On The Sunday Of Orthodoxy
In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
We have completed the course of the first week of our spiritual journey of the struggle of the fast and we have arrived at the Sunday of Orthodoxy wherein we celebrate the triumph of the Holy Icons and all of the triumphs of Christian truth in opposition to all of the false teachings that have assaulted the Church. Today we celebrate the historical victories of the Church over heresy.
Out of love for man our Uncreated Pre-eternal God the Word put on our flesh and stood in the midst of men and proclaimed Himself, The Way, The Truth and the Life. (John 14:6)
He told us that, “ ...the hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth: for the Father seeketh such that so worship Him. God is Spirit: and they that worship Him must worship Him in spirit and in truth. (John 4:23-24)
He called us to the banquet of love and invited us to be united to Him through Holy Baptism and partake of His Flesh and Blood in the sacred Mystery of the Bread and Wine.
Yet, as it is written, “He came unto His own, and His own received Him not.” (John 1:11)
He told men that, “To this end was I born, and for this cause came I into the world, that I should bear witness unto the truth. Every one that is of the truth heareth My voice.” (John 18:37)
And men responded with indifference, “What is truth?” (John 18:38)
To those who received Him and sought to follow the truth, He declared that a man has no greater love that to lay His life down for His Friends, (John 15:13) and before He was about to lay down His life, He prayed to His Heavenly Father and declared that His chosen people are united to Him and separated out from the world with the words:
I pray for them: I pray not for the world, but for them which Thou hast given Me; for they are Thine. And all Mine are Thine, and Thine are Mine; and I am glorified in them. They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world. (John 17:9-10)
Sanctify them in Thy truth: Thy word is truth. As Thou hast sent Me into the world, even so have I also sent them into the world. And for their sakes I sanctify Myself, that they also might be sanctified in the truth. Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe in Me through their word; That they all may be one; as Thou, Father, art in Me, and I in Thee, that they also may be one in Us: that the world may believe that Thou hast sent Me. And the glory which Thou gavest Me I have given them; that they may be one, even as We are one:(John 17:16-22)
Beloved, we are sanctified when we abide in the truth. The Apostles' work was to preserve the truth and unite us to the truth through the Mysteries of Holy Baptism and the Eucharist.
At the fearful and world changing Mystical Supper, when our Savior first provided His disciples with what Saint Ignatius of Antioch called the “Antidote of death and the Medicine of Immortality,” our Savior spake the words we hear at every liturgy, “Drink ye all from it, this is the Blood of the New Testament.” (Matt 26:28, Mark 14:24)
Today, men have forgotten that the Divine Blood of the Lamb Who takes away the sins of the world is offered only by the New Testament priesthood. The witness of Holy Scripture and the teachings of the Apostles and Holy Fathers proclaim that the union of the priesthood's teaching, the New Testament, and the Mystery of the Eucharist itself, is the source of our sanctification in the truth. Without the authentic word of truth given by our Savior to the Apostles and by the Apostles and their successors to us, there are no Mysteries and there is no union with the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit.
The word of truth is essential to our salvation. For this reason Saint Paul spoke to the elders of the Church in Ephesus,
Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers, to feed the church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood. For I know this, that after my departing shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock. Also of your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them. Therefore watch, and remember, that by the space of three years I ceased not to warn every one night and day with tears. (Acts 20:28-31)
Saint Ignatius of Antioch, who lived in the Apostolic age and was a disciple of Saint John the Theologian also wrote of the temptation of heresy in his Epistle to the Trallians:
I exhort you therefore -- yet not I, but the love of Jesus Christ -- take ye only Christian food, and abstain from strange herbage, which is heresy: for these men do even mingle poison with Jesus Christ, imposing upon others by a show of honesty, like persons administering a deadly drug with honied wine, so that one who knoweth it not, fearing nothing, drinketh in death with a baneful delight. (Saint Ignatius' Epistle to the Trallians, Ch. 6:1-2)
From all of the above we have before us the Cup of Truth and Immortality juxtaposed with the cup of heresy, which gives the appearance of sweet wine, yet it brings death.
On this day, the Sunday of Orthodoxy we read from the Synodicon of Orthodoxy and praise the Confessors of our Faith who guarded the Cup of Truth and Immortality. We also condemn teachers of heresies from the past who prepared a cup of death, declaring with an Anathema that they and the congregations who followed them are outside of the Church. This is not done out of mean-spiritedness, but in order safeguard those who desire to remain partakers of the Cup of Life.
