Tuesday, March 3, 2009

The Church as Hospital & Orthodox Spirituality

Metropolitan Hierotheos Vlachos

St. Seraphim’s Fellowship
P.O. Box 351656
Jacksonville, Fl 32235-1656


Dear Inmate:

The Difference Between Orthodox Spirituality and Other Traditions

by Metropolitan Hierotheos Vlachos

Orthodox spirituality differs distinctly from any other "spirituality" of an eastern or western type. There can be no confusion among the various spiritualities, because Orthodox spirituality is God-centered, whereas all others are man-centered.
The difference appears primarily in the doctrinal teaching. For this reason we put "Orthodox" before the word "Church" so as to distinguish it from any other religion. Certainly "Orthodox" must be linked with the term "Ecclesiastic," since Orthodoxy cannot exist outside of the Church; neither, of course, can the Church exist outside Orthodoxy.

The dogmas are the results of decisions made at the Ecumenical Councils on various matters of faith. Dogmas are referred to as such, because they draw the boundaries between truth and error, between sickness and health. Dogmas express the revealed truth. They formulate the life of the Church. Thus they are, on the one hand, the expression of Revelation and on the other act as "remedies" in order to lead us to communion with God; to our reason for being.

Dogmatic differences reflect corresponding differences in therapy. If a person does not follow the "right way" he cannot ever reach his destination. If he does not take the proper "remedies," he cannot ever acquire health; in other words, he will experience no therapeutic benefits. Again, if we compare Orthodox spirituality with other Christian traditions, the difference in approach and method of therapy is more evident.

A fundamental teaching of the Holy Fathers is that the Church is a "Hospital" which cures the wounded man. In many passages of Holy Scripture such language is used. One such passage is that of the parable of the Good Samaritan: "But a certain Samaritan, as he journeyed, came where he was. And when he saw him, he had compassion . So he went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine; and he set him on his own animal, and brought him to an inn, and took care of him. On the next day, when he departed, he took out two denarii, and gave them to the innkeeper, and said to him, 'Take care of him; and whatever more you spend, when I come again, I will repay you" (Luke 10:33-35).

In this parable, the Samaritan represents Christ who cured the wounded man and led him to the Inn, that is to the "Hospital" which is the Church. It is evident here that Christ is presented as the Healer, the physician who cures man's maladies; and the Church as the true Hospital. It is very characteristic that Saint John Chrysostom, analysing this parable, presents these truths emphasised above.

Man's life "in Paradise" was reduced to a life governed by the devil and his wiles. "And fell among thieves," that is in the hands of the devil and of all the hostile powers. The wounds man suffered are the various sins, as the prophet David says: "my wounds grow foul and fester because of my foolishness" (Psalm 37). For "every sin causes a bruise and a wound." The Samaritan is Christ Himself who descended to earth from Heaven in order to cure the wounded man. He used oil and wine to "treat" the wounds; in other words, by "mingling His blood with the Holy Spirit, he brought man to life." According to another interpretation, oil corresponds to the comforting word and wine to the harsh word. Mingled together they have the power to unify the scattered mind. "He set him in His own beast," that is He assumed human flesh on "the shoulders" of His divinity and ascended incarnate to His Father in Heaven.
Then the Good Samaritan, i.e. Christ, took man to the grand, wondrous and spacious inn - to the Church. And He handed man over to the innkeeper, who is the Apostle Paul, and through the Apostle Paul to all bishops and priests, saying: "Take care of the Gentile people, whom I have handed over to you in the Church. They suffer illness wounded by sin, so cure them, using as remedies the words of the Prophets and the teaching of the Gospel; make them healthy through the admonitions and comforting word of the Old and New Testaments." Thus, according to Saint Chrysostom, Paul is he who maintains the Churches of God, "curing all people by his spiritual admonitions and offering to each one of them what they really need."

In the interpretation of this parable by Saint John Chrysostom, it is clearly shown that the Church is a Hospital which cures people wounded by sin; and the bishops and priests are the therapists of the people of God.

And this precisely is the work of Orthodox theology. When referring to Orthodox theology, we do not simply mean a history of theology. The latter is, of course, a part of this but not absolutely or exclusively. In Patristic tradition, theologians are the God-seers. Saint Gregory Palamas calls Barlaam [who attempted to bring Western scholastic theology into the Orthodox Church] a "theologian," but he clearly emphasises that intellectual theology differs greatly from the experience of the vision of God. According to Saint Gregory Palamas theologians are the God-seers; those who have followed the "method" of the Church and have attained to perfect faith, to the illumination of the nous and to divinisation (theosis). Theology is the fruit of man's cure and the path which leads to cure and the acquisition of the knowledge of God.

Western theology, however, has differentiated itself from Eastern Orthodox theology. Instead of being therapeutic, it is more intellectual and emotional in character. In the West [after the Carolingian "Renaissance"], scholastic theology evolved, which is antithetical to the Orthodox Tradition. Western theology is based on rational thought whereas Orthodoxy is hesychastic. Scholastic theology tried to understand logically the Revelation of God and conform to philosophical methodology.

Characteristic of such an approach is the saying of Anselm [Archbishop of Canterbury from 1093-1109, one of the first after the Norman Conquest and destruction of the Old English Orthodox Church]: "I believe so as to understand." The Scholastics acknowledged God at the outset and then endeavoured to prove His existence by logical arguments and rational categories. In the Orthodox Church, as expressed by the Holy Fathers, faith is God revealing Himself to man. We accept faith by hearing it not so that we can understand it rationally, but so that we can cleanse our hearts, attain to faith by theoria* and experience the Revelation of God.

Scholastic theology reached its culminating point in the person of Thomas Aquinas, a saint in the Roman Catholic Church. He claimed that Christian truths are divided into natural and supernatural. Natural truths can be proven philosophically, like the truth of the Existence of God. Supernatural truths - such as the Triune God, the incarnation of the Logos, the resurrection of the bodies - cannot be proven philosophically, yet they cannot be disproven. Scholasticism linked theology very closely with philosophy, even more so with metaphysics. As a result, faith was altered and scholastic theology itself fell into complete disrepute when the "idol" of the West - metaphysics - collapsed. Scholasticism is held accountable for much of the tragic situation created in the West with respect to faith and faith issues.
The Holy Fathers teach that natural and metaphysical categories do not exist but speak rather of the created and uncreated. Never did the Holy Fathers accept Aristotle's metaphysics. However, it is not my intent to expound further on this. Theologians of the West during the Middle Ages considered scholastic theology to be a further development of the teaching of the Holy Fathers, and from this point on, there begins the teaching of the Franks that scholastic theology is superior to that of the Holy Fathers. Consequently, Scholastics, who are occupied with reason, consider themselves superior to the Holy Fathers of the Church. They also believe that human knowledge, an offspring of reason, is loftier than Revelation and experience.

It is within this context that the conflict between Saint Gregory Palamas and Barlaam should be viewed. Barlaam was essentially a scholastic theologian who attempted to pass on scholastic theology to the Orthodox East.

Barlaam's views - that we cannot really know Who the Holy Spirit is exactly (an outgrowth of which is agnosticism), that the ancient Greek philosophers are superior to the Prophets and the Apostles (since reason is above the vision of the Apostles), that the light of the Transfiguration is something which is created and can be undone, that the hesychastic way of life (i.e. the purification of the heart and the unceasing noetic prayer) is not essential - are views which express a scholastic and, subsequently, a secularised point of view of theology. Saint Gregory Palamas foresaw the danger that these views held for Orthodoxy and through the power and energy of the Most Holy Spirit and the experience which he himself had acquired as a successor to the Holy Fathers, he confronted this great danger and preserved unadulterated the Orthodox Faith and Tradition.

Having given a framework to the topic at hand, if Orthodox spirituality is examined in relationship to Roman Catholicism and Protestantism, the differences are immediately discovered.

Protestants do not have a "therapeutic treatment" tradition. They suppose that believing in God, intellectually, constitutes salvation. Yet salvation is not a matter of intellectual acceptance of truth; rather it is a person's transformation and divinisation by grace. This transformation is effected by the analogous "treatment" of one's personality, as shall be seen in the following chapters. In the Holy Scripture it appears that faith comes by hearing the Word and by experiencing "theoria" (the vision of God). We accept faith at first by hearing in order to be healed, and then we attain to faith by theoria, which saves man. Protestants, because they believe that the acceptance of the truths of faith, the theoretical acceptance of God's Revelation, i.e. faith by hearing saves man, do not have a "therapeutic tradition." It could be said that such a conception of salvation is very naive.

The Roman Catholics as well do not have the perfection of the therapeutic tradition which the Orthodox Church has. Their doctrine of the Filioque is a manifestation of the weakness in their theology to grasp the relationship existing between the person and society. They confuse the personal properties: the "unbegotten" of the Father, the "begotten" of the Son, and the procession of the Holy Spirit. The Father is the cause of the "generation" of the Son and the procession of the Holy Spirit.
The Latins' weakness to comprehend and failure to express the dogma of the Trinity shows the non-existence of empirical theology. The three disciples of Christ (Peter, James and John) beheld the glory of Christ on Mount Tabor; they heard at once the voice of the Father, "This is My beloved Son," and saw the coming of the Holy Spirit in a cloud, for, the cloud is the presence of the Holy Spirit, as Saint Gregory Palamas says. Thus the disciples of Christ acquired the knowledge of the Triune God in theoria (vision of God) and by revelation. It was revealed to them that God is one essence in three hypostases.

This is what Saint Symeon the New Theologian teaches. In his poems he proclaims over and over that, while beholding the uncreated Light, the deified man acquires the Revelation of God the Trinity. Being in "theoria" (vision of God), the saints do not confuse the hypostatic attributes. The fact that the Latin tradition came to the point of confusing these hypostatic attributes and teaching that the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Son also, shows the non-existence of empirical theology for them. Latin tradition speaks also of created grace, a fact which suggests that there is no experience of the grace of God. For, when man obtains the experience of God, then he comes to understand well that this grace is uncreated. Without this experience there can be no genuine "therapeutic tradition."

