Where and what the Holy Apostolic Church is nowadays
(The word on the 4-th week after Pentecost, on the Cathedral of 12 Apostles)
The Gospel from Matthew 8:5-13
In the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit.
Today, on the fourth week after Pentecost we celebrate the light Sunday and the memory of the Cathedral of twelve Apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ, and yesterday, as you know, we honored the memory of the great high Apostles: Peter and Paul.
Therefore it will be relevant to talk about Apostles, about their significance in the Christ's Church, and about the Christ's Church Itself, which the Lord has founded on the earth on the basis of these Apostles.
We read and sing frequently during a divine service the Symbol of our Belief, but the trouble is that we sing or read, but sometimes we do not reflect at all: what do we trust in? The fact that the Creed includes the concrete 12 postulates is not casual; we should firmly know, should understand each item of it and realize: what do we believe in, and what do we profess by our belief? It is the cornerstone of our salvation, for it is impossible to be rescued without the right belief! It is impossible to please the God without it! The right belief is not sufficient, but salvation is impossible without right belief!
These words are one of the postulates: " I believe in the One Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church... ". And we should understand what we believe in, and that we profess by these words. Why is our Church called " the One"? The One means one and the only Church is on the earth: there are no two, three, ten, twelve, hundred, two hundred or one thousand churches, but One!
One Church! That separates us at once from the false thought that there are a great number of churches that can be mixed into one heap... etc. No, there are a great number of errors, but the Church is one and the Truth is one: " One Lord! One belief! One Christening! " - Apostle teaches us and throws off all the false opinions, that there can be a multitude of truths, a multitude of churches at the same time... That is the total lie and delusion! One Church is on the earth!
We profess this uniqueness of the Church in words, pronouncing the Creed, but we betray this belief as soon as we reach the point of mundane understanding and application. In practice we start professing something totally different: that there supposedly are a great number of churches (the churches, which are mutually exclusive for each other, which do not recognize one another, accuse each other of various heresies, deviations, etc.). Thus, somehow in our consciousness we forget (due to our infirmity and ignorance), that the Church is the one and only. We profess: "Yes, this one can be a church, and that one can be a church as well… and another one... and it does not matter that they are fighting against one another, but "they" are a "church" anyway."
This is the great delusion!
That is why the definition of the true Church is given in the Creed to make it very clear that there is the One and only Church: Holy, Catholic and Apostolic...
Therefore, approaching any group of people, which calls itself "Christ's church", we should check them out on these substantive statutes: if the given group of people is a holy church, whether it is catholic, and if it is apostolic? And we begin from verification whether a church is apostolic because the holy Apostles established the basis of our belief and the basis of our Church.
The Holy Spirit descended upon them on the day of Pentecost! Not upon casual people, not upon passers-by, but upon the holy Apostles, who were pre-chosen by the God Himself for this service, who were prepared by the Lord Himself, who were the eyewitnesses, who contemplated the Lord, revealed in the flesh for the sake of our salvation. They co-suffered with Him, walked with Him, saw Him, listened to Him. They saw His miracles, listened to His marvelous sermons and consequently they are the basis of our Church.
The Lord created the Church on the Apostles. This is the God's will! Moreover, the Lord, who left the earth in flesh, ascended into Heaven and sat at the right hand of the Father; ascended There the earthly flesh and the entire human essence.
Nevertheless, He has left His promise, that the hell's gates will not overcome the Church created by Him, and that He will always spiritually be with His true followers in His Church until the end of time!
And this is a very important promise, we shouldn't omit any word! He has not just told: " I shall be with you until the end of time... " Because even in our ordinary life, for example, the phrase: " I have lived with her for 50 years ", said by a husband, in reality turns out into 25 years (as if he was, say, a seaman, he could be absent every half of the year). And if we add all the possible trips, dreamtime, etc. we will end up with very small quantity of years.
Therefore the Lord has emphasized, that He will be with us, not in general, but every day:" all the days until the end of time ", i.e. there won't be any day without the Lord in His Church. It is what the Lord said, and His Word is true and, undoubtedly comes true!
Therefore if any grouping says: " well, today we haven't been lucky, the Lord hasn't been with us, otherwise we would show you... " It is a lie, which has nothing to do with the true Church.
The Lord is always in His Church through His Holy Spirit and consequently the Church is the living God-human organism, headed by the Lord Jesus Christ and ruled by the Holy Spirit, which does not die for one day, for one hour, for one moment! If the Living God is present at His Church IT CANNOT be imperceptible!
It is ridiculous, insane and blasphemous to believe, that if any group of people has gathered at church, and is unable to do anything: neither miracles, nor signs, or revelations, or healing, nothing! What is it? That means: there is no God with them! Otherwise how can it be? The God has fallen asleep? Or has ceased to Create?
- It can not be that the Grace of the Holy Spirit has run out!
- No! It means that this group is not blessed, it is in delusion, in heresy, anywhere, but NOT with the God!
That is why the first check is on Apostle-ship. Here again there is such a nuance: it is very important to understand, what does it mean - Apostolic Church? The official theology tells that the Apostolic Church is the one, which traces its succession beginning back to the St. Apostles, and basically it is correct and precisely told. But the question is which way does this Church trace its succession back to the Apostles?
Here again it is very important to understand the mutual relations between the Lord and the Apostles and on the basis of this knowledge to comprehend the relationships between the St. Apostles and their successors.
The Lord ascended into Heaven - that is the fact, which we celebrate on the Ascension Day, and that is a doubtless church dogma. He will come back to the earth the second time only as the King of Glory and the Judge. Again, we use the Creed for profession of this fact. Therefore there is no way He would come here the second time in flesh and guide the Church directly.
