is to glorify Him.[12] The seriousness with which these holy bishops addressed the Eunomian heresy can be seen in the words of St. Peter, bishop of Sebaste, to his brother St. Gregory of Nyssa, that Satan himself speaks flimsy and rotten doctrines through Eunomius,[13] St. John’s assertion that the claim to know God as He knows Himself is the root of all evil,[14] and St. Gregory’s declaration that Eunomius’ doctrine is a preparation for the Antichrist, and that Eunomius is himself Antichrist.[15]

Well versed in philosophy, logic, rhetoric, etc, the Cappadocian Fathers and St. John Chrysostom understood the value of these studies, but also their limitations and faults, and being holy men of the Church they understood that the path to knowledge of and union with God is trod only within His holy Church. St. Basil, St. Gregory of Nyssa and St. John all make this point quite forcefully. St. Basil states:

Even now we are not going to repudiate the solid foundation of our faith in the Father and the Son because the manner of the begetting is ineffable and utterly inconceivable. If we are going to measure all things by comprehension and suppose that that which is incomprehensible to our reasoning does not exist at all, the reward of faith will be gone, the reward of hope will be gone. How could we still be worthy of the blessings stored up for faith in invisible realities, if we trust only in that which is evident to our reasoning?[16]

Likewise, St. Gregory of Nyssa speaks of the man who places too much faith in his own intellectual abilities:

But I should say to him that he who declares that the discovery of reality is attainable, has of course advanced his own intellect by some method and logical process through the knowledge of existent things, and after having been trained in matters that are comparatively small and easily grasped by way of apprehension, has, when thus prepared, flung his apprehensive fancy upon those objects which transcend all conception,

and to demonstrate the feebleness of the human intellect in the face of ultimate reality, he challenges such a man to explain even the reality of created things: “Let, then, the man who boasts that he has attained the knowledge of real existence, interpret to us the real nature of the most trivial object that is before our eyes, that by what is knowable he may warrant our belief touching what is secret: let him explain by reason what is the nature of the ant . . .”[17] Furthermore, St. John states that it is only once we have swept our minds clean of all the teachings of the world that we will be free to hear the words of God,[18] and:

Therefore we are commanded to abolish reasonings and not to exalt them; we are ordered to destroy sophistries and not to arm ourselves with them. “For the reasonings of mortals are timid” [Wis. 9:14], the inspired writer says . . . even if something which is proved by reasoned arguments is true, these arguments do not provide an assurance which is full enough nor a faith which is sufficient for the soul.[19]

The fallenness of human nature, which extends to the intellect and reason is overcome only by the grace of Christ through His Body, the Church, and so for the Orthodox Christian, prayer is “the mother for our philosophy and way of life.”[20]

However, against this wise counsel, Eunomius and his followers deemed fit to investigate into the hidden mysteries of God, and moreover they did so apart from the wisdom of the Scriptures and the teachings of the Fathers, and in doing so they destroyed the very faith they claimed to protect. The Fathers who took up the good fight against Eunomius show his theology to be but a web of endless contradictions and philosophical blunders. Although his main tenet which the Fathers combated is that “unbegotten” is the essence of the Father and “begotten” is the contrary essence of the Son, at other times he speaks of the “generated [begotten] essence” of the Son, which, as St. Gregory of Nyssa points out, opens the door to speak also of the Father’s “ungenerate [unbegotten] essence,” such that “generated” and “ungenerate” are reduced to but attributes of the essences.

St. Basil had earlier made the same observation.[21] In this way, these attributes can no longer be used to posit dissimilarity in essences, but indicate rather the distinction of Persons, just as Adam and Abel possess the same human essence although Adam was unbegotten and Abel begotten.[22] St. Gregory writes: “for things that are identical on the score of being will not all agree equally in definition on the score of personality,”[23] and St. John writes: “There are common names to show that the essence is exactly the same; there are proper names to characterize what is proper to the personal realities [υποστάσεις]. The names “Father” and “Son” characterize what is proper to the personal realities; the names “God” and “Lord” show what is common.”[24] Whereas the Arian mind thought foremost of natures and conflated terms proper to nature and person, one of the Cappadocians’ great theological contributions was to apply “unbegotten” and “begotten” to the Persons of the Holy Trinity, thereby raising person (ὑπόστασις) to the same ontological level as essence (ουσία), such that neither is pre-eminent.

Not only is Eunomius’ mind first drawn to essence, but his philosophical system logically ends in denying the personhood of the Son and the Holy Spirit. He foregoes the scriptural terms of “Father,” “Son,” and “Holy Spirit” and introduces in their places “Supreme and Absolute Being,” “another existing through it, but after it,” and “a third ranking with neither of these two.”[25] St. Gregory of Nyssa detects in this a sinister purpose: “this system of his is secretly intended to effect the setting aside of all real belief in their personality, while in appearance and in mere words confessing it. A moment’s reflection upon his statement will enable any one to perceive that this is so.”[26] St. Basil similarly objects that God has already bestowed upon His Son “the name which is above every name,” therefore one ought to be content to use Scriptural terms in order to appropriately glorify God.[27] St. Gregory reasons that Eunomius replaces “Father” and “Son” because they conjure obvious notions of relationship that imply the homoousion which Eunomius so adamantly rejects.[28] St. Basil and St. John likewise prefer “Father” because it is Scriptural and necessitates a Son, while “unbegotten” is too vulnerable to Eunomian interpretation.[29]

Hebrews 1:3 states that the Son in relation to the Father is “the express image of his person (υποστασεως), but since Asterius, a friend and fellow student of Arius in the early fourth century, the Arians had referred to the Son as the image of the Father’s will, or energy (ενέργεια) as St. Gregory of Nyssa reports it.[30] This teaching is enshrined in the second creed of the Antiochian Dedication Council of 341 which states that the Son is the “exact Imageof the Godhead, Essence, Will, Power and Glory of the Father.”[31] This conflation of the essence and energies of God has been pointed out by Fr. John Romanides, who notes that the Eunomians therefore believed that the Son of God is a product of a created energy of the Father.[32] As St. Gregory of Nyssa deftly illustrates, Eunomius thus teaches a pentarchy rather than the Christian Trinity, wherein a created energy which is external to and “follows” the Father produces the Son, and a lesser created energy which is external to and “follows” the Son produces the Holy Spirit. Thus, “How can Eunomius rank our Lord next after the Almighty at all, when he counts Him third only, with that mediating ‘energy’ placed in the second place? The Holy Spirit also according to this sequence will be found not in the third, but in the fifth place . . . “[33]

Accordingly, although Eunomius professes that “begotten” reveals the essence of the Son, he ultimately prefers to refer to Him as “something made” rather than “something begotten,” because, again, “something begotten” necessitates “complete and indistinguishable affinity with the begetter.”[34] If the Father possesses truth, goodness, light, life, etc in His essence, then the Son and Holy Spirit, as created beings essentially opposed to the Father, do not possess such qualities naturally, and certainly not to the extent of the Father, and are therefore capable of their opposites – falsehood, evil, darkness and death, etc. Furthermore, the logical conclusion of Eunomius’ conception of contrary essences is that the Son will never even participate in the light of the Father.[35] If terms such as “something begotten” and “something made” speak to essences, then the end result of the Eunomian heresy is that all things “begotten” or “made” necessarily share in the same essence. Although Eunomius formally confesses the Son to be above the rest of creation, he inadvertently makes Him equal to all things created.[36] How can a creature, capable of sin and death but incapable of even participating in the light and glory of the Father possibly be our Savior?

As the Fathers exhaustively demonstrate and plainly state, Eunomius destroys the Orthodox faith at every turn. St. Basil writes: “we have been sealed in the Father and the Son through the grace received in baptism. Hence when he dares to deny these terms, he simultaneously takes exception to the whole power of the gospels,” and St. Gregory of Nyssa asks, “Why are they baptized into Christ, if He has no power of goodness of His own? . . . Why do they believe in the Holy Ghost . . . How are they regenerate by baptism from their mortal birth, if the regenerating Power does not possess in its own nature infallibility and independence?”[37] The consubstantiality of the Son and the Holy Spirit with the Father, and thus the complete identification of essence and energies is absolutely necessary for the Christian to continue in hope, for it is from the Son and the Holy Spirit that we receive eternal life as they lead the faithful to the Father. This “community of nature” reveals the “community of will” of the Holy Trinity that all men be saved.[38]

St. Gregory of Nyssa beautifully expounds the Orthodox doctrine of salvation in a passage which clearly illustrates the necessity of the full divinity of the Son:

The Godhead “empties” Itself that It may come within the capacity of the Human Nature, and the Human Nature is renewed by becoming Divine through its commixture[ἀνακρασεως] with the Divine . . . when the true Life that underlay the flesh sped up, after the Passion, to Itself, the flesh also was raised up with It, being forced upwards from corruption to incorruptibility by the Divine immortality . . . at His death . . .  He Who, because He is the Lord of glory, despised that which is shame among men, having concealed, as it were, the flame of His life in His bodily Nature, by the dispensation of His death, kindled and inflamed it once more by the power of His own Godhead, fostering into life that which had been brought to death, having infused with the infinity of His Divine power that humble first-fruits of our nature, made it also to be that which He Himself was—making the servile form to be Lord, and the Man born of Mary to be Christ, and Him Who was crucified through weakness to be Life and power, and making all that is piously conceived to be in God the Word to be also in that which the Word assumed, so that these attributes no longer seem to be in either Nature by way of division, but that the perishable Nature being, by its commixture with the Divine, made anew in conformity with the Nature that overwhelms it, participates in the power of the Godhead.[39]

How highly and wonderfully praised are the Incarnation and Crucifixion of the Son of God!  But it is necessary to understand that this doctrine of communicatio idiomatum implies neither that Divinity becomes any more humanity, nor that humanity becomes any more Divinity.[40] Centered on the Person of Christ, Orthodox doctrine is always supremely personal, never destroying or subsuming the human person into the Godhead, as is found in various Far-Eastern traditions, Gnosticism, and is deducible from Eutychian Christology, but ever affirming it in its potential fulfillment through the Incarnation and Crucifixion. But of these Eunomius is ashamed, disparaging them as marks of Christ’s supposed inferiority to the Father.[41] His are a mind and soul unable to think, blinded by their fall from the Orthodox truth of the Son of God.[42]

That the faithful might not fall into the abysses of Eunomius, St. John, emphasizing purity of life and doctrine, exhorts:

Let us join the rightness of our way of life and the deeds we do to the correctness of the teachings we embrace so that what pertains to our salvation may not be divided in two. But nothing can set your lives straight and make them exactly right so much as can your constant attendance at church and your eager attention in listening to what is said here. What food is to the body, the teaching of God’s word is to the soul.[43]

Communion with God and knowledge with God is given to us in and through the teachings and worship of His Church. St. John later states that our stains, which keep us from vision and knowledge of Christ, are wiped away by reading the Scriptures, by prayer and almsgiving, and through peace with one another.[44] Mutual peace requires humility of every Christian believer, for in humbling ourselves we meet and become like the Prince of Peace Who made Himself known to human nature through His humiliation. Through humility we receive all promised blessings by the grace of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.[45] Humility demands that we adhere to the inherited Tradition from Scripture and the Fathers, and thus St. Gregory argues that his consonance with the Fathers is enough to prove his position.[46] The reality of Orthodox worship is itself humbling. St. John calls on the faithful to be sobered by the angelic hosts that accompany their hymns to the Master, and for each to “rid his mind of all earthly things, let him transfer himself entirely to heaven and let him stand next to the very throne of glory and raise his all holy hymn to the God of glory and majesty.”[47] Beside the throne of glory God lavishes Divine life on us through Christ in the Holy Spirit, Who possess this life essentially.[48]

This life is given to us most especially in the celebration and communing of the Holy Eucharist, and for this reason St. John laments that his flock would listen with zeal to his homilies but leave the church before the serving of the Gifts. They had fallen prey to the same philosophical trap as Eunomius – filling their minds with inspiring words, but leaving their souls unfed by experience. St. John critiques that their abstention from the Holy Mysteries proves that they neither grasped his words nor took them to heart.[49]

Enamored with his own intellectual abilities, Eunomius too failed to grasp the “words” of the Orthodox faith. His ideas about God were drawn from the created world rather than revelation. He employed the idea of the analogia entis – the “analogy of being” – that there exists an analogy between God and His creation that raises the mind to an understanding of God. He argued that an investigation of created works would lead to the essences and the discovery that the Son is a creation of the Father, and the Holy Spirit a creation of the Son, which “indisputably” demonstrates their dissimilar essences.[50] Furthermore, examining the nature of created things, Eunomius foolishly concludes that the Son must be in truth a creation of the Father, for to beget would necessitate the same passion involved in the begetting of created beings.[51]

However, St. Gregory argues that it is impossible to argue from the created to the incomprehensible. He writes: “It is clear, even with a moderate insight into the nature of things, that there is nothing by which we can measure the divine and blessed Life,” and thus, “We think of man’s generation one way; we surmise of the divine generation in another.”[52] Eunomius’ fault is that he has failed to wean himself from the human meaning of words such as “begotten” which necessarily carry a vastly different meaning in respect to the Godhead,[53] “For when we have shaken off from the Divine and exalted doctrines all carnal and material notions, we shall be most surely led by the remaining conception, when it is purged of such ideas, to the lofty and unapproachable heights.”[54]

To these “lofty and unapproachable heights” is every person called, but it is imperative to remember precisely that they are unapproachable. The essence of God infinitely transcends all of creation and can never be known, neither by analogy nor revelation. This is the consistent teaching of the Scriptures, and the Fathers over and against the triumphalism of Eunomius. How, they ask, could he feign to know the essence of God when he cannot even grasp the essence of created things, such as the human soul, the earth, or the simple ant?[55] God revealed neither His name nor His essence to the Old Testament Patriarchs, and in the New Testament Christ Himself plainly states that “no one knows the Father except the Son” (Mt. 11:27).[56] The ways that lead to knowledge of God remain untrodden and impassable, for the nearer we draw to God the more we come to realize His incomprehensibility, and this unknowing knowing increases our reverence and piety.[57]If even God’s judgments are unsearchable, and “his ways past finding out” (Rm. 11:33), all the moreso does His essence lie beyond the capacity of human comprehension. St. Gregory the Theologian writes: “it is impossible to express Him, and yet more impossible to conceive Him . . . to comprehend the whole of so great a Subject as this is quite impossible and impracticable,” and St. Gregory of Nyssa agrees:

This is the true knowledge of what is sought; this is the seeing that consists in not seeing, because that which is sought transcends all knowledge, being separated on all sides by incomprehensibility as by a kind of darkness. Wherefore John the sublime, who penetrated into the luminous darkness, says, No one has ever seen God [Jn. 1:18], thus asserting that knowledge of the divine essence is unattainable.[58]

St. Gregory also argues that if it were good for salvation to know the essence of God then he would have revealed it to us, but He says nothing of His essence because it is unknowable.[59] Although Eunomius critiques that the Fathers “worship ye know not what” [Jn. 4:22],[60] they respond that piety and salvation demand only that we know that He is, not what He is.[61] Because no term is revelatory of the Divine essence,[62] those terms applicable to God are, of necessity, in respect to the Divine Persons and energies, and the realm of economia, and it is by the energies that we may know and commune with God. The Cappadocians and St. John continued this distinction made by St. Athanasius.

Listing energies, St. Basil writes: “We say that we know the greatness of God, His power, His wisdom, His goodness, His providence over us, and the justness of His judgment; but not His very essence . . . His operations come down to us, but His essence remains beyond our reach.”[63] These operations which come down to us are spoken of by St. John Chrysostom as God’s “condescension” (συγκατάβασις). Examining his Homily 56 on Matthew, concerning the Transfiguration on Mt. Tabor, Dr. Christopher Veniamin writes that God reveals Himself to man “not by suffering change in His essence, but by conforming, shaping or adapting Himself to the capacity of His creature,” in a descent and participation in the life of the creature. This “participation” is, as was the Taboric light, an eschatological revelation which foreshadows the fullness of the Father’s glory in which the Son will return at the end of days.[64] Speaking also of the energies of God as “light,” St. Gregory writes in another beautiful passage of beholding three equal lights which shine incomparably greater than the sun,[65] and in his Life of Moses he expounds a theology of experiencing God in light and darkness once idolatrous conceptions have been left behind. This is an experience of knowing in not knowing, and seeing in not seeing, which transcends the entirety of human nature, including the nous: “by the intelligence’s yearning for understanding it gains access to the invisible and the incomprehensible, and there it sees God.[66] This experience, beyond all comprehension and description is the very reason for which Christ was Incarnate and the very purpose for which man was created.

In combating the neo-Arian Eunomian heresy, the Cappadocian Fathers and St. John Chrysostom, largely drawing upon the work of St. Athanasius, put forth a solid theology of essence, energies, and person that has helped defined, as far as is possible, the Person of Christ, the Holy Trinity, and the salvation of man, in the Church down to this very day. And this Truth remains relevant for Christians today. St. Basil observed that to claim to know the essence of God is to make oneself equal with God, and such self-conceit is the most dangerous passion for it is a participation in the condemnation of Satan himself,[67] and is the same sin of self-deification of Adam and Eve. To make oneself equal with God will necessarily lead to a lower vision of Who God is, Who the Incarnate Christ is, and to what He calls mankind. Sinful humanity cannot bear the perfect and all-glorious Christ of the Orthodox Tradition Whose light reveals our darkness, and so we pull Him down the slippery slope that leaves Him no more than a wise teacher, as so many view Him today, as we pull ourselves down the slippery slope to equality with the irrational beasts.

But the uniqueness of the Orthodox Church is precisely that it alone among the Christian confessions refuses to reduce the perfection of Christ, and what it means to be perfect in Christ. The martyric spirit of the martyrs themselves and the monastics after them is not driven and sustained by a wise teacher, but rather by the God Who is Life and Who offers that Life to us through His salvific economy in His Church. Denying the full divinity of the Son, the Arian theology places the union of Father and Son at the level of will, and accordingly that which links creation to the Father is a union of wills.[68] This is also the logical end of Nestorianism. With Christ as a mere man, salvation by transformative deification is traded for the moralistic pursuit of “being a good person,” and the Gnostic comfort of “knowing” Christ. Ironically, to be content to be a “good person” is in reality a denial of true personhood which is granted to men by virtue of creation according to the image and the capacity for the likeness of Christ. Without theosis, without the intimate knowledge of God, the theology of the person fades away, and the western values of “freedom” and “individuality” show themselves to be but empty concepts that shackle mankind in non-existence, because those who reject Truth and Life are properly termed “not existing.”[69] But man is called to existence – to Truth and Life – which is to communicate with the divine energies, “beyond” which lies the unknowable essence of God.

[1] For Arius this line was drawn between the Father and the Son, as He believed the Son to be a creation.

[2] For a good discussion of these contributions from St. Athanasius, see Fr. Georges Florovsky’s article “The Concept of Creation in Saint Athanasius,” in Studia Patristica, vol. 6, pp. 36-57.

[3] Against Eunomius 1.1, in The Fathers of the Church: St. Basil of Caesarea: Against Eunomius, p. 82.

[4] St. Alexander of Alexandria’s Deposition of Arius, section 2, in NPNF 2, vol. 4, p. 70.

[5] Socrates, Ecclesiastical History 4.7, in NPNF 2, vol. 2, p. 98.

[6] Against Eunomius 1.4, p. 89.

[7] Apology 25, in Oxford Early Christian Texts: Eunomius: The Extant Works, p. 67.

[8] Ibid. 12, p. 49.

[9] St. Gregory of Nyssa, Against Eunomius 2.3, NPNF 2, vol. 5, p. 104.

[10] Against Eunomius 1.1, p. 81

[11] Against Eunomius 1.2, p. 36; 3.5, p. 147.

[12] On the Incomprehensible Nature of God 2.16, 2.32, in The Fathers of the Church, vol. 72, pp. 76-77, 84.

[13] Against Eunomius, Letter II, of Peter to Gregory, in NPNF 2, vol. 5, p. 34.  

[14] Incomprehensible 2.17, p. 77.

[15] Against Eunomius 11.5, p. 239.

[16] Against Eunomius 2.24, p. 167.

[17] Against Eunomius 10.1, p. 220.

[18] Ibid. 2.8, p. 74.

[19] Incomprehensible 11.7, p. 273.

[20] Ibid. 7.61, p. 210.

[21] Against Eunomius 1.5, pp. 94-95.

[22] Against Eunomius 3.3, p. 143-44.

[23] Ibid. 1.19, p. 56.

[24] Incomprehensible 5.12, pp. 141-42.

[25] Ibid. 1.13, p. 50.

[26] Against Eunomius 1.14, p. 51.

[27] Against Eunomius 2.7-8, pp. 139-40.

[28] Against Eunomius 1.14, p. 51.

[29] Against Eunomius 1.5, pp. 93-94; Incomprehensible 5.10-11, p. 141.

[30] St. Basil, Against Eunomius, p. 126 n. 134; St. Gregory, Against Eunomius 2.12, p. 124.

[31] In St. Athanasius, On the Councils of Ariminum and Seleucia (De Synodis) 23, in NPNF 2, vol. 4, p. 461.

[32] “Yahweh of Glory according to the 1st and 2nd Ecumenical Councils,” Part II, published at

[33] Against Eunomius 1.20, p. 58.

[34] St. Basil, Against Eunomius 2.6, p. 138.

[35] St. Basil the Great, Against Eunomius 2.26-27, pp. 170-72; St. Gregory of Nyssa, Against Eunomius 1.22, pp. 60-61; 1.35, p. 82; 2.6, p. 198; 10.2, p. 222.

[36] St. Basil, Against Eunomius 2.10, p. 143; 2.19, p. 158.

[37] Ibid. 2.22, p. 163; St. Gregory, Against Eunomius 1.22, p. 62; see also 10.2, p. 222.

[38] St. Gregory, Against Eunomius 1.34, p. 81; 2.15, p. 132; See also St. Basil, Against Eunomius 2.34, p. 183: “Isn’t it clear to everyone that no activity of the Son is severed from the Father?”

[39] Against Eunomius 5.5, p. 181.

[40] Ibid. 12.5, p. 247.

[41] Ibid. 5.2, p. 174; 5.3, pp. 176-77; St. John Chrysostom, Incomprehensible, 10.46, p. 261.

[42] St. Basil, Against Eunomius 2.6, p. 151.

[43] Incomprehensible, 11.28-29, p. 280.

[44] Ibid. 12.59, p. 307.

[45] Ibid. 8.48, p. 232.

[46] Against Eunomius 4.6, p. 163.

[47] Ibid. 4.43, pp. 132-33.

[48] St. Basil, Against Eunomius 3.4-5, pp. 191-92.

[49] Incomprehensible 3.32-33, pp. 109-10.

[50] Apology 20, p. 61.

[51] St. Gregory, Against Eunomius 4.1, p. 152.

[52] Ibid. 1.26, p. 69; 1.39, p. 93. Cf. Ibid. 3.1, pp. 135-36; St. Basil, Against Eunomius 1.14, p. 113

[53] St. Gregory, Against Eunomius 1.18, p. 55; 1.39, p. 93.

[54] Ibid. 3.3, p. 144.

[55] St. John, Incomprehensible 5.27-29, pp. 149-50; St. Basil, Against Eunomius 1.12-13, pp. 109-11; St. Gregory, Against Eunomius 10.1, p. 220.

[56] St. Basil, Against Eunomius 1.13-14, pp. 111-12.

[57] St. Gregory, Against Eunomius 3.5, p. 147; St. John, Incomprehensible 4.7, p. 117.

[58] The Life of Moses, in Classics of Western Spirituality: St. Gregory of Nyssa: The Life of Moses Part 2, paragraph 163, p. 95.

[59] Against Eunomius 2.3, p. 103.

[60] Ibid. 3.5, p. 147.

[61] St. Basil, Against Eunomius 1.14, p. 113; St. John, Incomprehensible 5.40, p. 154.

[62] St. Gregory of Nyssa says that the only name fitting of His nature is “Above every name,” Against Eunomius 1.42, p. 99, and that a term that encompasses the Divine essence is wholly unknown to us, 7.4, p. 198.

[63] Letter 234, in NPNF 2, vol. 8, p. 274.

[64] “St. John Chrysostom and the Light of Tabor,” in Alive in Christ, vol. 10, no. 2 (Summer 1994), pp. 29-33.St. John also speaks of God’s “condescension” elsewhere. For instance, in Incomprehensible 3.15-16, pp. 101-102; 4.9, p. 118; 10.5, p. 265.

[65] Against Eunomius 1.36, pp. 84-85.

[66] Part 2, paragraphs 162-165, pp. 94-96.

[67] Against Eunomius 1.13, p. 111.

[68] St. Basil the Great, Against Eunomius: Introduction, p. 23; Gregg and Groh, “The Centrality of Soteriology in Early Arianism,” in The Anglican Theological Review 59 (1977), p. 262.

[69] St. Basil the Great, Against Eunomius 2.19, p. 157.

Works Cited

St. Alexander of Alexandria. “Deposition of Arius.” Athanasius: Select Works and Letters.     Ed. Philip Schaff, D.D., LL.D., Henry Wace, D.D., and Archibald Robertson. Vol. 4. Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 1994. 69-72. Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers Second Ser.

St. Athanasius the Great. “On the Councils of Ariminum and Seleucia (De Synodis).” Athanasius: Select Works and Letters. Ed. Philip Schaff, D.D., LL.D., Henry Wace, D.D., and Archibald Robertson. Vol. 4. Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 1994. 451-80. Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers Second Ser.

St. Basil of Caesarea. Against Eunomius. Trans. Mark DelCogliano and Andrew Radde-Gallwitz. Ed. David G. Hunter. Vol. 122. Washington, D.C.: Catholic University of America, 2011. The Fathers of the Church.

—– Introduction. Against Eunomius. Trans. Mark DelCogliano and Andrew Radde-Gallwitz. Ed. David G. Hunter. Washington, D.C.: Catholic University of America, 2011. 3-78.

—– “Letter CCXXXIV.” Basil: Letters and Select Works. Ed. Philip Schaff, D.D., LL.D. and Henry Wace, D.D. Trans. Rev. Blomfield Jackson, M.A. Vol. 8. Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 1994. 274. Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers Second Ser.

Eunomius. “The Apology of Eunomius.” Eunomius: The Extant Works. Trans. Richard Paul. Vaggione. Oxford: Clarendon, 1987. 34-75.

Florovsky, G. “The Concept of Creation in Saint Athanasius.” Ed. F. L. Cross. Studia Patristica 6 (1962): 36-57, reproduced in Aspects of Church History (vol. IV in the Collected Works).

Gregg, Robert C., and Dennis E. Groh. “The Centrality of Soteriology in Early Arianism.” The Anglican Theological Review 59 (1977): 260-78.

St. Gregory Nazianzen. “Oration XXVIII: The Second Theological Oration.” Cyril of Jerusalem, Gregory Nazianzen. Ed. Philip Schaff, D.D., LL.D. and Henry Wace, D.D. Trans. Charles G. Browne, M.A. and James E. Swallow, M.A. Vol. 7. Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 1994. 288-301. Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers Second Ser.

St. Gregory of Nyssa. “Against Eunomius.” Gregory of Nyssa: Dogmatic Treatises, Etc. Ed. Philip Schaff, D.D., LL.D. and Henry Wace, D.D. Trans. William Moore, M.A. and Henry A. Wilson, M.A. Vol. 5. Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 1994. 33-248. Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers Second Ser.

—– The Life of Moses. Trans. Abraham J. Malherbe and Everett Ferguson. New York: Paulist, 1978. Classics of Western Spirituality.

St. John Chrysostom. On the Incomprehensible Nature of God. Trans. Paul W. Harkins. Vol. 72. Washington, D.C.: Catholic University of America, 1984. The Fathers of the Church.

Romanides, J. S. “THE LORD YAHWEH OF GLORY IN THE OLD AND NEW TESTAMENTS Part 2.” 10 May 2012. < unknowingly_rejects_the_doctrine.02.htm>.

Socrates Scholasticus. “Ecclesiastical History.” Socrates, Sozomenus: Church Histories. Ed. Philip Schaff, D.D., LL.D. and Henry Wace, D.D. Vol. 2. Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 1994. 2-178. Nicea and Post-Nicene Fathers Second Ser.

Veniamin, Christopher. “Saint John Chrysostom and the Light of Tabor.” Patristic & Byzantine Society (Merton College, University of Oxford: Hilary Term, 1994). Published in Alive in Christ X.2 (Summer 1994): 29-33.

Posted by: oldbelieving | October 12, 2012

Saints, Holy Elders, and Theologians who have lived since Darwin

Saints, Holy Elders, and Theologians Who Have Lived Since Darwin

— Patriarch Alexei II of Moscow, editor’s preface to Pravoslavnoye osmysleniye tvoreniya mira I sovremennaya nauka, vol. 4 (2008), p. 3

A polarity of worldviews poses the task today of introducing students to a wide range of views on fundamental questions. Such questions traditionally refer to the problems of the origin of life, the origin of the universe, and the appearance of man. And no harm will be done to a schoolboy if he knows the Biblical theory of the origin of the world. Man’s realization that he is the crown of God’s creation will only elevate him; if someone wants to think that he has descended from apes, let him think that way, but let him not thrust it on someone else.

— St. Ambrose of Optina, Sovety suprugam I roditelyam (Counsels to spouses and parents) (2009)

Don’t believe at face value all kinds of nonsense without investigation: that something can come into being [of itself] from dust, and that people used to be apes.

— Elder Amphilochios of Patmos, Precious Vessels of the Holy Spirit, pg. 60

With the prayer man becomes like a child. It brings him back to the simplicity and innocence that Adam had in Paradise before the fall. With the prayer one acquires blessed, holy dispassion

Fr. Artemy Vladimirov, English-language tea, Mosocw, May 19, 2016

Speaking about going into Church on Holy Saturday night as a young boy, with no idea what was going on, and being recruited to serve in the altar, Fr. Artemy Vladimirov said:
Shaking like a leaf, I put on the garment, and it was quite suitable for me, covering even my mouth, and I was put in line by an altar boy, and these clothes were so similar to that of angels sitting on the tomb of our Lord Jesus Christ who the disciples of the Lord thought were young men. I felt like an angelic being, and all my thoughts and feelings were there. It was something unbelievable. It seemed to me that I was flying.
But my outlook had been so impacted by school where they used to tell that people have a common origin with apes, and we believed it. This was the Soviet style of thinking. This lie, this ugly, ugly outlook that was pressed into our hearts was still present in our section of the world, and I remember standing there and looking at myself and feeling bliss in my heart, and at that very moment I realized that we have nothing in common with apes. It was not a philosophical process in my brain, but it was a revelation to the heart.
Oh, how ugly this lie is. Now I know, I feel and understand and believe that we have nothing in common with animals. Certainly we are created by the hands of our Lord, because the human being is so close to angels, which I realized as I began to understand the words of the procession: “They Resurrection O Christ our Savior, the angels in Heaven sing, enable us on earth, to glorify Thee in purity of heart.” When I began to understand the meaning of the words all the remnants of this ape philosophy disappeared and thus I began to think, feel, see, and perceive the world as an Orthodox Christian.
My main point is that it was not a logical process of finding the Christian philosophy, but it was certainly a catharsis. I was delivered from this lie, but not just from thinking logically about evolution and creation, but it was the heart’s perception of revelation which was the fruit of my participating in the Paschal services.

— St. Barsanuphius of Optina, Elder Barsanuphius of Optina, pg. 280

Look – what a picture! … This is left to us as a consolation. It’s no wonder that the Prophet David said, “Thou hast gladdened me, O Lord, by Thy works” (Ps. 91:3). “Thou hast gladdened me,” he says, this is only a hint of that wondrous beauty, incomprehensible to human thought, which was originally created. We don’t know what kind of moon there was then, what kind of sun, what kind of light . . . All of this changed after the fall.

Elder Barsanuphius of Optina, pg. 468

The beautiful things of this world are only hints of that beauty with which the first-created world was filled, as Adam and Eve saw it. That beauty was destroyed by the sin of the first people . . . Thus also did the fall into sin of the first people destroy the beauty of God’s world, and there remain to us only fragments of it by which we may judge concerning the primordial beauty.

Elder Barsanuphius of Optina, pg. 488 (St. Herman’s Press)

The English philosopher Darwin created an entire system according to which life is a struggle for existence, a struggle of the strong against the weak, where those that are conquered are doomed to destruction and the conquerors are triumphant. This is already the beginning of a bestial philosophy, and those who come to believe in it wouldn’t think twice about killing a man, assaulting a woman, or robbing their closest friend — and they would do all this calmly, with a full recognition of their right to commit these crimes.

Fr. Constantine Bufeyev (Moscow priest, doctor of geology and mineralogy, founder of Shestodnev), editor’s preface to Pravoslavnoye osmysleniye tvoreniya mira I sovremennaya nauka, vol. 4 (2008), p. 5

In the work of the Shestodnev center, we have always set down as a principle to base ourselves, in the realm of science, only on trustworthy and verified facts. In theology we prefer to use primarily Patristic sources, and allow no departure from dogmatic Orthodox teachings. In this we are trying to be continuers of the work of Hieromonk Seraphim (Rose) of blessed memory, who, it seems to us, has set forth the only right direction in the theological interpretation of the problems posed by the modern unchurched world.

— Elder Cleopa, Elder Cleopa of Sihastria by Archimandrite Ioanichie Balan (New Varatec Publishing 2001), pg. 154

The Savior Christ came, not only to teach us what we need to do, but to endure suffering, ridicule, spitting, beating and death upon the Cross for us, so that He would deliver the race of Adam from hades where they had stayed for 5508 years from the time of the first Adam till the coming of the new Adam – Christ. (this date of 5508 is taken from the Byzantine Creation Era calendar which says that the world was created in 5508 BC — here is the Wiki article about this calendar

–Hieromartyr Fr. Daniel Sysoev: Chronicle of the Beginning (1999): deals with bost theological and scientific issues related to the doctrine of creation

The Hexameron vs. Evolution, edited by Deacon Daniel Sysoev (2000): anthology of articles by Fr. Constantine Bufeyev, Fr. Daniel Sysoev, and other authors.

“Who is Like God?” or, How Long Did a Day of Creation Last? (2003): A theological investigation of creation and evolution, and an analysis of the attempts to reconcile them. Contains many Patristic citations, from the first to the twentieth centuries, on the Six days of creation.

— Fr. Dumitru Staniloae, The Experience of God: Orthodox Dogmatic Theology: Vol. 2: The World: Creation and Deification, pg. 1

The economy of God, that is, his plan with regard to the world, consists in the deification of the created world, something which, as a consequence of sin, implies also its salvation. The salvation and the deification of the world presuppose, as primal divine act, its creation. Salvation and deification undoubtedly have humanity directly as their aim but not a humanity separated from nature, rather one that is ontologically united with it. For nature depends on man or makes him whole, and man cannot reach perfection if he does not reflect nature and is not at work upon it. Thus by ‘world” both nature and humanity are understood; or when the word “world” is used to indicate one of these realities, the other is always implied as well.

Pg. 12

The successive appearance of other humans from the first human is no longer a creation like that in the beginning, for all remains on the same plane.

— Archimandrite Ephraim of Vatopaidi, Creation and the End of Ages,

The Lord first created the spiritual, invisible world, which includes the myriads of angels and then the material world, which became visible through His Word. Finally, He created man, the crown of creation, who as St John of Damascus says, is made of visible and invisible substance. For this reason St Gregory Palamas describes man as “the major in a small world”.

Human nature was not created by command like the rest of the visible and invisible creation where the Lord “spoke, and it came to be; he commanded, and it stood firm” (Psalm 33:9). In order to create man all three Persons of the Holy Trinity came together and said: “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness” (Genesis 1:26). Thus the Lord and Creator Himself took dust from the ground and created the body and breathed into his nostrils ‘the breath of life’, namely divine Grace, His uncreated deifying energies.

… According to Christian anthropology, Adam, the first man, having been placed in Paradise, was given the command to ‘work and keep it’ and govern over the entire material creation ‘freely’. In order to preserve the necessary reliance on the Lord- Creator, man was issued with a prohibition; namely not to eat from a certain fruit, in order to test his free will. Adam, being free, did not keep this command and as theology says ‘the forefathers sinned’ or ‘fell’.
… After the fall, the forefathers, Adam and Eve, ‘were clothed with garments of skins’ (Genesis 3:21); namely with corruption, mortality and with the blameless passions: hunger, thirst, sleep and pain. The powers of their soul were also diffused.

… The fall of man, who was the ‘crown of creation’, has caused the fall of the entire creation which “has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth” (Romans 8″22). This explains the main teaching of our Church, which views the creation as a whole, which is being guided towards perfection and deification; man and nature together. Man and nature are not distinct in the design of the creation. Therefore man has a duty to maintain a good relationship with the rest of the creation. The fact that man remains in the fallen condition perilously prolongs the world enduring in the same condition. Thus man contributes to the perversion and degradation of nature. Therefore, the fall has not only distorted man existentially and morally but also his very same environment.

In His Second Coming, Christ will not only restore human nature but the entire creation. Since the rest of the creation fell because of man, it will be regenerated by the sanctified man. When man attains sanctification, his surrounding environment is also sanctified. We find many such examples in the lives of the saints. A lion was attending the needs of St Gerasimos of Jordan; St Seraphim of Sarov was feeding a bear as if it was a tame lamb; Elder Paisios the Hagiorite was known to be keeping company with snakes and other wild animals.

Along with the resurrection and regeneration of man, nature will also be absolved of corruption. According to St Symeon the New Theologian, nature will become non-material and eternal. “During the regeneration, nature will become a non-material abode, beyond human perception” (St Symeon The New Theologian: Moral Issues, 1, 5).

— St. Gabriel Igoshkin (hieroconfessor), Lives of the 20th Century Russian New Martyrs and Confessors of the Moscow Diocese: Sept-Oct) (2003) (by Met. Juvenaly of Krutitsa and Kolomena),

Accused by Soviets of ignoring science: “That is not true. I love science. I have studied all my life and advise others to study, for knowledge is light and ignorance is darkness … [but] about the creation of life on earth and man I have said that it is as it is written in the Holy Scriptures, and I cannot say otherwise.”

