Contemplations for Pious Christians Concerning the Fr. George Passias Scandal

Fr. George, a married priest, was given permission by the Church to have marital relations with his wife, Mary. The ecclesiastical canons are clear about forbidding marital relations on fast days, the night before partaking of Holy Communion, and during menstruation cycles. Some priests also undergo a cleansing fast before performing certain functions; such as exorcisms, or when they are focused on praying for specific people, or for specific things.   It stands to reason that they’d be abstinent for more significant periods of time then a lay person would.  The limitations imposed on married couples allows less than 150 days a year in which they’re “allowed” to have approved sexual relations with their spouse. Ecclesiastic canons only permit married couples to have penile/vaginal relations, with the heavy promise of communion loss for the forbidden acts of oral, anal, or digital stimulation.

Fr. George Passias: (l) as Greek Orthodox priest, (r) as foot fetishist, worshiping Ethel Bouzalas feet.
Fr. George Passias:
(l) as Greek Orthodox priest,
(r) as foot fetishist, worshiping Ethel’s feet.

As a disciple of Geronda Ephraim, Fr. George would’ve been instructed to stop having marital relations with his Presvytera when they decided to not have any more children; i.e. sexual relations are only for procreation not for pleasure. Thus, Fr. George would have been directed by Geronda Ephraim to stop having any marital relations with his Presvytera when they made the decision to have no more children.  After their fourth child, Geronda Ephraim would have enjoined Fr. George and Presvytera Mary to remain chaste to each other.
If they were true believers who followed orders without question, Fr. George and Presvytera Mary would have lived an abstemious life from as early as the late 80’s.

Fr. George Passias & Family (late 90’s): (l-r) Eleni Passias, Fr. George Passias, (former) Archbishop Spyridon, Presvytera Mary, Peter Passias, Katherine Passias, and Costa Passias)
Fr. George Passias & Family (late 90’s): (l-r) Eleni Passias, Fr. George Passias, (former) Archbishop Spyridon, Presvytera Mary, Peter Passias, Katherine Passias, and Costa Passias)

Over the years, Fr. George became well known within the Greek Orthodox community (especially among Geronda Ephraim’s disciples) for being an especially pious, spiritually minded, humble priest with a traditional nature.  He was spoken of with reverence, about his sanctity, and his holiness.

Was that all just a facade?  Was there substance to his piety, or was it all just a carefully constructed persona?

The devotees of Geronda Ephraim were indoctrinated with the piety and spirituality of Fr George, which brings into question whether people actually believed in the man, or because they had imposed upon them an ideal that Geronda Ephraim carefully constructed through his counsel?

In May, 1997, Fr George was appointed Chancellor of the GOA, and during this time, he and Presvtera would have been “living as brother and sister.” It seems ironic, considering the content of the video proofs that have recently come to light, that it was Fr. George that pushed for the writing of the Orthodox Church’s new, stricter policies on sexual misconduct, when he was on staff at the Archdiocese).
http://www.goarch.org/archdiocese/documents/misconduct_policy

Left: Screenshots from the 'Cake Porn' video Right: Fr. George and his spiritual daughter, Ethel Bouzalas.
Left: Screenshots from the ‘Cake Porn’ video
Right: Fr. George and his spiritual daughter, Ethel Bouzalas.

This is by no means an uncommon human characteristic (particularly in religious figures/leaders), as those who speak out vehemently against homosexuality, often hide the fact that they themselves are homosexual from the world, those who condemn those who indulge in sexual perversion, to be closeted perverts themselves.

As Elder Ephraim says, “Where virtue is much spoke of, it is usually absent. “

Living a celibate life in the world, whilst hearing confessions about other people’s desires, carnal sins, and the kinks and fetishes they indulged in, must have fanned the flames of his own passions. Only Fr. George knows how his perversions progressed to the point that he felt he had to act on them, and while many theories could be put forth, only he knows how he set himself upon that path. The Science Behind Your Sex Fetish – Shape Magazine
Both pilgrims and monastics are taught in Geronda Ephraim’s monasteries that the relationship between a spiritual Father and his spiritual Child is a deep, meaningful bond, both stronger and more important than the parent/child bond that exists in biological families.

Because Father George baptized Ethel, and took on this divine responsibility, the depravity of his acts should be viewed as the corrupt acts that they are. In essence, the sexual relationship that they shared together is the spiritual equivalent of a parent having incestuous relations with their child.

To read about the Orthodox Church’s teaching about spiritual fathers, as well as on the inappropriate types of relationships/marriages it prohibits, see:

http://oodegr.co/english/psyxotherap/Spiritual_Paternity.htm

http://www.johnsanidopoulos.com/2013/03/prohibited-marriages-in-orthodox-church.html

Geronda Ephraim Moraitis is the founder and spiritual leader of 19 monasteries under the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America. He also directs a bunch of monasteries in Greece.
Geronda Ephraim Moraitis is the founder and spiritual leader of 19 monasteries under the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America. He also directs a bunch of monasteries in Greece.

Did Fr. Ephraim know about the inappropriate relationship taking place with his Spiritual Child?

Possibly.
The affair itself has been ongoing for at least 2 years, and there are a couple of likely scenarios.

a) Fr. George may have been making sincere and honest confessions to his spiritual father, Geronda Ephraim, revealing in depth the ongoing adultery, fornication, and sexual deviancy he was indulging in.

b) Fr. George hasn’t had a clean and honest confession since the affair started, and has been hiding both his thoughts and deeds from Geronda Ephraim.

If Fr. George was sincere in his confessions, how was it possible that Geronda Ephraim allowed him to continue as a priest, since the Canons strictly forbid a priest behaving in this way?

A bit of divergence is necessary to give some background.

To protect his name, and his monasteries from possible scandal and public humiliation, Geronda Ephraim “overrides” the Canons when it suits his purpose. The devotion to Geronda Ephraim overshadows the Canons and God’s Commandments, and allows his disciples to readily accept the contradictory holy missives that he shares with them. How could one question a holy vision received during prayer?

Geronda Ephraim’s disciples believe that there is no sin in blind obedience, other then disobeying a command-even if it breaks the Canons, they fervently believe that they will not be judged or punished for doing blind obedience.

Monks and nuns from the various monasteries under Geronda Ephraim during St. Anthony Monastery’s Feast Day (ca. 2006)
Monks and nuns from the various monasteries under Geronda Ephraim during St. Anthony Monastery’s Feast Day (ca. 2006)

To further  his missionary work, Geronda Ephraim has broken the Canons before, and in turn, the abbots and abbesses of his monasteries also follow his idiorrhythmic example.

Fr. Eustathios Kontoravdis
Fr. Eustathios Kontoravdis

In 1989, Rev. Fr. Eustathios Kontoravdis (d. 2009) was the driver in a car crash that killed his wife, Presvytera Kyriaki. After this tragic event, Geronda Ephraim told him that according to the Canons, he should no longer serve as a priest.

In 1984, Ioannis Voutsas (now Geronda Joseph, abbot of St. Nektarios Monastery in Roscoe, NY) was the driver in a car crash that killed Geronda Ephraim Koutsibo, then Abbot of Xeropotamou Monastery. Despite this seemingly canonical impediment to the priesthood, Geronda Ephraim had Ioannis Voutsas ordained to the priesthood at Philotheou Monastery, Mt. Athos.

Geronda Ephraim Koutsibo, first monk of Geronda Ephraim and the first spiritual father of Geronda Joseph Voutsas.

Geronda Ephraim gave Geronda Joseph an obedience to tell people he doesn’t remember much from the accident thus enabling him to avoid conversing about it. Though Geronda Joseph is reluctant to talk about the details of this accident, over the years he has given information to various spiritual children. These details, combined with the information shared by Metropolitan Athansios of Lemesou (his best friend since his days at the University of Thessalonica) can be found here:

https://newmartyrephraim.wordpress.com/2014/12/04/conspiracy-of-silence/   

In the past, when things have occurred in Geronda Ephraim’s monasteries which canonically requires a bishop to be informed or to absolve, Geronda Ephraim has given his own penances and “absolved” it through his koboschoini.

