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Who are the real Athonites?


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#1 Ephrem C.

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Posted 20 November 2010 - 11:41 PM

I recently read, for the first time, A Letter of Resistance, written by Elder Sabbas of Mount Athos in 1991. Elder Sabbas was a zealot monk who did not commemorate the Patriarch since 1987. He wrote the letter to a commemorator monk (and through him, to all of the commemorators) explaining why h ceased commemoration.

The Letter, I feel, makes a strong case for the zealot monks. Many people are not aware that there are still quite a number of zealot monks living on Athos, who refuse to commemorate the Ecumenical Patriarch. Esphigmenou, one of Athos's twenty historical monasteries, still does not commemorate the EP.

The EP has a history of forcefully evicting non-commemorator monks Athos. Thus, the ROCOR monks of the Skete of the Prophet Elias, who refused to commemorate, were forcefully evicted. Also, in 1971, Abbot Andreas and Abbot Eudokimos, of St. Paul and Xenphontos Monasteries, respectively, were exiled by the Patriarch for refusing to commemorate him. Thus, the Greek Navy blockaded Esphigmenou's port and set marine regiments around the monastery three years later. There are still many hermit Fathers, as well, who refuse to commemorate the Patriarch.

My point in bringing this into this forum is that the two groups, "commemorators" and "non-commemorators", are mutually exclusive. One group belongs on Athos and the other does not. In light of this letter (which, I admit, is rather old, though, I think, still quite relevant), it seems that perhaps the commemorators are quite possibly in the wrong.

In the letter, Fr. Sabbas addresses many common criticisms of the zealot Fathers. He says, for instance, "you bring forward the words of Saint John Chrysostom, 'Not even the blood of martyrdom blots out schism,' and of Saint Ignatius the God-bearer, 'Let nothing be enacted without the bishop.' You conclude that when we separate ourselves from our bishop, we are outside the Church."

This is mostly what I've heard to defend the commemorators. It is usually said that non-commemoration is schism. Yet, Fr. Sabbas's response is quite powerful, I think.

He says, "the Saints made these true pronouncements, however, in a time of Orthodoxy and Church serenity. Today, when the hurricane of the Ecumenist pan-heresy sweeps away even the elect, the words of the same Saints have force. 'If your bishop be heretical, flee, flee, flee as from fire and a serpent' (Saint John Chrysostom). 'If thy bishop should teach any thing outside of the appointed order, even if he lives in chastity, or if he work signs, or if he prophecy, let him be unto thee as a wolf in sheep's clothing, for he works the destruction of souls' (Saint Ignatius).

"If Demetrios rightly divided the word of truth, you would have been justified in your use of those quotations you took from the two Saints; but now you edit the Fathers' writings to your taste, in order to justify your guilt for being a fellow-traveler of Demetrios, Parthenios of Alexandria, Iakovos of America, Stylianos Harkianakis of Australia. Are all the many quotations from the holy Councils and Saints not enough for you? Or do you fear, perhaps, being cast out of the synagogue of the heretics?"

Later, the elder continues, saying, "History repeats itself. Saint Theodore the Studite, Saint Maximus the Confessor, and many of the other Christians who did not follow the hierarchy which at sundry times preached heresy, were all called schismatics by that hierarchy. Although Saint Gerasimus of the Jordan was served by a lion and was a wonderworker, he was in error because he would not accept the Fourth Ecumenical Council, drawing along with him thousands of monks in Palestine, until he was corrected by Saint Euthymius the Great and repented."

I put this before all of you because I think this is an important question. If the monks are the preservers of Orthodoxy, then it is important for us to ask: who are the real monks? Who are the real Athonites?

We must examine this question closely, with dispassion, and according to the word of the Fathers of the Church. We must discern who are the real monks, and we must take our place beside them, as confessors against untruth.


*the whole of that letter can be read here:http://euphrosynosca....php?f=2&t=9130.

#2 Herman Blaydoe

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Posted 21 November 2010 - 03:43 AM

The problem is the so-called "heresies" that are declaimed are not really happening. The "charges" against the EP are based on distortions of what actually happened.

There is no divine privilege for monastics to a specific place. Athos is under the omophore of the EP. If they cannot in good conscience commemorate the EP, if Athos is no longer "Orthodox", then they really should go elsewhere.

But then most of us here are in communion with or directly under the authority of the EP and if he is no longer Orthodox then we must not be either.