In that case, for what reason, I ask you, the Apostles, left without the Lord and their successors forgive and resolve the sins of people, for example? The Gospel tells us openly that even stray Jews, the high priests, pharisees and scribes realized, that nobody can forgive sins, except for the God and reproached with it even the Living God in the person of Jesus Christ!
And what shall we tell them? How shall we object to them?
Here such a pharisee will come and tell you: " Guys, stop playing the fool, your Lord ascended into Heaven! That's it, you have no any right to forgive sins! Who has given you this right? Only the God can do that, so I shall go directly to the Lord! And I don't take orders from you! All those priests, bishops... you don't exist: it is all a game... " How shall we object to him?
And we shall object to him, that the Lord ascended into Heaven: that is the fact, but He delegated His power to the Apostles. He blew at them and told: "Receive the Holy Spirit. Whose so ever sins you remit, they are remitted unto them; whose so ever sins you retain they are retained." (Gospel of St. John, Chapter 20, Verses 21-23)
And when Apostle Peter on behalf of all the Apostles professed Him to be the Son of the Living God, i.e. the true God, revealed in flesh, the Lord strengthened, confirmed that confession and said: "On the stone of this profession I shall create the Church, the One and only Church which " the gates of the hell will not overcome ". Then the Lord told Peter, and in his person all the Apostles and their successors, that the most important power, which is granted by the Lord Jesus Christ to His Church, namely to the Apostles and their successors in spirit and truth, is the power to forgive, remit sins, or to retain them (i.e. this power is bilateral: not to remit only, but to retain as well!)
And what will be retained on the earth, will be retained in the Heaven (such a power is given)!
And what the Apostle or true priest will remit on the earth - will be remitted in the Heaven. These words are from the Gospel! That is the law. And that is not what people or the Apostles invented, but the Lord has given them this Divine power.
And in this they come to resemble to the God! And they are equal to the God in this. And they are really the gods by the Grace of the Holy Spirit as the Holy Scripture tells us. The Lord referred to this place in the Old Testament, telling the men: " I have said: you are the gods " and the Holy Scripture cannot tell a lie. The Apostles are the gods by blessing, and first of all, in resolving sins, for nobody else, except for the God, can do that.
But they are the gods not just in that. They are the gods in the Mystery of Eucharist for NO person EVER can transform bread and wine into the Body and Blood of Christ IN ANY WAY. It is NOT human business! Even if all people gather, making every effort, blowing on it nothing will happen. Only the God can do THAT!
That is why we have the only one Bishop, the only one High Priest in the Church unto ages of ages until the end of time: our Lord Jesus Christ! The Church and the Apostle Paul teach this way, and that is true.
They can ask: if you have only one Bishop, only one High Priest in the Church, what do the other people, which call themselves bishops and archbishops, do here? Another tricky question: and all the protestants, all the heretics lay stress on it. They have studied this part very well, but not to get connected with the Divine Grace, with the God, with the God's will, but just to argue with the orthodox Christians, pointing out the "incontestable" authority of the words from the Scripture. And those ones start babbling something in helplessness, being unable to explain anything in a clear way.
But the explanation is very simple: the Lord delegated His Archbishop's power to the New Testament clergy for two major deeds:
- To forgive, remit and retain sins and
- To transform the offered bread and wine into Pure and Holy Body and Blood of Christ in the Sacrament of Eucharist, in which the faithful ones receive communion, connecting them with the God through the Sacrament, established by the Lord, and profess the Lord in this Sacrament.
"Do this in remembrance of me" (Luke 22:19), " For I received from the Lord what I also passed on to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night in which He was betrayed took bread, and after He had given thanks He broke it and said: "This is My Body, which is for you. Do this in remembrance of Me." In the same way, He also took the cup after supper, saying, "This cup is the new covenant in My Blood. Do this, every time you drink it, in remembrance of Me." For every time you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord's death until He comes."(1 Cor. 11: 23-26) - such a memory of the God! Vivid, real memory, memory through vital connection with the Living God! Not so that to read something through, to recollect something and admit: yes, there is the God somewhere. Let's remember Him!
No, the question is not about that memory, but about real connection and live memory! There is also another memory of the God through incessant appealing to His Name in the personal aspect; but in the church context there is only such the Eucharistic memory.
That joins us all together into one Church; so the Church is where the true communion, true Sacrament of the Christ's Body and Blood, and the true living memory are. The church consecrates a lot of members, which are incorporated into one Body through getting connected with the one and only Body of our Lord and God Jesus Christ. So, receiving the same His Blood, all members of the Church have the same Blood of Christ in their veins: therefore we really (not symbolically or allegorically) are brothers and sisters in the Christ! The most real brothers and sisters, and that is the highest spiritual brotherhood! Here, the true connection of all the Church members happens in one spirit - the Holy Spirit! Such unity is the basis of accord and harmony of views of all the members of the Church.
And how should we treat one another? How can I offend a brother, or a sister in the Christ, if there is the Blood of Christ in me and there is the Blood of Christ in her, or in him! It is very important to keep that in mind so that not to raise a hand against a brother, or a sister in the Christ, not to litigate with him (or her), not to run into condemnation! It is forbidden to even complain about the brothers: " do not complain, brotherhood, against one another, so that not to be condemned... " (James 5:9)
And again, it is necessary to accept the fact that the Lord granted the authority to us in the Church hierarchy, having delegated the Divine power we talked about to the true clergy: the power to forgive and resolve sins, and to perform the Sacraments. Therefore it is very important to understand that to profess correctly.
But the third question is left: yes, we have accepted, understood correctly now and profess the regulations about authority of the Church. But how this Divine strength and power to forgive sins and perform the Sacraments, granted by the Lord to the Holy Apostles, is transmitted to their successors in reality? We remember the way the Lord granted the Divine Grace of the Holy Spirit to the Church: It had emerged from a fiery cloud in the form of fiery languages. But which way has it been transmitted to the following generation of the Apostles' successors?
