ENGLISH VERSION: Letter from Prison. The Brotherhood of St. Philaret (HOCNA) in a Texas prison — Credo.Press

ENGLISH VERSION: Letter from Prison. The Brotherhood of St. Philaret (HOCNA) in a Texas prison

The letter that follows should cause many who call themselves Orthodox Christians (or even True Orthodox Christians!) to bow their heads in shame. It is a letter written by prisoners in a Texas prison; these men, who formerly belonged to a variety of Protestant sects, learned about the Orthodox Christian Faith while they were in prison and, after receiving the needed catechism from some of our clergy and monastics, were received by Holy Baptism into the One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church of our Saviour, Jesus Christ.

The reason this letter should put some alleged Orthodox Christians to shame is because of the remarkable level of understanding it demonstrates. What is evident in the words of this letter is that these individuals have taken the trouble to study some basic patristic texts of our Faith. This letter shows that one cannot become a Christian simply by the process of osmosis, simply by living among those that are Orthodox Christians, although this certainly helps. But reading basic Orthodox Christian materials is absolutely necessary for one to progress in his understanding.

Would that some who call themselves Orthodox Christian bishops and priests understood what these men have understood.

Amen I say unto you, That the publicans and the harlots go into the Kingdom of God before you.
(Matt. 21:31)

Here is the text of the letter, slightly edited.

+ Ephriam, retired Metropolitan of Boston

* * *

To the Most Reverend Retired Metropolitan Ephraim of Boston
March 6/Feb. 22, 2016

Your Eminence,

We, the Brotherhood of St. Philaret the Merciful Almsgiver, humbly submit this letter, hoping to assure you, now that you are retired, that you did indeed leave your flock in the hands of Most Holy Orthodox Hierarchs, and because of that our Church will maintain its Orthodox Confession of Faith in all the traditions bequeathed to us by the Holy Fathers.

Your labors were not in vain and have served to instill a steadfastness of faith, not only in the Bishops we now have guiding us, but in all the rest of us as well.

The tireless efforts of all of HOCNA, and especially of all the monks at Holy Transfiguration Monastery, specifically Fr. Pachomius, Met. Gregory, and Abbot Isaac, in ministering to us wretched criminals in the Eastham Prison in Texas, have taught us a lot about Holy Orthodoxy. Every one of us here is a convert from this or that Protestant sect and owe much thanks to God for our conversion that was made possible because of HOCNA’s Confession of Faith. “For though it is not an easy thing for a soul under the influence of error to repent, yet, on the other hand, it is not altogether impossible to escape from error when the truth is brought alongside it” (St. Irenaeus [? 202], Book III, Against Heresies).

That truth has been repeatedly expressed to us by the above-mentioned servants of Christ.

We have to admit that we are still learning about our faith and how to be Orthodox, but some of what we’ve already learned should help ease your conscience, if there happen to be any doubts about your recent retirement as Metropolitan. [1]

We have learned from HOCNA that Christ’s work of salvation is different from the way it was understood by us as Protestants. As Protestants, we pretty much had espoused the teachings of Augustine, which were further developed by Anselm of Canterbury. We looked at Christ’s work of salvation in a legalistic manner and thought that by being “saved” we were being saved from the wrath of God. As Orthodox Christians, we now understand Christ’s work of salvation as that of healing and restoration. We were made in God’s image, but through the transgression of Adam and Eve, His image in us was damaged and corrupted. God became man to restore and heal His image, to embrace our fallen human nature and unite it to Himself, healing it and making it what it could never had been by itself. Through Baptism in the Church, through participation in her Mysteries, especially Holy Communion, through struggling against our passions, we gradually heal God’s image in ourselves, we become more and more capable of grasping spiritual realities, the senses of our souls are restored little by little and we come to know God and ourselves more deeply than before.

We do not believe “once saved always saved,” as most Protestants do. We understand that by God’s grace we are being saved and that it is up to us to struggle against our self-love and our passions, and force ourselves to love God more and more and our sinful selves less and less. Not that we believe that works can save us, like the Roman Catholics do, but that by cooperating with God’s grace by means of obedient service, we press on, that we may lay hold of that which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of us (Phil. 3:11–12).

As for our struggle against ecumenism, we understand that we must accept the decisions of the Seven Ecumenical Councils along with the teachings of our Holy Fathers, and that, since the members of the World Council of Churches and those in communion with them do not hold this Confession of Faith, we are strictly forbidden from receiving their sacraments, which are not sacraments at all, and from being in communion with them upon pain of excommunication. We do not pray with them because of some personal issue or because we think we’re better than they, but because unity in prayer is predicated upon unity of theological doctrine and belief, which we do not have with either Protestants, Roman Catholics, or even those who profess to be Orthodox but hold to a heretical form of belief. [2]

We understand that we cannot simply say we believe the Canons of the Church or the teachings of the Holy Fathers, but we have to [also] live in accordance with them. [3] It would do us no good to say we believe in the doctrine of the Holy Trinity and yet attend the worship services of Jehovah’s Witnesses, when they believe in a Jesus who, according to them, is a creation that also happens to be Michael the Archangel. We have to confess our belief in God correctly and not compromise our faith for any reason whatsoever.

