Marriage and Divorce in the Orthodox Church according to St. Nikodemos the Hagiorite († 1809)

NOTE: The following article is taken from the Rudder, which was published in 1800:

the-rudder
The Rudder (Pedalion). The “Talmud” of the Greek Orthodox Church.

Canon 48 of the Holy Apostles

“If any layman who has divorced his wife takes another, or one divorced by another man, let him be excommunicated”

Interpretation

Inasmuch as the Lord decreed in His Gospel that “Whosoever shall divorce his wife, except on account of fornication, is causing her to commit adultery; and whoever marries her who hath been divorced commits adultery” (Matthew 5:32; 19: 9), therefore the divine Apostles too, following the Lord’s decree, say in their present Canon: If any layman who insists upon divorcing his wife, except on the ground of fornication, which is to say adultery (for the Evangelist here used the word fornication instead of adultery. Concerning this point see also Canon IV of Nyssa), and takes another woman that is free to marry, let him be excommunicated. Likewise let him be excommunicated if, after being divorced from his wife without the ground of fornication, he takes another woman who is one also divorced from her husband without the ground of fornication, or, in other words, of adultery. These things, which we have said with reference to the husband, must be understood to apply also to the wife who leaves her husband, except on account of fornication, and takes another man as her husband. As for any man or any woman who separates from his or her spouse without a reasonable cause and remarries or is remarried, he or she shall be canonized to have no communion for seven years according to Canon LXXXVII of the 6th Ecumenical Synod, Canon XX of Ancyra, and Canons LXXVII and XXXVII of Basil. Read also Canon XLIII of Carthage which prescribes that if a married couple separate without the commission of fornication on the part of either spouse, either they must remain unmarried or they must become reconciled and be reunited, as St. Paul also says in Chapter 7 of his First Epistle to the Corinthians.

Holy Apostles

Footnote 68 to the 85 Apostolic Canons Concerning Marriage & Divorce

Strictness and the Lord’s decree are equally averse to letting a man divorce his wife, or a woman her husband. For the Lord said in regard to both the man and the woman: “Whoever shall divorce his wife and marry another, commits adultery against her” (Matthew 19:9); and “If a woman shall divorce her husband and be married to another, she commits adultery” (Mark 10:12), without adding except it be for fornication either in the case of the man only or in the case of the woman only, but He left this to be understood by us indifferently as regarding both.

The custom of the Church is to allow the man authority to divorce his wife when he finds her to be fornicating or committing adultery, but not to let a woman divorce her husband even though she find him to be fornicating or committing adultery. If on the other hand, she should divorce him on grounds of fornication or adultery, and he, being unable to suffer should marry a second woman, the first women who divorced him will have the sin of such a separation, whereas the husband deserves a pardon for having married a second time, and his second wife is not condemned as an adulteress. Gregory the Theologian did not accept this custom, which came into the Church from Roman civil law. For he says in his (Discourse on the saying in the Gospel, when Jesus spoke the previous words); “I see many men belonging to the common people to be judging perilously regarding temperance. And I see their law as being unequal and inconsistent”. For what reason does the law chastise a woman if she fornicates, but allows a man the liberty to do the same. And if a woman betrays the bed of her husband, she is judged an adulteress, but if a man who has a wife fornicates with other women, is he guiltless? I do not accept that legislation; I do not praise the custom. It was men who made that law, and on this account they only legislated against women.

For those same legislators of this civil law made a law for children to be under the control of their father, but as for the weaker side that is, the mother who is a weak woman, they left her without care, not having made a law for her children to be under her control. However, God made no such law. On the contrary, He says, “ Honor your father and your mother,” which is the first commandment among the promises, “that it may go well with you” (Deuteronomy 5:16; Exodus 20:12; Sirach 8:8; Matthew 19:19; Mark 7:10; Luke 18:20) and “He that speaks evil against his father or mother, let him die the death” (Exodus 20:12; Leviticus 19:3; Deuteronomy 5:16). Both in the case of the father and in the case of the mother, He equally honored obedience and chastised insolence. And “A father’s blessing firmly establishes the houses of children, but a mother’s curse uproots the foundations” (Proverbs 19:14).

New Martyr Argyre of Proussa, Patron Saint of Marriage (+ 1725)
New Martyr Argyre of Proussa, Patron Saint of Marriage (+ 1725)

 

Herein do you not see the equality of the legislation? The Creator of man and woman is one. Both of them are of one and the same clay. One and the same law governs them both. There is but one resurrection. We have been born quite as much by a woman as by a man; children owe their parents a single debt. How then is it that you the legislator being a man, demand temperance of women, when you yourself are intemperate?

How is it that you ask for what you do not give? How is it that you enact unlike legislation for woman notwithstanding that your body is like that of woman? But can it be that if you are thinking of the evils attending disobedience because the woman sinned? Why, did not Adam also sin? The serpent deceived them both. Accordingly, it cannot be said either that the woman proved the weaker of the two in being deceived, or that the man proved to be the stronger of the two in that he avoided being deceived. Or if you are thinking of the good results attending reformation remember that Christ saved them both with His passion. He became flesh for man, but also for woman.

He died for man, but woman too is saved through His death. Perhaps you think that He honored man because He was born of David’s seed. But in being born of the Virgin He honored women. “They shall be one flesh,” it says (Genesis 2:24): that one flesh accordingly must deserve equal honor. St. Paul, also lays down a law of temperance for man. How? “This is a great mystery; I am speaking concerning Christ and the Church” (Ephesians 5:32).

It is well for a woman to revere Christ by means of the reverence which she shows toward her husband. It is also well for a man not to dishonor the Church of Christ by means of the dishonor toward his wife by fornicating with another.

The Patron Saints of Marriage, Love, Family and Fidelity. Celebrated in Russia up to 1917. Saints Peter and Fevronia.
The Patron Saints of Marriage, Love, Family and Fidelity. Celebrated in Russia up to 1917. Saints Peter and Fevronia.

In the same way, Chrysostom also testifies to the same view in his fifth sermon on the First Epistle to the Thessalonians. “I beg,” he says, “that we guard ourselves against this sin. For just as we men chastise our wives when they betray their honor to others, so does God, if not the laws of the Romans, chastise us when we betray the honor of our wives, and fornicate with another, since the sin of men with other women is also adultery. For adultery is not only when a married woman commits adultery with another man, but also when a married man commits adultery with any other woman. Give attention to the accuracy of what I say to you. Adultery is not only when married men sin with a strange woman who is married, but also when they sin with an unmarried woman, which is also adultery. For notwithstanding that the woman with whom they sin is not tied to a man, they themselves are tied to a woman. And for this reason it can be said that they have violated the law and have wronged their own flesh. For why should they chastise their wife if she fornicates with a man that is not married? Of course, it is adultery, despite the fact that the man who fornicated with her has no wife, also simply because his wife is tied to a man. So they also, since they are tied to a wife, if they fornicate with an unmarried woman, are committing adultery by their act of fornication.

“Whosoever shall divorce his wife,” says the Lord, “except on account of fornication, is causing her to commit adultery; and whosoever shall marry her that is divorced commits adultery” (Matthew 5:32; 19:9). And if this is so, is not one committing adultery even more so, who has a wife when he joins in self-corruption with an unmarried woman? Yes.

That is obvious to everyone. Not only St. Gregory and St. Chrysostom, but even Basil himself cannot bear to follow that custom which disregards the commandment delivered by God, as he makes known in other pages as well as in the twelfth definition of his Ethics. But he also says in his Canon XXXV: “When a woman abandons her husband, we must inquire into the reason why she left him. Then, if it appears that the woman left him unreasonably and without cause, the man is to merit a pardon, but the woman, a canon and penalty, as having become the cause of the evil.” No other reasonable cause for the separation of a married couple can be found besides that of fornication or of adultery of a man and or a woman.

St. Justinian the Great

But Justinian Novel l17, situated in Book 28 of the Basilica, Title VII, ordains that if any man has another woman either in the city where he is dwelling or under the roof of his house, and is corrupting himself with her, if his real wife should tell him to abstain from the other woman, and should he refuse to abstain from her, permission is granted to be released from the marriage due to the jealousy of his wife. For such jealousy leads many wives to drink poison and commit suicide, and others to lose their mind, others to jump off a precipice, and others to still other absurd things, as may be seen from such examples which are daily occurrences in nearly every city and island and town.

For just as a man’s anger is full of jealousy for his wife if she has committed adultery, as Solomon says (Proverbs 6:34), “and he will not spare in the day of vengeance, nor will he forgo his enmity for any amount of ransom, neither will he be coaxed to remit it in exchange for a multitude of gifts.” In much the same way (or even more) is a woman’s anger, and her heart is full of jealousy for her husband if he has committed adultery.

However, note that though the Lord allowed husbands to separate from their wife on account of fornication, that is because of adultery, yet a bishop ought not to give them permission to enter into a second marriage, but ought to leave them thus separated for a long space of time, until the one who committed fornication, which is adultery, comes to repent of his or her act, to fall at the feet of the other, and to promise that henceforth he or she will keep the honor of the other mate, and in this manner they are finally reunited.

For even the Lord did not allow them to be separated only on account of adultery, but mainly because of the jealousy which results from such adultery, and the murder which often follows as a result of the jealousy. A second reason for allowing a separation is to prevent the confusion and bastardization of the offspring that follows as a result of such adultery as St. Gregory the Theologian says. So that, as Zonaras says in his interpretation of Canon IX and XXI of St. Basil, a man is not forced to keep his adulteress wife if he does not want to do so, but if he wants her, he may without prejudice keep her and live with her. What am I saying, without prejudice? Why that man is to be praised and to be esteemed very wise indeed who takes his wife back even after she has committed fornication (on the promise, however, that she will sin no more) for two good and sufficient reasons.

First, on account of the love and sympathy he is thus showing for his own flesh — I mean for his own wife — by emulating the very Master and God of all things, who notwithstanding that human nature was formerly an adulteress and had formerly committed fornication with idols, He condescended to make her His bride by virtue of the incarnate economy, and to save her through repentance and union with Him. And just as it is the part of a prudent man when any of his members is wounded or injured not to cut it off, but to make it his business to give it medical treatment, so is it the part of a prudent man, when his own member sins, that is his own wife, not to divorce her, but to take even greater care of her and to cure her by means of repentance and by giving her an opportunity to return. And secondly, because when such an impure condition has developed between a husband and wife, it is by God’s concession, and as a result of previous sins that it ensued. (And let everyone examine his own conscience, and he will find our words true.)

Saints Timothy and Maura,
Saints Timothy and Maura, Married Saints and Martyrs for Christ

Hence both parties must have patience with each other, and not insist upon a separation. Even the Apostle says that a faithful husband ought to cohabit even with his unfaithful wife, and conversely, a faithful wife ought to cohabit with her unfaithful husband, for the hope of salvation of both of them. “For how do you know, wife, whether you shall save your husband? Or how do you know, husband, whether you shall save your wife?” (1Corinthians 7:16). How much more ought a husband and wife, then, to cohabit with and not separate, even after fornication has occurred, at a time when impiety, the worst of all sins, will not separate it? Of course all that we have said concerning the husband, is to be understood also as pertaining to the wife. Nevertheless, that the author of Proverbs says: “Whoever retains an adulteress is foolish and impious” (Proverbs 18:22; this saying reflects the harshness and severity of the old Law, and not the leniency of the most sweet Law of the Gospel.

Rather should the Old Covenant be quoted from the mouth of Malachias, who says: “Do not abandon the wife of your youth: but if after coming to hate her you send her away, a feeling of impiety will darken your recollections, says the Lord Almighty”’ (Malachias 2:15).

If, however, in the end no way, nor device, can be found to reunite the couple henceforth, the innocent party may, as a matter of great necessity, marry a second time, but never the party guilty of fornication who became the cause of the separation.

This party, instead of second nuptials and wedding candles ought rather to sit mourning and weeping over his sin, and find solace in the darkness of sorrow of a widow or widower, because of the fact that whom God joined he or she rent apart. What am I saying? Why, the party that was the cause of the separation ought to pay damages, as the imperial laws command, according to St. Chrysostom (Discourse on a woman bound by law, etc.); and that the guilty party in the couple ought not to be allowed to marry may be inferred from Novel 88 of Leo. For this Novel says that the husband of a woman guilty of adultery is to receive her dowry, while the woman herself is to be placed in a monastery and compelled even against her will to become a nun.