If Fr. George Passias did not have clean confession with Geronda Ephraim, then many more questions need to be raised.

Fr. George has been a spiritual child of Geronda Ephraim for over 30 years, and they were quite close.

“I know when you’re lying,” is a common phrase of Gerondas/Gerondissas towards their disciples. “A parent doesn’t know when their own child is lying to them?”

So, as a spiritual Father, did Geronda Ephraim know Fr. George was lying to him and hiding thoughts?

In the monasteries, the monastics are taught that Geronda Ephraim is a “knower of hearts;” he knows everything about a person from just one glance, he knows what is hidden in people’s hearts, and he can see the demons and passions that dominate an individual. In some cases, especially with carnal sins, it is said he can smell the stench of sin emitting from the individual. It is also said that when he does koboschoini for his spiritual children, he can see them, what they’re doing, feeling, thinking, etc. Geronda Ephraim’s monastics teach these things to the pilgrims who visit their monasteries.

St. Anthony's Monastery Feast Day (early - mid-2000s)

In cases where Geronda Ephraim is surprised by events he did not foresee—i.e. monastics returning to the world unannounced, serious sins and betrayals by his monastics or long-time spiritual children, etc.—people sometimes ask, “If Geronda Ephraim is such a big prophet, how did he not know this would happen?” His disciples will quickly justify Geronda Ephraim’s ignorance with examples from the Gerontikon explaining that God does not always reveal things to His saints.

If Fr. George had been hiding his sins in confession, while the affair has been ongoing for 2+ years, that would mean every time Geronda Ephraim prayed for Fr. George (either koboschoini or proskomide), or whenever the Elder saw or spoke to Fr. George outside the exomologetarion, he must not have received any information from God about the state of Fr. George’s soul.

Alternatively, if Geronda Ephraim did receive information, he ignored the ecclesiastical canons and, in essence, blessed Fr. George to continue serving as a priest, to the detriment of both their souls.

Pilgrims are told by Geronda Ephraim’s disciples that, “Geronda Ephraim knows, however, he can’t force people to make clean confessions.” Of course, this contradicts all the stories of Geronda Ephraim revealing peoples’ hidden sins to them during confession.
There is also the possibility that Geronda Ephraim has known about Fr. George’s sexual misconduct for the last few years and has been giving him obediences to stop serving as a priest and was ignored.

We will never know, as the mystery of confession is confidential. Geronda Ephraim does share the confessions of individuals with the abbot or abbess of the monastery that these individuals visit, especially if there are serious things that the heads need to know.
In the Orthodox Church, clergymen have stricter judgments and restrictions than lay people. More is expected of them due to the grace of ordination, and when they fall, the punishments tend to be stricter than those of laypeople. Carnal sins usually lead to defrocking.

Cake Crushing

In one scene, Fr. George, wearing just a white t shirt, watches Ethel plant her thong-clad bottom on a piece of banana bread wrapped in cellophane, and then crush it with her stilettos. In the Orthodox  teachings about spiritual warfare, Fr. George watching Ethel in this act would be considered sinful as he consented in his heart.

Fr. George watches Ethel crush cake at a NJ motel.
Fr. George watches Ethel crush cake at a NJ motel.

Foot Worship

In another video clip, Ethel rubs her feet on the priest’s face as they lie under a mirrored ceiling, as she records his ecstasy at the encounter. Ethel then smothers the cake with her feet and bottom. In the kink community, there is a direct relationship between people who have foot fetishes, and those who have Pygophillia-(buttocks fetish)-it’s a safe assumption that Fr. George probably also indulged in face-sitting.

Foot smothering and ass worship are often linked, as these forms of humiliation and degradation have a lot in common, both with the physical attributes of the senses (smell, taste, touch, sight) and the psychological predispositions that drive people to these fetishes.

There’s a reason that the monasteries have male and female pilgrims wear socks and cover their feet: foot fetishes and the accompanying lust warfare that can be caused by looking at feet. Pilgrims to Geronda Ephraim’s monasteries have been told in confession that though foot fetishes and foot worship are not technically carnal sins that receive penances, they are dirty passions that should be avoided because they can open the door to even filthier passions which do carry heavy penances. Seeing that indulging in foot fetishism is pointless sexual gratification, it’s forbidden: http://www.stanthonysmonastery.org/visitorguide.php

The monastery dress code isn't just about
The monastery dress code isn’t just about “modesty.”

Buttock worship and face-sitting would be one of those dirtier passions which, depending on the acts involved, carry penances from 2-10 years of no Holy Communion.

Cunnilingus

In another tape, Fr. George performs oral sex on Ethel while she is still clad in sheer pantyhose.

In the Orthodox Church, all forms of oral sex—fellatio, cunnilingus, and analingus—are forbidden and punished with penances starting at 2 years of no Holy Communion.

Here is a basic list of how carnal sins are punished by the Father Confessors in obedience to Geronda Ephraim:

  • Masturbation/Hand Jobs: 40 days no Communion, 50+ extra prostrations daily.
  • Vaginal Intercourse Outside of Marriage: 1 year no Communion, 50+ extra prostrations daily.
  • Oral Sex:2 years no Communion, 50+ extra prostrations daily.
  • Anal Sex: 5-10 years no Communion, 50+ extra prostrations daily.

NOTE: The above list contains the basic penances for lay people. Monastic penances for similar sins can vary (either being less out of economia, or more because of their rank and stature). Also, this list is for heterosexual sins. These sins committed in same-sex relationships receive harsher and severe penances. For a more in depth look at ecclesiastical canons and carnal sins see:

https://frsergei.wordpress.com/2011/01/17/there-is-no-sex-in-the-church/

Fr. George is now 67. The evidence reveals that he has committed adultery, spiritual incest, fornication, and possibly sodomitic sins. These “multitudinous sins and shortcomings” combined with the heavy sin of continuing to serve as a priest and perform the Liturgy, will rack up a very large penance for him. Undoubtedly, Geronda Ephraim has banned him from Communion until his deathbed.

Concerning Self-Abuse; i.e. the Sin of Masturbation in the Orthodox Church (St. Nikodemos the Hagiorite)

NOTE: On a weekly basis, it is common to find frequent articles in newspapers, magazines, blogs, medical websites, etc., extolling the health benefits of masturbation, explaining its normalcy and encouraging both men and women to do it more frequently. Today, the medical consensus is that masturbation is a medically healthy and psychologically normal habit. In many health circles it is believed that masturbation can prevent conditions such as cystitis, diabetes and cancer as well as help boost the immune system. Experts also say masturbation helps with depression, self-esteem issues. This, however, was not always the case. During St. Nikodemos’ time, the medical profession had quite a different opinion. In the 18th century, the prevailing view of medical circles was that masturbation was a sin akin to suicide and a drawn-out method of the same.

nikodimos-2

Circa 1712 AD, Dutch theologian Dr. Balthazar Bekker published a monograph titled: “Onania, or the Heinous Sin of self-Pollution, And All Its Frightful Consequences, In Both Sexes, Considered: With Spiritual and Physical Advice To Those Who Have Already Injured Themselves By This Abominable Practice.” He said that masturbation leads to “Disturbances of the stomach and digestion, loss of appetite or ravenous hunger, vomiting, nausea, weakening of the organs of breathing, coughing, hoarseness, paralysis, weakening of the organ of generation to the point of impotence, lack of libido, back pain, disorders of the eye and ear, total diminution of bodily powers, paleness, thinness, pimples on the face, decline of intellectual powers, loss of memory, attacks of rage, madness, idiocy, epilepsy, fever and finally suicide.

In his book Confessions, Jean Jacques Rousseau (1712-1778) warned his readers that: “Once a young person gets the habit, there is no breaking it short of death. In the late 18th century, a Swiss physician named Tissot believed that alterations of blood flow during any sexual activity can lead to nerve damage, insanity, and blindness. He believed that masturbation was especially hazardous in this respect. Benjamin Rush, an American physician of that era, also viewed the practice of masturbation as dangerous to mental and physical health. He wrote several widely read articles on the subject.

