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Πέμπτη, 16 Ιουλίου 2015

THE ONE, HOLY, CATHOLIC & APOSTOLIC FAITH OF JESUS CHRIST





THE ONE, HOLY, CATHOLIC & APOSTOLIC FAITH OF JESUS CHRIST

Dear People,

            There is a crisis of faith throughout the traditional Christian countries of Western Europe and the United States of America.  This crisis was addressed by a great statesman of Russia, Alexander Solszhenitsyn in 1974.  He was forced into exile from his native Russia because of Communism.  During the years that he lived in exile in America, he was able to make a dramatic comparison between the Western and Eastern approach to life and spirituality.  In 1973, Alexander was exiled from Russia for writing the Gulag Archipelago.  The Soviets accused him of treason in writing this story of Soviet oppression. He came to America and settled in Vermont for approximately twenty five years.  In 1974 he was invited to give an address at the Harvard Class Day Afternoon Exercises on Thursday, June 8.  In this address he offered an assessment of the life and liberties as being lived in capitalistic America.  Much of what he says is like a prophecy for he speaks of what America has become today.  He authored this speech forty-one years ago.  When one reads his words today, you can see what a great prophet he was in speaking about the two worlds of East and West.  Much of what he says comes from his Orthodox Christian roots for he constantly talks about the importance of spiritual values versus a materialistic value system that energizes our western way of life.   I am offering a small excerpt of this message of his.  Following this excerpt, I have added an essay authored by the late Fr. John Romanides on the Church.  I believe that both men speak about the same issues that separate Eastern Christianity from Western Christianity.

+Fr. Constantine (Charles) J. Simones, July 15, 2015, Waterford, CT.

            Alexander Solzhenitsyn says: “Destructive and irresponsible freedom has been granted boundless space in America.  Society appears to have little defense against the abyss of human decadence, such as, for example, misuse of liberty for moral violence against young people; motion pictures, television and internet full of pornography, crime and horror.  It is considered to be part of freedom and theoretically counter-balanced by the young people’s right not to look and not to accept.  Life organized legalistically has thus shown its inability to defend itself against the corrosion of evil.

            But should someone ask me whether I would indicate the West such as it is today as a model to my country, frankly I would have to answer negatively.  No, I could not recommend your society in its present state as an ideal for the transformation of ours.  Through intense suffering, our country has now achieved a spiritual development of such intensity that the Western system in its present state of spiritual exhaustion does not look attractive.  Even those characteristics of your life which I have just mentioned are extremely saddening. 

            A fact which cannot be disputed is the weakening of human beings in the West while in the East they are becoming firmer and stronger.  Six decades (my note: It was really seven decades for he wrote this speech about ten years before Communism fell) our people and four decades for the people of Eastern Europe; we have been through a spiritual training far in advance of the Western experience. Life’s complexity and mortal weight have produced stronger, deeper and more interesting characters than those produced by standardized Western well-being.  Therefore if our society were to be transformed into yours, it would mean an improvement in certain aspects, but also a change for the worse on some particularly significant scores.  It is true, no doubt, that a society cannot remain in an abyss of lawlessness, as is the case in our country.  But it is also demeaning for it to elect such mechanical legalistic smoothness as you have.  After the suffering of decades of violence and oppression the human soul longs for things higher, warmer and purer than those offered by today’s mass living habits, introduced by the revolting invasion of publicity, by TV stupor and by intolerable music.

            All this is visible to observers from all the parts of our planet.  The Western way of life is less and less likely to become the leading model.  There are meaningful warnings that history gives to a threatened and perishing society.  Such are, for instance, the decadence of art, or a lack of great statesmen.  There are open and evident warnings too.  The center of our democracy and of your culture is left without electric power for a few hours only, and all of a sudden crowds of American citizens start looting and creating havoc.  The smooth surface film must be very thin, then, the social system quite unstable and unhealthy.

            But the fight for our planet, physical and spiritual, a fight of cosmic proportions, is not a vague matter of the future; it has already started. The force of evil has begun its decisive offensive, you can feel its pressure, and yet your screens and publications are full of prescribed smiles and raised glasses. What is the joy about?  And yet—no weapons, no matter how powerful can help the West until it overcomes its loss of willpower.  In a state of psychological weakness, weapons become a burden for the capitulating side.  To defend oneself, one must also be ready to die; there is very little such readiness in a society raised in the cult of material well-being.”

