Ijov’s Blog

March 21, 2011

Miraculous icon of Archangel Michael of Panormitis

Archangel Michael of Panormitis

Icon of Arch. Michael “Panormitis”

Archangel Michael of Panormitis (Gr. O Πανορμίτης) refers to a miraculous icon of the Archangel Michael on the island of Symi and is one of the four miraculous icons of the Archangel in the Dodecanese of Greece.

Monastery of the Taxiarchis

Symi island of the Dodecanese, Greece, is situated in southeast Aegean sea and northwest of Rhodes. While touring around the island you will see many churches and monasteries devoted to the Archangel Michael. The Greek Orthodox Monastery of Taxiarchis Mihail Panormitis is the most important on the island and second largest in the Dodecanese after the monastery of St John the Theologian in Patmos.

The monastery is located on the south end of Symi, situated on the sea front of the tiny village of Panormitis. It is a closed in cove with a small sandy beach, protected by a narrow inlet that opens out into a wide harbour. The mountainous backdrop is covered with pine trees which give the area an ambiance of solitude.

The monastery is a large 18th-century Venetian styled building with the highest baroque bell tower in the world. The facade of the main structure is white and it stretches along the coast on either side of the main gateway. In excellent condition, the Italians constructed these two rows of buildings after World War II. These buildings now contain holiday flats that can be rented by tourists visiting the monastery and also contain a bakery among other things.

Once inside the monastery main gate, visitors are welcomed by an inner courtyard, decorated with exotic trees and plants, and paved with ‘hokhlakia’. The church dedicated to the Panormiti is on the left and inside contains the 2-metre high, silver-leafed, wall icon of the Panormiti. The entire church interior is covered with iconography (of particular interest is the ‘fall of the angels’ mural at the back of the church) and is decorated with very elaborate chandeliers.

Monastery of Arch. Michael “Panormitis” (Symi, Greece)

The exact historical date of the construction of this church remains unknown but some suggest that it was built around 450 AD over the site of an ancient temple dedicated to the pagan god Apollo. It is known for certainty that the existing church underwent a major renovation in the 18th century to bring it to the standard that is in existence today.

The monastery has two museums. One houses ecclesiastical art, and is rich in exhibits like pontificals, silver icons, Russian epitaphs and ecclesiastical utensils, ship model offerings brought to Panormitis from far away by the sea, and one of folk art with important objects of the folk culture of the island, relevant to fishing, agriculture and shepherding. There is also a library with Byzantine manuscripts and editions of ecclesiastical, historical and philological content, as well as a gallery with paintings of the landscape of the monastery and its two chapels. There is also memorial to a former abbot, two monks and two teachers, who in 1944, were executed for running a spy radio for the British commandoes.

The monastery receives heaps of day-trippers from Rhodes, so if you really want to enjoy it in peace and quiet it is best to wait until they have gone. The monastery’s dorm-house can host up to 500 people. The only way to get to the monastery is via a ferry or excursion boat. If you are already on the island, there is a road that exists between the monastery and the town of Symi. This can take over six hours to walk or an hour using a local bus service or rented scooter.
Panormitis Icon

Arch. Michael “Panormitis”

In the church is the famous icon of the Archangel Michael Panormitis, who is not only considered the island’s patron saint but also the guardian of sailors in the entire Dodecanese area.

One story is that this icon appeared miraculously and, on several occasions, was removed only to reappear mysteriously in this same location. The church was then built over the location, which, other sources suggest, was also a template to Apollo.

Folklore and tradition

According to legend, if you ask a favour from Archangel Michael, you must promise to give something in return.
The tradition of the broom offering
The locals of the Dodecanese are known to have offered a traditional broom. Church tradition has passed down that monks from the monastery would hear the Saint sweeping his monastery at night with this broom offerings. Local tradition has passed down that many would be visited by the Archangel in their sleep who would ask them for the brooms.

Fulfil your promise … or else …

The Archangel Michael is famous in the Dodecanese for his righteous nature. If you have made an offering to him and do not fulfull it, he will make it clear through various miracles that he is not pleased – until you complete your promise. One famous miracle that occurs often and to this day, is the miracle of the Archangel preventing the boats from leaving the dock. This has become such a regular occurance, that the Captains of the boat will announce over the PA to the passengers that someone on the boat has forgotten a promise to the Taxiarch. Once this promise is fulfilled, then and only then does the boat’s engines work.

Message in a bottle

Another item of interest is the bottles with prayers inside. The origin’s of this tradition are owed to the Greek sailors, who would cast these into the sea and would end up, mysteriously, on the shoreline of the monastery.
Today, many believers still practise this tradition. If you visit the museum these messages have been kept for anyone to read.

As a result of these traditions, the inside of the church is decorated with an array of gifts given by the devout pilgrims. There have been so many of these gifts that a lot of them can be viewed in the museum and include model ships made from gold and silver. The monastery is also filled with wonderful paintings, carvings and icons depicting various saints.
Other churches of Archangel Michael in Symi

If visiting the island of Symi for this monastery, it is also worthwhile visiting the monasteries of Roukounioti, also dedicated to the Archangel Michael and the Monastery of Kokkimidis. The Monastery of Roukounioti has remarkable murals dating from the 14th century. The Monastery of Kokkimidis, on the other hand, is a old Byzantine monastery renovated in 1697.

Other monasteries of interest include the Monastery of Sotiros and of Stavros Polemou which are on the west coast of the island. Most of the churches on this island are dedicated to the Archangel Michael.


January 26, 2009

Chilean Catholic converted to Orthodoxy

Opening a Door for the Lord in People’s Hearts

Father Alexy Aedo

Father Alexy Aedo

Father Alexy Aedo, Chilean native and archpriest with the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad, is the pastor in Chile of two Orthodox communities—that of St Silouan of Mount Athos in the city of Conception[1], and that of St Nectarios of Aegina in the city of Santiago[2]. While still a youth, being Chilean and Catholic, he converted to Orthodoxy. Father Alexy, a well-known missionary in his country, has devoted a lot of time and energy to preaching Christianity and Orthodoxy among the Chileans.

– Father Alexy, tell us how you became an Orthodox priest and missionary.

– I had wanted to become a priest from childhood. But I was born in southern Chile, and there it was possible to become a priest only with the Catholic Church. I began to study theology and entered a Catholic seminary. Then I became acquainted with some Orthodox families from Palestine. I saw how people in the Orthodox Church live, how they think. When I would start a conversation on some theological topic, they would tell me what the Orthodox Church teaches about it. So I converted to Orthodoxy and was received into the Antiochian Church. While still a layman, I came here, to Santiago, the capital, to complete my theological education. Once, walking home from the university, I found myself near a Russian church. I entered it, heard the Russian choir, looked at old Russian photographs….All this made a deep, deep impression on me. After that, more than once, the thought entered my mind, “O God, how good it would be if I also could someday serve Liturgy in such a wonderful church!” Later, when I was already ordained a priest, the Russian missionary-bishop Vladyka Alexander Meliant—may God rest his soul—invited me to transfer to the Russian Church. While still carrying on my missionary work in Santiago, I also took the first steps in building a church in the southern part of the country, in the city of Conception. I would like very much for a beautiful Russian church to be there, where my children and other young Chileans could go. And I ask God not to take me to Himself until there is a Russian Orthodox Church in the south.

– In addition to Conception, are there any other Orthodox parishes in southern Chile?

– In the city of Valdivia, there are Russians and Palestinians who would like to form a parish. There are also Chileans, not only in Valdivia but also in other cities, who want to convert to Orthodoxy. We hope that God gives us the opportunity to build here also, in Santiago, a large church.

– You are doing a great deal of missionary work now. Was your acquaintance with Vladyka Alexander a stimulus for this?

– Yes. Vladyka Alexander trusted and loved me as a priest. That is the best thing that can happen to a priest—when a bishop trusts him and loves him. For me, it was a gift from God.

– In Russia, many people know of Vladyka Alexander through his website and are familiar with the “Missionary Pages” which Vladyka put out.

– Both the site and the brochures which Vladyka Alexander published were extremely important and needed by us. They help us understand what Orthodoxy is. Thanks to Vladyka Alexander, we have come to understand that it is both possible and desirable to preach the Gospel through the internet: people hear us better, find out about us, get to know us; through the web, we can keep knocking patiently until the people hear us.

– In the main building of Santiago University, you have now built a movable church. Tell us, besides spiritually feeding those students who are your parishioners, do you have any success in reaching other students with the Gospel message?

– We carry on missionary work with the students, but, figuratively speaking, not “through an open door” but “through a window.” Formally, we do not have the right to preach in a secular educational institution, because the students don’t come to the university in order to be “missionized”. The founders and professors of this university are laypersons, secular people. But each time an opportunity presents itself, without pressuring or imposing on anyone, we remind them about God … and talk about the faith. Later, students will come and approach me as someone older, as to a father, in order to ask advice or to share their joys and sorrows.

– And what is the most important thing for preaching Orthodoxy among specifically Latin American youth?

– My feeling is that youth here are seeking religion, seeking the Church, but they can’t find genuine faith. Unfortunately, many join Protestants, or sects, sometimes even non-Christian sects. Young people need people to listen to them, to understand them.

We live in a time when people are weighed down by many sorrows: they are hit by economic difficulties, by war, at times by serious problems with their health. It seems to many people that their whole life is falling apart. People don’t know what they can hold onto for support, what represents authentic values, true moral guidance. Therefore, work with young people should begin with friendship. A person needs to be able to simply listen to them. And when you listen to them, they, without noticing it, begin to hear about Orthodoxy.

– Do literature, the arts, and philosophy help to find a common language with youth?

– Yes, through philosophy and ethics it’s easier for me to find a common language with youth. Young Chileans are inclined to relate critically to the way things are in their homeland, and indeed, to the world in general. And they want something they can grab hold of, like the tiller on a boat or the helm on a ship, that can help them steer their way through the surrounding world. Through this desire for a true moral compass, it is easy to move the conversation to the plane of philosophy and ethics. The next step up is religion.

– After the restoration of canonical relations between the Russian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate and the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad, several parishes in Chile split off from the Mother Church. What do you think, is this a temporary phenomenon? And what, in your opinion, needs to be done to heal the schism?

– This is a very sorrowful, contradictory phenomenon. The deep, painful wounds of the past have still not healed. Many of those who have gone into schism still do not understand that over the course of time, the situation in Russia has changed. However, those dear old priests who have preserved the traditions and cherish tradition have, together with us, embraced reunification, but some young priests have left. It may be that the latter are guided by personal motives—material interests, ambition—in a word, private interests. And at times they forget about obedience to the Church.

One Russian batiushka, a monk, lives on a mountain and abides in silence. Talking with him is like talking with a saint. He also didn’t accept the reunification. But I would prefer that he were a little less saintly and stayed with us.

– Tell us, what to you is the most interesting thing that is happening today in the Russian Orthodox Church?

– Between the West and the East exists a colossal difference in world view. Here in the West, Church and culture are separated. In the Orthodox East, they [Church and culture] represent a single, united whole. Matushka[3] and I were in Greece. In Athens we asked a Greek, “What is more important to you, to be Greek or to be Orthodox?” He answered that they were one and the same thing. Russians think the same way. And I must explain to the Chilians that I am not Greek, not Russian—I am Orthodox. The Russian Church is a kind of model for us, integrating spiritual life with national culture. And I very much wish that the Chilean people would perceive and assimilate the Gospel of Christ in the way that the Russian people embraced the Gospel and integrated it with their own traditions and culture. O Russia! Help us find the path of how to be faithful to our national culture in the light of the Gospel teaching!

– Father Alexy, in Latin America, [the project of] the “Days of Russian spiritual culture”[4] has just been completed. What kind of mark have these days left in the souls of those Chileans who are still not in the Church, who consider themselves to be secular people? From your point of view, could it happen that, after visiting the concerts of Sretensky Monastery’s choir, the exhibition “Holy Russia, Orthodox Russia [‘Rus’[5]]”, and the cinematic festival of Russian films, there will be awakened in them an interest in spirituality, and in true Russian culture, which is closely bound up with the idea of Orthodoxy?

– Of course. I think this [project] will also help them draw closer to the Orthodox faith because during this period of the Days of Russian culture, Chileans have had the chance to converse with clergy—with priests and hierarchs. After 20 years in the priesthood, I have come to the following conclusion: people may be very far from the Church, perhaps not even believe in God … until they become acquainted with a priest. The Lord God literally opens for them a little door, tiny and unnoticeable; and—lo!—faith appears. Such a person suddenly turns to us with a request to bless his home, to bless his children. Then he learns about the heights of monastic life, and is beside himself with joy and wonder about it. He starts reading the lives of saints—Seraphim of Sarov, Silouan of Mount Athos, Herman of Alaska, and other ascetics of piety. He learns about fools-for-Christ and begins to study the holy fathers. For confirmation in the faith, people often don’t need concepts and theories, but simply to see the way which God Himself trod. By God’s grace, a person talks with a priest and finds the footsteps of the Lord.

interview by Hieromonk Paul Scherbachev

Source: http://www.pravoslavie.ru/english/28636.htm

January 18, 2009

Letters of Ioann Krestiankin

Ioann Krestiankin

Ioann Krestiankin

On February 5, the day of commemoration of the Synaxis of New-martyrs and Confessors of Russia, Elder Ioann Krestiankin, at age 95 the oldest monastic of the Pskov Caves Monastery, and its spiritual director, an Elder fervently loved by all, reposed. He died several minutes after communing of the Holy Gifts of Christ. We present instructions excerpted from three of Fr. Ioann’s letters to his spiritual children:

On Carrying Life’s Cross

Did you know that you do not get down from the Cross? You are taken down from it. And your Cross, if you courageously carry it to the end, will yield great spiritual fruit, transforming your soul, and nourishing your loved ones as well. The great difficulty is that the enemy of all mankind, who is irritated by your charitable acts of compassion, the beginnings of love, intensely opposes everything [you do]. And recognizing the machinations of the enemy, we do not have the strength or the skill to oppose him. Yet that is what we must do.

No one has ever found it painless to carry and ascend his Cross. Yet without the Cross, we cannot see Christ. We choose the Cross but once, and the rest of life is lived with what opportunity that Cross offers us.

No matter where we might go, our Cross will get no lighter. External sorrows may abate for a time, but it is then that inner ones, even more heavy and profound sorrows pile up on us.

Don’t Waste Time!

Friends, let us wash, let us cleanse ourselves by tears and the confession of our sins while there is time. Let us struggle in our life to acquire the Holy Spirit, Who will open to us the gates of the heavenly mansions. And let us use all of our earthly possessions to obtain heavenly treasures, by giving alms from a merciful and loving heart. Let us use our earthly life to come to know God, to come to know ourselves, and to prepare our eternal inheritance. Let us not waste time.

May God give you wisdom!

Be the salt of the earth

Pray to the Holy Martyr Tryphon, and through his intercessions you will always have work. Go to church to pray, and help whomever you can, but your main work should be your occupation in the world.

Believers should be the salt of the earth, and not close themselves up to people. Preach not so much with words as with your life, your patience and love towards suffering and lost people.

Do not look too far ahead, and if you will live every day with God and with prayer, the Lord will draw your little boat through life and direct it toward salvation.

May the Lord preserve you and make you wise!


Letters of John Krestiankin

Khomyakov´s letters to Palmer

Alexei Khomiakov

First Letter to William Palmer
10 December 1844



The sign of the Cross * Communion of prayer between living and dead * Misrepresentations of Khomiakov’s opinions about England * Reunion of Christendom * Different views of Rome and the Orthodox Church * Obstacles to Reunion between Eastern and Western Communities * Palmer’s eyesight * Report of Newman’s secession

Sir, —

The elegant and faithful translation of some stanzas written on the death of my first children, which you have had the goodness to include in your letter to Mr. Redkin, has been received by me with the utmost gratitude and pleasure. Yet give me leave to say, that, highly as I value the honour conferred on my poetry, I rejoice still more in the consciousness that it has been paid rather to the human feeling which has inspired my verses to the merit of the expression. It is indeed a great joy for me to have met with your sympathy, and the more so as I have met with it in the highest of all regions, in the communion of religious sentiments and convictions. In one respect it is even more than I could have anticipated, [inasmuch] as the sign of the Cross and the belief in communion of prayers between living and dead are generally rejected by the over-cautious spirit of the Reformation.

You are, methinks, very right in approving of them. Those who believe that the Holy Cross has been indeed the instrument of our salvation cannot but consider it as the natural symbol of Christian love; and if they reject a most natural and holy sign for fear of idolatry, they seem to be almost as inconsistent as a man who should condemn himself to voluntary dumbness for fear of idle words. In the like manner I think [it] rather reasonable to believe that no bond of Christian love can be rent asunder by death in the spiritual world, whose only law is love. The Episcopal Church of England seems in the last times to have adopted that principle.

Perhaps I should add a few words for my own justification, as some ridiculous calumnies have been circulated in Germany about my having expressed sentiments of hate towards your noble and highly enlightened country, and may have found their way to England. These calumnies originated in the writings of an Oratorian (Theyner), and were repeated by Jesuits and reprinted in some newspapers. It was a strange thing to see England’s cause defended by unlooked-for champions seldom considered as her friends. But a deep and implacable hatred towards Russia and the Eastern Church had inspired them suddenly with a fervent love towards England. Yet, I will not attempt a justification; I am sure that English good sense and justice will always prove a sufficient defence against the brazen-faced hypocrisy of an Oratorian or a Jesuit. Permit me rather to add some few observations on the last passage of your letter to Mr. Redkin, which he has communicated to some of his friends.

You say: Those who desire to be true patriots and true cosmopolites should repeat, not with their lips only, but from their inmost heart, the words “о соединеніи веѣхъ” For the union of all, taken from the third clause of the Great Litany: For the peace of the world, for the welfare of all the holy Churches of God, and for the union of them all, let us pray to the Lord. ℟ – Lord, have mercy. The Great Litany is said at the Divine Liturgy and many other services of the Orthodox Church. whenever they occur in the services of the Church. Indeed, sir, I think that many are the cultivated Russians who repeat that part of the Divine Liturgy not only with their lips and breath, but with their heart and soul. I, for my part, having been educated in a very pious family, and particularly by a pious mother, still living, have been taught to join sincerely in that beautiful prayer of the Church. When very young, almost a child, my imagination was often delighted by a hope of seeing al the Christian world united under one banner of truth. Later, that became less vivid as the obstacles grew more and more visible. At last, I must confess it, what was a hope has dwindled into a desire relieved from despair by nothing but a faint glimmering of a possible success after many and many ages. The South of Europe, in its dark ignorance, is out of the question for a long while. Germany has in reality no religion at all but the idolatry of science; France has no serious longings for truth, and little sincerity. England with its modest science and its serious love of religious truth might give some hopes; but — permit the frank expression of my thoughts — England is held by the iron chain of traditional custom.

You add that most serious people in England think only of union with Rome.

This conclusion seems to me very natural. Union cannot be understood by any Orthodox Christian other than as the consequence of a complete harmony, or of a perfect Unity of Doctrine. (I do not speak of rites, excepting in the case when they are symbols of a dogma.)

