The Holy and Great Council and the Hidden Work of God


The science of psychology had its beginnings in the 19th century. It has since gone through many changes, complete with clinical science of the brain and its chemistry. However, in its earliest days it had something of a mystical twist. Freud, Jung and their cohort could see the surface of the personality and the various disorders it presented. Their instinct was that the causes of those disorders lay somewhere beneath the surface. In their varied approaches they sought to find a way beneath the surface and to create a roadmap of the human soul. They did not really succeed, but they asked very interesting questions. What they did manage to uncover was a hidden reality. Our urges, our dreams, our desires and so much else are often like a poetic wonderland, even when the images become frightening.

As a priest-confessor, you become privy to very dark secrets within other human beings. And those are only the stories of people seeking healing and forgiveness. One can only wonder at what things remain untouched, unrevealed, unacknowledged. Contemporary life presents a face of normalcy. That normalcy is often pointed to as an example of the stable world of secularism. “Everyday life,” “average,” “mundane,” “common,” are all part of our language that are used to describe the façade of our lives. But this is only a façade.

Beneath the normal is the “abnormal,” or, at least, what we would like to think is “abnormal.” Murderous thoughts, suicidal ideation, and every sexual depravity are actually quite common, lurking just beneath the surface of our public selves. The façade of our culture, and the “gentleman’s agreement” that has quietly supported, have shown great signs of weakening. With the cracks that have appeared, what lies beneath the surface also becomes more apparent, and in some cases begs to be admitted to the new normal.

It seems to me that the road map of normalcy, established as a middle class social standard, was always inadequate to describe human lives. It is not that some things are excluded from “normal” that should in fact be included, but that the concept of normal itself is inadequate. This is particularly the case from the perspective of the Orthodox Christian faith.

The modern notion of the secular, a sphere of life in which religion need play no part, is the ground on which the concept of normal was constructed. That ground itself is false, for there is no realm or space within all of creation that is not utterly dependent upon God and permeated with His life and presence. Sacred and secular are false distinctions. “The whole earth is full of Your glory.”

Reality is a very mixed matter. The Russian writer Solzhenitsyn said:

Gradually it was disclosed to me that the line separating good and evil passes not through states, nor between classes, nor between political parties either — but right through every human heart — and through all human hearts. This line shifts. Inside us, it oscillates with the years. And even within hearts overwhelmed by evil, one small bridgehead of good is retained. And even in the best of all hearts, there remains … an un-uprooted small corner of evil.

His observation is not unlike that of St. Macarius:

The heart itself is but a small vessel, yet dragons are there, and there are also lions; there are poisonous beasts and all the treasures of evil. But there too is God, the angels, the life and the kingdom, the light and the apostles, the heavenly cities and the treasuries of grace—all things are there.

If there is a true normal, it is deeply spiritual. It moves between transcendent good and a frightful evil. And the movement is not between people or classes or political persuasions, but within each human heart. We should not ignore what is going on around us. However, when we ignore the inner life of the heart, we remain unhealed and in the darkness.

The life of the Church in the world is not somehow separate from the life of every human heart. It is both the instrument of our healing and the arena of our salvation. Modern habits tend to over institutionalize our understanding of the Church, particularly when it comes to “comparative denominationalism.”

The mystery of the Church is the mystery of salvation, and, as such, it is the mystery of the battle in every human heart. It is the place where God “gathers together all things in one” (Eph 1:10). As he gathers all things together, He gathers both the wheat and the tares (Matt. 13). The Church is necessarily everything that belongs to our humanity – including our history. It is not unusual in conversations regarding the Church to hear complaints and observations about various failings throughout the centuries, as well as in our present circumstances. I often wonder what it is that people are expecting. Spinning myths about infallibility and demanding a pristine history are simply nonsense. Expecting leaders who will be without sin or weaknesses is equally absurd. God has not come to save us through such means.

For God made Him [Christ] who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him. (2Co 5:21)

I believe that the Orthodox Church is the historical One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church. But having said that, I do not expect it to have a tidier history than the messiness described in the pages of the New Testament. Those who want such tidiness mostly want to win arguments, not to find God. They cannot know God if they do not know themselves.

