Friday, July 1, 2016

Commentary on the Pan Orthodox Encyclical Part ONE:

by Archpriest Symeon Elias:

All my comments will be in bold & italic.
Encyclical of the Holy and Great Council of the Orthodox Church - Official Documents - The Holy and Great Council of the Orthodox Church

Crete 2016

In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit

With a hymn of thanksgiving, we praise and worship God in Trinity, who has enabled us to gather together during the days of the feast of Pentecost here on the island of Crete, which has been sanctified by St. Paul, the Apostle to the Gentiles, and his disciple Titus, his “true son in the common faith” (Tit 1.4), and, by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, to conclude the sessions of this Holy and Great Council of our Orthodox Church – convened by His All-Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, by the common will of Their Beatitudes the Primates of the most holy Orthodox Churches – for the glory of His most holy Name and for the great blessing of His people and of the whole world, confessing with the divine Paul: “Let people then regard us thus: as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God” (1 Cor 4.1).

[This is the standard by which we must judge this document, whether indeed it is "for the glory of His most holy Name and for the great blessing of His people of the whole world" or whether there is another agenda at work, in calling the "Holy Council" when there has been no heretical challenge to the faith, except possibly the challenge this document creates.]

The Holy and Great Council of the one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church constitutes an authentic witness to faith in Christ, the God-man, the Only-begotten Son and Word of God who, through His Incarnation, through all His work on earth, through His Sacrifice on the Cross and through His Resurrection, revealed the Triune God as infinite love. Therefore, with one voice and one heart we address this message of “the hope that is in us” (cf. 1 Pet 3.15) not only to the sons and daughters of our most holy Church, but also to every human being, “whether near or far off” (Eph 2.17). [IN the Tradition of the Church, councils were called not as a witness before the world, but as a means of correcting and healing errors inside the Body of Christ, which damaged the Church's healing reality. In fact one could say, to define what is poison and not true medicine, theological deception and not healing Orthodox Sacred Theology, Ortho-doxia and Ortho-praxis. The idea of a Church Council as an evangelical action is foreign to Tradition and as this document proves, only obscures the True witness of the Church instead of enhancing it.] “Our hope” (cf. 1 Tim 1.1), the Savior of the world, was revealed as “God with us” (cf. Matt 1.23) and as God “for our sake” (Rom 8.32), who “desires that all people may be saved and come to the knowledge of truth” (1 Tim 2.4). Proclaiming His mercy and not concealing His great blessings, in remembrance of the Lord’s words that “heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away” (Matt 24.35) and “filled with joy” (1 John 1.4), we announce the Gospel of faith, hope and love, looking forward to that “day without evening, without succession and without end” (Basil the Great, On the Hexaemeron II, PG 29.54). The fact that we have “our citizenship in heaven” (Phil 3.20) in no way negates, but rather strengthens our witness in the world.

In this we follow the tradition of the Apostles and of the Fathers of our Church who proclaimed Christ and the saving experience through Him of the Church’s faith, and who spoke of God in the “manner of fishermen casting a net,” that is to say in an apostolic manner, to the people of every age in order to transmit to them the Gospel of freedom “for which Christ has set us free” (cf. Gal 5.1). The Church lives not for herself. She offers herself for the whole of humanity in order to raise up and renew the world into new heavens and a new earth (cf. Rev 21.1). Hence, she gives Gospel witness and distributes the gifts of God in the world: His love, peace, justice, reconciliation, the power of the Resurrection and the expectation of eternal life.
[The Church lives not for herself - ff. This is most certainly true. The question at hand is whether or not THIS council gave this clear witness or if something foreign to it was the underlying philosophy and message.]

I. The Church: Body of Christ, image of the Holy Trinity

1. The one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church is a divine-human communion in the image of the Holy Trinity, a foretaste and experience of the eschaton in the holy Eucharist and a revelation of the glory of the things to come, and, as a continuing Pentecost, she is a prophetic voice in this world that cannot be silenced, the presence and witness of God’s Kingdom “that has come with power” (cf. Mark 9.1). The Church, as the body of Christ, “gathers” the world (Matt 23.37) to Him, transfigures it and irrigates it with “the water welling up to eternal life” (John 4.14).