– Fr. George Calciu, Christ is Calling You!, pg. 26

You have been told that you descend from apes, that you are a beast which must be trained; but now you discover an astonishing thing: that you are the temple of God, and in you dwells the Spirit of God. You are being called, young friend, back to your dignity as a metaphysical being; you are raised up from the low place in which false education has sunk you to the sacred office of being the temple in which God dwells.

pg. 33-34,

Tell me, young man, how much have you believed the statements which you have heard repeatedly to the point of obsession – at school, on the radio, on television, in the newspapers and at young people’s meetings – that you descend from apes? And how honored did this revelation make you feel? Noam Chomsky has said that the most stupid human beings can learn to speak, but the most intelligent ape has never reached such a height of achievement.

And now, behold, a voice from heaven addresses you: “You are my son!” And again, the voice confirms it for you, as it did before for Jesus when He lived in the world,  I have both glorified it, and will glorify it again (cf. John 12:28).

You are heaven and earth; darkness and light; sin and grace. I know, friend, that you are tortured by questions concerning the meaning of your life in this world, and on the purpose of the world in general. Do the ready-made authoritarian statements in answer to your limited question satisfy you: namely that “heaven is fiction, matter is everything, and it is matter speaking to you through your internal and external senses”? Matter organized its own structure and evolution by certain laws of great complexity before even the slightest rudiment of the human brain was formed. Thus once the higher brain of man appeared – the only means by which matter organizes itself – it could no longer recognize itself. And from that time until now human intelligence has been struggling in a sterile and vain effort to discover the laws which heedless matter fixed in a period when there was nothing but darkness and unconsciousness!

What do you think of this game of non-intelligence which annuls all human intelligence, even that of the collective one? Do you not see that the most elementary logic obliges you to admit the presence of an intelligence outside the world?

But I call you to a much higher flight; to total abandonment; to an act of courage which defies reason. I call you to God. I call you to the One that transcends the world so that you might know an infinite heaven of spiritual joy, the heaven which you presently grope for in your personal hell and which you seek even while in a state of unplanned revolt.

This heaven, with its divine hierarchy and its divine light gradually descending only to return to its source which is God, does not count us in twos or fives or tens. For, my friend, in the eyes of heaven you are not a piece in a machine which drives you around; in the eyes of heaven you are a soul, a whole being, so free in your actions, so priceless in your worth, that God Himself, in the guise of the Second Person of the Trinity, came into the world to be crucified for you.

How ridiculous it seems to you now – the curse of the poet who believed so much in heaven that he needed to have a chorus of children to hide behind as a shield! Do not believe, my friend, in the all-powerful nature of matter. This earth is finite. We can destroy matter in minutes through fission and achieve oblivion if we do not admit the presence of God. The absolute claims of materialism are supported on a limited premise. You realize that the attributes of matter – such as infinity, eternity, and self-creation – are purely spiritual notions. To deny the existence of heaven is to deny all existence which does not fall into the orbit of my feelings. To deny the spirit means to admit that, for those moments when I close my eyes or block my ears, the world becomes non-existent.

pg. 152, 154-155,

I read in the newspapers just a few days ago that the Pope made a statement – did you read it?

That he believes in the theory of evolution.

Yes. He tried to justify his statement by saying that only the soul of man is made by God. But until the appearance of man – what did God do – did He sleep? When did He start to make the soul of man and why? If you accept that the body of man and the body of animals are not created by God, that they are the result of evolution, then why did God begin to make the soul of man? . . . And now he is speaking about evolution – limiting God to a being that could only make a soul from time to time. I think he is in the hands of freemasonry. I cannot explain it otherwise. Either that or he has lost his mind.

There was a professor of Apologetics at the seminary. He said that now is the time for science to be in accord with theology – not theology with science. And that is right! We have discovered many things, and all these things induce us to accept that energy comes before matter – spirit before matter. And the Pope says that God has no role in the creation of the world? That matter created itself without having any brain to organize the laws of the universe? And now human beings, who do have brains, are unable to discover the laws of the universe made by matter without a brain? And God only created the soul of a man? If we accept the theory of evolution as the Pope said we should, it would mean accepting that in the beginning was a cell, and only afterwards a man. When, then, did God decide to give man a soul? To Neanderthal man or to modern man? Thus it is absolutely stupid for a Pope to say a thing like that.

Well, there are even many Catholics and other Christians who are “pro-choice” – who are supporting the slaughter of unborn babies. They just do not see this fight between God and the devil that you have spoken of.

What is surprising to me is that more and more the church sides with the devil in this fight. If the Pope now supports the devil, what will happen to the souls of the millions of Catholics? Until now, some bishops have supported evolution, but there had been no decision with the synaxis of bishops saying: yes, evolution is right. But the Pope has said it? For this reason I suppose that he is, to a certain extent, in the hands of Masonry. He is very inclined toward the Catholic worldly empire; he travels often. He tries to make the church stronger, but he completely forgets the spiritual life.

— Dr. George Mantzaridis, Universality and Monasticism, foreword to Precious Vessels of the Holy Spirit, p. 27

The fall into sin destroyed man internally and divided the human race into egocentric individuals. Man’s distancing from the source of life, God, killed him and estranged him from his neighbor and from the world. Man’s subjection to the law of decay and death left him egocentric and selfish. In this way, the unity of humanity was undermined at its base and division became the rule.

— Metropolitan Hierotheos Vlachos, Prologue for the English Edition of Counsels from the Holy Mountain – Elder Ephraim

I thank God that his book is now translated into English, because I believe that it will give another perspective to those who desire their rebirth in Christ and want to overcome the great problems that torment man today: death and the duality of pleasure and pain.

The Twelve Feasts of the Lord 7:17

The Fathers, speaking of the Transfiguration of Christ and the partaking of divine glory, speak of the personal ascent on the mount of the vision of God. It is the constant cry of the Church: “Make Thine everlasting light shine forth also upon us sinners.” And in a related prayer in the first hour we feel the need to ask Christ: “O Christ, the true Light, which illumineth and sanctifieth every man who cometh in the world! Let the light of Thy countenance be shown upon us, that in it we may behold the light ineffable.” Continual ascent and evolution are needed.

In the Church we speak of man’s evolution, not from ape to man, but from man to God. And this “ecclesiastical theory” of evolution which the Church has, gives an understanding of life and satisfies all of man’s inner and existential anxieties.

St. Maximus the Confessor teaches that Christ is not shown to all in the same way, but to beginners he is shown in the form of a servant, while to those who are ascending the mountain of the vision of God He is shown “in the form of God”.

— Met. Hilarion Alfeyev, interview by Dmitry Didrov and Dmitry Gubin, Temporarily Open, ATV, May 1, 2009 [in Russian]

Darwin’s theory contradicts Biblical revelation, because this theory proposes to us … that man developed from some kind of animal state by way of gradual evolution to the point that people have reached now. The Biblical picture is quite different. The Bible states that God created man perfect, and that the imperfection of today’s human life is bound up first of all with sin.

— St. Hilarion Troitsky (Abp. of Verey, heiromartyr), The Incarnation and Humility, in Moscow Church Herald 1913, nos. 51-52, reprint in There is no Christianity Without the Church (2007), p. 349

Through the misuse of his freedom man has so corrupted his nature that he is only left to cry out: “Wretched man am I, poor me! I cannot save myself.” We require a new creation, we need an infusion of a new energy of grace. This is precisely what all mankind should say in order to believe in the incarnate Son of God. Such a humble admission, such a lowly confession of one’s frailness, of one’s guilt before God’s handiwork – is this in the spirit of the modern man? On the contrary, the contemporary conscience is saturated with the idea of evolution, the idea of progress, i.e., the very idea that nourishes human pride. Christianity demands a humble conscience. There was perfect Adam, my forefather; and I, mankind, have only been involved in sin and corruption. The Church calls us to humility when she calls Adam our ancestor. But evolution? Descent from a monkey? No matter how modestly someone may judge himself, still he cannot avoid thinking with some pride: at least I am not a monkey, at least some progress has been realized in me. This is how evolution, by calling a monkey our ancestor, feeds our pride. If a monkey is our benchmark then one can pride oneself in progress, but if we compare ourselves to the sinless Adam, this external progress will lose its value. The external progress is at the same time a refinement of sin. If humanity is moving forward in its development, then we can rely on ourselves. We can create ourselves. But the Church says the opposite. “We could not become incorrupt and immortal if the Incorruptible and Immortal One had not first become what we are now.” To believe in the Incarnation means to confess that without God all of mankind is nothing.

The Church through the ages carries the ideal of deification. This is a very high ideal and it demands much from man. It is unthinkable without the Incarnation; it forces man to first of all be humbled. Humanity rejects this high ideal and it no longer needs the Incarnation of the Son of God. An infinitely lowered ideal of life allows mankind to speak about progress; it gives it the opportunity to feel proud about its achievements. Precisely these two thought-patterns comprise the two worldviews: the ecclesiastical and the secular. The ecclesiastical: the descent of perfect Adam, the fall, the need for the Incarnation – humility. The secular: the ascent from the monkey, progress, the needlessness and denial of the Incarnation – pride.

— St. Ignatius Brianchaninov, Homily on Man

The earth, created, adorned, blessed by God, did not have any deficiencies. It was overflowing with refinement. “God saw,” after the completion of the whole creation of the world, “everything that He had made: and, behold, it was very good.” (Gen. 1:31). Now the earth is presented to our eyes in a completely different look. We do not know her condition in holy virginity; we know her in the condition of corruption and accursedness, we know her already sentenced to burning; she was created for eternity. . . . Plants were not subjected either to decay or to diseases; both decay and diseases and the weeds themselves, appeared after the alteration of the earth following the fall of man . . . According to its creation, there was on it only the splendid, only the wholesome, there was only that which was suitable for the immortal and blessed life of its inhabitants . . . The beasts and other animals lived in perfect harmony among themselves, nourishing themselves on plant life.

I. M. Kontzevitch, The Acquisition of the Holy Spirit (1996), pp. 31-32

Before his fall, Adam was inwardly collected by the divine grace inherent in him and he was creatively aspiring to reach God through perfect love for Him and conformance to His divine will. He was wholly immersed in contemplation of God and in communion with God. All manifestations of the triune nature of man (i.e. the spirit, the soul and the body) harmoniously unified in him, hierarchically submitted to the highest principle within man – to his spirit. The spirit ruled over all aspects of human nature, directing them towards the single highest purpose. The first man was wholly filled with the grace of the Holy Spirit and emanated light, like St. Seraphim during his conversation with Moto- (p. 32)vilov. The elements of the world were unable to harm man and he was immortal. Sin, the sting of death, introduced the poison of disintegration and corruption into the nature of man. Divine grace, which had until then protected and integrated him, now abandoned him. All the energies of his soul were now in the state of confusion and contradiction. The flesh rebelled against the spirit – the slave against his master. Thus, the order of man’s soul became distorted, and there appeared a confused human being, the man of sin. Passion is not something new, brought in from without, but a redirection of former qualities and abilities from what is proper to what is wrong. Thus, the highest manifestation of the spirit, its ability to aspire to the most holy, towards God, upon the loss of communion with the Divine, turned downwards and exchanged these aspirations for the love of oneself and all things lowly and created.

— Ioan Vladuca, About Evolutionism,

The atheist evolutionism is the hypothesis that states that the species of animals turned one into another, from the first unicellular to the monkey and human being, in billions of years, through accidental processes; it also states that the species of plants evolved from unicellular forms to the plants with flowers. The evolutionism comes from the ancient pagan believes.

In the Sumerian mythology, men and gods appeared out from the mixture of sweet water and salt water.
Anaximandre (610-546 a. Chr.) believed that the animals appeared from the sea, due to the sun warmth: that at the beginning they were covered by a thorn crust they lost.
According to Empedocle (483-423a. Chr.), life was born from the heated silt from which came out segments of living beings, isolated members, eyes lacking the head, etc. he believed that the living beings were obtained from the random associations of those segments.
Democrite (460-370 A. Chr.) considered that man was leavened, like a wormlig, out of silt.
Aristotle (384-322 a.Chr.) considered that there was a spontaneous transition from unliving to living through intermediary elements. He also thought that plants are intermediary links between lifeless objects and animals.
Teophrast of Eresos (370-287 a. Chr.) believed that plants can spontaneously metamorphosis.
Lucretiu (98-55a. Chr.) stated that species appeared from the accidental mixture of some elements.
Albertus Magnus (1193-1280) was convinced that plants can pass from one species to another under the influence of the soil, of the nourishment, of the grafting. He believed that barley can turn into wheat, and the oak into vineyard.
The medieval philosophers tried to obtain mice out of wheat flour and dirty rags.
Buffon (1707-1788) supposed that out of rotten stuff can be born tape worms, caterpillars, beetles and lice.
Diderot (1713-1784) believed that the living creatures appear spontaneously by accidental chemical combinations.
Lamark (1744-1829) considered that the living beings appeared spontaneously and then they evolved from simple to complex.
Cabanis (1757-1808) thought that the matter in motion may generate forms of life.
Erasmus Darwin (1731-1802), Charles Darwin’ grandfather, also thought that life appeared spontaneously. He also believed that living creature evolved due to their wish and their efforts of will. In those times many people were convinced that animals with teeth appeared out of those without teeth because of their wish to chew the food. In this context was formed (that is to say deformed) Charles Darwin’ outlook., considered as “the father of the evolutionism”. He believed that man comes from a hairy mammalian, with tail and sharp ears, living in trees. Charles Darwin used his theory to explain the progress of the society. He considered that the fight for the existence has a decisive role. That is why, indignant at the concern that people showed for the sick men, he stated that “anyone who dealt with the reproduction of the domestic animals knows, with no shadow of a doubt, how harming can be this perpetuation of the weakly beings”. Both the communists and the capitalists developed this conception because of political and economical interests.
All the strange ideas, presented above are to be found nowadays in the evolutionary biology taught in schools, secondary schools and universities. Pupils are taught that ” the living matter is the result of evolution, in certain conditions, of the lifeless matter” and that “life is a step superior in point of quality in the evolution of the forms of motion of the matter”. They are also told that life appeared spontaneously, in the aquatic medium, through accidental chemical combinations, in the presence of the sun light. Pupils are taught that plants and animals evolved from unicellular to pluricellular, from inferior to superior. Fish are said to have turned into amphibians, amphibians into reptiles, reptiles into birds and mammalians, from monkey to man. In the 12th grade pupils learn that ” the species of hominides lost the fur-coat proper to the monkey, becoming a nude monkey”.
Graver than the atheist biologists’ statements are those of some contemporary philosophers with theological pretensions. these ones believing that the theory of the evolutionism is correct, hurried to interpret it theologically, mixing it with the teaching of the Orthodox Church. Thus, they came to the conclusion that Adam had animal ancestors, that man comes from blessing from a mammalian, etc. in this way appeared the theist evolutionism, used by the New Age.

— Schema-Abbot John (Alekseyev), Elder of Valaam, Letters of the Valaam Elder Schema-Abbot John, 1996, pp. 86-87

An academy student and missionary said to me that by God’s creation in days one must understand millions of years. You poor missionary – you represent the omnipotent Creator as being very weak and attribute millions of years to Him. That’s how your reason speaks, but I believe that, as the Lord said, “And the evening and the morning were the first day,” one must understand days and not millions of years. For the Lord said, “And it was so.” With a word He divided the water from the land, and the water, with a noise, stood in its indicated places: there were seas, the rivers and streams began to flow, and across the whole earth there were warm waters and cold springs. The Lord said, “Let there be forests,” and there were forests across the whole earth in perfect form – one kind in the north, and another kind in the south – and then they began to gradually grow. So also the birds were created by God’s word: they immediately flew across the whole earth and were of various kinds; and all the rest of creation, as it is said in the Bible. The more I consider nature, the more I am amazed and come to know the omnipotence of the Creator.

— St. John of Kronstadt, My Life in Christ

“The Holy Scriptures speak more truly and more clearly of the world than the world itself or the arrangement of the earthly strata; the scriptures of nature within it, being dead and voiceless, cannot express anything definite. “Where wast thou when I laid the foundations of the earth?” Were you with God when He created the universe? “Who hath directed the Spirit of the Lord, or being His counseller, hath taught Him?” And yet you geologists boast that you have understood the mind of the Lord, in the arrangement of strata, and maintained it in spite of Holy Writ! You believe more in the dead letters of the earthly strata, in the soulless earth, than in the Divinely-inspired words of the great prophet Moses, who saw God.”

p. 70

When you doubt the truth of any person or event described in Holy Scripture, then remember that “all Scripture is given by inspiration of God,” as the Apostle says and is therefore true, and does not contain any imaginary persons, fables, and tales, although it includes parables, which everyone can see are not true narratives, but are written in figurative language. The whole of the word of God is single, entire, indivisible truth; and if you admit that any narrative, sentence, or word is untrue, then you sin against the truth of the whole of Holy Scripture and its primordial truth, which is God Himself. “I am the truth,” said the Lord; “Thy word is truth,” said Jesus Christ to God the Father. Thus, consider the whole of the Holy Scripture as truth; everything that is said in it has either taken place or takes place.

p. 95 (1971)

The human race is one great tree of God; spreading and growing over the whole earth, and covering the whole earth with its branches. To the original rotten root – fallen Adam – God in His great wisdom and mercy has grafted a new living root – the Lord Jesus Christ – from Whom Christians derive their origin, as a shoot from the whole tree . . . Heathens are the unregenerate, inanimate shoot coming from the rotten root – Adam.

p. 269 (1971)

God is inexhaustible in His gifts to men. During already 7403 years He abundantly feeds all creatures.

p. 290-291

Why did not the Almighty create the world at once, but in six days? In order to teach man by deeds to perform his work gradually, not hurriedly, but with consideration. If you pray, pray without hurrying; if you read the Gospel, or, in general, any religious or worldly books, do not read them hurriedly, but read with consideration and with a true view of the material. If you are learning a lesson, do not hurry to finish it quickly, but penetrate into the subject deeply and consider it well. If you are doing work, do it without hurrying, with consideration quietly. Even the world was not created instantaneously but in six days. The Lord shows us an example in everything; let us follow His steps.

My Life in Christ, qtd. in Orthodox Word no. 2, p. 54

Before his fall Adam was entirely concentrated interiorly by the Divine grace present in him and turned in his creative activity toward God in perfect love for Him and in fulfillment of His Divine will. He was entirely in a state of communion with and contemplation of God. In him all manifestation of the tripartite composition of the human being (i.e., spirit, soul, and body) were harmoniously united and hierarchically subordinated to the higher principle in man – his spirit. The spirit ruled over all, turning all toward a single higher aim. The first-created man was entirely penetrated with the grace of the Holy Spirit and entirely illuminated. The elements of the world could not harm man, and he was immortal.

Novyye groznye slova (New stern sermons) (1908), p. 13, 91

Half-educated people and over-educated people do not believe in a personal, righteous, omnipotent, and unoriginate God, but believe in an impersonal origin and in some kind of evolution of the world and all beings … and therefore they live and act as thought they will not have to give an answer to anyone for their words and deeds, making gods of themselves, their reason, and their passions … In their blindness they reach the point of insanity, deny the very existence of God, and maintain that everything stems from blind evolution (the teaching that everything comes into being of itself, without the participation of a Creative power). But he who has an intellect does not believe in such insane ravings.

— Fr. John Romanides, Original Sin According to St. Paul (

St. Paul strongly affirms the belief that all things created by God are good. Yet, at the same time, he insists on the fact that not only man, but also all of creation has fallen.Both man and creation are awaiting the final redemption.  Thus, in spite of the fact that all things created by God are good, the devil has temporarily become the “god of this age.” A basic presupposition of St. Paul’s thought is that although the world was created by God and as such is good, yet now there rules in it the power of Satan. The devil, however, is by no means absolute, since God has never abandoned His creation.

Thus, according to St. Paul, creation as it is is not what God intended it to be—”For the creature was made subject to vanity…by reason of him who hath subjected the same.” Therefore, evil can exist, at least temporarily, as a parasitic element alongside and inside of that which God created originally good. A good example of this is one who would do the Good according to the “inner man,” but finds it impossible because of the indwelling power of sin in the flesh. Although created good and still maintained and governed by God, creation as it is is still far from being normal or natural, if by “normal” we understand nature according to the original and final destiny of creation. governing this age, in spite of the fact that God Himself is still sustaining creation and creating for Himself a remnant, is the devil himself.

To try to read into St. Paul’s thought any type of philosophy of a naturally well balanced universe with inherent and fixed moral laws of reason, according to which men can live with peace of mind and be happy, is to do violence to the apostle’s faith. For St. Paul, there is now no such thing as a natural world with an inherent system of moral laws, because all of creation has been subjected to the vanity and evil power of Satan, who is ruling by the powers of death and corruption

. . . It is he [Satan] who led man and all of creation into the path of death and corruption. The power of death and corruption, according to Paul, is not negative, but on the contrary, positively active. “The sting of death is sin,” which in turn reigns in death. Not only man, but all creation has been yoked under its tyrannizing power  and is now awaiting redemption. Creation itself shall also be delivered from the slavery of corruption. Along with the final destruction of all the enemies of God, death—the last and probably the greatest enemy—will be destroyed. Then death will be swallowed up in victory. For St. Paul, the destruction of death is parallel to the destruction of the devil and his forces. Salvation from the one is salvation from the other.

. . . In spite of the fact that creation is of God and essentially good, the devil at the same time has parasitically transformed this same creation of God into a temporary kingdom for himself. The devil, death, and sin are reigning in this world and not in another. Both the kingdom of darkness and kingdom of light are battling hand to hand in the same place. For this reason, the only true victory possible over the devil is the resurrection of the dead. There is no escape from the battlefield. The only choice possible for every man is either to fight the devil by actively sharing in the victory of Christ, or to accept the deceptions of the devil by wanting to believe that all goes well and everything is normal.

. . . On the other hand, it is a grave mistake to make the justice of God responsible for death and corruption. Nowhere does Paul attribute the beginnings of death and corruption to God. On the contrary, nature was subjected to vanity and corruption by the devil, who through the sin and death of the first man managed to lodge himself parasitically within creation, of which he was already a part but at first not yet its tyrant. For Paul, the transgression of the first man opened the way for the entrance of death into the world, but this enemy is certainly not the finished product of God. Neither can the death of Adam, or even of each man, be considered the outcome of any decision of God to punish. St. Paul never suggests such an idea.

. . . St. Paul claims that death is the enemy which came into the world and passed unto all men through the sin of one man. Not only many, but all of creation became subject to corruption. The subjugation of man and creation to the power of the devil and death was obviously a temporary frustration of the original destiny of man and creation. It is false to read into Paul’s statements about the first and second Adams the idea that Adam would have died even though he had not sinned, simply because the first Adam was made eis psychen zosan—which expression, according to St. Paul’s usage within the context, clearly means mortal. Adam could very well have been created not naturally immortal, but if he had not sinned there is no reason to believe that he would not have become immortal by nature. This is certainly implied by the extraordinary powers St. Paul attributes to death and corruption.

The Ancestral Sin, p. 41-42

When philosophical systems try to explain the phenomena of things and the presence of evil in them on the basis of what is known about nature, it is absolutely natural for them to confuse the idea of the creation of mater with its fall. If we begin with philosophical and scientific observations of the material world, it is logically impossible to arrive at a distinction between the creation of the world and its fall. Quite simply, this is because the reality before our eyes presents nature as it is now, after the fall … Philosophy is unable to bridge [its] dualism between matter and reality because it is impossible for natural man to distinguish between the wholly positive creation of the world and the fall of the world. Man cannot know this division except by revelation.

p. 48

The dualism of matter and reality is largely based on the idea that death is both a natural and phenomenal fact since matter and the material world in general are without permanent reality, something that belongs to a different dimension. In contrast to the philosophical method, through the divine revelation given to the Prophets, the special people of God learned to distinguish clearly between the world’s creation and the world’s fall, as well as between the present age, which is under the sway of the devil and death, and the future age of the resurrection and the incorruptibility of matter.

— Elder Joseph the Hesychast, Monastic Wisdom, p. 50

This is truly the sickness that plagues us men of the eighth millennium: we fail to recognize one another’s gifts.

p. 241

No one loves you more than I do, nor does anyone dare to tell you the plain truth, if he sees it. From all those people you have met until now, you have heard only flattery, trickery, and the teachings of the eighth millennium—everything false and commonplace. Whereas you, as a tender little shoot, need spiritual wisdom and the plain truth.

p. 363

But He does not send angels to help him, because the nature of men of the eighth millennium cannot endure it, nor does He give him His grace when he is alone, as in the beginning, so that he cannot say that he was given grace because of his own patience and struggle.

An Athonite Gerontikon: Sayings of the Holy Fathers of Mount Athos (Holy Monastery of St. Gregory Palamas, 1997), p. 329,

Once when a certain theologian came near Elder Joseph the Cave-dweller, the elder sensed a bad odour. He brought it to the man’s attention, admonishing him to go and make his confession. As a result, it became clear that the cause of the odour was the theologian’s misguided belief in Darwin’s theory of the evolution of mankind.

My Elder Joseph the Hesychast pp. 348-349, by Elder Ephraim of Philotheou

With our own eyes we witnessed many instances of his gift of clairvoyance.  Once, when Geronda was still at St. Basil’s Skete, he met a layman near the skete’s main church. Geronda approached him and said, “You are making some serious mistake.”

“What mistake?” the layman asked.

“I don’t know,” Geronda replied, “but you are definitely making some serious mistake.”

“Can’t we figure out what it is?”

“Right now in the daytime we can’t figure it out. But if you like, come down to my place at night.”

“All right, Geronda; I’ll come after midnight.”

After midnight, the layman went and met with Geronda. They began discussing things, and it turned out that this layman, even though he had a degree in theology, had written an entire book supporting Darwin’s theory of evolution!

Geronda said to him: “When you present a theory or an opinion, why don’t you draw from the writings of the holy Fathers and Orthodox theologians rather than heretics who aren’t even Christian! A theory or viewpoint becomes fortified when it is confirmed y the Bible or by the holy Fathers of the Church. You will not be welcome here in my hut until you renounce that theory.”

The theologian acknowledged that he had an incorrect viewpoint with this theory and he asked Geronda to tell him how he had recognized it. Geronda answered, “When I approached you yesterday, a stench was coming out of you, and this made me realize that you have made some grave error.” When it came to matters of the faith, Geronda tolerated no deviations.

— St. Justin Popovich, Orthodox faith and life in Christ, pg. 192-193, quoting St. Nikolai of Zicha:

Critiquing Europe as secular humanists and ecumenists who have fled far from God, St. Justin writes:

“Christ then asks with sorrow:

How can you people live with only your imperialistic, material interests, that is to say, only with animalistic desires for your bodily appetites? I wanted to make you gods and sons and daughters of God but you go away from Me and try to become like a pack of animals?

To this Europe answers:

You are old-fashioned. In place of your Gospel we discovered biology and zoology. And now we know that we are not descended from You and Your heavenly Father, but from orangutans and gorillas, that is to say, apes. And we are perfectly able to become gods because we do not recognize any other god than ourselves.

To this Christ says:

You are more obstinate than the ancient Jews were. I raised you up from the darkness of barbarism to the heavenly light, but you have gone back to the darkness like a water buffalo goes into the mud. I shed My blood for your sake. I showed My love to you, when all of the Angels turned their faces away from you because they could not stand the smell of hell that came from you. When you were all darkness and smelly, I was the only One Who stayed to clean you and illuminate you. Now stop being unbelievers, because you will only return to tat unbearable darkness and stench again.

To this Europe mockingly shouts:

Get away from us. We do not recognize you. We follow European civilization and culture, and the Greek philosophers. We want to be free. We have universities. Science is the start that guides us. Our slogan is: freedom, brotherhood, equality. And our mind is the god of all gods. You are an Asiatic. And we reject You. You are only an old myth our grandmothers and grandfathers believed in.

With tears in His eyes, Christ says:

Behold now I am leaving, but you will see. You have left God’s road and you are following Satan’s. Blessings and happiness have been taken away from you. Your life is in My hands, because I was crucified for you. And yet in spite of all this I will not punish you, but your own sins and your apostasy from Me your Savior, shall punish you. I revealed the love of My Father to everyone, and with love I wanted to save all of you.

Europe then says:

Love? Our agenda only includes a hardy and manly hatred for everyone who disagrees with us. Our love is only a fable. And in place of this fable we have raised up the flag: of ethnicity, of internationalism, of the state, of progress, of evolution, of trans-oceanism, and of cultism. Our salvation is found in these, so get away from us.

My brothers, the debate ended in our times. Christ went far away from Europe, as He did at one time from the land of the Gadarenes, when the Gadarenes asked Him to.

— On the Divine-Human Path (1980), p. 215-216; also: The God-man Evolution,Found at Mystagogy by John Sanidopoulos

You ask me to answer the question, whether the scientific understanding of the evolution of the world and man can coexist with the traditional Orthodox experience and knowledge. Also, you ask, what is the position of the Fathers on this issue, and whether there is a general need for such a coexistence. In a short summary, I write the following:

The anthropology of the New Testament stands or falls on the anthropology of the Old. The entire Gospel of the Old Testament: Man – the image of God! The entire Gospel of the New Testament: the God-man – image of man! Whatever is heavenly, divine, eternal, immortal and unchangeable in humans is the image of God, the godlikeness of man.

This godlikeness of man was assaulted by the voluntary sin of the same, in partnership with the devil, by means of sin and death which stems from the transgression. That is why God became man, in order to restore His corrupt image from sin. That is why He incarnated and lived in the world of man as the God-man, as the Church, to offer the image of God – man – all the necessary means so that this deformed God-formed man can be able in the God-man body of the Church, with the help of Sacred Mysteries and virtues, to mature “to a perfect man, to the measure of the age of the fullness of Christ” (Eph. 4:13). This is the God-man anthropology. The purpose of godlike beings known as humans is one: to become gradually perfect as God the Father, to become a god by grace, to attain theosis, deification, Christification, Trinitification. According to the Holy Fathers, “God became man, that man may become a god” (Athanasius the Great).

But the so-called “scientific” anthropology does not recognize the godlikeness of human existence. With this, they deny the advancement of the God-man evolution of the human being.

If man is not the image of God, then the God-man and His Gospel is something unnatural for such a man, something mechanical and unattainable. Then the God-man Jesus is a robot built by other robots. The God-man becomes a bully because he wants from people, forcibly, to become a perfect being like God. In essence we are talking about a forensic utopia, an illusion and an unattainable “ideal”. In the end, it is reduced to a myth, a narrative.

If man, therefore, is not a godlike being, then the God-man himself is unnecessary because the scientific theories of evolution do not accept sin, nor the Savior from sin. In the secular world of “evolution” everything is natural and there is no room for sin to exist. That is why it is a joke to speak of a Savior and salvation from sin. In the final analysis everything is natural: sin, evil and death. For, if everything in man occurs and is the result of evolution, then there is nothing that needs to be saved in him since nothing is immortal and unchangeable within him, but all is earthly and clay and as such are transient, perishable and perceptible.

In such a world of “evolution” there is no place for the Church, which is the body of the God-man Christ. The theology which again bases itself on the anthropology of the “scientific” theory of evolution is nothing more than a self-negation. In essence it is a theology without God and an anthropology without man. If man is not immortal, eternal and a God-man image of God, then all theologies and all anthropologies are nothing but a silly joke, a tragic comedy.

Orthodox theology and the relationship we have with the Holy Fathers is the way for our ascent to the God-man, the Orthodox All-truth. This is something in need of analysis, and is for those dealing with issues of the gospel on the planet. All the problems of the gospel are essentially focused on the problem of man. And all the problems of man are focused on one issue, that of the God-man. Only the God-man is the universal solution to the enigma called man. Without the God-man and outside of the God-man, man is always – consciously or not – transformed into something sub-human, a human effigy, a superman, a devil-man. Proof and evidence for this? The entire history of mankind.

Pravoslavna Crkva I Ekumenizam (The Orthodox Church and Ecumenism) (1974), pp. 37-38, trans. Benjamin Emmanuel Stanley, p. 25

The infallible Apostle advises and directs Christians: “Be not carried about with diverse and strange doctrines, for it is a good thing that the heart be established with grace” (Heb. 13:9). More often involuntarily than voluntarily, people deceive themselves with their various sciences. They deceive themselves by sin, which has become their intellectual power through habit, and has become so natural and human that it is not felt or recognized by those guided and led by sin in their reasonings and sciences. Through sin we come to the creator of sin, the principal logic of sin: the devil. He has countless and very skillful and subtle ways of infiltrating his lies into the human sciences, alienating men from the only true God. Moreover, he introduces all his wiles by the logic of sin into these human sciences, artfully deceiving men with his blasphemy, so that they, in their self-delusion, deny God, reject God, are blind to God, or fence themselves off from Him.

Commentary on 1 John,

If a man hates someone, he in reality hates him because he does not see him as a divine creation. He does not recognize him as a being in the image of God; he has not found the path to his soul because he does not have the true light, which would illumine the soul of his brother, whom he hates, and would show him his eternal and immortal side. In this darkness, in this ignorance about man, lives everyone who reduces man to a mortal being, or just to a body or to a descendant of an animal or just a plain animal.

According to the holy Theologian, the commandment of paradise, the proto-commandment, the commandment ap’ arche (from the beginning) is mutual love. This love indicates that man is of God, that mankind is of God, in origin and by his new, spiritual rebirth. If the love of man is lacking, then the real, ontological, and true origin of man cannot be known; and man then wanders in the dark and seeks his origin among animals, elements, and in other things of this world.

— St. Luke of Simferopol, Science and Religion, Trinity Word, 2001, pp. 41-42

Darwinism, which declares that man, by means of evolution, has developed from the lower species of animals, and is not a product of the creative act of the Godhead, has turned out to be merely a supposition, a hypothesis, which has become obsolete even for science. This hypothesis has been acknowledged as contradictory not only to the Bible, but to nature itself, which jealously strives to preserve the purity of each species, and knows of no transition even from a sparrow to a swallow. There are no known facts of a transition of an ape into a man.

— St. Maria Skobtsova, “Types of Religious Life,” Essential Writings, p. 146

How widespread was this kind of ecclesiastical psychology? Certainly, one ought not to imagine that this was the only type of religious consciousness, but without a doubt any other kind would have to be searched for diligently, since the “official” type was so overpowering. This is especially clear if we take into account that alongside such an understanding of ecclesiastical life and religious ways, we developed our own intense form of atheism. These people, as Soloviev accurately observed, laid down their souls for their friends while believing that man evolved from apes. Thus it was possible to find an outlet for love, sacrifice, and heroic deeds outside church walls.

— Archimandrite Naum (elder of Trinity-St. Sergius Lavra), About Paschalia (

God had created the world and time itself out of nothing, and our Saviour chose this very time of creation as the time of renewal, when He suffered and gave the commandment – “This do in remembrance of Me” – to yearly celebrate Easter – the Resurrection of Christ. This creation of the world and the beginning of Being took place in the spring period, in the month of March, 5508 B.C. On Friday, the sixth day of creation at noon, man was created. Of this period, the beginning of the Being of the universe, we read in the Procedural Psalmbook, which contains, apart from psalms, the prayer-book and various service procedures, also the articles of faith and pascal tables:

“The month of March (of holy martyr St.Eudokia), the day having 12 hours and the night having 12 hours. This is the first month among months, for therein was created this visible world of the beginning of Being, and Adam — the first man from God — was created and all creatures for his sake; and introduced to Heaven and, for transgression, banished. In this same month, God, without leaving His Majestic throne, descended from heaven to His love of man, as rain onto fleece, by Archangel’s annunciation in the Pure womb of Holy Virgin Mary through the Holy Ghost incarnated unfathomably, only He knows how. On this day, by voluntary passion of His flesh and by His death, He overcame death and by His radiant Lifegiving Resurrection was Adam and the whole Humankind from hell delivered and to the original state restored, so as to inherit heaven. For this reason, from its first day begin all circles of the sun and moon, and the leap-year, and the equinox are established thereby, etc.”

St. Nektarios, Sketch Concerning Man (1893), p. 87-88, quoted in Constantine Cavarnos’ Biological Evolutionism, p. 63-65 (or 28-29?)

“The two volumes of the work Philosphie zoologique are in their entirety intended to uphold the degrading evolutionary theory regarding man. The first volume seeks to prove that the human organism evolved from that of an ape, as a result of chance circumstances. And the second volume seeks to prove that the distinctive excellences of the human mind are nothing but an extension of a power which the animals have, differing only in degree. Having weak and badly set foundations . . . Lamarck claims to prove that in earlier times nature produced through marvelous evolution one species from another, earlier one. He seeks to establish a gradual chain having successive (not contemporaneous) links and thus to produce finally the human species through a metamorphosis that is the reverse of the truth, and not less marvelous than the transformations one reads about in myths! . . . the Darwinian theories imagined that they arrived at the solution of the anthropological question by accepting the model of evolution. These theories, not being based on sound foundations, instead of solving the problem rendered it more enigmatic; because they denied the validity of revealed truth, viewed man as belonging to the same order as the irrational animals, denied his spiritual origin and attributed to him a very lowly origin. Their failure had as its chief reason the negation of his lofty origin and of his spiritual nature, which is altogether alien to matter and to the physical world. In general, without the acceptance of revealed truth, man will remain an insoluble problem. The acceptance of this principle is the firm and safe foundation upon which every inquirer about man must base himself. It is from this that he must begin in order to rightly solve the various parts of the question and learn the truth through true science.”

Study concerning the Immortality of the Soul and the Holy Memorial Service (1901), p. 65, quoted in Constantine Cavarnos’ Modern Greek Philosophers on the Human Soul, 2nd Ed. (1987), p. 85

Those who deny the immortality of the soul undermine both the moral law and the foundations of societies, which they want to see collapsing into ruins, in order that they might prove that man is an ape, from which they boast that they are descended.

