Towards the “Eighth” Ecumenical Council
St. Herman of Alaska Monastery (1976).
FIRST PRE-SYNODAL PAN-ORTHODOX CONFERENCE HELD
THE FIRST PRE-SYNODAL Pan-Orthodox Conference, with representatives from almost all the “canonical” Orthodox bodies, met at Chambesy, near Geneva, at the Orthodox Center of the Patriarchate of Constantinople, from November 21-28, 1976. Following this Conference, the Orthodox press was filled with news of it and with hopes for the actual convocation at last of the “Holy and Great Council” for which this Conference and several earlier ones have been preparing. It would seem that the long-advertised “Eighth Ecumenical Council” may indeed be near at hand, and it is time enough for Orthodox Christians to look closely at it and see precisely what may be expected of it.
Archbishop Anthony of Geneva of the Russian Church Outside of Russia was invited to the solemn opening of this conference. In declining the invitation, Archbishop Anthony stated that he could not attend because the Russian Church Outside of Russia is not in favor of the convoking of a “Holy and Great Council,” but he did send two representatives as journalist-observers Archpriest Alexander Troubnikoff and Priest Pierre Cantacuzene. (See the Messengerof the Western European Diocese of the Russian Church Outside of Russia, Sept.-Oct.-Nov., 1976.)
The latter were witnesses, on the second day of the Conference, of the accusatory address made by the delegation of the Patriarchate of Moscow against the Patriarchate of Constantinople, with the enumeration of 14 canonical violations supposedly made by the latter since 1922. This address rather dampened the peace and harmony of the Conference, but it is evident that it is no more than another expression of the continuing rivalry of the Churches of Moscow and Constantinople for a position of leadership in “world Orthodoxy”; this rivalry is purely political in nature and involves no basic disagreement over the convocation or the aims of the proposed “Ecumenical Council.”
HISTORY OF THE PREPARATIONS FOR THE “EIGHTH ECUMENICAL COUNCIL”
(The outline of historical facts is taken from Episkepsis, publication
of the Orthodox Center at Chambesy, 1976, no. 155, pp. 7-9.)
THERE WAS TALK of an “Eighth Ecumenical Council” already before the First World War and especially in the 1920’s, but the only actual “Pan-Orthodox Synod” was the renovationist gathering of 1923 under Patriarch Meletios Metaxakis in Constantinople, which decreed many radical reforms but could only enforce one of them—the calendar reform—on a few Churches. There was talk of the need for a “Great Council” at the “Pre-Synod” Committee meeting at Vatopedi Monastery in 1930, and again at the “First Conference of Orthodox Theologians” at Athens in 1936, but nothing concrete was done about it then and for decades thereafter, owing to historical conditions in Europe.
In 1961 Patriarch Athenagoras of Constantinople took up in earnest the idea of calling an “Ecumenical Council”; in that year he convoked in Rhodes the first “Pan-Orthodox Conference” in order to decide on the subjects to be discussed by the future Council. Many subjects (about a hundred) were proposed; and characteristic already of this fist Pan-Orthodox meeting was the presence of representatives of the Moscow Patriarchate, which had just entered the World Council of Churches after its “cold-war” period of isolation from the ecumenical movement and now (in the words of Boris Talantov, the Orthodox confessor in Russia who died in prison in 1971) “stepped forth on the world arena as a secret agent of worldwide anti-Christianity” (seeThe Orthodox Word, 1971, Jan.-Feb. and Nov.-Dec.) At the insistence of these Moscow representatives, the 1961 Conference agreed not to raise the question of atheism as a danger to Christian faith, and this political attitude, favorable to Communist ideology, has been faithfully kept by the Pan-Orthodox meetings up to the present, as will be seen further below.
Two more Pan-Orthodox Conferences were held in Rhodes (1963, 1964), but only at the Fourth Conference (Chambesy, 1968) was “systematic preparation” begun for the “Ecumenical Council.” Only six of the subjects proposed at Rhodes were kept, and these were assigned to various Local Churches for elaboration. The “Inter-Orthodox Preparatory Commission” then met (Chambesy, 1971) to express the “common Orthodox opinion” on these subjects, which were: (1) Economy. (2) Participation of the Laity. (3) Revision of fasting rules. 4) Revision of the rules for marriage of the clergy. (5) The calendar question. (6) Divine Revelation. The very subjects chosen, of course, already give a fairly good indication of the renovationist intent of all these “pre-Synodal” preparations; but this we shall examine more closely below.