And indeed we cannot find in all of Latin tradition, the equivalent to Orthodoxy's therapeutic method. The nous is not spoken of; neither is it distinguished from reason. The darkened nous is not treated as a malady, nor the illumination of the nous as therapy. Many greatly publicised Latin texts are sentimental and exhaust themselves in a barren ethicology. In the Orthodox Church, on the contrary, there is a great tradition concerning these issues, which shows that within it there exists
the true therapeutic method.

A faith is a true faith inasmuch as it has therapeutic benefits. If it is able to cure, then it is a true faith. If it does not cure, it is not a true faith. The same thing can be said about medicine: a true scientist is the doctor who knows how to cure and his method has therapeutic benefits, whereas a charlatan is unable to cure. The same holds true where matters of the soul are concerned. The difference between Orthodoxy and the Latin tradition, as well as the Protestant confessions, is apparent primarily in the method of therapy. This difference is made manifest in the doctrines of each denomination. Dogmas are not philosophy, neither is theology the same as philoosphy.

Since Orthodox spirituality differs distinctly from the "spiritualities" of other confessions, so much the more does it differ from the "spirituality" of eastern religions, which do not believe in the Theanthropic nature of Christ and the Holy Spirit. They are influenced by the philosophical dialectic, which has been surpassed by the Revelation of God. These traditions are unaware of the notion of personhood and thus the hypostatic principle. And love, as a fundamental teaching, is totally absent. One may find, of course, in these eastern religions an effort on the part of their followers to divest themselves of images and rational thoughts, but this is in fact a movement towards nothingness, to non-existence. There is no path leading their "disciples" to theosis-divinisation (see the note below) of the whole man.
This is why a vast and chaotic gap exists between Orthodox spirituality and the eastern religions, in spite of certain external similarities in terminology. For example, eastern religions may employ terms like ecstasy, dispassion, illumination, noetic energy, etc. but they are impregnated with a content different from corresponding terms in Orthodox spirituality.


Theoria is the vision of the glory of God. Theoria is identified with the vision of the uncreated Light, the uncreated energy of God, with the union of man with God, with man's theosis (see note below). Thus, theoria, vision and theosis are closely connected. Theoria has various degrees. There is illumination, vision of God, and constant vision (for hours, days, weeks, even months). Noetic prayer is the first stage of theoria. Theoretical man is one who is at this stage. In Patristic theology, the theoretical man is characterised as the shepherd of the sheep.

Theosis-Divinisation is the participation in the Uncreated grace of God. Theosis is identified and connected with the theoria (vision) of the Uncreated Light (see note above). It is called theosis in grace because it is attained through the energy, of the divine grace. It is a co-operation of God with man, since God is He Who operates and man is he who co-operates.

From Chapter 2 of Orthodox Spirituality: A brief introduction, published in 1994 by Birth of the Theotokos Monastery, Levadia, Greece. See also "Way Apart: What is the Difference Between Orthodoxy and Western Confessions?", by Metropolitan Anthony (Khrapovitsky) of Kiev and Galic.


Call No Man Father (Apologetics)

Christ, Made without hands

John 1:18

18 No man hath seen God at any time; the only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared him.

Heb 1:1-3

1:1 God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets, Hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son, whom he hath appointed heir of all things, by whom also he made the worlds; Who being the brightness of his glory, and the express image of his person, and upholding all things by the word of his power, when he had by himself purged our sins, sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high;

St. Seraphim's Fellowship
P.O. Box 351656
Jacksonville, Fl. 32235-1656


Dear Inmate:

Call No Man Father
By Fr. Richard Ballew

Several decades have passed since Bing Crosby donned clerical garb and portrayed on the screen a role which would endear him to many even to this day-Father O'Malley. Somewhat earlier in our century, one of the great humanitarians of our time, Father Flanagan, founded Boys Town in Nebraska. The home became a nationally known refuge for homeless boys. In many ways, Mother Teresa of India is his contemporary female counterpart in caring for the poor and downtrodden of her adopted land. But what are we to make of these titles? We admire the work and character of these people, but does not the Bible issue the command to call no man "father"? Certain statements made by Jesus have often been the basis of great controversy, both inside and outside the Church. His saying, "Do not call anyone on earth your father; for One is your Father, He who is in heaven",' has proven to be no exception.


Some Protestant interpreters are sure that Jesus is warning here against addressing Church leaders as "father". They, of course, are interpreting "father" in this Scripture to mean, "spiritual father". Therefore, they refuse to call their clergymen "father", preferring instead such titles as "pastor", "reverend", or perhaps even "brother". At the outset, therefore, let me point out that "spiritual father" is an interpretation of the Lord's statement rather than what He actually said. Mind you, I am not denying the need for interpretation of Scripture. Instead, I am pointing out that the Lord said "father", not "spiritual father". What is at issue here? Simply this: taken at face value, Jesus' warning against calling any man "father" would not only seem to rule out calling a clergyman "father" , it would also keep us from using that title for earthly fathers and grandfathers, ancient Church fathers, or even city fathers, would it not? For in reality, the Lord's statement, as it appears in the text, is that only one Person is ever to be called "father", namely, our Father who is in heaven. But is Christ's saying to be taken at face value? If so, several other passages in the Bible are immediately in conflict, including some statements by the Apostle Paul in the New Testament. To the church at Corinth he wrote, "For if you were to have countless tutors in Christ, yet you would not have many fathers; for in Christ Jesus I became your father through the gospel".2 Does not Paul claim to be the spiritual father of the Corinthians--"Father Paul", if you please? Furthermore, he boldly refers to his spiritual ancestry as "our fathers".3 And he did address earthly fathers in Colosse in this way: "Fathers, do not provoke your children, lest they become discouraged".4 It would appear the Apostle Paul certainly did not interpret the Lord Jesus Christ's words to mean only One was to be called "father", that is, the heavenly Father. In addition to this, when the rich man saw Abraham in heaven with Lazarus in his bosom, and addressed him as "Father Abraham", Abraham's response was not, "Do you not realize that only God the Father is to be called `father?" Rather, he replied, "Son, remember..".5 Instances like the above could be multiplied from Scripture to show that a great many people are acknowledged to be "fathers".


But let us not stop here. For after saying only "One is your Father", Jesus proceeded to declare, "And do not be called teachers; for One is your Teacher, the Christ".6 Yet He Himself acknowledged Nicodemus to be a "teacher of Israel".7 And in the church at Antioch certain men were called "prophets and teachers".8 Then again, the Apostle Paul not only recognized teachers as gifts of God to the Church,9 but he also did not hesitate to call himself "a teacher of the Gentiles".10 Furthermore, in this present day, almost all of us have at one time or another called certain people Sunday School teachers. The discussion thus goes far beyond any Protestant-Catholic lines. Therefore, in saying we should call no one "father" and "teacher", except God the Father and Christ Himself, the Lord Jesus appears not to be taking issue with the use of these particular titles in and of themselves. The context of the passage gives us the interpretive key we are looking for. In this "call no man father" passage, our Lord is contending with certain rabbis of His day who were using these specific titles to accomplish their own ends. And had these same apostate rabbis been using other titles, such as "reverend" and "pastor", Jesus, it seems to me, would have said of these as well, "Call no one reverend or pastor".

To what ends, therefore, were the rabbis using the titles "father" and "teacher"? The answer revolves around at least two critical areas of leadership: teaching and personal character. Consider first the teaching of these particular rabbis. They had begun their teaching at the right place, the Law of Moses. Said Jesus, "The scribes and the Pharisees sit in Moses' seat".11 Moses' Law was the true tradition. God had given it to Israel through Moses. The rabbis' responsibility was to preserve that tradition and faithfully pass it on to the next generation. All too often, however, a rabbi would add his own grain of wisdom to the true tradition, thereby clouding it. Instead of passing down the sacred deposit along with the true interpretations of that deposit, he would add his own private interpretation. In turn his disciples, like their teacher, would, after becoming rabbis, do the same thing. (Some things never change, do they!) The final outcome of all this was a tradition of men that made the true Mosaic tradition of no effect. To these very rabbis Jesus said, "For laying aside the commandment of God, you hold the tradition of men",12 and again, "All too well you reject the commandment of God, that you may keep your tradition . . . making the word of God of no effect through your tradition which you have handed down".13 The summation of their private interpretations did in fact "shut up the kingdom of heaven against men".14


In order to cut through all this tradition of men that had made the Mosaic tradition of no effect, and to bring people back to the truth, Jesus told His disciples, "But you, do not be called 'Rabbi.'"15 In other words, He was telling them not to use their positions as fathers and teachers as an opportunity to build disciples around their own private opinions. For to do so would only serve to "shut up the kingdom of heaven against men".16 Instead, with the coming of Christ, these rabbis-and indeed all who would teach God's Word-are to hand down faithfully the true tradition of only one Rabbi: Christ Himself. The Bible, through the pen of the Apostle John, calls this particular tradition "the doctrine of Christ".17 In fact, this is why the specific teaching of the Twelve became known as "the apostles' doctrine".18 Since their time, successive generations of fathers and teachers in the Church have handed down and guarded the apostolic doctrine concerning Christ very carefully, for it represents the true interpretation of Holy Scripture. This faithfulness to true Christian doctrine, by the way, can especially be seen in the Seven Ecumenical Councils of the Church, held between the fourth and eighth centuries. It behooves anyone who claims to be a teacher of Christ's doctrine to be faithful to the apostles' doctrine handed down in those Councils. Otherwise he runs the risk of inserting his own "private interpretation".19 While it is true that all teachers of Christ's doctrine must begin at the right place, namely, the Holy Scriptures, it is also true that they should give the correct and true interpretation of Holy Scripture as passed down by holy and godly teachers and fathers of the Church, especially in the Seven Councils. Why are the Seven Ecumenical Councils so important? Because they point out what the Church universally held to be the true teaching concerning the Person of the Lord Jesus Christ and the Holy Trinity. They are faithful to what the Holy Scriptures teach concerning the one true Rabbi and Teacher, Jesus Christ. Teachers and fathers who teach private interpretations contrary to the doctrine of Christ as taught in the Seven Ecumenical Councils should not, I believe, be recognized as true teachers and fathers.