The Church in her structure, is not a state, and can admit of nothing like a conditional Union. It is quite a different case with the community of Rome. She is a state. She admits easily of the possibility of an alliance even with a deep discordance of doctrine. Great is the difference between the logical slavery of Ultramontanism and the illogical half-liberty of Gallicanism, and yet they stand both under the same banner and head. This was written before the suppression of Gallicanism by Pope Pius IX. The union of the Nicene Symbol and Roman obedience in the Uniates of Poland was a thing most absurd, and yet those Uniates were admitted by Rome very naturally, because the community of Rome is a state, and has a right to act as a state. The Union with Rome seems to me the more natural for England, [since] England in truth has never rejected the authority of the Latin doctrine. Why should those who admit the validity of the Pope’s decree in the most vital part of Faith — in the Symbol — reject it in secondary questions or in matters of discipline?

Union is possible with Rome. Unity alone is possible with Orthodoxy. It is now more than a thousand years since Spanish bishops invented [the] Inquisition Khomiakov explains this more clearly in his Third Letter to Palmer (in the time of the Goths), and an addition to the Symbol. It is almost as much since the Pope confirmed that addition the Filioque by his own authority and words. Since that time, the Western communities have nurtured a deep enmity and an incurable disdain for the unchanging East. These feelings have become traditional and, as it were, innate, to the Latin-German world, and England has all the time partaken of that spiritual life. Can it tear itself away from the past? There stands, in my opinion, the greatest and invincible obstacle to Unity. There is the reason why so many individual attempts have met with no sympathy and no success at all, and why communications on points of theological science not unknown to many of your divines (as, for example, the Bishop of Paris Bishop Luscombe, consecrated at the request of British residents in France, with the consent of the English hierarchy, by bishops of the Scottish Church. to Dr. Pusey and others), have not even been brought forward to the knowledge of the public. It is an easy thing to say: We have ever been Catholics; but the Church, being sullied by abuses, we have protested against them, and have gone too far in our protest. Now we retrace our steps. This is easy, but to say, We have been schismatic for ages and ages, even since the dawn of our intellectual life, is next to impossible. It would require in a man an almost incredible humility to adopt that declaration.

These, sir, are the reasons why, in Russia, the most ardent wishes for universal unity are so little mixed with hope, or why hope (where it exists) turns itself rather to the Eastern communities, Nestorians, Eutychians, and so forth. They are certainly further from Orthodoxy than the communities of the West, but are not withheld from a return by feelings of proud disdain.

Now, my dear sir, permit me to turn to a question more individual, but extremely interesting for me, as it concerns a man for whom I feel the sincerest esteem, and who has had the goodness to give me a never-to-be-forgotten proof of sympathy and goodwill. You complain of the weakness and irritation of your eyes, a terrible complaint for one who loves study as you do. I am somewhat of a physician (a quack doctor, if you like it), and though I am sure you have had the counsels of men by far more able than I am, I will take the liberty of proposing to you a remedy of which I have made many experiences with the best and most astonishing effects. The remedy is simply a dilution of one part of alum with one hundred and fifty parts of water, to be applied to the eyes on very fine linen three or four times a day. If you find it worth trying, I hope it will do you good; if you do not, I am sure my good intention will excuse the absurdity of the proposition. I forgot to say that the first application is a little irritating, but generally the amelioration is very remarkable in the space of a few days.

I pray you, my dear sir, to excuse the barbarous style of a foreigner and the indiscretion of a man who has taken the liberty of addressing himself to you without having the honour of a personal acquaintance, and to accept the assurance of the most sincere respect and gratitude of, you most humble and obedient servant,

Alexei Khomiakov

P.S. Since this letter was written, I have seen in the newspapers the conversion of Mr. Newman and many others to the Latins, and must confess that I think a critical moment very near at hand for the Church of England. My address is [omitted]. Perhaps the way indicated by yourself, through the medium of Mr. Law, will yet be the surest and best. Knowing the interest you take in Russian literature, I take the liberty to send you a little selection of verses by Yazikov.

10 December 1844

Alexei Khomiakov

Second Letter to William Palmer
18 August 1845

Obstacles to Reunion of Western communities and the Eastern Church, moral even more than doctrinal * Palmer’s strictures upon the Eastern Church partly, but not entirely, fair * Invocation of Saints * Protestant objections to it due to inheritance of Latin traditions * the Procession of the Holy Spirit * Western breach of the Church’s unity * Khomiakov’s opinion of the English Church.

Most Reverend Sir,

Accept my sincerest thanks for your friendly letter and the copies of your short Poems and Hymns, which I have received by post, and the expressions of my gratitude for the Letter Dedicatory which is printed at the head of that instructive and elegant edition. The honour you have conferred on me in affixing my name to your Poems, unforeseen and unmerited as it was, is deeply appreciated, and shall always be cherished by me as a proof of a dear and never-to-be-forgotten sympathy. I should be happy indeed if I could by work or word show myself not unworthy of it.

The reflections you have been pleased to address to me on ecclesiastical matters call for a reply. They have not been inspired by a cold spirit of scholastic dispute, but by a warm and Christian desire of universal unity; and deficient as I think myself in many points of theological knowledge, I feel that I have no right to evade the duty of answering the questions you have proposed and the opinions which you have stated about Church and doctrine.

Both your letters contain some friendly reproaches directed to me personally, and some which seem addressed to all our Eastern churches. There is in them much of truth which I will not attempt to extenuate, but I will take the liberty to say a few words of justification, as I think you are not quite right in the point of view which you have chosen.

In the first place, I readily admit that the hopelessness with which I consider the obstacles that oppose the return of the Western communities to Orthodoxy may prove and proves me indeed but of little faith and of a faintness in my desires for that return. Warmer feelings and a more Christian disposition would probably have shown me things in a different light, or at least would have turned my eyes from the calculations of worldly probabilities to the thoughts of divine Providence and its inscrutable ways. This fact being once admitted, I may be allowed to say that I think myself right in the statement of things as they stand at present (the future being in the hands of the merciful God), and in the opinion that the greatest obstacles to Unity are not in the visible and formal difference of doctrine (as theologians are apt to suppose), but in the spirit which pervades the Western communities, in their customs, prejudices, and passions, but, more than all, in a feeling of pride which hinders a confession of past errors, and a feeling of disdain which would not admit that divine truth has been preserved and guarded for many ages by the long-despised and darkened East. My words have not been, perhaps, quite useless, if they have turned your attention to the latent feelings which widen the chasm between the Eastern and Western communities.

The reproach you seem to address to all Eastern churches, and particularly to Russia, for want of Christian zeal and energy, and for evident indifference about the diffusion of true doctrine is a bitter one, and yet I will not deny its justice. Perhaps we could find some excuses in the long sufferings of our country, and of Greece, in the Mahometan yoke, in political causes, and in the spiritual battle which is unceasingly to be fought within the precincts of our own country against errors, schisms, and the continual attacks of modern scepticism; but all such excuses are insufficient. More than half of the world is still in complete darkness; our nearest neighbours in the East live still in utter ignorance of the Word and Doctrine of Christ; and that could not have happened if we had inherited the burning zeal of the Apostles. We have nothing to say against these proofs. We stand convicted, and should be quite unworthy of the grace and mercy that have been shown to us if we did not confess how worthless indeed we are. Humility is a duty not only for individuals, but also for nations and communities. In Christians, it is not even a virtue; it is simply obedience to the voice of reasonable conviction. We can only request and expect that the Faith which we hold may not be judged by our actions. The justice of your reproach being confessed in its full extent, I think I may add that it cannot, at least, be inferred from our seeming indifference for the reconciliation or conversion of our Western brethren. Apostles brought to the world new tidings of joy and truth; our missionaries could do the same in the pagan or Mahometan East; but what can we do in the West? What new tidings have we to bring? What new sources of information can we open to Europe, and particularly to England? Is not the Holy Scripture as well and (to our shame be it said) better known to the majority of your nation than to ours? Is not your clergy, and even a part of your laymen, as conversant with the Fathers and Ecclesiastical history as our most learned divines? Is not Oxford a centre of Science which we cannot rival? What can a missionary bring to you, except unavailing eloquence and, perhaps, some individual errors from which no man is sure to be free, though the Church is? There was a time when Christian society preached by example even more than by word. The individual example of a missionary would prove nothing at all; and as for national example, what shall we say? Our only request should be that your eyes may be turned away from us; for our good qualities are hid, and our vices are audaciously brought to view, particularly in that capital and that part of society which are foremost to meet the observation of a foreigner. The rites and ordinances of our Church are despised and trampled on by those who should set the example of obedience. The only way left for us (though it may subject us to seemingly just accusations), is, perhaps, to wait with anxious expectation for the result of the struggle which is going on everywhere (and in England certainly with more earnestness than anywhere else), and to express our sympathy by prayers to God that He may give victory to the better part of human nature.

Now, to return to your reflections on matters of ecclesiastical doctrine. I am well aware that Luther himself was inclined to re-admit the Sign of the Cross and the communion of prayer between living and dead (which he has attacked many times), and that the Anglican Church has never formally rejected them; but a practical rejection seemed to prove that Anglicans had gone further on in the way of Protestantism than in earlier ages, and I could not but rejoice in seeing signs of return to good and Christian doctrines. Yet, allow me a remark which, though directed to a single point, seems to me extremely important, as it brings on conclusions about the whole spirit of the Western communities.

You say that even those Anglican bishops who are least inclined to favour the spiritual movement called Puseyism, nevertheless do not fail to acknowledge that their community has never, in any way, condemned apostrophes and poetical addresses to saints and angels, but that the real objection of intelligent and well-disposed Anglicans is against prayers in prose seriously addressed to Spirits and Souls not present in the body as a service of homage and devotion. I think the word service, though certainly often used in the acceptation you give you give to it, throws some confusion on the question. The song of triumph which meets the victorious warrior on his return to his native land has never been called a service, though it is assuredly joyful homage and an expression of gratitude and devotion. In the like manner, the homage paid by Christians to the noble warriors who have fought the Spiritual battle of the Lord through ages and ages, and have held aright the tradition of the Church, should perhaps not be called a service, but an expression of joy and humble love. We cannot properly be said to serve our fellow-servants, though their station be infinitely exalted above our own. The objection of Anglicans and other Protestants has truth in it if directed against the word, none if against the thing itself. No enlightened member of the Orthodox Church could indeed understand it unless he was acquainted with the Latin definitions i.e., the word service used with the honour given the Saints as in Servitium beatae Mariae, etc. The Orthodox Church does not use the Western terms dulia or hyperdulia, but retains the ancient terminology of the Seventh Ecumenical Synod that differentiates between λατρεία (the absolute worship due the Holy Trinity alone) and τιμητικὴ προσκύνησις (the secondary honour given to the Saints, the Ikons, the Book of the Gospels, etc. and theories which have in fact given birth to almost all the errors of Protestantism. But another objection remains. We address to created Spirits not only the homage of our praises, but very earnest requests (as this expression would in this case perhaps be more correct than the expression prayers), asking for their intercession and prayers before the Majesty of our Saviour. Where is the use of such requests? Where is our right to them? Do we want any other advocate but Christ our Lord? There can be no serious meaning in our addresses to created beings, and we may as well reject all those useless and idle forms. There is the question. I will answer it with another. Was the Apostle serious when he asked for the prayers of the Church? Are the Protestants serious when they request their brethren (as they often do) to pray for them? Where is, if you please, the logic of the distinction? A doubt about the possibility or reality of a communication between living and dead through Christ and in Christ is too un-Christian to want an answer. To ascribe to the prayers of living Christians a power of intercession which is refused to the Christians admitted into heavenly glory would be a glaring absurdity. If Protestantism were true to logic, as it pretends to be, I may boldly affirm that not only Anglicans, but all Protestant sects (even the worst) would either admit serious and earnest addresses to saints and angels, or reject the mutual prayers of Christians on earth. Why, then, are they rejected, nay, often condemned? Simply because Protestantism is for ever and ever protesting. Because the semi-Pelagianism of Popery and its doctrine about merits and, as it were, self-worthiness of the Saints is ever present to Protestantism. Because Protestantism is not, nor ever can be, free. In short, because of its unceasing cry, No Popery, it stands on Popish ground and lives on Popish definitions, and is as much a slave to the doctrine of utilitarianism (which is the groundwork of Popery) as the most fanatical Ultramontanist. Now we are free, and, though well aware that we want no intercessor but Christ, we give vent to our feelings of love and to our earnest longings for mutual prayer and spiritual communion not only with the living, but with the dead, who have not been saved by their own worthiness (for no one, even of the best, was worthy, save Christ alone), but by the grace and mercy of the Lord which, we hope, will be extended to us likewise.

I readily concur with you in the opinion that if Anglicans would only practically admit and appreciate the beautiful poetry of hymns addressed to saints and angels, there would be no fear of any great difficulty remaining afterwards on this point in the way of peace; nor would I have spoken on the matter if I had not considered it as an example and a proof of the constant subjection of all the Western communities to the doctrines and spirit of Latinism. This subject is as evident in the negation as in the affirmations of Protestants, and the illustration of it which I find in their rejection of prayers addressed to the Church invisible could be corroborated by many other examples; such as the dispute about Faith and Works, about Transubstantiation, abut the number of the Sacraments, or the authority of Holy Scripture and Tradition; and, in short, by every question about ecclesiastical matters and every Protestant decision concerning them. But it is certainly most evident in that all-decisive point which you agreed with me in considering as the greatest obstacle not only to Unity between Orthodoxy and Anglicanism, but even to the thought of Union.

I will not enter upon the question [of the Filioque] itself, nor attempt to defend the Nicene[-Constantinopolitan] Creed in its original form; I will not say that the West has not authorities for it, excepting falsified passages of the Fathers, or texts from them which prove nothing, as regarding only Mission ad extra, or even texts which, rightly understood, would prove the contrary of the Latin doctrine. Such is the passage of St Augustine (if my memory fails me not), where he says, principaliter autem a Patre (that is, quod principium), which if rightly translated means: the Spirit comes (i.e. ad extra) from the Father and Son, but originates from the Father. Khomiakov refers to a passage from On the Trinity, 25:12: Et tamen non frustra in hac Trinitate non dicitur verbum nisi Filius, nec donum Dei nisi Spiritus Sanctus, nec de quo genitum est verbum et de quo procedit principaliter Spiritus Sanctus, nisi Deus Pater. Ideo autem addidi principaliter, quia et de Filio Spiritus Sanctus procedere reperitur. Adam Zernikov proved that the highlighted passages were later interpolations. I will not recall the decisive approval given by an Ecumenical Synod Fifth Ecumenical Synod (Constantinople/New Rome, 553) to the anathema of Theodoretus against the doctrine of Procession from the Father and Son. (The absurd explanation given by Jäger in his life of Photius and by other Latin writers who pretend that the anathema was directed against Monophysite tendencies looks like anything rather than fair and Christian discussion of a theological question.) All this I leave aside. I could add nothing to promote knowledge, or to the strong attacks of the illustrious Zernikov and Theophanes. I will only add an observation of my own. The Protestant world has been torn asunder by all sorts of errors; it has given birth to most strange sects which differ widely the one from the other in almost every point of doctrine. Now this point [the Filioque], every candid Protestant will admit to be at least a doubtful one (though in my opinion there is not even place for a doubt). How does it happen, if you please, that not one of these numerous sects has readmitted the [original] Nicene[-Constantinopolitan] Symbol? How happens it that some of them (evidently feeling doubts) have preferred excluding the words about the Procession altogether to the necessity of using the orthodox form, though it is literally transcribed from the words of our Saviour? Does not that circumstance go far to prove undoubted though unconfessed subjection to Latin precedents, and a deep-rooted feeling of repulsion against anything that could seem to confirm the truth of Orthodoxy? I hope you will not accuse me of judging our ecclesiastical adversaries unfairly.

The matter is most important in two respects, as it is not only a question of doctrine, but a question of morality. Leaving aside the first point, I will consider only the second. Leaving aside the first point, I will consider only the second. In the seventh century, the Catholic Church was one in full communion of love and prayer, from the depths of Syria and Egypt to the distant shores of Britain and Ireland. About the middle of that century (perhaps even at the end of the preceding one) a change was introduced in the Symbol by the Spanish clergy. Khomiakov is mistaken about the date: the change was introduced in the middle of the sixth century. In the first letter I had the honour to address you, I added that this change was made at the same time when the Inquisition was first introduced in its worst forms, Khomiakov explains this more clearly in his Third Letter to Palmer and by the same provincial synods, with the intention to recall to your memory that the first step towards schism was taken by the worst, most corrupted and most un-Christian clergy, swollen with pride of exorbitant political rights. The innovation was left unnoticed, as having been made in a distant country which was soon overrun and conquered by Mohammedans. Still, unnoticed as it was in the East, and even in Italy, the new teaching crept on further and further through the Western communities. About the end of the eighth and beginning of the ninth centuries, the new Symbol was admitted by most of them as a thing of course. We have no right on that occasion to accuse the Roman See. The Popes felt the unlawfulness of the proceeding, they foresaw its dreadful consequences, they tried to stem the flood, but could not. Their only fault (and a great one it was) was to have shown a want of energy in their resistance. The West felt itself of age; it could speak for itself; it had no want of anybody’s opinion or assent in things of faith. The innovation was solemnly adopted, without a general Synod being held, without the Eastern Bishops being invited to give their assent, without even so much as a notice being given to them. The bonds of love were torn, the communion of faith (which cannot exist with different symbols) was rejected in fact. I will not say, Was that lawful? The idea of law and lawfulness may do for casuists and disciples of the jus Romanum, but cannot do for Christians. But I will ask: Was that moral? Was it brotherly? Was it Christian? The rights of the Catholic Church were usurped by a part of it. An unmerited offence was given to unsuspecting brothers, who till that time had fought with the greatest perseverance and certainly the greatest ability for Orthodoxy. This action was certainly a most heinous sin, and a most shocking display of pride and disdain. The bad inheritance has been accepted and held till now. Must it be held for ever?

Let worldly societies deviate from moral law; let them sin and glory in their sins, and in the temporary advantages they have gained by them. I am not, nor can ever be, a political man; therefore, I will not judge political communities, though I do indeed suspect that every bad action of the fathers is or shall be visited on their children by the logic of provident history. But I know for certain that every man must answer for his sins and be punished for them until he confesses and repents. Still more assuredly do I know that there can be no sin in the Church of God, in the holy elect and perfect vessel of His heavenly truth and grace; and that therefore no community which accepts the inheritance of sin can be considered as a real part of it.

You may remark, most Reverend sir, that I have not entered on the dogmatic part of the question, and only considered the moral part of it. I may add that, left alone and rejected as we were by our usurping brethren, we have had a right to decide all sorts of questions by ourselves and by the authority of our own clergy and laymen; yet we have not used that right. We are unchanged; we are still the same as we were in the eighth century, before the West had rudely spurned its Eastern brethren. Let us be brought to the test. Oh that you could only consent to be again what you were at that time when we were united by Unity of Faith and communion of spiritual love and prayer!