As the Holy and Great Council draws near, I am achingly aware of Orthodox short-comings. Contemporary Orthodoxy cannot be understood without reference to the near 500 years of the Turkish Yoke, nor the century of Communist domination. Neither are we free from the tidal pull of current world politics. What we witness at every turn is the working out of our salvation. On an international stage we may be sometimes be embarrassed or repulsed. That is the nature of the truth. The good and evil described by Solzhenitsyn will be discerned by many on the larger stage of the Great Council. And, doubtless, some will shout their discernment from the rooftops.

However, we are witnesses to the grace of God and the work of His goodness. We must know that all things work together for good for those who love God and are called according to His purpose. We must also know that the good work of God is often hidden and not made manifest immediately. It is His way.

Join me in prayers for the Holy Orthodox Church as it endures yet more trials in its life of union with the God who calls her His bride. There are no good things apart from the Cross of Christ. Give thanks always, for all things!


  1. That is a good one! (They all are, but this one especially relevant!) Thank you Father!

  2. Amen to that!……Thank you father so much for your down to earth perspective. I’ve always loved that. You have really a down to earth perspective on all your posts.
    “Down to earth” in the good sense of the phrase……:-))……..I know that we Orthodox want to have our gaze in heaven……..

  3. How truthful Father. If the world was really so healthy why would we have such a high incidence of addictive behaviors? It is also a truth that even the Orthodox Church has its issues and I agree we need to lift the coming council in prayer that the Holy Spirit may guide it to a fruitful conclusion, not that it will be the final word, but a step in the ongoing process.

  4. Thank you, Father. “I believe that the Orthodox Church is the historical One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church. But having said that, I do not expect it to have a tidier history than the messiness described in the pages of the New Testament. Those who want such tidiness mostly want to win arguments, not to find God. They cannot know God if they do not know themselves.” Amen. Lord have mercy.

  5. Very insightful and realistic. Nobody looking at us should be able to deny the potential for sin in all of us, and the ability within us to accept God’s grace to combat sin. Thank you for bringing clarity to that.

  6. Yesterday during his sermon about Paul and Silas in prison, our priest focused for a time on the response of the jailer to the situation at hand and challenged us to ask the same question. “What must I do to be saved?” I realized on the spot that though I had often asked Jesus to save me from some situation, and especially from myself, I had never asked that question.

  7. Father, does this relate to the upcoming Council in Crete? I find myself a little troubled about it, especially considering the role of the Bulgarian church into which I was originally baptized. It is good to remember that these political things are just passing… Thank you!

  8. Fr. Stephen I want you to know that I am finished reading your blog. There is too much clericalism and paternalism in what you say: “I speak for the church, the only church…you are mired in modernity….I think my way clearly out of modernity, and you, dear sheep, who do not, need to listen to me.” Your readers are synchophants and their comments get accepted by you only when the toe the party line. Truth is, as I stated, that the Orthodox church is only one branch of the ancient church. Orthodox priests cannot admit it and won’t admit it. There is dishonesty in this. Orthodox priests won’t admit that some (not all of course) of what Protestantism asserted about the individual needing take on and live the faith outside of the institution is correct. Orthodox priests also won’t admit that Oriental Christians have lived and practiced a sincere apostolic faith for two thousand years outside the bounds of the Byzantine church. Orthodox Christians and priests will also not admit that “primus inter pares” was actually a doctrine of the whole pre-schism church, and that Rome actually did have authority over the other hierarchs in some appellate cases . I am tired of Orthodox priests just acting as mouth pieces for the institution of the church. We need honesty in this day and age, not paternalism. You constantly tell us about how ancient Christianity and its notion of salvation was more collective and hierarchical than we think. Well, it actually may have been more collective and hierarchical than YOU think too.

  9. Todd,
    Thank you for your observations. I’m not at all sure what to say. I’ll just let my silence sit here for a bit. God give us grace.