A second critical area of rabbinic leadership with which Jesus was concerned was personal character. He had detected a major flaw in the character of the scribes and Pharisees, a sin that might be called self-exaltation. They were using their position as fathers and teachers among God's people to exalt themselves. They wanted to be sure they received appropriate recognition. In light of this lack of character, Jesus said, "But he who is greatest among you shall be your servant. And whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted".20 Their self-exalting spirit had manifested itself in several ways. First, in hypocrisy: "for they say", said Jesus, "and do not do."21 All talk and no walk. Their talk was cheap because it was totally contradicted by their behavior. In pretense they would make long prayers, but in behavior devour widows' houses.22 They would make oaths, swearing by the gold of the temple rather than by the temple that sanctified the gold, thereby revealing their secret love of money.23 Although they paid tithes of mint, anise, and cummin, which they should have done gladly, they neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice, mercy, and faith.24 Because they were hypocrites in these and numerous other ways, the Lord summed up His critique by saying, "Even so you also outwardly appear righteous to men, but inside you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.25 Plainly, their "insides" did not match their "outsides" because they were filled up with a self-exalting and self-serving spirit. A second manifestation of their selfexalting spirit was the noticeable lack of actual service on their part. "For", said Jesus, "they bind heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on men's shoulders; but they themselves will not move them with one of their fingers."26 No dirt was to be found under their fingernails. They were simply a group of lazy leaders who wanted to be served rather than to serve. No wonder, then, Jesus said not to be like them, for from God's standpoint, "he who is greatest among you shall be your servant."27 A third manifestation of their self-exalting spirit was self-love, demonstrated by a desire to be seen by men,28 by their love for the best seats at the feasts and in the synagogues,29 and by their love of greetings in the marketplaces, being called by men, "Rabbi, Rabbi."30 This self-love was a clear transgression of the Mosaic Law, which they professed to be keeping. For Moses' entire law could be summed up in the two great commandments, the greatest of which is, "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind."31 The second greatest is, "You shall love your neighbor as yourself."32 Thus, these fathers and teachers were not leading their people into the love of God and neighbor. Quite to the contrary, they were exhibiting a self-exalting, self-serving spirit, filled up with a love for self.


In the face of the stench and shame of the apostasy of these religious leaders, therefore, Jesus commanded His disciples, "Do not call anyone on earth your father; for One is your Father, He who is in heaven."33 While Father Abraham by his faithfulness deserved the title, as did others of Israel's greats in history, these men had forfeited their role as fathers. They were to cease and desist in their use of the term and, in turn, bow to God Himself as the fountainhead of all fatherhood. And in issuing His warning, Jesus addresses us today with the greatest of all commandments, pointing the fathers and teachers in His Church and those they lead to a primacy of love for God the Father and His Son, Jesus Christ, and to a love for one's neighbor.


From the beginning of Church history, as was true throughout Israel, those anointed by God for service were called by certain names: "prophet", "teacher" (rabbi in Israel), and "father." In that same spirit, other titles have emerged, such as "reverend", "pastor", "professor" (teacher), or "brother" (for some evangelical pastors and Catholic monks). These designations speak of both warmth and dignity. Just as in our family units there is one who with love is called "father", so in God's household we have honored and will continue to honor those who have brought us to the new birth through our Lord Jesus Christ. Indeed, what better term for them than "father"? Jesus warned against calling men "father" or "teacher" in order that the leadership of His holy nation would remain pure. Whether bishop, father, teacher, deacon, or pastor, all leaders must remain faithful to the true doctrine of Christ and manifest a personal character befitting godly humility, a humility that leads the Church into the love of God the Holy Trinity and of one's neighbor.
May the Lord have mercy on all of us who lead the flock, regardless of the title we are given.

Fr. Richard Ballew, an ex-Campus Crusade for Christ Senior Staff Member, fell asleep in the Lord on Saturday, December 13, 2008. May His Memory be Eternal.

In Christ's Mercy,

(All Scripture references, unless otherwise noted, are taken from the New King James Version.)
1. Matthew 23:9
2. 1 Corinthians 4:15 (New American Standard Version)
3. 1 Corinthians 10:1
4. Colossians 3:21
5. Luke 16:24, 25
6. Matthew 23:10
7. John 3:10
8. Acts 13:1
9. 1 Corinthians 12:28 and Ephesians 4:11
10. 2 Timothy 1:11
11. Matthew 23:2
12. Mark 7:8
13. Mark 7:9, 13
14. Matthew 23:13
15. Matthew 23:8
16. Matthew 23:13
17. 2 John 9
18. Acts 2:42
19. 2 Peter 1:20
20. Matthew 23:11, 12
21. Matthew 23:3
22. Matthew 23:14
23. Matthew 23:16, 17
24. Matthew 23:23
25. Matthew 23:28
26. Matthew 23:4
27. Matthew 23:11
28. Matthew 23:5
29. Matthew 23:6
30. Matthew 23:7
31. Matthew 22:37

The Church as a Spiritual Hospital

St. John the Wonderworker

St. Seraphim’s Fellowship
P.O. Box 351656
Jacksonville, Fl 32235-1656


Dear Inmate:

This exceptional article, by one of The Church's most revered saints, presents the idea of the Church as a Spiritual Hospital. This one is writen by St. John of Krondstadt. I hope you benefit greatly by it.

The Church—The Treasury of Salvation

by St. John of Kronstadt

I. Understanding of the Church. The Church as the instructor of Christian souls which possesses all the means for the salvation of man. Grace.

The holy Church is God's most supreme, mast holy, most good, most wise and necessary establishment upon the earth. She is "the true tabernacle'' of God, " which the Lord pitched, and not man" (Heb. viii. 2)—not Luther, not Calvin, and not Mohammed, nor Buddha, nor Confucius, nor any other suchlike sinful, passionate person. The Church is a union of people established by God, united among themselves by the Faith, Doctrine, Hierarchy, and Mysteries. She is Christ's spiritual army, equipped with spiritual weaponry against the numberless armed hordes of the devil: "For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual wickedness in high places" (Eph. vi. 12). She is a spiritual hospital where mankind, enfeebled by the open wound of sin, is cured by grace-filled treatments given by God—by repentance and communion in the Holy Mysteries of Christ, in Christ's Body and Blood, and by the word of God, by the instructions and counsels and consolations of the shepherds of Christ's rational flock. She is a common laver of purification, rebirth, and sanctification; she is God’s sanctuary in which all are sanctified by the Holy Spirit through Baptism, Chrismation, and the other Mysteries, and the Divine Service. She is the spiritual sun of the world, enlightening and giving 1ife to all who sit in the darkness and shadow of death an who are dead through sin.

In nature there is the law of the attraction of smaller bodies to larger ones, and these in turn to still larger ones, and also the law of the attraction of cohesion (the cohesion of the various soft, hard, and fluid parts of organic bodies, and likewise of non-organic bodies—of rocks, metals, minerals, petrifactions); whereby is conditioned the existence, firmness, order, use, beauty, mutual bond, and diversity of all created things. The reason for this is the measureless wisdom, goodness and infinite omnipotence of the Creator, Who has made such a wonderful, majestic, and beautiful world, of endless diversity and marvelous magnitude, a work which presents itself as a single harmonious, fair unalterable whole.
In the spiritual world there also exists a law of mutual attraction and unity. The world is one, God is one, the Faith is one, and God's Church is one; for Her Head is Christ God, and Her Pilot, Who quickens the whole body of the Church, is the Spirit of God, "the giver of life, Who also quickens and fills the entire universe.

With what wonderful tender care, overflowing with love, did the Heavenly Father honor the human race which was perishing in sins! What extraordinary means was given to men for salvation from sins from the curse, and from eternal perdition! What a marvelous mighty single-handed Combatant (Christ) was sent from heaven against the powerful, wicked, most malignant antagonist of the race of men—the devil! What a Church, established upon the earth, insuperable by any of the forces of hades, a castle and bastion in which all who truly believe and are truly devoted to this Church can abide without danger from the antagonist! What saving Mysteries have been granted! What and how many rational instruments and preachers of God's grace are placed in this Church for the people! But what indeed must men bring to the Lord in return for His great care for their salvation?—Their faith, their labor, their repentance, their self-denial, their earnest struggle against sin, exercise in the acts of virtue, utter subservience to the Lord and His Church.

The Church is one; Her Head is one; the flock is one; the body is one with many members. Without the Head—Christ—the Church is not the Church, but a self-willed gathering. Such are the Lutherans, the Russian Old Believers, the Pashkovtsy and the followers of Tolstoy.

"I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world" (Matt. xxviii. 20). The Lord Himself is ever-present in His Church;—why then a vicar, the pope? And can a sinful man take the place of the lord? He cannot. There can be, and there are, vicars for the Tsar, for the Patriarch, but no one can be a vicar, a substitute, for the Lord, Who is the Tsar without beginning and the Head of the Church. Truly, the Catholics have gone astray. Suggest to them, O Lord, that those who affirm such things are foolish and laid around with pride as with a necklace.

The most harmful thing in Christianity, in this God-revealed, heavenly religion, is the leadership of one man in the Church—for instance, the pope, and his supposed infallibility. It is precisely in the dogma of his infallibility that the greatest mistake is contained, for the pope is a sinful man, and O the disaster if he fancies himself to be infallible! How many great errors, destructive of the souls o men, has the Catholic, papal church thought up—in dogmas, in rites, in canonical rules, in the Divine Services, in the deadly and malicious relations of the Catholics with the Orthodox, in blasphemies and slanders against the Orthodox Church, in revilings directed against the Orthodox Christians! And of all this the professedly infallible pope is guilty, with his and the Jesuits' teaching, their spirit of falsehood, duplicity, and every sort of unrighteous means ad maiorem Dei gloriam (for the—alleged—greater glory of God).