Some words more must be said in answer to the last part of your printed letter. You are right in giving the following rule: We should be jealously fair and charitable in ascertaining that we do not misrepresent or calumniate the belief of our separated brethren, and so wilfully make a difference when there would be none, or, when there is one, make the difference greater than it really is. I do not think that we are much inclined to fall into the said error, and, by the knowledge I have of my countrymen, I should rather suppose that they lean to the opposite extreme; yet if the thing be disputed, I will readily admit that no man can be impartial either in his own cause or in the cause of his nation or community. In the present case, I confess that I do not clearly see the possibility of an error. Either the addition has the meaning generally ascribed to it by the Latins as concerning the original Procession of the Spirit, which cannot be considered by us in any other light than as an heretical proposition; or it expresses only the procession ad extra, which no Orthodox Christian can or dare dispute. In the first supposition, the difference is immense, and the question must be solved by scriptural and moral proofs, viz.: by considering whether the Western communities have any authorities for them in the Holy Scriptures, or in their early commentators, or in the decisions of Ecumenical Synods, and whether there is any probability that the grace of the Holy Spirit may have dictated a change, which was accompanied by such an open usurpation of rights, and such an evident and un-Christian disdain shown to a considerable part of the Church. I think that both propositions would easily be proven false. In the second case, there is indeed no difference at all. But the duty of rejecting the addition becomes still more imperative. Who can continue to use equivocal expressions when this double meaning has had, and has even now, such dreadful consequences? Who can hold up the standard of ancient usurpation condemning at the same time in his heart the usurpation itself? The line of moral duty seems, in this case, to be quite evident.

My real opinion of the Anglican Church is, in many respects, very near to your own. I believe seriously, that it contains many orthodox tendencies, perhaps not quite developed, but growing to maturity; that it contains many elements of unity with Orthodoxy, obscured, perhaps, by nothing but unhappy habits of Latin scholasticism, and that the time is at hand when a better understanding will be followed by real union between long separated brethren. The seemingly heretical, or at least equivocal, language should only be explained in an orthodox sense, and the language and spirit of heresy should be formally rejected and disused for the future. These are your own expressions. In the first point, the power usurped in the change of the Symbol should be frankly condemned as offensive to charity and love; but there stands the great moral obstacle; for such a condemnation would seem, and indeed would be, a confession and an act of penitence; and, sweet as penitence is in its consequences, it is at first bitter and repulsive to the pride from which no man is free. And yet, what good can be done without moral renovation, when every good consequence is sure to be derived from it, as it brings with itself the perfect grace of the Father of lights? But, it is indeed no easy thing; and that is the reason why, with so many apparent causes for hope, my hopes are so faint and null. I know I am not right in giving way to my fears, and yet I should be still more wrong if, entertaining such thoughts, I should not express them frankly. Certainly my greatest joy would be to be convicted of error and pusillanimity by the event.

Having gone thus far, I will take the liberty to observe that, in my opinion, many, even of the best disposed amongst English divines, are apt to fall into a strange and dangerous delusion. This delusion is to suppose that not only every particular church can run into partial errors without ceasing to belong to Catholicity, but that the whole of the Catholic Church can likewise be obscured by temporary errors, either the same in every part of it, or different in the different communities, so that Truth is to be distilled out of the corrupt mass by the rule of quod semper, quod omnes, quod ubique. This is the phrase of Saint Vincent of Lerins: That which is believed everywhere, always and by all, is truly and properly catholic. It is sometimes called the Vincentian Canon. I have lately had the pleasure of reading a book, with which you are probably acquainted, of Mr. Dewar about German Rationalism. Edward H. Dewar: German Protestantism and the right of private judgment in the interpretation of Holy Scripture: A brief history of German theology, from the Reformation to the present time, in a series of letters to a layman, Oxford, 1844. I consider it a masterpiece of fair and sound logic, free from passions and prejudices. The sharp intelligence of the author has not only perfectly found out the reasons of the inevitable development of Rationalism in Protestant Germany, but has found its traces in Latinism, not withstanding its continual pretensions to the contrary. This is certainly a great truth which could be corroborated by many other and even stronger proofs; but, strange to say, Mr. Dewar excepts the Anglican Church from the general accusation, as if a community which confesses to a reform did not stand self-convicted of Rationalism! Indeed, if the totality of the Church could ever have fallen into errors of doctrine, individual criticism would have become not only a right, but an unavoidable necessity; and that is nothing but Rationalism, though it may hide itself behind the well-sounding words of Testimony of the Fathers, whose writings are nothing but heaps of written pages; or, Authority of the Catholic Church, which has no meaning at all if it could not escape error; or, Tradition, which, once interrupted, ceases to exist; or even Inspiration from heaven, which every man can pretend to be favoured with, though no other believes his pretensions. The continual presence of the Holy Spirit is a promise given to us by Truth Itself; and if this promise is believed, the light of pure doctrine must burn and shine brightly, through all ages, seeking our eyes, even when unsought for. If it is once bedimmed, it is obscured for ever, and the Church must become a mere word without a meaning in it, or must be considered, as many German Protestants indeed do consider it, as a society of good men differing in all their opinions, but earnestly seeking for Truth with a total certainty that it has not yet been found, and with no hope at all ever to find it. These consequences are unavoidable, though some of your worthiest divines do not seem to admit them, and this is certainly a dangerous self-delusion.

If you find some expressions of this letter rather harsh, I beg of you not to judge them too severely. It is perhaps in my turn of mind to see obstacles rather than the means by which they may be avoided; and I hope I have been actuated by no desire of giving offence; but by an earnest wish that every difficulty may be rightly understood so as to be the better solved with the help of Him whose blessing is sure to illuminate hearts that are honestly and humbly longing for Truth and moral perfection. Such hearts are certainly no rarity in your country.

Accept, most reverend sir, the assurances of the sincere and perfect esteem with which I have the honour to call myself your most humble and obedient servant,

Alexei Khomiakov

(Smolensk, 18 August 1845)

Alexei Khomiakov

Third Letter to William Palmer
28 November 1846

Moral obstacle to the West accepting Orthodoxy * The Eastern Church defended from the charge of lack of missionary zeal * The Eastern Church defended from charge of inconsistency with regard to Filioque * The Rebaptism of Westerners * Replies to additional remarks of Palmer upon Filioque and the Inquisition * Difficult for Westerners, whether Latin or Protestant, to join Orthodox Church * The Church cannot be a harmony of discords * Latin power and great future of the Orthodox Church

Most Reverend Sir,

Accept my heartiest thanks for your friendly letter, and my excuses for having been rather slow in answering it. I cannot but call your letter a friendly one, though it contains some very severe attacks on us; but a truly friendly disposition lies in my opinion at the bottom of them, and is manifested by the honest frankness of their expression. I think your attacks generally wrong, but they are sincere, and show a serious desire to find out truth, and to come to a satisfactory conclusion in the debated question. Every doubt, every difficulty, and every accusation, let it be ever so hard for the accused party, should be candidly and clearly stated; this is the only way for establishing the difference between right and wrong. Truth must never be evaded; it should not even be veiled in truly serious questions.

Permit me to resume briefly your accusations. First: If we pretend (as indeed we do) to be the only Orthodox or Catholic Church, we should be more zealous for the conversion of erring communities, as the Spirit of apostleship, which is the true spirit of Love, can never be extinct in the true Church; and yet we are manifestly deficient in that respect. Secondly: Our pretensions are evidently contradicted by the admission (proposed by some our most important divines) of a communion with the Latin Community on very easy conditions. Thirdly: Slight errors (proved by a change of rites) have been admitted by our own Church, and therefore we cannot logically uphold the principle that the true Church can never have fallen into a dogmatic error (be it ever so slight), or have undergone any change, be it ever so unimportant.

I have fairly admitted our deficiency in Christian zeal, though at the same time I exculpated our Church from that accusation with respect to the Western communities. You explain that same faintness by a latent conviction of our Church, which, you suppose, feels herself to be no more than a part of the whole Church notwithstanding her pretensions to the contrary. This explanation seems to me quite arbitrary, and has no right to admission till it be proved that no other explains the case quite sufficiently. But the question stands differently. The distinction I made between our relations to the heathen and our relations to Europe you consider rather as an evasion than as a direct answer, yet I think it is easily maintained by a very high authority. I had said, What new tidings can we bring to the Christian West? What new source of information to countries more enlightened than we are? What new and unknown doctrine to men to whom the true Doctrine is known though disregarded? These expressions imply no fear of a contention which indeed would show weakness and doubt, no distrust of the strength of our arguments and authorities, perhaps even no great want of zeal and love. They simply imply a deep conviction that the reluctance of the West to admit the simple truth of the Church arises neither from ignorance nor from rational objections, but from a moral obstacle which no human efforts can conquer, if it is not conquered by the better feelings of the better part of human nature in those who can know the truth but do not wish to confess it. Such a disposition can exist, though the question is whether it exists in the case of which I am speaking. Did not the Father of Light and Source of Love say in the parable by the lips of Abraham: Have they not Moses and the Prophets? If they do not listen to them, they will not listen to Lazarus, even if he was to rise from the dead. Do not, I pray, consider this quotation as being made with an intention of offence. I would not make injurious accusations; and having once confessed a want of zeal in our country and people, I would confess it again; but my conviction is that indeed in the present case the words of Christ may be fairly applied, and that you are separated from us by a moral obstacle, the origin of which I have tried in my former letter to trace to its historical beginning.

But does not this faintness of zeal — which I admit (with regard to the heathen nations) — imply a defect in the Eastern Church herself, and prove her to be no more than a part, perhaps even not so much as a part of the whole true Church? This I cannot admit. It may be considered as a defect of the nations to whom the destiny of the Church is temporarily confided (be they Russians or Greeks), but can nowise be considered as a stain to the Church herself. The ways of God are inscrutable. A few hundreds of disciples in the space of about two centuries brought to the flock of Christ more millions of individuals than there were hundreds in the beginning. If that burning zeal had continued to warm the hearts of the Christians, in how short a space of time must not all the human race have heard and believed the saving Word? Sixteen centuries have elapsed since that epoch; and we are obliged to confess with an unwilling humility that the greater and by far greater majority of mankind is still in the slavery of darkness and ignorance. Where then is the zeal of the Apostle? Where is the Church? That would prove too much if it proved anything at all. Many centuries, particularly in the middle ages, and at the beginning of modern history, have hardly seen some few examples of solitary conversions and not one national, and not one remarkable effort at proselytism. This seems to inculpate the whole Church. The spirit of missions is now most gloriously awakened in England, and I hope that that merit will not be forgotten by the Almighty in the days of trial and danger which England has perhaps to meet; but this noble tendency is a new one, or at least has become apparent only very lately. Is it a sign that the Church of England is now nearer to truth than it was before? Is it a proof of greater energies or purity? No one can admit this. Or let us take the Nestorian community, which you hold out as a parallel to us. I do not consider the parallel as a caricature, though you have added that word, probably with an intention to avoid offence. The Nestorians are generally ignorant, but ignorance (in the point of Arts and Sciences) was our own lot not more than a century ago. The Nestorians are, generally speaking, poor; but that is no great blemish for any man and particularly for a Christian. They are few, but the truth of a doctrine is not to be measured by the number of votaries. The Nestorians have been richer and more learned and more numerous than they are at present. They have had the spirit of proselytism. Their missionaries have extended their activity over all the east as far as the inner India and the centre of China, and that proselytism was not ineffectual. Millions and millions had embraced Nestorianism (Marco Polo’s testimony is not the only one to prove their success). Was Nestorianism nearer to truth in the time of its triumph than in our time? Mohammedanism and Buddhism would give us the same conclusion. Truth and error have had equally their time of ardent zeal or comparative coldness, and the characters of nations may certainly produce the same effects as the characters of epochs. Therefore, I see no reason for accusing the Orthodox Church in herself of a defect or weakness which may, and in my opinion evidently does, belong to the nations that compose her communities.

Having thus distinguished the notes of the Church herself from the national qualities or defects of the Eastern community which alone represents it temporarily, permit me to add that the comparison which you institute between the zeal of the Latins and the seeming indifference of the Eastern World is not quite fair. I do not deny the fact itself, nor do I express any doubt concerning the apparent superiority of the Latins in that respect; but I cannot admit their spirit of proselytism to be anything like a Christian feeling. I think it should be left quite out of the question, as being the necessary result of a particular national or ecclesiastical organisation, nearly akin to the proselytising spirit of Mohammedanism in the days of its pride. I will not condemn the zeal of the Latins; it is in some respects too praiseworthy to be ill or even lightly spoken of; I can neither praise nor envy it. It is in many respects too un-Christian to be admired, as having produced more persecutors than martyrs. It is, in short, a mixed feeling not dishonourable for nations which belong to the Latin Community, but quite unworthy of the Church, and not to be mentioned in questions of ecclesiastical truth. I am, I trust, very far from having the disposition to boast, and yet I cannot but call your attention to a strange and generally unnoticed fact, viz., that notwithstanding the apparent ardour of the Latin Community, and seeming coldness of Orthodoxy as to proselytism, yet that since the time of the Papal Schism (which certainly begins not with the quarrels of Photius and Nicholas, but with the interpolation of the Symbol when the West declared itself de facto sole judge of Christian doctrine) it has been the destiny of Orthodoxy to be happier in its conquests than its rival community. No one will doubt the fact if he considers the numerical superiority of Russian Orthodox Christians over the inhabitants of Scandinavia and about a third part of Germany, which were called to the knowledge of Christ after the time of Charlemagne. To this comparison, you must add that even of that lesser number more, and by far more, than a half was not converted, but driven into the Latin Communion by cudgel, sword, and fire. I repeat that I am rather ashamed of our having done so little, than proud of our success; but in the unaccountable ways of Providence it is perhaps a particular dispensation of the Eternal Goodness to show that the Treasury of Truth must and shall thrive though confided to seemingly careless hands. No Anscar or Wilfried, no Willbrod or Columban came to instruct Russia. We met truth more than half-way, impelled by the grace of God. Since then, we have had our martyrs, we have had and still have our missionaries, whose labour has not been quite fruitless. In fact, Russia spread the Christian Faith across ten time zones and over 180º of longitude, across the Ural Mountains, through Siberia, through Alaska and into present-day California. I admit they are few in numbers; but is not the voice of truth which calls upon you, the voice of the whole Church? You have as yet seen no Russian or Greek missionary. But did Cornelius reject the Angel’s voice and declare that he would not believe till the Apostle came? He believed, and the Apostle came only as a material instrument of Christian confirmation; and shall the message of God, the emanation of the whole Church, the voice of truth, be the less powerful or the less acceptable because no single individual has been found worthy of bringing it to you? The Church may have and has undoubtedly many different forms of preaching.

The second point of accusation concerning the easy conditions on which communion was proposed to the Latin Community may equally be answered without difficulty. First, I readily admit that Mark of Ephesus went too far in his concessions; but in a fair trial of that great man and eminent divine we should, I think, rather admire his undaunted firmness than condemn his moments of human weakness. His was a terrible task. He felt, and could not but feel, that in rejecting the alliance of the mighty West he was literally condemning his country to death. This was more than martyrdom for a noble spirit, and yet he stood the trial. Are we not to be indulgent in our judgment over an unwilling error inspired by the wish of saving his country, and are we not to bless the memory of his glorious opposition? Other divines of a later period [may have] consented to a communion with Latins requiring nothing but a restitution of the Symbol to its ancient form and other less material changes in doctrine. These you consider as too easy conditions. [You ask,] Would Athanasius have admitted Arius to communion, and allowed him the liberty of teaching Arianism everywhere excepting the Symbol? Very certainly he would not; but there is an immense difference between the heresy of Arius and the false doctrine of the Latins. The first rejects the true doctrine; the second admits it, and is only guilty of adding an opinion of its own (certainly a false one) to the holy truth. That opinion in itself has not been condemned by the Church, not being directly contrary to the holy Scriptures, and therefore, does not constitute a heresy. Khomiakov was obviously unaware that the Synod of Blachernae condemned the Filioque as a heresy. The heresy consists in calumniating the Church and in giving out as her tradition a human and arbitrary opinion. Throw the interpolation out of the Symbol, and tradition is vindicated; opinion is separated from Faith; the keystone is torn out of the vault of Latinism, and the whole fabric falls to ruins with all its proud pretensions to infallibility, When this letter was written, papal infallibility was a widespread opinion, but had not been proclaimed by the Latins to be dogma. In fact, many Latin bishops were very vocal in rejecting it as a teaching. as if the Latins were the sole judge of Christian truth; the rebel spirit is hewed down and broken. In short, all is obtained that need be obtained. A deeper insight into the question would show (and that observation did not probably escape our divines) that the [human] opinion which is [merely] added to [the true] dictionary doctrine and implied in the Filioque has indeed no other support but the decision of ignorant Synods, and the declarations of the Roman See. Being once rejected out of the Symbol, and consequently out of Faith and Tradition, it could not stand by itself, and would be sure to fall and be forgotten like many other partial and local errors, such as, for instance, the error of considering Melchizedek as an apparition (though no incarnation) of Christ. The high majesty of the Church, most reverend sir, has nothing to do with individual opinions, though false, when they do not run directly against her own doctrine. They may, and do, constitute a heresy only when they dare to give themselves out as her doctrine, her tradition, and her faith. This seems to me a sufficient justification of the conditions proposed to the Latins and a proof that they did not imply the slightest doubt of the Eastern Orthodoxy and of her doctrine being the only true one.

Your third accusation is not positively stated; it is rather insinuated by a comparison with the sale of Indulgences than directly expressed; but I cannot leave it without an answer. Your own expressions that the re-baptising of Christians was prevalent for many years and even sanctioned by local canons would be sufficient for our justification; for local errors are not errors of the Church, but errors into which individuals can fall by ignorance of the ecclesiastical rule. The blame falls on the individuals (whether they be Bishops or laymen signifies nothing). But the Church herself stands blameless and pure, reforming the local error, but never in need of a reform. I could add that, in my opinion, even in this case the Church has never changed her doctrine, and that there has only been a change of rites without any alteration in their meaning. All Sacraments are fulfilled only in the bosom of the true Church, and it matters not whether they be completed in one form or another. Reconciliation renovates the Sacraments or completes them, giving a full and Orthodox meaning to the rite that was before either insufficient or heterodox, and the repetition of the preceding Sacraments is virtually contained in the rite or fact of reconciliation. Therefore, the visible repetition of Baptism or Confirmation/Chrismation, though unnecessary, cannot be considered as erroneous, and establishes only a ritual difference without any difference of opinion. You will understand my meaning more clearly still by comparison with another fact in ecclesiastical history. The Church considers Marriage as a Sacrament, and yet admits married heathens into her community without re-marrying them. The conversion itself gives the sacramental quality to the preceding union without any repetition of the rite. This you must admit, unless you admit an impossibility, viz., that the Sacrament of Marriage was by itself complete in the lawful union of a heathen pair. The Church does not re-marry heathens or Jews. Now, would it be an error to re-marry them? Certainly not, though the rite would seem altered. This is my view of the question. The re-baptising of Christians did not contain any error, but the admission of the error (if error it be) having been a local one is quite sufficient for the justification of the Eastern Church. The case is quite different with the sale of Indulgences. It was an error of the whole Latin Community, being not only sanctioned by her infallible head, but emanating directly from him. But I will be content to leave that argument aside, decisive though it be for a true Latin, and will admit that the sale of Indulgences was attacked by some divines who were never condemned as heretics. It matters little whether it be so or not. The error remains the same. The sale of Indulgences cannot be condemned from a Latin point of view. As soon as Salvation is considered capable of being obtained by external means, it is evident the community believing thus has a right to choose the means, considering the different circumstances of the community. Charity to the poor may be reasonably changed into charity to the whole body of the visible community or to her head, the See of Rome. The form is rather comical; but the doctrinal error does not lie in the casual form; it lies in the doctrine itself of the Latin Community, a doctrine which is fatal to Christian freedom, and changes the adopted sons of God into hirelings and slaves.