The Theory of Evolution is Wrong Parts 1-4,

They who reduce man to the ranks of the irrational animals and who liken man’s soul to that of the animals deny the soul’s grandeur, the soul’s unique qualities and spiritual powers, and man’s sublime destiny. They are blind and unable to see the supremacy of the human soul, even though it is apparent through her works and clearly confirmed throughout the centuries. They close their ears to the voice trumpeted by the soul’s powerful achievements. Man’s soul is an exquisite entity that is adorned by divine virtues, which, in turn, sanctify his earthly domain. Man was truly created to sanctify the earth.

Proponents of the theory that man evolved from apes are ignorant of man and his sublime destiny because they deny that man has a soul and refuse that he is capable of experiencing Divine revelation. They rejected the spirit, and the Spirit deserted them. They abandoned God, and God abandoned them. “Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools” (Rom. 1:22). “God gave them over to a reprobate mind to do those things which are not fit” (Rom. 1:28). A certain poet says very appropriately: “When the malicious demons want to harm someone, first they strip a person’s mind of sound reasoning and then persuade him to espouse a corrupt belief, so that man can no longer comprehend that he sins.” This is true because if people were aware of what they were saying, they would not debase themselves or pride themselves on being descendants of the genus of primitive animals. The prophet very fittingly said about them: “Man, being in honor, did not understand; he is compared to the mindless animals, and is become like unto them” (Ps. 48:20).

They who have the audacity to group and compare the survival instincts of animals with the psychological qualities of man demonstrate that they are superficial and purblind because they perceive neither the restricted features of animals, nor the general, free, independent, and infinite character of man…

It is impossible, right from the onset, to compare man to animals because there is an infinite chasm separating the two from each other…They who equate the traits of animals (when taken collectively) to the virtues and qualities of man, or the works and actions of animals to the works and accomplishments of the human intellect, and draw conclusions concerning their similarity err upon the very fundamental basis of the comparison; thus, their conclusions are incorrect…

What type of comparison can be made between the works of animals and the technological advancements or the miracles of science attained by man? How greatly is poor man deceived as a result of superficial examination! What is there in common between the instincts and the never-changing capacities of animals and the scientific achievements of man? Man is extremely deceived, nearsighted, and blind! Why can he not discern and distinguish the difference between human beings and animals? How have educated people strayed away from true science to such an extent as to classify humans and animals together! How are they able to recognize the similarity that exists in their anatomical composition yet unable to perceive the difference that exists in their spirits? What is there in common between man and monkeys? If their similar physical appearance brings them together, their dissimilar spirit sets them apart to such an extent that the ability to compare the two vanishes. Was God perhaps obliged to create a different [anatomical] form for the embodiment of man, totally unlike any other found within the animal kingdom, prior to breathing His Divine breath into man, in order to render him an image of God? No, dear reader. God’s divine breath is so magnificent and noble that it was capable of rendering man an exceptional and preeminent being even by using an inferior template [for his body]

The harmony that exists between man’s body and his rational soul is so perfect that the careful observer will magnify in astonishment the extreme wisdom of the divine Creator, Who made all the bodily members compatible with and capable of fulfilling the demands of the soul…What purpose would man’s brilliant intellectual thoughts have if they could not be externalized through the body? What would be the purpose of man’s intellect, mind, spiritual powers, feelings, emotions, and the entire ensemble of spiritual qualities that distinguishes him from all the irrational animals, if man was just another animal?…

Man advances toward perfection daily. Man not only looks after himself, he is concerned for the well being of all of humanity in general, and he improves both himself as well as animals. Where do we see a trace of such preoccupation and improvement amongst the animals? Are not their accomplishments always the same? What comparison can be made between the shelter of monkeys that have remained unchanged for eons and the diverse range of buildings erected by man? What is there in common between man and monkeys, even if they have similar external characteristics? What if monkeys can build huts, if swallows can make nests, if bees construct hives, and other animals have dens.

What relationship is there between the chimpanzee that shatters nutshells with a stone and man who has devised an array of instruments to do the same? What is so remarkable if a monkey’s hand was designed in such a precise way (as was deemed necessary for its perpetuation), just as the elephant was given a dexterous trunk, and other animals analogous body parts according to their needs? What is so remarkable if God’s providence bestowed animals with adroitness, in order for them to preserve, sustain, and perpetuate themselves? Who can confirm that a monkey would have ever felt the need or thought of using a stone to help it consume its food if its hand was not constructed the way it is. Never will an animal benefit from the skillfulness and adroitness of another animal. A monkey can watch a beaver build a dam for centuries; however, it will never mimic the beaver’s accomplishment. Nor will a dog, or a bird, or any other animal (whether it be a simple organism or a highly-developed animal) mimic the skills of another animal….

Which intellectual accomplishment of any animal documents their ability to contemplate, judge, and reason? Which animal ever turned an idea into knowledge? When did an animal ever have an opinion on a certain matter? When did any animal think about the origin of its existence, the end of its life, or concerning life and death? None of the admirers of monkeys and the theory that man evolved from apes can substantiate that any such thing has ever taken place with any animal throughout the centuries. Therefore, to support the opinion that animals and man have similar spirits that differ only in degree [of development] is completely incorrect and illogical.

Man, this mysterious being, was created by God as the pinnacle of creation, in order for him to acquire knowledge of his Creator. In accordance to his great destiny, man was formed analogously. He received the honor of being fashioned in an entirely extraordinary and unique manner and was brought to life through God’s Divine breath. While all of creation was brought into existence from nothing by a single phrase—“let there be”—that externalized God’s volition, man alone had his body formed by the hands of the Divine Creator, only he received a living soul created through God’s inbreathing, and only he is made in the image and likeness of his Creator. What a marvelous creation indeed! What an honor for man! What a great destiny! Truly, his destiny is great, and his honor is sublime; however, more marvelous is the manner in which his body and soul were created. Because he became the image and likeness of God and was created in order to live eternally and dwell in the same place as the heavenly angels.

How noble was man made! How much did sin debase and ignorance humble him! But this is not so! Man was endowed with nobility, and he will remain noble, even if certain people degrade themselves, even if certain people have forgotten about their sublime descent…Yes! Man is a supreme creation, and nothing can be compared to him.

The prudent portion of the human race, all who are truly wise, confirm this truth. Behold what M. Frederic de Rougemont states concerning man in his wise and insightful essay entitled Primitive mankind; its religion, history and civilization: “Man is of noble descent. He was born in Paradise and not within the wilderness. The sound of angelic hymns, not the roars of tigers and cries of wolves, echoed in his homeland. God was vigilantly watching over him even before man came to know Him. It is not at all true that man created the idea of God in order to invent a certain divinity to worship. Humanity departed not from atheism but from faith; not from deception but from the truth; not from ignorance but from revelation.”

Unfortunately, they who pride themselves on their resemblance to the animals seek to recruit new followers. They seek young laborers to overturn humanity’s moral and ethical principles; they are looking for new diggers to help undermine the foundations of society and deprave mankind. Behold the unethical moral principles that constitute their “civilized” mission: “Pleasure,” they say, “debauchery, and love are good; but so is hatred…The truth is good as long as it provides us with some enjoyment; however, deception, hypocrisy, and deceit are also good if they can help us increase our assets. Faith is good as long as there is something to gain from it; however, treachery is also good if it can secure for us greater profit. Marriage is good as long as it makes us happy; however, adultery is just as good when marriage no longer satisfies our desires…Life is good as long as it remains an enigma; however, suicide is also acceptable when this puzzle has been solved.”

— St. Nicholas Pokrovsky, New Martyrs of the St. Petersburg Diocese (2003) (by Hiermonk Nestor Kumysh), p. 209

I am a religious man. I have never denied and never will deny my convictions despite the fact that religion and science have parted ways. To take the question of the origin of man, I prove to believers and am myself convinced that man was created by God, [though] science says the opposite.

— St. Nikolai Velimirovich, Homilies, 11 for Meatfast Sunday, pg. 116

Our life is short and our days are numbered, but time is long – counted in hundreds and thousands of years.

Pg. 116

One and One only, has spoken to us clearly and definitely about all that will come to pass at the end of time: the Lord Jesus Christ. Were anyone soever to say what He said about the end of the world, we would not believe him, though he were the greatest sage living. Were he to speak from his human understanding, and not from God’s proven revelation, we would not believe him. For human understanding and human logic, however great they may be, are too puny to reach to the world’s beginning and its end. Understanding is useless where vision is needed. We need a seer, who sees as clearly as the sun – to see the whole world, from its beginning to its end, and the beginning and the end themselves. There has only ever been one such: the Lord Jesus Christ.

Homilies Vol. 2, trans. Mother Maria (1998), p. 280

How can a twisted spine be straightened without breaking? How can a stiffened neck move without remaining a source of pain? It takes a million years, say the ignorant minds of our day, for a monkey’s spine to become straight and a monkey to become a man. Thus they speak, not knowing the power and the might of the living God. It took just a second, at one word from the Lord Jesus, for the woman’s spine, which was much more bent than that of a monkey, to be straightened. But how is a spine straightened? How is a neck unstiffened? … Do not ask about all this, but thank God as this woman did.

Through the Prison Window (1985), qtd. In St. Justin Popovich, The Orthodox Church and Ecumenism, trans. Benjamin Emmanuel Stanley, p. 163

If the history of the last three centuries – the eighteenth, nineteenth, and twentieth – could be given one true name, no name would be more suitable than the Proceedings of the Court Case between Europe and Christ. For nothing has occurred in Europe over the last three hundred years that has not had a significant connection with Christ our God.

The case between Christ and Europe develops like this:

… Christ asks sadly: “How can you men live by imperialism alone, that is, by material interests, by bestial greed for bodily food? I intended to make you gods and sons of God, but you resist and hurry to make yourselves equal to beasts of burden.”

Europe replies: “You are outdated. In the place of your Gospel, we have discovered zoology and biology. Now we know that we are not descended from your or your Father in heaven, but from orangutans, gorillas, and monkeys. We are now grooming ourselves to be gods. We do not recognize any other gods but ourselves.”

p. 43-44 (same page in St. Justin’s work)

For this reason God has given them up to shameful pleasures [cf. Rom. 1:26], so that they find pleasure only in things of the earth and not in heaven, and only in what provokes laughter from the demons and tears from Christ’s angels. They take pleasure in looking after their bodies, in plundering the property of others, in stealing from the small and weak, in multiplying their earthly treasures and extending their states and their rule, in the wicked usurpation of the homelands of others, in merriment and dancing, in the rejection of every faith as superstition, in the denying of God, in a totally biological life, in shamelessly calling monkeys their ancestors, in the drowning of anthropology in zoology.

Selected Writings

“Death is not natural; rather it is unnatural. And death is not from nature; rather it is against nature. All of nature in horror cries out: “I do not know death! I do not wish death! I am afraid of death! I strive against death!” Death is an uninvited stranger in nature . . . Even when one hundred philosophers declare that “death is natural!” all of nature trembles in indignation and shouts: “No! I have no use for death! It is an uninvited stranger!” And the voice of nature is not sophistry. The protest of nature against death outweighs all excuses thought up to justify death. And if there is something that nature struggles to express in its untouched harmony, doing so without exception in a unison of voices, then it is a protest against death. It is its unanimous, frantic, and heaven-shaking elegy of death.

Prologue from Ochrid, December 10

Noah lived among men given over to unrighteousness and evil. For five hundred years he lived among them, and yet remained righteous in the eyes of God . . . When the universal flood befell the human race, God did not abandon Noah, His faithful servant, nor leave him to the destruction with the others, but saved him and glorified him, making him the progenitor of the new human race. The splendid example of Noah, my brothers, teaches us that each one of us can please God even when surrounded by sinners – if we want to.

The Universe as Symbols and Signs: An Essay On Monasticism in the Eastern Church, XVII.2

Just as on the eve of the universal flood, even so on the eve of the world’s end the thoughts of men will be continually evil.

Inspired Orthodox Positions,

While Christ says: “without Me you can do nothing” (John 15:5), the heretic world in thousands of ways expresses the following saying: “Without Christ we can do everything”. The entire contemporary culture is turned against Christ. All the modern sciences compete in seeing who will succeed in serving the hardest blow to Christ’s teaching. It is a revolution of the vulgar servants against the mistress of the house, a revolution of worldly science against the heavenly science of Christ. However, this whole revolution in our days boils down to what has been written with such clarity: “Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools (Rom 1:22).”

Elder Paisios,Elder Paisios of Mt. Athos: Epistles, pg. 203-204

As long as Adam loved God and observed His commandments, he dwelt in the Paradise of God and God abode in the paradisiacal heart of Adam. Naked Adam was clothed with the grace of God and surrounded by all the animals, he held and caressed them lovingly, and they, in turn, licked him devoutly, as their master. When Adam violated God’s commandment, he was stripped of the grace of God, clothed with a garment of skin and exiled from Paradise. Grace-filled Adam became wild, and many animals, because of Adam, were also made savage, and instead of approaching him with devoutness and licking him with love, they lashed out at him with rage in order to tear at or bite him. – (Holy Monastery “Evangelist John the Theologian” Souroti, Thessaloniki, Greece, 2002)

With Pain and Love for Contemporary Man, pg. 295

“Someone else asked me, ‘Adam had two sons, Abel and Cain; how did Cain’s wife get there?’ But if one should read a little further in the Old Testament it says clearly that after Seth, Adam had other sons and daughters. Cain had left his home and wandered in the mountains after his brother’s murder and did not know that the wife he took was actually his sister. God provided that men should descend from one tribe to prevent malice and crime. This way they would reason, ‘We all come from the same father and mother, Adam and Eve;’ and perhaps this thought would put the break on human malice. But that’s not what happened. Our world is full of malice!”

With Pain and Love for Contemporary Man pg. 327-329

The nonsense we hear in schools these days about Darwin’s theory and the rest! Even the teachers themselves do not believe what they are teaching; but they go ahead, because they want to pollute the minds of our youth and take them away from the Church. This is what someone told me, “Let’s say that the soil contained various substances and mirco-organisms, and God took these and created man …” “You mean,” I replied, “that if those elements did not exist in the soil, God would not have been able to create man? It would have been really difficult for Him!” “Well, let’s say,” he continued, “that He took some things from the monkey and perfected them; couldn’t that be how it happened?” “Are you trying to say,” I answered, “that God cannot create a perfect creature, that he cannot create a human being, even after dedicating a whole day to that? What should He have done? Go get spare parts? Why don’t you read the prophecy of Job (38:14) from the Scripture readings of Holy Thursday? Now science does not accept all of their own claims about our kinship with monkeys. How long has it been since man went to the moon? In all these years, have monkeys evolved enough to build a bicycle or at least a skateboard? Have you ever seen a monkey on a skateboard? Of course you can teach him to do that, but that’s not the same thing …” But the man would not give up. He would insist, “Let’s assume this,” or “let’s say that …” “Well, let’s just say that you will not say a thing,” I finally told him, “this way you’ll find the certainty you want.”

The theory of evolution was being taught by a professor I knew at the University. Once, I said to him, “In time and with proper care a green bean plant will become a better green bean plant, the eggplant a better eggplant. If you feed and take care of a monkey, he will become a better monkey, but he will not turn into a human being. If a white man moves to a warm climate and is always in the sun, his complexion may change somewhat, but he will still be a white man.” And then, there’s this to think about. Christ was born of a human being, the Panaghia! Are we supposed to believe that His ancestors were monkeys? What blasphemy! And those who support this theory don’t realize that they are blaspheming. They throw a stone and do not check to see how many heads they have cracked. All you will from them is, “Mine went farther than the other fellow’s.” That’s what they are all about these days; they marvel at who will throw a stone the farthest. But they care nothing about those who are passing by and the many heads their stones will crack.

-Geronda, some people think that these theories will help bring Marxists to Church.

-Well, perhaps, a few Marxists might come to Church at first. But then, they will want to organize as a party and start giving dictates to others. “Now you must go to Church; now you may not. Now do this, now do that.” They will have rules for everything. And in the end, they will start telling people, “Who told you that there is a God? There is no God! The priests are making it all up to deceive you.” This is what will happen; the Marxists will use these good willing folks to achieve their goal. Marxists with a good will and disposition will come back to the Church, repent, and go to confession. But those who have no good disposition, they will never change.

Spiritual Awakening, trans. Fr. Peter Chamberas (2008), p. 65

“Geronda, some devout young men are troubled while serving their military duty by those who are abusive and curse. What should they do?”

Elder Paisios: “This requires discernment and patience. God will help. The wireless operator that I worked with in the army was a blasphemous, unbelieving doctor. Every day he would come to the administrative unit to brainwash me with his ideas! He talked to me about Darwin’s theory of evolution, and other such things; things entirely blasphemous.

pp. 294-296

One day a neighbor named Kostas said to my brother, “I will make him change his way of thinking, throw away those books he is reading, and give up his fasting and prayer.” He found me – I was about fifteen years old then – and he started talking to me about Darwin’s theory. He started talking, and went on and on and was making my head spin. In my haze, I headed for the forest, to the Chapel of St. Barbara. I went in and began praying to Christ, “My Christ, if You exist, reveal Yourself to me in some way,” I kept saying, while constantly doing prostrations for a long time. It was summer. The sweat was running down my body, and I was drenched and completely exhausted. But I didn’t hear or see anything. Nor did God help me in any way with even a small sign, some sound, some shadow; I was only a child, after all. Even if one were to look at this from a human and logical perspective, one could say, “My God, what a shame for the poor child. From eleven years old, he has been going up to the hills to live ascetically, and how his doing through a crisis. That man made his head spin with some foolish theories. At home, he has difficulties with his brother. He ran to the forest to seek help from You …” And yet nothing, nothing, nothing! Exhausted from the many prostrations, I sat down for a while. Then I thought, “All right, when I asked Kostas what he thought about Christ, what did He tell me? He told me that Christ was the best, most righteous man, Who proclaimed righteousness and had so offended the Pharisees that they crucified Him out of envy.” Then I said, “If Christ was such a good man, so righteous, and no other man had ever appeared like Him, and others killed Him out of envy, then it is right of me to do for this man far more than I have done, even to die for him.” As soon as I looked at it this way, Christ appeared to me in a great light – the chapel was full of light – and told me, “I am the Resurrection and the Life. He that believeth in Me, though he die, yet shall he live” (John 11:25-26). These same words I could also read in the open Gospel which He held in one hand. There was such an inner transformation in me that I found myself saying constantly, “Come here now, Kosta, to discuss if there is or there isn’t a God.” You see, for Christ to appear He waited for my philotimo-filled response. Now, if Christ requires such a response from even a young child, can you imagine how much more He would expect from a mature adult.

— Elder Paisius (Olaru) of Sihastira and Sihla, “Teachings of Elder Paisius,” Orthodox Word, no. 271 (2010), p. 121,

What do you mean you don’t believe? Hold your tongue! Who is it that brought you to the monastery? These are the thoughts of the devil. Why do you listen to what the enemy says? The devil’s aim is to make people doubt and believe that there is no God. Because if there is no God, then neither is there any sin, and people can do anything. Doubt is halfway to the renunciation of God; that is why the devil tempts us. The Savior says that the days will come – and, look, they have come (cf. Luke 18:8). Some people say that mean was made from an ape. It was a madman who said this; man is the image and likeness of God.

St. Paul Andreyev (Hiermoartyr), Martyrs, Confessors, and Ascetics of piety of the Russian Orthodox Church of the 20th Century: Biographies and Material on Them, Book 7 (2002) (by Abbot Damascene Orlovsky), p. 162

Witness says about St. Paul’s “anti-Soviet” views: The priest Andreyev … said that the Soviet authorities preach the teaching of Darwin, that man proceeded from apes, but that this is a blasphemy and lie.

–Patriarch Pavle, Clarifying Some Questions About Our Faith, vol 1 [in Serbian], p. 16

There is no doubt that God could have created a wife for Cain in the same way that He created Adam from earth and Eve from Adam, but He did not do that. Instead, He allowed that Cain and Seth take their sisters as wives.

Fr. Philotheos Zervakos, Paternal Counsels vol. 2 (Orthodox Kypseli Publications), pg. 41

He who wishes to become a monk if he is cowardly or hesitant should not become a monk. Because from the moment that he leaves the world he goes out to battle not against men, against flesh and blood but against the rulers and authorities of darkness, against the invisible demons who have been tried well in battle, because for 7,500 years they have fought men and monastics even more so.

Elder Porphyrios, Wounded by Love, pg. 210

Egotism evicted man from Paradise; it is a great evil. Adam and Eve were simple and humble; that’s why they lived in Paradise. They didn’t have egotism. They did, however have the ‘primal nature,’ as we call it in theological language. When we say ‘primal nature’ we mean the gifts of grace that God bestowed on man in the beginning when He created him, namely, life, immortality, consciousness, freedom of will, love, humility, etc. Through flattery, however, the devil managed to delude them.

— Mother Raphaela, Living in Christ, pg. 2

Thus creation is no longer wholly beautiful and good. Though most of us seem to be born with an innate sense of the goodness of creation, and desire to enjoy it, we have chosen to side with the forces of destruction and death.

– Fr. Schmemann, Great Lent, pg. 40

The “continuous reading” of Genesis, Isaiah, and Proverbs has its origin at the time when Lent was still the main pre-baptismal season of the Church and lenten services were predominantly catechetical in their character, i.e., dedicated to the indoctrination of the catechumen. Each of the three books corresponds to one of the three basic aspects of the Old Testament: the history of God’s activity in Creation, prophecy, and the ethical or moral teachings. The Book of Genesis gives, as it were, the “framework” of the Church’s faith. It contains the story of Creation, of the Fall, and finally that of the promise and the beginning of salvation through God’s covenant with his chosen people. It conveys the three fundamental dimensions of the Church’s belief in God as Creator, Judge, and Savior. It reveals the roots of the Christian understanding of man as created in the “image and likeness of God,” as falling away from God, and as remaining the object of divine love, care, and ultimately salvation. It discloses the meaning of history as the history of salvation leading to and fulfilled in Christ. It announces the mystery of the Church through the images and realities of the People of God, Covenant, Ark, etc.

p. 43

Lent is exactly the opposite; it is a return to the “normal” life, to that “fasting” which Adam and Eve broke, thus introducing suffering and death into the world.

Pg. 64

With a unique art, St. Andrew interwove the great biblical themes – Adam and Eve, Paradise and Fall, the Patriarchs, Noah and the Flood, David, the Promised Land, and ultimately Christ and the Church – with confession of sin and repentance. The events of sacred history are revealed as events of my life, God’s acts in the past as acts aimed at me and my salvation, the tragedy of sin and betrayal as my personal tragedy. My life is shown to me as part of the great and all-embracing fight between God and the powers of darkness which rebel against Him . . . Thus, for four evenings the nine odes of the Canon tell me again and again the spiritual story of the world which is also my story. They challenge me with the decisive events and acts of the past whose meaning and power, however, are eternal because every human soul – unique and irreplaceable – moves, as it were, through the same drama, is faced with the same ultimate choices, discovers the same ultimate reality. Scriptural examples are more than mere “allegories” as many people think, and who therefore find this Canon too “overworked,” too loaded with irrelevant names and episodes. Why speak, they ask, of Cain and Able, of David and Solomon, when it should be so much simpler just to say: “I have sinned”?

Pg. 72-73

Because of sin and betrayal, the joyful day of Creation [Saturday] has become the day of death; for Creation, by “subjecting itself to futility” (Rom. 8:20), has itself become death. But Christ’s Death restores the seventh day, making it the day of re-creation, of the overcoming and destruction of that which made this world a triumph of death. And the ultimate purpose of Lent is to restore in us the “eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God” which is the content of the Christian faith, love, and hope.

 pg. 93

It is important, therefore, to discern the uniquely Christian content of fasting. It is first of all revealed to us in the interdependence between two events which we find in the Bible: one at the beginning of the Old Testament and the other at the beginning of the New Testament. The first event is the “breaking of the fast” by Adam in Paradise. He ate of the forbidden fruit. This is how man’s original sin is revealed to us. Christ, the New Adam – and this is the second event – begins by fasting. Adam was tempted and he succumbed to temptation; Christ was tempted and He overcame that temptation. The result of Adam’s failure is expulsion from Paradise and death. The fruits of Christ’s victory are the destruction of death and our return to Paradise.

Great Lent, pg. 94

God, we are told, “created no death.” He is the Giver of Life. How then did life become mortal? Why is death and death alone the only absolute condition of that which exists? The Church answers: because man rejected life as it was offered and given to him by God and preferred a life depending not on God alone but on “bread alone.”

Great Lent, pg. 94-95

The unfathomable tragedy of Adam is that he ate for its own sake. More than that, he ate “apart” from God in order to be independent of Him. And if he did it, it is because he believed that food had life in itself and that he, by partaking of that food, could be like God, i.e., have life in himself. To put it very simply: he believed in food, whereas the only object of belief, of faith, of dependence is God and God alone. World, food, became his gods, the sources and principles of his life. He became their slave. Adam – in Hebrew – means “man.” It is my name, our common name. Man is still Adam, still the slave of “food.” He may claim that he believes in God, but God is not his life, his food, the all-embracing content of his existence. He may claim that he receives his life from God but he doesn’t live in God and for God. His science, his experience, his self-consciousness are all built on that same principle: “by bread alone.” We eat in order to be alive but we are not alive in God. This is the sin of all sins. This is the verdict of death pronounced on our life.”

The Eucharist, pg. 61

Any consecration in the Church is not a creation of “sacred objects,” by their sanctity contraposed to the “profane,” i.e. the unconsecrated, but their referral to their original and at the same time ultimate meaning – God’s conception of them. For the entire world was created as an “altar of God,” as a temple, as a symbol of the kingdom. According to its conception, it is all sacred, and not “profane,” for its essence lies in the divine “very good” of Genesis. The sin of man consists in the fact that he has darkened the “very good” in his very being and as such has torn the world away from God, made it an “end in itself,” and therefore a fall and death.

But God has saved the world. He saved it in that he again revealed its goal: the kingdom of God; its life: to be the path to this kingdom; its meaning: to be in communion with God, and in him with all creation. And therefore,  in contrast to the pagan “sanctification,” which consists in the sacralization of separate parts and objects of the world, the Christian sanctification consists in the restoration to everything in the world of its symbolic nature, its “sacramentality,” in referring everything to the ultimate aim of being. All our worship services therefore are an ascent to the altar and a return back to “this world” for witness to “What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man conceived, what God has prepared for those who love him” (1 Co 2:9)

–Fr. Sebastian Dabovich, Preaching in the Russian Church, p. 101

Had Adam and Eve not sinned: “there would be no need of the plow and the laboring oxen, the planting of seed, the watering shower, the mutual change of the seasons of the year, the winter binding in fetters and the summer opening up all things.

Fr. Seraphim Rose, Letters from Fr. Seraphim by Fr. Alexey Young, pg. 75

Thus, “theistic evolution,” as I understand its motives, is the invention of men who, being afraid that physical evolution is really “scientific,” stick “God” in at various points of the evolutionary process in order not to be left out, in order to conform “theology” to the “latest scientific discoveries.” But this kind of artificial thinking is satisfactory neither for theology nor science, but just mixes the two realms up.

Letters from Fr. Seraphim, pg. 75

… the whole purpose and intent of the theory of physical evolution is to find an explanation of the world without God; i.e., physical evolution is by its nature atheistic, and its only ridiculous when “theologians” run after the latest “scientific” theory in order not to be left behind by the times. Further, the “God” of theistic or spiritual evolution is not the God of Orthodox Christianity!

— St. Silouan, St. Silouan the Athonite p. 90

Fr. Sophrony says of him: “For all his real humility and gentleness, the Staretz would say with unshakeable conviction and inner certainty that man cannot ‘of himself’ apprehend Divine matters, which are made known ‘only through the Holy Spirit’, and so the Holy Scriptures, too, ‘written by the Holy Spirit’ cannot be understood through scientific research which can only provide surface aspects and details, never the substance.

— Fr. Sophrony, Principles of Orthodox Asceticism, in The Orthodox Ethos, 1964, pg. 273-274

The educated man of the present day, with his developed critical approach, is incomparably less fitted for the ascetic exercise of obedience than the man of a simple turn of mind who is not seduced by intellectual curiosity. The cultured man, enamoured of his own critical intelligence, which he is accustomed to consider his principal dignity and the one solid foundation of his ‘personal’ life, has to renounce this wealth of his before becoming a novice, or it will be difficult for him to enter into the Kingdom. But how is this to be done? Is not the man into whose hands we must put our will just another human being likes ourselves – one, indeed, who many sometimes seem to us to stand lower than we do? The disciple begins to argue within himself: ‘Is this staretz an oracle, then? And how does he know God’s will? God gave us our reason and we must do our reasoning ourselves. For instance, there is no sense at all in what the staretz has just told me. It is all rubbish.’ And so on. This sort of attitude makes the novice doubtful and hesitant about his spiritual father’s every word, his every directive; and so he forgets that God’s will in this world expresses itself in the very same outward forms as serve to manifest both the natural will of man and the demoniacal will, when this last is made manifest through man. He judges by outward appearances, after the manner of the ‘reasoning’ man, and therefore does not find the path to the living faith . . . In the presence of divine truth the novice finds himself profoundly convinced of the imperfection of his own reasoning powers. This marks an important stage in his ascetic life. In mistrusting his intelligence the monk frees himself from the nightmare in which all mankind lives . . . By this renunciation of his will and judgment, for the sake of cleaving to the divine will which surpasses any human wisdom, the novice is in fact renouncing nothing else than his own egocentric will, het product of the passions, and his feeble little intelligence, and thereby showing true wisdom and superior will. In this manner the novice lightly – and imperceptibly to himself – advances to a height which men of the greatest intellectual culture cannot attain, or even apprehend. This height is purity of mind in God, as we have said earlier.

it is explained earlier that “novice” in this context refers to any Christian who turns to a spiritual father for guidance

Videt’ Boga kak On est’ (To See God as He Is) (2006), p. 238

For many of the representatives of modern science, “in the beginning was a hydrogen atom,: and from it, by the path of evolution, over the course of an unspecified number of billions of years, arose everything that now exists … The idea is absurd to us, that from “accidental” combinations, unexpected by the first atom itself, could arise human thought, with its quests for THE ORIGIN.

— St. Thaddeus Uspensky (Abp. of Tver, hieromartyr), Rejoice! (1998), p. 164

A man who does not believe in God wants to explain, from the gyrations of the cosmic dust, the origin of the world, whereas in every blade of grass, in the structure and life of even the tiniest beings there is enclosed so much information [payЗM: literally, reason, intellect, mind] that it is beyond human understanding. The many centuries of human wisdom have not been able to create one living grain, and meanwhile unbelief tries to explain all the wondrous variety in the world by unconscious movements of matter.

On the Sermons of Vladika Thaddeus Uspensky/Patriarch Tikhon and the History of the Russian Church Disturbance (1994), p. 352

Life, as they say, is an enormous, complex mechanical process, brought into being they know not when, by whom, or for what purpose … But if life is a mechanical process, then one must renounce the soul, thought, will, and freedom.

— St. Theophan the Recluse, St Feofan Zatvornik, Nastavleniya v duhovnoi zhisni. – Pskov-Pechery Monastery of Holy Dormition: Mosc. Patriarchate Publ., 1994,

“The positive teaching of the Church serves to know whether a concept is from the Truth. This is a litmus test for all teachings. Whatever agrees with it, you should accept it, whatever does not- – reject. One can do it without further deliberations.”

Sozertsanie I razmyshlenie. Moscow, Pravilo very, 1998,

“Science goes forward fast, let it do so. But if they infer something inconsistent with the Divine Revelation, they are definitely off the right path in life, do not follow them.”

The Spiritual Life and How to be Attuned to It, pg. 65-66

Thus, put entirely out of your mind the idea that there are people who do not acknowledge the existence of God. There are some scientists who think they can do without God, and who talk and write books as if He did not exist. But while their tongues and pens weave such empty words, their hearts say something else. They make themselves out to be nonbelievers, but very uncertainly, so as to successfully get away with it in their own conscience.

Thoughts for Each Day of the Year According to the Daily Church Readings from the Word of God, trans. Lisa Marie Baranov (2010), pp. 127-128

What ought we to preach? We should cry to all, ‘Sons of the Kingdom [of Heaven]! Don’t run from the Kingdom into bondage and slavery’ – for they are in fact running. Some are captivated by freedom of mind. They say, ‘We don’t want the bonds of faith and the oppression of authority, even Divine authority; we’ll figure things out and make up our minds for ourselves.’ So they have made up their minds. They have built fables in which there is more childishness than in the mythology of the Greeks – and they magnify themselves … Others are enticed by the broad path of the passions. They say, ‘We don’t want to know positive commandments or the demands of conscience – this is all abstract: we need tangible naturalness.’ And they have gone after it. What has come of it? They have bowed down before dumb beasts. Has not the theory that man originated from animals arisen from this moral fall? This is where they have gone! And everyone runs from the Lord, everyone runs …”

pp. 227-228

The truth of God is simple; can a proud mind study it? Such a mind would rather think up its own thing: sensational things, although empty and as weak as a spider’s web. To see that this is so, look at the current theories of the creation of the world: they are like a somnambulistic or drunken delirium. And yet how good they seem to those who invented them! How much energy and time are wasted on this – and all in vain! The deed was accomplished simply: ‘He spake and they cam to be. He commanded and they were created’ (Ps. 148:5). No one can think up anything better than this solution.

pp. 272-273

The Sadducees had a seemingly insoluble objection to the resurrection; but the Lord resolved it with a few words to them, and so clearly that everyone understood and acknowledged the Sadducees to have been beaten by the truth of His word. What the Sadducees were then, unbelievers of all sorts are now. They have heaped up a multitude of fanciful suppositions for themselves, elevated them to the status of irrefutable truths and plumed themselves on them, assuming that nothing can be said against them. In fact, they are so ungrounded that it is not even worthwhile speaking against them. All of their sophistry is a house of cards – blow on it and it flies apart. There is no need to refute it in its parts; it is enough to regard it as one regards dreams. When speaking against dreams, people do not prove the absurdity in their composition or in their individual parts, but only say, ‘It’s a dream,’ and with that they resolve everything. It is the same with the theory of the formation of the world from a nebula and its supports, with the theory of abiogenesis and Darwin’s origin of genera and species, and with his last dream about the descent of man. It is all like delirium. When you read them you are walking in the midst of shadows. And scientists? Well, what can you do with them? Their motto is ‘If you don’t like it, don’t listen, but don’t prevent me from lying.”

Sozertsaniye i razmyshleniye (Contemplations and Reflections) (1998) p. 146

These days many nihilists of both sexes, naturalists, Darwinists, Spiritists, and Westernizers in general have multiplied among us. All right, you’re thinking – would the Church have been silent, would it not have proferred its voice, would it not have condemned or anathematized them if there had been something new in their teaching? To be sure – a council would have done so without doubt, and all of them, with their teachings, would have been given over to anathema. To the current Rite of Orthodoxy only the following item would have been added: ‘To Büchner, Feuerbach, Darwin, Renan, Kardec, and all their followers – anathema! But there is no need, either for a special council or for any kind of addition. All of their false teachings were anathematized long ago. At the present time, not only in principal cities but in all place and churches the Rite of Orthodoxy ought to be brought in and celebrated, so that all the teachings contrary to the word of God might be collected and that it might be proclaimed to everyone what they must fear and from what teachings they must flee, and all might know. Many are seduced intellectually only through ignorance, and therefore a public condemnation of pernicious teachings would save them from destruction. If the action of an anathema is terrible to someone, then let him avoid the teachings that lead to it. Let him who is afraid of it for the sake of others bring them back to a healthy teaching. If you who are not favorably disposed to this action are Orthodox, then you are going against yourself; and if you have already lost sound teaching, then what business do you have concerning what is done in the Church that supports it? After all, you’ve already separated yourself from the Church and have your own convictions, your own way of looking at things – well, live with them then. It’s all the same whether or not your name and your teaching are uttered under the anathema: you are already under anathema if you philosophize against the Church and persist in this philosophizing.

Sobraniye pisem (Collected Letters) Vol. 2, (1994) p. 112

There is not a single science which could be established solidly on its own principles. Something can be obtained from all the sciences. But this is not something that gives one the right to cite sciences as a decisive authority. It is not science itself [that is the problem], but scientists who twist science however they want. Consequently, there are only the conjectures and inferences of scientists.

Vol. 2, p. 117

A believer has the full right to insinuate himself with spiritual things into the material realm, while materialists crawl with their matter, without a twinge of conscience, into the spiritual realm. Right-mindedness is on our side, while incoherence is on theirs. And this is not because every sandpiper praises its own swamp; rather, it is to the point. Matter cannot be either a power or a purpose. Both are outside of it. Matter can only be a means and a field for spiritual powers, in accordance with the spiritual origin (the Creator) of all things.

vol. 7, pp. 144-45

People have suddenly had a thought and have started to write about preserving faith. But they don’t want to block the source of unbelief. This source is the spread of the teaching that world formed by itself, according to which there is no need for God and the soul does not exist – it’s all atoms and chemistry, nothing more. This is being preached at [university] rostrums and in literature. He who breathes these fumes is inescapably stupefied, and loses his senses and faith … Until these books are destroyed; until professors and literary men are forced not only not to hold to this theory, but even to demolish it – until then – faithlessness will grow and grow, and with it, self-will and the destruction of the present government. That’s the way the French Revolution went.

Slova na Gospodskiye, Bogorodichnyye, i torzhestvennyye dni (Homilies on Feasts of the Lord and the Theotokos, and festal days) (1883), p. 5

In vain do people think highly about the world and its laws, about nature and its forces, as if there were something untouchable, indisputable and inviolable in them. Under the appearance of science they are devising for themselves an idol-worship that is more destructive than the mythological idol-worship of the ancient Greeks. No, brethren – it is not by the laws and forces of nature that the life of each one of us is upheld, but by the power of God acting within us. The Lord, ‘upholding all things by the word of His power’ (Heb. 1:3), bears each one of us by the same word of His power.

