Thursday, March 22 was the occasion of the blessing of a local restaurant. The Good Fellas Grill at 15414 N 19th Ave in Phoenix, opened its doors at 9 am for the special blessing. Photos of the event are in the gallery below. Thank you Antonio and Pres. Deborah for taking such good photos!
What is the Lord’s Supper? What is the Eucharist? Was it always understood as a Sacrament? Throughout the history of Christianity, the overwhelming majority of Christians have consistently believed that Jesus Christ, in a mystery, imparts His Body and Blood to His people though the vehicle of the Lord’s Supper. Bypassing all the Biblical references, here is a small, non-exhaustive sampling of what they’ve had to say in every generation. If you’re going to read any of them, please read them all.
Ignatius of Antioch AD 35-107
“Mark ye those who hold strange doctrines touch the grace of Jesus which came to us, how they are contrary to the mind of God… They abstain from Eucharist and prayer, because they allow not that the Eucharist is the flesh of our Lord Jesus Christ, which flesh suffered for our sins, and which the Father, of His goodness, raised up.”
“Assemble yourselves together in common… breaking the bread, which the medicine of immortality and the antidote that we should not die but live forever in Jesus Christ.”
Ignatius to the Smyrnaens, 6.2; Ignatius to the Ephesians 20.2
Justin Martyr AD 100-165
“We do not receive these as common bread or common drink. But juest as our Savior Jesus Christ was made flesh through the Word of God and had both flesh and blood for our salvation, so also we have been taught that the food which has been Eucharized by the word of prayer from Him is the flesh and blood of the Incarnate Jesus.”
First Apology 66.2
Irenaeus of Lyons AD 130-200
“For as the bread, which is produced from the earth, when it receives the invocation of God, is no longer common bread, but the Eucharist, consisting of two realities, earthly and heavenly; so also our bodies, when they receive the Eucharist are no longer corruptible, having the hope of resurrection to eternity.:
“When, therefore, the mixed cup and baked bread receives the Word of God and becomes the Eucharist, the Body of Christ, and from these the substance of our flesh is increased and supported, how can they say that the flesh is not capable of receiving the gift of God, which is eternal life – flesh is nourished by the Body and Blood of the Lord, and is in fact, a member of Him?”
Against Heresies 4.18; 5.2,3
Cyprian of Carthage AD 200-258
“We may not arouse and exhort those to battle unarmed and naked, but may fortify them with the protection of Christ’s Body and Blood. The Eucharist is designate for this very purpose, that it may be a safeguard to those who receive it.”
Athanasius of Alexandria AD 296-373
“You will see the Levites (deacons) bringing loaves and a cup of wine, and placing them on the Table. So long as the prayers and invocations have not yet been made, it is mere bread and a mere cup. But when the great and wondrous prayers have been recited, then the bread becomes the Body, and the cup becomes the Blood of Jesus Christ… When the great prayers and holy supplications are sent up, the Word descends on the bread and cup, and it becomes His Body.”
Sermon to the Baptized, quoted in Early Christian Doctrine by J.N.D. Kelley
Hilary of Poitiers AD 315-367
“He Himself declares: ‘For My Flesh is real food, and My Blood is real drink. He who eats My Flesh and drinks My Blood abides in Me and I in him.’ It is no longer permitted us to raise doubts about the nature of the Body and the Blood, for, according to the statement of the Lord Himself, as well as our faith, this is indeed Flesh and Blood. And these things that we receive bring it about that we are in Christ and Christ in us… How deeply we are in Him through the sacrament fo the Flesh and Blood.”
The Trinity 8.14
Cyril of Jerusalem AD 315-386
“Since then He Himself declared and said of the Bread, ‘this is my Body’, who shall dare to doubt any longer? And since He Himself affirmed and said, ‘this is My Blood’, who shall ever hesitate, saying that it is not His Blood? He once, in Cana of Galilee turned water into wine, akin to blood, and is it incredible that He should have turned wine into Blood?
