Metropolitan Ephraim has purportedly released a new letter (dated for tomorrow) which not only accuses the clergy who left, but implies that HOCNA will be distancing itself rapidly from departing clergy while leaving the question of applying strictness to individual priests. Alongside this letter, a letter from Fr Mark Beesley confirms that defending name-worshipping will be the new direction for HOCNA, per two letters being publicly distributed through their email channels.
Claiming that the GOC-K “almost universally gives Communion to New Calendarists and Ecumenists”, the author of the letter asks, “Are these faithful indifferent about these matters? Then why should we impart the Holy Mysteries to them? Are we not thereby rewarding their indifference? Or being indifferent ourselves?”
Apparently Metropolitan Ephraim has already forgotten that HOCNA swept Archbishop Auxentios under the rug and recognized the leadership of the GOC-Kallinikos in 2010, causing two of their Bishops to leave the subsequent year over canonical impropriety in HOCNA. The flurry of letters of the last month and a half notwithstanding, it is safe to say the good Metropolitan’s credibility is somewhat compromised when it comes to judging the GOC-K as a group of random heretics.
A letter from Fr Mark Beesley to a woman named “Anastasia” is actually worse. Our astute listeners will remember this author and Hieromonk Enoch analyzing HOCNA encyclicals this past month on NFTU Radio and noting the authors in fact were trying to set up a “straw-man” name-worshipping heresy to hide the fact that they are name-worshippers. Therefore we can only express total shock to read the following (emphasis ours):
“So, we come, now, to what I wrote to you in my last email. By the definition of the 1913 “synod”, a Name-worshiper is someone who deifies the letters and sounds of God’s name; believes that God’s Name is His Essence; and that the name is a separate deity. The Athonite monks did not believe this. These heretical ideas were attributed to them by the synod of 1913. When investigations were actually done and the monks allowed to speak for themselves, they were found to the fully Orthodox. A final decision of the subject of Name-worship was expected at a pan-Russian synod which never occurred due to the revolution. So, we can all condemn Name worshipers, because they do not exist (as I said, there may be someone, somewhere, but who knows?). St Philaret can condemn them as have our holy Hierarchs.”
That Fr Mark has now used the straw man HOCNA created to deny name-worshippers exist is, to say the least, perplexing.
The texts of the letters are below.
Letter of Metropolitan Ephraim:
HOLY ORTHODOX METROPOLIS OF BOSTON
86 Country Club Road, Dedham MA 02026-5607
Phone: 781 329-6500; Fax: 781 329-6800
25 October /12, 2012
St. Symeon the New Theologian
My beloved Orthodox Christians,
Education is the key to success if one is seeking a profitable life. The same is true also in the spiritual life. How can one lead a profitable life if one has not availed himself of the necessary information; if one has not read, or heard, or learned what all the relevant sources have to teach him?
Yet, many of us can testify that we have observed people making important decisions based on faulty information, disinformation, outright misinformation, or even hearsay and rumors.
For example, in the recent tempest that troubled our Church, individuals were heard making dogmatic statements with the tone and authority of an Ecumenical Council, even though their knowledge of the subject matter was virtually non-existent. Teachings that have been condemned and anathematized by ancient Church Councils were paraded about as authentic Orthodox Christian doctrines.
As a consequence, many simple souls were led astray, and even those who could have – but who had not – studied matters more seriously became confused. By way of example, we saw people quoting and citing modern-day writers as if they were of equal authority with the ancient Church Fathers or Church Councils. As if the opinion of one man could overturn the consensus of the Holy Fathers and the Tradition of the Church! One wonders: as far as these people are concerned, what has happened to the teaching of the Fourth Ecumenical Council: “We follow in the footsteps of the Holy Fathers”?
At our recent Clergy Synaxis we discussed this sorry state of affairs that has arisen among us. Specifically, the clergy were concerned that papers were issued over the internet denouncing us for heresy, when, in fact, it was our opponents who had fallen under the condemnations and anathemas of ancient Church Councils. Furthermore, when we cited many time-honored Saints and Fathers to demonstrate our fidelity to the Orthodox Christian faith, they, on their part, quoted modern sources, or gave us their private opinions. For example, as much as we love and respect Metropolitan Anthony Khrapovitsky, he certainly does not by any means attain to the stature of our Father among the Saints, Gregory Palamas, the Archbishop of Thessalonica. Who could insist on such a thing? Especially, when Metropolitan Anthony misquotes St. Gregory Palamas! Certainly, such a human error is understandable, but to insist that such an error be endorsed and perpetuated is not acceptable or permissible. Yet, this is precisely what your hierarchs were asked to do. On our part, we will persist in following what the Saints teach us, and not what the philosophies or the musings of men have to say. We are not interested in personal opinions, but in the guidance and wisdom of the Saints.
