Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Chairman of Election Commission Wears Sticharion at Services of the Moscow Patriarchate

The Chairman of the Central Election Commission of the Russian Federation wears a sticharion, an ecclesiastical vestment normally reserved for minor clergy, at divine services of the Russian Orthodox Church (Moscow Patriarchate), an ecclesiastical functionary close to the Patriarch reveals.

Kirill Florov, who is head of the “Association of Orthodox Experts,” which is close to Patriarch Kirill (Gundyaev), Primate of the Moscow Patriarchate, wrote the following on his blog on December 10, 2011: “Vladimir Churov, Chairman of the Central Election Commission, is a church person and a parishioner at one of our churches in Moscow. I’ve received Communion with him, and the rector has blessed Churov to vest in a sticharion.”

Participants in the mass protests against the obviously falsified parliamentary elections in Russia on December 4, 2011, have accused Vladimir Churov of committing criminal offenses related to participation in electoral fraud and the concealment of known evidence tampering. Churov has stated on government-sponsored television that he has not received a single complaint regarding the violation of electoral laws, although observers, journalists, and ordinary voters have send thousands of such complaints to the Central Election Commission. Churov is also known for his promise to shave his beard if even a single violation of count voting be found, as well as for his words spoken in response to Dmitry Medvedev, hinting at vote manipulation: “I am not a magician, I’m just learning.”

Kirill Florov also confirms that Patriarch Kirill (Gundyaev), who has not appeared in public since December 6, 2011, is in Moscow. Florov did not specify where and why the head of the Moscow Patriarchate dropped out of public view. Despite the serious disorder in Russia, no commentary on events has come from the part of Patrirach Kirill in the past week.

Thursday, December 08, 2011

Representatives of Various True Orthodox Churches Attend Conference on “The Underground Church in the USSR”

Representatives of the Russian True Orthodox Church (RTOC), the Russian Orthodox Autonomous Church (ROAC) (under both Metropolitan Valentine of Suzdal and Bishop Gregory of Petrograd), and the Holy Orthodox Church in North America (HOCNA) as well as many well-known historians and scholars gathered to attend an international conference on “The Underground Church in the USSR,” which took place in Chernigov on November 18-19, 2011, reports Portal-Credo.Ru. The conference was organized by the Chernihiv State T.G. Shevchenko Pedagogical University and the Keston Institute (Oxford) with the support of the Chernihiv Oblast State Administration of Ukraine. The conference assembled on the eve of the memory of the Fathers and Confessors of the Catacomb Church associated with the day in 1937 on which two of the greatest luminaries of the Russian True Orthodox Church were shot: Metropolitan Joseph (Petrov) of Petrograd and Metropolitan Kirill (Smirnov) of Kazan.

Nowhere and never before, let alone in an academic atmosphere, had dozens of scholars from various countries who study the underground Church in the USSR gathered together alongside the “remnants” of this Church itself.

Nun Evphrosinia (Molchanova) (Provemont, France) from the Lesna Convent lectured on the theme of “The Catacomb Church in the Perception of the Russian Church Abroad.” Alexander Ogorodnikov, a prisoner of conscience from the Soviet period, noted that the catacomb period has been all but expunged from official church history, and even in textbooks for theological schools it is mentioned in passing and dismissively. Alexander Soldatov, editor in chief of Vertograd and Portal-Credo.Ru, related the history and ideology of the canonical structures of the Russian Church Abroad in Ukraine in the 1970s to the beginning of the 1990s.

Lev Regelson, the well-known scholar and author of the book The Tragedy of the Russian Church, in his speech entitled “The Question of the Nature of Ecclesiastical Authority in Connection with the Non-Commemorating Movement,” lamented that Russia and the official Church “have not learned a lesson from the history of the underground Church.” Mikhail Shkarovsky, a scholar of the Catacomb Church, related that the St. Petersburg Diocese of the Moscow Patriarchate suggested canonizing Metropolitan Joseph and his “Josephite” followers who suffered for the faith, but the Synodal commission rejected these candidates. Talks were delivered by Archpriest Alexei Paro (RTOC), Archpriest Alexei Lebedev (ROAC), Irina Osipova ("Memorial" society), and many others.

At the conference an exhibition of photographs, books, manuscripts, and liturgical objects collected in various catacomb communities was on display. Following the meetings the participants of the conference enjoyed many and fruitful discussions in an informal setting. Photographs of the conference can be seen at Portal-Credo.Ru: http://www.portal-credo.ru/site/?act=news&id=87952&topic=773

Sunday, December 04, 2011

On the Errors of Bishop Photios of Marathon and Fr. Panagiotis Carras

The Divine Name controversy involved deeply complex theological issues that have as of yet not been fully resolved in conciliar manner by the Orthodox Church. It has been the subject of a small but expanding library of books and articles written by theologians, historians, and churchmen in a variety of languages and from a variety of perspectives. It is a topic about which reasonable people can disagree, inasmuch as the Church has not yet definitely resolved the issue.