    I do apologize for causing you frustration. I’m puzzled almost always about the charge of “clericalism.” It’s almost as if the human beings who have been ordained and trained for service in the Church are doing something inherently wrong. The Church historically is hierarchical and has a clergy. And there are giants among the laity who transcend any of the clergy that I know. My late Archbishop, along with Fr. Thomas Hopko, always spoke in deeply deferential terms about “Professor Verhovskoy,” who taught both of them in seminary. He was a layman. So was Vladimir Lossky, one of the 20th century’s greatest Orthodox theologians. So is Christos Yannaras who writes today – a giant.

    But the Councils of the Church are certainly the work of those ordained to that position. The first Council in Jerusalem consisted of the Apostles. The bishops are their successors.

    Having been an Episcopalian, where there was a more or less equal representation of the laity with the clergy, as is true in most mainline Protestant denominations, I am at a loss to see how that greater democratization has done anything other than simply turn the Church into a religious form of popular culture. If that’s what someone wants, then they don’t want Orthodoxy.

    Should Orthodoxy apologize for having the same self-conscious identity today that it had 1,000 years ago, and from the beginning? Essentially, I hear you complaining that the Orthodox (or at least me) are not Protestant, or would at least benefit by taking a few pages out of Protestant books.

    How would you go about discerning which pages?

    If I’ve been imperious in my writing, or if I’ve seemed so, I do apologize. I write what I write, and gladly explain what I mean and engage people. I don’t always let every comment through (like yours that did not appear – I suspect that upset you). But I thought it seemed like a bit of a rant and a distraction from the point of the article. That’s not me trying to eliminate disagreement, but to maintain a blog site for the purposes that I deem useful.

    I have the “rules of the blog” that have existed for nearly 10 years. I urge everyone to read them. They can be reached through the link on the sidebar. I make it clear that the blog is not about free speech.

    It’s a teaching platform. And the teacher is in charge of the classroom. That’s how it works.

    People disagree with me plenty of times and it contributes to the health of the blog. I think the charge of being “sycophants” is unjust and disrespectful. Sometimes there’s lots of agreement in Orthodoxy because of its very nature – and I do my best to stick to what is solid, secure, and widely known within the Orthodox faith, even if I manage to write it in a creative manner.

    I pray you have peace. You’re welcome back anytime.

  10. Dimitar,
    Yes, I had that Council in mind. It looks like the waters are getting pretty troubled at the moment. But, we shouldn’t ourselves be troubled. Rather, we pray. The life and history of the Church are filled with many troubling things, but God preserves us. He is a good God and loves mankind.

  11. Father,

    I know there must be a deeper way of understanding beyond this seeming tension in my head… How is it that we are supposed to be “simple” like Solzhenitsyn, when each one of us (like Solzhenitsyn & you say) have the line between “transcendent good and a frightful evil” running right through each one of our hearts?

  12. Truth is, as I stated, that the Orthodox church is only one branch of the ancient church. Orthodox priests cannot admit it and won’t admit it. There is dishonesty in this.

    I tend to think that anything that is not actually the ancient Church is…not actually the ancient Church. Dishonesty is in trying to recast the ancient faith in ones own image to validate one’s own self. This is essentially what Protestants who try to claim their churches were “established in 33 AD” (per the occasional sign-post) are actually doing. They are not “branches” of the same Church; they are deviations from it. Just my thoughts.

  13. Sunny,
    We engage in the long battle against evil within ourselves, by the grace of God. The greater danger is to think of evil as being outside of myself, whether it is another person, another group, another nation, etc. When we do that, we no longer attend to the real battle within. Solzhenitsyn’s path is described in his “Live not by lies.” It allowed him a path of discernment. It was extremely dangerous and costly for him. For each of us, there is a path, because Christ is the Way.

    I described just a little of my own path, in an autobiographical manner, but it goes on every day. Is Christ my life, my center, my peace, my shield, my reason, my goal? Or have I decided that something else will take precedence – my reputation, my self-opinion, my success, my family, my nation, etc. And, of course, it gets very detailed at any given moment. It’s not meant to drive us crazy. Simply follow Christ with as much of yourself as possible. “God is for us – who can be against us?”