We are members of the Holy Orthodox Church, members of the Body of Christ, whose Head is Christ God Himself, but each is a member individually; Christ is holy, the Head of the body, and therefore the members also must be holy.

Christians are members of the Church, and the Church is the Body of Christ, with the Head being Christ Himself, and the Enlightener, the Holy Spirit. "Christ also loved the Church, and gave Himself for It, ... that He might present It to Himself a glorious Church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that It should be holy and without blemish" (Eph. v. 2 '-27). You are the holy and chosen flock, you are members of the holy catholic and apostolic Church. What indeed is demanded of you! What holiness, what truth! What attention to yourselves! What spiritual contemplation and activity in secret! What morals, virtues, what faith, what hope, what love! What abstinence, compassion, care for one another, what urging of one another to virtue!

After the descent of the Holy Spirit upon the Apostles is described in the book of Acts, the all-providential activity of the Holy Spirit in the Church is often mentioned, His most sovereign guidance through the Apostles, by means of their salutary preaching and actions within the Church. Indeed, this is the "other Comforter" (John xiv. 16), Who is all-good and all-true, Whom the Lord Jesus Christ promised to send to the Apostles.—Glory to Thee, O Holy Spirit, the life-creating Comforter, acting unceasingly everywhere within the Church of Christ. Convert, O Lord, by the judgments which Thou knowest, the peoples gone astray—the Jews, Mahometans, pagans, and within Christianity itself, the heretical and schismatical peoples and races; reprove and uproot vices; direct them to piety and enlighten the Orthodox Christians of impiety and corruption and direct all upon the way of salvation; teach and guide the youth, protect childhood, cause babyhood to grow and guide them by Guardian Angels, instruct men young and old, enlighten and strengthen both men and women through Thy most good, most wise, all-powerful dominion, and fortify and guide them unto every virtue, dispersing sinful passions like darkness for the sake of Christ our Lord, by the good will of the Father. Amen.

Mighty and all-powerful is the intercession of the Holy Church before God, which is clothed in the merits, power, truth, and magnificence of the Son of God, of Her all-good and all-powerful Head. All things are possible to Her intercession. No other, heterodox church possesses such power of intercessions since they are without the Head and are wrong in their thinking.

The Christian must unremittingly care for his spiritual education for which he was born anew in the holy font through the Holy Spirit, received spiritual regeneration, and was sealed with chrism, or the seal of the Holy Spirit, and was made worthy of the right to communicate in the Most immaculate Blood of Christ.—According to, God's intent, the holy Church is the first and most lawful educator of Christian souls. There is no more important work than that of Christian education. Judge and understand for yourselves how dear are these rational, immortal souls unto God, which were redeemed by the Blood of the Son of God Himself, which were called out of the darkness of ignorance into the light of the knowledge of God by the Lord Himself, which were betrothed and united to the Lord as pure virgins to a most pure Bridegroom! How dear is the salvation of these souls, to whom He offers His most immaculate Body and most pure Blood as food and drink, whom He Himself undertook to educate spiritually through these wonderful, dreadful, life-creating and deifying Mysteries! Devote yourselves, all of you, to your spiritual education with all attention and diligence; devote yourselves to thoughts concerning God, to prayer, self-investigation, self-condemnation, with self-amendment in every way; exercise yourselves in the virtues of meekness, humility, obedience, patience, compassion, chastity, simplicity, guilelessness and cut off all sinful thoughts, lusts, habits, passions.

Our negligence, carelessness, and laziness concerning our salvation is amazing; for how many means, faculties, and conveniences are granted to us for it by the all-compassionate and greatly merciful Lord! First: our natural thirst for salvation, peace, and blessedness in the soul; the light of the understanding and the yearning of our will for all that is true, good, beautiful, pure, exalted; the abundance of grace given to us for salvation, which flows like rivers within the Church and fills the souls thirsting for salvation; the nearness and readiness of the Lord to save us at every time and every moment; "the Spirit Himself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered" (Rom. viii. 26), the assistance and co-operation of our guardian angels for our salvation, the daily Divine Service in the Church, the saving Mysteries, prayers, and intercession of the Mother of God and all the Saints. It is amazing how in the face of all this we can still perish, and not all be saved. Certainly there are many things that impede our salvation: temptations from our too-passionate flesh, from the adulterous and sinful world, from the devil who has everywhere laid snares for our destruction; the corruption of our nature, our sinful conception and birth in sin; the inclinations and habits of sin. However, far greater are the means for salvation than the means to perdition. "For greater is He that is in you (Christ), than he that is in the world (the devil)" (I John iv. 4), and all the Saints overcame all obstacles and were saved. But what do we do? We drowse and sleep! Shameful, sinful, painful, woeful! Sin gains power over us in that it has buried itself deeply in us and has taken its seat in us, in our hearts, in our passionate flesh, and has made itself a fortress out of our own passions, out of our self-love, concupiscence, love of honor, pride, love of possessions, incontinence, self-conceit, little faith, unbelief, free-thinking, hypocrisy, partiality, laziness; and by these passions, as with mighty weapons, it shoots us down and takes us into captivity, cutting us off, alienating us from Christ, our true Life. Wherefore he who desires salvation must dig, delve into his heart, and lay his foundation upon the rock, that is, upon Christ the Saviour, upon strong, unshakable faith in Him, upon hope on Him, and upon no one and nothing else,—upon strong love for Him and his neighbor.

In His Church the Lord acts with us as the Creator, the skillful Artist and Reconstructor, as the Father, wise Physician, and Saviour, the Provider, the Commander of life, Nurturer, Law-giver, the Leader of His spiritual troops, the Single-handed Combatant, the Victor. Indeed, man is in His hands—His creation, rational in His image, destined for immortality and yet fallen, broken, defiled, cast away from God because of sins;—His creation, which was accursed, but by the mercy and compassions of the Only-begotten Son of God, was redeemed, raised up from fallenness, delivered from the curse, and honored once more with the blessing of the heavenly Father through the intercession and merits of the Son, delivered from the darkness of transgressions, illumined by the heavenly light of the Gospel of Christ, fashioned anew and purified from the dross and uncleanliness of sin, washed in the mystic Bath, made sweet-smelling by holy Chrism and sealed upon all the senses with the seal of the Holy Spirit, guided along the path of salvation to the kingdom and blessedness on high, strengthened in his warfare with sin and the hostile evil powers by the Lord Himself, mystically nourished in the grace of the Holy Spirit by the Heavenly Bread, guided by invisible shepherds invested with spiritual authority by the Almighty Head of the Church Himself, the Lord Jesus Christ. You ask: Why are there such-and-such Mysteries in the Church; why priesthood and pastorship; why churches, why Divine Service, why ceaseless preaching of the Word of God ? Why repentance, why participation in the holy Mysteries?—All this is indispensible for the re-creation, enlightenment, guidance, and strengthening of fallen, defiled, corrupt, perishing man. Behold why the grace of Baptism, recreation, regeneration, and renewal by the Holy Spirit are necessary. Thou art honored with the greatest honor, O man: thou art destined to be a bearer of the Godhead, a God-bearer. Hast thou heard of the God-bearing Fathers, who constantly had God within themselves, as in living temples not made by hands ? And thou shouldest: be just such a God-bearer; unto thee it is given to partake of the Body and Blood of the God-man Christ for just this reason: in order that the Lord should ever abide in thee, according to His word and promise: "He that eateth My Flesh and drinketh My Blood, dwelleth in Me, and I in him" (John vi. 56).

Christ came to renew human nature which had been corrupted by sin, and entrusted this greatest work of His goodness, mercy, truth, and wisdom to His Holy Church. The Holy Spirit, Who came into the world and Who operates in the Church through the clergy, the Divine Service, the sermon, and the Mysteries, works this renewal without ceasing. Only within the Church is this renovating force contained, outside the Church it does not exist and cannot.

I sorrow, I wail, and I weep profoundly over the horrible wound of sin which corrupts mankind, miserable beyond measure, indescribably, diversely—O the seductiveness of sin by which mankind is enslaved and labors for sin, and even boasts in its work, and is comforted as by some profit! But together with this I also rejoice and exult and clap my hands when I consider and imagine that divine aid which is granted to us by the will of the Creator as a gift from the great Saviour and God to the whole race of man, and for the planting of the Church of God upon the earth, which saves the human race through God's wonderful grace.

What indeed is Grace? It is the Gift of God granted to a man because of his belief in Christ, for the salvation of the Christian man. Grace is a power, an interceding power, which has mercy, enlightens' saves, and disposes to every virtue.

Grace which has taken up its dwelling in a man who believes and is zealous for holiness and truth, unceasingly drives corruption and every sin out of his heart and body, out of the whole of his being, and prepares him for eternal incorruption, drives out the stench of the passions and settles fragrance within him. The Saints even during their life in the body were fragrant with holiness and incorruption and were pure temples of the Holy Spirit, working miracles. Live then according to the Spirit, "and make not provision for the flesh, to fulfill the lusts thereof" (Rom. xiii. 14).

The commandment of self-renunciation is given; the place is set out for struggles, virtues, for unfading crowns of glory; grace is given, the power of God to overcome and conquer the wickedness of the enemy and all the passions. The Lord Himself, the setter of the contest, helps those who struggle, provides trophies and crowns for His warriors.

Every sinner who sincerely turns to God must rely completely upon every sort of grace-filled help from God during his warfare with sins, passions, and every kind of sinful habit. It is only necessary to believe in God sincerely and undoubtingly, and heartily to call upon His aid, and sincerely to despise sin, to repent earnestly with a pure intention and thenceforth not yield to sin. All the Saints, the Mother of God Herself, the holy guardian Angels, and God's servants are all ready to provide help for our salvation; spiritual fathers and pastors have been ordained by God in order to save and guide those who seek salvation. Behold the conscience of every man, this unbribable, stern, and righteous judge—thou must but obey it eagerly and unceasingly.

