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Orthodox Survival Course, Class 49: Faith Comes First – The Situation Today, Part I

Orthodox Survival CourseSt. Irene Orthodox ChurchRochester Hills, Michigan

Class 49: Faith Comes First – The Situation Today, Part I

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Greetings on the Feast of the Nativity A.D. 2019! Again, thanks to our donors. May the Lord reward your love with His grace! To our other listeners: please consider a gift to help me out. If you have PayPal, you can send a gift to my account at If you want to receive a receipt for a tax deduction, contact me at that email, and I can tell you how to donate to our parish, who in turn will pass the donation on to me and send you a receipt.

Introduction – “Faith Comes First” Section Up to this Point

Beginning with Class 41, we have been talking about the apostasy of the historical Orthodox hierarchies. I called this part of our course “Faith Comes First,” because the pure confession of the Orthodox Faith is the prerequisite for belonging to the Church, and therefore to choose which bishop or hierarchy to which one should submit oneself, one must start with the question, “Who confesses the Orthodox faith?” Being in the outward or legal possession of the title and the temporalities of an ancient institution does not make one a bishop if one is a heretic. We know this from Holy Scripture, from all of Church history, from the witness and writings of the Fathers, from the Church’s canonical tradition, and from common sense.

In Classes 41 through 43, we discussed general principles of ecclesiology and discernment, as well as making a side-trip into the issues of monarchism and nationalism. In Class 44, we outlined the history of the involvement of World Orthodoxy in the ecumenical movement in the 20th century, especially the Ecumenical Patriarchate. In Classes 45 through 48, we discussed the history of the Russian Church, ending with the destruction of the Russian Church Abroad by the Moscow Patriarchate in 2007. In this session, Class 49, I hope to summarize the Russian situation, and in the next session, Class 50, I plan to summarize the situation in the rest of the Orthodox world, as well as make some suggestions and provide some guidelines for those who are wondering if they are in the right jurisdiction and are trying to decide where they belong. I am not going to tell you what to do, but I hope to give you some tools to do it.

Before going on to our summary of the Russian situation, however, I would like to clarify some of my remarks from our last class and fill in some gaps. I hope that those listening who are not from the old ROCOR or HOCNA background will bear with me. I am spending time on this, not only for the sake of my fellow former ROCOR/HOCNA brethren, but also because the history involved sheds so much light on our current situation, for everyone in the Orthodox world, and especially for us in North America.

A. Needed Clarifications and Omissions

1. Strong points of both Greek and Russian Churches.

a. Russians – liturgical order and beauty, humane culture, balance

b. Greeks – fasting, laser focus on dogmatic issues, courage

2. Balance the Platina vs. Boston picture. Overall attitude: gratitude

a. Platina strong and weak points (strong points previously covered)

i. Soviet “dissident” fascination, lack of clarity on ecclesiology

ii. also had its scandal and its cultism.

iii. romanticism

iv. the Seraphim Rose cottage industry – a species of “elderism”

b. Boston strong points, weak points

i. strong point was its stand against ecumenism

ii. also, English language mission, the Jesus Prayer

iv. also, reintroduced Greek Americans to monasticism

v. clarification of remark about modernism

vi. “the” scandal- another species of “elderism”

3. “Fall of ROCOR” discussion did include the key moments of the 2000 MP Jubilee Council and the 2001 election of Laurus and the letters to the MP and the Serbian Patriarchate, but did not include two key moments: the 1994 HSiR union and the 2006 IVth All-Diaspora Sobor.

a. 1994 HSiR union: faulty ecclesiology becomes official, relationship with GOC (and therefore influence from the GOC) cut off. Engineered by Russian pro-MP bishops for their own purposes, unrelated (or, rather, antithetical) to the Greek Old Calendar cause. In short, the HSiR was used by the pro-MP agents to advance their agenda, not to create True Orthodox unity.

i. To balance the picture: strong points of HSiR – intellectual life, pastoral love, mission to non-Greeks, honesty in pastoral approach to New Calendarists.

b. 2006 IV All-Diaspora Sobor: Not “soborny”, because the outcome was predetermined by the top leadership – the “union” (i.e., capitulation) was simply shoved through, not debated. The previously recognized preconditions – MP’s renunciation of ecumenism and Sergianism, an All-Russian Sobor – totally ignored.

B. The Situation Today – This Class: Russia. Next Class: Everyone else

1. Russian True Orthodox – Scattered and disunited Catacomb Church groups and ROCOR-derived groups

2. The MP –

a. ecumenism and universalism – Putin’s “traditional values”

b. does not oppose EP on theological grounds, only matters of territory and power

c. Pat. Kyrill world leader in alternative one-world agenda (see recent Baku meeting)

d. MP-Vatican ecumenism;e.g., Havana statement, Fatima

e. synthesis of Soviet apologetic and Orthodoxy

f. arm of neo-Soviet Russian internal and foreign policy

g. a trap for conservatives

h. situation in the trenches

i. some heroic and dedicated clergy

ii. dedicated laypeople

iii. signs of life but paralyzed by falsehood

iv. big picture: secular society in need of true confession, but not as degenerate as the West – source of hope

3. East vs West – False opposition: “Eurasia” vs. “Oceania” (a la Orwell). Two pincers of the kingdom of Antichrist.

a. West – the “Anglo-Zionist” empire of “liberal” (Judaeo- Masonic) nihilism plus radical Sunni Islam

b. East – Putin’s Russia, Red China, Shia Islam

Conclusion: The Lord is our only refuge! “Put not your trust in princes.”

Next class: The situation in the other patriarchates and national churches. Officialism and elderism, the saint factory, signs and wonders. How to choose a True Orthodox jurisdiction.

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A cloud of witnesses

17 December OS 2019 – Holy Prophet Daniel, Holy Three Youths Ananias, Azarias, and Misael, St. Dionysios of Zakynthos and Aegina, Holy New Martyr Deacon Avvakum of Serbia

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The reading from the Apostolos for December 17th, the feast of the Holy Prophet Daniel and the Three Youths, is the conclusion of the great paean to the saints of the Old Testament from Hebrews 11.