The Holy Spirit guides THE CHURCH, not just the monks, in Spirit and in Truth. Like it or not, Orthodoxy is bigger than a few monastics on Mt. Athos, even if they think they are the only "real" Orthodox left. But I have a problem when their position is defended with distortion, innuendo, and even untruth. These are not fruits of the Spirit.

Herman

#3 Ephrem C.

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Posted 21 November 2010 - 04:17 AM

The problem is the so-called "heresies" that are declaimed are not really happening. The "charges" against the EP are based on distortions of what actually happened.

The charges of the zealot monks against World Orthodoxy are 1) the calendar change, 2) the "lifting" of the anathemas between Constantinople and Rome, 3) membership of the Patriarchates in the World Council of Churches, 4) several documents signed by the Patriarchates or their representatives (Balamand, for example), as well as 5) a myriad of anti-Orthodox statements made by Patriarchs and bishops. These are all things that have, in fact, happened.

There is no divine privilege for monastics to a specific place. Athos is under the omophore of the EP. If they cannot in good conscience commemorate the EP, if Athos is no longer "Orthodox", then they really should go elsewhere.

Yes, but I'm sure we both agree that Athos belongs to the Orthodox, and to nobody else. Were the EP ever to be not Orthodox, it would not have jurisdiction there.

The Holy Spirit guides THE CHURCH, not just the monks, in Spirit and in Truth. Like it or not, Orthodoxy is bigger than a few monastics on Mt. Athos, even if they think they are the only "real" Orthodox left. But I have a problem when their position is defended with distortion, innuendo, and even untruth. These are not fruits of the Spirit.

I agree that the Holy Spirit guides all of the faithful, not just monastics. However, that does not mean that all people who externally belong to the organization we call "the Church" are going to confess the Truth. "They who are of the Church, are of the truth; and they who are not of the truth, are not of the Church of Christ." (St. Gregory Palamas)

#4 Archimandrite Irenei

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Posted 21 November 2010 - 04:28 AM

"World Orthodoxy" is a sad, fairly blasphemous phrase. Its usage is a good sign of an argument broken away from Orthodox ecclesiology.

#5 Paul Cowan

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Posted 21 November 2010 - 04:28 AM

What is Truth?
Pilot; circa 0 A.D.

#6 Father David Moser

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Posted 21 November 2010 - 04:38 AM

What is Truth?
Pilot; circa 0 A.D.


Actually closer to 33 A.D.

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#7 Herman Blaydoe

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Posted 21 November 2010 - 10:28 AM

Worse things have happened in the history of the Church and yet still the Church continues. I have read the documents, I have read the statements, I have seen the videos. There have been regrettable actions on both sides of this issue, but "zealotry" is a clumsy weapon that often does more harm than good. I am sure that many of these "zealot monks" are sincere, but I am not sure they are not misguided.

Yes, but I'm sure we both agree that Athos belongs to the Orthodox, and to nobody else. Were the EP ever to be not Orthodox, it would not have jurisdiction there.

I really don't know what this means, so I am not sure I can agree with it. All things belong to God. We don't "own" anything, as Orthodox Christians, but are merely caretakers. This world will pass away and we should not be too strongly attached to it. Heaven is our home, not Mt. Athos.

Romans 13:1-3 Let every soul be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and the authorities that exist are appointed by God. Therefore whoever resists the authority resists the ordinance of God, and those who resist will bring judgment on themselves. For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to evil. Do you want to be unafraid of the authority? Do what is good, and you will have praise from the same.

Philippians 2:14-15 Do all things without complaining and disputing, that you may become blameless and harmless, children of God without fault in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world,

1 Thessalonians 5:12-13 And we urge you, brethren, to recognize those who labor among you, and are over you in the Lord and admonish you, and to esteem them very highly in love for their work's sake. Be at peace among yourselves.

Hebrews 13:17 Obey those who rule over you, and be submissive, for they watch out for your souls, as those who must give account. Let them do so with joy and not with grief, for that would be unprofitable for you.

Herman

#8 Ryan

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Posted 21 November 2010 - 05:51 PM

Hi Ephrem- welcome to the forum. Having read and listened to many of the same things as you have, I can understand your feeling of alarm. Nevertheless I have to warn you against immersing yourself too much in these articles and polemics. The arguments often seem airtight and irrefutable, and the reasoning very slick, but if you take a step back you might see that they are operating from distorted premises.

As a counterweight to much of the zealot rhetoric, I recommend this article: http://www.orthodoxi...st-zealots.aspx

But above all we shouldn't put so much trust in our own reasoning powers as to think we are canon law experts or defenders of the faith because we read some online articles.