Not that simple, as formal theology tells.
The formal theology asserts, that the fact that the Apostles or their successors lay their hands upon the head of the chosen candidate, who is being ordained, and recite the corresponding prayers is sufficient to make him a bishop. In post-Apostles time the available bishops (not less than two, usually - three) lay their hands upon the head of a following candidate (chosen among hieromonks), who becomes a bishop again, able to continue the work of conferring Holy Orders, etc.
So if instead of original Church - Apostolic Church (though It is always Apostolic, and we call It Apostolic, not because we have a living Apostle right nearby, but because It was established by Them)- any grouping appears later it cannot be the Church! So, lutheranism, ecumenism, whatever, cannot be called the Church, for it is not possible that the Church had existed, then disappeared somewhere and has appeared again. That is NOT the Apostolic Church then!
That is why the Apostolic succession is very important! Succession is very important to see whether a given structure is really the Church, but it is not sufficient.
It is possible that the church-like structure is able to trace the chain of holy orders in a formal way and even prove the continuity of formal ordination. But we cannot assert that the given structure is the Church just for this reason.
For example: the Roman catholics or the Moscow patriarchy are not the churches. They may tell us in return: " doesn't the Roman pope have a formal ordination? ", or "didn't m. Sergiy Stargorodskiy have a lawful ordination from the Apostles?"
And I shall answer: the pope "has" and m. Sergiy "had", because that is correct and I have no intention to abuse them vainly in this respect. Yes, m. Sergiy Stargorodskiy "had" the lawful ordination, and that's just the trouble he had: the trouble for him, and for the Russian church, because it is even worse and more horrible than if he had been just an invented renegade. Then the attitude to him would be different (clinical). Even such the people appeared nowadays!
There, for example, a GAI officer (policeman) stood with a baton, passing the cars and taking money, then thought: " What am I doing here? I shall better go "in saviors"… and has revealed himself as "Vissarion revealing", having declared "the salvation" is from me only, here in Novosibirsk. Most important is just not to eat carrots, not to study, not to use electricity, not to wash yourself, etc. and you will be "rescued". Moreover you should make a magic circle with the lit candles and "worship".
And a lot of such the "queer birds" appeared. For instance, so-called " the White brotherhood "... headed by the comsomol leaders, who declared themselves to be the "christs", "marias" and "devi", i.e. a demon in one person. Someone named Marina Tsvigun, for example, re-named herself into "Maria Devi Christos". I met that lady once in a prison corridor, when she was led to interrogation. I must say it was an unfortunate and suppressed creature. There is someone called Innokentiy, who declared himself to be Christ and on behalf of Him dispatching letters to patriarchs-apostates and presidents with demands for voluntary transmission of power to him. There are a lot of others, but they are just the "queer birds", who have jumped out from the nether world and started their "monkey business".
But the things are absolutely different with metropolitans, bishops and archimandrites. They are in "law".
Let's take the history of heresies by means of which the devil was fighting with the Church. In fact the heresies did not sprout as the tall weeds in a kitchen garden. Who did they go back to?
-To the archimandrite Ariy, to Nestoriy (he was the church metropolitan, had the lawful ordination, lawful succession from the lawful bishop Appolinariy). And all the heresy-arches (i.e. chiefs of heresies) were, as a rule, high-ranking officials in church. They were either bishops, or archimandrites, or priests. The insignificant persons hardly could lead a lot of people.
They had to have some influence, power and force behind themselves to introduce heresy. The devil chose such persons! They were not the fools in the mundane, earthly meaning of this word. They were eloquent, knew a lot and their beautiful way of expounding was a kind of temptation. All of them were the "theologians"! And Sergiy was the theologian as well: he wrote so many volumes! "Oh-oh-oh"!
So, does it mean that just formal ordination is not sufficient to be the Christ's Church? - Yes, it's not enough: as we see from these examples, unfortunately or maybe fortunately (unfortunately - for them, fortunately - for us), mechanical, formal ordination can be preserved, but the spiritual succession is ended at the moment of dropping the giving person out of the Church into heresy.
And consequently from this very moment such a person is not a metropolitan, a bishop or a priest any more: he is a layman and then an apostate. Being excommunicated in reality from the Church by the God Himself, he, nevertheless, continues calling himself a bishop, in a crafty way, conferring Holy Orders, etc. But all his actions have nothing to do with the Church. They are not blessed, are vain and sinful. The God disdains to them and to their performer.
In this sense it was told, that "the gates of hell will not overcome the Church". They will not overcome It by all the heresies, false doctrines and alike for the Church is inaccessible for all of that. And consequently the Church remains Holy! It remains not just a pillar, but the confirmation of the Truth!
And it doesn't matter how many people represent the Church at the moment. It can be narrowed even up to one-two-three ones, who remain in the Church, while the billions of people are outside of It. And let them honor and call themselves any way they wish, they have nothing to do with the true Church!
So, just formal ordination is not enough for definition of the Church.
Therefore there is a sort of double succession in the Church: the first one is a succession of formal ordination and hierarchy based on this formal ordination, and the second one is a spiritual succession, which we see in the uninterrupted chain of the saints.
Sometimes it happens that the same person is a saint and a Hierarch, combining these two successions in him. The church recognizes such the saint Hierarches as St. John Chrysostom (Golden Mouth), St. Basil the Great, St. Gregory the Theologian, St. Nicholas the Wonderworker, Bishop of Mira in Lycia, etc. But there are bishops, who are not the saints, but apostates, heretics, Christ-sellers, though formally they had been lawful bishops before they dropped out of the Church. They hadn't preserved spiritual succession, hoping only on an outward one, and dropped out of the Church in the result, not even having noticed that quite often.