I have thought it necessary to answer the accusation hinted at by the comparison you institute between two errors of the Latin Community and the Orthodox Church, yet I do not much insist on accusing Rome in that particular case. The only thing I wanted to show that we have a right to uphold the doctrine that no error, even the slightest, can ever be detected in the whole Eastern Church (I neither speak of individuals nor of local communities); and permit me to add that without this doctrine the idea itself of a Church becomes an illogical fiction, by the evident reason that, the possibility of an error being once admitted, human reason stands alone as a lawful judge over the holy work of God, and unbounded rationalism undermines the foundations of faith.

I must add some observations concerning the remarks that conclude your letter.

1. I have no doubts about the passage of St Augustine (principaliter, autem, etc.) being an interpolation. The proofs given by Zernikov seem conclusive; but I am inclined to consider it as an ancient interpolation and no wilful falsification, and therefore, thought it not quite useless to show that it contained nothing in favour of the Latin doctrine.

2. I am quite aware that the doctrine attacked by Theodoret was not the Latin one, which was quite unknown at that early period; but the expressions of Theodoret are directly opposed to the addition in the Symbol, and this is quite sufficient to show that such an addition would have been utterly impossible at the time of the Ephesian Synod, and is contrary to the doctrine then admitted as Orthodox.

3. The Inquisition of the Gothic period in Spain is not known under that name, and is not united by any visible historical link with the later one; that is the reason why no historian has ever sought for the origin of that dark institution in those remote centuries; but the bloody and iniquitous laws which were so fiercely urged against Arians and Jews in the time of the predecessors of Roderick have all the character of religious Inquisition in its most abominable form, and originated, as did the later Inquisition, from the will of the clergy. That is the reason why I have given them a well-known name, though that name was not yet used in the Gothic epoch. It is to be remarked that neither the Mohammedan conquest, nor a struggle of seven centuries, nor all the changes of manners, habits, and civilisation which must have taken place during such a long space of time, could alter the national character of the Spanish clergy. No sooner was Spain free and triumphant than it renewed its old institutions, a terrible and [hitherto] unnoticed example of the vitality of errors and passions and of their hereditary transmission to the remotest generations.

4. There is no doubt that, at the end of the eighth, and at the beginning of the ninth century, the Filioque was not yet generally admitted by the Western Communities. Zernikov is right in that respect, and a decisive argument may be derived from Alcuin’s testimony; but the Spanish origin of the addition is an undoubted fact, and I see as yet no conclusive reason to suppose that the Acts of the Spanish Synods have been falsified. The addition itself may be easily explained by the struggle between Arians and Catholics at the time of the Goths, and by a desire of attributing all possible qualifications of the Father to the Son, whose divinity was denied by the Arians. This indeed is, I think, the only reasonable explanation of the arbitrary change in the Western Symbol. After the Arian struggle, and at the time of the Arabs, I can see no reason nor occasion to suggest such a change, and therefore have not the least doubt that the error originated from one of the Gothic Synods, though I am not quite sure whether it was from one of the earliest. At all events, it must have begun no later than the end of the seventh century.

Having thus answered your remarks, I will take the liberty, most reverend sir, to add some observations on the whole tenor of your friendly letter. It is a friendly one, not to me alone, but to all of us children of the Orthodox Church. We could not have asked for larger concessions, nor for a greater agreement in points of doctrine. That yours is not a solitary instance may be inferred not only from your quotations in your most valuable book about the Russian Catechism, but still more from the letters and professions of the Reverend Bishop of [the Scottish Church at] Paris. Believe me, this assurance is a source of great and heartfelt joy for all who feel an interest in truth and unity; and yet, sad to say, what have we gained? Nothing. We have been tried in our doctrine and found blameless; but now we are again tried in our morals (for zeal and love, which are the impelling motives of the Apostle, are nothing but a part of Christian morality), and we are found defective, as indeed we are, and our doctrine is to be condemned for our vices. The conclusion is not fair. You would not admit it if a Mohammedan was to bring it as an objection against Christianity itself, and yet you urge it against Orthodoxy.

Permit me to search into the latent causes of this fact, and excuse me if you find something harsh or seemingly offensive in my words. A very weak conviction in points of doctrine can bring over a Latin to Protestantism, or a Protestant to the Latins. A Frenchman, a German, an Englishman, will go over to Presbyterianism, to Lutheranism, to the Independents, to the Cameronians, and indeed to almost every form of belief or misbelief; he will not go over to Orthodoxy. As long as he does not step out of the circles of doctrines which have taken their origin in the Western world, he feels himself at home; notwithstanding his apparent change, he does not feel that dread of apostasy which renders sometimes the passage from error to faith as difficult as from truth to error. He will be condemned by his former brethren, who will call his action a rash one, perhaps a bad one; but it will not be an utter madness, depriving him, as it were, of his rights of citizenship in the civilised world of the West. And that is natural. All the Western doctrine is born out of the Latins; it feels (though unconsciously) its solidarity with the past; it feels its dependence from one science, from one creed, from one line of life; and that creed, that science, that life was the Latin one. This is what I hinted at, and what you understand very rightly, viz., that all Protestants are Crypto-Papists; and, indeed, it would be a very easy task to show that in their Theology (as well as philosophy) all the definitions of all the objects of creed or understanding are merely taken out of the old Latin System, though often made negative in the application. In short, if it was to be expressed in the concise language of algebra, all the West knows but one datum, a; whether it be preceded by the positive sign +, as with the Latins, or with the negative −, as with the Protestants, the a remains the same. Now, a passage to Orthodoxy seems indeed like an apostasy from the past, from its science, creed, and life. It is rushing into a new and unknown world, a bold step to take, or even to advise.

This, most reverend sir, is the moral obstacle I have been speaking about; this, the pride and disdain which I attribute to all the Western communities. As you see, it is no individual feeling voluntarily bred or consciously held in the heart; it is no vice of the mind, but an involuntary submission to the tendencies and direction of the past. When the Unity of the Church was lawlessly and unlovingly rent by the Western clergy, the more so inasmuch as at the same time the East was continuing its former friendly intercourse, and submitting to the opinion of the Western Synods the Canons of the Second Synod of Nicaea, each half of Christianity began a life apart, becoming from day to day more estranged from the other. There was an evident self-complacent triumph on the side of the Latins; there was sorrow on the side of the East, which had seen the dear ties of Christian brotherhood torn asunder, — which had been spurned and rejected, and felt itself innocent. All these feelings have been transmitted by hereditary succession to our time, and, more or less, either willingly or unwillingly, we are still under their power. Our time has awakened better feelings; in England, perhaps, more than anywhere else, you are seeking for the past brotherhood, for the past sympathy and communion. It would be a shame for us not to answer your proffered friendship, it would be a crime not to cultivate in our hearts an intense desire to renovate the Unity of the Church; but let us consider the question coolly, even when our sympathies are most awakened.

The Church cannot be a harmony of discords; it cannot be a numerical sum of Orthodox, Latins, and Protestants. It is nothing if it is not perfect inward harmony of creed and outward harmony of expression (not withstanding local differences in the rite). The question is, not whether Latins and Protestants have erred so fatally as to deprive individuals of salvation, which seems to be often the subject of debate; — surely a narrow and unworthy one, inasmuch as it throws a suspicion on the mercy of the Almighty. The question is whether they have the truth, and whether they have retained the ecclesiastical tradition unimpaired. If they have not, where is the possibility of unity?

Now permit me to add some observations not only on your letters, but on your book (which I have received with the greatest gratitude and perused with unmixed pleasure), and on all the mode of action of those Anglicans who seem, and are indeed, nearest to us. You would show that all our doctrine is yours, and indeed, at first sight, you seem quite right. Many bishops and divines of your communion are and have been quite orthodox. But what of it? Their opinion is only an individual opinion, it is not the Faith of the Community. Ussher is almost a complete Calvinist; but yet he, no less than those bishops who give expression to Orthodox convictions, belongs to the Anglican Church. We may, and do, sympathise with the individuals; we cannot and dare not sympathise with a community which interpolates the Symbol and doubts her right to that interpolation, or which gives communion to those who declare the Bread and Wine of the High Sacrifice to be mere bread and wine, as well as to those who declare it to be the Body and Blood of Christ. This for an example — and I could find hundreds more — but I go further. Suppose an impossibility — suppose all the Anglicans be quite orthodox; suppose their Creed and Faith quite concordant with ours; the mode and process by which that creed is or has been attained is a Protestant one; a simple logical act of the understanding, by which the tradition and writings of the Fathers have been distilled to something very near Truth. If we admit this, all is lost, and Rationalism is the supreme judge of every question. Protestantism, most reverend sir, is the admission of an unknown [quantity] to be sought by reason; and that unknown [quantity] changes the whole equation to an unknown quantity, even though every other datum be as clear and as positive as possible. Do not, I pray, nourish the hope of finding Christian truth without stepping out of the former Protestant circle. It is an illogical hope; it is a remnant of that pride which thought itself able and wished to judge and decide by itself without the Spiritual Communion of heavenly grace and Christian love. Were you to find all the truth, you would have found nothing; for we alone can give you that without which all would be vain — the assurance of truth.

Do not doubt the energies of Orthodoxy. Young as I am, I have seen the day when it was publicly either scoffed at or at least treated with manifest contempt by [too many in] our [high] society; when [I] myself, who was bred in a religious family and have never been ashamed of adhering strictly to the rites of the Church, was either supposed a sycophant or considered a disguised Latin; for nobody supposed the possibility of civilisation and Orthodoxy being united. I have seen the strength of the Eastern Church rise, notwithstanding temporary aggression, which seemed to be fatal, or temporary protection, which seemed to be debasing. And now it rises and grows stronger and stronger. Latinism, though seemingly active, has received the deadly blow from its own lawful child, Protestantism; and, indeed, I would defy anybody to show me the man with true theological and philosophical learning who is still at heart a pure Latin. Protestantism has heard its knell rung by its most distinguished teachers, by Neander, though unwillingly, in his letters to Mr. Dewar, and consciously by Schelling in his preface to the posthumous works of Steffens. The ark of Orthodoxy alone rides safe and unhurt through storms and billows. The world shall flock to it. Let us say with the beloved Apostle: Even so, come, Lord Jesus.

Accept my thanks for your book. I consider it as a very valuable acquisition not only for your countrymen, but for all truly and seriously religious readers. The books contained in the parcel sent to me from Kronstadt, I have forwarded to their respective addresses except the one for C. Potemkin, whose address I have not yet learnt. Pray excuse the length of my letter and the frankness of some expressions which are perhaps too harsh, and believe me, most reverend sir, your most obedient servant,

Alexei Khomiakov

(28 November 1846)

Source: Thomas Ross Valentine website, http://www.geocities.com/trvalentine/orthodox/khomiakov_palmer01.html

On the Western Confessions of Faith

Alexey KhomyakovOn the Western Confessions of Faith

by Alexei Khomiakov

The present text is translated and abridged from the text printed in Yu F. Samarin, ed., Polnoe sobranie sochinenii Alekseya Stepanovicha Khomyakova (Moscow, 1900), Vol. II

Every Christian, when faced with an attack on the faith he confesses, is obliged to defend it to the extent of his intellectual ability, not waiting for any special authorization, since the Church has no official advocates. In the light of this observation I am taking up my pen to answer certain unjust accusations brought against the Ecumenical and Orthodox Church, writing in a language which is not my own, for the benefit of foreign readers. Khomyakov’s article was first written and printed in French, and was later (1864) translated and published in Russian.

In an article printed in La Revue des Deux Mondes and apparently written by the Russian diplomat Mr. Tyuchev, mention was made of the supremacy of Rome, and in particular of the confusion of spiritual and worldly interests in the figure of a bishop-sovereign as being the chief reason for the delay in the solution of the religious question in the West. In 1852 this article was answered by Mr. Laurency, and it is this response which calls for a refutation.

I leave aside the question whether Mr. Tyuchev succeeded in expressing his thought in all its breadth (the merits of his article, incidentally, are not even questioned by his opponent), and whether he did not to some extent confuse the reasons for the sickness with its external symptoms.

I shall begin neither by defending my countryman nor by criticizing him. My one purpose is to clear the Church of the strange charges brought against her by Mr. Laurency, and so I shall not go beyond the limits of the religious question. I would also wish to avoid countercharges, but am not able to do so. My travels in foreign lands and conversations with cultured and learned people of all the religious confessions of Europe have convinced me that Russia is still alien and virtually unknown to the Western world; and even more of a mystery to Christians following the Roman banner or the flag of the Reform is the religious thought of the Church’s sons. Therefore, in order to give my readers an opportunity to understand our faith and the logic of its inner life, it will be necessary for me to show them, at least in part, how we regard those questions which Rome and the various German confessions are disputing. I am not even able to promise that I shall avoid unfriendliness in the expression of my thoughts. But I shall try to be just and to refrain from making any charges that are either slanderous or ill-founded. In any case, I am by no means seeking the honor of being known as one who is indifferent to what he regards as falsehood.

Mr. Laurency brings two basic charges against the Church. The first is this: that she supposedly acknowledges the supremacy of temporal power. On these grounds a comparison is drawn between the Roman confession and the Orthodox Church, which naturally does not turn out to our advantage. “The Pope,” says the author, “is indeed a temporal sovereign, but not because he is a high priest; while the ruler of your Church is a high priest because he is a temporal sovereign. On whose side is the truth?” I shall not quote the actual and rather verbose language of the author, but I am sure I am giving its sense. First of all let me mention in passing that the word “high priest” (pontifex) is a most remarkable word, which the Latinists would be wise to stop using. It points all too clearly to a whole family of concepts whose Christian origins are more than doubtful. Even Tertullian noted this and used the expression “Pontifex Maximus” in an ironical sense. However, to the first charge leveled by Mr. Laurency I reply in few words: it is a downright lie; we acknowledge no head of the Church, either clerical or temporal. Christ is her head and she knows no other. I hasten to add that I certainly do not accuse Mr. Laurency of a deliberate slander. In all probability he has fallen into error unwittingly, and I am all the more ready to believe this in view of the fact that many times in my presence foreigners have made the same error; and yet it would seem that only the slightest reflection would be required to clear it up.

Head of the Church! But allow me to ask, if only in the name of common sense, head of precisely what church? Can it be of the Orthodox Church, of which we constitute only a part? In that case, the Russian Emperor would be the head of the churches which are governed by the patriarchs, of the church governed by the Greek Synod, and of the Orthodox churches in the regions of Austria. Even the most extreme ignorance, of course, does not permit such an absurd conclusion. Or perhaps he is the head of the Russian Church alone? But the Russian Church does not represent a distinct Church: she is no more than one of the eparchies of the Ecumenical Church. From this it would be necessary to conclude that what is being assigned to the Emperor is the title of head of his own eparchy, subject to the jurisdiction of general Church councils. There is no middle position here. Whoever insists on fixing upon us a head of the Church in the person of a visible sovereign must make a choice between two absurdities.

Temporal head of the Church! But does this head have the rights of the priesthood? Does he lay claim — I say nothing yet of infallibility (although it is precisely this that constitutes the distinctive mark of supremacy in the Church) — to some kind of authority in questions of faith? Does he at least have the right, by virtue of his office, to decide questions of general church order (discipline)? If it is impossible to give an affirmative answer to these questions, then one can only be amazed at the complete absence of good judgment which alone could persuade a writer to hurl such an ill-founded accusation against us, and at the complete ignorance which let this accusation stand and did not expose it to the ridicule it deserves. Of course there is not a merchant, tradesman, or peasant in the whole Russian Empire who would not, if he heard such an opinion about our Church, take it as a malicious taunt.

It is true that the expression “head of the territorial Church” The Russian adjective here is mestny, which has the sense of “belonging to or occupying a certain definite region or locality.” I have used the word “territorial” to render this idea rather than the word “local,” which is often used in modem English in a very restricted sense which would distort the meaning of mestny as it occurs in this essay. (Trans.) is used in the laws of the Empire; but not at all in the sense in which it is used in other lands; and in this case the difference is so essential that one must not turn this expression into a weapon against us without first attempting to understand its meaning. Justice and scrupulousness require this.

When, after many afflictions and setbacks, the Russian people in a general assembly elected Mikhail Romanov as their hereditary sovereign (such is the high origin of imperial power in Russia today), the people entrusted to their chosen one all the power with which they themselves had been invested, in all its forms. By right of this election the sovereign became the head of the people in ecclesiastical matters as well as in matters of civic government, I repeat — became head of the people in ecclesiastical matters, and only in this sense head of the territorial Church. The people did not and were not able to transfer to the sovereign a right which they did not possess, and hardly anyone will suggest that the Russian people once considered themselves called to govern the Church. They had, from the beginning, as was the case with all the peoples which make up the Orthodox Church, a voice in the election of their bishops, and this voice they could transfer to their representative. They had the right, or rather the obligation, to see that the decisions of their pastors and councils were carried out in full; this right they could entrust to their chosen one and his successors. They had the right to defend their faith against any hostile or violent attack; this right also they could transfer to their sovereign. But the people had no power whatever in questions of conscience, of general church order, of dogma, of church government, and therefore could not transfer such power to their Tsar. This is fully substantiated by all subsequent events. The patriarchate was abolished; The Russian patriarchate was. abolished, or, rather, allowed to lapse toward the end of the reign of Peter I, and was not re-established until 1917. (Trans.) this was accomplished not by the will of the sovereign but by the decree of the Eastern patriarchs and the native bishops. Later the synod was established in place of the patriarchate; and this change was brought about not by the sovereign’s power but by those same Eastern bishops who had, in an agreement with temporal power, established the patriarchate in Russia in the first place. These facts are sufficient to show that the title “head of the Church” signifies “head of the people in ecclesiastical matters”; in fact it neither has nor could have any other meaning. And once this meaning is admitted, all the accusations based on confusion come to nothing.

But does not Byzantine history provide our accusers with supporting evidence not given to them by the history of Russia? Do they not imagine that they see in Byzantium, with its state seal and the imperial title, a belief in a temporal head of the Church? May it not be supposed that this belief is attested by reference to the Paleologue who was precipitated into apostasy by despair and the desire to purchase help from the West? At the time of the capture of Constantinople by the Turks in 1453.(Trans.) Or by reference to the Isaurians,A dynasty of Byzantine emperors in the eighth century. (Trans.) who by their exploits restored the military glory of the Empire but were drawn into heresy by their misguided zeal and blind self-assurance (for which the Protestant historians of our time have not ceased to praise them)? Or to Iraclius, who saved the state but openly embraced Monothelitism? Or finally to Constantine’s own son, Constantius, who crushed Pope Liberius and was himself troubled by the holy fearlessness of the Bishop of Alexandria? But the history of the Eastern Empire refutes the charge directed against the Church — concerning a supposed subordination to the Emperor — even more clearly than the history of Russia, so that we have no reason to deny the inheritance of Byzantine thought. Even now we think, as do the Greeks, that the sovereign, as head of the people in many matters touching the Church, has the right (along with all his subjects) of freedom of conscience in faith and of the freedom of human reason; but we do not consider him an oracle moved by some unseen power, as the Roman bishop represents himself to the Latinists. We think that the sovereign, being free and a man like any other man, can fall into error and that if, God forbid, such a misfortune should happen in spite of the constant prayers of the Church, then the Emperor does not lose his right to the obedience of his subjects in temporal matters; nor does the Church sustain any injury whatever to her glory and fullness, since her Head never changes. In a case like this the only thing that would happen is that there would be one less Christian in her bosom.