The next stage in the preparations was the convocation of the First “Pre-Synodal Pan-Orthodox Conference,” which was assigned the task of drawing up the final file of materials on the above-mentioned questions. It took five years for this Conference to be called, owing to the need to revise further the list of subjects and the necessity (as Episkepsis expresses it) “to create a conciliar climate in the Orthodox Church.” With the latter aim in view, Metropolitan Meliton of Chalcedon was sent as a special envoy of the Patriarchate of Constantinople to all the Local Orthodox Churches in April and May, 1976 (see Episkepsis, nos. 146-148, 1976), making preparations with them for the approaching First Pre-Synodal Conference. However, this trip was conducted rather in haste and led to the accusation by the Moscow Patriarchate of a “lack of seriousness of approach to preparations for the Conference” on the part of Constantinople; according to Moscow, the opinion conveyed there by Metropolitan Meliton was that “the Holy and Great Council should take place as soon as possible, and that in Constantinople it is considered that the Council should be brief, have sessions only for the course of several days, and should take up only a few ‘burning’ questions which have a practical character.” (Journal of the Moscow Patriarchate, in Russian, 1977, no. 1, pp. 5, 6.) Despite this, however, and despite the fact that Patriarch Demetrios of Constantinople gave only a few weeks notice of the convocation of the First Pre-Synodal Conference, Moscow did send its representatives. Here, as elsewhere, the differences between Moscow and Constantinople are not over the need for an “Ecumenical Council” or the basic purpose of such a Council, but only over secondary questions of preparation for it, precedence, and the like.
RESULTS OF THE FIRST PRE-SYNODAL CONFERENCE
THE RESULTS of this latest Pan-Orthodox Conference were printed in Episkepsis (1976, no. 158, in French, much abridged) and in the Journal of the Moscow Patriarchate (1977, no. 3, pp. 4-14, in Russian, apparently complete). These results are composed of the reports of three Committees, a general Decree and communiquée, and official Declarations of several hierarchs. These documents already begin to give a more clear and precise idea of what, after fifteen years of preparations, the approaching “eighth Ecumenical Council” is all about.
The first Committee suggested a revised list of subjects, ten in number (see below), for the agenda of the future Council, and suggested further preparations in the form of theological studies on the agenda subjects (rather than official position papers). The second Committee examined the whole history of the Orthodox Church’s involvement in the ecumenical movement and in “dialogues” with Anglicans, Old Catholics, the “non-Chalcedonian” Oriental Churches, Lutherans, and Roman Catholics, emphasizing the usefulness of these “dialogues” and the value of the “spiritual grandeur, evangelical fervor, theological seriousness of the Churches of the West.” This Committee, after expressing mild criticism of the “horizontal dimension”, of the World Council of Churches in its activities of recent years (i.e., its social-political involvement as opposed to theological concerns), suggested placing primary emphasis in the WCC on the “vertical dimension,” which is “the purpose of its establishment: to promote the restoration of the visible unity of Christianity,” and called for “extending dialogue to the believers of non-Christian religions, in order to promote social justice, peace and freedom among all nations.” The third Committee examined the question of a common date of Easter for all Christian denominations, calling for a conference of scientific and theological experts to investigate this further.
The final Decree and communiquée of the Conference, accepted unanimously by the participants, approved the recommendations of the three Committees, and called especially for the more active participation of Orthodoxy in the ecumenical movement and the WCC, “continuing its traditional avant-guardism (!) in the establishment and development of the ecumenical movement”; the Conference, finally, looks for “the convocation of the Holy and Great Council as quickly as possible.”
What can one say of the meaning of all this for true Orthodoxy?