Brethren: All the saints through faith subdued kingdoms, wrought righteousness, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions, Quenched the violence of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, out of weakness were made strong, waxed valiant in fight, turned to flight the armies of the aliens. Women received their dead raised to life again: and others were tortured, not accepting deliverance; that they might obtain a better resurrection: And others had trial of cruel mockings and scourgings, yea, moreover of bonds and imprisonment: They were stoned, they were sawn asunder, were tempted, were slain with the sword: they wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins; being destitute, afflicted, tormented; (Of whom the world was not worthy:) they wandered in deserts, and in mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth. And these all, having obtained a good report through faith, received not the promise: God having provided some better thing for us, that they without us should not be made perfect. –Hebrews 11: 33-40

During this last period of the present Fast, which is an extended forefeast of the Feast of the Nativity, the Church holds up to us the example of the Old Testament saints on the two Sundays preceding the Nativity as well as on the Menaion feasts of several Old Testament prophets, most notably today’s saints: Prophet Daniel and the Three Youths Ananias, Azarias, and Misael.   As we prepare to welcome the birth of the Christ mystically and liturgically, keeping vigil for His Second Advent at the end of history, it is well to remember those who kept watch for His First Advent at the midpoint of history by their heroic deeds of faith and hope.

When we feel alone in our Faith, we should recall that the Old Testament saints kept their Faith despite being always a tiny remnant of the chronically apostate Old Israel. When we are tempted to give up our Hope in eternal life, we should recall that the Old Testament saints kept up their Hope while knowing that at death, no matter how righteous and faithful they had been in life, they would go down into Hades.   When we feel powerless, we should recall that within us lies the infinite power of baptismal grace, while the Old Testament saints had not this help.   When we lose historical perspective and feel trapped in our present circumstances, we should recall century by century, event by event, and saint by saint, all the glorious history of the New Testament Church of the past 2,000 years – and then remember that the Old Testament righteous had far fewer examples in their past to encourage them. Yet they persevered, strong in their hope, for they believed that God was faithful to His promise.

God has indeed “…provided some better thing for us…”: salvation by Jesus Christ our Lord, Who raised the souls of the righteous of the Old Testament from Hades on that first Great Saturday and perfected them with us by the grace for which they had longed and in which they had hoped.

A good exercise for today would be to re-read (or read!) the Book of Daniel   Make sure to read the Septuagint version, which contains important prophetic and Christological sections cut out by the medieval rabbis whose Masoretic text was unfortunately accepted as normative by the Protestants who gave us most of the existing English translations. If you do not own a translation of the Septuagint (or a King James with “Apocrypha” or a Douay-Rheims translation of the Vulgate), you can read a translation of the Septuagint version of Daniel online at

Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us, Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.Hebrews 12:1-2

Amen! Holy Prophet Daniel, Holy Three Youths, and all ye righteous of the Old Testament, pray to God for us!

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Hide thyself for a little season

14 December OS 2019 – Friday of the Thirteenth Week of St. Luke; Ss. Thyrsos, Levkios, and Kallinikos, Martyrs; Ss. Philemon, Apollonios, Arrianos, and Companions, Martyrs

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Today’s Gospel reading in the daily cycle is Mark 9:33-41 –

At that time, Jesus came to Capernaum: and being in the house he asked them, What was it that ye disputed among yourselves by the way? But they held their peace: for by the way they had disputed among themselves, who should be the greatest. And he sat down, and called the twelve, and saith unto them, If any man desire to be first, the same shall be last of all, and servant of all. And he took a child, and set him in the midst of them: and when he had taken him in his arms, he said unto them, Whosoever shall receive one of such children in my name, receiveth me: and whosoever shall receive me, receiveth not me, but him that sent me. And John answered him, saying, Master, we saw one casting out devils in thy name, and he followeth not us: and we forbad him, because he followeth not us. But Jesus said, Forbid him not: for there is no man which shall do a miracle in my name, that can lightly speak evil of me. For he that is not against us is on our part. For whosoever shall give you a cup of water to drink in my name, because ye belong to Christ, verily I say unto you, he shall not lose his reward.

The commentary of St. Theophan the Recluse on this teaching of the Lord, that we should be humble and childlike, provides such good advice for our current situation, that I thought I would reproduce it in full:

The Savior sets forth a child as a model of faith and life. Simplicity of faith gives birth to simplicity of life. From both of these comes an exemplary moral system. If you let philosophizing in, it will produce disorder within, and under the appearance of a better arrangement of things, it will throw one’s entire life into disorder. Philosophizing alway cries, ‘This is not right; that’s not right. Let me arrange everything in a new way; the old is worthless, boring.’ But it has never yet, in any place, arranged anything good; it only throws things into confusion. The mind should obey what is commanded by the Lord. True, the mind is called ‘the king in the head’; however, this king is not given legislative power, only executive power. As soon as it starts making laws, it piles up who-knows-what. Moral, religious, worldly, and political orders are thrown into confusion, and everything turns upside down. It is a great misfortune for society when its mind is given freedom to soar, with not restraint by divine Truth! This is God’s wrath [i.e., it brings upon us God’s wrath]. About this it is said, ‘Hide thyself for a little season, until the anger of the Lord hath passed away (Esaias 26:20).’ During this apex of intellectual willfulness it is best to seek shelter in simplicity of faith. Just as during a storm it is better to sit at home and not step out in arrogance to fight with it, so during a time of stormy trust in one’s own thoughts it is better not to enter into battle with it, or to seize the weapons of philosophizing in order to resist it. Simplicity of faith is stronger than philosophizing; clothe yourself in it, as in armor, and you will keep your balance. Thoughts for Each Day of the Year, pp. 281-282

Here the saint addresses two arenas of conflict, society and the believer’s inner life. They mirror each other. Just as, when society leaves off trusting in God’s Law and makes new theories, it throws itself into chaos, so also, when the Orthodox believer leaves the narrow path of the Bible and the Fathers, and tries to “figure everything out” with his “brain,” he becomes confused and throws his mind, and therefore his life, into chaos. We learned a long time ago that Holy Tradition does not violate our reason. That should be enough to satisfy us. Nowadays we just need to live and not keep re-inventing the wheel.