What is unacceptable, however, is for people with no knowledge of either the theological complexities involved or the language in which the controversy was conducted, and with no familiarity with either the historical context or the primary sources – such as Bishop Photios of Marathon and Fr. Panagiotis Carras in their articles recently published on the offiical website of the Holy Metropolis of the Genuine Orthodox Church of America – unilaterally to declare it a "condemned heresy" and "superstition" (in Bishop Photios’ words) purely for reasons of jurisdictional rivalry (hence Bishop Photios’ reference to "the parasynagogues of the deposed or un-ordained [sic]" and Fr. Panagiotis’ explicit reference to Bishop Gregory of Petrograd and Gdov). This is all the more the case when such people display their ignorance by making a series of egregious factual mistakes.

The following is a list of factual errors made by Bishop Photios of Marathon and Fr. Panagiotis Carras with a brief response to each.

1. The "heresy" of name-glorifying was neither "lit" (Bishop Photios) nor "begun" (Fr. Panagiotis) by Schema-monk Ilarion, author of In the Mountains of the Caucasus. This book was originally blessed for publication in 1907, republished in 1910 with funds provided by the New Martyr Grand Duchess Elizabeth Feodorovna; and printed a third time in an enormous print run by the Kiev-Caves in 1912. All were printed with full ecclesiastical sanction.

2. Fr. Panagiotes writes concerning the name-glorifiers: "Many of them argued that, since according to the ancient Greek philosopher, Plato, the name of an object exists before the object itself does, so the name of God must pre-exist before the world was created, and that it (the Name) cannot be anything but God Himself. Among other things, this was thought to mean that knowledge of the secret name of God alone allows one to perform miracles. A similar concept exists in Jewish Kabbalah and in Buddhism." This is false from beginning to end. Who are the "many" that argued such evident nonsense? Can Fr. Panagiotis name a single name-glorifier who cited Plato? Where is the evidence that the name-glorifiers taught that God had a "secret name"? What is Fr. Panagiotis source for this information? Has he read any of the works of Fr. Anthony (Bulatovich)? In fact, the answer is quite clear: he copied and pasted this nonsense and slander verbatim from Wikipedia, hardly a reliable source for theological discussion.

3. Fr. Panagiotis claims that "the other Athonite monks" opposed Fr. Anthony. In fact, name-glorification was strong enough among Russian Athonites that they canonically elected one of their own as abbot of St. Andrew’s Skete. Moreover, over 800 name-glorifying monks were expelled from Athos in 1913.

4. Both Bishop Photios and Fr. Panagiotis speak as if the issue of name-glorification had been decisively resolved by the ecclesiastical authorities. If that were the case then the Russian Synod would not have issued a statement on May 7, 1914, and confirmed by decree of the Synod – which they were urged to do by personal appeal of the Tsar-Martyr Nicholas II – stating that the name-glorifiers "have no reason, based on the teaching on the names of God, to fall away from the Orthodox Church"; nor would name-glorifiers have served as army chaplains during World War I; nor would the All-Russian Council of 1917-1918 have taken up the issue; nor would Patriarch Tikhon have openly served with Archimandrite David, a leading name-glorifier, in the early 1920s.

5. Fr Panagiotis writes: "In Russia, the most vocal opponent was Archbishop Antony (Khrapovitsky) of Kiev." This is true, but Fr. Panagiotis gives no indication of just how misguided many of his writings against name-glorification really were. Archbishop Anthony in fact explicitly refuses to recognize the energy of God with God Himself, recognizing it – and consequently the name of God – as only an intermediary power:

His [Bulatovich’s] doctrine consists of the following positions. In God not only His Essence is divine, but His energy as well; the energy is every word of God and every action; the name of God is also His energy (energy means will or power); it follows, according to Bulatovich’s words, that the name of God and every word of God is not only Divine, but is God Himself. This is allegedly the teaching of St. Gregory of Thessalonica. In actual fact the teaching of the latter condemns those who speak in this manner of the first position (and the Barlaamites, the opponents of St. Gregory, spoke in this way) and demands that one name the energy of God not at all "God," but rather Divine and to ascribe to it not the name "God" [Bog] but "Divinity" [Bozhestvenii] or "Divineness" [Bozhestvennost’] (theotis, and not theos). ["Pribavleniia k Tserkovnym Vedomostriam," May 18, 1912 (Number 20), 876].