 

Whatever property she had over and above her dowry is to be divided between her children and the monastery; or if she has no children, her parents and relatives are to have it. Justinian Novel 117 also commands that if the husband of a woman confined in a monastery for adultery should die within the two years before taking her back, she is to become a confined nun and not be allowed to remarry).

Orthodox Wedding at Cana Icon
Wedding at Cana

That the husband is not permitted to take back his wife after she has been guilty of committing adultery is attested on the one hand by Armenopoulos (Book 6, Title II), and on the other hand by holy Photios (Title I, Chapter 2). Novel 184 of Justinian (inserted in Book 28 of the Basilica, according to Balsamon), ordains that the husband can take back his guilty wife within two years after she committed the adultery and was sentenced to the monastery for the act of adultery, and that he can cohabit with her freely without fearing any danger on this account and without injury to his marriage as a result of the previous sin and separation. St. Basil the Great, also says in his dissertation on virginity that if a woman who has been left by her husband repents and corrects the cause on account of which he left her, the husband ought to have compassion on her because of her because she corrected herself, and to take her back as his own member again. Moreover, Canon XCIII of the 6th Ecumenical Synod permits a soldier to take back his own wife if he so chooses, even though she has taken another husband because of his many years’ absence from the country in foreign lands. Canon VIII of Neocaesarea likewise appears to permit a priest to live with his wife when she is guilty of adultery if he cares to, though he must be deposed.

Note also the fact that not everyone can start suit for adultery, but only five persons listed, and these must be the most intimate and nearest relative of the woman, namely, father, brother, uncle on the father’s side, and uncle on the mother’s side, and exceptionally and especially and above all her husband. As long as the marriage is in force nobody else is permitted to start such a suit except only the husband of the woman, by means of five witnesses attesting in fear of God that they all saw her in the very act of committing adultery. A suit for adultery may be started at any time within five years, and not late (Armenopoulos, Book 1, Title III).

Besides any of these things, it ought to be known to everyone that the civil and imperial laws never permit husbands to kill their wives, even though they have caught them as adulteresses. Hence there is no excuse for those who kill either their wives, or their sisters and daughters or relatives of any other kind, on the ground that they have been guilty of fornication or of adultery.

So, inasmuch as it may be inferred, from all that we have said, that a married couple ought not to be separated, therefore it is necessary for one side of the couple to bear with the other patiently, according to St. Gregory the Theologian. Thus, the wife ought to put up with her husband even though he insults and beats her, even though he spends her dowry, and no matter what else he may do to her; and just as much ought the husband to put up with his wife even though she is possessed by demons, as mentioned in I Timothy 4:1, and even though she is suffering from other defects, and has diseases, according to St. Chrysostom (in his Discourse on a woman bound by law, etc.). And yet that imperial and external laws on many accounts permit married couples to separate and be divorced, St. Chrysostom (in the same place), in the course of voicing opposition to them, says: “God is not going to judge in accordance with those laws, but in accordance with the laws which He himself has laid down with regard to marriage.

There is but one reasonable ground for divorce, and that is the one ordained by the laws, according to Emperors Leo and Constantine, when one party plots against the life of the other (Title XIII, of the selection of laws). A married couple may be divorced reasonably enough, again, when one party is an Orthodox Christian, and the other party is a heretic, according to Canon LXXII of the 6th Ecumenical Synod; or when there is a blood relationship by marriage, according to Canon LIV of the same Synod; or a relationship due to baptism, according to Canon LIII of the same Synod; and also when the lord of the couple will not consent to their being wedded, according to Canons XL, XLI, and XLII of St. Basil. As to the proper form of a Letter of Divorce, see at the end of this Rudder. (pp. 320 -329)

Thomais of Lesvos - patron saint of marriage
St. Thomais of Lesvos – patron saint of marriage.

Form for a Canonical Divorce

With our humbleness in the chair and surrounded by a simultaneous session of the most honorable Clerics, most reverent Priests, and most honest Magistrates (and Provosts), there appeared before all of us most honest Sir George, of the village or parish ( name ), accusing his wife Mary of the crime of adultery, and asserting that he found her really defiling her part in the bed of her husband and being caught in the very act of being polluted with adultery by another man. When interrogated about this, he also produced credible witnesses to the fact, named (So-and So and So-and-So and So-and-So), who with fear of God and a heavy conscience, before all of us testified as concerning this man’s wife that she has not truly kept due faith with her own husband, but, having abandoned her own sobriety, has acted as an adulteress. And therefore our humbleness, after being told and informed of these facts, allowed this case to be postponed. And indeed after later employing various arguments and inducements and ways and means, with a view to persuading the said George to take back and accept his wife (for this is permissible according to the divine laws), overlooking this misdeed of hers, seeing that she bitterly repents it, and promises never again to do such a thing, and after having negotiated all these aspects for a sufficient length of time, yet unable to induce him to be persuaded in her favor. Hence, following the decision rendered by our Lord in the Gospels, wherein He says that “whosoever shall divorce his wife, except on the ground of fornication, is causing her to commit adultery” (Matthew 5:32; cf. 19:7, 9). And reflecting that this is the only legal and reasonable excuse for separating a husband from his wife – the ground, that is to say, of adultery, just as the Lord declared; yet at the same time exercising due foresight lest anything more terrible may result hereafter from their cohabitation, seeing that adultery engenders jealousy in most cases, and that jealousy leads to murder: on this account and for this reason our humbleness pronounces the said George to be divorced and set free from his wife Mary, in accordance with the decision of our Lord and the divine Canons, Apostolic as well as Synodal; and furthermore gives him permission to take another woman to wife, whereas with regard to his aforesaid wife Mary our humbleness will never give her permission to take another man to husband, on the ground that she has become the cause of this separation and divorce. For she ought, instead of having another wedding and enjoying nuptial pleasures, to continue thus weeping and mourning throughout her life over her sin, since what God had joined she put asunder (Matthew 19:6), and since otherwise too, she committed adultery while her husband was living, whom she herself divorced by reason of her licentiousness, a fear subsists lest she become an adulteress again in case she is allowed to become a wife to another man (Romans 7:3), according to St. Paul, who elsewhere says that “if a woman be divorced from her husband, let her remain unmarried” (I Corinthians 7:11). Hence in evidence thereof the present Divorce was drawn up, and was given to the repeatedly aforementioned George 3 in the year of the Lord . . .”(1796) and in the month of August. (pp. 1808-1809)

Detail of the Imperial Gate mosaic in Hagia Sophia showing Leo VI the Wise
Detail of the Imperial Gate mosaic in Hagia Sophia showing Leo VI the Wise

 

 

Guarding the Sense of Touch (St. Nicodemus of the Holy Mountain, 1801)

NOTE: The following article is taken from Peter A. Chamberas (trans.), Nicodemos of the Holy Mountain: A Handbook of Spiritual Counsel, pp. 120 – 131.

Nicodemos of the Holy Mountain - A Handbook of Spiritual Counsel sm

CONTENTS:

  • The Sense of Touch and Its Activities
  • One Should Not Even Touch His Own Body if It Is Not Necessary
  • A Hierarch Ought Not to Stretch Out His Hand to Receive Gifts out of Greediness, Nor to Strike Anyone or to Ordain Those Who Are Unworthy
  • The Use of Luxurious Clothing and What Its Use Implies
  • The Usefulness of Clothing. The Early Bishops Did Not Wear Expensive Clothing
  • The Present Things Are Vain and Temporal
  • Luxurious Clothing Is the Cause of Many Evils and All Clergy Must Avoid It
  • Luxurious Garments Are Scandalous to Both Men and Women
  • Soft Beds Should Be Avoided for They Are the Cause of Many Evils
  • The Clergy Must Not Play Games of Chance Nor Take Baths
  • Notes

 

5-senses-how-our-senses-work-15-638

The Sense of Touch and Its Activities

We have reached in our discussion the fifth sense, which is the sense of touch. Even though the activity of this sense is generally considered to be concentrated in the hands, it actually encompasses the entire surface of the body so that every feeling and every part and every organ of the body both external and internal becomes an instrument of this sense of touch. Guard yourself then with great attention from such tender touches that arouse strong feelings, feelings that are mostly in the body and most vulnerable to sin. St. Gregory of Nyssa, in interpreting a passage in the Song of Songs, commented that the sense of touch is the subservient sense, the one most likely created by nature for the blind. It is most difficult for one to be free from the power of this sense, once it has been activated. This is why one must be careful to guard it with all his power.

Even though the power of the other senses seems to be active, it nevertheless seems to be far from the enactment of sin. But the sense of touch is the closest to this enactment and certainly the very beginning and the initial action of the deed.

One Should Not Even Touch His Own Body if It Is Not Necessary

Be careful not to bring your hands and your feet close to other bodies, especially of the young. Be especially careful not to stretch your hands to touch anything, unless it is necessary, nor upon members of your body, or even to scratch yourself, as St. Isaac the Syrian and other holy Fathers have taught. Even from such minor activities, the sense of touch becomes accustomed, or to put it more correctly, the devil seeks to arouse us toward sin and at the same time to raise up into our mind improper images of desire that pollute the beauty of prudent thoughts. This is why St. John Climacus wrote: “It so happens that we are polluted bodily through the sense of touch.”1 Even when you go out for the natural needs of your body respect your guardian angel, as St. Isaac has reminded us.2 Elsewhere this same father has written: “Virgin is not one who has merely preserved one’s body from sexual intercourse, but one who is modest unto oneself even when alone.”3

The pagan Pythagoras taught that even if there were no other spectator of human evils in heaven or earth, man should have a sense of modesty and shame for himself. When someone does evil, he dishonors and degrades himself. The ancient Athenians had a temple dedicated to the goddess of modesty that would act in the place of God upon the true conscience. Now, if these pagans taught this and had such shame for themselves, when alone, how much more should we Christians be ashamed of ourselves when we are alone in a closed room, or in an isolated lonely place or even in the darkness of night? For it is only right that the modesty and reverence we feel when in a holy temple be also felt for ourselves, since we are a temple of God and the grace of the Holy Spirit. “For we are the temple of the living God” (II Corinthians 6:16). Again St. Paul wrote: “Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, which you have from God?” (I Corinthians 6:19). St. John Chrysostom has taught us also that our bodies are even more honorable and more revered than a temple. We are a living and rational temple, while a building- temple is lifeless and irrational. Moreover, Christ died for us and not for temples.4 Therefore it follows that more shame and modesty should be kept for ourselves and for our bodies than for the temple. For this reason, then, anyone who would dare to degrade the holy temple of his body by committing some sinful deed will in truth be more sinful than those who would desecrate the most famous temple.

Again, our pagan forefathers sought to teach men to avoid shameful deeds by asking them to imagine the presence of some important and revered person. If the imaginary presence of mortal men can avert one from doing evil when found alone, how much more can the true and abiding presence of the true and omnipresent and immortal God, who not only sees the external deeds of men but also knows the inner thoughts and feelings of the heart?