The Church permits no other interpretation. But is the slander silenced? I am afraid not. Ill will may countercharge by referring to the imperial signature attached to the synod’s pronouncements, as if the right of publication of laws and putting them into effect was identical with the legislative power itself. Again, it may refer to the influence of the sovereign in the appointment of bishops and members of the synod which has replaced the patriarchate, as if, in ancient times, the election of bishops and members of the synod (not even excluding those of Rome) did not depend on temporal power (either of the people or of the sovereign), and as if, finally, even today, in many countries of the Roman confession, such a dependency were not quite common. I am speaking only about the principle, from the Church’s standpoint, and not about its application, which, like everything in the world, is often unsatisfactory and subject to abuse. It is difficult to imagine what other false conclusions might be drawn by malevolence and ill will; but after what I have said conscientious people (and I am sure Mr. Laurency is such a man) will not allow themselves to repeat accusations which lack foundation and are ridiculous in the eyes of any dispassionate and enlightened person.

It is not so easy to refute the second charge brought against the Church by Mr. Laurency, since it is based not on fact but on a supposed tendency. We are accused of Protestant leanings. I leave to one side the question whether this second accusation does not contradict the first. Since the insolvency of the first has now been proved, its contradiction of the second cannot serve as an argument on our behalf. I will attack the question directly. But first I must raise a question which is apparently new, or at least, so far as I know, not yet fully examined. For what reason has Protestantism, which has carried away almost half the followers of papism, stopped short at the borders of the Orthodox world? It is impossible to explain this fact by ethnic characteristics, since Calvinism has gained remarkable strength in Czechoslovakia, Poland, Lithuania, and Hungary, and has stopped suddenly, not before another ethnic group but before another faith. Thinkers ought to consider this question carefully.

The alleged tendency toward Protestantism can be examined only in the area of principles; but before I begin the survey of the inner logic of the Orthodox faith, and before I show its complete incompatibility with the charge made by Mr. Laurency (and by a great number of other Roman Catholic writers before him), I consider it desirable to review a historical fact.

The Western Schism (my readers will permit me to use this term, since my conscience permits no other) has been in existence now for more than a thousand years. Although the rupture between the Eastern and Western Church was formalized in 1054, controversy and strained relations had existed between Rome and Constantinople since the ninth century. (Trans.) How is it that during this time the Church governed by the patriarchs has not given birth to its own brand of Protestantism? How is it that it has not revealed, at least by now, a definite impulse toward reform of some kind? In the West things developed very rapidly. Scarcely three centuries passed before Luther and Calvin came forward with uplifted heads, strong words, definite principles, and fixed doctrines. A serious polemic will not begin to object by pointing to the heresies and schisms arising in Russia in the seventeenth century and later. Of course we bitterly mourn these spiritual sores; but it would be utterly ridiculous to compare some pitiful children of ignorance, or still more, the unreasonable zeal for the preservation of old ceremonies, with the Protestantism of the learned precursors of the Reform; since I am not speaking here of the Catharists or the Waldensians who appeared in the south, but about people who, like Ockham or Wycliffe or the immortal Hus, stood in the front rank of contemporary learning and could courageously enter into controversy with the whole theological armament of Rome, fearing no blows other than those which might be inflicted upon them by the arm of temporal power. I am speaking of people who, dying no less gloriously than the Christians of the first centuries, from the height of their victorious funeral pyres, turned to their executioners with words saturated with holy and tender love: “Sancta simplicitas,” and by these words proclaimed that they had not chosen their weapons from ignorance, nor was it upon ignorance that they had erected the building of their faith. How could it have happened that the East, with its alleged tendency toward Protestantism, did not produce similar people or similar religious movements? Do they ascribe this to the unfortunate destiny of the Eastern Empire? If I am not mistaken, such an explanation has already been proposed by Comte de Maistre, but of course it satisfies nobody, with the exception of the most superficial minds.

However that may be, in the sphere of religious ideas the absence of this or that phenomenon, even if extended over a period of several centuries, only supports the more or less plausible argument that the tendency toward such a phenomenon does not yet exist. By no means does it prove the impossibility of the phenomenon appearing in the future. To be finally convinced of this impossibility, to raise a historical probability to the level of logical certainty, we must deduce this impossibility from the religious principle itself.

What is Protestantism? Does its distinctiveness lie, as some say, in the very act of protest made on behalf of faith? But if this were so then the apostles and martyrs who protested against the errors of Judaism and against the falsehood of idolatry would be Protestants; all the fathers of the Church would be Protestants, since they too protested against heresy; the whole Church would be constantly Protestant, since she has constantly and in all ages protested against the errors of the times. Clearly the word “Protestant” defines nothing if used in this way. Where then are we to seek a definition? Does the essence of Protestantism consist in “freedom of investigation”? But the apostles permitted free investigation, even made it an obligation; and the holy fathers defended the truth of the faith by their free investigations (cf. the great Athanasius in his heroic struggle against Arianism); and free investigation, understood in one way or another, constitutes the sole basis of true faith. Certainly the Roman confession seems to condemn free investigation; but here is a man who, having freely investigated all the authorities of Scripture and reason, has come to an acceptance of the whole teaching of the Latinists. Will they regard him as a Protestant? Another man, using the same freedom of investigation, has become convinced that the pope’s dogmatic definitions are infallible, and that the only thing for him to do is to submit. Will they condemn him as a Protestant? Yet in the meantime, was it not by way of free investigation that he came to this conviction which compelled him to accept the whole doctrine? Finally, every belief, every discerning faith, is an act of freedom and must stem from previous free investigation, to which a man has submitted the phenomena of the external world or the inner phenomena of his soul, the events of transitory time or the testimonies of his contemporaries. I dare to go further. Even in those cases when the voice of God Himself has spoken immediately and raised a fallen or misguided soul, that soul has bowed down and worshiped only after having recognized the Divine voice. The act of free investigation is the beginning of conversion. In this connection, the Christian confessions differ from one another only in that some permit the investigation of all data, while others limit the number of subjects open to investigation. To ascribe the right of investigation to Protestantism alone would be to raise it to the level of the only discerning faith; but of course this would not be to the taste of its opponents; and all thinkers — even those who are not very serious — will reject such a proposition. One may ask, finally, if it is not in “reform,” if it is not in the act of reformation itself that one must seek the essence of Protestantism? Certainly, in the first period of its development, Protestantism hoped to claim this meaning. But then the Church too has constantly been reforming her rites and regulations, and no one has thought to call her Protestant for this reason. Protestantism and reform in general are therefore not one and the same thing.

Protestantism means the expression of doubt in essential dogma. In other words, the denial of dogma as a living tradition; in short, a denial of the Church.

Now I ask every scrupulous person: Is this the Church which is being accused of Protestant tendencies, the Church which has always remained faithful to her tradition, never allowing herself to add anything to this tradition or subtract anything from it, the Church which indeed looks upon the Roman confession as a schism due to innovations? Is it not absolute nonsense to bring such a charge against such a Church?

The Protestant world is by no means the world of free investigation. Freedom of investigation belongs to all people. Protestantism is one world simply negating another. Take away this other world which it is negating and Protestantism will die, since its whole life consists in negation. The body of doctrines it still holds, the work undertaken by the enterprise of a few scholars and later received by the apathetic credulity of several million uneducated people, is surviving only because the need is felt to oppose the Roman confession. As soon as this feeling disappears, Protestantism at once breaks down into private opinion with no common bonds whatever. Could this be the goal of that Church whose whole concern for other confessions, throughout eighteen centuries, has been inspired by the desire to witness the return of all people to the truth? To put the question is to answer it.

But this is not all. I hope to prove that if, in the future, the spirit of falsehood should ever give rise to some new heresy or schism in the bosom of the Church, her subsequent revival could not appear with the character of Protestantism at first; it could acquire such a character only later on, and then only after having passed through a whole series of transformations, precisely as it has happened in the West.

To begin with we must note that the Protestant world falls into two parts, far from equal in the number of their adherents and in their significance. These parts must not be confused. One has its own logical tradition, even though it denies a more ancient tradition. The other is satisfied with an illogical tradition. The first is composed of the Quakers, the Anabaptists, and other sects of that sort. The second includes all other so-called Reformation sects.

Both halves of Protestantism have one thing in common: their point of departure. Both acknowledge an interruption in the ecclesiastical tradition lasting for several centuries. From this point on they move apart in their principles. The first half, having broken almost all ties with Christianity, admits a new revelation, an immediate descent of the Holy Spirit, and on this foundation seeks to build one Church or many Churches, claiming for themselves an unquestionable tradition and constant inspiration. The basic datum may be false, but its application and development are completely reasonable: a tradition which is acknowledged as a fact receives also a logical justification. It is quite different with the other half of the Protestant world. There they accept a tradition, and at the same time deny the principle by which tradition is justified.

This contradiction may be clarified by an example. In 1847, traveling down the Rhine by steamer, I entered into conversation with a worthy pastor, a serious and educated man. Little by little our conversation shifted round to matters of faith, and in particular to the question of dogmatic tradition, the legitimacy of which the pastor did not accept. I asked him what confession he belonged to. It turned out that he was a Lutheran. On what grounds, I asked, did he give preference to Luther over Calvin? He presented me with exceedingly learned arguments. At this point his servant, who was accompanying him, offered him a glass of lemonade. I asked the pastor to tell me what confession his servant belonged to. He, too, was a Lutheran. “On what grounds,” I asked, “does he give preference to Luther over Calvin?” The pastor remained silent and his face expressed displeasure. I hastened to assure him that I certainly had not intended to offend him, but had only wished to show him that even in Protestantism there is a tradition. Somewhat disconcerted, but good-natured as always, the pastor, in answer to my words, expressed the hope that with time the lack of education on which traditions depend would melt away before the light of knowledge. “But the people with limited abilities?” I asked. “And the majority of women; and the unskilled laborers who scarcely succeed in earning their daily bread; and children; and, finally, young people hardly more able than children to judge the learned questions over which the followers of the Reform have become separated?” The pastor was silent and, after a few moments of reflection, said: “Yes. Yes, of course, the question still stands. … I am thinking about it.” We parted. I do not know if he is still thinking, but I do know that tradition as a fact undoubtedly exists among the Reformers, although they deny its principle and legitimacy with all their strength; I know, too, that they cannot behave otherwise, nor can they extricate themselves from this contradiction. Indeed, there is nothing contrary to logic in the fact that those religious societies which acknowledge all their scholars to be divinely inspired, and ascribe divine inspiration to the founders with whom they are connected by ties of unbroken succession, at the same time also acknowledge tradition — either secretly or openly. But by what right can those who base their beliefs on the learned propositions of their forefathers begin to use tradition as a means of support? There are people who believe that the papacy receives inspiration from heaven; that Fawkes or Johann of Leyden Guy Fawkes (1570-1606), Roman Catholic zealot and leading figure in the so-called Gunpowder Plot, an attempt to blow up the English Houses of Parliament in 1605. Johann Leyden (1508-1536) was a Dutch Anabaptist fanatic, leader of a theocratic sect in Münster which revolted against the city’s prince-bishop in 1535. (Trans.) were true organs of the Divine Spirit. Perhaps these people are in error; nonetheless one can understand that everything defined by these persons chosen from above is obligatory for those who believe in them. But to believe in the infallibility of learning, moreover of a learning which works out its propositions dialectically, is against common sense. Thus, while denying tradition as an uninterrupted revelation, all the scholars of the Reformation are inevitably obliged to regard all their less learned brothers as people utterly deprived of true belief. If they were to be consistent they would say to them: “Friends and brothers, you do not have right faith and you will never have it until you become theologians like us. In the meantime, you’ll just have to get along somehow without it!” Such a speech is unheard-of, naturally, but it certainly would be an act of sincerity. It is evident that the larger half of the Protestant world is quite satisfied with tradition, as understood in its own illegitimate way; the other, more consistent half has departed so far from Christianity that under the circumstances it is pointless to remain within it. Thus the distinctive characteristic of the Reform consists in the absence of legitimate tradition. What follows from this? It follows that Protestantism has by no means extended the rights of free investigation, but has only reduced the number of reliable data subject to the free investigation of its believers (by leaving them only the Scriptures), as Rome has reduced this number for most of its laity, too (by depriving them of the Scriptures).

Clearly Protestantism, as a Church, does not have the power to check itself, and having rejected legitimate tradition, it has deprived itself of every right to condemn a man who, while acknowledging the divinity of the Holy Scriptures, might not find in them the refutation of the error of Arius or Nestorius — since such a man would be wrong in the eyes of learning, but not in the eyes of faith. However, I am not attacking the Reformers here; what is important is to make clear the necessity which compels them to stand on the ground they now occupy, to trace the logical process which has forced them to this, and to show that within the Church such a necessity and process are impossible.

Since the time of her foundation by the apostles, the Church has been one. Embracing the whole world as it was then known, connecting the British Isles and Spain with Egypt and Syria, this unity was never violated. When a heresy arose, the whole Christian world dispatched its representatives and highest dignitaries to solemn assemblies known as councils. By their world-wide character, because of the importance of the questions submitted for their decision, and in spite of the disorder and even violence which sometimes marred their purity, these councils stand out in the history of mankind as the noblest of all its undertakings. The whole Church accepted or rejected the decisions of the councils depending on whether she found them compatible or incompatible with her faith and tradition, and she gave the name of Ecumenical to those councils whose determinations she acknowledged as the expression of her inner thought. To their temporary authority in questions of discipline, this further significance was added: they became certain and unalterable witnesses in questions of faith. The Ecumenical Council became the voice of the Church. Even heresies did not violate this divine unity; they bore the character of private errors and not of schisms of whole regions or eparchies. Such was the structure of that ecclesiastical life the inner meaning of which has long been completely incomprehensible to the whole West.

Let us shift now to the last years of the eighth, or the beginning of the ninth century, and let us imagine a traveler, who has come from the East to one of the cities of Italy or France. Filled with the consciousness of this ancient unity, fully assured that he will find himself among brothers, he enters a church to sanctify the first day of the week. Moved by reverent motives and full of love, he follows the service and listens carefully to the wonderful prayers which have been dear to his heart from early childhood. The words reach him: “Let us love one another, and with one mind confess the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit.” He listens. Now, in the church the Symbol of the Catholic and Christian faith is pronounced, that Creed which every Christian must serve all his life and for which he is obliged to sacrifice his life if the occasion should arise. He listens carefully. But it is a corrupted Creed he hears; this is some new and unknown Creed! Has he really heard it, or is he perhaps the victim of some nightmare? He does not believe his ears; he begins to doubt his senses. He makes inquiries, begs for explanations. He thinks that perhaps he has entered the gathering of some schismatics who are denying the territorial Church. But alas no! He is hearing the voice of that territorial Church herself. The entire patriarchate, the whole vast world itself has lost its unity. The afflicted traveler laments; they console him. “But we have only added a trifle,” they say to him, just as the Latinists say to us now. “If it’s a trifle, then why was it added?” “But it is a purely abstract matter.” “How then can you be sure that you have understood it?” “Well, it’s just our local tradition.” “But how could it have found a place in the Ecumenical Creed, contrary to the written decree of an Ecumenical Council forbidding any such change?” “Well, this is a Church-wide tradition, the meaning of which we have put into words, guided by local opinion.” “But we do not know such a tradition; and in any case, how can a local opinion find a place in an Ecumenical Creed? Is not the explanation of divine truths given to the whole Church together? Or have we somehow deserved excommunication from the Church? Not only have you not thought of turning to us for counsel, you have not even taken the trouble of notifying us of the change. Or have we already fallen so low? And yet not more than one century ago the East produced the greatest of Christian poets and perhaps the most glorious of her theologians: John of Damascus. And even now there are reckoned among us, confessors, martyrs for the faith, learned philosophers full of Christian understanding, ascetics whose whole lives are an uninterrupted prayer. Why, then, have you renounced us?” But no matter what the poor traveler may say, the deed is done, the breach confirmed. By this very act (i.e., the arbitrary changing of the Creed) the Roman world clearly declared that in its eyes the East was nothing more than a world of helots in questions of faith and doctrine. For one entire half of the Church, ecclesiastical life was at an end.

I am not touching the heart of the question, but let the believers in the sacredness of dogma and in the divine spirit of brotherhood which was bestowed by the Saviour on the apostles and on all Christians, let them ask if clarity of understanding and the divine grace which reveals the meaning of sanctity are to be obtained by neglect of one’s brothers and by disowning the innocent. My task is simply to indicate the origin of the Protestant principle.

It is impossible to ascribe this modification to papism alone. This would be to render it too high an honor, or, from another viewpoint, too great an insult. Although the See of Rome apparently became wedded to its unique opinions, along with the territorial Churches under its care, still it firmly clung to the memory of unity. It persisted for some time; but then it was threatened by schisms, and temporal power began to press upon it with insistent demands. And so finally it yielded, perhaps rejoicing inwardly that it was now delivered from future obstructionism on the part of the independent Churches of the East. However that may be, the change was the deed not of one pope but of the whole Roman world, and this deed was justified not at all by belief in the infallibility of the Roman Bishop, but by the feeling of territorial pride. The belief in infallibility came later on; at the time when the rupture was accomplished, Pope Nicholas I was still writing to Photius that in questions of faith the least of Christians had the same voice as the first among bishops. Let those who are unacquainted with the documents of this great litigation consult a biography of Photius, if only the one prepared by the Jesuit Jaeger. This work is not notable for its scrupulousness, but it contains important documents. Let me add: The legality of a case in no way depends on the scrupulousness of its advocates; moreover, in the present situation, the conscience of the Pope — as a fabricator of false documents — was hardly clearer than the conscience of the Patriarch — a usurper of the episcopal throne. (Photius became Patriarch of Constantinople in 858, following the illegal deposition of Ignatius. [Webmaster note: this is factually incorrect.] Nicholas supported Ignatius, and the dispute led to an exchange of mutual excommunications and the subsequent reinstatement of Ignatius in 867. After Ignatius’ death in 878, Photius became Patriarch legally and held office until 886. Through all this he was regarded as the champion of the Eastern Church against the claims of papal supremacy. [Trans.] ) But the consequences of this change were not long in revealing themselves, and the Western world was carried away on a new path.

Having appropriated the right of independently deciding a dogmatic question within the area of the Ecumenical Church, private opinion carried within itself the seed of the growth and legitimation of Protestantism, that is, of free investigation torn from the living tradition of unity based on mutual love. Thus at the moment of its origin, Romanism manifested itself as Protestantism. I hope that conscientious people will be convinced of this, and that the following conclusions will make it even more clear.

It was as if the right of deciding dogmatic questions were suddenly altered. Previously this right had belonged to the whole Ecumenical Church; now it was assigned to a regional Church. For a regional Church, the right could be affirmed on two grounds: by virtue of a freedom of inquiry which had abandoned the living tradition; or by virtue of the claim of an exclusive inspiration by the Holy Spirit for a certain geographically defined territory. Actually, the first of these principles was accepted, but it was too soon to proclaim it as a right. The former order of ecclesiastical life was still too well remembered, and the first principle was too indefinite and therefore too contrary to common sense to permit an open affirmation.