Nonetheless, a problem has arisen. How should we deal with the faithful who are yet confused and ask us about receiving Communion in parishes that have left us; or, with people who belong to parishes that have left us, but who still want to received Holy Communion in our churches?
For those who clearly understand the issues, the matter is resolved. Our opponents are calling us heretics, whereas it is they that are the ones who have fallen under the anathemas of the Synodicon of Orthodoxy, so obviously, there can be no “inter-communion.” But what of those faithful who do not understand yet?
Do they understand, at least, that the ones who left us now have a hierarchy that almost universally gives Communion to New Calendarists and Ecumenists? Are these faithful indifferent about these matters? Then why should we impart the Holy Mysteries to them? Are we not thereby rewarding their indifference? Or being indifferent ourselves?
But there are also those who are genuinely ignorant about these issues because of their simplicity.
This is why our bishops have decided presently to leave this matter to the discretion of our local clergy. They, and they alone, understand the strengths and weaknesses of their parish faithful. If our clergy know that they have a “grace-period” to resolve this issue with their faithful, then they know that they will have some time to appropriately educate and inform each of their people. This approach will give our clergy the needed pastoral flexibility, because some clergy will need virtually no time to do this, whereas others may require more time to instruct their people.
In this matter, no one must judge our clergy about how quickly or slowly they proceed. Each parish, like each individual, is unique. As St. Paul, the Apostle of the Nations, asks, “Who art thou that judgest another man’s servant?”
This is clearly an instance where the “two-hands” – strictness and economia – will be needed by the spiritual physician.
With these thoughts, my beloved, let us go forward with caution and discretion, that we all may attain to the Heavenly Kingdom, in Christ Jesus our Lord, to Whom be glory, honor and dominion, now and ever, and unto the ages of ages. Amen.
+ Ephraim, metropolitan
Letter of Fr Mark Beesley
I appreciate your response and for giving me an opportunity to explain my understandings further. Forgive me, it is a long email. 🙂
In my first letter to you, I hoped to illustrate that there is an abundance of passages from the Scriptures and the Fathers that talk about the glory and power of the Name of God. It is interesting to me that so many ignore this and, instead, zero-in on the decisions of a local “synod” in Russia. Why?
Why do they ignore the Holy Scriptures which speak of God’s Name? Why do they ignore the many instances in the Liturgy and services of the Church which encourage us to glorify God’s Name? Why is the Russian “synod” of 1913 so important?
St Anthony Khrapovitsky said of these Russian “synods” in 1912:
Our Church [in Russia] is governed by a layman, or, to say it officially, by a collegial institution never seen by the Church of Christ before… The [Russian] Church is deprived of its lawful head and is given over for enslavement to lay officials, which hide behind an assembly of six or seven hierarchs who are changed every half a year, and two presbyters. Who is not aware that such an institution is uncanonical? That it was not approved at its very inception by two Patriarchs; and even if it had been approved by all four, this would only show the unlawful deed of the Patriarchs and not the canonicity of [Russian] synodal rule, because no Patriarch can establish and authorize an institution which is unknown to Holy Orthodoxy and which was invented only to bring weakness and decay…” (Metropolitan Anthony Khrapovitsky, Voice of the Church, Jan 1912).
This is what the Metropolitan said about the synods before the one in 1913. The decisions of the 1913 synod condemning Name-worship was reversed several times in the ensuing years. The synod itself back-peddled its own decision soon after by only requiring the “heretics” to venerate the Cross and Holy Gospel rather than renounce their “error.”
The Moscow Synodal Office made a detailed investigation of the Name-worship matter and in May 1914 issued the following:
They (the Athonite monastics) explain, that “by calling the Name of God and the Name of Jesus—God and God Himself, they do not venerate the Name of God as His Essence, nor do they venerate the Name of God separately from God Himself, as some kind of different deity, nor do they deify the very letters and sounds or accidental thoughts about God.” This statement concerning the Name of God was included in his “Confession of Faith in God and in the Name of God” on behalf of himself and of hieromonk Barachias and monk Mannasses, by hieromonk Anthony (Bulatovich)… There is enough information to conclude that, there is no reason for them (the monastics) to be severed from the Orthodox Church because of the teaching concerning the Names of God.