Most foolish then are those who are by themselves alone in an isolated or dark place and who have no self-respect and shame, nor remember the presence of God. They may say: “I am now in this darkness, who can see me?” God condemns such persons as being foolish. “Can a man hide himself in secret places so that I cannot see him? . . . Do I not fill heaven and earth?” (Jeremiah 23:24). “A man who breaks his marriage vows says to himself, ‘Who sees me? Darkness surrounds me, and the walls hide me, and no one sees me. Why should I fear? The most High will not take notice of my sins.’ His fear is confined to the eyes of men, and he does not realize that the eyes of the Lord and ten thousand times brighter than the sun” (Sirach 23:18 – 19).

receptors

A Hierarch Ought Not to Stretch Out His Hand to Receive Gifts out of Greediness, Nor to Strike Anyone or to Ordain Those Who Are Unworthy

Be careful not to stretch out your hands to do evil. For as David said, “The righteous ought not to put forth their hands to do wrong” (Ps. 125:3), that is, to receive bribes, to be greedy, to be unrighteous, to be graspy. Moreover, it also means not to seek shameful profits, not to carry out shameful beatings, and not to ordain unworthy candidates to the priesthood. God himself forbids the taking of bribes. It is written in Holy Scripture: “And you shall take no bribe, for a bribe blinds the officials, and subverts the cause of those who are in the right” (Ex. 23:8). St. Basil too has written: “He who has not first placed true righteousness in his soul, but is corrupted by money or by considerations of friendship,5 he who defends enmity or besseches power cannot direct and obtain justice.”6

Do not stretch out your hands in greediness, in wrongdoing, in stealing, for the Apostle has written: “Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the Kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither the immoral, nor idolators, nor adulterers, nor sexual perverts, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor robbers will inherit the kingdom of God” (1 Cor. 6:9). Do not therefore stretch out your hands to acquire unlawful gain or to strike anyone. For according to the Apostle, “a bishop must be above reproach…temperate, sensible, dignified, no drunkard, not violent but gentle, nor quarrelsome, and no lover of money” (1 Tim. 3:2). Any hierarch or priest who strikes with his hand or with a rod anyone is deposed, according to the Twenty-seventh Apostolic Canon. “A bishop, priest or deacon who strikes the faithful who may have sinned or the unbelievers who may have done wrong, and who does this for the purpose of disciplining them through fear, must be deposed. The Lord has never taught us to do this. On the contrary, he was struck but did not strike back. He was abused but did not abuse others. He was beaten but did not threaten others.” The same discipline of deposition is required by the Ninth Canon of the Protodeutera Synod.

Do not be hasty to place your hands for ordination upon unworthy candidates. The Apostle again has instructed Timothy about this matter: “Do not be hasty in the laying on of hands, nor participate in another man’s sins” (1 Tim. 5:22). The bishops who have ordained unworthy candidates must render an account to God for all the sins that have been committed and may be committed by those whom they have so ordained. St. Chrysostom has also emphasized this point. “Do not tell me that the presbyter has sinned, or that the deacon has sinned. The responsibility of all these is placed upon the heads of those who have ordained such unworthy candidates.”7 Who then, as the Prophet David has asked, can inherit the mountain and the kingdom of God? He who keeps his hands pure from all these. “Who shall ascend to the hill of the Lord? And who shall stand in his holy place? He who has clean hands and a pure heart” (Ps. 24:3-4).

The Assembly of Canonical Orthodox Bishops of the United States of America
The Assembly of Canonical Orthodox Bishops of the United States of America

The Use of Luxurious Clothing and What Its Use Implies

The use of soft and fine clothing is another matter that we can relate to the sense of touch. Now, if I may be permitted to be more blunt, I want to emphasize especially to hierarchs and priests that they not fall into the error of fantastic apparel which unfortunately many experience because of their bad habits from childhood and the bad examples of others. St. John Chrysostom, first of all, reminded us that the very custom of covering the body with clothing is a perpetual reminder of our exile from Paradise and our punishment, which we received after our disobedience. We who were previously in Paradise, covered by the divine grace and having no need of clothing, find ourselves now in need of covering and clothing for our bodies. The forefathers were naked before the disobedience but not ashamed; after the disobedience they sewed fig leaves together and coverings for their bodies (Genesis 3:7).

Therefore, what is the reason for this reminder of our sin and punishment to be done with bright and expensive clothing? “The use of clothing has become a perpetual reminder for us of our exile from the good things of Paradise and a lesson of our punishment which the human race received as a consequence of the original sin of disobedience. There are those who are so affected in their vain imaginations that they say to us that they no longer know the clothing that is made by the wool of the sheep and that they now wear only clothes made of silk . . . . Tell me now, for whom do you so clothe your body? Why are you glad over your particular set of clothing? Why don’t you heed St. Paul who wrote: “If we have food and clothing, with these we shall be content” (I Timothy 6:8).

Creation-Mosaic-Adam-and-Eve-600x600

The Usefulness of Clothing. The Early Bishops Did Not Wear Expensive Clothing

According to St. Basil the usefulness of clothing is to protect our bodies from the cold in the winter and from the heat in the summer. “What is the difference for one who is sensible to have long robes with a flowing train or to wear foolish and unnecessary clothing that do nothing to keep you warm in winter and to protect you from the heat in the summer?”9 For the clothes to be made of silk and other expensive materials is a vanity that derives from unreal fantasies and misleading desires of the heart. In other words, such vanity is a shadow, smoke, dust thrown into the air, and bubbles that are blown around and broken. Solomon at first experienced the use of expensive clothing but later condemned them. I agree with him when he wrote that they are a vanity of vanities and a deliberate choice of one’s spirit. But what is this choice of one’s spirit? St. Gregory the Theologian considered it to be “a desire of the soul that is irrational and a temptation of man deriving perhaps from the ancient fall.”10 Is it characteristic of a prudent person to follow such vanity? Should he ever allow himself to seek the shadow of dreams? No, please do not accept to do this. Perhaps you will argue the pressures of your youth is forcing you to do this. But what is youth? Solomon again has told us that “youth and the dawn of life are vanity” (Eccl. 11:10). Therefore one vanity loves another vanity, but never prudence and right reason. Perhaps you will say that it is the office of being a bishop that prompts you to wear expensive clothes. Well! Take a look at those ancient bishops. See the poor garments of St. Basil and St. Gregory, the cape of St. Athansios and the cape of Bishop Serapion. Moreover, those blessed men traveled great distances on foot and alone. They did not use animals and horses of great value11 that were richly saddled, and without the accompaniment of many persons leading and following the procession. One can see from this vain fantasy that having expensive clothes is not a substantive element but rather a destructive one for the office of a bishop.

The Dormition of St. Anthony the Great
The Dormition of St. Anthony the Great

 

The Present Things Are Vain and Temporal

Leave such vanity, brother. Remember that according to the Apostle: “The form of this world is passing away, and those who deal with the world [live] as though they had no dealings with it” (1 Cor. 7:31). Remember also, “We look to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen; for the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal” (2 Cor. 4:18). For death comes and death is unknown. Judgment follows death and this judgment is quick. After judgment comes hell, an endless hell. When death comes, youth passes away, so does vanity. Every luxury of clothing and all the pleasant things of this life come to an end with the end of the life of each person. Where are your predecessors and those before them? Having the same vain imaginations, have they not played out the short scene of life and the empty sentiments? Are they not now also deceived by the shortness of life and are already earth and dust in a forgotten place, according to David? What do you think? Will you not in a short while follow them? Will you not follow the same way of life and will you not reach the same goal of the grave?

According to the psalmist David and St. Basil who interpreted him, this life is likened to a journey on account of the tendency to reach the goal of each created being. Listen to what he said: “Those who on board a ship are sleeping are nevertheless led to the harbor automatically by the power of the prevailing wind. Even though they may not be aware of it, their journey is continued toward its goal. So is it with us in passing the time of our life. In a certain unique movement that is continuous and ceaseless we are pressed on the unknown course of our life that is appropriate to each of us. You may be sleeping and yet time passes on. You may be awake intellectually active and yet your life is spent, even if it escapes our perception. We are all indeed on a journey, each of us running toward our appropriate goal. This is why we are all on the way. In the case of those who travel, once the first step is taken the next one will follow and the one after that in succession. Consider the affairs of life if they are not similar. Today you have cultivated the earth, tomorrow another person will do it.  And after him still another will continue. Therefore isn’t our life a journey on which we partake differently from time to time and on which we all succeed each other?”12

In the book of Job, Zapar the Naamathite, wanting to indicate the shortness of human life, said: “Though his height mount up to the heavens, and his head reach to the clouds, he will perish for ever…Those who have seen him will say, ‘Where is he?’ He will fly away like a dream, and not be found; he will be chased away like a vision of the night” (Jb. 20:7f.). These examples and even the mere meanness, the vicissitudes and the disorder in human affairs and good things, all of these I hope will convince you to turn down such a vain quest and irrational desire.

job20-zophar-talking
Zophar suggests that Job’s suffering could be divine punishment, and goes into great detail about the consequences of living a life of sin.

What are gold and silver and all those precious stones (as one moralist noted) but bright products of the earth? When these are kept locked up in treasuries they also hold therein the heart of him who has so locked them up and they thus prevail over their owner. What are those famous compliments and honors but smoky emissions which come out of the mouths of the public and are diffused in the air and which are often mixed with the criticisms of envy? What are those supreme, those hierarchal, those patriarchal offices and those great kingdoms, but great servitudes in which those who rise to them find also at the same time their fall? And those who seek after extreme honors find extreme catastrophes. What sort of thing is pleasure but a change that is irreconcilable with self-control? What is good health that we so desire, but a mild and well-tempered condition of the four liquids in our bodies that are always combated by the other four opposing qualities of the elements? What is life but a flow of successive moments in which one is born when the other dies, so that man begins to die just as soon as he begins to live? Finally, what is this body of ours that we so care for but transformed clay and an extolled hospital that contains more diseases than members and nerves? And, speaking in general, what are all the external and useful and so-called good things, but the common properties of the plants and the irrational animals? By the way, these irrational animals are in a sense more well off than we, by realizing less than we do that they can be deprived of these good things, which are after all always united with opposing suffering.

With all this in mind, St. Gregory spoke well when he said: “Do not marvel at anything that does not remain, and do not overlook anything that does. Do not moreover try to grasp at something that simply escapes us when held.”13 A certain wise man also said: “If you are a mortal, O great man, you will concern yourself with mortal things.” Another one said: “The shadow of glory is glory itself. No one who sees a loaf of bread in a painting will ever reach to take the drawing, even if he is a thousand times overcome by hunger. Now, if you want to receive glory, evade glory, for if you seek after glory you will fall away from it.”14 St. Isaac said: “He who runs after honor causes it to flee from before him. But he who avoids it, will be sought out by honor that becomes a herald to all of his humility.”15 Now, meditating on these things prudently, dear brother, say to yourself the words of the wise Joseph Vryennios:

“Soul, be a stranger to all these things; soul, you have been redeemed by the precious blood of the immaculate and spotless Lamb—Christ; soul, for you the good shepherd has offered his own soul; soul, raise up your eye to your Creator, be sober, see your redeemer, know and love the Savior; acquire a blameless conscience…Why do you stand before those things that do not exist? Why do you fret over the things that are corruptible? Why do you find joy with vain things? Why do you trouble yourself with what passes away? Why are you attracted by imaginations? Why do you delight in things that you will abandon as if you will not? And of whose vision will you be deprived in eternity? How long will you be deceived by the eyes, by the attraction of pleasures, by random preoccupations, by evil thoughts, by thoroughly vain glories—all of which cause you to be separated from the vision of the most sublime and desired spiritual reality?”

I find myself out of breath in struggling in every way, dear brother, to find supportive arguments and proofs to show you how empty and vain a thing it is to preoccupy yourself with fine clothing. For I love your salvation as I love my own. And in order to make my words more understandable, I bring the example of the reflux of water of Euripus where the tide changes so often that the ancients chose to refer metaphorically to the frequent changes in human affairs with the term euripus. What else is this troubled life but a strait of troubled waters that flow to and fro? A place where good and bad, happiness and misery, are always flowing and mutually replacing each other; sometimes sending man to the depths of goodness and happiness and sometimes leaving him on the dry shore and in misfortune. Therefore learn even from this name of Euripus and put an end from here on to the desire and the fantasy of these fleeting vanities.

monk-crucified010
`The Crucified Monk` Icon

Luxurious Clothing Is the Cause of Many Evils and All Clergy Must Avoid It

Up to now I have assumed that luxurious clothing is a simple vanity. I am afraid however that it is more than that. It also nourishes vainglory; it is the mother of pride; it is the way to prostitution and it is the panderer of virtually all the passions. I said that it is the nourishment and the mother of vainglory and pride because the soul naturally has the tendency to be fashioned internally according to the body. Now, if the body, as it should, wears humble clothes the soul will also be humbled. If the body wears vainglorious and prideful clothes, the soul too will be vainglorious and prideful, as St. John Climacus has written: “The soul becomes similar to its external appearance and pursuits; it is impressed by what it does and fashioned according to such deeds.”16 I also noted that luxurious clothes lead to prostitution. St. Basil has said: “A person who beautifies himself and is so called is like being promiscuous and a schemer against other marriages.”17 St. Paul disallowed luxurious clothing in women, who are by nature beings who love beauty and who love to dress themselves up: “Women should adorn themselves modestly and sensibly in seemly apparel, not with braided hair or gold or pearls or costly attire” (1 Tim. 2:9). St. Peter too did not permit women “the outward adorning with braiding of hair, decoration of gold, and wearing of fine clothing” (1 Pt. 3:3).