“Consider therefore the bread and wine not as bare elements, for they are, according to the Lord’s declaration, the Body and Blood of Christ; for even though sense suggest this to you, yetlet faith establish you. Judge not the matter from the taste, but from faith be fully assured without misgiving, that the Body and Blood of Christ have been granted to you.”
Catechetical Lectures XXII 1.2; XXII 6
Basil the Great AD 330-379
“It is beneficial and good to communicate every day, to partake of the Holy Body and Blood of Christ, for He distinctly says, ‘He that eats My Flesh and drinks My Blood h as eternal life.”
Epistle 93 ad Caesariam
Gregory of Nyssa AD 335-395
“Rightly then do we believe that now also the bread which is consecrated by the Word of God is changed into the Body of God the Word… by dispensation of His grace, He disseminates Himself in every believer through that Flesh, whose substance comes from bread and wine, blending Himself with the bodies of the believers, to secure that, by this union with the immortal, man, too, may be a sharer in incorruption. He gives these gifts by virtue of the benediction through which is trans-elements the natural quality of these visibile signs to that immortal thing.”
The Great Catechism XXXVII
Ambrose of Milan AD 339-397
“We, as often as we receive the Sacramental Elements, which by the mysterious efficacy of holy prayer are transformed into the Flesh and Blood, ‘do show the Lord’s death’.”
The Faith, 4.124
John Chrysostom AD 345-407
“This which is in the cup is that which flowed from His side, and of that we do we partake… What is the bread? The Body of Christ.”
Homily 24 on First Corinthians; 1,2
Augustine of Hippo AD 354-430
“That Bread which you see on the altar, having been sanctified by the Word of God, is the Body of Christ. That chalice, or rather, what is in that chalice, having been sanctified by the Word of God, is the Blood of Christ. Through that bread and wine the Lord Christ willed to commend His Body and Blood, which He poured out for us unto the forgiveness of sins.”
“What you see is the bread and the chalice; that is what your own eyes report to you. But what your faith obliges you to accept is that the bread is the Body of Christ, and the chalice is the Blood of Christ… How is the bread His Body? And the chalice, or what is in the chalice, how is it His Blood? Those elements, brethren, are called Sacraments, because in them one thing is seen, but anoterh is understood. What is seen is the corporeal species; but what is understood is the spiritual fruit.”
Sermon 227; Sermon 272
Cyril of Alexandria AD 375-444
“He states demonstratively: ‘This is My Body’ and ‘This is my Blood,’ lest you might suppose the things that are seen are a figure. Rather, by some secret of the all-powerful God thethings seen are transformed into the Body and Blood of Christ, truly offered ina sacrifice in whic we, as particpants, receive the life-giving and sanctifying power of Christ.”
Commentary on Matthew 26,27
Leo the Great AD 400-461
“When the Lord says: ‘Unless you shall have eaten the Flesh of the Son of Man and shall have drunk His Blood, you shall not have life in you,’ you ought to so communicate at the Sacred Table that you have no doubt whatsoever of the truth of the Body and Blood of Christ. For that which is taken in the mouth si what is believed in faith; and in vain do those respond, ‘Amen’ who argue against that which is received.”
Gelasius I of Rome d. AD 496
“The substance or nature of the bread and wine does not cease to exist, although the elements, the Holy Spirit, perfecting them, pass over into a divine substance, as was the case with Christ Himself. And certainly the image and likeness are honored in the observance of the Mysteries.”
Concerning the Two Natures of Christ, Thiel. Ep. Pontiff, p. 541 f.
John of Damascus AD 675-749
“…not that the Body which was taken up comes back down from heaven, but that the bread itself and the wine are made over into the Body and Blood of God. If you inquire into the way in which this happens, let it suffice for you to hear that it is through the Holy Spirit… Mmore than this we do not know, except that the Word of God is true and effective and all-powerful; but the manner is inscrutable… the Bread and the Wine are not a type of the Body and Blood of Christ – perish the thought! – but the deified Body itself of the Lord.”
The Source of Knowledge, 3,4,13
Paschasius Radbertus AD 790-865
“Let no man be moved from this Body and Blood of Christ which in a mystery are true Flesh and Blood since the Creator so willed it… Because the sacrament is mystical, we cannot deny that it is a figure, but if it is a figure, we must inquire how it can be truth. For every figure is a figure of another thing and is always referred to that other thing as being the real thing of which it is a figure.”