A lot of splits of the church structures and another harm happen in the Church due to this division. But, unfortunately, this division between external and internal, spiritual succession really exists.
When it occurs to one person, we know the way it's called: "schizophrenia", but when that occurs to the church structures, we don't know the way it's called. For there cannot be church "schizophrenia"! The Christ Church cannot become "insane"!
It turns out, that a priest, lawfully ordinated by a bishop, was attached to the Church just through laying the hands upon his head, but inside had no spiritual succession, i.e. the Divine Grace of the Holy Spirit, which is granted to the candidate at the same time for his personal feat.
He has taken certificate from a bishop: " here you are, look: I am a priest," but emptiness remained inside of him, which is filled by demons shortly. Result is horrible in this case: instead of a true successor of the Apostles, who should lead the holy life, bring the fruits of his feats, testify the Divine Grace; he is deranged, possessed by devils lost man, but - "competent", but - with "succession", but - in the sacerdotal vestment.
Here is a subject for chagrin, here is an occasion for particular crying, and here whence there are so many troubles in the Church - due to this inward and outward disparity.
That is why our Church is called Holy to distinguish It from the other communities, which have preserved the ordination on the surface, but are not holy. Because there is " unholy church " as well, i.e. an assembly of formally professing the Christ to be the God people, gathering somewhere to pray and so on.
Actually there - in that assembly of unholy people - there is no Christ, or the God, or the Divine Grace.
The true Church is called Holy because it has been sanctified by blood of a huge number of martyrs during the first three centuries of Christianity. Those holy martyrs testified fidelity to Christ, fidelity to the Apostles, fidelity to dogmatic Belief up to an iota, up to a single letter, up to a dot by their life itself and by their martyr's death! They were dying by martyr's death for each comma of church dogmas, for each doctrine. They disagreed even for appearance's sake to renounce their Belief, and keep it just inwardly, as the crafty torturers suggested. They have known very well, that as soon as you tell people that you not a Christian, or give up Christ, or make any action expressing this refusal, you will loose Christ, and the Divine Grace of the Holy Spirit (even though you keep your belief inside).
Therefore they went through torture and death with joy for the sake of Christ and for the Christ - Truth!
And what do we see now? Where do we see such a belief and fidelity nowadays?
The modern stray churchmen carry on a dialogue with the enemies of Christ, kiss each other, serve something in common, celebrate, and call all of that "ecumenism".
We know that if we take pure honey and add a little bit of tar, several drops of potassium cyanide, any acid or alike, what a mixture and what a "food" it will be! But in fact that exactly is ecumenism! It is impossible to mix the unmixable! Because, if you mix the pure thing with a dirty and poisonous one it will become dirty and poisonous as well, but the dirty thing will never become pure. And the poisonous thing will never become nonpoisonous.
And how is it possible to take the one and only Pure Bride, whom the Church is and to mix Her with all kinds of lecherous women! And continue thinking, that it is the Christ's Church? NO, it cannot be!
Therefore the one, who is even seeming to be in the one and only Church, decides on association with various heretics, he mixes himself only, according to the canon and spiritual law, but not the Church, for he already is outside of the Church. That is why the gates of the hell will not overcome the Church! Because it is impossible to involve It into any dirt, into any heresy, following the expression of any stray person's will.
Therefore, if we fall into sins, we drop out of the Church; if we violate the doctrines, we drop out of the Church! But the Church remains Holy and Pure. Why? Because we believe in the Church!
If the Church was just a specific evident structure why to believe in it?
If I see something: here you are, there is a chair, why would I believe in it?
So, when we profess: " I believe in the One Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church", we assert that It is invisible in Its very essence, although manifests Itself through the concrete structures.
And this duality of the Church (on the one hand - it is invisible, as the Body of Christ, but at the same time It is not incorporeal and can be seen) should necessarily have concrete manifestations in this life. For It was established on the earth for the earthly people, for their salvation. Therefore we shift these two extremes and correctly overcome them, so that It was not incorporeal, nevertheless we do not reduce One just to the visible structure.
And a mistake of the majority of these structures is that they attribute the words about impossibility to overcome the Christ's Church by the hells gates, told to Apostle Peter and in his person to all Apostles and their successors, to themselves and exclusively to their structures. They start "pressing" by these words, claiming: " yes, we are the church, we are invincible ". Whom and where was that told? Where did the Lord tell that Moscow patriarchy is invincible? Where is it written that Georgian, or Armenian, or Serbian, or Bulgarian churches are invincible?
- Nowhere. And that is written in the Scripture not about any national church, or historical church, or any local church, or the church of a one people, but about the One and Only Church, which we believe in, which includes all people of different nationalities, according to the God's Providence. As long as they observe the God's conditions, as far as they are " the living twigs on the Christ's Vine" as long as they observe doctrines and belief in Christ insofar as they are the members of the Church. Here again there is another important point: our belief, the one and only, but it has a kind of two applications.
The dogmatic belief, which we profess what we believe in is the Creed and all the explanations and interpretation of it. That is the major part, that is the most necessary part, but it is not sufficient. That is, violating this dogmatic belief, the person will not be rescued, but the formal keeping of it is not sufficient for salvation either! Such a violator of doctrines should be necessarily corrected by the God's Providence, by the Divine Grace and recognize all the doctrines of Belief on the Day of Judgment at least, accept them unshakably in the way they are.
It is frightening even to think that it's possible to violate the doctrines of Belief! These are not the compositions of people, not a human philosophy. These doctrines are the revelation of the God! The merciful God wished to reveal to us, humans, what really is at Him, from Him, what is His and we have no power, or strength, or right to change anything! The God is the Holy Trinity, the One God in Three Persons, etc.