#9 Ephrem C.

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Posted 21 November 2010 - 06:20 PM

Worse things have happened in the history of the Church and yet still the Church continues.

Yes, but the Church has survived in the past by resisting heresy, not by turning a blind eye to it. “All the teachers of the Church, and all the Councils, and all the Divine Scriptures advise us to flee from the heterodox and separate from their communion.” St. Mark of Ephesus.

I really don't know what this means, so I am not sure I can agree with it. All things belong to God. We don't "own" anything, as Orthodox Christians, but are merely caretakers. This world will pass away and we should not be too strongly attached to it. Heaven is our home, not Mt. Athos.

I mean that there have been false Patriarchs in the past who tried to evict Orthodox monks from Athos. This is a part of our Orthodox heritage. I do not mean that we own the World or Mt. Athos, but I do mean that God has given it to the Orthodox to keep and to be stewards of. It is the Holy Mountain. "Holy things to the Holy!"
The Mt. Athos Charter does not allow for schismatics or heretics or anyone but Orthodox to have communities there.

Romans 13:1-3 Let every soul be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and the authorities that exist are appointed by God. Therefore whoever resists the authority resists the ordinance of God, and those who resist will bring judgment on themselves. For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to evil. Do you want to be unafraid of the authority? Do what is good, and you will have praise from the same.

And yet we must look to the Fathers to understand this:
"Obey them that have the rule over you, and submit yourselves." What then (you say), when he is wicked should we obey? Wicked? In what sense? If indeed in regard to Faith, flee and avoid him; not only if he be a man, but even if he be an angel come down from Heaven; but if in regard to life, be not over-curious." --St. John Chrysostom

"Therefore we are correct in stating that this matter includes the authorities, that is the leaders and royal authorities established by God. But if some villianous criminal seizes authority, then we do not profess that he was installed by God, rather we say that he has been allowed to spew out this evil, like Pharaoh and, in such an instance, to carry out extreme punishment or to chastise those for whom great cruelty is required, as when the King of Babylon chastised the Jews" --St. Isidore of Pelusium

Philippians 2:14-15 Do all things without complaining and disputing, that you may become blameless and harmless, children of God without fault in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world

1 Thessalonians 5:12-13 And we urge you, brethren, to recognize those who labor among you, and are over you in the Lord and admonish you, and to esteem them very highly in love for their work's sake. Be at peace among yourselves.

Hebrews 13:17 Obey those who rule over you, and be submissive, for they watch out for your souls, as those who must give account. Let them do so with joy and not with grief, for that would be unprofitable for you.



"Submit not yourselves to monastics, nor to presbyters, who teach lawless things and evilly propound them. And why do I say only monastics or presbyters? Follow not even after bishops who guilefully exhort you to do and say and believe things that are not profitable. What pious man will keep silence, or who will remain altogether at peace? For silence means consent. Oftentimes war is known to be praiseworthy, and a battle proves to be better than a peace that harms the soul. For it is better to separate ourselves from them who do not believe aright than to follow them in evil concord, and by our union with them separate ourselves from God." --Saint Meletius the Confessor


"Is the shepherd a heretic? Then he is a wolf, and it will be needful to flee and leap away from him, and not be deceived into approaching him, even if he appears to be fawning gently. Avoid communion and intercourse with him as snake’s poison: for fish are caught with hook and bait, while an evil intercourse, which contains the poison of heresy concealed therein, has captured many of the more simpleminded who came close and expected to suffer no harm. Wherefore it is fitting to avoid such men with all our might. Is the shepherd orthodox, does he bear the seal of piety, does he have none of the heretical crew trailing after him? Then submit to him, since he presides in the likeness of Christ. Thou doest honour not to him, if thou doest it with all thy soul: Christ receives it. Do not meddle in other matters. God is their examiner; leave the judgment to Him. Do thou, however, show him obedience and a pure disposition in accordance with thy love of Christ." --St. Photius the Great

"As we walk the unerring and life-bringing path, let us pluck out the eye that scandalizes us--not the physical eye, but the noetic one. For example, if a bishop or a presbyter, who are the eyes of the Church, conduct themselves in an evil manner and scandalize the people, they must be plucked out. For it is more profitable to gather in a house of prayer without them, than to be cast together with them, as it were with Annas and Caiaphas, into the gehenna of fire." --St. Athanasius the Great

"If your bishop be heretical, flee, flee, flee as from fire and a serpent" --Saint John Chrysostom

"If thy bishop should teach any thing outside of the appointed order, even if he lives in chastity, or if he work signs, or if he prophecy, let him be unto thee as a wolf in sheep's clothing, for he works the destruction of souls" --Saint Ignatius

So, does it not seem that to be in communion with one who professes heresy is rather disobedience, that is, to the Fathers of the Church and to the Will of God? Obedience to lawlessness is not the obedience that the Scriptures speak of.