The Body and Blood of the Lord I.2; IV.1
Ratramnus of Corbie d, AD 868
“If, indeed, it is bread in appearance, in the sacrament it is the true Body of Christ, even as the Lord Jesus proclaims, ‘This is my Body,’… they are figures according to he visible form; but according to the invisible substances, i.d. the power of the Divine Word, the true Body and Blood of Christ truly exist.”
Letters to Charles the Bald, 57;49
Thomas Aquinas AD 1225-1274
“Two things may be considered in the sacrament of the Eucharist. One is the fact that it is a sacrament, and in this respect it is like the other effects of sanctifying grace. The other is that Christ’s Body is miraculously contained therein, and thus, it is included under God’s ominpotence, like all other miracles which are ascribed to God’s almighty power.”
Summa Theologica, Section XV, Question 1, article 9, reply to objection 6
John Wycliffe AD 1330-1384
“That change does not destroy the nature of bread, nor alter the nature of the Body… but it effects the presence of the Body of Christ and destroys thte preeminence of the bread, so that the whole attention of the worshipper is concentrated upon the Body of Christ… Not that the bread has been destroyed, but that it signifies the Body of the Lord there present in the Sacrament.”
The Eucharist, p. 100,101
John Huss AD 1375-1415
“The humble priest does not… say that he is the creator of Christ, but that the Lord Christ by His power and Word, through him, causes that which is bread to be His Body; not that at that time it began to be His, but that there on the altar begins to be sacramentally in the form of bread what was previously was not there and therein.”
John Huss, by David Schaff, 1915
Martin Luther AD 1483-1543
“What is the Sacrament of the Altar? It is the true Body and Blood of Christ, under the bread and wine, given unto us Chrisitans to eat and to drink, as it was instituted by Christ Himself… What is the benefit of such eating and drinking? It is pointed out in these words: Given and shed for you for the remission of sins.”
Small Catechism Section VI
John Calvin AD 1509-1564
“It is a spiritual mystery which cannot be seen by the eye, nor be comprehended by human understanding. Therefore, it is represented for us by means of visible signs, according to the need of our weaknesses. Nevertheless, it is not a naked figure, but one joined to its truth and substance. With good reason, then, the bread is called Body, because it not only represents it, but also presents it.”
Short Treatise on the Lord’s Supper
John Wesley AD 1703-1791
“All who desire an increase of the grace of God are to wait for it in partaking of the Lord’s Supper: for this also is a direction He Himself has given… is not the eating of the bread, and the drinking of that cup, the outward, visible means, whereby God conveys into our souls all that spiritual grace, that righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost which were purchased by the Body of Christ, once broken and the Blood of Christ once shed for us? Let all, therefore, who truly desire the grace of God, eat of that bread, and drink of that cup.”
Sermon 16, The Means of Grace, points 11,12
Andrew Murray AD 1828-1917
“In the Supper, Christ would take possession of the whole man – body and soul – to renew and sanctify it by the power of His holy Body and Blood. even His Body is communicated by the Holy Spirit. Even our body is fed with His holy Body and renewed by the working of the Holy Spirit… ‘He that eats My Flesh and drinks My Blood, let him abide in Me, and I in him.”
The New Life, p. 205, 2-7
F.F. Bruce 20th Century
“In the Biblical sense, ‘remembrance’ is more than a mental exercise; it involves a realization of what is remembered. At the Passover feast the participants are one with their ancestors of the Exodus; at the Eucharist, Christians experience the Real Presence of their Lord.”
1st and 2nd Corinthians, Oliphants, 1971; p. 111
R.C.H. Lenski 20th Century
“‘My Body means exactly what the words say: in truth and reality My Body… We refuse to answer the question regarding the how because the Lord withholds the answer. We ould probably not have understood the real answer if it had ben given because of the giving of His Body in the Sacrament is a Divine act of omnipotence and grace which is beyond mortal comprehension. The Lord declares the fact: ‘This is My Body,’ and we take Him at His word.”