So the thought naturally arose of associating the monopoly of divine inspiration with one See, and Western Protestantism was hidden beneath external authority. Such things are not uncommon in the political world. It could not be otherwise, since a kingdom of purely rationalistic logic had been set up in place of the Divine Spirit, who had withdrawn. The newly created despotism restrained the chaos which had been introduced into the Church by the original novelty, that is, by the independence of regional or local opinion.

The pope’s authority was substituted for ecumenical infallibility, and his authority was external. Once a member of the Church, once a responsible participant in her decisions, the Christian man had now become a subject of the Church. She and he had ceased to be one, he was outside her, although he remained in her bosom. The gift of infallibility assigned to the pope was placed beyond the influence of ethical conditions, so that neither the corruption of the whole Christian world nor even the personal corruption of the pope himself could have any effect on this infallibility. The pope became a kind of oracle deprived of all freedom, a kind of statue made of flesh and bones, put into motion by hidden springs. For the Christian, this oracle fell into the category of things of a material nature, of things whose laws can and must be subjected to the investigation of reason alone. A purely external and consequently rational law had replaced the living, ethical law which alone does not fear rationalism, since it embraces not only man’s reason but also the whole of his being. Some people assert that papal infallibility is given to the Church as a kind of reward for her moral unity. In what way, then, could she be rewarded for the insult borne by the whole Eastern Church? Others say that infallibility lies in the agreement between the pope’s decision and that of the whole Church convoked in council, or even if not actually gathered in council. How then was it possible to accept a dogma not subjected to prior examination and not even communicated to one entire half of the Christian world? None of these shifts stands up under serious investigation.

A this-worldly State took the place of the Christian Church. The single living law of unity in God was displaced by private laws, bearing in themselves the imprint of utilitarianism and juridical concerns. Rationalism grew up in the form of arbitrary definitions: it invented purgatory in order to explain prayers for the dead; it placed between God and man a balance of obligations and merits, weighing sins against prayers, crimes against meritorious exploits; it set up transferences from one man to another, legitimized the barter of illusory merits; in short, it brought the whole machinery of the banking house into the treasury of faith. At the same time, the Church-State introduced a state language: Latin. Then it appropriated to itself the judgment of worldly affairs; then it took up arm: and began to equip, first, informal bands of crusaders, and later, organized armies (the orders of knights-religious); and, finally, when the sword was torn from its hand, it moved into position the highly trained corps of the Jesuits. It is not now a matter of criticism. Seeking the sources of Protestant rationalism, I find it disguised in the form of Roman rationalism and I cannot avoid tracing its development. Without dwelling on abuses, I am concentrating on the principle. The Church inspired by God became, for the Western Christian, something external, a kind of negative authority, a kind of material authority. It turned man into its slave, and as a result acquired, in him, a judge.

“The Church is an authority,” said Guizot in one of his remarkable works, while one of his adversaries, attacking him, simply repeated these words. Speaking in this way neither one suspected how much untruth and blasphemy lay in the statement. Poor Romanist! Poor Protestant! No — the Church is not an authority, just as God is not an authority and Christ is not an authority, since authority is something external to us. The Church is not an authority, I say, but the truth — and at the same time the inner life of the Christian, since God, Christ, the Church, live in him with a life more real than the heart which is beating in his breast or the blood flowing in his veins. But they are alive in him only insofar as he himself is living by the ecumenical life of love and unity, i.e., by the life of the Church. Such is the blindness of the Western sects that, up to now, not one of them has understood how radically the ground on which they stand differs from that on which the original Church has been standing from earliest times, and on which she will stand eternally.

In this the Latinists are completely wrong. They themselves are rationalists, and yet they accuse others of rationalism; they themselves were Protestants from the first moment of their falling away, and yet they condemn the spontaneous rebellion of their rebellious brothers. On the other hand, while they have every right to return the accusation, the Protestants are unable to do so because they themselves are no more than developers of the Roman teaching. The only difference is that they have adapted it to suit themselves. No sooner did authority become external power, and no sooner was knowledge of religious truths cut off from religious life, than the relationship among people was altered too. Within the Church the people constituted a single whole; one spirit was alive in all. Now this bond disappeared, another replaced it: the common, subject-like dependence of all the people on the supreme power of Rome. No sooner did the first doubt of the legitimacy of this power arise than unity was destroyed, since the doctrine of papal infallibility was not founded on the holiness of the Ecumenical Church; nor did the Western world lay claim to a relatively higher level of moral purity at the moment when it arrogated to itself the right to change (or, as the Romanists say, to expound) the Creed and disregard the opinion of its Eastern brothers. No, it simply cited the accidental circumstance of episcopal succession, as if the other bishops established by the apostle Peter, regardless of their location, were not just as much his successors as the Bishop of Rome! Rome never said to the people: “Only the perfectly holy man can judge me, but such a man will always think as I do.” On the contrary, Rome destroyed every bond between knowledge and inner perfection of soul; it gave free reign to reason while at the same time obviously trampling it under foot.

It would not be difficult to show in the doctrine of the Reformers the indelible mark of Rome and the same spirit of utilitarian rationalism which characterizes papism. Their conclusions are not the same; but the premises and the definitions assumed and contained in these conclusions are always identical. The Papacy says: “The Church has always prayed for the dead, but this prayer would be useless if there were not an intermediate state between heaven and hell; therefore there is a purgatory.” The Reform answers: “There is not a trace of purgatory either in Holy Scripture or in the early Church; therefore it is useless to pray for the dead and I will not pray for them.” The Papacy says: “The Church appeals to the intercession of the saints, therefore this is useful, therefore this completes the merits of prayer and works of satisfaction.” The Reform answers: “The satisfaction for sins made by the blood of Christ and appropriated by faith in baptism and in prayer is sufficient for the redemption not only of man but also of all creation, therefore the saints’ intercession for us is useless, and there is no reason to appeal to them in prayer.” Clearly the sacred Communion of Saints is equally incomprehensible to both sides. The Papacy says: “According to the witness of the apostle James faith is insufficient, It is hardly necessary to prove that the apostle James is misinterpreted in this citation. He is obviously ascribing the name “faith” to knowledge, but this certainly does not mean that he is identifying the one with the other; he wishes to show in this way the complete illegitimacy of any claim knowledge might have to the name “faith” when it does not in fact have faith’s distinctive marks. therefore we cannot be saved by faith, and therefore works are useful and constitute merit.” Protestantism answers: “Faith alone saves, according to the witness of the apostle Paul, and works do not constitute merit, therefore they are useless.” And so on, and so on.

In this way the warring parties have gone back and forth at each other with syllogisms through the centuries, and are still going back and forth at each other, but always over the same ground, the ground of rationalism; and neither side can choose any other. Even Rome’s division of the Church into the teaching and the learning Church has been transmitted to the Reform; the only difference is that in the Roman confession it exists by right, by virtue of acknowledged law, while in Protestantism it exists only as a fact; and a scholar has taken the place of the priest.

I have tried to prove that Protestantism is impossible for us and that we can have nothing in common with the Reform, since we stand on completely different soil. But in order to make this conclusion quite plain I will present one more explanation of a more positive nature. Speaking through Holy Scripture, teaching and sanctifying through the sacred tradition of the Ecumenical Church, the Divine Spirit cannot be apprehended by reason alone. He is accessible only to the whole human spirit under the influence of grace. The attempt to penetrate into the realm of faith and its mystery by the light of reason alone is a presumption in the eyes of the Christian, a criminal and stupid presumption. Only the light which comes down from heaven and which penetrates the whole spirit of man can show him the way; only the power given by the Divine Spirit can raise him to those unapproachable heights where Divinity is revealed. “Only he can understand a prophet who is a prophet himself,” says St. Gregory the Wonder-worker. Only Divinity can comprehend God and His everlasting wisdom. Only he who bears within himself the living Christ can approach His throne without being annihilated by that glory before which the purest spiritual powers prostrate themselves in joyful trembling. The right and the power to contemplate the grandeur of heaven and penetrate its mystery are given only to the Church, holy and eternal; to the living ark of the Divine Spirit which bears Christ, her Lord and Saviour; to her alone, bound to Him by a close and inner unity which neither human thought can grasp nor human words express. I speak of the Church in her wholeness, of which the Church on earth is an inseparable part; since what we call the visible Church and the invisible Church are not two Churches, but one, under two different aspects. The Church in her fullness, as a spiritual organism, is neither a collective nor an abstract entity; she is the Divine Spirit, who knows Himself and is unable not to know. The whole Church wrote the Holy Scriptures and then gave life to them in Tradition. To put it more accurately, Scripture and Tradition, as two manifestations of one and the same Spirit, are a single manifestation. Scripture is nothing but written Tradition, and Tradition is nothing but living Scripture. Such is the mystery of this harmonious unity; it is formed by the fusion of the purest holiness with the highest reason, and only by way of this fusion does reason acquire the ability to comprehend things in that realm where reason alone, separated from holiness, is as blind as matter itself.

Will Protestantism rise on this soil? Will a man stand on this ground who thinks of himself as a judge of the Church and thus makes the claim to perfect holiness and perfection of reason? I doubt if such a man would be received as a welcome guest by that Church which has as its first principle the doctrine that ignorance and sin are the inevitable result of isolation, while fullness of understanding and incorruptible holiness belong only to the unity of all the members of the Church together.

Such is the teaching of the Ecumenical Orthodox Church, and I say boldly that no one will find in it the seeds of rationalism.

But, we are asked, whence comes the power to preserve a teaching so pure and exalted? Whence the weapons for its defense? The power is found in mutual love, the weapons in the communion of prayer; and divine help does not betray love and prayer, since God Himself inspires both.

Where, then, will we find a guarantee against error in the future? There is only one answer to this question: Whoever seeks beyond hope and faith for any guarantee of the spirit of love is already a rationalist. For him the Church, too, is unthinkable, since he is already, in his whole spirit, plunged in doubt.

I do not know if I have succeeded in making my thought clear, so that my readers will really see the difference between the basic principles of the Church and those of the Western confessions. The difference is so great that it is hardly possible to find one point on which they might agree. It even happens that, the more similar in appearance are the expressions or external forms, the more essential is the difference in their significance.

So many of the questions which have been argued for so many centuries in the religious polemic of Europe find a simple resolution within the Church; or, to speak more accurately, for her they do not even exist as questions. Thus, taking it as a first principle that the life of the spiritual world is nothing but love and communion in prayer, she prays for the dead, even though she rejects the fable of purgatory invented by rationalism; she asks for the intercession of the saints, not ascribing to them, however, the merits contrived by the utilitarian school, and not acknowledging the necessity for any intercession other than that of our Divine Mediator. Thus, aware of her living unity, she cannot even understand the question whether salvation lies in faith alone or in faith and works together. In her eyes life and truth are one, and works are nothing but the manifestation of a faith which, without this manifestation, would not be faith but logical knowledge. Thus also, feeling her inner union with the Holy Spirit, she offers thanks to the One Who is Good for every good thing, ascribing nothing to herself and to man except the evil which, in him, resists the work of God. Man must be helpless if the power of God is to be perfected in his soul.

Here I must fix the reader’s attention on a phenomenon which is especially significant. The bifurcation of the Church into the Teaching Church and the Church of Pupils (this name really ought to be given to the lower division), while acknowledged as a basic principle in Romanism (conditioned as it is by the structural properties of a Church-State with its division into clergy and laity), has passed into the Reform and is preserved in it as a result of the abrogation of legitimate tradition or the encroachment of knowledge on faith. Here then is the common feature of both Western confessions. Its absence in the Orthodox Church defines her character in the most decisive way.

In saying this I am not proposing a hypothesis, not even a logical conclusion from a combination of other principles in Orthodoxy (I drew such a conclusion and put it into writing many years ago). Khomyakov is probably referring here to his article, “The Church Is One,” first published in 1864 but written much earlier, perhaps in the forties. (Trans.) I am saying much more. The feature which I have pointed out is an indisputable dogmatic fact. The Eastern patriarchs, having assembled in council with their bishops, solemnly pronounced in their reply to the Encyclical Letter of Pius IX that “infallibility resides solely in the ecumenicity of the Church bound together by mutual love, and that the unchangeableness of dogma as well as the purity of rite are entrusted to the care not of one hierarchy but of all the people of the Church, who are the Body of Christ.” Encyclical dated May 6, 1848. This formal declaration of all the Eastern clergy, which was received by the territorial Russian Church with respectful and brotherly gratitude, has acquired the moral authority of an ecumenical sanction. This is unquestionably the most significant event in Church history over many centuries.

In the True Church there is no Teaching Church.

Does this mean that there is no edification in the Church? There is not only edification, but more edification there than anywhere else. Every word inspired by the feeling of truly Christian love, and living faith, and hope, is edification. Every deed carrying the imprint of the Spirit of God is a lesson. Every Christian life is a pattern and example. The martyr who dies for the truth, the judge who judges righteously (not as pleasing men, but God), the farmer in his humble labor continually being lifted in thought to his Creator — all such men live and die for the edification of their brothers; and not without reason, for the Spirit of God puts words of wisdom on their lips such as the scholar and theologian will never find. “The bishop is at the same time both the teacher and disciple of his flock,” said the modern apostle to the Aleutian Islands, Bishop Innokenti. Every man, no matter how high he is placed in the hierarchy, or conversely, no matter how hidden from view he may be in the shadow of humble circumstance, both edifies and is edified, for God clothes whom He wills with the gifts of His infinite wisdom, without regard to person or calling. It is not just the word that edifies, but a man’s whole life.

The question of edification brings us again to the question of investigation, since the one presupposes the other. Faith is always the consequence of revelation recognized as revelation; it is the perceiving of an invisible fact manifested in some visible fact; faith is not belief or logical conviction based on conclusions, but much more. It is not the act of one perceptive faculty separated from others, but the act of all the powers of reason grasped and captivated in all its depth by the living truth of the revealed fact. Faith is not known only or sensed only, but is known and sensed together, so to speak; in a word, it is not knowledge alone but knowledge and life. So, then, the process of investigation in matters of faith borrows from faith the essential nature of faith, and differs completely from investigation in the usual meaning of the word. First, in the area of faith, the world which is under investigation is not a world external to man, since man himself, and the whole man, with all his fullness of reason and will, belongs to this world and is an essential part of it. Second, investigation in the area of faith presupposes certain basic data, moral or rational, which, for the soul, stand above all doubt. Actually, investigation in the area of faith is nothing but the process of the reasonable unveiling of these data; since full doubt, knowing no limits (if such a thing could really exist), would not only exclude all possibility of faith but also any thought of serious investigation. Once admitted by an absolutely pure soul, the least of these data would give it all the other data by virtue of an unbreakable although perhaps unrecognized sequence of deductions. For the Orthodox Christian the sum of these data includes the whole universe, with all the phenomena of human life and the whole word of God, both written and expressed in the dogmatic ecumenical tradition.

Thus investigation itself in the area of faith, both by the variety of data subject to study and by the fact that its goal lies in living and not merely in abstract truth, demands the use of all intellectual powers in the will and reason, and beyond that also the inner investigation of these powers themselves. It is necessary to take into account not only the world that is seen, as object, but also the power and purity of the organ of sight.

The initial principle of such investigation is the humble acknowledgment of one’s own frailty. It cannot be otherwise; since the shadow of sin already contains the possibility of error, and the possibility turns into inevitability when a man unconditionally relies on his own powers or the gifts of grace bestowed on him as an individual. One would have to claim perfection of the perceptive faculty as well as moral perfection in order to be in a position to make a truly independent investigation of the subjects of faith. It would take more than just satanic pride to make such a claim; one would have to be quite mad. The truth exists only where there is pure holiness, that is, in the wholeness of the Ecumenical Church, which is the manifestation of the Spirit of God in mankind.

Edification, then, is accomplished, not by Scripture alone, as the Protestants think (nevertheless we thank them with all our heart for increasing the number of copies of the Bible); nor by verbal interpretation; nor by the Creed (the necessity of which, however, we by no means deny); nor by preaching; nor by the study of theology; nor by works of love; but by all these things together.

Of course Christianity is expressed in logical form in the Creed; but this expression is not separated from its other manifestations. Christianity is taught as a learned discipline under the title of theology; but this is no more than a branch of the teaching as a whole. Whoever truncates the teaching, that is, whoever separates teaching in the narrow sense of lecturing and interpreting from its other forms, errs grievously; whoever turns teaching into an exclusive privilege descends into foolishness; whoever makes of teaching a kind of official function, supposing that the divine gift of teaching is inseparably connected with this official function, falls into heresy, since in this very way a new, unheard-of sacrament is created: the sacrament of rationalism or logical knowledge. The whole Church teaches — the Church in all her fullness. The Church does not acknowledge a Teaching Church in any other sense.

I hope that I have said enough to prove that the second charge brought against us by Mr. Laurency, the Comte de Maistre, and by many others, is just as ill-founded as the first, and that Protestantism could arise in the Church only by way of the Roman schism, out of which it inevitably flows.

However, an objection may perhaps be raised on the strength of my own words. It could be said that in tracing the genealogy of Protestantism through Romanism I have proved that the rationalistic soil of the Reform was created first by the Roman schism; but since this schism (at the moment of its appearance) was an act of Protestantism, surely it must follow that Protestantism can arise directly within the Church. I hope, however, that my answer will justify me. Certainly, by its falling away from the Church, Rome performed an act of Protestantism; but in those times the ecclesiological spirit, even in the West, was still so strong and so opposed to the spirit of the later Reform that Romanism was compelled to hide its character from the sight of Christians and from itself too, masking the principle of rationalistic anarchy it had brought into the midst of the Church by a despotism in matters of faith. Even if it could be demonstrated, however, that in former times Protestantism or the Protestant principle could be generated in the bosom of the Church, it is nevertheless clear now that this possibility no longer exists.

From the very beginning of the Christian world, no small number of heresies have arisen to disturb its harmony. Even before the apostles had finished their earthly task, many of their pupils were seduced by falsehood. Later on, with each succeeding century, heresies multiplied. Many of the faithful were torn away from the Church by Nestorianism and Eutychianism, with all their ramifications, and especially by Arianism, which provided, incidentally, the occasion for the Roman schism. The question is raised: Can these heresies be revived? No! At the time when they arose, the dogmas which they opposed were not yet clothed in the form of clear definitions, even though they were included implicitly in the Church’s tradition. Thus it was possible for a frail, personal faith to fall into error. Later, by Divine Providence, by the grace of His eternal Word and the inspiration of the Spirit of truth and life, dogma received a precise definition at the councils — and from then on error (in its old form) became impossible even as a result of personal frailty. Unbelief is still possible, but not Arianism. The same is true with the other heresies; they too are no longer possible. They involved misconceptions concerning the revealed dogma of the inner being of God, or of God’s relationship to human nature; distorting the dogmatic tradition, they claimed to be the true tradition. These were more or less culpable errors, but they did not infringe upon the dogma of ecclesiastical ecumenicity; on the contrary, all the above-mentioned heresies tried to prove the truth of their teachings by referring to their supposed acceptance by all Christians. Romanism began at the moment it placed the independence of individual or regional opinion above the ecumenical unity of faith; it was the first to create a heresy of a new type, a heresy against the dogma of the nature of the Church, against her own faith in herself. The Reform was only the continuation of this same heresy under another name.