Many horrible, inhumane products were patented in the early late 19th and early 20th century to help prevent masturbation or ''self-abuse'' as it was called.
Many horrible, inhumane products were patented in the early late 19th and early 20th century to help prevent masturbation or ”self-abuse” as it was called.

In the Orthodox Church, no matter what the situation or excuse one uses, masturbation is a sin plain and simple. A man or woman who admits masturbation in confession will always receive a penance of no Communion for the specified time period and be told not to repeat this action again. Geronda Ephraim has stated on many occasions that if someone were to die with this sin unconfessed, they would go straight to hell; that is how serious this offense is.

xarizona3

In Geronda Ephraim’s monasteries—both male and female, both here and in Greece—masturbation is a problem that frequently occurs, though it is more common in the male monasteries than in the female. A monk or nun that falls into masturbation will generally receive the 40 day no Communion penance, with an additional 50+ prostrations added to his or her daily prayer rule, and stern warnings. They usually will have to go to the Lity at the end of every service, go on their knees and recite the general statement given to Geronda’s monastics that fall into any form of carnal sin: “Forgive me, I am filthy in both body and soul.” Of course, if a monastic becomes a repeat offender, then the penances will increase. In certain cases, at the discretion of the superior, a monk or nun may be forced to confess their sin in front of the entire monastery. The superior will call all the monastics together, make the monastic go on their knees, and say, “Forgive me, I fell into the sin of masturbation (or fornication) last night.” This is followed by the superior rebuking and reproaching the guilty monastic and giving a cautionary sermon to the other monastics to be careful.

a

It should be noted that novices who fall into masturbation are usually sent home. If they are given a second chance, it will be many years before they are tonsured as rassaphores. Sometimes, after 5-8, or even more years, a novice will  fall into masturbation. This will also increase the difficulty of being tonsured a rassaphore. However, by this point, many times it develops into a habit. Rassaphores do not get sent home as easily and are usually rebuked and punished more severely than novices. Again, it varies from monastery to monastery.

The following article is taken from The Rudder and Exomologetarion:

Holy Protection Monastery, PA.
Holy Protection Monastery, PA.

CANONS OF ST JOHN THE FASTER

St. John the Faster, 33rd Patriarch of Constantinople (582 – 595)
St. John the Faster, 33rd Patriarch of Constantinople (582 – 595)

CANON 7

But one who has been polluted in body while awake is excluded from Communion for seven days, having also to chant the 50th Psalm and to make forty-nine prostrations.

INTERPRETATION

But anyone who suffers an emission while he is awake is forbidden divine Communion for seven days, and is to say the 50th Psalm each of these days, and make forty-nine prostrations daily.

Note that there is found a treatise attributed to Anastasios of Antioch which makes a notable distinction concerning emission which someone suffers while awake. As for emission while awake, a person either does it to himself or to another. That which he cause himself to suffer is due either to handling with the hand, and is penance for forty days (for this outright masturbation), or it is caused without handling with the hand. This latter kind either occurs only because of an assault, and is penanced one day, or it occurs by coupling with the thought without consent and without titillation, and is penanced three days, or it occurs by coupling with the thought and titillation without consent, and is penanced seven days, or it occurs by coupling and consent, but without titillation, and is penance twenty days, or it occurs with coupling, consent, and titillation, and is penanced thirty days. Emission produced by another person occurs either without colluctation or with colluctation. That which occurs without colluctation, but by touching and kissing, is penance twenty days; if with titillation, it is penance thirty days. If it occurs with colluctation and with another human, it is penance eighty days; but if it occurs with an animal, it is penance seven years. Those who suffer emission while awake on account of sickness and thus being subject to spermatorrhoea, and those who let out sperm mixed with their urine, are not subject to penance, because both of these types suffer from it without an assault from, or coupling with, or consent to thoughts. For this reason the said Anastasios does not mention anything about these.

The Jugum Penis was intended to cure ''spermatorrhoea'', a Victorian-era name for nocturnal emissions.
The Jugum Penis was intended to cure ”spermatorrhoea”, a Victorian-era name for nocturnal emissions.

CANON 8

Anyone having practiced masturbation is penance forty days, during which he must eat dry foods and make one hundred prostrations daily.

INTERPRETATION

The present Canon designates that whoever commits masturbation is not to commune for forty days, passing those days with the eating of dry foods, that is, only bread and water, making one hundred prostrations daily. [NOTE: Monastics who masturbate in Geronda Ephraim’s monasteries aren’t generally forced into a bread and water diet for the forty days. They will, however, be banned from all desserts and special foods that are given to the monastics as treats during that time period. As additional punishment, they may be called at the same time, not given the dessert, and forced to watch all the other monastics enjoying their treats].

The Spermatic Truss (patented in 1876) made any natural attempt at becoming aroused impossible.
The Spermatic Truss (patented in 1876) made any natural attempt at becoming aroused impossible.
Upon erection, the Bowen device’s clips are activated and they proceed to rip out all the surrounding pubic hairs.
Upon erection, the Bowen device’s clips are activated and they proceed to rip out all the surrounding pubic hairs.

CANON 9

As for the mingling of men with one another, such as producing double masturbation, it receives the stated penance of up to eight days.

INTERPRETATION

The Canon here says mingling, not the complete sin of sodomy, but when two men masturbate one another, which act is penance doubly by the Saint, who penances the one committing it to eat dry foods for eight days and to make one hundred prostrations daily, because the one committing the sin is not only hurting himself, but also his brother, and this makes the sin a double one. Some have understood mingling to mean colluctation, which may occur between two men, or two women, or between a man and a woman, and is a lesser sin than fornication, but a graver one than masturbation.

The “Electric anti-masturbation machine” (1915 France), would have the man wear a ring connected to an electrical system.
The “Electric anti-masturbation machine” (1915 France), would have the man wear a ring connected to an electrical system.

CANON 10

If anyone among the Clergy, before being admitted to Holy Orders, fell into the passion of masturbation without thinking perhaps that on this account alone he would be dismissed from the priesthood, let him first be sufficiently penanced, and then let him enter the priesthood. But if he was caught doing this after entering the priesthood, after being suspended for a whole year for this, and being reformed with the usual penances, let him be readmitted to the priesthood. But if after becoming aware of its sinfulness, he committed it two or three times, let him cease from the priesthood, and enter the order of reader.

INTERPRETATION

The present Canon says that if perchance someone before entering the priesthood fell into the offense of masturbation without knowing that on this account alone he would be excluded from the priesthood, let this person (being, that is, distinguished and virtuous in all other respects), after first receiving a rule adequate to his sin, become a priest. But if perchance after being ordained, he fell into it again, let him be suspended from the priesthood for a period of one year, and be  reformed with the usual penances imposed upon masturbators, and then let him again be active in the priesthood. But if after becoming aware of its evil, he masturbated two or three times, let him cease from the priesthood, and let him enter the order of reader. Note that even masturbation alone is an impediment to the priesthood. [NOTE: Over the years, many seminarians from Holy Cross Theological School in Brookline, MA have made pilgrimages to monasteries under Geronda Ephraim. A common issue that comes up in confession is though the male student confessing has impediments to ordination—usually of a carnal sin nature—they have been told via father confessors connected to the Seminary that it is still okay to be ordained. The justification is that the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese needs priests and if the hierarchs abided by the Canons, especially masturbation and other carnal sins prohibiting ordination, then hardly anyone could be ordained since these sins are so common and prevalent today. Some of these seminarians have ignored the counsels during confession at Geronda’s monasteries not to follow through with ordination due to these impediments. Others have obeyed as they did not realize a hierarch was not allowed to override and give dispensation in the area of these Canons].

John Henry Kellogg believed that spicy and sweet foods would increase the libido. When the cornflakes were invented by accident, Kellogg immediately latched on to its possibility as a sex-reducing staple food because of its wheat & corn composition & its lack of spiciness or exoticness & general lack of flavor.
John Henry Kellogg believed that spicy and sweet foods would increase the libido. When the cornflakes were invented by accident, Kellogg immediately latched on to its possibility as a sex-reducing staple food because of its wheat & corn composition & its lack of spiciness or exoticness & general lack of flavor.