Let us maintain this thought in our mind and imprint it in our heart. The all-active power of God bears us over the abyss of nothingness, and ‘we live, and move, and have our being’ (Acts 17:28). If He takes away His Spirit, if He removes His hand, we will disappear and will no longer be remembered among the living. But if the Lord holds us, then He touches us. He does not merely see us mentally; no, He touches, as one hand touches another or as the air touches one’s body. How consoling and awesome!

p. 196

A pure spirit [nous] contemplates God and receives from Him knowledge of mysteries. But even the spirit, combined with the body, after the diversity of the creations of the visible world has been revealed to it through the senses, have been enlightened by the same inward illumination from above, must contemplate in these creations all the mysteries of the knowledge of God, and the mysteries of God’s making and governing of the world, so that even when faced with this great amount of knowledge it can remain unperturbed in the same single Divine contemplation. But, having fallen, a person is captivated by the diversity of created things and even overwhelmed by impressions from them, which supplant within him the very thought of God. Studying created things, he goes no further than what he sees in them – their composition and interrelations – and, not receiving illumination from above, does not see in them the clear reflection of God and the Divine mysteries. The world has become for him a tarnished mirror, in which nothing can be seen but the mirror itself. Hence a great amount of knowledge suppresses within him the knowledge of the one thing; it turns him away from it, makes him cold toward it. Such is the price and such is the fruit of science in a fallen state.

— Fr. Thomas Hopko, The Lenten Spring, pg. 20

We have wasted what our good God has given us. We have ruined our lives and our world. We have polluted the air, the water and the earth. The birds and the fish, the plants andthe animals grieve because of our wickedness . . . we have lost our divine legacy as children of God. And the whole cosmos suffers with us in our affliction.

p. 26

It [the fall of Adam and Eve] tells of the most tragic event in human experience: the rebellion of the creature against the Creator and the transformation of the world as paradise with God into a garbage heap of dead men’s bones. It describes this death-bound, demon-riddled, rat-racing world that we call human civilization, which is the result of the futile strivings of self-centered creatures.

Pg. 30

And we experience evil for ourselves, by our own volition, and bring corruption to our total being: mind, soul, heart and body.

— St. Varlaam Nikol’sky (hieromartyr), Martyrs, Confessors, and Ascetics of piety of the Russian Orthodox Church of the 20th Century: Biographies and Materials on Them, Book 6 (2002) (by Abbot Damascene Orlovsky, p. 313

Soviet interrogator: Did you try to conduct religious propaganda among schoolchildren? In particular, did you say that in the schools they do not correctly explain the origin of man?

St. Varlaam: Last year I was walking past a school, and a student of the school addressed me with the question of where man came from, saying that the teacher had said in the lesson that man originated from apes. He asked me what I thought, and I answered that man came from God.

— St. Vladimir Bogoyavlensky (Met. of Kiev and Gallich, hieromartyr of Bolshevik Yoke), Gd istinoye shchast’ye: V vere ili neverii? (Where is true happiness? In faith or unbelief?), (1905), pp. 6-18

Only at the present time ha such an audacious philosophy found a place for itself, which overthrows human worth and tries to give its false teaching a wide dissemination … Man did not originate from God’s hands, it says; in an endless and gradual transition from imperfection to perfection he developed from the animal kingdom, and as little soul as animals have, so little does man have … How immeasurably deeply does all this degrade and insult man! From the highest step in the progression of creation he is reduced to the same level as the animals … There is no need to refute such a teaching on a scientific basis, although it would not be difficult to do so, since unbelief has far from proved its position … But if such a teaching finds more and more followers at the present time, this is not because the teaching of unbelief has supposedly become inarguably true, but because it does not hinder a corrupt heart that is inclined to sin from giving itself over to its passions. For if man is not immortal, if he is nothing more than the attainment of the highest development of the animals, then he has no business with God … Brethren, do not listen to the pernicious, poison-bearing teaching of unbelief, which lowers you to the level of animals and, depriving you of human worth, promises you nothing but despair and an inconsolable life.

– Vladimir Lossky, Mystical Theology of the Eastern Church, 104

Thus in the condition of mortality which is the consequence of the coming of sin, the spiritual nature of the soul maintains a certain link with the disunited elements of the body, a link which it will find again at the moment of the resurrection in order that the parts may be transformed into a “spiritual body,” which is indeed our true body, different from the grossness of those we now have, the “garments of skin” which God made for Adam and Eve after their sin.

Pg. 104-105

Having no philosophical references, the Church always freely makes use of philosophy and the sciences for apologetic purposes, but she never has any cause to defend these relative and changing truths as she defends the unchangeable truth of her doctrines. This is why ancient or more modern cosmological theories cannot affect in any way the more fundamental truth which is revealed to the Church: “the truth of Holy Scripture is far deeper than the limits of our understanding,” as Philaret of Moscow says [Sermons and Discourses, Moscow, 1877]. In the face of the vision of the universe which the human race has gained since the period of the renaissance, in which the earth is represented as an atom lost in infinite space amid innumerable other worlds, there is no need for theology to change anything whatever in the narrative of Genesis . . .

Pg. 107

In the same way, the creation of man was not, as with the rest of the living creatures, the result of an ordinance given to the earth: in this case God did not ordain, but said in His eternal Counsel ‘let us make man in our image, after our likeness.’

Pg. 109, 110, 112-113

It was the divinely appointed function of the first man according to St. Maximus, to unite in himself the whole of created being; and at the same time to reach his perfect union with God thus grant the state of deification the whole of creation . . . The deification of man and of the whole created universe would thus be accomplished. Since this task which was given to man was not fulfilled by Adam, it is in the work of Christ, the second Adam, that we can see what it was meant to be . . . Man is not a being isolated from the rest of creation; by his very nature he is bound up with the whole of the universe, and St. Paul bears witness that the whole creation awaits the future glory which will be revealed in the sons of God (Rom. vii, 18-22) . . . The world was created from nothing by the sole will of God – this is its origin. It was created in order to participate in the fullness of the divine life – this is its vocation. It is called to make this union a reality in liberty, in the free harmony of the created will with the life of God – this is the mystery of the Church inherent in creation. Throughout all the vicissitudes which followed upon the fall of humanity, and the destruction of the first Church – the Church or paradise – the creation preserved the idea of its vocation and with it the idea of the Church, which was at length to be fully realized after Golgotha and after Pentecost, as the Church properly so-called, the indestructible Church of Christ.

Pg. 111

Man was created last according to the Greek Fathers, in order that he might be introduced into the universe like a king into his palace. “As a prophet and a high priest,” added Philaret of Moscow, [G. Florovsky, op. cit. p. 179] giving an ecclesiological accent to the cosmology of the Bible. For this great theologian of the last century, the creation is already a preparation for the Church, which was to begin to exist in the earthly paradise, with the first men. The books of God’s Revelation are for him a sacred history of the world, beginning with the creation of the heavens and the earth, and ending with the new heaven and the new earth of the Apocalypse. The history of the world is a history of the Church which is the mystical foundation of the world.

Pg. 116

Finally, as in St. Ireneus, St. Gregory of , and St. Gregory of Palamas, not only the soul, but also the body of man shares in the character of the image, being created in the image of God. “The word Man,” says St. Gregory Palamas, “is not applied to either soul or body separately, but to both together, since together they have been created in the image of God.” [also St. Justin Martyr]

Pg. 116-117

In fact, the Biblical narrative gives no precise account of the nature of the image; but it does present the whole creation of man as an act apart, different from the creation of other beings. Like the angels, who, as St. Isaac the Syrian puts it, were created ‘in silence,’ man was not formed by a divine command addressed to the earth. Rather God Himself fashioned him from the dust of the earth with His own hands; that is to say, according to St. Ireneus, with the Word and the Holy Spirit, and breathed the breath of life into him. St. Gregory Nazianzen interprets the passage in Genesis in the following way: ‘The Word of God taking a portion of the newly created earth, has with his own immortal hands fashioned our frame, and imparted life to it; since the spirit which he breathed into it, is an effluence of the invisible Divinity. Thus out of the dust, and out of the breath, man was created in the image of the Immortal, for in both the spiritual nature reigns supreme.

Pg. 133

By way of the human will, evil has become a power infecting the whole creation’ ‘cursed is the ground for thy sake’ (Gen. iii, 17). The universe which still reflects the majesty of God, has at the same time acquired a sinister character . . . Sin has been introduced where grace should reign, and instead of the divine plenitude, a gaping abyss has opened in God’s creation, the gates of hell opened by the free will of man.

— Way of a Pilgrim (Image Books, Doubleday, 1978), pg. 34-35

The teacher responded, “Though you have not been exposed to higher learning, you must have studied the history of the Old and New Testaments, published for schools in the form of questions and answers. Do you recall that, when the first man Adam was in his innocent state, all creation was subject to him and that the animals approached him with fear and he named them? The elder to whom this rosary [prayer rope] belonged was a holy man, and holiness is nothing else than the sinner’s return from his sinful state to the innocent state of the first man by means of self-discipline. When the soul of a man becomes holy, then the body is holy also. And the rosary which was constantly in the hands of the holy elder became empowered by his touch and spirit; it acquired, so to speak, the power of the first man’s innocence. This is what we mean by a spiritual mystery of nature! And all animals in natural succession, even to this day, feel that power through the sense of smell, since the nose is the chief sensory organ in animals.

Fr. Zacharias, The Hidden Man of the Heart, pg. 18-19

Man is the true lord of the kingdom of the world, the crown of the whole creation . . . And at that moment, his dreadful fall took place, as the Scriptures relate, and this was a universal misfortune . . . So did man become unmindful of his Maker, delivering himself up to sin and to its wages of  corruption and death . . . When man banishes God and his neighbour from his heart, he loses his sovereignty over God’s creation, bestowed on him by virtue of his likeness to God. In other words, he fails in what he has been designed for – to oversee the world with justice and, being enlarged by the spirit of prophecy, to bring all creation to God.

pg. 20

However, God’s call is irrevocable and ‘steadfast’ (cf. Rom. 11:29). Furthermore, death is an illegitimate enemy, for the will of God, the basis of man’s original issuing forth, has foreordained that man should live eternally ‘in immortality’ (Wisd. 2:23). Death must therefore be destroyed (cf. 1 Cor. 15:26), for which reason the Son of God Himself came into the world to blot it out and to ‘destroy the works of the devil’ (1 John 3:8). Man’s mortality is therefore a phenomenon that runs counter to his nature in that it opposes that for which he has been designed. This is precisely why the human soul is restless: if life leads only to death, then nothing can ever be meaningful.

However, God, Who abides unto the ages and has no pleasure in the death of the sinner, does all He can that ‘the wicked [might] turn from his way and live’ (Ezek. 33:11). He summons the dissolute from the blindness of their desolation, intensifying by His grace the cruel spectacle of mortality, which entered the whole creation through man’s fall into sin. God increases the threat of death by keeping before man’s eyes this terrible spectacle. He opens the eyes of the soul that it might behold the mark of corruption and mortality on every created thing. Man then hears the groaning of a universe which has delivered itself up to vanity from which there is no escape. The soul is then granted the grace of perceiving the dark veil of death, corruption, and despair which envelop mankind and all life on earth. This spiritual phenomenon, unknown to modern psychology, is called ‘mindfulness of death’ in Orthodox ascetic terminology. It has nothing to do with the psychological awareness that we shall die some day; it is more like a deep knowledge, accompanied by a wondrous sensibility of the heart, which perceives clearly ‘the futility of any and every acquisition on earth’, and that ‘all is vanity’ (Eccles. 1:2).

— Pg. 75

At the same time, this grace creates his personal communion with God and with all men, for they are like unto himself. He is also united with the whole of creation, which groans under the same condemnation to death.

Posted by: oldbelieving | March 20, 2012

Blasphemy at Balamand

This is a paper I wrote against the Balamand Statement of 1993 which was a betrayal of Orthodoxy in favor of Ecumenism with the Roman Catholics.


“We have cut the Latins off from us for no other reason than that they are not only schismatics, but also heretics. For this reason it is wholly improper to unite with them.” – St. Mark of Ephesus[2]

From June 17-24, 1993 the Seventh Plenary Session of the Joint International Commission for the Theological Dialogue Between the Roman Catholic Church and the Orthodox Church met at the Balamand School of Theology in Lebanon at which all local Orthodox Churches were represented except those of Jerusalem, Georgia, Serbia, Bulgaria, Greece, and Czechoslovakia. The session concerned the search for unity between the Orthodox Church and the Catholic communities and the problem of Uniatism and, unfortunately, the resulting document represents an Orthodox capitulation to Papist diplomacy and ecclesiology. The document characterizes the Orthodox and Catholics as “Sister Churches” (§12, 14), and declares that Christ’s entrustment of the faith and sacraments and the responsibility of maintaining the His Church belongs to both the Orthodox Church and the communities of the Papacy (§13, 14). Having so fully accepted these errors, the agreement also forbids proselytizing (§18, 35) because it is not important for salvation to be united to the Orthodox Church (§15)! There are other problematic statements that betray the Orthodox ethos, but those mentioned are the most objectionable, as they indicate another surrender to Rome in the vein of Florence, and even an implicit acceptance of the heretical Branch Theory.

The blasphemy at Balamand is not without its predecessors. In 1920 Metropolitan Dorotheus, Locum Tenens for the Patriarchal throne in Constantinople issued an encyclical that espoused the Branch Theory, embracing any and all Christian communities as our brethren and co-heirs of the promise in Christ, and proposing a common calendar for the celebration of major Christian feasts.[3] Later, validating Catholicism, Protestantism, Islam and even Buddhism, Ecumenical Patriarch Athenagoras stated, “We are deceived and we sin, if we think that the Orthodox faith came down from Heaven and that all [other] creeds are unworthy.”[4] The only way to view the Catholic communities as our Sister Church is to willfully ignore their heretical dogmas, and thus Patriarch Athenagoras also stated, “Let the dogmas be placed in the storeroom,” and “The age of dogma has passed,”[5] and denying the continuity of Christ’s one holy Church he stated, “let us all together refound the One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church, coexisting in the East and the West, as we lived up until 1054, in spite of the theological differences that existed then.”[6] Finally, in December 1965 the anathemas between Rome and Constantinople were unilaterally lifted by Patriarch Athenagoras and Pope Paul VI, which evoked a storm of protest from the Holy Mountain, Met. Philaret of New York, and St. Philotheos Zervakos among many others. Additionally, the Sixth Plenary Session in Freising in 1990 already spoke of “Sister Churches” and rejected Orthodox-Catholic proselytizing.[7] These sayings and events are the John the Baptists of the egregious Balamand Union.

The Balamand Statement also provoked a storm of protest from the traditionally-minded within the Church, although it did find acceptance in some circles and from some individuals. According to Fr. John Erickson’s article, “Concerning the Balamand Statement” in The Greek Orthodox Theological Review, the Holy Synod of Romania formally accepted it on July 6-7 1993, but in Greece the Old Calendarists, Mt. Athos, and even the Holy Synod were very against it. It received a generally favorable response from theologians in the West: the U.S. Orthodox/Roman Catholic Consultation referred to it as “a strong and positive contribution to the theological dialogue between our churches,” and the Catholic/Orthodox Mixed Commission of France (including Olivier Clement, Nicholas Lossky, Boris Bobrinskoy) declared that it “adheres fully to the great ecclesiological principles of the Balamand Statement” and pledged full support for its implementation.[8]

Among the most outspoken amongst the Orthodox in favor of the Balamand Statement was Bishop Vsevolod of Scopelos of the Ecumenical Patriarchate who was present at the session that produced the lamentable document. He has written, “Probably the most important point of the Balamand Statement, and the most controversial point among the Orthodox, is the affirmation that the Catholic Church and the Orthodox Church are ‘Sister Churches.’ This rich teaching of ecclesiology must be understood and taught everywhere; it must not remain simply a paper statement! . . . This teaching is the most important fruit of the Balamand statement,” and

Let me be quite unequivocal: I fully assent to these affirmations of the Balamand Statement. I genuinely believe that the Catholic Church and the Orthodox Church are Sister Churches, that the ‘profession of apostolic faith, participation in the same sacraments, above all the one priesthood celebrating the one sacrifice of Christ, the apostolic succession of bishops’ are fully present in both communities, and that the tragedy of our estrangement is that each has failed to appreciate the full reality of the other.[9]

Regrettably it would seem His Grace has forgotten the memory of St. Mark of Ephesus. Of course there was Catholic praise for the statement as well. On August 3, 1993, the Archbishop of the Ukrainian Uniates, Miroslav Cardinal Lubachivsky, wrote Edward Cardinal Cassidy a very detailed letter which approves the text of the agreement,[10] and in the official publication of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, Episkepsis, Patriarch Bartholomew and Pope John Paul II published a join communiqué that praised the Balamand Statement, saying, “”The Joint Commission was able to proclaim that our Churches are recognized mutually as Sister Churches, responsible together for the preservation of the One Church of God.”[11]

Despite these betrayals of pure Orthodoxy, thankfully God also rose up voices of true witness in response to the profanity of Balamand. As always, the monastics rose up to be the guiding conscience of the Church. In a letter to the Ecumenical Patriarch signed by all Representatives and Presidents of the Twenty Monasteries of the Holy Mountain, it is lamented that such a union apart from Orthodox truth will surely lead only to further schism within the Body of Christ. Responding to §13 which states, “the rediscovery and the giving of proper value to the Church as communion, both on the part of Orthodox and of Catholics, has radically altered perspectives and thus attitudes,” they reject the notion that the Orthodox and Catholics profess the same Apostolic faith: “The Orthodox Church, however, has always had the consciousness that she is not a simple communion but a theanthropic communion or a ‘communion of theosis,’ Moreover, the communion of theosis is not only unknown in but also irreconcilable with Roman Catholic theology, which rejects [the doctrine of] the uncreated energies of God that form and sustain this communion.”[12] They also state, “Unfortunately, it is the first time that Orthodox have officially accepted a form of the branch theory.”[13] In a response to Balamand, tracing the errors of the Franco-Latins, Fr. John Romanides similarly appeals to the Church’s experience of theosis. He explains that the “theologians” incorrectly point to Christ’s prayer in John 17 as evidence that He desires union between disparate churches:

This prayer is not for the union of the members of the Body of Christ with those who are not in the states of purification, illumination and glorification (theosis) . . . it is certainly not a prayer for the union of churches. That John 17 can be applied to Churches which have not the slightest understanding of glorification (theosis) and how to arrive at this cure in this life is very interesting, to say the least. This agreement takes advantage of those naive Orthodox who have been insisting that they are a “Sister” Church of a Vatican “Sister” Church, as though glorification (theosis) can have a sister otherwise than herself (§ 25-26).[14]

Finally Archbishop Dimitri (OCA) wrote in a letter to Metropolitan Theodosius: “It is inconceivable that the Orthodox, especially the bishops, priests and teachers, should agree to describe a church that is not in doctrinal agreement with her as a ‘sister church.’ To promote such an understanding . . . is to contradict and to be betray the Fathers who have defended Orthodoxy against Papism . . .”[15] His Grace is surely thinking of fathers such as the Pillars of Orthodoxy St. Photios the Great, St. Gregory Palamas, and St. Mark of Ephesus[16] who are renowned for their stands against the errors of the Papal communities. While some capitulated to the pressures of false union, the Balamand Statement was a clear transgression against the purity of Holy Orthodoxy.

There are many grounds on which to demonstrate that the flock of the Papacy cannot be the “Sister Church” of the Holy Orthodox Church, including several major and theological divergences, such as the Filioque, Original Sin, the Immaculate Conception, created grace, the entire scholastic and rationalistic system that grew up in the West, etc. However, I would like to examine just two Patristic teachings: the ecclesiology of St. Ignatius of Antioch, and Apostolic Succession according to St. Irenaeus of Lyons. For St. Ignatius the Eucharist is the “medicine of immortality”[17] and thus it follows that it is necessary to be united to those who liturgically offer this gift to God. Hence he states: “be ye united with your bishop, and those that preside over you, as a type and evidence of your immortality.”[18] According to St. Ignatius the life of unity is centered in the clergy[19] which is an image of the Church’s unity with Christ and of Christ with the Father.[20]  Also, submission to the bishop is an image of submission to God and each other.[21] And of course, his famous statement is: “Wherever the bishop shall appear, there let the multitude [of the people] also be; even as, wherever Jesus Christ is, there is the Catholic Church.”[22] St. Ignatius knows of no universal submission to the bishop of Rome. For him, the local Church manifests the fullness of the Church by virtue of its presiding bishop. Following the New Testament model, the Church is the Church in a place (i.e. St. Paul’s epistles to the Church or Saints in Ephesus, Corinth, Philippi, etc.), and this is the model followed by the Orthodox Church to this day. On the other hand, “’Pope’ is a title applied to the bishop of Rome, particularly with respect to his role as the center of communion of the Roman Catholic Church.”[23] For the Catholics, the Church is not the faithful with their local bishop, but rather those who are in submission to and communion with St. Peter via the bishop of Rome.[24] This ecclesiology betrays a radically different conception of the Church which is incompatible to Orthodox tradition[25], which is the third major fall in human history, behind those of Adam and Judas according to St. Justin Popovich.[26]

St. Irenaeus of Lyons is known as an early witness to the doctrine of Apostolic Succession. Against various heretics he writes, “when we refer them to that tradition which originates from the apostles, [and] which is preserved by means of the succession of presbyters in the Churches, they object to tradition . . . “[27] Later he writes:

It is within the power of all, therefore, in every Church, who may wish to see the truth, to contemplate clearly the tradition of the apostles manifested throughout the whole world; and we are in a position to reckon up those who were by the apostles instituted bishops in the Churches, and [to demonstrate] the succession of these men to our own times; those who neither taught nor knew of anything like what these [heretics] rave about . . . And this is most abundant proof that there is one and the same vivifying faith, which has been preserved in the Church from the apostles until now, and handed down in truth.[28]

And again he writes, “Wherefore it is incumbent to obey the presbyters who are in the Church,—those who, as I have shown, possess the succession from the apostles; those who, together with the succession of the episcopate, have received the certain gift of truth, according to the good pleasure of the Father. But [it is also incumbent] to hold in suspicion others who depart from the primitive succession.”[29] His belief is clear: there is one true Church, united in doctrine that descends from the Christ and His Apostles. Thus the line of succession tracing back to the Apostles concerns not merely the laying on of hands, but also the preserving of the same and true Apostolic faith. This is why the Orthodox Church understands itself as the one, true Church of Christ. The Fathers painstakingly preserved and protected our faith, denouncing heresies in their writings and the Councils when need be. This is why we have no communion with those who teach differently. This teaching is wholly Scriptural. St. Paul continually exhorts us to be of one mind and to fellowship only with those of our same doctrine (i.e. Romans 16:17 Now I urge you, brethren, note those who cause divisions and offenses, contrary to the doctrine which you learned, and avoid them), and he lays out the doctrine of Apostolic Succession in his epistles to Timothy and Titus.

However, in today’s ecumenical world, Apostolic Succession has been gutted of its content and reduced to a mere line of human hands tracing to the Apostles. In this sense many communities can claim Apostolic Succession including the Catholics, Assyrians, Lutherans, Anglicans, etc, and it is in this sense that the Orthodox can falsely claim fellowship and communion and “sisterhood” with the Papal communities. For example, Metropolitan Hilarion Alfeyev writes, “Among the members of the WCC there are more than a few such groups, which in our view long ago lost the fundamental properties of church-ness or which never possessed them in the first place. We are speaking here of such properties as apostolic succession of the hierarchy, the mysteries, faith in the reality of the Eucharist, etc.”[30] While His Grace’s statement appears soundly Orthodox at first glance, the problem is that he acknowledges that more than a few groups have lost or never had succession, but not all groups. According to St. Irenaeus, every Christian community outside the Orthodox Church is devoid of true and full Apostolic Succession. Only a disregarding or renunciation of this principle can allow for the abysmal ecclesiology espoused in the Balamand Statement.

In June of 1993, representatives from nine of the local Orthodox Churches met with twenty-four representatives of the Papacy for the Seventh Plenary Session of the Joint International Commission for the Theological Dialogue Between the Roman Catholic Church and the Orthodox Church in Balamand, Lebanon, to discuss the Unia in relation to unity between the Holy Orthodox Church and the communities of the Papacy. The resulting document is an appalling failure of theology, denying the continuity and singularity of the true Church of Christ, espousing the notion that Catholic communities make up the “Sister Church” of Orthodoxy, which is equally responsible for the Apostolic deposit of faith emanating from the life and teachings of our Lord Jesus Christ. According to the ecclesiology of St. Ignatius of Antioch and St. Irenaeus of Lyons’ teaching on Apostolic Succession, the Balamand Statement is wholly un-Orthodox, and a slap in the face to the countless Saints who have shed their blood to preserve the faith against the errors of the Latins. But the Lord promised that His Church would persevere and so He rose up voices of truth against demon-inspired pens, and thankfully, the heretical pronouncements of Balamand have never taken effect in the Orthodox Church. Glory to God!

[1] Although my tone may seem polemical throughout, quite frankly, I think the absurdities of the Balamand Statement deserve it.

[2] “Is the Papacy a Church?” Orthodox and Catholic Union: The Reply of the Holy Orthodox Church to Roman Catholic Overtures on Reunion and Ecumenism. Seattle: St. Nectarios, 1985, p. 22.

[3] It should be noted that the proposal had nothing to do with astronomical accuracy. The 1920 Encyclical is discussed on Moss, Vladimir. “Ten Reasons Why the Ecumenical Patriarchate is Not Orthodox.” Vladimir Moss: Orthodox Christianity Author. 29 Sept. 2009. Web. 12 May 2011., although I do not endorse the conclusion of the author, Vladimir Moss. The New Calendar was instituted in the Church of Greece in March 1924 by Abp. Chrysostomos Papadopoulis

[4] Archbishop Gregory. “Athenagoras (1948-1972).” True Orthodox Polemics. 2005. Web. 12 May 2011. <;.

[5] Cavarnos, Constantine. Ecumenism Examined: a Concise Analytical Discussion of the Contemporary Ecumenical Movement. Belmont, MA: Institute for Byzantine and Modern Greek Studies, 1996, pp. 11, 28-30. Akropolis, June 29, 1963

[6]True Orthodox Polemics

[7] Erickson, Fr. John H. “Concerning the Balamand Statement.” Greek Orthodox Theological Review 42.1-2 (1997), p. 29

[8]Ibid., p. 33-36

[9] Scopelos, Bishop Vsevolod. “Reflections on Balamand.” Greek Orthodox Theological Review 42.3-4 (1997), p. 223, 224

[10] Barker, Patrick G., trans. “Papism, the Hagiorite Fathers, and the Aftermath of the “Balamand Union.” Orthodox Tradition: p. 16. Orthodox Christian Information Center. 11 May 2011. <;.

[11]Episkepsis, No. 520, 31 July 1995, p. 19. Quoted at “Ecumenism Awareness: The Balamand Agreement.” Orthodox Christian Information Center. Web. 13 May 2011. <;..

[12] All Representatives and Presidents of the Twenty Sacred Monasteries of the Holy Mountain of Athos. “Letter to the Ecumenical Patriarch Concerning the Balamand Agreement.” Trans. George S. Gabriel. The Ark 39-40 (1994). This letter can be found at


[14] Romanides, Fr. John. “A Critique of the Balamand Agreement.” Theologia 6.4 (1993): 570-80. The article is posted at

[15] Archbishop Dimitri. “Letter from Archbishop Dimitri to Metropolitan Theodosius on the Balamand Agreement.” Orthodox Christian Witness (Oct. 8, 1995). Quoted in Young, Archpriest Alexey. The Rush to Embrace. Richfield Springs, NY: Nikodemos Orthodox Publication Society, 1996, p. 69.

[16] St. Mark is quoted at the beginning of this paper.

[17]To the Ephesians 20

[18]To the Magnesians 6

[19]To the Ephesians 2, 4, 5: To the Trallians 7; To Polycarp.6

[20]To the Ephesians 5; To the Magnesians 2, 13; To the Trallians 7; To the Philippians 2, 3: To the Smyrneans 8, 9

[21]To the Ephesians 5, 20; To the Magnesians 2, 13; To the Philippians 7

[22]To the Smyrneans 8

[23] Walsh, Michael J. “Popes, Roman Catholic, and the Papacy.” The Cambridge Dictionary of Christianity. Ed. Daniel Patte. 2010, p. 976.

[24] The understanding of the Papacy in the West underwent great development, beginning with Pope St. Stephen’s (254-257) first appeal to Matthew 16:18 to bolster Papal authority and ending with Papal Supremacy and Infallibility, and the teaching that to be a Christian is to submit to the Pope who is the mediator between Christ and man as the Vicar of Christ, as seen in the Papacy of Nicholas I (858-867).

[25] For a thorough study on this matter see Sherrard, Philip. Church, Papacy, and Schism: a Theological Enquiry. London: S.P.C.K., 1978.

[26] “In the history of the human race there have been three principal falls: that of Adam, that of Judas, and that of the pope.” Popovich, St. Justin. “Reflections on the Infallibility of European Man.” Orthodox Faith and Life in Christ. Ed. Asterios Gerostergios. Belmont, MA: Institute for Byzantine and Modern Greek Studies, 1994. Quoted on “Quotes from St. Justin Popovich on the Papacy and the Apostolicity of the Church.” Full of Grace and Truth. 30 Apr. 2010. Web. 13 May 2011. <;.

[27]Against Heresies, Book 3.2.2.

[28]Ibid., Book 3.3.1,3

[29]Ibid., Book 4.26.2

[30] Alfeyev, Bishop Hilarion. “Will the Ecumenical Ship Sink?” Interview. In Communion. Orthodox Peace Fellowship, 23 Apr. 2006. Web. 12 May 2011. <;.

Works Cited

Alfeyev, Bishop Hilarion. “Will the Ecumenical Ship Sink?” Interview. In Communion.

Orthodox Peace Fellowship, 23 Apr. 2006. Web. 12 May 2011.


All Representatives and Presidents of the Twenty Sacred Monasteries of the Holy Mountain of

Athos. “Letter to the Ecumenical Patriarch Concerning the Balamand Agreement.”

Trans. George S. Gabriel. The Ark 39-40 (1994).

Archbishop Dimitri. “Letter from Archbishop Dimitri to Metropolitan Theodosius on the

Balamand Agreement.” Orthodox Christian Witness (Oct. 8, 1995).

Archbishop Gregory. “Athenagoras (1948-1972).” True Orthodox Polemics. 2005. Web. 12 May

2011. <;.

Barker, Patrick G., trans. “Papism, the Hagiorite Fathers, and the Aftermath of the “Balamand

Union.” Orthodox Tradition: p. 16. Orthodox Christian Information Center. 11 May

2011. <;.

Cavarnos, Constantine. Ecumenism Examined: a Concise Analytical Discussion of the Contemporary

 Ecumenical Movement. Belmont, MA: Institute for Byzantine and Modern Greek

Studies, 1996, pp. 11, 28-30. Akropolis, June 29, 1963.

“Ecumenism Awareness: The Balamand Agreement.” Orthodox Christian Information Center.

Web. 13 May 2011. <;.

Erickson, Fr. John H. “Concerning the Balamand Statement.” Greek Orthodox Theological

 Review 42.1-2 (1997).

Episkepsis, No. 520, 31 July 1995.

“Is the Papacy a Church?” Orthodox and Catholic Union: The Reply of the Holy Orthodox

 Church to Roman Catholic Overtures on Reunion and Ecumenism. Seattle: St. Nectarios,


Moss, Vladimir. “Ten Reasons Why the Ecumenical Patriarchate is Not Orthodox.” Vladimir Moss:

 Orthodox Christianity Author. 29 Sept. 2009. Web. 12 May 2011.             <


Popovich, St. Justin. “Reflections on the Infallibility of European Man.” Orthodox Faith and Life

 in Christ. Ed. Asterios Gerostergios. Belmont, MA: Institute for Byzantine and Modern

Greek Studies, 1994.

“Quotes from St. Justin Popovich on the Papacy and the Apostolicity of the Church.” Full of

 Grace and Truth. 30 Apr. 2010. Web. 13 May 2011. <http://full-of-grace-and->.

Romanides, Fr. John. “A Critique of the Balamand Agreement.” Theologia 6.4 (1993): 570-80.

Scopelos, Bishop Vsevolod. “Reflections on Balamand.” Greek Orthodox Theological Review

42.3-4 (1997).

Sherrard, Philip. Church, Papacy, and Schism: a Theological Enquiry. London: S.P.C.K., 1978.

St. Ignatius of Antioch, To the Ephesians.

— To the Magnesians

— To the Philippians

— To Polycarp

— To the Symerneans

—  To the Trallians

St. Irenaeus of Lyons, Against Heresies.

Walsh, Michael J. “Popes, Roman Catholic, and the Papacy.” The Cambridge Dictionary of

 Christianity. Ed. Daniel Patte. 2010

Young, Archpriest Alexey. The Rush to Embrace. Richfield Springs, NY: Nikodemos Orthodox

Publication Society, 1996

Posted by: oldbelieving | March 6, 2012

On the Panagia

make sure to read the footnotes!!



Jesse Dominick




The theology of the Holy Orthodox Church is a seamless garment that is firmly grounded in the reality of the famous Patristic dictum “For He was made man that we might be made God.”[1] There has been but one true revolution in the history of the world and that is precisely the Incarnation in the flesh of the eternal Logos in the person of the God-man Jesus Christ, whereby the power of sin, corruption, death and the authority of Satan are shattered and the chasm between the uncreated God and His creation is bridged. If the Incarnation is the foundational mystery of the faith then the person of Mary the Theotokos from whom Christ received His flesh and was born also stands at the center of the faith. Thus Fr. Sergius Bulgakov states that “love and veneration of the Virgin is the soul of Orthodox piety, its heart, that which warms and animates its entire body,” and “A faith in Christ which does not include … the veneration of [H]is mother is another faith, another Christianity from that of the Orthodox Church.”[2] Her icons abundantly adorn and her praises are fervently sung in every Orthodox temple and home. Our bishops who bear the heavy Cross of archpastorship also bear the icon of the Panagia who bore her own Cross to a height “more honorable than the Cherubim and more glorious beyond compare than the Seraphim.” She is an image of the Church both as the Mother of God and as our supreme example of human purity and thus she holds such a prominent position in the Church.

Panagia[3] is our helper and protector and the Joy of All Who Sorrow. To contemplate Christ it is necessary to contemplate the person of His most pure Mother.  However, we do well to heed the words of St. Epiphanius of Cyprus which warn of problems generally seen in Catholic and Protestant faiths: “There is an equal harm in both these heresies, both when men demean the Virgin and when, on the contrary, they glorify her beyond what is proper.”[4] From an Orthodox perspective, Catholicism often lapses into excess devotion and dogmatics concerning the Theotokos, but the Protestants unfortunately generally ignore her, seeing her as a mere vessel whose role is over once Christ is born. In Orthodoxy, she is always integrally connected to her Son, the Lord Jesus Christ. In icons she is always depicted with Christ except in scenes from her life, which are understood to be preparing her for Christ, and when she is depicted praying to Christ. She never seeks for nor accepts glory of her own but always points us to her Son.


The Ark of the New Covenant

The Old Testament contains many prophecies, allegories, and typologies concerning the Theotokos, beginning in the book of Genesis. Eve, the virgin who said “no” is seen as a foreshadowing of Mary, the virgin who said “yes,” and Genesis 3:15 prophesies the woman whose seed would crush Satan. There are many others including Jacob’s ladder, Gideon’s dewy fleece, the queen of Psalm 45, and of course the virgin prophesied in Isaiah 7:14, which could all be treated extensively on their own. One important connection expounded by the Church Fathers is that of the Ark of the Covenant and the Mother of God[5]. Although it is not explicitly stated in Scripture, a careful study reveals that it is the undeniable teaching of the Scriptures, and especially of the Gospel of the Evangelist Luke who personally knew the Theotokos, that she is the Ark of the New Covenant.

According to the commandment of God, the Ark of the Covenant was made of the rare shittim wood[6] and overlaid with pure gold (Ex. 25:10-11) and in it was contained the word of God on stone – the tablets of the Mosaic Law, a jar of manna, and Aaron’s budded rod which signifies the Jewish priesthood (Heb. 9:4). The spirit and glory of the Lord filled the tent wherein was kept the Ark and overshadowed it (Ex. 40:34-35), and God spoke to the people of Israel from the mercy seat of the Ark (Ex. 25:22). The Theotokos is a woman rare in her obedience to God who was “overlaid” with the pure gold of the Son of God, bearing in her womb the Lord Jesus Christ Who is the Word of God in flesh and the fulfillment of the Law, the bread of life, and the one High Priest Who budded forth from the grave (Matt. 5:17, John 6:35, Heb. 3:1). At the Annunciation she was overshadowed by the power and Spirit of God (Lk. 1:35), and the Word of God comes to us from her.

During the reign of Saul the Ark was captured by the Philistines but was returned after seven months. King David retrieved the Ark but fearing the wrath of God he asked, “How shall the ark of the LORD come to me?” and he took it to the hill country of Judah to the house of Obed-Edom the Gittite where it stayed for three months and blessed his house. Later David shouted for joy and danced wearing a priestly ephod in the presence of the Ark as it was being returned to Jerusalem where its glory would be revealed in the newly built Temple (2 Sam. 6). While pregnant with the Lord, the Theotokos traveled to the hill country of Judah (Judea) to the home of her cousin Elizabeth who greeted her with the words: “And whence is this to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?” She stayed there for three months and is thrice described as “blessed” by Elizabeth. At the sight of the Theotokos Elizabeth exclaimed with joy, “Blessed art thou among women,” and the babe, St. John the Forerunner, of priestly lineage leapt in her womb at the sound of Mary’s voice. After returning home, Mary traveled to Jerusalem to present Christ, the Son of God, in the Temple. (Luke 1:39-56, 2:21-22).