Jesus Christ is the perfect God, the perfect Man, injured and crucified under Pontius Pilate for the sake of our salvation. And we cannot correct any of these doctrines, or change anything; we cannot add or remove the least word or letter, for it is truly awful. Sometimes it's difficult to grasp one or another doctrine. I know, there are some ignorant people among believers, who don't feel any difference: this way, or another one something is phrased, they just don't care. Some people even reached the point of such an interpretation of The Holy Trinity: "The God-Trinity is Jesus Christ, Virgin Mary and St. Nicholas the Wonderworker". Yes, some simple peasants from the countryside reached the point of such a ridiculous understanding. And whose fault is it? Those people? - No, but their priests. How can it happen that the priest does not know what his parishioners believe in? Why didn't he deign to teach them the correct and true profession of the orthodox belief? That is where all of that came from: falling, and dropping out of the Church, and collapse. Certainly, not everyone can have a deep understanding of the doctrines of our belief. Therefore that is enough to profess the Creed with understanding, to lead continually a righteous life and to know the works of Holy Fathers of the Church.
It is a cornerstone, but that is not sufficient. Here today's Gospel from Matthew is, which is narrated about a meeting of a Roman centurion with the Lord, where the centurion begged the Lord to heal his suffering servant by His word. Again, by a word!
It clearly shows, that not just dogmatic belief is necessary, which is extremely important, but another belief as well. Which is another Belief?
- Complete trust to our Lord Jesus Christ: "Let us commit ourselves and one another other, and the entire our life to the Christ our God" - as it is proclaimed during Divine service. Or: "The Christ is everything for a Christian" - St. Ignaty Bryanchaninov tells.
If we understood that, we would profess that there is dogmatic Belief, and there is Belief - Trust to the God: complete, reverential doubtless trust to the God. This is Belief, and only this one reveals the miracles, because dogmatic Belief itself is just a basis. By itself it cannot heal anyone, or resurrect from the dead, etc. Dogmatic belief is absolutely necessary, but it alone is not enough. Many believe like that, but nothing occurs to them. But when the person with live Belief addresses his prayers to the Lord he receives what was asked for.
That is why this Belief of the centurion has surprised the Lord. For, how would it be possible to surprise Him if someone had come to give such a theological speech: " And here, my Lord, I know all the doctrines. I know: You are the second person of the Holy Trinity. You have come to rescue us, You will be crucified, You will resurrect from the dead, etc. "
Would the Lord be surprised? I do not think so. I do not think he would be surprised, as it can be studied, remembered, and correctly stated and professed. And while the heretics with their heresy do not profess in the right way, deluded people even profess the Belief correctly, but in their internal spiritual life run into delusion, trusting demons instead of the Divine Grace, i.e. accept, say, a devilish action for Divine blessing. That is delusion, and they perish, not because of violating doctrines, but due to the absence of this Belief in the God, alive, binding, connecting with the God in the most real way. Demons stand behind the covering force, passing themselves off as divine creations, and deluded people, blinded by their pride, trust them, accept their suggestions, get damaged, and perish.
Therefore the centurion's belief was so surprising. And consequently the Lord has praised him, and not just has praised but left for us this great example of Belief which He didn't find even in Israel. Because majority of people in Israel, even had been prepared to accept the Messiah, reading the Scripture, studying and knowing everything, did not believe Him and in Him. And the Savior has established the law of rescue on the basis of the Roman centurion's profession, on the basis of this Belief and marvelous humility, according which many will come (into the Church) from the East and the West, and will take their places at the feast with Abraham, and the other righteous people in the Kingdom of Heaven. But the sons of the Kingdom (the members of the Church, who don't have the live Belief, but profess the doctrines formally and outwardly) will be thrown outside, into the hell domains. And the centurion has said: "My Lord, I am unworthy to have you come under my roof." Here compare, what humility should be!
The person shows humility, telling: "I am unworthy!" On the other hand he reveals his marvelous Belief into the power of the God and His Divine word: if I tell people and they do what I tell them to do, won't they obey You, the God? But in our life it turns out that we believe that the commands of a chief, or parent, or someone else who has any kind of power, will be listened and executed, but we don't trust that the God's command will be performed. We can even declare our belief, but somewhere in the depth of our spirit - we do not trust this, and consequently we constantly make a blunder in our lives.
That is why we do not get from the God what we ask for, for if we trusted, we would receive undoubtedly.
And if we ask, ask, ask for something, but it is not given, the problem is in us, not in the God, but in us! That is why the Lord has shown us the way through this Belief, through complete trust in Him and a doubtless hope to receive what we ask for.
Therefore He has told, in contrast to dogmatic belief on it's own, in addition to it, that many sons of the Kingdom, i.e. those who believe dogmatically in the right way, will be thrown by the God outside, into the darkness, since they didn't link up with Him inwardly.
" Move away from me, I do not know you " - here is a verdict to all hypocritical believers in the God! Certainly you wrote doctrines and professed them correctly, wrote theological works, but I do not know you personally, a contact with you personally did not take place, communication was not established.
You had a great advantage, because dogmatically you had been prepared, you could enter into conversation with me, you had everything for it, but you didn't want and I do not have you.
And here is the person who was an officer of the Roman army and probably did not know the doctrines of the right belief. What, did the Roman centurion finish a spiritual academy or seminary? - Certainly not! He did his military business, served in pagan Roman army, not in the Christian one. And among reigning idolatry, worship to the pantheon of gods, he did find his way to the Lord Jesus Christ, and through him - a way to Salvation.
And the Lord has emphasized that the healing of the servant was not just His concession to the centurion and then the Roman officer has perished in idolatry or without the right belief. Nothing of the kind!
Having this Roman officer as the example, He said: "I say to you that many will come from the East and the West, and will take their places at the feast with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in the Kingdom of Heaven" (Matth.8: 11)
I.e. the Lord points His finger directly at him, the Roman centurion (as an example), and defines: such people will enter the Heavenly Kingdom!