If women are not permitted such luxurious apparel, how much more then are we to assume that this is not permitted either among men and especially among hierarchs, who are to keep modesty and propriety in all things. This is why the Sixth Ecumenical Council decreed, through its Twenty-seventh Canon, that the hierarchs and all the clergy be dressed modestly and not use secular and luxurious clothing. The canon says in part that “no one among the clergy should dress with inappropriate clothes while in the city or while traveling on the road. They should wear the apparel that has already been determined for the clergy, that is, modest and simple. Anyone who disregards this rule will be deposed for one week.” Similarly, the Seventh Ecumenical Council with its Sixteenth Canon decreed the following: “Every foolish beautification of the body is foreign to the priestly order. Those bishops and priests who dress themselves with luxurious apparel must be reprimanded and corrected. If they persist in their wrongdoing, they must be given a penance.”

From early times every priestly man was dressed with modest and moderate apparel. Everything that has no practical use but is merely cosmetic only adds to our condemnation, as St. Basil noted.18 They did not wear clothing made out of silk, nor did they add colorful decorations on the edge of their clothing. They heeded the sacred word saying, those who wear the soft and fine apparel are in the palaces of kings (cf. Mt. 11:8; Lk. 7:25). St. Basil once asked, “Have you ever seen a man of high principles wearing a flowery garment made of silk? Despise such things?”19 St. John Chrysostom also noted, “When you see a man wearing silken apparel, laugh him to scorn!”20 St. Isidore Pelousiotes also, explaining the seamless garment of the Lord, noted: “Who can overlook the simplicity of that garment which the poor Galeleans used to wear? In fact they had a special skill in weaving such garments. Imitate the simple garments of Christ. For if the roughness in apparel here on earth is foolishness, wearing the garment of light in heaven is certainly not.”21 The prophets of God too used modest humble and poor garments. Listen to what Clement of Alexandria said of them: “Prophet Elijah wore a garment made of sheepskins which he tied around his waist with a belt of animal hairs. The Prophet Isaiah went about virtually naked and with bare feet. Oftentimes he would wear sack cloth as a symbol of humility and mourning. Jeremiah too only wore a simple linen garment. As the strong members of the body are seen clearly when uncovered, so also is the beauty of virtue demonstrated magnificently when it is not entangled with a great deal of idle talk.” The Synod at Gangra in its Twelfth Canon pronounced anathema upon those criticized for wearing velvet and silk garments. Finally, the same Synod in its Twenty-first Canon decreed: “We accept and praise the simple and modest garments, but we avoid those which are soft and luxuriously ornamental.”

Geronda Epraim Great Entrance

Luxurious Garments Are Scandalous to Both Men and Women

Let me leave aside the sense of folly and looseness that is created on the body, especially on a body of a young person, by the luxury of clothing. I leave aside also the uselessness of such clothing, as St. Gregory the Theologian noted.22 I keep silent about the greed for money that is incited in those who desire to acquire such clothing. I also sidestep the vanity and pride and all the other passions that act as so many poisonous fruit of this death-bearing tree. And I consider only the common scandal that it is for both men and women. It is indeed a great scandal for men to see their bishop dressed in such luxury, and wherever they are they comment that the bishop is altogether given over to a desire for fine garments and an air of haughty pride. It is even a greater scandal for the women. For as they themselves often scandalize the men who look upon them and excite in them certain passions, in the very same way the men who are decorated in fine clothing, especially bishops and priests, scandalize the women and kindle the coals of passion in their souls.

Even if we assume that it is permitted for you to be so dressed, even if you guard yourself and are a prudent person in dressing yourself well, should you not take into account the scandal of those misfortunate souls? Should you not consider the evil desires and the spiritual harm that may be caused in their souls? Who will give an account for this? Certainly no one else except you, for in seeking to serve your foolish desires, it is you who have allowed all these evils to come into being. And this because you have not chosen to imitate the holy hierarchs of old, who dressed humbly and spent their days in great humility. I had the opportunity to know St. Macarius of Corinth, who in his diocese and in his later life always wore humble black clothing. How serious is the punishment for creating a scandal is noted by the Lord himself: “But whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a great millstone fastened round his neck and to be drowned in the depth of the sea” (Mt. 18:6). Listen to this story and be informed: When St. Anthony was about to die, he ordered his disciples to give one of his garments to St. Athansios and the other to Bishop Serapion. These two churchmen received the garments with all of their heart and used to wear them on the dominical feasts. These simple and coarse monastic garments did more to dignify them in a most reverent way than any royal garments ever could in all their luxurious splendor!

Having learned about the luxury of garments and the many evils which come from them, strive to avoid such luxury as harmful to the soul.

nun-procession-st-kosmas-monastery-2
Procession at St. Kosmas GO Monastery, Canada (Proper monastery dress codes not enforced)

Soft Beds Should Be Avoided for They Are the Cause of Many Evils

In this sense of touch we must also include the soft and comfortable beds and everything that has to do with our comfort. Inasmuch as these may contribute to our spiritual harm, they must be avoided by all, but especially the young. Such comforts weaken the body; they submerge it into constant sleep; they warm it beyond measure, and therefore kindle the heat of passion. This is why the prophet Amos wrote: “Woe to those who lie upon beds of ivory, and stretch themselves upon their couches” (Amos 6:4). Once a young monk asked an elder (monk) how to guard himself against the carnal passions. The elder replied that he should avoid overeating, avoid slander and all those activities which excite carnal passions. The monk however was unable to find the cure for his passion even after observing carefully all the admonitions of the elder. He would return to the elder again and again for advice until he became a burden for the elder. Finally, the patient elder got up and followed the brother to his cell. Upon seeing the soft bed where he slept, the elder exclaimed: “Here, here, is the cause of your struggle with carnal desire, dear brother!”23

Heracleides has also noted in the Lausaikon about Iouvinos, the famous bishop of Askalon, that on a very hot day near the Pelousion mountain he washed with a little water his hands and feet and laid out a camel skin to rest a little in the shade. This was done in the presence of his most holy mother, who directly began to reproach him. “Oh son,” he said, “you are most daring to flatter your body with such care and at such a young age. The more you fuss over it the more it becomes agitated like a serpent against you, seeking to harm you. I am already sixty years old, and I have not yet washed my face and feet in such a way, except for my hands. Even though I suffered certain illnesses and the doctors advised me to take advantage of therapeutic baths and other cures for the body, I have never entrusted in my body nor have I allowed myself to flatter it in any way, knowing full well the enmity that exists between it and the soul. For this reason, my son, I have even refused to recline in a soft bed to sleep.”

Behold what an ascetic reaction is prompted by the simple laying out of a camel skin to rest upon it. Behold how a little washing prompted such austere criticism by a mother to her son. Do you see, dear brother, what great exactness and care is needed and especially by the young? Once the Patriarch of Alexandria, St. John the Merciful, seeing that he had need of it, accepted a precious bed covering offered to him by a certain ruler. Throughout that night the blessed hierarch struggled with his thoughts and was most critical of himself for having accepted such a precious covering when so many poor brothers did not even possess a straw mat to lie on. He finally threw it away from his bed and in the morning had it sold in the marketplace, distributing the money to the poor. Notice well how what is for the comfort of the body, or (what amounts to the same thing) what is unnecessary and more than what we need, was used then by the hierarchs of that time.

In the Psalms the Prophet David has made a distinction between “bed” and “couch.” The bed is commonly used for sleeping, while the couch is in the area prepared for sitting. Now, if your sitting room is furnished with soft chairs and couches, this, I believe, is not harmful since it is also thus prepared for the comfort of guests.

blessed-repose

The Clergy Must Not Play Games of Chance Nor Take Baths

In this general sense of touch must be included the playing of cards and dice and all other such games that one plays with his hands. I beseech you as strongly as I possibly can to avoid these completely. Such games are improper and altogether alien to your high character and profession and they are the cause of much scandal among Christians. They may even become the cause for deposing someone from the hierarchy. The Forty-second Apostolic Canon decreed the following: “Any bishop or priest or deacon who spends his time playing the dice and drinking must either be defrocked or deposed.” Going even further, the Forty-third Apostolic Canon provided that a lay person who is involved in such games of chance is excommunicated. Why do I simply say that you must not play such games? You must not even look upon those who do. The law of Photios decreed the following:

“Any bishop or clergyman who plays the dice or other such games of chance, or who simply keeps company with those who do and sits beside them when they play, must be deposed from doing any of his sacred duties and must not receive any of the provisions given by his diocese for a certain period of time until he repents. If he should persist in his evil even beyond the given time for repentance, he must be entirely banished from the ranks of the clergy and may become a secular officer of some kind for the province where he had been a clergyman.”24

According to Aremnopoulos, the One hundred and twenty-third Law of Justinian requires that they clergy who become drunkards and those who play the dice must be confined to a monastery. I say nothing of all the harm that comes to those who play cards and other such games, about which St. John Chrysostom wrote the following: “The vice of dice brings blasphemy, anger, harm, abuse, and a myriad more evils greater than these.”25 Aristotle himself, even though a pagan, numbered the gamblers among the thieves and robbers: “A dice player, a thief and a robber are among those who are not free, for they acquire their gain shamefully and illegally.”26

You have already heard above from the holy nun and mother of Iouvinos how harmful even simple bathing can be, especially to the young. In the act of bathing the sense of touch is certainly sorely tested and tempted. As we read in the sayings of the Fathers there were many ascetic fathers who hesitated even at the crossing of rivers, not only because they were ashamed to bathe their bodies but also because they did not even want to uncover their legs. These holy men were often in a flash transported across the river by an angel of God. St. Diadochos, bishop of Photiki, has written that the avoidance of baths is a manly achievement. “It is a manly and prudent thing to avoid baths. This way our bodies are not effeminate by that pleasurable flow of water over them, nor do we come to a remembrance of that shameful nakedness of Adam, so that we too seek to cover the shame with the [fig] leaves of a second excuse. Those who desire to keep their bodies spiritually pure are especially required to be united with the beauty of prudence and chastity.”27 Of course, it is understood and acceptable that occasionally one must bathe out of necessity for the sake of health and the requirement of an illness.

Achilles and Ajax playing dice
Achilles and Ajax playing dices

Notes

  1. The Ladder, Step 15.
  2. Homily 26.
  3. Homily 56.
  4. Homily 14, On Ephesians; Homily 20, On 2 Corinthians.
  5. Cleon the king of Athens was highly praised when he was made king against his will and then proceeded to call all his most dear friends and with sighing and sorrow took his leave from them, fearing that he might be forced to transgress the law because of their friendship. As a prudent man he had realized that friendship and authority cannot sit together at the same time upon the same cathedra. He who would exercise justice must put friendship aside. The story is also told of Routelios, the dear friend of Skouros. When Skouros requested an unjust favor from his friend Routelios and did not receive it, he was disturbed and retorted: “And what need have I of your friendship if I cannot get one small favor from you?” To this reproach Routelios replied: “And what need have I of your friendship if I am to do for you unjust deeds?” And their friendship came to an end. Above all the praise goes to Pericles the Athenian, who was being beseeched by a friend to take a false oath in order to support him. Pericles responded with the famous saying: “Friend up to the sanctuary,” that is to say, “I want to be your friend but only until we come up to the holy sanctuary” (where it was customary to place the hand when taking a public oath). It is necessary here to grieve bitterly! For if these persons who were far from the grace of the Gospel were able to rise to such heights of virtue with only the natural law, you who are an Orthodox Christian, a leader, a bishop, a ruler, what do you think? Can you disobey the law of God? Do you think that you will be saved? You are deluding yourself!
  6. Homily on Proverbs.
  7. Homily 3, On Acts.
  8. Homily 18, On Genesis.
  9. Address to the Young Men.
  10. Funeral Oration to Caesarios.
  11. The Lord himself through his own example taught us to travel in a humble manner. He himself used the humble donkey to enter Jerusalem and not a stallion. However, when the road is difficult or long it is permissible for bishops and Christians in general to travel with horses and mules, but these should not be animals of great value nor richly saddled and adorned.
  12. Commentary on Psalm 1.
  13. Homily on the Lord’s Day.
  14. Quoted in the Life of Cyril Phileotos.
  15. Homily 5.
  16. Homily 25, On Humility.
  17. Address to the Young Men.
  18. The Short Monastic Rule, 49.
  19. Homily on the Hexaemeron.
  20. Homily 11, On 1 Timothy.
  21. Epistle 74 to Caton the Monk.
  22. Homily on the Birth of Christ.
  23. From the
  24. The first Book of the Codex, Statute 34, Title 9, ch. 27.
  25. Homily in the Statutes.
  26. Nichomachean Ethics, Book 4.
  27. Diadochos of Photike, ch. 52.

