of St Nicholas
Redeeming the Time Vol. 02.32 Sunday of Orthodoxy Feb 15/28 1999
Sunday of Orthodoxy
Redeeming the Time
St. Nicholas Orthodox Church Dallas, TX
See then that ye walk circumspectly, not as fools, but as wise,
redeeming the time, because the days are evil.
News and Announcements *
Lenten Fasting *
St John Maximovitch Orthodox Mission *
What is an Anathema? By Bishop Theophan the Recluse *
Examples of Anathema from the Holy Canons *
Canon I of the Second Ecumenical Council *
Canon VII of the Third Ecumenical Council *
Solemn Anathema against ecumenism *
Fr Seraphim will be at two pastoral retreats this coming Tuesday
through Friday, in Washington Dc and Middlebrook VA. He may be pages if
there is need (pages will be checked at least twice a day). Because of
Father's travel, there will be no Presanctified Liturgies this week. Services
will be as usual on Saturday and Sunday
Fr Seraphim will be traveling Tuesday through Saturday morning. See
above. Larry will be going to Washington DC, to meet his fiancée
Natasha and her son Gregory, who are arriving from Russia. They will see
some of the Capital, and wend their way back to Texas, as they pass through
the hills of Kentucky, Larry's boyhood home. God granting, Larry will be
baptized on Holy Saturday and he and Natasha will be married in April or
June. Please pray for our travelers
During all of Great Lent, on weekdays (Monday through Friday), we eat no animal products of any kind, save honey. We eat no meat, fish, eggs, milk, and cheese. In addition, we do not drink any wine or hard liquor, or eat Olive oil. We should make an attempt to eat simply, and not go to great lengths to make sumptuous meals, and devote more time to prayer. The services at the church provide an excellent opportunity for this.
On weekends in Great Lent, we may have wine and Olive oil, but maintain our abstinence from all the other things mentioned above.
Vladyka Gabriel has blessed the formation of this mission in North
Austin. Please assist our brothers and sisters in their prayers by praying
the troparion of St John every day, for the sake of the mission. It is
available where the topical literature is.
"We venerate Thy most pure image, O Good One!"
The first Sunday of the Great Fast is called the Sunday of Orthodoxy. On this day, in commemoration of the victory of Orthodoxy over heresies, the holy Church, as a loving Mother, invites her faithful children to venerate and honor in piety the holy icons of the Savior, the Mother of God and the Saints.
At the start of the eighth century in the Church there began a catastrophe that continued for more than a hundred years. A cruel persecution arose against the holy icons and those who venerated them. The holy vessels used in the celebration of divine services were trampled under foot, because the Saints were depicted on them. Everywhere holy icons were removed, taken from the temples and cast into rivers or burned. The defenders of the veneration of icons were subjected to all possible kinds of persecution, even capital punishment. At that time many bishops, priests and others were tortured for venerating the holy icons. They were shut up in prisons and tortured. Some had their noses or ears cut off. Others had their eyes put out or their hands severed. But the word of Christ, that the gates of Hell should not prevail against the holy Church, and that He would remain with it until the end of the age is immutable. In the year 842, after the last enemy of the veneration of icons finished his days in horrible torment, the emperor Theophilus and his wife the empress Theodora put an end to the persecution and unrest.
At her command on the forthcoming first Sunday of the Great Fast,
February 19, the Patriarch Methodius in a solemn procession, accompanied by a multitude of joyful Orthodox faithful, entered the cathedral church and offered a prayer of thanksgiving to God for the restoration of the veneration of icons. The blood shed by the holy martyrs for their faith was victorious; the torments of the Church were triumphant. Truly "this is the victory that overcomes the world, our faith," in the words of the holy Apostle John. The holy Church ordained that this solemnity should be observed each year always on this day in gratitude to the Lord God for His saving grace and strength in the time of crisis and for the edification of the faithful.