And you, observers of doctrines and canons, will be expelled! Because you are the New Testament hypocrites, because you did not have even for one hour the Divine Grace of the Holy Spirit, in Which the Church was born, through Which became firmly established and is being maintained! And who are you without the Holy Spirit? What the members are you? - Dried branches, which are torn off and thrown into fire, an eternal fire!
Such the correct precept for understanding of Belief is given to us.
So, the Church is Holy because it is based on such Belief, both dogmatic and personal complete trust to the God, obtained through real communication with Him, called Divine communication. In fact the person who does not trust the Lord's words, will not go to the death for him and His covenants, especially to the martyr's death.
Such a person will say: why should I suffer that? After all they will be planing me, tearing my leather off, setting fire to me, splitting up my joints, piercing the heated metal core through one ear to another one, and many other things will do, about which we read in the biographies of the holy martyrs? In fact these are not fairy tales, but the reality and they were really tormented that way!
And if someone happened to step on our feet, oh-oh-oh how indignant we become, " how did you dare," etc. And even if we didn't express that in words, we think about such the things inwardly, that that person will come out the worse for it! Or suddenly we prick ourselves casually by a needle, or burn ourselves during cooking, or something else painful happens to us, we start shouting at once and do everything to get rid of this pain as soon as possible. And how did the holy martyrs suffer tortures, inconceivable and incomprehensible for us? Can the person suffer that without belief? - There is no way he could! And they believed sacred, not just into doctrines, and suffered for them, but they trusted the Lord, and the Lord suffered in them, facilitating their torment by His presence.
And our Church is Holy not just for the reason that It is established on the blood of these holy martyrs, but because It is based on the Holy Fathers. And consequently our Belief is called holy-fatherly one.
And this succession of Holiness is the most important thing, which we have in our Church.
The Church is Holy, because the succession of holy people never ends in It, the holy people, in whom the God is amazing and strong, in whom He reveals His might, His complete advantage over all the idols, devils, heretics and the other stray people and evil spirits.
That is why the Church is steadfast in Its human representation! Not just in the persons of the Lord and the Holy Spirit, but in people is steadfast as well, for constantly gives rise to holy people. The Holy Church gives rise to holy people! The Apostolic one - gives rise to Apostles' successors. But It simultaneously is both Holy and Apostolic and consequently, according to the God's Truth, every ordained bishop and priest should be holy, really blessed by the Divine Grace holy man! And if we attentively read the rules of Holy Universal and Local Councils which the Church has put in the basis of It's administration, we shall see then that it comes out from all those rules that they should be holy, not less than that.
And the Lord said: "Be as holy as I am ". And it was said in respect to all people in general. All the more that should be applied to clergy, who should be light and salt of the world, as they lead parishioners behind them toward sanctity and salvation. But sorry, how can a priest make his parishioner to be holy if he is not holy himself? In fact even the national proverb says, " the owl cannot give birth to a falcon ". Similar gives rise to similar. With a reverend one you will be reverend, with the innocent one you will be innocent, with a wicked one you will become corrupted - the Scripture testifies.
How can a sinful pastor give birth to a righteous Christian?
Unholy one - to give birth to the holy one?
There is no way! To think differently is a delusion and a great error! But now such an insane and deluding opinion is instilled in the minds and hearts of modern church people (i.e. people who suppose themselves to be church ones), that it appears to be enough to keep the hands of a preceding bishop on the head of a present one for a while and that's all! The latter one becomes an automatic device of "Divine Grace":
You come up, throw three rubles, or three dollars, or three Euro, press a "button" - and the Grace of the Holy Spirit drops out in one or another form. Does is sound ridiculous? Yes, but it's what the people trust in! And the personality of a clergyman does not matter: the way he lives, the way he professes his belief, if he is sinful or not, and so on, are not important. Well, some of the more intelligent people say: " the main thing is not to shout from an amvon (pulpit), that " the God is not the Trinity " and similar heresies. And if he does not - everything is all right and nothing else matters. The main thing is that he wears the sacerdotal vestment: epitrachelion, omophorion, miter, etc. - and everything is "O.K.".
Whence did it come from? Where did the holy fathers write that?
Then why did the Lord choose the concrete holy Apostles if it was possible to call to the first person to come along: "come here, you will be a conductor of the Divine Grace".
Why to suffer then? Why to cleanse yourself? For what reason is repentance necessary? Why to amass the Divine Grace? Why to fast? For what reason to pray incessantly? Why to be persecuted, tormented for Christ? Why to do all of that? After all it is "enough" to lay a hand on someone's head "to make him" a conductor of the Divine Grace of the Holy Spirit.
It is so simple! That is why they live comfortably, and think only about their incomes, about all material things, about luxury and consider themselves to be "blessed", to be lawfully "holy" just because someone laid his hands on them. We know that ordination can be headed off due to any violation of doctrines, but it can be stopped due to inner disparity as well.
Who will force the God to give the Divine Grace of the Holy Spirit to a sinner? Who?
Only deluded person can think about it this way. We know from the Gospel, what even the blind man, the one who was born blind, who lived by begging and was not a theologian, professed correctly: we know, that the God does not listen to sinners, but listens to the godly man who does His will.
Let's apply that to clergy. What turns out? If he is a sinner, the God does not listen to him. The God does not listen to him, but he pronounces the words of sacramental prayer: " I forgive and remit the sins... ", or " Transform this bread into Body of Christ, and the contents of this bowl - into Blood of Christ ", as it should be said according to the charter.
So, what happens? The obvious infringement comes out. The God does not listen to him, as the Scripture says, and they say, "no, he does listen". Who lies, the Scripture or those stray people? Whose side do you take? - I think, the side of the Scripture!