(1) It is evident that “world Orthodoxy,” in the persons of its leading representatives (Metropolitans and Archbishops of the Local Orthodox Churches), far from learning anything from the utter futility of Orthodox participation in the ecumenical movement, from what Orthodox ecumenists themselves have called “the agony of the Orthodox” in participating in an organization that neither cares nor understands what Orthodoxy is (and when it does understand, recoils in disdain from Orthodox “exclusiveness” and “backwardness”)—”world Orthodoxy” is prepared to become yet more deeply involved in the ecumenical movement, and now not only with Christian denominations, but with non-Christian religions as well. It has expressed its desire to become in the future even more an “organic part” of the WCC than it now is; and as if to emphasize this (as the Journal of the Moscow Patriarchate notes), “during the labors of the Conference the participants had contacts with the World Council of Churches and Local Christian communities,” including several receptions at WCC headquarters.
(2) The subjects chosen for the agenda of an “Ecumenical Council” are astonishingly superficial and have nothing whatever to do with the actual spiritual needs of Orthodox Christians today. Of the ten subjects chosen for the agenda (although others may yet be added), four of them (which seem to arouse the most interest among the hierarchs) are concerned solely with questions of jurisdictional precedence and the like (The Orthodox Diaspora; Autocephaly and how it should be proclaimed; Autonomy and how it should be proclaimed; the Diptychs or order of precedence of the Churches in Liturgical Commemorations).
(3) The tone of the future Council is to be unmistakably renovationist: three of the agenda subjects (the New Calendar; marriage impediments; revision of fasting regulations) concern the reforms which were attempted unsuccessfully by Constantinople in 1923 and by the Living Church in Russia in the 1920’s, and two of the other subjects concern the ecumenical movement and the relation of the Orthodox.Churches to the rest of the Christian world— questions to which a “conservative” reply will certainly not be given in view of how far the “canonical” Orthodox Churches have already gone (in open defiance of canons!) in ecumenical concelebrations.
(4) The peculiar contribution of the Moscow Patriarchate, already begun in the Rhodes Conference in 1961, becomes now glaringly evident. The tenth point of the agenda of the “Holy and Great Council” is: “The contribution of the Local Orthodox Churches to the realization of the Christian ideas of peace, freedom, brotherhood and love among peoples and the suppression of racial discrimination.” And point II, 4 of the Conference Decree states: “That the Conference, expressing the desire of the Orthodox Church to aid inter-religious understanding and cooperation, and through it the liquidation of every kind of fanaticism, and thus the fellowship of peoples and the dominance of the ideas of freedom and peace in the world for the service of contemporary man, independently of race or religion—has decreed that the Orthodox Church should cooperate for this purpose with other, non-Christian religions.” Such statements, clearly “made in Moscow,” strikingly demonstrate the usefulness of the Moscow Patriarchate to the aims of Soviet propaganda. Now the Preparatory Conference of an “Ecumenical Council” expresses (in Soviet language!) aims identical to those of the whole Soviet “peace” movement.
ON THE WAY TO THE COUNCIL
SOME PUBLICATIONS, in particular the Greek press, seized upon the Constantinople-Moscow conflict at the Conference in order to emphasize the disagreements among the participants, and the Chairman of the Conference, Metropolitan Meliton, was thus forced to issue a Declaration emphasizing the basic oneness of mind of the participants. From all the accounts in the Orthodox press (reflecting different jurisdictional viewpoints) and from subsequent state. meets of Orthodox hierarchs, there would indeed seem to be no doubt that the leaders of Orthodox public opinion are agreed, not only on the necessity for a “Holy and Great Council,” but also on the basic outlook which the Council should express. One official Orthodox newspaper expressed this outlook quite frankly and simply: “The Great Council is needed to update the Church to meet the challenges of modern times” (Carpatho-Russian Church Messenger, Feb. 13, 1977, p. 2). Patriarch Demetrios of Constantinople, in his Christmas Encyclical for 1976, said rather the same thing in more ideological language (to be precise, in the language of the ideology of freemasonry!): “The aim of the Council is the aim of Christmas: Humanity. The humanity of today and the humanity of all times… The first Pan-Orthodox Presynodal Conference decided unanimously that our Holy Church should face vital issues concerning the holy clergy and faithful, developing its activity for Christian unity… and that in a parallel direction the Orthodox Church cooperate with all religions so that the Christmas Gospel can become a reality of peace on earth and goodwill among all humans.” Further, “interpreting this holy and generous feeling of the whole of Orthodoxy… we propose and proclaim from the Ecumenical Throne that the coming year, 1977, be a year of full religious liberty, of tolerance, of cooperation of all religions for the good of humanity, and that more especially 1977 be a year of watchfulness against the great sin of religious fanaticism… so that full religious liberty and tolerance may triumph and that religious fanaticism may disappear from the face of the world.” (Orthodox Observer, Jan. 5, 1977, pp. 1, 3.) This is a well-expressed statement of the modern credo of secular humanism; but not until our truly corrupt days was an Orthodox Patriarch preaching it!