Mainstream life today is an insane asylum, and today most Orthodox people mostly act like most everyone else, and because this entails bad habits of mind and action, they are exhausted like everyone else, leading fragmented and distracted lives that do not make sense. It is no wonder that a brutal, crude, and irrational ideology like Islam, and myriad strange cults, now spread like cancer in formerly Christian societies, for, having rejected the Truth, people are desperate for someone to tell them what to do, desperate for something simple – no matter how wrong – to hold onto. In the name of freedom, they have renounced obedience to the lovely simplicity of the Gospel that elevates the mind and frees the will for the good, that governs everything in our inner and outer lives with harmonious order and happiness. So now, terrified by the chaos they have created, they run to enslave themselves to disgusting and demonic revelations that crush the mind and paralyze the will. Orthodox people are not immune.

The simple answer that St. Theophan offers is to “hide a little while,” as the Prophet Esaias cries to us daily in the Fifth Ode of Matins. Let us enclose our minds, with a firm act of will, in the words of Holy Scripture, daily prayer, and the Offices of the Church. First, the emotions are calmed. Then the mind becomes clear. Finally, the mind and heart unite in a whole vision of reality that makes complete sense, though much necessarily remains in mystery, with which we are content. This is a firm basis for daily life.

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Enter in by the narrow gate

8 December OS 2019 – Saturday of the Twelfth Week of St. Luke; St. Patapios of Thebes; S. Sosthenes; Apostle of the 70; St. Parthenios of Chios

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Today’s Gospel reading for the daily cycle is Luke 13: 18-29.

The Lord said this parable: Then said he, Unto what is the kingdom of God like? and whereunto shall I resemble it? It is like a grain of mustard seed, which a man took, and cast into his garden; and it grew, and waxed a great tree; and the fowls of the air lodged in the branches of it. And again he said, Whereunto shall I liken the kingdom of God? It is like leaven, which a woman took and hid in three measures of meal, till the whole was leavened. And he went through the cities and villages, teaching, and journeying toward Jerusalem. Then said one unto him, Lord, are there few that be saved? And he said unto them, Strive to enter in at the strait gate: for many, I say unto you, will seek to enter in, and shall not be able. When once the master of the house is risen up, and hath shut to the door, and ye begin to stand without, and to knock at the door, saying, Lord, Lord, open unto us; and he shall answer and say unto you, I know you not whence ye are: Then shall ye begin to say, We have eaten and drunk in thy presence, and thou hast taught in our streets. But he shall say, I tell you, I know you not whence ye are; depart from me, all ye workers of iniquity. There shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth, when ye shall see Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, and all the prophets, in the kingdom of God, and you yourselves thrust out. And they shall come from the east, and from the west, and from the north, and from the south, and shall sit down in the kingdom of God. And, behold, there are last which shall be first, and there are first which shall be last.

Our Lord’s hearers wanted to know, “…are there few that be saved?” He refused to answer Yes or No, as if to say, “Numbers and percentages of other people being saved are not the point.” Instead He told them to pay attention to their own salvation: “…Strive to enter in at the strait [=narrow] gate.” What is the narrow gate? Since we desire to be saved, obviously this is an all-important question.

We may think of the narrow gate in terms of our outer and inner life. In our outer life, the narrow gate is the way of life created by unwavering adherence to the True Faith and by unceasing attempts to live the Way demanded by the Truth, characterized by constant struggles that sometimes bring victories and sometimes bring defeats followed by repentance and renewed struggle. This unremitting warfare must last until death. By the grace of God and His mercy, if we remain on this path we will have a firm hope of our salvation.

Our present circumstances are actually quite favorable to this narrow gate approach to life, because, given what is going on around us, we will find that simply in virtue of not giving up our Faith and not giving up the struggle to live according to the Faith, we will be placed among “the few.” We have to remember that fewer and fewer people – both Orthodox and non-Orthodox – are likely to understand us, and that this does not tell us that we are doing anything wrong, but rather the opposite. They will go their way, and we must go ours.   We must ask the Lord constantly for the humility to accept this and in simplicity of faith to persevere on the path laid out before us without condemning anyone else or being curious about their ultimate fate compared to ours. This quiet life of faithfulness in the midst of spiritual loneliness is our narrow gate.

This brings us to the subject of our inner life. St. Theophylact comments on the protest of the damned, “…and Thou hast taught in our streets,” as follows: “Observe that it is those whom the Lord taught in the streets, that is, who only received the Lord’s teaching in public, who are rejected. But if we receive His teaching, not just in public, but also within the closeness of our contrite and compunctionate heart, then we will not be rejected” (The Explanation of the Holy Gospel According to Luke, c. 13, vss. 23-30).” Here St. Theophylact is not addressing the subject of those who are formally outside the Church but rather of those who “officially” are inside, whether, as in Our Lord’s time, inside the Old Testament Church or, as in St. Theophylact’s (and our) time, inside the New Testament Church. In other words, being a nominal Christian, or even being a regular churchgoer who nevertheless does not have an inner life of prayer, does not save.  We must cherish the Lord’s teaching “within the closeness of our contrite and compunctionate heart,” and if we do, then… rejoice! – “…we will not be rejected.”

These two aspects of the Life in Christ – the outer and inner – are intimately joined.   By striving to remain outwardly faithful, we will invite rejection from the world. The ensuing loneliness will drive us either into giving up entirely or into a more intense inner life of prayer. Which way we go is up to us, but that we will go one way or the other is not in doubt.