 

Basil the Physician: A 12th Century Orthodox ”Inquisition” Against the Bogomils

NOTE: It is often taught that the Eastern Orthodox Church does not have the same issues that are found in the history of the post-Schism Western Catholic Church—i.e., Witch hunts, Inquisitions, Convert or Die methodologies, pogroms, genocides, and other such atrocities and injustices. In cases where such atrocities may have occurred in Orthodox lands, they are quickly dismissed as isolated incidents and not sanctioned by the Church (in contrast to the Western atrocities sanctioned by the Pope). The case of Basil the Physician’s death sentence is an interesting blot on Byzantine Church history because his condemnation and execution was validated and ordered by Patriarch Nicholas III and Emperor Alexius I Comnenus.

 

Council against Bogomilism, organized by Stefan Nemanja. Fresco from 1290
Council against Bogomilism, organized by Stefan Nemanja. Fresco from 1290

Basil the Physician (died 1118) was the Bogomil leader condemned as a heretic by Patriarch Nicholas III of Constantinople and burned at the stake by Byzantine Emperor Alexius I Comnenus.

Basil first came to the attention of the emperor after imperial officers had tortured a member of the Bogomil sect, named Diblatius, to reveal the identity of their leader. He admitted that Basil was their leader and that he had selected twelve teachers to act as his apostles. This sect, noted for their Manichaean tendencies, iconoclastic principles and their detestation of the Orthodox hierarchy, had been rapidly gaining adherents throughout Alexius’ reign, and began to cause alarm among the Byzantine clergy. Eager to confront this threat, he was ordered to appear before the emperor.

bogomili

Basil was convicted and condemned as a heretic before the patriarchal tribunal of Nicholas the Grammarian. Refusing to renounce his opinions, Basil was ordered to be burnt at the stake. Though the sentence was passed in 1110, the execution was delayed for eight years. During this time, every attempt was made to convince Basil to retract his opinions, as Alexius was keen to be known as a converter of heretics. He failed, and eventually Alexius decided to put the man to death, especially as rumours began to circulate that Basil’s firmness was due to his belief that angels would descend from heaven to release him from the stake. He was burned as a heretic in the hippodrome of Constantinople.

Kozma Cove, Desolation Island, Antarctica (Named after the Bulgarian scholar Presbyter Cosmas)
Kozma Cove, Desolation Island, Antarctica (Named after the Bulgarian scholar Presbyter Cosmas)

FROM ANNA KOMNENA, THE ALEXIAD, BOOK XV: 8-10.

un

After this, in the course of the years of his reign, a very great cloud of heretics arose, and the nature of their heresy was new and hitherto quite unknown to the church. For two very evil and worthless doctrines which had been known in former times, now coalesced; the impiety, as it might be called, of the Manichaeans, which we also call the Paulician heresy, and the shamelessness of the Massalians. This was the doctrine of the Bogomils compounded of the Massalians and the Manichaeans. And probably it existed even before my father’s time, but in secret; for the sect of the Bogomils is very clever in aping virtue. And you would not find any long-haired worldling belonging to the Bogomils, for their wickedness was hidden under the cloak and cowl. A Bogomil looks gloomy and is covered up to the nose and walks with a stoop and mutters, but within he is an uncontrollable wolf. And this most pernicious race, which was like a snake hiding in a hole, my father lured and brought out to the light by chanting mysterious spells.

path_193

For now that he had rid himself of much of his anxiety about the East and the West he turned his attention to more spiritual matters. For in all things he was superior to other men; in teaching he surpassed those whose profession was teaching; in battles and strategy he excelled those who were admired for their exploits. By this time the fame of the Bogomils had spread everywhere. (For Basil, a monk, was very wily in handling the impiety of the Bogomils; he had twelve disciples whom he called ‘apostles,’ and also dragged about with him some female disciples, wretched women of loose habits and thoroughly bad, and he disseminated his wickedness everywhere.) This evil attacked many souls like fire, and the Emperor’s soul could not brook it, so he began investigating the heresy. He had some of the Bogomils brought to the palace and all proclaimed a certain Basil as the teacher and chief representative of the Bogomilian heresy. Of these, one Diblatius was kept in prison, and as he would not confess when questioned, he was subjected to torture and then informed against the man called Basil, and the disciples he had chosen. Accordingly the Emperor entrusted several men with the search for him. And Satanael’s arch-satrap, Basil, was brought to light, in monk’s habit, with a withered countenance, clean shaven and tall of stature. The Emperor, wishing to elicit his inmost thoughts by compulsion under the disguise of persuasion, at once invited the man on some righteous pretext. And he even rose from his chair to greet him, and made him sit by him and share his table, and threw out his whole fishing-line and fixed various baits on the hooks for this voracious whale to devour. And he made this monk, who was so many-sided in wickedness, swallow all the poison he offered him by pretending that he wished to become his disciple, and not he only, but probably his brother, the Sebastocrator Isaac, also; he pretended too to value all the words he spoke as if they came from a divine voice and to defer to him in all things, provided only that the villain Basil would effect his soul’s salvation. “Most reverend father,” he would say (for the Emperor rubbed sweets on the rim of the cup so that this demoniac should vomit forth his black thoughts), “I admire thee for thy virtue, and beseech thee to teach me the new doctrines thy Reverence has introduced, as those of our Churches are practically worthless and do not bring anybody to virtue.” But the monk at first put on airs and he, that was really an ass, dragged about the lion’s skin with him everywhere and shied at the Emperor’s words, and yet was puffed up with his praises, for the Emperor even had him at his table. And in all this the Emperor’s cousin [?] the Sebastocrator, aided and abetted him in the play; and finally Basil spued out the dogmas of his heresy. And how was this done? A curtain divided the women’s apartments from the room where the two Emperors sat with the wretch who blurted out and openly declared all he had in his soul; whilst a secretary sitting on the inner side of the curtain committed his words to writing. And the nonsense-monger seemed to be the teacher while the Emperor pretended to be the pupil, and the secretary wrote down his doctrines. And that man, stricken of God, spun together all that horrible stuff and did not shun any abominable dogma, but even despised our theology and misrepresented all our ecclesiastical administration. And as for the churches, woe is me! he called our sacred churches the temples of devils, and our consecration of the body and blood of our one and greatest High Priest and Victim he considered and condemned as worthless. And what followed? the Emperor threw off his disguise and drew the curtain aside ; and the whole senate was gathered together and the military contingent mustered, and the elders of the church were present too.

Emperor Alexius I Comnenus
Emperor Alexius I Comnenus

The episcopal throne of the Queen of Cities was at that time occupied by that most blessed of patriarchs, Lord Nicholas, the Grammarian. Then the execrable doctrines were read out, and proof was impossible to attack. And the defendant did not deny anything, but immediately bared his head and proceeded to counter-demonstrations and professed himself willing to undergo tire, scourging and a thousand deaths. For these erring Bogomils believe that they can bear any suffering without feeling pain, as the angels forsooth will pluck them out of the fire. And although all . . . and reproached him for his impiety, even those whom he had involved in his own ruin, he remained the same Basil, an inflexible and very brave Bogomil. And although he was threatened with burning and other tortures he clung fast to his demon and embraced his Satanael. After he was consigned to prison the Emperor frequently sent for him and frequently exhorted him to forswear his impiety, but all the Emperor’s exhortations left him unchanged. But we must not pass over in silence the miracle which happened to him. Before the Emperor had begun to take severe measures against him, after his confession of impiety he would occasionally retire to a little house which had recently been prepared for him situated fairly close to the royal palace. It was evening and the stars above were shining in the clear air, and the moon was lighting up that evening, following the Synod. When the monk entered his cell about midnight, stones were automatically thrown, like hail, against his cell, and yet no hand threw them, nor was there any man to be seen stoning this devil’s abbot.

Pentagram, Relief from the Church of St. Peter and Moses in Solin, Croatia , 9-11 th centuries
Pentagram, Relief from the Church of St. Peter and Moses in Solin, Croatia , 9-11 th centuries

It was probably a burst of anger of Satanael’s attendant demons who were enraged and annoyed because he had betrayed their [secrets?] to the Emperor and roused a fierce persecution against their heresy. A man called Parasceviotes who had been appointed guard over that infatuated old man to prevent his having intercourse with others and infecting them with his mischief, swore most solemnly that he had heard the clatter of the stones as they were thrown on the ground and on the tiles, and that he had seen the stones coming in successive showers but had not caught a glimpse anywhere of anyone throwing the stones. This throwing of stones was followed by a sudden earthquake which had shaken the ground, and the tiles of the roof had rattled. However Parasceviotes, as he asserted, was quite unafraid before he suspected it was the work of demons, but when he noticed that the stones seemed to be poured down like rain from above and that the old heresiarch had slunk inside and had shut himself in, he attributed the work to demons and was not able to whatever was happening.

The massacre of the Paulicians in 843/844, from the Madrid Skylitzes.
The massacre of the Paulicians in 843/844, from the Madrid Skylitzes.

Let this be sufficient about that miracle. I wished to expound the whole heresy of the Bogomils, but ‘modesty prevents me,’ as the beautiful Sappho says somewhere, for though a historian, I am a woman and the most honourable of the Porphyrogeniti and Alexius’ eldest scion, and what is the talk of the vulgar had better be passed over in silence. I am desirous of writing so as to set forth a full account of the Bogomilian heresy; but I will pass it over, as I do not wish to defile my tongue. And those who wish to understand the whole heresy of the Bogomils I will refer to the book entitled Dogmatic Panoply, which was compiled by my father’s order. For there was a monk called Zygabenus, known to my mistress, my maternal grandmother, and to all the members of the priestly roll, who had pursued his grammatical studies very far, was not unversed in rhetoric, and was the best authority on ecclesiastical dogma; the Emperor sent for him and commissioned him to expound all the heresies, each separately, and to append to each the holy Fathers’ refutations of it; and amongst them too the heresy of the Bogomils, exactly as that impious Basil had interpreted it. The Emperor named this book the Dogmatic Panoply, and that name the books have retained even to the present day. But now my story must return to Basil’s death.

Zemen Monastery, Bulgaria
Zemen Monastery, Bulgaria

The Emperor had summoned Basil’s disciples and fellow mystics from all over the world, especially the so-called twelve disciples and made trial of their opinions, and found that they were openly Basil’s followers. For the evil had gone deep even into very great houses and had affected a very large number. Consequently he condemned those aliens to be burnt, the leader of the chorus and the chorus too. When the Bogomils who had been discovered, were assembled, some clung to their heresy, while others recanted absolutely and resisted their accusers strongly and expressed their abhorrence of the Bogomihan heresy. The Emperor was not inclined to believe them, and to prevent many a Christian being confounded with the Bogomils as being a Bogomil, and a Bogomil escaping as a Christian, he invented a new device for revealing clearly those who were really Christians. Accordingly the next day he took his seat on the imperial throne and many of the senate and the Holy Synod were present and a chosen few of the monks who were learned men. Then all the Bogomils accused of heresy were placed together in [416] the centre and the Emperor commanded each to be examined again. Some confessed to being Bogomils and adhered stoutly to their heresy, while others denied it absolutely and called themselves Christians and when accused by others did not yield an inch, so he glowered at them and said, “Today two pyres shall be lighted and on one of them a cross shall be fixed in the ground itself. Then you shall all be given your choice and those who are ready to die to-day for their Christian faith, can separate themselves from the others and walk to the pyre with the cross, while those who cling to the Bogomilian heresy shall be thrown on the other. For it is better that even Christians should die, than live to be persecuted as Bogomils and offend the consciences of many. Go now and let each one of vou choose his station.”