Shortly after this Encyclical appeared, the secretary of Patriarch Demetrios, Metropolitan Bartholomaios, gave an interview to the Roman Catholic newspaper National Catholic Reporter, expressing the renovationist aims of the future Council yet more dearly: “Our aims are the same an John’s (Pope John XXIII): to update the Church and promote Christian unity… The Council will also signify the opening of the Orthodox Church to non-Christian religions, to humanity as a whole. This means a new attitude toward Islam, toward Buddhism, toward contemporary culture, toward aspirations for brotherhood free from racial discrimination… in other words, it will mark the end of twelve centuries of isolation of the Orthodox Church.”*
There can be no doubt whatever of the aims of the “Great and Holy Council” in the minds of the leadership of the Church which has been trying to convoke this Council for the better part of the 20th century, the Church of Constantinople. These aims are: ecumenism, modernism. renovationism, in the image and according to the example of John XXIII and the Vatican Council of the Roman Catholic church. Of course, it may be doubted that most participants in the future Council and its preparatory conferences will be aware of the full ideological program in which they will be playing a well-defined role; let us look more closely, therefore, at a small detail of the preparations being made for the Council, in order to see more precisely how the renovation of the Church will be brought about by the “theological experts,” and how it will affect ordinary Orthodox believers.
At the meeting of the “Inter-Orthodox Preparatory Commission” at Chambesy in 1971, reports were presented giving the “common Orthodox opinion” on the six subjects proposed for the agenda of the “Great and Holy Council.” One of these reports, entitled “Revision of the Ecclesiastical Prescriptions Concerning Fasting, in Conformity with the Needs of our Epoch,” proposes that, since most Orthodox believers do not keep the whole Orthodox fast, the fast should be made easier to suit them, “in order to avoid the problems of conscience created by the violation of the severe ecclesiastical prescriptions”! Such an approach, of course, is totally un-Orthodox, and constitutes an obvious and crude imitation of the reform spirit in the Latin church, which ended by abolishing fasting altogether. The Orthodox rule of fasting is not intended to “avoid problems of conscience,” but rather to call believers to a difficult, inspiring, and humbling standard of Christian life; if they fall short of the standard, then at least they can see how far their life is from the standard, the norm, which always remains the same. The Papal idea, based on the corrupt modern principle of spiritual self-satisfaction, is either to give a special “dispensation” from the standard (an idea which has already entered some Orthodox jurisdictions), or else to change the standard itself so that the believer can fulfill it easily and thereby obtain a sense of satisfaction from “obeying the law.” This is precisely the difference between the Publican and the Pharisee: the Orthodox man feels himself constantly a sinner because he falls short of the Church’s exalted standard (in spirit if not in letter), whereas the “modern” man wishes to feel himself justified, without any twinge of conscience over falling short of the Church’s standard. Even in such a seemingly small point we can already see how terribly wrong is the whole approach of those who are preparing the “Great and Holy Council.”
Let us see how the “Preparatory Commission” proposes to revise the fasting prescriptions. Briefly, it proposes: that Wednesday and Friday should remain as fast days, but with no fasting from oil and fish; all fasting should be abolished between Pascha and Ascension Day; the fast of Great Lent should be kept fully only on the first and last weeks, with oil and fish allowed on all other days except Wednesday and Friday (as also in the Dormition Fast); the Nativity Fast should be reduced from 40 to 20 days, and the Fast of the Apostles to eight days, with oil and fish permitted on all days (except the last five days of the Nativity Fast). (Episkepsis, Nov. 2, 1971.) Actually, one is surprised that the reform is so “conservative” until one recalls that this is not the decision of the “Ecumenical Council” itself, but only the proposal of the “Preparatory Commission” in 1971. There is time enough to revise the rules further!