The Moscow Synodal Office resolved to “stop the ecclesiastical trial against them.” (By the way, this document was signed by Bishop Anastasy of Serpukhov, the future Metropolitan of ROCOR). Patriarch Tikhon agreed. This is from a letter written by Bishop Juvenally of Tula and Odoeve to St Patriarch Tikhon:
From my numerous talks with them [i.e. leaders of the Athonite fathers living in exile in Moscow: Abbot David of St. Andrews Skete, monks Irinie, Peter and Mannasses of St. Panteleimons monastery] and having been acquainted with them for over five months, I was fully convinced in their Orthodoxy, and I have not noticed anything heretical in their reasonings. With your blessing, I even sent monk Irinie to Your Eminence [i.e. to Patriarch Tikhon] for a personal interview, and as you told me, neither did Your Eminence find anything heretical in them. (Hegumen Androik (Trubachev), The Athonite Debate over the Name of God and its Consequent Fate, Pravoslavnaya Beseda, #4 (2000) 39).
After this, St Patriarch Tikhon even concelebrated Liturgy with them on numerous occasions.
It is clear that the synod of 1913 falsely accused Anthony Bulatovic and the Athonite monks of heresy (cf. The Address of the Confessors of the Name of God, 1918). Why? The situation on Mt Athos prior to this is very telling. While there were some theological discussions concerning the Name of God on Mt Athos, much of the quarrelling, however, was due to personal grudges (cf. Dikstra, Heresy on Mt Athos, 1988, p. 22). There were also ethnic rivalries. The Russians outnumbered the Greeks on Mt Athos but in their system of governance, each manastery received a single vote. This meant that while the large group of Russian monks had one vote (because they ruled one monastery), while the Greeks had many votes, even though their monasteries had far fewer monks in them (Again, cf. Dikstra, Heresy on Mt Athos, 1988, p. 50ff). Diplomatic complaints were issued by the Greeks leading to the expulsion of the Russian monks under the accusation of “heresy.”
Be that as it may.
So, we come, now, to what I wrote to you in my last email. By the definition of the 1913 “synod”, a Name-worshiper is someone who deifies the letters and sounds of God’s name; believes that God’s Name is His Essence; and that the name is a separate deity. The Athonite monks did not believe this. These heretical ideas were attributed to them by the synod of 1913. When investigations were actually done and the monks allowed to speak for themselves, they were found to the fully Orthodox. A final decision of the subject of Name-worship was expected at a pan-Russian synod which never occurred due to the revolution.
So, we can all condemn Name worshipers, because they do not exist (as I said, there may be someone, somewhere, but who knows?). St Philaret can condemn them as have our holy Hierarchs.
If the issue is just condemning Name worship, fine. We have done that. The difficulty arises for our Bishops when it is arrogantly demanded of them that they sign “unconditionally” a document agreeing with the synod of 1913. Yes, that so-called synod condemned Name-worshipers, but it also made erroneous theological statements of its own. I think our Bishops are very wise to NOT sign ANYTHING unconditionally! I wouldn’t. Would you? The reasoning of our Bishops has been clearly set forth in their statement of 27 Sep/10 Oct 2012.
For myself, I find the Paschal plea (1914) of Tsar Nicholas II most valuable:
On this Feast of Feasts, when the hearts of the faithful strive with love to God and to neighbor, my soul is grieved about the Athonite monastics, who have been deprived of the joy of communing the Holy Mysteries and of the consolation of attending the Church [services]. Let us forget the quarrel: it is not for us to judge about the Greatest of Holies—the Name of God, and by doing so incur the wrath of the Lord on the Motherland; the trial must be cancelled, all monastics must be settled in different monasteries, they must receive back their monastic habit and they should be allowed to celebrate.
Anastasia, the Name of God is a holy mystery. We cannot understand it. It is a Divine Energy which is a revelation of God (Like Grace). To say that the God’s Energies are not divine is to fall under the anathemas of the Synodicon of Orthodoxy and it runs contrary to Holy Tradition.
Shall we not humble ourselves before God and let His Name be holy (the Our Father)?
Forgive me, if my inept explanation falls short.
With deepest love in our Savior,
Your very unworthy servant,