All the Western sects may be defined in this way; but an error once defined is no longer possible for members of the Church. Does this mean that members of the Church are immune to error? By no means. Just as it would be unreasonable to assert that they are immune to sin. Such perfection belongs only to the Church in her living wholeness, and cannot be ascribed to anyone individually.

Only the person able to call himself a living organ of the Spirit of God would have the right to claim infallibility. But does it follow from this that the faith of an Orthodox Christian is open to error? No. Since the Christian, by the very fact that he believes in the Ecumenical Church, lowers his belief (in questions that have not yet been clearly defined) to the level of a personal opinion, or to that of a regional opinion if the doctrine has been accepted by a whole eparchy. However, although an error in opinion holds no danger for the Church, it cannot be considered harmless for the individual Christian. It is always a sign and consequence of moral error or weakness, making a man to some extent unworthy of heavenly light, and, like every sin, it can be wiped out only by divine mercy. A Christian’s faith must overflow with joy and gratitude, but also with fear. Let him pray! Let him beg for the light he lacks! If only he will not lull his conscience to sleep, like the Reformer who says: “Of course I may be mistaken, but my intentions are pure and God will take them into account, as He does my weakness.” Or like the Romanist, who says: “Let us suppose then that I’m mistaken — so what? The pope knows the truth for me, and I submit in advance to his decision!”

I have clarified as well as I could the difference in character between the Church and the Western confessions. I have stated plainly the heresy against the dogma concerning the ecumenicity and holiness of the Church contained in both Latinist and Protestant rationalism. Now I must say a few words about our relations with these two confessions, their relations with each other, and their contemporary position.

Since the Reform is nothing but a continuation and development of Romanism, I must first speak about our relations with the latter. Is a rapprochement possible? One can only answer this question with a decisive “No.” Truth does not permit compromises. It is understandable why the papacy has devised the Greek Uniat Church. The Church-State can, if it sees fit, bestow certain rights of citizenship upon its former Eastern brothers, as helots in the realm of faith. It can give these rights to them as a reward for their humble submission to the authority of the pope, without demanding from them the oneness of faith expressed in the Creed. Of course, for the true Latinist such half-citizens can only arouse pity and contempt. They are far from being real Roman citizens, and not one theologian, not one teacher would undertake to prove the logic of their religion. It is an absurdity which is being tolerated — and nothing more. In the eyes of the Church such a union is unthinkable, but it is in complete harmony with the principles of Romanism. The Church admits no compromises in dogma or faith. She requires full unity, nothing less; on the other hand, she gives full equality, since she recognizes the spirit of brotherliness and not subjection. Thus a rapprochement is impossible without the full renunciation by the Romanists of an error which is now more than a thousand years old.

But would not a council bridge the chasm separating the Roman schism from the Church? No — since a council can be called only after the chasm has been bridged. It is true that people intoxicated by false opinions participated in the Ecumenical Councils; some of them returned to the truth, others were stubborn in their errors and as a result were finally separated from the Church. But the point is that these people, in spite of their errors, did not deny the divine principle of ecumenicity in the most fundamental dogmas of the faith. They held, or at least declared the hope of defining in clear terms, the dogma confessed by the Church, and also hoped to be worthy of the grace of testifying to the faith of their brothers. Such was the aim of the councils, such was their significance, such was the concept implied in the usual introductory formula to all their decisions: “It has pleased the Holy Spirit….” These words do not express a haughty claim, but a humble hope, justified or repudiated later by the acceptance or nonacceptance of the decisions by the whole people of the Church or, as the Eastern patriarchs put it, by the whole Body of Christ. There were, from time to time, heretical councils. Why were these councils rejected, when outwardly they did not differ from the Ecumenical Councils? Solely because their decisions were not acknowledged as the voice of the Church by the whole people of the Church, by that people and within that world where, in questions of faith, there is no difference between a scholar and an untutored person, between cleric and layman, between man and woman, king and subject, slaveowner and slave, and where, if in God’s judgment it is needed, a youth receives the gift of knowledge, a word of infinite wisdom is given to a child, and the heresy of a learned bishop is confuted by an illiterate cowherd, so that all might be joined in that free unity of living faith which is the manifestation of the Spirit of God. Such is the dogma lying beneath the idea of the council. Now then, why have a council if the Western world has been deemed worthy of such a clear revelation of divine truth that it has considered itself empowered to insert its revelation into the Symbol of Faith without waiting for confirmation from the East? What might a wretched Greek or Russian helot do at a council seated alongside these chosen vessels, these representatives of people who have anointed themselves with the chrism of infallibility? A council is impossible until the Western world returns to the idea of the council and condemns its own infringement of the council principle and all the consequences stemming from this infringement. Or, to put it another way, until it returns to the original Creed and submits its opinion, by which the Creed was impaired, to the judgment of the Ecumenical Faith. In a word, when rationalism is clearly understood and condemned, then and only then will a council be possible. So it is not a council which will bridge the chasm; the chasm must first be bridged before the council can assemble. This was the conviction of the great Mark of Ephesus who, at the Florentine Council, demanded that the Creed be restored to its original purity and the insertion be declared an opinion standing outside its formula. Excluded from the list of dogmas, the error would become harmless. This was what Mark wanted, leaving the actual correction of the error to God’s providence. Thus the heresy would have been removed and the possibility of communion restored. But the pride of rationalism has not yet permitted Rome to go this far.

It was noted above that Romanism had been forced to renounce its own nature, so to speak, as long as it bore anarchy within itself as a principle and feared its manifestation in practice. It was compelled to masquerade in its own eyes and transform itself into despotism. This transformation has not failed to bring important consequences. The unity of the Church was free; more precisely, the unity was freedom itself, the harmonious expression of inner agreement. When this living unity was rejected, ecclesiastical freedom was sacrificed for the maintenance of a contrived and arbitrary unity. The spiritual intuition of truth was replaced by an external token or sign.

The Reform followed another path. Remaining steadfast to the principle of rationalistic self-determination which had generated the Roman schism, it demanded its freedom (with every right), and was forced to sacrifice all semblance of unity. As with papism, so also with the Reform: everything leads to externality. Such is the nature of all the children of rationalism. The unity of papism is an external unity, deprived of living content; the freedom of the Protestant mind is also an external freedom, without real content.

The papists, like the Judaizers, base their position on a sign (or token); Protestants, like the Hellenizers, base their position on logic. A true understanding of the Church, as freedom in unity and life in reason, is equally inaccessible to both.

On the other hand, conflict is possible, even inevitable, since they occupy the same ground and have the same rights. Both Romanism and Protestantism have been plunged wholly (without suspecting it) into that logical antinomy into which every living thing falls as long as it sees things only from the logical point of view. But what are the results of the conflict? In all truthfulness, there is nothing comforting here for either side. Both are strong in attack and weak in defense, since both are equally wrong, and equally condemned by reason and the witness of history. At every moment each of the warring parties can pride itself on a spectacular victory; but in the meantime both are constantly defeated, and the field of battle is left to unbelief. If the need for faith had not compelled many people to close their eyes to the inconsistency of a religion accepted only because it was impossible to get along without it, and if the same need had not compelled even those who do not seriously believe in religion to continue to hold on to what they once accepted, unbelief would long ago have conquered the field.

Since the conflict between the Western confessions has been conducted on the soil of rationalism, one cannot even say that faith has been its real subject. Beliefs and convictions, no matter how sincere or passionate, have yet to deserve the name of faith. Nevertheless, as a subject of study this conflict is extraordinarily interesting and profoundly instructive. The characteristics of the parties are defined in it clearly.

A criticism that is serious but dry and imperfect; a learning that is broad but unsubstantial because of its lack of inner unity; an upright and sober morality worthy of the first centuries of the Church, combined with a narrowness of vision set within the limits of individualism; ardent outbursts of feeling in which we seem to hear a confession of their shortcomings and their lack of hope in ever attaining atonement; a constant lack of depth scarcely masked by a fog of arbitrary mysticism; a love of the truth combined with an inability to understand it in its living reality; in a word — rationalism within idealism: such is the fate of the Protestants. A breadth of view that is large enough, yet quite insufficient for true Christianity; an eloquence that is brilliant but too often marred by passion; a bearing that is majestic but always theatrical; a criticism that is almost always superficial, catching at words and not probing far into meaning; an illusory display of unity with an absence of real unity; a certain peculiar poverty of religious need, which never dares to raise its sights to higher levels and is always ready to settle for a cheap satisfaction; a certain uneven depth, hiding its shoals in clouds of sophisms; a hearty and sincere love for external order combined with a disregard for internal order, i.e., truth; in a word — rationalism within materialism: such is the fate of the Latinists. Nor do I mean to accuse all the writers of this party of deliberate falsehood, or to say that none of their opponents deserves the same reproach; but the inclination of the papist party to sophisms, its systematic side-stepping in the face of real objections, its feigned ignorance — which has finally become a regular habit of textual distortions, omissions, and inaccuracies in quotation — all this is so well known that it is beyond dispute. Not wishing, however, in such an important accusation, to limit myself to simple assertions, and having made it a rule for myself never to cite facts which are in any way doubtful, I will remind my readers of the long-drawn-out affair of the False Decretals, upon which the theory of papal supremacy rested until the belief became so entrenched that it was possible to remove the false props; I mention also the false Deeds of Donation which formed the basis for the temporal power of the Roman primate; and the endless series of deliberately mutilated editions of the holy fathers. Close to our own time, I mention the fact that the work of Adam Zernikavius, in which it is demonstrated that all the testimony drawn from the works of the holy fathers in support of the addition to the Creed was intentionally altered or misquoted, still stands unrefuted. Finally, moving into our own time, I point to the writings of the eloquent proto-sophist Comte de Maistre, Cf. the argument in defense of Romanism drawn by de Maistre from the works of St. Athanasius: “The whole world,” says St. Athanasius to the heretics, “calls the true Church the Catholic Church. This alone is enough to prove that you are heretics.” “But which Church is it,” de Maistre asks, “that all Europe calls Catholic? The Church of Rome. Consequently all other Churches are in schism.” But surely St. Athanasius was talking to Greeks, who clearly understood the meaning of the word “catholic” (as “world-wide,” “ecumenical”), so that his argument had full force. But, I ask, what does this prove in the case of modern Europe, where the word has lost all meaning? Let them ask about the world-wide or ecumenical Church in England, or Germany, or especially in Russia, and listen carefully to the answers! and to the remarkable work of Newman (“On the Development of Christian Doctrine”). In this work Newman supplements Moeller’s theory about the gradual perfecting and development of the Church. “All her doctrine,” he says, “was contained implicitly in her primitive teaching, and was gradually developed out of it, or more accurately, gradually acquired a clarity of logical expression. Thus it was with the basic dogma of the Trinity, thus also with the doctrine of papal supremacy in matters of faith, and so on.” And so Newman pretends that he has never heard about the apostasy of Pope Liberius, or about the condemnation of Pope Honorius by an Ecumenical Council and the acceptance of this condemnation by the whole West. What is important here is not the fact that Honorius erred, nor does it matter whether this was proved or not; what is important is that an Ecumenical Council acknowledged the possibility of papal fallibility, something Newman could not help but know. Thus the new doctrine of infallibility was not a development of ecumenical doctrine, but its direct contradiction. The author’s silence and pretended ignorance on this point is nothing more than a barefaced lie. It should be noted that this last writer was scrupulous indeed as long as he confessed Anglicanism, but after converting to Romanism out of scrupulousness (so I assume), there was a sudden loss of scruple. However, in pointing out the falsity which always marks the Roman polemic, I by no means wish to condemn too harshly the writers who have taken part in it, and I will not dwell on the question of the extent of their moral responsibility.

Neither Orthodox writers nor the defenders of Protestantism are above reproach in this matter, although occasions for just complaint are encountered much less frequently with them than with the Latinists; and the degree of personal guilt is far from being the same. A falsehood coming from the pen of an Orthodox writer is an absurd infamy, definitely harming the cause which he is undertaking to defend; in the case of a Protestant, a falsehood is a culpable absurdity and at the same time completely unprofitable; but with the Romanist, falsehood is a necessity, and to a certain extent forgivable. The reason for this difference is clear. Falsehood is essentially opposed to Orthodoxy, as it is to truth. In Protestantism, the realm of searching for truth, falsehood is simply out of place. In Romanism, however, the teaching which denies its own root principle, falsehood is inevitable. Here is the real source of that moral corruption which, in the Roman confession, perverts the brightest minds and discredits the loftiest intellects (we need only recall the remarkable Bossuet).

The moral exhaustion of the two parties becomes more and more apparent every day. A horror in the face of common danger is overwhelming the rationalistic sects of the West: Papism and the Reform. They still go on struggling with one another (they are unable to stop) but they have lost all hope of victory, having more or less clearly recognized their own inner weaknesses. Unbelief rapidly grows up before them, not that unbelief of the powerful, the rich, and the learned which marked the eighteenth century, but the unbelief of the masses, the scepticism of ignorance. Such are the legitimate offspring of the open or hidden rationalism which has passed for faith in the European world for hundreds of years.

I have fulfilled my duty. I have defended the Church against false accusations which I do not consider, however, to be deliberate slanders. In order to make my refutation intelligible I have had to develop the distinctive features both of Orthodoxy and of the Western schism, which is nothing but patched up rationalism, and to present the contemporary religious question in the light in which it appears to us. As I said at the beginning, I have not tried to gloss over my hostility of thought by an affected moderation of terms. I have boldly put forward the Church’s teaching and her attitude toward the different forms of the schism. I have openly expressed my opinion about the conflict between the sects. I dare to hope, however, that no one will accuse me of malice or conscious injustice.

I repeat: I have fulfilled my duty in answering the charges brought against the Church — not only my duty in relation to the Church, but still more in relation to you, my readers and brothers, who have unfortunately been separated from us by an error which arose in ages long passed out of view. No fear of any kind, or any sort of calculation, has constrained my pen, nor have I written out of any hope of profit.

Readers and brothers! A ruinous legacy has come down to you from the ignorance and sinfulness of past age — the embryo of death; and you are suffering punishment for it without being directly responsible, since you have had no definite understanding of the error involved. You have done much for mankind in science and art, in constitutional law and in the civilization of peoples, in the practical realization of the meaning of truth and in the practical application of love. More than that, you have done all you could for man in his relation to God, preaching Christ to people who had never before heard His Divine Name. All honor and thanks to you for your immeasurable labors, the fruits of which mankind is gathering now and will continue to gather in the future. But as long as it still inspires you, this ruinous legacy will kill your spiritual life.

The cure is within your power. Of course, as long as the disease is alive in popular prejudices and in the ignorance of the means to stop its spread (and this will last a long time), it is impossible to expect the healing of the masses; but the cure is accessible now to private individuals. If any one of my readers is convinced of the truth of my words, of the validity of my definition of the origins of the schism and its rationalistic character, then I beg him to consider. If he will make but one acknowledgment of the truth, then he must accept all the practical consequences flowing from it; if he will make but one confession of error, he must then repair it, to the extent that this is possible.

I beg him to undertake a moral exploit — to tear himself away from rationalism, to condemn the excommunication which was once pronounced upon his Eastern brothers, to reject all the later decrees flowing from this falsehood, to accept us once more in his communion with the rights of brotherly equality, and to restore in his soul the unity of the Church, so that by this fact he might have the right to repeat with her: “Let us love one another, and with one mind confess the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit.”

The disease carries death within itself, but the cure is not difficult; it only requires an act of justice. Will people want to undertake this exploit, or will they prefer to perpetuate the reign of falsehood, deluding their own consciences and the minds of their brothers?

My readers, judge for yourselves!

Translated by Asheleigh E. Moorhouse
April, 1964

Source: ArchangelsBooks.com, http://www.archangelsbooks.com/articles/east_west/WesternConfessions_Khomiakov.asp

January 15, 2009

Teachings of St. Seraphim of Sarov

From the Teachings of St. Seraphim of Sarov

About God

God is fire, warming and igniting the heart and inward parts. So, if we feel coldness in our hearts, which is from the devil (for the devil is cold), then let us call the Lord: He, in coming, will warm our heart with perfect love, not only towards Himself, but to our neighbors as well. And the coldness of the despiser of good will run from the face of His warmth.

Where there is God, there is no evil. Everything coming from God is peaceful, healthy and leads a person to the judgment of his own imperfections and humility.

God shows us His love for man not only in those instances when we do good, but also when we affront Him with our sins and anger Him. With what longsuffering he bears our lawlessness! “Do not call God a rightful Judge,” says St. Isaac, “for His rightful judgment is not seen in your deeds. True, David called Him a righteous judge and rightly, but the Son of God has shown us that God is good and merciful even more. Where is His righteous judgment? We were sinners, but Christ died for us” (St. Isaac the Syrian, Word 90).

The Reasons for Christ’s Coming

Christ came because of: (1) God’s love towards the human race: “For so God loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son” (John 3:16); (2) the restoration of the image and likeness of God in fallen man; (3) the salvation of human souls: “For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved” (John 3:17).

And so, we, following the goals of our Redeemer, the Lord Jesus Christ, must lead our lives according to His Godly teaching, in order to save our souls by it.


Faith, according to the teachings of St. Antioch, is the beginning of our union with God: the true believers are the stone of the church of God, prepared for the edifice of God the Father, which is raised up to the heights by the power of Jesus Christ, that is, by the Cross and help of the grace of the Holy Spirit. “Faith without works is dead” (James 2:26). The works of faith are love, peace, longsuffering, mercy, humility, bearing one’s cross and life by the spirit. True faith cannot remain without works. One who truly believes will also surely perform good works.


All those having firm hope in God are raised to Him and enlightened with the radiance of eternal light.

If a person does not have superfluous care for himself, out of his love for God and for virtuous deeds, and knows that God will take care of him, then this hope is true and wise. But if a person places all his hope in his works, and turns to God in prayer only when unforeseen misfortunes befall him, then he, seeing that he lacks the means of averting them in his own abilities, begins to hope for help from God — but such a hope is trivial and false. True hope seeks the one Kingdom of God and is sure that everything necessary for this mortal life will surely be given. The heart cannot have peace until it acquires this hope. This hope pacifies it fully and brings joy to it. The most holy lips of the Saviour spoke about this very hope: “Come unto Me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” (Mt. 11:28).

Love for God

He who has acquired perfect love for God goes through this life as if he did not exist. For he considers himself a stranger to all that is visible, and awaits with patience that which is unseen. He is completely transformed into love for God and has abandoned all worldly attachments.

He who truly loves God considers himself a wanderer and newcomer on earth, for in him is a striving towards God in soul and mind, which contemplates Him alone.

As for care of the soul, a person in his body is like a lighted candle. The candle must burn out, and a person must die. But as our soul is immortal, so our cares should be directed more toward the soul than the body: “For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul? (Mt. 16:26)” for which, as is known, nothing in the world can serve as ransom? If the soul alone is worth more than all the world and the worldly kingdom, then the Kingdom of Heaven is incomparably more precious. We consider the soul as most precious for the reason stated by Macarius the Great, that God did not desire to bond and unite His spiritual essence with any visible creation except man, whom He loves more than any of His creations.