And holy fathers say openly, that the Divine Grace does not come automatically, just for ordination, and it doesn't descend for someone's desire only. Nothing of the kind!
Just imagine, we shall collect ten thousand laymen. Not enough? - O.K., hundreds of thousands we'll collect, at any stadium. And let those laymen lay their hands and legs (sorry!) upon the candidate's head. He will not become a bishop for that reason! He will not become, because the God did not establish such a procedure and is not favorably disposed toward such an "ordination". But those laymen can be even more devoted, than contemporary priests are. So why cannot "bishops" and "archbishops" bring down the Divine Grace of the Holy Spirit by their wish? They cannot because they are not holy, they are unholy, and they don't have any ordination - that is all a deceit.
So, they cannot seize it by quantity. How is it taken then? By cunning, or guile. What, is it possible to deceive the God? Absolutely right, it is impossible! How is it possible to steal the Divine Grace from the Lord? That will not be!
Therefore we should be firm in correct understanding that there must be a connection of external ordination with an internal conformity with it, and ideally it should be like:
The person who has reached inward spiritual episcopacy, which saint reverend John Lestvichnik called bishop of the heart, - only such a person has the right for lawful ordination as a bishop.
The person who has reached inward priesthood (that is the second rank) is worthy to be ordained into priest. And then there will not be that schizophrenia, i.e. that division, discrepancy between internal and external state.
And, at last, the person who has reached deacon's heart, i.e. such the inner spiritual state - is worthy to become an external clergyman of this rank.
If that were observed in the church, one and all deacons, priests and bishops would be holy and pure. And the church would not know grief, troubles, schisms and alike.
But a trouble is that it is unattainable in reality. Unfortunately, it comes out that people attain ordination not because they really strive for salvation of their parishioners, but because of other different reasons (usually due to love of power), one or another way (through acquaintance or money). In fact they swear during conferring holy orders upon them (if that occurs in the true Church) by the Body of Christ! That is the priest, or bishop puts the Body of Christ on his own palm and says: - I swear to give the answer on the Day of Judgment...
-Here is the Pledge... Accept this Pledge: you will give the answer about it on the Day of Judgment, about the way you rescued your spiritual children, the way you gave them spiritual food and communion.
During conferring holy orders upon me, the bishop Varnava put the particle of Christ's Body on my palm, reciting the generally known words of the vow, which I was repeating: "Accept this Pledge: you will give the answer about it on the Day of Judgment". And every priest gives this awesome vow by the Body of Christ, promising to perform the high service of Divine priesthood with all dignity.
This particle of Christ's Body, laying on a palm of a priest, symbolically shows the entire Church, for the Body of Christ has two meanings: the Liturgical Body and Body of Christ, which the Church is. And through one name "Body", a small and a big Body of Christ merge together.
And consequently a priest pledges to serve truly all the services, including the top of them - the Liturgy. Because he should transform the bread into this Body of Christ himself the following day in the Sacrament of the Eucharist, by the Divine Grace of the Holy Spirit, granted to him through ordination, and to create the Body of Christ - the Church.
He must be firmly implanted on the Vine himself, be a living branch, connected with the Christ-Vine, living on sap of Divine Grace, and at the same time, bearing fruits, giving rise to his spiritual children into Eternal Life.
That is why he is called a spiritual father, as he gives birth to his spiritual children. And if he does not give birth to them, who is he? - A "spiritual" impotent, a stepfather, a mercenary, a wolf in sheep's clothing, a murderer, instead of father! Oh, if he yielded and said:" My God, what have I undertaken! Forgive me, My Lord!" and went to mourn over his sins. Then he would have a hope for salvation.
Therefore do not believe in this mythology that the Divine Grace of the Holy Spirit can come through anybody. No! The God cannot allow the Divine Grace to come through whoever he may be! The lie and the Truth are incompatible! The God disdains the slightest lie, the slightest hypocrisy, and the slightest sin! It is impossible to mix the God with a sin! It is impossible!
And who will force Him to pass through impurity? Who? Only the sick consciousness of those spiritual schizophrenics, deluded people. They are called "schizophrenics" in the modern language, but in the spiritual language, in the language of holy fathers, they are called deluded people, i.e. they dream and devise the things, which do no exist in reality, both trust and profess them, as it was the truth. And actually that is ridiculous and awful at the same time.
Therefore we are warned and taught to profess our belief in Church in the right way, and we shall not trust these myths, both fatal and bringing death. We shall profess, that the Body of Christ is given to the faithful ones; and how holy a priest, who proclaims on behalf of the Church:" The Holy is to the holy ones " and presents this Body to the other ones, should be! The great Patriarch St. John Chrysostom (Golden Mouth) expressed most precisely this conformity of holiness of Church sacramental relics with priests' sanctity. He said, that ordination takes place only if the one, who is conferred holy orders upon, is ordained in the way he ought to.
Here again it is necessary to understand that the question here is not just about formal observance of the necessary manipulations. For instance: to walk up from the right side at the beginning, raise a right hand first, and then - a left one; or which hand to lay on, or how to recite correctly the text of a proper prayer, etc.
There is nothing of the kind the great Patriarch told about. But he meant the quality of the candidate. See, that is told " if the one, who is conferred holy orders upon ", so the question here is about the person, not about the process in general. If it were the question of the process of ordination it would be said, " if it is done in the way it should be". It would be possible to understand then, that the question is about the formal process. And what does combination of the words "in the way he ought to" mean here? It says exactly that there should be conformity of the inward with the outward states.