2. The tradition of the Apostles and Fathers – following the words of the Lord,the founder of the Church, who at the Last Supper with his disciples, instituted the sacrament of the holy Eucharist - highlighted the Church’s characteristic as the “body of Christ” (Matt 25, 26; Mark 14.22; Luke 22.19; 1 Cor 10.16-17; 11.23-29), and always connected this with the mystery of the Incarnation of the Son and Word of God from the Holy Spirit and the Virgin Mary. In this spirit, emphasis was always placed on the indissoluble relation both between the entire mystery of the divine Economy in Christ and the mystery of the Church, and also between the mystery of the Church and the mystery of the holy Eucharist, which is continually confirmed in the sacramental life of the Church through the operation of the Holy Spirit.

The Orthodox Church, faithful to this unanimous apostolic tradition and sacramental experience, constitutes the authentic continuation of the one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church, as this is confessed in the Symbol of faith and is confirmed in the teaching of the Fathers of the Church.[And by the lives of her Saints. Without this witness the Symbol of Faith and the teachings of the Fathers would be merely interesting mythology. As the reality of the faith has to be confirmed by the lives of the saints in EVERY generation.] Thus, she is conscious of her greater responsibility not only to ensure the authentic expression of this experience in the ecclesial body, but also to offer a trustworthy witness to the truth to all humankind.

[Leaving out the crucial reality of the lived experience in sanctification/theosis, the meaning of the remainder of the paragraph is needlessly hollow. It talks of the "authentic expression and experience" but did not define it, or explain it, did not NAME it. It will remain to be seen whether this hollow expression of Orthodoxy is expressed throughout the document.]

3. The Orthodox Church, in her unity and catholicity, is the Church of Councils, from the Apostolic Council in Jerusalem (Acts 15.5-29) to the present day. [It seems to me that this expression of the Orthodox Church as "The Church of Councils" is truly a reverse of the reality of the Church's presence and history.  It is analogous to claiming the Church is of the Book, as the Muslims falsely claim of Orthodox Catholic Christians, "that we are people OF the Book." The Councils are of the Church, a means of the Holy Spirits guidance, inside the Church. The Councils to not generate the Church, so that it could be said that the Church is "of" (genitive case) that is a product OF the councils. The Councils have NOT generated the Church, but merely guided her, at times healing her wounds.  I would add further that the Ecumenical Councils of the Church have historically represented the result of a fever in the Body, when something foreign was introduced and had to be expelled and rejected." The Church in herself is a Council, established by Christ and guided by the Holy Spirit, in accord with the apostolic words: “It seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us” (Acts 15.28). [And this statement is absolutely true, in the Church's Catholicity, that is "of the whole" yet ignored by some claiming both the unchallenged authority and even democratic structure for this council.  Those claims and this statement represent cognitive dissonance.] Through the Ecumenical and Local councils, the Church has proclaimed and continues to proclaim the mystery of the Holy Trinity, revealed through the incarnation of the Son and Word of God. [I point out again that the proclamation of the Church's councils are guidance for the Church, not evangelical witness to the world. It is for the Organic LIFE of the Church imbued with Christ Himself, and guided by his Holy Spirit, to be that witness and proclamation, through the witness of the LIVES of her Saints, not through the proclamation of Councils.] The Conciliar work continues uninterrupted in history through the later councils of universal authority, such as, for example, the Great Council (879-880) convened at the time of St. Photios the Great, Patriarch of Constantinople, and also the Great Councils convened at the time of St. Gregory Palamas (1341, 1351, 1368), through which the same truth of faith was confirmed, most especially as concerns the procession of the Holy Spirit and as concerns the participation of human beings in the uncreated divine energies, and furthermore through the Holy and Great Councils convened in Constantinople, in 1484 to refute the unionist Council of Florence (1438-1439), in 1638, 1642, 1672 and 1691 to refute Protestant beliefs, and in 1872 to condemn ethno-phyletism as an ecclesiological heresy.[You will notice in each example, and in fact every example of a true council of the Church there is an element there, that is totally missing from this council, that is the refutation of a false belief and error. I believe I am correct in stating, that every council called for the purpose of simply "affirming something" as Council of Florence confirmed Union with Rome, has been rejected.  Since this council was not called to refute false belief, one has to ask, what was it called to affirm. It seems to me that to a great extent it was called to affirm it own validity, legitimacy and POWER, as a prelude to . . . . we shall see. ]