Yet it is sad and distressing to both hear and observe the terrible blindness regarding the holy icons on the part of sectarians who were once Orthodox. Some, on the pretext of identification with idols, denounce the holy icons; others with boastful pride in their hearts critically condemn the obsolete custom of venerating the holy icons. Respect for the holy icons, which is their due according to the highest principle, has unfortunately been lost among contemporary modern demands. Rarely do we find holy icons in the house as a sacred ornament. Rarely do they generate those worshipful sentiments, which should arise in us on seeing them. The icon in a Christian house is often not seen, having been conspicuously replaced by sensual artwork or colorful photos. And this is all because the holy faith has been weakened, and former religious convictions have been shaken.
This is really not the way it should be!
Every Christian believes and confesses that there is one God glorified in the Trinity, and that no glory or worship may be given to any other God or idol.
For this reason sectarians reproach the Orthodox unjustly for their
Worship of the one true God through sacred images. If a person consisted of spirit alone, if one had no body, then during worship services there would be no need for visual representations of unseen things. But since we are clothed in flesh, it is natural to require visual objects to influence our souls through our bodies and stimulate a prayerful attitude. Bowing before visual sacred images, the soul of the Orthodox Christian is elevated in spirit to its prototype. For, after all, icons are only a representation of the true God in the form in which He revealed Himself to mankind. And who of the mindful children of the Church does not experience the strength of grace from the holy icons as a visual representation of the Lord, the Mother of God and His Saints? Standing before a holy icon, we are spontaneously lifted in spirit to that very personage depicted as a living person, we are inevitably reminded of his virtues and life of piety, of the grace of God which worked and works in him still. Standing before a holy icon we are transported in spirit to another, higher world, where all is pure and holy. We reject this vain and sinful world, and are elevated in mind and spirit. Our heart is filled with joyful thanksgiving to the
Lord. We stand in front of the holy icon and feel that our joy is made stronger through communion with the depicted saint as a living intercessor for us before the throne of grace. If we experience sadness in our lives, we stand before the holy image and feel spontaneous relief in our hearts, because before our eyes our heavenly comforter actually stands in front of us, praying to God, always ready to help us in the fullness of love of his pure and holy spirit. And how many and varied lessons may be learned from the holy icons! What was it that converted the heart of Saint Vladimir, the equal of the Apostles, to the truth of Christ, when he was uncertain and wavered in choosing a faith? It was the depiction of the last judgment of God, unrolled before his eyes by a missionary philosopher, that convinced him to accept Christianity. This image resolved his uncertainty and indecision. It made him a follower of Christ. It made us Christians through him, and Orthodox as well.
An officer who returned not long ago from Siberia was showing a small icon of Saint Nicholas which he wore on his chest. It was a blessing from his mother, who had sent him off to war in 1914, and he had never taken it off. The little icon was slightly dented on one side, where it had been hit by a German bullet intended for his heart. The bullet did no harm to the soldier, and in his words Saint Nicholas through his little icon invisibly protected him during many dangerous battles. We can truly say, "Thy faith has saved thee!"
When we enter a church decorated with icons, we feel that we are in another world. We are spontaneously carried off in spirit to the community of the Saints whose visages are turned to us. We forget all the misfortune that assails us, and we lift up our hearts, soaring to the heavens in spirit. What can compare with this edification of the holy temple? "Standing in the temple of Thy glory, we think ourselves in heaven."
Bless yourselves with the sign of the Cross, O holy people! Kiss the icon of the Savior reverently and cry out from the depths of your heart along with your mother, the Church, "We venerate Thy most pure image, O Good One, and we ask forgiveness of our transgressions, O Christ our God." Amen.
Priest Vladimir Sakovich + September 13, 1931
From Orthodox Life, vol. 27, Mar-April 1977, pp. 18,19
The Greek word "anathema" consists of two words: "ana", which is a preposition indicating movement upwards and "thema", which means a separate part of something. In military terminology, "thema" meant a detachment; in civil government "thema" meant a province. We currently use the word "theme", derived from "thema", to mean a specific topic of a written and intellectual work.