One piece of good news is that there is more Orthodox literature about the inner life available to us than ever before. In the midst of the cataclysmic destruction of Christian civilization over the past 100 years, there has yet, by God’s loving Providence, been a rebirth of interest precisely in the spiritual life, manifested by an explosion of new editions and translations of the Church services and of spiritual books, as well as the movement to return to traditional iconography and chant.  It is as if the Lord is saying, “I have given you a tough job, living in these times, but I am giving you some good tools to deal with it.”   There are in fact so many of these tools that the difficulty lies in choosing which ones to use. I cannot recommend precisely or comprehensively which of these spiritual tools to choose for each of you reading this; you will have to work with your father confessor on that.   There are basics, of course: the Scriptures and Lives of the Saints, the prayer book, the service books, the prayer rope, and articles and books about the spiritual life intended for beginners. Ask the Lord to show you the way. Prayer teaches itself.

Let us then take heart. The Lord desires our salvation, far more than we do ourselves.   He does not require from us miracles but rather “…to receive His teaching, not just in public but also within the closeness of our contrite and compunctionate heart.”   This each of us can do and by so doing acquire a firm hope of our salvation.


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Orthodox Survival Course, Class 48: Russia and the End of the World, Part D – The Rise and Fall of the Russian Church Abroad

Listen to the podcast of this talk at

Thanks and Request for Donations

Thanks to our donors! May the Lord reward your love with His grace! To our other listeners: please consider a gift to help me out. If you have PayPal, you can send a gift to my account at If you want to receive a receipt for a tax deduction, contact me at that email, and I can tell you how to donate to our parish, who in turn will pass the donation on to me and send you a receipt.

Another announcement: The Eternal Sacrifice: The Genesis Readings for Great Lent, my book of short daily commentaries on the Genesis readings at Vespers during the weekdays of Great Lent, is available at It would make a nice Christmas gift for Orthodox friends. Great Lent begins on March 2nd.

I. Background: The Russian Church Abroad

A. Brief Chronology – Ukaz 362 of 1920, Met. Anthony,

i. between wars in Serbia, Met. Anastassy

ii. WWII, Munich

iii. post WWII – New York, de-recognition by World Orthodoxy

iv. ’60’s-mid ’80’s – St. Philaret, strict confession – high noon

v. Met. Vitaly, twilight

vi. Met. Laurus, absorption by MP, night

B. Review schisms – Evlogians, North American Metropolia

C. General Features of the Russian Church Abroad – Did not fit into neat categories of “TO” vs. “WO.” Was unique.

1. a general conservatism in theology and piety

2. outstanding liturgical life

3. outstanding spiritual figures

4. institutional stability and normalcy

5. Russian patriotism, anti-communism

6. spectrum of views on contemporary church situation

a. liberal wing – ecclesiological strictness distasteful

b. broad mainstream – unaware of non-Russian issues

c. orthodox wing – must respond to current situation

i. Boston and Platina: history, influence

7. Cf. Bishop Stefan’s Life of St. Philaret; chose not to push formal breaking of communion in 1974 at 3rd All-Diaspora Sobor so that liberal wing would not go into schism.

8. 1983 Anathema – varying interpretations

II. The MP Acquires Most of the ROCOR.

A. Met. Anastassy’s prohibition and why. Cat and mouse.

B. Russia opens up. ROCOR efforts there. Opposing views.

C. The “op” of the 1990’s and early 2000’s.

D. 2000 MP “Jubilee Council”; 2001 – Met. Laurus, letters to MP and to Serbian patriarchate, Met. Vitaly and ROCiE

E. Discussion of Sergianism and Ecumenism forbidden. The phony 2006 council. Lack of preconditions for unity laid down by previous ROCOR decisions.

F. Outcome of 2007 union: Former ROCOR hierarchy now silenced; previously strongest bulwark against ecumenism destroyed.

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Christ the Sacrifice for our sins

As we prepare to celebrate the Incarnation of Our Lord, it is good to remember that He came to die for us and pay the penalty for our sins in our stead. There are neo-Pelagians in Orthodox circles who claim that Orthodoxy does not teach the substitutionary atonement of Christ’s Sacrifice on the Cross, which is not only untrue but also a scandal to many sincere Catholics and Protestants who are considering becoming Orthodox and are shocked by such a fundamental heresy that strikes at a core teaching of the Scriptures and the Fathers. A young graduate student at – of all places! – St. Vladimir Seminary has written an excellent essay that confutes these neo-Pelagian “patristic theologians” by referring us to an unimpeachable authority, St. John of Damascus, whose holy feast we shall keep next week. Here is the text of the article:

The matter of Penal Substitutionary Atonement is so often in dispute in these degenerate times by some, for their apparent shame at our Lord’s Cross, that it is necessary to defend this basic Biblical and Patristic truth against its calumniators. In order to show the Patristic mind on this issue, St. John of Damascus discusses the same concept under the term appropriation. Regarding what is in Scriptural terms understood as logízomai or imputation, reckoning, accounting, etc., we will show that, utilizing different terms, St. John speaks of a mode or kind of appropriation (οίκειώσεις) that is understood as apparent (προσωπική) and in appearance (πρόσωπον), that is personal in a way that gives voice to the reality of imputation. He writes in Chapter 25 of Book 3 of his systematic theology on the Orthodox faith:

One should, moreover, know that there are two kinds of appropriation (οίκειώσεις), the one being natural (φυσική) and substantial (ούσιώδης) and the other being apparent (προσωπική) and relative (σχετικί). Now, the natural and substantial is that by which the Lord out of His love for man assumed both our nature and all that was natural to it, and in nature and in truth became man and experienced the things that are natural to man. It is apparent and relative, however, when one assumes the appearance (πρόσωπον) of another relatively (το έτέρου ύποδύεται πρόσωπον διά σχέσιν), as out of pity or love, and in this other’s stead speaks words in his behalf which in no way concern himself. It was by this last kind of appropriation that He appropriated our curse and dereliction and such things as are not according to nature, not because He was or had been such, but because He took on our appearance and was reckoned as one of us. And such is the sense of the words, “being made a curse for us” (Galatians 3:13).