And indeed, what kind of rule of fasting is observed even now in the “canonical” jurisdictions? The Carpatho-Russian Diocese in America (under the Patriarchate of Constantinople), for example, has published a set of official “fasting regulations’ for Great Lent for its clergy and faithful (Church Messenger; Feb. 27, 1977, p. 5): “1. Monday, February 21, the first day of Lent, is a day of strict fast. Likewise Good Friday, April 8. On these days, meat and dairy products are to be excluded from one’s diet. 2. Wednesdays and Fridays throughout the entire holy season of Lent are days.of abstinence from meat. 3. Meat may not be partaken of during the entire Holy or Passion Week.” To be sure, “to those of stronger body and more willing spirit, we wholeheartedly recommend the penitential practices of a sterner quality… :”—but the standard, the rule, has been changed, and rather drastically. A similar standard may.be seen in the published “parish fasting rules” of separate parishes of the Greek Archdiocese in America, and in numerous other places. Clearly, in actual practice the reform spirit in Orthodoxy has already gone far beyond what the “Preparatory Commission” has suggested. If the local bishops and priests already issue revised fasting regulations, what need is there for an “Ecumenical Council” to do this—unless its function is simply to legalize the existing lawlessness?
How frivolous, how irresponsible is the very intent of those who wish to make an “Ecumenical Council”! This is the work, not of pastors, but of hirelings, who look first to see what the flock wants (and not the best part of the flock!), and then hasten to legalize it, solely to give an appearance of leading rather than following the lawless sheep! The Orthodox people can expect nothing from such a council except to be told, in effect if not in so many words, that their falling away from the standard of orthodox life is acceptable and even praiseworthy, and actually helps to unite them to the heterodox, who long ago lost the very concept of such a standard!
THE ATTITUDE OF GENUINE ORTHODOXY
SELDOM IN OUR LAMENTABLE and profoundly abnormal days is the voice of genuine Orthodoxy heard any more. Orthodox hierarchs and theologians alike, with rare exceptions, have adapted themselves to the intellectual fashions of the times and rarely even attempt to express themselves in any way that will be displeasing to the prevailing “ecumenical” mentality. The Orthodox press, in its turn, makes sure that all news receives an “ecumenical” slant. And thus it happens that there seems to be literally no opposition to the calling of an “Ecumenical Council’ whose renovationist intent would call down the anathema of every Father of the Church from antiquity to our own day. Is Orthodoxy, then, really to “change with the times”? Is there no witness in our day of the unchanging standard of true Christianity?
To be sure, there is and has been the witness of the Russian Church Outside of Russia, whose stand for unadulterated Patristic Orthodoxy has made her a reproach and stumbling-block to the leaders of “world Orthodoxy.” But up to now there has been only one bold voice of response to this uncompromising stand: within the Church of Serbia, Archimandrite Justin Popovich has expressed himself against the very idea of an “Ecumenical Council’ in our times.
Until others have the courage and wisdom to stand against the deadly current which is now engulfing the Orthodox Churches, let the voice of the Russian Church Outside of Russia be heard. From first to last, her hierarchs have not been afraid to speak the Church’s stand on such questions. Let us take only two examples.
In 1930 a young theological student, later to become the great spokesman of true Orthodoxy, Archbishop Averky of Jordanville, heard of the rumors of an approaching “Eighth Ecumenical Council” and asked his Abba, the great theologian of the Russian Diaspora, Archbishop Theophan of Poltava, about it. The latter replied: “Of an eighth ecumenical council I have as yet heard nothing. I can only say, in the words of St. Theodore the Studite: ‘Not every gathering of bishops is a council, but only a gathering of bishops who stand in the Truth.’ A truly ecumenical council depends not on the number of bishops gathered at it, but on whether it will deliberate and teach in an Orthodox way. If it will keep away from the truth, it will not be ecumenical, even though it might call itself ecumenical. The famous ‘robber council’ in its time had more participants than many ecumenical councils, but nevertheless it was not called ecumenical, but received the name of ‘robber council’.” (Letters of Archbishop Theophan, Jordanville, 1976, p. 45.) This same Archbishop Theophan was present at the Moscow All-Russian Council of 1917-18, where he was approached by some of the modernist clergy, who tried to persuade him to join their “reform” movement with these words: “The waves of the times flow swiftly, changing everything, changing us; one must give in to them. You, too, must give in, Vladika, to the raging waves… Otherwise with whom will you be left? You will be left alone.” And Vladika Theophan’s answer, in the age-old Orthodox spirit, was: “With whom will I be left? I will be with St. Vladimir the Enlightener of Russia. With Sts. Anthony and Theodosius the Wonderworkers of the Kiev Caves, with the holy Hierarchs and Wonderworkers of Moscow. With Sts. Sergius and Seraphim and with all the holy martyrs, God-pleasing monks and wonderworkers who have gloriously shone forth on Russian soil. But you, dear brothers, with whom will you be left if even with your great numbers you give over to the will of the waves of the times? They have already carried you to the flabbiness of Kerensky, and soon they will carry you under the yoke of the brutal Lenin, into the claws of the red beast.” (The Orthodox Word, Sept.-Oct., 1969, p. 195.) Even the last part of this warning has not lost its meaning today, after 60 years, when Orthodox ecumenists would do well to ask themselves whom they are serving!