  14. Byron,
    It seems to me that Todd used the wrong word in describing Orthodox priests as being “dishonest” and not being able to admit that the Orthodox Church is only one branch of the ancient Church.

    Actually, we’re not dishonest. The “branch theory” is actually condemned as heresy by the Orthodox Church. Every convert, for example, coming into the Orthodox Church has to renounce the branch theory. So, technically, accepting it is not an option. Not being Orthodox is an option. I was not Orthodox for 45 years. When I converted, I had to renounce the branch theory, something I had espoused on many, many occasions in the years before. Had I still believed the branch theory to be true, I would not have converted. I would have kept my career, and saved myself a lot of trouble. So, the branch theory is, in fact, a complete make-or-break within Orthodoxy. If the branch theory is true, then there’s not any particular reason to be Orthodox, other than one’s personal preference for Byzantine stuff. Actually, I like Anglican organs and hymns more, but the Orthodox don’t do that. It’s only one of many preferences I had to lay aside in becoming Orthodox.

    I don’t think Todd understands this. But he has pointed out, fairly clearly, just exactly the point in confronting Orthodoxy. It does not think of itself or define itself as an opinion among opinions, a Church among Churches, a style among styles. That model is, in fact, a part of modernity. The Church is reduced to just one more consumer choice. I’m not really sure there could ever be a real conversion in that model. There’s just adjustments to lifestyles. Within that, the claims of the Orthodox Church are a “rock of stumbling and a stone of offense” (1 Peter 2:8). I think it’s really hard. The claims of Orthodoxy simply sound arrogant in the extreme to the non-Orthodox. I understand. I understood it when I became Orthodox, and renounced the theory of the branch Church.

  15. The true NT ecclesiology of Orthodoxy (as opposed to modernist denominationalism) is perhaps the hardest hurdle to surmount for a modern Christian approaching Orthodoxy. It was for me. I’ll never forget the initial surge of cold anxiety and sinking feeling that hit me when I could no longer deny that none of the institutions/denominational organizations
    I had been a part of in my decades as an Evangelical Christian (including those representing Protestant and Evangelical distinctives in general and not simply a specific denominational group under this umbrella) met the criteria to represent the embodiment of the NT Church and organic and dogmatic continuity with the early Church–its Apostles and early Fathers–in the way the canonical Eastern Orthodox Church even of today can. Yet the stability and true spiritual freedom that results from an embrace of this reality has been an unqualified blessing I wouldn’t trade for anything.

    It did help me toward embracing Orthodox ecclesiology to realize that in proclaiming everything that is essential to her identity and constitution as “the Church” as uniquely the fullness of Apostolic and Orthodox faith, the Orthodox are not passing judgement on the salvation of sincere professing Christians outside her boundaries. In fact, Orthodox believers and even members of her clergy and of her Saints would certainly allow such believers are also recipients of the grace of God insofar as they embrace the faith of Christ, and we can admit (thanks to God’s grace) as individual believers these may easily have a better defense on Judgement Day in terms of how they have invested the truth of Christ they did embrace than many of us formally within the Orthodox Church.

  16. Yes, I am in agreement with everything Father stated. As usual, he stated it much clearer than I did (LoL)!

    So, who was it that said, “We know where the Church is; we do not know where it is not.”? It’s an apt quote and one of the things I love about Orthodoxy (a concrete statement backed by a mystery)!

  17. Byron, I heard that quote from Met. Kallistos (Ware), but he was likely quoting Fr. George Florovsky.

  18. For what it is worth, I read an article the other day that claimed that everything that scientists have been teaching on how the brain works (like a computer) is proving utterly wrong. One area of trouble is they have found that memory does not seem to reside in the brain matter. They cannot account for that, but then they dismiss spirit and soul all together. I cannot vouch for the accuracy of this article but it does give one food for thought. Perhaps science does not know near as much as they claim to.