Stella. Risen man. 12-15th centuries. Stella from Bogomil church in Croatia
Stella. Risen man. 12-15th centuries. Stella from Bogomil church in Croatia

With this verdict against the Bogomils the Emperor pretended to have closed the matter. They were at once taken and led away and a large crowd had gathered and stood round about them. Then pyres were lighted, ‘seven times as large as they were wont to be,’ as the hymn-writer says, in the place called Tzycanisterin [*= the palace polo grounds]; the flames rose to the heavens, and the cross stood above the one; each of the condemned was given his choice to walk to which of the two pyres he wished, as all were destined to be burnt. Seeing that there was no escape, the orthodox among them walked to the pyre with the cross, ready really to suffer martyrdom; whereas the godless ones who clung to their abominable heresy turned to the other. And they were all on the point of being thrown on the pyres at the same time and the bystanders all grieved for the Christians who were now to be burnt, and were very wroth against the Emperor, for they were ignorant of his plan. But an order from the Emperor came just in time to prevent the executioners carrying out their duties. Having in this way obtained certain proof of those who were really Bogomils he released the Christians, who had been falsely accused, with many admonitions. The others he recommitted to prison, but had the impious Basil’s apostles separated from the rest. And these he sent for daily, and taught some himself, exhorting them earnestly to abandon their hideous religion, and for the others he ordered some picked men of the hierarchy to come every day and teach them the orthodox faith and advise them to relinquish the Bogomilian heresy. And some of them did change for the better and were released from confinement, but others were kept in prison and died in their heresy, but were amply supplied with food and clothing.

Bosnian bogomil temple
Bosnian bogomil temple

However all the members of the Holy Synod and the chief monks, as well as the patriarch of that time, Nicholas, decreed that Basil who was the heresiarch and quite unrepentant, deserved to be burnt. The Emperor was of the same opinion and after conversing with him several times and recognizing that the man was mischievous and would not abandon his heresy, he finally had an immense pyre built in the Hippodrome. A very large trench was dug and a quantity of wood, all tall trees piled up together, made the structure look like a mountain. When the pile was lighted, a great crowd slowly collected on the floor and steps of the circus in eager expectation of what was to happen. On the opposite side a cross was fixed and the impious man was given a choice, for if he dreaded the fire and changed his mind, and walked to the cross, then he should be delivered from burning. A number of heretics were there watching their leader Basil. He shewed himself contemptuous of all punishment and threats, and while he was still at a distance from the fire he began to laugh and talk marvels, saying that angels would snatch him from the middle of the fire, and he proceeded to chant these words of David’s, ‘It shall not come nigh thee; only with thine eyes shalt thou behold.’ But when the crowd stood aside and allowed him to have a free view of that terrifying sight, the burning pyre (for even at a good distance he could feel the fire, and saw the flames rising high and as it were thundering and shooting out sparks of fire which rose to the top of the stone obelisk which stands in the centre of the Hippodrome), then the bold fellow seemed to flinch from the fire and be disturbed. For as if wholly desperate, he constantly turned away his eyes and clapped his hands and beat his thigh. And yet in spite of being thus affected by the mere sight he was adamant. For the fire did not soften his iron will, nor did the messages sent by the Emperor subdue him. For either great madness had seized him under the present stress of misfortunes and he had lost his mind and had no power to decide about what was advantageous; or, as seems more likely, the devil that possessed his soul had steeped it in the deepest darkness. So there stood that abominable Basil, unmoved by any threat or fear, and gaped now at the fire and now at the bystanders. And all thought him quite mad for he did not rush to the pyre nor did he draw back, but stood fixed and immovable on the spot he had first taken up. Now many tales were going round and his marvellous talk was bandied about on every tongue, so the executioners were afraid that the demons protecting Basil might perhaps, by God’s permission, work some wonderful new miracle, and the wretch be seen snatched unharmed from the middle of the mighty fire and transported to some very frequented place. In that case the second state would be worse than the first, so they decided to make an experiment. For, while he was talking marvels and boasting that he would be seen unharmed in the middle of the fire, they took his cloak and said, “Now let us see whether the fire will touch your garments,” and they threw it right into the middle of the pyre. But Basil was so uplifted by the demon that was deluding him that he said, “Look at my cloak floating up to the sky! ” Then they ‘recognizing the web from the edge,’ took him and pushed him, clothes, shoes and all, into the middle of the pyre. And the flames, as if deeply enraged against him, ate the impious man up, without any odour arising or even a fresh appearance of smoke, only one thin smoky line could be seen in the midst of the flames. For even the elements are excited against the impious; whereas, to speak truthfully, they spare those beloved of God, just as once upon a time in Babylon the fire retreated from those young men who were dear to God, and enclosed them like a golden chamber. In this case the men who lifted up the accursed Basil had scarcely placed him on the pyre before the flames seemed to dart forward to snatch hold of him. Then the people looking on clamoured loudly and demanded that all the rest who belonged to Basil’s pernicious sect should be thrown into the fire as well, but the Emperor did not allow it but ordered them to be confined in the porches and verandahs of the largest palace. After this the concourse was dismissed. Later, the godless ones were transferred to another very strong prison into which they were cast and after pining away for a long time died in their impiety. This was the last and crowning act of the Emperor’s long labours and successes and it was an innovation of startling boldness.

Sentencing of the Bogomil Basil
Sentencing of the Bogomil Basil

And I think that men who lived then and associated with him must even now be marvelling at what was done then and think it was not real, and it must seem a dream and mere vision to them. For ever since the time when shortly after Diogenes’ accession the barbarians first overstepped the boundaries of the Roman Empire and he at first start, as they say, made his disastrous expedition against them, from that time right on to my father’s reign the barbarian power was never checked, but swords and spears were whetted against the Christians and there were battles, wars and massacres. Cities were wiped out, countries were laid waste, and the whole Roman territory was defiled with the blood of Christians. For some perished miserably by darts or spears, while others were driven from their homes and led away captive to the cities of Persia. And dread seized them all and they hurried to hide themselves from the dangers that threatened, in the caves and groves and mountains and hills. Among these some lamented aloud over the ills which their friends who had been taken away to Persia were suffering; the few others who still survived in the Roman lands were sighing deeply, and lamenting, one for a son, another for a daughter; or weeping for a brother or a nephew cut off before his time, and shedding bitter tears like women. In fact there was no condition of life free from tears and groans. Of the Emperors not one except a few, I mean Tzimisces and the Emperor Basil, before my father’s time ever dared touch the land of Asia at all, even with their toes.

 36931

Byzantine Hymns of Hate (Archimandrite Ephrem Lash, 2006)

NOTE: This article is taken from Byzantine Orthodoxies, pp. 151-164:

Byzantine Orthodoxies  Papers from the 36th Spring Symposium of Byzantine Studies (2002)

The remote origin of this paper was a conversation I had nearly a quarter of century ago with a Coptic deacon in Oxford. He was optimistic about the prospects of an agreement being reached between the Chalcedonian and the non-Chalcedonian Churches. I remarked that one practical problem would be the fact that in a number of our liturgical texts we denounced by name some of the leading Saints of each others’ Churches. He said that the Copts had no such hymns. This is not however the case with the Churches of the Byzantine tradition, and I have vivid memories of the enthusiastic way the monks of the Holy Mountain sing hymns to lively and cheerful melodies denouncing leading heretics from Arius in the fourth century to John the Grammarian in the ninth.

On reflection I have come to the conclusion that such denunciatory hymns are a peculiarity of the Byzantine Orthodox tradition. I cannot recollect any such texts in the Latin missals and breviaries, while in the Book of Common Prayer I can only think of the splendid phrase in the Commination service for Ash Wednesday, ‘From the Bishop of Rome and all his detestable enormities’. This is quite general and can be applied to any Pope from Pius V to John Paul II, passing by Pio Nono and John XXIII.l The well-known English Catholic battle hymn, by Father Faber, ‘Faith of our Fathers’ merely alludes to ‘dungeon, fire and sword’ in so general a manner that it has even been adapted for use by Protestants, with the third verse,

Faith of our fathers, Mary’s prayers/Shall win our country back to Thee;/And through the truth that comes from God,/England shall then indeed be free,/altered to suit Reformation susceptibilities.2

We may see allusions to the Pope and his agents in Luther’s ‘Ein feste Burg? as one English version has it,

Though devils all the world should fill,/All eager to devour us./We tremble not, we fear no ill,/They shall not overpower us./This world’s prince may still/Scowl fierce as he will,/He can harm us none,/He’s judged; the deed is done;/One little word can fell him.

Nowhere do we find the detailed ‘naming and shaming’ that characterises the hymnography of the Byzantine Orthodox. I find it hard, and I imagine you will also, to envisage a Catholic congregation today lustily singing something like this:

Let Luther, Calvin, Zwingli too/Be cast out from the Church with shame;/With Cranmer and his godless crew,/Who marred Christ’s glorious, holy name.3

As an example of this from Byzantine hyrnnography, here is a Vespers sticheron from the feast of the Fathers of the Seventh Ecumenical Council in October:

As true Shepherds you bravely drove far from the Saviour’s flock the Macedoniusses, and Nestoriusses, the Eftychisses, and Dioscorusses, Apollinariusses and Sabellioseverusses, exposed as dangerous wolves in sheepskins, stripped of their fleeces, making them thrice-wretched; therefore we call you blessed.

The liturgical celebration of the Councils of the Church and the detailed doctrines they proclaimed is also peculiarly Byzantine. The nearest thing in western liturgy would, I suppose, be Trinity Sunday, Corpus Christi and the Immaculate Conception, but I know of no offices to celebrate Florence, Trent or Vatican I.

Nicea II, 7th Ecumenical Council 787 a.d.
Nicea II, 7th Ecumenical Council 787 a.d.

In the Byzantine calendar there are four feasts that are specifically devoted to the Fathers who produced the conciliar doctrines and definitions. In the Greek tradition these are the Sundays of the First, Fourth and Seventh Councils together with Sunday of Orthodoxy.5 The Slavonic tradition makes the second of these the Sunday of the first Six Councils. Many of the texts for these days, apart from those for the Sunday of Orthodoxy, are anonymous and impossible to date precisely. Many are probably of monastic origin and suppose a fairly detailed knowledge of both theology and church history.

There is also a number of texts denouncing heretics in the offices of individual saints, like Saints Athanasios and Cyril of Alexandria, but I will limit myself to the four ‘conciliar’ feasts.

athanasius and cyril

The Fathers of the First Council

The Sunday after the Ascension is celebrated as the Sunday of the 318 Fathers of the First Council of Nicaea, which means that the Fathers do not have a full office, since the Ascension is still being celebrated.

The four stichera for Great Vespers illustrate many of the characteristics of these offices. The principal villain in this case is, naturally, Arius, though on the ‘Widdecombe Fair’ principle common to many of these texts, other heresiarchs are not forgotten.

The first sticheron, grounding the Orthodox doctrine of the Word on Psalm 109, condemns Arius for making the Second Person of the Trinity a creature:

“You were born from the womb before the morning star, without a mother from the Father before the ages, though Arius dares to call you a creature, and does not glorify you as God, insanely joining with the creatures you, the Creator, and laying up for himself as treasure the fuel of the eternal fire. But the Council in Nicaea loudly proclaimed you, Lord, to be Son of God, equal in rank with the Father and the Spirit?”