In 1968, when Patriarch Athenagoras announced in his Paschal Encyclical the approaching “joy” of a “Great Synod, for the purpose of the renewal of the Church and the establishment of the unity of all Christian churches,” Metropolitan Philaret, Chief Hierarch of the Russian Church Outside of Russia, replied with a firm letter of warning; He wrote the Patriarch: “Not every convocation of a Council calls forth joy, and not every Great Council, however many representatives of autocephalous Churches may have attended it, has been honored by the recognition of the Church… For this, every new Council must be in full accord with all previous Ecumenical Councils.” An Ecumenical Council is convened “in order to condemn and eliminate, in agreement with ancient tradition, innovation in the form of arbitrary doctrine, which is the fruit of human pride, of compliance with the mighty of this world, or of accommodation of the Church to a widespread error”—whereas the Ecumenical Patriarch now is not only not condemning any newly-arisen errors, but on the contrary is himself introducing a novelty called “the renewal of the Church.” This false path of “renovationism” was already rejected by the Russian Church in this century. Finally, “however numerous may be the participants of the Great Council which you have called, it cannot possess an ecumenical Orthodox authority, for at it will not be heard the genuine voice of the Church largest in number of faithful, the martyrical Russian Orthodox Church.” As for the hierarchs of the Moscow Patriarchate, “their voice at the Council will not be the free voice of the Church, but in many cases the voice of her enemies who rule over them. Although behind that voice will stand the external prestige of the Russian Church for those who do not know or do not wish to know its true condition—we who are aware of the true situation of things can attach neither canonical nor normal significance to any decisions made with the participation of the hierarchy enslaved by the godless.” (The Orthodox Word, Nov.-Dec., 1968, pp. 259-261.)
THE NARROW PATH: FAITHFULNESS TO TRUE ORTHODOXY
MEASURED BY the sober standard of unchanging, Patristic Orthodoxy, the preparations for an “eighth Ecumenical Council” are exposed as un-Orthodox, lacking in seriousness, and profoundly unpastoral and irresponsible. Such a Council is a project rooted not in Orthodox wisdom and in heartfelt concern for the salvation of souls, but rather in the “spirit of the times”; it is intended to please, not God, but the world, and in particular the heterodox world. Judging from the experience of the Vatican Council and its effect on Roman Catholicism, such a Council, if it is held, will produce profound disorders and anarchy in the Orthodox world.
If the Orthodox hierarchs wanted a true Ecumenical Council, and if the times were favorable for it, there might be cause enough to convoke it. A1though there is actually no new heresy that has not been already defined at earlier Councils, such a Council could still give a diagnosis of the spiritual disease of ecumenism and tell why it is totally alien to Orthodoxy; it could declare to the faithful that the Church remains as much as ever the enemy of the world that lies in evil, and that every compromise of the Orthodox conscience with the spirit of worldliness is a sin for which pastors and faithful are responsible before God; it could make clear for the faithful that the “charismatic” and other pseudo-spiritual movements are not from the Holy Spirit of God, but are rather symptoms precisely of the loss of the Holy Spirit; it could call for increased prayer against the scourge of atheism now afflicting humanity; it could make clear the chiliast and anti-Christian character of modern movements as diverse as Communism and Protestantism; it could proclaim for the last time that the Orthodox Church is the one True Church of Christ and the only hope of salvation for a world perishing for the want of God’s grace.