At least two things become apparent in looking at this short chapter, that there are two distinct kinds of appropriation: one natural (φυσική) and substantial or essential (ούσιώδης), and one apparent (προσωπική) and relative (σχετικί). I referred to this conceptual distinction using different terms in a previous study where it was acknowledged that in Christ there is a distinction being made between the metaphysical (ούσιώδης) and imputed (logízomai) dimensions of His economic appropriation. These two modes of appropriation highlight a distinction between who the Incarnate Christ is, in Himself, and how He relates in His Person (πρόσωπον) to sinners as their Personal (προσωπική) substitute.

On the one hand, in becoming man, Christ appropriated our nature and substance, becoming really and truly human. This can be understood as an ontological or metaphysical appropriation of human nature. On the other hand, in order to atone for sin Christ had to be “made a curse for us,” as St. John of Damascus quotes from St. Paul above. This kind of appropriation is not metaphysical, for otherwise Christ would actually become a sinner and sinful and so Himself need saving, which is absurd. The second kind of appropriation, then, is personally (προσωπική) representative or imputational, for “He took on our appearance (πρόσωπον) and was reckoned as one of us.”

This distinction is vital for understanding what is happening in the atonement, for Christ, being sinless, takes an additional step in order to savingly appropriate the curse. Of course, the Biblical idea of curse is a divinely legal term, as the same section of St. Paul’s teaching to the Galatians makes clear: “For as many as are of the works of the law are under the curse; for it is written, ‘Cursed is everyone who does not continue in all things which are written in the book of the law, to do them’” (Galatians 3:10; quoting Deuteronomy 27:26). Therefore, as St. John Damascene alludes to this connection, “Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law, having become a curse for us, for it is written, ‘Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree’” (Galatians 3:13; quoting Deuteronomy 21:23). In this light it is clear that the tree of the Cross was the divine mechanism, so to speak, for Christ’s being made to carry the curse via appropriation (πρόσωπον) in His Person while remaining sinless. In other words, the curse was forensically imputed to Christ, which is to say personally and representationally appropriated by Christ, through the Cross.

Moreover, it is worthwhile to note that πρόσωπον is also a term that can be translated as person, or face. It can in this sense be said that Christ faces up to, personalizes, or appropriates sin to Himself via a relative (σχετικί), representational mode. This is the essence of imputation or reckoning (logízomai). He represents in His person the sinful man, as “when one assumes the appearance (πρόσωπον) of another relatively, as out of pity or love, and in this other’s stead speaks words in his behalf which in no way concern himself.” Although Christ had no sin, He assumes the person or face (πρόσωπον) of the sinner on the Cross, carrying it as an imputed legal reality. It is forensic, not metaphysical, lest it be charged that Christ is Himself a transgressor rather than merely reckoned (logízomai) among them.

As Christ assumes the sinner’s position “as if” He were that sinner, that sinner’s status is imputed legally to Him as the representative, thus Christ is “made a curse for us.” In Himself, He discharges the consequence of sin, then, so that His righteousness is imputed to the sinner, by faith, thus providing the needed righteousness and the needed life to the man of living faith who previously was lost in sin and death. St. John obviously calls to mind the legal representative, the one who stands legally in the place of the other, and although St. John does not explicitly reason according to the bounds of Scripture’s legal terminology, the reality of a forensic imputation or reckoning of sin to the sinless Christ is being communicated by St. John, showing that his position is that of Penal Substitutionary Atonement and forensic imputation. According to St. John, it is in this way that Christ discharges sin in His very Person (πρόσωπον) by appropriating (οίκειώσεις) the divine consequence or curse (κατάρα) for human sin, which is death.

The fact that it is not a metaphysical appropriation of sin but a representational or imputational mode (and in order to maintain this distinction between the metaphysical and the representational), it is entirely orthodox to understand this kind of appropriation (οίκειώσεις) as “forensic,” as the curse of the Law being applied to or appropriated by Christ to His Person (πρόσωπον) in a personal (προσωπική), relative (σχετικί), and not merely fictitious, way.

By way of conclusion, it is in this same section of Galatians where the concept of imputation (logízomai) is explicitly mentioned: “just as Abraham ‘believed God, and it was accounted (logízomai) to him for righteousness’” (Galatians 3:6; quoting Genesis 15:6). It is not accidental that St. John of Damascus, when explicating the doctrine of the distinct kinds of appropriation, should quote the same section in Galatians wherein the concept of imputation is laid down, for his concepts clearly overlap in significant ways, as we have demonstrated. This ought to show that, despite the fact that the Fathers may not extensively reason in terms of Scriptural legal language, the legal Scriptural concepts are well-founded and maintained by the Church Fathers.

-Fr. Joshua Schooping

Bravo, Fr. Joshua! Dear Brothers and Sisters, this is NOT “Latinism.” This is Christianity 101.…/appropriating-mans-cu…

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Serene faith

28 November OS 2019 – Wednesday of the 11th Week of St. Luke, St. Stephen the New, Monk-Martyr; St. Irenenarchos, Hieromartyr

You can listen to an audio recording of this blog post at

Today’s daily Gospel reading is Luke 20: 1-8

At that time, as Jesus taught the people in the temple, and preached the gospel, the chief priests and the scribes came upon him with the elders, And spake unto him, saying, Tell us, by what authority doest thou these things? or who is he that gave thee this authority? And he answered and said unto them, I will also ask you one thing; and answer me: The baptism of John, was it from heaven, or of men? And they reasoned with themselves, saying, If we shall say, From heaven; he will say, Why then believed ye him not? But and if we say, Of men; all the people will stone us: for they be persuaded that John was a prophet. And they answered, that they could not tell whence it was. And Jesus said unto them, Neither tell I you by what authority I do these things.