For Archbishop Anthony, only the essence of God was God Himself, claiming that St. Gregory Palamas directed an anathema against those "who recognize the energy of God not as Divine, but as God, that is, who identify it [the energy] with the essence of God." [Ibid, 876].

Moreover, Vladyka Anthony, in his writings critical of name-glorifying, expressed a crude nominalism, making a strict distinction between a name and the thing or person named:

Logic distinguishes the essence of a thing from its phenomenon (although this, too, is rather vague), and a natural scientist would tell you that sounds are something audible, but that their essence is a vibration of the air and its impact on our eardrums; lightening is a visible phenomenon, but its essence is the release of electrical energy or power.

But what is the difference between a name and the idea or essence of a name? Any educated person would offer the response that the idea of a name is its meaning (for instance, the name "Andrew" contains within itself the idea of manliness, and the name "Agapia," the idea of love), and the essence of the name is understood to be that person to whom it is addressed. But Fr. Bulatovich does not wish to hear of such answers: he is indignant with those who "dare to equate the Divinity of the name of God with the simple idea of God and who see in the name of God nothing but sounds." [Ibid, 878]

The point here is no to criticize Vladyka Anthony, but rather to show that Fr. Panagiotis’ appeal to his authority is specious. The theological limitations of Vladyka Anthony’s writings on name-glorifying should be clearly evident from our very brief summary. Granted the general ignorance of the thought of St. Gregory Palamas in theological circles of his time, there should be nothing especially shocking in his misapprehension of the distinction between essence and energy. None of the other official ecclesiastical replies to name-glorifying was itself free from similar misconstructions of hesychast theology. Vladyka Anthony, for all his attempts to break free from the bondage of western scholasticism, was still very much a theologian of his time. Bishop Photios and Fr. Panagiotis, however, cannot be so easily excused, given the revival of interest in Palamas and the growing body of scholarly literature on name-glorifying.

6. Bishop Photios writes: "In other words, it is sufficient for one to call upon the name of God (even without faith, unconscionably [sic]) and God is obliged to be present with this person through His Grace and to fulfill his petition." This slanderous accusation shows Bishop Photios’ utter ignorance of the writings of Fr. Anthony, who repeatedly and systematically denied any such teaching.

7. Fr Panagiotis writes: "The heresy was continued in Paris where the proponents of the heresy of Sophia, Florensky and Bulgakov also supported the Name-Worshipping heresy." Putting aside the fact that Florensky was never in Paris, this is purely a matter of guilt by association. And while it is true that Florensky was supportive of Fr. Anthony (Bulatovich), Bulgakov was more ambivalent, writing only quite fairly that the "practical application of the prayer of Jesus has naturally led to theological discussion of the name of God and its power, on the meaning of the veneration of the name of God and on its active force. These questions have not yet received solutions having the value of dogma for the whole Church" [The Orthodox Church, tr. by Elizabeth S Cram (London: The Centenary Press, 1935), 171-172]. No one at the St. Serge Institute in Paris was an active proponent of name-glorifying.

More could be written in response to the crude caricature of name-glorifying painted by Bishop Photios and Fr. Panagiotis. But the above seven points should demonstrate just how misguided their attempts are to declare as a heresy a teaching that stands well within the mainstream of patristic doctrine.

Nikolai Stromsky
Entrance of the Theotokos into the Temple
November 21 / December 4, 2011

Vertordad # 80, December 4, 2011


On the Barlaamite Heresy of Bishop Photios of Marathon

On November 28, 2011, the article "The Heresy of Name-Worshipping" by Bishop Photios of Marathon appeared on the official site of the Holy Metropolis of the Genuine Orthodox Church of America (HOTCA); on December 1, 2011, the article "The Name-Worshipping Heresy" by Fr. Panagiotes Carras also appeared on the same site. As a result of these publications, it can be concluded that Bishop Photios of Marathon, by subscribing to the decision of the Russian Synod of 1913, has fallen into the Balaamite heresy and denied the teaching of St. Gregory Palamas that the energy of God is God Himself.

As is well known, the Epistle of the Synod of the Russian Church in 1913, which officially condemned name-glorifying (imiaslavie), not only falsely asserted that St. Gregory Palamas "never called the energy ‘God,’ but taught that it should be called ‘Divine’ (not theos, but theotis)" (an exact citation from the Epistle), but also declared that the energy of God can be called "only divine, but not God, let alone ‘God Himself.’" This is the Barlaamite heresy and a direct contradiction of the teaching of St. Gregory Palamas, who wrote: "Every divine power and every energy is God (theos) Himself" (Hagiou Gregoriou tou Palama Syggrammata II [Epistle to John Gavras (Thessalonica, 1966) 340. 12-13].