Love for Neighbors

One must behave affectionately toward one’s neighbors, not showing even a hint of offense. When we turn away from a person or offend him, it is as if a rock settles on our heart. One must try to cheer the spirit of an embarrassed or dejected person with words of love.

When you see a brother sinning, cover him, as counseled by St. Isaac the Syrian: “Stretch out your vestment over the sinner and cover him.”

In our relations with our neighbors we must be equally pure towards everyone in word as well as in thought; otherwise we will make our life useless. We must love others no less than ourselves, in accordance with the law of the Lord: “Thou shalt love … thy neighbour as thyself” (Lk. 10:27). But not so much that our love for others, by extending past the boundaries of moderation, diverts us from fulfilling the first and main law of love towards God, as our Lord Jesus Christ himself taught: “He that loveth father or mother more than me is not worthy of me: and he that loveth son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me” (Mt. 10:37).


It is necessary to be merciful to those wretched and wandering. The great lightgivers and Fathers of the Church took great care concerning this. In relation to this virtue we must try by all means to fulfill the following law of God: “Be ye therefore merciful, as your Father also is merciful,” and, “I will have mercy, and not sacrifice” (Lk. 6:36; Mt. 9:13). The wise heed these saving words, but the foolish do not heed them. For this reason the reward is also different, as is said: “He which soweth sparingly shall reap also sparingly; and he which soweth bountifully shall reap also bountifully” (2 Cor. 9:6).

The example of Peter the Breadgiver, who, for a piece of bread given to a beggar, received forgiveness for all his sins (as was revealed to him in a vision) may prompt us to be merciful to our neighbors — for even a small alms may contribute to the obtaining of the Heavenly Kingdom.

Giving alms must be done with a spiritually kind disposition, in agreement with the teachings of St. Isaac the Syrian: “If you give anything to him who asks, may the joy of your face precede your alms, and comfort his sorrow with kind words.”

Non-Judgment and the Forgiveness of Offenses

It is not right to judge anyone, even if you have seen someone sinning and wallowing in the violations of God’s laws with your own eyes, as is said in the word of God: “Judge not, that ye be not judged” (Mt. 7:1). “Who art thou that judgest another man’s servant? to his own master he standeth or falleth. Yea, he shall be holden up: for God is able to make him stand” (Rom. 14:4). It is much better always to bring to memory the words of the apostle: “Wherefore let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall” (1 Cor. 10:12).

One must not harbor anger or hatred towards a person that is hostile toward us. On the contrary, one must love him and do as much good as possible towards him, following the teaching of our Lord Jesus Christ: “Love your enemies, do good to them that hate you” (Mt. 5:44). If then we will try to fulfill all this to the extent of our power, we can hope that God’s light will begin to shine in our hearts, lighting our path to the heavenly Jerusalem.

Why do we judge our neighbors? Because we are not trying to get to know ourselves. Someone busy trying to understand himself has no time to notice the shortcomings of others. Judge yourself — and you will stop judging others. Judge a poor deed, but do not judge the doer. It is necessary to consider yourself the most sinful of all, and to forgive your neighbor every poor deed. One must hate only the devil, who tempted him. It can happen that someone might appear to be doing something bad to us, but in reality, because of the doer’s good intentions, it is a good deed. Besides, the door of penitence is always open, and it is not known who will enter it sooner — you, “the judge,” or the one judged by you.


One desiring salvation must always have a heart inclined towards penitence and contrition: “The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and a contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise” (Ps. 51:19). With such a contrite spirit a person can avoid without trouble all the artful tricks of the devil, whose efforts are all directed towards disturbing the spirit of a person. By this disturbance he sows tares (i.e., weeds), according to the words of the Gospel: “Sir, didst not thou sow good seed in thy field? from whence then hath it tares? He said unto them, ‘An enemy hath done this’” (Mt. 13:27-28). But when a person struggles to have a meek heart and to keep peace in his thoughts, then are all the wiles of the enemy powerless; for, where there is peace of thought, God Himself resides: “In Salem also is his tabernacle, and his dwelling place in Zion” (Ps. 76:2).

We offend the greatness of God with our sinning throughout our entire lives, and so must always humbly ask the Lord forgiveness for our sins.


The leader of feats and our Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ, before setting out on the feat of redeeming the human race, fortified Himself with a lengthy fast. And all ascetics, proceeding to work for the Lord, armed themselves by fasting and did not set out on the path of the Cross without the feat of fasting. They measured the very success of their ascetism by their success in fasting.

Despite their fasting, and to the surprise of others, the holy fathers did not know weakness but always remained hearty, strong and ready for the task at hand. Illnesses were rare among them and their lives were extraordinarily prolonged.

During the time that the body of one fasting becomes thin and light, the spiritual life attains to perfection and reveals itself through miraculous manifestations. The spirit then performs its actions as if in a bodiless body. External feelings are as shut out, and the mind, renouncing the worldly, ascends to the heavenly and becomes completely immersed in the contemplation of the spiritual world. Yet not everyone can take upon himself strict rules of abstinence from everything, nor deprive himself completely of all that serves to relieve infirmities: “He that is able to receive it, let him receive it” (Mt. 19:12).

One should take enough food everyday to strengthen the body, so that it can be a friend and helper to the soul in accomplishing virtues: otherwise it can happen that through the exhaustion of the body the spirit can weaken. On Wednesdays and Fridays, particularly during the four Lenten periods, follow the example of the Fathers and take food once a day — and the Angel of the Lord will affix himself to you.

Patience and Humility

It is necessary always to be patient and to accept everything that happens, no matter what, with gratitude for God’s sake. Our life — is a minute compared to eternity. And for this reason “the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us” (Rom. 8:18).

Bear the insults of your enemy in silence, and open your heart only to the Lord. Try in any way possible to forgive those who humiliate you or take away your honor, by the words of the Gospel: “Of him that taketh away thy goods ask them not again” (Lk. 6:30).

When people curse us, we must consider ourselves unworthy of praise, imagining that if we were worthy, everyone would be bowing down to us. We must always, and before everyone, humble ourselves, according to the teachings of St. Isaac the Syrian: “Humble yourself and you will see the glory of God within yourself.”


The body is the handmaid of the soul, and the soul — its queen. Therefore it often happens that by the mercy of God our body is debilitated by illnesses. Passions weaken because of illnesses, and the person becomes well. Sometimes bodily illness itself is born of passions. To bear illness with patience and gratitude is regarded as a feat, and even more than one.

One elder, suffering from dropsy, told this to the brethren who came to him, desiring to heal him: “Fathers, pray, that my inner person is not subjected to a similar illness. But concerning the present illness, I ask God that he not suddenly relieve me of it, “for though our outward man perish, yet the inward man is renewed day by day” (2 Cor. 4:16).

The Spiritual World

The spiritual world is gained by sorrows. The scriptures say: “We went through fire and through water: but thou broughtest us out into a wealthy place” (Ps. 66:12). For those who desire to serve God the path lies through many sorrows. How can we praise the holy martyrs for the sufferings which they bore for God, when we cannot even bear a fever?

Nothing so aids the acquiring of internal peace as silence, and as much as is possible, continual discussion with oneself and rarely with others.

A sign of spiritual life is the immersion of a person within himself and the hidden workings within his heart.

This peace, as some priceless treasure, did our Lord Jesus Christ leave his followers before His death, saying, “Peace I leave with you, My peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you” (John 14:27). The apostle also spoke this about it: “And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus” (Phil. 4:7); “Follow peace with all men, and holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord” (Heb. 12:14).

In this way, we must direct all our thoughts, desires and actions toward obtaining God’s peace, and always cry out with the Church: “Lord, thou wilt ordain peace for us” (Is. 26:12).

It is necessary by all means to try to keep one’s spiritual peace, and not to become provoked by insults from others. To do this, it is necessary always to restrain oneself from anger, and by careful watch to guard the mind and heart from unclean waverings.

Insults from others must be borne without disturbance; one must train oneself to be of such a nature, that one can react to insults as if they did not refer to oneself. Such an exercise can bring serenity to our heart and make it a dwelling of God Himself.

We see an example of such a lack of malice in the life of St. Gregory the Miracle-Worker. A certain immoral woman demanded payment from him, purportedly for a sin committed with her. He, not in the least angry with her, humbly said to one of his friends: pay her the price which she demands, quickly. The woman became possessed as soon as she accepted the unrighteous payment. The bishop then prayed and exorcised the evil spirit from her.

If it is impossible not to become indignant, then at least restrain your tongue according to the words of the Psalmist: “I am so troubled that I cannot speak” (Ps. 77:4).

In this instance we can take as examples for ourselves St. Spyridon of Tremifunt and St. Ephraim the Syrian. The first bore an insult when he entered the palace by the demand of the Greek emperor: one of the servants present in the emperor’s chamber, taking him for a beggar, laughed at him, did not allow him to enter the chamber and even struck him on the cheek. St. Spyridon, being without malice, turned the other cheek to him, according the word of the Lord (see Mt. 5:39). The Blessed Ephraim, living in the desert, was once deprived of food in the following fashion. His pupil, carrying the food, accidentally broke the vessel on the way. Blessed Ephraim, seeing the pupil downcast, said to him: “Do not grieve, brother. If the food did not want to come to us, then we will go to it.” And so the monk went, sat next to the broken vessel, and, gathering the food together, ate it. He was thus without malice!

In order to keep spiritual peace, it is necessary to chase dejection away from oneself, and to try to have a joyful spirit, according to the words of the most wise Sirach: “Sorrow has killed many, but there is no good in it” (Sir. 30:25).

In order to keep spiritual peace it is also necessary to avoid judging others in any way. Condescension towards your neighbor and silence protect spiritual peace. When a person is in such an state, then he receives Godly revelations.

In order not to lapse into judgment of others, it is necessary to be mindful of oneself, to refuse to receive any bad information from anyone and to be as if dead to others.

For the protection of spiritual peace it is necessary to enter into oneself more often and ask: Where am I? In addition, it is necessary to watch that the physical senses, especially sight, serve the inner person, not diverting the soul with mortal items, because the gifts of grace are received only by those who have inner workings and keep watch over their souls.


Blessed Seraphim told those followers who strove to take excessive feats upon themselves that not complaining and humbly bearing insults are our “verigi” and our hair shirt. (The word verigi in Russian means iron chains and various weights. A hair shirt is clothing made of thick, very coarse wool; some ascetics wore these things to burden their body.)

It is not necessary to undertake feats beyond one’s strength. Instead, one must try to keep our friend — our body — right and capable of performing virtues. One must follow the middle route, turning neither to the right hand nor the left (Prov. 4:27), giving the spirit the spiritual, and the body the physical things necessary for maintaining temporal life. One should also not refuse that which society legally demands, according to the words of the Gospel: “Render therefore unto Caesar the things which are Caesar’s; and unto God the things that are God’s” (Mt. 22:21).

One should condescend to one’s soul in its infirmities and imperfections, endure one’s deficiencies as we bear the failings of others, not become lazy, and continually urge oneself to be better.

If you have eaten too much food or done anything else related to human weakness, do not be upset. Do not add injury to injury, but, urging yourself to correction, courageously try to keep spiritual peace according to the words of the Apostle: “Happy is he that condemneth not himself in that thing which he alloweth” (Rom. 14:22). This same meaning is contained in the words of the Saviour: “Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven” (Mt. 18:3).

Any success in any area we must assign to the Lord and say with the prophet: “Not unto us, O Lord, not unto us, but unto thy name give glory” (Ps. 115:1).

Purity of Heart

We must continually protect our heart from unclean thoughts and impressions, according to the words of the author of the book of Proverbs: “Keep thy heart with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life” (Prov. 4:23).

Purity is born within the heart from extended safekeeping of it, to which the vision of the Lord has access, according to the assurance of eternal Truth: “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God” (Mt. 5:8).

We should not reveal unnecessarily what is best in the heart, for only then does that which has been accumulated remain in safety from enemies visible and invisible, when it is kept as a treasure in the innermost heart. Do not open the secrets of your heart to everyone.

Identifying Movements of the Heart

When a person accepts anything Godly, then he rejoices in his heart, but when he has accepted anything devilish, then he becomes tormented.

Having accepted anything Godly, the heart of a Christian does not demand outside persuasion that it is from the Lord, but becomes convinced through the act itself that this acceptance is something heavenly, because he feels the spiritual fruits in himself: “love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance” (Gal. 5:22-23). But if the devil were to transform himself even into an angel of light (see 2 Cor. 11:14), or presented thoughts of the most worthy appearance, the heart still would feel some sort of doubts, trouble in its thoughts and disturbance of feelings.

The devil is like a lion, hiding in ambush (Ps. 9:29). He secretly sets out nets of unclean and unholy thoughts. So, it is necessary to break them off as soon as we notice them, by means of pious reflection and prayer.

During the singing of psalms, feats and great vigilance are demanded for our mind to be in conformity with our heart and lips; for otherwise stench is added to the incense in our prayers. For the Lord disdains a heart with unclean thoughts.

Let us continually, day and night, fall before the face of the goodness of God with tears, that He purify our hearts of any evil thought, so that we might worthily bring Him the gifts of our service. When we do not accept the evil thoughts put in us by the devil, we perform a good deed.

The unclean spirit has a strong influence only on the passionate; but those purified of passions he touches only indirectly and externally. A person in his youth cannot avoid being disturbed by physical thoughts. But he must pray to the Lord God, that the spark of depraved passions dies out at the very beginning. Then the flame within him will not become more intense.

Excessive Care about Worldly Matters

Excessive care about worldly matters is characteristic of an unbelieving and fainthearted person, and woe to us, if, in taking care of ourselves, we do not use as our foundation our faith in God, who cares for us! If we do not attribute visible blessings to Him, which we use in this life, then how can we expect those blessings from Him which are promised in the future? We will not be of such little faith. By the words of our Saviour, it is better first to seek the Kingdom of God, for the rest shall be added unto us (see Mt. 6:33).


When the evil spirit of sorrow seizes the soul, then, by filling it with bitterness and unpleasantness, it does not allow it to pray with necessary diligence; it disrupts the attention necessary for reading spiritual writings, deprives it of humility and good nature in the treatment of others and breeds aversion to any discussion. For the sorrowful soul, by becoming as if insane and frenzied, can neither accept kind advice calmly, nor answer posed questions meekly. It runs from people as if from the perpetrators of its embarrassment, not understanding that the reason for its illness — is within it. Sorrow is the worm of the heart, gnawing at the mother that bore it.

He who has conquered passions has also defeated sorrow. But one overcome by passions will not avoid the shackles of sorrow. As an ill person can be identified by the color of his face, so is one overcome by passions distinguished by sorrow.

It is impossible for one who loves the world not to feel sorrow. But he who despises the world is always cheerful. As fire purifies gold, so sorrow in God — penitence — purifies the sinful heart.

The Active and the Contemplative Life

A person consists of a soul and body, and therefore his life’s path should consist of both physical and spiritual activities — of deeds and contemplation.

The path of an active life consists of fasting, abstinence, vigilance, kneeling, prayer and other physical feats, composing the strait and sorrowful path which, by the word of God, leads to eternal life (Mt. 7:14).

The contemplative life consists in the mind aspiring to the Lord God, in awareness of the heart, focused prayer and in the contemplation of spiritual matters through such exercises.

Anyone desiring to lead a spiritual way of life must begin with the active life, and only later set about the contemplative, for without an active life it is impossible to lead a contemplative one.

An active life serves to purify us of sinful passions and raises us to the level of functioning perfection; at the same time it clears the way to a contemplative life. For only those cleansed of passions and the perfect can set out on that other life, as can be seen from the words of the Holy Scriptures: “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God” (Mt. 5:8), and from the words of Gregory the Theologian: “Only those who are perfect by their experience can without danger proceed to contemplation.”

If it is impossible to find a mentor who is able to direct us on the path to a contemplative life, then in that instance we must be guided by the Holy Scriptures, for the Lord Himself commands us to learn from it, saying: “Search the Scriptures; for in them ye think ye have eternal life” (John 5:39). One should not abandon the active life even when a person has so excelled in it that he has reached the contemplative, for the active life assists the contemplative and uplifts it.

The Light of Christ

In order to accept and perceive the light of Christ in one’s heart, it is necessary to divert oneself from the external as much as possible. First, by cleansing the soul with penitence and good deeds with true faith in the Crucified; then, by closing the physical eyes, it is necessary to immerse the mind in the heart and appeal to the name of our Lord Jesus Christ continually. Then, by measure of our zealousness and fervor of spirit for the Beloved (Lk. 3:22), a person with the calling of this name finds delight, which arouses a thirst toward greater enlightenment.

When a person internally contemplates the eternal light, his mind becomes clean and free of any sensory notions. Then, by being completely immersed in the contemplation of uncreated beauty, he forgets everything sensory, does not want to see even himself, but desires to hide in the heart of the earth, if only not to be deprived of this true good — God.

Acquiring the Holy Spirit

(from the Saint’s Conversation with Motovilov)

The true goal of our Christian life consists of acquiring God’s Holy Spirit. Fasting and vigil, prayer, mercy, and every other good deed performed for Christ — are means for acquiring the Holy Spirit of God. Only deeds performed for Christ give us the fruits of the Holy Spirit.

Some say that the foolish virgins lacking enough oil in their lamps is meant to be understood as a lack of good deeds (see Mt. 25:1-12). Such an understanding is not completely correct. How could there have been a lack of good deeds when they, though foolish, are still called virgins? For virginity is the highest virtue, as a state equal to the angels, and could by itself serve in place of all other virtues. I, the wretched, think that they did not have enough of the grace of the All-Holy Spirit of God. These virgins, because of their spiritual injudiciousness, supposed in performing good deeds that it is only necessary to do good works to be a Christian: “We performed a good deed and thus did God’s will.” Whether or not they had received the grace of the Holy Spirit, whether they had attained it, they did not even bother to find out … But, this acquiring of the Holy Spirit is in fact that oil which the foolish virgins lacked. They are called foolish because they forgot about the essential fruit of virtue — the grace of the Holy Spirit — without which there is no salvation for anyone and cannot be. For “through the Holy Spirit every soul is quickened, and through its purification, it is exalted and illumined by the Triune Unity in a Holy mystery.” The Holy Spirit Himself settles in our souls, and this occupation of our souls by Him, the All-Ruling, and this coexistence of our spirit with His One Trinity, is granted only through the diligent acquiring, on our part, of the Holy Spirit, which prepares, in our soul and body, the throne for the coexistence of God the All-Creator with our spirit, by the immutable word of God: “And I will walk among you and will be your God, and ye shall be my people” (Lev. 26:12).

This is the very oil in the lamps of the wise virgins, which burned brightly and steadily; the virgins with these burning lamps could await the Groom coming at midnight, and enter the chamber of joy with him. The foolish ones, seeing their lamps going out, though they went to the market to buy oil, did not manage to return in time, for the doors were already locked. The market is our life; the doors of the bridal chamber — locked and not permitting entrance to the Groom — human death, the virgins wise and foolish, Christian souls; the oil, not deeds, but the grace of the All Holy Spirit of God received through them, transforming from decay to incorruption, from emotional death into spiritual life, from darkness to light, from the manger of our existence, where our passions are tied like beasts and animals, into a church of God, into the all-lighted chamber of eternal joy in Jesus Christ.

Source: http://www.fatheralexander.org/booklets/english/seraphim_e.htm

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