Of course, these questioners – the chief priests, scribes, and elders – were not asking Our Lord this question because they sincerely sought the truth. Their minds were made up, and they were simply trying to trick Him.   Their minds were poniro, as we say in Greek – sneaky, twisted, and evil-intended – and they could not think straight or see straight or talk straight. For them, language was a tool to get power over others, not a holy medium of heart to heart communication.   St. Theophan the Recluse comments on this encounter to illustrate the difference between the mind of Faith, which is also the deep and reasonable mind, and the mind of hardened unbelief, which is superficial and unreasoning:

The priests, scribes, and elders did not believe in the Lord. In order to raise them up to faith, He offered them a question: “The baptism of John, was it from heaven, or of men?” Consider this without bias, and your reasoning will bring you to faith. What is said about John’s appearing can be said about every event accompanying the Lord’s advent in the flesh, and about His very advent, and all that comes into contact with it. Let each person consider all of this, and the conclusion will be the same: “Truly this was the Son of God (Matt. 27:54).” Various thoughts can come, confusion can arise, what seem like incongruities can be encountered; but at the end of all investigations one universal conviction will result: that it is impossible to think any other way than as is shown in the Gospels and apostolic writings. “Great is the mystery of godliness: God is manifest in the flesh (I Timothy 3:16).” This remains a mystery, but if the mind compels itself by a spiritual need to investigate it, then this mystery will become clear to the mind – and it will confess this way, and in no other way. Unbelievers either do not investigate it at all as they ought to, or they investigate it superficially, with a mind alien to it, or they take on a miserable state of mind that is opposed to what is required by the Faith. To justify their unbelief, they are satisfied with the most insignificant trifle to refute the Faith. The words of unbelievers shake believers, who, being satisfied with simple faith, do not seek clarification of the foundations of the Faith. Those words take them unawares, and hence they are shaken. Thoughts for Each Day of the Year, p. 268

Why are we sometimes shaken by the specious (i.e., seemingly valid but actually worthless) arguments of the faithless? It may be that we have not studied our Faith enough, but that by itself is easily remedied – the books are all out there, and we have only to immerse ourselves in the tremendous wisdom and insight of the Church expressed by Her various exponents, in order to see how the Orthodox Faith is far and away the most satisfying explanation to life’s puzzle.   The underlying problem is not lack of knowledge but the lack of godly confidence caused by a passion we all suffer from, which is vanity.

This may be surprising to some people, for they often mistake timidity for humility, and imagine that if they are mealy-mouthed this shows that they are not vain. But what is humility? It is not groveling and acting like the doormat of the human race (not acting like Uriah Heep, for you English literature fans). True humility is knowing Who God is, who you are, and what life is really about. It is accurate knowledge of reality, that’s all.   If you know white is white and black is black, you would not be acting out of humility if you said that white is black, just to please a deluded person who says that white is black. On the contrary, you would be acting out of vanity and pride, because that would mean that you think you have permission to deny reality in order to avoid conflict with some other finite creature. You would be playing God.

A truly humble person is courageous.   Since he knows that God in His Providence is taking care of him, that nothing can be done to him that will defeat God’s plan for his salvation, he is not afraid of those who attack his Faith or of what they will do to him if he does not go along with them.

A truly humble person is confident in the truth.   Even if he does not understand every detail, even if he cannot answer every specific objection to his Faith, he knows that the Big Picture of Orthodoxy is as good as it gets, insofar as having a worldview, an understanding of what life is all about. If there is some little thing that has not been explained completely, he trusts that it is explainable to the extent he truly needs it to be, and with prayer and trust he seeks to grow in the knowledge of his Faith.

A truly humble person is meek. He does not have to snarl at someone who raises objections to his faith; he does not have to bite.   With the calmness and courage born of heartfelt certainty, he can serenely and patiently ward off the powerless arrows of false objections, even when his critic is unkind to him personally.

A truly humble person is compassionate. When he sees the unbelief of the other person, he says, “There but for the grace of God go I.” Having accurate self-knowledge, he knows the capacity of his own heart for self-deception, and therefore he recoils from condemning another person who has the same problem. With true sympathy, he wants this person in front of him to be delivered from deception, for he wants what God wants, and God is He “… Who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth (I Timothy 2:4).”

Let us immerse ourselves in the treasures of our precious Faith’s priceless theology, pray for more accurate self-knowledge, and beg the Lord to save our neighbors who labor so painfully in the darkness of unbelief! Amen.

sermon-on-the-mount mosaic
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Orthodox Survival Course Class 47: Russia and the End of the World, Part C – The Church of Russia in the 20th Century

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Introduction: Our Topic, the Russian Church in the 20th Century

A. Why “the end of the world”? Recall our previous discussions about

i. the kathechon (II Thessalonians 2:6-7) and Orthodox monarchism

ii. discerning our place in history – living “after the end,” relationship of Church to society; a new catacomb age

iii. our task of discerning “Where is the Church”? Faith comes first.

a. principles of discernment: the world, the sects, the Church

b. ecclesiology – go back to Class 43. Confession of faith, union with a true bishop.

B. Importance of Sergianism in addition to Ecumenism

i. term “Sergianism” – its origin

ii. importance: Must see that Ecumenism is not to be understood in isolation, but as one aspect of an all-encompassing Antichrist agenda. Sergianism is the linchpin uniting theological indifference to the creation of the appearance of the Church without the reality of the Church. It creates a church organization in service of the Antichrist New Order that will ensnare “if possible, even the elect.”

iii. new soteriology: “two ways” – confession or compromise – the very essence of the spirit of Antichrist

I. Sources – A Reading List

A. The Russian Golgotha, Monastery Press 2006, see esp. “The Sovietization of the Moscow Patriarchate” by V. Moss 93 pp.

B. Articles by V. Moss, esp. and

C. Article by Fr. Nikita Grigoriev:

D. 1972 History of the Russian Church Abroad by Holy Transfiguration Monastery: .

Review of this book by Fr. Seraphim Rose:

E. Life of St. Philaret of New York, by Bishop Stefan (Sabelnik):

F. Again, Russia’s Catacomb Saints, I.M. Andreyev, Fr. Seraphim Rose. .

II. Outline history of the Church in Russia in the 20th century

A. The February Revolution1917 : The synod betrays the Tsar

  • CORRECTION: The new Ober-procurator under the Provisional Government was not Tuchkov (a later, Bolshevik minster) but Prince V. N. Lvov.