"Anathema" literally means the lifting up of something separate. In the Old Testament this expression was used both in relation to that which was alienated due to sinfulness and likewise to that which was dedicated to God.
In the New Testament, in the writing of the Apostle Paul it is used once in conjunction with "maranatha", meaning the coming of the Lord. The combination of these words means separation until the coming of the Lord; in other words - being handed over to Him (1 Cor 16:22).
The Apostle Paul uses "anathema" in another place without the addition of "maranatha" (Gal 1:8-9). Here "anathema" is proclaimed against the distortion of the Gospel of Christ as it was preached by the Apostle, no matter by whom this might be committed, whether by the Apostle himself or an angel from the heavens. In this same expression there is also implied: "let the Lord Himself pass judgement", for who else can pass judgement on the angels?
St John the Theologian in Revelation (22:3) says that in the New Jerusalem there will not be any anathema; this can be understood in two ways, giving the word anathema both meanings: 1) there will not be any lifting up to the judgement of God, for this judgement has already been accomplished; 2) there will not be any special dedication to God, for all things will be the Holy things of God, just as the light of God enlightens all (Rev 21:23).
In the acts of the Councils and the further course of the New Testament Church of Christ, the word "anathema" came to mean complete separation from the Church. "The Catholic and Apostolic Church anathematizes", "let him be anathema", "let it be anathema", means a complete tearing away from the church. While in cases of "separation from the communion of the Church" and other epitimia or penances laid on a person, the person remained a member of the Church, even though his participation in her grace filled life was limited, those given over to anathema were thus completely torn away from her until their repentance. Realizing that she is unable to do anything for their salvation, in view of their stubbornness and hardness of heart, the earthly church lifts them up to the judgement of God. That judgment is merciful unto repentant sinners, but fearsome for the stubborn enemies of God. "It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God ... for our God is a consuming fire" (Heb 10:31; 12:29).
Anathema is not final damnation: until death repentance is possible. "Anathema" is fearsome not because the Church wishes anyone evil or God seeks their damnation. They desire that all be saved. But it is fearsome to stand before the presence of God in the state of hardened evil: nothing is hidden from Him.
Translated from the Russian text published in Pravoslavnaya Rus, #4, 1974.
Rarely does the Rite of Orthodoxy, which is now being performed, take place without censures and reproaches on somebody's part. And no matter how many sermons are given explaining that the Church here acts wisely for the salvation of her children -- still the malcontents just keep repeating their line. Either they do not listen to the sermons, or these sermons do not strike home as regards the latter's perplexities, or perhaps they have formed their own conception of this rite and do not want to abandon it, no matter what you tell them.
To some people our anathemas seem inhumane, to others constricting. Such charges might be valid in other situations, but there is no way they can apply to our Rite of Orthodoxy. I will clarify for you briefly why the Church acts thus, and I think you yourselves will agree with me that in so doing, the Church acts wisely.
What is the holy Church? It is a society of believers, united among themselves by a unity of confession of divinely revealed truths, by a unity of sanctification by divinely established Mysteries, and by a unity of government and guidance by God-given shepherds. The oneness of confession, sanctification, and administration constitutes the rule of this society, which is obligatory for anyone who joins it. Membership in this society is contingent upon accepting this rule and agreeing with it; remaining in this society is contingent upon fulfilling it. Let us see how the holy Church grew and how it continues to grow. The preachers preach. Some of the listeners do not accept the preaching and leave; others accept it and as a result of accepting it are sanctified by the holy Mysteries, follow the guidance of the shepherds, and thus are incorporated into the holy Church -- they are churched. That is how all the Church's members enter her. In entering her, they are mingled with all her members, they are united with them, and they remain in the Church only as long as they continue to be one with them all.
