Encyclical of Bishop Auxentios on Great Lent 2015

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Encyclical of Bishop Auxentios on Great Lent 2015

March 10, 2015  (Source: http://www.hotca.org)

 

7 February 2015 (Old Style)

St. Parthenios of Lampsakos

 

 

To the Clergy and Faithful of the

Diocese of Etna and Portland

 

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ:

Eὐλογεῖτε and Eὐλογία Κυρίου. Asking for your blessings and prayers, I offer my humble blessing to all of you at this important time, when we anticipate the formal beginning of the Great Fast and begin the road towards the Feast of Feasts, the Passover of our Lord, Pascha.

I would like to make some brief remarks about the Great Fast (or Great Lent), asking that you accept them, until my enthronement as your Bishop on the Sunday of the Myrrh-Bearing Women, as the personal remarks of your future servant. As you all know, on Clean Monday (Καθαρὰ Δευτέρα), the first day of fasting for Great Lent, we abstain from all food; i.e., this day is one of total abstinence. I would urge all who can do so to observe this custom, since, while difficult, it serves to teach us about the sway that our desires have over us. Some Christians maintain a fast through Wednesday, as do most monastic communities (and some even longer!). Κeep these individuals in mind, since they will serve to temper the natural reaction that the body and our fallen passions have against deprivation for the sake of developing our spiritual sensitivities. For those who are ill and cannot fast an entire day, restrict your eating as much as possible, concentrating on prayer and inner reflection

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  • Diakrisis Dogmaton

    Not Iconolatry: Relative Worship is Not Absolute Worship

    Some of us were shocked to read, on the new Etna-Portland diocese’s website, the message of the retired Metropolitan Chrysostomos of Etna, California, concerning the restoration of the veneration of icons in the Byzantine Empire under Saint Theodora the Empress (✠867) (http://dep.church/news.html, under February 25, 2015, “Α Νote to Our Greek-Speaking Clergy and Faithful from the Most Reverend Chrysostomos, Former Metropolitan of Etna” and the full text at http://dep.church/downloads/St.Theodora.pdf). In his message, Metropolitan Chrysostomos of Etna refers to the “ἀποκατάστασιν τῆς Εἰκονολατρείας” — which can be translated literally as the “restoration of Iconolatry.”

    That is not what happened on the first Sunday of Orthodoxy. Eikonolatreía/Iconolatry is not Orthodox.

    It is a dogma of the Orthodox Church that we do not practice iconolatry, which is the giving of latry (Greek: latreía, λατρεία, meaning “absolute divine adoration/worship/service”) to the holy icons. The Septuagint Old Testament, the New Testament, the Seventh Ecumenical Council, and the Synodicon of Orthodoxy all teach us that latreía refers to the absolute divine adoration/worship/service that can be given only to God Himself — not to the saints, and not to the holy icons. According to Orthodox dogma, we give “relative worship” (katà schésin proskýnēsis) to the saints and holy icons, but “absolute [divine] worship/adoration/service” (latreía) only to God. As the Scriptures teach in several places, “You shall worship [proskynḗseis] the Lord your God; and you shall adore [latreúseis] Him alone.” As the Seventh Ecumenical Council teaches, proskýnēsis is a more general term that refers to the bowing down, homage, veneration, or worship that is given to God, as well as the saints and holy icons; but latreía is a very specific term that refers to the absolute divine worship/adoration/service that we give “only” to God. According to the council, we give veneration, “honor” (timḗ), or (relative) “worship” to the saints and holy icons, but we do “not” render them “the true latreía [absolute worship/adoration/service] according to our faith that pertains only to the divine nature” (οὐ μὴν τὴν κατὰ πίστιν ἡμῶν ἀληθινὴν λατρείαν, ἣ πρέπει μόνῃ τῇ θείᾳ φύσει). The council teaches that we give latreía only to the Creator, not to any created saint or created icon. Thus the council forbids iconolatry.

    It is unfortunate that Metropolitan Chrysostomos and the new website of the Diocese of Etna and Portland departed from the language of Orthodox dogma on the veneration (relative worship) that is due to the holy icons as distinct from the latreía (absolute worship) that is due to the Creator alone. The lesson here is that we always need to return to the precise language of conciliar dogma, the Holy Scriptures, and the consensus of the Holy Fathers — and not invent our own, contradictory terminology.

    The Scriptures, councils, saints, and liturgical prayer books of the Orthodox Church have much to say about the “glorification” or “relative worship” that we give to the saints and holy icons, as distinct from the “absolute worship” (latreía) that we give to God alone and to all the fullness of God (the essence and essential energy of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit). It is important to study these sources of Orthodox revelation and dogma more deeply, but it is absolutely essential at all times to understand the difference between the “absolute worship” given to the Creator alone and the “relative worship” given to created persons and created things that are especially holy. It is this dogmatic distinction — as part of the entire Orthodox faith — that we commemorate on the Sunday of the Triumph of Orthodoxy, when we proclaim the veneration (not latreía) of the holy icons.