That means, we must strive with all our strength never to agree to any sort of denial of God in any way. And to not have any communion in prayer or church services with those who are in heresy, even if they call themselves Orthodox. To quote the above mentioned servants of God, “It has always been the Church’s teaching that if A is in communion with B, and B is in communion with C, then A is also in communion with C. If A agrees with B’s confession of faith, but not of C’s, it doesn’t do any good to say, ‘But I’m only in communion with B,’ because as long as A is in communion with B, A is also in communion with whomever else B is in communion with too. So even if your bishop is pious and keeps the fasts and tells people to read St. John of the Ladder, but is in communion with bishops who are official members of the World Council of Churches, which officially denies even that you need to believe in Jesus to be saved, then your bishop partakes of their denial of Orthodoxy, and you do too so long as you remain in communion with him.

Concerning the accusations against us of being Name-worshippers, they are not true and are “not reasoned theologically according to the traditional teachings of the Orthodox Church.”

We believe, as we were taught by HOCNA, the patristic teaching that the Name of God is Holy by nature. As we understand it, in God, we make a distinction between His Essence and His Energies. His Essence is completely incommunicable, completely beyond participation, or knowledge, or perception of any created being, including the Angels. This is what St. John is referring to when he says, “No man hath seen God at any time.”

His Energies, which are not of a different origin or nature, are what comes from the Unapproachable, and are what we can perceive, participate in, and live by.

So while it is obvious that the Essence of God is uncreated, we understand that the Energies of God are also uncreated. St. Gregory Palamas teaches that the Divine Energies are God. They are not created, not something less than God, if we can put it that way. Divine Grace is the Energy of God, it is the operation or working of God in us.

In the Holy Scriptures, the Name of God can refer to His reputation, what is said about Him, or the human words used to call upon Him. But the Name of God can also refer to His Power, His Grace, or His Providence.

We can see that in the following passages from Scripture: “The Lord hear thee in the day of affliction, the Name of the God of Jacob defend thee.”

To us, the Name of God here refers to the Grace and Power of God, the Energy of God.

In these verses from Psalm 73:
“With fire they have burned down Thy sanctuary, they have profaned even unto the ground the habitation of Thy Name. . .”
“How long, O God, shall the enemy utter reproaches? Shall the adversary provoke Thy Name to the end?. . .”
“Be mindful of this Thy creation. The enemy hath reproached the Lord, and a mindless people hath provoked Thy Name.”

How does God’s Name have a habitation? Obviously, this does not mean that a big scroll with “Adonai” written on it lives contentedly in a building constructed to house it, but refers to His presence, the holy place where He “dwells” and makes His presence felt to those who approach with fear and faith.

And to provoke God’s Name means to provoke God Himself, otherwise one would have to foolishly say that His Name is getting irritable off in a corner somewhere while He Himself is O.K.

And let us not forget what St. Peter, defending the miracle by which he and St. John raised up a paralytic, said, “And His Name, through faith in His Name, has made this man strong” (Acts 3:16), emphatically insisting it was the power of the Name of Christ that had healed him, not them.

And again, St. Peter, being filled with the Holy Spirit, tells the Rulers of the people and elders of Israel, … “for there is no other Name under Heaven given among men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12), thereby proclaiming that by the Grace of God, the Name of Christ, we are saved.

In all these passages it is obvious that the Name of God is a mystery, it is an image or way of speaking of His presence with us, His revelation of Himself to us, His readiness to hear our prayers to Him, and all that He does to dwell and act among us — i.e., His Energies or Operations. [4]

So, you see, your Eminence, by these few examples of what we’ve been taught by the men in whose care you put us, you can rest assured that we will continue to receive the Holy Faith as taught to the Apostles by our Lord Jesus Christ, and to the Apostles’ disciples, and their disciples’ disciples down to our very day in unbroken succession. “In this order, and by this succession, the ecclesiastical tradition from the Apostles, and the preaching of truth, have come down to us. And this is most abundant proof that there is one and the same vivifying Faith, which has been preserved in the Church from the Apostles until now, and handed down in truth” (St. Irenaeus).

May our Lord, God and Saviour Jesus Christ ever preserve us steadfast in the holy and blameless Orthodox Faith. Amen.

Kissing your Eminence’s right hand,
We most humbly remain
Servants of our Lord Jesus Christ,
The Brotherhood of St. Philaret

[1] Editor’s Note: Metropolitan Ephraim has absolutely no doubts about this.
[2] See the article “The Definition of Faith of the Holy Fourth Ecumenical Council,” PDF email attachment (March 12, 2016), footnote 9,. See also the articles, “I Am A Man Under Authority,” parts 1–4, in Articles of Faith, part 3 (2011): 1–16, and also “Just for the Record,” parts 1–5, in Articles of Faith, part 5 (2011): 27–43, .
[3] After the onset of the two-fold blight of Ecumenism and Communism in the 20th century, it can be said that no Orthodox jurisdiction observes the Holy Canons with exactness. However, this is absolutely no excuse for our not striving to restore canonical order to our Church life today
[4] Incredibly, there are some “Orthodox” Christians ? including some who call themselves True Orthodox (the Kallinikos Synod and the “Hellenic Orthodox Traditionalists” of America) ? who reject these Scriptural and Patristic teachings today.


Опубликовано: 18.03.2016 в 20:10

Рубрики: English version, Лента новостей

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