All that is pure, lawful, and holy the impure devil endeavors to defile, or to represent, to depict in an impure, perverted, distorted manner. O how evil he is, how impure, impudent, tireless, and active in his wickedness, in his malice, in his abomination! Who can escape his nets? He who believes firmly in Christ and the Church.

The Lord, for the good of His rational creation—that is, men—desires to unite all into one body and Himself to dwell in them. "That they may all be one, as Thou, Father, art in Me, and I in Thee, that they also may be one in Us" (John xvii. 21). However, the devil "strives to disunite, dismember, drive all apart, like a flock without a shepherd: in families he plants enmity, dissension, dissatisfaction, or insult; in villages, in cities he causes some to rise up against others; among nations he causes peoples to rise up against peoples, kingdom against kingdom; among religious communities he causes those who have one confession to rise up against the adherents of another, and he especially breathes wrath upon those who confess the Orthodox faith, as against the true Church of God, inciting different persecutions against them. But let us hold to the one holy Orthodox Church, whose head is Christ our God Himself, ever acting within us for our salvation and renewal.

The enemy of our salvation is the devil, and knowing all the saving power of our union with God through faith, the Church and God's grace, he strives with all the means he has to tear asunder our bond with God by sin, by carnal passions, and by attachments to the world. It is necessary for all to hold tightly to the union with God and the Church, keeping the commandments of the Lord.
II. Life in unfailing union with the Church. The indispensability of belonging to the one true Orthodox Church.

Thus it is indispensable to belong to Christ's Church, the Head of which is the Almighty Tsar, the Conqueror of hades, Jesus Christ Himself. His kingdom is the Church which wars with principalities, powers, the world-rulers of the darkness of this age, with spirits of wickedness in high places, which compose a skillfully organized kingdom, and do combat in an extremely experienced, intelligent, well-directed and powerful manner with all men, having well studied all their passions and inclinations. Here no man by himself on the battlefield can be a combatant; and even a great community which is not Orthodox, and is without the Head—Christ—can do nothing against such cunning, subtle, constantly vigilant enemies, who are so skilled in the science of their warfare.

For Orthodox Christians a mighty support is necessary from on high, from God and from Christ’s holy warriors who have defeated the enemies of salvation by the power of the grace of Christ, from pastors and teachers, and then—from common prayer and from the Mysteries. Behold, precisely such a helper in the struggle with our invisible and visible enemies is the Church of Christ, to Which, through God's mercies, we belong. The Catholics have invented a new head, having demoted the one true Head of the Church—Christ. The Lutherans fell away and remained without a head. The Anglicans likewise. There is no Church among them; the union with the Head is broken; there is no Almighty help and Belial wages war with all his power and cunning, and holds them all in his delusion and perdition. A multitude perish in atheism and depravity.

By creating man in His own image and Likeness, the Creator placed a close bond between Himself and His creation, that is, man. Man was obliged to maintain this blessed union through scrupulous submission to his Creator, through fulfillment of His holy, wise, and life-giving commandments; as a summary of these commandments, the commandment not to taste of the fruits of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil was given to him. This commandment was to have strengthened his will in its agreement with the will of God, so that God's will should be one with the will of man,—as the will of one of the Persons of the Trinity is in complete accord with the will of the second and third Persons: "As Thou, Father, art in Me, and I in Thee, that they also may be one in Us" (John xvii. 21). But by his disobedience, man audaciously broke his union with God and thus fell away from God and His life. And since the wages of sin is death, man was subjected to temporal and eternal death, and to all the innumerable, pernicious consequences of sin—illnesses, calamities, griefs, sorrows, corruption, every sort of deformity, and every kind of slavery to sin. Other than the Son of God no one could reestablish this lost union, and He, in His measureless goodness and condescension towards fallen man, most wisely and wonderfully restored it; and intelligent and chosen men have utilized this marvelously good restoration. But by what means was this union re established? By the Son of God's assumption of human nature without sin, fulfilling all God's righteousness with human nature, taking upon Himself our curse, suffering and dying for us, and, having conquered death, by rising from the dead and giving resurrection to us—incorruption to us. He established one Church upon the earth with Himself as the Head and under the direction of the Holy Spirit. Within the Church He granted all the means for the restoration of the broken union with God through the Mysteries and teaching, through the guidance of the pastors; He gave Baptism, Chrismation, Repentance, Divine Service, constant instruction in the Word of God. Now, whoever wishes to live in holy union with God, be thou in union with the Church which instructs, which holds Divine Service unto holiness and truth and the Kingdom of God—and thou shalt be saved.

"He that is not with Me is against Me: and he that gathered not with Me scattereth" (Luke xi. 23). He who is not with the Church is against the Church; he who is not within the Church is against the Church; he who has not the faith is against the faith; he who does not do the works of repentance, the works of virtue, is against virtue. It is but a small thing to be named a Christian: one must do the works and fulfill the commandments which Christ decreed; unceasing repentance is necessary, unceasing attention to oneself in the spirit of faith, unceasing prayer, unceasing correction, unceasing forcing of oneself ahead, unceasing self-perfection, and with this goal—unceasing self-examination: are we in the faith? do we live according to the faith? are we with the Church? do we go to church? do we love the Church? do we fulfill the dictates of the Church? or the commandments of Christ preached by Her? Behold then how Christ God teaches. Therefore he who does not repent, who does not attend church, and instead of church goes to the theater and various spectacles and worldly gatherings, disdaining the Church—such a one is not a Christian.

God has bound the Orthodox faithful to Himself by means of the one Holy Spirit and the one Church, by one faith, by the unity of the law, the Mysteries, and the hierarchy, for the general good of His rational creation. One must hold on to this bond through holiness of life and submission to one another.

Christian man! While there is still time, strive to appropriate God and His Saints to thyself here upon the earth through faith and piety; be churchly, nourish in thyself the spirit of churchliness, the spirit of repentance, holiness, peace, thoughts of God, the spirit of love, meekness, humility, patience, submissiveness to good, salvation. Lift not shine head, and scorn not thy Mother the Church which saves thee;—attend church often during Divine Service, stand with humility, listen, reflect, or read and chant. If thou cost not gain Her here, and through Her, God,—thou shalt remain foreign to Her and to God, and after death, God shall not take thee, and all His Saints shall renounce thee as some one foreign to them in spirit and in disposition of heart and thoughts. Thou shalt be driven into a strange country, into the gloomy and fiery place of the fallen spirits and unrepentant souls of men. Be wise, therefore, in order to escape the craftiness of the devil and attain thy great calling.

Thou belongest to the Church of God, that is, the community of those who believe in Christ; this Church is the one Body of Christ, God is the Head. Art thou a worthy member, cost thou live in holiness, cost thou always repent, cost thou correct shine heart and life, thy morals, thoughts, feelings, intentions, yearnings, thy whole behavior?, Art thou a living member, or dead? Will the Saints receive thee when thou departest from this temporal life into the eternal one? Will they not renounce thee as a putrid member reeking, worthless? Till not thy fate be in common with those who are reprobate from God ? Hasten to set this matter right, to correct shine entire behavior. For this thou art granted time.

The work of the salvation of our souls is the greatest and most wise work, and to learn this work, this art, it is necessary to have recourse to those to whom this work is known, who have completed it. This work of salvation, this work of repentance, is especially known to the Saints, since they have especially endeavored to concern them selves with it, and have carried it in a surpassing manner, one saving for their souls and pleasing to God. Indeed, the Saints have left this spiritual inheritance, this art of repentance and salvation, to the Orthodox Church, having laid up in Her, as in a secure treasure house, all their understanding, their instruction, their zeal, their art, their experiences Let us therefore learn repentance and salvation from Her. We all have come and do come to the church services for Sundays, holidays, ordinary days, and for the Great Fast. All these services teach us repentance and salvation. Have you heard the Great Canon of St. Andrew of Crete? Heard the prayer of St. Ephrem the Syrian? Heard the troparia and canons for the Great Fast? What a spirit of repentance is in them! What a compunction, what contrition for the sins of sinful mankind! What a thirst for salvation and pardon from God! What wails and tears of sinners repenting! Behold and learn repentance and propitiation of the Lord from the holy Church. Attend well, reflect, comprehend your sins, have contrition, repent, vaunt not yourselves, do the works of mercy: for the merciful shale obtain mercy.

It fell to the lot of fallen man, after the measureless compassion of God and the unsearchable wisdom and justice of God, to have the honor of confessing the name of God before unbelievers and of suffering for this Name, for the Lord God Who is glorified and worshipped in Trinity. The Apostles, martyrs, hierarchs, monastic saints, and the righteous have been deemed worthy of this honor in particular. All those who now struggle for the Orthodox Christian faith and for virtue, those who firmly defend the holy Orthodox faith and Church and undergo slander and torment at the hands of Her enemies are also found worthy of this honor.

The Holy men of God would not betray the faith and by even so much as a word, and if it did happen that because of the cunning of the persecutors, they unawares betrayed it by either word or deed, they were ready to erase their sin by means of the tortures. See how strictly the Saints held to the right confession! And of what sort are present-day Christians? "Reeds shaken with the wind" (Matth. xi. 7).

"Receiving the end of your faith, even the salvation of your souls" (I Peter i. 9). Behold the end and goal of the Orthodox Christian faith—the salvation of the soul of every believer. How invaluable is our faith; how holy, true, God-pleasing, powerful, saving! How necessary it is to love Her, worthily to esteem Her, constantly to utilize Her for one's own salvation and that of others. O Lord, save the race of Orthodox Christians, and convert all the non-orthodox to Orthodoxy, as to the one faith which saves, established by Thee, glorified by Thee, and to be eternally glorified by Thee! Thou art holy and righteous—and Thy faith is holy and righteous.

What does the rite of conversion from different beliefs and confessions and of being united to the Orthodox Church show forth? The indispensability of the rejection of false beliefs and confessions, of the renunciation of errors, of the confession of the true faith and—of repentance for all former sins and of the promise to God to keep and firmly confess the blameless faith, to guard against sins and live in virtue.