Finally, in the book of Revelation, St. John beheld a vision of the temple of God containing the Ark of the Covenant and immediately begins to describe a woman in the heavens who bore a child against whom the red dragon fought[7], and who would rule all nations and was caught up to God (11:19-12:5).  If read literally this can only apply to the Theotokos for she alone gave birth to a Child Who would rule all nations. Archbishop Averky of Syracuse writes that the woman in Revelation 12 represents rather the Church, because the Theotokos did not experience birth pains as did the woman in St. John’s vision[8]. However, it is a common Patristic teaching that Christ’s entrusting of His mother to the beloved disciple from the Cross indicates that she is the mother of all Christians and thus of the Church, [9] and that the sword of St. Symeon’s prophecy pierced her soul as she stood at the foot of the Cross.[10] The Church also proclaims this in Her hymnography: “’A sword hath gone through my heart, O Son,’ said the Virgin in her grief, as she beheld Christ her Son and Master hanging on the Tree.”[11] As it is Christ’s passion, and Resurrection, which gives birth to the Church then the “birth pains” of Revelation 12:2 can refer to her pain of soul at the Cross which births her spiritual children. And although many Church Fathers do identify the woman in Revelation as the Church,[12] it is also common to see in the Theotokos a figure of the Church. St. Ephraim of Syria writes, “The Virgin Mary is a symbol of the Church, when she receives the first announcement of the gospel … We call the Church by the name of Mary, for she deserves a double name.”[13] Furthermore, according to the Painter’s Manual or Hermeneia of Dionysius of Fourna, the twelfth chapter of Revelation is to be illustrated with the Theotokos as the woman of St. John’s vision, and the Akathist for the Dormition, as celebrated on the Holy Mountain, identifies the vision as a type of the glory of the Mother of God: “The heavenly sign was a type of thy glory, O Mother, which I beheld in the Revelation; for thou didst then appear unto me as a woman clad with the intellectual Sun …”[14]

Mary as the Theotokos

The Biblical typology of Mary as the Ark of the New Covenant illustrates well the Orthodox approach to the Theotokos, of venerating her as she connects to and leads us to her Son. The original Ark contained prefigurements of Christ, and the Virgin contained Christ Himself, Who is God. Thus the Church proclaims her to be the “Theotokos,” meaning the “God-bearer,” a title officially bestowed upon her at the Third Ecumenical Council in 431, although it was already in use long before. The earliest usage of the term is found in Origen’s Commentary on Romans and in St. Dionysius of Alexandria’s epistle to Paul of Samosata, and Blessed Theodoret of Cyrrhus even wrote that the term is of Apostolic origin,[15] but through St. Gregory the Theologian it became the standard of orthodoxy: “If anyone does not believe that Saint Mary is the Mother of God (θεοτόκος), he is severed from the Godhead.”[16] Of course the belief that Mary gave birth to God was already enshrined in the Nicene Creed and had even been taught as early as St. Ignatius of Antioch: “For our God, Jesus Christ, was, according to the appointmentof God, conceived in the womb by Mary, of the seed of David, but by the Holy Ghost.”[17] But lest it be thought that St. Gregory would condemn on the basis of Mary alone, he firmly grounds “Theotokos” in the economy of salvation: “If any introduces the notion of two Sons, one of God the Father, the other of the mother, and discredits the unity and identity, may he lose his part in the adoption promised to those who believe aright … For that which He has not assumed He has not healed; but that which is united to His Godhead is also saved.”[18] The Church proclaims Mary as the Theotokos to safeguard the essential teaching that Christ is both fully man and fully God, united in one hypostasis that dwelt in the womb of Mary.

However, the heresiarch Nestorius, Archbishop of Constantinople (428-431), taught precisely what his predecessor, St. Gregory, had condemned. Building on the Christology of Diodore of Tarsus and Theodore of Mopsuestia, Nestorius refused to apply to the Virgin Mary the term “Theotokos,” preferring rather “Christotokos.” He wrote, “If any one says that the man who was formed of the Virgin is the Only-begotten … and does not rather confess that he has obtained the designation of Only-begotten on account of his connection with him who in nature is the Only-begotten of the Father … let him be anathema,” and at the Third Ecumenical Council he proclaimed that he could never confess that a child of three months was God.[19] Several Fathers rose up against this “two-Son” Christology, most notably St. Cyril of Alexandria. In his Second Letter to Nestorius he wrote, “Confessing the Word to be made one with the flesh according to substance, we adore one Son and Lord Jesus Christ: we do not divide the God from the man, nor separate him into parts, as though the two natures were mutually united in him only through a sharing of dignity and authority,” and as regards the place of the Theotokos: “Since the holy Virgin brought forth corporally God made one with flesh according to nature, for this reason we also call her Mother of God (Theotokos), not as if the nature of the Word had the beginning of its existence from the flesh.”[20] Under the leadership of St. Cyril the Third Ecumenical Council deposed and excommunicated Nestorius, and the Formula of Reunion of 433 declared Mary to be “Theotokos,” thus preserving Orthodox soteriology. Christ united full Divinity to full humanity, perfecting it, and it was truly God Who died and rose again, defeating the power of death. St. Ephraim of Syria says that “those who deny that the Holy Virgin is actually Theotokos are no longer believers, but disciples of the Pharisees and Sadducees.”[21]

Her Ever-Virginity

The Ark of the Covenant was the holiest artifact of the Mosaic religion as the seat of God’s presence and glory and accordingly, no man could touch it, at penalty of death (2 Sam. 6:6-7). Correspondingly, the Church professes the Theotokos to be “Ever-Virgin” – “untouched” by any man. Concerning the “brothers and sisters” of Christ, the Church follows the Protoevangelium of James which teaches that they are children of Joseph’s previous marriage, as he was considerably older than the Theotokos (chapter 9).[22] Furthermore, several Fathers teach that if the Theotokos had other children then she would have lived with them following Christ’s Crucifixion rather than with the beloved disciple to whom Christ entrusted His mother.[23] Of course Christ’s virgin birth is an essential point of orthodoxy, but St. Gregory of Nyssa finds in the Virgin’s wonderment at St. Gabriel’s Annunciation even a vow of lifelong virginity. He writes:

The angel brings the glad tidings of childbearing, but she is concerned with virginity and holds that her integrity should come before the angelic message. She does not refuse to believe the angel; neither does she move away from her convictions. She says: I have given up any contact with man. “How will this happen to me, since I do not know man?” (Lk. 1:34) … if Joseph had taken her to be his wife, for the purpose of having children, why would she have wondered at the announcement of maternity, since she herself would have accepted becoming a mother  according to the law of nature?[24]

The perpetual virginity of the Theotokos is the teaching of nearly every Church Father, beginning with Clement and Origen of Alexandria[25], and is affirmed by the Fifth Ecumenical Council in its second and sixth anathemas. Moreover, the term “Ever-Virgin” is used in every Orthodox service and the Church appoints to be read at many feasts of the Theotokos the Ezekiel passage of the eastern gate through which the Messiah passes and which remains closed (43:27-44:4) in which the Church sees a foretelling of the Virgin’s womb remaining closed. Moreover, every icon of the Theotokos depicts her with a star on her head and one on each shoulder which represents her virginity before, during, and after giving birth to Christ.

Of course there are those in Christian history and today who deny this impregnable teaching of the Church. Tertullian believed that the “brothers and sisters” of Christ were full-blood relations and that Mary could not have remained a virgin while giving birth to Christ. For him, Christ’s birth necessarily opened her womb.[26] Her virginity during her childbearing will be further addressed.  St. Jerome wrote feverishly against the heretic Helvidius who taught the equality of the virginal and married life, both exemplified by the Theotokos. Regarding Matthew 1:18: “before they came together, she was found with child of the Holy Spirit,” St. Jerome explains that although “before” often indicates a consequence it can merely show what was being planned beforehand[27]. Regarding the term “firstborn” as applied to Christ, he responds that to be a first child does not necessitate that others follow after[28]. Numbers 18:15 commands that the firstborn child, the child who opens the womb, be commended to God. Of course a mother did not have to wait for other children before considering her first to be her firstborn. He also refutes Helvidius’ exegesis of Matthew 1:25: “and he did not know her till she had brought forth her firstborn Son,” that “till” demanded that Joseph sexually knew Mary following the birth of Christ[29]. St. John Chrysostom addresses the same verse.[30]

Regarding the question of the necessity of this doctrine, it can be shown that the Fathers do find much importance in the teaching. Sts. Athanasius, Cyril of Jerusalem, and Gregory the Theologian among many others see in the Theotokos a sublime example for those celibates who would come after her[31], and Sts. John Chrysostom and Jerome state that it would have been unbecoming of the righteous Joseph to have carnal relations with the woman who is the temple of God and brought forth in a new and miraculous manner of childbearing.[32] Again, the teaching of Panagia as “Ever-Virgin” preserves her identity as the Ark of the New Covenant which preserves the divinity of her Son and our Lord Jesus Christ. However, it should be noted that this teaching applies not only to her bodily virginity, but even moreso to her spiritual virginity. Archimandrite Vassilios Bakoyannis writes, “It is easier to keep the body purer than the soul. What is required for the latter is life-long, vigilant, humble struggle … the peculiar characteristic of the Virgin, then, isn’t that she remained a virgin in the body, but that for all of her life she was a virgin in the depths of her soul. We denigrate the comeliness of the Virgin if we restrict it to the body.”[33] Thus in all aspects of Christian spiritual warfare the Theotokos stands as our supreme example after Christ. In a certain sense, she alone lived the life of Paradise for she alone is both Virgin and Mother.

Virgin During Birth

When discussing the ever-virginity of Panagia it is important to emphasize that she was truly a virgin during the birthing of Christ. This means, and the Church professes, that her childbearing was painless and did not open her womb, as Ezekiel 43:27-44:4 prophesies. The Church also sees a prophecy of her painless childbearing in Isaiah 66:7: “Before she travailed, she brought forth; before her pain came, she was delivered of a man child.” In Christian times the teaching is initially found in the apocryphal works of The Ascension of Isaiah (11:8-14; c. 150-200), the Odes of Solomon (19:6-10; c. 100-200), and the Protoevangelium of James (chapter 19-20; c. 145), but is also continually asserted by the Church Fathers[34] and is taught by Canon 79 of the Council of Trullo which states, “Confessing the divine childbirth to have resulted from the Virgin without confinement (i.e., childbed), as well as without its being induced by seed …” St. Nikodemos the Hagiorite says that childbed “consists in giving birth to an infant with the accompanying pangs of childbirth and is followed by a flux of blood, according to Zonaras.”[35]

Whereas the sin of Eve caused women to bring forth in travail (Gen. 3:15), the Archangel Gabriel cries to the Theotokos “rejoice!” indicating that the curse is to be overturned by the birth of Christ. Following this, several Fathers taught that her childbearing was painless because it was caused without the pleasure of intimacy. Commenting on the prophecy of Isaiah, St. Gregory of Nyssa writes:

You have already been told of the unmarried Mother, the fatherless flesh, and the painless childbirth, which was unlike the usual birth with its birthpangs. You should understand that the reason for such pain is quite natural, since any pleasure is linked with pain, and thus it is necessary to take into consideration the connection between the two. It must be understood that if the first does not exist then neither can the second. Whatever is not preceded by pleasure cannot be followed by pain. After all, this is the prophecy of the Prophet.[36]

Similarly, St. Hesychios states that the Theotokos did not experience the travails of childbirth because “the virginal vineyard was not tilled.”[37] St. John of Damascus also writes that Christ’s birth was both according to the laws of parturition and above the laws of generation “for, as pleasure did not precede it, pain did not follow it.”[38] This teaching is perhaps most forcefully and extensively treated by St. Maximus the Confessor for whom the Fall was a perversion of man’s capacity for spiritual pleasure into a hedonistic search for sensible pleasures, which introduces pain into the life of man and the cosmos. He sees the introduction of sexual passions and especially the rule of sexual procreation as a foremost sign of this law of pleasure and pain. Sexual intercourse is a result of sensible pleasure, and gives rise to birth through pain. Therefore, Christ broke the law of pleasure by being born without pleasure, and He broke the law of pain by His painless birth:

After the transgression pleasure naturally preconditioned the births of all human beings, and no one at all was by nature free from birth subject to the passion associated with this pleasure; rather everyone was requited with sufferings, and subsequent death, as the natural punishment. The way to freedom was hard for all who were tyrannized by unrighteous pleasure and naturally subject to just suffering and to the thoroughly just death accompanying them. In order for unrighteous pleasure, and the thoroughly just death which is its consequence, to be abolished (seeing as suffering humanity has been so pitiably torn asunder by them, with human beings deriving the beginning of their existence from the corruption associated with pleasure, and coming to the end of their life in the corruption of death), and in order for suffering human nature to be set right, it was necessary for an unjust and likewise uncaused suffering and death to be conceived – a death “unjust” in the sense that it by no means followed a life given to passions, and “uncaused” in the sense that it was in no way preceded by pleasure.[39]

This truth is also represented in icons of the Nativity which do not depict the Mother of God lying fatigued in childbed, but rather kneeling in worship of her Son. Furthermore, because the Theotokos gave birth as a virgin and without pain and afterbirth, the Church prays to Christ, “By Thy nativity, Thou didst sanctify the Virgin’s womb” in the Kontakion for the feast of the Meeting of the Lord. Not only was she preserved inviolate, but she was even sanctified. The Church upholds and proclaims her painless childbearing as witness to her virginity and the Divinity of her Son, and the freeing of the world from the dialectic of pleasure and pain.

Dormition and Assumption

There are many feasts of the Mother of God, commemorating the events of her life, her intercessions for us after her death, and her innumerable miraculous icons. Her most significant and solemn feast is certainly her Dormition which includes her bodily Assumption, commemorated on August 15th and preceded by two weeks of fasting. The feast is often known as the “summer Pascha,” and is celebrated with great pomp throughout the Orthodox world. For instance, in Jerusalem on August 12th a Liturgy is served at Little Gethsemane, followed by a Molieben and a procession with her burial shroud to her sepulcher in Gethsemane proper, in which all the members of the Russian Spiritual Mission participate. On the morning of August 14th the clergy, monastics, and faithful embark upon a two-hour procession from the Jerusalem Patriarchate which culminates in the service of Lamentations[40] at the Gethsemane Skete, where is placed the burial shroud of the Mother of God amidst fragrant flowers and myrtle and adorned with precious coverings. On the Apodosis of the feast (August 23rd) the burial shroud is returned in another solemn procession.[41] This is but one of the celebrations throughout the Orthodox world that could be described that demonstrate the great love for the Theotokos that resides in the hearts of the Orthodox faithful.

Following the resolution of the Nestorian controversy in 433, public veneration of the Theotokos in liturgical and artistic settings took on greater importance and spread rapidly. Several churches and monasteries were built in her honor in the fifth century, and she was celebrated throughout the whole empire on a day before or after the Nativity since the late fourth century. The ancient Armenian lectionary from Jerusalem compiled between 412 and 439 lists the commemoration of the Mother of God on August 15th in the Church of the Kathisma,[42] and the feast was made obligatory in the East as a celebration of her Dormition by Emperor Maurice (582-602).[43]

Interest in the death of Mary existed in Palestine by the late fourth century, possibly connected with the tradition surrounding her tomb in the Kedron Valley. An early witness to this interest is St. Epiphanius of Salamis, and his words are surprising. He writes, “nor do I say that she remained immortal; but I also will not say definitively that she died. For the Scripture goes far beyond the human mind, and has left this point undecided because of the surpassing dignity of that vessel [of God] …” and “If the holy Virgin died and was buried, her falling-asleep was honorable and her end holy; her crown consisted in her virginity … Or else she remained alive; for it is not impossible for God to do whatever [H]e wills. In fact, no one knows her end.”[44] This ambiguity is compatible with the Roman Catholic dogma of the Assumption of Mary which was proclaimed on November 1, 1950 by Pope Pius XII and states: “the Immaculate Mother of God, the ever Virgin Mary, having completed the course of her earthly life, was assumed body and soul into heavenly glory” (emphasis added). Following this intentional ambiguity, Roman Catholics are free to believe that she died, or not, but it is clear that by the time of Emperor Maurice’s decree the feast was universally understood to include both her death and Assumption, and this is the unquestionable understanding of the Orthodox Church.[45]

There is a long and complicated development of the traditions surrounding the Dormition and Assumption of the Theotokos. For most scholars the earliest extant witness to the story is found in a group of Syriac fragments dated to the late fifth century which describes the death of Mary, the reception of her soul by Christ, and the placing of her body in Paradise underneath the tree of life. There are also two Greek accounts from the late fifth or early sixth century, one attributed to St. John the Theologian, which expand on the Syriac account and include many of the details officially adopted by the Church and presented in the hymnography for the feast of the Dormition and in the Synaxarion.[46] There is also a passage in On the Divine Names by St. Dionysius the Areopagite that speaks of the Apostles gathering to gaze at the body that was the vessel of God. Scholars consider this a pseudepigraphal work from late-fifth-century Syria, but notable Orthodox voices such as Fr. John Romanides and Fr. Dumitru Stăniloaeupheld the authenticity of the writings, meaning there could actually be a first-century reference to the Dormition of the Theotokos.[47] Following these fragments and disputed works, the oldest extant Greek homily for the feast is that of John of Thessalonica who served as metropolitan between 610 and 649, and the roughly contemporary sermon of the Palestinian bishop Theoteknos of Livias.[48] There are several other well-known early homilies on the Dormition by St. Modestus of Jerusalem, St. Andrew of Crete, St. Germanus of Constantinople, St. John of Damascus, and St. Theodore the Studite, among others.

Through the hymns for the feast of the Dormition and the Synaxarion the Church depicts the story of Mary’s passing from this life and her translation into Heaven. Having asked to be given notice of her coming repose, the Archangel Gabriel appeared to the Mother of God three days prior, announcing her coming sleep and handing her a palm branch from Paradise which indicated that in death she would overcome corruption. Rejoicing at the news she went to pray on the Mount of Olives, where even the trees bowed in reverence to her. She then returned home and prepared herself for her burial. Her friends lamented that they were losing her but she assured them that she would continue to pray for them and the whole world. Suddenly there was a noise like thunder and her house was filled with the Apostles who had been miraculously gathered from around the world to bid farewell to the Theotokos – all except for the Apostle Thomas. Having taken leave of all present she prayed to Christ for peace throughout the world and gave up her holy soul to her Son and God Who had appeared with the Archangel Michael and a host of angels. According to some texts, Christ personally received her soul because she had prayed that He would protect her from the aerial toll houses.[49] As was her childbearing, her death was painless.

As the Apostles carried her bier in procession and sang with the angels the Jews became enraged and the priest Jephoniah attempted to overturn her bier but his hands were cut off by the sword of divine wrath. The sight of his severed arms brought him to repentance and he was healed by St. Peter. The Apostles buried her most pure body in the Garden of Gethsemane, remaining in prayer and hymning for three days. On the third day, a Sunday, the Apostle Thomas arrived, lamenting the fact that he had not been blessed to bid farewell to the Mother of God, and so the Apostles decided to open her tomb to allow him to venerate her body. However, they were astonished to find that her body was no longer in the tomb, and they realized that she had been assumed bodily into Heaven to be reunited with her Son as our advocate before God.[50] As Christ appeared to His disciples, proving His Resurrection, so too did the Mother of God appear to the disciples as they ate, saying, “Rejoice. I am always with you.”[51] Following the Lord’s Ascension whenever the Apostles ate they would remove a portion of bread for the Lord and lifting it up proclaim “Great is the name of the Holy Trinity! O Lord Jesus Christ, help us,” and each would partake of the Lord’s portion. However, this time they proclaimed instead “All-holy Mother of God, save us!” and ever since a piece of Panagia bread has been set aside in her honor. This custom is traditionally followed still today in Orthodox monasteries. The Apostles were then miraculously taken back to their respective mission fields.

It should be noted that although the Orthodox Church has not formally proclaimed the Assumption of Mary as has the Catholic Church, it is no less an unwavering teaching of the Orthodox Church, as seen in its hymnographic, hagiographic, and Patristic literature. Thus the oft-made assertion that it is not dogmatic is problematic because it gives the false impression that the faithful Orthodox Christian can justifiably deny the Assumption of Panagia and fails to recognize the many avenues through which the Church proclaims the glory of Her truths. Her tomb in Jerusalem is indeed empty.

Flowery language and theological reflections characterize the Patristic homilies on the Dormition and Assumption of the Theotokos. Two major points of emphasis are the Virgin’s incorrupt death and Assumption as a confirmation of the work of Christ that will culminate in the general resurrection of all mankind and her continuing and heightened role as intercessor for all mankind. Her death is a mystery, as St. Andrew of Crete says[52], and the final mystery bestowed upon her, rooted in the Mystery of Christ’s triumph over death. For St. Maximus, as Christ and His Mother have overturned the law of pleasure and pain through His pleasureless and painless birth, and as Christ has defeated death by His death and Resurrection, transforming it from a condemnation of human nature into a condemnation of sin, the same becomes true of the Saints, first of all and especially the Theotokos.[53] The same is true for St. John of Damascus who says that she overcame nature by her unique childbearing and therefore “It was fitting that she, who preserved her virginity undamaged by childbirth, should have her body preserved from corruption in death,”[54] and thus her passing is referred to as a “deathless Dormition.”[55] Although she was above nature, she submitted to the corruption of death as had her Son: “Imitating your Creator and Son, above nature you submit to the laws of nature.”[56] She was a little lower than the angels through mortality, but “by her proximity to the God of all … she has ascended higher than the angels and the archangels and all the hosts that are found beyond them.”[57] According to St. Andrew of Crete because she was so intimately tied into the economy of salvation her life cannot simply end in death.[58]

Commenting on St. Gregory Palamas’ statement that “she, like her Son, yielded for a short time to nature”[59]  (emphasis added), Dr. Christopher Veniamin writes that, according to St. Maximus, we can even go so far as to say her death was by economy and therefore voluntary, and that the same is true of all the righteous in Christ.[60] Elsewhere Dr. Veniamin writes:

Following the regeneration of our nature through baptism and the seal of the Holy Spirit (i.e. chrismation), our mortal and passable bodies are such only by divine economy, see St. Maximus the Confessor, Letters to Thalassius LXI (PG 90:625-645), inasmuch as the saints voluntarily lay down their lives (as did Christ), even though they are blameless and innocent. Their innocence means that sin, and therefore death too, has no hold over them. Thus, their innocent and unjust death is like that of Christ, and signifies their triumph (through Christ) over the devil and death.[61]

This follows from St. Gregory’s statement that although the Lord has regenerated us through baptism and chrismation for the day of redemption “He has allowed us still to have a body which is mortal and passable.”[62] This is a great mystery. Through Christ all corruption and death can be defeated within us, as it is in the Theotokos, and thus in some way our death becomes voluntary although it is according to the mortal nature we inherit at birth. But the death of the Theotokos, which is the culmination of the Biblical story of redemption[63] has ushered in the experience that all men have been called to since the creation of Adam and Eve. Had they not sinned, Adam and Eve and all their descendants would have acquired immortality, and so she who is All-Holy, the Panagia, could not be held by the tomb. And we do not say that Christ simply chose to raise her body, but rather that death itself could not hold her. St. John of Damascus asks, “How could death swallow [the Virgin]? These things are alien and forever foreign to her God-bearing soul and body.”[64] Noting its embarrassment at the hands of Christ, St. John also states that death approached the Theotokos with trepidation: “It learned from its mistake.”[65] Her painless death and Assumption into glory are a confirmation of the saving work of Jesus Christ, and her passage is the first of that of which all of redeemed humanity will partake.

The Theotokos is the greatest advocate of men before God. It is to her that we flee after God Himself and her petitions fill our services and prayers. She is truly the mother of the Church and her abundant love overflows on us all. At the wedding at Cana she interceded before her Son, her last act on earth was to pray for peace, and she continues in this role in an inestimably greater capacity now that she is body and soul in heaven with Christ. This is a continual theme in Patristic Dormition homilies. It is treated by St. John of Thessalonica, who teaches that Christ has mercy on those who praise His mother, Theoteknos of Livias, St. Theodore the Studite, St. John Maximovitch, etc. [66] She is especially praised in this capacity by St. Germanus of Constantinople: “In times of tribulation you are near, and we find safety in seeking your help; and when it is time to rejoice, you are joy’s sponsor. Whenever we find ourselves completely under your maternal care, we cannot help believing that you live among us … every faith-filled heart runs towards you … every right-believing Christian bears you on his lips.”[67] He even conceives of her as the central channel of grace: “no one is saved but through you, Mother of God; no one is free of danger but through you, Mother of God; no one is redeemed but through you, Mother of God …”[68] St. John of Damascus writes that through her entry into Heaven she has won for us all good things, and St. Gregory Palamas writes that she forevermore bestows her blessings upon all of creation, as she promised just before her repose.[69]

Because she is closest to God she is able to intercede more powerfully than all, including the angels.[70] It is because her prayers benefit much before the Lord that we call on her constantly in life and it is even to her that we turn for protection at the moment of, and after our death. St. Ephraim of Syria supplicates: “O my Lady, do not leave me in the terrible hour of death, but hasten to my aid and deliver me from the bitter torments of the demons. For if thou choosest, thou has the power to accomplish this, for thou art truly the Mother of God, who reignest over all,”[71] and the same is asked every evening at the service of Small Compline. Prior to her soul’s entrance into Heaven she was shown the horrors of Hades by the Archangel Gabriel that she might have greater compassion on those who suffer. This is referred to in the hymnography of the Church.[72] According to Archimandrite Vassilios Bakoyannis she entreated Christ to have mercy on the souls that suffer there and so they are given respite between Pascha and Pentecost each year, and for this reason the Royal Doors remain open, the Saturday of Pentecost is dedicated to the departed, and the third kneeling prayer of Pentecost is a supplication for the departed.[73] In this way she continues to bring consolation to even those in physical and spiritual death. She is the Ark in the heavens residing with her Son. She is quick to hear, and the joy of all who sorrow because she fervently entreats the Lord on our behalves. This is enshrined in the Kontakion of the feast of the Dormition: “Neither the tomb, nor death could hold the Theotokos, Who is constant in prayer and our firm hope in her intercessions. For being the Mother of Life, She was translated to life by the One who dwelt in her virginal womb.”

Her Sinlessness

All the honors showered upon her are due not solely to the fact that the Theotokos bore God in the flesh, but, as Christ said, that she heard the word of God and kept it in her heart. She alone among men has preserved in full the grace that she received. Christ’s humanity was fully deified by virtue of its hypostatic union to His divinity from the moment of His conception, but the Theotokos was born with the same fallen nature of which all men partake. Orthodoxy absolutely does not confess the Roman Catholic doctrine of the Immaculate Conception which exempts the Mother of God from the stain of Original Sin.[74] Furthermore, the Catholics wrongly understand the ancestral inheritance to include the guilt of Adam’s sin. Orthodoxy proclaims that no one is born guilty, and thus Panagia was in no need of a special dispensation. Instead the Church professes as St. John Maximovitch writes: “The righteousness and sanctity of the Virgin Mary were manifested in the fact that She, being ‘human with passions like us,’ so loved God and gave Herself over to Him, that by Her purity She was exalted high above the rest of the human race.”[75]

It is true that there has been some disagreement on this issue. St. John Chrysostom sees ambition in her at the wedding at Cana, and vanity when she comes to see Him as He preached, and both Origen and St. Basil interpret St. Symeon’s sword as doubt piercing her heart at the foot of the Cross.[76] However, St. Basil immediately asserts that she conquered such thoughts through heroic struggle. The economy of salvation is a mystery as is the role of the Theotokos, as we have seen. The Church had to internalize and ponder this great mystery, and having done so undoubtedly proclaims to us her complete purity. The majority of Saints boldly proclaim her purity.[77] For example, St. Cyril of Alexandria says that “it is unseemly to impute any sin or transgression to the Virgin.”[78] Furthermore, the rule of prayer is the rule of faith, and in the services we continually hear and proclaim Mary as our “most holy, pure, blessed, and glorious Lady,” and at the Vigil for her Entrance into the Temple we hear her described as “The glorious gate, impenetrable to evil thoughts.”[79] These are but two of the innumerable examples that could be brought forth.

Archimandrite Vassilios Bakoyannis writes that the Patristic corpus sees two major temptations of the Virgin: when Christ was lost at age twelve, and when she beheld Christ crucified. Regarding the seeming “carelessness” with her Son, Elder Sophrony writes: “’During her life on earth,’ writes St. Silouan the Athonite, ‘she did not yet have totality of knowledge. So she suffered certain sinless mistakes of imperfection.’”[80] Thus, regarding the loss of Christ at age twelve, Archimandrite Vassilios states that “It would have been natural for her mind to be assailed by temptations at such an exceptionally difficult time. But this does not mean that she gave room for sinful thoughts. On the contrary, as a champion of spiritual struggles, she fought and won them.”[81] Regarding the Crucifixion, Fr. Vassilios follows St. Basil in allowing that the Theotokos may have momentarily questioned the divinity of her Son, but he also states that just as Christ did not sin in this moment “so His mother remained invulnerable to sin.”[82] He then considers sins of thought, word, and deed and affirms each time that the Theotokos remained pure. He asks that since she had no insidious thoughts or words at her most dreadful hours why would we believe she had them while at peace? Regarding deeds he affirms that as she experienced no sinful thoughts then she could not have experienced sinful deeds, as thoughts necessarily precede deeds.[83] So writes St. Nikodemos the Hagiorite: “The Mother of God was pure not only in body but in soul and thought. So her most pure and passionless intellect was never challenged by malicious thoughts. This merit was never given to any other person.”[84]

This can be a hard teaching to understand, especially for converts from Protestantism. The Scriptures teach time and again that none are without sin but Christ. Thus it must again be emphasized that only Christ is wholly without sin including the fallen sinful nature, whereas the Theotokos suffered from the same fallen nature and inclinations as does all mankind. But as the Scriptures teach, God will not allow us to be tempted beyond what we can bear (1 Cor. 10:13), and she bore all temptations with patience and grace. Even so, this is a hard saying. Even one as great as St. Silouan questioned her complete sinlessness. Elder Sophrony relates the words of St. Silouan:

I was in church and heard the prophecy of Isaiah (1:16), ‘you shall be washed and made clean,’ I thought:  ‘maybe Our Most Holy Lady sinned once even in thought.’ And then, what a miracle, in my heart a voice united with the prayer declared explicitly: ‘The Mother of God never sinned, even in thought.’ And he clarifies it by saying: ‘In this way, the Holy Spirit bore witness in my heart to her sanctity.’[85]

St. Gregory Palamas explains that God chose Mary “not simply from among ordinary folk, but from all the elect of every age” who were pious and well-pleasing to God, and he traces her lineage from Adam to Seth to Enos through David and through the righteous Sts. Joachim and Anna.[86] Joachim and Anna dedicated her to the Lord and took her to the Temple where the high priest recognized her unrivaled degree of grace and so led her into the Holy of Holies where she was fed heavenly food by the hand of an angel, and “in this way … she was chosen from the elect of all ages, who was declared the Holy of Holies, whose body was purer and more divine than spirits cleansed by virtue, to such an extent that she was able to receive … the person of the only-begotten Word of the Father.”[87] Her experience in the Holy of Holies cannot be overstated, for there she

chose to live in solitude out of the sight of all, inside the sanctuary. There, having loosed every bond with material things, shaken off every tie and even risen above sympathy towards her own body, she united her mind with its inclination to turn within itself, with attention and unceasing holy prayer. Having become her own mistress by this means, and being established above the jumble of thoughts in all their different guises, and above absolutely every form of being, she constructed a new, indescribable way to heaven, which could be called silence of mind. Intent upon this silence, she flew high above all created things, saw God’s glory more clearly than Moses (cf. Exod. 33:18-23), and beheld divine grace. Such experiences are completely beyond the scope of men’s senses, but they are a gracious and holy sight for spotless souls and minds.[88]

According to this testimony of St. Gregory, the Theotokos can be said to be the first hesychast. As we have seen, she again received immeasurable grace at her Annunciation which raised her to a new level of sanctification[89], and her painless child-birthing also sanctified her womb. She again received great grace at the foot of the Cross in order to bear the piercing of her soul by the pain of witnessing her Son’s unjust Crucifixion. She was the recipient of an abundant outpouring of grace from God, and she alone preserved herself blameless by preserving this grace. After Christ she is our example for the spiritual life, for she alone represents the fullness of redeemed humanity.

The importance and centrality of the Theotokos in the Orthodox Church cannot be overstated, and she cannot be praised enough. She is our greatest example after Christ and she is the mother of the Church, ever interceding on our behalves before the Lord. Through His Incarnation the Lord Jesus Christ has deified human nature, and by extension it is by her obedience to the word of the Lord from the Archangel Gabriel that fallen human nature has been healed. Her womb became more spacious than the heavens for in it she bore He who is uncontainable. She is the Ark of the New Covenant and truly Theotokos. She alone has given God something He did not already have – His humanity. And she gave her entire life over to God and received inestimable grace, and she alone has preserved in full the grace she received, and this devotion is expressed through her Ever-Virginity of both body and soul. Her virginal childbearing was painless and thus destroyed the cyclical attack of pleasure and pain on mankind. Her complete purity in thought, word, and deed found its fulfillment in her painless Dormition, for death and the grave could not hold her who was above nature. Christ Himself took her soul into the safe recesses of Paradise, and her body was also assumed three days later. She is the confirmation of the saving work of Jesus Christ and the coming resurrection. As the Church confesses, she resides in the heavenly mansions and prays for all the world. The Mother of God stands at the very heart of our faith, and the entire Church venerates her above any Saint or angel. As Fr. Bulgakov wrote, it is the love and veneration of the Theotokos that warms our hearts and the entire Body of Christ. She seeks no glory or honor for herself but points us only to Christ Who is the Savior of our souls.

It is truly meet to bless thee, O Theotokos,
ever blessed, and most pure, and the Mother of our God.
More honorable than the cherubim,
and more glorious beyond compare than the seraphim.
Without corruption thou gavest birth to God the Word.
True Theotokos, we magnify thee.


[1] The statement is most commonly associated with St. Athanasius the Great (On the Incarnation 54.3), although the idea was previously put forth by St. Irenaeus and has been repeated down through the centuries.

[2] Bulgakov, Fr. Sergius. Eastern Orthodox Theology: a Contemporary Reader. Ed. Daniel B. Clendenin. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2003, p. 66

[3] “Panagia” is an affectionate Greek term applied to the Theotokos  meaning “All-Holy.”

[4] Panarion, Against the Collyridians, quoted in Maximovitch, St. John. The Orthodox Veneration of Mary, the Birthgiver of God. Platina, CA: St. Herman of Alaska Brotherhood, 2004, p. 53

[5] St. Hesychios: “The ark of Thy sanctification is the Virgin Theotokos surely. If Thou art the Pearl, then she must be the ark” (De S. Maria Deip., in PG 93, 1469). See also St. Romanos, Hymns, in Sources Chretiennes (Lyons), 110, 122-3; St. Andrew of Crete, Homilies in PG 97, 869C; and St. John of Damascus, Homilies in PG 96, 725; all referenced in Holy Apostles Convent. The Life of the Virgin Mary, the Theotokos. Buena Vista, CO: Holy Apostles Convent, 1989, p. 468.

[6] The exact identification of shittim wood is debated, but it is typically identified with acacia wood. In any case it is certainly a rare wood.

[7] Thus referring to the enmity between the serpent and the woman and her seed in Genesis 3:15

[8] Taushev, Abp. Averky. The Apocalypse in the Teaching of Ancient Christianity: an Orthodox Commentary. Trans. Fr. Seraphim Rose. Platina, CA: St. Herman of Alaska Brotherhood, 1995, p. 178. The issue of her painless childbearing will be further addressed in this work.

[9] For example: St. George of Nicomedia, Homily 8, PG 100, 1477B; St. Epiphanios, Panarion 78; St. Nilos the Abbot, PG 79, 179D; St. Gregory Palamas, Homily 37 on the August Dormition of Our Most Immaculate Lady Theotokos, PG 151, 465A; St. John of Kronstadt. My Life in Christ, Or, Moments of Spiritual Serenity and Contemplation, of Reverent Feeling, of Earnest Self-amendment, and of Peace in God: Extracts from the Diary. Trans. Ernest Evgenʹevich. Gulia︡ev. Jordanville, NY: Holy Trinity Monastery, 1984, p. 305

[10] See Origen, On Luke Homily 18, PG 13, 1845; St. Basil, Letter 250, PG 32, 965; St. Cyril of Alexandria, On John 19.25, PG 74, 661-664; St. Hesychios, Sermon on the Presentation, PG 93, 1478; St. Romanos the Melodist, On the Presentation 13; The Venerable Bede, Hom. in Purif. 18, in Corpus Christianorum, Series Latina, Turnhout (1953), 122, 132; St. John of Damascus, Exposition of the Orthodox Faith 4.14; St. Theodore the Studite, 2nd Canon of Matins on Monday in the Third Week of Lent, Stavrotheotokion of Ode 8

[11] Tuesday Vepers, 1st Tone, Theotokion

[12] St. Hippolytus, Christ and Antichrist; St. Methodios, The Symposium: A Treatise on Chastity

[13] Sermo ad noct. Resurr., ed. Lamy, 1:534, quoted in Gambero, Luigi. Mary and the Fathers of the Church: the Blessed Virgin Mary in Patristic Thought. Trans. Thomas Buffer. San Francisco: Ignatius, 1999, p. 115. See also St. Ambrose, Exposito in Lucam 2.7, PL 15, 1635-36; St. Isidore of Seville, Quaestiones in Genesim 2.18, PL 83, 216 and Allegoriae 139, PL 83, 117. Virginity represents faithfulness on behalf of the people of God in the Old Testament, and conversely unfaithfulness is presented as impurity (see Jeremiah 18:13-15 and Ezekiel 23). This imagery is continued in the New Testament era. St. Paul writes to the Corinthians that it is his duty to preserve the “virginity” of the Church (2 Cor. 11:2-3), and in the Shepherd of Hermas the Church is presented as a virgin (4th Vision, chapter 2).

[14] Charitos, Minas. The Repose of Our Most Holy and Glorious Lady the Theotokos And Ever-virgin Mary and Her Translation to Heaven. Orthodox Christian Educational Society, 1963, p. 10, quoted in The Life of the Virgin Mary, The Theotokos, p. 501.