#10 Jonathan Gress

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Posted 21 November 2010 - 11:04 PM

In response to Fr Basil Grigoriates' article about the "anti-patristic" stance of the Zealots, Fr Maximos Analipsiotes, of the American Metropolis of the Genuine Orthodox Church of Greece (www.hotca.org), wrote the following:

http://hotca.org/ort...-truly-orthodox

#11 Herman Blaydoe

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Posted 22 November 2010 - 01:34 AM

Well, that is all well and good, but this supposed "ecumenism" IS NOT HAPPENING. Plain and simple. There is no heresy, there is merely distortion and exaggeration. There is no heresy, so what is the problem again?

#12 Ephrem C.

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Posted 22 November 2010 - 01:51 AM

Well, that is all well and good, but this supposed "ecumenism" IS NOT HAPPENING. Plain and simple. There is no heresy, there is merely distortion and exaggeration. There is no heresy, so what is the problem again?


Since this thread is directed toward the Athonite zealots, I will note that they are of the opinion that ecumenism is a real thing, and that it has been adopted by the EP. The "lifting" of the anathemas, the Balamand Agreement, the 1920 EP encyclical, the Calendar Change (which was enacted to celebrate feasts with the heterodox), the Thyateria confession (which was never retracted nor repented of, but WAS supported synodally), and a number of uncriticized statements that blatantly oppose Orthodoxy has convinced the zealots that ecumenism is, in fact, real.

#13 Herman Blaydoe

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Posted 22 November 2010 - 02:00 AM

Well, thanks be to God, "zealots" do not define the whole of Orthodoxy.

#14 Ephrem C.

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Posted 22 November 2010 - 02:04 AM

"They who are of the Church, are of the truth; and they who are not of the truth, are not of the Church of Christ." --St. Gregory Palamas

#15 Paul Cowan

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Posted 22 November 2010 - 03:47 AM

"They who are of the Church, are of the truth; and they who are not of the truth, are not of the Church of Christ." --St. Gregory Palamas


Please see my previous post. With a slight date modification.

#16 Kosta

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Posted 22 November 2010 - 04:10 AM

If non-commemoration is based on the spirit of canon 15 of the first-second synod, then it is allowable even commendable. The fullness of the catholic faith is found in each local church headed by a right believing bishop with apostolic succession and the unity of the Body comes from the Eucharist, irrespective of time, space.

#17 Jonathan Gress

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Posted 22 November 2010 - 07:44 AM

Well, that is all well and good, but this supposed "ecumenism" IS NOT HAPPENING. Plain and simple. There is no heresy, there is merely distortion and exaggeration. There is no heresy, so what is the problem again?


Well, one good example of ecumenism actually happening is from 2006, when the Pope and Patriarch Bartholomew prayed together. Here is a video of it:



#18 Father David Moser

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Posted 22 November 2010 - 02:59 PM

I would like to point out that this whole thread has been "on the edge" since its beginning. We are not here to debate the merits of the commemorators or the non-commemorators. Nor are we here to judge the Patriarch of Constantinople and to determine whether or not he (or any other Orthodox Christian) is a heretic. Please contain this discussion to the theoretical concept of "non-commemoration" within the context of patristics, liturgics or monastic practice. If this discussion strays into Church politics, it will have gone beyond the scope of the forum and will be terminated.

Fr David Moser

#19 Herman Blaydoe

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Posted 22 November 2010 - 03:51 PM

If non-commemoration is based on the spirit of canon 15 of the first-second synod, then it is allowable even commendable. The fullness of the catholic faith is found in each local church headed by a right believing bishop with apostolic succession and the unity of the Body comes from the Eucharist, irrespective of time, space.


Fine and dandy, but practically speaking as far as Esphigmanou and the "zealot monks" are concerned, what does it mean? Certainly if the monks feel that the EP is no longer Orthodox, they may leave their monastery and set up somewhere else. If they do not want to "recognize" the EP, they can certainly exercise their consciences but they really need to be ready to deal with the consequences as well. It is easy to "take action" when you don't take responsibility for said action.