CANON 11

But as for women, too, if any of them has allowed herself to be kissed and felt by man, without, however, being violated by him, let her receive the penance provided for masturbation.

INTERPRETATION

The Saint penances a woman who accepts kisses from a man and allows herself to be touched by him with the penance of masturbation, that is, to eat dry foods for forty days and to make one hundred prostrations daily while abstaining from Communion .

In 1837, Sylvester Graham invented the  the Graham cracker as an anti-masturbation tool. If you ate your cracker in the morning, the blandness of the cracker was supposed to lower your lust all day so that you would not have "vital fluid" expending urges.
In 1837, Sylvester Graham invented the the Graham cracker as an anti-masturbation tool. If you ate your cracker in the morning, the blandness of the cracker was supposed to lower your lust all day so that you would not have “vital fluid” expending urges.

 

St. Nikodemos the Hagiorite on the Pre-Sanctified Liturgies

NOTE: The following article is taken from The Rudder.

St Nikodemos 2

PRE-SANCTIFIED NOT OF GREGORY DIALOGIST – SOME DETAILS

Note that the Pre-Sanctified Liturgy is not one composed by Gregory Dialogist since he was unacquainted with the Greek language, according to Letter 29 of his sixth book, and since this Liturgy is not found in his written works. On the contrary, it dates from the times of the successors of the Apostles, according to Reply 56 of Symeon of Thessalonica, and existed before the time of Dialogist, as is shown by Canon XLIX of Laodicea, and especially by the custom which obtained in the East, as St. Basil says in his letter to Patricia Caesaria, and in the West, as St. Jerome says in his letter to Pammachius, of allowing Christians to commune on Wednesdays and Fridays with Pre-Sanctified Bread. For it is obvious that in communing these persons were wont to say something in the way of prayers before actually partaking, and after partaking thereof, which prayers, briefly speaking, were the liturgy of the Pre-Sanctified then in vogue, and that is what Argentes says. See also the Footnote to Canon XII of Laodicea.

St. Gregory the Dialogist, Pope of Rome (d. 604)
St. Gregory the Dialogist, Pope of Rome (d. 604)

But we mention Dialogist in the dismissal of the Pre-Sanctified Liturgy either because Dialogist, by communicating this Liturgy to the Romans in the days of fasting in the Great Fast, according to Mauritius, the deacon of the great Church who was the author of the Synaxarion, and according to their translator Maximus Marganios, and Michael Constantinopolite, furnished the Easterners the idea of celebrating it on every day in the Fast, as some insist (see Dositheos, Concerning those who served as Patriarchs in Jerusalem, page 526); or else it was because, though in existence long before, it was afterwards embellished by Dialogist, and brought to the state in which it is now seen. The Pre-sanctified Liturgy was devised by the Fathers in order to provide a way of becoming participants also on days of fasting of the heavenly life and of the grace that come from the holy Mysteries. For Blastaris, in Chapter 5 of Verse 300, says: “Just as soldiers at war, after the battle is over, in the evening of the day it ends, partake of food and nourishment prepared beforehand, in order to strengthen their bodies by means of it and to be able to fight the enemy the next day, and so in a similar manner we Christians (those of us, that is, who are worthy and prepared), while fighting the passions and the Devil during the days of the Fast, are wont to partake of the Body and Blood of the Lord during the evening of the day, which have been Pre-Sanctified from Saturday and The Lord’s Day, in order to strengthen ourselves from this and enable ourselves to fight the figurative enemies again more valiantly (though Blastaris does not say this out of his own head, but has translated it from some previous and older comment which we have discovered).

179

This same thing is also embodied in the Pre-Sanctified prayers of this very Liturgy.” Note that the Pre-Sanctified Liturgy must be celebrated during the evening of the day, according to the typikon and the Western Synod held in Cabilone. Hence those who celebrate it morning are in error, and let them correct themselves. For how can they say in the morning, “Let us fulfill our evening prayer unto the Lord,” which is not even one to be said at noon. Not only at four, and six, but also at two, and three, and five, according to this Canon, the Pre-Sanctified Liturgy may be freely celebrated by those who so wish. As for those who do not wet the Holy Bread with the all-undefiled Blood, as is prescribed in the Euchologion, and who neither keep it prepared to serve in the celebration of the Pre-Sanctified Liturgy, they are obviously Latin-minded. For one of the characteristics of the impiety of the Latins is this one of not giving the laity but of one kind, or, in other words, giving them of the bread only, the Mystery of the Eucharist, as the Western Council held in Constance, Germany, in the year 1414 unlawfully legislated. As for the many reasons why Pre-Sanctified bread was kept, see Eustratios Argenetes, page 284, and the Footnote to Canon XIV of Laodicea. Pre-Sanctified wine, too, used to be kept in the churches, as is attested by St. Chrysostom in his first letter to Pope Innocence, and also by St. Jerome in his letter No. 4 to Rufinus, and by St. Gregory the Theologian in his epitaph to Gorgonias, and by the local Synod, held in Toledo, and others. See also the Footnote to Canon XLIX of Laodicea. (The Rudder, pp. 838-839)

The Service of the Presanctified Gifts CD
The Service of the Presanctified Gifts CD

CANON XLIX of the Synod of Laodicea (364)

That in the Great Fast bread must not be offered, except on Saturday and the Lord’s Day only.

Interpretation

On no other days of the Great Fast except Saturdays and Sundays, says the present Canon, ought a complete Liturgy to be celebrated, but only the pre-sanctified.

Note, however, that according to Reply 56 of Balsamon an ordination of a sub-deacon, or deacon, or priest, or bishop cannot be carried out in a pre-sanctified Liturgy, which is celebrated on days of fasting and mourning, because an ordination is in the nature of a festival, and not of a time of mourning. But ordinations can be carried out on the Saturdays and Lord’s Days in the Great Fast, when a complete Liturgy is celebrated. But in his Reply 55 the same Balsamon says that not even baptisms can be performed during the Great Fast except only on the Saturdays and Lord’s Days therein, and the day of Annunciation. But those who do these things ought to be corrected with heavy penalties, as having sinned unpardonably, except in case there should be a dire necessity of death (page 389 of Jus Graeco-Romanum). Symeon of Thessalonica (Reply 58) states that in olden times according to the Typikon of the Great Church a Pre-Sanctified Liturgy was celebrated also on Wednesday and Friday of Cheese Week, and on Great and Holy Friday. But since that Typikon went out of use owing to incursions of heathens, the Pre-Sanctified was forbidden on these days by the Jerusalem Typikon, which has now come to prevail everywhere, concerning which see Canon XXXII of St. Nicephoros, and the Footnote to Canon LII of the 6th Ecumenical Synod. But in addition the same Symeon says (in Reply 58) for the Pre-Sanctified not to be celebrated with a cut, or section, of a loaf, but with an entire loaf, of bread, in order that it may be divided into pieces in accordance with custom, and after being broken into fragments, be administered; for this is left out of the complete Liturgy.

imagesVJSQCVLA

And note also this, that when priests dye the Pre-Sanctified bread with the divine Blood by means of the tongs, they ought not to say anything, but, on the contrary, they ought to keep silent. For certain ignorant wrongly say the following: “And though it swayed from this to that its vintager did not become empty” For the meaning of that passage in the Psalms is another. In fact, it is rather absurd for this to be said, seeing that that cup about which David is saying this is one which is full of sulfurous wrath, and from which the sinners of the earth drink, whereas this cup is a cup of blessing and one which conciliates and stops God’s wrath against us. As for the fact that the Pre-Sanctified was celebrated from the beginning, this is attested by Socrates in Book V of his Ecclesiastical History, wherein he says: “In Alexandria on Wednesday and on so-called Preparation-day (Friday), Scriptures are read, and the teachers interpret these. But all the details of the synaxis are carried into effect without the ceremony of the Mysteries.” (The Rudder, p. 1137; 1156-57).