Moreover, the Epistle of the Russian Synod denied the opinion of the name-glorifiers that icons are holy because on them is inscribed the name of God. This opinion, according to the affirmation of the Epistle, "exposes the untruth of the new dogma," that is, of name-glorifying. In this manner, the compilers of the Epistle, and along with them Bishop Photios, have fallen into the heresy of iconoclasm, going explicitly against the affirmation of the Fathers of the Seventh Ecumenical Council that icons are sanctified not by any specific prayer, but by the imprinting of the name of God. The Council declared: "Many of those items that we accept as holy do not have a sacred prayer read over them; for they, by their very name, are full of holiness and grace… In the same way, the very image of the life-giving cross, in spite of not having a special prayer for its blessing, is accepted by us as worthy of veneration, and it serves as a sufficient means for us to receive sanctification… The same relates to the icon; by denoting it with a known name, we give honor to its prototype; by kissing it and venerating it with admiration, we receive sanctification." (Sixth Act. "Refutation of the So-Called Definition Insidiously Concocted by a Crowd of the Enemies of Christianity.")

Bishop Photios, as can be seen in his article, considers the name-glorifiers’ assertion that divine grace is present in the inscription of the name of God to be a heresy. Specifically, he cites as false the assertion of the name-glorifiers that "The Grace of God is present in the hearings and the writings of God’s name." In this case, one must ask him: in what way can a name, if God is not present therein ­– inasmuch as the grace of God is His energy, that is, God Himself – sanctify anything? And if, according to the opinion of Bishop Photios, grace is not present in the name of God, then how is it that Holy Scripture and the Holy Fathers teach about the sanctity, power, and activity of the name of God in the Mysteries and in prayer?

One might doubt whether Bishop Photios has a genuine understanding of the teaching of name-glorifying, which he from the very beginning dismisses as being found "most among the Slavic Orthodox." Indeed, can any good thing come from the Slavs (cf. Jn 1:46)?

Hieroschemamonk Anthony (Bulatovich) always denied the accusation that the name-glorifiers worshipped the material letters and sounds of the Divine Names, comparing the material shell of the name to icons inasmuch as divine energy is present in the name of God. St. Theodore the Studite wrote the following about the icon: "one must believe that divine grace enlivens it, that it communicates sanctification to those who approach it with faith" (Epistle to His Spiritual Father, Platon, On the Veneration of Icons). From this it follows that grace is always present in icons, but that it is active only when approached with faith. In this way, Bishop Photios’ accusation that the presence of God in the sounds and letters of the names of God makes Him dependent upon man is shown to be false and groundless. If Bishop Photios were correct, then the presence of divine grace in icons would also make God dependent upon man. Or perhaps Bishop Photios venerates icons in order to receive magical power over God from them?

Bishop Photios’ article also contains slanderous accusations against the righteous Schema-monk Ilarion and his edifying book In the Mountains of the Caucasus. The third edition of this book, which the onomatoclasts (imiabortsy, literally "name-destroyers") attacked, was printed with money donated by the New Martyr Grand Duchess Elizabeth, acting upon the advice of her spiritual father, Elder Herman, founder and abbot of the Zosimova Hermitage. St. Elizabeth, to whom our cathedral is dedicated, did not cease to help the defenders of the name of God until the end of her life. Bishop Photios likewise falsely presents the Tsar-Martyr Nicholas II as a supporter of the onomatoclasts. In actual fact, the Tsar-Martyr, having been advised by St. Elizabeth and other spiritual people, ordered the Russian Synod to overturn all the sanctions it had imposed upon the name-glorifiers, so that the name-glorifiers enjoyed unrestricted communion with the rest of the Russian Church until 1918. Documents from the supporters of the onomatoclasts have been preserved from the All-Russian Council of 1917-1918 in which they state their joy at the overthrow of the monarchy as a possibility to return the Russian Church to the Synodal Epistle of 1913. By God’s mercy, despite all the machinations of the onomatoclasts, the name-glorifiers were fully reconciled with the Holy Patriarch Tikhon in 1921. The then head of the name-glorifiers in Moscow, Igumen David, concelebrated with Patriarch Tikhon while continuing to teach name-glorifying in the churches of Moscow.

The All-Russian Council of 1917-1918 transferred to its own conciliar competence decisions concerning the essence of the conflict, but was unable to reach any decision, inasmuch as its work was forcibly ended. Therefore, as was decided in 1917, the controversy that arose at that time within the Russian Church should be resolved, if it be the will of God, by a Local Council.

One should not, for reasons of ecclesiastical intrigue, interfere in foreign theological controversies of which one has no understanding.

+Bishop Gregory of Petrograd and Gdov
November 21 / December 4, 2011
Entrance of the Most-Holy Theotokos into the Temple