Encyclical for the 2013 Pocket Calendar
To all the clergy and laity of the Church in North and South America
Oct 31/Nov 13, 2012
Apostles Stachys, Apellos, Amplia and Ourbanos
“The Church is shown to be a many-lighted heaven that doth shine a guiding light upon all them that believe.”
Kontakion for the Consecration of the Church of the Resurrection September 13th
O radiant children of the Church,
Grace be to you and peace from God the Father and from our Lord Jesus Christ.
The entirety of the Divine Economy, from the creation of the world, the prophets of old, Christ's incarnation and earthly sojourn, the cross, the tomb, the resurrection on the third day, the ascension into the heavens, the sitting at the right hand, the second and glorious coming, all this and more is God’s work to save mankind. St. John the Theologian tells us that God the Father sent His pre-eternal Word into the world in order to save it, when he writes: “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” (John 3:16) God did not leave off doing all things till He had led us up to heaven and bestowed the kingdom which is to come.
After His Passion and Resurrection, and before He ascended into the heavens, Christ promised not to leave us orphans but that He would be with us, even until the end of time. He promised His disciples that they would be baptized with the Holy Spirit. This event occurred on Pentecost, when the Holy Spirit came and dwelt within the disciples and apostles. God saves through the gift of the Holy Spirit given on Pentecost to the apostles. They bequeathed the gift of the Holy Spirit unto their successors, to Ss. Ignatius the God-bearer, Polycarp of Smyrna, and others. They in turn bequeathed this gift unto their disciples such as St. Irenaeus of Lyons, disciple of St. Polycarp. Each successive generation of bishops passes the gift of the Holy Spirit on to their disciples. This process, known as Apostolic Succession, will continue even until the last times. Apostolic Succession is granted only by the true successors of the apostles, who preserve their confession of Faith unsullied by heresy. The bishops of the Church are called successors of the apostles, because they continue to uphold the Faith which was handed down to us by Christ through His apostles and their successors.
Apostolic Succession operates only within the Church; it cannot exist where the Apostolic Faith is not held. Heresy is a false teaching. Where there is heresy, the line of Apostolic Succession is broken and, consequently, heretics are outside the Church. Throughout the history of the Church, our fathers have been watchful to protect the Church against even the slightest dogmatic deviation. For this reason, Saint Paul warned the Christians of his day that there would come teachers of falsehood who desire to lead right believing Christians astray: "Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over the which the Holy Spirit hath made you overseers, to feed the Church of God, which He hath purchased with His own blood. For I know this, that after my departing shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock. Also of your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them. Therefore watch, and remember, that by the space of three years I ceased not to warn every one night and day with tears." (Acts 20:28-31)
Presently, most of the world has been seduced by the heresy of Ecumenism, which distorts the evangelical teaching and blurs the line between truth and falsehood. Ecumenism teaches that the dogmatic differences that exist between Orthodoxy and the various heresies are inconsequential and should not impede a union of all faith communities. They distort Holy Scripture and forget the words of Saint Paul, who taught unambiguously that there is “One Lord, one faith, one baptism.” (Eph 4:5) They falsely claim that a community that does not possess the faith of the Apostolic Church can have the baptism of the Apostolic Church. They distort Christ's prayer to the Father “That they all may be one... that the world may believe” (John 17:21) and use it as a mandate to unite the Orthodox Christians with those of false belief at the expense of the truth.
But St. Paul tells us, “Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? And what communion hath light with darkness? And what concord hath Christ with Belial? Or what part hath he that believeth with an infidel? And what agreement hath the temple of God with idols? For ye are the temple of the living God; as God hath said, ‘I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate,’ saith the Lord, ‘and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you.’” (2 Cor. 6:14-17)
Ecumenism is based on the notion that the truth is relative. The truth is not relative; it is absolute. The fact that most people have “changed the truth of God into a lie” (Rom. 1:25) does not make falsehood true. Falsehood is false even if the whole world believes it, and the truth is true even if no one believes it.
When a particular heresy raises its head, the Church anathematizes it through the bishops who gather in council. They order the heretics cast out of the Church, and the Orthodox Christians are to have nothing to do with them. This is similar to quarantining those ill with a contagious disease. St. John the Theologian, who is called the beloved disciple partly because he speaks so eloquently on love, tells us, “If there come any unto you and bring not this doctrine, receive him not into your house, neither bid him God speed: For he that biddeth him God speed is partaker of his evil deeds.” (2 John 1:10-11)
Christ has been faithful to His promise to be with us even until the end of time, through His Church, against which He assured us the gates of Hades shall not prevail. The Church is the Bride of Christ, and it is His Body. St. Paul tells us that Christ “loved the Church, and gave himself for it; That He might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word; that He might present it to Himself a glorious Church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish.” (Eph. 5:25-27)
The Church is the means through which we find salvation. St. Cyprian of Carthage teaches us that “outside the Church there is no salvation.” The Church is the steward of Grace and dispenser of the Mysteries, all of which aim at the salvation of their participants. The Apostles themselves taught that the authority to teach abides within the Church, that God acts through His Church, as St. Paul teaches: “And God hath set some in the Church, first apostles, secondarily prophets, thirdly teachers, after that miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, governments, diversities of tongues.” (1 Cor. 12:28) The Apostle Philip asked the eunuch of Candace, “Understandest thou what thou readest?” and the eunuch answered, “How can I, except some man should guide me?” And he desired Philip that he would come up and sit with him. (cf. Acts 8:30-31). The Chief-Apostle Peter states that “...no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation. For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Spirit.” (2 Peter 1:20-21) The Church Fathers teach that we who have received from God the authority to teach and the power to loose and bind must always have as our intention the salvation of our spiritual children (cf. Canon 102 of the Council in Trullo). It is our responsibility not only to uphold the Faith and to protect it from the attacks of the heretics, but also to bequeath it unto Christ’s rational flock entrusted to us.
The aim and final purpose of the Divine Economy is the salvation of mankind; however, we must understand that God will not save us by force. He cooperates with us for our salvation. In this vein St. Paul counsels us, “Beloved, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling. For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of His good pleasure.” (Phil. 2:12-13) Let us all strive to attain salvation, through adherence to the Church’s teaching and the prayers of all the saints.
The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God the Father, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all.
Your fervent suppliants before the Lord.
THE HOLY EPARCHIAL SYNOD
+ PAVLOS of America
+ MOSES of Toronto
+ PHOTIOS of Marathon
+ SERGIOS of Portland
+ DEMETRIUS of Boston
+ CHRISTODOULOS of Theoupolis
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