The second recalls the famous vision of Peter of Antioch, in which Christ appeared to him as a young boy holding his tunic, tom in two, to cover his nakedness; a story is alluded to a number of times in these texts. Arius is also declared to theological mentor of Nestorios.

“Who divided your garment, 0 Saviour? ‘Arius’, you said, who cuts into divisions the Authority equal in honour of the Trinity. He it was who denied that you were one of the Trinity. He it was who taught Nestorios not to say ‘Mother of God’. But the Council in Nicaea loudly proclaimed you, Lord, to be Son of God, equal in rank with the Father and the Spirit.”

Vision of Peter of Alexandria
Vision of Peter of Alexandria

In the third sticheron Arius’ death is described in language which recalls that of St Luke’s description of Judas’s death, with whom Arius is compared. Some icons of the First Council depict Arius in the privy with an allusion to the tradition of his death. There is also a play on the word ousia.

“Arius fell into the precipice of sin, having shut his eyes so as not to see the light, and he was ripped asunder by a divine hook so that along with his entrails he forcibly emptied out all his essence [ousia] and his soul, and was named another Judas, both for his ideas and the manner of his death. But the Council in Nicaea loudly proclaimed you, Lord, to be Son of God, equal in rank with the Father and the Spirit.

There are similar allusions in the sixth Ode of the Canon:

“Escape the mystery of providence he could not, the sower of tares, who was called by the surname Lunacy; for having rivalled Judas, like him the wholly evil one was split asunder.”

The Council of Nicaea, with Arius depicted beneath the feet of the Emperor Constantine and the bishops
The Council of Nicaea, with Arius depicted beneath the feet of the Emperor Constantine and the bishops

“Burst open was the belly, the source which poured out the foul and undrinkable water of impious heresies, by the ploughshare of the intercession of the inspired Priests.”

The doxastikon of the Liti is a general hymn for the Fathers, which is used in the same place in the office of the Fathers in July, and names a number of heretics condemned by the first four Councils:

“You became strict guardians of the apostolic traditions, holy Fathers: for by teaching the orthodox doctrine that the holy Trinity is consubstantial, you overthrew in council the blasphemy of Arius; after him you refuted Makedonios, opponent of the Spirit, you condemned Nestorios, Eftyches and Dioscoros, Sabellios and the leaderless Severos; ask, we pray, that, delivered from their error, we may guard our life unsullied in the faith.

The canon at Matins is anonymous, despite its having an acrostic in the first person, I SING THE FIRST ASSEMBLY OF PASTORS. One of the troparia of the third Ode alludes to the traditional number of 318 fathers, who battled against the heresiarchs, by its reference to Abraham and his 318 servants who battled against the kings in Genesis 18:

“The holy heralds of God, all marching to battle like godly Abraham of old, mightily destroyed your raving foes, 0 Good One, by your sovereign power.”

At vespers for the 1st Ecumenical Synod,   Genesis 14:14-20 (the story of Abraham pursuing Lot with his 318 servants) is read.
At vespers for the 1st Ecumenical Synod, Genesis 14:14-20 (the story of Abraham pursuing Lot with his 318 servants) is read.

NOTE: The remainder of the article, which also examines the Byzantine chants for the 4th and 7th Ecumenical Synod, and Sunday of Orthodoxy, can be read here:

dialogueormonologue1

Icons Should Not be Anointed or Blessed for 40 Days as this is a Papal Custom (St. Nikodemos the Hagiorite)

NOTE: A custom exists in some of Geronda Ephraim’s monasteries: when a pilgrim has an icon made at the monastery, they will ask for it to be put into the altar for 40 days to “bless it.” Other times, they may bring their own icon from home to place in the altar for 40 days. In some monasteries, the pilgrim might be told it is already blessed and they don’t need to place it in the altar (i.e. the monks or nuns make the icons with prayer and obedience). In other monasteries, the pilgrim might be told, “If the icon is made in the monasteries, it is safe. If it is from somewhere else, we can put it in the altar just to be safe.” This stems from the belief that warlocks and witches use orthodox items for black magic spells. This is also the reasoning behind putting bags of fylakta from Greece on the altar for 40 days, “just to be safe.” The following article is taken from The Rudder, Footnote 9 of the Prologue to the 7th Ecumenical Synod, pp. 930-33:

Seventh Ecumenical Council
Seventh Ecumenical Council

The holy icons are not adored on account of the material but on account of the likeness that they possess to the ones pictured by them. Hence the Fathers of the present Synod in some addresses said that when the wood forming the shape of the Cross in crucifixes becomes decomposed it is to be burned; and when the paint and outlines of the pictures in the icons become utterly effaced – i.e., so as to be no longer recognizable – the wooden board left is burned as useless wood. Some persons, however, bury such icons out of reverence.

800px-Ayasofya_Iznik_902
Hagia Sophia of Nicaea, where the 7th Ecumenical Council took place; Iznik, Turkey.

It is not necessary to anoint the holy icons with Myron (or chrism), nor to have them sanctified by the bishop with special prayers: because we do not adore the holy icons because they are anointed or have had prayers said over them, but irrespectively, as soon as we lay eyes on a holy icon, without pausing to examine into the possibility of its having been anointed or having had a special prayer said over it, we at once proceed to pay adoration to it both on account of the name of the Saint and on account of the likeness it bears to the original. [NOTE: In some monasteries, the glass coverings of the icons will be cleaned with myrrh, thus giving the impression that they’re fragrant. It is not uncommon for pilgrims to ask the hieromonks, and especially Geronda Ephraim, to bless their icons and other objects, either by crossing them, or placing them in the altar].

That is why in Act 6 of the present Synod, the Synod of the iconomachs in the reign of Copronymus disparaged the holy icons by asserting that the name of the pictures neither has any holy prayer sanctifying it, in order that from what is common it might be transferred to what is holy, but that, on the contrary, it (sc. the picture) remains common and without honor (i.e., not entitled to honor), just as the painter made it.

Geronda Ephraim of Arizona giving a blessing.
Geronda Ephraim of Arizona giving a blessing.

THERE ARE NO SPECIAL PRAYERS SAID OVER ICONS

To these allegations the Holy Seventh Ecumenical Synod replied through Deacon Epiphanies, by asserting that it did not say that any special prayer is said over the icons, but said that like many other holy objects they were incapable of receiving (benefit from) any special prayer, but, on the contrary from their very name they are replete with grace and sanctity, in the same way that the shape of the vivifying Cross is, which is entitled to veneration and adoration among us in spite of the fact that it is made without having any special prayer said over it; and we believe that with its shape alone we acquire sanctity, and with the adoration which we pay to it, and the marking of it upon our forehead, and the seal of it which is made in the air with the finger (note that in days of old the sign of the Cross was not made with three fingers, as it is today, but with one finger alone, which fact is stated by St. Chrysostom in one of his discourses; and see concerning this the Footnote to Canon XCI of Basil) in the hope of chasing away the demons.

NY Trapeza Exterior (Filipakis)
Exterior of St. Nektarios Monastery, Inc. Trapeza (NY)

MANY THINGS ARE REVERED WITHOUT SPECIAL PRAYERS

Likewise, in the same way that we have many holy vessels, and kiss and embrace them fondly, and hope to receive sanctity from them, in spite of the fact that they have not had any special prayers said over them, so and in like manner by fondly kissing and embracing and paying honorary adoration to a holy icon that has not had special prayers said over it we partake of sanctity, and are anagogically lifted up and carried back to the honor of the original through the name of the icon. But if the iconomachs cannot assert that the holy vessels are dishonorable and common because of their not having had any special prayers said over them for the purpose of sanctifying them, but are just as the weaver, the painter, and the goldsmith finished them, yet they regard there as holy and precious; in the same way they ought to regard the venerable icons as holy and precious and holy even though they have not had any special prayers said over them to sanctify them (page 844 of Volume II of the Synodal Records). The holy icons do not need any special prayer or any application of myrrh, because, according to Dositheos (page 658 of the Dodecabiblus) it is only the Papists (or Roman Catholics) that perpetrate the iniquity of qualifying pictures with certain prayers and devotions. For they boast that the Pope manufactures pictures from pure wax, holy oil, and water of sanctification, and that he reads marvelous prayers over them, and that because of these special features these pictures perform miracles (just as they falsely state that Leo III sent such a picture to King Charles of France, and he reverenced it; and that Pope Urban sent another picture to John Paleologos, and this one was honored with a litany in the Church).

TX Chapel (Lent)1
Chapel at Holy Archangels Monastery, Inc. (TX)

PRIESTS BLESSING ICONS WITH HOLY WATER IS A PAPAL AFFAIR

Do you see that the prayer which is read over holy icons is a Papal affair, and not Orthodox; and that it is a modern affair, and not an ancient one? For this reason no such prayer can be found anywhere in the ancient manuscript Euchologia. In fact, we have noticed that this prayer is not even found in Euchologia printed only a hundred years ago! It becomes evident that holy icons do not need any special prayer or application of myrrh, because the pictures painted on the walls of churches, and in their naves and in their aisles, and in general in streets and on doors, and on the holy vessels, are never anointed with myrrh and never any special prayer said over them, and yet, in spite of this, adoration is paid to them relatively and honorably by all on account of the likeness they bear to the originals. That is why the erudite Bishop of Campania Sir Theophilos the Saint did not conceal this truth, but stated in the book which he has just recently produced that the holy icons do not need any anointing with myrrh nor any special prayer by a bishop.

7th-ecumenical-council02

NOTE: The Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America has a webpage containing a prayer for The Blessing and Hallowing of an Icon:

Priest: Blessed is our God always, both now and ever, and unto ages of ages:

Chanter: Amen, The Trisagion Prayers. O All holy Trinity. Our Father

Priest: For Yours is the Kingdom …

Chanter: Amen. Kyrie eleison. O come, let us worship and fall down. . .

Priest: O Lord our God, Who created us after Your own Image and Likeness; Who redeems us from our former corruption of the ancient curse through Your manbefriending Christ, Who took upon Himself the form of a servant and became man; Who having taken upon Himself our likeness remade Your Saints of the first dispensation, and through Whom also we are refashioned in the Image of Your pure blessedness;

Your Saints we venerate as being in Your Image and Likeness, and we adore and glorify You as our Creator;

Wherefore we pray You, send forth Your blessing upon this Icon, and with the sprinkling of hallowed water

Bless and make holy this Icon unto Your glory, in honor and remembrance of Your Saint (N);

And grant that this sanctification will be to all who venerate this Icon of Saint (N), and send up their prayer unto You standing before it;

Through the grace and bounties and love of Your Only-Begotten Son, with Whom You are blessed together with Your All-Holy, Good and Life-creating Spirit; both now and ever, and unto ages of ages.

http://www.goarch.org/chapel/liturgical_texts/icon_blessing

Icons_restoration

Great and Holy Saturday (St. Nikodemos the Hagiorite)

NOTE: The following article is excerpted from The Rudder:

Άγιος Νικόδημος ο Αγιορείτης

CANON LXXXIX OF THE 6TH ECUMENICAL COUNCIL

The faithful celebrating the days of the saving Passion with fasting and prayer and contrition must cease their fast about the middle hours of the night after Great Saturday, the divine Evangelists Matthew and Luke having signaled us the lateness of night, the one by adding the words “at the end of the Sabbath” (Matthew 28:1) and the other by saying “very early in the morning” (Luke 24:1).

(Canon I of Dionysios.)

Interpretation

This Canon decrees that Christians must celebrate all the Great and Holy Week of the Holy Passion with fasting103 and prayer and contrition of the heart real contrition, that is to say, and not hypocritical (exceptionally, however, and especially on Great and Holy Friday and Great and Holy Saturday they ought to be forced to spend the entire day without any nourishment at all); but about midnight – that is to say, after the midnight of the past Great and Holy Saturday – of the coming Great The Lord’s Day they must cease fasting104 since the Lord has already risen, as is plainly evidenced by the divine Evangelists.