These commemorations are relevant and applicable to our time.
For example, on December 7, 1965, the Patriarch of Constantinople, Athenagoras Spyrou, “lifted” the anathemas imposed upon the various heresies of Papism in order to achieve “union” with the Catholic Church. It is impossible to lift an Anathema of the Church. Falsehood, cannot be declared truth by “Patriarchal decree.” The false teachings of the Filioque, created grace, Papal primacy and purgatory will never become truth. These teachings are repugnant to true Orthodox Christian Doctrine. They are 'deadly drugs mixed with honeyed wine,' to use the words of Saint Ignatius of Antioch. To not object to these soul destroying teachings proclaimed by Patriarch Athenagoras would be a dereliction of duty and a cause of destruction for unsuspecting souls.
The canonist Rev. Fr. Theodore T. Thalassinos, wrote at the time,“The removal of the mutual excommunications between the two Churches restores canonical relations between Rome and New Rome. This restoration is a canonical necessity, since there is no possible third situation between ecclesiastical communion and its negation: ecclesiastical excommunication” (Father Theodore T. Thalassinos, “The Goyan,” Winter 1968).
Many years later, at the Joint International Commission for the Theological Dialogue, which met in Balamand, Lebanon in 1993, crafted the Balamand Accord which states:
...In fact, especially since the panorthodox Conferences and the Second Vatican Council, the re- discovery and the giving again of proper value to the Church as communion, both on the part of Orthodox and of Catholics, has radically altered perspectives and thus attitudes. On each side it is recognized that what Christ has entrusted to his Church - 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 - cannot be considered the exclusive property of one of our Churches...
The local Churches who were officially represented at this union were, The Patriarchates of Constantinople, Antioch, Alexandria, Moscow, Romania and the Churches of Cyprus, Poland and Finland. Within these local Churches, the Cup of Life has been replaced with a “common cup” wherein a deadly drug has been mingled with honeyed wine. As observed by the canonist above, the union has occurred. The participating local Churches are now part of a false union, similar to the False Council of Florence and Ferrara.
We have to ask ourselves, how would the saints respond to these events? How would Saint Photios the Great or Saint Gregory Palamas or Saint Mark of Ephesus respond. After having rejected the False Union of Florence Saint Mark of Ephesus wrote in his “Confession of Faith” :
All the teachers of the Church, all the Councils, and all the Divine Scriptures, exhort us to flee those who uphold other doctrines and to separate from communion with them.
Confession of Faith, XII, 304
Saint Mark of Ephesus
From the early days of the Church to the latter days, the saints of the Church recognized the danger of heresy. Today we hear from false elders and teachers that communion with heresy is a matter of indifference. Some say, for example, that regardless of what the Patriarch of Constantinople believes or says or what his official policies are, everyone should remain in communion with him. We all revere the historical position of the institution of the Patriarchate of Constantinople and all of the other Patriarchates, but these ancient Sees have been hijacked and their thrones are not occupied by genuine Orthodox Christian hierarchs. The only saving response to all of this is to humbly follow in the footsteps of the Holy Fathers and struggle to maintain the purity of the Orthodox Faith by separating from them. The witness of Church History and the lives of the saints testify that there is no other way.
In conclusion I quote once again from the writings of Saint Ignatius of Antioch in his letter to Saint Polycarp of Smyrna.
Let not those who seem worthy of credit, but teach strange doctrines, fill thee with apprehension. Stand firm, as does an anvil which is beaten. It is the part of a noble athlete to be wounded, and yet to conquer. And especially, we ought to bear all things for the sake of God, that He also may bear with us. Be ever becoming more zealous than what thou art. Weigh carefully the times. Look for Him who is above all time, eternal and invisible, yet who became visible for our sakes; impalpable and impassible, yet who became passible on our account; and who in every kind of way suffered for our sakes.
-The Epistle of Saint Ignatius to Saint Polycarp, Chapter 3
Let us pray for those who those who have been lead astray and with meekness and fear be ready to proclaim the word of truth so that, perhaps we may be able to aid those who are confused and welcome them to partake of the Cup of Truth and Eternity with us.
May God bless and preserve you and your families. Amen.