The Interpretation of St. Paul’s 1st and 2nd Epistles to the Corinthians, Augsburg, 1963
G.M.A. Jansen 20th Century
“This is the mystery: The Body and blood of Christ are there and He offers them to us a food and drink, because He said so. If you believe in the Mystery of the Incarnation and in that of the Redemption, you can also believe in the Mystery of the Holy Eucharist, in the Real Presence.”
The Sacramental We, Bruce Publishing, co. 1968, p. 52
And finally one who didn’t.
Influenced by the rationalistic spirit of the Renaissance and reacting to abuses in the Roman Church, a small segment of Reformation churchmen, centered around Ulrich Zwingli, began to view the Lord’s Supper as an empty symbol, a Real Absence of Christ, instead of a vehicle of grace.
Ulrich Zwingli AD 1484-1531
“If He has gone away, if He has left this world, if He is no longer with us, then either the Creed is unfaithful to the words of Christ, which is impossible, or else the Body and Blood of Christ cannot be present in the Sacrament. The flesh may fume but the words of Christ stand firm. He sits at the right hand of the Father, He has left the world, He is no longer present with us. And if these words are true, it is impossible to maintain that His Flesh and Blood are present in the Sacrament.”
“The Fathers held exactly the same view as we do. And they use exactly the same speech as we do, for they call the bread and wine the Body and Blood of Christ, although what they really mean is that they are the representation and memorial of His Body and Blood…”
Zwingli and Bullinger, The Westminster Press, p. 214-234
“And just as I have no doubt that this God created heaven and earth, and that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, so I know that it is not possible that the Body of Christ is in the Sacrament.”
Huldrych Zwingli, G.R. Potter, Edward Arnold Pub. 1978; p. 100
Much of modern American Evangelicalism has taken its view of the Lord’s Supper from the Gnostic Zwinglian tradition, rather than from the mainstream of historic Incarnational Christianity. Althought a multitude of examples could be quoted, Zwingli has stated the case most succinctly, and substantially speaks for them all.
The Orthodox Church, as the historic Church of Christ, has maintained the Lord’s command, and the Apostolic teaching, often at great cost, for the last 2,000+ years.
Sacrament or Symbol?
We finally have the video recordings of the 2nd Annual Orthodox Bioethics Conference held on Saturday, February , 2018 at St. Lawrence Orthodox Christian Church in Felton, CA.
Downloadable Handouts from the Conference:
“Addiction: Αn Expedited Progression To Psychological Crisis”
“Addiction As Idolatry: Looking For Salvation Apart From God”
“The Epidemic Of Our Era: The Root Cause And Psychosomatic Effects Of A Modern Day Plague”
“A Realistic Story about Drug Abuse”
by Fr. John A. Peck
How Dogmatic Iconography defends the doctrine of the Incarnation against ancient Gnosticism.
Harold Bloom, in his book, The American Religion, rightly comes to the startling conclusion that America is a nation of Gnostics, believers in a pre-Christian tradition of individual divinity. The American propensity to be religious iconoclasts on the one hand, and cultural idolators on the other is a stark and broken contrast with Incarnational Christianity.
Despite protestations to the contrary, it is not the icon which is so offensive to Gnostics and iconoclasts, it is the message which the icon represents which cannot be tolerated.
Sports teams all have logos, pictures and posters of famous players, their own sayings and their own traditions. A high degree of religiosity plays an important part in sports propaganda worldwide. Politics have always used religiosity and iconography, even those who were religious iconoclasts. In communist countries in the last century, giant ‘parades’ (religious processions) with posters (icons) of the glorious leader, the little red books containing the ‘catechism’ of the political movement, and the religious fervor of classic Gnostics (agree, obey or suffer) all were part and parcel of secularist societies. But these were simply replacements for Orthodox icons, Orthodox Christian festal processions, Bibles and prayerbooks. The icons, in this case, were not just destroyed, but deliberately replaced with ‘atheist’ iconography. Because it was based on a falsehood – that the state is supreme – it could not last. Indeed, we see much of the same kind of tactic going on today in America. It is doomed to the same historical failure
Christian Dogmatic Iconography
Before the Incarnation, it was idolatrous to make an image of God. Now that the Incarnation has taken place, it would be idolatrous not to make images of Him.