4. The holiness of man (anthropos) cannot be conceived apart from the Body of Christ, “which is the Church” (cf. Eph 1.23). Holiness proceeds from the One who alone is Holy. It is participation of mankind in the holiness of God, in “the communion of the Saints,” as is proclaimed by the words of the priest during the Divine Liturgy: “The Holy Gifts for the holy,” and through the response of the faithful: “One is Holy, one is Lord, Jesus Christ, to the glory of God the Father. Amen.” In this spirit, Saint Cyril of Alexandria underscores that Christ, “Being holy by nature as God (...) is sanctified on our behalf in the Holy Spirit (...) and (Christ) performed this on our behalf, not on his own behalf, so that from him and in him, who first received this sanctification, the grace of being sanctified may thus pass to all humanity ...” (Commentary on the Gospel of John, 11, PG 74, 548).

According to St. Cyril, Christ is our "common person" through the recapitulation in his own humanity of the entire human race, "for we were all in Christ, and the common person of humanity comes to life again in him" (Commentary on the Gospel of John, XI, PG 73. 157-161), and hence also he is the sole source of man's sanctification in the Holy Spirit. In this spirit, holiness is man’s participation both in the sacrament of the Church and also in her sacred mysteries, with the holy Eucharist at the center, which is “a living sacrifice, holy, and pleasing to God” (cf. Rom 12.1). “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? As it is written: ‘For your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.’ But rather, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us” (Rom 8.35-37). The saints embody the eschatological identity of the Church as an eternal doxology before the earthly and heavenly Throne of the King of Glory (Ps 23.7), providing an image of the Kingdom of God.

5. The Orthodox Catholic Church comprises fourteen local Autocephalous Churches, recognized at a pan-Orthodox level. The principle of autocephaly cannot be allowed to operate at the expense of the principle of the catholicity and the unity of the Church. We therefore consider that the creation of the Episcopal Assemblies in the Orthodox Diaspora, comprising all the recognized canonical bishops, who in each area are appointed to their respective assembly, and who remain under their canonical jurisdictions, represents a positive step towards their canonical organization, and the smooth functioning of these assemblies guarantees respect for the ecclesiological principle of conciliarity.

[This was an endorsement and limitation of groups like SCOBA, (Standing Conference of Orthodox Bishops in America.) SCOBA harmed itself, wounded itself by adding the word, Canonical, which begs the question according to whom? and has created unneeded division, instead of unity.  The "smooth functioning" of these groups, is code for "must never morph into local synods".  Which is of itself an idea that is VERY uncanonical and a scandal, that Ancient Imperial Churches through their self-interest should impede the Koinonia of the local congregations.]

II. The mission of the Church in the world

6. The apostolic work and the proclamation of the Gospel, also known as mission, belong at the core of the Church’s identity, as the keeping and observation of Christ’s commandment: “Go and make disciples of all nations” (Matt 28.19). This is the “breath of life” that the Church breathes into human society and makes the world into Church through the newly-established local Churches everywhere. In this spirit, the Orthodox faithful are and ought to be Christ’s apostles in the world. This mission must be fulfilled, not aggressively, but freely, with love and respect towards the cultural identity of individuals and peoples. All Orthodox Churches ought to participate in this endeavor with due respect for canonical order.
["This mission must be fulfilled not aggressively, but freely, with love and respect towards the cultural identity of individuals and peoples.  