[15] Origen’s use is cited in Socrates’ Ecclesiastical History 7.32, although the genuineness of the cited text is debated. Nevertheless, Origen certainly accepts the idea if not the term. In his De Principiis 2.6.2 he writes “But of all the marvellous and mighty acts related of Him, this altogether surpasses human admiration, and is beyond the power of mortal frailness to understand or feel, how that … the Wisdom of God can have entered the womb of a woman, and have been born an infant, and have uttered wailings like the cries of little children!” St. Dionysius’ use of the term is referenced but not cited in Madeleine Cosman, Madeleine Pelner., and Linda Gale. Jones. Handbook to Life in the Medieval World. Vol. 3. New York: Facts On File, 2008, p. 331, as well as on several websites including his Orthodox Wikipedia entry: “Dionysius of Alexandria.” Orthodox Wiki. 4 Sept. 2011. Web. 11 Nov. 2011. <;.. New World Encyclopedia indicates that Bl. Theodoret wrote in 436 of the Apostolic origin of the term: “Theotokos.” New World Encyclopedia. 29 Aug. 2008. Web. 8 Nov. 2011. <;.

[16] Epistle 101, quoted in Quasten, Johannes. Patrology. Vol. 3. Allen, TX: Christian Classics, 198., p. 253.

[17] Epistle to the Ephesians 18.

[18] Epistle 101. St. Gregory made this assertion against the Apollinarian heresy that said that the Logos took the place of a rational human soul in Jesus. However, St. Gregory’s teaching also stands as a condemnation of Nestorianism.

[19] 7th Anathema Against St. Cyril, NPNF 2 vol. 14, p. 213-214; p. 207

[20] Schaff, Philip, ed. Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers. Vol. 14. Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 1994. Ser. 2, pp. 202, 205

[21] To John the Monk, quoted in St. John Maxivotich, Orthodox Veneration p. 63

[22] According to Archimandrite Vassilios Bakoyannis Joseph had been married to Salome, the niece of the High Priest Zacharias, with whom he had four sons: James, Joses, Judas and Simon, and daughters including Salome, the mother of St. John the Evangelist and his brother James. Thus James and Judas are known as brothers of God. Bakoyannis, Vasilios. The Mother of Christ: the Mother of God. Athens: Orthodox Book Centre, 2005, p. 31-32 n. 2.

[23] St. Athanasius, De Virginitate in Le Museon 42:243-44; St. John Chrysostom, The Changing of Names 2.3, PG 51, 129; St. Hilary, Commentary on Matthew 1:4; St. Jerome, The Perpetual Virginity of Mary: Against Helvidius, 14, 15

[24] On the Birth of Christ, PG 46, 1140C – 1141A, quoted in Gambero, Mary and the Fathers of the Church, p. 157. The same is taught by St. Augustine in Sermo 225.2, PL 38, 1096-97

[25] Clement of Alexandria, Stromata 7.16; Origen, Commentary on John 1.4, PG 14, 32

[26] Adversus Marcionem 4.19.11, PL 2, 435; De Carne Christi 23:1-5 passim, PL 2, 835-36

[27] The Perpetual Virginity of Mary 4

[28] In Evangelium Matthaei 1.1.25, PL 26, 26

[29] The Perpetual Virginity of Mary 7

[30] Homily on Matthew 5.3

[31] St. Athanasius, De Virginitate, in Le Museon 42:244; St. Cyril of Jerusalem, Catacheses 12.34; St. Gregory the Theologian, Moral Poems 1.189-208, PG 37, 537A – 538A

[32] St. John Chrysostom, Homily on Matthew 5.3; St. Jerome, The Perpetual Virginity of Mary 7. St. John of Damascus comments that the chaste mind of the Theotokos could not consider receiving the embrace of a man following such a miracle as the Virgin Birth, Exact Exposition 4.14

[33] The Mother of Christ: The Mother of God, p. 121, 122

[34] Besides those who will be addressed, see also Venantius Fortunatus, Carmina miscellanea 8.6, PL 88, 268; St. Leo the Great, Sermo 22.2, PL 54, 195-196; St. Peter Chrysologus, Sermo 117.3, PL 52, 521; Theodotus of Ancyra, Homily 5.1, PG 77, 1413A –B; St. Proclus of Constantinople, Homily 4.1, PG 65, 708C – 709B; St. Gregory of Nyssa, On the Birth of Christ, PG 46, 1133D – 1136B; St. Andrew of Crete, Sermon on the Annunciation, PG 97, 897; John Geometris, An Address on the Annunciation 12, PG 106, 821; Pseudo-Chrysostom, Sermon on the Theotokos 3, PG 69, 713.

[35] Pedalion, p. 384

[36] Sermon on Easter, PG 46, 601-604, quoted in Callinicos, Constantine. Our Lady the Theotokos. Trans. Fr. George Dimopoulos. Christian Orthodox Editions, 1987, p. 49.

[37] Sermon on the Presentation, PG 93, 1469 as quoted in Ibid., p. 50

[38] Exact Exposition of the Orthodox Faith 4.14

[39] Ad Thalassium 61, in St. Maximus the Confessor, Paul M. Blowers, and Robert Louis Wilken. On the Cosmic Mystery of Jesus Christ: Selected Writings from St. Maximus the Confessor. Crestwood, NY: St. Vladimir’s Seminary, 2003, p. 131.

[40] It seems this service is of late origin and there is some controversy surrounding the extravagance of its poetic glorifications of the Theotokos. Fr. Serge R. Keleher, a Uniate priest, examines the service in Keleher, Fr. Serge R. “The Funeral of the Mother of God.” Looking East 12 (1977): 16-34, found at According to The Praises or the Sacred Order of the Holy Burial of our Most-Holy Sovereign Lady, the Theotokos and Ever-Virgin Mary printed by St. Tikhon’s Monastery in 1983 the Lamentation service is celebrated on August 17th at the Gethsemane Skete (as opposed to the 14th), and is celebrated on the 15th in the Lavra, presumably of the Kiev Caves.

[41] The account of these celebrations is found on the website of the Orthodox Church in America at

[42] Daley, Brian J. Introduction. On the Dormition of Mary: Early Patristic Homilies. Crestwood, NY: St. Vladimir’s Seminary, 1998, p. 4. The Church of the Kathisma was built at the traditional spot where Mary sat down to rest on the way to giving birth to the Savior, as told in the Protoevangelium of James.

Hieromonk Makarios, ed. The Synaxarion: the Lives of the Saints of the Orthodox Church. Trans. Mother Maria Rule and Mother Joanna Burton Burton. Vol. 6. Ormylia, Chalkidike, Greece: Holy Convent of the Annunciation of Our Lady, 1998, p. 482 n. 1. The footnote states that the feast was initially celebrated in January in Jerusalem.

[44] Panarion 78.11, Daley, On the Dormition of Mary, introduction pp. 5, 6

[45] Ibid., introduction p. 10

[46] Ibid., p. 7, 8

[47] For the work of Fr. Dumitru and reference to Fr. John see the Oct. 13, 2009 entry on the weblog Mystatogy: The same blog also provides two articles by a Fr. John Parker:

[48] Daley, On the Dormition of Mary, introduction p. 12, 13.

[49] St. Dimitri of Rosotv. The Assumption of Our Most Holy Lady, the Mother of God and Ever-virgin Mary. Jordanville, NY: Holy Trinity Monastery, 1990, p. 6; St. John Maximovitch, The Orthodox Veneration of Mary, the Birthgiver of God, p. 23; St. Nikolai Velimirovich. The Prologue from Ochrid: Lives of the Saints and Homilies for Every Day of the Year, Part 3: July, August, September. Trans. Mother Maria. Birmingham: Lazarica, 1986, p. 198; Holy Apostles Convent, The Life of the Virgin Mary, the Theotokos, p. 448; Bp. Nathanael of Vienna and Austria. “The Holy Righteous Abraham, Moses and Elias as Preparers of Man’s Salvation.” Orthodox Life 28.6 (Nov- Dec. 1978), p. 45; and the Lamentation service states: “At your Ascension into Heaven all the aerial spirits were overcome with awe and fear, O pure one, and trembled before your power, 2nd Stasis, number 28, p. 18. All these sources thus far are of Slavic origin, but this tradition is also mentioned by Archimandrite Vassilios Bakoyannis, who even says that the Theotokos prayed for two weeks before her repose to be protected from the toll houses, The Mother of Christ: the Mother of God, p. 95. The Mother of God would have asked for protection from the toll houses because she is supremely holy, and thus supremely humble, not trusting in her own works. This tradition should not be considered to in any way detract from her All-holiness. Furthermore, Bp. Nathanael also says, “It is natural for chastity and modesty to seek to avoid all contact and even proximity with those who bear filth, impudence and shamelessness,” The Holy Righteous Abraham, Moses and Elias, p. 45.

[50] Hieromonk Makarios, Synaxarion vol. 6, pp. 482-487

[51] Bakoyannis, The Mother of Christ: the Mother of God, p. 108.

[52] Homilies on Dormition 1.1, 2.2, 3.5

[53] Ad Thalassium 61

[54]Homily on the Dormition of the Holy Mother of God 1.10, direct quote from Homily on the Holy and Glorious Dormition and Transformation of Our Lady Mary, Mother of God and Ever-Virgin 2.14

[55] St. Dimitri of Rostov, The Assumption p. 31

[56] Matins, Aug. 15, Ode 1, Canon 1 by St. Kosmas Aitolos

[57] PG 151, 461AB

[58] Homily on the Dormition of Our Most Holy Lady, the Mother of God 3.8

[59] St. Gregory Palamas. The Homilies. Ed. Christopher Veniamin. Waymart, PA: Mount Thabor Pub., 2009, p. 290

[60] Ibid., p. 600, n. 570

[61] Ibid., p. 562, n. 224

[62] Ibid., Homily 16: On Holy and Great Saturday, p. 129

[63] St. Andrew of Crete, Homily on Dormition 3:6-8, 11-13; cf. St. Theodore the Studite, Encomium on the Dormition of Our Holy Lady, the Mother of God 2 where he argues that her Assumption is the final undoing of the transgression of Eve.

[64] PG vol. 96 p. 728, in Bakoyannis, Mother of Christ: Mother of God p. 110

[65] On the Dormition Homily C3, in Mother of Christ: Mother of God p. 113

[66] St. John of Thessalonica, Homily on the Dormition of Our Lady, the Mother of God and Ever-Virgin Mary, in Patristic Homilies p. 67; Theoteknos of Livia, An Encomium on the Assumption of the Holy Mother of God  7, 9f.; St. Theodore the Studite, Encomium on the Dormition 6; St. John Maximovitch, Orthodox Veneration of Mary, p. 53

[67] Homily On the Most Venerable Dormition of the Holy Mother of God 1 1.10, Patristic Homilies p. 163-164

[68] Homily on the Most Venerable Dormition 1.1.10, Patristic Homilies p. 160

[69] St. John of Damascus, The Assumption, Holy Trinity Monastery p. 32, quoted in Holy Apostles Convent, The Life of the Virgin Mary p. 474; St. Gregory Palamas, quoted in Holy Apostles Convent, Life of Virgin Mary p. 491

[70] St. Gregory Palamas, Homily 37.13 On the Most Venerable Dormition of Our Exceedingly Pure Lady, Mother of God and Ever-Virgin Mary, Veniamin, Homilies p. 294

[71] Spiritual Psalter, in Life of the Virgin Mary p. 479

[72] St. John of Damascus, Matins Canon Ode 4, Aug. 15th: “A strange wonder it was to see the living heaven of the Ruler of all descended into the hollows of the earth.”; Akathist to the Theotokos on Her Dormition, Ikoi 10, 12: “Rejoice, O thou who didst trample upon the all-destructive Hades. Rejoice, thou who didst open the gates of Paradise to the Christian race who ever blesseth thee.” both quoted in Holy Apostles Convent, The Life of the Virgin Mary p. 479

[73] Bakoyannis, Mother of Christ: Mother of God p. 111-112

[74] The dogma, proclaimed in 1854 by Pope Pius IX in his Ineffabilis Deus states: “that the most Blessed Virgin Mary, in the first instance of her conception, by a singular grace and privilege granted by Almighty God, in view of the merits of Jesus Christ, the Saviour of the human race, was preserved free from all stain of original sin”.

[75] St. John Maximovitch, Orthodox Veneration p. 59

[76] Origen, Homilies on Luke 17; St. Basil, Epistle 259; St. John Chrysostom, Homily 21 on John, Homily 44 on Matthew; all but the Homily on John are referenced on the New Advent article on the Immaculate Conception at

[77] Theodotus of Ancyra, Homily 6.11 in PO 19, 329; St. Ambrose, De Virginibus 2.6-16, PL 16, 220-22, quoted in Gambero, Mary and the Fathers of the Church pp. 199-202; St. Augustine, De Natura et Gratia 36.42, PL 44, 267; St. Germanus of Constantinople, Homily 1 on the Dormition, PG 98, 345A; St. Andrew of Crete, Canon on the Nativity; St. John of Damascus, Homily on the Nativity 2, PG 96, 664B; St. Ephraim the Syrian: “Most holy Lady, Mother of God, alone most pure in soul and body, alone exceeding all perfection of purity …., alone made in thy entirety the home of all the graces of the Most Holy Spirit, and hence exceeding beyond all compare even the angelic virtues in purity and sanctity of soul and body . . . . my Lady most holy, all-pure, all-immaculate, all-stainless, all-undefiled, all-incorrupt, all-inviolate spotless robe of Him Who clothes Himself with light as with a garment . . . flower unfading, purple woven by God, alone most immaculate” (“Precationes ad Deiparam” in Opp. Graec. Lat., III, 524-37), quoted at New Advent

[78] Bakoyannis, Mother of Christ: Mother of God p. 133

[79] Ode 1, Canon 1, Nov. 21st

[80] Archimandrite Sophrony. Saint Silouan, the Athonite. Crestwood, NY: St. Vladimir’s Seminary, 1999,quoted in Bakoyannis, Mother of Christ: Mother of God, p. 126

[81] Bakoyannis, Mother of Christ: Mother of God p. 125

[82] Ibid., p. 128

[83] Ibid., pp. 130, 132

[84] Interpretation of Ode 1, Canon 1 of the Ascension, quoted in Ibid., p. 133.

[85] Archimandrite Sophrony, Saint Silouan, quoted in Mother of  Christ: Mother of God p. 133

[86] Homilies p. 407-408, 410-411

[87] Homilies p. 412

[88] St. Gregory Palamas. Mary the Mother of God: Sermons by Saint Gregory Palamas. Ed. Christopher Veniamin. South Canaan, PA: Mount Thabor Pub., 2005, p. 47, quoted on the website of St. Tikhon’s Monastery:

[89] Homilies p. 105-106

Works Cited

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“The Authenticity of Dionysius the Areopagite’s Writings.” MYSTAGOGY. 3 Oct. 2009. Web. 15

Nov. 2011. <;.

Bakoyannis, Vasilios. The Mother of Christ: the Mother of God. Athens: Orthodox Book Centre,


Bp. Nathanael of Vienna and Austria. “The Holy Righteous Abraham, Moses and Elias as

Preparers of Man’s Salvation.” Orthodox Life 28.6 (1978).

Bulgakov, Fr. Sergius. Eastern Orthodox Theology: a Contemporary Reader. Ed. Daniel B.

Clendenin. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2003.

Callinicos, Constantine. Our Lady the Theotokos. Trans. Fr. George Dimopoulos. Christian

Orthodox Editions, 1987.

Charitos, Minas. The Repose of Our Most Holy and Glorious Lady the Theotokos And Ever-

            virgin Mary and Her Translation to Heaven. Orthodox Christian Educational Society,


Cosman, Madeleine Pelner., and Linda Gale. Jones. Handbook to Life in the Medieval World.

Vol. 3. New York: Facts On File, 2008.

Daley, Brian J., trans. On the Dormition of Mary: Early Patristic Homilies. Crestwood, NY: St.

Vladimir’s Seminary, 1998.

St. Dimitri of Rosotv. The Assumption of Our Most Holy Lady, the Mother of God and Ever-

            virgin Mary. Jordanville, NY: Holy Trinity Monastery, 1990

“The Dionysian Authorship of the “Corpus Areopagiticum” According to Fr. Dumitru Stăniloae.”

MYSTAGOGY. 13 Oct. 2009. Web. 11 Nov. 2011. < 2009/10/apostolic-authorship-of-corpus.html>.

“Dionysius of Alexandria.” Orthodox Wiki. 4 Sept. 2011. Web. 11 Nov. 2011.


Gambero, Luigi. Mary and the Fathers of the Church: the Blessed Virgin Mary in Patristic

Thought. Trans. Thomas Buffer. San Francisco: Ignatius, 1999.

St. Gregory Palamas. The Homilies. Ed. Christopher Veniamin. Waymart, PA: Mount Thabor

Pub., 2009.

Mary the Mother of God: Sermons by Saint Gregory Palamas. Ed. Christopher Veniamin.

South Canaan, PA: Mount Thabor Pub., 2005.

Holy Apostles Convent. The Life of the Virgin Mary, the Theotokos. Buena Vista, CO: Holy

Apostles Convent, 1989.

St. John of Kronstadt. My Life in Christ. Trans. Ernest Evgenʹevich. Gulia︡ev. Jordanville, NY:

Holy Trinity Monastery, 1984.

St. John Maximovitch. The Orthodox Veneration of Mary, the Birthgiver of God. Platina, CA:

St. Herman of Alaska Brotherhood, 2004.

Keleher, Fr. Serge R. “The Funeral of the Mother of God.” Looking East 12 (1977): 16-34.

Knight, Kevin. “CATHOLIC ENCYCLOPEDIA: Immaculate Conception.” NEW ADVENT.

2009. Web. 13 Nov. 2011. <;.

St. Maximus the Confessor, Paul M. Blowers, and Robert Louis Wilken. On the Cosmic Mystery

 of Jesus Christ: Selected Writings from St. Maximus the Confessor. Crestwood, NY: St.

Vladimir’s Seminary, 2003.

St. Nikolai Velimirovich. The Prologue from Ochrid: Lives of the Saints and Homilies for Every

 Day of the Year, Part 3: July, August, September. Trans. Mother Maria. Birmingham:

Lazarica, 1986

“OCA – Feasts and Saints: The Dormition of our Most Holy Lady the Mother of God and Ever-

Virgin Mary.” Web. 6 Nov. 2011. < Viewer.asp?SID=4>.

Quasten, Johannes. Patrology. Vol. 3. Allen, TX: Christian Classics, 1986.

Schaff, Philip, ed. Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers. Vol. 14. Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 1994.

Ser. 2.

“The Sinlessness of the Theotokos.” The Monastery of St. Tikhon of Zadonsk – Home. Web. 15

Nov. 2011. <;.

Taushev, Abp. Averky. The Apocalypse in the Teaching of Ancient Christianity: an Orthodox

 Commentary. Trans. Fr. Seraphim Rose. Platina, CA: St. Herman of Alaska

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“Theotokos.” New World Encyclopedia. 29 Aug. 2008. Web. 8 Nov. 2011.


The Praises or the Sacred Order of the Holy Burial of Our Most-Holy Sovereign Lady, the

Theotokos and Ever-Virgin Mary. South Canaan, PA: St. Tikhon’s Monastery, 1983.



Patristic Works Cited

Akathist to the Theotokos on Her Dormition

St. Ambrose, Exposito in Lucam, PL 15, 1635-36

De Virginibus, PL 16, 220-22

St. Andrew of Crete, Homilies in PG 97, 869C

Sermon on the Annunciation, PG 97, 897

Homily on the Dormition of Our Most Holy Lady, the Mother of God 1, 2, 3

— Canon on the Nativity

The Ascension of Isaiah

St. Athanasius, De Virginitate in Le Museon 42:243-44

St. Augustine, Sermo 225, PL 38, 1096-97

De Natura et Gratia, PL 44, 267

St. Basil, Letter 250, PG 32, 965

Epistle 259

Canon 1, Nov. 21st

Clement of Alexandria, Stromata

St. Cyril of Alexandria, On John, PG 74, 661

Second Letter to Nestorius

St. Cyril of Jerusalem, Catacheses

St. Ephraim of Syria, Sermo ad noct. Resurr., ed. Lamy.

To John the Monk

— Spiritual Psalter

“Precationes ad Deiparam” in Opp. Graec. Lat., III, 524-37

St. Epiphanius of Salamis, Panarion

St. George of Nicomedia, Homily 8, PG 100, 1477B

John Geometris, An Address on the Annunciation 12, PG 106, 821

St. Germanus of Constantinople, Homily On the Most Venerable Dormition of the Holy Mother

 of God

St. Gregory of Nyssa, On the Birth of Christ, PG 46, 1140C – 1141A

Sermon on Easter, PG 46, 601-604

St. Gregory Palamas, Homily 37 on the August Dormition of Our Most Immaculate Lady

Theotokos, PG 151, 465A

St. Gregory the Theologian, Epistle 101

Moral Poems, PG 37, 537A – 538A

St. Hesychios, De S. Maria Deip., in PG 93, 1469

Sermon on the Presentation, PG 93, 1478

St. Hilary, Commentary on Matthew

St. Hippolytus, Christ and Antichrist

St. Ignatius of Antioch, Epistle to the Ephesians

St. Isidore of Seville, Quaestiones in Genesim, PL 83, 216

Allegoriae 139, PL 83, 117

St. Jerome, The Perpetual Virginity of Mary: Against Helvidius

— In Evangelium Matthaei, PL 26, 26

St. John Chrysostom, The Changing of Names, PG 51, 129

Homilies on Matthew

— Homilies on John

St. John of Damascus, Homilies in PG 96, 725

Exposition of the Orthodox Faith

— Homily on the Dormition of the Holy Mother of God

— Homily on the Holy and Glorious Dormition and Transformation of Our Lady Mary, Mother

 of God and Ever-Virgin

— Matins Canon, Aug. 15th

— Homily on the Nativity 2, PG 96, 664B

St. John of Thessalonica, Homily on the Dormition of Our Lady, the Mother of God and Ever-

            Virgin Mary

St. Kosmas Aitolos, Canon 1, Matins for Aug. 15th

St. Leo the Great, Sermo, PL 54, 195-196

St. Maximus the Confessor, Ad Thalassium 61

St. Methodios, The Symposium: A Treatise on Chastity

Nestorius, 7th Anathema Against St. Cyril

St. Nikodemos the Hagiorite, The Pedalion

St. Nilos the Abbot, PG 79, 179D

The Odes of Solomon

Origen, On Luke Homily 18, PG 13, 1845

De Principiis

— Commentary on John, PG 14, 32

St. Peter Chrysologus, Sermo 117, PL 52, 521

St. Proclus of Constantinople, Homily 4, PG 65, 708C – 709B

The Protoevangelium of James

Pseudo-Chrysostom, Sermon on the Theotokos 3, PG 69, 713.

St. Romanos the Melodist, Hymns, in Sources Chretiennes (Lyons), 110, 122-3

On the Presentation

Shepherd of Hermas

Socrates, Ecclesiastical History

Tertullian, Adversus Marcionem, PL 2, 435

De Carne Christi, PL 2, 835-36

St. Theodore the Studite, 2nd Canon of Matins on Monday in the Third Week of Lent

— Encomium on the Dormition of Our Holy Lady, the Mother of God

Theodotus of Ancyra, Homily 5, PG 77, 1413A –B

Homily 6, PO 19, 329

Theoteknos of Livia, An Encomium on the Assumption of the Holy Mother of God

Venantius Fortunatus, Carmina miscellanea, PL 88, 268

The Venerable Bede, Hom. in Purif. 18, in Corpus Christianorum, Series Latina, Turnhout


Posted by: oldbelieving | March 1, 2012

From Repose to Resurrection: the Intermediate State of Souls

From Repose to Resurrection: the Intermediate State of Souls

toll houses

Jesse Dominick


Spring 2012

In a letter to Fr. Thomas Merton, the young Orthodox convert Eugene (later Fr. Seraphim) Rose wrote: “Above all, the Christian in the contemporary world must show his brothers that all the ‘problems of the age’ are of no consequence beside the single central ‘problem of man’: death, and its answer, Christ … Let the contemporary sophisticate prattle of the childishness of seeking ‘future rewards’ and all the rest – life after death is all that matters.”[1] Although modern man enshrines death as supposedly natural he has no understanding of the reality of death. In the Orthodox Church alone is preserved the authentic Christian teaching on man’s paradisiacal condition, his fall and consequent death, Christ’s death-destroying Resurrection, and life after death.

Unfortunately, even in the Church today there is confusion and unawareness of what the Church teaches, clouded by the notion that Orthodoxy has little to say about life after death. In researching the Orthodox doctrines of Heaven and Hell, angels and demons, and life after death St. Ignatius Brianchaninov found that, in fact, the Church is quite precise in what it teaches, as opposed to western teachings that become increasingly vague under the influence of philosophy and man’s growing attachment to the things of this world.[2]

Although the Church provides us with much information on the after-life, it is easily misunderstood. In regards to the soul’s existence after death it is good to remember the advice of the angel to St. Macarius of Alexandria: “Accept earthly things here as the weakest kind of depiction of heavenly things.”[3] Contentions and debates within the Church concerning eschatology often arise out of an overly-literal approach to the ascetic texts that speak of life after death. Concerning this Fr. Seraphim Rose writes:

It is one thing to say … that one must be careful not to read the Orthodox texts on the other world and life after death in too literal or earthly a manner, since that reality is in many obvious ways very different from earthly reality; but it is quite something else to “sweep away” all these texts and deny that they refer to anything at all in an outward way, and are nothing but “allegories” and “fables” … the Orthodox Church and faithful have always accepted these descriptions as corresponding faithfully to reality, even while making allowances for the peculiar, other-worldly nature of this reality.[4]

Upon separation from the body the soul embarks upon a purely spiritual existence which is unknown to us living in the flesh, and this is why the ascetical texts on life after death often seem strange, confusing, or even problematic to us. Only the righteous who have purified themselves and acquired a greater depth of spiritual vision have experienced a taste of such a spiritual life, and thus it is to them that we must look for guidance in understanding revelations on the soul after death. Through Patristic writings, lives of the Saints, hymnography, and even iconography, the Church provides us with no shortage of sources from which to discern the proper Orthodox understanding of the soul’s journey after death.

In the Church’s theology the period between death and the Last Judgment at the return of Christ is known as the intermediate state of souls. During this time the soul is judged and is given a foretaste of the Heaven or Hell that awaits it after the general resurrection at the consummation of time. Orthodox anthropology firmly rejects all forms of dualism and affirms that man naturally consists of both body and soul. Thus the soul that separates from the body at death is in an unnatural state, and for this reason the parting of the soul is a fearful event. Of this St. John of Damascus writes: “Truly most frightening is the mystery of death, how the soul is violently separated from its concord with the body and, by divine decree, the most natural bond of their cohesion is severed,”[5] and a Stichera for the Dead sung at Tone Two Friday evening Vespers reads:

Woe is me! How great a struggle the soul endures at its parting from the body. Woe is me! How many tears it sheds, but there is none to pity it. Turning to the angels, it supplicates in vain; stretching out its hands to men, it finds no one to help. Therefore, my beloved brethren, reflecting on the shortness of our life, let us ask Christ to give rest to the departed and to grant our souls great mercy.[6]

St. Dorotheos of Gaza further adds the truly terrifying thought that “the souls of the dead remember everything that happened here … [it] remembers the passions it gave way to and the sins it committed and the persons with whom it committed them,” and “it is alone with its own passions and, in short, it is tormented by them.”[7] St. Ephraim of Syria teaches the same, that upon death the soul sees “all the works it performed, good and bad, by day and by night.”[8] This is why the Fathers encourage us to remember the day of our impending death, for those who truly take up remembrance of death will never sin again.[9]

It should be noted that for the righteous, the separation of the soul from the body is not frightful, but is in fact joyful, for he has already begun to taste of the spiritual life and the soul goes to dwell in the blessedness of the light of Christ. Again, St. Ephraim teaches that “the righteous and holy, and the ascetics rejoice at the hour of death and separation … Their souls leap up, for they are prepared to go out of their bodies for their rest,” and St. Seraphim of Sarov exclaims: “What joy, what exultation await the soul when God’s Angels come to take it.”[10] The Psalmist states: “Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of His saints” (Psalm 115:6). But for those who have not wholly united themselves to Christ in this life the separation of the soul from the body is fearful because it is unnatural, and furthermore because at death and afterwards the soul is surrounded and attacked by horrid demons. “The death of sinners is evil,” says King David (Psalm 33:22). This reality is referred to repeatedly in our rich liturgical tradition. Every night at Small Compline the Church prays: “And at the time of my departure from this life, care for my wretched soul and drive far away from it the dark forms of evil demons,”[11] and at the Office for the Parting of the Soul from the Body we pray: “O Refuge renowned for the sinful and contrite, make thy mercy known upon me, O Pure One, and deliver me from the hands of demons: For many dogs have compassed me about.”[12] These are but two of the innumerable examples that could be brought forth.[13]

By these attacks of demons is accomplished the Particular Judgment of which St. Paul wrote: “And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment” (Heb. 9:27). St. Ignatius Brianchaninov writes that from the time of Adam’s fall until Christ’s harrowing of Hades Satan stood on the path to Paradise blocking the entrance of every soul, and after Christ’s Resurrection he continues to take those souls which incline towards him. He continues:

All who have openly rejected the Redeemer comprise the inheritance of satan: their souls, after the separation from the body, descend straight to hell. But Christians who are inclined to sin are also unworthy of being immediately translated from earthly life to blessed eternity. Justice itself demands that these inclinations to sin, these betrayals of the Redeemer should be weighed and evaluated. A judging and distinguishing are required in order to define the degree of a Christian soul’s inclination to sin, in order to define what predominates in it – eternal life or eternal death. The unhypocritical Judgment of God awaits every Christian soul after its departure from the body.[14]

Fallen angels stand guard in the expanse of the air for the testing of souls according to various sins to which the soul may have inclined during its life.[15] These judgment places are known as the toll-houses and the guarding spirits the tax-collectors who “act thus by the right which they have acquired.”[16] Constantine Cavarnos likewise states that this calling to account is a test of the imperfect soul by demons who reproach it with its many sins.[17]

It is important to note that the trials of the toll-houses are chiefly for those who leave this life in a tepid state, for the souls of the righteous are immediately received by holy angels, while the souls of the decidedly unrepentant are taken to Hades by the demons. Psalm 1:5 states: “Therefore the ungodly shall not stand in the judgment.” Conversely, John 5:24 teaches that he who hears and believes the word of God shall not come into judgment, and Blessed Theognostos states that the soul of the righteous man “passes through the air without hindrance, without being troubled in the least by the evil spirits.”[18] Archimandrite Vasilios Bakogiannis concludes that “the toll-houses are for those who leave this world in a lukewarm, torpid mortal state. They are for those whose flight from this world takes place in the winter of passions or on a Sabbath (Matthew 24, 20) (i.e. without having cultivated the virtues).”[19] Metropolitan Hierotheos Vlachos teaches the same of the souls of the righteous and the unrepentant, as does Constantine Cavarnos.[20]

The purpose here is not to offer an in-depth examination and explanation of the teaching of the toll-houses[21], but because the subject is so controversial in the Church in America the evidence will be weighed and certain objections addressed. It is important to note that there are only two “prominent” and vocal opponents to the traditional teaching of the toll-houses: Archbishop Lazar Puhalo, and Fr. Michael Azkoul, both of whom have histories of connections to the much troubled Holy Transfiguration Monastery in Boston of the so-called “Holy Orthodox Church of North America,” and other schismatic groups.[22] It should also be noted that to be in schism does not necessarily negate one’s teachings (I have already approvingly quoted Abp. Chrysostomos of the “Cyprianite” Holy Synod in Resistance), but it is useful to consider the authority of who denies the existence of the toll-houses, and who affirms it.

Abp. Lazar writes: “Anyone familiar with the Bible will know that the toll-house (telonia) stories … not only have no basis in Scripture, but in general are contradictory to Christian Scripture. They also have no bases in the works of the holy fathers of the Orthodox Church.” Thus it is necessary to see just who it is that the Archbishop considers being unfamiliar with Scripture and Patristics. In the last two centuries the toll-houses have been taught by:

  • St. Seraphim of Sarov: “Two nuns passed on. Both had been abbesses. The Lord revealed to me that their souls were having difficulty getting through the aerial toll-houses. Three days and nights, I, a lowly sinner, prayed and begged the Mother of God for their salvation. The goodness of the Lord, through the prayers of the Most Holy Mother of God, finally had mercy upon them. They passed the aerial toll-houses and received forgiveness of sins.”[23]
  • St. Theophan the Recluse: “No matter how absurd the idea of the toll-houses may seem to our ‘wise men,’ they will not escape passing through them.”[24]
  • St. Ignatius Brianchaninov: “The teaching of the toll-houses is the teaching of the Church.”[25]
  • St. Macarius of Moscow (1879-1882): After quoting numerous examples of Church Fathers who taught the toll-houses he says, “Such an uninterrupted, constant, and universal usage in the Church of the teaching of the toll-houses, especially among the teachers of the 4th century, indisputably testifies that it was handed down to them from the teachers of the preceding centuries and is founded on apostolic tradition.”[26]
  • St. Barsanuphius of Optina: “Pray to the Mother of God. She will intercede for you in this life, and, after death, she will help you pass through the tollhouses and reach the heavenly Kingdom.”[27]
  • St. John of Kronstadt: “When you pray for the repose of the soul of the departed, force yourself to pray with your whole heart remembering that to do so is your essential duty, and not only that of a priest, or ecclesiastic. Represent to yourself how necessary repose is to the departed one, and how greatly he (or she) needs the prayers for him (or her) of the living, being a member of the one body of the Church; how the demons are contesting his (or her) soul from the angels, and how it trembles, not knowing what its eternal destiny will be. Our prayer of faith and love for the departed means much in the Lord’s sight.”[28]
  • St. Nikolai Veilmirović: “O, let no one speak of the happiness of tomorrow’s day. Behold, yet this night your soul may depart your body and tomorrow you will find yourself surrounded by black demons in the tollhouses!”[29]
  • St. John Maximovitch: On the third after death the soul “passes through legions of evil spirits which obstruct its path and accuse it of various sins, to which they themselves had tempted it. According to various revelations there are twenty such obstacles, the so-called “toll-houses,” at each of which one or another form of sin is tested.”[30]
  • St. Justin Popović: Volume 3 of his Dogmatics of the Orthodox Church (1980) contains the toll-house teaching.[31]
  • Elder Michal of Valaam: “I knew that [the tailor] expected a gift; for a gift he would do anything and he would both know how to do it and do it. But I also know that for even the smallest participation in this type of work – that is, bribe and gratuity – I would have to answer for sin when I go through the toll houses; and so I left him with nothing. One must have caution so as not to give others an example and participate in sins.”[32]
  • Archbishop Theophan of Poltava (ROCOR): A young man who had reposed appeared to the Archbishop and asked him to pray for him to pass safely through the toll-houses, which he did. The man appeared again later to thank the Archbishop and to ask him to offer prayers of thanksgiving.[33]
  • Elder Cleopa of Sihastria: “If you confess thoroughly before your death, your soul is saved. As the soul passes through the tollhouses, any sins that were absolved by the priest on earth have been erased from the record by the Holy Spirit.”[34]
  • Elder Porphyrios: “I didn’t want to think about hell and about tollgates. I didn’t remember my sins, although I had many. I set them aside. I remembered only the love of God and was glad.”[35]
  • Elder Paisios: “When a soul is well prepared and ascending to Heaven, the demons can’t assault it. If it isn’t prepared, it is tortured by the demons. Sometimes God may allow a soul with unpaid debts at the time of his death to see the tollgates, so that we, who will continue to live, struggle to repay our debts here. Do you remember reading about the event with Theodora? In other words, God provides that some people see certain things to help others repent.”[36]
  • Fr. Seraphim Rose: See chapters 6, 10, and Appendix III: “Answer to a Critic” in his Soul After Death.
  • Elder Thaddeus of Vitovnica: “In this world it is possible for a person to expend great effort and labor for the good of his fellow men, yet for his soul to remain soiled without sin. A person can pass through most of the toll-houses, yet to be pushed into the abyss as he reaches the toll-house of mercy, for in spite of all his efforts he failed to notice that his heart was firmly bound to the power of hades … Such a person is under the rule of the spirits of wickedness, according to the level of his unmercifulness. Even during his earthly life he is in their power. When his soul departs his body, such a person will be in their power.”[37]
  • Hieromartyr Daniel Sysoev: “When a person dies he is met by angels. The angels of God help a person while demons attack him and intimidate him … The demons detain those at the toll houses who are attached to the earth, those who think too much about the earthly.”[38]
  • Fr. Michael Pomazansky: “Based on these indications of Sacred Scripture, from antiquity the Holy Fathers of the Church have depicted the path of the soul after its separation from the body as a path through such spiritual expanses, where the dark powers seek to devour those who are weak spiritually … The path of the soul after its departure from the body is customarily called the “toll houses.”[39]
  • Archbishop Nathanael of Vienna and Austria (ROCOR): He conveys the traditional teaching that Christ received the soul of the Theotokos because she prayed to be spared the vision of the toll-house demons.[40]
  • Bishop Alexander (Mileant) of Buenos Aires (ROCOR): “These wandering spirits of the heavens upon seeing a soul led by an angel approach it from all sides reproaching it for sins committed throughout its life. Being extremely insolent, they attempt to frighten the soul, bring it to despair and thus take hold of it. During this trial the Guardian Angel bolsters the soul and defends it.”[41]
  • Archimandrite Panteleimon (Holy Trinity Monastery, Jordanville): “When the Christian soul, led by the holy angels, begins its ascent to heaven, then the spirits of darkness remind it of all its sins which have not been made up for by penance.”[42]
  • Constantine Cavarnos: The toll-houses are taught in his The Future Life According to the Orthodox Church, pp. 23-30.
  • Met. Hierotheos Vlachos: “According to the teaching of the Fathers of the Church, the soul … senses the presence of the demons who are called customs demons, and is possessed with fear because of having to pass through customs … The holy Fathers teach all these things not from their imagination, but from enlightening experiences. Sometimes other holy men have revealed these things to them, and at other times they themselves, illumined by God, have had such frightening experiences.”[43]
  • Met. Kallistos Ware: “It is the normal teaching in the Orthodox Church that, during the period immediately following death, the soul, accompanied by the guardian angel, passes through a series of twenty-two telonia, celestial toll or custom houses … This teaching about the toll houses has early origins; while not a dogma of the Church, it is far more than mere legend or pious opinion.”[44]
  • Elder Ephraim of Philotheou and Arizona: “Keep this struggle constantly in mind; think and note that we also have to pass the aerial toll-houses which impede souls from ascending as they present the deeds of our life in order to obstruct our souls’ ascent and drag them down into Hades.”[45]
  • Archimandrite Zacharias Zachariou: Rdr. Andreas Moran relates: “when my late wife died, Archimandrite Zacharias said, ‘her soul went straight up – no hindrance’. Being blessed with much grace, this must mean either that she did not endure passage through the toll houses or that the demons had nothing in her.”[46]
  • Archimandrite Vasilios Bakogiannis: See his After Death pp. 59-67.
  • Fr. Thomas Hopko: “So, my opinion is that the teaching is that, when a person dies, a huge battle, it’s the last battle, in a sense, to see whether that person really does believe in God, and accepts the grace of God and the forgiveness of God, or whether they cling to their demons, cling to their sins and passions … it’s a very old teaching; you find the teaching about toll houses is in practically every Church Father: you find it in Saint John Chrysostom, you find it in John of the Ladder; the first development of it was in Saint Cyril of Alexandria.”[47]
  • Nikolaos P. Vassiliadis: at death “the soul undergoes a detailed and thorough examination by the demons since an invisible but relentless warfare is waged between the good and the evil angels for the soul’s possession.”[48] 
  • Protopresbyter Vassily Boshchanovskiy: “The universal faith of the Church in the reality of the personal judgment after death finds its illustrative depiction in the Church Patristic teaching about the toll houses beyond the grave.”[49]
  • Fr. Artemy Vladimirov: He relates how happening upon the Tale of St. Theodora led him to offer his first confession and a dramatic conversion to faith in Christ at the age of 18.[50]
  • Fr. Maximos of Simonopetra (formerly Nicholas Constas): “The tradition of the tollgates was firmly established throughout the east long before the end of late antiquity.”[51]
  • Vladimir Moss: “The doctrine of the toll-houses, of the particular judgement [sic] of souls after death, is indeed a fearful doctrine. But it is a true and salutary and Orthodox one. Let us therefore gather this saving fear into our souls, in accordance with the word: “Remember thine end, and thou shalt never sin” (Sirach 7.36).[52]
  • Archbishop Chrysostomos of Etna (Holy Synod in Resistance): “A number of poor scholars and pseudo-scholars alike have, over the past several decades, made a case against the Orthodox Church’s teaching on life after death, and especially the “toll house” image used by some Fathers and in many of our worship services. Misrepresenting the Fathers, ignoring liturgical and theological evidence, and overstating their case, some of these critics have made of various theologoumena, unfortunately, matters of intense debate. Likewise misusing philosophy, misrepresenting the Patristic use of classical philosophical ideas and images, and attributing, with a naiveté that would embarrass a first-year philosophy student in the most mediocre of schools, they pontificate about neo-Gnosticism and neo-Platonic influences on Orthodox thinking, artlessly using the very arguments against the teachings to which they object that the most polemical Westerners have used against the Eastern Fathers.”[53]


None of these Saints, holy elders, and respected theologians has relegated the toll-house teaching, based on the testimony of many Fathers,[54] to the realm of mere theologumena and many included them in works of dogmatic theology. No Saint or elder has publicly rejected the toll-house teaching. Abp. Lazar and Fr. Michael have focused their polemical attacks on Fr. Seraphim Rose, claiming that he has mistranslated and misinterpreted Patristic texts, but obviously Fr. Seraphim is far from alone in his interpretation; and on the 10th century life of St. Basil the New containing St. Theodora’s vision of the aerial toll-houses,[55] but several of the authors who have written extensively on the toll-houses, including Fr. Seraphim, Met. Hierotheos Vlachos, Constantine Cavarnos, Archimandrite Vasilios Bakogiannis, and Nikolaos P. Vassiliadis, have done so without appealing to the authority of St. Theodora story which “contains nothing significant that is not to be found in other Orthodox sources on the toll-houses.”[56] To debunk Fr. Seraphim and St. Theodora does nothing to debunk the toll-houses.