A man, have you attained sanctity? Do you have the Grace of the Holy Spirit? Do you have spiritual experience? I do not even talk here about a worldly one. Therefore the Church has established that even if you are the best person ever, but haven't reached the thirty-year age and do not have even mundane experience, you may not be ordained. We shall not talk here about unique cases of the God's Providence, when the God chose the priests among His holy people who had not reached that age. Those cases were unique and special for exceptional people. Any unique case means the God's revelation about it. But if there is no such clear revelation, we cannot dare do the things, forbidden by the Church.
But in Moscow patriarchy we see that 22-25 year-old men are the priests already and at thirty - they are bishops. What is it? Are all of them holy? They do not have even worldly experience, instead of the spiritual one! What will they advise to a man or a woman, experienced in family life? Or how will they resolve a problem in a family, in a society, or between people?
It is necessary to have the gift of inner wisdom, the gift of Christ's mind, the gift of reasoning. That is madness to be a priest without the gift of reasoning, because the main part of priestly service is teaching.
The priest should not just perform correct services and wave a censer in a careful way so as not to hurt someone. He should have the experience and ability to explain the Church doctrines to his parishioners in the most understandable, clear way. He should teach and demand that every parishioner master the cornerstone of salvation. In fact he is responsible for every spiritual child under his guidance. And if one of his parishioners, God forbid, will perish through his fault, such a priest, or a bishop, will be condemned as a murderer. That is the real truth. And who does think of that now?
They think about respect, about glory and the incomes of episcopal or priestly positions, about everything, but not about their own eternal soul, and the more so, about congregation and the souls of parishioners. Therefore they easily dare to become clergymen, being not right for it, not having any experience, any gift of reasoning.
That gift is a blessing and it doesn't come easy… The person sat around doing nothing and all of a sudden the blessing of reasoning, bang, has come down to him, and he began to understand everything… It doesn't happen like that. The Divine Grace is obtained in the process of struggle, repentance, and amassing of spiritual experience. That is the divine-experimental and experimental-divine gift! That is to say, the God teaches a person through His blessing while a person is improving himself. And then he (a priest) evinces the gift of reasoning, amassed by him through both blessing and his own experience.
If, for example, someone told you: I never swam, but I would teach you how to swim, or: I never cooked, but I shall teach you how to cook, and so on. What would you answer him? - We shall not say that out loud. Nobody would go to such a teacher!
Or the school of English language with a teacher, who doesn't know any English words promises to teach that language to everybody who is interested. What would you say? - An insane person, moreover a fool, as if he wasn't a fool, he would pretend to know something at least, but this one openly tells about his unsuitability.
Ridiculous, isn't it? But you can meet that pretty often in spiritual life! And you trust such "teachers" instead of asking them for the beginning: "Father, what should I do to be rescued? And what is the essence of salvation? "
And he will start telling you: " It is necessary to love each other, you know and... to go to church day after day,... to give money to a priest... and... you will be rescued ".
That is nonsense! Because there is the clear doctrine of the holy fathers that the essence of salvation is in the dissociation from communication with demons and reconciliation with the God!
It means that two deeds are necessary: at first we should leave the demons, our sinful passions, a sin, prevailing over us, which constantly ruins us and makes us back a "dilapidated" person. We should remove the "dilapidated person" with all of his passions, and become a new human being, resembling to the Christ, should reconcile with the God and gain the Divine Grace of the Holy Spirit, which can be recognized through it's attributes. That should be known thoroughly. That is a process, which should be known and understood. And a priest should be the first one who passes through that, because the one, who didn't experience that on his own can teach nothing.
And in fact almost all modern priests are ignoramuses, the complete ignoramuses in spiritual life. What can they teach you? And you get attracted to them. What does appeal to you? The cassocks? The appearance? Or a piece of paper where it's written that he is a priest?
So, do not do that! Take care of your soul seriously for salvation is no trifling matter! Your eternal fate depends on the ones, who you trust with your own soul, the souls of your children and the souls of the ones, who are close to you.
" A blind man leads another blind one and both will fall into a hole ", - the Lord says and then commands: " Leave them! ". That is a direct precept, direct command - to leave blind leaders, who have no experience, no gift of reasoning, understanding, inwardly (not outwardly) knowledge. On the surface all of them are well-read scribes. On the surface they "will prove" everything to you: that they sit lawfully on the Moses seat, that they carry on their succession exactly from Moses, etc.
And the Lord did not say, " no, they are not from Moses ". The words from Gospel: " They have sat on the Moses seat ... ". He has confirmed that they sat lawfully. They had the Law, the succession, the blessed Temple, the blessed divine services, and the Holy Scripture; and having all of that, they were not just perishing, but they crucified the Living God, Who had come to them in accordance with that Scripture.
Here the result of false spirituality and immense delusion is.
So, outwardly being in belief and in truth did not rescue them, did not save them from assassination of the God and death. And why do you think it will save you, the orthodox believers? What does give you a reason to think that just external belonging to Orthodoxy (and it still needs to be checked if you profess it in a true way or not) rescue?
It's nothing to do with reality. But you need to be prepared to ask a question and understand the answer, therefore read the holy fathers, who are experienced in inward spiritual life and then check up your priests. Ask them, and think if they have such an experience or not? Certainly, sometimes it is difficult to clarify, for some of the matters need really deep understanding, etc., but any way it is possible to find a question, which will clear everything up. And it will become evident at once that a "father" is ignorant. That is already a signal for you! Run away from him! Run, for if the person does not know himself what he can teach you?
Therefore our belief is holy-fatherly for it is based on Holy Fathers. And Holy Fathers are real successors of Holy Apostles in the Spirit and Truth, and the Divine Grace! And the God Himself searches for exactly such worshipers, and makes them for Himself, and prepares them for Himself!
You are taught now!
Take it to your heart and bring into your life.
Let the Lord by the prayers of the Holy Apostles help you to be in the church saving Truth.
July 10th, 2003, Toronto
Fr. Oleg Molenko