AZ Great Lent2

CANON LII of the 6th Ecumenical Synod (691)

On all the Forty days of the Great Fast devoted to fasting, with the exception of Saturday and The Lord’s Day and the days of the holy Annunciation, let the Holy Liturgy of the pre-sanctified be celebrated.

Interpretation

The days of holy fast are days of mourning and of contrition and of repentance. But for a perfect sacrifice to be offered to God, and indeed in the commemorations of saints, is deemed by the majority of people to be matter of jubilation and joy, and of festivity. That is why they are wont to indulge in merry-making during this period. For this reason the present Canon commands that on the other days of the Fast there shall be a celebration of the liturgy of the Pre-sanctified Gifts  which is the same as saying the second offering of the completed and sacrifice offered, whereas on Saturdays and The Lord’s Days, as more cheerful days and not devoted to fasting, likewise also on Annunciation Day, as being the commencement of our salvation and the exordium, and consequently as a feast day and festival, it allows a perfect sacrifice and Liturgy to be celebrated.

AZ Great Lent

Saint Nikodemos the Hagiorite on Sexual Abstinence in Orthodox Marriages

NOTE: The following article is extracted from the canons and footnotes of The Rudder:

St Nikodemos

QUESTION V (From the 18 Canons of Timothy of Alexandria)

If a woman has coition with her husband during the night, or as likely as not, a man with his wife, and a church meeting ensues, ought they to partake of communion, or not`?

Answer

They ought not to do so, because the Apostle says emphatically: “Do not defraud one other except by mutual consent, for a time, that you may devote yourselves to prayer; and then come together again so that Satan not tempt you in your incontinency” (I Corinthians 7:5).

Interpretation

To one who had asked whether a married couple ought to partake of the divine Mysteries, when a liturgy is held in the morning, and they have had sexual intercourse with each other during the night immediately preceding, the Saint replied in the present Canon that they ought not to commune;1 and in witness thereof he cites the words of the Apostle, who orders married couples not to deprive one party the other of sexual intercourse, save by agreement of both the parties; and only then not to have sexual intercourse when a Divine Liturgy is being celebrated, on Saturday and the Lord’s Day, and in general on all Feast Days, so that they may partake of communion (for it is thus that the passage saying “that you may devote yourselves to prayer” is interpreted in Canon XIII of this same Saint as well as in the third Canon of St. Dionysios, both of which Canons you may read for yourself), and again to mingle carnally, and to do this on account of their irrestrainable desire, so as to prevent Satan from tempting them by inciting them to commit fornication or to commit adultery with wives of other men or husbands of other women, as the case may be.

NOTES:

  1. Lawfully married couples ought, therefore, to abstain from sexual intercourse at least for three days, and then come to church for communion; and see the first Footnote to Canon XIII of the 6th Ecumenical Synod.

 imagesJDSSGMHT

QUESTION XIII (From the 18 Canons of Timothy of Alexandria)

What days of the week ought to be assigned to those who are conjoined in marriage for them to abstain from communion with each other? And on what days ought they to have it?

Answer

Though I have already answered this question, I will answer now once more. The Apostle says. “Do not defraud one another, unless it be for a time by mutual agreement, in order that you may devote yourselves to prayer” (I Corinthians 7:5). And again: “Come together again, that Satan may tempt you in your incontinency (ibid.). But one must necessarily abstain on Saturday and the Lord’s Day, on account of the fact that on these days the spiritual sacrifice is being offered to the Lord.

Interpretation

The Saint has been asked on what days of the week married couples ought not to have sexual intercourse by mingling together carnally, and he has replied in the present Canon, by citing in evidence the words of St. Paul addressed to married couples, to the effect that neither of the parties ought to deprive the other of carnal intercourse, unless both of them abstain from coition by agreement for a time, in order to engage in prayer, and that they ought again to mingle with each other soon enough to prevent Satan from tempting them on account of their failing to mix themselves together as wine is mixed with water. In explaining at what time and what prayer Paul means for married couples to refrain from coition, the Saint states that it is Saturday and The Lord’s day (and in general every feast day), on which days they are obliged to refrain from sexual intercourse because of the fact that for the most part it was on those particular days that the spiritual sacrifice used to be performed, or, in other words, the divine liturgy used to be celebrated, and they had to prepare themselves and get ready to partake of the Divine Mysteries. See also Canon III of Dionysios.

Before becoming monastics, Geronda Joseph Voutsas and Gerondissa Olympiada Voutsa were married. The 2 never consummated their marriage & lived as brother and sister.
Before becoming monastics, Geronda Joseph Voutsas and Gerondissa Olympiada Voutsa were married. The 2 never consummated their marriage & lived as brother and sister.

MARRIED COUPLES RESPONSIBILITY WHEN COMMUNING OF THE MYSTERIES

But in his eleventh reply to a question asked by Marcus of Alexandria Balsamon asserts that married couples must necessarily refrain from having sexual intercourse not only on the day that they are to commune, but also on the day before communion day as well as on the day after communion day, and all those who fail to observe this requirement must be canonized with severe penalties; and see Footnote 1 to Canon III of the 6th Ecumenical Synod. But even if they do not partake of communion on those days, again they ought to refrain from all sexual intercourse. Wherefore Balsamon too in his forty-ninth reply to a question asked by the same Marcus asserts that any married couples that fail to practice continence by abstaining from carnal intercourse on Saturday and the Lord’s Day ought to be corrected with moderate penalties. Likewise such couples are also obliged to abstain from coition during the Great Fast and on Wednesdays and Fridays; and see the Footnote to Apostolic Canon IX.

St Chrysanthus and his wife Darius mutually agreed to lead celibate lives. They lived in separate houses.
St Chrysanthus and his wife Darius mutually agreed to lead celibate lives. They lived in separate houses.

CANON III of Dionysios of Alexandria

Persons who are self-sufficient and married ought to be judges of themselves. For we are told in writing by St. Paul that it is fitting that they should abstain from each other by agreement for a time in order that they may indulge in prayer, and again come together (I Corinthians 7:5).

Interpretation

And when asked about husbands and wives whether they ought to be continent respecting each other, the Saint answers that on this point the parties themselves ought to be sufficient judges, since it is fitting and proper according to blessed Paul for them to engage in no bodily association and intercourse when they are indulging in prayer20 and this course ought to be adopted by agreement between both parties – that is to say, by both the husband and the wife agreeing thereto – lest it should come to pass that one of the parties is tempted by the enemy, and the continence of the other become an injury to the one so tempted. For if one party is overcome by desire and is not permitted by the other party to enjoy the satisfaction of it, he is liable to fall with another woman and sin, according to Zonaras.

The Rudder. In addition to the texts of the canons, St. Nicodemus includes his own commentary.
The Rudder. In addition to the texts of the canons, St. Nicodemus includes his own commentary.

RECONCILING “PRAY ALWAYS” AND ABSTAIN FROM INTERCOURSE IN TIME OF PRAYER

One might wonder as follows. Since the Apostle says, “Pray continuously” (or without interruption and always), while, on the other hand, married persons must abstain from intercourse in time of prayer, according to the same St. Paul and the present Canon, so then must they always be continent and never have any intercourse at all? But this bewilderment is solved more self-sufficiently by the two Canons of Timothy of Alexandria, his Canons V and XIII, which say that by time of prayer the Apostle means when there is a synaxis (or church-meeting) and Liturgy, which in those times used to be celebrated for the most part on Saturday and The Lord’s Day, on which days married couples were required to be continent, in order to participate in Communion, or partake of the Divine Mysteries. Hence this Canon of Dionysius gives every sensible person to understand that it is immediately addressed to Basilides, who has asked whether married people are to abstain from each other whenever they have to commune. For it answers that on this point the married people themselves are sufficient judge – meaning, that is to say, that they ought to remain continent during the time of Communion. Though (I know not how) Zonaras and Balsamon failed to interpret the Canon thus, having taken prayer to mean the more serious kind of prayer, which is done with travail and tears. Note, however, that the Apostle adds that aside from prayer married people ought to remain continent during the time of fasting, which is prescribed by the Church, that is to say (and see concerning this point the third Footnote to Apostolic Canon LXIX).

exomologetarion

On page 272 of The Exomologetarion, St. Nikodemos writes: “We must also note the following, that just as there must be a fast from food on Wednesday, Friday, and Great Lent, there must also be a fast from pleasures of the flesh. For this reason weddings cannot take place on these days, because the divine Paul commands that married couples are not to come together during a time of prayer and fasting: “Defraud ye not one the other, except it be with consent for a time, that ye may give yourselves to fasting and prayer” (1 Cor. 7:5). And the divine Chrysostom, bringing the saying of Joel as a witness: “Sanctify a fast—let the bridegroom go forth of his chamber, and the bride out of her closet” (Jl. 2:15-16), says that even newlyweds, who have strong desire, vigorous youthfulness, and unfettered urges, are not to come together during a period of fasting and prayer.1 How much, then, are other married couples, who do not have such impulsiveness of the flesh, not to come together? Therefore, Balsamon says that married couples who do not exercise self-control during the Great Fast are not to commune on Pascha and are also to be penance.2 Likewise, married couples who come together on Wednesday and Friday must be corrected through penances.”