The beginning of all false teachings, heresies, sects, and schisms is in the serpent who deceives the whole world. The first, most pernicious false teaching was preached by the serpent to Eve in paradise and then to Adam, then Cain, to whom the primordial manslayer—the devil—falsely whispered against Abel that he stood in Cain's way, went against him, did not think, did not feel, did not live as he did, that he supposedly mocked him, reviled him. From hence arise all heresies, sects, and schisms. They wish to be teachers, not from God but rather from themselves and according to their passions. From hence arise the followers of Tolstoy, the Pashkovtsy, the Stundists, and others.

"Suppose ye that I am come to give peace on the earth? I tell you, Say; but rather division: for from henceforth there shall be five in one house (the Church of Christ) divided, three against two, and two against three" (Luke xii. 51-52). Catholics, Reformed, Lutherans,. Old Believers, sectarians.

A hatred of Orthodoxy, fanaticism against and persecution of the Orthodox, even killings, run like a crimson thread through all the ages of Catholicism's existence. By their fruits ye shall know them. Was such a spirit commanded to us by Christ? If to anyone, it is always possible to say to Catholics, Lutherans, and Reformed: "Ye know not what manner of spirit ye are of" (Luke ix, 55).

The cause of all the errors of the Roman Catholic Church is pride and the acknowledgment of the pope as the real head of the church' and what is more—that he is infallible. From hence all the oppression on the part of the western church arises. The oppression of thought and faith, the deprivation of true freedom both in faith and life, in all things upon which the pope has placed his heavy hand; from hence come the false dogmas, from hence the duplicity and slyness in thought, word, and deed; from hence—the various false rules and regulations, for the confession of sins; from hence indulgences; from hence the distortion of dogmas; from hence the fabrication of the saints of the western church and non-existent relics, not glorified by God; from hence—"the exalting against the knowledge of God" (II Cor. x. 5), and every sort of opposition to God under the appearance of piety and zeal for the greater glory of God.

The pope and the papists have become so proud and have so exalted themselves that they have thought to criticize Christ Himself, the Hypostatic Wisdom of God Himself, and have extended their pride to the point that they have distorted some of His words, commandments, and ordinances which should not be altered to the end of this age: for example, His statement concerning the Holy Spirit, His commandment concerning the cup of His all-immaculate Blood, of Which they have deprived the layman, setting at naught the words of the Apostle Paul: "For as often as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup, ye do shew the Lord's death till He come" (I Cor. xi. 26); instead of leavened bread in the liturgy, they use wafers.

I thank the Lord Who has heard and hears my prayers in the presence of the most saving and dread sacrifice (the Body and Blood of Christ; for the great communities which have gone astray in their faith, which though named Christian are in reality apostate—the Catholic, Lutheran, Anglican, and others; also that all peoples may be drawn to the true faith, as also our Old Believers.

Count L. Tolstoy infringed upon the truth of the Gospel and the whole of Sacred Scripture and perverted the thought of the Gospel, which is indisputably most important and invaluable for the people of all ages. He rejected the belief in Christ as the Son of God, the Redeemer and Saviour of the world, and led astray many who followed in his footsteps, and destroyed them; he renounced the Church, founded by Christ, trampled upon the grace of Baptism, Chrismation, Repentance, Communion and all the Mysteries; because of his self-conceit he accounts himself to be the judge of the Word of God and his own supreme criterion, and does not verify himself by It. But woe unto them that are wise in their own eyes and in their own sight! (Esaias v. 21);

This article is from Orthodox Life, July-August 1970 (no. 4), pp. 14-29. Originally from Christian Philosophy, Ch. IV


Catholic Monk Letter Part 2 (Apologetics)

Saint Peter's Basilica Vatican City, Rome

St. Seraphim’s Fellowship
P.O. Box 351656
Jacksonville, Fl 32235-1656


Dear Inmate:

Why I abandoned Papism

Part 2

The Frightful answer of a Jesuit.

I almost gave up on my studies during that period, taking advantage of the hours that my order allowed me to retire to my cell, to think of nothing else but my big problem. For whole months I would study the structure and organization of the early Church, straight from the apostolic and patristic sources. However, all this work could not be done totally in secrecy. It looked obvious that my exterior life was greatly affected by this great concern which had overwhelmed all my interest and sapped all my strength. I never lost an opportunity to enquire from outside the monastery whatever could contribute towards shedding light to my problem. This way I started to discuss the topic with known ecclesiastical acquaintances in relation to the trust I had in their frankness and their heart. This way I would receive continuously impressions and opinions on the topic which were for me always interesting and significant.

I found most of these clerics more fanatical than I expected. Even though they were deeply aware of the absurdity of the teaching on the Pope, being stuck to the idea that "the required submission to the Pope demands a blind consent of our views" and in the other maxim by the founder of Jesuits by which "That we may possess the truth and not fall in fallacy, we owe it to always depend on the basic and immovable axiom that what we see as white in reality it is black, if that is what the hierarchy of the Church tells us". With this fantastic bias a priest of the order of Jesus, entrusted me with the following thought:-

"What you tell me I acknowledge that they are most logical and very clear and true. However, for us Jesuits, apart from the usual three vows, we give a fourth one during the day of our tonsure. This fourth vow is more important than the vow of purity, obedience and poverty. It is the vow that we must totally submit to the Pope. This way, I prefer to go to hell with the Pope than to Paradise with all your truths.

A few centuries ago they would have burnt you in the fires of Holy Inquisition.
According to the opinion of most of them, I was a heretic. Here's what a bishop wrote to me, "A few centuries ago, the ideas you have, would have been enough to bring you to the fires of Holy Inquisition".

However, despite all this I intended to stay in the monastery and give myself to the purely spiritual life, leaving the responsibility to the hierarchy for the deceit and its correction. But could the important things of the soul be safe on a road of super physical life, where the arbitrariness of the Pope could pile up new dogmas and false teachings concerning the pious life of the Church? Moreover, since the purity of teaching was built with falsehoods about the pope, who could reassure me that this stain would not spread into the other parts of the evangelical faith?

It is therefore not strange if the holy men within the Roman Church started to sound the alarm by saying such as: "Who knows if the minor means of salvation that flood us, do not cause us to forget our only Saviour, Jesus...."? "Today our spiritual life appears like a multi-branch and multi-leaf tree, where the souls do no more know where the trunk is, that everything rests on, and where the roots are that feed it".

"With such a manner we have decorated and overloaded our religiocity, so that the face of Him who is the "focus of the issue" is lost inside the decorations" Being therefore convinced that the spiritual life within the bosom of the papist Church will expose me to dangers, I ended up taking the decisive step. I abandoned the monastery and after a little while I declared I did not belong to the Roman Church. Some others seemed prepared until then to follow me, but at the last moment no one proved prepared to sacrifice so radically his position within the Church, with the honour and consideration he enjoyed.

This way I abandoned the Roman Church, whose leader, forgetting that the Kingdom of the Son of God "is not of this world" and that "he who is called to the bishopric is not called to any high position or authority but to the diaconate of all the Church", but imitating him who "wishing in his pride to be like god, he lost the true glory, put on the false one" and "sat in the temple of God as god". Rightly did Bernard De Klaraval write about the Pope: "There is no more horrible poison for you, no sword more dangerous, than the thirst and passion of domination". Coming out of Papism, I followed my voice of conscience that was the voice of God. And this voice was telling me, "Leave her ....... So you may not partake of her sins and that you may not receive of her wounds". How after my departure I fell in the embrace of Orthodoxy, in the light of the absolute and spotless Truth, this I will describe at a later opportunity.

Secondly, as my departure from Papism became more broadly known within the ecclesiastical circles and was receiving more enthusiastic response in the Spanish and French protestant circles, so was my position becoming more precarious.

In the correspondence I received, the threatening and anonymous abusive letters were plentiful. They would accuse me that I was creating an anti-papist wave around me and I was leading by my example into "apostasy" Roman Catholic clerics "who were dogmatically sick" and who had publicly expressed a sympathetic feeling for my case.

This fact forced me to leave Barcelona, and settle in Madrid where I was put up - without my seeking - by Anglicans and through them I came in contact with the Ecumenical Council of Churches.

Not even there did I manage to remain inconspicuous. After every sermon at different Anglican Churches, a steadily increasing number of listeners sought to know me and to confidently discuss with me some ecclesiological topics.

Without therefore wishing it, a steadily increasing circle of people started forming around me, with most being anti-papists. This situation was exposing me to the authorities, because in the confidential meetings I had agreed to attend, some Roman Catholic clerics started to appear, who were generally known "for their lacking and weakening faith, regarding the primacy and infallibility of the Highest Hierarch of Rome".

The fanatical vindictiveness that some papists bore against my person, I saw it fully expressed and hit its zenith the day I replied publicly to a detailed ecclesiological dissertation, which they had sent to me as an ultimate step to remove me from the "trap of heresy" that I had fallen in. That work of apologetic character had the expressive title: "The Pope vicar of our Lord on earth" and the slogan that the arguments in the book ended up with, was the following: "Due to the infallibility of the Pope, the Roman Catholics are today the only Christians who could be certain for what they believe".

In the columns of a Portuguese book review, I replied: "The reality is that due to this infallibility you are the only Christians who cannot be certain about what they will demand that you believe tomorrow". My article ended with the following sentence: "Soon on the road you walk, you will name the Lord, vicar of the Pope in heaven".

Soon after I published in Buenos Aires my three volume study, I put an end to the skirmishes with the papists. In that study I had collected all the clauses in the patristic literature of the first four centuries, which directly or indirectly refer to the "primacy clauses" (Matt 16 :18-19; John21: 15-17; Luke 22: 31-32). I proved that the teachings about the Pope were absolutely foreign and contrary to the interpretation given by the Fathers on the issue. And the interpretation of the Fathers is exactly the rule on which we understand the Holy Bible.