From this simple indication regarding how the Church is formed, you can see that as a society, the holy Church came to be and continues to exist just like any other society. And so regard it as you would any other, and do not deprive it of the rights belonging to any society. Let us take, for example, a temperance society. It has rules which every member must fulfill. And each of its members is a member precisely because he accepts and abides by its rules. Now suppose that some member not only refuses to abide by the rules but also holds many views completely opposed to those of the society and even rises up against its very goal. He not only does not himself observe temperance but even reviles temperance itself and disseminates notions which might tempt others and deflect them from temperance. What does the society ordinarily do with such people? First it admonishes them, and then it expels them. There you have an anathema! No one protests this, no one reproaches the society for being inhuman. Everyone acknowledges that the society is acting in a perfectly legitimate manner and that if it were to act otherwise, it could not exist.
So what is there to reproach the holy Church for when she acts likewise? After all, an anathema is precisely separation from the Church, or the exclusion from her midst of those who do not fulfill the conditions of unity with her and begin to think differently from the way she does, differently from the way they themselves promised to think upon joining her. Recollect how it happened! Arius appeared, who held impious opinions concerning Christ the Savior, so that with these notions he distorted the very act of our salvation. What was done with him? First he was admonished, and admonished many times by every persuasive and touching means possible. But since he stubbornly insisted upon his opinion, he was condemned and excommunicated from the Church -- that is, he is expelled from our society. Beware, have no communion with him and those like him. Do not yourselves hold such opinions, and do not listen to or receive those who do. Thus did the holy Church do with Arius; thus has she done with all other heretics; and thus will she do now, too, if someone appears somewhere with impious opinions. So tell me, what is blameworthy here? What else could the holy Church do? And could she continue to exist if she did not employ such strictness and warn her children with such solicitude about those who might corrupt and destroy them?
Let us see -- what false teachings and what false teachers are excommunicated? Those who deny the existence of God, the immortality of the soul, divine providence; those who do not confess the all-holy Trinity, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, the One God; those who do not acknowledge the divinity of our Lord Jesus Christ and our redemption by His death on the Cross; those who reject the grace of the Holy Spirit and the divine Mysteries which bestow it, and so forth. Do you see what manner of issues they touch upon? These are issues which are the very reason the holy Church is the Church, principles upon which she is founded and without which she could not be that which she is. Therefore those who rise up against such truths are to the Church what those who make attempts against our lives and our property are to us in our daily life. Robbers and thieves, after all, are nowhere permitted to carry on freely and go unpunished! And when they are bound and handed over to the law and to punishment, no one considers this to be inhumane or a violation of freedom. On the contrary, people see in this very thing both an act of love for man and a safeguard for freedom -- with regard to all the members of society. If you judge thus here, judge thus also concerning the society of the Church. These false teachers, just like thieves and robbers, plunder the property of the holy Church and of God, corrupting her children and destroying them. Does the holy Church really err in judging them, binding them, and casting them out? And would it really be love for man if she regarded the actions of such people with indifference and left them at liberty to destroy everyone else? Would a mother permit a snake to freely crawl up to and bite her little child, who does not understand the danger? If some immoral person were to gain access to your family and begin tempting your daughter, or your son -- would you be able to regard their actions and their speeches with indifference? Fearing to gain a reputation for being inhumane and old-fashioned, would you tie your own hands? Would you not push such a person out the door and close it against them forever?! You should view the actions of the holy Church in the same way. She sees that individuals of corrupt mind appear, and corrupt others -- and she rises up against them, drives them away, and calls out to all those who are her own: Beware -- so-and-so and such-and-such people wish to destroy your souls. Do not listen to them; flee from them. Thus she fulfills the duty of motherly love, and therefore acts lovingly -- or as you put it, humanely.