B. The October Revolution 1917 and the All Russian Sobor of 1917- 1918 : The patriarch anathematizes the Bolsheviks

C. The Patriarch takes a softer line 1922 – confiscation of church valuables

D. The “Living Church” 1922-1924

E. 1925 repose of the patriarch; three locum tenentes

F. Sergius, the declaration of 16/29, 1927

G. Cainite-Sergianist pseudo-church vs Sethite True Church

H. Stalin’s annihilation of the clergy and churches – 95% by 1940.

I. WWII – the fake church hierarchy created by Stalin

J. 1948 on – WCC, MP as arm of Soviet intelligence, propaganda, and the ongoing destruction of the church in the USSR.

K. Post-Soviet/neo-Soviet MP – the church leadership allied with Putin, now power brokers in their own right

III. The Russian Church Abroad, the Evlogians, the Metropolia/OCA

A. Ukaz 362 of 7/20 November: the Russian Church Abroad was never part of the phony MP created by Stalin. It is *older* than phony MP and, moreover, was actually a real Church.

B. Evlogians – Paris jurisdictions, YMCA, St. Sergius Institute, theological modernism, worldliness. Masonic “Orthodoxy”

C. North America – 1924-1936, 1936-1946. 1946-1970. OCA.

From former Uniates to full-blown modernists.

IV. The MP Acquires Most of the ROCOR.

A. Met. Anastassy’s prohibition and why. Cat and mouse.

B. Russia opens up. ROCOR efforts there. Opposing views.

…To be continued in Class 48!

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Orthodox Survival Course, Class 46: Russia and the End of the World, Part B – Monarchism and Nationalism

Listen to the podcast of this talk at

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Introduction – Apology for a Sidetrack

This section of our course, Faith Comes First, is supposed to focus on ecclesiological issues, especially the errors called Ecumenism and Sergianism, the apostasy of the historical Orthodox hierarchies in the 20th and 21st centuries, and the task of discerning where the True Church is in our times, with a view to our being in it and finding our salvation. Two classes ago, we dealt briefly with the history of Ecumenism in the 20th century, chiefly in reference to the Ecumenical Patriarchate and its leadership in the apostasy, but not without reference to specific Ecumenistic teachings and actions on the part of the various official hierarchies. Last week, we began our discussion of the Russian Church in the 20th century, and I spent a lot of time giving background, especially on the saints of the second millennium in Russia, ending with St. John of Kronstadt. Besides St. John’s spiritual character and theological traditionalism, I also referred to his hardcore positions on nationalism and monarchism. These are two subjects that properly belong to our later sections on Family and Society, but since I brought them up, and since they may be controversial (I have already received questions about it), I would like to say a few things about these topics right now. So today we are going to have two excursus (side-trips), on Monarchism and Nationalism.

By the way, I apologize (in both senses) for my getting carried away last time in talking about St. John of Kronstadt’s and New Hieromartyr Vladimir’s positions on monarchism. I apologize in the American sense of “Forgive me if my emotion or strong expression offended you”; I certainly have a way to go in acquiring the discretion to use just the right words to convey truth without getting aggressive. But I also apologize in the original sense, that is, to make a reasoned defense. I must defend my freedom to speak on controversial issues prior to becoming a passionless elder, which probably won’t happen until my final illness and deathbed (I hope). If I – or any sincere truth-seeker and truth-teller – get emotional or say rough things, that’s a lot better than cowardly silence, which is the problem today: The incensive power has been neutered, and men on the right side of life-and-death issues are shamed into silence by effeminate whiners who claim to be offended by hyperbole or rough language. So anyone out there who was offended by my quoting St. Vladimir the New Hieromartyr of Kiev saying that only a monarchist could be a good priest: If you happen to be a liberal democratic priest listening to my talk somewhere out there, I assure you that I do have charitable thoughts about you, and I don’t blame you or say I know that you, in our real life situation in 2019, are a bad priest. I ascribe your position on political theory to ignorance, not malice, until you prove otherwise.

It’s important to remember that you cannot isolate Orthodoxy as purely a theological position or Church membership as something divorced from the rest of one’s life. Orthodoxy does not only have a theology – Orthodoxy is concerned with the whole man, and therefore also with anthropology, domestic life, sociology, politics, and all the rest. There is no subject that is essential to understanding man’s life in this world that is foreign to the Church’s concerns, because She was founded by Christ to save people as they are, not people in the abstract. When people say, “The Church should not get involved in politics (or the arts or education or the family or medicine, or anything else besides having beautiful rituals and constructing magnificent church buildings),” what they really mean is that Satan should rule in man’s life, not Christ. There is no “value-neutral” position on how men live their lives: You are either with Christ or you are against Him. There is an Orthodox way of looking at everything.

As I have said before, “politics” is not a dirty word. It means something very specific, which is the science and art of arranging life in the greater community beyond the family hearth, which is essential to a truly human life. Aristotle calls it the highest level of ethical philosophy, because it incorporates all of the ethical wisdom involving smaller units – the individual, the family, and the clan – and brings it all together in a comprehensive vision, just as architecture is the queen of the visual arts, because it incorporates all of them in a microcosmic ensemble. Of course, God Who loves mankind would be interested in how man arranges his life, and God’s Church would have a position on this. This should not surprise or offend anyone, especially an Orthodox Christian.

So, since I wandered into these topics last time and probably aroused a little controversy, today we will put our chronology of the Russian Church in the 20th century on hold and make two excursus into these sparky topics of monarchism and nationalism. They are not inapplicable, of course, to our understanding of the spiritual meaning of the Church’s history in recent times, and what we learn to today will help us understand the ecclesiological issues we are dealing with. We will, of course, get back to the specific ecclesiological topics of Ecumenism and Sergianism, because that’s the focus of the current section of our course.

Excursus A – Monarchism

A) Theological Aspect – We did a course on this at St. Irene based on Vladimir Moss’s study, Politics from Cain to Constantine (See Appendix below). Link to book:

i. God is King

ii. The nation is part of the great hierarchy of being.

iii. The monarch is an image and representative of divine authority

iii. Biblical precedent

iv. historical precedent

(Q: Does monarchism justify the full-blown papal ideology? A: No, because of the latter’s tendency to chiliasm. BTW, Fr. Fahey’s books are great, except for the papism – See Fr. Denis Fahey, The Mystical Body of Christ in the Modern World and The Mystical Body of Christ and the Reorganization of Society).