During that period, even though from unrelated situations, for the first time I came in contact with Orthodoxy. Before I continue to recount the events, I owe it to confess here that my ideas about Orthodoxy had suffered an important development from the beginning of my spiritual odyssey. Certain discussions I had on ecclesiological topics with a group of Orthodox Polish, who passed through my country and the information I received from the Ecumenical Council regarding the existence and life in Orthodox circles in the West, had caused me a real interest. Furthermore, I started to get different Russian and Greek books and magazines from London and Berlin, as well as some of the prized books that were provided by archimandrite Benedict Katsenavakis in Napoli, Italy. Thus my interest in Orthodoxy would continue to grow.

Slowly, slowly in this way I started losing my inner biases against the Orthodox Church. These biases present Orthodoxy as schismatic, without spiritual life, drained group of small churches that do not have the characteristics of the true Church of Christ. And the schism that had cut her off, "had the devil for father and the pride of the patriarch Photios for mother".

So when I started to correspond with a respected member of the Orthodox hierarchy in the West- whose name I do not believe I am permitted to publish due to my personal criterion that was based on those original informations, I was thus totally free from every bias against Orthodoxy and I could spiritually gaze objectively. I soon realized and even with a pleasant surprise that my negative stance I had against Papism was conforming completely to the ecclesiological teaching of Orthodoxy. The respectable hierarch agreed to this coincidence in his letters but refrained from expressing himself more broadly because he was aware that I lived in a protestant surrounding.

The Orthodox in the West are not at all susceptible to proselytism. Only when our correspondence continued enough, the Orthodox bishop showed me to read the superb book by Sergei Boulgakov, "Orthodoxy" and the not less in depth dissertation, under the same title by metropolitan Seraphim. In the mean time I had also written specifically to the Ecumenical Patriarchate.

In those books I found myself. There was not even a single paragraph that did not meet completely the agreement of my conscience. So much in these works as in others, that they would send to me with encouraging letters -now even from Greece- I clearly saw how the Orthodox teaching is profound and purely evangelical and that the Orthodox are the only Christians who believe like the Christians of the catacombs and of the Fathers of the Church of the golden age, the only ones who can repeat with holy boasting the patristic saying, "We believe in whatever we received from the Apostles".

That period I wrote two books, one with the title "The concept of Church according to the Western Fathers" and the other with the title "Your God, our God and God". These books were to be published in South America, but I did not proceed with their release, so that I may not give an easy and dangerous hold to the protestant propaganda.

From the Orthodox side they advised me to let go my simply negative position against Papism, in which I was dirtied and to shape my personal "I believe" from which they could judge how far I was from the Anglican Church as well as the Orthodox.

It was a hard task that I summarized with the following sentences: "I believe in everything that are included in the Canonic books of the Old and New Testament, according to the interpretation of the ecclesiastical Tradition, namely the Ecumenical Synods that were truly ecumenical and to the unanimous teaching of the Holy Fathers that are acknowledged catholically as such".
From then on I began to understand that the sympathy of the Protestants towards me was cooling down, except of the Anglicans who were governed by some meaningful support. And it is only now that the Orthodox interest, despite being late, as always, started to manifest itself and to attract me to Orthodoxy as one "possibly Catechumen".

The undertakings of a polish university professor, whom I knew, cemented my conviction that Orthodoxy is supported by the meaningful truths of Christianity. I understood that every Christian of the other confessions, is required to sacrifice some significant part of the faith to arrive at the complete dogmatic purity and only an Orthodox Christian is not so required. For only he lives and remains in the substance of Christianity and the revealed and unaltered truth.

So, I did no more feel myself alone against the almighty Roman Catholicism and the coolness that the Protestants displayed against me. There were in the East and scattered around the world, 280 million Christians who belonged to the Orthodox Church and with whom I felt in communion of faith.

The accusation of the theological mummification of Orthodoxy had for me no value, because I had now understood that this fixed and stable perseverance of the Orthodox teaching of truth, was not a spiritual solidified rock, but an everlasting flow, like the current of the waterfall that seems to remain always the same yet the waters always change.

Slowly, slowly the Orthodox started to consider me as one of their own. "That we speak to this Spaniard about Orthodoxy- wrote a famous archimandrite- is not proselytism". They and I perceived that I was already berthed in the port of Orthodoxy, that I was finally breathing freely in the bosom of the Mother Church. In this period I was finally Orthodox without realizing it, and like the disciples that walked towards Emmaus close to the Divine Teacher, I had covered a stretch close to Orthodoxy without conclusively recognizing the Truth but at the end.

When I was assured of this reality, I wrote a long dissertation on my case, to the Ecumenical Patriarchate and to the Archbishop of Athens through the Apostolic Diaconate of the Church of Greece. And having no more to do with Spain - where today there does not exist an Orthodox community - I left my country and went to France where I asked to become a member of the Orthodox Church, having earlier let some more time for the fruit of my change to ripen. During this period I further deepened my knowledge of Orthodoxy and strengthened my relationship with her hierarchy. When I became fully confident of myself, I took the decisive step and officially became received in the true Church of Christ as her member. I wished to realize this great event in Greece, the recognized country of Orthodoxy, where I came to study theology. The blessed Archbishop of Athens received me patristically. His love and interest were beyond my expectations. I should say the same for the then chancellor of the Sacred Archbishopric and presently bishop Dionysus of Rogon who showed me patristic love. It is needless to add that in such an atmosphere of love and warmth, the Holy Synod did not take long to decide my canonical acceptance in the bosom of the Orthodox Church. During that all night sacred ceremony I was honoured with the name of the Apostle of Nations and following that, I became received as a monk in the Holy Penteli Monastery. Soon after, I was tonsured deacon by the Holy Bishop of Rogon.

Since then I live within the love, sympathy and understanding of the Greek Church and all her members. I ask from all, their prayers and their spiritual support that I may always stand worthy of the Grace that was given me by the Lord.
From the "Theodromia" magazine, Issue 1, January -March 2006

This article of the then Hierodeacon Fr. Paul Ballester-Convollier was published in two follow up articles by the "Kivotos" Magazine, July 1953, p. 285-291 and December 1953 p. 483- 485. The previous Franciscan monk who had turned to Orthodoxy was made title bearing bishop Nanzizian of the Holy Hierobishopric of North and South America with its seat in Mexico.

There he was met with a martyric death, the confessor of the Orthodox faith. The news of his murder was reported on the first page of the newspaper "Kathemerini" (Saturday 4 February1984) thus: "THE GREEK ORTHODOX BISHOP PAUL WAS MURDERED IN MEXICO. As it became known from the city of Mexico, before yesterday the bishop Nianzizian Paul Di Ballester of the Greek archbishopric of North and South America died. He was murdered by a 70 year old Mexican, previous military and suffering from psychiatric illness. The funeral was attended by the Archbishop Jacob who was aware of the work of the active bishop.

It should be pointed out that Bishop Paul was of Spanish origin, was received into Orthodoxy as an adult and excelled as a shepherd and author. The Mexican authorities do not exclude the possibility that his murderer was driven to his act through some sort of religious fanaticism.

Please give some serious thought to this article.

In Christ’s Mercy,

Catholic Monk Letter Part 1 (Apologetics)

Saint Peter's Square Vatican City, Rome

St. Seraphim’s Fellowship
P.O. Box 351656
Fl 32235-1656


Dear Inmate:

This letter is being sent to you as you have requested information about the claims of the Roman Catholic Church as compared to the Eastern Orthodox Church. This is the story of a Catholic Monk who converted to Orthodoxy. While some of the language is a bit cumbersome with some odd spellings due to translation, I trust you will find it interesting.

Why I abandoned Papism

Part one

(Icon of the Church with Peter and Paul)

By Hierodeacon Paul Ballaster-Convolier.

A horrible dilemma.

My conversion to Orthodoxy began one day while I was reordering the Library catalogs of the monastery I belong to. This monastery belonged to the Franciscan order, founded in my country of Spain. While I was classifying different old articles concerning the Holy Inquisition, I happened to come across an article that was truly impressive, dating back to 1647. This article described a decision of the Holy Inquisition that anathematized as heretic any Christian who dared believe, accept or preach to others that he supported the apostolic validity of the Apostle Paul.

It was about a horrible finding that my mind could not comprehend. I immediately thought to calm my soul that perhaps it was due to a typographical error or due to some forgery, which was not so uncommon in the western Church of that time when the articles were written. However, my disturbance and my surprise became greater after researching and confirming that the decision of the Holy Inquisition that was referred to in the article was authentic. In fact already during two earlier occasions, namely in 1327 and 1331, the Popes John 22nd and Clemens 6th had condemned and anathematized any one who dared deny that the Apostle Paul during his entire apostolic life, was totally subordinate to the ecclesiastic monarchal authority of the first Pope and king of the Church, namely the Apostle Peter. And a lot later Pope Pius 10th, in 1907 and Benedict 15th, in 1920, had repeated the same anathemas and the same condemnations.

I had therefore to dismiss any possibility of it being due to an inadvertent misquoting or forgery. So I was thus confronted with a serious problem of conscience.

Personally it was impossible for me to accept that the Apostle Paul was disposed off under whatever Papal command. The independence of his apostolic work among nations, against that which characterized the apostolic work of Peter among the circumcised, for me was the unshakable event that shouted from the Holy Bible.

The thing was totally clear to me who he was, as the explaining works of the Fathers on this issue do not leave the slightest doubt. "Paul- writes St Chrysostom- declares his equality with the rest of the apostles and should be compared not only with all the others but with the first one of them, to prove that each one had the same authority". Truly, together all the Fathers agree that "all the rest of the apostles were the same like Peter, namely they were endowed with the same honor and authority". It was impossible for who ever of them, to exercise higher authority from the rest, for the apostolic title that each had was the "highest authority, the peak of authorities". They were all shepherds, while the flock was one. And the flock was shepherded by the apostles in conformity by all".