At the present time, we have a proliferation of nihilists, spiritists and other pernicious clever ones who are carried away with the false teachers of the West. Do you really think that our holy Church would keep silence and not raise her voice to condemn and anathematize them, if their destructive teachings were something new? By no means. A council would be held, and in council all of them with their teachings would be given over to anathema, and to the current Rite of Orthodoxy there would be appended an additional item: To Feyerbach, Buchner, and Renan, to the spiritists, and to all their followers -- to the nihilists - - be anathema. But there is no need for such a council, and there is no need either for such an addition. Their false teachings have already all been anathematized in advance in those points where anathema is pronounced to those who deny the existence of God, the spirituality and immortality of the soul, the teachings concerning the all-holy Trinity and concerning the divinity of our Lord Jesus Christ. Do you not see with what wisdom and foresight the holy Church acts when she makes us perform the present proclamation and listen to it? And yet they say, "This is outdated." It is precisely now that it is relevant. Perhaps 100 years ago it was not relevant. But one must say concerning our time, that if a Rite of Orthodoxy did not as yet exist, it would be needful to introduce one, and to perform it not only in the capital cities but in all places and in all churches: in order to collect all the evil teachings opposed to the Word of God, and to make them known to all, in order that all might know what they need to beware of and what kind of teachings to avoid. Many are corrupted in mind solely due to ignorance, whereas a public condemnation of ruinous teachings would save them from perdition.
Thus, the Church excommunicates, expels from her midst (when it is
said, "Anathema to so-and-so", that means the same thing as, "So-and-so:
out of here"), or anathematizes for the same reason that any society does
so. And she is obliged to do this in self-preservation and to preserve
her children from destruction. Therefore there is nothing blameworthy or
incomprehensible about this present Rite. If anyone fears the act of anathema,
let him avoid the teachings which cause one to fall under it. If anyone
fears it for others, let him restore him to sound teaching. If you are
Orthodox and yet you are not well disposed toward this act, then you are
found to be contradicting yourself. But if you have already abandoned sound
doctrine, then what business is it of yours what is done in the Church
by those who maintain it? By the very fact that you have conceived a different
view of things than that which is maintained in the Church, you have already
separated yourself from the Church. It is not inscription in the baptismal
records which makes one a member of the Church, but the spirit and content
of one's opinions. Whether your teaching and your name are pronounced as
being under anathema or not, you already fall under it when your opinions
are opposed to those of the Church, and when you persist in them. Fearful
is the anathema. Leave off your evil opinions. Amen.
"Let not the Symbol of Faith be set aside…but let it remain unchanged: and let every heresy be given over to anathema…"
"Let no one be permitted to bring forward, or write or compose a different faith besides that defined by the holy Fathers who assembled with the Holy Spirit in the city of Nicaea. And whoever dares to compose a different faith, or present, or offer [one] to those wishing to turn to the knowledge of the truth…let such, if they be bishops or belong to the clergy, be alien bishops from the
episcopate, and clerics from the clergy--and if they be laymen, let them be given over to anathema."
Pronouncement of the Council of Bishops of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia, 1983, signed by all the Bishops, to be permanently added at the end of the Anathemas listed in the "Rite of Orthodoxy," celebrated on the First Sunday of the Great Fast, the Sunday of Orthodoxy:
To those who attack the Church of Christ by teaching that Christ's Church is divided into so-called "branches" which differ in doctrine and way of life, or that the Church does not exist visibly, but will be formed in the future when all "branches" or sects or denominations, and even religions will be united into one body; and who do not distinguish the Priesthood and Mysteries of the Church from those of the heretics, but say that the baptism and eucharist of heretics is effectual for salvation; therefore, to those who knowingly have communion with these aforementioned heretics or who advocate, disseminate, or defend their heresy of ecumenism under the pretext of brotherly love or the supposed unification of separated Christians, Anathema!
"Redeeming the Time" is an almost weekly Journal of St. Nicholas Orthodox Church, Dallas Texas. Distribute this text if you wish, but only if attribution and all contact information are included. I would appreciate being contacted if any large-scale use of this text is desired. All unsigned or unattributed portions © 1998 Fr Seraphim Holland. All rights reserved
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