  19. Father Stephen:

    Little Gidding:

    (Seems appropriate, somehow)

    “We shall not cease from exploration
    And the end of all our exploring
    Will be to arrive where we started
    And know the place for the first time.
    Through the unknown, remembered gate
    When the last of earth left to discover
    Is that which was the beginning;
    At the source ofthe longest river
    The voice of the hidden waterfall
    And the children in the apple-tree
    Not known, because not looked for
    But heard, half-heard, in the stillness
    Between two waves of the sea.
    Quick now, here, now, always –
    A condition of complete simplicity
    (Costing not less than everything)
    And all shall be well and
    All manner of thing shall be well
    When the tongues of flame are in-folded
    Into the crowned knot of fire
    And the fire and the rose are one.”

    In hope for the upcoming council.

  20. We need to pray very, very hard for the attendees. Satan will also be present, you can be sure, as he never passes up so great an opportunity to encourage resentments, anger, and pride to emerge among a group of Church leaders.

  21. Nicholas Stephen Griswold – I know that my response is not exactly the topic of this post – but this is an area that has always interested me.

    You wrote : “One area of trouble is they have found that memory does not seem to reside in the brain matter. They cannot account for that, but then they dismiss spirit and soul all together.”

    There are a few researchers that are realizing a that the body, heart and brain function together in a complex and dynamic relationship. ( What they have found is that circuitry of the heart is such that it actually enables it to learn, remember, and make functional decisions independent of the cranial brain. In other words our heart has emotions and memories and sends messages to the brain and body. The heart actually sends more signals to the brain than the brain to the heart.

    There are even cases of heart transplant recipients receiving a change of heart – as it were. There was a case of one heart transplant recipient having nightmares of having hot flashes of light on his face – it turned out that the heart donor had been killed as a result of a gunshot to the face. (Lord have mercy)

    As Orthodox we recognize that the heart is the innermost core of our being – the control center that reigns over the body. It is a mystery and the place the grace permeates the body and the mind – it is where we find God. (Fr Stephen-if I stated that wrong please correct me. It’s still mystery enough to me that I am not sure I explain it properly).

    Most of science is not interested in Grace or God – that I have seen, but still as we advance medically and scientifically there are situations where the Truth is brought to the light – whether science recognizes it or not is another matter.

  22. Thanks Joshua. That is a fantastic article! Extremely interesting!

    Looking forward to reading your article as well, Victoria.

  23. Victoria,

    Thank you for sharing the article and the web site. I look forward to reading it.

    How amazing that the Orthodox description of the purpose of our life (as the Saints teach us) is to “live in the presence of God with the mind in the heart”…

    I once shared here that I participated in a “alternative” Pilates training workshop where the teacher was “into” the Eastern religions, and tried to make us aware of “the heart”. One of the exercises we did in this session was to “look at one another” first from the head, and then from the heart. Even in such secular setting (and with many skeptics in the audience!) we all felt the difference. I remember that “from the head”, looking at my exercise partner felt judgmental, analytical, criticizing (on my part)…. And when we were told to switch to looking “from the heart” (and I don’t remember how we were told to accomplish that?!), she suddenly looked like an angel to me….

    There was also a difference when we switched from *looking* to “being looked at* (that had to be done with the recipient’s eye’s closed, otherwise you could not stand the intensity of the situation). When she looked at me from the head, it felt cold, uncomfortable… And when she switched to looking from the heart, I literally felt warmth and light bathing my body… Other people had similar experiences.

    Thank you for reminding me about that. I will try to look more often with the heart… Maybe we can all “support” our Church leaders meeting for the Holy Council with prayers and looking at them from the heart…

  24. Nicholas,
    Before writing this it might be better to know whether the article Joshua found was the one you saw, however I will address the article Joshua found, which may not be what you are referencing.

    There is a problem in the way science is sometimes conducted. It may surprise the readers here that the problem isn’t inherent in science per se but in the people who conduct science. Part of the problem is hubris and part is what Father Stephen has called modernist thinking. Together, these problems do not support science but are antagonistic to it–they also are antagonistic to theology and a faithful life as well.

    Frequently scientific models are needed to summarize or to help make sense of data. In chemistry we frequently use several models to explain a single phenomena. None of the models taken as a single model is adequate to explain the phenonomena and when taken together, one would find that the models contradict each other in certain aspects. For this reason, some people who have talent in physics or math do not prefer chemistry as a profession because of the need within the discipline of chemistry to use an ‘assortment’ of inadequate models. And the only way to do that effectively is to be very thoroughly acquainted with the weaknesses of all the models one uses.