Here is a clear statement of Cultural Marxism, which you know as Political Correctness and Multi-Culturalism. This statement does not say, that we should "love people, seek to understand the cultural differences that might hinder their reception of the Gospel, cultural differences that may prove to be delusion and/or mental and spiritual bondage."  NO, this statement tells us that we are suppose to LOVE and RESPECT, NOT PEOPLE, (although it does not preclude loving the people) but their cultural IDENTITIES. IDENTITY politics is the gate way to Cultural Marxist deconstruction of Christian Culture. 

Not all cultures are equal, not all cultures are worthy of "love and respect."  Some in Orthodoxy have turned the Love and Respect of Islam into a new religion.  We have the odd circumstance where the Orthodox in some Islamic Countries have pronounced Islam as "the second lung of their fraternal worship of the One God and mutual life of peace." In their descent into Cultural Marxism, the Church of Rome has suggested that we should not evangelize to Jews.  Equally many Orthodox teach that we should not evangelize to Islam. This represents Church conquered by Culture, not the Church Militant in the culture. 

Saint Paul said, I Corrinthians 9:19 ff "
For though I am free from all men, I have made myself a slave to all, that I might win the more.  To the Jews I became as a Jew, in order to win Jews; to those under the law I became as one under the law—though not being myself under the law—that I might win those under the law.  To those outside the law I became as one outside the law—not being without law toward God but under the law of Christ—that I might win those outside the law.  To the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all men, that I might by all means save some.  I do it all for the sake of the gospel, that I may share in its blessings."

We are clearly taught that we may USE cultural and other types of human identities as a language of witness, an economy of witness, but we are never told by Jesus Christ, his Apostles or any of the Church fathers, that earthly CULTURES or Cultural IDENTITIES, should be LOVED and RESPECTED.  Did Saint Paul, as a Pharisee, (and he identified himself as such after his conversion to the Jewish Rulers) . . . did he love the hundreds of laws that constituted the Mosaic Law?  OR was he thankful to be free of it?  Did he love the barbarism of some of the Pagan cultures, or was he thankful to not be bound to it by Pagan custom or religion?  

Any Christian who would in public express Love and Respect for Islamic Culture, furthers the bondage of it, betrays the people who are victimized by it. The same can be said for the Culture created by Talmudic Judaism and the Culture created by Zionism and the Culture of Death created by the Western Powers in their urge to create a one world ecumenist religion to compliment and bolster their Luciferian Globalist Utopia. 

Should we educate ourselves so as to know how to converse with people of different cultures?  Absolutely.  Should we receive anything that is good from those cultures? Absolutely.  The early apostolic witness to the Celts, the Galatians, and the 19th century Orthodox Witness to the Native Alaskan Tribes are classic examples of taking what is good in a culture, finding what is to be respected in a culture, if that is possible. Tell me what Love and Respect should we hold for the human sacrificing cultures?  Or the Gay/LGBT Culture of victimization and Gay evangelism?  This statement of the Council Does NOT reflect Orthodoxy.

I want to return to Saint Paul's picture of evangelism, becoming all things to all people, and offer a challenge to all Orthodox "thinkers" and question why Orthodox witness is frozen in Imperial form, appearing in the form of the Roman Empire's Imperial Formal Ceremonies, complete with period costumes.  Were the Divine Liturgy relieved of its Byzantine accretions, very different than the Divine Liturgies of the Apostles and the early Church Fathers, what would it look like?  Would we even recognize it? Would its less than Royal Costumes make us feel less "holy" and less "special" and less "inspired" and less "worshipful"?  What should it look like, today?  Should it still look like Imperial Constantinople? I know this is like waving a red flag in front of a angry bull, for the "imperialist" orthodox, (small letters) and I am not suggesting some "Americanization" of Divine Liturgy, I am asking the simple question, how much of it is cultural accretion and how much of it reflects its Apostolic Origins. Do cultural accretions truly reflect Tradition, Big T.  And if Byzantine accretions are okay, do they reflect the only forms. The answer is no, since we have the simple Western Rite forms, even though in modern times, many Orthodox have tried to Byzantanize them.  But when thinking of evangelical witness, what expression of Saint Paul's words are reflected in the Modern Orthodox Church?  The Cultural Marxist Fathers of the "Great and Holy Council" would offer their work in the World Council of Churches as an example, and in this they are foolish. The WCC has produced nothing but Ecumenical SHAME.]