For example, Muslims reject the Incarnation – the doctrine that God Himself took a human body, mind, soul, spirit – God became a man. Therefore, mosques have bare walls and no images of God. Under their influence, and the resurgence of Gnosticism, many civil authorities in the past engaged in religious iconoclasm. This state-sponsored iconoclasm (literally “image smashing”) was countered by St. John of Damascus (d. 749), Germanus I, Patriarch of Constantinople (d. 732), and St. Theodore the Studite (d. 826), who marshaled scripture and theological thinking in favor of the use of icons in Christian worship. John of Damascus argued that God was the first and original image-maker of the universe and that the son of God was the living image of God in his very nature. Since Paul in the Epistle to the Colossians had written,
“He is the image of the invisible God” (Col. 1:15),
the worship of the icon of Jesus Christ was not idolatrous, because, in the oft-quoted formula of Saint Basil of Caesarea (d. 379) in De Spiritu Sancto (On the Holy Spirit),
“The honor paid to the image [the Son] passes over to the prototype [the Father].”
When a religion rejects images of God, it confirms the message that God is only a spirit, and that He has no physical body. Before the Incarnation, that was true. After the Incarnation, it is false, and is therefore, as false worship, idolatry. Idolatry is worshipping false gods, or worshipping the True God while misrepresenting Him.
In ancient Israel, when people worshiped Baal, Ashtoreth, and Moloch, they committed the first form of idolatry. These are all false gods, and it is idolatry to worship them in any way whatsoever, either with or without images. When the Israelites worshiped the golden calf, they committed the second form of idolatry. They correctly noted the identity of the true God, but they grossly misrepresented Him. Instead of recognizing God as an invisible Spirit, the Israelites made a golden calf, they praised it for delivering them from Egypt, and they even called the calf “Yahweh”.
When the Israelites sinned with the golden calf, they were still correct that God’s name is “Yahweh”. They were correct that Yahweh had delivered them from Egypt. And they were correct to praise Yahweh. But their worship was turned into idolatry, because they misrepresented Him. God is not a cow, nor does He look like one. Similarly, when heterodox Christians worship with bare walls and an absence of icons, they are correct that God’s name is “Jesus”. They are correct that Jesus came to deliver them from sin. And they are correct to praise Jesus. But their worship is turned into idolatry, because they misrepresent Him. God is no longer a faceless spirit.
Before God became incarnate in the womb of Mary, He had no human body. Images of God were therefore forbidden, because they misrepresented God, but now that God has become incarnate, our worship must reflect this important fact. Otherwise, if we misrepresent God, we become idolaters.
Misrepresenting God: A Grievous Sin
In ancient Israel, God did not want His people bowing down before images of Himself, because any image of Him they made would be misrepresenting Him. But He knew that people needed to bow down before something, so He provided the Temple in Jerusalem for this purpose.
The temple did not represent the image of God, but it did represent His presence.
So God had His people bow down toward the temple:
But I, through the abundance of your steadfast love, will enter your house. I will bow down toward your holy temple in the fear of you. (Psalm 5:7)
Anticipating the day when He would become incarnate, when His people would be able to have images of Himself, God taught His people to include many images in the context of worship. The Jerusalem temple included icons of angels, and early synagogues were covered with icons of many Old Testament saints. The Word had not yet become flesh, so God’s people venerated the Word of God contained in Scripture. Even to this day, Jews bow toward the Torah scrolls when entering/exiting the synagogue, and also during special Torah services. Jews also kiss the Torah to venerate it.
Before the coming of Christ, the Jewish Temple signified God’s presence, and His people bowed down toward it. Before the Incarnation, it was impossible to make an image of the invisible God, a heavenly reality, without misrepresenting Him. Once, however, God became flesh in the Incarnation of Jesus of Nazareth, the invisible God became visible, the immaterial God was suddenly approachable. As is sung in the Nativity hymns of the Orthodox Church during Christmas,
- The uncontainable God is contained in a cave and lies in a manger,
- The unapproachable God summons the Magi to Him,
- The untouchable God nurses at His mother’s breast,
- The invisible God is seen by shepherds, etc.