All of this true Orthodox pastors are already doing, according to their opportunity to speak and be heard; but such subjects are not at all what the conferences of theologians and hierarchs are concerning themselves with. Orthodox “‘public opinion’ is not in the least interested in true Orthodoxy, in the true Christian teaching handed down from Christ and His Apostles to our own day; the proposed “Ecumenical Council,” on the basis of the preparations that have hitherto been made for it, cannot be anything but another “robber council,’ a betrayal of Christ and His Church.
How low, how unworthy of the Christian calling is this betrayal of the Christian flock by its supposedly Orthodox hierarchs! And yet lower is the betrayal of the enslaved Orthodox people of Russia by the acceptance of their false shepherds as true pastors at the “Pan-Orthodox” conferences. May God grant—as numerous indications now give hope for—that the most startling Orthodox “news ‘ in future years will be the re-emergence of the long-suffering Catacomb True-Orthodox Church of Russia and the collapse of the Soviet puppet, the Moscow Patriarchate, whose authority will crumble with the fall of the regime that gave it birth. How will the present-day “Pan-Orthodox” fawning before the Moscow hierarchs and their Soviet ideology appear then ?
But we need not have such an event before us to know what is the path of true Orthodox Christians today: faithfulness to Christ and His Church, which do not change with the times. If this means being part of a persecuted, ridiculed minority, out of touch with the “spirit of the times”—then let it be so. Only let us be found, not with those who follow the broad path to destruction, but with the “little flock” of Christ’s true followers, to whom our Saviour has promised: Fear not, little flock; for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the Kingdom (Luke 12:32).
St. Theodore of Studios on Valid Councils
Letter to Magister Theoctistus (Ep. I.24):
[The Church of God] has not permitted anything to be done or said against the established decrees and laws, although many shepherds have in many ways railed against them [cf. Jer. 10:25] when they have called great and very numerous councils, and given themselves to put on a show of concern for the canons, while in truth acting against them.
What then is remarkable in the gathering of about fifteen bishops to declare innocent and to absolve for the priesthood one who is deposed on two counts?
Sir, a council does not consist simply in the gathering of bishops and priests, no matter how many there are. For Scripture says that one doing the will of the Lord is better than thousands who transgress [Ecclus. 16:3]. A council occurs when, in the Lord’s name, the canons are thoroughly searched out and maintained. And a council is not to bind and loose in some random way, but as seems proper to the truth and to the canon and to the rule of strictness.
Let those who gathered demonstrate that they have acted in this way and we will join them; but if they do not demonstrate it, let them cast out the unworthy one, lest it become a reproach to them and to future generations.
“The Word of God is not such as to allow itself to be bound.” [II Tim. 2:9] And no authority whatever has been given to bishops for any transgression of a canon. They are simply to follow what has been decreed, and to adhere to those who have gone before. (PG 985ABC; Henry p. 120)
* OCIC Ed.: Fr. Peter Heers, during his PhD thesis research, found the full source for this astounding quote. The interview was done by Desmond O’Grady and appeared in the January 21, 1977 issue of The National Catholic Reporter. The article was titled, “Council Coming for Orthodox.” The entire quote reads as follows:
“Our faithful feel the need for renovation. They want more accessible ways to live their faith. For instance, the prescription of 40 days fast before Easter and Christmas is scarcely feasible today outside of monasteries. We feel the need to strengthen our links with other Christians.
“By the grace of God, all Orthodox churches now favor ecumenism. Ecumenism has advanced in the past decade even though there has not been a succession of striking events, such as the 1964 meeting between Pope Pail and Patriarch Athenagoras in Jerusalem. That demonstration of refound fraternity provided fine journalistic copy. The theological exploration which followed was less spectacular, but nevertheless fruitful—the convocation of the council is proof of that. It will review our bilateral talks with Roman Catholics, Anglicans, Lutherans, Old Catholics and the non-Chalcedonian church. It is sure to give impetus to ecumenism. The council will also signify an opening of the Orthodox church to non-Christian religions, to humanity as a whole. This means a new attitude to Islam, to Buddhism, to contemporary culture, to aspirations for a fraternal society free of racial discrimination… In other words, it will mark the end of 12 centuries of isolation of the Orthodox Church.”