  1. De Virginitate 30, PG 48, 554.
  2. Responsa ad Interrogationes Marci, Question 50, PG 138, 997B-997C.

Also see, the book by Fr. Sergei Sveshnikov There Is No Sex in the Church!: On the Problematics of Sexuality and Gender In Orthodoxy https://frsergei.wordpress.com/books/the-problematics-of-orthodox-sexuality/ http://vassilios-papavassiliou.blogspot.ca/2014/08/celibacy-as-vocation.html

Confession Room, St. Anthony's Monastery (AZ)
Confession Room, St. Anthony’s Monastery (AZ)

Miscarriage = Involuntary Murder in Eastern Orthodox Canons and Prayers

It is true that many people who confess at the monasteries for the first time are unaware of the Canons and penances that the Church imposes on the penitents for various sins. In the case of miscarriages, not many women know that the Orthodox Canons view this as an involuntary murder and the mother is penanced as such. The father confessors mainly use the Exomologetarion by St. Nikodemos the Hagiorite as a guide when giving out Canons and counsel for various sins.

St. John the Faster, 33rd  Patriarch of Constantinople (582 – 595) and first to assume the  the title Ecumenical Patriarch.
St. John the Faster, 33rd Patriarch of Constantinople (582 – 595) and first to assume the the title Ecumenical Patriarch.

The 22nd Canon of St. John the Faster states: “A woman who has involuntarily miscarried a baby, receives a penance for one year.”

St. Nikodemos’ interpretation of this Canon is: “The woman who miscarried the baby which she had in her womb, without wanting to, but on account of some involuntary circumstance, is penanced one year not to receive Communion.”

In a footnote to this Canon, St. Nikodemos also writes: “For this reason pregnant women must take great care not to lift anything heavy (especially when they are seven or eight months pregnant), and to keep themselves from what troubles them. while men, after their wives conceive, must not sleep in the same bed with them, nor have intercourse with them any longer, nor strike them, or cause them any other trouble or sorrow, for because of these things their wives miscarry the babies, and the poor husbands become murderers of their children. wherefore, if married priests, or those who plan to become priests do any of these things and their wives miscarry their babies, those who are priests are to be deposed, and those who were going to become priests in the future are barred from the priesthood, on account of the murder they committed.”

(See Exomologetarion: A Manual for Confession, pp. 245-246 and The Rudder, p. 945, 949.)

exomologetarion

PRAYER FOR A WOMAN AFTER A MISCARRIAGE (ABORTION)

In the Eastern Orthodox Church, even a miscarriage is considered an abortion and the fault of miscarrying is placed on the woman for not taking enough care of her body during the pregnancy or because she was punished by God for her sins.

In Sex and Society in the World of the Orthodox Slavs, 900-1700, Eve Levin reports that at least certain Orthodox in the past have blamed miscarriages on the Mother. For example:

“Another possible result of the parents’ immorality was the loss of a child, whom the parents had shown themselves unworthy to have. A miscarriage had to have been the result of the woman’s sinfulness. She was required to confess her sins and do penance. Service books included an extensive set of prayers for purification: ‘Lord our God, who was born of the Ever-Virgin Mary, the Holy Mother of God, and who lay as a baby in a cradle: Today, out of your great clemency, have mercy on this your servant N., who has fallen into sin and willful murder, and aborted that which was conceived within her. Forgive her her willful and unwilling sins, and preserve her from all Satan’s deceptions. Purify her of obscenity and heal her sickness… for we are born in sin and lawlessness, and we are all defiled before you.'” (p. 67)

“Even a spontaneous miscarriage was sinful, and carried a penance of a year’s exclusion from communion.” (p. 176)

Miscarriage Icon.
Miscarriage Icon.

Some people think that because of the content of the prayer, today it would not be appropriate to be read for women who have involuntarily miscarried. However, whether a miscarriage or an abortion, in both cases the woman should, after the 40 days of purification, go to confession and receive absolution.

The monasteries still follow proper ecclesiastical tradition by reading this prayer over the woman in both cases.

The following prayer is found in the Euchologion (Μικρόν Εὐχολόγιον), and it is to be read over the woman who confesses her sin of having a miscarriage:

MikronEuchologion1

 

Trisagion

Then the Apolytikion of the day and the Kontakion and then the following prayer:

Let us pray unto the Lord.

O Master, Lord our God, who wast born of the holy Mother of God and ever-virgin Mary, and as an infant, wast laid in a manger: Do thou, upon this thy servant (…..),who in sins has today fallen to the sin of murder, witting or unwitting and has aborted that which was conceived in her, have mercy according to thy great mercy: and forgive her transgressions, both voluntary and involuntary: and preserve her from every diabolical operation: and cleanse the impurity, heal the sufferings, and grant her, O Lover of Mankind,  health and strength of her body and soul: and with a bright Angel, do thou guard her from every assault of invisible demons. Yea, O Lord, from sickness and disease, and cleanse her from her bodily defilement and her various oncoming internal problems, and through thy abundant compassion, lead her to the recovery of her humble body, and raise her from the bed upon which she lies. For in sins were we conceived and in iniquities were we shapen and in defilement are we all before thee, and in fear we cry and say: Look down from heaven and behold the weakness of us who are condemned, and forgive this thy servant who has fallen to the sin of murder, witting or unwitting, and has aborted that which was conceived in her, and according to thy great mercy, have mercy and forgive all that surround her and have touched her, for thou art a good God and lovest mankind, and thou alone hast the power to forgive sins, By the prayers of the holy Mother of God and of all the saints.

For unto Thee belong all glory, honour and worship, together with the Father, and the Holy Spirit, now and for ever: world without end. Amen.

Glory be to Thee, O Christ our God and our hope, glory be to Thee.

May Christ our true God, by the prayers of His most holy Mother; by the power of the precious and life-giving Cross; by the protection of the heavenly bodiless hosts; through the supplications of the glorious Prophet and Forerunner, John the Baptist; of the holy and all-glorious Apostles; of the holy, glorious and triumphant martyrs; of our holy God-bearing fathers; of the holy and righteous progenitors of God, Joachim and Anna; and of all the saints, have mercy upon us, and save our souls: For He is good and loving-kind.

By the prayers of our holy fathers, Lord Jesus Christ our God, have mercy upon us and save us. Amen.

exomologesis

The Reading of Ecclesiastical Canons Usually Forbidden to Geronda Ephraim’s Non-Clergy Monastics

The Rudder. In addition to the texts of the canons, St. Nicodemus includes his own commentary.
The Rudder. In addition to the texts of the canons, St. Nicodemus includes his own commentary.