The matter was therefore crystal clear. Despite this, the Roman teaching was against the situation. This way for the first time in my life, I experienced a frightful dilemma. What could I say? On one side the Bible and the Holy Tradition and on the other side the teaching of the Church? According to the Roman theology it is essential for our salvation to believe that the Church is a pure monarchy, whose monarch is the Pope. This way, the synod of the Vatican, voting together all the earlier convictions, it declared officially that "if any one says ....... that Peter (who is assumed to be the first Pope) was not ordained by Christ as the leader of the Apostles and visible Head of all the Church .......... is under anathema".

I am addressing my confessor.

Within this psychological disturbance I addressed my confessor and naively described the situation. He was one of the most famous priests of the monastery. He heard me with sadness, aware that it involved a very difficult problem. Having thought for a few minutes while looking in vain for an acceptable resolution, he finally told me the following that I confess I did not expect.

The Bible and the Fathers have harmed you, my child. Set it and them aside and confine yourself to following the infallible teachings of the Church and do not let yourself become victim of such thoughts. Never allow creatures of God whoever they may be, to scandalize your faith in God and the Church.

This answer he gave very explicitly caused my confusion to grow. I always held that especially the Word of God is the only thing that one cannot set aside.

Without allowing me any time to respond, my confessor added: "In exchange, I shall give you a list of prominent authors in whose works your faith will relax and be supported". And asking me if I had something else "more interesting" to ask, he terminated our conversation.

Few days later, my confessor departed from the monastery for a preaching tour of Churches of the monastic order. He left me the list of authors, recommending that I read them. And he asked me to inform him of my progress in this reading by writing him.

Even though his words did not convince me in the least, I collected these books and started to read them as objectively and attentively as possible.

The majority of the books were theological texts and manuals of papal decisions as well as of ecumenical synods. I threw myself to the study with genuine interest, having only the Bible as my guide, "Thy law is a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my paths". (Ps 118:105).

As I progressed in my study of those books, I would understand more and more, that I was unaware of the nature of my Church. Having been proselytized in Christianity and baptized as soon as I completed my encyclical studies, I continued with philosophical studies and then as I speak to you I was just at the beginning of the theological studies. It concerned of a science totally new to me. Until then Christianity and the Roman Church was for me an amalgam, something absolutely indivisible. In my monastic life I was only concerned with their exterior view and I was given no reason to examine in depth the bases and reasons of the organic structure of my Church.

The preposterous Teaching about the Pope.

Exactly then, within the bouquet of articles, that wisely my spiritual leader had put together, the true nature of this monarchical system, known as the Roman Church, started to unravel. I suppose a summary of her characteristics would not be superfluous.

First of all, to the Roman Catholics, the Christian Church "is nothing more than an absolute monarchy" whose monarch is the Pope who functions in all her facets as such. On this papist monarchy "all the power and stability of the Church is found" which otherwise "would not have been possible". The same Christianity is supported completely by Papism. And still some more, "Papism is the most significant agent of Christianity", "it is its zenith and its essence".

The monarchic authority of the Pope as supreme leader and the visible head of the Church, cornerstone, Universal Infallible Teacher of the Faith, Representative (Vicar) of God on earth, shepherd of shepherds and Supreme Hierarch, `is totally dynamic and dominant and embraces all the teachings and legal rights that the Church has. "Divine right " is extended on all and individually on each baptized man across the whole world. This dictatorial authority can be exercised at any time, over anything and on any Christian across the world, whether lay or clergy, and in any church of any denomination and language it may be, in consideration of the Pope being the supreme bishop of every ecclesiastical diocese in the world.

People who refuse to recognize all this authority and do not submit blindly, are schismatic, heretic, impious and sacrilegious and their souls are already destined to eternal damnation, for it is essential for our salvation that we believe in the institution of Papism and submit to it and its representatives. This way the Pope incarnates that imaginary Leader, prophesied by Cicero, writing that all must recognize him to be holy.

Always in the roman teaching, "accepting that the Pope has the right to intervene and judge all spiritual issues of everyone and each Christian separately, that much more does he have the right to do the same in their worldly affairs. He cannot be limited to judging only through spiritual penalties, denying the eternal salvation to those who do not submit to him, but also he has the right to exercise authority over the faithful. For the Church has two knives, symbol of her spiritual and worldly power. The first of these is in the hands of the clergy, the other in the hands of Kings and soldiers, who though they too are under the will and service of the clergy".

The Pope, maintaining that he is the representative of Him who’s "kingdom is not of this world", of Him who forbade the Apostles to imitate the kings of the world who "conquer the nations" and nominates himself as a worldly king, thus continuing the imperialism of Rome. At different periods he in fact had become lord over great expanses, he declared bloody wars against other Christian kings, to acquire other land expanses, or even to satisfy his thirst for more wealth and power. He owned a great number of slaves. He played a central role and many times a decisive role in political history. The duty of the Christian lords is to retreat in the face "of the divine right king" surrendering to him their kingdom and their politico-ecclesiastic throne, "that was created to ennoble and anchor all the other thrones of the world". To day the worldly capital of the pope is confined to the Vatican City. It concerns an autonomous nation with diplomatic representations in the governments of both hemispheres, with army, weapons police, jails, currency etc.

And as crown and peak of the almightiness of the Pope, he has one more faithful privilege that even the most ignoble idolaters could not even imagine- the infallible divine right, according to the dogmatic rule of the Vatican Synod that took place on 1870. Since then on "humanity ought to address to him whatever it addresses to the Lord: you have words of eternal life". From now on, there is no need of the Holy Spirit to guide the Church "to all the truth". There is no more need of the Holy Bible nor of the Sacred Tradition for thus there is a god on earth, based on the infallible, the Pope is the only canon of Truth who can even express things contrary to the judgment of all the Church, declare new dogmas, which the faithful ought to accept if they do not wish to be cut off from their salvation. "It depends only on his will and intention to deem whatever he wishes, as sacred and holy within the Church" and the decratalian letters must be deemed, believed and obeyed "as canonical epistles". Since he is an infallible Pope, he must receive blind obedience. Cardinal Bellarmine, who was declared saint by the Roman Church, says this simply: "If the Pope some day imposed sins and forbade virtues, the Church is obliged to believe that these sins are good and these virtues are bad".
The answer of my confessor

Having read all those books, I felt myself as a stranger within my Church, whose organizational composition has no relation to the Church that the Lord built and organized by the Apostles and their disciples and as intended by the Holy Fathers. Under this belief I wrote my first letter to my superior- "I read your books. I shall not contravene the divine warrants so that I may follow the human teachings that have no basis at all in the Holy Bible. Such teachings are a string of foolishness by Papism. From the provisions of the Holy Bible we can understand the nature of the Church and not through human decisions and theories. The truth of faith does not spring but from the Holy Bible and from the Tradition of the whole Church".

The reply came fast- You have not followed my advice- complained my elder- and exposed your soul to the dangerous impact of the Holy Bible, which, like fire burns and blackens when it does not shine. In such situations like yours, the Popes have pronounced that it "is a scandalous error for one to believe that all the Christians could read the Holy Bible", and the theologians assure us that the Holy Bible "is a dark cloud". "For one to believe in the enlightenment and clarity of the Bible is a heterodox dogma" so claim our infallible leaders. "As far as the Tradition, I do not consider it necessary to remind you that we should primarily follow the Pope on matters of faith. The Pope is worth in this case thousands of Augustinians, Jeronymuses, Gregories, Chrysostoms...........".This letter accomplished to strengthen my opinion rather than demolish it. It was impossible for me to place the Holy Bible below the Pope. By attacking the Holy Bible, my Church was losing every worthy belief ahead of me, and was becoming one with the heretics who "being elected by the Bible turn against it". This was the last contact I had with my elder.
The Pope is everything and the Church is nothing

However I did not stop there. I had already started to "skid due to the skid" of my Church. I had taken a road that I was not allowed to stop until I found a positive solution. The drama of those days was that I had estranged myself from Papism, but I did not accost any other ecclesiastical reality. Orthodoxy and Protestantism then were for me vague ideas and I had not reached the time and opportunity to ascertain that they could offer something to soothe my agony. Despite all this I continued to love my Church that made me a Christian and I bore her symbol. I still needed more profound thinking to reach slowly, with trouble and grief to the conclusion that the Church I loved was not part of the papist system.

Truly, against the monocracy of the Pope, the authority of the Church and of the bishopric body, is not intrinsically subordinate. Because according to the Roman theology "the authority of the Church exists only when it is characterized and harmonized by the Pope. In all other cases it is nullified". This way it is the same thing whether the Pope is with the Church or the Pope is without the Church, in other words, the Pope is everything and the Church is nothing. Very correctly did the bishop Maren write, "It would have been more accurate if the Roman Catholics when they recite the "I believe" would say "And in one Pope" instead of "And in one Church".

The importance and function of the bishops in the Roman Church is no more than that of representatives of the papist authority to which the bishops submit like the lay faithful. This regime they try to uphold under the 22nd chapter of St John's gospel, which according to the Roman interpretation "the Lord entrusts the Apostle Peter, the first Pope, the shepherding of His lambs and of His sheep", namely, He bestows on him the job of the Chief Shepherd with exclusive rights on all the faithful, who are the lambs and all the others, Apostles and Bishops, namely, the sheep.

However, the bishops in the Roman Church, are not even successors to the Apostles, for as it dogmatizes, this Church "the apostolic authority was lacking with the Apostles and was not passed down to her successors, the bishops. Only the Papist authority of Peter, namely the Popes. The bishops then, having not inherited any apostolic authority, have no other authority but the one given to them, not directly from God but by the Extreme Pontiff of Rome.

And the Ecumenical synods also have no other value than the one given to them by the Bishop of Rome, "for they cannot be anything else except conferences of Christianity that are called under the authenticity and authority of the Pope". Suffice the Pope to exit the hall of the Synod saying "I am not in there anymore" to stop from that moment on the Ecumenical Synod from having any validity, if it is not authorized and validated by the Pope, who could impose through his authority on the faithful.

To be continued in part II…………

In Christ’s Mercy,