Other objections to this traditional teaching of the Church are as easily answered. Against the claim that the teaching as a whole is Gnostic, Met. Hierotheos Vlachos provides the obvious answer. Acknowledging that similar ideas can be found in Gnostic texts, he notes that the teaching about the immortality of the soul, the ecstasy of man and the dispassion of the soul and body, the triparatite soul and many other things also originated outside the Church but were placed in a proper ecclesiastical atmosphere by the God-bearing Fathers.[57] In fact, Origen in his Contra Celsium 6.22 provides and dismisses the Persian Mithraist ascent of the soul, but elsewhere, referencing John 14:30[58] writes that we shall encounter toll collectors who search us to find something that belongs to them at the end of our lives.[59]

Against claims that the toll-house tradition is Latin-influenced, Fr. Seraphim Rose says of the “bag of gold” with which the angels “paid the debts” of St. Theodora that it is clearly a metaphor for the prayers of the Church and critics are simply being too literal-minded.[60] Here it is wise to recall the angel’s admonition to St. Macarius about earthly explanations of spiritual realities. Furthermore, Constantine Cavarnos writes that the deeds which are weighed refer not only to external works but moreso to the “deeds” of repentance, prayer, sobriety, and virtues in general,[61] which aligns with St. Ignatius’ teaching that the deeds are weighed not in any juridical sense but because they demonstrate whether the soul inclines more to eternal life or eternal death.[62] The toll-houses are also sometimes compared to Purgatory[63] which is traditionally a third place, alongside Heaven and Hell, where a material fire causes a satisfactory and purgative suffering of souls which are bound for Heaven.[64] Conversely however, the toll-houses are a journey and not a place of destination, through which souls may end up in either Paradise or Hades. If anything, the journey through the toll-houses would result in a soul’s placement in Purgatory, although this is of course not the Orthodox teaching. Furthermore, while Purgatory purges the soul of sin, the demons of the toll-houses seek to keep a soul entrenched in its sins. The comparison of the toll-houses with Purgatory is simply a straw-man.[65]

Critics such as Archbishop Lazar and Fr. Michael Azkoul also claim that detailed Patristic expositions of the toll-houses, such as the homilies on the departure of the soul by St. Cyril of Alexandria, St. Markarios the Great, and St. John Chrysostom are pseudepigraphal and thus lacking authority.[66] However, even was this true the Church has deemed fit to preserve these texts under their names as if they belonged to these great luminaries. St. Cyril’s homily is even traditionally included in the Sequential Psalter.[67] Even those who claim the works of St. Dionysius the Areopagite to be “pseudo” do not therefore question their orthodoxy.

Finally it is claimed that the trials of the toll-houses make Satan equal to God in the realm of judgment.[68] However, it must be remembered that God is always in charge, although He may sometimes use Satan and/or demons to accomplish His purposes. The most obvious example of this is the entire book of Job, in addition to Judges 9:23, 1 Kings 16:14 and 3 Kings 22:21-23 wherein God sends an evil spirit. Of those souls taken by demons Cavarnos writes: “They are not taken, though, against God’s consent and without divine concession, for God is the Lord of life and death.”[69] Providing an interpretive context, Met. Hierotheos says that the demons are persons with free will who by permission of God and man’s allowance are able to dominate man through his passions and unrepentant heart, and that the demons have no authority over men of God.[70] The demons only have as much power as we give them.

Because so much space has been given to answering objections and those modern authorities who are trusted interpreters of the Patristic tradition, only a few Patristic and liturgical passages concerning the toll-houses will be considered here. Perhaps the earliest instance occurs in St. Justin Martyr who exhorts us to plead for protection at the end of our lives from the sword and lion’s mouth (referencing Ps. 22:20-21) from God  “who is able to turn away every shameless evil angel from taking our souls.”[71] The teaching also appears early in Origen who has already been quoted, although Clement of Alexandria already used the imagery of tolls being exacted on the passions.[72] Perhaps the earliest full exposition is found in St. Cyril of Alexandria’s Homily on the Departure of the Soul which speaks of several different toll-houses where the soul encounters “tax officials guarding the ascent, holding and preventing the souls from ascending.” [73] The teaching of the toll-houses can be found in innumerable other eastern Fathers and even in the pre-schism western Church in the writings of St. Gregory the Dialogist, St. Boniface, and the Life of St. Columba of Iona.[74] The teaching also exists in the Oriental tradition. A prayer to the Theotokos in the Eleventh Hour service of the Coptic tradition reads: “Come to my rescue, when my soul departs from my body, defeat the conspiracies of the enemy, shut the gates of hell lest they swallow my soul,”[75] and following in the tradition of Origen, St. Anthony and St. Cyril, the Monophysite Patriarch of Alexandria, Theodosius (d. 567) writes of the Dormition of the Theotokos where he has her speak of the powers of light and darkness that seek for the departed soul and of the “merciless avengers, with diverse faces, whom God has set to teach the lawless in the way” who stand on the path whereon the departed soul will trod.[76]

The teaching is also pervasive in the Church’s universal liturgical tradition. At the 8th Ode of the Matins canon on Friday in the 4th tone we sing: “O Virgin, in the hour of my death rescue me from the hands of the demons, and the judgment, and the accusation, and the frightful testing, and the bitter toll-houses, and the fierce prince, and the eternal condemnation, O Mother of God,”[77] and in the Theotokion of the first Kathisma hymns at Matins on the Saturday of Cheesefare week we sing: “We ever give thee thanks and magnify thee, O pure Theotokos; we venerate and praise thy childbearing, O full of grace, and we call upon thee without ceasing: Save us, merciful Virgin, in thy love; deliver us from the fearful scrutiny which we must undergo before the demons, and in the hour of our examination suffer not thy servants to be put to shame.”[78] The universal tradition of the Church has handed to us the teaching of the soul’s journey through the aerial toll-houses.

By now it is clear that the soul remains active and aware after departing from the body. While Archbishop Lazar (then Deacon Lev) writes that “in the Orthodox understanding, at death, the soul is held to be assigned to a state of repose by an act of the Will of God, and enter into a condition of inactivity, a sort of sleep in which it does not function, hear or see,”[79] St. Ambrose of Milan teaches that after death “the soul is not held back by any obstacle placed by death, but is more active, because it is active in its own sphere without any association with the body,”[80] and St. John Cassian writes:

The souls of the dead … become yet more alive and more zealously cling to the glorification of God … on the basis of the testimony of Sacred Scripture … would it not be, I will not say extreme stupidity, but at least folly, to suspect even in the least that the most precious part of man (that is, the soul) … after putting off this fleshly coarseness in which it finds itself in the present life, should become unconscious …?[81]

Indeed, it would be folly to relegate the departed soul to a state of inactivity, lest we deny every appearance and intercession of the Saints.

In the forty days after death this conscious and active soul embarks upon a great journey, at times beautiful and at times frightful.[82] This journey is clearly expounded upon by St. Macarius of Alexandria who received an angelic revelation. For two days the soul is free to wander accompanied by angels. Often the soul will stay near the body and virtuous souls will visit those places where they did good deeds. On the third day when the body is brought into the Church the soul receives some relief from its Guardian Angel because of the prayers offered on his behalf in Church. Following this teaching, St. John Maximovitch states that it is on the third day that the soul passes through the toll-houses.[83] Having successfully passed through the demonic trials, souls are brought to Heaven to do reverence before God Himself in imitation of His Resurrection, and thus the Church offers oblations on the third day. Then the soul is shown the mansions of the Saints and the beauty of Paradise during the course of six days which allows it to forget all its bodily sorrows. After this the Angel again takes the soul to do reverence to God, and thus Church offers oblations on the ninth day. From the ninth until the fortieth day the soul is shown the horrors of Hades which cause souls to groan and gnash lest it be imprisoned there. On the fortieth day the soul again reverences God and only then does the Judge determine its fitting place. Thus the Church remembers the dead on the fortieth day. Elder Cleopa teaches the same in his “The Soul’s Journey After Death.”[84] Here it is important to note, as does Fr. Seraphim, that these numbers characterize simply a general rule – they are not dogmatic in and of themselves.[85] Furthermore, this model in no way contradicts or negates the association of the third day memorial with Christ’s Resurrection, the ninth with the ranks of angels, and the fortieth with the period of lamentation over the Prophet Moses as is taught by the holy Apostles.[86]

On this fortieth day the soul undergoes the finality of the Particular Judgment before Christ the just Judge:

And so, if by the verdict of the Righteous Judge the soul be given freedom, then immediately the enemies are put to shame, the luminous Angels seize the soul from them, and with no further obstructions it is led by the Angels to that unutterable joy and glory, to which it will finally be established. If, however, the soul lived carelessly and so was found unworthy of freedom, then it will hear that most terrifying voice: ‘Take this ungodly one away from here, that he see not the glory of the Lord’ (Isaiah 26:10).[87]

Here begins the “intermediate state” proper, when the soul will experience either a foretaste of Heaven in Paradise or a foretaste of Hell in Hades, which will last until the Dread Judgment enacted at the Lord’s return. As Cavarnos notes, many today intentionally speak of Paradise/Heaven and Hades/Hell as “states” rather than “places,” but he emphasizes that the Fathers, our hymns, and the Lord Himself refer to both destinations as places, although he clarifies that both “space” and “time” in the afterlife are not as we know them in the physical world.[88] Fr. Seraphim, following St. John of Damascus’ teaching on the relative physicality of the soul, and St. Ignatius’ statement that “the location of paradise is in the heaven … the location of hell is in the bowels of the earth,”[89] states that “these places and their inhabitants cannot be seen by men until their spiritual eyes are opened … Further, these places are not within the “coordinates” of our space-time system … They are not there, but in a different kind of space that begins right here but extends, as it were, in a different direction.”[90] Vassiliadis teaches the same,[91] but Met. Hierotheos is among those who say that these “places” are used to denote a particular way of life, although he does also refer to them as “noetic” places.[92]

Both the souls of the righteous and the ungodly remain alive in these states of anticipation, and although the separation of body and soul is unnatural the hypostasis is not abolished. St. John of Damascus teaches that “even though the soul is separated from the body in death, the hypostasis of both remains one and the same. For the constitution in itself of each thing at its beginning of being is a hypostasis.”[93] Following St. Gregory of Nyssa, Met. Hierotheos teaches that even after dissolution the soul recognizes the elements that made up its body and with its cognitive power contacts them and draws them nearer until the Lord reunites them at His Second Coming.[94] St. Gregory says: “The soul always recognizes its own, what it was like when it had its form.”[95]

It is difficult for us in the flesh to have any comprehension of what souls experience in either Paradise or Hades, but the Fathers do take care to consistently emphasize that each is but a foretaste of the fullness that is to come after Christ’s return. The souls of the righteous live in communion with God a comfortable life with the angels and Saints while the sinners in Hades live with affliction and great grief. Neither Paradise nor Hades exist from God’s point of view – He did not create them, but rather both are the experience of the uncreated energy of His love. As Met. Hierotheos states, they are not in the form of threat and punishment, but rather of illness and cure. The cured and purified experience the illumination of God’s energies, while the sick experience His love as a caustic energy.[96] Indeed, St. Isaac of Syria maintains that “those who are punished in Gehenna, are scourged by the scourge of love. Nay, what is so bitter and vehement as the torment of love?” for the sorrow caused by the rejection of God’s love “is more poignant than any fear of punishment.”[97]

However beautiful or terrifying are these experiences respectively, neither is yet the fullness of Heaven or Hell. This distinction can be difficult to understand because “Paradise” and “Heaven” and “Hades” and “Hell” are often used interchangeably in Orthodox literature, but this seems to be because they are in essence describing the same reality. Paradise is the enjoyment of God’s light in the soul and Heaven is the fullness experience by the soul reunited with the body, and Hades is the torture the soul feels by the memories of its passions, its aversion to the light of God, and the threats of the malicious demons, while Hell is the torture experienced by the soul reunited with its body. In any of these “places” the omnipresent God is of course “there” and the soul responds to His illuminating presence as it did in this life. As depicted by the soul’s forty day journey, and as taught by St. Andrew of Crete, all souls pass through Hades although the souls of the righteous do not stay there. The Saint voluntarily lays down his life that He may follow the Lord into Hades and experience yet more the wondrous mystery of the divine economy, and to know the Lord’s victory over Hades and death.[98]

Constantine Cavarnos also puts forth the teaching that Paradise and Hades are not static conditions of equality, but rather, each consists of various levels, corresponding to the virtues and vices of each soul. St. Macarius of Egypt says:

Some say that there is one kingdom and one hell; but we say that there are many levels and differences and measures, both in the kingdom and in hell … God, being a just judge, gives to each a reward according to the measure of faith … For there are superior measures, and there are little measures, and in hell itself appears magicians and robbers, as well as others who have committed only little sins. Those who say that there is one kingdom and one hell, and that there are no levels, say ill.[99]

St. Gregory of Sinai writes likewise of Paradise and Hades, noting that the differing degrees of ascent in the soul are known as “many mansions” in the words of Christ. He says there is one kingdom but many divisions within it corresponding to the varying levels of deification in the soul, just as there is one glory of the sun, another of the moon, and another of the stars.[100] And speaking starkly of the divisions within Hades, St. Ephraim the Syrian writes:

There is an outer darkness, as we hear in the Gospel, and consequently there is an inner one. The Gehenna of fire is one place; the gnashing of teeth, the unsleeping worm, the lake of fire, the inextinguishable fire, and the fiery river are others. The miserable sinners are distributed among these hells, each one according to his sins. And as there are different sins, so also are there different hells. Thus, there is one kind of hell for the adulterer, another for the fornicator, another for the murderer, and another for the thief and drunkard …”[101]

St. Symeon of Thessalonica also says that we are obliged to believe that the souls of sinners and unbelievers are tormented by the demons according to the degree of their sins and unbelief.[102]

As the departed soul retains sight, hearing, speech, memory, feelings and other qualities it had while in the body,[103] so the Church teaches that souls can recognize one another and remember and care for their loved ones yet on the earth. St. Macarius of Egypt teaches that the righteous are blessed to recognize and converse with one another just as men do in the market place, and that they may even come to know those whom they did not know in this life. However, this blessing is withheld from the souls of sinners because Hades is characterized by discord and the rule of hatred. The loathing that we hold for others here is multiplied a thousand times there, for as Dostoyevsky says “Hell is the ordeal of not loving anybody.”[104] St. Athanasius also teaches that righteous souls may meet and rejoice in the expectation of their ultimate Heavenly reward.[105]

It needs no explanation that the souls of the righteous remember us – the ethos of the Church certainly includes prayer to the Saints, and to departed loves ones in private prayer, and there have been countless visitations by the Saints either through their icons and relics or “in person.” The Church teaches adamantly that death does not sever us from the one Body of Christ. Vassiliadis teaches that just as St. Peter knew supernaturally of the dishonesty of Ananias and Sapphira (Acts 3:5ff.), so the souls in Heaven are made aware of our needs on earth through the revelation of the Holy Spirit, and Bakogiannis teaches that when a Saint appears it is not the immaterial soul itself which is seen but a form taken by the condescension of God. The appearance of a Saint may even be in truth an angel when the soul is preoccupied in prayer or is appearing elsewhere, for only God is omnipresent.[106] When St. Andrew the Fool-for-Christ was taken to Paradise and the third Heaven he was not able to see the Most-Holy Theotokos because she was serving the suffering world at that time.

According to Bakogiannis, those in Hades also remember us who labor on earth. For this he points foremost to the story of Lazarus and the Rich Man wherein the Rich Man suffering in Hades calls out to Abraham, who represents God, to send Lazarus to warn his family of the suffering that awaits them if they do not repent. He also cites the story of a pagan priest in Hades who recognizes St. Macarius of Egypt on earth praying for the souls of the damned, and says there are innumerable other such examples.[107] However, St. Athanasius teaches that the souls of the unrepentant do not think of us because they are absorbed by the torturous memory of their sins and their coming punishment.[108] Perhaps the story of Lazarus was an exception to the rule for educative purposes, or perhaps there is no “rule” here, but God does what is necessary in each situation. Indeed, Bakogiannis also says that it is impossible for souls in Hades to recognize those in Paradise because they do not partake of the Divine Light, but that God condescended to allow the Rich Man to see Lazarus to teach him that his punishment was just. Those in Hades are unworthy to look upon those in Paradise because they would be burned by the brightness of the glory of God within them.[109] However, again according to Bakogiannis, those in Paradise remember their loved ones and recognize those in Hades but, according to the teaching of St. Gregory the Dialogist, because they have acquired the impassivity of God they are at peace about the justice of God.[110]

This leads to the questions of our prayer for the departed: what is accomplished thereby? Can souls in Hades repent? Can they be moved from Hades to Paradise? In essence this is the same as the question of prayer for the living – if God has His will and we pray that His will be done then of what value are our prayers? The Church teaches that after death the soul is incapable of performing works or repenting in order to find release from Hades. In Bakogiannis’ translation, Psalm 6:5 reads: “In Hades there is no repentance.”[111]  St. John of Damascus teaches that one who has departed in an unrepentant and evil life cannot be helped in any way.[112] This is the meaning of the great chasm between Abraham’s Bosom and Hades in the story of Lazarus and the Rich Man – that there is no hope of repentance for the departed sinner. St. John of Kronstadt says that for those who are unworthy of salvation God does not move anyone to pray for them.[113] For whom, and why, then, do we pray?

St. John of Damascus also teaches that he who departed with even the slightest virtue, but for some reason did not do works worthy for repentance (cf. Matt. 3:8, Acts 26:20), the righteous Lord will not forget – even for reasons of indolence, indifference, procrastination or timidity! Therefore, it is incumbent upon the Church to pray for all the departed, for we know not who is able to receive the benefit of our prayers.[114] The Church prays for the departed continuously and in many ways, beginning with the Office at the Parting of the Soul from the Body, and as we have seen on the third, ninth, and fortieth days, and that the soul may pass safely through the toll-houses. Fr. Seraphim recalls how Bishop Savva of Edmonton inspired the faithful to fervent prayer at the funeral for St. John Maximovitch by citing the “fearful toll-houses.”[115]

The intermediate state is dynamic until the return of Christ when each receives his due reward. The righteous go from glory to glory, participating in the light of Christ ever more, but even departed sinners may receive some relief from the pains of Hades, and may even be moved to Paradise by the prayers of the Church and the mercy of God. Bakogiannis teaches that it is certain that the soul feels relief at the very moment of our prayers, while the movement to Paradise is uncertain but not impossible.[116] Concerning relief from suffering, he also writes that after traveling through Hades the Theotokos entreated Christ to have mercy on the souls that suffer there and so they are given respite between Pascha and Pentecost each year, and for this reason the Royal Doors remain open, the Saturday of Pentecost is dedicated to the departed, and the third kneeling prayer of Pentecost is a supplication for the departed.[117] A pagan priest who suffered in Hell revealed to St. Macarius of Egypt in what this relief consists, saying: “When you show pity on those in Hell and pray for them, they find comfort … seeing, in a way, each others’ faces. That is the comfort.”[118] Thus they receive, however temporary, some respite from the discord and hatred that characterizes the sufferings of Hades.

Souls in Hades cannot pray for their own release from that prison, and we do not pray that the souls move from Hades to Paradise, but rather for God to take them to Paradise. A great gulf is fixed between the two which only God can cross. Again according to Bakogiannis, the dead are no longer masters of their own souls and in this sense no longer have free will, and thus our prayers for the departed are even more powerful than those we make for the living. Whereas the living often choose to reject God’s mercy, the dead are unable to make this decision and so it is easier for God to have mercy on them.[119] Thus the Church prays fervently for them in line with the will of God Who desires the salvation of all men. Likewise, Vassiliadis writes: “With our removal to the other life, the door for confession and repentance, that is, for personal decision and action worthy to move the compassion of the impartial Judge, is definitely closed.”[120]

Drawing on the testimony of the Fathers, the Liturgies and the Diptychs of the Church, St. Nektarios notes that for those who have reposed in communion with the Body and Blood of Christ the Church prays that God may forgive their sins and establish their souls where the just repose, but for those who have come to an evil end the Church does not supplicate for their salvation, but only that He will lighten their torments.[121] Vassiliadis concludes the same from the Fathers.[122] That sins may be forgiven during the intermediate state is told us by the Lord Who says in Matthew 12:32: “And whosoever speaketh a word against the Son of man, it shall be forgiven him: but whosoever speaketh against the Holy Ghost, it shall not be forgiven him, neither in this world, neither in the world to come,” which thereby implies that all other sins, however heinous, are possibly forgiven, and this is why the Church offers memorials for the departed. The Church preserves many visions and stories of souls being moved from Hades to Paradise by the mercy of God, including Colonel Andrei Feodorovich Petrov who entered bliss through the prayers and asceticism of his wife St. Ksenia of St. Petersburgh, and the Emperor Trajan who is said to have been “baptized by St. Gregory [the Dialogist’s] tears” who was moved to compassion after learning that the Emperor once ordered recompense be paid to a widow whose son had been murdered.[123]

There are various other means by which the faithful may benefit the departed: through offering charity to the poor on their behalf, the lighting of the candles and oil lamps (which constitute a kind of prayer), and the offering of alter-bread, wine and oil for the performance of the Holy Liturgy. Of course no offering is greater than the Eucharist on the behalf of the departed. However, of charity on behalf of the departed the Apostolic Constitutions teach that “These things we say concerning the pious; for as to the ungodly, if thou givest all the world to the poor, thou wilt not benefit him at all. For to whom the Deity was an enemy while he was alive, it is certain it will be so also when he is departed; for there is no unrighteousness with Him. For ‘the Lordis righteous, and has loved righteousness (Ps. 6:7).’”[124] And here it must absolutely be noted: the Church in no way guarantees the salvation of any soul through its prayers and deeds – nothing replaces repentance in this life! Each man ought to throw himself at the mercy of God in this life and not rely on prayers offered after his repose. This would be folly.

Special mention must be given to St. Mark of Ephesus, the hero of the robber Council of Ferrara-Florence in 1439 and great pillar of the Orthodox Church in whom is found perhaps the most concise and authoritative teaching on the fate of the soul after death. Drawing upon the Scriptures, Patristic homilies, Church services, Live of Saints, and visions and revelations of life after death, St. Mark ably defeated the falsities of the Latin Purgatorial doctrine put forth by Julian Cardinal Cesarini at the earlier “Union” Council of Lyons in 1270. Whereas modern “theologians” tend to distrust the lives and visions of the Saints, St. Mark shows that he is quite at home with such sources and accepts them as reliable transmissions of the Apostolic Tradition. St. Mark offered four homilies against the doctrine of Purgatory, but it is in his first Homily that is found the most concise account of the Orthodox doctrine.

The Latin teaching as laid forth by Cardinal Cesarini seems to be a product of precisely that mindset which has been often warned against – of interpreting Scriptural and Patristic passages and Saintly visions too literally and legalistically. By this time the Catholic Church had come to understand Heaven and Hell as finished and unchangeable, thus the souls in them already receive the fullness of reward or punishment. Thus there is no need to pray for those in Heaven whose lot is absolute nor those in Hell who have no hope or chance of cleansing and forgiveness. However, there are the souls who repose in a middle state of imperfection but not so imperfect that they belong in the eternal punishments of Hell. These souls are assigned to Purgatory, a third place wherein they are punished by a material fire in the present time to give satisfaction for even those sins which were forgiven, and to be purified before entering Heaven. For these souls prayers and charities may be offered to lessen their time spent there.[125]

            By now the errors of this teaching ought to be clear. Firstly, neither the Scriptures nor the Fathers, Greek or Latin, ever posit a third destination for the departed soul or a second fire besides the eternal fire of Gehenna that exists after the Dread Judgment of Christ upon His return. Passages that speak of fire are properly understood allegorically as the purifying uncreated light of God that may grant relief and pardon to souls in Hades or as prophecies of the eternal fire that is to come, but there is certainly no material fire that exists in our present time. And as we have seen, Paradise and Hades are foretastes but not the fullness of Heaven and Hell. Only the soul united to the body in its natural state can know the fullness of joy or pain that comes from God’s love. Furthermore, no payment or satisfaction is due for sins that have been forgiven. In Orthodox theology forgiven sins are truly forgiven. St. Mark states:

To this we say the following, and pay heed how simple and at the same time how just this is: it is generally acknowledged that the remission of sins is at the same time also a deliverance from punishment; for the one who receives remission of them at the same time is delivered from the punishment owed for them. Remission is given in three forms and at different times: (1) during Baptism; (2) after Baptism, through conversion and sorrow and make up (for sins) by good works in the present life; and (3) after death, through prayers and good deeds and thanks to whatever else the Church does for the dead … In the first and last remission of sins the grace of God has the larger part, with the cooperation of prayer, and very little is brought in by us. The middle remission, on the other hand, has little from grace, while the greater part is owing to our labor. The first remission of sins is distinguished from the last by this; that the first is a remission of all sins in an equal degree, while the last is a remission only of those sins which are not mortal and over which a person has repented in life.

Thus does the Church of God think, and when entreating for the departed remission of sins and believing that it is granted them, it does not define as a law any kind of punishment with relation to them, knowing well that the Divine goodness in such matters conquers the idea of justice.[126]

Thus, although there are certain similarities in the Orthodox and Latin understandings of the afterlife, the congruence is often a matter of words alone. As St. Mark of Ephesus ably demonstrates, the Orthodox teaching has nothing to do with the overly literal and legalistic philosophy of the Latins but is rather the pure and unadulterated teaching of the Scriptures and the great Fathers of the Church, both east and west.

Death is the central reality of our lives but the world can give no satisfying answers to this great mystery. It is only to the Orthodox Church that we must turn to understand the origin and meaning of death. The world can only speculate blindly but in the Church we know the divine light of Christ that sweeps away the vanity of speculation. To understand death and the afterlife we turn to “the holy Fathers [who] teach all these things not from their imagination, but from enlightening experiences,” as Met. Hierotheos states.[127] Through the Scriptures, Patristic writings, lives and visions of Saints, hymns and prayers and iconography the Church teaches us the truths of life after death, but it is incumbent to remember that earthly words can provide but a weak description of spiritual realities. However, as Fr. Seraphim Rose teaches, that these words are allegories does not mean they are lacking in substance – the Church and her pious do not sweep these teachings away although they may seem fantastic to those who labor in a fleshly life.[128] Pastorally speaking, a priest must know the teachings of the Church but also understand that for some they may inspire repentance and joy, and for others, despair. Fr. Seraphim wisely observed, speaking of the toll-houses (although his words equally apply to the entire afterlife):

With those who are ready for it, the teaching of the toll-houses is a powerful incentive for repentance and a life lived in the fear of God; but there are those for whom the teaching would be so frightening that I would not even speak of it to them until they were better prepared to accept it. A priest sometimes encounters dying people so little prepared for the other world that it would be pointless to speak to them even of hell, let alone the toll-houses, for fear of removing in them the little hope and awareness they might have of the Kingdom of Heaven.[129]

And he continues “but this does not mean that hell has no part in the teaching of such a priest, or that he would not defend its reality decisively if it were attacked.”[130] As in all things, so in the afterlife the Church’s teachings center on Christ and the reality of His death-destroying Resurrection and His desire for the salvation of all men. Thus the Church calls us to a life of repentance and of prayer on behalf of the departed that they might find rest with the Saints “where sickness and sorrow are no more, neither sighing, but life everlasting.”[131]

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Note: Complete citations will be provided in the Works Cited section.

[1] Cathy Scott, Seraphim Rose: The True Story and Private Letters, pp. 180, 181.

[2] Fr. Seraphim Rose, A Prologue of the Orthodox Saints of the West, in Vita Patrum: The Life of the Fathers by St. Gregory of Tours, St. Herman of Alaska Brotherhood (1988), pp. 23-24.

Similarly, Archimandrite (now Archbishop) Chrysostomos of the Holy Synod in Resistance writes: “So it is that many have written of late that Scripture and the Fathers of the Church are silent about the afterlife and reticent in their approach to this topic. Reticent they are, indeed, to speak of the mystical realm of Eternity in words that might make of Heaven the middle-class Protestant songfest so feared by Samuel Clemens, or cast Hell in images, not of metaphysical anguish, but of epic barbecues; but quiet about the afterlife Holy Scripture and the Fathers most certainly are not. Only our departure from Patristic study and from theology which derives from the Patristic mind can account for this great error among our contemporary theologians,” Foreword to Constantine Cavarnos’ The Future Life According to Orthodox  Teaching (1985), p. 8.

[3] Quoted in Fr. Seraphim Rose, The Soul After Death (2004), p. 67.

[4] Ibid., pp. 234-235.

[5] Idiomelon for the dead in the 4th tone (Octoechos), qtd. in Cavarnos, The Future Life, p. 21.

[6] The Lenten Triodion, St. Tikhon’s Seminary Press (1994), p. 144.

[7] Discourses and Sayings, Cisterna Publications (1977), pp. 185,184.

[8] The Ascetic Works, in the modern Greek version by Mark D. Sakkorrafos, Athens, 1964, p. 155, qtd. in Cavarnos, The Future Life, p. 22.

[9] St. John Climacus, The Ladder of Divine Ascent, 6:24.

[10] St. Ephraim, The Ascetic Works, p. 9, and Cavarnos and Zeldin, St. Seraphim of Sarov, in Modern Orthodox Saints V (1980), p. 47; both qtd. in Cavarnos, The Future Life, pp. 22, 23.

[11] A Prayer to the Theotokos by Monk Paul

[12] Office at the Parting of the Soul from the Body, Canon of Prayer to the All-undefiled Birth-giver of God, on behalf of a man whose soul is departing, and who cannot speak, in Hapgood, Service Book of the Holy Orthodox-Catholic Apostolic Church (1965), p. 361.

[13] The Office at the Parting of the Soul from the Body alone contains eight references to the assault of demons upon the newly-departed soul. Additionally, from the Menaion for Sept 3rd, the Theotokion on the Praises: “Carelessly reclining in the bed of languor and heedlessness, I most slothfully pass through life; and I fear the hour of death, lest that wicked serpent, like a savage lion, in snatching up my lowly soul, rend it asunder with ruthless villainy; O blameless Theotokos, in thy goodness, hasten before the end to bestir me and raise me up to repentance and change of life,” Holy Transfiguration Monastery, p. 60.

[14] Bishop Ignatius, Collected Works, vol. III, p. 136, qtd. in Fr. Seraphim Rose, Soul After Death, p. 65. Emphasis added – to highlight that the tests of the toll-houses are not a Latin-inspired juridical affair, but rather are a means by which to determine the love, or lack thereof, for God in the soul of man.

[15] cf. Eph. 2:2, 6:12.

[16] Ibid., p. 136, 133, qtd. in Fr. Seraphim Rose, Soul After Death, p. 66, 65.

[17] The Future Life, p. 24.

[18] Quoted in Ibid., p. 60.

[19] Ibid., p. 61.

[20] Vlachos, Life After Death (1995), p. 62, 66, 72, 77; Cavarnos, The Future Life, p. 23. Cavarnos quotes St. Maximus the Confessor: “Those who have acquired perfect love of God and have, through their virtues, risen on the wings of the soul, will ‘be caught up in the clouds,’ as the Apostle says, and will not be brought into judgement [sic]. On the other hand, those who have not acquired love in all its perfection, but have both sins and virtues on their account, will appear before the court of judgment. There they will be tried, as it were, by fire. Their good actions will be put in the balance against the bad, and if the good outweighs the bad, they will be delivered from punishment,” Philokalia I, Athens, 1957, p. 273.

[21] Another student has taken up this task.

[22] The Archbishop was formerly Deacon Lev of ROCOR, but he was defrocked by its Synod in 1980 for his persistent and agitated attacks against the teaching of the toll-houses and for entering into the schismatic Free Serbian Church which ordained him to the priesthood in 1981. Puhalo now considers ROCOR to be a heretical synod which had no canonical authority (see his The Tale of Elder Basil “The New” and the Theodora Myth: Study of a Gnostic Document and a General Survey of Gnosticism , p. 10, and his video “ROCOR, Monks, Marriage and Toll Houses,” =86&feature=plcp, beginning at 24:10). In 1988 he joined the Church of the Genuine Orthodox Christians of Greece and was elevated to the rank of Archimandrite; in 1990 he was received into the Holy Synod of Milan and consecrated as a bishop; in 1996 he joined the schismatic Kiev Patriarchate and was elevated to the rank of Archbishop. Finally, in 2003 he was received into the OCA by economia with the title of “Retired Archbishop.” For this history, see his entry on OrthodoxWiki at Fr. Michael Azkoul was a priest in ROCOR but schismed with the Holy Transfiguration Monastery in the 1980s and is now a priest of their “Holy Orthodox Church of North America.”

[23] Quoted by Fr. John Mack in St. John Maximovitch, Life After Death, at

[24] The One-Hundred Eighteenth Psalm, Interpreted by Bishop Theophan, Moscow, 1891, reprinted by Jordanville, 1976, pp. 289-290, qtd. in Fr. Seraphim Rose, Soul After Death, p. 86. St. Theophan also uses the Tale of Theodora as a preparation for confession, in The Spiritual Life and How to be Attuned to It, St. Herman of Alaska Brotherhood (1995), pp. 166-169.

[25] Collected Works vol. 3, p. 138, qtd. in Fr. Seraphim Rose, Soul After Death, p. 268.

[26] Orthodox Dogmatic Theology, vol. 2 (1883), p. 535, qtd. in Fr. Seraphim Rose, Soul After Death, p. 74.

[27] Quoted by Fr. Constantine Aliferakis in The Tropeoforos: St. George Greek Orthodox Church Monthly Newsletter: Schererville, IN, Aug. 2011, at St. Barsanuphius also referred to St. Ignatius Brianchaninov’s Essay on Death which contains the toll-house teaching as “indispensable in its genre,” in Victor Afanasiev, Elder Barsanuphius of Optina, p. 736.