Two books usually forbidden for novices and rassaphores are the Old Testament –it can cause much warfare for a beginner from lust to blasphemy—and the Rudder; and by extension the Exomologetarion. When a new monk or nun asks about certain canons or canonical issues—either within the church or within the actual monastery—there are various responses but one of the most common is about idle curiosity and delusion (the stories, of course, vary from monastery to monastery). However, one common theme is that reading about Canons is—besides being unnecessary for a subordinate under obedience to a guide who knows the canons—dangerous because it’s a knowledge that puffs up the ego, and worse, the devil can use this knowledge to make a subordinate start questioning his/her elder, “Why does Geronda do this when the Canons say otherwise, etc.”

 

"The people don't know anything" - a common expression from Geronda's hieromonks after confessing groups of secular Christians.
“The people don’t know anything” – a common expression from Geronda’s hieromonks after confessing groups of secular Christians.

The monks that came from Filotheou Monastery to America talk about monks that would question Geronda Ephraim’s actions based on the Canons, sometimes even in front of the Fathers when Geronda was giving a talk. These monks never lasted long in the monastery and usually threw off their rassa, returning to the world as laymen. Though apparently there was one hieromonk (commonly seen in photos beside Geronda Ephraim during the Epitafio Service) who also left Philotheou but went off to be a hieromonk on his own.

In Arizona, the Fathers had a perfect example since one of the novices who was scandalized with an icon in the Katholico which depicted the Father as an aged Christ, eventually left the monastery. “See, it starts small. The devil gets a disciple to start questioning his Geronda, and then he questions the brotherhood, the monastery, even God himself. Then, due to his ego, he leaves.”

"We'd probably all be excommunicated" - Fr. Germanos on if the Canons were to be applied strictly today.
“We’d probably all be excommunicated” – Fr. Germanos on if the Canons were to be applied strictly today.

Fr. Germanos of St. Nektarios Monastery in Roscoe, NY, has frequently stated, “If we were all to be examined under the Canons we’d probably all be excommunicated.” This is kind of a catch all statement.

Doing things under the radar

There is also another factor with why it’s better for monastics not to read the Canons—because they are frequently broken in the monasteries. Geronda Ephraim frequently overrides certain ecclesiastical requirements. This is explained off in a couple ways. In the beginning, the monasteries acted as though they were a sort of persecuted catacomb church and followed some of the examples of what a persecuted church “in resistance” would do. The hierarchy were ecumenists and compromised, so due to the unfairness of their decisions and attempts to hinder God’s will for the monasteries to expand, many things had to be done under the radar. This is why in the beginning, the abbots and abbesses didn’t always pursue relations with their diocese, so they could operate more freely without any hindrance from their hierarchs.

Also, in some cases, Geronda Ephraim “receives information [or a blessing] from above” that allows him to override the rules and canons of the church.

"In the beginning it was about quantity, now it's about quality" - Geronda Joseph on the earlier practice of quickly tonsuring novices to rasaphore.
“In the beginning it was about quantity, now it’s about quality” – Geronda Joseph on the earlier practice of quickly tonsuring novices to rasaphore.

The actions in themselves don’t seem like big issues:
• Going into jurisdictions without the bishop’s knowledge either to tonsure monks or nuns to rassaphores, or perform ecclesiastical functions at the monasteries.
• Overriding a bishop’s ban on certain hieromonks entering a diocese to perform ecclesiastical functions. I.e. if one of Geronda Ephraim’s hieromonks is banned from a region in which they have spiritual children, Geronda will override the bishop and give them a blessing to go up and confess a dying spiritual child, etc. The reason is because the bishop’s bans are many times motivated by jealousy or resentment or hatred of the individual who was banned and not for proper ecclesiastical reasons.
• Allowing Abbesses and nuns to wear the great-schema even though they weren’t tonsured yet, so that the bishop doesn’t tonsure them into the great schema. There are some fine points about control and obedience that Geronda Ephraim doesn’t want hierarchs to have over his monastics.
• Tonsuring novices into rassaphores after only a year (not because they were ready, but because it gave a more serious representation to the people. This practise changed as time went on. As one abbot stated, “In the beginning it was about quantity, now it is about quality).
• In the case of secret baptisms of converts, the canons do seem to justify their actions. However, many converts have strict obediences to lie about where they were baptized so the monasteries do not get in trouble and the priest-monks do not get defrocked.

Bishop Anthimos Drakonakis Did an Ordination Service for Geronda Ephraim

There are also cases where it is said that Geronda Ephraim’s prayer can turn something uncanonical into something blessed by God. Such was the case when Bishop Anthony and Bishop Anthimos came to St. Anthony’s in the late 90’s to perform ordinations. There were some concerns about Bishop Anthimos canonicity as a hierarch due to past indiscretions:

http://www.people.com/people/archive/article/0,,20097213,00.html (People Magazine: A Black Prince of the Church)
https://groups.google.com/forum/#!topic/alt.religion.christian.east-orthodox/jeoKpEJwrZs (The Rise and Fall of Bishop Anthimos)

Archbishop Spyridon with Bishop Anthimos of Olympos Annunciation Cathedral, Boston November 28, 2010
Archbishop Spyridon with Bishop Anthimos of Olympos Annunciation Cathedral, Boston November 28, 2010

However, Geronda Ephraim told his monks he did komboschoini the entire time Bishop Anthimos was doing the ordination service and angels came and blessed it. It was a legitimate ordination.

Geronda Ephraim Smuggled Elder Joseph’s Skull Off the Holy Mountain

Geronda Ephraim smuggled Elder Joseph's skull off the Holy Mountain back to America.
Geronda Ephraim smuggled Elder Joseph’s skull off the Holy Mountain back to America.

In the early 2000s, Geronda Ephraim had to go to Filotheou to put order in his monastery since Abbot Ephraim Dikaios left his post and monastery without a blessing. Geronda Ephraim went to pick an abbot and told his monks that Fr. Nikodemos was revealed to him in a vision and thus he’s been the abbot of Filotheou ever since. During this time, Geronda Ephraim also “received information from above” and he feigned an illness so he could be flown off the Holy Mountain no questions asked. This is how he smuggled his Elder Joseph’s skull off Mount Athos without having to do any paper work or inform anyone. Now it permanently resides in St. Panteleimon’s Church which is beside his cell. Though what he did is technically illegal, he had permission from above, thus rendering “man’s laws” irrelevant. This also happens many times when he overrides ecclesiastical law with “permission from above.”

“The Exomologetarion is for the Priests, it’s not necessary for laypeople to read it”

Fr. Epifanios Kapritsas of St. Nektarios Monastery (originally from Toronto).
Fr. Epifanios Kapritsas of St. Nektarios Monastery (originally from Toronto).

The Exomologetarion is one other book that not only monks, but even laypeople are sometimes guided to avoid reading. In the St. Nektarios Monastery bookstore, a pilgrim asked if they had the Exomologetarion for sale. The pilgrim was told, “It’s only for the priests. Lay people shouldn’t be reading it. It’s not necessary for them to know these things.” After a short exhortation from the monk in charge of the bookstore, the pilgrim left with the feeling that the monks view lay people as “simple-minded people who get confused easily and don’t know how to interpret or understand things properly. This is why they should read more simple things that benefit their soul, rather than puff up their minds with vain knowledge.” Ironically, the pilgrim wanted to buy the book for a friend who was a seminarian, not for himself. The monk in the bookstore did not ask why the pilgrim wanted the book, but made an assumption, and gave a short sermon based on his erroneous assumption.

The Rasaphores in Geronda Ephraim’s monasteries are misinformed about the meaning of Rasaphores

St. Anthony's Monastery Feast Day (early - mid-2000s)
There is also one other reason, perhaps, that the superiors do not want their monastics reading the canons: because then they will discover that they are being lied to in order to keep them in the monastery. There is a lot of oral traditions mixed in with canonical understandings in the monasteries here. A novice is told that if they die as a novice, they immediately go to Paradise. So, one finds novices who hope they die in that state. When one is tonsured, they are told, “Now it is for life, you can’t leave.” They are given the impression that they have the same obligation as a schema-monk who made vows to God during the Liturgy. Whereas, in reality, the canons and Patristic writings state the rasaphore is still a novice. The cutting of hair and reading of two prayers at the rasaphore tonsure is much different than the monastic verbally making vows and promises to God during the Liturgy. Furthermore, many of the Fathers only recognized two grades of monasticism: novice and schema-monk. The rasaphore is a later innovation, just as is the small schema. However, in the monasteries, a rasaphore is given the impression that if they leave, they automatically forfeit their salvation. Whereas the reality is the rasaphore is similar to a betrothal; it can be broken and a penance given. The great schema is more like a wedding; yet there can be no divorce. Many rasaphores have remained in the monastery, despite not wanting to be there anymore, because they have been given the impression that they have no choice, and there will be no hope of salvation if they leave.