    I’m hesitant to say this but when I was a student, I had a chemistry professor that called all people in the medical profession (and the “so-called sciences” related to it which included the new science of “neuroscience”) as “quacks”. His justification for making this disparaging remark was because of the lack of science in the methodologies within these fields. However, those people within these fields who considered themselves scientists would have been insulted by such a remark.

    I would like to point out an article in the Chemical and Engineering News recently (May 30, 2016 vol 94, No 22 if curious). The title is: “Wanted: Better tools to study the brain”. The US government is now offering funding to neuroscience projects that have chemists on board. There is a back story to this development, and Nicholas, I believe you have discovered part of the backstory. The ‘computer model’ of how the brain works was not working very well.

    However there is a deeper problem, and I believe you’re hinting at it, in your last statement. Our models will never be adequate, as we learn more, our models must change. When we hang on to a model that doesn’t help us we must let it go. When we don’t let go of it, then we’re no longer doing science but something else.

  25. My last sentences should have read: In science when we hang on to a model that doesn’t help us, we must be prepared to let it go or least introduce more models to deal with the inadequacy. Because when we don’t take account of the inadequacy of a faulty model, we’re no longer doing science but something else.

  26. Dee, I would say that if the inadequate model is not released science becomes an ideology if power.

  27. As to the reality if the brain and heart vs the materialist delusion it gives me hope that the AI fanatics who want to replace humans altogether or folks like Elon Musk who think “evolution” requires we become cyborgs will fail.

    Modernity is so patently illogical in its delusions yet seems to be so seductive. I really do not understand.

  28. I wish to offer one more comment about the relationship between science and faith.

    It is generally known that there are research and disciplinary “silos” in the sciences. Each field would benefit from cross referencing the models and discoveries obtained in different fields and then to synthesize these findings in an attempt to obtain a more coherent whole. However, this is rarely done in science and as a result research can be skewed and often compromised when it has locked onto a single and limiting model of reference.

    Furthermore, this ‘silo’ situation is made worse, when scientists within specific fields dismiss the findings in other fields. Such dismissal is often political rather than scientific, if the disagreement or argument cannot be resolved through methodology.

    Certainly any model we entertain in science is going to have faults. Our reality is beyond our knowing. We must keep learning and revising our models. If we don’t attend to those faults in our models then we fail as scientists. Furthermore, science is not capable of a dismissal of God, nor can it entertain any model that can encompass God. God is outside of the realm of the created universe. Such a heart that engages in dismissal of God based on what they think science is, is in the dark and not engaged in science. As Solzhenitsyn describes in the quote Fr Stephen uses above, the line between the good and evil lies in every heart. What comes out of our hearts affects what we think and do.

    Ok that’s my input as infant Orthodox scientist. My apologies for so many comments here.

  29. Joshua, You have found it, thanks for doing so. We can let the article speak for itself instead of me trying to interpret it.

  30. Dee, It is the article that I was referring to and your analysis of models and the need to update is valid. My point was that there seems to be much more to the debate on the brain than what we can discover through the physical means of science. In our faith we see man as body and spirit, where as many in the secular world want to reduce the human being to mere chemical reactions and random selection. I believe what this article is hinting at, whether it was intentional or not, is that they are running up against things of spirit which are beyond science to comprehend. I just was amused that the research of the brain, which was so sure of itself a few years ago has collided with a reality that is bigger than it can deal with.

  31. Nicholas, I admit I need to watch myself to keep myself from a form of reductionism which is what I believe you describe.

  32. Dee, I was not referring to you in any way, at least not that I am aware of. If what I said offended I apologize. Who I had in mind was some of the better know folks of science who publicly ridicule those who have faith. I was taking undue pleasure on their dilemma. I certainly have no real answers to offer, but I do suspect that there is much more to a human that what we can investigate through physical means especially in the area of intellect.