Participation in the holy Eucharist is a source of missionary zeal for the evangelization of the world. By participating in the holy Eucharist and praying in the Sacred Synaxis for the whole world (oikoumene), we are called to continue the “liturgy after the Liturgy” and to offer witness concerning the truth of our faith before God and mankind, sharing God’s gifts with all mankind, in obedience to the explicit commandment of our Lord before His Ascension: “And you shall be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria and to the end of the earth” (Acts 1.8). The words of the Divine Liturgy prior to Communion, “Dismembered and distributed is the Lamb of God, who is dismembered and not divided, ever eaten, yet never consumed,” indicate that Christ as the “Lamb of God” (John 1.29) and the “Bread of Life” (John 6.48) is offered to us as eternal Love, uniting us to God and to one another. It teaches us to distribute God’s gifts and to offer ourselves to everyone in a Christ-like way.

The life of Christians is a truthful witness to the renewal in Christ of all things – “If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has passed away, behold, all things have become new” (2 Cor 5.17) – and an invitation addressed to all people for personal and free participation in eternal life, in the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ and in the love of God the Father, in order to experience the communion of the Holy Spirit in the Church. “For the mystery of salvation is for those who desire it, not for those who are being coerced” (Maximus Confessor PG 90.880). The re-evangelization of God’s people in contemporary secularized societies, as well as the evangelization of those who have not yet come to know Christ, is the unceasing duty of the Church.

[I cannot help but hear Archpriest Schmemann's words about the accretions of extreme clericalism and secularization inside the Church.  So what does this council mean by "the re-evangelization of God's people in contemporary secularized societies" that statement is juxtaposed with the statement, "as well as the evangelization of those who have not yet come to know Christ"  so the former are said to already know Christ.  Is this speaking of Orthodox Christians in a clericalized and secularized Church? Or it is calling some other people "God's People, who already know Christ"? If it is the latter it is not only breaking tradition but stating a Heresy refuted in the worship of the Orthodox Church every year on Orthodox Sunday.]

III. The Family: Image of Christ’s love towards the Church

7. The Orthodox Church regards the indissoluble loving union of man and woman as a “great mystery” … of Christ and the Church (Eph 5.32) and she regards the family that springs from this, which constitutes the only guarantee for the birth and upbringing of children in accord with the plan of divine Economy, as a “little Church” (John Chrysostom, Commentary of the Letter to the Ephesians, 20, PG 62.143), giving to it the appropriate pastoral support.

The contemporary crisis in marriage and the family is a consequence of the crisis of freedom as responsibility, its decline into a self-centered self-realization, its identification with individual self-gratification, self-sufficiency and autonomy, and the loss of the sacramental character of the union between man and woman, resulting from forgetfulness of the sacrificial ethos of love.

[I wonder why, when the Cultural Marxist assault on Christian Culture and especially on the institution of the Family is so well documented in time, we know the origins of it, [LINKwe know the history of its progression, we know the founding documents, we know the tools, the psychological operations [The Mind War], and its institutions; Why can't the fathers of this council NAME the enemy.  Can you imagine battling Arius without ever naming Arias or identifying Arianism as the particular disease? What the Church faces is a thousand times more powerful subversion than offered by Arius.  The Church is being assaulted by Cultural Marxism, and the Church Fathers of this "Council" are oblivious to it. The secularization of those IN the Church, now requiring "re-evangelization" did not happen by happenstance, by mere inattention and apathy, but by a highly sophisticated assault on their SOULS, (psyche) by a Christianized ideology using the powerful tools of mass media and government coercion, they are the product of the Cultural Marxist's mind war, which has been destroying Christian Culture in the West by insurgency and in the east by frontal violent assault, as the same power structure finances Jihadism.