[28] Saint John of Kronstadt on Prayer – Extracts from his Writings. Chap. XI.118 On Prayer for the Departed, pp. 44-45, at

[29] Prologue of Ohrid Vol. 1: January to June, Homily for June 25, p. 654. He also speaks of the toll-houses in his reflections for Sept. 22,  24, 27, Oct. 18, 24, Dec. 23, Aug. 15 and in his homilies for Nov. 7, June 25, and in the lives of Venerable Theodora of Constantinople on Dec. 30, Venerable Basil the New on March 26, and St. Taxiotis on March 28.

[32] Nun Maria Stakhovich, Sergius Bolshakoff, Interior Silence, St. Herman of Alaska Brotherhood (1992), p. 109.

[33] Vladimir Moss, A Life of Archbishop Theophan of Poltava, at

[34] Archimandrite Ioanichie Bolan, Elder Cleopa of Sihastria, p. 152. For a full exposition of the toll-house teaching from Elder Cleopa see “The Soul’s Journey After Death,” at

[35] Wounded by Love (2005), p. 226. In saying that he did not want to think about the toll-houses Elder Porphyrios is not denying their existence, just as he is not denying the existence of Hell, but this is consonant with his overall spirituality through which he did not seek to battle the demons but only to cling to Christ.

[36] Spiritual Counsels Volume 4: Family Life, pp. 278-279.

[37] Our Thoughts Determine Our Lives: The Life and Teachings of Elder Thaddeus of Vitovnica, p. 198.

[39] Orthodox Dogmatic Theology (1994), pp. 333, 334. See also his article “On the Question of the “Toll-Houses:”

Our War is not Against Flesh and Blood” at

[40] “The Holy Righteous Abraham, Moses and Elias as Preparers of Man’s Salvation.” Orthodox Life 28.6 (Nov- Dec. 1978), p. 45.

[42] Eternal Mysteries Beyond the Grave, (1989), p. 62.

[43]Life After Death, pp. 62, 70.

[44] “’One Body in Christ’: Death and the Communion of Saints,” in Sobornost vol. 3, no. 2 (1981), p. 182.

[45] Counsels from the Holy Mountain, p. 71. See also pp. 140, 151-153, 156-157, 337, 371, 417, 436.

[47] Illumined Heart podcast on Ancient Faith Radio: “Toll Houses: After Death Reality or Heresy?”, Sept. 30, 2007,

[48] Mystery of Death, The Orthodox Brotherhood of Theologians: “the Savior”, Athens, Greece, (1993), p. 385. Vassiliadis is a member of this monastic brotherhood.

[49] “Lessons in Dogmatic Theology,” in ROCOR’s official publication Tserkovnaya Zhizn (Church Life), no. 5-6 (Sept.-Dec. 2001), p. 41.

[50] Bright Faith, Christ the Savior Brotherhood, p. 9.

[51] “’To Sleep, Perchance to Dream’: The Middle State of Souls in Patristic and Byzantine Literature,” Dumbarton Oaks Papers 55, at

[53] Introduction to Fr. Michael Pomazanksy’s On the Question of the “Toll-Houses:” Our War is not Against Flesh and Blood, at

[54] Innumerable Patristic and liturgical witnesses are provided in the books cited in this paper. The Fathers, in turn, were pulling from Scriptural sources, most notablyLuke 12:20 which accurately reads: “But God said unto him, You fool, this night they demand of you your soul,” and John 14:30, already cited, in addition to those verses already cited which speak of the spirits of the air. Met. Hierotheos also cites Psalm 7:1-3, and Jer. 20:9-10. See also Zechariah chapter 3 wherein he beholds a vision of the High Priest Joshua standing before the Lord in filthy rags. Although Satan resists him, the angels of the Lord clothe the priest in new garments.

[55] See Abp. Lazar’s The Tale of Elder Basil “The New” and the Theodora Myth: Study of a Gnostic Document and a General Survey of Gnosticism and Fr. Michael Azkoul’s The Aerial Toll-House Myth: The Neo-Gnosticism of Fr Seraphim Rose.

[56] Fr. Seraphim Rose, Soul After Death, p. 75.

[57] Life After Death, p. 77-78.

[58] “Hereafter I will not talk much with you: for the prince of this world cometh, and hath nothing in me.”

[59] Hom. in Luc., 23 (PG 13:1862).

[60] Soul After Death, p. 185.

[61] The Future Life, p. 26.

[62] Collected Works, vol. 3, p. 136, qtd. in Fr. Seraphim Rose, Soul After Death, p. 65

[63] Abp. Lazar Puhalo writes: “We need not even go into detail and offer comparison with the horror-filled Scholastic, Latinized doctrines of aerial purgatories, toll-houses and demonic tribunals,” in The Commemoration of the Dead, Synaxis Press, p. 21.

[64] Met. Kallistos Ware, ‘One Body in Christ,’ p. 184.

[65] Fr. Seraphim writes: “There is no paganism, no occultism, no ‘oriental astrology,’ no ‘purgatory’ whatever to be found in the Orthodox accounts of the toll-houses,” in Soul After Death, p. 243.

[66] Concerning Fake Patristic Texts Used by the Toll-House Cult, at See also Abp. Lazar, The Tale of Elder Basil “The New,” pp. 73-78.

[67] Fr. Seraphim Rose, Soul After Death, p. 74.

[68] Archbishop Lazar: “This is the first selected aspect of Gnostic dualism that concerns us here. In a somewhat modified form, it is a necessary element of the aerial toll-house myth, which makes Satan equal with God in the realm of the judgment of the soul,” The Tale of Elder Basil “The New,” pp. 4-5.

[69] The Future Life, p. 26.

[70] Life After Death, p. 79.

[71] Dialogue with Trypho 105.

[72] The Stromata 4.18, although he is not clearly referring to the soul’s after death ascent.

[73] Quoted in Vassiliadis, The Mystery of Death, p. 390.

[74] Fr. Seraphim Rose, Soul After Death, pp. 72, 76, 77.

[75] From the Coptic prayer book The Agpia, at

[76] Coptic and Apocryphal Gospels, ed. and trans. Forbes Robinson (Cambridge, 1896), pp. 95-99, qtd. in George Every, “Toll Gates on the Way,” Eastern Churches Review vol 8, no. 2, 1976, p. 141.

[77] Quoted in Fr. Seraphim Rose, Soul After Death, p. 73.

[78] Lenten Triodion Supplement, p. 58.

Many other references to the Toll-Houses and the terror of demons at death can be found throughout the Octoechos, Menaion, Triodion, Pentecostarion, and the Office at the Parting of the Soul from the Body, the Canon to the Guardian Angel, The Order at the Parting of The Soul from the Body When One Has Suffered For a Long Time, Another, Similar Prayer for the Assault of Lust in the Book of Needs vol. 3, the funeral services for priests and for laymen, numerous Akathists, and many other prayers and hymns of the Church.

[79] Tlingit Herald, St. Nektarios American Orthodox Church, Seattle, vol. 5, no. 6:3-9, p. 19, qtd. in Fr. Seraphim Rose, Soul After Death, p. 237.

[80] “Death as a Good,” in Seven Exegetical Works (Fathers of the Church  Series vol. 65), 4:15, p. 80, qtd. in Fr. Seraphim Rose, Soul After Death, p. 177.

[81] First Conference, chapter 14, in the Works of St. John Cassian the Roman, Russian tr. by Bishop Peter, Moscow, 1892, pp. 178-179, qtd. in Fr. Seraphim Rose, Soul After Death, p. 178.

[82] This revelation is summarized in Archbishop Lazar’s The Tale of Elder Basil ‘The New,’ pp. 74-76.

[85] Soul After Death, p. 187.

[86] Apostolic Constitutions 8.42

[87] Evergetinos 1, p. 161, qtd. in Cavarnos, The Future Life, p. 30.

[88] The Future Life, pp. 34-35.

[89] Collected Works vol. 3, pp. 309, qtd. in Fr. Seraphim Rose, Soul After Death, p. 130.

[90] Soul After Death, p. 130-131.

[91] The Mystery of Death, p. 399.

[92] Life After Death, p. 90.

[93] Philosophical Chapters 29, FC 37, p. 54, qtd. in Vlachos, Life After Death, pp. 84-85.

[94] Life After Death, pp. 85-86.

[95] On the Soul and Resurrection chap. 5, p. 65-69, SVS, qtd. in Vlachos, Life After Death, p. 86.

[96] Life After Death, p. 265.

[97] The Ascetical Homilies, Holy Transfiguration Monastery, Boston, Homily 28, p. 141.

[98] Homily 12: On the Dormition of the Virgin, PG 97, 1049-1052.

[99] Spiritual Homilies, Homily 40, qtd. in Cavarnos, The Future Life, p. 33.

[100] Philokalia vol. 4, Athens, 1961, pp. 36-38.

[101] The Ascetic Works, modern Greek version by Mark D. Sakkorrafos, Athens, 1964, p. 279, qtd. in Cavarnos, The Future Life, pp. 33-34.

[102] Collected Works [in Greek], Athens, c. 1960, pp. 346-347.

[103] Bakogiannis, After Death, p. 69.

[104] Quoted in Ibid., p. 79.

[105] St. Macarius of Egypt, Spiritual Homilies, p. 233; St. Athanasius, Library of the Greek Fathers and Ecclesiastical Authors, 33, p. 195.

[106] After Death, pp. 75-76.

[107] After Death, p. 70.

[108] To Antiochus the Ruler, Question 32, 35:108-109.

[109] After Death, p. 80.

[110] Ibid., pp. 80-81.

[111] After Death, p. 86.

[112] On Those Who Have Fallen Alseep in Faith, 21, PG 95, 268BC.

[113] In Nun Maria Stakhovich, Sergius Bolshakoff, Interior Silence, p. 176.

[114] On Those Who Have Fallen Asleep in Faith 21.

[115] Soul After Death, p. 253.

[116] After Death, p. 87.

[117] Bakoyannis, Mother of Christ: Mother of God p. 111-112 (Archimandrite Vasilios’ last name is spelled differently in the two works cited in this paper.)

[118] Qtd. in Bakogiannis, After Death, p. 90.

[119] After Death, p. 87.

[120] The Mystery of Death, p. 430.

[121] Study Concerning the Immortality of the Soul and Holy Memorial Services, Athens, 1901, pp. 83-85.

[122] Mystery of Death, p. 434.

[123] The Earliest Life of St. Gregory the Great, by an anonymous Monk of Whitby, tr. by Bertram Colgrave, Univ. of Kansas Press, Lawrence, Kansas, 1968, pp. 127-129, referenced in Fr. Seraphim Rose, Soul After Death, pp.  203-204n.

[124] 8.43.

[125] Fr. Seraphim Rose offers a succinct summary of the Latin teaching in The Soul After Death, pp. 197-198.

[126] First Homily: Refutation of the Latin Chapters Concerning Purgatorial Fire, qtd. in Fr. Seraphim Rose, Soul After Death, pp. 209-210.

[127]Life After Death, pp. 70.

[128] Soul After Death, pp. 234-235.

[129] Ibid., p. 267.

[130] Ibid.

[131] Kontakion of the Departed.

Posted by: oldbelieving | February 29, 2012

the Cosmology of St. Maximus the Confessor

Man in Creation:

The Cosmology of St. Maximus the Confessor






Jesse Dominick


Spring 2011

The theology of creation and salvation in Orthodox Christianity upholds the centrality and kingship of mankind while simultaneously embracing a cosmological vision that is largely absent in western Christendom. A common characteristic of all creation is corruption and death, and yet we are told that God is not the author of death (Wisdom of Solomon 1:13-14), and that all of creation awaits its redemption through the revealing of the Saints (Romans 8:19-22), when all of heaven and earth will be united to God (Ephesians 1:9-10). Within this framework, St. Maximus the Confessor (c. 580-662) is recognized as a theological and spiritual giant by the Orthodox Church. In his two Troparia he is hailed as an “enlightener of the universe” and a “herald of the faith.”

Although best remembered for his stance against the Monothelite heresy, St. Maximus also masterfully harmonized the works of his philosophical and theological predecessors, correcting where need be, into a complex web in which cosmology, anthropology, Christology, soteriology, and eschatology are presented in one harmonious vision in which creation reflects the glory of God, and man is charged with the task of raising all of creation to union with the Godhead. Enabled by the Incarnation of the Divine Logos, the reciprocity of love between God and man is set forth as the path to this union in the spiritual universe of St. Maximus. As Lars Thunberg states, “His system of theology was in fact a spiritual vision of the cosmos, of human life within that cosmos, and therefore of the economy of salvation, the salvific interplay between the human and the divine.[1]” For St. Maximus, salvation is much broader than a rescue from sin and death, a Divine undoing of man’s mistake, but points to God’s eternal plan for mankind, regardless of the Fall. The Son of God was to be incarnate whether man had sinned or not, precisely to call man, and through his priestly lordship over the cosmos, all of creation into a deific union in the life of the Trinity.

Much of St. Maximus’ cosmology was developed in opposition to the cosmology of the third century theologian Origen, which remained popular in certain monastic circles, especially through the influence of the fourth century monastic and avid student of Origen, Evagrius Ponticus. In the Origenist system the material world exists as a result of the fall of pre-existent souls or intellects which grew satiated in their contemplation of God, and thus fell into the created order. Conversely, for St. Maximus, the material creation itself is an intended good creation of God, and the body and soul of man came into existence simultaneously as a cohesive unit. In a series of digressions in his Ambiguum 42, he explains that man is a complete species, with a necessary relation of body and soul which continues even after death (1321D-1324B); that the soul does not preexist the body (1325D-1336B); and that the body does not preexist the soul (1336C-1345C). In this point he is preceded by St. Gregory of Nyssa, and followed by St. John of Damascus,[2] and is in harmony with the general Patristic dictum that the creative act of each day was manifested instantaneously. The Confessor explains that the nature of the body and the nature of the soul form, according to the will of God, the composite nature of man, manifested in one human hypostasis.[3]

As Vladimir Lossky demonstrates, there is no singular Patristic definition of what precisely in man is defined as the image of God.[4] Considering the cohesion of the double-nature of man, for St. Irenaeus, St. Gregory of Nyssa, and St. Gregory Palamas both body and soul make up the image of God in man. For others it is found in the lordship of man over creation; his spiritual nature; his mind (νοῦς); his immortality; or his ability to know God and share in His divine life, etc. For St. Maximus, the image of God in man is connected to the mind and reason (λόγος). Quoting St. Gregory the Theologian, he writes: “’Then we shall know as we are known’ (1 Cor. 13:12), when we mingle our god-formed mind and divine reason to what is properly its own and the image returns to the archetype for which it now longs.”[5] However, as Thunberg demonstrates, it is the νοῦς which is most closely related to the image of God for St. Maximus, and thus fallen man has, through turning from the “leadership of reason,” replaced the image of God with that of irrational animals, while the renewed man in Christ is characterized by a γνῶσις attained through the νοῦς. The image of God in man is known through charity which subordinates man’s freedom to the creative will of God (λόγος), which is the reasonable principle whereby man’s life ought to be oriented.[6]

Closely linked to the image of God is this freedom of man, which is seen as a sign of the image in man, a shadow of the Divine Archetype, to be used to draw ever nearer to God. St. Maximus states: “If man is the image of the divine nature and if the divine nature is free, so is the image.”[7] Finally, although not included in the image of God in man for St. Maximus, the body is closely related to its destined realization. As man is a composite of body and soul, the body too is called to submission to the Divine Logos, and through dominion over the irrational part of himself, divinity is mediated also to the body which thus participates in the attainment to the likeness of God.[8]

With the unity of man in both composition and purpose firmly established, we can begin to look at man’s central position in St. Maximus’ cosmology, in which the fate of the entire cosmos is tied to that of man. As Torstein Theodor Tollefsen writes in his The Christocentric Cosmology of St. Maximus the Confessor: “[man] is created just for this purpose: to actualize the created potential of his being to achieve a fully realized community between all creatures and their Creator.”[9] In his vision of this task, man is described by St. Maximus as a microcosm (ό μικρὸς κόσμος) because man is composed of both body and soul- both physical and spiritual, sensible and intelligible natures, he is thus the creation in miniature, as creation also consists of both physical and spiritual realities. In this he is following upon the Cappadocian Fathers, and Nemesius of Edessa. Man occupies a “middle” position in creation, straddling the division between the material world that we inhabit and the spiritual world of the angelic powers.

Conversely, if man is a microcosm, then for St. Maximus the universe is a makranthropos – a man distended, and so the universe can be contemplated as a man. St. Maximus states in his work The Church’s Mystagogy that “the whole world, made up of visible and invisible things, is man and conversely that man made up of body and soul is a world . . . intelligible things display the meaning of the soul, as the soul does that of intelligible things, and that sensible things display the place of the body as the body does that of sensible things.”[10] As body and soul constitutes but one man, so the visible and invisible aspects of the universe constitute but one cosmos. As Lars Thunberg explains, this relationship between man and the universe does not remain static, but takes on a dynamic element – “the duality should be transformed into a unity, unthreatened by dissolution. This task of unification is attributed to man as microcosm and mediator.”[11] For St. Maximus, the fact that man is a microcosm suggests and naturally leads to this vocation as mediator, in which man “[recapitulates] in himself the elements of the entire world, in his body and in his soul.”[12] Ambiguum 41, as well as chapters 5 and 7 of The Church’s Mystagogy are relevant for the outlining of this active role of mediating. This role of mediation and unification, of uniting diversity, with all diversity preserved, is a consequence of man’s bearing the image of God, and of man’s personal relationship with God.

St. Maximus writes of five dualities or divisions in which man participates by his being, and is called to overcome in the deification process: created and uncreated, intelligible and sensible, heaven and earth, paradise and universe, male and female.[13] Fr. John Meyendorff succinctly explains how man was intended to mediate between these divisions:

Originally, man was called to overcome the sexual opposition by “impassibility,” and to unite through holiness the universe and paradise, thus making one single and new earth. He was then to unite earth and heaven by virtue, in order to make one single, tangible creation, to unify the tangible and intelligible worlds by acquiring angelic gnosis, so that creation might no longer be divided between those who know and those who do not know God. Finally, man was to reunite by love the created and the uncreated, so that in His love for creation, God might become all in all.[14]

“Impassibility” here refers to the Patristic teaching that virginity reigned in the pre-lapsarian world, and to St. Maximus’ teaching that even the distinction between sexes only exists because God foreknew the fall of man, and that man would thus need a means of procreation. So to abide in virginity would overcome the gender distinction. For St. Maximus, this mediating work explains why man was created last, for it is man and man alone as a natural link, who is called to unify the polarities in creation and offer them to God. As Dragos Bahrim notes, man is not a mediator simply in his ontological makeup as body and soul, but man is called to mediate specifically in his soul by vocation. To incline towards God and mediate between the divisions of creation is the guiding principle of man, his λόγος φύσεωσ. This idea of the logoi is central to Maximian theology. He states: “the logoi, firmly fixed, preexist in God, in accordance with which all things are and have become and abide, ever drawing near through natural motion to their purposed logoi.”[15] Thus the logoi are like a blueprint, closely related to, or identified with the thoughts and wills of God for each distinct creature.

However, as we have seen, being in the image of God, man possesses freedom, and thus he may live in accordance with, or contrary to his logos physeos. For St. Maximus, drawing upon many theologians before him, this points to man’s τρόπος ὐπάρξεως – his mode of existence. He writes, “all innovation is manifested in relation to the mode (τρόπος) of the thing innovated, not its natural principle (λόγος). The principle, if it undergoes innovation, corrupts the nature, as the nature in that case does not maintain inviolate the principle according to which it exists.”[16] Thus, man’s logos of existing as body and soul, and his vocation of turning towards God remains constant, but his tropos is variable according to his willful decisions.

This leads to St. Maximus’ famous triad, Being-Well-being-Ever-being.[17] Being and Ever-Being pertain to the image of God in man, while Well-being, or conversely Ill-being, pertains to the likeness of God to which man is called. Simply by existing man obviously possesses Being, and as the soul is immortal and all bodies will be resurrected by virtue of Christ’ resurrection, he too possesses Ever-being. However, according to the choices man makes through his free will, he attains either Well-being, that is – a life in Christ, or Ill-being – a life apart from God. He who achieves Well-being through a holy mode of existence accomplishes man’s call to the likeness of God, and thus will enjoy Ever-well-being, while he who neglects the commandments of the Lord through his mode of existence will suffer Ever-ill-being. Adam and Eve transgressed against the image of God within them and their logos physeos, and chose a tropos hyparxeos of disobedience, whereby Paradise was closed to man until the Incarnate Logos again opened the doors to us. Thus, St. Maximus writes that man is given Being at birth, Well-being at baptism, and Ever-being at the bodily resurrection.[18]

As man turned from the Lord, and ate of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, he was unable to fulfill his vocation as mediator of all creation. Meant to rule over creation in a relationship of love, Adam instead gave himself over to his senses and became dominated by creation and his passions, thus preventing the intended relationships between God and man, and man and creation. Thus the only true man to ever live, the Incarnate Logos Christ our Lord mediated the divisions of creation, which man is again free to effect in his own life. Fr. John Meyendorff again explains:

By his virginal birth, Christ overcomes the opposition of the sexes – “In Christ,” says Paul, “there is neither male nor female” (Gal. 3:28). By his death and  resurrection, Christ destroys the separation that existed since the fall between  paradise and the universe. “Today you shall be with me in Paradise,” says Christ to the good thief (Lk 23:43) – giving to the human race access to the forbidden garden, coming back himself on earth after his resurrection, and showing that in himself paradise and the universe are henceforth one. By his ascension he unites heaven and earth through the exaltation of the human body, co-natural and consubstantial with ours, which he had assumed. By going beyond the angelic orders with his human soul and body, he restores the unity between the worlds of sense and of mind, and establishes the harmony of the whole creation. Finally, as  man, he accomplishes in all truth the true human destiny that he himself had predetermined as God, and from which man had turned: he unites man to God.[19]

The fate of all creation is tied to that of mankind, its high priest and mediator, and thus in this turning from God, the entire cosmos was turned from God. St. Maximus writes, “in the beginning sin seduced Adam and persuaded him to transgress God’s commandment . . . thus condemning our whole human nature to death and, via humanity, pressing the nature of (all) created beings toward mortal extinction.”[20] Through Adam’s sin the original beauty of creation was tarnished, but through our Lord Jesus Christ all is and will be restored.

In his essay “Created in Incorruption,”[21] Fr. Damascene of St. Herman’s Monastery in Platina, CA gives a detailed synopsis of the Patristic doctrine of pre-lapsarian creation, and the effects of the fall on mankind and the cosmos, and he draws heavily from St. Maximus. As Fr. Damascene relays, regarding man’s physical condition before the Fall, St. Maximus teaches that Adam and Eve were wholly without sexual relations and passions;[22] partook of imperishable fruits but produced no bodily waste;[23] were impervious to cold and heat and all the elements;[24] were free of all bodily infirmities and injuries;[25] and thus they were immortal, of another temperament “held together by qualities that are simple and without strife. For reason of this temperament was the first man naked, not as one fleshless or bodiless, but as one not having the temperament which makes the flesh denser, mortal, and tough.”[26] In speaking of bodily temperaments, St. Maximus is again combating Origenism which taught that man was fleshless and bodiless before the Fall.[27] For the Fathers, man’s body was indeed somehow less physical, and more spiritualized, but it was still indeed a body of flesh, just as the risen Christ possessed a body, and yet could hide His identity and pass through doors.

Fr. Damascene further relates the teachings of St. Maximus on the condition of man’s mind before the Fall. According to St. Maximus, man suffered neither from forgetfulness nor ignorance, and his mind was not “impressed by the imagination”[28] which, as we know in our condition, acts as a barrier between man and God and prevents man from seeing clearly into the cosmos – from contemplating the logoi of the creation around him. It is through contemplating these traces of God’s glory in all of creation that we are able to raise our nous to God, and thus the wall of the imagination is a barrier to contemplation of God.

In Ambiguum 45 he further states that man was free of the “deceitful passions of the imagination,” and had no need for arts and skills or the study of nature which he rose above in his wisdom.[29] Furthermore, an important point for St. Maximus is that “When God created human nature, He did not create sensible pleasure and pain along with it; rather, He furnished it with a certain spiritual capacity for pleasure, a pleasure whereby human beings would be able to enjoy God ineffably.”[30] Clearly man was meant for a reality that is wholly other than our experience of corruption, pain, worldly pleasure, and death.

However, as we have said, Adam and Eve sinned and “Through sin, this cosmos became a place of death and corruption.”[31] In seeking his nourishment apart from God, man darkened the image of God within himself and handed all of creation over to death, which takes us as “his food.”[32] For St. Maximus, the garments of skin which Adam and Eve were clothed in by God indicate the susceptibility to pain and corruption that immediately befell them. Furthermore, the deceit of the devil, driven by his self-love which for St. Maximus is the root of all evil, fractured human nature in its tropos hyparxeos into a myriad of opinions and illusions. Through this man discovers all the vices and drives them into his nature as a law. Especially man discovers three principle vices: ignorance, tyranny, and self-love. In short, the Fall – the sin of Adam, the deceit of the devil, drives man from his natural contemplation of God to a life governed by the sensible pleasures of the world which eventually drives him into the grave.

As we have seen, the Fall was a perversion of man’s capacity for spiritual pleasure into a hedonistic search for sensible pleasures, which introduces pain into the life of man and the cosmos. This dialectic of pleasure and pain is important for St. Maximus. He writes, “When God created human nature, He did not create sensible pleasure and pain along with it . . . but . . . the first man, by use of his senses, squandered this spiritual capacity – the natural desire of the mind for God – on sensible things,”[33] and “Every forbidden pleasure has come to be through passions aroused through the senses . . . For desire added to sensual feeling changes into pleasure, giving it a shape, and sensual feeling.”[34] Through this redirection of desire, man became akin to the animals and uses his intellectual capacities for the satisfaction of base sensual, self-loving desires and lusts. Conversely, God, in His great love for mankind, introduced the rule of pain into our lives as a “punitive and purgative counter-force into fallen man’s life.”[35] Of course, pain ultimately leads to death, and viewed in a soteriological context, it is seen as a gift from God that brings an end to our destructive, sinful, and pleasure-seeking lives. However, in our fallen state we often only seek harder to find pleasure and avoid pain.

As we have seen, St. Maximus taught that the virginal life reigned in the Garden before the sin of Adam and Eve. Thus, the introduction of sexual passions and especially the rule of sexual procreation is a foremost sign of the law of pleasure and pain. Sexual intercourse is a result of sensible pleasure, and gives rise to birth through pain. In a play on words, St. Maximus teaches that Adam’s coming into existence (γένεσισ) was perverted by the Fall into the law of conception and birth (γέννησισ) – an imprisonment from which we can escape only by the birth (γέννησισ) of Christ. As Fr. John Meyendorff stated, Christ overcame the opposition of the sexes through His virginal birth, and furthermore, He broke the law of pleasure by being born without pleasure, and He broke the law of pain by His painless birth, as well as His voluntary and sinless passion and death which transformed the law of death “from a judgment of death because of sin, into judgment upon sin.”[36] St. Maximus writes forcefully and extensively on this:

After the transgression pleasure naturally preconditioned the births of all human beings, and no one at all was by nature free from birth subject to the passion associated with this pleasure; rather everyone was requited with sufferings, and subsequent death, as the natural punishment. The way to freedom was hard for all who were tyrannized by unrighteous pleasure and naturally subject to just suffering and to the thoroughly just death accompanying them. In order for unrighteous pleasure, and the thoroughly just death which is its consequence, to be abolished (seeing as suffering humanity has been so pitiably torn asunder by them, with human beings deriving the beginning of their existence from the corruption associated with pleasure, and coming to the end of their life in the corruption of death), and in order for suffering human nature to be set right, it was necessary for an unjust and likewise uncaused suffering and death to be conceived – a death “unjust” in the sense that it by no means followed a life given to passions, and “uncaused” in the sense that it was in no way preceded by pleasure.[37]

This unjust and uncaused suffering and death is clearly that of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Christ overcame the law of pleasure and pain that ruled over mankind from the time of the Fall, He mediated the divisions that man was called to in his microcosmic vocation, and He offered Himself and all of creation back to the Father. However, He did not accomplish this merely in our place, but He rather made it possible for us to once again fulfill our vocation of ascending to God, and bringing the entire cosmos with us. And if self-love is the foremost vice, then true love, of God and others and all creation, is the highest virtue, and thereby we accomplish our God-given tasks. Love possesses and fulfills all the other virtues – faith, hope, humility, meekness, gentleness, mercy, self-control, patience, long-suffering, kindness, peace, joy, etc. Through love man inclines his will to that of God, and thus human nature is no longer at variance with its logos. By love, in Jesus Christ, the fracturing of human nature is overcome, and harmony between God and man is established. According to the Confessor, it is only through love that man is shown to be truly in the image of God, for God is Love.[38] Through the Incarnation, God initiated a reciprocity of love between God and man that leads to the destruction of egoism and the deification of man.

One final point is to be made: for St. Maximus, the greatest experience of love and the journey to deification happens precisely within in the Church, specifically within the worship of the Divine Liturgy. As we have seen, man was initially intended to unite heaven and earth by virtue, to unify the tangible and intelligible worlds by acquiring angelic gnosis, and to reunite by love the created and the uncreated.[39] He states that in the Liturgy, the Christian soul moves towards experiential theology of God, acquiring intelligence equal to that of the angels, able to contemplate the tri-unity of the divine Godhead, for “the Church is not an ecclesiastical institution distributing divine grace, but truly a Mystical Body that represents symbolically the whole divine-human mystery, the whole mystery of God’s good counsel, and the economy of salvation.”[40] In his Mystagogia, he describes the Church as a figure of God, as an image of the world, the Church as man and man as the Church, and the Church as an image of the human soul – a series of contemplations in which the various layers of man’s vocation and soteriology unfold, but as is true for the entire Church, for St. Maximus the celebration of the Eucharist is the very center of our entire lives, the movement in which all things are unified towards God. He states, “. . . as a consummation of everything the distribution of the mystery takes place. It transforms in itself and renders those who participate worthily, through grace and participation, similar to the Good which is this Cause . . . In this way they may both be and be called gods through the gift of grace, since God as whole fills them entirely.”[41] God is Love, and He offered Himself wholly in His incarnated life, and so through His Body of the Church and Her worship, man finds his purpose and the fulfillment of his vocation.

Orthodox theology is cosmological. Man is at the very center of creation and theology, but He brings the entirety of creation with him. Charged with the task of unifying the multiplicity and divisions of creation and offering it back to God, man instead chose to seek a life of sensible pleasure apart from the nourishment and commandments of God. In doing so we lost Paradise and the blessed life free of corruption, and we plunged into an existence ruled by the laws of pleasure and pain ultimately culminating in death for the entire cosmos. However, in the ultimate act of love, God the Word became Incarnate and dwelt among us, fulfilling the roles that Adam had laid aside. Through the kenotic love of Christ we can once again take up our true life and ascend ever closer to the divine life of the Trinity, which the regenerated man accomplishes through love in the worship of the Church. St. Maximus the Confessor is a luminary of this theological vision in his writings and in his life. By the grace of God may this divine plan be fulfilled through us in the Holy Church.

Works Cited

BAHRIM, Dragos. “The Anthropic Cosmology of St Maximus the Confessor.” Journal for

 Interdisciplinary Research on Religion and Science 3 (2008): 11-37.


Hieromonk Damascene. “Created in Incorruption: The Orthodox Patristic Understanding of Man

and the Cosmos in Their Original, Fallen, and Redeemed States.” The Orthodox Word

44.258-259 (2008): 9-99.

Lossky, Vladimir. The Mystical Theology of the Eastern Church. Crestwood, NY: St. Vladimir’s

Seminary, 1976.

Meyendorff, John. Christ in Eastern Christian Thought. Crestwood, N.Y: St. Vladimir’s

Seminary, 1987.

Sherwood, Polycarp. The Earlier Ambigua of Saint Maximus the Confessor and His Refutation of

 Origenism. Romae: Orbis Catholicus, 1955.

St. Gregory of Nyssa, On the Making of Man.

St. John of Damascus, On the Orthodox Faith.

St. Maximus the Confessor. Ad Thalassium. Patrologia Graecae, vol. 90.

St. Maximus the Confessor. Ambigua. Patrologia Graecae, vol. 91.

St. Maximus the Confessor, Mystagogy. Patrologia Graecae, vol. 91

St. Maximus the Confessor. On the Cosmic Mystery of Jesus Christ: Selected Writings from St.

 Maximus the Confessor. Trans. Paul M. Blowers and Robert Louis Wilken. Crestwood,

NY: St. Vladimir’s Seminary, 2003.

St. Maximus the Confessor. “The Church’s Mystagogy.” Maximus Confessor: Selected Writings.

Trans.George C. Berthold. New York: Paulist, 1985.

St. Nicodemus. A Handbook of Spiritual Counsel. Trans. Peter A. Chamberas. New York:

Paulist, 1989

Thunberg, Lars. Man and the Cosmos: the Vision of St. Maximus the Confessor. Crestwood, NY: St. Vladimir’s Seminary, 1985

Thunberg, Lars. Microcosm and Mediator: the Theological Anthropology of Maximus the

 Confessor. 2nd ed. Chicago: Open Court Pub., 1995.

Tollefsen, Torstein. The Christocentric Cosmology of St. Maximus the Confessor. Oxford:

Oxford UP, 2008. <


[1] Thunberg, Lars. Man and the Cosmos: the Vision of St. Maximus the Confessor. Crestwood, NY: St. Vladimir’s Seminary, 1985. p. 31.

[2] St. Gregory of Nyssa, On the Making of Man 28-29; St. John of Damascus, On the Orthodox Faith 2:12

[3] Thunberg, Lars. Microcosm and Mediator: the Theological Anthropology of Maximus the Confessor. 2nd ed. Chicago: Open Court Pub., 1995. pp. 97-98, 106.  St. Maximus analogizes this composition to the hypostatic union of the Incarnate Logos.

[4] Lossky, Vladimir. The Mystical Theology of the Eastern Church. Crestwood, NY: St. Vladimir’s Seminary, 1976., pp. 115-116.

[5] Ambiguum 7, 1077B, in Maximus. On the Cosmic Mystery of Jesus Christ: Selected Writings from St. Maximus the Confessor. Trans. Paul M. Blowers and Robert Louis Wilken. Crestwood, NY: St. Vladimir’s Seminary, 2003. pp. 53-54.

[6] Thunberg, Microcosm and Mediator  pp. 117-118.

[7] Dialogue with Pyrrhus, PG 91 col. 324D, qtd. in Meyendorff, John. Christ in Eastern Christian Thought. Crestwood, N.Y: St. Vladimir’s Seminary, 1987. p. 137.

[8] Ibid. pp. 118-120.

[9] Tollefsen, Torstein. The Christocentric Cosmology of St. Maximus the Confessor. Oxford:Oxford UP, 2008. <;. pp. 102-103.

[10] Chapter 7, St. Maximus the Confessor. “The Church’s Mystagogy.” Maximus Confessor: Selected Writings. Trans. George C. Berthold. New York: Paulist, 1985., p. 196

[11] Thunberg, Man and the Cosmos p. 74

[12] BAHRIM, Dragos. “The Anthropic Cosmology of St Maximus the Confessor.” Journal for Interdisciplinary Research on Religion and Science 3 (2008): 11-37. p. 26. <;.

[13] Ambiguum 41, also in Quaest. ad. Thal. 48, 63.

[14] Meyendorff, Christ in Eastern Christian Thought, pp. 139-140

[15] Amb. 42, 1329, qtd. in Sherwood, Polycarp. The Earlier Ambigua of Saint Maximus the Confessor and His Refutation of Origenism. Romae: Orbis Catholicus, 1955., p. 170

[16] Amb. 42 1341D, in The Cosmic Mystery of Jesus Christ, p. 89-90.

[17] For example, see Amb. 42, 1325 BC.

[18] Ibid.

[19] Meyendorff, Christ in Eastern Christian Thought, p. 143.

[20] Ad Thalassium 61, in On the Cosmic Mystery of Jesus Christ, p. 137.

[21] The Orthodox Word, nos. 258-259, 2008.

[22] Ad Thalassium 21

[23] Ambiguum 10

[24] Ambiguum 45

[25] Ibid.

[26] Ibid., qtd. in Created in Incorruption, p. 21.

[27] St. Maximus’ Ambiguum 45 is dedicated to answering the Origenist use of the statement that man was “naked in his simplicity” from St. Gregory the Theologian, which they interpreted to mean that was naked of flesh.

[28] Qtd. in St. Nicodemus. A Handbook of Spiritual Counsel. Trans. Peter A. Chamberas. New York: Paulist, 1989., p. 150, qtd. in Created in Incorruption, p. 20.

[29] Qtd. in Created in Incorruption, p. 22.

[30] Ad Thalassium 61, qtd. in Created in Incorruption, p. 17.

[31] Ad Thalassium 65, P.G. 90:740B, qtd. in Created in Incorruption, p. 9.

[32] Ambiguum 10, in Louth, Andrew, and Maximus. Maximus the Confessor. London: Routledge, 1996. p. 127.

[33] Ad Thalassium 61, qtd. in Created in Incorruption, p. 17.

[34] Ambiguum 10, qtd. in Created in Incorruption, p. 18.

[35] Thunberg, Microcosm and Mediator, p. 156.

[36] Thunberg, Microcosm and Mediator, p. 160.

[37] Ad Thalassium 61, in On the Cosmic Mystery of Jesus Christ, p. 131.

[38] Letter 2: On Love, 393C-396D, in Louth, Maximus the Confessor, pp. 86-87.

[39] Mystagogia, Patr. Gr. 91, 700C, qtd. in Thunberg, Man and the Cosmos, p. 48.

[40] Thunberg, Man and the Cosmos, p. 113.

[41] Mystagogia 21, Patr. Gr. 91, 697A, qtd. in Thunberg, Man and the Cosmos, pp. 114-115.

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