  33. Nicholas no offense is taken, the risk of reductionism is real for someone in my field of science. Chemistry is rife with models and metaphors. I want to be able to use a model of science to explain my experience of seeing “Death and Resurrection” in data to my family. Every attempt is hollow because the language isn’t available to me and I falter into a form of reductionism. My spiritual father encourages me to believe someday I’ll grow out of this constriction–hopefully with God’s Grace it will happen, but that hasn’t happened yet. Therefore in regard to that experience I must remain silent until the appropriate words come.

  34. Dee, I am thankful that I did not offend you. I came to the conclusion long ago that the world of the spirit is not discernible with the things of the physical world. God being Transcendent places Him, His way, His thoughts and much of His work outside the realm of our sensor package. In the way our eye can see only the visible spectrum of light and we cannot see Gamma wave lengths, our science cannot discover God. It can infer His Immanence but it cannot locate Him or account for His works. I have discovered that the best way to communicate Him to others is through imitation of Him as His disciple and allow others just to smell the odor of Life leading to Life.

  35. “There’s no need for us to tell Christians who aren’t Orthodox that they’re going to hell or that they’re antichrists; but we also mustn’t tell them that they’ll be saved, because that’s giving them false reassurances, and we’ll be judged for it. We have to give them a good kind of uneasiness—we have to tell them that they’re in error.”

    – Saint Paisios of Mount Athos

  36. There is a good discussion of Orthodox ecclesiology with respect to the non-Orthodox in an AFR Patristic Nectar video interview between Fr. Josiah Trenham and Kevin Allen (see especially Part 2, the segment starting at about 22 minutes in).

  37. Dear Fr. Stephen,

    I think that this is the best summary of everything you so beautifully write about on your blog (from the Abbot of the Monastery of Saint Silouan the Athonite). Thank you for your blog!

    – Holy Father Silouan pray to God for us!

    “Today, theoretical atheism has abated. Today, the atheism is practical. Christians without Christ and Orthodox without a true, living Orthodoxy that is active in love, in Spirit and in truth. This is what worldliness has done today. By worldliness, what is meant, in Christian terms, is adapting the Church to put her in the service of the affairs of this world. Pragmaticism takes the place of matters divine. Worldliness, then, whether on the level of the consumerist approach to life or on the level of science and thought! Theology without Spirit, rituals without worship, study without the fear of God, theology for scholars, not for saints, bishops for authority, not for pastoring!”

    In these last hours before the Feast of Ascension…
    Christ Is Risen!

  38. I fully agree with you Agata, and – as Father Stephen already mentioned- that is a particularly thoroughgoing article that’s difficult to come across…

  39. Well, in my opinion (for what it’s worth), Abba Touma (Bitar) speaks with the voice of a true undershepherd of Christ’s sheep. No, rather, it seems to me in these heartfelt appeals to our Bishops and in other sermons to his flock which I have read in the past, he speaks from the heart what he hears from the Holy Spirit, and it is the Voice of my ever-faithful Beloved True Shepherd I hear speaking through him–it is the prophetic Voice of Christ’s Church I hear speaking through him. I thank God for him and all our faithful Bishops and Priests. May God grant them and us true discernment and grace to follow where He leads.

  40. Karen,

    You are blessed to have known about the Abba Touma before. I am grateful he was mentioned here, and I can now read some of what he has written. Thanks to Jim for posting this article, very honest and truthful, as Father and Dino affirmed.

    On a totally unrelated note, can I ask you if you remember posting (way in the past) a quote from Narnia related to “living life without the assurance of Aslan being real…”? I seem to have that quote connected in my mind with you. I have saved it somewhere, but of course cannot find it… Hopefully you will recognize what I am asking about, you seem to bring up Narnia books from time to time…

    You are welcome to email me directly to my Gmail (agatamcc). Thank you!

  41. Hi Agata,

    I’m sorry I don’t recall saying quite what you remember here. I have written here on more than one occasion that it was C.S. Lewis and his portrayal of Christ in Aslan that ruined me for anything but the fullness of Orthodoxy, though I couldn’t have known it at the time. Perhaps that’s what you were remembering.

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