            We Orthodox Christians believe that the Orthodox Church is that Church established by Jesus Christ.  The differences between East and West are not simply, spiritual theological, and dogmatic.  There is also a very bias attitude toward the Eastern Christian world that is expressed toward the East by the Latin Christian tradition of the West.   There is a distinct line that separates East from West that runs from the north in the Scandinavian countries, through eastern Europe and all the way down to the Mediterranean basin.   This bias can be seen in the Uniate Church, NATO, the political maneuverings of the West against the East, the culture and the religious traditions.    Having said this, my disclaimer for my Christians brothers and sisters in the West is expressed most beautifully by St. Philaret of New York.  He says: “It is self-evident, however, that sincere Christians who are Roman Catholics or Protestants or members of other non-Orthodox confessions, cannot be termed renegades or heretics—i.e. those who knowingly pervert the truth.  They have been born and raised and are living according to the creed which they have inherited, just as do the majority of you who are Orthodox Christians; in their lives there has not been a moment of personal and conscious renunciation of Orthodoxy.  The Lord, “Who will have all men be saved,” (1 Tim. 2:4) and “Who enlightens every man born into the world,” (John 1:43), undoubtedly is leading them also towards salvation in His own way.”   St. Philaret of New York

ON THE CHURCH
by Fr. John Romanides

Our father in the faith, John Romanides (1927-2001), was a prominent 20th century Orthodox Christian priest, theologian, and writer.  He argued for the existence of a national, cultural and even linguistic unity between Eastern and Western Romans. This unity existed until the intrusion and takeover of the Western Roman Church (the Roman Catholics) by the Franks and or Goths (German tribes).

            The Church is the Body of Christ, which is comprised of all those faithful in Christ; of those who participate in the first resurrection and who bear the betrothal of the Spirit (baptism) or even those who have foretasted theosis (deification).

            The Church is both invisible and visible; in other words, She is comprised of those who are enlisted (in active duty) on earth and those who are in the heavens, that is, those who have triumphed (reposed) in the glory of God.

            Among the Protestants there prevails the opinion that the Church is visible only—where the sacraments of Baptism and the Divine Liturgy are merely symbolic acts—and that only God knows who the true members of the Church are.  The Orthodox Church, on the other hand, also stresses the visible aspect of the Church.  Outside the Church, there is no salvation.

            The Church as the Body of Christ is the residence of God’s uncreated glory.  It is impossible for us to separate Christ from the Church, as it is to separate the Church from Christ.  In Papist and Protestant churches there is a clear distinction between the Body of Christ and the Church; that is, one can participate in the Body of Christ without being a member of the Papist Church.  This is impossible for Orthodoxy.
            According to the Calvinists, after His Ascension, Christ resides in heaven, and consequently the transformation of bread and wine into the actual Body and Blood of Christ is impossible.  There is a complete absence of Christ.  Approximately the same thing is highlighted in the Papist Church because Christ is regarded as absent, and through the priest’s prayer, Christ descends from the heavens and becomes present.  This implies that Christ is absent from the Church.  Members of the Church are as mentioned earlier those who have received the betrothal (baptism) of the Spirit.

            When the ancient Church referred to the Body of Christ as the Church, and Christ as the Head of the Church, they of course did not mean that Christ was spread out bodily all over the world and that He for example had His Head in Rome, the one hand in the East and the other in the West, but that the whole of Christ exists in every individual Church with all its members, that is, the Saints and the faithful of the universe. 

            In this way, according to the teachings of the Fathers, when we perform the Divine Liturgy, not only is Christ present, but all His Saints and all the Christians of the Universe are present, in Christ.  When we receive a tiny morsel of the consecrated Bread and Wine, we receive all of Christ inside of us.  When Christians gather together for the same reason, the whole Church is gathering together, and not just a fraction of it.  This is the reason that it has become predominant in Patristic Tradition to refer to monastic Churches in Monasteries as the Katholikon (The Church where the Universal faithful gather).

            The destination of all the faithful is theosis (deification).  This is everyone’s ultimate objective.  This is why a Christian must proceed “from glory to glory;” in other words, the slave must first become a salaried worker, then a son of God and a faithful member of Christ. 

            There cannot be salvation outside the Church.  Christ offers redemptive grace to all people.  When one is saved outside the visible Church, it means that Christ Himself has saved him.  If he is a heterodox member then he is saved because it was Christ who saved him, and not the religious “offshoot” that he belongs to.  His salvation therefore is not affected by the ‘church’ he belongs to, because One is the Church that saves and that is Christ.

            Whenever the Orthodox dogma does not exist, the Church is in no position to have an opinion on the authority of the sacraments.  According to the Fathers, the Orthodox Dogma never separates itself from spirituality.  Wherever there is an erroneous dogma, there is an erroneous spirituality and vice-versa.

            There are many who separate the dogma from piety.  That is a mistake.  When Christ says “become ye perfect, as the Father is perfect” it implies that one must be familiar with the meaning of perfection.  The criterion for the authority of the sacraments for us Orthodox is the Orthodox dogma, whereas for the heterodox, it is Apostolic Succession.   For the Orthodox Tradition, it is not enough to trace one’s ordination back to the Apostles, but to possess the Orthodox dogma.  Piety and dogma are one identity and cannot be separated.  Wherever there is upright teaching, there will be upright action. “Orthodox” means a) upright glory, b) upright action.  The terrestrial, actively engaged Church is the Orthodox Church.  “Orthodox dogma” and “Scriptural teaching” is one and the same thing, because the dogma exists, and it comes from within the Holy Bible.”

MAY THE MEMORY OF FR. JOHN ROMANIDES BE ETERNAL.  ΑΙΩΝΙΑ Η ΜΝΗΜΗ ΤΟΥ ΠΑΤΡΟΣ ΙΩΑΝΝΟΥ ΡΩΜΑΝΙΔΗ.    

           
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