For St. Matthew by saying that the women came at the end of the Sabbath to inspect the sepulcher revealed that the day of the Sabbath had past as well as a large part of the night after the Sabbath; while Luke, on the other hand, by saying that they came very early in the morning” revealed that there still remained a large part of the night until The Lord’s Day dawned. Hence, from the statements of both of them it may be inferred that the Lord rose about midnight, the sixth hour having passed and the seventh having begun.105

Concord

As concerning the precise time of the Lord’s Resurrection, Canon I of Dionysios goes into the matter more fully; in fact, it was from him that the present Synod derived its information on these matters. He adds that those who broke their fast before midnight were accused of being pusillanimous and intemperate, whereas those who waited with fortitude till daybreak were praised as being magnanimous and temperate. But even the Apostolic Injunctions, Book V, Chapter 19, say that Christians must cease fasting at the dawn of the first hour of Sabbath, or, more plainly speaking, at the dawning of the Lord’s Day. See also the Interpretation and Footnote to Canon XXIX of the present 6th Synod and Apostolic Canon LXIX.

NOTES

But as for those persons who right after the liturgy of Great Saturday indulge in wine and oil, are obviously breaking the law. For the divine Apostles in their Injunctions (Book V, Chapters 18 and 19) command Christians to fast throughout Great Friday and Great Saturday, just as they themselves were accustomed to fast on those days, since fasting on these two days is laid down as a law by Christ Himself, who said:

“But days will come, when the bridegroom shall be taken from them, and then shall they fast” (Matthew. 9:15). Now, it was on Great and Holy Friday and Great and Holy Saturday that the Lord was in fact taken from the Jews and crucified and buried, for our salvation. But if anyone should offer an objection to this view by citing the statement in the Typikon to the effect that on the evening of Great and Holy Saturday the Cellarman comes and gives a piece of bread and glass of wine, we reply to this objection, that this glass of wine and this piece of bread are not ordinary wine and ordinary bread, but, on the contrary, are bread and wine that have been blessed by the priest:

  1. Because further above it says for the bread to be blessed, and further below it mentions this;
  2. Because in most of them it is found written in the following fashion, that is, with a single piece, not of bread, indefinitely, but of the bread, definitely and relatively, of the above blessed bread, that is to say;
  3. And because this glass of wine was the blessed wine, which, after being mixed with water, was wont to be given to the brethren for the purpose of sanctification, and especially to those who had communed in order to rinse and wash out their mouth, just as it is the custom to do right after divine Communion.

Many persons fast for three days during the Great Fast. Accordingly, why should they not fast also for the two days of Great and Holy Friday and Great and Holy Saturday, which is more necessary? Indeed, if they cannot do both fasts, it is better for them to fast on these two days, than to do so on the three days in question. For divine Chrysostom says, in his Homily on the Great Week, that just as the Great Week is the head and greater than all the other weeks in the year, so again is the Great and Holy Saturday the head of the Great Week. The fact that the above blessing of the bread is the customary solemnization carried out by breaking the five loaves is more plainly and more explicitly presented by the manuscript Typikon of the Monastery of the Pantocrator.

It says, however, also this, that of the blessed loaves of bread a sufficiently large piece must be given to each brother, and similarly as regards the blessed wine. Hence it is to be inferred that the loaves of bread must be of a large size, and the wine must be of a correspondingly large quantity, in order to suffice for all.

HOW THE GREAT HOLY WEEK OUGHT TO BE KEPT

That is why divine Epiphanios in agreement with this Canon says: “All peoples pass the six days before Pascha with the eating of plain food, by which expression I mean bread and salt and water being partaken of them towards evening.”

Great-Saturday-295x300

CESSATION OF FASTING ON PASCHA

The cessation of fasting which the Canon mentions ought to take place after midnight Balsamon says that in those days the Christians of old had a different custom of doing it in a different way, which way is nowadays completely disused. Others say that by the expression “cease their fast” (or, in Greek, “aponestizesthai” is meant the eating of cheese, eggs, and Pascha foods in general, this being inferred from Chapter 19 of Book V of the Apostolic Injunctions.

Yet, whether this be true or what was said before, Christians after midnight must first listen to the whole of the of the Resurrection and wait until Divine Liturgy has ended, and thereafter finish fasting and begin eating the Pascha feast with cheerfulness and joyfulness. For the Apostolic Injunctions say (ibid.): “On this account, when the Lord is risen, you too must offer your sacrifice, concerning which He commanded you through us by saying, ‘this do in remembrance of me’ (Luke 22:19); and thereupon cease fasting and partake of good cheer.”

Here you can see that they say that first the Divine Liturgy must be celebrated, and afterwards the celebration of Pascha must commence. Hence it is to be observed that those persons deserve to be condemned, and are indeed inordinate belly-slaves and gluttons, who the moment they hear the cry “Christ is risen!” at once, having eggs and cheese they have brought with them in their pockets or bosoms, begin stuffing them into their mouth. Accordingly, let them take pains to correct this impropriety here and now and henceforth. But parents, too, ought. not to allow their children to become guilty of any similar disorderly conduct.

holy-saturday-orthodox

CONCERNING THE GREAT DAY OF THE RESURRECTION

For it is for this reason too that on the Lord’s Day we are wont to say that the Lord is risen, since according to Blastaris (Eta, Chapter 3) and Chrysanthus of Jerusalem (in his Geography) the day commences, among ecclesiastics, with the seventh hour of night and ends with the sixth hour of the next night. Accordingly anything that occurs in the interval during the twenty-four hours of this period, appears and is said to occur in that (perhaps one) day.

But note here that in the day of Resurrection it used to be the custom to kiss one another twice: once in the morning, in the Royal Palace, and particularly in churches, while the “Day of Resurrection” was being chanted, at the end of the morning; and again in the evening, thereafter, in the great church of St. Sophia, when the kissing was done together with the Emperor and all the magistrates of the empire, as is historically recorded by Curopalates, who says: “The Emperor sits on the throne wearing the broadsword of the Grand Domesticus, and as all the magistrates come in each, even to the least of them and last of them, kiss first of all the right foot (owing to the imperial character of the kingdom), then the right hand (because the Emperor has been anointed of the Lord and is the Defender of the Church, as Symeon of Thessalonica comments), and after that his right cheek (because “king and soldier, rich man and poor man, are all equal in Christ”).

For this reason many persons ignorantly call this second kiss the Second Resurrection.

As concerns the red eggs eaten at the time of the Resurrection, many persons say many things that are destitute of verification. In solving certain questions for the Emperor of Russia, a learned man named Gazes Paisius, says that when the Jews exclaimed His blood be upon us and upon our children” (Matthew 27:25). everything they had in their houses at once turned red, and consequently even the eggs. Hence in remembrance of this miracle we too dye our eggs red at Pascha on the occasion of the Resurrection then being celebrated. This miracle, he says, has come down to us through a tradition of old.

images (8)

REGARDING THE NIGHT OF GREAT AND HOLY SATURDAY

I said qualifiedly that the night of Great Saturday is the middle between the burial and the resurrection of the Lord, and not Great Saturday, as both Zonaras and Balsamon have lumpingly said, because although the daytime of Great and Holy Saturday clearly includes the burial of the Lord, while Great Pascha clearly includes the resurrection, yet the night of Great Saturday, intervening between the two days in question, partakes of both of them. “On this account the Western local Synod held in Cabilone concerning hierurgy (or celebration of the Liturgy), in Division 1st and the Canon which begins with the expression “It has been the custom,” decrees that so far as regards all the other days of the fasts Liturgy is to be celebrated round the hours of Vespers, but on Great Saturday it is to be celebrated at the commencement of night.” Furthermore, all typicons with great discrimination and observation state that the Ecclesiarch must be possessed of accuracy in order that the time when the Liturgy of Great Saturday ends it shall be two o’clock in the night. But why on all other days of fasting should the Liturgy be celebrated in the evening, but on Great Saturday must be celebrated in the night time? The reason, of course, is that the Gospel is read containing the words “Late on the Sabbath” (Matthew 28:1), and generally affording an introduction to the resurrection, and in order that persons who have been baptized at that time may partake of communion in it. Hence the Apostolic Injunctions, Book V, Chapter 19, go right ahead and lay it down as a rule that catechumens are to be baptized still further in the night. For they say concerning the night of Pascha: “Reading the Law all through the night until the cock crows, and having baptized your catechumens, and having read the Gospel, and having delivered an address to the laity, cease your mourning.”

That is why St. Gregory the Theologian in expanding upon Pascha, and Damascene, borrowing from Gregory, call the night of Great and Holy Saturday saving for those persons who get baptized on that night. “Being a radiant night and a herald of the day appareled in splendor.”

On account of the many lights of the ones illuminated (baptized). “How holy in reality and universally festival this saving night is and radiant!” etc.

ephraim1

REGARDING THE NIGHT OF GREAT AND HOLY SATURDAY II

Anointment with holy myrrh denotes the descent of the Holy Spirit in the form of a dove upon Christ when He was being baptized in the .Jordan; and consequently, according to Cyril of Jerusalem the chrism is a token that we are receiving in baptism the gracious gift of the Holy Spirit (and see the words of Cyril in the Footnote to Apostolic Canon L) and are becoming perfect Christians. Hence we are called Christians not only because we believe in Christ, but also because we get anointed with that heavenly chrism, becoming christs of the Lord and partakers of Christ in accordance with that passage in the Psalms saying: “Therefore God, thy God, has anointed you with the oil of gladness above thy fellows” (Psalm 45:7). Note, however, that holy myrrh may be administered a second time, but only to those who have denied the faith. Hence the error practiced by some persons ought to be prohibited, viz, the custom of certain priests or spiritual. fathers (i.e., confessors) of anointing those Christians with holy myrrh who have fornicated with a Jewess, or with a woman who is a Latin (i.e., a Roman Catholic, according to English usage) or a heretic. For though it is true that such persons are canonized more severely than other fornicators, according to Reply 47 of Balsamon and Canon XXXI of John of Citrus, they are not anointed with holy myrrh. That is why Canon XLIV of Basil in referring to a deaconess who had committed fornication with a Grecian, does not decree that anything of the kind be done to her. As for how great an evil it is for some persons to partake of the holy myrrh of St. Demetrius instead of divine Communion, see the newly printed book of the saint of Campania.

ee

Metropolitan Seraphim of Piraeus opposes revision of the Church tradition regarding sodomy (April 5, 2015)

NOTE: The metropolitan has similar sentiment to Geronda Ephraim who recently told visiting spiritual children: “…Those [i.e. homosexuals] who are marrying illegally here…The Old Testament says: “My spirit will not remain with man because they are flesh.” This applies today. Sodom burned just like a nuclear bomb. Christ does not tolerate such sins. Everywhere the sins of the flesh are worshipped. The Venerable Mary of Egypt repented. All homosexuals will be eliminated. Everything will become dirt, nuclear, all dirt. The war will begin because of our sins.” http://www.johnsanidopoulos.com/2014/08/a-conversation-with-elder-ephraim-of.html

 200972.p

Athens, April 5, 2015

Metropolitan Seraphim of Piraeus has severely criticized attempts revise the Church tradition regarding sodomy, reports AgionOros.ru with reference to Romfea.

“The enemy is striving to make us, people, slaves to the flesh and to the sin, to turn spiritual creatures into material ones, like dumb animals…”

“The Orthodox Church respects private life and man’s free will. However, it should be noted that the process of legalization of the crime against the human nature and physiology is going on: today the vile passion of homosexualism has been legally recognized; tomorrow pedophilia will be legalized (take Holland, for example); the next will be bestiality (Germany). This is the gravest crime against Eternal God and the human personality, repeating the blasphemy of Sodom and Gomorrah.”

“Justification, support and promotion of these shameful and ungodly passions as well as attempts to present them as a variation of the norm are unnatural and inadmissible. The Holy Scriptures which express the Will of God more than once condemn homosexuality as a passion, a sin and abomination.”

“For all the Holy Fathers homosexuality is one of the most corrupt and unclean sins, an outrageous ingratitude to the Creator, blasphemy and denial of the Gospel. The public propaganda of homosexuality is like a plague on both the family and the society. Moreover, it will cause psychopathological disorders in children raised by same-sex couples (and we are being actively urged to accept this practice).”

http://www.pravoslavie.ru/english/78465.htm

24 The destruction of Sodom. Mosaic, duomo of Monreale, Sicily, twelfth century