Contemporary society [NO Cultural Marxism] approaches marriage in a secular way with purely sociological and realistic [NO, materialistic] criteria, regarding it as a simple form of relationship – one among many others – all of which are entitled to equal institutional validity. [A situation enhanced by the Cultural Marxist Identity Politics previously mentioned.]

Marriage is a Church-nurtured workshop [No, LITURGY] of life in love and an unsurpassed gift of God’s grace. The “high hand” of the “conjoining” God is “invisibly present, harmonizing those being joined together” with Christ and with one another. The crowns that are placed on the heads of the bride and groom during the sacramental rite refer to the dimension of sacrifice and complete devotion to God and one another. [A Byzantine accretion?] They also point to the life of the Kingdom of God, revealing the eschatological reference in the mystery of love.

[All this is beautiful language, but if you can't name Arius, who cannot conquer him.]

8. The Holy and Great Council addresses itself with particular love and care to children and to all young people. Amid the medley of mutually contradictory definitions of childhood,[what could that statement possibly mean? What are the multiple definitions of childhood? Is there one that is Christian and others that are Cultural Marxist? This is a fact that Christians and the Cultural Marxist Cultures, and the Muslims and the Chinese, and still others define childhood differently. In the edges of scientific insanity there is the question what is a human child, and how it may be procreated. Without articulating that, the following statements, to "become as a little child, is open to multiple interpretations.] our most holy Church presents the words of our Lord: “Unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven” (Matt 18.3) and “whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it (Luke 18.17), as well as what our Savior says about those who “prevent” (Luke 18.16) children from approaching Him and about those who “scandalize” them (Matt 18.6).

To young people the Church offers not simply “help” but “truth,” the truth of the new divine-human life in Christ. Orthodox youth should become aware that they are bearers of the centuries-old and blessed tradition of the Orthodox Church and also the continuers of this tradition who will courageously preserve and will cultivate in a dynamic way the eternal values of Orthodoxy in order to give life-giving Christian witness. From among them will come the future ministers of the Church of Christ. The young people thus are not simply the “future” of the Church, but also the active expression of her God-loving and human-loving life in the present.

IV. Education in Christ

9. In our time, new tendencies can be observed in the realm of upbringing and education in regard to the content and aims of education as well as in the way childhood, the role of both teacher and student and the role of the contemporary school are viewed.
[New Tendencies is a totally inadequate expression of what is a full and serious assault on reason, an assault on Education. Again this is a Cultural Marxist assault, and one cannot combat what they will not identify. [LINK] ]

Since education relates not only to what man is, but also to what man should be and to the content of his responsibility, it is self-evident that the image we have of the human person and the meaning of existence determine our view of his education. The dominant secularized individualistic educational system that troubles young people today is of deep concern to the Orthodox Church. [Yet you cannot name it!]

At the center of the Church’s pastoral concern is an education that looks not only to the cultivation of the intellect, but also to the edification and development of the whole person as a psycho-somatic and spiritual being in accordance with the triptych, God, man and world. In her catechetical discourse, the Orthodox Church caringly calls on the people of God, especially the young people, to a conscious and active participation in the life of the Church, cultivating in them the “excellent desire” for life in Christ. Thus, the fullness of the Christian people finds an existential support in the divine-human communion of the Church and experiences in this the resurrectional perspective of theosis by grace. [Would that the Marxists of our time, slaughtered instead of seduced, maybe their visage and work would be visible to these "Holy Fathers" like it was when they viewed and condemn the Godless Slaughters Soviet States and Red China.]

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