It is the reality of the Incarnation which iconography, as sure as the written Scriptures and the liturgical hymns of the Church throughout the ages, protect, defend and guarantee that Christ is understood in one way and one way only – as God the Word come in the flesh.
After Christ came, He referred to His own body as the true Temple. Therefore, instead of continuing to bow down toward a temple building, we now bow down toward images of Jesus. This is not worship of the icon – perish the thought! No Orthodox Christian thinks a piece of wood created heaven and earth. We also bow to one another, because Scripture says that every Orthodox Christian is a temple of the Holy Spirit. When Orthodox Christians bow to an icon of Christ, they are reminded that God is now forever united to a body – the physical flesh of Jesus of Nazareth. Jesus is fully God, and fully human, and He is physically seated in Heaven even today. Orthodox worship represents God correctly.
When others, including heterodox Christians, refuse to bow to icons of Christ, and they choose to bow down before nothing instead, their worship suggests that God has no body, and that the Incarnation hasn’t happened. Their worship misrepresents God. They are bowing down before a faceless idol.
What the Icon Isn’t and What it Is
The Icon is not a ‘holy picture’ designed to increase piety. Neither is an icon something spiritual in itself, as it does not depict “God” in general. The icon is a dogmatic expression of a theological truth. It is, therefore, not variable as artists would claim by ‘artistic license’ – a term I, as an artist, have always found to be a cop out for lack of talent or lack of vision.
Just as one cannot translate the Bible any old way one wishes to and still remain true to the text, one cannot paint an icon any old way one wishes to and still remain true to the prototype.
There are no dogmatic icons of Jesus as Chinese or Jamaican, or with blonde hair and blue eyes. He must always be depicted as he was visible on the earth – a first century Jewish rabbi.
By the same token, the icon is far more than just an attempt to capture a historical person or event. The icon shows the spiritual truth or heavenly reality – not just the image or ‘snapshot’ of history.
Therefore, we never see icons of saints who wore glasses in which they are wearing their glasses. Why not? Presumably, no one wears glasses in heaven, where all may gaze and contemplate upon the glories of heaven.
In the most convincing words of John of Damascus:
“We have passed the stage of infancy, and reached the perfection of manhood. We receive our habit of mind from God, and know what may be imaged and what may not. The Scripture says, “You have not seen the likeness of Him.” (Ex. 33.20) What wisdom in the law-giver. How depict the invisible? How picture the inconceivable? How give expression to the limitless, the immeasurable, the invisible? How give a form to immensity? How paint immortality? How localize mystery? It is clear that when you contemplate God, who is a pure spirit, becoming man for your sake, you will be able to clothe Him with the human form.
When the Invisible One becomes visible to flesh (as in the Incarnation of God in the flesh – John 1:14), you may then draw a likeness of His form. When He who is a pure spirit, without form or limit, immeasurable in the boundlessness of His own nature, existing as God, takes upon Himself the form of a servant in substance and in stature, and a body of flesh, then you may draw His likeness, and show it to anyone willing to contemplate it.
Depict His ineffable condescension, His virginal birth, His baptism in the Jordan, His transfiguration on Tabor, His all-powerful sufferings, His death and miracles, the proofs of His Godhead, the deeds which He worked in the flesh through divine power, His saving Cross, His Sepulchre, and Resurrection, and ascent into heaven. Give to it all the endurance of engraving and color. Have no fear or anxiety.”
Indeed, we see that as American Gnosticism strains to invent a distant, amorphous and ahistorical “concept of God,” Who can never be seen or heard or heard from, it is precisely the dogmatic icon, depicting Christ as He appeared in time, in history, on the earth and among men, which guarantees the Truth of the historical Incarnation that God became flesh and dwelt among us.