B) Historical role in protecting the nation

i. Dr. M.R. Johnson on monarchy’s restraining oligarchy. See his articles in, Also see Michael Hudson’s book on debt and monarchy vs. oligarchy: And Forgive Them Their Debts Very relevant to today!

ii. King is living embodiment of national tradition. He is free to protect and rule, unlike politicians, who are controlled by financial elites.

C) Monarchism and America: Can you have an Orthodox republic?

i. Aristotle’s model: Theoretically there are three forms of good government.

Good Form Bad Form

Monarchy Tyranny

Aristocracy Oligarchy

Democracy Ochlocracy

A true king will die for his subjects, as a father dies for his family. A true aristocrat is born and bred to cultivate virtues (he is aristos – excellent, virtuous) and lives for the service of the nation. Example of corrupt aristocracy – Masonic and liberal Russian aristocracy who brought about the 1917 February Revolution. See Moss cc. 32 and 33 of The Rise and Fall of the Russian Autocracy,

ii. Examples of successful republics: limited size, homogeneity, aristocracy

iii. Problem of republic’s natural tendency to commercialism; the bourgeois culture and its inherent incompatibility with the Gospel. See Christopher Dawson’s “Catholicism and the Bourgeois Mind” in Dynamics of World History (ISI Books, 2007). Tendency of commercial elites to cosmopolitanism (see below!) and therefore disloyalty to nation. Tie of money is unnatural and encourages vice. (Fathers say that avarice is the only completely unnatural vice. Aquinas: In a society where the commercial dominates, the growth of vice is inevitable.) Ties of blood, soil, religion, and culture are natural and encourage virtue.

iv. America

a. Founders’ intention: Aristocratic and peaceful republic of one race and one religion based on virtue and learning. In the early republic only 5% of the population voted (hat tip to MRJ) – free male heads of household who owned property, paid taxes, and were not on public assistance. That they were literate was a given. Importance of yeomanry and small farms.

b. Today’s reality: Multicultural empire owned by anti-Christian and anti-white oligarchs, based on vice and ignorance.

c. The Orthodox monarchist living under this regime obeys the laws that do not conflict with God’s law, but does not adopt the reigning ideology.

Excursus B – Nationalism

A) Matthew 28 – μαθητεύσατε πάντα τὰ ἔθνη : Make disciples of all nations. Discipleship as encompassing the whole of life. The nation as a natural unit of spiritual identity. Actual church history: National churches in one form or another, whether within empires or in national polities.

B) Patriotism and nationalism – two aspects of love of one’s own, each reflecting the masculine and feminine principles respectively. Patria – the fatherland, the homeland . Natio – the people sharing the same birth. The patriot’s motto is non sibi sed suis.

C) Distortions – militarism, xenophobia (real xenophobia), etc. False accusations of xenophobia, “fascism,” etc.

D) Opposed to patriotism and nationalism: Cosmopolitanism. See Metropolitan Philaret (St. Philaret of New York), in On the Law of God, chapter on “Family and Society; Patriotism.”

E) What is my “nation” if I am in America or another non-Orthodox country?

i. Ancient Western nations had an Orthodox history and saints.

ii. America has a real history, and there are real Americans.

iii. But the Real America is dead or almost. Need to form small, tight-knit communities of Faith and shared culture.

iv. What culture? > Romanitas

Appendix: Summary of our Course on Cain to Constantine by V. Moss

Orthodox Political Theory

A Study of Politics from Cain to Constantine, by Vladimir Moss

Listen to podcast of the first lecture at

Final Class – Summary


We began this mini-course in response to the turmoil in current political life. It is essential that Orthodox Christians look beyond the chaos of contemporary life and understand the timeless truths that our Faith teaches, including truths about political authority and the organization of society.

Our vocation in the current situation is to rise above political passions and witness to the timeless truths of the Faith, in order to help our neighbors.

I. The nature of legitimate authority:

A. All legitimate authority derives from above, from God, and not from below (thepeople”). This is extremely important to remember in light of our country’s political philosophy being so influenced by the 18th century idea of the “sovereign will of the people.”

B. We see right from the beginning, in Genesis, that God established earthly authority in the persons of Adam and his consort, Eve, as possessing a delegated authority over creation.

1. Adam, as head of his family, is the prototype for all earthly rulers.

2. We see here, then, that godly authority derives from God, and is hierarchical, patriarchal, and familial.

II. False Models of Authority

A. The pagan god-king

i. arose after the corruption of the human race

ii. not only is all civic and priestly authority vested in one man, but he is worshipped as a god or The God.

iii. invariably involved with human (usually infant) sacrifice and immoral sexuality, connected to demonically distorted ideas of fertility and material success

B. The Utopias of the Philosophers

i. Plato and Aristotle had many important insights, but ultimately their vision was flawed because of incomplete understanding of human nature, the reality of sin, and, of course, their lack of knowledge of the true God.

ii. Their valuable insights, however, still shed light and can be incorporated into an Orthodox Philosophy of Politics. Examples include Plato’s Allegory of the Cave as an illustration of the need to be ruled not by the most rich or powerful but by the most wise, and his theory of the Tripartite Powers of the Soul; as well as Aristotle’s explanation of three forms of legitimate government (monarchy, aristocracy, and politeia [res publica]) and their corresponding corruptions (tyranny, oligarchy, and mob-rule).

III. True Models of Authority

A. Sacred Kingship in the Old Testament Church

i. Key figure is David, who was called by God precisely because of his personal holiness. He is the archetypal image of the Good King.

ii. The sacerdotal and kingly powers are separate.

iii. The king is not God, and his rule is not arbitrary, but bound by the law of God.

iv. The king protects the Old Testament Church structure (the temple, the priests, etc.), and they are loyal subjects of the king, not rivals to the king.

B. Sacred Kingship in the New Testament Church

i. Key figure is St. Constantine. ii., iii, and iv above are all present.

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