(http://www.myriobiblos.gr/texts/greek/nicolopoulos_rasoforoi.html )
Anyways, here are some of the canons about monasticism that people may not be aware of (most of them aren’t really applied in the monasteries here because they’re anachronistic. “Geronda’s work is apostolic and many things aren’t applicable anymore because it is the last days and we have to save as many souls before the world ends.”:

St. Nikodemos’ Exomologetarion: The Guide for Geronda Ephraim and His Hieromonks

The Exomologetarion in Greek.
The Exomologetarion in Greek.

St. Nikodemos the Hagiorite’s Exomolgetarion: A Manual of Confession, which is a compilation drawn from various works and Exomologetaria from the libraries throughout the Holy Mountain, combined with the Saint’s own inspired spiritual counsels, was published in 1794. The book is composed of three distinct sections: the first being the qualifications of a true confessor, the second being the 38 canons and 17 penances of St. John the Faster together with commentaries and interpretations, and the third being St. Nikodemos’ own fatherly counsels and a homily concerning the Mystery of Confession.

This book is the mandatory study guide for all of Geronda Ephraim’s hieromonks. This is the guideline they use, except in the cases where Geronda Ephraim has implemented his own fronima. Every confessional at the monasteries has a copy of this book, along with the New Testament. At times, during confession, one may witness a hieromonk peruse this book when deciding a penance to give to the penitent.

Confession room at St. Anthony's Monastery.
Confession room at St. Anthony’s Monastery.

St. John the Faster’s canons cover a lot of the carnal sins, and St. Nikodemos’ footnotes compare a lot of the other canons in existence for the same sins. Below are some excerpts of the book, including the Canons of the Faster:

St. John the Faster
St. John the Faster
Geronda Ephraim in the confession room, St. Anthony's Monastery.
Geronda Ephraim in the confession room, St. Anthony’s Monastery.
St. Nikodemos the Hagiorite
St. Nikodemos the Hagiorite

That the Spiritual Father Is Not to Reveal Sins (St. Nikodemos the Hagiorite)1

Nothing else remains after confession, Spiritual Father, except to keep the sins you hear a secret, and to never reveal them, either by word, or by letter, or by a bodily gesture, or by any other sign, even if you are in danger of death, for that which the wise Sirach says applies to you: “Have you heard a word? Let it die with you” (Sir. 19:10); and again: “With friend or foe do not report it” (Sir. 19:8); meaning, if you heard a secret word, let the word also die along with you, and do not tell it to either a friend of yours or an enemy of yours, for as long as you live. And further still, that which the Prophet Micah says: “Trust not in friends…beware of thy wife, so as not to commit anything to her” (Mic. 7:5).

For if you reveal them, firstly, you will be suspended or daresay deposed completely by the Ecclesiastical Canons, and according to political laws you will be thrown in jail for the rest of your life and have your tongue cut out.2 Secondly, you become a reason for more Christians not to confess, being afraid that you will reveal their sins, just as it happened during the time of Nektarios of Constantinople when the Christians did not want to confess on account of a Spiritual Father who revealed the sin of a woman.3 The divine Chrysostom both witnessed these things and suffered because of them on account of his trying to convince the people to confess. It is impossible for me to describe in words how much punishment this brings upon you, who are the cause of these things.

[NOTE: An Elder can use his discretion to reveal the sins of other monks to the brotherhood in order to humble the disobedient monk, or, in the case of the sinful monk’s absence, to warn and caution the brotherhood. As well, the Elder can use his discretion to reveal certain things from laypeople’s confessions as cautionary tales or for the spiritual edification of the fathers or other laypeople, usually without naming the individual].

NOTES

1. St. Nikodemos the Hagiorite, Exomologetarion, pp. 189-90.

2. Patriarch Luke of Constantinople disciplined the abbot of the Monastery of Xerotrophos with a penance of suspension because he revealed the sin of one of his spiritual children, as Balsamon reports (Explanation of Canon 141 of Carthage, PG 138, 424D)…Let Spiritual Fathers be reminded of this by God Himself, Who never publicly revealed the confession of any person, as John of the Ladder says: “At no time do we find God revealing the sins which have been confessed to Him, lest by making these public knowledge, He should impede those who would confess and so make them incurably sick” (To the Shepherd, The Ladder, p. 243).

3. See Socrates, Historia Ecclesiastica 5, 19 PG 67, 613A-620A. And Sozomen says that the Spiritual Father was chosen on account of his being secretive and discrete (Historia Ecclesiastica 7, 16 PG 67, 1460A).

The brotherhood of St. Nektarios Monastery in Roscoe, NY with visiting abbots monks from other monasteries.
The brotherhood of St. Nektarios Monastery in Roscoe, NY with visiting abbots monks from other monasteries.

The following account is a perfect example of when the Abbot or Elder can reveal the sins of other monks to the brotherhood. In 2000, Fr. R was sent from Holy Trinity Monastery in Michigan to St. Nektarios Monastery in Roscoe. While this monk was in Michigan, he stole the Abbot’s cell phone and made numerous calls to a number known as Manline. He refused to wear any monastic garments in his cell. He took all the files from the office filing cabinet and discarded them in the forest (a layperson from Toronto found them on a walk and alerted the Abbot). He would go into the other monks’ cells without permission, sometimes taking things. And he tried to scandalize the lay people. It had gotten so out of hand that the Abbot would call this monk’s father to come visit, and essentially babysit, whenever the Abbot had to leave the monastery for more than a day.

This monk had been very problematic in Arizona and Michigan and St. Nektarios was sort of a last hope for him.

Although Elder Ephraim usually sends such problematic monks home (or, as in the case with Fr. S. in Arizona, prays to the Panagia to drive them out so he doesn’t bear the burden and responsibility of their leaving), the Elder made a large dispensation for Fr. R because his father is a priest for one of the female monasteries. So, the night before Fr. R came to St. Nektarios, the Abbot called the brotherhood for a homily about this monk’s situation. He informed the fathers that Fr. R had the demon of homosexuality and kleptomania amongst other things and that such demons have destroyed brotherhoods in the past. The monks were instructed to be careful around him, certain monks were instructed to watch and follow him, and all the monks were ordered to inform the Abbot immediately if they witnessed Fr. R do anything that was inappropriate (i.e. talking to laypeople, especially young males; being in areas of the monastery he shouldn’t, disappearing to his cell; using the phone, etc.).

Furthermore, in cases where monks have specific passions or repeatedly commit certain sins or disobediences (masturbation, secret eating, idle talking and joking with laypeople when not allowed, pulling worldy magazines out of the garbage to look at pictures of female or male models, etc.) they may be asked to go on their knees and admit their transgression to the brotherhood. In cases where an individual monk cannot handle this shame, the Abbot may use his discretion to call the brotherhood secretly, minus this one monk, and tell them in his absence what is going on, what to watch for and to report any inappropriate behavior they may witness. In extreme cases, when a monk is challenging the abbot through his ego and disobedience, the Abbot may advise the brotherhood to cold shoulder this monk and act as if he doesn’t exist (i.e. none of the monks will talk to him, no food will be placed at his setting, etc.) until he breaks, humbles himself, and repents. as well, most monks and nuns know that when one is in the Lity, prostrate, saying, “Forgive me, brothers and Fathers, I am filthy in both body and soul,” then the monastic is being punished for a carnal sin. The most common carnal sin for a monastic is masturbation, though sometimes interactions between two monastics, or a monastic and a lay person occurs (the latter is very rare).

SOURCE: https://www.tumblr.com/blog/stnektariosmonastery