The reality is that American Gnosticism clearly denies the objective presence of Christ in the World through Church, Sacrament, and Creed – all vehicles for remaining ‘on the mark’ so to speak. In short, it attempts to make the Incarnation irrelevant.
It is the dogmatic icon which destroys the idolatrous fantasy of Gnostic relativism, and which is, therefore, intolerable to any Gnostic or even to any Christian with Gnostic tendencies. And so it is.
When the Word became flesh, iconoclasm became idolatry. The Incarnation changes everything.
by St. Theophan the Recluse
Rarely does the Rite of Orthodoxy, which is now being performed, take place without censures and reproaches on somebody’s part. And no matter how many sermons are given explaining that the Church here acts wisely for the salvation of her children — still the malcontents just keep repeating their line. Either they do not listen to the sermons, or these sermons do not strike home as regards the latters’ perplexities, or perhaps they have formed their own conception of this rite and do not want to abandon it, no matter what you tell them.
To some people our anathemas seem inhumane, to others constricting. Such charges might be valid in other situations, but there is no way they can apply to our Rite of Orthodoxy. I will clarify for you briefly why the Church acts thus, and I think you yourselves will agree with me that in so doing, the Church acts wisely.
What is the holy Church? It is a society of believers, united among themselves by a unity of confession of divinely revealed truths, by a unity of sanctification by divinely established Mysteries, and by a unity of government and guidance by God-given shepherds. The oneness of confession, sanctification, and administration constitutes the rule of this society, which is obligatory for anyone who joins it. Membership in this society is contingent upon accepting this rule and agreeing with it; remaining in this society is contingent upon fulfilling it. Let us see how the holy Church grew and how it continues to grow. The preachers preach. Some of the listeners do not accept the preaching and leave; others accept it and as a result of accepting it are sanctified by the holy Mysteries, follow the guidance of the shepherds, and thus are incorporated into the holy Church — they are churched. That is how all the Church’s members enter her. In entering her, they are mingled with all her members, they are united with them, and they remain in the Church only as long as they continue to be one with them all.
From this simple indication regarding how the Church is formed, you can see that as a society, the holy Church came to be and continues to exist just like any other society. And so regard it as you would any other, and do not deprive it of the rights belonging to any society. Let us take, for example, a temperance society. It has rules which every member must fulfill. And each of its members is a member precisely because he accepts and abides by its rules. Now suppose that some member not only refuses to abide by the rules but also holds many views completely opposed to those of the society and even rises up against its very goal. He not only does not himself observe temperance but even reviles temperance itself and disseminates notions which might tempt others and deflect them from temperance. What does the society ordinarily do with such people?
First it admonishes them, and then it expels them. There you have an anathema! No one protests this, no one reproaches the society for being inhuman. Everyone acknowledges that the society is acting in a perfectly legitimate manner and that if it were to act otherwise, it could not exist.
So what is there to reproach the holy Church for when she acts likewise? After all, an anathema is precisely separation from the Church, or the exclusion from her midst of those who do not fulfill the conditions of unity with her and begin to think differently from the way she does, differently from the way they themselves promised to think upon joining her. Recollect how it happened! Arius appeared, who held impious opinions concerning Christ the Savior, so that with these notions he distorted the very act of our salvation. What was done with him? First he was admonished, and admonished many times by every persuasive and touching means possible.
But since he stubbornly insisted upon his opinion, he was condemned and excommunicated from the Church — that is, he is expelled from our society. Beware, have no communion with him and those like him. Do not yourselves hold such opinions, and do not listen to or receive those who do. Thus did the holy Church do with Arius; thus has she done with all other heretics; and thus will she do now, too, if someone appears somewhere with impious opinions. So tell me, what is blameworthy here? What else could the holy Church do? And could she continue to exist if she did not employ such strictness and warn her children with such solicitude about those who might corrupt and destroy them?
Let us see — what false teachings and what false teachers are excommunicated? Those who deny the existence of God, the immortality of the soul, divine providence; those who do not confess the all-holy Trinity, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, the One God; those who do not acknowledge the divinity of our Lord Jesus Christ and our redemption by His death on the Cross; those who reject the grace of the Holy Spirit and the divine Mysteries which bestow it, and so forth.