Mt. Athos does not exist "in the clouds", it is not a "magical" place, it is a geographic place subject to the geopolitical laws that govern this fallen world. If the government of the country that it is a part of (Greece) allows the EP to administer it, then any "rights" of "real Orthodox" are moot. "Real Orthodoxy" is not a recognized geopolitical entity among the other geopolitical entities that make such decisions. There is no "inherent right" for them to stay in defiance of the current administrator who is the EP and enforced by Greece.

The "zealots" can rant and rail and cry "heretic!" all they want, but if the legal landlord gets tired of it, they CAN be evicted, no matter how "true" they think they are. I suggest these monks put themselves under a "real" Orthodox bishop (however they define it) and let him find them a place to stay. Or the CHURCH (however they define it) replaces the EP. Until then, I recommend lots and lots of prayer.

#20 Ephrem C.

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Posted 22 November 2010 - 05:37 PM

I would like to point out that this whole thread has been "on the edge" since its beginning. We are not here to debate the merits of the commemorators or the non-commemorators. Nor are we here to judge the Patriarch of Constantinople and to determine whether or not he (or any other Orthodox Christian) is a heretic. Please contain this discussion to the theoretical concept of "non-commemoration" within the context of patristics, liturgics or monastic practice. If this discussion strays into Church politics, it will have gone beyond the scope of the forum and will be terminated.


I apologize for allowing it to get political. I am, in fact, interested in seeing what patristic, historical information the members of this forum can provide to shed light on this issue. As much as I may have acted to the contrary, I actually did not post this in order to pick a fight. Please forgive me.

Fine and dandy, but practically speaking as far as Esphigmanou and the "zealot monks" are concerned, what does it mean? Certainly if the monks feel that the EP is no longer Orthodox, they may leave their monastery and set up somewhere else.

I might be wrong, but I am not familiar with any historical precedent for this. There have been several times when the Holy Mountain was assaulted by heretical Patriarchs. The only monks that picked up and left were the ones who did not wish to die a martyrs death.

On October 23rd, for instance, we celebrate the memory of the monks of Zografou Monastery on Mt. Athos, who resisted their Patriarch who sought to bring the Orthodox Church under papal rule. The monks of Zografou paid for their beliefs with their lives and were burned alive in the tower of their monastery on Mt. Athos where they had locked themselves in. This was done at the hands of the Patriarch of Constantinople, John Bekkos, who enjoyed all the rights, privileges and honors of being Patriarch of Constantinople, and used that power for his own political purposes. Patriarch Bekkos, the Ecumenical Patriarch, the first among equals, he who sat in the Phanar, was, of course later condemned for heresy.(1)

We see that the monks of Zografou did not abandon their monastery, saying "Well, they do not want us here." Rather, they stood their ground and died as martyrs for the faith.

If they do not want to "recognize" the EP, they can certainly exercise their consciences but they really need to be ready to deal with the consequences as well. It is easy to "take action" when you don't take responsibility for said action.


With all due respect, it seems you may be misinformed about Esphigmenou. The government has, under the directives of Patriarch Bartholemew, blockaded the monastery for many years. Several monks died during the blockade from lack of food and supplies. The monastery was also assaulted by a group of sledge-hammer wielding monks sent to the island to take over their monastery. Several of the Esphigmenites were seriously wounded.

They have also been generally blacklisted by the rest of the Mt. Athos community and subject to all manner of slander and humiliation.

I don't say this as if it proves their point. I'm only saying that whether you like them or not, you must accept that they have "taken responsibility" for their actions.

Mt. Athos does not exist "in the clouds", it is not a "magical" place, it is a geographic place subject to the geopolitical laws that govern this fallen world. If the government of the country that it is a part of (Greece) allows the EP to administer it, then any "rights" of "real Orthodox" are moot. "Real Orthodoxy" is not a recognized geopolitical entity among the other geopolitical entities that make such decisions. There is no "inherent right" for them to stay in defiance of the current administrator who is the EP and enforced by Greece.


This is a true fact, if you look at it as the world would look at it. The reality, however, is that Mt. Athos is a garden given by our Lord to our Most-Holy Lady Theotokos, who governs the island. It belongs to her. Historically speaking, insofar as the EP is headed by an Orthodox Patriarch, it is canonically under the stewardship of the Phanar. However, as I said, if at any point the EP is not orthodox, as has certainly happened, the Mountain is not submissive to it.



(1) mostly not my own words, but summarized from an account on esphigmenou.com




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