Do you see what manner of issues they touch upon? These are issues which are the very reason the holy Church is the Church, principles upon which she is founded and without which she could not be that which she is. Therefore those who rise up against such truths are to the Church what those who make attempts against our lives and our property are to us in our daily life. Robbers and thieves, after all, are nowhere permitted to carry on freely and go unpunished!
And when they are bound and handed over to the law and to punishment, no one considers this to be inhumane or a violation of freedom. On the contrary, people see in this very thing both an act of love for man and a safeguard for freedom — with regard to all the members of society. If you judge thus here, judge thus also concerning the society of the Church. These false teachers, just like thieves and robbers, plunder the property of the holy Church and of God, corrupting her children and destroying them.
Does the holy Church really err in judging them, binding them, and casting them out? And would it really be love for man if she regarded the actions of such people with indifference and left them at liberty to destroy everyone else? Would a mother permit a snake to freely crawl up to and bite her little child, who does not understand the danger? If some immoral person were to gain access to your family and begin tempting your daughter, or your son — would you be able to regard their actions and their speeches with indifference? Fearing to gain a reputation for being inhumane and old- fashioned, would you tie your own hands? Would you not push such a person out the door and close it against them forever?! You should view the actions of the holy Church in the same way. She sees that individuals of corrupt mind appear, and corrupt others — and she rises up against them, drives them away, and calls out to all those who are her own: Beware — so-and-so and such-and-such people wish to destroy your souls. Do not listen to them; flee from them. Thus she fulfills the duty of motherly love, and therefore acts lovingly — or as you put it, humanely.
At the present time, we have a proliferation of nihilists, spiritists and other pernicious clever ones who are carried away with the false teachers of the West. Do you really think that our holy Church would keep silence and not raise her voice to condemn and anathematize them, if their destructive teachings were something new? By no means. A council would be held, and in council all of them with their teachings would be given over to anathema, and to the current Rite of Orthodoxy there would be appended an additional item: To Feyerbach, Buchner, and Renan, to the spiritists, and to all their followers — to the nihilists – – be anathema. But there is no need for such a council, and there is no need either for such an addition.
Their false teachings have already all been anathematized in advance in those points where anathema is pronounced to those who deny the existence of God, the spirituality and immortality of the soul, the teachings concerning the all-holy Trinity and concerning the divinity of our Lord Jesus Christ. Do you not see with what wisdom and foresight the holy Church acts when she makes us perform the present proclamation and listen to it?
And yet they say, “This is outdated.” It is precisely now that it is relevant. Perhaps 100 years ago it was not relevant. But one must say concerning our time, that if a Rite of Orthodoxy did not as yet exist, it would be needful to introduce one, and to perform it not only in the capital cities but in all places and in all churches: in order to collect all the evil teachings opposed to the Word of God, and to make them known to all, in order that all might know what they need to beware of and what kind of teachings to avoid. Many are corrupted in mind solely due to ignorance, whereas a public condemnation of ruinous teachings would save them from perdition.
Thus, the Church excommunicates, expels from her midst (when it is said, “Anathema to so-and-so”, that means the same thing as, “So-and-so: out of here”), or anathematizes for the same reason that any society does so. And she is obliged to do this in self-preservation and to preserve her children from destruction. Therefore there is nothing blameworthy or incomprehensible about this present Rite. If anyone fears the act of anathema, let him avoid the teachings which cause one to fall under it. If anyone fears it for others, let him restore him to sound teaching. If you are Orthodox and yet you are not well disposed toward this act, then you are found to be contradicting yourself.
But if you have already abandoned sound doctrine, then what business is it of yours what is done in the Church by those who maintain it? By the very fact that you have conceived a different view of things than that which is maintained in the Church, you have already separated yourself from the Church. It is not inscription in the baptismal records which makes one a member of the Church, but the spirit and content of one’s opinions.
Whether your teaching and your name are pronounced as being under anathema or not, you already fall under it when your opinions are opposed to those of the Church, and when you persist in them. Fearful is the anathema. Leave off your evil opinions. Amen.